5

Fly Me To The Moon

Day 12 of Flash Fiction Month!

I only used one prompt today, which is:

“I was in love with a man the world did not want me to have.”

It’s a quick and silly one.


“I’m going to marry him some day.”

“Who?”

“The man on the moon.”

That was about how every conversation went when Millie Matherson was around.

Nobody knew when her obsession with ‘the man on the moon’ began but her parents would often joke that when she was born, she did not cry but she howled and that was on the night of the brightest full moon of that year.

From age three to twelve, she always set a place next to her on the table for tea with the man on the moon. From twelve to sixteen, the man on the moon was there to keep her company on the days she felt loneliest. Somewhere around seventeen, she started to notice the way that boys looked at her and her parents breathed a sigh of relief.

“Millie, remember the time you couldn’t stop talking about the man on the moon?” they’d laugh.

“Yeah, I remember,” she smiled.

And then life continued normally the way a normal woman’s life pans out.

That is, until Millie Matherson’s 100th birthday celebration. She was surrounded by friends and her growing family and so much love to celebrate a century of living. As they brought out the birthday cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’, she smiled. She patiently blew all the hundred birthday candles that filled up the vanilla frosted cake one-by-one and when she blew the last one out, the room turned dark. After a few moments of fumbling about and hey-who-turned-the-lights-outs, a beam of bright yellow light shone on Millie and Millie alone. Sat in her wheelchair, her body slowly lifted up and out the front door. Some family were screaming, some friends were gasping but all Millie did was laugh.

She lifted off into the moonlit sky, bellowing from above: “See ya later, suckers!”

0

When The Levee Breaks

Hello friends!

I recently decided to participate in Flash Fiction Month over at Deviant Art. I’ll be posting my flash fiction pieces this whole month of July so stay tuned if you like reading short short stories!

The theme for the 8th of July was ‘The Hands of Fate’. The protagonist in this piece is based off of my Fate Core character, Ripley, who is a water bender.

Enjoy!


She did this before and she felt just as powerful.

Ripley lifted one hand up and felt a fiery heat between her fingertips and within her sweaty palms. She could feel the water move and pulsate all around her. Every trickle, every droplet obeyed her every command; they swayed when her fingers moved.

The scars on her body seemed to twitch and throb beneath the skin-tight black suit she wore. Years of being submerged under water, held by different hands, some gentle and some tugging hard as they pushed and pulled until she could feel the tingles running down her spine as her vision blurred from being covered in patches of raven black hair. Ten lashes for every child who screamed. Ten more lashes on open palms for every child who could not soothe the waters around them. The scars adorned her pale body like second skin; stronger, tougher and unfeeling.

Ripley stood motionless and stoic. Her raven black hair fell behind her shoulders like a dark waterfall reaching down to her feet. She was calm like the ocean.

She turned her open palm up and water obeyed. She felt the gushing of liquid flowing faster and faster like a raging river.

In the back of her mind, she saw eyes of emerald green, jewels in muddy water. Ripley could not remember her name but she would take her away every night, when the horrible hands were asleep and there was no one around to catch the pitter-patter of scurrying feet and muffled sounds of childhood amusement. The girl with the emerald eyes would place her hands on her open wounds and it made everything better. They were sisters-in-arms sworn to protect each other till death did them part. Hooked at the hip, they kept each other’s secrets and the girl with the emerald eyes was the only one who witnessed Ripley’s darkest secret.

Ripley’s hands vibrated from the heat that surfaced all over her shivering body. She curled her fingers slowly to make a fist, tugging at the river before her, willing it towards the sea. She remembered this feeling. She was powerful then too.

She remembered standing over the lifeless body of a master, covered in warm liquid that slid across his glistening skin. Water was the source of all life; she felt it in her veins as much as she felt it in that lifeless body. The girl with the emerald eyes watched her, hand on her face, blood dripping down the side of her cheek.

“What did you do?” her voice quivered. Ripley felt the vapors around her shifting.

“I won’t let him or anyone else hurt you,” she said defiantly.

When the other masters found out what had happened, a swift punishment followed. The girls were separated. Caring turned to ignorance and love turned to hate. In her years of solitude, Ripley knew she had to escape the masters and she knew that she would need her sister. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she was too late.

As her fingers turned in to meet her palm, the river burst forth and released into a great sea of red. Warm liquid was washed over and oozed over the surface of skin as pale as hers.

What did you do? echoed a small voice in her head. She felt the soft touch of a child’s hand on her open palms.

“Something wicked,” she whispered.

Green eyes stared back in an ocean of red.

0

The Viewfinder

He looked through the black viewfinder you would find at some scenic place. It was his idea that on his first date with the woman he met at the book store they’d visit the carnival passing through town. He saw this tent and excitedly dragged her along with him. She did not see the appeal of investigating a black tent with a lone black viewfinder in it.

He pulled back from the viewfinder. “You have got to try this!”

“What did you see?” she asked.

“I won’t tell you,” he said giddily like some school boy about to play the nastiest prank on someone. “You’ll have to find out for yourself.”

She shrugged and stepped in front of the black viewfinder that had “See your DEEPEST and DARKEST fears!” written with the type of squiggly lines you’d only ever find at a haunted mansion. She was nervous; she was easily spooked. For one last time, she looked at him still all smiles, and past him to the excitement of the bustling crowd outside the small tent they were standing in, reminding herself that she needed to loosen up and relax.

“Here goes nothing.”

She looked through the black viewfinder and found herself standing in the middle of an empty street. She could see her hands and her feet and found this a little odd. She didn’t make a big deal out of it but merely thought: technology these days.

The street was empty but the buildings surrounding it seemed emptier, if that were even possible. She walked straight ahead for there was nowhere else to turn which became boring soon enough that it was getting time to end this silly endeavor. She tried to pull herself away from the black viewfinder but hadn’t a clue how. Thinking that perhaps she had to walk back to her starting position, she turned back and started walking and walking until everything looked the same as it did in the other direction. She began to panic.

“Hello?” she cried out.

The doors on the buildings surrounding the street all opened at once and she gasped, holding her hands to her head instinctively. The doors compelled her to enter them. It didn’t matter to her which one she picked, she still felt ridiculous about the situation and increasingly alarmed. But perhaps this strange place was showing her the way out.

She entered the nearest door on her left. It was a room covered with mirrors and nothing more. Some were cracked and some were intact but they all seemed to be covered in a thin layer of dirt or steam or something because she couldn’t see herself clearly in any of them. She left the room and as she did, she pulled back and saw her date standing next to her.

“So did you see it? It’s funny, right?” he chuckled.

“What’s funny about mirrors?”

He was confused so he leaned in on the black viewfinder and laughed.

“You know, I don’t think you were looking properly,” he said. “Try again and this time, really look.”

She didn’t know if she wanted to go back to that creepy empty street but apparently there was supposed to be something very funny in there. Somewhere.

She looked through the black viewfinder again and entered another door. It appeared to be a bar and in the middle of the room there was a woman wearing clothes that looked very familiar. The woman stood with her arms crossed and a very stern look on her face. She noticed there were men sitting all around the bar, faceless. Still, she had a sense that they were all engrossed with the woman in the middle of the room. The woman walked towards the bar and ordered herself a drink, all the while the faceless men mirroring their heads to the way she moved. The woman didn’t seem to care or notice all the attention she was being given but simply flipped her hair carelessly when a man at the furthest corner of the room hissed at her. Then the man next to him did the same until like a chain it spread through the room. She was surprised at the calm that the woman was exuding as the hissing became louder and louder. Then all at once the faceless men faced her and hissed with even more acid than before. She turned and ran for the door.

“That was not fun,” she said as she found herself staring at the black viewfinder.

“What do you mean? It’s hilarious!”

“No, I just want to go. This place is giving me the creeps.”

He rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who are afraid of clowns? Come on, that is such a cliché!”

“Clowns?”

“Yeah, that dancing clown. He’s like this –” he wiggled his hips and waved his arms around his head. “Man, I love carnivals.”

She looked around making sure that they were still standing underneath the black tent. There was a breeze outside and it created waves on the fabric of the tent as if things were lurking outside of it. She shivered.

He noticed. “Look, why don’t I go get us something hot to eat. Maybe you’re hungry or something.”

“You’re just gonna leave me alone here? In this creepy tent?”

“You’re overreacting.” He turned to leave, “I’ll be back in a few. You better be laughing or smiling or something when I get back.”

She grimaced. She wanted to get out of this black tent and rejoin all the normal people outside but she knew from the look in his eyes that he wouldn’t let up until she came out just as self-content as he was.

She wandered back into the black viewfinder and heard a faint little song coming from a door to her right. She recognized that the room was her bedroom. As she stepped through, the door closed and disappeared. She cursed under her breath then swivelled and banged against the wall. The door did not reappear.

She felt a deep dark dread run down her spine as she turned to face a large pile of books in the middle of the room in a burning pyre. She recognized the titles as the texts slowly burned away. The room started to vibrate and move. The walls were pushing everything towards the middle, pushing her towards the funeral pyre. She clung to the wall behind her for dear life, kicked and beat at it for the door to appear again but it was just a wall now. And as the flames engulfed her body along with everything else in the room that she had ever owned, she slowly pulled herself away from the black viewfinder.

She looked back at her date now holding two steaming cups of something, spit a nasty word at him, and stomped off the tent.

He followed but not without looking around the tent one last time trying to decipher what exactly it was that made her uncomfortable. He shrugged and came to the conclusion that the only logical explanation was that she just hated clowns or color or joy itself because there was nothing creepy to him about a multicolored tent with a sign hanging outside that says, “World’s Smallest Dancing Clown!”

0

Dear Universe #6

Dear Universe,


It’s been a while since I last wrote you. Everything’s been a bit hazy since then. I’ve produced painting after painting, the final exam results came out and they were kickass, I made a few videos that I will cringe at for eternity, I’m socializing in the real world step by tiny step, and today you really had my back. I believe in you, dear Universe. I love you to bits.

Dear June 3rd,

You were the day I started talking to someone so wonderful and smart. Something finally stirred inside this rickety chest of mine and it gave me beautiful hope for the future.

Dear June 7th,

You were the day I realized someone was too far away. You were also the day I was wide awake in church because my thoughts were so preoccupied. On a day kept aside for faith, I also doubted heavily and I should have known right then and there.

Dear last week of June and first week of July,

Thank you for completely stripping the nerves off my body. I had the revelation that friend-zones aren’t always the worst. And despite the feelings that died away, which my white blood cells fought to extinction, I continued talking to someone because someone was fascinating and funny. But the dick jokes and sexual overtones were sickening me. And when someone’s smoke high got the best of him, tried to push me away, I should have sped off. Godspeed, my child.

Dear July 16th,

You were a weird morning. I could feel that someone was nitpicking for an out and someone got it; over a ridiculous assumption a week after someone said, “you don’t know me.” Well, YOU don’t know me.

I never said anything, never wanted to assume anything of you but since you’ve started it, here goes:

Maybe grow up and stop smoking so much. Maybe cut the crap yourself about art and its pretentions. Maybe if you really were indifferent and you didn’t care, you’d shut up about it. The iteration and reiteration of not caring is caring. Maybe stop talking about dicks and vaginas. Maybe spend less time on a site full of teens and preteens without actively contributing yourself because you sounded exactly like a twelve-year-old at the end there. Maybe shove your conspiracies up your ass once in a while.

But I kept my mouth shut and let someone finish a – most likely – smoke high rant. Essence of supreme clarity, I call it.

And I was so fucking happy it was over. There was my one and a half month of something new and exciting in a single click of the “Remove” button. So long sucker. Now I can finally sleep without the anxiety of waking up to someone who makes me doubtful of myself.

I never said anything with a double-meaning. And I told someone I would never do that. But still, that someone assumed too much.

And then you, July 16th, you beautiful heart you, you (I know that’s a lot of you’s) had my back. In the midst of the confusion and utter disbelief on my part, you surprised me with a lot of love on something I put my heart into. And my hope grew stronger.

Sincerely, Grateful for the experience and the memories

Dear She,


You were a short story I’ve spent the most time working on. You took me a while to finish but the payoff was and is amazing. You are a short story about my parents’ love and about the things I want to look for and avoid in love. And it hurt my heart and soul to write you. But today, you were featured on an art website (you can probably guess which site since I mention it in my Art section A LOT), and now more and more people are reading about my love. And I am so thankful that during a time of uncertainty and just bizarreness, you were there to hold my head in place.

Sincerely, Grateful to the end

Dear Art and Music,


Thanks for sticking by my side day and night. Maybe our search for something deeper in you is futile because it all comes down to a deep and never-ending black pit called Death but I refuse to believe in a life wasted just because there’s something ugly waiting at the end of the tunnel. And perhaps no one will ever see your art or listen to your music; that is no reason not to create. We leave a part of our souls in everything we do, even in the boring things like mathematics and your grandpa’s old war stories, and we connect. Nothing shows hope and connection better than Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Those are the values I live by. Superficial or not, I am stuck with you.

Sincerely, Grateful to humanity

Today’s letter has been a bit hard and a lot easy to write. I’m glad we could talk about, Universe. Until next time.

Yours Truly, Echo

2

She

I

He was born the eldest of five sturdy boys and his parents were missionaries. He was born a torchbearer, the firstborn destined to bring his family to life. But looking at the past all these many years later, he couldn’t decide when he first felt truly and utterly indifferent.

Sure, he laughed and he ran without a care like any other nine year old. He caught butterflies and studied them with genuine awe and watched the fireflies dance in the forest behind his home as his family gathered for a night around the bonfire. He left home at six in the morning and returned at six in the evening all covered in a day’s worth of visions and stories he would later tell his little brothers. And when a breeze would hit his warm and welcoming face, he would close his eyes and think that this moment right here, this will never end.

He shakes his head because he knows that was all a haze, a childish haze, a brief moment of fabricated ecstasy to hide the truth that was always there. He was too indifferent to care; to care about the nights his parents would go on ‘religious fasts’ so that he and his three brothers could eat, to care about the bruises he sustained after a beating, to care about winning a national award for something he drew some time ago, to care about this girl who lived across a field from his house.

She was there when he caught butterflies as he told her to jump higher and be quicker. She would bring his family some cake or the other every week and he would end every meeting with a ‘thank you’. She climbed tall guava trees as he would holler from below, “that’s far enough,” and she would bellow, “trust me, the good ones are always closer to heaven!”

She grew up with three other siblings, the youngest of two girls. She was a good girl, the kind that smiles while doing the dishes and greets guests politely. And as she grew up, her good faith turned her into a beautiful young woman. She was the talk of the town and the next town over, the one that puts an instant smile on your face when she comes your way.

On the other side of the field, his childhood ecstasy abruptly ended at age eleven when he read a book he grabbed from the trash can in front of his house of pages filled with robots, TVs and blue jumpsuits. He became obsessed with books, all kinds of books and in each book he searched for an answer to a question he didn’t know yet. He would wake up many nights shivering and covered in cold sweat and wander off into the forest where he found himself the next day in a blanket of fallen leaves. He still would leave at six in the morning and return at six in the evening but he had no stories to recount.

While reading something quite atrocious, a novel that was meant for people his age which was seventeen, a sudden realization filled his body and mind. For the first time in years he looked. He saw the clear blue sky and the puffy white clouds like cotton candy. He saw the mountains around this small town and breathed in the exceptionally clean air that hit his face. He saw his dog watching him with a gently wagging tail and wondered who had been feeding him all these years. He went to bed that night disgusted by this clarity perhaps because it was the atrocious teen novel that brought it upon him or that he realized his own preoccupations and the stupor of indifference he had been floating in.

When he heard the doorbell ringing the next morning and groggily annoyed that no one else would open it, his clarity allowed him to see her. As she handed him a freshly baked blueberry pie, he noticed her perfectly symmetrical smile, her bright eyes, her perfect posture, her delicate hands, the curve of her hips where they met her long and thin legs…

II

She made him human.

She talked and walked in slow motion in his eyes. When she reached her arms out for a passing butterfly she would look like a painting in a museum somewhere. She still climbed trees which he tried once but he fell on his back humiliated so he swore to watch her silently. Besides, the view was better where he stood. He could watch her as she sat gracefully biting into a guava as nature nourished her and she nourished it back with her beauty. On the mornings he found himself in the forest, he would wake up to a snug blanket on his warm body and piece of cake wrapped in plastic beside him.

She’s good for me, he thought. So they got married after he passed a series of tests that said he could travel around the world. I will show her the world, he thought and when their son was born in an exotic island miles away from the mainland he felt his indifference shed from his skin. And when the second one was born, a girl, he realized he was only a means to the world, that she was the real world upon which they built their happiness.

And like a reliable old book, he took her for granted.

He made her wait at home working late, with a crying baby girl and a young boy who couldn’t sleep. Grand gestures and gifts turned into a rose and a manufactured card on Valentine’s Day. Cuddles turned into hesitation and kisses were awkward. He wondered now if she only chose him because of his favorable prospects, that he could literally sweep her off her feet and show her the world while the other men were destined to hometown careers. Maybe that was it. His one handshake with the new girl in his office turned into frequent meetings, always public meetings though.

She cleaned and cooked and fed her children. One New Year’s Day she received a diary and decided to write in it. She stopped around May. Flipping back through the pages, they were all one to three liners of her chores and the women she detested. She noticed her daughter was falling ill frequently and one devastating doctor’s appointment later, they bought a breathing apparatus for her. The little one hated the medicine she had to inhale every day. But the little one got better eventually, however, she did not.

III

They tried again but by then her love was transferred elsewhere. She loved her children and she loved herself. She collected many paintings, vases, figurines and silverware from all over the world and everywhere she travelled, her home was furnished with all her love. She opened a bank account for her children’s education and they grew up good, one into a fine gentleman and the other into an independent woman.

He was content at home and at work. He was content everywhere he went. He saw her appear better and he thought he didn’t have to worry anymore. He was so indifferent to it all. He watched her wear her finest clothes and finest jewelry for dinners and parties and he watched her shine in a room of rotten gems. He would receive enthusiastic praise and compliments and his friend circle grew. He was content when the men would converse with cigars, pipes and cigarettes filling the parlor with smoke and ash while out of the corner of his eye he watched her in the next room, the most radiant, the most well-spoken. And he was so indifferent to it all.

She made him appear human.

When their children left home, they were forced to confront each other. He would read a book while she spoke of all the things that filled her thoughts. He would look at a computer screen while she texted her friends. He would eat dinner at nine o’clock while she ate at eleven. He would fall asleep after sex while she wondered if she should go shopping the next day.

One Saturday afternoon, he was sitting in the dining room with his laptop on the table, tapping his feet to an old folk song. She was cleaning the house and nagging about the mess. She always nagged about the mess with questions after questions. Why don’t you ever clean up after yourself? Am I your servant? Do you think I will live long with all this stress? If this is how you live now, how will it be when I’m dead? And he scoffed and he thought maybe if you weren’t so paranoid.

IV

He lost his humanity.

He was so indifferent. The first thing he did after work was open his laptop and tap his feet away. He read a book every night and went to sleep content with himself, his day, his life. He didn’t realize it but every day was the same; from the bread he ate at six in the morning, to the smell on his clothes by six in the evening, to the contented state he slept in. Everything he did was the same but she was the difference.

She nagged. She didn’t listen. She spoke continuously for hours. One day he listened and he did not like what he heard so he went back to his books and laptop. By this age, he decided the question he had been asking himself as a teenager was this: What is it all about? And by the time he hit fifty-three, the answer was indifference. Of course in his head it was music and books and culture and life but deep down something dark and innate still lurked. He didn’t know it yet but he did not care about the things he thought he cared about.

She knew they were drifting apart but he didn’t.

She did not leave him.

V

The skies are a clear blue and the sparrows sing a particularly sweet melody as he stands in front of a gravestone covered in moss and weeds. He is a grandfather now and she is up in the clouds somewhere, eating the juiciest guava, he thinks. He cleans the gravestone and waters the flowers around it. They would have looked lovely in her hair.

He walks home alone and alone he is. He goes to his bookshelf that covers an entire wall full of knowledge from every place he visited. But the one book that is not completely covered in dust – he should clean, he thinks – is a leather-bound journal. As he starts on page one, he reads every single angry and frantic word, illegible at times from the urgency of the writer. Every so often he comes across a list of things to buy, things to do, things to give family and friends, the clothes that a then strapping young boy and a cute little girl needed for school, dates for school events and dates for church donation drives. When he reaches the middle of the journal, he finds himself smudging the ink from something hot and wet that falls from his eye; they are one to three liners of a day’s work from cleaning, cooking and gossip. And then there appear numbers on the pages, pages and pages of numbers calculated and solved, borrowed and paid. He used to be happy to spend his salary on food, a few good CDs and a good book but the amount he reads on the pages are amounts he knows nothing of; many zeros on the right with accompanied subtitles: school fees, electric bill, gas bill, water bill, grocery for the month, tithes.

As he nears the end of the journal, the writings suddenly become erratic and vivid with mentions of many different medicines some orthodox and some unheard of. He feels the writer’s pain, frustration and anger, so much anger, and it all transfers into him as he reads. This was catharsis unlike any he’d ever read in old English plays or contemporary Japanese novels.

He takes a breath for the final blow. Written in the last page is the answer he had been searching for all his life.

I have loved and loved too hard. I say this a lot but it’s true, I love my children more than God loves them. I loved my life, the years of travelling, the many things I saw that one could only dream of, the friends I met along the way and even those I lost. And most of all, I love my husband. It was because of him that I got to see the world; he offered me the world. Despite the rift that was building between us, I never left him. My dear, if you are reading this, know that every word I said, every time you thought I was nagging, all the mistakes I made in your eyes, they were because I loved you, too much to realize I had been swallowed by my own love.

He reads it again, repeats it in his day and goes to bed with it.

She made him human again.

 ———-

 This story is dedicated to my parents who will be celebrating their 26th Wedding Anniversary this coming Tuesday.

2

Can you hear me?

As she stood there repeating herself, she wondered if she should have spoken louder.

She was fresh out of college when it started. She didn’t think much of it at the time because it happened too frequently to be noticed. Whenever she heard the inevitable What? she would clear her throat and repeat louder, never blinking twice. She was an only child, a shining emblem to carry her bloodline forward. She had to be heard. So she scoured the internet for free voice lessons because singers are always heard.

Somewhere around high school, she gained the confidence to say what she had to say. The repetitions became less frequent but were still unavoidably there. It was like a giant bug on her back; she couldn’t see it herself but she knew it was there and that others could see it. She sang in a few talent shows and brought her guitar and sang alone or with a couple of friends during study hall. Although she knew she wasn’t the best singer, couldn’t even reach those high notes without her voice cracking, in those moments she was happiest.

Then she took a year off after high school to pursue her interests. Her voice boomed louder than it ever had. Colors and ideas and inspiration came oozing out of her eyes, ears and mouth, she almost drowned in herself. She got so lost in the noise that she forgot about the future until it came and there was radio silence.

She found she could barely speak in college. She had to repeat herself more than twenty times a day. She knew this because she kept score of every single defect in her speech in the hope that she could concoct a cure somehow. Then she turned to writing; surely her words would leave an impression on people’s minds. And it made a difference, but only a slight one.

When she fell in love for the first time, she felt a sharp pain in her chest and her voice was too loud and out of control. She broke it off because it was too much to handle.

On the day that she graduated, she hugged her parents when she received her degree. They congratulated her heartily and she said thank you. She went about socializing with her fellow graduates and she knew now, that maybe it was the atmosphere of euphoria that intoxicated their senses. They drove home after lunch and the first thing she did was turn on her laptop to a headhunting website.

“I’m sending out a bunch of resumés,” she said, completely pleased with herself.

“What?” her father asked.

“I said I’m sending out resumés,” she cut her sentence short hoping he would piece the words together easily. He gave a warm smile, gave her a pat on the back and went back to reading his newspaper. She shrugged it off but when she received a job offer the next week, her parents were taken aback. To every explanation she gave, she received an even bolder What?

The job she accepted was a writing post in a local magazine. Her boss told her that she wrote exceptionally well but he asked, “Why don’t you ever speak up?” Then he turned around and left, her lip quivering in silence. So she became that one employee who never spoke, never said hello or goodbye or thank you or sorry, that one employee who had no manners.

She moved out of her parents’ house and rented a small but quaint apartment that was closer to work. She would visit them every month and every month, she would catch her mother unabashedly changing her clothes, adding a little too much rum in her Rum ’n Coke, or her father scratching an itch underneath his belt buckle, taking out an inexplicably large wad of cash from a safe box, looking at pictures of pretty girls on the internet. On Christmas Eve, she went over to their place, her old home, and rang the doorbell almost 21 times before she gave up. Her mother called the next day asking why she wasn’t there for the dinner party.

“But I was,” she said. “I rang the doorbell so many times and left because I thought you went out.”

“Hello? Sweetheart, is something wrong? Why won’t you answer me?”

The phone dropped from her face. Life was at a standstill and suddenly she was struck by lightning. It occurred to her that she was disappearing, turning into a simmering heap of ashes. She stepped outside of the apartment building and waited for a wind to pick her up and carry her away. She thought, no one will ever know.

And life went on without her.

And as for me, I didn’t know her, didn’t even know her first name. Yet, as my fingers urgently race across the keys, she comes back in flashes of memories. I hear her voice, I think that’s her voice, when they say What?


I’ve been repeating myself a lot lately. Could be I’m not loud enough, could be everyone else is deaf.

And then I thought, what if this wasn’t just about my voice? What would happen if you slowly disappeared out of other people’s senses? What if it was more than voice but actually you that disappears?

4

Tiny Things

I knew a man who was a traveling salesman by day and made furniture by night.

He discovered his aptitude for making furniture not long after he’d heard of an alternate reality that one could access through electronic signals in the brain that would transmit from one person to the next. His dream was to be an artist but that was years ago. Now he was a traveling salesman, at least he was constantly distracted.

When he’d come home from work, he’d ask me if I wanted to play later that evening and I always said yes. Part of it was that I genuinely wanted to spend time with him, but the bigger part of it was that I felt bad that his plans didn’t work out and that he lost everything. But that was years ago.

At first, we only had our heads to map out the life we were living outside. And then I died somewhere along the way and we stopped playing for a while until about a month later, he asked if I wanted to play later on in the evening and I said yes. He gave me new papers, a new identity to start my new life and paper and pen to keep track of it. I was careful this time not to die.

There was something different about this alternate reality, it was fresher, more crisp and the air somehow tasted sweeter. I noticed before we started playing that there were bits and pieces of scrap paper strewn across the floor, on his bed, on the table pushed to the farthest corner of the room. I could see him working late into the night after a frustrating day’s work, bent over that table with the lamp on, straining his eyes to the things that were in his hands. So I asked him, “What’s all this for?” And he replied with an impish smile, “I’ve been making furniture.” As if somehow that alternate world was made sweeter by the furniture we could visualize in this world.

I didn’t understand at first. He used up all his free-time to make shoe boxes full of furniture; his art didn’t cross his mind anymore. He was a man possessed, spent his pay on buying all types of paper and folding them and cutting them and gluing them until he’d made 23 barrels, 31 tables, 50 chairs, a stable, a fountain, a couple of gallows, 2 chests, 10 beds, and several medieval torture devices. He ran out of space and eventually made a cardboard shelf where he could put his paper, pens, glue, manuals and other supplies.

One night around 2 o’clock, as I switched off the lights to go to bed, I noticed a sliver of light emanating from the cracks of his bedroom door. I craned my ear to listen and I could hear very loudly his tired snores that stood in for audible do-not-disturb signs. I shrugged it off and went to bed. I assumed for the next few days that the light must have come from his laptop screen which he’d leave on sometimes when he couldn’t sleep but about a week later I heard the faint rustle of paper around 3 in the morning accompanied by the usual snoring. I tiptoed to his bedroom door and gently tried to push it open but it wouldn’t budge. By then the rustling stopped and the sound of his snores filled the night air once more.

The next morning, I asked him if he could leave his door unlocked before he went to bed. “Why?” he asked. “I hear noises coming from your room at night,” I said. He said no and left for work.

I waited that night for his snores but never heard them. Then just at the break of dawn I heard a psst and saw his head bobbing in mid-air between the door and the door-frame. “Hey,” he whispered excitedly, “Come quick, sleepyhead.” And I got up struggling to open my eyes, still breathing heavily, half asleep. I went into his room and immediately snuggled up to the pillows and the blanket. I was jolted upright when he said I was right and he then proceeded onto recollecting the events of the night. He said that as soon as he was starting to fall asleep, he heard the rustling of papers in the far corner of the room and flashed his phone light to see the source of the noise. There was nothing at first but when he readied himself the third time, he drew his phone out quick as lightning and saw a tiny creature with large dark eyes staring back at him. It stood as tall as his thumb and jammed between its tiny limbs were chits of cut up paper and a tiny chair. In the blink of an eye it scurried off into his closet and disappeared. He told me he rummaged through his shoe boxes and counted all the pieces of furniture he had made so far. Evidently there were chairs, tables and beds missing.

He left the shoeboxes open in the middle of his bedroom floor that night and waited inside his blanket, phone at the ready. The next morning he told me they were all gone, everything he’d made and so he worked hard for the next few weeks to make new furniture; bookshelves, door-frames, small cabins and castles and stone walls. And these too disappeared before he was ready to lure the creature out again.

I asked him one evening if he wanted to play but the dark circles under his eyes were answer enough. He was a shell of a man possessed.

Then one night at around 3 in the morning, whispers filled the air and I heard the scuttling of a thousand tiny feet. I banged on his bedroom door and the noises stopped. He opened the door and irritably asked, “What?” I looked past him but there was nothing there, no sign of the whispers or the scuttling I had just heard before. “Nothing,” I said and went back to bed.

I woke up well past noon the next day because the noises were replaying echoes in my thoughts. I could feel the electronic music playing in his room with the thump-thump-thump of the bass resonating in the walls. I walked in and found him painting on a large canvas. He didn’t see me as he was facing the back wall but I saw what he painted; his brushstrokes were harsh and heavy, his wrist twitched frantically from side-to-side and his hands were covered in a conglomeration of blacks, reds, purples and greens, dripping thick liquid on the floor. For the next year he painted. When he got home, he painted well past midnight and in the morning he’d drink his three shots of espresso and leave for work.

My brother moved out eventually. Some millionaire in Europe saw one of his paintings and offered him a chance at fame and fortune. And I moved out shortly after but I will never forget the last day. I packed all my things and stuffed them in the back of a truck, I came back to return the house keys and as I closed the door, I heard the faint rustling of paper and a whisper:

“Farewell.”


Inspired by my brother Andrew who is sort of a traveling salesman for now and who likes to make tiny furniture for our future D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) adventures.