Chapter 18 – Dawn Onward
After the calamity, during the time of mourning, I found a new lizard to name: Scalesinger. She shimmered her scales in beautiful patterns in her eulogy to the dead, conveying words, emotions, and a semblance of visible song. The control she had over the colors in her scales was unmatched in any colony, interweaving a story with delicate touches, intermingling colors with such deft precision it was hard to imagine how she did so without being able to see a reflection of herself. What might have been a mess of colors by any other lizard was a constant ever-changing painting. Even if they couldn’t understand the complexity of its meaning, the other lizards still knew it to be beautiful.
Her voiceless singing was an inspiration to other lizards, and in the dark wake of calamity, her scale songs shone all the brighter, bringing some much needed peace to their hearts.
Her art was taught to others, most learning how to sing with the scales on their hands since they could be easily seen. The song culture grew from there and spread at the same time as the knowledge of fire. The lizards also got into the habit of something akin to humming, a light shimmer of patterns across their scales as they focused their attention on other things.
The most beautiful scenes came as the fires were dying down before the lizards retired for the night. A lizard would begin a scalesong and it would spread to the others that knew all or parts of it, and the lizards would ‘sing’ in tune with each other like a sparkling sky of stars reflecting upon a still pool. The harmony of the shimmering song was calming to my own heart that still needed healing and I let myself shimmer among their family hearts with them.
While the songs filled their hearts they worked hard to rebuild their colonies. The time of family holes seemed at an end; the fear of being trapped during another cataclysm seemed rooted into their core now. With all the felled trees they set about with sharp hard stones from the mountain using simple axes to carve away the wood into usable pieces. They created primitive shelters, straining their ingenuity to its utmost starting with simple lean-tos to protect from the rain, and advancing into pit shelters to protect from the hot and cold. With only a small bit of inspiration from me, they used the insulating foliage as thatching for roofs as well.
Collecting enough foliage for the colony was difficult with most of the forest being tall red-wooded trees with needle-leaves. Broad-leafed trees and bushes in the near vicinity were stripped too quickly, there wasn’t enough. Some puzzled about how to go about securing more of the needed vegetation. Simply expanding farther outward would spread them too thin. I puzzled with them, hoping for more inspiration to come. It always seemed to come when they needed it, and surely they did now.
I didn’t know what force it was that governed my memories; sometimes they were triggered by events I witnessed, other times they came when I desired knowledge, and rarely with no provocation. Perhaps it was a part of myself that didn’t want me to remember anything but what was needed. If that was so, after experiencing some of the triggered memories, I could understand why. Some of those memories were awful and painful, and once I remembered I never forgot them. Perhaps one day I’d be ready to embrace my memories, both the sadness and the happiness.
And so, as every other time I desired knowledge, it came to me. The memory was new, peaceful even. I saw rows upon rows of small trees in perfect lines, small flowers adorning their branches. A light, sweet smell filled the air from a calm breeze. I was surrounded by the trees with their broad green leaves and white flowers, each one carefully and purposefully placed. Small insects flitted from flower to flower, a low but pleasant buzz left in their wake. Sunlight shimmered through the trees as the breeze ever so slightly rustled the leaves, making the light dance upon the ground. Surely this place was a paradise.
There was a word for what I had just seen: agriculture. Rather than hunting and gathering naturally growing food, you grew the food yourself in chosen locations, raising and tending the food until it was ripe for consumption. You didn’t have to hope there was enough food in the wilderness, you could control the amount of food grown. The bushes they used for their leaves grew berries, and the roots attracted bugs. A single bush was good for two sources of food and its leaves good for thatching and insulating foliage.
Once the berries were ripe on wild bushes, the sweet seeds could be planted instead of consumed. The only problem that stood in the way was one that often plagued me. How do I communicate this method to them? Would I need to wait until a lizard became curious about what more a berry could provide other than a quick, sweet snack? Likely not. Berries turned rotten too quickly, they didn’t last like meats and bugs left out in the hot sun to dry, so it was a waste to not eat them soon after picking.
After an accident, the lizards were already starting to experiment with cooked meats over their new fires, and testing other foods to see if they were good cooked as well. Some root vegetables that had previously been ignored for being poisonous turned out to be good to eat when cooked over a fire. And while more sources of food were always something to celebrate, they were still all wild plants. They must learn to tame the plants.
I bided my time before the beginning of the next ripening season, thinking of ways to teach them. In the end, after many thoughts that ended up as dead ends, I decided to try something new. Their bodies and minds were calm while they slept, and I wondered if my influence might be able to communicate with them better while they were unable to distinguish reality from dreams.
I chose a young female, as the young always seemed more susceptible to my touch. Her dreams were simple as most were, but they were also beautiful. Colors swirled in her dream like the singing scales, and a memory of playing with friends when she was younger mixed with the fantasy of climbing endlessly tall trees, each trying to be the first to the unreachable top.
When her dream started dissipating, I came to her. It was more difficult than I imagined, and I felt myself having to divert much of my influence to this one task. It was simple imagery I left her with, several still pictures that seemed to form a story. A berry, a seed, falling into the rocky ground. A shoot sprouting from inside the seed, coming above ground to taste the sun. Drops of rain that the new roots greedily drank. A few images of the different growth stages of the bush. And at the end, a full grown, berry-laden bush.
I felt exhausted. It was just a series of simple images in a dream, but it was incredibly difficult to convey. I could only hope she understood. When I first awoke as an Overseer, I don’t think I would have been capable of dream images like that. Even now I almost wasn’t. But it did teach me that I could do some things that I couldn’t before. It made me wonder what else I might be capable of now.
I felt it might be time to experiment a bit again. The more I could do, the more I could help my lizards. Even if it took a lot out of me, if I could give them visions of more complex ideas, they could advance even more. However, at the moment I could not think of anything more to teach them.
While I rested myself, I sat back, watching how she would use the knowledge she’d been given in a dream. If she was able to create agriculture from that one dream, it would be the dawn of a new age. And from this new dawn and onward unto tomorrow, I would watch over them as always as their Overseer.