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Dara Naraghi's graphic novel Lifelike is now available in both digital and print editions. Click here for more info.

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Another in our series of flash fiction, this time inspired by a Brent Bowman illustration.

Parent’s Shadow
(from Galactic Geographic Vol. 2763, No. 11)

It can be hard living in your parent’s shadow. That is even more so for the Traxilian, a recently discovered species in the far reaches of the outer rim where each Traxilian is born and grows up within one meter of its parent.Mama and Baby by Brent Bowman

Found on the third moon of Delusian, the fourth planet in the Anarezia star system, the exobiologists of the Galactic Geographic-sponsored scientific ship Regal Beagle have spent the last five years exploring this strange, new world and seeking out new life.

Because of the way the moon is tidally locked with Delusian, the child Traxilian is literally in its parent’s shadow from its birth through its first years as it learns to take care of itself. The parent Traxilian exudes an egg into its own shadow to protect the nascent being from the extreme temperatures from the star.

Two tentacles emerging from the egg indicate the birth of the Traxilian. The parent reaches out with its own tentacles and gently guides the tentacles to its primary food source: small insect-like creatures that are readily found along the surface. Once the tentacles grasp the food, the first of four heads emerge from the egg to accept the food. Shortly thereafter, the other three heads appear looking for their own food. Although the Traxilian seems to have only one digestive system after the food is devoured, the tentacles feed each head as if it is a separate being.

During this initial feeding frenzy, the shell of the egg hardens, becoming a protective exo-skeleton and rooting the Traxilian in place. Despite its immobility, the Traxilian lives a full life, much like the sea cucumbers on Earth.

There are few species that live in such proximity to their parents throughout their entire lives, but the reason soon becomes clear: when the child Traxilian is full grown and ready to reproduce, its tentacles pry the parent from its egg and quickly feeds it to the heads. This provides enough protein to begin the reproduction process and continue the circle of life.

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