Chapter 23 – Proto Wings
Among the mutations I now sought, ones that duplicated limbs were rare, but I was still able to find several in the mountain colony mothers. I was thankful that the community of lizards took such great care of their weakened brethren, as I was certain nurturing such a mutation would come with additional problems before I could strengthen the desired aspects and work out the more debilitating side effects.
I had not before interacted with the weak lights. As soon as I touched them, I could feel just how weak they were. Most were inviable, they carried too many other problems to be safely born, even with my coaxing. Of all the lights that raced to their mother’s eggs to be born, only two seemed able to handle the difficulty of bringing themselves into this world. I tried to influence them, to take away or at least lessen other aspects that would burden them while guiding them to the eggs.
It wasn’t quite like changing scales into feathers. That was just a small signal given different directions. Staving off whole connections from forming was much more intense, even with only two. On top of that, I had to pace myself. It would do me no good to sink all my power into just these two and be unable to work on the coming generations. Using all my gained experience from influencing the lizards for so long, I was much more certain of how it should pan out now that I had a starting point. I felt confidence welling up in me. I can do this, I shimmered such thoughts to myself.
The two incubated well, and managed to hatch on their own without assistance; a good sign. The trait they shared was a pair of tiny deformed arms. They connected on the back, slightly askew from where I desired them, but I could work on positioning as the generations progressed. They had an entire second shoulder almost directly behind their existing shoulder. I couldn’t put the new set below the original, the wings would need to be capable of forward motion which wouldn’t be possible from lower on the back. The muscles that connected the new shoulders to the rest of the body were weak, but they were at least in place. Although they were second shoulders and arms, they were very small and underdeveloped, and the ‘hand’ was little more than a nub. They were only about a quarter the size of their real arms. They could be moved, but it was limited and awkward, and sometimes their movements would mimic the real shoulders unintentionally.
The progenitors of future flight both wound up being male. They were not treated coldly by their families, but they did live slightly harsher lives. One had weak main shoulder muscles which hampered his ability to carry heavy items. He often suffered from arm injuries after overworking his weak main arms. But that appeared to be the only thing he suffered from.
The other male suffered from a misshapen skull, and the entire right side of his face was paralyzed. He lost sight in his right eye and had difficulty eating anything but soft foods. In addition to his tiny second arms, his tail also split halfway down. It wasn’t a perfect split either, one side was shorter than the other. And although there was nothing physically wrong with his legs, he tended to limp on the right side, as if his brain had difficulty telling it when to move.
They were far from perfect, but they were still loved. The weak-shouldered one found a family of two females and another male that accepted him, stubby second arms and all. They often interacted with the second arms as if they were real arms, encouraging him to use and move them when he could. If he had felt any kind of self-consciousness towards his defect before, he embraced it within his new family.
The other met a particularly overprotective female Defender. They formed a very deep bond, and although her status as a Defender would dictate she help protect the colony, she spent most of her time caring for her beloved. Considered an invalid by most, she treated him as an equal, helping him when he desired it, and giving him encouragement when he tried to accomplish tasks on his own. Returning her love, he found himself crafting her all manner of beautiful decorations, many intricate pieces full of skill and devotion. Had they not met, he likely would have lived out his life among the other invalids, passing each day the same as the last. Her love inspired him, and he constantly pushed his own limits. He even crafted himself a short carved pole to aid him as he walked so he would not require help to get to his destinations.
It would be untrue to say I had no doubt they would lead fulfilled lives. Far from it. I had worried greatly for them when they were young. Many looked at them curiously, wondering about the feathered protrusions from their backs. They were unsure what to make of them. Most that had such deformities were unable to break out of their own shells, and died soon after. But these two managed to live, a feat in itself. I was still thankful for their loving families that cared for them, that saw them not as an oddity, but as a loved one.
The two males often interacted with each other, finding camaraderie in their shared misshapen traits, and were great friends throughout their lives. In the weak-shouldered one’s family, it was always obvious which children he had sired, considering I went to great lengths to nurture the future wings through new generations. Their children suffered from less maladies than they did, which both fathers were thankful for, particularly the one-eyed father. Because it didn’t adversely affect them, I left the split tail trait alone, and it developed in quite a number of his offspring.
Still something of a curiosity, the children of the progenitors also found camaraderie in each others’ company, but strangely enough, they rarely formed family units with one another. They seemed to view each other more as siblings than lovers. It was curious even more for me, as I did not influence them to do so, though it worked in my favor to spread their traits around the colony.
It didn’t take long for the mountainside colony to become inundated with dual-armed lizards as I kept the mutation in each subsequent generation of children. Those that left the mountainside colony for the forest I released from my influence, and more often than not, their children were born without the proto wings. Sad though I was to see one of them go, I did not want to stop them. For all the influence I used on them, I still wanted them to live their own lives as they saw fit.
After some generations, a second mountainside colony finally formed, the advent of bush tending helping ease the destruction of the calamity and providing more abundant food. By this time, the proto winged lizards were no longer seen as a curiosity, and were just another part of the colony, many of whom helped form the new colony. Their new arms were getting stronger, their feathers longer, long enough to start layering with each other in different sections. Their bones were lightening, and the lungs and hearts expanding to be ready for the additional stress to come. The muscles for their arms were weakened as the muscles across the chest for the wings strengthened. The feathers themselves were taking a more familiar shape, branches of tightly strung together filaments in an oblong shape.
Everything was going so smoothly, it almost seemed like a lie. The plans and designs I had laid out were coming along with minimal error, and I was neither overburdened nor met with surprises. It was a strange feeling. I was satisfied, but at the same time I almost felt I desired something more. There was nothing in particular I wanted to occur, just some manner of something.
How I would regret hope for any kind of change.