On a Blue Trip

You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?

Source: Longing for Gravity

Umm, just one quick question, do I still have time to withdraw from the mission? No, no, actually, could you please remind me why I agreed to the mission on the first place? Unless there are benefits of living in Mars that may have slipped off of my mind, I am entitled to be suspicious that I might not give my full consent to it, or was signing the contract under duress.

But let’s assume I have no options whatsoever and I should be deported into space. Since I don’t really have any idea what Mars would look like except that it look like a desert in the latest Star Wars movie (is it called Jakku?), I would probably miss the blue mass of water and colour of the sky on the clear, good days.

I love the colour blue, second to black which is always the easiest to the eyes–well, especially mine. When I was 10, my parents decided my brother and I should have separate rooms, and while he had his room painted garfield orange, I asked for sky blue. I just found it very calming, and it turns out little me had the knack to foresee the future, because the school years after were quite distressing for me, and the colour of the room helps me to relax and create the right ambience for a productive night, listening to music while trying to understand myself through writing… enough with the trip down memory lane of junior and senior high school, I cannot let embarrassment crush my already damaged self-esteem to pieces again.

Point is, blue, as much as writing, is therapeutic to me.

Water, as I have mentioned for the umpteenth time, is what I assume my original habitat was as a sea cucumber in my previous life. Also, it emits the colour blue in different shades, which is another reason why I would miss having so much blue around if I did survive the journey to Mars.

It just struck me how I really am surrounded by a whole lot of blue in my life and how it is quite abundant in this planet we’re living in; the clear sky, the ocean, rivers, lakes… pools, even. If I made it alive to Mars and were able to create my own house, there’s going to be a lot of blue there, also black and grey.

Who am I kidding? I should probably just ask the mechanics for a tiny favour to colour the whole space shuttle blue. I mean, come on, I’m not going back and that’s what I’m going to miss most about the planet. Not to mention if the journey failed, I wouldn’t be able to see my family and friends who in any sense matters the most, and they couldn’t come with me. A little request for interior paint shouldn’t be too much of a problem, should it?

Since that is sorted, you see why if I weren’t forced to leave I would mind being trusted with a mission of no return? Exactly. Why would anyone actually leave home away from those they hold dear if there are no benefits, nor there are promises of survival and safety? Seriously, it already takes the best of my luck to meet these people out of the other awkward or weird encounters I have had, moreover to keep in touch with them.

No joke, I must be drugged or too tired to argue when I got the offer.


Fair Enough?

Why do people think they deserve or not deserve to be treated in a certain way?

Of course, because people tend to think what comes around comes back around; that if you wrong someone, then bad things will happen to you in the near future, and same goes if one does good to others. It’s all based on reciprocity and every proper human beings know that it’s just all business, creating win-win situations and shaking their hands over it.

But shit happens. Almost all the time if Lady Randomness is just being herself, deciding on people’s so-called “fortune” for the day or “fate” in the long term. That if you believe nature or the universe have a say in your life more often than not.

And when you got thrown bananas at your face, assuming that you have done quite well to others and you are supposed to be treated well back don’t really help, dunnit?

What follows are moans of distress, the question why repeated too copious a time without any avail, forgetting that sometimes one does not really have the highly arguable control of events occurring or reoccurring in their lives. It doesn’t really take anyone to be especially superstitious or histrionic to realize that there are events one cannot really influence by the mastery or restraint of past actions. By no means one should not try to have some grasp for survival, but there is only so much one can do to secure their present, or overcome the shadow of the future.

To tell you the truth, I am not sure if it is okay for anyone to have the very assumption that they are making their own “funds” of good deeds by doing good themselves. It is absolutely fine if it is expected of a certain second party who are aware of their share of responsibility, but to actually expect anyone you came across to fare you well just because you have did so to someone else does not seem to be as fair, does it?

On the other hand, I am not saying that people have to do the otherwise; to suddenly be dicks to each others or the stupid extreme. My point is, people can be dicks–each of us can–and most of the time it’s not because of you, it’s just them. Unless you have personally hurt or offend them in whichever manner, it is not because you didn’t do good enough in your previous endeavours–they probably are just having a bad day or they are simply rude. I am not condoning those actions as well; dickheads are dickheads, but really, the shame is on them. So stop with all the “I don’t deserve this!” or “Never in my life have I been treated that way!”, or “Why God? I’m a decent person but why does shit always happen to me?” and the whole feeling of failure that comes afterwards. I can never have guessed even only one of the reasons why we are so keen in hurting ourselves.

It seems like the meaning of justice can only be found in law textbooks as far as I’m concerned, and even in those sources debates are ongoing to construct what is fair. In real life, it appears that the judge is the norms formed by the society, and even that is faulty as partly it is responsible of the good-paid-for-good system some people took the liberty of using for presumption of “the mechanism of good deeds reserve” (or is it religion? I can’t be sure).

Moderation, the key to ensure our sanity be kept in tact, is an old-aged wisdom people just can’t seem to fathom most of the time. Expect the unexpected, but only in context of worst case scenarios. But do restrictively expect the expected, when it comes to good ones. No more, no less. Moderation.

Well, what can I say? Mediocrity is always underrated. And people say they only want a stable, quiet life. Pffttt.

Whirlpool of Nerves

Have you ever heard anyone who just got a job offer and watched a good movie, and then suddenly was suffocating out of anxiety?

Well, probably you have. I was just trying to make a dramatic entrance, but, of course, I fail because it’s too annoyingly typical.

That aside, yes, I did just accept an internship offer. Not only that, I managed to wake up early in the morning for the interview without snoozing the alarm, and that is the biggest achievement of all. I posted something earlier this evening, and went to the movies and dinner with a friend. Another unbelievable achievement, I was struggling not to fall asleep on the bus going home earlier, and it was just 10 am. I am quite close to dozing off as I write this, too, but I really want to let this one out, hoping the therapeutic magic still works somehow.

As was indicated above, I was not nervous on my way to the interview there, because really I got nothing to lose. I was not as agitated about the idea of an internship or any job offer anymore because I realized I had a ridiculously short amount of time to finish my thesis, so I really did not have the pressing need to get one anymore. Nor was I thrilled when I did. Rather, I was pondering that this happened too many a time to me–those moments when I actually want or like something and don’t get it, but got something I had no expectations of getting whatsoever. Anyways, I’m thankful, but kind of scared because I don’t want to mess with the work nor my thesis and schoolwork. But that didn’t really trigger the maelstrom of despair.

Earlier when I was having a nice dinner of Japanese food with my friend, she pointed out how today has been quite productive but most of all fun for the both of us. That was when my head spun and some flashes of thoughts somehow filled my lungs, making it hard for oxygen intake. I was succumbed to think of how today seem to be going so well that nothing could go wrong, that I might not have any days like this in the future because the semester is starting in less than five days, that I am now going to properly work for 3 days a week, have one class and work on my thesis, and that most likely all hell will break loose once this weekend is over. I started questioning myself if I really deserve a proper holiday break, and by that I mean doing literally nothing academic but only worrying about it, while being a prat writing this blog, shoving weird, terrible stories down people’s brains and mostly ranting about stuff people in real life dismiss as being whiny and lazying around (bloody, typical millennials). And now I moronically expect myself to be able to function as a proper adult and student? What the hell was I thinking? That was when I stab my temples with a pair of chopsticks each.

N’ah, I was too shellshocked out of my own masochistic decisions and paralyzing gloomy speculations of the near future I just morosely stared at the menu. If you ask me, I still prefer this over the stabbing part–I’m about as violent as a dead predator.

But it is still traumatizing nonetheless that I need a moment to recollect my thoughts as well as regulate my breath. Thankfully enough my friend was there to help calm me down a bit, and our orders were served, so I naturally get distracted… only to get overwhelmed in intervals afterwards.

Willing the restlessness and mild hyperventilation to stop, I resorted to writing this down. Phew. Oh, no, it’s still there, lurking deep in the void of my chest; waiting for me to lie on my bed, only to be wide awake all night instead. Okay, I’ll just sleep on my desk tonight.

I should have learnt a thing or two about uncertainty and randomness in life–that, yes, a day may went well, but there are also some other days when I will probably make mistakes, embarrass myself in public, be scarred of the experience and have not thicker skin to acknowledge and let go of it (as it always comes back to me despite my efforts to repress them only to make myself shiver in disgust). But I apparently don’t, with all this distressing expectations tormenting my already damaged self-esteem. I don’t even know if it’s just in my head because they say your imaginations may also come to life.

Seriously, reality, make up your goddamn mind! Do you want to be actually real, or a manifested fickle of one’s expectations?

I’ll take my chances getting twenty winks rather than wait for that question to be answered.

Buy a Jackal Ticket

Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favorite thing about yourself.

An imaginary conversation submitted for the prompt: Toot Your Horn

“Ha! Most people are good at being self-deprecating? You’re joking.”

“What? People do that all the time, no? Trying to be polite, courteous when situation calls… which is most of the time…”

“See, that’s the keyword. ‘Trying’. They’re not good at being self-deprecating. They are good in appearing to be self-deprecating. Moreover, most people are more capable to notice good things about themselves.”

“I agree with the first bit, but I am not sure about the second one.”

“I’ll give you an example. Say you stand up in the mirror. Though you probably don’t like the fat you collect in your belly, but you’re probably fast in spotting how you like other features of yourself. Prolly your hair, your nose, your eyes, and so on.”

“Eh, I don’t think it’s easy for most people to find themselves physically attractive by possessing only some good traits, though.”

“You’re probably right. But somehow it makes them feel good even for a little. Well, unless they’re trying to impress the entire human race.”

“Hmm, yeah, maybe.”

“Point is, people make up excuses quickly. Same goes with recognizing their favorite thing because it helps them cope with things they lack.”

“So, what’s your favorite thing about yourself then?”

“Easy. I’m good at being self-deprecating. Appearing as one comes off even easier.”

“So you’re saying you’re not like most people then?”

“Yeah. That a problem?”

“No, no, I just never came across such arrogance from people who self-deprecates like it’s their second nature.”

“Oooh, a little testy, I see. Now, allow me to let you in a secret. Come closer… self-deprecation does not entail timidness, my friend. Sometimes, embracing your worst traits as part of yourself works as well as the best, the good, the positive ones or whatever they call it.”

“Huh. I never thought of it that way… So, you are saying, rather than telling yourself ‘the fuck with what everybody else suggest, I am beautiful inside and out’, you can have the same amount of self-esteem by saying, ‘yep, I know I’m ugly to most people, but hey, I’m okay with being ugly. Doesn’t matter much’?”

“Exactly. It’s just that people prescribe this ‘positive’ self-love thing more these days. Personally, I struggle with it because I feel like I’m lying to myself because I don’t fucking believe in it on the first place. Self-deprecation is simply an easier path to take so I can function.”

“Well, yeah, self-love could be a little too overrated.”

“Uh-huh. My turn now, what’s your favorite thing about yourself then?”

“Eh, probably my ability to be so-called creative and shit. You know, like making up this whole conversation to compensate for the lack of academic productivity.”

“Now you got it.”

Allow Me to Offend

When was the last time your walked away from a discussion, only to think of The Perfect Comeback hours later? Recreate the scene for us, and use your winning line.

Source: Drawing a Blank

The snippets of conversation below are modified reconstructions of actual events in a bar that factually happened, which also contains part of the reasons why I hate social situations that requires me to mingle with strangers, both drunk and sober. 

“Oh yeah, that happened to me, too. I went here for an exchange some years ago, and I think it’s quite alright living here, seems like a cool country, so I came back.”

(from the actual words of someone who originally came from the said country, spoken aggressively) “See, that’s what I don’t get. Why do you think it’s alright living here? Why is it a ‘cool country’?”

“… Well, unless I have an inferiority complex like what you just demonstrated, I wouldn’t see what is so bad about living here.”

“But can you not download the app for free? I use it to listen to X radio, and I don’t think I need to register nor pay anything as well.”

(interrupts) “Wait, you listen to that radio station?”

“Yeah, sometimes. It was aight.”

“Wow, I can’t believe it.”

“… What? The fact that people have access to this invention called the Internet and that it enables them to listen or watch stuff from all over the world, or the fact that a doofus can’t process that?”

And of course, the classic.

“So, your name is Caroline?”


“But back in your country, that’s not your name, is it?”

“… No, no, you’re right. That can’t be my name because obviously I’m from fucking ‘Asia’. It’s actually a toh-tally ethnic word that you most likely can’t pronounce well, so to accommodate with your oh-so-feeble tongue, I opt for Caroline. And for the record, ‘Asia’ is the largest continent in the world, which means it is too damn huge to be put in a teeny tiny box with ‘exotic, difficult names’ as a description.”

But why would you make a scene in a situation when you actually just want to meet the one friend that matters, then get the fuck out as soon as you met the decent quota to leave?  Why stoop to their level if you actually don’t give the tiniest shit?

Alright, I simply don’t have brain-tongue coordination, and you should not make fun of physical defect.

Plus I’m a coward. There you go, now you can laugh at that.

Mere Rhetoric

Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.

An imaginary rewind submitted for the prompt: The Road Less Traveled

It was May 30, 2014.

The result was out and, exceeding expectations of my teachers and peers, I climbed up the category, making me more than eligible to continue my stay. Relief wasn’t quite the right word to describe what I feel right now, as I was a reluctant test-taker in the first place. I made the minimum cut last January, and I have been increasingly demotivated to learn because I felt lacking in the daily conversation bit, but the classes were divided based on the test results instead. I somehow feel the test only discourage me more because it proves how it doesn’t really measure one’s proficiency as it should have–I mean, come on, I stuttered and simply pull a hodgepodge of whatever sound like I am learning together it doesn’t make sense, and I actually passed.

It’s fair enough for me to say that’s the biggest joke in my life so far, much like the whole education system. Or life as a whole.

That was when it occurred to me that learning at home would probably be a better option. Maybe ending it this term will be better because I will finish the language program instead of quitting graduate school midway. I mean, I chose to take this program not because I am passionate about the subject; it was simply the better option rather than being jobless for too long. Instead, a year abroad learning a new language doesn’t sound too bad, so I went for it. Right, I was here only for the language program on the first place anyway.

So I decided to go home and discontinue it before it’s too late to back down simply because it is not in me to end things without giving it a chance. I seized the moment, which brings me to today.

The first month being home was a total honeymoon phase. I got the ideal concept of a home and my previous living arrangement completely mixed up, and what follows was a shitstorm. No, it’s not the fact that I took “The Great Leap Backwards” by going back to my old part-time job that made me feel worse after the whole mumbo-jumbo with the dysfunctionality that is my family (no worries, at least my brothers realize that we are fighting a lost cause if we say the otherwise). I might face some extent of regret for leaving the program, but I reckon I was tactful enough to think that it is pointless mulling over spilt milk. I guess what upsets me more is that whichever decision I made back then won’t matter much; the fates simply won’t give me a break and just let me live my already miserable life in peace by giving me a decent job.

But what mostly gets to me would be how thick I can get that I somehow was made to believe, in some point in my life, Lady Randomness (or Goddess of Fortune as she is more widely known) would be tired enough to troll me that she would grant me enough certainty. I’m not sure who planted such seed of foolishness in my brain that I can be confident enough that measly things like both formal and informal education will get me somewhere secure enough.

The catch was not about greediness or gratefulness of what’s in sight; it’s about how little control one has for even one’s own life. Or do we even own any? Does one single life matter? Was the fact that there were options or the lack of it makes any difference? Absurdity, or shit, as it is more commonly known, is constant. That simultaneously reiterates both the significance and insignificance of how one defines life and the value it carries to each individual.

Perhaps that’s the cue for me to build quality relationships with people who loves and develops me as much as I do them. Fuck all the niceties and courtesy, y’all ain’t climbing up the personal sphere and get the best (or worst) out of me.

Briefly speaking, hypothetical scenarios (like this one), as much as life, can be fun only if you are allowed to actually have one. Both are pointless unless that’s what one meant it to be and is okay with it being so, much like this blog. Wait, what blog was I talking about?

The Pot Luck Problem

Write a letter to the personality trait you like least, convincing it to shape up or ship out. Be as threatening, theatrical, or thoroughly charming as is necessary to get the job done.

Source: Shape Up or Ship Out


I should just drop with the niceties and be straightforward with my intentions. Reweighing my nonperformance in the last two months of this winter break, I am now clasping my hands together and begging on my knees in fury to genuinely plead you to stop whatever it is you do as it ruins my productivity and proper functionality as a human being.

I tried fighting the urge as much as I tried to embrace it and figure out ways to keep up with my deadlines. Either that you have a hardly deniable allure, or I simply don’t want to do things I am conditioned to which explains why I always cross paths with you. This time, I am afraid you have gone out of hand, and I found little to no reason of why I should give you even the tiniest leeway to take over the wheel of my daily life on the first place. Yet here you are, still standing strong… no, growing stronger each day I brushed you off by thinking, “I’ll finish it eventually, no worries. I’m simply just a night owl, and the rush fuels the creativity. Besides, I have never failed or missed out on anything before, so it should be fine”. No. I will stop romanticizing with the idea of the need to have you to get my brain working properly. I have to, and I am starting right now.

You, pesky fiend, have been the most evil of them all. I have never once raised my hand in anger towards anxiety, low self-esteem and clumsiness, which are never my best traits. In all honesty, I will get annoyed with them once in a while, but you! You alone, Sir, are responsible of making me the most dysfunctional I have ever been in my life. You have lost me my regular sleeping habits and my longer fun-reading sessions. You have deprived me from any capability to organize a routine or follow a schedule. You have destroyed anything that is left of my derelict academic interest and my only frail hope to secure an employment. You are one second to a life of full-blown self-condemnation and disgust unless I die from the devastation I have endured from tolerating you thus far.

If it really is too late for me to back down from such nothingness in my near future for condoning you, just this once, please, let me start my thesis, finish it and graduate this August. At least by now I have learnt my lesson not to even think of continuing my education to a doctoral level in this field, I can finally boldly claim as something I dislike doing to the point where I find it unbearable to pursue. Yet my family and, in a significantly equal importance, myself depends on me at least for the next 7 years, so please leave out of my system, and let me embrace my dissatisfying career and indifferent days up until I again muster up the courage, capital and reason to call it quits.

Again, I call for your attention that I, without a doubt, seek to clear you out of my life since I no longer find your service to cast out temporary entertainment and illusory creativity necessary. I have written a similar plea to Resistant Nonjudgementality for she is as responsible as you are for bringing me to this irreversible stage of regret even if I have plainly told myself not to be involved in any academic writing once I finished my undergraduate programme. This is my last attempt for the both of you to see reason in why I need you away from my life as much as I expect her to be more apt in defining affinity and aversion.

Let’s all try to be sensible, if empathetic is out of the question, in this critical moment of one’s late transition from studenthood to reality.

My ramshackle scraps of rationality

Echinodermic Propensity

Reincarnation: do you believe in it?

Source: Karma Chameleon

Considering I have numerously mentioned that I am convinced I was a sea cucumber in my previous life, I guess it’s a pretty hefty giveaway about my thoughts on reincarnation. Sort of; because I am not sure if I’m just joking or that I have internalized it as true.

Well, this post is over quickly… eh, I’ve done this before, so let’s go back to business.

I have always felt there is something romantic–in a sentimental, idealistic kind of way, not the reduced meaning suggesting love or whatnot–with the idea of reincarnation. It seems apparent in the notion of how the past matters and that it may explain how each individual behaves or carries a certain quality in the present, all controlled by presumed rules that construct how nature operates. Yet it makes me feel like life is more a chore than it already is; how troublesome it is to “attain rationality”, how one needs to deny the human element that is inherent to everyone to at least be a human being, let alone a divine being or part of the deities.

I understand that to some it serves as an incentive to do good deeds, and although the motivation is still kind of self-centered, it bodes well with the outcome in a bigger perspective. And I respect people who made conscious choices to contribute to the well-being of the society be it through their beliefs or simply morality and courtesy. I reckon it’s either I am merely more comfortable with the idea of living just one rather than numerous lives with my previous memories completely wiped out (because again, too much work for such my decrepit soul), or I am just a miserable, lazy bum… both sounds similar, but at least the former implies I found a certain meaning in a single, short life, which I don’t even bother to question anymore since it gives me nothing but more migraines and infinite procrastination (which, side note, I’d like to call “sea-cucumbering sequence”).

So what about this sea-cucumber thing? Let’s settle with the fact that I am “entertaining” the thought of me being reincarnated from one to a very limited extent, because it started out as a gibberish remark a friend gave me while she saw me limping my body while lamenting life and the pile of schoolwork we need to do–and seriously, whatever for!?–which she found hilarious. She called out how I look like a sea cucumber lying on a seabed, and I picture myself just looking distantly to the tiny light trying to decipher it with the sad excuse of neural tissues I have for a brain. And suddenly I am enlightened. I probably was a sea cucumber… no, I am a sea cucumber stuck in a human body having too much potential than my inner nature, and I need to return to the dark abyss of waters which is my true home… umm, well, to exaggerate.

To be honest, I simply find the comfort of such thoughts to redeem with the fact that I am so done with the whole academic crap I need to deal with, and the fact that procrastination seems to be the only way I am coping with it. Yep, again with the issue of convenience: it’s me, me, me not wanting to do what I don’t necessarily have to do, but is rationally the better option, so I have to. Bloody indecisive, typical millennial.

But in all seriousness though, “Karma Chameleon”? Like that song really has anything to do with karma OR reincarnation… or not annoying enough for a reference. Pffttt.

The Bloody Bartender

Turn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family — anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now write.

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Mad Libs


As my fellow students and I wrote down the last sentence of our sit-in examination, the winter break finally commences. Before I know it, I have boarded my train home, looking only white, freshly fallen snow outside the window. I can’t believe there will come a time for me when going home doesn’t seem to be a bad idea at all, considering all my persistence to study somewhere far away from it.

I was right; I should not have been deluded with the saying “There is no place like home” too soon. Luckily I have prepared myself in case my parents woke up on the wrong side of the bed again, having a go at each other as if it was inevitable since my childhood. “Old habits die hard” seem to be the one I should have kept in mind more before deciding to have a relaxing holiday at home. But this time, instead of only being able to try to block the sound by pushing my pillows to my ears, I grabbed my coat and sneaked out of the house for a walk.

Yet it was only relaxing for the first fifteen minutes of it as it started to snow heavily once I made it to the ye olde part of the town near the outskirts, closer to the hills with pine trees surrounding it. I rushed in to the nearest pub for warmth and shelter, waiting for the snowstorm to die down.

The place seemed old-fashioned–the walls and floors, even the tables and chairs are made of wood, some cracks found here and there–but the very piece that welcomes you will be a bronze statue of a sharp-looking bird with a long crest on its head, attached to the wall opposite to the main door. In its talon was written what I assume was the pub’s name: Bird of Prey.

As I was about to take my seat at the bar stool, the bartender put her hand up and said, “Show me your ID first, lad, I’m not getting into trouble making liquors for minors.”

“Oh, right,” I opened my wallet and let her see my ID, “just turned 18 last month. And I’m going to have just a cup of hot tea for starters, if you please.”

“Goodness, I just realized you’re covered in snow,” she immediately prepared the drink, “milk and sugar?”

“Yes, please. Two teaspoons of sugar, thank you.”

She handed me the warm cup of tea, and I took it gratefully. I encircled the cup with my hands, and brought it near to my face as I inhaled the warm, wakening smell. After three sips, I no longer shiver in cold, and I was able to have a clearer view of the pub’s interior. There were only a few people inside, talking in quiet murmurs, or playing darts at the other side of the room. One person, a man around his mid-50s, took the stool in the far corner of my left, sipping a pint of ale. It struck me how odd they dress, almost like they live almost a century ago. Nobody seem to mind people wearing hats indoors here, but it seemed that every man wears their tall hat very casually, accompanied with their long suits or striped jacket. Some of the ladies wore their hair like what I saw in my grandmother’s photo of her own grandmother. Even worse, I just noticed the lady bartender, currently getting more pints of beer for a table near the frosty window, sports what it seemed like a wound in her left chest, with stains of blood all over her apron. Hang on, all of them somehow had scars in different part of their bodies; strangulation marks, ripped sleeves with gashes, burnt marks.

Just as I was still trying to process everything in my head, the bartender went back behind the bar. She must have noticed how I turn slightly pale when she asked, “You alright, lad? Want me to get you something stronger?”

My silence provides her an answer as she said, “Ah, never been to our special themed nights around here, have you?”

Oh, I thought, “Oh, yes… Yes, that explains everything now. I should say, everyone went all out on theirs as much as yours. Looks almost as real, the gunshot wound you have there.”

“Thank you, it was a last-minute attempt when I found an old burnt apron and some red paint in the attic last night,” she smiled proudly, “never have guessed I would dress as Irene Portsmouth. Now she is the legend of the town.”

“I’m sorry, I have lived here since I was younger, but I have never heard of her,” I replied.

Her eyes widened, “are you sure you’re from around here, lad? Everyone in this town should know her story!”

“Oh, spare the boy, Jenny,” the man on the far corner of the stool interrupted, “not everyone in this town enjoys their history class like you do.”

“Well, everyone should at least learn something!” the bartender, Jenny, furiously raised her voice, “What do they teach in schools these days? Those power hungry bastards must have messed with the curriculum to make us all more compliant than we already are, simply because they firstly conditioned to make us so.”

“Now, now, we shouldn’t be surprised,” the man slowly made his way to sit next to me, “mind if I join you? I reckon Jenny would be more than willing to share you the story, and I would like to hear it again. Right, Jenny?”

Jenny sighed and nodded quickly before she fill up some more dark bitter for the man, and more tea for me. He smiled a very familiar smile, and I gestured with my hand for him to take his seat. Soon, Jenny returned, and she began the story.

“Irene Portsmouth was very vocal in promoting the ‘check-and-balances’ system even when the term wasn’t coined yet. She came from humble beginnings–her father was a teacher, her mother was a governess before marriage and obviously, they taught her well that she was accepted to university when it was hard for any to get one. I reckon it still is now in many places, but well, at that time, it was the government’s first attempt to recognize women’s rights for education. She was an impressive law student and was a part-time barmaid, as she needs to support herself for her study once her parents passed away. Her friends, John and Peter, started to meet up with her in the pub where she worked with for small drinks after classes, and there they would have a friendly conversation about things they learn. There, they also got the attention of the regulars. One of the issues the town had back then was the minimum involvement of townsfolk when it comes to local legislation, and even then, most people are not aware that they posses the rights to be involved in the process of law-making by the public hearings in the town hall every Wednesdays. That’s when Irene and her pals spotted an opportunity. They first brought it up in the pub. Naturally, it became the most discussed topic the day after.

“More and more people became aware of the public hearing hosted by the mayor, and more people are increasingly involved in the meetings. At first, it was only attended by landlords or barons, who of course opted only for conditions beneficial for them, and they damn right made sure the mayor maintain such circumstance. ‘After all, two heads is better than three, four, or twenty, would you say?’; you know, something that will keep the mayor off from migraines because of ‘too much work’. Now that students and commoners are attending the meetings, they are put to somehow a less favorable condition.

“Once, a corruption case against the mayor and a baron was revealed to the public and the authorities. The case was brought to court, and the local prosecutor, also a professor who has been aware of the case ever since Irene wrote a paper on it for his class, agreed to pursue the case and the final verdict deemed both the baron and mayor guilty. As you may have guessed, some of those people high up in this town aren’t too happy with this, and they came up with a distasteful scheme against Irene and her pals as well as the prosecutor. They trapped the prosecutor in an unlikely situation that made him lost his credibility. And as for Irene, John and Peter, they were found lifeless down in the well of the local pub they used to go to. The owner was fetching some water when he found blood in the pail instead. The three of them seemed to have been shot with a revolver, with Irene still wearing her apron. Her friends usually escort her back home after her shift ends.

“You see that bird statue attached to the wall? It was a tribute the pub owner and his wife made for Irene and her friends. Irene remarked once that there was a mythical bird called the Garuda, which resembles an eagle, an archenemy of a serpent-like creature called Naga, and that people should not let ‘snakes’ take over too much power, just like the bird fights the serpent. So he went to the wood carver–also a regular–and ordered him to make this work of art.

“Wow,” I took a sip of my tea again, “do they change the name of the pub for her too? To be the Bird of Prey?”

Jenny and the old man looked at each other and laughed. After calming herself, Jenny said, “Are you sure you’ve been living here for a while, laddie? N’ah, they changed it to ‘The Bloody Bartender’. Darker, but sounds more like a pub name and it attracts more people. The Bird of Prey thing was the idea of the carver.”

“But the name does carry a message,” the old man said, “some people cower out and never talk about the incident anymore. But some were angered, so they kept the tradition. More students and locals hang in the pub to discuss stuff that matters. Well, at least, when I was a young man, exhausted after a day’s work at the farm. Boy, I miss those days when there’s a better way to understand the news.”

“Yeah, I reckon it’ll help me loads with my studies,” I told them, “I’m a politics students, and I learn nothing but the covertly shared perception that power-sharing is still a myth.”

“You study politics?” the man said, “why, Jenny here is studying the same thing.”

Jenny didn’t seem to like the fact that the man shared the information, “Yeah, well, that’s a long time ago. I’m just gonna be that lass–always the bartender, never the graduate. Well, at least, I’m not found dead in the well like Irene Portsmouth… oh, look, the storm died down, and it’s about time to close. Last orders, ladies and gentlemen!”

On that note, I bid farewell to the old man and Jenny for their story and hospitality. At least now I am not too distressed about my decision of going back home. I got an interesting story, albeit depressing, and now I know a place to go whenever my parents are having a row with each other.

Sadly, that thought was short-lived. I found no such pub called “The Bloody Bartender” (I even tried “Bird of Prey) the next day I went to the old town. When I asked Dad about it, he said the pub was closed years ago after a blizzard buries down the the west part of the outskirts exactly where it is located. He said my grandparents used to visit the pub quite often as students, and the pub also had theme nights every Wednesday. The locals decided to build a new tavern closer to the center of the town instead of reconstructing the pub in the same place since it is too close to the hills.

He never heard of Irene Portsmouth.


Little Tigers

What’s the most significant secret you’ve ever kept? Did the truth ever come out?

A work of fiction submitted to the prompt: Evasive Action

“Okay, Micah, it’s time for bed!”

Hu called his five-year-old grandson who has just finished watching his favorite cartoon Hu had recorded earlier using his brand new VCR. Naturally, he was not too happy when it comes to bedtime, just like any other kid. But when Hu told him, “I’m going to tell you a bedtime story,” as he looked at the boy over his glasses, Micah grinned at him, showing his missing lower front tooth.

Hu walked behind the running boy to the direction of his bedroom, painted yellow on Micah’s own request before this year’s Chinese New Year. He held his duck plushie while Hu tucked him under a white duvet matching with the bed sheets and pillow covers–all the set covered in cartoon animal patterns–also on Micah’s own request. Hu sat on the small space on the bed next to his grandson.

“Are you gonna tell me a new story this time, Akong?” Micah asked him with his round, chocolate-brown orbs. Hu tousled his mop of light brown hair.

“Yes,” he answered, “I’m going to tell you a story about a little tiger who lives deep within the forest in the mountains of China.”

“Tiger? Roooooaaaar!” Micah put his hands out as if they were paws. Both of them play-roared with each other until Hu used his “paws” to tickle Micah instead. Once they stopped laughing, Micah looked at his grandfather and said,

“But Akong, I’m kinda scared of them. They have veeery big, veeeeery pointy teeth,” Micah described while using both his tiny pointer fingers to depict a tiger’s fangs.

Hu guffawed, “They are kinda scary, aren’t they? But don’t worry, this little one is a good tiger. And his teeth are not as big as his mother’s, at least not yet.”

“Oh, okay,” Micah shuffled on the bed a little, “does he lose his tooth like me, too?”

“Of course! And that is exactly the story I will tell you about,” Hu cleared his throat, “there was once a little tiger, who is the liveliest among his four siblings. He runs the fastest among them. He came up with the games to play with his siblings, like catch their mother’s tail or play-wrestling. He spots the water first whenever his mother and his siblings get thirsty after a long journey, hopping from one mountain or another. Everyone likes him, and his mother is sure he is going to be the next king of the jungle. But he has a secret he won’t tell anyone.”

“What? I can keep a secret! Tell me, Akong, please…,” Micah pleaded excitedly.

“Sssshhhh, promise me you wouldn’t tell anyone?” Hu asked him in a hushed tone.

“Promise,” Micah mimicked his grandfather, whispering,”what is it, Akong?

“He…,” Hu paused a little, “he is toothless from birth. And every king of the jungle needs to have his pointy teeth to eat, hunt and protect his territory.”

Micah gasped, “Oh no. What happened to him then?”

“He tried not to open his jaw when he’s around even his mother and his siblings. He took a far corner when sipping water from the river. Nobody knows until one day, the mother tiger decided that it is time for the cubs to teach them how to hunt. At first, she would let them watch her catching a wild boar and then give the meat for them to eat. Even though it seems everyone is learning well, she becomes suspicious of the little tiger as he will always need help to cut the meat and will eat the slowest. She thought it might be because it’s their first time and they only drink milk before. Weeks after she grows even more worried because he wasn’t as lively as he used to be, and he became thinner and thinner.”

“One snowy morning, the little tiger was too weak to wake up, and when the mother tiger tried to feed him something, she discovered that unlike his other siblings, he has no tooth. She chewed on a small bite of meat and crushed some fruit with her paws to feed the little tiger and nurse him back to health. Once he was getting better, she left to hunt some more for her other cubs. The little cubs seem to copy her as they try to feed their sibling by nibbling little bits of meat for the toothless little tiger, too.”

Micah yawned a little, “They all seem to be nice tigers, Akong.

“They are, aren’t they?” he continued, “So afterwards, the toothless little tiger grew up together with his three siblings. Even though he is toothless, when hunting, turns out he is the best at hiding and being very silent…”

“Like me when we play hide-and-seek?” Micah asked sleepily as he slowly closed his eyes.

“Yes, very much like you when we play hide-and-seek,” Hu answered as he stroked Micah’s head softly, “he would help his siblings hunt, and his siblings will help him eat the food. They became the strongest team, ruling and protecting the jungle together. Years after, they are known as the Four Tiger Kings, the Great Protectors of the Wild. The End.”

As Hu ended the story, Micah has drifted to sleep soundly, peacefully. He smiled at the sight in front of him as he gently got up and straightened up the duvet to cover his grandson and keep him warm. He patted him softly as he knelt next to the bed.

“There will come one day when you will be older and I will muster enough courage to tell you the true secret, little one. The truth is, the mother tiger wasn’t as compassionate. Once she knew one of her babies doesn’t have what it takes to survive, she abandoned him to fend for himself. If it is not for a caring neighbor who discovered him on her way home, he wouldn’t  have survived. He wouldn’t have grown up, obtained education and jobs. He wouldn’t have his own children, or grandchild. He wouldn’t be lucky enough have you.”

“My mother didn’t want me because I lack something,” he took a peek on his socked feet, “but my daughter seems to still find your abundance hard to fathom… well, she did take some time until she find my condition less appalling.” He took Micah’s right palm and held the six little fingers he has.

“I understand, and I certainly have got used to her apprehension. But certainly not to you. How can she keep herself away from such a gift?

“I sometimes blame myself, you know. Is it because I started it? I really am sorry if it does, and I’m sorry for inflicting the sense of guilt your mother is probably currently in. But then, it still bothers me why it matters that we are a little different physically, and they say I’m the old, conservative one. I hope she will be able to overcome it soon. I damn well hope so.

“And while we wait, I will always be here for you,” he kissed his grandson’s tiny hand before he patted his little head. He turned off the lights and closed the door as he murmured, “Sleep well, little one.”