FAR FROM EDEN
In the distant past, a solitary woman falls into the river. Close to death, unknown memories come flooding back to haunt her. Hundreds of years later, the life of a young boy spirals out of control with the outbreak of the Second World War. On the front, an American sergeant embarks on a suicide mission to reach the other end of the occupied Arnhem.
One day, their fates collide.
'There was also Miss Farris, his fervent neighbour and adorer, secretly languishing in her house, so desperately looking out the kitchen window in the hope of catching a glimpse of Murray’s everyday life, even if it was just him climbing the stairs. She thought he must be as despondent and hungry for affection as she was, explaining to herself that whenever she had the chance to chitchat him, usually by baiting him with ridiculously bedecked desserts, his clear and outright reluctance to engage in anything that even remotely resembled a desire to flirt was caused by lack of experience and courage. What she would arrive at after a good night’s sleep, however, was that it all must be sheer evidence of his admirable manners. Were she a more empathetic person, there just might have been a chance she would perceive things that normally spared her attention and see the pain in the way the man of her dreams hung his gaze upon certain things, or how he climbed the stairs as though without a trace of determination to reach the top, and with no simplest expectations…'
'He moved away from the table with a violent shove, a triumph disclosed on his face, sad and painful, but triumph nevertheless, like the one of a castaway that finds himself on a ship after a long period of solitude. He knew that she would understand, for he created her so; destined to walk alone as sand whirls on the desert dunes and wind follows the waves in the ocean.'
'Murray could express nothing while lying supinely, sweat pouring into his eyes and mingling with tears of suffering that would drop eventually on the floor and dissolve in the short blades of grass, vacillating and evanescent as Murray’s life itself, afraid of the night and of what it may take or grant.'
*Publication prize in the worldwide competition ‘Creative Writing in a Foreign Language 2014-2015’ at the University of Portsmouth, England
N E B U L A
Josh kills his girlfriend by accident. Stricken with guilt, he plunges to his death. Instead of waking up to a blank slate, he is guided through the new reality by a talking skeleton called Marrow. It is the skeleton’s job, as he soon realises, to not only transfer the so-called newdeads to the new world, but to guide them and assist through the first phase of their new and hopefully sufferable existence. Apart from attending lectures on death and familiarising himself with The Modern English Dictionary for the Dead, Josh will have to learn what it means to live from those who had lost too much and too soon. A black and at times heart-wrenching comedy, full of literary quirks and poetic illusion carefully woven by a young linguist.
They both turned to look at the quickly receding woman. To Marrow, she only hurried in vain towards the burning hot waste-land, like a speck of dust at the mercy of the wind. To Josh, she fought for what he wished he had. Her curly hair exuded the sweetest scent that wafted through the arid land of nothing, and had filled both his heart and the land with something wild and restive, reinless and unburdened with death. It unfolded in the air high above anything hot and destructive, now purer and more magnificent than ever, more like an essence or soul than a mere fragrance. Just like that–– with a sudden gust of wind, blown away and meaningless, another beauty rendered old and lost.
Josh only flinched at the sound and, as he twisted the doorknob with all his might, his confusion and anger ebbed away as relentlessly as the door in front of him. Surviving the first sting of the cold of the supposedly never touched piece of metal, he released the doorknob and backed away from the door the moment it slid open.
A blank sheet of sad nonexistence yawned at him, black and hollow, cold as night and deaf as only death once seemed to be. A bare and vacant, bald and vacuous darkness. Seemingly endless, unknown and terrible, it intimidated Josh as the dark matter in space intimidates science.
“Welcome to the City of Nebula, the city of lone rangers lost in the concrete desert. The city where no one sleeps because they can’t. The city of lost dreams and endless sorrow.”
“I see,” Josh nodded.
“The city of continuous rain and everlasting haze. Of love forgotten and questions unanswered.”
“I get it.”
“The city where people never look up and bums are scientists gone mad. The city of alleys where lanterns only blink and spark in the puddles below. The city where rain pours at midnight and where fire exists only in our hearts.”
“The city built by an architect whose mind’s poisoned with grief. An architect that drew the streets with his left hand. The city full of mirrors and no smiles in them.”
“I said I get it.”
“The city of loud raindrops that evoke no creeps, that don’t ever tickle your temples. They’re tepid instead, designed to imitate what could bring so much reality into this world–– but always fail.”
There was a short moment of silence.
“Oh, you’ve finished?” asked Josh.
“Yes, thank you very much.”
LOOK BACK, STRANGER
He arrives home to discover that his father suffers from severe depression and the rest of the family have given themselves to chaos. As terrible events unfold, he opens a letter that sends him far away from home.
He had his faith killed at the end of his life. As he lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling until he could no longer hold his eyes open, memories of the time wasted, of the time banished for a non-existent cause, sent him to sleep.
Yet before that, he had to learn a new way of living for the days that were to come, and all his joys and all his pain had to be readjusted to that new reality. Perhaps that was his very reason for chaining himself to bed, closing in a room and barricading his mind; so as to re-examine the images of the past and see, however painful the experience, how much has been dreamt away.
‘Sarah,’ he called from the darkened room. ‘Sarah, have you left?’
My mother’s heart leapt with fright. She remained in her seat for a while, not thinking, but feeling––
––old and angry.
‘What’s wrong?’ she said, her voice but a whisper. She rose from the deep chair to walk through the corridor with her fingers brushing the walls (she sometimes imagined she were blind) and lifting off at the great gap of her husband’s open room.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked again.
Father rolled his head on the pillow. ‘I–– I was just checking if you left.’
‘I wasn’t about to go anywhere.’ With her stooped body framed in the doorway, only her hands delved into the room to grasp the handle. ‘Should I close the door?’
‘What about your lesson? You’ve never skipped––’
‘Yes.’ She stared down at the dusty floor.
‘Just take the bus and you won’t even be late.’
She broke away from the door frame.
‘I–– I don’t feel like going.’
‘Are you going to be ill?’
There was no sign of illness on her face as she glanced at the open window. Spring was outside.
‘Maybe.’ She pushed herself away from the door like a fisherman pushes his boat off the shore; half-conscious, freshly out of his invariably short sleep. She walked the dim corridor to stop half-way through and extend her hand.