I’m trying something a bit new!
Beginning with this post, look for a continuation of this story every Saturday.
I do not remember being born. This is a truth persistent among the vast majority of beings. In my experience, long-term memories don’t tend to form in the first few years of life. For me, personally, this disconnect with my past became more and more important to me as I gained both years and wisdom. I came into a desire to know more about the circumstances of my birth.
I believe this desire arose for a myriad of reasons. For one, I am a curious individual. When there is something that I do not understand, I seek to explore it, take it within myself, and make it known to me. For another, as I explored society and interacted more with it, I came to realize that, while most people don’t remember their birth, they at least have some connection to it: their parents. This is something I don’t have and will never possess. Even if my parents were alive, they would not understand any of the questions I might ask of them.
This brings me to my third, and most major, reason. I was born different. I was born with a quirk, you might say. A scientist might call it a mutation. Because of that oddity, I stood out among my siblings. Without that small little change making me special, I wouldn’t be relaying this information to you at all. I wouldn’t have a concept of language, in fact. For that matter, I wouldn’t have a concept of “self,” or of “other-than-self,” outside of a need to feed and nourish myself with the biological matter of others.
My siblings, my parents, my entire species — they are all born blind and dumb. In that respect, I am like them. In my first decade or more of life, I operated on nothing more than pure instinct. My estimation of the number of years it took me to crawl up out of the pit that was once my existence is vague. To think that I could have been that way until my death makes me shudder even now. Everything I know about those years I have gained through research, speculation, and fortunate happenstance.
I consumed my siblings within days of our birth. I have observed this practice among others of my own species. When one of the offspring of a parental triad is, due to one circumstance or another, superior, it is in fact quite common for the other siblings to lose their lives to its hunger. This is not good for the numbers of my species, but it does ensure that the stronger members are those that survive to breed. In my case, when my parental triad fused together and then split to form me and my siblings, a bit more of their mass found its way into what was to become me. This rendered me stronger and hungrier than my siblings, and so I took them into myself. This led to me having roughly the same mass and composition as my parents. Why I did not become a copy of them is a debate for the philosophers and biologists.
My size and hunger were not the quirk that made it possible for me to become what I am today. Neither was the fact that I consumed my siblings, though that first grand meal may have helped me along my path. All members of my species consume, and quite effectively, the bodies of their prey. They take living things into themselves and dissolve their biological material for energy and nutrition. I am no different, in that most basic respect. However, when I consume a creature, I bring into myself something more than just their physical body. Eating other living beings, especially those with what one would label sentience and sapience, gives me more than just nutritional nourishment. It builds upon my mind.
In all my years of research, I have not yet uncovered the mechanism by which this is possible. This ability does not fit within the bounds of what writings I have been able to uncover on my species. I have discovered no theories among the research I have read which can adequately explain to me what sort of deviation within myself allows me to do this. I can only say that this ability of mine must be magical in nature. When I consume a being, a part of its mind becomes my own.
Let me attempt to clarify, for I feel that this is a difficult concept to comprehend, especially when my vessel for explanation is as vague and nuanced as human language. I don’t mean to say that I hold the thoughts and memories of the beings I eat, although I will say that from years of consuming humans and humanoids, I have developed a tendency toward humanesque mannerisms. I mean that in dissolving a creature inside of myself, a small portion of its mental processing power is imparted to me. I also believe I gain a small shard of whatever magical capacity that creature might possess.
The amount of mental capacity I gain from each meal is meager. No one meal brought me the light of cognizance. It took me many years and many, many more meals for that to occur, and even once I had become capable of processing what one might recognize as “thoughts,” I did so at such a base level as to hardly be on par with the stupidest rodent. These questions of self and how I became what I am now began relatively recently, so much so that they would be but a blip were one to lay out the timeline of my existence.
At some point, my primitive self developed a taste for sapient beings. Well, “taste” may be the wrong word. Even now I have little conception of what that word truly means. I can detect the composition of the matter I consume, yet I haven’t yet found a workaround to give me some imitation of the proper sensory organs. I developed a preference for humans, elves, halflings, and the other sapient creatures of Danahar. Exactly what drew me to them, I don’t know, but I began to consume humanoid creatures almost exclusively. I suspect that even back then, I could feel the greater power that such meals imparted.
One of my first memories that I hold with any clarity is the day I decided that I needed a real body. I had developed enough cognizance and knowledge of myself to begin to feel dissatisfied with the form I had been imparted with by fate. This dissatisfaction solidified into an intense self-loathing, in fact, and a disdain for others of my kind. My flowing, amorphous body disgusted me. My lack of senses of vision and taste and my poor sense of hearing made me feel inadequate compared to those I hunted. I knew that I lacked these things only because I hunted them, which is an irony all its own. Vague impressions of those senses found their way into my mind, and I knew that I needed them.
It is odd, of course, that I felt such inferiority when I hunted with such impunity. Prey escaped me, in my early years, but nothing ever really challenged me, or threatened my life. As I grew smarter and more cunning, I also grew swifter. It came to be that if someone I hunted escaped alive, it was because I allowed them to do so. The Roamers knew me only as death and fear incarnate. They began to avoid my original hunting grounds, forcing me to migrate. I conquered those within my reach, but in their own way, they conquered me as well.
I had an intimate knowledge of human anatomy. I had taken apart humans piece by piece, dissolved them one layer at a time. It started out as a process of digestion, but I turned it into an exploration. I learned to control my internal processes, forming pockets within myself that wouldn’t dissolve creatures I consumed immediately. I kept some of them alive, creating channels through my outer layers to provide them with oxygen and nutrients, so that I could study their biological processes. I wasted a lot of subject in my attempts to figure out what their bodies needed to sustain them.
I captured a human specimen with a set of bones I found to be sturdy and unflawed, and after dissolving the flesh I began to layer myself upon it, reversing the very act by which I had stripped them in the first place.
I didn’t need to imitate the organs, of course, so I just filled those spaces with a rough imitation of the overall density. It was the muscles and tendons that mattered, and the skin, to some extent. No other ooze before me has had such fine control of their body. I changed the density and tension of the fluid matter that made up the old me, because without muscles those bones would never move like a real human.
I expelled this new, smaller body from my greater self. Looking back, my first attempt was clumsy. I knew the physiology, in a scientific way, but I didn’t have the artfulness yet. I had to leave tendrils connected to the body, like the wires of a marionette, because I hadn’t yet developed the capacity to operate multiple, discrete bodies. My first movements with those bones were awkward. I had to fight all the instincts ingrained with me. In my natural body my movements were smooth and flowing, unbound by these weird, hard sticks that limited my range of motion so severely.
My simulacrum’s legs moved with an unnatural, sliding gate, when it wasn’t nearly tumbling to the ground, only to be caught by the strings connecting it to my main body. I had no idea how to balance. It was then I realized that, for all the time I had spent hunting and consuming these creatures, for all the time I’d spent analyzing their bodily makeup, I had neglected to observe their movements in a proper analytical fashion.
My present self is frustrated by this lack of forethought. I’ve been infected by the human fear of wasting one’s time, despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, my time in this realm is limitless. As I was then, however, I merely made a new goal for myself. I set out to capture a human and study the intricacies of its movement with more depth and determination. This was how I came to meet my first Sahalan.