Sunny is a short story from Dan Diehn.
If you're just joining us, you can read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV,
Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI,
Part XII, and Part XIII to catch up with
Fish, Jack, and... Kiran?
When the earth was newly formed, shortly after the waters cooled and the flood receded, it wrenched its body from beneath the waves and onto the dark sand. With no eyes, no apparatus with which to process the visible spectrum, it fumbled in the darkness, flopping until it lay on its back, allowing the sun’s rays to warm its body. The darkness here was different from the darkness that had surrounded it moments ago, had surrounded it from the beginning of everything. Here there were reds and blues and greens clawing at the emptiness, flickers of color pushing the darkness outward. It liked the colors, a newfound welcome after the monotony of the dull shades of gray.
It basked in the heat of the morning warmth until it grew hungry. What a strange feeling, to not have one’s atmosphere sustain it without question. Here, though, outside the lapping water, one was required to find its own sustenance, it surmised. It groaned and ached and stretched and produced sharp protrusions from out of its body until it felt confident in its ability to gnaw and tear and chew. It rose, wobbly, makeshift legs extending beneath its core. The air was cool to the touch and the sensation wrapped itself around its body willy-nilly, each portion feeling a different feeling, a pinprick here and a goosebump there, wholly different from the all encompassing cold of the depths.
Awkwardly, it lumbered and found itself unable to distinguish one location from the other. The wind vibrated and so it matched its body to tune into the oscillations until the air sang deeply and brightly depending on the speed of the gust and the direction of its origin. An electromagnetic current embraced its edges and it matched its form to detect the path from which current flowed.
Based on these inputs, the world seemed to be pushing it upward and so it trudged its way up a steep incline until at the zenith it could hear the rustling of all the others emerging from the ocean, the dirt, the caves, all the gates of underground letting loose their inhabitants. It wondered if they all felt as lost as it did, as full of joy and hope and sadness all mashed into a singular feeling of existential affirmation. I am the I that I am because of I.
The flutter of wings and the gnashing of teeth cut through the engulfing sound of the breeze and it raised its body to meet the cacophony, extending itself up and out until it floated from off of the ground that once held it firmly in its place. The world shone yellow and pushed through the darkness of its vision until it was blinded in white heat. It followed the blinding light for years, hungry and alone, the constant sound of a hunt on its heels.
And then just as suddenly, the light parted and there it was, the house on the hill, perfectly envisioned by no means traceable to its own body, up high above the clouds, surrounded by trees and mountains where the atmosphere was thin and everything was cold to the touch. It saw the home from the valley bed, from between the massive crags of rock that sprouted on either side of it. I am the light, it thought and a beacon flew high into the sky, a deep red that pierced upward. I am here and now.
They rushed to meet him, the old woman, the wife and husband, the boy, the girl, all draped in yellow. “Welcome,” the wrinkled one said, “You are our first.”
“Green with Teeth!” the young one chimed in, her scarf wrapped neatly around her neck, her brown hair flowing in the gust.
It bristled with newfound energy and life, the feeling of crawling upon the lonely shores magnified by several sets of dimension, discovering the veil merely a drape, the depth just a backdrop. This was round and full and settled deeply within its chest while simultaneously enveloping everything external.
They taught it the old ways in the small cabin, the boy attempting to pull tricks whenever possible, the girl prodding it with curiosity. “She does not yet know her place,” the old woman said. The wife and husband were mostly quiet and collected fragments from the world below to place upon their shelves: pottery, tools, artwork engraved in the walls of caves.
Green developed eyes, controlled its teeth, learned to feed upon the energy that pulsated outward from its housemates’ seemingly infinite origin. They did not seem to mind, but only smiled, patting its green hands--it was getting ever so much better at duplicating extremities--and told it to drink up what it could before everything was gone again.
And yet Green longed for the feeling of the ground beneath its feet, the sun pouring its rays across its face. It longed for the whimsical wind to lap at its skin and tickle its ears with its sing-songy game of tag.
It rose early one morning and found itself at the edge of the porch, the vast atmosphere spread out before it, the mist flooding the distance.
“Unlike us, you are of the world,” the old woman crept up behind it. “To dust you must return.”
It woke in an alleyway, the stench of exhaust and sewage rising up to meet it. From a nearby dumpster, a baby wailed. It walked over to it and saw her, naked and helpless, a great strength residing in the beating of her heart. It touched her forehead and saw her entire future, where she would meet her end. It smiled a long row of teeth around its neck and descended into her heart where it lay quiet for many years.
And now, here, Green raced down the hallway to meet the shadows at their entrance.“Green!” an old woman shouted from the distance. The woman raced to meet Green in the middle.
Fish gave Jack a sidelong glance, to which he merely shrugged his shoulders. “I thought it was with you,” he mumbled. Fish crossed her arms and awaited their new guests.
They slithered, lumbered, crawled, floated, and fluttered their way into the ever expanding dining hall. With each new pair of wings, sets of eyeballs, rows of teeth, the room groaned and shifted, new courses of decadence displayed upon tables that popped up like mushrooms in the dark. The chattering was immense, echoes of old friendship, rivalries, and long lost family regained rising to meet the edges of the room.
Fish scowled as Green entered, a frail old woman at his side. She seemed familiar, but broken, not a whole memory. “Green, what’re you doing?” Fish asked, a hint of betrayal in the edges of her voice.
The woman stepped forward, her wrinkled hands shaking as she gestured outward. “Oh don’t worry, Sunny,” the woman said. The name shivered down Fish’s spine, only one other time had anyone spoken it aloud. “We’re the ones that Green called. We’re old family friends,” her gray eyes darted around the room and then she whispered, “while, some of us are.” She cackled and her laugh echoed throughout the old mansion. The structure shrunk in response. Fish could not be certain if it were cowering in fear or bowing in reverence.
Jack attempted to slink away.
“Nuh uh,” the woman muttered and he reeled around until he stood before her. She eyed him up and down and tsked out the side of her mouth, “Such a silly notion, finding power in the dust of bones. You are dust.”
Jack fell to his knees.
“And you, my dear,” the woman called out. Duri looked up, the juice of a spiced fruit dribbling down her chin. “She misses you too.”
“Who?” Duri asked, wide-eyed, just now noticing the denizens of demons and devils and whatnots dancing around the room.
“You know who,” she replied, stepping down into the sunken dining room.
The memory of Kiran her roommate flooded before Duri, every nuance, every quirk, every fight, every crystallized moment of laughter and dread, happiness, excitement, passion, long nights of future planning mixed with the sick anticipation of morning breaking over the horizon. She realized then that it was not normalcy that she sought, but her confusing and strange and rewarding friendship she held with Kiran.
Duri dropped the fruit and collapsed into a wooden chair.
“I’m sorry,” Fish interrupted. “I’m appreciating your dog and pony show, but what the hell are you? Who the hell are all of,” she gestured outward, “all of these?”
“These are the unpledged,” the old woman said. “The ones who have not yet chosen a partner.”
The word partner clawed into Fish’s brain and her eyes darted to Green. Entity, devil, demon, a whatchamacallit, a companion at best, never quite equal, never quite the same. Had Green, all these years, considered them on equal footing? All the while she treated it like a ride, a hitch of power, a wellspring to tap into. Her face burned and Green wrapped its teeth around her in comfort, light pouring over her skin.
“And who the hell are you?” Fish cried between her teeth.
The woman sidled up to Fish and Green. “Oh don’t be stupid, Fish.” She smiled a crooked smile and flung her graying brown hair behind her left shoulder. “It’s me, Kiran.”
by Dan Diehn