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The stories in this collection were written during my teenage years. The work is a mixture of genres. You’ll find romance, drama, and the occasional humor story. With most of the work consisting of flash fiction, it’s a rather quick read. I don’t think this collection would’ve been possible if it weren’t for my father and my creative writing teacher. The latter taught me that brevity can be better and just as enjoyable as a novel. The former taught me to believe in myself and essentially to “just keep swimming”.
There is a paperback edition of Musings from Yesteryear that I only sell at live events. In that particular edition are bonus stories I added that are not available to read in the ebook. If you do have the ebook version and you’re interested in reading the bonus stories, they are as follows:
Not a short story or flash fiction, but this is the only poem I’ve ever written that I’m proud to admit that I wrote. (I will never be a poet.) My great-grandmother had just passed away and I felt compelled to compose something in her honor. This poem is the result.
I wish that I could’ve known you a lot more than I did,
To listen to your stories about your childhood,
And watch that dreamy look come upon your face.
I was the unlucky grandchild I suppose, not being able to know you
for all my life like the others,
But you were always so nice to me, treating me as part of the family.
I’ll remember that, and remember everything you said,
Your great image still lingering in my head, never to go.
I always seemed to live in a fantasy,
Always thinking that you’d live forever, never thinking once that you’d have to go someday.
But now I know, that was just a selfish thought.
I came back to reality, and it hurts so much.
You lived through so much, what exciting stories they must have been, like how you felt
during World War II and JFK’s assassination.
But now you’re a guardian angel watching over us,
Protecting each and every one of us from harm.
Nos sunt velle revocare tu semper.
(We are willing to remember you always)
This was written just a couple months after I turned 20.
There was a contest on DeviantArt where writers were told to create a story based off this statue. It was a really compelling statue with a pretty girl, Flame, who looked severely burnt and had bandages wrapped around her. And then there was this little figure latched on her that looked like a pile of ash but it had a face.
I had some initial problems coming up with a story for her, but I knew that I wanted to write her story. Whether I made it on time for the contest deadline, it mattered not.
I believe it was a day before the deadline or the day of the deadline that I sat down and watched the “It Gets Better” short film that Pixar released on YouTube. And I realized that the girl was a victim of bullying. I suddenly had a story! I wrote it as fast as I could and did some minor editing and sent it in. To my surprise, I managed to get an honorable mention.
Flame and Ash
In my very first memory, there’s an intense heat. I can hear wood crackling; I can feel my skin blistering. And there’s a deep, grumbling voice somewhere nearby . . . “You really did it this time . . .”
* * *
My memory replays itself night after night in my dreams. My eyes open at the same time my dream self does, but instead of flames I see a white ceiling and the sound of monitors and gadgets beeping tickle my eardrums.
“Remember anything?” my nurse asks as she walks in to check my vitals. She asks me every morning. And every morning, I would answer,
She flashes me a sympathetic smile and changes the bandages on my face. Her hands graze my scars—I had at first protested, but grew to endure it; it made me feel like I was something other than just a part of the room that I had grown to become a part of. Before she leaves for the morning, my nurse provides me with a bland breakfast that I would eventually eat. The television was always blaring some mindless show and I would stare out the window and wonder what it was like to be a free bird.
My existence was based upon an endless routine, which for Jane Does like me should stay uninterrupted. But maybe all routines were meant to be broken . . . Or at least that’s what I thought until my nurse returned earlier than expected, dropping a package on my lap.
“What is it?”
“A package of course,” she answers as she writes feverishly in my chart. “It was addressed to ‘Our Most Forgetful Jane Doe’.”
I trace my hands over the package. “What’s in it?”
“Dunno. Open it and see!” She plops down next to me. Her excitement is contagious—my hands begin to quiver as I open it.
A large, heavy book with a ton of ash was the only thing in the package. I brush the ash off and open the cover. In a neat handwriting, the words ‘Property of Flame’ was written at the top.
“Mean anything to you?”
I flip through the pages. They are filled with bizarre text and none of which make any sense to me. I shake my head.
“Aww. Well maybe it will. Let me clean up the pile of . . . ash? . . .” She looks at my blankets which are now strangely ash free. “Strange . . . Well I’ll see you later.”
* * *
I dreamt of a time much older than ours. People were protesting my existence outside of a castle. The king valiantly attempted to appease the rioting crowd as I was led away to a secret chamber.
The bodiless voice that continuously haunted my dreams muttered, “Ignorant people. We’re trying to help them, not destroy them.” His voice was saturated with a Scottish accent—something I’ve never noticed before.
I opened my mouth to reply, but the voice began speaking again: quicker and more urgent than before.
“Come on lass. Wake up! Wake up!”
* * *
My eyes open and I find myself staring straight into the piercing yellow eyes of a pile of ash. Its eyes illuminate the dark room; a wispy stream of smoke emit from it.
“Flame! I finally found you!”
I jump. Piles of ash are not supposed to speak. Ever.
“Don’t you remember me?” The ash moves closer to my face. It has the same deep, grumbling, Scottish accent as the bodiless voice in my dreams.
“Um, no. Don’t remember a pile of talking ash in my life.” I take a deep breath. “I must be dreaming. My subconscious mind is trying to file my memories of the fire and the hospital into one thing.”
“This isn’t a dream lass. I’ve come to take you back.”
I laugh. It sounds forced. Perhaps it is or maybe I really don’t know how to laugh. “Back? Back where?”
“Home of course.”
“And where exactly is home?”
The little pile of ash shifts his gaze to my new reading material.
“Home is the book?”
“Don’t be silly lass! How could anyone live in a book?” He glares at me.
“Who are you anyway?”
He huffs himself up. “Ash of course. I’m your tutor, well, more like your master of sorts.” Ash shifts himself to more comfortable position. “I taught you in the arts of magic.”
“Magic?” I raise an eyebrow. What was in that soup my nurse served me for supper?
He closes his eyes in serious thought. “Yes. Magic. Your element was fire, of course. It’s how you got your name.” His piercing eyes open again and settle upon me, blazing into my soul. “That book can get you back home—to your right time lass.”
“My right time? What exactly do you mean?” I sit up all the way, staring at the strange little pile of talking ash.
He turns and looks out the window. “This isn’t where you belong lass.” His gaze shifts toward me. “We’re from a much older time . . .”
Sharp pangs ring through my skull. People crying out freak, demon, monster . . . I was a monster . . . A she-devil who shouldn’t exist. Memories flitter at the edges of my consciousness.
“No . . . No . . .” I grab my head and shake it, hoping that the memories will cease. “I don’t belong there!”
“Now Flame, don’t say that. It’s your proper time. Of course you belong there. Now that little accident you caused before you disappeared on us, don’t worry about it. Got it all taken care of.”
I raise the blankets over me. “They don’t like me. The people think I’m a demon.” I still don’t remember the accident, but I refuse to let Ash know.
The wisp of smoke that streams from Ash’s body moves the blankets away, so he can see me better. “Sure you may look different and sure you know some magic lass, but chin up. It gets better.”
I shrug the smoke away. “I like it here better.” The people don’t call me a freak. The people here always smile at me. They always try to make me happy. But the people from my memories—the memories that I just remembered—they don’t like me and I fear that further memories will only confirm that fact. I doubt anyone from my actual time liked me at all. With the exception of Ash. He seems to like me. At least, I think so.
Ash hops on top of my book. “Fine. Stay here for all I care. You’re caged in here, you know until they see fit that you’re all better. Though they’ll want you to pay them money for taking care of you. I’m sure you owe a fine little fortune as of now.”
“The nurse, she likes me. She’s nice to me,” I mutter lamely.
Ash rolls his eyes. “Of course she’s nice to you. She’s nice to all her patients.”
“They don’t call me a monster.”
Ash heaves the book open and begins flipping through the pages. “Of course they haven’t, lass. You’ve been in a hospital. They take care of people. They’ve seen people look worse than you. Walk out of here and people will either feel sympathetic or stay away from you because you look the way you do.” He turns, the smoke continuing to flip through the pages. “Don’t you want to return back and help people? That’s what you were training for: helping people. You wanted people to see past your face. You wanted to prove that magic wasn’t just for conjuring up destruction.”
I look away and watch as it begins to rain softly outside.
“I can do all of that here,” I whisper.
“In this time you’ll only be seen as a form of entertainment. Not a healer. No one will take you seriously.”
I continue to watch the rain fall. It’s interesting how rain washes everything away. Water is a wonderful element—the life-giver. I sigh. I wish that was my element. Instead I was stuck with the destructive force of fire.
“Look Flame. You were lucky. You were reborn into this time. Now it’s time to grow up again and face your fears. What do you say?”
He had finally stopped turning pages. I grab the book and take a look at the pages. They are filled with strange pictures with triangles and circles and the text was still unreadable to me. I hadn’t unlocked my memories of magic. All I remember is the unending cycle of pain.
“I don’t remember what this says.”
Ash gives me a wide smile. “That’s all right. We’ll just have to start from scratch.” He hops over and nestles himself on the side of my face. I can feel the heat of his body permeating through my bandages that cover the hideous scar that marks me as a monster. “I promise you lass, it will get better.” He pats me on the head and the teaching begins again.
I found this flash fiction buried in a folder. It’s actually something that I’ve written rather recently (within the past year, I think). It’s a bit rusty since I haven’t written anything short in quite some time due to being focused on my novels, but I still find it kind of enjoyable.
Inspired by a prompt from Mistress of the Dark Path’s monthly writing challenge.
Billy peeked around the large mountain of snow; he could see his breath. The older boys were hiding somewhere within the forest—the only line of color as far as the eye could see. He hunkered down and rubbed his hands together, hoping to regain some circulation. His mittens lay forgotten on the ice adjacent to him—the snow stuck to them, making it hard to roll a perfect snowball.
He took another peek at the forest lining. A shadow moved. Was it the enemy? A lump of terror rose to his throat. No. He had to stay strong! He had to do this! He had . . . Billy froze as another shadow moved. Two. There were two that he could clearly spot. Where were the other three?
He hunkered back down behind the hill, hoping no one had spotted him. Unless the older boys noticed his shock of red hair beneath his white toboggan, Billy assumed he’d be hard to spot in the snowy landscape with his pale skin and white coat. It made sense to him to ask for a white winter ensemble. With the blinding white snow, perfectly untouched in this field, it was the perfect camouflage. This year he would beat the older boys and prove he wasn’t some child.
A crunch alerted him. Billy stole a peek around his hill. He didn’t see anyone . . . but someone caused the snow to crunch. He scooped up some snow and began packing it into a tight ball. His hands were red from being exposed in the elements for so long.
Billy’s heart raced. His grip tightened around the snowball.
Did the older boys know where he was? Was all his planning for naught?
Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!
“I swear he was around here,” a voice said from afar.
“Probably fled like the little wuss he is.”
Billy dropped his current snowball and rolled up more. He needed ammunition. The enemy was so close . . .
“I knew he’d run. Any kid who’s got any sense would run,” Billy heard the boy spit.
For a moment, Billy stopped. It was crazy to go up against five experienced older boys. Maybe the best thing to do was to run . . .
No. He shook his head. The leader of the pack, Johnny, had crossed the line. If he and his friends had just bullied Billy, Billy would’ve been fine with that. He would’ve never felt the need to do something as stupid as this. But Johnny—no, that jerk—had insulted his family. Called his sister a—dare he say it?—slut for being pregnant out of wedlock! Said his father was a poor drunken slob that wasn’t any war hero, but a coward, and his mother was a dirty whore.
Fueled by the memory of the insults, Billy became enraged and gripped the snowball until his knuckles turned white. He stood up, took aim, and flung it straight at Johnny’s head. The pack of boys immediately huddled around their leader, protecting him from the onslaught of snowballs. Billy had blood pounding in his ears, deafening him, so he didn’t hear the first pleas to stop until he saw one of the boys crying. Billy dropped his snowball. He had made one of them cry! A swell of victory swooped through him until he realized Johnny was bleeding; he had been cut by a rock that had accidentally slipped its way inside the snowball.
Johnny’s right hand man stood up as Billy neared to get a better look at Johnny’s swollen face. And the blood! His nose was like a faucet of blood.
“I should kick your ass for what you did to Johnny!” the second in command threatened.
Billy didn’t flinch or cower. His eyes were glued onto Johnny’s face. He had done that?
“No,” Johnny said in a hoarse whisper. “He’s proved that he’s no kid anymore. Let ‘im go.”
The boy glanced at Johnny reluctantly, but did as he said. The other boys followed suit and shifted out of Billy’s way as he strode passed them, never looking back.
The more I look over this short story, the more I see the many problems with it. Staying in short story form is restricting it, especially in terms of characterization and plot. There are many unanswered questions, which is why I plan on expanding this story into a novel.
This was inspired by a very vivid dream I had. For once, I was the main character of my own dream and it was interesting to see things in first person POV. I’m usually more of an observer in my dreams.
I mulled it over for a couple of months on whether or not I should write it down and then while on vacation, decided “Why not?” So I began work on it on vacation sometime during the summer of 2006 and didn’t get it finished until about October.
America. The great melting pot. Ironically enough, most people won’t accept you if you’re not white. For people like me, who aren’t, who exactly am I? They say to embrace who you are if you want to “fit in”. Well, I don’t know what to embrace.
* * *
“Susan, you should smile more,” my mother told me flatly as she drove the van down the country lane.
I was staring out the window. Blurs of what I thought was corn and soy swept by. She always told me to smile more, but what for? I sighed when she made the comment, showing that although I didn’t want to hear it, I was listening. My eyes quickly darted toward her. She was what most people called an Asian beauty. Soft features with perfectly shaped almond eyes that held the mysteries of the world. Then there was me: the Asian that had a nose too big for my face. It deteriorated my soft features, features that I inherited from my mother. The nose came from nowhere. But my pride and joy was my hair, and people loved it.
I saw her frown from my response, if you can call a sigh a response, and without any second thoughts about it, my eyes darted back to the country scenery.
Fields upon fields of never ending farmland continued to sweep by. On occasion I saw a horse, or a herd of cows, but mostly, in this small area of nowhere, it was mainly crops.
“You’re not going to show your grandmothers that same attitude, are you?” I heard her ask with authority.
“What do you think?” I threw back at her. The car stopped abruptly and I was pulled forward by the force. My eyes grew wide, as I looked wildly at her. Just as I was about to yell at her, she glared at me from her seat, towering over me, though I was a couple inches taller.
“Susan, I mean it. I’m sick of your I-don’t-care-about-the-world attitude! You need to shape up,” she said icily.
“So why’d you insist on taking me anyway?” My voice was raised slightly, but I was too frightened to yell at her. I may have never respected her like I should have, but I did have enough sense to know my limits.
My body was soon propelled back as she turned to continue to drive down the lane. She was silent for a moment, as if she was collecting her thoughts. As I started to forget my question, my mother answered back, just above a whisper, “Tangshinun kairichidarul p’iryo haeyo.”
I looked quizzically at her. I hated it when she answered my questions in Korean. There was one point in life when I thought it was neat, but the aggravation of learning a new language didn’t bode well on me, so I stopped. I guess, I never really tried. The only word I understood was a simple ‘hello’ and beyond that, nothing.
I grew to hate my mother’s light accent. I hated my ancestors. I hated my heritage. I hated my customs. But what I hated the most was being labeled different. I didn’t want to be different, I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be the blonde-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader who dated the quarterback of the football team. I wanted to be that prom queen. I wanted to be that girl with admirers who swooned every time she smiled at them. I would have even settled on being the goth girl because even she was considered more normal than I.
Within a few minutes of guessing what my mother had told me, the scenery slowly changed. Quaint buildings could be seen here and there fighting against the farmland. Slowly, slowly, more and more buildings popped up until we entered the edge of a small town. Grandma’s street was the main road, and it wasn’t too hard to find her house either.
My mother turned onto a long driveway with a modern brick home with a touch of Oriental flair. The roof was the most obvious of all the Oriental touches put on the home. I groaned when I saw it, it was just another thing to hate.
“Annyong haseyo!” my grandma called out as we got out of the van. She was a short woman, with wrinkles showing under her eyes. Her head was a bit square-ish, and her hair was short, grey, and curled. She came running down, which looked more like a waddle to me, to embrace my mother.
“Annyong haseyo!” my mother replied cheerfully, returning the hug to her mother-in-law.
“Yeah, hi,” I muttered with a curt wave.
My grandma looked up at me with a frown. Her perfectly shaped almond eyes surveyed me. “Ah, Susan! You’re looking as lovely as ever, but do you have to wear such big shirts?” She placed her hands on my large, dark blue hoodie, trying to find where the fabric stopped and my body began. Finding my stomach, she frowned again. “Look at this! You’re so skinny! People will think you’re fat if you continue to wear these big clothes! You should be proud and show off your fine figure!”
“There’s nothing pretty about me,” I sighed.
I noticed my mother’s look when I said that. It was almost the exact same look she had given me when I threw that question back at her in the car. I swiftly diverted my eyes away from her and gave the best fake smile I could offer at my grandma. She accepted it and began throwing hundreds of questions at my mother. I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to answer them at all at such a fast rate, but she somehow did. The conversation started out in English for the sake of me, but in the short time it took to walk from the van to the door of the house, it had deteriorated into Korean.
Just as I was about to step into the house, Grandma stopped me. “Your great-grandmother wants you. Why don’t you visit her?”
Remembering my mother’s stern look, I decided to humor Grandma. It was the least I could do, and besides, it was better than sitting in the house, listening to Korean, while flipping aimlessly at the television to find there was nothing on at all in over 300 channels.
Sighing, I finally asked with a light smile, “Where is she?”
“In the shop of course.” She indicated the small white building in the back that I had at first mistaken for a garage. As I began to walk up the long winding driveway, I heard her announce with an air of mischievousness, “If you can find her.”
I turned in confusion at my grandma, but she had already walked into the house. I honestly didn’t want to meet my great-grandma because of the language barrier. She was born and raised in Korea, thereby only knowing Korean. It was Grandpa that insisted she come and live with them when he moved to America. It frustrated me trying to talk to her, but she just smiled at me, as if the language barrier never bothered her once. I dragged myself to the shop, forcing myself to move my feet with each step I took. The shop came closer and closer, and before I knew it, I had reached the little white shop.
The bells clanged against one another lightly as I opened the door. The shop smelled of must, and if it weren’t for the screen door bringing in some light, I wouldn’t have been able to see anything.
“Hello?” I called out uncertainly. Silence answered. Frowning, I timidly took a few steps into the shop, squinting here and there to see if I could make anything out. “Where’s the light switch?” I found myself thinking out loud.
As I said that, a dull light dilatorily illuminated from beneath me, starting a chain of lights scattered throughout. I gasped suddenly at the sight before me, taking in a quick intake of dust. I bent over, coughing roughly, but I wanted to make sure I saw everything right. There, just beyond where I was standing was a couple of wooden planks leading to a rock column. The column had more wooden planks that led to another column, and the pattern continued far out of view. There was another path to my right that looked as if it went down, and another to my left that went across. All around me was complete darkness and cold air. I had a sense of being in an underground cavern somewhere, and nearly screamed when I found out I was standing on a cliff. I couldn’t see the bottom and the drop was steep. There were no ledges for me to grab on if I fell, and nobody but Grandma knew I was out here. What kind of a shop had a cavern as you walked in? I tried to peer down into the abyss, balancing myself carefully so I wouldn’t fall. As I looked over the edge, a gust of cold air shot up, blowing into my face, and blowing my hair straight up.
I stood up and looked back to the door, only to find the door was no more. Frantically looking around, I found that there was nowhere else to go but on one of the paths. I wanted to go forward, and the only one that looked like it went forward was the path in front of me, the path that led up.
* * *
Heaving myself to go on, I decided to take a short breather at the column I was standing on. I watched as the last column’s light I was on, faded out. The one ahead slowly faded on. I breathed heavily and plopped down with a hand over my heart. My eyes drifted back to the blackness, and I found myself doubting my choice. Had I gone the right way? I had been walking aimlessly on the path of wooden planks and rock columns for the past fifteen minutes and I was getting nowhere fast. But then, just as I was thinking about walking back down, in the hopes that the door I had walked in would somehow appear out of nowhere, a bird chirped.
The chirping came from above me, and when I looked up I saw a pretty white bird. It was decorated with a tinge of pale yellow on its crest and pale red cheeks. My first guess was a cockatiel, but the bird was larger than most cockatiels I’ve ever seen in the pet shops. Still, the bird seemed to have cast a spell on me, and I soon found myself following it the rest of the way up the path.
It chirped, circled around me, and swept through the gateway I found myself standing in front of. It was tall, wooden, with red rectangles and squares swooping off and flapping on its sides. There was black lettering on the small flags, and when I squinted at it, I realized the message, whatever it said, was written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. I hesitated at the gateway. Because the gateway reminded me of the archway of a shrine, I was unsure to enter. It held a forbidden feel to it. I couldn’t even really see beyond it and looked back again to the path I had just stepped off of. But the bird chirped insistently this time from the other side, and I found myself taking my first few steps beyond the gateway.
What I found wasn’t exactly what I wanted to find. Stacks and stacks of boxes surrounded me. The cardboard boxes were larger than me, and to my luck, “More wooden planks.” I smirked in disbelief.
This time the planks led in all sorts of directions, so I was unsure of where exactly to go. But the bird swooped into my line of eyesight and out, only to reappear flying along one of the paths. Before I knew it, I was following it. Where it was leading me, I didn’t know, nor did I care. This bird captivated me, piqued my curiosity. I had to know where it was going, why it was trapped in a shop that appeared to be minute.
I found myself running along the edge of a rather large tower of cardboard boxes, attempting to keep up with the bird, when a blinding white light hit my eyes. Instinctively, I put my hands up to guard my eyes, but when I looked again, I saw a doorway leading outside. Blue skies and marshmallow clouds met me when I walked out. Tentatively, I looked over the railing.
The small town where my grandmothers lived spread out before me, the wind playing lightly with my hair. I moved a few stubborn strands out of my face, and gasped. This small town, a town I thought held such little value, looked so beautiful from where I was.
I was higher than I thought I was, up on the edge of a concrete building. Had I really traveled this long distance? A chirp diverted my attention to my right, where I noticed a fleet of stairs. Looking back down to the town, I took a deep breath and began the ascent.
* * *
It was only a mere three flights, something I walked up and down nearly every day at school. And yet, by the time I reached the top I was out of breath and found myself staring at a door. Unsure, I placed my hand on the handle of the door. After what seemed like hours, I drew the courage to open it.
A wind chime sounded when I opened the door, and a whaf of spiced, sour, pickled, cabbage hit my nose. There was no mistake about that smell, it was the smell of Korea’s staple food besides rice: kimchi. I found myself inside a small, Oriental store. Garlic hung from the ceiling in strings, looking like thick icicles. Their smell mixed lightly with the kimchi, making it somewhat tolerable to look around.
“Annyong haseyo,” an elderly voice said from my left.
Jumping from surprise, I looked to find my great-grandma. She was dressed in a simple white hanbok, the traditional dress of Korea. Grandma always looked old and tired, but Great-Grandmother was just the opposite. Despite her old age, she didn’t look a day older than fifty. Not one wrinkle decorated her face, and her long, silky, black hair was kept in a neat braid.
I smiled delicately at her. “Um . . . annyong haseyo?”
Great-Grandmother gave me a wide smile. “Ne, ne. Idiwa,” she told me gently, patting the counter before her.
My brow furrowed at her statement, unsure of what she was saying, but I interpreted that she wanted me to come to her. I crossed the short distance between us, and before I knew it, I hurled a rough question at her. “Where are we?”
She continued to smile at me, not even giving a response in Korean. It killed me. The peace I had found while making my way to her was slowly deteriorating. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I began shouting, screaming, yelling at this poor old woman who didn’t know what I was saying. All she knew was that I was upset.
“WHERE ARE WE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP HERE? WHAT DID YOU WANT? I’M SICK OF YOU! I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!”
Her smiling expression turned worrisome in a matter of a few seconds. It hurt me, I won’t lie. This kind old woman, my great-grandmother, was being yelled at by some brat and she didn’t even deserve it. I guess I was more frustrated than I thought. It was then that she pulled out a ticket and handed it to me. She pointed her finger at me and said with finality, “Tangshinun. Susan. Tangshinun.”
“For . . . me?” I asked, pointing at myself.
She nodded. “Susan.”
I took the ticket, a train ticket, and walked slowly out, ready to make the long journey back down. But to my surprise, I was outside of the quaint white building, on solid ground. Grandma’s house was within my eyesight. I opened the door again, the wind chimes indicating the door opening. There she was, my great-grandma, looking peacefully at me. I waved good-bye slowly before heading back down the winding driveway.
* * *
“Hello Susan,” Grandma said calmly as I walked in.
I looked at her curiously. Did she know about Great-Grandmother? “Where’s the train station?”
“The train station?” My grandma and mom exchanged looks. A small smile appeared on my mom’s face. “You’ll find it at the opposite end of the town,” Grandma started, “But . . . it hasn’t been used since we came.”
“That’s fine.” I abruptly left before my mom could utter a word.
* * *
I reached the broken down station within minutes. Hidden behind the elementary school and left untouched, the place really did look like a mess. Dead, leafless bushes bordered the sole platform. White paint was chipped and peeling off the ancient wood. I looked about. Why did I need to come here of all places?
I sighed and took out the train ticket. It was the first time I looked at it. I was to leave off of platform one, which seemed pointless to even state, promptly at noon. From there my next stop was a small wooden building. I looked at it again. A small wooden building? I never had a train or plane ticket before, but I sure knew that my destination couldn’t be right.
Since I didn’t have a watch on me and there wasn’t a visible clock around, I didn’t know the time. It seemed like five minutes passed before I heard something I thought I would never hear: a train whistle. It grew louder and louder and finally a small, one car train halted in front of me.
It was a bright and shiny blue, with a single red stripe going around just below the windows. The front looked like a traditional train, complete with a cow grill. A man, no taller than me, with a bushy moustache and large eyes hopped off. “Coming on?”
“I . . . don’t know,” I told him baffled.
“Ticket?” He eyed me curiously. I slowly stretched out my hand and he abruptly grabbed the ticket before I knew it. “Mhm,” he muttered while scanning it. “Yup, you’re coming on! Come on, come on, we don’t have all day.”
The conductor pushed me on board; I nearly tripped up the steps. The shades were pulled down, which gave the impression that the sun was setting on the horizon. As my eyes adjusted to the dull light, I realized the others on the train. No adults. Just a car of kids and teens. Why were they here? Were we all going to the small wooden building?
“Are you going to just stand there, or grab a seat?” the conductor politely questioned from behind me.
I jumped and looked swiftly behind me. I had forgotten all about him. Dilatorily, I took a timid step toward an empty seat next to a Hispanic girl who looked bored. She watched me the entire time, never stirring from her position. It gave me chills just knowing those golden orbs were following and overseeing my every move.
She flashed a smile at me. “Queta Lopez.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, unsure.
She giggled. “My name. My name is Queta. Queta Lopez.”
“Oh . . .” For the first time, I was unsure of what to say and found myself to be bashful, something I thought I’d never be. I saw her look at me, ushering me to tell my name as well. “Susan. Susan Lee.”
“Hola Susan Lee. Why are you here?”
I sat there, stunned. Why was I here? What exactly could I tell her? I shrugged my shoulders and for the first time really looked at her. She didn’t seem any older than me. Her hair was held in a bun with a Spanish comb. Three earrings per ear, with an ear cuff and a delicate chain that hooked from the first earring to the cuff. She wore a ring and bracelet and her jewelry was all silver, with a delicate and complicated design. Queta was definitely a girl who embraced everything about her heritage, and yet, she was still herself.
I hadn’t realized the train had been moving until I saw a boy pull a window shade up. The scenery swept by as twilight was setting in. How long had I been on here? It only felt like five minutes, but had I really spent the entire afternoon on this train?
“Hungry?” Queta queried, offering me a bun.
Yet again, I swept my eyes around the car. Everybody was pulling out some sort of food: pizza, sushi, ravioli, baklava, and even poi. Where was this all coming from? And where did the conductor go?
“If you don’t want the bun, you can have something else you know,” the conductor said. I jumped and looked at him. He was standing beside me, looking at me curiously with a food cart. “But, perhaps what you need is to look out of your window,” he added slyly before leaving through a door. Queta gave me a smile as she watched me frantically turn around and pull my shade up.
Water. All around us. A humpback whale passed by, as if it was normal to do this sort of thing. And then we were out. London. Paris. Berlin. Rome. Athens. Istanbul. Hong Kong. Seoul. Kyoto. They all went whizzing by. Landscapes changed, structures came and went, and yet the entire time I was amazed. There were people out there, millions of people all holding onto what they were. They knew what to embrace.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Queta asked, staring out the window with me. I couldn’t speak, I could just nod my head in agreement. “You said you didn’t know why you were here, but I think I know why. This train, you wouldn’t have been able to ride it, much less see it, if you didn’t even have an ounce of magic in you. Do you know why you’re here now?”
“To figure out who I am . . .”
“That’s right,” she told me with a bright smile. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
* * *
As the sun began to rise, I began to notice a very familiar scene. Fields upon fields of never ending farmland continued to sweep by. On occasion I saw a horse, or a herd of cows, but mostly, in this small area of somewhere, it was mainly crops. And, as if right on cue, quaint buildings could be seen here and there fighting against the farmland. Slowly, slowly, more and more buildings popped up until we entered the edge of a small town. My heart began to race as Grandma’s street came into view, and then her house. The house with just a slight touch of Oriental flair. The very house that I loved. Just as I turned back around, with Queta giving me a knowing look, I realized where this small wooden building was. Right where I began. The train station.
“I’m at the end of my journey, aren’t I?” I questioned, looking at Queta with a forlorn look.
She gave me a bright smile. “If you have found what you are looking for, then yes, this is the end.”
The conductor came out, gave me a nod, and opened the door.
* * *
I ran. I ran with everything I had. I ran across town. I ran up the winding driveway. I ran into the shop. I ran across all the planks. I ran through the cardboard boxes. I ran up the three flights of stairs. And I burst open the door, the smell of kimchi hitting my nose like a brick wall. “Great-Grandmother! Great-Grandmother! It was amazing!” I leaned behind the counter to find a man, opening a jar of kimchi.
“You mean the old lady? They don’t live here anymore. Check in that old apartment,” he grunted.
* * *
“Grandma?” I questioned timidly, as I went up the steps of the apartment.
“Susan! There you are! How have you been?” my mother asked when I opened the door.
“Where’s Great-Grandmother? And why did they move? What’s going on?”
Grandma came out of the kitchen. She seemed older than when I last saw her. A little of the spunk she had was gone from her step. “It was her dying wish to pass on to you her powers,” she began slowly, setting the tea down onto the table.
I sat slowly down. “She’s . . . dead?”
“Only those that mourn or are themselves dead wear white.” There was a strain in her voice when she said it.
My mother took a sip of her tea before saying, “But, I know she’s happy. She was always fond of you Susan.” With that, I realized what I was. I came from a line of Koreans. But not only that, I was a witch. And for the first time in my life, I knew exactly what to embrace. Like Queta, I too would embrace my heritage, and yet, still stick to who I am.
I am Susan Lee, and no one can change that. No one.
This was another little flash fiction I wrote recently. I was stuck in my novel and really needed a change of pace before I decided to kill off all of my characters with a random nuclear explosion so that I wouldn’t have to deal with them any longer. DeviantArt was having their annual April Fool’s Day fun and the theme was Troll Face. One of their events for the day was to write a flash fiction with a troll. Frustrated with my own project, I decided to enter for the sheer fun of it. In the end, it helped me overcome my writer’s block.
The Lonely Troll
Harry the troll peeked out from beneath his bridge. He didn’t think it was fair that trolls had to live under bridges—wasn’t this the 21st century after all?—but he continued to do so because that’s what he was led to believe. Cars thundered overhead, causing him grievous migraines day in and day out. Oh, how he longed for the days when all he had to do was bask in the sun, awaiting for travelers to come across his bridge.
Back in those days when all the traveling had been by foot or horse, Harry had always jumped out. Sure he scared a few unsuspecting travelers, but he hadn’t meant to. When people had come to his bridge he wanted to make sure that they were going in the right direction and were well rested enough. Most of the people were grateful, though there were a handful that had fled and insisted that he had wanted to eat them. That was disgusting! Why those people had spread that awful rumor about him, he would never know. Harry knew that trolls preferred to eat fresh fruit and berries. Meat—especially human meat—was vile.
When cars started to roll around, Harry was able to stop the occasional traveler to check on them, but now with GPS and cell phones, everyone ignored him and in the end he became more irritable with his frequent migraines and loneliness.
Gazing up at the flecks of dirt and rocks that came down with each passing car, Harry decided today was the day he was going to leave his bridge. With a big “Harumph!” he scooted away and began walking. He was only a few feet away when he looked back. His home had changed with the times, but regardless it was his bridge. The thundering and zipping was already relatively quieter here. He looked around. A person was further away, sitting beneath a tree.
Harry moved closer to the person. It was a male and he was engulfed in the paper in front of him. Feeling braver, Harry crept up behind the young man and took a peek at what it was that was so fascinating to this man. An epic battle ensued upon the page and the boy was feverishly placing lines here and there, turning it into a masterpiece. It was—undoubtedly—the most amazing thing Harry had ever seen. He wished he had the skills to come up with something like that, but he didn’t because he was a troll.
“RARGH! STUPID!” Harry roared as a migraine seared through his skull.
The man jumped and turned around. He glared at Harry, marching away with his art.
Harry reached out to him, pleading. “Wait! I didn’t mean—!” But it was too late. He was alone and always would be.
Going through some of my old work, I discovered some old school work. There was this fun, little project we were required to do in AP English that was one of the few creative writing projects we got to do. After having studied The Canterbury Tales, my English teacher thought it’d be great if we wrote two “tales” of our own. And on top of that we were required to read them in front of the class. Fun stuff, right? I was mortified and somehow managed to get through the reading, though I’m sure my face was red and I probably stuttered the entire time . . .
Again, not short stories, but I find the poems kind of humorous, so I’ll share them with you.
Tale of the Drama Student
A drama student from high school
Was talking feverishly of a dual.
She was as pretty as a southern belle,
And in academics she did excel.
Her personality was quite bright,
But she always wanted to be quite right.
In a group she was over zealous,
But at times she seemed rather jealous.
That lead part was going to be hers,
If not hers, then to a man that slurs;
Singing songs from a ‘a tale as old as time’,
As she hums to Fleet Street to solve the crime.
Making pirouttes across the stage,
You wouldn’t know her inner rage.
Although she was a triple threat,
She did not know about the set.
Her memory was quite great,
I’d think I’d call it top rate!
At the drop of a hat,
Shakespeare she could chat;
She had pearly whites,
And of average height,
Her gentle golden locks
Were as bright as her socks.
And that is my director’s cut.
Tale of the Grandmother
There was with us a grandmother
Who hailed from eastern thither.
She wore a red and blue hanbok
To which the others grew to mock.
Her gentle eyes, to which deceived
Her strong desire for a male conceived.
A mirror hung from her plump waist,
Because she had such meticulous taste.
Her shiny hair was turning dull
Along with her laugh, like a cawing gull,
Were many of the things she wanted to change
If only her marriage wasn’t arranged!
She’s led a long hard life
Yet never complains of her strife;
Her face, hard as leather;
She smelled strongly of heather.
When it came to making decisions
There were always collisions;
It was either her way
Or the highway!
This tiny dragoness paid no heed
To the fact she wasn’t of any need,
For in a society of patriarchs,
She indeed thought it matriarch!
But that is enough of that.