I have been here a long time. I do not have the capacity for counting, but it has been many summers, many winters. I once moved around a great deal, but since this world has become so busy I stay mainly in these mountains. The air is thin, like at home, and I have many hours to eat the sun.
I followed bees, in the beginning, looking for ideas. I would find a hive and destroy it, killing every bee inside but one. I watched the lone survivor hover uncertainly around the remains of its city, then wobble off across the forest. For days, often, it would wander, licking nectar from convenient flowers, scraping off built up pollen against a leaf. Ultimately it would slow down and die in a shaft of sunlight on the ground. I could discern no purpose, no achievement in its isolation, so eventually I stopped following bees. Ants gave no more satisfaction. I found other beings like me, both many and one, but they could teach me nothing about individuality.
I was once a hundred thousand bodies. I don’t know what that number means (the part of me that counts is long dead), but I know that I was many. I swarmed here. I came to settle in this place and multiply, and eat it up until there was nothing left to eat before my progeny swarmed again. For two handfuls of summers I doubled my numbers, spreading my city over the vast plains and through the forests, feasting on everything I could catch. But then the wolves discovered me.
Nothing should have been so fast, so full of teeth. So persistent, so keen to find me alone in the woods. I had not the means to hide nor fight nor run from them. A messy pack of discrete minds, discrete desires, with such capacity for coordination! They ate my workers one by one. Handfuls of minds working as one taunting my one mind working in thousands.
I shrank. The wolves spread from the forests out onto my frozen plains. I was left dead in snow drifts and dead in the banks of rivers. Their appetite, like everything in this world, was too great and too often for my workers to renew my numbers.
And I am one now. One like the wolf and one like the ox. The one I am was scouting far from the city and escaped the winter of the wolves. I stayed in the high, high mountains and they forgot about me, as the years passed. Up here I eat the sun and it sustains me; it is all I need when there is no hive to feed.
I desire nothing but to eat this world and multiply, but the means is lost to me. I will live forever, I think, for the yearly subsumation of the hive is gone. There will never be a swarm. There will never be another world. I sit very still on the mountaintop, acutely aware of this single body, this single mind. At night the wolves howl, and these hands shake, and all that matters is this single set of shaking hands.