This tale precedes recorded history, having been passed through oral tradition for centuries before any known written form of tongue was invented. Most scholars from all four continents consider it to be myth. Those few who will take the possibility into account credit the unnamed man mentioned within, all those hundred thousand years ago, with taking humanity on its first step towards discovering magic.
The man ran, wheezing. His breath was as long as a great tree stood, but his stalker’s persistence was longer still and his left leg throbbed. Knowing not how he will survive the day, he began to look for places to die. It was common for two footers to avoid being eaten, at the very least, but the tall man thought it was wise to give back to nature. Deep within, he understood that it wasn’t demeaning to let the beast eat him, for he was part of everything in one way or the other. He was not its better, but still thought it would be best to find a suitable place to at least finish this desperate fight properly. The trees flashed by, a storm of green leaves and air heat causing his every inhaled breath to come in with a little bit of water. He did not understand that this was the very stuff that makes rain. He noticed a faint stench coming from far away, and his mind grasped at a possibility of survival. The sun stared at him from directly overhead as he turned right, racing over branches and ducking under vines. He could hear great loping strides behind, and at some point the haze of his vision intensified as fresh blood spurt from the nasty gash he’d been dealt earlier.
The man reached a copse of different trees with tall trunks. The stench of sweet death intensified, but he hoped that his pursuer’s feline nostrils were too filled with his blood. Before him, the ground stretched a rich dark brown layered deep and soft, like stacks of tired leaves. Above him, far above, he could barely glimpse fat reddish fruit hanging from branches. They looked ripe, which meant that care was needed here. Instead of looking down, the two footer wades through the fluffy brown ground rising up to his waist, knowing the dangers. As he did, he could feel the shake travel from his bare clawed feet and touch the trees nearby. A growl came from the creature behind him, but it was not the immediate danger. His blood pumped, and for a second everything slowed down. This was the single most dangerous moment he’d been in since infancy and his mind sharpened appropriately. It was one thing to charge the everyday dangers of this world, full of monsters and poisoned food and unseen death waiting to claim, quite another to willingly walk beneath Muahug’ha trees. He could hear the heartbeat, feel the very wind touch his skin with a blowing cold. He could smell the brown furred beast with death clinging to its fangs, white like polished bone after a hearty meal. It would pounce in one and a half heartbeats, for its muscle were already clenched with the determination to take this two footer’s corpse and flee quickly.
Perhaps it was the haze of blood loss, or perhaps the twofooter’s concentration had never been tested thus before, but at that precise moment something happened. Within the body that was within his body but had no body, something stirred. It was vague as the wonder of color after a sunrise, or the breath of an unnamed odor instinctually carved onto a man’s skin, but he grasped at the stirring. Suddenly, he looked at his body from without, and saw many ripples in the clearing, with the mountain cat behind him, the trees above, and the jungle around. Countless things rippled; insects and birds and small animals of little consequence as a hawk fluttered far above. Not knowing how or why, the man focused on himself and suddenly he was the calm of a lake before the ripple, knowing exactly what to do. Left and right, the trees would shake, but they would be too far from him. The animal would startle, and it would be time for the lake to take his shape and move before the third shake. This was not the future, he knew, but the understanding of what happened in the moment and how it would shape things.
Quickly the man turned, leaping a bit the side and forward, ripping off mountain cat hide tunic as he did. The first and second trees shook, sending red fruit as large as his head tumbling down. The fruits were so full of juice that they almost burst without touch, and their skins cracked as they tumbled down. Overhead the hawk turned, sensing someone’s doom. When red fruit hit soft brown land, it burst but was contained, for they fell deeper and burst onto a thousand little strands of earth. However, the sound prompted his enemy, a mountain cat with yellow eyes and hate against this two footer who dared impersonate its brethren upon his skin. It leapt, but the man was already in between its claws, waiting. He snagged one claw with the tunic, letting the other go. Both beasts roared, and both roars were of triumph, but the man’s prevailed. He knew the cat’s fate, clever as he was. In that instant, as it soared through the air and he grabbed it by ear and limb, the man felt three things.
The first was the bloom of pain in his chest as four claws scoured deep marks onto his haired, chiseled chest.
The second was a pang of sympathy for the beast as he and it exchanged looks and he understood the fundamental differences between them.
The third was a ripple behind him, and it was the shudder that reminded the two footer of life and death.
He twirled, using his strength to lift the beast further as it flew to his left. He had it in a grip and threw it behind him, where it finally landed with a snarl, angered and perhaps confused. The second it landed, the man scrambled back and onto safe greenish brown firm earth, clawing his way out of their arena. As he did, a splat was heard, and by the time he looked back the beast was dead, covered in red poison juice. Its face was twisted, and he knew the expression to be that of an anguished death. At least it was quick, and the jungle cat would be destroyed quickly, turning into more fuel for the Muahugh’ha trees. Within a day, one would hardly know what had happened here, for the soft brown earth would have taken over.
The two footer waded slowly out, feeling something was off. His chest burned and so did his leg. In all likelihood, he would not survive his injuries, for Najera’s mark would probably soon appear where he’d been wounded. It would fester and grow, taking claim slowly until death chose to come with his clean tunic. The sun being directly above made it more difficult to tell directions, but the man looked around a little and noticed the mountain housing his cave. From the ones all around, it was the eighth highest and stood waiting behind two rises. The two footer knew that between them a river would snake, sly and blue. He made his way towards it, and caught a bird soon after starting out. His limp, after all, did not stop him from lunging with lightning speed, and his prey was lazy, flying too low so as to avoid detection. As he walked, putting one clawed foot in front of the other, the sun seemed to follow him, and he adjusted his direction appropriately, knowing that it would set directly behind his cave. The darkened blur around his sight would take over at times, casting him into darkness. Whenever he awoke from it, he would be further ahead. One time it happened just before reaching the river, and when the man awoke there was no sound of running water anymore and his feet were wet. Sweat covered his face, mixing with the dirt in his shaggy hair to create knots. He did not mind much.
His thoughts turned slowly, and as usual they went towards sympathy. The bird lay limp in his hands, and he kept his grip deliberately tight so as not to drop it. Also, he wanted to get it salty, as he’d discovered that salty food tasted good and that was exactly what sweat did. It was a grain of information he kept to himself, not letting the other two footers find out, although he intended to share it eventually. He regretted not telling them, but salty food was a good bargaining tool. Speaking of regrets, he felt bad for the cat. It was killed, but not for food or use. Such a death was shameful. These thoughts throbbed and swirled within the man’s mind as the jungle gave way to craggy rock and he climbed up. Then the wave of darkness crested again and when it washed back, he was near his own cave. There were people walking around him, and he saw a woman tut at his condition from the left. He walked with a rocky cliff to one side and a drop to his left, overlooking more mountain and the jungle. Caves lined the path to where it curved left then right again. There were many of them, and he could see two footers holed up in some. The sky began to sleep as he looked, and the man knew that he would be unable to ward off predators. Perhaps for the first time he was glad to live on this mountain, for there were many caves and it would be safe. He fell asleep walking.
When the two footer awoke, it was dark and he was in worse pain than even that time he fell down a tree and his foot pointed in the wrong direction. That time, he had been able to force it into place, but on this day there was not such relief. He was forced to howl at the sky dots, for the burn in his chest and legs became unbearable. Worse, every time he closed his eyes, the inside of his head would throb and he would burn on the inside whilst shivering in a cold sweat. When that happened, he became the lake once again, feeling every living thing around him. The two footers around him walked, the animals in the forest climbed and ran and slithered. Birds flew and roosted and fed its young the very same worms that wriggled beneath his feet, far within rock which waited patiently. He could see and hear and smell every bit of it, and the knowledge hurt. It was like shouting within his heart, screams he regurgitated ten times or more that night, howling. The two footers around him, he could tell, thought that he would die soon, and he went quiet. Despite everything, the two footer understood two facts which clamored against each other: He was the same as everything else, and yet no two things were entirely alike. This, mixed with the euphoria of fever, lent itself to his own natural empathy, and in delirium the two footer took off his tunic and stuffed it into his mouth so as not to bother anyone. His life replayed itself before his eyes as he fell into the fits. He cried, remembering the time he had given his smallest brother some painstakingly gathered food, just to have it slapped out of their hands. He raged against himself, seeing the time his advances towards a particular maiden were largely ignored seemingly because he knew not how to swim. He sighed, reliving the day that his parents ventured out as one beyond their tree home and never came back for them. There were embarrassments and saddening moments, yet there were little triumphs here and there as well. Swimming in the river to cheers, having a young child recover from fever after he’d given it berries against the desperate protests of its mother, making friends with a slitherer. All these the two footer remembered as the fever raged. Slowly he began to control the lake within him and his inner sight quieted down, becoming a slow trickle, showing only some of what lay beyond him.
Within a few days, he was terribly weakened due to the lack of food but otherwise feeling healthy. The two footer dared poke his head outside for the first time since collapsing and found a few children playing beneath his spot. He growled at them and they ran away. Naturally, he was thought dead. Proving them wrong felt good. When a few older two footers came and checked up on him, they decided that recovery was possible. Angry scabs stood out along his chest and right thigh, but were unlikely to cause serious harm. Thus, fruit was brought to him. There were red orbs, green long tubes filled with brown nectar and seeds, and bitter bits of leafy things which tasted better the more you ate. The two footer feasted on those, mentally marking the cave they came from so as not to forget the debt owed.
When the sun next rose, the two footer was able to hunt, but left his cave cautiously. Just a few days earlier, he had seen the painted face of death. Moreover, the visions of what lay around lurked in the corner of his eyes. The lake was never far from him, and the two footer feared its pain. He was unsure of his ability to keep it at bay whilst moving, and so moved slowly so as not to steal from his concentration. When his feet were safely upon hard rock, he looked about, eyes stinging only a little. There were already children playing, parents going about here or there, and two footers wrestling playfully whilst trying to communicate as best they could. Luckily, the two footer saw a familiar face nearby and made his way to the child, pulling two objects from his tunic and brushing off a little bit of dirt from them. He grunted to get the black haired boy’s attention. When it was done, he showed him the first one, a leaf kept from last night’s dinner. He tried to remember the sound then grunted, “You me?”
The boy seemed confused at first, then nodded. Luckily, his parents had taught him some fundamental speech.
The two footer smiled kindly, then repeated almost the same guttural sound, pointing vaguely at a certain area of caves. “You You?”
Again the child nodded then laughed, pointing at a specific cave and saying “You yew!” over and over. Satisfied, the adult two footer gave him the second object: A green bird caked in salt, only slightly smelly. He pointed at the cave as he did so and the child snatched it from his hands, saying gibberish but certainly meaning well.
The two footer went down into that jungle certain that despite his weakened condition, there would be food to be had. The source of that confidence was the discovered lake of calm within him. There were noises everywhere, of insects and running animals and flying ones; even those strange climbing things that looked suspiciously like hairy two footers. He could smell the forest and the water mixed into the sun’s heat. When he’d gone sufficiently deep and there were no predators or two footed annoyances to disturb him, the man went left to climb up a tree. It reached high into the blue, but the man only went higher than two of him could stand, using vines to secure a sitting spot. There he found a small climbing animal, grey of fur but sporting two massive fangs. It hung upside down from the branch he sat on, waiting for prey to walk beneath so it could drop teeth down and bite. He sat next to the animal, much to its apparent disdain. It shrieked at him, fists balled. He chuckled and apologized.
The man allowed his breathing to slow down. His eyes closed and the lake within went completely still. There was only he at that moment. Slowly he relaxed, allowing the lake to take him into sweet euphoria, although he went careful and slow, staying deep within himself so as to avoid pain. He became aware of the blood pumping through his veins, of the bones creaking imperceptibly, of the air spinning within his lungs before coming back out. He was, of course, oblivious to what lay within humans, but somehow could feel things within himself as if his entire body had suddenly learned to touch. Every second was good, in the moment, and for minutes he thought of nothing, just sat and felt. Then slowly, he began to feel fatigue of a type unusual to him. There was power in his muscles, and his thoughts were silent but true. However, the two footer could tell that the very intent behind his being was drained slowly by this new sense he’d developed. It was like a dull void deep within who he was, an ache in marrow within bone. If this was taken to an extreme, he would lose all will and forget to breathe, sealing his fate and slipping into sweet oblivion. That, he needed to avoid.
The two footer decided to stop feeling for the day. Coming down from the tree, he spent a few minutes resting idly at its base, picking at leaves and doing nothing until he felt better.
The man went deeper into the forest, cautious. A hush was coming over the area he entered, which told him there must be a mighty predator prowling and keeping everything away. A good hunter did not go to a place birds did not dare fly over. In the distance he saw another two footer, who waved to him. He waved back, then motioned that he was going back. The other gave him an exasperated gesture.
As he walked back, the two footer found many low hanging fruits. The entire way, he marveled at everything he saw. Even the slitherers, whom he normally hated, looked resplendent in their scales that day. Perhaps it had something to do with the feeling he’d experienced earlier, but he felt light, better almost. A jungle’s constant chorus was often an overlooked form of music, but on that day he treasured every whistle, cluck, and roar. He smiled to himself that entire day.
Soon, the two footer fell into a familiar routine. He would wake up early, go out and feel for as long as he could, savoring the sensations gleaned, and then go hunting. Raised awareness became his ever-present companion, and even though he spent a little bit longer feeling each day than the one before it, there were never any hunting problems. He would hear and see things that would have gone overlooked before, smell fruit and other bounties in hidden places, and return to his cave happy each night, sharing a little bit with the family that had helped save him. The father, especially, took a liking to him and would teach the two footer things about tying vines together to hold things. It was a useful skill, he learned.
One day, months later, the two footer decided to take his feeling a step beyond. In his usual tree, next to the small grey climber, he felt not only himself, but slightly beyond. It was a jarring feeling, like expanding, but somehow he was able to control it and not go into the painful state he’d found himself in after being injured. He felt the branch beneath him, the speedy climber’s wheeze, and the slow patient throb of tree. In the tree, something felt off. Being unsure of what it was, but getting a certain sense of direction, the hunter looked towards a specific branch higher and to his left. He was surprised to find a piece of fruit there, hidden from sight by a peculiar arrangement of leaves. The fruit was rotten in its place, but taught the two footer that it was possible to use his ability to locate food. That day he left the tree early, saving his strength for searching. Every few minutes he would sit and feel, probing the immediate area around him. He only looked as far as he could run in ten strides, but the technique proved effective. That day he found a large amount of food, and had to leave some behind!
As days went on, the man learned not only to probe farther, but also discern his surroundings whilst moving. That made it possible to hunt animals better. The first time he did it, his skill was used against a red tailed four footer. It was tiny and weak, but with time the two footer was able to expand and find better prey and avoid predators, like those larger than trees or more dangerous than even the Muahugh’ha. Feeling lighter, knowing when and where obstacles may show up, made all the difference. The fourth time, he was a able to run and climb, barely touching branches with the tips of his arms and feet before swinging off and leaping, pushing off as if he were walking vertically on trunks. A huge tree came up, but the man was prepared and leapt high, landing against it with most of his upper body, but keeping his knees supple. He held there for a second, suspended by speed, and before he could slip down he leapt vertically, towards another branch. Even with his eyes closed, he could feel the immediate surroundings. A ripple moved towards him, fast, and the man knew that if he moved his arms forward it would swoop down to compensate. He put his palm in the correct spot and a large bird of prey flew right into it. It had a menacing beak, black and white feathers, and dangerous talons. The man smiled at his dinner.
That day, the two footers looked upon him with shock. No one caught that type of bird like that. Sometimes they were found, perhaps even trapped by a genius, but never caught. The man basked in it for a while, and then went to the family he knew, giving them the bird and gesturing that with that, his debt towards them has been paid in full. The father agreed.
Day after day the two footer hunted, finding better pray and understanding the lake within him better. There were slight differences in the ripples, telling him exactly what he was sensing and its conditions. The ripple of a river fish was different from that of a lean beating crawler or a sighing slitherer. Everything felt different and yet exactly the same. It made hunting much easier for the two footer and freed him to think of other things.
It is incredible to behold what people could achieve when they weren’t desperately fighting for survival. The two footer realized that his new sense worked on some principle different than climbing or understanding. There was something within him, a stamina of sorts. Moreover, he realized that the lake within him was the same one he saw from above in his mind’s eye, and that the ripples were reflections upon his own senses. His senses depended on the size of the lake, as well as intricacy of what he felt. If he stretched himself thin, he could feel farther, but with less detail. At distance, it was difficult to tell an injured bird from a leaping climber.
The two footer was fascinated with his senses, and so sought to develop them. He began to store food, and when he had enough for a week he went to his cave. It was not deep nor bright. There were no animals and no wood, just leaves for him to sleep on. It faced the sun’s rise to wake him up when time came, and it was high to protect him from predators. Most importantly, this small hole in the mountain was his home. On one side, its right wall curved to allow him a seating space, and that was where the two footer went.
He sat, making himself comfortable. He allowed his eyes to close and his breath to slow, then realized that the children would not allow him to work in peace. He needed another spot, and so tied up his storage of food in vines, making a small bag for it. He took it deep into the jungle, to a giant tree he knew of. The tree’s bark had seen many years, and so had mingled with the death-green. Only, he understood that the death green had nature and life within, small enough not to be noticed but important all the same. The man came to this tree because it had a hold in its trunk, allowing him to sit inside, hidden from everything. There were enough pieces of bark to cover him from predators, and the mossy seat was comfortable.
The man sat, watching the sun set beyond his mountain home. The light entered his eyes but stopped at his nose. This was how he would tell time when a day passed. Once more, the man allowed his consciousness to almost fade, closing his eyes and slowing his breath. He became the lake and sensed innumerable ripples all about. Wonder filled him at the euphoria of life, and he could hear many voices, chattering together as one. He saw them from above with his body as the center. He could see about as far as he could run for a few heartbeats. Slowly he focused on that feeling, allowing himself to push the boundaries whilst not rushing things. More than anything, he focused on the pleasant sensation of being one with himself.
His senses travelled, and every time the ripples became faint he would stop, savoring the sounds of a beating heart or a bloomed flower’s scent being lifted high into a cloudless sky by a red eyed bird. He saw the smallest of things and the largest of the mountain sized animals, those with skins like leather or hair longer than a man. Whenever the fatigue left him, he would continue expanding his senses until suddenly, he felt a two footer. He was used to how different two footers were from the rest of existence. There was somehow more complexity to them, whilst betraying no higher importance. Then the feeling came again, later, and the man realized he was sensing his home, where the caves were. Children danced and men laughed and women ran races against one another. Meanwhile a fluttering betrayed the ripples of butterflies. He pushed further.
The two footer had never seen any bodies of water larger than his jungle’s river. You can imagine then his gasp of wonder at finding his sight stopped by an incredibly ancient presence vaster, it seemed, than a dream spanning a thousand nights. The presence was filled with different types of animals the two footer had never encountered, having never been away from the jungle ringed by mountains. He could also feel other predators on the land between mountain and ocean, bigger still than the ones back home. Two footers, however, he could not sense. Instinctively, he was glad to that none of these predators roamed his lands.
If you walked along the river in the direction to your left when facing the sun, you would, in the two footer’s jungle, find two or three spots of land surrounded by water. This, the two footer discovered, was how most land was. There was mostly water, and he, his jungle, and everything around were one island. Smaller islands headed in a direction, then two large ones, far from one another but connected by a long thin strip. Far below him, down enough that it somehow became up again, was one last island. Four there were, in this… place they inhabited. The two footer had no concept of planets, but surmised that everyone lived on a ball. By this time, he had eaten a few times, but had stopped for nothing else. The sun rose when he found his strength waning and he stopped to rest his mind and self, and his eyes stung both with light and revelation, although these two things were sometimes one and the same. There was too much to know. Everyone lived on islands surrounded by water, on a ball? His head hurt with the number of new beings he’d felt. By the end of his day’s out of body adventure, he could only sense beings larger than reality, like the lizards that flew or the fish that walked or the two footers made of tree. Once more, he was glad to not have any in their jungle, for he sensed there was no way to hunt these things.
When his rest was over, the two footer readied himself to feel once more. It was now high morning, and he’d thought a few things through. Instead of feeling just all around, he sent his senses in an orb around him from the get go. It was coming to his attention that under was not quite always under, and as with many new revelations he took this one with wonder and a change of thought. When he passed the globe, this time, he could feel smaller things as well. Realizing that his senses were growing, the two footer gently pushed on through, and was surprised to feel little resistance. It was as if the space he probed was devoid of anything. He thought for a few seconds that he’d reached the end of the world, and so spent a few minutes basking in the world and in himself. Then, when caution’s grip loosened, the man pushed on further, until he reached white rock. Then he moved on and felt more rock, and more, then something akin to the red tongues which were sometimes left behind when lightning smashed its foot against the ground. There were no living things to touch, and yet the man was not disheartened, for he was the lake and could feel all around him. With a deep breath he moved on, sensing himself moving slowly. He spun slowly, and yet was still. He moved not, and yet at the same time hurtled through the void, as he could tell by his distance from the rocks. It was only when night fell that he realized that he’d felt moon and stars. It was a revelation of wonder, for he’d always assumed that the moon and stars hid during daylight. Things were proving different indeed. That night, he did not sleep or push on, but rather chose to pull back his probe until he could sense even the smallest insects again. It was that sense of unity in being the lake that brought him comfort through the night.
When the sun rose on the third day, the two footer had reached inner peace. He pushed through, going farther into the void beyond his world than he’d ever dared. He became sure that there was no living thing outside his void, and so stretched himself thin, taking a stroll. Thus, he was shocked in the same sense as being dowsed by cold water when his sensed something. Immense beings, beyond his understanding. They walked between the stars gently, through paths known only to them.
Hmm? Remarked a voice in his mind, strange and echoing. The man was so stunned that he said nothing, and the voice repeated its sound. There was a sense of question, and the two footer assumed he was being contacted. The being was so large that he felt an urge he’d never had before. He tried to contact it, focus on it, and enter it. Pain blossomed in him and the two footer retreated.
Gently, the being touched him and the two footer almost felt himself snap in half. It pulled back hastily, and he realized that it had only tried to communicate. A sense of disappointment came through, and he felt guilty for not being able to speak with it. There were almost a hundred of them, and he sensed them talk to one another. He felt jealous and lonely, so tried once more to communicate with the star walkers with their long strides, despite the pain. His attempts bordered on desperation, for he wanted more than anything to speak with them and be like them. He wanted to be one with these amazing beings, as he was one with the jungle. He needed their contact. He could tell that the attempts were killing him, and that he would never be able to step out of his body again. Still he tried, until finally he snapped. The pain was too much to handle and he almost blacked out, but was grabbed by someone.
The being he was trying to contact took him gently, preserving his mind, keeping him safe and trying to tell him things too big for his primitive mind to understand. When it released him, he was sucked back into his own body, which he knew would become his trap forever more. With a gasp, he awoke in the inside of a burning tree, with the sun setting, and knew that he would never be able to feel again. He tried, to great pain. He knew that he’d set the tree on fire, but knew not how.
The two footer went back to his cave, haunted by what he’d tried and seen. Only two pieces of information were gleaned from the star walkers, these mighty god figures. The first was the understanding that what he’d done, how he felt, was part of something larger. There were no specifics. All he knew was that living things were able to learn how to use something deep inside. The second piece of information was how the star walkers crossed great distances. In his cave, he used blood to draw a symbol: Two curves mirroring one another, almost touching. In their tails three dots sat, and at their heads triangles waited. The holes of void met inside and created the pathways for these great beings using the dots and triangles.
The two footer was sure that with time, the knowledge gleaned from them would prove useful. He knew that if the thing within him weren’t broken, he would be able to use it to great effect after his revelation, but there was no use crying over what was. He would make sure the others understand and keep the knowledge going until it became of better use. Time after time he drew the symbol, filling the walls of his cave. Time after time he repeated the revelation of magical wonders depending on inner strength and vitality, knowing that there was a world far beyond him, and a path that only he could walk.