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Chapter 40 – The Last Vestige of Self
Free from the chains that bound nearly all creatures to the world below, a lone lizard floated high in the sky. The supply pack slung across his chest was a bit heavy, but not enough to bring him down from the air. He was part of the Survey team, one of the first from the Little Flyer’s colony, and he was currently on a scouting mission. After discovering the advantage of being able to see the world from above, and traveling at a speed unhindered by terrestrial obstacles, the mountain lizards’ newly discovered ability to fly was seen as integral to the future of the lizards.
The children of the Little Flyer’s generation adapted very quickly to sky travel, the adults much less so. Everyone with wings wanted to fly; however, because mixed lineages were very common, only those with more pure mountain bloodlines were capable. If the wings were too small, or the bones too heavy, they wouldn’t be able to get themselves off the ground. This surveyor himself was a couple generations younger than the Little Flyer, and had learned flight from one of his students.
With the founding of the Survey team, they managed to create more accurate maps of the lizards’ current colonies and lands, as well as find new areas fit for colonization. This surveyor, however, was going much further than usual. Up until now, they’d mostly flown over their lands and those close by, but the colonies were now feeling the need to discover more. What more was out there, they wondered, beyond the angry mountain that drove their ancestors from their once lost, now reclaimed, homes? The world from the sky was vast, farther than the eye could see, and every time they tried to touch to horizon, it kept extending beyond their reach.
The Surveyor wasn’t the fastest flyer, but what he lacked in speed he made up for in stamina, something greatly needed for long flights. He was adept at finding thermals to lessen the burden on his wings, and conserved his energy efficiently. Never in a rush, the Surveyor always took his time, sometimes to the point of laziness. Despite his carefree and relaxed attitude, he was by far the perfect lizard for the job.
His colony had always seen the great mountain from afar, but as he got nearer to it, he could appreciate just how massive it was. It dwarfed the Riverside Mountains by a huge degree, such that the Surveyor thought it might never end. He took a short reprieve near the top of the caldera, and gazed out over the landscape. From the height of the towering mountain, it was nearly the same view the Surveyor had when flying. He looked back towards his home colony, now so far away. Even on this clear day, he couldn’t even see the faded silhouette of the Riverside Mountains. Although his insulated feathers kept him warm, stopping for too long to sightsee began to make him shiver, so he quickly ate some of his dried fruits and meats and resumed his journey.
No longer looking back, but forward, he took in the first sights of the other side of the great mountain. It was a proud moment in their exploration, and although his family was far away, they could still dimly feel his elation through their family heart.
He leisurely dropped down from the top of the mountain. His altitude was fairly low as he followed the mountainside descent, but it didn’t detract at all from the splendor of seeing new lands. Once he reached the base, he climbed a bit into the air and let himself feel the wind, trying to find a good place for thermals to form so he could quickly propel himself back into the sky again. He was still fairly high above the tree line, but this low he couldn’t get a great view of the landscape just yet.
However, in an instant, everything, absolutely everything, changed. I felt it just before it hit, a slight quiver in the air. Something came flying at high speed out of the brush from below. As fast as I tried to give a flash of warning to the Surveyor, the projectile was faster, and it sank itself deep into the shoulder of his wing.
He dropped fast, spiraling out of the sky, the acute pain blinding him to his surroundings. The world twisted and turned about, and the blue of the sky began to meld into the green of the forest below. His tail was ripped from the raging winds, and he couldn’t get a good enough grip on the air to expand his tail feathers. The left wing hit by the projectile was getting flung around just as much as his tail, further injuring it, but he had little control over it anymore. If he couldn’t slow down his landing, he’d perish instantly upon impact.
I requested control. A feeling of urgency entered his heart as I begged him to let me help. I felt the small wall that protected the deepest parts of himself open up to me, and I immediately spread myself through him. The pain was terrible. It was so loud, I couldn’t choose to ignore it even if I wanted to. But knowing the fate that awaited him, and aligning myself with his own desire to live, together we both steadfastly held onto his injured wing, keeping it in place just before hitting the ground.
However, we weren’t able to get horizontal soon enough, and as the ground rushed up, he tried to put out his feet to halt his speeding landing. But the momentum was too much. The ground gripped at his feet, hanging onto them, but the rest of his body continued to plunge forward with enough force to rip those very feet from the ground. He tumbled, wing over foot, trying to come to a stop. His wings instinctively tried to close, but the control over the left was lost amidst the wild rolling over the ground. I both felt and heard the humerus break. The pain that had entered his body was now excruciating. Although he had wounds all over his body, his mind couldn’t process anything more than the pain in his wing.
Wild flashes sparked all over his scales as nonsensical screams rolled over his feathers in an array of light. He couldn’t even bring any sound out from his throat, the pain was so intense. It eventually grew to be too much, and he completely blacked out.
I released myself from the darkness of his unconscious mind, relieved to be free of the physical pain, but at the same time loathing myself for the moment of jubilation. Instead of continuing to depreciate myself, I took the next moment to look over his injuries. My heart sank. The injury of the wing was one thing, but the crash landing had taken its toll as well. Many cuts and scrapes appeared on flesh made visible from torn scales and feathers. The inky bluish-pink of his skin that should never be exposed was brought to light.
He needed help, and badly. Out here on his own, he was vulnerable to predators. I began to shift my focus back to the colony to give them the message—then I noticed something. Although broken off now, I could see something sticking out from the Surveyor’s wing. The projectile was a thin, but smooth piece of wood, broken on both ends on either side of the wing, no doubt from the terrible tumble. The bushes nearby began to rustle faintly, and instantly my full attention came back to the Surveyor. Normally, I might have thought it was the wind, but it was strangely quiet here. No other animals made any noise, not even the smallest insect. I was on high alert, concentrating on the surroundings. It was only then that I saw a foot begin to exit the brush.
The creature that exited the brush was like none I had ever seen before. It was tall, taller than my lizard, and incredibly stocky. Its entire body appeared to be made of muscle, its bluish-gray skin taut against its torso and arms. What I found truly strange, was that it walked on two legs. So far, only my lizards appeared capable of this feat, but now, here, was another creature that could do the same. Its head appeared small in comparison to its large, muscular body, and the face was very flat, nothing like the long snout of my lizards. The eyes were small, and when it opened its mouth to breathe, its teeth were all misaligned. In addition to the teeth, the overall form appeared…lopsided. Even the most perfect bodies weren’t truly symmetrical, but the asymmetry was negligible at best, and hardly noticeable at worst; however, in this massive bluish-gray creature, almost everything seemed to be slightly off compared to its other side. It was a wonder how its body functioned properly considering all the maligned shapes. It was like it had been put together to be purely functional, and aesthetics had been all but forgotten.
Yet, above all that was a deep-seated worry; not for its strange, irregular shape, but for the fact that it had hide strewn across its body, and a large piece of shaved wood in its hand. Clothing. Weapons. Those were the words that came to me. Fear. Curiosity. Those were the feelings that entered my heart. This was not just some creature living out in the woods on the other side of the volcano. This was a being of intelligence, with culture; just like my lizards.
It was then that I felt it. Upon that realization, I could feel something in the background. Something was with this creature. It was very quiet, but it was there. It watched me, staring at me through the eyes of this creature. I knew that gaze, but it had been a long time since I last felt it.
The Eyes of the Hills.
My mind went blank. I couldn’t bring myself to think of anything from the shock. In just that short instant I immediately understood. The presence that had filled me with dread so long ago…it was just like me. And this creature was its creature, just like my lizards were mine. There were others like me out there. That revelation hit me deep in my core. I had never even tried to look for others, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, not even when I’d first encountered the Eyes of the Hills. The last time, I had reached out of my own accord only to run away, but this time it had come to me.
As I laid in my stupor, the hulking creature came over to the Surveyor and poked at it gently with the club in its hand. This small action was enough to rouse the lizard, though the sudden consciousness was unwelcome. Pain—was at the forefront of his thoughts. He could barely open his eyes, but when he saw that bare bluish-grey foot in front of his face, his adrenaline kicked in, and he sat up quickly—and instantly regretted it. Still, the adrenaline had numbed his pain to an extent, and his heart raced as he tried to make sense of the creature he saw before him, just as I had. He seemed to recognize the clothing it wore, just like me, and was filled with the same curiosity. He then ran a plea for help across his feathers, lighting up his face and wings.
Light. It makes light with its body.
Something invaded my thoughts. It was almost as if I were thinking those words myself, but I knew I wasn’t. There was a strange hum in the background of my consciousness, almost a buzzing noise.
It is weak.
This One’s creature is strong.
More strange words in my own voice entered my mind. I wanted to plug my ears if only I knew how. The foreign contaminate plagued my mind in its droll, lifeless voice of observation.
It uses many words.
The Other One also uses many words.
Is The New One like The Other One?
The New One? The Other One? Many words? Was it talking about me? It seemed absurd, and yet I couldn’t completely denounce the idea. But how was it hearing my words?
And then it hit me. I was hearing its words. By that same logic, it must be hearing mine as well. It made sense, but it still felt very strange, almost surreal. I wondered what it was, where it came from.
This One comes from beyond the hills.
The New One has much confusion.
It has many questions.
…It answered me. The Eyes of the Hills, calling itself This One, actually answered me. From thought to thought, it understood my mind. I barely even noticed as the buzzing began to grow louder. It was right, I had so many questions. And I wasn’t the only one.
The Eyes of the Hills’ creature tilted its head to the side at my lizard’s lightshow along his feathered scales. Confusion. It made a noise with its throat and moved its lips as it poked my lizard lightly with its club, seeming to want to understand what he was. The Surveyor also tried to respond with vocalizations, but couldn’t quite match the deep thrumming of the tall creature. It was almost comical watching the two go back and forth, trying to match each others’ sounds.
I almost laughed, but then a deep rumbling came from within the earth. The world was shaking, crumbling, falling apart. The sky rent asunder, and my entire world seemed to fall into a vast emptiness filled with nothing but noise and agony. My vision was cut off from the world. I could no longer see what the Surveyor was seeing, or hear what he was hearing. Static entered my mind at such a volume I thought my whole being would burst. The onslaught of distortion was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
submit submit subjugate submit
The noise was deafening. The worst part was that it seemed to come from my own mind. It was difficult to even think clearly. It invaded, threatening to encompass my entire being. My thoughts no longer felt like my own.
It hurt. I was in pain. I just wanted it to stop. It was almost as if-
Aaahh! I couldn’t even think! Its words were penetrating my every thought!
No! Please make it stop!
You cannot win lose Give up. ANSWERanswer
No no no no no no