Posted in Short Stories

It Started with a Law…

Another short scary story written in 500 words or less. Inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale and what’s happening in the US right now. Never thought what’s written on fiction would happen in real life, but somehow it does. It’s sad, really.

Word count: 495


It started with a law: no abortion after six weeks.

After a few months, it was decreed that women need a man’s signature to get birth control pills or any medication.

Later, a man’s presence was required for each hospital visit. Doctors were not to talk to their female patient and direct all instructions to the male companion.

Within a few years, laws forbade women to take any jobs not involving children. We were also required to marry and have two children before being allowed to get a job.

Boys were allowed to go to school, learn a trade and work anywhere. Girls had more limited options. Girls were also required to have their fathers or brothers accompany them to school (and work) every day. If at a certain age, a woman remained unwed, her father/brother were required to find a husband for her.

The women (and some men) who refused to follow these laws were taken to the Facility. We were told that the Facilitators help these people to conform and follow the laws of the society. Those who returned were drastically different from when they were taken. And those who didn’t, we never see or hear from again.

No funerals or memorials were allowed for those that disappeared forever, “they are outlaws and do not deserve to be remembered” the Facilitators said.

Most people don’t know what really happens inside the Facility. But I do. I was taken here after I refused to marry my brother’s abusive friend. My father, a well-known businessman in our community, chose to send me here to save our family’s name from shame.

Here, they taught us these mantras:

  • Women are not people; we are object of men’s desires.
  • Our purpose is to continue our husbands’ legacy through children.
  • We do not have rights; we do not own our bodies.
  • We are here only to serve men and the Society.

These were drilled to us every day. We must recite these mantras from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep. We were not allowed to talk to one another, not allowed to read anything besides those words posted everywhere. The ones who refused were severely punished.

Weeks and months in isolation, some broke down after a while. They accepted the words as truth and were allowed to rejoin society. I didn’t. I fought, and I refused to be objectified. I endured all punishment and was declared an outlaw.

First thing tomorrow, all the outlaws will be delivered to Reprocessing. Since “we do not have rights; we do not own our bodies”, the Facilitators are going to harvest our organs for hospitals and medical researchers. In that way, we will be a useful part of the society.

But I won’t let them take me. I won’t let anybody use me again.

I am a woman, I am my own person, and I have my own strength. And tonight, I will take my freedom.

Posted in Short Stories

Ghost Wedding

Tried to write a short scary story using 500 words or less. Inspired by a series on Netflix that I’ve saved but haven’t actually watched (LOL).

Word count: 487


I never wanted to be married. It wasn’t part of my plans. And then I met Xian.

Xian was wonderful, kind, and loving. A bookworm and an adventurer – my perfect man. With him, there were no worries just happiness. Suddenly, I couldn’t picture any future without him by my side. And so, when he proposed, my answer was a resounding “yes”.

But life is cruel, and the gods have a twisted sense of humor. Two weeks before our wedding, I lost Xian in a freak car accident. He never had a chance, and I never got to say goodbye. It was the worst day of my life.

That was until I found I was pregnant.

In our culture, children born out of wedlock were taken away. The woman and her family were also shunned and humiliated. I didn’t want to lose my last connection to my greatest love, but I also couldn’t let my family suffer for me.

Desperate, I went to Xian’s family and begged for their protection.

“Enya, there is a way that we can protect your child and your family” Xian’s father explained. “But it will require a great sacrifice on your part. Are you willing?”

For Xian’s child? Yes.

It was a Ghost Wedding – a tradition that his family practiced for years. In a combination of funeral and wedding rituals, I “married” Xian and moved into their ancestral home. I wore my wedding dress and said my vows in front of a bamboo effigy. I also took a vow of celibacy, which wasn’t really a big deal. I would have my baby and my family would be safe – physical intimacy was not part of my priorities.

I thought my nightmare was over, but it was just beginning. On the first night as Xian’s “bride”, he came in my dream. I was so happy to see even just a vision of him, but he looked so sad and worried.

“Why?” he asked me, “Why did you agree? You should have run, Enya, run far away from here.”

“I can’t run. I have nowhere else to go. I did this for our child, Xian.”

“Run, Enya, run and never look back.”

For months, Xian kept appearing in my dream and saying the same thing:

“Run”

But I didn’t listen. I now wish I had. I wish I ran away to the ends of the world and never came back. But I stayed, clinging to the protection of an old family.

—-

Our son was born yesterday, and he looked just like Xian. His grandfather took him away, and I was taken into the family’s chamber. I finally realized the price for my child’s life, and my family’s safety. They will be okay, but I will never see them in this lifetime again.

I guess this was the sacrifice I had to make: to stay here with Xian until death brings us together once more.

Posted in Short Stories

Her

My first memory was “her”.

When I was a year old, my mother got really sick. My dad, at that time, was a traveling salesman. He couldn’t stay and take care of us because he needed to travel to earn money.

Mom and I stayed with her parents, Nana and Papi. When she died, my grandparents took legal custody of me and my father got weekend visits. It was for the best, I guess. He still had to work, and I needed stable ground to grow.

I don’t remember much about my mother, except for the stories Nana used to tell me. I couldn’t even imagine her face if not for the many photographs in our house. Papi used to say I looked a lot like her, except for my hair and eyes which I got from my dad.

I don’t know my mother, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t really miss her. You can’t miss something you never had.

I was 3 years old, when I first saw “her”.

Nana was sewing in the living room while I was playing with my dolls. There was a knock on the door, and she had to step outside. Somehow, I got hold of the big scissors, and accidentally cut myself. I saw “her” appear out of nowhere and called out my grandmother.

“She” was gone by the time Nana found me bleeding on the floor. I was taken to the emergency room and sewn up. The way Nana told it; I was the one who called for her. But I knew it wasn’t me. It was “her”, the lady with the flaming red hair, the lady in the photographs.

When I was 7 years old, my dad asked my grandparents for a whole week of vacation – just the two of us. It was a big deal as it was the first time I would spend more than 2 days with my dad.

We went camping and fishing. We went to the old camp where he and my mother met. He told me stories of how he fell in love with my mother’s golden eyes. As much as my grandparents’ stories made my mother real, my dad’s love for her made her come alive in my mind.

It was the best week of my life. I just didn’t know it would be one of the last good days.

On our drive back, the storm hit. It wasn’t a big one, just enough rain and wind to make the drive harder and longer. I was looking out the windows when I saw “her” again.

“She” was standing by the road, a few steps ahead of us. It was dark, but I could see her red hair glowing by the streetlight. I was about to point her out to my dad when I felt our car slide and tumble.

Dad lost control of the car, and we were falling down a ravine. It might have taken minutes, but for me it felt forever. When I opened my eyes, I was hanging upside down, protected by the seat belt which my dad securely fastened. I looked over to him, and his eyes were closed; dark red liquid steadily dripping from the side of his face.

I tried to scream, to call for help, but I had no voice. I was so helpless, scared and alone. Then “she” was suddenly there, just outside of my door.

Help my dad, please.

“She” took my hand and whispered softly, “everything will be okay.” The last thing I saw was her smile as distant sirens filled the air, then everything went dark.

I woke up in the hospital with several fractured bones. My father, however, was paralyzed from the waist down. Despite all that, we were lucky to have survived that fall.

I heard my grandparents whispering about the good Samaritan who helped us. It was a woman, they said. But she didn’t leave a name, and she disappeared as soon as my dad and I were in the ambulance.

I told them it was mom. She was the angel who protected us from death.

That was the first time I saw Papi’s eyes filled with pity. For me.

I was the traumatized child who was hallucinating about my dead mother – according to the therapist they stuck on me. But I know it was real; “she” was real, her hands were too warm not to be.

Things have changed after that day. My father lost his job, and he had to move in with us. Papi and Nana welcomed him with open arms, but my father’s nomadic soul was restless inside our house.

He was so used to traveling and moving so much, that he couldn’t cope with the paralysis; he couldn’t bear to be stuck in one place. He started drinking. And even though we were under the same roof, I felt him getting farther away from me.

It was then that I started to miss my mom. Or rather, I started missing “her”.

That night “she” held my hand, I felt comfort and peace. I longed for that feeling.

When my dad’s drinking got worse, Nana and Papi decided to send me to a relative’s house in the country. I guess they didn’t want me to see my own father’s deterioration.

I was sad to leave them, but I was also glad to finally have a semblance of childhood again. Even if it was just temporary. My life had been enveloped with a darkness that I was desperate to escape from.

And then, I saw “her” again.

I was walking around the lake when I stepped on a rotten part of the dock. It gave, and I fell on to the cold water.

I didn’t know how to swim. I was flapping and struggling to stay afloat, but the water was deeper than I imagined.

“She” appeared out of thin air near the dock. She ran to me as she screamed for help.

I felt the last of my strength fading, but her strong and warm hands held on to me. Soon, some people nearby found us and helped me ashore.

I caught a glimpse of “her” just before I lost consciousness. She was standing on the dock, far away from the people helping me. Her red hair was shining in the summer sun.

I wholeheartedly believed she was my mother. Yet, she wasn’t a spirit or a ghost. I’ve touched her, I’ve heard her voice, and she felt too real to be a hallucination.

Over the years, I’ve seen “her” a few more times as I grew up. I felt like “she” comes whenever I was in danger – from others and from myself.

“She” was there the night I learned my alcohol limit at a friend’s house party. I was almost passed out in one of the rooms when the door opened slightly. I could see a guy who almost came in, but “she” just appeared out of the shadows and closed the door.

I’ve seen “her” when my boyfriend cheated on me in high school. When he chose my best friend over me, and she chose to break my heart. When all I felt was rage at the betrayal. “Her” presence brought me calmness, and I could still hear her words from so long ago, “everything will be ok.”

I tried to hold on to that feeling for as long as I could.

I was in university the day Nana lost her battle to cancer; and I was untethered. She was the only mother I ever had, and without her I felt so lost. Papi tried so hard to hold on to me, but his pain was greater than mine.

A few months after Nana passed, Papi soon followed and I lost the two most important persons in my life in one sweep. Alcohol became my companion, and drugs were my comfort.

Each time I would pop a pill, I could see “her” just within my peripheral vision. “She” didn’t stop me, it was like she was just observing me. I dropped out of school and stayed in my childhood room.

My father, after a long absence, reappeared in my life just as I was hitting my lowest point. I didn’t trust the man. But he claimed that he has turned a new leaf, that he was sober. He said he was a better man and wanted a chance to become a better father.

He had a new family, too. He got married to a woman he met in rehab. She was a nurse and she helped him accept his paralysis and supported him as he got clean. He believed she could do the same for me. They told me that they only wanted me to give life another chance.

They all thought I was trying to kill myself, with all the booze and the pills I took. But I couldn’t tell them that I just wanted to see “her”. I wanted to feel that comfort and peace she brings. “She” was the only light I see in the darkness, and slowly poisoning myself seemed to be the only way I could see her.

I moved into my father’s new house. His new wife was kind and sweet, but she was not “her”. I wasn’t happy with them. I hadn’t been happy for the longest time.

I was 21 years old, still living in my father’s house, and without sense of direction in life. One night, I overheard my stepmother tell my dad that I was beyond their help, and that I would be better off in rehab. I knew then it was over. If I went to the hospital, I would stop seeing “her” and I couldn’t live with that.

So, I waited until both were asleep. I took my hidden stash of sleeping pills and vodka into the bathroom. I was hoping I could see “her” for one last time before I finally let go.

“She” appeared just before I swallowed a bottle-full of pills.

“Don’t.”

Her face looked the same as when I was 3 years old. And her voice was strangely familiar.

“This is not the end.”

But it hurts. Everything hurts. I just want things to be over.

“It hurts now, but you will get through it. You have survived a lot, and you will survive this, too.”

How do you know?

“Because I’m here, I’m alive. I am living proof that you are stronger than you think.”

Who are you? I feel like I know you, but I don’t understand.

“You know who I am. In your heart, you know me. And you know what I say is true.”

I looked at her; at her hazel-green eyes that were so similar to mine yet also different. “She” wasn’t my mother; she was no angel, but she was real. And I knew her.

She was right, I was stronger, I had to be.

She watched as I flushed the pills and vodka down the toilet. She stayed by my side until I fell asleep. She held me as a mother would hold her child, and I felt peace.

In the morning, she was gone.

The pain was still there but I knew I could fight it and I would beat that darkness in my heart.

It has been 8 years since that night. I voluntarily went to rehab and got clean and sober ever since. I reconciled with my father, and I made peace with my grandparents’ death. I believe that they have found happiness with my mother wherever they are now.

I haven’t seen “her” in all the years I was getting better, but I’ve kept her words in me. I am stronger, and I am wiser than I was.

I went back to college and met the professor with whom I share my heart and life. And I am so thankful that I’ve found him. He is my rock and my comfort. Without him, I wouldn’t have this beautiful girl twirling in my living room right now. This perfect little angel with her father’s flaming red hair and my hazel-green eyes.

Posted in Short Stories

34 Degrees Celsius

I wrote another horror short story for Reddit NoSleep. I don’t know why, but I really enjoyed writing sad horror genre. I feel like I could release some of the darkness inside me.

Disclaimer: All names and events in this story are fictional and not based on real persons or events. This story also includes child abuse, domestic violence and medical misdiagnosis. Trigger warning.

******************************************************************

My normal body temperature is 34 degrees Celsius. Medically, it’s considered hypothermia and I probably should be dead. My parents and even the doctors were confused why I am still alive, breathing, and functioning normally.

Honestly, I wasn’t always like this.

*********

My childhood was relatively normal. I was a timid child, preferring the company of dolls instead of playing outside with my older brother and sister.

My siblings, Oliver and Leann, were very rambunctious children. Our parents were used to going to the children’s clinic occasionally, after their horseplay. Unlike me, the two of them liked their scars. It was like a trophy or something in their minds.

But we loved each other, and they tried to include me as much as possible in their games. When they played dragon (Oliver) and knight (Leann), I was the trapped princess at the castle tower (sofa). I was the queen, the humble peasant or even just a passerby with no real roles in the game. But I was happy. I was happy to be included and still avoided stitches and bruises.

Until the morning of my 6th birthday. I woke up with a terrible pain in my leg. I couldn’t stand from the bed and Leann had to run to our parents’ room for help. When mom pulled down my covers, my right ankle was red and swollen. They took me to the emergency room, thinking I had an extreme allergic reaction to something. But the diagnosis was weirder than they thought.

My ankle was broken. And I had bruises on both my legs as if I had fallen down the stairs.

The doctors asked my parents if I did fall, but our house was a 1-storey bungalow type. There were no stairs or any high places I could have fallen from. And the injury was too recent that it could have only been possible a few hours before we went to ER.

My parents, my siblings and even I was confused how it was possible.

In the end, the doctors concluded that I might have fallen off my bed. They put a cast on me, and I got to stay home for the next couple of weeks.

It was my first time to get a severe injury, and I did not like the feeling at all. I avoided joining my siblings’ game after that, too afraid that I might get accidentally hit.

Over the next few weeks, I stayed in my room with my dolls. One afternoon, as I was playing alone, I had a sudden pain in my right stomach. It was like a truck had hit me, and I couldn’t breathe.

Luckily, Oliver ran past our room on his way to get his baseball gear. He saw me lying on the carpet with my mouth wide open, trying to get as much air as possible. He called mom who was in the garden, and they rushed me to the hospital.

I had a large bruise on my right stomach, and the x-ray showed the bone on my lower rib cage was fractured.

I told the doctors I was alone when it happened – no one in my family had ever hit me. I don’t think they believed it.

Child protective services were called to investigate if there was any child abuse at home. Us kids stayed with our aunt while I healed, and our parents dealt with the investigation.

I think it was Leann who planted the first seed of idea in my mind, “You know, Bea, I got hit by a ball on my stomach when you got that pain. Maybe you’re feeling the injuries I get. Kind of like a twin thing – but with sisters. I’m really sorry.”

In our childish minds, it made sense. We were too bonded, and I was too sensitive.

The CPS investigation found no evidence of abuse in our home. My parents were good people who loved their children unconditionally. The three of us finally got to go home, and Leann promised to be more careful if I was indeed channeling her pain in some way.

I didn’t get any more major injuries after that. But we noticed that I had a lot of random bruises on my body. Sometimes I even wake up with marks on my body like a cigarette burn. Those hurt a lot.

Over the next couple of years, my parents sent me to doctors and specialists – trying to figure out if I had some sort of disease causing all those injuries. All my tests were negative. I was in good physical health, but I continued to get marks and bruises on my body.

It eventually stopped. For a while.

And then, when I was 10, it happened again. The five of us were at the park, flying kites or watching the ducks on the pond. I felt the air rush out my body, and my throat closed in. I felt like I was being strangled by an invisible force. The last I saw was my parents frantically calling for help before I passed out.

My memories of that time are kind of blurry now. But I remember seeing a kid in my dream. He was around my age, and he kind of looked like me except that he was very skinny. He was limping, and he had bruises all over his face. He looked at me with the saddest brown eyes – eyes that were eerily similar to mine.

When I woke up, I was again at the hospital. It had become like a second home to me. My face and neck were swollen, and my throat was bone dry. I heard the doctors talking to my parents, saying words that didn’t make sense to me.

“…strangulation…”

“…trauma on her face and neck…”

“…bruises similar to a thick rope around her neck and wrists…”

I just had an injury similar to a punching bag and we had no idea why. Once again, CPS was called, but there were a lot of witnesses at the park that day. They all said that I randomly started choking, with no external force whatsoever. The bruises also started appearing while I was unconscious, and the paramedics were trying to save me.

I felt very afraid. There was an unseen force trying to hurt me, or even kill me. My parents sent me to more doctors. They thought I might have epilepsy or mental disorder, and that I might have been subconsciously hurting myself. I was home-schooled, and my parents took turns watching me sleep at night.

When I turned 13, my parents decided to tell me the truth about myself. They thought that it might help understand all the things that were happening to me.

They sat the three of us down and told me, “Bea, we love you. Your brother and sister love you. And we always will, even if we don’t share the same blood.”

I was adopted. My biological mother and I were found living on the streets when I was just a few months old. She was bruised, battered, half-crazed and rambling about leaving my other half behind. The good Samaritans took us to an asylum, where she passed away shortly and I was given to an orphanage.

During a church charity event, my parents went to the orphanage to give out toys and stuff. My father said I grabbed his hand and he decided he would never let me go. They adopted me on the spot.

After that revelation, I realized I might actually have a mental illness of some kind. My biological mother obviously had it, and I had no idea about my biological father.

Since then, I stayed indoors a lot. Whenever I wake up to a new bruise on my body, I just thought that I might have done it to myself while I was asleep. I didn’t tell my parents anymore injuries unless I had to go to the hospital. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and my psychologist thought that I was subconsciously hurting myself during my sleep.

Still, I didn’t tell anyone about the boy I kept seeing in my dream. As I grew up, he also grew in my mind. We began to look more like each other, but his injuries worsened. I felt a weird connection to that boy in my dream, and I felt sad whenever I woke up.

The last major injury I had was when I was 16. I woke up in the middle of the night choking in my own blood. I could feel my lungs collapsing inside me. With the little air I had, I screamed for Leann, and she woke up and immediately called 911 as she raced to get our parents.

At the ER, I felt pain like I never felt before. I knew I was dying. The cold started at my fingertips, spreading like wildfire all over my body. It was cold and hot at the same time. I couldn’t breathe, and my vision was tunneling. When the pain reached its limit, I passed out.

I dreamed of the boy again, but he was brutally beaten. He was lying on the floor. And he kept whispering, “Ryan… Rachel.. Ryan..”

I woke up with fractured and broken rib cages, collapsed left lung, broken collar bone, swollen larynx, and multiple bruises on my arms and legs. I had multiple surgeries, and steel pins attached inside me. I had to be on 24/7 observation and they constantly drain water collecting in my lungs.

It was the most agonizing year of my life. Aside from the physical therapy I had to do, I was also subjected to multiple sessions with psychologists and psychiatrists. I was depressed and confused. My parents believed I did all those injuries to myself, and they were as depressed as me.

Even after my bones and wounds healed, I had to stay at the hospital for constant observation. My vitals were checked every 5 minutes because my heart rate was too slow, my oxygen level was also below normal, and my temperature remained at 34 degrees Celsius. In all medical sense, I should be dead. But I’m not.

After a year of daily check-up, the doctors finally gave up in finding the reason for my unusual temperature. I was allowed to go home to continue healing. My parents, my siblings and I continued seeing a family therapist to deal with the trauma.

During one of the private sessions, I mentioned Leann’s comment from so many years ago. How I was too sensitive to the pain of my siblings. And the therapist woke me up with this: “Probably. And even though they’re not your blood relative, your bond is still too strong.”

Yes, Leann and Oliver may be my siblings, but I was adopted. I shouldn’t have that kind of intimate connection to them. As Leann had said, it was a twin thing.

When I turned 18, I told my parents that I would go and find my biological family. I wanted to understand where I came from, and why those things happened to me. They were worried, of course, so Oliver decided to accompany me.

We went to the orphanage where I got to know my mother’s name: Rosalie Evans, and the asylum where she passed away. With a little help from my dad (who was a lawyer), I got Rosalie’s medical records from the asylum. She was indeed a little crazy in the end, but the doctors believed it was the result of years of physical and mental abuse. Her body had a lot of bruises and scars from old beatings.

I dug a little deeper into her life. She was involved in a lot of domestic abuse reports. It seemed her husband beat her a lot and their neighbors would repeatedly report him. But at the station, Rosalie would always deny the abuse and gave excuses about her injuries. She was blindly in love with that bastard, and she wouldn’t leave him. Until the day her children were born.

As I journeyed on to find my past, I was shocked by another revelation: I was a twin. I found my birth records using Rosalie’s name and found out my real name was Rachel Evans, and I had a twin brother, Ryan.

At that moment, everything clicked in my mind: the boy in my dreams was my twin. The man I refuse to acknowledge as my father was an abusive and disgusting excuse for a human being. My mother was able to run away with me but couldn’t bring my brother along. Ryan was left to be raised by that awful man, and he suffered all his life for it.

I tried to find Ryan, I told Oliver that I wanted to save him, but I knew in my heart I was too late. And I was. We never found where Ryan was buried, probably somewhere in a pauper’s grave. They moved a lot when he was still alive, so it was difficult to trace his life. But we found his medical records. Like our mother, he had many healed fractures and scars from years of abuse. At 16, he died of internal bleeding from a collapsed lung after an altercation with his drunk father who treated him like a punching bag all throughout his short life.

Everything that happened to me was because of Ryan. Leann was right, it was a twin thing. Every abuse and pain my brother felt, I felt. And when he died, I think a little part of me died, too.

I’m just glad that when Ryan left this world, he took the bastard with him to the grave. I found his name too, but I don’t feel like glorifying his memory in this post. He doesn’t deserve that. All I will say is that he was found at a roadside, crazed and mumbling something about his dead kid haunting his dreams. They took him to the same asylum where my mother died, and he was found one morning hanging from the window.

Years have passed since then; I have come to accept my weird past, and my even weirder present. I was lucky to find a man who was as warm as I am cold, and we are expecting twins in the summer. I think if I get boys, I’ll name one of them Ryan – for the boy of my dreams and the brother I never got to know.

******************************************************************

Posted in Short Stories

Tinder Nightmares

I love reading horror stories on Reddit and Creepypasta. Recently, I decided to try my hands on writing my own. This is one of the few I’ve posted on Reddit r/nosleep.

**********

It happened 3 and half years ago. I was newly transferred from our Manila office to the firm’s headquarters in Nagoya, Japan. It was an exciting move for me – for the first time in my 30 years of life, I would be living by myself. And the idea of becoming part of the main design team was motivating

I had very low Japanese skills, so I didn’t make new friends right away. But it was a good timing for me to learn how to be independent. The solitude was actually freeing and refreshing.

The first friend I made was Rica, who was working at the accounts department of our firm. She was married to a Japanese guy and they had one baby boy.

It was Rica who suggested I use Tinder in the first place. It was where she and her husband met, and she thought I could also find my true love there.

I had just gotten out of a long-term toxic relationship at that time, so I wasn’t interested in dating. I guess you could say I had PTSD – it was a traumatic time of my life.

But Rica was as stubborn as I was, maybe even more so. Eventually, we made a Tinder profile for me, and she even guided me on how to filter out the creepers based on their photos and bios.

I admit, it was kind of fun. And even though I swiped left a lot more that I swiped right, I still had a decent number of matches. It was also easier to flirt on chat. I had always been more comfortable writing down my words than actually saying them.

So, when one of the guys (let’s just keep his nationality private – he’s not Japanese) invited me for an actual date, I was both excited and freaked out. Of course, I’ve read about those internet stories about blind dates gone awry, and I was prepared for that. I asked him to meet at Sakae Station when it was usually crowded. I thought that if he turned out to be a creep in real life, I could just scream and run.

But all my fears were unfounded when we finally met. His name was Lucas and he was everything his bio said he was: athletic-looking but still had that hint of nerdiness. He was a scientist of some sort – studying sleep patterns and dreams in relation to mental health. Honestly, his line of work was a little confusing to me at that time.

We had a lovely time. He was very fluent in Japanese after living here for almost 10 years. We had a laugh at the waitress’ confused look when she tried to ask me (very Asian face) our orders and he (very foreign) answered for us. And it seemed we had a lot of shared interests in books, films, and places we wanted to visit.

It was the best first date I could have ever asked for. We parted ways at the station as I declined his offer to drive me home. When I got home, he sent me a message that, at that time, I thought was very sweet, “Had a great time with you. I hope you’ll dream of me tonight as I will surely dream of you. Good night.”

Well, you guessed that right, I had a vivid dream about him that night. I wouldn’t go too much into details, but I remember it was like the extension of our date. We were sitting on my couch and talking about the things we didn’t have time to share before. He asked about my favorite flowers, and I told him “lilies… the blue-violet kind of lilies.” He smiled in my dream and that was the last I remember of it.

Lucas and I continued to chat and talk over the next few days. He was sweet, kind and the complete opposite of my ex. I felt safe and comfortable whenever I talked to him. His work kept him busy even during weekends that we couldn’t go out again. Still, his daily “good morning” and “good night” never failed to make me smile

After a while, I noticed that he would always end his messages with a little lily emoji. I asked him about it, and he said, “It just reminds me of you.”

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt a little nudge that something was off. I brushed it aside as simply a part of the walls I built after my last relationship. I was wary of getting deep into another relationship that might end up with me brutally battered mentally.

So, I kept it casual with Lucas. We talked when we can talk, and most of the time, we were chatting on Line. We met a few more times, for dinner or sometimes a movie. His busy schedule sometimes kept him stuck at work late at nights. Even so, I felt like I could take our relationship on the next level. On our conversations, he seemed like the perfect man for me. Even in my dreams, Lucas was a very prominent character almost every night. I really thought I could lower my guard for him, and then I met Alex.

Alex was also a foreigner on Japanese soil. We met in the Japanese class I took weekly. He was working in a factory, but he wanted to work in an office, so he was taking Japanese language lessons.

Alex was older than me, but he had a very youthful energy. I felt a different kind of calm when I’m with him. With him, I didn’t have to think about breaking down my walls – they simply fade away.

When I told Lucas that I won’t be seeing him anymore, I thought he would be mad. I was wrong. He simply said, “I understand. I’m happy that I met you. And I will continue to dream of you.”

The first night Alex stayed the night, I had another vivid dream about Lucas. It was weird, it felt real. He was talking to me and persuading me to think about our relationship again. He was talking about Alex too, “He will never understand you like I do. He doesn’t even know that you love lilies. He gives you roses, but you don’t like roses because of their thorns. He will never deserve you.”

It was an exhausting dream. I couldn’t argue back, it was only Lucas and his endless tirade of how Alex wasn’t the man for me. His voice was getting louder and louder until it was screaming in my head. It was unlike the Lucas I knew in real life. I woke up sweating and panting like I’ve just ran a marathon. Alex was awake beside me, his face full of concern. He said I was thrashing and crying, and as hard as he tried, he couldn’t wake me up.

I didn’t want him to worry even more, so I told him I just had a nightmare. We went back to a blissfully dreamless sleep.

The next morning, we had a surprise when we went out to go to work – there was a bunch of lilies outside my front door. A dozen or so blue-violet lilies carefully laid in a box and left at my door mat.

There was no card or anything, but I knew. I knew it was from Lucas. How or why? I had no idea. I sent him a message about it, but he didn’t reply. And when I tried to call him, the number was already disconnected.

The next few days, I would constantly find a lily anywhere I go. Even at the ladies’ room at work. At night, I would dream about Lucas – but it was a totally different kind of Lucas.

He would scream at me. He would tell me that Alex was just another guy who would break my heart. He would show me memories of my ex, but with Alex’s face replacing my ex’s face. And when I was a ragged crying mess in my dreams, he would hold me and comfort me. He still kept trying to persuade me to break up with Alex and come back to him.

I would wake up from these nightmares totally exhausted. I even had to take a few days off from work because I couldn’t function from sleep-depravity. I was afraid to sleep. The nightmares were like the sleep paralysis I had when I was a kid, but 10x worse. I couldn’t fight back, I couldn’t talk, and all I could do was cry trying to make Lucas stop.

Alex tried his hardest to comfort me. He stayed with me whenever he could, and even tried to take vacation time from work so he could be with me.

But even awake, I could feel Lucas’s presence. Before, the lilies would be somewhere public. I would find them at my desk at work, or outside my apartment door. After a while, they started appearing on my kitchen counter, my bath, and my closet. One time, I woke up from one of my Lucas nightmares to see a single lily at my bedside table.

I was exhausted beyond belief. I didn’t want to sleep, but I couldn’t stay awake. I was irritable and angry and I drove everyone I care about away. But Alex couldn’t be moved. He wanted to stay because he loved me, and I loved him too.

He suggested that I talk to a therapist, and that maybe the dreams were just manifestations of the trauma I had suffered from my ex-boyfriend. I agreed to humor him, but I knew it was not PTSD. I knew it was the real Lucas I was seeing in my dreams. And I also knew it was him who was leaving the lilies.

We found an English-speaking psychologist after days of research. I talked to her about my past relationship, and about Lucas. I told her everything except the fact that I knew they weren’t nightmares. I knew Lucas was somehow able to tap into my dreams to torment and torture me after I ended things with him.

Talking to the psychologist did help a little. She gave me some tips and exercises to try to calm myself whenever I get these nightmares.

After months of nightmare-filled nights, I finally knew what I had to do. When I went to bed that night, I immediately saw Lucas in my dream. I still couldn’t answer back, but after many nights of these, I could convince my subconscious mind that I was dreaming. I didn’t cry, instead I smiled, and I nodded in agreement with everything Lucas said.

I think it was that smile that took him aback. Suddenly I could feel air rushing into my lungs, and I could speak.

“Do you see now that I’m the right man for you?” he asked.

I nodded, “Yes. But I need proof that this is real. That what we have is real.”

Out of thin air, Lucas pulled a single blue-violet lily and handed it to me. “This is proof. I know who you are inside and out. I know everything in your mind. That Alex will never be the man I am for you. He doesn’t know you. He will never love you as much as I do.”

I held the flower in my hand, admiring the beauty of its petals. I felt sad that I would have to do the next step.

“You’re right, Lucas. Alex will never be the man that you are.” I smiled and held his gaze. “Because he is so much MORE than you.”

And then, I broke the flower in my hand. I crushed its leaves and petals and tore it into a thousand pieces. As I did, Lucas crumpled at my feet, screaming and begging. I continued to step on the broken flower until Lucas’s voice faded and my mind went blank.

In the morning, I woke up feeling rested and happy for the first time in so many months. In my hand was a single lily petal, crumpled and wilted.

Alex and I had a normal relationship, and we really enjoyed just staying in at nights watching movies until we fall asleep. I didn’t have any more nightmares, and I stopped seeing the psychologist. My dreams were filled with hopeful possibilities of my life with him.

A few days after that night, Alex and I saw the news on the internet. A very promising young scientist in the field of sleep analysis was found dead in his laboratory. The EMTs who found him were confounded about the cause of death: he was lying down on the laboratory bed, but every bone in his body was broken as if he had been trampled on. On his chest, they also found crashed and wilted pieces of a blue-violet lily.

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Posted in Short Stories

Notebook

So, I was looking at some of my old tumblr posts and I came across this short story I have written many years ago. It is a short story based on a poem we read in high school.

We were tasked to write our interpretation of the poem. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original poem anymore. But it was a short piece about a man mourning for his lost love.

Below is how I expanded the poem into a short story from the man’s perspective. I hope you enjoy it.

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In my hand, I held a small blue notebook. It was old and almost full. In it were lists and doodles written in her neat handwriting. Some pages were torn, others are stained but all were preserved in its hardbound cover. There are pages filled with seemingly unrelated things: morning, blue, moonstones, etc. Others were like breakfast list: milk, eggs, bread (lightly toasted). There were crossed-out words, highlighted and emphasized. Some were written in different colors, and sometimes in pencil (when she was in a hurry and could not find a pen). In one page, she wrote in bold blank ink, “silver cuff links”. Next to it was a sketch of the cuff links she gave me on my birthday.

In bright red she had written, “no strawberries!!” She loved strawberries but learned to live without them for fear of my allergic reaction. A few pages after, she encircled a single phrase, “blue dress” – the exact dress she wore on the night she said yes. 

Other pages were filled with more words, phrases and more drawings. She had written short poems, long poems and something that might be the beginning of a novella. One page was filled with her name with the surname (my surname) underlined many times. There were things to do: “arrange flowers, sign invitations, find the perfect gown…”. And there were people to call: “mom’s 2nd cousin, my uncle, his uncle…”. 

The next few pages were filled with her everyday routine. The things she did and places she went to; meticulously written.

She documented almost every moment of her day. She wrote my favorite things and things I’d rather avoid. She stayed at home but her days never seemed dull. A few pages after, there were two lists: one for boys’ names and another for girls’. They were written in green ink but crossed out with a black marker.

Then there was a list of doctors’ names all beginning with “Dr.”. Each name written less neatly than the last. As if her dejection was flowing from her heart to her hand. I skipped a few pages – filled with lists of mundane tasks. In another page, she wrote places she wanted to go to, “Paris, London, Ireland, Asia..”. She made dreams to replace the old ones.

I wish I could say that the new ones came true, but I cannot lie. And in the next pages were new names for doctors. People that we never got to meet. People that could have helped if she did not refuse.

After a while, new things were written in my hand (when she couldn’t hold a pen any longer). Medicine names I could not understand, therapies she would not do, things we argued about. After wasting a couple of pages, we have reached a decision and new lists were made, “plot, flowers, eulogy, blue dress”. Still the same dress as before. The last few pages were blank. Each white space amplifying my emptiness.

I closed the notebook with shaking hands.

At the back of the notebook, on the cover itself, she had written: “life is a story. It is not written in sentences or paragraphs, but with words and phrases strung along with our hearts and soul. Mine is a story written with love.” – the very words we wrote on her tombstone.

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