Dining Hell

Dialogue Prompt taken from PROMPTUARIUM

“New arrivals!”

Feeling like I have just summoned air to my lungs, I pried my eyes open and found myself on a small boat, moving quietly to a shore. Looking to my left and right, I saw around six to seven more boats heading to the same direction. In front of me stood a hooded figure  right on top of the bow. Could it be I’m… dead?

As if answering my question, my sight directed me towards the left of my stomach. I saw red. I feel the vertical gash, but not the pain.

I am dead.

The hooded figure suddenly loomed over me; its hands gesturing for me to leave the boat. It turned out that we arrived to the shore while I was in a trance. I jerked up and stood immediately, making my way to the other souls–I reckon–who were gathering nearby the rocky land. A pale lady, in a gray, tattered dress, took a glance at us, then proceeded to lead us somewhere as she held a small lantern.

I felt like we have walked for hours in the darkness until I realized we no longer stepped on rocks and pebbles, but just a cold, flat surface. We took a right turn and as the lady stopped in her tracks, so were we. She turned to face us and opened one side of a curtain, signaling us to come in, one at a time. Again, I waited, to my own surprise, in deeper stillness.

Never had I thought anything, like death, could be this silencing. Suppose it is true that no one ever stops learning about oneself, even after death.

At that, I felt a shove from my back, and I stumbled through the curtain, only to find some sort of a dining hall with round tables filling the room, encircled with tall tongues of fire. The coldness before the drapes melted from my skin. I was pondering how odd it was to be able to still feel the temperature while being numb to my own wound when I heard someone call my name.

“Ms. Lea Ruskin?”

A waiter who somewhat looked like a black-colored mannequin with no facial features called to me. Again, I was too dazed with such oddity that I could only come up with a nod and eventually a squeaky “Yes?”

“Right this way,” he said, “if you would follow me.” And so I did.

The animate mannequin-waiter led me to a seat on a round dining table. Quite frankly, I was excited to get to sit down after the long walk despite not being tired–I assume my dead body is still adjusting to the fact that my lungs no longer supported my stamina–but approaching the table, I quickly wanted to just turn back and leave as I saw two familiar faces gasping at my presence. I prayed hard, hoping it could still be heard somehow, that the waiter will lead me to another table, but he had already pulled out a chair not two seats away from them.

“You!?”

“Well, hello, Mrs. Durand.”

“Of all people!”

“It’s nice to see you too, Aunt Marie.”

This is so reminiscent of the night Julian and I broke the news of the cancellation of the wedding. His mother and his aunt–her biggest supporter–were flipping mad, mostly at me. Seeing they still couldn’t get over it even after death, I guess it really wasn’t just because they couldn’t wear the matching dress they had custom-made years prior to the ceremony. Was it a childhood promise? One of the things in their bucket list? I can’t recall.

Mrs. Durand was quick to compose her cynical self as she cleared her throat and bit, “Well, I told her I’d save her a seat in hell.” I figured that was one of the things she screamed at me before we were ousted from the restaurant for the commotion caused mainly by her.

Not at our table!” exclaimed Aunt Marie, “oh, are we really held against everything we said when we were alive? When will the misery end?”

“I’m afraid not ever, Ma’am,” the waiter answered, reminding us that he was still there to witness the ruckus, “this is hell, after all. And yes, you are held against your every word.”

Then everything is as clear as day. I, too, have said something along the lines of, “There is no punishment in hell more cruel than actually having to dine in with the abomination that is my ex-fiance’s mother and her sister.” I thought remarks made when you are drunk and in pain after a failed engagement should not count. Unwilling to relent to this set-up, for the first time in my life had I been alive, I attempted to talk my way out of it.

“Look,” I began, “if it’s about not enjoying anyone’s company, I suppose there must be other tables you can take me to.”

“There isn’t any that repulsed you most, Ms. Ruskin,” he said, resolutely, “and so would it be most disagreeable to Mrs. Durand and Mrs. Leroy. We only served the worst you can possibly imagine. And more.” He pointed at my chair, willing I would take my seat immediately. I can’t seem to find a better argument, so I sat myself down. Then he bowed his head and left us.

Just as I thought this couldn’t get any worse, it did. The food that was served looks mouthwatering, but tampered with. No, not in any way there are maggots or whatever it is you saw inedible in a horror movie; they were just not served as you’d like it. My steak was still basically swimming in blood, while Mrs. Durand and her sister’s had it too overcooked for their own taste. Not to mention they had not enough teeth to chew things properly. The hole in my stomach oozed out some of the dinner–mostly the wine and the soup–which irked the sisters to no end. I couldn’t risk having the pudding, which used to be my favorite. The sisters skipped directly to tea, which made way out of their mouths and nostrils just as they sipped it. I did not dare ask why.

Despite the food being cleared out of the table, I am afraid we would not be ushered away from the table as early as we wanted to. The sisters kept at their nasty remarks for me, my “second thoughts” and whatever they see appropriate to hurt me. I kept quiet, not because I am incapable of retorting, but because I do not want them to think they get into me. I have always been good at enduring shit talks, and seeing them getting even more irritated with my lack of response allowed me a little pleasure.

And I’d settle for just a bit of it, lest they took me somewhere I truly can’t stand. Guess having tight lips do help you survive not only the world of the living, but also the dead.

But evidently, attempting to kill your ex-fiancee’s current girlfriend and ironically bleeding to death yourself may just win you a reservation straight to hell.

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Wishful Thinking. Not.

They say things never happen the same way twice. I’m afraid there’s a little detail missing on that statement.

Good things never happen the same way twice. Other things, usually bad ones, recur as surely as one needs to eat, or defecate; it happens either regular or often, depending on the circumstances.

I’m talking about how I see my eventual commencement last August. The whole process leading to it (the thesis-writing, the panic, and mostly the “I-just-want-to-get-this-over-with” attitude) are just eerily similar to what happened four years ago leading to my premature Bachelor’s graduation. The only thing that keeps me going was that I want to be rid off of that twenty-thousand-word responsibility and just close another chapter of my life; not to be bothered any longer by the question of why I begin it on the first place.

the x phases (1).png

Another cause of my annoyance lies on the fact that in both events, employment didn’t follow suit as timely as objectively expected. According to the nifty visual I created above–doubtlessly unscientifically proven–I’m currently on the Loop. It drives me nuts not only because of my concerns for the financial implication to the family, but also that it really is not helpful to my already deranged self-esteem. Actually, I don’t even know if I had any left in my disposal.

All the more irritating is how people would just shrug off my concerns as nonsense. They’d say things like how being a bilingual, graduate from two top universities and whatnot will most definitely guarantee a job on your doorstep. No, it doesn’t. In fact, it makes me under-qualified to some group of jobs and over-qualified for the other, that they just hire an undergrad instead. See, it is exactly the qualification that’s a problem, so why would I rely on it? Either way, it doesn’t matter. The fact stands still that I am an unemployed bum, and already have been for three straight months.

And I am not allowed to be paranoid on being jobless still by the next year? Gimme a break. This was exactly what happened four years ago. And where did it lead me to? A freaking loop called gradschool.

This made me somewhat convinced that I am not built for optimism in any circumstance, and I know this trait is frustrating for anyone to be around me all the time.

Now I am even more convinced I am built for a solitary life. Not that I mind it.

My point is that I am sick of feeling constantly and helplessly miserable, but I don’t think I am in any way capable of being hopeful. But would it help? Tangibly?

If being positive presumably leads to good things, which do not happen the same way twice as a rule, is there any point of thinking somehow anything would always be fine regardless?

Mortifyingly Alive

“Jean,” a voice half-whispered, “Jean, wake up!”

My eyes tried their best to focus, fighting the throbbing on the back of my head. I felt really hot on the right side of my body, then realized the huge fire that would warm around 10 people just fine.

“Jean! Oh, thank goodness!”

I turned my head to the voice calling from in front of me, and found my friend, Dev. Hang on… weren’t we at camp before? Of course! It’s our last night here at Camp Wharton and we were on duty of washing the dishes on the river just nearby. The counselors are putting the other kids to bed after dinner, and we were supposed to join them soon after we are done with it. We were both pretty scared about being in the dark without supervision, so we were just talking if we are returning next year, recalling the best bits of the events. I thought it helped a bit, but then I remember a smack on my head, and… now I’m here, tied up in a knot on a slab of stone quite far from Dev, who was also caught motionless in a rope.

“D-dev? You okay?” was the first thing I can muster.

“Y-yeah, I guess,” he answered, “but we need to get out of here quickly, they are coming back!”

“What are you saying? Who’s coming back?” I asked, suddenly alerted.

“Shh,” he tried to keep my voice down, “cave trolls. They were hiding behind the cave behind the waterfall. One hit you with a rock, the other shoved me on a dark, stinky bag I hope wasn’t his stale underwear or something. I passed out because of the stench, but I managed to feign sleeping when they were discussing how to cook us…”

“Cook us!?” I jumped on my seat, but quickly remembered to lower down my voice to tell him, “look, Dev, I got a Swiss knife on my pocket…”

Dev was teary-eyed when he said, “Bless you for being an obstinate friend…”

“Shush,” I cut him, “now, once I’m free from this rope, I’ll slip the knife to you. Try to be as discreet as possible.” I was about to start cutting when we heard two voices arguing nearby. As if on cue, both of us pretended to be unconscious. I cursed under my breath since Plan A won’t work.

“I told you, Kevin, the best way to eat this little humans is to stew them!”

Apparently, they have not decided yet. That’s good enough.

“No, Don, my grandmama said we should deep-fry, and dip them with sauce!”

It was no easy feat hearing how you are going to be served for somebody’s dinner. I retracted my desire to even gulp in despair.

“Yeah right, and what did she die from? Heart attack? What a stupid way for a troll to die from! A greasy heart… urgh,” mocked the one called Don.

“But it was delicious enough to get by when there are no food around us,” replied Kevin. I can sense Dev was trying his best not to vomit at the idea that these trolls eat their own grandmother’s heart.

“Shut up! I wouldn’t want to imagine my heart being eaten by anyone, especially my own relatives!” Don argued.

“They have long been dead, and we’ve been hiding in the caves too long… scavenging for nothing but worms, spiders… or bats if we’re lucky,” said Kevin sadly, and most urgently he added, “that’s why we must make sure we cook these little things right! We might not have them for another century!”

“I am telling you for the last time! My Great Aunt Marge’s stew recipe is our best bet! Besides, we can save it for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch!” Don insisted.

“All right,” Kevin obliged, “since we cannot just waste the meat… but now we need to pick up the pot, and you hid it somewhere deep within the cave for some bloody reason!”

Don grunted, “only for special occasion like this can you use my pot! It’s been in my family for generations! I won’t let you use it to cook those nasty insect soup of yours! Now, if you’d excuse me, I’m going to fetch it. You stay here and watch for the little humans. They might be awake soon. We need to cook them before dawn, or else…”

“Or else we’ll harden to rocks instead,” continued Kevin, “got it.”

With four huge steps, Don went back to search for the special pot in the cave. A distinct foul smell came from somewhere near the fire, and I immediately worked out that’s Kevin the troll. I was hesitating if we should remain in our cover, but then Dev beat me up to the idea. Now, I guess, we improvise.

“Hullo,” he greeted the troll, “d-down here!”

The troll looked somewhat surprised, “Little humans do talk! I thought they were just like bats without wings.”

I took a peep and saw the troll was edging closer to Dev. I took the chance to cut myself loose. Slowly, I eased the knife to the rope, praying hard that the troll won’t pick up any noise. Dev picked up his voice.

“I didn’t mean to pry, Mr. Troll,” he began, “but I seem to hear you and your friend debating how to best cook humans.”

“And very polite, too,” Kevin bellowed, “that is true, little human. Do you suppose you know better?”

“Oh, well,” Dev sighed as if he was truly disappointed, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Mr. Troll. But you can’t eat humans.”

At this, the troll snorted in disbelief and began to laugh out loud, “What do you mean? Trolls eat humans all the time!”

Dev inquired, “But how do you know that?”

The troll stopped laughing. To my disbelief, he wondered, “Well, at least from what I heard from the other trolls…”

“But have you ever tasted any of us?” Dev boldly asked. I managed to cut myself loose halfway.

“Well, no…,” Kevin hesitated, “but it’s a tradition! And so it must be kept! Trolls eat humans when they can find one.”

“Traditions change, Mr. Troll. Humans no longer hunt for trolls,” Dev continued, “Also, we don’t taste good, if anyone hasn’t told you that.”

“But of course you do!” the troll insisted.

“Again, how do you know?” Dev repeated his question.

The troll cleared his throat and replied, “well, yeah… at least that’s what I heard from my folks… I can’t be sure…”

Dev chuckled more assuredly, “We don’t taste good! Or else, why would we not eat each other? You guys do it all the time! We don’t because we taste bad! Simply repulsive to the tongue.”

The troll fell silent. Then he said, “Well, you’ve got a point…”

At this very moment, I really cannot thank God more for Dev’s sharp wit and gift of gab. But then I manage to release myself from the ropes. I bit back my urge to shout out praises and watchfully crawl to the nearby bushes to get to Dev on the other side.

“… but trolls don’t taste that good either,” Kevin rambled, “we just don’t have anything else to eat, and we can save up the food up to two weeks.”

“Then why don’t you just eat another troll?” Dev asked.

“You mean Don?” Kevin shuddered, “I couldn’t possibly! We only eat dying trolls as a rule. Such a waste to let the flesh rot… Speaking of which, what took him so long? I better…”

As the troll just about to get up and search for his friend, Dev blurted, “He’s probably trying to get the special cookbook too! Nasty little thing got stuck in between shelves sometimes.”

Silence fell. Really, Dev? After that whole us not being cannibals thing, really? I thought as I paused from crawling, looking pointedly at the troll.

“You’re probably right,” Kevin sat back, “tough luck with finding that one.”

As both Dev and I both sighed in relief, also hoping we don’t jinx the luck that has been with us so far, I hurried to his side and cut Dev’s binds from behind the bushes. Dev chatted up to the troll again.

“I must say, your friend Don probably had found the book. He’s probably out looking for hares now since he knew humans are unappetizing.”

Kevin gasped, “Nooo! He would not just leave me here!”

“But you said you were just hungry,” Dev added, “I bet he knew now humans are disgusting and went on the other side to catch as much hares as he can find. There’s a lot in the other side of the cave. We ate them, too. They’re delicious!”

“Really?” the troll said, unsure.

“Yeah, us kids need to have at least one to fill our tiny stomachs, ” Dev egged on, “you, Sir, must need at least five!”

Kevin the troll was considering all of this, then he turned to Dev and smugly said, “So, you’re suggesting me to help him?”

“Well, a good friend will always help, right?” Dev nervously chirped, sensing the troll’s suspicion. I was desperately loosening a few more loops.

“I am helping Don by keeping watch over you so we can eat you before sunlight!” he bellowed, “and also this other little one!”

As he was busy looking for me only to find nothing but ropes, I managed to cut Dev’s and pulled him to the bushes, and ran for our lives. We can hear the troll shriek and stomped its ways towards us, calling out to his friend that their dinner had escaped.

“I told you for the zillionth time, Kevin: do not play with your food!”

“I was just talking to it!”

“Even worse! Dinners shouldn’t be able to talk!”

“I know! That is why I can’t help it…”

We can still hear them arguing as we try our best to find our way back to camp, which we no longer know if that would help with anything. I’m not sure that the counselors are even equipped enough to face trolls, of all other things living in the woods. We might be leading them to a feast instead!

 

As the trolls were a good distance behind us, I decided to change courses, away from the camp entrance. Dev was too tired to protest, so I led on and told him we won’t be held responsible for giving the trolls a banquet. He agreed as we circled the woods a few rounds more. Our only hope is that dawn would come soon enough.

And so it did. The trolls were already running back to their cave by the river, but it was too late. Their bodies harden to solid rocks right before our eyes; it’s almost excruciating to watch something whom you talked to not a few hours ago, actually turn to stone. When we recalled it would be our bones left beside the river instead, a shiver ran down our spine, and we were then undoubtedly filled with gratitude.

Yet we did have a moment of silence for the trolls. Hopefully their spirits will rest peacefully, but mostly so that we will also be free of guilt for causing them the inconvenience of refusing to be their meal–their last supper, unexpectedly almost.

Dev and I are quite sure we’re not signing up to any camps next year.

Uncle Barry

Think about your weirdest family member and write one short scene that depicts why he or she is such an oddball.
-642 Tiny Things to Write About

I suppose it is a common knowledge that there is always a fuck-up within the big family, or that one person who everyone gossip about for no particular reason. There is also the one who is always side-lined, and there are also those who are downright–what’s the word–weird. Mainly, if you have missed any of the classification mentioned about, you are probably that person in the family. It’s harsh, but, well, the chances that a perfect family exists is just as fat as a family with no judgmental aunts or zero good-for-nothing uncles.

Speaking of which, let me tell you a story about one of my many uncles. Let’s call him Uncle Barry.

Uncle Barry lives up to the stereotype of those people in the family who are always financially battered to the point where you pity his wife and kids, and the only way you can be at ease helping them is if you willingly give the money and never expected any in return. That’s right: rule number one, do not lend him money, and rule number two, if you did, then for your own sake, it’s best to consider it charity.

But what makes Uncle Barry stands out is that other than his impulsiveness when it comes to business opportunities, he is also a man who puts his belief and opinions on his sleeves. He is very outspoken about the “revelations” and “enlightenment” he had, often unashamedly advising us the young ones how to lead on with life and all. He loves philosophizing his lofty ideals at that moment and just fits it into examples that are mostly too over-simplified. I assure you, there is always new stuff for him to share every Chinese New Year’s eve, mostly religious, but arguably less relevant.

About 9 years ago, he showed a strong affinity to Christianity that he himself will speak as if he’s this new pastor coming to town, ready to evangelize everyone in the room. He actually asked my great uncles to stop smoking as he had, claiming it is God that has strengthened him, “prying him from the claws of the satanic hold of nicotine addiction”. He’ll talk about how he believed God will bring him to financial abundance for his faith soon, which makes me think he misconceived God as Santa Claus. A couple of years later, he professed his faith in Islam–which is hardly convincing as the only thing he did was blurt out Arabic greetings and exclamations–and thus continue in spreading his newfound belief, with much passion, but less actual teachings. The next year, he’s a heavy-smoker again, claiming that life just went on and nobody gives a shit whatever happens to you. His impromptu musings about taking control of life, working hard and moving forward, is almost inspirational until we remember he’s jobless, in debt, and that his wife needs to basically clean up all his mess.

Talking about “actions speak louder than words”, eh?

Us kids are quite used to his magnanimous laughter, or basically all his big-shot sort of behavior in the family meet-ups. My cousins, siblings and I wonder how it is possible for him to have such a huge self-esteem and confidence in himself; a little too much, quite frankly; that he never really shows embarrassment or guilt for taking back his words and all.

But at least his life taught us that it is difficult to seek for certainty and comfort. Inquiries and changes are welcome, and Uncle Barry is an extreme proof that we never stop learning new things about ourselves, even if we’re much, much older already.

Yet to be fair, we are also immediately reminded to always think before we act, or filter our mouths, for that matter.

Maybe extremity is the main factor of one’s oddity?

Nomad Diaries: The Buoyant Beginning (Pt.1)

In this two-part piece, I reflected upon my days as a nomad-slash-student in Busan and Seoul. Make sure to check out other stories by Indonesian vagabonds at kilometeronline.wordpress.com 🙂

klmtr

Caroline Pratama journals what it meant for her to leave home for Busan, Korea, and later Seoul. Her quests, other than for the delightful task of learning, was to self-discover.

The Buoyant Beginning

I started my journey away from home with a promise.

With all the time and space to myself, I will come back as someone more determined and decisive.

In three years, I will know the answer to what I aspire to do in life, and I can act on it. I will finally get the direction to what jobs I will be interested in, and my life will take off from there.

Contrary to what I told my family and friends the night I left for Incheon, I was genuinely excited to the point that I did not feel nervous at all. I was so eager to leave so I could establish my independence, embarking on…

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The Princess and the Baron

Source: Hyperbole

“Tell me a story, Grandma,” she pleaded with her sleepy eyes.

“Okay,” I said, “what kind of story do you wanna hear about?”

“About a faraway lands,” her twin sister demanded, “of brave kings and queens and warriors slaying dragons!” I had no idea if it’s coincidence or simply genetic that their mother used to love those kinds of stories.

“No,” she said firmly, “we listened to those yesterday. It’s my turn to pick.” Apparently not. Just a matter of interests, I guess.

Her sister pouted a little, then relented, “all right. Let’s do the princess-y ones.” And of course, those are okay, too. They looked pointedly at me, which my cue to start.

“Alright then,” I began, “There was once a girl…” I saw my granddaughter’s eyes peered for confirmation that it is her story about princesses.

“A princess, yes,” I continued, “A crown princess, to be exact. Born in luxuries of a royalty; lavish gifts of beautiful dresses, gold and silver, and precious stones. And the best education one can get in the kingdom. She was raised to be a lady, and thus she became one. In the eyes of the royal court and the royal highnesses, she was the one deemed fit to lead the the country. But there was one problem, unfortunately.”

“What is it, Grandma?” she asked, “was there a dragon threatening to attack?”

“This isn’t a dragon story!” her twin sister exclaimed, “it’s because she hasn’t met her prince yet, right Grandma?”

“Well, you can put it that way,” I replied, “dragons were the least of the problem for the princess, fortunately. For her, it is the rule of the kingdom that every princesses need to be married to be a rightful leader of the lands. As such, the lords and ladies of the court put their best effort to introduce their sons to her, as much as the king and queen did not tire of set her to meet every eligible princes from the neighboring kingdoms.

“The princess, however, was overwhelmed and troubled as she felt her betrothal come to soon. Surely enough, she loved her kingdom and her people that she would be willing to assume her king’s throne and lead the country to prosperity and peace. But she was worried if she accept just anyone approved of by others but not by her, she would regret giving up love for life.

“One day, as if her concerns are heard, she came to the company of a young baron of the northern land after a court meeting. A farmer came, pleading to the king to have mercy on him as his hands were about to be cut off for unknowingly making harvest in the plot that wasn’t his landlord’s. His landlord ran off and took the money from the harvest, leaving the farmer and his wife to deal with the other landlord, who was furious and will stop at nothing until he saw bloodshed for so-called justice.

“The members of the court agreed to pursue the greedy landlord. Nevertheless, as they have never had to live in complete subordination and lack of information, all the court members also blamed the farmer, whom was deemed ignorant to the limits of the land belonging to his landlord. They asked the king to spare him off the violence, but then commanded the farmer to serve the other landlord for as long as he pleased as punishment for his negligence, without payment.

“The farmer thanked the mercy that the court bestowed upon him, but worry of his wife and two children’s well-being if they had barely any money to eat. Just as another lord of the court was about to reprimand him for his insolence, the young baron stepped in. As the conflict occurred in his part of the land, he humbly pleaded to the king for fairness of the settlement. Living under a corrupt authority, the farmer and his family’s life should not be put at stake, so he agreed to set the farmer free of the debt he shouldn’t have been burdened with on the first place. Furthermore, to stop any such events from happening again, he asked that a law should be passed to ensure the rights and responsibilities of landlords and their farmers.

“Such astuteness displayed by the young baron won the favor of the king. He set the farmer free and demanded his court to make a fair, legal treaty and enforce it immediately. Not only his wisdom, but also his compassion, touched the princess’ heart. And so, a friendship ensue between them, which then blossomed to marriage.”

The sisters yawned, and as one directly slipped of to dreamland, the other sleepily added, “Then, they live happily ever after. Like you and Grandpa, right, Grandma?”

I hummed accordingly, patting her head as she closed her eyes.

Certain that both girls are asleep, I can’t help but be truthful.

“No, not really, dear. In this world we live in, happy endings are merely exaggerated.”

Freefalling

Source: Base

 

 

 

“What are you waiting for?” he inquired, “jump.”

I take a look at the busy streets far down before me. Fear strikes, and I thought this was just a dream. Yes, we ran through dimensions, moving circularly. We passed through distortions; expansions and reduction. White, red, black and mosaic rooms–we proceeded and left them all behind effortlessly.

Now that we end up on the rooftop of a building reminiscent to my childhood home, I am not as daring.

Perhaps it is the sense of familiarity to reality which escalates my hesitance. Suddenly, this realm doesn’t seem much like a dream.

“What if I did and died down there?” I asked him.

“You know what they say,” he replied, “‘you’ll only go as far as your faith can take you’. I believe those are the exact words.

I began questioning myself of the amount of faith I have, on where I should place it for assurance, or if any of that matters at all. I stepped back from the edge of the building, resigning as I consider my dwindled confidence. That was when he stopped me by putting his hand on my shoulders.

“What is it that scares you, child?” he slowly tightened his grip.

“Well, falling for one,” I told him, “and my life, obviously.”

“Didn’t we manage to go this far?” he turned me towards his gaze, “did you even doubt a second that we would be trampled by those walls before? Or trapped in any of those rooms?”

This certainly is no room. In fact, stepping at the grounds and being able to look at the walls weirdly made me feel far more secure than the prospect of it isolating me forever. But it is true, we made it unblemished up to now. Also, and I cannot reiterate too much, wasn’t this just a dream?

“You can still see the ground,” he said, as if he just peered through my head, “and you’ll be there in no time. Go, and release your fear once and for all.”

Surely, a dream is a dream. I could not miss out on the chance to do something I won’t and can’t do in real life. I took another glance at the view at the bottom. This time, I brought my feet to the verge again, steadied myself as I reached for his hand.

“Only if you come with me.”

He seem to understand. Quietly, he followed suit as he stood beside me and clasped my hand.

We close our eyes, felt the wind and took a deep breath.

We spread our arms, willing to let gravity take us down.

Suddenly I felt him grabbing my shoulder hard, and whispered, “You put your faith on the wrong man.”

He pushed me down, ruthlessly.

I realized iron doesn’t taste dreamlike.


A/N: I refuse to accept that I slept through Halloween because I was sick.
Here’s, albeit unsatisfying, an attempt to relive it.

The Unlikely Overhauler

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Bludgeon

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Dan was awaken by the sound he heard coming from the closet walls.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

He cannot seem to part from his warm blanket, as he peered through it and saw the stars and moonlight from his window. It’s still night out, he thought with an air of annoyance. He was about to drift away to sleep again, when it strikes again.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

He flung his blanket away and rushed out of his bed before he had second thoughts. He opened his room door and saw no one on the other side of the wall. He’s distraught. It can’t be…

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The continuous bludgeoning sound kept coming, only this time, it really did seem like it came out of the closet. Dan squinted his eyes, thinking hard while also trying to focus his sight in the moonlit room. He crept closer to the closet door, and put his ears against it only to hear…

Thump! Thump! Thump!

He leaped away from the door, hands closed to his chest. He immediately took his flashlight from the drawer, readied himself and opened the door when he saw a small creature hammering the wall hook inside the closet. As Dan was left shocked with his discovery, so did the small creature was startled by the sudden light blinding him.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” Both of them screamed, jumping in different directions.

“Oh, sweet mother of Brounies! You scared me to death!” the dwarf-like creature exclaimed. He took off his green pointy hat, then wiped the nervous sweat from his forehead with it. Dan was quicker to compose himself, mustering his voice.

“Who are you?” he asked, “and what are you doing in my closet?”

The creature looked like it has just realized something. Putting his hat on again, he blinked profusely before pointing his gaze directly at Dan, asking, “P-pardon me, but c-can you see me?”

“Of course I can!” Dan cried out, “why else would I ask?”

It went pale.”Oh dear… oh, for the love of–why–how d-… oh. I knew that stupid Hob skipped the sand-dusting on me and my kit! Wait ’til I get my hands on that–,” it stopped muttering, sheepishly looking at Dan and said, “M-my apologies, little Sir. I’m Uri the Brownie. I meant to help fix the hook in your closet. Quietly, of course, but it appears that my friend was clumsy enough to miss an important step…”

Unquestionably dumbfounded, Dan was stuck speechless as he listened to the Brownie rambled on and on about the sand-dusting procedure that was supposed to make him invisible and silence the equipment it used, also that it was truly sorry with the inconvenience it caused him and that he promised not to take the honey until he finished the job. Dan closed his eyes and shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind, hoping he would not see or hear anything once he opened them. Still confronted with the sight of the Brownie before him, he sighed and held up his hand, saying,

“Hang on,” Dan demanded, “honey? Sand-dusting? Wh-what is this all about? Are you, err, Brownies, supposed to fix things or, umm…?”

Uri was taken aback for a bit, and then his mouth formed an “o” in epiphany. “With the gifts in the attic, I had no idea not all humans in this house are aware of our existence,” he thought out loud, “b-but, yes, little Sir, we Brownies has always been reliable aides in houses for centuries! Honey, or porridge, are sometimes given as tokens of appreciation by the owner of the house, and we are glad to take them, Sir!”

The need for sleeping has left Dan’s system as he was engaged with the new information he learnt from the little Brownie. He began to make connections; the small hole on the wall because of nails have always seem to vanish like it was polished new, the loose door knobs can always tighten itself, and the squeaky hinges that seem to lubricate themselves. He also remembered that Grandma Pippa has always made it her habit to leave a bowl of leftover porridge or honey near the attic, much to his mother’s dismay. Mum has always been harsh with superstitions, or any forms of legends and myths, in fact. Nonsense, she called them.

“The problem is,” Uri gulped, calling out Dan from his reverie, “we always work unseen by owners of the house, little Sir. And now that you have seen me, I might be in a lot of trouble should the elders found out!” He again took of his hat, and chewed on the pointy edge anxiously.

“But no one knows that I saw you, Uri,” Dan tried to calm him down, “except for you and me. I’m good at keeping secrets! Well, unless our screams earlier are heard, or that Brownies have some sort of telepathic connection or an invisible alarm that alerted everyone…”

“No, no! We haven’t any of that, little Sir,” Uri remarked, “i-it’s just that I have never heard of any brownie making deals with humans…”

Dan gave it a thought, “well, I guess that’s fair. I mean, I have never made any deals with a brownie either. Actually, I have never even met one until tonight.” He pondered, “but I promise I will never tell anyone about this. Cross my heart!”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, that’s what humans say to each other when we tell the truth, and if not, bad things will happen because we lied,” Dan explained. The Brownie gasped.

“Well, I certainly don’t wish anything bad to happen to you, Sir,” he replied, “I guess I will take your word for it.”

“Great! Let’s shake on it!” Dan held out his hand to Uri. He seemed hesitant when Dan realized it is probably another custom the Brownies are not familiar with. “We shake our hands when we seal a deal. Here, grasp my hand and we shake it up and down.”

The Brownie carefully extended its small hand and gripped Dan’s firmly as Dan led him shake them. A sigh of relief escaped Uri’s mouth.

“Oh, well, bless you for doing this, little Sir,” he said, when Dan interrupted.

“It’s Dan, by the way. It feels a little weird being called ‘Sir’.”

“I-I’ll try,” said the Brownie, “but thank you very much. I guess I really need to go now. The others would be suspicious if I didn’t go back soon. And I hope the nails attached the hook just fine. You will find no problem hanging all your coats here, little S–I mean, Dan, Sir!”

“Thanks very much, Uri,” he smiled at the Brownie, “I’ll make sure to see you get the honey you deserve.”

“Oh, not as a payment, please, Sir,” Uri whispered, “or we Brownies will be forced to find another place to live in. But as a gift, we will receive it wholeheartedly.”

Dan did not quite understand the difference, but he silently nodded and let the Brownie gather his kit, then leave his room quietly.


The next morning, Dan woke up to find his closet door ajar, and his wall hook slanted on one side. It really was just a dream, then, he thought, disappointed. Yet, as he made his way to the bathroom to get ready for school, something caught the corner of his eyes.

A green, tiny, pointy hat.

Dan would love to squirm in glee, but he promptly realized it might blow off his new friend’s little secret. So he settled with a simple smile, and hang the hat on one of the hooks. This time, he trust that the work will be undisturbed.

 

Conviviality before the Storm

Eat, drink and be merry…
…for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell
us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

-365 Days of Writing Prompts, The Daily Post

A “feast” is not exactly the right word to describe it.

There lay on the dinner table are definitely the overabundance of scrumptious goodness. Mum certainly has outdone herself with an array of Indonesian and Chinese-Indonesian fusion food I’d personally like to call the smell and taste of home–I’m sure Dad and my brothers would agree. My family and I would also be in one voice to say that we have never had anything quite like this dinner because of our sadly tight budget. But we decided, “Hey! If tomorrow’s gonna be the end of all days, screw the credit card bill. Let’s all get home and eat together while we can!” Thus, tomorrow we shall go with a hint of warmth and home.

Yet it is still is not as festive an occasion, as the word “feast” entails. We tried, but unfortunately there is too much sadness overcoming the celebratory atmosphere.

We said grace, then we started eating. Mum’s cooking nearly alleviates all the gloom lurking as we savoured the food, until we remember the flip side that we better relish it as much as we can because we had no freaking idea how life is on the other side. The brother, usually the chatty, funny one, does not even make a sound as he quietly munched on his favorite tofu dish. The youngest sibling, usually the quiet one, is proactively trying to put a smile on everyone, to which we can only respond with a polite one. Dad is trying to hold back his grief that his children could only live such short lives, while Mum sturdily stands as his rock. I simply do not know what to feel.

It is almost as if one decided to stay for a meal following a funeral service at the home of the deceased, only that the deceased are actually one’s own family members. Oneself included.

There. It’s a self-funeral supper.

A knock at the door and I found my aunt, her husband and my four cousins, each standing with her own signature dishes. She said, “I hope we don’t interrupt with anything.”

Despite that they technically do, it is the most welcome visit, especially for Mum. So a dinner for five now extends to a dinner for eleven.

Though I don’t see any point in cleaning up after our last meal, Dad cannot stand the sight of dirty dishes. Since I don’t have the heart to call out who is going to need clean plates and cutlery after tomorrow, I hold my tongue and proceed to help drying the dishes as he cleaned. I’m just about to slouch down at the sofa after we are done with it until I heard another series of knocks at the door.

As I open the door, I am huddled by two familiar figures. They bring stuff that smells like my favorite desserts: cookies, cream puffs and egg tarts.

My friends always gets me.

At that moment, I felt more resolute to uncover myself from indifference. Why trouble and limit oneself with either feeling miserable to fit the apocalyptic mood, or being as pretentious as to dismiss the distress with fake merry-making? A sense of gratitude, which previously was just threatening to burst, swells from inside.

“Thank you for being here,” I told them as we break off the hug. I glanced at my family, who were gathering on the living room across the door, and nodded at them to express the same thing. I’m glad that they smile back at me.

As my friends and I stepped out of the living room to the small garden, I saw my youngest brother ran off to his friend’s house next door, shouting, “I’ll be back soon!” to our parents. That made my other brother laugh, which was followed by the other family members. My Mum then gets up from the sofa and said, “I think it’s best for us to just keep the doors open for a while.”

And she was right. Not a minute later, our house is packed with more friends and family; not to mention the endless overflow of delicacies. “Tomorrow does not wait to take us out of this world because of diabetes anyway! Or old age, to add to that fact!” said Dad. I love that everybody finds that funny and that we all toast to it.

Now that… befits something beyond a feast.

That the end comes with a warning is certainly worth celebrating, indeed.