From Creative Corner: The World's Meadow

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SHORT STORY HalfPastTwelve

"Come," the girl murmured. Her dreamy, honeyed voice floated to my ears almost hypnotically. "Come with me to my meadow."

Without a word, I placed my hand over hers, shivering a little at the contact, and let her lead me towards a dirt trail in the middle of the thick forest undergrowth.

Her hair cascaded softly about her shoulders and danced with the gentle breeze as we walked, and her blue eyes sparkled, a crystal clear lake in a summer afternoon. The steady thrumming of my heart gradually became as vivacious as a mockingbird on flight. She looked at my nervous countenance and smiled reassuringly.

I watched in fascination as the forest slowly came alive. The little forest dwellers went out of their holes and nests and looked curiously at us, while the birds chirped and sang their songs as they perched on trees we passed by. Sunlight seeped through the forest canopy and turned the place into a jade-colored paradise. I squinted when bright light shimmered around us. We've already made it to the end of the trail.

The sweet smell of a fresh growth of grass tickled my nostrils. We reached the meadow and slowed to a stop at the very center, the wildflowers that surrounded us sprinkling the carpet of grass like sequins on a green, velvet gown.

"How is it?" she whispered softly.

"It's beautiful," I breathed. An underestimation. It was unlike everything I’ve seen. "But why bring me here?"

The girl smiled at my question. "Why, to make you understand your world better, of course."

I frowned at that answer and looked at the girl doubtfully. She laughed. Her laugh was as enchanting as she was, like the sound pealing of bells.

Suddenly, as if the girl's laugh triggered something, different creatures slowly emerged from the trees. I took a step back in surprise. "W-why are they here?" I stammered.

The girl gestured to them with a graceful flourish. "These are the creatures that represent your world and its vices." She pointed to a creature, "See that white thing over there?"

"It's a dove," I answered.

"Yes. That beautiful bird is the untruth. It represents the world and all its lies."

"What?" I asked, frowning. "I thought they were supposed to symbolize peace."

She shook her head. "I am afraid that is only one of its lies. Look at it this way, you do know about the pigeon, right?"

My hands went to my chin as I paused to think. "Well, it represents the truth."

She clapped her hands in delight. "Very good! Yes, the pigeon is the truth. It's not afraid to accept its lackluster colour, even if it is hated for it. People who have courage enough to embrace truth and reality are always detested. No one likes the truth, the reality. The dove is nothing but a painted version of the pigeon, thus the lies."

"I see." I didn't. "What do you make of that creature? Why is it blindfolded?" I pointed to a large, black, dog-like creature with a ruby-colored ribbon wrapped securely around its eyes. Hampered by the ribbon, it prowled haplessly on the grass.

"That's a direwolf. It's called Death," she replied. "He's blindfolded so he would not cry at the poor souls he collects and cannot bestow mercy upon the old, wrinkled persons wrapped in their blankets. He becomes miserable reaping the lives of children and innocent people. The heart of Death is too big to be broken, see? His heart overflows with sympathy, and that's not very good for someone with a duty as he has."

By the time she's done explaining, my attention was already diverted. My gaze fixed on an ugly creature that was a shell of what might have been a beautiful bird in the past. Its wings looked distorted, and its feathers were yanked in a horrifying imitation of a chicken ready to be roasted.

"What is that?" I gasped.

The girl bent down and picked up the feeble creature. "This is Love, the broken bird."

I watched her deftly caress it. "Why is it so broken?" I demanded softly.

"She is abused." The girl crooned at the bird soothingly while stroking its sparse feathers. "We all have the ability to heal her back to what she was, though. Watch," she instructed.

I watched as she held the bird close to her and breathed gentle words at the top of its head. My eyes widened as the bird glowed and healed slowly. Sad eyes opened. Feathers grew and shone in the light. Wings became straight once more.

Carefully, as if handling prized porcelain, the girl helped the bird perch into a low tree branch. The other creatures drew together to watch. The bird spread one wing, hesitant at first, and then the other.

"Will it fly?" I asked like I was pleading for it to happen.

"We'll see."

My breath hitched when the wind caught in the bird’s wings and raised it to the orange-pink sky. I watched its flight, feeling light-hearted at its success.

"It's wonderful," I murmured as we gazed at it. Then I turned to the girl and smiled at her. "You made it better."

She avoided my gaze, but not before I saw tears gleam in the corner of her eyes. "It's no use. Every day I heal her, but every day, someone breaks her again."

"Then why do you still do it?" I inquired, baffled. Why do you still heal her if that's the case?"

"Because Love gives faith. Faith, the only thing stronger than lies or fear. When I heal her, the whole world smiles. The whole world begins to have faith and begins to believe again. Without Love, this meadow is worthless, as it is Love that makes the honest become liars, and the liars turn to the truth. It is Love that makes Death miserable to collect lives. The curse of living in a wretched world is bearable because of Love. And—"

Her words came to a sudden halt as Love dropped to our feet, broken once again.

The world never did make sense to me.

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Today, I am sharing my mother's story. I wish my mother was a constant in my life, like an angel who guards you to sleep and comes right there when you called. But angels come back home too, in heaven where they always belonged, and my mother went back a little early. My mother died when I was 13 years old. My last memory of my mother: Letting go when you are not yet ready is a very cruel thing that one has to ever experience. It is a sudden wave of total sadness and desperation crashing into your very core.

On the 28th of July 2013, we went to a resort in Bataan for the employees’ getaway. My parents own a 7-11 franchise, and it had always been a tradition to give their store clerks a get-together every year. I remember very well the last breakfast I had with my mother. The Sunday morning sky was clear and sunny, and the sea was calm and tranquil as we ate our breakfast on a cottage under the tall palm trees. She shared with us a strange dream she had the other night. She dreamt about an unknown woman holding an ice pick chasing her down on a dimly lit street, then she woke up just before the woman could grab her arm. We never knew what that dream exactly meant and now, I wished I never knew its meaning. After breakfast, my family and our employees decided to take a swim at the beach. The day was nice. The morning air may be chilly but the sun’s kiss on our skins gave us warmth. It was perfect. Everything is fine and the tides are low which made it very enjoyable to swim. We swam a little farther from the shore and we stopped to the point where the water reached our shoulders. We were talking about the good things in life and reminiscing the good old days. Those are the things that I’ve always loved about my family because I never had a meaningless conversation with them.

A few moments later, we heard a panicking call for help from one of our store clerks. It was Rachel. She was struggling to keep her head above water. She was already drowning but the odd thing was, she was only a few feet away from us. At first, we thought she was just playing around until we felt the sand in our toes dissolving like powder. It felt like as if the seafloor submerged deeper. I remembered sighting the shore and it seemed so close yet very far away. We were all panicking at that time. No one knew how to swim except my mother so without having second thoughts she swam towards Rachel and called out to my father, “Yung mga anak mo! Dalhin mo sa pampang yung mga anak mo!” and I never thought I already heard my mother’s last words to my father. I was paddling like a dog, gasping for air, as I say a little prayer to God to take us all back to safety. I felt my father grabbing our swimsuits, trying to lift our bodies so we can breathe even though he was also struggling to keep himself alive. Once I felt my toes touch the ground, there came a veil of relief that covered my whole body. As soon as my father and my sister made it to the shore we started calling out for help. There were no lifeguards on duty at that time, no personnel, nor guards. I saw my mother already floating in her stomach. We sighted a boat sailing nearby, we waved our hands and called for their attention. They almost ignored us because they cannot comprehend what we were trying to relay but the good thing was a passenger in the boat noticed my mother and Rachel in the water.

My mother’s body was laid on the shore. She was unconscious and her whole body was pale as white. My father performed CPR but my mother couldn’t get the water come out of her mouth because the food she ate earlier got stuck in her throat and blocked the passage. A concerned tourist offered his car to deliver my mom in a nearby health center or a clinic of some sort since the hospital was miles away from the beach and she needs immediate care. My father told us to stay in the hotel room and prepare mom’s belongings so that if she wakes up she has fresh clothes to change into. My sister and I finished packing our things and waited for our father to pick us up from the hotel. I was crying and I couldn’t stop myself because I was afraid to lose my mother. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be if I lose her that day. Moments lasted until we heard a knock on the door and it was my father, crying, and apologizing to us. He hugged me and my sister tightly and saying, “Sorry, anak, sorry hindi na uuwi si mommy, sorry hindi ko nasagip si mommy”. And that was the moment I felt sinking into the ground. I never knew what to feel at first. I was numb because my worries were now actually a reality that I have to live in. I was at shock because I am now one of the kids in those cliche teleseryes who lost a mother at an early age. We went to the health center to settle everything. The clinic was very small and it sure did lack equipment. He told us to stay in the car. I wanted to see my mom, but I know he never wanted us to see her like that. I didn’t know what to feel. I was having high anxiety levels that my stomach is churning and I wanted to vomit. I got off the car and entered the health center to find the restroom. When I was finding my way around, I passed by the emergency room. I saw my mother lying in a foldable bed, lifeless, her hands dangling from the side of the bed, she has violet bruises on her skin, and her body was partially covered with a white towel.

That is when it sunk into me that she’s dead and never coming back. My father asked the others to just commute back to Manila because what we need right now is comfort from our family. The drive back home was one of the most painful memory I had as a kid. My father was in the steering wheel crying his eyes out. We drove from Bataan to Pampanga. We went home to my grandmother’s house, the nearest house that we can call “home” because how are we still going to be “home” without her?

Once we reached Pampanga, we stopped over to the gas station and my father made some calls to our loved ones to tell them that my mother passed away. He then called my aunt to help him arrange for the funeral. We got home and my grandmother hugged us and told us to get some rest. Already tired of crying, I went to sleep for a while. I woke up and for a second, I thought everything that happened the other day was all just a dream. That she was there in Manila, sitting on the couch reading some furniture magazine, waiting for us to go home. But that’s how cruel life is, right? I got up and weirdly, I felt sands in the bed. It was gray, just like the ones on the beach. I thought maybe it was just dirt but it was a fair amount to believe that maybe she visited us before she left. - ?

- The part of how I conquered the grief of her passing is shared in my personal blog. I felt the need to share my story with everyone since she's the woman I look up to. Feel free to visit my personal blog too when you have the time. I love writing my stories. Thank You! link: http://qkathreece.wixsite.com/kathreecequizon/post/breaking-waves

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