Chapter 43.5 – Interlude – Absence of the Heart
It was an exciting day when the Surveyor set out for the unexplored territory beyond the great mountain. It was mostly others on the survey team and their families that sent him off, but was an occasion to be celebrated nonetheless. The Surveyor, a shy lizard that mostly kept to himself, wasn’t fond of the hubbub, but let his friends and family do as they pleased. As long as it made them happy, he could put aside his personal desire for quiet and calm to let them have their little hurrah.
An equally shy friend came to see him off. Obviously uncomfortable with his rather loud relatives joshing her around, he took her to the side where she could find some respite. Of course, he benefitted from the respite as well. Both able to finally take a breath, their scales lit up in a giggle as they watched the celebration get completely out of hand from the sidelines. Most of his kin used any excuse to have a part, congregating and merrymaking with others, and for his short time away, he would both miss it and be grateful to be away from it for a while. The Shy Girl felt his conflicted emotions, and wrapped the end of her tail around his in comfort.
The Surveyor relaxed, and a thrum from his throat conveyed his thanks. In truth, his tension was raised. He was both excited to explore what none had yet to see, and yet there was still a feeling of anxiety of the unknown. Never in a rush, the Surveyor was keen to wait until the festivities and his own worries abated.
It was all over too soon, and the Surveyor found himself set to take off for far and distant lands. Colors lit the scales and feathers of his friends and family as they wished him safe travel and a swift return. Towards the back, but no less loud in her colors, the Shy Girl also watched on as he lifted his wings then jumped off the high branch to set out. She hoped she’d be able to tell him the feelings in her heart when he returned.
Alas, such such a chance would never come, and whether he knew the depth of her feelings or not was something she would never know.
It was only a few days after the Surveyor’s entourage had seen him off. Life went on as it does, even in the absence of one lizard. Many expected there to be a great fuss upon his return, but until then, the days passed as they normally did.
Then, it happened in an instant. Every lizard immediately stopped what they were doing. The heart had gone completely silent. Many looked around their vicinity, seeing other lizards there, but unable to feel their presence. It was as if they were suddenly plunged into a ghost town, and nothing around them was real.
The connection was lost, gone away. Fear spread through the colonies, only this time, it was only their own. They could not feel the fear of their neighbors nor their family, and neither could they feel the calming comfort at the center of the heart to tell them everything was okay. All around, lizards tentatively touched each other, as if they didn’t expect them to be real.
The Quick Springs, so intricately linked to their companions, lost their connection, and the herds went haywire. The lizards were unable to calm them, their hearts only their own. Many cried out; children, so reliant on the heart, became inconsolable.
As panic spread, neighbors left other neighbors to focus on their own families. The colonies became fractured, and the disconnect made others feel like strangers, even if they’d known each other all their lives.
For one, the disconnect was not the only source of worry. Just before it occurred, the Shy Girl had been thinking of the Surveyor when a bad feeling suddenly washed over her. She looked towards the great mountain, though she could not actually see it through the dense trees, and she felt a shock through her heart just before the connection died.
She tried desperately to feel through the heart, to find out what it was she had felt, but it was no use; there was no response from the family heart no matter how many times she tried to convey her feelings. She attempted to rouse other lizards to the plight of the Surveyor, but they were all too worried for their own families to spare a thought for her.
She ran to the Surveyor’s family home, where he still lived with his parents when he wasn’t out on surveying missions, and found them a mess. The four parents’ youngest children were beside themselves, their crying unable to be quelled. But unlike the other colony mates, they listened when she spoke of the Surveyor. Even the children, upon hearing of their older brother, suddenly quieted. They remembered the times the Surveyor would tell them stories about all the places he’d explored, and several hoped to join the survey teams as well when their wings were strong enough. Even if he wasn’t fond of their ceaseless questioning, he always made time to answer each one.
The worry for themselves suddenly turned to worry for their family member, who was now lost and alone in a faraway place, unable to reach them through the family heart. A light blue circle appeared on their scales and feathers, a light blue stronger than any they’d ever shimmered before. They huddled together, and with all of their might, they attempted to call the Surveyor through their heart.
The children couldn’t put it into words, but the adults knew. The heart wasn’t completely gone like they initially assumed. Their feelings were being sent to it, but nothing came back. Without the intermediary, the feelings could not cross the lines of the family heart. The Shy Girl bid them come with her to the one place they might be able to find an answer. Not willing to leave the little ones alone with no family heart to connect them, the entire family came in tow.
It didn’t take them long to reach their destination. His home was one the Surveyor often visited, the home of the one dubbed ‘Master of Flight’, the one who taught many lizards the art of flying, including the Surveyor’s own teacher. It was the Little Flyer. Now aged and grown, much time had passed since his first flight through the trees and across the open fields.
He was also one of the few that had touched the family heart directly. Many lizards entrusted their feelings to the family heart, but only a few knew of its depth. The Little Flyer certainly knew. When the family arrived and explained what they knew, the Little Flyer confirmed their thoughts: something was stopping the family heart from responding. More deeply connected than the rest of the colony, he alone felt the heart-rending pang of confusion and distress just before it closed off.
What could they possibly do? The colony was going crazy with the loss of the family heart, but to most, it was some great and mysterious thing they didn’t completely understand. If something happened to it, what could powerless little lizards do to help? Despondent at their weak selves, they asked the wise Little Flyer what they could do.
It was true, with the heart blocked, the feelings only went one way. But… maybe that would be enough. When a fire died down and stopped giving heat, one had to stoke it or add more wood to bring it to life again. Perhaps, if they could send enough to the heart, it might jump-start it back into being.
The Little Flyer had difficulty putting his idea into words. His black feathers shined in patterns of colors, similar to words the family was more familiar with. Entrusting feelings, giving without expecting anything in return, wishes for well-being, hope that words would reach their destination. The lizards copied the colorful array of the Little Flyer as he gave life to another new word for the lizards: Prayer.
And pray they did. The family went out amongst the colony, showing lizards this new word, giving hope that their feelings and words might soon reach the place they ought to be. As scary as it was to give yourself to something when you had no idea if it would be returned, it was also comforting. They just had to believe.
In the time of the Namebearer, a new name was given to something they’d always known to be there. Now, in this time, they actually gave it a piece of themselves. And for the Shy Girl, she, too, prayed that the heart might come alive again. And she prayed her feelings would reach the Surveyor, so that he would know he was not out there all alone.