Here are some samples of published and upcoming books

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 [samples for Beyond the Further Sea]  (for each character's entries in the journal)


FELICIA

-Autumn       2015-

Autumn’s leaves tumble and fall

When I try to grasp them all

Words and sentiments fade away

Except when you arrive to stay

Will nothing savor my hints and wisps

When the fog blinds and binds my own mists?

        Pushed aside perhaps not the same

        It’s not my fault I wasn’t told how to play the game

        That was made up long, long ago

        And continues to persist into the unknown

Sky shimmering with stars

Glimmers in eyes that were once ours

Pain that breaks as we stumble and fall

Tears that sweep away, vision and all

        Books may help me to understand my plight

        But hearing all the same things won’t help me fight

I’d rather know of an ethereal delight

That can sweep me away to my dreams at night

        Did you know that I can hear your thoughts?

        Sometimes when I rest awake during the day

        Because I knew you too well and still do, though distraught,

        I know you too well, more than me, so they say

The sky is kind and full of stars

I wonder which ones will be ours

But maybe they’re waiting in a tiny spot

That has yet to be filled by our soul’s dot

        Time wanders farther and farther away

        Until tomorrow is no longer today

        Tumbling, tossing and turning into the distant sea

        That swallows itself up endlessly

If time were its own dictator

And we the scribes of our lives

I wonder how natural events would differ

And how greatly our choices would thrive

        I don’t have a choice

        At least none left I see

        No one hears my voice

        And that’s just fine with me






JASON



4 pages about life

I have to say definitely that my days have been much more eventful lately. And that’s really an inconvenience for me. Four incidents speak out to me the most over this past week, so I will focus on each of those for a while. To say everything all at once in chronological order is maddening.

The first is I decided to skip school for a day—just to clear my head a bit of everything I had just processed in talking with Charlotte (You know, the day I “kidnapped” her). She didn’t admit all her pain, but she relaxed a bit after reading the notebook and talking a bit about our awful lives. An autumn tree holding on to its leaves instead of woefully allowing them to fall. She received a call from her parents just before my dad was about to come home from work at the refinery, so I promised to take her home safe—and she reciprocated by promising me that she’d be safe and not do anything to harm herself. I saw her at school the next day, and all the student body practically fainted and/or burst into tears at her miraculous revival. Somehow, the beaming smile upon her face, as though she were being jumped by adorable puppies that loved her with all their soul—brimmed and ignited a strange, new feeling in me. Like the dormant volcano of a heart I possessed burst free and lava coursed through my veins again, granting me life. Feeling. Care. If they loved her and wished for her safety just as much as I did…        maybe people aren’t so bad, after all.

But the day after, I skipped school—not because I was sick or because I was confused about why boys could smile just as widely as girls. No. I returned to my abysmal house after school—alone—to nothing but the smoke petals again, and after fixing myself something so stupid I don’t even remember (probably spaghetti O’s or something), I flopped on the couch. Instead of turning on the TV like I usually do, my hand swiped the journal mindlessly, and my thoughts didn’t quite process why I was so instinctually drawn to the journal all the sudden. I didn’t have anything to write in it then (except maybe the first paragraphs of this, but I waited until now), so I settled for progressively skimming the book. Cover to cover.

I’d never actually devoted myself to reading the entire notebook so far all the way through. After all, it still had (and still has) quite a few blank pages—especially toward the end—so I didn’t see the point in reading something that wasn’t even finished. I just hopped from entry to entry, flipping to random pages each time I had something to say, and found a blank space for me to put something. Sometimes blank spaces were hidden among already prescribed entries. Sometimes I’d return to the entries I’d previously written—and I did then, of course, cross over some of mine—and I always found them so infantile and stupid. Why did I even write in here? There were so many occasions I wanted to rip my pages out or scribble over them until they turned black as the night and unidentifiable. But I never did. Something stopped me.

By the time night fell and my eyes could hardly process anything more than light or darkness, I landed on a blank page, and I was fully raptured with relief. I could finally go to sleep. I didn’t even bother to wash the one bowl I had used or the saucepan. I was so exhausted that I was sure I’d collapse before I even hit the stairs. I had no idea why I was so tired, either; it wasn’t even past 10, and a night owl like me usually stalked the house like a vampire or drooling zombie at least until 2am. But I was sure all my life had been drained from me after reading that stupid book. Before my head hit the pillow, I joked to myself that the book is haunted and drained all my being as I blindly read it.

But that wasn’t the case. I fell straight to sleep even without a wink of knowledge I was plunging into nightmares. Screaming, reaching, longing, darkness, shadows, and misery. As soon as morning’s light and my stupid alarm clock snapped me awake into a sudden day, my eyes poured with tears. I wasn’t even actively crying; it felt like my eyes lived of their own accord and had sprung a leak that was impossible to fix. My throat wasn’t clenched, my breathing was steady, and my heart wasn’t even aware of the damage. But that all changed soon enough. Now you see why I couldn’t go to school.

Desperately, I flung myself through the watery grave of my room and locked the door, flopping myself back into bed as though it were my bunker. My eyes didn’t stop flooding for a good hour. The entire time, I pondered how it was even possible—how such a thing could even happen. I even attempted to pinch and even punch myself in case it was still a nightmare.

It wasn’t. I learned later that the book had indeed possessed me…in a manner I never believed possible. I was exhausted because I had been feeding off their emotions. The nightmares twisted and tumbled in my sleep because of all their ideas fed and suppressed in me. The next morning was just the icing on the cake. The tears of troubled teens who never had a chance to cry. It disgusted me. Surprised me. Confused me. My dad never knew because he’s never at home. I didn’t even call in to school because who cares? I was lost. Lost in a void of questions and no real answers other than: well, it’s empathy!

I really hate myself sometimes. Just the way I am, I mean.






REBECCA



Now I’m over here. Maybe it’s me that’s taking all the pages. Or no—they stole them from me and made me skip the pages myself so that I’d look like the fool. But no one would know.

            I’m scared.

 

The leaves have started to turn brown. Then yellow. Then orange. Then red.

            Some trees are all these colors, but some of them decide to stay green. I wonder if they do that on purpose or if the tree doesn’t really get to decide. I wonder if they’re happy with the way they turn out. It seems like no one believes in being content anymore.  I don’t mind, I guess. I think all the trees look nice.

            Even if they don’t get to decide. Some are half green and half red—the opposites, and they look pretty with their split colors

 

split

mind              

I hope tomorrow is a nice, cool day, too. It’s nice when I can sit outside. When it’s OK to sit outside. Sometime it isn’t because there are other people outside. I don’t like other people. Especially strangers.

            They’re all conspiring to kill you.  A sitting duck.        An easy target

Dreaming of ways to defy your innocence no one can be trusted         NO ONE

What about you? Oh, that’s a dumb question.

            The squirrels are cute. I hardly ever get to see them up close—especially because they run away from me. I’d be the same way, though. I wish I could have a pet, but they say I’m not allowed to have a pet. I don’t know why. I wouldn’t hurt it. I just want to watch it and have Mom and Dad feed it for me. I could try feeding it sometimes, too, though. Right?

            It’s helpless like you

Lazy days like this make me less sleepy. I wonder why.

 

            2           9          5-         3          0

It sounds like a prison number.                    I WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE A PRISON

I don’t like the new code thing. I guess they won’t give us as much money as they did. I don’t really know why I was getting money anyway. Maybe they feel sorry for us.

            Or maybe it’s because I spent too much as a kid.

            I just need to learn to be content. I’m OK now. I have the split trees with pretty leaves to look at.





AUDREY



My time has been dutifully preoccupied by a book named Walden lately. It’s very interesting. The thought of nestling away in the woods and building a little cottage out of one’s own courage and the forest’s resources sounds charming, and I’d really like to have an adventure like that now. If I weren’t trapped underground.

The dust is steadily getting worse outside the dome. No one can leave or else their lungs get cluttered with black fog. One scientist that managed to survive described it clearly as “it was like bugs were swarming inside me without end. Until my life were taken away.” It terrifies me. I hope we can get those cucumbers and pears to grow soon. I’m more scared than I have ever been.

But the book. I can imagine the shimmering lake, like all the others I’ve cherished that reflect the clear, blue sky. The sky that is no longer. And the lush forests—ripe with green and bursting with leaves. If only. And even the dusty paths-the stone fences, the cobblestone. The bricks in houses and the wildlife. I miss the wildlife. I loved watching the squirrels hop to and fro. They had the most innocent faces every time they’d catch glimpse of my eyes. A sense of rich curiosity mixed with innate prudency at any movement of mine. It’s as though they wanted so badly to strike up a conversation with me—but they knew I’d never understand a word they’d say. I wrote about them every chance I got in middle school. It bothered my teachers a little—to the point where they believed I was stifling my creativity and insisted I pick another subject.

I miss those days. Now, they seem like only a fabrication. Another world I dreamed up to escape this one. Which one was more true, I wonder?






(Unnamed Boy)


OCTOBER

I can stop time in a book, too. I remember that now. This and I can go back and they’ll be there again. Strange.

I can remember the things that are left here and the things I have written, but everything else is a blur sometimes.

A tired universe where certain concepts and memories just disappear into black holes.

Or blow up like stars. Or get covered like eclipses. Or just fade away—far, far away. Too far to reach or to see.

 

They got mad at me today for sneaking outside. I knew that Marlyn would find me. She’s been watching over me for a long time now, and she tends to know what I’m thinking. But not all the time. She got worried for me—tears slid down her face. But when I tried to explain myself, she fumed at me. Although her face was soaked, it was still burning red. I didn’t think that was possible. I’ve never seen her like that before—I think—and it scared me. Because I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. I’m used to her insisting that I call her by her full name, though. I just like the shortened name.

So now I’m locked back inside my room. Full of white blankness and screams that are inhibited by the tightly-shut door and the thick walls.

It’s been three days now. And I’m so tired of the color white. I didn’t think I could be so sick of it, but it’s really pestering me.

Boring.         Plain.            White.           It’s all I’ve ever known or seen. It’s my first memory that won’t ever go away because it’s all I’ll ever see until everything turns dark and I forget it all.

White.           Walls.            White            ceiling.         White            floors                                    white             EVERYTHING                       even the robes now

I hate it

                        I banged on the door today                 nonstop until someone came to stop me                It was someone else besides Marlyn. I don’t remember his name.             I think it started with a “B” or maybe a “D.” lots of names start that way.                                Charlotte always said that “A” names are rare because they’re the “elite” and “C” names are just average like grades in school.                 But then we couldn’t figure out why she understood school grading systems because we’ve never been to school.         She shrugged and said                                   “My mom told me about school.”

Then we wondered why she had a mom because                       she was …                          I don’t remember                                     Who’s we? Me and…other kids?

                        Anyway…                                                                                                                                                    Why did I remember that just now?

                                                                        That B or D kid gave me some paints because I asked him too much it drove him crazy and he just wanted to give me something. He seemed nicer than the others. Maybe he’s new and that’s why I don’t recognize him.

I was so happy to have paints. I had to paint. So I painted everything.                           Emptied the paint tubes on my hands and the rags and

slathered color all over the walls                                                    making them something                       other than “white”

                        colorful                               something                                                   not exactly pretty though                                            actually

it scares me now              I stood there alone for a while to reflect on what I did…

                                                the B             (Brendan?)  kid came back fast, though                 because he realized he didn’t give me any paper








 [Sample for The Elusive Francois-Marcel, my narration in the beginning chapters for the ZCN/TIES side-story]



As usual, the sunlight dims when it reaches me. My I*veenian prairie home feels so empty and so somber—like a never-ending nightmare of solitude. Did I earn this punishment? Why did I ever insist to myself that I deserved this? What is there left of me but broken dreams? All of me—all around me—broken dreams. I spent the whole morning sobbing.

Finally, I rear my ugly head from the pillow and slap sense into myself, knowing that I’ll die of starvation if I don’t eat at least something paltry for lunch. So, with a heaving sigh, I jump off the comfy bed and onto the hard, cold floor. Dejectedly, I wrap the quilt around me and let it trail and slither behind me as though it were both a tragic wedding veil and a reassuring funeral veil. With a shy grip, I click the door open to leave for the hallway. How long has it been since I’ve shut my bedroom door? I only used to when I refused for anyone to visit me—everyone would always just barge into my house. Once the white wall shifts away, a beam of light pierces my eyes, and my sight dashes away to the floor—only to catch an innocent leaf of paper resting completely still and with the most divine of patience.

Where did this come from? I don’t think anyone borrowed any of my sad excuses of SS lately. Don’t tell me FM is leaving me more notes. Oh, of course he is. With a quiet fanfare, the paper announces its purpose—once again in the dark but light and flowing script I’m so used to seeing from him. His penmanship is like music and he the conductor.

“Chère Rose, (Did that amuse you?)

Often, I have found myself pondering about you. Ah, not in a romantic way, as you may assume, yet I do admit that I am quite fond of you. I wish to explain a little better my predicament and my reason for confiding these awful truths to you.

You see… Has anyone ever told you that you have a kind heart? I understand; I can sense your sweet and accepting embrace whenever I am beside you. That is what I most adore about you. I knew from the moment my pale, lifeless eyes met yours that you—and you alone—would comprehend my tragedy. 

Ah, and so…it is with great ease—and equally as great coy delivery—that I may relay my feelings to you. I shall once again request—perhaps beg—that you look upon me fondly and not with contempt or confusion. I, still, do not comprehend the things of this world; even whether I am truly alive is an impossible fact to discern. Yet I am here, and I do hope you shall accept me and continue to understand.

Bien à toi,

François-Marcel”

What in the world is he talking about? Once again, the note is transcribed in French on the reverse side, and a small poem written in insanely microscopic print is secluded on the very bottom of the French side of the parchment. The poem is in the vicinity where I would normally sign my name and write inside jokes.

Ah, as the sweet zephyr rolls across the fields…

As the cheerful cadence of the birds rings free

Lightly, I stop and to the world my thoughts yield

To other things and wonders those do not see

 

As the ebb and flow of Nature’s heart does commence,

My soul, as well, begins to soften; I am taken in a trance

And as the world presses ever onward, without recompense

Tears flow from my eyes, and naturally, I follow its dance

 

The melody, familiar but foreign, courses through my veins

As Nature sweeps away, silently living, experiencing each day

The sun wanes, the moon waxes poetic as the wind dies again

And, empty and grave, I muse… Does the dance begin anew with me?

 

Days rolled on and on; the pain is becoming too great to bear. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see myself the way I used to be and not the way I have become. I used to be so happy and so carefree; now, all I ever experience is pain and sadness—though, it is a bittersweet experience, for my writing prevails and breathes from such hardened suffering. All that torture and depression is molded into something beautiful—like a polished gem or a plated dessert fabricated from anguish. Why is that?

I took it upon myself to do something “fun” today to ease my mood. “Fun” is a foreign word to depression, so I’m merely playacting as myself in hopes some kind of memory will spark me, dragging forth the old self from oblivion. And so, in the plainest of terms and the least poetic dialog possible: I’m making me some cookies today. It’s been forever since I’ve made cookies. That sounds stupid because I own my own business off of making cookies, and it’s true—I should have been doing my job these past months. But no. I’ve been worthless. Besides, the writer persona has an uncanny way of making a fool out of my other alter egos.

The baking process went oddly smoothly this morning, though nothing was as flamboyant as it usually is. The Baroque Baking playlist is playing softly—to the point where it sounds like the music is only in my head. And I’m not throwing things around or dancing around and yelling in my 500 different accents. It’s somber and dirgeful. It’s disgusting. It’s disgusting that I can have no emotion or care but still manage to soften my heart enough to make sure the cookies were made right and baked long enough that they actually turned out perfectly. It’s sad that monotony can produce something of beauty.

Mournfully, I place the last batch in the oven and set the oven mitt aside. Once I turn to head to the sink (which is empty now, for all the dishes had been cleaned), another note—this time propped up and standing on the counter like a stone monument—finds me in my aimless wandering. A soft sigh escapes me as I reach for it and open it as though it were a menu. As per the theme, there is a note written by his usual hand along with a poem detailed in darker writing and an emotional kind of italics.






 [Excerpt of I'll Be Waiting for You There Come Tomorrow]



 

As we fall beyond the Ember skies…into Yesterday

          The land welcomed us into its arms; we escaped into its subtly-tinted fantasy as the innocent breeze swept across the plains. Disoriented, I left the group in a crestfallen manner, though my true intentions were disguised in effort to keep any randomly concerned souls from following me. To pretend to be intrigued when I already was was a silly thing to use as a mask; I really did feel compelled to explore this world—to take in all of its wonder and to savor it gently, lingering on all the moments as though they’ll never fade away, is what flowed through me as I took to the grass and surrendered myself to its wishes. The short, verdant grasslands danced, undulating like waves, and whispered to me their secrets. They alone have stood witness to the history of this land—both intoxicatingly beautiful and heartbreakingly tragic—as they always will, in pleasant but quiet surprise.

I wish I had not asked.    

~~~

When the trees take away the melody, transforming it to a soft minstrel song with flutes and harps, a new land of fantasy encroaches. I almost can’t recognize where I am—let alone where the memories are taking me. Small shrubs spring from the ground, forming a prelude to the river that runs nearby—meandering carelessly through the foliage and beautiful flowers.

Across the brook, in a sort of make-shift island surrounded by flowers of all colors, sits a painter poised in careful thought, musing the capability of the oil paints to give life to the world around him. The land tells me that its inhabitants are welcome to all—willing to immerse you into their stories and kindness. And so I am drawn to this painter—in some way other than the usual way, also; a small feeling titillates under my nerves in less than a hint—tethering the pull into a strong rope pulling me.

            And so, scanning the area, I find two rocks perched in the midst of the brook—as though they were dropped here from the sky to their eternal place of resting here. They bubble as I hop across, denoting they are content with their stationary location. The painter still concentrates upon the easel, holding the paintbrush’s smooth handle to his lips in concentration as he dangles the brush between his fingers as though he were using it to write. As though writers, too, can make art through the boundless inspiration that surrounds them. Then, a curious glance leads his golden eyes to me; a blush descends upon my face as a smile and those golden hues—as though reflecting the light—envelop me, surrounding me in fairy dust.

            “Hello,” he says casually.

            “Hello,” I return the greeting shyly.

            “Want me to immortalize you?” he proposes, motioning toward the canvas turned slightly to the left so that only emptiness finds me.

            “I’m not sure…” The words find their way from my musings. “I’ve never been immortalized before. I am not sure if I’ve even been mortal.”

            His face oddly twists from the confidence it once held, and his golden eyes once shine with curiosity but fall in bemusement.

            Still though, I remain. “But I wouldn’t mind to try.”

            “Come. Sit.” A smile sweeps his face, and his free arm arcs again beside the square of blank—white, full, unheld.

            Not knowing what to do, I sit gently on a nearby rock that had escaped the nearby waters. Its structure is bulky, but it holds a heart of gold—and dreams hidden beneath the surface of gray. My eyes fall once again to search the area; the blades of grass, like velvet, sweep with the departing breeze, and my heart follows—follows where it may fade away and return again.

            “Stop!” the boy suddenly yells, drawing my attention to him and away from the world. “No. I wanted you to stay like that; the way you were lost in thought…it was inspiring.”

            “Inspiring?” I had never heard of such a phrase… The way it dances on the wind intrigues me; the sound is like a lost response—like a forgotten dream.

            “Yes, I’d…like to immortalize you that way.”

            “I see.”

            Resolutely, I cast myself away to the tales that whisper around me…beside me…over me…inside me. It’s not difficult to send away my thoughts for a while. It feels so natural to let the world think for me.

            Periodically, my eyes return to catch glimpse of the mysterious painter and his resolute act of “immortalizing me,” or so he calls it. I wonder what he means?

            [may add something here]

            Steadily, slowly, like the accumulation of falling rain, like the progression of a steady piano melody, the picture takes shape upon the canvas, transforming it to something emotionally moving—something entirely new. What once was blank and lifeless now can mirror my appearance and still the world, granting it life and meaning. It’s so inspiring. I wonder if I can do that, too.

            “I’m done,” he declares, wiping his forehead with a white handkerchief. “You want to see it?”

            Without any words, I stand from the rock, using my curiosity to raise me up, and stroll, as though pulled by its grace, to the painting which awaits me patiently. It’s surreal. There I am—or there my image is—in soft, fuzzy strokes of pure color, fading in and out and dancing about like a prudent melody. It is like a mirror—but a different kind of mirror… The visions of my heart or who I would be in colorful, innocent dreams. I wish that were actually me. As the artist, does he really see me in this way?

            Swiftly, I snap out of the trance and recall the instinctual manners. “Oh, do you need any money for this or—?”

            He stops me, “Oh, no. Don’t worry about it. You’ve given me more than that as a muse.”

            “A muse?” I whisper. The word sounds so breathless and mystique. So mystical, like the quiet, reflective moon on a tranquil starry night. Does that mean I’m mystique if I am a muse?

            “Say, would you like to keep it?” he offers while putting his paints away as though they were precious porcelain dishes.

            “Oh, no…I couldn’t…” I return, slightly flustered. “It must mean a lot to you…” I add with a sigh. “Thanks anyway. I enjoyed being immortalized.”

            “Anytime.” He winks back as though this won’t be our first and only encounter.

            Politely, I nod before turning away to the world again. Strangely, I feel different than I was before—transformed. A lady of power and poise—a muse. I think we came to the right place.

~~~

“Where have you been?” Paulina demands. “We said we’d go into town. We met some of the locals; it seems we’ve landed in an interesting country.”

“You learned some things?” I ask.

“It wasn’t hard to pick up on the language,” Tierny states, crossing his arms behind his head.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” I comment. “Maybe we should take it back with us.”

“I heard lots of other languages in the city,” Guy adds then suggests, “We could use one of those.”

“Don’t divert from the matters at hand!” Paulina drags us all back to her original demands—as usual. “Don’t go off like that again, understand?” she barks at me, displaying a fierce attitude like a pouncing tiger and standing resolutely before me to prevent escape. “We are a group now. We have to stick together.”

“But I was in the forest—I was learning about the land, too! It told me so many things, and—” Before I can plead my case, she cuts me off like one would snip a thread from a finished shirt. Oh, how she hates to hear me whine—though, to me, it doesn’t sound like whining or making excuses at all. I’m just expressing the words in my heart.

“You’re not allowed to wander off anymore! You could get lost out here!” she fumes, drilling in her final point further until my heart cracks.

“But the land would guide me back.”

She recognizes I have a good point, but her eyes still flash like a raging fire. “No more going out,” she punctuates each word as though branding each singular idea in my head.

A heavy sigh escapes me. “I won’t.”

Now, not even hours from our arrival, I am a caged bird. In humble silence, I tuck away my words and notions, folding my arms quietly behind my back, and follow the others as they stride and tread along the grass, brushing it aside as it bends fearfully to their power. I don’t even know where we are going now, but I know I must follow.

Once we traverse the nearby hill and a rush of the morning breeze fills me with sweet opportunity, spreading my closed wings an eager inch, I decide to share my thoughts. “So… What did you guys find out?”

“The city is giant,” Tierny shares willingly, his eyes lighting up full of a child’s innocence. He expresses the grandness of the city in his tone of wonderment and his skinny arms as they reach far and wide to catch the sky. “So many buildings with blue roofs and tall structures that look like sculptures we saw one guy making in town.”

“Too many people,” Prism adds shyly, pulling her fingers through her charcoal hair.

“It’s really full of energy,” Paulina huffs, feeling proud of herself as though it was all her idea for it to be that way. “It reminds me of home.”

“It is slower here,” I add cautiously, merely as an observation. I always have to watch what I say around Paulina—even if it’s just a simple fact. “It’s actually quite nice,” I muse to myself. The trees take their time to spin their tales etched eternally in rings of gold; the grass ebbs and flows in whispers, mulling over the centuries is has yet to meet. Though, I do miss our dimension’s sense of speed. The air is so stable here.

“We learned we can’t stay in the city, though. We don’t have any ‘money,’” Guy, logical as usual, states as his eyes flash with insight though dull with a quiet dread. I’m sure he enjoyed analyzing the different languages.

“But a kind lady told us there’s a house in the country that takes in foreigners. Some people invite strangers into their houses to stay, so that sounds fun!” Tierny beams as he summarizes their findings.

“A cottage?! Oh, it must be wonderful!” I swoon, imagining the quaint home that will accept us.

“A what?” Paulina adds words to everyone’s bemused faces.

“That’s what the land tells me the inhabitants call those homes.”

~~~

            We arrive at the house we will be staying nestled in this pleasant countryside. The home is so elegant—but simply so—born of stone and created from hopes to bring people together and provide them a kind place to dwell. A haven for the soul to reflect and to prosper; a roof to keep their heads safe. Minimally furnished, housing only the necessities, the ambiance is very rustic as it speaks of simpler days that have not left us as the land continuously sings its tales and heritage protects memories as fractions of time dance together in perfect syncopation.                                  (I don’t like this)

            I can’t stay here, though. The voice of the land is faint as I try to reach for it beyond this wall, longingly looking out the window to where I could be. I can almost envision my shadow framed against the grass on this quiet evening. It is a beautiful sight, however, to witness the sky parting, ridding of its cloak of white as the clouds flutter away like pages in a book. Each flip of crisp white reveals another entrancing story in the pamphlet of the sky’s face.

I wish I could soar away. But I am tethered even in my dreams. Instead, I’ll enjoy this marvelous height and admire the placid blue and calm myself to allow the last of the streaming warmth of the magnificent force of dying embers to refresh me. Such beauty as I have ever known as it fades away gently, receding like a song or a tireless goodbye to a dear friend.

I need to return.

            I hope I can leave later today—while the others don’t notice I have gone, slipping away like a feather drifting from a sleek bird darting into the trees. I’m compelled to hear more of the land’s stories and to discover why I am so drawn to this new land. This magical place… of dusty books filled with wonders and wisdom, of gardens profusing with delights and colors capable of elevating the eyes, people and stories that mirror this land and compliment its every hue as it [changes style]. There is so much here that I long for; I am a deer whose thirst cannot be quenched until it has lapped the entire sea.

            Now, the sky has changed. Blue mingling, transforming, with light and dancing with flickers of orange as the horizon darkens to a rogue violet waltzing with the sunshine’s lost pastel yellow. The land tells me the people sleep once the magnificent sun falls—so I wonder. Following the last of the day as it slips away into mysterious night and greeting the tepid compassion once it returns from its journey. How magical.

            And now that the sun has faded, everything falls to what the land deems as darkness. But it is not malevolent as I had believed. The face of the sky has transformed—flecked with millions of tiny lights and swirls of color that were once unseen. Many wishes, unshed tears, hopes that wait but always listen. The inspiration of dreams, eternal companions that—as the land states—even exist during the sun’s reign but are hidden from sight by its brightness.

            The different face—how fascinating. It is the mysterious side of the sky—beautiful and daring—poetic as each mind of this world longs to describe her majesty. But I prefer the day’s fair face, full of grace and peace. Kind in conduct and mild-mannered as it is reveled to the source of life itself as it grounds its joy in meaning and purpose.

            The sky is, I believe, as every woman longs to be and should be. I will strive.

            I suppose I should heed the night’s fair lullaby and try to sleep as the people do in this fair land. I don’t know how to be tired or just yet how to sleep. But, faintly, I register the land’s hushed cadence as it sweetly bids my eyes to close and my dreams to wander.

            Dreams? Thoughts that come alive much like our wishes to fill our blank world with tangible meaning? Oh, yes. I believe… I shall love dreams.

~~~





 [Excerpt of Step by Step]



Chapter Seven~ “Red Ribbons”

The night is still. The concrete surface upon which I stand is slipping away on the waves. The metal fence before me saves me from falling over the edge into the sweeping waters far, far below. For a while, everything becomes calm—eerily calm—and I hold onto the frigid rails and stare down into the gentle-lapping waters an eternity away. The untied ribbons adorning my dress and arms fly every which way in the wind—as though they have minds of their own. Transfixed, I continue to stare, and a stray ribbon descends into the realm of my vision—falling softly and twirling until it is caught by the water’s surface and cradled. Would the same thing happen to me if I tried to jump from this boat? I wonder if I can float like fabric, too. The red ribbons dangle over the wood fence’s arch, and the two about my arms grab hold of the railing, tying themselves tightly. Now with my feet upon this sad height, I stare into the endless depths below. This will take a long time to fall. Exhaling deeply, as though the air left will carry me or make me lighter, I inch one foot forward…then the other…then stick my right foot out and let it dangle…

 

“Wakey wakey eggs and bakey!”

Mariah’s screaming face and the blinding sunlight knock all the air out of me and chase my dreams away. My heart pounds at my rib cage like a tiger trying to break out of an iron cage.

“Well, not really,” Mariah continues casually. “Your mom actually made French toast! Yummy! Come on down for breakfast, ‘K?” With that, she hops away downstairs, leaving me to calm my frantic heart.

At a loss, I catch my breath, lying back again, and gather my thoughts. What was I thinking about? Something with…boats and ribbons? Oh my gosh—that dream. That was freaky. What was it again?

I can hardly remember; my head is pulsing with pain. Groggily, I roll out of bed and shuffle to the door. I pass Corey in the hall on the way to the bathroom, and he’s surprised to see me lost in thought instead of hounding him for ideas. I had my own weird dream this time. My pre-laid and folded clothes await me on the bathroom sink, and I change slowly and automatically. It almost feels like I’m still trapped in a dream. I need one good reason not to crawl back to bed and collapse.

Well, my empty stomach condemns my apathy and forces me down the stairs to breakfast. If nothing else, the irresistible smell of fresh French toast certainly motivated me to stay awake. As I pass through the kitchen while giving my hair a quick comb-through, my eyes wander to Mariah kneeling on the couch. Her eyes are dewy, merry, and fixated on an old mahogany-colored book. She has a wide, amused smile on her face; it looks like it’s painted with curiosity. Wait a minute; that’s our family photo album!

“Mom!” I plead a case. “Why is she looking at our photo album?” There are some weird and embarrassing pictures of me in there! Especially from Halloween!

“Well,” Mom explains, “I was going to bring it to Mom today, and Mariah happened to spy it. I couldn’t say no! After all, she was up bright and early this morning and offered to help me with all the chores and breakfast!”

Mom must be telling the truth. For once, she’s relaxed and savoring the minutes ticking away. She’s even completely dressed and made-up.

“Aw, it was nothing!” Mariah brushes off. Turning to me, she comments, “But Elaine, you were so cute when you were little! You never told me you had cute curly hair! You could have been famous or something!”

It’s true. I looked totally different when I was younger. Now I’m just Plain Elaine. Corey looked like a miniature version of himself except he was always dirty and dusty from playing outside. He looked like a little ruffian, but he was largely a good kid. Maybe even more bearable than he is now.

Corey objects, “Elaine was always plain. But, if you really want to see interesting pictures, look at the ones from Halloween.”

“No!” I burst, my face steaming bright red.

“Oh, why?” Mariah asks innocently.

“Because she looks ridiculous!” Corey chuckles.

“Ah! It’s too embarrassing!” I whine, clutching my head and shaking it.

“Eat your breakfast, you two. And there will be no teasing. You were wonderful kids!” Mom halts our antics.

“Yes, Mom,” Corey and I answer sadly.

Settling into my seat, I take a bite of syrup-drowned French toast and smile. It’s still warm.

Mariah, claiming that she’s already had breakfast, stays on the couch apart from the family circle and leafs through the photos without passing any comments or judgements. Sigh. I really hope she doesn’t see those pictures.

 

The car scene is much different with the addition of a friend in the back. Corey still beat me to the front seat, where he’s content leaning back, closing his eyes, and focusing on the irrationally loud music. He believes it’s supposed to be loud to make it seem like it’s completely alive and closing him in—at least that’s his perception. It just rattles my brain and makes my ears ring the rest of the day.

Mariah doesn’t seem to mind the noise and is content staring outside at the scenery. She says she’s never taken drives in the country before, and she finds it very relaxing. Grandma, Corey, and I used to take country drives all the time; we never got tired of it. I remember one time she looked at me confidently and said, “Y’know, Elaine, one day, it’ll be you driving us around!” Secretly, I’d hoped that day would come, but I have no desire to get my licence, and now I’m not sure if I’d want to drive us around.

Dad always tried to get me to practice driving with him; he’d take me out on a remote street, stop the truck, get out, and scooch me over to the driver’s seat. Even though I’m a girl, I’m the oldest, too, so he’d always insist I had to learn to stand up for myself and learn to do things myself without relying on him or Corey. Driving was one of those things. Honestly, I think I have driving-phobia—if that’s even a real phobia. I can’t stand the thought of being behind the wheel. I start to sweat so much that I can’t grip anything, and the world around me turns into a haze. I don’t know why I’m so afraid because I love being in cars and taking road trips; some of my greatest memories are from family road trips or country drives. But once I’m behind the wheel, the fun stops and the torture begins.

In a snap, we’re already at school. The stereo gets a chance to relax, and Mariah and I run to the steps before Corey—just to bother him a little. Mom waves us goodbye, and we prance off to school. Corey’s already gone once we pry open the doors, and tons of kids congregate in the halls, teeming like schools of fish. Mariah makes a beeline for her locker to get rid of all the extra stuff she’s carrying. Meanwhile, I take my time to organize all my books again. All this homework and these heavy books are really taking a toll on my arm muscles.

Mid-organizing, I hear Mariah return and say gratefully, “I really had a fun time, Elaine! We should do that again sometime!” She already has her books in-hand for science. How did she get everything so quickly?

“Yep!” I nod and smile before returning to sprucing up my locker. But I still feel bad for not saying anything in Friendship Club. Here Mariah’s trying so hard to help me, but I can’t move to help myself.

 

Lunch comes quickly to ease our pounding brains and our crying stomachs. I can’t wait for some calm and conversation. Luckily, Corey and his new buddy C.J. keep the other boys in their class company at lunchtime. He’s probably tired of me, anyway. The feeling is mutual.

So that leaves Madeleine, Shelley, Mariah, and me at our table. I don’t mind the company, especially because Maddie always finds something interesting to talk about. But, today, my mind is lost in thought about Friendship Club. Why didn’t Mariah tell me right away what it was? And those other friends she has—are they in the club, too? Do they get the same treatment?

 “Hey, Mariah,” I question, “That girl you were friends with—the one that had to move—was she in Friendship Club, too?”

Mariah’s face changes to a pained simper. “Yep!” she says bubbly.

“So…What was it like?” To be honest, I’m still kinda nervous about the whole friends-counselling-friends thing. And I think she can tell.

“Well,” Mariah racks her brain, “it was kinda crazy with Cera. She was a really tough fish to wrangle. If you even just said the word ‘change,’ she went absolutely nuts.”

“Are you talking about dear Cera?” Maddie asks, trying not to interject. “I do miss her sometimes. She was a truly interesting soul.”

“Yah. She says she’s doing well in Winny, though,” Mariah reassures.

“Oh, good. Maybe someday I’ll go there and surprise her in my travels.” Leaning in, she gets this sly, curious grin on her face. “What’s this about a club I hear? Are we allowed to join it?”

“It’s a secret club,” Mariah explains.

“But I’m not in your secret club?” Maddie pouts and whines somewhat jokingly.

“You’re in this secret club!” Mariah declares.

“Oh, all right! I’m sorry for being nosey.” She returns to talking with Shelley. I don’t know why they sit on the other side of the table—maybe to make it look like it’s full so no one else sits here?

“So, did you help her, too?” I inquire before snacking on a strawberry.

“Oh, yah. At first, she didn’t like Friendship Club, but later, she did really well! She got over her aversion to change—just a little, but still.”

“That's good. So, you've been doing this a while, then?”

“Oh, yah…a long time.” After she answers, she looks to the ceiling contemplatively as though to count the exact age Friendship Club has.

“You're so nice, Mariah.” I smile before chowing down on my ham and cheese sandwich.

“Heh…Yah…” Releasing the thermos, she continues looking at the cream-colored lunchtable marred with scratches and inerasable stains. Then, slowly, she takes the lunch bags of individual food out of her pack one-by-one and carefully consumes them.

 

            No matter how much temporal distance separates me from that dream, all the events of that rêverie still feel so close that we can’t be separated. All those feelings and all that mystique still constrict me. I just can’t get it out of my mind! Maybe Corey, the master of dreams, will be able to help me. I’ve talked to him about weirder things before. Well…besides...my recent paranoia.

            But still, I find myself turning from my blank journal—my brain too racked from confusion to write—and walking toward my brother’s room hesitantly. I don’t want to bring up my moment at Grandma’s new place; even though he understood my melancholy, there’s no way he’d believe or sympathize with my madness. It just isn’t me. Maybe I’m not me anymore. But if I don’t tell him about that, how do I go about explaining the dream?

            Behind the mahogany door streaked with red paint squeaks that funny-sounding clarinet to the tune of some random jazz song. Though some people may like how the clarinet sounds, I think it’s silly. Goofy Corey is spinning around like a top while reciting the fancy footwork on the instrument (I’m surprised he doesn’t get dizzy when he does that), and, upon spotting me, he halts spinning but continues playing—the noise becoming more somber and reverberating.

            With a sad sigh, I sit on his bed, ruffling the guitar print quilt, and search for the right words.

            “What’s wrong, Sis?” he asks in concern, setting the matte black instrument aside. The clarinet takes a break on the night stand beside some stray papers. As the light hits the chrome components, the shine almost blinds me.

            “Well…it’s hard to explain,” I mumble uncertainly.

            “Try me,” he declares while pulling up a wooden chair and sitting backwards. Why do guys like to sit in chairs backwards?

            I keep my eyes to the floor, hide my hands under my legs, and kick my feet against the bed. “It’s about that weird dream I had.”

            “The one you won’t tell me about?” he asks slyly.

            “Yes…” I moan and roll my eyes.

            “Go on,” he insists.

            “Well…” I lower my eyes. “It’s totally creepy!” I interject to try to ease the strain from its severity. “I…was on the edge of a boat—or was it a pier? Well, anyway, there were these…ribbons. Red ribbons all over the place. I guess they were coming from my fancy dress I was wearing?”

            “Yah, and?” Corey asks, rocking back in forth in the chair.

            “Well…I guess I kinda…almost fell off the boat…on purpose,” I manage sheepishly.   

            “Really?” he asks dubiously.

            “Really! I told you it was creepy! There were these creepy waves way down below and everything! And…it was just surreal.”

            “So, did you jump?”

            “Well...no. Actually, Mariah woke me up before it had a chance to end. And that’s what’s bothering me—what would have happened if she hadn’t woken me up?!”

            Staring at me with those emerald eyes, Corey strikes his point, “Sis, the fact that it didn’t end is what makes it so significant.”

            “Sometimes the things you say don’t make sense.”

            “That’s the way it is,” he declares and stops rocking back and forth. “It would make a heck of a poem. Y’know—poets tend to write about strange things like that. Creepy and depressing things. Because they say artists suffer for their art—especially when they write about their innermost desires or the inadequacies of humanity. They’re depressing…but surprisingly don’t make you depressed.”

            “That’s not true!” I demand, stomping out of the room. Who ever said that’s what poets are?! Poems are supposed to make you happy and to be like another language. Who ever said anything about suffering and depression?

            After one final huff, I sit myself down and yank the chair to my desk, causing a horrible grinding sound on the wooden floor. Before me once again stares back a blank page—all white and pure. Exasperated, I let out a big sigh. The pages of my notebook flutter. I still have no inspiration, and even though I talked about my dream, it only made me feel worse. Maybe Corey’s right about one thing—it would be interesting to write about that dream, but not in a creepy or morose way. But how to do that?

            Picking up the pencil lying casually adjacent to the blank page, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. How did that dream make me feel?

            Suspended I am, staring down at eternity

            This cold metal keeps me away

            Transfixed, my eyes are cast to the waves

            Gently lapping below, carrying on

            Despite the darkness around us

            Around me, red ribbons dance

            A stray one lifted by the breeze,

            Trailing through space weightlessly

            Falling into the water’s embrace.

            So softly did it fall that I envy it

            If only I were fabric, so light and carefree

            That I could fall into eternity

 

            All the sudden, my eyes snap open, and the fog that once consumed me lifts away. I haven’t felt this awake in days. What just happened? At a loss, I find the once blank pages marred with pencil marks scribbled franticly to keep up with my quick thoughts. Skimming the words, a pain stabs my heart, but the sensation isn’t so much that it makes me wince or turn away. I could be out of my mind, but that actually wasn’t so bad. In fact…it’s actually powerful. And possible.



~~~~~~~~~~






 [A story for a contest on Figment.com called "Seraphim Estrella." It just kind of exists]


I just want to be understood. You can’t even just give me that?

 

In an empty world of uncertainty where even the ones fated to know every inch of my soul fail to understand me, the sun shines with brimming intensity, banishing the skies of rain and commanding the cerulean heavens to drench the land, instead, with possibility. Is some of that possibility for me?

The darkness of my enclosed room so far has been my only company and solace, but somehow I can’t help but allow the slats marring the window to slip through just a slight bit of hope. Drawing even lines of illumination on the silky bookcovers, the sun whips up the dust, creating a dance of flighty, shining particles that—only in a well-crafted story made entirely of fiction—could be magical and meaningful. There is nothing of that sort in this world. Nothing but pain and loneliness.

“Why don’t you go out once in a while? Socialize.”

But you don’t understand. They don’t understand. I have told you time and time again. My pleas fall only to deaf ears, drifting away like a novel of true soul scripted in the sand. What’s the point of even saying anything anymore…if no one ever hears you?

And that is why my company is forever indebted to my books. The only souls true, pure, and real enough to understand me. True and real, yes—but perhaps to a fault, for the “real” people are nothing like them. Characters, possessing of quality and substance, motivations and dreams, love and agony—more dynamic than those who walk automatically to and from the same places at the same time for the same reasons. Who feel more, reason more. Care more, love more.

Is it possible this is the real fabrication?

Either way, if the house were to someday crumble and fall to ashes, I would reach—instinctually—for only one book among the 27 that decorate my room, neatly, in their stacked rows of nine. Seraphim Estrella. The narrative that speaks my soul; the land that beckons me come again; the only girl, only being alive, who truly understands me.

My long-lost twin. Oh, Seraphim Estrella.

Just like all angels, she is adorned with two pairs of mighty, but divinely beautiful wings, that reach—some say—to the sky and back, to envelop and treasure every being that has ever lived. But, being a seraphim, the highest order of angel, she achieved more sets of wings. Two which cover her sweet face, the one of an innocent child which she once was: dark, vivid eyes of amethyst and pure, golden hair like silk radiating the finest sunlight. And two additional wings which cover her legs all the way down to her feet. Only from certain times and angles can one visualize her dress, hewn from the most radiant purple fabric and sewed together with real threads of gold, so as to ignite the memory in all those fortunate hearts that she was once human, just like them, with the same struggles and troubles.

Now, she combats them. Eliminates them. Fills emptiness with purpose and erases sadness with smiles.

If only she could save me.

If only I could be like her.

But my parents would never let me. They don’t believe in angels nor in being yourself. Only what it takes to get a good-paying job to keep us all from having to live in the sticks. Literal sticks.

There are no dreams. No magic. And, most of all, no understanding.

Only…this book. Which, clutched tightly to my heart, has the power to take away all strife. Within each word is the power to bring about forever.

But maybe…if she heard me…somehow, Estrella could reach me. From beyond the stars, past the veil of crystal sky…into now and tomorrow. Just as the children who cry, who suffer, call out to you, I shall, too.

Hear me. Please…

 

“Stella?”

 

“Huh?” My thoughts turn foggy, and my once-banished consciousness slowly returns. A lump of disgust wells up in my stomach. I’m still here. And did my call work? No.

 

“Stella.”

 

“What?!”

 

A definitive, motherly tone, flowing in my mind’s ears like honey, grants me chance and warrants my attention. My eyes escape the darkness. The room which before held only shadows is set aglow by a powerful, mystical force—like a small sun just for me to have. My eyes take a long time to adjust, and when they do, they cannot believe what stands before them.

 

“S-seraphim…Estrella!” my voice squeaks from surprise and youthful enthusiasm.

 

“It is I.”

 

“Y-you came!”

 

“Of course. You called for me.”

 

She looks just as I’ve always pictured her—the majestic wings, the subtle coloring of the vivid purple robe, the golden hair descending in waves behind the other sets of smaller, thinner wings. I must be dreaming. This can’t be real!

 

“It is not a dream. Do not be afraid, my child. Tell me what it is for which you seek my aid.”

 

“Your aid?” Oh, right. I’ve always wanted to meet her—my twin. But now that I am basked in her presence, just a mouse admiring a grand mountain, a magnificent force of nature and beauty rivaled by legends… Why? How stupid and selfish of me! There must be other kids who need more help than me!  Just wanted to hear someone say “I understand!”

 

“No tears, my child.”

 

“What?” I foundered embarrassingly as she swept the tears from my tiny face. “I was?”

 

“It is fine. I know exactly why you called me.”

 

“Y-you do…?” I answered meekly.

 

I know it is impossible to see beyond those ivory wings that shroud her beautiful face, but I was sure she smiled slyly and comfortingly amid sunlight glow and closed eyes. “Yes,” she said knowingly with a sense of camaraderie and playfulness. “I understand.”


~~~~~~~








 [Excerpt of Subtle, Flowing Changes]


                        Chapter 11

          The lambent rays of the rising sun released the hues of the “Enchanted Forest” and shook all living creatures awake. Except for me, that is. I refused to succumb to the rays’ energetic call; I shooed them away as one would shoo away a jocund, begging puppy at 2 am, and I cast myself under the serene darkness of the covers. In a moment’s passing, a soft tug on my blankets opened my eyes to my world, revealing my mom’s face hovering above me. Her voluptuous auburn hair tussled with the slightest of texture was the perfect contrast to my ridiculous hair; my sad excuse of hair style accentuated her slight ringlets and made them resonate all the more beautifully.

            “Cera. Get up. It’s the weekend,” she half-begged.

            “I don’t wanna,” my pillow dulled my groan.

            “Please. We’re going to leave soon. We at least want to see you at breakfast,” she attempted to make puppy dog eyes.

            “Ugh. Fine.”

            My mother smiled and replaced my quilt over my sunken face.

           

            After I took my precious time moping limply down the stairs and to the kitchen, my parents heeded the clock and rushed out the door, bidding me a fond farewell.

            Alone at last. Sneaking to the living room, my footy pajamas dragged against the carpet, making a grinding noise. Upon the proud pedestal mounted against the wall by the fireplace sat my current school photograph preserved in glass, surrounded by a maple frame. That picture must meet its doom. Carefully lifting the photo, I held it at eye level and examined it a while. Within that small square, every ounce of my current grief, torture, and tragedy was displayed perfectly; it was almost artistic. The empty look in my eyes, the trapped flyaway hair screaming for mercy, the school name and year engraved in the corners of the photo; not only was that still-life the embodiment of my hate, but it was also the physical representation—a memento, of sorts—of just how terrible my year was. For some reason, I smiled. Just before ripping the photograph from its trophy and shoving it with the others collecting dust in the basement.

            Contrary to what would be aesthetically perfect for this jungle-like house (namely, a mysterious attic perched among the trees like a treehouse and concealing olden memories and secrets), our house held a dumb basement, unfinished, crawling with cobwebs, and littered with dust. It was as though no one dared to enter that forbidden cesspool even to dust every hundred years. This was the place we stored our memories.  

            Triumphantly, after finishing my brave quest through the perilous traps, snares, and hungry spiders’ webs, I reached the holy grail and threw into it the hilariously symbolic school photo. Finally, my quest was complete. Unfortunately, as I turned, brushing the piles of ash off my ensemble, the smoky memories called out to me, plaintively, their hearts breaking and mine on the verge of conceding to their wails. Rolling my eyes, I turned back, and the wails ceased.

            It’s been forever since I’ve seen some of these photographs.

 

            Regardless of my sulking about my new life, it had been many eons since I had reminisced, for I was too busy being swept away by my mundane, depressive stupor. It was therapeutic to delve into the past once again and to feel the smooth, powdery surfaces of old trinkets. Most of the boxes contained photographs—memories of life preserved in time—many of which were folded over at the corners, signaling they were once scenes in a photograph book. I remembered it was my task to salvage all the pictures from the photo albums and to shove them all in a box like that one before we moved; the blank albums were sold along with portions of my childhood and dad’s memorabilia hoardings in an “estate sale,” where they made their final grand exodus. All that remained of the old house was the furniture, my school supplies, my parents’ workgear, a couple trinkets I stole from my old room before my parents trashed them, and fragments of memories thrown into old, sagging cardboard boxes. In retrospect, what kind of idiotic farewell was that? It was as though we were literally starting a whole new life. Am I still Cera Brandenburg?

            Looking upon the cute, curly-top in the photos, I knew I was still the same. I had always been a bit of a spoiled child; I threw fits so often in stores that my mom vowed never to bring me with her to the store ever again. I had always been intrigued by art, as many little kids often are: finger-painting, coloring, chalkdrawing—I did it all. My parents even signed me up for art classes at the local community college (those non-credit ones in the summer for kids, that is). I felt very smart going “where the big kids go.” Being an introverted, highly creative individual, I obviously had no friends (they had no idea the degree of fascination they missed), so I spent most of my days honing my artistic perspective and learning every vocabulary word imprinted in the dictionary.

It was not until my later years that I learned of the term, word, and class “eccentric,” and I believed that day onward that, being one, it was my duty to uphold the tradition and to prove that we are not entirely a society of idiots. I did so by subconsciously attributing quirky and instinctual idiosyncratic mannerisms into my persona: my love of vocabulary invaded my dialog, my artistic perspective invaded my mind, and my sarcasm and natural way of overexaggerating and “lying” to make everything sound more interesting took over my mind, my world, and thus, this book. I became a better version of myself…at least, a more exaggerated one. Maybe it’s simply an immature intrigue gone totally wrong. Either way, I amuse myself, and that’s all I need to worry about. Isn't it?

 

            The ominous room awaited my presence. Each footstep echoed through the hallowed walls like steady heartbeats. I gulped as I reached for the glimmering doorknob; a blinding light showered everything in its gaze and rendered me hopeless. Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I lowered my hands to my side, took two steps forward, and shut the door firmly behind me.

            The torturer looked up, her eyes piercing through my very soul and staring into my subconscious. “Are you ready to start?”

            I sighed. “Yah, I guess.”

            Friendship meeting #3 began.

 

            “So, why were you late today?” she asked casually, distracting the conversation to make up for her unpreparedness.

            “I was busy…”

            “Doing homework?”

            “…looking at old pictures.”

            “Ooh, fun!” she exclaimed joyfully.

            I rolled my eyes.

            “Did you bring any?” she zoomed in to my vision, displaying that wide grin of hers that bothers me to no end.

            “No!” I wouldn’t want her to see how I used to be.

            “Aww. Why not?”

            “Because…it’s too embarrassing.”

“Well, maybe next time, then.”

            I shimmied in my seat, hoping to the stars the conversation would change soon; I couldn’t believe I actually awaited her critiquing.

            “Sooo…Sooo…” she gurgled, flipping through her thousands of papers for the right one. “I have an activity for you today!”

            “Oh, goodie. Are we going to color?” I weakly mimicked a childish voice.

            “No, I’m going to give you a worksheet, and then you’ll get some homework to do!”

            “I know we’re in a school, but still. Don’t you remember that ten-page paper we have to write and that dumb book we have to read by Friday?”

            “Oh, relax. It’s not that kind of homework…” she twirled the paper in her hand and handed it to me as though it were a regal document. “They’re exercises for you to work on your change problem.”

            “Can’t we call it something else? It makes me sound like I’m poor or something.”

            She ignored my side comment, as usual. “Just little things you can do throughout the day. It’s not hard; don’t worry. I made them easy.”

            “Define ‘easy.’”

            “Well…Say you have to choose between a shirt you’ve had for three years and a shirt your mom just bought you. Would you prefer the old one just because it’s familiar or would you choose the new one because you think the colors are artistic?”

            “Are you serious?” I asked, nonplussed.

            “Well, is that so bad?”

            “This activity is just answering all these dumb questions and then implementing them in real life?”

            “Yes! Don’t tell me this is too easy for you. I really don’t get you, Cera Brandenburg.”

            “And I prefer it that way.”

 


~~~~



**Published in College of DuPage's award-winning literary magazine, the Prairie Light Review: Fall 2012**


“One More Day”

          My days are lonely; my nights are quiet; my only thrill these days is to watch the freight trains pass by my backyard as they make their routine journeys to the land of industry. I am single. My parents have gone to make a living for themselves to support me, if necessary, for I cannot support myself much longer without a job. My house is my life, thus far. I bought it from an elderly gentleman with a genteel mien.

The house is compact and accommodating for someone such as myself. With nothing else to do, I find myself resorting to pursuing my wrought fantasies of disdain whilst reorganizing and flipping through old photograph books. What wrought fantasies, what distant memories? Why, those of when I was happy enough not to care about my future and sad because of my blind elation.

I met a man in town once. His name was Simon Lacrosse. I loved him with all my heart. He was a train engineer/conductor. He wanted nothing more in life than the freedom of traveling the rails, seeing the remote countryside transform into urban metropolis; he lived his dream. I am still waiting for mine.

As he set off for his dream, he spake me a gentle promise—that he’d return for me. Someday, his train would run by our future home—here—and he’d blow the whistle before reaching me. Then I’d know it is him. My dream has never come.

Every day, I wait and pray today is the day. My persistence and patience are wearing thin. For the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering precious possessions and memories of him—photos, train tickets, my gold locket—and dropping them on the train tracks as a memorial. There’s no question in my mind though the notion sinks my heart—he has to be dead. He hasn’t come yet; if he’s dead, that means he never will. I’ve been wasting my life away waiting. Why waste a moment more?

 

          Another day draws to a close. Scraps from dinner still remain on the solitary table. Objects are piled on the tracks. Photos stand still in my hand like halted sands of time. This is the last day. If it’s not today, it’s not any day. I’ve decided I’m moving on. I cannot bear to look out that window—

          A train whistle screams through the still air, loudly and clearly. I can’t believe it. It sounds again. The tracks are bare. I stumble outside, photos in hand. It sounds one last time. My dream has come true—a train speeds past my house and, for a moment, our eyes meet. Tears streak down my cheeks. The trinkets of the past are taken by the wind; the locket shines like golden sunlight between the train’s wheels. I never should have given up hope. It was the last thing I had left.





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