The Storyteller

“Lord, do words matter? Do stories even mean anything at all?”

She looked at her almost finished book, eyes wistful, heart falling in disdain. Would anyone even read those simple tales? In the world of instant information, would anyone even stop to linger inside the magical world of stories, of deep and lengthy fiction?

“Nobody really reads anymore,” she whispered sadly as she let the precious pages flutter away into the midnight air.

Off they drifted. The storyteller retreated quietly into her heart, deciding to hide herself from her love of words. She’d bask in loneliness and solitude forever. She preferred this to the torment and agony brought about by the frustrations of her passion.

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1.

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1.

“Then He told them many things in parables saying…” Matthew 13:3a.

He spoke to them in many parables.

A tiny flame flickered in the storyteller’s heart. It was true. The Great Creator was the Master Wielder when it came to words. He chose to reveal Himself throughout the ages through writings in parchments, in old Jewish scrolls. And He turned to stories whenever He spoke of the Kingdom.

He turned to stories.

Slowly, the flame grew large enough to warm the girl’s almost frozen heart.

A lonely piece of paper sailed through the darkness before her. She saw it because it gave off a somewhat radiant light. It landed right next to her feet and, carefully, she bent down to pick it up.

It was a page from her story. It was stained with doodles and tears, but they weren’t hers. It was accented by distinct fingerprints, but they looked like they belonged to different people. Scribbled at the end of her story were words of thanks, written in varying handwriting, in varying languages.

The flame began to overtake the storyteller and she knew she had to write again.

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Boxes

The boxes of memories were piled up. High, one on top of the other. Behind the cartons, through the uncurtained windows, we could see the city skyline. It was different from the provincial view which had welcomed us a day, a week, a month, a year, several years before.

Something inside me crumbled as I realized how transitory time really was and how nothing remained permanent. We were in a new place now. A new season had opened up before us.

* * *

An empty carton lies in front of me. Several more needing assembly sit behind me. I start putting several items in — necessities like kitchenware, towels, and tablecloths. We should have disposed all of those stuff during the first move. But they did contain a lot of sentimental value. And you’ll never know when there’ll be a need for one dining set or more.

We’re moving again. I shall see those boxes piled on top of each other yet another time.

Silly Story

Just a silly story I wrote a little bit more than one year ago. I’m still doing rewrites so, yeah, that’s taking up most of my writing time. Re-reading this kinda makes me laugh. Someone said he and I could maybe work on a children’s book one day. That would be so awesome! Meanwhile, here’s the absurd and nonsensical tale. ;)

Sleepy Beauty
(Mari Anjeli, April 2012)

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a beautiful princess. Her name was Sleepy Beauty. Yes, you read correctly. Sleepy Beauty – not Sleeping Beauty. The latter was Sleepy’s cousin (once or twice removed) and was in deep slumber, as of the telling of this story. But the former, our heroine – she was not in slumber. She was in fact under a different kind of curse – one that never allowed her to sleep, yet made her eternally sleepy.

Thus Sleepy Beauty’s name. Sleepy was an unfortunate soul. Sometimes, she would sit at the dinner table with a spoonful of soup lifted up to her mouth when her eyelids would flutter and the spoon would fall to the table all a clatter. Other times, she would be brushing her hair by her bedside table and just when she would reach the hundredth brush stroke (she would brush her hair one hundred times every night), she would nod off for a second. And then she would lose count and would have to start her brushing ritual all over again, forgetting that she had actually already completed it. This happened almost every night. And so you can see how incredibly unlucky Sleepy was.

At night, you’d think she’d find reprise, but she never did. At precisely nine o’clock, she would crawl into bed (after brushing her hair one hundred times – or more). Then she would close her tired eyes. But, drowsy as she may be, her mind and body never reached that state of restfulness. She’d find herself aware of every noise, of every scent, of every movement – and she knew that she was not asleep. No, not at all.

The truth was, there was nobody to blame for this misfortune except Sleepy Beauty herself. She wasn’t always that drowsy. In fact, when she was just a child, before she turned 13, she was annoyingly perky. Coffee was not yet discovered during that time, but if it were, people would have described the child as “annoyingly high in caffeine.” She would buzz about, jump at people, giggle-giggle, and irked a certain witch so much (yes the same one that put her cousin – once or twice removed – to sleep) that the witch cursed her with that eternal state of sleepiness. Well, eternal, until Sleepy would taste of true love’s first kiss. Of course true love’s first kiss would always break the spell.

But who would want to kiss a drowsy dame who would doze off just when you are about to lean in? No one wanted to risk doing so because one time, a duke from a neighboring province did – and he ended up with a broken nose. A really broken nose.

And so Sleepy remained sleepy. And dinner time remained punctuated by cluttering utensils and she kept brushing her hair more than a hundred times almost every night.

But everything was about to change. One day, the princess met a dwarf with the same predicament. It was during a wedding of a maiden from another kingdom. The blushing bride had skin white as snow and lips as red as snow and was telling the guests the story of how the prince’s kiss was able to give her new life. She had been poisoned by an apple. Now, why would princes jump at the chance of kissing corpses or maidens who most probably would have bad morning breath – and not jump at the chance of just having a potentially broken nose? Anyway, it was during the maiden’s speech that Sleepy Beauty caught a glimpse of a tiny chap who was also trying hard not to doze off. She assumed that he was under the same curse that she was.

“Hello, my name is Sleepy Beauty.”

“Hello. I’m Sleepy. Just… sleepy.”

“Oh. A pleasure to meet you. Are you a friend of the bride?”

“Oh yes. I am. We took her under our wing when her evil stepmother tried to kill her and the hunter sent her away.”

“I see. We…?”

“Yes, I and the other six dwarves.”

 “The other six d…” And before Sleepy Beauty could even say dwarves, she found her eyes closing and her speech drawling. Only when she heard a voice say, “Miss beauty, are you okay?” That she remembered that she was at a wedding and was conversing with a fellow drowsy one at that.

“How do you feel about having your nose broken?” Sleepy Beauty asked when she was (almost) awake enough.

 “My nose? My nose doesn’t matter to me. And I don’t think it is likely to get broken. Dwarf noses are very squishy you know.”

 “Is that so?”

 You could probably guess the series of events that happened after that. You might argue that a dwarf could never be one’s true love, but who says the title is for Prince Charmings and Knights in Shining Armors only?

And so Sleepy Beauty was cured of her curse. But it turned out that Sleepy (the dwarf) was not cursed at all. He had a sleeping disorder called narcolepsy – but Beauty could live with that. When they got married, she changed her name. No longer did she call herself Sleepy Beauty – from that day forward, she was called “Sleepy’s Beauty” instead.

And you could probably guess that they all lived happily ever after.

What if Saturday (Err, Wednesday): Back to Reality

And it’s here! The conclusion to the Wonderland tale! You should check out the other stories from the 10 What Ifs if you have missed it. So… Enjoy! It’s good to come back to reality. :D

***

I had almost caught up with the elusive child when a tabby wearing an intense smile appeared out of nowhere and pranced around in circles in front of me. “Cat!” I yelped.

It grinned at me as it continued to do its little dance. The creature wove its way around my heels and, in a matter of seconds, I found myself stumbling to the ground, straight into another hole.

Oh no. Not another hole.

Yet, instead of falling down, I found myself curiously falling up. I left the ginger imp in the abyss beneath me and, as I shot up into the darkness, I left a number of strange sights underneath me as well.

The first was a woman clutching a small portable TV in her hand. The second was a lady in a deli wearing a confused and frazzled look. The third was a nurse carrying a rainbow-coloured umbrella and the fourth was the doctor, the nurse’s boss, apparently, judging by the way he gave her orders and authoritative commands.

I zoomed past a woman crying into a coffee cup next. Then past a gentleman with a large lipstick-stain across his forehead and then past a woman talking to a fly hovering over her shoulder. I zoomed by an eight person — he was strangely familiar — and realized he was the owner of the cat which had sent me whirling into this upside down hole.

After what seemed like days and at the same time a mere matter of milliseconds, I finally made it to the surface (as “surface” is what I would call any familiar surroundings), sprawled in an undignified manner as I had landed in the pavement bottomside first.

I was back in my office’s half-empty parking lot. My daisy purse and snapped stilettos lay scattered a few inches away from me. The sweets I kept inside my bag had popped out of it and were also there, contributing to the haphazard mess.

But as I struggled to my knees and looked closer, I noticed a very curious thing.

The two lollipop wrappers which had held the sweets I had saved for the kid rabbit and his sister were empty. Very empty.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

What if Saturday (Err, Wednesday): Shutdown

Dear Readers,

Forgive me for not being faithful with the 10 What Ifs. Life became… busy. But fear not. I shall finish this project up. We’ve two more stories to go — this one and a final one which will wrap the series up. I hope you’re all still able to follow what’s going on. So here we go — Shutdown.

***

This can’t be. This isn’t happening. What’s wrong with this computer? What’s the matter with this browser? I try to hit refresh —

Oh wait. Let me copy this email’s body somewhere safe first.

Of all days. Of all possible hours. Of all the minutes in the world, it has to be now, when I’m smack in the middle of sending an important mail, that the Internet suddenly decides to go crazy.

Right click, new folder, drafts. Right click, new document, IMPORTANT. Ctrl+V, save.

I close my eyes and heave a sigh. That message was supposed to be for the President and his officials. I met up with a women rumored to be the President’s long lost wife this morning. The whole thing’s kinda crazy if you ask me. But as his PA, I had to find the girl, do some background and security check, and then I had to convince Miss What’s-her-name to come back to the President’s loving arms. So now I have to write a report about her and my morning’s findings.

I was doing just that. But looks like the connection has decided to go kaboom.

Perhaps I should kill time by catching up with the afternoon news. There should be a portable TV somewhere in these drawers.

I reach out for the handle of my top desk-drawer. Nothing.

Of course. All the important papers are there.

I reach out for the middle. Office supplies. Of course.

I reach out for the bottom one. My emergency supplies. Ahh, there it is.

I fumble through the controls. I haven’t used this in a while. I rely mostly on Twitter and YouTube for important news updates when I’m in the office or on the go.

The face of Selina Quezon, the station’s number one news anchorwoman, fills the screen.

“Beloved citizens, there is no need to be alarmed. As many of you have noticed, the Internet connection provided by Globalink has come to a shutdown as of 3:00 this afternoon. We have received reports from international sources that the machines in the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) headquarters have been obliterated, leading to this unfortunate event. We do not know when the machines will be brought back to their original state. Some organizations doubt if they can even be restored at all.”

What in Tim Berners-Lee’s name? An Internet shutdown? No, no, no, no! “No need to be alarmed,” the news anchorwoman said. Uhh, within the same breath as, “we do not know if the machines can be brought back to their original state or if they could be restored at all…?” How could anyone in their right mind keep calm and move on?

I do important transactions via the Internet. I connect with other offices through this medium. And I maintain the President’s Twitter and Facebook Page, posting notes and updates through the WWW for crying out loud!

And, on a more serious note, my two younger siblings’ livelihoods depend on the Net and its stability — they’re both web developers. So what will happen if the web never comes back?

Who’ll support them — and who’ll support our parents now?

I give the tiny machine a frantic shake, as if doing so would force Ms. Quezon to take back the piece of news she had just delivered.

She doesn’t do anything of the sort. Instead, the network flashes to a footage of the ICANN headquarters. A field reporter is on the bottom-left corner, adjusting the lapel microphone in his collar.

Suddenly, the queerest sight fills the screen. A little boy wearing bunny ears and a maroon waistcoat runs out of the building and collides with the reporter head on. The man tries to get up when a young woman running about in stilettos speeds by, pausing briefly to help him get up. She whispers something into his ear before she zooms away to the direction of the young boy.

The reporter straightens his shirt and speaks into his lapel. “Good afternoon, beloved citizens. Pardon me for that ungraceful opening but an undisclosed source has just revealed to us a shocking lead as to who may be responsible for this afternoon’s Internet shutdown.” He pauses.

“The prime suspect for this incident is none other than the Mad Hatter.”

I sit still and grip the portable TV in surprise.

What? The Mad Hatter?

Well I never.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: First Lady

Julieta, Julieta, wherefore art thou, Julieta? Check thy watch and refuse to be late — arggg.

Where is she?

Where oh where has my little sis gone? Oh where oh where could she be?

She said she’d meet me here for her lunch break. Things must be pretty busy at the health centre for her to be this late.

Gosh, I wish she’d hurry up. I’ve got crazy weird news to tell her, you see.

Come on, Julie. Show up already. Or else I’m going to burst like a can of pop that has been all shook up.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. Ugh. This isn’t doing me any good.

Fine, I’ll let it out already.

Here goes —

I’m married.

To the president. Of the Philippines.

I.

Know.

It’s so unbelievable, right? I’m not even sure how it happened. All I know is that a strange person dropped by my house this morning, introducing herself as the president’s PA. She showed me a marriage contract — one that has apparently materialized out of nowhere, since I have no recollection of having gotten married to anyone — proving that I was the president’s — gasp — first lady.

I told her she had the wrong person, but there it was in black and white. The contract had my full name — Aleksandra Elisabeth Salarson de Guzman — down to all the eccentric spelling nuances. It had my undecipherable signature as well.

So what did it all mean? What did it all imply? I asked the PA those questions and all she said was that I had to be in Malacañang that evening.

That’s seven hours away. Oh, I hope Julieta would get here soon. She’s always been the sane and level-headed one. She’d tell me what to do.

Suppose this was all real? Suppose I had perhaps gotten a bit tipsy and had maybe flung myself into a Vegas-like ceremony with the most powerful man in the Pearl of the Orient? Suppose I’m not dreaming up this wacky, far-fetched nightmare?

Suppose —

Well, I suppose I should get my act together, then. Would it take a lot of work to become a president’s wife? He’ll need me for support. He’ll need me to give him nuggets of wisdom, too, from time to time, I guess. He’ll need me to flutter like a social butterfly during classy engagements, to be the people’s lady during community events, to be a witty speaker during press conferences. He’ll need me to stand forever by his side.

Gosh, I don’t know if I’m up for it.

Julieta, please get here fast.

I need all the words of wisdom and encouragement that I can get.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: Revisited

Dr. Gonzales seems to be so stressed out today. I pity him. Two death sentences in a row, huh? And that’s just for this morning. He’s still got a couple of patients lined up for this afternoon.

I’m grateful for my lunch break. True, I love working at the health centre. But there are days when things simply get too disheartening. I’m thankful for any form of escape.

My sister says she wants to meet up for lunch at the deli. She’s got some big news or something. I’m sure it can wait until tonight, but she tells me its urgent. I get a rain check from Dr. G. He gives me a nod and so I’m off.

The deli’s a ten-minute walk away from this block. I clomp through the street in my white clogs, white stockings, white dress suit, white cap… People could mistake me for a white lady but thankfully my rainbow umbrella gives just the right amount of colour to confirm my humanity.

Two little kids — a boy wearing a maroon waistcoat and a girl wearing a frilly navy dress (both were donning bunny ears by the way) — zip past me, causing me to dive umbrella-first into the dusty side walk.

Splotches of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet dance before my eyes. It takes a while before my sight goes back to normal again.

When it does, I realize that I’m not in the street going to the deli any more.

Oh no. Not again. I wonder how long this time travel thing will last this time. I decide to just enjoy the ride until I can get back to my sister and to Dr. G.

I’m at my old elementary school. The yellow concrete walls, the moss shillings, and the wide grey staircases are all too familiar. I half expect the witch-like face of my first grade teacher to peer at me from one of the dust-tinted windows.

Walking on, I see the seven-year-old version of my best friend crying at the corner. She’s in that spot near the staircase, where we (and another friend) would eat our packed lunches. I’ve done some time travelling before — I know they can’t see me — so I draw nearer. I kinda want to know what is going on.

“He died last night. I’m not even sure if we have any money for the funeral. Mama says I can take the week off school. But I already miss him. I already miss Papa a lot.”

“That’s so sadddd… Come here, let’s have a group hug.”

“Mmmmmm.”

“Feel better? There, there. Don’t worry! When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor! That way, I can keep all the people you love from dying!”

“Really? Yeah! I’m going to be a doctor, too! Or a nurse! Then we’ll all save lives together!”

“Yeah! Let’s!”

The rainbow splotches return and, in an instant, I’m back on the curb, my colourful umbrella splayed before me.

Well. That was quick. But profound, nonetheless. That was the day my best friend and I decided to get into medicine. That was the day we decided what path our lives were going to take.

I shake my head, remembering the lives of the two people that Dr. G and I were unable to save that day. But as I dust off the gravel from my uniform, I realize one thing.

We may not have been able to save their lives, but we still have the opportunity to save more.

I glance at my watch. Sissy is probably already waiting for me inside the deli shop.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: The Woman

“Miss Mendoza? Dr. Gonzales will see you now. He’ll be giving out your test results.”

“Alright, nurse. Thank you very much.”

She saunters into my office, head held high, hips swinging cockily from side to side. She exudes confidence, arrogance even. But as she takes her place in the seat in front of me, my trained eye catches a brief, faltering gaze. I sift through her records. “Hello, Miss Mendoza.”

“Dr. Gonzales. The nurse tells me my results are ready.”

I observe her more for a moment or two. Cream coloured skin covered by layers of makeup. Hair in tight ringlets, pulled back to reveal her large hoop earrings. Cherry red lips. I can only shoot a guess at her profession but I decide to let go of any preconceived notion.

My lips tighten, yet I try to give her a warm, assuring smile. This news might break her heart. I had hoped to give a less dramatic report, but I seem to be on the roll, breaking hearts this pain-filled Saturday.

“Miss Mendoza, I’m afraid I have bad news. Your tests show that you are positive. HIV positive.”

Tension makes its way into the girl’s face. Her eyes darken, her lips set into a pencil-thin line. She leans forward, clasping a frantic grip around my wrist. “Are you sure, Doctor? There must be a mistake. You’ve switched my papers with someone else. You’ve — “

“Calm down, Miss Mendoza. Yes, I am certain. I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do.”

She blinks rapidly, fighting back bitter tears. But in a few seconds they start to pour over.

“This can’t be happening. What will happen to Toto and Ineng? They need food. They need tuition. They — I should have known this was going to happen though. They warned me. They did.”

“Miss Mendoza?”

She continues, apparently forgetting that I am there. “It was HIM,” she says, her eyes suddenly blazing in anger. “I told him to use protection. All the others did. But no. He insisted.”

She lets out a bitter laugh. “He should get tested, too. Well. There goes my career. There goes my life. There goes my brother and my sister’s lives.”

“Miss Mendoza…”

She shakes her head, becoming aware of my existence once again. “Forgive me, Doctor. I know you are only doing your job. And I was only doing mine. I had no choice. I guess it’s all just going to come to this then.”

She gets up. She wipes the remainder of her tears before she shakes my hand. “Well. I must say goodbye then. Have a good life, Doctor.”

She walks away, hips still swinging from side to side.

“You too, Miss Mendoza. You too.”

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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