homo sapiens beta 2: vanitas


Proteus is a prototype human (beta release) living in Gondwanaland in the Jurassic era. Part one is here.

As it happened, Proteus could not speak with sounds:
when he opened his mouth and set his throat to vibrate,
glowing bubbles, leafy baubles, necklaced seeds,
a myriad of elemental protozoan shapes,
floated from his lips, sparking, drifting through the trees.

My return, he thought, the balance of me,
being made from nothing,
to which I must revert.

I might not sing the sweet love calls
of the gentle diplodocus, or, like the pterodactyl,
screech to my compadres to scatter
timid herds of mammals,
and yet I see no need for sounds of care or anger.

A couple of minutes later, Proteus changed his mind.


In a pool of faded lunar light,
he found a tiny mummified body,
neither reptile nor mammal.
He cupped it in his hand
and addressed it with cascading firefly points
and glow-worm dashes, a little like Morse code.

Oh curious creature, your tail was long
but your life was short,
and your genus and species are mysteries
that humans may never solve.

Like you, I have lived my life tenuously,
unable to ascertain who I am
or where I’m going.

I will wear your body on a necklace
against my heart, as soon as I determine
precisely where that is.

And I’ll travel far and wide,
peddling my encyclopedia
across Gondwanaland,*
until I find a place where your
delicate bones may be preserved,
and some short-sighted paleontologist
will unearth them in the distant future.

In that way, I’ll ensure your fame,
the recognition of your kind.

But the chameleon-like creature,
whose skin resembled powdery dust,
had merely been napping.

It awoke abruptly, bit off a sample
of Proteus’ little finger,
scurried along his arm and fled.

to continue

*Although he could ride an encyclopedia at up to 20km/h, Proteus did not know the extent of Gondwanaland.


after the future, when there is nothing on television (part above). Evolved from clouds by VEE, the visual evolution engine.

25 thoughts on “homo sapiens beta 2: vanitas

  1. i so like this image of a species finding its meaning when it touches another, holding it to the heart it wants to discover. and if only we never ever have to speak words that cut and pierce, open our mouths and just allow our inner self out, cinnamon baubles, vanilla sparkles, minty holograms and such. I love this new world better than the last, i want to stay awhile and find a tandem Encyclopedia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, so glad the world drew you in, Gina. Such sweet words there, and there’s plenty of room for everyone on an encyclopedia. I just read that the origin of “encyclopedia” was a false reading by Latin scholars of a Greek word, a little like me thinking it should have wheels and pedals. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • when i first saw the word when I was about 10 years old I think, I thought it was a giant air balloon with wheels, that was my Mary Poppins phase and my imagination had lots of flying objects. funny how words can just conjure up an image in our heads. looking forward to more of your story!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant and great fun Steve. You may not see my poems for a while. WordPress has decided I’ve over loaded or some thing and blocked any possible new input. I’ve reverted to pen and paper. Fortunately I can still read your poems. I enjoy them so much

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps not, but I think the creature’s response was about what Proteus deserved. 🙂 Thanks, for mentioning that section BG, I was pleased with it, and glad it didn’t come out à la “Alas, poor Yorick.”


  3. Proteus must have set the precedent for humans to change their (our) minds. 🙂
    He seems to need a lot more practice determining whether a fellow creature is still alive. I doubt he wants to spare another finger! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re probably right, Magarisa. I’ve noticed that in fictional portrayals, people behave far more consistently than my experience suggests they actually do. But perhaps this only relates to my own family and friends. And me. 😸

      As a prototype, Proteus may not be keenly observant. On the other hand, maybe his fingers grow back, who knows?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Stunning Steve, the universe having become aware of itself, I have a vague sense that there is at least a partial alliteration with Hofstadter’s curious tome. I wonder if other people have the same experience, their copy of Goedel, Escher, and Bach etc sits unread and trendy on the shelf for twenty years, and when the pick it up to do more than casually leaf through the pages, it nips their fingers. Your world, however, however, engages the senses in a synesthetic swirl in a way that Achilles, Tortoise, or Crab never imagined- but they did imagine other people imagining it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lona, for your generous comments on my hallucinations. Hofstadter — I’m a fan, especially feedback loops and self referencing. Contradictions like Gödel’s open new horizons, although I can’t imagine myself imagining what I can’t imagine myself imagining. And so on. 😸

      Since my heart is mostly differential equations of laminar flow, I do have a soapbox I’d like to stand on. Some popular science/tech/math writers, including Hofstadter, drift across the border into fantasy. I understand they need to sell with hopeful messages, and I love fantasy, but not when it’s presented as fact.

      Liked by 1 person

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