Guardians. George had observed their patterns. Guardians, like spiders, make webs. “Not webs, they don’t make webs,” George reminded himself. “They are the web.” Guardians are web-like. They are the strands of silk that catch. George continued to remind himself of this detail. As he walked the path to the edge of the circle, he tried to counter the Induction by altering the phrases burned like patterns into his thoughts. “Guardians are web-like.” He needed space to see. He wished to see beyond. He wanted to see as they saw “in far away, forgotten lands” — as they saw, in the Time Before.

George observed that the Guardians are linked at the center. Single Guardians walked in a pattern, circling outward, like a spiral. While other Guardians walked in lines outward from the center. The Family Circles were built within the intersections of the circling and straight-line patterns of the Guardians. The Family Cirles near the center were one thing and those at the outer-edges were another. Stories. Quiet stories among the adults, and wild speculation among the children. “Where do you live?” was a common question.

“Hey Friend,” George stopped.

He pretended to be distracted by something, but he could not find anything to pretend distraction.

“Hey Friend!” George looked straight ahead, anxious feelings surfaced. He thought of looking around, but that thought became buried by mental pictures of Guardians sweeping him away. He didn’t like the parade of anxious feelings, which created paranoid thoughts, which became frightening pictures.

“Hey Friend!” The voice seemed to be behind him, and he was certain that “Friend” was emphasized.

Should I acknowledge the greeting? George worried. Was the voice calling out to him? He turned his body. No other people were near. Around him were the usual gardens of flowers and colored stones. Through the stones, grasses, flowers, and moss, was a single path, which George continued to walk upon. The edge of the family circle was not in sight.

With more strength, the voice reasserted, “Hey! Friend!!”

Among the pink flowers was a bee. Not a real bee, George reminded himself, this is not a bee. “Hi Friend,” George responded in a polite tone to anyone who may be near.

The bee sat just inside the pink petals. Steadying its movements, the bee laughed as it said, “I’m as busy as a bee!” And buzzed away.

George wondered who programmed the bee? The writer’s jokes were corny, he walked and wondered. His father explained to him that jokes from the Time Before were treasured memories, remembrances that could unlock the past. George could not imagine how a joke could be a key to the past.

George read in one of his father’s books that the script of life was based upon memories of the Time Before. “We are the Now of Before.” George had chanted that phrase with his classmates and with his family and with his circle. “We are present with those before.” His mind was conflicted, struggling to identify the moment which contained him and the embedded phrases of his induction.

“Hello Friend!” And as the words spoke from an unseen mouth, a hand rested upon his shoulder.

George looked at his shoulder to see the yellow sleeve of a Guardian.