The personal blog of the cultural ambassador to the newly discovered planet of the Ant-people (the Myrmeiods).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Catching Up

I'm sorry it's been so long since since I posted anything. It's been crazy here this past month, and I'm just about emotionally wrung.

We took care of Ka'heni's body and Dan's old skin the same day, and in the same way; they have no funerals here, and it's one of the differences between our peoples that remind me I'm an alien here, even when the inhuman bodies of my friends and hosts don't seem important. Bodies are easy to ignore--as you read this, you can't see or touch my body, my shape doesn't matter to you, I'm just a mind, just words. We're used to this. I can recognize the mind of a friend on a flat screen covered only with changing words, and I can recognize the mind of a friend in the body of an eight-inch-long ant. Shape doesn't matter. But they have no need for funerals here, and I feel very far away from home.

They treat dead bodies, cast-off exoskeletons, and unwanted and uneaten eggs and larvae all the same way, as a special class of almost sacred trash, carried out to special, designated dumps or crematoria with solemn ceremony. When someone dies, mourning is a private thing, though several weeks later they do hold a sort of a wake, to help everyone get past their grief and back into daily life. We just had that party yesterday, so I guess this post is me getting back to daily life.

Dan is learning to fly. He had to recover from molting, build his body back up, and then he spent a week or two flapping madly every chance he got, his feet dug in to roots, fallen logs, or the carpet of my floor, so he wouldn't take off before he knew how to control his wings. Today he let go for the first time and went straight up about six feet before letting up. He drifted back to the ground like a fluttering leaf. I'm getting used to the new way he looks, and wondering how much longer he will stay here--he's got a job lined up, he starts as sailor aboard a merchant marine in five months, but usually new flyers take some time to travel between one molt and another. I'll miss him.

Ka'heni's last larva is not alone; I should have anticipated it, since the kids are is same-aged batches, but once Ka'heni decided to keep an egg, the female fliers each kept their next egg and added them to the pile. So there's four larvae now. Two of them, Ka'heni's and another, were laid the same week, and nobody knows or cares which is which. They don't pay any attention to biological parentage, only family. Mostly the larvae are kept inside, both to protect them and because there is no reason to take them anywhere else--they have no central nervous systems yet, so there is no point in showing them things. But I was curious, so someone carried one of the larvae out to me. It did look a bit like a sock, but only about three inches long. What it really reminded me of was just a really big, white maggot, a pale, soft tube with no legs or eyes, just a pair of jaws and a mouth. I had to keep my hands away from the mouth, as they bite reflexively and do not let go. I know the eggs are about the size of a marble, and that they hatch out at about half an inch long. Over three months they grow to eight inches long, then pupate for four months. It's only when they enter pupation that they legally become people; larvae are considered property, something that makes some sense considering that the offspring of layers are all genetically identical to their siblings, and so interchangeable until they grow brains capable of learning, but is still odd to think about. Again, it's not how we do things. It blows my mind that these grublike things will grow up to be people, and that post-pupals think they're cute.

And there are two new La'helis. The new layer, Ta-he'ki, is another accountant, and she has something like the equivalent of an MBA as well--not quite lineage, but close. It seems the La'helis want to explore getting into some new markets. The other new member is Dan's replacement, in as much as it (I've been criticized for ascribing gender to those without it) is a second post-pupal, but Ka'de is not an engineer. Instead, as Ka'heni suggested, we've got an orchardist knowledgeable in botany. Ka'de actually has lineage, as of a few weeks ago, though it's only thirty years old. Of course, the official story is that Ka'de was hired to transform the La'heli's plant genetics just as Dan transformed their mechanical apparatus a generation ago, but unofficially I think the hope is that Ka'de will, to some extent make up for Ka'te's loss of Dan. She's young to lose daily contact with her mentor, and anyway, more and more we are realizing that Ka'te's intellect is something special. She needs every advantage of education we can get her, and for a country family, that means making sure she has real experts in her life to talk to--real experts in its life for it to talk to, I should say, but it's no good; I can't stop thinking of Ka'te as a little girl. And it forty years she could become a male flyer, for all I know. I am sure she'll have lineage someday, if she wants it.

So here I am babbling, just telling you one thing and then another as they come into my head. I'm just emotionally tired. And it's hot. It's been hot for months, and still getting hotter. The Myrmeoids don't care; they have three different body temperatures, and they can adjust their bodies to whichever one suits the conditions of the moment. They're nice and comfy, because the air is still cooler than they are except at mid-day, while I'm sweating my brains out even in my sleep. And I still keep wearing clothes. Honestly, I need to quit that. No one here would care; they don't wear clothes, and a naked man's body wouldn't look any stranger to them than a clothed man's body. And the midges and mosquitoes and so forth here ignore me. I'm being stupid. I need to stop.

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