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January 21, 2013 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom

ARE YOU LISTENING?

An excerpt from a new Fathomless Abyss short story by J.M. McDermott.

The first thing I remember was feeling the light on my back from the Sunstrip, though I did not know the name of the source of light, yet. It was a good feeling, and not traumatic. Our births are warm, slow, and peaceful. I rose slowly up, in one long, gentle breath from the cracked pod of the vine, not even knowing what roots or feet were. I reached my limbs up to the warmth. It is a sacred moment when my body has stood enough, and grown enough, to realize that I’m standing sideways, and everyone else who walks past is much taller than me, and right-side up, with gravity below their feet and air above. It takes a long time, but I get standing straight, and find a way to turn myself to capture all the Sunstrip light that I can. I was still very small, and still attached on the precipice where the vine that birthed me grew. I wondered why no one else was like me, or reaching out to me the way I was reaching out to them. I looked around at the living and the fading and the falling, and saw only the vine where I was born in all spectrums of being. The empty husks where seeds burst forth but did not germinate, and the ones that had and have since become empty, were all else that could have been someone like me. The first moment of true sadness in my whole life came months after my birth when I realized I had been born alone of my kind from a vine that had long ago stopped reaching out to others. It was hardly the only sadness or despair I would face, soon enough.

I grew. Then, I could crawl on four limbs, and explore this world, and I was almost waist high to the other moving creatures of this escarpment. I felt like I was moving faster, or the people and fading ghosts of the world were slowing down. One of the two was happening, or both. At that exciting and hopeful stage in my growth, where I could almost keep up with the moving world, I wanted to travel and see more of everything. I was curious. I climbed down because it seemed easier than climbing up. I climbed not like the other moving things climbed, for they could not touch the rock like I could with twining roots. I went straight down the cliffs. I felt no pull in any direction except for gravity and the Sunstrip beside it, so that is all I knew. I went down, and I kept in the light, reaching out into it.

This is where I was found by the hunter that came for me. Before I knew I had any enemies in this world, a lash was strapped around my massed leaves, and though I struggled, I could not move fast enough, yet, to get away, and the lash was so tight I felt it choking at the flow of life up and down inside of me.

After he had me caught, and I accepted that I could not escape, I let him lift me away from the wall, with my four limbs dangling naked and in pain in the open air. This capture was the second horrible feeling I had ever known. First, I realized I was alone. Then, I was captured and dragged away from the things that sustained me—light and ground—and I was terrified that I was to join the ghosts falling down into the Abyss.

Read the rest now, exclusively for the Kindle!

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