By Rahel Aima     

Aurelia Equatorialis

Scientists agree that the solar superstorm of July 23, 2012 was a near miss. I think of it sometimes, that tangled morass of energetic particles and gargantuan clouds of magnetized plasma, hocked up like like giant solar hairballs, squirming and seething like so many sci-fi depictions of alien life. The larval masses and nesting doll-sized mind worms of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, perhaps, or the Thread of Anne McCaffrey’s dragonriders series. Always wormy, always mad.

The storm that never quite happened would have been of a similar magnitude to the Carrington Event of September 1859, a geomagnetic poltergeist that saw the Northern Lights ignited as far south as Cuba. Aurelia Equatorialis, cold lights that don’t belong in warm skies. That storm fried enough telegraph infrastructure to effectively disable the Victorian Internet: just imagine what this one would have done. Worldwide power blackouts, everything plugged into a wall incapacitated, spoiled food, medical catastrophes, the internet extinguished. Puerto Rico in the first 11 months after hurricane Maria; Flint, Michigan for four years and counting—and that’s just North America.

The storm that didn’t quite hit barrelled into the Earth’s orbit. The radiation came in waves. The waves came in waves. The Earth missed it by about a week. A small margin, considering the technological devastation it would have wrought. The STEREO-A spacecraft was directly in its path. Yes, that STEREO-A, the one the warm water solidarity journal was named for. Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory Ahead. Sol-e-TErre Rapport Entres Océanes Anticolonial. It miraculously survived. It continues its trip around the sun, remitting high-quality images. Scientists believe there’s a 12% chance that it happens again in the next decade. Insha’allah.

In New Orleans, and in Ho Chi Minh city, two curators look at the sun, transfixed. Almost involuntarily, they find their spines curving, shoulders coming forward, pelvises tucked under. As they release the pose, they feel a radiating warmth, spiralling out from a point in the middle of their backs. In Manipur, a primary school teacher puts on Amy Winehouse as they stare down a stack of papers they are about to grade. In Brooklyn, a begum does the same. In Ithaca, an artist stops sanding the walls of the etching studio; dust settles. Just outside Lisbon, a writer orders a 3atini—dry, extra dirty—at the Hotel Palácio Estoril. In warehouse C-16 in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, a dark sound rises. Part hum, part keen, it produces a strangely pleasurable ASMR effect in everyone within a 30 meter radius. An art fair director looks worried. A dealer dreams of Dubai. A man wearing an inside-out kandoora smiles. Another man pauses his movie to investigate the disturbance. A cat stops to listen, one paw frozen in the air. Everyone sees red.

Years later, that would artist make a show about the event. The former art fair director would buy a number of works. The begums would rush to their tailors to be fitted for SolaroTM chudidar suits. The man in the inside-out kandoora would consider a hat in the same fabric. Those who couldn’t afford the iridescent car panels would stock up on promotional sunglasses, Oronamin-C and all manner of synthetic ouds. The jacket would fail to sell; the dealer would place it in a red BREAK GLASS CASE OF EMERGENCY shadow box and mount it in his office. And one night, when nobody was looking, the falcons would steal out of the frame, still hooded and still hobbled but managing to make their way back home to Ithaca where, roosting at the bus station, they would see a curious sight. Greyhound buses waiting patiently, neatly angled like bias-cut cucumbers. But instead of the leaping sinewy dog, they featured a winged horse with the face of a woman.

Now it’s March 18, 2019, 12:23 p.m to be precise. It has been 51 years since the gold standard was abolished—an inauspicious day, thinks a jewellery trader in Deira, picking at the mallipoo wound into her braid. The ghosts of Eleftherios Venizelos, King Farouk, and Chuck Berry stir, as does the long-presumed dead transmitter, which has been moved from Satellite to the gutted shell of what was once a coworking café. The radio begins to play a palimpsestic, schmaltzy love song, all vocal runs and mellismatic tendresse. It is clear theat the dunya is purely parodic, the warm tenor croons, modulating up a fifth as he slides into the chorus. And when I scream—— that I am the sun—— I feel a sinful sadness. The cat extends its front paws, curving its spine into a C shape and continues to snooze in a patch of sunlight. Like the curators that are beginning assemble, necks already reddening, it casts no shadow.

Now it’s 12:26 p.m. Not far from the Sharjah creek, laser lights intimate the gaping maw of a CME, and a somber voice reads, “Life takes a pause, organic matter returns to an inorganic state, and everything blazes pointlessly and without ardor in a futile desire for luxury and display.” Back in Al Quoz, the music shifts into the percussive bars that signal the now-familiar Art Week jingle, a rousing paean to culture and nation sung acapella, in the style of a nasheed. The chant floats into the courtyard, where preparations are being made for that night’s gala dinner. Everyone is aware that this dunya is parodic and lacks interpretation. Oil is the parody of gold. Air is the parody of water. The VIP minder rolls her eyes. She twitches her finger in annoyance, the way cat flicks its tail, before turning to smile at a museum director. The man in the inside-out kandoora smiles again. The brain is the parody of the equator. Art week is the parody of crime.

Now it’s December 26, 2019: the 46th eclipse of Saros 132. In the darkness, nobody realises that the power has gone out. Feeling foolish, the director grabs a plasticised palm off the wall. The begum, dressed in crisp whites that glow under the battery-powered and motion-sensored blacklight installed for the current exhibition, clacks into the gallery office to break the glass. An alarm sounds and that familiar old tenor warbles into action. Gold, water, the equator, or crime can each be put forward as the principle of things. His timbre is no longer rich but tinny, as if broadcast from the 20th century. The dealer emerges from storage and a struggle ensues.

In the Avenue, a sudden fog smells like kewra. Oud can’t save anybody now. The sea is hot. It takes on a reddish hue. All heartbeats come to a halt. In Beirut, a foundation director luxuriates by the pool, relaxing under unembalmed palms. In Maastricht, an artist and a writer board a train to the coast. They clink their glasses in a silent toast. And on the far side of the sun, STEREO A spins on.


A Day in the Light of MD
By miss dialectic