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Foreign thoughts

In response to Photo-Fiction #83

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“Chineyyy!!! Gimme a small fried chicken fried rice!!” The man shouted over the counter despite the shop being empty except him.

I had grown accustomed to the racist slurs and the aggression of “hangry” people shouting at the child behind the counter. I had grown accustomed to the smell of garlic and grease as I toiled over the school books from which I was constantly interrupted.

“One small fried chicken fried rice,” I shouted in mandarin over my shoulder. My mother shouted back from the kitchen. “I’m fine, just trying to finish my homework before the dinner rush.” All in mandarin.

The man eyed me suspiciously, and I ignored him. It was him or someone like him, every day, gawking through the white painted iron bars. I thought nothing of it. Nothing at all until a red glow seeped into my peripheral vision. Nothing until a low growl registered in my hearing. Until the world went crazy as a flurry of fur, claws, and teeth raged against the iron bars. The bars moaning as they bent towards me. The heat of his breath and spittle, on my cheeks as the give in the bars let him get within swiping distance.

It felt like nausea, as I stood there frozen, in fear or terror. It felt like bile rising in my throat. It burned and then it exploded from my lips, blue-white flames that engulfed the thing that used to be the man that ordered a small fried chicken fried rice.

It cried and ran, a streak of burning fur, disappearing into the darkness. Before my mind could panic, the melody of my mother’s stories came back, stories of a proud people, a land of dwindling magic, of an exodus, fleeing progress. I heard fairytales. I heard my truth.

The speech

In response to photo-fiction 64

By Professor Atkins, children’s author.

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It was a castle, with a mote full of baby dragons. The kind that have to swim because their wings haven’t grown in yet. It was placed there by the old ones. The magical people, who once ruled the forest. They were majestic people, but they had to leave this world, they retreated into the veil, the place just beyond this world, and if we were good enough, quiet, brave and pure of heart, we would see them flutter through the trees. We played hide and seek with them for hours, we never found them, but we knew they were there.

On cloudy days though, the Motler would come. A dark presence that made the world cold and foreboding. An invisible force that we only heard, as it rustled past us. The Motler couldn’t pass the mote, because the old ones had spelled the castle so that they couldn’t touch us when we were inside. It was a good place for two 12 year-olds to hide.

Somewhere in high school the mote dried up, and the dragons grew up, and in many ways so did we. We came less frequently, and forgot the Motler. We thought to be too grown to dream, I guess. Until one day, we were just wondering, I can’t even remember what it was that happened that sent us back to the forest. Must have been something pretty bad. But I can’t remember.

I just remember us sitting on the old seats, amazed they were still in tact. Then slipping back into that world, that space, that happy. Like it had been just a minute and we weren’t just about the finish college. I don’t remember the sadness, just the old castle, and the dreams it inspired.

 

When I wasn’t looking

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I didn’t mean to overhear, I was just sitting there writing. It’s where I go to write, because when the heavy wooden doors close, all the world is shut out. The buzz of traffic, and the loud angry voices of the city, all the ominous busy feeling everyone gets, you know it, the one that gives you this heaviness in your chest, like you forgot something, or should be doing something, or should be going somewhere even when you shouldn’t.

Honest, I as just sitting there, trying to finish this writing101 assignment when I overheard him, this gray haired man, who must have come in after me and sat a few pews up. He must have not seen me, in my grey cardigan and matching knitted hat, all mousy and brown, camouflaged perfectly with the stone and the rich dark wood.

He slumped, sort of tired, let out a long sigh and stared up at the alter.

“After the war, when I came home I felt so out of place. Jenny was practically grown, she didn’t need a brother any more, and Ma was gone, and Judy had moved on, so I figured, this was the best cause. I thought I heard a call, and I was all fired up that I had found my calling and I could make a difference because nobody needed me here.

I heard your voice Lord and it told me to leave all I knew and go to desolate places and change all the things that needed changing. I headed out, I never looked back.

It just didn’t seem all that important to look back, to come back, they didn’t need me after all, right? A post card or a letter would suffice? Right?

I dedicated 50 years to bringing food and water and prayer where it was needed, and I saw a few climb out of the muck and misery by your grace, Lord. I thought I had done enough, I thought that the 50 years I had dedicated to the mission, never stepping on home soil would be enough.

Now I can come home, or now you have sent me home, less a man that I left, here I am. Jenny hanging on by a thread after Hank beat the kidney right out of her, her daughter Bonnie, somewhere out here, pumping all kinds of poison in her veins, and Mikey her son, fighting a war based on lies and hate, and money. I don’t even want to talk about Judy and what’s become of her, in that bordello.” From the way his shoulders shook and the way his voice was cracking he couldn’t be doing anything but crying. This was awkward in so many ways, I just wasn’t qualified to hear this man’s confession.

“Lord I’m asking you to light my way, and give me the strength in these old, tired bones, to undo all this. Lift if you can, this deep hurt in me Lord, because maybe if I was looking a little harder at those letters, or maybe if I had taken the leave the Mission had offered and come home that I could have done something…preventative. I feel so useless, Lord, trying to pick up pieces.

I know I was doing your work, but even that seemed to yield so little, so few. I’m running low by way of faith Lord, I’m running low by way of everything…”

I know the moment his throat began to close, because mine did too. I know how he must have felt hollow and helpless, I’d been through that too. I also know that he was shocked to feel my little hand on his shoulder, he jumped and then took me in with his watery blue eyes, skin all blotchy with sorrow, but he took my hand and we sat together , just sat for a bit.

Then he asked me to pray with him, and I did. Funny me, a sinner like me, praying for this man with his noble life lived and the rectangle of white peaking through his collar. But I prayed as hard I could, in that jerky fashion of people unaccustomed, and he prayed for me and thanked the Lord for my kindness.

By the time we walked out that church, we each had a comrade in arms though then we didn’t know it, I would help him find his lost ones, and he would help me find myself.

Ghost Patrol

In response to the Photo-Fiction Challenge

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We call them Ghosts. Nobody ever saw one, nobody ever heard them coming. They would simply be there in the rebel installations, leaving carnage. No footage of them, No trace, no evidence.

But the rebellion was corrupt, our commanders weren’t fighting for us, for the greater good. They had brokered a deal with Ming Xu San, and he was coming. He would be worse than the Red Princess. Worse than the woman who ruled from her citadel, ordering her soldiers to take our girls, dehumanize our men and slaughter the old.

The woman sitting on the bench next to me was a ghost. She looked for all intensive purposes normal. She sat in her conservative garb with a classic in her hands just reading, waiting, listening to my tale. Of how a simple soldier had fumbled upon a deal made with the devil, about how I had lost faith in my messiah, and how I was willing to court a demon to save what was left of us.

She took the chip I had smuggled out and she spoke to me, in that chilling voice of hers, the one that sounded like a thousand whispers and the rustling of dry leaves. She assured me that it would be fine, that the Princess too was nearing her end times, that the new rebellion would be stronger, better for the great nation, more able to defend against the threat of corruption. But while I watched she vanished, fading slowly til there was a transparent figure surrounded by quaint clothes. Unnerving.

“What are you?”

“I am us” she said shedding the disguise not making her conspicuous. “We are the stolen daughters, modified and set to purpose. We are one, we are the new saviors. We are Ghosts”

[294 words]

Meeting tomorrow

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The light filtering thought the dew drops hurt her eye, the smell of earth freshly awakened by the kiss of moisture was so soothing thought. so soothing it had her closing her eyes and just staying in her warm spot, on a bed off moss and loose soil, covered by Nanet’s heavy wool blanket. They would be looking for her, so her soothing rest would be short lived.

She shifted and her ribs reminded her painfully of why she was out here, instead of there, of why she had fled into the darkness with nothing but Nanet’s heavy old blanket and her determination to keep her safe.

She was back in that kitchen. She could hear again the shrill voice of Lorista somewhere above her, her words punctuated by the blunt force of tiny feet colliding with her abdomen. She remembered curling up on the cold linoleum and just trying as best she could to ride it out, because this was her lot in life.

But why? Why was this her fate? What had she done to deserve this? Had she not done everything she was bid since Nanet died? Had she not surpassed her dear sister’s legacy?

The foot rose again but this time she wasn’t there to stop it and the momentum sent Lorista tumbling to the ground.

“No mother that’s enough. It’s been enough for far too long. I’m not her, I didn’t die that night. And you know why mother? Because i didn’t run from you like she did. Your precious child saw the monster you were and she ran. But I’m not running, I never left you, I don’t even hate you. But I’m not afraid anymore mother. So kill me if you want so badly for me to be like her. End me here so you can have a matching pair. Because mother, you killed her as surely as if you had been driving that truck.”

By the time she’d finished, she was screaming. Her eyes filled with tears, turning the world into a haze of indistinct shapes, so she never saw it coming. She only heard the blunt thud, as whatever it was connect with her face. Then the cool linoleum was under her again. She had only time to think of the numbness and wonder when the pain would come, before the blackness closed in.

When she woke up, she was covered in this blanket, her dead sister’s blanket. Woven with her hands and still smelling of her perfume and tears. Papa must have put it over her, when he had come in from work and seen her broken on the floor. She could hear Papa in the other room, begging Lorista to let the poor girl be. But that would never be, the madness behind Lorista’s eyes was too absolute.

But he had left the door open. For the first time in her life, the door was open at night. Papa must have known. And so she ran. She didn’t know if tomorrow would find her, but if it did, it would find her free,