Uncertain of where Frear’s question was headed, Adam replied, “Well, to learn, we go to a building and sit in a room where our teachers, our elders, tell us what they know.”
“And what do they tell you of your origins? Do you know from whence you came?”
“Sure, sure I do. Humans evolved from monkeys.” At this, Frear erupted in bubbles of laughter. Even Spot chuckled a bit. “What? What is it?” Adam asked. “Don’t tell me that’s not true. It’s evolution.” Frear continued to laugh and Adam found that he liked Frear much more when the water-folk was laughing. He just wished Frear wasn’t laughing at him.
“Oh no, child. I can’t contest evolution. That’s a fool’s game. But humans…from monkeys? I know not what a monkey is but unless that’s your word for water-folk…” Simply talking about such things brought fresh bubbles of laughter from Frear and a guarded chuckle from Spot.
“No, no, monkeys are a small, furry animal. They’re our closest ancestors. What else would we evolve from?”
Pride inflated Frear’s chest, which the water-folk then pounded with a closed fist. “Jur-Tiska. That’s what else.”
Now it was Adam’s turn to laugh. That’s why Frear had asked if monkey meant water-folk. Adam laughed, but stopped when Frear put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and firmly squeezed. In a voice both soothing and dignified, Frear spoke:
“This is not a jest, Adam. Confused myths lead to confused minds. Long before humans, in the early days of life, water-folk populated Ocean in great numbers. In every trench and trough, in every rift and rise, we prospered, tended, and toiled. Deep water, shallow water, warm water or cold made no difference to us. We were caretakers chosen by the webbed hand of Erato itself, and we were obliged. That, however, was Ocean before today, before landrise.