Chapter 15 – The Age of Fire
It was right around the time when carving was becoming the next big thing to hit the lizard world. Panels of bark from rotting logs became a prime medium for carved pictures. Crude though they were, being cut into with stone knives, it was still a fascinating process to watch. Most designs were simple straight lines, sometimes criss-crossing each other, and rarely something more elaborate like curved lines would be made. They even took to making representations of themselves in the wood carvings. Simplistic, stick-like lizards began to adorn the wood panels. From that inspired actual stick-lizards, thin sticks wrapped together with twine that resembled a lizard if one used their imagination. They were quite popular with the children.
There was suddenly a boom of new creative duties lizards could perform in addition to food gathering, hunting, colony protection, child rearing, teaching, and general care-taking. Most lizards didn’t stick to a single job, preferring to maximize their talents in several areas. Times when lizards would laze under the sun, soaking up its rays, were instead spent on more creative ventures.
Trade began between the families and the colonies. Shell decorations from the shore colonies were popular with the forest dwellers, and likewise the bark panels were popular with the shore colonies. The solid, non-porous rocks of the mountainside colonies were found useful by all, and made better tools and weapons.
Their civilization was expanding by leaps and bounds. I had already stopped touching on the bipedal change, as it was, for all intents and purposes, complete. Lizards rarely had trouble walking on two legs, and their tails made for great counterweights with their mildly hunched over posture. Their original feet had seemed a bit flimsy, but with the bipedal movement they became larger, stronger, and thicker to carry the mass of the lizard upright. Their strong legs carried them fast across the ground as they ran, and their long arms could still deftly wield large weapons and small tools. It was the culmination of everything I had desired.
Again, they were growing larger than previous generations, to the point that they now had to carve into the porous holes in the black rock near the shore to make them large enough to accommodate their families. It was nearly overwhelming to me the speed at which they were changing.
With some of my influence freed up, I set about the process of dulling their fear of fire. During the last few forest fires that resulted from lightning storms, I had paid close attention to where the fear came from, and now latched onto that to lessen, though not dismiss, its power over them.
And then came a moment when a small lizard was hard at work trying to make a design in a wood panel, and it was almost as if the lizards had discovered fire themselves, unknowingly. The little lizard was using a sharp stick to bore a hole deep into the panel of wood. The stick wasn’t gripped, the lizard had found a lazy way to bore in the hole just the way he liked it by moving his hands back and forth in opposite directions with the stick inbetween, causing it to spin rapidly. A very tiny, thin wisp of smoke appeared. The lizard stopped to inspect the strange smell coming from his wood panel, but I was inundated with a memory triggered by that same little plume.
Friction. I remembered about friction. In the same way the lizard bored a hole into the wood, one could make fire if they had kindling surrounding it using that very method. But how do I get him to use kindling? A thought came to me as another lizard scampered up into the trees the rose above my soon-to-be Firestarter as he worked diligently, albeit a bit lazily, on the rocky floor of the forest. To the lizard that had jumped in the tree, I led to a branch with a false promise of food, just a simple notion that food might be found there. The branch had dried needle-like leaves, ready to fall with the smallest stimulation. Once there, I sent a quick feeling of fright to her heart, and, as I expected, she leapt away to another nearby tree, shaking the branch and loosening the needle leaves to the ground below. I sent her a feeling of comfort as an apology, but with no other way to communicate my intentions, it was the only way I could think of to get kindling onto Firestarter’s wood art panel.
The needles on the branch dropped as Firestarter worked away below, unknowing. It was a common occurrence at this time of year for the needles to fall so the trees may grow new leaves, but normally not so many fell at once. The mass of needles fell onto firestarter and his work of art just as another plume was beginning to form. Suddenly covered with needles, rather than freaking out, his hands stopped after a few more twists, and he just sat there. He breathed out something like a sigh as he hung his head. He shook his body, dislodging it of the needles. He was about to clear away the mass from his art piece when he saw a curious thing. The tiny wisp of smoke had grown a bit darker, a bit thicker.
By now he realized this smoke came from fire, though he could not see any flames, partially thanks to my influence he was more curious than afraid. The sigh had been just the thing to help the small flame grow within the pile of kindling. He stared at it, and I had to use a bit more of my influence to encourage him to continue. He seemed to realize his lazy trick for boring holes had somehow started the smoke, and that the needles had enhanced it somehow. He set his sharpened stick back down on the panel, wading through a fine layer of tree needles, and set about his method again, this time in earnest rather than laziness. He would sometimes stop to inspect how the smoke was doing, unknowing that his curious breath as he bent down to inspect the growing embers also helped to aid the growth of the fire.
And then it appeared. A small flame lit from inside the pile and reached out to the needles, setting them alight, burning through them quickly, leaving small blackened husks behind. Firestarter sat back as the tiny flame ate through all the dried needles. But even when the needles were consumed, the fire stayed. The wood panel he had been working on caught the flame.
The first pop as the fire released gas from inside the wood frightened Firestarter enough for him to jump back. But his curiosity kept him there. A lizard that was passing by came to him, raising alarming colors on her scales, but Firestarter raised his hand to calm her with reassuring shimmers, the gesture asking her to wait. She stayed with Firestarter and watched as the fire consumed the the entire panel. Before it was done, a few other lizards had gathered, wondering where the burning smell had come from.
Some were uneasy, hesitant, but the flame was also beautiful in its own way. It was small enough that while it did cause some worry, it wouldn’t easily set the forest aflame, and for the first time they could see the inherent beauty of fire as it danced along the wood, consuming it in its entirety, leaving only blackened charcoal behind.
Firestarter was very excited about his discovery, and set to making another flame, to see if he could reproduce it. It took him some time, but he finally pinned down the method. The female that had first seen the fire with him took quite a liking to him, and they ended up becoming a family unit with just the two of them. He soon taught her how he had made the fire, through the use of wood, sticks, and tree needles. Many lizards were still wary of the self-made fire, but considering it hadn’t caused any outbreak of forest fires yet, their curiosity was starting to overcome their inherent fear.
It was coming to fruition. The age of fire could finally begin. After all this, I was almost surprised the lizards hadn’t created fire themselves already with all the new innovation going on in their colonies. They almost had as it was, and I’m sure with a little more time, they likely would have figured it out for themselves. I couldn’t help but wonder, once I gave them the depths of the sea and the heights of the sky, would they have no more use for me?
Surely I would not be abandoned, but what could I do for them once they were capable of adapting themselves? Would I just standby and watch as their civilization raced ahead with no need for my slow methods? Or would I fade away, my role being complete? In all likelihood I would have spent a long time contemplating that thought, but before I could get any further in my thinking, disaster struck.
I had been watching my lizards for many generations, and storms and earthquakes were common, but there had not been anything like this. I could feel it from deep beneath the earth. It was like the times I exhausted myself and felt connected to the world as a whole, and somewhere deep at the core of my being I was still connected to the world. It was from that place within me that I felt the tremor begin. Pressure in the ground surged, and a plate of earth lost in the struggle for dominance, capitulating my small world into chaos.
The lizards could instinctively feel something wrong from my sudden panic and quickly hid in the holes of the earth and trees. Some of the lizards in the shore colony stayed out to sea, far away from solid ground. The entire world stilled; all living creatures, and even the ocean, were silent with anticipation. And then it began.
The earth came alive and it roared with a vengeance. No one was safe, not from this monstrosity. I could feel the shaking earth from my lizards, and they trembled as much from the tremors as their own fear. Families huddled close, hunting parties rushed back to the colonies, all desiring to be by their loved ones’ sides.
But the earth was hungry, ravenous. It would not stop until it had eaten its fill. Whole sections of cliffs fell onto the shore colonies, family holes crushed beneath the weight of the rock. The tall trees of the forest that had always been a safe haven from the world below felt their roots falter, dislodged from the rock that held them fast. Heavy with age, they toppled down, taking many families with them. It started a domino effect, trees felling trees, crashing to the ground with a great sound of being ripped from the earth. The tall mountain where the mountainside colony made their home found the loose shiny black rocks raining down upon them in a great rockslide, the sparse collection of trees were hit hard from both the tremors and the slides, and they fell like their forest kin.
Screams, panic, pain, cries. So many fearful emotions flooded the family heart. I could not calm them, I could barely stay afloat amidst the thrashing mass of emotions. It was difficult to tell where they ended and I began. It lasted for minutes, and the damage was immense. Many in their holes had been buried, and those on the outside desperately tried to dig them out. Although hurt themselves, they came together quickly to free their colony-brothers and sisters, before the light of their beloved’s heart faded.
So many came to me in just those few terrible moments. I was inundated with memories and all the pain of their passing. It was maddening. In the minutes that followed the tremendous earthquake I desperately tried to keep ahold of myself. I couldn’t let myself be overwhelmed, not yet. I still had to warn them.
The earth was sated, its deep belly full with the chaos it had wrought. No, the new danger came from another deep and vast place. The same tremor that had shaken the earth had woken something from its slumber. The sea had been awakened, and it wanted revenge.