Mud. Mud and its earthy fragrance was all I knew for the first minute of life. I breathed in deep, relishing breath. I had never experienced it before. Nobody had, and mine was the first body.
The caked on dirt kept my eyes closed, but I could breathe and smell, and I filled my lungs with that primal scent. Mud may still exist and have its certain reek, but even when I bend my face into swamps, I cannot find again that first sweet smell of my own life there in Earth’s vital soup.
“Man,” a voice above me said. Even my ears opened before my eyes.
“And what is man good for?” a second voice asked. “Small, no claws, dull teeth: They’re no good as predators and no good as prey.”
The first voice answered, “They’re something new I’m trying. Sometimes hedging your bets guarantees a loss, and I’ve already maxed out the crueler and the protective traits on others. Now I’m trying wits.”
“Wits?” the second voice asked with a bite of contempt. “Wits will win no contests and cost these creatures all.”
A chime sounded, and the heat I had been born into dissipated, and the mud collapsed in on me, and I first felt the sensation of drowning, mud caking my throat. I panicked and began to kick wildly, and a heel broke the surface — I knew, because I could feel it go colder. Then I knew where to scramble, and first my right hand, and then my head and shoulder broke the surface, and I tried to climb out, but my weight pulled all of me back under. Different parts of me broke free and then resubmerged, and a frantic, instinctive fear told me I was going to drown and to die. To think, I had only been alive a moment and already knew to fear death.
I flailed more, rolling onto my back one more time, and as I did my right elbow and arm broke free, and I drove my elbow onto a rock. Pain shocked my whole right side, but panic drove me over again, and my left arm grasped upon it and pulled me finally from my birthplace. My breathing was fast, and all I could see was a blinding white, and I was afraid, but within a moment I had fallen asleep.
I woke up in rain. The water had washed the mud from me and shriveled my skin, but the wind didn’t blow and the rain was warm, so I actually felt refreshed. From my rock, I looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud, and they washed over the rock, resoiling me, and the rain would wash it away, and the mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and I sat like that for hours.
I had nowhere to go. I was the first, and no homes existed before me, and I saw only rolling gray clouds and rolling brown waves. But when the rain stopped, I stepped off my rock and found that the mud wasn’t deep at all, only covering my ankles. The gray sky split to a wondrous and bright blue, and the water receded.
I stayed on my rock and wouldn’t leave it. The sun rose and fell, the wind blew and turned bitter in the night, and my hunger turned as bitter. Creatures came and went, and I felt fear of some with their claws and their teeth, but none attacked me, and eventually they all left. I wept, and I felt fear and its several flavors, and I wept. My body groaned against this stagnation, but still I wouldn’t budge.
After some count of days the mud turned to dirt, and the manna sprouted, and I was saved.
My rock just happened to be here when I was born here. And I’ve never left it; it was my safety that night, and I feel like it keeps me to this day.