Column

Winter passes, spring dawns a new year and summer graces the earth. As fast as the distracting mind of a little girl keen on exploring the world, the empress tree has grown back. Now with all her branches adorned with heart-shaped leaves, she resumes her lullaby and dances to the forever carefree breeze.

The plethora of livelihood floods down the stream, giving vigour to all flora. The wild junvenile grasses spread out like a flashmob, one blade after another and all sway to the rhythm of the wind. Gradually, as the temperature rises, so do their vibrant blossoms, painting the hillside variegated.

We are the beauty of this life
We dance from sun-up to moonlight
We embellish the world that we touch
We’re the youth that all desire

On a sunny morning, the now grown-up empress tree casts her shadow on the bank beside the stream. It is started by a turf of grass, and before the shadow withdraws to the empress tree’s root, the whole meadow chants a tune mocking her existence.

Be thankful, fellow bloomers!
The tree is a mere sinner,
A lifeless column of disgrace
To glorify our charm further!

Over and over they sing, after the sun turns in and the moon springs out. The mountains resonate it to each other, carrying it miles and miles away.

Be thankful, fellow bloomers!
The tree is a mere sinner,
A lifeless column of disgrace
To glorify our charm further!

The breeze carries the tune over to the fox’s place the next morning. Upon realizing what it is about, he runs downhill to the bank beside the stream. As he gapes at what he sees, despair overflows out of his eyes. The empress tree has succumbed to the spiteful words and turned herself into a lifeless column. Through the tears, he grieves.

Oh my dear what have I found
These malicious creatures on the ground
With their young minds and their foul hearts
To rejection they’ve made you bound

The fox stands on the hillside, tears gushing out. He howls and vows revenge for his dear friend, positioning himself ready to smash the whole meadow. In the breeze comes a melody, to which tone the fox recognizes and halts.

My little fireball, you may see
Too much wrong can bend reality
Frequent falsity becomes the truth
But all you need is constant belief!
The grasses are young and wild and free
Soon they’ll learn how fleeting life is
I’ll turn back with branches and bark
As long as you remember me.

The fox wipes his tears away and spends the rest of the day observing the grey column. As the dusk light weakens, so does the chant from the grasses.

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Placemat

The night has fallen over the lake. As a matter of fact, it has fallen over the forest and the mountains too. So has it over the ant colony.

In a certain language, people has an expression which says “dried-up shore from faraway has sunken into dreams”. Such an expression, however, does not depict tonight literally at all. First, the lake keeps rushing tiny waves up its shore. Second, despite the new moon night – which is a queer phrase too because new moon is actually no moon at all – nocturnal creatures, like crickets, are waking up.

Ants are not nocturnal, mostly. But the rights to struggle with insomnia is universal. Therefore, the worker ant has sneaked out of her bed, climbed up the edging and stayed there with all retinas eyeing the sky. The sky does not seem clear as she can only see a lone star blinking gently. 

The worker ant quietly talks to the star.

– You have moved up a bit today.

Yes, and you still sit on a rock.

– As always. Where else can I sit?

The wind blows by carrying with it a slightly long exhale.

What bothers you my lovely lady?

– How big is the world?

The lone star pauses for a while. Its intensity does not change. Neither does the caressing of the wind over the water that causes the constant tiny waves running to the shore.

You know there is only one way to find out.

– A cricket once told me the story he heard from his acquaintance, who in turn heard from somebody else.

It was about an army of ants heroically deployed across a kitchen table. They were trying to trace the source of the sweet that tasted like heaven. But then, a creature as enormous as earth itself appeared. It seized a placemat as vast as the sky, and swatted it down the army and demolished every ant. From then on, the sweet that tasted like heaven came down as a mere legend.

The lone star gives a sigh which somehow resonates to earth so much that the worker ant feels like she could hear it from behind.

Such a tragic story. But the hero ants went down in legend, didn’t they?

– You can say so.

The sky pulls its blanket and the lone star vanishes. An inconspicuous move runs through the grass and disappears, leaving the whole ecosystem deeply sunken in the night.

Clover

What a wonderful world! I’m breathing fresh air, feeling raindrops that are pure as morning dews on my fur. Look at the clouds! I have never known they are so magnificent. Oh and the wind, it is free and boisterous. I wonder how many mountains it has traveled.

The green-eyed monster stretches its limbs, shivering in exuberance. The daylight reveals its whole fluffy body  covered in fur of clovers, which now dons on a new unalloyed viridescent tone and trembles merrily to every thunder roar.

– The world is yours to explore.

Two cat eyes dreamily gazes at the greenish happy monster. Two green eyes sparkles with joy, turns to the cat eyes and urges.

Let’s embark on an adventure with me!

– I’m afraid I can’t accompany you.

Why not?

– Because the world doesn’t have the same intensity on us.

Another thunder promptly tears up the sky. Its earth-shattering sound quickly follows. The light shower has turned into a downpour. Soaked and shocked, the green-eyed monster stands still, allowing the flow of water to wash away the clovers on its fur.

– Consider the atmospheric pressure. I am a hollow serpent, I float on air. You are a fur ball made from clovers, you walk the earth. We may look as if we passed the same way, but we follow different paths. That I go with you is only misleading.

I don’t understand. You brought me out of the dark cave, you showed me this marvelous world and you’re going to leave me alone. Why?

There is water everywhere: water immensely rising up all over the swamp, water dripping from every hair (or clover), water swelling up the green eyes. The cat-eyed serpent twirls its body around and drifts slowly towards the reeds.

– Get out of here before the flood comes.

Silently picking up a clover from the ground with its tail, the serpent floats further and further. Its silhouette gets blurrier and blurrier. The green-eyed monster takes a deep breath and runs towards the other side of the swamp.

Crate

The sky is dyed in midnight blue. A thin stripe of the moon gives an impression of either a smile, or a sneer. The wind and the candle flame resume their nonverbal dancing ritual.

– All mismatches result from the difference in intensity.

A voice as dry as the pecking sound on a tree trunk breaks the silence. In response, another silvery voice gently asks.

Examples?

– Like when a bubble bursts, or a volcano erupts.

Explanation?

– Materials can’t stay balanced under inhomogeneous forces, so they rupture.

The wind gushes through and the flame collapses.

I’m on it

The silvery voice hastily speaks up and draws out a match, strikes it twice and cautiously lights the candle.

Hence the world is dynamic. The new is born from the corruption of the old.

– I, however, remain balanced. I’m a wooden crate, stripped off of all walls, having only frames to hold things together. What’s inside me is what’s outside me.

Although the intensity of its light remains unaltered, the moon itself has shifted unrecognizably a tremendous distance to the west.

– I’m static and I am becoming obsolete.

The world needs harmonious wooden crates that aesthetically hold wine bottles. Nature resides in you and you retain its congeniality.

– You are very kind.

The candle yields to the wind. This time, the silvery voice doesn’t bother to light it up again. All beings surrender to the overwhelming serenity of the night.

First Bloom

Sometimes things are ugly, not as ugly as a girl’s face mistaken for a shoe box, but as ugly as a bowl of pumpkin soup with salmon roe toppings.

A connoisseur and a skilled cook himself, the fox detests his recent polyethylene chopping board. It’s a disastrous mismatch with the whole organic kitchen in exactly the same way salmon roes’ fishy smell should not interfere with the mild sweetness of pumpkin. The day before the blizzard, the fox went to meet the empress tree down the dried-up stream. It was a typical subtropical winter day: clear blue sky, white blanket of snow with many little paw prints, and subtly quiet chill. He whimpered about his misery with the empress tree. 

I’m a creature of decency!
Why must I deal with this disgrace?
My kitchen used to be in harmony
Now my cooking’s been debased.

And he kept sobbing, burying his nose into the heap of snow beside the tree.

The empress tree replied in a tune as soft as a breeze caressing the branches.

My little fireball on the snow,
I see through what you desire.
The coherence of nature that
Makes your cooking so refined.

– No! You have no damn clue. I need nothing but a wooden chopping board!

The fox howled in despair; the leafless winter branches swayed in consolation.

Today the blizzard has cleared up. The fox is dancing his way to the empress tree. ‘As cheerful as a fox! Or better, as cheerful as a fox with a wooden chopping board!’, he whistles to himself. Drop after drop of sunlight drizzle on to the thick snow blanket, which still retains its purest white.

Oh my dear, you have to see
What has just arrived for me!
A fine wooden chopping board
Whose color is matte and earthy!
Oh my dear you have to –

The fox’s jaw drops as he witnesses his beloved empress tree has been chopped down: no more slender leafless branches which swing in consolation, only the rugged root stands motionless. Now he weeps over his endeared friend, who had her trunk cut down and made into this perfect wooden chopping board he is holding.

The breeze flies in circles, scattering spring’s golden dust over the valley. In the air, the fox hears a tune as soft as a comfort.

My little fireball on the snow
You have had what you yearned for
Don’t shed your tears over this
Sacrifice I made, because
Soon enough I will revive
As the spring has started to bless
And we are all going to thrive

The fox wipes his eyes and looks up. A tiny bud, which still holds on to a tiny stem projected out from the root, has started the first bloom of the season.

Edging

   An army of ants has colonized this side of the lake. They have constructed a pavement spanning from their nest toward the willow; a green stripe of grass separates it from the water. The sunlight is filtered through the foliage, falling apart in bright spots scattered all over the ground.

Could you please be of more help by getting lost somewhere?

   The worker ant looks up and asks the male drone who is busy adjusting the beautiful posture of his antenna on top of a grey cubicle rock, negligent of hundreds of industrious workers around. His sparkling eyes reflects iridescent spectrum from the sun.

– Let’s go out tonight.

I have to work, apparently, building this edging for the Queen.

– Why do you have to build the edging?

Because some ants are born to pave roads, some construct edgings to guard off the invasion of the weeds, and others like you just muck around with dazzling looks. 

– I take it as a compliment! 

   The worker shoots an unbelievable look at the drone and continues her work, moving another rock to the end of the edging, placing it on top of the pile, tapping it twice with her middle legs to make sure it doesn’t fall. Satisfied, she turns around to look for more rocks, exchanging hasty greetings with her coworkers.

– But why does the Queen need a pavement?

Beats me. It’s not even my duty to wonder about it.

   Ants talk by briefly touching each other’s antennas. As soon as hers has left the tip of his, she suddenly feels a tiny surge of curiosity but she immediately shakes it off. The wind swings the foliage; the sunny spots dance on the pavement. Other ants are moving back and forth while the drone is adjusting himself on the grey rock.

– Lets flee the colony together. You’ll lay your eggs, I’ll fertilize them. We’ll have baby queens to start a new home.

   Every lens in the worker’s compound eyes dilates with horror. She quickly touches the drone’s antenna back.

I can lay eggs, yes, but those are not supposed to be fertilized according to the law so they will only hatch into gorgeous haploid sperm holders like you. Even if you manage to fertilize them, the police ant will scavenge them and execute us because it’s treason, you fool!

– That’s why we need to flee.

No, the edging is nearly finished. It has taken us workers a long time I can’t give it up now. 

– But what’s the point in finishing an edging to protect a pavement with which you have no idea what the Queen is chasing after?

   In the spur of a rage, the worker kicks the drone off the gray rock, moves it to the edging and beautifully positions it. The edging has now expanded another centimeter.  

   The sunny bright spots have been translated slightly to the east. I wish I could agree, the worker murmurs to herself, but this hierarchical society defines no rights for me to. While the drone is still eyeing her, she swiftly blends herself back in the army of worker ants and hurries along the edging.

Monster

Two big green eyes blink twice, and then fix on an infinite distance which projects beyond the piece of the sky framed inside a rugged mouth of the dark cave. Those big green eyes would be very scary if they were red. They, however, are only pretty and fearful.

– I’m scared. They may eat me alive. They may cut off all these limbs I have. They may curse me under their breath. They may incise me with their glance from the corner of their eyes.

– They won’t. 

– How do you know they won’t? 

– How do you know they will?

Two cat eyes squint sideway at the big green ones; both creatures remain comfortably static inside the cave. Big green eyes roll and meet the cat eyes in a fraction of a second that is only sufficient for a butterfly to flap its wings once.

– They don’t tell me they won’t. Even if they do, I won’t be able to understand them.

A sudden wind circles the cave entrance like a myriad of bats flying through. The sky weeps onto the valley.

– A storm is coming. The swamp is filling up. Let’s get out of here before we drown.

– Aren’t you scared of monsters?

– Your monstrosity is not my phobia.

– I’m talking about monsters.

– My dear, you are the monster. In a world full of amputated creatures, the one with legs is the freak!  

The lightning cracks a fissure on the sky and lets the thunder rumble through. The green-eyed monster shivers as the rain taps supportively on its shoulders. The dark cave now stays several steps away behind his back.