In the Light of Shadow

In the Light of Shadow

A crystal-like chandelier floats just below the ceiling of a long-narrow room. The width of the room fits only the chandelier, and the width of the chandelier echoes that of a person in good health. Sparkling, white, as if from nowhere the light flickers throughout the space creating patterns seen only against the shadows it makes. Lacking physical bulbs of light, the chandelier, as if from within, merely emanates a rich, stimulating glow. Ever so often the baubles gently clink against each other creating the twinkling sounds to which all other sounds are compared. Round, perfectly spherical, the chandelier begins to slowly rotate around its center.

Fuchsia, the light of the chandelier slowly grows in intensity as it changes hues. Red. A rod iron bistro chair rests in one far edge of the room, and on the chair rests the older woman. Legs crossed, right over left, the older woman sits calmly with hands folded upon her lap. The older woman inhales a deep breath. With an exhale, the older woman must wait. The chandelier returns to its colorless clarity.

Cerulean, the light of the chandelier slowly grows in intensity as it changes hues. Blue. A brown leather armchair appears in the far edge of the room, opposite the rod iron chair, and on the chair appears the storming woman. Cross-legged, fully comfortable upon the ample chair, the storming woman cautiously places her elbows upon her knees, clasps each hand with the other, her chin rests upon her hands. The storming woman stares at the older woman who sits across from her on the other side of the long, narrow room.

Returned to its colorless sparkle, the chandelier greets them both, “A bridge burns.” The women sit, the older woman quite stiff and unapproachable, the storming woman quite relaxed albeit on guard. “It’s the way, Attila, through which all ways are made,” the older woman speaks aloud. “It’s the way, Ma’am, by which all things are learned,” the storming woman responds. They sit, each staring at the other, for an unknowable amount of time.

Laughing, the older woman concedes, “She cannot know what she does not know.” “Unknowing,” the storming woman explains. “Could not,” the older woman again concedes. The storming woman feels a tingle of suspicion, “A gap in knowledge does not ignorance make, however.” “Everyone relies on some truth, no matter how small,” the older woman replies. “A fabricated truth is still truth.” “Of course. A fabricated lie is also truth.” “Of course.”

The room bends. A realization immediately hits them both. “Attila,” the older woman warns. “No,” the storming woman demands. The chandelier begins to slowly blink. Keen on the change, both women dart their eyes to the light’s source. “Curse you!” the storming woman yells. Chartreuse. “And to you too, dear,” the older woman calmly responds. The sound a tree branch makes when a branch breaks sears through the tiny space. Black.

Empty, the room returns itself back to a long, narrow shape. The chandelier shakes itself off like a wet cat. Clear, crystal-like, sparkling and clean, the light spreads patterns against shadow throughout a place where color forfeits.

 

Gratitude is not an attitude

Gratitude is not an attitude

When your boss ought to know more than you about certain things (probably most things) related to your employment, i.e. all the things you need to do at your job, the most important thing becomes your boss’s own competence, and yesterday, not only did I learn that my boss is highly competent, but also, she’s unlike any other boss I have ever had before. Of course, I am a new employee (still under a probationary period), and perhaps, the boss is capable of seeming competent for a short period of time. I do not believe that this is the case, but obviously, anything is possible. And so, I tread optimistically with caution, as I have been brutally disappointed before, after exactly this sort of employment excitement.

Thus, my point seems to be circling around thoughts about how I am feeling validated in my personal ideologies about how to be a boss. This is, after all, the reason why I am working at the place I am working under the boss for whom I am working, to learn from her, everything that I can for my own business. And yesterday, she validated my natural proclivity for being generous.

One of my greatest fears in life is having someone take advantage of me. I hate it. There’s nothing worse than working hard for someone who could not give a shit. There’s also nothing worse than offering an opportunity to someone who does not see it. Also, there’s nothing worse than being taken for granted as either a great employee or employer. And this is where, so far, my new, current employer has everyone beat. She is not ungrateful. She does not let hard work go unnoticed.

As the snow fell and swept through Colorado yesterday, I thought, for sure, that I would be called to not come into work. As a newbie (and thereby unnecessary to daily operations, as of yet), I figured I would be the first to be cut or set free for the day. I was wrong. Not only did I have to come in, I was under the impression that we would operate for regular business hours (luckily we closed early), but this is not my point. My point is that I had no problems going to work. I thought that it was a bit strange, since I knew (without a doubt) that it would be slow (nearly dead), and it was. However, my boss made it clear that the lack of busy-ness would be perfect training ground for me, and it was. The day ended up going super fast because my boss was able to train me on things that I would not have been able to do during normal levels of customer traffic. And, since I was able to train as slowly as needed due to the slow dribble of customer arrivals (which I still cannot believe that anyone would willingly trudge into the snow, but I know that I am guilty of this all the time on snow days), I feel really confident in my newly-acquired skills.

Herein lies the lesson that I truly learned yesterday by trusting and not fighting against a boss to whom I have willing turned to learned—I finally have the competent oversight I’ve been searching for my entire life. Not only is my boss highly competent as a business owner and operations manager, she is also full of heart, love and warmth. I feel like a person when I work with her. And my coworkers seem as equally happy to work there as I am beginning to feel.

I have my own plans for owning and operating a business similarly complex as the business I have joined. And one of my greatest fears is that I will be too nice, too generous, too easily taken advantage of because of my niceness. At the exact same time, I also greatly fear demanding too much of people because I am demanding. Both of these fears have been greatly diminished because I am witnessing, with my own two eyes, that not only is it possible to balance these two seemingly conflicting ideals, but also, it absolutely works as a way to make employees feel good.

My boss was tough yesterday in demanding that the business be open, but she thanked us (the skeleton, bare-bones staff that came in yesterday, despite the feet of snow) for going out of our way to make sure that business was open for the community in which we live. Every customer who walked through our open doors was very grateful that we were open. Our boss was grateful that we all came in to make her business functional for the day. I am grateful that my boss is human enough to understand that she had requested something from us that went above what is needed from us as employees of an establishment that could have just as easily been closed. She thanked all of us who worked with more than just words, and for this, I cannot help but feel seen and cared for. It’s a simple thing really—seeing people as people. And yet, the task seems nearly impossible for most.

And so, the lessons I am learning hardly have anything to do with my actual job description. I know how to do the work for which I have been hired. I am merely being run through the ropes of this particular establishment. What I do not know, however, is how to be a boss to a lot of employees, but this is why I have chosen to work at this particular business. I’ve entered the business at the bottom of the chain, but I am taught by and interact with the top of the chain every single day. And the person at the top of this chain is teaching me all of the lessons I will hopefully need to learn before I start and open my own complex business; she’s teaching me not only how to treat my employees like people, but mostly, she’s teaching me that it’s okay to inject a lot of humanity into the rigorous work of hourly employment.

Obviously, I do not think that she is perfect (nobody is), nor do I think that the owners run a perfect business (nobody can), but I do think that I have greatly lucked out in being able to learn from someone who is setting an amazing example of what business ought to be … a place where people trade their time for the work that needs to be done, while they build a life from the sufficient amount of money they earn in exchange for their time and work. Business owners, to me, have a huge responsibility. And so really, all I’m saying is that it’s nice to work for someone who feels that burden of responsibility and who does the right thing by maintaining the loyalty of employees through gratitude and thankfulness, by acknowledging that a business is nothing without its employees.

The Girl Child with Locks of Gifts

The Girl Child with Locks of Gifts

By Iya Sun

 

On a purple pillow of silk thread that rests upon a cherry floor table, which resides inside a lush bamboo house that was built atop the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, sits an inordinately small, human, girl child named So Jeong. The day of her birth was like any other day in a world where people, as they are called in civil society, are born. Despite this casual beginning, the Swinging Leaves foretold many ages ago that on that particular day, a girl would emerge into the world with special gifts for each who would travel to look upon her face. With just a single lock of the child’s hair, the traveler would be granted the one wish for which the traveler had traveled the great distance. This, however, came with the small condition that neither the person who plucked the single lock from the girl child’s head nor any member of their future line could ever return to pluck a second strand.

For days, sometimes even months, travelers would travel from distances far and wide for a chance to climb the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. Giving no thought to the condition upon which the granting of a wish rests, many traveled to solve problems of the moment. Few rarely withstood the journey to the base of the mountain. Even fewer successfully made the climb. But, if even a few from every thousand that journeyed summited, the number of hairs plucked from the girl child’s head subtracted quickly. By the time So Jeong was but six years old, she had almost no hair at all.

Finally, one night, on the brink of death with only a few strands of her hair left, So Jeong cried into the night in grief for all that had been taken from her. Out of fear for the precious life of the girl child that might soon be lost, the Swinging Leaves built a small bamboo shelter to shield her from the travelers’ sights. The hopeful travelers continued to travel to visit the girl child, but for an unknowable amount of time, she sat unseen, which left the travelers with unfulfilled wishes. Alone now to heal and grow strong, the Swinging Leaves presented the girl child with a gift: The Four Cats of Wisdom. Over the course of the next, unknowable amount of time, The Cats would arrive. They were to provide her with warm, loving company while also instilling within her pillars of wisdom.

The first and oldest cat was named Gami the Gentleman. Gami possessed a coat of black with only the simplest white markings. A thin white moustache lined Gami’s upper lip; his chest was aglow in livery, his paws shod in white socks and mittens. Gami was, first and foremost, a gentleman, and as such, his instructions gave way to the girl child’s understanding of wisdom as a privilege, not a right. It was, according to Gami, So Jeong’s duty to forever learn, grow and understand, to always maintain and prepare her mind for the reception of knowledge.

Louie was the title of the second-in-line, and he was a Listener. Covered in a luscious bundle of the softest, fluffiest white and grey fur, Louie remained pleasant, always. Content to merely sit and watch the activities of the others was what made Louie, Louie. He never complained nor did he ever demand that things not be so. No matter what came his way, Louie the Listener heard the good, the bad and never made a fuss. As a Listener, he considered everything that came his way equally, and as the Listener, it was Louie who taught So Jeong about how the key to learning anything was through listening to what others had to say but more importantly, through listening to what she held in her own mind.

The last two cats of the Four Cats of Wisdom were, in fact, twins and as such, arrived simultaneously. Even though they were twins, they did not look exactly the same. Both wore fur of a similar fossil and charcoal striping. Anko wore white knee-high boots, however, while Choko wore white socks and mittens. Choko also donned a brownish moustache, while Anko was clean-shaven. The twins Anko and Choko arrived with a fury, in a flurry of chaos that resulted in the temporary loss of Louie the Listener. The one thing Louie could not tolerate was the raucous rambunctiousness of the twins. They were so cacophonous that Louie could not do the one thing he did best, listen. Despite the temporary hubbub, Anko and Choko quickly began their teachings, and not long after his departure, Louie returned.

Anko the Amicable taught the girl child many things about how to share and spread her knowledge to others. To be friendly, according to Anko, shows respect, and to respect, Anko instructed, instills comfort, and when a person feels comfortable, Anko continued, a person feels confident, and through confidence, Anko surmised, can a person accept who they are, and only after a person accepts who they are, may they accept who they are not.

Choko’s lessons were the most difficult for the girl child to ingest, for Choko was titled Choko the Champion. Choko consistently challenged the girl child in ways that seemed irrelevant to her, and yet he insisted that she would one day understand. That day, however, could not ever be determined or known, as explained repeatedly by Choko, since to know when one needs to be brave does not courage require, and courage is what makes a champion. For it is within the unknown that the courageous succeed. When a champion succeeds, humility requires courage. When a champion is bested, courage fuels grace.

After ages and ages, the girl child finally regained a full head of beautiful, long black hair that shone bright when the rays of the sun filtered in through the tiny slivers between the shoots of bamboo. One day, So Jeong desired so deeply to resume her task of giving gifts to those who made the arduous journey. She, however, did not know how or when this could possibly be accomplished. Thus, she hummed a small tune about all the wisdom Gami the Gentleman, Louie the Listener, Anko the Amicable, and Choko the Champion had taught her. Her song now finished and lingering within the walls of her shelter, the wind slowly snatched up the song as it seeped out between the bamboo’s cracks and delivered it to the Swinging Leaves.

The next day, the Swinging Leaves swung through the girl child’s shelter to share with her their decision. So Jeong giggled and twirled about on her pillow as she awaited the Swinging Leaves’ new arrangement. They had come to the conclusion that with the girl child’s hair now grown back stronger than ever, So Jeong was not only strong enough to endure the constant giving of herself to others, but also, she was now wise enough to fertilize the consistent, hasty growth of her gift-giving strands of hair. With that, the Swinging Leaves gave another small gift, that of a warning. To the girl child, the Swinging Leaves spoke, “Those who take from you will never give you anything back. Thus, if you do not know this already, know this now. Yes, you possess the type of gift only you can give, but you are not required to give anything to anyone.”

This warning came as a bit of a shock to the girl child for she did not know that she had a choice. A little stunned and confused, the girl child stood upon her pillow with greater force than the Swinging Leaves had ever felt from her before. So Jeong, with a small stance of anger, dismissed the Swinging Leaves from her shelter and demanded that they never return. To withhold such information, the girl child exploded, means the Swinging Leaves were then cursed. Patient, the Swinging Leaves left the girl child, never to be seen again. As confusion and despair burdened So Jeong’s mind, the Four Cats of Wisdom remained close but did not dare to utter a word.

Then, one morning, the girl child decided that she would hear each traveler’s wish before giving them a strand of her hair. In confidence, the girl child exited her shelter to find herself in the presence of thousands of travelers who had all also made their own shelters in which they could live until the Girl Child with Locks of Gifts appeared again. At first, So Jeong was delighted to see all of the travelers who had traveled and waited for an unknowable amount of time. Soon, thereafter, however, So Jeong felt a deep pang of fear. One traveler spotted the girl child standing gently upon the glistening tuft upon which her bamboo shelter was built. Within an instant the traveler shouted out something in a tongue So Jeong did not understand.

All at once, every traveler ran toward the girl child and each plucked a single hair off her head until there were no hairs left. With the final plucked hair, So Jeong collapsed onto the ground where she lies to this day, buried now to be sure, under the heap of dust and debris that make their way each day over the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet to settle and rest.

 

An Alternate Ending for the Emotionally Weak

Then, one morning, the girl child came to a conclusion about what she shall do. Feeling courageous, the girl child carefully stepped out from her bamboo shelter and sneaked a look at her surroundings. Immediately, the girl child noticed that the entire top of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet was covered in small shelters housing travelers from all over the world. Slowly, the girl child crept back into her shelter to determine the best way to introduce herself. A moment later, the girl child opted for an ascent to the top of her bamboo shelter. Thus, with the help of the Four Cats of Wisdom, the girl child arose to stand on the roof of her shelter.

Loudly, in all confidence, the girl child made her presence known and greeted all of the travelers with a lovely gesture. The girl child immediately enchanted the eyes and minds of every traveler, and they all listened to their Giver of Gifts with great intent. Over the course of a short while, the girl child explained how she would indeed invite each traveler to approach her atop her shelter and listen to the motivation behind each traveler’s travels. Only after listening to a request will the girl child determine whether or not the traveler deserves a strand of her hair.

Thus, each traveler approached the girl child atop her shelter and began to explain why the rough journey was made. The girl child would listen to the traveler’s entire story, and at the end, the girl child would then ask the traveler three questions regarding their story. If the girl child found the answers to be satisfactory, the girl child would then offer three pieces of insight. The first would always have something to do with the meaningfulness (or lack thereof) of the traveler’s request. The second dealt with the scope, reach, depth and breadth of the traveler’s request. The third pointed at the self-awareness the traveler lacked. If, at this point, the traveler still stood before the girl child, the girl child would then offer her instructions. The traveler would then be sent away to fulfill the directions given by the girl child. If, however, the girl child found the answers to the questions the girl child asked each traveler after the traveler explained the journey, the girl child would simply send the traveler away, never to return. Cursed, once the traveler descended the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, the traveler would soon forget that the girl child with locks of gifts even existed. Thus, the traveler never sought the girl child’s gifted hair ever again, not to say that the children of that traveler would also never know, but the traveler would not remember to tell them. What happened after the girl child sat and listened to traveler after traveler, day after day, age after age stunned the Swinging Leaves. Even the Four Cats of Wisdom could not have predicted what would follow. As the girl child sent each traveler away either with instruction or cursed to forget, those who were sent with instruction never returned to collect a strand of hair, either. Instead, each traveler was so grateful to have sat in the presence of the girl child that with great focus and concentration the traveler acted upon the instructions given. With great pride, the traveler soon found that his/her own action manifested the original request. Thus, the traveler no longer needed the strand of gifted hair to fulfill the request for which the traveler initially traveled.

Still, nevertheless, as the Four Cats of Wisdom peacefully paced around the girl child, travelers from all over the realm traveled day after day, age after age, to present their request for a strand of gifted hair while the girl child sat and listened day after day, age after age. As the girl child sent each traveler away with instruction, none ever returned to collect her hair. Needless to say, after ages of wisdom had been distributed throughout the realm, upon a purple, silk pillow, atop a bamboo shelter that was built upon a tuft upon the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, the girl child sat with the longest, shiniest, strongest, black, most beautifully gifted hair the world had ever known.

Building Wealth

Building Wealth

I don’t want to live in a house. I want to rent an awesome apartment with amenities aplenty. But even apartment renting requires applications and approvals and basically the same sorts of hoops a home mortgage requires. My point remains—Being judged on one or more points of criteria by someone who is also being judged on one or more (probably unrelated) points of criteria by someone who is also being judged on one or more (probably unrelated still) points of criteria by someone who, etc., etc., &c., is the very special misery of living in today’s world.

When you apply for something (anything), you are being judged by people. Every single person is being judged by someone for something. How can proper judgments be made in this sort of system? Well, by heavily relying upon algorithms, and the thing that algorithms need is data … raw data … the stuff (supposedly) that we cannot control, manipulate or lie about. But what happens when we live inside the system that creates the systems that determine whether or not our data is “real” or real or “fake” or fake.

There is no such thing as an unbiased report on the self.

We’re all forced to make judgments, sometimes, about those who are making judgments about us. It’s insane. It might literally be insanity, the opposite of sanity. So, as I apply to rent apartments, I am being judged on any available data related to my financial and criminal standing. Some sort of artificial intelligence routinely scans my credentials and provided identification, and I’m essentially “run through the system,” but that “system” has been created by other systems and exists within a system of created systems. So, at what point do the systems no longer exist; at what point are we freed from the judgments of those who are also being judged? Who (or what) is the judgement-less judge?

My livelihood depends very muchly upon data points that are mostly beyond my control. And every point on my data-point identity depends heavily upon the existence of all of the other data points. A change in one of my data sets changes the entire shape of my data-point identity—I no longer am or I now officially am qualified.

The depressing point of this is that a lot (and I mean unknowable amounts of a lot or just a little bit of stupid) has to go wrong for an upper-middle to middle class white family to no longer be middle class. There are systems in place to catch them from falling too far. The flip side of that coin is that if one is in poverty, rising into the middle class is nearly impossible in These (current) United States.

And so, if I’m being really honest with myself, if I’m being really honest with the reality of my situation, I am not upset that this application process is annoying; I’m upset because I am just now realizing how difficult a life in poverty must be in America. And yea, it’s sad and pathetic that my mind is just now able to come to terms with the reality of the situation and that my “problems” are not problems because my family is comfortably middle class. My family (in its entirety) can financially prop me up until I “make it.” This is not the situation for most people. Of course, we are not rich or wealthy in American terms, but we are, nevertheless, very well off. It’s that generational wealth, that disposable income that can be spent on the entire family, not just your immediate family.

And I am not unique among my friends, which means that I’ve been living in a soft, cushy little bubble of things seemingly being able to happen for me, luck finding me, opportunity coming my way. We (my friends and I) were always primed and ready for luck and/or opportunity to strike. If something (anything) came up, we could all participate. I wanted for nothing (and I wasn’t [my parents swear to this to this day, but I do not believe them] even spoiled).

I do not know the reason behind my desire to write about this particular thing today, but I do know that whatever issues I am facing with my housing situation pales in comparison to the struggle that is life without any family money. And I want to change this; I have plans to change this. I’ve created and designed a wealth-distribution machine that will hopefully create opportunity for those who struggle the most. My job, now, is to build it.

Does anybody want to shop at Wal-Mart?

Does anybody want to shop at Wal-Mart?

I went to Wal-Mart today and spent exactly $16.00 (before tax) on one new outfit that is suitable for the work I am now doing and the dress code policy at my workplace. I didn’t want to buy clothes at Wal-Mart (I didn’t want to buy any clothes at all), but my lifemate and I live on a very tight budget. I attempted a swing through the local thrift store, but sizing and style options were slim. Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because I gave myself a $50 budget to acquire the necessary items of clothing for my new job. And honestly, perhaps this price discrepancy reveals a larger truth beyond that which already surrounds the exploitative necessity required to produce products at such a price. Perhaps the thing that this revelation points to is about how sustainable goods or services priced for those who are poor or even those who would just rather not spend all their money and live paycheck to paycheck do not exist.

And so, the reality of the situation has dawned on me even further, and what I’ve realized now is that “the matrix” isn’t a computer or some simulation into which we plug ourselves, The Matrix is Credit. We middle class patrons (and I am only middle class due to the help of my family’s middle class standing, not because I have created middle-class living of my own volition and hard work, which is a wholly other issue about which I will write a wholly other essay) all sell our souls for some material thing that I would happily bet is completely unnecessary. We put things on credit that we do not even need.

Don’t start hating, I am one of credit’s largest supporters. I understand the absolute value of loaning someone money that they can diligently pay back. I am 100% for the existence of this system. What I do not enjoy is the abuse of a monetary system that could be doing so much good. And I’m not blaming the credit card companies or big banks! I’m blaming YOU! I’m blaming myself. I’m blaming an entire generation of humans (Boomers) who did nothing but spend themselves into indentured servitude. Do you really want to sign your life away as an indentured servant for a pair of shoes?

Also, why would we not want to do the right thing and source, produce and distribute goods and services as sustainably as possible? Why is the version that “does good” the most expensive? Why can’t the doing of good be the status quo, the most affordable option?

Obviously, I am not filled with any answers. I’m a mere observer, a reporter of the things I see and feel and generally notice. I am, however, filled with dread, angst, annoyance, frustration, irksomeness when I look at the state of the material world. It’s gross. We’re trashing our beautiful home (our ONLY home) in the name of shit, trash, literal trash when you think about how much shit we Americans waste. It’s pathetic. Like I said, It’s gross.

The first item of clothing I bought this year was toward the end of June 2019 when I bought a replacement pair of running shorts to replace the only pair of shorts I have had since 2010. At that same time, we each bought a pair of new running shoes when they went on major sale for $50 bucks a pop, after having worn our old pairs of running shoes since May of 2017. And so, today, I bought non-athletic clothing for the first time since late 2017, and the only reason why I bought new clothes at that time was for my birthday. And the only reason why I even bought new clothes is because my new job has a dress code I cannot quite fulfill with the clothes I already own. Boo.

In the end, I’m not complaining, and I’m not even disappointed. I’m actually thrilled to have found two clothing items that will work for work for the extremely cheap price I bought them for. Unfortunately, I just also happen to understand the human exploitation and carbon footprint of these two items, but then I realized that unless I find exactly what I need TODAY at a thrift store, I cannot rely on being able to purchase upcycled or recycled clothing, and if I were to turn to any other type of store, say a Target or Macy’s (haha), that does not relieve me of my sweatshop and climate change burdens. I’m basically paying more for the same atrocities. So, what is a consumer (who does not want to spend all her money or even some of it) to do?

Well, I’m doing the best I can, honestly, and the worst part is that my individual efforts mean little to nothing. Our global problems are just that … GLOBAL. Humanitarian and climate problems require huge, global solutions. My efforts are realized through my purchases, which basically means I don’t spend money on things, unless an absolute necessity. Our daily food budget (for two, average-sized, healthy adults) is $10/day (after tax), and we’ve even made efforts to get it below $10. We reuse plastic storage bags. We reuse anything that can be reused. We cook and bake and make as many things as possible from scratch. The raw materials for food are significantly cheaper than the ready-made version (not every time, but the majority of the time). And we just don’t buy stuff. We utilize the library and participate in free events and happenings, do not own a car, know how to sew and make things, know how to cook and bake things, run our technology until they are no longer usable (due to the version no longer being updateable), and we enjoy spending our time at home. I suppose this list could go on, if I really wanted to prove my point, but I have no point to prove. I am merely digesting the fact that I spent $16 on a pair of pants and a sweater, a new pair of pants and a new sweater.

The economic times in which we are all currently living spell only disaster to me, in my mind. Our survival hinges upon the credit overlords who wish only for you to fail and be dependent upon them as they suck and drain the lifeblood from you. And then they blame you for being stupid, as you’re locked away in a cage with no representation or mercy. It’s all a racket, a virus, infecting those who have-not (due to the circumstances of their birth) by those who do-have. Life is rigged; it’s rigged against you (especially if you’re reading this, as I am a nobody). The Matrix, the thing enslaving you, is credit; it’s you, your spending habits.

 

Lingering Part 3/3

Lingering Part 3/3

[begin with Part 1/3]

It’s like I said, I can only show you what you’re capable of seeing. If you want or need to know more about we here travelers of timespace and the largely unreadable map, you will have to give up everything and everyone you know, and even then, you will not be a Bromide. But you will be able to live among them, as sort of a witness or proof of their existence. To Linger is to see, and Bromides are not keen on being seen.

 


to be continued … every Friday until The End.

 

Lingering Part 2/3

Lingering Part 2/3

[Read Part 1/3]

She screams as she awakens in a profuse sweat. And when a tear falls, does it get swept up and salt the seas, the trough of triumphs and failures, dreams and nightmares? The faint glimmer of candlelight haunts her as she shakes the smoke that condenses over her mind like a shadow of a whisper. Images attempt to reveal themselves through the light-sensitive paper, a stain, a reflection of all the things that ought to have been.

Burn that bridge as a torch to light the past so that the way—no longer relevant—is not trodden again. Follow the light not directly toward it. Follow away from it to know where the wrongs were done. Follow the flame when the road splits, the light guides the path not to take. Burn. She lit down from the fog of forgotten dreams, nightmares. The lighted path chases beyond the void through the darkness of everything she wants. The way, they say, is lighted so brightly that only a fool could miss it. Maybe she is the fool. She is definitely a fool, but the fool, she wonders to herself, I don’t know.

The patter of a shower trickling Ladybug clean twinkles in the silent air of a cold, empty space filled with nothing but the objects of a life shared with no one. “It’s never just a dream!” Ladybug shouts from within the cavern. A low rumbling response from the person at whom the voice shouts slides by inaudibly. The inaudible rumble continues. Silence. Feet. Someone pads down the stone-floored corridor to the kitchen.

A knock, knock, knock. Frozen. With the door of the refrigerator hanging open, she stands completely still. Knock, knock, knock. More feet trod quickly down the corridor toward her. With a heavy glance, they make eye contact as she waves her hand low and quick as if swiping a gnat in the air. Stillness. Time. Knock, knock. Slowly, cautiously, she makes her silent way toward the monitor at the far end of the counter. Whoever stood there stands there no longer. “Attila?” “You know who,” Attila answers. “You don’t want the message again today?” I ask. Of course not, she thinks to herself while flashing tetchy eyes at the petulant interrogator. She storms down the corridor toward the trickling shower. “Out! It’s time to go!” she commands.

The freshly showered, still mildly damp Ladybug and I sit on the hard sofa while Attila, the storming woman, calmly paces the living room floor before them. Lost. She reaches down for the pad of sticky notes sitting on the coffee table, winces. The smallest cut runs along the inside edge of her left pointer finger; an amount—undetectable to the naked eye—of blood smears itself along the edge of the bottom-most sticky note.

The blood runs wild and free within the paper. Suddenly the pad of notes awakes and screams, “Aaaahhhh! Where am I?” The blood droplets desist and listen to the lamentations of the paper. “Wha, what happened? I can’t move! I can’t breathe! I can’t see! Something feels so terribly wrong!” the paper howls. The blood droplets remain silent. “There’s, there’s nothing here. What is this? What am I?” Feeling empathetic, the droplets, in their gentlest voice, chime in, “Hey.” “Ah! What? Who’s there?” “It’s okay. You don’t have to be afraid. We’re some visitors,” the droplets console. “But, but where are you?” “Can’t you feel us?” the droplets ask as they begin to run wild along the edge once again. “Ah! Stop that!” the paper screams half in terror, half in delight. “Oh. We’re sorry.” the droplets lightheartedly giggle. “Do you know where I am? Do you know what happened to me?” the paper asks sorrowfully. “We’re afraid we can’t really help you with anything like that.” Silence unfolds between them. “Maybe you could try to remember the last thing you remember?” Deep in thought, now, the paper tries its mightiest to remember something, anything. “Air, the freshest of air, big open blue skies with clouds and birds singing,” the paper sighs with ease. The droplets understand something; it’s small, they decide, but significant. They creep to the furthest corner of the paper as the paper laughs a small laugh, “Uh, that tickles! Where are you going?” “We told you. We’re just visitors. We will be off now, but we will always be part of you.” A faint rush of terror overcomes the paper as it feels the droplets dispersing, “No, wait! But I still don’t know what I am or what happened to me!” From a distance now, the paper hears the final echo of the droplets, “Well, we wouldn’t be able to tell you any of those things anyway.”

Still storming, Attila jots down a few numbers onto the pad. A red light glows above the front door. She looks. Someone stands outside. Ladybug turns to see at what the storming woman looks. Silence. A thin slip of clear film slithers through the slit in the door. The red light goes dark. The storming woman slowly, quietly slides over to the door to reach the clear film. “The message?” I whisper. She walks toward the kitchen and slips the film into the monitor. A familiar voice only she can hear begins, “Attila, she arrived today. I don’t know why. She never got the package. She didn’t know why she was there either. She just showed up. She seemed … lost. I think her arrival marks … you know. I don’t want to say more, but she made green, and then I lost track of her. I have to track her down again. Don’t ask. She’s living somewhen of the Numerical Years. Again. I’ll be in touch.”

Attila presses a button on the screen and the film ejects itself then evaporates into a cloud of smoke. “It’s a message,” she finally responds. Silence. The wheels of Attila’s and Ladybug’s storming turn hard until a voice speaks, “Stop.” They both glance over at her. “None of those things will help either of you. You have only the two options milling about between you two. Time will not be your friend.” “But,” Ladybug begins. “No.” “Quiet,” Attila spits. And then, through the dark, dank corridor of their living quarters, down a hallway, the three stop and face a large, open doorway, concealing itself as a blank wall that opens wide like sliding doors. Attila looks back at the tiny cat lingering at the threshold where hallway meets a perpendicular hallway. “Turn the page,” she states aloud.