I’m Still Just a Child Trying to Explore My Life.
This excerpt contains minor spoilers for my unreleased book.
“You were supposed to be a valedictorian!” Mom shouted, forcing a laugh. “What happened? Are you being lazy? Have you slacked off on studying again?”
I widened my eyes, my chest starting to tighten. If only she could understand. I slacked off on studying because it was starting to mentally eat me alive. I was being ‘lazy’ because I couldn’t even complete basic tasks without feeling exhausted afterwards.
I struggled to even wake up every day. “No,” I said, keeping my voice as low and as reserved as possible. “I wasn’t required to be one. You forced me to want to be one.”
“No I didn’t,” Mom muttered, vigorously shaking her head. “You wanted this for so long. You wanted to make yourself feel proud all this time, and now you decided to throw all that effort away.” She raised her voice, scooting her body forward towards
“I wanted it for so long because that seemed to be the only way I can actually have validation from you.” I glared at her, sweat running down the side of my face. I clenched a fist as I bit the insides of my cheek, my lungs turning into fragments again.
“I—” Mom spluttered. “No, when did I ever say that? When did I ever act like that? I never acted like that. Being a valedictorian should not be a hard task. It’s just straight A’s for four years. I don’t see why you’re so damn burdensome all the sudden—”
I stood up from my chair, resentment rising in my body. “I’m struggling, okay?” I yelled, my blood turning cold. “Do you know how hard it is to maintain that for four years? I can’t always be perfect to you all the time. If you were in my shoes, you would know exactly how I’m feeling. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to do this for the sake of your happiness, because I wasn’t even doing this to make myself proud! I only wanted to please you just so I wouldn’t feel so
useless to you!”
Mom gaped, her eyebrows starting to slant. Dad’s smile was growing larger.
“Grades don’t define me or anyone. You really don’t know me at all,” I muttered, huffing out a rough breath. “I thought you would’ve known that by now, considering the fact that Dad literally had to go through that in order to teach me properly about perfection! I don’t even know if he ever told you that!”
“Yes, grades define you! It gets you to a good college and you will have a good future! Otherwise, you would be working at a fast food restaurant for the rest of your life!” Mom yelled back, her voice faltering from her aching throat.
“If I’m even alive by then!” I ticked off, my face tensing up. “Do you know how hard it is to even be alive, especially in this society!?” I choked out a laugh out of exasperation.
“You don’t get it. I try so hard to be everything to you but in reality it backfired because now I’m only doing this for you. Nothing else. You only admire me as your child because I was perfect, and only for that reason. I wasn’t even supposed to be perfect! I was supposed to be human! I’m still just a child trying to explore my life!”
Mom widened her eyes out of disbelief, her pupils shrinking. “Oh, no, August. You don’t raise your voice like that. Am I being a bad mother then!? Am I!? I just want the best for you. I only pressured you because I love you. I think you’re just so sensitive like all crummy teenagers nowadays. I guess I’m just bad at being a mother.”
“No! That’s not what I meant—” I stammered.
“Do you not love me after all!? I gave you food, shelter, and I carried you for nine whole months! Some kids at your age don’t even have that privilege! Be grateful for what you have because now you’re just being ungrateful. You have everything. I had nothing when I was growing up,” Mom hoarsely said.
I felt my lips tightening. Food, shelter, and water were only the bare necessities. That’s literally what you needed to provide to be a parent.
“I tried. I tried everything. I gave up my life just for you, and this is what I get in return!?” Mom retorted. “Why do you only think about yourself!? Selfish. Why can’t you be more like Eden? Why is that so hard for you?”
And then my words escaped from my mouth without thinking first. I wanted this to stop. “I had everything except for the biggest thing that ties everything together,” I wept, taking my eyes away from everyone. I can’t believe I talked back to her.
“What? You have everything. There’s nothing else you need except—”
“Unconditional love,” I answered for her. “All I wanted was to feel like I belong here without having to constantly ask to feel loved by you. And do you know why I can’t be more like Eden?” I huffed out a weak laugh. “It’s because unlike you, he actually cared. And guess what? It didn’t even matter if I was struggling. He still loved me regardless.
And that immediately silenced her.
Hera thought herself to be a kind person.
Her partner pressed soft kisses to her skin, letting them melt into the image of domestic bliss that they had created. The styled balcony they occupied was the one that provided the best view of the grand stage.
She smoothed down Callista's brown hair, the texture impossibly silky and smooth despite the grime that surrounded them.
The woman peered up at her curiously. Their attention was quickly returned, however, to the scene before them by a scream of pain.
Callista breathed out a shaky exhale against her skin. It sent goosebumps rippling across Hera's body, and she absentmindedly gave the brunette a pat on the head.
A boy stood before them. He was young, no more than fourteen at most, but there was a ferocity in his eyes that had sparked interest when he had initially stepped onto the center stage. He was scrawny, as all street rats were, but his confidence had been an alluring show.
It seemed, though, that both his bravado and his life would come to an end here.
His opponent snarled, an ugly sound that bounced with surprising volume among the deafening cheers of the crowd. He was a bulky thing. Clearly experienced in a combative trade, evident by muscles shining with a sheen of sweat and the martial stance he took.
She wondered what the man had done wrong. A skilled talent like him did not end up in her fighting ring without unhealthy amounts of desperation.
A roaring yell was all the warning the boy got before the man lunged, knocking him down to the floor. Agonized shrieks ripped from his throat as the man slammed his head continuously into the concrete below. The boy writhed, frail arms beating at his opponent before they too were shattered upon the floor. His screams cut off soon enough, ending with a loud crack that sent blood and flesh streaking across the floor of the stage.
Hera viewed the scene apathetically from her private balcony. Callista pressed closer against her, a desperate bid for favor that had amused her enough to allow her to stay.
Dear Callista and the boy dead below were not so different. Hera ran another hand through the woman’s hair, feeling a gaze burn into the back of her head. Her lips tugged up into a smile at that, causing the brunette to stiffen with a renewed hope shining in her eyes.
The stage was being cleaned up, the victorious man being led away to the jeers of the crowd. Red would likely decorate the arena for the foreseeable future. Hera noted the difficulty the staff were having in trying to clean up the mess, eyeing the disfigured body with disdain.
Her mood instantly soured. The hand in Callista's hair suddenly pulled, forcing the woman’s head to snap back with a startled yelp of pain.
Hera shoved her away. Her eyes were icy as they ran over her shaking figure, clearly terrified beyond her wits. It made her feel a little better.
“Throw it out.” Hera snapped with finality, waving for the guards to dispose of her trash. She heard Callista break into sobs as she realized what was happening. There was a terrible scraping sound as the woman attempted to dig her nails into the floor’s stone tiles, accompanied by screaming apologies and begging for another chance.
Everything went ignored as Hera turned back towards the center stage. It seemed like the cleaning crew had given up trying to scrape away the entirety of the bloody mess, and had instead opted to go ahead and signal the start of the next round.
It would’ve caught attention, if Callista was even a bit quieter. Instead, heads in the audience snapped towards her balcony. Hera dug her nails into the soft fluff of her armchair, thoroughly annoyed at the spectacle.
The guards took notice of her mood and began tugging at the sobbing woman with more urgency. All noise faded as Callista was fully lifted and swiftly removed from her presence.
The silence fed the gaping hole in her chest, and she melted into her plush seat. Hera sighed. She let everything else fade as she tilted her head back, feeling like she was sinking into the fabric.
A man redirected everyone’s attention back to the center stage. He waved dramatically and introduced their next combatant, shoving forward an older teenager with a particularly nasty scar etched on his face.
Hera eyed them with a tinge of disinterest, but graced them with her full attention when a metal cage was placed into the arena with a loud slam. Barking could be heard from the inside.
The pit in her stomach tugged, becoming a vortex that swallowed all of her emotion and left behind a withering husk of apathy. There was no reaction from her when the announcer exclaimed with a sadistic joy that a special round would take place.
The man on the stage skipped away in inhumanly large strides, leaving behind a teenager whose face slowly grew white with dawning terror.
His death warrant was signed the moment the man leaped out of the arena with a cackle. The electric lock on the metal cage snapped undone, and from the darkness emerged a full pack of rabid, hungry dogs.
A bone-deep wariness settled in her. Hera took in the massacre of a fight in full detail, shivering as she felt even her own bodily warmth desert her. Her eyes were carefully blank as she watched.
It wasn’t long before he fell, muscles tearing under fangs and tendons ripping under claws.
It wasn’t long before she fell, eyes drifting shut and body fully relaxing under the lullaby of wailing shrieks and sadistic jeering.
forget what you thought you knew. the world is full of mystery, glamor, intrigue, hope–– we simply live in it, watching it form and change around us, sometimes shaped by our hands, sometimes unexpected, purely natural. oceans hide ruins of lost civilizations, buried treasure, forgotten people, dead loved ones, families. the earth hides multitudes, elements we might not even have names for yet, the bodies of people who walked the earth when god hadn't even been invented yet, all held together by a molten core that we've never seen before and probable never will. we cannot even comprehend our own brains, those mysterious lumps of flesh suspended in water and powered by electricity, responsible for movement and thoughts and dreams and personality, responsible for our entire identity–– and yet, a mystery. a blackbox, the contents of which we might never truly understand.
learning our place in the universe might be overwhelming. look the stars in their eyes and remember that they do not look back, they are too far away, living their own lives billions of miles away. they look at their own stars, and the cycle continues on and on, past the edge of the universe and into infinity.
about time we look at ourselves and answer the question we've been asking ourselves: why am i here? here, as in the place? perhaps a house with a mirror, or a public bathroom, or simply a window as you're walking down the street and you make the mistake of making eye contact with your reflection and it beckons, promising answers that don't exist. why am i here? we were not meant to know the answer. we merely fill in the blanks with a meaning that satisfies us until the end, or we borrow someone else's meaning, or we spend the rest of our lives searching. it matters not, the world is here and we are on it, whether we like it or not, whether we know why or not.'
broken pieces never fit back together perfectly, there are gaps in the glass where the surface was reduced to powder. we can seal the cracks with gold but the meaning of the original is gone, replaced now by a metaphor for healing and trauma. we can never return to the way we were. does that mean we never heal? or is healing something else, something deeper? perhaps we are not meant to be the way we were, perhaps this is the universe's way of telling us we need to change. and we will change, for better or for worse. the universe wills it, and gives no thought to the lives it destroys.
bodies, mere collections of atoms with empty spaces in between, and yet we call ourselves solid. bodies that bend, bodies that break, bodies that grow, bodies that crumble and decay. everything has a body. bodies of water, the trunks of trees, the welcoming hands of the clock. everything has form. nothing is solid. even mountains move, with time.
ending the story is always bittersweet. finality is the one thing that terrifies us most and also what soothes us. when we are gone, we will no longer be responsible for what happens to us or anyone else. but when we are gone, we will no longer be able to control what happens to us or anyone else. it is the ultimate surrender, finally giving in to the tides of fate. and it sweeps us away.
revolution begins, a clash of ideals, rebels seeking freedom, justice, reparations. we are all the rebels, whether we admit it or not. we are all fighting each day, and most of the night, until one day we wake up and we've lost the war, or we defect to the other side in shame, and the rest of our lives is merely watching ourselves live from afar. life is a revolution, one that we are unable to win, but that cannot be lost.
grasped the truth at last, have you? have you found what it is that makes us real, that makes us human, that makes us alive? we are infinite, we are broken, we are strange malleable forms that twist under the cruel hands of time until we find our past selves unrecognizable. we grasp our own selves and hide our identities in the palms of our hands, carved into the grooves and callouses so deeply that even the most skilled palm reader cannot decipher.
as odd as it sounds, there is no difference between you and i. both of us are lumps of flesh suspended in cerebral fluid, salt and water, fueled by electricity, piloted by a conscience that we are only half aware of. the bodies we are in are mere happenstance. our genes and personality are mere side effectsit is not what we are. it is merely a machine piloted by a parasite. a complex, dysfunctional machine. with opposable thumbs.
successful, who defines success? is it wealth, happiness, fame, remembrance? is it flowers left on your headstone decades after you passed, or simply who owns the largest headstone? can you define your own success, or must it be decided for you by a council of strangers? perhaps the greatest success is simply existing. we won a race before we were even born, and each day after our birth we have avoided millions of lethal accidents only to end up here. alive.
though our story is nearing its close and the sentences grow slimmer, know that even the smallest chunks of text can contain the greatest meaning.
everyone and everything comes to an end, of that we can all be certain. perhaps one day, even death itself might come to an end, releasing the souls of long lost loved ones back onto the earth to roam once again, to live their life as they should have lived it the first time. perhaps they will live their life exactly the same way as they did before they
The plane was almost accelerating to takeoff. Dane noticed the back window pane was slightly cracked, raising his alarm. He slowly, and silently crept up to the back of the airplane, and then just as the plane took off, he grabbed onto the windowsill and pulled himself up.
“Where is the painting?”Dane shouted in a gravelly voice as he aimed his revolver at the art curator. The art curator nervously blinked as he replied, “I don’t quite follow sir”. “Let me repeat myself, WHERE IS THE PAINTING!”. The curator responded “Behind the Black Box”. As Dane walked over to the black box, he suddenly felt a sharp stinging sensation at the lower base of his neck, and he slowly lost consciousness.
When he came to, Dane was securely tied up in the boot of the plane. And sitting next to him was the museum director, Mr.Paylo. Dane was surprised to see Mr.Paylo with him.
Dane blearily said, “Ugh How long was I out?”
Mr.Paylo responded “About 5 hours”. Dane said “What was I hit with, it felt like some kind of snake bite”. Mr.Paylo responded, “You were hit with a dart that has traces of curare. Curare is a fast acting nerve agent that acts on acetylcholinesterase enzyme inhibitors, essentially stopping movement right at the Neuromuscular junction.
Dane replied, “Wow, what an evil and twisted idea. Truly Wicked! Who could have come up with such a malignant idea such as this one?
Mr.Paylo replied, “The curator’s brother is a professional herpetologist. When the curator was young he would spend summers at his brother’s estate. The 2 of them never really got along, so the curator would spend all his time in his brother’s glass library in the estate, familiarizing himself with the world of snake poisons, and untraceable murders. There is so much to the curator that you have no idea”.
Dane said, “But he seemed like such a nice guy”. Mr. Paylo replied, “Yes, but looks can be deceiving”.
Dane said “Mr.Paylo, I thought you were the one responsible for this”. Mr.Paylo said, “I’m afraid not. You see, I was the one who originally painted the painting. I was a young boy in an orphanage in Vienna. My mom was a shopkeeper while my Dad was a professional construction site deconstructor. Although times were hard, my parents fostered in me a deep love of creativity. They taught me their crafts, and I would often spend long hours at their workplaces, slowly absorbing information like a sponge.
I eventually developed a lifelong passion for the arts. I joined my school’s painting club. In highschool, I got a job as a PA for the museum. This turned out to be a huge lucky break for me. I got the chance to deliver coffee to the Director, the man who once wielded the same position, influence, and power that I do now. I was very diligent and passionate, and he took a liking to me.
I slowly rose up the ranks. I began learning more about art as well as management, and every chance I would get I would converse with the director.
One day I finally became a director, just like I always dreamed. I modernized the facility, I spread the art out such that shopping, dining, even walking in the museum was like being inside of a work of art.
I met the curator when he was a grad student. I took him under my wing and taught him everything I knew, because I recognized myself in his image. But he turned out to be rude and greedy, not interested in art for the sake of art, but for money and power. I was wary of him, and when he stole the art piece, I knew everyone would suspect me, so I confronted him, told him I would tell everything, and the next thing I knew I was locked in airplane jail.
In the time it took for Dane and the director to complete their conversation, the curator, who was also an accomplished pilot, finished all of his pre-flight checks, and started the engine. The plane began to accelerate along the runway. Dane and the director were nervous. They knew that in about 30 seconds they would be off the ground, so the time to act was now. Dane said “Don’t worry sir I have a plan”. He unfurled his titanium grappling hook, and with the power of 10 pneumatic pistons, shot it directly in the ground underneath causing the airplane to jerk backwards. The director and Dane flew backwards, hitting the wall of the plane in a heap, but the curator took the precaution of buckling himself in, so he was fine. The curator, sensing something was wrong, and knowing about Dane’s remarkable prowess as an Art Bounty Hunter, cautiously unbuckled his seatbelt and got to his feet. The curator then slowly approached the back of the plane, with fear in his eyes and a gun in his hand. As he aimed the gun at Dane, Dane threw the pocket knife he had hiding in his shoe that he used to cut him and the director loose in the time it took the curator to realize something was wrong. The knife careened through the air like a bird of prey and hit the window just behind the curator. “You missed” the curator mockingly said, after letting out a deep breath he was holding in. “Now it’s my turn”. “Wait for it” Dane said, as the knife embedded itself in the concrete runway. The curator fearfully turned around to look at the window, and Dane used the distraction to execute a perfect sweep, knocking the evil curator out once and for all, and solving the mystery.
Dane looked at the director and smiled saying, “This has been one hell of a day”. When Dane walked home he thought about the delicious egg and chicken sandwich he would have for dinner.
Thanks for everything. I know it may not mean much to you but it’s very important to me. Being left here under the dark, cold, foreign, and scary hole all my life, I never knew your world. Yet you chose to give me light and let me out of this cruel place. Oh, be careful you’re holding my tender head too tight. They never really grew that much because of the limited space under there.
Wait! Don’t just throw me beside these strangers.
Please pick me up again. The others. The others.
They are too noisy. Too scared. Too happy.
Please, Mister. I can’t stand this kind of home.
Yes, thank you.
Thank you and you listened to your friend over the driver’s seat. You both must have been really good friends. Your parents must have raised you both well.
Oh, is that right? You two are not just friends, you too are brothers!
So dear, oh so sweet. How I wish I also knew my brothers or sisters. All I know is that my mother’s the only member of our family that I met.
She was gorgeous. With her thick yet soft, silky, black hair. Her wonderful curves and her tender touch. Though I was too young to really appreciate her beauty, she was all there was in my world. I thought I would make my parents proud. Then the next thing I remember was that I was lying in this cold, muddy forest.
My mother was tucking me in for my eternal sleep. Blanketing me with the fertile soil found beneath this Narra tree. Still, I loved her and I only gave her a quiet smile before we parted.
Oh, Mister, would you be so kind as to pull me to that corner. I guess you left my fingers and limbs over there.