Photo provided by Xander Lai
The Story of Hāloa
“Mom, do you believe in God?”
“Is there only one god to believe in?”
“Do you believe in Jesus Christ?”
“What if I donʻt?”
“Well if you donʻt believe in Jesus, then you donʻt believe in Adam and Eve?”
“Have you ever heard of the story of Hāloa?”
“No, whatʻs that?”
“Our creation story.”
Kainoa looks up at his mother, puzzled. It is noon on a hot and sunny Saturday in Hawaii. She sits there on a plastic chair in her driveway, hunched over a bucket cleaning kalo. She stops her task to look up at her son for a split second, and signals Kainoa to come sit on her lap. Together they clean the kalo as she begins her story.
There was nothing. The world was cold and dark. It was almost like time was frozen, and emptiness filled every nook and cranny. In the the midst of all the darkness, there was an explosion. An explosion of light. This light was a birth. The birth of day. The birth of life. The birth of Earth.
Papa, mother Earth, along with Wākea, sky father, descended from our ancestral plains to create an abundance of land for life to grow. Together they birthed their first child, and her name was Hoʻohōkūkalani. Hōkū was the beautiful embodiment of the stars. She would light up the night sky every night like fireworks on New Year’s Eve. After Hōkū, Papa and Wākea continue to birth more children, naming them Hawaiʻi and Maui. Their children are the islands of Hawaiʻi.
Kainoa looks at his mother, again with the same puzzleding look. His mother looks down at him, and grins softly. She finishes cleaning all of the kalo, and picks her son off of her lap. She gets up to wash off her hands, and begins to set up her pohaku and poi board.
“How can the earth and sky create stars and islands?”
“That’s a good question,” she says as she wets here pohaku in the shallow blue bucket of water. Kainoa watches as his mother chops up pieces of kalo and places them on the board. She looks up at her son, and sees a twinkle of eagerness and curiosity. She motions her hands, telling Kainoa to come and sit down with her as she begins to pound out the small cubes of kalo.
While Papa was birthing these islands, Wākea was secretly sneaking off with Hōkū. Soon after, Hōkū was with child. When the time came, Hōkū gave birth to a baby boy. However, there was a problem; he was stillborn. Hōkū and Wākea weeped for the loss of their son. They decided to bury their son on the eastern side of their house, the side of the morning sunrise.
“So these are real people?”
“Not exactly, but, theyʻre given human-like emotions and such.”
“Iʻm not sure.”
“So technically, Wākea had a kid with his daughter?”
“This is getting confusing.”
“I know it is, son, but back in those days, the most important thing was pro-creation.”
“The sustainability and creation of life.”
“So it doesnʻt matter that he had children with his daughter?”
“No, not really. Now, letʻs get back to the story.”
For a long time, Wākea and Hōkū continue to mourn the loss of their son. Papa, on the other hand, finds out about Wākea’s affair, and is outraged. In all of this anger, Papa decides to distance herself from him, and leaves to go to the land of Tahiti. Wākea and Hōkū spend a lot of time at their son’s grave wailing, chanting, and crying. They water their son’s grave with their own tears. Before long, a plant begins to grow from where their son is buried. This plant had a long stalk, huge heart-shaped leaves, and the most beautiful shade of green. From this, they named him Hāloanakalaukapalili. He was the first kalo plant.
Kainoa watches his mother as she pounds the paʻi ai. As she finishes up her first batch, she clears the board to make some more. She notices that he watches her every move, and decides that now would be a great time to learn how to kuʻi his first kalo. She asks Kainoa if he would like to learn, and he excitedly says yes. Together, they continue to ku’i the kalo.
Hōkū once again is with child. As they wait for the birth of their next child, Hōkū and Wākea watch over the kalo plant. She ended up giving birth to another baby boy. This time, he was healthy, handsome, and perfect in every way. Together, they decided to name him in honor of their first born, Hāloa, and he was the first man.
“So, Hāloa cared for his older brother, and as the first man, he maintained the connection that we have with kalo.”
“So kalo is more than just for making poi.”
“Exactly. As Hāloa cared for his brother, his brother also cared for him by feeding him and ensuring his survival.”
Just as she finishes up the story, she realizes that the sun is now beginning to set. She quickly gets up and begins to clean up the mess that they have made. Kainoa sits in awe, looking at the poi he has just made. He begins to think about the story his mother just told him, and what it would have been like if kalo wasn’t born.. As his mom begins to clean, she realizes that Kainoa is fixated on the bowil of ready-to-eat poi.
“What are you thinking about?”
“That was a really cool story mom.”
“Too bad I canʻt tell you the rest right now.”
She giggles slightly at his reaction, and nods her head with a grin on her face.
“What else happens?”
“Well, we never got to the birth of the rest of the Hawaiian Islands.”
“Is it not just Wākea and Hōkū”?
“No, they created the first kalo and the first man.”
“But if Papa left, then how can more islands be created?”
“That will be our story for next time, son. Now, help me clean up before everybody gets here.”
He then gets up to help his mother clean up. As they clean together, the sky is filled with tints of pink and purple. The sun is close to the horizon line, when aunties and uncles begin to show up. They show up with tons and tons of food. Within the matter of minutes, more and more family file into house. The house now smells like a 5 star buffet with the mix of different foods. Kainoa grabs the big bowl of poi that he and his mother hads just made, and puts it on the table with all the other delicious foods. As he places it on the table, his cousin, Keahi, runs up to him.
“Oh, hi Keahi!”
“Ooh, did you make that?!”
“Yeah, I helped my mom.”
“That is so cool. I wish I could learn how to do that.”
“You know, Keahi, I could totally teach you.”
“No way, really?!”
Kainoa once again thinks about the story of Hāloa. He notices that his mother is watching him from the other room with an enormous smile, running from ear to ear. He can see the glisten in his mother’s eyes, as if proud to see that he retained something from the story.
“Yeah, on one condition.”
“I get to tell you the story of Hāloa.”.
It began with a notification. The brief ring of a simulated bell requested my attention from my movie marathon. A name I couldn’t recognize had requested to follow my private social media account: Tyler. Should I accept their request to follow? Who is this? Are they my age? What school do they go to? How do they know me? My thoughts raced for questions that followed one after another, demanding answers in vain to make the fated decision: Should I accept his request to follow? I looked for our mutual followers and narrowed down events at which I would have met the person, assuming I even met him before. There was only one mutual follower, leading to only one event. Instantly, I could recall who he was. Oh, hey. We used to be pretty close. It’s been years since I saw him. How does he still remember me? I barely remember him. This thought, of course, did not mean much. I could barely remember things that happened in the mere current year, much less a specific summer five years ago. My memory heavily depended on short-term memory, rather than long-term, for no reason whatsoever.
Countless random memories passed through my mind as I desperately tried to think of any particular conversation we had. Nothing came to mind. I knew we had been best friends at the time, but I had no single moment in mind regarding his presence. This did not phase me, however, as this always happened with people I don’t converse with for a long time. I thought of his name and my vague idea of his physical appearance from five years prior. At around 13 years old, he resembled a stick with mere skin and bones, and short, jet black hair. The most noticeable feature about him was that he was shorter than me at four feet and something inches. I couldn’t be sure. Five years is a long time.
I accepted his request and in return, requested to follow back. The time it took from receiving the notification and my play at being a detective to finalizing my decision was six minutes.
Three days later, I received a message. I stared at the name, puzzled. Tyler? What would he want with me? I swiftly opened the app to view his message: “Hey, do I know you from somewhere?”
Thoroughly confused, I tried to sound casual by saying, “From camp? I think? It’s been a while.” I had no idea where this would go.
Tyler: “Nah just kidding how could I forget?”
My chest tightened as guilt settled in. “To be honest, I kind of forgot. My memory is the worst. I just kind of remember what you used to look like.” I hoped he didn’t feel bad.
Tyler: “Yeah, same.”
Me: “Well, what’s new with you?”
Tyler: “Nothing much. Do you still go to camp?”
Me: “Yeah, occasionally.”
We continued catching up with each other’s lives and each sent the other pictures of our current selves. To my surprise, we had an incredible amount of catching up to do. So much so that we talked for hours on end. Five years is a long time.
After that, we messaged each other daily. With him, there was always so much to talk about. He took time out of his day to listen to all my rants and obsessions, always asked about how I was doing, and we had almost the exact same interests. I fell for him awfully hard. As in, falling-down-the-countless-stairs-of-a-50-floor-building hard. Or maybe it was more like falling-off-a-cliff-in-the Grand-Canyon hard. I just couldn’t wait to see him in person.
And so, of course, we planned out a secret date together. It was decided that my sister would take me to a park near his house so that I could work on a “project” with a “classmate”. Then, when we were done around two hours later, she’d pick me up. Lying like this was the worst thing I’d done, but I couldn’t care less because it was the best two hours I’d ever had. I won’t go into too much detail about it, but with our meeting being my first date with anybody, I had a great time. He actually did part of the “project” of photographing flowers for evidence, but we mostly talked and walked around a field. It doesn’t sound extraordinary at all, but to me, just seeing him in person was unparalleled.
We were able to see each other on dates for three, four, five more times. It was summer after all, and I absolutely had to get out of my house and go experience something, somewhere. In the scorching, summer heat, we went to the beach, went to the movies, and visited the same park frequently. We took lots of pictures, walked hand-in-hand everywhere, and found secret places to hang out and forget about our troubles.
As ecstatic as we felt, however, summer came to a close. College demanded time and we drifted apart. Eventually, we broke off what we had, despite knowing our love for each other held strong. I still remember what he said upon our separation: “If you ever meet anyone better than me, and he’s respectful and considerate, and you really like him, forget about me okay?”
This completely shattered me. How was I supposed to forget about him?
Me: “I can’t.”
Tyler: “You have to.”
Me: “Well if you say that for me it has to be true for you.”
Tyler: “You have to promise me you’ll go with them if you find someone.”
Me: “Will you promise me then?”
Tyler: “I don’t want to hold you back. I promise.”
Me: “I promise…”
I couldn’t understand why he’d make me promise something like that when we were still together. Does that mean he’s been thinking about breaking up and has been preparing himself all this time? After that, it all slowly came to a close. From speaking all day, every day, we eventually resorted to once a day, then once a week, to not talking at all. Even though we had countless platforms to talk on, it was unanimously decided that we cease talking for the good of both of us. With the absence of my ringing phone, I silently sit here writing this entry. Although we ended on a sour note, there seemed to still be hope for the future. Perhaps when we’re no longer in school, or maybe when we have a better grip on our lives will we contact each other again.
In five years time, maybe we’ll bump into each other one day and he’ll tell me he has a girlfriend and I’ll tell him that I have a boyfriend, just as we had promised. Or maybe it’ll be me who will send him a message one summer afternoon. His phone will ring with the same simulated bell and he will get a notification. Just to freak him out, I’ll ask, “Hey... do I know you from somewhere?”
It Warned of Danger
We took off from London at 22:00, and headed south east toward the Krauts. Under the cover of night, we approached our drop zone. I was the head of our unit, a small saboteur squad with the simple mission of disrupting enemy supply lines by blowing up train tracks, roads, and anything else we could find. At 1:20 we did our final checks, and prepared for the jump. First out of the plane was myself. This was only my second mission as a squad leader, but it feels like a lifetime. Second out was Karl. They almost didn't let him join the army with a first name like that, but the man had been working in his father's firework shop since he was a child; He knew how to make things go boom. He was too valuable to not let in. He was our explosives expert, and even spoke a bit of German. Third out was Johnny, our machine gunner. He was a bodybuilder before the war, so he didn't have any trouble carrying the ammunition and some of the explosives we would need. Forth out was Charlie whose job it was to carry the rest of the explosives and our radio. He served on D-Day, and out of all of us had the most combat experience. Only reason i’m in charge is because of an associate's degree, but he’s certainly more fit. Fifth and final man out of the plane was Luther, our medic. He’s an odd man, small and not very soldier-like.
After landing we grouped up and assessed our situation. Luther dropped his rifle upon landing, causing it to hit a rock and bend the barrel. Other than this though, we were all relatively ok. We began hiking east and by daybreak we made it to a small dirt road. We decided to rest for a bit near the road to observe what it was used for. A few hours later we heard an engine approaching, and we all took cover in some bushes. As this got closer we realized that this was many vehicles approaching. The first by was a Panther tank with what appears to be battle-worn soldiers on the back. Everyone of them wore the marking of the SS, Hitler's elite. The next 2 vehicles though were strange, open top trucks with what appears to be men in white dr gown, every one of them were SS. After they were out of sight, we theorized. We all agreed that those looked like scientists, and that it was rather odd that the soldiers looked like they’d just been through hell even though we were over 30 miles from the nearest frontline. We decided that this was something worth pursuing. We began walking the road back the way they came. We walked for a few hours until we came upon a strange thing.
It was a concrete structure in the middle of a clearing. By the tire and track marks it looks as if this is where the convoy came from.
“Danger” Karl muttered.
“What?” I responded
“The sign” he pointed up toward the word crudely written in a red substance above the massive door “It warns of danger”.
“Call it in” I told Charlie.
His radio crackled to life, and we gained contact with command. We were told that it would be ideal to enter the building, clear it out, and assess whether or not it would be worth taking down.
It took 3 of us to turn the massive lockwheel on the door which had been shut tight. Strangely, a metal rod had been jammed into it to prevent it from turning, but it was easy to remove from the outside. We assumed someone probably meant to weld this, but forgot to do so.
“What the hell is this?” Luther exclaimed.
We all stared at the long staircase leading down into the darkness. Johnny pulled out his flashlight and pointed it down the staircase. Bullet casings were all over the stairs, and blood was splattered against the walls. The smell of gunpowder still hung in the air inside, this was recent.
“The hell happened here?” asked Luther
“Maybe those men were trying to desert their post, but were caught” Charlie responded.
“Could be, but the mission comes first before conspiracy gentlemen” We entered the small space before the staircase, and we all got out our flashlights. I asked Johnny to take point, being that he had the machine gun. Step by step we moved down. It took about 5 minutes of walking to reach the bottom. We found another door, but this one was quite different. It looks as if it was blown down by something. It was dented and feet from where it once stood. On the other side of the doorway was a massive space, possibly 30 feet across and 20 feet high. “Looks to me like a tunnel”
“I think Luther's right” I responded “let's take a look around”. We spread out and began walking the tunnel in a chevron formation. As we walked we began to notice tracks of all kinds marking the floors. No-one mentioned it, but I think this could well be some kind of underground passageway for the German equipment to get around without being spotted from the air. Along the way though we began to find more and more footprints and empty casings along the floor. Something big had happened here. We heard a bang from somewhere far up the tunnel, not from any kind of rifle though, but rather it sounded like metal being slammed against metal. “The hell is that” Luther said, looking a bit paler than usual.
“Could just be rats knocking things over or something” I said looking over at him. I then stepped and tripped on something. I grabbed my flashlight and turned it around. There was a rifle laying on the ground, A severed arm still grasping it. I gasped and got up quickly, realizing I was laying in a puddle of blood on the ground. We gathered around and just stared at it. The arm was just sitting there, the hand still gripping the rifle with its finger on the trigger.
“The hell can do something like that?” Johnny asked
“Could’ve been a grenade” I said to comfort him, but I’ve never seen a grenade do something like this before, and we would’ve definitely seen evidence of some kind of blast. We started walking again.
A few minutes later we spotted the outline of something big in the middle of the road ahead. We approached with extreme caution with our weapons raised. Upon getting closer we realized what this was. A truck was flipped over onto its side. It appeared to be deserted, but something was quite off about this. There was a carriage attached to the back which appears to be the mount for some kind of anti-aircraft cannon, but the weapon itself was nowhere to be seen. This was weird that someone would abandon the truck, but still lug the heavy gun somewhere. We didn't stop though, and just kept walking. Not too much further up the tunnel we saw something else in the middle of the road which we approached with caution. It turned out to be a Panzer 4 tank, just sitting in the middle of the road with all of its hatches open. It looked as if it had also been abandoned by its crew. This had us really confused, as nothing at least appeared to have been wrong with it. Everything seemed normal except for the random splats of blood on the walls and floor we continue to encounter. We decided that we would walk another few minutes and then turn back to report our findings, and then to take this whole place down.
Just as we were to turn around, we saw something up ahead. This was larger than the things we had seen before. We decided to check this out, and then head back. We approached slowly, our weapons drawn.
“Stop, I think I just saw it move” Luther said.
“You’re crazy” I responded “everything down here is abandoned or dead”.
We stood still for awhile, just lookin at it. It didn't look like any sort of machine i’d ever seen before. Then it began to move. A massive arm stretched out from it, clutching the ground and raising itself onto its legs, which until now had been concealed from us.
“Get cover” I yelled. It leaned over, clutching at something. Luther just stood there practically in the middle of the open.
“Run! Goddamnit Luther run!” We all screamed at him. The beast stood upright, and turned around. It was only now that we could see it fully. From head to toe it had metal plates covering it. A massive Swastika on its breastplate, it raised what it had in its hands. It was holding a massive gun in one hand, and in the other a straight feed clip which it quickly mounted into the side of the cannon.
“What the F-” Luther managed to say before the beast clamped down on the trigger flinging a massive shell at him. We all just stared as Luther stood, a hole big enough to see through right in the center of his chest. He crumpled to the ground. We got up and ran as fast as we could in the other direction. Shells flew over our head, bouncing off the roof and ground and down the tunnel ahead of us.
“Turn off the damn lights!” Charlie demanded, a damn good idea considering the tunnel was straight and without many obstacles. The shooting stopped moments after. We stopped running, and took cover along the side of the tunnel where we had seen a small access door. The door itself was locked, but it was enough space to provide cover. The four of us agreed to try to take a stand, that maybe we could take it down with concentrated fire.
Johnny layed down, I crouched, and Charlie leaned over me so that we all had an angle around the corner to where we could have cover and fire upon anything that came down the tunnel. I handed Karl some explosives
“Set these up along the side of the tunnel up ahead, just incase” He nodded, obviously a little in shock. He wired up the explosives in the doorway with his light, and then proceed to stumble through the darkness of the tunnel. We couldn’t risk being spotted. He returned, just saying
“It’s coming.” We prepared ourselves as we also began to hear its stomping. Suddenly a light turned on from down the tunnel. A massive silhouette of the monster was shown. It was Luther, we could barely make it out, but it was him shining his light on it so we could see. The beast turned, and we shot. Every round we fired seemed to do nothing. The metal plate on the back of beast seemed to bounce everything. “Blow it” I screamed at Karl.
“He’s a deadman, he’d want us to get away.” Just like that he hit the primer and turned the switch. The tunnel wall caved in, but not enough to entirely block the pathway. We got up and continued running. We came upon the tank, and when we heard the tunnel being cleared we knew.
“Charlie get in, Johnny get ready to give it all you’ve got, Karl you. Where the hell did he go?” The rocks we had toppled crumbled so we climbed into the turret. I slid myself into the loader position followed by Charlie into the gunner seat. He manually cranked the turret around, and then everything was bright. A massive spotlight was being held in the other hand of the beast illuminating everything. Charlie hit the trigger but nothing happened.
“Empty, load a round” he screamed looking me in the eye. I bent down and picked up the first round I could find and lifted it. We began hearing the automatic cannon fire and then the sound of the shells bouncing off the front of the tank. It was running at us, we had no time to think. I slammed the round into the breach, and tapped Charlie on the shoulder. He hit the trigger and the cannon fired. I looked through the loader viewport just quick enough to see the shell impact the beast headon followed by a massive ploom of smoke. We just looked at each other for a second, in awe of what we did.
Stomping could be heard from within the tank. I looked through the sight only to see it still coming.
“That was a goddamn smoke shell you idiot!” Charlie screamed. I bent over to grab another, but I was too late. I heard a massive screech, felt a sudden pain on the back of my head, and I blacked out.
The Sun that Set
The world is grey, and it has been for a long time. My “so called” neon-green work uniform, which is supposed to help me stand out is grey. Along with my only other pair of clothes that have more holes than cheese. The candle that lights my room, that takes two steps to go from one wall to the next, is grey. Even the money I have saved under my couch is grey. Although, it is not much, since the mole-infested, hairy legged, “organic smelling,” buck-toothed landlady, if you could call her that, picked up my rent last Tuesday. But I don’t think it’s my eyes that make her grey. My funds are more than enough to survive and therefore there is reason to rejoice. The rusty alarm clock to the left of the fridge read 5:10.
I close my eyes and announce, loud enough to hear but quiet enough not to wake my neighbors, “Today is a good day.”
I throw on my work outfit. First my once white socks that are now stained and tattered. Tattered… That is a great word to describe all of my possessions. Next my “bright” grey shirt. I make sure to keep this article of clothing clean because it's what my customers see. Then my light but thick pants. Something hits my leg and I realized that it is my key to the room.
“Hello neighbor,” says the old man that lives down the hall.
I had only poked my toe through the doorway and Mr. Jacobs already knew whose door was opening.
“Hello Mr. Jacobs,” I say, in awe of his knowledge of this place. He must have lived here for a century. I would be happy to live as he has.
Letting my thoughts carry me, I fly out the door, thankful for living on the first floor. I take my usual right at 16th, having only enough time to count 15 drunken bums before waiting for the grey hand to change to a grey walking man. Crossing the street I look at the masses of people flow around me. Although their skin colors are all grey, there are different shades, different facial structures and even different hair textures. After a couple of steps, or what other people call five blocks, I take a final right on Chance St. and walk right into Ron’s Rickshaw Station.
Mr. Ron, a middle aged grey man with an unproportional beer belly for his height, walks out of his office and gave a little job to the sight of me in his shop. “Y-y-you always come earlier than everyone else. I-I-I don’t know why I get scared every time.” He said after recovering from this little fright.
“Hello Mr. Ron. May I get started for the day?” I asked, admittedly excited to start.
“O-o-of course,” Mr. Ron said delighted, “Early bird gets the worm!”
My rickshaw is in the far corner just how I left it. I may be a poor boy but my rickshaw is that of a wealthy man. From its well polished leather seats to the wooden tires, whose grey paint glimmers in the light of dawn. I bend over, awaiting the chill from the metal handles. I wrap my fingers around them and lift.
Mr. Ron interrupts my moment with the my first five customers. “F-f-first, Ms. Wilson and Ms. Brown at 6:30,-”
I already know this list by heart. Not only that, I also know their addresses and destinations. I can even estimate their tips. My route is easy and if I go at my normal pace I can satisfy all 15 customers by 2:50.
I chose to interrupt and get on with my day, “Mr. Ron. I should get going so I’m not late.”
Mr. Ron looks up from his sheet, peers over the top rim of his reading glasses, never looking at me he peers around the room to make sure that I know that I am still, in fact, the only one that has arrived for work. Everyone else trickles in at around 6:45. Or so I’m told. I have never been here at that time.
“Go on boy.”
I arrive at Ms. Brown’s one minute early. Her house is outside of the city but it isn’t too far. I really like the house. It is two stories, with enough space to fit my room 25 times over. There is a birdhouse hanging from a branch of the old oak tree around the side of the house. I’m sure there is a bird in there but Ms. Brown is strutting down her driveway with Ms. Wilson.
I wonder if Ms. Brown actually is brown.
Both women are a little over 40, by my estimate for it’s rude to ask. They wear their normal sunday dresses, similar colored shoes, and hats with feathers to maybe match. These are a few of my favorite customers. While Ms. Brown gossips Ms. Wilson listens and adds a few words for dramatic effect. They are good people and I get them to the coffee shop right next to the hairdressers. The new one on the corner that all the young ladies hang around. I hear they give good haircuts however I like cutting my own hair. If I can’t see the colors, then I’ll just work on the texture.
“Here you are Ms. Brown and Ms. Wilson,” I announce, “Have a great day madams.”
Ms. Brown hands me the payment and a tip.
Next I pick up Mr. and Mrs. Reighley at R’s dinner. He owns the dinner and she works the waffle bar. They usually go to straight home which is just down the road but today they wanted to be dropped at the store. Mr. Reighley is a well groomed man in his early 20’s however his clothes are mediocre. Mrs. Reighley is quite attractive. Her hair is long and dark grey. Her voice is sincere and soothing. She dresses well and, judging by her hands, works hard. We arrive at the grocery store within earshot of the Reighley’s quaint house.
“Here you are Mr. Reighley,” I announce, “Have a great day.”
Mr. Reighley hands me the payment and a tip.
I take my lunch break in Mr. Ron’s. By 12:40 my route has been completed. I have made enough money for today however I have nothing better to do. I decide to go to Mr. Ron’s office.
“Hello. Mr. Ron?” I knock.
I hear him rustling with a few things so I take my time with the rusty door.
“W-w-what can I do for you?”
“Well first, I have my payments for today,” I say.
“W-w-wait! You are already done?” He sounds astounded, “Jouse called in sick today but he only had one customer.”
Mr. Ron looked relieved. “I would be happy to take that job.” I said knowing that this was my goal all along.
Shuffling through his desk Mr. Ron pulls out a folder. He hands it to me and says, “Look for the green paper. That has all this client’s information on it.”
Mr. Ron goes back to reading other folders and writing stuff down in his notebook.
How does he not know? I have been working for him for two years. So I just stare at him and wait.
Mr. Ron looks up, “What? Don’t you want more work?” As if he just kicked me in the shin, Mr. Ron looks apprehensive, “I’m so sorry. I forgot.” He pleads.
“It’s okay. It’s hard to remember that I’m color blind.” I say, putting his mind at ease.
“Yeah well… you work harder than anyone else I forget that you have any problem with you.” Mr. Ron adds.
He grabs the folder and gives me a slip of paper. I suppose this is green. It reads, John. Smith. Mr. and Rue. Smith. Ms. 1:15. Pick up from lunch(Joys). Destination: Home (13 Oakwood Dr.). That’s a ways out of town. I look at the clock and it reads 12:56. I have to leave now if I hope to make it to Joys in time.
“Thank you.” I appeal.
I arrive at Joys two minutes early. I guess it’s starting to get darker because the grey buildings are getting closer to black. I look up at the grey clouds and see they have increased in numbers and size. I hear people talking about a rainbow on the horizon but all I see is grey. I wish I could see color. I wish I-
“Are you Ron’s boy?” Introduced Mr. Smith.
“Yes sir.” I say looking only at his shoes.
“Let’s get going then.”
Mr. Smith moves toward the cart. As he shifted to his left, his daughter appeared from behind his massive build.
Color! I can see color! Her shoes, her dress, her rings, her chin, her teeth, her eyes-wow… her eyes. They are beautiful.
Wait what. I can’t see. My head hurts.
“Nobody can look at my daughter like that.” Mr. Smith says.
Everything is black.
“Why did you have to shoot him daddy?” A frail voice questions.
I have been shot? I’m gonna die? I relax. Now that I have seen color, this infinite blackness is worth it.
Souls Made of Flames
“Hey, Max, made any progress?” Logan toed her sneakers off and kicked them into a corner, bumping the door closed with a hip. There was flour and other assorted gunk caked onto her bronze skin from making pizza earlier, and all she wanted was to collapse on her bed and sleep for a week. “‘Cause I could really use some good news, and-”
She froze in place, one hand on the wall and the other halfway to her pocket. She had been meaning to grab her phone and mindlessly scroll through whatever caught her fancy, but the movement was halted by the sight before her. Most days since they had come to this backwater town, she had come back to the apartment to find her friend typing away at a laptop or, on his more manic days, stringing up pictures on their cork board while talking to himself. There was no reason to expect anything different today.
Apparently, reason didn’t matter.
Instead of Max, there was some thing sprawled out across his comforter. Its multi-jointed limbs fell every which way, bony fingers like twigs poking and prodding at the music note pattern of the fabric. When it saw her, a multitude of eyes from somewhere in the strangely blurry form lit up and focused directly on her own. For a moment she hoped that what she was seeing was just a result of not cleaning her glasses, but that illusion was shattered as more and more eyes opened along the thing’s skin.
“You aren’t-” Logan stopped herself, remembering the rules that she and Max had memorized, repeating them back and forth on their journey to Seel’s Bend.
Never eat their food, anything that seems too good to be true probably is, and don’t ever tell a faerie your true name.
“You aren’t Wolf.”
The shadows of the room clung to the thing, leaching from the walls to pool and puddle in the divots of its skin. A toothy grin cut through the darkness surrounding the faerie, and a windmill of limbs sliced through the air as it sat up. “Aw, what gave it away?”
Logan just looked at it, unsure of whether it was joking, and with a sigh it rolled over onto what was probably its stomach. A swirl of eyes all rolled up to look at the ceiling, and the bending of its neck made her wonder which side of its torso was the front.
“No, I’m not Max- or Wolf,” it amended. Her jaw clenched, and a literal twinkle sparkled in one of its many eyes as it watched. “No need to worry, I get chosen names-”
“You have to leave. Where’s Wolf?” Getting past her initial cocktail of shock, nerves, and fear, questions threatened to bubble up from Logan’s throat. This was the most energy she had felt in weeks, which probably wasn’t a good sign, but she didn’t have time to process any of the thoughts warring inside her. There was a faerie sitting right in front of her, acting like it owned the place, and her closest living friend was straight-up missing.
She would have time to deal with all of this later, so for now she just boxed up the swirling in her chest and hid it for later.
Everything that she had learned told her to never trust a faerie, but the entire reason that she had come to this podunk town was to see if they even existed. Now, living proof was sitting right in front of her, fluttering skin shifting as she watched. The skin around its ribs was translucent, and she tore her eyes away a moment after seeing the hollow space in its chest.
“How did you even get in here in the first place?”
“Rude,” the thing said, and that took Logan a moment to process. Its petulant tone was so contrary to the otherworldly and powerful look that shrouded it, and she had trouble reconciling the two. This was the immortal faerie she had spent so long searching for? If she wasn’t looking at the flicking of its pointed ears and the flutter of shadows as it breathed, she wouldn’t believe that it was a member of the dignified Gentry.
“I came in through the window. If you don’t want people crawling through it, you really should leave it locked. Or at least not hanging open, ‘cause that’s practically an invitation for anybody passing by on the street. Might as well put up a sign saying ‘free cupcakes inside-’”
“You ate my-” Logan glanced over to the counter and frowned at the crumbs. This was really what she was dealing with? A snack thief who seemed more interested in the drama than making devastating deals? “Really?”
It shrugged with a grin when she looked back at it, quickly continuing on and ignoring the scowl she was levelling in its direction. “Maybe. But! I do know where your friend might perhaps be, if, you know, that is the type of thing that you’d be interested in learning.” Its pointedly cheerful expression widened, and a multitude of eyes flickered from side to side for a nauseating second before zeroing back in on Logan.
She opened her mouth before pausing, narrowing her gaze at the thing to try to get it to make some modicum of sense.
There was a head, with pointed ears peeking through a curtain of shadows and sharp teeth clearly visible. It had two arms, both of which were currently hovering in a jazz hands position, seemingly in an attempt to focus more on her missing friend than the fact it had eaten her snacks. It appeared as though it was making something of an attempt to appear humanoid, but there was so much that was off that she had trouble even looking in its direction.
Add that to the fact that it didn’t seem purposefully threatening, and Logan was thrown off. Crossing her arms and drawing herself up to her full height – which, in all honesty, wasn’t that impressive – she stared down where the creature’s main set of eyes appeared to be.
“Why are you here?”
“Well,” the thing said, dragging out the word before breathing out with a loud sigh and shrinking to about six feet tall. During the exhale, it threw its arms back in an exaggerated movement, and all the shadows shrouding it slid back to where they belonged in an instant. It looked close enough to human, if you were able to ignore the extra fingers, or the second pair of peepers blinking on the side of its neck, or the purple tint to its skin, or any other of the countless abnormal details.
Logan closed her mouth as it continued, crossing its arms in a movement that seemed far larger than necessary. “I came here as a place-filler ‘cause your friend got taken, and I came in through the window because what is the point of knowing how to climb buildings if you never do, and in fact, before I continue, I should be the one asking you what held you up. I was posing for a while before you showed up, and – pardon me for speaking the truth – you didn’t even seem that impressed with my theatrics.” The thing spoke with its hands, arms uncrossing and flapping around and crossing again, drawn up as it dragged out words and then slumping as it said others. A whisper in the back of her mind made Logan think it seemed harmless enough, but she shoved that thought into the box of things she would unpack later. Now certainly wasn’t the time to let her guard down.
“I was late because today I worked a long shift? Wait.” Logan held up a hand, wanting to get her brain back on solid ground. “Ma- Wolf was taken? How do you know? Why should I trust you that he’s not just out getting, I don’t know, groceries?”
“Well, first things first, I don’t lie. I can’t, actually, but I also don’t, just as a matter of principle. Your friend, though, I saw him walk into the forest with my own real eyes, and then he didn’t come back out. The woods have already shifted for the day, so he’s gonna be gone for the rest of this lunar cycle.” Despite the faerie’s assurances, Logan didn’t want to trust it. This thing had broken into her house, stole her snacks, and seemed like it was here for a good time rather than anything of import.
Its face, though, was what kept tripping her up. It looked like it actually regretted being the one to tell her the news, and its many eyes were flickering around to look anywhere but her. She wanted to think that it was lying, that this was all just a scam to get her to let her guard down, but it was difficult with the sincere expression pulling on the faerie’s face.
She pushed her glasses up with the back of her hand. “My friend was taken, and you’re saying that we can’t get him back for, what, four weeks?”
The faerie twisted its mouth, shifting its eyes around for a moment before releasing a single, prolonged word: “Yeah...” It paused, twining its fingers together for a moment before releasing them and straightening up again. “That one’s not on me, scouts honor. But! I do know who has him.”
“Well, if you know who has him, you can help me get him back-”
“No can do.” The faerie cut her off, a solemn expression crossing its face for a moment before it cracked its neck, releasing a series of loud pops into the room. “I can tell you who has him, though, if- if!” It held up a finger, pausing Logan before she could comment. “If you let me stay here until you get him back.”
“What, you want me to find Wolf, on my own apparently, and then bring him back and say ‘sorry, I replaced you with some faerie who thinks very highly of itself-’”
“Themself, not itself,” the faerie said, sitting back onto Max’s bed and watching Logan with a neutral expression.
“Right. Sorry. Tell him that I replaced him with some faerie who thinks very highly of themself, so he might as well find somewhere else to go? I don’t know why you would even want to stay here, anyway, it’s small, and it always smells burnt.”
The faerie didn’t respond for a minute, taking their sweet time to drag their talons along the blanket before turning their attention the rest of the bed. Logan’s hackles raised, watching as they fluffed up Max’s pillow and then dropped it on the floor. They kicked one spindly leg into the air and propped it on the other, bringing a hand behind their head and humming for a moment before responding. “I can help you, you can help me, we can help each other.”
“That’s not an answer...” Logan trailed off into silence as the faerie flicked their hand, summoning a glass ball from thin air. It trailed around their fingers, turning into a many-sided die and a tarot card and a strangely furry bright yellow worm. Then, letting it trail down their arm as it rolled back into the translucent sphere that it was originally, they tossed it to Logan.
As she grabbed it, awe plastered across her face despite her best efforts to keep her cool, the glass melted away into a small slip of paper. Eyes flickering over it for a moment, she looked up at the faerie. They had a smug smile stretching across their face, toothy and wide and altogether far more disconcerting than anything else she had seen so far, but there was something in their eyes that gave her pause. Confident as they appeared to be, they couldn’t hide the traces of fear in their expression.
Exhaling a thin stream of breath through pursed lips, Logan crumpled the paper in her hands. “You say that you can tell me what I want to know. What I do know is that faeries are big fans of deals and specificity, so tell me: what, specifically, can you tell me?”
“I can tell you how this town works, and about the faeries and magic you apparently haven’t figured out yet. I can tell you where your friend is, and how you might be able to get him back.” They created a tarot card between their fingers again, flipping it back and forth to reveal the Magician.
The back of the card had a pattern of shifting eyes and flowers and feathers that hurt to look at, and Logan crossed her arms tighter as she stared out the window.
She was trying to process everything that was happening, but she felt like she was missing some crucial piece that would make the whole puzzle make sense. This all sounded too good to be true, but she had been working for weeks to try to figure out what was up with the town without any results. She just had to learn all she could, get Max back, and things would be fine.
This is fine.
“One question.” Logan’s chest felt tight, eyes being pulled back to follow the twisting card against her better judgement. If she agreed to this, there was no telling how things would shake out, and all the stories she had read pointed to disaster. There was a taste of hope, though, and the prickle of magically made paper on the inside of her palm made her want to be a fool. She had been calculating for so long, keeping herself and everything around her from falling apart for months, and it would be so easy to let go, just this once. “Can you teach me magic?”
The faerie sat up, flicking the card into the air and watching it disappear before looking directly at Logan. Their eyes shifted from dark brown to a pale blue as she watched, before settling onto an orange that crept into the sclera. What am I even doing, she wondered, digging her nails into her skin. I should just throw them out and deal with this on my own, it’s what I always end up doing-
“There’s no guarantee that you would be able to learn, but I could try my hand at teaching you magic, if that’s what you need to seal the deal.” A shrug passed from one arm to the other, settling with their chin in their palm.
Logan bit the inside of her cheek before responding, closing her eyes in a last ditch attempt to process what she was doing. Last chance to not be an idiot.
Opening her eyes, she blew out a tense breath. “You will stay here with me until I get Wolf back, or-” She swallowed, not wanting to leave open any loopholes. “Or until I leave Seel’s Bend. You will answer my questions about this town, faeries, and magic truthfully, and you will teach me magic to the best of your ability. Are these terms agreeable?”
“Hey, I’ve gotta commend you on your sense of drama, it’s really pretty impressive-”
“Do you agree to the deal?” She was honestly proud of herself for how she wasn’t shaking, although that might partially be due to how tightly her arms were crossed. Internally, she was on the verge of screaming, but on the outside she kept her jaw clenched shut.
Shaking out their bony arms, the faerie held out a hand with a flourish. “Sounds good to me.” There was a lopsided smile spread across their face that had Logan second-guessing her decision. This isn’t a person, she reminded herself, grip tightening even further around her torso for a moment.
But they are my best chance of getting Max back. She looked at their hand, twig fingers with too many joints beckoning her to shake, and she loosened her arms.
They shook on it, and after all the tension it was almost anticlimactic. There was no burst of light or sudden warmth spreading up her arm. It was just two beings shaking hands in a mediocre apartment above a pizzeria, and as she realized this Logan pulled her hand away. There was silence for a few moments before the faerie spoke up, leaning forward and resting their chin on their palm.
“Do you have a name? I could just keep calling you pretty, but if there’s something that you’d prefer...”
Logan looked up at the ceiling, wondering just what she had gotten herself into. “I’m Nobody.”
“Surely that can’t be right,” the faerie said, lifting what was probably meant to be an eyebrow. “Never let it be said that I am one to critique a name, but I do believe that I can find a more fitting one. We shall just have to see how it shakes out, though. I,” they said, puffing out their chest and gazing into the middle distance, “am Foxglove.”
After a moment, during which Logan simply stared at them, they glanced over at her with more than a hint of disappointment shading their features. “Tough crowd. Not as impressive as I hoped?”
“I’m not going to answer that.”