Grey Film: Sonnenkind
by Antonio Fian
illustrator Jenny Mörtsell
“And Totolocoatl, the snake of darkness, will rise up and devour the sun god Tonatiuh, ruler of the fifth sun. But from his blood Chiualacoya, princess of the skies, shall be born. And she, Chiualacoya, princess of the skies, nourished by five beating hearts, will vanquish the snake and lead her children to the sixth sun, to an era of eternal light.” -Erhard Sackmayr Indian Legends (Innsbruck/Vienna, 1924)
Mexico 1996: Judith and Alexander, a European couple in their mid-twenties, are preparing to photograph the imminent total eclipse of the sun when Judith is bitten by a snake. Alexander saves her just in time and, still in shock, she clings to him. This leads to an intense kiss, and then, in the light of the fiery corona, the couple make love.
Fifteen years later: Judith, Alexander and their teenage daughter Lucia, a pale-skinned redhead, move into a new house in a small Austrian town on the shores of a landlocked lake, where they have taken over a business selling cameras and binoculars. A total eclipse of the sun is due to take place here too in a few weeks. Posters advertise a “Solar Eclipse Rave.”
Lucia soon settles in and makes new friends, taking particular interest in fellow pupil Jonathan. One afternoon, doing her homework in the garden, she falls asleep and is horrified to wake up in blazing sunshine; she is highly sensitive to sunlight and ought to be sunburnt. Nothing has happened to her skin however—except that a fetching light-brown freckle has appeared on her shoulder, an Aztec sun symbol. And she discovers she has an unusual ability: she can stare straight into the sun with her naked eyes. It is as if the sun were communicating with her. But why does she have blood on her hands? Why is the gutted corpse of a cat lying at her feet?
A few days later, in the swimming baths with Jonathan, she has a fit of nausea. She craves something, but doesn’t know what. She looks at Jonathan. His chest is glowing; his beating heart beckons to her, enticing. Lucia rushes home, flings open the fridge, grabs some raw meat and stuffs it into her mouth. She is sick. Erzsébet, the Hungarian housekeeper, comes in. Shocked at Lucia’s condition, she puts her to bed and soaks the stained T-shirt. When Lucia’s parents come home they find Erzsébet lying dead in a pool of blood in the bathroom. Next to her squats Lucia, feeding distractedly on Erzsébet’s heart, which she has torn from her body.
All three are in shock. Lucia, back to her senses and now in tears, clings to her parents. She shows them the sun sign on her shoulder and tells them about her new powers. She realizes what she has done, but she has no explanation for it. Judith and Alexander know that if they call the police their beloved daughter will be locked up in a psychiatric unit forever. After a long discussion they decide to cover up the murder: “This has not happened, and it will never happen again.”
Over the following days they make sure Lucia doesn’t stray from their sight. There are no signs she will have another “fit.” She is in the best of health and there is nothing unusual about her behavior, apart from an affinity for the sun and a sudden knowledge of Aztec religion and legend. The inquiry into Erzsébet’s disappearance fizzles out and things return to normal.
But the hunger returns. Lucia is frantic. She doesn’t want to do what the sun commands; she refuses to commit murder again. She curses the sun, runs from it, runs to where there are no people, out onto the moors, prepared to kill herself if necessary. But there are good hearts everywhere. A friendly old nature-lover finds her, weak and exhausted, and decides to take her to a doctor in his car—a fatal decision.
Judith and Alexander are furious with their daughter, but they are complicit now, and there is no going back. Just as the sun has gained power over Lucia, so she gains increasing power over her parents. The following night she stands in front of them and announces that she is Chiualacoya, princess of the skies, the chosen one who alone can save the world from eternal darkness. Judith and Alexander fall under her spell and from now on they are to serve her. Judith obeys reluctantly, Alexander enthusiastically.
Jonathan becomes concerned about Lucia, her frequent bouts of nausea and absence from school. He suspects she has a drug problem and tries to talk to her about it. She assures him she is fine. She takes great care to be nowhere near him when she senses hunger for a heart.
There are only a few days till the solar eclipse. And the hunger starts to return at shorter intervals. Lucia’s parents supply her with what she needs to survive it: her mother dressing up as a prostitute and bringing clients home, where Lucia is waiting for them. All goes according to plan the first time, but the second man fights for all he is worth. In the process Judith is also killed.
There are only a few hours left. A fifth heart is needed for the prophecy to be fulfilled. Alexander’s plan is that it will be Jonathan’s. But Jonathan becomes wary, seeing reddish-brown streaks on the floor in the front hall, and decides to climb in through Lucia’s window. Lucia is lying in bed, her hands tied to the bedpost by Alexander, afraid himself of his ravenous daughter. This only increases Jonathan’s suspicion that Alexander is psychopathic. He frees Lucia, sets her on his moped and rides off. Lucia senses his glowing, pulsating breast, but for now she is able to restrain herself.
Alexander sees them leave and drives after them. The “Solar Eclipse Party” has begun and they chase through the gathering crowds out into the reed banks edging the lake. Jonathan’s moped crashes and he falls to the ground, where he remains. Lucia is also injured, but still conscious. Jonathan’s heart beckons her. She moves towards him, but then hears her father calling her as he approaches.
The eclipse has reached its climax. Alexander searches for his daughter. She emerges from the reeds, smeared with blood. He rushes towards her and embraces her, then sees Jonathan, also emerging from the reeds. It is the last thing he sees.
translated from the German by