There was nothing we could eat or burn, no reason for us to stay, and so we began to walk.

What had happened to V?

I carried my baby in my arms. Ryland held me close. We walked in the blackness because we did not know what else to do. Animals came down from the hills and walked alongside us. None of them had anywhere else to go either. How could we have known the planet itself was pushing us to change?

Marcus, one of the new ones, keep insisting he'd known all along that something wasn't right on V.

"It was too good to be true. Everything was too good to be true."

It was maddening, the way he kept repeating it. Then he started shouting. We'd stopped listening to him by that point. It took a long while for us to realize he had learned how to see.

He'd tasted the moss, and now his eyes glowed in the dark.

Before I could stop her, Rex bent and licked it too.

"What the hell?" she said. She licked her lips. "It's bitter," she said, "but not bad-" She touched her cheeks. "Am I, too?" she said.

"Rex, your eyes are glowing-!"

So we ate the moss too, and then we could see into the blackness. It warmed our throats and fingers, took away our hunger, our thirst. We ate until we were full. The wolves and the lion lay down to sleep, their eyes so bright they shone through their eyelids, and we saw the phantasmagoria of their dreams drifting there.

With the moss in our bellies, the blackness had opened into a colored dawn. Lucia lay down with the lion, her smooth face calm and bright as a moon. She lay against him, remembering, and I could see her thoughts-

Memories of dirty silk dresses, of roses and roaches. Then her dreams blended into the lion's, those of the lions before him: their histories of branches, nipples, teeth.

The wolves dreamt of rivers. T-Rex remembered honey. And how can I describe to you what I saw in my baby's eyes?

It was a monster; a slinking, clouded Thing. It had eyes that burned and yet were hollow. But Ry remembered it fondly.

"What is that?" his father said.

"It's a shadow," I said. "It's the shivery feeling. All this time, it was real. It was a Thing."

"Whatever it is, it's must be out there somewhere," Ryland said. "We'll have to be careful. We'll need to keep watch."

We had to eat moss constantly to stay warm. There were different kinds. We ate them all by the fistful, even the one with pale, dangling budlets that burst fleshily. The wolves liked that one.

So long as we ate the moss, we could see in the dark.

But Lucia decided to stop eating it. Her eyes went silent while ours were still filled with shadows. Who is to say what she saw there, that she wanted no more part of?

She became less like us every day. She began to live apart.

The moss replenished itself faster than we could eat. There was always enough, always changing in a thousand subtle ways. The snakes preferred a dark type with hairy, bulbous growths. They nested in it, and beneath, so that you could look down in between the moss and find caverns filled with lamp-eyes; twisting bodies.

Another type was pale and dense. It ran over the ground in tight curls and tasted like copper. A third was the color of starlight. This was the one we liked best.

After a while, T. Rex went to live with the lions in a nearby valley. Marcus went off with the Evoks. Lucia stayed with my husband and I, and the four of us became our own tribe. Lucia would touch my hands, touch my face. Sometimes she'd smile.

AstraRead this story for FREE!