DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2006 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.



THE CHANGELING: SUNRISE FROM THE CREST OF THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD

Cheree Cargill



"The tall grass brushes past my bare legs as I wade through the sea of burnished gold on my way to the mountain. It is sunset and I have been walking all day. The sun is nearly unbearable and the flies bite painfully, but that is part of the test. I must endure it all if I am to be a woman of my people.

"For a week, I have undergone the Ntanira na Mugambo ritual. With the other girls my age, I was secluded and taught the traditional lessons about my future role as a woman. Older women attended us and gave us the lessons. We learned about reproduction and hygiene, about communication and self-esteem, about the old ways and the new ones. This coming of age ritual is a new way. It means Cutting Through Words. In the old days, girls were cut physically. In some places in Africa, they say it still happens, but I'm not sure I believe it. Some of the girls whispered it in the night to scare the rest of us, like ghost stories. I had a nightmare just thinking about it. To be held down and slashed and parts of you cut away -- no, it's too horrible to still be done. What parent would allow it? It's barbaric! The new ways are more civilized and joyful.

"Our last day in seclusion, our mothers came and shaved our heads and the hair on the other parts of our bodies. Then they washed us with clean, fresh water and chanted good luck blessings as they did so. We were rubbed with scented oils that made our skin glow like dark honey and ebony. Then we were wrapped in new cloth and adorned with beads and flowers and brought out to be introduced as the new women of the clan.

"The whole community joined in the celebration. They danced and sang and feasted long into the night. We were given gifts and each of us announced a task we would undertake as our own personal challenge. I chose a pilgrimage to the Mountain of God, a full day's journey across the plain and then to climb to the top and view sunrise and moonset from God's throne. It is the eve of the full moon when I set out.

"I am not truly alone, of course. My father follows after with his stun rifle to guard me. Even today, one does not walk across the Serengeti unarmed. It is a National Treasure of the East African Republic and a preserve for our precious wildlife. There are lions here. Hyenas and jackals and snakes. But there are also the last herds of wildebeest and zebra and giraffe. The rhinos are gone, hunted to extinction in the late 21st Century, but there are still some elephants. No more cheetahs, but the leopards remain in this last sanctuary. Didn't people know that, once they were all gone, there would be no more?

"The thought saddens me, but then I turn my attention back to the looming mountain. I am almost at its base and, after a rest as the sun sets in the west and the full moon rises in the east, I will begin my climb to the top, this time truly alone. My father will wait below.

"Ol Doinyo Lengai. The Mountain of God. A near-perfect cone of gray-brown that rises up from the Great Rift Valley toward the darkening sky. Its sides are streaked with white. It is not snow, but crystals. It spews black lava that cools into white flows of washing soda. Then this weathers to brown and gives the peak its color. No other volcano on Earth is like this. This mountain is unique in all the world.

"It is time and I start my climb. The hours pass and it is hard. The slopes are steep and the loose, powdery ash is treacherous. My skin becomes dusted all over so that I am now the same color as the mountain. We are becoming one. I stop to rest occasionally and drink a bit of water, then I go on. I must reach the top by sunrise. Overhead the stars show me the passing of time. Orion. Leo. Scorpio. Sagittarius. The Dippers. They wheel around the fixed Polar Star. The full moon is bright and makes the stars indistinct as it too passes along its pathway, but finally I reach the crest as the eastern sky begins to turn a lighter shade of purple.

"I stand and face the east with arms outspread, and I begin to sing as I view the world through God's eyes.

"To the north, the white soda flats reach away to surround Lake Natron and Lake Magadi. On their surfaces are huge areas of pink, beginning to move restlessly as the sun breaks over the horizon of the Eastern Highlands. The rosy forms are flamingos, their color gained from their diet of bacteria that live in the alkaline lakes. The flocks rise as one form and whirl into the sky.

"To the west, the globe of the white moon begins to sink into the earth. It is the symbol of my childhood, the innocence and purity of infancy. I will be a woman now and take up my responsibilities, seek a mate, bring forth children, a keeper of the hearth.

"To the south, the Serengeti is the fresh green and gold of new life. Dark herds of grazing beasts cover its surface, wakening to a new day. Over Ngorongoro fly eagles, still sluggish, searching for the first thermals to rise up under them.

"To the east, the sun is a brilliant golden jewel, the symbol of my new womanhood. It is strength and power and knowledge. It is what I will be to my people now, spreading warmth and goodness over all. I am Penda Nyota Uhura and I feel as if I could soar to the stars!"

* * *

Stardate: 3453.2, Personal Log, First Officer Spock recording.

Another session with Lt. Uhura is finished. I have spent the past week in a series of melds with her, putting back the personal memories that Nomad stole from her when it wiped her mind. We had initially thought they were gone for good, but then, during my mental contact with the machine, I discovered that her entire being was stored in its memory banks. I took it from Nomad to save for her. I became the Keeper of Uhura's katra.

Nurse Chapel did an excellent job in re-educating our communications officer, but her personal memories, all the things that made her Uhura, could not be restored that way. The only option was fal-tor-pan, an ancient Vulcan technique rarely used and only in extraordinary cases. The process has been difficult, for I have painstakingly replaced piece by piece of her life back into her mind. I have never fully appreciated what a remarkable woman this is!

I must rest and meditate now. The process is extremely taxing on both of us. Tomorrow, we begin our walk down the mountain and begin the journey into the adult world.

THE END