Author: Glenn Leung
Nylar saw it at the river, staring up from under the water. Warped by ripples, it looked confused and ugly. At least that’s what Nylar thought. Having lived in darkness all her life, she wasn’t sure how to connect the dots between appearance and concept. Yet something inside her, the instinct of ancestors who had lived before the long night, told her that this thing was more than just another creature. It was something that belonged to a world that had gotten much bigger.
She thought of her mother’s warning: The light brings terrors beyond imagination. When dawn first broke, many months ago, those who couldn’t retreat to the caves were overwhelmed by the cosmic vistas presented through their long-dormant sight. Nylar, a young soul gripped by curiosity, had braved those horror stories and left her dwelling with nothing but a rope-like blindfold. When she arrived at the river, the sound and smell of water relaxed her, and she got careless. After wriggling off her blindfold, she wished she had listened to her mother.
The creature continued to gaze into her eyes. Nylar waited for it to do something, but as long as she stood staring at it, it did the same. She wanted to look away, yet something about that hideous face locked her attention. Two tiny eyes punched into a leathery face, one bigger than the other. Lipless mouth agape, baring serrated teeth embedded in mushy gums. This visage was on a misshaped head perched on a slug-like body. Two tiny hands hung from its side on straw-thin stalks, too short to be of much use. Overcome by a nauseating sense of familiarity, she bent over to touch the water and was shocked by what happened next. The creature did the same, reaching up from below. What’s more, she saw that its hands looked identical to hers.
Nylar’s mother had told stories that had been passed down many generations, from before the long night. One of them was of the Mimic; a creature of the light that copied the appearance and actions of its victims. According to legend, this creature would keep copying until it escaped into the world, taking the victim’s place. It was one of the stories that Nylar had thought of at the first hint of dawn. A story that was quickly shoved away with the panicked evacuation.
Nylar didn’t believe she looked like that monster. She thought that perhaps it was a young one with undeveloped skills. Nevertheless, it was still unsettling. It would take too long to don the blindfold, so she raced back home with eyes squeezed shut while willing more speed into her foot. She called out to her mother the moment she smelled the musk of the cave, eager to dive back into her warm embrace. However, she opened her eyes too soon. Emerging from the darkness was the outline of the creature that she had encountered at the river. What’s more, it spoke with her mother’s voice! Overcome with fright, Nylar passed out.
When Nylar woke, her mother had to spend several hours assuring her that it had all been a bad dream. Many years from now, at the height of the long day, the scholars of her species will discover the Law of Reflection. They will even accept their appearance as normal. But until then, Nylar and her brethren will continue to live in fear of the mysteries of the light.