The Meek

Source: The meek.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone can just inherently be brave?

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone can be raised where bravery is encouraged? At least so that the society would show less tolerance on ignorance and injustice.

Oh, you think that’s how it goes in the world we live in? Well, think again.
It’s probably only something that is part of the school motto. Not so much in their curriculum. Not to mention that we all should scrape off whatever we learn at school to fit in the real world, even only for survival.

In fact, my mother did warn me once of how the acceptance and support to bravery in this world is a big, fat farce.

I remembered her frantic face when she saw my black eye at the teacher’s office. The kid who gave it to me–Bruce was his name, quite befittingly–and his mother was seated to my left. The principal went through what happened, and Bruce’s mother scolded him as she apologized to my mother and offered to pay for the medical expenses and all. My mother responded modestly while she kept her attention on my stoic demeanor.

We walked home hand-in-hand with each other, not saying a word. As we passed a nearby park, my mother broke the silence and decided it’s been a while since we watch the sun set. So she bought us an ice cream each and we sat on the bench across the duck pond, right at the direction of the almost setting sun.

“Your father would probably be proud that you chose not to punch him back, if that’s what you’re wonderin’,” she suddenly remarked, “he’d quote the Bible for it, too. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”

I looked up at her and finally found my voice, “Do they really, Momma?”

She went silent briefly and said, “The meek don’t inherit the Earth, son. That’s just what the bold tell them, so they’ll get out of the way.”

She deliberately continued, “By somehow convincing the meek that they will have the world without having to work hard for it, the bold is doing half its part to maintain their position as the rulers of the world. By telling the meek to wait in complacency, the bold proves themselves superior.”

“So, you think I should fight Bruce back?” I inquired.

“Oh no,” my mother quickly answered, “I was just telling you your father will pick the wrong verse from the Scripture, take it out of context just to put a smile back on your face.”

She turned from her seat to put her hands over my shoulders and said, “I will say to you that not punching Bruce back does not mean you’re meek. Actually, you being punched simply because he doesn’t like being told off by you after he said girls are weak, I’d say that’s quite a brave thing to do. And I’m proud of you for that.”

I smiled back at her when I saw the beam on her face. The pain on my eye reminded me, “But it seemed like some people don’t like it when we are brave, Momma.”

She saw me cupping my blackeye with my hand, and said we’ll go to the clinic to have the doctor see to it, “but you’re right. People don’t like it when anyone stand up to them. Sometimes it leaves a bruise right here,” she pointed at my eye, then she hovered her finger to my chest, “sometimes, it leaves a bruise in here.”

“And sometimes,” she quietly added, “it’s hard to get away from constantly feeling the pain that maybe it’s easier to keep our heads down.”

I scrunched my eyebrows together trying to make sense what she just said, but then she brushed it off as she ran her hand through my hair saying, “Oh, what am I thinking? Maybe you’ll understand later when you’re older. But I really hope you wouldn’t have to go through it.”

We stopped by the clinic to get my eye fixed and went home for dinner. Little did I know that my mother was threatened to lose her job for 10 years at a nearby hotel because she was defending her coworker over a false theft report from a high-level guest. The coworker ended up resigning to prevent my mother for losing her job and herself from further embarrassment. In the end, she even told my mother, “At least I beat them up from firing me. And now I get to spend more time with the kids, so it’s okay, Jane. Don’t worry about me.”

If it weren’t for me and my sick grandmother, my mother would probably resign in a heartbeat, but she held on for another six months until she found another line of work and quit the hotel job. It took her a while because in a small town the word flew in no time to spread the news that my mother is a “ballsy” employee, and no employers would make such a person as first choice on their team.

Years after, I had never forgotten how grateful I am for her, and the conversation we had that day on the park. Not because it reminded me to stand up for what is right, but that it kept replaying on my mind whenever I need to settle with silence and submission. I tried to convince myself that whenever I don’t disagree with my superior’s terrible idea, I did the logical thing to keep my job and pay my rent on time; that I am in no place to deny the comfort that my salary has sustained me with. Still, I felt guilty whenever I remembered I don’t argue back because I don’t want to be the “ballsy” one–because the they sooner or later will lose their job and be forced to be content with something with far too little prospect. It is not just “easier to keep our heads down” sometimes, but most of the time–I understand it now, and more.

Dad was probably right. I am the meek one, aren’t I, Momma?

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Offbeat

via Daily Prompt: Heal

She fixed her gaze on the tattered drum sticks she has been holding on her hands. She snickered sardonically, followed by tears, streaming down her eyes.

It was rather impulsive, how it all started. On her way back to her shoe box of an apartment, she discovered the building next to the printing service was no longer vacant. Three men were moving in some musical instruments to the three-storey building, and she suddenly felt a tap on her shoulder. It was the owner-slash-teacher, being friendly as he handed her a brochure to ask if she’d be interested to try out any musical instrument on the next 4 weeks for free. Thinking it’s a good chance to find a new hobby to get her mind out of work, she agreed.

After the second week, she was pretty convinced she wanted to learn how to play the drum. Other than having puddings for dessert after every meal, playing the drum also was as much as a childhood dream she wanted to fulfill. For the first time in her life, she enrolled to a class voluntarily–even spent some money from her own pocket for it.

She had no idea when in the timeline that it became more serious and less a hobby than she initially planned it to be. But it probably started on her fourth month, where she felt she has invested quite enough for her to be decent on playing simple, slow beats.

Never had she felt such competitiveness and ambition coming from her own self; but maybe that was residue of a family-imposed habit that for decades had unconsciously shaped her: to excel at everything you are responsible of.

It doesn’t help that she hasn’t eased in well with the new job she took just a couple of months before she took the drum lessons. Many a days, she looked to the mirror every morning, only to feel like she was just playing dress-up, just to look professionally acceptable enough. Many a times, she was unable to get proper sleep as she mulled over the things she “should” sweat over: Did I offend the coworker by being outspoken? Did I threw off the boss by pointing out where the project currently lacks? Did he take it too personally? Did I email the counterparts as properly as expected? 

Surely, having this determination to do the best was definitely a value one would think is appropriate to teach the kids. But not so much when it was oriented mainly towards the result, and not the process. Not to mention that it builds this perception that she could do anything as long as she tried hard enough.

Eight months in and she still cannot get a hang out of a basic 4/4 rock beat.

It strikes her that she was probably just not good at this particularly; she could just learn a lot of other stuff quicker than this. It shouldn’t bruise her ego or anything. But every time she missed a beat, it hurt her. It left her as frigid as much as every time she saw the disappointed look in her supervisor’s eyes, telling that her thoughts and actions didn’t reflect the best interest of the company.

No one could be any more dismissive to someone past their mid-twenties and them being a klutz. It’s just, how do they call it, “too much”.

As her tears dried, she stood up, grabbed her jacket and walked across the street to see if she can still catch her tutor before he closed the place for the day. Since she cannot just terminate her contract with the company, she decided to spare herself from the growing sense of self-inflicted inadequacy that might just push her to the brink of despair. Thank God refusing to give up out of the fear of “losing” to oneself has begun to sound ridiculous in her head.

He was just locking the doors to leave when she called out to him and say she’d like a break. She was waiting for a barrage of “Why?” or “Oh, don’t give up just yet!” coming from him, only to be welcome by a simple, “Sure. That’s okay.” She felt foolish for thinking a teacher would keep a student without talent or any form of progress, but then he beat that thought off of her head by saying, “Drop by again sometimes, though. There are only guitar classes on Thursdays, so if you miss having a bit of practice, you can just go to the classroom and try out some beats yourself.” She welcomed the gesture and muttered him a small thanks as he shrugged it off and waved her good night.

She was quite glad that she could let go of one burden and possibly revisit it as a hobby in the near future. But mostly, she was glad that she tried.

If only the same can be said for the job. But of course, that’s exactly why it would never cease being a little– how should one call it?–“too much”.

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.

 

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.”

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.

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.

A Letter from Just

A ramble and quick letter from Fairness, or what I imagine she’d say if she has her opinions of the world today. The fingers did it, not aided much by the brain. A response written to follow up the Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

We live in an age where a breakthrough is reduced to a meaning similar to progress without innovation. At least I believe it is so.

People started to call a development in research on a cure for disease a breakthrough, but not necessarily that they get to actually discover one. Leaders gather with each other discussing how they need to cooperate and carry on a plan to reduce problems in the world and call the forum a successful breakthrough in world cooperation. They forgot that these plans have been talked about years ago without necessarily any difference in development issues. Hundreds and thousands still hunger, has no access to primary education or basic healthcare. They see it is enough to give away necessities while not necessarily distribute the knowledge and technology for one to sufficiently stand on one’s foot. Still, it’s a minor breakthrough, they would call it. How conveniently diplomatic.

People claim to make a difference by doing so little. But has it always been enough?

They say equality is not simply an ideal not achievable. That it takes time for efforts to materialize. That it is worth investing our everything in it for the next generation. How noble of them. How hopeful. How does anyone keep at it when there is so few who believed? Or took actions that allows steps forward?

More importantly, how can the system be so hypocritical; endorsing the ‘right’ values but at the same time outwardly mocks it by rewarding only those with the money, power and fame? And with that they expect a ‘breakthrough’ in all aspects of life? Cut me some slacks.

And I did just that. Because I’ve longed for a genuine change enough that I am tired.

Convince me that it’s still worth the try; that one can still find hope and kindness, anything good.

And for even that small achievement, hypocritically, I am willing to generously bargain my standards with the world. Yes, for the efforts, the chances to achieve a breakthrough.

Two (Lone) Wolves

An imaginary dialogue submitted for the prompt: Solitude

“Why do you think people don’t like to be alone?”

“Because they fear it.”

“Why do they fear it, then?”

“Well, some of the reasons I heard is just because they can’t bear going on life on their own, they don’t want to die alone, and so on. Basically it’s like fear of the unknown, and society telling them for years that having a company is, in any condition, better than being alone.”

“Do you think so?”

“Nope. I like being alone. Occasional company is nice, but I don’t mind solitude as a default. In fact, I stand on the other side of that opinion. I rather be by meself than spending time with someone I don’t like.”

“What about spending time with someone you like?”

“That’d be wonderful, I reckon. But there really is no guarantee if that person would stay the same over time. I mean, I would change, too. Sometimes for the better, at other times not so much. On another situation, I might think I change for the better while the other person doesn’t share the opinion. The same goes for what I perceive from that person.”

“So, you just can’t risk it?”

“Well, I’m definitely risking it with building friendship, aren’t I? Some grows stronger together, some grows apart. I know I’d get upset, but eventually I still learn from it, and I am fine with that. Other kinds of relationship are just far too risky.”

“You mean, something like a relationship or marriage?”

“Those depend on how they manage or define it, really. But of course to start it, either one needs to initiate the contact, dunnit? I just don’t think it as necessary, at least as of now.”

“Huh. So, do you not have any desire to start a family? You seem quite keen on kids.”

“For one, I don’t think a family should always mean parenting children. I have my biological family, and though I love them, I still struggle with some of the weird shit going on. Some of my friends and myself are quite closely knit, almost like a loving family, and I suppose that’s enough. Number two, I do like little kids, but that doesn’t mean I want to have my own kids. Pregnancy is nasty business, all the more is parenting. I think it’s better for me to take my time to consider if I ever want to have one of my own or adopt one. I can’t be permanently responsible of another human being yet.”

“True. There really is no point in rushing with that. Why would you be so eager to have the 50-50 chance to fuck up somebody’s life?”

“Yep. Not to mention I don’t really have any idea what is so good about the world that I want to share it with anyone by welcoming them to the world from me own body.”

“Come to think of it, it is rather selfish, innit? Giving birth?”

“As much as it is the decision not to… which partly why I didn’t see any reason to why I, or any other people, should be responsible to have babies and repopulate earth. Also, that is why it’s fine if some people want to do so. My point is that we are equally selfish in our motives, and there is no point arguing about it.”

“Right. Umm, we’re so gonna get roasted by having such perspective, aren’t we?”

“Since we’re speaking for ourselves, it should be fine. If we were to bring this up to Mum and Dad, on the other hand… well, let’s just take it slow. I ain’t getting thrown to a miserable pledge in front of the Almighty God just because they think I shouldn’t be dying alone…”

“… which everyone does in the end. And death doesn’t seem to be that scary anyways, as long as the passage to that is not painful.”

“Then let’s drink to that, shall we? To painless death!”

“Cheers.”

Unjinxing

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Suitcase

Three pair of undergarments, a wife beater, two pieces of T-shirts, my favourite checked shirt, a pair of shorts, an emergency pair of pants, tiny toiletries, a pair of sandals, an e-reader and its charger, phone and its charger, money to spend and a little extra, necessary papers… I suppose that’s all. Having gotten dressed and some breakfast, I fit them all in my suitcase and set on to the wild.

Then I ran back to the house to grab an umbrella, this time, to actually make my way to the outside world. My mother has a ridiculously good hunch when it comes to the weather. Sometimes I wish she has the same talent for actual clairvoyance instead. A little tip or guidance would never hurt. But I guess it also depends on the delivery and the news itself.

But at least she does not complain for the fact that my profession requires me to be away from her in indefinite distance or time, visiting her in the most random of circumstances.

It is quite hard to find a specific word to describe what I do for a living, but I can tell you that’s about it. It’s only a job that pays quite decently and allows me to read in my spare time, despite still being away from my only living relative and friend. And that is enough to make me feel somewhat content.

The way I work is rather simple. I would receive an email from my superior of the things I need to do in a certain place, the people I should meet to relay her messages, report back to her the results, wait for her confirmation of what to do next (which sometimes takes quite a while), do another set of errands after she replied up to the point where she said the job is done. Then I have days, sometimes weeks or months, off up until I receive another notice.

Name any occupation, and this is probably your job description as an employee working under any division, innit? Difference is, I get sent out and have never been asked to come to the headquarters or any building that signifies a company. Furthermore, most of the time, I need to go to places I have never been to, which is scarier than it is exciting.

Some tasks could be very mundane while some would need me to do a little of background research, which my superior would gladly supply information with. I should say, those four years of university fussing over specializing on a concentration was as much of an utter waste as that orientation phase about “teaching” (not gaining) respect and solidarity (Seriously, I have only kept in touch with the few who think that is total bullshit. Oh, the irony). At least it introduces me to the almighty power of the Internet. I am also forever thankful to that librarian who pointed out the job vacancy to me approaching graduation.

Despite the unfavorable instances like language barrier, eccentric counterparts and getting lost now and then, also the numerous awkward occasions when people question the credibility of the vocation, one of the perks of the job is what I like to call a balanced dynamic of the unknown and the familiar. It allows me an invariable chance to be a total stranger in one place for a period of time, which in turn, oddly let me appreciate the times I spent at home. On the other hand, whenever I get a little skittish over the lack of variety in my habitual suburban life, I am assured an opportunity of exploring the uncharted.

The best part of the work is that I get to do things by myself. But this time, that bit is going to be taken away from me. My boss told me I am going to have a partner this time, and quite frankly, to me it is more terrifying than getting lost in another city or country.

Still, I packed my suitcase for the umpteenth time, not even emitting any signs of fretfulness or inquiry in my reply, which is weird, considering I am not in any way forced into agreeing to do so, nor have I been asked if I am able and willing to work in teams. Wait, that is kind of unusual as well.

But my reluctance of declining working with another person or even only to ask why I got a partner this time called my own attention that I stopped in my tracks to realize I arrived on the train station that will take me to the airport. I decided to quickly mail my superior only to get a short reply of: “She’ll fill you in with the reason why if you’re still in this project. Let me know if you can’t make it.”

I have a number of reasons why I finally hopped on the train.

One, I suppose it’s rude to cancel on the last minute and I don’t know if that will lose me a job. Two, I was already on my way, so might as well. Three, I have my suitcase packed despite the initial reluctance. It’s either I have built an automatic mechanism of responding to the job, turning my personal preference switch off; or I unconsciously have acknowledged that it’s time to leave the familiar and abruptly permit the untrodden–having to work with a partner included.

Looking out from my window seat, it seems that my mother’s immaculate weather forecast is finally tarnished. The sun is as bright as it could be, and I can’t help but wish it is a good omen for this new exposure I signed up for, somewhat willingly.

Well, the day hasn’t ended. My mother can still keep her record flawless as much as the partnership could be doomed from the start.

Still, I board the plane. With less expectation; only my suitcase intact.