Solum Body 🪱

Here are some fun facts about protagonist Marella Trasp’s Solum body from my upcoming novel, A Star Apart.

The Solum body is fleshy, with ten segments, like an oversized annelid worm with evolved enhancements. Each of the six rear segments, known as aft segments, have a pair of short legs with wide toe-pads that stick to surfaces the same way gecko toes do. Their segmented bodies are quite flexible and can make tight coils. Thus inspiring children to invent endless games, like Escape the Wheel, or Blind Maze!

Forward of the legs are four legless segments, known as the fore segments. Foremost is the head segment. The next segment down has two, five-segmented first-arms. Segment three has a pair of lesser arms, known as second-arms. Segments three and four, curve through ninety degrees from vertical to horizontal and connect with the leg segments. The curve is only a habit, a cultural preference for an upright posture of the fore segments. Most adopt a linear arrangement for sleeping and some even sleep hanging from the ceiling.

Each arm has three fingers with gripping pads equally spaced around the last arm segment (triple opposition). They can grasp with and rotate this hand through four hundred degrees by chaining all five arm segments. Each segment can only rotate about eighty degrees, forty degrees in each direction. A sedentary Solum body tends to lose some flexibility in each arm segment. Such losses result in total hand rotations less than a full circle.

They walk on rear segment legs, while holding their heads and arm segments upright. Solum have no bones, nor do they have an exoskeleton. They achieve stiffness through cartilage and skin containing several crossed, helical fibrous layers. Skin coloration ranges from pale brown—a rare genetic condition akin to albinism—to deep black. In Solum cultures, skin color has no significance because the Solum never invented race as a dividing line between communities.

Six eyes form a ring around the head, one-eighth of a segment below the top. Dedicated sub-brains pre-process all images. The primary brain assembles a panoramic view for constant situational awareness. An overhead blind spot describes a cone with a forty-five-degree angle caused by an eyebrow ridge over each eye. Each eye can move and close independently. The mouth has three thick lips, one horizontal at the bottom, and two above forming an equilateral triangle. They have independent control of each lip. One Solum can whistle in harmony with itself. Inside the mouth is a rasping, conical tongue.

Three tough, perforated, domed membranes—sitting below the circle of eyes—serve as ears. One dome sits between the aft eyes. The other two are one-hundred-twenty degrees forward, between side and fore-eyes. Each ear has a six-lobed protective cover that closes at will, or reflexively, in response to loud sounds and impinging debris. Digestion begins with two stomachs, noted as first and second.

Each male has an embryo pouch on the back of its Solum body, spanning the eighth and ninth segments. Females use their ovipositors to deposit a single egg in the male’s pouch—or not—it’s her choice. In practice, couples make the decision jointly. This is a natural consequence of the culture’s dedication to community and cooperation.

Rocky Mountain Water

Colorado has been in a drought for many years now. Like much of the western US, snowpack is below average. At higher elevations, average temperature is increasing. That means rain comes earlier in the mountains, accelerating snow melting. The results can include flooding and excess silt in major rivers. Water for agriculture and cities is also affected. When snow vanishes too soon in the spring, reservoirs must release more water to maintain safe levels. Once it flows downstream, that water is lost to any other use. The old pattern of gradually melting snow throughout the summer is vanishing. The new pattern is spring flooding and summer water shortages.

In my household, we conserve water any way we can. Two 50-gallon rain barrels (maximum allowed by Colorado law) hold roof runoff for the garden. Over the last two years, I converted lawn to native xeriscape plantings with drip irrigation.

Will it all be enough? No one knows. It all depends on how climate changes in the years ahead.

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