by Nikolaj Volgushev

There is a tribe indigenous to a small island somewhere out in the Pacific. The children of the tribe look like they are made of bronze. Mostly they run around and swim out into the ocean, diving for seashells, recording the comings and goings of the tide on their waterproof video cameras.

They are skilled cameramen.

The men fish avidly, though with limited success because they don’t often use dynamite. Mostly, they go out on their fisher boats, made of fern and vines and Styrofoam, and spear sea creatures, tuna, mackerel, squid.

Sometimes they dive deeper and wrestle sharks, for sport.

The women frown upon the men and children; the women feel as though the men and children are holding them back; the women know that if it weren’t for the men and children, gates that are closed would be open. Gates to Ivy League schools, prestige government positions, the industry. By night, the women dream of engineering, by day they go out and collect fruit, berries, coconuts.

They do so to make up for the men’s fishing incompetence.

The children and men and women compose the tribe and are governed by an elder. The elder wears a conservative loin cloth, smokes Pall Malls, and carries a beautiful, phallic club made of mammoth bone.

He uses the club to deliver justice.

The island is shaped like a giant sea turtle, and it features expansive, breathtaking beaches. It is home to over fifty endangered species of mollusks.

Death is a special topic for the tribe. The children show keen interest. Whenever anything, or anyone, is dying, the children are there, pointing their video cameras, their bronze faces somber and speculative.

To continue adding material to their archives at an appropriate rate, the children take matters into their own hands at times. Longevity is not a problem around the island.

Once the dying and thus the filming concludes, the children compare their footage and obsess over the smallest of details. Here is a parrot dying, the cause being a skillfully tossed rock, see how the shadow of a feather twitches on the sand without the feather itself twitching, just before the parrot draws its last breath? Here is a man dying, the cause being justice delivered by the mammoth club of the elder, see how the essence of his soul solidifies into a little clump inside his left eye? Here is a woman dying, the cause being childbirth, see how life is a current flowing from one heavenly circuit to another?

The orphaned newborn will be brought up by the children, turned to bronze, provided a video camera at the age of two.

Perhaps the biggest event in the history of the tribe is the day the men go out on their fisher boats and catch a whale. The whale is enormous, the size of an airbus A330 without the wings, and the men wrestle with it all day and all night, driving their spears into its sides, until finally the heart is hit, and the giant begins sinking to the ground, like an asteroid floating through space.

It takes a whole other day to retrieve the bounty and bring it ashore. The children are beyond themselves, their cameras are all out of memory (See how the yellow moon reflects in the dark waves? See how the rough surface conceals the motion of a now inanimate object? See how the death of a thing is proportionate to the thing itself?), the women have feverish eyes, forgoing their dreams of engineering for a night, the elder is swinging his mammoth club in triumph, vowing to finally quit smoking, ripping off his loincloth and tossing it in the air.

The whale occupies a good portion of the island, almost being an island itself.

The tribe gathers around the whale’s carcass and celebrates all day and late into the night, setting the shore ablaze with bonfires. The palm trees retreat fearfully into their own shadows. The children and men and women of the tribe dance until every last one of them is spent, until there is nothing left to do but sink into the sand and let nothingness take over. They sleep on the shore, beside the slain giant.

That night, the tribe all has a dream that a cloud covers the moon and that, in its shadow, the whale lifts its tail and brings it down again, causing a terrible earthquake. The whale opens its eyes and its mouth and one after the other the tribe members, the children and men and women, enter the slippery cave, carrying torches, illuminating the black cavern that has never been illuminated before. The whale closes its mouth and slips into the ocean effortlessly.

The whale carries the tribe away from the island, through deep, uncertain waters towards a bright and distant future, towards the very center of the Earth.

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