Cygnus

 

A short story.

Inspired by The Great Gatsby & Metamorphoses

 

There is a swan in the summer sky. A night full of stories, yet these stars shine the brightest, little points of light, perhaps the still-glimmering remnants of Phaethon’s aspirations.

Phaethon was a boy, a normal boy.

Well, maybe not exactly normal.

But who would believe it?

He was born on this earth, the same as all others. But Phaethon was the son of Helios, a god, whose chariot was the glowing sun that glinted across the heavens.

But who would believe it?
Helios was a story, a legend, a dream.

And so Phaethon went, and ascended, and begged. Helios granted him a single wish. Phaethon though, Phaethon wanted too much, something too far above him, mortal that he was.

He wanted to drive the sun across the sky, stand on the backs of those great luminescent steeds.

He wanted to prove to all those boys below him that who he was, was not normal, was something other, was something greater.

They would believe it.

And lo Helios granted his wish. The next morning, as the sun prepared to rise, Phaethon was mounted atop those wild horses, flame in their nostrils and fire in their eyes. Perhaps there was a moment, a single moment, of jubilation, of realization, of the lie becoming real… but in the end…

They might believe, but it changed nothing.

And he lost control. The boy was nothing but mortal, after all. Those mighty yellow steeds broke free. Young Phaethon began his descent, from heavens to earth, from triumph to breakdown, from life —-

There is a swan in the summer sky, the remains of severed hopes and unmet dreams.

It is a beautiful constellation. Beautiful and cruel.

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The Path Brand New with a Curious Sense of Deja Vu

A short story.

Inspired by Walden

 

A traveller stands just in a moment, a single moment. He is cloaked and stooped. Just before him lies a path. There is a stick at his side, worn and etched with scratches, blemishes, but then again, isn’t everything?

It’s a rather non-descript path, dirt and rocks and potholes which would have jostled even an army tank. The traveller isn’t quite sure where it leads, and doesn’t know its name, but as it has been his sole companion for many previous moments, he has fondly dubbed it “The Way Forward”.

That is odd, he thinks; for if this path before him is ‘the way forward’, and it is merely a continuation of the path he has heretofore travelled, then isn’t the path behind him also “the way forward”?

He’d rather not think about it, as those are the kind of thoughts that give him a headache. He’d like to just continue the way he was going, for not long ago a car had passed him, rattling over the potholes, and had continued right on. (Bit rude, he’d thought to himself, not to stop and help an old man.) But it had continued on, and really, who could blame it?

At least it isn’t here, in this same moment, deliberating furiously, like he himself is.
The man glances over his shoulder. There lies the other direction, The Path Backward.

Or… is it Forward?

Which direction should he travel, really?

Before moving even a toe, he decides, headaches be damned, that he would think about this. Perhaps it was time to have a midlife crisis, right here, on this path, neither Forward nor Backward, but just here, in this moment. He plops down.

“So,” He speaks aloud. He wants to assert the facts. “Were I to turn around this instant and travel on the path leading back the way I came, I would know what I would find.”

He mulls this over for a solid minute, chewing on the gummy bits where he is missing some teeth.

“Teeth,” he suggests with a tilt of his head. “I would probably find my missing teeth, if I travelled back far enough.”

He nods, perhaps slightly amused at the thought, perhaps taking a moment to mourn the loss.

“I’m not the same person I was,” He continues. “and I certainly learned a thing or two.”

He glances at the Path Backward. They say the mind has forgotten the things it tries the most to remember, for it always recreates them in a slightly different way.

(But then again, who is this mysterious and omniscient ‘They’?)

The fact is, and this rather disturbs him, he would not see the same things if he went back the way he came. He wouldn’t be going the way he had been, towards the unknown, but neither would he be stagnant.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? Neither path is truly known.

If the Path Forward is really the Path Brand New, then the Path Backward is simply the Path Brand New with a Curious Sense of Deja Vu.

This moment, this is the only moment he really knows. This is the only time with no surprises.

“Well,” He declares, to his feet, as he stands, with a sigh. “They always say that history is best not repeated.”

(Yet another victim, I might add, fallen to decision-making based on aphorisms and idioms which are far too general to be applied to anything effectively.)
And with that, he hefts his walking stick, lifts his toe, and takes the very first step.

And he will find, in that new moment, that so many things will already have changed.

The Cave

 

 

A short story.

Inspired by Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

 

In hindsight, I blame Pandora. For it was because of her that the dark woods beckoned to me, tugged at my curiosity. Or perhaps I should blame my school teachers, for the homework that I was currently working on in no way absorbed my attention, at least, not as much as the setting sun balanced quietly on the forest, sending shoots of yellow sunlight across the treetops and soon to cast the whole forest into shadow. There was a kind of danger there, but it was just on the threshold, and thus one could argue either way — it wasn’t in darkness yet, so it was safe; but it was soon to be in darkness, so it was exciting.

I was out the door almost instantly. The temperature was quickly plunging with the sun, but I had a coat and adrenaline, ground under my feet, trust in the well-worn footpath that I had taken so many times. In the daylight. This was night, though, or nearly night; my initial energy quickly subsided, whether for wonder at the strange aspect the woods seemed to hold or for trepidation at the journey I was undertaking. My parents had already gone to bed; and I felt alone in this world, alone and on an adventure.

Perhaps it was for some foolish quest for independence in a way, or perhaps that darn Pandora once again affecting me, or perhaps simply a mistake; but I soon found my legs brushing up against bushes and twigs, not the clear, open, sandy feel of the footpath. The sun was just hovering, as though waiting, in the disapproving manner of a parent, for me to finish my business in the dark woods — a place people have no power. And it was here that the first chill crawled over my skin.

My heart rate pounded — where had the path gone? Turning around didn’t help at all. In fact, I realized, I had just gotten more lost. Where had I been facing before?

I could still make out the sun pushing small spears of sunlight through the tangled branches, fighting a losing battle against the night. I had been going towards the sun, I turned my back on it and pushed into the encroaching gloom.

There were strange sounds now, and I wasn’t sure why I’d come in the first place. My footsteps slowed, but I kept moving. What else was there to do?

Suddenly, the path cleared, my legs no longer tangled in thorny bushes at every step. Had I found the path again? In the gloom, it was difficult to tell. I felt my way with my foot, figuring out which direction the path seemed to lead. At this point, I couldn’t really decide if it was the right direction or not. I was lost.

I felt around myself, looking for something to give me a little more confidence. My hand landed on something — perhaps it was a stick. I gripped it eagerly. It twitched violently, jerking out of my hand, and I shrieked. Soft scales shifted through my fingers and a low hiss receded as it slithered slowly through the shifting undergrowth. Shaking my hand to rid it of the sensation, I was on my feet and running down the path in an instant.

And that was when I came upon the cave, a place where even the last of the sunlight abandoned me. Despite being night, this was a whole new level of gloom, the kind of impenetrable darkness that gives everything else a strange glow by comparison. It was as though it were pure shadow rather than an absence of light. There had never been light in there, I was sure of it. Huge stalactites and stalagmites protruded from the top and bottom of the gaping maw, like pointy teeth. It seemed a terrible thing to behold, and I shuddered — and shudder still — to think why the path leading here was so well worn. How many poor souls had wandered here, and why was I one of them?

From within, there was a low groaning, an immense laugh, nay, a chuckle; and hot air rose up in a blast from within. Screaming again, I turned and fled; nevermind the snake.

Somehow I must have made it home, though I don’t remember the journey. Waking up in my bed the next morning, chills still wracking my body, I walked downstairs only to see my parents smiling at me as they prepared breakfast. They’d had an uninterrupted night, and assured me it was a dream.

I did not walk in that forest again.

A Curious Story

 

A short story.

 

The street was long and twisted, like a black snake slithering among the abundant foliage and small, cottage-like houses with little red roofs and porches with rocking chairs. An dense and menacing overhang of gray, ominous clouds loomed over the town, rather like a vague, yet menacing school teacher. A smattering of sunlight rays speared the clouds here and there, and a light fog rose slowly from the dew-damp street.

There was a girl. And there was also a dog. The both of them were sitting together on a green porch, two peas in a pod. The girl had a mother. The dog had an owner. They were both barefoot. The porch also had an owner, it was the same as the girl’s mother. The peas normally wouldn’t be there; that was just a metaphor.

However, it was true that both the girl and the dog were eating peas. The girl was eating the succulent fruit from the inside, and the dog was cleaning the porch by eating the tough wrinkled shells, which the girl discarded.

I mentioned before that the girl had a mother, and the dog an owner. Neither of those facts were strictly true. The girl had a mother, but was not entirely sure where that mother went. The dog had an owner, who had unfortunately vanished along with the mother. The porch still retained the same owner, and did not feel the loss of said owner keenly, as it was only a porch, albeit a nice one. I won’t even bother to explain the metaphorical peas. The reason the girl and the dog were eating peas was that they both did keenly feel the loss of their respective overseers, and had grown rather hungry with worry.

“Espy?” Said the girl. She was speaking to the dog, whose name was not Espy. It was, in fact, Esperanto. However, the girl and the dog were rather close, and affection in such a form warranted the use of what might otherwise be referred to as a ‘nickname’. In this case, the term Espy might quite possibly be used far more often than Esperanto, and thus become more than a nickname.

“When do you suppose Mama will be back?”

The dog, who we now know to be Espy, merely regarded the girl and the half-empty pea pod in her hand. She turned and looked at it too.

“I’d say it’s half full.” She murmured to herself. Espy moaned slightly, wanting to continue the pea feast on the green porch. The girl seemed to have another idea.

“Mama and Aunty said they would be back, didn’t they, Espy?”

The girl’s aunt was the dog’s owner, and the sister of the porch’s owner, with no relation whatsoever to either the metaphorical peas or the ones on which the dog and the girl feasted.

The girl did not wait for the dog to respond.

“But they aren’t back.” The girl dropped the paper bag, inside of which were the peas – the real ones, not the metaphorical ones – and clapped her hands together loudly, to rid them of any dirt. She then turned to Espy, whose round black nose was shiny and wet, and whose eyes watched the girl excitedly. The girl had succeeded in reaching nine years of age, and surpassed that by one quarter of a year, and as such, was feeling extremely grown up and responsible.

“Because they aren’t back, do you know what we have to do, Espy?” Said the girl. Espy did not respond, but this did not deter the girl. The porch didn’t respond either, nor did the metaphorical peas.

The real peas were unable to respond, as they were currently being consumed by the unresponsive dog, whose name was actually a nickname.

“We’ll have to go and find them.” Said the girl. She picked up the paper bag containing the real peas, and stepped off the porch. Espy, who felt a strong loyalty to his owner, followed the girl.

And thus, the metaphorical peas left the metaphorical pod, not to mention the porch that was very real and not metaphorical at all.

Neither was their journey that they had just commenced.

This Day and Age

A short story.

 

 

 

The park bench was cold and wet, and leftover rain dripped from the trees above, making little wet spots, blurring the words on the page as the book created a protected little warm spot on my criss-crossed legs. Next to me, a man sat, not looking at anything. He was wearing a gray trenchcoat, the same color as his hair. He was sitting and looking, but not at the same things as I was. I was looking at the stream of people who marched their daily lives down the gray streets, none of them running into the other, a big sea of gray and white colors, gray clouds overhead, clear drops falling from the sky, green leaves trampled and yellowing on the ground. The people all appeared prehistoric as they hunched over their electronic devices, protecting them from the falling water.

But the man next to me wasn’t looking at that. He was staring almost into space, eyes focused on some indeterminate point. But I knew he wasn’t thinking. He was listening for the start of the broadcast. The daily broadcast that people listen to or watch. The antique-looking, silver-rimmed glasses – the new style – sat upon his nose, and his eyes were focusing on the images flashing across the little screens, not even an inch from his face.

And he saw nothing of the world. And the sea of gray did not part, as the Red Sea did for Moses. And a woman walked up next to me, and looked a little confused.

“Sorry ma’am, would you like to sit here?” I asked politely.

“Why, young man, what is that that you’ve got there?” She said, hardly bothering to look up from her cell phone as she tap-tapped into it. It was as though she hadn’t heard me.

I looked down at my book, with a sigh.

This Side of Paradise. F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

The man next to me did not seem to notice the change of atmosphere around him.

The woman looked up from her device. She glanced down at the book, and looked back up at me, pulling a smile that so forcibly reached her cheeks, I wondered for a moment if her face would crack in half. Perhaps the pale gray porcelain of her cheeks would splinter, and the bottom would fall off, to reveal the whirring machinery, like the device still held in her hand, instead of a brain; with zeros and ones instead of words and thoughts.
“Well.” She finally said. “How… lovely.” And as I watched, the fake smile broke down piece by piece, and her eyes clouded over, turning as unfamiliar as night. She turned back to her device, and turned around, as though she were going to sit right on top of me.

I swiftly got up and brushed some clinging raindrops off my light-colored blue jeans. She sat down right where I had been.

“Sorry to upset you ma’am…” I mumbled. Her glazed-over eyes seemed to stare right at me, but when I moved my hand, they did not follow. She no longer registered my existence.

I was invisible. And as I walked away, book in hand, many other eyes set in pale, gray faces hooded by gray coats, also ceased to see me.

And then I was running. It always unnerved me, the way their eyes seem to turn black and rotten. It made me think of all my flaws; my love of books, my love of color, my creativity. I was running, and the stream of people began to part for me, and for that one second I was Moses, and the sea was not red but gray, and I felt something like sadness, but I was proud too.

And then I was falling, and hitting the soft wet ground with a heavy thump. I opened my eyes, and there was someone below me, who I must’ve hit. And then her eyes were open, and they were blue, and wet, and shining with untold stories. They did not cloud over as they focused on my book, which I had hugged as I ran, and had become sandwiched between us as I fell. And I looked at her book, and my fingers felt numb because they were squished between This Side of Paradise and Harry Potter, which she had been hugging as we collided. And as we looked at the books, and our eyes did not glaze over, there was this perpetual moment where the air was clean, and her coat was red, and there was just us; one tangled spot of color in the sea of gray. And then I stood up, and helped her up, and she smiled, a proper smile. And I smiled back, and the rain continued to fall and the sea of gray swept around us, and even then I wasn’t looking at the sea of gray, I was looking at the world, which seemed very, very bright.