Dandelion

1.

Vast green field surrounds Energy. The sun is bright above it, with gentle wind blowing over the hills. Children run across the field. They play with sticks they’ve brought from the woods. They pick up flowers. They chase down streams of rain water. They find insects under the rocks.

A long stretch of path runs through the field. Horse wagons, merchants, and soldiers march on it. When it’s a clean wagon, children follow it and the horseman tries to shoo them away. When it’s an old wagon, children walk with it and the horseman tells them a tale that either scares them or makes them laugh.

Sometimes armed soldiers march on the path. When they march in the morning, they look clean. When they march in the afternoon, they look tired. Many of them are stained with dirt and blood. Some are carried by others. Children watch them from afar.

When the soldiers disappear over the hill, other children run off to the other side of the field. Energy lies down on the grass. White clouds float in the sky. Birds fly. Insects land on nearby grass. Wind carries the smell of sea. This part of the field is covered with yellow flowers. Among them, white fluffy balls occasionally break. Their feathers fly away.

The sky begins to change its colour. Birds disappear from the sky. Energy gets up, and starts walking on the path.

———–

There is no moon tonight. Many stars shine above Energy. Her feet trace the path one step after another as the night sky gradually turn above her.

Several lights begin to appear before Energy. She initially thinks they are holes in the dark. As she comes nearer, they become brighter. Energy finds that they are torch fires. Two big soldiers stand by, holding spears. Energy watches them from where lights don’t reach. Everything is dark except around the torch fires. Nothing seems to exist where lights don’t reach.

One of the soldiers yawns. The other shivers.

Energy hears the sound of a horse carriage in the dark. The soldiers quiet their breath, and point their spears towards the sound. It is travelling on the path without light. Energy gives way to it as it passes by her.

It is an old horse carriage. It stops before the soldiers. A man is riding the horse. Behind him is a wooden cage. Another man stands behind the cage. One of the soldiers asks them why they are there.

“We’ve brought the prisoner.”

The man on the horse takes out a piece of paper. One of the soldiers reads it with the torch fire. The other soldier walks over to the cage and peeks inside. A woman wearing a dark dress is in the cage. Holding her knees, she keeps her head down. Her long dark hair covers her face. Stones and rotten vegetables are scattered around her. The man behind the cage stares at the soldier without a word.

The soldier returns the paper to the horseman. He takes a torch fire in his hand, and draws a big circle towards darkness behind him. Loud noise of heavy chains shakes the ground. It strips down a large piece of wall, and puts it flat onto the ground. The soldiers step aside. The men and the horse carriage go through the opened gate. Energy trots out to light and follows them. Soldiers watch the men and the horse carriage disappear into the darkness on the other side of the wall. The loud noise of heavy chains pulls up the piece of wall, which shuts behind Energy.

Inside the wall, the sound of the horse carriage fades away into distance. Energy stands on the path. Beneath her feet are cold flat stones. The path somewhat feels narrower with rows of houses alongside it. All doors and windows are shut. No light is lit.

———

Zooomp!

Something cuts across the sky. Energy looks up.

Zooomp, zooomp! 

There, some more. They are dark and fast, like shooting stars without light. When they pass, stars blink. Energy runs towards where they went. She comes to a clearing before a castle. Two soldiers stand near the torch fires at the gate.

Energy stands at the far end of the clearing, away from the soldiers. When her eyes are open, the sky is full of twinkling stars. When she closes her eyes, she sees many subtle lights of a different kind, shooting over the castle. They are not as many as the stars, but more than the soldiers who marched during the day. Open her eyes, and she sees the stars. Close her eyes, and she sees the dark shooting stars. Open, close. Open, close. Open, close.

One of the dark shooting stars stops in the air. It finds something at the edge of the plaza. Curious, it arcs down towards the plaza.

At the edge of her sight, Energy sees a subtle light curving its arc towards her. As it comes nearer, it becomes brighter. Energy opens her eyes. She find a woman floating above her. She is wearing a dark dress. Her long dark hair waves in the wind. Her sharp green eyes pierce Energy.

The woman narrows her eyes to make out what she’s found. It’s a small child wearing a loose dress. She has a pale face and long hair. The woman finds it interesting that this child is a lot thinner in density than other children.

With a swift move of anyone catching a prey, the woman swings her arm to catch Energy. Faster than the woman, Energy emits a flash of light that wipes out darkness. Blinded, the woman backs off. All dark shooting stars halt in the sky, uncertain of what’s happened.

Darkness returns. The woman regains her sight. Dark shooting stars identify a small object at the plaza. Energy stares at the woman as if that can keep her away. Then she dashes off to the path she came from. A moment later, everyone in the sky, except the woman at the plaza, chase her down.

Dark shooting stars are fast. It doesn’t take long for them to be right behind Energy, and any of their arms could catch her any moment. But when Energy turns a corner, they miss the turn. It takes them a while to loop up in the sky, turn, and shoot back towards Energy once more. So Energy turns a corner after another, into narrower lanes of houses. When the dark shooting stars loop up to change yet another direction, Energy slides into a small gap between two houses. She settles her breath, and closes her eyes. She stays still as if she is part of the wall. The dark shooting stars return on the lane. They roam around slowly, looking for Energy.

A seemingly long moment passes.

The first bird calls out at dawn. Soon others follow. Night gradually lifts. Excitement of a new day fills the air.

Energy opens her eyes. She smells moss on the brick wall before her nose. She feels damp soil beneath her feet. Energy slowly turns her head towards the lane. Just an arm’s length away, she finds a woman looking into the gap. It is the woman who tried to catch her at the plaza. When their eyes meet, a jolt of energy runs through Energy. She shakes. She feels herself flowing out of her body and into the woman in a vivid colour, and the woman flowing out of her body and into Energy in another colour. Their eyes are locked. The woman’s face is without expression. Streams of colours mix like magic potions. They speak of tales in a language Energy doesn’t understand.

When the woman blinks her eyes, it breaks their connection. Only then Energy finds that she is floating on the ground. She falls down and her feet touch the ground. The woman also places her feet on the ground. The sky has brightened. The houses around them show their shapes and colours. Like them, the woman begins to transform. From dark hair to pale hair. From sharp eyes to soft eyes. From dark dress to pale dress. Energy feels her transformation within her own body, feeling calm and poised.

The woman smiles at Energy subtly, like greeting a stranger. And she walks away. When Energy comes out to the lane, she finds that all dark shooting stars are gone.

2.

During the day many people come to the castle. Some people come in a carriage, wearing clean clothes. Other people come with heavy loads of something on their carts. They gather around the gate. Soldiers check their paper before allowing them to go through the gate. They don’t allow people if they don’t have paper, if they don’t like their paper, or if they are wearing dirty clothes.

When there is no visitor at the gate, soldiers stretch their bodies and say a few words of curse or relief. With the sun above them, they sweat heavily. They drink something from a cask. Energy steps out from a shade. One of the soldiers glances at her direction but takes no notice of her. She walks to the gate, and opens her palm that holds a leaf. Nobody asks for her paper. She walks through the gate.

Energy sniffs her way to the darkest part of the castle. She walks down cold stairs and slides through iron bars. She arrives at the bottom of the castle where prisoners are kept. A guard stands near the torch fire on the wall. Several keys hang from his belt. He stands still, looking ahead. Energy passes before him, and stands before a lane of dark cells.

Prisoners are on the wet cold stones behind iron bars. Filthy smells of sweat, blood, urine, faeces and vomit are thicker than the air. They are unwashed, injured, and sick. As Energy slowly walks before them, all their eyes follow her. They can see Energy in the dark.

In the farthest cell, Energy finds the woman who was carried in the cage the night before. She sits on the floor, holding her knees with her arms. Her head rests on her knees. When Energy stands before her cell, the woman slowly lifts her face. She opens her eyes. Dull but distinct green eyes shine in the dark. She growls low, like a beast. Cold air trembles around her and one of the prisoners cries with fear.

When their eyes meet, the woman pieces Energy with her eyes. Energy is pinned by the woman’s stare. Something mysterious flows into Energy. A part of her flows out in exchange. After a brief moment, though, the woman blinks, and the flows stop. Energy rubs her eyes.

The woman slowly crawls towards Energy. Her every move seems to be accompanied by pain. Her dress is soiled with dirt and blood. With iron bars between them, the woman lifts her face, and opens her eyes. Her face is dirty, but her expression is calm. She lifts her trembling hand before Energy’s face, holding something. Take it, her eyes tell Energy. Energy touches the woman’s hand, and feels her broken fingertips. They hold something small. The woman places it into Energy’s hand. She curls Energy’s hand to close it.

Go now, the woman tells Energy with her eyes.

With something in her hand, Energy walks away from the woman. She passes before guard, slides through iron bars, and walks up the stairs. Closer to the ground, the air is warmer. Energy dashes out of the castle, and runs to the shade under a tree. Strong sunlight almost burns Energy. She closes her eyes and stays still, feeling warm and bright. Cicadas cry out all around her.

Energy opens her eyes. Strong sunlight hits the castle wall. Shades pool under the trees, where soldiers rest. A donkey with his small cart is tied to another tree. Energy opens her hand. She finds a tiny seed with a string of whiskers.

A gush of wind blows suddenly.

“Oh!”

And the seed is gone. Energy stares at her empty hand. She looks around to see where it went. Wherever it is, it has escaped the prison.

3.

Tonight, Energy is in the field. She lies down on the grass. Yellow flowers are shut all around her. Fluffy balls occasionally break off with gentle wind. When Energy closes her eyes, she sees many subtle lights of dark shooting stars. When she opens her eyes, she sees the usual stars. Open, close. Open, close. Open, close.

When she opens her eyes this time, Energy finds a woman floating above her. It’s a woman with long dark hair and sharp green eyes. The woman swiftly swings her arm to catch Energy. Just as fast, Energy rolls herself away. She stands up and runs. All dark shooting stars halt in the sky, and they shoot down towards Energy.

Dark shooting stars are fast. With nothing to obstruct their views and no corners for Energy to turn, they are right behind her in no time. One of them swings their arm and tosses Energy in the back. She is thrown in the air, and rolls down on the ground. Dark shooting stars pass by her, glancing at her along the way before making a big arc in the sky. Energy gets up quickly and runs again. They are right behind Energy again, and one of them tosses her back. She is thrown higher in the air, and falls down on the ground harder. A sharp stone cuts her knee. Dirt gets in her eyes.

Energy gets up again. She runs as fast as she can on a dark, uneven field. When they toss her back for the third time, they hit her so hard that she coughs out air. Energy leaps into the sky like a chick forced to fly out of its nest. But Energy doesn’t fly, nor does she fall hard on the ground. She falls down further, further and faster, over the cliff that’s abruptly ended the field she was running on.

Falling down, spinning down. Winds blow all over Energy. Time and space tangle together and somewhere in between Energy sees white light. What is it? She stretches her arm to reach it. Right then something catches Energy’s leg. It grabs it so hard that she feels her leg is torn off. It lifts her away from the white light, and sweeps her against the force of gravity.

———-

Something holds Energy’s ankle, and it is flying in the dark. Energy feels a strong grip on her ankle. It has long nails that cut into her skin. Energy is held upside down. One leg is security held while the other just comes along. Her dress has fallen off. Winds blow everywhere.

Dawn breaks. Clouds cover thickly above them. Beneath them are towns, rivers and mountains. Streets, houses, castles, gates and soldiers gradually pass. They fly over a battle field. A large number of soldiers kill each other with their loudest roars and cries. Large explosions of firearms. Shooting of guns. Fighting carries into cities. Tankers on streets, fighter jets in the air. Bombs from the sky. Explosions. Screaming people. Many dead bodies with swollen bellies float in the river. Cities are red. Energy is covered with black ashes.

Rain begins to fall. It washes wars, injured cities, and devastated people. It washes Energy. Streaks of dark water run through her body, and fall from her fingertips. Cities are restored, developed, and densified. Mountains become smaller. Rivers become thinner.

Energy finally lifts her head to see what’s carrying her. It is a woman with a pale face and pale hair, wearing a pale dress like the colours of clouds. She is also wet in rain. Her face is up, leading the way. Her body is flat. Her feet are bare. One of her hands holds Energy’s ankle. The other arm balances herself like a wing. Her prolonged grip on Energy doesn’t seem to tire her. Rain continues to fall.

The sky darkens. They fly over a large city. Houses, highways, cars, bridges, street lights, and neon signs. Many tall buildings stand in the centre of city. As the sky gets darker, the appearance of the woman changes into darkness. Dark dress, and dark hair.

Suddenly Energy sees an image of a yellow flower. She looks around to see where it is. There is no flower around her. Dandelion, says a woman’s voice. Energy looks up to the woman carrying her. The woman looks down to Energy with her sharp green eyes. That’s its name, the eyes speak to Energy. The woman looks forward again. With an image of a yellow flower in the dark, and the moving city below her, Energy hears the story.

This alley is surrounded by 3 old buildings. A large dented rubbish bin is at its mouth. Graffiti fill the walls. A homeless sleeps at the corner. A group of kids bring their prey in the afternoon. Men exchange their goods at night. Ants, worms, sow bugs, snails, slugs, and spiders crawl in the alley. Flies, grasshoppers, beetles, bees, moths, sparrows and crows fly into the alley. But Dandelion is the only plant in the alley. She alone opens up in the morning, and she alone shuts at night.

The woman looks down to Energy. Their eyes meet, and Energy senses the woman is telling her something. But unlike her words earlier, Energy is unable to understand the woman. Next moment, she lets go of Energy.

The woman lets go of Energy.

Energy falls down fast, as fast as rain. Winds blow everywhere. Lights draw nearer. Sounds become louder. And just after someone yells “Hey!”, Energy hits the ground. Like a raindrop, she shutters into pieces.

4.

When Energy wakes, she feels cold. When she stands, she feels small. Edge of her cotton dress flaps with the wind. It is dark. Rain has stopped. Air is damp. Nearby her is a massive plant, standing like a castle. Its jabbed leaves are sharp and strong. Its thick stem stands tall in the middle. At its top is a shut flower. Energy sits under the leaves where it’s warm. She holds her knees.

The sky begins to change its colour. A very big cat strolls along the wall, sniffing scent of the passing night. Birds chitter somewhere. A truck passes by on the street. Dews swell at the tips of jagged leaves. The flower, high above Energy, gradually opens. It is a yellow flower with many petals, releasing sweet scent.

Energy pulls its leave a little. She says to the flower, “Dark shooting stars chased me.”

The flower does not respond.

“One of them carried me in the sky. We saw wars. And she told me about the alley and the yellow flower.”

The flower does not respond.

Are you Dandelion…? Energy asks it with her eyes.

——–

The alley remains dark even after the sun is up. Energy walks on the brick joint towards its mouth. A dark puddle of rain water seems like a large lake, upon which the blue sky reflects. Energy takes a long detour around it.

Street is bright with sunlight. It is loud. It is fast. It is colourful. Constant roars of cars shake the ground. Many legs in colourful clothes pass over Energy’s head. Beyond the streams of swinging legs, Energy smells a scent of soil. She steps on the path under blinding light. She carefully crosses the pedestrian path. Each swinging leg makes a swirl of winds. Each landing of their shoe cracks air.

A thick jungle spreads endlessly on the other side of the path. One particular kind of plants dominate the jungle. They soar high above Energy. Their wide leaves compete with one another for space. Their orange flowers are massively round with many florets. Their lavish scent wraps the whole jungle. Bees, beetles and moths hum around them. Beneath them is a thick pool of warm shadows. Soil is moist and rich in smell. Ants and crawlies crawl over the hills, and they dig into soft soil. It is their paradise. Because of them, jungle is. Energy sits on a pebble, and watches them all day long.

Night falls. Sky changes its colour into violet, and to deep wavy blue. Cool breeze begins to blow. Street lights are lit. Crawlies disappear. Some of the flowers shut, while others remain open. Energy takes her long way back to the alley.

The street remains bright with electric lights. Many cars stream with beaming lights. People walk faster. Footsteps echo sharper. Music plays somewhere. People talk, laugh, sing, dance, and shout. Waves of lights and shadow storm on the path, which disorients Energy.

The alley is cooler than the street. Where there is light it is dim. Where there is no light, shadows thickly overlay one another. Energy finds Dandelion shut. Unlike those in the jungle, Dandelion has no companion, and no competition. She alone spreads her leaves in all directions. She alone stands tall, and she alone opens and shuts.

——-

Late at night, the sound of urgent footsteps echoes on the street. A figure of a woman swiftly turns into the alley. She quickly assesses it, finds the darkest spot, and stands there against the wall. She quiets her breath, calms her heart, and closes her eyes. She blends into darkness. The sound of her breathing and heartbeat fade away.

A group of men run into the alley. They scream ecstatically, swinging their arms, spinning themselves around. Flashing their torch, they find that the alley is dead-end.

“Are you sure she turned here?” One of them asks another.

“Yeah. I saw her.”

They run their torch on the walls. A bright circle projects a part of the wall unreally, which disappears the moment it passes. Foul smell drifts from the corner of the alley. They reluctantly examine to find it’s a homeless lying under the rugs.

“Stinky old man,” one of them kicks a can on the ground.

“The whole place stinks because of you!” Another picks up the can and throw it to the homeless. It hits his back. The homeless doesn’t respond.

“Let’s go,” calls out one of them, and they leave.

“We’ve lost her,” they grumble.

“How are we going tell the boss?”

“Don’t worry. We’ve got her details. She can’t go anywhere.”

As they walk away, the woman gradually reveals herself from the wall. Her heartbeat vibrates surrounding air. She takes in fresh air, and releases tension with each breath. She is wearing a dark dress. She has long dark hair. Her feet are bare. She sits down on the ground. With her back against the wall, she holds her knees. She rests her head upon them. She sighs deeply.

When the woman lifts her head, Energy sees that her eyes are green and wet. Dirt traces on her face. She wipes her face. She rubs her legs up and down. She looks around to see where she is. It’s a dark alley, with a dented rubbish bin at its mouth, and a homeless at its end.

Then, the woman notices a small yellow flower next to her, which has grown sturdily on little sands between bricks. Dandelion looks up to the woman fully open, despite it’s at night. She inquires the woman tilting its head.

The woman looks at Dandelion for a long time. She traces her strong stem with her finger, and gently touch her flower.

“You are here now,” the woman whispers to Dandelion. And she smiles at her lovingly.

The woman takes a big, relieving sigh. She drops her shoulders, and brings her head high. She turns her face towards the street hopefully.

5.

One sunny day, a group of workers in green uniform come to the street. They spread large sheets on the pavements, and begin pulling the plants from the jungle. Plants warn each other with hustling sounds. An enormous hand grabs the bunch near Energy. Something snap underground, and the earth cracks drastically. Plants fly high baring their roots. Blocks of soil fall from the sky. Earth sinks where plants were. Underground bugs, worms, spiders and ants are thrown upside down. Among them, Energy climbs the cracks of earth. Everyone is covered in dust. Everyone rushes to safety.

Strong sunlight bakes the exposed soil. Fallen leaves, torn petals, and pollen scatter around. Smell of freshly turned soil drifts in the air. Worms and insects dig into soft soil. Large birds roam around and feast on them.

Plants are piled on the pavement. Pressed upon one another, they begin to wither. Roots are broken, leaves are battered, and their once-proud flowers hang heavily from their stems. Crawlies, having been caught among them, finally escape the pile and wander away.

As the sun sets, workers wrap the piles of plants in green sheets. They load them onto the track, and drive away. Birds fly away. Cars flash their headlights. Street lights cast ghostly shadows over the soil, where the jungle used to be.

“Jungle is gone,” Energy tells Dandelion at night.

Dandelion remains strong on a strip of sand between bricks. Her sturdy leaves spread in all directions. Her flower is high, shutting for the night.

Cold wind blows in the alley. The homeless brings another cardboard to lay under him.

————

Next morning, Dandelion does not open her flower. Energy looks up to Dandelion, and tilts her head. She walks around her leaves. She sits at the edge of Dandelion’s leaf, swinging her legs. The homeless gets up, and goes out to the street.

Energy stays in the alley all day. Sunlight skirts along the upper part of surrounding buildings. The alley remains in shade. People dump rubbish into the bin. Flies gather around it. A snail moves on the wall, munching moss along the way. A ladybug flies in, and rests on Dandelion for a moment. Energy wonders where it came from.

The sun sets and the sky darkens. Streets are lit. Cool winds blow in the alley. Homeless returns with a paper bag. A cat follows him. He sits on the cardboards, and eat what’s in the bag. He shares a few pieces of food with the cat. Dandelion remains shut.

As days pass, the sky becomes clearer. Air becomes cooler, and winds become harder. Workers in green uniform come to the street again. They sprinkle over the soil something smelly. And they plant many baby plants. Each day they grow, bearing new leaves. Soon they complete with each other for space and light. Their leaves are wide and hairy. Their flowers are twisted in pink and white when they are small. But soon they swell, and open widely like big mouths. Insects fly in them, but flowers don’t eat them.

Sunny days, cloudy days, and rainy days pass. Dandelion remains shut. Edges of her flower head have become dry. Her leaves and stem remain firm. Energy often sits on one of Dandelion’s leaves and talks about the places she’s been. Once, she was on the vast green field. There were many yellow flowers like Dandelion. Other children made crowns with them, and put them on their heads. Soldiers marched on the path. An old wagon came at night, carrying a woman in the cage. Dark shooting stars tossed her like a toy.

Then one morning, when a string of sunlight is unusually bent into the alley, Dandelion slowly opens. Instead of her usual yellow petals, white fluff appears one after another. As if each of them is a flower, they open widely around Dandelion’s head.

Like the yellow crown children wore in the field, Dandelion now wears a yellow crown above her white head. Wind blows, and it falls. Upon impact it breaks into many dry petals. Another wind sweeps them away towards the street.

Dandelion now has a fluffy ball. It stands tall, brand new.

6.

Under the rectangular sky, winds play with fallen leaves. Energy plays riding those leaves. She gets on a dry leaf before the wind pushes it. It runs fast, dragging and spinning itself. Energy holds onto it as long as she can, until she falls and rolls on the ground. It takes her to the furthest corner of the alley, to the darkest corner behind the rubbish bin, and to the highest part of the wall where Energy can almost reach the blue sky above her. When she rolls down on the ground, she giggles. And she runs to ride another leaf.

Then, a woman turns into the alley. Energy lets go of the leaf and turns towards her.

She carries with her the warmth of the sunlight from the street. Her hair is long, her face is fair, and she has pale-coloured eyes. She is wearing a knit jumper and a long skirt. She carries a paper bag. Wind plays with her hair. She walks towards the homeless at the corner of the alley.

The woman gently wakes the homeless. She places the paper bag in his hand.

“God bless you,” says the homeless, without looking what’s in the bag. The woman smiles at him.

She walks back to where Energy is. She sits on the ground against the wall. Cuddling her knees, she gives a gentle stare towards Energy for a moment. Energy is not sure if she is looking at her. Then the woman looks at Dandelion, who is next to Energy. She gently strokes her fluffy ball. Dandelion receives it fondly.

“Where shall we go next?” The woman whispers to Dandelion.

A strong wind blows into the alley and it breaks a part of Dandelion’s fluff. Feathers are set free, and they dance in the air this way and that way before disappearing from Energy’s sight. Some more winds blow, which break Dandelion’s fluff even more. Many feathers fly and dance around the woman, some tickling her face, some around her clothes, some into her hair. The woman chuckles.

“All right,” she says. “Let’s go.”

She gets up with Dandelion’s fluffs all around her. More winds break Dandelion’s fluffs. They follow the woman towards the street. The light of the street touches them. With light, into light, they turn the corner and disappear into the street.

———-

Energy looks up to Dandelion. Dark leaves spread around her stem. At its top, dry green edges surround the exposed core. Only a few fluffs remain on it. One of them seems to tilt itself towards Energy. Energy tilts her head back to it, curiously. Without a wind, it falls. It falls on several leaves before reaching the ground. Energy runs to it as it shakes side to side, played by the flowing air. It may fly away any moment.

The fluff is silky white. It has a stem of its own, just as white as the fluff. Its base is attached to a dark slender seed, slightly jagged like Dandelion’s leaves. Energy touches the fluff, runs her hands along the stem, and pads on the seed.

Fluff wants to fly. Energy wants to ride it.

Suddenly a blow of wind takes up the fluff. Energy barely holds it, but she holds it tight. Spinning in the air, swirling with it, Energy and the fluff leave the alley, out to the street.

The wind takes them out in the city. Many cars are on the street. Many people walk on the paths. Empty cans rattle with winds. Someone is singing to the music. Someone else is dancing to the music, gathering a crowd.

There is a river. Trees stand along the river. People walk along them. Dogs sniff each other. Some people run with strings hanging from their ears.

Trains pass loudly. Many people are in them. Inside the train is lit by lights. There are many lights in the city. Red, yellow, green, blue, white, orange. Blinking lights, beaming lights, moving lights. Tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk… Something makes this noise when people cross the street.

Winds swirl around tall buildings, and blow upwards against them. At the top of the building, they disperse. The fluff and Energy fall, not too far, onto the edge of a building. The fluff lies on the smooth steel. Energy gets off the fluff.

The seed of the fluff sniffs around. Is this it? Have I arrived?

A gush of wind suddenly blows, and takes away the fluff and the seed. Energy finds herself alone at the edge of the building.

She looks around.

Is this it? Have I arrived?

7.

Sky has darkened. Wind has stopped.

Energy sits at the edge of the building, dangling her legs. She watches the night set in. Below Energy are city lights. Lights of neighbouring buildings, street lights, neon signs, car lights, bus lights, train lights. Even around trees are twinkling lights. They all look small to Energy.

Up in the sky Energy sees twinkling lights of planes and a few distance stars. Energy closes her eyes. There. With her eyes closed, she can see a few subtle lights of a different kind, shooting in the sky. Dark shooting stars, Energy remembers.

Energy keeps her eyes closed and follows the movement of dark shooting stars. She opens her eyes to see the city lights. She closes her eyes to see the dark shooting stars. Open, close. Open, close. Open, close.

Zooomp!

Something fast passes before Energy. She opens her eyes and turns her head.

Bang!

Something bashes her back, and Energy is thrown off the building. Falling down, tumbling down. City light spins around her until a strong grip on her arm pulls her against gravity. It grabs it so hard that she feels her arm is torn off. Her feet now sway with gentle wind. Above her is a woman floating in the air, holding Energy’s arm. She is wearing a dark dress. Her long dark hair waves in the wind. Her sharp green eyes pierce Energy.

Zooomp!

Off they go again.

Alex the red fox

1.

Lines of herded animals cross the desert. They are giants, and they are loud and fast. When I was a cub, I used to watch them from afar with my family. I was always curious about what they were, where they came from, and where they were going. But my mum never took us near them. So when I grew up, I left my family and started roaming around near their path.

Up close, giants are bigger, louder, and faster. They are endless streams of giants travelling in both directions. Beneath the lights above their path, their eyes beam just as much, and their butts are redden at the back. They have spinning feet beneath their bodies, and small ears on their sides. They don’t stop. They don’t look around. I don’t know when they sleep.

I sleep during the day, and I roam around at night. Night is when the desert comes alive. All crawlers crawl, all hunters hunt, and all loners roam. I hunt, roam, and greet occasional neighbours. Night is filled with rich smell of things.

As the night deepens, the desert somewhat calms. And I hear sounds. The sound of the giants, winds, insects, birds, and the sound of the desert. Sometimes the desert opens and speaks dreamy things. In those moments, I stop. I can see everything and I’m all there; places I’ve never been, animals I’ve never seen, and sounds I’ve never heard. A call of a bird breaks such a moment, and the desert covers itself with sands again.

———

I come to the edge of the two-legged colony when the night is deep. The two-legged live in blocks of caves. They are much bigger than I. They tame giants. Around them, giants move much slower, and they let the two-legged ride them. When I come to their colony, it is always quiet. I hardly see any two-legged on the paths. Few giants pass by. I roam around freely, sniffing things along their caves, and eat something interesting around hollow rocks.

Tonight, though, I see a small two-legged on the other side of the path. I hide behind the hollow rock, and watch her. She is a cub, small and thin, and she is alone. Where is her mum, I wonder. She stands straight on her hind legs, and stares far ahead of the path. I follow her gaze. Onto the horizon I see dazzling clusters of stars shooting up to the sky like very tall grass. Particularly among them is a pointy one in the middle, the tallest of all, with sparkling lights all over it.

I blink. Air around me quiets. For a moment everything seems to be mesmerised by their dazzling beauty. What are they?

Moments pass.

When I notice, the small two-legged is no longer staring at the clusters of stars. She has turned around, and she is now staring at me. Her stare is just as intense as she stared at the clusters of stars, as if she can see what I am made of. I feel exposed. I dash off to the darkness of the desert where the lights don’t reach.

Since then, I’ve often come to this path at the edge of the two-legged colony. I look ahead, far onto the horizon and see the clusters of stars shooting up to the sky. They blink, and they flash lights in different colours. I am fascinated by them. I want to see them up-close. How far is it from here? How can I get there?

———

It’s a foggy night. Smell is damp, sound is smudged, and light is blur. Dews gather on my eye lashes. I have come to the path at the edge of the colony. I point my nose towards the clusters of stars even if I can’t see them. Thick fog invites me to walk on the path. I sniff, and smell my way to the horizon.

As the night deepens, the desert opens. The fog starts to swirl. A giant or two pass by me with their widened bright eyes. I close my eyes. I feel the wind lifting my body, and I stand on my hind legs. Trot, trot, trot, I walk on my hind legs with my forelegs swinging in the air. Strange sensation wraps my body. My chest starts to feel bold, pumping air and beating heart. My legs stretch, and the sound in my ear drifts away. From far away I hear the call of a bird, and the fog gradually clears.

My eyes hurt in bright light. I hear loud and fast streams of giants nearby. I hear footsteps of the two-legged approaching me fast. I must flee, but before I could, a few two-legged pass by me quickly. A few more two-legged pass by me. And a few more. They glance at me as they pass. Where are they going?

I’m on a ground stained with colours and patterns. Trees line up on one side, and wet grass spread on the other side. Beyond the grass are streams of giants, travelling fast and loud, beaming their eyes. Lights shine bright above them. Beyond lights I see cliffs, high into the sky, also lit by lights. Everything around me is speaking something.

I’m feeling strange. I seem to have grown bigger. The ground appears lower. Trees appears shorter. I’m placed somewhere high, and I can see farther. I realise I’m standing on my hind legs, which have gone longer. I try to stand with all my legs. My forearm cannot hold my weight and I fall down in the face.

“Are you all right?”

A two-legged touches my shoulder and I jolt with fear. I flee, crawling as fast as I can to the back of a nearby tree where it’s dark. I hide in the shadow of the tree, shaking.

I sit on my butt at the base of the tree, throwing forward my hind legs. I look at myself. My hind legs are long. My forelegs are limp. My body is short. I touch my face. My face is flat. My ears are small. I twist my body to look behind me. There is no tail.

I have no tail.

Moments pass.

———

I seem to have become a two-legged, and I seem to be in the middle of a two-legged colony. Why? How? I don’t know.

I can’t keep hiding like this. I must learn to walk, and I must find somewhere safe. I gather my courage, and get myself onto the two-legged’s path. I walk slowly on my hind legs. I see other two-legged also practicing walking and running on this path. They are busy with themselves, and they don’t take any notice of me. I walk on my hind legs on the path that goes around a block of land.

I gather more courage, and I walk on the path of the giants. Their path is bigger, wider, and brighter. I walk on the edge of the path, against giants’ flow. Their eyes beam bright against me. None of them stops. They growl and bark as they pass. What are you doing here? You are not supposed to be here! I fear if I misplace my feet, they’d eat me.

I approach towards the cliffs. They are very big rocks standing high into the sky. Lights scatter all over them. The tallest of all is not too far, shining most brilliantly among all cliffs. I stop and gaze.

Giants slow down, and they go into the base of these cliffs. I follow one of them, and I learn where they sleep. They are all asleep at the bottom of the cliff. Two-legged get off the giant and disappear into the wall of the cliff. When I reach near the wall, it splits open before me. I walk into a hollow space. Another wall splits open before me, and I walk into another space. Each space is lit by light.

I walk inside the cliff. In the small space after another, I push the wall, pull the wall, press certain markings on the wall and one of them opens. I cannot see the sky above my head. And what’s beneath my feet seems to shake at times, as if it’s got loosen off the ground, and pulling itself upwards.

When I push the final wall, I find a dark space. I see the sky before me. Through this thin see-through wall, I can see outside the cliff. I am in one of the caves of the cliff, high in the sky. Around me are many more cliffs with many more caves. They are all lit by lights, and I can see a dwelling of the two-legged in each of them. I learn that this is where the two-legged live.

Fatigue finally takes over me. Exhausted, I curl up at the corner of this dark cave, and I close my eyes.

2.

And so I learn how to live in the two-legged colony. They are social animals. They call themselves in many ways. You, me, I, she, he, they, them. People, man, woman, adult, child, boy, girl, baby. We, they, us, them. Someone, anyone, no one, everyone. They also call each other by their individual names. Ahmed, Mohamed, Christian. Fatima, Vinitha, Chandrika. I’m also given a name. My name is Alex.

The two-legged are more active during the day than at night. Each of them plays a role to keep the colony alive. Some feed the giants. Some feed the two-legged. Some build high cliffs and carve caves. Some dig the ground and make paths. I’m also given a role. My role is being in another cave in another part of the colony. Using my long fingers, I type in some communication codes onto a block of stone that projects moving images on itself. I do this role during the day.

The two-legged don’t go out to find water. They draw water into their caves. In each cave there are a few streams they can tap to drink and bathe. The two-legged don’t hunt for food. It’s someone’s role to grow food for everyone in the colony. It’s someone else’s role to bring them to the market, where the two-legged exchange them with leafy things called money. To get money, they use a small card on a rock, which dispenses a few leaves of money. They exchange them for food, and to feed their giants.

I’ve tamed a giant. Mine is relatively small. This giant and I go on the paths together. I go to the cave for my duty with her, and she waits for me until I finish it. And we go back to my cliff. She sleeps at the bottom of the cliff, and I sleep in my cave. Being on the paths with her, I learn about other giants. They are in variety of sizes, colours, smell and sounds. In general they travel in lines. Some go faster than others. They give ways. When they want to say something, they cry short or long. And they brink the edge of their eye to tell each other when they are turning this way or that way. Sometimes they crash with one another, and the two-legged come to sort them out.

Giants are genuinely fed, but sometimes they eat other animals on the path, like cats, dogs, birds and rats. They consume them as fast as they run, and they leave behind all the mess. Eaten by the giants, the remains of the animals lie lifeless in the middle of the path, with their skull crushed and guts spattered. Black birds eat these fresh left-overs, flying away just before another giant go at them. It is someone’s duty to clear the death from the giants’ paths. By next day, the path is clean again.

————-

When the night deepens, the colony somewhat calms. Lights are dimmer, and the hums of the giants become quieter. I wake from my sleep, and go out alone without my giant. The colony seems asleep, functioning only its minimum, like beating of the heart, breathing, and mending its parts that need fixing. As I’m out, I feel I’m one of its minimum; something that must be done when the colony is asleep.  

In the quiet of the night, I run along the path at steady pace. I smell the scent of relaxed trees. I greet the night birds. I stamp my footprints on the sand where cliffs are being built. I greet the giants travelling sleepily, and I greet the two-legged who are on duty.

I see all around me what I once called “the clusters of stars”. What looked like dazzling stars from afar are in fact powerful electric lights, which the two-legged have crafted and wired around high stacks of rocks, which they have piled up beautifully to make these high cliffs. Upon these massive cliffs far bigger than themselves, they’ve carved their living space, and drawn streams of water through them. They perform their duties day and night, to keep the colony in good order, and to grow the colony even bigger. Living in the clusters of stars, I learn that what’s beautiful from afar is in fact hard work up-close.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Suddenly I’m in loud noise and flood of light. Before me is something bright and enormous, approaching me fast. I freeze. With an earth-scratching, squeaking sound, a giant comes to a sudden halt. I fall down on the ground not by the impact, but by the sheer force of its massive presence before me.

My heart beats fast, and I catch my breath. Bright eyes of the giant look down upon me, concerning if I’m OK. I stand up, and confirm that I’m OK. I thank the giant for not eating me. I get off the giant’s path, and I stroll on a quieter, darker, and narrower path without a thought.

———

Dawn is breaking, and the sky starts to change its colour. I hear birds chittering. I arrive at the edge of the land, which meets a vast pool of water that spreads as far as I can see. Here, there is no sound of the colony, nor do I hear any hums of the giants. I hear the sound of water as it gently comes back and forth. Stamping my footprints, I walk along the edge of the land, which is sand just like the desert.

I hear chuckles. I turn around and find 2 small two-legged not far from me. They crouch over the sand and check something.

“And look,” says a boy. “These are footprints of albatross. They usually don’t fly this region. This one must have been very adventurous.”

A girl utters a sound of agreement.

“Ah, here are some footprints of cat family. I think this one is panther’s.”

They raise their bodies and follow the footprints of something after another. And they lift their heads enough to notice me. I stay still.

“And…,” the boy whispers to the girl, “these are footprints of an Arabian red fox.”

I want to flee, but my feet are affixed to the ground. I want to run away to somewhere safe, but something invisible and strange nudges me to utter sounds to them. Before I can comprehend, with my next breath I say,

「私はAlexともうします」

It is a sound I’ve never uttered before, in which I can only recognise my name. They both make an expression of being surprised.

“Alex the red fox?” the girl says to me quietly.

Then I recognise her. She is the small two-legged I once saw at the edge of the colony, where we both stared at the clusters of stars from afar. I find her still small. She hasn’t grown. How many suns and moons have come and gone since then?

“Sparkle,” the girl says to the boy, “this is Alex the red fox. The one from the desert.”

The morning light surrounds us. The sky and water are of the same colour, and breeze is as light as the softness of the sand. I feel natural, seeing light, hearing winds, smelling the edge of the land, and feeling soft sands beneath my feet.

Having my feet come loose, all 4 of them, I dash off fast to the other direction, away from the two-legged. I feel my tail flying.

3.

I am on duty now, typing in commutation codes onto the block of stone. The faster I do, the more codes I receive. The slower I do, the less codes I receive.

This is Alex the red fox. The one from the desert.

When I ran at the edge of the land, I felt as if I was a fox. I ran with all my legs and a tail. I felt my big ears catching the wind. I saw everything vivid and alive, and I smelt everything full of life. But since then, even when I returned to the edge of the land again, I remained as a two-legged. My legs were two, and my footprints were those of the two-legged.

Alex the red fox. The one from the desert.

The voice of the two-legged echoes in me.

———–

Late afternoon, my giant and I return from the other side of the colony, and we miss a turn. We take the next turn which leads us to somewhere new. It is a beautiful path with green grass and palm trees. There is no cliff around here. All caves are low, decorated simply. I stop the giant on the side of the path, and get out of her to ask someone a direction. Though there is no one on the path. A few giants pass by.

Nearby me is a large tin, in which the two-legged throw wastes from the caves. I smell rich stink of food scraps, rotten leaves, and dead animals. Hollow rocks, I used to call them when I was a fox. I used to scavenge around them for interesting food.

Among these nostalgic smell, I notice something particular. I bend down and sniff at the base of the hollow rock. It is the smell of someone’s marking I know of. I used to smell it every time I came to the edge of the colony.

I look around. I carefully observe the surroundings.

Yes, I remember this light pole. Yes, I remember this drainage. Yes, I remember this tree. I remember the shapes of the caves on the other side of the path. Over there is where the small two-legged stood, looking up to the clusters of stars. And here, near this hollow rock, is where I stood. I cast my gaze towards the setting sun. Up on the horizon are shadowy outlines of the high cliffs far away. Like before, the tallest in the middle points to the sky the highest, ready to shine its lights when it’s dark.

The clusters of stars. That’s where I live now.

This path used to be the edge of the colony. This side of the path was the desert. Not far from here was my home in the desert, where I used to sleep. But now, they are new caves, new trees, and new paths. The colony has grown, spreading itself upon where the desert used to be.

Alex the red fox. The one from the desert.

The sun has set. As a two-legged, I stand here next to the hollow rock, and gaze at the horizon where the clusters of stars start to shine. Fresh breeze run through the path. Where is the desert now, I wonder.

——–

The tallest cliff seems to be the proud of the colony. Many two-legged gather around it with admiration. I visit its observatory. The metal box, seemingly plain when we get in, changes itself to an illusion of colours and sounds as it shoots up, and when we get off, there we are, high above the ground where all other cliffs are below us. The colony spreads before our eyes. I see many cliffs under construction, many paths being extended.

I narrow my eyes and look for the desert. Where is the edge of the colony? The sky is hazy and it’s difficult to see.

Many two-legged visit the observatory. I wonder if any of them are also from the desert. I wonder if they used to be something else, like a fox, a lizard, or a camel, and for some reason they have become the two-legged, and they can’t go back. I wonder if any of them are looking for the edge of the colony now, where the desert begins, where their home is.

“Over there,” a male two-legged points to the horizon. “that’s where the desert begins.”

The accompanying female squints her eyes and tries to see where he is pointing. I squint my eyes, too, and look towards where he is pointing.

“From there, the vast desert begins.” The two-legged tells the accompanying female.

I close my eyes. Desert is easy to see when I close my eyes. I feel the hot breeze upon my face. There, in the desert near the edge of the colony, I see a glimpse of an Arabian red fox gazing at the horizon this way, just before the desert covers itself with sands again.

 

Umbrella

It’s summer. All kinds of life are active, vibrant, and energetic. Some can’t wait for the day to begin, others can’t wait for the sun to set. Some sing aloud to their beloved, others play joyfully with their siblings and friends.

Air from the sea and air from the mountains meet here above the fields. They form clouds and fall down rain. Soon or later it clears. Silence returns briefly, before life sings loud again until it’s time to sleep.

This afternoon, a storm begins with unusual dark clouds. Everyone on the fields with observing eyes have seen it, and everyone in the forest with sensitive nose have smelt it. They’ve all sought shelter. They’ve made sure their children are near. Soon it begins to rain heavily, with thunder and lightning.

Now it is dark. Energy is in the forest tonight. She has chosen a particular bush for her shelter, but it is not enough against the strong rain like this one tonight. She is soaked head to toe, but she remains still under the bush, curling down. There is an insect on the nearby branch. It is also wet, and remaining still.

Lots of rain fall from the sky. When they land, some choose to travel down into the ground. Others form streams together, and they choose to take a journey on earth. Energy watches one of those streams at her feet. 

Sky growls with thunder, flashing lights. Dancing with countless raindrops, a stream invites Energy.

Come with usCome with the flow!

On hands and knees, Energy carefully crawls through the bush and follows the stream. It soon joins a bigger stream, clear from the bush.

Come with us, the stream calls out louder. Come with the flow!

Energy walks barefoot on the smudgy ground mixed with mud, rotten leaves and rain. The stream navigates through the forest like they have been there before. It cleverly traces the veins of the forest, carrying along leaves and seeds, and whatever choose to come along. Rain falls on leaves. Drums of thunders shake the ground. Flashes of lightning cast mysterious shadows.

———–

At the edge of the forest, the stream joins a small river. The other side of the river are the cultivating fields of a nearby village.

Above the fields the sky is big. A spectacular show of lightning before her eyes, Energy is mesmerised by its beauty. The brightest lightning and the loudest thunder strike somewhere near, or far.

Across the river, not far from Energy, is an old wooden bridge. People cross this bridge to come to the forest to pick mushrooms and wild vegetables. Children cross this bridge to play in the forest. But it is rare for them to cross it late at night, let alone in the thunderstorm. Tonight Energy sees a dark figure standing on the bridge.

It’s a figure of a human girl.

She stands still with her head down under the pouring rain. Her long hair covers her face. Motionless, she looks like a tired tree. 

Camouflaged in rain, Energy slowly walks towards the bridge. The girl looks up, sensing something has moved near her. Having caught her attention, Energy stops where she is.

A few steps away from the bridge, on the forest side, the girl sees a dark figure of another girl, staring at her with void expression. The girl is immediately alert. Her face twitches and her spine chills with fear.

They remain still, with their eyes locked on each other. Rain keeps jamming with the forest, and the sky continues to roar with unmistakable thunder.

Eventually they grow tired of staying still. They realise neither of them is going to disappear. Now that they’ve met, they might as well begin.

“Are you from the village?” the girl asks Energy.

“I came from the forest,” Energy answers the girl.

Rain somewhat lightens, as if to help them hear each other. They observe each other closely, and find themselves similar. Same height, long hair, similar dress. They both find each other spooky.

The girl on the bridge sighs. “I can’t find the umbrella,” she says to Energy.

——- * ——— * ———-

The girl’s mother is worried sick. Her daughter hasn’t returned home. She’s called a few houses of her friends’, but her daughter is with none of them. Her daughter left home in the afternoon. Thunderstorm started shortly after. Dinner time passed, and bedtime passed. She’s put her little son to bed. Her daughter hasn’t returned home.

A ground-shaking thunder strikes nearby, and all lights go off.

Where is my daughter? She worries with nausea. Is she in the middle of this storm? Is she soaked with rain? Has she been hit by lightning? Has she been kidnapped by someone? Has she taken a train to city? Is she at the police station?

Being frightened by the thunder, her little son calls for her. She takes out a torch from the kitchen drawer, and walks to his room. Shall I call the police?

———–

In the morning that day, mother is busy getting her daughter ready for school. The weather forecast on the radio says there is a chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. 

“Take the umbrella with you,” she tells her daughter while helping her carry the school bag on her back.

“But mum, it’s blue sky today.”

“The radio says it’s going to rain. Take the umbrella.”

Her daughter hesitates. “But mum, I lost my umbrella the other day.”

“Again?” Mother frowns. “We just bought a new one, didn’t we? Where did you lose it?”

“I don’t know…”

Mother feels irritated. Her daughter is getting late for school, and there is no time for an argument.

“Take my umbrella, then,” she takes out her umbrella from the cupboard.

“No, mum. It’s OK. It’s blue sky today.”

“Just take it, and don’t lose it. Now go.”

Her daughter hesitantly takes her umbrella, and leaves home.

The girl finds it embarrassing to walk the street carrying an umbrella on sunny day. Nobody else around her is carrying an umbrella. They chatter happily about the TV show the night before, and about their plans for the afternoon. The girl thinks nothing but the umbrella in her hand. It’s a big adult’s umbrella, with colourful floral patterns. It’s not a kid’s umbrella with cartoon characters prints.

Self conscious and embarrassed, the girl leaves it behind the electric light pole on the street. I’ll pick it up on my way home, she thinks, and once the umbrella is out of her hand, she feels light, and runs to her friends.

After school, the sky is filled with grey clouds with strange orange glare. Birds in the sky rush home, and cats and dogs are already home. Though children on the street are without any sense of threat. The girl and her friend confirm their plan for the afternoon. After dropping their bags at home, they will meet at the corner shop, and they will ride bikes to the river bank.

“Mum, I’m home~,” the girl returns home.

“Did you bring back the umbrella?” her mother asks from the kitchen. Only then the girl remembers she left the umbrella behind the light pole.

Mindful of the plan with her friend, the girl says to her mother, “I lost it.”

“You lost it?” Her mother stops her hands on the chopping board. The tone of her voice indicates that the girl has caught her unwanted attention.

“You lost my umbrella?”

O-oh. The girl is in trouble. Thunder growls both inside and outside the house. The girl is called into the kitchen, and the thunder inside the house, her angry mother, begins scolding at her. She shouts about the number of umbrellas the girl has lost, and how many times they had to buy new ones, and how irresponsible the girl has been.

“They are not cheap, do you know? And money don’t fall from the sky. Do you know that?” The girl begins to cry.

“If you were going to cry about it, why did you lose it? Why can’t you be more responsible? Why can’t you keep the simplest thing like an umbrella? You lose everything I give you. Why’s that?”

The girl cries, which irritates her mother more.

“Get out! Go and find the umbrella. Go wherever you have been, and wherever you need to go. Find that umbrella, and bring it home!”

Sobbing, the girl leaves home.

————-

Picking up the umbrella will be easy. The girl remembers where she left it, behind that light pole on her way to school. She just forgot to pick it up, that’s all. She walks on the street, wondering why her mother was so angry. I was right, wasn’t I? It didn’t rain before I reached home. I didn’t need an umbrella.

The sky has turned into dark grey. Now it’s going to rain.

Nearing the light pole, the girl can see the colourful umbrella still behind it. She grins. Then, 2 big boys on bicycles pass by her. To her utter surprise, one of them reaches to the umbrella and takes it. They cycle away with her mother’s umbrella, turn the next corner, and soon they are gone. It’s happened so quickly, and the girl couldn’t even shout out to the boys, “Hey, it’s MY umbrella!”

The girl stands there at the light pole. She looks around the pole to check if the umbrella is really gone. She checks carefully if it’s dropped somewhere near. It’s not there. She walks to the farmer’s shed next to it, and checks if the boys have left the umbrella there. It’s not there. The girl saw what she saw; the boys on the bikes took the umbrella, and cycled away. They didn’t drop it, nor did they leave it at the farmer’s shed.

The scene of them taking the umbrella and cycling away repeats itself vividly in her mind.

Rain starts to fall. Warm summer rain. Confident, unarguable, big drops of rain. Heavy rain. Sky is big, and the entire sky is pouring down rain. Overwhelming amount of rain fall upon her. There’s no one else on the street. Everyone is in their homes. Only this girl, in the entire village, is out on the street, without her mother’s umbrella.

The story was easy before. The girl would pick up the umbrella from the pole, return home, and show her mother she’d found it. Her mother’s mood would be restored, and everyone would be happy again. The end.

But now the story is different. The boys took the umbrella. The girl would return home empty handed, and her mother would be more angry. Her little brother would look at her curiously. Now that she’s soaked head to toe, her mother might even hit her.

She cannot go home.

Lightning flashes, and roars of thunder echo in multitude. Miserably wet, she walks to school, away from home. There is no one around. She checks at the school gate if the boys had left the umbrella there. There is no umbrella. She walks to the playground and see if they have hidden the umbrella there. There is no umbrella. She wonders if the boys have left it somewhere in the fields behind school. She’s seen boys play in the fields before.

She walks along the path in the fields. Her shoes make squelching sounds as she walks. She cannot see far as the rain falls heavily. It gets in her eyes. It runs through her face and reach her mouth. She drinks it. She checks the back of every light poles along the path, and behind every farmers’ sheds. There is no umbrella.

The brightest lightning splits the sky before her, and immediately the earth shakes with the explosion of thunder. It’s hit somewhere near, and all lights go off.

She halts. Only then she realises the sun has set, and she has come at the end of the fields. A small river is before her, over which the forest begins. She looks back. The path she’s took is nothing but darkness.

The girl stands on the bridge over the river. It is an old, wooden bridge for farmers to go into the forest. Children are not allowed, but she knows some of them make their ways to the forest for adventure. 

The river is usually timid and peaceful, but tonight it’s swollen with rain and flowing fast. The girl leans on the bridge and stares into the river. The strong flow washes the feet of the bridge. Not too far from the girl’s feet, it washes away her thoughts. She feels empty, tired, and cold.

Come with us! The river seems to call out. Come with the flow!

The girl stands on the bridge for a long time, until she senses something near her. She looks up to find a ghosty figure of another girl near the bridge, staring at her with void expression. Her face twitches and her spine chills with fear. She cannot move.

——- * ——— * ———-

“I can’t find the umbrella,” the girl says to Energy. A long series of events plays in her mind, from the morning when she left for school, till now when she finds herself on this bridge.

Energy remains silent. Sounds of water, both rain and river, surround them.

The river has swollen more, and it has become stronger. It starts to wash the girl’s feet on the bridge. She feels the river pushing the bridge. It has no hesitation, gushing down straight. The bridge makes creaky sounds.

The girl holds on to the bridge, unable to move. She is afraid.

“The bridge will break,” Energy says to the girl.

Energy comes to the edge of the bridge. She stretches her arm towards the girl, ready to pull her to the forest side when she’s near. The girl slowly walks towards Energy, towards the forest, holding on to the bridge tightly.

“Quick. The bridge will break,” Energy says to the girl, louder.

I will break. The bridge cries out.

Come to the darkness, the forest rushes the girl.

Come with the flow! The river invites the girl.

Then, the girl hears the voice of her mother, calling her name. She halts, and looks to the fields. It’s dark. There is no one. She hears the voice of her mother again. She looks around. Where’s mum?

“Quick!” Energy calls out.

“I wanna go home!” The girl tells Energy.

She turns around, and carefully walks back towards the fields. Through her feet she feels the bridge bend with the force of river.

Quick, she tells herself.

With a loud, bone-breaking snap, the old bridge surrenders itself to the river, and joins its flow in pieces. And so goes the girl on the bridge, together with its wrecks.

Before Energy, rain keeps falling and the river keeps flowing. As if nothing has happened. As if there was no bridge to begin with, and there was no girl.

——- * ——— * ———-

It’s summer. All kinds of life are active, vibrant, and energetic. Some can’t wait for the day to begin, others can’t wait for the sun to set. Some sings aloud to their beloved, others play joyfully with their siblings and friends.

Today Energy plays at the river bank. She weaves white clovers into a magic wand. Touch with it, and the flower opens. Touch with it, and the frog sings. She swings her arm across the sky with it, and it turns into bright orange. Clouds are building up, and sunlight plays games with them.

Energy crosses the new stone bridge over the river. On this side of the river are cultivated fields of a nearby village. Energy begins a treasure hunt along the path. She circles around the light poles, and searches for a treasure inside the farmers’ sheds.

Among the colours of woods, grass, and rusty metals, Energy finds a bright colourful stick resting against the shed. It looks like a very big flower tightly shut. The centre of the flower sticks out at the top, with its tip bending down towards earth.

Energy observes the flower. Not attached to a stem, it’s a flower of its own. It doesn’t seem to open because a  string wraps around it. Energy supports the flower with her hand, and releases the string. The flower shivers, and opens loose. With her magic wand, she tickles the small round thing on the centre stick. Boom! Suddenly the flower opens in full bloom. Energy is surprised by this, and she steps back from the flower.

From a little far, she observes the open flower. It is a colourful, beautiful flower with floral patterns all around it.

Rain starts to fall. Energy looks up the sky and finds it has turned grey. Shelter, Energy thinks. She shall find a shelter.

She enters the farmer’s shed, and from there she looks outside. Rain starts to fall heavily. Energy watches the big flower smiling up to the grey sky. It catches rain along its curves, and makes a puddle in the middle.

Today Energy stays dry. Before her the rain keeps falling on the umbrella, upside down, occasionally rocked by gentle wind.

Come with the flow! Energy hears the sound of water.

Pterosaur

One sunny day, Energy and Sparkle play running along the river. Just off Captain Cook Bridge, Energy catches sight of 2 bony pelicans upon a river pylon.

“Ah!” Energy exclaims.

“It’s an art installation. Two pelicans made of metal scraps. Aren’t they nice?” Sparkle grins.

They remind Energy of something. She feels that she’s seen them before. Where was it? When was it?

Energy hears a thunder from afar. A flash of lightning out of nowhere. It was somewhere dark, cold, and very wet…

———

It is dark, cold, and very wet. The night has been long. As the eastern sky hints the arrival of the morning, the night still holds on. It squeezes everyone with its cold rope, freezing them towards death. Everyone holds on to themselves, too, waiting for dawn, upon which night will release them, and they will melt back into life for a day.

What caught Energy tonight isn’t just the freezing rope. It is the long beak of a mother bird, carrying her securely in the air. A very big bird caught her earlier at night, while she was sleeping by the tree trunk. Its presence was so motherly, as if she’d found her own child lost in the woods. She tilted her head and watched the sleeping child. And she gently picked her up with her beak, and flew away into the sky.

So Energy let her be in the sky, blown by cold winds, soaked in occasional rain, high above the dark sea. It was warmer in the woods, where she was surrounded by love of trees.

They cross the sea and arrive at the cliff. Waves crash against it wildly beneath, the wind blows harder as if to push back the land. The mother bird finds a small footing, beneath which there is a nest. Securely attached to the cliff wall, it holds two precious birds inside. They are baby chicks of the mother bird, their size as big as Energy.

Mother has arrived! They move about with excitement, anticipating what’s to come. They open their long beaks wide into air.

Me first!

No! Me first!

They push each other, so eager for food in their mouths. They have been freezing, and starving.

Breaking through the stormy clouds, the first thread of light shines from the east. It’s time for the night to loosen its rope, but it holds on just a little more, to catch a few more deaths.

Mother bird drops Energy into the nest. Baby chicks fight for Energy.

Me! Me! Pointy beaks try to catch Energy in the air.

“Ou!” Energy shouts. Escaping the beaks, she falls into the nest, murky with dirt, rain and poo.

In recent days the chicks have grown bigger. The nest feels smaller to contain both of them. Energy hides beneath their round bodies. They struggle to reach Energy with their growing beaks.

When one of them finally draws a direct line between Energy and its beak, a flash of lightning cracks the night. A large thunder follows, shaking the ground. In that light, Energy sees the eyes of the birds shut closed, as if their lids are stitched.

Taken by the lightning and the thunder, they shrink their necks and seek comfort in each other. This gives Energy a chance of escape. She climbs the edge of the nest. Mother warns the chicks. They remember Energy, and they both dash to her with full force.

The wall of the nest breaks. The broken piece falls down, together with Energy who has clung to it.

One of the chicks just holds on to itself at the edge of the cliff. The other, falls down.

Mother cries.

Energy and the chick fall down to the bottom of the cliff, where eastern light is yet to reach, where night awaits to catch its deaths.

———-

Energy might have hit some rocks. The bird might have flapped its wings, and hit its head against some rocks. The world might have turned upside down. The sea might have swelled. The cliff might have cracked, to give them some landing space.

The cliff might have cracked, to give them some landing space.

They fall into a wide crack between the rocks, carpeted with coarse sands. The sand is damp. Sea is near.

With the sounds of noisy birds hovering above them, Energy wakes up. Her body aches. Gush of winds blow into this small beach, as if to suggest they must do something quickly.

Next to her is the baby bird who fell with her. It’s lying down, facing away from Energy.

The sky has brightened.

Energy sits up. Her body aches. Her head hurts.

She observes the baby bird that fell with her. She sees that this bird has no feather. Hard skin wraps its body and its wings. A large pointy beak, small round head, shut eyes. Short neck, small body, strong legs, relatively larger wings with sharp claws at their tips. Blood streaks down from its head, body, and wings.

Suddenly a big bird lands on the nearby rock. One after another, other birds also land on the rocks. They are also featherless birds. They are much larger, with larger beak, larger head, larger body, much larger wings, and sharper claws at their tips. They open their mouths and show Energy their beautifully aligned sharp teeth.

They all look at Energy and the baby bird with great interest. Energy senses that they are looking at their food.

“Wake up!” Energy nudges the baby bird that fell with her.

It wakes up. It moans with pain, and cries with cold.

“They think we are food. We must go.”

Energy takes the wing of the baby bird. It gets up on its feet. It cries with pain. The other wing dangles lame.

Energy looks around. Where shall we go?

One of the big birds attacks on the baby bird. At the same time, sea water gushes into the beach and washes Energy’s feet.

An intense light flashes at the beach. Brighter than the morning sun, it blinds everyone. Taken by the light, all birds back off.

What was that? Everyone wonders, except Energy.

Where is the escape? Energy looks around.

“Where is the escape?” Energy asks the baby bird.

Blinded by light, the baby bird is awfully disoriented, despite its eyes have been shut all along.

A large wave gushes down to the beach. It scoops Energy and the baby bird by their bottoms, and carries them further into the land. Flashes of intense light and thunders blast out at the beach. All big birds flee to air.

Water recedes, leaving Energy and the baby bird at a little dark opening beneath the rock.

A dark, little cave.

Big birds in the air shout as they’ve lost sight of their food. Its wounds washed by cold salty water, the baby bird cries with pain and cold.

Cave. Energy thinks.

Cave.

“Let’s go.” Energy takes the wing of the bird, and follows the wall of the small cave.

————

Nameless spots Energy along the lake. Limping behind her is what seems like a big bird, about the same size as Energy. She takes one of its wings, guiding the way. The other wing dangles lamely behind the bird. Smell of blood has attracted a few dozen Darkness, who follow behind the injured bird. But they don’t attack. Energy and the bird carefully travel along the narrow slippery passage.

At the opening, Energy stands in front of Nameless. Next to her, the injured bird sniffs up to him.

Nameless examines the two. They are wet head to toe, with scratches all over their bodies. The bird is covered with hard skin, with a large beak and pointy claws at the tip of each wing. Its eyes remain shut.

Nameless observes the bird carefully.

Is this a pterosaur, Nameless thinks, …of Cretaceous?

When did you come from?” Nameless asks Energy.

“End of night. Beginning of morning,” Energy responds.

The bird nods its head, as in agreement.

“Has the ceremony begun?” Energy asks Nameless.

“No.”

“This bird, now sacrifice.”

Nameless nods. They all walk towards the altar.

———–

Energy and Sparkle arrives at a park, where many people gather. They play music, and show moving pictures on a big screen. They announce some things over the microphone, giving food and drinks at stalls. Many people continue to arrive through the gate. Sparkle and Energy both receive some juice and muffins.

A big gush of wind, and a very large bird lands on the lawn nearby.

“Pterosaur!” Energy exclaims with delight.

“You’ve become big! And your eyes open now!”

Pterosaur, now much bigger than Energy, flaps her wings strong, and settles herself on the ground. She extends her neck and brings forward what she has brought for them.

Two shells from the beach, tangled with fishing lines.

Energy grins. She wears the shell around her neck, and puts the other around Sparkle’s.

“This is our marathon finisher’s medal.” Sparkle grins.

“We ran big today,” Energy tells Pterosaur.

Porcupine

Porcupine was once a favourite of Sultan. She was brought to him by mistake when he asked his servant to fetch him his concubine. The servant who brought her to him inevitably lost his head. But for some reason, Sultan liked Porcupine, and he kept her in his chamber.

Porcupine didn’t speak. She was small and often nervous. Whenever Sultan touched her, her entire body spiked up. Sultan did not do anything to Porcupine what he would do to other concubines. It was Porcupine’s small eyes and her gentle stare that he liked. Sultan sat near her, and he spoke.

He spoke of all the treasures he’d collected. He spoke of servants who couldn’t think any further than his commands. He spoke of the old palace he disliked, and the new one he was building. He spoke of his longing for his next heir, and he spoke of his beautiful concubines. He spoke of the conspiracies inside and outside of palace, and he spoke of threats from the neighbouring countries.

With her mysterious gaze, Porcupine listened to Sultan. Only when she fell asleep, Sultan gently stroked her face. Sometimes Porcupine uttered something in her sleep, but Sultan couldn’t make out what it meant.

———-

One night, Sultan invited his wife to his chamber. As they moved onto bed for coupling, his wife happened to sit on Porcupine, who, unfortunately, just happened to be there. Porcupine spiked up right away, hurting his wife’s proud hips.

Sultan’s wife screamed so loud that the guards immediately gathered in Sultan’s chamber, assuming an assault had taken place. Extremely furious, Sultan’s wife ordered this filthy ugly animal to be thrown out of the palace right away.

Before Sultan could say a word, Porcupine was out of palace.

———–

That very night, shortly after Porcupine left palace, it was under attack. Fire broke from the north gate first, followed by the south. Cannon balls flew into the centre palace from east and west, and before anyone knew what happened, a large army of the unknown swarmed around the palace, breaking through the walls.

The chaos spread everywhere inside and outside the palace. Who attacked? What happened? No one knew. People ran to all directions in panic. Children cried, women screamed. Attackers burned houses, and slew anything that moved. Everyone tried to flee to safety, away from the city. But the city was vast, as the sign of Sultan’s supremacy, and no one could escape danger.

Porcupine could not run away any faster than she could. Fire seemed everywhere around her. Suddenly, a large something kicked her into a narrow ditch, and she found herself alone in darkness. Its awful smell didn’t bother her as fire didn’t reach her there. Unlike the chaos above, it was very quiet. Porcupine crawled along the ditch, following the murky water that stained her feet, until she fell into a large pool of very cold water. It carried Porcupine through the mysterious underground, with strange cries and calls echoing everywhere, towards what sounded like a waterfall, where Porcupine would inevitably fall.

———- * ————* ————-* ————-

Tonight, Energy sits under the highway bridge. Cold air travels through, brushing the surface of the wide shallow creek. It is quiet tonight; there has been less traffic on the bridge, and no bird, no cat, and no human in sight.

When the moon shifts gradually from one side of the bridge to the other, fish start to gather. They are just ordinary small grey fish. But tonight they are many, very many, filling the surface of the creek as far as Energy can see.

Energy stands up close to the water, and observes.

Their heads facing the current, all fish are alert. They pay great attention to the movement of water, and the movement of other fish. Triggered by something, someone makes a quick turn and water corresponds its move. All surrounding fish jump, and stir the water in panic until they resort themselves back into the new position. Something seems to make them jolt, as if they are struck by a lightning. All surrounding fish react immediately, as if to flee from danger, escaping from the reach of death.

Energy watches them repeat this endlessly, tirelessly. The moon gradually moves towards the west horizon. Eastern sky hints its attempt to change its colour.

————

Suddenly, something physical pops up in the middle of the creek and all fish flee. ALL FISH FLEE. They disappear. Silence returns to the creek, enough for Energy to hear the sound of the wind, and the apparent splashes of what’s-popped-up.

What’s-popped-up is about 3 whales away from Energy. It’s a dark round thing gasping for air, apparently a land animal desperate for a solid ground. Energy waves both arms at it, calling, “This way, this way!”

“Come this way!” Energy shouts at the struggling animal.

It gradually makes its way towards her. When it’s close enough, Energy grabs its foot, and pulls it up onto the foot of the bridge. Soaking wet, it shivers constantly until it finds itself closer to the pillar that blocks the wind. Energy observes the animal. It’s dark and round, with a small face and spiky body. When the shivering stops, the animal sniffs around and looks up.

Blinking her small eyes, Porcupine meets Energy.

The sunlight breaks through from the eastern sky. A new day has begun.

In the cave 2

Darkness catch a lot of things. They catch food. They catch things to make things. They catch things for sacrifice.

They catch them in the night of day when the sun is on the other side of the world. They kill things if they are for food and things. They keep them alive if they are for sacrifice. And they bring them to the cave.

Small darkness play with a bear head across the alley. They kick it with their legs. A group of them tries to kick it this way, while the other group tries to kick it the other way. As the bear head goes this way and that way, darkness is amused.

A few corners away from the alley, there is a small slit in the wall where only small darkness can pass through. Energy slides herself in there, and walks side-ways to pass through it. Small streams of water splash, “Detour, detour!” as Energy interrupts their flow.

The path clears to an open area, where a large pool of water claims most of its surface. Energy doesn’t know how big the water is. A narrow, slippery walk path surrounds water. Cold breeze travels from this way to another. Energy stands at the edge of water.

“Detour, detour.” Energy says to the water in greeting. The water slightly swells near her in return.

———

The path leads to a platform where many darkness gather. Calm and poise, they quietly prepare for a ritual.

Energy goes behind the wall of an altar, where the sacrifice is kept. She finds a human baby in a basket, left on the ground, unattended. Energy sits down on the ground and has a closer look. The baby’s body is covered with a soft cloth while his head comfortably rests on a pad.

His eyes are closed. Energy wonders if he is dead. She slowly pokes at his belly. The baby opens his eyes. Energy thinks that it’s a fresh baby. Considering how this sacrifice is kept with great care, wrapped in a cloth and placed in a basket, Energy guesses that the ritual that is about to take place is an important one.

Awakened from his sleep, the baby is unaware of his circumstance. He stares blankly for a while, and his eyes start to wander. They stop at where Energy is, and he keeps staring at the same direction.

“Do you see me?” Energy asks the baby.

Daaaa.

Baby moves his arms and shakes them in the air. Oddly, his closed hands emit dim light. As he shakes them a few more times, a few crumbles of star dusts escape from them. They fall onto the ground, gradually melting into nothing.

“What are you holding in your hands?”

As Energy opens one of his hands, it clings onto her finger. Energy is taken by this warm sensation of strange feelings that come through the grasped hand. It warms Energy with unfamiliar comfort.

Baby chuckles a laugh, kicking his legs and moving his whole body. He emits light, literally all around him, like how stars might have been born in the sky. Sprinkles of star dusts linger around him, hesitant of disappearing too soon.

Energy is mesmerised by this, and loses her moment.

———-

When she looks up, Energy finds Nameless standing right by them. With his usual dignity and unarguable presence, he watches the glowing baby chuckle and utter sounds. As baby continues holding Energy’s finger, she looks up to Nameless with unusual glow.

“It’s time.” Nameless calmly addresses Energy.

Nameless performs rituals around water, and he is respected by other darkness. He is the only darkness that speaks with Energy.

Nameless saw Energy for the first time when darkness caught her from the night of day, and brought her into the cave as a sacrifice. Energy appeared to be a pale human child, and she didn’t emit light like this baby did. But she exhibited a strange power unknown to Nameless, which somewhat felt to him like subtle yet powerful light, deep inside of her. It felt to Nameless that Energy was a special gift to the livelihood of the cave.

So Nameless did not offer Energy as a sacrifice. He let her free, coming and going as she liked. Since then, Energy seemed to have dwelled in the cave for a long time, except when she did not.

——–

“It’s time,” Nameless tells Energy.

“This baby sparkles,” Energy tells Nameless.

“It’s time for sacrifice,” Nameless speaks.

“This is Sparkle,” Energy responds.

Energy takes the baby out of the basket, and holds him in her arms. She finds the baby heavy and warm; heavy as life, warm as light. Energy places her forehead onto the baby’s forehead. She thinks of the warmth of the mother bear at the mouth of cave. Energy thinks of the cub’s head that drifts in the dark alley.

Nameless bends down near Energy.

“You know that he will not survive in the cave,” Nameless gently speaks to Energy.

Energy utters quietly, “Sparkle belongs to light.”

“Sacrifice must be given.”

Boooo.” Baby utters a sound and places his wet lips on Energy’s nose.

———-

So Nameless offers both Energy and Sparkle as sacrifice. Energy holds onto the baby in her arms as water takes them in. A remarkable splash, followed by illuminating ripples all around it silence the cave. Darkness pray until the ripples disappear.

———–

At night of day, when the sun is on the other side of the world, Energy finds herself half submerged in muddy water, holding something heavy in her arms. She looks up to find stars in the night sky. Energy recognises the smell of mud and cut grass. She hears the sound of frogs and crickets.

In her arms is a big, wet, human baby. He’s wearing cotton clothes, soaked in brown water. His eyes are closed. Energy shakes herself to shake the baby, to see if he’s dead. The baby opens his eyes. Energy thinks that it’s a big, wet baby.

Energy climbs onto the edge of the small pond. Moon shines from the sky, illuminating around the pond. Trees, shrubs, and a little away from them is a human house. It is lit with light.

From the sliding door, Energy let the baby and herself in the house. Dim lights show a way along the corridor, and she finds an easy way to a room with a baby cot. She places the baby onto the cot, resting his head gently on a soft pad. The baby is wet, but the cot is dry. She places a soft cloth over him, except his face.

“You become a dry baby,” Energy gently strokes his eyebrow. “Daaaa.” He utters sounds for a while, and gradually falls asleep.

Energy curls down on the floor near the baby cot, and closes her eyes. She hears the sound of darkness across the street, rejoiced with having caught something.

In the cave

It’s a cold rainy day. Energy stands at the mouth of a cave. The field is green, the grass is short, and the sky is grey. She watches countless water drops fall down from the sky. A lot of water, falling down from the sky.

A small bear appears from afar. He crawls on the field, and comes towards the cave. He notices Energy from a whale away, and he stops. Energy sits down on a nearby rock, to give space for the bear. The bear hesitates for a while, but eventually reaches the cave. Energy sees that he’s a very small bear, a cub.

Soaking wet, he is shivering. He gives his body a good shake. He finds a comfortable spot not far from Energy, and sits down.

“I went out to look for mum,” the cub tells Energy, “She’s been gone for a while.”

“A lot of water fall down from the sky.” Energy responds, sharing her most recent thought.

“What are you? You look awfully pale and thin in colour,” the cub asks.

“I’m Energy,” Energy responds.

“I feel cold,” the cub shivers, and curls himself on the ground. “Where is mum? She’d be warm if she was here.” The cub sobs for a while, until he gradually falls asleep.

Energy watches a lot of water fall down from the sky.

————

As the cub sleeps, Energy leaves the mouth of the cave, and returns to the inside of the cave. She turns dark corners left and right, climbs up and slides down slippery slopes, and hops over streams. She knows this route by heart, and despite the absolute darkness she navigates the cave at ease.

Sometimes Energy hears the sound of winds travelling through the paths of cave, or drops of water hitting the ground as they fall from the ceiling. Sometimes Energy hears the sound of darkness, talking, playing or fighting.

Today, Energy hears the sound of metal hitting metal. It echoes all over the cave and Energy cannot quite make out where the sound comes from.

c’chin, c’chin, c’chin… tuk tuk tuk, c’chin, c’chin, c’chin…

When she turns this particular corner, Energy senses a hint of light. She stops. For a moment she is confused about where she is. The light, however dim, projects itself so brightly on the walls as if it is a dancing fire.

Energy realises that the metal sound comes from the direction of the light.

At the farthest end of the path, Energy sees a thin, old human sitting on the ground. Lit by the candle light, he eats something from a metal container. As Energy peers at him from about a quarter of a whale away, the old man senses her presence and stops eating.

He narrows his eyes cautiously towards where Energy is. The candle light dramatically projects his wrinkled face. Energy stays still.

Time passes. Neither of them moves. Candle light dances.

Suddenly the old man shouts, “Yah!” He grabs something from his pocket and throws them at Energy, as if to repel demons. Small pieces of things land at her feet. As they land, they make chuckling sounds.

Energy sees that they are small metal pieces in the shape of stretched spirals. They shine and smile at Energy like faces of little babies. Energy picks up one of the smiley spirals and runs back where she came from. As she turns the corner, the candle light ceases to reach her, and the metal piece in her hand loses its shine.

On her way out to the mouth of cave, a couple of darkness pass by her. They drag something round and heavy, and they seem happy with what they’ve caught. Just as they turn around the corner Energy sees the face of the baby cub, dragged upside down by the darkness. His mouth wide open, his eyes half open, lifeless.

———-

At the mouth of the cave, Energy sees that the sun is out. The sky is bright, and fresh breeze dance with the grass on the fields.

A big bear appears from afar. She crawls on the ground in big motions. When she sees Energy from about a whale away, she stops. It’s a mother bear. Energy stands on her toes and spreads her arms wide open in anticipation. The bear hesitates for a while, but eventually reaches the cave.

The mother bear has soaked up the sunlight, and she smells full of life. Energy cuddles into the mother bear without hesitation. The mother bear hesitates, but cuddles back gently.

“Are you lost, my dear?” she asks Energy. “I haven’t seen you before.”

“Light in the cave. Lifeless.” Energy responds with her recent thoughts.

“Have you seen my son? I told him to wait here,” the mother bear asks Energy.

Energy clings to the mother bear even more. She smells of the sunlight, the warmth the cub had longed for. Mother bear sits down in the sunlight just outside the mouth of cave, where darkness cannot reach. Energy settles next to her. The sunlight bestows upon them abundant blessings of light, giving them vivid colours. The metal piece gradually gathers heat in Energy’s hand.

Swanberry

Nameless usually appears along the seam between day and night. He speaks Magic, and he is a wise one. Energy waits for him today, to ask about an interesting word she heard at school.

Energy asks Nameless about Swanberry.

Nameless stares at Energy, and remains silent. Energy waits for his answer. The sun sets. The moon rises. A candle is lit.

“The way to Swanberry is through fatigue.” Nameless tells Energy. “When you get through it, you shall see Swanberry.”

Energy turns around, and goes into fatigue.

———–

Through the dark woods, Energy walks on muddy earth. Roots of old trees tangle with her legs. They remember these legs; those they once played with, a long, long time ago.

Drops of cold dews gather on Energy’s hair. They form crystals and make a crown around her head. They remember this head; that they once danced on, a long, long time ago.

Sharp edges of leaves cut Energy’s cheek. For a moment she stops, and places her hand on where they cut. Burning sensation on her face emits light, of bright orange drops that gradually leave her face, and fall onto the ground. The ground remembers these drops; those they once painted with, a long, long time ago.

Energy sighs. Fatigue gradually takes her in. She slides down to the ground. Just before she falls asleep, she hears the voice of Nameless again; The way to Swanberry is through fatigue.

Fatigue takes her in.

————

Next day at school, Energy plays words with Sparkle. “Strawberry, blackberry, blueberry,” Energy skips, “mulberry, gooseberry, duckberry,” Sparkle hops.

“Duckberry?” they chuckle. “Chicken-berry, turkey-berry, beef-berry,” Sparkle skips, “pigeon-berry, crow-berry, gull-berry.” Energy hops.

“Swanberry sounds nicer,” Sparkle suggests.

“Swanberry?” Energy repeats Sparkle.

“Can you imagine the taste and the magic of Swanberry?” Sparkle emits light. The light says something to Energy in the language she is yet to learn.

I’m gonna ask Nameless about this, Energy makes a mental note.

Father’s Day

My dad is a scientist.

When I was very little, my dad used to show me a lot of experiments with lights and colours, water and fire, and I used to call them magic. I remember how I used to chuckle after every magic, and I wondered if my chuckle was part of it. We blew bubbles that sang songs and taught me how to sing. We made play doughs that were very particular about what shape they wanted to be, and they taught me how to build boats that floated on water. Dad showed me how to make marbles that collected light, stored in them, and glowed in the dark when we called for it. He taught me the secret of trees, especially big trees, and how to shrink myself to crawl on it like an ant, hover around it like a bug, and how to be a part of it, like its flower. I loved being a flower of a big tree, because it was a very warm place, and over there, everyone was my friend.

One day, when my dad and I were playing another little magic underneath one of the big trees near our house, a storm started to form. Dark clouds gathered quickly and it wasn’t a usual storm. It was like someone else’s magic, a very big magic. Like how I once made a storm in a bath tab, someone was making a very big, strong storm outside their house.

Dad looked up the sky and he looked worried. He hurried me to pack up my things and come inside the house. I gathered the stones I was working on, and tried to hurry in home. But as the wind grew stronger, one of the stones slipped off my hands and started to play with the wind. “Wait,” I said to the stone, worried, particularly because it was the stone that must be kept dry, never touch water.

If I left the stone outside and ran into home, the first raindrop that hit the stone would make a big explosion like I’d never made, and that would make a very big fire and caused some people some trouble. So I dropped all other stones (they were OK with water), and ran to catch the trouble stone. It rolled around the house so quickly as if it knew how to ride the wind. I also knew how to ride the wind so I chased after the stone. The wind didn’t blew us away from home; it rather swirled us around our house, and it kept a constant distance between me and the stone.

“Energy! Get in the house!” Dad shouted from the front door that spanned open. By then the sky was black, wind so strong, and I’m at the mercy of the swirling wind. My legs were above my head, and my cotton dress flapped everywhere. The trouble stone was now just inches away from my hand. “Come and get me!” it said at me, so I said to it, “It’s not time to play now, Little Miss! Come in to my hand and let’s get inside the house!”

The wind blew harder, and this time, it took us up. I saw the last glimpse of my dad at the front door, shouting my name. Just behind him I saw my mother, holding in her arms my little brother or sister I couldn’t remember.

I resorted to riding the black wind high and above, thinking I could return home later. When I almost touched the tip of the trouble stone, the biggest thunder I’d ever heard cracked the sky wide open, and the first raindrop, also, touched the tip of the stone.

Everything went white.

———

When I walked back to my house after the storm settled, the front door didn’t open. All the windows were shut, and the house had lost its colour. I called for my dad, but no one answered. The big trees around the house had no more leaves or flowers, and all my friends were gone. “Contamination,” people around the house whispered to each other. “Two hundred years to restore.”

———

I’m not very good with numbers so I can’t quite remember if it was 200 years, 2000 years, or 200 days. But I figure that after some time, things will be restored and everything will be OK. There is no point waiting outside the house that’s shut, so I’ve drifted. Maybe I’ll travel, to see the magic of the world my dad used to tell me about, so when I return home after 200 years or whatever, I can tell my dad all about them.

———

People say it’s father’s day today. And somehow, I’ve remembered about that storm.