I am talking of frogs and toads and salamanders. That sort of thing. That’s what you’re getting this time out.
And because I don’t know where else to start and because I don’t know how much you’ve already heard, I will review the amphibian life cycle. It goes like this: They all start out as eggs. No great shouts of surprise there, I suppose. And from these eggs hatch larvae, which might not surprise you, either, or at least won’t from now on, now that I’ve told you.
Tadpoles are larvae, but then they change. Metamorphosize. They grow arms and they grow legs and they climb up out of the water. Hop up out of the water, rather, if you’re a stickler for verbs. Once up here with the rest of us, they eat and they sleep. Meet other amphibians. Find jobs. Read literature. Ponder the meaning of life, maybe, I don’t know.
But now consider the axolotl.
The axolotl – stubborn little bugger – is an amphibian who refuses to change. He remains as a larva all his life. He’s underwater. He has gills. (He or she does, or maybe something else entirely. Amphibians don’t have hardened notions of sex and gender, unlike some other species we could name.)
Scientists considered the axolotl.
They considered it and they considered it and then, one day, one scientist had an idea. A eureka moment. The scientist pumped a little axolotl full of amphibian hormones. The sort of hormones that trigger metamorphosis in other amphibians.
And then the axolotl, well, he changed into an extinct variety of salamander and climbed up out of the water where, much to his inevitable disappointment, he could never meet any other salamanders like himself.
This is how I imagine what came before:
Millions of years ago, our axolotl’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather617 climbed up out of his pond with his family and promptly got gobbled up by some new species of rodent. It was an ambush! A bloodbath. Not one slimy salamander left anywhere outside of a rodent’s digestive tract. (So this is sort of your fault.)
But back in the pond were Cousin Brenda and Little Boy Willy. Runts. Freaks. Mutants. Their cracked-up genes wouldn’t even let them metamorphosize.
And they were the only survivors. Forever larvae, at least until our scientist came along with his needleful of iodine.
I’ve considered this and considered this. I consider it delightfully shocking. Strange. Alien.
I wish I could think up a story with these ideas. Like maybe we’re all just larval angels, stunted, unable to develop our wings… or consciences.