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A quick sketch while I'm working on bigger projects.
The Naturalist came to me in a dream. They said they came from another Earth where the fauna of Ediacara had never been replaced by the ancestors of arthropods and vertebrates, and the descendants of three-lobed Tribrachidium and fern-leaf-like Spriggina still ruled the globe. Their ancestors were creatures similar to brittle stars that had grown into sapience among the branches of rangeomorph trees.
Their body was compact and pinecone-like, with a crown of six identical eyes looking in all directions at the top, and reddish scales spiraling down to the bottom, which was a complex arrangement of mouthparts. Below the eyes, in the broadest part of the body, there were plates containing colorful chromatophores that expanded or contracted forming and erasing images, shapes, even words... they spoke in pictures, and so informed me of their nature. Below that, six nimble limbs emerged, formed by a sequence of hard segments like the spine of a snake, but ending in soft pads that served both for taste and manipulation.
Their species reproduced by splitting in three along their planes of symmetry, and maintained genetic diversity thanks to a kind of symbiotic retrovirus that took genes from other individuals, spliced them together, and injected them in the soft proliferating parts of a freshly split body.
They greeted me by stroking my face and arms with some of their pads, while the others kept them anchored to their ship. I was there in some envelope of slime, which had shielded my body during the many bewildering places I had passed through to reach the ship. I could move as freely as in water, and oxygen streamed into my lungs without difficulty.
They said that in all the trillion permutations of the history of our shared planet, only two species had broken the seal of the cosmos; that it was our duty toward Creation to learn of the endless other paths where no such unlocking had been possible; and that I had but to nod to follow them in that endeavor.
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