Tag Archives: Fiction

Hypertext Fiction: The Rope, the Stars and the Night Sky

swans
Album art from Swans – My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky

Constricted breaths fill my lungs with water, starved of oxygen, a shrivelled inner body cavity burning with acid. Oxygen, oxygen – a gasp and a shrill cry emanate from my core. The noose, wrapped around my neck, renders me a weak child, scrabbling for life that has been lost.

The deep blue of the ocean water fades to a deep black before my eyes, the chroma fading into anachronism. My cannibalistic throat makes me weep in pain and cry out in despair. The mind of a lunatic tells me that the water that I am drowning in is an ocean of my tears, but I cannot admit my sorrow. Thrashing against the invisible forces, I cannot admit what I have done. Inhaling water with desperation, I cannot admit that I am here.

I cannot admit it.

I am dead.

The noose loosens and my leaden arms grasp it, for whatever remains within my soul tells me to hold onto the last scrap of my existence. It lifts me, propels above the sinking depths to the sky above. The sweeping waves below dissolve into spittle as the mouth of the ocean snaps shut below me. I narrowly escape its scathing white teeth, lifted into the sky above.

The rope above me is rising into a milky mass of bright stars with a cerulean tinge, surrounding by a black emptiness. Absurdly, I think of one of the stars as my life extinguished like a candle, the rope guiding me to a final farewell. The other stars are all alive, continuing in their ignorance, and despite not knowing how long, they too will one day fade to join the blackness.

The light of the world dries my skin as my lungs breathe a sigh of release. My pale mottled fingers adjust, still clenching the rope ascending above into the unknown. Ignorance is bliss; bliss is ignorance. A star never has to think, or reason, or feel alone, or be afraid. A star is just a light in the sky, just part of our universe. People want things. People make me feel sick.

Despite the unreality of the situation, a burning question sears through my mind: Am I here because I am different, or because I am the same?

The stars coalesce into a stream as coloured dots form before my eyes. Above me, there is a living galaxy of colour, childish smudges forming a central brightness that threatens to envelop my vision. The quiet rustling of the surging waves is overshadowed by the chaotic music of the planets. Deafening high-pitched ululations penetrate my ear drums and rattle my brain inside, forcing each of my fingers to slowly separate from the rope.

My senses overwhelmed, I can no longer hold on.

I fall down into the night sky.

***

Note: This is a hypertext fiction reply to Will’s post Wata/October 2014.

Reading Will’s post last week and its inspiration reminded me of My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, and ‘Oxygen’ from To Be Kind by experimental rock group Swans, released this year. Similar in its minimalism and ambiance, but with a heavier and more progressive structure, music by Swans never fails to elicit some sort of personal response within me. Amid the disorienting dissonance of the instruments or the fevered yells of Michael Gira, there is some intrinsic beauty to be found.

Though perhaps not as much of a direct influence, drowning also reminded me of Patrick Ness’s More Than This, one of my favourite novels, where the protagonist drowns and wakes up to find himself in a new world. I really enjoy how Ness connects with lives through his writing, and is truly able to empathise what would drive someone to commit suicide and then to rediscover within oneself a capacity for enjoyment of life. I have attempted to emulate his style in understanding the human psychology through deep depression and supernatural occurrences.

Within the chaos of life, there is the peaceful emptiness of death – an alternative available to those who sink into the depths of depression, but ultimately acknowledges that you come to nothing. The conflicting, chaotic final moments of life are an accumulation of noise and life experiences, followed by silence. After life, you are everywhere at once, part of the universe, and simultaneously nowhere and no longer in existence. But really, we can never know.

I hope that wasn’t too depressing. Sometimes I wish I could write happier things.

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Short Story: Inerrant Isolation

Long ago, I left the normal world above the ground, in physical or mental contact with human beings every hour of the day.

I left them long ago, created by own isolated world beneath the ground, and separated myself from any contact with the outside world.

There are things that I miss, yet there are things about the life that I lead that I greatly prefer. Being alone every hour of the day can be better than you think.

There is only yourself, your thoughts and whatever you are capable of conjuring out of your imagination.

 

Since the beginning of our existence as a species, Homo Sapiens have attempted to find meaning where there is none to be found. The most obvious example of this is the question of the meaning of life, to which the most obvious Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy answer is ’42’.

Looking deeper, does life possess any inherent meaning? Isolated from the outside world, with only myself, food, my thoughts and books, I have had plenty of time to ponder this question.

The answer lies in the realm of fantasy. There is no objective answer, unless you count reproduction as found in nature. Every species that Mother Nature has every cultivated in her arms has evolved and adapted in order to achieve this fundamental. We, as humans, are incredibly successful at it, our burgeoning population having strained the planet’s resources so far that  much of the world is no longer habitable.

If there is any real objective of life in our modern society, it is to make money. Money is the driving force behind almost everything we are able to accomplish. Although people say that money cannot buy happiness, it can do anything else. You do not need people to survive if you are separated from society. You need to keep yourself sane.

To keep yourself sane, you plausibly need human contact, or some kind of motivation. For me, the motivation is knowledge. To quote another age-old saying: “Knowledge is power.” Those who have knowledge have a greater understanding of the universe that they inhabit.

As I have discovered, however, academic progress is ultimately fulfilling. Making a genuine discovery is more difficult than most think. We still have yet to find a way to restore sustainability to the ravaged Earth, to create new lives out of sterility and debris. Finding a solution to a problem is far more difficult than finding the problems with a solution, and the matter which I face today is one that is not easily resolved.

 

To re-enter and somehow re-integrate into society is to leave my sober thoughts and individuality behind. It is to step back into chaos and disorder, yet uniqueness and individuality.

Some people prefer independence, but what they find is that when there is only independence, socialisation appears far more attractive.

 

At least, that’s how it seems to me.

 

To leave or not to leave.

I lose either way.

 

 

 

Originally posted on my personal blog.

 

Wings

The Boy stared out the window. The view wasn’t particularly spectacular, but he stared out into the blank expanse of sky before him all the same, just like he did every day. Sliding his finger against the windowsill, he heard the familiar, comforting rasp of metal upon metal and gave a sigh.

He stood up and strode away from the fleeting, tantalising promise of freedom that had swept through his head like a bracing sea breeze, back towards the massive workstation that dominated the centre of the circular room. He stared at the mess of cogs and gears and plasma coils and gave a frustrated sigh. What am I doing here? He thought with an angry shrug.

Just then, he noticed the digital clock embedded on the table. The Boy froze, then exploded into a flurry of movement, yanking out the rolled up section of blue manuscript that lay under a power transformer and a half-deconstructed piston and pulling it open.

The Boy glanced at the jumble of tools and spare parts on his workspace, before carelessly sweeping them aside with his arm, placing the blueprints in their place. He weighed down the edges with some appropriately heavy metal blocks and cogs he had lying around, then hunkered down to pore over the detailed diagrams and annotations.

Immediately, the vision in his left eye flickered and expanded, magnifying and adopting a blue tint. Miniscule metal arms then erupted from the skin around his left eye, bearing aloft small monocle-like objects and bending like small cranes.

‘Hmm,’ mused the Boy, who dutifully ignored the now commonplace transformation of the left side of his body, ‘3 hours until Inspection… challenge accepted!’

He raised his left arm with a reckless smile on his face, the metal surface cracking and splitting into three distinct appendages. The middle one opened up spidery-looking fingers, which flexed experimentally, while the other two ‘arms’ twisted and fractured until a spirit level and the tip of a power drill protruded seamlessly. The Boy grinned, his normal hand snatching up a spanner.

‘Let’s do this!’

———————————————————————————————————————-

-Bzzzz-

The impassive mechanical alarm reverberated through the air, sounding for a minute before falling silent, leaving a tense, quiet in its wake.

The Boy’s right eye flickered upwards to glance at the clock, all the while frantically fitting parts and twisting metal. His arms were a blur of metal and cloth, frantically bending and morphing, a myriad of different tools materialising and vanishing in the span of a few seconds. Finally, he slowly straightened his posture, never breaking his furious rhythm.

He reached up and flicked a stray strand of hair out of his eyes right before a cast iron metal mask constructed itself onto his face. His left arm now only had two branches instead of the previous five or six. With his right arm and one of his left, the Boy picked up two complicated-looking metal blocks and held them together. His remaining hand, twisted aimlessly for a few seconds, before lowering to point at the combined metal parts. The nail elongated slightly, before a bright blue gas flame erupted from the tip.

Moving his finger in regular, even sweeps, the Boy quickly and efficiently welded the two parts together, a sense of satisfaction in every movement.

‘-BOY!!!-’

The Boy, startled by the sudden squawk from the communicator mounted on the wall, leaped straight up, arms and legs akimbo. Hissing, he quickly expelled a quick spurt of liquid nitrogen from his arm to douse the fire that had sprung up when he had moved his gas flame too close to a plasma coil.

‘-Inspection was ten minutes ago, Boy! Where are you?!-’

The Boy leaped over to the communicator and quickly pressed the button with his thumb.

‘I just finished, Master D,’ he gasped breathlessly, ‘I’ll bring it straight up.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy stood outside the transparent door, his finger hovering over the security pad tentatively. He jammed his finger against the touch sensor while punching in a complicated 16-digit code with his left arm; the adaptive metal growing 11 temporary fingers to help him with his endeavour.

The ‘transparent’ door rippled and seemingly shattered, a million pieces of glittering, reflective glass falling out of place. The Boy did not flinch as the razor-sharp shards danced close to his face. He knew it was all an illusion- a hologram designed to impress those who would come to visit D, the ‘genius’ of Graca. Unfortunately, no-one ever did come to visit the famed benefactor of Graca.

It was likely that down below, on the ground, the Citizens had made up some cock-and-bull story about how D was a criminal or mentally disturbed or such, and prevented any and all visitors that tried to see him. This was the sad truth. D was a prisoner of his own land. Trapped in a gilded cage of his own creation, forced to invent and manufacture brilliant pieces of innovation for a people he hated, the once-lauded ‘genius’ was now reduced to a mere caged bird- a relic that had been a mainstay of Graca for decades… from before the Reform.

The Boy gave a sad smile- his master’s circumstances always brought a tinge of pity and respect to the surface of his emotions, despite the rather negative feelings he secretly harboured towards the harsh taskmaster. He then blinked.

Now, instead of the bustling whirlwind of energy that had been ‘D’ in the illusion, there was only a black shrouded figure sitting morosely at a cluttered desk. He held a small doll in one hand, and was screwing a detached arm back into its original position with an old-fashioned screwdriver, with a handle.

The Boy silently padded over to stand at his shoulder, watching silently, unwilling to break the tense atmosphere.

Finally, after about ten minutes of being ignored by his Master, the Boy cleared his throat impatiently. Immediately, the aging man span around, eyes that still retained sword-like sharpness flicking up to scrutinise the one who had interrupted his work.

‘Boy!’ he rasped, ‘Where were you? Inspection was twenty minutes ago! The Citizens want that Theta Bomb!’

The Boy wordlessly held out his left arm, which immediately opened up, showing a small compartment in which resided the fruits of three hours’ labour. Four pulsing blue cables were connected to the top, providing the fluorescent power coils that veined the metal block with a healthy light.

D snorted in derision upon seeing the weapon of mass destruction, instead simply reaching in and ripping it out of the Boy’s arm. Said Boy winced and hissed as he felt the radium charge cables disconnect from his arm, a terrible cold spreading through the pain receptors in the artificial appendage.

D turned the cuboidal block this way and that in his gnarled hands, inspecting it from all angles. Finally, he gave a vicious-looking smile. Holding the bomb in his hand, he made a vague-looking, twisting motion with his hands. The intricate mass of metal and wire shivered and exploded, tiny constituent parts raining onto the ground like a storm.

That,’ snarled D in anger, ‘was pathetic. That Theta Bomb had an 18% chance of misfiring. What have I been teaching you all these years?!’

The old man gripped the Boy by his collar and slammed him against the wall, the aged muscles still possessing iron-like strength. With his free hand, D prodded the immobile boy in the chest with a grimy finger.

‘I found you, Boy, a nameless orphan who mucked up a jetpack joyride. You were going to die, and I saved your life. You were a nobody, and I raised you as my own son and legacy. You lost the entire left side of your body, and I crafted you a new body using my secret techniques. I gave you life, and I can take it away. You belong to me. Your entire existence is a tool for me to use. A tool to get revenge on the Citizens. A tool, just like this.’

D held up the doll, which had suddenly twisted and morphed into a crackling energy transfuser. Holding his charge tight, and utilising the assistance of the metal wall, which had unexpectedly sprouted numerous tentacle-like cables that held the helpless boy immobile, D brought the energy transfuser close to the teen’s face.

‘Remember this, Boy,’ hissed D maniacally, ‘You are mine. You will always be mine.’

And then he pressed the superheated nib against the Boy’s bare right cheek, scratching a line straight down the bare skin, watching the frying flesh cauterise the wound almost instantly.

Blinking in curiosity, he brought the half-doll, half-energy transfuser back and studied the long scratch down the boy’s cheek. It was an ugly black, the surrounding skin a contrasting angry red.

‘Hmmm,’ murmured D, puzzled, ‘Why don’t you scream, Boy?’

The Boy glared at his master through a haze of pain and tears before opening his mouth and spitting a glob of blood and phlegm contemptuously at the vindictive old man in front of him. But even as he completed this action, a wrinkly old hand snapped out and grabbed his jaw, quick as lightning.

‘Ah,’ mused D, ignoring the wet blood tracking down his cheek as he forcefully opened the teen’s mouth. ‘You bound your gums together with wire. Not a bad application of MESTAR. You’ve adapted to the metal well.’

‘You should never have given me it,’ snarled the Boy defiantly, finally deciding to stand up for himself in the face of his master’s cruel and unreasonable treatment of him.

The tiny spool of steel wire that he had used to prevent himself from screaming had now completely unwound itself and was now coiled in a tight-packed mass on top of his tongue. In a fluid movement, the Boy spat at D, the wire uncoiling itself with the movement, a flying spear of bloodied metal.

The wickedly sharp metallic streamer bolted through the air, directly at D’s head. Flicking near his ear, it grazed the right side of his face, creating, ironically, a deep furrow perpendicular to the Boy’s own newly-acquired scar.

But the Boy saw none of this. He reached deep within himself, finding that part in him that controlled the adaptive metal that made up the left side of his body. He found it, and began to manipulate it.

Smiling, he opened his eyes, and roared. Immediately, the metal cables that grew from the wall and held him immobile exploded outwards, flying away in a million shredded pieces of steel.

The Boy stepped forward and rolled his neck, producing an audible crack. It was now obvious what had severed his bonds- several large, curved blades protruded from the left side of his body. But even as the Boy advanced upon D, who had been blown back onto the ground with the force of the wire attack, the metal blades slowly receded into the grey, skin-like surface of his body.

The Boy held out his arm, which lengthened and tapered to a point, a white glow starting to form at the tip. It now looked less like an arm and more like a superheated spear or lance.

‘I guess I am grateful for the help, Master D,’ grinned the Boy maliciously, ‘But please die.’

He jabbed the lance at his fallen master and smiled sadistically as he heard the tell-tale hiss of shrivelling cloth as a hole was rapidly worn in D’s ever-present black cloak. But when D started to chuckle darkly, a vein in the Boy’s face started to twitch.

‘What’s so funny?’ he snarled angrily. ‘You have nothing to laugh about- you’re about to die, you horrid old man!’

With a suddenness that shocked, D leapt up off his back and straight at the Boy, arm outstretched.

The Boy yelped as he recoiled from the unexpected attack. He reflexively raised his arm to protect himself, and in doing so, impaled D straight through the chest, the heated tip of the lance sliding through flesh and cloth, bone and muscle with almost no resistance.

The Boy sat slumped on the wall, the weight of his master pressing down on him. He blinked slowly, trying desperately to comprehend what had just happened. He glanced at the limp figure skewered on his lance and prodded him tentatively with his normal hand.

When the still form did not move, the Boy allowed himself a small smile of triumph. He had always wondered if he had enough guts to actually take the life of the one who had saved him, even if he took into account the extent of his hatred towards him.

‘You brought this on yourself, Master D. maybe if you weren’t so demanding. So cruel. But you know what they say- what comes around goes around,’ he murmured softly as a solitary tear slid down his ruined cheek.

‘You’re a hundred years too early too early to lecture me, damn brat,’ came a rough voice, like sandpaper over a chalkboard.

The Boy’s head snapped up, unbelieving, as the figure transfixed on the metal pole stirred and raised his head. A familiar face smirked dangerously at him, whiskered features held in an animalistic snarl.

‘Wh… what? H…h…how?’ stuttered the Boy, almost incoherently.

‘Hah…did you really think you could kill me? Me, the great D? The Creator, himself? I am the one singlehandedly responsible for improving and sustaining Graca! Without my inventions and technology, those smarmy Citizens would probably still think digital watches are the height of innovation! You think you can extinguish the life of the single greatest existence this world has ever known? With my own technology, as well? You really are a failure as an apprentice!’ growled D, enraged.

With deliberate slowness, he raised his free hand to where the Boy could see it, a single raised palm. Slowly, menacingly, D twisted his palm into a clenched fist. And the Boy immediately felt an excruciating pain permeate his entire being, a pulsing white-hot supernova of sensation that coursed through his veins and boiled his blood. Not even having a line seared into his skin had been this painful. And all D had done was twist his hand. The Boy didn’t understand what was causing this all-encompassing agony. He felt, somewhere, an urge to scream, but then realised he was already doing so- a high-pitched keening that reverberated inside his head, like a roomful of shouting people.

In some half-deranged state, the Boy entertained the thought of muffling his screaming, to put up a tough front to show he wasn’t afraid of the terrifying old man, but when he tried to reach up with his left arm to cover his mouth, he realised with a delayed sense of horror he no longer had a left arm. Or a left leg. And… oh god, even the left side of his face was missing.

D had, utilising his god-like manipulation of synthetic materials, ripped all the MESTAR sustaining the Boy’s life clear from his body.

It was then, through a haze of pain, that the Boy blacked out.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy stood on a cloud, staring into the distance aimlessly. I’ve always wanted to fly. I guess now it’s impossible. Am I dead?

He stared at his very human left arm and sighed. He had always dreamed of escaping D’s prison on a jetpack- the same way he had entered. After his accident, he had almost given up on that dream, but his former master had craftily strung him along like a mindless puppet, luring him with promises of better technology to enhance his flying experience- the sensation of enjoying the sky.

Unfortunately, it was all an elaborate trap. As soon as the Boy had accepted the metal prosthetics into his body, he had stepped into D’s jurisdiction. Reduced to the slave of his saviour, the Boy once again had his dream destroyed.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy woke to the feel of rushing air, and for a moment thought he had actually died and had been granted his life-long wish. But this wish was soon shattered as he took stock of his surroundings. He was standing at the edge of a giant hole in the floating prison’s wall, still lacking most of the left side of his body, but feeling a strange, yet familiar weight on his back.

‘Hello, Boy,’ came the dreaded, rasping voice of D, ‘I have decided to make use of you for one last mission. I’ve programmed a jetpack to launch you straight down into the nexus of the anti-gravitational field, where the bomb I’ve planted in you body will promptly detonate. Probably the most use I’ll ever get out of you. And then, my ‘prison’ will finally fall, and I will regain my rightful place, ruling the Citizens!’

The Boy ignored him and only focused on what he could sense behind him. A jetpack. He smiled at D before launching himself off the precipice, cutting off his master’s triumphant speech. He could feel the jetpack thrusters boosting, but he already knew, that even D’s unnatural dominance over machines could not wrest away control of the MESTAR that had been a part of him for 3 years (even if it were in a slightly different form), not at this distance.

He asserted his authority over the metal and felt it shift and twist, becoming something far more different. Wings.

He flapped his new appendages, gaining altitude, moving away from the anti-gravitational generator below and instead heading for the universal power transmitter, sitting at the very edges of the upper atmosphere. He could feel his breathing beginning to labour, but used some of his last vestiges of strength to create a mini-communicator to shout a few parting words to his former master, staring wide-eyed from below.

‘If I’m going to die, I might as well bring this wretched planet with me! Because it’s in my nature!’

Suddenly, terrible white light blanketed the sky, leaving only the Boy’s parting words.

‘By the way, my name isn’t Boy, it’s Icarus.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

This was something I wrote for the Imagination Creation Western Union Young Writers Competition.

Kevin Tang 10F

 

Gone

Just a love story I wrote.
 
The rain pattered against the top of the restaurant’s roof, and as she sat on the stool, her right leg crossed over her left, one hand on her thigh and the other cradling a glass of champagne, she imagined that someone up in Heaven was gently tapping on the ceiling as if it was a piano. Somewhere in the place a string quartet was gently performing a haunting Baroque piece, their performance nearly being drowned out by the sound of ordinary people conversing about their mundane lives between mouthfuls of chicken as their knives and forks clinked against their glass plates. The girl couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, thirty at the most, but there was something in the way that she sat alone, her back against the bar, her eyes scanning the room and watching everyone else around her that hinted at the existence of a deep dissatisfaction with the essence of her life. Her hair was the colour of dark chocolate with a streak of blue in the side; her eyes were soft as grey pearls. She wasn’t particularly outstanding in any way – one could criticize all manner of things about her appearance – but oftentimes it is not a physical perfection that draws one human being to another in the way that I found myself drawn to her. This was not the primal lure of a particular body shape or a particular shaping of the nose, no. It was too dignified an attraction for that, too intellectually and spiritually encompassing to be simply the result of a haphazard, tardy lust. Glancing at her from the corner of the room, I knew that she was the one for me. That she was the perfect, faultless girl with whom my life would suddenly become infused with a meaning that I had never previously realized.
 
I placed my empty glass on a table before glancing back at her. She was still analyzing the room when our eyes locked for the briefest of moments. Although it could not have been more than half a second, the twinge of electricity which shivered down my spine during that time solidified my certainty that she was the perfect girl for me. I knew that fate lands her hands once, and once only, so grasping the moment, I maneuvered around the restaurant’s patrons and before long I was standing less than half a meter away from her face. Up close, she was pretty and not unremarkable, but if you were to ask me to describe something about her face, or her clothes, or her hair that really stood out, I would be at a loss for an answer. Her eyes were now gazing at me and her eyebrows were raised slightly. I opened my mouth – what was the best thing to say? Was I to comment on grand subjects such as philosophy? No, that would be unfitting for the situation. Maybe tell her some story about my life that she could find interesting? No, small talk would be defeating my purpose. Perhaps the best thing to do was to tell her outright that she was the perfect girl for me… but I convinced myself against it. It would only seem strange and eccentric.
 
“The music is good here, isn’t it?” I found myself saying. The girl blinked. 
“Yeah, I guess.”
I was about to reply when she cut me off.
“I’m waiting for someone. I’m hoping they’ll be here soon.”
“Oh,” I began, “well, I hope you enjoy your night.”
And that was the end of our conversation.
 
As I was walking towards the exit of the restaurant, I realized exactly what I should have said. It was a story about a boy and a girl that began with “Once upon a time” and ended with “She was gone.”
 
Once upon a time there was a young boy not older than 15.  He didn’t overly stand out – if you were to spot him in amongst a crowd of people, you would most likely not give him a second look. He was by almost all accounts, completely average. On one spring afternoon, he was jogging around the suburban shops when he saw his one true love walking towards the local post office. There was nothing incredibly outstanding about her – indeed, there was nothing excessively special about either of them. The girl was simply out to post a letter to someone and was wearing a Tweety-Bird t-shirt and a well-worn pair of jeans. Her orange-streaked hair was untied and was naturally wavy. Her mundane clothing was not chosen to make much of an impression, as there was no need to. Any other person would not have given her a second glance, but this girl was the boy’s one true love and as he walked towards her and her towards him, young as he was, he knew that he had found his perfect girl.
The two stopped in front of each other and met at the postbox, and as the girl placed the envelope into the slot, the boy touched her shoulder and said “Hi”. The moment the girl looked into the boy’s eyes – even though she was only fourteen – she knew that she had found her true love, her perfect boy with whom she would be willing to spend the entirety of her future with.
 
“Hey,” she responded, smiling gently. 
The boy offered her his hand, and together they walked down the street, hand in hand, with the rest of the world oblivious to the gentle intonation of fate that had just played out between the two.
 
The conversation between the two played out perfectly – every word was what the other person wanted to hear, every joke hit the right note, every topic was engaging, grasping and consuming. As the two talked about all manner of things, from philosophy to religion to their lives and their futures, the two fell deeper and deeper into a true and perfect love. The girl told the boy things that she had never told anyone else, and the boy shared his deepest worries, both with complete trust in the other. They walked through a park where the stone track was met by vibrant grass and handfuls of golden-brown honey-coloured leaves on the floor, where the towering trunks of hundred-year oaks on either side of the path offered a feeling of the most sublime grandeur, where the grass-green leaves waved about in the wind above them, creating an intricate dance of shadow on the ground below. It was as if the Earth had decided that the pair’s perfect love had to be accompanied with a perfect setting, and as the two sat down on a park bench before a pond, they felt a serene serendipity like none other.
 
 “I can’t believe that I found my true, perfect love” the girl said, “you know, just like that.” 
By now they were staring deep into each other’s eyes. The girl continued.
“I think that we don’t really have free will. I believe that, to an extent, you can predict what our lives are going to be just from analyzing what is happening right now. You know, the way how if I hadn’t met that person who I was writing a letter to, then I wouldn’t have had to send that letter, and then I wouldn’t have met you at the post office, and then we wouldn’t be here. But I did end up sending that letter, and I did meet you, and now I’m here – it’s almost as if meeting you was predetermined.”
The boy agreed to what the girl was saying, and the two decided to test their free will. After some time, they decided that if their love was really true and perfect, and if they were really meant to be together, then they should leave each other at that moment, with no way of contacting each other. That way, if Fate really meant for them to be together, then Fate would bring them together again in the future, and when they did, they would marry each other on the spot, no questions asked.
                                                                        . . .
So the two parted ways at the pond, and went back to their daily lives. The boy eventually finished school and went on to gain a stable job in finance. He married twice – the first marriage falling apart within a year, and the second one kept for convenience, as they already had school-aged children and a family. He spent much of his life working and travelling around the world, and at times with certain people, he felt love, sometimes great love, but never the perfect love which he had felt one summer’s day in his youth.
 
The girl grew on to study in art, and travelled overseas for years at a time, wondering around the globe. Eventually, after a number of failed relationships, she settled down and likewise started a family of her own. Her husband loved her more than she loved him, and like most of the other couples around her age, her marriage only continued because of their responsibility to their family, and not of love.
 
As the two grew towards their old age, each became sick and only partially recovered. Their bodies became frail, and their minds dampened with the pressure of the years. The love that they had felt throughout their lives had been comfortable and satisfying, but nowhere near truly perfect. One day, with the best of their years behind them, both the lady and the gentlemen were back travelling on the same street where they had both grown up.
The man was in a wheelchair, and wheeled himself towards the post office, and the lady hobbled along, leaning half her weight on a walking stick with every step. The two of them moved towards each other, and as the man looked into the lady’s eyes, and the lady gazed into the man’s, each felt a flicker of love flow throughout their body. For a moment, the man’s eyes lit up, the kindling of a romance in his heart, but the flame quickly tapered off. It had been too long, the number of years too many, for them to remember each other. The years of time had worked at their memories, until neither could remember the other. And just like that, the elderly man passed the elderly woman without saying a word.
The thing is, Fate really meant for them to be together. The love that they felt for each other was the truest, most perfect love that they would ever find. The boy was really ‘the one’ for the girl, and likewise, but they made the mistake of testing Fate when they already had each other. There was no remedy to their error, and Opportunity gave them no other handle to seize her by. Such is life.
                                                                        …
I turned around just before I walked out of the restaurant, and looked at where the lady had been sitting before. Who was it that she was looking for?  Maybe I could go back and talk to her again. I almost began to walk into the restaurant, but the stool where she sat was empty. She was gone.
 
Eric Xie