An old friend.

Young Adult Old Soul Writing Magic Realism
Art by Lamiaa Ameen

Athens glanced at her and found she was smiling serenely at the setting sun.

But there was something else in her gaze too: a kind of wisdom, a gentle sadness. She looked at the sun the way you would an old friend who was going somewhere you could not follow. It was a bittersweet emotion and she embraced it wholeheartedly; unafraid to open her arms to the underlying suffering, welcoming the sadness as she did all the sweetness.

He inhaled deeply the scent of the sea. Then with little hesitation bid farewell to the dying sun. And he felt, for one split second, that he understood.

Though he could not put it into words if he tried, for one fraction of that moment in time, light coursed through his pained body, illuminating every single crack, every hidden part of him he had forgotten about…and he understood. He saw himself truly, as he was.

The feeling filled him to the brim, overflowing from his eyes. He could not explain what it was he understood, but he knew that he did and would counter anyone’s logical arguments —including his own— because he knew. Because nothing could feel truer than what he was feeling; he had never been so certain of anything in all his life. He had accepted the truth of life, had timidly embraced the duality of good and bad, and the truth had opened to him. Because he had opened to it.

And how he understood. Everything, all of it, nothing at all. He understood all there was and all there was not as one breath-taking, ever-expanding, nameless entity.

Yes, he understood it all, a breathy voice whispered to him. He understood the world, the moon, the sun, the stars, the gateway to the universe in his own body !

Yet, when he turned to look at her he understood one truth only : that he did not understand her.

26.07.2015 00:51


Note : Guess who’s been digging up old journals? Yup. This is from the most complete piece of fiction I’ve written in my life so far, all hand-written on a notebook, spanning about 52 pages and still incomplete. They were my first real characters too! I spent so much time looking for the names and didn’t even get to a point in the story where I could introduce hers lol. I am so fond of this, however much it may not have aged well.

Sun-stained hands

“And it’s not easy— never—the only way to sun-stained hands is to grab the light yourself and never let it go.”

handstarunknown
Art by: Unknown

Sun-stained fingers delicately prying open darkened, charred ribs.

Hearts can become such messes, you know.

Clogged with ash, unmoving, hard, cutting like the surface of a mountain.

“Can you even imagine,” she said, “that this used to be young and tender? That it rushed and skipped, halted and leaped.”

Now, it is just a heap of ash.

“Even so,” he says, “you manage.”

“You take a little bit of light everyday, and…”

And it looked so easy for him. Bright, sunny as he was. All golden skin, sun-lightened hair.

“And it’s not easy— never—the only way to sun-stained hands is to grab the light yourself and never let it go.”

No matter the keenness of the burn, the sharpness of the sting. Grab the light and never let it go. Because this burn, it is the burn of alcohol on fresh wounds. It burns because it heals. It burns because it takes away the things that have slipped inside, so tightly enmeshed in parts of yourself.

 

 

Interludes with Death

“It happens at twilight, always.
That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.”

ottoschmidt
Art by: Otto Schmidt

It happens at twilight, always.

That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.

“No!” protests Life sharply, “You have taken so many already, just today too, you have spread so much agony.”

“No, I will be the guardian of her soul.” Life says tenderly, “She is lost and tired and I shall make her whole.”

“And you?” seethes Death, “How many have you brought into this world today? How many souls have you sowed for me to reap?”

“No, she is tired and would rather not awake. I will take her soul and give her rest.” Death murmurs, and behind his hard gaze lies, for one moment, something soft.

“You cannot take her!” Life chirps furiously, “There is so much that she can do! So much she will be for others! You cannot remove her from—from fulfilling the truth of her own existence!” Life advances, comes in between her sleeping body and Death.

“What kind of truth is worth this much pain?! What kind of—of happiness is worth it?!” Death roars, and for one split second, something in Life’s brilliant gaze wavers.

Death approaches her but Life stands as a barricade between them. Yet, with a gentle shove, Life is quietly standing on the sides, watching as Death’s firm hands sift through her hair, her fitful dreams.

“Release her, give her back to me. She did not know pain when she was with me, before you took her away.” Death accuses.

“Nor did she know happiness at your side! She did not even know herself!” cries Life viciously, yet not making any move to push Death away from the innocence of her sleeping face.

Ignoring Life, Death recalls:

“She was weightless with me. She knew nothing: no darkness, no pain, no sadness, no anxiety, no hunger. She floated like mist, and went about existing in the purest form, in the most neutral way. She was a star, luminescent, such beautiful energy…

“And now!” Death sneers, spinning to face Life in a flash of fury, face now ugly and contorted in rage.

“Now look what you’ve made of her! You have marred her! Sullied her!” Death accuses.

“What should I have done then?!” Life cries “Leave her to you until the ends of Time, and never let her truth unravel? Never let her see the very light she is made out of?

“But you’ve never known that, have you?” Life silently accuses, something cold gleaming in usually warm eyes, “You’ve never seen her when she laughs or cries, when she sits there, grateful for another day. You’ve never seen her ties with Fate, never, never—”

Death is quiet, thinking of those things he cannot understand, and a certain frustration gains him then.

“But I know them and know she would rather be made to laugh in earnest again.” Life looks at Death, pleading.

“Let her, let her,” Life begs, chirpy voice now even more high-pitched as tears threaten to spill. “You will take her anyway, and I will never again look upon her.” says Life, although there is no bitterness in that voice;  Life has long since accepted that it will always hurt, that Life will always lose over those most cherished souls to Death.

It is all too quietly that Life speaks: “Let her, for her sake and mine, if you care for that life half as much as I do, let her live.”

Something flashes in Death’s light eyes at the sight of her, at Life’s words. There is inner turmoil boiling in Death’s eyes, and for a moment, Death is at war with his own self. His selfish desire to have her at his side again, but the need to protect that life that had existed so purely before… And her truth, her happiness, her ties with Destiny he knew nothing of, except that it made for more luminous souls, souls that lasted into the universe.

Finally, Death huffs in resignation, clicking his tongue at Life in annoyance.

“Fool. I care for that life more than you do; I was there when it formed.” Death sends a final, longing glance at her, not trusting himself to touch her, lest he glanced again through those nightmares, and decided to take her away.

Ruffling Life’s light-coloured hair, Death turns his back with whispered words.

“I will be back for her.”

And in a fog of grey, he disappears.

29.09.15

 

Bridges of Time

“‘My heart’s hanging back and my brain is looking ahead and I don’t know where that leaves me. If it even leaves any of me.'”

unknown
Art by: Artist Unknown

“Every now and then,” he confessed “I wish that the past didn’t exist. That I’d emerge into now from the shadows, not caring where I came from. Because what’s the point of having this moment, living in the present, if I can’t stop reliving the past, you know?” He sought out her gaze, searching for understanding.

“I can’t—I can’t be in two places at once” he offered, tentatively.

“My heart’s hanging back and my brain is looking ahead and I don’t know where that leaves me. If it even leaves any of me.”

“Yeah, but look at it that way too,” she finally said “the past is a bridge to the present, and the present is a bridge to the future. If you didn’t have a past, you wouldn’t have a present you know? The past may have been terrible, but it brought you to here, to now, at least. If nothing else, it did this much. It doesn’t make the situation any better, the past is still like an invasive plant species, crawling onto the present, but…”

“—but it gives perspective?”

“But it gives perspective.” she smiled, “It draws out the bitterness a bit, replaces it with thanks.”

But Gone Before Them (2/2)

pilar-zeta-from-falling-in-love-with-the-dark-side-of-the-universe-2011
Art by: Pilar Zeta

And then we parted.

There was no choice. We had to. Being thrown to Earth, it stripped us of knowledge. I was just a word. And there was no reason to think I was once part of a greater thing, dare I say, a sentence. Let alone an entire universe. Even now, it is blurry. A sound I hear far, far away, the way light seems unreachable when you are deep beneath the ground.

That became all that was left of you: an echo that might not exist. But I feel you somewhere still. I know this because I am whole, and yet I feel an emptiness. The say the heart is an organ quite like the stomach, you know. It stretches to fit your hunger and whatever you put into it. But some hearts, I’ve seen, only know how to grow bigger. They never seem to know what to do with the empty space left behind. They do not know how to shrink, have never learnt to. And it is in this place that you live.

And ah, have I mentioned: we may never meet.

But I will always know. I don’t remember much. Not your face, not your voice, your eyes. Everything has been stripped from my knowledge. Save for the most important bit: you exist. And lately, I’ve been thinking.

I have a theory.

You might have split, travelling to Earth.

You might exist in more than one body, in a way. What I’m trying to say is that there might be pieces of you left in many people. Knowing you, it was probably intentional. You have always been a fool, with too little brains and too much heart. You saw how the others were struggling. And you gave them a part of yourself. And again, until there was more of you in other people than there was in you.

It makes sense. The emptiness makes sense, too. I’m talking to versions of you, pieces. Never the whole thing at once. I am a whole and you a fractured mess. And yet one I love dearly. You exist in every person I love. And the world might tell me that soulmates come in pairs, but I find you, every so often,when life is kind, in people with warm eyes and goofy laughs. People who have picked up on your little habit of teaching me things.

If you were a word before, then now you have dispersed into letters. Letters that I keep finding in people Life sends my way. Right now, I am trying to rearrange them so I can know your name. So that, finally, I can know what my own means, too.


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Note: When conceptualising the idea of a calling, of the emptiness of not having found it (yet), I do not usually make that calling a person. It’s usually something like a book or a passion as yet undiscovered. But I wanted to try my hand at the opposite for a change. So there it is, my take on ‘soulmates’. I don’t write a whole lot about romantic love either. So this attempt is also me trying to do that. In the hopes it wasn’t cheesy >.< 

The Wanderer’s New Year (Short Story)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

the_name_of_the_wind_by_marcsimonetti
Art by: Marc Simonetti (Cover for the french version of ‘The Name of the Wind’)

“Hush,” he whispered to his mare, the gentle and now weary Céleste. “Easy now, Céleste.”

He brushed through her mane soothingly and in an easy movement slipped off her.

Night surrounded them on top of the hill they had climbed, millions of small stars blinking down at them. Céleste gave a proud grunt. She liked the night, it looked just like her coat of black speckled with white all over.

The sound of something being fired pierced through the silence and soon, bright sparks of red and gold formed patterns in the sky.

The small town below them was illuminated far more than normal towns usually were and in the distance, it seemed to him like an ant colony: busy, bustling, full of energy. Another few rockets exploded in the night, showering the town in streaks of pink and green lights.

“So it is already that time,” he murmured to himself “Already a year…searching, seeking out the road that promises no destination.”

“A year spent wandering,” he mused, “and what for?…Purpose? Meaning?” He sighed and looked back down the way from which he had emerged.

His eyes and voice were wistful as he spoke to no one in particular.

“But there is no place for me there. Not anymore; perhaps there never was. And so now to the road do I belong, and Time,” he looked at the bursting fireworks more intently now “does not matter here. Only the road matters. I will either reach the stars above or die on the road. I am on a journey that has perhaps no end, and yet I cannot stop. I cannot stop because it is better to wander unknowingly than to stay somewhere you do not belong.”

He stood still, watching the displays of lights and sounds with a profound sadness that only grew deeper at the sounds of loud cheers and lively music.

He remained like this a long while.

And then, as though he’d had enough, he pulled the ample hood of his long cloak back on, and Céleste’s reins in hand, marched forth into the darkness.

Zara With The Beautiful Hair

longhair
Art by: Unknown Artist

Zara has beautiful hair, as black and heavy as the night.

It is a black so intense that it should not gleam, should not reflect any light, and yet it does. People are in awe of Zara’s hair. There’s always that split second when eyes unconsciously shift to the sheer mass of curls and waves that is her hair. It mostly happens when she takes it out of her bun, and there’s that sudden explosion, like water bursting through a dam, and her hair cascades down her back in ripples, reaching past her hips. It reminds you of something powerful, like Nature reclaiming its rights, in a way. And it all makes her so mysterious, so startling.

She has always been beautiful, in a way the world never failed to notice. High cheekbones, brilliant dark eyes and a sharp tongue. The kind of person you try hard to impress. But people also tell Zara she should do something with her hair. Dye it, layer it, straighten it. But Zara never does. In the most unpretentious way, and yet with a hint of pride, she knows she is beautiful. She does not need to change. Zara is that girl you notice, but more importantly, she is that girl you remember.

Fast-forward a few years, marriage, 2 pregnancies and the drudgery of working an 8 to 5 at the department store have stolen her youth from her. The prominent cheekbones are now a little lost in the pudginess of her face, gained from pregnancy and idleness. The sharp light in her eyes has also dimmed. Zara wanted the dream life, lots of money and lots of travel. But Zara also dreamed of Prince Charming, found him in a humble repairman and occasionally in one of the buff guys on TV.

Zara is not the same person you remember from 5 years ago—dazzling, intimidatingly beautiful. Zara is the person who works the cash register with a weary smile. But ah, Zara is still Zara with the beautiful hair. People, even now, are not aware that they stare. But Zara knows, Zara has always known. She is Zara with the beautiful hair, and the world will notice her, the world will remember her. Even when she is old and grey, and her hair has all but gone, she will always be Zara. The kind of person too beautiful to approach, too mysterious even until the very end.

A Tale of the Desert

“Land is the kingdom of man. And yet there is no king in the desert save for nature itself. Where man intends to stab a flag and build castles, the desert swallows his pride in storms and blows away his fortresses as though they truly were made of sand, a child’s construction.”

wallup.net

We cleared out the garden today, the one on the rooftop. I hadn’t cared much for it before, except for the nights I’d needed to get away and had needed to mind my step.

I was on dirt duty, having to sweep away the mess of a garden unkempt for so long. There were heaps of very fine dust that had accumulated into dunes almost everywhere, most of all the corners. I hadn’t known dirt could shine so prettily in the sun, like gold dust or bits of precious stones. The sun beat down on my neck as I swept the dust away, sweat already glistening on my forehead.And suddenly, like a child, the mundane chore turned into an adventure. I was in the desert.

Often, people who have spent extended periods of time in the heat and utter isolation of the dunes, they cannot describe it. And yet, it is within human nature to always try. There is nothing like the desert, they say. Nothing like this overpowering nothingness, this capricious nature that will soothe as it will kill. They say it is a world of its own, a planet distant from Earth. The desert, if it were comparable to one thing, it would be the ocean. But even then, the desert is not like the seas. Land is the kingdom of man. And yet there is no king in the desert save for nature itself. Where man intends to stab a flag and build castles, the desert swallows his pride in storms and blows away his fortresses as though they truly were made of sand, a child’s construction.

I imagined the desert was lonely. So vast, so empty, yet brimming with restless energy.

The desert was once human, I thought as I swept away. She was a young human of learning and knowledge who yearned to make beautiful things. As the gods did.

She voyaged nights and days, sacrificing years and the quiet happiness of selling books and maintaining a garden. She went east and west and wherever the road would take her, on a pilgrimage that lasted many years. No one in her village had heard of her in a long time. They spoke of her, on those long, cold nights when they all gathered around the meat cooking over a crackling fire. The children delighted in the stories, quiet wonder gleaming in their eyes.

Unassuming during all her youth, save for her brilliance and crafty spirit, she was a gentle soul. Her parents had died shortly after she had come of age. After that loss, there was something that shone sharply in her eyes. A fire greater than the one that had claimed her parents. A fire greater than they could ever extinguish.

Then one day, she went to the chief’s house, a bag brimming with scrolls and books slung across her shoulder. She emerged, painted in the colours of their people, red and azure dotting her forehead and cheeks. Her hair was braided in intricate knots only the old mother remembered.

She went, as though a conqueror.

As plain as she had once been, she was beautiful now. The hazel of her eyes burning against the dark brown of her sun-marked skin. And after that, she was never seen again, the old man would tell the children huddled around the fire.

Yet, unbeknownst to them, she reached. She reached where she needed to be.

And she roared. Roared and roared her anger. Years, years of research only to be shunned at the doors of the heavenly light. Deep marks covered her face now. The sun had eaten away at her youth, her beauty. Her fingers threatened to pull out her black hair (browned at the tips now, what would be a sign of ugliness in her village) as the acrid tears fell.

“Why would you deny me light?!” she cried, and in that moment, she was young and tender again. Wounded. A girl with no parents, not anymore. A girl with a dream to be a god. To heal others, to heal herself. To give light and beauty when there was darkness. The same darkness that had once overpowered her, stricken her from the inside all those years ago.

“Let me be light!” she roared and cried and tugged at her hair, “Let me be light!”

But when they did not grant her wish, when her years, her knowledge, her beauty had been sacrificed for nothing, she raged. If you will not let me be light, I will be the world instead. If I cannot shed light to the world, I will become the world, I will decide its fate instead.

So with her knowledge, she summoned an old demon, sly and willing.

“Let me be the world.” she had asked.

The demon narrowed his yellow eyes. “I do not have the power. I cannot make you into the world when you have not walked all its lengths nor climbed all its heights.”

“Then,” she thought, that quick, beautiful mind spinning, “make me into the world of here. Give me this land here, that I have walked for all my life, from the north to the south, from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

“Very well.” the demon had smiled.

And for that wish, he took all of her.

The desert now, is her. Oases are said to be the places she could not visit or the places she held too dear. Her old village now was dust and bones.  But she always protected the sons and daughters of her people. Although now, she had lost so much of herself she could not remember why she did so.

That is the desert: vast, lonely, capricious.

A desert that does not understand itself, but rages at an old wound that cannot be remembered.


Note: Day 1 of  (sortof) NaNoWriMo

 

The Seamstress and the Sea

“Even the fish are trapped in a photograph, stuck in a time loop, in the moment before —before the adrenaline pumps, before life happens. And now, here they are. Trapped in a photograph forever, weighed down by dust bunnies.”

I went to the seamstress’s workshop today, wearing the patterned dress I wear too much already. But it’s navy blue and speckled with peach ship wheels and tan sailboats. And as though in the most perfect of worlds, even the golden zipper looks like a coral formation. I meandered away into the city, watched everyone else live their lives for a moment, reaching the quieter alleyways until, there it was, the workshop. Tucked away in a more obscure part of town, slotted in between houses coated in a film of smog.

It is not, by any means, a cheery workshop. Rolls of fabric leaning against the dull, not-so-white walls, cutoffs and stray threads discarded in heaps on the grimy tiled floor. Everything —the old, broken down sewing machines, the boxes and power outlets, even the water bottle— looks worse for wear.

Everything is so stagnant; it looks as though nothing has really moved in years. In my sleep-deprived state, I can almost visualise throwing the bottle in the air and the water not moving one bit. Even more painful to watch? The large A3 photograph that must once have been a bit beautiful. It’s all blue waters and yellow fish trying to break the surface, to emerge in a dazzling spray of ocean water into the blueness of the sky. But even that is frozen. Even the fish are trapped in a photograph, stuck in a time loop, in the moment before —before the adrenaline pumps, before life happens. And now, here they are. Trapped in a photograph forever, weighed down by dust bunnies.

It’s the kind of place you hate as a kid.

Because Time stands still, nothing moves, not even a wave of the imagination. But now, now that I am this…this adult who fears the passing of time…I don’t hate it. It feels like a saving point in a video game, like a place where nothing ever happens, where you could stay for a long while, knowing that you’ll be safe from the world, knowing that nothing will touch you. Maybe that’s why people choose lives like these. It’s unmoving, it’s safe.

But her, the seamstress, she’s not like that. She wears colours, purples and reds and oranges, and bangles that clink when she moves. She shows off gleaming dark ebony skin, her rotund arms and shoulders gleaming under the artificial light. There is just something about her. Maybe it is that she is young, probably around 27.

She isn’t done with the dress yet, which should have been done yesterday. So now, I have to wait.

I sit down on a stool, not-so-white and worn around the edges. It feels out of time. As though the curse of slow time and unmovingness was befalling me too. The sailboats and ship wheels on my dress are no longer moving. I am, after all, stagnant. So I tap my foot against the tile to keep the curse at bay, to prevent the dust from settling on me. Else I feel like I will be here forever, like her.

I watch her work from the corner of my eye — drat you, shyness— taken in a little by the whirring of the machine, the repetitive stabbing of the needle into the plum rose of my mother’s dress.

She must have a life, a brilliant (also, rude) part of my brain offers. She has already mentioned a mother. Perhaps she’s here because she’s waiting. Because she has to be safe for a while. Perhaps she’s waiting for someone, a fiancé who is a sailor (could that explain the photograph?) who is far away, burning under the sun, salt drying on his skin. Maybe she has plans to leave it all behind, this cursed workshop, the mountains of dust and cloth and disappear one day. Only, I would never know she was out, living in a coastal town in some other, faraway country, watching seabirds and ships, sewing uniforms and selling flowers on the side, smiling as she sees the ship bringing him back home.

But I’ll never know for sure, because I never ask.

It may all well be a lie. Maybe she will stay here forever. Maybe that’s why I don’t ask.

But now the dress is done and I’m still a bit of a child after all, so I run away, the dress and the sailboats and ship wheels fluttering in the wind.

 

 

 

Healing

“”Now, when you are happy, you do not say: ‘Ah, I can die in peace now.’—you ask for a little Time, for ‘5 more minutes of this, please.'” “

zipcyart.jpg
Art by by 집시 

“Do you know how I knew you were healing?” he asked quietly.

“Now, when you are happy, you do not say: ‘Ah, I can die in peace now.’—you ask for a little Time, for ‘5 more minutes of this, please.'” 

“And I,” he took in a shaky breath “am so grateful for it.”