Chapter 23.5 – Interlude – The One-Eyed Four-Armed Lizard
He was born misshapen. His family heart was intact, but the rest of him was strange. He knew soon after birth that others viewed him oddly. He did not know what to make of those looks. As he grew older, he learned to recognize those looks. Pity, sympathy, curiosity. They were not ill-intentioned, but they did feel discomforting. His parents and siblings comforted his distressed heart as best they could, but they did not understand what it was that tormented him.
In his colony, he found another like himself with the strange and alien arms growing out of his back. He was grateful to not be alone in his disfigurement. But it also became clear they were not exactly the same. The other one was strong, and so long as he did not overexert himself, he could live normally.
Envy grew in his heart. They were friends, comrades even, but that did not stop the jealousy. The one-eyed lizard always seemed to need help with everything, and his family was all too willing to do everything for him. The envy started growing into anger, and his family did not know how to still the pain growing in his heart.
When he was old enough, he left his family’s pit shelter. He tried to eke out a living on his own, and do everything himself. If only his leg would move when he told it to. If only food didn’t slip out of his jaw when he ate. If only those second arms didn’t get in the way. If only he could see with his right eye. He was barely surviving on his own. His anger grew so large he would allow none to help him, even when he needed it. He wanted to prove he could be self-sufficient, mostly to himself.
It was himself he was angriest at. His desire to be self-sufficient caused him to spurn those that only sought to aid him. He knew that, but he couldn’t stop himself now that he’d begun. At one point, while he was carrying wood back to his poorly built shelter, he accidently dropped his load. His right leg chose that moment to not work, and he tripped over all the wood he had collected, and his left arm came down harshly on the rocks trying to protect his face. It was enough force to break the bone near the elbow. He cried out in agony, blood seeping from sharp cuts against the ground rock.
In that instant, all his envy, jealousy, and anger turned into despair. He couldn’t do it. If he kept up this ridiculous idea of trying to live on his own, he could wind up killing himself. He almost thought maybe it would be better if he did.
He laid there for a while. Those that knew him were afraid to help for fear that he’d lash out at them, and he wallowed in that feeling of self-pity and depression. He was ready to give up.
As he began to fall into that unending spiral of misery, he suddenly felt himself lifted from the ground. A strong female, a Defender, had lifted him up and slung him over her shoulder. He moved to protest, snapping back to his angry ways, but that blinding pain in his arm stopped him. Since he could only see her back, she sent calming colors through her tail directed at him. As much as he longed to, he couldn’t stop his own colors from shouting in pain, and the female shifted him slightly, hoping to put him in a slightly more comfortable position and she took him to the center of the colony.
When he was finally set down, he found himself among the weak, those who could not care for themselves. Lizards like himself. Lost in his dejected thoughts, he didn’t see that the female had left and come back. She had two short sticks and a long string of flattened twine. His one eye watched her, not particularly interested in this female who had finally sent him to the last place he’d wanted to be, the place he knew he now deserved to be.
Sudden pain in his arm turned his vision white. His world swirled violently. He was almost certain he was experiencing the same turbulence as the calamity the first scalesongs sang about. He cried out in pain and tried to move his arm, but the female, much stronger than he, held him fast. While the pain didn’t dissipate, it did eventually lessen, and with his good eye he looked down upon his left arm. The sticks kept his elbow straight and the twine held his arm in place so it would not move. It was uncomfortable. He moved his right arm to remove the the ridiculous thing, but the female’s hand shot out and grabbed it, causing him to look at her. Her scales shimmered in warning and danger.
He replied in flashes of annoyance, desiring to be left alone. But how she replied shocked him. She motioned to her family heart, shimmering the center of her chest in that familiar light blue all lizards knew. <We are never alone>, she shimmered to him, very calmly.
He wanted to retort, but was left shimmerless. He knew as well as any that the family heart was always there, always with them. It never helped him build his poor excuse for a hut or procure food, but it watched over him, all of them. He had been on his own for so long now, he had forgotten that simple fact. It humbled him, in a sense, to be so blatantly reminded.
Pain and sadness poured out of his own family heart. They had been buried inside his anger. Why did they come out now after all this time? He couldn’t stop his dark feathers from shimmering in waves of raw emotion. The female did not say anything to him, but she held him close, comforting him with physical closeness that he had long abandoned. Deep in the back of her throat, a low, soothing purr echoed from her body to his as emotions wracked through him.
He soon found out the Defender had not brought him to the center to live with the invalids, but just to get supplies to dress his broken arm. Being on patrol duty, she often helped not only fend off enemies, but also assisted other lizards that had been wounded outside of the colony. Knowledge of such things as the splint that now graced his arm had been passed down for generations now, though they knew not where it originated from. Although he had been inside the colony borders, she had still seen the injured lizard and took it upon herself to give him aid, just as she would have done for anyone else.
She eventually took him back to his poorly erected hut to rest. Despite his protests she brought him food, but let him eat it on his own. As he tried to rest, he was awoken by rustling noises. He found the female reinforcing his hut so it wouldn’t come down on his head, which had happened once in the past already. She replaced the thatching on his roof in properly tied bundles, and restructured the roof apparatus. She basically rebuilt his whole hut.
He tried to get her to leave, but she only told him to rest. Unable to stop her, he let her do as she pleased. After being besieged by her goodwill for several days, one day when he woke up he found a piece of wood and a carving tool left on the floor of his hut. He did not have such things, and was certain she must have been the one to bring it. When she stopped by later with fresh water, he questioned her about the tools. She casually mentioned he might be bored while healing. He could use his feet to hold the flat piece of wood, and carve using his good right arm. At first, he didn’t touch the obvious present, seeing it with contempt. But the boredom did eventually get to him enough to try his hand at it.
He had never tried the arts or crafts other lizards seemed so enamored with; he was lucky enough to be able to put a roof over his head. He started out with simple designs at first and slowly filled the plank with simple lines and shapes. When he filled up one plank with carvings, he would find a new blank piece when he awoke the following day. Thus while his arm healed, for the first time in his life he found a passion. He enjoyed the carving. Even his two tiny mutant arms didn’t get in the way. Now engrossed in his carvings, just beyond the vision of his good eye the female watched over him, often shimmering in a smile.
After his arm started getting better, the female gave him chores to complete around the hut. Spending so much time there, the one-eyed lizard finally invited her to spend her nights there, since she was always loitering around anyway. If she had another home to go to, she rarely went there. Graciously, she accepted the other fur blanket he kept in his home, a sign that she was at last welcome there.
Little by little he noticed his anger at his life fading. If he really sat and thought about it, it was almost peaceful. He hadn’t felt so at peace in a long time, maybe never. One day, out of the blue, he questioned why the female did so much for him. She replied that she did only what she wanted and needed to do. And it was true. The things he could handle on his own, she let him do. If he wanted to do something, she let him do it whether he failed or not. If it put him at risk, she would help if he started to lose control over his actions, otherwise she let him do as he liked.
In addition to the peaceful feeling, he also felt freedom. He had tried to free himself, acting on his own, not accepting help from anyone, but all it did was serve to remind him how restricted he was. And yet, when she helped him, he didn’t feel restricted or held back; he felt more freedom than he ever had in his life. Thanks to her, he could live as he wished. Not some invalid that always had to be taken care of, but just another lizard in the colony.
Seeing that he had calmed down, other lizards often offered him help, but it was usually the female Defender that turned them down. She was confident in his ability to perform actions on his own. That confidence flowed from her into him, empowering him to do more. She was overprotective in that way, and when he did need help, she always wanted to be the one to help him, hoarding him all to herself.
He realized one day that she completed him. She was like his other half. That night, he did not sleep under his own fur blanket, but instead shared with her. She accepted his own willfulness with no questions asked. He didn’t know why it had taken so long to realize how he felt about her. She was the only one, no others could compare. His arm had healed long ago, but he never turned her out. Loving colors flashed all over his scales that night, and she responded in kind.
After that, he spent his time not only carving, but putting all his love into trinkets to give to his most beloved. He started with a bracelet, perhaps because they had met due to his broken arm. He twined some small pretty stones together, and was able to trade one of his carvings for a pretty seashell from the shores. With the shell as the centerpiece, he presented her with the beautiful gift made just for her. Her colors flashed in a way he had not seen before. A lizard’s blush, full of girlish embarrassment, gratitude, and love. Her tail wriggled about mindlessly in sheer happiness. She was so overwhelmed with happy emotions, she almost couldn’t even look at the one-eyed lizard or his creation for fear that she would simply burst from the bliss. She had never been given such a gift, especially not from the one she loved with all her heart. Her reaction was so adorable, he found himself wanting to make more things for her.
He now enjoyed life in his colony, and all those around him, especially his parents and siblings, were grateful to the female Defender who had finally brought peace to his heart. Things like compliments and heartfelt thanks always caused that adorable blushing and embarrassed reaction from her. He was almost a bit jealous that he wasn’t the only one to see her that way. He reconnected with his other four-armed friend who had also found a loving family to call his own, already with children in tow. The one-eyed lizard was surprised to find that about half the children shared the same four-armed trait the two four-armed friends had.
While the two friends reconnected, the one-eyed’s Defender played with the children of his friend, and he suddenly felt a desire to see her play with their own children. There were times he thought he shouldn’t have children, lest they end up like him, but now he could see in his friend’s children that no matter what, they would be all right. They wouldn’t be alone.
That night, the two deeply and lovingly embraced each other, both hoping to soon have children of their own. Later, as they laid still under the fur blanket, the larger female hugging her one-eyed mate from behind, careful not to squish his second arms, he gently shimmered to her.
He asked why she had chosen him. She was silent for a moment in thought as he turned in her embrace to face her and see her response, wrapping his split tail around her one of her legs. Finding the words she wanted to say, she relayed that he was a hard worker. He didn’t quite understand, but she elaborated. She had always seen him work by himself, despite his maladies, or perhaps in spite of them. He always kept pushing himself forward. She had fallen in love with him long before he met her. And so when he was on the ground and in pain, she had instinctively gone to him to help him.
He admitted that although it wasn’t so at the time, he was now glad she had, otherwise he would probably be living a lonely life among the other invalids…or maybe not at all. She squeezed him close and flashed all manner of reassuring and loving colors to him. <We are not meant to be alone, we are meant to have family>.
He agreed. It had taken him a long time to learn that. A life without family was empty. The reason he felt complete with her was because she was his family. Surely his four-armed colony brother felt the same with his family, surely his own three parents as well. He now even felt thankful for his anger and resentment that had stewed in his heart early in his life, for without it, he likely never would have met his beloved. He would take on all the pain, all the torture, all the curious and sympathetic looks he detested just to meet her again. To have her tend his wounds, fix his home, and heal his heart.
Whatever future lay ahead of him, he was ready to face it, together with his loved one. His feelings poured through his family heart, and the Overseer who watched over them was glad for it.