Chapter 33 – The Collector
I needed help. I didn’t want help, but I needed it. However, there was no one for me to turn to. My lizards had always been my salvation…but I couldn’t bring myself ask them…not after I’d used them to fuel my need for physical sensation. The guilt ate away at me, and I began closing off parts of myself from them to keep them from seeing all the ugly and dirty pieces of me. I didn’t want them to know, I wanted to hide it from them. If they knew, would they come to hate the very existence that tied them together? Would their revulsion of my depraved actions cause them to cut themselves off from me completely?
I could only tuck myself away in a small corner and hope they did not notice. There had to be something else out there, anything else, that could help me. I could not ask them for help.
As I lamented in my revelation, the expedition party made their way back to the main colony by the riverside mountains. The shining rock was received with looks of awe much as I expected. Some seashells and other items from the ocean had a similar sheen, but the exotic look of the metal fascinated the eyes.
Some pieces were kept by the party members as trophies, while others were traded off. I followed the most pristine piece as it changed hands several times, still trying to think of a way to get them to understand its uses beyond a beautiful decoration. The task was made difficult by the constant distraction of attaching myself to various lizards. Even when I forced myself to stop for a moment of clarity, I could only find myself thinking about which lizard I was going to dive inside next.
In the end, my thinking didn’t get anywhere, and much time was wasted by my half-hearted efforts. The pristine metal eventually made its way into the hands of a lone lizard. He had separated from his bachelor group quite some time ago, but had yet to make a family. There was simply no lizard out there that tugged at his heartstrings more than any other.
As I rested my existence inside him, I felt his confusion over his lack of family, wondering why he was so different from the others, hoping to find that spark that seemed to come to others so naturally. I could feel his desire to compromise his own feelings and simply live with a family so that he might feel ‘normal’. But it was no use, he could not force himself to love that which he did not. It was not his destiny to leave his legacy in his children. But he did desire some manner of legacy, he just didn’t know what it was yet. He hoped the beautiful shining rock he just acquired might be able to tell him.
He was lonely, not for lack of family or companionship, but acception. His lack of desire for a family separated him from others in a way that was not easily understood, and he began to avoid others for their constant reminders of his singlehood. Although their hearts were open to one another, it was still difficult to comprehend something they did not understand. It made for a very lonely existence when others did not understand you.
Something tugged at the back of my mind as I thought of that, but I was too preoccupied with how the piece of rock felt in his hands. Its shape was a mess, the surface uneven and coarse, yet the few places that were flat felt so incredibly smooth. It seemed a contradiction of itself, confused on whether it should be bumpy and sharp or slick and smooth.
The lizard found himself rubbing the smooth areas, enjoying the almost silky feel of it, something unlike he’d ever felt before. Not even a smooth rock had such a texture to it. If the whole piece could feel that way, he felt he’d enjoy it more. Otherwise, it only served to decorate his home among other oddities he had collected.
The Collector’s home consisted of many odds and ends strung to walls or sitting on small tables and shelves. A wood carving made into a strange, twisting shape, driftwood that resembled a face if you looked at it from the right angle, dried out bodies of strange sea creatures that had been brought from the shore colonies, his home was full of such strange and wondrous trinkets. And now the coppery-green shining rock, brought back from the home of his ancestors, graced his collection.
He continued to hold it in his hands, thinking of where to place it. Inside his skin, I gazed at it with him, and I imagined the heat needed to soften it, the tongs that would hold it in place, the hammer that would strike when it was red hot, slowly beating it into a flat piece that would be smooth all over just like he desired. The process was more complicated than simple dream images could convey, and I still hadn’t found the answer I needed to teach them such workmanship. Had they smelted the ore on their own, they may have figured out that heat could shape it in other ways, but this was simply handed to them already done, leaving no space to wonder how much further they could go with it.
The lizard paused. He seemed uncertain about something. He turned the piece of metal over in his hands, pondering it. I could only think he must be imagining something about it. What caused the sudden shift in finding a place for it to rest to suddenly reexamining it? Nothing in his environment had changed, and I could only think he must have had some sort of epiphany. But that still didn’t explain what had sparked it. It didn’t seem like he was musing over the properties of the metal piece before this, I was the only one thinking about those kinds of things…
…Could it be…me? While I rested inside the Collector, layering my imagination upon reality, had he seen it? I almost couldn’t believe it. But the way he looked at the shining rock, it seemed to make sense. There was a wonder in his eyes as he perceived it with new possibilities. He saw beyond the discordant surface to its heart that could be molded and shaped with heat and tools.
This, this was what I had been looking for. If I could guide his hand as I had his imagination, the revolution of metal would take hold, and a new era of prosperity could begin.