Swamp Apes

I used to have normal dreams. Weird stuff would happen of course, but they’d happen to me. Now I never dream as myself. I rarely dream as a human. I’m typically some strange creature in a strange environment but never the same one. Always something new. This trend started with the dream I’m about to tell you.

I lived in the great swamp-sea, a huge body of water never more than 10ft. deep. Dotted throughout this murky sea were islands which held only tall, spires of craggy rock. In the air were great flyers called “saugren”, who’d dive down and catch scuttling crab-fish with their gnarled talons. Floating on the surface of the swamp-sea were strange hominids called “Swamp Apes” and I was one of them. We had pale skin with gray, freckled splotches and bulbous humps we’d decorate with sea-weed. The algae in the water would collect in the wrinkles lining our milky eyes. Days were spent grabbing at aquatic fungi and muck squids to shove in our mouths filled with cow teeth.

This life was simple but, not safe. I saw many of them disappear below the water. I never saw the creature that would lie on the sea floor and snatch up my kin but, knew it as a “Kiroj”. The others never noticed the kiroj attacks even when it happened right in front of them. I couldn’t live like that, mindlessly waiting to be kiroj food. The only sensible decision, I thought, was to live on an island and get as far away from the predator as possible.

I began my journey as soon as I woke up which happened to be late morning. With my webbed hands I grasped rocks on the “coast” of the island and pulled myself onto land. I took time getting used to the feel of the jagged rocks that made up the shore. It felt especially harsh against my new skin. Slowly I crawled up to a rock wall and started my trek up the spire. My muscles were not built for climbing but I thought I’d adapt soon. It wasn’t long before I was exhausted from this alien locomotion. A cut on my foot from a sharp edge drove me to rest on a cliff I spotted just above me.

I sat uncomfortably on the cliff, holding my bleeding foot. My tan ichor oozed from the cut and stuck to my hands. As I gave the pain time to subside, I looked out at the water. I saw my people aimlessly bobbing around the sea. They wouldn’t even notice when they’d bump into each other, chewing on mud scuttlers all the way. I finally got up when I noticed the bubbling spot were a swamp ape once was.

I did not climb up but instead sidled on the narrow ledge my cliff jutted out from. The ledge led me to a cave. The only light in the cave came from my entrance and another up top. I navigated the dark cave by groping the walls. While finding my way to the higher opening I felt something very different from the coarse, bumpy rock of the mountain. It was hard, smooth and round. As I analyzed the new sensation, I stumbled and fell onto the object, breaking it open. A bright light poured into the room from the slime I squashed out of the thing. It was a saugren egg.

An ear-piercing “SKRRREEEEEEE!” rang into the cave. The mother knew her nest had been disturbed. In a panic I shambled up the wall and out into the daylight. Despite my exhaustion, fear of a vengeful mother saugren drove me higher and higher up the mountain. I had no time to think, my mind consumed solely with a frenzied need to survive. In this state I didn’t notice how long I climbed without respite but, in reflection, it was a few hours. My fear only lessened when I felt the cold, slushy snow scattered on my hand holds. The flyer’s scaly hide could not withstand the temperature at this altitude so, I felt it was safe enough to rest again.

I lied down on a frosty landing and looked out at the water. In the slowly fading light of the afternoon I saw my people swimming in the warm soup of the swamp-sea. I saw not just my flock, but other flocks of swamp apes cloistered around different islands. One of these islands held a morbid sight lying on a lower cliff. It was the distinctive hunchbacked skeleton of a swamp ape. He was an explorer like me. It then dawned on me that I could not live on the island. There were no plants or mushrooms and I certainly couldn’t hunt any animal that made its home up thier. I was already starving and would soon die from the cold.

I got up and began climbing. If I was going to die, I’d die as the first of my kind to reach the top of a mountain. My grave would see over all. This prize was all that kept me going. The snow swirled in on the blustery peak and practically blinded me. My soft, porous skin made the air ten times colder than it truly was and soon I was completely numb. In this half-dead state in a practical void soldiered on. As survival consumed me now pride was what commanded my long voyage up the ivory tower. Somehow, through all these hazards, I succeeded. Slowly, I wrapped my frostbitten fingers over the peak, spun around and, slumped against the rock and snow.

Through my glassy, frozen eyes, I looked out at the water and saw my people. All the flocks hovered around their respective island. I had a deep feeling of regret. I felt like a fool for leaving my home. I abandoned my brethren and would die an icy death all alone. This line of thought stopped once I saw, beyond a far mountain range, a colossal grey pillar.

At first, I thought the thing was a waterspout but quickly noticed crustacean legs and pincers jutting out of the shape, appearing and vanishing, growing and shrinking, even going through solid rock. The jittering appendages oozed from the grey, pulsating skin of the tower. It existed in space but seemed unaffected by everything around it. A force of nature of “un-nature” that held absolute power.

Then, my vision escaped the body of my swamp ape. I saw beyond the tower and starred at the trail it left behind. Wherever the entity touched the ground, the sea would not fill. The water halted at the edge of the ditch. From this ditch poured dark brown oil that cut channels through the swamp. It all looked as if a tree had been pressed into the ground. On the branches of this tree were great mounds of dead: swamp apes, kiroj, saugren, everything. All flesh and bone collected in these heaps.

My vision returned to my body. I could not move or make a sound. I couldn’t call out to my flock. Even if I had been able to warn them, I’d just stay still. Nothing could be done. Soon we’d all be dead and there was no way to change that. I spent my final moments alive watching the tower lurch through the mountain range that had separated us.

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