I.“Dawn already,” the pilot said. He glanced back at his only passenger in
the tiny aircraft. In the dark, En was a young girl with gray-blue face
paint marking her Dai ancestry. Her mouth was taped shut. The pilot
began his story-telling with his thick Northern accent once again.
“Oo! So glad that my father killed the man who found the Isle. All
mine, all mine for now. But still, you’ve probably seen it already, in
stories, films, poems or videos games. Wait. Where you’re from, do you
have any of those things?” He looked back at her.
“Your mouth is taped shut. So anyway, up to that point in history the
Council has already put trillions of dollars into the Isle. It was hard to
retract all the poems, songs, and fairly accurate diagrams of his – he
was clearly over-excited. I don’t blame him though. You, are going to
love this –” The clouds pulled open, unveiling something humongous.
Something floating in the tri-color sunset sky.
A gigantic, lush green tree, circled by three tiers of old clay walls. The
thick mass of roots hung below the viridian castle, defying gravity miles
up in the air.
II.A young, fair-skinned woman was on the island. She saw the aircraft
approach and bit her lips. She pushed down her own tiny aircraft off
the edge of the island with her hands, and pulled off her jacket to
III.The aircraft made its landing. The pilot Ubektu stepped out and
surveyed the surroundings with a proud smile. “Home at last,” Ubektu
En followed behind. Ubektu knelt down to remove the tape on the little
girl’s face. Suddenly, the little lips spoke.
“There’s a woman hiding behind that ledge,” En said. Ubektu smiled.
“This is no place to fear strangers, my girl. I am the only one who can
locate this place; I am the gatekeeper to the Isle, the majestic Second
Biosphere which will sustain humanity past the destruction of the earth.
You see the river behind you? It circles the tree around the entire
island. See the fish in there, and the bird in the sky...this place is an
ecosystem on its own.”
En coldly replied, “Either way, the woman is still there.”
Ubektu pulled out a rifle gun, and walked slowly towards the ledge – he
looked down. There it was, a naked white body cut across the abdomen
and bleeding. He gasped.
IV.The man took the body and led the girl towards the tree. In the centre
of the island, he laid the body down against the tree trunk in a quiet
garden. “En, go. Pick those types of blue flowers from the field.” En
nodded and quickly returned with a small bouquet, “they are relatives of
the Shuwei from home, used to heal wounds right?”
Ubektu smiled. “That’s my girl, that’s why I got you here for. We chose
the right one out of 3 billion.”
“You kidnapped me,” En said.
“I would pay your parents anything, but your father almost killed me –
three times! Why on earth would he do that. He’s very creative in his
murder attempts, I must say. Anyhow I left the money with them, so
don’t hold a grudge. Be happy when you are on the Isle. We are on a
good mission,” Ubektu replied.
He looked at the woman’s wounded body and turned to En again. “Rub
them gently between your fingers and apply the petals to the wounds.”
En followed his orders. Ubektu examined the body, and joined in to
help En; the smooth white skin under his fingertips was something he’s
never felt before on the Isle. It was human.
“This is strange,” En said, “Did you rich people really build this in the
sky? The stones on the castle walls are ancient.”
“You’ve got a keen eye.” Ubektu stopped with the petals. “I have to
admit, some ancient civilization beat us to the idea. The Isle is an out-
of-place artefact....” He looked towards the sky, at the huge tree
towering over like a mountain. “Deep inside the Isle, there is a room
which is the command centre, with data feeding in from every corner of
this floating piece of land. And weapons. Lots of them. For defence or
for war, we do not know. But they are big and they are powerful.
Though we’ve poured trillions into this project, investigating it,
maintaining it, containing it from the rest of the world, we did not
create it; and we do not know exactly who did and when it happened.
The radiation absorbed by that tree messes with radiometric dating.
However, that’s not to say we can’t create another Isle; we’re certainly
wealthy enough to do whatever we want, and you’ve seen what we tried
to offer to your parents. We’re just missing one thing: the tree. And
that’s what you’re here for.”
“The tree holds seeds.”
Ubektu replied. “We’ve taken the seeds back to the lab many times and
failed every time. Once the sprout is exposed to the air, it undergoes
decay. We don’t know how it’s possible for the plant to produce oxygen
but die so quickly from oxygen. It’s almost as if it needs to grow in
some kind of barrier – anyhow, I won’t do the work for you. You, our
expert, are here to help us take the right DNA or reproductive specimen
back. You’re the prodigy, not me.”
“When did you city people care about trees?”
“Ah...there is no way for any kind of wealth to build the machine that
is the tree...it’s the engine of the Isle. The tree’s skin absorbs ambient
radiation for energy; we suspect it once grew along ground-radiation for
levitation. Its levitation into higher altitudes, where greater levels of
celestial radiation feed it more energy is true genius. In the future, when
we move here, the tree may be able to even meet our energy demands.”
“You’re really planning on living here in the future?”
“Your solution to survive past destruction of earth is an empty island
without human life. Do you know why was it abandoned...or, why the
creator-civilization died from the island, leaving the animals and the
Ubektu laughed. “Perhaps the tree eats human beings. I don’t know.
That’s a suspicion I had when I was first put on Isle. Something so
beautiful, so clever...yet abandoned. Something must have happened so
it ended in this state.”
“Who put you on the Isle?”
“I did, and my character. After all, I am Ubektu, of the Zanhadin
family; we indirectly own over half of the diamond mines operating in
all of Drephos. The families and corporations investing in the Isle came
to consensus back in the 70’s that we needed to appoint one person to
keep the Isle – if we want to keep it at all. Once upon a time there was
open-access; of course, open to all the wealthy investors, I mean. People
came to visit and take photos with their rich kids. This harmony,
however, was threatened when families and corporations fought to
divide the Isle and set up territories. War was going to break out before
we relocated here.” Ubektu laughed. “They know now to appoint one
person. One they can trust. The Zanhadin family has always been the
most trustworthy, and they knew that out of the Zanhadin’s I am the
most trustworthy of them all.”
“You must be a good man.”
“That, and also they take my parents hostage each time I am sent
The women suddenly woke up and screamed in terror. “Who are you!”
Ubektu smiled. “The more appropriate question is, who are you?”
The women looked around her and rambled, “Who are you? Where is
everyone else? And what did you do to my body?”
Ubektu replied calmly. “I am Zanhadin Ubektu, Emperor of the Isle. I
would never do anything to harm a woman like you. You are on my
The women sat up, and covered her breasts with her arms. She looked
around. “The Sela Garden. How did you ever get in here? What did you
do to my home, you thieves? You must be thieves, air pirates!”
Ubektu pointed his rifle at the woman’s head. “Tell me. Do you even
know where the Sanctuary Chamber is?”
The woman calmly replied, “deep down within the roots, even below
the water system. Hidden where no one could see, where it is closest to
the power source of my land – the Tree itself.”
En looked at Ubektu.
VI.Ubektu threw his head up and laughed hard. “You? You’re a fucking
local? I didn’t know people who lived on the Isle for ages spoke modern
Shaera well. What are you, a savant like my girl here?”
He bent down, and forcefully lifted up the white woman’s body in his
arms. “You are the Empress of the Isle. Tomorrow is another day, but
tonight you are the Empress.”
The woman did not struggle, but simply leaned against Ubektu’s flesh
as if it were the only thing left to exist in the world.
VII.Ubektu led the two women into a well-furnished room on the ground
level of the castle. Tucked inside the small space were a bed, a computer
station, a kitchenette, and countless diamond accessories.
“Can I speak to the little girl alone? She saved my life with the Utea
petals. I want to speak with her,” the woman pleaded.
“No problem”, Ubektu said as he headed out the door. “I’ll be back in
En asked, “Where are you headed?”
“Routine checkup. Weapons, remember?” Ubektu winked.
The woman closed the door, and looked outside the crack to make sure
they were alone.
En ran towards her and hugged her tightly. “Thank you,” En said. For
the first time, she lost her cold voice and spoke like a child.
The woman looked down and smiled. “Don’t worry now. It’s going to
be okay. I’ll find a way to get us back home.”
En shook her head. “You cut yourself for me.”
The woman could not hide her surprise and tried to pull herself out of
the embrace. “Smart girl you are, to see past my tactic. If there’s one
thing men won’t kill, it is something that is already close to death. I had
to appear as if I was of no threat, like a toy that had some creative play
value. It was a sure-fire way to buy time and find out what’s going on
between you and that man.”
“You cut yourself for me.” En repeated.
“Silly girl. I would do more than that. I’ve learned to die for a victim
En let go and looked up at the woman’s face with bright eyes. “You’re
with the Movement?”
Out of nowhere, the woman pulled a glass shard to the girl’s throat.
“Talk,” she demanded. “Tell me what you know.”
En replied. “Ubektu, that man, told me many stories on the way here.
He and his rich friends see you as the only opponent on earth worth
fearing. You are violent and unrelenting in the sacrifice of others, and of
yourself....like my Father’s tribe.”
The woman dropped the glass shard. “I am sorry to have been
rude...one can never be too careful of spies. I am Malier. Salvaged by
the Movement since the age of ten, when I was trained as a Man-Eater.
Where are you from, little girl?”
“I am En. I am a daughter of the Dai tribe from my Mother’s
“And what is a Dai?”
“Dai is a white-people word meaning both representative and
replacement. We are representatives of the earth in times of conflict,
and replacements of the earth when the earth is in trouble. What is a
Malier smiled. “A strategist. The oppressive system is run by a majority
of heterosexual men. And there lies the opportunity for women like us;
men control the world, and so we control men. Seduce, use, and kill.
The Movement...they saved me and my sister from a child prostitution
ring, and did not bother rehabilitating us to a “normal” life. They knew
better, that our past of being victimized is to be our greatest strength.
En. Would you join me? Leave Ubektu.”
“There are only two true forces in the world, the people’s Movement
and the rich. Forget about the cults and the shrinking nations.”
“There are the rest of us.” En said.
“Who exist at the mercy of the rich.” Malier replied.
“There is a third way. People have ways, but so does nature.”
“Nonsense. Even if it has a way, nature is too weak to survive alone in
this day and age.”
“It will,” En replied. “When we all die”.
Malier sighed. “I tell you, if you stay with him, you will die tonight.”
“This is day thirteen of my mission on the Isle. Before I caught sight of
your airship coming in, I was preparing the island to be detonated
tonight. I have explosive set throughout the island; tonight, the
Movement’s aircraft will come to witness and confirm the detonation of
this place. ”
“But what for?” En asked.
“What for? It is unforgiveable....for the wealthy to survive past the
destruction they’ve unleashed on earth, simply because they have what
it takes to control this floating biosphere. We’ve thought about taking it
from them, but we have no means of securing it over a long period of
time. I am taking it down. Only today did I realize why they’re never
afraid of neither nuclear pollution nor nuclear war. That tree....it feeds
on this violence. This is a vile place.”
“I knew you were conscious the whole time,” En said. “But why did you
pretend to be from here? Isn’t that ridiculous?”
Malier laughed. “It is. For fun. Adds to my own play value as a toy. And
I wanted to fuck with him.”
“I was worried for you; when Ubektu put you to the test with a gun,
how did you know where the Sanctuary was?”
“I didn’t. I’ve searched the island for almost two weeks now. Never
came across a sanctuary-like space for me and my explosives to take
out....the only place I haven’t been to is deep within the roots. You’ve
gathered any clues yourself on this sanctuary-thing during your plane
“He had a lot of time to talk to me on the plane with my mouth taped
shut. He says he’s the only person who knows how to get in and out of
“So it is. This command centre is the only unknown variable in the
grand explosion right now. Do you know how we might get in?”
“I do,” Ubektu said. The man stood tall at the door.
Malier simply smiled back. “Welcome back, Emperor.”
VIII.Two bodies were intertwined in the dark. En was locked outside the
“Why do you want the girl?” Malier asked.
“Prodigy botanist. For my mission to replicate the tree.”
“And why? Are you interested in a third Biosphere, so you can destroy
the second like you did the first?” Malier’s tone was sharp, but
“I am just a guardian. All I know is that the tree is certainly a marvel. It
collects all this ambient radiation into usable energy: everything you see
on the Isle is powered by that tree. It would have so many applications
even on land.”
“Have you ever thought about taking this Isle for yourself, and
becoming a real Emperor?”
“What if I married you and made you the real Empress?” Ubektu
whispered into Malier’s ear.
“I’d rather kill myself. There is no justice in me surviving as queen
while everyone else dies on earth.”
Ubektu looked into her eyes. And was in love.
Malier bent down and kissed him on the lips. “Tonight, I like you. So I
will tell you this. You don’t want to be staying over tonight. Leave your
“Suit yourself.” Malier said.
“I will have to leave tonight anyways. If I am late returning with the
sample, they’ll kill my parents.”
“You mean the other investors in the Isle? Your own?”
“Yes, that’s the way business works.”
“I love it.” Malier smiles.
“I know something else you’ll love,” Ubektu said with a sparkle in his
Malier sat up and lost her vain smile.
IX.En followed them quietly in the dark. She saw Ubektu lead Malier
down, deep down into the roots, thick and towering in nothing but
darkness. Then Ubektu stood still at a certain spot.
And a door appeared in the dark. They entered.
Computer screens, camera feeds, lights, buttons, chrome. Malier looked
at everything; touching everything, twisting and turning. Ecstatic, she
spun around trying to figure out the entire command centre as Ubektu
simply looked at her from a distance.
“I’ll be back to marry you.”
Malierheard his voice, and turned around to smile at him. Her face
became distorted by terror when she saw the door close slowly, and
Ubektu waving from the outside of the chamber.
“Just wait in here. I’ll bring back the sample, save my parents, let them
reproduce the tree all they want, and come back here for you as soon as
I can.” Ubektu’s voice faded.
Malier was still running towards the door before she realized impending
doom. Collapsing along the walls, there was not a single crack to be
detected by any part of her skin.
“Malier?” It was En’s voice.
A stupefied Malier watched a crouched En crawl out of a corner.“I saw
him trying to trap you so I ran in here to help,” En said.
“How are you going to help?” Malier said, her voice low. “There’s
nothing you need to help with. We’ve won. The Movement is coming.
Our airship will be here soon to ensure the grand explosion happens.
I’m in the Sanctuary to try to make sure the Sanctuary does not
interfere with the explosion. Ubektu is in a hurry to save his parents, so
he’ll rush to collect a sample and most likely leave before the explosion.
He was a good man.”
“Are you ready to die?” En asked.
“Always have been, since the age of 5.”
“What would you want to do before you die?”
“Nothing. You? You’re still a child.”
“I’m hungry,” En said.
“The feeling will go away.” Malier said.
X.Having had his fun, Ubektu knew he was out of time. He looked up at
the humongous tree, standing proud against the stars. “All this money
and effort put into that damn girl. To collect a stupid specimen that
might fail anyways. And she disappears at just the right time.” He
grunted as he randomly cut off a piece of the tree’s roots. “Shouldn’t
have let her out the room.” He took the specimen he collected and got
into his airship, speeding into the night sky. Behind him, leaves were
falling. First a few. Then hundreds.
Then hundreds of thousands.
XI.En searched the room and found seeds scattered. “Strange seeds. These
must be from the tree,” she turned to Malier. “Are you hungry?”
Malier didn’t answer. She was staring closely at the huge screens,
displaying a 360 degrees image of the night sky outside. Her left hand
was holding onto something.
“Look,” En said. She pointed at the screen. “Malier, there’s Ubektu’s
In the dark, Malier’s voice was cold and clear. “I don’t know if I found
the right thing. But this lever here has the scent from his hand.” She
saw Ubektu’s airship, and another set of lights flickering in the dark:
the airship carrying her comrades – who were on schedule to see the
last night of the Isle.
En was in the corner. She held the seed with both of her hands, and
whispered quietly an ancient prayer. “Thank you, for sustaining my life.
May we return the favor one day.” She cracked them open, and ate. The
taste made her smile, and she turned to look at Malier.
There she was, standing, frozen, but her eyes were calculating.
Calculating something unknown, something complex, something that
made Malier’s expression come back to a timid life; a life in stark
contrast to her terrified self moments ago. Yet she continues to stare at
In a split moment, it showed a gargantuan blast of fire from the Isle. Ubektu’s ship went
down seconds after Malier pulls the lever.
“Why, Malier?” En asked.
Malier did not look at En, and pulled the lever again. A second blast of
fire shot through the night sky, and took down the Movement’s airship.
She turned back to look at En. She smiles.
“Are you happy, En? We don’t have to die now.”
XII.“I am in the command centre of the Isle. I know how to locate the Isle.
Tonight, I killed the keeper of the Isle. That should disconnect the rich
from the Isle for some time....while they frantically search, I only need
to figure out how to control the exit to this sanctuary thing. I am now
the one in control of the Isle. I did it En. I took it for the poor, the
oppressed, and the abused of the earth. My only regret is that I could
not communicate any of this to the airship of the Movement while
being stuck in here.” Malier looked down on the ground, and paused.
She looked at En. “My sister was the captain of that ship.”
En saw the tears fall onto the ground. But could not hear a sob.
Malier looked up and laughed. “No one said this would be easy. But
tonight, I stole from the rich. Big time. The people will survive past
their destruction of the earth. I shall be happy.”
Suddenly, En fell to the ground, holding her abdomen in fetal position;
Malier rushed to catch her.
En was breathing heavily. Her twisted expression made Malier’s feeling
of victory fade into slight panic.
“We’ll get you those blue flowers, they must help you too. Or some
other type of plant on this island. There’s tons of them. They’re
supposed to be untainted. And you’re a botanist of some sort. You
know exactly what to do.” Malier said, as she frantically searched every
lever and knob and pin to create some sort of exit. “Dammit, this is the
fucking command center isn’t it?”
Slowly, screens were shutting down. Lights were flickering; then
turning off. Soon, they were enveloped in darkness.
Malier noticed En’s eyes were fixated on something in the distance.
A light. A small opening to the outside. The command centre’s hum
seemed to die slowly as they made their exit.
XIII.Malier ran with En in her arms, speeding for the garden where En
tended her wounds. She was in too much of a hurry to look up at the
huge tree above them; it had lost over half its leaves in the night breeze.
En was laid down on the grass. Malier stuffed little blue petals in the
“Look,” En said, pointing into the sky.
Malier looked up and saw a thousand branches, bare against the
moonlight. Her jaws dropped. The tree was dying.
And so was her Isle.
“Some plants are fragile,” En said. “If I had gone with Ubektu instead of
entering the command centre, I probably could have stopped him from
collecting the wrong sample. Oxidization. maybe. Somewhere, he may
have cut open the skin of the tree. He wanted to preserve the Isle, but
he killed it. You wanted to destroy it, but you saved it. And now, I will
die with it.”
Malier’s voice was shaking. “You don’t have to die. Tell me where you
live, I’ve seen too many aircrafts tucked away between all the weapons
lining the armoury. I’ll take you home. I’ll take you home, your people
must know what to do with you.” Malier said.
“Our teachings, it tells us to stay with the one thing that sustained your
last breath. The tree’s seed was the last thing I ate, so I will stay here.”
“It killed you!” Malier screamed. “It didn’t sustain you, this is not the
time for traditional teachings. En, let me take you. Let me take you
home.” Malier swallowed. “And then I will kill myself.”
En looked at Malier and whispered. “Can you help me?”
“Of course,” Malier said.
“Then put me down and live.”
She left an unresponsive En in the garden. And found herself an aircraft
from the Isle. She flew away into the night; thinking about En’s fate
alone on the huge floating island. About the sight of the barren tree
when she left. And about her sister.
Halfway on her trip home, the aircraft lost its momentum. She laughed
and remembered what Ubektu said: that everything on the Isle is
powered by the tree. The aircraft dropped out of the sky; she did not
He jumped and escaped the blast fired at his airship. He rushed back to
the Council, which released his parents but detained him for not being
in possession of a reproductive sample. The unexplained loss of En
warranted an investigation, which found the black box records of his
The video showed that the tree went through oxidative decay, all too
familiar to the researchers. Investors, his acquaintances, close friends,
and other members of the Zanhadin family ended up charging him for
wilful termination of the Second BioSphere. Ubektu Zanhadin died of
On the Isle, there was a strong sprout growing out of a little girl’s
There was no one alive in the sky, but the animals, the plants, and the