Chapter 12 – The Hidden Signal
With the Namebearer coming to rest within my memories, it was finally time to return to my duties as an Overseer. I had a positive new outlook, and while still ambitious for their advancement, it did not feel as zealous and all-consuming as it had at one point.
The new mountain side colony wasn’t faring very well. The higher elevation without the protection of dense trees gave way to colder temperatures and high winds. Quite a number died off during the even colder winter months, and only families of four or five seemed to generate enough warmth at night, and sometimes even that was barely enough. The lizards realized this as well, so the families of two and three grouped together for warmth. It was a sad event. They clung together in love and in death as the cold took them away.
What could I do for them so that more wouldn’t die? Should I urge them back to the forest? They were trying so hard to make out here on the mountain side, but it was harsh. If they were to succeed in colonizing the mountain, something had to change, and quickly.
I didn’t have the luxury of time to slowly adapt them. Did I have something locked away in my memories that could compensate? I let myself drift, deep in thought. Something, anything to help them. I was hit suddenly by inspiration, it crashed through my mind like a wave during high tide crashing upon the rocky cliffs. It burned; it was hot. My essence was aflame in the memory that was let loose.
Fire. Controlled fire. Another rekindled memory of long ago. It felt powerful, necessary even, and I wondered why I had not thought of it before. It was useful for so many things, things I could not remember other than warmth. The lizards were smart, they would think of many uses for it, perhaps all the ones I could not.
I knew fire almost as well as I knew thumbs. I could remember its importance, even if I couldn’t remember all its uses. I knew what it was, but then came a problem. How do you make fire? I could remember fire and that it could be made, but I wasn’t able to recall the method.
And then came yet another problem. I had no idea how to show them the advantage of controlled fire. To them, fire usually meant death, and was something to avoid. Forest fires were a very real danger for the forest dwellers, and most creatures had a natural fear of fire. Thankfully, the tall red-barked trees in the forest had adapted to be resistance to fire, though not immune. It was difficult for forest fires to spread where the trees were more sparse, but the denser areas suffered the most damage from fire. When such forest fires were spotted, the forest colonies completely vacated the area until the fires died down, hoping their homes wouldn’t be touched, but not taking any chances. Having branched from the forest colony, the fear of fire would be very ingrained in them.
Could I dull their fear? I did not know. Before I could show them fire, I had to do something about that fear. I couldn’t get rid of the fear, fire was inherently dangerous and they must remain wary. Even controlled fire had its dangers. A related memory? It was more of a notion, but I knew it to be true.
There were so many ‘if’s, so many problems. First, I should see if I could find the root of their fear. Perhaps something would come to me once I found it. I looked towards one of the families huddled close together in a hole of a tree. Their hole was sunk past the opening in the side of the tree, but the chill early spring wind still blew freely through it, and the foliage they gathered could only insulate it so much.
I reached out to one of the lizards in there, an older female. She had one surviving hatchling after the winter, and held him close in the center of her family’s huddled pile of bodies. I touched her and felt myself flow through her. I went deep, deep inside her. I did not know what I was looking for, I could only hope I would know when I stumbled upon it.
I felt through her memories. She had been young when her parents had relocated her family to the mountainside colony, but she was still one of the founding members, most of the adults were. But what I looked for did not come from her memories. I let myself drift through her, her anxious emotions for her family and what tomorrow may bring, and hoping that her last young son would wake up every morning. Her fears were well-founded with the loss of four young in her family in just the last winter. But I still desired to give her peace of mind. I sent her feelings of reassurance through her family heart, our connection, and I could feel her physical body relax around me. It was all I could do until I found what I didn’t know I was looking for.
Her pulse was soft during rest, but it was still strong and healthy. She wouldn’t succumb to the elements easily. Her nerves remained sensitive to changes in her environment so that she could wake at a moment’s notice. But again, this was not what I sought. I drifted farther, deeper. There must be something here, something just waiting for me to find it.
I saw she had eggs that only recently been fertilized, just in the last few days. It would still be a while before they were ready to be laid. I counted four in total, and hope all survived the incubation period.
I could feel myself drifting closer to an egg, still in the early stages of development. The tiny embryo was slowly increasing in size, feeding off nutrients provided by the healthy mother. Although I had always felt the development stage, this was the first time I felt like I had seen it. How strange that this small strange creature would grow to be a beautifully scaled lizard by the time it hatched.
I looked closer at where its scales developed from, curious to see where the dark scale that could shine in so many colors originated. It was easily found, ready to be developed, just waiting for its turn to grow with the rest of the young embryo.
I got even closer and found something strange about it. I could see many signals pulsing through its undeveloped body, telling pieces where to form and grow. The scales also received a signal, but in that signal I saw a potential I did not know existed. It was so surprising, I didn’t know what to make of it at first. The signal that was being sent held many possibilities, all contained right here in this underdeveloped scale. I reached for it, touched it. I could change it. I could give the signal different instructions, tell it give more or less components to the scale. The possibility already existed here, it just needed to be tweaked.
I felt myself shimmer with a strange kind of laughter. I was both elated and flabbergasted. I did not find the root of their fear of fire, I found something far more incredible. I reached out to the other developing eggs, giving their signal the same instructions.
It all existed right here. They would need fire in the future, but I could ease them into it. This right here would save their future generations along the mountainside.
I stepped back and watched as the embryonic lizards developed inside their mother, then inside the eggs after they were laid, until finally they hatched. The fluid of the egg made them damp and strange looking, and even their parents did not know what to think when the four hatched. Their older brother, who had made it through the cold spring, looked upon his young siblings with the same curious expression.
There was a strange coat adorning the four lizards, wet with birth fluid. Their mother set in to lick the remaining fluid off them, perhaps trying to remove whatever strange thing had stuck to them before they hatched. Her three males followed suit with the other three, each taking one under their care.
The licking didn’t get rid of the strange coat, but did help to dry it. Not long after their first ‘bath’, the dry coat flared out, unhindered by the wet. I found them adorable. Each small lizard had a fine layer of fuzz upon their skin. It was incredibly soft, and best of all, warm. It could even shimmer the same way the scales of their parents could.
Although it resembled it, the fuzz was not the fur coat of a mammal. It was primitive feathering.