The winter curse
The neighbours to the right left a week ago. All we knew was that they were going to have a hunting adventure for the winter holiday; as the first layer of snow covered our village, they packed and headed for a road trip, somewhere to the vast forests further to the north. With only an empty warehouse inhabited by a loony still close by, it didn't exactly feel safe. Every night, I stared at the windows of our normal neighbours house. It gave me reassurance, albeit they remained dark and covered. The deer pattern on the curtains was something I knew, something I could count to fall asleep.
But as my eyelids started falling tonight, the light behind suddenly went on.
A silhouette of a body with an elongated jaw and deer antlers appeared and the animalistic bulky hands raised to pull the curtains open.
The being glared at me, blood and pieces of flesh dropping from its monstrous smile.
I woke up, quite certain I have merely dreamt. Even if the open curtains indicated otherwise. An overwhelming hunger pushed me to get out of the bed. Time for some late night snacking! Something surely smelled delicious-
The body parts of my parents were scattered on the floor, huge chunks already missing. A predator must have wandered from the woods to attack us; but I couldn't cry.
My heart felt ice-cold, immobilized. The hunger was taking over every emotion I could have. Hungry, so hungry. And this meat sure looked delicious...
Having devoured enough to cope, I raised my head. From the mirror on the wall, a horrifying creature stared back at me. Blood and pieces of flesh dropping from its monstrous smile.
From the outside, I could hear the lunatic next door scream.
"Wendigo! The winter curse! Beware"
I exist since the beginning of myself; clocks, schedules and screens adopted me quite recently. Morning, evening, midday, growth couldn't live without me. I can be the key, an illusion, money, relative. My superpower is immense, binding the nature and people; no one is free from my merciless discipline. I train them all to play my favorite sport, running in circles over and over. Thanks to our fruitful collaboration with History that Repeats Itself, each lap is a bit different and yet essentially the same; when you get dizzy it's easy to pretend the track's a straight line. I have advanced certificates in teaching and healing wounds; I'm said to be the best at it, no bragging intended. I fly having fun and slow down in boredom. If I annoy you, you can waste me or kill me, it's alright: patience is me and I am patience. After all, once I pass all becomes history; when I proceed, it's a matter of me when you'll be begging you could keep me close for longer.
Love me or hate me, I know my value.
Gift no. 1
The most special gift this world knows has many forms. Shapeshifting, if you wish; structured by the daily wind blows, moving its position along with the rays of sun. It pours down with the rain, raises up with steam, runs from your tap. No matter how many years pass, how the world turns around, the gift shall stay the same. It’s in the grain yields and between the leafs of an apple-tree. Passes through the wearying effort of workers, giant buildings that still whisper sacrifices; turns left to go by the care of a mother and father, landing on a breakfast plate. It hides the books and minds of dedicated doctors who know how to heal; announces itself with a cry, to leave years later silently. If you wish, you may pass it forward in any of its forms. The gift never runs out from giving; it can multiply nearly endlessly (with few natural limits). Some may try to steal your gift; sometimes you may lose it yourself, or a time comes when the gift itself decides you no longer need it. Before it comes to that, it remains by your side regardless of conditions, like the most loyal servant you could never buy. When the leafs fall down and when the warmth of your home shelters you from winter snowdrifts. When you lose your way and when you're feeling down, the gift can manifest as a helping hand.
The first gift you receive, passed on through generations and through human kindness.
The gift of life.
The nice lady in kindergarten asked us to draw our best friend.
Tom drew Will. Anna drew Flora. Hannah drew her big brother. Peter drew his dad.
I drew Teddy.
Tom looked at my drawing and said we were supposed to draw a friend, not a favorite toy. Will laughed. Nice lady told me to try again.
They called Teddy ugly.
His fur was gray, the buttons of his tiny sweater falling off. He had only one eye, one slightly burnt ear, and the red heart he used to hold was torn, leaving only threads and cotton wool behind.
But Teddy’s really pretty. How could they all not see? He’s prettier than Anna, who everyone says is prettiest in class. His sweater is more fashionable than nice lady’s summer dress and big sparkly earrings!
Teddy spends time with me. His eye shines and reflects my face like a funny mirror. His paws hug me when no one else does. His ears listen to my trouble which adults don’t understand.
Dad tried to take him away from me, but Teddy stayed like a great friend. He threw Teddy to the angry dogs and tried to flush him in the toilet. He hid Teddy on the highest shelf and dropped him from the window. Once he set Teddy’s ear on fire. He says Teddy doesn’t let me move on. He says he’s scary to have around. He says Teddy’s making me crazy.
But Teddy survived it all and always came back. He told me not to worry. He said Dad’s just angry because he cannot hear him. I can understand. If I couldn’t hear Teddy, I’d be angry too. I’d miss him a lot, just like Dad does.
I wish Dad could hear Teddy. But he doesn’t believe when I tell him to try. Teddy says it’s an adult problem. If that’s true, I don’t want to grow up. I would never want to lose my best friend.
Once it was raining, and Dad took me to the graveyard. I jumped through the puddles, having lots of fun, but he told me to be quiet. We walked through a small alley under a pretty tree with red flowers.
Dad kneeled next to a stone with candles on it. Why was he staring at it like that?
I tried to put together the letters, like the nice lady taught us.
T-E-D-D-Y B-R-O-O-K-S D-I-E-D 18 A-P-R-I-L 2015
Dad pulled me closer and told me a story about my little brother who died in a fire. All of his toys burnt, except one tiny bear.
Teddy said I’ll join him one day too.
Behind the rusty creaking gates, your first steps drown in the humid ground. Mud captures the ankles, solidifying, keeping you away like a wise elder shaking their prophetic cane: go back! Beware… No wonder. Echoing from the tombstones, music fills the air. Whispers of foreign languages, humming choirs as a keynote against your cracking steps; you aren’t welcome here. A disturbance to the peace of death, only to repent by becoming one with the eternal silence. How did you get there? It’s surreal, stepping through the mist, the smell of rot lingering in your nose; vomit inducing, but not enough to make you pause your walk. Despite the shivers running down your spine, despite the warning signs, turning to face the darkness you arrived from seems even worse than continuing your walk along the dimly lit path in-between the graves. Something cracks beneath your feet, and you imagine ancient bones falling apart to dust- but by the time you glance down, the human remains become nothing more than a couple of stones. Ahead of your path you notice a shadow of a humanoid posture: elongated limbs hanging down, slouched like a predator preparing its attack. Your throat clenches, whole organism tensing up to fight or flight. The creature flashes its yellow, fiery eyes, spreads the intimidating wings and- in proximity, it’s quite obviously an immobile statue, two snitches illuminating its stone face and fossil tears. Before you can let out a sigh of relief, goosebumps rush through your skin, raising your body hair as thin fingers trace through the line of your ankle. Your gasp exhales a cloud of steam, freezing in the cold air of the night. Not daring to check whether the hand is just like you imagine it to be: rotting, bones revealed, covered in slime and crawling worms, you begin to run. Attentive to the surrounding noises but with eyes now shut, you’d rather believe that you’re the only source of the thumping and panting that disrupts the silence. A wet drop lands on your nose – is it the beast’s saliva, already drooling ready to devour you? The fear whistles through your head, deafening. Spawns flashes in front of your eyes, blinding. The circle narrows, traps you inside, gruesome faces and undead cries from every side. They’re touching you. Infecting with their sickness. There’s no more escape. No matter how fast you run.
Once again behind the gates, you regain your composure. In the morning, you’ll find the branches that became hands, the traces of rain, the calmness in the silence. The statue will seem thoughtful; the mud nothing more than mildly annoying in its stickiness.
For to walk the graveyard is to walk through your state of mind.
On the issue of gifts
My mom always told me that she hates receiving gifts.
I couldn't understand. In my 5-year-old head, decorated with pigtails and stuffed with ideals, it made zero sense. "Why?", I asked. "Aren't gifts an expression of somebody's care about you? Why would you ever feel bad about somebody showing that they care?"
I wished that sometime, I'll be liked. I fantasized about my friends getting me amazing presents. I would place them on the little shelf next to my bed, and even late at night, once the lights are out and the house immerses in silence, I would lift my eyelids and send a glance towards these souvenirs of care. They would become my inducers of happy dreams and the warriors who'd defeat my self-loathing once and for all. No cold would bother me amidst the warmth in my fluttering heart. Every time I'd see my friends, I would flash them the brightest of my smiles, just because I feel like that. Hugging them like a teddy bear, I would enjoy the magic of our friendship, sealed once and for all with the display of attentiveness they gave me. Utter happiness. Full positivity. Love.
Grateful [adj.]: full of gratitude.
"Well, if someone gives you a nice gift, you're obliged to return the favor", mom responded, rubbing her temple. Her eyes were highlighted with grey bags, which never disappeared. Always selfless and perfectionist, always ready to rip off parts of her heart and distribute them to others. At least I know where I have learned that. "And it's sometimes really hard to think about something that would make people happy. It takes a lot of time".
My future went bleak. I gazed once more inside at my wishes, and I found myself trying to decide how to give an equally nice souvenir to my mindscape friend. Wandering through many, many shops with just a few coins jingling in my pocket, I was having trouble with finding something that could be considered a proper payback. At night, I lifted my eyelids to glance at the small gift on the shelf, but this time, it kept me awake the whole night. Blood showed up on my fingers as I bit my nails over a possibility of being a disappointment. I saw my friend, but all I did was fix my gaze on the floor and quickly walk away. Before they ask when I would finally return the favor. After all, I was obliged to do that. I understood how mom felt. It was just like avoiding school when you've found it too hard to prepare for the test.
What could be fun and pleasure, became a bothering chore.
Indebted [adj.]: the state of owing something to somebody.
Relationships are not economies.
People are not banks.
Kindness is not a capital.
And yet, it can be so easy to forget those simplest things in this busy world.