The Dream

“Anona! Anona!”


Anisa woke up with a gasp, trembling and sweating heavily. It was that dream again, and she had to take a couple of gulps to calm herself down. It felt as though she ran miles, her heart threatened to burst out of her chest.

There was a soft scraping sound outside her tent, and Akeema’s head popped in. “Anisa?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she gruffly replied. She ran a hand through her hair, and found it damp with sweat. “How is the time?”

“Around three hours more before sunrise,” was the response. Anisa began to move from her sleeping pad. “Good. I’ll get ready then.”

“I’ll have Shun get you breakfast,” Akeema said. Anisa gave a nod, but did not care if he saw it or not. As she climbed out of her tent, she slowly stood up, completely naked. Akeema was behind her as she walked towards the pool she discovered nearby. It was a lucky streak that they managed to find it; it was a welcome addition to her daily ritual. Whenever she could squeeze in the daily ritual. 

In the pool, she began her wash. She took care to softly rub against the new scars she managed to get on her back; they were still slightly tender, after all. Akeema had left her clothes nearby and went off to find Shun. 

When she finished, she rose out of the water. Twilight was just coming in, and the faint light that managed to peek out gave tinsel sparkle on her body as water trickled over her skin. She quietly dressed: first, her linen underclothes, followed by her gambesons. As the sun began to peek over the horizon, Anisa had already placed half of her armour.

“Anisa?” Akeema said beside her as he returned. “Food’s ready.”

“Thank you,” she said. As she went back to the camp, the rest of her men were beginning to get out of their own tents as well.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning, General,” were the various replies she received from them.


A Chilly, Fulu, and Chuckie side mission fiction:

Pamela Meiclore Cabrella did not realize that she would be late for work until she got snarled in traffic just twenty minutes away from her office. She saw that there was a procession going on with so many people walking along and the cars that accompanied them moving in a slow pace. She swore under her breath. A procession on a main road? She clicked her car radio open. “…and be careful on Matiga Avenue today! It’s President Eran’s birthday motorcade right now, and it’s one hell of a ride,” the DJ announced, his voice slightly metallic from the slight static as the dial was not as precise in the station number.

Tangina! Fuck your birthday, Eran! And fuck your motorcade!” Pamela swore again, out loud this time. After that rant, she took a deep breath and tried to look for a way out. She was about to be late, and she couldn’t afford to be any later. Seeing a McDougal’s branch by her left, she smiled. She eased her way into the parking lot of the fast food joint and looked for an empty space. After a few moments — there! A bit further back from the main road, but she made a beeline for it and parked quickly. As soon as she turned the engine off, she grabbed her satchel, her phone, and climbed out of the car.

She walked along Matiga Avenue to her office, her high-heeled steps tak-taking hurriedly along the concrete ground. She tapped the screen of her phone and spoke, “Hello, Maby? I’m almost there. Stupid traffic kasi eh. Tell the client that I’ll be late at most ten. Give them coffee. I think we still have some cupcakes left in the fridge. Any other problems there? Okay. Prep the materials, I’ll be there soon.” She did not look at the motorcade moving its way down the avenue. Other people did, with their rubbing-necking and swaying to see the cars better. Despite her hurried pace, there was an excited tension in the air. The buzz from the onlookers grazed her ears like insects hovering around her head. “Usiseros,” she muttered.

She made her way to the footbridge where in just nearly ten minutes more, she would have reached her building. As she reached the middle of the footbridge, there was a growing cry of excitement. President Eran was in the last car! The top was open, and he was waving to the crowd as bodyguards flocked his side. Other attendants in the car threw coins and candy at the crowd, who gamely scrambled to grab them from midair or on the ground. She turned to see that the President was just a few meters away – a perfect sight as she saw him clearly.

“Fine,” she said with a faint grin as she took out her phone. “At least I have something to show later. It’ll be a nice story for the clients.” She pointed the phone’s camera at President Eran, and the screen showed him continuing to wave at the crowd.

Pamela Meiclore Cabrella did not realize that she would never arrive for work as a rifle bullet pierced the back of her skull, exited through the bridge of her nose, and went through the camera phone. She tipped forward, her upper face destroyed even as the bullet went straight through President Eran’s heart and out his back. Both man and woman fell – Pamela on the road less than ten feet below, President Eran on the back of the car. There were screams and shrieks all around as pandemonium ensued. Some of the bodyguards cradled the President and tried to revive him as others radioed for help. The crowd became a stampede, further hindering the car’s attempt to drive quickly. More shrieks erupted when some saw Pamela’s body, crumpled and bloody, on the middle of the road.

On top of a building, a couple hundred meters away, a figure was quickly disassembling a peculiar-looking rifle. Peculiar as it looked to be white and waxy in color, not the black, sleek metallic sheen of the usual weapon. Breaking it into several pieces, the figure piled these together. The figure then removed the black garment worn and revealed smooth arms and slightly-developed breasts – a female. This female then proceeded to remove her pants as well. Nearly naked but for her undergarments, she placed the clothing on top of the pile. She reached over several places in the fabric and soft cracks could be heard. As soon as the cracks sounded, white smoke wafted into the air. She then stood, watching the fabric slowly burn and melt the gun underneath. In just an hour, the rifle will be turned into a waxy mush, the fabric will become dry and brittle and blow into the wind. The current breeze ruffled the woman’s hair as she idly watched the black pile burn in its endothermic heat.

Fulu?” the right stud earring she wore crackled with Chilly’s voice. “Let’s get out of here.

Though her Handler wasn’t around, she nodded. Unconscious with her near-nakedness, she walked to the back of the building, where the fire exit steps were located. She went down a couple of stories, her head turning at the sides frequently to make sure that there was no one around, then paused at an open window. Feet first, she squeezed in, her body twisting slightly to make herself fit and dropped into a restroom cubicle. She picked up a bag near the toilet seat and pulled out some clothes, donning them quickly but quietly. Now dressed in a janitress uniform, she walked out of the cubicle, opened the locked door, and removed the “Out of Order” sign.

When Fulu turned, Chilly was already there in a similar uniform, standing quietly at the door. Chilly nodded and the two of them went into another fire exit. Their steps echoed as they went down, yet their eyes darted this way and that to look for anyone else that might be in the same stairwell as they. Several times, Chilly had to stop with a hand upraised, turning her head slightly to listen further. As soon as there was no danger, they continued on.

As soon as they reached the fifth floor, Chilly opened the door to the main hallway. She peeked to see if anyone was around. Seeing no one, she and Fulu made their way to one of the rooms. Three short knocks on the door later, it opened and they filed in.

“Open that bag, Chuckie,” Chilly turned to the young man, who held a small tablet in his hands. Chuckie quickly complied, taking a brown leather satchel bag and loosening the strings to open it. As he did so, Chilly and Fulu removed their uniforms and dumped them in it. Chuckie prudently closed his eyes and turned away as they changed into more casual clothing: blouses, a pair of pants for Fulu, a short skirt for Chilly, flats for the both of them. Chuckie hitched the bag behind him like a backpack and waited till they finished, his hands still on the tablet.

“Nothing, Chuckie?” Chilly asked. Chuckie shook his head, his eyes still closed. “We were lucky. The CCTV cameras in the hallway in this floor are busted. Still, I had to make sure and redirect the feed. We’re clean.”

“Good,” Chilly said, sighing. She then glanced at the two youngsters looking at her expectantly. “Well! Now that’s done, why don’t we get some ice cream?”

Chuckie blinked. “Huh—what? Ice cream? We need to get back,” he protested. Fulu remained quiet and impassive. “Of course, we will. After we get ice cream,” Chilly insisted. “I’ve been craving for it since last night. I want ice cream. Let’s go.” She nodded to the tablet he held. “Make sure that there are no traces of us here.” Chuckie shrugged and began tapping at the tablet screen. “Sure thing,” he said.

Minutes later, they were already out of the building through the back. The people that were supposed to be downstairs were gathered at the front, looking at the crowd as it still was chaotic. Chilly smiled. “Usiseros,” she said, “always interesting organisms, aren’t they? Such people always like to look at something so interesting, yet gruesome at the same time.” She took Fulu’s hand and glanced at them. “Now, let’s have a stroll, shall we?”

The crowd ignored them, intent on either running away from the scene or towards it. The car that had the President had already long gone, but Pamela’s body was still on the ground. The police that were there were too few and tried to bring order to the chaos, shouting contradictory orders to each other and the people around them. The team merely glanced at the people, but hurried on.

A short queue to a counter in a nearby McDougal’s branch and three orders of ice cream later, the group was quietly ensconced in one corner of the fast food restaurant. Chilly sighed and smiled while eating. “Strawberry bits heaven!” she cried and took another bite. She looked at Chuckie, who was looking at his cup. “What’s wrong? I thought you liked chocolate.”

“I do,” he said. His eyes had the look of a boy waiting to be scolded. “But won’t the Director be waiting for us and demanding where we were?”

Chilly patted the young man’s cheek. “Do you have any reason to believe that we’ll be in trouble? Do you think you missed something?” 

Chuckie shook his head. “I never miss!” he said, “I checked all the satellites and telecomm waves – no one saw Fulu. I double-checked!” Chilly smiled.

“Then you have nothing to fear,” she said. “Consider this as a reward. It’s the little things in life, Chuckie. Remember that. Look at Fulu. She’s eating her ice cream with no fuss!” Fulu was quietly eating her vanilla cup.

“There’s nothing about her to fuss,” Chuckie said petulantly. However, he picked up his ice cream and began eating. As they ate, Fulu looked up. They were seated near tall glass windows, and she could see the parking lot. There, at the furthest corner of the parking area, was a lone car.

“Fulu?” Fulu turned to Chilly’s voice. “Something wrong, love?” Fulu shook her head and dipped her spoon into her dessert again. Chilly cupped her chin in her hands and regarded her assassin. She spoke softly to her. “But you know, love? That was quite a bold move. You also killed a civilian just to get to your target.”

Fulu paused, her spoon midway to her mouth. She looked at Chilly. “She was in the way,” was her simple answer, then ate again.

The Follies of Optimism, Voltaire Style

There is a legend about how Voltaire wrote his magnum opus, Candide, which was said to have been written in three days. Now, even with no form of advanced technology during that time, it’s quite something to have written a novella in such a short time. There looks to be indication that he wrote it for a longer time, though. Nonetheless, whether he wrote it in one sitting or several, it’s clear that Candide is one of the most remarkable pieces of literature. The wit and humour he managed to inject into it only serves to emphasize the seriousness of how he has viewed the world – a view that still holds true today.

Candide is a young philosopher and bastard son of the sister of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh (a name that makes my tongue go upsy-daisy just pronouncing it) of Westphalia, Germany. He has a tutor named Pangloss, whose philosophy is that of utmost optimism. Candide is also in love with his cousin, Cunégonde. After being caught by the Baron kissing and fondling Cunégonde, Candide is then kicked out of the castle (literally). And so his journey of discovery, hardship, misery, and just utter mayhem begins.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was a satire, that there was a deliberate manipulation of tropes, images and metaphors to say a political or philosophical point, but I could not help but be drawn more into the story. Candide looks like this lost lamb, trying to survive through the many trip ups he’s faced since he got kicked out of the castle. However, he has managed to retain some level of his “innocence” despite the less-than-fairy-tale ending. It was both with a dry chuckle and almost a painful wince while I was reading how Candide meets all these people and takes all these experiences in.

But that’s Voltaire’s intention, I guess. Isn’t any story worth its salt supposed to get you reeled into the character’s shenanigans (and what shenanigans there are here!), yet slap you with something profound at the same time? I went from laughing at the beginning of the story to sighing in the realization that I can relate to him in the end. Painfully so.

This is one of world literature’s best works, and if you haven’t read this, you’ll definitely are missing something good to read. If you’re into something ironic, then this one’s for you. 

The Onran

Another fiction piece that entered my head last night (or very early this morning, as I got to bed a bit past midnight. Why I slept late? Now’s not the time. 🙂 ) Enjoy! 


There was something to be said about the peace that can be found in the woods. One could always enjoy the relative quiet of the woods while basking in the fresh, mountainous air. And it would be relative as the woods has its own sounds: the animals going about in finding food, sleep or shelter; the flutter of leaves as these detach from the mother tree to glide and float to the ground, the soft breeze that winds its away around the tree trunks, boulders, and rocks. It was as though your spirit is slowly being cleansed.

But then again, no one could say much about the peace here when you waited for the enemy to come.

Sakush stood on top of one of the taller trees in the area, his head and shoulders above the canopy, and gazed into the distance. He saw his falcon, Lyr, gliding in the air, a black speck in the sky. Lyr was scouting from the air as he listened intently for any sound that did not belong in the woods. The breeze merely whispered its secrets to him, but he continued to look ahead, unheeding of what the breeze may have said. He raised his fist in the air, a signal that he will return to the ground. In response, the falcon paused in her gliding and hover for a moment before continuing her flight. 

Sakush dropped down to the ground, dusted his tunic off and walked to where Mran, the Onran and the saber-panther Kira rested. He saw them in a small clearing in the woods. Mran was sitting on the ground while she wrapped linen bandages around her left forearm to secure her wrist before she put on her iron gauntlet. Kira was sitting in front of the Onran, who was weaving a little flower chain in her small hands. There was already a smaller one placed on the great cat’s head – Kira’s expression was one of quiet resignation, and Sakush couldn’t help but smile. Meanwhile, Lilon was nowhere to be found yet; he was doing his own surveillance in another part of the woods. 

He looked again at the small child who was looping flower stems into each other. Her eyes had that intensity endearing to any child who was concentrating on something. And yet, it was a contrast to what the child really was. She was the Onran – the Universe’s child, the Daughter of the Stars. And they were in the woods hiding, keeping the child safe and protected from those who would try to take her and use her powers for their own nefarious purposes. They needed to reach the Ruby Castle, a place that will protect the Onran more efficiently, as the Blood Orb was there. In the meantime, though, she was too vulnerable in the outside. 

They had been travelling for days without much rest, though, and this respite was greatly appreciated. But then, they needed to be always on alert. There was no telling just how far the enemy was behind. Or in front of them, for that matter.

“Mran,” he said to his companion. Dark brown eyes raised up to meet his green ones. “Have you heard from Lilon yet?”

The woman silently shook her head. Then, she pointed behind her in the direction where Sakush surmised Lilon did his surveillance. The woman returned to her bandaging without any more comment. Sakush sighed. “You can talk, you know,” he chided her, “your voice is fine with me.” Mran looked up again and gave a brief smile, and then she shook her head. 

“Kira pretty!” 

The Onran giggled as she placed her new flower chain on Kira’s neck. The large, black cat had lowered his head to accept the flower chain. And though he had seven-inch fangs that was dangerously close to the child as she draped the flower chain over, no one in the group, especially the Onran, was perturbed. The cat’s eyes closed as he accepted the latest gift. “Your Eminence,” Sakush said with a faint smile. He walked over to her and knelt down. “It’s not nice to tease Kira.”

“But Kira pretty, look!” the child exclaimed. She leaned over to kiss the cat’s forehead. Sakush shook his head, but he still wore the smile. The child had a big heart, perhaps even bigger than her own powers. 

Suddenly, there was a wail in the air, an almost inhuman one. Mran clambered up to stand, her hands balled up into fists and her heels digging into the ground. Even Kira suddenly pushed himself up and growled in response. The flower chains slid off his head and fell to the ground. “Lilon!” Sakush yelled as he carried the Onran in his arms.

The source of the wail appeared in a blur from the direction Mran pointed just a few minutes ago. The blur stopped and showed a man panting heavily. “Drukkars!” he exclaimed. There was another cry from the air, and this time it was from Lyr, swooping down to the group. “A platoon of them!” 

The reaction was immediate. Mran donned the rest of her armour as Sakush rushed closer to Lilon. He put the child in Lilon’s arms even as he instructed, “Stay here, Your Eminence.” The child smiled at him, her face filled with absolute trust. “Here we go,” Lilon said. His body grew bigger and became transparent. It was as though he was turning to glass. Even as he changed, the Onran was slowly pushed into the man’s body. Lilon looked like a human-shaped bottle, now four times his former size. The Onran even giggled as she floated within the man’s body. Safely ensconced inside him, Lilon began to run in the opposite direction, away from the Drukkars.

Meanwhile, Sakush threw two darts from both sides. One hit a tree trunk; the other landed on the ground. The darts trembled where they fell and the area around it bulged and grew. It turned into humanoid shapes with empty eyes and gaping maws. “Play!” the one made from tree bark moaned. Sakush grinned. “You’ll have your fill soon, children,” he said. With a quick gesture, Sakush made the two creatures him and Lilon as they ran.

Last was Mran, who stood quietly facing the direction of where the enemy will come from. Her armour was in plated silver and iron, the shoulder blades looking like great dragon claws. She lifted her arms and banged her gauntlet-covered fists together. A sudden boom erupted from it, and sparks flew from her fists. The sparks grew and lengthened. With another loud boom, a huge silver hammer appeared in her hands. The stem was as long as her body, and its head was nearly similar to an ale barrel. Despite its size, she lifted it as though it weighed nothing and started to spin it above her head. A deep whooshing sound filled the air as she spun her hammer. The leaves on the trees and the grass on the ground swayed and bent from the wind generated from her action. Yet, she continued to stand still.

From the shadows in one part of the woods, several inky black shapes emerged. They were the mindless minions of those who wanted the Onran. As huge as the average man, the creatures had long, sinewy necks that ended in a snake-like head with a mouth filled with razor teeth. Four massive legs enabled the creatures to move swiftly yet quietly, like the salamanders from which they were patterned. A long, muscular tail completed the look – a tail able to lash out like a whip to either stun its enemies or knock them to the ground before leaping on them to devour. 

The first handful burst out, their maws open in a strange hiss-roar as they charged towards Mran. Without changing expression, Mran swung her hammer down and to the direction of the Drukkars.


There was several snaps and thuds from the creatures’ bodies as the wind generated from Mran’s hammer slammed into them. A couple were even thrown off and smashed into the trees. The first wave dealt with, Mran began to run as well.

The Table

I dedicate this story for Lance. ^_^


There is something strange with the table. No, it isn’t the legs; they are all straight and sturdy. It isn’t the tabletop either because it is flat and wide. When you sit down against it, the table does act like any table would: keep plates, glasses, and utensils off the floor; place books, pens, and paper on it; cradle a weary head when the bed is just too far. Yet, there is still something off with the table. It is within its grains, within the wood. If you press your ear against it – softly, ever softly, it will say…


Discrepancies and Dubious Discoveries

By the second song, the crowd was clapping in tune with the beat. At the fourth and final song, everyone was on their feet and head banging. The band was that good; the singer’s voice was that powerful. Aria swayed the audience with the melodies that soared out of her throat and drilled into the audience’s ears and minds. On stage, it was as though she was a rock goddess, the way she moved and sang while the other band members made their own metal-worthy moves.

Well, almost everyone was on their feet and head banging. Daron was still on his seat, though his own head was keeping to the beat. Though he was still awed by the power of her voice, he could not believe that she’d be able to get this kind of reaction from the crowd. Perhaps he was so set on watching her closely that he didn’t seem as enthralled as the rest. Even Vermo was swaying his head to and fro to the heavy beat.

Even before the last notes of the song faded, everyone was stomping their feet and cheering. Those outside the bar looked on curiously as to why there was such a ruckus; the vibrations from the crowd’s response were felt even onto one lane of the concrete road.

The crowd was just as in the same uproar when the session finally ended and clamoured for more. Mark grinned at them. “We need beer too!” he exclaimed, to which the audience laughed. “And give our lovely vocalist here your love. She needs her rest!” Another riotous round of applause shook the building as Aria took another curtsy. Again, Daron noticed the nearly mechanical movements she did. Her curtsy looked exactly the same when she was first introduced. He knew he was right; he felt it in his gut. It was the absolute same movement.

After a final “thank you!” cried out to the crowd, The Nobodies retreated to the stage. When Aria started to move, one of the men went beside her and covered her head with a jacket. It was like they were avoiding any paparazzi-like pursuit from the crowd. When they went to the back of the stage, it confirmed Daron’s suspicions. He stood up.

Yosi lang ako,” he told his friend, who was back on his seat, panting and drinking a large bottle of beer to refresh himself. Vermo could only nod and take another gulp as Daron went out.

He had been to this establishment several times already to know where bands would go out from the back of the building. He made a beeline there, turning around two corners of the building till he reached the back, where there was a separate driveway for vehicles to unload and load people and equipment when necessary. There was also a small parking area covered in stunted grass and gravel. It was there that he saw the four men standing around. Where was Aria, though? As he neared them, he noticed a long leg sticking out from where the four men crowded.

“Excuse me,” he called out. As one, the men turned to regard him quietly. The movement was so synchronized that he was slightly taken aback and almost stopped in coming near them. He shook his head slightly and pressed on, though. “Hi, I can’t help but admire your singer. She’s really great. I wondered if I’d get her autograph?”

The man named Mark looked at him for a few more silent moments, then smiled. It did not reach his cheeks. “I’m sorry,” he told Daron, “but I’m afraid that’s difficult. Aria’s sleeping now.” As though from a silent signal, the others stepped back to show Aria.

Aria was with a woman Daron hadn’t seen before from the bar. This woman was fair-skinned and had brown hair slicked back in a ponytail. Aria truly was sleeping, and her head was leaning against this woman’s shoulder. The woman meanwhile was stroking Aria’s head absently, as though the motion kept Aria quiet. However, Daron’s attention was more on Aria. She leaned against the woman, but her arms and legs were splayed out from her, like she just dropped to the chair without any ceremony. There looked to be even no conscious effort for her to sit properly on the chair, with the way her legs were open.

He pushed further. “She got tired, huh?” Daron said. He gave a smile of his own. “She might remember me. I’m a friend, Daron.”

The announcement caused a reaction among the men. Something seemed to shudder among them, like a wave of alarm. One of them actually moved to almost block Daron’s view of Aria. A glance from Mark stilled the movement. Mark looked at him again. “Are you really?” he asked, his voice now in a whisper. The smile was still there, and Daron was beginning to get irritated from it. The man seemed to think that his being friends with Aria was a joke. He wanted to talk to Aria. NOW.

“Let’s see if you are her friend,” Mark said in his low voice. The others stepped back again. The woman who held Aria did not move from where she sat, but continued her gentle smoothing of Aria’s head. Her gaze was calmly directed at Daron, her face expressionless. “Aria,” Mark said softly, “you have a visitor. Wake up, sweet.”

At first, Aria did not stir. Moments later, her eyes slowly opened and blinked several times. Daron noticed the strange movements again as she sat up, her limbs still akimbo. She looked at him, and Daron’s eyes widened in shock when she opened her lips and greeted him.

“Hello…Daron,” she said, her voice containing nothing of the emotion she initially displayed when she sang. It was monotone, dry, and utterly disturbing. There was no recognition in those eyes. In fact, there was nothing at all. Her eyes were glass as she looked at him. Her head tilted in an odd angle as she continued to look at him blankly. “How are you? It has been awhile.”

“That’s not Aria,” Daron blurted out in anger. He turned to Mark and glared. “Where is she? I want to speak with Aria!”

Now, Mark’s smile was derisive, leering. “You cannot accept what is just right in front of you?” he asked. “That’s your problem. Aria is right here. If you don’t want to believe that, then it is of no concern of ours.” He nodded to the others and they sauntered off. The woman continued to hold Aria and look at Daron. “This has been a tiring night for all of us, Daron. Why don’t you just go home, go to sleep, and forget all about this?”

“Like fucking hell I am,” Daron snarled. He took a step closer to Mark. “What happened to Aria? She suddenly went missing for nearly six months. Then I find her here, but that woman’s not her.”

“Whatever is the matter with you?” Mark chuckled. “She went with us for singing training, of course. Why would she bother telling you that?” At the driveway, a van pulled up near them. Mark went to Aria to take her hand, and she obediently stood up. The woman stood as well and walked towards the van with its open door.

“Your concern is appreciated,” Mark said with that same insipid smile, “but there is no need. Good night to you.” Daron could only watch incredulously as Aria-if this was Aria-was led inside the van. As she climbed in, a car from another direction passed by.

The car’s headlights shined into the van. There, in the back of the van, was a figure. There was an odd contraption attached to the head, similar to headphones. When the car’s headlights swept in, Daron saw a pair of dark-rimmed glasses.

He saw a familiar pair of eyes.

Aria!” he roared. The figure with the strange headphones turned to him in alarm. The eyes welled up in sudden tears. The lips opened to say something, but no words came out. Daron began to rush the van. “Aria!”

Mark was holding the door when Daron ran towards the vehicle. He only looked at Daron, his smile now turning into a smirk. Did Daron just see a streak of silver flash over the man’s eyes? Did he just notice the man’s eyes go all black afterwards before returning to normal? The van’s door slammed shut and it quickly drove away with a squeal of tires.

“No! Aria!” he shouted. He could only slap against the rear of the van as it sped off. The one at the back was Aria, the real one! He couldn’t keep up, but he saw Aria turn to him and shake her head, tears now running down her face. It was the last thing he saw before the van disappeared into the night.

He was trembling with rage. What the fuck was happening? Who was this Mark and the others? Why was the Aria who sang in the bar a fake? Why was the real Aria crying? He’d seen her now, and he couldn’t let this go.

He’d find a way to get Aria, the real one, back.

A Discovery, A Suspicion, and Memories

“Hey, isn’t that Aria? “

Vermo nudged Daron with an elbow, and the latter looked up from his mobile and turned to where his friend pointed. His eyes went wide in shock. “Punyeta,” he hissed.

Aria, that woman who disappeared almost six months ago, the woman who suddenly cut herself out of his life, was definitely right across him. She was wearing a black gothic-inspired dress, complete with a lace corset and heavy eye makeup, but it was her alright. The way the length of her hair fell around her shoulders, albeit now slightly permed in style; her manner of standing – slightly straight, with a lean towards one side; a slight tilt of her head as she looked somewhere else – it was all Aria.

Anger boiled up inside him like a flash of molten lava almost breaking through the surface. He remembered when she went on one of her bouts of Facebook deactivation; he thought it was just another pout.  He’d been too busy with work to notice; besides, he thought that she’d be back in no time, posting her short fiction pieces and sharing strange science news. But when two, three…FOUR weeks passed with only silence from her and her Facebook account still deactivated, he worried. 

He worried more when he could not reach her. Texts did not get a reply. Calls went unanswered. He could not even catch her at work or at her home; she was either gone by the time he arrived there or she was somewhere else. It was a frustrating cat-and-mouse run around. A few days of this and worry turned to anger. How dare was she acting this way? Who did she think she was? He decided to give it up; if she didn’t want to be bothered, then so be it. However, even as he decided that, there was pain in his chest. It was like being abandoned all over once more. 

But here she was again, just a few paces in front of him. He would have stood up, marched over, grabbed her wrist and dragged her away to a quiet place to talk, to demand an explanation from her. He couldn’t. There were four other men surrounding her. They wore clothing similar in style to hers, and two of them held guitars. They waited as the stage was completing its setup for the gig tonight. “Wow,” quipped Vermo, “metal heads.”

Daron glanced at his friend. “Why?”

“Dude, would you play pop music with those outfits?” Vermo retorted. He then chuckled. “This’ll be interesting. I wonder how they got the owner to agree for them to play here?”

Daron returned to his contemplation of Aria, looked back at her. It would make sense, he mused, as he knew her to be an avid metal fan. He tried to get her to sing a pop song in another language before, to her amusing display of consternation. From one of the last times they’ve met, he made her agree that she was supposed to sing it to him after a couple of months. By the time the “deadline” came about, though, well…she was already gone. 

As he looked at her, he felt disconcerted. She was still staring at somewhere else, not minding anyone around her. Not even her band mates. She was quiet and still, almost unmoving. 

“Thank you for waiting!” the bar owner’s voice boomed from the speakers. Daron turned to see a middle-aged, swarthy man in a dark-colored polo and black denim jeans. “Welcome to another round of Free Notes, where we feature a variety of music groups each night! Tonight folks, we’re in for a rare treat.” As he spoke, Aria and the other men moved onto the stage and went to their positions. 

“Music has always been a subjective thing; it’s either you like a song or not. Most of us wouldn’t listen much to metal as it’s considered ‘noise’. However, this next band will assure you that you’ll be head banging like never before, even if you’ve never done such a thing in your life. Ladies and gents! Friends, I bring you —

“The Nobodies!”

There was scattered applause as the band members moved to their places. Aria went to the middle of the stage, the lead vocalist position. Daron stared in surprise. He’d known that she was capable of singing, but he didn’t think that she’d actually front a band, and a metal one at that. He didn’t realize that he now leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. 

However, she did not speak, even with the mike already near her face. Her head was slightly bowed and she remained standing still as the man at her right spoke into his mike. “Hi folks,” he said in a low voice. “Like Trieste said, we’re The Nobodies. I hope you enjoy our performance.” He nodded to the other man at Aria’s other side, and this man reached out and smoothed Aria’s hair. The drummer struck his sticks thrice, and the first song played in a high, heavy guitar riff. The drummer followed it up with a steady beat on the cymbals and bass drum.

All the while, Aria remained motionless. A few notes before the first verse started, though, she finally lifted her head. Her face was expressionless, but there was a hardness in her eyes that Daron did not see before in all the months he’d known her. 

Then, she started singing.

It was as though a huge gust of wind in the form of a giant fist went in and punched him in the gut. Her voice had power, weighty and unwavering. He thought her in the soprano range before, but this song made her voice lower, and you could hear every syllable, every nuance of feeling. The way she stood would make any model jealous; she owned the room the moment she opened her mouth. She gestured with her arms as she sang like a leader on a podium delivering an impassioned speech. She was like a dancer with the way she moved; her body movements told a story of war and pain, of power and guiltlessness. 

When the song finished, everyone was clapping and cheering. Vermo gave a loud whistle with his fingers. “Go Aria!” he cried. 

If Daron wasn’t so set on staring at the stage, he would have missed it. The man at Aria’s right look startled from Vermo’s cry – a look of alarm. He leaned back slightly to gesture at the other man across him with a nod of his head. The other man frowned and made a quick, snappy shake of his head. Daron’s brows furrowed at that exchange, curious to what that meant. Meanwhile, Aria stilled once more in the same pose she had before singing. She did not even acknowledge the audience’s cheers in any way.

“Thank you!” the man who spoke earlier exclaimed. He then introduced himself and the rest of the band. So he was Mark, while the other man across him was Colin. Sloane was the drummer, while Damien was on bass guitar. “And the only rose in the thorn bush,” Mark said as he pointed to the vocalist, “our lovely Aria!” 

The audience cheered again, clearly enamoured with the singer. It was then that she raised her head. Her expression was still impassive when she pinched her skirt at both sides and curtsied. The cheers became louder, but Daron frowned. It was so minute that he felt that only he saw it – there was a moment that when she bowed to the audience, it was not smooth. Her movements were jerky, almost mechanical. 

“You want more?” Mark cried out, to which the audience roared in the positive. “You’ll get more!” He replied with a quick punch to the air.

A Battle for the Princess

The ice began to envelope the unconscious Princess, crystal by lovely, shining crystal. Even though she stood, she looked as though she slept. The ice kept creeping up around her and surrounding her body.

Bjork observed the process with a critical eye, his gaze fixed on the Princess’ face. “Such peace,” he whispered. He took a step closer and touched her chin with a finger. He gently lifted her face up to get a closer look. “You -are- pretty, though in a plain way,” he said clinically. He then smiled. “Never mind,” he said, “for you’re mine now, Princess.” He moved his face closer to hers.


Bjork paused just a hair’s breadth away from the Princess’ lips and grinned. “Ah, so there you are.” He turned to see a black wolf panting a few feet away from where he stood. The wolf was bleeding in several places, and his right eye was swollen shut. The body’s jerky movements showed that he was limp in his hind leg as well. He sighed like there was nothing alarming in the wolf’s arrival. “I’m surprised you actually came. There was no need for it, though.”

Despite looking weak and battered, a low rumbling growl issued from the wolf’s throat. “Let her go,” he snarled. Bjork blinked as though surprised. “No!” he exclaimed. “Good heavens, no. Why would I? She’s quite a precious little thing, isn’t she? The crowning piece in my collection.” He leaned against the Princess’ head and nuzzled her hair. He inhaled deeply with a smile. 

The wolf growled even louder, his voice almost a roar. “PAWS OFF HER!”

This time, Bjork frowned. He regarded the wounded wolf again. “And what, -PUP-? What can a little dog like you do to someone like me?” With that, he fully faced the wolf. His eyes became fully black, and his mouth lengthened. Fur quickly grew from him and his shoulders bulked from behind him. The ground shook as his true form emerged and his paws thudded loudly against the dirt. 

The huge grizzly roared his challenge, his mouth wide open to show his fangs. “A puppy going against a royal like me? Laughable!” 

The wolf growled again and lunged forward, his own fangs bared. 

The Princess remained in magicked slumber.

Generational Voices

When I was first introduced to James Joyce, it was during one of my classes that focused on fiction masterpieces in the MFA Creative Writing program. That book was the monumental Ulysses, and one of the course’s agenda in analysing these novels was to read one per week before the Saturday class came about for the corresponding class discussion and critique paper from it. So imagine me with a nearly five-inch book and trying to read it. I only got until three chapters before I got dizzy. That was around two years ago. When I saw the short story collection of Dubliners, I was a little hesitant to go through it. The sting of Ulysses has gone far with me, and I thought that this particular work will have the same effect. I’m glad I made a mistake. The Dubliners is quite different both in scope and language, and that’s good because even those of today’s generation can understand this.

This short story collection contains 15 tales. Ranging from those just breaking into their adolescence to those in maturity, the protagonists of these stories look into epiphanies of their lives. These epiphanies are not so directly stated, though. Unlike the blissful migraine that is Ulysses, these stories have a simpler tone and language. Also, the stories are presented from the protagonists’ standpoint, albeit avoiding the first person point of view. This then presents the protagonists very much in line with their surroundings, though the surroundings themselves look to fade as we are faced with how the characters view their environment, their situation, and thus, their relationship with such. One more thing that looked to be in common with these stories is that the endings are not so clear cut. There are no definite mentions on what really happens in the end, where the reader is presented with either the protagonists’ final thoughts or impressions on what was done, seen or heard. With such techniques, the reader is left to her or his own in drawing conclusions on what could be the most possible ending.

Reading through these stories did not make me lose my mind, if that’s a good thing. It has been said that Joyce wrote these stories at the height of Irish nationalism. You can definitely feel that as Joyce is particular in mentioning each place in Ireland. The simplicity of the language contributed to a certain “silence” that the protagonists are going through, even as they go through their own confusions, questions, and ruminations. This gives me the impression that the stories can be relatable for any reader of any age. What everyday scene after all wouldn’t lead to a more “contained” manner of response? Except for truly excitable, squeal-or-shriek worthy moments, we face life with a more subdued view, unwilling to let our thoughts really come out and be seen by others. And with that, I am thankful that reading these stories did not make me go all woozy.

If you’re not familiar with James Joyce, then this collection would be a good primer. At least it will give you a sense of how his writing style, which changes a lot when he worked on Ulysses. Trust me, you’d be glad if you started with this one.

Definitions, Limitations…Contemplations

It was the late 1800s in Germany. Automobiles that had internal combustion engines powered by gasoline started to take off. The Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia was signed in the shadows. A particular manuscript was published at the personal expense of a renowned (and infamous during his time) philosopher. The year after it was published, this philosopher suffered a mental breakdown and the nation had just chosen a leader who will begin a reign of terror that will last decades.

Such was the environment for Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

Published in 1886, Nietzsche presents a critique towards the philosophers before him. He charges them with merely following the “status quo” regarding morality. He charges them with basing their philosophical musings from religious dogma, a more traditional perspective of morality where good is the total opposite of evil. His premise in the book then is to create a morality that goes beyond such dogmatic limitations through a more “individualistic” perspective. It’s quite a lengthy document, spanning nine sections that further explore this premise. It is in these sections that he breaks down how the history of philosophy, for one, has been flawed into looking into what defines “good” and “bad” into what constitutes “good” and “evil,” a profound concept that is entirely different from just being “bad.” This continues into his exhortations of how science, European cultures and even religion have succumbed to what he believes is a “mistaken” view of how life is ordered. Though it is written in a scholarly fashion (meaning there are a lot of highfalutin phrases like “tyrannically ruthless and inexorable enforcement of power-demands” and “from every point of view the erroneousness of the world”), Nietzsche goes straight for the heart and rips off the aorta. He makes no qualms of his opinions and is clear on what needs to be changed. Most striking is this particular statement: “The time for petty politics is past: the very next century will bring with it the struggle for mastery over the whole earth.”

And this, I believe, is where he hits it. Many of the ideologies right now are mostly political in nature – a push-pull of influences and power-plays that, sadly, still exist today. For a lot of countries that are held under religious influences, the perspective of what is good and what is evil mostly remain the same. “Free spirits,” as Nietzsche calls them, are still few and far in between. Nevertheless, it’s slowly getting there.

If you would like to look at how Nietzsche thinks, this is a good starter. Too bad that a year after this was published, he began his mental breakdown until he finally needed assistance and eventually died from his mental condition. The world needs another Nietzsche.