Short story: “Rain”, “Bottle”, “Bookstore”

A mother and her young son sought refuge from a sudden rain in the bookstore I worked in. They were not the only ones pulled from the busy torrent of city life by the weather. Half a dozen others were standing at the porch, a few drenched to the sole of their feet; all looking miserable, eyes gazed at the darkened clouds and the slow-moving street of even more miserable humans, slopping through knee-deep water.

The young boy, about seven years of age, was exhilarated. His eyes sparkled. His head turned left and right to survey colorful rows of books. He left the mother at the entrance and dashed to the kid’s toys section.

His mother, looking exhausted from a day’s work, walked slowly between “Foreign literature” and “Politics and History” isles. She cast an empty gaze, fixated at shoulder-level, at the bookshelves. At times, she would pause to catch a quick glimpse at a rusty bike she parked in front of the store and then at the other end of the story where her son was supposed to be.

The rain outside intensified.

A coworker adjusted the air conditioner and turned on the light. It was only five in the afternoon and the storm cloud already made it seemed like seven. In the store, we always kept the air dry and cold. The fluorescent white light was replaced with natural lighting at night; though not as pleasant to the reading eyes as daylight, it gave a modern, almost sanitary feel that was, supposedly, attractive to young adults.

And on that dark-blue-and-white, sharp-edged canvas smacked dab the smeared and soaked wet passersby who were not here for the literature, but here for the roof. Rich people had cars, middle income rode motorbikes home wearing composite ponchos, only those whose shabby nylon ponchos could not protect them from heavy rain and those who forgot to bring ponchos gathered here.

“Books sell like hotcakes in this weather, don’t they?” an office lady remarked as she put a few cookbooks and two desktop ornaments on the cashier. She was among those who forgot. Not quite. While there were more people in the store when it rained than when it didn’t, not all were potential customers, only a small portion was.

I smiled out of courtesy and made no comment, quietly scanning the bar codes of her purchase.

“They are presents”, she said holding up the ornaments side-by-side. The ornaments, two ceramic, pawn-sized statues of a boy and a girl hold two halves of the word “LOVE” were a matching pair. “Aren’t they cute?” she cheerfully asked.

“Is that so? Do you want me to wrap them, ma’am?” I asked.

“Do you take credit card?”

“Yes, here”, I answered and showed her the card reader. I assumed that was a no for gift wrapping so I started putting the items in common plastic bags. It was then that I took note of loud scolding at the end of kid’s toys section.

It was the boy from before and his mother. She smacked his hands repetitively and hurled curses at him. The boy began to sob and then cried aloud. She hit him even harder, ordering him to stop crying. She slapped his face several times, making loud smacks every time, and with that she finally stopped his cry.

My coworker came near with a dustpan and a broomstick. The woman bowed her head apologetically and asked for the dustpan and broomstick from my colleague. She insisted, forcefully taking the broom and then starting to sweep shards of glasses in the dustpan. I caught glimpse of the outline of a broken glass bottle as the coworker picked up the largest fragment and took a look at the price tag.

With just that one glimpse, I could already imagine what was going on.

“Where do I sign?” the office lady urged. I was sure she also saw the scene but chose to mind her own business.

“Sign here, ma’am. Thank you for your patron. Please come again.”

Though, she would not be going anywhere in this weather.

The coworker brought the price tag to the cashier. The broken ornament was a miniature ship-in-a-bottle, an expensive one at that.

“I’m scared. I’m…so scared. I have never seen a mother like her before”, she confessed in shaking tone.

“I have but it is beyond my jurisdiction to obstruct their right”, I said.

Truth is, I would like to. But, all of us lived in a culture where parents owned the exclusive right to educate their children in however manner they wanted; however cruel they might seem to Westerners. It was also in this culture that we grew numb to the suffering of those around us.

The boy nervously approached the cashier, weeping in suppressed hiccups. His mother loomed behind him. She had this angry and worrisome expression as she drew a small nylon wrapped roll of crumpled cash from her pocket.

“Pardon me, madam, sir. But…this is all I have…for today”, she said.

From her hesitation, I realized it must have been difficult for her to lay the little money she had on her in front of us. That realization brought great awkwardness to both me and my coworker.

“I’ll bring the rest of the money tomorrow…and the day after”, she pleaded.

My coworker winced.

The young boy froze, his breaths hastened and so did his hiccups. He understood what was happening, didn’t he? He must have.

“Excuse me, I would like to pay for these too”, the office lady from before returned to the cashier with more books. Language learning and art books for the young man who was then with her.

From her conversations with this young man in his twenty, he must have been the office lady’s son. They indulged in idle chatters, about Franz Kafka’s memoir, about the magnum opus “No Longer Human” of Dazai Osamu on display at the highlight section near the entrance.

The weeping boy looked at the office lady and his son. His hiccups got louder and faster.

“Shut up”, his mother gave him a slap. He clammed up and shriveled.

This time, I was sure the office lady had noticed this woman who was so cruel to a kid. The lady’s expression barely changed, her gaze paused on the boy for a moment, but soon broke off and resumed the chatter with her son. The young man paid no attention to other people, seemingly in deep debate whether to purchase yet another classic book–Shouwa Anthology–now or order it later for online retail discount.

“I can’t watch this anymore”, my coworker said, discreetly gesturing toward the abusive mother, “You deal with her, okay?”

Then, she turned to the office lady and moved her books to another counter, informing: “This way, madam. Sorry for the wait. Do you have a coupon?…”

And so, I was left alone with the penniless mother and her weeping son.

“Dis-discount! Can you give me a discount?”

“This is a bookstore, not a flea market. We don’t bargain here”, I said.

She let out a long sigh.

Hesitantly, I looked through the coupons in my drawer. There was a glimmer of hope, expectant daze in her eyes for a moment as I did so. But, I found nothing of such natures. I shook my head and she let out another sigh. After that, she turned to her son.

“Look at what you have done, you son of a bitch. You’re just like your useless father”, she screeched and started beating her son again in front of everyone.

I noticed the office lady was watching in great discomfort. Her son had left to buy a cheap rain poncho from a nearby store. When he returned, the lady urged him to go home despite the rain continuing to pellet the windshield of cars on the street. They left in haste as though running away from a natural disaster.

My coworker also retreated to the end of toys section. No one wanted to have anything to do with this terrible woman. At this point, I too could stop pretending to be sympathetic. I was getting tired of her treatment toward her own son.

“Is that your bike?” I asked, pointing to the bike parked at the porch; the only one that was there, possibly because she did not want to pay the parking fee. “I’m afraid we’ll have to seize it until this–I motioned to the broken item–is fully compensated”, so I said.

Indeed this didn’t feel right. It felt terrible taking money from this woman. But, it was either her day’s worth of work, perhaps many days’ worth of work, or my shift’s worth of work.

“No!”

She snatched the money on the cashier and burst out onto the porch.

“Stop her!” I shouted.

But, despite the flood and the traffic, the woman was gone as soon as I got to the door. She disappeared into the rain like a phantom, leaving only the young boy behind as proof of her existence.

The boy waited alone till the bookstore’s closing hours. His mother did not return for him and his cry drew attention from passersby. As expected, these people were aware of the situation. After the woman ran away, they began to discuss openly about her abusive behavior. They comforted the boy, they gave him food and talked to him.

We turned the boy to the police along with the security footage of his deserted mother. I thought that would be the end of it. Yet, early in the morning of the next day that I received a phone call from the bookstore. It was not on the clock that day.

“Hello? There’s a crazy woman here asking about her son. Do you know anything about her?”

“…”

I was speechless.

“Tell her she doesn’t deserve to be a parent.”

“Wait! I have the money here. All of it. The money…”

“That is not the problem, is it?” I said.

“My baby girl…she was starving last night. I needed to get home and feed her. I couldn’t afford to walk. I know I don’t deserve to be a mother but…Look, I sold my bike, I have the money now. I want my son back. My children are all I have left…”

I could not speak. The words did not come out.

“Hello?”

“Stay right there, I’m coming”, I told her and hang up.

At the porch, she was waiting. In her arms was a baby wrapped in rags. She held the money in her hand, the same hand that pressed her daughter into a tender embrace. Her body swayed in the chilling morning breeze, her head rocked up and down as her bagged eyes fought off drowsiness.

“Hey!” I tapped her shoulder to wake her up.

“My son! Where is he? Here’s the money, take it! Take it!”

“Calm down. Listen to me. Listen…”

“How can I calm down? Where’s my son? I want him back”, she cried.

The baby was waken up and started crying loudly.

“Shut up, shut up, you little bitch!” she shouted at the baby, shaking up and down violently.

“Stop it!” I gripped her arms and forcefully stopped the shaking, “They are your flesh and blood! Why are you treating your children like that?”

“That’s none of your business!” she snapped.

I gritted my teeth, “Then you have no right to know where your son is”, I said.

She gasps for air, then a few mournful hics and finally lowered her head.

I let out a long sigh.

Her husband was a big better on cockfighting. Whenever his cock lost a fight, he would go home and beat her up out of spite. Whenever his cock won a fight, he would go out drinking with his buddies till he ran out of money and then he would go home at three in the morning to beat her up. When he was drunk, he would try to kill his own children as well.

“I prefer him losing…if so, he would spare my son and daughter”, she confided.

“You should call the police when that happens…”

“I don’t have money to bribe the police”, she cracked a bitter smile, “I tried that”, she added.

I sighed again. Then, I took from my wallet a large sum of money and a business card.

“You have money now, and a lawyer”, I extended the items to her.

“I can’t take your money. You worked hard for it.”

“This is not my money”, I paused to consider my wording a bit, “This is your son’s money”.

“Eh?”

“After you ran away yesterday, some people in the bookstore donated food and money to help him. They already paid the compensation in full and this is merely the surplus. Your son is at the police station. You can have this money on one condition: that you will take good care of your children from now on.”

“I-I will. Of course, of course I will!”

I shoved the money into her hand, wrapped her fingers around it and parted ways with these last words:

“I know you will.”

 

My daily battle: 1,000 word goal (Day 2)

I hit some logistical nightmare during my research today. It takes forever to get the timing and transportation right. I guess I’m running into deficit again.

Fact #1: It takes 6 hours by train to travel from Fukuoka to Chiyoda prefecture, 4 hours by air from Fukuoka Airport to Haneda Airport + 1 hour by train to Chiyoda.
Fact #2: There are only two flights from Narita International (Japan) to Dubai, the shortest flight takes 11h30m.

Me: Mission control! We have a problem. In chapter one, I wrote 8 AM to 12 PM time frame before the ceremony began. Should I move back the time frame to 6 AM?

The Planner Me: Hanbei character is a lazy ass, he’ll never wake up that early. Don’t press your luck.

Me: Well guys, better figure something out asap. They are not going to be there on time if they started at 8 AM.

The Planner Me: Well, since Lance doesn’t have a limit on budget. This can logically happen if he puts Hanbei on a helicopter, takes him to the sea (Fukuoka is a port city anyways), brings him aboard the I-Shiniko aircraft carrier and flies him to Chiyoda in a VTOL fighter jet.

The Pantser Me: Yeaahhhh, right! Can I have my teleportation device now?

The Planner Me: You’re right, this is stupid. I need a better solution.

The Pantser Me: Hang on…The guy who said travelling by plane from Fukuoka to Tokyo takes 4 hours has gone full retard. I know for that distance, it can’t possibly take that long by air.

Me: Oh, you’re right, google says 2 hours from Fukuoka Airport to Haneda Airport. What a waste of time! With the added one hour by train to Chiyoda, the travel time should be manageable now. If three hours is even considered “manageable”.

The Planner Me: Good catch! Now quickly write the rest of the trip till the orientation presentation. It should be easy.

Me: Actually, I’m sleepy, I’m in no condition for more creative writing. You know what happened the last time I wrote half-asleep. Let’s call it a day. I’ve only managed 250 but I’ve been writing for 5 hours. Yes, I put down 500 words earlier but they belong to yesterday’s goal. To make matters worse, the plan tomorrow is…out of town all day.

The Pantser and Planner Me: Yep, you’re NaNo-screwed-Mo! Lesson learned, don’t write about or be involved in cross-border romance or your love story will be 80% travelling.

 

My daily battle: 1,000 words goal

The word count for Sasaki this NaNoWriMo Camp is 30,000. Over 30 days of April, that means 1,000 words per day. I’ve cranked out more words in a day in blog posts so 1,000 words should mean nothing.

Nope.

The Pantser Me: This is going to be a piece of cake! Okay, now characters decide to spend their first date at an enthronement ceremony of the Japanese Emperor. 500 words to cover the event and 200 more words for a failed assassination. Cue for our characters to bail…

The Planner Me: Wait a minute…an assassination!? I thought we agreed NOT to take this story over-the-top.

The Pantser Me: Oh right, you’re right, I’ll just scratch that 200 words. Okay, so, nothing happened in particular, let’s just drop a hint with “this is where history begins” line. Quite enigmatic and a nice cliffhanger as well.

The Planner Me: I know where this is going…You’re going to use that as an anchor for time-dilation box time machine, aren’t you? Drop it! We’re not writing sci-fi. This is supposed to be “slice of life”, “normal slice of life”, remember?

The Pantser Me: Okay, okay….Jesus, I didn’t realize I was this bossy? I’ll have that serve as a punchline and nothing else. Alright, we’ll need to figure out a way to quickly draw attention to kTech.

The Planner Me: You’re right but…we are NOT making the Emperor break the tradition and pull shameless advertisement stunt during the sacred enthronement ceremony! Erase those 150 words now!

The Pantser Me: How about this? fast forward to the next day, we’ll describe the declassification of kTech online! It can be described as some sort of eldritch abomination that brings about a game changer into this world.

The Planner Me: And…what kind of game changer you’re thinking…

The Planner Me: Oh, you know the one. One of those gadgets in the Weapon Program. Hmm, let’s unveil the key sci-fi device of the story, the chrono–

The Planner Me: NOPE! NOPE! NOPE! No teleport device, no warp engine, no time-space weapon of mass destruction! If you need a McGuffin, make up something else! I’ll tolerate only the energy shield.

The Pantser Me: But-But…I wrote 500 more words in Chrono Triad direction…

The Planner Me: *facepalm*

Me: Let’s…just call it a day. I swear I’ll blog about you two wasting 850 words today. Mother of God…we only managed 500 so far! Thanks guys, you suck!

The Pantser and Planner Me: Err…we are…you! You’re welcome, try harder tomorrow!

 

Camp NaNoWriMo is here!

Put on your Viking helm, grab your pen and drink plenty of coffee!

NaNoWriMo camp is upon us!

SASAKI FOR NANOWRIMO THIS APRIL

As the title reads, I’ll be joining NaNoWriMo camp this April with my secondary novel project, the Romance story “Sasaki”. It’ll be the first time I’m joining a writing camp at this time of year. And I’m excited to see who will be my victim–err I mean, cabin mates this NaNoWriMo.

I’m probably not going to bother Tetisheri this camp as she’s hating me forever because I keep changing the story of White Destiny all the time (kind of make it impossible for her to write Black Existence). I see Neko is still following me from July camp. Hey Neko, if you want to spend another camp together, send me a memo.

Back to the book Sasaki I’ll be writing this April. Most of my writings have been in over-the-top Mystery, Fantasy, Adventure genres so I know I’m not terribly good at writing Romance or Slice of Life. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone with Sasaki and I’ll probably be able to crank out 20,000 words if I’m lucky. I’ll just set the goal to 30,000 as always.

Here’s synopsis of the book:

“Heihachiro Hanbei received an invitation from his high school sweetheart to work for Kiyomizu Technologies: a mysterious technology company in Tokyo, Japan. Wishing to rekindle their relationship, he accepted the invitation.
But not all were going according to plan. The company and its very existence turned out to be a threat to the government. And, his best friend who works for the government wanted him to spy on Kiyomizu if he wanted to be let off their surveillance blacklist.
Between freedom and love, is there a way to achieve them both?”

It almost feels like I’m begging for Mystery genre with this kind of premise. Old habits die hard, I can see myself resisting the urge to turn Sasaki into an epic Sci-fi as its source material was this entire camp already. God! This is going to be hard. I’ll need new writing music; something serene, something not epic, and something NOT from Two Steps From Hell!

SMALL UPDATE FOR WHITE DESTINY

At the present time, I’m rewriting the entire encounter with the Witch in chapter 5. It’s basically a merge of the old chapter 5 and 6 with more focus on the Scholar in preparation for his story arc. I thought I skimmed through his parts too quickly in the old revision. The latest revision of chapter 5 will be ready this week.

I can’t promise chapter 6 though.

Admittedly, I have no plan whatsoever for chapter 6 at the moment. Chapter 7 is already written  and it covers the battle of Ironheart against Horseman of Death and his undead legion. I can steer the story in chapter 6 in a few directions. I can either focus on fleshing out the Illuminati order or I can focus on the greater mystery behind everything.

Either ways, I will have a few choices in regard to chapter 7 as well. I can choose to follow the old direction and have the Archbishop appears in Ironheart to fend off the Horseman. Or, I can move the actual encounter with the Archbishop to the Witch’s hut in the Dark Forest. At the moment, I’m sort of leaning towards the second option now that the Witch has allied herself with the Priestess’s party.

New book project: Sasaki

This January, I have decided to push through the novel adaptation of my oldest and bulkiest roleplaying game: Imperial Experiment. I adopted the name “Takahashi Fujihita” from Imperial Experiment so this book means a lot to me. I’m glad I finally get down to writing it. The new book is officially named “Sasaki” after the main heroine Sasaki Aiko.

In celebration of the blog’s one-year anniversary, I’ll release the first chapter as promotional material. You can find the fully formatted chapter here:

http://1drv.ms/1QfMzW9

Publication and Licensing

Unfortunately, I have no plan to publish Sasaki on this blog due to foreseeable licensing issues.

The original Imperial Experiment was a crossover between games from three authors: Lightning Ray (me), Soulstone Splinter (aka Vormur) and Ananta Ein. Ein and I are close friends so I won’t have any problems getting his permission to use elements from his games in the book. Furthermore, I fully intend to invite him on board as the editor for this project.

The problem is Soulstone Splinter who has vanished without trace and I have no idea where he is now. Last time I heard, he got into a relationship with another roleplayer in real life and abandoned his online identity.

Lessons from White Destiny

In writing White Destiny, I learned a few things about storytelling and perspective modes.

For starters, Sasaki will be told in first-person perspective, from the view of Anata Ein’s character: Heihachiro Hanbei. I realize I have never fully utilized third-person limited perspective in White Destiny and it seems I’m no where experience enough to do so. Hence, I will pick the (arguably) easier mode for now. Perhaps, I’ll come back to third-person perspective at a later date.

Another thing is that, I start Sasaki with a genre in mind. Unlike White Destiny, which is all over the place and I have no idea which genres it fits in specifically other than Fantasy, the main genres for Sasaki will be Romance, Slice of Life and Drama. I believe these genres can bring out the most of first-person introspective writing.

I know it will disappoint some people who participated in the original game that I might have to skip the Action and Adventure parts in favor of the main genres. Furthermore, I plan to use only a bare minimal of Sci-fi elements. The book will remain in, for the most part, a low fantasy setting. I don’t want the Sci-fi parts to hog too much attention from good ‘ol human emotions: trust, greed, jealousy, anger, and love.

Looking forward

I’ve already finished the first two chapters of Sasaki. The writing speed for the new book is phenomenal and with the amount of materials I have from Imperial Experiment, I can make things very concise and still achieve novel-length.

The other day, I found a nice text-to-speech app called “Kyrathasoft Text To Speech” to replace the broken NaturalReader app. Using the new app, I can perform text flow editing technique I was forced to abandon from chapter 4 (White Destiny). Before the next chapter release, I plan to flow-edit chapter 4-6 and make them sound as great in audio format as the first three chapters.

For the time being, I’m considering rewriting White Destiny in first-person perspective. It sounds like a pain in the ass to change the game plan now that the story is at chapter 6. It is a pain in the ass but the benefits of a complete revision might outweigh the cost. I’m still considering my options though.

Chorizone’s poetic verses and opening scenes #4 [End]

Chorizone's opening scene header 4
The third flag
Starting of a new semester

That one sunny day of February
The voice of lecture, exposure of art
A learning Monday, a morning in class

In the circle of friends, a quick note is passed
All is happening inside the lecture hall…

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Not everyone arrived in class on time, holiday spirits still infested the mind of our friends. Parties went, school came. As this was the later half of the academic year, course work would only be more intense than anything they had seen so far. With their current giddy-giddy-happy-two-shoes manner at the time, they would feel the heat burning their free-time away in a week.

Despite the absence of several regular skippers, the classes proceeded without interruption. First period, for the majority of them, was Academic English. As the professor informed the syllabus, many outspoken students couldn’t hide their obvious excitement. They would be studying “Speeches, presentations and interview” this term, expect funny tripped up moments from the quieter population.

It was in the middle of class, the lecture was ongoing and there were snores from the back row. Many of them were surfing facebook or playing games on their laptop. As usual, a few members of the Da Capo x Radio club were missing. They didn’t take on the same major, they didn’t perform equally academic-wise and they were blessed with the blissful flexibility of higher educations and, they no longer had parents pushing them from behind.

But doesn’t freedom come with responsibilities? A reminder of their ordinary days. Begins…

Chorizone’s poetic verses and opening scenes #3

Chorizone's opening scene header 3
The second flag
Searching for a part-time

That one warm evening of February
The orange rays of dusk, the blue crackles of fire
Another crowd of strangers, another song with no beats

Upon that dust-covered wall, a guitar sleeps lonely
All is happening in a bar across town…

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Following Juan’s suggestion, our group of friends traveled across town into the hustle of a metropolis. The city is ever crowded, especially in the weekends when its citizens briefly escaping the harsh grip of realities and indulging themselves in the enjoyments of a cinema or restaurant.

Across the street is George Foreman’s Bar & Grill, their destination. The plan was to regroup with everyone and find out more about the audition next week, then perhaps an end-of-spring-break party if everything went well. Together with the radio club guys who kindly offered transportation for free hugs, the Da Capo girls met up in front of the restaurant where Juan departed from his afternoon shift.

With them was Maria, the Student Council classmate who acted as their guide and guardian. Clearly, it was hard to put high hopes on the brain-without-brawl engineers and the eccentric acquaintances, siblings, paparazzi or whatever when things take a turn for the worse.

An extraordinary break from the daily routine. Begins…