Shattered

Shattered.

It’s the feeling of being ripped into a thousand pieces that are ruthlessly smashed and burned.

***

You build it up. Your proud piece of work, the one you’ve worked on for ages, and you smile proudly as you present it. Your pride grows every time someone makes a comment of wonder, secretly praises you when they think you aren’t listening, the bubbly feeling that your hard work has finally paid off. The warmth of such a thing.

The eyes survey it- and you hold your breath because the moment you’ve been waiting for has come. The teacher will grade it. They give you a nod, before they open their mouth with their careful words and you smile weakly as they tear apart your piece with polite words and “constructive criticism”. You’re fine; you smile.

You pretend to be happy with your grade, the one that they hand to you with a nod. They declare to the class that the grade you have has been “earned” and not “given”. You look at some of the other work that had been started and finished the day before but still get a better grade then the one you’ve worked on for weeks. You shrink, but you don’t let it show. You smile, but you don’t feel like it.

You look at all the comments striking across the thing you’ve worked on for ages, the thing you were so proud of and so sure that it would get a good grade. So all the small things you’ve done, the easy, effortless things, get a better grade than something you’ve poured yourself into. That’s the moment you carefully break, you shatter, you let yourself close your eyes and breathe, steadying yourself.

And all you can do is smile and accept it. Let your friends comfort you for a moment before letting it go, stepping past the disappointment and other wreckage. Make sure you seem happy again- and you do. You settle back into the calm rhythm your friends offer you without knowing it.

And promise yourself to do better next time.

***

This time, you’re careful. You try to fix all the things you didn’t do last time, add on to those. You hope you’ll do better.

The worst part of it all is waiting for that grade to come back, the grade that could cut down all the work and effort shoved into the little project.

And so the waiting begins.

Shallow- A Life in a Word

They all think I’m so shallow.

They see the cheerful eight year old bouncing around with her spoildness sticking to her as she beams, never a pout unless she doesn’t get her way, Liz, Liz, stupid, silly Liz.

They threaten me with not getting what I want.

Is that really all the see me as?

Even my family, the ones who should know me the most, stare after me with narrowed eyes and disapproving stares with threats and anger as if video games and phones and not being able to buy something they already refused to buy as if I’m just that shallow.

Nobody’s ever tried to venture past those calm waters, have they? Cautiously peered into the deep end.

Even the people closest to me call me spoiled behind my back and whisper words of disapproval as they laughter about situations I’ve been in as I walk down the halls, alone and clutching my jacket around me tighter and shiver.

Even as I call out into the darkness, falling deeper by the second, no one comes to pull be back at out.

Empty smiles. Hollow laughter. Fake cheer.

Was I really always meant to be so, so alone?

Voices that pull me down at ever second, people that push me away, people who claim to know me never knowing me.

I suspect they never would.

(Elizabeth- Age 13)

I was suddenly sucked into the popular world. Now I can see the stares, envy, hear the rumors trailing behind my back as people act two-faced, dancing around my approval as they whisper insults under their breath and cast me nasty glances. Laugh at my every moment. Comment on everything I do.

The overly tall, 5’ 7 wispy girl with long hair that adorns her smooth and perfect, natural skin as others dance with their heavy, thick makeup. And they call me shallow.

(Elizabeth- Age 17)

I see the glances trailing at me. I’ve grown, like the others. Become more popular. My hand-made outfits are seen as rich and decadent, frivolous things as they look down upon me as if I bought rich clothing.

I made every single thing I’ve ever worn, since I was six, and this is what they say. My expertise grew out of need, and… they toss at it. Shallow. The word sticks to be like the label they’d never find on my clothing.

Nobody cares about who I am outside of the gifted beauty and careful clothing I pour myself over.

Shallow, the word I’ll never escape from, the word that defines me and ensure my loneliness.

No one will ever see past it, and will they ever want to?

(Elizabeth- Age 25)

“Elizabeth, dear, being a clothing designer is not a easy job…”

”Elizabeth… With the… Good life you lived, can you make it?”

“Starting and keeping a business isn’t as easy as you think, Elizabeth.”

They talk down on me like I’m nothing. Like I don’t know. Like I’m overreacting- A life full of pent-up anger because nobody would listen and nobody would understand is apparently not a hard one. I’m thinking too much of it. I’m being stupid. Founding a business is too hard for me. They say these things  as Liza’s Bouquite is the single most popular clothing area in our state. They say such things when it’s rated in the top 10 nationally. When every day people compliment me and smile, kind people who are closer than me than the family who is supposed to protect me and help me. Instead they look down upon me and murmur their disappointment, turning their backs on me and disowning me. They did. Finally disowned me. Than came running back when I earned so much money.

When I refused, they’d all looked at each other with disapproval and muttered shallow, each snarling at me as they left.

No doubt I would never see them again. After all, I was too shallow, wasn’t I?

(Elizabeth- Age 30)

They didn’t come.

As I lie here, close to death on the hospital bed from the injury of a jealous woman who’d seen her love watch me for “too long”, I watched the ceiling. I looked pathetic. Hair sprawled everywhere, scars embedded into my face, eyes soulless and dead. Rumpled clothing, and skinny to the point where you could feel and see the bones. I had no power here, though with the idle yet painful time I had, I’d concocted several new designs I’d left behind for the next successor. They were kind-hearted people who knew nothing about me, though I trusted them to take over my shop.

The doctors and nurses had tried everything, and before the surgery that would be needed after the vicious woman who’d escaped from prison had stabbed and slashed me exactly 67 times, they wanted me to say goodbye to people I knewc people who cared, in case I died in the surgery.

Nobody came.

Nobody cared.

The sister who’d taken pity on me had turned away in disgust about a minute later when I enquired about how the family was doing financially in an effort to be polite. She screamed the word that surrounded me forever- Shallow. I should have guessed.

Even in the wildest of situations… Even close to death… Thst was the brand that would follow me forever.

And so I accepted it.

When the nurses and doctors were unable to save me when my heart began failing, they agonized over me. Tried to contact my family. My nonexistent friends.

Yes I’m bitter. A lifetime of this hurts, and when you’ve become a soul wandering the mountains, a legend now of how I would “curse you” if I were “too jealous”. Souls can’t die further. I was given a “gift” though as kind as they were, to let me wander on Earth forever, it just made more misjudgement. I was known as the Ghost of Shallow Creek- a pun, of course. And never had I ever exposed my thoughts, my feelings, burst from the pressure. I kept it in, patiently as others picked at me. I could make it. I could survive.

I didn’t even have a funeral and only the kindest of lies were on my grave, just to look good, just to look like the world wasn’t completely messed up and the one group of people we were told to always trust…

Destroyed me.

And they said I was shallow.

Blank

She was different now.

Ever since Mum- no, she insisted on being called Mother now- had left with my stepfather, she’d been different. When she’d returned, she hadn’t murmured quiet reassurances into my ear or shower me with affection.

No. She’d stared at me with those empty, empty eyes, just blank and so, so lifeless. It was as if she’d no longer cared to be alive.

She seemed so far away, lost somewhere else, still remaining with my sorry excuse of a stepfather.

Of course, when he’d returned, I’d slapped him in the face, laid all the blame on him, screaming accusations as I was left panting for breath after my harsh rant. My sharp tongue cut him down, yet he only smirked even as I could see fear in his eyes. He gave me a triumphant stare as he introduced me to his new girlfriend, shoved the divorce papers into my face while his new partner had the decency to look embarrassed and ridden with guilt to be doing this to a child. There were tear stains on it. Just barely noticeable, tiny little droplets at the edges that would forever be crumpled. Mum- Mother, had been crushed by him.

I remembered when she’d mourned my father’s passing, her eyes soulful and draining as they became paler. But never like this. Never those soulless, empty, empty eyes that held no emotion.

It was only losing someone she loved for a second time- this time out of her partner’s willingness.

It had taken me so much effort to cook, do laundry, care for someone other then myself. These tiny little household chores, small yet tiring  things had always been done by Mu-Mother. Newly turned twelve, I’d had the luxury of never doing these small things before. I learned quickly, though, and adapted, like I always had.

I kept my tongue, carefully led Mother down to the kitchen, where I would force her to eat, to down the small portion as I watched her push away anything bigger than five spoons. Five large spoons would cause hesitance, but she would go through with my prodding anyways.

She never spoke a word, and I kept those treasured things to myself, because barely anything I said would get a reaction.

The only times I spoke at home was when we ate, and when I would do the one thing that would send a flicker of happiness into those soulless emerald green eyes- sit her down, at the bed she would lie down on and use to stare at the ceiling for the entire day- and tell her of all the happy times we’d had when I was younger. Three, four.

My photographic memory and the small storybook my real father had written helped, of course. Even through the school days I had, I would always shuffle through the loads of homework and give her that, the one thing I could do to improve her condition.

Day by day, she began settling back into the person she’d been before. She would give me some smiles.

The day she talked marked two years since she’d returned.

And the day she finally began to act like the way she used to…

I was 17, preparing for college.

I’d needed her, but she’d never returned untill now.

Those blank eyes were forever engrained in my memory, and I never forgot nor forgave.

Because my childhood had never been explored, had been cut off early and it was all because of her.

The last thing I would always hold against her was for making me blank too. In place of her, I took the role of being blank, of being emotionless, of being utterly lifeless.

That lifelessness was the only thing that had brought her back: and that was all I could ever be.

Blank.

Wildflowers, Zombie Apocalypses, and Cute Boys: VOL. I

CHAPTER TWO: OLD FRIENDS MEET AGAIN

Ivy was an old pal of mine. I haven’t seen her since that day in the gym at school. Ivy Kong was my closest friend and was since the day we had met in kindergarten. Our mothers knew each other well from work, and when their due dates fell within the same week, their babies became inseparable. When Ivy emerged with a collapsed lung, the doctors put the two of us in cobedding. It’s always been a mystery to me how it worked but after the surgery, Ivy came back strong, against all odds.
Ivy was that friend you remember growing up with, she was my first sleepover, my first broken bone, my first bad grade. Every time, through everything, she was there.
Ivy grew taller in middle school and passed me by in height. I wasn’t particularly short, but not as tall as she was. With her shiny black hair, worn in braids and ponytails, Ivy was beautiful, and no one can deny it. She was always complimenting my oversized knit sweaters from Gap or telling me how ravishing my thick hair could be. She wasn’t vain, or one of those people who think looks are everything, but I think she would sense that in this cruel world, against blondes with too-tight jeans and weird trends, my self-esteem was dropping like a submarine in the Mariana Trench. But, someway, somehow, we managed to never let that get between us.
Which is exactly why on the day that all of the students at Englewood High School in New Jersey, when we were called to Gymnasium II at 1:27 PM in the middle of fifth period Mandarin class for Ivy and me because of the government warning issued due to the escape of the Infest, Ivy and I spent those hours holding hands and being there. It is also precisely why when a bomb was dropped on the school and it was every kid for themselves if they survived the bombing, Ivy and I stuck together. We stuck together until she ran away from our camp in the middle of the night.
And now, when I am pointing a gun at her head, I am tempted to pull the trigger, because she is unarmed, helpless vulnerable. What kind of person leaves their lifelong best friend to fend for themselves in the dark? Before I can find the answer, the she-traitor speaks.
“I never meant to leave you,” she says.
I am quick to give a fierce response. “Yeah, right.” It is only then that I see how the wild has changed her. Now her hair is matted and dull, with small flakes by her scalp. Dandruff. She is tanner, a pretty pale no longer. Not the kind of hot beach tan, no. The kind of sunburned, stinging tan that you see on field workers. All her weight is on her right leg, its counterpart seeming shrunken and limp. She’s injured. I never would’ve noticed these types of things months ago. But already, I am adapting to my eat-or-be-eaten environment. Or rather, shoot-or-be-shot.
“I was taken. Taken by a man, a victim of the Infest.”
I said nothing, and Ivy took this as a signal to continue. I’m not sure that’s entirely what it was meant to be, but that’s beside the point.
“He dragged me to the farm,” she said, “bent on the belief that drinking my blood would restore his quality of life. I stabbed him with his own dull machete and settled here. I hoped you would find me, but you never did.”
And suddenly I’m crying like I’m back in my teenage bedroom with my laptop and miserable drawings, weeping as I used to over some stupid boy or a backstabbing sophomore.
“You could’ve screamed! You should’ve screamed!” I wanted her to scream. I could have saved her, we could’ve saved that man. She didn’t have to betray. Then maybe I would no longer lie awake at night losing my sanity.

And Oh the Ocean!

Beneath the surface lies an abyss
Dark, unfathomable, and seemingly endless

An infinite horizon of waves,
And below? Undiscovered trenches amongst unexplored caves

But equally stunning are the creatures who dwell in the waters,
From fish to dolphins, from manatees to otters

And oh! The ocean in it's powerful rage!
With all the force of a great storm mage!

And oh! The ocean in it's calming blue,
Not a single thing missing or askew

The Cliffs of Moher

The wind billows onto the cliffs
Jagged black rock coated in mist

Birds nest comfortably
Grass bows gracefully

Powerful waves of ocean crash
The rocks and the sea, a potent match

The Cliffs of Moher, a perfect balance
Between peace... and violence

The Cliffs of Moher,constantly alive
Grass, birds, flowers... always ready to thrive

(Rewrite) Amaya: Prologue

I can still remember the first time I met Amaya.

———————————————————

“Mother,  Mother… Please” I whispered, clinging to the only person I’d ever known,  rightened by the quiet, young looking girl that stood in front of me. She’d been my only comfort, the one, who’d raised me up and had been my everything.

The other girl looked older than me, I knew that, maybe around 13 or something. I couldn’t see her clearly, as she was concealed in the shadows of the dark streets.

“Don’t leave me,” I whimpered, but my mother silently disentangled me from her, giving me a reassuring smile. Even as a five year old, frightened and freezing, I could tell how fake it was. A stab of betrayal washed over me, and I took a away from her, shooting her a glare.

“You’ll be fine,” she promised, glancing quickly at Amaya. Something about it looked pleading. “She won’t hurt you.”

She gave me one more smile before disappearing, and I screamed after her. In a instant, Amaya was there, comforting me.

“Child, child, what is your name?”

My gaze settled on her bright blue eyes, so vibrant, yet so ancient. A small spark lingered in her eyes, something that whispered age wisdom and something otherworldly. Something that told me she was much, mucholder than she seemed. She had soft, kind features, though, and after watching her for a long time, I decided I could trust her.

Stepping forward, I felt a rush of pride and courage as I tilted my head higher. My eyes flashed with something akin to fire, and finally, I spoke.

“Brianna.”

Somehow, my name felt so precious to me, something that was mine and no one else’s. Yet it was my identity. The only remnant of what would become my old life. Something that would become unneeded, so distant.

I watched as Amaya paused. This stranger should have been alien, strange, yet she felt so familiar and comforting.

“My name is Amaya.”

And then that soft, warm voice filled my head, soothing me and bathing me in warmth. “From now on, you shall be known as Alicia.

***

Now, a brief history.

Amaya is one of the two goddesses that rule this world.

She is the goddess of Death, a powerful figure whose name used to strike cold fear into everyone’s hearts. Now, she and her sister are forgotten, merely myths set in front of humans to enjoy. Of course, I didn’t know that.

None of us did.

I was one of the twelve maids of Amaya, all different ages, in groups where we could be “close” to each other, all being secretly trained to replace her and become the next goddess.

And while we didn’t know anything, there was something strange about the whole situation. The older maids, around 15-16, were always whispering and cowering when Amaya came near. If it bothered her, she’d never showed it.

But the day I turned 11 was the day that changed my life.

Our lives.

Dirty Secrets I

My name is Alicia Florence, and I have arguably the worst job in the world: telling people what they don’t want to hear. Every day, I go out and deliver messages where they are unwanted: tell a mother her son is a drug dealer, tell a lawyer he’s going to prison, tell a warden her prisoner has been released. But that’s not the worst of it, today was. Allow me to explain:

The year was 1962 and John F. Kennedy was president. Ranger 3 was sent to study the moon but missed its target by 22,000 miles. John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth. The U.S isolates itself from Cuba. Captured American spy pilot Francis Gary Powers is exchanged for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in Berlin. An American Airlines Boeing 707 crashes on takeoff at New York International Airport, after its rudder separates from the tail, with the loss of all life on board.

But that’s enough of that, I’ve given you the basic facts, now I’ll hand you the connections.

On that Boeing 707 was John Glenn, the same man who carried out most of the work for designing the Ranger 3. Francis Gary Powers, a contact of Glenns. A pen pal of Abel’s, by the name of Mateo Louis, Cuban-born, was present at the exchange that day. He was also present at the airport the day the plane crashed. Mateo Louis is a government-associated criminal.

I suppose I never told you the name of my job. I’m a private investigator.

Wildflowers, Zombie Apocalypses, and Cute Boys: VOL. I

CHAPTER ONE: UNEXPECTED FINDINGS

Tonight was cold, as it always was. And I was alone, as I always was, and always will be. Here I stayed, at my campsite, waiting for someone to rescue me, same as I had been for the last five months. But, I guess there was no one here to save me. I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps, as they say. Then again, who is “they” anymore?
I rested my head back against the bark, listening to the pitter-patter of the rain as my eyelids closed, and I fell into a dreamless, blissful, and well-deserved slumber.
Suddenly, I awoke with a start. The storm had stopped, and the left-over moisture had risen to blanket the forest in fog. However, the cool mist in my tree is not what had startled me, although it could mean damp clothes and rotting food, which could potentially lead to death. Instead, it was the shrilling sound that had rung through the air only a few seconds ago, closely resembling that of a dying donkey, although I doubt the existence of any farms in the area.
In spite of the fact that it might not have been the smartest choice at the moment, given that the entire world is searching for people like me, I ventured out of my tree hole towards the sound.
After trekking about a half-mile, I reached a destination against my expectations. A farm. It was an old, broken farm, but a farm nonetheless. Suddenly, I felt my cheeks flush. This must’ve been here for quite a while. If I had the courage to explore, I might’ve discovered it while it still harbored more valuable resources. Most crops were probably dead by now, if not most animals.
Although the farm seemed to provide for only animals and plants, I still clutched my pistol like it was my best friend. Because it was. Ever since the Infest spread. That’s what they called it. The Infest: A seemingly man-made pathogen that had spread across the globe. The interesting thing is, no one dies from the Infest. Instead, the plague does something much worse. It slowly corrupts the brain until there’s nothing left, driving the victim to the brink of insanity, and then over it. Hosts become insomniacs and develop digestion problems, morphing them into weak, pale, and skinny ghosts of what they were before.
But that was behind me now. I crept through the ferns surrounding the farm, searching for any signs of life. Before I could take even one step further through, that dying donkey screamed once more, and I knew there had to be something alive here, something that made that sound. But that very same thing might want to kill me. So I turned the safety off, the click muffled by my shirt draped over it because silence was key. Finally, I stepped out of the ferns. Now, I had no cover. Padding through the farm on my path to the barn, a probable source of the screech, I noticed the enclosures were empty. They did not hold any animals, dead or alive, a fact which didn’t help to ease my nerves.
After sneaking through the yard, the old-style barn was the only possibility. Something was in here. I leaned against the outer wall. I closed my eyes and listened to my breath, Beretta 92 against my chest, trigger only millimeters apart from my finger. I turned, combat boots hitting the dust and propelling it up into the air behind me, and I found myself pointing the M9’s muzzle at two cows, two horses, a pig, a goat, and three chickens. Although some part of me relaxed, everything else was still tense. These animals can’t care for themselves… meaning someone else was still here. I climbed up the ladder that led to the second story of the barn, my gun directed at everything in front of me. On the final step, I jumped up and found myself aiming at the one person I always relied on. Ivy.

 

Kara: Desert Wanderer

Water.

I needed water.

Else, I might die.

You see, I have been here, unknowingly walking in circles throughout the Techian desert, for 11 sleeps. 

Why am I here, you ask?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

To cut it short, I was abandoned.

Aznam was attacked by the Sazians, and the dirty little rats came out as victors, my valiant father dying in vain. 

My wicked mother and darling younger sister resolved to flee, evil Yanna only just convinced by Mu to bring me along.

If we had stayed, our lives would’ve become pitiful shells of what they once were. We’d practically be pushed into slavery by the reigning Sazian empire, Aznam being the last free village, free no longer.

So, we fled.

However, when the environment became unbearably harsh, I was sacrificed.

It happened in an instant. 

I was woken by Mu’s spine-tingling, seemingly distant shrieks in the midst of a desert night. When I opened my eyes to survey our surroundings for the reason behind the cringey noise, I found I was alone. No supplies, no food, and no water.

Not even a mere cloth other than the clothes on my back to protect me from the sun and provide cover if I may ever have to hide from strange vicious creatures that may dwell in this grueling place.

Left only with myself was I, and Mu’s necklace, which now lies hanging in the center of my sticky chest, a reminder of fading memories. 

I rubbed it over once more, as if it were some kind of magic lamp, and doing so would summon a helpful genie.

But, to my disappointment, nothing extraordinary occurred, and I only stood, running my thumb over the tangling vine and blossom engraving of the copper locket. Once more, I attempted opening it, as I had only too frequently over the course of the nine days since The Leaving, but, unsurprisingly, the locket didn’t budge. 

I sighed.

I was wasting limited energy.

Panning over the same landscape I had been staring at for nearly a dozen days, I longed for liquid water. 

Nearly giving up, my stare landed on a single tree, and a small oasis residing beside it.

Water.

I broke out into a frantic sprint, thinking I had finally saved myself.

But my savior only got farther and farther.

Confuzzled, I rubbed my eyelids, and looked once more where my savior once lied.

Lie it there no more.

It had been a horrid mirage that gave me hope, and might’ve even had me traveling distance in the wrong direction, for I was, quite recklessly, aiming for the forests of Xalthar, where I hoped to find haven.

Either way, the sun was setting, and I could not sleep in a place so exposed. I wandered for while more, until finding a hollow log, one in which I might fit.

Did I want to?

No.

Biting my lip, I planned my view to observe my surroundings. 

This was the best option. 

Sighing, I peeked inside the log.

Quite surprisingly, the log was empty, and also unexpectedly clean.

Snuggling myself in, I was able to fall into slumber relatively easily and rapidly, for my muscles were weary from treading over the merciless landscape without supplement or rest.

I was awoken by the fiery sun piercing through the hole in my log of slumber, and ran my hand over the affected area on my cheek.

Burnt, burnt like parchment in flames.

I hissed in frustration, curling my toes in anger. However, indeed I found pain in my doing so, and came to realize that my feet too, had burnt, exiting the safety of the log through unconscious movement occurring during my restful bliss.

Shuffling out of my charred cover, I observed my surrounding. Same as always: yellow-white, flat and unforgiving horizon, never-changing.

Beginning my trek for the day, I chose a direction, out of random, for women were not taught geography in Aznam, and I did not know in which direction it may lie, or even how to tell it so.

But still, I had hope.