A Lackluster Thrill

Source: Pensive

For the first and second part of this weirdass trilogy, clickity here and here.

“Why, you look like you’re… deep in thought.”

Jamie looked away from the window to find me standing near the door. As I made my way to the kitchen for a glass of water, he remarked, “You’re off from work early.”

“The boss decided everyone should be home early for Christmas eve,” I downed the whole glass in one-go, “of course, I had to willingly oblige. Who the hell would miss a chance for a longer weekend?”

“Oh,” he responded, rather disinterestedly, “that’s good.”

Weirded out by this melancholic-reflective act he’s pulling, I decided to just ask him, “What’s up with you? Something up with the studio? I mean, you would usually begin counting days to Christmas since July.”

“Um, no, no, the studio’s fine… I just got paid for finishing a project, actually,” he began to wander off.

“Spit it out,” I demanded, “It’s been a while, but did the Drain Duchess screw you up somehow? Made you eat raw fish gills or something?”

Three weeks ago, Jamie and I set on an unlikely adventure in the sewers to save him from perpetually smelling like one and eventually be ousted from society. Mr. Nomura, our neighborhood fishmonger and guide, managed to set us an appointment to one of the Twin Sisters–whom I call the Drain Duchess for short–of this funky guild fish-merchants are members of, so that we can get Jamie out of his misery. Thing is, only he and Goh, the Guild’s caretaker, may enter the chamber to see her. More importantly, the Duchess herself has requested that he would not tell anyone how she looked like and how the meeting went. At first, because Jamie is at least completely cured out of the weird curse, I did not even bother to ask. But since then, I seem to spot him looking somewhat pensive more often than not. Out of concern, I started bugging him with specific yes-no questions as to make sure nothing bad happened to him then; that way, he won’t have to break the promise, should another jinx be put upon him if he blabbered out stuff. So far, I am sure that nothing violent happened to him, but I am yet to confirm if he needs to do or eat anything disgusting. As to the question I just inquired, he responded with an downturn on the sides of his lips.

“Ugh, no,” he disgustedly replied, “even if she did, you know I probably need to struggle for hours with it. I was barely there for 15 minutes.”

“I mean, the alternative is to have fish guts as your daily deodorant,” I made a case for it, “You would not hesitate that long.”

“Well, yeah, you’ve got a point,” Jamie mulled, “but, no. That didn’t happen. And that’s not what’s been bothering me.”

“So, what is it?” I took a seat on the chair of our dining table, gesturing him to sit on the opposite chair. Slowly, he walked away from the window to join me.

“You know the deal with how adventures are portrayed in books and movies, right?” he began, “It’s about overcoming hardships, but more than that it looked awesome. Some of the characters even got to do cool tricks and stuff…”

“And yours is about falling in the gutter, smelling even worse than just shit and venturing in the drain domain?” I interrupted.

“Let’s be real, who would not be pissed? Who would want to hear a story that starts with, ‘So once I fell down the ditch…’?” he retorted, “I’d bring this story down to my grave. You have promised not to tell anyone either.”

“And you have my word,” I asserted.

“Good. Anyway, what kinda upsets me is the fact that it all ended just like that. In a matter of minutes, problem solved. We went back to our simple lives.”

I paused for a bit to process what Jamie had just said, and asked him, “You do realize that you were about to get stinky for life and missed the chance to be alleviated from it, don’t you?”

“Yeah?”

“Then why would you bother thinking about how the adventure could have been more interesting?” I can’t stop myself from laughing, “Seriously Jamie, wasn’t it better that you didn’t have to go through, what, trials or riddles to sort it out?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“You were about to spend the rest of your life in the bathroom!” I exclaimed, “And if you tried explaining your predicament, not a single soul would believe you. You wouldn’t even get away with branding yourself as a lunatic artist. You’d lose your job, be forced to live in the street… or maybe the sewers! And you’ll stench forever…”

“Alright, enough with saying I’m gonna stink for life,” he butted in, “I got a feeling you’re enjoying that a little too much…”

I raised my hands up approvingly, “Okay, but you understand what I’m getting at, do you? Jamie, most people would want their problems to end as quickly as possible. You had a horrendously ridiculous one, and you got it taken care of, almost in a snap of a finger. That’s a good thing.”

He was silent, letting the words sink in. Then he nodded a couple of times before saying, “Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right. I mean, at least now I get to worry over if I will get another project for next year; not how to work and live in the bathroom…”

“Exactly!” I agreed, “And I lied to you earlier about being sent off early from work because, honestly, I just got fired.”

“What?” Jamie widened his eyes.

“Well, I resigned and the boss didn’t take it too well. But it doesn’t matter. Now we get to sweat over jobs together! I got some money saved, so don’t worry about my part of the rent…”

“No, no, let’s rewind this for a bit,” Jamie stretched his right palm in front of me, “I know you hate your job, Sam, but you actually quit?”

“I know, I know. I kept saying how I can’t risk changing jobs because of the sweet, sweet money I get from this one, but I guess I’m done being patient. Besides, it’s been 3 years and my supervisor understands. The big boss made a fuss of it, that’s all.”

Jamie doesn’t sound convinced which makes me a bit conscious on how strongly I come off as a coward, but hey, business is business. But then he said, “Okay. It’s just that I thought for a second you had raw fish gills for lunch,” he smirked as I rolled my eyes, “Congratulations then. Welcome to the Jobless Bums club. You’ll love it, for the first month, give or take.”

“Sounds good. At least we are not jobless AND smell like ditch.” We snickered at that comment. I was about to reach out for the cereal box and snack on it when Jamie beat me before I even touched it, putting the box away on the kitchen counter.

“Let’s just eat out today. I don’t reek like rotten fish anymore and you just came out of that tiger’s den. We should celebrate,” he stood up from the chair, “I just got paid, so my treat.”

“Shouldn’t say no to free food,” I followed suit, as we made our way to take our coats and wear our shoes, “what should we have?”

“Anything but fish. I am forever grateful to Mr. Nomura for the extra he gave us every weekends, but I swear we’re gonna smell like one soon if we have them any more often than that. No gutter needed.”

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A Gift Never Too Late

via First christmas. — PROMPTUARIUM

It’s dark and hollow, so Ollie felt, but even more so than ever. The demons had all left hell to wreak havoc and ruin the holiday atmosphere. Now you know why family fights, accidents and death reached their tolls on Christmas eve and Christmas.

They were targeting a new record for suicide this year. See, humans aren’t even able to empathize with other’s happiness nowadays. They would succumb to envy easily; anything good looks more like a mockery to their own lives. Life is not fair, it has always been; the demons only made sure that none saw any glimpse of hope to get through.

But not all the blame is on the human, or the demon. Humans are naturally weak. The demons are only doing their job.

Since all the fire demons also left to help out the others, it was rather cold here in hell. After a few months here, Ollie figured that hell is all about extremes. It is either burning and arid throughout the year, or piercingly freezing on holidays. It is either stuffy and cramped in January, or mum and devoid in December. It is rather torturous at noon, but eerily dismal at night. Only one thing never changes: no matter how long anyone’s been here, not one will ever get used to the severity of it.

Frankly, it made Ollie gulped a strained one, to think she would stay here for eternity. At least when she was up there, she could hope for doomsday to come sooner. Then again, she was never sure if she will ever manage to secure a place in heaven.

Just my luck, she thought, at least I’ve lived a good one.

She was just about to return to her cell, succumbing into the distress that naturally exudes at nighttime in hell. But something on the corner of her eyes caught her attention. Strobe lights are emanating from a huge pit far across the path to the newcomer’s dungeon. Her brain warned her against it, but her feet refused to heed her thoughts. Heck, she’s one of the dwellers of hell already, what can possibly be worse than this?

As she made her way deeper to the pit, she could hear music and screams echoing through the walls. Shortly, she arrived in front of the final entrance. What welcomes her eyes were nothing she had seen during her stay in hell.

The usually lifeless, dark ambiance are transformed into dimmed red lights, decorated with wreaths, mistletoe and other Christmas ornaments. People, or is it souls? , were seen either walking around or dancing in weird costumes. Among them, she saw winged creatures, ghouls, gargoyles and goblins lounging around the place, but nobody seemed to even notice they are there. Despite that, she could have sworn this is just another themed-party in a club she once went to.

Ollie was not alarmed with the resemblance. She was just confused with the idea of lost souls and demons alike celebrating Christmas in hell. Well, albeit not religiously.

Just then, she heard footsteps coming her way, so she immediately hid herself on the towering pillar on the far corner opposite the entrance. Two hooded figures were bickering.

“I still don’t think it’s a good idea to place the threshold here,” a female voice said.

“Hey, relax, will you? All the other guys were busy, and the ones who remain are souls too preoccupied with their own misery in their cells. We’re done with our shift, so let’s just go now and have fun. We’ll be in and out before the high-ranking hot shots even realized it,” a male voice prompted, “besides, it’s easier for us to escape if we place it here. It’s closer to our quarters.”

Ollie realized they were the escorts who picked souls up from the shores of the underworld, guessing from how close they say their chambers are.

The female escort’s resolve seem to waver as she said, “Alright, but I’ll leave you if you refused to go back with me under any circumstances, deal?”

“Deal,” the male escort scoffed, “I don’t really get why you’re so uptight about this. We’re hell’s creatures! Why would we give a shit about curfews, rules and whatnot?”

The female rolled her eyes, “You know it’s not because of that. We are neither souls nor demons, remember? If we stayed upstairs after the Big Guy went back down, we’ll vanish to thin air.”

“What’s so bad about it?” the male nonchalantly asked, “I got tired of simply existing in hell alone.”

The female crossed her arms and shot him a look. He seemed to get it and waved his arms in front of her, “Yeah, yeah, you gotta see her one last time… You sure she’s heading downstairs tho?”

There was silence and then footsteps are heard again as the male said again, “Alright, alright. Let’s drop it at that and go, okay? We’re wasting time!” Then they passed through the entrance. Ollie crept out of her hiding and saw the escorts changed to look somewhat like regular human beings wearing red and black, their hoods gone to thin air.

Ollie then weighed her options. If she heard them correctly, only a soul or a demon can pass through the earth-hell wormhole thing without any consequences. That means, she could probably return to life again.

But no catches? Seems to good of a proposition to be true, especially coming from hell itself.

But once she’s back out there, Ollie thought, at least she could have some time off and mentally prepare herself to the routines of hell. The best thing that could happen is if hell’s creature are truly as ignorant as they seem to be that they will not realize one of their newcomers have gone missing. Again, at least if she got dragged back eventually, her second time in hell will not be too much of a shock.

Not to mention that ridiculous lawsuit is still ongoing…

Right, unfinished business should be enough reason for her to try this out. She took two long glances over her shoulder to make sure no one is around, then she set her eyes at the party ahead. While the music was playing too loud, everybody was jumping and screaming, she took her chance and slid past the threshold.

Making her way out of the crowd, she breathed out the air outside like she was clinging to every inch of it. She snickered at the turn of events; who would’ve thought one can escape hell, on Christmas day nonetheless?

Maybe you’re not off Santa’s good-and-naughty list even though you’ve been sent to hell.

 

Les Miserables

A/N: I… don’t even know what this is. Bleurgh. Brain fart!

“Well, that sucked.”

He simply nodded his head in agreement. He let out a huge sigh as she patted his back. Then they sat in silence for a while, watching a few people ride their boards on the skating park in front of them.

“So, Christmas is gonna be awkward,” she remarked.

“Again,” he finished the sentence for her, “I mean, ever since I can remember none of the holidays in the family have been genuinely cheerful. You see, this is why I believe we all are better off apart from each other. Especially the old folks.”

She hummed in understanding, “Seems weird that they tried to stick together somehow thinking it would work out eventually, but never actually trying to be open enough to discuss it, dunnit?”

“You can say that again,” he sprawled on top of the grass, “like somehow things we’ll magically settle itself.”

“And they say that means there’s love,” she began to chuckle loudly, “what kind of masochist would even think that? No offense to your folks, man. Mine was just the same.”

“None taken,” he smirked, “speaking of which, how is it gonna be this year with your folks?”

“My sister’s gonna meet Ma with her boyfriend for dinner on Christmas eve. Imma travel with Pa, we’ll leave tomorrow. We’ll change places for Christmas day.”

“Seems like you guys found a neat system.”

“It’s better than how it used to be,” she shrugged, “I’m just grateful this year we didn’t get to meet the other relatives. Either they would look at me and my sister with pity, which is totally unnecessary, or they’d start talking shit about Pa or Ma, depends on which side we visited.”

“Ugh, yeah that could be nasty,” he sat up, again sighing loudly, “there doesn’t seem to be any way out of this whole thing. And this whole holiday spirit thing and being home for it only makes me pettier. I’d be looking at commercials one second, and the next thing I know I’d get annoyed on why everybody looks so damn happy. What the fuck.”

She laughed, “Oh man. We never really get used to it even after years of watching them fight, don’t we?”

“At least yours are giving some time off of each other a chance, man. Mine’s just… fucked up AND in denial. I can’t wait for next year to come. I’ll make sure to get accepted at least somewhere half across the country.”

“Yeah, now that Pa rediscovered a long, forgotten hobby and finally managed to get over the thought of being a lonely, useless, old man, I can’t be more excited to start living alone. By the way, come over to the ramen place some time, he’d be happy to see you.”

“Oh, right, I’ll have lunch there tomorrow before you guys leave.” He took his board and got up, “wanna hit the park again?”

“Sure,” she put her snapback on and tied her shoes, “feeling better now?”

“I guess,” he replied, unsure, “I mean, I know they will still be ridiculous once I get home, but oh well, what can I do? Let’s just skate and forget about it for a moment.”

“Sounds good enough,” she went up and picked her board, walking together with him.

As he was about to get on the board, he paused suddenly and looked at her, saying, “Are we gonna be fucked up like them, too?”

Perplexed, she replied, “I hope not. What makes you think that?”

“Looking at it every day of our lives, don’t you think it’ll influence us in any way?” he wondered, “this is depressing.”

“Oh well, shared sorrow is half of it,” she set her board on the floor, “we’ll be fine.”

She held out her fist, and he bumped his with hers, “Happy Christmas, man.”

“Yeah, happy Christmas to you, too.”

As they went faster and felt the wind blowing on their faces, he thought, maybe this is the kind of ‘sticking together’ that’s worth it.

The Plight of Susan

When it comes to Narnia, I will undoubtedly say that Edmund and Puddlegum are my most favorite characters within the whole series. In retrospect, I have just realized that, all this time, I probably relate to Susan the most.

We may not find it in the books, but in the movies, Andrew Adamson did a good job of including some lines for Susan, or those describing her. On the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mrs. Pevensie was sending off her children to evacuate, and from it we see a little of what to expect of each of the characters. The words she said to Susan was, “Be a big girl.” And so Susan was. The most part they were in Narnia, she was highly skeptical and was first reluctantly going along with the journey; not because she wants to be seen as the smartest person in the room, but because she puts the well-being of her siblings first. Why wouldn’t anyone be cautious about a strange land, found inside a cupboard nonetheless? And then suddenly she and her siblings are expected to save it, risking their lives, just because four humans were mentioned in a ‘prophecy’? How convenient. All the times people saw Susan as lacking of faith, I saw Susan trying her best to keep her siblings safe. All the while she was seen as being selfish, I saw her trying to be a “big girl” for the family.

On Prince Caspian, for instance, Susan and Lucy shared this conversation.

 

Susan: “You always knew we’d be coming back here, didn’t you?”

Lucy: “I hoped so.”

Susan: “I finally just got used to the idea of being in England.”

Lucy: “But you’re happy to be here, aren’t you?”

Susan: “While it lasts.”

There was no promise of them going back for the second time. It is easy for Susan to get sidelined because in contrast to Lucy, she doesn’t seem to have much hope in Narnia. Most even thought this is where she questions if Narnia is even real. But have you ever had those moments when you cling onto one and it makes it all the more painful not to have it? While some would find some comfort in staying faithful, some would find it in accepting the present. Susan cherished those moments she had in Narnia, but to hope she will be back while trying to get used to living in London would be too much like a juggling act, and not everyone juggles well.

The last book of the series depicted Susan in a way that invites a storm of criticisms from many, what with her deemed “no longer a friend of Narnia” and “interested in nothing except nylons, lipsticks and invitations”. At a glance, it is easy to dismiss her as being superficial, but from the previous conversation, again, I should say this is her way to move forward with life. She knew that after their second visit to Narnia, she won’t be coming back, and now she’s trying to settle down with things in front of her eyes; she was being practical, like she always has been. The case of her losing faith–and thus, place–in Narnia is not closed. “Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia”, wasn’t it? As Edmund experienced Aslan’s grace himself, I’d personally like to believe Susan would too, after the train wreck that took her family away from her.

These are the times when I wish C.S Lewis had finished Susan of Narnia before his death.

Susan was a loving sister. She was gentle, but all the more, she was a sensible girl, trying to embrace the world she lived in. To the all-knowing creator, why should her being very much human herself be considered an unforgivable offense?

If it isn’t obvious enough, I am in dire need of answers; on dealing with grief and disappointment, and on choosing to believe.

Making Ends Meet

Source: We meet again, father.

My hands were covered in white. This time, I’d make sure it’s not just his reflection I saw on the mirror.

I took a step back and made sure the circle was drawn correctly. Reaching out to the grimoire, I replicated the patterns and letters unfamiliar to many as I recited soft words of invocations. With one last stroke, the chalk markings shone the colour of fire as if I just breathed in magic to it.

Taking my stand on the circle, I placed my hand in the air above the diamond-shaped center. Letting go off the bits of anxiety in a deep exhale, I shut my eyes and murmured boldly, “Evocatio.”

My eyes opened on their own accord as I felt a blinding light and newfound heat engulfing my body. A hue of black sprung out of the diamond, immediately replaced by a man whose face I would never not recognize.

“We meet again, Father.”

“It’s so nice of you to invite me here, Son,” he greeted as he retracted his dark, unkempt wings, “we finally get to chat.”

“Shall I cut to the chase?”

“Very straightforward,” he remarked with a sly grin that is almost unfamiliar, “you’ve grown up to be just like your mother…”

“And that is precisely why we’re here today,” I interrupted, “I would like to know why instead of Mum, it was you I saw the other day in the psychomanteum chamber.”

“I must say I’m a tad disappointed, Enoch,” he said, somewhat sincere, which is a surprising emotion for his lot to emit, “do you not miss your father?”

He knew I don’t. He was barely there when I was young, and I never really have a problem with it. My mother alone has always been more than enough, though sometimes I pity her efforts to convince me he actually cared for us. I reckon there was no need to answer the question so I simply held my gaze still.

He snickered, saying, “You even inherited that look from her. Oh, I can almost feel guilty again…”

“You haven’t answered my question,” I curtly remarked. He sighed–mockingly, I suppose–then proceeded to pace ahead.

“Well, were you sure you surrounded yourself with her mementos?”

“Of course,” I replied, showing him the grimoire, “I even made sure I brought this bloody book despite the risk of losing it.”

He stopped at his tracks at the mention of the book. He took a glance at it and said, “That is probably where your first mistake lies, Son. The mementos are not only things that she cherishes when she was alive, but specifically those that reminds you of her.”

“I wouldn’t bring this book if it didn’t remind me of her. She practically slept with it under her pillows.”

“You need to share those memories with her. Clearly, she didn’t have as many memories of you in the book as much as you do.”

I was hit by a sudden realization. “But she does with you… and that is why you were called instead?”

He continued pacing in the circle. Skeptically, I took it as a yes.

“Was that how you met her?” I inquired, “was she a seer too?”

“I assume she tried to keep you away from this world,” then he answered firmly, “no, she wasn’t a seer. She tried, but no. Even so, she never left her research. You do know that much.”

That I do, which is why I would never except that her death was dismissed by the police as suicide. She told me the night before that she was close to a new discovery, but that’s about it. She said she didn’t want to jinx it but was too excited that she needed to at least tell someone. It turned out she would never been able to when I found her in her office, holding an empty bottle of what was supposed to contain sedatives, cold as ice.

Frankly, the detectives are imbeciles for not considering the irony that a person who is so enthusiastically immersed in her project would be overdosing from sleeping pills.

“So are you up for another attempt?” he suddenly chimed in. I almost jolted from being lost in my thoughts of what happened almost a couple of weeks ago. Yet I can’t help being taken aback from his not-so-subtle encouragement.

“You want me to try again? I would consider you just asked me to do you a favour, Father.”

He arched his eyebrows in amusement, “Will you look at that? You’d make a decent demon.”

“You mean a decent human being,” I corrected him calmly, “consequently, you would owe me a favour if I succeeded to summon Mum…”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, boy,” he waved his right hand disdainfully, “you still have a long way to guarantee all this would work.”

“Which is where you came in,” I asserted, “your part of this deal is that you will make sure I achieve all the objectives. I will meet Mum. I will know who killed her, and I will finish her work. I won’t even question whatever it is you desire from the outcome.”

He appeared hesitant for a moment, but was also contemplating hard in silence. I chose to trust my guts and egged on him more.

“You know you need me to do this. You can’t find her down where you belong, can you? And there isn’t much Nephilims around who would be able to pull it off as I would. There is no stronger link,” I reminded him, hopefully not sounding too presumptuous, “Not to mention, I am risking my life. What I ask of you earlier sounds more like a small favor, innit?”

He seemed to find his smug smile back and said, “Now we’re talking. I see there is a little of me in you, after all.”

I don’t exactly need his approval, but I certainly hope it’s working since I am getting a little impatient, “Do we have a deal, then?”

He turned his back on me, tapped his shoulders and his hideous wings vanished from our sights. He pulled a black suit from thin air, turned his body to face me and pulled out a pair of shades.

“Come,” he gestured to the door, “we’ve got work to do.”