Chapter 28: With Pain Came Rebellion
Early June 1854
Hope glanced at her children as they sprinted past the living room.
Without greeting her, they rushed from sight and bounded up the stairs. A few minutes later, James entered the house as well.
“Hope?” he questioned upon noticing her distant gaze. She didn’t respond, just continued staring through him, the sight of her children running past playing and replaying over and over in her mind.
Suddenly, James appeared in front of her. He broke through the image, kneeling in front of her to look up at her face.
“Tell me what is going on inside your mind. Is it the children?”
“They don’t notice or regard me.” Her voice was void of feeling, just stating a fact in a dead tone. “They blame me. They blame us. But they can’t blame him anymore, since he is dead, so they blame it on me . . .” She started rambling, tears flooding and emotion finally bleeding through into her speech, “. . . it kills me knowing that I have lost my husband, I have lost my children as well, we are—”
“Hope, stop.” He grabbed her hands. “They will come around. They will work through all their hatred and sorrow, and then you’ll be a true family again.”
September 27, 1854
Thomas Crawford readjusted his grasp on the raft. The salty water drenched his clothes and burned on his lips. He focused his eyes, scanning to the right side of the raft, desperately searching for his younger friend.
Finally, the blonde mass of hair, matted to a strong face, met his eyes and he breathed a sigh of relief. The young man, by the name of Henry Price, caught his eye and smiled—resembling a grimace—at him.
They had been afloat for what had felt like days, yet Thomas knew it to be only a few hours. He wondered what happened to the Arctic and how many casualties were suffered.
A twinge of hatred rose in his soul for the cowards that rushed to save their own hides, which resulted in the loss of many who were much more vulnerable. It took great effort and pain for him and Henry to push away from the crowds around the lifeboats. After the captain’s first order for a raft to be constructed, he and Henry rushed to create a small raft of their own.
Both of them were used to the fear of lingering death, used to the assailing adrenaline that would follow the initial shock. All their adventures throughout the world had made them at peace with death.
It was this that helped them construct a raft in silence and peace, away from the hubbub of the rest of the cowards.
It was Henry’s doing to go around picking out women and children to save. Thomas did not mind, but it was this that had resulted in their raft being overthrown with many frightened souls. He attempted, and so did Henry, to save those who couldn’t hold on, as they both would dive in after those who lost their grip and started sinking.
Neither men were in spirits to continue hanging on, nor for diving in after those who would suddenly lose their hold. Yet, they continued at this rate, realizing that their only rescue would be a passing ship . . . if such a miracle would happen to occur in their case.
December 15, 1854
“Anna, could we discuss this, please?” William pleaded, rushing after her. The chill hit him, but he kept up his stride, ignoring the cold and that he forgot his jacket inside.
“I am not ready to marry and settle down,” she spat out, the moment he fell in step with her. “We aren’t going to discuss it; my answer is ‘no.’ I have this new adventure ahead of me, and I truly wish to visit my cousins at least once.”
“We can do it together! We can get married, and then set off to Australia. I can meet part of your family, and after our visit, we can return.”
“You are going to leave your practice hanging for who knows how long: a year? Two years? I don’t plan on visiting for a week and then returning.” Her tone was bitter as she desperately tried to cover up her uncertainty.
She truly wished to marry William but was unsettled by the suddenness of his proposal. Her cousin, a much older woman who had recently settled in Australia, pleaded for her to come, and visit. It would be a long journey, but she wanted to step onto different soil for a bit, before making the final decision of whether or not she should marry William.
“Anna, I love you! If I have to bid my other dreams farewell, I will do that, as long as I can be with you.” She halted, taking a steadying breath before facing him.
“William, I am leaving for Melbourne on the Guiding Star, and I’m not leaving with you. When I get back, I’ll give you my answer.” She forced a smile onto her lips, magically powering up enthusiasm from the deep chasm within.
March 12, 1855
Oliver threw down his copy of the newspaper, disregarding his name underneath the front-page headline. He knew what he wrote he remembered every single word and line of his report on ‘Bill the Butcher’s’ death and funeral.
Diana entered the room, placing the silver tray on the table. She smiled at the young man as he bustled toward her to take his seat.
“You are restless,” was her only comment as she handed him his cup of coffee.
“You are very observant, Aunt Di. You are correct.” He smiled weakly, trying to sort out his thoughts and inform her of what he considered best.
“Oliver, I have come to think that I was granted three sons in this life. Owen: though not of my blood, I raised him with every grain of love that a mother can feel. My son with Tyler, Chadwick, I wasn’t able to raise and see him grow into a young man. You—I have seen you grow from a young boy into a man, and you have become like a third son to me. It is because of that I have grown so attentive toward you, and because of that, I am aware that you have something to inform me of. Please,” she encouraged, “don’t hesitate to tell me.”
“I have reached greater heights than I thought possible for my age,” he fiddled with his fingers around the cup. “Having my book published—it is a dream come true. But I feel so uncertain and tumultuous of late. Owen is gone, Hope is broken, the twins are messed up, and . . . I just feel lost. I feel as if I am sailing without a set course.
“I am thinking,” he took a deep breath, “of breaking free from New York for a while.”
“Where do you want to go, Oliver?” Diana asked calmly, albeit nervously.
“I think I want to visit Texas . . . what used to be my father’s homestead, perhaps. And I was thinking, Aunt Di, that I want you to come with me.”
“Me?” She chuckled softly. “Where did this idea come from?”
“I want to be able to take care of you; I promised myself I would do that. Also, I think it would do both of us much good to break free from this city. Just think about it, Aunt Di. The Texas air will be very refreshing and different from what we are used to ."
Dear Mrs. Farragut,
After many months, nay, an entire year, of mourning Randolph, I have finally come to the point where I could write to you, without crumbling into a heap of despair. Much has happened since Randolph’s burial.
Frannie, never having known any other father, has felt Randolph’s loss most acutely. I have mourned a husband before, and so has May mourned a father. Frannie has never known the loss of a father.
I write to inform you of a new hope for us, Mother Farragut. It is this new ‘hope’ that might also result in us growing apart, never to communicate again, for the only thing that connected us was Randolph, and he is with us no more.
Late December of last year, a certain gentleman, by the name of Thomas Crawford, arrived in our town. He is an adventurous man, but wealthy and with a good heart.
With him, he brought the son of his late friend. The young man is called Henry Price. It seems that these men were present at the collision of the Arctic and the Vesta– not just that, madam, but it was your husband whose ship happened to pass by their raft and who saved them and the others clinging on. Both men speak very warmly of your husband, I must say.
I write to inform you that May, though still young, has fallen in love and married Henry Price last month. Frannie and I are making plans to depart for England; though neither of us have any relations there, we have decided that it might offer us a new beginning. It will also allow for me to stay close to my eldest, since her husband and she are to head for England next month.
Farewell, Mother Farragut, and I pray blessings upon you.
Your former daughter, albeit in-law,
Roberta Hudson Farragut
Early June 1855
Darling, having pondered your situation and distress, as well as the twins’ rebellion in regarding you as their mother, I think I may have produced a solution.
If it would be possible for you and James to send them, I think it would do everybody good if they came to stay with me for the present time. At least for a year’s time or so.
I could use the company, and, at times, I feel completely alone. Of course, I am very much alone practically every day. I could use the liveliness of the two, and I think they would appreciate a change of scenery.
Your father is still out at sea, and I promise that the children will be of no disturbance to me. They are very welcome here, and I think the coast will do them well. At least consider the matter, before giving up on my suggestion.
Your Loving Mother Always,
October 31, 1855
The Guiding Star, having left New York’s harbor for Melbourne on the ninth of January of this year, has not been heard of since the Mercury’s sighting of it on the fifteenth of the month following.
With no recent news, or sightings, it is hereby declared that the ‘Guiding Star’ has perished with crew, cargo, and all her passengers.
William dropped the newspaper, dread setting in. For the past few months, he had been plowing through his days, hoping, praying, and waiting for news. He wished that Anna would appear in front of him again, laughingly informing him that she never left for Australia; but no news of her came, nor of the clipper she departed on. No news, until today.
Black on white, it stated that his darling Anna had disappeared with no trace. She was gone, presumed dead, but possibly still alive. Who knew?
All that he was certain of was that he couldn’t live without her; he couldn’t continue living like this if she never were to come back to him.
December 15, 1855
“Thank you, Samuel.” Flower smiled up at him, as he placed the letters in front of her. He smiled in response before quitting the room, off to find his sister.
Though Maria and Samuel’s opinion on their mother hadn’t improved much, both of them seemed to brighten up again, away from her presence.
Flower appreciated having them close. Both proved to be helpful when she needed something from them; it had turned into them taking care of her, instead of her taking care of them. More than that, she appreciated their youthful exuberance that brightened up the house.
She turned her attention to the first letter, slowly opening it up, her mind not yet prepared for the shock to follow.
As you are aware, I have been very distressed since the loss of my light and love, Anna. I cannot continue like this. I am not going to inform you of my plans. I—I am merely informing you of my wish and plan to disappear as my beloved did.
Forevermore your son,
I am very much delighted to hear of Hope’s slow recovery to being the person she used to be. Though nobody seems to be aware of what has been acting as her inspiration for life as of late, I hope that this will last until she is able to live again.
The news from Aunt Flower certainly isn’t very hopeful . . . I truly hoped that the twins would improve under her care, but I fear that they might be past the point of return to being the children they once were.
I am very much intrigued to hear that Samuel has this passionate interest in music now. I remember that he and Maria enjoyed singing together as children. You wrote that Samuel has taken up the accordion – though I am not familiar with the instrument, I am very much looking forward to our future family visit where I will urge Samuel to play for me.
Upon your inquiry on how we are doing: Aunt Di and I have found Texas quite diverting.
As soon as winter comes to an end, we return to New York. Though the change in scenery was good for both of us, I know of and respect Aunt Di’s wish to be close to the city that she is to be attached to for the rest of her life.
Early June 1856
“To think that John Brown and his company killed five men in such a brutal manner." Diana lamented.
The family was gathered in Flower’s home. Diana and Oliver had traveled from New York, and James and Hope from the Colorado area. The twins were delighted to see their grandmother and Oliver, even James, again, but had greeted their mother coolly.
It sank her hopes of gaining their trust and love again, but she chose to remain patient. Time would bring healing.
“I agree that they were rash and cruel, but they were standing for what they believed to be true,” Hope replied to her mother-in-law’s comment.
“What?” Samuel spoke, finally facing his mother. “Are you condoning the violent murder of five men, just because they were for slavery and the murderers were abolitionists?”
“Samuel, slavery has been a great evil that has plagued us for many years,” Hope began, but was interrupted by her son.
“Slavery has been with this world for centuries. Possibly, if it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have.”
“Imagine the fate of so many men, if it weren’t for their possession of slaves to aid and help,” Maria suddenly chimed in, staunchly supporting her brother.
Silence fell over the room and all eyes turned to the twins who were openly rebelling against their mother’s opinion. She seemed flustered, but also furious.
“Let’s not forget who killed your father,” she shivered in anger.
“Father would still be here with us today, if...” Maria began, and her brother completed the thought: “... he had just kept his nose out of that whole slave and owner situation.”
“Samuel and Maria!” Hope rose from her seat, visibly rattled. Both her children rose as well, straightening themselves confidently.
“We stand for what we stand for. It is our right to choose what we believe in and what we would fight for.” Maria’s eyes glowed indignantly. “If those slaves knew their place and stayed in it, our father would never have run to get the story, and he would still be here today.”
“Maria,” Oliver ventured, “you two are still grieving, but hatred doesn’t help you. Both of you will end up losing everybody that cares for you; think carefully before you finalize your opinion on this matter. “What is now so firmly decided upon will still be my choice in the future.” Samuel’s arms wrapped protectively around his sister’s shoulders, before he continued, “We made our decision, and we will have consequences because of it. But so is life. We all must choose and pay for what we do. It is our fate, and we have chosen these over others.”
Written By: GLD
hayao miyazaki said it best:
“i’ve become skeptical of the unwritten rule that just because a boy and girl appear in the same feature, a romance must ensue. rather, i want to portray a slightly different relationship, one where the two mutually inspire each other to live—if i’m able to, then perhaps i’ll be closer to portraying a true expression of love.”
“once you have met someone, you never really forget them.”
love is inspiring the other person to reach their full potential, to coat their life in a little layer of hope and ambition, to steal a few of their thoughts and have them meander in your own thoughts as well.
romance isn't the precursor to love. sure it helps, but it's not fully indicative.
love is simply. pure happiness for another's sake, happiness that shakes and spins and spawns joy that makes you wish to live, to laugh more, to jump a little higher and smile a little brighter.
that is all. steady adoration and falling apart, but only to be whole with them once again.
not sure if any of this makes sense, but neither does love.
1. Lose weight (1)
2. Exercise (1)
3. Get organized (3)
4. Learn a new skill (3)
5. Travel more (1)
6. Read more (7)
7. Be kinder to others (7)
8. Be kinder to myself (1)
9. Spend more time with family and friends (1)
10. Live life to the fullest (3)
Just To Be
I can't see the forest.
It takes all I have
just to be a tree.
I've been called a fruitcake
you know the ones
old and stale
made of things unrecognizable.
Inside from birth
I've felt myself
lead by a star
a guiding light
high in the heavens
that only I can find
in the dark night skies.
In the present
it takes all I have
just to be.
It is Christmas morning.
I am wakened. My husband put his hands over my eyes and guides me through our house to our back yard. He yells, "Surprise!"
And there standing before me is a pony.
I look at the pony, then at him grinning wide, then back at the pony and back at him.
"It's a pony."
"Yes! I knew you'd be surprised. You always told me as a little girl you always told your mom and dad you wanted a pony for Christmas."
"I'm 70. We live in Florida. It's a pony."
"Are you surprised?!" He is still grinning.
"It is a Shetland. Just your size. You don't need a saddle just this blanket over him. Are you going to go for a ride?"
"I'm in my nightshirt. What is the HOA going to say about this?"
"It's a pony. It's your pony."
I look at the pony. Pet its velveteen nose. Its big brown eye look up at me and its head moves to nuzzle into me.
It's my pony. "I think I'll name him Fudge."
With that, my husband cups his hands for my foot as a lift up and with the ease of a cowboy from a Roy Rodgers western, I swing my leg over hold on to Fudge's long flaxen mane and ride around in and out of the twelve live oaks in my back yard transported.
When one works hard and long
Whatever he or she does
He or she moves slower and slower
Until he or she starts to sleep for a while.
Harry Situation’s 350th Review: High Guardian Spice Part 1: High Guardian Schlock
Hello Prose and welcome to another milestone review. This is the 350th review I've written in the past five years I've been on Prose. Now 350 may not be a sexy number like 100 or 300 but it's a helluva milestone regards.
As per usual for each milestone review I want to review something bad, which has been a while hasn't it? For my 350th review I've decided to do something different. Instead of a bad movie I wanted to review a bad show. And wouldn't you know it a new bad show has dropped online not long ago so it's ripe for criticism. Maybe you're familiar with this show already. Maybe this is the first time hearing about it. Regardless my pick for my 350th review is none other than High Guardian Spice.
High Guardian Spice is an anime-inspired original animated series by Crunchyroll, an online company who has a history of streaming and dubbing anime. It follows four girls - the pink-haired warrior Rosemary; the magically gifted Sage; the dwarven blacksmith Parsley; and the roguish elf Thyme - as they partake as students for an extreme academy called High Guardian Academy for them to fulfill their dreams in becoming guardians. They endure the typical high school drama such as fighting monsters, boy troubles, and uncovering a dark plot that may endanger the school and their fellow students. And that's pretty much it. That's all you need to know about this series. More or less it's your typical magical fantasy world where the main setting is a magical school, much like Harry Potter or Little Witch Academia. The only other detail is that apparently the creative team is 50% women and the writing team is 100% women, as a way to show how "diverse" the cast and crew are.
Believe it or not there was a ton of controversy behind this series and there was major backlash against it before its release. Most of it came from the fact that Crunchyroll was using subscription money to fund the project when they initially said they were going to fund Japanese artists. Also one of the series' lead writers (Kate Leth) has a history of writing a bunch of anti-men tweets, pretty much outing herself as a feminazi. Additionally, Crunchyroll released a promo back in 2018 that showed off how diverse the cast and crew were rather than talk about the series itself, as if they were trying to market on the diversity rather than the series plot, setting, and characters. This is something Disney has been guilty of in the past and are only starting to improve upon now, whereas High Guardian Spice unfortunately falls short.
The series was set to premiere in 2019 but I'm guessing due to all the backlash the project was shelved. I believe I remember hearing about this series years ago and I didn't have any opinions on it at the time. Well now that Crunchyroll has finally released this on their site (which you can view without a subscription I might add) does this show really deserve all the judgment and negative response back in 2018 before it's release? Honestly, I don't believe any product should be prejudged before their release. But since it's out now, yeah, everyone was right.
There's so much that needs to be unpacked that one review alone isn't enough so I'm gonna need to split this review into three parts. Been a while since I did that. Last time I had to split a review up was Cool Cat Saves the Kids, and that was 300 reviews ago.
The first negative to address is the animation. It's pretty bad. It may not look it if you watch the trailer but trust me when you watch the first episode you get an idea how bad it really is. There are so many animation errors and inconsistencies scattered throughout each episode. There are so examples where scale and shadowing don't match of to the next scene. For example, in the first episode Rosemary and Sage leave their homes to attend at High Guardian Academy. To do so they take a travel carriage where an orc or troll loads up the luggage. The orc/troll is made to look bigger than the carriage but in the next scene he's apparently shorter than the carriage door. There's also many scenes where background characters hardly ever move, almost like they were frozen in time while the main characters freely move around. It really gives the impression that none of the focus characters are really part of this world. They feel like they're slapped into this odd Deviant artist's post. Hell, there are even noticeable jpeg images plastered into the background and foreground. Seriously, there's a jpeg image of a set of Hawaiian sweet rolls on a dining table. And once again, these can all be seen in the very first episode. I mean, are the animators just incompetent? Are they lazy? Both?
Now, to be fair, I will say that one positive the show has going for it is that I do like the overall character designs. It does seem that the animators and storyboard artists put some thought in each character. Unique character designs do help make the characters stand out. However that doesn't excuse poor character traits and personalities (more on that in a bit).
Speaking of characters, let's break each of them down. As I mentioned earlier the four main characters of the show are Rosemary, Sage, Parsley, and Thyme. I guess there names are supposed to be a reference to spices, hence the name High Guardian Spice. Problem is that rosemary, sage, parsley, and thyme actually reference to herbs. How do you fuck that up? Sure they can be converted into spices but that's not the point, is it? So ultimately the title of the series doesn't make any sense. Off to a good start
Now let's talk about the characters, starting with Rosemary the warrior. Wow, I kinda feel bad now that one of my characters from my Sins of the Father stories is named Rosemary because of Rosemary from HGS. But at least her name makes sense and is a far better reference to something, unlike HGS' Rosemary. Any who, Rosemary is one of the most annoying characters in this show. She's meant to be this wide-eyed, energetic and clumsy character but she really comes off as a house fly or mosquito, just something you swat at in hopes of making it go away. I guess this character is meant to have the most motivated of the four since her reasoning is that she wants to be a guardian just like her missing mother. The problem is (and this is something I'll address more on in the second part) is that we really aren't given much history about her or her mother, and it's certainly not a reason for the audience to suddenly care.
Next is Sage, the magical mage of the group. At the very least she has the more interesting conflict where she's restrained to using old magic while everyone at High Guardian Academy is using new magic. Not to mention there are times where she comes off as a total bitch. For example, she and another magical character Amaryllis get into an argument about old magic versus new magic. She gets asked why she cares so much about old magic, to which Thyme also chimes in and seemingly agrees with Amaryllis. Apparently Sage takes offense of this for some reason, runs off to go cry, and then demands an apology from Thyme. I mean, why does Thyme have to apologize? What does she have to apologize for? Another example is when she isn't paired up with Rosemary, who is head-over-heels for some guy, and spends the whole episode going on a bitch fit on why she doesn't like Rosemary hanging out with this guy. She even tried to use the whole "guys don't talk about their feelings" bullshit argument when speaking to a guy. So yeah, she's a bitch and a sexist. But the major problem is that this attitude comes completely out of nowhere. So she's really being a bitch for no reason.
And then we come to Thyme, the edgelord elf. She comes off as a bitch too. She's always scowling, always insulting the others, and acting like your typical angsty teenager. I'd describe how edgy she is supposed to be but I'm afraid of getting cut. Like Rosemary, we're supposed to care about her situation since her forest is being corrupted by some sort of purple stuff called the Rot, and trying to remove the Rot is the sole reason she wants to be a guardian. The problem with her is her personality and bitchy attitude really makes me not like her nor care about her situation. She is also kinda stupid. In one episode she thought it would be a good idea to summon a demon in order for it to send a message to her father so he can copy the formula of healing water to save her family's forest. Do you see the problem here? That's like me summoning Cthulhu and using him to send a package to a friend on the other side of town. Why couldn't she just send a letter to her father? Why couldn't she go back to get more healing water? Why didn't her brain and common sense think of this before I did?
And finally there's Parsley the dwarven blacksmith. You know I'll give her a pass. She might be one of the most generic but she's at least the most level-headed of the four, or at least doesn't annoy me as much as the others do. Parsley might be one of the very few reasons to watch the series.
Now that's not to say that all the characters are terrible. The exceptions really are Amaryllis and Snapdragon, two characters who are initially introduced as bullies to our protagonists. Snapdragon's character arc is one of the better highlights of this series. I know, shocking. He was raised to be more masculine and bullied for not being as such, but he's also on a path of self discovery of who he wants to be and what he wants to identify as. Seriously, this kid is probably the best written character because the audience can actually sympathize for him. Trust me, I'll address more on him later. Amaryllis is another character I like. She initially bullies Sage for using old magic. I know we're not supposed to root for the bully but since I don't like Sage as a character I'm rooting for Amaryllis. Personally, I just like how chaotic evil she can be sometimes. It's just a joy to watch. She also has a good heart, in particular when she stands up for Snapdragon. However it's a bad sign when the side characters are much more interesting and entertaining than the main characters.
What's kind of bothersome to me, as a CIS-gender straight male, is that there really aren't any good straight male characters in the show. I mean there is Snapdragon, but again we'll get to him later. There are two male characters that stick out the most in this show: Aster and Cal. In episode six (I think) we are introduced to Aster, who Rosemary develops a crush on. We learn throughout the episode that he is a blowhard, constantly showboats, and talks down to Rosemary. Basically he's the embodiment of masculinity. Someone who is dumb and useless. Now I wonder what reason the writers decided to write Aster as such. Hmm.
Then we get introduced to Cal, the other male character and basically the embodiment of toxic masculinity. This guy is nothing more than a stereotype on how feminazis view men. This character is rude, crude, creeps on women, and just an all around cunt. Also, he's apparently transphobic, as if he wasn't already an unlikeable asshole. But surely there are far better male characters the series has to offer, right? Rosemary does have a father and an older brother, but they're only seen for like two minutes in the first episode and are never referenced again. Oddly they're featured in the intro as if they mattered. Oh, what about one of the teachers from High Guardian Academy, Professor Caraway. Um, yeah, once again, I'll address him in a later part because this is something that needs to be talked about in a separate post. Ultimately the major issue I have is that all the males in this series are portrayed as one of the four: misogynistic, villainous, incompetent, or irrelevant. Why? Because that's how the writers want to portray men. The same way they want to portray each character, solely by their personality or quirk.
I think this is enough ranting about this series for now, but just you wait. This is only the beginning. Come back next time for part two as I address the other major issue with this series: the writing and worldbuilding.
#harrysituationreviews #film #opinion #animation #fantasy #adventure #magicalgirls #magic #LGBT #ThisMovieSucks #PartOne
Servanthood- to be tread upon, then complimented for the ease of it.
This is no cushy life. No job is, but to perform a lowly task decorously, regardless of position, that is the thing!
The burn pile awaits.
Looking back, but a single regret looms… that I might have served a djinn.
Funny, the “infamous” end date of your “Victory” prompt. It cannot be a coincidence, can it? But then, you can only really know the thrill of victory after tasting the agony of defeat.
I always got off work when the cold, monotonous night rolled around. Despite the ongoing chaos that emerged from the city, my surroundings seemed empty and sterile. The cacophony of vehicles and pedestrians all blurred into an indistinguishable bubble of white noise. Each hazy fluorescent street light illuminated the concrete with a distinct pearly glow that was almost reminiscent to a hospital room. All these unwanted stimuli churned the waxing nausea within my gut.
It was such a large city but every nook and cranny seemed to be devoid of beauty. This disorganized pandemonium of unsavory night dwellers and the plethora of trash sprawled throughout the streets was overwhelming. The only place I could bear was the small alleyway a block away from my work. It was nestled surreptitiously behind a family owned bakery. They didn't get many sales but the ambience of the place was quaint and I always made sure to wave to the sweet couple that ran the store. Every day on my way to and from work I made sure to do it without fail.
Today, there was no one to greet. The windows had been brutally shattered and a rusty hammer was left by the flimsy rotating door. A decrepit "For Sale" sign hung pitifully by the entrance on a crooked nail.
"Murdered by thieves." A melodious voice called out.
I jolted. Where did that come from?
"That's what you were asking, wasn't it?" The soprano voice prodded.
I shook my head. I didn't recall ever opening my mouth to speak. By instinct, I grabbed the rusty hammer sitting at the base of my feet. Then, I cautiously turned around to meet the unsettlingly curt stranger.
She may have been the personification of a dream. Absinthe irises peered through the midnight fog. The girl began to stride forward and wispy, ethereal locks billowed behind her. When she walked under the lamp post, I could finally make out the finer details of her eyes. There was an alarming red tinge within her eyes and swollen purple bags beneath her lids.
A faded pink sweater was draped over her thin frame. As she held her arm up to wave, her sleeve rose ever so slightly to reveal an array of hair ties and rubber bands criss crossed over her forearm.
I raised my arm in suit and offered her a mechanical wave. A nagging pitfall in my stomach warned me to run and head straight home. But for some reason, I was captivated. The stranger locked her bold green gaze on me and refused to let go.
"You shouldn't wave murder weapons at random people." She chided.
I glanced at the hammer within my grasp and dropped it immediately. The dark red discoloration wasn't from rust. I unfurled and clenched my palm repeatedly and flaky, viscous droplets rolled down my arm.
It was blood.
"You might want to throw that away. They'll find your fingerprints on it soon." The girl nonchalantly suggested.
A flurry of retorts got caught in my throat. I wanted to scream. Ask what was wrong with her. And I wanted to run.
But I stayed and nodded. That gesture evoked an impassive grin from the girl and she took the weapon from my shaking fist. Without hesitation, she hurled it into the nearby dumpster.
"Can you take me home please? It's not really safe around here." She asked softly.
Wide emerald eyes looked up at me expectantly and quivering, pouted lips followed suit. Nobody could've said no.
"Sure." I told her as she grabbed me by the wrist and led me down the narrow alleyways.
Many turns later, we came across a rundown motel guarded by a starving guard dog. A distinct ribcage outline poked out of its mangy, grey fur and it snarled incessantly at us.
"Quiet." The girl reprimanded as she turned towards the dog. It ceased barking immediately and shrank away. Then, it collapsed into a fetal heap and laid motionless by the apartment entrance.
"Is it sleeping?" I wondered.
"No, it's dead." The girl corrected as she brutely jammed a key through the doorknob.
I didn't dare question her.
"Thanks for bringing me home. I appreciate it." She told me as she began to close the door shut. "I hope we run into each other again."
"Me too." I blurted.
"It'll happen soon." She reassured as she poked her head from the door for the final time. "Goodnight."
That night I dreamt of butterflies, the transient symbols of change.
True to her word, we did begin to run into each other often. She was a delivery girl who often stopped by my work. Occasionally, we'd walk to her apartment together if she came by when my shift ended.
There was no denying that she was strange. She was often reticent and easily flustered. It made me wonder why she even approached me in the first place.
I slowly began to know more and more about the girl under this enigma. Her name was Ruina and she lived alone. Due to her unfortunate circumstances, she had to leave university and did deliveries to get by. Neither of us had a concrete support system.
I asked if she had any friends and she replied with a humorless chuckle.
"Would you like to be my first?"
She held out her calloused hand expectantly and I locked her fingers in between mine.
"I'd love to."
We were both young, inexperienced and poor. Eventually, we decided that it would be best if we lived together to split the living costs. She invited me to share her motel room but I vehemently refused. The trashy apartment complex I lived at looked like a palace in comparison to the roach riddled motel she stayed at.
Both of us were horrible with words. She would always stumble over her words and stutter. I always spoke in raspy, hushed tones.
Yet, we decided to display our affections in other ways. Each morning, we'd help each other get ready for the day. She took it upon herself to prepare breakfast and iron my clothes. I'd do the dishes and style her hair.
One of her favorite styles was a French braid adorned with her antique clips. At first, tying together her stubborn waves was a challenge but soon it became second nature. Weaving the tiny metal butterfly clips was my favorite part.
However, she refused to let me touch her hair today.
"A rat ate my clips." She sobbed as she gestured towards the kitchen barstools. Just like she said, a heap of rats and mice were there. Fluid surrounded the corpses but I felt nothing. No shock, nausea or fear. Just apathy.
"It happens all the time dear. I'll get you a new set after I clean this mess up."
My words didn't seem to comfort her. She remained petrified on the couch.
The next morning, I awoke to an empty bed. I frantically scrutinized the apartment to no avail.
Ruina was never an early bird. Sure, she was strange but she was predictable. There was a trend in all her actions.
I burst out of the apartment and scourged the surrounding streets. An ear splitting wail erupted and I sprinted towards the direction of the voice.
There she was, curled into fetal position, on the muddy pavement. She had skinned her palms and knees and a motionless cat laid by her feet.
"I jumped off the balcony." She explained. "I wasn't feeling well. And then this cat followed me. I don't know what to do."
Everything she said after that made no sense. I took her into my embrace and ran my fingers through her hair. She buried her head within the crook of my neck and we stayed there until it was time for me to get ready for work.
"Follow me onto the balcony!" Ruina goaded me as she grabbed me by the wrist. She beckoned for me to sit on the shabby straw chair we haggled at a local garage sale.
It was very cramped. There was only room for that one chair and a small metal stool. Ruina claimed the stool and perched atop it on the balls of her feet. At this point, I stopped questioning all her strange antics.
"Are you familiar with Thanatos?" She asked me.
"Isn't that the God of Death in Greek Mythology?"
She flashed me a thumbs up and grinned. "You're right! But what most people forget about are his servants."
"Thanatos summons grim reapers to help him do his bidding. They lure the most stubborn souls to their death and guide them into the afterlife." She explained.
"They take on the form of their most beloved. The bakers you used to adore saw their long lost daughter before they died. But they didn't know it was just a reaper wearing her skin. She got bored and killed them with her bare hands." Ruina chirped. "And the dog thought he saw his old master at the motel before the breath of death suffocated him."
"I don't have to spell it out for you, do I?" She continued.
"No. You're my reaper of death."
I had finally accepted my fate.
"Come and take my hand and stay right by my side." I pleaded with my last breath. She looked at me blankly as she snaked her fingers into mine.
I was a fleeting change in her cyclic routine. Within the next second, Ruina would've found her next target and forgotten about me.
Even though I was falling downwards, I felt as if I was stunted midair. Black began to seep through my peripherals and seething coldness overtook my body.
I had become one of her deceased butterflies at last.
The boy was a pretty good vessel. Despite being very thin, he was quite lean and easy on the eyes. It made Ruina's job a lot easier.
"Who are you?" The college student grumbled.
"Ah, nobody important. I was just wondering if this was yours."
The reaper procured a butterfly amulet from his palm. It was bright green and hung off a fragile silver chain.
"No, it's not." The girl sighed as she began to walk away.
"Wait!" The reaper called out. "It was mine. I just wanted to know if you wanted it."
The student cast him a quizzical glance and reluctantly took the pendant in her hand.
"I hope we see each other soon!" The reaper chirped.
"We won't." The girl responded curtly as she jogged away.
"Don't worry, we will." The reaper giggled to themself.
-> Inspired by Yoru ni Kakeru by Yoasobi
-> Weird retelling of Thanato's seduction
-> Sleep deprivation fueled writing