In Isolation We Are All Parasites, p.1Pastoria Levior
The four digit code makes no noise.
In this emptiness, the grey skies lack the usual brontide, the shadow of the Seedbank, its breath held, refuses to whisper, and the soft grass, the buds that normally crunch beneath my feet, are dead. At first I am startled by the quiet, but I don’t have time to dwell on the emptiness, the isolation - the deliveries are due any moment.
As I enter the doorway a familiar, musky smell fills my nostrils. Concentration clears my mind and I quickly focus on the routine chores I am forced to do. Usually these jobs are done quickly – basic cleaning and such, yet lately I am finding myself taking longer, spending hours waxing the walls until they erode, spending days alone in the dim light, cataloguing and recording the seeds, until I know where everything is and which colour represents which species. Sometimes I forget to eat and sleep, as my days revolve around the preservation of the Seedbank.
We used to have other workers, people who maintained the great building for us. But they are all gone now. They have moved on.
The Seedbank is my life.
There are no windows, so I cannot check whether the deliveries are close. The clock hanging on the metallic wall grins at me. 9. They should have been here ages ago. I’m not completely concerned, however, as this is not the first time the helicopter has been late. Obviously a landmass such as Svalbard experiences awful weather phenomena and extreme temperatures, restricting access to the outer regions, such as my land. But it is worrying.
What if the deliveries do not arrive today? Can the Seedbank handle another dramatic setback? The world could end at any fucking moment. These seeds are vital, critical.
Where is it?
Why is it not here?
I turn, startled. The echo of the deep voice ripples beneath my feet. There is a warmth beneath my toes.
“Damn you Aster!” I reply, one hand against the wall, the other posed in an inappropriate position.
But there is no retaliation. No backchat. All there that lingers is emptiness, isolation. That deep tone of the Seedbank. I pause for just a second. And then I continue my work.
I endure my chores, humming the tune of an old song, waiting for the sound of helicopter wings and falling seeds. I check the fax machine. No explanation from the company in Barentsburg. No warning.
And then with my battered old ears, I hear a familiar sound. Scrambling from beneath the shelves, I knock over packets, sunflower seeds spilling onto the floor. I force the metal doorway open, the Seedbank groaning, and tumble into the harsh light hung and cold air between the clouds. I gaze upwards, expecting sound, a black shadow, and packets of seeds raining from the heavens. But there is nothing.
I am both angry and perplexed.
I bring my vision back to the ground floor, where between the terraces of which supports the Seedbank, the rest of the property lies. I pace forwards, watching the Amphitheatre and the Ark (Animal Rehabilitation Centre) appear at my left, and the house, our house, to the right. In the centre the vast field of which flowers tend to bloom is still.
But what made the noise? What was that booming sound?
And then I see them, parked to the rear of the house. Two cars. Two large black automobiles upon the blue pebble driveway. I choke back cussing. My fists tighten. How dare they startle me? How dare they interfere with my work?
And then I realise, maybe they are here from the company? Maybe they are here to deliver the seeds? My anger subsides, just a bit, but my fists remain clenched.
I haven’t seen a car in 13 years.
The winding trail withers into masses of fungi, which I follow down to the blue pebble driveway. Above me the thunder begins to rumble, and I brace myself, in preparation for another storm. Nobody has exited the car as of yet, but as I get closer I see the doorway of one swing open. The sound of boots against the gravel echoes, and a man steps forward. At first all I notice is his rustic black facial hair, tinged with grey, his dark eyes and the large papakha upon his head. He grins at me, the kind of grin that is not interpreted as joyful.
It is a nervous grin.
“Florin Natvig?” His voice is distinctly Russian. A gruff deep sound.
“Yes,” I rely quietly. “That is me. Are you from the company?”
He nods. “My name is Abram. I am from the branch of the company in Barentsburg. You probably would have seen me before - I am usually the one who operates the deliveries.”
My memory flashes and his face appears, from the window of the helicopter, from the side of the plane. His facial features are easily recognisable.
“Yes I have seen you before. Are you hear to deliver the seeds? Your incredibly late, you know? The Seedbank cannot handle any delay.” My arms fold against my chest. The heart beneath the flesh paces slowly.
My heart beat climbs. “Excuse me. What do you mean no?”
He chuckles nervously. “We are not here to deliver any embryonic plant seeds today. We are here, out of our free will, to inform of something you should probably have heard earlier.”
I stop. “Pardon?”
He takes a deep breath, and in his cold eyes he casts a look of worry, distraction. “Last week a volcanic eruption occurred in Iceland. The great mountain erupted in darkness, wiping out thousands of people. The ash that was released, is unknown to science. It is lightweight and volatile – it is easily carried by the wind. Unfortunately it is also incredibly toxic.” He pauses, eyes watering. “It wiped out many yesterday, on some smaller Arctic Islands. It is now on due course to Svalbard.”
I want to laugh and call him a liar, but I see pain in his eyes, and he does not look the kind of person who makes sickening humour.
“How many days?”
He frowns. “Three.”
There is a moment of silence before my anger begins to boil. “Why was I not informed earlier? If I had been, I don’t know, warned previously I could have organized to get off the fucking island. Why was I not informed?”
He shakes his head. “That is not the question you should be asking.” He sighs. “Would you have left? Would you have let all this go? You’re famous among all of Norway, as well as Svalbard. You’re the old musician alone in the wilderness, obsessed with a Seedbank and forlorn over the death of his wife. I’m asking you this Florin. Would you have left?”
I choke down sobs. “I... I don’t… No. I could never leave this place.” I twirl my body stiffly, raising my arms to my surroundings. “The Ark, the Amphitheatre, the Seedbank. It is part of our soul, our marriage. I could not let it all go.”
Satisfied, he nods. “I apologize for not warning you earlier, however, I only found out recently myself. The rest of the crew back at Barentsburg, they didn’t want to tell you. They thought it would be better if you never knew. My wife Helga and I, we were the only ones who wished to inform you, give you the opportunity to greet closure.” He turns and waves to the other car. A pretty woman half-smiles, half-frowns from the car window. “I must leave now. Helga and I want to cherish our final moments.”
“You’re not leaving the island?” I stutter.
He shakes his head. “We can’t. All the boats are gone. The helicopter cannot pass the treacherous seas. The plane is old and battered.” He hiccoughs. “Even if you had agreed to leave, you couldn’t. We are stuck here until death.”
I am holding back tears. “Thank you, my friend, I appreciate your consideration.”
He gives me one last smile, bows, before approaching his car and entering the vehicle. The wheels turn, dust
He turns towards his house, and he opens the door. But the only face that greets him is his own reflection, an old man with wrinkled skin, and the face of a snow white owl. The owl. The owl she left behind.
The desolation of the house is only accentuated by the falling rain. I dare not meet the owl’s eyes, for his monotone expression only makes me think of her eyes and of the cold. Outside the brontide has erupted, and like ash from a volcano, the rain has begun to fall. Darkness settles across the sky and the temperature forces the outside fields to wither in ice.
And in the distance, with my old and battered eyes, a flock of silvery ibises land in the empty field, not fazed by the extreme temperature and the looming of death. I worry for the Seedbank. My life. And I think of Aster.
Her eyes. Aquamarine like the scales of a Morelia Viridis.
And the owl.
Oh the fucking owl.
The girl turns to me and I catch her sly smile, her wicked and devious grin. She cusses at me, before hobbling forward on her crutches and sticking her finger into the air, flicking her hair with a singular movement.
I am overcome with rage, pouncing forward and throwing her to the floor. She screams, clawing and punching, back arched and arms constricted.
“How dare you speak to me like that?” I shout at her. “You slut. I have put up with your shit for long enough.” I raise her body before
In Isolation We Are All Parasites by Pastoria Levior / Science Fiction have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on33 votes