Shooting stars and space dust

Shooting stars come rarely, and Faith learned from her grandmother that when one streaked across the sky, it means that a soul of the dead had found paradise.

As a little girl, Faith imagined that a shooting star traveled across the sky in a neat silver-white arc. She fantasized that she could wave at it, call it to her, and she could ask its name. Maybe they could be friends, she mused, and that it could take her to paradise so that she could take a peek.

Faith opened her eyes, barely catching the short path of a shooting star — space debris, she had learned. Dirt. Her fingers dug into the fine sand she was lying on, rolling the grains in her palm and trying to feel for each individual speck. So her old “lola” thought that the souls of the departed are like dirt — they just happened to be streaking across the sky to burn and to disintegrate.

It was not the ideal image she wanted to paint of her mother.

She quickly draped her forearm over her puffy eyes, as tears fell afresh. She came out to the beach to take in the salty sea air, but all she could smell was the burning wood of the funeral pyre, the woman she knew as her mother now nothing more than a pile of ashes.

Ashes cannot make her favorite smoked rice cakes. Ashes cannot hold her when she was cold. Ashes cannot murmur, “It’ll be alright, my love…” into her hair when she was in pain…

Dry sobs heaved from Faith’s chest as her fist clenched around the sand, willing it to form into something she can hold. Wish as she might, the tighter she held, the cold grains only slipped through her fingers.

Her father might already be worried about her – it was very late, after all. But she was still raw and hurting. She did not want to face him and have him talk about the duties of taking her mother’s place as sultana. All she wanted to be at that moment was to be the little girl curled up on her mother’s lap, and she would inhale the gently heady perfume of ylang-ylang, mixed with notes of cooked rice as she traced the elaborate patterns of her blue malong.

“You will wear this malong too, when you become sultana.” Faith’s mother would laugh whenever Faith said she wanted to try too-big malong. “When you are ready, my child. And you will be, soon.”

She wore the malong to the funeral, and yet by no means she felt the least bit ready.

Another piece written for FutureLearn‘s Start Writing Fiction course. The activity involved writing something inspired by the first thing that played on the radio; and I was listening to Spotify, Boyce Avenue’s cover of Airplanes came up, and so this is what I wrote.

Faith is character I dreamed about a few years ago, and I really do want to write her story, but the last 10,000-word affair I had was with fanfiction. Little by little, I suppose I can piece it together in drabbles like this — like a draft of sorts, and fill in the spaces as I go along.

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Signs of Life (Imagining writing spaces)

When he was a boy, he liked kicking a football along the sidewalk as he made his way to school…

The writer looked up from his notebook, gazing beyond the geraniums hanging on the bars of his window. He closed his eyes, and through the breeze and the rustling leaves, he could make out the sound of a ball rhythmically skidding along the nearest sidewalk. It made for an odd beat against the chatter of a couple of youngsters.

His mother had always warned him to stop doing that, to just carry the ball instead. But it was a habit he had a hard time breaking.

His pen glided effortlessly on the pages, a meditative motion as his imagination yielded, the images in his mind brought to life through words and paper —

A loud noise and a sudden commotion interrupted his work — skidding breaks, a crash, followed by alarmed voices and the pained cry of a young child. He got up from his seat and leaned out of his window to see what the ruckus was about. His blood felt like ice at what he saw.

But all it took was that one time — an unfortunate twist of things falling into place: a wrong kick, brakes engaging too late, an unwise judgment to cross the street without looking.

The boy could have been a star footballer, if he had not chased after that ball, and if the motorcyclist had checked his brakes that morning.

This drabble was written for FutureLearn‘s Start Writing Fiction course, in which we were to describe our ideal and our worst writing spaces. As alluded to in my previous post, I find complete silence completely unnerving.

I like having subtle noises — the rustling of leaves, noises of children playing in the distance, the sound of rain, some non-intrusive instrumental music — to get me to sleep, or to help keep my concentration. I find that my writing becomes quite effective when I supplement my inspiration and work with some kind of noise. Thankfully, my output isn’t as morbid.

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Too Quiet (Imagining writing spaces)

If guards were posted at his door, he can never tell. If a rat had been scuttling around in the ventilation pipes, he would never know.

All he could hear was his nervous shifting in his seat — cotton against synthetic wood. If he sat still long enough, his own breathing became too loud; longer still, and he could swear he can make out the sound of his stale lunch being squeezed through his intestines.

“Write, or die,” his captors said. They gave him pointers on what to write, who to write about. They told him what he wrote came true — came to life; but what they wanted entailed millions of lives lost. It was unthinkable and unacceptable to him.

He was no hero and he knew that all too well. Merely writing a sentence, the sound of the pen scratching against paper and wood, the throb of blood circulating through his heart, all became so loud that it was maddening.

He was dead, either way. If he did not write, he will just be a bloated corpse floating down some river. If he wrote, his mind dies along with his soul, never to write again.

This drabble was written for FutureLearn‘s Start Writing Fiction course, in which we were to describe our ideal and our worst writing spaces. The worst, in my opinion, is maddening silence.

Also: can you guess the literary inspiration behind this drabble 😉 ?

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Moonlight calls me home

The golden moonlight lays its path on the water
A golden brick road on a glittering granite surface
It calls me forward, bidding my feet to start a journey
On and on over the surface of the sea

Fishes dance, sea grass sways, and corals sleep,
my feet painting ripples on the water
The moonlit path glitters and I walk on and on
On and on until I reach the end, and the moon hangs right over me

It shines its silver-gold light on my face,
gifting my eyes with starlight
I reach up, and it smiles; and its soft glow tells me
“Welcome home.”

Last March 31, 2017, during a trip to the Binukbok View Point resort, I got to see moonlight over water for the very first time. As I didn’t have the camera to commemorate the moment, I decided to write some poetry instead.

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Mom asks (about): Punishment, and the Promised Land


Photo by Aaron Burden

Today on Faithful Fridays, I attempt to answer my Mom’s questions:

  • Does God punish His people/children, and if so, why?
  • Why didn’t God allow Moses to enter the Promised Land?

I will do my best to do so while framing this with a further study of the Book of Deuteronomy.

So: does God punishes His people: yes, He does, and in the manner that a father disciplines his children. Continue reading

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Mom asks (for): Notes on Deuteronomy


Photo by Aaron Burden

In this installment of Faithful Fridays, Mom had asked me for notes on Deuteronomy 1. At the time I was writing these notes, I was also reading through the said book and found it difficult to take it chapter by chapter. Besides, the chapter and verse numbers weren’t part of the original text, and were only added to aid in translation and study later. I then decided to give Mom a primer on what the Book of Deuteronomy is about. Continue reading

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David the Tankman (and software keys)

One of my most memorable encounters during the entire course of my professional experience was making the acquaintance of Mr. David Maurice.

See, my first job was to give technical support for a video editing software bundled with the budding digital camera technology. One of the common questions we get is how to upgrade the software to be able to do more with it, and it entailed purchasing a product key for (if my memory serves me well) USD 50.00.

One of the key rules in customer support was to be impersonal. As an agent, you don’t give your real name or give any personal information. You are not allowed to go outside the box for fear of breaching service level agreements and confidentiality. But I was young and impressionable, and simply very eager to help. Mr. Maurice, without at first going into details, made humble requests as to how he might be given a product key. In my then limited thinking, how could an Englishman ever be lacking USD 50.00? They had British Pounds, clearly a superior currency. USD 50.00 shouldn’t be  a big deal.

Continue reading

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