The Unknown We Always See

The flower petal landed right on her nose, that’s what was so unbelievable. Her brain showed her the angle that usually went ignored, and she not only saw the mango-colored rose petal but her own nose.

Her whole life, she could see her nose, but her brain filtered that out. It was something she had always known, but it took a whole new meaning right at that moment.

“The brain knows everything, but I don’t think it understands a lot.”

“What’s that?” He asked.

It was suddenly right there. The things she had seen but had filtered out. Rachel plucked the petal off her nose and sat up, eyes wide over blushing cheeks.

“Rachel?”


They had met on the beach. We never truly remember how we made a friend. One day we had no idea about each other’s existence, and the other, we were in each other’s lives.

It was like that with him.

But the scene came to her. Just like her mind showed her the nose that ever eluded, so did it now reveal how the moment had unfolded.

He was walking his dog, she was reading a book. The dog got her attention by barking, and so she looked at it, and then at him, and he was already looking her way. She had seen many handsome men, and yet, none had caused the reaction that that face, slightly unkempt as it was, managed to burn into her. She smiled, and he smiled, and that was it. They both wanted to talk to each other.

Until now, that’s where it had started. They wanted to talk, so they did, but looking at the reason behind it, Rachel now understood it had not been that simple. Something had happened between step a and step c, and she didn’t understand it. Yet, she certainly didn’t regret it.

“Nice to meet you, Rachel. This is Duke.”

She had giggled at that, pulling her hand to scratch the young dog’s head and gain its favor. “You introduce the dog first?”

“Of course. He’s the one that caught your eye, wasn’t he?”

Rachel had looked up at him, amused.

“And I caught yours, is that it?”

“Eventually,” he said with a thoughtful smirk. “First was the book.” He pointed down at it. “I’ve read it, and I really liked it.”

Ordinarily, that should have offended her somewhat. As she perused over that memory, she expected to have continued the conversation out of politeness, which was the obvious step e between d and f. The truth was different, she now realized. It was clear that his response had been charming to her. She had continued the conversation out of interest, not politeness.

The fact was that their first interaction had not been socially scripted in the way all relationships are.

From observing her own relationships, and that of others, everyone always seemed to be following a script that had been written by some ethereal agreement from which culture had been fabricated, and on which society had been built. People hardly spoke as they truly wanted, said the words they desired or did to others as they knew should be done.

Do not step on their toes. Do not overreach. Do not hurt their feelings. Do not be too informal, or too formal. Take into consideration their profile before choosing your words. Their history, their appearance, their gender and race, politics and religion. All of it.

Do not, ever, be yourself until you are sure that it’s appropriate. Rachel had never witness otherwise being beneficial, and as far as she could remember, she had only tried it once herself. To terrible results.

People either followed the right script, and their relationship thrived for the benefit of both people, or they followed the wrong one, and then not at all. As far as she could tell, several reasons were behind the mistakes that could be made, but the main one was willful ignorance.

Rachel, though, observed and considered everything carefully. Ever since she was a child, seeking to understand her parents and how not to disappoint them, Rachel had been incredibly apt at deciphering the script. Even if people weren’t themselves, they were still very honest about what they need in an interaction, if one pays enough attention.

Rachel paid a lot of attention.

They started meeting at that spot often, her and him. Rachel could see all the steps unfolding as they usually did. She watched, she listened, she deciphered the expectations. Politeness and interest gave way to subdued flirting that could very well simply be friendliness, and that gave way to overt flirting that makes the situation obvious, all the while avoiding any subject matters that could threaten their appreciation of each other’s company.

Enjoying moment after predictable moment, making sure nothing would be said or done that would ever ruin the mood. Building the relationship step by premeditated step.

Now, though, Rachel recognized how very unlike that it had been, actually. The overt flirting had begun when he showed up without Duke, his dog.

“Had to drop him at the vet for some treatment,” he had explained.

“And you still came to the beach?”

He smiled at her, knowingly. “Of course.  I wanted to see you.”

That was skipping a few steps, for sure. That had not been Rachel’s interpretation, though, but rather that she had simply misjudged the script as far as that relationship was concerned. That she had an inaccurate perception of what the steps were, and which one they were on.

“Well I’m glad one of us gets what they want, but I wanted to see Duke.” She winked at him, and he chuckled.

“He’s with me in spirit. I’m a guy, after all, we’re all dogs deep down, right?”

That was usually a very negative thing, especially to admit, but in that context, it was again inexplicably charming. Rachel gave him room on the bench and read not on more page that day.

The kiss was another thing that was odd. It was another day, and she had been driven into a small fit of giggling by the interaction between Duke, his dog, and a couple of poodles.

“Oh man,” he said, pained, and then he kissed her. She froze, not because it was unwelcome, but rather because that did not fit into any understanding she was currently on as far as the script was concerned. “Sorry,” he said. “Is. Is that okay? Am I okay to do that? I wasn’t sure, I just really wanted to? Sorry!”

He shied away, afraid of the consequences. The scripts existed for exactly that reason, so they can live without fear or embarrassment.

Rachel picked the petal off her nose and shook her head. Or try to, anyway, she thought.

When had she ever not been afraid? Her entire life was one long, uninterrupted attempt at avoiding embarrassment and regret. They had been meeting at that beach site for over a week and had explicitly made their attractions known. Why was it so illogical for him to kiss her?

Why was it not a step for her to kiss him?

Until now, she had been continuously trying to decipher the script. What was she getting wrong? What didn’t she understand about him?

The answer had been in front of her the whole time. Like her nose. It had eluded her because she was not wrong and never had been wrong.

Know the scripts. Follow the scripts. One makes no enemies. But then, they also make no friends they can really trust. And know no love that they truly believe in.

Because no one will know who they really are.

As they sat there, watching a beautiful day end side by side, she realized she didn’t know if he really liked Rachel. However, she knew she really liked Chris. There was no script to figure out, there was only who he was.

Rachel turned her hand around to wrap around Chris’s, since it was already on top of hers, and looked over at him. He was watching her a bit worried.

“Are…are you okay?”

She brought the petal and lifted it, holding it in-between her fingers. Rachel smiled and blinked tears, and he only looked more worried.

She took a breath and focused on the petal. It was now or never.

“I’m pretty sure I love you, Chris. And I’m terrified that that’s a mistake. I’m scared that I’m not being honest enough with you and you’ll change your mind about me. And. And-and I’m scared of the investment that we have to make to find out.”

Rachel was tearing away the script. With how much she cared about Chris and hoped that they could take their relationship the distance, it should be the last thing she should do. She wasn’t even sure why anxiety was gripping her so tightly, but stubbornly, she pushed through it. It was all a sign she really had to fight it.

Now more than ever, with him more than anyone, she needed to know that they could function without any script. Without rationale. Without any steps in mind, only the destination.

“Me too,” he said.

She blinked and took the petal down, blushing and hesitant.

“Me too…uhm, to what?”

His other hand reached and caressed against her back, gently pulling her close by the torso, and he leaned in.

“To everything.” He kissed her, then pulled back and smiled, desire in his eyes. “To anything.” He kissed her again, and she kissed back, with a purpose of emotion that she had never experienced. “To you.”

A bit teary-eyed, not really controlling herself as she started to laugh, she pulled back, glared at him, and then threw herself at him for a hug.

His hand came over to brush her hair.

“I have to be honest, I really don’t like those superhero movies,” she said, goofily.

He just laughed.

“I think I can live with that. But I’m still gonna watch them.”

Rachel chuckled into his neck, half-dizzy with relief. With a level of joy that was unprecedented.

Who needs the scripts? Who needs steps, when they finally have someone they can run with?

“I can live with that,” she said, pushing to lie him down.

Advertisements
The Unknown We Always See

True Sight Is Timeless

He would look in the mirror often, that had been the deal.

“You will look yourself in the mirror until you’re not surprised by what you see.”

After a few weeks of trying, he made a schedule. He planned his mornings so that they would be the same, but it still surprised him to look at himself. He ate the same breakfast, he slept the same hours, and after a long while, he even bought copies of his clothes so he would dress the exact same.

And yet, it was surprising. The brightness of the hair, and its straight and short presence on a face trying to be round. Cutting it short enough that it looked the same whether it was combed or not didn’t help, it still looked oddly unique, and sometimes foreign.

He took pictures but it wasn’t the same thing.

What he saw in the images were momentary grasps of things that did not look like what he saw in the mirror. It was the same person, yes, but his existence wasn’t there. So often he looked happy when he wasn’t, sad when he was fine, pained when he was just tired.

His reflection showed him the truth of it, but at the same time, it manipulated him. Every time, he was uglier or handsomer than he expected, looked better or worse than he expected. And every time it would impact on him, making him smile or frown, no matter how much effort he put into keeping his expression stoic. The inside of his eyes would emote, there was no controlling that.

What even was that? He didn’t notice that in other people.

After one year of trying, he went back to her, his master. Desperate to understand and pass the challenge, yearning for the slightest of clues that would allow him to understand what was so special about one’s reflection.

“I can’t,” said the one-eyed man. “I am always surprised by what I see, for I never expect it. Teach me how not to be surprised.”

The old wise woman looked over him with greyed eyes, seeing more than she should, and she scoffed.

“Accept it,” she said. “Do not expect anything, simply accept what you see, and you will not be surprised. For I promise you that in this world, there are things far more beyond your knowledge, beyond your control…than how you look. To yourself and others. That is something all of us know, but that you still need to learn.”

And the man understood.

Different clothes again inhabited his closet, and facial hair was again allowed to grow. Sleeping schedule relaxed and so did his morning routine adapt better to each day’s demands.

And every day he would look in the mirror still. Deeply and interested.

And no matter what he looked like, he would nod in acknowledgement and say:

“I see.”

 

True Sight Is Timeless

The Forgetful Elephant

The Forgetful Elephant

The Elephant woke up at the bottom of a ravine. And rudely, too, for he found a pack of dogs biting at its bum.

The startled and confused Elephant promptly shook them off and stood up. He did not remember how he had gotten there. In fact, the Forgetful Elephant did not remember anything.

Standing up, the Forgetful Elephant discovered that his hind leg was badly injured. For that reason, he decided he would go and try to find out who he was and what had happened to him. He chose a direction and followed it.

He first found the wild pig. His mighty tusks were red with berry juice. He greeted the wild pig and asked if he knew him. The wild pig said no, but that taking the other direction, he would come to find a snake, and snakes know a lot.

The grateful Elephant then walked back and took the other direction, considering how lucky he had been to so quickly find out he had picked the wrong one.

The snake was enjoying the sun on top of a rock. Its skin was yellow and dry, anxious to be shed. It did not stir as the inquisitive Elephant came close. Again, he asked her if she knew him and again she said no. She told the downtrodden Elephant to try over the other side of the river, for she knew of a horse that talked about Elephants. The reinvigorated Elephant thanked the snake and headed to the river.

When the hopeful Elephant got to the river, he sought the help of a crocodile. Its jaws grinned like twisted fate. The crocodile told the Elephant he could not carry him, but vowed not to eat him and told him the water was shallow enough for him to cross. So the trusting Elephant crossed the river, only to be attacked by the treacherous crocodile.

Fortunately, the endangered Elephant survived the fight by hitting the crocodile with his mighty trump. But the betrayed Elephant did get hurt and so left the river even more injured than he was before. Still, he did not waver and continued on.

The limping Elephant made its way out of the Savannah wastelands where he had woken up, marching onwards for what seemed forever.

The exhausted Elephant experienced the prairies, and lush forests, as it sought after this horse. It had to fight further, the poor Elephant. But he also ate things he loved and drank of water he much enjoyed. In time, the adventurous Elephant grew used to the limping, and accustomed to the injured hind leg as, alone, he braved the lands, meeting more and more animals in his quest to remember. Witnessing sights that challenged imagination.

The raven, its feathers black as night, told the Lost Elephant what direction to take. As did the squirrel, its tail like a wandering wave, and the bunny, its snout possessing a life of its own. The wild cat, its eyes merciless, warned him off the territory of its pack, and the spider, its voice all-knowing, told the wandering Elephant where to find this mythic horse.

Finally, the persistent Elephant found the horse. The horse, a mare, was galloping along, enjoying a run. Its fur was brown, with spotted marks of beige, and it danced to the wind as if it was an extension of her. The despairing Elephant asked her if she knew him and the mare said yes. She called him Chichinak, which meant big and proud, and told him she thought he was dead.

The mare told Chichinak, the shocked and forgetful Elephant, that he had broken a leg, and because of that, had made the journey to die. Because you see, Elephants are more attuned to death than your average creature of nature. When they feel it is coming for them, they journey to their graveyard. And his was just next to a ravine…he had gone there to die but had tripped and fell over. It dawned on Chichinak that his assumption that the fall had broken his leg had been wrong, it had been broken long before.

“But I have now walked so much more,” Chichinak said to himself. “I went to die, and yet, have lived on for so much longer. I gave up on life over this wound and now have experienced what I would have missed. The wound was not the end I thought it was.”

Chichinak thanked the Mare and marched off, not towards the graveyard, where his old self, the injured Elephant had been left to die, but towards other lands, and other adventures…as a new Elephant.


This short story comes directly from Shadow Conclave, my ongoing webnovel, where it made an appearance as part of a character’s background. You can read Shadow Conclave here: https://shadowconclave.wordpress.com/

The Forgetful Elephant

The Greater the Goal…

Joel was born in a valley. The Valley wasn’t so deep the residents couldn’t look over at the beautiful and grand landscape that surrounded them, but it was deep enough that they had to climb to get anywhere.

People in that valley town were fond of getting somewhere. The valley possessed beautiful and nourishing lakes and bore fruit to quite some delicacies. Alas, it lacked beaches, and was too hot for many, since it avoided the wind, and was hard to access for civilized services such as the provision of fuel.

Every year, many left the valley, and many newcomers arrived.

Yet, Joel had only ever met one person who had been to where he yearned to go. The old explorer had fanned the flames of his boy’s passion.

“Oh, the mountain’s immense, alright. If you can see its base, kid, you can’t see its top. And vice versa.”

The mountain was visible from Joel’s home. That was true whether that meant the valley he lived in, the house he resided in, the bedroom he slept in, or the dreams he existed in. It was on the far horizon, not bigger than a neighboring building from his point of view, and yet, it represented the highest point in the world. Reportedly.

The sun always set behind it. For long minutes, it would look as if it was being held up by the mountain.

When Joel was old enough to start working, he instead gathered all the gear he had been preparing throughout his younger days and walked off towards the mountain.

A year into his voyage, Joel was beset by a group of bandits, heavily injured and robbed of all his possessions. Forced to stop for a considerable period of time, Joel couldn’t help but notice how the mountain looked the same it had always looked. It was especially clear to him once Joel realized there was no discernible difference to the sunset, from what he was used to.

Joel got back onto the voyage, but it did not get back into him. Soon, the walk became something he was doing without wanting to. The enjoyment and the passion withered along with the weather.

Getting to the mountain was all Joel had ever known, all he had ever prepared for, and yet, was it even possible for him? Day after day, he would time how long the sun sat on top of the mountain, hoping to discern some measure of progress, only to suffer from the lack of it.

His spirit decayed along with his hopes of success. Time chipped away at his very soul.

And then the day finally came. The sun landed on top of the mountain, like any other day. Joel stopped, eyes glazed over a lack of any real drive, like the last day. And he counted.

Shadow hit his face minutes before it should have and ironically lit it up bright. Joel laughed then. He shook his head at himself, and without further ado, started walking again.

Joel would never time the sunset again.

The Greater the Goal…

Dreams are not Real

There was once a child who had no dreams. All he had were things he wanted to do, that he was certain he was going to do.

With hard work and enough effort, his friends and family convinced him they were wonderful dreams to strive for and that he was capable of accomplishing them.

He grew up to be a good and kind man, full of dreams which he kept alive and, in turn, they powered and refreshed him as he lived his life doing all the things he needed to do.
“Dreams are nice,” he wrote on his journal, on that last day, as his vision faded like a moon’s glow cautiously cowering behind a column of clouds. “I’m happy I never grew jaded and tired of them. Even if they never became real.

Or perhaps,” he now thought, words gone unwritten, “especially because of that.”

Emotions went unexpressed as his eyes went gray. Thoughts and impressions stayed unique and safe within his withering mind, never to be grasped or otherwise understood.

And a world went on vastly unaffected by the man, but particularly, by his dreams.

Dreams are not Real