This story is part of our Summer Fiction Month 2020. Click here to view the stories featured this Fiction Month, as well as past fiction pieces.
Daniella Caracosa, The Star Child
The year is 1743. Daniella Caracosa smelled piss, rat shit, and some fine perfume throughout her quarters aboard the Mindful Miscreant. She swayed from side to side on the bed, contemplating how she emerged here, in this place, instead of in Cordoba. She was to be royalty! She imagined the regal weddings, the ballrooms, the dresses! It was all she could have wanted. But now, her husband-to-be has placed a bounty on her head, on account of her intentional celibacy Julian seems to enjoy his time with women as a single man, and…has played this trick on other women before. Daniella’s mistake was projecting that trick out into the open air, shaming Julian and subsequently being forced into exile by him. All these thoughts were swimming about in her head, quite tumultuous, when she heard a cry, and then an explosion. She saw flame out of the corner of her porthole window, and as she glanced out, grapeshot struck the vessel relentlessly, determined to kill all aboard. But not her. She heard the door slam, a scream, and some blood underneath the door slosh about. Then, the door was burst open by the Spanish Armada. She dashed to the window, pried it open, grinding nail against glass, and looked out. She saw a small chance, a rope, that could get her up to the top. She took it, jumping and grabbing onto it tightly, searing her hands with the rope rapidly scorching her skin. Climbing up to the top, she saw all but three men left. As she clambered up to the railing, only the ocean beneath her, she heard a familiar voice.
“Dani…” Julian De LeHoya clapped his way onto the center of the vessel. “The boat is sinking my dear. If you wish to live, come with me.” He puts out a hand to her, moving closer. As she stood on the parapet, she knew it may very well be over. All she ever worked for, all she ever dreamed about, it awaited her in the Abyss. As she felt her center of gravity aimlessly drift off the railing of the vessel, Julian tried to grab her, but to no avail. Her body crashed helplessly into the ocean, back cracking, body shattering from the impact of the rocks and the water, she knew her desire meant nothing. And yet, in the very end, she fought. She struggled to discern a fundamental truth of the universe: what is the meaning of life? Why is this world so cruel to the kindest of us? And why, above all sins that stand firm in this world, is ignorance normalized?
Daniella Caracosa awoke in a field of flowers, a shimmering oak to the west. Her previously ragged, shoestring clothing had been replaced by a flowing sequin dress, her shoes no longer broken in the front, but neat and tied with fine string. She approached the oak with a light step as if to not disturb the natural order of things. Her power was not to be underestimated, for all the creatures of the woodland shimmied out from every perceptible place. Rabbits, bears, sparrows, creatures of all kinds emerged, making noises to her that she wished she could decipher. Then, a thought struck her. Surely, this is the meaning of life. To be truly understood.
She knelt down to a rabbit and smiled at it, with a query, “What makes a rabbit happiest in all the world?” The rabbit’s ears perked up with joy, that someone gave it a chance to explain itself.
“Surely, milady, it is to love and be loved.”
The bear clearly disagreed. “It is to be feared and consequently, respected.” She was kneeling, looking up at the bear.
“And why is that?” The bear scoffed in response.
“That fear is the basis of a creature’s instincts, and to evoke that feeling in others gives one power.” Daniella’s smile faded.
“I am not of the same opinion, but I understand it. Perhaps if you did not have such an imposing physical form then you would not have the luxury to believe such things. No matter. Sparrow, what makes you the happiest in all the world?” The sparrow, fluttering about the soft earth, saw a twig, and clasped it tightly.
“It is to build something that others take inspiration from. How do you think humans first thought of homes? They saw our nests!” He chirped to indicate his nest was just above, and Lady Caracosa could hear the newborn, shrill noise of the sparrow’s children.
“I do not wish to take the necessary time away from your families. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” they say in unison and went about their ordinary business.
As she approached the oak tree, she saw before her a face within the tree, but an alien connection, one that was not natural.
“Hello, I’m Jean.” She heard the tree say, but Daniella was not alarmed. She sees the shape of an elderly woman moving in the oak, arms outstretched as branches, the groves creating a kind of facial feature set. “You are Daniella. What do you seek, young lady?”
“I assume since you are the guardian of this land you already know the answer. You hear all that is uttered on your lands, you feel each breeze flowing, each animal conversing, each memory made, that is why you are still. To embrace it all. Is that right to assume?” The leaves rustle as to evoke a sense of laughter.
“Indeed, my dear. What else do you wish to tell me that I already know?”
“I am dead, yes? Where may I be heading next?”
“Now that is entirely up to you and what you wish to learn before you ascend to the next, potentially better path.”
Lady Caracosa chuckles, “There is no better, only different.”She then feels the light and earth disappear as the darkness and rocks crowd around. She looks up, only to see stalagmites and stalactites guiding her way, a dim light glittering a path for her. She follows it, feeling a slight chill from a perceived draft. She then hears a cry of pain and looks to see a drill striking the inner earth with some ferocity.
“Ah, futuristic whaling.” The earth itself cries out in pain, Mother Nature’s rugged counterpart reeling from the pressure. “Save me, do what you can! Why is this done to me? I am left alone for centuries, and centuries more they steal my children from me, burn them! They ravage what civilization exists here, in the name of promoting their own! Theft for one family when it belongs to another is still wrong.” The earth groans and rumbles, dislodging the gear for a few hours, and a massive explosion takes place aboveground.
“No…,” says Daniella. “You killed those men. Does that ease your conscience, to take those lives, as if there is an equivalent exchange to the universe?”
“Yes, sadly, it does. Two men may die this solar day, but thousands more die every mortal second for you.”
“Not for me, I will not be here much longer.” The Earth rumbles again in laughter.
“You will be another mouth to feed on another world in another life, where the problems are the same but different.”
“Very well then, your resolve but righteous anger has taught me something of value. I bid you and the earth farewell.”
“Very well, begone!”
Daniella had never been so close to the sun before. She emerged before it, close enough to touch. She could see the universe as if each solar system was half a stride away. But when she felt the warmth of the imperious sun, she knew she would have to stay and chat. She floated cross-legged, her voice gone, and her ‘body’ fading by the moment. She knew she had one chance at the question that she had most wanted for the world to know, “Does life really matter?” Those were the last words she uttered before she ultimately disappeared from time, but the Sun, Oculara herself, felt obligated to finish it anyways.
“People of Terra, listen! Come close. Something you must know.” And so he begins what is now known in this universe as the Revelation of the Sol, originally received by the prophet Kal Vanders in the year 3201. “Life matters in a way that it is inherently false, and limiting. Sensory experience limits your imagination, and people limit even your sensory experience. Interaction with things that are foreign to ourselves seems to hurt rather than help. And yet, and yet, the power of the mind is always vital! You can manifest your reality. The world that you cherish, be that one person or millions, your nest, or your cave, you can make it happen if you have the will to see it through. This may be a position some will discredit, for I am the Sun. How can I lecture others about power when I have it all? I am the sustenance for which all lives feed. And yet, I am lonely. I serve others at the cost of my happiness, my fulfillment. I can never hold another in the way some creatures can, ask questions and be enlightened. I am forced to resign to the fact that every hundred thousand years or so I can settle for a millisecond of charming company. For as soon as I open my mouth and speak, they are devastated, incinerated, never to be remembered again. This is the burden I carry. And yet, I still give myself to all, through force of will, and a desire to see things realized that others lack the fortitude, the resolve, the simple primal courage to achieve. If I can do this without any contact from others, no support, no inclination that there is a better way, a more simple and honorable path, then how can you not do all that is possible in the world in which you are placed? Love those who do not love you, shield those who do not ask for your protection. What will you lose if you say what you believe, if you give when you have none, because all that is living after you are gone are the memories others have of you and the things you have done. Those who are moral must counteract those who are not, challenge those with ‘resources’, if you are afraid, embrace it. You must be willing to lose everything so that others can gain something. Hear my plea! Do what I ask, honor the journey of Daniella Caracosa, tell her story, if you ever hear it. I shall remain here, always vigilant.”
And thus Daniella Caracosa’s eyes opened as she choked water out, head ringing, blood smeared across the rocks of an island. She was alone, but comforted. Daniella lay on the beach, her life drifting with the tumultuous waves, she saw the sunrise once more. But it was not the sun she knew. For the sun was grey and orange, throbbing bright and swaying in the wind. It seemed impressionable, just close enough to touch. When Daniella looked down, she was glowing with the same tinges of the sun. And then, the Others came. She saw five at first, women in long gowns of silver and black. They smiled at her and covered her ragged dress with a simple shirt and long woolen pants. “Come with us, Star Child. We have anxiously awaited your arrival. One thousand, four hundred and fifty-eight years, if we wish to be technical.” Her eyes widened as she is guided to a series of pillars, with hundreds of people coming out of this island’s every crevice and corner. People with two heads, several dozen eyes, every kind of pigment lay at her feet, bowing. She realized when she looked down at her clothing again, an emblem had appeared on it, of the Sun itself, the Lonesome One, They Who Suffer For Our Lives. She decided that it did not reflect her fundamental character, and so, made her skin the same pigment as it was from her birth, through sheer force of will, the clothes bent and contorted, creating a long flowing dress that she would have wanted at her wedding.
“Quite old fashioned, but you are a product of your time, Star Child. Vanders would like to speak to you now, his speech about you is about to begin.”
Kal Vanders is pacing back and forth in his office, shaking with excitement and tension, reciting what he knows he must say for the world to change just enough to avert its end.
“And yet, and yet! Twice? Does that make sense? If it was prophesied this is what I say, I should not question it. But should I?” And then emerged the Star Child, and the Solar Women, and Kal knew what he needed to do was just. He put out his hand to shake hers. “Welcome to our home. This is Terra. Was Earth. Could be another dead planet if we don’t work together and try and save it. I know it is a lot to ask. But I think that you will be filled with joy and purpose you never could have experienced in that life. You’ve got a new start? Do you wish to take it?” He sees that she first has confusion, then disgust, then anger.
“Could you have stopped those men’s deaths? You knew I was arriving?”
“Technically, we couldn’t have saved that version of you, in any way, or the space-time continuum would collapse unto itself. These things are very delicate. You, as you are now, are dead. You were burned away, and reconstructed perfectly by the Lonesome One’s eternal memory.” Her expression changes to confusion. After she shook his hand, he guided her outside to the Garden, where thousands awaited their decree. “They do not know what is about to happen, but we can change it today. Make it even better than it could be.” The first measure of calm from Daniella Caracosa came as she stood adjacent to him, clasped his hand, and held it up in the air, to cheers. He smiled and began the address he had been practicing since he was a little boy. It went…better than expected.
Towards the end, Daniella cried, “Treat each other like you are a mother to your child, we all gave way to the others, our story is one of survival, when it should be one of peace and respect. Hold true to these foundations, and we may never crumble.” Uproarious applause broke out, and they began to change the world, one person at a time.
They built schools, hospitals, they turned the island into a self-sustaining paradise. No wars, no bloody arguments, true civility through empathy-it was an extraordinary time to be alive. And when Kal Vanders was laid to rest, the Solar Elegy concluded, and Daniella Caracosa wept for her dearest friend, knowing she would live forever, to guide these people as the Star Child. He loved her so much that he had to let her go for the good of the others. And she faded away.
Joshua Lucy lives in Naples, Italy, and is studying Ethics and Politics as a second-year transfer. Like studying in Berlin, the piece is a reflection of a flurry of ideas.