A Serendipitous Speculum

Spiderman has one. So does Wonder Woman. What about you?

Source: Origin Story

Oh, how this blog has been deserted. Thesis-writing and all the procrastination in between has deprived me from simply ranting out; all the more has it numbed the ridiculous nerve on my brain to produce absurd, half-baked stories. Anywho, it’s good to be back. Talkin’ ’bout finally.

Now, let me begin the post with a tradition I have tried to keep thus far: being firstly nitpicky to the point of indecisiveness before finally deciding to answer it with a story anyways. I mean, it doesn’t take one to be a fictional superhero to have a back-story, dunnit? Not only that the supervillains have interesting stories as well, but also that everyone have each of their own stories–how the turn of events in one’s life were reasoned in different ways that make people come to different decisions, and how that affects one’s personality or constructs one’s identity. Moreover, I reckon I have posted quite an amount of stories about my past, which are plainly embarrassing rather than introspective in a way that they do not exude a “hero-in-the-making” feel from each of the experiences. But surprise, surprise, allow me to step into the spotlight none has the intention giving to me, and tell you my story about how I came to realize that I was a bully at the tender age of twelve.

Remember those days when having an account in Pottermore felt like getting a membership to a super bougie-ass, exclusive club of the elites, and us peasants were left with free fan-made or magazine quizzes to get sorted into a Hogwarts House? Yeah, so most of the time, if you’re a baddie, you always ended up in Slytherin (which has not really changed much especially if you see most people, even the former child actors who were believed to have the utmost legitimacy *insert eye roll here* to decide, sort us cool peeps. Still can’t face the fact that it’s true? Slither the way out #ayyy). It goes without saying that I was a bit self-conscious about getting such results when I was younger, and I ended up taking the tests again to prove to my peers that at least I was “not Slytherin”. Shame really. Pretty ironic as well because the method in itself self-explains what a “stereotypical” Slytherin I was.

Weird thing was the real reason why I do not want to be sorted as a Slytherin was because I did things Draco, whom I somehow regarded as a representative of the house, did in the book/movie: bullying. At school, I used to be impossibly hot-headed and competitive (without realizing I was on the first place) especially when the boys started to make fun of the girls in the class, calling us weak and whiny. I remember having a strong sense of proving them the otherwise that I would boss around my friends to do better at sports, and that I would get mad at them if they aren’t willing to cooperate with me, or if we lost the game. I would also indiscriminately alienate every new students and somehow make fun of them if I heard an odd or embarrassing piece of information about them in their old school so the other kids would not want to be friends with them. Why I did these horrible things, I would not be able to explain why if asked then. In fact, I would not even realize that they were horrible in any ways, which is a tell-tale sign of a sociopath that should be enough for my teachers to freak out to my parents about. Strangely enough, I never recalled if I have been reprimanded for even “not playing nicely with peers” by any of the teachers at school, and my parents seem not to get notified of how bad my attitude towards other students. Not sure if they just never have the conversation with me, or I was a skilled sociopath already back then… which means I am still a closeted one now? Dun dun dun.

Feel free to stop reading the rest of the post if this sounds too much of a mind-trick. Honestly (or not), I am not entirely sure myself.

Up to that point, I had no clue that I have bossed around my friends because I believe that it is important to do things “right” and get the “right” results (red. results that I wanted), and thus I believe I am doing the right things without considering how that made others feel. In cases when I was wrong, which were most of the time, or that I do not get the results I actually wanted, it was so easy for me to dismiss it because they don’t cooperate well with me. In addition to the fact that I have not been told off by any of the adults surrounding me, my classmates somehow still stick around, making me think I didn’t do anything bad; that they just would not understand unless I make them. With fear, unfortunately.

Going back to how this relates to Harry’s world, I guess I began to realize that I did something wrong every time I was confronted with Draco’s actions in the earlier books and the movies. Countless were the times I just hated his smugness, thinking to myself, “What a jerk. Acting like he’s the shit and all”, which then switches to a thought of a classmate I picked on, asking myself, “wait, did I…? N’ah, that guy deserves it. Weirdo”. Those tiny moments of realization was followed by huge denials which, eventually, I could no longer just shrug off my shoulders. To top that, somebody finally stood up on me on sixth grade, followed by a huge role reversal a year after. Karma is a bitch. Oh well, I guess I deserve it anyways.

To put it simply, I was warned internally, and at the same time, I definitely did learn the hard way. Studying at the same school with more or less the same classmates I have always been with, especially those I used to bully, definitely caused a huge turmoil for me. I was not a bully anymore then, but I was one before no matter how I changed overtime. Naturally, demanding room for second chances probably was a bit too much for a bunch of teenagers, busy dealing with their own issues. Not to mention my temperament was a handful in itself back then. With chances to environmentally start anew and heal, although I cannot say the same with the people who grew up with me, I can at least say that I am no longer a bully, nor am I trapped in the haunting identity as a former bully.

Years after, when Pottermore finally democratizes itself, I managed to get properly sorted, and, again, was placed in Slytherin. By no means it highly influences the way I define myself now, but this time, I undoubtedly felt more comfortable with the result as opposed to how I used to strongly react against it. As much as the earlier books canonically put “baddie” Draco and the gang as the face of Slytherin, the later ones (most noticeably the profile story in the website) show how he was just another snotty kid that once misbehaved because he did not know better. He wasn’t portrayed to change dramatically and was even accounted to be “a person of dubious morality”, but at least he did not stay the same brat he was. He was a bully, but he did not remain one.

Moreover, there is so much more about being sorted in Slytherin. Sharing a house with Merlin, having eyed for the seed of greatness, being resourceful, sleek, powerful, and frequently misunderstood… are not exactly half-bad, are they? Just me? Aight.

The past can only give off so much of what you become today, and that is not even final just yet. Not as much as how this post have determined that I am an ultimate geek, of course.

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The Toilet

Pardon the ridiculousness of the post. I really just have to let this brain fart out.

There is one place of refuge that those who are considered too young to enter “society” has yet to see as more than its function of relief.

T’was the place where one would finally understand the joys of small things; those abrupt moments that counts in midst of crises.

One might need refreshments or a quick fix.

Some simply needs to keep updated of how life goes beyond the bars of productivity, traded for means of survival.

While others might just need to stare blankly on the door–away from the eyes of the powerful, or the equally weary yet ready to judge–up until one was waken by one’s own reverie.

Or in many cases, it was chills sent from one’s exposed bum.

Also, the sound and smell of those from the other sides, minding their own business. Literally.

Whence one was young it was a bother to ask for permission, yet the older one goes, none was needed. An eventual halt, a turn of the seat, and there one goes to breathe in a little rejuvenation.

Now I understood why it was built sturdily and regularly well-maintained in such establishments.

It was no secret pathways or codes required to reach it; no mystery clouding over this ultimate getaway in the middle of a busy day.

Rather, it’s more of an unwritten ritual, acceptable to all, no matter in which slot of the hierarchy they fill in. The place equalizes, humanizes.

The abundance of water shall not concern the possibility of dehydration or inattentiveness.

Weirdly, it decreases as one makes way to one’s station, which probably explains why one comes back to the place an awful lot.

Of course, one wouldn’t be deprived of it; at least not by one’s own guts… or bladders.

Well, just make sure to keep the intervals long enough and the periods as brief as possible ;p

Two (Lone) Wolves

An imaginary dialogue submitted for the prompt: Solitude

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

“Because they fear it.”

“Why do they fear it, then?”

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

“Do you think so?”

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

“What about spending time with someone you like?”

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

“So, you just can’t risk it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cheers.”

Unjinxing

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Suitcase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teetering

Source: Edge

I can’t even think how it feels like to stand on the edge of a cliff, with the view of deep waters below waiting to consume me… because I’m definitely going to wee on myself out of fear. If it isn’t adequately explicit, I’d like to reiterate that I do have a huge issue with heights and falling–surely enough an excuse for a grown woman to behave like a two-year old.

That is also not one of the methods I would choose to die, if I have the right for a last request.

Despite the lack of imagination, I had no idea why I constantly feel like I am on the verge, fighting the fear so I could take the plunge and just end all these bullshit ritual I had to go through in life. The horror is still there to keep me at bay, but I definitely can sense it is weakening lately. Or rather, my mind is playing tricks on me saying that the waters aren’t as deep as I thought, as much as the fall would only terrify me for a second. It’s almost as if it’s telling me the last thing I will feel is not regret, but relief.

Then another voice would tell me that it’s probably because I literally relieved myself. I would shake my head, cringing, repeatedly telling myself I ain’t leaving the world with peeing in my pants as the last thing I’m gonna be caught doing. Nu’uh.

Yet I should say, the intervals where the whole thought process goes has been increasing recently, as I tried building up the “motivation” (red. rush of panic) to write my thesis. Quite clearly, it doesn’t function well as an incentive as I simply don’t give the tiniest shit about the question of “what then” anymore. What to do now to be able to do next, what I need and want to do–they all seem equally pointless.

Believe me, I tried sleeping early and waking up early, triggering the rush, omitting all distractions, cutting the workload to achievable targets, self-shaming and scaring myself with imagined scenarios of things I wouldn’t like to happen had I not finished the bloody piece of pretentious bullshit to get a meaningless degree I am not even sure I need or want on the first place… and then I went back to square one, blaming myself for giving in to my idiotic impulse without even considering if I am capable enough for the whole schooling process as well as the diploma. I probably am just causing inconveniences to my advising professors and fellow students in class, even by trying. Not to mention this very ramble would probably offend those who are genuinely committed graduate students–I am truly sorry and ashamed for sharing the same status without possessing similar merits.

Oh, and letting these out of the system does not help this time. Even worse, I broke down in front of my faraway parents on a stupid call the other day–now they wouldn’t fucking take my bullshit about being ‘okay’ anymore, worrying about me more than parents normally would, which is already a lot. Brilliant. A cherry on top of a shitload of anxiety and depression scoops.

Mildly put, I ran out of ideas to make myself functional. My cold feet holding me back from taking the leap as the voice of reason within me seemingly hibernating, preventing me to conceive hysteria nor any good feeling to operate.

God Almighty, just… why? Even lamenting like this makes me feel more a whiny moron than before. Great job on oversharing again, bloody typical millennial.

At least please let the thought of me weeing myself be an effective deterrent, suppose it keeps me from answering the call of the void.

A Fishy Foothold

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Help

At the end of our inconceivable, nasal-challenging little cruise, an enormous door suddenly formed right before our eyes near the quay where we place the Fisher’s Ship. Not only were we stunned by the fact that we witness unbelievable things like this one in less than 24 hours, Jamie and I were amazed by the details of the wood carvings on the sides and head of the door. Honestly, I was expecting another toilet-themed encounter, and this certainly proved me wrong. The Drain Domain–a little nickname I came up with to call this realm–seemed to hold many other surprises, and I hope they stay as benign.

Mr. Nomura, the fishmonger, who probably has seen the door quite a number of times, casually opened the door and gestured for us to step inside. We were welcomed by another darkness, yet as the door closes behind us, torches across the room magically lit up almost in sync. We were encircled by bookshelves full of old books, figurines and weird collectibles I am unable to describe. As if the absurd curse Jamie was under and the wooden-carved door popping out of nowhere are not bizarre enough already, this dimension hit us hard in the face again by placing a seemingly professional bronze telescope in the middle of the circular room, with the other end of the telescope extending to a dome-like glass roof. It’s an observatory. Under the ground. Inside the sewers.

“Welcome to the Guild,” Mr. Nomura said, “please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I would need to check on the other side of this room so I can find an old friend of mine, the one in charge to help us operate the telescope.”

Jamie nodded silently, and we watched Mr. Nomura disappeared from one part of the bookshelves. Curiosity consumes us more than the need for comfort as we started to roam the room, each heading towards opposite ways.

Mr. Nomura explained on our way here that he was part of this Guild, which basically is, to my understanding, an association for merchants selling marine products, mainly seafood. The Guild supplied him the freshest fish at a very reasonable price, which would naturally attract people who do business in the field. He had been very careful to keep up with the rules of the Guild, one of them is to dispose remains of the fish in this one specific gutter, which was a portal to the Guild. My friend Jamie just so happened to fall in the wrong place and the wrong time. To get Jamie out of the stench and filth permanently, Mr. Nomura told us we need to find one of the Twin Sisters of the Sea. I assume our chance to locate them is up to this guy who runs the observatory and use this telescope.

We have waited for a while, but then we haven’t finished exploring the shelves in the room. A good number of the books are sea-related, most are tattered or dog-eared; Jamie would occasionally flinch for such “savagery”. My eyes are more attracted to the odd objects spread on one of the shelves. There was this eccentric magnifying glass shaped like a fish, jars of colourful dried fish scales, a gun shaped like a seahorse, and many more. I am trying my best not to trace my fingers in any of them as I kept browsing them casually. I stopped at my tracks when I saw wooden hourglass, its bottom half wrapped in a net. I was startled as I realized there was a figure crouching instead of sand flowing inside it.

Instinctively, I called on Jamie, and he immediately joined me at my side. I pointed at the hourglass and I saw his eyes widened.

“I-is that a small translucent woman I saw in there?” he asked.

“I can’t be sure what it is exactly, but at least we saw the same thing,” I replied, “do you think it’s… trapped?”

As I finished my inquiry, it seemed that the grey, smoke-like figure opened her eyes from a very deep slumber. She then looked pointedly at us, which makes us spring a step back out, alarmed. She then frosted the glass and wrote, “Help.”

She pointed to the net and gestured for us to remove it from the hourglass. She put her arms together as if she was pleading for us to release her from captive.

I’m glad Jamie and I were both on the same page. As we have read too many folktales and other stories about magical beings, we have been very careful not to touch any of the antiques in the room, also very hesitant to help this trapped spirit. For all I know, she might be held inside the hourglass for good reasons, and I am never the sort who offers favors hastily. Jamie muttered under his breath, something along the lines of if he had known better he would have stayed put in the other side of the room and pretend he didn’t hear me, to which I immediately reprimand him to shut the hell up.

We were frozen in our position, the three of us just locking each other’s stares. I quickly regret my decision to keep my gaze as I felt a rush of thoughts running in my head. I seem to see parallels of the spirit and myself. I felt like I was transported into a hall of memories inside my brain; enslaved to a daily ritual, birthdays after birthdays passed closer to the grave, which I would most welcome to release me from the nothingness I would eventually end up with. A soft voice rings in my ear, saying that the spirit knows what I was suffering from, she knows how it feels to be imprisoned by time itself. It figures I would understand how one would jump at the very chance to be relieved from such accumulation of mortal pain, to the world where there are tears no more; and for her, it begins with disentangling the net from the hourglass.

You, poor soul, I heard myself sympathizing with her. But then another voice tried to hold me back from reaching out to the hourglass, repeatedly telling me this was not a good idea, that it might just make matters worse for Jamie and myself, that it would cost us our lives. But isn’t that what I also want? To leave the routine forever, argued the softer voice. But do I? Life is mostly a chore, but do I want to be rid off it now?

At that, I felt someone tapped my shoulder and I was alerted from my trance. I look to my right to see the person who did, and found a guy with tousled brown hair, wearing a pair of round glasses and navy blue hoodie. He then directed his hand to the hourglass, and bind the net all over it, which seemed to put the spirit inside to another deep slumber. I glanced to my left to seek for Jamie, who was sprawled on the ground. Next to him was Mr. Nomura, again, sprinkling the fish-scale to Jamie’s face, and seconds later he gained his consciousness. I knelt beside him to help him up.

“Wh-what was that?” I asked Mr. Nomura who was holding a cup of water for Jamie to drink.

“That was a water nymph trying to escape by putting you or your friend inside the hourglass instead,” the other guy answered, “I should’ve mended the net earlier. I wasn’t expecting guests, to be honest.”

“Then again if I told you we’re coming, you probably still won’t clean the place up,” Mr. Nomura commented, “you should really consider talking to someone professionally about your procrastination problem.”

“Come on, I’m just very positive about what I can accomplish in the future, Nomura-san,” the guy brushed his comment of, “and we actually did arrive just in time. Both our guest can handle it pretty well, especially considering the guy was still jinxed.”

Mr. Nomura shook his head in disbelief, but then took the confusion in my eyes and Jamie’s as cue to introduce the guy, “Oh, right. Ms. Chandra, Mr. Newton, this is Goh, our alchemist, and he’s going to help us find one of the Twin Sisters.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he smiled at us, “and I assure you it’s true because I have not seen anyone but mid-aged merchants visiting the Guild for the past fifty years. A change of air is quite nice.”

Goh didn’t catch the annoyed look Mr. Nomura threw at him as he made his way to the telescope. Still sitting on the floor, Jamie took the opportunity to find more information about the certainty of his cure, “Do they usually travel far?”

“No, no. Even if they do, we can still go to the nearest spot with another portal available,” Mr. Nomura assured him.

“Good, because I really can’t wait to get back home,” Jamie remarked, which I completely agree with. This bloody place smells nothing but doom. And a faint hint of fish guts, too.

“Actually, you’re in luck,” Goh looked up to us from the telescope, “one of the Sisters is here in the Guild for tonight.”

The Drain Threader

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Dirty

Something disgusting and absolutely bizarre that it almost add some amusement to my mundane days, happened to my flatmate Jamie just a few hours ago. And because of him, we are on an unlikely–but reminiscently clueless as life–quest, to say the least.

Arriving at our small, but cozy enough apartment, I dropped my corpse-like body on the couch after a whole day of tedious work. After letting out a huge sigh, I proceeded to turn on my computer for another session of mindlessly browsing funny videos online–some sort of habit I have been keeping up for no reason, so don’t ask me why, because I really don’t know. I reached out for a box of cereal I have conveniently placed on the coffee table for both breakfast and dinner–please refrain from judgment, as I consider those who have fast food or instant noodles almost everyday as people who are equally hungry and just want to get over with it before spending eight hours in front of cancerous radiation the very next day. After a a scoop and a crunch, I can’t help but stop because I smell something so foul, even my feet, which I suspect sweat sewer water, would never be able to compete. Scrunching my face, I looked up, only to find Jamie at the threshold covered with something I assume is a bucket of fish guts and other nasty thick mixture.

“What the hell happened to you?” I held my nose in a split second, also backing away from the couch.

“I was walking back from the studio after finishing work early, minding my own business, when suddenly I fell in a sewer, just in time for the pipes to spit out some more shit which I think is from the fishmonger,” he explained.

“Oh, it really was fish, then,” I muttered, “Jesus Christ, you reek like shit.”

“Oh, you’re too kind.  I’ve been covered in this for the whole five hours and I’m still not used to this rotting stench,” he bellowed.

“Five hours!?” I barked, “why didn’t you take a fucking bath? Actually, go! Now! Oh, I can’t take it anymore.”

“I have! This is my fourth time out of the bath,” Jamie exasperatedly answered, “I scrubbed myself clean, and whenever I stepped out of the bathroom, I got back to fucking square one!”

I was truly appalled, “sorry, what!?”

“You heard me right. I can’t get this bloody filth off my body,” he groaned, “come on, Sam, I wouldn’t lie about this.”

I took a moment before I answered, “right. I hope you don’t mind another try though. Get your stinky limbs to the bathroom.”

He was hesitant, “but, err, you’re gonna… watch or, uh…”

“No bloody time to get self-conscious! Just keep your stupid boxers on! And I’ll be standing at the door, spraying you water and let you finish the whole business afterwards alone.”

Keeping at least an arm’s length away from him, we went to the bathroom. Jamie stood on the bathtub, and I turned the shower on, blasting it on full-speed onto him, still keeping at least an arm’s length from where he was. I saw the murky brownish black water run down the drain, and when he seemed to get off all the dirt out of him, I picked a fragrant soap I received as a gift, but have never used before because it’s too strong, shoved it to his hand and let him use the bathroom alone. I wait outside for the whole thirty minutes, and started to get a little suspicious.

“Jamie,” I knocked on the door, “I understand you want to take your time. But you’re oddly silent for thirty minutes already, and I reckon you don’t want to shrivel yourself for staying too long in the water either…”

“Uh…,” he replied from behind the bathroom door, “I was just wondering… maybe I should just stay here now… just in case I got dirty and stinky again if I stepped out.”

“Well, I certainly don’t want you to roam around the house smelling like gutter either, but you can’t possibly stay there forever,” I replied, “besides, I need to use the bathroom, too.”

“Shit,” he cursed, “but I got tired of having to shower too much. It really is not a relaxing experience once you have to do it every hour. And I guess turning into a raisin relatively wouldn’t be so bad.”

He’s got a point there, too. I grunted, “any ideas then?”

“For a start, you can ask our neighbour Mrs. Hudson for permission to use the toilet…”

“Yeah, yeah, I would in a sec, but I mean, in the long run, how are you going to go to work or eat and just carry on with your life? And after a few weeks, how am I supposed to explain to Mrs. Hudson that our toilet is permanently under construction?”

“Oh. Shit, I can’t think of anything besides the fact that I would need to stay in this bathroom forever, and that you prolly need to find another apartment.”

I face-palmed myself, “Unbelievable. What exactly was that fishmonger flushed from his toilet that got to you?”

And that’s when I heard a knock from the door. “Hang on, I got to answer the door,” I told Jamie. I rushed to the entrance, only to find the fishmonger as I open the door.

“Good evening, Ms. Chandra,” he addressed me, “is Mr. Newton home?”

I was quite taken aback that he knows us by our names since we only pass by his store a couple of times on our way to or from work. We never stop by for a chat, and most of the time when we buy fish from the store–which is rare if you take into consideration the fact that I eat cereal for dinner–it’s his wife that runs the counter, and she’s always busy handling a bunch of customers every day. Their fishes are the neighbourhood’s favourite and are famous for its freshness.

“Err, yes, but he might not be able to see you now,” I answered.

“Ah, yes,” he seem to take something into consideration, “of course, of course… he should stay where clean water flows… should’ve remembered that…”

“Sorry?” I interrupted, “what was that you said again?”

“Oh, right. I forgot to mention, Ms. Chandra, that I probably know that Mr. Newton is dealing with a… hygiene issue, if I can put it that way.”

“Wha–how do you know this?”

“Can I come in to explain? I might be able to help clear something up as well.”

I welcomed him in, and instead of the living room, I guide him to the bathroom door so Jamie could hear us.

“I’d just be straightforward to you,” he began, “there’s a reason why our fish is always fresh.”

“And how is that relevant to Jamie’s situation now?”

“To put it simply, someone agreed to provide us the freshest batch every day, but in return, we need to promise to drain the remains in one specific place, which happens to be the sewer which Mr. Newton accidentally fell into earlier this afternoon.”

“What, so you’ve been selling poisoned fresh fish whose guts are rotten inside?” I exclaimed.

“No, no, Ms. Chandra, I can assure you they’re not poisoned. In fact, they are hand-picked by the one who…”

“Uh, honestly I don’t care about that,” Jamie shouted from the bathroom, “just… do you know how you can get the stench and filth off of me permanently?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” the fishmonger snapped, “that’s why I’m here. I want to tell you that I can give you only three days time without the effects so that the three of us can go to get you the real antidote for it. But we should hurry.”

I’m not entirely sure why and how he is capable of doing that, but continued to entertain the possibility by inquiring further, “And where can we find this antidote?”

“First, we need to go back to the sewer where Mr. Newton fell into earlier so we can ride the last Fisher Ship. It’s the only way to the Guild to find at least one of the sisters…”

“What!?” This time, it was Jamie. I’m already at loss for words.

“I’ll explain more on our way later,” the fishmonger insisted, “We don’t have much time. The portal may close in an hour. If both of you will just follow me, please?”

Even though I can’t look directly at Jamie for us to somehow communicate non-verbally, I guess both of us don’t have much choice. It’s no longer a matter of trust or rationality, considering what we–mostly Jamie–have been through today. I knew Jamie decided to take the plunge–no pun intended–when I heard the sound of drained water and Jamie trying to dry himself quickly. He opened the bathroom door, dressed in his pajamas.

The fishmonger took a tatty pouch from his pocket. It contains something that looks like glittery fish scales, some which he put on his palm, and then blew towards Jamie. Jamie then hesitantly stepped outside the bathroom and let out a sigh of relief once he found himself still dry and clean.

“Now,” the fishmonger said, putting his pouch back in his pocket, “if we can make our move, please.” He hastened his pace, gesturing us to follow him.

Jamie and I looked at each other, this time agreeing to grab not only our raincoat and boots, but also the nearest cereal boxes we can find on the coffee table as we make our way out the house. As we walked silently, the fishmonger on the lead, I prayed that he somehow has a magic gill-mask or a pleasant-smelling squid ink perfume, or basically whatever that will block the vile smell of gutter from our nostrils.

Quite frankly, this is not the way I imagined I would get interrupted from my regularly and tediously scheduled life. It seems like a searingly, cruel joke whoever among the gods pulled at me for describing myself as a fish out of water more than I’d like to admit that it somehow lost meaning.

Well, more jokes on Jamie, then. He usually responds to it with, “No wonder you smell kinda fishy.”

The Better Part

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Fight

What is the glory in victory? You might bet it’s only something that came out of the mouth of a sore loser. In that case, you are probably correct because Ollie, who thought so, apparently is just dreading yet another of her loss last night.

No one would notice Ollie was still inside her little working space, curled up on the window seat, as all the lights were dimmed. She drew up the blinds, looking at the tiny shimmers of lights from cars and lamps outside. She thought she might enjoy it while she can, considering she might need to give up the place soon. It’s quite fitting with the whole set up on her upset about standing by what she hates to admit now as “a lost cause”, but not so much then.

Quick enough, she realized she would not be a sour puss had she not desired to win and thought of savoring all the good feeling that follows. She loathed herself more for pondering the obvious. Well, she thought, at least I didn’t blurt it out in public, finally able to console herself. Then she loathes herself a little more for the fact that she should be able to hold her tongue, unlike what happened yesterday.

Ollie proceeded to recall the first time she got engaged in the whole competitive fiasco. She was only four, and her day-care instructor, Ms. Roberts, told the kids that anyone who can make the best swan-like curve when writing number two would be granted a cute dolphin sticker on their book. Ollie didn’t think much about the dolphins, but she does like watching swans on the pond at the nearby park with her mother every Saturday afternoon. So she did have the sticker attached to her book in the end because she feels like she was drawing instead of jotting down the same number repeatedly on the dotted book. But then it seemed like Ms. Roberts and her mother were very pleased about it. Her mother even let her to pick two chocolate bars she likes on Candy Day, which is every Saturday, the only day she can eat sweets. Naturally, when certain actions are rewarded with advantages, it is part of the human instinct to categorize those actions to the “Kudos” box in your brain.

As the years roll by, she started to be more aware of that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, like she did something right and most of all beneficial, at least for herself. She seemed to get a hang of the world she’s living in; that if you win, you gain appreciation, and most of all, favors. One shouldn’t underestimate favors; they are somewhat like luck, but more tangible and reliable, thus making it in a way superior than holding on to the Goddess of Randomness (or Luck, as she is more popularly known with) as a cornerstone. Not that she dismiss it, it’s just that she does not tangle herself too much on the system in which luck works, which obviously no one really knows.

Not only did she not realize yet that winning does not always come naturally to those who perseveres and well-intentioned (though she admits most of the time it’s too self-centered to be called a genuinely good deed), it has not occurred to her that somehow it is favor-slash-fortune who decides the one winning. Oh, and that the post-victory feeling is kind of addictive as well.

Her profession as a private investigator requires both reason and rigor, and even sheer dumb luck proving her instincts correct. To cut the story short, she seemed to run out of the latter these few months, which deem the former two almost useless. She also found it hard to believe given the whole shit on diligence as a virtue. She found it even more irritating that she is naive enough to take it at face-value, like a starry-eyed protagonist in a musical, just singing off her issues hoping for magical animals to help brush it away.

Even worse, it appears that she has run out of favors as well. With her reputation sliding off closer to the edge, it seems more unlikely that she would win any token significant enough to save it from falling. Not to mention how she lashed out at a hotheaded client last night, it’s more than possible that her world is crumbling before her eyes.

Weird how one questions their whole life over what happens in a matter of months. It takes so little of disappointment to release its venom to infiltrate one’s minds. But perhaps it’s an antidote for one to snap out of delusions exalting the questionable goodness of life. Again, probably just thoughts of the losing party, Ollie grumbled, oh, so fucking be it, screw objectivity, there really isn’t any.

So, there is probably as much myth as it is to glory itself in winning. But there are certainly perks to it. After all, who would gladly choose to lose something if there is no strings of triumph or benefits attached to it? And once one achieve it, there is no going back–one should achieve more, not to add anything to it, but simply to maintain one’s record.

Alice was wrong, Ollie thought. We have been living in the same universe that the Red Queen holds jurisdiction. Winning only creates the illusion of productivity. And what the losers tell themselves would be, “at least you have put up a good fight”, which most of the time serves as a form of self-assurance rather than not. And it is, Ollie admitted, somewhat calming that she can entertain the thought of getting another client in the morning, if Lady Randomness feels like so. She crossed her fingers, praying for another chance, and promised to maintain discretion rather than thoughts of basking in the false grandeur life managed in making people “run in a fucking treadmill”.

Ollie decided it’s time to leave her office as it gets too dark in both the literal and figurative sense. As she strolled the streets on the way to her apartment, she wished she could just shake the Queen and turn her into Marquis–her pet kitten–and the world will have itself an improvement. Even better, with cats.

 

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.

Memento Mori

An imaginary conversation submitted for the prompt: Misstep

 

“Hey, watch it!”

“Sorry! Oh my God, that was close.”

“I mean it, young lad. You almost got yourself stumbling into the same hole again.”

“Stop with the old lady act. Doesn’t suit you.”

“Well, that comes with the package, I can’t help it. But really, stop getting tempted to give second chances to things that bore you. Be more decisive. Don’t have much time to live, you see.”

“Oh that’s where you came in, stereotypical voice of reason. Anyway, what is it with everyone saying life is short? And why is it bad? For all I know, it’s best to end it quicker. Y’know, that one dude saying those who die young is the happiest, yadda yadda yadda…”

“Aftermath, sweetheart. It seems short once you reach a certain age, and nobody knows when your life will end. Better safe than sorry, if you know what I mean.”

“Well, shit. You really are the voice of reason.”

“Hell yeah, I am. Now, let me ask you a simple question: what’s the goal?”

“Make enough money so I can still pay the internet bills and be a twat on the internet?”

“That’s achievable. Good. And what do you need to do that?”

“A job, obviously.”

“Exactly, so don’t stray from that path. Now, what do you have to do first before you get there?”

“Climb up Mount Thesis and Valley of the Interns.”

“Correct. And do you like climbing up that mountain?”

“Nope. My lungs can’t take the agony of too much bullshit writing for air anymore.”

“Precisely. Keep that in mind before you took another route of destruction requiring you to hike up, but instead of fresh air, you’re just inhaling crap all over. That’ll do it.”

“Right. Why bother hike two polluted mountains–assuming they exist–while you are struggling to go for one?”

“No, no. It’s more like: why bother hike two polluted mountains, while you can hike just one?”

“Even that is not obligatory.”

“Mm-hmm. Not only it’s too labor-intensive, it’ll get dung on your lungs.”

“Wow. Talking about third-world problems over here.”

“So when you see the chance to break off of that vicious circle…”

“You fucking take it by the balls.”

“Atta boy. So, watchu gonna do now?”

“Sleep. I reckon I will need some energy for an arduous hike tomorrow. Oh, and buy a freaking oxygen mask.”