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AVATAR: PAGE 13






The ugly little lizards become one of the most beautiful things he's ever seen. In fact, this world which seemed so ugly has become one of awesome beauty. Josh's face fills with childlike wonder. He looks at Zuleika, and sees her smiling. Josh notices that the chromatophores on her body have brightened and changed color. He looks down. His have too. His own skin pulsing with colors he has never seen before. He doesn't know what it means. But Zuleika does.

Several of the dandelion-seed things float near him. The humans call them WILLATHEWISPS, and they are more plant than animal. But right now they seem to be acting with purpose. Now there are more, circling around him. Some alighting on him. He laughs as more of them come. Soon Josh is a pulsing, glowing, fluttering mass of light, standing in the clearing. Zuleika is very impressed by this. She takes it as a sign that he is accepted by the willathewisps. The forest is giving him a blessing. Why, she does not know. But she knows not to question it. And she is secretly glad. Because she is fascinated by this alien, and now she has an excuse to bring them to...

THE VILLAGE.

Josh follows Zuleika into the village of her clan. They live inside the bases of three of the enormous mangrove- like trees. Cookfires are visible through the pillars of the roots, and people move past them as tall silhouettes. Zuleika calls to them and they come out to look at Josh.

The PATRIARCH and MATRIARCH stand waiting for Zuleika to explain what she is doing. She goes into a long, uninterrupted explanation, in rapidfire bursts of her lilting, musical language, accompanied by lots of hand gestures which fascinate Josh with their eloquence. Her jointless fingers are hypnotic to watch as she talks. The Matriarch, MO'AT POHATSUA examines Josh closely. She looks at the viperwolf bite on his arm. She says something to the Patriarch, MATO'A TE KAHA NAHGOITEWA, and they confer briefly.

As we will come to find out, Mo'at and Mato'a are Zuleika's parents. She is what you might call a princess... destined herself to be the Matriarch of the clan someday. So they cut her some slack. Future Matriarchs are expected to have good instincts. Mato'a invites Josh in for dinner, and they go inside the base of the tree. Josh is amazed at the size of the thing inside. By the light of the cookfires he can see up into a cylindrical gallery, which goes off into darkness. It is like a biological cathedral, held up by pillars and flying buttresses of living wood.

We see the people of the tribe, and how they live. Mothers with babies, old ladies, young hunters. The Matriarch and Patriarch rule equally, though each with their own area of responsibility and expertise. The Patriarch is the hunt leader, and is also in charge of the making of things, including pottery, clothing and art. The Matriarch, Mo'at, governs the tribe's relationships to the forest, and is also responsible for their verbal history, medicine and musical teaching. Her skills could be compared to those of a shaman. Her name means "Dream Catcher". It is her job to petition the forest for guidance, and to make requests of it.

Together they determine when they must move to allow the area they have dwelt in to recover from their stay, and where they will go next. Their lifestyle is semi-nomadic, and the movements are somewhat seasonal, having to do with the migration of some prey animals, and the gathering of certain plants and fruits. One of the hunters is TSU TE RONGLOA, whose name means "Eats the Heart". He is the alpha male, or dominant young male, under the Matriarch and Patriarch. Josh sees right away that Tsu Te is not happy about him being here.

He suspects that it has more to do with Zuleika than with a general mistrust of "aliens". And he's right. Josh is shocked to see Grace and N'deh here... seated and already eating. Grace waves jauntily and grins at him, licking her fingers. It's nice to be among her old friends again, she says. They came to us in the forest and told us Zuleika had found you. It seems the whole village knew Josh was coming... Zuleika let her mother, Mo'at, know while they were still out in the bush. Josh wonders how the hell she did that? She wasn't packing a cellular phone. Grace just smiles.

Josh eats dinner with them, and is made welcome. He is served some cooked fish, and some hexapede meat. It's delicious. Zuleika offers him some steamed grubs, and he doesn't want to be rude, especially not with her, so... They turn out to be sweet, with a consistency a bit like shrimp. He has a second helping, making a show of learning the Na'vi word for it.





Across the fire, he sees Grace grinning at him. She says something to N'deh, leaning close to him, and he closes his eyes in agreement.

CUT TO LATER. The fires are burning low. The clan is bedding down for the night, in fiber hammocks slung about the inside of the mighty tree. Josh is given a place to sleep. He stares at the fire, its flickering light reflecting in his eyes. What is happening to him? He feels so... right... here. Josh closes his eyes, and... He opens his eyes. The inside of the shack at site 26 is momentarily disorienting. Human Josh lifts the link rig and rubs his temples. He has been under for almost sixteen hours. Grace wakes up in the next chair. She gets up, stretching and rubbing her numbed butt. Cracks her neck.

GRACE: Gawwd!! What a day. I need to get some rack. I recommend you do the same. Village life starts early.

Josh is reeling. That's it? "What a day"? He realizes he's lost all sense of what they are doing here, if he ever had it.

Grace crashes down onto her bunk with a mighty groan. He pulls himself out of his chair and into his bunk. A beat. Then...

GRACE: You did good today, Josh. Really good. I'm proud of you.

THE NEXT MORNING Josh awakens early to hear Grace talking to Giese at the base. Giese is saying that Selfridge is cutting off their work. After the crash he can't spare a ship to ferry them around every day. And Quaritch is pissed off about losing another man. They are being recalled. Grace tells him to forget about the sampling up in the mountains, they're onto something. They're in the Tsumongwi village, and Josh has made friends with the Patriarch's daughter. This could be a breakthrough. And they don't need a Samson. Giese tells them to stay on it, he'll deal with Selfridge and SECFOR. Grace hands Josh a cup of coffee.

GRACE: Let's go amigo. Time to take flesh and walk the earth.

JOSH/AVATAR blinks awake, looking up at the inside of the cathedral tree. Shafts of sunlight stream down into the high vault above him through gaps in the "braided" trunks. Flying stingbats twinkle silently high up in a shaft of light.Grace comes by, snapping her fingers.

GRACE: Another beautiful day in hell.

Josh walks outside, looking for Zuleika. We see village life among the Tsumongwi... kids playing, people cooking, cleaning fish. Mo'at tells Josh where to find her daughter.

CUT TO Zuleika bowfishing from a rock in the pool below a large waterfall. Josh emerges from the trees nearby and freezes, watching her. With deep concentration she stands still as a statue. Then the spear-like arrow shoots into the water, and Zuleika jumps in waistdeep to retrieve it. She holds up a good sized fish, and grins at Josh. She comes up out of the water, a dripping primeval beauty. She pulls the arrow out of the fish and hands it and the bow to Josh. His turn.



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