“A long, long time ago, humankind was at its lowest point. People cheated, and stole, and lied, and killed. We were like ungrateful teenagers laying waste to all that our parents had given us.
"Mother Earth was choking from all the smoke and pollution, and growing tired from the billions of feet pounding on her surface day after day. It was all too much for her, and though at first she was sad, soon, she grew angry.
“She shook and she lashed out with her fists, she blew water and fire and ice and wind across her skin, she cracked and she screamed and she cried.
“And the world fell silent for a while. But they did not stop, and they did not listen. They gathered together and carried on, polluting and stamping and growing in number. There was nothing more that she could do.
“She waited to die.
“But then, as if someone had heard her cries for help, a rescuer came down from the skies: the Shatters.
“This is where our story differs from others. For where most stories have a saviour, that person is a hero - someone brave and noble, fighting for good, saving the world from evil. Ours came to destroy, but it was the only way to save us.
“But what if it’s the world itself that has become evil?
“We were too many, and we had lost the spirit that made us human, lost the value of community and co-operation.
“Now, we are few, and we have one mission that unites us: to find water, restore it to our Earth, and to find our way back to being respectful and caring habitants of the soil that has given us life.
“And the Earth, our mother, our cradle, she will finally be satisfied when she is reunited with us, reborn as her loving children.
“Now, let us sit in quiet contemplation of our duty to our Earth. Ask yourself what you can do to thank her.”
Geny bowed her head reverently and obediently. She had never heard the story told with such character before - the sermons were usually dry and boring, and focused on the wickedness of mankind. Though she believed in the stories no matter how they were told, it was refreshing to hear someone inspire the congregation with hope rather than guilt.
Their place of worship was not a church, nor a temple, nor an altar - it was open-air, inside a crater. Small steps had been cut into the Earth, and planks of wood placed to make the descent easier. This was their sacred place - a place where one of the Shatters had landed many, many years ago. You could still see the dents in the bedrock where their feet had first touched the ground.
Slowly, a group of young women gathered in the centre of the crater, heads bowed, long hair flowing down their back, braided with small glass beads. Each one was wearing a long skirt, woven with brown, blue and green in waves. As they approached each other, they began to twirl and spin, the fabric billowing and rippling around them as their feet beat a rhythm that got louder and faster. Some of them carried small drums that matched the rhythm of the dance, and as they spun into a frenzy, they began to resemble the sights and sounds of a tempest at sea - the kind Geny had only heard about in stories and seen in pictures. It was beautiful.
Geny hoped that some day, she would be able to see it in person. She knew that tempests killed - that sailors drowned at sea under the fearsome waves - but there was something about their wild, untamed savagery that drew her nonetheless.
Perhaps that’s what the sermon today was trying to teach her: that brutality could be beautiful, somehow; that death and destruction were just a way of bringing about new life. Her grandmother had taught her that sometimes, to bring a plant back to life, it was necessary to cut the very top off - the newest life, the part with the most potential - but that it meant leaving the rest to die.
“That’s the way of life, Genevieve,” she had told her, as Geny sat in her lap. “Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices to save what’s worth saving. Sometimes, we have to lose what’s important to us to move forward.
“Imagine if your house was on fire. You’d only have time to grab a few things before you got out. What would you take?”
Geny paused, her little brow furrowed in thought. “I think I would take my teddy, and my favourite blanket, and…” She thought a little harder, before settling on: “my little brother.”
Geny’s grandmother laughed. “Very noble, sweetheart. But if you left the house with just those things, you would have to leave behind even more. Your rocking horse, your bed, your clothes - you’d have to start all over. How does that make you feel?”
“Well…” Geny looked a little upset. “I suppose… I guess I’d just have to. If the house is all burned down. But as long as I have my family I think it would be okay.”
Geny’s grandmother swept her up into a hug and kissed her on the top of her head. “That’s right, little one.
“As long as we have love, and hope, we can overcome anything.”