It had seemed a day almost like any other. Almost, but not quite. It began as her days usually began, with sunlight and stretching and dancing her way through the woods. But today the feral girl decided to wander further, to go to the edge of her known world and venture beyond. What led her to do so she did not really know and did not question. A feeling guided her and she simply followed.
She walked, danced, ran and walked again for the whole of the day. That night she curled up to sleep amongst a tangle of roots at the foot of a friendly tree. The next day she continued, and the next and the next. It was on the fifth day of her wanderings that she came upon them.
It happened quietly and calmly enough. She sensed their presence long before she arrived at the village. There was a difference in the air and a difference in the ground beneath her feet; not anything tangible but a subtle shift of energy. The animals were aware of them, that she could tell, and the trees acknowledged the presence of something other.
So she was not surprised when she came to the edge of a clearing and saw in the space beyond strange shapes and even stranger creatures.
The feral girl knew how to approach unknown things. She sat at the edge of the clearing, just hidden in the shade of the trees and tangle of undergrowth. She sat and she watched and she listened and she felt. She sat in that spot all day. That night she crept a little further away and found a sturdy tree to climb and sleep safely on, nestled amongst its branches. The next day she returned to take up her position on the edge of the clearing and sat watching some more. The following day she did the same.
And so it continued. For five weeks of human time the feral girl lived a life of quiet, calm, hidden, vigilant watching. Some days it rained, some days the sun shone, some days brought huge thunderstorms which sent the villagers running for shelter and left the feral girl crouched into hollowed tree trunks. She drank from a nearby stream when necessary and ate of the plants in the area which she knew tasted good. She moved around and watched from different places. She got to know the whole of the village and the area around it. She found all the tracks left by the villagers as they left and entered. She began to be able to tell each inhabitant apart and to know their daily activities. And each night she slept somewhere safe where she knew none would find her.
What were her thoughts as she lived her life of spying? What did she feel to see these beings so obviously physically like herself? If anyone had asked her these questions she would not have known how to answer. She did not quite know what she thought and certainly did not know what she felt.
Before now she had not considered the existence of others such as her, she simply was and others simply were not. Now, that loosely held belief had changed irrevocably. She could tell they were the same animal as herself. She only had to look at her hands or see her reflection in the stream to know the truth of this. Others such as her did exist and here they were in front of her.
But although these creatures were so undeniably her kin, she did not feel connected to them. For her whole life she had felt intimately in touch with everything around her, from flower to bear to mountain. She never had to think about this connection, never had to question it, it was just there. These beings were completely alien to her and she had no idea what to think or feel about that.
The more she watched, the more perplexed and uncertain she became. The humans lived a life so different to hers she couldn’t grasp it. Their lives were intertwined with one another and enmeshed in such habits and structures that she did not understand. Each person seemed to have a role to play, but how this role was decided or how each person knew their role was unclear. In some ways the people of the village did similar things to her; they awoke, they ate and drank, they hunted and found food, they slept at night in their strangely shaped dwellings which resembled caves. But it was much more ordered than her existence, much more planned, as if the people were following an invisible guidebook on how to live their daily lives.
Without this guidebook to refer to the feral girl felt lost and bewildered. But she persevered with her studies. Over time she began to understand their language and this gave her a more detailed glimpse into their world. The language itself came remarkably easily, as if maybe she had learnt it long ago but had since forgotten it. Less easy was understanding all the nuances, tone of voice and body language which accompanied the spoken words. The feral girl was an expert on reading the physicality of all things but the difficulty lay in the incongruence which she observed. A person may say one thing while their body clearly told a different story; why was this and which should she believe?
Those five weeks were full of many perplexing questions for the feral girl. And at the end of that time she had more questions than answers and more confusion of thought and feeling than clarity. Her world felt fractured and complicated in a way she had never experienced before. This was an uncomfortable feeling for her. But the feral girl was patient, tenacious and incurably inquisitive. Something kept her there, some underlying feeling that told her she could not leave now after having just discovered this strange new world. Without really consciously deciding it, the feral girl knew she would stay for longer.
So stay she did, with more far reaching consequences than she could possibly have realised…