Words

FIRE

The first word they invented was for the fire that forged them. I suppose we would translate it as ‘mother’.

The second word they invented was for the water that submerged and cooled them, that allowed them to take a solid shape instead of constantly shifting this way and that as fluid. I suppose we might call it ‘sleep’.

They made more words. It became a game between them, to try to figure out new things that hadn’t been named yet. They started with things they encountered frequently – the crystals, the clots, the slow-dissolving carcasses of their siblings and cousins and parents – but they quickly ran out of objects to name.

One came up with the clever idea of naming himself, a trend which took off quickly and burned itself out soon after.

Before long, they were forced to invent new concepts in order to hang names on. These concepts were difficult to express to each other, and it was unclear whether the names they used referred to the same underlying concept. This was not a problem that went away, but it got better.

Their system of naming things expanded. It looped in on itself, named the act of naming, named the system of naming, named the time and place, the namer and the name-ee. This is how language was invented.

And then they did it again, because they had short memories.

In all this discussion, they forgot the name of the fire. The water which cooled them and gave them shape also became unnamed, since they didn’t remember ever existing without water, without shape. It became invisible to them. The language that filled their minds overwrote all memory that they were perhaps not always as they were then.

Other names started to disappear. Once they forgot the water, the crystals and clots became the medium within which they were suspended, until those became invisible as well and were forgotten. Names which referred to colors of crystal or consistencies of fluid unraveled next.

They remembered their names for themselves, but didn’t remember any of the reasons why they had given themselves a particular name. Choices which used to be significant to them became meaningless sounds.

The water was gone. It could not define them.

Their names were gibberish, and could not define them.

They saw right through each other, through their environment, saw through to eternity, and were thus blind.

They lost their shape, and fell back into the flames, and once more became the stuff of untamed and unnamed possibility.

It might be they died. It might be they were born. It might be that the only difference between the two, for them, is what name you decide to give to it.

This has happened many times.

This is happening right now.

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