From the Mud, Rising Bravely
Lotus, ten years on
This flash sequel takes place ten years after the events of “Lotus”, Joyce’s story in We See a Different Frontier, and was written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of TFF. If you want to see more fiction like this in the future, please support our fundraiser, where you can pre-order the celebration anthology or pick up other exciting rewards.
I find myself squelching through the deep brown murk, feeling the thick ooze slide up my thighs. I cherish the feeling, because it reminds me that I still live, that my family still lives on this borrowed land.
It is not really land. It is just a space I call ‘home’. Land is such a taboo word these days. The landers fight for it in a game of us versus them.
Where we live, this ‘land’, is just mud. A mixture of water and soil and dreams.
I feel for the roots beneath my bare feet, the tube-like forms that promise nourishment. I reach down, the mud inching up my bare arms. Pull, pull, pull… and the roots emerge, darkened by mud and cool to the touch. Washed, it is crisp and delicious in soups and lightly blanched in boiling water.
Children’s laughter fill the air. Even the lotus flowers bob in the wind as if they dance with the laughter. This time of the year, they are pink and white in colour. I love them.
I hear Dad swear sharply in Cantonese. Sei yen tao. Bloody hell. The kind of words that would earn him a glare from Ma. The condenser has stopped working again. We are surrounded by water, lots of it—but most of them are not drinkable. Can you drink salt? So we condense. Rain. Moisture. Anything. Any pocket of fresh water.
Sighing, I know that dinner will be filled with pockets of grumpiness and silence. But we can manage, can we? I place the lotus roots in the plastic pail. I foresee more scavenging in the great plastic heap in the sea. Plastic does not disintegrate.
Close to me, Tia is also done with her harvesting. Her duty is to cut the large leaves. Dad and Ma will exchange them for useful things at the nearest Boaters’ Meet.
Something gold and sleek dart between my legs. A flash of scales, a dash of crimson and orange, like ripple and magic.
Dad told me once that they fought over fish. It was ten years ago. It was a silly thing, fighting over fish. But fish is meat, fish is nourishment, fish is food. Then they went back again and started to breed the fish.
So, this is our little secret. Our story from the mud, rising up bravely.
Or this is what my parents tell us, day after day, night after night.
Sometimes, rising bravely from the mud is what we can do at the very least. Like the lotus. Like my name. I was born when the lotus rose from the water.