Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Bog Girl

Sometimes, in the coldness of my bed I imagine how it was for her at the very end. I draw my legs up to my stomach and curl my arms tight against my body, my fists clenched. I have fought, I have squirmed and turned, but now I yield to the searing pain of the knife. I twist and contort my head and neck to try and copy her as she was when they found her, to mould my features into that mask of fear, mirror the terror in her eyes as the knife slices into my chest. Feeling the sticky warmth of the seeping wound, I strain to open my mouth and emit the screams of pain and betrayal that had echoed in the reeds as they killed her. I finger the imaginary noose around my neck, feel the coarse flaxen fibres and struggle for breath just as she did as the noose grew tighter about her throat.  In the cool night I float down to the river bed, smell the brackish water, breathe it into my lungs and finally welcome the stillness of surrender.

 I lie caressed by the thick, brown water, lapped by waves, as above the icy wind whips along the river bank, rippling the reed beds.  I sleep in velvet mud as seasons come and go. In winter I gaze up at the steely sky through the frosty lace window. Under the ice the eel writhes past, the fish nose at my rags. Silently I stare at the shadow of the heron pacing the ice. As the thaw comes I feel the silver stab of his beak, as a frantic, flailing fish leaves the water. Between the sheets in my bed I imagine the soft mud enveloping me in a shroud of brown velvet. The layers settle as I sleep, still twisted and tormented but silent and still.

I dream about her sometimes as she might have been. The old families here have a certain look. You see it when the children from the local primary school come to visit, that same flaxen hair, the red raw faces.  The same faces from the old photographs that hang in our foyer. I imagine she would have been like them, like me, really, because I too was born and bred on the fen. Sometimes as I see the young girls cycling to school, bent low over the handlebars, I see myself and her at seventeen, pedalling hard to make headway against the wind to finally arrive somewhere warm and sultry, where there is only a soft breeze.

Of course, like many, I did leave once, for a short while, but nowadays I prefer not to think about that time away. I set off to make my fame and fortune like my sea-faring ancestors had done. There is a statue of our most famous son in the town square. He looks out beyond the fen to the sea, telescope in hand awaiting the ships back from the east. Not all the men returned. Some drowned, some starved, some succumbed to strange foreign maladies and then there were those who were seduced by the ways of the east, lured into the opium dens and the brothels, intoxicated by the perfumed opulence of the Spice Islands and bewitched by the dark-eyed beauty of the women. They chose to stay away, perhaps as I should have done in the big city when I too was captivated by the chocolate eyes of a stranger.

Nowadays, after every foray to some foreign city, I return and bring her safely home, like my ancestors brought the shrivelled seeds and pods that would make their fortunes. We tick off the items on our clipboards as we gently unpack her. At each venue we lovingly drape the cloth they found with her over the void in her torso. We dim the lights and draw the curtains to shield her from the daylight. We try to look after her. 

When the bog girl`s left foot was unceremoniously sliced off by the peat-cutter`s spade after two thousand years in the fen, she was subjected to further humiliation. The villagers removed some of her bones and teeth. They pillaged her grave and removed burial artifacts. Perhaps those broken yellow bones are now lying in a drawer nearby, an ancient fen trophy. Nowadays we are more respectful. We like to preserve her dignity. Her cloth is fragile now, but we like to think it was perhaps her own, maybe woven for her by her own mother with love. I would like to think that someone once loved my bog girl when she was alive. I know it is not always true, and of course I have no experience in these matters, but I would like to think that a mother always loves her child.

The authorities once engaged a forensic artist to reconstruct the face of our little bog girl. He arrived with his case of instruments, took measurements and painstakingly made a clay model of her face. As he worked we would ask him why he had given her high cheek bones or a low forehead. Patiently he would explain about the measurements and the DNA and how the computer had tracked the genetic traits of the various local Germanic tribes, using data from living inhabitants of the region. The clay head was reddish brown, like the bog girl`s tan leather body, the eyes lifeless hollows.  One day, with a flourish he revealed the bog girl as she may have been, recast in plastic, with strawberry blond hair and blue eyes and freckled fair skin like mine. It was all so real, the bluish shadow under the eye, the slight furrow of the brow, the curl of the lip.

He draped a piece of sacking about her shoulders, and left her hair loose and wild as it might have been from the buffeting wind of the fen. I saw her bent over the cooking pot, grinding the corn, scrapping an animal skin as in our display. The bog girl began to follow me. I saw her face every day in the town, in the young girl who served me in the bakery, in the mirror at the hairdressers I saw her sandy head bent over mine, curling her top lip in deep concentration, snipping and shaping my fading tresses into the short, neat style, she feels appropriate for a woman like me.

We do not know why our little bog girl had to die but we like to speculate. We are almost certain that this was a ritual killing, perhaps to appease an angry god or to ensure a good harvest. We know that she had a curved spine, we can tell this from her bones, and I sometimes wonder if this was why my poor little bog girl was singled out. Because she was different? I like to show the schoolchildren around when they visit. When I tell them these terrible things I see how some of them bristle with righteous indignation at the injustice. It lifts my heart to think that the young still have such pure ideals, as I once had. I would like to think that she believed her death would achieve something worthwhile, but the contorted features and the howling hole of her mouth reproach me. I can never justify her death, any death.

 In those years away in the big city researching, imagining all kinds of scenarios for the murder I finally came up with another theory. It was one that pleased me.  I would lie awake at night in my room at the university breathing in the scents of patchouli and joss sticks, my pale skin gleaming in the moonlight next to the sleek, dark body beside me and imagine life as it could have been.  It was a theory I liked because it gave her some form of dignity.

Perhaps she had to die because she had violated some code, transgressed some boundary which offended the others in her tribe. Maybe she had defiantly refused to marry some waxy skinned, flaxen farmer, because she really was in love with a dark-eyed stranger from another land. As I shop, carefully considering each  peach and  mango  as the weekend stretches before me, I  sometimes hear the shrill tones of a truculent teenager remonstrating with her mother over some trifle and I hear the voice of my little bog girl.  I remember how it was for me, how I knew, at seventeen that I wanted to go somewhere, where the wind was not sharp and salty, but warm and gentle, full of spicy promise. A place where something else was possible .When I hear the reply of the mother and strain to see her, I hear my own mother`s terse and tired voice and remember that terrible time when I had to decide. I lurk in the shadows, compelled to watch and listen to the altercation, replaying in my head those dreadful scenes so long ago, between a mother and a daughter.

In the afternoons in the summer, I like to leave my office at the museum and walk amongst the living. Sundays are the best. Families come to visit on Sunday afternoons.  Alone, I sit in the museum restaurant, sipping coffee, imagining how it would be to see her now. I see her as a baby, deliciously plump and dimpled, as a skinny wiry child, as a blushing awkward teenager, tetchy and prickly. I see and hear her everywhere. And afterwards I return to the exhibition and see my little bog girl in her glass case like Snow White. Although the museum is cleaned every night I sometimes like to wipe over her case and pat it protectively, like a mother stroking the head of her sleeping child.

Now, at night I am always alone, and that is when I think of her most.  I hear the old wooden house, my family home, creaking like an old lady settling down for the night. I still choose to sleep in the room I had as a girl, although the posters have now been replaced by suitable prints. I still have the faded photos of those heady days of summers in the city, but they are locked away, along with the painful letters of denial and betrayal. I have never quite got round to reorganising my mother`s room.  I have always meant to redecorate, but even now, her spirit still sleeps there. “You must do as you want with it,” she used to say….but I have grown accustomed to the whiteness of the walls. It suits the house and the fen and now it suits me. Once I fought it, but now I have come to realise that my mother had been right, right about all of it.

Lying in my bed at night, I sometimes think of the time when they unearthed my girl from that place, so wet and dark. I curl up tight on my side like the bog girl when they found her, my arms crossed over the gaping aching hole in my torso.  I recall how I felt for my mother`s hand as I lay on the cool crisp hospital sheets, remember the roughness of her fingertips as she stroked the tears from my cheek and softly murmured words of empty consolation. “All for the best, my love, all for the best….”

I wonder if my little bog girl, had been alone as they took her to her death. Had her mother been there to console her, had they held her, back and smothered her screams as they took her daughter away?  I would like to think that a mother, any mother, would not allow her child to die, but I have learned now that this is not true and in the darkness I open my mouth wide, wide like the bog girl,  in the silence of the fen I howl.  

About the author 

Margaret Drummond is a retired teacher and translator from London.  You can find some of her work on CafeLit and she  also writes for European blogs about aspects of life in Central and Eastern Europe. She is especially interested in how nations and cultures merge and evolve.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Cromwell Road

by Lena Green

vanilla ice-cream with a chocolate flake 

‘I love to look out at the sea', she said watching the traffic on the Cromwell Road. ‘Why, it’s so refreshing – breath in Molly dear – taste the saltiness of the air.’

‘But Grandma, we're in London. There’s no sea here.’

‘Silly girl,’ Grandma gently rebuked. ‘You tell me there’s no sea here – just look at the seagulls. Seagulls everywhere! … and look, there’s the pier. Come on, let’s walk down to it.’

With a gentle smile Molly complied. And so, arm in arm, Grandma leading the way with the tap-tap of her stick, they walked past the shops, crossing at the lights to avoid the traffic, chatting inconsequentially.

Until … ‘Look, Milly dear.  The pier, we’ve reached it. Let’s go and get an ice-cream from that handsome Italian man at the kiosk at the end.’

Again, Milly made no protest, rather she pulled her grandmother closer and said nothing, for nothing was all that was needed.

But then, ‘Oh! Milly dear! The wind. It’s always so blowy here on the pier. Help me with my hat or I shall be completely blown away.’

Respectfully Milly attended to her hat, fitting it more snugly around her ears, until Grandma satisfied, they walked on. One step at a time – bowing against the illusory wind.

But then Grandma suddenly stopped.

‘Milly dear! He’s gone! The ice-cream man. He's been here for years and now he’s gone!’

‘Don’t worry Grandma. I know a place where we can get an ice-cream. And with that she gently turned her grandmother back round to the direction from whence they had just come.

‘It’s all changed,’ mumbled Grandma. ‘It’s all changed. I don’t understand it … he’s been here for years... and now …

Milly let her talk. The occasional, ‘yes’ or ‘I know’ seemed to suffice, until back in the High Street they arrived at a café. 

Milly found a table, outside, in the sunshine. Grandma sat, took off her hat, straightened her hair, rummaged for a hankie while Milly bought two ice-creams: vanilla, both with a chocolate flake.

Contented Grandma ate. While her girlish tongue made swirls and chased the never-ending drips so she said nothing. And Milly, relishing Grandma’s tranquil moment, savoured her’s too.

Then, ‘I love it here on the pier,’ said Grandma. ‘Don’t you too Milly?’

‘Oh, I do Grandma,’ said Milly, her voice almost lost by the roar of the traffic as it made its perpetual way, oblivious to all, along the Cromwell Road, to who knows where.

Sunday, 23 February 2020


 by Lena Green

bitter lemon

So, can you tell me how it all started: how you came to feel exiled from yourself, as you say.

Well, it was back last summer. I read an advert in the paper. It said something like: are you fed up with having to hold your phone?  Do you long to have your hands free again? If so, ring a certain number for more details. You’ll never regret this step, it said. 

So I did - I rang the number, and they explained that instead of having the chip inside your phone, you could have it implanted in your brain instead. That way you could control your phone or laptop or whatever, simply by thought. That way you didn’t have to go through all the palaver of the apps and typing in because you could simply direct your thought to wherever, and the answer to whatever you wanted would appear in your mind straight away. It would be the new ‘hands free’; you could leave your phone at home – because the chip would always be with you, implanted in your brain. Easy! It said! Who could refuse?

Were you sceptical at all?

Well... er ... unbelievably, at the time: no. I had started getting this numb thumb, repetitive strain injury the doctor called it, so … well, it seemed like a good idea.

So, I phoned.  I asked a few questions and they explained that his was the new way to go. I would be at the cutting edge of technology –all my friends would be envious. Chips were getting smaller; implanting was getting easier … why get left behind? So, to cut a long story short: I went ahead. 

The procedure itself only took a half day, although I did take the afternoon off from work because I had a bit of a headache. But after that it was fine.

You didn’t have regrets then – once it was in?

No, it was fine. I emailed my friends – simply by ‘thought’, with no problems at all. The system worked. I was glad I had caught on to the idea.  I managed to keep in daily contact with my parents, so they liked it!  And if I wanted to google something, I knew the answer straight away. It was almost as though I knew everything.

So, I thought I would test it out by going to the pub quiz. I didn’t really need to be in a team of four, but to make it look good I asked a few friends to come along with me. Sure enough, every question I knew the answer. In fact, the only question we got wrong was the one Rob insisted he was right and I was wrong. We walked away with the prize, and thought we would go back the following week.

And did you?

Well, no!  The landlord asked us not too! 

So all went well. 

Yes, sort of.  It certainly saved a lot of time at work. But then after a while, things started to boring.   And then worse still, I began losing friends.  People didn’t want to be with me because they said I knew too much.  They said I was no fun to be with, so they stopped including me.  And me? Well, I just switched off.

And then I thought blow them! I will go out and find new friends.  But then as soon as I met someone, I immediately knew everything about them. You see, as I was talking to them so I had immediate access to Facebook and LinkedIn and everything else.  I had nothing to learn from them, I just knew everything!   So you see, I can’t just ‘chat’ any more. Life now has no surprises: life has no excitement: there’s nothing unknown: no challenge.

That sounds sad.

Yes, it is. The result of all this is that I find myself alone and friendless. I’ve become the know-all! They joke behind my back, and well, life has simply become hell.

In a moment of desperation, I contacted the firm and asked if I could have the chip removed. Answer: an emphatic ‘no’.They said I had signed the agreement for a six-year trial and that was that. It was only later that I found out that they were selling the results of my brain activity to some foreign data base company …  and that made me even more distressed!

So, you see: the result is that I have lost myself. I’ve driven myself into exile.

I’m completely at odds with who I was. I have no personality. I have no friends. I am simply a chip – a chip that knows and can do everything, yet a chip that can be out-flanked by some data company since they control my every thought.  

I’m lost to a world beyond myself, because by freeing my hands, I have freed my identity.  I am a nothing. I am completely lost.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Episode 4 Jean

by Janet Howson 

Costa Coffee

Jean closed her eyes and let the rather monotonous tones of Deidre wash over her. She must have been talking for about ten minutes now and her story was always the same. It wasn’t that Jean didn’t sympathise with her. The account of her abusive husband, four children she couldn’t control and her constant money troubles with no income but benefits coming in to the household. She had heard it all before. In fact since she had been attending the support group, which would be six weeks now, she had heard Deirdre’s tirade every session.

The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions had been suggested by her doctor on her last appointment to collect her prescription for the drugs she needed to keep herself away from that ‘black hole’. That feeling of complete desperation. The ultimate goal of wanting to end it all. They helped. In fact, she knew she relied upon them and didn’t want to take the doctor’s suggestion that she cut them down. Instead she had agreed to come to the group therapy sessions on a Tuesday evening at seven thirty in a rather cold and dingy church hall. Up to now she had not contributed, just listened. She had learnt about the problems of literally all the members of the group, except for a middle-aged man in a city suit who like her sat quietly and listened. He fascinated, Jean, it was obvious he felt out of place and didn’t want to be there. 

“So, Jean, would you like to tell us all about how you are feeling today and how the week has gone for you?”

Jean opened her eyes and was aware everyone was looking at her, the counselor, Colin, was smiling at her encouragingly. He was a wiry, enthusiastic man in his thirties, Jean guessed, with thick curly hair, rather unkempt and always dressed in jeans a T-shirt and trainers that had seen better days. 

“Oh, I erm…” she didn’t know what to say.

“In your own time, we are not going anywhere. We would just like to share and perhaps be of help to you. Could you try and tell us when your problems started and how you feel when you are in a black hole and how you cope with it?”

Jean cleared her throat and took a deep breath, “Well, I first started having panic attacks at university. I put it down to having to adapt to a new area, new people and the stress of the academic work. At school I had always been the top of the pile but then I realised there were people far more intelligent than I was and I just didn’t seem able to keep up. By the second year I was lagging behind. I never socialised, just sat in my room trying to work but somehow I couldn’t. My first attack was in a lecture. I will never forget the embarrassment. I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe.” Jean stopped, the emotions of that day revisiting her. There were murmurs and nods of reciprocal understanding from the group.

“You are doing fine, Jean. Carry on when you are ready,” Colin smiled at her encouragingly, rocking back on two legs of his chair to the point where Jean thought he would topple over.

“After that I couldn’t go into lectures and became more and more isolated and further behind with my work. I was called into the principal’s office and it was suggested I took a year off and apply again for a place. I never went back. I got a job in an insurance company near to my home and I am still there. The attacks have continued though and my doctor put me on Citalopram and Pregabalin. They help a great deal. I don’t know how I would cope without them. I just can’t stand that awful feeling of desperation and hopelessness. She wants me to cut down the dosage, but I don’t feel I can at the moment.” She stopped to blow her nose amazed she was talking so much. 

“Is there anything else that helps you besides the pills?” It was the man in the city suit, who up to now had remained silent.

“Oh, belonging to my amateur drama group. I am playing Hippolyta in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream, the dress rehearsal is tomorrow.”

“Oh let us know when it’s on and we can come and see you,” Deidre piped up and several others voiced their agreement.

“Not much notice I’m afraid. It is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week. Two performances on Saturday, matinee and evening. I’ve got some flyers in my bag, I can hand them out at the end of the session.”

“How does it help you to be in the group, Jean?” Colin asked.

“I lose myself in the part and forget my problems. It is like being someone else. It’s hard to explain.”

“I think I understand.” This came from the man in the suit. “I belong to a Gospel choir and I get completely absorbed in the music and for those two hours I feel content with myself.” He smiled at Jean.

“I think we are going to have to call it a day. Next week perhaps you would like to talk about your choir, Samuel and its therapeutic effect. The caretaker will be round in five minutes to lock the doors. See you all next week. Don’t forget to collect a flyer from Jean if you can make her play.”

Samuel, what a lovely name, thought Jean as she gathered her belongings together and handed out a few flyers. 

The next day at work, Jean felt very tired. She had gone home after the therapy session and gone over her lines again. The time had flown by and she hadn’t gone to bed before midnight. She knew she had various accounts and invoices to sort out and Dan, her boss wanted them back to him by lunch time. She sipped at the Costa coffee she had brought in with her and pushed sheets of paper about. She could see Dan through the full length glass partitions of his office. She had liked him since the day of her interview for the job. He was so sophisticated and immaculately dressed. Since then her admiration for him had grown to the point of infatuation. She would fantasise about them going to the opera or theatre together, sitting holding hands, discussing the performance in the interval whilst they sipped their gin and tonics. Then, having a coffee in her flat before parting for the evening. It was all a daydream. She was shy in front of him and she always felt clumsy and inadequate. Her mother had always said beauty was in the eye of the beholder. She was still waiting for her beholder. 

“How’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ going, Jean?” Daphne was the only person in the office that spoke to her. The others were all a lot younger and although she was only thirty-two, she felt she had nothing in common with them.

“Oh, not too badly. I am still a bit wobbly with my lines but hopefully after the dress rehearsal tonight I should be okay with them. Are you coming to see it?

“Shakespeare’s not really my thing, Jean. I liked the Alan Ayckbourne you did in the summer. That was funny. Think I’ll give this one a miss though.”

“No problem.” Jean hid her disappointment. She could normally rely on Daphne to support her. She found it hard to sell tickets. She had very few friends. There was always of course her mum and dad. Her brother and sister were always too busy with their family to come and watch their baby sister perform. They still called her that. There was a big age gap and Jean had been born very prematurely and she was a lot smaller than them and didn’t resemble them in any way. They were both good looking and had married in their twenties and had their children young. She had always felt the runt of the litter.

“So what part are you playing, Jean?” a shrill voice boomed across the office floor, “I expect your Bottom, aint you?” The other girls in the office laughed.

“Do you have to have a face like a backside for that?” One of the young male clerks chipped in.

Jean blushed. She never knew how to cope with office banter. It was all alien to her.  “No, she’s Hippolyta, a queen, so just leave it out you lot unless you’ve got something useful to contribute. You could always learn a bit and go and see the play. A bit of Shakespeare’ll do you good. You might learn something, rather than stare at your phones all day.” Jean could have kissed Daphne for standing up for her.

“Rather stick pins in my eyes,” the young clerk replied, leaving the office, defeated. The girls returned to their work having lost interest in the conversation.

“Take no notice, love. They’re only jealous, they couldn’t stand on a stage to save their lives. Oh by the way, Dan wants to talk to you about something? You’ve not been up to no good with the accounts have you?” She laughed.

“If I had I would be in the Caribbean somewhere not stuck in an office. I’d better see what he wants. I’ll finish this coffee after I come back.” Jean picked up her notebook and feeling a bit apprehensive, approached Dan’s office. Once she could see him she felt the usual flutter in her stomach that she always felt when she was with him. Grow up she told herself you are acting like a teenager in love. She knocked tentatively on the door.

 “Come in, Jean.”

“You wanted to see me, Mr Dennison?”

“I do indeed, and please call me Dan. I think we’ve known each other long enough to do away with the formalities. Now, I have a particular favour to ask of you. It is very short notice but I would be eternally grateful if you could help me out of a tight spot. I am attending a charity dinner and I had forgotten all about it until I glanced in my diary this morning. I have two tickets and don’t want to go on my own. I wondered if you would do me the honour of accompanying me? It promises to be a good evening with entertainment and a four course dinner. We would have a taxi there and back. What do you think?”

What did she think? She was absolutely thrilled. This was the dream of her life. She was speechless. She pulled herself together.

“I would love to go, Mr De.. Dan. When is it?” 

“Well, that is why it is such a big ask, it is tonight.”
Jean swallowed hard, what bad luck, it was the crucial dress rehearsal. Shirley would never forgive her. It was vital to have everyone there. She couldn’t let her down. She looked at Dan, he was leaning towards her, willing her to say yes. She might never get an opportunity like this again. He might assume she didn’t like him and never repeat the invitation. Pushing the image of Shirley’s disappointed face to the back of her mind she gave Dan her answer.

“No problem at all. What time will I have to be ready for?”

Links to previous episodes 

About the author

Janet taught for 35 years in Comprehensive schools teaching English and Drama. She wrote scripts for the students to perform. After she retired she found a folder of poetry she had written as a child and this spurred her to join a Writer’s group. She has had short stories published in Best of CaféLit and Nativity. She is waiting for her first novel to be published which she hopes will be soon.

Friday, 21 February 2020

The Skyscraper's Wonder

The Skyscrapers Wonder

by  Kiyasu Oka

Matcha Latte with Honey

TAIPEI 101 (508 meters or 1,667 feet with 101 floors)

In the heart of Asia lies a multi-island country called Taiwan. Even though the main island of the country is so small, it features some of the worlds most fascinating achievements.

One of its stunning world achievements is the skyscraper known as TAIPEI 101.
Once held the title of the #1 tallest building in the world since its completion in 2004, TAIPEI 101 still illuminates its beauty today. A financial center mixed with shopping malls and restaurants and more, there are many tales to be told. The completion of the Burj Khalifa in 2010 (828 meters with 163 floors) made TAIPEI 101 the second tallest building in the world, but even so, its tales of wonder remain just as strong.

Here is a story for you:

I would like to purchase two tickets for the observatory.”

Here you go and enjoy the night!”

All right, the tickets are here and lets look around a bit before we wait in line,” I said to my friend as we looked forward to the night.

Gorgeous architectural design, lovely gift shop souvenirs, luxurious tea, and so much more and not to mention the worlds time zone clock on the floor! So international, so beautiful, and so dazzling, inside and out!

Then, my friend and I looked around the fascinating stores nearby until it is about time. We posed for a photo taken by the machine when waiting in the observatory queue.

Taiwan is so interesting. I am enjoying my trip here very much. Thank you for all of the delicious food.”

You are welcome. I feel so lucky to be living in Taiwan! The cheap, but high-quality food, as well as other things … then there is the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). Transportation and food is so convenient!”

As the line moved forward, the excitement fills up inside me: “This is the elevator that will take us to the observatory!”

We walked in the elevator, and as the doors closes, the entire lighting changed.
Suddenly, we were on a trip so beautiful and inspiring, in wonder and awe, until we reached the 89th floor.

Wow! What was… this? We are already… here?”

Yes, we were on the worlds fastest elevator! High-class technology manufactured by Toshiba, that was 37 seconds from the 5th floor to the 89th floor!”

Amazing! It didnt feel like an elevator trip at all! I felt like we were in some profound, starry journey into the skies… a very sweet, dazzling journey!”
I smiled as we continued on.

We bought the photos of us taken during the waiting line earlier, as we ordered some drinks and chatting in this lovely, sweet atmosphere.

Then we visited the worlds biggest and heaviest wind damper. “Weighing 660 tons and 5.5 meters (18 feet) in diameter, this unique round object counteracts oscillation during earthquakes and typhoons!”

Wow, the mini-damper character is so cute!!!,” I said as we had our photo taken.

We wrote postcards at the area where the worlds tallest mailboxes are and visited the outdoor observatory.

Wow… look, those binoculars! The city view! So… beautiful!”

Indeed, the beautiful view of the city of Taipei, right in front of our eyes, from the 91st floor of TAIPEI 101.

Stunningly beautiful.

Suddenly, my friend started to speak.

You know, this entire journey from the elevator, all the way to this time… I felt my heart glowing with feelings.”

This atmosphere is so sweet and romantic, isnt it?”

Suddenly, without saying anything, he gently held my hand and gave me a hug.
Thanks for bringing me here,” he said as he gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek.

I felt my heart pounding. It felt so… sweet.

We spent the night gazing into the beautiful night sky as a shooting star shimmered in the night.

Then we continued to spend time in the observatory floors, but hand in hand all this time.

The beautiful atmosphere continues to bring our hearts alive, as our bond with each other deepens in this lovely experience.

Then, I said to my friend, “Thanks for visiting Taiwan and choosing me as your guide.”

You are welcome,” he said as we gazed into each other for quite some time.
Then, we kissed under the beautiful night sky.

The next day he had to return to his country, and I wanted to visit him at the airport so badly.

When he was about to leave for boarding, I hugged him tightly and cried happily.

He petted my head and touched my hair gently. Then he said, “Dear, thanks for the lovely time in Taiwan. I hope to see you again someday,” as he gave me a kiss.

I am so happy to have met you in person for the first time. I feel like this is one of the most profound experiences with a friend… and I will always remember this day in my heart.”

We hugged one more time before we said goodbye.

I returned home tonight feeling this sense of finally meeting my friend in person for the first time, feeling so grateful that we could cross paths in this lifetime.

Thank you so much for today, sweetheart,” I said to myself as I fell asleep, with my hand in my heart, dreaming of him.

Thank you for the lovely experience in Taiwan, love,” he said to himself as he fell asleep that night, after he returned home and prepared to fall asleep.

Every day, I feel a deep sweet feeling in my heart as I move through this world, and I believe he does too. Maybe this bond is telepathic, and more. Every day, this feeling makes me come alive.

This is the story of two friends who loved each other so deeply, as their international friendship lives on…
as their hearts for each other continued to live on, beyond time and space…
forever and ever.

About the author 

KIYASU OKA is a Taiwanese professional illustrator and entrepreneur, whose title can be referred to as a professional color magician. She is the “Magician of Color from Taiwan. Her most well-known writing work is a personal love letter called “Taiwan is my Country,” published on her Web site since April of 2016. Kiyasu Okas Web site is at www.kiyasugreen.com.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Palvine Part 18

by  Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

apple wine 

I stood up quickly, suddenly feeling the cold. I dropped the note in the snow and I ran back inside to dress which I did with speed and then, picking the crimson rose from another old jam jar beside a candle in the middle of the table, I cantered back outside into the snowy street. As I began down the alley ways, it dawned on me that I wasn’t actually sure where I was going so I simply located the cathedral on the skyline and started walking. It was a peculiar feeling to be running away from Sylvester Spence Palvine. It was a feeling I could barely recall feeling previously in my life – it was, in fact, a feeling that was the total antithesis of itself; both hollowing and filing; both tragic and thrilling. Indeed, thinking about it, this was an emotion – if one could call it that – that I had only ever felt once previously in my life: when I left The Palvine Residence in February after I'd planted the blossom tree believing it was the last time I would ever go to that place.

And I had stay true to that. Until something had called me back. Him. But this time I wasn’t sure he’d come back for me. As I continued to walk, without a clear route or path in mind, I eventually found myself walking along the paving by the river. The river was a strange place at night. Around the edge of the pavement were wrought iron gas lamps suspended in the trees that were neatly planted, showing the divide between the river and the road and as the light of the subtle shining stars caught them the lanterns seemed to cast their own light out over the water which then mingled with the fog until all the lights were misty in the river.
The light of the moon shone down upon the trees as if it was sustaining the but then, as I looked closer, it seemed almost as if the trees themselves were full of star light and all I could we was Sylvester. Just his face. As I walked, it came to me that the snow had been somewhat cleared from the pavement because it shone like silver in the subtle light – almost as if the concrete was cover in ice, though I knew it couldn’t be because I was walking over it easily. I came to the bridge and began to take my first step from the east side of Paris to the west. To Notre Dame. To Marius.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

The Baby and the Jinn

by Mason Bushell

honeyed milk

It wasn’t the squirrel bounding among the branches who had ten-month-old baby Petey gurgling from the picnic blanket. In fact, he was watching the man in the white suit on the bench making coins vanish and reappear from the air. 

“Time to go home, Petey darling,” said his mother, Liza, lifting him from the blanket surrounded by a carpet of daisies on the park meadow. He smiled and took hold of a lock of her red hair. He was soon safely buckled into his pushchair. Liza paused at the bench to put her picnic rubbish in the bin. It was then the magician made a large silver coin appear. With a magical flourish it left his hand, and Petey found it in his. The baby looked to the mystical man, but he was gone before Petey’s mother even noticed he was there. Petey put the coin in his mouth and made a funny face, it tasted awful. Liza pushed him home blissfully unaware of what her son was holding.  

Soon Petey was sat in his playpen at home. Surrounded by his array of colourful toys and the cartoons on the tv, he was a happy little fellow. Liza brought him a bottle of milk. Whilst helping him drink, she noticed the coin lodged in his romper suit.

“What’s this, hey baby?” she cooed her eyes taking in the sight of the demon surrounded in flames upon the old talisman. Petey just giggled and smiled. “Where did you get this?” Liza read the incantation written around the demon. The last word left her lips with a groan at the sound of the doorbell. She rose and left to answer it at once. 

Petey clapped his hands on his legs and held his toes with a bemused smile. He could feel the room growing warmer. He watched his biggest teddy glowing orange. From behind it stepped a five-inch tall man with flame-red hair. The granite-like muscular body of the Jinn was clad yellow and red polka dot shorts, and white sunglasses. 

“Yes, you summoned me.” he began in a bored voice. “What do you - oh no. Baby.” The Jinn grew wide-eyed as baby Petey grabbed him with a chubby hand. He began squealing with laughter as he shook the shrieking Jinn like a rattle. 

“Waaa! What do you want? Milk, a nappy change, chocolate, teddy bears, dinosaurs, a Ferrari.” The Jinn was being shaken all over the playpen. “Ahhh! I’ll give you anything, just put - me – daaaaa!” The Jinn was sent free and flying through the air. He slammed into a rubber dinosaur, bounced off a squeaking elephant and disappeared in a heap of building blocks. 

“Gaaa,” said Petey gleefully. 

“No, that was not funny.” The Jinn dug himself out of the rubble of bricks and faced the baby. “Never do that again,” he warned. Petey had other ideas and seized him again. This time the Jinn found himself looking into the wide-open mouth of the baby. 

Petey blew a spit bubble as the Jinn grew close to his mouth.

“No way, no sucking and drooling on my hairdo.” The Jinn wrestled an arm free and snapped his fingers. “I am not a chew toy. Have a pacifier.” he said as the yellow soother appeared, aimed and shot into the baby’s mouth. A millisecond later, the Jinn would have become a living gummy bear. Once more he found himself flying across the playpen. This time he vanished and reappeared on one of the pens posts. A second later a scream filled the air. Liza was back and she was terrified by what she was seeing. 

“Why me? I have him throwing me around like a ragdoll and now you screaming at me.” The Jinn slapped his forehead. “Can everybody, please, calm down.” 

“But, but, but you’re a, a.” 

“Yes woman, I’m a five-inch tall man wearing stylish shorts and sunglasses.” The Jinn gave her a disarming smile. “Now seeing as that little monster in there can’t read yet. I’ll assume you read my coin and summoned me.” 

“I guess I did.” Liza came a little closer. Picking up a toy drumstick she poked the little man in the chest, like he was a diseased rat. “What are you? You won’t hurt my baby, will you?” 

“Easy lady.” the Jinn swatted the stick away. “I’m real and I’m a Jinn. You summon the big, evil, fiery one if you want your baby fried. You summon me if you want me to do things for you.” The Jinn put his palms together. “So, did you need something?” 

“Well.” Liza took on a thoughtful gaze. “You can change his nappy if you like.”  

“Ugh, I’d rather throw a lit match in a gas tank, than change his stinky nappies. Thank you very much.” The Jinn folded his arms. “Next request?”      

“Goo, gaa, goo,” gurgled baby Petey trying to reach for the Jinn again.

“It’s okay, Darling. He’s not going to hurt you.” Liza moved to comfort her son. 

“Actually, he just asked for his daddy to come and have a game with him.” 

“I wish he could be here, Jinn. Daddy is always at work from seven in the morning until nine at night.” Liza told him. 

The Jinn whistled. “Wow, that’s a lot of hours.” The Jinn snapped his fingers. In a moment a car was heard pulling up on the driveway. Liza listened to a person get out and shut the door. Footsteps crossed the gravel and her husband entered the house. 

“Max, why are you home early?” Liza asked never noticing that the Jinn had vanished. 

“I was working with a client when I had the strangest urge to come home. I got in the car and I realised that I really have no time for my darling wife and my special little man.” the man took off his suit jacket, picked up his son and pulled his wife into a family hug. “I’ve decided to significantly reduce my hours. I can still get my work done if I schedule properly. That way, I can also be here for the two of you more often.” 

“Really? Oh, Petey, isn’t that great?” Liza beamed and kissed Max. 

“Goo, gaa goo, goo.” Petey chuckled and took his daddy’s glasses off. 

“Really. So, how was your morning?” Max took back his glasses and gave his son one of his dinosaurs instead.

“We had fun in the park, then…” Liza paused and looked for the Jinn. “Came home to watch Petey’s favourite TV shows. He’ll need a nappy change soon.” 

“Great well you change his —” Max froze for a second, his eyes glazed. With a shake of his head, he smiled. “I’ll change his nappy, then hows about we drive to the seaside for the afternoon,” he said instead. 

“We’d love that.” Liza smiled.
“Okay, won’t be too long.” Max left the room with baby Petey. 

Liza looked about her with furrowed brows. “Hmm, where was the Jinn?” 

“He’s a model husband now, don’t you think?” said the Jinn. Liza looked into the playpen to see the little man juggling building bricks. He looked every bit the circus clown with those polka dot shorts on. 

“He is, thank you so much.” 

“My pleasure, from now on he will share the chores and be with you both more. Return that love and you will be a happy family.” The Jinn vanished and reappeared near the door. “Oh, and don’t summon me near that baby again. I have a bloody headache from being used as rattle!” with that, his job was done, he snapped his fingers and vanished.

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