"Accretion!" screamed Father Vincent, who wore a feathered cape and mesh shorts. The pupils sitting in the tree branches around him all flinched in shock at his volume. In gentle contrast the warm winter rains pattered against the broad leaves of the canopy.
"I take your silence for ignorance," said Father Vincent sniffily.
"I don't understand how that answers the question I asked," said a girl with a round face who clutched a doll made from weasel fur.
"Ages ago," began Father Vincent, looking up into the dark clouds above, "there was only dust. That dust collected together to form the Earth, and all life began."
"Hush! Do not sully my narrative with your ignorance! Be silent and listen and learn!"
The girl slumped on her branch and sighed.
"Water, these very rains in fact, came to the Earth from comets--heavenly vessels flung here by the ancient and now dead gods and then--"
"Why did the gods die? Did they get sick?" asked a boy with long hair. Father Vincent hissed at him and continued.
"The water accumulated and mixed with the dust. An ancient math called statistics showed that this mixing made life. This is why we honor the sutra of statistics at the feast of life in the new year."
Father Vincent stat back against the trunk of his tree and fanned himself with a eel skin fan.
"This heat is quite something," he muttered.
"How come no one can read the sutra of statistics?" asked the girl with the doll.
Father Vincent glared at her.
"I am not finished!" he boomed.
"Life plodded along for a billion years in the form of fossils--which are walking stones--a low and unintelligent form of life that no longer exists because they could not evolve. Then life began again with the dinosaurs, which are like birds but much bigger and with more feathers and fearsome teeth."
He put his hands up this his mouth and snapped them open and shut like large jaws while clicking his own teeth together. Some of the students shuddered, and others yawned.
"But the dinosaurs were killed by a large mountain from the black of space called Katie. If you are named Katie, you are named after this mountain. It is not an evil name, in fact it is a very good name to have, because by killing the dinosaurs it allowed us to thrive, and Earth had a civilization for the very first time."
He smiled broadly, pausing for dramatic effect, but many of the students fought to keep their eyes open. Father Vincent grimaced and continued.
"Earth had many cycles of civilization, ours being the latest, and likely not the last. Some civilizations faded for lack of resources or moral corruption, some launched themselves out to other worlds in the black and never came back, one was doomed by a mountain smaller than Katie, and many of the remaining civilizations died out for reasons nobody knows."
"So how will our civilization come to an end?" asked the girl with the doll.
"Nobody knows," said Father Vincent, "and speculation may be a useless activity best left to the gossip of fatherwives over the home hearth."
"You don't seem to know a lot!" blurted out the boy with long hair.
The other pupils snickered. Father Vincent stood, reaching his long arms out to the branches above him to steady his stance. He bared his long canines and snarled at the boy.
"Get the switch you insolent welp!" he bellowed.
The boy started to cry, but he rose and climb down then leapt to Father Vincent's tree, grabbed the switch from its hook and handed it up to his teacher. Father Vincent pulled him up to his branch by a tuft of hair and whipped the boy three times across the back of his shoulders. The boy howled out in pain and the other students laughed.
"Go to your mother!" screamed Father Vincent, his face red. "And only come back when you've understood how to respect your elders."
The boy complied and began his climb down to the forest floor.
"Now, where were we," muttered Father Vincent as he adjusted his cape. "Ah, yes. Accretion. A powerful but slow action that also formed the Sun..."