Descreivit came to a certain small planet, with its pelt of forests, its untrampled mountain peaks, its unharvested oceans. He travelled through space, but drew his power from higher dimension.
On the planet he befriended a beast: a slim-hipped hominid with a coat of peat-coloured bodyhair that shaded into ginger on his head. The beast had wide-spaced eyes, black as nightsky, and in these the potential for intelligence glinted. He had no name as such, this beast; although he was recognised by his tribal fellows by his smell, by his stance, and by the particular arrangement of his facial features. Descreivit called him Red after his head-hair.
The ‘befriending’ took pretty much the whole season, but Descreivit was in no hurry, construing a way through the natural cautiousness of Red’s instincts. Ah, Descreivit! He had been sent to perform a certain task, and he was ready for it to take as long as necessary. He modified his appearance, internalising his lifesupport technology to appear more like a hominid. He sat with the tribe; he bickered and played with Red; he deferred to Red’s father, Alpha; he shrieked and ran and slept with them all. Soon Red treated him as he treated his kin; with the same amused, snappish tolerance.
‘Accept my gift,’ said Descreivit. ‘Gift?’ sniffed Red, his face full of suspicion, seeing nothing. ‘It is not a thing,’ explained Descreivit, straining the beast’s language as far as it would go. ‘In your head, there is flesh. This flesh thinks.’ He rapped Red’s forehead. ‘My gift will lift your thoughts, make them broader, better, thread them with immortality. It will give you soul. You shall be something new, more than your others; you will be a man. Your children too.’
A week passed before Red was prepared to accept the gift.
Descreivit called on the resources of his ultradimension; he took the knot of perception and instinct in Red’s cranium and folded it again, connected it to the higher level. He made something imperishable there, something that would only loiter on the planet until its flesh died and released it. ‘Now you are a man, a beast no more,’ he told Red. Communication was much easier now. ‘I am not from this world; from another place—another dimension. You have been chosen to join us; a congregation of life-forms, only partially wedded to this dimension. When you die now you will transcend to the ultradimension. This is because you have now what you did not have before: a soul. You are a man, no longer a beast.’
Red was amazed. ‘I shall never die!’ he said in amazement. ‘I shall pass on to a new life at death! But I must take my father with me. I must take my mother.’
‘No,’ said Descreivit. ‘Your parents are beasts, and they shall die. You are a man and shall not.’
Red considered this. ‘Gift them souls too.’
‘No,’ said Descreivit. ‘This cannot be done.’
‘Then I reject your gift,’ said Red, angrily.
Descreivit put his face in his hands and wailed. ‘No!’ he cried. ‘No! You cannot unwish the gift! By rejecting it, you bring great disaster on yourself and your children! Better to kill yourself now, to join me in the ultradimension immediately—that cliff there. Hurl yourself. This is your last chance. Oh how terrible this is! There is horrible danger here!’
‘How can it be,’ said Red, thinking through what he was saying as he said it, ‘that I am a man if my parents are beasts? I stand with my parents.’
‘Listen to me, Red,’ urged Descreivit, clinging about him, desperate to change his mind, for a great wrong was about to be knotted into the continuum of the ultradimension. ‘Your soul is woven into your consciousness. It is governed as much by your Will as your thoughts. If you will this thing you will kink the soul out of shape, and that will damage not just you but the whole ultradimension! Listen to me. How can you wish to be a beast again? Have you no pride in your manhood?’
‘No pride,’ confirmed Red stubbornly. ‘I stand with my family.’ He loped off, his knuckles tha-thadding on the compacted dirt.
‘No!’ cried Descreivit after him. ‘You cannot undo the soul in you! This is damnation and disaster!’ But Red put his thoughts elsewhere. There was the smell of rain in the air. The forest lay like a dark cloud on the horizon. He was hungry.