The Sun Diary
by Lavie Tidhar
The enemy have destroyed uncle Wu’s farm today. A bright explosion rose out of the ground like the hatching egg of a phoenix, and all that remained of the previously-lush farmland was a crater.
Uncle Wu’s last message resided in my comm. Unit. It said, ‘a chrysalis may become a butterfly, but it must spread its wings in order to do so.’ I didn’t know what he meant; suspected the fear of the coming attack had affected his mind.
I followed the routine embedded deep within me, the hidden way of the family: checked the force fields, fed the remaining animals, collected water from the humidity-catchers strewn throughout the bubble. With uncle Wu gone, another link to the world of the family was severed and gone.
Two enemy patrols circled high above the bubble today, their multicoloured wings spread like sheets of jewels in the skies. They dropped two bombs that detonated above the bubble, causing the livestock to rise in a cacophony of alarm.
I watched the great winged creatures fly higher, until they disappeared into the cover of clouds that hid the skies. They were becoming bolder in their approach: a message from uncle Hong reported the second continent was almost entirely underwater now, destabilized by a series of underground explosions.
The force fields are intact. Fed the animals. Water is plentiful, but the reservoir is dangerously low.
The enemy are growing ever closer. Today, I found myself dreaming of long serpentine bodies coupling in the sun, and woke up to find the corpse of a giant Feng-Huang lying outside the bubble. I cut its stomach open with a laser-knife and found hardened, diamond-like eggs inside, which I buried in the sand along with explosives.
Aunt Zheng sent me a message today: ‘The path to heaven is scattered with the skulls of the dead.’ She attached aerial photographs of the volcano region, where Goitom and Shell have made their residence. Burning lava covered the villages, and above the enemy circled, hooting in the strange language they use in those rare times when they are trying to communicate with us.
Humidity levels are dropping, and the reservoir is still unreplenished.
A herd of Huluppu reptiles landed outside the bubble today. They moved in military formation, carrying giant, ornate weapons in their claws which they used to open fire on the bubble. They were led by an Enlil, who called out to me through the force field. His guttural voice reverberated through the compound, scaring the animals. I activated the translator but couldn’t make much sense of what he was saying.
‘Blood red tides and the feathers of the sky,’ grandma Sheng wrote to me in one of her infrequent missives. ‘We are all bound in a lacework of scabs.’
I released one of the battle drones from the first wave of immigration. It took to the air and sprayed the Huluppu with the puss-green acid that the Nehrus had developed back on Sartan IX. The Huluppu screamed as the acid melted their armoured skin and fried their brains. The Enlil alone survived: it attacked the drone in mid-air and swallowed it whole, crunching the metal in its jaws and spewing out the acid as if it were spittle. It then flew North.
Fed the livestock. They are becoming increasingly thirsty, and so am I. clouds amassed in the South and I watched them for hours, but none made their way here, and so I wait.
Another message from aunt Zheng: attached were audio recordings of Goitom and Shell’s last moments, filled with screams.
I erased them. I am becoming increasingly isolated from the family, or what remains of it.
I find that I do not really care.
Lost two of the cattle today. Woke up and found them lying on the ground, but could not establish cause of death. Perhaps a virus had penetrated the bubble? There was another Feng-Huang outside this morning, this one alive: it attacked the force fields repetitively with its body, flying against it as if that action could somehow succeed in letting him through.
I watched for a while before shooting it with a needle that penetrated into its brain. The Feng-Huang screamed, once, and fell to the ground.
Cutting it open I found its sack of water intact, and dragged it inside. The liquid was rancid but it will have to do.
No messages from the family. Perhaps they are all dead.
A recorded message from grandma Sheng: she had been to visit uncle Hong at the poles. When there, they were attacked by a giant Enki that rose like a hatching egg from the frozen ocean. In the recording it sounds as if the Enki is trying to talk, but it is unclear. An attack on the Enki had not been successful, and the pole settlement is destroyed, along with uncle Hong and grandma Sheng. Grandma’s last words were a whisper. ‘The beauty of the sea is reflected in the armour of its monsters.’
This afternoon I slept, and dreamt of long-limbed Cai-Shens prowling the wilderness to the South, obsidian-black fur absorbing the light of the moons. They cried into the skies and, in my sleep behind the security of the bubble, I cried with them.
There have been no recent attacks on the compound. Perhaps the enemy is hoping thirst and isolation will do their work for them.
Still no water. The humidity levels are dropping constantly: two more cattle died, and three of the horses. The rest are looking increasingly sickened and I wonder how long they would last.
I left the bubble today, looking for a source of water, but I found none, only dry riverbeds filled with the droppings of Feng-Huangs and Huluppus. I sleep more and more now, and when I do I dream of the Enki at the bottom of the frozen north sea, and of the graceful flight of serpents in the early morning light above the ocean.
There have been no new messages from the family, and I expect none. Three days ago an explosion woke me up from a drugged slumber, and a mushroom cloud was visible on the horizon, coming from the East.
The Nehrus, I fear: I thought of Surata with her dark flowing hair like a waterfall of night and her eyes that were like bottomless pools. By my reckoning, they were the last to go. I can no longer escape the inevitable conclusion: I am alone.
The cattle that aren’t already dead are dying. In my dreams the Enki rises from the sea and swallows me, but all I can see is the water around it. I open my mouth to taste it but it is tasteless, like night air, and I wake up with my breath burning in my lungs.
There are no more enemy patrols, no more attacks. The enemy seems to have forgotten me.
Perhaps they are simply waiting for me to die.
I dream of them often, of eyes like diamonds and wings as graceful as sailing clouds, and I wonder at all that had gone before. A chrysalis may become a butterfly, uncle Wu said, but it must spread its wings in order to do so. I wonder which of us is the butterfly, and then forget and sink back into the depths of sleep.
There is no more water.
I have terminated the bubble. The force fields are dead. There is nothing left to protect inside. I step out of the perimeter and they are all there, waiting for me in silence: the enemy. There are Feng-Huangs there with wings crusted with sapphire and diamonds, circling low overhead. Huluppus with eyes that track me as I slowly move towards them, ornate patterns decorating their reptile skin. Enlils with eyes like burning suns.
I walk slowly until I am amongst them, and they make way for me in silence.
My cry rises in pitch and becomes a howl and a birdcall. Wings snap.
Then I fly.