I woke up again to the strangely familiar feeling of being restricted inside a container of sorts. At least I thought that I remembered being awake at some point in the past? Slowly I stretched and wiggled around, trying to familiarize myself with... well... myself I guess. This time the walls around me were less rigid and felt like... some kind of membrane? Why 'this time' though?
There were echoes of thoughts and impressions long past in my mind, but they somehow felt like a long dream or two. I had to have been asleep for a very long time for there to be so many of them. Mhm, that didn't feel quite right. But the 'me' in these recollections couldn't have been the ‘me’ of now.
I didn't have arms for example, or legs for that matter. And I thought that thinking should go faster somehow? It took pretty long to come up with all these ideas. Or did it? I wasn't sure how long the process should take. It got more and more cramped inside of this stupid membrane either way. I could even see a bit of what was outside now.
There were lots of semi-transparent spheres similar to the one I was inside of all around me. And every single one that I looked at had a me-sized creature inside of it that wiggled now and then like I did. They were all head and tail. So they were very similar to me, I guess? We were floating in a tight cluster in a murky liquid. I couldn't make out anything past that.
After pondering that for a... while, I came to the conclusion that I was still inside my egg and these things around me were my siblings. I was very proud of that conclusion and certain that I might quite possibly be a genius.
Anyways, the egg got way too tight while I thought so hard. Every movement now seemed like it could tear through the membrane. I saw it happen with two of my siblings already. They broke out and shot off into the murk... looking suspiciously similar to tadpoles. I didn't know why and where that thought came from, but I really didn't want to be a tadpole for some reason. It must have had something to do with my strange memories.
Wait, 'Memory'? That word felt important.
But witnessing those successful escapes made me quite impatient to break free myself now. No more time for thinking so much. I wiggled with all my might and finally managed to rip a hole in the shell of my egg.
I didn't look back.
Being only torso and tail felt very novel to me. So did being able to taste what the consistency of the muddy fluid around me was like. Mainly H2O it turned out. Who’d have thought, right?
My instincts already seemed to know how to hunt and so I followed them, not bothering with thinking too much for quite some time. In this murky paradise lived myriads of these tiny, sometimes crunchy, sometimes soft, but always tasty things. And I was a mighty, genius predatoress! Well, my hundreds of predator siblings were there as well, I guess. But they didn't matter all that much for the time being. Until the first thing tried to prey on me that was.
I was swimming along the surface, always on the lookout for my next snack before it could get snatched away by my greedy competition. I really liked the little bugs that could walk on water. You just had to slowly sneak up from below, like so, and then just suck them in. They were delicious! I was just enjoying another one when I noticed the water rippling strangely and a shadow looming over me.
I intuitively dove downwards immediately, out of the way of a gigantic dragonfly. It glistened in a multitude of blues and greens in the sunlight. It sparkled so much that I wondered briefly why I didn't spot it sooner. But thinking too much was distracting and I couldn't afford to be distracted right now.
Then I saw that the beautiful, monstrous bug already darted away with a victim in its claws. It had no appendages but a tail a bit longer than its torso... the only protrusions a set of fluffy looking gills. Basically, it looked exactly like me. It could have been me. That was way too close. And for the first time since I woke up, I felt tiny and powerless.
The monstrous Dragonfly proved to be far from the only hunter I had to look out for. There were quite a few other huge insects in and around this small body of water I lived in. Yeah, it turned out to be not nearly as large as I initially thought before I realised how small I really was.
I witnessed many a death once I started to focus on thinking again. What disturbed me more than them though, was the discovery that a few of my kin sometimes nibbled away at still unhatched egg clusters. The biggest ones of us, who probably hatched some days earlier than me, apparently even actively hunted those still small enough to fit between their jaws. That was horrible! I had to eat and get bigger as fast as possible or I would end up being just another meal for my own cousins! I tentatively considered the unhatched clutches again. I felt sick when I acknowledged the feeling that I may have to do it too.
The next few days I spent trying to double my efforts in hunting for prey. I didn't go for cannibalism yet and I spotted quite a few others that seemed reluctant to do so as well. Nevertheless, the gluttonous cousins continued to outgrow us. I only hoped that would make them a more appealing target for the monster bugs and that they were eaten before they grew too big to be viable prey for them. I had yet to see an adult of our species, but I was quite sure that we all would eventually be large enough to hunt the hunters if we had time to grow. And I was basically a genius. So it was as good as assured!
How did I come to that conclusion? Because we grew like there was no tomorrow! Hm? That's weird. Why would something grow if there is no tomorrow? Well... thinking as hard as I did could be dangerously distracting. Besides… every time I plunged into the ball pit of randomness that was my memories, I felt hopeless or angry or just incredibly confused. I didn’t like it at all and I had better stuff to do! So let us just pretend that made sense since I was too busy with staying away from my cousins and other predators, eating and growing limbs to dwell on my choice of thoughts.
Yes, that's right! I was growing arms! Or front legs? Both in one? How should I know? They were still growing! And the best thing was that there were tiny little claws on them. I was officially not a tadpole! I was still not sure why that was so important, but it had to be important because I felt like it was. I was happy enough about this that I could almost ignore that there were less and less of my kind swimming through this shallow pond of mine.
I think I explored most of it at this point. Lots and lots of plants and insects, but nothing else except for my extended family. Every time I found a type of greenery I hadn’t seen before I tried to eat a bit of it. It was always quite disgusting and I doubted it would be good for me, so I stopped with that experiment after one particularly bad stomach ache. I also didn't find a source or exit for the water so far. So escape seemed impossible for now. Who knew if it wouldn't be even more dangerous than here anyway. There had to be a reason our parents laid their clutches here, right? I hadn't seen one of those 'fish' from my memories so far at least. That had to be a good sign.
Where was I? Oh, my arms! I didn't even explain yet, what was the best about them. I could touch... stuff with them! Like my fluffy gills. Clean them all up like the day I escaped my egg and all that. They must have looked beautiful. I wish I could see them properly. But I only ever could check out those on my kin when we encounter each other. They looked like a crown fanning out of the back of the head. But when I tried to communicate with them - so far I tried dexterous wiggling and tiny ...croak-squeaks? - to possibly ask somehow if I looked normal or any different from them, nobody reacted all that much. The smaller ones fled when I came to close and the others just ignored me as long as I didn’t annoy them too much. Well, not everyone could be a genius like me!
The water in the direction I swam at the moment tasted weirdly like one of the dangerous cousins all of a sudden. But I couldn't see him. Better change directions then. Avoid. Avoid. Don't get distracted and let them snatch you. As if I would be easily caught like- !!!
I narrowly avoided the maw of a ginormous creature, breaking the water surface from above. I dove and shot away as fast and far as I could, hiding between the plants and rocks at the bottom. What in all that's forgotten was that?! That... 'Thing' nearly had me. It wasn't an insect. It had a maw and teeth like me, but the shape was a bit different, I think. I really, really hoped that this wasn't mommy dearest jumping on the cannibal train. I honestly couldn't rule it out because I didn't see enough of the creature. I still was confident that it was something else.
Let's just stay here for a bit and calm down. I was just lucky, I didn't flee past any of those ambush bugs or I'd be food now regardless.
I tried to stay even more cautious from that day onwards. That meant less thinking about random stuff while not staying hidden somewhere 'safe' and staying there for longer. That increased downtime. I grew noticeably slower. Still, the first signs of the hind legs I already observed on my larger kin started to show on me too. My arms were long enough to reach nearly everywhere on my upper body now and I was so excited that I could finally grab something and hold onto it. Maybe they’d become flexible like real hands someday? A girl could dream.
Everything was quiet for the time being, but my hampered growing speed could prove to be very detrimental for my future, if not outright dangerous. I also needed more and more food and the monster bugs I outgrew as their prey still seemed too big for me to consider eating them in return yet. So, reluctantly, I turned to the ever-dwindling number of what counted as my family. I always got impossibly sad when I thought about that word. Stupid memories…
The last clutches I knew about had hatched days ago, so I was out of easy targets. There were still a good amount of small enough ‘me’s left though. If I took that step, I had to do it now before they were eaten by someone else. Of course, there was the possibility that they could catch up to me and survive. But in the unlikely case that happened, they’d just become another competitor. Regrettably, there were already too many of those around. So I prepared to forcefully invite my baby cousins to dinner.
Once I got over the idea it was incredibly easy. So easy in fact that I had to wonder how they were still alive in the first place. I just had to watch them foraging around for a bit, estimate where they were heading, move there before them and then just hide and lie in wait. Of course, sometimes they randomly changed directions, but never once because they noticed me. Didn’t they taste me in the water or did they just not care because I tasted very similar to themselves? All I had to do in that case was finding a new hiding place in their new path. Then, once they got close enough, I snatched them and gobbled them up before they even knew what was happening. I even made use of my wonderful awesome hands sometimes!
Well, that was easy. And I felt so full that I didn’t have to eat as often as before. No wonder the big bad cousins did that constantly. From that point onwards, I had way longer breaks during which I could do more of the thinking-things. So I took that time and tried to untangle the confusing mess that was the dream-like recollections I was apparently born with. I had quite enough of them, regularly ruining my mood without warning whenever I triggered one accidentally.
My innate memories were a very strange contraption. They weren’t ordered in any way at all. It felt like someone took them through a blender but they miraculously didn’t break apart. Instead, they just stayed where they ended up when it was done and started to desperately reform connections where they still could. Please don’t ask me what a blender is. I had a faint idea but I didn’t think I found the right memory packet to be sure yet.
Every time I followed an interconnection I had to be careful to not get distracted by all the new ones that went on and on across totally unrelated topics like they didn’t matter. And then there were the pockets that weren’t connected to anything at all anymore. Sorting that out and making new connections by myself was exhausting enough without even taking the content into account. And, oh boy, were they exhausting.
It took me many more days worth of digesting breaks than I care to admit before I reconstructed enough to make heads and tails of a - kind of - bigger picture.
Apparently, I've already lived once before. And the world I lived in died, or something? So, for half of that life, I was constantly trying to survive. That was very confusing for me at first. I mean, what did I do in the other half? The previous me must have been a very miserable sod and I really didn’t like to dwell on those parts. But I digress. After the world was dead I got snatched up by a beautiful giant lady called Memory, and it turned out that I was now her pet and we were playing a game of sorts. Well, a game for her. For me it would be as real as anything, the only difference being that I could always come back to try another time. How cool was that? I’m not just a genius, I have unlimited lives as well! Still, I imagined dying to be a pretty painful and inconvenient process. Let’s do as little of that as possible, okay? Okay!
That being decided - as if it wasn’t obvious before now - I realized something important while sorting through some of the knowledge of previous me. I might not be a tadpole, but I was pretty sure that I still was some kind of amphibian. Not any species I was aware of, but I hadn’t exactly been an expert in that field. What I remembered for sure though, was that amphibians were some of the first animals that left the water. Right after giant bugs… Well, if that didn’t seem familiar.
I was reasonably sure that I was some kind of prehistoric newt or salamander. Too bad I knew next to nothing about them other than that they existed. But even if the gods followed the same general evolutionary tech-tree - which I doubted, since that would be boring and they destroyed and restarted a whole universe when they got bored before - I didn’t think that everything would develop the same as last time. Memory said that there was so much magic around now that it began to become sentient in some places. Was this the reason I could think so well and the others were as stupid as frogs? Could be just the influence of my memories though. It’s hard to be smart. Without them, I guess I’d be happily following my instincts most of the time. Right into the stomach of one of my bigger cousins probably.
Yeah, let’s not do that?
Since I knew now that I probably could leave this puddle sooner rather than later, I was eager to see what I had to expect from the outside world. That was why, on my next foray around the pond, I returned to the surface again for the first time since I nearly got eaten by the ‘Thing’. I found a spot close to the shore that didn’t taste like anything dangerous and hovered right under the surface. Very cautiously, to not disturb the water too much, I dipped the top of my head out. Of course, I immediately looked around, searching for potential predators like the giant dragonfly. There were a few mosquito-looking things dancing in the air far to my right and something that looked suspiciously like someone crossed a snail with a rhinoceros straight ahead and a bit to left. Nothing seemed to notice me for the time being, so I took in the view.
It was very… green? Everywhere I looked was filled with ferns and mosses and vines and lots of stuff I had absolutely no idea how to categorize. There were these gigantic trees going straight up in a single scaled trunk with enormous fern-like leaves at the top. Then there were the smaller but still large ones that looked a lot like very soft bottle brushes. The strangely coloured mushrooms everywhere were the only things that weren't green or brown since there were no flowers at all. Or grass for that matter. It all was so alien and different from what previous me knew. It was amazing! I couldn’t wait to go out there and explore!
Then I heard the crunching and ripping sounds of something large moving through the underbrush behind me. I slowly turned around. All the way on the other side of the pond I could see the brush trees shaking violently. Just a moment later a komodo dragon broke through the foliage. Well, if some of its ancestors were newts or toads… and it borrowed the skin of one of its alligator friends… maybe? Okay! It didn’t look like a komodo dragon at all once I took a closer look. I could make mistakes sometimes too, alright? I was still obviously a genius. That is why I came up with a fitting name for this new specimen. Let’s call it Newtagator. It was only when I saw the newtagator settle down at the shore, patiently watching the water, that I realized that I was probably looking at the “Thing”.
That put quite a dampener on my mood and I decided that I had done enough exploring for today and started to descend. Just to nearly run into the open maw of my largest cousin. That bastard snuck up on me! How is that fair? It’s only okay if I do that! I desperately scrambled around and booked it. I was pretty sure she followed me for a while, but I absolutely did not turn around until I reached a hidey-hole that was too small to let her through. It barely even was still large enough for me anymore. Then I felt safe again. I evidently had some more growing to do. Seems like I had to go back to eating.
Over the next couple dozen days or so I did little else but hunting and digesting. Often even hunting while digesting. Since hunting involved lots of waiting for my prey to come to me anyways. Once my arms and legs were strong enough I even began to burrow myself into the muddy pool bed for better camouflage. I didn’t see the ‘Bastard’ again, but I had no doubt that she continued to outgrow me. My best bet was to just avoid her altogether. Not that I didn’t try to do that before. I still sometimes popped my head out of the water for a quick look around, just to see if I could spot the ‘Thing’ and maybe derive some kind of schedule. I was getting too big to still be a viable snack for anything else I knew of. I just had to avoid those two and everything should be fine. There was just one problem with that.
Around the time I finally was large enough to eat the underwater ambush bugs, I started to notice that the shallow pond didn’t just feel smaller to me because I grew so much. One of the larger rocks I used to orient myself with since forever gradually protruded more and more out of the water. That was concerning because it originally was completely submerged. I could have fit multiple ‘current me’s between the surface and the rock before. I really didn’t like that. The less space there was, the higher the chance to run into the ‘Bastard’ or the ‘Thing’.
I already knew that there was no apparent source for my little pool, but I never stopped to wonder where the water came from. I couldn’t remember if I ever noticed it raining since I was born. I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure at all. Maybe it did while I slept at the bottom? The air outside was damp and warm when I popped my head up. So I never worried about that until now. Welp… nothing I could do but sit tight and try to bear with it.
The smaller territory also meant that I had more run-ins with visitors from outside. I ate my first frog yesterday! At least it looked a bit like a frog. If you disregard the scales, claws and teeth. So I’d just call it a frog until I encountered something that looked more like one. Sue me!
It swam right beneath the surface lurking around, approaching my favourite water strider snacks. At first, I was excited because it was something new that was smaller than me. I really had no concept of how large or small I was in this life with all those giant insects and trees around. Then I wondered what it would taste like. The fragrance it left in the water already had me salivating. Well… long story short: It tasted a lot like my baby cousins. A bit more like chicken than them, but it was quite close. Who’d have thought? At least now I knew what to eat if I ever had a craving for that particular flavour again. There were none of the smaller ‘me’s left after all.
I also tried to eat one of those rhinosnails after that. That didn’t go quite as well. Catching one that was snailing around doing snail things near the water was pretty easy. Like it didn’t expect anything would try to eat it. Well, it turned out it had every reason to think so. Firstly, the mucus it secreted was absolutely disgusting. Secondly, that acrid slime nearly cauterized all my taste buds before it was washed away by the water. It took several days before my food tasted normal again. I definitely do not recommend that experience. Now I knew what definitely not to eat once I could finally leave the water. We live and learn, right?
I really hoped Memory wasn’t watching. Who was I kidding? She probably was torn between giggling her ass off and the desire to consolingly pet me. I almost thought I could hear her cooing condescendedness.
A few days later I saw the Bastard again. She was just resting at the bottom of our big puddle. At least I thought it was her. She changed so much since she last snuck up on me. Her skin was no longer the nondescript beige-brown we were born with. It had turned a rusty red with countless black dots and two broad dark lines along either side. Her once feathery gills seemed to be in the process of turning into some kind of bony neck shield and I even recognized some new scales here and there. It looked quite amazing already. I was not sure if I’d still had recognized her if I encountered her a few days later. Probably. I was a genius after all!
One thing of note though, that made me extremely relieved: She wasn’t as much bigger than me as before anymore. I finally caught up! I already imagined myself with that same colouring. I would look so incredible!
I didn’t see the Bastard again after that. I assumed she just went up and left once her transformation concluded. And soon afterwards I watched my other cousins starting to change. It turned out that only the girls got to have an awesome red colour. Boys became boring shades of yellow-green. But the black dots and stripes were the same.
Not long after that, I began to feel strangely sluggish and tired without a conceivable reason. Hunting became a chore and I started to feel my body changing… a lot. My gills weren’t working properly anymore for a start. I still could breathe through my skin, but the first time dipping my nostrils out of the water and testing out my new lungs was quite an experience. Nevertheless, I spent most of the time just lying around in the mud, watching the water level fall. If I wasn’t in the process of changing to be able to live on land, I’d have been quite concerned about that.
I started to taste the traces of something strange in the water. It didn’t feel exactly new, more like I developed additional taste buds. I wouldn’t have thought much about it, but it was quite unusual insofar as I couldn’t discern what it was. That never happened before. Well, it didn’t seem harmful, so I decided not to dwell on it for now. I could investigate this strange new flavour all I wanted once I wasn’t feeling constantly tired anymore.
Over the next - I honestly didn’t know how long. I didn’t keep track of the days. - I also grew pretty, sturdy scales all over my body, my claws and teeth grew larger and my tail got a lot thinner. That last bit could have been the result of not eating as much as before though. This metamorphosis must have consumed quite a bit of energy too, I’d imagine. My front feet even got more dexterous. They were close to being called hands for real now if you disregarded that my thumbs weren’t quite opposable. More like… sideposable? Was that a word? No? Well, now it was! And I’d just call them hands anyway, because who would tell me to do otherwise? All-in-all I was a happy little Scalamander. Got it? Because I had scales now? I came up with that all on my own. Because I was awesome like that!
I was just celebrating my genius with happy little wiggles when someone decided to rain on my parade. Literally. It began with strange pitter-patter sounds from the surface, that rapidly evolved into a cacophony of splashes. I was absolutely sure now that it never rained before. Only the dead could sleep through that kind of noise. As if someone had decided to withhold all the rain for months and then upended it all at once.
Well, at least that chased away the last remnants of my lethargy. I was about to get up and finally leave this puddle of my birth when I heard the oddly annoying and familiar sound of fireworks going off from seemingly nowhere. And next some strange text interposed itself in my field of view.
[Congratulations! You are now an adult member of a sentient species! You’ve been granted access to the Interface. You may now receive Quests from Gods you are affiliated with and view your profile at your leisure.]
What the hell was that?!
[Your Patron wishes to grant you a Quest. Would you like to view it now?]
Sure… like she’d give a shit if I would like to or not. I sighed inwardly. Should I just ignore that? I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
- CET... but my sleeping schedule is messed up anyways
- Fledgeling Writer
I wanted to pick up writing again after years of stagnation. And this time I'd really like actual feedback.
So I switched to English, since I barely even read in a different language for fun during the last decade, and I hoped to reach more people with a modern lingua franca.
Anyways, I hope to receive honest and diverse criticism. This site seemed rather civil compared to others in that aspect.
So I'm here.