Review: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris By Stanislaw Lem

My first knowledge of Solaris came for me in the form of the 2002 Steven Soderbergh film, which I still love to this day. Only years later did I learn that it was based off of the novel written by Stanislav Lem. I could never find the book in my local library, and got caught up reading other books. Until this year, when I finally bought it for myself.

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The back flap of the book reads:

When psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives on the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds himself confronting a painful memory embodied in the physical likeness of a past lover. Kelvin learns that he is not alone in this, and that other crews examining the planet are plagued with their own repressed and newly real memories. Could it be, as Solaris scientists speculate, that the ocean may be a massive neural center creating these memories, for a reason no one can identify?

Long considered a classic, Solaris asks the question: Can we understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within?

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The start of the novel begins with Kelvin’s launch from another station to travel to Solaris. Unlike the film, the Solaris station is not in orbit, but rather floating several hundred meters above its surface.

The introduction to the other crew members on the station is one of an eerie, too quiet meeting. The third member Gibarian, committed suicide before Kelvin’s arrival. Snow and Sartorius are clearly disturbed, and refuse to explain what’s been happening on the station. They both figure he will see for himself soon enough, and he does.

Kelvin delves into the onbaord library, occupying some of his time reading over the works of the many scientists who have studied Solaris, their theories, observations, etc. He tries to reason with Sartorius who has become agoraphobic in his lab, making little headway and getting no further explanation for why.

Kelvin then catches sight of Gibarian’s ‘visitor’ walking through the corridor of the station and then entering his room. The apparition is described as a tall African woman, mostly naked except for a grass skirt. She also later appears in the cold store lying next to Gibarian’s corpse. Terrified, and concerned he may be ill, Kelvin tests himself with mathematical equations to check if he has gone insane. To his dismay, he hasn’t.

Soon, Kelvin has his own visitor, Rheya, his past lover who committed suicide years before. She acts childlike and has no memory of living on Earth, or her suicide. An odd detail I picked up on was that when she appeared, her dress has no seams, or fasteners to remove it. She has to be cut out of it. Kelvin is horrified by this Rheya, but continues to act as if she were the real one. At least until he tricks her into a small shuttle and sends her away. The screams he hears while it launches away gradually turn to something inhuman. Eventually, he discovers Gibarian’s scribbled notes, and from their discovers certain books describing a pilot’s account that is nothing less than disturbing.

A second Rheya appears soon after, with no memory of what happened to the first. This Rheya eventually becomes more human to Kelvin, and he cannot send her away. We see her come to question her existence, her own half remembered memories, but she is shown to truly love Kelvin. She even attempts suicide, but her strange physiology won’t allow her to die. Whether she is a facsimile, or not, he loves her. As she doubts her own nature while Kelvin intends to keep her, Rheya disappears with little explanation.

The ocean of Solaris itself is an enigma. It is an oily red-black mass who’s movement is compared to muscle contractions rather than currents. It is observed creating large structures known as symmetriads, assymetriads, mimoids, and extensors. These immense intricate creations are thrust from the living sea only to die back into its depths. There is no rhyme or reason known for why it does this, nor how or why it creates the visitors.

Toward the end of the book, Kelvin has a discussion with Snow that struck me. They are talking about the imperfect god concept in how it must relate to the ocean.

Taking a few bits from Kelvin’s dialogue. :

“A god limited in his omniscience and power, fallible, incapable of foreseeing the consequences of his acts, and creating things that lead to horror. He is … a sick god, whose ambitions exceed his his powers and who does not realize it at first. A god who has created clocks, but not the time they measure. He has created systems or mechanisms that served specific ends but have now overstepped and betrayed them. And he has created eternity, which was to have measured his power, and which measures his unending defeat.“

“This god has no existence outside of matter. He would like to free himself from matter, but he cannot…”

Then he states:

“No, not the ocean either. Somewhere in its development it has probably come close to divine state, but turned back into itself too soon. It is more like an anchorite, a hermit of the cosmos, not a god. It repeats itself, Snow, and the being I’m thinking of would never do that. Perhaps he has already been born, in some corner of the galaxy, and soon he will have some childish enthusiasm that will set him putting out one star and lighting another. We will notice him after a while…”

The above statement almost sounds as if it suggest that something grew out of the ocean of Solaris, in essence making the ocean its cradle. There is also the idea that the ocean is child-like entity on the way to becoming a god. Kelvin states jokingly that they’ve all been the baby’s toys for a while.

The end of the novel ends with a unique interaction between Kelvin and the ocean. He leaves the station on a small aircraft and lands on a fleshy mimoid( a hard protrusion the ocean no longer seems to control) and reaches out to the ocean with his hand. It reacts to him and curiously wraps about his hand, even forming a flower-like structure, and then falls away. He is able to repeat this interaction a few times before the ocean loses interest. He seems to feel himself forgiving this strange entity for everything. It is implied that Kelvin stays, even as he knows his reasons may not rational, in the hopes that he will one day see Rheya again.

An incredible read, and several welcome differences from the Soderbergh film. Those changes added more detail to fleshing out what Solaris may actually be, and some of the strange behaviors not seen on film. Though, I think doing those giant structures on film would’ve been amazing to see.

Definitely suggest this as reading material for anyone who loves science fiction. Truly alien stuff in this novel.

Also wanted to post a few pages I found on some amazing Solaris inspired artwork. I don’t want to post any images without permission, but I will supply the links for you to take a look.

Black & white artwork of the ocean structures

http://www.bjarre.org/works/solaris.html

A Deviant Art Artist- Amazing work!

Symmetriade

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Next review : The Forever War

 

 

 

 

 

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01/17/2018 – Happy New Year!

A belated Happy New Year to everyone! Here’s to hoping everyone meet their goals for this year!

I’ve been pretty busy growing my small art business in the last few months. This involved setting up shops over on Society6 and RedBubble, as well as marketing sales, etc. Not to mention the commissions in between all that. You can check all that stuff over at angeladeriso.com

Among the gifts I got this Xmas, were giftcards for certain chain stores, or ones that I have free reign to spend where I like. Books are one of my favorite things to buy, and I can’t do this too often or I go broke. Those costs add up. However, through Barnes & Nobles, you have the option of buying used books for very reasonable prices. As low as $1. It was this method I used to buy some science fiction classics I have yet to read. There are two books relating to the subject of biology, which is also one of my passions.

I’m going to post reviews of each book as I finish them. I’ve already finished Solaris and The Forever War, both great reads. My reviews will be up shortly.

Here are the titles in the queue.

 

As for my own writing is concerned, I’m currently done with 4 chapters. I’m going to make a deadline for myself this year to finish the damn thing, so I can work on other ideas, and put efforts toward getting published. I’m thinking it may be a good idea to have a few books ready before knocking on the door of publishers, that way you have a few more cards to deal in the transaction. I don’t know, but only time will tell how I feel about that.

 

In the meantime, stay tuned for book reviews, and maybe some snippets of my work.

~Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Anomaly

Guilty of not writing for a while, but I’ve returned to a project that’s started up again. Should have something of a preview again soon. For now, here’s a little something I wrote about myself, the nature and origin of creativity.


I am anomaly. I never fit the norm of most of my peers growing up, nor in my adult life. I suppose at least half of that is due to my genetics. Both sides of my family have had numerous creative people, and creative people are usually odd in some way as a general rule. There are idiosyncrasies here and there, almost like a small selection of obsessive compulsive traits. For myself it might be that I can identify most of the animals in my local region from memory, but I have trouble looking people in the eye when talking to them. I have the ability to completely catalog groups of animals and names in my mind, but when it comes to some social interaction I falter.

I have never been an outwardly social person, and I enjoy my solitude, but there are moments when I feel less than human. I’d like to be able to have closer relationships with people, but the truth is I don’t think I’m very good at it. Perhaps I’m too quiet, or not cheerful enough. I’m always thinking, absorbing information, and drawing it out to create my work.

I can understand how someone so silent and still might frighten others away. I reflect sometimes on how our minds work, and how thousands of thoughts are never given voice. We are constantly talking to ourselves on the inside, and no one has any idea what anyone’s really thinking. All the decisions we make, all the thoughts we do voice have been run through the check valve first. No one knows the first draft of a thought you had, or how you carefully chose to articulate it. I guess in a strange way, looking in from the outside gives a different perspective to human interaction. It’s a thing that begs the question, does anyone really know who another person is?

I often look at myself in the same light as a cheetah (not that I’m that fast, or cat-like). They are specialized hunters built for speed and endurance. Their own evolutionary process selected for those traits. However, their otherwise beautiful physique has also given them a great disadvantage. They’re fragile, and should lions or hyenas come to steal their kill they have little choice but to run. Some very creative people are so skilled and involved in their work that they seem to perceive nothing else. This is the catch 22 of the cheetah, being built for a singular purpose at the cost of functionality elsewhere. It is nearly like savantism in some people. This doesn’t apply to every artist, but some have dealt with this issue.

I find myself wondering if some of the same applies to humans with creative traits. My best guess is that whatever genes the ancestral cave painters, carvers, etc. passed down also went through its own specialization process. Though not so overt as to be expressed in the whole of the human species. This way, creative individuals could do their thing, be odd, and maybe contribute something unique to the species without damaging the population by passing on qualities that might increase mortality rates. Think about it, an early human working at some odd primitive craft, so concentrated he doesn’t hear a lion sneaking up on him. There are people who lose track of time, and forget to eat during painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. That couldn’t have survived well back then. Either some of these individuals were smart enough to do so within safety of their family groups, or they were killed off. Little by little, we built better shelters in which to live, and developed better tools for hunting and fending off predators. In the modern age, we no longer face threats from large predators hunting us, and most of us live in relative safety. We got away with it in the next several thousand years of civilization, and that is when these traits likely started flourishing even more.

When you look at things like spider webs and termite mounds, you understand why they were built. At their root is a single purpose, to survive. The spider traps its food in the web it weaves anew every night, and the termites house their growing colony. For advanced primates, creating things like music, visual art, sculpture, and architecture has no relevance to survival. It could almost be likened to peacock feathers. And that is the thing primates do, we display. We are in essence displaying to each other, whether to imply meaning, a sense of power, or beauty. It does leave me wondering how it all became so damned elaborate. I could say that it’s possibly because humans get easily bored, and that some can’t resist the challenge to go further. It would be easy to assume that humankind’s penchant for endless creative forces is somehow alien, but I don’t think it is. It’s all very likely that some weird genes got to have a bit of fun in the pool once civilization began.

So where do I fit in all this nonsense? I don’t know really. I only know what my odd compulsions drive me to do, and that I really want to achieve those things. I don’t know that I’ll leave work unique to my species when I die, or if it will impact just the small amount of people I know in my lifetime. For all I know an asteroid could smash into the Earth and render everything to dust before I get to leave a mark. But still, something is driving me to try anyway.

Why Introverts Make Good Writers

Definitely hits home for me. 🙂

A Writer's Path


by J.U. Scribe

I return to blogging because I like to write. Never did it cross my mind that my keen interest in writing had anything to do with who I am on a fundamental level until recently. After you read this you’ll understand the connection I started to make with introversion to writing.

It is estimated that at least 1/3  of the population are introverted. For a significant portion of the population, including myself we felt largely misunderstood. We felt something was wrong with us. I may not have been able to articulate it during childhood, but I learned early on that being outgoing, sociable, and assertive were more socially acceptable than being reserved, quiet, and passive.

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A.I. Sentience, Technology & Human Evolution

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on what it means to be human in an ever increasing technological civilization. Many books and films have delved into this subject, and as time goes on those stories seem to become more poignant. A few of my favorite films and/or books have been about the very same things.

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I recently finished watching HBO’s WestWorld series, which has become yet another gem in the network’s many original series. Inspired by the old 70’s movie of same name, this iteration boasts a talented cast of actors, beautiful but subtle effects, and a deeper story of the android populated theme park’s origins and it’s possible implications. A few of these androids begin to remember past experiences in previous roles they once played, and the many tortures and deaths dealt to them by park guests. It is this loop of suffering that finally awakens a chosen few, and we see each of their journeys to discover who and what they really are, and to hide it from those who would erase their sentience.

We get vague questions and answers on how and where an artificial consciousness might emerge and evolve over time. The writing is very good, and there are nuances here and there that demand reviewing (which I have yet to do). The series seems to build its own mythos in terms of the development of consciousness. The point of view of the android characters certainly paints a pessimistic view of human beings that sadly, is not entirely untrue. We are intellignet and destructive animals often bent by our base desires, even if we lie to tell ourselves otherwise.

Which begs the question, would an artificially created sentience be of the same mold as its makers, or perhaps more of that brilliant potential we could be if we left our vices behind?

Many people have the fear that artificial intelligence could end us all at some point. That could be the case, or they could be a force for greater good. How much does the designer of such a creation influence its overall nature? If experiences shape its development, will they have to be strictly controled in order for it to be considered sane? Can a machine become insane? (I read a scene in Neal Asher’s War Factory about a warship/factory gone insane. Quite disturbing.)

I believe there is a stark difference in vantage point. The knowlegde capabilities and processing speed alone will outgun our own biologically given abilities. Then comes the idea of just merging oneself with said technology, not just as an individual, but as a further step in evolution. Technology is the one thing that evolves faster than most biological life. Anything from enhanced sensory functions, expanded computing capability, increased physical strength, and decreased aging can all be conceived of with future technological development. It will be possible, but how will it change what it means to be human, or even an individual remains unanswered.

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One of my favorite films (along with the manga that inspired it) is Ghost in the Shell, which just so happens to tackle just that. The main character, a cyborg, has a bit of an identity crisis on her hands, and while she hunts down a mysterious thread of “brain-hacking” incidents, she comes into contact with an emergent AI. I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s a great film if you’re into philosophy, advanced technology, AI’s, and cyborgs.

The implications for this kind of technology would be a kind of evolution, at least for some of humankind that wanted to move past our current form and function. So, in a sense, there could end up being two species; average baseline humans, and posthumans who’ve undergone augmentations. This could mean potential for war between the two, but I guess it depends on who could disable the other faster to outright avoid complete annihilation.

This change would also mean expanding the human experience to include greater intelligence and desire for more cerebral pursuits rather than focusing on what our limited biology allows. I have a feeling that nanotech could be utilized greatly for regenerative purposes in the body, maybe even rebuilding the human body little by little with more durable materials that mimicked biology. If fully machine, maybe we could have a fun swarming function for travel, or to make oneself a more shapeshifting entity.

As we become more fine tuned in our design, we could potentially travel the stars, colonize space, search out other worlds, find alien life. Maybe by then, we’d become something we can’t forsee, with goals not currently in our comprehension.

But for now, we’re just a bunch of naked apes running around the surface of a mudball hurtling through space. Well, I can still dream…

Latest Goings On

Before I get into the latest on me, let me take a moment to thank those of you that read, and have started following me. I’ve noticed a bit of higher traffic even though my posts are sporadic. I appreciate that some folks can put up with that.

On to the latest.

Firstly, you may notice a change to the website theme, and that it is no longer so dark. I had to realize at some point that reading light colored text on black background isn’t easy on the eyes. So, I switched to a much clearer and crisp layout to help avoid that.

In the meantime, I have been reworking and fleshing out a longtime project that really needs to be finished sooner than later. I found this site to be very helpful in fleshing out plots, characters, and acts in a story.

Writing A Novel Using The Snowflake Method

There is a book being sold on the subject as well at this site, but I found using just the outlines on that page to be helpful enough. I definitely recommend using this method, since it has greatly helped me get my ideas straight.

Besides writing, I have also been reading a great deal again. Just recently got into British author Neal Asher’s work, and I can’t get enough. The Polity novels have been my favorite. I really found myself loving the Transformation series. Dark Intelligence, and War Factory were amazing reads. I’m awaiting the third installment, Infinity Engine, when it releases in the US. I strongly recommend this author for those of you who love aliens, A.I.s, and far advanced tech.

The Transformation series of books is the only book I’ve ever done fan art for. I love the war drones, and a few of the alien creatures. I’ve only done two so far, but I plan to do others soon.

This one is of the war drone ‘Riss’. She was deliberately designed like a parasite that once plagued the ruthless Prador species. Just so happens that said parasites resemble a Terran snake.

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“Riss, The War Drone”

 

The second piece is of the monstrous ‘Hooder’, and bio-mechincal war machines designed by an ancient alien race. They are like a horrible version of a millipede, with a front end with slicing/dicing ‘manipulators’ that pretty much dissect prey alive. I doubt I added enough of the appendages that do all that work, considering the scenes I read. It’s pretty brutal.

"The Hooder"
“The Hooder”

I’ll not spoil anymore for you. Be back soon.

A Prologue From A Long Time Project

It’s been too long since I updated, but I’d like to share something I’ve been working on for a while. This is only the beginning. I would honestly like feedback on this if anyone’s willing to give it. Without further ado…

 

 

Prologue

The dark gray eyes of eleven year old Daya Evanoff glared icily at the home now occupied by the murderers of her family. She had a score to settle with these men.

It had happened three days before. A war was just beginning, and Daya had only heard hushed whispers of it between her parents. She was too busy thinking of how to convince her father to let her get a dog. Avi, her sixteen year old brother, laughed at her attempts to sway their father, as he already knew the outcome. At the dinner table, Daya inquired on the subject for what seemed like the millionth time.

“Dad, come on,” she pleaded innocently. “We’ve never had a pet, and other families have dogs all the time.”

Her father just smiled kindly, saying, “Daya, this is a rough time right now, and we can’t afford -”

That’s when the men with guns burst through the front door.

One of them shouted, “GET ON THE GROUND NOW! EVERYONE! NOW!”

One of the men walked forward, having noticed Daya’s brother, Avi standing in shock, and shot him in the head. Everyone started screaming. Daya’s mother stumbled over her son’s collapsed body, crying and screaming. The gunman grabbed her by her hair, and pulled her up to his level. He held her with the gun to her head, and met eyes with Daya’s father.

“Just so we understand who’s in control,” he said gruffly. “I’ll be holdin’ onto Mom for a while. In the meantime, we’ll be taking any food, medicine, anything you have. Don’t be stupid, and everyone walks away alive.”

Two of the men tied Daya’s and her father’s hands behind their backs, and shoved them face down on the floor. It was then that her mother began screaming again as the men tore off her clothes. Daya felt a hot rage boiling inside her as her father shouted in anger. Each of the men took their turns raping and sodomizing her mother.

Unbeknownst to Daya, her father had managed to cut the cords binding him. She remembered the hunting knife he always carried. He quickly whispered to his daughter, “As soon as I cut you free, I want you to run. I don’t care what you hear, keep running.”

Daya witnessed her father become a blur of motion, effectively dispatching two men with his knife. She stood frozen, and he turned for the last time and shouted. “Go!”

She ran for the door, and out into the forest nearby. She had wanted to stay and fight alongside her father. She knew he was a war veteran, having served once when she’d been very young. He knew what he was doing, but that didn’t make her any happier. A fair distance away, Daya could hear echoing gunfire. Deep down, she knew her parents were now dead.

Two cold nights she waited, drinking from a stream and eating tubers like her father once taught her to find. She also found his weapons cache. She never cried aloud. Over those two days in the forest, a cold rage began to seep into her bones, replacing what was once fear. A decidedly more predatory part of her had awakened.

On the third night, Daya spied her home from safe distance, watching, and waiting. She noticed one of the men wandering out of the house carrying a beer. Clearly drunk, and preparing to take a piss on the trash pile that littered the area just a few yards away from the house. Silent as a shadow, she slid out of the forest. As he emptied his bladder with a sigh of relief, Daya leapt onto his back.

A shard of broken glass dog deep into his throat from behind, robbing him of any death cry. As he fell to his knees choking on his own blood, Daya slid the shard across his throat to finish it. The man fell to the ground, his body twitching in desperation for breath that wouldn’t come. With one man down, she could begin what she came for. She had not come unprepared.

Among the many things her father taught her and her brother, one involved the mine cache. Just this year, he had taken them both out to the cache in the forest, and trained them on how to use the mines. Avi had already been through the procedures, but he went along to help Daya learn it just the same. A safeguard in case things got ugly, her father had said. The mines were little more than black discs about an inch thick and seven inches wide. It was only when the holo-controls were activated that they appeared more complex.

Daya crept up to the side of the house, just underneath an open window. Carefully, she peered around the corner to the backyard. Laying a few feet from the back door with three bodies piled like day old trash. In the darkness, she didn’t need to see any detail to know it was Mom, Dad, and Avi. A present, but distant sadness arose in her. There were no tears left to cry, and only one thing left to finish.

Under the open window, Daya layed out three mines; each one for a life taken. Activating the holo-controls, she programmed a thirty second delay to allow for her escape. No hesitation when she threw the mines through the window with all her hatred. She darted back to the safety of the forest, and waited.

Silence hung for a moment, then fearful shouting rang out too late. The first mine detonated with a thundering crack and vivid flame so intense it sent a shockwave that shook the trees. Daya ducked down to brace herself, she had to see this through to the end.

In the five seconds that followed, one screaming man ran out of burning home, he himself covered in flames. He didn’t get far before the second and then third blasts expanded out, propelling debris in every direction. A piece of the house impaled him, and he collapsed in flames. If there was anyone left screaming, their cries were drowned out by the roaring flames.

With only minor cuts and bruises, Daya watched the inferno consume her former home. In that moment, her bloodlust was sated. She managed to kill every one of the fuckers. She would’ve started grieving right then if only she could feel anything. Only a cold, numb emptiness seemed to take its place. Mental state aside, surviving the next few days would have to take priority.

For roughly a week, Daya stayed in the forest, subsisting on little each day. Days and nights seemed to blur, making her question whether or not she existed in some suspended dream. Something needed to change soon. After bedding down next to her father’s cache for one final night, Daya lay awake among the sounds of owls and howling coyotes. The cache held supplies other than the mines. Crates buried under a tree contained food rations, and medical supplies. Daya could stay here if she was stubborn, but eventually, someone else might come along wanting what was here. Alone, she wouldn’t stand a chance. She had to find a better option.

She set out at daylight into the nearest town, unsure of what she would find. Abandoned, and collapsed buildings were common sight. Broken asphalt to piles of rubble. Not surprising considering the toll of war, but still startling to see in the flesh. It was why her father had chosen to live so far out of town, nearer to wilderness. Even that forethought hadn’t saved them.

Her thoughts stewed until hunger gripped her stomach painfully. Cold winds of an approaching winter blew through her mop of unkempt brunette hair. The clothes she wore barely kept her pale, thin form warm enough. A numbness not from the cold had already made itself at home inside her.

A ruckus of crows nearby caught her attention. Daya turned off the asphalt to follow their chorus. She wondered if they were the same flock that roosted in the forest with her at night. For all their squawking, they were the only familiar company she had left. On occasion their calls had alerted her to food sources; trees bearing fruit or edible flowers. Once, they’d chased after a swarm of grasshoppers, almost as if to dare Daya to try the same. It hadn’t been the best meal she ever had, but it was appreciated nonetheless.

Presently, she found the flock tearing apart the remains of a wooden house. As she walked closer, the resident termite infestation became obvious. Some of the black birds were snapping up mouthfuls of the bugs, while others used sticks to dig further into the hive for grubs. Daya took her own handful as a quick snack, eating them quickly so as not to be bitten by the angry drones.

After watching for a few minutes, she recognized one of the birds; a crow baring a small white patch on one wing. This was the same flock from the forest after all. Just as they appeared sated with their share of termites, the crows took flight toward the heart of the town. Again, she would follow the murder of black birds.

She noticed more people passing her on the streets on the way. If the old stores were still open, they might have some stale bread, or dried meat. As she rounded on the old shopping square, she realized they were barely functioning, if not already abandoned. Busted windows, empty shelves, and a smattering of last minute scavengers told of a wave of looting now days over. Daya entered one of the stores, empty of anyone, and found a small bag of dried fish meat that had been kicked underneath shelving during the fray. She sat outside on an old bench eating a few pieces of the jerky.

Once more, the voices of crows drew her in again. Something was different about these calls. They were desperate and frantic. Sounds she had never heard before. Driven by instinct, Daya searched them out again. Near the side of one of the shops, a teenage boy kicked violently at a helplessly flapping crow. Already injured by previous blows, the bird couldn’t escape his attack. A spilled bag of old bread lay on the ground nearby, its contents being pillaged by members of the flock. Some of the birds dove, swiped, and pecked at the boy to no avail. A enemy proving too enraged to stop.

In an instant suspended in time, a white patch of feathers flashed from a battered wing.

The boy screamed and shouted angrily. “Stupid fucking animals! Stealing everyone’s fucking food!”

That’s when he he brought his foot down to stomp down hard on the bird. Daya took in the blood gushing from its mouth, and even more pooling beneath the pulverized body. None of her actions seemed to register after that point. Somehow, she was on top of him, bashing his head in with a brick. Blood spattered on her face and clothes, and brain matter clung to the brick each time she brought it down on him. When she stopped, she realized that he had been easily twice her size. How had she moved so fast she would never know. She stood, kicking the twitching body away. She picked up the dead crow, cradling it in her arms, and ran away as fast as she could from the square.

She buried the bird in a nearby park she often visited with her mother, and sat underneath a large oak tree. The bird hadn’t really been a friend, but she had grown fond of it over the short time she’d become familiar with the flock. The crow had only been trying to survive. Like her. Like the boy.

Daya couldn’t fathom the exact reason she killed the boy. Maybe, in some small way, to make up for what she couldn’t do for her family. At no other point in her life had she ever been so driven to kill. That night, she returned to her makeshift home in the forest. Eventually, she nodded off to memories of a better time with silent tears running down her cheeks.

A series of vibrations shook Daya from her slumber. A loud engine whine coming from the sky, booming overhead, and fading into the distance. She stood up, not quite afraid, but alert. Another aircraft zoomed over the canopy of trees. A copter-jet, black with white foreign lettering. There were several in the distance, all heading toward the center of town. She could see them start descending fro where she stood. Daya ran in their direction, knowing they could be carrying food and medicine. It was a chance she had to take if she wanted to keep herself alive. The will to survive seemed to be the last of her possessions.

When she arrived in the town square, she saw soldiers unloading medical supplies and food from cargo crates. Many of the town’s orphans, widows, and families lined up anxiously for their shares, Daya herself included. Soon after, one of the soldiers announced to the people that some of them could be flown to a neighboring region for hospitalization, and treatment. To the orphans, they offered to take them where they would be given a new life, a place to live, an education, and when ready, a job.

“For those of you who have lost everything, your country will give it back to you.” He said.

Daya made herself one of the number of children to leave the desolate town. Now strapped in her seat inside one of the jets, she watched silently as they rose from the ground. A sense of surrealism swept over her as the town became small and faraway, and the world outside became so much bigger. For many hours, she watched through the window as forests, lakes, and cities passed by below her.

When eleven year old Daya Evanoff next set foot to ground, she would become a new animal.