I. Devil’s Child
II. Music Box
III. The Thinker’s Monologue
IV. Shadow’s Face
VI. Juan’s Dream
“Like Seasons eternal,
An’ folks’ come’s and go’s,
Each story will soon one day unfold,
Just as houses’ timid hushes,
An’ old graveyards ling’ring voices,
Each an’ every thing has a tale to be told
An’ as Time’s the One True Constant,
All else Change’s humble servants,
Now’s fairly not when
I’m a’ tellin my own
But let’s lean back, stay still,
Eye the Moon’s subtle beam,
An’ listen as the Wind’s gentle kiss,
Brings back the world’s preserved tears.”
O lente, lente currite noctis equi.
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.
–Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 1593), The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
The tale was blown from the Far East.
It is said that one should be careful not to stray in mysterious paths on a starless, moonlit night.
You might end up with the Devil’s Child.
Luc has never been a superstitious man. To him, what you see is what you get. But for it he has another meaning: what he can see, he really gets. Especially if he could get away with it.
For a thief like Luc, proprietorship is all a matter of flexibility.
He works part-time in a construction site, and full-time in the local bar – as a resident alcoholic. He is certainly able to buy himself a bottle of cheap rum, but a carton of milk is too much to be expected from his meager wage, it matters not if it’s for his son.
“Don’t you go asking me for everything again, woman! I gave you money to buy rice. Cook it, and feed the broth to your child! Better pray I win that damn lottery, then you could drown in all the milk you want!” , to which his hungry, miserable wife would reply with greater vexation – the all too usual prelude to another neighbor-waking shouting match.
That night was like any other.
“Why I even shared my house with that woman is beyond me!” he muttered as he take a swig out of his rum. It seems like he would need to find yet another place to spend the night.
“Hmpft! Bah…is it too much for a man to ask for a peaceful night once in a while?”
The wind seemed to hear his call.
It blew in the northeastern direction, pushing dried leaves and small pebbles to a deserted, crooked little pathway the man didn’t notice before.
“Funny, I could swear I didn’t see this path earlier. But it looks just as peaceful as any man could hope. Crazy, crazy luck…”, as he gulped another mouthful from his bottle.
For an un-intoxicated mind, it would indeed be a CRAZY idea to walk that path, especially if you live in a town where people report sightings of a Lady in White and hearing the cries of a Tiyanak almost every month, or on nights when the Moon is old, weeping in a vast, starless sky.
But this man was under the influence of the spirits. And as the dying hour reached its last second, he took his first step down the path.
The hour that followed was what the old ones wisely call The Devil’s Hour.
“Close those eyes,
You would be wise,
To do no sort of sin,
The Moon shone bright,
Stars hide in fright,
The Devil’s Hour Begins!”
“HAHAHAHA! Sweet, sweet, luck! Lucky, lucky me! Who would have thought I could have a fortune like this without doing anything? Hahahahaha!”
Luc was beside himself with ecstasy. By the time he took the first gold coin he saw off the road, his bottle of rum, his paramour, was strewn aside and got not another notice from its lover as he examined the coin. It looked real enough. He even bit it as old wives would have done, or so he thought, to check for genuine gold. It’s as hard as granite.
“This is the real thing!”
While the moon lit his path, he could see more and more of the gold coins scattered as if they’re mere pebbles. With great lust, he gathered all of them, and when he could no longer hold any in both his fists, he lied on the ground bursting with ecstasy.
He was still singing the nonsensical song he made up about fortune, alcohol, and good luck when the piercing cry broke the night’s stillness. Even the wind stood still. The trees were silent. And the man’s voice was no longer alone in its revelry.
“Good heavens! Is that…is that a child’s cry?”
He lay silently and listened again. He thought the alcohol was already taking effect, and his mind is playing tricks on him.
But the cry started again. And this time it’s determined to not end until it gets what it wants.
When you are under a spell deeply enough, you would have no doubt in anything that you see. You start to think everything is logical enough and just as it should be.
Yet, you’re not really the wiser.
Luc stood up to locate the source of the cry. He thought it’s a bit too wild to be a human babe’s cry, but no animal he knew of could also do that sound. It seemed otherworldly, like a being stepping the borderline between man and animal. That much is certain – at least if you’re not under any spell.
“Looks like it came from that tree”, said Luc, who by that time is still filling his pockets with all the gold he could see even while making his way to the tree.
An old, dead tree.
The old ones would say that an old tree never dies on its own but for two reasons – either the tree spirits voluntarily leave the tree to find a new home, or they were driven out by another, much stronger being who claims residency.
For this particular tree, the latter would be more true.
He reached the tree twice the time he normally would, not because of fear but because of the fixation on filling his pockets, shoes, and any other nook that he could with all the gold he could manage. By the time he finally reached the tree, the cry was already so shrill it made him, a man not prone to superstition, shiver awkwardly.
Luc started circling the old, huge, dead tree, checking the roots and leafless branches as he did. Halfway, he noticed a hollow almost leveling his shoulder.
“Why, you wail too loud for a little thing, ugly one!”
Luc couldn’t help to smirk from amusement, for the Thing, if you are used with looking at human babies, is in fact extremely ugly.
He thought it really was a baby at first – it was the size of a three-month old baby. But its skin looks too dry to be a human’s. You could almost see little scales covering the body, which looks firm enough.
Except the face.
Its face is as wrinkled as the dead tree’s trunk, as any hundred-year old man’s, if not even more. Its tongue is unusually long and has the scarlet color of blood. But all these is nothing compared with its tip, because an inch before it ends, the tongue is unusually bifurcated. Forked.
And of course, it also talks.
“Feed me“, said a voice that sounded like the wind for its wheeziness, yet it’s also very homophonic to a tomcat’s growl.
The Thing was undeniably hideous, but it too closely resembled a human baby that Luc, with his humanity still intact, took the Thing carefully out of the hollow and only then did he notice its tail.
“Look, how am I even going to feed you? What food do you eat?“
“Gold. I eat the gold in your pocket.”
Luc put the Thing on the ground and sat beside it. Very slowly, it stood, held out his hand, and said with subtle menace, “Give me the gold in your pocket.“
The man Luc didn’t know what to do. He’s not certain if what he was seeing was even real. But it felt real enough. The fear was real enough.
And so was the gold in his pocket.
The money he earned all his life could not even sum up to one of those gold coins. It was fortune he never had, and probably would never again acquire. And if one thing was certain, it was his certainty to not give it up.
“You can’t be serious. What you must really mean is , is milk! I can get you milk.“
“I don’t eat food like you do. Do you think I even look like you, human? I eat gold. And of course, things much more precious.”
“But you can’t eat my gold!“, exclaimed Luc, who by then was just starting to feel the real strain of the situation.
“That is MY gold. You only found it. But I can eat other things“, the Thing said with a very subtle hint of malice, “Feed me that, and you can have my gold.”
“What things do you mean?” replied Luc, who was obviously too eager to do anything to keep his loot.
The Thing told him without even speaking.
“Are you willing to feed me that?” the baby-like demon whispered, which by then was a quarter-inch away from his ears.
Luc was not sure what the thing was asking, he thought he knew what it meant but what he thought was too absurd to consider. But of all the world’s absurdities and uncertainties, there were two of which Luc was certain of.
First, that he wants to get away as possible from the Thing.
And that he would NEVER give up his gold.
“I…I suppose so, yes. But the gold is mine! MINE!“
That was all the Thing needed to hear.
With a diabolical grin, he leaned closer, and closer, to the man who until then, we knew as Luc.
“Run, run, add wings to feet,
Go seek a place to hide,
Make noise in your head,
Go envy the deaf,
‘Tis time the Devil cried!
He’ll feed on one’s soul,
Leaves thee more like a hole,
Dreams, hope, fear, love, gone lost,
Aye, the kind of fate,
Even Death abdicate,
Here comes the Devil’s Child!“
“Take me, lift me,
Come, Wind, come,
Away from this monster,
Into my mum’s arms,
This little one, helpless one,
A flickering light,
Hear me sing of hopeless dreams,
A bird’s broken flight…”
I am not one with parents. Never had, never will.
Well as a music box, I can’t expect to have any. That’s just preposterous. But I do have my creator. He is a very delightful old man, if at times daft. And he crafted me with all his love to give me to his daughter.
An angel fallen from heaven.
It’s a pity heaven took her back too early. She was my best friend, my confidante. I thought it would be my end the night she died. Now don’t you start thinking only you humans have feelings. You can’t say anything more idiotic. There are lots of mysteries in the universe you have never even managed to hear of. But I am straying from my story.
Or rather her story.
You see, my angel didn’t really leave me. For in her place was a beauty as exquisite as my angel had always been – her daughter, Nika.
And this is in fact her story. If you wish to listen to tales of pink trees and ponies, of knights rescuing miserable damsels, of safety and happiness, good over evil, then this one is not for you. For Nika, my Nika, is a prisoner in the house of a monster. If not for my angel I would have done all that a music box can do to leave this house. Here lies an evil as tangible as filth, as tangible as your worst nightmares could only dream of. But it doesn’t mean it’s any less fearsome.
For in this house lives a man who calls himself Nika’s father.
When my first best friend died during childbirth, she left Nika in the keep of the man she loved. A man who even I thought as worthy of the love my angel gave him. Three months after her death this man married again, and had two children with her hag of a wife.
Now I know you are familiar with the story of your favorite heroine, that Cinderella. I know you’re starting to think the likeness of this story with your Disney princesses. Well, sort of but not really. But it would be if you fuse those stories with another girl of your fiction, the one who had a name rhyming with Calcutta.
And even that would pale vis-à-vis the woe of Nika’s tale.
I am witness to the nights of icy fear, of nights even an adult would never want to go through, let alone a child of five. The nights when you pray the shadows would take you as part of them, hide you from the coming footsteps of a man whose intentions was not to kiss you good night. I have seen too many of those nights.
But I would choose to be torn apart, twice, if only I could unseen last night.
“What have you told your stepmother?”
“I saw you trying to open the drawer, the one I always tell you to keep away from, when you were talking to her.”
“I..I only want to clean it father!”
“What a filthy, little liar.”
“I see you’ve already missed our nights. Worry not, child. I’m a generous father. If only you could be more grateful.”
“Have mercy father, please!”
“Don’t make me be the one to get you. Come here and stand in front of me….ah, there, it’s not too hard is it?”
“Forgive me, father. I won’t do it again, I promise!”
“Take off your clothes.”
“It’s freezing, father. And the window’s open. If you could only close it just this night…”
“Take off your clothes.”
Silence – except for the gushing of the winter breeze and the futile scuffling of clothes trying to stay where they are.
“Now tell me why you are grateful to me.”
“I am grateful to you because you are my father and you give me a place to live, food to eat, and protect me from the harms of the world.”
“Very good. And do you love me?”
“Then tell me.”
“I love you, father.”
“I love you, too, child. But you have been very naughty.”
“I will not do it again, father.”
“Of course you won’t. Now turn around.”
Silence – except for a few footsteps and a child’s muffled sobs.
“I am very cold, father. Please let me dress u–Aah! It hurts, father, please stop it!”
“You should never have tried to open that drawer, child.”
“I was very wrong, father. It won’t happen again. Please, please have mercy.”
“You know I love you, child, do you not?”
“I do father. Please, it’s so cold…”
“Ah, so it is. We’ll have to do something about that. Now, bend over.”
Silence – but for a man’s limitless lust and the muted laments of a child.
In my life which is mostly spent atop bedside drawers, I have learned not to trust things as what they first seem. An ugly chair, useless for anything ‘cept for sitting, could be worth more than the whole house because of the name of its creator. A good, respectable man could have a monster so evil to hide. A broken little thing might have a lot of fight left inside.
After what he did to Nika, he left her naked, shivering, bruised and bleeding in the cold, damp, stone floor.
If I could reach the stars, if I could end the wars, if I could be more than a useless, fancy little music box that I am, I would have walked across the room and hugged the child who was betrayed by the one who should have given all that he could, even his life, to comfort this angel.
She was so silent. I was so scared. Being made of wood, I was, unlike you, immune to cold. But that child was not. She was almost fluorescent, appearing pale blue from the moon beam and the cold wind from the cellar room’s only window too high for any child’s reach.
I was most surprised when she made a sound.
“Take me, lift me,”
She was singing.
“Come, Wind, come,”
If not for her and I being alone in the room, I would have believed someone else was singing except the very still form on the floor.
“Away from this monster, into my mum’s arms,”
She wants her mother. My best friend. I was dying inside.
“This little one, helpless one,”
God, please give me feet and arms to hug this child, please, just this once.
“A flickering light, hear me sing of hopeless dreams, a bird’s broken flight…”
It’s too much for me to bear and I was grateful when she stopped singing.
But only for a little while, because my Nika still wasn’t moving. She’s just lying soundless, as still as if dead on the floor.
Even for an earless music box, Death is something you can always hear coming. It’s as clear as it had always been, as it had when it came for Nika’s mother, that night.
I wasn’t sure when it started for I lost track of reality; I didn’t want reality if it means the dead child, my little angel, lying dead before me. It’s not right. Reality in this world is a bag of bat droppings. But then it is what it is. I guess real must not mean the same as right.
But it did happen – the voice.
It couldn’t have belonged to anyone but her. And after five years, I heard it again on that extremely cold, heaven forsaken, first winter night.
“Hush now, sleep now,
Here in my arms,
Dream only good times,
Just hear the Wind sigh,
Moon light, star bright,
Watching you smile,
Sleep now, hush now,
You’re safe, Little One.”
Every morning, sunrise or not, there’s one thing that remains the same – I wish I were someone else.
I wish I could sleep; that I could eat, cry.
That I could die.
I guess the bitterness stems from not being able to move even an inch from my post for too long a time now. I was moved here even before the world started killing each other, before people like you have become too lazy to walk. I am older than the first automobile but I am not any more knowledgeable. At least them, well, they move from one place to the next. They see everything.
I see the same things.
I see the same square, almost unchanged after more than a century and a half. The same old shops from the same old families, except one or two who, I am prepared to bet even if there’s nothing to bet, I am sure would close after a year or two. Five years at the most. Just like the previous shops before them.
Believe me, I know.
But people like you come and go. And from them I hear everything. In some ways, I guess they let me see everything.
When I was young, a boy talked to me. He told me that one day he will change the world. He was so innocent; he never even took more than a step out of this town. But dream he did, and boy, he dreamt big. Naturally I told him he would fail, but of course he didn’t hear me. Then, as if to stop him from thinking up of any more evils, a stray dog caught his attention, very playful it was now I recall. The boy followed it as it ran across the square; in its mouth was his cap.
The next few seconds, one could see the boy hit by a speeding wagon.
It did not help that he was a beggar. Especially not in that time – you should consider yourself very lucky indeed. Anyway, some nights I could still hear a voice saying, “Someday, I will change the world”.
Personally, I think it was a witch’s dog.
But children don’t talk to me often. Most of the time, it’s travelers’ company I had to endure.
I would muse, as if there’s anything more to do other than to delight in bird’s poop, and there they’d start proclaiming their dreams, woes, and beliefs out loud that one could never really accuse me of eavesdropping.
This one whiner of a man, from his clothes I would say German but who knows really, well this man would tell anybody who would listen how appalling things are – how the inn where he was staying knows nothing of the word “comfort”, how the world fuss too much about politics instead of abolishing it, how the baker’s bread was too stale, too burnt, how facetious are the people who call themselves writers but really can’t write one worth a thing, how too little, too much, too good, too bad anything is.
That’s too long a sentence? Trust me, you’d talk, too, anytime you can, if you’re me.
Truth is, I guess that man just wants to be loved, or to feel that he is. The two are very different things, I believe.
At particular days, or nights, I would even be forced to listen to the matters of the heart. Many nights I can recall women – young and old – adding their tears to my fountain’s pool, bemoaning how cruel life is. They’d go on saying how they regret everything – why they marry too early, too young – but most of all, that they married a man like their husbands. And how they regret being the plain, homely, uninteresting woman they’ve become.
Or rather allowed themselves to be.
I find it very difficult to identify with them, at least at first. But then I realized we have something in common.
And it wasn’t the homely appearance, mind you.
But yes, all the people I’ve met, all who told me their tales, knowingly or not, there’s always one thing we all do have in common.
Inevitable now it seems how these people have in fact transformed me. For, liking it or otherwise, I have indeed become just like them.
A statue humanized.
And now I want to become just like you. A real human.
I still can’t decide if these tears are for Despair, or for her twin, Desire.
At nights like this, when the Wind dances with the leaves, I remember the night I heard the melody that never fails to touch me all these years.
The song of a gypsy woman.
“And when Omeiru, bid me adieu,
Adieu, adieu, not I love you,
Now dear Omeiru, I don’t have you,
Adieu, adieu, adieu…”
“In Light I was born,
To Dark, I succumbed,
Light pierces, it burns,
The Dark – home I found”
So many of you claim to know it, don’t they? And yet they are too persistent to wash away the stains of their own evils and its scents – deny it even, if they can.
Real fear starts when you become one; become fear yourself.
That requires evil – blood, stain, and scent.
Three people were there in the alley – a boy, and two men. But one shouldn’t have been there, and yet he was, and so it happened.
The boy was getting home from an afternoon at Tommy’s house three blocks from his own. Good thing it was that Tommy’s mum let him stay for dinner. He wasn’t sure he could find one waiting for him when he gets home. At least tonight he would sleep with no worries of stomach cramps.
Or so he thought.
Nothing much happens in their part of the city, but tonight there were shadows in the last turn before their own block – too many than what should have been there.
Two men – one on top of the other, one lying on the ground. One holding a knife, one spurting blood. One wasn’t aware of the boy’s presence. One was.
As the man holding the knife left the alley at a run, the boy couldn’t help but notice that he left his Shadow behind. He didn’t think it possible but there it was.
And it’s moving, dawdling, towards the other man – the man who was now looking at the boy, arms stretched out, blood trickling from his lips, as he mouthed the only word he could – “help“.
The boy ran.
5 minutes ago
The chase lasted long enough. At last now, it looks like it’s about to reach its conclusion. The track is less than twenty feet away, and the train is almost there.
The man had no choice but to face his pursuer who, with luck in the right places, would soon be his captor. But then, it was again present; while facing the hired gun who calls himself a policeman, and his gun’s barrel, the man saw it again.
It’s looming behind the figure in front of him –almost a part of the other man, like a part of his body, perhaps a tail, a badly bonded appendage.
But what it really appeared like was a Shadow.
“This is it, Black. You have nowhere else to run.”
“You haven’t caught me yet.”
“All a matter of seconds now. We have you covered.”
“But of course. Are you going to shoot me?”
Unlike a cornered prey, this man wasn’t caught by panic. At least not yet. The train is blocking his only way out, but tonight it was his ally. Each step calculated, he moved backwards until he’s less than a foot away from the tracks.
“Suicide? Heh, just as I expected. Men like you would want the easy way out.”
He couldn’t have misjudged more, for just as the prey was taking his last step towards death, he lunged towards the man holding the gun – with the Shadow still looming at his back.
The next seconds, the gun was out of sight for both men. And like what happened more than three decades ago, again a man was on top of the other. One forcing to keep his head up, one trying to push it – not to the ground, but to the tracks.
“Don’t do this, Black”, uttered the man who now looks akin the thing that, a minute ago, was just clinging at his back.
The man on top shoved one last time – then he was covered in blood, something he finds irritating, but it can’t be helped now.
Then he ran.
The pair was ecstatic.
They have all the things they could ever want in that room – needles, loot, and each other. Although they share no blood in their veins, they were what you call “brothers”. They went down the road together, lost, yes, but one held to the other. Until now.
Despair, after all, wants a company.
The night proceeded as expected. And after the air had felt so liberating, and all the sounds were one minute pounding in their ears, then the next muffled, one man shook. He was reacting to something. The other man thought his friend was just having one of his laughing attacks. But he didn’t stop shaking for too long – and the moment he did, his eyes were exophthalmic, his face vacant, his mouth hanging open, as if he was about to tell someone something important.
But he wasn’t able to do so – he was already pulseless.
The young man on the bed across knew this. Aware of the presence of the thing beside him, too close to still remain as not part of him, he stayed put.
Even if he wanted to escape, the Shadow would not let him. And so stay in the bed, stare at his friend, he did.
This time, the young man would, but could not, did not run.
He was aware that the person in front of him was a child not a woman. But it made no difference. He devoured like any animal would – and more, much more. A one-sided passion. An act of corruption.
It was there all the time, in the same cellar room. It looks like it’s a part of the dark room’s shadows but it was not. It didn’t belong to the child but to him, and it lurked in the background. Almost like a wild animal tamed.
But why, he did not know.
He did not know that more than the Shadow, there was something else in the room. A more powerful presence – as powerful as sorrow and hope and love united could ignite.
And it was not his.
Yet, he felt it. The truth was he could not bear it. He knew that the child won’t last long now, but he had to leave that room.
Outside, in the lightless hallway, a Shadow would be invisible. But there it was – obviously present while he was mourning for the child he once loved, and think he still does, but how? If there was someone he loved at the time of his deed, it was clearly not her, but himself…if ever there was love at all.
But Fear was certainly there.
And it came out into the hallway with him. He fears everything – the fate of that child, and even more, the fate of his being. For he fears what he have become. And he fears what all he did would someday claim from him.
To live bearably with Fear, you’d have to acknowledge it.
Now the man could run, but he could not escape. For seen or not, Fear was him. And he was Fear.
Do you listen to the Wind?
I don’t. I didn’t.
But now it was forcing me to. And now, perhaps only now, will I be able to listen. It tells me that unlike itself, some things are mortal.
I have no pretensions of being good – none – and I never will. For I am parched; goodness is water I may forever remain thirsty of. I may be evil, but I am no fool. Only a fool would claim to have no fear of Death. I fear Death – immensely, with all my being to be exact.
For what does Death hold for a man like me?
They are here. They come many, armed, and perhaps angry because of what I did to one of them – pointless though it was. And yes, they will kill me. I will see to that.
Unlike many, I have no lust for immortality. It isn’t worth dirt if Fear would be my eternal companion. No. No more.
I choose Death.
And perhaps face my one true, and final, fear.
He may be real, he may be not.
But I fear God.
If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.
–Hermann Hesse (1877 – 1962), Demian
I stand here in the balcony and weep, not for any cause, woes, and hurts noble but for mine and mine alone.
The one time I gave in paved the road to my own destruction. It was wrong, wrong to allow my heart fall in the keep of your hands. Now its life is already entwined upon yours – your pain, hurts, joys, and love.
You are no different from all the women I slept with, those maidens and wives, north to south, even the king’s own concubines, you are no better or as exquisite as some of them.
But they are merely flickering candles compared to the endless sunlight that you bring to my life.
I loved you, Kristin, and I love you still.
You slept with other men, but I wait, wait until the last of them spills his seed, so I could spend the rest of the night with you until morn. You do that to live and live you did, I made sure of that. I wanted you to be my wife, yet you refused to come live with me. You can’t be forced so I let other men consume you and wait, wait until they have gone satisfied so that I could at last fill my own desires. Then, tired as you are, you still receive me with that smile.
Why did you have to be so difficult?
At some nights we would just talk but I couldn’t have been any happier. You would listen and point out my flaws, brutally at most, and still you listen. And I am happy. And we’ll call it a night and you allowed your head to rest in my arms. I watched you sleep, yes I did, and there was that smile again upon your face.
I almost allowed myself to believe that my love was reciprocated.
But it was not, was it, Kristin? You don’t love me and you did not tell me that you do. Not once. Sweet but honest, gentle and brutal, usual but extraordinary – and I love you then, now, and always.
Then tonight, tonight you told me that you’re leaving. Preposterous, I said, but you are serious. You say you have saved enough money to finally live and go back to your little village that lies in the foot of the great mountains and receive the sun’s first kiss. Of course I say no, no, you can’t leave. And you laughed then kissed me gently.
Why do you have to torture me?
Those words are unimaginable, I cannot allow that, no. I shall be with you always, always. But I cannot go to your little village for I live here in the big city. My people are here and if I leave they will die.
But if you leave then I will die.
I know you, love, I know you. Nothing can stop you and leave me you shall. And I am as good as torn apart.
Still, it wasn’t enough. You are not finished with your poison and the next that came forth of those lips is when you say you are to be wed. Wed? To whom? To the man you left behind when you left for the city, says you, to the only man you have loved and ever will. All those letters you write and say intended for your family, all that has letters, too, that was meant for him. And your love for each other has never ceased all this time. Two lovers far apart and soon, very soon, will be united.
But you are mine, Kristin, mine, as I am yours. And you can make me hate you but still, I am yours. I won’t give myself to anyone ever again, not even to me. And tonight I vow that we will sleep together, and tomorrow, and all the other nights after.
Let that be heard by all the Stars, the Moon, and the Wind that kisses my face tonight.
Now I must go back to the bed we will share for eternity, devoid of everything – riches, friends, family, morals – but of each other.
You lay there as peaceful as the sound of my longing, for at last it will be quenched. You lay as still and as breathless as the passions of my heart. For I have no other passion left but you, and you alone.
With your blood and mine, we will be covered by a blanket that will shield us from the world until time and beyond. With tears of joy I will leave the life I have previously known and join you in eternal slumber.
Together, at last, now and forever.
There are people you notice, and there are those whom backgrounds just tend to swallow.
Perhaps if in one particular background a crime took place in which you happened to bear witness, then asked by the authorities to describe in full detail what you have seen, you would unintentionally left out these people from your three-page long narrative.
But they were there. Perhaps they still are.
The city is messier than the usual. With the Election Day just three nights away, one could only expect the environment to be dirty.
Pamphlets and posters, with politicians’ rather too wide smiles that no photo manipulation could force to arrive at their eyes, are scattered everywhere – light posts, establishment walls, some had even get as far as to place it on the pencil cases and rubber erasers they “donate” to children whose parents can’t afford to feed square meals three times for most days.
Some people just can’t ride with the festivities, however.
For one man, another election makes no difference. He still sleeps on the same television carton – it used to be solid enough to provide a half-inch’s gap between the cold pavement and his skin – but now it betrays how easily paper yields to Damp and Heat, the two swapping natives of the Tropics. Soon, maybe another night or two, he’d have to visit the Hills again and rummage for a product of paper sturdy enough to use as a mock bed.
“Looks like I’ve got to go to there again, eh, Hope?” he said to the scrawny black kitten that, for one moon now, had always stayed close during bed time.
He found this cat in the Hills, a local garbage dump site so named because of the forbidding sight of hundreds of huge mounds of assorted garbage that people like him treat as their treasure trove. She was such a sorry sight then, more dead than alive in a shoebox, but then again it was only her first life.
The man and his companion picked a very apt spot for tonight – a vacant strip of land beside a shrubbery only about fifty paces away from the little stage.
While he spread his carton open to make their bed, he scanned the vicinity.
There are at least a dozen squatters there in the park tonight – most were in groups of two or three, families by the looks of two adults and their kids who are either too skinny or too dirty or both. There were solitary types, too, and you can’t help but stare at some – this one old man has pus-filled skin eruptions all over his body that even if he wanted to have company, it would be doubtful to find a willing one. Another solitary type is a middle-aged lady who has two dogs and five puppies. You would waste good time wondering where she gets the food to feed those dogs when she looks like she can’t even feed herself. Maybe those dogs are the ones who find food for her that’s why she kept lots of them around.
The man didn’t know and he’s too tired and hungry to ask anyway.
“Me and you could look forward to a bright day ahead tomorrow, what you say, Hope? There would be at least two Meeting de Avances there in the morning. Let’s hope they’d drop their little change here in our cup, shall we?”
“Purr”, said the kitten.
“Ah, me too. Why, I haven’t had anything down my here tummy since that hot bread the kindly old miss gave me this morning now you remind me. But tomorrow’s a good day Hope, tomorrow’s a good day. Now come here and let’s now sleep and dream of hot meaty soups and fat little rats…”
“Purr”, replied Hope.
He dreamt he was in a world he had always wished to live in as a boy – a world full of ginormous fruit-bearing trees the Sequoia would feel like a wasp if asked to stand beside, vast meadows to run wildly about, houses in various sizes all resembling Igloos, but this time, made of wood.
And cats – lots of talking members of the family Felidae.
He could find a tiger playing with a white Persian cat when he looked right; at his near left he could see the king of the beasts telling a story to a group of ginger kittens. There are others, lots of other felines if he scanned the place further, but obstinate purring was getting vehemently loud below him.
“I see you’re enjoying yourself”, said Hope.
“Wow! Is this where you come from, little dear?”, replied the man who seemed to have forgotten that all he sees are illogical, nonsensical, products of a mind fixated in the joyous, fanciful world of a child.
But when you are happy in a Dream, you’d have no way of knowing other worlds exist.
Hope didn’t reply. She just gave him what would seem like a lopsided grin on a human face and said, “Come, let’s get you acquainted with Mr. Green.”
“He preserves the place. Don’t worry, you’d love him.”
And they walked toward the Igloo House on the far side of the meadow. It’s not an assuming house; it’s just similar to the other Igloo Houses they passed along the way. But this house has a very inviting air, you see. It’s like saying, “I have chocolate-chip cookies and ice-cold lemon juice waiting at the kitchen, so what do you think are you doing just standing there salivating instead of just getting inside?”
The man felt and looked just like that when they stood in front of the house, making Hope let out a hearty chuckle-purr.
“Come, he’s waiting for you”, she tells Juan.
For Juan is in fact the name to which our here man answers.
It didn’t take him more than one step, three for Hope, when they opened the door to see Mr. Green waiting.
He was garbed in all, you guessed it, green, and on his face was a smile so genuine and warm and homely you immediately know the person in front of you is a friend, not a foe. He invited Juan inside like only a cherished friend would and took Hope, right then already purring contentedly in his arms.
And waiting on the table, well of course, is a jar filled with ice-cold lemon juice of the yellowest green, and a plateful of oven-warm chocolate-chip cookies with the scrumptioustest chunks of chocolate chips you can find.
Juan knew that finally, after a lifetime of waiting, he is where he truly belongs.
The Wind was chilling on the park the next morning.
But maybe it’s not really the wind, but the sight that waited for the whole country in that square. For what was once an ordinary park stands now a graveyard. Bodies litter what was once only filled with grass and flowers, reasonable trash (mostly posters and pamphlets) and few animal excreta.
Among these mass carcasses was the one and only the bomb was intended for – a formidable politician who, for once, genuinely hoped to help improve the lives of his countrymen.
The site where the bomb was assumed to have been planted was only less than a hundred paces away from the stage where the politician was practicing his speech the night before. The only survivors, a lady and her scandalous amount of stray dogs, miraculously survived even if they were near the site of explosion. She was interrogated by the authorities if she had seen anyone suspicious who lingered on the site presumed on the previous night. She said there was no one in particular, but at the last minute remembered a man, one she dismissed as just another homeless beggar, there in that specific spot last night. “He looked like he was sleeping”, she said, and added, “But there was a very mysterious air with him I couldn’t place, now I recall”, thinking that that would make her story more interesting. She convinced herself first, and them afterwards, that maybe he wasn’t really a beggar after all since he didn’t look dirty enough and his eyes lack the wild look the usual vagrants have on that park. Nothing unusual with the man – she expounded with great immersion – except for the fact that he was homeless, which in turn is not what you can say unusual in this city. “He’s too normal to be worth any attention”, she said. The authorities, convinced that that was indeed their bomber, started an intensive investigation.
But what was once the man’s body, nor his identity, has never been found.
“Final Kiss” by Landix (Click to view full image)
“Now, now you heard it,
Tales most far from sweet,
Her music gentle, clear,
Yet each note hides a tear,
From Great West to Far East,
Rough North, Treach’rous South,
Where songs begin, nurtured,
Melody she sings to you now.
You may or may not believe,
She only speaketh what she sees;
No friends, enemies, allies, or foes,
The Wind simply exists –
To collect mem’ries long forgotten,
Tales without her would’bin lost,
An’ when End arrives she’ll bring it,
To Time, waiting on his post.
But End still lies in slumber,
The World sees not his face,
But you, m’dear, have met him,
Now you must leave this place.
So hold my hand now, don’t fear,
For I am only Death,
To other worlds we’ll venture,
A new tale you must set.”