The busy streets erupted rivers of people down a street unfit for driving. He stood there, as he always did, sandaled and wrapped in a prophet’s rags, but unlike the other days CHARACTER had seen him, spoke with him, even shared food him with… He lacked the vigor of the converted. The skies, as they always did, rained with the Space Flora.
There had been many theories about the extra-terrestrials that settled - and changed - our humble solar system. To some, they were mother Earth’s cry for a kinder mindset among the simple simians that littered the lands and seas of the garden world they were meant to shepherd. To others, they were angels, or if swallowed by particularly strenuous strains of paranoia, demons.
To most, they were aliens, though we had no idea of their origin. The galaxy is a vast ocean, and we haven’t even dipped our toes in. Did they visit us out of their own interest, or were they sent? Compelled by a master, a creature much like us, or simply compelled by a higher calling only chlorophyll can reveal?
It’s funny, Eli thought, how alien plants in the sky, terraforming gas giants and spreading roots between the planets, becomes just another Tuesday. Perhaps that’s why the religious bent was so fascinating to him. Everyone else still has bills to pay and lives to live, but the plant prophets never lost their taste for the extraordinary.
But the Cat Prophet had a cranium cloud, riding his good vibes into torrents of a sour, contorted face. Eli had made frequent visits, seeing the man behind his sermons of a great space cat as the bringer of the space flora. He approached the Cat Prophet, who didn’t even look his way. He merely grumbled, staring across the street.
“You OK?” Eli asked, peeling an orange fetched from a blue backpack.
“I love all of our flock, I do… But I abhor the idea of clockwork timing. To be so chained to our—our pointless rat race that you show up exactly at 12:15 every single day to preach about a preposterous fantasy!”
“I don’t follow.”
“Oh you will soon… You will soon. Just look where I look. No, not at the store, in front of it. In about three minutes time, it will all be revealed to you!”
The pair waited together, and like clockwork, a man set up shop right in front of the store, with different rags, different sandals, and a different truth. No, there could be no space cat behind the flora, he would shout. A cat would create space fish, and space chicken, to hunt forever in the darkness between the stars! No, he swore. A cat is simply too sleepy to create such a gift.
It had to be a space fox! Wild, in touch with the natural way, with nine, gorgeous tails as described in the old stories! The Fox Prophet turned the gears of annoyance, perhaps even anger, in the head of the Cat Prophet. Blasphemy.
“See? Only someone enslaved to the clockwork regime would preach such nonsense! A fox would be too loud to create the flora, much less bless us with their guardianship!”
“Foxes are pretty loud,” Eli said. “But, cats are pretty sleepy…”
“Oh don’t you start! The Great Space Sphynx doesn’t want to nap in a barren, cold darkness! The flora makes for a much lovelier napping environment!”
“Okay. So, you got competition. What’re you gonna do? That’s how it goes.”
“But this was my spot! The Sphynx will be so disappointed, to be drowned out with news of some fairy tale!”
Eli observed the Cat Prophet, a kind man at heart, bring himself back from the brink of zealotry.
“I don’t know, maybe there is a space fox.” Eli said. “Either way… It’s important for you that he’s able to believe that, you know. Religious freedom.”
“Yes, yes I suppose so… But I don’t know what to do! We’re drowning this street in conflicting messages!”
“Can’t you take turns?”
“Eli, it’s one thing to ask me to respect a different faith, but to respect a schedule? It’s a little much. What would the Space Sphynx think if I just… Did things as the watch hands demand?!”
They shared a silence as they both continued to stare at the Fox Prophet, who had obviously noticed their gaze by now. Unsurprisingly, though, prophets aren’t bothered by others staring. He continued to preach, and much like the Cat Prophet before him, had little success in attracting a crowd, instead becoming a piece of the ambiance.
“What if I talk to him for you? I won’t chase him away, but maybe we can find a compromise for you both. Before you end up in some propheteering battle.”
“It makes me anxious to send you as an envoy, but a seemingly neutral party might be what this needs. I… Worry that if I go, the flora above will see me get angry, and… judge me. Perhaps even harshly.”
The people river split easily as Eli made the trek across to the other side of the street. The Fox Prophet had kept a watchful eye with a mischievous twinkle the whole time Eli had listened to the Cat Prophet’s lament.
“He’s furious, isn’t he?” The Fox Prophet, a shorter, bespectacled man, asked Eli. A youthful giggle slipped.
“As the Fox intended.” He added.
“The Space Fox intended to upset him? Seems like a very small matter for a very big, divine being.”
“Greatest are those who dare to care for small matters, young man! A trickster God, the Fox has blessed us with these flora, those that talk and those that form our solar system, to shake things up a little. Cats like routine… Does a plant changing Saturn from gas to soil seem routine to you?”
“I suppose not.” Eli shrugged.
“He hasn’t told you much about himself, has he? Brian and I were botanists together, once. When he had his visions of the Sphynx, when the Flora began to bloom in between the stars in our skies, I had visions of the real culprit. Nine, gorgeous, wonderful tails, and an appetite for surprise!”
“So you’re here to surprise him?”
“You make it sound like I’m only spreading the message of our Flowerbringer, our Protector and Bringer of the New, for mere amusement! It is a part of the plan of our Great Fox, yes… But only a small part. The other part is to help us all embrace this change. Care for it!”
“That’s what, uhh, Brian talks about with the Space Sphynx.”
“I know! How deluded!”
Eli took a moment to absorb the conversation, drink in the sight of the flora above descending to the Earth to start their new lives, plant new, deeper roots among us. With his eyes, fixed upon the sky, he spoke.
“Maybe the Cat and the Fox are two aspects of the same thing. Maybe you each have a piece of the puzzle.”
“I… Hadn’t considered that. Why… Yes that might… But it would…”
The Fox Prophet, whose name was never given, left his sermon spot unattended as he muttered to himself, a scientific brain swimming and paddling through the theological implications of Eli’s observation. The Cat Prophet, animated, first tried to shoo the Fox Prophet away, but was quickly drowned in the discussion the Fox had brought.
Fox or Cat, Eli thought, whatever divine or chance that brought these flora to us would want more for us than division. Happy with his mediation, the young man put his neon green skate shoes on his board, and sailed downstream of the crowd to head home, and tend to his garden - whether fox or cat brought - in the warm summer sun.