I stared at my reflection, my brown eyes scrutinizing every flaws on her face. Her black hair seemed to be getting duller and ...Learn More I stared at my reflection, my brown eyes scrutinizing every flaws on her face. Her black hair seemed to be getting duller and her lips, were always a bit small. Although her dimple managed to bring out some light to her feature, it was never enough to fill the void in her eyes. She wasn’t ugly. But, certainly, she was never going to be pretty enough. Correction, she was never going to be enough. Not even for myself. Fighting the urge to fall into a mental breakdown again, I flipped the mirror away from me, effectively avoiding the stony gaze from my own reflection. I hated mirrors anyway. “You’re okay,” I assured myself just as the tapping noise started on my window. I snapped my eyes towards the source of the noise and sure enough, Daniel was outside. Knowing that it was beyond freezing outside, I ran to window and promptly unlocked it. I watched as Daniel slid it up and shivered slightly as the cold winter air escaped into the room. In one quick movement, he slipped inside, white snow against his dark jacket, before he shut the window close. I stared at him, noting the very definition of perfection that was him. The leather clearly wasn’t practical against the harsh winter but who was I to complain? He looked good in it. In fact, Daniel had always been gorgeous and with the flecks of snow on his tousled light brown hair, he was magnificent. And those glinting green eyes. I was a goner the first time I saw those eyes. “So,” I started as casually as I could, “what brings you here?” He smirked, probably laughing at my attempt to cover up my blatant staring. “Don’t,” I stopped him before he started teasing me. He’d always been aware of his effect on me and he never failed to use it as his laughing stock. Stupid, good-looking boy. Daniel plopped himself onto my bed, a serious look on his face now. “Are you going to tell me what’s the problem soon or should I guess?” “Why do you always assume I have a problem?” I wondered as I joined him on the bed. He eyed me dubiously, “That’s why I’m here, remember?” “Since you’re here almost everyday, I must’ve been a total screw-up.” “True,” he remarked as I glared at him. Eventually, he leaned down to hold me against him. “Come on,” he said gently, “what’s wrong?” The warmth from his body was non-existent, but I felt it anyway. Daniel was my best friend and my security blanket. He’d always going to be there for me. “Everything is wrong with me,” I mumbled against his jacket. “Why can I ever be good enough?” “Is this about the upcoming result?” he asked quietly. Sighing, I pulled away from him. “Even that prick, AJ got better score than me last time. I’ve always been excellent in being the best and now it’s like I’m sinking into average.” Daniel placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “No, you’re not,” he argued, “you’re still in the running for valedictorian and considering the things you’ve been through, I’d say you’re doing one hell of a job.” He gazed down at me, a soft look on his face. “You'd be okay,” he comforted. “I believe in you.” “I hope so,” I muttered. “If it doesn’t, I’m not sure I can live with myself.” Avoiding his eyes, I confessed, “I’m just tired of trying so hard every day.” Wordlessly, Daniel gathered me into his arms once again. I closed my eyes, inhaling the fresh smell of him. It hadn’t been the first time he heard my woeful complain but somehow, he never got tired of giving me solace. “Do you remember the night I met you?” he mused, a smile lacing in his voice. I snorted, “You mean the time you finally noticed me?” Daniel let out a chuckle. “Okay, so I was a jerk before that.” I glanced up at him, narrowing my eyes, “You’re worse than that. We’ve been neighbors since forever and you never said anything to me.” “We went to different school!” he defended. “We live next to each other,” I said pointedly. “You didn’t even know my name.” “Yeah,” he said, his eyes softening as he looked at me, “but I know you now.” I contentedly placed my hands on his cheeks, grinning up at him. He responded with his own dazzling- the one I loved so much, back in the days I used to drool over him from afar. And now, I was on his arms, even if it was mainly platonic- especially from his side. When I thought of the past, I guess there’s just something funny about our friendship. Few months ago, I was close to ending my life. And then, he finally saw me. He saved me that night and he’s now an important fixture in my life- always coming to my rescue. I never wanted to let go of him. ….. The rest of the week seemed to be pretty mundane. School was still stressful but somehow, I was alright. The only downside of me being okay meant that I wouldn’t get to see Daniel as long as I felt… normal. Like a guardian angel, he usually showed up to my room only when I was having my ‘down’ moments. It wasn’t until Thursday that Daniel slipped into my room, eyeing me cautiously as I paced around the room. “You should really start locking your windows more often,” he commented as he made a beeline for my bed. Ignoring him, I took the spot next to him while he reached out to capture my hand with his. My hand was icy cold but if he had noticed it, he wasn’t at all bothered. “Tomorrow’s going to be alright,” he said, stroking the clammy skin of my hand. “You’ll do great.” I groaned, more in despair than exasperation, “I know. But that’s not going to be enough.” Snatching my hand away from him, I stood up, agitated, “It’s never going to be enough unless I have the highest.” “I understand,” he murmured soothingly, reaching for me again. Once I was placed beside him, he gently tipped my chin up, whispering, “You’ll always have me.” I gazed at him as a lump formed in my throat and it took me awhile to respond. I kissed his cheek, and before he could react, I wrapped my arms around him. Without hesitating, he held me even tighter, knowing that I needed him more than I ever needed anything else in the world. I closed my eyes, basking in his embrace. “What would I do without you?” I never really got my answer as a knock on the door eventually forced us to pull away, bursting the comfort bubble surrounding us. “Juliet, honey?” my mom shouted behind the closed door, are you talking to yourself again?” My eyes widened before I rushed to answer, “Sorry, mom!” My hands were already busy pulling an amused-looking Daniel to the window. I slid the window quietly, stifling a laughter as Daniel raised his eyebrows at me. “Be careful,” I whispered as I closed the window. I let out the giggle as he waved a goodbye and started climbing off. Soon, he disappeared in the night and it was as if he was never here. …. The result was pasted on the Academic board, and students were squished around it although the school’s website had provided us our own result as well. I stood grimly as the crowd buzzed with a mixture of palpable excitement and downright disappointment. “Congratulations! I always know you’re going to score the highest.” AJ was surrounded by his crowd, fake praises spouting off their loud mouths. Immediately, I was hit with a wave of resentment. Didn’t I work hard enough? A classmate of mine materialized next to me, cheerfully congratulating me but I didn’t hear her. I felt disconnected. A flash of red appeared in my eyes and it took everything in me not to break into tears. “I have to go,” I mumbled to no one in particular. Nobody heard me and surely enough, nobody trailed behind me as I dashed off. I was shaking profusely as I climbed my way to the third floor. The walk in the hallway seemed to take forever and a day and as soon as I reached the corner, all hell broke loose. I collapsed onto the ground with a fit of silent tears. My whole life was crumbling. And I had nothing more of myself. Self-doubts were creeping inside me like black smoke blanketing my very soul. I was powerless against the voice in my head. Stupid. You just can’t do anything, right, can you? “You’re never going to be good enough,” I whispered angrily to myself. And in this moment, there was nothing more I wanted to do than to take the void away. I wasn’t thinking straight- I knew that, even as I walked the remaining steps to the edge of the balcony. I definitely wasn’t thinking at all, as I pulled myself up and stared at death three floors below. And as I jumped, I felt nothing but numbness. …... I met Daniel during the darkest time of my life. I was all alone. The house was empty, my parents had left for their work trip after I had convinced them I was alright being by myself. A lie, but they never knew that. I stared at the letter I had written down, the words scrawled in black ink taunting me. I’d been planning my own escape for months and I never once attempted to actually do it. Well, tonight’s the time, I told myself glumly. I reached for the knots and stepped outside into the frosty night air.The street seemed abandoned- most houses went dark before the clock struck midnight and for once, I welcomed the silence. Even when there was something eerie about it. I made my way to my destination: the tree. There was nothing particularly special about it. Just one big tree our neighbor, the Chadlers refused to chop down because they claimed it was beautiful. It stood proudly at our connecting backyard and though I never truly understand its beauty, I knew Daniel Chadler had loved it. As I arrived, I immediately noticed that someone had already beaten me to it. I expected it to be deserted, but there he was, standing and looking oh-so handsome. Instinctively, I froze as Daniel’s eyes moved from my face to the knots I was holding. His eyes widen and something shifted in his features. He was wearing the black leather jacket he'd always worn and his brown hair was more disheveled than usual. I had always had a massive crush on him since we were children but it was one of the things that was downright impossible. Because he never even noticed me. But there, at that time, as his green eyes found mine, I realized he was really seeing me. Finally. ….. “Oh, thank God.” mom breathed out when I cracked an eyelid open. The smell of hospital hit me hard and I struggled not to gag from the stench. “Mom?” I croaked out as my eyes adjusted to the blinding sunlight. “What happened?” My whole body hurt and I felt worse than awful. Mom gently stroke my hair, “Don’t you remember, honey?” I stared at her as I tried to search into my blank mind. It then hit me- the jump, the darkness. And the dreams. Daniel. Oh my God, Daniel. He’s going to be so mad. “Mom, have you seen Daniel?” At the sound of his name, Mom blanched and silence filled the atmosphere. “Mom?” I tried again, but all I got was a forced smile and she whispered, “Get some rest, honey.” “No,” I said stubbornly, “I want to see him.” “You need rest,” mom gritted out, a taut frown forming on her face. “He’s going to be so upset with me, mom,” I whined, worry creeping into me. “He told me not to do it but I did it anyway.” Mom stared at me, confusion coloured on her eyes “ When did he tell you?” “Six months ago,” I answered. “You need to tell him I’m sorry,” I pleaded urgently. Mom shifted uncomfortably. “Juliet, honey,” she whispered. “He died 6 months ago, remember? Six months ago. When I saw him near the tree. When he finally noticed me. “You were there when his parents told us.” Anger rose inside of me. I hissed,“He’s not dead! He was in my room almost every night.” "Juliet!" I couldn't help it. Warm ears started falling down on my cold cheeks. “Please, mom,” I begged, “Tell him I'm sorry. I don't want him to be mad at me.” But she never responded. With sad eyes, she called the doctor into the room. …. They stared each other for the longest time. Something in his features shifted and she knew why- he was scared. She glanced at the gun he was holding and this time, the shiver wasn’t from the temperature. "Daniel?" she voiced, hesitantly as the boy's eyes sought hers."What are you doing?" she asked, rather stupidly. Slowly, a smirk crept into his face. "I should ask you the same thing." All blood drained from her face as she watched his hand brought the gun to his head. “Please don’t end up like me,” he murmured so quietly as a sob escaped from her throat. She shook her head no, telling him to stop but it was too late. The trigger was pulled and seconds later, his body crumpled to ground and there was nothing else but red. She cried at the sight of him. At the sight of his dead green eyes staring into nothing. Somehow, she got up, ran into her room and cried her heart out. She pictured him, alive and happy. His smile, his taunting smirk. She never had the privilege to be with him- always pining for him from afar. And now, even that was impossible. A cry of anguish escaped from her throat and this time, she snapped her eyes snapped shut, imagining him- erasing every gruesome details of the night. She conjured a fantasy of him in her mind: Alive. Not dead. A warm feeling eventually came to her and it was then she heard the window slid open. She didn't dare open her eyes- afraid that the reality might shatter the fragile figment of her imagination. A pair of arms were engulfing her from behind. It was him. She wasn't sure what's real anymore but she played along. She needed it to be real. She needed him to be real. Breathing out a sigh of relief, she held onto him. When he told her, “You'd be okay," she believed him. For the rest of night, he held her. And her eyes stayed shut the entire time. ... Read more
Her hands fisted the fabric of her clothing and twisted the material, knuckles stretching taut and white against tanned skin. Tears pooled in her dark eyes and her heart ached with disappointment... Soon, however, disappointment was eclipsed by rage. How could he do that to her? He had no right!
Tha...Learn MoreHer hands fisted the fabric of her clothing and twisted the material, knuckles stretching taut and white against tanned skin. Tears pooled in her dark eyes and her heart ached with disappointment... Soon, however, disappointment was eclipsed by rage. How could he do that to her? He had no right! That afternoon, she had been summoned to the family hall - a large, vacant space in the longhouse partitioned off from their living quarters by woven wall tapestries. Upon her arrival, she found her father, the chief, already waiting with her widowed aunt - a soft-spoken, doting middle-aged woman who had raised her in her late mother’s stead. "Kinambura," her father began, "I have wonderful news! We have received an offer for your hand in marriage and I have agreed to it. The young man in question is most suitable.” Kinambura’s face had lit up with hope at the announcement and her full, soft lips curved into a smile. She said, “Am I to be married to Montuk?” “Montuk? Why ever do you mention him?” Her father queried, surprised. The amiable expression on his face vanished and a deep frown immediately took its place. Her aunt looked up sharply and scrutinized her niece's face. Kinambura remained silent, her heart sinking while her father continued, “I’m referring to Tingoran, of course.” Kinambura gasped out loud and her complexion turned ashen. What possessed them to believe that she would ever be interested in marrying Tingoran? They had known each other since childhood, and she regarded the other more as a brother than anything else. Discerning that her father desired a response from her, she replied, warily at first, “I thought it would be Montuk.” Then, chin tilted up defiantly, she asserted boldy, “I’m in love with him.” This time it was her aunt who spoke. She said entreatingly, “Kinambura, please be reasonable. Tingoran is the son of a wealthy chieftain and is known to be good natured and kind. Montuk is not a good match for you. He is known to be hard hearted and rumours abound about him practicing dark magic…” “Aunt, you can’t believe what people say! They are jealous of him! Montuk is a wonderful man.” Kinambura protested. Her dark eyes flashed and she set her mouth stubbornly. Finally, she could no longer contain her indignation and burst out, “You can’t force me to marry Tingoran! I will not spend the rest of my life with such a boring person!” At that, her father dropped all semblance of patience and snapped, “Return to your bed and calm down! You are not to leave the longhouse until you have come to your senses! Do you understand?” Her father had scarcely finished speaking when Kinambura ran out of the hall and mounted the ladder that led to her lofty sleeping quarters. It was warm in the afternoon and the loft was located just below the thatched roof of the longhouse. She pretended to fall asleep. As nightfall approached and the longhouse became enveloped in the warm glow of the dying sun, other members of the longhouse and Kinambura's extended family gathered along the verandah to sing and exchange tales and jokes. It was a convivial time enjoyed by all except for Kinambura. When their quarters were finally empty and everyone had retired to bed, she tossed aside her blanket and descended the ladder to the main room below. From there, it was easy to creep to the back door to sneak out of the longhouse. Once her feet touched the bare earth, Kinamburs ran through her family's tapioca and melon farm to the edge of the luxuriant bamboo grove behind the longhouse. As the night deepened, the air cooled and a slight breeze blew through the bamboo leaves. She waited impatiently; even then her heart missed a beat when he suddenly appeared a few feet away. It was Montuk, more wickedly handsome than usual in the dim light. She ran to him and they embraced. She laid her head on his shoulder, tears running down her cheeks. “They’ve arranged for me to marry Tingoran!” “Who? What are you talking about?” He held her by the shoulders and gazed into her eyes with unnerving intensity. “My father,” she explained, “has arranged for me to marry Tingoran! He will be coming with his men in a few weeks’ time," Kinambura whined. “What am I going to do?” she wailed in despair. “Tell me more about this. Exactly when are they expected to arrive and which route will Tingoran and his men be taking?” he asked her, urgently. His voice was rough and that surprised her. “I don’t know,” she said diffidently. “I suppose if they start in the morning, they will arrive before sunset." “There are a few routes from the village of Tambunan to here. Think! Which route are they most likely to take?” Montuk prodded further, notes of irritation creeping into his speech. She frowned in an effort to think and then said with a laugh, “Of course Tingoran will probably take the route up the hill side rather than the route through the valley. He always did hate to get his feet wet... Why? Are you planning to scare him away?” she asked teasingly. “I will give him the scare of his life,” he said with a laugh, his lips twisted and a strange expression stealing over his features. “Tingoran and his entourage will never ask you to marry him again!” He pulled her to him then and looked closely into her eyes. He said fiercely, “You are mine, Kinambura! You will always be mine, no one can take you away from me.” His dark eyes gleamed with resolve. Kinambura felt dizzy with excitement at being so close to him. What was it about him that set her heart racing? Was it the musky smell or the smooth handsome features which look like they had been carved out of wood and polished to perfection? But the night was wearing on and Kinambura regretfully pulled away from Montuk to sneak back into the longhouse. She could not risk being seen outside by anyone. In the weeks that ensued, Kinambura willingly participated in her wedding preparations, knowing secretly that the unpleasant affair was not going to come to fruition anyway. On the day of the wedding, her father and relatives waited expectantly but Tingoran and the wedding party from Tambunan never arrived. Kinambura felt relieved but at the same time, a strange sense of apprehension gripped her. Her father’s and Aunt’s increasing consternation as time passed almost made her regret ever scheming with Montuk. It was dark when members of bride’s entourage who had been tasked to greet the groom appeared. Their stricken expressions and pale faces told everyone it was going to be dreadful news. Their leader stuttered out, “They’re d-dead, they are all dead! We dare not even… their heads were hacked off… and Tingoran… his head is missing!” Kinambura felt a wave of nausea assail her. Blinking once, she saw Tingoran’s disembodied head materialize out of thin air inches from her face. Blood oozing from its severed neck, the ghastly apparition looked at her with reproachful, accusing eyes. She heard a piercing shriek and realized belatedly that it came from her own mouth. Her knees gave way and she collapsed onto the bamboo floor. When she regained consciousness, she was resting on a mat on the floor and covered with a blanket. Her aunt gazed at her anxiously, wiped her brow and whispered, “Don’t take it too hard. We know you are devastated… but these things happen. According to Montuk, it was a group of headhunters from across the mountains. There has been bad blood between them and the village of Tambunan for a long time…” Kinambura turned away her head. She didn’t want her aunt to see the look of anguish and fear in her eyes. It was Montuk of course. She knew that with certainty. He had tricked her into giving him the information about the wedding entourage. Tears sprang into her eyes. She had not wanted to marry him, but had never wished this gruesome fate upon him. She knew a missing head meant that his spirit would not be at peace, not without a Bobohizan to calm and tame his restless spirit. Weeks passed and Kinambura lived in relative seclusion, leaving the longhouse infrequently and even then only in the select company of her aunt and a few other ladies. She was careful to avoid Montuk who doggedly endeavoured to see her. She told anyone who cared to know that she was devastated by her fiancé’s death. There could be no doubt that she was unwell, she had grown thin and wan. Gone were her flashing eyes, uninhibited laughter and most of all the palpable vitality which had previously attracted so many admirers. Eventually, her father asked to see her again. He told her, “I cannot bear to see you suffering like this. Montuk has asked for your hand in marriage and I have agreed, in spite of my reservations. I remember that you expressed your love for him, some months ago…” Her aunt nodded and smiled at Kinambura, but Kinambura felt all the blood drain from her face and she thought that she would faint. How could she tell her father that she no longer wanted to marry a cold blooded murderer without implicating herself? When she finally found her voice she said with resignation, “Of course father. If you really think this is for the best... maybe this is what I deserve.” She tried her best but she could not stop her voice from wavering slightly and saw her aunt look at her in surprise. There was after all nothing she could do and she and Montuk were married within weeks. During this time, Kinambura developed a strange, inexplicable craving which could not be assuaged by either food or drink. On the wedding night, she had a hysterical fit and had to be taken to her father’s quarters again. Her aunt attended to her. “Only a few months ago, you wanted to marry Montuk more than anything in the world. So what has changed?” Kinambura was silent for a long time. She could not face her aunt when she said haltingly, “It is my fault… that Tingoran is dead. I told Montuk when the wedding party was coming.” “What? But we all know that Tingoran was killed by headhunters from across the mountains… It would be impossible for Montuk to kill seven men all by himself," her aunt said, disbelief evident in her eyes. “I know it was Montuk. He asked me a lot of questions about Tingoran’s route to our village and the day he was expected to arrive. And I have no doubt he can kill seven men by himself. He once he told me that he could make himself invisible…” Kinabura’s voice trailed off. Her aunt looked disturbed but she tried to calm her niece down, “You are upsetting yourself for no reason, Kinambura. A few other people knew about Tingoran’s route.” “But they were all a part of the marriage party… and… and I know where Tingoran’s head is hidden. His spirit spoke to me and told me where Montuk had hidden his head." Her voice dropped to a fearful whisper. Her aunt had turned pale and was too shocked to speak. “I can’t return to him… and you can’t tell anyone what I told you, otherwise we will both die!” Her aunt believed her. She told everyone that a strange wasting illness had gripped her niece and she had to be confined to her father’s quarters. This was quite true because Kinambura felt ill all the time, the insatiable craving was only intensifying. Her father grew worried about her steadily deteriorating health. The chief told his sister-in-law, “I fear for my daughter’s life. Please save her because she is all I have.” She nodded but decided not to tell him what Kinambura had confided to her about Montuk. Instead she said, “Kinambura craves the rare mushrooms which only grows on the other side of the mountain. Perhaps you could ask Montuk to collect some for her? I can make her a special dish which might cure her hunger.” The chief nodded and instructed Montuk to gather those mushrooms as soon as possible. Early the next morning, after Montuk had set out on his errand, Kinambura and her aunt surreptitiously entered his quarters. Kinambura climbed up to the loft and unerringly located the rattan basket where he kept Tingoran’s head preserved in layers of dried leaves. She carefully lowered it to her aunt and the two of them left the longhouse, unnoticed by anyone. Bearing the weight of the basket and its macabre contents, the two walked the entire day until they finally came to the Tambunan longhouse, the deceased’s family home. They were greeted by the chieftain and the Bobohizan of Tambunan. Kinambura sorrowfully handed them Tingoran’s head and the old chieftain wept over his dead son. The two women were given a room at far end of the longhouse. Before everyone retired for the night, the Bobohizan walked around the longhouse and cast a protective spell over its occupants. Kinambura was exhausted and retreated into a recess in the room to rest. She slept on the floor while her aunt took the loft. Before going to sleep, her aunt lighted the hearth and placed a pot of water over it with a view to cooking some rice. The night would get chilly and it would be nice to have food ready in the morning. In the middle of the night, Kinambura was suddenly roused by a soft, scuttling sound. She opened her eyes and stood up soundlessly. There was a monstrous rat scurrying across the room, sniffing around corners unawares. Kinambura sank silently into a crouch and crawled forwards on all fours like a giant feline, her black eyes fixed on her prey. When the rat finally became sensible to her presence, it was riveted to the spot, unable to move. Kinambura caught it in her hand and threw the animal into the pot of boiling water on the hearth. An eerie scream emanated from the rat in its last moments. Kinambura then plucked the creature out of the water with her bare hands and ate it greedily, leaving behind only hair, nails and bones. Sated at last, the young woman then crawled backed to her bed and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. The next morning she was awakened by her aunt who was shaking her and gesticulating wildly at the hearth. Kinambura got up and walked calmly over. There was a skeleton lying there, bones virtually stripped bare of all flesh. Peering at the skull, Montuk’s ghostly face came to mind and she knew at once that it was him. Her illness and nameless craving was finally gone; she was cured. ... Read more
“Faster! Drive Faster!, “I exclaimed as he complied,stepping on the accelerator.The car moved as fast as lightning and definitely we were moving above the speed limit. With the music pumping as fast and loud as my heartbeat,I felt overj...Learn More“Faster! Drive Faster!, “I exclaimed as he complied,stepping on the accelerator.The car moved as fast as lightning and definitely we were moving above the speed limit. With the music pumping as fast and loud as my heartbeat,I felt overjoyed like never before.Finally,I had the freedom I have always dreamt about. Reminiscing what had me make the decision of running away from home,my heart was filled with rage.I had just fought with my family like we always do about the same thing,my freedom,and I decided enough is enough.I do not want to waste my time anymore.Now,all my worries and distress gone,only exhilaration as I could feel the adrenaline rushing all over my body , I felt on top of the world.For the very first time, I felt happy and nothing can stop me. Suddenly, a loud screech , the car was going out of control and BOOM!I woke up with no feeling at all,I was numb. Then,the incident came rushing back and I hesitantly got up,looking for Jack and Monica.My heart wrecked into pieces as I saw the calamitous scene right in front of me.Realisation hit me as did despondency.I could not wrap my head around what just happened.I was finally free and just had the taste of happiness but maybe it just was never made for me.Two of my newly met soulmates who made me achieve my happiness allowing me to do what I wanted to,unlike my family,had just left me. Something was oddly strange when I saw a body exactly like mine nearby. Who was that and why is she lifeless? My questioning mind drove my whole self towards her.I was not ready and with utter disbelief,my mind interpreted the uncomprehensive catastrophe that I too was fated equally as my friends.I was lying there, in front of myself,breatheless,soulless and dead.I could not grasp the happening so I stood up quickly and went to the nearest reflectable surface.Staring straight towards the crashed car windscreen,I saw exactly nothing staring back at me.Then,I knew for sure that I was dead.As I heard the sirens indicating that helping parties were on their way,I knew it was my queue to leave.Well,it is not like anyone could see me anyway. I do not know where I was going but I followed whatever that was leading me.My instinct?Probably,if a soul has one.The next thing I know ,I was home,where I hated.I saw my body there lying in a coffin as my dad,mom and brother weeped.Did remorse only hit them now for all the times they made me feel caged? “I love you my dearest and most loved daughter “ My mom cried out, startling me and leaving me dumbfounded.Never in a million years did I think those words would roll off her tongue.”We were only looking out for you.All those years you thought we purposely stopped you from attaining happiness,we were actually keeping you from danger and downfall,which will only lead you to heartbreak.We just wanted to show you what true happiness is.A roof over your head,food on the table and loved ones around you are the true sources of everlasting and never failing happiness,my child.” “I think we have failed,mom,to show her that her definition of happiness is not true.We should have tried harder.It is not right for us to blame her for not understanding because the world has shown her a much more appealing side,which teaches her the wrongest of ways to gain joy. “ “There is nothing more I could ever wish for this moment than to go back in time and sit down calmly,explaining to her what we truly intended.Though gone physically,You will continue to live in a special place in our hearts.I love you my girl. “ With my dad’s last words,my heart felt crushed ,although I don’t have one right now. Shortly after that,a heart-warming and familiar voice but unexpected were the words that fell off her mouth.It broke my heart and proved that my family was right all along.My closest friends,Stella was smiling while the words I had never expected fell off her mouth. “She was so desperate to chase after worldly pleasures that it turned her into a spoiled brat.Sadly,she is a bad example and I’m ashamed to have her as my friend. “ With that,my heart crumbled as I finally saw her true colours.She was the one who I thought knew all about how to achieve happiness.She had poisoned my mind and made me believe that worldly desires are the ultimate happiness. I have been blinded by reality with beautiful lies.Strong regret fills me to the brim with no way of undoing what has been done.I regret now but it is too late.I know I cannot go back and fix the past but I am distinct to plead forgiveness and bid farewell to my family.It is the least I could do before I leave the human world. As I have read before in books,if a soul is left to wonder on earth with no signs of a bright light to cross over, it is an indication that something has to be fulfilled.The book also stated that the should can appear only once to fulfill their needed tasks.I know what I am supposed to do. I felt extremely awkward attending my very own funeral but I felt fortunate to be able to witness the truth about people.Many relatives were present and I was delighted to see my friends,the ones I ditched when foolishness got the better of me.I regret for not being able to see those who were truly sincere those and who were not.It is indeed true what Miss Emily,my English teacher taught me.Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends. At the burial,when my coffin was finally laid six feet beneath the ground and the sand was being poured over slowly to cover,I appeared in front of them for the last time.As expected, an astounded look were spread across their faces.I knew my appearance was understood when I saw the perfectly carved smiles taking over their shocked faces.At the same time,the bright light shone down on me.Knowing I should get going,I returned their smile and left for good.... Read more
“Ms. Peggy Lim?” A female voice asked.Learn More “Ms. Peggy Lim?” A female voice asked. “Yes, I am Peggy. How can I assist?” “This is Joy Pereira from Andrew, Tan & Partners.” Her voice sounded somber. “The reason for this call…umm…with deep sadness, our client Mr. Alexander Gomes and his wife died in a tragic accident in Helsinki late last night.” “Ms. Peggy? Are you with me?” she probed. “Yes, Joy. I hear you.” I was lost…for words. “Their remains will return to Malaysia for cremation. The family members…” Joy kept talking and my mind just kept asking “How do I make Jason understand that his parents are gone?” “Sorry, Joy, you were saying?” “Their family members have already been notified. The wake will be at Nirvana Memorial Centre starting from 6:00p.m. on 10 September. We will arrange a chauffeur to pick you and Jason at 10:00a.m.” she said. Joy continued, “In our records, the deceased has provided your name as the guardian for their son Jason. They have sanctioned us to deliver the items that they have been collecting since 6 years ago, when Jason turns 12 or if anything happens to them, whichever came first. Jason’s parents have written personal notes – these are birthday messages. You have been authorized to unseal and read those messages to Jason. As I speak, a box is now enroute to your centre.” “Do you have any questions to ask?” “Not for now.” My mind was knotted up like intestines. “If you have any questions, this is my number,” Joy ended with a goodbye. The phone line clicked to a dead tone. “Peggy, is everything alright?” Cai asked. I looked at her blankly and spilled the bad news. “Oh, dear!” she clasped her mouth. I glanced down the corridor and said, “You better hurry to class.” “Alright,” Cai replied. It took me a while to compose myself. The honking of a truck distracted my thoughts. The box? Has arrived! I stood statue looking at the box. "-hat for me?” he asked, pointing excitedly at the large box and stomping his little feet rhythmically. “Arrggh…who says it’s yours? I asked. His stomping stopped. With sulky face, the boy turned his back and started his pace. This is his drama for unhappiness. “Ja…son….nnn,” I summoned. He was adamant to respond. “Jason Gomes. On the count of 3...one, two, thr..." I said. Jason is a 6-year old kid with autism. His parents found his disorder a challenge. They practically knelt and begged us to adopt Jason. “Err…,” Jason murmured as he shifted his body to face me. His eyes were facing down and his shoulder slouching. “Come here,” I stretched my arms and Jason ran towards me; holding my legs tightly that nearly balled me over. He just refused to let me go until I reminded him about the box. “Oh, -hat…t-ere,” he reacted excitedly, jumping and clapping his hands. “Let’s open it,” I said unenthusiastically. Jason was already tugging my blouse, “Le-s open! Let- open!” “Alright, young man.” I placed the signed consignment note on the table. Jason excitedly ripped the adhesive tape off the box with his face all scrunched up. His tiny tot fingers were tangled with the sticky tapes. Since he refused to let me help him untangle the tapes, I removed the top layer before Jason makes another mess. We finally opened the box and both of us curiously peeped inside. There was an envelope addressed to me. Jason was already diving into the box. It looks like a collection of his parents’ travel souvenirs, albums, handwritten letters, toys, clothes etc. I now realized that his parents actually loved Jason; they just could not express their feelings. They took Jason’s disorder as a failure in their lives. “All…-or…me?” Jason asked, astonished. “Ah…all yours. And sweetheart, look at me,” I asked and he obediently looked at me, flashing his blue-flecked eyes. I slowly explained to him, “Your Papa and Mama gave all these to you.” “Okay,” he said and turned to pick out a toy. He was fascinated by the intricacy of the Transformer. When all these were happening, Ramly, the gardener walked past the hall entrance. I waved and motioned him to come in. He put down his shovels and immediately strode into the hall, hastily wiping his hands on his shirt. “Yes, ma’am?” “Ramly, can you please help to take this box into Jason’s room?” “Sure, ma’am, anything for this little boy,” he replied, brushing Jason’s hair playfully. Jason wasn’t even paying any attention as he was too excited about his Transformer toy. “Now, Jason, what must you say?” I bent down to face Jason. “T-ank you,” he replied very fast and then grabbing another toy, he ran off to play. That small legs of his can run fast. Ramly laughed as he carried the box into the boy’s room. “Anything else, ma’am?” Ramly asked while drying his dripping sweat against his towel. “That’s all, Ramly. Thank you.” “Okay, ma’am.” Mr. Ramly Hussein has been our gardener since we started operations 8 years ago. For someone who is reaching his late sixties, he is fit and has green fingers. Happily married for 32 years to his childhood friend Sabariah Yusoff, Ramly’s good-naturedness is adored by the kids. Mrs. Sabariah works as a housewife and weaves baskets to supplement their household income. I picked up the brown envelope again and opened it. Inside was Mrs. Kavita’s letter. Dear Peggy How shall I begin? Jason was born through gestational surrogacy, after 5 years of trying to conceive the traditional way. I have a medical condition called endometriosis. The hospital had successfully harvested the eggs from me and fertilize them with Alex’s sperms, and place the embryo into the uterus of a gestational surrogate of my younger sister, Ms. Rekha Prema. She is Jason’s ‘birth mother’. Everything progressed smoothly, and after giving birth to Jason, my sister migrated to Australia and settled there. She is now married with 3 children. When Jason was 8 months old, his responses were unusual. After several tests, the pediatrician told us that our little baby is autistic. The diagnosis really knocked the wind out of us. I was filled with anger and hatred. All these years, I had to deal with my own medical problems, and now my baby would not have a normal life like the other children. Life is so unfair. I thought having a child in our lives would make a difference, but I felt cheated. I had wanted to give up on life. Instead of loving Jason, I gradually detested him. I know it is not Jason fault. Luckily Alex calmed me down and we prayed for an alternative solution. We asked around and was told about Eagle’s Wings. That’s our name - Eagle’s Wings because it resembles the strength of our dedicated teachers carrying these special needs children to soar high in their lives. Her letter continues. And the rest is history. Both of us, especially myself, were so relieved when you agreed to adopt Jason. It felt like a ton of bricks was lifted off my chest. However, both of us started missing him but we didn’t want to look back at the decision we had made. So instead, we agreed to compile souvenirs and toys from our travels, photo albums and write birthday messages and letters for Jason. Our closest friend who is a lawyer agreed to store these items for us and deliver to Jason when he reaches 12 or early if anything should happen to us. Both Alex and I have greatly sinned for ‘dumping’ our responsibilities upon you. We washed our hands from parenthood to build our business and legacy for Jason’s future. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Yours, Kavita Dismay flooded my thoughts. Suddenly, I felt a little finger jabbing my sides. I turned and little Anna was also looking sad. “Anna,” I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, “why the sad face?” She reached out her petite fingers and touched my dwelling tears. I was deeply smitten by her concern. Kids can relate to emotions. “I’m fine darling,” I said and gestured Anna to seat on my lap. Her eyes got bigger with excitement and immediately hopped onto my lap. I cradled her and asked what she was reading. Five-year-old Anna Stella was born with a slow learning disability. Her mother was hooked to cocaine during pregnancy and this has hindered the child’s mental development. Anna’s mother is serving in prison for drugs, her Grandmother Stella has been entrusted to look after Anna’s well-being with the financial help from the welfare department. The identity of Anna’s father remains a mystery. Anna flashed the picture book playfully and starting leafing the pages backwards to her favorite picture. “Ah, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” I said. “Which of the seven dwarfs do you like?” I asked. As we finger walk through each dwarf, I asked again, “Is it Dopey?” Anna shakes her head no. “Hmm, or is it Happy and Bashful?” This time, Anna nodded yes and pointed at Bashful. Before I could speak further, Anna closed the picture book briskly and merrily jumped off my lap and ran towards the pantry. Anna has a short attention span. It was already lunch break for the kids and it is a joy to watch their comraderies. I too decided to join the teachers for lunch. As I was passing the hallway, I peeped into Jason’s room and was puzzled seeing him sitting quietly on his bed looking out of the window. The toys were scattered on the floor. I also noticed that one of the photo albums was opened. “Jason?” No response, he was deep in his own world again. “Can I seat with you?” Jason nodded, he gaze was still focused at something outside. “What are you looking at?” “Pa…pa Ma…ma,” he finally spoke. I was caught off-guard, searching for the right words to continue. “What are Papa and Mama telling you?” I tried to pitch my tone to sound calm. “Err…,” he paused, “err…t-ey -ell me…be…-ood boy.” He continues while looking at me, “an-…-isten to…-ou!” “Pa....Ma, -ow -ave…bye.” Instantly, he starting waving his hands in mid-air. He pocked my left fingers and gestured me to wave. I obediently followed. Jason curiously turned his face towards mine, and sadly murmured, “t-ey…-eft.” Clearing my throat, I replied. “Yes, they left,” I inhaled, “but remember, your Papa and Mama will always be in your heart….here.” I gently fingered at his heart. “Okay,” he replied softly and returned to look outside again. We sat there in silence until Jason fell asleep. The moment I gently lay him on his bed, he began sucking his thumb. I kissed his forehead and quietly tiptoed out. What they say about a child’s ability to see ghosts or spirits is so true. Children are often the representation of purity and innocence. I never thought that I would be part of this encounter. As the door slowly closed behind me, I took another deep breath. The moment I stepped into the pantry, I felt a strong sense of empathy. “Cai told us about the sad news,” Kyle spoke. Teacher Kyle is in charge of sports and outdoor activities. Maria added, “This is so unfortunate. When do you plan to inform Jason?” Teacher Maria focuses on speech therapy. “Jason already knows,” I replied nonchalantly. “Jason knows?” Maria repeated my sentence. “Yes…” I said while chewing my food. I paused a while and continued, “he saw his parents minutes ago outside his bedroom window.” I took a sip of water and continued. “I was seated next to Jason. His parents told him to be a good boy and listen to me.” I paused again, “and the little boy grabbed my hand to join him to wave goodbye to his parents.” Instantly, I heard spoons clacking onto plates, jaws opening and eyes popping out. I wasn’t sure if looking at my colleagues’ reaction were scarier than Jason’s encounters. The pantry was silent like death. Finally Roland spoke with seriousness, “Peggy, you know that if this continues, it would be unhealthy for Jason.” Roland teaches art and creativity. “This is unbelievable!” Kyle remarked. He adds, “You know they can see spirits.” “Yes, I know.” I stopped to think. ************************* While the kids took their nap, I had time to unknot my head. The hours flew by so quickly and the kids had already woken for their tea. Shouts for Oreos could be heard. As I was feeding Anna, Jason's tiny hand tapped me. Oddly, a strong wind brushed us, sending chills down and up my spine. Jason said, “Don’t orry...it -ust t-em…-aying -ake care.” I tried to put on a brave face and nodded. I kept reminding myself, like a broken tape recorder, that if these visions persist, it will affect Jason’s mental and growth tremendously. When Jason spotted Kyle, he sprinted. Kyle squatted to lift the boy over his shoulders. “Let’s get you cleaned,” Kyle said as he piggybacked Jason. ************************* Feeling overwhelmed with mental exhaustion, I decided to rest. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I slept off…hoping that it’s a dream! But it wasn’t! Finally the long-awaited day arrived. As promised, Ms. Joy arrived sharp 10:00a.m. Jason was still fusing around – it took forever to get him dressed! He was more eager to put on the new ocean blue sneakers that were taken from the box. The instant he was ready, Jason dashed to the porch. “Hello, Jason. My name is Joy,” she introduced herself. Jason accepted her hand and shook it vigorously. “Okay, sweetheart, that is enough. It’s time to go.” The drive to Nirvana took us about an hour. At the lobby, we were greeted by a 40-plus gentlemen, and Joy immediately introduced her boss, Mr Suresh Andrew. Mr Suresh knelt down to shake Jason’s hand and offered to walk him into the hall. Surprisingly, Jason essayed a smile, took Mr. Suresh’s hand and followed him obediently. Jason is usually shy with strangers. The moment we stepped into the hall, all the guests eyed at Jason. Jason stopped when he saw his parents’ photo frame and then tilted his head left to right looking at the 2 white caskets. He repeated this motion for several times. Jason finally spoke. “Papa n Mama are…-ery -appy.” He paused. Then continues to say, “t-ey say…time to go -ome.” Jason turned his head to look up at Mr. Suresh and said, “t-ey t-ank you…-ood fr-end.” Jason pulled his hand away from Mr. Suresh and ran towards Cai and me. Both of us fell on our knees to receive Jason and group hugged him tightly. “Sweetheart, we love you too.” ... Read more
The train station wasn’t as crowded as it has always been.
In his fifteen years of life, Authur could think of nothing he could proudly boast to anyone, not his grade, not an achievement, and certainly not his family’s wealth. Or perhaps, he could try boosting to people that...Learn MoreIn his fifteen years of life, Authur could think of nothing he could proudly boast to anyone, not his grade, not an achievement, and certainly not his family’s wealth. Or perhaps, he could try boosting to people that he had seen a spirit, provided that anyone would believe it. “Aren’t you supposed to go to school?” “It’s weekend.” Authur said. “That’s great! Why don’t you do something?” He remained on the bed silent. “How is your work going? Where did you stop? How is-” “Stop it!” He sprang up from the bed, scratched his head and stared at the figure on the seat before his desk. The voice came from a girl of his age. She looked just like a display model behind glass window with her long, smooth hair and fair skin. Authur stared at her, an uneasy feeling stuck as their eyes met. He turned back to his bed. “Just let me sleep, Luyin.” “If you will die tomorrow, what will you do today?” She asked, for the hundredths of time. As usual, Authur rose, but he did not look at her. He had heard her asking for countless times, but he never had an answer. He had the urge of replying that he just wants to sleep. It would be so easy to shrug the question off if it came from another person, but not to her who had somehow...already dead. Authur sighed. He again doubted his sanity. It was the most absurd that a charming girl just came to a good-for-nothing one day, saying that they have the same dream, but she was dead, and he was still alive, so she wanted to help. Still, he was the only person to see her, she was pushing him in a way he would never do to himself, and for countless times he had been frowned upon for talking to the air. “Fine, fine…” He got up and strolled to his table. Ignoring Luyin’s cheer, he opened up his laptop, and buried himself into the story he had been working on. As new as he was to writing and as much difficulty he had with every sentence he keyed into the worksheet, once Authur began, he did not stop for hours. It might be a faint interest, but it was a great escape from the world he did not like, and it was just so comfortable to plunge into the world of his own making. Luyin was beside him throughout his time before the screen, but she kept her distance – one thing Authur appreciated out of all the trouble. Sometimes he turned over and caught a glimpse of her. She sat in silent, a serene smile blossomed over her face. Ridiculous as it was, he had get used to her existent. Illusion or not, he had a person who believed in his dream. Through her eyes, Authur could almost see his own delightful expression when he was in his own world. It was the perfect reflection; he knew it because while he could be pushed to work every day, Luyin could no longer do. “If you will die tomorrow, what will you do today?” Her favorite question surfaced as he thought of that. Throughout the month, Authur covered great miles on his story under the gentle whip of Luyin. Too bad however, he moved little in his academic performance, and no one else was certainly happy about it. Except for his languages, which soared high above his peers due to spending hours a day in his story, his grade was considered mediocre. That being said, he was by no mean on the edge of the cliff, but his parents expected him to be on the cloud. It was their aim for him to be excellence for a scholarship-sponsored accounting degree and finally a work that would net a high income job for a luxury life. Authur had heard of similar complaints from his friends everywhere he went. A lot went against it, but more stumbled to the mindset of the crowd. When Authur returned to his room after a usual hectic ordeal from his peers, who thought low of his dream; and his parents, who thought high only of his grades, only Luyin greeted him with the same smile she always had. “If you will die tomorrow, does it matter?” Luyin questioned him like she usually did when he told his story. He only smiled, and turned to his story, feeling the smile of Luyin gazing dreamily at his silhouette. Day by day, he began to understand more about the enigmatic girl. Luyin was just the same as him – a girl with an unusual interest in the world at the time when technical fields were beginning to gain more preference as a path of life and career of choice. A student in biological field, she was much better in her study than Authur, but she had the very same dream as Authur did, and she went through the same struggle, until her sudden deteriorating health got the better of her. He did not ask for the detail, Luyin talked mostly about the time while she was still healthy for obvious reason Authur respected. Another month passed with Luyin along him, Authur began to embrace his dream. One day, he stumbled upon an opportunity – a representative from a publishing company had come in search for talent in his high school, while most were uninterested, Authur attended the briefing. Luyin was overwhelmed by joy, so did him. It was after all the first, albeit minor step they had taken towards their dream. Authur listened, it was apparent to him that writing in a professional level was a state he was never in. Every passing minute, the editor’s passionate eloquence was returned by growing hesitation. “It is not easy, right?” Luyin asked the moment they were discharged. He nodded, thinking that his anxiety was probably clear on his face. “If you will die tomorrow, will you do it?” Luyin giggled as she asked, knowing that it was already an ancient question. “Certainly.” Authur whispered with a bitter smile, pressing onto the application broacher like a life-saving raft. “You have changed.” He caught the faint smile on Luyin through the corner of his view. “That’s really thanks to you…” Authur replied, not bothered that he raised his voice a bit just to let it be clearly heard. They had really come a long way, and he did really appreciate Luyin for bringing him thus far. Without her, he would still be taking cover beneath his blanket, living his dream in mere dream. “I guess it will be fine even if I leave huh…” Luyin spoke out like it was a whisper to herself. Authur stopped in his track. He turned over to face her, “You can’t!” Luyin was silent, her doll face serene. Instead the people around him turned over his strange call; he lowered his head and hastened his steps through the noise of the crowd. The matter was never brought up again. Together, Authur and Luyin fought for the submission. Though it was only Authur that writes and Luyin only observed him, he could feel the power of her wish that seemed to channel into him from the back. It was their common dream, and hence it was their combined will that he obtained such valor. The effort of the past month showed. Despite not knowing how well he was doing, words flowed through him like a passing stream, and he felt himself immerging into the world he weaved with the magic of words. He wished Luyin would be able to share his feeling. In his free time, he remained in his room, talking to himself about any topic – that was what people would have said if he was discovered doing it. Sometimes they stayed up the entire night, sharing a lifetime worth of stories. “So who is your favorite author?” “Izuki, you probably don’t know about him…” Authur explained. He showed Luyin his favorite work. It was not a famous work, he was certain that she had never heard of it. “That’s surprising.” “Cause it’s not from a famous author?” Authur laughed. “I don’t follow the crowd.” “Read me the story,” Luyin said in a child’s tone, “too bad I can’t turn the page…” She waved her hand at the empty air. Authur was certainly happy to do so. A person who showed a common interest over an uncommon thing was worth a lifetime. Every night after he was satisfied with his progress over the submission, he read the story to Luyin. It seemed to him that she would never get tired, and the storytelling would only stop when he called it a night or fell asleep. Reading his favorite story to a person who actually showed an interest to it but cannot read it herself – that was no doubt the most bizarre thing he had done in his whole life. Two weeks later, Authur posted his work to the address as instructed after ten checks on it and went for the most luxurious meal in the most luxurious place he could afford. “Authur the author! You can do it!” Luyin cheered openly, jumping and turning around him. He wondered if she was doing it out of her invisibility, for the first time, he was thankful that only he could see her. “It’s we can do it.” Authur said, raising his cup of coffee high at the opposing empty seat before taking a huge sip. The smell of hazelnut filled his mouth, spreading warmth throughout his entire body. If he would die tomorrow, the time spent with Luyin would leave him with no regret. Days after, an anticipated mail arrived at his home. It took Authur a few tucks to retrieve it from the mailbox with his trembling hands. He sprinted into his room, turned the lock, and placed it before his desk. He looked at Luyin; her arms crossed before her chests, and she grinned at the envelope like a hungry predator, holding her breath. Authur wondered though if she could actually breathe. After inhaling once and holding his breath, he tore the envelope open, the sound of paper resonated with his heartbeats which rang through the room. He reached in, and pulled out the content. It was a thick paper about the size of the envelope itself and just fitted inside it. He grabbed it our entirely but not looking at it, then placed it atop the envelope. With the sound of paper ceased, his heartbeat returned to echo in the room. Authur read his name atop it, written with a relatively huge font and just below it read “certificate of participation”. He stared at it and did not move, then took a few seconds to remember how to exchange the air in his lungs. They did not win, but somehow he did not feel too bad. Luyin on the other hand cheered like they did, she jumped forward and placed her face so close before the certificate, as if reading every letters on it. Seeing her like this, it indeed wasn’t feel like his work was not selected. “Congratulation, Authur!” “It is our victory.” He exhaled deeply. “If I will die tomorrow, I will be happy that I give it all.” That is right, he thought. Luyin’s cheers intensified. If she was a regular person, everyone in the neighborhood would have heard her. “You are really ready.” After a full hour and they settled down on the joy, she said. Authur froze. An omen stuck him like a giant hammer on the chests. Before he could ask or protest, she spoke again. “Let’s finish the story tonight. I want to hear the ending.” Authur felt himself stripped of all strength. He simply nodded, that was the only respond he could manage. Night fell. The lamp in Authur’s room remained bright. He read out his favorite story, but this time he read deliberately. At the closing part of the story, Authur could no longer hold back his tears. He wondered if it was due to the story, or there was more reason behind it. As he paused to wipe off his tears and clear his throats, he mustered every bits of will and threw a glance at Luyin. Her head was lowered, and she was gently wiping the lines of tear on her cheeks. Still, when their eyes met, she steeled herself and smiled. Authur then continued. “Finally, the demon king and human girl return to the enchanted forest and live together…” Authur finished the very last sentence of the book. None of them spoke. Only their sobs raised and fell in the room. Authur kept his head lowered at the book, focusing on nothing. The sound of his mind flooded his thought. They were all urging, wishing and praying for the same thing, that what he was thinking would not happen. “It is really a good story.” Luyin finally spoke. They looked at each other, not concerned about their teary and swollen eyes. Their focus was just on each other’s eyes, and in the overlapping line of sight, their thought seemed to synchronize. “Don’t you think the demon and the girl are just like us?” Authur forced a grin, their thought were clear, and there was no longer a need to reply. “Take my dream with you, Authur.” He nodded without breaking their connecting gaze. “Thank you.” When he blinked, a blinding light filled his sight. Authur felt the sense of his body thinned, he fought to move and to speak, but he managed nothing. The view before him was taken away, he could not distinguish if it was light or darkness, and his consciousness faded. “Luyin?” Authur woke up the next morning without the greeting he always got. In an instant, everything drowned his mind like a tidal wave. He jumped up from the bed and searched the entire house for Luyin, to no avail. When he stomped back into his room like a crazed man, he caught sight of something atop the certificate on his desk. He stumbled to it, and picked up the single, oversize white feather. Below it held a small piece of paper, a single sentence was on it, “Authur the author”. Embracing the gift, Authur let out of all scream and tear. Three days into Luyin’s departure, Authur returned to walk his dream. The past months felt like a dream that he had now woke up from, except that he was reincarnated with renewed vigor. Everything was real, but only he knew it, so he would make sure that it would never be lost, and he had the best way to achieve it. Authur opened his laptop, created a new sheet for a new work, and without hesitation, began to type: “If you will die tomorrow, what will you do today?” [END] ... Read more
There was once a wise and just king who ruled over a kingdom. His kingdom, however merry, was plagued with poverty. Wanting to change the fate of his kingdom, the king set out on a quest with his army to bring back prosperity and wealth.
One day, he ventured into a land where its air was foul and darkness covered its soils. The land was filled wi...Learn MoreThere was once a wise and just king who ruled over a kingdom. His kingdom, however merry, was plagued with poverty. Wanting to change the fate of his kingdom, the king set out on a quest with his army to bring back prosperity and wealth. One day, he ventured into a land where its air was foul and darkness covered its soils. The land was filled with beings possessed by Dark Souls, evil and malevolent spirits. It was ruled by the most powerful of them all, the three Dark Masters, each represented by a young child, a handsome youth, and an old man. The king attacked the land, but little by little, his soldiers became Dark and turned against him. Fearing for his life, he fled into a forest nearby. There, he prayed to the Great Goddess Ziya, who granted him soldiers blessed with Light Souls. Moved by the king's righteousness, She bestowed upon him the Gift, turning him into the very first Light Master. Strengthened and renewed, the king marched back into the Dark Land and waged a war that lasted for a thousand years. But alas, the Dark Masters landed a fatal blow on the king. With his dying breath, the king vowed that one day, a new Light Master shall return and finish the Dark Masters once and for all. Light and Dark Souls that have escaped the battle roam around the Earth. Most of the Light Souls have become weak, save for few, while the Dark Souls still revel in their strength and power. The Souls have taken refuge in Carriers, human beings capable to bear both their own soul and another Soul. Some Souls remain dormant and quiet, while others have learned to adapt and cooperate with their Carriers, turning into Beings. Till this day, Light Souls remain in hiding, awaiting their Master's return, so the battle can finally be won. That is the story Elise told me when she introduced herself as my Light Soul. When I first heard a voice in my mind that wasn't my own, I thought I was going crazy. I tried ignoring it for weeks, but now as I stand in an alley in front of the Dark Being who is begging for mercy, I would have slapped myself for not listening to her sooner. I didn't know what to do, I just knew it needed to stop. Grave after grave after grave. I got tired of burying my friends. So, with that, I plunge my sword right through his rotten heart. "You sure the police won't find the boy?" Elise's voice resonates in mind, clear as a bell. I wipe away the black blood on my sword with a discarded cloth and slide it back into its sheath behind my back. "The boy has been labeled missing since 5 years ago. No one will find him in this part of the city." Elise lets out a huff. "Don't you feel a slight bit of remorse for killing a child?" I feel my heart harden at her words. I walk towards a dingy pub across the street, its neon signboard flashing "CLOSE", but I enter anyway. "Remorse won't bring back Raffe back, Elise." "It has been a year, Kyren. Don't you think you should let Raffe go?" I settle down in a dark booth near the end and do not reply. I looked at the young boy with the blond hair and piercing green eyes in bewilderment. "I'm sorry, what?" The boy took a step back and chuckled, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "Oops, I apologize. Let me start over." He cleared his throat and put out a hand, his lips breaking out into a broad grin. "My name is Rafael, but you can call me Raffe. I am a Light Being." A small smile ghosted my lips. "Nice to meet you Raffe." I placed my hand in his and shook it. " I'm Kyren, and I'm a Light Being too." "Back again, little girl?" A voice snaps me out of my thoughts. I look up only to see a middle-aged woman staring back at me with haughty eyes. A red velvet dress hugs her voluptuous figure and a lit cigarette dangles lightly in her manicured fingers. "Madam Christmas." I acknowledge and rest my sword on the table. Madam Christmas narrows her eyes at me, her lips twitching in disdain. "That sword of yours will get my table dirty with Dark blood again." "Don't worry, Madam. I wiped it all off just for you this time." Madam tsks at me and makes her way to the bar. "So, is Elise still helping you with your kills?" "You know how it works," I shrug. "The sword is only useful if you have a Soul in you. Isn't that what Raffe always say?" Madam returns to the table and plunks down two glasses of whiskey. I frown at her. "I don't drink alcohol." "Oh, please," Madam rolls her eyes. "Both of them are for me. They keep me sane from handling you." I let out a light laugh as Madam takes a sip from her first glass. "So," I place my elbows on the table and rest my chin on my interlocked fingers, the mood turning serious. "You got what I wanted?" "Let me get this straight. You," I pointed at Raffe, "have set up this entire group," I gestured to the three people behind him, "to hunt down Dark Beings?" Raffe looked at his friends, unspoken words understood between them."Yep, that's pretty much it." He said, popping the 'p'. I folded my arms across my chest. "And you are all Light Beings?" "Yep." Raffe confirmed. "This is Lucy." He pointed to a petite brunette who waved shyly. "Over there is Jackson." A boy with black hair grinned confidently and gave a mock-salute as greeting. "And the last one is Carrie." A girl with multiple piercings on her ears arched an eyebrow, unamused. I frowned at Raffe. "How do you expect a bunch of kids like us defeat a whole lot of Dark Beings? Didn't you hear the story from your Soul?" Raffe rubbed the back of his head, a habit I realized he did whenever he felt embarrassed or nervous. "Well, yeah. But we decided we won't let that stop us. We want to make a difference. Besides, my Soul was a general during the war and he has found ways that we can use to defeat them." He said happily. "So, will you join us?" "Alright, fine." I finally gave in. Madam Christmas chucks a bunch of files across the table. They are military files, all containing top secret classified information. I pick up one closest to me and flip it open. It is a profile of a young boy with pictures dating back to World War I. In every photo, he seems to be in the background, with shadows clouding his features. I open another file and this time it is a profile of a handsome youth. His pictures show him in every war meeting in World War II. I hear Elise let out... a love sigh? "Elise?" I think in disgust. Elise clears her throat and remains silent. Eventually, the whole incident slips off my mind. "Each file here shows the Dark Masters' involvement in every war waged in history." Madam lightly taps her cigarette, its ashes falling on the tabletop. "It seems like the youth is behind the bloodiest battles. But there is one thing I do not understand." Madam pulls out a photo from underneath and crushes her cigarette on a female being beside the youth, almost invisible at first glance. "She is the only Dark Being that I cannot get information on. I bet she is the most dangerous of them all." "An unknown Dark Master?" I whisper. I stand up and collect the files, placing them in my bag. "Here." I toss Madam a box of cigars as payment. Madam hums, pleased. "Montecristo No.2. It must have cost a fortune to get one of these." "Don't finish everything in one go." I tell her and make my way to the exit. I hear Madam's satisfied sigh and smell the fresh cigar smoke fill the pub. "He meant a lot to me too, you know?" I stop dead at my tracks, my hand resting on the door knob. "Do you really think this is how he wants to be paid?" "Listen to her, Kyren." Elise urges in my head. I know that once I start on this path, there is no turning back. But Raffe's voice is still fresh in my mind, his laughter still ringing, and the wound in my heart is still as deep as ever. "Thank you." I say to Madam and pull the door open. When the door shuts close again, I know it is the last time I will ever see her. Madam Christmas knows it too. We circled the Dark Being carefully. This time, it took the form of a woman. She cradled a crying infant wrapped in brown cloth. Human bones both of the young and old laid scattered around her. Raffe gave a signal and we slowly advanced towards the woman. She started singing, trying to calm the infant. "Are you the Dark Being that has been killing the townspeople?" Raffe called out. The woman paid no heed to him and continued singing to the infant. "Are you the Dark Being that has been killing the townspeople?" Raffe repeated. Once again, the woman ignored him. "Are you-" "QUIET, YOU INSOLENT BEING." A loud, masculine voice boomed. "Can't you see I am trying to be a good mother?" A soft, feminine voice replaced the previous one. "We order you to stop whatever you are doing." Lucy spoke up, her voice quiet but unwavering, her dagger placed in front of her in a defensive position. The air started to grow heavy and dense. I tightened my grip on my sword. Darkness started to spread from the woman. And without warning, the darkness lunged out. "I am done!" I shouted at Raffe. I flung my gun onto the ground and began to walk away. "Wait, Kyren, stop!" Raffe took hold of my wrist. I glared at him. "I refuse to be part of this any longer! Look at the state of them!" I pointed to Lucy, Jackson and Carrie, banged up and bloody. "Look at the state of you!" I gestured to Raffe's body. Bruises peppered his arms and his bottom lip was split. There was a cut underneath his eye that would not stop oozing blood. "Kyren, please. We need you to help us. I need you." Raffe tried to console me. "Well, I'm not helping you to get yourself almost killed every single time we try to defeat a Dark Being! It has been two years now and I do not wish to see the person I love die in the hands of a Dark Being! The previous one we fought left you with broken ribs. You were in a coma!" I inhaled sharply. Raffe looked at me, shocked. "You.. love me?" I frowned at him, then gasped at my unexpected confession during my outburst. Furious at Raffe, furious at myself, I snatched my wrist out of his grip and began walking away, leaving Raffe and the rest of the group too stunned to say anything. The walk back home feels heavy. Elise is silent throughout the entire journey. I reach the door to my apartment unit and insert the key, hearing the lock click open and I make my way inside. I head to the kitchen and fill up a kettle with water before placing it on the stove and setting it to boil. As I wait, I look down to my fingers absentmindedly, noticing the dirt underneath my fingernails. The kettle whistles loudly, and I turn off the stove. I pour the water into a mug with a tea bag in it. As I let my tea infuse, I reach into my bag and pull out the military files, plunking them on the kitchen island. One by one, I inspect them, slowly drinking my tea. "Kyren." Lucy whispered my name, tears streaming down her face. She was covered in blood. "Lucy?" I rushed to her. "What happened?" "It was the female Dark Being. She came after us the moment you left." She cried harder. "Jackson and Carrie are dead. She killed them." "What about Raffe, Lucy?" I grabbed her shoulders. "Where is Raffe?" Lucy wiped her tears. "He is fighting her right now. But, Kyren, he is losing." "Raffe!" I cried out, rushing to him. The moment I saw him, I gasped aloud. There was a huge hole in the middle of his chest and his leg was twisted at the wrong angle. The Dark Being laid dead across him. "I killed her, Kyren. I killed her." He whispered. Tears started to roll down my cheeks. "Stay with me, Raffe." I croaked out. Raffe lifted a bloodied hand and cradled my cheek. Gently, he wiped away my tears with his thumb. "Why are you crying, Kyren?" "I- I left you, when you needed me. And now, look at you. This is all my fault. I should have stayed." Raffe smiled the smile that used to bring butterflies in my tummy. Now, all it brought was dread of what's to come. "If you stayed, you would have died too." I hugged his hand that was on my cheek with my own. "Stay with me, Raffe." "I never got to say this," his voice growing softer and softer, "but I love you too." "No, no, Raffe!" I cried out. "Please!" The light in his eyes dimmed, his lips still in a smile, Rafael's hand went limp. And the entire world shattered along with my heart. "I found you." I slam the file down, a wicked grin dancing across my lips. With a red marker, I jot down the following words on the picture of the three Dark Masters. 'CURRENT LOCATION: NEW YORK' "What are you going to do now?" Elise asks in my mind. "I am going to find them, and I am going to kill them." "You do know that without the Light Master's help, there is no hope to defeating them, right? Especially with that unknown female Dark Master." "He died a long time ago. If he was even reincarnated, he couldn't bother helping my friends. So, why bother?" I feel Elise shake her head. After some time, she says, "You do know you might die, right?" "I won't die. I have killed enough Dark Beings to know how to survive another one. Are you with me or not?" Elise sighs. "Yes, I am." "Good. We will start tomorrow." "Are you sure she is coming soon?" Three voices speak as one. "Yes, Masters. We will begin our journey at daybreak." A feminine voice replies. "Perfect." And the Dark Empress smiles.... Read more
The day was cold. The woman in her eighties inched towards the only window in the room. Shivered in the frigid dawn, she breathed the suffocating stale air which she had enough of. She took a glance through the window - judging from the growing flock of clouds, the snowfall would only be heavier. “Good…” Mumbled her as she had her eyes fixed on the frosty wi...Learn MoreThe day was cold. The woman in her eighties inched towards the only window in the room. Shivered in the frigid dawn, she breathed the suffocating stale air which she had enough of. She took a glance through the window - judging from the growing flock of clouds, the snowfall would only be heavier. “Good…” Mumbled her as she had her eyes fixed on the frosty window, with her hands wiping the frost off the panels sluggishly. She wanted life, she thought. Her wheelchair shuddered as cluttered by age, the room muttered as bothered by her wrinkling soul. She heard them. She opened the window with the mere force she mustered. It took a moment of struggle to get the rusty switch working. The inflowing wind froze the lifeless veins on her hands, swaying her long, silver hair rustling in the whispering room. The yellowish postcards with indistinguishable writing sneaked through the gap and went scattered all over the place. She snorted, as realizing the fact that it costed too much for some fresh air which soon she would get disgusted of, especially considering how much unnecessary exposure would be put upon her through this very opening of her well-isolated fortress. Through the opened window, her peeking pupils quivered. The street was deserted as usual. Felt relieved, she retreated back into the living room. She seemed to be the only citizen who lived at the area despite decades had lapsed with her stay there. She was the witness of the seasons, the spectator of the first Independence Day, the onlooker of the growing community… yet time had frozen at her residence apparently. The local government tried their very best to promote the area but somehow it grabbed no attention. People just would not come to this little neighbourhood. Well, it was part of her fate she believed - she was born lonely, grew up lonely and stayed lonely since then. She would probably die lonely too. She shut the window tight and shifted herself to the other corner where a number of portraits of a few charming men were hung. She leaned against the small wooden table, as her body had already exhausted from the intensive movements of a few inches she had just made. The table was her treasure, her precious. “The only thing my loved one remains.” Softly she spoke as she caressed the table like her own pet, while her fingers slid over the musty photo frame and refused to leave the man in the frame. She missed him. He was her sole purpose of living, the whole point of her being there. “The world was so much quiet without him.” The only bead on her necklace glossed in its tainted glory. It was her remaining precious, “My sweet, my lovely…” Hummed a song she had been sung to by the man she loved before as she grasped the bead. The bead had given her the will and comfort to live on at many occasions. She smiled. Women were that easy to understand, after all. A gift from a man she loved would keep her remembered forever. The meaning would be priceless and timeless as well. She never want to die, not at all. Rather than believing how she could have reunited with the man in heaven, she preferred to believe how she would be turned into dust and be blown to the realm of this world for being an individual like her, someone or something unlikely from this world. Her beauty, her wealth, the two greatest things that kept the men around her. She was otherworldly, the people stated. And she got old. Even for a kind like her, she could not escape the law of nature. Her body aged over the dates and certainly it sought youth as much as she did. A young man's body would make her alive again. The gorgeously sculptured body of his, the passionate smile of his, the mellow tone of his… oh… she could feel the curves, the warmth of his flesh… It gave her plain excitement, bestowing her an arousal from the most primitive nature any human would have, even though she found it weird, if that was what made humans happier than ever, she would choose to accept it, for joy was something what her type had always desired. Her long ears discerned the rumbling steps from the outside. Her heartbeat grew faster, her body wriggled. And the lovely knocks coming from the doorstep turned her on further. Quickly she went to the door and brought the man in, the fatigue had vapourized way back. It was more sensual than unusual to have a man from nowhere to satisfy her needs. She pitifully stared at the man with an empty purse on her hands. The man acted easygoing and foolishly ventured into this very old mansion, without being aware of how old it was. She was happy at first, for finally someone who could fill up the void in her heart. It was good while it lasted and then she realized something. It wasn't enough. The second cold morning came and she was no longer afraid of the frigidity. She lived much more vigorously with the delightful smile on her reddish face. Then the knock came again from the entrance. She habitually touched the two beads round her neck, she raised her head and glimpsed at the row of portraits. She grinned. It wasn't even afternoon yet a man had already come over. She liked how the men still fell for an old lady like her even she never promised to pay. This time she abandoned her wheelchair near the frosty window and waddled to the second man waiting by the door. The night was even colder than before. And nothing could be heard from the cozy bedroom that had not the slightest coziness in actuality. No fire from the chimney, no couches in the living room, no blanket, no chocolate-chip cookies, no hot chocolate and tea, no piping hot pies and muffins and no light in the house, the coziness wasn't the typical "coziness". This was something cozier than stereotypical "coziness" people had in mind, which she didn't have to do anything to make it look cozy, even without those loving things she only had to say it to make all the men utterly convinced on how brilliant, how clean, how gorgeous the cozy mansion was to stay forever. Yes forever. Once hers, forever hers. Even if every single man showed their confusions, disagreement or even agitation on her actions, she wished day by day, for men to be with her in eternity. Eventually it became true. One random man would come standing in front of her doorstep to visit her daily and they never left after that. She felt replenished, body and soul replenished for how every man came to accompany her, allowing her to have a well-fulfilled life, filling her desolate soul. She would have fine meals with them and speak to them. That was all she needed, all she wanted, all she longed. She believed she was neither greedy nor seductive, the men just came to knock on her door randomly not because of her but their curiosity. She found herself sinful instead but she didn't bother because she was sinful even for her existence. A few days lapsed and she felt more energetic. She felt younger as she could even stand up from her wheelchair and danced as long as she liked. It was something she had almost forgotten over the years of wasted youth. And another cold morning after a week, she was looking at the mirror, licking her rose-red lips while eleven beads round her neck sparkled like the twinkling stars in the dark bedroom of hers. They were the gifts from the men who visited her over the days. They were so kind to fulfill her needs without asking for anything in return. One more bead to go. Thought as she anticipated the arrival of the last man. Someone who would fill the last gap round her neck, someone who would give her true beauty and eternal wealth. The sedate and rich knocks on the door resounded in the lonely living room. She walked to the door gracefully and welcomed the guest with a sweet smile on her demure face of youthful beauty. The man's face was pale and emotionless, which formed a major contrast to the dark coat he wore. He lifted no step and the woman went bewildered. To her surprise, the man splashed a bottle of water on her. Cold water, cold and tasteless water it was, yet it painfully scorched her face. Her fair skin was boiling, her long and dark hair was burning. Screams echoed within the silent neighbourhood. Before she could defend herself, the man already pounced at her, tearing off every bit of clothing on her. And he left with an empty case where the silver dagger was placed. And then she was no more. No one had heard of her since then, no one had even heard of her before. No one questioned on the identity of the man and the whereabouts of the woman and no one bothered the lane that had suddenly gone empty after a night. What lingered as a fact in the mind of the people around was, the only man who was able to leave her house was with blood colder than the demon.... Read more
THE HUNTRESS AND THE WOLF
Ruby Blackthorn woke up with a start, her body aching all over. She realized two things then: she wasn't lying on her bed, instead on hard soil; second, she was bloody all over. She tried to sit up, but felt a sharp pain on her left arm and moved her other hand to feel it. When she looked at he...Learn MoreTHE HUNTRESS AND THE WOLF Ruby Blackthorn woke up with a start, her body aching all over. She realized two things then: she wasn't lying on her bed, instead on hard soil; second, she was bloody all over. She tried to sit up, but felt a sharp pain on her left arm and moved her other hand to feel it. When she looked at her fingers again, they were scarlet with blood, the wound obviously fresh. Her hair was matted to her neck with sweat. She realized she was lying in the middle of a playground, complete with see-saws and monkey bars. She recognized it as the Coriston town park. She slowly got to her feet; as she sat up, she saw her bow and arrow a few feet away, and went to get it. Ruby limped her way back to her grandmother's bakery, Breads and Custards. The town was bustling with people, in the morning rush, so much that they didn't even notice a limping and blood-stained Ruby, her face streaked with tears. She clutched her red hoodie and pushed open the door to the wooden door of the bakery, the familiar sound of the welcome bells jingling in her ear. Her grandma was at the counter; at seeing her, she rushed over to her granddaughter's side. Ellenora held her grandchild by her arms and looked at her worriedly. "What happened, kiddo?"She asked, glancing up and down. "I've been trying to get a hold of you ever since you went out hunting." Ruby loved too hunt; it was what her father was good at. Her dad was a hunter, her mom a baker. Breads and Custards used to be her mom's bakery, but the wolves attacked her parents one day when they were exploring the woods together. That was the day Ruby's hatred for the wolves bloomed. "I think I got attacked by one," I murmured drowsily. "What are we doing still standing here?"Ellenora asked herself. "Let's go upstairs to your room." Ellenora led Ruby carefully up the stairs, and guided her to her room. "I'm gonna go get the first aid kit." And with that, she rushed out of the room to fetch it. Her mind began to wander to what happened last night. It flung itself forward, claws out, ready for attack. She cried out, her hand quickly going to her bow, her other to the arrows. But she wasn't fast enough, and the gray wolf came on her, causing her to be shoved forcefully backwards. She grunted, and tried to free herself, but it's grip was too strong. It sent slashes across her hoodie, and she punched the wolf in the jaw. Anywhere but her hoodie. Never her hoodie. It howled, and slashed across Ruby's left arm. Ruby pushed the memory away. But... It's eyes. Again, she pushed the thought out of her mind. She spread herself out on the bed, and drifted off to sleep. .~.~.~.~. "Hello? Ruby? You've already been unconcious for three whole hours! Wake up and get your butt to work!" Ellenora lightly patted Ruby on the cheek. Ruby's eyes fluttered open. She blinked slowly as if just woken up from a bad dream, and then slowly sat up. She got off the bed and pushed pass her grandma to her closet. She looked down at herself, just realizing that her hoodie was missing. She looked across the room to Ellenora. "Where's my hoodie?" She demanded. "It was torn, so I was try'na fix it. And... ," she took something from behind her. "I fixed it!" The hoodie looked different. It now has a fur outlining and isn't really a hoodie anymore, but a red coat. "How do I wear that to go hunting?" Ruby asked, baffled. "It's what a real huntress would wear. Now, change into a clean set of clothes and get down to work." Jace Bellisario walked out of a building and down the streets, to his favourite bakery. He hadn't been there since he was young, but he's gonna pay it a visit today. He passed carpenters, restaurants, and tailors. When he stood in front of Breads and Custards, he pushed open the wooden door of the baker and heard the jingle of the welcome bell.He strode in and grabbed a tray; he took two loaves of bread coated with cheese- his favourite -and placed them on the counter. When he looked up, he blinked in shock. Crap, he thought, isn't that the girl....? "Hello? Sir? Your total is 7.50. Just pay up, grab your bread, and go." Jace reached into his popcket and gave Ruby eight dollars, his eyes never leaving hers. "Keep the change," he said, and walked out of the store. .~.~.~.~. It was 6:56 in the evening, and Ruby laid on her bed, thinking about the young man who bought two loaves of bread. There was something about his eyes that were so... Wolf. They were hazel with flecks of gold, just like every other of the wolves she encountered and hunted after. She put the thoughts away from her mind. It can't be. They aren't real, all just a legend. Jace walked out of the bakery, and chilly evening air slapped him in the face. He stroded down the streets, one hand holding the paper bag with bread, and the other shoved into his jeans pocket. As he looked around him, he thought of the happy lives of those kids, laughing and playing around with each other, that he would never have. Since he was nine, he'd been forced to cope with life himself. Now, he was sixteen. Without realizing it, he'd arrived at his favourite place to think - the Conriston town park. He sat on one of the swings and heard as it groaned under his weight. He sat there for along time, munching on bread. He stared after - no, through - the trees in front of him, when he heard footsteps. He braced himself for attack, standing up so quickly that the swings rattled and almost broke. And a girl appeared behind the trees he was staring after. That girl. "You," she mused. Jace took in her red coat and saw that she had a bow hung across one of her shoulders, and a heap of arrows across the other. He shivered at the sight of it. "You," he echoed. "What are you doing here?" She gestured to her bow and arrows. " Isn't it obvious?" The sides of her mouth curved upward. "This is my favourite place to hunt. I've found that a lot of wolves like to come here at this time, though you may think it's silly to hunt in a park." Yeah, he thought. Sure they do. He relaxed and sat back down on the swing. "And this is my favourite place to come to think." She walked over to him and sat on the swing next to him. "I'm Ruby." As she neared him, he felt that nausea again, rising up his throat. Hunter. "Umm... dude? Your eyes... they're glowing." Without thinking, her hand moved to her bow. Jace turned his face away and tried to hide it. Not now, not now, not now! Not in front of a friggin' hunter! But he couldn't help it. He felt his canines growing out into fangs, dinging into his bottom lip; he tasted salty blood on his toungue. Gray fur started appearing all over his skin. Ruby stared in shock. She stood up and slowly backed away from him- it -and raised her bow, aiming for him. He was in full wolf form now; on all fours. Not very far away lay his clothes. Ruby realised with a jolt that he was the wolf that attacked her last night. She had heard of legends of werewolf clans that residenced here in Conriston, but never believed. Now she knew. He whimpered, and tried to run away, but Ruby's reflexes took control of her. She let go of the arrow, and it flew, straight into the wolf's side. It howled and fell to the right, rocking back and forth in pain. It's pointy ears began to sink into his skull, Fur dissolving into skin. Ruby realised he was reverting back, and quickly threw his clothes at him; just before she turned around to let him change, she saw the pool of blood forming under and around him. She rushed to his side, thinking, What the heck am I doing? I'm not helping a wolf now, am I? But... this wasn't a wolf. This was a werewolf. Part human. She pulled him to his feet and flung his left arm over her shoulders. Even though she considered herself stronger than most people her age, he weighed like a million pounds. As they walked back, chilly night air enveloped them in it's embrace, and sent shivers through them. Ruby wasn't suprised to find the town quiet. She arrived at the bakery a few moments later, and as she reached for the door with her free hand, she barely pushed open the door when Ellenora appeared in front of it. Her face was a mixture of concern, shock, and relief. "Ruby! How many times have I told you to not sneak out like that! And who- what- why are you-" "He's hurt, can't you see? Now let's move and get him to the guest room." Ellenora continued to stare at her grandchild, baffled. "Now! He's losing a lot of blood." "Okay, okay." Ellenora came forward and flung his other arm to her shoulders, and began to walk to the stairs. It took forever, but eventually they got him to the room, and flung him onto the bed. But when they tore out the shirt and looked at the wound again, it was completely healed. Ellenora looked at Ruby. "Werewolf," said Ruby. "We're talking in the morning. Now I need to get my beauty sleep." And with that, Ellenora walked out of the room to hers. Just then, Ruby heard Jace's voice behind her, sounding completely fine. She guessed werewolves always heal fast. She turned around, and when she looked at the wound again, it was healed, but crusted blood was still stuck around his wound. "Hi. Thanks for shooting me and then saving me." "Sorry? It was just a reflex. And I was sort of shocked and scared at that time, so... It isn't really everyday that you see a human turn into a wolf." He sighed. "I was born like that. I wasn't turned, like most werewolves. My mom wasn't a werewolf, but my dad was. She didn't know until I was born, when I started going out of control. I'm a hybrid, so I'm sort of weaker and I go out of control often even when there isn't a full moon." Ruby walked over to the bed and sat down next to where he lied. He continued staring blankly up at the ceiling. "My father was abusive, and my mother an alchoholic. My father would come home and start hitting my mother and I for no reason whatsoever, and my momp would get sad and start crying and weeping. She'll go drinking, and I'll just get sad because of everything, and because of my emotions, I'll go out of control." "So that's why you reverted just now. You were scared of me." "Yeah." He looked up to her. "Hey, would you mind if I slept here today? I don't wanna go back to my clan's headquarters. My pack leader will surely give me a good lecture. He's like a father figure in my life though. He gets really concerned." "You have a pack?" Ruby asked. She wasn't really expecting for that. "Yeah. All werewolves have a pack, or they'll be omegas. Wolves gone rogue." "Oh." "So? Can I sleep here?" "Sure. Sleep all you want. Good night." Ruby started to get up, but a callused and scarred hand clutched to hers. She whipped her head around to him. "Don't leave." "Me?" "Just lay down next to me? Please?" "Okay." She went over to the bed and lay down next to him. They lay together, nowhere touching but their clasped hands, and drifted off to sleep, like two children in a fairytale.... Read more
One of the most powerful trigger to a certain memory is the sense of smell. The smell of freshly cut grass, women perfume, fresh pastry, and most unpleasantly, the smell of death.
Leah shifted her weight from foot to foot, her mind at odds as she continued to stare at the rusty door knob. Her petite frame trembled furiously both from fear and the merciless December wind that continued to assault her senses from all directio...Learn MoreLeah shifted her weight from foot to foot, her mind at odds as she continued to stare at the rusty door knob. Her petite frame trembled furiously both from fear and the merciless December wind that continued to assault her senses from all directions. Rubbing her gloved-hands together can no longer provide any hint of warmth. She has only two choices; suck it up, knock on the door and get her wish granted or turn around, strode down the road out of forest dread and forget everything she’d came for. But the latter, her heart would not allow. She reached out her hand and was about to knock when the old oak door swung open by itself with an eerie creak, making her goose bumps stand on their ends. With all the courage she could muster, she took a big stride and crossed the border into the old mansion straight out of a bad horror movie. As the door closed behind her, torches which looked newly polished, lined along the wall and all the way up the curvaceous flights of staircase, lighted up one by one in front of her very eyes. Astounded, Leah considered turning back on her heels but another part of her expected the ‘surprises’. After all, these only stand to prove that whatever she was searching for really exist and is waiting for her at the end of the lighted path. Closing her eyes, she tried to tranquilize her heart that threatens to jump out of her ribcage. You are twenty-five, Leah, not fifteen. What needs to be done has to be done. So what is there to be afraid of? She scolded her fear-inducing senses mentally. Taking in another deep breath, she peeled open her heavy eyelids to find them looking directly into a pair of enormous emerald eyes, framed by delicately arched brows and thick, ebony lashes. She stumbled backwards, lost her balance and doubled over on the ground; which she now realize was covered fully in crimson Russian carpet. She scanned her surroundings; the empty, worn-out hallway was no more as she found herself in a lavishly-decorated room; ranging from floor-to-ceiling windows to jewel-encrusted furniture. Even the ceiling was carved exquisitely with the cravings of winged creatures that Leah could not recognize. Standing in front of a rectangular black marble table was a little girl who looked no more than sixteen summers, dressed in a violet Victorian dress, decorated with delicately sewn silver flowers. A mischievous grin spread wide across her porcelain doll face as she continued to study Leah with endless interest. Leah wondered what a girl this young could be doing in this god forsaken place as she looked too young to be that which she is searching for, but when she opened her mouth, Leah knew she was wrong. “You’ve passed my test. So, what can I do for you?” the girl chimed in a voice that sounded ancient, very much ancient in contrast to the age she appeared to be. “Y-You are the witch?” Leah asked, unable to suppress the surprise in her voice. At that, the witch rolled her eyes and frowned with disgust as she leapt and landed weightlessly on top of the table. “You mortal’s lack of knowledge never fails to amuse me.” In split seconds, she dissolved into thin air before reappearing directly in front of Leah. Tilting Leah’s chin up with a slender finger, her emerald eyes glowered with a dangerous golden hue as they bore into Leah’s hazel pair. “Witch,” she begun as if the word itself was poison, “works for the devil but I...” She waved her hands in a patronizing manner and a dark figure appeared behind her, “…am who the devil works for.” Leah squinted her eyes at the man with hair as dark as night, fully dressed in black leather, completed with a set of long, black nails that seemed deadly enough to reap souls from their vessels. There was no denying her words, not after looking at his otherworldly piercing, silver eyes. Leah forced the hard lump forming in her throat back down. She has to get it, whatever the cost. She wants it; yearns for it so badly that it’s too late to turn back now. The witch leaned forward in her seat, sparks of interest lighted up her eyes as she rested her chin on the back of her palms; watching Leah straighten herself. “I want everything that I have now; my beauty, my youth, everything to remain eternal,” she blurted out without taking a change of breathe in between, afraid that the witch would pick up the fear in her trembling voice. Silent spell fell over the entire room and Leah almost thought the witch would sent her back where she came from, after all, she did came with the realization that her wish was too – “Easy. Are you certain that is what you really want?” Leah almost couldn’t believe her ears as the witch’s words washed over her. “Yes!Yes! Of course!” she skipped happily with her hands clasped together, unable to contain her excitement. “But,” the witch raised her hand once again, making her excitement fall flat. Of course, there’s a price for everything, just what was she thinking? The witch said ‘easy’ but not ‘FOC’. “You do know that my service is costly don’t you, dearie?” she continued nonchalantly which Leah immediately responded to with a quick nod of the head. “I’ll do anything in my ability to make up for it”. “And I can’t have you doing otherwise” a wide smile spread across the witch’s face as she rose from her seat; circling her fingers in the air and muttered words that sounded a mixture of Greek and Latin to Leah. A crystal bottle and a bell-shaped flower with scalloped edges materialize in her hand. At the sight of the flower, the devil who merged perfectly with the background had a sinister grin playing at the corners of his mouth, making his sharp canine clearly visible. “The narcissus? Surely Hades isn’t amused with you messing around with his garden” he purred in a voice so cold and deep that Leah couldn’t help but shiver. Though the witch’s smile only grew broader as she turned around and replied, “Well, he’s welcomed to visit if his god’s wrath is so incurred. I am bored anyway.” She took the flower, pulled out a single petal and rubbed it between two fingers at the mouth of the bottle. With a swirling motion of the hand, the dust of the flower petal slowly changes into white, milk-like emulsion. Smiling into the bottle, she twirled around in her violet Victorian dress to face Leah. “Drink it and our deal is done; your wish granted, my payment received,” she announced happily as the bottle found its way into Leah’s hands. Leah watched as the liquid changes into different shades of white and champagne under the chandelier’s light. She was afraid, yes, but her heart that yearns for eternity proved to be stronger than fear itself. Inhaling deeply, Leah gulped down the foreign substance until not a single drop was left behind. Just as she thought she could rejoice at her newfound eternity, the bottle slipped from her grasp and her hands found their way to her throat that had begun to burn furiously. Her knees felt weak and gave away as she collapsed to the ground with a thud. She stared at the witch, unable to speak of her whys and whats as her voice left her. “Oh, don’t give me that look, little one, not when I’ve just granted your wish,” the witch protested, all-innocently as she bend down to brush away the strands of blond covering Leah’s forehead and whispered faintly into her ears, “Now everything that you so desired will be preserved along with the eternal slumber that that brooding god’s prized plant will grant you.” The witch tiptoed towards the devil with her long hair that shone with a rich mahogany luster curling down to her waist dancing around her, “As for the payment…” she turned to the devil. “Soul received,” he replied with a slight shrug. “Well, it was happy dealing with you, dearie.” ... 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Your Soul to Paint
She sits in the darkness. The only working fluorescent lamp left in the studio shines blinding white light onto the canvas before her. The smell of paint and turpentine fought a silent war against the wave of pungent smell that fills the back of the room. Stacks of food wrapper and empty ...Learn MoreYour Soul to Paint She sits in the darkness. The only working fluorescent lamp left in the studio shines blinding white light onto the canvas before her. The smell of paint and turpentine fought a silent war against the wave of pungent smell that fills the back of the room. Stacks of food wrapper and empty pizza boxes crawling with maggots and moulds on parmesan cheese turned blue took up one corner while unwashed clothing from eons ago took another. She has the faintest memory of when she had last washed herself, much less her clothes. The only thing she needed clean were her brushes and the water pail to wash them in—that, she will not forget. Paint mixed at the wrong ratio would affect her work, she can’t risk having extra bits of teal in the brush when she aims to mix scarlet and marigold. She hasn’t looked into the mirror, not that she needs to since she isn’t the subject of her painting. But the itchiness in her scalp, the flakes in her hair and the way her nose has downright refused to smell any longer was enough indication what a disaster she will appear to others. Not that anyone ever visits her anymore. Even the delivery men who come by every other day couldn’t get a glimpse of her since the change was always left at the doorsteps. If it wasn’t for her body that, to her frustration, remained human, she wouldn’t have bothered with food at all. She doesn’t need anything, doesn’t crave for anything but time. More time. Every minute spent not holding the brush was a minute lost, wasted. There isn’t much time left. She picks up a flat brush and dips either sides of it in magenta and dark lilac. With her eyes closed, she allows her hands to take over while she concentrates on the image in her head; sketching thin lines in the air while her mind sketches the soft, light texture of feathers. When the brush’s tip meets the canvas’s stretched fabric, every strokes comes alive; each dancing to a haunting melody only they can hear. She doesn’t need her eyes to paint. She doesn’t need to see to know they have manifests the way she imagines them to—slim, dark feathers that extends from the shoulder blades of her subject. It is one of the pros of having hands that were borrowed. She can paint anything as long as she could picture it in her mind. She will be finished soon, in all sense. She knows. From the way her fingers tingle and the feeling in her legs left her, she knows. The only voice that fills her ears is the imaginary ticking of the non-existence clock that echoes around her. A second gone with each tick. Otherwise, she can no longer hear. Not the blaring of sirens downstairs, an injured man groaning in pain on the way to the hospital a few streets away. Not the arguments of the newlywed next door with their baby girl sobbing quietly in the room behind them. Not even the music blaring from the room of the youngsters throwing a party of pills and beers in their parents’ absence a block away. Nothing. “I would say that is a rather flattering depiction of me,” a deep, throaty voice whispers a little too close to her ears. It sounded as if he was speaking behind her but in reality, he was speaking in her mind. She can feel his breath on her neck although he didn’t need to breathe. Really, he just enjoys surprising her like that. The first few attempts might have been successful but not anymore. Just like the smell of dead rats that flooded the room, she is used to the devil’s whims. “Isn’t this what you wanted?” she replies without turning to meet his silver eyes. Her voice sounded raspy and strange even to herself but she ignores it and continues working her hands, muting all other senses. How her voice sounded isn’t important. As long as she can still paint, she can be mute for all she cares. “Well, if you put it that way. I guess I did,” he chuckles and takes a step back to appraise her work. “It’s still you who painted it though.” “With your hands.” “Not exactly,” he raises both palms in surrender for emphasis. They’ve had this conversation since day one yet the devil seems to find it amusing still. She had found him unbelievable, impossible, and fearful when he first appeared in her studio but now, he was more of a hindrance to her progress. The devil sighs two seconds after she decided to ignore him. Of all things he is—terrible, cunning, childish, bored—patience isn’t one of them. Being ignored is the least of his forte. He is bored after all, entertainment is needed. He stacks his head on top of hers, his long jet black hair pokes the top of her eyelids. Still, she makes no attempt to spare him any attention. He picks at her hair and frowns when he finds a white dot, alive and kicking between his fingers. “To think you were such a pleasant little lamb when we first met,” he says as he flicks the miniature creature from his thumb. She continues painting, leaving him to his usual complains. She wasn’t a ‘pleasant little lamb’ when they first met. Far from it. It was a new moon night, quiet as most had turned in. Not a soul on the street, not a single light switched on in her studio. The thick curtains were drawn tight and her phone switched off, battery removed and thrown a few feet away from her. She couldn’t remember exactly how it felt now but back then, she only wanted to be alone, away from everything that reminded her of life. In front of tattered canvases, torn by her own hands with a rusty palette knife, she stared at her maimed hands as tears blurred both her vision and what remained of her past painted on canvases. Brushes of all sizes imaginable were scattered on the floor around her with tubes of Sennelier oil paints mixed in the mass of mess. It’s over. It’s all over. She no longer has a meaning in the world. It was then he appeared to her; a dark shadow that seemed to draw the darkness looming around the room into him, a being darker than black. A pair of silver eyes slowly emerged as its edges began to disintegrate into feathers that cascade down to the floor, leaving a trail of black parade behind as it slowly paced towards her. She couldn’t make out its features in the dark but its eyes burned into her memory. The orbs of moonlight silver were curious like a child who had just found a new toy. “I have a deal for you”, she remembered hearing him for the first time, moments before her fate was sealed in the hands of a devil. “Are you listening to me?” the ever familiar voice asks and pulls her back to the dark room. She pries her eyes open and lowers her brush. The face of a man no more than twenty five filled her peripheral. His high cheekbones and strong jaws were chiselled to perfection on her forty-seven times fifty inches canvas. Airbrushed porcelain white skin was framed by long black hair with hint of purple in them. A pair of raven black wings highlighted with a few occasional magenta feathers shrouded his torso like a cape made of mist. Against the dark elements, his pale eyes stood out in strike contrast but that was where the similarities ends. Unlike the devil currently sat cross-legged on the sofa behind her, the one in the painting has a pair of gentle pale eyes that dip in sorrow around the corners where the devil has only cold mockery. A sneer found its way to her lips. Artwork does reflect its painter. More than a devil, her work looked like a mourning fallen angel with black wings. Never once had she thought it would be possible to have the subject of her dreams right in front of her. Neither had she thought she wouldn’t want to paint him when it became possible to. The devil couldn’t be the last of her legacy. She wouldn’t allow it. He rises from his perch and strolls over to her in muted steps. A small smile sketched the corners of his lips as he lays both hands over her shoulders and peers at the shadow of his own face on the canvas. If he’d noticed the difference, he didn’t let on. “Is this what you’ve been searching for?” She blinks slowly, trying to crave every detail to memory as darkness creeps in from the edges of her eyes. Just as the feeling of fatigue that gnaws at her mind, imploring for her to shut her eyes, her fingers too feels numb and powerless. With the last bit of strength left in her, she picks up a pointed brush and dips it in crimson. She raises it to the bottom right corner of the canvas and signs her name in one fluid stroke. With a satisfied half smile, she whispers, “Yes.” The brush slips from her fingers and falls tip-first to the floor. A bright red spot was painted against the white tiles beside her as her shoulders slumps and her body sags forward. A full stop to the life of the painter named Alice. ... Read more