007: Heaven

Image of storks from my own collection
Image of storks from my own collection

The first thing she was aware of was the feel of the gentle breeze caressing her cheek.

It was a constant, gentle thing, a cooling wind to blow away the cares of the day. She found herself breathing easily, enjoying the breeze. Each breath she took brought new aromas, opened her senses to more information about this place.

The scent of wildflowers. Of freshly-cut grass. The cleanliness of a river.

A beautiful meadow, she thought to herself, her mind instantly casting back to when she was just five years old, and her parents had taken her and her brother on a family picnic. That one moment, when she was a child, walking in the tall grass.

“Open your eyes, Alice,” the brimstone voice of the demon broke her reverie.

Alice opened her eyes to find herself standing on a small hill, under the shade of a large yew tree. Around them, she could see people about them, frozen in a moment. Some were running after each other. A few were sitting on picnic blankets, sharing food. She even saw a couple kissing passionately, lovers entwined with each other, forgetting the world. Her cheeks turned red and she looked away.

“You may speak, child,” the demon’s voice seemed to unlock Alice’s lips, and she found the questions tumbling out.

“Where is this? What am I doing here? Why is everyone frozen?” Alice found herself hyperventilating, panic rising in her chest for no reason.

“Breathe, child. You are not in danger here. This…” he waited till Alice had taken two deep breaths and released them before he continued, “Is heaven. A place where those who are sinless and those who have done good, are taken to rest. Frozen, in a moment of time, at their happiest.”

“What… what is it that you wish me to do here then?”

“We want you to destroy Heaven,” she looked at him as though he had gone mad.

He grinned, and sat down. Alice could not help but think how absurd it was, that here, in the sunlight, in what was supposed to be one of the holiest places, a demon, complete with horns, cloven feet, and thin tail, was sitting happily on the ground. And looking up to HER as though she was going to do the impossible.

“What?” she blinked and stared at him.

“Corrupt Heaven, Alice. This is the price you will pay.”

“But how?” she took a few steps back from him and held her hands open wide, to emphasise her words.

“I leave that up to you. Let me know when it begins, hmm?” the demon leant against the Yew tree, closed his eyes, and soon began snoring.

Alice did not dare to even think of running away. She had made a bargain, and she would stick with it. The question that arose, of course, was how do you corrupt heaven?

~~~~~~~

Heaven, they say, is a place on earth.

Or that it’s something you work on. I don’t know. And to be honest, I stopped caring a long time ago.

Heaven, to me, is a state of mind. It’s a moment of bliss, a moment of happiness. A moment where everything clicks. When you feel right, and that everything around you is right. A moment that you would want to freeze. So as to remember it forever.

I don’t want to freeze time.

I know I don’t want to die. I have a lot of things to live for. I always had, I’ve just never had the courage to admit it to myself. But that’s beside the point.

I like the idea of Heaven, but I don’t like what you have to do to get there. That separation is painful. And if there is nothing in this life after death, it is also pointless.

Much better to love and appreciate the people around you instead while they are here. Heaven shouldn’t be a place you wait to meet those who’ve gone before. By the time you’ve found out, it’ll be too late.

Heaven should be a place on earth. Or rather, a person on earth.

Moments of happiness. Of life.

I don’t want to leave this plane. I don’t want to leave my friends, my family, my loves. I want to live here. To be here. Eternal happiness is nothing if the people I care about are not there.

Hell, they say, is other people. But I’m willing to be in Hell if my loved ones are in hell. Because my heaven are the people I care about.

And apparently I can care quite a bit.

This entry was written for the 100 Themes Challenge. For the full list, click here.

[006] Breaking Away

Candlelight shot from my own Z1 Compact
Candlelight shot from my own Z1 Compact

Alice opened her eyes.

The first thing she saw was the plain walls of her room. Then there were whispers, coming from the hall. She laid there for a little while, trying to discern what it was that had awakened her. A soft purple glow bathed her room, with the occasional car going down the road outside her house.

Alice blinked. The whispers and the light indicated it was probably dawn, so she still had some hours to go before she actually needed to be up. Then it hit her.

“I closed the curtains,” she thought, turning to her side.

The window and curtains were open. As she got up to scream, a dark figure crossed the room and put his hand over mouth, forcing her back onto the bed. Alice fought him, her screams muffled, but he pinned her harder and brought his face close to hers. She found herself freezing from pure terror.

The man’s irises were red. Bright, blood, shining red. As Alice stared wide-eyed at him, he smiled coldly, revealing bright, sharp teeth. She could smell brimstone on him. A cold feeling settled in her stomach as she realised what he was.

“Now, no screams?” he spoke in a deep, bass voice. She nodded and he removed his hand from her mouth.

“How…” the words choked in her throat as she stammered out of terror, “How… how may I serve you, Great One?”

“We have work for thee, child. You remember the bargain?”

“Yes, but my bro…”

“Did you not see the evidence for yourself?”

“Yes, but I thought…”

“Will you honour your bargain?” the way he asked the question warned Alice.

“I will honour the bargain,” she whispered.

“Good. Then come. We leave now.”

“But my brother…”

“Do not worry, child. We will honour our part of the bargain,” he smiled evilly.

With that, she got out of her bed and took his hand.

“Goodbye,” she whispered.

~~~~~~

This was significantly much harder to write than I expected. There was of course, the usual constraints; work, life, exercise.

The truth is, I wasn’t quite sure if I could have written this.

Things falling away. Trying to break out of old patterns. Resisting the urge to write passive aggressive sentences like this one.

I am a slave to words.

Writing is a compulsion, I think I once said to someone. I can’t live without writing. Or without reading. Someone else also once said that writing was a form of escapism. A world where we become powerful instead of letting reality hold us back.

Is reality so mundane that we must seek to escape it?

I don’t know about you, but yes.

That’s not to say my reality’s bad. I’m blessed, because I have a job I like, colleagues who make me feel grateful for being employed with them, a caring if overprotective family, friends who love me more than I deserve, and I want for nothing in Maslow’s Hierachy (we’re not talking self-actualisation here, by the way).

So if reality is so great, why do I find myself retreating into my written words? Why do I find myself reading old stories, thinking up new scenarios, and building new worlds?

Because it’s where I can simply be.

Matthew 4:4 says, “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

There’s a simple joy and beauty in words. On one hand, some may argue they are nothing more than lines drawn together. On the other hand, these lines, when drawn together, convey meaning, ideas and experiences to the reader, opening their minds to an alternate present that can only be experienced.

When I was younger, my aunt once allowed me to lead the reading for one of the family prayer sessions. After the prayer session was over, she told me, “You are reading it like a storybook. Don’t read it like that again.”

I ignored her. In my mind, words take on a literal new sensation, a literal new experience. Each word, written, has a tone. I hear them in my mind as though they’re being spoken, as though they’re dancing, as though there’s an actual sensory pleasure attached to them.

Am I seduced by the beauty of words? Completely.

As to whether I am obsessed about them, no I don’t think so. At least not in the way most people assume. It’s one of the reasons why when I write something for someone else, I find it very hard to get offended if they ask me to write it in another way (note: this does NOT apply to grammar, those still bring out shieldmaiden in me).

Words are words. They are tools. Beautiful, wonderful tools, but tools nonetheless. I love how they feel at my fingers, in my mind, through my ears, but words are simply words. They are a means, a platform, a bridge.

Now the ideas they convey… that’s another matter entirely.

I suppose this isn’t about breaking away after all.

This entry was written for the 100 Themes Challenge. For the full list, click here.

[005] Seeking Solace

Image by wiccked on Flickr
Image by Melanie Cook (wiccked) on Flickr

Chapter 4: Solace-Taking

She had never expected it to spiral out of control this fast.

The plate flew over her head as she ducked. It smashed with a terrific sound against the wall behind her, accompanied by screams. She covered her head with her hands, thankful that her long sleeves protected her arms somewhat.

“How could you do that?” there was a terrific shout from her brother.

“We did nothing of the sort! It’s over between us!” she peeped over the kitchen counter to see her brother throwing another plate.

“How could you, Mit? How could you? You know how I feel about her!”

“Tim, calm down! It isn’t like that, I promised!” she saw Mit move forward to try to calm Tim down, but her brother picked up and threw an icebox instead.

She belatedly remembered that the ice box was filled with fish Mit and Tim had brought back from their fishing expedition yesterday, as the box flew over Mit’s head, bounced on the counter, and unloaded its content on her. She screamed in terror.

“Alice!” she heard her brother shout in terror, but it was Mit who came to her aid first.

“Alice, are you alright?” he asked her gently, removing some of the fish from her head. The look on terror on her face told him otherwise.

“I’m so sorry,” her brother came and knelt next to Alice, taking her hand.

Alice found her eyes welling with tears. They were both concerned over her, and they both looked absolutely miserable at her. She burst into tears and hugged them both. They tried to calm her down, forgetting their argument just now, but what neither of the boys realised was Alice cried to cover the guilt and darkness within her own heart.

~~~~~~

Solace: comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.

Seeking Solace: Looking for comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.

I’m not one to usually ask for solace. I kind of pride myself on giving it to others. Seeking solace for myself isn’t something that I’m used to doing, with the occassional exception of screaming about clients (and there are more of those now than I thought before).

Solace’s something I find it easy to give to others. Essentially, for the person giving, it’s an investment of time, care and sometimes, physical hugs/presence. The thing about giving solace is that you need to remember you cannot do anything about the problems the other person has. You cannot fight their battles.

Learning to let go and letting people fight their own battles was always the hardest thing for me to do. I had a hero mentality; I would offer advice forcefully at times because I wanted to be proven right. I wanted to be the one whom others looked up to, wanted to be someone who was needed.

Which stems from my own childhood demons, but that’s a story for another day.

It took me some time and training to realise sometimes people didn’t want advice. They just wanted to be comforted. To know there’s someone who’s listening and supporting them.

Sometimes it’s just the knowledge that you’re not alone.

I’ve been seeking solace from friends recently. That incident left me far more scarred than I thought it would have, and even though I thought the scab was already dry, it turned out that it was still bleeding underneath. As someone says, it only has been four months, but seeing him on Sunday and talking frankly about what’s happened…

I could put on a strong face for him, an almost heartless one, I think, at times, but when I’m alone and the headset’s on and there’s just me and the screen…

Sometimes it isn’t really solace I seek, I think.

Maybe it’s redemption.

This entry was written for the 100 Themes Challenge. For the full list, click here.

[004] Darkness

Image by Wim Vandenbussche on Flickr.com

Chapter 4: Darkroom

They bleed weeks, maybe months, to get the right words down to paper. The right sequence. The right actions. The right words.

He bleeds days, sometimes weeks, to translate words into vision. Something audiences will see, hear and understand. Maybe all at the same time.

She cuts to make the message as concise as possible. Hours, maybe days.

The audience watches. It flashes, for just brief seconds, minutes.

Cut.

~~~~~~

The story above was inspired by Puppy.

Who is he? Someone who reminds me of a puppy. Cheerful, adorable, and a little smug at times. Catch him when he’s unguarded, and you see him looking lost. Sad. Woebegone.

Then there’s Innocence. Well, he struck me as one. Knows about the darkness but not quite there yet. Adorable too. But not sure if he sees me the same way I see him.

Yuzuru. Well I have to admit, he’s someone I admire from afar. A shining star, that is. Would be great to meet him but I’m not sure I’d be coherent. And there’s also the fact that I’m using him as an excuse. While he makes me squee, it’s in direct proportion to how much Innocence makes me squee.

What do these three have in common besides the fact they’re Asian, have dark hair and look good in glasses? (Shut up about the last!)

They’re all younger than me. The oldest is JUSTTTTT over the age I’d consider a guy dateable for myself (I have weird standards, go away if you’re going to lecture me about that).

My mind’s more or less permanently stuck at 23, though in the past few days I feel like I’ve wasted my time.

Missed opportunities, sailing ship, etc, you know, the works.

Regretting the passing of time. I’m not sad with what happened in the time I’ve spent. I’m regretting that I did not take the chances that were there. That I did not open my arms and fall. That I let fear clip my wings.

And now I don’t know if I’ll ever fly. If I’ll ever regain that bravery. I chose the safer, stagnant path, and now I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to leave.

“My father tried all kinds of jobs, till he finally decided to take over his father’s shop. We still have a lot of time, don’t we? So why don’t we try everything?”

My time is up. It’s time to leave. Time to exit the stage and watch as younger, more naive qualified ones begin their play. As they go about their parts, I wonder, was I ever that naive? Did I ever seem that trusting?

O time, thou must untangle this, not I.
It is too hard a knot for me to untie!

Viola, Twelfth Night.

This post was written for the 100 Themes challenge. For the full list, click here.

[003] Light

This post was written for the 100 Themes challenge. For the full list, click here.

Chapter 3: Lightning

There are shadows, and then there are shadows.

Some shadows you can see easily; darkness created by an obscured sun. Others live only in the fear of your mind, hidden in the deepest trenches of your soul.

Most terrifying of all are the shadowkeepers who wield both. They wield them like weapons, to manipulate, horrify and control. They are not a large number.

But they exist.

Or so the girl told herself as she sat in the middle of an empty house in the forest, stirring a pot and whispering soft, arcane words.

Her voice had a singsong quality, rising and falling in measured intervals. She took a deep breath before each new line, a shallow one whenever she had to add ingredients. A great sigh escaped her lips when she reached the end of the incantation.

“For thus I swear, and thus I curse, their life together in a hearse,” the tune made no sense, yet as she finished, there was the crack of thunder, and a flash of lightning. The fire under her stirring pot went out, and she felt chills on her spine.

Soon there was nothing left in the abandoned house, not even the tiny light of an ember. Read more