Copyright is held by the author.
BEFORE I was born, our town became known for inventing the Jivu, a small creature that died in a brilliant flash of fire when first looked upon.
I first killed a Jivu when I was six years old. I grew up with Jivus so it wasn’t abnormal to watch a living thing die and to cause the death by my own hand.
My father held the cube in his palm and let me pull away the black veil. I saw the Jivu for only an instant, a black ball in the glass with what looked like eyes staring back at me, before the cube erupted in white light and the Jivu’s world ignited. Then it was over and my father was smiling.
He told me the Jivu had been fresh from the factory. Its death would have been more spectacular if we had waited. I asked him if it was possible to see the Jivu without killing it. He smiled and said no.
Because the Jivu’s death grew brighter with time, people began to save the cubes over generations. Parents would buy a Jivu for their newborn and lift the veil when the child came of age. Birthday parties and graduations culminated in a Jivu’s death. My grandfather saved one of the earliest Jivu cubes and wrote into his will that we unveil it at his funeral.
The Jivu’s life span has not yet been measured; it seems the only way for them to die is to be seen. They were not invented for longevity, but when scientists realized the veiled Jivu could outlive its human owner, they began to study whether the creatures could die of natural causes. One lab has kept a Jivu in a locked, windowless room monitored only by microphones to record the sound coming from the cube. The scientists are waiting for the Jivu to die with its veil still in place. To this day the Jivu moves about in its world keeping busy at things we can’t understand or see.
Some people care deeply for their Jivus, hiring a service to guard the cubes when they are on vacation. Others find the death of the Jivu addicting, amassing dozens of cubes before a binge of lifted veils and a burst of light and death. Some people worship the death of the Jivu, breaking cubes to spread the ashes on their faces or mix it with flour to bake into cakes. Some people build shrines to a single cube, in which they believe is a smaller shrine and in it an even smaller cube with a smaller shrine and so on. They believe humans are Jivus waiting for a veil to be lifted by someone we cannot see.
There are some who say it is possible to see the Jivu. They teach that the motivation of the Jivu is to be. They say in the moment you understand the Jivu it is the veil and not the fragile world within that burns away.