Oblivion, Chapter 5
In which Elysia meets the scientist.
Quick recap: Elysia awoke on a beautiful island with no recollection of her past and a painting of the Birth of Venus held beneath her arm. Now she’s about to meet the scientist…composed a beautiful musical score for this chapter. I hope you enjoy this meditation as you read.
In the afternoon, we pulled our canoe onto the sands of a nearby isle to face a forest of bamboo.
Taka led me to a path, a ribbon of white sand that wandered between the trees, just as a gentle rain began to patter against the leaves. No drop touched us—we only heard them twinkling about the canopy far above. Then the birds began to chirp and their voices echoed against the trees like singing bowls.
Soon we came upon a ruin, an ancient monastery now sleeping beneath a blanket of bamboo. Purple trees grew through open rooftops, flowers grew up walls, and vines curled through open windows. A forgotten staircase climbed into the trees and a sunken pool lazed against its feet. For a moment I wondered whether there wasn’t a tiger swimming in the pool.
“Wow,” I whispered.
I became so entranced by the monastery I almost didn’t see what we were climbing toward until it was right before us. Carved into the cliff top was a newer monastery built into the old one. Inside, open windows poured light across the paneled floor and I could see the whole world sprawled out before us—an unfathomable ocean washed by the sun now setting behind it.
Transposed against the view, a young woman was making tea. She wore a blue silk kimono and had pretty pink cheeks, her soft black bob curling around her face in a frame of happiness. She almost leapt when she saw us.
“Taka!” she said joyfully, “And you must be Elysia,”
“Elysia, meet my sister Sanyu,” Taka said with a bow.
We ate dinner on the floor, reclining upon cushions as the warm air comforted us. We drank warm sake as we meandered through conversation—the details of their lives revealed as we spoke, subtle hints at who they both were drifting to the surface. I knew they hoped I would reveal something of my own life, but I had no past to contribute, only that moment to breathe in.
“Wao studies the land, I study the sea,” Sanyu was saying. “The kelp forests supply a good deal of our world’s oxygen needs, not to mention provide a renewable food and fuel source. And we have learned so much from the animals that live among the kelp.”
“She’s being modest,” her brother countered, “Sanyu and Wao are the keepers of thousands of years of plant knowledge. Their research into the immortality of jellyfish and coral has extended the human lifespan into the hundreds of years and their genetic modification of plants has established an infinite pharmacopeia of medicines.”
“We only continue the research of our ancestors,” she said. “Though it is incredible what we have learned about living things, and how they can be modified to miraculous effect. Thanks to thousands of years of knowledge we now live in a world where no illness remains. And yet, my brother would rather preoccupy himself with the past and the cities that lie beneath the sea.”
“Yes, what was that place?” I asked.
“It was a temple before it was destroyed,” he answered. “It’s strange to me that humans once revered such things. And yet, I suppose it’s strange that we exist at all. One day we will be swallowed up by the sky, another planet with no proof that there once existed upon it something as sparkling and strange as life—and life with the understanding that we have life. How very strange it all is indeed.”
“My brother the philosopher,” Sanyu said with a smile. “Taka finds it odd that I would concern myself with perfecting humanity, when humanity nearly ruined itself once before, and will one day cease to exist by the sheer will of nature. But we still have so much life to live until then. We still have so many years to enjoy!”
“And yet,” he smiled, “one day we’ll be nothing more than a speck of dust in the universe.”
At night, the moon crept above us and we tiptoed down the stairs to the pool. Stripping off our kimonos we bathed in the warm waters, soaking up the moonlight as we looked out into the dense jungle before us. The stars seemed to settle amidst the bamboo with an otherworldly glow and my soul settled with the feeling that life was never quite as good as this before.
“Was that a tiger here earlier?” I asked.
“Yes,” they both answered.
“It’s so beautiful.”
“We’re lucky, really, that humanity saw fit to ruin themselves,” Taka said with a sigh. “For it gave the earth a chance to heal.”
Oblivion is a utopian novel and a collection of essays imagining a more beautiful future. Join us? ✨