What’s your greatest fear?

“You know what I’m afraid of?”

“Me outwitting you?”

“That…is not something I need to worry about in the near future.”

“Just you wait.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“…”

“…”

“…So, what are you afraid off? Also, why are you drinking coffee at night? Isn’t that not good?”

“Oh yeah, of course. Well, this is not coffee, so don’t worry.”

“What is it?”

“You can’t try it. Anyway, so I have discovered that I am afraid of butterflies.”

“…”

“Don’t bite your tongue or choke on your laughter now.”

“But, they are so small!”

“HAVE YOU SEEN ONE UP CLOSE? Those beady eyes, that fluffy body…plus it can get into your stomach.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…Please laugh.”

“I am afraid I do not understand.”

“Nevermind.”

“You are silly.”

“Then tell me something that is more terrifying.”

“That’s quite simple.”

“Oh yeah?”

“You promise me you won’t tell anyone?”

“Of course.”

“…”

“Yes?”

“…I think Gabriel is really scary.”

“Oh? That’s a first: I thought I am supposed to be the scary one.”

“He has the aura of a murderer.”

“I mean, I have killed, too. That is kind of…our jobs.”

“No, it’s not just the aura of death. He just seems very…nonchalant about it.”

“Does one need to be constantly plagued by guilt in order to be moral?”

“No, it’s just…the way he thinks. The afterthought even when he pulled the trigger.”

“Oh?”

“He simply forgets about it.”

“I’m sure he’s just pretending. Gabby-dear is a big, adorable ball of insecurities strung up with impeccable organization and natural good looks.”

“…”

“Ha.”

“Ew. Vanity does not look good on you.”

“Ah, no worries. Nothing looks good on me.”

“Eh…”

“…”

“You should really stop drinking coffee. It’s already 10 p.m.”

“I told you it’s not coffee.”

“…”

“…”

“So what is it?”

“Ah! I KNOW WHAT’S SCARIER THAN A BUTTERFLY! A motherfucking moth. Damn moths are scary.”

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Flickering Lights

Darkness flickered in and out of focus, but he could clearly see that it is winning in this whirling world of nothing but cliché agony. His lips were cracked and his tongue tasted like sand, his eyes and mind competed to become the most unreliable narrator. He tried to summon his voice even though he knew it was out of futile stupidity. Nothing.

Then all the sudden, light cheated and won. Someone entered the room. Someone whom he thought was a light in his life.

How funny, to think she cheated, too, and all he got was the shadows, the flickering shadows the effects of whatever drug they decided to poison him with.

So he closed his eyes to paint prettier pictures on the back of his eyelids.

The light was too bright, too close, he just wanted to throw up.

“Canopus…”

He wondered if he had enough power left in him to snap his own neck.

“I am sorry that it came to this, I truly am.”

Maybe he can break his wrist and bleed out instead. Maybe that would do. That would finally shut up those voices that tell him to trust, forgive, to seek a mere reason to explain that he wasn’t a fool. Even if he is a paralyzed, mangled mess he knows that voice would never leave him.

“…Your power…no one should have such a thing.”

So, she would love me if I was a simple human being? But, his power was the only reason that brought her to him, and it’s only right that it is the same reason that drove her away.

A monster deserves nothing but darkness. And he was apparently less than a monster in her eyes, she deprive him even of his claim of darkness.

Then he woke up again. For the thousandth time he woke up catching himself about to break his own wrist.

Not even sleep was safe. He sighed, retreated to the living room to see if the sun bothered to come up yet and try to test again if working himself to death worked. It didn’t. He clenched his temples, pulled at his hair, tried to count how many times he sighed.

He hardly heard the shuffle of movement gliding down the stairs, but only saw the bird nest of a bed head where an actual bird nestled, “Why are you up so early?”

He scoffed at the notion that the small, childish whine dissipated the storm clouds.

A Weekend’s Chat

It’s strange how fast people form habits: within weeks of her coming to this world there began an unspoken truce between the four of them to congregate at Saphira and Gabriel’s — it was as though she was the excuse that Canopus needed to hide his fondness of his brother and his sister-in-law — and ramble about life after a fruitless attempt at figuring out what they should do about her mission.

“Mr. Adler seems like a nice guy,” Saphira assumed her usual spot curled up against her husband on the couch on one such meeting. “He has an impeccable taste for coffee beans.”

“…And he was born and raised in NorCal, studied anthropology, got married to another relatively normal person at 30, taught at a community college, did a lot of hiking and nature-related volunteering with his wife, went to a lot of classical music concerts, retired when his wife passed to travel around the world, settled here and there to build schools and libraries, barely had any problems with the law, have no children but kept in touch with a lot of his students…just your typical modern saint,” Canopus recited uncited research to the ceiling, stretching himself across a couch opposite to the couple.

“I’m not even going to ask you where you found that information,” Gabriel muttered and rolled his eyes.

“Contrary to your erroneous assumptions, I have friends, Gabby dear.”

“I said, I wasn’t even going to ask.”

Vega attempted to contribute to the conversation, “I think Ellie likes me.”

No one was sure if the “Good job” from Canopus was genuine, but the confusion from Gabriel was.

“Who is that?”

“It’s Mr. Adler’s cat! She loves snappers.”

The enlightened twin straightened up from his seat, “Wait, so I wasn’t imagining things: my snappers didn’t just melt into thin air.”

The girl colored, “I was…planning on informing you of that…earlier. Apologies.”

“No worries, I’m glad you made a new friend.”

Despite the restoration of Vega’s bubbly disposition, Canopus remained skeptical, “I still don’t trust that old man.”

Saphira smiled, “When do you trust anyone, anyway?”

“Never, but especially here. This old man and his weird, child-luring cat are definitely up to no good.”

Vega grew defensive, “Ellie is not weird.”

Gabriel started. “If he is indeed an agent after us, he probably would have already acted considering how much Vega seem to visit. It’s been a good while.”

“Plus, I think I trust a good coffee aficionado,” Saphira jested before the song of her voice lowered. “And an agent shouldn’t be so eager to introduce himself to the neighborhood and have such a regular, daily schedule.”

She waved a small note she fished out of her pockets, and the flimsy paper glided across the room to Canopus.

“Caffeine is a drug, Saph,” He grumbled before studying the note, gave a slight “hrmm.”

Seeing that silence was growing, Vega volunteered again, “He showed me how humans tell if a rose is sick.”

“Just how many times have you went over? Every day you walk your dumb owl?!”

“I mean, he is right next door…and also, stop belittling my owl!”

“Hoot!”

“I mean, your owl requires someone to walk him. I would like to quote you and remind you that ‘owls fly’, Vega.”

She scoffed while the said owl scuttled from the arm of the sofa to her head, its little amber eyes transfixed upon Canopus with determined judgement throughout its little trek. The target of their scorn merely burst into laughter.

“You have no idea how ridiculous you look right now.”

“You have no idea how ridiculous you are, always,” The girl crossed her arms and pouted, the bird shuffled and settled into a fearsome, feather ball.

“Anyway, I still advise everyone to stay away from the old man,” Canopus settled back into the couch. “Who knows, maybe he more powerful than all of us combined and we just don’t know.”

“Still, I don’t think he bear ill intentions,” Saphira grumbled. “We don’t have to live every second of our lives in fear. Why don’t we start practicing that by talking about literally anything else? Oh yeah, how is Angelica, Canopus?”

“…Hrmm…” He wasn’t paying his sister-in-law much attention as he stared at the humble schedule that just seemed too regular and turned it over his mind to make sure there are no stains, no dots to connect.

The New Neighbors

The first “meow” drifted across the yard with the same gentle elegance that preceded the second utterance and the success of a calculated pounce.

That second utterance also summoned the girl from her engrossment with a volume she singled-out to be the only series that was written in a language she could understand. She shuffled to the screen door, inspected the corner of the well-tended little garden in view. Nothing. So she ventured out.

On her left were Gabriel’s selection of decorative flowers and small fruits; on her right were the general pleasantries of Saphira’s random whims sprouted from her haphazardly discarding plant seeds out the window. No cat in sight. Her search continued. Then she rounded the corner, and there it was.

The pastel calico fur ball had dared to sniff a haphazard mint, testing the sharp tinge before the bright green orbs fixed upon the human that had dared to disturb it from its little piece of trespassing heaven. The girl asked the cat if it was lost or looking for something. It merely stared and slipped to the opposite corner of the garden, investigating a turned leaf it didn’t meow at before.

The girl begged her calico visitor to stay put before she disappeared into the house and returned, equipped with a sliver of bribe in raw fish. Almost at once, the feline visitor decided to show some interest in the girl who tried ever so hard to please it.

As the cat wolfed down the last piece a voice from the front fences, a gentle good afternoon filled to the brim with gratitude. An old man the epitome what one might stereotype as a scholar: wrinkles, greying hairs and an air of observant indulgence in new environments he entered with a slight lean forward, dressed in an orderly hurry.

“Good afternoon to you, too!” Unlike what Saphira told her to, Vega continued her strategy of attacking strangers with enthusiastic friendship.

He spoke like how Vega imagine him to speak, gently and kindly as he apologized and introduced the intruding cat.

“Ellie is a lovely name,” She commented, trying to hide the fact that she was really flattered by the way the cat purred and brushed against her legs.

The old gentleman introduced himself as a new neighbor, and Vega vaguely remember a line or two mentioning an old trusted neighbor and her new ugly, but loveable dog. Solomon Adler, he said. She decided to call him Mr. Adler.

They chatted about the weather, why he moved to Southern California from the Bay, Ellie’s favorite perch basking in TV radiation. Then Solomon finally convinced his cat to stop sniffing at his new neighbor’s every plant. She bade them good day and made to return to her volume, humming and trying to remember what song this tune came from before giving up: she was too excited about visiting their new neighbors officially with Saphira.

Puddle of Thoughts

Do people ever write about the cold after the rain?

There are the appraisals for clear skies and bright blues, but is it enough to keep warm?

Do poets ever talk about the greed of the fallen rain, how the droplets, dethroned from their title, “rain,” the moment they crashed landed and joined aimless puddles, rush to take heat to be air or seek a sense of purpose?

Do writers ever notice that their streams of consciousness follow the same desires, just like another body of water morphing through nothing to be something?

Just the phases of writing.

An Atypical Morning

“Why are you up so early?”

“The same could be said about yourself.”

“…I am a morning person, thank you for noticing. Coffee?”

“At 5 a.m.?”

“I will take that as a no.”

“…”

“…what, did you forget what ‘coffee’ is?”

“…”

“It’s that dark, bitter stuff that Saphira is addicted to.”

“Oh, that. I don’t like it.”

“…okay, I will go make you some chocolate.”

“I can make it myself.”

“Nah, I treasure my mugs’ and my kitchen’s safety.”

“Oh please, that was only one time!”

“…Right.”

“So, why are you up so early?”

“Unlike you, I have worries and responsibilities. I work.”

“…What’s lingering on your mind?”

“…”

“What is it?”

“I am almost done. Go play with your owl or something.”

“Did you have nightmares?”

“I am not a child — ”

“– My mother said that adults can have nightmares, too.”

“None of your business. Go find that feathered piece of shit before it runs off again.”

“Flies off. Owls fly, Canopus.”

“Whatever.”

“…”

“No.”

“What, I didn’t even ask anything!”

“And I already know it’s none of your business.”

“It was her, wasn’t it?”

“Please, fuck off. Oh, and take your chocolate.”

“…”

“Do I need to define ‘fuck off’ for you? Please just take your chocolate and let me think in peace.”

“If you never talk about it, the nightmares won’t go away.”

“Oh, did your dad tell you that?”

“How did you know?”

“…Please just let me work.”

“But you are just conjuring nonsense on your writing apparatus.”

“Laptop. It’s called a laptop.”

“You can trust me.”

“Sure.”

“I mean, I know what she’s capable of. She was the one who cut me open and stuff.”

“…You don’t have to pretend that you are fine with it.”

“And nor do you.”

“…”

“…”

“Please just go find your owl.”

“Stop blaming yourself.”

“…”

“Hoot.”

“Where the fuck did he come from?”

“He agrees with me.”

“That does not answer my question. And, I don’t really want to talk about it right now.”

“…So you might tell me later?”

“Maybe one day, of coure, I will pour out my heart and recount my life’s trauma at your disposal.”

“…”

“…”

“Sorry for asking too much.”

“…”

“…”

“…Sorry for being an asshole.”

“What? Did you just apolo — ”

“ — Nothing.”

“Ha.”

“Hoot.”

“Shut up.”