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Friday, August 14, 2009

A Glimpse, A Glance, A Gaze: Part 2 of 3

*Another update! Finally! :)

Foreword


This short trilogy is based on 3 sections, each taking on 1 of the 3 words from its title. Each section is inspired by a quote randomly chosen based on the presence of the keyword in its content. There is no plot, and the story goes wherever it wishes. :)

Acknowledgments

My special thanks to Deric for the selection of the 3 random quotes and for being a supporter of these unpolished writings.


Read this first: Part I: Glimpses


Part II: A Glance

“The retrospective glance is a relatively easy gesture for us to make.”
- George Crumb

Mr Stiffellatrundle sat on the edge of his bed, staring in the direction of the strange brown box that now occupied a corner of his room. It felt like just minutes ago when he had arrived home with the box in tow.

In reality, it has been three days already since the box first entered his home. It wasn’t much of a threat – just another harmless, inanimate object to grace his rather spartan home decor. Yet somehow, Mr Stiffellatrundle has this strange feeling that there was something about the box which was alive.

Curiousity had plagued him ever since the arrival of the box. Yet, he had not come around to actually opening the box yet. He had waited. And waited. And waited.

“Just as long as you let us know in a month’s time what you’ve done with the box, that will be fine,” Miss Daintygracearnest had assured him. Those were her final parting words to him before she departed from his front door and whizzed off in her expensive, shiny car.

It had been pure silence since then. Well, not that it hadn’t been silent in his house before that. It’s just that the silence felt especially thick these past three days.

Mr Stiffellatrundle had this unnerving notion that somehow, this out-of-the-ordinaryness that was slowly bothering him would not really go away, until and unless he opened that box.

So now, here he was, staring at that brown, corrugated thing at the corner of his bedroom again. Contemplating.

He took a deep breath finally, then stood up and walked across the room to fetch the box.

* * *

Miss Daintygracearnest cleared her throat emphatically and raised the clipboard in her right hand to read the paper attached to it. There were five names on the list, and there were five people before her.

“Alright everyone,” she said brightly, putting on a warm smile, “I’m not sure if you’ve been properly informed why you’re here or not, but in any case, I’m about to explain. You five have been specially chosen. We’re about to hand you the liberty to pick yourselves a box each. This door in front of us here leads to the warehouse. Once inside, you can take your time, browse around if you like, and when you’re ready, tell us which box you’d like to take home with you.”

“A box? Whatever for?” Squealed a young lady with long, limp hair – one of the five.

“Well... basically, once you’ve selected your box, you can open it anytime and – ”

“What’s in the box?” Interrupted a scruffy looking school boy, still in his soiled uniform from having come straight over after school.

“You’ll see,” Miss Daintygracearnest said quietly.

* * *

What does your heart desire most?

That’s what the tiny label on the box said. It was positioned right smack in the middle of the two flaps with a seal on them.

Mr Stiffellatrundle stared at the words, puzzled. No immediate answer came to mind. But then again... there was something...

He closed his eyes and let the images flood his mind. He remembered. And then, he knew all of a sudden what his answer should be.

He gritted his teeth and started pulling apart the seal at the top of the box. Then, he parted the two flaps and pressed them down to their respective sides. Now, at last, he could see what was on the inside of his box.

* * *

Miss Daintygracearnest watched the five people in the warehouse in amusement. It was obvious they were all pretty overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place, and even more so by the number of boxes they had to choose from.

Four out of the five were randomly shuffling about the warehouse in a rather clueless manner, scanning the dozens and dozens of boxes, trying their best to take it all in and make an intelligent decision.

But the schoolboy was too young to appreciate any fancy tactics. He went straight up to the first box that he had laid his eyes on, and picked it up right away.

“I’ll take this one!” He exclaimed confidently as he stood right in front of Miss Daintygracearnest. He had picked on of the smaller boxes. One appropriate for his size.

She could only smile in response at his impulsive decision.

“Well, are you sure?” She said kindly, and bent down to meet the boy at eye level.

“Yes,” he nodded emphatically, and shook the box hard as he did so. “What’s inside it?” He peered at the box in his hands inquisitively.

“That’s for you to find out.” She patted him on the shoulder, and stood upright again.

“Can I open it now?”

Miss Daintygracearnest smiled again, in spite of herself. She cleared her throat, intending to tell the boy this wasn’t exactly the best thing to do since it might influence the perception of the rest about their own boxes, but she didn’t quite know how to put it nicely to him in a way he could understand. More importantly, she felt guilty about spoiling his infectious excitement.

“Well...” she began, pausing to think, then continuing, “how about we go for some icecream after this, just you and me, we can open it together... what do you say to that?”

“Yay,” the boy exclaimed in delight, jumping up and down, nearly dropping the box. “Let’s go, let’s go!”

“We’ll have to wait ‘till the rest are done first, okay?”

“Okay,” the boy seemed a little disappointed, but sat down obediently in a small, wooden chair that Miss Daintygracearnest pointed out to him.

* * *

The big brown box wasn’t full to the brim as what Mr Stiffellatrundle had expected. He was rather surprised to discover this. A huge, empty blackness greeted him as he peered into the depths of the box. Was the box merely an empty one?

Then, finally, he noticed it.

At the very bottom of the box was a mirror.

It was not a huge one, but it was large enough for him to see the entire reflection of his face in it. Mr Stiffellatrundle frowned, and the man in the mirror frowned back.

And what was he supposed to do with the mirror now?

He had to report something back to Miss Daintygracearnest by the end of the month. Would it be enough for him to say that he had just stared into a mirror at the bottom of his box? It didn’t seem likely. And he wasn’t really intending to forfeit his “rich reward” due to a lack of initiative.

So Mr Stiffellatrundle decided to reach into the box and take out the mirror. Perhaps he could think of something, a more significant way to make use of the mirror, just so he’d have a more meaningful story to tell Miss Daintygracearnest at the end of it all.

He stuck his hand in the box and extended his fingers out to pick up the mirror. But strangely enough, he found he had trouble grasping it.

He tried again. And missed.

Odd indeed.

The moment his hand came into contact with the mirror, he felt it slip right through his fingers. As if it was wasn’t solid. As though it was merely an image, and not really there at all.

He cast a critical eye on the mirror. Or what he thought was a mirror, anyway. It was baffling.

He tried again.

Digging his hand to the very bottom of the box, he tried manoeuvering his fingers in such a way as would seem logical in order to pick up the mirror. But this time, instead of gripping the edges of the mirror, he missed.

Before he knew what was happening, he found that his hand seemed to go right through the middle of the mirror, instead of him touching its surface, as he had anticipated.

He stared at the mirror and his hand, which now looked as if it had passed into a space inside the mirror. Or... beyond it. Slightly alarmed by the queerness of it all, he tried pulling his hand back out of the mirror.

However, to his astonishment, the more he attempted to yank his hand out, the further in it appeared to go. Soon, more than half of his arm had so-called disappeared into the mirror.

This was absurd.

Mr Stiffellatrundle grunted in frustration, and gave one last hard tug in order to get his hand free from the mirror. But instead, to his horror, he suddenly found the rest of his arm was being sucked into the mirror. First his shoulder, his head, his other shoulder, and finally his entire body.

In no time at all, he found himself no longer in his bedroom, but at the other side of the mirror, and apparently, in another world.

* * *

“Alright, everyone,” Miss Daintygracearnest announced in her brisk, business-like tone, “now that you’ve all chosen your own boxes, you are free to go. You can open the box at any time after you’ve gone your separate ways. Al that’s left to do after that is to let me know what you’ve done with the box and whatever’s in it by the end of the month. Alright?”

“Alright,” all the five replied in unison.

Before long, they’d all turned off in different directions to leave, and she was left with the boy standing beside her, looking up at her eagerly.

“Can we go for icecream now?” He grinned, and put his hand in hers.

“Why, of course. What’s your name, anyway?”

“Trey.”

“Well, let’s get going then, Trey.”

“I want a chocolate icecream,” he voiced decisively.

“Sure,” Miss Daintygracearnest couldn’t help but break into another amused smile as they walked hand in hand towards her car.

* * *

There was something familiar about the place where Mr Stiffellatrundle had found himself. He turned full circle, and scanned the area all around him.

He recognised the landmarks, and the shape of the roads, and the buildings. There was something surreal about it all, and there seemed to be nobody around. Or no one within sight or earshot, anyway.

Mr Stiffellatrundle started walking, turning his head left and right, trying to take in everything that was before him. Digesting and processing it as fast as his tired, sluggish brain could handle.

Out of nowhere, people began to appear. At first, they looked like mere ghosts, then the images of them became clearer and sharper to his eyes. Before long, dozens of them were in existence. They were everywhere; talking, walking, busy, engaged in life. Noise ensued. The chatter of conversation, the roar of engines of cars on the street, the pedestrians bustling to and fro about their personal business.

He knew this place somehow. He had been here before.

A voice was calling him now. He turned towards the direction of the voice. It was a lady’s voice. None other than that of his daughter’s.

“Daddy!” She exclaimed cheerily, and ran straight into his arms. The moment they embraced, Mr Stiffellatrundle felt a strange sensation. They parted, and then he looked down at himself. His clothes were different, and his hands... were not the calloused ones that he stared lately, each time he got frustrated with a disfigured piece of handiwork that he’d tried so hard to shape.

He was baffled. Extremely, completely confused.

“I’ve missed you.” The words somehow managed to escape his lips, amidst the swirl of thick emotions that was building, and almost suffocating him. He could hardly breathe.

“Me too,” she smiled at him, and took both his hands in hers.

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