Mother (Short Story)

Mother

The abandoned school occupied the area of two football stadiums. Frederick, the oldest, wasn’t worried about him or his siblings getting caught in one of its dirty classrooms. They had walked by the poster that was pasted onto the back gates of the school on their way in earlier as they had multiple times before. And still it carried the same warning that the premises were under surveillance – incompetent surveillance. The police had their chances but after tonight they’ll be too late. They already were. Lily and Zachariah had already begun preparing the musty room for the ritual. Frederick lit one of the candles they had brought with them – their only source of light – and retrieved the crumpled note in his pocket. He’d found twenty-six ways to interpret his late mother’s handwriting and twenty-six times he had failed. But as he put the flame in front of the note, this time he was sure. The ink might have faded in the time after his mother burned at the witch trials but the opposite was true for the ache in his heart. That only grew with each miserable flailing attempt. The candle wax burnt through the sleeves of his black shirt. He endured the wince. This would be the last time, he told himself.

“We’re ready,” came Lily’s voice.

Eyes unwavering from the creased note, a hint of a smile tugged at the edge of Frederick’s lips at the hopes of seeing his mother again. “Yes, we are.”

Lily had lit the rest of the thirteen candles which illuminated the mess of a room. The air was stale with the windows closed and the doors shut. The tables and chairs had been pushed to the sides of the dusty floor. Cobwebs clung from ceilings. After twenty-six times, none of them were bothered. They came together around the circle Zachariah had drawn in the middle of the classroom in red paint. Frederick looked to his siblings. They gave him a reassuring nod. He took out the knife from his back pocket and let it draw a line across his palm in red. Squeezing his hand, he made sure the drops of blood fell right on the centre of the circle. And when the first gust of wind swiped the flame of the first candle, the trio held each other’s hands and Frederick began his incantations for the summoning of a demon.

(397)

Prompt: Reimagined from an online prompt that suggested for a group of friends who were trying to summon a demon during a sleepover and ended up summoning one of their mothers. The prompt made for a comedic or a sad turn of events but I wanted to go a little darker by making the settings unfriendly. Ideally, this will be part of a longer story.

 

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A Letter To Yourself (Short Story?)

In-class writing about yourself in terms of your writing process.

Your writing is going to be terrible.

You think you have just chanced upon the best plot for a story. You think you have the most amazing set of characters in your arsenal. You’ve come up with all these back stories for them and you’re so excited to put your ideas into words that you don’t even wait for your examinations to end before getting started on it. No, it’s right in the middle of Finals week but there you are writing word after word. You think your writing is great. You re-read as you write, perfecting every paragraph before going onto the next because you think you’re so smart that if you edit while you’re writing you won’t need to edit after it.

It’s not going to work.

But you did alright for your examinations if that is of any consolation.

But let’s get back to your writing.

After a couple of months, you will have written almost twenty-nine thousand words but you will be no where close to finishing it. And the paragraphs that you had painstakingly edited while writing will sound like utter rubbish to you. And you will not learn at this point, no, it will take you a few more attempts for you to realise that the only reason your writing ever sounded good as you wrote them was because you knew the intricacies of the characters and their lives that you not had as of yet conveyed in your story. But it’s okay. You will know that this story that you worked on, isn’t any good. It won’t dampen your spirits though because another story idea will soon take it’s place.

This is the story that you will perfect.

That’s what you will think. And that will not be the case. In your excitement to convey this story, you will rush into it haphazardly.

Haphazardly? You must think I’m joking. I mean, you’ve watched countless videos on the AuthorTube part of YouTube. You have read countless articles from fellow writers, editors and publishers. You have recognised the flaws you have made in your first attempt at writing a novel. You have plotted for this new novel. You have interesting plot points and interesting characters. What could go wrong?

Everything.

And the worst thing is, it will take you a good long year to realise.

You will not finish this novel either – not as of yet at least, if you get my drift. But this is the story that will change you. When you see how that despite a year’s worth of effort and thirty-one thousand words, you have not finished a novel, it’s going to affect you a lot and especially so when this is the novel you expected to be the one.

But don’t worry, kid. You won’t give up. Oh you do the exact opposite.

So you put your second story aside and then you start toying with a third idea. Where, how and when this idea comes to you, I do not know. But this story is going to take you on a wild ride right from the very beginning. You will not make the same mistake you had made prior. You will spend a whole lot of time and effort planning for this novel. You will make sure you have everything down, plot points, characters, character backstories, character motivations, plot twists. You will have it all down.

And it will not be enough either because when you put an idea into words, everything changes.

But you won’t give up. No, not this time. This time you’ve been careful. You’ve made sure your character motivations line up. You’ve made sure the voice of your narrator is clear and consistent. You’ve spent a lot of time to ensure you don’t make the mistakes that you made previously. And so it shall be that this is the story that you will finish. You would have written just over ninety-five thousand words in a span of eight months.

Some congratulations is due.

But you won’t be celebrating for long because although you haven’t made the mistakes you used to, you, my dear, have made some new ones.

You will be working on this novel for another year after completing the first draft because you will be no where close to liking your writing. Your friends will tell you it’s good. But you won’t see it. You will still be proud of your idea but you just won’t be able to like your execution. And you will keep editing it. You will try to get it published even when you aren’t fully sold on your writing yet and you will try your hands at self-publishing too.

And it will fail.

But.

It.

Will.

Not.

Stop.

You.

You are a stubborn one, aren’t you? You are probably reading this and going, ‘well now that I know this, I won’t make the same mistakes’.

Well, I hate to break it to you but you will. And let me tell you why that is fine.

It is fine because you are going to love writing. You will hate editing your finished manuscript for the umpteenth time but the idea of a better product will keep you going. You will keep thinking about your second project idea and maybe, just maybe, you will find a way to make it work. You will always make it work just as you have always loved writing. You have been writing diaries and blog entries since you were a teenager. You have always expressed yourself through writing. Did you think you would want to be an author when you grew up? Absolutely not. So writing to you is not something you want to do, it is something you can’t not do.

You are going to love every part of the process from thinking about the ideas and to getting it on the paper. You are going to get stuck when your characters do things you don’t want them to do. You are going to hate them. But you are going to love the challenge they present you with too.

And hey you might not always like what you’ve written but, as I’ve seen and as you’ve read, that will never be a good enough reason to get you to stop writing. In fact, you will only be spurred to write even more.

So, you there, with the sparkle in your eye, putting your idea into words ignoring your looming exams…

Just keep at it.

We Found Love (Short Story)

Another story I didn’t know where I was going with. In-class writing. This time we were allowed to choose names and location from a few choices. I picked Christopher and Om, at the bar.

We Found Love

Christopher tugs my arm relentlessly.

“Dude, for the last time” -I pry his fingers off of me- “no.” I end up saying much louder than I had intended.

He hangs his head, his long black hair covers his eyes. He gathers his papers and books on the table without a word.

The drastic jump from his usual overly enthusiastic behaviour to whatever this is, is impossible not to notice. And he knows it too. He does it on purpose.

“That’s not going to work this time.”

He raises his eyes to mine.

I wait for the scowl that would be followed by a middle finger but it never comes. Instead he just nods and continues packing his bag. “I know. It’s okay.” He grabs his bag and starts making a move.

Watching him wrings my heart dry and before I know it I find myself reconsidering his favour, gazing around the empty four-hundred seater auditorium.

This idiot. He might be majoring in Chemistry but his psychological games are excellent.

“Oy.”

He looks at me over the shoulder still with the same look of dejection. I clench my fists already knowing I’m going to regret this but- “Fine. Just once. Okay?”

His downturned lips slowly but surely as hell change direction. The tension in my hands ease seeing it. He rushes back to me. “Really? Om, Really?”

I nod. “Are there any gay bars you have in mind or-”

“The Outsiders. It’s in town!”

The look of pure joy in his face lightens up my own. “Let’s go then.”

***

“Are you sure this is a good idea? What if everyone thinks I’m gay too? You won’t be able to meet anyone,” I ask as we wait for the bouncer to return. From the outside this two storey shophouse looking building just seems like any other building – only with tinted glasses. On the corner building it faces an intersection of streets lined with more bars and restaurants. I’ve walked past this building many times before on my way to get wasted but I didn’t realise this was a gay bar. From the outside, it just seemed quiet. Never a long line, never loud music seeping out into the streets.

“Yea. It’s fine. I just want to have a feel for the place. If I like it then I’ll come back another night.”

Christopher has long changed out the shirt and berms he wore to class today for a white dress shirt and pants complete with suspenders. And there’s no sight of his feet. The slippers he always wears has become a pair of formal black shoes.

“Sounds like you put a lot of effort into this plan.”

He just grins.

The bouncer, a smiley guy in an all black attire, walks out of the door and escorts us to our table on the first floor. It’s a dimly lit place, with a red tint. The familiar stench of beer fills my nostrils. They even have a live band that plays a mellow pop song. The girls and guys listening to them as they chat glance to us as we pass them by. They all give us a look, that’s followed by a polite smile. The look, I expected. Not everyday you see an Indian guy with a Chinese guy in a gay bar – not that I would know. But the look was why I was apprehensive about coming here. I have nothing against people of other sexualities but the idea of having everyone think I’m gay when I’m not just didn’t sit well with me. I stop in my tracks as the realistion hits me.

“Ey, you coming?” Christopher voices out. He has a calm face, with wrinkles only by the side of his mouth from smiling too much. That’s the kind of guy he is. But I never thought what it must have been like for him. I never actually thought about the pressure he must have gone through whenever he walked into a room full of people who just assumed he was straight. I never thought it was something he might have felt. Feeling like a liar, like a disappointment, like he… I don’t belong.

“I-”

He puts his arm around my neck welcoming me further into the bar. “Lets go,” he says with a wide grin quashing all my unease.

We sit right at the centre of the bar and order our drinks with the waiter, a man wearing a white shirt and black pants but it’s the rainbow-coloured bow tie, that’s striking. Christopher gives him a compliment on how nice it is to which the waiter asks if we would like to have one. Christopher agrees excitedly – agreeing for me too.

“So how do you like the place?” I ask Christopher while we wait.

He gazes around the high ceiling-ed building. Seated right in the middle of the establishment, we enjoy a full view of the second floor patrons who line the edges of the building. Chattering fills the air but not loud enough to drown out the music even though the well-dressed patrons move around to other tables mingling with each other. I’ve never been in a bar this calm. Even I’m starting to like it.

“It’s great,” he says with a wide smile on his face.

“Good.” I say, “I’m going to order some sides too. Want anything?”

He asks me to get him a serving of truffle fries and I head over to the counter near the bar through the crowd of people. But no one’s at the counter. I whip out my phone to pass the time as I wait.

“You alone?”

I lift my head up from a funny video of a dog running into a transparent glass door to see a Chinese girl with a bob haircut in a mid length black dress.

I look around me. “Me?”

She nods.

“No, I’m with a friend.” I point towards the back of the room.

“Oh you have a boyfriend, I’m sorry.”

I let out a laugh. I thought I’d hate getting mistaken, but this is actually funny.

“No, he’s just a friend,” I say. “It’s his first time at a gay bar so he just wanted company.”

“No way.”

Wide-eyed, she says it with so much conviction even I wonder if I’d said something inaccurate. She takes a step towards me, I lean back.

“It’s my friend’s first time too” -she points to an Indian guy- “And I came here to support him.”

“You were supposed to help me, Om, what’s happening?”

I turn to see Christopher behind me. But before I can acknowledge him, he extends his to the girl. “Hi, I’m Christopher.”

“Rose,” the girl says as she takes his hand. She offers him a bright smile. “Give me a moment.”

She goes back to her friend. The counter staff returns. I place an order for a serving of truffle fries and barbecued chicken and give him our table number.

“Is she straight?” Christopher asks.

I nod. “But her friend isn’t.”

“Great.”

Rose returns with her friend a lean guy with short hair. His name’s Vignesh. We exchange greetings and the pair invites us to their table that’s bigger than ours.

I turn back to the counter staff. “Can I change the table number from forty-three to twenty? Thanks.”

Dinner and Dance (Short Story)

Well. We were once again given names and a location. Mine was Rose and Ben and the location was police station. And I didn’t manage to use the police station. And we were supposed to choose from one of the master plots to create a story. I chose revenge but I don’t think it came out well. I really don’t know what I’m doing in Creative Writing in-class assignments. I don’t know what this story is about either. Well, I do but like it wasn’t what I was intending it to be. After reading the story, it’s about fairness, I guess? Rose is a girl who got bullied but is attending her school’s dinner and dance at the insistence of her mum and the shit that goes down during the event.

Dinner and Dance

Rose stood at the far end of the school hall. She watched. Sipping on a cup of fruit punch, she watched the rest of her school mates dance along to the upbeat songs the band on-stage played. Everyone she knew was decked to the moons, even the ones who normally dressed in ways to avoid attracting attention – especially the ones who normally dressed in ways to avoid attracting attention. All the girls’ dresses glittered under the neon disco lights and all the boys’ suits fitted as if they had had them specially tailored. The efforts these people put into this one night of merriment left a bad taste in Rose’s mouth. The flash from the photobooth beside her went off. A couple were having their pictures taken. She watched the couple take a series of photos with different poses.

“Would you like to take a picture?”

Rose glanced away from the couple to the boy in front of her. He wore a black shirt that had ‘Photography Club’ written on it. Although he was taller than her, she figured he was at least a year younger and judging the lack of amusement he wore on his face, he must have been forced to document this evening.

“Why would I?” Rose asked.

The boy scratched his head. “I don’t know, for memories?”

“I have four years worth of memories. Tonight isn’t going to change anything that’s happened.”

He blinked twice and gave Rose a once-over. “Okay,” he said and walked off.

For someone that had no interest in getting her pictures taken and seemed displeased to be there, even Rose knew she was dressed too nicely in her black dressed paired with a studded choker around her neck. But her mother had insisted. Rose had no interest in going to her school’s Dinner and Dance. Rose hadn’t even bought a dress. But her mother had. With the money she had put towards buying a new dishwasher, her mother had bought Rose her attired and accessories for the Dinner and Dance.

“You shouldn’t have,” Rose had said when her mother came home with the surprise. Her mother laughed it off but Rose was serious. “Look at your hands,” she said as she held onto her mother’s hands. They were wrinkled and blistered from washing too many dishes, sweeping too many houses and wiping too many windows. Rose knew being a house cleaner was neither an easy job nor did it pay well and she hated that her mother had to sacrifice one more thing for her.

“Go have fun, with friends, last time!” her mother said in her broken English excitedly. It had tugged Rose’s heart, pulled it in many directions and wrung it dry as she wore on the dress. She had no heart to tell her mother who had tears in her eyes seeing how beautiful she looked that she had no friends in a school her mother struggled to pay to keep her in. Instead she waved goodbye with a small smile to her mother who stood at the doorway of their one-room apartment.

A clinking sound resounded in the air. Leaned against the wall, Rose looked away from the photobooth to the stage. The band were still on stage but they weren’t playing. Instead, the school principal, Mr D’Souza took centre stage.

“May I have your attention please.”

The murmuring in the hall ceased to a silence. A screen at the side of the stage came on. There was a QR code on it.

“If you would scan the QR codes on your phone, you will be directed to a webpage-” movement in the crowd interrupted Mr D’Souza and he tried to get the students attention once more. Rose had no interest to be part of this ruckus but the QR code did pique her curiosity. So she took her phone out – rather slowly than most.

“The teachers have nominated a few of you for the categories up for grabs tonight, so we would like the rest of you to spend the next three to five minutes to select who you’d like to see win. I will remind you again before the voting closes. That is all! Boys you may resume,” went Mr D’Souza before he strode off stage. The band continued their song.

Rose sipped on her fruit punch that was almost finishing. She loathed having to walk across the crowd to the buffet table on the other side of the room, so she drank sparingly as she looked up the nominations on her phone.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES ARE AS FOLLOWS

BEST DRESSED (FEMALES)

LAUREN ONG

The picture underneath the name resembled the Lauren that Rose knew. Best dressed? Yes. Rose thought that was accurate. Best dressed to hide the rotten person she really was. She wore a strapless white dress even though she was all but pure. It was a convincing garb. No one would believe someone who looked like that would stoop so low as to insult Rose’s family situation on a daily basis. It’s not that Rose ever took it lying down. She let it go the first time, the second time she warned Lauren to back off, the third time, she punched her face and found herself in the principal’s office. Her mother had been called down. And when Mr D’Souza had asked what the cause for the fight had been, Rose couldn’t answer, not with her mother right beside her. The only who changed after that incident was Rose. Whenever Lauren spewed a word, Rose would grit her teeth, clench her fists but she would always walk away. She bit the edges of her cup just thinking about Lauren smirking in the principal’s office. She grit her teeth, clenched the plastic cup in her hand and scrolled down the webpage.

RAIZA ROY

JUDITH CHERN

CARMEN LEE

ANDRIANI RAMILY

Although she had heard of the other nominees and had seen them around, none of them shared a class with Rose. She cast her vote for Carmen, not because she was the best dressed, no, Andriani was the most stunning of the lot. But Carmen had the kindest smile. She had the kindest smile when she had offered Rose who was behind her in line her cup of fruit punch earlier that evening.

Rose moved on to the next category which was the same category but for boys. She hated all of the nominees and she was sure all of them hated her too. None of them called her by her given name. She left the category empty and her fingers swiped against the screen. More categories, more names, at some point she didn’t even bother to read the names of the categories and just picked based on the people she knew. The scroll bar was almost reaching the end when her eyes fixed on a photo. Her fingers trembled over her phone. Heat rushed to her skin. This was unfair. All night she’d been keeping a lookout, ensuring that she was as far away as she possibly could from the one person she despised and yet there he was staring right back at her. Bile rose up her throat. This was unfair.

“Voting is now closed everybody!” Mr D’ Souza took the stage once more. When had he gone on, when had the music stopped, when had he given the reminder, Rose didn’t know. Her heart was pounding against her chest and her knees felt weak. She needed to throw up. Just as she looked away from the stage, she caught the pair of eyes she very much dreaded seeing. And the next moment, they glanced away from her, almost as if her presence did not affect the owner of those eyes as much his presence affected her. And in a fraction of a second, every ounce of uneasiness she had felt turned to rage. She grit her teeth, she crushed the empty cup in her hand and she advanced towards the pair of eyes that disregarded her as Mr D’Souza announced the winners. The students applauded and cheered as names were called out, but Rose was not distracted. She squeezed her way through the crowd. And when she stood in front of those hazel brown eyes, she punched her English teacher, her bare knuckles against his stubbled jaw. “Best teacher? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What the-” Mr D’ Souza said before dropping the mike.

Rose who had begun punching and kicking one of the nominees for the Best Teacher category.

***

Mr Ben tended to his broken nose in the corner of the room while Rose sat in front of Mr D’Souza at his desk.

“Your mother is on her way,” Mr D’ Souza spoke.

Rose kept her mouth closed and her eyes on her throbbing knuckles as she clutched her phone tight.

“You’re always getting into trouble. Do you have any idea how much you worry your mother?”

Her vision of her bruised knuckles blurred. She rubbed away at her eyes fighting everything in her to utter a word.

“Do you know how hard your mother has worked to keep you in this school after you lost your scholarship?”

She swallowed her sobs. She knew. She could still feel the pain crushing her chest as she remembered her mother’s sore hands but the mere breathing of her English teacher behind her fanned her anger.

“What happened to you?”

She clutched onto the ends of her dress. “Why don’t you ask him?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Why don’t you ask him?” she repeated.

Mr D’Souza let out a loud sigh. “You only have yourself to blame for failing the test, Rose. You can’t blame him for losing your scholarship.”

She let out a laugh, a couple of them, unable to stop at how ridiculous everything was. By now her eyes were brimming with tears, her skin was engulfed in heat, she could barely sit still. “Sure I can.” Rose made a few loud taps against the screen of her phone and showed it to Mr D’ Souza. “He and Lauren look good together.”


My class instructor told me I spent too long building character. And I agree but in all honesty I didn’t know what I was going for in this story. I initially intended for there to be sexual assault which somehow resulted in Rose screwing up her tests and hence losing her scholarship and so when she came clean, they will go to the police station. But like I did spend too much time building Rose. I wanted to spend that much time on Rose because I like Rose’s character. And then I realised I haven’t thought about how the ending will work out. Idk.