A Mediterranean fishing village where the quality of light is charged by the teal flame of a pulsing shore, then dampened, as the afternoon is tamed by the tomb-dust of decadent marinas.
Phil Williams eats a sour apple and tosses its core into the Spanish ozone.
The combination of decayed vessels and cataract-white yachts fill the water, seeming to articulate the gap between the local-labour traditions such as fishing and the increased presence of global commerce, digital wealth, and luxury tourism packages.
Beyond the harbour vacant guesthouses line the promenade like pearly skeletons.
The buildings have an indisputable charm; they flaunt a fundamental structural elegance, despite appearing borderline derelict from the outside. Microscopic shifts of wall gradient produce shadows of shade in scenic positions, allowing the three islands beyond the bay to pulse in a mustard-chroma beneath the mid-day blaze.
Phil is negotiating with a local in the harbour about the loan of a wooden rowing boat. This morning, it occurred to him that during his stay he was yet to leave the comfort of the town’s small cuisine complexes, alleyway cafés, or his marina-view room, choosing to sit and simply watch the gold allure as opposed to joining its cloak of iridescence.
After inquiring about the three islands, the only knowledge he could gather was vague. Apparently on the largest one, there was a modestly sized community with self-sustainable energy and agricultural systems.
The local workman insisted that if he desired to travel to see any of the islands, this was the one he must visit.
ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ
Phil’s journey is short and effortless; the waters are a calm violet-veil, a sheet of turquoise ether.
He rows effortlessly, and the boat fills the distance like star-light boiling night from a puddle.
The wooden oars guide him on a slow approach. A peculiar structure becomes visible as he gets close that stirs an initial shock.
Phil feels an almost ornate horror possess his motor functions.
He imagines a similar sensation attacking a ship captain as he glimpses the knifes of headland through storm fog on the last second before fatal impact.
Rising from the centre of the island is an immense pole pointing towards the heavens. Though undoubtedly a man-made structure, it seems perfectly disguised amongst the leafy platter of palm, cypress and phoenix trees. Its vines are symmetric, holding the pole upright – cranes of the wild, mathematically curling in certain sections to equally distribute support to necessary areas.
Beneath, nets of stringy flora gently beat in the red-breeze wavering like colourful molluscs on strata.
Phil feels the salt filaments of the wave crest lap his ankles as he drags the boat to the shoreline. The sea in this part of the Mediterranean is a colossal tropical bath; crystalline steam rises from its ebb, as if commanded by the virtuoso of an ancient sea-harp.
Two women and one man, all wearing the bronze-armour of centuries of Mediterranean ancestry, treat Phil’s arrival with enthusiasm and make their way down to from the treeline.
“Welcome to our island, surprisingly it is not often we get to see a vessel approaching unless it is one of our own”.
Phil is shown around immediately. He is escorted through the grove of carob and coconut trees; everything is explained as if he has a scheduled tour.
“Our entire island is run by the solar pole. It fertilises our crops, heats our settlements in the winter, and provides electricity for various technological indulgences our residents choose.”
As the second woman speaks the whiteness of her teeth becomes a crescent of phosphorescence on her bronze face.
“Through the solar pole runs on an elaborate tubing system that is embedded into various craters of the island. The technology extends deep through the limestone rock, below the caverns and catacombs and straight into the bedrock of the earth. They also run below the shore into the sea-bed.”
The man has olive skin and maroon eyes. He looks towards the pole and begins to speak in a tranquil timbre that reminds Phil of the soft waves:
“It is simple extractor mechanism that absorbs the myriad energies of our ancestors and their labour. It is channelled through the fusion mechanism and converted into all necessary forms of power. To ensure the highest potency of our methods, we lay all of our of dead in equipped burial rooms beneath the sand. Their bodies are distributed in geometrical clusters around the island, chambers intricately placed, to allow an equal amount of energy to be manipulated from specific areas. These are our zones of high absorption rates; proper use of this system means we will never run out sustainable energy.
The woman with very white teeth continues:
“Once every two months we also have a mass cremation of fresh bodies complemented with old bones of the previously deceased. Their souls are then distilled from the smoke and salt-wind and fed into the nucleus of our energy reactor.”
Phil’s eyes gleam polished marble. A surge of humble thrill, almost pride for his fortune in encountering this community, courses and spasms along his cheek bones.
He was never aware of the possibility that a society could be run on such means.
ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ
The sun was now fading to a flamingo-pink crest on the horizon, the sea lapping a gentle, alpine purple.
The melodic laughter of local children skips along the breeze down to where Phil stands. He gazes at a panoramic of the island; all surroundings are brimming golden particles, its marrow in crimson harvest.
The intricate rivers that calculate the age of a leaf are running a sacred dance towards the sand.
As dusk settles, songs of thousands of fishermans’ souls echo from the chambers of the island.
Their voices bawl in majestic currents of air, in tune with the ancient caramel light. The chime of their voices invites Phil to stay with his new-found community, for the night at least.
He is left with the carnival of singing graves at dusk light.
Solar Grave Island is an image of a community in quiet resistance, the playful depiction of a fictional island somewhere off the Spanish coast. The narrative attempts to reflect the possibilities of alternative futures in late-capitalism, to symbolise the infinite possibilities of human innovation in a communal context. The island’s inhabitants seem to thrive whilst the rest of the coastal communities have been shattered by globalised capitalism. The creation of a new sustainable energy system conveys the importance of hope and optimism when attempting to restructure or adapt a new type of living, to avoid slipping into the inherent cynicism of the twenty-first century, especially when economic and ecological realities seem to get bleaker.
The flavour of the work is perhaps the result of revisiting the wonderful short stories of J.G Ballard.
Callum is a writer and musician from the north-west of England. He lives in Leeds where he is finishing his Masters at Leeds Beckett University. He is currently working on several short stories and is a member of Sheffield’s House of Constant Pop.