dream (7)

“Why are we here?” I ask.

Johanna and I sit beneath a large oak tree growing on top of a giant wooden pole. The pole, a papery white birch trunk, measures fifteen feet in diameter and rises seven miles above the ocean. From where we are the waves look grey and flat, as if we could press leaves on them.

“Why wouldn’t you want to be here? This place is awesome.”

Heavy green-gray clouds envelop us, and my stomach churns. “Everything looks wrong,” I reply. “We shouldn’t be able to see the ocean this high up.”

“That doesn’t matter. This is so much better than Oakland, anyway.”

I remember this dream. We’d lounged in the sun on the edge of the pier and watched pedestrians chat in the open-air restaurant or build sandcastles by the beach. The dream had been cheerful, warm, lovely, and sun-drenched – the complete opposite of this dreary isolation.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Oakland was beautiful.”

Johanna scoffs. “Really? I couldn’t stand the heat and the sweaty tourists. It was disgusting!”

“Better than now.” I rub my hands together and shudder. “I’m freezing.”

As we speak, the ocean seems to shimmer. One moment water surrounds us, and I’m convinced we could dip our hands into the sea just by reaching over. When I blink, however, the ocean turns into grass. Hills roll into view as raindrops fall softly from the sky.

“I recognize this feeling.”

“What?”

“My classmates and I had to drive downtown to shoot a video project once, and we filmed in front of the capital. There were tons of people so we couldn’t get as close as we wanted, but then it started to rain. We barely noticed it at first, even as the area started to clear out, and suddenly it started pouring. Just before that, the rain was like this. Gentle, almost forgiving.” I frown. “Almost like a mother singing her child to sleep.”

“Weirdo.”

“Says the girl who prefers the middle of nowhere to California.”

“Whatever. But hey, does that mean it’s going to storm soon?”

“Maybe. Nothing else here is familiar, though, not even the hills. I just find the rainfall soothing.”

“You’d think everything in your dream is just a mashup of stuff you experienced while awake.”

“I doubt it. I’ve never seen Oakland in my entire life. Also, I would never imagine talking to my sister on the top of a humongous pole in the middle of the ocean. Why are we here, of all places?”

“Well, I can only remember whatever you remember, so I don’t know why you’re asking me. Besides, it’s probably just a random setting your mind generated. It’ll be perfect if it does storm, anyway. Then the waves will be high enough for us to swim in.”

“How long do you think that’ll take?”

“Maybe a week or a few days, if we’re lucky.”

“Will we dive off together?”

“Obviously. We always do.”

Beneath us, raindrops batter the waves as the ocean starts to roar. I already feel hopeful we’ll swim in the ocean after all, just the two of us, the way we never did when Johanna was alive and I was awake.

~

pair the story with this song.

a/n: i originally wrote this two years ago, but it felt strangely fitting for how i currently feel about our future right now – lost and apprehensive, but also hopeful. remember that you are amazing, that you are loved, and that you have the ability to act and the right to be yourself. i think that, no matter what happens from now on, we will be able to power through these troubling times for the sake of human dignity.

DREAM SEQUENCE

alternate title: “notes before christmas, 2016”

you might be wondering why i’ve posted not once, not twice, but four times on CITRUSY. amazing, isn’t it?

i’ve actually written quite a number of shorter works in the past few months (yay creative writing class), and i grouped a few of these into a “literary magazine” for the aforementioned class, though i like to think of it instead as a simple collection of thematically similar writing. i decided to post the rest of this collection onto CITRUSY before december ended (since half the pieces were pulled from this blog anyway). now that the last work, “where ghosts live”, is up, i want to re-introduce all the short stories and poems as one compilation. so, sorry for the sudden rush of posts! i just wanted everything here before 2016 was over. C:

DREAM SEQUENCE deals with the sensual, random surrealism of dreams. i’ve really enjoyed writing and assembling these works and seeing how they fit together. other things i love that are featured include architecture (city buildings and haunted houses alike), ghosts, and the sea. it’s not exactly cheerful, but i hope you have as much fun reading as i did while writing. (or rereading, if that’s the case.) have a lovely winter season!!

(more…)

where ghosts live

Lovely’s room, which was at the far end of the house, had the best light. The curtainless window stretched from floor to ceiling right in front of the bed, allowing sunshine to pour in uninhibited. Today, however, there was no sun. Snow fell instead, gentle but insistent, and the light that trickled through was dying. These days, a fire roared in the hearth to keep Lovely from getting chilled.

“Good morning,” Ethan said, setting down Lovely’s customary breakfast tray next to the bed. Lovely’s eyes were closed, and Ethan carefully brushed his limp bangs from his forehead. The bedridden boy’s skin was cool to the touch and almost translucent – pale blue veins could be seen running just beneath his fingertips while bleached-bone antlers protruded from his silver hair. Ethan loved those antlers. They grew outwards like the branches of a tree, and Ethan liked to imagine them wreathed in garlands of flowers. Maybe I can make some when spring comes, he thought.

Ethan couldn’t remember when he’d moved into the house. It was a grand old thing reminiscent of a castle, set deep into the hillside and surrounded by residual trees from the forest’s edge. It had stone walls and huge floor-to-ceiling windows in all the rooms, though most of these were permanently covered by curtains. (He had vainly tried, one bright summer afternoon ages ago, to remove those heavy drapes. They refused to budge. After extensive exploration of all the rooms, he found only one with bare windows. The first Lovely moved in a week later.) Ethan felt like he’d always lived in the house, the intricate layouts of both the dark hallways and winding garden paths ingrained in his memory since day one.

Lovely lived in the house as well, but he spent most of the day sleeping, so Ethan passed the time by taking long walks through the forest. The world was still here, save for the light crunch of leaves beneath Ethan’s shoes. It reminded him of a poem, something simple yet stirring. Something about the woods, dark and deep. He couldn’t recite exact lines, though. It felt like certain hours dropped from his day and created gaps in his memory while his ability to recall details dwindled, too. One moment he’d be at the house, in Lovely’s room; a minute later, he’d find himself in the middle of the woods, following a path he knew intimately for unknown reasons.

 

“Ethan.”

He looked down. A boy’s face, ghostly and wide-eyed and brown-haired, stared up at him from the snow. The tip of what looked like bone protruded a few inches in the ice above the boy’s head, close to Ethan’s foot. Ethan forced himself to stare back at him.

“Why aren’t you at the house, Elliot?” he asked, keeping his voice level. He stooped down to brush flecks of ice from Elliot’s cheeks, then spent the next few minutes digging out the rest of his body. Ethan was familiar with this routine. His fingers gripped the fabric of Elliot’s jacket, which was nearly frozen solid, and he cursed himself for not bringing gloves. He forgot them every time.

Elliot tried to wipe at his mouth with one shaking hand. “Ethan, I’ve come – to make – atonement,” he managed to say. “None of this is – I’m sorry. I abandoned you.”

This, too, Ethan had heard before. He had never understood what Elliot meant, but by now it didn’t matter. Elliot was merely delirious from the cold. He took the shivering boy’s hand and began leading him back towards the house. “You mean, I’ve come to get you out of the snow,” he replied, not looking back at Elliot’s face. Their fingers intertwined, and Ethan relished the way Elliot’s grip tightened. “It’s freezing! How did you end up here?” Elliot didn’t respond, but Ethan hadn’t expected an answer, anyway. He focused instead on what to do next.

The first time he found Elliot in the snow, he’d deliberately avoided taking him to Lovely’s room even though it was the warmest in the house and Elliot was half-frozen. At the time, he treated Lovely’s living space as something sacred. But when Ethan checked on Elliot that night, his hair had already turned silver. Lovely’s bed was vacant; all that was left was a pair of white antlers.

(Now Ethan had a full closet of antlers. They gleamed in the dark and looked beautiful in the spring, when he strung flowers over each branch.)

Since then, Ethan had learned the pattern. Elliot – or at least, ghosts who looked and acted and spoke almost exactly like Elliot – would find him. They’d argue with him and try to convince him he was dreaming.

“It’s my fault. I created you and this house and – all of this! I still don’t know why, but you got stuck here. I’m sorry, Ethan.” Each Elliot would cover his face with his hands. “Your body’s nearly gone. I wish I had stayed with you, back then.”

But why would Ethan believe them? The house was all solid wood and stone. He knew each step in the staircase and every ridge in the wall. One time, he’d stuck his hand close to the fire in the hearth – just to prove Elliot wrong – and nearly burned himself for it. The proof for reality was definitely there.

“But the seasons aren’t changing!” the latest Elliot insisted now. He stood by the couch. Ethan tugged at his hand, but the antlered boy didn’t sit. “Think about it. When was the last time it wasn’t winter? When was the last time there wasn’t snow?” His cheeks flushed red.

“I don’t keep track of those things,” Ethan said patiently. “I don’t particularly care for time.” And I’ve seen spring, too, he added silently, because Elliot was too confused right now to understand. Winter would end, as all seasons inevitably did, and spring would come. The sun would shine. Elliot would be Lovely, and petals would tumble into his hair when Ethan finished making his flower garlands. Maybe this time Elliot wouldn’t leave him. Ethan thought of the pair of detached antlers lying on a cold pillow upstairs, waiting for him to collect.

“I have a spare room,” he told Elliot. “There’s a fireplace, and I can grab some extra blankets. Why don’t you spend the night here?”

(more…)

dream (6): last night

you laughed.
i wanted to bottle the sound
to revisit on colder days.

color dripped from your irises
and down your cheeks,
staining my fingers blue.

how all things glow

at the still point of the turning world,
the first word that you ever spoke was: light.

beast that i am
i set myself on fire

and my dreams also reconstructed themselves –
all bright light and black wings,
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,
(not to eat, of course, but to examine)

and a silent star-filled heaven turned,
metallic, lucid and bold:

blossoms lingered as if you could smell them eventually
around your soft throat

and it seemed that the whole summer dipped,
illimitable in fragrance and in sound.

~

a/n: this is a cento that i wrote for school. i had a lot of fun with this, especially since i got to spend hours reading books of poetry without feeling guilty about it. 🙂  under the cut is a list of the poems/poetry collections whose lines i ended up using.

(more…)

placeholder nine

you find the book quite early one morning and laugh at bad puns. too many too little, not enough time, thyme, a clockwork garden, a hot summer’s day with the water shut off and broccoli dying under the sun. environmentalism, what is. what is not is the brief hope that this will last a while longer because this is finite, unstoppable, because now is the time to throw words out and bring colors in. this is when hyphenations like ‘sun-kissed’ and ‘sun-drenched’ and ‘sun-strained’ come to mind, when air grows cool and trees shed seas of flaming leaves at the end of january. every other sentence is a lie, with the rest lifted from a stale repetitive repository. remember bridges. step into the courtyard, careful not to trip over the ledge where your grandfather broke his leg and his heart. everything is stone. cold: the fishes quiver. a motorcycle last used in 2005. remember to keep your chin up when you swim through a rainwatered living room. remember fruit candies, beaded numbers. remember not to cry when the smell of urine hits like starvation. everywhere is water. compared to others, your book tastes like viciously luscious cake. the architecture is the same; so are those tears. sight, a privilege, wanders permanently when lost. someone breaks open a guitar and takes the sounds inside. dancing ensues.
(eventually you’ll learn to love these floating faces. you’ll learn to love your dreams.)

dream (5): an unknown practice

When it begins to rain, you tell yourself, I love the rain, and I’m not going to drown. In the first dream rain pounds against the house, but nothing leaks so you say, it will be all right because I love the rain. By the second dream water seeps through the window and beneath the doors, and your living room resembles a muddy pond as rain still pours outside. Your conviction wavers ever so slightly, but you reassure yourself again: I love the rain, I love the rain, and it will be all right. Rain continues to fall. The world blurs into wavy patterns, and green melds into blue as trees bend into themselves under the weight of water. I love the rain, you repeat, but now your body’s numb, your skin’s completely soaked, and you live in a swamp of slowly decaying furniture and liquid sediment. Each morning is a gasp of air as you break the surface of the water and tell yourself, I love the rain, and my dreams aren’t real. Each morning you kick with all your strength and propel yourself upwards, relieved for a moment, alive for another day, while at night you’re gradually sinking towards the bottom. You’re up to your neck in water by your penultimate dream, but the torrents haven’t ceased. You don’t pray to the skies anymore, nor to yourself, and you just hope you’re lucky enough to survive until you wake up. You try to wade out, but you’ve forgotten how to swim. At the end you realize, as your head submerges and a liter of water fills your lungs, that infidelity was not what drowned you; you remained devoted to rain every morning, when you woke up and ran your fingers through your hair and sighed a love song to the storm clouds behind your eyes. You died because the rain loved you back. It continued to fall, without end, until you no longer pledged your adoration and began to fear it instead.

(When you wake up with your face buried in your pillow, you sit up and breathe once again.)

scent

soft gray rain, dissonance
tragedy romanticized
into something relatable

bittersweet dreams wrapped
in constant crisp cold

melancholy remains static
no flowers, only dying
autumn leaves

we tied starfish to balloons

i took a train to the green hills of a nameless town,
surrounded by endless fields of empty reflection,
swam deep into the smooth curves of the ocean,
and saw nothing but mirrors in the sky above –
but then i heard your laugh, sweeter than love,
form paper airplanes that graced the air
oh hi, hello there, how are you, hello again
we tied starfish to balloons that night,
moonlight lapping at our feet under the stars
as the green hills of that nameless town
melted into the dissonance of my thoughts –
(when you disappeared, i felt nothing at all
no time to say goodbye, to stay a while longer)
the shards of broken glass that poured down
all bore the same face, your face, my eyes,
a cacophony of pious colors
and one morning, we took a train
to the green hills of a nameless town,
surrounded by endless fields of euphoria,
floated on the surface of smooth clear curves,
and tied starfish to balloons that night

smiles slipped across your lips like silt
but then you left, leaving circles in your wake
i took everything we had for granted,
but not anymore

the years never began, nor did they ever end

~

[note: inspired mostly by a recent dream i had, and partly by vienna teng’s flyweight love, which i listened to while writing this.]

9/29/14: featured on words(on)pages: the blog!

dream (4)

everything is slanted.

all the houses here are tall and pastel-colored, their roofs and driveways sloping down in the same direction. luckily, my house is near the top of the hill, so it’s easier for me to just start running. i begin at the edge of the sidewalk, my eyes on the downtown buildings far across the road, and then i’m off the ground. running isn’t about how quickly i can run a certain number of miles. instead, it’s about how long i can run, and how much i can cover before i stop. when is it safe to keep pushing myself? when should i stop?

today, however, is different. i reach the outskirts of downtown much quicker than usual. as i slow down to a jog, i notice an old man crouched near the gutter, pouring water into the street. when he sees me staring, he beckons me to come closer.

hello, i say, a little out of breath.

he nods and continues to pour water out of a glass pitcher.

do you know how to run, he asks. his eyes seem to glow, even in daylight. i hesitate.

i think i do, sir. i run every morning. the old man drops the pitcher. we watch as millions of tiny fragments scatter across the ground, gleaming under the sun.

no, the old man says, there’s a much better way to run. you have to jump.

jump, sir?

yes, jump. reach for the sky.

but – that isn’t running.

he nods again. that’s right. it’s better than running. jumping will let you touch the stars. try it.

when i jump for the first time, i’m not in the air for very long. the old man vigorously shakes his head.

that’s not how you do it! you’ve got to get a spring in your step.

i try again, rolling onto the balls of my feet as i push myself off the ground. this time, i fly up and reach the third-story windows of a nearby building.

how does that feel, the old man calls up to me.

i can’t answer him at first. then i find my voice.

amazing, i shout down, my response feathered by the wind. amazing!

the old man chuckles when i finally float back onto the sidewalk. do you ever want to run again, he asks, when you now know you can fly?

not at all, i answer. he grins as he pours more water from his pitcher. the glass shards in the street have disappeared.

good luck, he says.

i don’t ever go back to running. i jump instead, relishing the extended periods of time i spend in the air. jumping is addicting. i do it all the time, not just in the morning. i can fly over a flight of stairs with a single, well-planned jump. i can swim through the air, too, and do all sorts of flips and twists. but the sensation of floating in the air is even more addicting.

soon, i can’t even sit still. i’m jumping, always jumping, always looking for the highest place to reach. a few months after meeting the old man, i find myself at the edge of a seaside cliff, preparing to jump again. i can smell the salty ocean zephyrs as i propel myself into the air with ease. seagulls encircle me in awe as i fly past them. i’ve never felt so liberated, so free, in my life.

but something’s wrong.

i’m not coming down.

it’s been ten minutes already, but this jump shows no sign of ending.

i keep rocketing into the sky, reaching the clouds. i try to swim back down, panicking, but it’s useless. i fly higher and higher until i’m among the stars.

eventually, i burn just as bright.