Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
We didn’t even burn him. My torchlight flickers against the lake’s surface and by it we watch Pyrus’s body break ripples across his liquid graveyard. We see no resurrection, no pale blast bloom from his chest, just fracturing firelight. The fucker finally died.
According to the Sinker, the water is otherwise calm tonight. I say water, but I’d be damned to say it is water. Our city’s engineers have employed it for power supply. They hinge on the idea that water conducts electricity well, inventing a power source which turns small energy outputs into larger energy outputs as they travel through a medium. However, the lake would just evaporate if high-voltage electric currents were constantly pulsing through it. Thus, the engineers have added a buffer which acts as a heat-shield against the electricity. This buffer-reaction renders the solution canvas-white. The water is yet to be examined for life. Pyrus sinks into the electricity.
I imagine this pallid place to be both the Sinker’s home and companion, so I don’t doubt what he says. He’s a fascinating fellow. Lanky and slightly hunched he manages a solid 6.0ft tall. He says little and is rather quiet when he speaks. Also, this being our first meet, an important physical peculiarity was revealed as my torchlight illuminated the excruciating scars carved deep into the Sinker’s face. At first, I speak nothing of them.
However, my silence is overwhelmed by curiosity as he guides us back to the shore. “Did Pyrus do that to you?” The Sinker stops rowing, stretching tension between us like a bullwhip. Our canoe continues to glide over the water. Silence looms again. “Did I offend you? I didn’t mean—”
“If you ask me another question,” he pauses, inhales, “I will lift my head so you can look me in the eyes as we speak.” Euphemistic, but it’s a threat nonetheless. I do not want to end up like Pyrus. He repositions his hands on the paddle and begins rowing again.
I’ve found that those avoiding a yes or no question often imply one of the two. I muster some confidence with a slightly softer tone. “Please—forgive my curiosity. But I’m sure you understand why you and I are here in the first place,” I reason, making sure not to ask questions, “Pyrus has afflicted us all. I mean only to find relatable history between us. I’m trying to understand you, where you’ve been, why you left.”
“Pyrus is but our only similar history. It is said. Now stop.”
I reluctantly abide. He guides us to the shore and urges my exit. I know not to look into his eyes, but find myself searching for them in the pitch of dark beneath his hood as I step onto the sand. I wait for words, something to break the anxious air manifested by his rigidity, but instead I watch him row back into the belly of Lake Snow. During these small hours of the night, he and I seem to remain the only villagers with any control over ourselves. The rest are asleep, and do not wake until woken.
A time ago that only the Sinker might remember, this town began experiencing concentrations of energy which have rapidly mutated the population, completely submerging each affected into his or her greatest passion. It is the only subject on our minds, our only motivation. In order to consume food, we must be drained to the point of pain.
Everything before this point, which we call Point Delta, seems existent but unreachable, like the Andromeda Galaxy. For some of us, Point Delta has been God’s greatest gift, an honor and something certainly worth fighting for. For many though, Delta has culminated ruinous displays of passion, madness as human brutality’s extreme. After the mutation spread, this city dismantled itself amidst superhuman warfare. It wasn’t that people wanted a war, it was the fear of security that broke a potential for peace. During combat, survival became circumstantial, just right place right time.
However, not everybody had the fire for divine warfare. About 68% of the survivors were people hidden in sewer drains during the fight: followers. No passion led to a retroactive mutation, blunting what was already dull. The other 32% were effectively considered superior and have since tried to guide the city up from the ground.
Not soon after this Genesis War ended, one of the veterans grew tragically ill. Until I tonight, nobody knew how it had happened. But also, nobody truly knew how Point Delta affected him, the Sinker. He told the city that anybody who looked at his eyes would die an unimaginably painful death. Thus, this man always wore dark eyeglasses, and nobody was mad enough to test his claim. We figured: he’s alive still, he got through the Genesis War, so he must be powerful. However, one day he was found unresponsive in his restroom. Thereafter, being bound to a bed, he laid utterly dumbfounded for countless sunrises. Our medic provided all necessary basic needs, but he was dead by social standards. Then one day, some sudden seize of memory or vision encased the man in a horrific fit and he escaped into the lake, after which nobody but me remained interested in his discovery.
For many sunrises I have documented various anomalies found at this lake, including a wooden stake stuck in the middle of a circle and circumventing this circle were the numbers one to twelve. I recognized the design to be a makeshift time-keep but could not seem to remember how to use it. After asking a series of people if they understood the tool, to which all said no, I deduced this man to be the only one able to keep track of our Circadian rhythm. Also at this lake, or at the shoreline rather, was a row-boat and an anchor. This would not be strange if the water were normal, but it is in fact seizing with electricity. One tip of the boat would send its occupants into an electrifying death, much like Pyrus. In other words, this man is very peculiar. The only written word I’ve located with respect to his belongings is a label poorly carved into the rust of his anchor which wrote, “Thu Singkr.”
A rather unbelievable woman from the war is Ivory. Now the city’s gardener and entire food industry, Ivory has constructed about 50 skyscraping soil pillars netted in willow-root microfibers strong enough to haul a freight train. She plants hundreds of various seeds within these pillars, positions herself on top of her house, and then golden streams of Sun-energy burst from her body and quickly drive themselves into the ground. Pulsing with the heartbeat of a giant, these beams project photons powerful enough to pulverize diamond. But instead of damage, Ivory concentrates the energy into conducting a rapid photosynthesis. For a short period, nobody can see but she, and everybody can feel the warmth. Light waves soon elongate back into the visible spectrum, and sprouts on every tower have quadrupled in size, sweet and savory fumes coat the city, and the succulent vegetation reaches a perfect ripeness.
This afternoon she will finish harvesting which means today the village throws a festival. I believe this will mark the second one.
The sun is just rising as I enter my home. Ivory lives in the same house that I do. So, perhaps we were an item before Point Delta, but now romance seems like it would distract someone too easily—that, or not be important enough to find focus for; it’s difficult to concentrate on more than my Delta-gift. Naturally she focuses entirely on growth, a lively woman, and provides quite the food for thought during conversation. I talk with her as she organizes herbs.
“Well?” She smirks when she talks, and uses eyebrow-inclusive facial expressions which I can’t help from smiling at.
I look up at her. “It was not nearly as productive as I had hoped,” I start, “For some reason he can refuse my questions. And that sonofabitch definitely lied about his ability. He doesn’t kill people, he deflates them, rids them of memory.
She laughs. “That blows.”
“It’s weird though. From what kind of passion would that stem?”
Braids of willow branches swing through the open windows and drop off like 20 pounds of freshly picked spices. Her seriousness sets in. “I can’t think of any passion where I would want others to forget their lives,” she pauses. “Politician?” That gets me to smirk. “Okay, no, I’m brilliant: a monk. Because what is forgetting who you are anyway? It’s forgetting who you think you are. And—“
“No, it rids them of memory, not sense of self.”
“Hm. How can you have sense of self without memory?”
“You probably can’t, but I think I could have memory without sense of self, like a computer.”
“Good point,” she concludes. Vines coating the house’s interior detach from the walls and begin separating the various spice leaves from their branches. “It’s also interesting that he could resist your questions,” her eyebrow furrows, “That part just doesn’t make sense.”
One of the best things about people is that so often they are instinctually on the right track. “How could it make sense?” I ask.
Her answer involuntary formulates. “Perhaps if the Sinker just didn’t know, like he had no memory himself. Oh! That’s it! He looked at himself!”
“That’s the idea I had at first too. But that’d mean he just randomly stepped right in front of the person trying to kill me, who also happened to be his attacker, and looked into his eyes by chance, unknowing Pyrus would lose his memory.”
“Fair point. Chances are pretty slim.” The spices are packaged into jars and then the braided willows enter again, restarting the process. “I really don’t know. You’re the one who asked the question. But you and I both see the gaps here, Leo. I’m not too far out. The Sinker could destroy this city with his eyes, but he hasn’t. He’s in hiding, so has secrets by definition. He seems to have some sort of memory intact and yet can avoid your questions. If you figure out how he grows, you’ll figure out how he fits. But you know that.” The house-vines bring me my shoes and coats, open the door, and then lift me outside.
The winters here cannot be normal. The air bites like a bear-trap, the sunlight provides as much warmth as a dishrag, and it takes five layers of thick cotton to feel like my blood isn’t actively coagulating. In fact, I’ve noted a cave on the north end of town wherein the temperatures are cold enough to culture stalagmites of carbon dioxide. We’d probably be nonexistent without Raven. Little to nobody goes outside before she heats up the environment. But I’m the only one amidst the sluggish air molecules this morning.
It’s so interesting that, while thermodynamics and fire go hand in hand, Raven and Pyrus starkly differ. Raven has fuller control over heat, but strangely can’t manipulate fire. Pyrus was possessed by the opposite. Understandably, Raven is drenched with worry over her brother’s absence, but if the roles were switched then Pyrus wouldn’t even notice, let alone care.
I start off towards her home on the south side of the city, where it used to look rich. Ivory’s pillars always bested the highest business building, but the wind’s velocity at the top might still might have been strong enough to blow me off the edge. Too many people to count, not enough people to crowd, smiling faces and families with dogs or whatever, I used to imagine it a luxurious place. But preaching platforms against the wealthy, Pyrus turned the spectacular emerald city into pebbles, metals, and soot. The Genesis War had already claimed responsibility for much of the city’s destruction, but he unilaterally ceased its reconstruction. Seventeen families were burnt to death, and during his rampage nobody could get within conversation-distance from him without thereafter scampering away, weeping with second or third-degree burns. Raven lives underground, beneath the flatlands of burnt carnage. The entrance remains 200 paces southeast from our melted Socrates sculpture.