22 May 2014

qdesjardin: (Default)

Far Beyond Eternity

In the dark confines of the closet room, Renton Thurston stares out the plexiglass window at the billowing clouds, orange and purple they are from the unseen setting sun. The wisps make their lovely patterns all around, a blanket of sorts, beneath the violet-streaked dusk sky as the Gekko-Go heads its steady course. And there is this urge within him, just to go out, and fly, fly in this beautiful scene, maybe out in the Nirvash.

But what of this beauty, if there is only Renton there in the air, alone? It would be leaving out the touch of spice that makes spaghetti taste so wonderful.

Immediately, he thinks of the one person who makes his heart beat faster in joy, and his cheeks flush warm with red. He pictures the flowing cyan hair that comes down to her petite neck and those alluring violet eyes. There wasn't anyone else he'd met who had such pretty eyes. He imagines her by his side, in Nirvash's spacious cockpit. How wonderful it must be to share the beauty of this moment with her.. Eureka.

Renton must hurry though. The sun won't wait for them before taking its rest beneath the covers of the horizon. What if I get in trouble? Holland and the others might not like it if I just.. take the Nirvash out for no reason..

These doubtful thoughts are soon forgotten though as Renton takes one last look outside, and then he heads out into the hallways, over to the communal room where Eureka spends her time playing Maurice, Mater and Link at a game of ping-pong. You can see spacious windows revealing more of the passing sky, showering the room with ethereal hues.

Renton goes to approach the joviality, watching on to his amusement as all the combined efforts of the young trio can't seem to catch Eureka's quick curveball. His heart begins to beat faster in anticipation, looking at her supple face – and she looks to him too, noticing.

"Renton?" Eureka goes. He cringes for but a second, as the trio on the other side of the table gaze to him with dirty looks, Maurice especially. ("What do you want meatball head?") Poor Renton, almost forgetting what he'd like to say, let alone why he'd followed his urges here. Link stifles a giddy chuckle under a little hand.

Luckily, Renton manages to regain his composure, and slowly comes closer to Eureka. "Hey.." he says, looking aside at the table and the heat coming out his collar. "Erm.. would you mind if I can talk to you for a minute?"

"He's gonna do it!" Mater blurts out. "With her—"

"Mater!" Eureka shoots that pesky girl a scowl, before turning to him. "Yes. I would love to." She smiles. And thus, he leads her to a more private corner of the room, trying not to mind the children throwing raspberries behind his back.

"What is it Renton?" she goes, looking upon him with the faintest curiosity.

"Well. Um.." His mouth doesn't seem to want to move at this time, being frozen in tense hesitation. This has got to be the most insane thing I'm about to do.. oh man, what am I thinking?

"Is something the matter?" she asks him.

"Oh no.. no, nothing's the matter.." He lets in a little gulp down his throat. How should he put all this feeling into proper words? It all feels like it makes sense, and yet it's all outlandish when it comes to saying it out. "I just.. I just want to fly outside, with you."

Eureka blinks, taking in Renton's words. Her face even lightens up a bit, while his seems to blush so bashfully red.

"It's so beautiful out there," Renton half-mumbles. "All these clouds floating around.. I want to fly out with them. Because it makes my chest.. want to cave in. But it wouldn't- couldn't ever be the same if I'm by myself." His heart pounds against his chest incessantly. "So I want to go fly, with you."

Eureka holds her breath in, being so flattered, and so unsure. It feels like the longest and most unbearable wait in Renton's life, her just standing there, before he receives her answer of her hand clasping around his, feeling so warm and tender, and her reassuring smile. "Yes."

Did he hear her right? It's a whisper of a "yes" from her, one he could barely hear, and yet she has her hand with his. "Yes," she tells him.

"Okay."

He takes her through the hallways of the Gekko-Go, passing by and greeting Mischa along the way – the Doctor eyes them pensively before she continues down. Every step he takes, Renton feels a little more queasy, light-headed. It just feels like a good vivid dream that will burst at any moment now, but the feeling of Eureka's soft hand in his feels all too warm to be some figment of his wandering imagination. If so, then he wishes that none of the others would come across them and put an abrupt end to this moment.

After taking the elevators down to C deck, Renton can hear more of the low, distaff humming of the Gekko-Go's engines, as he leads- Eureka leads him over down into the expanses of the dock, where the gargantuan Nirvash rests within the abyssal darkness. As they step down the staircase from the light of the hallway, suddenly the lights illuminate the place in light of Renton and Eureka's presences.

"Renton?" Eureka asks. "Are you sure this is okay?"

A certain urge is compelling the boy now, far beyond proper reasoning. He would in all likely respect turn back if it were any other time, but not right now, not when the sun is on the verge of disappearing and the moment being missed.

"Yes," he goes, a strange confidence in him now, and he's smiling from out the corners of his heart, and they head on to clamber in one of Nirvash's two spacious cockpits. Renton snuggles himself snugly beside her on the seat, feeling her warmth emanate by the shoulders.

"Shall I drive?" she asks. Now that she's mentioned it, Renton had never really considered who would be flying in that imagination of his. It would be fine for him to show and guide the Nirvash in the painted canvas of air, while she can be free to look around and enjoy herself. Renton imagines he could grasp most of the manoeuvres almost as easily as Eureka can (including the famous cut-back drop turn, ja!) but there is one thing that had always troubled him the most – taking off and landing in the dock itself; the enclosed space would always threaten to collide with the Nirvash while the air never does.

"How about.. you take off from the Gekko-Go," he says, "and then I take over from there?"

"Sure," Eureka goes. She wakes the Nirvash up from its sleep, and the lights of the cockpit come to their shining life as Nirvash assumes a stand-by, idle position. Renton takes in a gulp and feels his stomach sink in preparation for the fast lurches of speed to come.

After checking up on Nirvash's status and knowing that the Nirvash is all right, she sends a command in the adjacent console to set the launch pathway up for take off. The noise of the blaring alarms and screeching of the launch gate being lifted up are numbed and dulled automatically in the canopy for Renton and Eureka's benefit. Through the opening of the gate, Renton can see the pathway angle itself downwards, to the outside purple clouds that flow past sight.

When the launch gate has completely risen, the pathway lights up in glaring green and yellow light leading the way out. Out of force of habit, Eureka finds herself shouting "Eureka and Renton, Nirvash typeZERO, launching!" Renton watches her hands gently push forward the control joysticks, and feels the slow lurch of Nirvash's movement – moving so slowly to the start of the pathway—

Renton blinks.

The Nirvash bounds forward, its legs propelled along the track to frightening speeds – Renton is continually thrust against the seat, teeth clattering and sweat on his face dripping back; he can feel the bile of the stir-fried dinner welling in him. Eureka keeps her calm, no sign of any worries whatsoever on her face as Nirvash finds itself free in the outside sky. To finish the sequence, Eureka presses a button to have Nirvash deploy out and ride the ref board to glide along the trepar waves in the air.

The billowing purples and blues of the dusk seem much more vivid and haunting from the view of the canopy than Renton had ever hoped to see. Gold streaks from the tip of the setting sun on the right, bathing Nirvash in a yellow tinge.

Eureka's purple eyes meet with Renton's - a hint of beckoning in the glint. She waits, keeping her hands steady as Renton's reachs out to grasp onto her hands, her soft and lovely hands around the joysicks. When he seems to have a good hold, she lets go. In the brief moment, Renton wraps his fingers around the dual controls, feels all of Nirvash – every nuance of its being come upon himself.

He and she fly in the pretty skies, as carefree and joyful as they can be. By his side, Renton sees Eureka avidly admire all the colours, quite sure that she is seeing the same poignent beauty he sees.

"Renton! Look!" Eureka nudges his shoulder, pointing her hand down to the left. And from perking his head over, he sees a vague formation amongst a puff of cloud below, coming closer and clearer. They are little skyfish, an endless swarm, rising up and out from the vagueness, and with their beating wings they fly to be with Nirvash's side. Renton remembers from class that the skyfish would come be attracted to beautiful moments, shared in tenderness. Their lush wings seem to beat forth in time with each other, with the euphoric beating of Renton's own heart.

"It's so beautiful, Eureka."

As the sun becomes a faint orange haze along the dark of the cloud horizon, Renton begins to notice the sharp orange glow of the read-out displays on the dashboard - the Gekko-Go's position lies on the bare edge of the radar, almost out of Nirvash's range. By now, it would seem a good idea to turn back and call it a night. Holland and the others might be worrying, and the thought of receiving Holland's punishing beat downs makes him nervous.

But Renton decides to ignore the pleas nagging inside his mind, instead turning the Nirvash over to chase the last throes of daylight. Maybe this night will be special. Maybe this night holds a wonder somewhere in the air, waiting to be touched.

The stars begin to shine and glow above on the sky – a canopy of bright beacons that stretches on like an ocean of eternity. They seem to be adrift in interstellar space now; Eureka is leaning by Renton's stiffened shoulder, absolutely still on the edge of the seat, taking in all of the night. Renton too. The stars are like he has never seen them before, being such a refreshing and blissful sight. If he reaches up high, he could feel them lap and melt in his hands like snowflakes.

A streak of purple trails gently down the canvas. It's a shooting star.

"Hey," Renton goes. "Wanna make a wish?"

Eureka is hypnotically looking upon the purple, her warm hands clasped around Renton's. For a long while, she does not say anything. Then she turns to him. "I have. What about you?"

Renton looks back to the shooting star, unsure of what to think. He feels the happiest he has ever been in his whole life, so glad of the moment, and there doesn't seem to be anything else he could ever want. Deep inside though, he knows it will all have to end eventually. The thought of this moment, lost in time feels so overwhelmingly.. saddening..

He tries to hide it in, and keep this happiness close to his heart, forever. But it is all too much for one to bear, and he feels it all about to burst – a balloon taking in too much air at once. He finds it hard to breathe.

"Renton?"

The tears come down from his eyes, rolling down his cheeks.

"What's wrong, Renton?" she asks.

I.. don't know.

Eureka reaches out to caress – he feels her gentle fingers as they stroke over to brush away his tears. He turns to her, finding a solace in her caring, purple eyes. A sincere, appreciative smile comes upon him.

She looks back, curious and unsure.

His heart on the verge of caving in, Renton lets himself go, and holds Eureka so closely and dearly in his arms, his head by hers over her shoulder. He feels her heart beating faster and faster with his through her chest, her breaths brushing by his bare neck, and the overall blushing warmth from her.

And for this blissful moment, they lie so peacefully still in each other's side, glad.

After what seems like forever, Renton leans back from her, and looks to her straight in her eyes. He has no idea what will happen next, if only this happiness may continue.

"I.." Renton finds himself trying to make words, say something, anything at all, but the words just won't come.

"Hm?"

Then suddenly it comes, as miraculous as it is to him as to her – Renton locks his lips with hers in a kiss. It is so indescribably wonderful. He can feel her hot breath mingling with his, the rush of excitement, a wholesome feeling of gratitude in his heart for this moment.

It is the last thing he can remember so clearly upon awakening in the cheap excuse of a bed within the closet room. The blue of the morning sky shines through the little plexiglass window, being the only light there is here.

After that kiss, Renton could not seem to recall the later memory of the night, being only a vague, jaded recollection of things. Perhaps there was the flying back to the Gekko-Go, where upon landing he met with a brutal backhand to the face from Holland, or the worried commotion of Talho and God knows who else, or the fatigued walk through the stale hallways back here.. or perhaps there wasn't anything of the sort at all; the kiss with Eureka was all too much to dream.

Still, he is left with a lingering happiness, however bittersweet it is in his heart leaving him wanting more - if only he could have a second longer with her then, he could say he does love her so. Without thinking it, Renton finds his fingers going over his moist lips. Maybe some of the wet from Eureka is still there, if any. But no amount of lip touching ever does sooth the welling emptiness inside him. He is wanting to cry, so much. The morning sky seems even bluer than he remembers it, and he stares out at the puff of white clouds passing by outside. The engines of the Gekko-Go hum incessantly throughout.

After that, Renton feels the gurgle of his empty stomach – hungry for some breakfast. Wanting to take his mind off the sadness, Renton goes to walk down the hallway listlessly, managing less-than-enthusiastic greetings towards Talho and Matthew who pass him by.

Then he sees her standing, pressing a hand on the windows to the blue skies. The emptiness inside hurts the most now on the sight of Eureka, aching, numbing, overwhelming. But however much it is to bear, Renton tries to bury it all deep inside as he did not want to upset her in any way. He continues his way slowly to the mess hall, as if nothing has happened. He shall forever cherish the imagined moment in his heart, if only to convince himself that such a happiness may happen, sometime, somewhere.

Eureka slowly turns to look to him with her usual shy smile. "Good morning Renton."

He gulps, pausing. "Morning, Eureka."

Then he notices something different in her expression, though he could not tell what exactly about it that strikes him so at first. Whether it is the same look of wonder from that wonderful moment in her purple eyes, or the loving feelings that hint on her smiling lips, Renton subconsciously takes it in, and the tightness in his throat is knife-sharp now, and he could not breathe at all.

"I.. love.. you.."

A looming pause, as she looks back with her quivering eyes.

And she comes forward to meet him, and she blurs before his eyes, and he goes to her blindly. When they meet, his eyes clear and he sees her for a first time, can not help but smile. He knows it is all right, and he reaches out to her with his warming hand, and the fear inside him disappears away forever.

(The white sloping road continues into the sky
Flickering heat haze envelops the two children
Nobody noticing, all alone

They keep ascending
They fear nothing
And then they soar

Longing for the sky
They soar across the sky
Their lives an intertwining contrail)

And thus, they walk over for breakfast, their hand-in-hand high in the sky.

The End

qdesjardin: (Default)

The Ugly Duckling
a faerytale by Hans Christian Andersen

It was lovely summer weather in the country, and the golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks piled up in the meadows looked beautiful. The stork walking about on his long red legs chattered in the Egyptian language, which he had learnt from his mother. The corn-fields and meadows were surrounded by large forests, in the midst of which were deep pools. It was, indeed, delightful to walk about in the country. In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farm-house close by a deep river, and from the house down to the water side grew great burdock leaves, so high, that under the tallest of them a little child could stand upright. The spot was as wild as the centre of a thick wood. In this snug retreat sat a duck on her nest, watching for her young brood to hatch; she was beginning to get tired of her task, for the little ones were a long time coming out of their shells, and she seldom had any visitors. The other ducks liked much better to swim about in the river than to climb the slippery banks, and sit under a burdock leaf, to have a gossip with her. At length one shell cracked, and then another, and from each egg came a living creature that lifted its head and cried, “Peep, peep.” “Quack, quack,” said the mother, and then they all quacked as well as they could, and looked about them on every side at the large green leaves. Their mother allowed them to look as much as they liked, because green is good for the eyes. “How large the world is,” said the young ducks, when they found how much more room they now had than while they were inside the egg-shell. “Do you imagine this is the whole world?” asked the mother; “Wait till you have seen the garden; it stretches far beyond that to the parson’s field, but I have never ventured to such a distance. Are you all out?” she continued, rising; “No, I declare, the largest egg lies there still. I wonder how long this is to last, I am quite tired of it;” and she seated herself again on the nest.

“Well, how are you getting on?” asked an old duck, who paid her a visit.

“One egg is not hatched yet,” said the duck, “it will not break. But just look at all the others, are they not the prettiest little ducklings you ever saw? They are the image of their father, who is so unkind, he never comes to see.”

“Let me see the egg that will not break,” said the duck; “I have no doubt it is a turkey’s egg. I was persuaded to hatch some once, and after all my care and trouble with the young ones, they were afraid of the water. I quacked and clucked, but all to no purpose. I could not get them to venture in. Let me look at the egg. Yes, that is a turkey’s egg; take my advice, leave it where it is and teach the other children to swim.”

“I think I will sit on it a little while longer,” said the duck; “as I have sat so long already, a few days will be nothing.”

“Please yourself,” said the old duck, and she went away.

At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth crying, “Peep, peep.” It was very large and ugly. The duck stared at it and exclaimed, “It is very large and not at all like the others. I wonder if it really is a turkey. We shall soon find it out, however when we go to the water. It must go in, if I have to push it myself.”

On the next day the weather was delightful, and the sun shone brightly on the green burdock leaves, so the mother duck took her young brood down to the water, and jumped in with a splash. “Quack, quack,” cried she, and one after another the little ducklings jumped in. The water closed over their heads, but they came up again in an instant, and swam about quite prettily with their legs paddling under them as easily as possible, and the ugly duckling was also in the water swimming with them.

“Oh,” said the mother, “that is not a turkey; how well he uses his legs, and how upright he holds himself! He is my own child, and he is not so very ugly after all if you look at him properly. Quack, quack! come with me now, I will take you into grand society, and introduce you to the farmyard, but you must keep close to me or you may be trodden upon; and, above all, beware of the cat.”

When they reached the farmyard, there was a great disturbance, two families were fighting for an eel’s head, which, after all, was carried off by the cat. “See, children, that is the way of the world,” said the mother duck, whetting her beak, for she would have liked the eel’s head herself. “Come, now, use your legs, and let me see how well you can behave. You must bow your heads prettily to that old duck yonder; she is the highest born of them all, and has Spanish blood, therefore, she is well off. Don’t you see she has a red flag tied to her leg, which is something very grand, and a great honor for a duck; it shows that every one is anxious not to lose her, as she can be recognized both by man and beast. Come, now, don’t turn your toes, a well-bred duckling spreads his feet wide apart, just like his father and mother, in this way; now bend your neck, and say ‘quack.’”

The ducklings did as they were bid, but the other duck stared, and said, “Look, here comes another brood, as if there were not enough of us already! and what a queer looking object one of them is; we don’t want him here,” and then one flew out and bit him in the neck.

“Let him alone,” said the mother; “he is not doing any harm.”

“Yes, but he is so big and ugly,” said the spiteful duck “and therefore he must be turned out.”

“The others are very pretty children,” said the old duck, with the rag on her leg, “all but that one; I wish his mother could improve him a little.”

“That is impossible, your grace,” replied the mother; “he is not pretty; but he has a very good disposition, and swims as well or even better than the others. I think he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be smaller; he has remained too long in the egg, and therefore his figure is not properly formed;” and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, saying, “It is a drake, and therefore not of so much consequence. I think he will grow up strong, and able to take care of himself.”

“The other ducklings are graceful enough,” said the old duck. “Now make yourself at home, and if you can find an eel’s head, you can bring it to me.”

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry. “He is too big,” they all said, and the turkey cock, who had been born into the world with spurs, and fancied himself really an emperor, puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail, and flew at the duckling, and became quite red in the head with passion, so that the poor little thing did not know where to go, and was quite miserable because he was so ugly and laughed at by the whole farmyard. So it went on from day to day till it got worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you,” and his mother said she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings.

“They are afraid of me because I am ugly,” he said. So he closed his eyes, and flew still farther, until he came out on a large moor, inhabited by wild ducks. Here he remained the whole night, feeling very tired and sorrowful.

In the morning, when the wild ducks rose in the air, they stared at their new comrade. “What sort of a duck are you?” they all said, coming round him.

He bowed to them, and was as polite as he could be, but he did not reply to their question. “You are exceedingly ugly,” said the wild ducks, “but that will not matter if you do not want to marry one of our family.”

Poor thing! he had no thoughts of marriage; all he wanted was permission to lie among the rushes, and drink some of the water on the moor. After he had been on the moor two days, there came two wild geese, or rather goslings, for they had not been out of the egg long, and were very saucy. “Listen, friend,” said one of them to the duckling, “you are so ugly, that we like you very well. Will you go with us, and become a bird of passage? Not far from here is another moor, in which there are some pretty wild geese, all unmarried. It is a chance for you to get a wife; you may be lucky, ugly as you are.”

“Pop, pop,” sounded in the air, and the two wild geese fell dead among the rushes, and the water was tinged with blood. “Pop, pop,” echoed far and wide in the distance, and whole flocks of wild geese rose up from the rushes. The sound continued from every direction, for the sportsmen surrounded the moor, and some were even seated on branches of trees, overlooking the rushes. The blue smoke from the guns rose like clouds over the dark trees, and as it floated away across the water, a number of sporting dogs bounded in among the rushes, which bent beneath them wherever they went. How they terrified the poor duckling! He turned away his head to hide it under his wing, and at the same moment a large terrible dog passed quite near him. His jaws were open, his tongue hung from his mouth, and his eyes glared fearfully. He thrust his nose close to the duckling, showing his sharp teeth, and then, “splash, splash,” he went into the water without touching him, “Oh,” sighed the duckling, “how thankful I am for being so ugly; even a dog will not bite me.” And so he lay quite still, while the shot rattled through the rushes, and gun after gun was fired over him. It was late in the day before all became quiet, but even then the poor young thing did not dare to move. He waited quietly for several hours, and then, after looking carefully around him, hastened away from the moor as fast as he could. He ran over field and meadow till a storm arose, and he could hardly struggle against it. Towards evening, he reached a poor little cottage that seemed ready to fall, and only remained standing because it could not decide on which side to fall first. The storm continued so violent, that the duckling could go no farther; he sat down by the cottage, and then he noticed that the door was not quite closed in consequence of one of the hinges having given way. There was therefore a narrow opening near the bottom large enough for him to slip through, which he did very quietly, and got a shelter for the night. A woman, a tom cat, and a hen lived in this cottage. The tom cat, whom the mistress called, “My little son,” was a great favorite; he could raise his back, and purr, and could even throw out sparks from his fur if it were stroked the wrong way. The hen had very short legs, so she was called “Chickie short legs.” She laid good eggs, and her mistress loved her as if she had been her own child. In the morning, the strange visitor was discovered, and the tom cat began to purr, and the hen to cluck.

“What is that noise about?” said the old woman, looking round the room, but her sight was not very good; therefore, when she saw the duckling she thought it must be a fat duck, that had strayed from home. “Oh what a prize!” she exclaimed, “I hope it is not a drake, for then I shall have some duck’s eggs. I must wait and see.” So the duckling was allowed to remain on trial for three weeks, but there were no eggs. Now the tom cat was the master of the house, and the hen was mistress, and they always said, “We and the world,” for they believed themselves to be half the world, and the better half too. The duckling thought that others might hold a different opinion on the subject, but the hen would not listen to such doubts. “Can you lay eggs?” she asked. “No.” “Then have the goodness to hold your tongue.” “Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks?” said the tom cat. “No.” “Then you have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are speaking.” So the duckling sat in a corner, feeling very low spirited, till the sunshine and the fresh air came into the room through the open door, and then he began to feel such a great longing for a swim on the water, that he could not help telling the hen.

“What an absurd idea,” said the hen. “You have nothing else to do, therefore you have foolish fancies. If you could purr or lay eggs, they would pass away.”

“But it is so delightful to swim about on the water,” said the duckling, “and so refreshing to feel it close over your head, while you dive down to the bottom.”

“Delightful, indeed!” said the hen, “why you must be crazy! Ask the cat, he is the cleverest animal I know, ask him how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive under it, for I will not speak of my own opinion; ask our mistress, the old woman—there is no one in the world more clever than she is. Do you think she would like to swim, or to let the water close over her head?”

“You don’t understand me,” said the duckling.

“We don’t understand you? Who can understand you, I wonder? Do you consider yourself more clever than the cat, or the old woman? I will say nothing of myself. Don’t imagine such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune that you have been received here. Are you not in a warm room, and in society from which you may learn something. But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe me, I speak only for your own good. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs, and learn to purr as quickly as possible.”

“I believe I must go out into the world again,” said the duckling.

“Yes, do,” said the hen. So the duckling left the cottage, and soon found water on which it could swim and dive, but was avoided by all other animals, because of its ugly appearance. Autumn came, and the leaves in the forest turned to orange and gold. then, as winter approached, the wind caught them as they fell and whirled them in the cold air. The clouds, heavy with hail and snow-flakes, hung low in the sky, and the raven stood on the ferns crying, “Croak, croak.” It made one shiver with cold to look at him. All this was very sad for the poor little duckling. One evening, just as the sun set amid radiant clouds, there came a large flock of beautiful birds out of the bushes. The duckling had never seen any like them before. They were swans, and they curved their graceful necks, while their soft plumage shown with dazzling whiteness. They uttered a singular cry, as they spread their glorious wings and flew away from those cold regions to warmer countries across the sea. As they mounted higher and higher in the air, the ugly little duckling felt quite a strange sensation as he watched them. He whirled himself in the water like a wheel, stretched out his neck towards them, and uttered a cry so strange that it frightened himself. Could he ever forget those beautiful, happy birds; and when at last they were out of his sight, he dived under the water, and rose again almost beside himself with excitement. He knew not the names of these birds, nor where they had flown, but he felt towards them as he had never felt for any other bird in the world. He was not envious of these beautiful creatures, but wished to be as lovely as they. Poor ugly creature, how gladly he would have lived even with the ducks had they only given him encouragement. The winter grew colder and colder; he was obliged to swim about on the water to keep it from freezing, but every night the space on which he swam became smaller and smaller. At length it froze so hard that the ice in the water crackled as he moved, and the duckling had to paddle with his legs as well as he could, to keep the space from closing up. He became exhausted at last, and lay still and helpless, frozen fast in the ice.

Early in the morning, a peasant, who was passing by, saw what had happened. He broke the ice in pieces with his wooden shoe, and carried the duckling home to his wife. The warmth revived the poor little creature; but when the children wanted to play with him, the duckling thought they would do him some harm; so he started up in terror, fluttered into the milk-pan, and splashed the milk about the room. Then the woman clapped her hands, which frightened him still more. He flew first into the butter-cask, then into the meal-tub, and out again. What a condition he was in! The woman screamed, and struck at him with the tongs; the children laughed and screamed, and tumbled over each other, in their efforts to catch him; but luckily he escaped. The door stood open; the poor creature could just manage to slip out among the bushes, and lie down quite exhausted in the newly fallen snow.

It would be very sad, were I to relate all the misery and privations which the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter; but when it had passed, he found himself lying one morning in a moor, amongst the rushes. He felt the warm sun shining, and heard the lark singing, and saw that all around was beautiful spring. Then the young bird felt that his wings were strong, as he flapped them against his sides, and rose high into the air. They bore him onwards, until he found himself in a large garden, before he well knew how it had happened. The apple-trees were in full blossom, and the fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the stream which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked beautiful, in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely unhappy than ever.

“I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.

“Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.

Into the garden presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake into the water.

“See,” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.”

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water, and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all; he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him.

Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

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The Malaise of Wattpad
mug's game - a pointless or futile activity

I don't understand the over-zealous rules Wattpad has about mentioning-- err, "promoting" your own stories. On the club forums, you're not allowed to post links to your stories except in those designated threads like this one.

Only once in a thread, amidst hundreds of other stories, until the thread gets refreshed (which is 'whenever'). Do you honestly expect readers to go through every advert in every page, so to give these stories a fair chance at being appreciated?

In reality, your story gets drowned out amidst many voices, like that moment in Titanic where the ship has sunk, and you see Rose struggling in the waters amidst hundreds of others, looking for Jack. Since around April of 2013, when they decided to replace the Share Your Story (SYS) club, not once have I gotten a single reader because I've put my advert up in those "Share an 'X-genre' story here!" threads.

And when it comes to people asking "Is there an interesting such-and-such story I can read," you always see the ambassador stepping in and sanitising the opening post: "No links! No suggesting your own stories!" Like here.

It's okay to mention other people's stories to a wanting reader, but not your own? How silly -- what's there to prevent someone from using a different account and mentioning his own story under disguise, for example?

Ultimately, the way things are set up in Wattpad, you're lucky to even get genuine readers.. that is, if you're not writing the usual "Bad Popular Boy meets Nerdy Girl" plot, or "One-Direction/Justin Bieber/Boy Band" fanfic, or "Hunger Games/Twilight/etc." Young Adult derivative. Or if you're not already an established, published author come to make a token visit to the site:

As someone said, the popular books get more popular and the unpopular books stay unpopular.

It's fucking ridiculous.

Maybe if you're really desperate enough, there is the option of signing up for Book Clubs - but the catch is that once the members do read and comment to a certain point in your story.. oui, they do give some detailed comments and critiques, but they do so not because they really want to read more of your story (without you having to nudge them), but because they expect you to give the same to their stories in return.

For example, my incomplete fantasy story, Demon's Paradise.

On chapters 1 and 2, you'll see the club members' comments. After those chapters though, nothing. Except a lone critique from someone else unrelated to the book club.

Or, for asking some critic or an editor to read your story, you have to "pay" them a certain number of comments on their stories.

The thing that really gets me is when you compare Wattpad (writing) to deviantART (visual art). On deviantART, people can quickly fall in love and tell if they like your work, based on the quick thumbnail glances of your stuff.

Wattpad by contrast, all you have to attract people is whatever cover you can make, and the blurb/summary you provide for your story. And perhaps an excerpt line or two. The saying "Never judge a book by its cover" becomes a two-edged sword here, where genuinely interesting writing can easily get overlooked by people (it takes 'effort' to read, hurr durr) in favour of the familiar clichés the masses know and love.

Stanley Kubrick once observed that "most films don't have any purpose other than to mechanically figure out what people want and to construct some artificial form of entertainment for them." People seek the familiar. Whether it be a familiar genre, actors, or a specific kind of emotional gratification, films have become delivery systems for the feelings that we crave. -- Snake Eyes review by tieman64

I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.

~QDesjardin

Wattpad and Story Promotions!



Ref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAbGeNqqT6Y


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Via Con Me – by QDesjardin

away, away, get away with me
nothing more binds you to these places
not even these blue flowers

let's get away, let's get away, not even this grey time
full of musics and people that you liked

After the velvet curtain has fallen over the illusionist's performance, the applause seems to go on for a very long time. She can still hear it in her ears, long after the applause has diminished away – as she is in the makeup room, wiping away the white powder and eyeliner from her face.

The grips have removed the props from the stage, rendering it bare, with just the black stage floor.

Soon after everyone has left for the night, only silence fills the auditorium, with the dim hum of the ventilation.

Then behind the curtain, a spotlight turns on. Concentrating on a young woman whose lithe form is laid bare for non-existant eyes to see. She is posed, her back arching up to the ceiling, her arms stretched forth and back.

She begins to dance to an imaginary tune. Her feet tap along the floor, swift and quiet and unrestrained – she shuffles to the left, to the right, around the stage's span.

She comes on her toes, stretching herself as far high up as she can, her hands crossing each other, before she collapses down to the ground, as if the strings that have held her up have been cut.

Her eyes glance mournfully at the curtain that will never rise, a smile forming on her lips.

Finally, she stands up and takes a bow at her unseen audience, and she can hear the roaring cheers celebrating her efforts.

One day, the audience will be real.

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Long Live the New Flesh!

It is one gloomy day when I visit my university's computer laboratory that I discover something strange on the floor. Pink and thick organic ooze, splashes of it, trailing down the aisles of Linux PCs. It smells like a combination of raw fish mixed in with that awful rotting egg stench.

I kneel down and take a closer look at the ooze. The pink surface looks swirly, with a mild film of colour (like the surface of a soap bubble).

I take out my pen and I touch it with the tip. The piece of ooze seems to squirm from being punctured, its mass clambering away from my pen's tip, until there is a visible hole around where my pen is. Whatever this thing is, it's alive.

It must be one of those lab experiments from the biology students gone awry.

I follow the trail of ooze, careful not to step on it, until I find its apparent source; there are huge mumps of it concentrated around one computer terminal in the dark corner, staining the keyboard and monitor - with someone's box of Oriental takeout just beside the mouse, and the knapsack underneath the table.

Against my better judgment, I investigate.

(my nose burns and my eyes water)

The contents of the screen show a corrupted terminal interface; someone had been attempting to load 'RAGNAROK.EXE' and the results are a jumble of multi-coloured symbols on the bottom half of the screen, as if whatever ticked the computer off had made it regurgitate all the bytes of its memory.

I notice a scrawled note tucked under the Oriental takeout. Pulling it out, it reads: "The battle for the minds of North America will be fought in the visual arena: the Videodrome. The computer screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore, the computer screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the computer screen emerges as raw experience for those who see it. Therefore, computers are reality, and reality is less than computers."

Then I hear deep, laboured breathing. It sounds as if someone is seriously ill with the flu.

It's coming from the computer screen - the entire screen is shrivelling in and out as if it were someone's chest. I stare at it, baffled, and then I see the screen show Nicky Gumbel, his beady eyes gazing at me and his smile proud and confident.

I see this guy every time I attend Church on Mondays. He preaches about the life of Jesus, and that by dying for us, Jesus took away everyone's sin, so we ought to be grateful for a faerytale character.

"Do you want to know why you are here?" Nicky Gumbel says. "In this room, right by this computer on this very day?"

"Because somebody made a badly mess," I say.

"No! Because you will be the one to help fulfill the prophacy foretold in the New Testament! The Holy Christ shall rise again, and you will be the one to witness it!"

"What happened to the other guy?" I ask.

"He had to go on a vacation," Nicky Gumbel says. "Now com'mere.." A hand pops right out of the screen and grabs me by the collar. It is so sudden that I have no time to react, and I get jerked into the screen, facefirst, squeezing my entire body through the monitior.

To be continued!

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The Darkness - by QDesjardin

In the darkness of your room
lying in bed
your eyes open,

Emptiness envelops you
The wistful air
and the orange glimmering light

Your breaths rattle
in and out

Your heart beats steadily on,
That eternal ticking clock
unwinding inevitably towards
Death.

In the darkness of your room
lying in bed
your eyes close.

Hiding away behind the shelter of dreams.

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A Life in a Lively Day of Lulu - by QDesjardin

C'est moi! Lulu!

Today is a very special day, do you know why? Because today.. it is Lulu's birthday!

So.. what shall we prepare to celebrate? A birthday cake, you say? But Lulu wants it especially to be a very special birthday, so just any ol' birthday cake won't do. It'll have to be coffee-flavoured, with vanilla toppings and rainbow sprinklings!

Where can we get such a cake?

Why, by the grocery store - there's a nice old man named Mr Jenkins; he's kind enough to allow Lulu one free birthday cake on this very special day.

But alas, Mr Jenkins is sick today. He's being fed chicken soup by his lovely wife, and instead, Lulu meets Mrs Benjins. She's a young lady, but she isn't very nice when she pretends that it isn't a special day for Lulu. "No birthday cake for you, unless you pay up $15.95!" she tells our dearest Lulu.

Aww.

Lulu is sad.

Lulu's frown makes other people sad as she walks down the street. They share her pain. Even the birds have stopped by, wanting to cheer poor Lulu up. They chirp the best song that's on their minds.

That didn't cheer Lulu up yet.

The local mime, his face painted white and black, he attempts to pull off as many gags as he can in front of Lulu.

But that also didn't cheer Lulu up.

When the theatre projectionists allow Lulu to watch the latest movie (That's Elysium, by Neil Blonk-Omp) in the movie theatre, Lulu is tearing up. She cries. "I just want my birthday cake!" she tells others, while the tears are running like a water fountain from her plumpy face. "But that lady wants me to pay $15.95! And the banks aren't open today. Wahhhh!"

Today is a special day indeed, and what do the people do? They are nice enough to transform themselves into a pumpkin carriage with velvety unicorns, leading the way over the rainbow to where the rainbow ends.

That's where Mr Jenkins lives. Lulu knocks on his door, and his wife comes out and tells her, "Mr Jenkins is not available today! Come back tomorrow!"

"But I'm Lulu, his favourite customer!" Lulu pips. "I want my coffee cake with vanilla toppings and spinklings on top!"

Just then, Mr Jenkins pops out. "Did someone say coffee cake! That's my favourite kind of cake too!"

And Mr Jenkins helped make Lulu a coffee cake, with just the right amount of spinkings and vanilla whipped cream, and Lulu has a happily ever after day. She shares her sweet cake with everyone around her to enjoy.

The End

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A Day in the Daily Life of Lulu - by QDesjardin

C'est moi! Lulu!

Lulu woke up feeling dappy,
Lulu is alright.
Lulu eats a candy cane,
and that candy makes her tummy feel rumbly!

Lulu travelled to work today,
Lulu feels fatigued.
Work is surely so boring meng,
Why can't we play instead?

Lulu's zippy pants went missing,
Lulu was eating lunchon;
Her zippy pants went all way around the world,
and came back as dirt and shambles!

Oh non!

How Lulu treasures her petite pants!

So Lulu gave her pants a washing,
"Rum-rum!" the washing maschine goes~!
It's such a pleasant sound to hear,
the sound of her clothes getting clean!

Lulu eats some popcorn while she waits,
The popcorn pops in her poppy mouth,
as she hop, skip, jumps over the dirty laundry
of other people sitting dully reading D. E. Laurance's poetry.

Now Lulu feels tired today,
Lulu wants to sleep.
Lulu made her own bed
and tucked herself in at night.

My, how the stars shine so brightly tonight!
She wishes she could stay up longer,
but sleep is the most important meal of the day,
so Lulu bids thee "Goodnight."

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Death, and Life - by QDesjardin

To whom it may concern,

I've died. And yet, I'm still alive. It is very strange, oui? But while I have the time, I wish to let you know - there really is nothing you should be afraid of. Because to fear something is to fear Life itself, and that evil Witch in the faery tales - she is really another human being, like you and me, just wounded by regret and pain.

The same wound exists in many other people today, when you bring your dreams with you to someone, and that someone acts as though they have spat in your face, smothering the light in your dreams, and you are left feeling afraid and empty inside.

Many people can be like that.

It's the original Sin they keep talking about in the Holy Bible, when Adam and Eve have once enjoyed a life of paradise, but wanting more than that, they ate from the forbidden tree of Knowledge, and as a result, it seems as if God has cast them aside into the world which is Today. The world where many wars are being fought over so-called Holy Lands desecrated by human blood as sacrifice to their vengeful Gods. The world of school, and academia, where they have you associate the mediocre learning experience of classrooms with real learning. The world where your parents have been taught by life experience to be afraid of surrendering their children to life itself.

It's the world which I'm still inhabiting, even right now, even if you can't see me. Even if it seems like you're the only one who seems truly alive, when you weep, I weep with you too. When you're jumping for joy, I feel joy too.

When you are silent, that is when I can whisper with you -- do not be afraid, dear one. I'm here. I'm listening. I am a ghost, lingering in you, your holy protector. To the extent which I can, I shall deliver you not just from the Temptation of Evil, but deliver you with Temptation into the Good and Noble.

And what is Evil? The natural antithesis of light is shadow - and whiteness co-exists with the blackness in harried symphony. Light is life and goodness, and Shadow is death and badness. But in actuality, they are the one and the same, separated artificially by words. To say that you will devote your life to pure good, and nothing but pure good - it is as false as saying that you can satiate yourself merely by reading the words of a restaurant menu alone.

But if you look at the Shadow (the Apple of Knowledge) as the regions of Life which you have neglected, then you shall see that the darkness is merely natural, that the darkness is the beautiful night in which the Moon and the Stars have the opportunity to shine. In which unspoken dreams may thrive within the beating heart. After all, "The night is darkest just before the dawn," Harvey Dent says in The Dark Knight (2008).

And for that very reason, seemingly dead trees in Winter come back to life during Spring and Summer; they have not died, they just needed to use a bathroom break.

And for that very reason, I am still alive.

I remember an old tale of sailors who were lost at sea. They were clinging onto a small piece of land above the ocean, and they were ready to die of exhaustion and starvation. The ocean waters battered them, and they decided to die a glorious death. They surrendered themselves to the vast currents, and they did not die.

Instead, they found that the underwater corals were beautiful, and that the fish and sea anonemies were beautiful, and that therefore Life itself is beautiful too. The ocean current drifted them to where there was buried treasure, thought to have been forgotten long ago. And the sailors recovered the treasure and managed to return home by a miraculous rescue from their sailor friends, safe and sound.

And that those who 'die' naturally are really just sound asleep, dreaming a more beautiful life than the one they have led prior. Like me. Like you too, someday. Even if we can't see it yet.

Life goes on, in many different ways it can, whether we want it to or not.

The one question remains; with the life you have right now, do you want to live?

Yours Truly,

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The Magic of Fiction Creations

When you go out to see a movie, or read someone's story, or listen to music - you're always priming yourself for what the other meng would pour out for you. You might have the doodads like having earbuds in your ears while reading those words, or the popcorn and audience chatter while the film projects onto the screen.

But what really makes it magical, at least for me, it is the individuality of the artist that's been imprinted in the experience. When you've finished reading something, when you've finished a film - it's not really the plot, or the characters that stick with you (however quirky you might make them). It's the visceral emotion of the experience itself - that's what makes it possible that you can always find something new or interesting when you go back to it after a while.

And the integrity of that emotion, it comes from the author, the director. The honesty in which he is able to express a certain something inside him, into being. That's what gives the work its liveliness and magic to be experienced. It's not really the so-called "respect" the author gives his imaginary audience -- I've read works that have impeccable grammar, spelling, mechanics - but that are ultimately forgettable by the end regardless, because it isn't magical. It doesn't touch. There's a quote from Kurt Vonnegut - your stuff is going to get pneumonia if you try and appeal to the audience, to have the audience pressure you into compromise.

And if you're able to infuse your work with magic, your individuality, then no matter what - I'm sure you can be proud of having made it, even if in the worst case, most everyone else seems to hate it. That is your work, your writing, and that magic in it is going to touch at least someone else's imagination. Because it's true to life as you've experienced it - that life which everyone else experiences also.

I remember there's Karen O punking Lady Gaga - they're both eclectic musicians, and so they might seem similar at first glance. But the real difference as Karen O puts it: "Lady Gaga's so referential. There's a core authenticity missing there. She just takes other things she likes without making it her own." (Reminds me of Quentin Tarantino's numerous hip "homages" to other movies.)

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3

As Emilia enters the dark hallway, she is yanked hard onto her back by the leg, and Belinda clambers onto her, her fat blubbery body sandwiching Emilia's figure onto the linoleum floor, arms and all.

"You traitor!" Belinda jeers. "You traitor!" Her eyes are wrinked and furious with bloodlust.

Emilia's arm is yanked and before she could react, Belinda pulls down her sleeve and stabs a syringe into one of her veins. She can feel the new substance flow through her bloodstream already, as the numbing sensation gradually comes to.

Then Emilia manages to free her other arm from under, and pokes Belinda in the eyes.

"Narrr!" Belinda bellows. "How dare you!"

Emilia wiggles herself out of Belinda's body mass index, and after a little searching, finds a backdoor out of the clinic.

The daylight is terribly blinding for some reason -- Emilia finds herself in a parking lot, and there happens to be police cruisers just arriving at the scene.

She runs away, adrenaline pumping though her heart, but the drug is spreading through her body, making her legs weighed down with clumsiness and she only makes it a few paces towards a fence before haplessly collapsing, like Gumby the claymation dude on one of his off days.

Her world is blurring, and the last she sees is the police officers coming with handcuffs, while Belinda the receptionist wails for justice on Canadian soil.

The End

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2

Belinda leads her through the cornering halls. The sterileness of the air carries its own kind of reek, as Emilia's nose starts to bite from the lingering antiseptic. One thing she notices is how Belinda walks, like a well-fed cow who's tip-toeing on two hind legs, with a little creak on each step. She almost imagines how behind every door, there's pigs ready to oink at her behest.

Then they enter a darkly lit portion of the clinic, where the only light seems to come from where they've been, and a lamp-lit office desk.

"You sure this is where Tre is?" Emilia asks.

"Of course," Belinda says. "Room 27 is here, isn't it?" She shakes the door handle. "But apparently, Tre is being tended to by a doctor at the moment."

Emilia rushes over to the door and tries opening it for herself, to no avail. Then she realises there's a list posted on the door, with doctor's names alongside dates for checkups.

"I told you to come back another time," Belinda says, with arms crossed. "You don't listen."

With a wave of resignation over her, Emilia sighs. Maybe the receptionist is right; but then, Emilia notices how the checkups are 30 minutes max -- and this Dr Davis is about to finish in 5 minutes.

"He's almost done checking up," Emilia points out.

A beat. "..ahh.. smart cookie," Belinda goes. "Well then, why don't we turn on the radio while we're at things?" She waddles over to the desk where beside stacks of paperleaf is one of those old, archaic radios, where she flicks a dial, and for the longest time there is grey static while she fiddles with the other dials.

Emilia rests the backpack beside her on a seat.

Then, you can hear the news broadcast: "This is CBC 11 News. We are here live at the site of the wreckage in Thorndom Fields. A Canadian stealth transport carrying a supply of ammunition and weaponry has recently been crash-landed by attackers unknown. Officials say that the pilots have made no transmissions during the emergency-- it is very likely that there is sabotage involved. Reports to come as they uncover the details from the plane's black box.."

Inside, Emilia smiles -- they know only that much at the moment, so that is good.

"Hehe, I suppose that's what the siren's all about," Emilia jests. Indeed, it can be quite envigorating to know you have been the cause of a major news story - a story that you know more than the journalists about.

Thorndon fields.. I landed in Thorndom Fields.. She's forgotten the name of the place where she waded through the wheat, and the sunset is as vivid and orange as it can be. It was a family friend who'd owned the ranch by the fields, and so she'd been allowed to play - as long as she didn't wander off too far. It's strange - she'd hardly recognized the place anymore. There's no more wheat anymore - just a field of white poppies that makes her sneeze. It's very pretty, oui, but it isn't the same.

"You seem pretty happy about it," Belinda says. "Care to tell me how you're feeling?"

"About what?" Emilia remembers she's in the clinic with this woman.

"The news."

"Oh. Well, it's exciting stuff, what happened."

"Say.. that's an interesting jacket you have on there.." Before Emilia has realised it, Belinda has rushed by her side and has her grip uncomfortably close on the red fabric. Emilia's first instinct is to pull away from this woman, but already it feels like she herself is caught in those pudgy fingers. "You know, my cousin is in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and I saw him bring that same sort of jacket for a show-and-tell once. As well as that backpack."

Emilia stares at her levelly -- as Belinda's breath starts brushing over her, that rank, sour scent.

"It's the equipment they use when they're stranded in nowhere," Belinda goes. "Say, I wonder if you just happen to be a fan of the RCAF.."

And with the same swiftness that had surprized Emilia, Belinda unzips the backpack on the seat, and pulls out some tightly sealed food cans, an emergency radio and some flint and steel. "Lookie what we have here," Belinda says. "It's not a stretch to say you're connected with the crash, and even more - you killed the pilots. You spy. You traitor. After landing, you were hoping no one would notice you."

Emilia says nothing. Her face begins to sheen from sweat, and her brow visibly furls under growing stress.

"I can understand that you're very upset," Belinda says. "Have I ruined your little charade for you? Aww. But enough is enough. Before you came, you have bribed, cajoled, killed - and if you're so determined to shake hands with the Devil, that's fine with me, but I want to make sure that you do it in Hell."

And the door to room 27 opens -- without blinking, Emilia slams the woman in the face, and quickly knocks her down to the ground. The doctor coming out of the room is stunned. He doesn't know what to do, he locks eyes with Emilia for one second before out his lungs, he screams, "Alarm!" in a girly manner. He rushes over to the desk and presses the panic button underneath, before Emilia subdues him.

The only thing to do now is enter the room, where she sees Tre on the bed - my, how he's grown up from that young and feisty kid he'd once been.

"Tre?" Emilia goes. It's such a while - she was in her last year of high school when she'd known him, and he seemed so sweet and adorable when his family would visit hers in holidays. How he would beat her all the time in Guitar Hero and the racing games. But now it is 13 years later, and she rarely has any time to enjoy herself.

She hopes her own voice hasn't changed; there's a tenderness in it that is subtly attractive, and that Tre really liked.

"..Emilia?" Tre croaks. "Is that you?" His eyes pang with recognition, and it makes Emilia smile so much.

"Yes Tre, it is me," she goes."How's things?"

"What's happening out there?" he wonders.

"I.. it's a very long story, and I don't have the time to tell it. But I brought you somethings. You once said you'd wanted to fly, and--"

Emilia takes off the red jacket and lays it on a chair. Tre opens his eyes -- "Is that.."

"It's the jacket the pilots wear when they have to parachute out the plane. I also have the backpack with the trinkets inside."

"Wow!" Tre goes. "Awesome!"

All Emilia has on is the black one-piece jumpsuit that she started out with. "I know it is. But I have to go now." And it would likely be good-bye forever. "How long are you in for?"

"Until next Sunday, I guess. Wait -- where are you going?"

"I don't know. Someplace far away from here, before the police start showing up." She wishes it could have been a more ceremonious goodbye, but the pressures are on her. So she winks and tells him, "Until later," and disappears into the hallway.

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E S P I O N A G E

1

Emilia strides into the walk-in clinic's lobby. She's ruffled, as though she has just narrowly missed a chance at dying. Her garishly red and purple jacket already stands out, and the weighty backpack she carries is like baggage on a pack mule.

She hurriedly asks the receptionist, "I need to see my friend - he's staying in one of the rooms here, it's urgent. Can you have someone show me over?"

"Calm down, miss," the receptionist goes. "What's your name?"

"Emilia."

"And who's this patient?"

"His name is Tre."

The receptionist sniffs, gives her mousy nose a little brush-over before checking on one of the computers. Emilia notices the nametag on her blouse -- Belinda. The name suitably fits her worn-out appearance; the greying hair, the conservative taste in makeup and dress. It is everything Emilia despises and is not.

"Well, Emilia.." Belinda the receptionist gives her a stern look. "Trevor Listman is still recovering, and he needs his rest in order to get better."

"Please, I have to see him," Emilia pleads. "I have to tell him something."

"But if you really do care about Trevor, you will listen to me and come back on a later time. Rest is very important, did you know?"

Urrgh. Emilia can tell she is hardly going to make much progress with this woman, at this rate. She hesitates at first about pressuring her -- but outside, the sirens start to go off, though their wailing is muffled indoors.

Moments before, Emilia had been struggling on-board a stealth carrier, up in the sky. Her mission had been to sabotage it, and bring its contents crash-landing. She had snuck aboard through one of the exhaust ports and knocked out both of the pilots before they could shout emergency. So far, her mission had been a success; she set the autopilot to plummet straight into the ground, and climbed out with one of the emergency backpacks and jackets.

When she had safely landed, the plane was already in shambles some parts away. She could see the smoke rising, and she walked over to the nearest signs of civilisation. This town, intimately familiar to her -- the place where she grew up in. What a coincidence.

That siren means that they have discovered the plane. Emilia is hoping they won't connect who she is with the wreckage any time soon. There's very little chance of it happening, she imaigines.

"Please, it's only a minute," Emilia goes. "You have to let me see him."

"Erm," Belinda goes, "this means bye-bye, get it? Unless you're here for a check-up yourself."

And without thinking, Emilia slams her hand on the counter. "I'm through being polite, goddamnit!" she goes. "I didn't come here for nothing-- If you won't let me in, I promise I won't ever let anyone I love come to this clinic!"

The people waiting are staring at Emilia - finally, there's some popcorn drama for the enjoying!

Belinda the receptionist seems unfazed; after what seems like a while passes, she finally says, "I guess I will have to grant you your precious minute with Tre--" (she half-snarls 'precious') "--with you making such a ruckus. Fred, take over for me while I escort this woman."

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Beyond the Clouds -- by QDesjardin

In the face of a cold, sometimes harrowing world
when places can turn grey and people
would lose all heart
(and it seems like all the magic is beyond reach)

you'd close your eyes and forget this accursed moment,
forget that gravity exists and forget the aching
and instead see the light-hearted, carefree blue
of that beautiful heaven, you could see
while lying upon the summer meadows

and if you'd wanted, Swan's wings would carry you
into mid-air, and you'd embrace the weightlessness
as if that stomachache were to disappear and instead
replaced with those fluttering
Cerelian butterflies, which arrive in those innocent days

when you saw an Angel sitting in the bleachers
beside you, but you couldn't muster yourself
to talk to her (you could only gaze)

or when you went outside one day for a walk,
and your heart could not help melting
looking at the wisps of clouds above
and realising it looked like the misty bottom
of a waterfall, its motion slowed thousandfold for clarity,

And in the midst of dream and memories,
there you see her, having waited for you,
and she beckons you to come,

Alors! you walk together, through the forest's leaves,
and across the shimmering river,
lit by moonlight,

There, she leans in and tells you with a whisper,
"I know why you cry,
and I know that happiness grows scarce;
but just think of me, and I will be there."

And when you open your eyes, it doesn't seem so grey, does it?

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3

The red rosary dangles down the cupboard, twisting and twirling upon the chain. The key itself looks plain, lying under the soft bedstand light. What it unlocks, she does not really know. But it has to unlock something.

“More.”

She grips the folds of the silken bedsheets, her hands slick with sweat.

“More..”

Her thighs tense, as she feels the kid pressing himself on her body, hugging her to his chest. Her world is on the verge of spinning, and the rich colours of the room start to sparkle.

She quivers.

Her heart erupts.

Then she exhales, her breath like icy cinnamon.

/

She'd first met him as she was taking a stroll down the busy streets, wearing her blueberry beret for the frigid winter. There was a look in his eye, a sort of young, bustling innocence which caught her attention. The kid was sitting by the bench, waiting for the next tramrail to arrive – staring off beyond the buildings towards the blue hues of an evening sky.

Beside him, there was room for one more.

She brushed aside the snow on the spare spot, and then she shared his joy with the sky-gazing. A sort of languidness absorbed her. It felt like the first time she really allowed herself to relax, like allowing that nice hot bath to soothe her, no longer struggling against a current.

And then she smiled.

She wanted to say something to him, but she tensed – would he recognize her as the Performer? Or just another stranger, merely wanting to make light talk? (She hoped it would be the latter. He seemed like he was just a couple years younger than her, still in school.)

“Isn't it wonderful?” she managed to say.

“What?” he said.

“Looking at the sky.” Suddenly she drew back inside; there were a great many things she could have said instead that wouldn't seem contrived. It's one step up from saying, how's the weather? So she added, “If only there were some puffy clouds here, and a wift of it there..”

The kid giggled. “Yeah, that would be nice.”

“With the clouds, I'd imagine it would be like.. floating cotton candy,” she went. “And ice cream.”

“Oooh.”

“I could just almost fly in and munch on the strands, to my heart's delight.”

“Would it rain cotton candy and ice cream?” he asked.

She never thought of that actually – she beamed. “Sure!”

/

From his wavy hair to his dapper shoes, the kid was someone who maintained a petite modesty. He mentioned his name was Johan, but she forgot it a second later. What had only mattered to her was that he might alleviate that void inside. He was on his way to the carousel and she decided to follow along beside him, just innocently.She paid for herself by the entrance, a quaint fee of $4; the kid already had a yearly pass.

It was a luxurious paradise. From the kiosks where anyone could try a shot at teddy bears to the huge rides – the giant, meandering roller coaster track looming over the park. How funny – that she'd never thought of visiting earlier. It was under her nose all along.

(“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog!” a clown exclaimed to a pack of little girls.)

“Do you come here often?” she asked the kid.

“To escape the mundanities of life,” he went. He ordered a light soda from the sellers. “You want one?”

“Sure.” She got herself strawberry cotton candy too. So she tasted the woollen, odourless fabric and found that the kind of oversweet taste it had didn't go along so well when sipping the soda; incompatible kinds of sweetness, in a water meets oil way.Some of the soda dripped down her chin, inside her blouse and touched the rosary around her neck. She pulled out the rosary and wiped it dry with her thumb.

In the shadow of the plaza there were the birds pecking at the ground for any morsel of food their beaks could find. A thought crossed the girl's mind and she dawdled over to the birds, hoping to catch one bare-handed. But they glanced at her and lifted their wings and began to fly away. As the birds touched sunlight they glowed with angelic radiance, and before she could blink they were travelling to the unreachable sky in an organized, ad hoc flight. For some reason it made her tear up.

“I love this place,” the kid went. “It is very bright, very cheery – compared with the humdrum of the streets and schools. I go here almost every day, just to dream.” He sighed. “I wish Life were more like the amusement parks. I bet everyone'll be more happy if they have a sense of wonder.”

At the core of her cotton candy, there was a crunchy caramel core. It caught her teeth by surprise.

“Don't you think?” the kid asked.

She could not help feeling a little sadness for him. To her, he radiated that youthful, almost naive innocence – especially towards the face of everyday sorrows. He was happy. She thought he was happy. And yet.. she knew it was a frail happiness. He was running away, from something.

As if he were a lost child, gazing hungrily at the window at the chocolates on display. Estranged from the nurturing love of his family, and all he had left in his world were those sweets.

That was her too.

“Yes,” she said. “If only the world were more that way.”

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At Rainbow's End --

Follow me to where the Colours are,
See the Red Passions aroused in your blood,
The Sanguine Yellows that brighten your days,
Those Lively Greens that peak in Summer's grace,
The Sky Blue gleaning Heavenly face,
(with clouds that puff and tuffle
like the hazy bellows of a waterfall's bottom)
And Violet, sweet Violet,
Who tenderly caresses your cheek and lips

As you chase after the sunset
And the last of its light and warmth
Before the Earth swallows the Sun whole,
And your involuting heart cries out
Savagely for Mother's nourishing eternal love
While the landscape is loveless, spiteful, and shit
With the occasional kindness
A mere if ephemeral substitute.

Don't you want to follow me to where the Rainbow ends?

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The Inspired Writer - by QDesjardin

If you were to describe his Writer's Block, it wouldn't be a shiny, golden treasure resting upon his desk. But tangible, oh oui, for it denies him that source of inspiration flowing through the minds of other writers, a river of emotion and story that mows down as streams and rapids. Who is Marie? Who is Mizuki? By any other writer they would be fashionable characters partaking in the grand plot weaved by some purpose. By him, they are just names with the faintest possibilities; which stories would need them?

He stares at the blank white screen of the document, cursor blinking, almost taunting him with untyped text. He makes a title, deletes it immediately, makes another one and finds no path there either.

So he coups at home, in the midst of golden holidays, indulging in the delights of others' fictions and warm cocoa, doubt always weighing on his creative future. He's written a few works, short stories and dabbled in poetry. Is this to be it? Will he be washed-up and hopeless? Imagine how pitiful it would be, how shameful, he shall join the ranks of the damned, doomed to be mocked as a hack, a petit failure.

This shall not be. Non, if he could help it!~

He spits at Fate and Pity's indifference, and the lightning rings through his nerves, raging him like a painful ecstacy, and he would glee when he cheats those set boundaries and fly away with wings he could call his own. He will call upon Inspiration, and steal away the most prettiest divine Muse from the heavens. Make love with her beauty and shine like a star, truly. He is not a nobody. He will sing, sing, even if he is permanently deformed and ugly, sing anyways - for it will be more regrettable if he never does.

He sits down by the cafe table, those onlookers noticing his envy amidst their self-absorbed chatter. Then he closes his eyes, tuning himself into the world of the imaginary, and sees their Muses - each beauty watching over their Artists. These beauties, these Soul Mates, for each their own unique music radiating from their souls. He doesn't see his. Life has forsaken him, it seems.

No more.

He sucks away what he cannot naturally have, his heart grinning, feeling the Muses' beauty pouring altogether into him, wonderful.

And then he fashions out of each Muse, his own. His Frankenstein's monster. His Pygmalion's Galatea. And his Muse is so beautiful that his heart aches under the suffocation of the entire ocean, and he kisses her, breathing air by her lips, and she kisses him back with all tender love. How much happiness he is feeling is beyond words.

He musters himself back to the blank document, and after taking a bite out of a chocolate bar, he writes a heart-rending story. At last, he finds his satisfaction.

The End (Wishful thinking.)

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If Beauty were such a thing that is as commonplace as the iPad is now, surely people would swoon in their hearts - drinking the precious feeling in. But people don't. Many of those around you continue to live Life, each moment at a time, from waking to sleeping. Maybe you do too. (Do you take it for granted?) 

But never does this mean that Beauty is rare. A rare commodity, a luxury like gold in fairy tales. Never will it mean that Beauty will die. It is like air - everywhere, invisible to material sight, not something that you grasp, and when you learn to relax and breathe it.. it fills your heart with that nectar and then your heart blossoms, alive and full. Fulfilled. Meaningfully fulfilled.

It is there when you glance at these brown eyes. It is there when you fall passionately into those lips, when your feet dance to the rhythm, when you're pouring your words out for anyone. That flow. It's also there when you stare (out the windows) at that blue sky we sit under; that blue, blue sky, so endless and radiant beyond feeling. I love it especially when it is evening, and you see another depth to the sky's character - the oranges, violets and pinks show their face upon the clouds. As you may watch the lightbulb descend until it disappears beneath the ground-- have you ever asked how a sunset feels?

The sunset as you swing in the playground, legs kicking for more momentum, the rush, and that secret desire of letting yourself fly suddenly into heaven.

The sunset, with you sitting atop the hill, caressed by your lover's embrace.

The sunset, as you cry alone in soulful solitude, and you glance at the fading sun for a consolation that will never come.

I love.

But when you do see it.. and try to bring it to anyone else - those flat-earthers who only know the joys of rooting themselves in mundanity - those Lucky Charms are only cornflakes. And cornflakes are just meant to be eaten, yes? Yes. Yet somewhere inside, your heart can't help feeling a little.. sad. Icarus's wings of fortune turns out to be nothing more substantial than wax and feathers, and when he flies too close to the sun, they melt.

"Why don't you understand?"

And for some, that desire to show Beauty's existence, can turn into a lust for madness. There is but a thin line between the mystical dreamer and the fantastical crank, and it carries an aloofness when you try to express or explain Music in non-musical terms. How do you mean, what is falling in love? I love the hair, I love the personality, but that isn't it. I love you for that beautiful soul, connecting these disjointed elements -- notes into a wholesome melody. I love that you have existed for me, showing me a glance of beauty that I can cherish. I love that I have even existed for you, having endured the process of getting born for this moment.

And when you do speak it out loud, you find yourself being the voice of the alone crying into an indifferent wilderness. A one-sided conversation risking confusion at best and getting utterly mocked at worst. That is Beauty: symbolic, eternal, and unintelligible. The language you'd speak is not commonly spoken - in all its subjectivity. The madman can only confess or pronounce. "Fish fish fish fish fish. Infinity is but the expanding and shrinking boundaries of the end. Red fish blue fish green fish goldfish."

This entails the greater yearning: can you bring this Beauty truly over, for all to experience? If you can, that is great. I imagine it would be more than great. Do show them what they have missed. Show them the electric charge in the air, and the killing realisation to their awareness. Show them the profound in the mundane. What those two Italian ladies are singing about, you don't know. You don't want to know.. are they singing about something so beautiful, that it makes your heart ache because of it? I tell you, these voices will soar higher and farther than anybody in a gray place might dare to dream. Like some beautiful bird has flapped into a drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, if only briefly.

Show them that other world which might exist only in the heart. In that world, crossing the boundaries of time, death and probability, imagination lets you reunite with..

And that's beautiful.

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Grow old with me, my Love
With a hand in hand by the evening sun
Grow old with me, my Love
Watch the sunset fade and darkness come.

Grow old with me, my Love
Our children scatter by with a romp
Grow old with me, my Love
See them live and die under Time's glomp.

Grow old with me, my Love
Age cannot wither you, this tender heart
Grow old with me, my Love
No regrets need be ever made.

..

And when you're old with me, meine Liebe
I'll be happy I grew old with you
And when you're old with me, meine Liebe
Someday, somewhere, we'll shine together.

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The wet drops strike Quon's cheeks. Amidst the schoolyard, devoid of others and blooming with a yearning energy, she glances at the puddles on the ground rippling like ribbons with every raindrop. She can feel the same rippling on her skin, an electric tingle. Almost as if somewhere within her, something verges on bursting out towards the grey clouds.

She walks towards the field of crisp green, footsteps on the grass - trodded by the pointed soles of soccer teams.

At the end where the fence borders and hedges waver with the breeze, a shed. A lovely shed by the white goalposts. A shed, its wooden frame withered by the elements, and its surface like an old woman's skin having encountered many tales in a lifetime, yet with no voice to share with anyone.

Its door remains closed, the lock is rusted beyond use. Quon almost cuts herself unhinging the lock from the braceholder, then she strains her arms opening the shed.

There are rooks and balls on the shelves, and a spotlight highlighting a little red box at the top.

Quon tiptoes, her fingers finding the box's edges, tingling - the box feels almost alive, like cupping a slithering frog in your hands. It is adorned with golden tinsel in an elegant manner. Inside it is a key, glistening like a solidified river, tempting to drink if it can be poured into a glass.

Yet she doesn't drink it. She unbuckles her belt and pulls up her dress - up above her breasts, revealing the keyhole over her heart. Pointing the key, she slides its blade into her void and she gasps; her inner self climaxes from the fulfillment and holy light dazzles out her body, out the shed into the planes of rain and air.