State of Being (1/?)


via The worst state. — PROMPTUARIUM

“Wake up, sweetie, you’re gonna be late for school,” a soft voice calls out as my eyes flutter open. Oh, Mum, I muttered, as I saw the familiar red, burn mark on her face, which have never faded after the day we walked away from my father’s house. I saw my father hit her right across her cheek. Mum did not say a word as she picked me and our bags out of the house. Somehow, the redness has stayed the way it was for ten years, and nobody seemed to notice, except for me.

That was the same day I saw my grandfather developed a purplish bruise on his right fist, while my grandmother’s left eye looks almost permanently bloodshot. As for me, I sported three, dried-out kitten scratches on my left palm. Considering it hurts only on the first day, I can say I am almost unscathed.

I stopped asking Mum to check on my scratches but she noticed how I kept touching her left cheek. Eventually, I stopped doing it because I saw the tears well up on her eyes. Years after, I still struggle not to fix my gaze upon it for more than two seconds. Thankfully she seemed to always think it’s because I was still trying to pry my eyes open to sober up from the drowsiness.

After Mum was sure I would not fall back to sleep, she patted my shoulder and left me to wash up and get dressed. I quickly grabbed a toast, bite it as I took my backpack and headed to the doorway.

“Anna, your lunch!” Mum called out from the kitchen, which stopped me from wearing my shoes and made me take a sharp turn to collect the neatly packed lunch box. I yelled out a gibberish Bye, Mom, as I was still chewing the toast, to which she replied by telling me to be careful on my way. I took the stairs down to the apartment lobby and met Jun to walk to school together.

He sported fresh bruises again. Lately, this has been happening even more often ever since his uncle decided to stay together with his family. He followed my gaze fixed in his upper arm, just below the sleeves before the elbow. He smiled a weak one.

“Got it just yesterday when that piece of bullcrap went home drunk. What pisses me off is that this stupid pattern from his cheap belt didn’t fade away this morning. Don’t need your ‘gift’ to see this one.”

“You mean ‘curse’. And because of it, I know that one’s gonna stay.”

“Oh cool, another one to add to my invisible tattoo collection. Do I wear them well?”

“As much as I admire your sense of humor, that is not funny and we’re getting late for school. Come on.”

We made it just in time to our classroom before the last bell rings. Shuffles from other students passing by, grabbing and settling for seats makes the morning sounds busier, alerting me that another day at school has started. As usual, I spotted our friend Somchai–with his burning red right ear which the ‘curse’ allows me to see–had already sat comfortably on his seat at the back near the window, while Jun and I are still catching our breaths from sprinting. He turned his head to give us a knowing look, which Jun ignores by waving his hand saying, “Yeah, yeah, we know. The early bird catches the worm and that bird is you, Chai. Gosh, I thought I’ll get used to the running eventually but the only thing I’m familiar with is the taste of blood filling my lungs.”

“We could’ve just walked comfortably to class if Jun didn’t insist to get a toast at Aunt Mui first,” I teased.

“Hey! You would’ve saved us ten minutes if you had shown up at the lobby on time!” Jun retaliated as I snorted. Somchai shakes his head slowly as he grabbed our shoulders and have us sit at the spots in front of and across from him.

“Ms. Lim is coming soon. You better try to memorize something from yesterday’s lesson before she surprises us with another pop quiz.”

“Oh, shhh–” I immediately rummaged my bag for a glimpse of my notes while Jun complained about why after being our homeroom teacher Ms. Lim didn’t cut us some slack.

As I was concentrating with my scribbles about Mendel’s laws of inheritance, Ms. Lim opened the sliding door and all of us students stood up to exchange morning greetings. Returning to focus on my notes as fast as all students sat back down, I completely missed out the announcement Ms. Lim made about a new transfer student joining our class until Jun tapped my shoulder and signaled me to look to the front. It was not just Jun’s nudge breaking my reverie, it was also the new student entering the class. To be more specific, it was what the curse made me see from the new student which took my attention completely off of whatever heterozygous means: she has blotches all over her skin, dried blood over thin scars all over her body. The most haunting one is fresh blood coming out of her eyes. She looked like she just fell off a cliff with sharp rocks underneath.

“Everyone, meet Naomi Yeo.”


The Body in the Landfill (Trash Trio #1)



Design via Freepik by dilchh


“Chen Roo-ee…”

“It’s Ru, Mrs. Jones,” she said as she raised her hand, not having more people butcher her name anymore on the first day at school as a sixth grader. Mrs. Jones, the Math teacher, took notice of her and nodded with a rather nervous, “Okay,” and a slightly scarlet face. Ru thought she might also feel overwhelmed with all the sixth graders she needed to roll-call on her first day as well. But she really doesn’t want her classmates to get free ideas in case they eventually decide to pick on her. It got pretty bad for Barney Jones (everyone erupted to the I Love You song in the hallway) in fourth grade, and Sunny Le (they just laughed every time she was on roll-call until a teacher noticed this halfway through the semester) last year. Their names were not even exactly taken from another language as hers.

From her peripheral vision, she can see one of her classmates mindlessly looking at the clock, another playing with his pen, and another one, whom she never saw around before, has been dunking his head on the table since second period. It is understandable though, Ru reckoned. It has been a whole day of nothing but roll calls and pep talk.

Just as her stomach is about to grumble, the school bell rings. Ru hoped she would make it in time for the lone seat near the window at the cafeteria, also that the remaining two periods wouldn’t be too long.

Ru hopped on her bicycle and dashed out of the school gates. Like any other day, she went past the stores in Gran’s Avenue, all the way through the one bookstore in town, Wan’s, took a right and cycled away from the residential areas of Linford. She headed to the shortcut through the urban forest and crossed the shallow creek, which her mother is never really pleased about because she still reckons it too slippery and dangerous. But it got her down the hill by at least 10 minutes faster, so her Mom relented to her stubbornness on the condition that Ru does not use that path when it’s the rainy season.

She can already see the tiny security cabin with its signature blue roof she always frequented after school. She was excited to visit again after the last two weeks of summer she spent with her Dad who lived in another town following her parents’ divorce. But as she turned towards it, she heard sirens screaming, and saw that they came from two police cars and an ambulance, parked in front of the security cabin. She quietly stopped and placed her bike nearby a tree, and saw a familiar face, handcuffed and escorted by two huge policemen out of the cabin. A brown-and-white Akita, which was primarily the reason why Ru visited the place, barks and follows the officers along as if trying to ask the officers to let his owner go. In a blind panic, she hastily makes her way through the crowd.

“Terry!” she called out, which alerted the officers and Terry himself, “what happened?” The dog, named Milo, barked and went down the stairs and made to Ru’s side. It let out a sad whining sound.

“Ru,” Terry began, “please go home. The guy on the next shift will watch over Milo.”

“Is this kid related to you, Sir?” the officer asked.

“No, no,” Terry quickly replied. “she just usually comes here after school to play with the dog. I’ve told you my sister’s contact.”

“In that case, you should go home, kid. This is a crime scene. Your Mom won’t like you playing around here. Not to mention it’s too close to a dumpster,” the officer warned Ru, who was perplexed and still trying to put the pieces together.

“Wait, what do you mean a crime scene?” she asked, fidgeting, “and Terry has something to do with it? No way!” Another office was trying to coax her to leave saying that the police will handle it and she’d best stay out of the place when they heard something dropped on the floor and a tentative, “Uncle Terry?”

The boy with the sleeveless yellow down jacket over a red hoodie looked even more in shock, and this is the most alert Ru has seen him while he was basically sleeping through the whole first day. He dropped what looked like to be a lunchbox, which was probably Terry’s had he not been arrested. The other policeman, who looks slightly younger but meaner than the other one, was just about to open the door and shove Terry inside the car as he got frustrated with the interruptions.

“Please, officer, that’s my nephew,” Terry called out, “Max, go home and tell your Mom I’m at the police station. It’s just for some questioning, I’ll be fine, okay?”

“Alright, you two, stay out of the landfill. Someone was found dead,” the older officer said as he nodded to the crew who just lifted a bag inside the ambulance. He pointed to Max, “And you, kid, tell your Mom we’ll call from the station about your uncle.”

“He didn’t do anything wrong, did he? Why was he in handcuffs?” Max frightfully asked.

“We’re going to find out since your uncle may notice something when he started his shift early this morning.” And with that, he left with the police car and the ambulance.

“I-I’ll bring Milo with me,” Ru broke the silence as she also tried to get a grip on herself, “I don’t think anyone is going to come soon to feed him. W-will you…”

As Ru was just about to ask if he’s going to be okay and offered him some help, Max grabbed the lunchbox he dropped earlier, rushed to his bike and went off the other side of the road. Ru was startled but then hurried herself to get Milo in the pet basket Terry had, detached it from his bike into hers. She cycled home as she hoped nothing bad will happen to Terry.

Read More


via A warrior at heart. — PROMPTUARIUM

She always wakes up at dawn. Despite her tired eyes, every day she swiftly prepares food for breakfast and packs lunchboxes we will bring to school. For my little brother, she makes sure to put the rice and stir-fry in separate containers, being a little too picky for his own good. She cannot bear to see him look sallower than he already is.

We waved her goodbye as soon as we got ready. It was as brief as her seeing us off because she needed to rush to work. She told me once her boss was very strict to his employees’ punctuality. It’s funny that he doesn’t maintain the same attitude when it comes to payday. Yet she stays. She told me that it was because he allows her to go home early to prepare dinner and be with us. She told me I would understand once I got older.

I am older now, and I still don’t quite understand.

She has had chances to take up a more stable job with monthly salary instead of the measly commission that can take months until it reached her hands. She doesn’t have to worry about me and Jaden anymore–he’s no longer a picky-eater and on Tuesdays, I tutor after school–we’re big enough to take care of ourselves.

That night we were about to tell her to reconsider the job, she beat us to it. She sat us down, telling us that she will be taking a four-hour night shift at a nearby hospital as a receptionist so we can save up. By we, she meant me, or more specifically, my college admission fee. She told us she wanted us to just focus on our studies and that she would still make it for dinner. We insisted on preparing it for her. She smiled and cupped our faces, saying, “I had no idea how I deserve such nice kids. Thank you.”

I beg to differ; we have no idea how we deserve her. But on the same time, I cannot comprehend the fact that she wants us in her life on the first place. Is it because of him?

He used to take pride in his family background, until it betrayed him. It left him even more insecure of himself, refusing to acknowledge that he needed help, only understanding. But there’s only so much understanding one can give, isn’t it? Silently, she chose to take to her two feet as she went only as far as tend to his wounds. After all, he needed to face his own demons.

Since he was as good as gone, why not consider it done then? I will. But she told me it was not a nice thing to say, and that she simply thought it unnecessary for them to lead on separate ways.

One time, I was awake when she just got home from her night shift. She couldn’t feign not looking exhausted anymore, so she said yes when I offered her some warm milk. As I massaged her shoulders, I asked her if she has ever regretted this, and she immediately answered no. I asked her not to give me a normative answer, and that’s when she said, “Well, there are a few things I’d wish would turn out differently, but never you or your brother.”

After some thought, I continued, “Have you ever wished not meeting him then?”

She sighed and said, “I don’t know, Sweetheart. Whenever I tried to recall how it happened, it always seems like the meeting presented itself to me. As was the decision.”

I still don’t understand why she chose to stay.

To be exact, I don’t understand why, despite telling us to live for ourselves, she never seemed to live for her own.

Since her mind has never warned her to stop, her body did. We joked about how her arthritis was more like a blessing than a curse, seeing how she had more time to rest. Still, she somehow manages some energy left to think about the minuscule of things; how I should stop wearing my old blouse to work and let her buy a new one for me, how my brother needs to at least iron his shirt, how we should not skip lunch, or how we should take our vitamins regularly. Since her mind resonates stronger than her body, she never stopped and there is nothing we could do about it.

And I don’t think I can never understand it completely; her willingness, determination and compassion.

There are times when I want to tell her that life is hard; that had I been given a chance to choose, I might not want any part of it–day by day, just trying to get by. There are times I want to tell her that I had never asked for it–to be alive. Not to blame her, of course, but it just seemed unfair that she found something worth living in me, while I do not want it on the first place.

Then I stopped trying to understand. Instead, I started reminding myself of what I know to be true.

I know that albeit everything, I am more than willing to always come back to her. She is home, and that suffices.

She still wakes up at dawn, and I still don’t understand her as much as she does me. But we know we will somehow see each other at the end of the day.

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?”


“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.”

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.

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.


“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.

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.


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.

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!”


Fold and Bolt

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Legacy

Here’s the thing: the best legacy is knowledge, but having that with a sum of money would certainly help.

Not that I blame both my parents for not leaving me even a small amount of pocket money worth of a yellow-and-orange-dyed ice cream (hopefully not textile, although I should say some sugar would cover it just fine), but it really is a no-brainer that I won’t have to deal with a lot of shit right now had they did. In which case, I’m gonna buy that chemical-loaded brain freezer and sell it to Big Pete–the typical bully conveniently marking his dominion in a local abandoned shed across the street– behind his momma who’s worried about his weight; that way I can make a net profit of five bucks.

My name is Laurie, and I remember my mother used to tell me the name is from a book she loves as a kid called “Little Women”, while my father simply can’t argue for a better name. Up to today, I personally have not the intention to read it simply because I don’t want to be considered vain if I happen to enjoy the book.

It’s been about a year since they are gone and I have been living as a modern nomad. See, I beg to differ from being called “homeless” because I do have one in form of a tent, which comes in handy to support the lifestyle I adopted to fit my situation. Where did I get the tent, you ask? Well, as I have touched upon before, knowledge is the best legacy, but in my case, that is my only legacy… in hard-copy, if you catch my drift. My parents are both avid readers, and they have shelves of books in the little-rented apartment we used to live in before. After they’re gone, I sold most of them to secondhand bookstores, save for three I kept for myself: my father’s favorite, my mother’s and mine. I put enough shirts, pants and underwear in my nifty backpack, bought the cheapest tent, saved the remaining amount of money and went out of the place as quickly as possible.

Did I sound a little too detached? That should be credited as part of the legacy my parents left behind as well. Both of them are the very definition of lethargy sometimes I wonder how they ended up together. My father told me he was an only child, and his parents died in a car crash when he was ten. His aunt who then became his guardian died on a plane crash, which scarred him for life. My mother told me she and her older sister left home and changed their names to save themselves from their father’s gambling and alcohol problem, which at that point had gotten worse after their mother’s death. Her sister died because of the same illness their mother had three years before she had me. Will you look at that? Solitary life is just part of the family heritage.

They never really bothered to mingle with anyone personally, as we have never had guests in our house. Their jobs also does not seem to require a lot of long-term interaction–my father was a flower arranger, and my mother was a technician… talking about gender-bending stereotypes, huh?–to other people, and for the three of us, at least we got to eat regularly, and my parents afford to buy at least one book monthly, albeit some secondhand ones. My mother home-schooled me herself when she does not receive any calls. My father would read me stuff if he’s off from work. And I guess we were quite happy with the arrangement, seeing there are no complaints whatsoever.

We spent Sundays doing laundry together, at the rooftop of our shabby apartment, which quite surprisingly is almost always unoccupied. After we finish spreading all the garments to dry, the three of us would just sprawl on the old wooden bench to relax and enjoy the morning sun. At those moments, my parents would always tell me, “Son, one day you’ll grow up and we might not be around anymore. When that day comes, don’t let anyone hold you against what they think we did or didn’t do that they try to take advantage of. If that happens, don’t hesitate to leave, move on and never look back.”

Obviously, that is, to speak the least, cryptic for a ten-year-old. But one day, at the age of fifteen, I brought back some groceries only to find our abode, despite its already humbling qualities, in ramshackle; shelves knocked over, drawers opened, papers scattered, bloodstains on the floor; and my parents nowhere to be found. Whilst still trying to make sense of what happened, my eyes caught view of torn pictures of my parents separately, both seemingly taken from far away. That’s when I knew it’s the day; the day to leave, move on and never look back.

I didn’t even bother to call the police because I know I will leave a trace, and that’s exactly what my parents don’t want me to do. In fact, it appeared that they beat me to it. There was a police line barring the front door, which was ajar, but weirdly no one was there to investigate the place or even display a tinge of curiosity. I am convinced that dealing with the authorities would not help me much, and if by chance my alcoholic grandfather is still alive and them adults think that’s the best I can get, then no, thanks, I’d rather take the streets as I might end up there anyways.

Which brings me to today, contemplating in a crowded park whether I should give up my tent and be properly homeless.

Apparently, people have noticed and reported it to the authorities, and that is certainly what I have been avoiding so far. Life is cruel that way; it gave you exactly the things you don’t want or need, resulting in unending ironic envy.

That’s when I made my way to the nearest pawn shop, sell the tent and proceed to a nearby store to buy two chemical delicacies while saving up the rest of the money.  I cautiously approached the one familiar neighborhood, the one shed, and waited until the big guy dismissed his minions. Once he was on his own, he pulled out some sweets from his pockets, I made my less-than-dramatic entrance… well, not exactly as I waited behind the wooden wall of the shed where there are two punched holes.

“You’re not supposed to be eating that.”

Big Pete was perplexed and hurriedly put back the sweets in his pockets. Dum-dum. He could’ve just feign ignorance. Moreover he asked the obvious, “Who’s that?”

“Put it away, your momma’s on her way here,” I told him, and I swiftly hide on the opposite side so he or his momma wouldn’t see me. Just as I did, Big Pete’s momma was calling out his name, telling him there was a kid who asked for him earlier, saying he’s from school and has a science project together. Big Pete was making a fuss with his momma coming to the shed. I even caught her telling herself that it was just a phase he’s going through and she should’ve known what she did isn’t “cool”. She then apologized and told him she just want to make sure he didn’t miss dinner, which will be ready in an hour. After she left, he let out a sigh of relief. I made my way to lean next to the hole on the wall in the opposite side so he won’t see me.

“That was a close one.”

“Hell yeah, it was,” he still tried to catch his breath, “what do you want?”

Great, he doesn’t need any explanation of a tit-for-tat. I showed him two ice-cream sticks from outside the hole, “prepared you a treat. Just want you to pay them for five bucks each.”

“You think I would eat anything after that?” he sounded like he almost meant it, “and dinner is in an hour. She’ll know if I can’t finish it.”

“Come on, don’t sell yourself short,” I coaxed, “after all you can just tell her you want to eat less because you’re taking the diet more seriously.”

I can tell Big Pete was reconsidering when he muttered a soft ‘huh’. Then he said, “I’ll give you six bucks for two.”

“Uh-uh,” I disagreed, “bid higher or I’ll let her in a sweet little secret.”

“Pfftt,” he mocked, “and she’ll believe you?”

“Of course, I’ll let her know I finally found you and that we ended up having too much ice-cream together instead of working on the science project.”

“You sneaky little shit,” he hesitated, but then handed out a ten-dollar bill from the hole and grabbed the ice cream, “just this once, because I don’t have more one-dollar bills. Take it and scram! I’ll break your neck if you ever come here again or tell anyone else about this.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t,” I pocketed the money, “nice doing business with you.”

Before he changed his mind, found me with his minions and beat me into pulp, I ran to a nearby subway station, buy a one-way ticket to the farthest suburbs, and board the train. Just in case I don’t find the library for a free shower and a bedtime story, I hope the pawn shop there sells a tent that fits my budget.

As I stared blankly from the window, I reckon I might be wrong; it is not knowledge, and certainly not money (though I maintain both helps) which makes the best legacy. It’s probably something more primal, like survival instinct–which also makes it the worst for those unwanted and wanted at the same time.