The 100 Year Miracle begins with Dr. Rachel Bell, a member of a small research team who have set out to study the Artemia lucis, a small sea creature that glows a bright green during it’s mating period, which lasts for five days every 100 years, only around an island off the coast of Washington. Dr. Bell, however, betrays her research team to conduct a study of her own – investigating the mythical painkilling properties of these sea creatures in order to cure her chronic pain from a childhood accident.
The story has a very mystical quality – because of the nature of these sea creatures that anchor the story, the tone is set that we are witness to something strange and delicate, something otherworldly and mythical. And indeed, Dr. Bell’s research about these creatures involves Native American folklore surrounding them, which is what sets her on her quest. According to the stories she’s found, the people native to the island used the Artemia lucis as both painkiller and hallucinogen, and as a way to access the spirit road. It is clear that these creatures are not to be disturbed, however, Rachel’s quest leads her down a destructive path. When she meets Harry, a resident of the island who is also suffering from chronic pain, she begins to unlock the powers of the Artemia lucis despite the negative effects it begins to have on her and those around her.
However, Rachel’s obsession is, on one level, understandable. It’s a very human thing to want the pain to stop, especially if it’s a pain that’s been ailing you for the majority of your life. It’s very human to get greedy with it, to become to single-minded that we fail to see the chaos that is happening on the other side of our blinders. I’m sure that a lot of people with chronic illnesses – especially illnesses that effect who we are as people and take away parts of us that we value – would jump at the chance to find a painkiller that would make it stop, even if that painkiller comes with some pretty intense side effects. It’s a matter of the good outweighing the bad, or rather, it’s a matter of priority.
And maybe Rachel’s ego gets in the way a bit. Maybe she goes overboard, and certainly there are ethical issues involved with her research and the disturbing of the Artemia lucis’ mating season. But would any of us be any different, given the chance? It is so easy to access those darker parts of humanity – the parts that allow us want to play God, to be selfish to the point of destruction. It’s a thin line between ground-breaking discovery and dangerous obsession.
Ream does an incredible job of showing us something mythical being torn apart and analyzed, being overtaken by human egoism and destroyed. It’s important to look at nature in this way – as something not to be disturbed – and to recognize how our human greed can effect the lives around us.