This article is part of the The Reificant series.
In the darkness between. Lingering. By my will I do not recoil from this place. There are shapes drifting with me. Dormant. Vessels waiting to be filled with fire. My fire. My intent. This is no process to be explained. It is the complexity of procreation and birth and the natural attraction of magnetic poles.
I am born of the pool into the sticky shroud. My hands are unformed. My body is pliant, but dense. A compressed fluid in a stout, bipedal shape. My caul is torn away by golden hooks. I am lifted upon simple feet and short, thick legs. Robbed of a pair of limbs is disorienting. For a biped it might seem like walking upon your hands. I have no palps either, only a simple slit of a mouth filled with a quivering lump of muscle.
How can I speak without quills? The chitter of a mammal? The hiss of a reptilian? I open my mouth but there is no sound.
Most disorienting is the way in which I see this place. The simple eyes of this body perceive a colorless, flattened world with a faint white glow surrounding every object. The creatures around me, presumably of the same species as this flesh I wear, are small, wide bipeds with featureless and asymmetrical heads. They possess paired eyes so miniscule they are nearly lost in the folds of their brow. Some have bodies more slender than others.
They amble, swaying from side to side. Their limbs are slow and imprecise as they help clean away the membrane from my body. When they are finished they move away in different directions as if they have no interest in me.
My body - the body of my birth - lies upon the floor of this chamber, roasting in the heat. It is deformed by escaping steam. Liquid bubbles from the ruptured hemispheres of my former eyes. The creatures seem entirely disinterested by it. Watching them skirt around it in their awkward stride I am concerned I may be forever trapped in this flesh. I intended, after all, to escape my place for good. Are these my people? Is this my home?
For a time it is.
The chamber is a natural, domed cavern of great size. Light filters in through several channels in the ceiling. They are angled such that I cannot see the sky above, but I can sense the passing of day into night. Light is also provided by a yawning tunnel which emanates intense heat. My body perceives this heat as pleasure and the mouth, glowing white by my perception, is crowded with the creatures. They stand at the tunnel entrance and sway in place, like strands of sea grass in a slow current. Periodically, some will wander away and more will amble over and join this strange tableaux.
The creatures are builders. They construct tiny, bulbous shelters and fill them with various rocks and trinkets. They make only one sound with their mouths. "Mummon." They speak it at different volumes, which seems to have some meaning. They often mutter it to themselves or exchange utterances as if it is a greeting. I come to think of these creatures as the Mummon.
My body is not without its own desires. After the passing of several days I become very tired. I try to sleep, lying upon the hot stones, but I am surrounded by the creatures who prod me and speak, "Mummon?" I gradually realize that they think I am sick or dying.
I stand and in my weariness my body exerts some control. I am drawn inexorably to stand at the mouth of the tunnel. I stand with the others and I see that down the glowing tunnel is a moving river of magma. The heat from it awakens some process within my body. It feels as if I am bubbling within and the heat brings me pleasure. The air that passes through my mouth in exhalations takes on a strange taste. My vitality is soon restored.
Not what I had in mind when I ordered an Italian gondolier. This is literally just a tiny toy. Needless to say, the Italian businessmen were not impressed and I looked like a damn fool. We lost the pizza pie account and will have to lay off half our factory.
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