Posted in Completely Random!!, Hehe, Short Stories, Writing

My Classmate in the Green Bus

There’s a kid in my class who comes to school in a bus all by himself. It’s not a school bus, either — it’s just a big old green bus that drops him off right in front of the school. And the driver never acknowledges him, even though I’ve seen my classmate wave goodbye to the man plenty of times.

Everyone was scared to ask why he came in a bus by himself, or who he really was, or who the strangely rude driver was, or why he walked home after school instead of being picked up by someone. We would just comment about it when he wasn’t around, or act like we never saw anything, or like it was completely normal. Even when he made a scene of running off the bus with a terrified yell one day, none of us ever mentioned it.

He didn’t do it again.

I don’t know what prompted me to bring it up today. Maybe it’s because it’s almost the last of school, and I knew most of us wouldn’t see each other again after tomorrow; or maybe curiosity finally got the better of me and decided on its own that it wanted some kind of answer. Whatever the reason, I caught up to him as we were getting ready to leave in the hallway and I finally brought it up: why doesn’t the bus ever pick him up? Why does he come to school in a bus anyway?

He just looked at me for a second, so I began to wonder if it had been a mistake to ask after all, until he finally shrugged and answered with one word.

I haven’t seen him since that day. He didn’t show up for the final day of school, and I never heard of or from him since. It’s still haunting me now though — him and his green bus and his bizarre reply. I think about it a lot late at night when I can’t fall asleep. Sometimes I think it’s going to drive me crazy…

What does ‘genetics’ have to do with coming to school every day on a green bus??

I was going to make this serious but then my brain told me no and my heart also told me no so here we have a masterpiece.

Posted in Short Stories, Sleepless Nights, Writing

the plane of nothing

In my dream the child was sitting on the floor in complete darkness, its small legs crossed over each other as it rested its head on its little fist, elbow on one thigh, dark hair spilling over its face in a careless mess as it looked me over with mild curiosity, staring through eyes that seemed to shine like a sky of stars in this dark place.

‘Are you ready to wake up?’ the child asked me, not moving from its position on the invisible ground.

Its voice echoed through the emptiness. Part of me wondered how I could see the two of us in this darkness as I replied, ‘I don’t know what you mean. Where are we?’

‘Where do you think?’ It looked bored already with the question, like it was asking me in advance not to ask it anything else. ‘If you just opened your silly eyes, things would become much clearer. You old people think you know a lot, but in the end, you miss out on more than we do.’

I walked a circle around the child, trying to find any sign of light or anything beyond this kid, but behind me it commented, ‘You know this place. I told you; you just need to open your eyes.’

I turned back to face it. ‘You seem to know a lot about things. Tell me.’

Innocent amusement played in its eyes. ‘I do know a lot. What would you like to know?’

Wondering what game the child was playing, I answered, ‘Like I first asked: what is this place?’

‘Hm.’ The child let out a hum and leaned back, hugging its legs with its arms. ‘Well, it’s here, isn’t it? What would you expect?’

‘I’d expect a helpful answer,’ I told it dryly. ‘Not cryptic ones.’

‘What’s cryptic? We’re here. You’re here. What more is there to it?’

‘Well,’ I said rather impatiently, ‘just how did we get here?’

The child considered this question. ‘I guess neither of us know that one.’

After a pause it added, ‘But the both of us are here, in any case, and that’s what’s important. Do you know why?’


‘Because we get to be here.’ The child swept an arm out to the darkness. ‘We get to be here.’

Its voice seemed to echo a bit more in the last repetition. I looked around at the sheer black walls and wondered what a child could possibly see in this empty existence, but when I turned my attention back, I saw it looking around with a curiously sweet face, like something was here that gave it a splendid joy that words wouldn’t suffice to express.

Something flared in my chest before it was extinguished.

‘Who are you?’ I asked the child, looking it over more thoroughly to for the first time notice its simple white clothes that looked just a tad large on its thin, yet not hungry, frame.

‘I’m me.’ The child laughed a little, like this should be obvious, before turning my own question back on me in a taunting, ‘And who are you?’

I shrugged. ‘How can I know in a void like this?’

‘Void?’ The child cocked its head. ‘Why do you call it that? What’s a void?’

‘This.’ It was my turn to gesture at the pitch darkness surrounding us. ‘Emptiness. Nothingness. Meaningless. A void.’

‘A void,’ the child repeated slowly. ‘But what is nothing?’

‘The opposite of everything. It’s darkness. It’s a hole. It’s where there is nothing.’

‘But there is air in a hole,’ the child said in a tone of finality. ‘That’s not nothing.’

‘But there are places where there is nothing, not even air, like outer space.’

‘There are stars in outer space.’

‘Not everywhere in outer space.’

‘How do you know there’s not air if you can’t see the non air?’

It took me a moment to realise the child meant you can’t see something that’s invisible, and therefore cannot see the absence of said invisible existence. I was unwilling to have this unnecessary conversation at this time, so I resigned, ‘You must be right. Of course there is nothing. Except we happen to be right in the middle of it.’

Again the child cocked its head in confusion. ‘But you said there is no nothing. We must be in something then.’

I couldn’t help but laugh and pace a couple steps in vain. ‘Sure. Of course.’

The child watched me walk for a minute or so in silence while I wondered again how we had got here and for what reason. It didn’t occur to me that it might be a dream; however my dreams turn out, I rarely think of them as dreams; they must always be reality. What was the point of this existence? The child left me alone to my thoughts so that I almost forgot it existed until it finally asked, ‘If we are in nothing, why are you still moving like you have somewhere to go?’

‘Well,’ I retorted, ‘I have to do something, don’t I?’

‘But do you enjoy it?’ the child asked.

‘No, must I?’

‘Well,’ the child mused, ‘why do it if you don’t enjoy it?’

I snorted. ‘What would you have me do, sit down with you and wait for nothing for an eternity? Might as well just do something to kill time.’

‘Killing is bad.’ The child moved its foot, and I heard a little clanking noise as it added, ‘And I’m not waiting. I think you are, but you’re pretending not to.’

‘What gives you that idea?’ I huffed, before looking down to see the source of the clanging and for the first time seeing a chain wrapped around the child’s ankle which shackled the child to the ground.

‘What is that?’ I asked, pointing at the chain.

The child looked at it. ‘It’s a chain, silly.’

‘Yes, but why? Who did this?’

The child looked up into the black sky and said, ‘I told you; if you’re ready to wake up, just open your eyes.’

I stared in bewilderment at the child before something prompted me to look down at my hands to find a small key I already knew was the one for the child’s bonds, but how did it get here? The child was looking at me again, waiting, and I frowned back, trying to make sense of this, when it told me, ‘You old people think you know so much. You just don’t ask the right questions.’

‘Why do I have this?’ I demanded, to which the child almost immediately returned, ‘What we both really want to know is, what are you going to do with it?’

‘What’s happening?’

‘You said you’re killing time.’ The first beginnings of resentment were beginning to creep into the child’s voice. ‘Would you like to wake up now?’

‘Why do you seem to know everything? What is this place?’

‘I don’t know everything,’ the child said impatiently. ‘No one does. I’m just okay not knowing everything, and you’re not. But please, what are you going to do with the key?’

I glanced down at the key again, then back up at the child. I still had no idea who this person was, but even then, what had either of us to lose in a place like this? It wasn’t even mercy or pity that moved my hand in the end; it was the sheer nothingness of anything else to do, the sheer emptiness that had given me one task that I grudgingly fulfilled.

The chains fell to the ground. The child stood and reached up.

‘Come down.’

I hesitated, then knelt in front of the child, who reached up on tip toe to put small hands around my neck.

‘Wake up,’ it whispered tenderly, and the blindfold fell off; and I found myself blinking in the orange light to see the beginnings of the sunrise begin to caress the tips of the mountains as the black cloth fluttered to the ground at the chains by my feet, and the crumbling remains of a dirty mask melted in the sweet dew of the morning air.

I am the child.

Posted in Short Stories, Sleepless Nights, Writing

‘Life Exchange’

As the beeping slowed, Dr. Phil found herself briefly wondering why her nephew suddenly expressed such interest in her work when he had seemed almost disgusted at it before, but she shrugged it off as a possible new career interest or a spurt of maturity growth on his part. It did give her a rush to finally be able to talk to an open-minded young person about her work; she found it fulfilling.

The doctor glanced at her dark-haired nephew, trying to read his expression now as she absentmindedly stroked her patient’s hand. He was studying the patient, the woman, as her eyes closed and her soft breathing slowed with the machine’s dying rhythm, but his face looked largely neutral. It could have been mildly fascinated or thoughtful, or it could have been completely blank; people could sometimes be so hard to read. Damien in particular seemed to show nothing on his face, even during times like his mother’s funeral.

After a few more minutes, the machine finally flat-lined. Dr. Phil exhaled, nodded slightly, and put a hand on her nephew’s shoulder.

‘And that’s it.’ She chuckled to herself. ‘Looks peaceful, doesn’t it?’

Damien didn’t take his eyes off the woman. ‘It’s like a deep sleep.’

‘It is,’ she agreed. ‘Never have any of my patients expressed discomfort during the procedure. Technically speaking, it really is just relaxing your body so completely that it stops functioning. It’s the ultimate de-stressor.’

She laughed a little, then began replacing the patient’s tubes with the ‘preservative’ fluids and prepared to move the body to the cold room. ‘This is your first time watching it, huh? What do you think?’

Damien shrugged as she covered the patient. ‘I don’t know. It’s just… yeah. I’m not sure.’

‘You have questions?’ Dr. Phil prompted gently, taking his hesitation as doubt. He nodded as she gestured for him to follow her. Wheeling the load through the white halls of the hospital, Dr. Phil continued, ‘Maybe you’re asking why.’

She saw him nod beside her as they stopped to wait for an elevator. Nodding thoughtfully in reply, she took a moment to formulate a response.

‘Overall,’ she finally said, ‘I guess it really started with one big question, which is, what if people who didn’t want their lives anymore could give those lives to people who wanted them?’

Her nephew hesitated, then nodded. The elevator arrived and she wheeled the patient in as she went on to explain in further detail. ‘I want you to picture this, Damien: you have a happy young man like yourself who’s doing well in school. Let’s say he’s good at sports, loves his family, has a pretty girlfriend, and is getting ready for college, yeah? He’s got his life ahead of him. He’s got everything you could want. Then suddenly out of nowhere, let’s just say his heart starts to fail. You hear these kinds of weird stories, right?’

She pushed the bed out of the elevator, and they continued through the many hallways.

‘What you hear less of is the people who don’t have that kind of life. As a common example, let’s just use a social recluse. For whatever reason, let’s say he’s depressed, hopeless, and desperate: desperate for a way out, any way out. He’s tried everything, and nothing has worked out for him. Life is just too hard, you know?’

Damien nodded as Dr. Phil swiped her ID and opened the door to the cold room.

‘So let’s say he loses all hope and decides to kill himself by running out in front of a train. In the meantime, our happy friend from before still has this heart issue, and because of the overall lack of organ donors, he’s dying too. At the end of the day, what does all this accomplish? One life is gone; another is about to fade. It’s loss all-around. The difference between the two? One of them wanted their life; the other didn’t. So that’s ultimately when the question comes up: what if the latter gave their life to the former?’

So…’ Damien watched as one of Dr. Phil’s co-workers took the body to another room, and Dr. Phil led her nephew out and began heading back to the main floor. ‘Like sacrifice or something. The ultimate organ and blood donor.’

Dr. Phil couldn’t help but laugh at this. ‘Yes, but if your life has no purpose or meaning anymore, I don’t think it’s much of a sacrifice. I think of it more as a win-win situation; you don’t want your life anymore, so why not get what you want – death – while giving up your life so that another can continue and appreciate it for you?’

Damien was quiet for a while, so as they returned to her floor, Dr. Phil added, ‘It might sound cruel, but when you think about it, it’s quite merciful. I mean, why should someone be forced to live when they have no will or strength to do so anyway? Is it ethical to push this expectation on them when they could be happier dead, and others’ lives could be extended too? Most of them would end it by themselves anyway, and in a much more painful manner; we may as well give them a good environment, an easy passing, and a clear conscience knowing at least their end has had some meaning. You understand where we’re coming from? It’s ultimately for the benefit of everyone, for society. It is…’ – she shook her head – ‘really quite amazing, how limited our thinking can be, when a solution is blocked because of our own inhibitions. Sometimes unconventionality is the key, but we’re too cowardly to take it when it’s right in front of our faces.’

Damien said nothing, but his thoughtful look gave Dr. Phil a kind of satisfaction. Her nephew had always been a logical child; that hadn’t changed over the years, even for him as a teenager, so she wasn’t entirely surprised when he asked, ‘What about the… patients’… family and friends?’

‘What about them?’ she replied, letting nonchalance sing into her voice.

‘I mean,’ Damien said slowly, ‘that’s usually the saddest thing about suicide, is the people who cared about the person. So what do you tell them when you take the life of someone’s parent or friend?’

Dr. Phil shrugged as she prepared the bed for her next patient. ‘It isn’t their life to govern, really. They can’t control a person. It’s that person’s decision.’

‘Hm.’ Damien gazed out the window that looked over the parking lot. ‘I guess it makes sense. No one can make you do anything. Your life is your own.’

Dr. Phil found herself glancing at her nephew again as he said this, but at that moment, the nurse poked his head into the room. ‘Hey doc, you ready for your next patient?’

She smiled at him. ‘Of course.’

‘Alright. He had this time slot, but he hasn’t shown up yet; the next patient is already here, so if he doesn’t come in the next five minutes, we’re going to bump the next one up.’

‘Oh, I’m already here.’ Damien was already rolling up his sleeves.

‘Damien Phil?’

‘Yeah. I did the paperwork in advance.’

The nurse checked his clipboard. ‘So you did. Alrighty then.’

Damien was already starting to lie down on the bed, but Dr. Phil, recovering her mind, marched over to him, shaking her head. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’

He was too calm. ‘It’s my decision.’

‘No, you get off this table right now and – ‘

‘Aunt Phil.’ Damien’s dark eyes were dead (and) serious. ‘My understanding was that you understood this is my decision.’

She covered her mouth and shook her head, trying to find the right words to formulate the sudden blackness in her chest. ‘What about us? What about your family?’

He stared at the ceiling. ‘This is my life. You’ve said it yourself.’

As the nurse began preparing the fluids, Damien didn’t meet his aunt’s eyes as he merely said, ‘Thank you for understanding.’

Posted in Short Stories, Sleepless Nights, Writing

‘The Unreachable Place’

He had chuckled from out of nowhere, and when I asked him what was so funny, he pointed at the shelf and said simply, ‘The spirit.’ I looked up at that bookshelf and found it quite ordinary, but he chuckled softly to himself again and turned away; and that brief moment was over then.

I think about that often now. I don’t know why. I spend hours staring at the paintings he poured days into, and something odd strikes me about them, yet I can never tell what; so I stare and think and wonder, and the thought often comes to me that he could likely tell me exactly what it is that I’m missing, just like his curious gaze could open up my own eyes to so many new things, as if his very existence made one more aware of the universe itself.

He had always been a funny one. Even as a child, chuckling to himself about spirits, spending hours alone, staring wistfully out the windows until you realised he was staring wistfully into them, into their reflections, like he was seeing something beyond the reaches of this physical world — something deeper that only the wisest souls could possibly know. This in a child.

A child who grew to love, not sports or television or video games like so many of his peers, but poetry and painting and nature. A child who could content himself with sitting in the grass and just… being. Sometimes it felt like he just loved living for the sake of it — something few can claim, and even fewer can retain past the skepticism of adolescence.

I wonder what he would have been like had he made it past that?

His skill in painting was undeniable. He had an eye for the world and a hand for the brush. He would just sit at the canvas and sweep, sweep, add a few strokes, add more colour to a meaningless blur until it somehow all fit together in the end. How he could see such beauty and translate it to colour on the page, I shall never know.

A few weeks after the incident, his neighborhood set up a small gallery of his paintings in one of the public houses to honor his memory. I visit it often; it will be removed tomorrow, and I find a sense of panic in the knowledge of that fact. As I look at the signs they put up, I cannot help but feel that they wanted to preserve more than just a memory of a young man ‘struck down in his youth’; I think they wanted to preserve the part of life he always portrayed, the innocence of it, the beauty of it, the serenity of it. Is it that I feel a sense of loss, not only for the boy, but also for these? These three paintings whose colours warm the soul.

As my shoe creaks on the worn wood of the old house yet again, I inhale the mildew and dust and scan the little room in which the paintings, in one, two, three corners, on three stands, wait. The yellow gallery lights almost seem too harsh on the ethereal images, but at the same time, they bring them into such clarity that one could almost reach out a hand to find that the paintings are not mere illusions after all, but windows into another world. Is this what I find so enchanting about them?

As always, I take in this greater image before slowly turning to my right. Everything here seems it must be done slowly; there is no haste, only life, only yourself in this room filled with treasures.

This first painting depicts a small lake surrounded by forest. Its autumn winds wait with bated breath despite the tranquility. The focus could be on the little rowboat waiting by the simple wooden dock, but at the same time it also balance on the trees in the back, blushing from the crisp air, that drop their leaves onto the glass-like water, gently disrupting the clear reflections of the trees and fading auburn sky. For whom does the rowboat wait? To where will it depart, and why at such a dying hour? I’ve asked these questions so many times now, they sound old even to my own mind. I have wrestled with them a time too many.

Leaving my old questions at the canvas, as I always do, I turn to the left and stare at the canvas of sky from here. Vertigo already sweeps over me even from this distance, and I hesitate before slowly stepping closer to the edge…

A boy’s foot dances off the corner of a cliff, casting a shadow across the dark rock. That is the only dark thing about this painting; brilliant colour fills the rest of the canvas as the layer of clouds soaks in the soft sunset hues of yellow, orange, pink. Though his face is too far away to see, his hair dances in the wind, and strong white wings brushed with light strokes are thrust behind him, soft feathers seeming to breathe on their own in a song only the beating sky would hear. I can almost feel the pure freedom, the adrenaline of moving just a few more centimetres, the complete surrender into the majestic unknown.

How to escape to such a place? My eyes take in the brilliance as though starving for colour. Perhaps they were, and only his paintings could reveal such depravity.

Finally, in the third corner on the left, another sunset-stained piece and yet the only titled world: ‘The Unreachable Place.’ For such a detailed image, the name has never seemed to do it justice. The words feel too simple, too shallow, to describe such depth and — how else to describe it? — emotion.

For again on the edge of a cliff, a cloaked figure’s silhouette gazes across deep waters with such longing toward a faraway castle with gleaming spires that I can’t help but think the figure might hurl itself into the sea in a vain attempt to join the two ships gliding into the shimmering harbor. Little flags, bold and proud even from afar, layer across themselves as they wave in the sea breeze across the towers and clearly bustling metropolis below. The expanse of lively reddening sky stretches out over the sea as if in a contest to see who can go farther, who can reach longer with their dancing light as the life prepares to fade and the day anticipates its own end. Though grand in itself, the peninsula from which the castle rises seems almost to harbor a sleepy darkness in order to provide rest from the dazzling shades that illuminate the citadel in the areas where light reflects as through a mirror.

But, again, who, and why? It hardly seems like paint on a canvas anymore; it is a reality from which I am barred, which I will always be questioning. A story breathed to life by a boy whose own life was taken.

To my left, a person I didn’t even realise had entered shifts slightly, then walks out silently. Staring after him for a second, I briefly wonder why I am surprised, then sprint to the doorway and quickly scan the main room to see an empty room. I ask the receptionist if she has seen anyone, but she merely shakes her head and continues to focus on her book.

How baffling. I could have sworn he…

Shaking my head, I turn around slowly and gaze into the little room that seems so much more alive than when I have ever seen it before. It does not breathe, but it emanates a captivating aura that makes it so alive. Such a beautiful, plain, yet deep image of loveliness. Simple loveliness.

Suddenly, inexplicably, I begin to laugh softly. It’s a little laugh, yet somehow refreshing, and something prompts me to step into the middle of the room to admire again each picture in all their glory. And this time, for the first and last time, I understand. I see it the way he saw it.

I mistook each deep sky to be sunsets. The sun was falling in each one, and perhaps that was what they were doing when he painted them; but now I realise: they are not sunsets, but sunrises. His day has come to an end, and there he is at a new sunrise, a new day, in the place he yearned to be — looking out at the clear cold waters of the autumn morning to row away into some adventure; stepping off the edge of the cliff to soar into the full sky; running down the mountain and however far it takes to reach the unreachable place. He is the boy and he is the cloaked figure. The worlds are empty or alone because he was the one meant to fill them.

His boat and his wings took him to the same place. To the Unreachable Place.