Short Story: She of the Depths (2/2)

Read part one here


They make a habit of meeting when the full moon peaks. It’s far too short, barely a night’s length.

He talks a lot during those, enough for them both, about books and maps and compasses. Humans use the stars to find their way around the oceans, she learns, and they ink parchment with symbols to communicate.

She huffs when he tries to teach her. On the sand, she draws the sun. ‘No time.’

So speak until the seconds are filled to the brim.

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Short Story: She of the Depths (1/2)

Like her wholly-marine counterparts, the Angler siren was conceived from destruction. A vicious act brought her to life, the disintegration of another, the utter breaking of flesh and bone. Like her wholly-marine counterparts, she’s been wed to the depths since her beginning, condemned to be bound to its cold and its danger. But unlike them she rose from the breaking of spirits too, and unlike them she isn’t a creature of grotesque features, of frigid eyes, and teeth protruding, sharp and threatening.

In truth, she is the complete opposite of that. 

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Dystopian mornings in London

I tragically fell into the habit of visiting a certain coffee and tea house every morning.

One of the very few things I know about myself for sure is that I’m a creature of habit. Routine grounds me, prevents my mind from running off into whirlwinds of worry and doom about there not being enough time (time for what? I don’t know, really, but I always feel like I’m about to run out of it.)

So when I realized that my sanity depended on the little chalkboard that said, “Coffee room open,” before the staircase that leads to the basement, I knew I was deep trouble. The fact that this certain coffee shop was a whole 5.5 thousand kilometres away from home wasn’t about to make anything easier.

(For the better part of 2019, I lived in London. I stayed there for another month and a half of 2020, but I didn’t develop this infatuation with that coffee house until the last two weeks.)

But I still went everyday, tormented by the thought that I’ll have to tear this part from my daily life soon. My mother joked that I met a lover there; that would explain why I was so dedicated.

(I didn’t.)

Inside the coffee house is another staircase, steep and a few hundred folds as claustrophobic as one outdoors. It takes you down to the cafe, and it honestly is a magical, magical thing how descending down that narrow set of steps brings about new sounds and noises and light, a little morning tucked in a coffee-scented basement in London.

I would drink my coffee in peace, with myself and everything else. I’m such a conflicted person inside, an anxious, angry mess. But I don’t think about it, or about life and what it may bring. I just have my flat white in such a serenity so foreign to me and the constant grinding in my brain.

This may sound incredibly romanticized, the half-hour I spend in a café being nothing more than daily routine to many. But it’d become a sort of ritual, a cherished and private escape from myself before anything else. I would read a tragic non-fiction book, Midnight in Chernobyl while listening to its audiobook, because I like it that much, and because Russian names are very difficult to keep track of.

In a sense I didn’t become unaware of the madness of the world above that little basement, but I just for a half-hour detached myself from it. There’s no dystopia more vivid than this reality– and I can’t tell if it’s a coping mechanism, our brain’s final attempts at grasping whatever thinning strands of hope it can find, seeking comforts enveloped within this world, hidden in its folds. But if it’ll spare me the torment of all this dread I’ll take it, delusion or not, for a few minutes of my day.

Reflections

I thought I’d be terrified of my 25th birthday.

I’m not.

On my 24th I cried while having my egg muffin and coffee on my way to work. I cried so much I had to wait for my nose to go back to its color for about half an hour or so. It didn’t feel vain, and I won’t regret it

Today I’m in a hospital room, looking after a family member with a life-threatening illness. It’s my birthday, and I’m happy. Silver linings are so bright through hard times. I’m happy she laughed today, and I’m happy she ate.

I’m not undermining my old sadness and struggles; I don’t have the right to. They honed me, I think, and prepared me for realer sorrows. I learned how to get over a bad day, and how to be patient, and how to validate what I think and feel. They all became weapons somehow, arming me as I struggle through the biggest trial I’ve ever found myself in.

My 24th wasn’t easy. I saw one of my greatest fears unfolding before me. But I braved it, and I’ve been braving since. I’ve pushed myself beyond my limits, and more than once pieced together my own brokenness and others’. I’m so incredibly proud of myself for the meaning I found, for being stronger than I and everyone else could’ve ever imagined. And to be frank, I owe it to my 24th year for making me realize that I truly deserve to be happy.

“It is a privilege to grow older,” a nurse told me yesterday, although she didn’t know my birthday was so soon. And it really is, I found myself thinking. A year ago I dreaded all the things I haven’t achieved yet, and how I’m falling behind in a virtual, collective timeline I put myself and others it. But what a comforting thought it is, that all will come, everything that’s yours will come in its due time if you work for it.

So this one’s to my 25 year old self, who sometimes feels too tired to be so young, and other times too silly to be so old. Raise your head high, and find your path. It will be there, always.

Today, I saw autumn

I come from a country that has two seasons: a scorching hot summer, and an only slightly cooler winter. As a result, the transition of seasons has always been a magical thought to me, a fascinating thing of dreams.

I found myself away from home at the arrival of autumn, owing it to less than favorable circumstances. I’d witnessed a glimpse of it before, once, when the school year was pushed back to mid-september, and we could stay a little longer in the colorful bustle of Freiburg, in the company of the lovely hydrangea flowers around the white window borders of our big blue house.

But this time I watched it happen, the whole of it, the romanticized yellow leaves falling into piles, and their crunch when crushed underfoot. There was a sadness hindering my childish excitement for what I’d thought was a wondrous shift of everything around me, the skies and the air churning into an unpredictable combination every day. I wanted to see humans change, too. I’ve always loved the cold, the way it turned noses red and hid them behind thick, wool mufflers. I yearned for the sight of the gentle hunched and huddled movements of people in ugly big jackets, and the urgent kick in their step when warmth isn’t too far away anymore.

That is still in progress all around, but it hadn’t been making me feel a thing (except cold, especially while being sick.) In carefully coordinated ‘Fall fits,’ I’ve been taking regular walks in a little park close to our apartment, to move my flu-infested body a bit, and to see all the good doggos out for their walk.

Today was windy, so I really shouldn’t have spent as much time in the park as I did. But I was particularly picky about which bench to choose, for no apparent reason at all. Eventually, I chose one hidden in a corner, where I could see the earth and the sky, and all that sits between them.

Then, it happened.

I don’t know what it was, and I can’t do it justice with my clumsy use of language. But it was a moment of stillness inside, of peace– a dream in every sense. I was no longer myself for a brief few moments, was something greater and I was nothing at all. Maybe it was similar to witnessing something when submerged; being aware of movements and the existence of sound, but not experiencing any of them. I saw the rush of winds sending blades of grass into waves, and felt the hushed whispers of dried leaves in my very being.

It made me feel alive, and there was so much joy in that, such beauty and horror at how rare it was, the stillness that is being alive and the momentary ecstasy that traced its footsteps. It was a tiny, violent thing that overcame me– a breaking of some sort, of my heart maybe, or of a curse.

It reminded me profoundly of a line that I’d once thought I understood completely, but have discovered that I don’t, not at all.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” -Donna Tartt, The Secret History

P E R S E P H O N E

When he retreated to her chambers, to the regality of her silks in rubies and emeralds, “Come,” she would say. He’d heed to her defiance in his realm, the reminders of her mother, and of her other life. Like himself, he would offer no words, just the comfort of his presence and the weight of his reign, lighter now that he’d allowed her some of it.

He didn’t need her to contain him, only desired her to, and when he lifted his gaze to hold her own, she was met with the realization that she’d grown possessive of it. There was death and suffering in his world, fear and grief and hunger, but she made it hers, that and the thread of affection lining his eyes when he saw her, the light barely softening the stern world-weariness in them. It was hers, and she’d so fiercely claim it.

“I depart tomorrow,” she said, and the words hung heavy between them. “With the first bloom, and the last of the winter winds.”

“Maybe I shall go blind in rage, too,” he said, “like Demeter.”

She laughed. “How will that change your Underworld, then? No winter will daunt your dwellers.”

“It will become a joyous place, until you are back. Feasts and drink for the souls,” he told her dryly. But when the Underworld brimmed with her laughter, she noticed a smile tugging at the severe corners of his lips.

“That will surely upset Zeus into returning you,” he continued, and right then, she wished upon Earth misery as cold and eternal as the Underworld’s.


Incomplete drabble because who can think? Not me, so here’s whats going on in the underworld today (in Australia maybe)

Forgotten Coffee

There’s something about my pre-glow-up life that I miss.

My teenage years formed an extremely cringeworthy period of my life. I was that shonen anime girl that pretended to hate romance and thought she was “different than other girls.” I hope you read that in a mocking voice, because you should.

What highlighted that awkward phase for me though, was that despite all of the junk food and the fat, and the all-round appearance that only mom would like, I had a heart that could be passionate. I looked forward to things, and laughed in an honestly that I so fiercely miss. I had friends that I loved, and actually found myself crushing on people, and invested so much interest in fictional characters.

While that gradually faded away, until not long ago I still savored the little pleasures of life when they presented themselves in a cup of coffee or a new outfit, or a beautiful, crisp morning. But I might’ve spoken something into existence. “It’s okay,” I would joke, “I don’t really mind, I’m dead inside anyway.”

And suddenly my laughter became completely void of truth, and I’m barely finding the will to live through my days, and the ever-present anxiety is still nagging, there goes what’s left of your life.

There’s so much ugliness in being this nonchalant. I’ve always found the word itself similar to ‘melancholy,’ and I ironically found myself slowly drowning in them both. I’m so painfully trapped far away from so many lives I want to live, and no amount of pretentious self-help will get me out of this. I’ve no room to love anymore, not people nor things. I can’t stand people, and I hate to be talked to, and am unreasonably angry at friends who vaguely feel like they’ve abandoned me. Even the sky that inspired in me an intense warmth that burst in writing, and the sea whose stories I loved, and my eternal muse, Earth, are all burning up and down around me, and I really couldn’t be bothered at all.

So here it is, my sadness in all of its glory, bared for the world to see.


*thank you all for the kind and thoughtful comments. I’ve decided to leave this post with none, though, because it sounded like I wrote it for attention, which I didn’t.