Inkspill

A Vicious Darkness Within

White Wolf:

The snow crunches beneath her paws as she laboriously pushes forward in the storm. Forest trees surround her in the dark, her silver fur glints under the crescent moon, her eye sharp and gray, cunning like the edge of a blade, cruel, like the taunting glint of a diamond one cannot have. Marred flesh cover the spot where her other eye used to be, a reminder of the past that never seems to go away. She is blinded by the ice cold rain, slicing into her back like a million tiny hooks piercing through her skin. She stumbles in the snow, her stick-thin limbs unable to hold her own weight, and the hooks on her back pull, yank, dragging jagged lines across her back. She focuses her eyes on the village she is heading to, pushing through the pain and fatigue and slowly, painstakingly, making her way towards the brightly glowing dot in the distance.

She turns to look back at where she came from, her pawprints already disappearing in the snow. Once again, she starts to doubt her decision, glancing at the empty spaces beside her. If her wolf pack were here then they would help her up when she stumbles, lend her a hand and lead her to safety. Together. If her wolf pack were here then they would help her up, only to push her back down, harder, lend her a hand with a gentle smile and lead her to the edge of a cliff. They would watch with a wicked grin as she topples over, plummeting into the welcoming arms of death, down and down until her body hits the jagged rocks below, her bones splintered, her scarlet blood splattered onto the slick rocks. And then the ocean would do its work and the waves would wash her away, cleaning up the mess, already forgotten.

At least this is what she would do. Push yourself up so you can push others down. Rise before they rise before you. Rise, and to rise alone. The whispers giggle in her head, tiny claws sinking into her brain, poisoning it with a shade not quite black. However, the whispers are the only voices she has heard in days, and their invisible presence is a burden that lifts her up instead of weighing her down.

Nearby, a frozen bush rustles. The white wolf swivels her head in that direction. She hears the sound of snow crunching under paw or feet, and the soft, panicked breaths from her victim…or are there more than one? Her sharp gray eye twitches, and she silently stalks towards the bush. Her hind legs bend, ready for action.

A blur of animal skin darts away from the bush. The desperation for food gives her a burst of energy, and the wolf strikes. Aiming for the neck, her sharp claws piercing through the layers of leather and into its soft skin. She realizes that it was a young girl hiding behind the bush, now skewered by her claws, her screams echoing through the dark, silent night. The girl has silver hair that shines under the moonlight, shifting like the shadows. But what surprises the white wolf the most are the angry red scars covering the skin where her left eye used to be. She looks just like me.

The girl’s friend, the other noise from the bush, manages to get away, desperately running and screaming back towards the village, already forgetting his dying friend. This is what friends do: They leave you behind and cast you out when you need them the most, the whispers giggle excitedly, Go on, finish the job!

The white wolf looks into the girl’s dull gray eye, already draining of life, filled with terror and stupid hope that she will live. The wolf steels her heart, flicking away the silver of vulnerability that had claimed her earlier, then sinks her fangs in the soft flesh of the girl’s neck. She feels the veins and arteries burst as she bites, the sweet, warm trickle of blood running into her mouth. She can’t deny the satisfaction, the delicious smell of blood in the middle of ice.

The white wolf watches as the girl’s bright blue eyes go vacant, their luster dimmed. She could feel the girl’s heartbeat slowing until there is nothing but silence in the dark night. She is once again alone. Good.

The white wolf then drags the body out of the woods, towards the village. Yessss, you did it. Now you can show them who is in control, the whispers say. The wolf grins, and the vengeful darkness in her heart churns, the chittering of the whispers louder, pushing her forward, as she takes step after step, each one closer to ultimate justice revenge.

Once upon a time, a white wolf had a family, a lover, and a pack of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all. The white wolf stopped before the village, let go of the body in her mouth, tilted her head back and howled, long and great and filled with hatred and fury. Now the villagers know. Know she is the enemy, the beast let out of its cage. She is the White Wolf, and she is not afraid.

*          *          *

Once upon a time, there was a little girl and a little boy who were best friends forever. The little girl once had golden hair and blue eyes before they took it from her, stole her left eye and gave her silver hair. The little boy was unmarked, smooth and beautiful and normal. They grew up together in a cozy village surrounded by the great forest in the South, and the unfathomable ocean in the North. They would always pretend to be magical hunters in the woods, running around, giggling with their sticks as swords, their stones as fireballs. On one unfortunate night, the girl and the boy were playing in the woods, but this time it was different, there was a colder chill in the air. Something was wrong. They hid behind a bush, hoping whatever it was, it would go away soon. For a second, it seems as if their hoping had worked, but then the beast strikes, sinking its claws into the girl’s chest, her screams piercing through the night. The attacker was a huge white wolf with a shining silver coat and one eye, it’s vicious fangs gleaming under the moonlight. Out of terror and disbelief, the little boy got up and ran, too afraid to meet his friend’s dying pleading gaze. Later that night, the wolf emerged from the forest, with the dead girl with silver hair and one eye in its jaws, its eyes two veiled storms of hatred and fury. The wolf drops the girl carelessly to the ground before the village, tilts it’s head up and howled, long and great and filled with hatred and fury. Now the villagers know, know the white wolf who killed the monster marked girl. Now they will build a wall around the village, to keep the monsters out, and the children in.

-The Wall Around the Village, an ancient folktale

White Wolf:

The reflection of a whole moon flickers and rolls on the glassy surface of the ocean, sifting with the gentle waves. The night is without stars, the utter blackness of night overwhelming. Dreary clouds drift lazily over the moon, leaving only the outline visible. Stray fragments of light peeking out from the clouds color the night a hazy gray. A lone wolf sits still on the rocky seashore, her glazed eye fixed on the hidden moon. Her silver coat gleams under the light, ever shifting in a million shades of gray.

Deep inside her mind, darkness rises and pools on the clean white tiles of the floor. It is a dark liquid, not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. The darkness slowly rises, the puddle quickly turning into a river, flooding the hallway. Rings of water expand on the surface as the whispers pound on the doors, their hushed voices taunting: Let us out! Don’t let them in! The doors quiver. The whispers chitter excitedly, waiting for the moment of release. They keep going. Why do you care about them? Fool. We were here for you when they were not. We encouraged you when they pushed you down. So let us out! Let us out! The door splinters, the whispers are almost free. Their screaming overlap one another, the noise bounces off of the walls, every door in the hallway breaking, giving in to the whispers’ demand.

Meanwhile, the darkness flooding the hallway still rises, threatening to drown their screaming. The hallways are now filled with screeches, a mix of wailing and moaning and the anguished sound of suffering. The soundtrack of old memories meant buried deep in the hallways, lost with the turns and dead ends, sealed up tight with 3 doors and 13 locks, now reverberate off of the walls, roaming free in the hallways that were meant to keep them in. The whispers claw at their doors, screaming, crying, begging to come out. With a final crack, the doors burst and the whispers finally break free from their rooms, plunging into the cold darkness, free at last.

Back on the seashore, the white wolf stays still. The waves creep slowly towards the rocky shoreline before running away, the water beating peacefully against the jagged rocks. The clouds pass over the moon, no longer obscuring it, and full moonlight shines on the water, awaking something deep inside. A low rumble shakes the shoreline, and the waves beat against the jagged rocks with crushing force, the rhythmic sound like drums of war pounding in the dead of night.

A soft breeze shakes the white wolf’s fur, and a long, low whistle travels through the wind. Voices rise from the black ocean, carried by the wind. Tears not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray, fill the white wolf’s glazed eye, still fixed on the moon. Tendrils of darkness swirl inside the teardrop, and soft hisses vibrate from it. The tears drip from her snout and fall onto the rocks, bursting when they hit the ground, turning into a small puddle that has its own voice. They hiss and chitter, speaking nonsense or order, but whatever they are saying, it had caused the wolf to stir. She moves. Gets up and leaves her perch on the rocky seashore. She walks towards the ocean, closer and closer still. The voices and whispers grow louder and louder, cheering her on. Her paws touch the water. The coldness seeps into her fur, leeching onto her bones, it’s small claws gripping and stabbing, never planning to let go. The white wolf steps deeper into the ocean, eye still fixed on the luminous moon. The water rises to her chest, the voices and whispers screaming for her to go on. The water rises to her snout, to her unblinking eye. She goes under. And stays. The voices and whispers stop, the waves once again gentle, the moon less bright, the air still. The night resumes back to its hazy gray.

But wolves can’t breathe in the water.

*          *          *

Inside my mind, darkness rises and pools on the clean white tiles of the hallway. It is a dark liquid, not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. It turns from a puddle into a river, chasing me as I try to escape. The darkness touches my bare foot. It is ice, cold like the whispers that haunt you in your sleep, like the monsters hiding under your bed, like the vicious darkness within that waits with open jaws to swallow you whole. The darkness rises to my ankle, my knees, my waist, my shoulders, and finally it pushes me under. I try to swim up, but already I am drowning. The walls of the hallway disappear, replaced by an infinite blackness. I realized I am in the ocean and the waves are dragging me down, and the hands of darkness are claiming me and all the life boats are deflating and all the buoys are sinking and I can’t swim and I won’t swim I am sinking… I am dying in the never-ending hallway of my own mind, swept up in the chaos of darkness. I will not die I will die. Because they have bound my wrists and ankles together, threw me in the ocean to drown. Because I am trapped in a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, and I can’t break out. I’m plummeting into a dark place, an empty world. I’m a feature in the current, submerged until I’m all gone.

*          *          *

When will I be free? I often wonder this, sitting in the middle of my glass cage bubble with a porcelain mask over my face. People walk around my bubble, ignoring it because I am invisible because they have other things to attend too. Occasionally, a person or two would stop by and peer into my glass bubble, smiling or just simply curious at what is inside. But for most of the time, I am left alone with my thoughts, with the doubt and hatred creeping up, stepping out of the shadows when the sun goes down.

Why am I such a coward? Why can I shatter this glass cage? Why do I always live in the fear of hurting myself when I break out? That the glass will slice my skin and I will bleed and die? Because there is always a thief, a thief who will steal all the stars that light up your sky, until you are surrounded by darkness, forever alone. The whispers battle with their words, stabbing and hurting, waging war with the bit of light in my being.

I stand up from my seat in the cage. Today is the day, where I will not back down and I will not let the whispers empower me ever again. I walk towards the glass and pound on it with all my might, each blow of my hands creating web-like cracks on the glass. It’s stupid really, to think this 1 cm piece of glass is separating me from a life. I pound and scream and kick for days, until I lose track, until my throat is parched and raw, hands red and bloody, feet swollen and oozing…But I will not give up; I will break free.

At last, the prison shatters, the glass that seemed so menacing and sharp, now a glittering confetti shower, catching the light from the setting sun. I breathe in and out, and step over the threshold.

Outside is an unfiltered world. I don’t see it through the glass, not ever again, but I see the truth. And it’s breathtaking. Beautiful. I try to take another step forward, to savor the precious moments of freedom, but I can’t.

 

It starts with a tingling in my heart. Then a numbing cold seizes my body, captures me in its frozen embrace. I can’t move, my feet stuck on the ground just outside of my prison. My heart feels like it’s turning into stone, hardening and cracking before finally splitting in half. Then sensations come flooding in. A whole river. An ocean, bursting into my body. Pain grips my throat, choking me, strangling me until I can’t breathe. My body turns colder. I claw to stay in the warmth of my conscious mind, my nails digging and scratching and finding purchase, but I lose my grip and plunge into the depths of my callous heart…And then a burst of a blackness so dark and vicious jolts me awake, blowing up from my chest, and into the approaching night beyond.

 

It was the darkness that saved me at the end. The darkness that is now part of the night, the shadows, the darkest corners of the universe. My mask shatters, falling from my face and breaking into a million pieces. They catch on fire as the sun disappears, the last bit of warmth fading away. I stand alone, with the shattered remains of my mask, the last embers winking out of existence. I look back at the prison that once held me in fear, now broken, the glass a harmless pile of confetti at my feet. For once maybe I am free. I am not afraid to break out of my glass prison. I am alone I am an individual. I need help to break free  I am strong, and I will rise. Alone.

*          *          *

Somewhere in the night, a white wolf howls, long and great and filled with joy. She is alone in the night, silver fur shifting with the shadows. She is alone, and free.

Somewhere in the shadows, a darkness not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray, slithers down the rocky beach. Whispers call at its wake, a trail of moaning and suffering waiting to infect someone else. The darkness slithers to meets the wailing ocean, calling for its lost child. It gingerly sinks in, finally, ultimately, returning home.

Somewhere in one of the rooms in her mind, or a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, she is continuing to fill her paper with breathings of her heart. She is still fighting the whispers coming from the other rooms, banging on the doors to be let out, still trying to swim when the hallways are flooded. She is trying to be oblivious to her peer’s protests about her writing. But she is trying. Trying to not hide the scars that make her beautiful, the vicious darkness within. And sometimes, trying is all that matters in this bleak world. She could be the weak little girl with silver hair and a lost eye, or the ferocious white wolf—but she still doesn’t know. And perhaps that is the beauty in living a life.

–By Christina Ma

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The Island of the Thrown-Away

They float on the dead sea, like bits and pieces of vibrant confetti sprinkled on the fading sea. The dull gray waters froth like a rabid beast, staring up at the light scarlet sky, straining to stay alive, weak waves swirling and releasing, constantly amending, yet remaining unchanged. Trying to heal new wounds, but sighing in fair dismay.

Bobbing not far away are they; a miscellany of the thrown-away, the long forgotten, the leftovers of they:

A gathering of buoys, waiting to be saved.

A lifeboat drifting not far away.

A broken constellation of abandoned toys—

All the wafting remnants of the ancient ruins; specks of rectangular-shaped paper straying aimlessly on the waning sea, with numbers and faces to show a history. Shattered boxes with chips and wires, a cracked screen, fractured keys, nothing but a worthless disease.

Undersea, billowing sheets of color sway in the current, like jellyfish from the myths before, with dangerous stings, long and flowing like ribbons, wrapping around beating hearts and squeezing, until bruises bloom and skin tears, venom find its way into bones, like a silent executioner hiding in the shadows of night, tricked by the light into thinking it’s not there. The “jellyfish” disappears with the waves

and

floats

on

the

dead

sea.

Up on the light scarlet sky, the sun wavers, struggling to penetrate the veil of red smoke, struggling to light up the fading sea—Struggling, fighting, losing. A frail seabird flies over the wavering sun: a Northern Gannet, probably the last, it seems. The gannet’s white feathers are coated with dust and grime, the oil and toxins in the sea and air. It’s head, once a rich golden, now seems gray. It’s wings, half white half black, are quivering; an ancient machine not up to date, the gears and tires squealing, toiling and pushing to stay alive.

The bird swoops down and plunges into the expiring ocean. A blizzard of bubbles wrap around the gannet, tangling it in an newfound thrill, until the water distills, leaving the starving bird alone in the dead sea. It paddles around, trying to find food, ignoring it’s failing body, pushing through an ocean full of the leftovers of they, an ocean where bodies are dying, stomachs starving, brains misfunctioning,

hearts

stopping.

The seabird pushes through, deeper and deeper, farther and farther, straining its eyes and nose to look and smell for prey in the inky gray. But… Nothing. Just bits and pieces of colorful confetti.

Until: A billowing sheet of white.

It’s heart lurches in surprise. A jellyfish? It thinks, Oh how lucky am I! The gannet uses the last of its strength to paddle forward, clamping its’ beak on the jellyfish tight, desperate not to lose the fight, clinging on to its precious food, its savior, its treasure, the only driftwood in a rushing river, the lifeboat on a stormy sea.

With its jellyfish, the gannet breaks out of the inky darkness, into a world where the leftovers of they fill the sea, where the sky is a light scarlet, the sun barely seen. The seabird takes flight, spreading its’ wings in delight, and with sharp blue eyes it picks out a landing; a deflated, abandoned lifeboat not far away. The gannet sets the jellyfish down; a limp, sheer gray sheet, with bits of algae clinging to on, like criminals committing a crime, helping to disguise an imposter. The gannet breathes in the mouth-watering scent, and gobbles it up, savoring the first taste of food in a lifetime of starvation. The seabird, now greedy for more, plunges back into the sea, blinded by hands of gluttony, every one of the floating garbage on the dead sea seems to turn into precious food; a tiny heart beating, tiny mouths screaming: Eat me! Eat me! I’m a fleshy fish! I’m a plump squid! I’m a succulent, big jellyfish! The gannet grins, huge and great, filled with hunger, thinking, this will all be mine, I will be stronger, I can finally fly, away from this red sky—I can survive one other day, or perhaps one other week…

And the seabird

eats

all

the

garbage

on the dead sea.

*          *          *

A few weeks later…

The sun is hidden by a veil of red smoke. The sky is still, no birds with golden heads and black and white wings,  just still. Just…

dying.

The even weaker waves swirl and release, so pathetic in attempt, trying to amend the new wounds, but sighing in fair dismay. At night, the air is still, but for the sickly waves that beat against the jagged rocks with crushing force, the sound like drums of death in the dead of night, pounding against a miscellany of the thrown-away, pieces of the leftovers of they, remnants of another better time, bobbing up and down to the rhythm of music, a dark, deep, beat. Ahead, a looming figure approaches, menacing and gray against the red smoke, with shadowy silhouettes clashing and swaying on top. The figure draws close, revealing the garbage that makes it up: algae bearing Styrofoam, plastic bags, bottles to bottle caps, straws and wrappers—all the leftovers of they. A plastic island, it is, inhabiting human bodies and their often parties, blasting music and throwing beer bottles into the ocean.

A “save our world” sign from before, bobs near the mayhem of noise, forgotten forevermore. The humans sway blindly on their feet, plastic sunglasses on their faces, moving their bodies to the sync of music, laughing and chatting with voices of a delusion.

A girl, Cara, with knobby knees and a jutting collarbone, skin clinging to bones, sits at the edge, on a plastic chair, where the weak waves softly lap at the shore. She stars out at the infinite sea, the endless sky, deep in the thralls of a delusion. Cara wears her sunglasses like she should, humming softly to the wind, alone, in this moment, on the dead sea, sitting on an island of the leftovers of her kind. Behind her, the music thumps loudly, sleek bodies sweating and swaying, drinking and laughing, living life in their own little delusion,

oblivious to their dying ocean, or maybe not; one, two, three—bodies dances with an item of the thrown-away; an algae covered bottle, an billowing sheet of white, a broken buoy—raising them in the air and shouting jumbled up words, laughing and throwing it back into the dying sea, as if nothing is wrong, as if the world isn’t already gone, as if they have nothing to do with the red smoke in the air and the garbage like confetti in the fading sea, as if they can pretend nothing is happening because at least they have a heart breathing, lungs working, a stomach not starving…

The partygoers dance and chat, wrapped up in a delusion. The girl, Cara, sits alone at the edge, with her own thoughts.

The remnants of another time float on the gray sea. Somewhere, the last Northern Gannet realizes it’s mistake, and another heart stops, another object floats on the sea, another life snatched away by the leftovers of they.

The night continues on.

 

The reflection of the morning sun flickers and rolls on the gray surface of the sickly ocean, sifting with the weak waves. The sun reluctantly peeks out of the horizon, a wavering circle of light rising up to meet the day, taking laborious steps one by one, to reach the light scarlet sky and maybe beyond, to light up an expiring world and hope for it to respond.

The world is quiet this morning, no thumping music, or swaying bodies, just stillness, until: Thud,

                                                                                                                                                                                    thud,

                                                                                                                                                                                                    thud.

Something bumps into the island of the thrown-away, rippling the sickly waters, disturbing the new ring of garbage—bits of colorful confetti, strewn across the dying sea. The bodies on the island lay still, snoring softly, sleeping soundly, collapsed onto the ground, exhausted, from last night’s party, their glasses still on their faces, half empty beer bottle still clutched in their hands.

Cara is asleep in her chair, her mouth slightly apart, a drop of drool on the corner of her mouth. The faint bumping sound, now an insistent thawk, rocks the island, causing the girl’s plastic chair to tip, and she falls off and onto the floor with a thump, her plastic glasses falling off from her face and bounces on the plastic ground, once, twice, for the third time,

before bouncing into the dying ocean with a plop. The thudding stops.

The fall cuts through the fabric of a lifelong delusion, and Cara blinks, jumps up, her mouth wide, shaped in surprise, her heart beating fast, her brain whirring quickly at last, she thinks: Why was I on the floor? Why did my chair tip over? And then: Wait. What is this monstrous place? She tries rubbing her eyes, trying in vain to rub away the blur of sleep, the horrible scene before her; of plastic and trash everywhere, of the gray and sickly sea, more like a soup of waste, she thinks, and Oh! The sky! The red, horrid sky! The repugnant air clogs her nostrils, and oh she hopes to reenter that world of delusions, which brings her to realize, to take away her hands from her eyes, that her sunglasses are missing, and she searches on hands and knobby knees, frantically turning her head around, searching for sunglasses that are not there. Panic seizes her throat, and her breaths turn into pants, she thinks: I am going to get in trouble, I can’t lose it, they won’t allow it, they won’t allow it! Her breaths fog the air around her, and suddenly it seems impossibly cold. She shivers in her clothes, blinded by the grayness around her, convincing herself that this is all a dream. Cara starts to calm down, breathing in and out, waiting for the moment to reveal itself, to open up the fog curtains and scream that this is all a dream. Because then everything would be alright. Alright.

Slowly, as if it is unwilling to part, the fog disperses, and the scene around her stays the same, but the Thud,

                                                                                                                                                                                                      thud,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    thud, resumes, slicing through the atmosphere like a blade.

 

Her heart is a dead weight, plagued by the realization that this is not a dream. She notices the strange noise, and it rips her out of the moment of hysteria, and a false, worthless hope. What is this noise? She wonders, face scrunching up in confusion and fear. She turns her head and looks around, seeing the sleeping figures everywhere, and the realization hits her deep: Why am I the only one able to hear this strange noise? Overcome by wonder, Cara walks around yonder, looking for the source of the noise, thud, thud, thud, it echoes, bringing her up to the side of the island, and there it is, a big black thing, hulking, half submerged in the water, dead, it seems. But what makes Cara shout in terror, is the rainbow eruption of garbage, the thrown-away, the long forgotten—bursting out of the creature’s mouth; an explosion of color in this dying world.

Horror. Absolute horror and disgust. It is an inky black hand grasping her heart; a cold, slick snake, ready to strike, nesting in the pit of her stomach. Tears had sprung into her eyes without her permission, threatening to burst out. She forces them back, because what good will crying do?

Cara takes a deep breath or two, steeling herself for what she’s about to see, and peers closely at the carcass: It’s a whale! A baby whale! She realizes. It’s one of the creatures she had heard stories about, exploring the deep oceans and flying through moons, their long moans filled with sorrow and longing, back to a time when the sky was blue and the water pure, when the world needed no cure, where birds soared overhead and fish swam underneath, the fantasy of a better world swift as a shadow, short as a blink, never to be linked, to the realities of life, and the dirty truth they try so desperately to hide.

Rage, hot fury, burns through her; a white hot poker scorching through her chest. Who did this!? She thinks, Who did this!? In her mind, questions spring out, so many that she can’t think straight. But deep down, she knows the truth, even if it’s too late: She did this. Along with her people. They have poisoned the sea, and turned the sky red. They have created this mess of a world, and now they dwell, in a lifetime of delusions, on an island of their own mistakes. Ignorance is bliss, knowledge is a burden no one wants to carry. The sleeping bodies around her are still, lifeless but for the snoring, oblivious to the damage they’d caused. It is then that the girl realizes: she is alone in this mess. And she knows what she has to do.

When she is ready, she whispers those scared words: “If this is life, then I do not want to live as I had. I want to make a difference.” And she jumps into the dying ocean, to her victory or to her grave, but nevertheless, the dull gray waters froth like a rabid beast, the strong waves swirling and churning, to swallow her whole with the jaws of the dying beast.

*          *          *

A few weeks later…

A powerful wave splashes on the plastic island, showering the sleeping bodies near the edge with water colder than ice. They wake with a start, their glasses taken by the wave, promising a certain sacrifice. A plump women was first to recover in the small group of the awake. Her eyes dart around frantically, and she starts crying: “Cara! Where’s my baby Cara?”

The father joins her, and soon they are both like mamma and papa birds crying over an empty nest, the others looking around in horror and wonder at their dying world, trapped in the shocking truth, until: Thud,

                                                                                                                                                         thud,

                                                                                                                                                                       thud,

something bumps into the island of the thrown-away.

The awake jolt up in surprise. They follow the noise, like Cara did before them, to the edge of the island, and they see:

The body of a young girl.

Her eyes are closed, but her mouth is opened wide, and exploding out is a rainbow eruption of garbage, the thrown-away, the long forgotten—

They gasp in horror. The mother bursts into tears at her daughter’s body, and in her shock and misery, she jumps into the raging waters to end her pain, the waves claiming her, dragging her under, until she is nothing but a feather in the current,

submerged

until

she’s all gone.

*          *          *

In the future…

Once upon a time, a little girl called Cara, jumped into the frothing sea, in attempt to cleanse the sea of the thrown-away, the long forgotten, the leftovers of they. But one person can never save the world alone; After her body washed ashore, and the main uproar—a group of people called The Awake continued her foolish dream, flying into the water like heroes of another delusion, jumping to their death or to another time, not sure if there is another mountain to climb. Off they go armored with their will and dreams, into an forest, an stormy ocean, a wobbly future, the red sky above, into a fate unknown.

Far away, on a distant land, past the gathering of broken, sinking buoys, waiting to be saved,

A deflated lifeboat drifting not far away,

A complete constellation of abandoned toys,

A porcelain doll, called Cara, with shattered remains, it’s tiny plastic sunglass floating far far away—

All the wafting remnants of the ancient ruins, now a flame kindled from one dying ember, illuminating a sky tinted red, where a seabird—a Northern Gannet, it seems, was spotted flying high above, over the wavering sun and over the great dying seas; a flash of a white-gold ghost in the light scarlet sky.

–by Christina Ma

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The War on White

by Aidan Wong

 

A formidable blank page looms in front of me, like a wall stopping my progress.

 

I reluctantly pick up my pencil, and desperately search my brain for any ideas, any ideas at all, but none can be found. The wall of white stands strong ahead as tall as ever, grinning in the face of my defeat.

 

Bored, I begin drumming my pencil on my desk. My eraser still shone white, not seeing much use. I look around and see that my peers are having much of the same trouble, bordering kingdoms fighting the same war on white. The white, smooth paper won’t seem to let any of my words get a hold on its’ slippery surface. And then I get an idea.

 

Why not write about this enemy of mine? And my pencil tip dances across the page, letters appear on the page, and sentences eat across the blank space. Several piled together, and a paragraph was born. And another. Letters marched proudly, but with haste across the hills of white, and my eraser finally gets to work.

 

When my hands finally halt, I sit back up straight and notice that I unconsciously leaned forward in my seat during my writing spree. The page of white that had once stood tall had finally been conquered by the might of words, in the war on white.

 

And that’s how this story was born.

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The Brightest Star in the Sky

Glittering pinpricks of light reflect on the glassy surface of the water, a whole night of stars hanging on the pitch-black curtain draped over the sky. A luminous full silver moon hangs low on the sky, its round bottom a breath away from touching the dark waters, that stretch as far as the eye can see, to infinity, and beyond. A lute sounds in the distance, the notes drifting in the air, flying up and down and colliding into each other, strung together to create a tender harmony. A brilliant white swan glides through the waters, rippling the glassy surface, cutting through the smooth top, creating swirls in the water that spiral in in in. The water was thick and warm, black like liquid obsidian, the air light and breezy. From the water, the white swan looks black, with glowing red eyes instead of soft brown. But on the surface on the water, the swan, with its sleek long neck and its silky white feathers, lovely as ever, drifts towards a vivid red rose that grows from a blanket of stars. Thorns sprout from the steam, viciously sharp under the moonlight. The petals of the rose are a delicate velvet, releasing their grasp on the bud, letting go of each other, falling back into the promising blanket of stars. The petals float for a moment, balancing on the thin line of oxygen and water, before the blanket eventually claims it, wrapping the petals in its cold embrace. The swan bends its long neck and plucks the flower from the water, saving the rose before all its’ petals let go.  Then, it pushes off from the water, stretching its’ wings wide and takes flight, cutting through the still atmosphere of night, sailing above a sea of dazzling stars. The swan carries the fading rose in its beak, the last petals already weak, the life draining without the power of the cold embrace from the blanket of stars. The swan flies to the moon, a shadow of a bird carrying a rose, up up and higher, until the swan and its’ rose is nothing but a distant light, shining the brightest in a whole sky of stars.

Back at the rippling sea of light, a stray white feather drifts lazily down—perhaps from the swan—swayed gently to the side by the soft currents in the air, past the bright, luminous moon, until it finally settles on the water, so light it merely perches on the surface, before a gust of wind blows, making water that flows, and the feather is lost in the current, submerged until it’s all gone.

*          *          *

Moonlight hits the smooth surface of the water, the stars shining bright overhead. The light hardly penetrates the surface of the water, a sea of inky darkness. 204 meters down the smooth surface, amidst the opaque darkness, a rusty shark cage drifts aimlessly like a carcass. Inside the cage, a rotting wooden coffin bumps into the corroded bars, the loose nails almost falling out, the tiny, seemingly insignificant forms of life that cling to the wood, are shaken awake from their slumber. They start milling about, swimming away or climbing into the cracks of the wood, disturbing whatever is within. The question still remains unanswered, as to what lies within. A thick steel chain is attached to the cage, to shackle it in place, the chain stretching deeper into the darkness.

The cage and the coffin settle down again, the creatures returning to sleep, surrendering to the reassuring hug of darkness. Up above, bright red circles seem to drift down, a pop of color cutting through the black. It drops closer to the cage, revealing itself to be rose petals, and then they rain on top of it, tumbling-head-over-heels into it, then it falls right through the cage, deep into the darkness.

With the petals still raining down, the lid of the coffin shifts, a thud sounds, and it is pushed aside. Inside is shadows, until it steps away to reveal a girl, with corpse-white skin, blue lips, and raven black hair. She wears nothing but a thin white hospital gown, that billows in the water, like ghosts raised from the dead. She remains still. Her hands are clasped to the side, with no sign of her opening the coffin. And then she opens her eyes; Bloodshot and faded. The girl opens her mouth, to scream, perhaps, and bubbles come out. She strains to breathe, the veins on her neck popping out.  She rises up and kicks away the rotting coffin, only to find that she is in another prison. She almost shouts out in frustration and panic, for she doesn’t have much air left in her lungs, but she catches herself and notices the shower of rose petals outside her prison. Instantly, her bloodshot eyes clear, the brightness and life returning to it, as if the petals has cast a spell over her, hypnotizing her in its’ fragile beauty. The rose petals don’t fall into the cage though, not with the girl inside—Such beauty will not touch the monster in the cage. Instead, they follow a route outside the cage, falling anywhere but inside, a thing of beauty too afraid to touch the monster in the cage.

The girl’s eyes widen in astonishment, never seeing something as strange (and beautiful?) as this ever before. She reaches out in wonder to touch the petals, to stroke the delicate velvet, aiming to squeeze her hand through the rusted bars, but then the world jerks and her hand hits the metal bars, but goes through.

*          *          *

Meanwhile, back at surface of the water, red dots start rising up from the dark, slowly unraveling itself from the protective arms of black. The red dots surface, popping out of the water and revealing itself to be red petals, delicate rose petals, rose petals that were dying and fading fast, sinking to the bottom, gone at last. They resurface; dots of red on a sea of stars. The petals drift aimlessly on the water, wandering around and looking for each other, with tiny hands searching and grasping, finding each other but then slipping from each other’s desperate clutches. Up above, the stars glitter and shine. White lustrous swirls appear on the night sky, twisting in in in. The luster slowly fades from the sky, releasing their hold on the dark curtain of night, letting go and flowing down like angels of heaven, ready to bless the world with their kisses underneath. The stardust falls onto the water, sinks down into the darkness, lighting up the world on the other side, only for an instant, before it fades into the darkness. The luster lands on the rose petals, exploding with a white glow and leading the petals towards each other. They take the reins of the petals and draw them together, forming a rose shape on the water. The luster rushes to the center of the rose, growing brighter and brighter until it is a bud of light illuminating the soft velvet petals. The petals glow radiant with the stardust, rising and holding hands, once again blooming into a rose, with delicate petals protecting the bud of light, of the sacred angels from the heavens, the pockets of stardust in the sky.

The crescent moon sits high in the sky, its pale outline barely visible against the watercolor shades. The sun falls slowly towards the horizon, setting fire to the twilight sky, casting shades of orange, pink, purple and blue, reluctantly retiring for the night. A soft lullaby hums in the distance, the soft plucks of chords dancing in the air, swirling and overlapping, rolling and receding, building a song of freedom. The sun’s rays cast pulsating shadows across the glassy surface of the water, smooth and clear, reflecting the sky, orange, pink, purple and blue, merging into one. A bubble pops up on the water, capturing sunlight in its little transparent dome. A tiny person sits in the middle of the bubble. She gets up and starts banging on her cage, her minuscule fists creating webs on the surface. She kicks and punches until she shatters the bubble. Then she sprouts wings and disappears in the sky. More bubbles pop up, with tiny people sitting in the center. Then one by one, they start standing up and banging and kicking, until the cage shatters and they sprout wings and fly free. Then, a rusty metal cage breaks through the smooth surface plagued by popping bubbles, through of the dark waters and into the land of oxygen, shattering the glassy surface of the water, rippling the reflection, creating swirls in the water that spiral out out out. The metal cage is covered in bronze rust, with algae and coral here and there. Strange, inside the cage is a rotting wooden coffin, the lid askew, all the nails loose where the soggy wood was melting.

A little away from the cage, two more bubbles form on the surface of the water. Something splashes out, not just rippling the water but creating waves, hundreds of bubbles and white foam—what monstrosity could cause so much destruction? The thing shakes it head, and black scraggly strings fan out, raining water into the wreckage it has made. The creature then uses its claws to wipe away the strings sticking on its face, to expose a creature with two eyes, one nose, one mouth—a girl. Not a creature but a girl. Not an it but an she. Not claws but hands. Not black scraggly strings but hair. The girl slowly peels open her eyes wide in wonder, taking in the world around her, a miscellany of colors that coalesce into one sky, on future laid out in front of her. The glorious golden sun setting in the west, the moon creeping up in the east. The crescent moon rises higher and higher, brighter and brighter, until it smiles down at her, offering to scoop her up in that perfect crescent, gifting her a hope that has been gone for so long…

Before, the girl was trapped in a coffin in a rusty metal shark cage 204 meters down. Now, she freed herself from the cage and swam up, free, with her prison floating up beside her, floating up instead of sinking, floating fast, passing the girl, to meet the stars and the moon above first, bobbing on the waters and waiting for the girl to see the world, the whole sky of possibilities in front of her, a million pinpricks of dreams shining brighter every day, waiting to change the world or the small universe within. She has sacrificed and lost, but does that mean ultimate redemption? She has let the rose petals save her from a lifetime in that prison cell, she has hoped and wished, dreamed as big as the whole sky of stars, the constellations above, the sun, the moon, and whole universes in every heart…But is that enough? To let love and hope conquer her life, let it take the reins for once, steer her towards a future of freedom?

Back on the sky, where a miscellany of colors that coalesce into one, the sun slowly dips below the horizon, the last rays of sunlight finally disappear, the scattered embers of a dying fire winking out of existence, and then: Twilight puts on her dazzling evening gown, and for the final touch, pins it with a star.

*          *          *

I look up to see a sea of stars, a hundred billion sprinkled glimmers of hope pierced through a veil of darkness, like the eyes of angels in the distant night. Constellations sparkle in the sky, but one, in particular, takes my breath away: it’s the story of “The Swan with the Rose”, an enchanting folktale from before. Once upon a time, a snow-white swan glided on the smooth oblivion of water, to the music of a lute, and the stars and moon above. One day, she finds a vivid red rose, with petals like velvet, a delicate relic, growing from the water. The swan bends it’s elegant, long neck plucks it out and flies away, farther and farther, higher and higher, until it becomes the brightest star the sky, another constellation in a galaxy of wonders.

I sigh at the story, looking up at the constellation of the swan and its’ rose glittering above me. Perhaps we are all stars, I think. We are all moons, too. And there are planets, that orbit a much larger star, while the rest of us just sit back and watch. But perhaps stars aren’t stars but rather openings of heaven to allow the dead to gaze down at the universe, an opening in the darkness of space so that glittering luster can fall down, drifting and flying, carried by the wind and promises, rippling the water that never moves. It’s fine for a little while. We can drink it and it’ll keep us alive. But if it sits too long, undisturbed, it becomes toxic. When a swan glides in, when a rose blooms, and when luster from the heavens drift down, a thing called love blows in, rippling the air and water, creating waves. Waterfalls. Rushing currents. Life. Because love, I think, is a strange sort of thing. It’s a white feather on the shore of midnight, the single rose petal that falls off and drifts down, opening eyes and weaving lies. It is a whispered promise, soft fingers brushing skin, the twinkling stars in the sky, the full moon illuminating the darkness. It unlocks the doors, smashes away the walls to save whatever is left, leaving room sunlight in the deepest caves of the ocean, granting hope when none exists. Even in the darkest times, even when the currents threaten to pull the feather under, love is the warrior fighting, the rose sacrificing, the scattered embers of a dying fire battling to ignite.

The lukewarm water catches the reflection of the stars above, protecting me in a soft, warm blanket of darkness. Purple and dark blue ignite the horizon, the colors like a blossoming bruise on a backdrop of glittering darkness. The metal cage that has trapped me before floats farther and farther away, the rotting wooden coffin going with it. A flash streaks across the sky, a perfect arc of shimmer; a shooting star. I lift my hand up and pinch my arm, twisting the flesh until the pain drives a soft whimper to my lips. I realized it is the only sound I’ve made in 204 years. I open my mouth to test out my voice; forming silent shapes with my lips. “Am I real?” I croak out. I clear my throat. “I am real.” The corners of my lips tug up, and it takes a while for me realize that I just smiled. It grows wider and wider, out of my control, a monster let out of its cage after 204 years of slumber. In that moment, my mind makes a decision without my permission; it makes a wish, a whispered promise, with a tiny tiny voice. I look up to the crescent moon, hanging precariously in the sky. It seems to grow larger and larger, until I can see the mountains and craters of imperfections of its surface, until I realize that the crescent shape of the moon is actually a crescent, with a perfect, smooth slope. The crescent lands on the water in front of me, softly sinking 5 cm into the water, sending rings of ripples on the smooth blanket of inky darkness. The crescent is about 6 meters high and across, the surface rough and the slope smooth. It reaches out with invisible hands and beckons me towards it, nodding and smiling, welcoming me to climb aboard and take flight. I paddle towards the crescent without hesitation, hopeful for the promises it brings, eagerly pulling myself up and sitting back on the slope. I dangle my legs over the crescent, and the moon rises back up to where it belongs, the sea of stars underneath me shrinking or expanding, merging into the sky until all around me is the magnificent vacuum of space, filled with darkness punctured by light, glittering jewels pinned on the blackness of the universe shining so bright.

Every action. Every choice. Every second of every day is another part of a much larger tale. When we become stardust, when it rises to the heavens, when it rains back down to the living world—twirling and whirling and lustrous swirls—are our stories still being told? In the tale of The Swan with the Rose, the swan was remembered for saving the dying rose, flying up to the heavens to join the stars…What will my story be?

Up above and all around, constellations dance and twinkle. The swan with the rose calls to me, with a voice soft, yet alluring, gentle and enthralling. She says that she has reserved a place for me, up on the stars above, with the gods and the moons, the galaxies and the heavens. And now I soar up up up, carried by the crescent moon, ready to join the constellation of The Swan with the Rose, ready to join the brightest star in the sky.

—-By Christina Ma

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The Seasons

by Aidan Wong

Flowers bloom and the grass glows green,
Birds chirp and insects fly, rejoicing for the spring,
The emerald meadow is a sight to be seen,
A song of nature the crickets and animals’ hearts sing!

An orange circle clings to the sky’s center,
The moon is nowhere to be seen,
Eternal day fills the long summer,
The trees, plants, and animals all wonder where the moon has been.

Autumn arrives in a rain of scarlet,
The great land shines orange and yellow,
Skies and clouds blush, admiring the beautiful sunset,
Trees and leaves make their post-show bow…

The chilly air blows through the white terrain,
Animals curl up in their cozy homes to avoid the cold,
Snowflakes drift through the winter skies in cover of rain,
Here and there a lone tree sticks out of the white carpet, ever so bold.

A spring to relax,
A summer to enjoy,
An autumn to marvel at,
A winter to chill out,
All these seasons,
All these sights,
All these seasons to preserve and treasure.

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One Step

One Step

by Joyce Jiang

Standing on the top a towering skyscraper,

she gazed down below her feet.

Her hollow eyes blinked limply while her face showed fatigue and numbness.

The pedestrians paced rapidly through the swarming streets.

From her view, they looked like minute ants,

busy for their repetitive and monotonous lives.

The piercing and rigid wind roared,

pushing her closer and closer,

to the edge of death.

One step.

One step it takes for her to fall ungracefully,

plummeting, bumping, and toppling.

Then Bang!

Bones would shatter, gore and flesh would burst!

Her corpse would become a pile of Jam,

surrounded by people and the apathetic clicking flashing sound of phones.

 

How many lives would it take!

How many lives would it take for this society?

To let go their misconceptions, indifference, and stigma on these victims.

And consider this prevalent disease more than what you call “weakness”.

 

When this disease struck, it shredded her normal life brutally down to pieces.

It slowed down her time making 24 hours too long to endure.

Each day’s torment felt harder and harder to bear.

She took a step of courage and asked for help.

But all she received were the uncaring words of her mother,

“‘You have so many things to be thankful for,

why are you still unsatisfied!

There are many people worse than you!”’

She wanted to pour out all her cries that she had suppressed.

But all she received after a few minutes were the hasty words of

“‘Do you feel better now?’”.

They considered her depression,

no more than just irrational sadness.

 

 

 

 

She felt she was drowning in the deep sea.

No matter how she wailed or struggled,

her agonizing pain shall never convey to anyone,

just like words shall never be heard underwater.

Little by little, losing the oxygen of hope and left with the suffocating solitude.

If this was living with depression,

death presents to her as a holiday on a beach.

 

She stood on the edge of the towering skyscraper.

The sky was painted navy blue.

The boisterous and bustling streets gleamed with neon light.

The world became colorful.

She was still grey.

The piercing wind shoved her with its hand of indifference.

Her heels raised.

Her arms opened wide.

Her body leaned closer and closer….

Abruptly, a hand jerked her back.

It was the hand of compassion and support.

One step.

One step it takes to reach out your hand.

To sooth the wounds deep in their hearts.

To pull them back.

One step.

One step it takes,

For you and I to make a difference.

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What Happened in the Heaven

Three gentlemen died during an accident. They both walked into heaven and met the God.

 

The God said: “You can do whatever you want, just make sure don’t step on a duck.”

 

“What happens if we do?”

 

“There will be punishments.” The God replied.

 

Three gentlemen walked into heaven. There were ducks everywhere on the road. The first gentleman stepped on a duck in 5 minutes.

 

“This is the punishment you will get,” The God brought an ugly woman over, “You two are chained together for the rest of your lives.”

 

Time passed away, the second gentleman stepped on a duck after 4 months. The God soon grabbed another ugly woman over: “You guys are chained forever together now.”

 

The last gentleman didn’t step on a duck for a whole year. Later on, the God brought a beautiful girl over: “I wish you guys good luck. Be together for the rest of your lives!”

 

The gentleman was so surprised, he exclaimed: “What did I do to deserve this?”

 

The beautiful girl replied: “I don’t know what you did, sir, but I stepped on a duck.”

 

——BY JASMINE Z

 

 

 

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Where the Lost Things Go

Book Art by Christina Ma

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