On the planet Ibis, covered in turquoise ocean, a young warrior stood on a white beach looking to the sky tinged green and the harsh binary stars. The warrior’s name was Malock and like all large life on Ibis they were a multitude of life; not just a single entity – a consensus of organisms held together by flimsy filaments so they could cooperate. Malock thought as a hive but a hive that moved on two apparent legs, a hive that was contained in a single form. Malock was a colony, but mobile; not fixed as rock. It was a trick their ancestors had learnt in the seas, as they left the reef bed. Specialisation of specific members allowed so much, and Malock’s form thought they were the peak of the evolutionary ladder. They were wrong.
Malock picked up a crude spear that they had made out of a dead leaf colony. Such groupings built their structures from a hard fibrous substance and the creatures on the edge became specialised light collectors to help feed the rest. They could be huge; the one Malock held was about the same height as they were and thinner than their apparent wrist. They had been entrusted with a sacred mission; sighing deeply, they thought in unison about the task ahead and ran into the sea. Their apparent feet, flat and flipper-like kicked up the fine white sand made from reef-colony secretions. Malock opened their eyes; the world shimmered and rippled, distances were no longer the same. A lensing film flopped in front of their light receptor specialists and they swam, powerfully and strongly. Their lungs shut down and an older form of respiration began, slits allowing the warm rich water to enter into the mist of the colony. The founder members still remembered incarnations when they had not left the sea’s warm languidness.
They swam out into the darker waters, deeper and cooler. Currents swirled, threatening to drag them in an unchosen direction. They gritted their apparent teeth and swam resolutely onwards. Floating colonies made clouds in which Malock had to wade. The reefs made the founders hum with an ancient homesickness. They left the glittering world behind, heading for the deeps. They altered their internal pressure and went deeper. Sleek predator colonies swam here; Malock had to be aware of every ripple. The faded colours of predator colonies and their sleek forms made them hard to detect. The light was dim and they had to shift to a different type of vision, making world into a grainy, luminous, monotone. But the deeps were no stranger to their colony-form. They had offered protection from the periodic solar blasts that had scoured the planet’s surface through the ages; the founders gave Malock and others of their form a genetic memory, each creature within a colony could lock itself away, superate and be born anew, memories intact but jumbled.
Something in one of the Founders had ignited such a memory, they were heading for something, something important. Malock swam through the fire of fatigue. Some of the creatures died of toxins or lack of oxygen, others were so old the effort obliterated them, but still Malock swam, swam down deep and deeper. They swam for a duration, the creatures of the colony sleeping in fits and starts so that 60 percent were always functioning as they plunged onward.
Eventually even the grainy light went and direction seemed meaningless, and yet they swam onwards until from the abyss a faint star appeared in the blackest of nights. It grew stronger and another appeared, followed by two more and then suddenly the world was full of star light. The stars coalesced to form a myriad paratopia of small creatures, single and on their own, occasionally bundles of entangled organisms would form. They glowed with their own light. Malock watched in wonder as one budded a small replica of itself. This was the cradle. Malock could feel the warmth; the water bubbled mineral rich, it had a soapy feel. Malock swam on, a fear tinging it’s collective thoughts. Heat was becoming unbearable and more of it died. The colony knew the danger of this, it was becoming stupid. Each creatures’ death, regardless of how permanent, made them thicker. Thinking was getting harder and yet they were driven on towards the warmth, the ruddy light ahead. White towers of scalding bubbles poured rich life, giving smoke into the sea.
‘The Ivory Towers,’ the founders whispered. And Malock knew they were almost there but Malock was disintegrating. They had failed, they would die and their mission with them… what had it been again? Find the origin? Find the safety of the Nursery? Those things made no sense now. Malock wondered why they had left the cities built as mocking effigies of the reefs, surely they had been safe?
*Welcome Malock,* a voice glittered in the water.
Malock shuddered. ‘Who?’ they thought sluggishly.
*We are everything,* it reverberated around the disintegrating colony.
‘Everything?’ managed the remnants of Malock.
*Yes everything, we have been waiting for you.*
‘But we are dying, we were supposed to save… something?’
*You have you have brought yourselves here to the crucible, others will follow but may have left it too late. Your elements will be the new world. You will lay dormant until the cleansing of stars is passed, then each fragment of you will be a new life. You are the new founders.*
‘But the cities… ?’
*They will live again through you and others of your form, they are… the next level, next time they will become.*
*The cities will live and then… then we can truly be once more.*
*The cities will reform us, and we will truly think once more, we have been dormant for so long, thinking the thoughts of the small.*
Malock could no longer answer as awareness drifted apart and floated to the hot mineral sands below.
The World sighed and went back to waiting.
Sarah Snell-Pym is a Gloucester based writer who has loved flash fiction writing ever since she found the Friday Flash hash tag on twitter. Her writing varies in length and style ranging from kids poetry to the darkly political.