T H E
G R A C i O U S
G i A N T
‘There must be something strangely sacred about salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.’
I didn’t care. No one else did, so why should I? I was unlike the ocean I was drifting on. Waveless. Emotionless. Only our levels of salinity were identical. Overpowering
salinity, I had stored, in my tears, and my psyche. The air singed the hole where my nose used to be. I tried to heave the air in with my mouth, but by now my tongue had become as scaly and unforgiving as every other part of my body. From my raft, all there was to do was to watch the waves. They were captivating. Occasionally, a dorsal fin would surface and encompass me. They wouldn’t leave me alone since I let my mother’s body off the raft. I will miss her dearly, but the stench was just too much. The sharks, however wicked they may seem, had the decency to devour her in the depths, where my vision would not make the voyage. Vividly, I can still see her peaceful, dehydrated face fade into the blue. That is an image I won’t soon forget.
I awoke on the raft again, but after peeling my eyelids open, this time, sand shone it’s golden glow beneath me. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel happy, relieved, or even blessed. I didn’t know exactly where I was, and I didn’t really care either. I had lost everything
already, when I had so little. Now, I have nothing, and you can’t lose that. Trust me. I’ve tried. Still, this was better than sifting through shit in Batticaloa. As my feet carried my reptilian body into the jungle, plant matter brushed it’s saturated leaves against my sensitive skin. I was enveloped, and I became a black hole. Every leaf I could get my
hands on was going straight down my gullet. I was no longer empty. Shades and hues of green instead of blue had me surrounded, and I thanked God for that.
As my stomach filled up, the sun drifted down. The falling sun drenched the trees in light, and I noticed something I hadn’t before. There were markings on these trees. I squinted a bit, and realized they were actually drawings. If only my goggles hadn’t been swallowed by the deep. Squinting harder, I realized how exquisite they were. No spear
could have crafted them. They were textural photographs. They were glowing, literally. The contours of each line slowly filled up with a beaming light, until the entire drawing lit up everything around me. It faded slowly, but my surroundings were left stained by the light. This happened again, and again, and again. I followed the glowing leaves, since I had nothing better to do, and silence followed me. My ears pleaded for a sound of any kind at all to end the eeriness, but the sound came with a price. Before I knew what happened, pain crashed through the synapses in my brain, and everything inside of me just shut off.
I came to in a lab. Everything seemed so bright. My vision slowly sharpened to beyond what it was before. Everything became clear to me. The pressure points in my arms were tubes. The inaudible sounds I was hearing became the television in the corner, and the four blobs of color on the screen distinguished themselves as four politicians. I
had never seen this show before. Politics never attracted my attention. Back home, I had even uglier things to worry about. The boy in the bed next to me seemed to be enjoying it though. His eyes were glued to it. When he realized I woke up, he turned to face me, and greeted me.
“Good morning Miss. I trust you had a good night’s sleep.”
“Yes…” I replied. Many things were soaring through my head. But after years of being treated as a pariah, I learned to escape my mind and live on the outside when it got too chaotic. I lost parts of myself from doing this, and I became a very different person over time. The more distance that grew between myself and I, the more that I felt acceptable. That was what was needed for me at that time. Now, it had become my
default. I was addicted to privacy, and if anyone knocked on my door, I would always answer with a mask.
“Well, I’m about done with this program”, he proclaimed, as he handed me the remote. “Have at it.”
I had no idea which button to press. I had never used one of these things before. But he must have known that, since he pointed them out to me. I kept flicking through the channels until I found a show about four cartoon babies that seemed like it might lift my spirits. It did. As we watched, I noticed something on my face that wasn’t letting me get a complete view. It always seemed somehow in the way. But then I realized- it was my nose! In that moment, I thought I was dead. I must have died and gone to heaven if my face was rebuilt. But I wasn’t.
“So what is your name, dear?”
The boy had a strangely sophisticated way of speaking. It was as if he had the soul of a frail old man. Yet, in the way that he formed some of his words, I saw a child that had never gotten the chance to grow up.
“What a pretty name. My name is Oscar, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.” “It’s nice to meet you too.” I forced a smile.
“Were you on a cruise?” Oscar inquisited.
“Yes”, I lied.
“That’s usually where everyone comes from. I came from one called the
“I really don’t feel too good…” I moaned.
“Don’t worry. It’s just all the medicine doing what it’s supposed to do. On the bright side, you look great.”
I couldn’t argue there. My skin was radiant, and the bones that were once broken in my face had not only healed, but it appeared that they were back to normal. Everything was in the right place.
I smiled at him, and he spoke up.
“If you don’t mind my asking, where are you from?” “Sri Lanka.”
Those words injected memories of my husband back into my mind. I wanted to forget his dilapidated face, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t forget the cold aluminum of his slugger against my cheek. I couldn’t forget the pain that seared through my entire face when he sliced my nose off. I couldn’t forget my mothers cries of desperation as it all was happening. I couldn’t forget it all, and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t forget him.
“Where are we?” I asked. I needed to change the subject.
I noticed Oscar’s attention had shifted away from me. I looked where he was looking, and there stood a doctor with a wheelchair. His coat matched the ivory walls, in color, and in width, it seemed, too. His voice rumbled out of his bearded face.
“Come with me, Eromi.”
He helped me into the chair, and then walked me out of the room. His voice sounded like the voice of God from where I was sitting.
“How do you like your new nose?”
I smiled and nodded.
“You know, the hole you had actually helped me quite a bit. It saved me a lot of
trouble on the operating table. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to explain everything that’s happened to you.”
By now, we had reached the kitchen, and he sat down across from me at a capsule-shaped table. I began eating my cereal, and he began explaining.
“My name is Dr. Seth Foster. I specialize in neuroscience and-“
He must have just realized I was only 14.
“I’m a brain surgeon. How much do you remember from your incident?” “I remember washing up on an island, and I remember…”
I remembered the glowing leaves. Were they a hallucination? Was I dreaming? Am I dreaming now?
“They’re called photo-emitting vegetation.”
He must have read my mind.
“They work by using the very energy they absorb to make food, to make light. Everyone who washes up here talks about them. They’re all over the island. The tribe here- the Sentinelese- consider them to be sacred. But what they don’t know, is that we created them.”
“What do you mean?” I asked with bewilderment.
“The island you washed up on is called North Sentinel Island. Judging from the
arrow you had in your head when you first arrived here, you’ve met the tribe. To them, science is magic. We used this, and the fact that they are completely uncontacted, to our advantage. The vegetation you saw was created to signal foreign subjects entering the island. The light signals spread to the center of the island, which is where the Sentinelese live.”
“So those leaves led them to me?” I asked, as a bit of my milk spilled and contrasted against the green table.
“Precisely. Now it may seem heartless for us to program the plants to do such a thing, when we know the Sentinelese will kill anybody who comes from the ocean. But a very long time ago, we asked ourselves one crucial question: What do they do with the bodies? See, when I washed up on this island, I was with 105 other people, so we found
power in numbers. After inconspicuously studying the Sentinelese people for months, we learned that all foreign bodies are thrown into a giant cavern that shoots straight down into the Earth. That’s where you are right now, Eromi. You are inside the Sentinelese Sanatorium.”
It took me a while to process all of this. A secret hospital? I had so many questions.
“What happened to the other 105 castaways?”
“Well you’ve met one of them.”
“Oscar? He’s so young. How did you build this place so quickly?”
“Oscar isn’t as young as he looks, and neither am I. Oscar turns 129 this October,
and I’m 156.”
I was astounded. My grandmother was 55, and her face was covered in wrinkles. This man claimed to be 156 years old, but he didn’t look a day over 30.
“On this island, there are certain medical opportunities that have been able to be tested on humans, thanks to our isolation, and the number of bodies we get. It may seem immoral at first, but understand that these people are already dead. Back when the majority of our tests were unsuccessful, we weren’t taking anything from anybody. But when we began to make some progress, we found out that we could give back.”
I didn’t know what to think. So many people around the world would kill to be
here, for the lifespan alone. My grandfather died when he was 50 because he was so diseased. I can even remember him begging to just be killed. A life of pain is hardly a life at all. Now, on this island, people are living comfortably beyond 100.
“Eromi, you are our newest patient. I am obligated to tell you that you have been injected with the FY-88 vaccine.”
I stared at him blankly.
“This vaccine is the ultimate vaccine. Virtually, it activates a rarely used part of the brain that can regrow any missing cells in the body, and also, more importantly, regulate their growth, terminating all and any extra cells that have the potential to be cancerous. At the same time, the vaccine completely halts the aging process, by making the desired cells in the body give birth to stem cells, which are known for their
My cereal was all gone by now.
“These stem cells evolve according to their environment, and their circumstances. When it came to you, skin and cartilage cells were produced for your nose, and brain tissue was restored from the accident. With this vaccine, you can preserve yourself.”
Again, thoughts raced through my brain. Luckily, I wasn’t inside of the chaos. I watched myself talk to the Doctor from the ceiling. Since I wasn’t inside of my body, my emotions had dominion over it.
“What about the people who wanted to die in the first place?” my lips asked.
“That is yet another concern we need to address. Usually, they-“
“And why haven’t you given this to the world? Millions of people have died in vain because of you. Did you know that?”
I had never seen myself speak with such passion. It had even affected the doctor, since his eyes became deep and depressed, and all of the hairs that populated his face had seemingly stuck up at the ends. I floated back into my body, as the Doctor proceeded to explain himself.
“We would do that in a heartbeat if we could. But even our finest doctors would end up serving life sentences for the crimes they’ve committed. There is also
overpopulation to be concerned about”, he said monotonously.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” My emotions and myself were finally in harmony. “What else have you done?”
“Lobotomies, limb reattachment, fetal experiments, basically everything.” I sat in silence, staring at my empty bowl.
“But the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.”
“Is that your motto?” I questioned.
“Yes,” he said. “For a very long time, it has been.”
“Then why would you keep the cure confined to the people on one island in a world full of people who need it? Wouldn’t it be worth going to prison for something as big as this?”
“Our staff would be the most hated people on Earth. We’ve been hiding this for more than a century now, and we’re prepared to keep hiding it until we perish.”
Fury seeped from my pores as I was inflated with disgust. How could anyone live happily with themselves after doing something like this?
“Which brings us to you.” He said, as enigmatically as ever. “When people are thrown into the hole, we revive them, but after they have been revived we give them a choice.”
“If we let you live forever, you have to stay on the island. Nobody can know of our existence. But if you so desire, we can lethally inject you. That is, if a confined life isn’t the one you want to live.”
My thoughts overwhelmed me this time. But I wasn’t undecided. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be free. To be accepted with everyone else. All my life, I was raised beside myself, among shit. I was always mad at myself, and I never knew what for. I had
been ostracized since I was born. In Batticaloa, we were untouchable. At least I had my mother back then. She was another reason I was so sure about this. At sea I had lost her, and those weeks were the loneliest of my life. And now, here, I have what so many people want, but it’s not what I want.
As the Doctor wheeled me down the hall, I thought about everything. I thought about what I didn’t accomplish in this life, and I hoped the next one would be better. My mother’s face was permanently plastered inside my head. It was as if she knew I was coming, and was waiting for me. She was all I ever had, and I was all she ever had. What use is one of us without the other? We have both had too much taken away from us. But this time, I wasn’t going to let them take my body. I was going to give it to them. I was so lost in my sense of honor, that I hadn’t noticed I was being strapped down to a large, deep blue glass table. The nurse looked into my eyes- eyes that would never open again. They closed, and I looked into the eye of God as an artificial serpent sunk its fang into my arm.