To You, Who were Left Behind.

Entry Writchal #2 2023/2024

Theme: Partner 


For as long as I can remember, I was not a part of this world. When everyone and the world itself moved forward, I could only stay still. I was unable to move, as if God had confined me with shackles that bound me to where I was. Even my parents abandoned me, moving forward by themselves. I was left alone and strangled in the corner of the room, while the world rumbled into the future.

I was used to the loneliness, probably because since I opened my eyes, it was the only feeling I knew. Since there was always the same empty corner of the room every day, with no one to talk to or anything to do, the concept of time is foreign to me. I grew used to the emptiness, calling it my corner of the world.

At times, I wonder, for what reason do I wake up to this emptiness. For what reason am I born to this world that leaving me behind as time. They say God made every living being for a reason, yet I do not see the reason of confining me into this lonely little place of mine.

The ninth year after I was born, right around the time when I wanted to let go and finally accept my fate of being left behind from the world, she appeared.

I often heard talks about people calling her ”Little Rascal of Room 5B”. I had no Idea what that meant, but it doesn’t sound like something bad. She was around the same age as me, albeit I later found out she was 11 months younger than me. She was frail and soft, yet determined and spiritful. Every day, she would “invade” my corner of the room, on the pretext of “tactical retreat from the demon lord of 5B”.

Even people who looked back at us can tell she’s clearly different from me. She’s as nimble as a fox, yet I could only sit and stare. She was able to converse with everyone, when I could only speak a dozen words.

Yet we both know that we are the same. We shared the same fate.

We were left behind by the world.

Unlike me, however, she had a vision.

“If we are not a part of that world, that means we just need to find our own world!”

She was the first person ever to move the shackles that bound me to that place. She introduced me to all sorts of things I had never known existed before. The radiance of the sun, the gentle breeze of the wind, the white clouds that are drifting in the sky. If it’s not because of her, I would never know nor experience those things.

“I guess we are partner-in-crime on discovering new worlds!”

One summer day of the twelfth year since I was born to this world, she once again invaded my corner, but this time, she was different. The usual energetic girl had turned into a quiet one. A welcome surprise, if you ask me. She sat there next to me while burying her face to her knees.

“Hey, do you believe in eternity?”

For me, who the concept of time itself is vague and blurry, I could only shake my head in oblivious.

“You know, I’m happy with how I lived my life so far.”

“I still have a lot of things I wanted to do, with you, of course.”

“Going on a trip, swimming in the sea, hiking on a mountain, so many things that I can’t mention all of them.”

“But, I’m afraid, I’m afraid of disappearing.”

It was the first time she made such a face. A face full of regrets and sorrow.

I held her hands firmly, it was a soft and small, but warm. I tried my best cheering her up, first time I did that in my whole life.

“Hahaha! What’s with you?”

Was it the wrong way to console someone? I had no idea how to do it.

“You’re right, we’re partner-in-crime on discovering our new world.”

“Then, promise me one thing.”

“Even when one of us or even both of us disappear, we will meet again and finally uncover the new world waiting for us.”

“And then, we’ll be together forever in that world of us, where we can play and have fun anytime we want!”

“Promise?”

A pinky promise, another first time in my life.

“You better not break that promise, or I will put another bug into your shirt!”

By the time of my thirteenth birthday, I tried to catch up to the world. I had thought that by catching up to the current world, I would be able to find the new world waiting for us. Piles of books of various kinds accompanied me throughout my days. She still invades my corner of the room, though less often than before.

A week after my fourteenth birthday, I was no longer put in my corner of the room. They moved me to my own room, one with a window to see the outside world anytime I want. I had only seen the outside world when she dragged me out of my corner of the room. Her invasion of my place had been lessening, even one time she doesn’t invade my place for a week, but the next day she came with loads of energy.

“Why did I come less often?”

I asked her the question while she was reading a book next to me.

“Could it be that you’re lonely without me?”

“Just joking! Well I had things to do, and the demon lord is stronger now, so I’m having a hard time escaping her!”

“I’ll try to come more regularly. After all, we need to find our new world together!

She answered with a smile as wide as the world.

Winter of my sixteenth birthday, halfway into my seventeenth. I had figured out the reason I was bound to this place. The man called doctor told the lady who always brought me food and needs that I have something wrong with my brain. I have no idea what that means, but I figured that I was sick, and I was placed at a place called hospital.

It’s also around those time that she stopped invading my place.

A few months later, I was permitted to walk around the place. It’s the first time I walked by myself around the place alone. She used to drag me everywhere she goes until she got scolded by that Demon Lord, and we never had a chance to walk around together again.

It was then I stumbled upon a particular room, Room 5B. It was a lonely room placed at the end of the hallway next to a room tagged ‘cleaning room’. The door was a little different from mine, it was smaller and colored blue, unlike gray on mine. On the door was a tag with the text “Mrs. Risaki”.

When I knocked on the door and went in, the scene unfolding in front of my eyes gave me mixed feelings. She was there, lying on the bed sleeping with all sorts of pipe injected into her hand. There were at least two bags filled with some colorful fluid connected to a pipe that went into her hand. She looked really frail that time, as if she would snap into two if I touched her. She was totally different from the person I knew, who invaded other’s place with all the energy in the world.

“Oh… Look who do we have here. You finally counter-invaded my room, huh?”

Her voice was trembling and weak, yet she still smiled when she saw my face.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to see me like this, you know?”

She changed her position to sitting position.

“You entered a girl’s room without a knock or anything, you need to learn some tact.”

I told her that I did knock, but she was asleep.

“I didn’t hear it, so I will take it as a lie.”

Her gaze turned into the window, snow had started falling while we talked.

“You know, if we found a world where it always snows, we can go out and do all sorts of things, we can make a snowman, throw snowballs at each other, make igloos, and then…”

She then rambled about all sorts of things we could do in a world covered in snow.

Since then, I was the one who invaded her room. I thought of it as some sort of revenge to her after her invasion of my room all these time. It was reminiscent of how she used to invade before, the difference being she’s still the one who talked a lot.

Summer of my seventeenth birthday, I had celebrated my birthday two weeks ago. She gave me a present in the form of a necklace with a small shell ornament on it. It was a bit weird for a guy like me to wear a necklace like that, nevertheless, I wore it everywhere I go.

“That necklace surprisingly fits you so well.”

She chuckled while commenting my new look.

“I can’t wait for my present, I wish my birthday will come sooner.”

I had already planned the gift I want to give her for her birthday. I even planned a little surprise together with the demon lord, otherwise known as her caretaker nurse.

“Do you still remember our promise, partner?”

I nodded. There’s no way I could forget that.

“I wish we can go to that new world now.”

Her gaze turned to the window. The summer sky burning hot from the scorching sun and the sound of crickets fills the air.

“Hey, can we take a walk outside?”

After getting her to the wheelchair with the help of the demon lord, I started pushing.

A hot summer day. We chilled under the shade of a tree in the courtyard. Chirps of birds and crickets fills the air. The small fountain in front of the tree adds to the ambience with its soothing water flow sound.

“Maybe this is what true peace is.”

She closed her eyes and took in the atmosphere. I followed suit

“You remember that time when I forcefully took you to the rooftop? That was hilarious.”

Our small talk begins with a reminiscence of the past, of the time when my eyes were finally open, and every day was a mundane and happy life.

“I wish we can go back to those times.”

“Fooling around, doing pranks to the demon lord, play under the sunlight, so many things.”

I hadn’t noticed yet at that time, but tears were rolling down her cheek.

“So many things that I want to do with you…”

“Grow up, go to school together, got into a little fight, shares our homework, study together, went on a date during the weekend.”

“I wish, I really wish, we could do that.”

She started to break down in tears, and I could only pat her on the head and tell her we will do everything she wants in our own world, since we shared a pinky promise.

“Promise me again… No matter what, you need to find our world, even without me.”

Two weeks after, I had no chance to visit her again. The doctor had assigned me to various test and examinations. He had also placed me under his direct overview. I was not permitted to leave my room for another two weeks.

It was the day before her birthday when the tests and examinations finally over. The surprise I had planned with the demon lord was a small one, and one day should be more than enough to prepare for it. Yet, I couldn’t find the demon lord anywhere, and I was told that her family is currently visiting when I went to her room.

Tomorrow comes. I finished the small surprise I had planned. Yesterday, I got to ask the nurse who’ve been my caretaker for the whole time if I can get a slice of cake for today. The plan is to surprise her after her usual morning checkup in her room.

What I found in Room 5B, however, was an empty room devoid of any items, even the furniture. What left were a note in the doorway, saying “Keep your promise.”

“You really like taking photos of everything, don’t you?”

A classmate of mine, now former, commented after I took a photo of the snow covered road in front of us.

“Is this for that girl you told me before? The one you had a pinky promise with?”

I only chuckled and shrugged him off.

In our hands are the diploma certificate, the sign that we finished high school.

“What are you going to do after this?”

I noticed some kids in the park were playing in the snow. Some threw snowballs at each other, while the others made a snowman together.

“A travel blogger? Sure, they do make big bucks from their vids.”

“Ah, bet it’s for that girl as well. Just go meet her and confess already, bro.”

“You even wore that girly necklace she gave you every day.”

“You’re totally in love, just ball up and go meet her.

“Yea, we promised, after all.”

Even if one of us, or even both of us disappear from the world, we will keep going.

We will find our own world.

And here I am, standing in front of the gate of said world.

Waiting for you, the ones who had been left behind by the world.

You, who tried tirelessly to catch up to it, even thought it’s impossible.

You, who always find a new way to usher hope.

You, who never gave up and continue to go forward, despite the world pushing you back.

You, who showed me the beauty of things I had never known in my life.

Farewell, from the one who caught up and went ahead of the world.


Writer: Anonymous

Ellysian Bliss

Entry Writchal #2

Theme: Maid


Ellysian Bliss 

Warm lights pouring through the glass window. Gentle breeze of the wind brushes your face. Swimming in the sea of dreams, you are pulled back into reality. Lying on a soft bed and covered in blanket, you feel your senses return to you. After three gentle knocks on the door, the door opened. As your senses return, footsteps draw closer and closer. 

You tilt your head in confusion, a figure stands next to you. 

The figure, dressed in a black dress, white apron, and a hairband standing in front of you. Holding a glass of water on a metallic tray, she smiled. 

“Good morning, Master.” 

You look around the strange room where you’re currently rested in. You do not recognize anything inside this room, and it looks luxurious. The room is decorated with antiques and paintings probably decades old, the walls were panelled out with astonishingly detailed carved wood, even the bed sheets felt so smooth as if it was made from high quality silk. To your right was a window which held a seaside view to the sienna painted sky as the sun was rising. 

You start to sit up while one hand is still holding onto your head, trying to ease the discomfort coursing through it. You reach out to the glass of water presented in front of you by the unknown figure. 

“Thanks” 

You take a gentle sip out of the glass; lukewarm water starts to refresh your once desert-like throat. You drank it all up and put the now-empty glass on the nightstand beside you. You scanned the maid-like figure from head to toe, trying to figure out who she is. Long silky black hair, skin white as snow, eyes blue like the morning sky. She has a well-proportioned body that wasn’t too tall, and she seemed to be just a few years younger than you. Her looks are awfully familiar, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. 

“I give up!”, you said while throwing your hands into the air. 

“Would you like to introduce yourself young lady?” 

She giggled a little and started to introduce herself. She said her name was Ellysia and she was hired by someone that she could not tell you about, to take care of you until you could stand up on your own two feet again. You looked at her quizzically and asked what she meant by that last part. 

“You see Master, you just woke up from a coma. You’ve been sleeping for the past 3 months and right now, I don’t think you can even stand properly.” 

You deny it and then try to prove her wrong by trying to stand up. Your legs felt so weak and trembled as you attempted to pull yourself up. Alas, your legs gave in, and your body started to fumble forward. Ellysia managed to catch you just in time and helped you to sit back on the bed. Holding in your embarrassment, you continued to ask Ellysia about your current situation. 

“You are currently in a room inside my anonymous employer’s private mansion. They said you can rest here and use anything you may find inside this room, but not anything outside of here.” 

Ellysia explained that this mansion is located very far out from civilization that you might not be able to access any communication technology while living there and thus Ellysia and one other person will be the only ones keeping you company in the mansion.

“There’s another one?” 

Ellysia confirmed that there is another person currently in this mansion who’s tasked with housekeeping, to make sure the mansion is always at comfortable living conditions. You follow up her statement with questions regarding this other person’s appearance, but suddenly a loud Westminster chime echoed across the hallway. Ellysia apologetically dismissed your question and politely excused herself from your presence, she said she’ll be back in fifteen minutes. As Ellysia swiftly walked towards the door and opened it, you could see another figure was already waiting for her. You tried to make out the appearance of that small figure from a distance, but you can’t properly see due to the lighting of the hallway. Then Ellysia closed the door behind her. 

Left alone in that large fancy room, you start to fidget anxiously. You looked at the small antique clock on the nightstand beside you, the longer hand pointing at seven while the shorter hand points at one. You try to find something to do while waiting for Ellysia to return. You rummage through the drawer in the nightstand and find a weird looking book. 

It had a red hardback cover, probably a thousand pages thick, and looked very old. The front cover had the title and author embossed on it, it said “Elysium by Ember Rose”. Because you were bored and didn’t have anything to do anyways, you started to read through the first pages of the book. Unfortunately, some pages were damaged, and you couldn’t really make out much of it. But the part you understood was fairly interesting, it told a story of a hidden paradise in a secluded world far away from the rest of the universe. You had almost finished the first chapter, when you heard a knock on the door. Before you could answer, Ellysia’s voice was heard through the door, 

“Master, would you like scrambled eggs or peanut butter toast for breakfast?” “Can you make both? I’m quite starving.” 

“Absolutely, and would you like some tea to go with it?” 

“Yup, make it sweet” 

After confirming your request, Ellysia excused herself to prepare your breakfast. You then picked the book back up and something fell from inside it. It was a letter of some sort, written there it was addressed to Ellysia. You wonder if it would be okay for you to open it. You let curiosity get the better of you and opened the envelope. Inside was a message asking for Ellysia’s help in creating a “Paradise”, it was written in such beautiful words and distinguished handwriting that you could feel that this letter was written with tremendous affection. 

You reach the end of the letter and oddly, there was no signature or anything else to signify who the sender was. You start to flip the letter around and look inside the envelope for any hints but couldn’t find anything. At that moment, a knock was heard on your door. 

“Excuse me Master, your breakfast is ready. May I come in?” 

“S-sure, sure, come in”, you said with a slightly shaking voice while at the same time trying to put the letter and envelope back into the book. 

Ellysia opened the door and walked towards the bed carrying your breakfast on a silver tray. She looked at the book you’re holding, and a slight shock painted on her face. Acting undazed by the book, she proceeded to set up the breakfast on your bed. 

“Did you find this book interesting Master?”, Ellysia asked while pouring tea into your cup.

“Uh… yeah, it was a nice fantasy read”, you could see that she was a bit anxious. “Say… Ellysia, was your name inspired by this book?”, you asked. 

Ellysia smiled and said, “Yes, actually, my mother was the one who wrote that book.” 

She continued to tell you stories about her mother and how her mother used to read that book to her before bed. She said that her mother passed away around two years ago and that that book was the only memory she had of her mother. Then Ellysia slowly shook her head, 

“In any case, I am done with the preparations Master. Enjoy your breakfast.” 

You stare in awe at how delicious the breakfast Ellysia prepared looks. The buttery yellow scrambled eggs looked like they were cooked until they were just set. You set aside the book you were holding and picked up the spoon next to the scrambled eggs. You pressed on the scrambled eggs lightly with your spoon and the eggs slightly gives in. You put that spoonful of scrambled eggs into your mouth, you could feel the soft and creamy texture of the eggs pouring in. 

“Wow! This is amazing Ellysia, it’s just like what my mom used to make” 

Ellysia blushed a little and thanked you for the compliment. You finish up your scrambled eggs and toast. You took a sip from the teacup and were a bit shocked, the sweetness of the tea was perfect. How could Ellysia possibly know all about your meal preferences? 

“Hey Ellysia, have we ever met before? I mean before I was in a coma. I seem to not have any memories from the recent past. I can’t even remember what happened to me before I was in coma, but I do remember a bit of my childhood” 

Ellysia tries to hide her nervousness by pretending to think. 

“I…I don’t think we’ve met before Master. I just m-met you recently when my client h-hired me to take care of you. As f-for your memory loss, I think i-it was a side effect of your treatment while in coma” 

You could tell she was very nervous from her answer, so you decide not to press about it any further. 

After breakfast, you ask Ellysia to help you practice walking around the room. You move your body to the edge of the bed and Ellysia takes a sitting position next to you. Both of you held on to each other’s waist as Ellysia gently pulled you up from the bed. The two of you blushed and you could feel both of your hearts racing. You start walking awkwardly while resting some of your body weight on Ellysia’s body, which is not as small as you thought it was. You walk towards the painting across the bed that looks a bit like “The Scream” by Edvard Munch but painted in “The Starry Night” style and has two people in it. 

“Ellysia, don’t you think the people in this painting kind of look like us?”, you said while trying to hold in your laughter. 

“When you stare at it for a while, it does start to look a bit like us” 

Both of you started to laugh lightly and started to comment on the other paintings too. 

The day passed by and now it’s almost night time. The antique clock on your nightstand shows it’s currently six thirty in the afternoon. Ellysia excused herself to prepare for dinner, in the meantime she said Celestia will accompany you. You wonder and ask who Celestia was.

“She’s the other person I mentioned before Master”, Ellysia said while walking towards the door. 

“She’s also my little sister”, she smiled and left the room. 

A few minutes pass and a short figure enters your room with some cleaning supplies. 

“Heya big bro!”, she said with a wide smile, showing off her cute fangs. But then, as if a sudden realization hit her, she coughed and said, “Ahem. I meant, good afternoon, Master” 

You look at her and think, “She does look a lot like Ellysia, except for her fangs and hairstyle”. Immediately after that thought, you felt a sharp pain in your head. Celestia notices this. 

“Are you okay Master? You seem to be in pain, is your head hurting?” 

“Yea, but it’s no big deal, it should go away soon” 

Celestia insisted that she’ll cast a magic spell to help relieve the pain. 

“I didn’t know they were capable of casting magic”, you thought to yourself. She took a pink wand-like object from the pocket in her maid outfit. She starts to murmur something inaudible and shouts the last word “Cure!” while pointing the wand at you. 

“Now I need to seal the spell with a kiss”, she said while running towards me and kissed you on the forehead. Then, she asked if you were feeling any better. Coincidentally, your headache did subside, but to be honest you don’t think it was because of her spell. 

“Yeah, I feel better now! Thanks for the spell Celestia”, you said while patting her head. Her eyes light up while a victorious smile is painted across her face. You looked at her face and thought, “Is this really a face that is capable of housework?” 

Amidst your thought, you remembered the letter you found earlier today and wondered if Celestia knew anything about it. So, you showed Celestia the letter you found inside the red book and asked if she knew anything about it. 

“Hmmm… Nope! But I do recognize the handwriting! But I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you that though Master” 

Something’s weird here, Ellysia and Celestia are hiding something and clearly, they’re not doing such a good job. Celestia notices you thinking quite hard and decides to give you a clue. She said it was the handwriting of someone you knew. Considering that you only know four people as of now, it wasn’t hard to guess. You laughed a little and said, “I don’t think you thought that one through, did you?” 

She thinks for a bit and realizes, “Ah! I forgot that you don’t know anyone else except for me and big sis… But I don’t think it’s a big deal if you do find out who that letter is from though, tehe~” 

You asked what she meant by that, but she insisted it was a secret and she wouldn’t tell you no matter what. Celestia continued cleaning your room for a bit and soon after, Ellysia opened your room door with one hand holding a silver tray, which you assume is your share of dinner. She announced that dinner is ready for everyone. Celestia cheered and rushed out of the room. Ellysia walked towards you and prepared your meal; you contemplated whether you should ask her about the letter. 

“Your food’s ready Master”, Ellysia said, snapping you back into reality.

“Is something wrong Master?” 

You shook your head and dismissed her concern. Ellysia doesn’t seem convinced but plays along anyway. You enjoy your meal quietly while Ellysia sits beside you. 

“You’re not going to eat dinner?”, you ask Ellysia. She says she’ll eat after you’re done. You tell her that she can just eat together with you. She declined your offer, but you insisted. So, she excused herself to take her share from the kitchen and returned with her meal a few minutes later. You both enjoyed the meal Ellysia prepared and it was exceptionally delicious. 

After such a long day, you finally decide to hit the hay. Ellysia helps to tuck you in and then excuses herself to her room. 

“Wait, Ellysia, where are you sleeping?” 

“I have my own room right next to yours, Master” 

You ask Ellysia to accompany you in your room tonight, she blushes. You thought that was probably a sign that she would agree, but to your disappointment, she declines. She said that might not be appropriate for a maid and a master, especially when the two of you had just met. So, Ellysia continued her way out while closing the door, the lights turned off automatically soon after. 

*** 

The next day you wake up quite early, it’s still six in the morning, the lights are still off because the sun hasn’t hit your windows just yet. You kind of remember that the lights you had in your house were also sensor-based. Since the lights aren’t on yet, you turn on the lamp on the nightstand. 

“Come to think of it, I used to own a lamp like this that I use in my room. But I don’t think this is mine, mine has a signature on the bottom of it.” 

You stop for a while and try to remember whose signature was on your lamp back home. You’re pretty sure it was a signature from someone you hold dear. You stare at the lamp beside you. Surely that lamp can’t be the same one that you own. You fidget anxiously, but finally your piqued interest moves your body to lift up the lamp and sure enough there was a signature on the bottom of it. It was Ellysia’s signature. 

“This must just be a coincidence, right? Maybe Ellysia just like to sign her belongings” 

As you try to figure things out, Celestia enters your room with a set of cleaning tools, while skipping and humming. The lights turn on and Celestia notices you already awake, with a surprised tone she greets you and then starts to clean your room. You greet her back and then watch her do her thing. 

“Say, Celestia, do you know why this lamp has Ellysia’s signature on it?” 

“Hmm? Oh yeah, that’s because it was big sis’ Christmas present for you. They put it there to help you regain your memories” 

You looked at each other for a moment, before Celestia went into panic. She told me to pretend that she didn’t say anything and immediately continued wiping the windows. This is getting a bit weird. How could Ellysia have given you a Christmas present when both of you had just met yesterday? And who are “they”? You wanted to ask for more details to Celestia but you’re 

pretty sure she won’t tell you anymore than she has. So, you act like nothing happened and continue to idly chat with her. 

After a while, Ellysia enters your room bringing you breakfast. A bowl of cereal with soy milk and a cup of sweet tea. Ellysia enters with a smile and then she greets you. You greet her back while she prepares your breakfast. You eat your breakfast and then you ask Ellysia to help you practice walking again like yesterday, this time you want to explore the mansion. Ellysia thinks for a bit and then agrees to your request. The two of you walk through the hallway, visiting the other rooms. Your legs seem to be stronger today, so Ellysia didn’t have to hold you so close to her body like yesterday. Oddly, you feel your heart drop a bit when you realize you didn’t need to hold Ellysia so close to you like before. 

On your tour around the mansion, you get to see Celestia cleaning the other rooms, as well as tending the garden behind the mansion. She’s exceptionally fast and good at these things. You and Ellysia visited a huge library on the second floor, it was like two to three times bigger than your room… and your room was already pretty big. Ellysia explained that the owner of this mansion likes to collect a lot of antique and old stuff, including books. They’re exceptionally interested in romantic stories in the Norse and Greek mythologies. 

“They said that these stories depict the truest form of love”, she said while showing you the romance section of the library. 

You suddenly remember your best friend Nicolas who also had a love for mythologies. Nicolas would always bring in a new book every week to class to show you the magnificence of mythologies. He said his mother ignited his love for mythologies starting from a book about a paradise in Greek mythology. 

His love for romance mythologies was on a whole other level that he started to desire bringing a lot of the stories he read into real life, 

“If a guy started dating one of my sisters, I would have to put him through one hell of a test. Just like in these myths” 

While reminiscing about that, you caught a glimpse of a book titled “Norse Mythology” with an eccentric bluish cover. You’re pretty sure Nicolas also had a book like that, he claimed it was a limited-edition book and that he was the only one to have it in the whole world. You look at the book and notice that there was a folded page in it. You unfold the page to reveal highlighted words on the page, the words were: “you”, “seek”, “closer”, “think”, “What”, “is”, “than”, “you”. Ellysia peeks from over your shoulder and gasps. You immediately turn your head. 

“What’s wrong?” 

“Uhm… nothing, I just thought the book was uhm… d-damaged, yeah that’s it” 

You stare at her for a while, and she avoids your eyes anxiously. Eventually you let it slide and just ask Ellysia if you could take the book to your room to read it. Ellysia said that you can’t as it would break the agreement with her client, however she can read it to you in your room occasionally if you want. You decided that won’t be necessary, you’ll just come back to the library with her if you wanted to look at the book again. 

It’s almost noon, you ask Ellysia if you can watch her cook this time. Ellysia embarrassedly declined. She said that it would be very difficult to focus if you were there, but you insisted. So, Ellysia and you walk towards the kitchen. You sit across the counter where Ellysia is 

cooking. You admirably stare at her while she prepares lunch. She blushes every time she catches your stare. 

Why do you get the feeling that you’ve done this before? 

Eventually the meal is ready, Ellysia prepares the dining room and then excuses herself to call Celestia. While waiting for them, you try to make sense of the highlighted words you found earlier. You stare at the omurice in front of you and suddenly an idea pops into your head. You sort out the words you remember and eventually reach the sentence that made most sense. “What you seek is closer than you think” 

*** 

It’s been a week since you first woke up here in the mansion. You’ve been practicing walking around the mansion with Ellysia and Celestia for the past week. Your legs are a whole lot better now and you can walk by yourself. Unfortunately, your memory loss doesn’t seem to be getting any better and you haven’t found any further hints about the mysteries thrown at you the first couple of days. 

Anyways, today you and Ellysia had agreed to have a picnic at the beach because you were bored and as a token of reward for achieving recovery. So here you are, in the garden gazebo enjoying tea while taking in the beautiful nature around you. Ellysia said she had a surprise for you so she would be a bit late and you decided to wait for her in the garden. 

Eventually Ellysia shows up in her bathing suit. It’s a white swim dress decorated with floral marks. In her left hand she carries a basket of what you assume would be your lunch and her right hand holding the sunhat over her head. You sit there and stare at her with awe. Your heart beats faster as she approaches and greets you. 

“Wow… just… wow” 

“Is something the matter, Master?” 

“I think there was something in my tea” 

Ellysia started to panic, “Are you alright master? Do you feel lightheaded? Or maybe you have a stomachache?” 

“I think it was drugged; cause right now I’m seeing an angel” 

“You shouldn’t joke around about things like that Master”, she bashfully scolded me. 

You compliment Ellysia on her looks a bit more before the two of you finally set off for the beach. 

You guys arrive at the beach just before noon. The sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun, the sand under your feet, all these sensations combined brings a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation. You set up the picnic blanket and the umbrella then went to have a dip in the sea water. Meanwhile, Ellysia sets up the eating utensils on the blanket. 

“Aren’t you going to join me in the water, Ellysia?” 

She seems to be having an internal dilemma, but finally decided to accept your invitation. “I’ll join you after I put on some sunscreen Master” 

“You would look beautiful even with tans, so don’t worry”

She blushes a bit, “I appreciate the gesture, but I have a certain medical condition with my skin that doesn’t allow prolonged exposure to sunlight.” 

After she put on sunscreen, she joined you in the water. You both played around in the water, tried to compete on holding breaths longer, finding random objects in the water, and other classic games you could play. 

Tired after playing around so much and because it’s already noon. You and Ellysia hop out of the water to enjoy the meals Ellysia brought. Today’s lunch theme must be Japanese because you could see some California rolls, gyoza, and mochi. The California rolls had imitation crab meat and cucumber in it, with sesame seeds as toppings. You gladly take a pair of chopsticks and lift a piece of California roll. You take a bite and immediately felt the crunchy sensation from the cucumber and sesame seeds. The slightly sticky and sweet rice makes it melt so satisfyingly in your mouth. You take a bit of each of the menu and Ellysia watches in amazement while she also eats her fill. 

Finally, it was time for dessert. The mochi Ellysia made looks so yummy. They were colored mostly in green and red, Ellysia said they were filled with fruit-flavored ice cream. You absolutely love ice cream mochi. You take a bite out of a green one. The mochi was soft and chewy and the ice cream filling adds a burst of fruity flavor. 

“This is really good, you want a taste?”, you say to Ellysia while holding out the half-bitten mochi to her. 

“u-uhm… yes I would love to take a bite, Master”, she tucks a few strands of hair behind her ear before taking a bite of that green half-bitten mochi. 

“Absolutely delicious right?” 

“Y-yes, it’s very tasty”, Ellysia says while looking away. 

You bring the last bite of mochi to your mouth, and you notice a subtle red shade on the mochi where Ellysia took a bite. You look at Ellysia’s lips and notice that she put on a different color of lip tint than what she usually uses. You eat the mochi and said, “That new lip tint looks good on you”. 

“I-I couldn’t hear that properly Master, what did you say?” 

“I-I said that lip tint looks good on you”, while you scratch your head nervously “T-th-thank you”, she says while fidgeting her fingers. 

After the meal, you spend the rest of the afternoon just laying down on the blanket while Ellysia sits beside you. You start to do some cloud watching and make out different animals and characters from the clouds you see. Ellysia joins in and then the two of you start to take turns pointing at random clouds, competing on who could make up a figure faster. 

“Those clouds look so fluffy and soft to lay on don’t you think? Wish I had something like that to lay on right now.” 

“Is the blanket not soft enough Master?” 

“Nope, I’d like to request something softer… like your lap”, you point towards Ellysia. She blushes and then pats on her lap, “Since today is special, go ahead”

You do a little celebration with your hands and took the offer. You’re now laying on Ellysia’s lap and continue to do cloud watching, even though you can’t see as much of the sky as before. 

The afternoon passes and it’s almost sundown. You and Ellysia pack your things and start to head back to the mansion. On the way back you start to think to yourself, “Ellysia is such a lovely girl, when I finish my treatment here, I would love to make her my girlfriend and bring her back home”. 

Arriving at the mansion’s back garden you hear a helicopter coming from not too far away. You turn around to look at the helicopter, it didn’t seem to belong to the military, it was a classy white helicopter with the initials “N.I.” written on the side of it. As you caught a glimpse of the initials, you experience immense pain in your head, it felt like your head was going to explode. You stumble and start to hyperventilate. You feel a lot of memories flowing into your head. Ellysia tries to calm you down while stroking your back. You start to piece together all the clues. You now remember who Ellysia and Celestia really are and the so-called “anonymous client”. 

When you finally calmed down and regained strength, the helicopter descended behind the mansion’s garden. You feel the subtle wind blowing from the helicopter blades as it lands. Celestia runs towards where the helicopter was landing. Ellysia helps you to stand up and from where you stood, you could see a figure of a man around your age in a suit and wearing a fedora stepping down from the helicopter. Celestia hops to hug him, 

“Welcome back Big Bro!” 

There’s no mistaking it, that’s him, that’s Nicolas. He approaches you and says, “Yo! Long time no see. Seems like you’ve passed my test” 

*** 

To be continued… or not?


Writer: Anonymous

My Maid is a Dinosaur

Entry Writchal #2

Theme: Maid


Warm lights pouring through the glass window.

Gentle breeze of wind brushes your face.

Swimming in the sea of dreams, you are pulled back into reality.

Lying on a soft bed and covered in blanket, you feel your senses return to you.

After three gentle knocks on the door, the door opened.

As your senses returned, footsteps draw closer and closer.

You tilt your head in confusion, a figure stands next to you.

The figure, dressed in a black dress, white apron, and a hairband standing in front of you. Holding a glass of water on a metallic tray, she smiled.

She then lets out a powerful roar as she puffs up her purple and yellow plumage. Saliva follows the bird-like screech as it leaves her oral cavity. It should have dawned on you earlier, but you have formal reason to believe that your maid is a Velociraptor.

You reluctantly grab the tray for yourself. The creature turns back and starts sniffing the ground. Her infamous sickle claws tap on the ceramic floor. She growls and snarls at the ground as if its very being offends her. As if she’s cursing the underworld for giving her such a foul and unruly punishment. You come to my senses and realise that you need to start my morning routine. This reptilian maid might seem impractical, but your curiosity encourages me to ask her if she can cook breakfast for you. Her eyes narrow, as if her mind was overtaken by your simple request. She rushes to the kitchen with terror and grace. As she leaves, a tag falls off from her feathers. You read the tag and it said, “Here’s 20 dollars, just TAKE HER.” Your loyal servant returns to yiu with an enticing breakfast. Bacon and eggs served with a small salad. You don’t know where the 20 dollars went, but you’re not sure if you’ll need them. This overgrown turkey just cooked breakfast from thin air. It was especially impressive, because you had only bought cereal the night before. You nod in approval and she seems pleased with your happiness.

You haven’t sweeped the floor in a week and my shelves were filled to the brim with dust. Your bathrooms were so dirty you started taking less showers because you knew you wouldn’t get any cleaner. Enter your saurian servant. Within minutes, your house was free of the dust and dirt. Any small chance of a small plague evolving within your chambers was dissolved and you could do nothing but be amazed at this raptor’s efficiency. You sit down on your couch, thinking of what to do while waiting for lunch. As you grab my TV remote, the raptor jumps on your coffee table, knocking your vase and breaking it. She roars at you and flaps her wings. She grabs your TV remote and puts it back on the coffee table, then proceeds to scoop up the vase’s remains with her mouth. She throws them in the trash cans outside. You are perplexed by this behaviour, but she immediately returns with a new vase with new flowers. She also hands you a red tracksuit. Curious how the red is thicker near the collar.

You realise that your servant is suggesting you to get fit. Feeling like there aren’t any more chores to do for the weekend, you go to the local park and start jogging. You hear the sound of sirens as you continue your exercise. You wonder what the commotion might be. Nevertheless, you return home.

As you enter your front door a rotting sensation fills your olfactory bulbs. Despite how clean your home has become, the smell reeks of rotten flesh. Only for that smell to be followed by the smell of calming perfume, the sudden change was so relieving that your suspicions and thoughts were erased. You find your velociraptor friend carrying a basket of empty bottles of perfume. The smell of perfume makes you forget about the sirens you heard earlier. It appears that it’s time for lunch, but you’re drenched in sweat from your morning jog. As you enter the shower, the velociraptor in a uniform follows you. Confused, you look at her as you step further into the bathroom. She continues to step forward. It should have dawned on you earlier, but you now have formal reason to believe that this dinosaur wants to give you a bath. 

You try to tell her off, but she tilts her head. You try to close the door, but she tries to get in. Your primal instincts kick in and you start shoving the dromaeosaur out of your bathroom. You successfully close the door, but as you try to lock it from the inside, she opens it again. It seems that there’s a raptor in your bathroom. While you know you’re not in any danger, a 6 foot turkey with razor sharp teeth cornering you in your own bathroom is a very terrifying experience. Your back hits the wall and you yell at her to sit down. Her eyes narrow. You calm down and you tell her to cook lunch. She leaves you alone and walks out of your bathroom. You can finally take a shower in peace.

You walk out in new clothes and sit down on the dining table. Lunch is served and you see a well cooked steak and french fries, with a side of gravy. You start chowing down on your lunch and your maid watches from the side. Usually, you’d cook yourself some instant noodles or an omelet if you’re lucky. Then, something hits. Where’s she getting all of these ingredients? You leave the dining table after you finish your food. Since you haven’t exercised in a while, your joints feel sore and you feel like it might be a good idea to lay down. You try to process what’s just happened in these past few hours. Then you hear the sounds of plates shattering. You get up from bed immediately and you rush to the kitchen. Only to find that all of your dishes have been washed. It must’ve been the wind.

You walk back to your room and you lay down. You take a moment to think about all the suspicious things that have happened today. The tag on the raptor, the sirens, the rotting smell, the luxurious food, and the dishes. You tell yourself that you’ll figure it out tomorrow, this maid’s done a lot more in a few hours than what you’ve done in a week, so it can’t be all bad. Your eyes shut and you fall asleep.

You wake up and you find that it’s 3 ‘o clock. You walk out of your room and back into your kitchen to find some snacks. Upon another glance, the dishes that have been washed aren’t your dishes. Your favourite mug is gone. Outraged, you try to find your reptilian helper. Then you look at your basement and the door is wide open. You rush down to find that familiar rotting smell. Then you find raw meat, strewn across the floor. The smell made perfect sense now. Next to you is your old TV and the news is on. It says that there has been a rampaging dinosaur in a maid outfit stealing ceramics, food, and silverware. It then says that if you’ve seen this raptor, then you should report back to the police immediately. The pieces are starting to fit together. Then you find the raptor prowling near the safe. You know exactly what’s in your safe. The deed to your house. It should have dawned on you earlier, but you now have formal reason to believe that a velociraptor in a maid outfit wants the deed to your house.

You jump the raptor and you wrestle with it to defend your home. she roars in pain as you punch her in her stupid saurian face. She claws at you and you back off. You try to order her to sit down, but it doesn’t work. She pounces at you, but you manage to dodge. She roars at you and begins to examine you. She might be rethinking its strategy, this is your chance! You run at it with full force, grabbing your old TV and smashing it on the raptor’s skull, making sure it stays a fossil. She runs back in fear and you roar at her like an enraged caveman. You run at her and you grab her by the neck and you start smashing the top of her head with your bare fists. She then starts coughing and she spits out a 20 dollar bill. She slashes you in the back with her foot and you let her go. You howl in pain and the raptor takes this opportunity to strike. She pulls out a Glock 17 and shoots you three times in the chest. The screaming stops as she cracks open the safe with her mind reading powers. You realise that if you had picked up on the signs sooner, this might not have happened. She grabs the deed to her house and takes off her outfit and lets out a final ear piercing screech. 

THE END


Writer: Anonymous

Hexachronigrid

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time


Hexachronigrid

Rahven shambled away from the park. It had once been a place of comfort in the only city he had ever known, away from the anxieties of his childhood house just a few blocks away. But it hadn’t been. Not in these past few years. Not since- … that day. Or perhaps even long before that. Why was he here anyway? In this accursed town he had spent too long and too short of his life in, when he now knew of other towns? One of which even has a house with his name in its deeds, unlike this one.

Why, indeed? Rahven looked up to the sky, even if sunlight was sparse in this part of the year, it’d feel good on his face all the same. Perhaps it’d help his mood and mind even now.

Rahven turned his head back down and stretched, a big smile on his not-so-big-head. The rays of sunlight warmed his face and body nicely while the winds of spring filled his lungs with fresh air. He didn’t know why his father had decided to move to this part of town from their previous one. Something about money and time? gas? and… work? In any case, it was something he was too young and stupid to make any sense of. At least, that’s what his dad had told him.

Anyway, it didn’t matter why they had moved! There’s a huge park just a few blocks away from his new house! This park had fountains and ponds and swings and food stands and seesaws and kids! Kids! Like him! The nearest park to his old home barely had any kids. Sure, sure, it wasn’t deserted… but it had teens! Meanie teens! Which was definitely worse than if the park had been deserted! … and creepy.

Rahven had been so stoked when he had seen the park on the way to his new house that he had immediately begged his mom to go to the park with him. But she had refused. Too busy. New house needed decorating. Why wasn’t he useful? Stop being annoying. But it didn’t matter, his dad had come to the rescue and he was in the park! … alone. But, eh, what’s the worse that could happen? He’s had a blast so far meeting the other kids and playing in the park, committing all its gorgeus wonderful details to his memories.

He hadn’t really wanted to leave yet. But the other kids had told him there were cool shops this way! Shops with snacks and sweets from floor to ceiling, shops with ice creams all over the floor, shops with awesome trinkets at every corner! He just had to see them!

Still, he wanted to commit as much of the park to memory so turned his head back to the park.

“Rahven!”

Rahven blinked and– blinked. He turned his head to his girlfriend of… three years? He definitely needed to check the notes on his phone again, wouldn’t want to accidentally write the wrong number on their anniversary gift.

… was their anniversary coming soon? It’s almost fall now …right? … when did they start their relationship again?

“… are you okay?” Sarene asked, brows furrowed and head tilted.

“Yeah, I- I’m… fine?” Rahven… answered? Questioned? Said. Rahven said, trying to regain some focus. “Sorry, what were we talking about again?”

“Well, just some plans for the homecoming at our high school,” she answered slowly. “I asked if you wanted me to help plan your outfit and then you… froze,” the girl looked over her shoulder. “Did you see something?”

“Yes! … no?” Rahven answered, making Sarene even more concerned. “Sorry, I- yeah, I thought I saw…” Sarene was definitely getting more concerned… and alarmed. “It’s nothing! I’m sure what I saw was nothing! Let’s just get to the snacks store and then the ice cream parlor!” Rahven tried to grin with enthusiasm when mentioning the two places that had been the staple for a lot of their dates.

“Are you sure? We could just go home if you-” Sarene reached for the boy’s shoulders.

“No! No! Nonono-” Rahven flinched, taking a step away. “I-” he raised his hands up, palms facing his concerned girlfriend. “I’m sorry, I’m ruining our date like this. Pleaseletsjustgototheshop?” the boy pleaded, wishing to be somewhere less open, wishing to just blend into the busy store full of sweets and snacks not far from here.

Sarene reached out towards her boyfriend and gripped his hand.

Rahven looked at the hand held inside the girl’s own. She was looking away, but he could see the corners of her lips curling upwards. The boy, however, couldn’t look away from the amazing scene in front of him. Sarene was holding his hand.

SARENE. WAS. HOLDING. HIS. HAND.

He couldn’t belive his luck. First, his crush since the start of middle school had asked to hang out with him—sure, they would talk in class sometimes and get group projects together, but this was different! She’d asked to hang out with him, just him! And he could pick the place! So of course he’d picked this park just a few blocks away from his house with all these amazing stores for their, hopefully, first date. Especialy since he’s currently not allowed to go far from his house—and now she’s actually holding hands with him.

Rahven could practically feel his heart trying to burst out of his chest while his chest itself gets more deflated because he kept failing to take any proper breaths. Rahven tried to slow his breathing, making sure they were deeper and got enough oxygen. Rahven could feel that-

Oh no, when was it? Spring? Early spring? Valentine’s week of spring?! Had this been a date this whole time?! Was he just-

“Rahven?” the voice that called him was soft and sweet, just like how it always was in their school.

Rahven couldn’t trust his voice but tried anyway, “y-yeah?”.

“Are you okay? You’re kind of breathing really shallow,” the girl tilted her head.

“Of course, I just-” the boy raised his free hand to rub at the back of his head but just ended up flailing its attached arm. That, and he coughed. “Spring’s really started huh? I hope I won’t get pollen allergy.”

“Oh, I never realized you were allergic to pollen,” Sarene furrowed her brows.

“Well, I’m not,” he answered with a smile. “But, in case I am, we should get out of this pollen invested air and into that snacks and sweets shop over there,” Rahven raised a finger to point at a shop not too far from the park they’d just gotten out of.

“Wha- Rahven!” Sarene yelled, sounding as if he’d just offended her great grand ancestors or something. However, Rahven could see her lips twitching into a badly hidden smile. Sarene decided to show her frustration with him by squeezing the hand trapped in her own.

Rahven flinced and snapped his head towards his son his boy Dihev. The younger man scowled.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Dihev scoffed and turned his eyes away.

“What?” Rahven asked, not comprehending.

“Dad told me to squeeze your hand if you ever zoned out,” the young adult answered brusquely. “Never thought I’d ever need or want to use it, though,” Dihev muttered under his breath.

“‘Dad’?” Rahven felt even more lost, he’s never written something like that to his son. That felt like such a weird thing to write about yourself.

… not that he’s ever written much to his son anyway. Moreover Dihev hasn’t called him dad for quite some time so it couldn’t have been him. Then suddenly Rahven felt understanding fill him, as well as more confusion.

“But he’s-“

“What? Surprised a dead man is trying to forge more of a relationship with me than you have been, ‘father’?” Dihev cut off the older man’s words and crossed his arms. “I don’t know how he did it but I’ve been getting these letters twice a year since his death,” he eyed his father’s expression. “And from your expression, I take it he hasn’t done the same for you?” Dihev sneered.

What? Dihev has been getting- but- is there even a service to do something like that?

Why… why hasn’t he been getting any?

“Maybe he knew you’d be a loser and decided to not waste his time with you?”

No, no, no. Stop.

“Maybe he’s not even really dead and just decided to run away from you!”

No, he’s dead. He’s- he’s- dead. Rahven had seen his body, all those falls ago. A fall just like this one. Cold and almost dead. Just like his body. But his body was not almost dead. It was dead dead. Besides he would never-

“And he’s sending me letters because he feels bad for leaving me with you as a father!”

No! NO! He’s been trying! He has! It’s just- He didn’t want to be- and he was afraid that-

“And he hasn’t been sending any to you because he hates you!”

Nononono, he would never- he’d never hate him! Right, he’d never hate him. Right? Right. He’d never hate him. Never! Nevernevernevernever-

Rahven felt two big hands slapped on top of his shoulders and jumped. Or… he would have if the hands hadn’t prevented him from actually jumping.

“Whoa, there, tiger!”

Rahven looked up to see Ver’id’s furry face. The bigger man’s beard seemed to glitter in the light of the almost-summer sun. However, that same sun seemed to cast the eyes in shadow.

“You seemed like you were about to panic so I-” Ver’id slipped his hands away to scratch at one of his sideburns. “Yeah, that might’ve been a bad thing to do to someone about to have a panic attack now that I think about it. Sorry,” the man gave a sheepish grin, one that was almost hidden behind his prosperous beard and moustache.

Rahven could still feel his heart beating hard, but felt calmed down enough to humor his friend. “Maybe, but it worked on me,” he smiled. “Well, this time, at least.”

Ver’id barked out a laugh. Barked? That’s a weird thing to say, Ver’id wasn’t a dog. Although… he’d probably have made a good malamute. If malamutes were lazy. Were malamutes lazy?

“Well, I guess I should research on how to actually help someone about to have a panic attack once I get back to the dorms,” he huffed with a small smile on his face.

“If you do that, send me the links, too, will you?” Rahven asked the bigger man.

“What for? I don’t get panic attacks,” Ver’id grumbled and folded his arms before looking away.

Rahven just glared at him for a good long while before Ver’id huffed and rubbed at the top of his own head.

“Actually,” Rahven withered his glare in favor of looking away. “Now I feel guilty for not researching that the first time you had one.”

“Well, it’s not like I’ve had any more in front of you, anyway,” Ver’id tried to reassure the smaller man, but Rahven just seemed to furrow his brows further. “o- or, much more in general, really! So what you did back then must have definitely helped!”

“What if I’d actually made it worse though?”

“Well you hadn’t!” Ver’id placed his hands on Rahven’s shoulders again. “And if you had, then so did I just now! So now we’re worse-panice-attack buddies!” he said firmly, looking at Rahven’s eyes with a goofy grin on his face.

“Alright, alright, my worse-panic-attack buddy,” Rahven finally smiled back at Ver’id. “Let’s make sure we’re recovering-from-panic-attack buddies from now on, though.”

“Of course!” Ver’id jumped back and held his chest high and out. Which probably would’ve looked more impressive if he had more of a superhero built instead of a strongman one. “Isn’t it kind of why we’re here though, after all?”

“Well… would that even actually help?”

Ver’id deflated and scrached his cheek again. “Well, again, I haven’t researched that but,” he dropped his hand, stood straighter, and looked down to Rahven’s face. “This place holds bad memories for you, right? I’m sure we could help reduce your panic and anxieties if we…” he prompted.

“… make some good memories,” Rahven said to himself. There was nobody around, after all. Why would they? Most folks weren’t stupid like him. They’d huddled in their homes for winter. Especially this weirdly hot day in winter. Everything’s drab and drippy and most likely possibly slippery from all the water on the ice and snow.

Still, he couldn’t be thinking that way. He was there to make some good memories, after all. Well, his therapist had called it something else, but it had basically meant the same thing, he was sure.

Rahven took his hand off the bear-shaped trinket of his necklace with a smile. He had bought it for Ver’id years ago, long before they’d settled in another town, before Dihev. However, it wasn’t that first time they went there to “make some good memories” either. That had been… both a good and terrible day. Rahven sometimes wondered what happened to that kid they’d saved that day, hopefully the police had actually done something for the boy. He wouldn’t want to think what that kid would have had to endure otherwise.

Rahven looked at the watch on his wrist, its band adorned with a tiger-shaped trinket he had bought when he had been a very young child. He felt the shape of the trinket for a bit before actually looking at the time. It was late morning. Or was early noon more appropriate? In any case, the shops should be more than ready to have customers.

It was rather nostalgic to see that most of the shops around hadn’t changed that much. They had all gotten redecorated one way or another but they still looked and felt the same for the most part. Except for that trinket store across the road, it had apparently been closed a few years ago. However, seeing as he had no one to buy any trinkets for, it didn’t matter much.

Before going to the snacks and sweets shop, however, he took out his phone. The crocodile, or maybe alligator, shaped trinket that he had bought for Dihev when his son had been a child dangling from it. He tried to ignore the scraped trinket with its broken tail-end. Sometimes he wondered if Sarene still owned the lioness-shaped trinket he had given her. Rahven got himself out of his reverie and turned on his phone’s screen.

There were no new texts visible on his lock screen. Rahven felt like he needed to be sure, however, and quickly unlocked it to open the messaging app. Opening Dihev’s conversation revealed… nothing new. The conversation was bare. There was nothing prior to this day. Moreover, all of the messages had been sent from him. A bunch of apologies and excuses attempts at explanations, all of which he had discussed with his therapist first, and then the final message. A question from him, one that he was fully sure would never be answered, and even if it were answered would never be answered possitively. However, he still hoped Dihev would agree to it.

I understand that you can’t just forgive me. But, could we still talk? I’m in town for a few days so you could think it over first. How does that old park sound? I know we have bad memories there but maybe we could make some good memories from now on?

Rahven tore his eyes away from that message and stuffed his phone back into his pocket. With a brisk walk he stepped up on to the door of the snacks and sweets store and, ignoring the fact that it was actually rather crowded inside, walked in.

Rahven walked around the store, hand still, STILL!, amazingly held in Sarene’s own. The store was basically his home away from his house, other than his old school maybe, and he knew every nook and crany of it. He expertly weaved through the other customers to bring her to the best snacks and sweets he knew.

Rahven didn’t know Sarene’s palette but he’d brought snacks and sweets from here to a few of their group project meetings. He knew that she’d enjoy an sour apple candy and some hot ‘savanna’ styled chips.

“Oh, aren’t these-?” Sarene sighed at the view of the snacks before her and looked at Rahven.

“Yep, the snacks you liked most when we get group projects!” he exclaimed proudly. “I even have some extra pocket money so I can buy you some of these if you wanted,” he grinned, heart fluttering at being able to buy his not-yet-girlfriend on their not-really-first-date some of her favorite foods.

“I also have pocket money, Rahven,” Sarene protested, somewhat offended at the implication that she couldn’t buy herself some snacks. She was no longer an elementary school kid, thank you very much!

“Well, then maybe you want to try buying something else? There are lots of kinds of snacks and sweets here, maybe you’ll find something you love more than these two?” Rahven suggested. “I’ll still buy these, anyway, I also like them,” he didn’t like them, he just wanted to buy them just in case Sarene couldn’t find anything else.

Sarene looked around, there were lots of snacks and sweets around. “How do I know which one I’ll like?” the girl questioned.

“Oh, the small plates next to them are samples. You can take a piece from there to try the snacks and sweets,” Rahven answered while he grabbed some of the candies and chips into his shopping basket.

Sarene, meanwhile, started to try the snacks near them. When she was done, and Rahven was no longer filling his basket with the sour apple candies and savanna style chips, she walked away to sample the other snacks while Rahven trailed behind.

Sarene grabbed a bunch of smoked meats and some sea salt candies into their shopping basket. Satisfied with having her favorites ready to be paid, she turned to Rahven.

“You look really uncomfortable, Rahven,” she said softly, a somewhat unnecessary attempt at keeping people from listening in. “Are you sure you don’t want to just go home?”

“No, Sarene, it’s fine,” Rahven tried to smile genuinely, but his eyes kept darting around the store as if he was a prey waiting for a predator to leap out.

“Well, if there’s anything bothering you… you know that you can tell me, right? I mostly planned this to cheer you up anyway, you seemed really down lately,” Sarene grabbed Rahven’s wrists and pulled him into another part of the store.

“You noticed?” Rahven winced, uncomfortable that he couldn’t hide his fallen mood from his girlfriend.

“Of course I did,” Sarene sighed before gesturing towards the stack of sweets in front of them. “If you don’t want to tell me what’s been bothering you then at least tell me how many of these you want?”

Rahven looked up at the stack of sweets in front of him. He tried to read its name but he wasn’t that good at reading yet. It said… something-something rolls? Yeah, that must be it! It was pretty pretty name for a pretty pretty sweet! It looks like a bunch of colorful thick tapes with glitter on them!

The young boy slowly walked towards a small plate near the stack with smaller pieces of the sweet. He’d seen the other customers walk up to similar plates and just eat from them. He knew you weren’t supposed to just eat stuffs in store and needed to pay for them. But… everyone else was doing it so it must be fine, right? He grabbed a piece and slowly began nibling on it.

When the sweet touched his mouth he felt its chewy texture mixed with sour and sweet tastes fill his mouth. It was the best thing he’d ever tasted! It’s a not-only-sweet sweet! It was great!

Rahven grabbed a handful, thankful that he has some pocket money. He just hoped it was actually enough to buy these.

Rahven placed the twelfth big handful of his favorite sweet into his shopping basket. He was glad there were still lots of it even if the store was rather crowded that day. However, crowded places didn’t always mean bad things. For a recent example, he’d just saw a young boy light up after trying his favorite sweet. It reminded him of his own first time trying the thing.

“Ah, it’s that chewy thing you really like, huh?” Ver’id’s rough voice suddenly came from behind him. The big man had spent the last few minutes walking around the store trying to see if anything would catch his eyes. However, he seemed to have came up empty handed.

“‘Berry Sour Rolls'”, Rahven automatically explained. “You didn’t find anything you like?”

“Nah, I’m not sure what to get? There’s, like, so many things here!” Ver’id seemed to have started making a wide gesture but stopped midway, thankfully not hitting anyone.

“Then why not try these?” Rahven picked up a piece of berry sour roll from the sample plate and offered it to his college friend.

“Nah, I don’t wanna become an addict like you and the other five folks I’d just seen grab a bunch of ’em,” Ver’id grinned at his own teasing. Rahven shrugged and ate the sample piece himself.

“No, but seriously, how much did you get?!” Ver’id said almost too loudly when he took a peek at Rahven’s basket.

“Well, definitely less than how much you’ll be getting,” Rahven teased back, patting Ver’id’s big belly.

Ver’id grumbled and brushed Rahven’s hand away. “I don’t even know what to buy.”

Rahven looked around the store. There were a lot of snacks and sweets around, but he wasn’t really sure if he’d seen Ver’id eat anything similar to any of them. So he wasn’t sure what the man would like, either. As he scanned his eyes over to one side of the store, however…

“I think I know what you’ll like,” Rahven grinned and grabbed Ver’id’s hand, dragging his friend around while the bigger man just let him.

They walked through several crowds of folks gathering around the more popular snacks and sweets. Well, it was more that they made way for the tall muscular man that was Ver’id but it worked out the same way. After a few seconds they ended up to an area filled with piles of golden and red-purple sweets as well as dark pink snacks.

“‘Honey Cake Candy’, ‘Berry Ball’, and ‘Dried Salmon Jerky’,” Ver’id read the names of the foods directly in front of them. “Really? Stereotypical, much?”

Dihev sighed at the corner of the store they’d found themselves in. “Really? Aren’t these just Dad’s favorites?”

Rahven froze, his arm outstretched towards the snacks and sweets. The younger man beside him had just given him a panic attack outside the store and was now being a jerk inside it. Rahven almost wished he’d just ran away before. If the boy felt himself old enough to want to move away, why even try to have a good relationship with him?

“I remember you eating a lot of them when you were young,” Rahven argued as he grabbed some of each food and put them into their basket.

“Yeah! Because they’re what Dad had always kept around the house!”

“So you don’t want them?”

“No! I’m not Dad, Rahven!”

Rahven bristled at just being called his name by his own son. He wasn’t sure being mockingly called ‘father’ earlier was any better but at leat Dihev was still calling him something familial. However, it seems Dihev wanted to not even call him family anymore.

Rahven sighed and began to walk towards the cashier. He knew he wasn’t being a good father, not for the last few years at least. Not since Ver’id died. But he was sure he was doing the right thing. He didn’t want to turn out like his own father or Ver’id’s so he’d kept his distance. Piled work upon himself to no think about his grief or any other negative emotions that might come up, making sure he was never home long enough to do anything other than sleep, and gave Dihev more than enough pocket money to buy pretty much whatever he wanted at school.

Rahven was sure he had been doing remarkably better than his own father. His adopted son did not reach adulthood with a body full of scars. However, the father he’d ended up becoming had apparently not been good either. And, unfortunately, he’d only realized that recently, when his own son had just graduated and ready to move away.

Rahven winced a bit when he heard a relatively young man’s voice yell in the store. Worse still, it sounded like there was an older man with that young man. It brought back bad memories of his last day with his own son. He hoped that whoever they were, their day would end up better than his own that accursed day.

The old man paid for his sweets and snacks and left the store. He didn’t really buy much, less than what he used to and definitely way less than Ver’id’s hoard whenever they’d come here. Still, he’d bought enough. His favorite snacks and sweets, Ver’id’s favorites, Dihev’s favorites, and, heck, he’d even bought Sarene’s favorites for old times’ sake.

Rahven began to nibble on some of his purchase as he made his way to the ice cream parlor. The parlor had always allowed the customers to bring snacks and sweets from the store he’d just left for as long as he could remember. A good idea, too, as some of the sweets mix really well with the ice creams. It was such a popular thing to do, in fact, that it’s weird to see anyone not doing that.

The abandoned building of the old trinket shop were some distance away from Rehvan. It didn’t look too bad, definitely only somewhat recently abandoned. He was sure the shop had closed years ago, though. Maybe there were a few other stores that tried to take hold there but couldn’t? He felt it was a bit sad to see that place look so dead.

Looking down from the building Rahven saw the instersection. The snacks and sweets store and the ice cream parlor were on his side, while the trinkets store and a few residentials were on other. It was a normal intersection for a normal city, all things considered. However, Rahven didn’t really like it, too many bad memories. With a swallow of his snacks a hasty rhythm in his steps, Rahven faced the ice cream parlor’s door and opened it.

Rahven walked out of the door and froze. His eyes, which had been going all over the place that day, finally locked on something for a good long while. There, in front of him, was a tiger tigress. Not just any tigress, either, it was-

“Mom?!” Rahven exclaimed just as he felt Sarene walk out of the snacks and sweets store into his back. Studying his mother’s features, he was in a big trouble. Not just any normal big troube, either, but one that would-

“Rahven?” Sarene asked, almost in a whisper to his right. Shoot, this was the thing that he had been dreading all week. It was bad enough that he’d let slip to his father that he’s had a girlfriend for some time during one accursed dinner. In his defence, he was trying to convince his father that he was not one of those guys. It was only later that night that he realized how stupid it was to say that he’s had a girlfriend to prove that. Especially since his girlfriend was not a tiger like his family.

“Rahven, who is that?” his mother oh so lovely said oh so slowly, dripping venom with every syllabel just like the mad drool threatening to fall from her jaws.

Rahven slowly, mechanically, turned his head around to look at Sarene. He was going to say something, he had to say something. However, all he could do was look pleadingly at Sarene to not say anything yet so he could talk their way out. He wished she got the mes-

“I’m… Rahven’s girlfriend.”

Rahven snapped his head back to look at his mother who was fuming at the sentence that had just left the lioness’s mouth. The boy began to walk forwards, arms raised with his palms open in front of him. He had to deescalate somehow, he had to. Rahven began to open his mouth to say that-

However, before he could get any words out there was a loud noise right beside him. With a quick reflex he hadn’t really realized he owned, Rahven caught Sarene in his arms. The girl was limp. Breathing, sure, but limp. It seemed that his mother’s slap on the young lion was enough to make her freeze just like him these last few moments.

Rahven tried to squeeze her a bit, because hugging her for reassurance was definitely not on the table right now, and began to frantically whisper. “Sarene, run. You have to run. Let me handle this, please.”

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw his mother rearing up for another terrible slap. Thinking quickly, he shoved his girlfriend away and received the slap himself. It was fine, though, he’s always had a thicker skin. The slap didn’t sting that bad. What did sting however was the view of Sarene getting further away from him, the lioness-shaped-trinket of her necklace blowing in the air.

The boy slowly raised a shaky hand to feel his cheeks. He was wide-eyed, unbelieving of what had just happened. After a few seconds, he felt the fur of his own cheeks on his fingers. There weren’t really anything different from the outside but-

“So, want to make this a date?” the young girl asked with a grin. God damn her! First, she kissed him and then asked to turn this random hang out in the week of valentine’s day into a date?! He was sure it was against the rules or something!

They had been walking to the ice cream parlor when she had suddenly surprised him with that accursedly amazing kiss. It was not the fully romantic two lips locking kind of kiss—he wasn’t sure he’d even want something like that, it looks disgusting!—but it was definitely amazing and a very nice surprise. Although, perhaps getting it in the middle of a busy pedestrian path was not… ideal.

“Of course,” answered Rahven wholeheartedly with a big grin on his small face.

Slowly the boy inched his hand closer to Sarene’s in an attempt at reestablishing their hold that had been broken when they were trying sweets and snacks back in the store. Sarene noticed it and gripped the boy’s hand tight in her own. The two young feline’s hands intertwined once more, they began to walk again towards the ice cream parlor as a resounding smack sounded behind them.

Rahven felt has hand squeezed by a bigger one. Ver’id’s brows were furrowed as he watched the tiger man pay for their snacks. The sound had sounded almost exactly like a smack and brought back terrible memories for both of them. Rahven was rather sure he was more affected, however, as he had been part of a very similar experience in front of this very shop only a few years prior.

With their snacks paid for, Rahven and Ver’id began to walk outside. They crossed through the shop’s doors with bated breath, readying themselves to see whatever horrible scene was outside. However, they’d found nothing out of the ordinary under that almost summer sun. There were a few to-be-rain clouds and people mingling about under them. A few of them seemed to be looking around as if trying to find some source of some sound, but none of them seemed concerned enough.

“I guess it wasn’t what I thought it was?” Ver’id sighed a breath of relief and squeezed the tiger’s hand again.

Rahven slowly nodded, still looking around to find where anything that might’ve made the previous sound could’ve gone off to. “Yeah… I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t. I’m not sure if I can handle something like that.”

Ver’id turned around to put his hands on Rahven’s shoulders. “If she did come for you, I’ll protect you,” the bigger man said seriously, almost threateningly. “I’ll even take your father if it came down to it!”

Rahven just looked at the beary bear’s face and furrowed his brows. “That’s not fair, I don’t think I can do the same for you if your parents came here to seek you out.”

Ver’id held his gaze for a few seconds longer before sighing heavily. “Let’s just hope it never comes to that. But if it did-“

“Call the police,” Rahven nodded. It had been their plan should something terrible happen to them, especially to Ver’id. However, Rahven wasn’t so sure about that plan. “I’m still saying I’ve had bad experiences of involving the police in this sort of thing.”

The bigger man let go of Rahven’s shoulders and frowned before walking again. “Well, it’s the best choice we have. And at least I’m not actually living with them anymore,” the bear said in a faux cheery tone while doing jazzhands. “Speaking of that-“

“No, Ver’id,” the tiger cut off the bear before the sentence could have any hope of getting finished. “I still don’t have any money to do that.”

“Failing getting your own…” Ver’id sighed and rubbed the top of his head. “My dorm room is always open for you, remember that,” the bear patted Rahven’s shoulder a few times. “And my room’s big enough to house you, too, so if you ever want to move in-“

“Thanks, but then they’ll just target you, too, Ver’id.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” Ver’id stopped walking again before turning around to face the smaller man. “But once we graduate…”

“I haven’t changed my mind about that, don’t worry.”

Ver’id grinned and grabbed their shopping bag to take a great handful of his sweets and snacks—the stereotypical honey cakes, berry balls, and salmon jerkys. “Man, it’d be great to have a roommate,” the bear said while chewing through his hoard.

“That’s what people who don’t have roommates say before realizing what having a roommate feels like,” Rahven walked away while grabbing one of his own berry roll to chew.

Ver’id quickly caught up—not a hard thing to do since he’s taller than Rahven—and draped himself over the smaller man’s shoulders. His chin rested neatly between the tiger’s ears and his arms falling from the smaller man’s torso like some kind of old regal clothing. “Nah, that’s just ’cause they don’t get a roommate that knows good food,” the bear rumbled while his hands dipped back into their shopping bag and fed more of his newly acquired snacks into his mouth.

Rahven ignored the bear eating on top of him and kept walking towards the trinkets shop across the road. He stopped before he reached it, however, and tapped on the bear nose on top of his head. Ver’id replied the gesture with a grunt.

“You know,” Rahven began slowly as he waited for the bigger man to swallow. “I never told anyone this but on that day a bear helped me out.”

Ver’id gulped the glob of food in his mouth loudly before answering. “Rahven, just because I kept telling you about my parents doesn’t mean bears are bad folks,” the friendly bear huffed at his friend’s statement.

“That’s not what I meant, Ver’id,” the probably friendly tiger elaborated, causing Ver’id to stop midway through gobbling another handful of snacks. “That bear could’ve honestly been you.”

Ver’id barked out a laugh. Again, perhaps barked was not a good word to describe that, Ver’id was not a dog. Were bears close to dogs? Rahven was just glad the bigger man didn’t have anything in his mouth at that moment.

“Rahven, I’ve never even left my town until I started going to our university,” the bear rumbled with some sort of amusement in his throat. “We bears tend to look pretty alike, honestly. I’m sure there was just some good samaritan bear walking by back then. And since I’m the friendliest bear you know, your brain just figured we’d be the same ultimate kind bear of very beary kindness,” Ver’id grinned.

Rahven simply booped the bear nose on top of his head again, receiving another grunt from the threat encompassing the back of his head and neck.

“Fine, Mr. Very Beary Kindness Bear, let’s go buy you some beary bear trinkets,” the tiger began walking again to cross the road. However, before he could take even a single step, he was swung around to face the ice cream parlor.

“Ice cream?” the warm fat bear behind him asked innocently.

“I promised you that I’ll buy some trinkets for you today,” the not fat but warmed from the back tiger grumbled. “Besides, you’ve been eating snacks since we’ve left the store, damnit. Aren’t you full already?” Rahven tried to walk to the trinkets shop again but was stopped by the strong muscular bear arms around him.

“Well, today doesn’t have to mean ‘right now’, does it?” the bear grinned. “Besides, those are snacks so of course I still have room, ice cream goes to its own stomach! And it’s almost summer so we just have to get ice cream when passing through an ice cream parlor.”

“You’re a glutton, Ver’id,” Rahven grumbled and tried to cross his arms but was stopped by the thick arms in front of his own arms.

“Maybe,” Ver’id conceded. “But I’m your glutton,” the bear then began to rub his prodigiously bearded chin on top of the tiger’s head. “Also, if you buy me ice cream, I’ll pay for any trinkets you buy in there afterwards.”

Rahven sighed, knowing that he wouldn’t win without a significant amount of efforts on his part. “Fine, fine,” the tiger grumbled as he began walking towards the ice cream parlor’s doors with the bear trailing behind him.

The tiger stopped in his tracks and frowned. His hearing might not be that sharp anymore, but he was sure he couldn’t hear the footsteps of the man that was supposed to follow behind him. Rahven sighed tiredly and turned back to face his son.

Dihev was just standing there with a scowl on his face and crossed arms on his chest. The crocodile seemed to have planted his feet on the stonework, crinkling the fallen amber leaves underfoot and refusing to move. An immovable object in the middle of the path. So much so that other people seemed to be actively avoiding him.

“Why are we here?” the reptile asked with a clipped tone, glaring daggers towards his father.

Rahven didn’t answer and tilted his head.

Why are we here?” Dihev tried again, stressing his words more than he had.

Rahven took a deep breath and looked away towards the amber-leafed trees. “To make some good memories.”

Dihev scoffed at the tiger’s response. “That’s just what Dad used to say to get you to be fun.”

The older man looked back at the younger with a tilted head, “but that is why we’re here, son.”

“Don’t ‘son’ me, old man,” the crocodile uncrossed his arms and made fists instead. “You want something out this. So just spit it out and end this whole charade, won’t you?” Dihev bared his fangs and knitted his eyebrows.

The old man turned his body to fully face his son. “I’d just told you what I want out of this,” he answered simply.

“That’s just crap and you know it!”

The tiger frowned. “No, I don’t. I’d just told you that all I wanted was to make some good memories with you and you don’t believe me?”

“Heck no I don’t!” the crocodile stomped his feet and his thick long tail onto the stonepath. “You hadn’t wanted to make any memories with me since his death and now you suddenly want to make some? When I’d just graduated? When I’m planning to move away? When I’m being offered a prestigious job position?! Heck yeah you want something!”

Rahven took a deep, deep, deep breath before he even began to answer. “I know this has been hard for you but-“

“No, you don’t know! You haven’t even talked to me in years! And ‘but’ what? But you were afraid to be a lousy father?!” Dihev jeered. “Well, news flash! You’re a lousy father!” crocodile did jazzhands before glaring at the tiger again.

“I was afraid of hurting you, god damn it!” Rahven panted, unable to really hold himself anymore. “Do you know what Ver’id’s parents and my parents were like?! Do you know how much I don’t want that to happen to you?! I don’t want to be near you and hurt if I lose it because he’s gone!”

“Oh, wow! Look at you! So volatile and unstable that he’s about to maim his child when he has a bad day because his partner’s been dead for years!” taunted Dihev, causing Rahven to tighten his fists and growl. “He was as much my Dad as he was your partner! And when he’s gone you decided to just be gone, too?!”

“I was still around! I came to your schools and university to fill the paperworks! I came to watch your plays or games or whatever! I gave you more than enough money to buy whatever you wanted!”

Anyone could claim to be my ‘legal guardian’ and sign those paperworks! And those ‘plays or games or whatever’? You’d always come at the last minute and you don’t even remember any of them do you?! And while I appreciated all the money left in the house, you’re never around to even give that to me! It could’ve been replaced by some charity government program and I never would’ve noticed!”

“I told you I don’t want to hurt you if I ever-“

“Then go to therapy or something, damn it! If the answer to not being the same terrible parent one’s parents were to keep distance, then what am I suppose to do if I become a father? Keep even more distance?! How? Move to another city? Another country?” the crocodile raised his arms and panted.

When Dihev lowered his arms again, it was to grab at the crocodile-shaped trinket on his necklace. The crocodile grinned before speaking again. “Or maybe just do something simpler, like send my kids to the orphanage? Or maybe even send them back?!”

Dihev yanked his necklace free, breaking it. He then slowly raised his hand as high as he could with a manic grin still on his face. Then suddenly he shot the crocodile-shaped trinket and its attached necklace as hard as he could towards Rahven’s feet.

“I wish you had by the way,” Dihev began to turn around. “At least then I might find somebody who would love me like a father should!” the crocodile shouted as he ran as fast as he could.

Rahven had been frozen since he saw Dihev grab hold of the necklace and his eyes tracked it as it flew towards the ground in front of him, laying in a broken and battered heap. However, as he heard his son’s quickly receding footsteps, he broke out of his trance. Quickly grabbing the crocodile-shaped trinket off the ground, he began to run.

The tiger ran. The tiger ran and ran and ran, not caring much if he’d run into anyone. Nor did he care that it had begun to rain that terrible late summer rain. He had to run and then- and then… what? The sounds around him were rather frantic, probably because he’d been running into people. There were shouts, lots and lots of shouts, but thankfully none of them sounded like him mother.

He was panting, taking many shallow breaths in short burst. He didn’t know what he was going to do, but he knew he was going to be sore later. There were definitely brushes and red spots around his body, but they were mostly hidden by his fur and clothes. He didn’t know whether to be thankful that they were not so visible, or hoping that they were and that someone would be kind enough to help him.

He looked around and saw that he was near the ice cream parlor. The tiger frowned at remembering that he was supposed to be in there right then, completing their usual date ‘rituals’ ever since that day. He was supposed to be eating ice cream with his girlfriend while devouring the snacks they’d just bought. He didn’t even know where the snacks he’d bough were.

Rahven’s ears twitched as he heard a horrifyingly familiar footsteps and began to run. He felt his shoulder ache as he had apparently run into something—most likely an edge of a wall or a door—but he ignored it and kept on running.

The boy kept on running. Which was… probably not a good idea since he was crossing traffic. But! He made sure to look left and right! And none of he cars seemed to be even moving! Like they were approving him to cross the road!

Rahven hadn’t really wanted to cross the road yet. He’d wanted to go into the ice cream shop and buy some ice cream! But his parents would be mad mad if he ate sweets and ate ice cream! And he wasn’t sure he even had enough money to buy anything there! And couldn’t really read what any of the ice creams were and they didn’t look like the ones he’d usually get! And there were some big men that he didn’t want to interact with! And! And! It was beginning to rain even with the sun still out!

So, the boy kept on running until he got across the road. He may have not gotten any ice cream but he was definitely going to get some trinkets from the trinkets store! Finally reaching the other side of the road, the young tiger excitedly passed through the doors to the shop and out of the sun shower.

It was… not at all like he’d imagined it to be. But it was still awesome! There were lots of things in there, and some of those things were big! He was sure some of the things in there were at least three meters tall! Weren’t trinkets supposed to be small? Bah! Whatever!

The tiger walked around the store, looking at all the baubles and knick-knacks abound. It was a rather cozy store, smaller and much less crowded than the snacks store but felt much more decorated. As decorated as it was… there weren’t really anything for a tiger boy like him. Still, he looked at every nook and cranny there for quite some time, trying to find something that’d actually catch his eyes.

Rahven was about to just go out of the shop and dejectedly go home when he saw it. Well, them, it was a bunch of identical trinkets. They were… small. But, they were pretty. Orange-ish with some black lines around, almost like stripes! They were shaped like a tiger too! Rahven walked closer, and took one of them. The tiger began to feel the shape and texture of the tiger-shaped trinket in his hands.

“You seem to really like that thing.”

Rahven looked at his, newly-appointed, girlfriend and smiled. He’d always worn that tiger-shaped trinket on his wrist—be it as part of some bracelet or a watch band or whatever—ever since he’d bought it. So, naturally, he does really like that thing.

“The shopkeeper said the same thing when I went to buy it,” the young tiger grinned. “I wandered around the store for some time before I saw it and probably spent a good few minutes just feeling it in my hands before the owner walked over. He said that and asked how much money I have. I only had like three dollars with me at the time? Anyway, he just took one dollar and gave me a small bracelet before telling me to keep it safe.”

“Really? That’s really cheap,” the young lion girl exclaimed, eating more of her sundae.

“No! It actually costs like five dollars! The guy was just taking pity on me, I guess,” Rahven laughed and quickly shoveled the last of his ice cream into his mouth. “I went back a few years later to pay my debt, of course! And I also kinda got addicted to buying these small things.”

“That’s very kind of him. And very good of you to pay back your debt,” the girl approved with a nod as she finished her ice cream.

“Want me to buy you one? It’d be a great reminder of today!” Rahven offered excitedly, almost bouncing on his seat.

“Sure,” Sarene replied with just as much excitement and standing up.

The tiger grinning and began to stand up, too. But then he heard it. Rain. Their perfect valentine week spring day had seemingly taken a downer. The boy frowned.

The girl noticed her boyfriend’s expression. “I brought a big umbrella, it’s okay. Besides, the store’s just right across the street, right?”

Rahven, meanwhile just stared at her for a bit, not replying. Finally, he took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s not that, I just- I almost got hit by a car when it rained during spring on this intersection, so…”

“That doesn’t mean that something bad’s gonna happen, tho!”

“It also doesn’t mean nothing bad’s gonna happen!” he argued. “I think I just have bad luck whenever I want buy someone gifts.”

“Come on, it’s just rain, damn it. I brought that big ole raincoat! You could hide in it while I wear it,” Ver’id grinned, imagining how ridiculous their walk back would be. “And I got some umbrellas in my room, you could use one of ’em to go home.”

“What if you got into a car crash because I’m hiding in your rain coat, though?” Rahven began to worry himself. “I mean, rain and me and this road and spring don’t mix well!”

“First of all, it’s almost not spring anymore,” the bear tried to reassure his buddy while finishing off his third helping of ice creams. “Second of all, the car’ll just stop against my brick hard muscles!” he grinned while flexing his now free arms.

Rahven simply looked at the impressive pair of arms unimpressed. Ver’id kept up the act before finally deflating. “And bounce off of my fat,” the bear added.

“I think you need to take another Physics 101 class,” the smaller man grumbled. “But, fine, let’s just go now before the rain gets worse,” he said, standing up before looking at the bigger man’s direction and stopping. “If you’re done with the ice cream?” he asked with a raised brow.

“Well, I wouldn’t say no to another helping!” the bear grinned excitedly, making the tiger sigh. “But, it is raining so ice creams aren’t that enticing right now. Let’s go.”

Rahven nodded and began to walk out of the store.

However, before he could take even a single step, the door was slammed on his face. He screamed and fall backwards onto the floor. His jaws and nose were smarming hard, almost to the point of being numb. Makes sense, he supposed, the ice cream store’s door had always been one of those big heavy kind which he’d always assumed was meant to keep the store cool for the ice cream.

“Are you okay?” Sarene asked as she helped him stand back up.

“Myeh,” Rahven tried to answer but found his face too sore to make proper words. The tiger’s ear flicked as he heard footsteps coming their way.

“You okay, kiddo?” Rahven looked up to see a big fat but strong bear frowning at him, a smaller man trailing behind.

“Yresz, shirv,” the tiger replied with clipped words. The bear didn’t look dangerous but bigger older men noticing him because of any injuries had never led to anything good. He wished he had made proper word sounds that time to hide the fact it his face felt terrible. But looking at Sarene’s expression, he supposed to definitely hadn’t.

“How about I buy you some ice cream?” the bear offered with a friendly smile. “I’m sure it’ll feel great for that sore face.”

The boy slowly nodded and let the bear walk him back into store and towards a table.

Rahven watched as the bear went up towards the counter to order a rather big helping of ice cream. He smiled fondly as the bear paid for it and brought back the two-person sized bowl—are those ice cubes surrounding the ice cream? He supposed it’d help with the soreness—back to the young couple. The lion girl just watched Ver’id with a friendly smile, even as the boy seemingly felt uncomfortable with the bear’s kindness.

He supposed he could’ve gone there to help cheer the boy up. But Ver’id had always been better with people, even children, and seeing how the boy wasn’t comfortable with even the cuddly bear…

Ver’id patted the boy’s shoulder, hoping it’d get the point across that it’d be okay after a while, and walked away.

“Well, aren’t you a kind bear?” teased the college student as his classmate left the recovering couple.

“What can I say?” the bear grinned as he gestured his arms widely. “I’m the kindest bear you know!”

“And the most gluttonous,” the tiger replied with a smirk. “Moreover, I’m pretty sure actually kind people don’t brag about being kind.”

“You wound me,” Ver’id played along, clutching his chest with one of his big hands. “Never thought a small-time such as yourself could hurt me so.”

The smaller man huffed in amusement and shook the great-bear-sized raincoat in his hands, looking expectantly at Ver’id. The bear complied and put on the bottom piece of the raincoat over his legs, stumbling a bit as his center of mass swayed about. Finally, he put on the big long top piece over himself and waited.

The tiger walked over to his partner and opened the front flap of the raincoat before walking under it. He then felt the bear drape thick furry arms over his shoulders and tried to fit his head under the bear’s chin. After some more fumbling he finally got his head through the hole that’s meant to be buttoned over. Feeling that they were ready, they walked outside.

The rain wasn’t actually that bad. But it was still kind of a terrible mix between the spring and summer rain, so it was not fun in any way. There were even thunders and lightning from time to time. People seem to agree, too, as a few could be seen running around in the rain, presumable towards their preferred shelters.

Rahven’s ears flicked—or, tried to, anyway. They were trapped under Ver’id’s jaw—when he heard something that was definitely neither rain nor thunder nor people running away from the earlier two things. It was coming from an alleyway some ways away, across the street from where they were.

The tiger shuddered, having bad memories of alleys and rains. The bear noticed—though he wasn’t sure about the cause of the tiger’s distress—and pressed the tiger tighter into his belly and chest in an attempt to comfort the smaller man. The tiger appreciated the gesture.

However, he needed to know if it was what he had feared it was. He could not just ignore it if it was so. He had been helped by strangers back then, so he felt it was time to be the helpful stranger. If it was, indeed what he thought it was. Surely, he and Ver’id could do something, right?

“Rahven?” the heavy bear rumbled from behind and on top of him.

“I-,” the tiger tried to reply but stopped. He took a deep breath and gave it a long exhale before continuing. “There’s something over there,” the tiger tried to gesture towards one of the alleys with his raincoat covered arms.

Ver’id was silent for a few moments before he nodded.

With a readying sigh, Rahven began to walk further into the rain.

The tiger felt the rain on his face. At least, he hoped it was just rain and not blood. Futilely wiping away at the liquid on his head, he tried to stand back again. However, he was definitely not thinking straight and was tired and so almost fell back down. Thankfully he had managed to grab onto one of the exposed bricks next to him.

“You’ve been with her for how long?” the venomous words reached his ears again, seemingly more threatening than the last.

He wasn’t sure how any threats could be worse than what he was experiencing, however. Was his mother going to actually try to kill him? That’d be nice, he supposed. He turned his head to look at the road blocked by the bigger tiger. His eyes watered. Perhaps it’d have been better if that old man hadn’t saved him that day all those years ago, because it seemed he was going to die in these very same streets anyway.

Rahven turned his face away, not answering the question.

“Answer me!” his mother shouted as she slashed at him. Causing him to crumple to the ground again. “Your father was so happy to hear that you had a girlfriend! What will he say he finds out that she’s a lion?!”

The younger tiger decided to not think about what his father would say—or do—when he finds out, let alone answer her question.

“It’s not like there aren’t any tiger girls in your class, is it?!” his mother continued.

Rahven heard his mother say more things but decided to tune it out instead. He looked around the alley he’d somehow found himself in after being caught by his mother again. The alley was pretty normal with some trash and rusted junks about. It wasn’t even that far the the ice cream parlor either, so it had been a pitiful run. Still, he had to run again. He needed to run again. And then- and then- he’d figure something out, he had to. He saw an opening just as his mom was about to grab him again and booked it.

The tiger ran as quick as he could. But he was not fast enough. He had never been a quick runner. Heck, he was sure he was even worse than the average tiger at running. But he tried to will his aching legs to move faster in the rain of the fall. He could not afford to slow down.

There was a yelp, then a grunt, then a scream, then a lot of other loud noises in front of him. He took a cursory glance at where he thought the sounds where coming from and could make out what seemed to be two figures sprawled out on the ground. He quickly realized that his son had run into someone, again. Worse still, the folks he’d run into seemed to be more hurt than all the other ones.

Rahven felt some more energy pumped into his legs and began to kick at the ground faster. “Dihev!” he yelled as he reached out one of his hands to grab his son and keep him still.

He lowered his hand dejectedly. The text he had received had been from a coworker, and he was not in the mood to reply right then. Swiping back out of he conversation, he lingered his gaze at the conversations list. Specifically, he was staring at Dihev’s name, as if doing so would magically make a reply appear out of nowhere. Alas, the world didn’t work like that.

Stuffing his phone back in his pocket, Rahven decided to end his ice cream eating escapade. He deposited his ice cream container to the trash bin and made his way through the store.

The tiger gave a quick glance at the lion girl and her boyfriend a few tables over. He had been surprised when the young boy had screamed and was about to help. But a very beary kind bear had beaten him to it. Perhaps he could’ve helped out, too, but the boy already looked embarassed enough with a single adult fussing over him like that.

Well, he figured, it was nice to know that there are kind people in the world, still. He wished he had made that thought a few years ago, however. He shook his head, it was not the right thing to think. He was there to make some good memories.

Rahven watched from the door frame as the rain poured even in winter. It was not really a usual sight, but he figured the air was just warm up there in the air. He was thankful he had the foresight to wear thick and covering winter clothes and packed an umbrella.

The tiger huffed and took a step into the cold rain. He was not sure where he’d go, seeing as the trinkets shop had closed down years ago. However, he was determined to help someone just like the bear did a few minutes ago, even if it was just some reassurances and an bowl of ice cream. Failing that, he supposed, he could just make some good memories in this rain.

Rahven just stood there in the rain. He had been expecting a number of things when he’d made his way there. But they didn’t really include the scene in front of him. So he was still unbelieving at what he was seeing.

In front of him was a tiger woman and a teenage boy, crumpled to the ground and the wall of a building. They were both bleeding, but seemingly from different causes. The woman’s seemed easy enough to guess, there was a rather sharp rusty junk not far from here that was looking rather off colored. The boy’s was… harder to guess, and he really wished whatever scenarios he had come up to explain the bleeding were false.

For some time the tiger man wondered if was actually watching the aftermath of a murder and if he should start dialing for the police. However, he could discern the two people in front of him breathing under the sounds of the rain if he focused enough. Moreover, the teen seemed to be regaining consciousness.

The younger man seemed to be dazed and didn’t notice the tiger and bear standing not far from him. When he did, it was with a jolt, a yelp, and a smack onto the back from a wall. Rahven winced at seeing the reaction, it seemed they were scaring him.

The tiger then realized he had a big bear draped over him and sighed. Quickly walking out of the rain coat, he took out his—thankfully waterproof—phone. “I’ll call for medical services,” he explained to Ver’id who was looking at him questioningly.

Truthfully, he was not sure if that was necessary. However, the two people were unconscious and bleeding so he figured it was better to have them checked for concussions and blood loss or infection, at least. With a sigh, he opened his phone to use the dialer and gestured for Ver’id, who was still looking at him, to do his magic and at least calm the now conscious boy down.

Rahven stared as bear began to walk forwards, his arms outstretched. The addition of the dark raincoat really didn’t help make the bear look less like he was trying to kidnap someone. The tiger simply scrambled as far away as he could, wrapping his limbs around himself. He was tired. He was not sure he could fight a bear anyway, especially one that big. The act seemed to have made the bear stop moving.

“Hey, are you okay, kid?” the bear asked. Rahven could hear some worry in the deep voice, but he was not sure if it was fake or genuine. “Sorry, we found you two like this and figured you might need some help.”

The tiger decided to not reply, it was not a question anyway. Well, the first one was, but he didn’t know how to reply to that one.

“What happened to you?” the bear tried again. The tiger decided to not answer again. The teen was even more unsure how to answer that question than the previous one. Was he supposed to answer from the beginning? Or what had happened that day? Or just why he was unconscious?

He tried to remember what had happened before he passed out. He had been so so close to getting out of the alleyway when his mother caught him and threw him back. He couldn’t remember what happened afterwards, however. He was sure there were a lot of voices and sounds of people running though. He had kind of assumed it was his mother running away, or his father coming to join in. But it seemed he had been wrong.

The bear sighed when no reply was given. Rahven stiffened, would the bear have had enough of him and take out some frustrations on him? He really, really wished the answer was no.

The big man then moved towards his mother and poked her. “Is this your mother?”

Rahven looked at the unmoving figure for a while, scowling. The tiger answered with a short nod of his head.

“Want me to try to wake her up?”

Rahven answered that one with a very long and fast shake of his head.

“I see,” said the bear with a frown. The big adult male then called his smaller friend—the one that had been under his raincoat with him—and made some gesture he could not even begin to decipher the meaning of. It must’ve had some meaning however, because the other adult frowned very deeply and went back to talking on his phone.

The tiger was watching the smaller of the two adult men when he heard a ripping sound, startling him. The bear had his claws out in his direction and he really wished he was strong enough to stand up and run. Instead, he decided to just try scrambling further away.

The bear stopped what he was doing and looked at him sheepishly. “Sorry, kid,” the bear said with a sigh. Oh no, isn’t that what people say before they kill other people?!

“I don’t really have anything useful with me tight now so I’m cutting some of my t-shirt,” the bear explained as he revealed a few long ribbons from under his raincoat. “We need to stop your bleeding, after all. And your mom, too, but you seem to have it worse, so.”

Rahven was pretty sure it was a lie. But he didn’t feel like the bear was trying to deceive him. It was as if the bear was making little white lies to help make him feel better. He didn’t know if it was a good thing, but he figured he’d let the older man try to patch him up.

The bear walked towards him slowly, as if he was trying to run away—he had been, but not really anymore. “Sorry, if it smells beary, but it’s cleaner than any other clothing I have with me,” the adult man said as he began inspecting the teen’s wounds. “My buddy there’s getting some medics so this should be a very short temporary fix anyway.”

The tiger nodded, not really sure what to say other thank a weak “thanks”. It had seemed like the right thing, however, as the bear’s face lit up with a soft grin that made his beard look even bigger.

Rahven let the bear work on him as he stared at the street in front of him. Cars and bikes going to and fro in the late summer rain. It was very peaceful compared to what had happened to him that day, even if the traffic was rather loud. However, that relative peace would not last long as suddenly car horns started blaring up.

The man watched the traffic in horror. He had been dodging them since his son had decided oh so stupidly to start crossing the road. Not just once or twice, but over and over and over. He was definitely going to have to talk even more things with his son once this was over.

The crocodile was still running away from him, and crossing the road yet again no less. However, the young adult had decided to look back at him for some reason.

… and failing to notice the car coming up from his other side. The boy must’ve noticed, however, because his face suddenly contorted in horror. Unfortunately, the boy also decided to twist his body around for some reason—to face the car, perhaps—which caused him to lose speed and make himself more likely to get hit.

With as much strength as he could muster Rahven leapt from his place as hard and as fast as he could, as if he was some non sapient tiger about to pounce on his prey. With a lot of tumbling and rolling later, he’d successfully brought the two of them to the other side. With some stroke of luck, he’d managed to get on top of his own son from that stupid act. He almost wished he’d tried to pounce on the boy sooner that day.

“Let go!” Dihev protested over the sounds of blaring car horns and rolling wheels. “You’re not satisfied with just being a terrible neglectful father that you’ve decided to assault me?!”

Rahven growled in anger and began to grab tight holds of the younger man’s shoulders.

“Listen here, you-” the tiger began to shout but was quickly cut off by loud sounds coming from further down the road.

The old tiger didn’t really find anything interesting or fun to do under the winter rain. Much less anyone to help. Therefore he’d decided to just stand on the side of the road, with his no-new-message-received phone in his hand, watching as the world go by.

Well, that and he was waiting for the bus.

The park and its stores had been an important part of his life when he was younger. He had been enjoying his nostalgic trip there today, but perhaps it was time to move on for now. There were other parts of town that he knew of, in any case. Perhaps they’d help him make some good memories.

He was just checking his unreplied messages to Dihev again for the twelfth dozen time that day when he heard the street suddenly exploding in sound. Cars were blaring their horns everywhere and there were even sounds of wheels going the wrong way.

Rahven quickly realized the cars were moving erratically, trying to make sure they don’t crash into each other or anything else. The tiger was just going to simply step back so that he would not get caught up in the chaos. However, he then saw a horrifying view of a very very young boy crossing the road. Straight into the path of a car that was swerving this way and that in an attempt to not hit the other cars on the road.

Without much though, Rahven quickly began to run faster than he had in the last decade or so. With only a few centimeters between the car and them, he hurriedly push the young tiger boy onto the sidewalk. Unfortunately, he was not as lucky.

The older tiger felt the car hit him and even carried him some distance before it stopped, flinging him even further. He tried to get up but every part of him was sore. He tried to take a deep breath but felt that his chest was in pain. So coughed instead and began to laugh.

Was this how he was going to go? He supposed he had wanted to help someone and with this act, he did.

… but, did he? What if he’d accidentally harmed the one he’d tried to save, instead? He felt that he had pushed too hard, after all, and the boy was so young it was probably even more painful to be shoved like that.

With as much strength as he could muster, he lifted his head to try to find the boy he had tried to save. He quickly saw that the kid was crying on the sidewalk a few meters away, clutching what appeared to be some orange-ish toy with black lines all over it and a strap on its sides. There were people hovering around and checking on the boy who seemed to not have any visible injuries.

Rahven sighed in relative relief. He supposed, he’d at least done something good after being terrible for the last few decades of his life. He supposed it was fine if this was how he went. He had felt like he was about to die on this street a few times, after all. And through all of that a stranger had helped him again and again. He supposed it was only fair that it was his time to be the helping hand.

He’d often wondered if the old man that had saved him the first time he’d come to this park even survived. He’d always hoped to find him again and thank him or something, but he supposed he won’t get the chance now. Not that the guy was probably still alive when he’d grown so old already, nor that he even knew what the guy looked like.

The tiger was trying to be content with waiting for his death when he heard it. His phone’s notification sound blaring clearly over the sounds of the rain and what he supposed were emergency vehicles—good, the kid could get properly checked for injuries soon—in the background.

He looked around and found his phone barely even a meter away from him. The man had just began crawling, more like sliding, towards it when it sounded a couple more times. He knew it was hopeless, but he couldn’t stop hoping that it was Dihev replying him, and so he had to move and reach the phone. Unfortunately, his vision was going darker and darker the more he moved. The sounds of the street around him were getting further away the closer he got to the phone.

Rahven finally closed his eyes when his fingers were barely close enough to touch the phone. A soft smile was on the old tiger’s face.

Less than ten centimeters from the tiger, his phone’s screen was lit up. On it was a conversation screen with Dihev, four new messages had just come in.

Sure, I guess. I also have a few things to say. Maybe. And probably a few apologies.

The old park is fine. I could be there about eleven in the morning tomorrow. Unless you want to do it sometime else.

See you then.

Father.


Writer: anonymous

Berulang Kali Menanti Terakhir Kali

Entri Writchal #1

Tema: Writchal #1 – Droplets of Time


Langit sedang mendung, seperti cuaca di Bandung belakangan ini. Anda sedang berdiri di persimpangan jalan, menunggu lampu pejalan kaki berubah hijau. Sembari menunggu, anda teringat waktu pertama kali menyeberangi persimpangan jalan ini. Hujan pun mulai turun rintik-rintik. Ketika tetesan air hujan menyentuh anda, anda tiba-tiba kembali ke waktu anda pertama kali menyeberangi persimpangan jalan ini.

Hujan berhenti mengikuti pergeseran masa. Jika ia turun lagi, itulah waktunya anda kembali ke masa depan. Hingga saat itu tiba, tak ada yang bisa Anda lakukan selain membiarkan hidup anda berjalan sebagaimana mestinya, sama seperti di kali-kali sebelumnya. Sungguh, yang paling perih dari mengulang potongan masa lalu bukan kenangan pahitnya, tapi ketidakberdayaan untuk mengubahnya.

Anda telah berulang kali mencoba. Anda telah berulang kali mengajak gadis anda untuk meninggalkan persimpangan itu dan berbalik pulang. Seringkali anda gagal, kadang anda berhasil, tapi gadis itu selalu kembali ke sini. Sebegitu inginnya ia melihat orang kulit putih yang berdansa-dansi untuk melupakan kenyataan bahwa mereka dibuang di sini. Berulang kali mereka membukakan pintu mereka untuk si dara pribumi tanpa nama yang entah bagaimana caranya bisa berhias renda-renda Eropa. Berulang kali pula anda terjebak jauh dari huru-hara. Tragedi terjadi jauh dari jangkauan anda. Puluhan manusia yang lebih rendah daripada satwa meregang nyawa, dimangsa oleh perempuan yang tadinya mereka undang sebagai pemancing tawa dan pemuas dahaga.

Tentu saja pengisap darah harfiah selalu lebih unggul dibanding yang metafora.

Berulang kali Anda menyaksikan berbagai runtutan kejadian yang berujung pada malapetaka yang sama. Dengan tangan anda sendiri, anda berulang kali mengambil kembali anugerah yang dulu anda beri. Dengan mata kepala anda sendiri, anda menyaksikan gadis anda tercerai-berai berulang kali.

Ketika anda keluar dari tempat semua itu terjadi, hujan kembali turun. Saat anda tiba di persimpangan jalan, anda kembali ke masa depan. 

Anda pun berpikir untuk kesekian kalinya, betapa mudahnya ini semua jika anda bisa mengatur ke mana hujan waktu mengirim anda. Anda bisa kembali ke waktu sebelum anda dan gadis anda pergi ke persimpangan jalan. Anda bisa kembali ke waktu sebelum gadis anda memohon anda memberikan anugerah. Selambat-lambatnya anda bisa kembali ke waktu sebelum anda mengoyak hukum semesta dan menciptakan hujan waktu yang membuat anda mengulang derita yang sama.

Untuk kesekian kalinya pula anda tersadar, meskipun anda bisa kembali ke waktu-waktu itu, anda tak bisa mengubah apa-apa.

Kini anda sudah terlalu tua. Mudah-mudahan waktu ketika luka hati anda melampaui kemampuan anugerah anda untuk memperbaiki segera tiba.


Penulis: Anonymous

The Girl Whose Name I remember

Entry Writchal #2
Tema: High School Romance


[There’s only a handful of fleeting memories you could remember in life.] [It came in many forms.] [Visions.] [Sounds.] [Feelings.] [And names.] [To remember all of it, is not an easy feat any person capable of doing.] [And if you could—] [You must be a happy person.]

“Accordingly, you only have one month.”

Short. Loud. And clear.

There’s no need for a whisper, nor any hesitation. The Doctor spoke, as if it is a fact written in some Q1 journal. With the facility this hospital provides, I have no doubt he could buy those paper with his pocket money alone.

But, not even here—not even this hospital could reach a meaningful conclusion on the nature of this disease.

“I see.”

“Your guardian is still uninformed in regards to this news. I believe you have the right to know this firsthand.”

The Doctor continued, sliding down the paper of what seems to be the result of his study. It’s tattered with signs of crumple all over. Lots of marks from black, red, and blue ink clashing across the neatly typed printout. From the strokes alone, you could sense the stress endured by whoever was holding the pen. Even more so, when you saw the strain on his face.

“That’s all I have to inform you.”

Though his voice denotes a matter-of-fact tone, his body shows otherwise. Clenched was his fist, wrinkled was his brow. A frown any child would consider scary, but all I could see is a thoughtful adult.

I’m sure he had taken some heavy consideration before this.

“Can I…have some time alone?”

“I will call back if I ever have anything else.”

The doctor abruptly walks out of my room and closed the door shut in the most ordinary way possible. Not a gentle minuscule slide, nor a slam in hurry. It’s the relaxing sound effect you could hear in every visual novel whenever a door closes.

I somberly relaxed my body after an eternity of five minutes sitting upright. The folded curtain let the sunlight paint the bedsheet in dreary orange. It’s warmth reminds me of the girl this hand once interlocked with.

“…one month.”

It’s already established and well-known that the ‘mood’ human feels is simply a mixture of several neurotransmitters changing the composition of hormones inside your body.

Dopamine, histamine, serotonin, epinephrine, I couldn’t really name every one of it.

With its fluctuation, the cells in your body responded differently. The chemistry of feelings. A chaotic dance between the fleeting life of several molecule in accordance to the ephemeral moments in life.

Including moments of happiness.

…Do I have to define what happiness is?

Surely people have different views of what they consider as ‘happiness’.

Working late on an assignment in sunset-painted classroom.

Blue sky with summer haze on the off-chance unlocked rooftop.

Blooming lilies of varying colors during the entrance ceremony.

A closed space just the two of us, under the confinement of yellow, checker-patterned umbrella.

…Honestly, a slight hint of relief washed over me as I recall each of it. And the end of these dreamlike days, inching ever closer with each relief.

Satisfactory Downfall Immunity Disorder.

An abnormality where one’s own happiness reduce one’s very lifespan.

The kind of disease you can easily found on those sappy, high-school romance tragedy manga or novel.

I made up that name on the spot. SDID. Makes it sound cooler. Besides, it’s easier to remember than nothing.

I am the first and only case of it occurring.

Fluctuations of hormone triggered from an increase in several neurotransmitters. Just the right combination, and every human is capable of recognizing such emotion as happiness. It works slightly differently on me—this body. Rather, I’d call it an extra step.

That very same combination, disrupts the immune system inside this body. Surely it’d be alright if the Doctor could just figure out which part is dysfunctional. Unfortunately, there’s no pattern to its symptoms.

Several medical check and CT scans concluded with a vague result that might describe what was happening every time the symptoms appeared.

Signs of aging.

An incurable disease which led every living animal into its inevitable death—as far as I’m concerned.

At a glance, nothing much changes, and only I could feel it. The feeling of consciously approaching death’s embrace. Physical exertion becomes weaker. Terminally-ill and depressing thoughts encroaches your mental. Life as you know it, seems to be hurrying you to the finish line.

As time went on, the progression shows no sign of halting. No longer just something I could feel, but something that shows. My body begin to lose its red hue, increasingly pale with each passing day. Strands of hair turning white without me noticing.

The only surprising thing was I managed to retain my youthful look. Not that it matters, when the cells inside my body are dying.

Unironically, my favorite reads are fictions concerning thought experiment on immortality. The loneliness it brings, or the inherent suffering within. Altogether it pieces the what-if consequences stemming from limitless choice. Eventually alluding it into an illusion of having no choice. It has been so, way back before I realize something is wrong with my body. Perhaps a coincidence. Though I never take credit preferring such read as a consolation for SDID.

On the other hand, I disliked sappy stories concerning terminally-ill patient with limited deadline. Maybe I should call it deathline? Such stories’ context was reversed from immortality, it grants the person virtually limitless choice in expense of facing one absolute answer it couldn’t change. Hence why anytime the person in question survives, it felt as if denigrating the whole ordeal of the story. It just felt wrong for them to survive. Perhaps it’s an attempt of deluding myself from SDID, or I’m probably too narrow-minded.

I suppose deep down I’m simply trying to justify my own inevitable death.

“One…month, huh.”

A sigh escaped as I laid down my body, blanketed over the dim sunset.

At moments like these, usually the terminally-ill heroine’s monologue began to ramble. Recalling the happy memories and whatnot. Believe me, now I can relate to that way better than I used to. Only then, for me to realize I don’t even have such luxury.

A slight remembrance of my happier past could hasten the one-month lifespan I clutch ever so loosely.

I want to remember. I desperately want to be happy before I die.

But I want to live. I want to see her once more. I want to tell her a lot of things. I want her to be happy.

Tears began to stream their way to the bedsheet.

I couldn’t describe the internal conflict happening inside. Has anyone ever feels so much torment over deciding what to feel in their life? Could any human ever decide their own feelings?

If I was born normal I wouldn’t have spared a single thought on it.

This habit of mine appeared soon after I was diagnosed with SDID. Every time the sun sets, I wept. The thoughts of what I would feel next time sent shivers throughout my body. The memories from that day keeps coming back to remind me of how happy I once was. And once again, inflict me with the pain of suffering from happiness.

I guess without the SDID context, the previous line sounds quite sappy for a wholesome romance novel, right?

“Haha.”

I let out a laugh, a momentary flash of happiness slips out of my mind.

“That’s another day off my life.”

And this habit is the reason why I have only a month left.

So, should we begin? The long exposition that is my past. A lot of people probably will be less than enthusiastic hearing this—most of them will be bored. But at least let me take rein in the pacing, all right? Let me savor and indulge in this fleeting happiness which costs my literal life.

I cried, I smiled, and I began to chant the first mantra.

“Where should I begin?”


It rained on that day.

Tsuyu…”

Plum rain. The downpour happened arbitrarily despite the clear blue sky a few minutes ago. I had forgotten…no, I think I never brought an umbrella to school, so I had to take a shelter on a nearby gazebo. My house was still blocks away, there’s no way I could dash through the rain without getting drenched.

I had light clothing and my shoulders were wet. It’s cold, but I didn’t mind. Usually when it rain during these times, it lasted for hours on end. I wonder if I’m going to be trapped in this little gazebo until evening.

“I might end up with a cold by then.”

The first shiver went down my spine. Feeling restless, I decided to do some activity just to kill time. I ransacked through my bag searching for anything I could spend my time on. I found nothing of interest.

Schoolbooks, notebooks, pencil box.

To be completely honest, I was not the kid with many hobbies. I have certain fondness to writing, but that was it.

Do I really have to read the math book? I could have done the homework given, but somehow it felt inappropriate to do it before I reached home. That left me with social studies, which I clearly have no fond memories of.

Ah.

It’s the sharpener I lost. I had bought the sharpener a few weeks ago when we went shopping to a fancy mall out of town. Why had I bought this? I seldom used pencil. The design was not even cute, but it’s simply eye-catching. A peculiar hexagonal prism with yellow outlining.

So it was not lost, after all.

Wonder if I got any pencil I could use this on. I reached inside my bag for my pencil box. During that slight window, I was unaware—

A slight ruffle followed with a loud thud. Someone sat beside me. Another kid, clad in drenched yellow opaque raincoat. It was so drenched, splashes of water sloppily dripped from every crease and edge. The immediate vicinity became slightly colder.

That person sat still for a few seconds, clouds of white emanating in quick succession from inside the hood. Perhaps tired. After it subsided, that person took the hood off. To my surprise, it was a girl. Her hair, messy with many curly protrusion. Though short-haired, her facial features was smooth-lined.

Droplets of sweat glisten her overall appearance, complementing the reflective, wet-raincoat.

“Umm.”

Her face twitched and she turned over to look at me.

“What’s the point of using raincoat if you sweat that much?”

That question probably was not the best conversation starter.

Yet she answered anyway, “I like to run when it rains.” Her voice tone was childish, but she said as if my question was rhetorical.

Keeping the conversation going, “Won’t you get scolded if you got home like that?”, I asked.

“I should be the one asking that.”

For a moment, I saw her lips bent down into a suggestive frown. That probably was the sign to end the conversation, so I sealed my mouth shut. I was simply asking out of curiosity, but most often than not, people didn’t take it lightly.

Forgetting my initial objective, I sat in silence, occasionally examining the not-so-brand-new sharpener I was about to use. My seating partner, on the other hand, had taken out a book and a pencil and began sketching in earnest. ‘Isn’t it a bad idea to do it while raining?’, ‘Why is it your face have to be so close to the book?’, ‘Do you like drawing?’—questions began to pop one after another inside me. I had stared at her intensely for quite some time until she finally noticed my gaze.

“…Is there something you would like to ask?”

I began to arrange the order of questions I had in mind. My mouth stuttered as I couldn’t catch up with the events going on inside and outside. I was nonplussed by her question.

“Can I watch you draw?”

It was an outrageous question. She knitted her eyebrow for a while, perhaps baffled by my question just as much—if not more than I was. People have been looking at me this way for a while. Previously, I blamed my choice of questions during moments like these, which clearly was not the best I could come up with. Lately though, I have a vague idea perhaps they were baffled after looking at my expression, which definitely was not the best I could come up with.

After what seemed to be a long five seconds, she went back to drawing. I was left frozen and hanging.

Was what I had thought—

“I like drawing,” until she answered. “I cannot draw at school or at home, so I have to make use of the limited time I have in-between.”

It was sort of captivating for me listening to her sincere answer (?) using a childish—no, maybe it’s closer to boyish, tone. The downpour outside was terribly loud, but I could hear her voice just fine. Instead, it accentuate her voice as it reverberated throughout the little space we’re in.

I always considered myself as a poor communicator, hence my dislike of social studies. But in that short few hours with her, the conversation flowed naturally. Like a father and son playing catch. A pen pal exchanging letter side-by-side. We proceeded to talk about each other for quite a while, growing restless with each passing time as the rain gradually subside. Knowing the rain would eventually end, I did my best to keep her interest at bay.

Before it subsided, though, she ended the conversation first.

“I’m out of pencil.”

Turns out, she had been drawing with spare pencils. After one was no longer sharp, she took out another, already sharp and ready to sketch.

Bewildered, I was looking if there was any way to prolong our encounter. ‘What should I do?’, I could do nothing as she put away the book and pencils on her lap into the slightly damp shoulder bag.

Oh, the sharpener. I held onto this firmly all this time, haven’t I?

“Umm! It’s still raining outside, so, if you’d like!”, I declared abruptly as I hand out my sharpener.

Was that the right choice to make? Would she stay for longer? Wait, does she even willing to take it? Why am I handing it over to her if I could just lend it?

The response I received though, was neither a refusal nor acceptance. She took the sharpener, briskly pull the raincoat hood over her head, and said—

“Thanks.”

She ran away into the rain. Her dashing figure, quickly diminishing as she went further and further. Her raincoat was too wide and baggy on the underside with a checkered black and white pattern. You could easily mistook her as a floating traffic cone from afar.

“I don’t even know her name.”

And I easily spotted my biggest mistake right then. I was too absorbed talking with her, I have no idea about her identity nor how to contact her. All she left was an unforgettable memory, impression, and a lingering warmth on my left palm.

On the way home, I was stricken with regret. The whole night, I was contemplating the novice mistake I just did, swearing not to do it again.

It took an anxious night and the next day to find out that she was also a 4th-grade student in my school. I was struck with relief and elation, contrary to my expectations.

That was how I met Tsuyu, the person closest to me, and the most likely perpetrator of my inevitable death.


Tsuyu was a quiet, but vehement girl. I learnt that over the course of Grade School. Ever since that day, we have been meeting each other on the same spot after school. I was the one who proposed the idea, because seeing her sincerely answering while her hand sketched away in earnest gave a warmth feeling inside me no one else could give. Not even my family. It was Tsuyu alone who provided me with such warmth.

Tsuyu came from a well-off family. As expected, her parents were quite strict with the limits of activity she could do. At home, she was expected to be an obedient and capable kid, meanwhile our school was pushing her to befriend everyone while maintaining the status of an honor student.

It was to no one surprise, that the only time left for her, was the small window between home and school—which granted her the freedom of being herself. Apparently, the gazebo was her main base of operation for quite a while. At one point, I realized I have been taking her precious time alone.

‘No, it’s fine. I like it better with you here.’ That line caught me off-guard. I felt a tinge down my heart. If I learned anything during our time together under the gazebo, it was to voice my thoughts clearly and immediately instead of keeping it inside. Tsuyu had an expressionless look due to constantly maintaining it both at home and school. It must be tiring for her having to do it all the time, so I wholeheartedly smile in her stead. ‘Yeah, I like you too, Tsuyu.’

Oh, Tsuyu also liked drawing. In fact, all she did whenever we were together at that time was dutifully drawing with her face an inch away from the sketchbook. While it’s true I had more interest in observing and questioning Tsuyu, it’s not like the thought of looking at her drawing never crossed my mind.

To put it bluntly, it was abysmal. No, maybe avant-garde? One time, I saw her drawing an object similar to a mountain.

‘No, it’s a capybara.’ And I instantly knew why her parents had banned her from drawing.

While there was a momentary restlessness nearing the end of our 6th year, we had grown accustomed to each other and it gradually diminished. There was one talk at that time, it was raining too like when we first met. Tsuyu was acting unusual and I couldn’t really grasp her intention. She had asked a lot of question, as if reversing our everyday role—not that I mind, I was pleased, even. Turned out that was her attempt at parting with me at that moment. She planned to left things as it was without leaving a single goodbye.

To no avail, though, since coincidentally I entered the same Middle School as her. What she didn’t know, though, I had planned to do so from the get go, putting much effort in study which I never expected was capable of doing. Such is the power of love. I had no idea back then, though.

At our graduation, when I revealed the Middle School we’re getting in was the same all along, she broke down in tears. ‘I’m not…gonna cry. No, I mean…thank you.’ That was the first time I had seen Tsuyu genuinely smiled in front of me.

During our 1st-year of Middle School, Tsuyu still put up with the whole facade, albeit showing a bit restraint. Her time spent around me gradually increased. Instead of the limited hours inside the gazebo we used to sit, we had plenty of time walking home together after school.

‘You know, I never saw you doing anything whenever we’re together. Even right now.’ It was endearing to see her gradually opening up to me. What seemed to be a case of me interrogating her had mellowed out. Now I knew she was also interested in me. Although I had to admit her approach was so, so indirect, and with it confusion was bound to happen.

‘Come to think of it. I spent most of the time observing and talking with you.’ But that didn’t bother me. Not at all. It’s Tsuyu, after all. Her method of inquiring instead drove me to mull over several aspects I had never even considered previously.

‘It’s my inquisitive nature, I guess? I liked to know things, especially if someone is willing to answer.’ For one, I realized that it was not wrong of me to feel curious about a lot of things. Sure, in Grade School I might have had a case of social anxiety since not everyone was willing to answer like Tsuyu. I had blamed myself for being nosy, prying into every little detail that went deep into personal matters. Tsuyu helped me realize that it was okay to be curious, but not everyone was keen to answer so I need to be careful with my approach.

‘That’s not what I’m talking about.’ And most of the time, Tsuyu responded with a sidelong glance at me while pouting. It would take a fool to mistook her red cheek as an illusion painted over by the setting sun, and perhaps I was a fool at that time.

It didn’t matter that she was a bit reluctant to shower me with various questions, she probably never experienced showing interest to someone her age. I knew better though. Everyone kept her at a distance and instead showered her in praise and compliments. Exemplary honor student, I must say.

‘Don’t worry, it’s not you drawing that I only like, it’s watching you that I like, Tsuyu.’ Usually after then, Tsuyu would left her mouth gaping, as if trying to tell me something, but forcefully shut it close, as if stopping midway sentence. I told her it’s fine to blurt out anything on her mind without reservation, but she’d only shook her head, dismissing it with a disheartened expression.

‘I like to draw.’

‘I know. Seeing you drawing made me feel relieved, for some reason.’

‘I will draw you.’

‘…Well, I must say you have to improve on that department first, don’t you? I’m quite confident on my looks, even though not as charming as yours, Tsuyu.’

Yeah, I was truly a fool back then.

Still, small chatter like these, accompanied by orange glow from the west and occasional afternoon breeze remained as a precious memory within me. Looking at Tsuyu, listening to her activities for the day, the way she walked, and the effort she put at everything. You know. It just made me happy.


It hadn’t rained yet on that day.

The sun was already setting, it’s probably 4 to 5 PM in the afternoon. Basking under that afternoon glow, two shadow walked idly next to each other, rhythm matching and all.

Perhaps a leftover from PE class exercise, exhaustion was apparent on my face. Even mundane task such as breathing became taxing. I simply dismissed it as me neglecting my own physical health. Tsuyu had no PE class that day though, but her breathing was just as rough as mine.

“Fever?”

“Maybe.”

Tsuyu had something to say after school. Considering we’re approaching end of term—it’s highly probable she meant to address graduation since it’s our 3rd-year. With graduation, came high school and its merry band of worry to be dealt with. But we addressed that problem much earlier. We’ve been discussing about our choice of high school. We didn’t want a repetition of what happened at Grade School, after all. At least not Tsuyu, who was fervent about it.

We decided to pursue a somewhat renowned public high school. As expected, Tsuyu’s parent was proven quite difficult to convince. They were adamant on enlisting Tsuyu to a prestigious private high school out of town. I had initially planned to do the same thing as previous, studying to the bone in order to get in the same high school as her, if there was no other choice. ‘No, let me handle this.’, Tsuyu replied with conviction, banishing my worry to the back of my mind.

Several days later, Tsuyu ran to me in exhilaration. She spread her arm open and hugged me on the spot. ‘My parents approved me going there!’ It was rare for Tsuyu to openly show her emotion, much less grinning from ear-to-ear. Of course I was happy. Overjoyed, even. Returning her embrace, despite somewhat embarrassed myself. After all, when will I ever get the chance of Tsuyu displaying physical affection again? Although that night I was suddenly hit by lethargy and had a fever for several days.

Up to this day, I still had no idea how Tsuyu managed to convince her parents, though. When questioned, she only answered ‘I have not put up with everything for years in vain.’, which, as someone who knew her better than most, I could validate and agree with.

Now, what did she have to say?

I had a hunch. Two hunches, apparently. One bad, one good, No, maybe both were good in a sense?

First-

“I finished drawing you.”

Tsuyu halted in front of me, handing out a simple brown file easily passed off as important document.

…That was a surprise. So that’s what this was all about. I had thought Tsuyu died down on drawing, or at least pursuing it. It had been a while since I last saw her drawing too, apparently. The last thing I remembered was her drawing an odd ball of spherical apparatus and she said it was a doll’s face. That was long, long, months ago. Maybe during 2nd-year. I knew Tsuyu couldn’t draw at school and at home, so it had to be our pastime whenever she did, so whenever did she draw this?

I had set the expectation bar abysmally low, prepared to be disappointed at any moment. As it was, voicing it would only be disrespectful so I simply accepted the file she had given.

Depicted was a girl, from head-to-toe, top-to-bottom. Wearing a sailor uniform, matching those of our school. The overall image was…how should I put it. Remarkable. The paper had its fair share of erasure and redraw, too much, in fact. Even in a single glance I could tell this drawing had been thoroughly erased and redrawn, a lot. Traces of the previous drawing were overlapping with each other, giving the final result a shade of tremendous effort.

Her eyes, gentle as a caring mother, from what seemed to be a hollow uneven circle. Her hair, each strand delicately drawn flowing seamlessly, borne from a rough, simple geometric convex shape. Her hands, fingers drawn intricate after a shadow of stubby mushroom with five head. Uniform. Skirt. Legs. Everything was drawn after many trial and error.

It was me.

A surge of emotion well up inside me. Indescribable mix of joy, delight, and relief. Tsuyu had drawn me, this much, for how long? How many redraw had she done? What purpose did this drawing entail?

I had lowered the drawing, and my view was replaced by a figure of a lone girl. Standing upright, slightly trembling. Hair not as short as it was in 6th-Grade, but still you could pass it as pretty boyish. My eyes were completely enamored by the look on her face, and I could only bet she was completely enamored by mine too. I was not stupid enough to think of her blushing as mere tricks of the sunset.

“I remember you said you’d draw me a long time ago. It was two years ago.”

“I did.”

“Then this drawing—this paper had been drawn since then?”

“Yes.”

“I never saw you draw this during our time together.”

“Because I’m not doing it in front of you.”

“…How did you manage to draw without looking at me?”

All my questions had been rhetorical. Downright nonsensical, even. I could infer the answer easily, but the fact remained that I needed confirmation from Tsuyu—I had to ask them. Perhaps as a result from an increase in my palpitations. The fast, beating-heart not only churn out blood flowing through my vein at a faster rate, carried with it also thoughts of varying degree.

“…I‘ve been watching you all this time. I ingrained your look, in my mind, everyday. When no one is watching, I tried to recall your image and draw it out on that canvas. I was struggling at first, even I considered to give up after the first try—knowing you were the one who said I need to improve my skills before I could even draw you. But I kept trying, drawing a different version of you each day better than the previous one.

As time flies, I realized my eyes followed you everywhere. I began to notice the minute details. Your actions, your voice, your words. I wasn’t simply looking at your appearance, and it helped me depict you even better in such an unexpected way. Yet, I could never bring myself to feel satisfied with the result. Because the very next day, I found something new from looking at you.

You are mesmerizing.

Every day you seem to dazzle even brighter than the previous day. I knew I had to redraw everything all over when I saw you. And I knew my eyes will be occupied by you for the next day. It never ceased, the cycle never stopped. For 1035 days.

That was the time it took for me to realize this feeling.”

Tears began trickling down my face without obstruction. Tsuyu uttered every sentence punctually, with window in-between just enough to confer the meaning and prepare for the next one.

Tsuyu was a quiet, but vehement girl. But to me, she was simply vehement and no longer quiet. At least, she tried not to. And that made me happy, more than anything else. This warmth, was it because I’m relieved Tsuyu have been paying attention to me? Did these tears bore the same emotion as Tsuyu during our Grade School graduation?

“I like you.”

An unfathomable amount of happiness. Too much. that I couldn’t contain. My heart beats even louder, almost seemingly painful. At one point, my vision blurred. Tsuyu was there, but I couldn’t see her. It’s painful. Perhaps the tears were blocking my vision. Well, no matter. I should give Tsuyu my reply. Immediately. If not, something bad would happen.

I like you too’, but before I could mutter those words, my legs gave out and I collapsed in front of Tsuyu.


High school was a bliss hidden in disguise, blanketed over death threat. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to call it hypocrisy.

Tsuyu had opened up to me, to say the least. She showered me with affection, and I replied in kind. It didn’t occur to me as a problem not knowing what our relationship was. Tsuyu must have noticed it too, but didn’t pursue it any further, As long as we conveyed our feelings mutually, happiness followed.

To tell the truth, I had a vague idea about SDID during early high school—that something wasn’t right with my body. The connection was simple. The more time I spent with Tsuyu, the weaker my constitution came to be. I suppose it was not an exaggeration that I fell into a comatose state for a few days because Tsuyu confessed to me back then.

But the connection was just absurd. For the first time I delve deep in thought, trying to find conjecture that fitted what was happening with the connection I made. Deep down, I understood my brain was simply averting the worst outcome—the one it had not desired, that’s why I kept using the alibi.

The happier I get, the weaker I am.

It sounded straight silly. Outrageous, even. Simple as I was, back then I stubbornly believed the only way out from this miserable line of thought was to become happy. Forget about the unnecessary worry, and instead bask myself in happiness while I still can.

Tsuyu would not be pleased either, if I told her about my conjecture. I had worried she would blame herself for putting my life on the line, just for her sake.

Eventually, the Doctor figured it out. The truth came to light one day. It wasn’t like flickering candle in a dark room as much as shining a 1000 lumen flashlight in front of me. The truth blinded me without any reservation, shoving reality onto my eyes despite my hardest attempt to avert my gaze.

To put it bluntly, it was an episode of depression.

Ironic how those days were the only way to prolong my lifespan. Thinking back on it only made me feel even worse, nauseating my stomach. I couldn’t eat, taste, nor feel. Hollowness enveloped my entire being. At that rate, I would die faster from malnutrition than the irrational disorder I exclusively suffer.

‘Let’s take a walk.’ It took only a moment for Tsuyu to drag me out of my depressive episode. I couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to be happy just from seeing her standing in my room. Relishing in guilt of feeling such emotion would mean we have less time together. I had cried in silence.

It…rained on that day. Drizzles of lightweight raindrops.

We took a walk. My first one after several days of shutting myself off from the outside world. ‘Use the other hand,’ I selfishly told Tsuyu, so her right hand would be available. She obeyed, without hesitation. I took hold of her right with my left, our fingers intertwining. The grip was very tight, it probably left a mark on her hand. Yet I couldn’t care less. I had one, and only one thought—that was to seek the warmth which only Tsuyu could ever provide. The warmth she left me with ever since our first meeting. I had light clothing and my right shoulder was damp.

But it’s not cold.

Tsuyu was warm.


Tsuyu brought me back to life. It might be an exaggeration, but I felt grateful for her all the same. To put it in layman terms, I would be willing to die for her. Meaning I chose happiness over sorrow. It wasn’t like I’m putting the SDID on back burner, but it definitely dropped down in my list of worries. If I have to choose between spending my life in eternal sorrow or a short-lived relationship with Tsuyu, I’ll choose the latter without a doubt.

And that was exactly what transpired for the past few weeks. Tsuyu suddenly became attentive and gentler than ever after the day we walked under the same umbrellla. Perhaps we were both worried the whole affair will happen again, so we refrained from confessing each other. This time, it might not just end with comatose. I might die. Tsuyu must have noticed this.

I decided not to tell Tsuyu about the disorder. Since I was a poor actor, Tsuyu probably already picked up everything from the moment she confessed. But she never pushed the matter, not even once.

During these melancholic days, we had spent more time together than ever, even in school. Such as wasting our lunch break on the rooftop, contemplating and exchanging whatever came to our mind while gazing at the sky. We kept at it, even if it’s Winter right now. I didn’t mind the cold, of course, because I wore the gloves Tsuyu gave me.

“The broadcast said it won’t snow for another week.”, Tsuyu said, the clouds above moving about. A small sigh escaped her mouth, forming a patch of white cloud as she breathe.

“Can I, be honest with you?”, Tsuyu knitted her brow, her face visibly shaken and unnerved. Truthfully, I wanted to tell Tsuyu about the disorder, but I couldn’t bear the pain of knowing she would blame herself for my death. It’s Tsuyu. I knew she would. The last thing I wanted was Tsuyu killing herself in order to follow me. The frightening thing was that she might do just that. If at all, I just wanted Tsuyu to live on happily in my stead, as someone who was not born to be happy.

“No, you can’t,” I replied curtly, “But, know that I also wanted to be honest with you all this time, okay?” After all, I was torn apart at the possible outcome. If Tsuyu was reluctant and decided to left me for good, that would torment me for eternity. Knowing Tsuyu though, she probably would accept the reality wholeheartedly and strive to be by my side until the end. I’m worried I’d be too happy hearing her reply and just die on the spot. It’s hilarious imagining Tsuyu’s response to my abrupt death, but I’d be dead before I even know it.

Huh, apparently I was already at the point where I could joke about my own demise. Maybe I was not as reluctant to die as I initially thought.

“Then, let’s end this.”

My heart skipped a beat. It felt like something plunged deep inside my heart. What did she meant by ‘end’?

“Something have been weighing on your mind, but you never tell me about it. No…I believe, you cannot tell me about it. In that case, the only thing I could do to help is to forget about it.”

Tsuyu stood up, her face strained into a forced smile.

“I know that, but I just can’t. I cannot simply forget about you. And all the scenarios that I envision didn’t help the lhe least bit.”

She was on the verge of tears.

“I’m scared. I don’t know what to do because I have no idea what you’re going through.”

It eventually builds up, and the dam overflowed.

I had no idea Tsuyu was in this much pain. I was being selfish all this time, and Tsuyu had to bear with the uncertainty and anxiety as a consequence. She might have fret that I turned out this way because of her. Everyday, ever since the day she confessed to me.

I never gave her an actual reply.

Not to say I didn’t have any. Closer to I couldn’t put it into words.

And her trepidation probably peaked when I went absent for days after I knew about the condition. I shut myself alone without considering Tsuyu’s feelings. It must have took her a considerable amount of courage to enter my room that day. I remember her hand trembled along the way when we walked under the umbrella.

Right, Tsuyu is also in pain.

And that’s because of me trying to avoid pain.

“December 25th,” I interjected, “I promise I will tell you everything on that day.”

I decided to tell Tsuyu everything. My condition. My feelings. And perhaps my end. But I need time to arrange my words carefully, so I had to postpone it until Christmas, when school is over.

If I tell her everything at that moment, I was afraid her determination would waver. She was already a step ahead by willing to forget about me. It was a step in the right direction, and I didn’t want to deter her conviction. My own determination might waver if I saw her broke down in tears right then and there, too.

“So let’s minimize contact until then, alright?” It was December 1st, so we had a considerable amount of time before the promised day. Honestly, it was probably my silly idea at work to choose December 25th, but I also didn’t want to bother Tsuyu with end-of-term exams and whatnot. She had a long life ahead, after all.

“…Then let me do one last thing.”

Hm? It was rare for Tsuyu to ask for permission. Come to think of it, Tsuyu never asked me for a favor, not even when she had to persuade her parents for letting her enter a public high school.

I was the one who wanted her to forget about me, either way. One last favor to entertain her might be okay. Free of charge. My farewell gift, since I won’t be able to give her anymore.

“Sure.”

Tsuyu, startled at my response, briskly walked over to me. Her arms reached out and I prepared myself, probably a final embrace before we part. I needed to calm my heart and stay still, assuming the worst might happen at any time if I ever felt too much happy. Because whatever Tsuyu did, it will undoubtedly make me happy. Her hand landed on both my shoulder, as she pull her face close to mine—

—and kissed me.

My heart beats loudly. It struck a pain in my chest with each beat. The kiss went on for a long winding 30-seconds or so. At which point I had to remain still.

Oh, this is bad. I couldn’t contain how happy I am right now.

Tsuyu finally took a step back, and ran over to the school building. Leaving me alone, dazed at what just happened.

Good thing I didn’t fall unconscious this time.

My knees though, gave out either way. And I just realized I was grinning from ear-to-ear. Good grief. She just made it harder for me to continue living.

The very next day, I had a huge case of fever and was hospitalized. Then the Doctor told me I only have one month left to live.


How long has it been?

Honestly, there was not much point in counting it down. Even in the face of death, I still sought happiness by reminiscing what little memories I held dear—the short life I experienced.

I am bedridden.

All of my hair have turned completely white. My skin is pale as a corpse. Even moving an inch became an arduous task to overcome.

Lethargic. That’s what it boils down to. I am very, very tired. Maintaining my consciousness felt like a tiresome burden.

Terrified. My heart is not prepared. I couldn’t close my eyes despite desperately wanting to do so. I feared if I close my eyes, that would be the end of me. The last I saw life. Ended right then and there, alone.

I couldn’t keep the promise after all, Tsuyu.

I wished I had written down a letter. Anything that could convey this love I had to return. I want at least Tsuyu…I want Tsuyu to know how I feel. But I couldn’t move. let alone write.

I want to sleep. I don’t want to die. I wish Tsuyu was beside me.

The sunset…the afterglow. I wonder if Tsuyu is heading back home from school. How did she fare in school without me? She must be fine, though. She could put up a facade for a long time.

“Ah…”, now that I recall, “it’s the last day.”

Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is the promised day. I promised to explain everything and lay my feelings bare on that day. I defnitely have to tell her.

Perhaps the Doctor was being considerate. Perhaps one month was the best case scenario. Things just don’t go the way you expected. He told me it was according to my condition at that time, after all. Apparently the reaper had his scythe on my neck closer than I ever imagined.

“Then, let me grant your wish.”

A shadow of a person was casted on me. The sunset was very bright and I couldn’t make out whoever was standing next to me. How did he manage to enter the room in the first place? I must have noticed when the door was opened, because it was right at the other end of this person.

“Who…are you?”, I let out the faintest of voice, doubting the person could hear.

“An apparition. A spirit. Ghost. I have been called by a lot of terms, feel free to call me with whatever you like.”

“Why…”, are you here?

“You don’t have to voice it out loud. I can hear your inner voice just as fine.”

Ah, I see. That’s convenient.

“As for why am I here, truth be told, I have but a vague idea myself.”

A figment of my imagination, then?

“It might be closer to what your kin would consider as ‘supernatural’.”

Huh. I’m not particularly fond of the term myself. I won’t be satisfied with anything without any sort of plausible explanation.

“Even if your disease was a part of it?”

SDID have some plausible explanation which I could come to term with. I won’t go as far as supernatural, though I agree being the only person suffering from it is…unnatural.

“Then that just means your kin have not yet reached the capability to explain my existence as plausible.”

Heh…and I wouldn’t live to see the day.

“True, and that’s why I’m here.”

What are you, Santa?

“Sometimes, kids call me just that. I have but one purpose everytime I materialize, and that was to grant an offering of consolation to those nearing their end.”

Everyone?

“Not everyone.”

Am I special, then?

“You can call it that way.”

Then you can grant any wish?

“With a corresponding value of setback, technically yes.”

Truly? Then what would be the consequence of me wishing the end of the world?

“…That’s something your kin better off not knowing.”

Haha, I’m joking. It’s just in my nature to be inquisitive, forgive me. If you can read my mind, then you have at least an idea what I wished for, right?

“True. I was simply guiding you to accept that wish.”

Then, I wish to fulfill my promise to Tsuyu. Let me live until tomorrow.

“Very well.”

…I thought prolonging my life was out of question?

“There’s still uncertainty in your demise. But with your wish, that could be altered so your immediate future is certain.”

Which means I might die today, but this way I could certain I will not die today.

“If you prefer it that way.”

Then, what would the consequence be?

“Tsuyu will forget about you.”

…What a very convenient development. Wait, does that mean she would not appear tomorrow?

“That would depend on her answer.”

Ah. So Tsuyu also have a part in this, after all?

“As a consequence of your wish.”

…I see. May I entrust you to convey a message to her, then?

“I’m afraid I could not.”

Well. It won’t hurt to try. Would you please convey to her, ‘I like you too’, before she forgets me? If she would eventually forget about me, then there should be no problem.

“…No. That is something you have to convey yourself.”

No negotiation, then. Does this mean I could close my eyes without worry?

“Yes. Take a good sleep for now.”

Thanks. I’m tired myself. I just…want to end this, as soon as possible.

Ah. I can’t wait tomorrow to come. Wait, could I even move from the bed? Will I even be able to walk over to school? I should’ve wished for it before he left. Just as the questions emerged, exhaustion washed over me and my eyes closed shut naturally.

Entry Writchal #2
Tema: Highschool Romance


The sky sparkles with stars. Sitting next to a void, I retrace my memory.

It was summer, I was moving to another city with my family.

I sit in the car, looking through the car’s window. Flowers blooming along the road, as I wonder where this journey will lead me to.

The car stopped, I stepped out and see a huge field full of blooming flowers.

“We will take a short rest here, you father needs some rest. Don’t play too far, the flowers are tall, be careful not to get lost okay?” Said my mother.

“Okay.”

I run through the small path, grabbing a dandelion in my hand, feeling the wind touches my body. Then I see a girl next to a tree in the middle of the field. Sitting on a swing, waist-length brown hair, round eyes, dressed in a white one piece. She smiles and waves to me, her other hand holds the sun hat on her head as the wind breezes gently.

“My name is-“ she tips my mouth before I finished talking.

“Sshhh, the monsters will hear you.” She whispered.

“What monsters?” I whispered to her.

“Look over there, can’t you see it?” She pointed to the flower bushes behind me.

I look toward the bushes, something shakes the bushes. I feel tense, my legs shake, I want to run but I just can’t. The thing gets closer and closer.

“BAAAAA!” She shouts behind me as a dog comes out from the bushes.

I lose balance and fall. She is laughing at me, mocking me with her laugh. The dog barks to me, as if falling to the ground isn’t enough. I try to hold my tears, but I end up wiping my eyes anyway. She comes closer to me, lowering her body. She lends me her hand, still laughing.

“I’m just kidding, there are no monsters. I’m sorry okay, you can stop crying now.” She said.

I lift my head, she picks the dandelion in my hand and put it on my right ear.

“Will you forgive me now?” She asked.

“Sniff… sniff… yes.” What a good boy, just like my dog.

She mocks me again. Her dog snuggles to her, wagging it’s tail.

“His name is Puffy. I found him sitting on the side if the road 2 years ago on a trip with my family. His condition was miserable when I found him, so I adopted him.” She said.

“So what brings you here?” She asked.

“I… I am moving with my family. What about you?”

“I often come to this field, it’s beautiful here. Whenever I feel lonely, or when I miss my father, I always come here.” She answered.

“I used to play with my father here, but now it’s just me and my mother.” She said with a low voice.

I think her father died, but I don’t have enough courage to ask her, so I stay silent.

“Enough of that. Do you really believe there are monsters here? Your reaction was hilarious. Hahahaha.” She mocks me.

“Yes, my parents told me not to listen to strangers, but I think you are not bad person, so I trusted you.”

“Hahahaha. Sorry for that.” She said.

After that, we play together, running through the field, playing the swing, catching bugs.

Time passes, I made a flower head band and put it on her head.

“What do you think? Is it good?”

“Yes, I like it. Thank you.” She said, smiling at me.

I smiled back to her. I hear my mother calling for me.

“Ah, I think I should go back now. My mother is already calling for me.” I said.

“See you later! Promise me we will meet again okay! I appoint you as my friend, and friend keeps their promise!” She said.

“I- I promise…”

I run back to the car. The dandelion still on my ear.

I think of what I said before, why did I say that… I don’t even know if I will meet her again. I brush it off and continue living my life.


Years passed, I am now a highschooler, final year, edgy phase.

“Hey, what are you contemplating? Are you thinking about your grades? Don’t worry, my grades are bad too.” My friend approached me.

His name is Blaire. I met him on my first year and he befriended me.

“Nahh, get off me. You are depleting the oxygen around, I’m starting to feel dizzy.”

“Hey, you want to go to karaoke tonight? The girls are all coming, as your friend, I don’t want you to miss this opportunity. If you are lucky, you might be able to preserve your bloodline tonight.” He said.

“No, thank you. I prefer watching random primitive building videos till 3 AM tonight.”

“C’mon… stop with those videos, I have better videos for you to watch. It involves the girls that will come to the karaoke tonight. How about that?” He replied.

“No, thank you.”

“Ah, you’re such a rockhead. Anyway, just hit me up if you change your mind.” He said.

Finally, peace and solitude.

It’s spring, my favorite season because the weather just perfect. Flowers are blooming, birds singing, wind breezes gently.

As I walk out from the school gate, a girl suddenly approached me.

“HELLLOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Do you remember me?” She said.

A beautiful girl, long brown hair, beautiful eyes, in an elite looking high school uniform. Her face is familiar, but I can’t remember who.

“Uhh… pardun?”

“Ah, you can’t recognize me. You believed when I said there are monsters at the flower field.” She said.

“Hey, I was a kid back then.”

“Well, I didn’t expect to meet you here. Did you study here?” She said.

“Yes, isn’t it obvious?”

“Anyway, we haven’t met for a loooooooooooong time. How about a drink? It’s on me.” She asked.

“Uhhh, I-“

She pulled my arm before I could finish my sentence. Annoying… just like back then.

We arrived at a coffee shop.

“Table for two please.” She said to the worker.

“This way please.” Said the worker.

Well, since I’m already here, it will be impolite to just leave. Good thing my parents teach me manner.

We take a seat and she finally let go of my arm.

“One orange juice please! What do you want to drink?” She asked.

“Plain water please.”

The waiter nods and leaves.

“Tell me about your story. What happened during all these times.” She said.

“I inhale, I exhale.”

She laughed.

“Well, for me. I don’t have much story to be told too. But I am happy I could meet an old friend.” She said.

“I just live a very normal life. Move into this city, go to school, aim for good university, get bad grades, pretty normal.”

The waiter brings the drinks to our table.

“What about friend? You must have a lot of friends don’t you?” She asked.

“No.”

“What about girlfriend? Ehehehe.” She asked.

“Is that an insult?”

“You are in high school, surely you have something interesting right?” She said.

“You see this water? This represents my life.”

She laughed.

“My life is also pretty much normal I think.” She said.

“I don’t ask.”

She laughed.

“Looks like someone in their edgy phase.” She said.

Her alarm suddenly rings.

“Ah, looks like I need to go now. I’ll see you later!” She said.

“Wait, you haven’t drink your order.”

“Ah, sorry. You can drink it if you want. I need to leave now.”

She paid the drinks and rushes out, not even touching the drink she ordered. So I drink it and leave. At least better than throwing the drink away.


The next day, she greets me as I leave the school entrance, waving her hand and smiling to me.

“Ehmm… looks like someone has a girlfriend already.” Blaire said.

“Nahh, it’s just an old friend.”

“I can get you hotel if you want. I’ll pay.” He said.

“Get lost.”

I approached her.

“Why are you here?”

“Hey, do you have spare time? Let’s go on a walk.” She said.

She doesn’t answer my question.

“Well, actually I do have some free time-“

“Then let’s go!” She said.

She pulled my arm before I can finish my sentence.

We arrived at a theme park. She finally let go of my arm.

“Tickets for two please.” She said to the worker.

“Here is the money, Sir.”

“You two are such a cute couple. Oh the bliss of youth.” Said the worker.

“Ah- No, we aren’t couple. Just old friends.”

We entered the park, she is looking down.

“Thank you for the ticket.” She whispered.

“It’s just fair, you paid for the drinks yesterday.”

She suddenly pulls my arm again.

“Let’s go there!” She said.

We tried a lot of ride in the park. We also bought some cotton candy. She pulls my arm everywhere we go. No wonder people mistakes us as couple.

“The Ferris Wheel. Must have scene in every theme park chapter in romance anime.” She said.

She is quite cultured I might say.

It’s finally our turn.

“Please watch your steps.” Said the worker.

We sit face to face. The door closes and the wheel slowly rises.

“Hey, I haven’t get any of your contact. What’s your phone number?” She asked.

We exchanged contact. Phone numbers, LINE, Facebook, Instagram, Discord, WeChat, NicoNicoDouga, Bilibili, Youtube channels, and much more.

The wheel reaching it’s peak.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” She asked while looking outside the window.

“The city, bathed in golden sun light, wind blows gently, truly a work of art. I wish time could freeze. I want this moment to stay.” She smiled. But I can somehow see a bit of sadness in that smile.

I smiled a bit.

“If this makes you happy. Maybe we can do it again sometime?”

“Wow, such a generous offer from Mr. Edgy.” She laughed.

We get off from the wheel. It’s almost dark.

“Thank you for today.” She said while looking down.

“Actually, I kinda enjoyed this. So… thank you.”

We walk in awkward silence for a while, she still looks down.

“Uhmm… do you live near here? It’s almost dark, I can accompany you back to your house if you want.”

She lifts her head.

“No need to. My house is a bit far, I can take care of myself too. Don’t worry.” She smiled.

“Okay then. See you!”

“See you!” She said.

We part way. I walk back to my house.

“Hey, are you already at home?” I texted her while entering my house.

I cleaned myself and hop on the bed. The best place in the world where the gravity fluctuates depending on the day, time, and my mood.

No answer yet. Maybe she is not home yet.

“Today was fun.” I said to myself.

“When was the last time I feel this kind of happiness? I can’t remember.”

“Why would she approach me… and why is she so outgoing to me? We have only met once, and that was years ago. Yeah sure she appointed me as her friend. We promised to meet again. But we were kids back then. Kids break their promises.”

“Well… as long as I am happy I think.”

Ding! My phone rings.

“Sorry, I just came home. There was a traffic jam.” She said.

“Understandable, have a nice day.”

“Hahahaha” She said.

“Do you have any plan tomorrow? It’s Christmas. Maybe we can go to the aquarium?”

“Eh? Mr. Edgy asking me out now??? AWOKAOWKAOWKAOWK.” She replied.

I didn’t expect that.

“Okay, let’s meet up at the park tomorrow, 10 AM sharp.” She said.

“Sure.”


The next day, I come to the park just like we talked before. Time shows 9:55, 5 minutes earlier because I’ve got bad experiences of getting late. The park is not so crowded, only few people hanging around, talking to each other, walking their pets, some even dare to do lewd thing such as holding hands. Birds chirping is really calming. Time shows 9:59. She isn’t here yet.

“Where are you?” I texted her.

“Look to your right.” She replied.

Blue cold-shoulder outfit and a dark blue skirt. Side braids tied to a small, frayed ponytail behind her head. Holding a handbag that the author can’t describe.

“Hi.” I waved at her.

Her face approaches mine. She put her hand on my head.

“Are you ill? Did you hit your head?” She said.

“My old friend won’t greet me first, let alone wave at me.” She continued.

“Wha-“

“ANYWAY. WHERE WILL BE GOING TODAY?” She said cheerfully.

“Aquarium.”

“Oh, right.” She said.

We walked to the Aquarium, it’s not far from the park.

“Tickets for two please” She said to the worker.

“Romantic zone or normal zone?” The worker asked.

“Ro-“ She said.

“Normal zone please.”

“Eh, what did you say?”

“Nevermind.” She said.

We go inside the Aquarium. The first zone is the deep sea zone, most oceans worldwide consist of deep sea at a depth of 200 meters and more, and they have re-created the mysterious world of the deep sea here with approximately 100 species of deep-sea marine creatures that are rarely seen.

“Look, giant octopuses!” She said.

“That’s a squid.”

“Really?” She said.

“Yes, octopuses have round spherical head. Squids have triangular head.”

“Woah, they have lots of animals here.” She said.

“Look over there.” I said as I point my finger.

“A fish.”

“Ahahaha, you dummy.” She said.

We approached a peculiar showcase in the zone. On the panel written “Melanocetus johnsonii”. It looks like an anglerfish.

“When a male finds a female, which can be up to 60 times his size, he clamps onto her underside with tiny translucent fangs. The comparatively minuscule male’s love nip then turns into a permanent attachment: his mouth, and eventually even his blood vessels, fuse to the female to provide her eggs with on demand fertilization.”

“Love really leaves you defenseless, huh. Sacrificing yourself for the one you love.” She said with a low voice, putting her hand on the showcase glass.

“That’s true, but not true. Yes it’s true, the fish sacrificed itself. But we are human. We have intelligence.”

“Even humans are animal.” She said.

“ANYWAY, LET’S SEE THE OTHER SHOWCASES.” She replied suddenly.

We walked through the zone and we are at the 4D theater. The theater is almost empty, so we sit at the middle area. No other people in the radius of 5 units in taxicab geometry from each of our seat. The theater will be about deep sea creatures as seen on the poster outside.

“Uhm, are you okay with horror movies?”

“Y-yes.” She said.

“Well… this might not be a good idea to watch the theater.”

“No… what could possibly go wrong? I said I’m okay. It’s about fishes anyway.” She said.

The lights turn off. The movie begins.

“The vast ocean covers about 70% of earth’s surface. From the shallow waters, to the deep waters. Where the sun can reach, and where darkness reigns. In the deep, dark water lives many bizzare creatures. Many are rarely seen. The ice cold temperature filters only the most suitable creatures can survive. Those creatures exist in a place where light can’t reach, with pressures as strong as your deadlines. We will take you through a journey you will never forget. The Sunless Sea.”

“Cool.” I said.

I looked at her. She doesn’t say a thing, very unusual. Her pupils dilated.

“Hey, can you hear me?”

“A- sorry, I’m just thinking about something.” She said.

“Hehehe… are you sure? Your hands are trembling a bit.”

“N-no, what do you mean?” She replied.

Actually, her hands are not trembling. Teasing her is fun. She is cute when scared.

Suddenly a shark jumps into the audience. It looks like coming out from the screen.

“AAAAHH-“ She screamed, hiding in my arm.

“I remember someone said it’s about fishes anyway. But I forgot who said that. Hmmm.”

“U-uh… yes. It’s about fishes anyway.”

The movie lasted for 30 minutes. She hides on my arm almost all the time.

“Hey, are you okay? You doesn’t look well.”

“I’m fine.” She said, still hugging my arm.

“If you stay like this, people might think we are a couple.”

“Sorry if this disturbs you.” She said, releasing my arm.

I can’t, she is too cute.

“Actually, it’s okay… I think.”

She grabs my arm. I think… I fall in love.


Child of Winter

Entry Writchal 1
Tema: Alternate history, Kaderisasi, Soviet Union


Happiness lies in comfort of the unknown. Even I know that to an extent. People long for happiness. Even I, though undeserving, long for it.

Amidst this desolated, blanketed-white, cursed land I can hold these dear, small hand with a smile. Almost as if ignoring the sin I’ve committed all throughout my life. I abandoned my humanity in search of happiness. Then I turned my back against my own self to gain my happiness back.

My happiness lies here, beside me, in the form of another human.

“Mom, can I see the sunlight?”

“Hm? You can clearly see the daylight though.”

“Mhn. Not that. I read it in the books.”

My child inquired with her eyes upturned, brimming with curiosity.

“They said that the day was brighter than any bonfire. It is so bright that the shadows are not intermingled. The sunlight shines forever bright that you cannot see it with your own eyes, else you will be blind.”

She explained, not letting go of my hand. Her other hand spun around just to visualize how bright the sun can be. And how she wished to see it, by looking up at the eternally gray-tinted sky above us.

“I wonder if it will stop.”

“…”

A wry smile sprung on my face. I couldn’t bring myself to answer her question.

Happiness lies in comfort of the unknown. What she consider as happiness, might be different from mine. But her existence is still brimming with innocence, an infant susceptible to many wrong of the world.

To correct them—nay, to prevent them, I must give light to her the harms that lies within the ways of this world. God’s creation are imperfect such that they would consider themselves as one.

“How about I tell you a story?”

“Uhm? Aren’t we close to the bakery?”

“We can always take a detour.”

“Mmmh…”

Ana pondered over a shorter route to bakery or a longer one with storytelling. Our strides are gradually shortening and we walked slower to let her choose.

“Let’s take a detour!”

“Sure, then.”

Without prying further towards her reasoning, we shifted our route on a forkroad, taking a long turnaround before reaching the bakery.

“Then, as promised, let me tell you a story.”

“Un!”

Ana tightened her grip on my hand., her smile anticipating whatever comes next out of my mouth. Our stride remained at a slow-pace, yet with each step I could feel her eagerness to listen.

“Once upon a time, there lived a witch. It is said that her power were a wish granted through a pact with the devil.

Grant thy power unto me, then thou shalt receive on my behest, vehement soul of pure damsels!

The devil agreed to her pact, only under one condition.

‘No mortal will ever be capable of withstanding the almighty authority I bear, and for you I grant one, and only one.’

Therefore the witch received her power in the form of a book, called The Grimoire. The book is said to contain every power imaginable, but there’s a catch. A single person may only use one power from the book, and the user must sacrifice a part of their body to obtain it.

One day, another girl happened to stumble upon The Grimoire, a porcelain-skinned girl with blond hair. She was an abandoned orphan during a crisis in the Kingdom of far, far north. 

Winter was not a fond memory for her. She was born and left to fend for herself during the harshest winter with barely any food. She lost her lover during a deadly blizzard in the winter. She had to move from place to place in search of fire to warm her frigid cold body.

One day, on the brink of death, the girl fell on top of a snow pile half her height.

Curse the winter,’ she said.

’Curse the cold and snow that left my life in anguish,’ she resented.

’If only I could erase winter forever,’ the girl wished genuinely from the depths of her heart while clutching The Grimoire. A trickle of blood drip down from her frozen extremities, tainting The Grimoire with a red color.

And then a faint, ephemeral whisper could be heard by her—Tell me, what will you offer in exchange of this power?

The girl, exhausting the remaining warmth left on her body, intently spoke with a muffled voice.

The only valuable part of myself, my hair.’

And thus the pact was made. Her gleaming blond hair turned into pale-white color, each strand becoming lifeless with its color sapped. Her previously wrinkled skin regained its energy as she cover herself in a blanket of pure white snow. Life returned into her eyes, a fiery rage more fearsome than the winter itself presiding in it.

She was the Winter Witch.

Filled with hatred and anguish, at her disposal was a force of nature beckoning human to stay still. The wind driving storm into blizzard. The cold driving rainfall into icefall. A force capable of sapping away all color in the bountiful land into a colorless, lifeless desert.

’I have had enough, and all of you will pay for it.’

The Winter Witch said, bearing resentment and ill-will. She trapped the whole Kingdom under an eternal winter, never again to see any sunlight nor spring of tomorrow dawn.”

I was…a bit overexcited along the way. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that in a truthful manner, though I tried my best so it would sound similar to a fairytale.

No matter how you put it, pouring your heart out towards a child, your own nonetheless, is a truly pathetic excuse of a parent.

“Mom…it hurts.”

“Huh?!”

“Your hand…”

“S-sorry, Ana! Are you okay?”

“Um…uh-hn.”

Ana shook her head slightly.

“Why don’t you tell me earlier?!”

“Because you look like you’re in pain, Mom.”

Was I, not holding back myself? Why must I feel like holding myself together? Have I…not forgiven myself?

This child, living only to never see the sunlight. Even though I promised myself to provide for her happiness. In the end, what I seek was the happiness of my own.

It’s the same.

Unchanging, all the same as I was back then.

“Why are you crying, Mom?”

How could I, after all. These hands have turned countless fire into ash—tainted in black soot, freezing to the touch. Unworthy of any warmth, yet I fear—I still fear that one day I will lose the warmth I always thought as my own.

Why…what did I do to deserve all this?

My legs gave in as I grieved.

My hands clench in fear.

This distant feeling is casting me away from standing up and reaching out to my child. It has been, always has been since the beginning. I was just fooling myself, basking in a grand illusion I selfishly created.

I dare not even raise my head. The words I’ve said, it carried more truth than comfort. What I did, what I have said, what I have done.

I thought I have left it all behind.

“It’s okay, Mom.”

Ana gave me a pat on my head.

“You know, it’s not the first time you look like you’re in pain. Mom often cries in her sleep.”

This comfort.

Ah. It’s as if…

“And whenever I gave you headpats, you always stop crying!”

The snow below pillowed the flowing tears down my cheek. A mixture of regret taken form in liquid emotion. Droplets of water, not ice. Such water is capable of rendering the snow weak—from frozen solid into lukewarm pool.

Like a child, I cried.

Almost, as if I have been pretending not to be all this time.

No, perhaps, I have always been pretending not to. Always looking away, bearing confidence in running away. And, worse of all, thinking that I am deserving of love.

How many years has it been? I had thrown my humanity long ago in search of happiness. I was too conceited, narrow-sighted, and childish back then—mistaking happiness as the suffering of others.

I did the irreversible. My hands incapable of restoring what was lost. I took my own self for granted, pretending to shoulder the misfortune of the world.

“Hnmf!”

Ana hugged me. 

My child, her hands have grown long enough to embrace me. 

Time does not stand still, even in the face of immortality. My time, it began to move again alongside her existence.

“You know, I like your white hair. It’s beautiful like falling snow in the morning,”

“And that’s not all, I love it because I have the same white hair!”

“Even if all my friends mock me for it, I will never hate it.”

“Because it’s the color of the hair of the Mom that I love!”

I wonder if this rain will stop. I wonder if I could bear living with it. This hand…are they capable of returning this embrace?

Why not?’

All you have to do is forgive yourself.

A voice resonates within. What have I been waiting for? If I return this embrace, then I believe something within me will change. Resolution, acceptance, forgivance…I could not clearly define this resolve within my heart.

But if it’s for this child, then I’ll gladly do so.

“I’m sorry, Ana.”

Using the remaining strength left, I raised my hand and hugged Ana.

“I’m sorry…”

“…I’m truly sorry…”

Ana pats my back with a slight thud. A bit too strong for comfort, but you can clearly feel the intention all the same.

“It’s not that, right?”

It’s not?

Ah.

“Right.”

How could I forget? If the cold persists, be grateful to the warmth. If the past remains, be grateful the future. If there’s no sunlight, be grateful to the snow.

I taught that to my child.

She taught me back in ways I never expect.

Ultimately, wasn’t I just teaching myself?

That this world is unbearably cruel to live in by yourself. So much, that it might distort your very own human. The longer you live in pain, the further you stray from decency. You have to figure out how to return yourself back to human once more.

And that could never be done without the help of others.

“Thank you, Ana.”

Happiness lies in the comfort of others. Even I, who believes I am undeserving of it, know at least that. People long for happiness in their own—but truthfully, happiness lies within each other.

Nobody really likes the winter. Especially up in the coldest north of Rus. Freezing cold requires a strong physique to withstand. Strong physique requires your mind to be rigid too. Living in the north is harsh, oppression of the strong begets cruelty to the weak.

I fear the winter will go on endlessly. It’s frightening to the point of heating up this cold and tired heart. A burning desire to ensure equality, just as those oppressors have taught us time and time again.

Therein, lies no happiness within this land in the winter. The weak remains still in the bottom pile of snow, their warmth sapped for the strong to live on. So when the weak obtain the means to overthrow the strong, what difference would that make?

Tell me, why do you still seek happiness when there is none?