A Visitation

by Chloe Seim

It started with just the one. Skirting continents with a flick of its wrist, it arrived in a prairie of smooth brome grass in a summer that had cooked the ground so thoroughly it was edging to take flame. The rumor was that it hadn’t even made contact with the blades before it set the whole prairie, the entire landscape surrounding our city, ablaze. 

Anger is what it must have felt. Hatred and resentment. Retribution is what it intended. 

For how long had the indigene lived in the South? Centuries nearing a millennium. Most of us had never seen them before; not alive and not in front of us. 

Their home was sectioned off from the rest of the land, bordered not so much by a wall of fire as a wall of pure energy, Dianima, that breathed and writhed and whipped out onto unsuspecting organisms that came too close. It obscured all beyond it, a partition of ash and violet lightning and a film of precipitation that dampened your whole body if you got close enough. It was a water that only clung to the living. Channels in the form of rippling water had been etched into the earth surrounding the wall over the centuries. That earth was white, blanched by the Dianima. 

I don’t think it’s fair to call ourselves colonists. In the beginning, we hadn’t come to invade, but to escape. Already inhabiting the margins of our original home, a world which in some ways mirrored this one but instead was populated by humans and the first of our race, we only saw fit to cross the seam and make a better home for ourselves. We had made ourselves to blend in, but I don’t believe we ever felt at peace amongst the humans. We were too different constitutionally, culturally, ethically. 

How could we anticipate the repercussions? 

In this world, the world once occupied by the indigene, we grew stronger. We thrived for that near-a-millennium. We built our own nations and carved away the remnants of our belittled existence in the human world. The memory of the indigene was etched into an unsubstantiated myth in our histories and educations. We believed that even if they had existed, they had gone extinct in that unreachable and tumultuous place long ago. 


It started with just the one. Others came, after the fire subsided. 

Before that, we were a city of smoke. Our water and food tasted of smoke, our streets, windows, rooftops, and countertops dulled to gray. The ash always found its way inside. 

We used all our own Dianima to filter out the toxins, to prevent death by suffocation. 

What we didn’t expect, as more came, was their likeness to ourselves. Their skin was more unruly, colored in dirtied fuchsias, teals, and chartreuse, roughed in patches like engorged calluses, akin to scales but without the sheen. What differed most was their posture, a curving of the spine and shoulders that, for those daring to look long enough, could summon vomit from the sturdiest of stomachs. 

I was fortunate in that I was childless and single. 

When the other indigene came, not quite an army but a visitation of curious, angered, virile tourists who had had enough of their confined spaces, of their cordoned-off existence, they took liberties with our city and then the rest of the world. They roamed through the streets, the libraries, and the homes of many. In the night, they stole beds from grown men and food from the hungry; some ate household Hu whole and then regurgitated bones and fur on the kitchen floor. 

They did kill some of us. They were not quick deaths or clean deaths. 

On their last night in the city, they took the children. We could only assume they had stolen them back to their section of the world. For two days we traveled to the southern reach. Standing at the barrier, removed a distance suitable to prevent injury, we looked on into an unfamiliar land, visible only in patches free of distortion for a second. 

We never did cross the wall. 


The children returned two years later. Physically they appeared unchanged, only a little older. Most were quiet for a while. Others never spoke again. Some wandered into the ever-charred prairie outside the city and never came back. 

Some time later, I gave birth to a daughter. Her eyes were green when mine and my partner’s were black. She grew as a child grows and she played as a child plays. She was beautiful when my partner and I were plain, and I loved her like I suppose mothers do. We taught her to harvest her Dianima, to put it to the right uses and to never abuse it. Something old and sacred lived inside her as it lived in us. She seemed to absorb these teachings. 

She was a good daughter. 


One night in a late summer in her twelfth year, she climbed out of her bed and down the stairs of our apartment building and stood barefoot, the soles of her feet blistering from the lingering heat of the ground. I watched her from my window. Lifting her palms to the painted wood of our home, stopping just before she made contact, she set the building aflame. Curling violet and amber flames crawled up to my window. They made my eyes water. Their movements reflected in her eyes, which were only half-open as she gazed up at her work. Breathing deep the smoke and ash, I returned to bed and lay still in the coming light.

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