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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.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Glimpse, A Glance, A Gaze: Part 1 of 3

*Apologies for delay in updating. Time flies. But I can't. Tired. :P

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.


Part I: Glimpses

"Appearances are a glimpse of the unseen."
- Anaxagoras

Mr Stiffellatrundle stared blankly into the mirror before him. He grinned half-heartedly, and watched silently as his reflection greeted him with a similar expression. Next, he raised both his arms midway, and stretched his legs apart from each other. He watched the copycat movements in front of him once more, while allowing his thoughts to race in a million directions or more.

Mr Stiffellatrundle was seriously bored. His face twisted into a grimace, and he lowered his arms. Tapping both his feet in turn, he shook his head vigorously and squinted his eyes shut for a good few minutes.

In his mind, he saw himself. But he saw differently. There was colour, there was cheer and there was vitality.

He opened his eyes reluctantly, once he could hold them shut no longer. And saw instead the pallid reality.

“Eww,” he muttered to himself, and walked off, utterly displeased with himself.

* * *

Miss Daintygracearnest tapped the pencil in her right hand lightly against the surface of the table. Before her, a huge newspaper spread – the classified ads. Among the many, she’d circled a choice few. Her eyebrows hunched together, a frown was slowly making its way onto her forehead. She needed to decide. And soon.

The telephone rang and she looked up from her insoluble task. Standing up abruptly, she stood and flitted across the hallway to lift the receiver. She picked it up on the third ring.

“Why good morning, Mr Perkyenergy! Yes... I’m still working on it... By tomorrow? Isn’t that a bit soon? Oh... hmm... Well, I’ll let you know by evening if I’ve managed to pick out a suitable candidate. Yes yes, of course. Bye.”

Miss Daintygracearnest hung up, and returned to her spread of newspapers on the table. As she sat down in her seat once more, one particular advertisement seemed to suddenly catch her eye. She leaned in to have a closer look and squinted at the text, trying to focus on what it said.

MAN, 101 YEARS OF AGE
SEEKS EMPLOYMENT
WORKS WELL WITH HANDS
SKILLED IN SCULPTURING – WOOD AND WAX

‘Nothing very unusual,’ she thought to herself. But somehow, for some unknown reason, she felt drawn to this ad compared to the rest she’d been poring over for the last few hours.

The name... somehow sounded familiar...

She picked up her pencil and drew a rectangle around that ad slowly. Then, she got up, picked up her coat and keys, and walked briskly out the front door and into the quiet streets outside.

* * *

*Note: This poem was originally written in 2 separate paragraphs, placed side by side on a page. However, due to formatting issues on this blog, I have published it with bolded letters to distinguish one paragraph from the other. These 2 sections/paragraphs of the poem may be read separately, independent of each other, or together. Take your pick ;)

What is beauty How grace beckons
An unrivalled complexion Drenched in compassion
Bathed in sunkissed shades Soaked by harsh rains of reality
Or intelligence cloaked in modesty And simplicity unrestrained
Does it diminish with each appearance Multiplying in joy
Does it manifest in greater fullness Shrinking and expanding
With each word spoken In a heartbeat
And the thoughts floated Embracing change
High on balloons Diving the depths of oceans
Up up and away Look out down below
Into vast grey skies Sunsets and sunrises
Illuminating darkness Blind wary eyes
Where there is no indecision Opportunities beckon
Does beauty linger Grace finds a friend
Or easily drain In the plains
From one to another A perfect harmony

* * *

They were heaving boxes. And in the boxes were things.
They stood in a row. The boxes were sealed. And in it were good things.
They passed the boxes one by one, and one to another.
The boxes were stacked in rows.
Each box, a surprise.
Each surprise, waiting for someone to be surprised by.

“Wait! I’ve lost count!”

The entire row of crew that had been passing boxes down the line came to an abrupt halt in operations. Pausing, they looked at each other, and at the boxes in their hands.

These were sturdy brown boxes.
Boxes without holes.
They were heavy, too.

They silently waited.
Counting the seconds.
Musing over the boxes.
Staring at one another.

Curiousity arose, the common plague.
They wondered about the boxes.

Each of the sealed, sturdy boxes needed to be counted.
Because every person counted, and the boxes needed to be enough.

The one who yelled for a temporary halt earlier was now saying,
“Okay, continue!”

So one by one,

The people. The boxes.
The people moving the boxes.
The boxes sitting quietly in their stacks.
Counting. Piling. Moving.

Moments away to a surprise.
Good things, to seal a fate.

* * *

Miss Daintygracearnest rapped impatiently at the door before her.

Was anybody home at all?

She had been standing there for a good few minutes before what was beginning to seem more and more to her like an empty house. She dug the piece of newspaper with the ad on it out from her bag again, and inspected the address for the second time. She was pretty sure this was right – this was exactly where the Mr Stiffellatrundle supposedly lived.

“Hello... Mr Stiffella... err... Stifella – “ She hastily referred to the ad again, unable to recall how to properly pronounce the name. “Mr Stiffellatrundle? Are you there?”

All of a sudden, the sound of faint footsteps. Growing louder and louder. Then, a twist of the doorknob, and before long, there stood a man right before her.

She blinked in surprise. She had almost thought no one would answer the door at all.

“Yes?” Was the gruffy reply that greeted her.

“Mr Stiffellatrundle?” She asked tentatively.

“Mmph,” he nodded as he responded in a low, quiet voice.

She gave him a cursory glance from head to toe. She was not repulsed, neither was she impressed. He was ordinary. But there was something she didn’t see but knew immediately somehow. He had something there. Between the tiny glimmer in the eyes, the protruding belly and the calloused hands. And the big smelly feet.

Somewhere, in there.
Something.

And she had an offer to make.

She opened her mouth to speak, and began.

* * *

“That’s one thousand three hundred and fifty seven boxes we have here, Mr Perkyenergy. I’ve counted them once, and then twice and then checked it thrice. And you’ll be pleased to know that they’re fresh out of the factory. Quality assured,” the man in the bright orange uniform rattled away his words chirpily, and extended a clipboard towards Mr Perkyenergy.

“Sign here?”

“Yes sir.”

“Mm hmm.” Mr Perkyenergy scribbled away his messy, almost illegible signature. “And what if the goods aren’t as effective for the reason we bought them, as per agreement? Do we get any compensation, or refund?”

“We assure you, Mr Perkyenergy, you will not regret this shipment. Start distributing the boxes to any worthy recipients of your choosing, and you’ll soon see.”

“Ah. Well. Here you go, anyway.”

The clipboard changed hands and was back in the possession of the superbly confident delivery guy. He flashed Mr Perkyenergy the most curious of smiles. It was neither warm, nor was it cold. By no means sinister, but yet there was a knowing look behind it all.

Mr Perkyenergy shook hands for the final time with the man. Then, the delivery truck, with all its orange workmen, were soon gone.

Hand on hips and deep in thought, Mr Perkyenergy had a big task before him now.

Those boxes.
Miracle?
Blessing?
That was what the manufacturers promised.
He’d need to see it to believe it.

* * *

Mr Stiffellatrundle was shaking his head, indicating a response that most would correctly interpret as a “no”.

Miss Daintygracearnest was not easily fazed. She dug in her heels, and repeated her words. Still kindly, and ever so gently.

“Mr Stiffellatrundle, we’re not asking much. All you need to do is just follow me right now, and I’ll take you to our Distribution Centre. You’ll just need to pick out one box from there, and take it with you and open it, and do with it as you please. It won’t take up much of your time, but we hope it’ll prove to be life changing and worth the effort.”

“And... wait a minute... I get paid for doing this?”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it being paid, but I’d say you’d be richly rewarded.”

“Hmm.”

“So, what’ll it be? Do we have a deal?”

“What happens after I open the box?”

“Well, that’s entirely up to you.”

“Hmm.”

Miss Daintygracearnest cast hopeful eyes at him and held her breath, waiting for that favourable reply.

“Well...” he paused, thinking it over as he ran fingers of one hand up and down his chin, “I guess... why not?”

She heaved a sigh of relief at his words, and then said, “Okay, shall we head there now, then?”

Mr Stiffellatrundle nodded, and stepped out of the doorframe to stand just next to Miss Daintygracearnest, closing and locking the front door behind him.

“Yes, let’s.”

She smiled gratefully, and led the way in front of him, pulling out her mobile phone from her bag as they went.

“Hello, Mr Perkyenergy? Yes, I have a Mr Stiffellatrundle with me. Yes, in fact, I’m heading over right now.”

* * *

Mr Perkyenergy eyed Mr Stiffellatrundle critically.

“And why did you say you chose him again? I thought you mentioned you had some criteria about fit, able bodied individuals of a youthful age that have high ambitions of life, blah blah... ” He waved his hand and frowned disdainfully at Miss Daintygracearnest as he spoke.

Mr Stiffellatrundle’s posture slumped at the hearing of those words. He caught the undertones, and he knew what was meant by them. He hung his head slightly, and began to have the growing feeling of sheepishness, for no particularly good reason.

“Well...” began Miss Daintygracearnest, who had noticed Mr Stiffellatrundle’s reaction and felt somewhat guilty for having brought him into this rather condescending situation, “we can’t just be selecting candidates based on a standard profile all the time. Besides, if we’d just struck him out of our consideration solely based on his description or our perceptions of who he is, then we might be becoming rather shortsighted, wouldn’t we? You heard his story, don’t you think he fits the bill? And now with us having met him, wouldn’t you think there’s something here worth taking a chance on?”

Mr Perkyenergy was rather surprised at Miss Daintygracearnest’s defense. She rarely spoke up much, so he figured that - whatever her reasons were – she somehow believed she had chosen the right person for their pilot run. He studied Mr Stiffellatrundle again – the clothes, the demeanour, the earnestness. He nodded slowly as he tried to digest what she had just said.

“Okay, well, I trust your judgment, Miss Daintygracearnest. And I’m so sorry, Mr Stiffellatrundle, I hope none of what we just talked about offends you. It’s just that we have limited boxes available for this first time, and we wanted to be sure it’s distributed to the appropriate persons.”

“Don't worry, Mr Perkyenergy, I completely understand. But may I ask something?”

“Yes?” Both Miss Daintygracearnest and Mr Perkyenergy said in unison.

“This isn’t exactly a job offer as I was hoping for, is it?”

Read this next: Part II: A Glance