Forgotten Shore

Forgotten Shore

Sometimes Ryn’dar’ud felt the call.

Human mating rituals were strange. They spent a great deal of time luring their mate into the act of reproduction. He understood that some people spent decades trying to attract the proper mate and some still failed to reproduce. Taverns like his played a pivotal role in the early stages. Some of his regulars brought new potential mates into his establishment every week. Either they had entire broods lurking somewhere on the station, or they had yet to master the complex process.

The first time Ryn encountered a pair of his patrons partaking in the later stages of the mating ritual in his restrooms, he hadn’t known what to do. He froze, much as he had when his brood mother, a shrewd and humorless Medusa, had asked him the difference between human arms and legs.

Tentacles, of course, were used for everything. Sensing, tasting, moving, communicating, each delicate limb could accomplish all those tasks with little thought put into the effort. The swarm were born graceful, if only because their bodies were made to move with currents, in both air and water. Fine motor control for delicate tasks did develop over time, but he hadn’t been concerned with it in his youth.

Before the brood mother, before the lessons, figures and tests, there had been only the joy of movement. Swarm brood ships were designed to allow the newly budded to drift throughout the structure unimpeded and without fear of injury. The currents were specially monitored and changed at regular intervals. Humans might have compared it to a rollercoaster. On the rare bad days, he still harkened back to those lazy whirlpools, before he and his brood mates began to grate on each other’s nerves.

He still wondered if he was the only member of his clutch to experience a sharp pang of loneliness when he remembered the days of thinning, when each of the swarm drifted toward their chosen destinations. Many would never see each other again, though all would be called back to the place of their birth when the time came to reproduce. The same stern Medusa was like to raise his buds, unless she reached the end of her term and returned to the polyp herself. Though he didn’t think he could count on any of the Medusa to possess a sense of humor.

They were the keepers of swarm history and knowledge. Without them, they would likely return to the oceanic worlds of the galaxy and fade from memory, as forgotten as the shores from which they first wandered. Even the Medusa could no longer identify their original homeworld, nor confirm if it still existed. Yet, Ryn recalled the exact moment he crossed from those sheltered pastures into the wider world, into a true ocean, warmed by the sun and chilled by the darkness.

For awhile, those wild, untamed tides soothed the emptiness caused by losing his broodmates. His were not a social people. Without the brood ships, without the call, they might have faded from existence all together. He hadn’t thought about it much in those days, giving in to a fierce joy as he discovered shore after wave-drenched shore, allowing the currents to carry him from ocean to ocean, from world to world, even through the clouds of gas giants.

His dreams still carried him back to those half-remembered places so that he woke with strange scents and tastes clinging to his sensors. Salt and sulfur and, sometimes, flowers he couldn’t remember the names of. He wished now that he had marked his journey, somehow, so that he might one day retrace it.

But each ocean eventually lost its luster. Each shore eventually seemed less interesting than what lay over the mountain or beyond the next belt of stars. It took ages to realize it wasn’t new sights or sounds he searched for. He wanted companionship. Someone with whom to share his stories. He followed the Medusas into civilized space and found aliens more receptive to his affections than his own people. Many stared, or so he was told, he couldn’t really tell. But despite their incredulity, they listened and responded.

Some might have called it obsession, the zeal with which he mimicked bipeds. He had a new swarm now, made of hundreds of different species, each moving along currents of their own. They flowed in and out of the entrances to his tavern, stopping for dinner, drinks or games. They filled his own personal ocean with sounds of laugher. Some visited only once and some returned enough that he would notice any eventual absence.

Humans had a lot of sayings about the past and the future, about remembering and forgetting, about travelling and coming home. Ryn couldn’t claim to understand them. But whatever called to him from beyond the Mad Minister, it was never worth giving up what he had.

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This was something of an experiment with stream of consciousness perspective. I’m not sure I succeeded, but it was still fun.

Take a look at what my writing partner did with this prompt!

If you’d like to participate, share a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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