Today’s challenge from Chuck Wendig was to get a random photo from a site and use it as the inspiration for a 1000 word story. This beautiful picture was the first up, and I neglected to note the photographer’s name, for which I apologise. Please leave a comment and I’ll publicly praise you!
I am still in my Camp Nano mode here, building the world of a very special alien. If you’re a Viridian Series follower, this is a different point of view from the earlier random photo flash fiction The Alien Among Us.
Rock Sky and Water: the World of the Akitu
The first level. Egg, we call it, in the legends of the Zhath. We are unaware, growing, feeding from nutrients contained within Egg, and those that pass through the perfect membrane. Egg is deposited by a Level 5 entity before they rise to the final level, but as Egg we know nothing. We grow, absorb, and grow, until we are so squashed that breaking out is inevitable. Then we are aware of the stretch and split of the now papery covering. It rips, and we emerge.
Into the second level. Realisation of self. Awareness of others, of the medium around us, providing us with essential nutrients. But now we need food. We walk upon the loose surface stirring up clouds which hang in the thick air we later learn to call water. There is an urgency to search for others not of our kind. To kill and eat. To hide from those who would kill and eat us.
Quick! A shadow approaches and we squiggle into the soft sludgy surface. My neighbour tunnels alongside me. The world turns upside down as the mud explodes into the water, turned this way and that by a questing mouth. My neighbour is gone. The predator has taken it. No matter. There are several hundred of our cohort left. I learn my number. One hundred and twenty-one. Kaa-Zhorz in our language, although we have not yet passed beyond baby clicks. Watch for prey. Watch for predators. Our clicks share those warnings with each other.
The periods of light shorten, and we desire to eat more. Suddenly, the eating ceases and we seek sheltered places to burrow, knowing without reason that we must shelter deep until the light grows again.
We emerge into level three. We number ourselves; twenty have gone. We know not where they are, but they have gone from our network. Clicks are supplemented with buzzes as we discover how to shake our protowings. We climb towers, just a little way, towers that emerge from our mud on stringy feet that make them stable, although they bend and sway in this medium called water.
Water has movement. It flows past us bringing bits of food, floating out of reach, or colliding with our towers, which means we can catch it, or glean it if it sticks long enough. We learn co-operation. We learn to share. A dying tower will provide food for many; we will defend it from other cohorts or other creatures. We learn to fight for our rights.
We discover changes in the seasons. More growth in the long strong light periods, less as the angle of the light source gets lower. We discuss these phenomena, and imagine a mighty being, looking at us under a powerful gaze, placing us in a beam of light it casts from one to another. On some still days we make out a disc, a shape that is distorted by the water flow, and lost entirely during times when there is rough and tumble and we must cling hard to the towers to avoid being swept away. As the days get shorter, the sky above us turns solid. We creep in the thick water below it, lethargic in the cold. Some burrow back into the mud, others cover themselves in shells, pebbles, and broken pieces of tower, for protection.
The season passes and the water becomes too fluid, with many strong currents and tumbles. We hang on to our towers and tell each other this too will pass. And so it does. Some share thoughts they had during the dark period. We question what the next level will bring. We leave those that burrowed behind, they will take another round of seasons to go with us, up to level four.
We are strangely energised. The water here is thin, warm and bubbly. Our bodies are longer, stronger. We can delve hollows in rocks with our jaws, dig out burrowing worms and insects. We are visited by beings of level 5, telling us the mysteries of life, the lore of our species. We cannot see them, they are Above. We climb to the very top of the towers, but there is a ceiling we cannot break through. We experience sunshine and joy, storms and fear. We learn of the Levels, and look down on those below us, still ignorant of themselves and their destiny. We meditate on life, and the purpose within us. Another winter, as the period of solid water is called, goes by, and we hear our elders calling to us. “It is time, it is time!”
We crawl up the towers, and push through the ceiling, higher and higher until we can crawl no further. The light is warmer. Our elders name it Sun. And we learn we are Akitu, dragonfly, although we do not yet fly. The sun dries our outermost skin and, just as a vestigial memory of the Egg, we burst from the paper and crawl out, chest first, pulling our heads through, our legs out, grasping the dry stem, and dragging ourselves upwards, strange long crinkly things stretching out behind us. We wait and pant in the sunshine as our body fluids pump stiffness into the crinkles – we have wings! We flutter them. We buzz and click and exchange messages with each other. One by one we take off on these wings.
We are level Five, cohort of the akitu for the Kakano of Zhath. We join the others, and learn. We dart over rocks and water below this wonderful sky. We experience new storms and calms and rages and torments, but lighter, freer, and our wings send us through it like a fish through the lower, denser, water. We fly with our cohort, in formation, so high we find ice particles, and reach areas where the air hardly exists any more. We are akitu, and this is our world.
Compete with us if you dare. We are invincible!
© J M Pett 2016