Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

She loves him and he loves her. But here on the stagnant, barely lapping, crust edge of the great acid sea, love is something suppressed. A meaningless and functionless thing to be stuffed away as far as possible from the hearts that ache in their chests.

This an ancient society in which all are expected to provide, to mine deep into the earth for the fingers of god – the morsels they suckle for moisture and fibre, the mash they roll in their mouths.

Her family are miners, exalted providers of food and the special stones with which they build their homes and protect themselves from the sear of the orb, which perpetually burns in the sky.

His father, on the other hand, was a dreamer. A quiet soul who told tales of a great world, another realm that lived and thrived deep beneath their toes. He hated the tight grip of this world, staring deep into the orb, begging for answers as it tore the sight from his head. They found his desiccated body, his face melted away as, in his madness, he’d crawled and drunk from the sea.

She and he both can think of nothing more than to, also, escape from this place. Lost in each other’s arms. He dancing about her and she feigning interest until he falls at her side and nips at her bare neck with his teeth. Laying atop he’d hook her in and together they’d forget about just how acidic and cruel this world of theirs can be.

Today they again ran away over the igneous dunes, farther than they’d ever before dared. And she, again, tastes him as their tongues intertwine and she calls this bitter secretion her love.

They startle, a crackle and a loud sonic snap as beams of brilliantly charged energy jag out like flint spears from their sun.

They run, making for an outcrop that rises out from the peak of the shale surge. Boulders stack atop boulders and they navigate through their maze until there, at its core, a hole.

A hole and the first peeking rungs of a ladder.

Now, you should understand that to them a ladder is a fantastical thing. They’d never seen one, yet they realised at once its function. And, as we all know, there has never been a ladder built that did not lead somewhere. Such enticing things they can be.

Without so much as a thought, they descend and they’re happy as the dim light fades to the blackest of pitch. Down and more down. Stopping only to loop their bodies around each other and through the ladder as they slept. And they dream at once of spinning in space, and they forget what is up and what’s down.

A speck of light appears and, quite suddenly, again they emerge from the hole. A soft rhythmic thump beckons and they take each other’s ripped and blistered hands and they step out into the sun.

But what hangs above them is the most strangest of orbs, its bright surface pitted and grey amid a vast sky, dark as coal and full with glittering flecks. And below it, sweeping out before them, a vast rolling blanket of water and even in this dim light, for they have never known anything but day, they know they are not where they began.

She kisses the smooth scales of his cheek and they step into the lap of the cool, cool sea and they chirp and they click as they stand on the roof of their world.