Gar’s life began when the meteorite landed in the Mud River. He was embedded inside, like a dried, microscopic seed, feeling nothing, anticipating nothing. The meteorite broke open, water rushed in, and his cells became animated and began to function and replicate.
Gar did not remember the first ten years of his life. He had been buried under grains of sand, silt, and leaves at the bottom of the river. He did not move or think. He just grew, becoming bigger and stronger.
In his tenth year, Gar became aware of a bright light above him. He wanted to get closer to it. He had muscle and a shell and he used them to strain against the particles of soil that surrounded and covered him. He pushed and pushed until the soil gave way and he emerged into the light. The river carried him downstream.
The Mud River is so-named because its water is brown, even at the source in the low mountains of Virginia. There it runs fast over worn limestone and sandstone boulders. In North Carolina, the Mud is fed by underground springs, and starts to spread out. By the time it reaches the eastern edge of South Carolina, near Ada, the river is wide and slow and ready to spill into the ocean.
Gar grew by sucking in that water, absorbing the nutrients through his outer layer. When he emerged from the soil, he was large enough to be visible, but not conspicuous. He looked like a grey stone. He was dense, prone to sinking. He grew a large, muscular foot.
He spent his eleventh year using his foot to traverse a slow elliptical path along the river floor. He followed ribbons of sunlight that penetrated the water down to the bottom. The ellipse was no larger than a one square foot area of the riverbed, but Gar’s efforts to follow the light on the path consumed his days. He absorbed more nutrients and grew.
In his twelfth year, Gar grew a pair of green eyes and began to see things moving past him in the light. He saw the river for the first time in its stratified detail. He saw the layers of soil and debris, layers of bacteria and algae, layers of other organisms, even the layers of water. He watched the moving water and felt it push against him. He kept his foot anchored to the river floor to avoid being carried off. He became attuned to the constant motion and the subtle shifts in the current. On a clear day he could see silt, muck, twigs, river plants, and of course animals, move past him in the water. The animals moved independently from the water’s current. Gar wanted to move like them.