The hot, moist air of Hunan met the cool fresh air of the morning, the day dimmed and the cicadas dulled their humming.
“Where did the sun go?” I wondered aloud as I held up a piece of smoked glass up to the sky.
“Nowhere, it’s still there behind the moon.” My grandfather said softly in his accent.
“I don’t see it.”
“You can still see some of the light coming from it.”
My grandfather laughed at my sudden childlike realization, stroking my short dark hair that was pinned down with a pink bunny clip.
Looking up, I saw his eyes bright and brimming with happiness.
My hair reached to my hips when I saw my grandfather again.
I tugged his body into a warm embrace as he weakly tried to drape his cold, bony arms around me. My parents playful banter with my relatives quieted down as my grandfather let go and hobbled away.
“You’re grandfather is gone,” my mother managed to croak as she awkwardly fumbled with her glasses.
“No he’s not, he’s still there behind the...”
And for the first time in twelve years, I looked down into his eyes.
There was no light.
Falling, falling out of the sky. Landing, landing on a bed of soft goose feathers. A beam of light streaming down on you. Warmth, flooding your cold, cold blood. Waking up from a dream, finding yourself in a hospital bed, voices murky. Doctors, their faint outlines frantically moving around you. Tired, a wave of drowsiness sweeps over you. You find yourself back on that goose-feather bed basking in the sunlight. Taking in the fresh air, you get up and walk around. Everything around you is quiet, peaceful. As the gentle breeze tickles your face you arouse. The smell of the sterile room instantly hits you. You panic, yanking the IV out of your arm. Doctors and nurses instantly at your side. Your parents sob, compelling you to barricade yourself in your harmonious, quaint, little world, prepared to stay there for eternity.
Drowning in favors
Once upon a time, there was a bird named Todd.
Todd fell out of the sky one day,
And he landed on a knight.
The knight grabbed him,
And tried to hurt him.
He was mad,
That the bird had interrupted his nap,
But only narrowly.
One day, a knight fell into the river,
And Todd saw him.
He flew closer,
And realized that it was the same knight,
Who had hurt him when he fell from the sky.
Should he risk his friends lives,
Trying to help someone who had hurt him?
But, he decided to help him,
Because he was only human.
He called to his friends,
Asked for their help,
And they flew lower,
And they grabbed the knight,
And tried to help him
But the current was too strong,
The knight was too heavy,
And the birds were dragged down,
Into the river.
The knight climbed out of the river,
Unscathed, and unbothered,
By the birds who had drowned,
Trying to help him
Todd was so caught up
On helping someone who had hurt him
That he only hurt himself,
And all of his friends.
I stand backstage, waiting for my cue. My hands are balled into fists at my sides and my shoulders are tense. I try to slow my breathing and calm down, but it is pointless. A feeling of dread settles in my stomach as I anticipate the torture that’s sure to come. I’ve been on that stage a thousand times before, but never in front of a thousand people.
I’m just about to turn and bolt out the door when I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn and see my drama partner, giving me a thumbs up. I smile weakly and return the thumbs up, grateful that we aren’t allowed to speak. I don’t think I can form a full sentence without letting on how nervous I am.
All of a sudden the lights are dimming and the audience is quieting and it’s time for me to go. My partner pulls me into a hug and whispers quietly in my ear.
“Good luck. Remember, fear is temporary and useless. Go out there and try your best.”
So I step out into the spotlight and I do.
I remember as a child, summers were the best of days. I could sit for hours at a time just doing... nothing. I can still feel my back in the grass, looking up at the sky and finding shapes in the clouds, feeling the sun beam down on my face. I can still feel the cool water splash as I jumped into the pool, listening to the radio on my small red stereo, having to adjust the antennae to avoid static. I had a bicycle gang with my neighborhood friends, the excitement we had the first time all of our parents let us go to the ice cream shop by ourselves. I remember every bike ride, every rainy day I’d run through, every adventure, and every care free day pass. “Three months of absolute freedom!” Was my motto. But now... summer is for jobs. So I can earn my own money to stay “trendy”. Summer is now about getting a car to get everywhere. Summer is about getting over priced coffee. Summer is now about posting old photos of exotic vacations with the caption stating; Take me back. Please... take me back, to when no one cared about how you dressed or how much your clothes were worth. When you had no responsibilities. When you were you and it was embraced. When you could be a kid and no one would judge you. Be a kid... enjoy the summer days.
Saturday night, crickets chorusing in pleasant harmony by the creek. Saturday night, children playing by steps of their houses. Saturday night, football game on, the town cheering. Saturday night, Smith’s Grocery closing up early. Saturday night, the orchestra is practicing. Saturday night, sun setting quick. Saturday night, moon rising. Saturday night, settling. Saturday night. Silence.
Saturday night goes fast. Children sliding out of trees and into their beds. Ice cream dripping down their chins. Saturday night rests. Saturday night escapes. Fleeting, it wanders the week, waiting for its chance to arrive again. Saturday night. Nothing to be heard. Nothing to be seen. Waiting.
All he ever wanted was power; so he got power. He stole, he lied, and he killed, but never did he smile once.
His actions were hidden from the world, so he led an army of followers. Everybody loved him and no one could bring him down. Millions at his side? What more could he ask for? But even so, he never did smile once.
He came and he conquered; land after land were under his control. Any wish of his was granted. The world was on its knees and at his feet. It was all his, but still, never did he smile once.
Then the day came when the earth began to quake, and the trees and mountains around him began to crumble. He watched as his kingdom turned to ruins and his people turned to dust. The sky became dark and for the first time, he felt fear. He fell from his throne and drowned into the world that was once his. He searched frantically for help, but power could do nothing to save him that day. For right before he could breath his last breath, he finally realized the reason as to why he never smiled.
"Shh.. Stop struggling. It's going to be okay soon."
You're hurting me, Armani wanted to say. No words could find their way out of his squeezed throat.
"It's all going to be over very quickly. Your pain and heartache, gone forever. I've been watching you suffer for far too long. It's time I realize that death is the best gift I can give you as your best friend. It's for the best. Your soul will be released."
He's crazy. My best friend is crazy. After those thoughts ran through his head, Amrani's body succumbed to death.
"You are free now," he whispered, leaning over his best friend's dead body.
“Take this”, the man gasped as he lay on his deathbed and handed his little son a stopwatch that he always wore around his neck. “This is how much time you have left,” he motioned to the stopwatch. “Ignoring the gift of time can be a dangerous thing. Wear this stopwatch, for it will show you how much longer you have.”
With that, the old man took his last breath. The boy, Charles, stared at the stopwatch that had just started a new countdown. Years, months, days, minutes, seconds.
Charles wore the stopwatch, always. It made him feel secure. He became a risk taker. Nothing scared him, for the stopwatch showed he had a long life to live. As the decades passed, Charles knew that his time was running out. He was proud of having lived a full life. He spent the time with the people he loved, doing the things he loved.
As the stopwatch began it’s final ticks, Charles lay on his bed, smiling, surrounded by people he loved, ready for his end. The stopwatch stopped, but his heart was still beating. Everyone cheered, but not Charles. For the first time in his life, Charles was scared.
Your world is falling apart, yet you seem to be the only one noticing it.
The ground around you is crumbling away to an endless darkness, the sky above is shattering into pieces, but people pay no mind, as if nothing is happening. They make no sound or motion as they are swallowed by the void below.
You try to escape, to run away from this calamity, but it’s only a matter of time before the ground crumbles beneath your feet, and you start to fall as well.
As you fall, memories start to rush back to you, partying with your friends, your wife’s laugh, the burn of alcohol, an argument with your wife, driving home alone, a rapidly approaching, blinding light, everything going so fast and so slow at the same time, and the rhythmic beep of a heart rate monitor.
The small pinprick of light that you knew as your world starts to fade away, and just as you are about to be swallowed by the endless deep, you hear a voice:
“Are you sure you want to do this, miss?”
“Yes, it’s been 4 years.”
Your life flashes before your eyes, and everything fades to black.