Monday, March 5, 2018

Microstory 791: Swan

There is no creature in this universe, or any other, with a more beautiful singing voice than the Slrdr. God created us in her image, which means that we are all human, in some form, or another. The Slrdr, however, are an exception to this that few understand. Their most notable feature may be that they have eight genders, each one vital to the development of scion, but this characteristic has a match in Slrdrn music. Regardless of gender, all Slrdr are born with two separate vocal cords, which allow them to produce an array of musical permutations otherwise relegated to artificial instruments. Since the species evolved with hearing that was superior to their other senses, music has become the most important component of their culture. A Slrdr who cannot sing is...well, not quite a Slrdr. Unfortunately, these individuals do exist, and they are—somewhat affectionately, but also somewhat dismissively—called swans. Though untrue, there is an ancient Earthan belief that swans do not sing until the moment of their death, at which point they will melodically produce a final farewell to the world. The Slrdr kind of swans are born with dysfunctional vocal cords, which either renders them completely mute, or with minimal vocal power. Indeed, when humans first met the Slrdr, they were skeptical about the concept that these people will suddenly gain a previously unhad capability, just before expiring. Yet years later, a xenopologist had the occasion to meet a swan who was nearing the end of her life. As promised, she mustered all of her strength, and belted out her own death knell. Legend has it that she could be heard all the way to the next star system, but of course this part was a gross exaggeration. At the time, the xenopologist reported his observations, but was unable to gather enough data to explain how this was possible. He postulated that her muteness was merely psychological, rather than physiological. Decades later, a group of human and Slrdr scientists set about to study the phenomenon in a more controlled environment. A swan jesh, whose gender would generally give her the responsibility to teach her ensemble’s clutch how to sing, was suffering from an incurable terminal disease, and was on her way to the end. They placed her in an imaging chamber, and discovered that her body was transforming on a cellular level. Organs usually used for breathing and temperature regulation reassembled themselves into a new configuration—one that resembled Slrdrn vocal cords. Her body was killing itself so she could make music with her voice for the first and only time in her life. Somehow, it knew that she didn’t have long left, and instinctively provided her with something she had never experienced before. Her swan song was recorded, and is to this day, the most popular piece of music in the galaxy, played in households on every planet to ease children to sleep. Leading researchers still do not quite know why a swan would be able to do this. The current theory, however, is that it’s an evolutionary reaction. Many socially-dependent species developed a trait that cause them to call out to their community when in trouble. It is believed that swans, even while suffering this handicap for their entire lives, are alloted the dignity of not dying alone, and unheard.

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