The Long-Awaited Has Come

Update: I am officially entering the labor force. Uh, yay (?)

Now before you consider the lack of excitement as just me simply being a prat, do give me a chance to elaborate.

Earnestly speaking, I am beyond grateful that I landed myself a job. Finally I will be able to help out the family, and that’s basically the main reason why I wanted one. Now my concern shifted to the fact that as a new recruit and essentially an awkward kid, I may screw up stuff. But hey, there’s no use in worrying over stuff that nobody knows is gonna happen, right? Despite my worrywart self, I think I’ve made peace with that particular source of anxiety.

Seeing how it is easy for me to get caught up with routines, I am more afraid of the possibility that I will eventually be consumed with indifference. I am horrified that I will ultimately lose interest to grow as a person simply because I have regarded myself to having reached ‘adulthood’ and busy keeping up with the so-called ‘obligations’ that follow. It’s not that I am unclear with who I am and what I want to be–I do. I just went down this road because I know a job can just be a job without it having to define me. I was just terrified with the prospect that I would be too exhausted to do the things I truly enjoy.

But that’s also something that I can only find out as I go, isn’t it?

Either I need to learn to manage my time better, or to learn to genuinely love the things I currently think I like to do. Or both.

At least weekends will have more meaning from now on, right? More books to read, more stories to tell and write, more random things to learn, and probably decide what and where I am going to formally study again in the next two to three years. No thesis-writing involved though. Yuck.

So, how do people discipline again?

Tell Her

Wrote this on Tumblr almost one and a half years ago.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about casual compliments.

Keep telling a little girl she looks “pretty and cute” above anything else worthy of a compliment, and she’ll start to comprehend that she is defined by what she looks on the outside more than her other virtues. What she does not know yet is how she will be sucked deep within such mentality.

Keep telling a young lady she looks “dashing or gorgeous”; how her make-up is perfect, or how her dress has done wonders to her body; every single damn time, and she’ll never put down that habit of worrying over every details of her appearance just to look “presentable”. It serves as a reminder of how she needs to put extra effort to watch what she eats, what she wears, how often she needs to exercise to burn those calories on the days she relents to food over “herself”; how she at least needs to maintain a certain look.

Because how she excels in her studies doesn’t matter as much. Or how she made it to the baseball team. Or how she signed herself up to donate a little sum of her pocket money to charity and eventually volunteer herself. Or how she leads a group of her friends for a school project. Or how she helps for the house chores, or cares for her siblings while Mum or Dad were not around. No. It all came down to whether she “looks perfect”.

She thought once she got older she’ll be free from it. Apparently not. She is still required to dress a certain way. She is still required to put some “life” on her face. The ghost of youth haunts her as does other women her age, because apparently everybody is so very invested in making her look ten years younger.

She thought age will conceal such requirements, that maybe it will simply be seen as a bonus point which she does not aim. She thought maybe after all those years, she will finally be remembered for the beautiful kids and grandchildren she raised, or for all her mind and compassion she poured out to nurture her students, or how sickness does not stop her to come support her dear ones in their first game, or how on her retirement days she still set a sum aside for a good cause. No. Keep telling her those wrinkles need attending so that she’ll look “beautiful”, and she’ll know she’s not relieved from it yet, not until she left forever.

If beauty really exudes from the inside, will you really try to tell her so that she does not need to compromise with how she looks on the outside?

Who Would’ve Thunk It’s 2017

After the hullabaloo that is 2016, who would’ve really?

T’was a tough year for me. Emotionally, I felt like I was taken on a roller coaster ride full of twists and pitch falls in every turn of the month. Looking back, I recalled being somewhat weirdly excited that it was the Year of the Monkey, which is my sign of the Chinese Zodiac. On one hand, I was thankful that I managed to meet two full cycles, but on the other, I also remembered that traditionally, being in my běnmìngnián (one’s own zodiac year) was believed to bring bad luck. That news alone was enough to make me question my own conviction that I was never a superstitious person.

But was it really an unlucky year? Let me scribble it out below.

year-in-review-2016-1

Evidently, the pros outweigh the cons, so it’s easy to say that it’s quite a good běnmìngnián. Personally, the one thing that makes me feel like a huge crisis was averted is the fact that I managed to graduate within the expected scholarship period. Considering I was also struggling with depression, procrastination and quarter-life crisis then, I guess me making efforts to seek professional help and coping through the snuggly comfort of books (special thanks to Neil Gaiman and his brilliant works; I am forever an indebted fan), blogging and writing were the best decision I made last year. I can’t say the same about not being able to secure a job as soon as I was done with school, but I learnt the art of taking things one step at a time, overcoming the worst fears I brought to my worrywart self.

In retrospect, heeding a warning by readying oneself rather than focusing too much on the possibility of having bad outcomes coming at you kinda’ does the trick.

Also, one of the beauty of not pushing oneself too hard on new year’s resolution is that as far as the year take me, you’d find yourself doing and eventually accomplishing things you’d not expect. Mine’s to write stories and to actually compile it into an eBook, which makes me want to pat myself in the back like I had never before (thanks Dila!).

The last months of 2016 was rough for many, I reckon. Keeping up with the news only is enough to break anyone’s hope for the future, including mine. But specifically, by then I was resettling home and found a lot of things are no longer a good fit for me to improve as a person. There are numerous times where I get too upset and frustrated because I felt trapped, being chained by tradition and my surrounding’s unsusceptibility to change. All my life, I have never continuously prayed that soon I will be somewhere I can grow as a person (in need of a space where I can be on my own two feet), a professional (not so much of the whole career and adulting thing people have been talking about, but because I need dem moneys) and a writer.

So I reckon it’s natural that I am still trying to get used to the fact that I made it to 2017. To be exact, I’d like to believe that once you passed 2016, 2017 probably would not be as bad, but in all actuality, who knows? With that in mind, I should probably just be grateful 2016 wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.

On second thought, technically there are 25 more days before the Year of the Rooster. Oh well, I guess I should just keep an eye in case of any leftover misfortune this January.

Either way, pain is good for art. I’ll just keep writing. Just keep writin’, just keep writin’…

A Lackluster Thrill

Source: Pensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And you have my word,” I asserted.

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

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

“Yeah?”

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

“Well, yeah, but…”

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Jamie widened his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Gift Never Too Late

via First christmas. — PROMPTUARIUM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not to mention that ridiculous lawsuit is still ongoing…

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

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

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

 

Les Miserables

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

“Well, that sucked.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Seems like you guys found a neat system.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, happy Christmas to you, too.”

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

The Plight of Susan

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

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

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

 

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

Lucy: “I hoped so.”

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

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

Susan: “While it lasts.”

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

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

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

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

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

Making Ends Meet

Source: We meet again, father.

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

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

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

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

“We meet again, Father.”

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

“Shall I cut to the chase?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dining Hell

Dialogue Prompt taken from PROMPTUARIUM

“New arrivals!”

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

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

I am dead.

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

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

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

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

“Ms. Lea Ruskin?”

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

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

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

“You!?”

“Well, hello, Mrs. Durand.”

“Of all people!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishful Thinking. Not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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