Ways People Will be Killed by Climate Change:
-Thirst: Amnesty International says 2 billion people will see their water access severely and incredibly diminished. In the Horn of Africa, people are only finding 1/4 of the water they had before.
-Hunger: Many people will die from malnutrition. Many more people will die from chronic undernutrition. So many sources I have read have stated that food supplies will greatly diminish due to climate change. This will be due to an increase in floods, rising sea levels eating up land and causing salinity in the dry land that remains, increased droughts, dry places getting too dry and wet places getting too wet, overheating, storms, extreme weather, unpredictable weather, a decrease in soil fertility caused by loss in biodiversity, cold snaps coming earlier and earlier into the growing season in northern countries, erosion washing away farmland, increased pests due to the inability of the environment to control pests, the list goes on. 345 million people worldwide already have acute (not moderate, not high, but acute) levels of hunger, in large part due to climate change.
-Heat Waves: Over 1.5 billion people live in places where they constantly face the upper limits of heat that the human body can tolerate. As the earth warms, heat waves will become far more frequent and many people will die from them.
-Cold: As the polar vortex becomes looser and looser, many more people in the more northern parts of the world will be subjected to extreme cold and will die due to it, especially poor people.
-Natural Disasters: Storms, floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, and more will greatly increase in both frequency and severity, killing many people.
-Poverty: More than 100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 alone due to climate change. By 2030 alone, and this number will only increase as time goes on. Note here that I said extreme poverty. Not multidimensional poverty, which is also very deadly and torturous, not acute multidimensional poverty, which is incredibly deadly, but extreme poverty, the worst form of poverty of all. Even greater numbers of people will be pushed into multidimensional and acute multidimensional poverty.
-War: As resources dwindle, there will be wars over the little remaining fertile land, the little remaining water, the few remaining pastures. These wars will also get many people killed.
-Far Right Extremism: Increased displacement, climate refugees (due to the crowding of people into areas that are still cool enough to live in, because many places, like Australia, will become too hot to sustain human life), decreased wealth flowing to the middle class, and other factors will increase fascism and far right ideology. This will lead to increased hate crimes, perhaps greatly so, and this will lead to more people dying.
-Epidemics, pandemics, new and old diseases: As the capacity of the environment to do pest control decreases, disease carriers will increase and diseases like malaria, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, and more will increase. As natural spaces get degraded, animals will become less healthy and diseases among animals will increase. This will lead to an increase in new diseases crossing over from animals to humans and to an increase in new diseases being created in animals.
-Homelessness: As more people lose their homes due to storms, floods, and other natural disasters, there will be an increase in homelessness and more people will die due to the risks of being unhoused.
-Suicide: The degradation in natural spaces will cause mental health among members of communities that are closely tied to the natural environment to worsen, leading to increased suicides. This will be amplified due to the fact that communities closely tied to the environment such as Indigenous communities and Afro-Latino communities are often already marginalized and already face risks to their mental health. Like for example most members of the religion I am a part of already have at least one mental illness, and we rely on our connection to our Parent, the earth, to help us heal ourselves and build better lives for ourselves and our children. If the earth is dead many of us will be too. And we’re actually really privileged compared to say, Indigenous people (though some of us are Indigenous but not me), so imagine how much worse it would be to be part of an even more marginalized group that is closely tied to the environment.
-Pollution: Increased use of fossil fuels will lead to increased air pollution. 9 million people already die each year due to air pollution. This will only grow worse as the amount of greenhouse gases and other harmful gases builds up in the atmosphere.
-Not Having Enough Nutrients: Calories aren’t the only thing the human body needs, nutrients are incredibly important too. The climate crisis will destroy the health of the ocean, due to acidification, rising water temperatures, and changed weather conditions and water flow. This will kill many fish. 3 billion people rely on fish for their main source of protein, because of how cheap it is compared to other sources of protein. Many of these people will not be able to get the fish they need and will lack the vital nutrients the fish provide them, which will lead to many deaths.
-Decrease in Social Cohesion: The natural environment teaches so many of us to be good people. Without healthy nature, many of the new generations won’t take into their souls the necessity of helping each other. If less of us help each other, more people will die.
I’m going to get a bit religious now. So look at this paragraph with an open mind. The earth is our Parent, who we all came from and who we all live on. If the earth is unhealthy, the people will be too, and if the people are unhealthy, the earth will be too. Like any healthy parent-child relationship, our well-being is tied into Their well-being and Their well-being is tied into ours. But it’s not just my religion that says that the people need a healthy planet, it’s many religions all over the world. And it’s not just many religions all over the world that say this, but science says this too. So if you care about social justice at all, you have to care about climate change.
Mamon knew that they themselves had magic now. Magic beyond what they could dream. Mira had taken them deep into the woods and she had taught them all the magical arts she knew. And this, Mamon mixed with their own magical arts. And together the two built and crafted new magic the likes of which could weave and craft its way through anything.
Wolver meanwhile missed and mourned his parents deeply. But still, he gullibly thought that the Uzras were on his side. For the Uzras treated him with the hierarchical benevolence with which a master treats his pet. Wolver did not understand quite how sad he was, and this made him even sadder.
But Wolver continued growing and growing. And in two cosmic years, when he was six, the Uzras became worried that he was growing too fast. The Uzras went to their craftsmen and blacksmiths and asked for chains that could bind the wolf-boy forever. The Uzra blacksmiths and craftsmen said that they could craft a chain that could bind him forever.
But this was not the truth. They could not. They did not know that they could not.
They gathered the sound of an owl’s wings, the sight of the blind men, the trust of a traitor, the end of the sky, the weight of the air, and the softness of a stone. And with them they made impossible chains that could hold anything. And they presented these chains to Karkion.
Now Karkion told Wolver’s best Uzra companion Rayr to deceive the young boy. And so he told the child that they would play a game. All the Uzras would gather round and bind young Wolver with chains. If Wolver could break through the chains he could have a treat.
Wolver was a gullible and trusting child and he did not let himself be aware of the Uzras’ treachery. He agreed to the game. He thought that he was very strong and powerful, and could tear his way through any chains the Uzras put on him. He was still a child, and did not know to properly fear the Uzras the way that they should be feared.
And so the Uzras put the first chains on Wolver. And he broke through them. Then the Uzras got out a set of chains that was stronger than the first. And again, Wolver tore his way out of them with ease. And the same was true with the next six chains the Uzras put over him.
But the ninth chain, the Uzras brought out, seemed especially metallic-hard and potent. Wolver was suspicious of this. And so he made the Uzras promise they would not leave him trapped if he could not break these chains. The Uzras promised. Rayr even promised to put his hand in Wolver’s mouth, and if they broke their promise he could bite it. But their promise was false.
As Wolver struggled to break free from his chains, the Uzras started laughing. It was at this moment that the boy-wolf-child realized that they would not free him. And he bit Rayr hand off.
The Uzras jammed a sword in Wolver’s mouth and they left him there in the wind and the cold. Trapped and in pain. But the chain could not hold Wolver forever. The chain would not hold Wolver forever. Wolver would grow strong and powerful, as the days went by.
Now we will tell you the story of Oella.
Oella was a lost and scared four-year-old afraid and alone in a poison world. There was poison mist all throughout the air. The mist was so thick she could not see three feet in front of her. She could not see the sky. Around her feet there was stagnant, stale, liquid poison. Each step she took she sank into the poison covering the ground all around her. Each breath she breathed was poison.
In the midst of all this poison there was no life. No grasses or herbs grew on the ground. No shrubs sat in the understory. No trees towered above the lands. There was no sunlight, only the strange, eerie light the poison clouds let through.
And there were no people.
For all the dead were in a deep and dreamless sleep. A sleep from which they did not stir or rouse. A sleep from which no amount of noise or shaking could wake them. Young Oella was all alone. She was a lost child, alive and trapped in the world of the dead.
None who is alive belong in the world of the dead. For those who are alive, being in the world of the dead sends rivers of sorrow flowing over their hearts.
But Oella walked on and walked on. She continued walking through the poison, the young child, softly singing to herself. She walked on and she walked on until she was sure she was dead herself. Until she was sure she was but a ghost, a shadow roaming the wastelands.
She missed her family very deeply. She missed her mother and her parent and her brother and her sibling. She missed the wilderness of the forest that she lived in and the homeliness of the little cave. She was overwhelmed with sorrow. And she was sure she would rather be dead. She would rather be dead than deal with this grief.
But she kept walking on, and she didn’t know why.
There was a voice coming out from amidst the poison. The voice was high and haughty and sharp and twisted. It told her that she did not belong, she would never belong, she would always be a lost wanderer in the midst of her sorrow. It told her she would never have any power and all she would ever have was her aloneness.
Oella was inclined to believe this voice.
But she kept walking on.
Her foot suddenly sank into something that was not poison. It sank into something that was cool, clear water. She gasped quietly. And she knelt down in the poison and reached out her hand to touch the water. It was clean. It was pure. It was flowing. It extended down deeper than she could reach with her arms.
The voice amidst the desolation told her not to go down into the water. She knew that she must disobey it. She knew that she must find her rebellion and she must find whatever truths the water concealed. Even if the price was her own life, her life didn’t mean much anyways.
So she dove down into that beautiful, cool, flowing embrace. She dove down and down and down, swimming further and further and further. She did not lose her breath for the water nourished her and filled her. She did not lose her energy for the water electrified her and soothed her.
Eventually, she reached the bottom of the lake. And at the lake bottom there was clean, fresh, mineral-rich mud that her toes sank into. And she walked on the mud, almost as if she was walking on dry land. She walked and she walked and she walked until she found something.
It was a pool of clear water that reflected the light. A pool of water within the water. A pool at the bottom of the lake. She did not know how it was possible, to have water within water. She did not know how it was possible, to have two different types of water both so good and both so clear.
The pool was just the right size around for her to dive into. And dive into it she did. And she swam down and down and down. Down into the very core of this world. And there she learned many things.
She learned her magic, and her element. She learned who she was and who her people were and what she was meant to do in this world. She learned how to rebel and how to care for life and death and how to transform everything until it was born anew.
And there, after she was done, she swam up and up and up to the surface of the surface. Up into the poisonous world she had left behind. She looked around. And in all directions she saw only poison and death.
But underneath that she felt all the dead. Sleeping as if the were seeds Sleeping as if they were promises. Sleeping as if they were awaiting to be awoken. And the little girl of only five years old, who mourned for her family and her home, she knew what she had to do. And so she set about to her work.
She walked among the lands and she summoned clouds. Not clouds made of poison but rather clouds of fresh, dewy water that could cleanse and wash away any filth. She want throughout the lands summoning clouds, steps filled with purpose.
And when the sky was filled with cool, clean water, she made it rain. It rained long and hard, the torrential downpour washing over all the lands and all the skies. It rained and it rained. It kept raining until the poison clouds were all washed away. It kept raining until the poison fog was washed away. It kept raining until all the poison that had seeped in and pooled over the ground was washed away. And then it rained some more.
When the rain was finished, there was brilliant blue sky and a wet new land filled with rich, diverse earth. Ripe and ready for life.
Oella used her magic again. And this time she summoned seeds. She scattered the seeds all throughout the land. And they sprang forth and grew and grew at a magical pace. Soon the lands were filled with forests and plains and grasslands and deserts and tundra of all types.
Oella went to the souls of all the dead animals. And she roused them from their sleep with her magic. They awoke. And they saw the living, breathing land all around them. And they spread out to all corners of it.
Finally it was time for Oella to awaken the sleeping Yemars. She roused them from their slumber and they looked around, with tired, confused eyes.
They had been asleep for so very long that they had had a deep and aching sadness settle deep into their hearts. They had no hope left. All they had was a deep, aching sorrow.
And Oella understood that sorrow. She understood it very well. But she also had hope. And the six-year-old child, who was lost and alone, who was missing her family unendurably, who was a living being trapped in the land of the dead, she knew she had to give them hope.
So she talked to them. About all the things that her parents had taught her. About all the things that she had learned on her journey. About all the power she had found. About all the life she had brought about and all the life they could create together if they tried. Oella told them about her dreams for the future and about all the change they could create. She told them that she loved them, and that love was a power unlike any other. She told them that they should love each other. That they should help each other live a good life after death.
And they listened. And they were awed. Such a young child who was so wise and so learned. The seeds of hope were planted in their hearts. And those seeds grew. And they grew and they grew and they grew. Until there was no more surrender left in their hearts, and they were ready to fight.
A young Yemar woman named Molia was a servant all her life. She did not think that she could be free. She went up to Oella and pledged her service to the child. But Oella said that there were to be no servants here. All would be free and all would be equal.
All the dead and Oella went to the edge of the land of the dead. There on the edge there was a river. And across the river there was a bridge that separated Oellon from the land of the living. There, they decided, they needed sentries. And Molia decided she wanted to take her turn guarding the gate.
The dead all also decided to form a council. In that council would gather together all the dead. And they would all discuss matters regarding the land and regarding their plans. They would discuss everything and come to consensus together.
Oella was the mediator of this council. She ensured that everyone worked together and listened to each other to come to agreements. She was seven years old at the time.
They talked and talked. And one day they decided that they must go to war against the Uzra and regain freedom for their people. The realized that their numbers were not sufficient enough for such a war. Also they were not trained enough for such a war. And so therefore they needed to wait. They needed to wait and they needed to train each other to build up their army.
They welcomed each new dead Yemar into their land, into their council, and into their army of the newly-dead so wished it. And wish it they did. Rage against the Uzra burned in the heart of every Yemar.
Oella’s mother Mira was reunited with her. She took care of her daughter and taught her her magic and all that she knew. Mira had a great deal of practical knowledge she could pass on. But she could not stop her daughter from eternally missing the rest of her family. She could not stop her from feeling deep, aching sorrow.
For Oella was a living being in the land of the dead. But she was one with the rain. She was one with new life.
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One day Mamon decided to escape. And they asked Naia if she wanted to come with them. Naia said that she was too afraid of what the Uzras would do to her if they caught her escaping. She longed to escape. She longed to with all her heart. But she could not find the courage to. But she wanted Mamon to escape. She wanted them to at least be free.
So Mamon did escape. And they changed form to be a fish and swam through the rivers until they found a great forest with trees standing impenetrably strong. As if their trunks were made of iron. And there they saw that Puri was still alive in this wild enclave of the earth. And there they decided to make their home.
Mamon hid inside the forest. And there they met another young runaway, who had found this piece of Puri and made a home within it. This girl was named Mira and she was one with the wood. Mamon was one with the fire. And Mamon thought it very ironic indeed that they should be friends. Mira was pregnant with three infant babies she had to give a better life to. Mamon helped her give birth on the forest floor. The two teenagers raised the babies as best as they could, and they both loved and took care of the children as their own.
One child was named Wolver, and he was a wolf puppy who was sweet and playful. He had great might and strength, and his power grew each day. He was gullible and easily trusting. One child was named Harimon, and they were in between boy and girl, and they dwelled in the places in between borders. They dwelled in the cracks in the wall. They were a serpent who twisted and turned. One child was named Oella and she was a beautiful girl. Half of her was a beautiful girl and half of her was a skeleton.
All three of the children were adorable and childish and filled with life. All three of the children were children. They were different, yes. They were what the Uzra would never expect, never accept, never accept. But they were young baby children and they were bundles of joy and love.
Mira and Mamon were the best of friends and their children were free as they grew. Mamon knew that they would have to free more people. They did not know how.
The Uzra were enraged that their servant had fled. But look as they might, they could not find them. And so they continued on with their plans to dominate the world. What was the loss of a couple of Yemars when the Uzra had all the rest?
Karkion wanted to know what the future was of the golden, gilded empire of the Uzra. An empire made of blood, though he didn’t think of it as that. So therefore Karkion used his magic to bring up a Yemar wise woman and seer from the dead. He demanded that she tell him the future of his kingdom.
She did not want to tell him anything. But he bound her with his magic and therefore she was forced to tell him whatever he wanted to know. She was very enraged at him and his hall. He could bind her, but she would not be scared of him. Why should she be scared of him when she was already dead? He could not kill her again.
So she was defiant to him and treated him rudely. She held her head high and looked him in the eyes, her own eyes blazing with anger. She mocked him and belittled him. And there was nothing Karkion could do about it because she was already dead, and therefore he could not punish her.
He did however force her to tell him the future. And therefore, with much reluctance, she told him of the truth. She told him that there will be a Great War that no-one will be able to prevent. The final war between the Uzras and the Yemars. All the Uzras will die but their children will live. Generation upon generation will fight.
Karkion heard this and he felt a great terror in his heart. He did not want to lose his kingdom and his immortality. But he was satisfied that his descendants would inherit the world and would come to rule it just as he did.
What the wise woman didn’t tell him was that this new world would be changed.
Karkion unbound her from his spells and sent her back to the world of the dead. And she sank down into the heather and melted into the ground. Back to Oellon. Back to her all-consuming sleep.
The Uzras combed all the wild lands for any Yemars that had escaped. There they found Mamon and Mira, and the three children they were raising. They were each four years old in this time. Not four human years. Four cosmic years.
The Yemars and the Uzras measured their time with cosmic time. And cosmic time was much different than human time. It stretched out much further and longer, like taffy being pulled. The Yemars and Uzras grew and aged in cosmic years, years that sometimes stilled infinitely.
Karkion saw that the children of Mira and Mamon would grow up to yield huge amounts of power. And he feared that they would join the battle against the Uzras. He feared that the Uzras would not have any chance if these children joined the battle against them.
And so the Uzras took the children away from their parents. The children were crying and screaming and reaching out for their parents. But the Uzras had no pity. The Uzras had no remorse. They ripped the children out of their parents’ arms and they took them away.
Hari they threw down into the sea. The child kept falling and falling and sinking and sinking until they reached the bottom of the sea. But they did not drown. This was not a mercy. The pressure of the waves over their body and heart, the tonnes and tones of water, it weighed heavy on them and crushed them, holding them down.
Little Oella, Karkion threw her into Oellon, the land of the dead.
Oellon was not the land of all the dead. There were two lands of the dead. There was Forkava, where the Uzras and honourary Uzras go. For there were a select few Yemars who betrayed the other Yemars and got accepted as Uzras. There were very few. The Yemars who were not traitors went to Oellon. Forkava was a land of vast wealth and abundance and plenty.
There were feasts there every day. But in Oellon there was only poison, and all the dead were in deep sleep.
Wolver the Uzra took a liking to. In the way that someone likes their pet dog. Even though Wolver had understanding and thought and sentience. The Uzras took him to their palace, and raised him there, away from his parents.
Before the Uzras left, they bound Mira in many chains. And they tied her to a wooden stake. They set her on fire, just as they did Gylla. But Mira burned and she burned. She burned until she died.
Mamon was devastated. All their children were being tortured and their dear, good friend was dead. Lost in eternal sleep. They did not know what they would do. How they would go on. They were about to give up.
But then they remembered a memory. When Hari was a year old, they were very small. They had to slither away fast to escape the predators in the forest. Not that there were many predators in the forest that bothered them though. But as Hari grew older, they grew and grew. Until they were big enough to take scare away the predators and they were the ones running instead.
Mamon knew that Hari would continue to grow and grow. And one day they would be big enough to simply rise up out of the sea. Mamon drew strength from that. Drew courage. Drew the will you go on.
And so they went, in chains, to the lands of the Uzras.
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The following morning I wake up with my alarm and I'm exhausted. Grogginess overtakes me but I know that I need to get up. I know that I need to keep going. I know that I need to make Lydia believe that I was not up all night talking. We all do.
And so I wash my face with expensive cleanser and I put makeup on and I pick out a pretty outfit as carefully matched as all my other outfits used to be. And I go down the too-large halls to the cafeteria. And I chat with Valentina and Labonita.
We do not talk about last night. For everything that happened last night is a secret, and we cannot risk any chance of being found out. We carefully converse about conversation topics that are normal, petty, shallow. Things that will not get us or anyone else in trouble.
All around me at all the tables the girls eat their breakfast without complaint. And the breakfast feels too full to me, too loaded. The flavours feel too strong, the textures too varied. But I eat without complaint as well. Because I have to. Because it's the only choice I have in this facility where we all are being kept locked up.
Lydia comes into the room at the same time that she always does. She is wearing something stunningly gorgeous, as she always is. It's pale green. I don't notice it that much as I smile towards her cheery face and chirp a hello that rings hollow in my own heart.
I'm afraid of her. I've never been so afraid of her before. But no, that's not true. I think back towards the three days of hedonism my friends and I partook in. I was still scared of her then. I think that we were all scared of her. I just did not realize it. I repressed it.
I hope she cannot see the fear behind my eyes. Fear that I am trying so suffocatingly hard to hide. I think I am a good actor. I've had to be, in order to get through my school life and my home life and everything between those two things. I hope I'm good enough for this moment, the moment in which it all really, truly matters.
"Hello, my sweet girls!" Her voice is bright and cheerful. But there is a slight, subtle edge to it. An edge that is oppressive and threatening. Was it always there, did I just miss noticing it before now? Or is this a new development? Is she on to us?
"Hello, Lydia," we echo back all together in a messy unison. Our voices sound almost normal. Almost. There is just the slightest, tiniest bit of difference. I hope that the difference is too small for her to be able to notice it. I hope she doesn't think too deeply about the way we sound. I hope she doesn't notice anything amiss.
"Are you all excited to begin your day?" She smiles. And there is something just subtly, just deeply unsettling about that smile. I pay close attention to it. Though I know that there isn't any point. If she's on to us, she's on to us. We are powerless. There is nothing we can do.
But I look over at Clara. And she smiles at me, a shimmering orange lipgloss smile. But behind that smile there is something understanding. There is something heartbroken. There is something tragic. There is something kind. I smile at her back.
And in that moment I know.
We are not powerless. Not really. We have each other. And we have the strength within our own souls. The strength that has gotten all of us this far. Strength that has taken us into cold streets, into thick forests, strength that has taken us into suicide attempts. Strength that has made us into who we are. And that will shape us beyond that, shape us further.
"I am sorry, girls, but today we cannot go on any fun adventures."
We all voice our loud dismay and disapproval. Our fake dismay and disapproval. It is what we are expected to do, so it is what we do.
"I'm sorry. But it's just one day. And it will help you in your journeys to heal and grow and to become functioning members of society. Is that okay, my girls?"
"Okay," we relent unenthusiasticly. The fear inside my chest is growing. Why are we not going to do the normal routine? What are we going to do instead? Why?
"Today you will all have a long session with your personal doctors. Answering questions and the like. Your progress will be charted and any changes necessary to your recovery plan will be made. After that, you will have another session of mind healing. You will be put to sleep and your brains will be injected with the chemicals necessary to help them heal and flourish."
"Okay Lydia," we chorus back. The fear has a hard, icy grip on my heart now. Another mind-healing session? Another session where we get our minds bored into and altered? That is not okay. That will end any and all chances we have of reaching freedom. I remember what the last session did to me. I remember all that it made me forget, all that it made me deny.
I flit my eyes around, and on everyone's face I can see the faintest traces of fear. Fear that shows through even the tiniest cracks in their masks. This is no is okay. This is not okay. This is very much not okay.
"You have a few hours before the doctors will come in for your sessions though. In that time you can spend your time however you want."
We go back to eating our breakfast, thinking of how to get out of this all.
"Let's go to the hot tub after we're finished breakfast," Delores calls out loudly.
"That's the perfect idea!" Zindagee declares. And it is the perfect idea. It really is. Because we can all sit close together in the hot tub, in the relative privacy of the room where no-one will bother us.
We all voice our agreement to the plan, and quickly go to get our bathing suits on. I wear the first one I can find and rush to the hot tub.
It feels too warm, feels muggy in there. An unnatural sort of warm that melts into your body. But nonetheless, we all crowd together.
"We can't let them mess with our brains again," Clara states.
"You're absolutely right," Ishani remarks. "The last time then did that, we forgot everything. We forgot our history, who we were, what we wanted, what we needed. Never again."
"But what if we help each other remember again, just like we did before?" Brigely suggests. "Then we can undo the harm that they have done."
"That only worked last time because I had a dream about my brother," Maggie explains. "It won't work again if I don't have that dream. Which I probably won't."
"Well we have to do something to make it so that they can't destroy us again. We have to foil their plans." Nocta's voice carries notes of doubt.
"What if we pretend that we're all better?" Lavinia suggests. "What if we go tell the doctors that nothing's wrong and we can be spared from another procedure?"
"The doctors already think nothing is wrong," Avalon retorts, "They already think that we are healing perfectly fine. They want to do the procedure anyways."
"We could ask them to please not do it maybe?" Ashlee's voice is doubtful."
"As if that would work," Aisha replies.
"Guys," Bik calls to us.
"We were all willing to kill ourselves before. Let's just do it again."
We are silent for a long while, taking in her words, letting them sit inside us, digesting and interpreting them. Feeling the horrible promise that they hold.
"That's a good idea," Brigely finally states into the silence.
"But how are we going to do it?" Zeinab replies.
"Well, I don't think they're restraining us this time," Clara responds. "We can just not take the pills to go to sleep and we can ram our heads into the needles."
"That's a great idea," I reply. And it is a great idea. Really great, but it's also a terrible idea. Really terrible.
"Are we going to be able to sit through the pain?" Nocta asks, "The pain of the drilling before the needles are really hitting our brains?" We are silent again after this. She has a good point. Everything relies on us being brave enough, being strong enough. And I don't know if we are.
"Well, we'll have to," Ashlee finally declares.
We continue planning, one eye and one ear open for Lydia's approach, until she finally does come.
"Get up girls. It's time for your appointments."
"Aww." We pretend to be disappointed. But we dry ourselves off and wear nice, new, freshly-cleaned clothes. And we walk to the large, well-furnished set of rooms the doctors see us in.
I walk through the large intricately-carved ivory door and into the plush, softly-lit world of the doctor's office, that has a fake fire burning away beneath a large mantle. I sit on a soft sofa, trying to look unperturbed. And he sits on this sofa across from me, with a crowded crystal table in front of him.
"Hello," I smile. I know that I'll be dead in a few hours. I know that all my friends will be. And the feeling chokes my throat and my mind. But I have to keep pushing myself forwards, pushing myself forwards. I have to go on. Right to the very end.
"How are you feeling today?" He smiles, his voice smooth.
"I'm feeling great, actually," I lie through a shining grin.
"And why are you feeling so great?"
"Well, it's so fun here. I have all my friends. I get to relax and I get to play. I get to go do stuff. I get to heal."
"And is this atmosphere more calm than the one you left?"
"I think ... I can't remember, actually. But it must be." I have to pretend to not remember. They expect me to not remember.
"What do you remember?"
I pause for a long moment, pretending to be thinking. In that moment I look at the many furs and paintings and pretty little pieces decorating the room. The furs that lay spread on the grand, uneven tile floors. I listen to the song tinkling through the air. None of it calms me. It all just serves to put me more on edge than before.
"I don't know," I finally say. "I just remember waking up in this lovely bed in the rehabilitation centre."
He types something down in the translucent keyboard that appears in the glass of his table, and to one side a floating strand of letters takes shape in the air, forming words, and then sentences.
"Do you miss your past?" He asks me.
"No, not at all." I keep my voice even, keep it jovial. As hard as that is. "It must have been one heck of a hard past in order to lead me here."
"Do you dislike it here?"
"No, of course not. But this is a place of healing, meaning I must have had something I needed to heal from."
"And do you feel like you are healing?" He pauses for a bit between the last two words. There is something hard and cold about his friendly words. Something menacing. But I don't let him know that I have noticed anything amiss.
"Yes, I do. I'm happier and happier each day. Each day seems brighter and and more exciting. Except for today of course."
"And what's wrong with today?"
"Oh nothing much. It's just that we're not doing anything. Just medical stuff." Today's the last day that I'll be alive. But I don't say that of course. Not to him.
"And do you mind, the medical side of things?" There is something pushing in his words.
"No, I don't. I recognize that it's necessary. It's just that it's not as fun."
"But it will help you have more fun in the future."
"I know. I know it will. But still. The future is the future. The present is today." I think about how I will have no future. And the thought screams through my blank mind. But still, the oblivion of nothingness is better than this crowded, hedonistic life.
"And what about your friends? How do you relate to them?"
"Oh we get along greatly. We do so many fun things."
"Do you feel like you relate to them because they're in the same position that you are in?" He keeps typing.
"Maybe. But mostly it's that they're just teenaged girls, just like me. I have to make friends if I don't want to be alone." This whole place feels so oppressive and claustrophobic.
"And do you not like being alone?"
"I'm fine with being alone, as long as I have something to do. But sometimes I guess you start to think, when you're alone."
"You start to think about what?"
"Oh, just, random stuff that doesn't even matter."
"And do you not enjoy thinking?"
"Anyone will tell you that it isn't that fun."
"How about your roommate? How well do you get along with her?"
"Maggie? She's awesome. We get along great."
"We're thinking of moving everyone into their own separate rooms. Then it will be less crowded. What do you think about that?"
"Oh, that'll be okay. I've always wanted a bit more space."
"That's fair. And how about Lydia? Do you trust her?"
"Of course I trust her. Why wouldn't I? She's like a parent to us."
"She is rather cheery, isn't she?"
"Yes, she's always so happy and that makes the rest of us happy too."
We keep talking, question after question after question. My mind is screaming blank. I don't even have time to process my emotions. Not before it all comes to an end.
And I am left standing in the large hallway in front of the medical room. But at least I am not alone. I am more afraid than I have ever been in the entirety of my life. But at least I am not alone. All my friends are out here standing with me.
Every girl instinctively draws closer. And then we all hug. We say no words, because words are too dangerous, right here and right now. But we feel each other's warmth. We feel each other's heartbeats. We feel each other's lives as we stand there together, all flowing into each other silently.
We break the hug just as we hear footsteps in the hall.
"Are you all ready?"
"Yes." And I have to be. I have to be ready right now. I push myself forwards.
The doors to the medical room open, and there are no people inside. There are only rows and rows of soft-looking hospital beds and a variety of sophisticated, sharp-looking tools arranged all about. Beside each bed is a little tray held up by metal rods. In each tray is a glass of water and two pills.
"You girls can go find whichever bed suits you," Lydia starts explaining, "and take both pills. The small pill is for the pain and the large one will knock you out. Be ready before the doctors come."
We are left alone again within the room.
"This is a jackpot! Zeinab exclaims.
"It is," Cara agrees. "We can only take the pain pill and stay conscious through the whole thing."
"I love you guys," Valentina tells us. "Good bye."
We all say our goodbyes to each other and our I-love-yous. Most of us start crying. We dry our tears and gulp down our pills, hiding the other ones in our clothes.
I feel overwhelmed and numb both at the same time. The world feels all-too-real and not real at all, both at the same time. I don't know how I am going to make myself do this. But I know that I am going to make myself do this. I have to. I have to.
Because even if I don't die, the only people who have ever understood me in my life will be dead. And I can't live with that. Even if I don't die, all the world around me will be a cage. And I can't live with that, either.
I hear steps echoing through the room. I keep my eyes closed. Not letting any expression show on my calmed, blank face. There is talking all around me. Cool, clear, methodical voices that send shivers through my spine. I hear some tapping and clicking noises and then the whirring drill is there, cutting through my skull.
It feels so weird. It doesn't hurt. Not at all. But it feels so deeply wrong. And it feels so deeply wrong to be dying without pain. Death should include pain. Death should be terrible and magnificent and altogether completely overwhelming. And mentally, mentally it is all that. But not physically.
I don't know how much time has passed. Maybe a second. Maybe a minute. Maybe an hour. But eventually the drill does get all the way through my skull. I can tell because the spinning motion stops. And now, instead of feeling hot, it feels slightly cool.
Now is my moment.
Fear crashes into me like a huge, lightning-fast truck. I am overwhelmed by the sheer terror, the sheer terror, the sheer terror that envelops all my thoughts. It's as if my body is screaming at me not to die.
But I cannot listen to my body. Not now. Not here. Not like this. I know I have to push myself on. So I scream internally. I scream louder, braver, more powerful than all of the fear. And through the screams echoing through my mind I jerk my head to the side, almost not thinking.
I don't feel pain, even still. Part of me wishes I could feel pain, part of me doesn't. It just all feels so hot and so cold both at the same time, as I am quickly fading away, fading away. Fading away into the nothingness and the everythingness from which I was born.
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Swan Upon Leda by Hozier - an analysis
Title - The title is a reference to Zeus raping the mortal woman Leda in the form of a swan, representing how the patriarchy both literally and metaphorically rapes women and denies them autonomy.
A husband waits outside - This husband is two people simultaneously, just as Leda/the child is two people simultaneously. Mythologicaly, he’s supposed to represent the husband of Leda, the king of Sparta, who could do nothing to stop his wife from getting raped. As a human, the husband is supposed to represent the boyfriend/husband of the girl. (Let’s hope it’s a boyfriend but people can get married young in Ireland and maybe they got married to shield the girl from the shame of being an unwed mother. My cousin’s friend actually had to get married to her boyfriend at the age of fifteen for this exact reason, and because they live in a country where she could easily just straight up be denied healthcare for herself and the new baby if she was an unwed mother. ) This boy can do nothing to prevent his love from having to give birth to her rapist’s kid, and cannot protect her.
A crying child pushes a child into the night - This is obvious. She has to give birth despite being just a child, because she cannot get an abortion and her autonomy is denied her. She is crying to show how traumatic this experience is for her. No child should be forced to birth a child. She is also pushing the child into the night. Night often represents danger, oppression, bad times. She’s bringing the baby into life but she’s bringing him into a life of danger that is clouded by darkness, because the world is no place for a child these days.
She was told he would come this time - The girl/Leda knows she’s going to be raped by Zeus/the patriarchy/whoever raped her. This doesn’t make sense unless you look at it metaphorically. Rape is being used as a metaphor in this specific line for the denial of bodily autonomy. She knows that she has to give birth to a baby she doesn’t want, because abortion is illegal, and this is a denial of her autonomy, a symbolic rape. One which she is expecting and dreading.
Without leaving so much as a feather behind - Zeus did not leave any evidence of his rape of Leda. There’s no concrete evidence that what is happening to the girl is traumatic. No evidence that she got pregnant due to rape. No evidence that forcing her to give birth is also a form of rape. All that she has to convey her story with is her own words, which people might not believe. People often don’t believe the testament of women.
To enact at last the perfect plan - Zeus wants to impregnate Leda against her will. The patriarchy wants women to give birth against their will. This girl in the song is giving birth against her will.
One more sweet boy to be butchered by men - The new baby is an innocent boy. He does not have all the traits of toxic masculinity that would make society deem him as a man. But the patriarchy will destroy his innocence, his goodness, his sweetness, and make him into what they deem as a man. They will teach him to not allow himself to be emotional and empathetic and they will teach him the ways of violence and competition. Which will hurt him and others.
But the gateway to the world - This is the birth canal, that everyone has to pass through in order to get into the world, into life.
was still outside of reach to him - Zeus/the patriarchy/the rapist still does not have ownership over the reproduction of people who can get pregnant. Even though the patriarchy does so many things to gain control of these people and their reproduction. They can never own it.
Will never belong to angels - The power of reproduction and autonomy over it does not belong to religion.
Has never belonged to men - The power of reproduction and autonomy over it does not belong to men/the patriarchy. (Obviously this excludes men who have uteruses and therefore have control over their reproduction.)
The swan upon Leda - the patriarchy controlling peoples’ bodies and reproduction, which is rape both literally and metaphorically.
Empire upon Jerusalem - This refers to both the ancient and the modern, and is emblematic of how so much of this song is about the parallels and the tying together of the ancient and the modern. The Roman Empire conquered Jerusalem (and the rest of ancient Isreal) in antiquity, and brought with it oppression and hardship and genocide, though it saw itself as a civilizing entity. In a direct parallel to the ancient Roman Empire, modern Israel is also occupying Jerusalem (and the rest of modern Palestine), and is bringing oppression and hardship and death with it, though it sees itself as a civilizing entity. The parallel of this line to the line before it shows that the control of peoples’ bodies by the patriarchy is a direct parallel to and interwoven with the control of native people by an empire.
A grandmother smuggling meds - This is a grandmother smuggling abortion medication into Ireland, where abortion was illegal until 2018. She’s smuggling it in from the UK where abortion has been legal for longer. She is doing this to help her granddaughter, and what she is doing is a brave act of motherhood and elderhood. It shows the intergenerational ties and solidarity between women, and the responsibility and compassion women feel for each other, as they are all a part of the same story that spans back into ancient times.
Past where the god child-soldier Setanta - This is literally a statue in the border between Britain and Ireland, but symbolically means so much more in addition to this. Setanta was a god/demigod in the Celtic religion, who was made to do the adult’s job of guarding a lord’s house at the tender age of seven. From this job, he got the nickname Cu Chulainn. Hozier uses Setanta’s given name and not the more famous name he got from doing child labour as a mark of respect for the humanity of this child. He was a god both literally and also metaphorically since he represents Irish Nationalism and the longing for Ireland to be a sovereign nation. He is a symbol to Irish Nationalism. He’s referred to as a child soldier here because at the age of seventeen he had to nearly singlehandedly fight off an invading army and in some versions of the story he died in that war. His having to go to war at such a young age, his being a child soldier, it parallels the girl from the first verse becoming a child mother. They both lost their innocence too early. But Setanta had to protect his homeland from the invading army. This shows that imperialism and patriarchy are parallels to each other in that they both rob children of their childhoods. Setanta is a symbol also for all the brave people, many of them teenagers, who fought and died for Irish independence.
stood dead - The symbol of Irish Independence is dead in this world where Ireland does not allow pregnant people control over their own bodies. Ireland might technically be free from British colonization but it will never be free unless the women and trans men and nonbinary people and intersex people are free from the patriarchy’s colonization. Because of the lack of bodily autonomy that marginalized genders have over their bodies, the dreams of Irish revolutionaries to have autonomy over their own lands is dead.
Our graceful turner of heads - Society and the patriarchy have taught us that women lose their grace and their beauty as they age but in truth, this old grandmother doing an important job is so mystically graceful.
weaves through the checkpoints like a needle and thread - weaving and sewing are both jobs that are traditionally done by women. By tying this act of solidarity between women to sewing/weaving, it shows that helping each other is also a job traditionally done by women, and standing against the patriarchy to help each other take whatever modicum of bodily autonomy they could was also a traditional job of women.
Someone’s frightened boy - This is a border checkpoint guard. But notice, it’s a boy, not a man. We’ve already established that boys are the ones who are not conditioned by society to fit the ideal of toxic manhood. So, even through this border checkpoint guard is probably over eighteen, he is still a boy since he has not adopted toxic masculinity and therefore isn’t seen as a man by society. He’s also referred to as someone’s boy, connecting him to his mother (or dad or parent, we don’t know). This shows that he has loyalty to the person who birthed him and that loyalty is part of what defines his identity. He’s still in a position of power though, and this shows that the patriarchy sometimes (probably unknowingly) let’s “boys” (good lads) be in positions of power. He is frightened because he knows what he’s going to do, he’s going to let the grandmother through, and he’s scared that he will get into trouble for this.
waves her on - He probably knows she has abortion pills but he lets her through because he is loyal to the person who gave birth to him and is a good ally. So he risks getting found out and fired (which in this economy would not be good) to help the grandmother.
She offers a mother’s smile - This shows that the grandmother is a mother at heart, and therefore is going on this mission for her granddaughter as a form of motherly protection. It also shows that mothers and motherhood are very strong and courageous and that people who can give birth are strong and courageous, which is the opposite of what the patriarchy wants us to believe we are. This also reminds me of that scene from the movie Pride, where the women of the union and also the gay girls are singing Bread and Roses, which is a song about the importance of women’s rights. There is a line in that song where it says “as we go marching, marching, we battle too for men. For they are women’s children, and we’ll mother them again.” Women don’t have a natural fear of men, it’s the patriarchy that they fear, and the toxic men. Men who are good allies are welcomed by women, and are sometimes seen as sons.
and soon she’s gone - this shows us that this moment of inter gender solidarity is brief, it has to be brief, because at the heart of everything, the grandmother has to go back to get the medication to her granddaughter.
The gateway to the world - This once again represents the reproductive system.
A gun - This represents war, which is a natural result of the patriarchy and of toxic masculinity.
in a trembling hand - The soldier holding the gun is afraid. The soldier is probably a man, though maybe not. Either way, it shows that the patriarchy and the violence it breeds hurts the people, even the men, that it pushes towards violence.
Where nature unmakes the boundary - What is the boundary? It could be so many things. Nature unmakes so many boundaries. The boundaries between genders, and between sexes. The boundaries between individuals, between the individual and the collective. It unmakes the boundaries between human and nature, between here and there, between past and present and future. Being in nature, you really feel at one with everyone and everything. The patriarchy of course does not want this because it thrives off of division and hierarchy, and on setting clear distinctions between humans and nature. Nature, shown here as a freeing force, is very often seen as a feminine force in many cultures. It’s not a solely feminine force in my culture, but in my religious stories nature did give birth to all people and gods and is therefore associated with people who can give birth.
The pillar of myth still stands - A pillar is something not natural. It is made by humans and it very often is a grandiose, luxurious thing. Myth being a pillar shows that the myths talked about in this line are man-made, they are not natural or derived from nature. The myth specifically described here is the myth that cis men are superior to women, trans men, nonbinary people, and intersex people and that cis men deserve to have autonomy and authority over these other groups of people. This myth is found in many interpretations of religions, and is also found a lot in Greek mythology, for example in the story of Leda. In Ancient Greek times, their myths were used to justify their (generally) patriarchal social structure. In modern times religion is also used to justify patriarchy and its accompanying abuse.
The swan upon Leda, occupier on ancient land - Zeus/the patriarchy is an occupier and Leda is ancient land. This means that Zeus is an invader, the patriarchy’s control over people’s reproduction is invasive and unholy. In contrast women’s (and other peoples’) bodies are holy and they deserve to be treated with respect. This also parallels and ties in the occupation of women’s bodies to all the innumerable occupations and conquests that have happened throughout history to so, so many groups of people and their land.
There was born among the Yemars a beautiful baby named Filla. Filla grew up into a young girl who was kind and courageous and had a strength about her that inspired awe in all who saw her. Though she was but a small child. The Yemars loved her as they loved all their children. They held hope in her as they held hope in all their children. They were awed by her as they were awed by all their children.
But the Uzras heard about Filla. And they thought that the Yemars were raising her to go to war against them. The Uzras could not have Filla become a great soldier in a war against them. And so they went out and gathered Filla and brought her away from her mothers to live with them.
The Yemars tried on many occasions to get her back. But they could not.
And so Filla grew into a young woman surrounded by the Uzras. And she smiled secretively. And though the Uzras thought her tamed, they felt a sense of great fear whenever she gave them one of her sharp-edged smiles.
Meanwhile in the lands of the Yemars, there were two lovers. Firik was a lightning Yemar, at one with the lightning. And Fiall was a leaf Yemar, at one with the leaves. Firik supported and helped Fiall with whatever she wanted to do and she in turn inspired and amazed him.
Lightning struck a dry and wilting, dying forest. It breathed new life into the dead wood and the forest of the area started growing anew. The couple had three children together. Pres, Nolvi, and Mamon.
Pres was a boy, Nolvi was a girl, and Mamon was someone who changed genders all the time, sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl, sometimes in-between, sometimes both, and sometimes neither.
All three children were deeply loved by their parents and by their community. The community did everything they could to give them a childhood, though they had to live with the harshness and the cruelty of life as a Yemar. And so they grew up with many friends.
So now we will talk about that daughter Karkion had with the Yemarian woman.
Let it be known that the Yemars and the Uzras had different ways of transmitting inheritance. For the Yemars, a daughter inherited from her mother and a son inherited from his father. I do not know what would happen if a child had no parent that was the same gender as them, but I suppose there is a system. The Uzras, on the other hand, only inherited from their fathers. This daughter then, would be a Yemar by Yemarian standards, since her mother was Yemarian. But she would be an Uzra by Uzra standards, since her father was Uzra.
Now Karkion wanted to raise the daughter as Uzra. So he took her away from her mother and placed her in the halls of the Uzras. She was made to forget the Yemars and that entire side of her identity. But she always remembered her mother. And she refused to forget.
Because she refused to forget where she came from, the Uzras mistreated her and hurt her harshly and without remorse.
It was at this time than a young Mamon was also brought from their own family to the holdings of the Uzras, to act as a servant there. So Mamon and Karkion's daughter were together struggling and suffering amongst the Uzras. They were missing their families dearly. And they became strongly devoted friends. The girl told them her true name, the name her mother had given her. The name the Urzas did not call her.
She was named Naia
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“Hey. Hey. Wake up.” I shake Zindagee gently from over her covers.
“What? What is it?” Her voice is laden with sleepiness.
“Come into mine and Maggie’s room, we have to tell you something. Be quiet. Don’t let anyone hear.” My hushed voice is barely audible.
“Why? What is it?”
“It’s a mystery.”
She makes her way out the door while I climb up to wake up Aisha.
“Aisha. Dude. Wake up. Wake up.”
“I have something important to tell you.”
One by one Maggie and I wake up everyone. And we send them all to our room. Thankfully, they’re all quiet. Everyone is quiet. They go through the glowing halls without alerting any of the people who are supposed to be keeping an eye on us.
Eventually there are twenty girls crowded onto the bottom bunk of our bunk bed. I can barely make anyone out amidst the shadows. But I squeeze against Lumina towards the edge of the bed.
Maggie recalls her story first, voice breaking as she cries her way through all the experiences and emotions that broke her and formed her and made her who she is. The other girls don’t understand it at first. Just like I didn’t understand it at first. But slowly, surely, they come around. They feel Maggie’s pain and her love and her restlessness and her yearning.
“A thing like that, it could really teach you a lot of things,” Ishani comments.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that, Maggie, you deserve better,” Valentina comforts.
“I know. But it taught me so much. I don’t think I ever could’ve gotten truly close to my brother if he hadn’t died.” There is anguish in Maggie’s voice, but there is also a strange sense of gratitude.
“I … I think I understand.” Bik’s words are subdued and thoughtful, almost like a lullaby in the nighttime.
“But Maggie,” Cara speaks solemnly, “How can we help you get over this?”
“I don’t need to get over this,” Maggie replies, “I need to keep the memory with me always. It set me free. It set me free and I have to honour my brother and all he did for me and all he gave me. I have to honour him by setting all of you free as well.”
“But they won’t let us be,” Chin points out. “They brought us here, and they’ll keep us here, and we won’t be free.”
“No,” Nora opposes, “we have to take freedom. We have to take freedom however we can, with whatever means necessary.”
“But is it really so bad here?” Lavinia’s voice is unsure. She isn’t fully brought over to our side yet.
And so I tell them my story. I tell it from the beginning, from finding that notebook in my school hallways. I talk about all the alienation, the disillusionment, the entrapment that I felt. I talk about how superficial and hollow I saw everything as. I talk about how I was ever so determined to get free.
I talk about the nights and days I spent roaming the hidden alleyways of the city. I talk about all the thoughts I thought, all the emotions I felt.
Everything I experienced. I talk about the strangeness and the familiarity that overtook everything then. About how purposeful and wandering I was. I talk about the wind on my arms and the dryness in my throat. And I talk about how I just kept going, how everything inside of me was calling out to me to keep going, how everything around me was singing the same song.
I talk about how at the forge of death, at last, for the first time in my life I felt like I was a part of something. For the first time in my life I felt wanted. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. I talk about how I lost myself entirely and how I was more myself than I ever had been. And I talk about how I was one with the wind and the cold and the sky.
I end with the story of how I was taken in chains to the hospital, and had my mind drilled into against my will.
“So what are your guys’ stories?” I ask the girls gathered all around me, straining to listen.
One by one they all take turns remembering what they can from their past, from their time before the rehabilitation centre. Their memories come in bits and pieces, but all of their memories come back, eventually.
Nora was a runaway, living on the streets and begging for food and water. She had been there for two or three years. It was a hard life, it was a hungry life, it was a life full of need and want and glaring violence. She often did not know how she would keep on going, keep on making it through. But she says that it was a better life than the one she had lived before, a life in the lap of luxury. Eventually the police found her, and they took her to the hospital, screaming all the way.
Nora was a lot braver than I ever could be. She is brave. She is bold. But most importantly she’s good, so good. Much better than I ever could be.
Delores got into a fight with her mother and father about what she wanted in her life. They were insisting that she go to preparatory school, which would be a tightly regimented and closely surveilled thing just as the rehabilitation centre is. She insisted that she did not want to go, and the resulting fight was horrible. It was ugly. It lead neighbours to call the police and the rest is history.
I know what it’s like fighting with your parents. It’s hard. It hurts. It never leaves you. It makes you who you are. It breaks through the veil of illusion and it makes you stronger.
Labonita also ran away one day, just like me. Unlike me she was not trying to kill herself, though she didn’t particularly care about living either. What she was trying to do was go beyond the city, and find out what was out there. She kept walking and walking and walking. And just when she thought she almost made it, just when she thought that the edge of the city was close, the police caught up to her. And they dragged her to this accursed place.
I never thought there could be anything beyond the city. It seems to stretch every which way in every direction. I’ve never heard anyone talk of anything beyond the city. Labonita’s really creative, thinking that something is out there. Really creative or really hopeful. I hope she’s right.
Brigely tried to kill herself in a more concrete way than the rest of us did. Her story is a really rather ghastly one. She put a noose around her throat, made of strong, coarse rope she bought in secret and kept under her floorboards. She got as far as tying it to a tree, and jumping off of the branches with the horrible, beautiful promise of a rope around her throat. She remembers pain, incredible pain. She remembers feeling like she was drowning on dry land. And she remembers waking up in the hospital.
Brigely is brave too. Though I wish so very much that she didn’t have to ge brave. I wish we all didn’t have to be brave. I wish we could all live in a kinder world, where life and tenderness and joy were not things that were forever denied to us, denied to everyone.
Zeinab once stopped talking. She stopped talking entirely. She didn’t talk to her parents, or her classmates, or her teachers, or her counsellors. She tells us that she just didn’t see the point of it anymore. That every time she time used to talk, no one would listen, no one would understand, no-one would try to see it from her point of view. And so one day she just gave up. She tells us about how lonely she felt, how forlorn. How she clawed and bit when the police came to take her away. How she fought them with everything her small body had. How she could not win against their superior forces.
It paints a really disturbing picture, seeing her there with a swarm of police officers, fighting with violence unbecoming of any human being, yet silent through it all. It paints a grim picture but it’s a picture I can understand too well. Disturbingly well. Beautifully well. Magnificently well.
Zindagee used to cut herself. She would do it all the time. She said that watching the blood pour out of her body was one of the only ways she could make herself feel alive. One day her parents found out. They found her sitting in her room, in a pool of her own blood. And they started yelling at her, screaming at her, berating her, condemning her. She pleaded with them, promised that she’d stop, promised that she’d do anything as long as they don’t call the police. But they did call the police. And that’s that.
I cringe at thinking of the pain she must have been going through. Must have gone through for so long. To sit in a pool of her own blood. She must have really been desperate. But it’s a desperation that I can understand. It’s a desperation that we all can understand.
Lumina jumped into the river cutting through the city. She knew how to swim but she also knew that no-one could swim forever. She did not know if she was trying to kill herself or if she was trying to get away from the city. She didn’t know what she was doing. All she knew was that the river seemed to be calling to her. And so she answered its call. She was down there in the frozen waters and rushing currents for hours and hours, until the sky turned from dark to light. But eventually she was fished out with cutting wire nets and now she’s here.
I also often felt called to the river. In all the artificiality of all the city, the river seems somehow just a little bit more real than everything around it. It feels like the tiniest spark of an oasis.
Lavinia wasn’t a martyr like the rest of us were. She was simply a writer. But no, that’s not true either. Writers are fantastical and imaginative and polished. They make great stories with grand words. That was not what Lavinia was trying to do at all. She was simply a girl writing in a notebook. She was writing in a notebook similar to the notebook I once found, the one that had started everything for me. Unbeknownst to her, her teacher was looking over her shoulder watching her write. And that was what lead to her coming here.
I ask her if she was able to save the notebook. She looks at me sadly and confesses that she wasn’t. I tell her that it’s okay, she’s sharing the contents of it with all of us right now, and just simply talking as friends is much better than any written word written anywhere.
Cara hid in a secret root cellar she found in the basement of her house. She did not know how long she hid for or how long she intended to hide for or whether she wanted to die down there. All she knew was that in the darkness and coldness all around her, dark like a blanket and cold like the water’s embrace, she cocooned herself and waited for whatever was to come. She remembers that she got hungrier and hungrier, and thirstier and thirstier, until one day she felt nothing at all. It was then that she woke up in the hospital, chained to the bed just as I was.
I think of how strange it must have been, enveloped in darkness all around you, so dark that you do not know whether you are awake or asleep. It must be unreal. But at the same time it must be so hyper real. It must be liberating in its own strange, inexplicable sort of way.
Avalon did the same thing, except she hid in the root cellar of a long-abandoned house down the street from her house. It was dilapidated and dusty and the paint was all chipping off and all the lawn ornaments were in ruin. But, more importantly, it was easy to break into without leaving a trace and the secret root cellar could be hidden from the inside by a barely-working control panel. She fully intended to die, Avalon. She intended to not be found. And it was a good plan. Very well thought out, but unfortunately the police have their ways of finding people and they found her.
I think of how she almost did it. She almost escaped. But even the best of plans made under the best of situations still was not enough to guarantee victory. Not when fighting against this society and its power systems.
Nocta’s story is a lot like Maggie’s. Except instead of losing an older brother she lost a younger sister. And instead of losing her slowly, she lost her all at once in a traffic accident. After her sudden and too-early death, Nocta felt like she had never gotten to know her sister, she had never spent any real time with her, they had never connected. This drove Nocta to search for the something more that all of us were searching for, so that when she herself died her life might not be a life wasted, a life without meaning.
It must be so hard, losing a sibling like that, all at once. When you’re not expecting it. When you’re expecting life to just go on as it normally does. But it’s probably less cruel than expecting it. Than living with the constant fear. Anyways, let’s hope she can make her sister proud in her life and in her death and in whatever comes next.
Bik had broken through the illusions society cast upon everyone. And she was determined to help other people break out of their illusions as well. She talked to people, to everyone that would listen to her, at her school. Tried to tell them that there was something more, something better than constant entertainment and constant interest. She tried to tell them that there was more to life than what was on the surface. But she couldn’t make them see. All that her very many conversations lead her to was frustration and further feelings of alienation. And they lead her to the police showing up at her doorstep one day.
Bik has a lot of confidence in order to be able to tell other people. I totally lack such confidence. I lack the ability to tell my truth to people who are unsympathetic. Because, it’s absolutely pointless, as she herself found out in her life. All it will lead to is yourself getting ridiculed.
Aisha had a small wood near her neighbourhood. It was a rather simple thing. But it was big enough to get lost in. And it was big enough to hold a clear stream of sweet water running through it, and entire bushes of berries. She disappeared into that wood, a few years ago. And she had no idea how to survive in the wilderness but she weathered the hunger and the cold, and she made for herself a life in which she was content. A life in which she could live. The police eventually scanned the woods with their thermal cameras and she was dragged kicking and screaming from her chosen home.
It’s strange, how Aisha had found some semblance of contentment, some semblance of happiness. That’s so much more than what most of us find. Yes, she didn’t actually know how to survive in the wilderness. Yes, those woods were too small to support her properly. Yes, she was hungry and cold and her health was slowly wasting away, due to the ill health of the woods. But still. Still.
Ashlee had gotten pregnant. Her parents berated her and punished her. And that broke her illusion of who they were. But, more importantly, she grew to love the life growing inside of her. She loved the baby more than she had previously thought was possible. She loved it deeper than anything she had ever felt before. And she began to worry about the baby’s future. She knew that the child would have no life worth living growing up in this society. She didn’t want the child to suffer through that. More than anything, she didn’t want the child to suffer through that. And so she sent the child to the next world with a large piece of wire. She almost died and the hospital sent her here.
I am amazed by her story. By the love she showed her child. A mother’s love. A mother’s protection. And to think that she would be vilified and isolated for such a thing.
Chin had climbed a radio tower one day. She was not sure why she did it, or what she was fighting for. She just knew that she lost control of herself that day. She lost control and she took herself wherever her feet lead her. And she for some reason ended up on top of a radio tower. She stood there for a long time, hands gripping the cold bars. And she stared up at the sky. Only up at the sky. It was a cloudy, overcast day. Eventually the police hovercrafts came to her, and when she saw them, she let go and let herself fall down, down, down. But they caught her with a net and now here she is.
I don’t understand why she climbed a radio tower either. None of us do. But that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. No amount of wondering or pondering can ever change the past. The past lives within all of us always.
Valentina also spent years on the streets, trying to get whatever money she could from wherever, trying to get by, trying to stay under the radar. The police never found her, because she always wore new clothes and acted like any other teen. She stole, often, and she was very good at it. She had to be, it was the way she survived. But one day she got caught, and though she fervently pleaded, though she promised that she would do anything and everything, the store owner did not let her go. He called the police, and the police pulled her into this rehabilitation centre.
I feel so bad for her, having to spend all those years on the streets. Having no home to go to. Not that any of us had homes. But still, just to have somewhere to be, to stay sheltered from the weather, that was important. And she didn’t have access to it. It’s not fair. It was her choice, but it’s still not fair nonetheless.
Ishani was another confident soul, who told others what she had learned. She had an assignment for her music class. She had to compose a song and sing what she composed to the class. The song she created was really a shoddy work. But in it she spoke plainly all the feelings that she had kept hidden from all of them for so long. Her classmates were shocked, and her teacher was appalled. He called the police immediately. Ishani took off running, but she couldn’t get far enough. They caught her and tranquilized her and she woke up chained to a hospital bed.
That was a noble attempt nonetheless. It was an attempt to share what she knew. Even if it was a shoddy, clumsy, poorly thought-out attempt. It was an attempt nonetheless.
Clara also didn’t know why she did what she did. Clara also did whatever her next impulse was. She also lost control. She walked into the middle of a busy hallway at school, she closed her eyes and covered her ears. And she screamed. She doubled over herself screaming. She screamed until her throat was raw and jagged, like millions of tiny pieces of glass had sunken into its soft flesh. She screamed until her lungs ached. When the police finally came for her she kicked at and clawed them. And she promised that she was alright. Though of course she wasn’t.
Sometimes I just want to do that as well. Scream until my body gives out on me. But the problem is that people would hear me. A problem that Clara had to face upfront. She was brave about it at least, and she fought as much as she could.
What we all have in common is this. We all spent a long time being completely strangled by, smothered in, the glitter and glamour and music and sound of the would. We all feel like it’s far too much and not nearly enough, both at the same time. We all see a hollowness everywhere around us, a hollowness inside us. We all feel entangled and trapped in society, trapped in our lives. We all long for something more with every fibre of our being. And we all can and want to sacrifice anything and everything in order to get that something more, whatever the fuck it happens to be. Wherever the fuck it can be found.
We all feel lonely, alienated. We feel as if nobody understands us. As if we have no-one to turn to.
“But we understand each other, don’t we?” Avalon’s voice is low and confident and kind. “We know how it feels to be each other. And we can help each other.”
“That’s right,” Clara breathes, “we have each other.”
“It feels like we’re a family, all of us together here.” Ashlee has a warm note in her voice. And a bewildered note. As if she’s experiencing something incomprehensible, inexpressible, magnificent for the first time. Though I am too. Though I think most of us are, if not all of us.
“That’s right. We are a family.” Nora’s voice is smiling. She’s right. The camaraderie that I feel here, the intimacy, the tenderness, the belonging, it’s like nothing I have felt before. I feel as if I am a part of all the girls around me and they are a part of me. I feel like we owe each other, and we can relax around each other. I feel like life finally has something good in it.
“We should keep in contact after this whole thing is over. We should share each other’s addresses.” Chin is pragmatic.
“Yes,” Ishani agrees. “And we have to help each other not get brainwashed by this facility. They’re obviously trying to indoctrinate us.”
“I thought that these last few days were fun,” Nocta’s voice is drenched in piercing anxiety, “but thinking back on them with open eyes, with a clear mind, they feel so hollow.”
We all voice our agreements with her in a messy chorus.
“We should meet up here each night,” Delores suggests, “and talk about our pasts and our futures. Help each other to remember.”
We also all agree with Delores. That’s an amazing plan. Maybe, together, if we all help each other, we can all get through this. And we can get through whatever comes after.
“But why was it so easy for them to brainwash us in the first place?” Bik asks.
“Because,” Valentina answers, “they literally washed our brains. Remember when they drilled that needle through our skulls? That must have done something to stop the natural flow of our minds.”
Damn. She’s so right.
If you like this piece check out my Twitter my handle is @FSairuv and I post about human rights, social justice, and the environment.
There was a void in the space of the existence. And on one side of the void, there was a great, bright heat. Like the summer sun. On the other side of the void was a great, cold darkness. Like a winter night. The bright heat and the cold darkness reached out. And in the middle, they crashed against each other. They swirled and mingled.
But it wasn’t truly bright heat. And it wasn’t truly dark darkness. They did not truly have light or darkness or heat or cold in the way that we experience those forces. These two opposite forces in actuality were both love. They were love in its different facets and aspects.
And there in the middle of the void, where they met, they formed a being full of life and love and perfection. This being was Puri, the Great God, the greatest god that there was. Puri had all the genders that exist, all together at once. Puri was also love. Love given a mind and a heart. And with Their mind and heart They loved all Their children. For Puri was the Parent of all Their children.
Nature was part of Puri. The mountains and valleys. The rivers and streams. The oceans and deserts. The forests and fields. The plains and hills. The tropics and tundras. The caves and cliff-sides. It was all part of Puri. It was all alive with the spark of life. It was all alive with the spark of love. And it was all Puri.
From the waters that came forth from Puri there came the first people. These were the Yemars. The Yemars were a wild people. They were closely connected to the rivers and the rain and the clouds and the sky. They were closely connected to the earth and the rocks and the woods and the grasses and the leaves. They were closely connected to the ice and the snow and the heat and the fire. They were one with nature. And they lived amongst nature. Free. Wild.
Each Yemar had a different aspect of nature that they came to embody, that came to define them. Some Yemars were one with different animals. Some were one with different elements. Some were one with different geographic features. Some were one with different seasons. Some were one with different plants. And so on. There was also a specific subset of Yemars called the Tzimars. They were divided into two groups. The Tzimars of light and the Tzimars of darkness, both being equal and balancing the Yemarian society.
The world was run by love. There was no greed. No lust for power. No apathy. No exploitation. No hurt. And nobody took anything more than they absolutely needed. Everyone shared everything. Everyone respected their Parent, Puri. Everyone was different, and everyone was the same, and everyone was one.
Everyone was a part of nature, a part of love, and a part of Puri.
But such peace was not meant to last.
Through the fields and forests of Puri roamed a great yak. A yak that held great meaning and great power within herself. A yak that would bring the terrible future of all beings. Her name meant fate. Her name meant world-destroyer. The Yak too was a child of Puri. And the yak was not a bad being herself. But she gave birth to all kinds of beings. Some of these beings were good beings that got adopted by the Yemars. But three of these beings would go on to change the world. Change it for the worse.
Karkion was the first of a new type of being. This type of being was not one with nature. This type of being was called an Uzra. There were three Uzras at first. Karkion, and his two brothers Hali and Moni.
They rose from their slumber and looked around at the world that Puri was. And they had deep hatred in their hearts for it. And they had deep greed in their hearts as well. They vowed to kill the Great God so that they could take over Their lands and Their children.
And so Karkion forged for himself a great long sword made of seething hatred and unending, hardened greed. With this sword he plunged down into the very heart of Puri. And from Their heart came a great flow of blood. The blood bled out over all the lands and because Puri was bleeding all the Yemars died.
But there were a tiny few Yemars that survived. They were able to hold onto branches and trees that were afloat in the bleeding. They were able to pull each other out of the tides and help each other hold on until the end of the flood.
After the flood there were only a few Yemars left. And they were mourning. They were mourning their families and friends and community who had died. They were mourning the people they had lost. They were the only survivors left after a great and horrific absolute devastation.
The Yemars vowed to rebuild. They vowed that their people would survive until the day that they could finally thrive. They vowed to be good ancestors to the many descendants who would come after them.
And they were mourning Puri.
Because Puri was now dead. Nature was now dead. But still, some parts of nature survived. Puri survived. Puri was dead but They also survived. They could still continue guiding the people.
The three brothers took the dead body of Puri, who was also still alive, and they shaped the dead flesh into what they wanted it to be. They made the world what they wanted it to be. They made a dead world in which they could live and build their empires.
They also conquered the remaining Yemars. They trod the Yemars down under their boots, and made them subjugated and servile to the Uzras. Because of them, the Yemars were fettered. They had to face great grief and much death. They had to serve the Uzras.
The Uzras built for themselves Uzra men and Uzra women. This was to be the new race that would dominate. Karkion married a wise and strong Uzra lady named Geyna. And together they had many children.
But Geyna was not the only woman Karkion bedded. He routinely went out to the Yemarian women and made them lay with him. And with these women he had many Uzra sons. One day he was with a Yemarian woman named Olaia. And with her he had a daughter.
But this is a story for another time.
Karkion and his brothers built a large path that could take the Uzras wherever they needed to be. On this path they enchanted a great many magics that prevented Yemars from using it. They entrusted Ryan to guard this path and to look over all the world and see everything that was in it. So he did and he reported all the truths to the king of the Uzras. And he told them the truths they wanted to hear. He did not tell them the truths that they didn’t.
What he didn’t know though was that the Yemars had a way of slipping under his omnipresent gaze. They could do things he could not see.
One day a Yemarian woman named Gylla was brought in chains to the palace of the Uzras. She had been defiant against them and had resisted them. And therefore the Uzras were set to destroy her.
They pinned her down to a post in the centre of the palace. And they set her rough worn dress on fire. Her dress burned and her hair burned and her flesh burned. But her body was not consumed. She burned and she burned but she just stood there. Tall. Unwavering. Alive. Smiling through immense pain. Laughing through her screams.
Eventually this fire died out and her clothes were burned to ashes around her feet. But there she stood with rage and defiance and strength in her eyes. And love. Love for her people. Dark skin almost glowing and entirely unscathed.
The Uzras were enraged. They pierced her through with many many spears. And she screamed. But she took each of the spears in both her hands. And she pulled them out. And there she stood, unpierced and unbowed and whole.
The Uzras then put her in a mound of dead branches. They tied her down and lit the dead branches. And they burned and they burned and they burned away. And from within them she screamed. But when the fire died, there she stood, cool and calm and collected.
One last time they tried burning her. With straw tied all around her body. The straw burned but she did not.
She told the Uzras that they could never kill her. And they backed away from her, scared. Gylla walked away from the hall of the Uzras in strong, sure strides. But before leaving out the door, she turned her head back and told them that there would be a war one day. And they would lose.
And so the Uzras were terrified. But Geyna went out among them and assured them that there could be no war that the Uzras would lose. The Uzras were the strongest and most powerful of them all. And they could even kill the Great God Puri. And if they could kill Them, then surely their power was uncontestable.
They did not know that Puri still lived, though They were dead.
And so they continued to rule the world with their violence and their greed. And Yemars were killed and captured. But the Yemars told each other secrets and whispered each other truths. The Yemars were one and nothing could break them.
If you like this piece check out my Twitter my handle is @FSairuv and I post about human rights, social justice, and the environment.
Yes, yes this is largely influenced by Norse Mythology. No, no this is not Norse Mythology. It really is not. It’s only based on Norse Mythology. It’s only based on Norse Mythology in the same way The Bifrost Incident or Marvel is based on Norse Mythology. In other words, it’s a complete bastardization.
It’s kind of just a religion I created myself. Kind of. I had some help. This is based just as much on fanfictions of Norse Mythology as it is on Norse Mythology. Some things I straight up pulled out of my heart.
This is not an accurate representation at all of Heathen religions and should not be taken as such. This is not meant to be a depiction of Heathen and Norse-Pagan based religions any more than Supernatural is meant to be a depiction of Christianity.
Norse Paganism and Heathenry are good and valid belief systems and you should do actual research (not this fictionalized story) before judging them. No disrespect to Heathens and Norse Pagans, they’re often great people and their religion is beautiful. If you want to learn about their religions, or about Norse Mythology itself, please do real actual research. This story does not even come close to counting as real actual research.
I have numerous fanfiction authors to thank for many of the stories in this book. I can’t keep track of all the fanfic authors I have to thank for providing me stories but thank you to them all nonetheless.
The Green Place is so green. It's so free. It's so wild. It's more wild than I ever imagined was possible. And it's beautiful.
The Green Place is a place filled with love. Filled with so much love. Filled with more love than I even know what to do with. It's a place where love rules all. And all I have to do is drown in it.
It's a place where all those who suffered from not having enough love in their lives are filled. Where all the people who suffered are given love, given freedom, given belonging, given joy.
But the living world these days is like that too. It's a place where people come together. Where love rules all. Where the all injustices are righted and all people are taken care of.
I didn't live to see the end of the war. Ari didn't either. I died after he did but we're together again now. Along with Elsa and Colton and all the many comrades who died in the war.
But the war did end. And we won. The whole world was free. Veritas was everywhere. So much so that Veritas wasn't even a place anymore. Now it's just a system of values.
The synths are free. Their descendants are free. There are no owners anymore. Everyone is freeborn.
And everyone is equal.
If you like this piece check out my Twitter my handle is @FSairuv and I post about human rights, social justice, and the environment.