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Missing Buttons [12 Genre Months]

There were always two buttons missing—two buttons from my white, collared shirt, two buttons from the back pockets of my navy blue jeans, and two buttons from my black, iron-pressed blazer. I grew up with two buttons less than everyone else. And, it was never a problem despite the curiosity my strange circumstances stirred.

Growing up, everyone seemed to notice my missing buttons—my friends, their parents, the teachers, and the bullies. Nobody dared to ask where my buttons had gone to—some teased and made wild assumptions—but they were all very curious. From the way they parted their lips in hesitation of a question to the way their eyes darted to and from the loose threads, I knew they wanted to know. Alas, I myself had no idea where my buttons were. I didn’t remove them on purpose. There was no reason for me to un-thread them. They just always went missing in my possession. And the older I got, the more baffled I was by their mysterious disappearances. Yet, oddly enough, I didn’t see the need to find out why, how, and what. That is, until the day they reappeared—all of them… in my bedroom cupboard.

I had lived thirty-five years with two missing buttons from everything I owned. I had learned to adapt, using zips and velcros to hold things in place. People were still curious. I still shrugged in oblivion of the answer they sought. However, it wasn’t a predicament. I could live with missing buttons. I didn’t need them. But on the night of my thirty-fifth birthday, I found them.

I had just returned from a dinner with friends when I yanked my cupboard open for a clean pair of clothes. As the door clicked free from the magnetic lock, a heap of buttons streamed onto my wooden floor. At first, I thought it was a joke. Everyone I knew, knew about my missing buttons. There was a possibility that someone thought it would be funny to gift me hundreds of buttons to make up for all the missing ones. But while I cupped the buttons into an empty pail, I noticed something about them—most of them weren’t new. The white, plastic buttons had turned off-white, the metal ones had browned from oxidation, and the cloth-covered buttons were peeling from their seams. They were my buttons. And at the realisation of my past returning to haunt me, I hastily reached for the phone to give my mother a call.

“The missing buttons, mum. The ones from my shirts and pants—they’re all here,” I said, withholding not the apprehension in my voice.

“What about those buttons?” my mother asked.

“They’re here, mum. Right here, in my house—in my cupboard.”

“Just toss them out if you don’t need them,” my mother replied, too calmly.

“I know. I will. But why are they here? All of them—suddenly?”

“I don’t know,” my mother said.

“Wait…” My mother wasn’t reacting the way I thought she would—she was taking the event too lightly. Was she the culprit? Could I now heave a sigh of relief? “Was it you? Did you put them here?” I asked.

“Why would I put buttons in your cupboard?”

“This isn’t funny, mum. Are you and dad hiding in the kitchen or something?” I stalked toward the bedroom door, ready to call my mum out on her joke—ready for the birthday surprise. Unfortunately, such wasn’t the case.

“Ben, I wouldn’t take a five-hour flight just to put buttons in your cupboard,” my mother insisted—her tone now serious.

“Then how did they get here?” I demanded. “Who put them here?”

At that question, I froze. There was more to my fear—now rooting me to the ground. Who… put them here? Who was the person who had stolen my buttons for thirty-five years and had just decided to return them without reason. Was this person still in the house? Was this person watching me?

“Mum, I need you to ask dad to call the police,” I said.

“Ben, you need to calm down.”

“I can’t calm down, mum. Those missing buttons…” I paused, hesitating to leave the bedroom. “Someone was here. Someone put-”

“Ben, I need you to calm down.”

“How do you expect me to calm down? Someone-”

You… put them there, Ben,” my mother interrupted.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Ben, I need you to listen.”

“Mum-”

“I need you to collect those buttons and throw them out. Can you do that?” my mother asked.

“I… don’t understand.”

“Just do as I tell you.”

“Why?”

“Ben, listen to me. You have-”

“I’ve got to go, mum.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She sounded insane. “I’ll call you later.”

“Don’t hang up on me. I need you to throw the buttons away and tell me once you’ve done so.”

Why did she insist I do that? I turned to look behind me where the buttons had spread across the bedroom floor. But in the expectation of their disconcerting nature, I found them gone.

“Ben,” my mother called. “Ben, are you there?”

“Yes,” I replied. Where did the buttons go? How did they just… disappear. “They’re gone… the buttons.”

“You threw them out?”

Should I tell her that they simply vanished? I didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to panic. Did I imagine it all? Despite the many troubling questions, I heard myself say, “Yes, I threw them out.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“They’re gone now.”

“Good,” my mother said. “Now, go to bed—it’s late.”

I hesitated to douse the mystery—to demand for an explanation. But instead, I did as I was told. After all, they were gone now—the buttons were missing once again. And honestly, that was all that mattered.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Original Works

 

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How About John? [12 Genre Months]

“How about John? He’s the closest to your type,” she said.

I shrugged in reply. It was almost always like this–conversations that moved from work to the possible candidates around me. And, because my type was often considered a niche, I was given the same names–encouraged to approach the same few men on a helplessly short name list.

“If you want, I know of a way I can get you and John acquainted,” she added, with a beaming smile.

Yes, I didn’t know John. But funnily enough, I knew a lot about him. Friends in common have showed me his social media profiles. They have spoken highly of him. They have shared their encounters and praised John’s admirable qualities. I wasn’t even sure if I could call John an acquaintance. I knew too much–it was as if we were actually friends.

“Nah,” I replied. My answer was always the same.

“A few of us are getting together this weekend. You should join–John will be there.”

“Nah,” I repeated. Why should I try? Based on past experiences, trying didn’t do me any good. Whenever I took steps to get to know someone new, I would quickly learn I didn’t fit their bill. It was always a waste of precious time–time I could’ve spent reading that book I bought three years ago or simply staring at a wall.

“You have to make an investment if you want something to happen, you know,” she said.

Did I actually want something to happen? Everyone made John out to be this sought after man, that I should make a move if I wanted to be noticed. But honestly, I didn’t care if he noticed me. So why did I need to get his attention? Why couldn’t he be the one seeking my attention instead?

Perhaps it wasn’t like this for John. Perhaps the gentlemen didn’t suggest names, show pictures, and offer help during their get-togethers. Perhaps it was only us ladies who tried endlessly to match-make our friends. Why did we do that? Why were we all equally guilty of making romance a key player in our happiness?

“It sounds like too much work,” I replied.

She sighed an expected sigh. It wasn’t the first time–I’ve made a lot of people sigh. They would either sigh at my lack of attempt or when I turned down a potentially good candidate.

“That’s not a priority right now,” I added.

She frowned an expected frown. It was a common response to my hypocritical statement. Despite the quest for love not being a priority in my life, it sometimes felt important–important enough to entertain suggestions and make plans. So yes, I was a hypocrite. But, not because I chose to be one. I had no reason for oscillating between genuine interest and resignation. I didn’t understand my actions and decisions in this subject matter. Was it just me? Or were we all on the same swaying boat, tossed in a storm of expectations and acceptance.

“How about Matthew?” she asked.

She wasn’t listening to me. No one listened to the boy who cried wolf. And, to prove my role in the acclaimed fable, I asked, “Who?”

“Hold on, let me show you.” She swiftly retrieved her phone from her handbag, excited to show me a new candidate. Alas, when I gazed upon his picture, I could only offer a disappointing response.

“Oh, this guy,” I replied with little enthusiasm.

“He’s almost your type.”

“Yea, but…”

“No?”

“No.”

“Seriously, it’s impossible to find someone you like.”

“I know.”

It was a blessing in disguise. If no one could fit my ideals, I could think about something else. I could spend my energy and resources on the other things that made me happy.

“How about you?” I asked. It was time to shift the conversation around–to stop dwelling on the fact that I might be single for life. Was that a happy or a sad fact? It didn’t matter. It was her turn to contemplate about her happiness. “Aaron is a nice guy,” I stated.

“He is,” she replied. “But our desires don’t align.”

“What desires? He seems like a good fit for you.”

“He wants a stay-at-home wife. I can’t be that.”

“Oh. That’s disappointing. I guess we can scrape him off your list then.”

“Yea.”

“How about John? He’s almost your type,” I said.

“I… don’t know.”

Was she now pondering if a relationship could truly make her happy? Did she care if John noticed her? Was she willing to take the first step?

She wasn’t like me. She never once said that a relationship wasn’t a priority. But, maybe she kept that thought to herself. Perhaps I wasn’t the only hypocrite. Or, maybe I was–she could be more hopeful than I would ever be. She could have more suitors and prospects. In comparison, my lack of effort could be a reflection of my unpopularity.

Stuck in the unknown of my own wants and desires, it was my turn to heave a sigh. I didn’t sigh at her response but at the undetermined, incomprehensible, and often bothersome state I was in. How long would I have to float in this unsettlement? Alike its very nature, I will never know.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Moonlight Pavilion [12 Genre Months]

As the sky faded from bright blue to pale grey, I hurried to the well in the servant quarters. It had been filled most of the way with cement, topped with a wooden lid. Despite the narrow enclosure, there was enough room. So, I closed myself in and waited–I waited until my watch ticked twelve. And when the two beeps broke silence, I hastily climbed out into the peaceful night.

The ancient palace grounds were different under the starry sky. A mist had settled, the crickets and owls were now awake, and the trees rustled in the cool midnight breeze. There was also something magical in the air, stirring an emotion that sent my heart racing with excitement. Sneaking into a wide pathway, I hesitated not to set my imagination free. For where I stood had taken on a new life–one so real that I found myself startled when a maidservant ran right past me.

She wore a plain white dress, embracing a china vase in her arms. Night shadowed her face, but I knew she was in trouble. Unfortunately, right when I planned to follow her, I spotted two palace guards. They were armed with sharpened blades and stern, unfriendly faces. In fear of being caught, I slipped behind a bush. But when the guards finally strolled out of sight, so was the maidservant. Sighing at the missed opportunity, I headed to the royal garden instead.

The royal garden was a masterpiece at nightfall. Lanterns hung from towering trees, lighting the crystal clear ponds. Lotus flowers floated on the surface of the glistening waters as the fishes beneath rippled the reflection of the moon. I planted myself by the water, listening to a frog croaking in sync with a hooting owl. But halfway through their duet, another joined in. It was a humming of some sort. And oddly, I became determined to find it.

Far from the realm of humans, nature breathed with a passion. The humming grew louder as I followed a narrow path, winding through the timberland. There was an absence of lanterns along the descending route, but the buzzing lights from a million fireflies brought heaven to earth. They guided me until I reached the end of my journey, where a large lake said ‘hello’.

The lake was like any other lake, except for the lonely structure in its center. With red pillars, adorned with paper lanterns at the four corners of the concave roof, the pavilion nestled within the full moon’s reflection. It wasn’t barren, but bore a low table homing parchment paper, paintbrushes, and a tea set. There was also a man, who stood when he saw me nearing his safe haven.

“Who are you?” he asked, as he strolled to the entrance of the pavilion. He donned a silky blue robe with a golden, dragon-embroidered crest on his chest.

“I’m… not supposed to be here,” I replied.

“Clearly.” The stranger eyed me from head-to-toe. Then, with a strange question, he asked, “Are you real?”

Frowning, I asked in return, “Are you real?”

He chuckled and waved me over. After a second of hesitation, I crossed a series of large rocks that made the pathway. And when I finally came face-to-face with the young man, he prompted, “What’s your name?”

“Rose. What’s yours?”

“Sun,” he answered, as he returned to the low table.

“Sun?”

Sun gestured for me to take a seat across from him. “Tell me about yourself, Rose,” he said.

“Myself?” Shouldn’t I be asking the questions? Nevertheless, I replied, “Well, I’ve been travelling a lot recently–exploring one country after another in search of a story. My publisher has been pushing me for a new book, and… I think I might’ve just found a tale worth telling.”

You’re a writer?” he asked.

“I write stories–fictional ones.”

“I’m a poet,” he said. “So, how long have you been travelling? Where have you been?”

“I’ve only been to a few countries in the past month.”

“In the past month? But how?” Sun seemed eager to know.

“By flying, I-”

“You can fly?” Sun asked in childlike amazement.

“No. I take an airplane–a vehicle with wings.”

“A dragon?”

“I guess… you can call it that.” I chuckled. “How about you, Sun? Tell me about you,” I said.

“Ah, well, I’m not really a poet by profession,” he confessed. “I’m, well, a prince–recently made crown prince, and conveniently betrothed to a princess.”

“Congratulations.”

Sun laughed. “Thank you. I’m not exactly excited, but thanks.”

“Being a king isn’t what you want?”

“I want to be a poet. I don’t want to rule or marry a princess I barely know.”

“Sorry. I wish I could help,” I said.

Sun heaved a sigh. There was a brief moment of silence, before he changed the topic. “Do you know what this pavilion is called?”

I shrugged, turning my attention to the unique structure–spreading across the ceiling was a swirling painting of the starry night sky, and sweeping across the floor were pastel koi fishes and blooming lotuses.

“I call it, Moonlight Pavilion. I had it built a year ago as a place to escape reality.”

“Moonlight Pavilion,” I echoed.

“Do you like the name?”

“It’s a nice name.”

We admired the pavilion for a few good minutes. A gentle breeze now settled in the air, and despite having more questions, neither of us said a word–Sun returned to his writing while I sat watching. Strangely, as the minutes ticked by, I slowly drifted to sleep. And, the last thing I heard–in the midst of nature’s symphony–was a question.

When my eyes reopened, day had arrived. I found myself on the floor of an old, abandoned pavilion–parts of the roof had caved in, allowing streaks of sunlight to bask upon my face. Reality has always been vastly different–the lake had dried up, the rocky pathway were missing a few steps, and what was a comforting escape in my head had become a dead and hazardous place. There was no wonder why the area was restricted.

Not wanting to linger on the forsaken ground any longer, I trekked my way back to the main path. Once on permitted soil, I spotted the earliest tour group ahead of me. Quickly joining them, I was certain I could get out uncaught.

As the group shuffled along, the tour guide announced, “Right behind us is a trail to the Moonlight Pavilion. It was built by the twenty-fifth crown prince, who later renamed the structure to Rose Pavilion.”

“Rose?” I muttered under my breath. Wait, was my sanity in question? I couldn’t recall that fact from the time I read the visitor’s brochure. In that instant, I knew my answer to his lingering question. Whether it proved me sane or mad, I knew what I had to do.

“Will you come back, Rose?” he asked.

“It seems… I have to.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Alexa the Great Explorer [12 Genre Months]

Gunshots were fired. The explosion of gunpowder reverberated through the trees. Rustling the timberland, the intrusion sent nesting birds into the sky and wildlife into burrows. The only two beings unable to hide raced down a slippery path, wet from the midnight showers.

“Do you know where you’re going?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“What? You don’t know?”

I wasn’t sure if I should trust her or express my concern. But despite my question, I kept my pace. And despite her answer, she kept hers. She didn’t take a single glance behind and neither did I. We already knew who were after us. We knew what they wanted. And though we didn’t know the distance between us and the mercenaries, we could hear them loud and clear.

“Keep moving,” she said, as the trees began to thin.

Not wanting to be left behind, I stayed hot on her heels. I ignored the burning in my calves and thighs. I gave myself no excuse to stop. But then, she did–she stopped. Her shoes skidded across a muddy patch, her arms briefly flailed at her sides, before she halted at the fringe of a cliff. Unfortunately, when I discovered why she had stopped, it was too late. I skidded through the same pool of mud, my arms flailed by my sides, but momentum was against me. I tipped over the edge and lost all hope of survival. I was certain I was done for, until she yanked me to safety.

“Watch where you’re going,” she stated.

“Thanks,” I muttered. It was a close call, but she gave me no room to digest my brush with death.

“Do you see another way?” she prompted.

I took a quick look around, hoping to find another path. Alas, there was none.

“No,” I replied. And instantly, I had a dreadful inkling. I knew what she was going to say, and she said it.

“Jump.”

“Are you insane?” I asked.

The hollers and shouts from the men stampeding after us grew louder at every second. They were getting close. And the only option, as we stood at the edge of the rocky cliff–plummeting toward the rapids below–was to jump.

“Jump,” she repeated.

This time, she didn’t wait for my response. She did what she always did best–escape from danger. As my only guide of this world leaped off without hesitation, I stood rooted to the ground. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t her. This wasn’t my world–it wasn’t my adventure. Yet, there I was. And if I wanted to continue on, I had to jump before I took a bullet in the chest–before it’s game over.

“I can do this,” I coaxed myself. “If Alexa can do it, so can I.”

Alexa was the bravest adventurer known to men. Everyone, or at least almost everyone, knew who she was–Alexa the Great Explorer. The one who would brave snow storms and scale icy mountains, the one who would swim in dangerous waters and wrestle sea monsters, the one who would jump off airplanes and, at that very moment, off a cliff into the angry river far below. Alexa was fearless, bold, and resilient. In comparison, I was a scared child.

As I looked upon the raging water, ready to engulf me upon my descent, I took a deep breath and said a short, silent prayer. Should I survive the jump, what was next? This world has tried to kill me more than once and I wouldn’t be surprised if it finally succeeded.

Hesitating no more, I shuffled backward–ready to leap into the unknown. But as I took one foot forward, the world stopped–time stopped.

“It’s dinner time,” my mother called from the kitchen.

“Just let me finish this chapter,” I replied.

“Don’t make me come get you,” she threatened.

Dragging my reluctant self, from my bed and into the hallway, I pleaded, “Come on, just a few more pages.”

My mother peered out from the kitchen doorway with a death stare. If the mercenaries didn’t kill me, my mother would.

“Fine,” I said, bookmarking the page as I returned to reality.

“You can continue after dinner,” my mother stated.

“It’s not the same. It’s not exciting anymore.”

“Well, I’m sorry you have to eat.”

Rolling my eyes, I slumped into the dining chair with the book on my lap. All I had to do was get through sixty minutes in my world, before I could return to Alexa’s. Then, once there, I wouldn’t leave until the story ends. With such an adventure waiting–one worth embarking on–nothing and no one will stop me from finishing it.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Dear Victor [12 Genre Months]

Dear Victor,

You need to stop. Stop making me think these vicious thoughts. Stop putting these vile images in my head. Stop filling my dreams with these disgusting fantasies. Stop turning me into a monster. I beg of you, Victor. Please stop. I don’t want to live like this. I don’t want to be an animal. I’m a person. I’m a good person. Please let me be a good person, Victor. I don’t want to be the bad guy any longer. Please… just let me be human.

Thy Adam

“How many letters are there?”

“Hundreds.”

Dear Victor,

You are a sick and cruel man. You need help. You are deranged. The news people call me horrible names, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know that it’s not me. It has never been me. It was always you. You and your sinful plans. You and your crazy desires. You’re the corrupted beast they talk about. Not me. Never me. Now look at what you’ve made me do. You must be happy. You must be proud. But enough. Enough of this madness, Victor. You have to stop now. I’m not going to do your bidding anymore. I’m not yours. I won’t be yours. I cannot be yours any longer.

Adam

“Where do you think he planned to go with these?”

“You think they’re made up?”

Dear Victor,

I told you to stop. I told you many times. Don’t push me, Victor. I can do scary things on my own. Vile, vicious, scary things that are worse than anything you can come up with. Worse than the thoughts you put in my head–worse than the actions you make me take. If you don’t make me a hero like those before me, I’ll be the monster you created. And I’ll destroy you. Before my story ends, I’ll take you down. You will never see the success of your wicked plans. You will only regret–regret everything.

Adam

“They can’t be real.”

“The writing isn’t in his own hand–we ran tests. And based on the interviews, we have reason to believe these weren’t his own words.”

Victor,

I’m done reasoning with you. Do you think this is a joke? I’ve seen you laugh at my letters. I’ve heard you mock them, as though my words are meaningless. But they’re not meaningless. I will find a way to reach you. And when I do, Victor, I will end you. Just like your plan to end my life, I will end yours. You won’t be able to corrupt my future any longer. You will be in a grave. I will put you there myself. I will use these hands–hands you’ve used to kill innocent lives–to kill you. It will be the end of your story. Now, wouldn’t that make a good plot twist?

Adam

“So we’re talking about a homicide–not suicide?”

“I don’t know. The pieces don’t match up. There were no signs of a break-in or a struggle. It looks like suicide, but something just doesn’t seem right.”

Victor,

I’ve found a way through. I can reach you now. I can physically reach you. I don’t have to leave you letters anymore. You cannot dismiss me now. You cannot ignore me. Just you wait, Victor. I’ll come for you when you least expect. But until that day, where you finally face the monster you’re so proud of, I’ll watch you. I’ll remember your last laughs. I’ll be thankful for the life you gave me. After all, you are my beloved creator. And you deserve what little gratitude I have for you… before I write you into my story.

Adam

“Possibility of a crazy fan? You know how some of them can be.”

“That’s my first theory. But even his closest friends didn’t know anything about his new book–only his publisher had access to the notes, and even they weren’t made privy to what Victor had already written. And, if it was indeed a crazy fan, why didn’t he report the letters?”

Victor,

Tonight is the night. I have it all planned out. You cannot rewrite this story. This won’t be a draft. My plans will not be edited. You have no control over me, not when I’m in your world, and no more after tonight. I look forward to seeing you, Victor. I’m ready to meet my maker.

Adam

“This investigation has gone on for too long, mate. His fans are demanding a resolution, so just make up a story and we’ll run with it.”

“That’s not how I do things, you know that.”

Dear Victor,

May your story live on, and may the lives you’ve written be finally free.

Thy Adam

“Oh look, this last one makes for a good book dedication. Just right the report, all right? Then you can finally call yourself an author.”

“That’s a crime.”

“Aren’t all authors criminals?”

“Not in their world, they’re not.”

“This isn’t your world. This is Victor’s.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Blind Faith [12 Genre Months]

“Are you one of them now?” I asked.

“You know me,” he replied.

“No, I don’t. Not anymore.”

Our pistols were drawn from their holsters–their muzzles aimed to kill. One of us would die today, and the other would live on with regret. If only he had listened to me. If only he had turned the offer down. I warned him that he would lose sight of himself. But, he was stubborn. He wanted the thrill. He found excitement in the dangers that entailed. And because of that–a selfish pursuit–another member on our team had to die.

“I’m not one of them,” he stated, holding an unfamiliar, placid mien–a sign that he had, indeed, changed.

“You’re not fooling anyone.”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“Why did you join them?”

“I didn’t join them.”

“We know what’s going to happen tonight. So spare me the lies.”

He hesitated–his gaze shifted to the dust-laden cement floor. It was an involuntary reaction, one that occured within a split second–one I was trained to spot.

“Fine,” he said.

The world was deep in slumber. There were no witnesses in the abandoned warehouse, where we would soon bury our relationship and the truth that came with it. The secrets shared would remain within the peeling, crumbling walls. And the blood spilled would fade to a stain no one would question. But before I put the case to rest, I needed to know how and why.

“How did they change you?”

“They didn’t change me. I’m still me.”

“No, you’re different.”

I had known him for ten years. And though people do change, no change can drastically occur within three months. His unemotional, nonchalant approach in the face of death was alien. I was confident he wasn’t the man I knew. Amongst the others, he had never been able to master such courage. Despite his enthusiasm for death-defying missions, he couldn’t stare down an enemy without a flicker of fear in his eyes. But that night, he could. He could pull the trigger–murder the man who had saved his life countless times–without any hesitation.

“Think what you want,” he said. “But I’m still me–a better, un-corrupted version of me.”

“Is that why you joined them?”

“You would too, if only you saw the truth.”

“I don’t do cults.”

“We’re not a cult. We’re a movement–a resistance against your blind faith.”

“That’s what all cults call themselves–a movement, a resistance, playing gods over humanity.”

“It saddens me how you fail to see the light.”

“I’m sorry–I’ve yet to attain enlightenment.”

“You mock me now, but you’ll soon regret your words.”

Yes, regret. Regret that I would soon have to end the life of the man I once called brother. Or regret that I would soon die at his hands. But the latter wasn’t an option. This enemy was growing at an alarmingly rapid rate. Their recruitment efforts–whatever they were–were working. Two of our men had died in attempts to leave their premises, one went missing, and two openly lied about their stance–one of which I had to put down six months ago. Five elite soldiers, trained to face the worst of humanity, now lost in battle. So I clicked the hammer of my handgun.

“You’ll regret your actions,” I replied. Still, I hesitated.

There were only three of us left. If the remaining of us failed, it would be the end of the Delta team. Would Epsilon succeed after us? As my finger grazed the trigger, I shoved those doubts aside. I had to do my job, so I said a silent goodbye to another fallen member. And just before he put a bullet through my head, I put a bullet through his.

As his body fell limp to the ground, I heaved a sigh. I had to dispose of another body, but not before I made the call. They had to know. They were waiting. After two rings, the Master answered.

“Has he gone to meet with the Lord?” Master asked.

“Yes, Master.”

“Then let us pray that the Lord has mercy on him.”

“I will pray through the night, Master.”

“Will you be returning to the temple tomorrow?”

“I cannot–I’m afraid they are watching me.”

“Then stay safe and be vigilant, my son. Our Temple of Eternity will keep you in prayer, too.”

“Thank you, Master.”

“Blessed is the pure of heart.”

“Blessed is the pure of heart.”

At the click of the phone line, I heaved another sigh. Master would soon send another member of our team behind enemy lines. It wouldn’t be me–I was the only one who could restore order if one of our remaining men fell. But should they fail, my time would come. With enough prayer, I have faith I can withstand the lies of the enemy. After all, as Master said, I own the purest heart amongst them all.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2018 in Original Works

 

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The Myth of Politicus and Zhen [12 Genre Months]

“I’m here to see Professor Lin. My name’s Rob Whelan–I made an appointment.”

The secretary–who looked like a student of the university itself–scrolled through a list on his tablet. When he found my name, squeezed between a Professor Doherty and Doctor Lyon, he rose from his seat and gestured at the oak door to my right.

“She’s expecting you,” he said.

Already late for the appointment, I thanked the young man and stalked into the mahogany-themed office–a uniform decor of the historical establishment.

“You’re late,” she stated.

Lin was seated behind a polished wooden table, surrounded by books stacked high on the carpeted floor–the bookshelves against the four walls offered no space for the newer editions.

“Sorry. Bad habit,” I replied.

“Have a seat,” she prompted.

Lin’s dark straight hair, deep set eyes, and thin lips were the same as how I remembered them to be. But on that sunny afternoon, Lin wasn’t in a pink, silk gown. She donned–what most educators in a place as such would–a dull, black and white suit.

“It’s been awhile. How’s your book doing?” she asked.

“Not good. My publisher wants another. Soon,” I admitted, planting myself on the velvet armchair across her desk.

“And… that’s why you’re here.”

“Partially.” I smirked.

Lin chuckled. “So, what do you want to pick my brain on?”

“The myth of Politicus and Zhen.”

“What about it?”

“I have a few ideas to run by you.”

“Something you could’ve done via email.”

“True. But I wanted to see you–it’s been awhile, like you said.”

Lin and I met when we were ten. She lived with my family for two years, while her parents had ‘some issues to sort out’. We kept in touch after she returned home. And, once in a few years, our families would get together for Christmas. But since she began teaching at the university, it was almost impossible to meet her–she was a fourteen-hour flight away and always working on the holidays.

“We can catch up later. Let’s get to work first,” she said.

“Right. So, Politicus and Zhen–do you think they could’ve actually existed?”

“The Empire of Chrysus isn’t in any historical records, neither is King Politicus and Queen Zhen. I would say their story is parallel to Greek mythology.”

“But, I did some reading online, and some people theorise that Queen Zhen was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gaozu.”

“None of Emperor Gaozu’s daughters left their country. That’s a fanboy theory, Rob. But, a good one to roll with. Is that your intended direction?”

“No. I just wanted to know what you think.”

“I don’t think they’re real.”

“I see. Personally though…” I hesitated.

“Personally what?”

“I believe otherwise,” I stated. Lin raised her eyebrows. But as her lips parted to question my belief, I continued, “Anyway, do you think it’s possible for Politicus to retain his memories after each life?”

“The original tale didn’t say he could. But since you’re writing fiction, anything goes.”

“Do you think, that with his memories, he can help Zhen remember their past?”

“How–with true love’s kiss?” Lin chuckled. “Wait, is this new book a romance novel?”

“A little romance doesn’t hurt.”

“The themes of this myth are greed and violence. The consequence of Politicus’ brutality was an eternal curse–witnessing the death of his lover in each life cycle, with no hope of happiness. You can toss in a little romance, but a happy ending will be far-fetch, not to mention, cliche.”

“He can break the curse.”

“By wakening Zhen’s memories?”

“That’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

“Not really. It doesn’t quite make sense.”

“Why?”

“Is your story set in the twenty-first century?”

“Yes.”

“Then first off, Politicus claiming to be Politicus will make him seem insane. Nobody will believe him, let alone Zhen. Secondly, Zhen recalling her memories won’t save her since thematically, the myth isn’t about love. What I logically foresee, is Zhen living in an endless loop, well aware she only has twenty-nine years each cycle. And, the idea that Politicus helped her remember–under the pretense of breaking the curse–paints Politicus as selfish as he was before. It won’t be a show of love. Making the love of your life aware of eternal damnation isn’t love. Love is Politicus suffering alone until he breaks the curse, which is unlikely to involve wakening Zhen’s memories.”

“Right.”

“But, that premise can make quite an adventure–Politicus and Zhen working together to free themselves from the curse.”

“It just… doesn’t make logical sense to you.”

“It doesn’t.”

I sighed. Why couldn’t I see it before? Still, I had to ask. “One more question,” I prompted. “If you were in Zhen’s shoes and Politicus awakened your memories-”

“I might grow to resent him,” she interrupted.

I nodded. “Well, I guess it’s safe to say romance isn’t my forte.”

Lin chuckled. “Stay away from romance, Rob. Stick to your action-adventure-treasure-hunting stuff. It’s what you’re great at. Honestly, I thought you were going to ask me about Politicus’ sword of vengeance. The sword makes a good set-up.”

I forced a smile. “It sure does.”

There was no need to ask about the sword–I knew a lot about it already. And she was right; the sword did make a good set-up. It brought upon a curse I could only blame myself for. But trust me, I’ve tried. No matter how far and wide I’ve searched–in this lifetime and the ones before–I’ve yet to find anything that will break this eternal damnation. But admittedly, I am selfish to wish I wasn’t alone. Is it wrong to desire recognition from the one I love? I’ve lived more than a thousand lives with her by my side, but not once has she looked at me the way she did when she first died. Even in this twenty first century life–a month and fifteen days before her death–there was no love in her gaze. And, if I didn’t want her to resent me, I will have to watch her die… again.

“Free for dinner tonight?” I asked.

“No questions about the sword?”

“None.”

“I should be free tonight.”

“Great. It’ll be awhile before we get to meet again.”

Lin chuckled. “That’s life, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “That’s… how it always seems to be.”

Perhaps in our next life, I’ll finally break the curse—ending this vicious cycle–and make what Zhen calls a cliche ending… our reality.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2018 in Original Works

 

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