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  • Flugdatenschreiber
  • Kim Aeran
    Translated by Jamie Chang (bio)

Somewhere on this sun-parched island, on patches of green, amidst pedestrian and time-honored labors, mysterious rumors and tedium, and sometimes a wind so cool it makes you want to shout out someone’s name, people live who keep on producing children, year after year. Flugdatenschreiber is its name. It used to be part of the peninsula, but the sea level rose at the end of the last Ice Age and made it an island. At the time, there was nothing surrounding this island but ocean. Time was its sole gift from the universe.

Time passed. After tens of thousands of seasons and yet another, a group of people arrived on the island. The first thing they did was name it. They searched the map for the highest point and found a large peak above the clouds. Laden with their possessions, they climbed hills, crossed plains, and trekked up the mountain. The ocean around the island had turned crimson, rising and falling like amniotic fluid. At last, they made it to the top. They saw what unfolded before their eyes and were awestruck. The pits, gorges, and fields they had crossed were all parts of lines that formed a shape. It was an expansive drawing made of ancient hieroglyphs, beautiful simply because it had a pattern. They knew they could sound it out even though they would never [End Page 11] decipher its meaning. The leader of the group looked down at the hieroglyphs with anxiety and wonder. His lips parted at last and sounded the word “Flugdatenschreiber.” All quietly echoed, “Flugdatenschreiber.” That’s how this island got its name. It’s been thousands of years. Toothless old men still talk about the ancestors. There are varying opinions on how the hieroglyphs got there and who wrote them, but the island formed a single village. The hieroglyphs have long since disappeared.

Mainland folk rarely visit Flugdatenschreiber. The island is not a resort, and is one of the islands farthest from the peninsula. Its population is neither large nor small. Their routine resembles the common notion of ‘everyday life.’ In the spring, the men sail out to sea to catch glassfish, and shine as they draw up nets full of light. The island has most things one would expect to find there. Unnecessary things also coexist in a hushed and harmonious way. There’s a school, televisions, and a tea house. There was once a population of eagle owls, a Natural Treasure. When the island was revealed to be an important habitat for the owls, Flugdatenschreiber became of interest—to mainland folk and the Cultural Properties Committee—for the first time since the end of the late Ice Age. The attention didn’t last long. There isn’t a single eagle owl left now. The villagers believed that an eagle owl left the island every time someone died. When someone died, the deceased cried squall squall and the eagle owl cried whoo whoo as it flew across the moonlit night. Many on the island are still living, but all the eagle owls have departed. There’s a blue lighthouse on one coast. Each night, the lighthouse and the little bulbs in various houses light up the island. From above, it looks like yellow light spilling out of a small hole, or a small yellow star. Imagine a star floating under a dark, undulating sea. That’s Flugdatenschreiber. 50cc motorbikes rattle down winding dirt roads, the portable reed organ with the broken E key creaks nervously in the annex school, and a laundry pole taller than the wind stands in someone’s [End Page 12] yard. Flugdatenschreiber is no longer the Flugdatenschreiber with the ancient hieroglyphs or the Natural Treasure Habitat for eagle owls. For a long time, nothing has happened on this island. The fact that Flugdatenschreiber was able to remain so consistently unremarkable for such a long period of time is one of its miracles.

This is the story of a boy living in 37 Flugdatenschreiber, the house with the blue slate roof. The story begins with an airplane crash and fire in the cannabis field a few days before. One...


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pp. 11-32
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