04 March, 2020

Blurry days

The days blur together like a dream.
Without seam.
One day I'll wake and find myself
Looking back on a river of wealth.
Though now I find I'm lost at sea,
I trust, 
I know 
God's here with me.

20 March, 2019

The Old City Wall

In the days before gun powder was invented, the days where the only way to take a city was to lay siege on it with battering rams, trebuchets and giant catapults; the old city wall was built. It was in the days before limestone mortar had been invented and when various types of ceramic mud were the norm - used to built the wall with giant stones carved from quarries several weeks travel away.

This wall in the old abandoned part of the city was one of those. The city has expanded since those times, but this part of the city remains ignored, almost forgotten. Something bad happened here. Something so horrible that even the street animals avoid this area of the city and the city's underbelly only enters if they have no other choice.

The wall is thicker than three houses are long, built with so many layers of brick and different kinds of mortar that even the historians get confused as to exactly how old this wall was. It could even be the wall that was built in a time predating the founding of the city. The wall that ancient, brittle manuscripts allude to as the Flooding Wall.

The Flooding Wall is thought to have first been built to stop the two rivers surrounding the city island from flooding it during flood season. Over time, the land was built and razed and built and razed, until the ground of the island lies high above the river level even during flood season. Who knows what lays beneath the present layer of daily trodden, hard packed dirt?

The wall still bears scorch marks and melted glass from a time not recorded and nobody remembers, so far back in the city's memory that only the early bricks and stones could tell the story. Human bones protrude from some sections of the wall and all sorts of scars can be seen in the mud render that has been cracked and chipped in many places.

But it's because of the ghost stories and unexplainable things that happen in the night that makes this place relatively safe for a homeless young girl, unafraid and not at all superstitious. This part of the city whispers old secrets and stories to her and she just accepts them. The ghosts and supernatural happenings hold their breath, hiding when she passes by. They see what ordinary people cannot.

Ordinary people look and see a scarred, undersized street urchin. The ghosts see a rising warrior with growing authority. The oxymoron has the city shake its head, but the city's stones are in need of a new hero. Few are born, few answer the call and even fewer survive to achieve their potential.

Ok, I'm bored. This was a boring piece. Now I will sit back and reflect upon it and see where it went wrong. I can already see many problems with it.

17 March, 2019

Plans go awry

So I had a timetable. So I should have gone to classes. So I should have listened when they told me there were consequences, but none of that matters anymore now, does it?

Plans have a tendency to go awry.

I was originally planning to go to the once a week practice, but... stuff happens.

At first, I thought I'd just skip one week. There was a new recipe to try out and I wanted to see whether it would work. I'd ended up with 5 different pies and had trouble even giving them away. You could barely cut them with a knife, they were so hard. I guessed I wasn't cut out to be a pie baker. Give me a fruit to carve or a salad to make up any day. Baking was not my forte.

The next week, there was a garage sale that I got caught up in. Another week, I just didn't feel like going out in the rain. Then it was the washing that needed to be done, groceries that needed to be bought or the floor to be mopped. After a few months, I completely forgot about it and the people I had originally gotten along with so well. I'd stopped answering their phone calls, emails and texts. They stopped bothering me too.

Since I didn't go and couldn't be bothered about classes in case I ran into certain people, it wasn't long before I stopped leaving the house unless the cupboards and fridge were absolutely bare. It was almost painful getting changed and then crossing the threshold. Just getting out the door was a 2hour trial that left me panting and sweaty. By the time I had bought my groceries, my clothes would be soaked and I'd be exhausted with the effort of functioning in relatively normal society again.

In the house, there was nobody but me and the growing pile of bills at the door. The water stopped running. The money ran out. The electricity stopped working. I didn't care. It's not like the school cared either. Schools are like that. They talk about caring for their students, but the truth is, they only want your money. If you don't go, nobody's going to go looking for you. Why should they care? You're only one in thousands of other students who are better, smarter and more driven than you are. They only liked bright, motivated people anyway. Smart people like me who could only stand in the shadows and not talk well? We got forgotten. We didn't stand out enough.

The world is dark and silent. I'm afraid to leave the house. I never thought that those few threats could affect me this strongly, but here I am. A stinking mess. Dying of hunger, thirst and anxiety.

Maybe she'd just been joking. She'd only said it in an offhand manner, but I'd known her since we were in primary school. She'd been serious, but phrased it in such a way that all the others had thought it was just a joke. She never joked with things like that though. It had been a command. Unless maybe I was just taking it too seriously.

It wasn't my fault her sister died. It wasn't my fault her brother took his life when he couldn't take the guilt anymore. It wasn't my fault both our parents died. She thinks it is. Maybe she just needed someone to blame. I don't know. All I know is that I think I'm dying and nobody knows. Nobody cares. Nobody would even be able to get in after I'd barricaded all the doors and windows after receiving her text messages all those months ago. I didn't bother to try recharge it after it had run out of battery.

The only problem was that if I died, she won. They won. That was the problem that really ate at me. How could I go out on her terms? Their terms?

I had ignored them when they told me I shouldn't tell my parents. Ignored them when I had told her we should all go on a holiday with our families. Ignored them when I hadn't stuck to the timetable they had given me. Ignored them when I insisted on trying to join the club.

Too late now. Too late for her. Too late for my family. Too late for her family. Too late for our friendship.

Whatever I had been planning to do with my time left, I wasn't sure. I couldn't remember anymore. Didn't care. Couldn't remember how to care. Even if I called the ambulance, they wouldn't be able to get in. Even if they could and saved me, I'd have to deal with how much it all cost afterwards. And I had no money left. They'd taken it all.

I didn't want to die. I'd fought and failed with every attempt.

It's no secret that I'm a weakling and a coward. I'm easily scared.

I don't want to die, but I can see no other way out of it. Not when every step out my door brings me back to their attention. They're always out there waiting now. As if they can smell it on me. They're just waiting for it. That way, I won't be able to pass on their secrets to anyone.

Their secrets are nothing small. Only a few burglaries. A few loaded dice. A few muggings. A few drug deals. A few rapings. A few murders. Nothing small at all. The police would love to catch them all, but if they missed even a single one, she would be dead before I was. They would probably make me watch. This was the only way I could protect her and she didn't even realise it. Or maybe she did and didn't care. She hadn't been a witness. I had managed to keep her safe from it all. They'd promised she would never know.

Was it worth it? This sacrifice? I'd never taken part, but I had known and seen everything. Too scared to leave. Too much of a coward to do anything. They'd dragged me along, probably because they wanted a scapegoat in case anything went wrong and I was already under their thumb.

There was no point even picking up the phone. The line was long dead. The phone company had cut services after I couldn't pay anymore, but I tried it anyway. There wasn't even a tone. Crawling took so much effort, but I can't die without at least trying to get some revenge, right? I mean, if I was going to die, I should at least do it in style and do it for a reason.

If only her life wasn't still hanging in the balance.

Maybe I'd still make it to the police station. It was night. There was no light coming in through the cracks around the windows. They might have given up on watching my house. I could slip out the back, over the fence. Go through the neighbour's garden and emerge out a different street. If I had enough energy left.

If I didn't do anything, they might still kill her. After they'd tortured her and taken her apart. It was the sort of thing they might do, just for fun. I wish I'd never met them. Never let myself accidentally offend one and then fall into debt with them with my mounting 'offenses'. They'd set me up on purpose. I knew that now. I wish I'd realised at the time and then I wouldn't have gotten so many people killed. It was my fault. I deserved to die.

But not before the police got a hold of them.

Goodness. Where was this determination coming from? Since I had a little bit of motivation left, I hoped it would be enough for this night time journey to the cops. Maybe I'd end up in prison myself, but in all likelihood, I was unlikely to be left alive for long. Maybe that was for the best.

In any case, live or die, I was going to have to make the effort. One last ditch attempt.

There was heavy thumping on my front door.

"Police! Open up!"

Or not.

Didn't I tell you I was a coward?

This is a work of fiction, in case you haven't already worked that out. Any accidental similarities to anything or anyone in real life is truly accidental, since I'm writing this while half asleep when I was supposed to have been finishing my assignment.

That's right. I went back to uni. Eight years later, after saying that I'd probably never go back, I have. It is better and worse than I remember it and how am I going to submit this assignment on time if I'm still procrastinating?

Working to live, studying and doing research all at the same time is not good for a person that's already burnt out and feels like they've had enough of everything. A note of wisdom for future researchers out there. Do not go into research if you're already burnt out and emotionally unstable. It is a baaaad idea. I wish someone had told me that earlier.

09 November, 2017

Once a week

The aim is to post at least once a week, but I don't know whether that will actually happen. It's hard to find things to write about sometimes.

Ok. I have found a story.

There was an old gentleman in a nursing home who had dementia. Although he's sweet most of the time and wanders around relatively harmlessly, this one day, he was in a cheeky mood. He sought out every staff member he could find and asked them if they knew a certain person, citing (his) full name and date of birth. Depending upon the staff member's response, he would grin or just move onto the next person to try his joke on them.

Some of the staff were rather unimaginative and didn't realise he was joking around. They thought he was being a little more strange and confused than usual. A few played along and pretended we didn't know who he was and weren't sure who or what he was talking about. He enjoyed that, but tended to cut it short, getting really excited about it, because the person both sides were rattling facts off about were him (surprise!). Which would make both people involved in the joke laugh.

So it's not written so well, but I think it was cute.

I guess you'll know if I don't have any ideas of what to write about. You'll be bored and wonder why you even come here to read anything.

In any case, please forgive this (what I call a rubbish post, because it's not worth reading), and perhaps I'll find something better for next time.

Maybe something to do with how I ate a 500gm packet of fizzoes lollies in one week when I normally dislike eating sweets (because they're usually too sweet for me).

Once a week he wrote a list and once a week he shopped. Once a week he did his laundry and once a week he gardened. Once a week, he dropped a coin, in the same spot of the street, and then would hide around the corner to watch a little boy in yellow boots run to pick it up and bring it home to his mother who once a week went to the store, but had not enough to pay for all the groceries she needed. Once a week, he smiled at the very end of the week, when all the things to do on the list had been crossed out and he had his once a week day of rest.

Once a week he did odd jobs for the people in his street, who needed their driveway swept, their leaves rake or linen draped out on the lines to dry. Once a week he made tea for a little old granny on her way to her weekly bingo game, because she'd stop to rest at the seat he put out and then give him advice on his roses. Once a week he baked a loaf of raisin bread for supper, but once a week instead of eating it, left it wrapped on the doorstep of the little boy in yellow boots. Once a week a neighbour would leave a jug of cream, sitting beside his wrapped loaf, and then they'd both walk away unnoticed.

Once a week he'd leave his boots outside on the porch and once a week he'd find them cleaned and polished in the morning. Once a week he'd open his door, for the little boy in yellow boots to sit on the step under shelter, while he waited for his mother to finish work. Once a week he'd give the boy a plate of cookies to eat with milk and once a week he'd have the best time of the week, spending time talking or playing games with that little boy.

Once a week there'd be a pie that he couldn't possibly eat all himself and once a week he'd invite the little boy in yellow boots over with his mother to help him finish it. Once a week, after pie, he'd go to the kitchen to find it cleaned. Once a week, he'd pretend he hadn't noticed, but grin to himself, after they'd left unseen.

Once a week he'd lie in his garden and look up in the sky. Once a week while laying there, he'd chat with the neighbour through the fence and sigh at the times long since gone by.

02 November, 2017

Eggs attack

Never underestimate your food. Most of the time, you think you are safe and that the domesticated food item will never attack, but sometimes you are wrong. Sometimes, there is the rebel food item that decides to lead a revolution, which in turn incites the other food items to follow its lead.

I was following the culture and lead of my forebears in the boiling, shelling and eating of eggs. Those who have gone before have passed down the saying not to play with one's food, although they never said what to do if your food is attacking you. Due to the attack, I put into practice the battle cry of: No mercy. No quarter.

I did nothing new or different in the way I had cooked or shelled the chicken eggs. Everything was perfectly normal.

Except one egg took exception to being shelled - that is it didn't just stay still to take the shelling calmly. I wish I could say it was a rotten egg, but it was far from the smelly kind of rotten. It was a rebel kind of rotten.

The shell burst apart the moment I cracked it and delivered a scathing attack up close and personal with my fingers, which questioned the integrity of my skin and belied the age old belief that the humble, fragile egg was harmless to the non-egg allergic human being.

Keeping calm, seeing as the egg finally surrendered to being undressed, I started shelling the next egg, which did the same. Only this egg's assault left splinters in my even-more-fragile-than-egg-shells skin. With a little more fuss, this egg too had to surrender to my superiority.

Having seen or felt (or whatever it is that eggs do) the aggressive, penetrating lead of the initial two eggs, the subsequent eggs continued the attack until my fingers were quite red, sore and displeased by the repeated attempts at surprise ambushes by egg shell. Happily, by the time my fingers were getting ready to rebel themselves at the potential cost in blood, the eggs were done. Beautifully and nakedly exposed in all their glowing white softness.

And as I am not one to remain prejudiced or in any way discriminatory against my food, I ate those lovely boiled eggs with drops of light soy sauce, in order to experience the fullness of their flavour.

Sweet savoury revenge.

This is a true story. It happened today.

28 October, 2017

Welcome to Bakusan

Welcome to Bakusan

Bakusan is a coastal mountain city located in Marusa Provice on the south facing side of Sulileng Island of the Taprisang Archipelago (or Taprisang Islands). The city population comprises of roughly 333,575 people and is known as a relatively relaxed tourist destination for those wanting to combine both beaches and mountains in their holidays. Bakusan offers cruise ships and island tours, as well as mountain hiking or climbing at affordable prices. For those that prefer more city dwelling, the city gradually climbs up the Bakusan mountain where a mix of various international cultures reside and fusion cultures have emerged. Near the top of the city, at least a third of the way up the mountain, in the Gentun district, huge entertainment complexes have been built; filled with restaurants, shops and game halls.

Known also as the City of Flying Chairs, Bakusan has a series of public chair lifts that stop at various platforms all the way up the mountain. For those who find it hard to climb the many stairs and slopes, the chair lifts are the ideal way to see the sights and reach intended destinations with little effort. Most locals continue to use what they call pin travel (ie their own legs), but are happy to point visitors to any of the many flying foxes or chair lifts. Common public transport vehicles are known as rattle cars, the local equivalent to a combination of a tram and bus, since the vehicle can drive on or off the tram tracks. The local market and Bakusan's local produce are easily accessible in the Market Square and associated arcades just east of the City Square, where one can try any of the local teas, sweets and savoury snacks.

At varying locations across the city, traditional housing is open for guests, starting at affordable prices. Homestays are common, but it is just as easy to rent a local traditional house, or even a foreign traditional apartment. Have a look in the Foreigner's District for an architectural mix of buildings from all ages of history, from all sorts of locations around the world and cheap accomodation.

Bakusan is popular for its floor entertainment within the Gentun district, where a reed or rush matted room may be hired for private parties or gatherings. Shoes are not allowed inside and serviced foot washing stations are usually located outside the rooms. Guests usually sit on the floor or on floor cushions. Rooms are catered by any one or a combination of the restaurants located within the same building. Within the building, hostesses, performers and musicians can all be hired for the event if requested at the counter or over the internal phone. If lucky, the famous Gentun entertainer, Marisol, might visit in one of her exciting new costumes.

Marisol is something of a living legend within Bakusan, being the only known 5 times winner of the Bakusan Entertainment Award, but her background is completely mysterious. Nobody knows exactly who she truly is behind the make up, nor whether she is actually a male or female as she has been known to cross dress with abandon and be a master of disguise, such that the city is sure that there have been incidents where she was not even recognised. Nevertheless, she has previously informed the media that she prefers to be referred to in the feminine. She appears and disappears with ease, which is quite a feat for a vibrantly dressed and painted person, even within the entertainment district. Marisol is famous for her conversation, fashion sense, dance and singing. She has been known to combine the local traditional dances with modern songs, revitalising the traditional songs and dance forms. She fraternises with both high and low social elements alike, often visiting if there is a particularly talented musician playing. Many charity events have been taken over by this lovely entertainer, although her appearances have reduced of late. Should violence break out, Marisol has famously de-escalated situations with a witty remark or gotten hands-on herself where she gave both sides a lesson in etiquette. During another famous incident, Marisol entered the private party pf a mobster and entertained entirely in sign language or mime, refusing to utter a single word. Whether she is dress as guy or gal, this unpredictable entertainer is sure to stun and delight wherever she turns up - if she turns up.

Unlike most of the other local entertainers, Marisol cannot be booked for an event, as nobody has her contact details or knows where she lives. Word can be left at any one of the entertainment buildings, but no guarantee can be given. Marisol imitators or lookalikes are warned that they may be mobbed by the locals or visiting Marisol fans for disrespect. Sudden and impromptu Marisol shows are available on occasion and with little notice, where tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis.

For those who enjoy mountain hiking and/or climbing, there are mountain ascending choices for every taste. The Bed and Breakfast Trail is the most popular, where one can stroll up the mountain at one's own pace, stopping by any of the numerous roadside stalls or bed and breakfast inns. Halfway up the trail is Tent Town, a large market filled with souvenirs of all kinds or rest stations where one might fall asleep in a tent after a cup of tea. For those unafraid of heights, the Treetop Canopy Walk is a fun way to sway oneself above the sea of trees to Tent Town. Besides the Bed and Breakfast Trail, the Climbing Trail and Mixed Trails are also quite popular with tours to the very top conducted daily for sunrise or sunset viewing for free. Arrive early at the meeting locations or miss out.

Beach goers will enjoy any of the stunning beaches of either the coarser yellow sands of Bakusan Beach or the finer white sands in the protected Kipply Bay. To the east, rock pools and rocky platforms may be explored or fished. To the west, Western Port, Bakusan's deep sea water port is located where fishing boats or day trips may be chartered to visit any of the local small islands. Trips to the local island resorts out in the coral reefs may also be booked here. Cruise ships drop by every other day, and so going for a few days trip or week's cruise is easy to arrange. Otherwise visitors may feel free to explore any of the port's many taverns and bars, exploring the fish market or even book themselves for deep sea diving lessons.

Bakusan is also a centre of learning for those interested in music, languages and other cultures. Walking the streets, one may hear any one conversation using a mix of words from various languages around the world. A shopkeeper may speak in one language to a local and the local may reply in another language, but both understand each other equally well. Alternatively a conversation may be peppered with words from various languages. To enrol in language or music lessons, visitors may visit the Language Centre of Learning on Hoofpad in the city's centre.

In the words of some of Bakusan's outstanding youth:

Come to Bakusan any time of the year,
The seasonal changes hold little to fear.
Come to Bakusan to stand on the heights,
And at night behold its many bright lights.
Come to Bakusan to explore its shores,
Enjoy the modern and the things of yore.
Come to Bakusan to fish on the sea,
Where waves are tame here on the lee.
Come to Bakusan, welcome one and all,
And if you meet Marisol, there'll sure be a ball.

(Bakusan High School Poem Contest winner. Jared Perly, aged 15)

Written by the Bakusan Tourist Centre, 2017.

(Please note that this is a complete work of fiction. Any similarities to real life people or places are all incidental.)

24 October, 2017

It's something like this

Throughout the busy market, full of shouting, roaring people, the little children of the street slip in between the gaps between people's legs, swimming through the throng. The ho-ak, they are called, belonging to none and all. They cover both face and body, so nobody knows exactly who they are, recognisable only by their style of dress or head covering. Some are fumblers, pick pockets, thieves. Some are muggers, gangsters, hirees. Some are desperate. Some are hoarders. All have their secrets.

Little Ho-ak Timmy, slips between the moving forest of legs like an eel. He's had a lot of practice in his lifetime. Four years makes him an independent young man, he thinks. His eyes flit and dart every where, hoping that nobody saw that he had slipped out of a trash can, where he had hidden the body of his little sister. She was starting to smell and he wouldn't be visiting her again. He had heard from the other ho-ak that it was easy to catch disease from the dead. It wasn't his fault she was dead. She'd gotten sick.

A nobleman with his horse flicks his whip at the small form when he darts under the horse to snatch a fallen bread crust from the gutter, before disappearing back into the crowd.

A bag whacks Little Ho-ak Timmy in the head, knocking his head wrap askew, so that he can't see properly. Hiding under a stall keeper's table while the man is not looking, Timmy fixed his head wrap up, hoping nobody noticed or saw him. His heart beats as quickly as the rabbits in the cage he is looking at under the table. Their black eyes plead, but he ignores them. Stuffing the bread crust into his mouth, his eyes search for what else might be edible. The stall keeper reaches down and grasps the boy by his shirt, throwing him back out into the roar and crush with a box to the ear that makes Timmy's ear ring. The giant butcher's cleaver threatens him and Timmy takes the hint, escaping into the anonymity of the market crowd.

Timmy hides between sacks of potatoes, wishing they were cooked so that he could eat them. If only he knew how to make a fire, he might be able to cook them, but potatoes are heavy to steal and taste awful raw. Raw potatoes, he knows by experience, can make him sick. Especially the green ones. Between the moving legs, he can see the edge of the market where the foreigners known as the Barbaro have barged into the crowd, chasing down and snatching ho-akak willy nilly, thrusting them into the big cage on wheels. The crowd offers up what ho-akak they can get their hands on to the foreigners in order for themselves and their children to be spared. Those taken by the Barbaro never return and word on the street is that they are sold into slavery in a land that spits fire and where the language twists the tongue into knots. With the Barbaro's presence, the market crowd thins a little and Timmy spots a bright orange thing hidden under a haphazard stack of boxes.

The moment the Barbaro disappear, the market regains its usual liveliness and Timmy throws himself through the legs toward his find. It is a partially rotting orange, but Timmy doesn't hesitate to bite into the good part of the orange, spitting out the rotten bits. He even eats the bitter peel. From his hiding place under a cabbage cart, he watches the on-the-spot employment of another stall keeper hiring a street girl who had been looking for work. The girl immediately changes her hair and headress style to inform passers by that she's now employed and untouchable to all but the worst vagrants and ho-akak.

Looking up to tops of the looming apartments above, he can see the fringes of a marriage ceremony occurring on the sun baked roof tops. The man and woman exchange head scarves and weave the more ornate and colourful cloths into the serious triangles of contract holders that have been cut and bound together. It's a beautiful sight, but the cabbage cart owner has found him now, and to avoid being kicked or whacked with the cabbage man's staff, he scurries back out into the people current, avoiding the people with fancy clothes and veiled faces. They tend to kick really hard.

If only it were easy to find enough good food to fill his stomach. After searching the entire day, Timmy's tummy is still growling like it was this morning. The sun is going down and with the growing shadows comes the cold, evening breeze. There's still the night market that he could contend with, but Timmy is a daytime ho-ak. He's usually too tired by sunset to go out into the more dangerous market place where the gangs like to roam. The ho-ak gangs are merciless and scary anyway. The food he ate today has made him feel sick, throw up and made his bowels run. Then again, it could have been the water he drank from the market fountain. If he were a dog, he might have eaten his own vomit. It was a good thing that a bakery woman had given him a mouldy bun. Once he had picked off the mouldy bits, it had tasted as good as fresh. Just hard to bite.

Joining up with his fellow sleep mates, they run through the alleys, climbing houses and jumping over walls, each taking a different route until they meet up at the giant hollow statue that they have been using as their base, hoping no one else was able to follow them to their hide-out. There, they squeeze in with the other ho-ak boys and girls, so that they can stay warm for the night.

Last night, Timmy had been kicked out, because there was not enough space. That's why he had spent the night by his sister's body. She had been annoying while she was alive, but now... he missed her company. Tonight, he managed to find a nice warm place right inside the statue body and another ho-ak had to go find a trash can or uninhabited crack in a wall to huddle for the night.

Tonight, Timmy prays he will dream of a home where he has parents and a family who love him. He prays for a house, a bed and a full belly.