Murkwyrms

Though much of the unknown is yet to even be discovered, if its novelty can even be comprehended, some things and some creatures may deliberately avoid our... attentions.

While true dragons are almost certainly the stuff of fantasy and myth, there are a number of other strange beasts whose unique and outlandish traits both defy explanation and lend themselves to the exaggerations that could have become - over the centuries and centuries of tall tales told and retold - the truth behind such legends. One such species are murkwyrms, which are native to and exclusively reported to have been sighted deep within the Białowieża Forests of Poland. A crepuscular animal with traits and an appearance that are most likely reptilian, they are sometimes known as ghost dragons. While this name is certainly more evocative, it might arguably be less accurate in articulating their corporeal and physical qualities and speak more certainly to their elusiveness and the difficulty of studying them. Despite their size, with some accounts and the occasional blurry photograph suggesting that murkwyrms might measure as much as two feet from nose to tail, they are still considered a cryptid in most reputable scientific circles.

 

This uncertain status is conferred on murkwyrms for a number of reasons, primary of which is the absence of reasoning that can explain their tremendous defence mechanism: An inexplicable ability to disappear from view that goes farther than even the most convincing of adaptive camouflages seen elsewhere in the natural world. Where other creatures might be able to change their colouring, even to alter their shape or change the texture of their skin in order to evade detection, the murkwyrm can disappear, appearing almost to melt away into the bark and branch of whatever tree they have alighted upon. The effect has a similar, slightly jerky motion to it, to time-lapse footage of a solid melting into its liquid form, except that it maintains the axis of the murkwyrms position in relation to the tree; sinking and seeping into the wood without succumbing to gravity’s pull. The only trace of their disappearances is tactile, a powerful and abiding chill that cools the top layer of the bark close to freezing but barely radiates outwards at all.

 

This talent, unique and unparalleled across the entire animal kingdom, especially when combined with the dappled shade in which murkwyrms are most often seen, has led many to believe that these are creatures are figments and fictions. Perhaps even mirages, deceptions conjured out of the mists that muffle and mask the sounds and the sights - respectively - of the Białowieża Forest’s teeming depths? But witnesses, however brief their experiences and encounters, tend to deny such attempts to explain the murkwyrms. When caught unawares, either by those with a light footfall or by those whose approach is disguised in some other fashion, the murkwyrms have momentarily been seen at rest or even flitting past in mid-leap as they move from tree to tree in single bounds. The rustle of the air as they pass, the solid and audible effect of their landings, are proof enough for those first-hand accounts. Nonetheless, they are almost always glimpsed rather than regarded, seeming to sense any gaze that settles upon them, and are often only seen out of the corner of the eye.

 

While not a migratory species, murkwyrms are defensive beyond their mere skittishness and are nonetheless more itinerant than many other types of reptiles; though these moves either take place in more certain solitude or are conducted via their absorbed, treeborne forms. Some question whether they even have a physical form when they inhabit the trunks or, in being reduced to some strange energy or essence they can traverse the entire body of the tree, perhaps even the knotted and intertwined tangle of the roots beneath the whole forest. Comfortable with the obscurity of the peripheries but perfectly adapted to avoid more wilful scrutiny, we do not know if their sensible fear of humans extends to other, native forest denizens, or any other species that we might introduce into their habitats, but they are known to abandon any place where they have been seen. While there is no evidence of higher cognition in murkwyrms, though frankly there is none against it, they appear to have realised that the best way to avoid the destructive attention of humanity is not to be discovered at all.

 

Due to the paucity of physical evidence and an only-slightly more detailed set of eyewitness accounts, the appearance of the murkwyrm can only be narrowed down to a rough sketch. The results from studies into those aspects of appearance which are most prone to be misremembered or misrepresented in some way can be factored into the creation of a composite, but our best guesses remain just that. Some elements are known to change because of their psychological significance; the numbers and sizes of claws and teeth (for example) are often multiplied or increased to retroactively justify fear, where other aspects will be unconsciously altered to confirm to preconceptions and associations which the subject brings to the memory; such as one type of animal being conflated with another, more familiar kind. The murkwyrms are most commonly described as being like peat-green skinks, though flatter, with stretches of taught skin between their front legs and their backs that allow them to glide, and delicate spines that, it is surmised, help them measure disturbances in the air caused by encroaching predators or observers.

 

Another difficulty in gathering a better understanding of these creatures comes from the fact that while they are most often seen by adults, the most prolonged contact has always been reported by children. Despite their clear distaste for being seen at all, let alone for extended periods, murkwyrms are able to recognise the fact of, and sentiment behind, children crying, and will sometime come to the aid one who is lost and in distress. First emerging en masse, the only occasions on which more than a handful have been seen together, they cover the trees around the crying child then begin to leap towards trees closer to the nearest adults on the outside edges of the forest. If the child does not follow them, the murkwyrms will return over and over again until they do, eventually leading the child to help before hurriedly disappearing. Whether this is a kindness - or just an attempt to preserve the peace of their home - is unknown, but it is not a mystery that relieved families have any interest in attempting to unpick.

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