This is a section from a larger piece entitled, ‘The Age of Viaphin’ where our protagonist, Corrie lives in a world where the immortal Kolossian and mortal Viaphinian do not live harmoniously. With the threat of the world's first soul death rising amongst Kolossians despite there being more Viaphinians than ever, someone must discover their hidden secret to civilization before it’s too late. The question is, who?
Tuesday 15th January
The committee for Science and Devised Matter are investigating the world’s first Kolossi soul death after a man aged 31 sadly faded out at approximately 18:00 yesterday evening. His family have requested that their privacy is respected at this time.
Monday 14th January
Silent and alone; there is always tranquillity before the tempest.
She snuck into the conference room and slid into a booth that was out of sight of the door. Her father’s technological illiteracy meant that he probably hadn’t even noticed that all the cameras were disabled.
Out of the far window, she noticed a family playing in the snow - their complexion a golden hue - a far cry from her aryan features. They had to be Viaphinians. She’d spent weeks with her ear pressed against her bedroom wall, picking up the odds and ends of her father blabbering on the phone to her step-mother, Eliza.
‘We’re the immortal ones: why are we dying? While they’re wandering around, parading themselves in that stifling land of theirs. And now in our territory?’
Parading themselves? Corrie knew that more Viaphinians were crossing the border, but what was the harm in that?
‘Hey! Up here,’ Corried called from out the window, but the family had begun to walk away.
The murmur of hushed voices grew louder.
‘If Dr Lanister thinks I’m crossing the border just because that Eliza tells him so, then he can think again,’ said a twee man with perfectly aligned features similar to those of an elf’s in accented Kollossian.
‘There’s no way he’ll get any of us on side while she’s around.’
‘Yes, I think you’re right, but she’s his boss. I think he’ll have to wait until his daughter is a little older,’ the other man said with a contemptuous giggle.
‘She’ll have no choice.’ His daughter? They must be talking about my dad! She tilted her head, desperately trying to piece together the missing ends of their conversation, failing to notice the door opening until she felt an unwelcome hand placed upon her shoulder.
‘You shouldn’t be in here Miss. You need to leave,’ said the man with the accent, waving her out the room. She leapt off the seat and made a run for the door.
‘I thought this was a Maximum Security facility? Does this include disobedient children as well?’ Said the man next to him clutching a clipboard. His colleague frowned.
‘Wait, aren’t you Dr Lanister’s daughter?’ She tried to open the door, but he blocked her path, the colour draining from her cheeks.
‘He can’t know I was here,’ she stuttered.
‘...The building’s crawling with cameras so he probably already does and…’ said the man with the accent. She took a step forward.
‘He can’t know I was here! If you don’t let me out of now, you can say goodbye to whatever it is he’s got you doing here. I’ll make sure of that.’ The man with the clipboard gave a disconcerting glance.
‘This is way above my pay grade,’ and so, they let her pass.
Two Years Later
There was no first-class travel where she was heading so she made the trek to Viaphin on foot. The air smelt deliciously of lemons, nothing like where she was from; her world was full of the rise and fall of afluentes pontificating. She thought about the speech Eliza gave to her before she left.
‘Corrie, I’ve tasked you to discover the Southerner's secret. Why are they surviving when our immortal souls are dying? I know you’re scared, but don’t worry- you’ll get along with the free folk- you're just like them. ’ But there she was, three moons away from home, all because Eliza needed something, and what Eliza wanted, she got. Some, (including her father), pretended to admire her, but most feared her. Her father’s hatred for the Viaphinian farmers stemmed after her mother died, with his promotion to the head of operations at the Committee for Science and Devised Matter shortly after. He was hell bent on deciphering how a civilization with so little could be so happy. He used to say
‘My Corrie, the kindred spirit, just like your mother. Sometimes, I think she was secretly one of them.’
The Viaphin capital was eerily quiet as she crossed the border, if you can call it a capital; it was nothing like Kolossi country. There were trees that sprouted blue and pink fluff from their branches hung low. She’d read about them somewhere, apparently they were edible, but after years of their anti-Southerner propaganda, she thought better of it than to eat them. There was also a make-shift stall selling oranges, bananas and coconuts along with various other fruits, but not a soul was there to man it. Corrie took a bite from an apple, noticing a wasp fly off. As the day gently shifted into night, Corrie ventured across the rolling plains of Viaphin, following the map just as Eliza had instructed.
‘Now, once you cross the border and make your way through the greenlands, you must turn right at the blue hill and go straight to the lion’s keep.’ It would help if I could actually see the blue hill.
‘I bet you wish you remembered a torch now, huh?’ Said an ebullient voice from a distance. Corrie looked around but saw nothing.
‘Can’t you hear me? Are you deaf, woman?’ The voice said. Startled, she spun around.
‘Who’s there? Come on, show yourself.’
‘But, I’m here,’ the voice continued. Shortly followed by the sound of something whizzing past, nipping her ear.
‘Where, I can’t see you?’ she said, noticing something crawling down her neck and onto her shoulder. Her hand moved to flick the creature off…
‘Wait...sssss….stop. I know your secret, I can help.’ She let out a laugh that was a little too hearty.
‘Sure you can, you are a wasp and everything. I must be going mad!’ She brushed the creature off and began fiddling with her map.
Owls hooted and bats flashed past, but still she did not turn back. What was this place? When Eliza said Viaphinians were at one with nature, she wasn’t quite expecting to be pestered by talking insects.
‘Look, I know why Eliza sent you. I know what you’re looking for,’ said the voice, sounding a little more shrill this time. Corrie cursed the air.
‘Who are you? Who sent you? Was it Eliza? I bet it was...when I go back I’m going to find her and…’ The wasp jumped from one finger to another.
‘Yes, yes, okay, it was Eliza….b.b.but you can’t tell her. She was the one who did this to me, and if she finds out I told you...well…she’ll turn my brains into minced meat and then she’ll…’
‘Jesus! Okay, okay so, how do I know that I can trust you?’ She said,
‘As you can imagine, you’re not the only one with their ‘neck’ on the line here.’ They were silent for a while, Corrie wandering around, deep in thought with the wasp hovering above her.
‘I know about the CIPA codes...and I know where to find them,’ the voice said finally.. Those two words reverberated in her mind like an uproarious alarm. She’d never heard her father so much as utter those words without shivering.
‘Shh...you can’t say those words here! Not now. Not ever.’ As the sun rose, they approached the infamous hill, but it was worlds apart from the barran, desolate plains of Viaphin. The royal blue of the grass had a waxy quality, as though it had been coloured in with crayon. The heat made Corrie restless.
‘So, where next? I thought you were supposed to be helping me?’
‘Oh yes, because I have the capabilities to hold a map with my long, slender arms and all,’ the wasp said playfully.
‘You little...’ She paused, violently shaking the contents of her bag. The wasp flew off into the distance.
‘This was your plan all along,’ Corrie said, calling after it.
She heard a booming voice from a distance, heavy in truculence.
‘No one can find those codes, Corrie. You know that.’ The glorious blue of the sky had now transcended into a menacing red.
‘Who are you? W..what do you want?’ Corrie began to tremble.Clouds merged together in mass of charcoal grey and pink like spilt paint. The ground beneath her began to upsurge and shake, making way for purple rocks which thumped and tumbled.
‘If you turn back now, no one needs to get hurt,’ he said.
‘No one needs to get hurt? What are you hiding?’ she said, adopting a brave equanimity. A bolt of lightning flashed through the sky.
‘You Kolossi folk have chewed us up and spat us back out like we’re nothing. Why should we help you?’
‘Please…. Whoever you are, I’m not like them.’
‘Oh yeah, and why is that?’ The sky faded into a blood orange as he spoke.
‘My mother...she was a Southerner.’ This wasn’t a complete lie, but she didn’t know for certain.
‘So, why are you stealing from one of your own? Traitor!’ He spat back, throwing a rock in her direction.
‘Please! This isn’t just about you or me or about Kolossian self obsession,’ she lunged out of the way of an incoming boulder.
‘My people- the immortals- they’re dying.’ He breathed deeply, articulating his words carefully.
‘So, what’s in it for us? It doesn’t affect us if you die. It just means that we’ll finally be free!’
‘Ahh...that’s where you’re wrong. Think about it, you might be farmers but who supplies your equipment? Who buys your produce? You’d be nothing without us.’’ She was laughing now. The sky darkened as he came hurtling towards her.
‘How dare you speak to me that way. What do you know?’ Corrie remained where she was which surprised even herself.
‘That’s exactly it, friend. I do know.’ And with that she shoved him as hard as she could and ran off into the distance where she saw a rainbow forming. Now onto the lions keep.
As night fell, she thought of her father and Eliza, the only two people who were supposed to protect her. She thought of the wasp, and how they said they knew Eliza. Were they bluffing? Or was it really a trap? Either way, she hadn’t come this far to worry about that now. She approached a small, dilapidated hut. As she went inside, the musk of old candle wax wafted around the room, but to her surprise, there was nothing there. This can’t be it. But, as she made her way to leave she noticed a small painting propped against a far wall. Bingo.
‘So, you made it,’ she’d recognise that voice from anywhere. It was him.
‘I told you, you’re not getting out of this alive.’ ’And I told you, this isn’t just about you.’
‘You ponsey Northerners know nothing! Now, just give it to me.’
‘You’re going to have to fight me first.’ With that, Corrie summoned a power she never knew she had. She punched him hard in the gut and he fell backwards.
‘I wouldn’t waste your energy, kid. Just you wait.’, his voice wavering as she kicked him again.
‘You’re just making this too easy.’ She eyed the painting that was still in the corner behind him.
‘How about now?’ he said, raising his fist preparing to fire a bolt of lightning in her direction, but oddly, nothing happened. He stared at her in astonishment.
‘You really are one of us, aren’t you?’ he said, before passing out in complete exhaustion.
She climbed over his body and carefully picked up the painting. It was of women in wrappers sitting around a campfire, their children asleep on their laps, their faces golden from the reflection of its burning embers. There was a small section of text in the left corner of the painting, some of it had faded. However, there was a poem which read:
“The answers that you seek, are in the treasures that we keep here in this sacred land,
the secret to our civilisation is not your creation,
but in the benevolence of the fellow man,
you looked down on our immortality and laughed at our simplicity from your ivory tower,
but what you failed to realise is that mother earth has all seeing eyes,
she gives to those who perpetuate eternal power.”She pondered over the words for a long time before striking up a match and watching the artwork burn, it’s embers dancing around the room like fireflies being set free from a jar. She knew what it all meant now. The mortals weren’t the savages, they loved their planet- basking in her fruits and then feeding her when they died. The inevitability of death was a price she was happy to pay. Who wants to live forever anyway? The free folk had a zest for life, and oh how sweet it tasted. The man awoke, gasping for air as Corrie dragged him out the door and then followed the signs to the next village, she wasn’t going back. These were her people, home, at last.
Congrats, you've uncovered my (not so) secret stories. I'm Alice, a partially sighted writer passionate about depicting worlds that reach beyond what my eyes fail to see.