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Depths of Perception
"Part III - Obliquatur"
All my life I’ve been hidden away.
She who bore me rarely looked at me, something I only noticed when I was older, perhaps eight or nine aevum. But when she did look at me, her eyes would fill with fear. She’d look down, her ear flaps limp, her inner and outer eyelids sliding back and forth quickly as she sought to control her reaction.
And yet she was constantly shielding me, working to keep me alive, because it was hard for me to breathe. She also kept me covered under layers of whatever materials she could find, my body curled in our sleepnet because I was always cold, trembling in our dwelling whenever she wasn’t near enough to hold me and share her body’s warmth. But somehow, I survived, growing strong enough to swim – albeit slowly - without her help. When she realized I was strong enough to live, she taught me how important it was that I remain hidden. No one must ever find me, must ever see me.
Not that anyone would. From the first moment I became truly aware of myself, I realized that, unlike the nutritor, my body was not just covered for warmth. Each limb was wrapped in layers of woven seaweed that had to be constantly repaired. But if ever any part of me showed, I was sternly reminded that I must always remain completely covered. She never explained exactly why, but I still knew.
Something was wrong with me.
I had never seen myself. I didn’t know why she’d looked at me with such shame. I used to pat my face – two eyes, two nose slits, one normal-sized eating hole. My ears weren’t as big as hers, but I thought that was just because I was young and still growing. And maybe, just maybe, the webbing between my digits would one day grow in. Could I really be as hideous as her look made me feel?
Yet she must’ve loved me, because she didn’t give me up. She was never cruel or indifferent. Instead, she hid me, teaching me how to hunt and forage for myself. How to use my mind to listen, how to make my mental echo quiet, concealed. In some ways, this was the most amazing part, far beyond what the Auctors had believed the nutritors were capable of. She was able to keep the resonance of my mindvoice quiet, undetected by any passing praesidium. I practiced and practiced hiding the echo of my mental signature deep enough inside myself so that I couldn’t be detected unless someone was looking at me.
I couldn’t ever reveal my existence because she wanted me to survive, even if she couldn’t make herself look me in the eye, even if it meant my living away from the rest of the citizens.
She hid me to keep me safe and alive.
So I loved her, because she was all I knew.
Until the day I was discovered.