Including in this is the dumbass who designed the traffic signal system, or the roads…
My normal commute is almost always jammed; yesterday, for a while, I was averaging ONE MILE AN HOUR! Less! Eight miles in ten minutes. All because they take a three-lane highway and in the span of a mile dump two lanes of traffic from another highway into it… TWICE!
Attention MADOT: Widen Route 3 from 495 to 95, and redesign that curlicue 270 to get to 95 north.
I hate molting.
This was my first thought as I woke up. No use opening my eyes just yet because I was inside my cocoon, but I did anyway. Pure, inky-dark wet blackness. Come to think of it, it’s been my first thought pretty much every time since my second or third molt. I know some that enjoy it. I don’t.
Molting is a pain. Not physically; actually, it’s rather pleasant. I suppose the biggest thing for me is losing friends, because we are The Hidden. We cannot afford to let humans know we exist. I remember the last molt, where I had emerged and pretty soon, unplanned and unanticipated, ran into someone I’d known in my prior incarnation. A very good friend; I wanted so much to say hello. But I am forbidden from even acknowledging any knowledge of knowing someone from a prior life – let alone trying to “begin anew”, because something might slip. We have many laws, but the first one after Deity’s Commandments is “Our existence must remain secret.”
Yes we age, or get wounded, and pretend to die but then molt because, in actuality, we’re immortal. Well, almost immortal. It is possible to truly kill one of us, but it’s very hard, and someone has to really know how to do it. Fortunately, humans have not yet learned about us, let alone developed ways to permanently kill us.
Someday, we’ll be strong enough to form our own society, still in secret. It was written by Our First that when that happens, and we have learned enough, we will step from this world to a promised place far away. But for now we are solitary, wandering the world, our minds living sponges to learn cultures, and languages, and science and math and all these things that we will mix in our own way to create our society. Some, of course, is set, for Our First made secret languages no human can understand or even suspect. The last Hidden I met, we had a whole conversation by subtle changes in our eye colors and iris patterns. Fortunately, I was male and she female at the time, so our staring into each others’ eyes in a dark corner of a tavern was perfectly normal. My friend was surprised she and I didn’t go upstairs together to my room, and he ribbed me for “letting one get away”… she didn’t. We exchanged memories and experiences and knowledge. Like I said, living information sponges with racial memory that gets transferred from individual to individual. Inside my memory are the collected knowledge and experiences of thousands.
I suppose this is the hardest part, the slow awakening and relearning of my body; every one of us has this problem. I moved slowly. I’ve been through enough molts by now to know that I completely changed. I have been tall, and short. Inside the cocoon you can’t see, but you can feel. I felt between my legs; female this time. I’ve been female before. I started sending nerve signals down my limbs, and out to my skin and hair to quiz my new body. OK, I’m pretty short this time… straight auburn hair… olive skin. Wonderful, a petite female with unusual coloration. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but humans are still primitive, and can try to take advantage.
Of course I know how to fight. We are, actually, superior to humans in that. Far faster reaction times, incredible accuracy and precision with any weapon, and we’re almost ten times stronger than a human the same size. Much more intelligent. Our skins and even muscles are much harder for blades to penetrate than normal, and our organ functions are distributed. For example, I don’t have one heart the way humans do, I have eight smaller ones scattered around my body. The same for every other system. Even my brain in my skull has cross-communication with distributed sub-brains. And weapons? I have diamond-tipped retractable claws under my fingernails through which I can inject venom. I can, given a handful of seconds, deliver an electric shock like an electric eel. And we have a few other tricks up our sleeves as well on bio-weaponry. I have better senses by far, and more of them. For example, I can sense metal, and the electric fields of living things. I can feel magnetic fields so I always know which way north is. I can see stars during a clear day by my eyes filtering out the sky’s blue – but only if I need to do it. And I can spit acid so strong it can dissolve metal, which has proven handy a time or three when I’ve been captured by slavers. Oh, and did I mention I have pads in my fingers and toes that can stick, so I can climb walls and even hang from ceilings? That we are immune to human diseases and poisons? And there’s more… we Hidden are full of surprises, like being able to go without air for an hour, or longer if we slow down our metabolism. We can adapt to temperatures both hotter and colder than humans can stand. We even photosynthesize in light. All created by Our First to make us hard to kill, and better at surviving.
The thought of metal brought to mind my last “death”. I was on a ship, a crewman, learning how to sail on a merchant ship. We were set on by a pirate vessel; bigger and faster, their trireme rammed us. We fought, but with a hole in our side and the ocean rushing in it was a lost cause. I was fighting one pirate when I heard a ballista behind me; I could feel the metal bolt coming straight towards me. I had no choice. I knew there was no way to dodge it and not reveal that there was something special about me, so I had to let it take me square in the back; the point came through and out my chest, and I helped a little jumping forward to then fall over the side and under the water. It’s always easier to cocoon up in the water than being buried on land. I’ve done both. Water moltings tend to go a lot faster. And then there’s having to tidy up the gravesite lest a human think that some fell, undead beast has clawed its way up from the grave. That has happened before. I’ve heard some legends of monsters that arise from the grave. It had to be a Hidden that got interrupted while cleaning up the site, and had to flee and hide before they were done.
Our First is still alive. Someday I will meet him. Maybe I have. He said that He travels as one of us, not revealing that He is the First Hidden ever, the Designer of our race. I have some of His memories, and understand His plans. He is not the Deity, of course, but a prophet, the seed crystal of our race created by Deity. He set our laws and how to behave with each other, how to behave towards humans, and the foundation of how our society will be ordered.
Our sex changes will no longer be random, but will be a steady progression. One male, six females, will form a family unit. Each female will have six children by that male, two at a time, through from the most senior down. When all children pass through their Rite to become adults, the male will then molt, become a female, but must join another family as the junior. The oldest female then molts to become male, and the cycle continues. We do grow quickly. I was running by age one, climbing trees by age three, reading, writing, and doing scholarly work by age six, and fully mature – the equal to a 20-year-old human – by age ten. This is, of course, helped by knowledge and experience transfers from all of the parent group.
We are one faith with one Deity. We are one people. And we know there is a Promised Land waiting for us in the stars. I can’t wait.
Time to sleep again. I am getting close to being ready.
It is time. Through my umbilical cord I can now see the outside since I am ready to go in to land. It’s night, so nobody should see me. Enhanced eyes in the cocoon’s skin show me a rocky bottom, and a lot of giant clams. I don’t think I’ve seen ones that big before. My cocoon opens and I emerge; my cocoon will dissolve in the next week to leave no trace. The waves coax me forward, and I sneak towards shore, my skin changing colors to match the bottom – another trick we can do: camouflage.
But as I get close a rogue wave catches the empty shell I had been holding and tumbles me up into the surf at the edge. As I spin through the water I can see humans on the shore around a large fire; one sees me, points, and cries out. I mute my skin’s color changes to my as-molted color and stand, naked but trying to cover myself, reddish hair dripping as it wrapped around me and, as it happens, I am right in the center of that shell whose impact knocked me onto the beach.
Great, I thought with mixed sarcasm and hope. They’ll probably think I’m a goddess or something.
© David Hunt PE, 2017
You’ll get my Oxford Comma when you pry it from my cold, dead, and lifeless hands.
This video is making the rounds. (Warning: Occasionally “off-color” language.)
An old geezer became very bored in retirement and decided to open a medical clinic. He put a sign up outside that said: “Dr.Geezer’s clinic. Get your treatment for $500, if not cured, get back $1,000.”
On one hand, the techie in me thinks “WOW! COOL!”
On the other hand… I see these and my imagination starts running amok.