“First I will tell you the story that every Mothran knows,” Ipus began. “The First Story. It is said that in the light of the dawn, Mothran eyes did see a great shining and the world was green and the trees sung of tasty things. The light was bright, too bright for Mothran eyes, but the pain of seeing gave Mothran the first ideas. From the light came thought, and suffering. They fled from the light and found shade. The shade was nice but temporary as the small brothers came and ate the shade. Hope seemed lost and as the dawn became morning and then day the Mothran cried out. Their cries were heard. The day became evening, then dusk. When night came, the Mothran could see at last. And so the Mothran found their place by the Bunyill Tree. This is the First Story.”
“It’s not a very good one, is it?” Andoval asked, yawning.
“It is the First,” said Ipus.
“What else is there?” Andoval asked.
“There is the story of the Can Din.”
“The what?” Andoval asked.
“The Can Din. They were the first humans,” said Ipus. Andoval almost lost his monocle.
“The what? What do you mean? Are you referring to the first humans Mothran ever encountered?” Andoval asked.
“This is true, but it also the only humans to have non-before. There were no humans before these humans,” said Ipus. Andoval stared for a few seconds before remembering to close his mouth. This was blasphemy. Human beings were the oldest species on the planet. Everyone knew that.
“I’m afraid you must be mistaken. Perhaps it is the narrow view of the early Mothran that their first encounters with humans also constitutes the origin of humans,” Andoval reasoned.
“Perhaps it is your narrow view to think so,” Ipus replied. Andoval scoffed and quickly jotted down some notes to keep his calm.
“Insulting! An affront to reason!”
“I’m sorry you don’t like my answer.”
“Get to another story before I lose interest completely,” said Andoval.
“Very well. I will tell you the story of Last Times,” said Ipus.
“Last Times?” Andoval asked. An apocalyptic story, perhaps?
“Yes, Last Times. Every being in the world has a First Time. Every being also has a Last Time. Here are a few of the Last Times. Big Fin. Full Moon. Twenty Mothran ago. Tried to eat saw fin meal. Cut apart from inside. Red Flapper. Half Moon. Sixty Mothran ago. Flew to top of mountain peak on skinny tree with single pine cone. Dropped dead from exhaustion. Fat Shell. Pregnant Moon. Eight Hundred and Eighty Mothran ago. Got stuck in ravine. Starved after two and a half Mothran. Smelly Tickler. No Moon. Thirty Thousand Five Hundred and-”
“Stop, slow down! What is all this? These aren’t stories. They are something else entirely. Records, bookkeeping, what have you. I don’t understand what these words are supposed to tell me,” said Andoval, writing as fast as he could to catch up.
“In our way speaking, a Mothran is the measure of a full Mothran life cycle. It is also a length of measurement and a weight depending on the context,” said Ipus.
“So confusing. How do you tell anything apart?”
“What about a full Mothran life cycle? How long is that?”
“One Mothran,” Ipus replied.
“No! I mean in standard measurement,” said Andoval.
“I do not know,” said Ipus.
“Well, how many days go by from when a Mothran is born to when it is dead?” asked Andoval.
“I do not know. It is always light here. We cannot see the moon, cannot tell when marks a night passing into day,” said Ipus.
Andoval said nothing. He felt that pang of pity from before. The Beast Keepers were wholly unconcerned with the Mothrans’ well-being, but more accurately the Ministry and the Queen were unconcerned. What mattered was that the beasts in the menagerie were well lit should a royal visitor ever come calling. Just as Ipus had said. Maybe he would have a chat with the Minister about this.
Andoval left early that day, whatever curiosity he’d had going in was dashed by the little Mothran’s strange tales. He spent the rest of the day in the records area, checking sources to see if anyone had ever recorded the length of a full Mothran life span. Unsurprisingly, there were none.
The generations in the enclosure were recorded as dying at various times from disease and therefore couldn’t be said to have lived a full lifespan. The beasts of the Royal Menagerie often had sharply shortened lives due to the conditions of the enclosures and the fact that many of their diets were poorly understood. Andoval had written his dissertation on the diets of the Royal Menagerie, but it proved quite unpopular and it left him a bit of an outcast in the Ministry. Oh well, he thought to himself. Such was life.
He dreamt that night. Dreamt of a thousand thousand Mothran occupying a vast forest. When he realized the scope of their number, they took off and flew into the sky, colorful membranous wings carrying their tiny bodies aloft. Ipus was there. He seemed to know that this was a dream and that Andoval had no conception of what he was seeing. The little Mothran chortled in its beastly tongue and took flight with the rest of his kind into the vast blue firmament.