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The room where they are going to teach us Atlantis Culture is blessedly just a regular classroom with desks and a whiteboard up in front. The Instructor’s desk is yet unoccupied and mostly empty of gadgets. However, there are, what appear to be, several very old looking books and long cylinders that may or may not be real ancient scrolls. The classics and history professor’s daughter in me is starting to geek out at the possibility.

The room is getting filled up quickly, so Laronda and I take two seats close to the front in the second row. If possible, I would’ve taken first row, following my usual nerdy habit in school, but Laronda is a little more hesitant to be noticed by the teacher. Therefore, row two, where you don’t get to be seen as much while you still get a decent view of the board, is a nice compromise.

At the height of the classroom noise an Atlantean walks in quietly, and continues past the seated Candidates, stopping at the teacher’s desk. He seems to be an older teen, not unlike Oalla Keigeri. Or possibly he just looks that way, generally youthful, because we still don’t have an accurate sense of the Atlanteans’ aging rate compared to our own. And, just like Oalla, he is wearing the grey uniform with a yellow arm-band. His blazing-gold hair is trimmed shorter than most other Atlanteans I’ve seen, but his face is typically handsome in the general way of their ethnicity—not that we really know the full range of ethnic diversity on Atlantis, but so far we’ve seen a pattern that seems to point more and more to Ancient Egypt, or even India, at least in this bunch. Well-balanced features, a somewhat blunt chin with a single dimple, prominent brows, and eyelids decorated in lapis and kohl. The only difference is, his skin is a few degrees darker, a hue somewhere between olive and sienna, so that it is reminiscent of red river clay.

He is carrying a small tablet-like device that looks vaguely alien in the same way that I’ve come to recognize Atlantis tech—the overall shape is imperfect, asymmetrical, unlike the tech gadgets designed on Earth which are usually polished and balanced to appear aesthetically pleasing, smooth, trendy objects.

He places the Atlantean tablet on the desk next to the books and scrolls.

And then he speaks.

“Good afternoon, Candidates. I am Nefir Mekei. I am from Atlantis, and I am going to teach you Atlantis Culture.”

As his words flow, it seems a soft, lilting, almost subliminal buzzing hum has entered the classroom, and echoes are reverberating along the walls. Immediately I feel goosebumps. The fine hairs along my arms begin to stand up on end from the strange tangible sensation of this guy’s amazing voice. It’s grazing along my skin and smoothing it down at the same time, as though honey is being poured over every inch of me, making me alert and receptive at the same time. . . .

I glance to my side and Laronda is equally affected. She is staring at the Atlantean with wide eyes and parted lips. And it seems so is everyone else in the room.

Nefir Mekei looks around at us, his unblinking gaze sweeping the classroom. There is a shadow of a smile on his face.

“What you are hearing now is the voice of a Storyteller. It is one of many things you will learn about us, your distant ancient relatives. In our society on Atlantis we cultivate very special voices—voices that are imbued with power, to a varying degree. Voices that in their inflection have a purpose and a specific task attached. There are voices of Creation, of Force, of Movement, of Command, of Desire. Voices that build skyscrapers, and navigate ships, and dig canals, and heal whatever ails the body. There are so many voices that it would take me several days to tell you the function of each. Suffice it to say, they are voices for everything you can imagine, and even for things you have no words for.”

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