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Monday, July 18, 2011


At first, I think it might be the hum of a truck passing by on the street below. But after a few seconds, the roar has grown louder. The only trucks that drive that slow here are the garbage trucks, and I don't hear that ice-cream jolly jingle that accompanies them, so that's out. Besides, it's not 9:45 – not trash time, anyway. I don't need to look out the window to know what's going on, but a curiosity about what that much water falling from the sky looks like draws me in.

I pull my face back from the cracked window of my bedroom, as stinging bullets of rain barrel through, onto the cold tiled floor. It's hard to say what the downpour looks like – there's too much water flying in my face to make anything out. My glasses are in need of wipers after a moment's glance.

Still, what's outside is not what my mental image of a typhoon might have been, had I ever taken the time to form one. Palm trees sway with long trunks that improbably refuse to break against winds that propel water to the earth in bladed drops, like a giant window in the sky has been shattered. But, it's not so bad. Just a lot of water.

Anyway, I have everything I need. That's not saying much – a bag of rice, a jar of raspberry jam, raw strips of beef, enough mushrooms, and those little baby corns that come from huge seeds, to pass as a meal, and a six pack of black tea juice boxes. Enough to last me a few days. And some bug spray, too. I haven't needed it in a month, but the torrents of rain have brought back the nightly tickling of my legs under my desk, by mosquitoes eager to cause me about a half-hour's worth of mild skin irritation, followed by an inconsequential red-pink bump that will persist for three to four days.

Hours pass; rain falls. Sometimes, waves stream down my window. Other times, the fall quiets into a trickle that feels for a second like the norm – how the world should be.

More hours pass. There are books I need to read, some work I need to get done.

More hours pass. Okay. So, maybe this is getting a little old. I look outside. It is not raining. Startled, I almost jump, turning around and reaching for the first long shirt I see. I don't even know where I'm going – probably nowhere. At least to the exit of my complex.

There's no telling how long this will last. The streets of Kaohsiung only occasionally offer shelter from rain, in the form of uneven awnings of maybe a block or two of buildings. Get caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time and – sorry – you're soaked and chattering, even in the heat of summer.

I start walking, outside. Where, where, where? The Hanshin Department Store. I can get more food there, from the supermarket on the lowest level. There's a bakery there, too. Maybe I can get some ramen in the food court. Rain trickles down.

Shit, shit, shit. See, Chance, this was a terrible idea. This is why you always get caught out in typhoons here. You see dark clouds, and you're like, yeah, whatever, and then nature shows you what a tool you were being. This has happened what, three, four times now? You get soaked every time. You've been caught out in every typhoon that has made landfall since you've been here. But do you learn? No, of course not.

By the time I'm done berating myself, I'm at the department store, a towering ten story monument to high quality consumer goods at high quality consumer prices. Also, there's a great cookie stand on the bottom floor. Wonderful little chocolate brownie things, you can get a bag of them for about a few bucks. The rain is still just trickling down. I'm not soaked.

Ramen is had. The bakery is out of French bread, which was the main reason I had wanted to go there. I think about getting something else, but everything looks bland and unappetizing when you can't find the one thing you're craving. There's no real replacement.

Okay. Return trip. Maybe it's not raining. Okay, that's dumb, it's probably raining. But maybe it isn't raining that hard. It wasn't when you came in. Maybe it came down really hard while you were inside, and cycled back, and now it's light rain again. I step outside. It is not raining.

Eyes widen. My pace is quick. A golden opportunity, but you need to move fast. I mind my steps when I reach tiled, smooth storefronts. You'll slip on them even without rain. Like John Wooden said, 'Be quick, but don't hurry.'

So I quickly, without hurrying, head down the street back toward my apartment. Rain trickles down. Okay, you've got some leeway. But you know it could start pissing down rain any second now, so maybe you need to move. But I don't run. Something about running in public when you don't have a pair of gym shorts or jogging pants and a t-shirt on just doesn't look right. Like you've made a grave, public mistake, and you can feel the mockery and scorn emanating from everyone around you like radiation waves. Or maybe I'm just imagining things.

Back at my complex, key's already in my hand. Made it, no sweat. Just a few raindrops. Back to reading. Time stops mattering, so I don't know how long it was before the roaring started again. Thunder shook the night air, and my window, as I drifted off to sleep. The second night of a three-day weekend, held prisoner by a single-minded, unfeeling warden who is, fortunately, prone to the odd irresponsible nap while on duty.

I wake up. More roaring, more sheets of water crashing to the earth. The warden doesn't sleep today. But still, for something with such a foreboding name – typhoon – it's not so bad. I censure myself. Obviously, there have been worse typhoons. This one is probably not hitting Taiwan head-on. These storms have caused floods, cost lives. But this one, this one's not so bad. Not worth complaining about.

Hours pass, the warden watches. I sometimes look through my window, through the off-white bars that enclose it. I take my glasses off first, now. Books are read, work is done. Okay, so this is getting a little old. But still, it's not that bad. Could be worse.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spaghetti with Chuck Roast

I threw this together a while back, and I liked it.

1 lb chuck roast
2 16 oz cans plain tomato sauce
1 8 oz can tomato paste
5-6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp parsley
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp oregano
Handful of salt
Dash of ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Any kind of pasta you prefer

Prepare the sauce first, by heating 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Add 5-6 cloves of minced garlic and the parsley, stirring contents while heating. Once the garlic becomes golden, add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt, ground black pepper, and red wine. Stir well. If you are using fresh basil or oregano, add it in later, for a stronger taste. Bring sauce to a boil, then cover and let simmer for a half hour.

Chop up the chuck roast into chunks. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into a frying pan and heat. You can heat a couple cloves of garlic in the oil, too, if you want. Add chuck roast and rosemary, and cook for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Pour contents of frying pan into the sauce, reserving and discarding some oil. Stir well, and let the sauce continue to simmer for another twenty minutes.

Prepare pasta, and serve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lennon Wall

A sprawling medieval castle dominates half the view from the bridge, which does not have the throngs of people that it is usually congested with during the warmer months of the year. The castle is punctuated by a great brown Gothic cathedral, its spires and buttresses cutting into the heavy, grey sky above. The stillness of the air, and the slow movements of the smattering of people oppressed by the bitter cold swirling up from the river below trudge through the frozen patches of snow on the cobblestone path below. Ducks rest on fragile ice floes, barely discernible from the frigid water underneath. In the distance, snow covers the antiquated city, throwing all who wander through into a Baroque metropolis. It's all a grand masterpiece, a testament to the greatness of human potential. Yet, this treasured relic of the past is not what I have come to see today.

Prague is a wonder, and it is impossible to not be charmed as you wander through the maze of streets and alleys that somehow always take you to where you want to go. I am here today, though, not to see this unspoiled beauty, but beauty from an often unfairly denigrated practice that shines light all the same on the limitless potential of humanity.

The Charles Bridge leads into the Little Quarter, which, if you follow its main streets, will take you right to Prague Castle, literally and figuratively lording over the entire city. If you go off the main street, however, you will come across a wall like no other you will see in Prague, and when you consider the history behind it, like few others you will see anywhere else in the world.

The Lennon Wall is coated with graffiti art that stretches back to the times when Communism had its hold over the Czech Republic, then part of the larger Czechoslovakia. Lyrics of Beatles songs trail off into inspirational quotes, meshing with peace signs and portraits of Lennon himself. The highest parts of the wall contain scattered tags, including the word "láska," Czech for love. These bits and pieces are the signatures of those committed enough to reach higher to the empty spaces that remain as unused canvas, begging onlookers to help them take their rightful places as bearers of love, peace and hope. The rest of the wall is art blended into art, and times blended into times, creating a lasting and living tribute to not just John Lennon, but the ideals of love and empathy that he lived for, and plead for with his music, which today remains every bit as permanent as the very wall I now stand in front of.

The wall, once unremarkable, became as legendary as the people who inspired and created it during the 1980s. Students would come here, each one expressing their individuality and unshakeable belief in love and peace in the face of a hard-line Communist regime that would not hear anything of it. Annoyed, the police painted over the pleas and poetry and petals, until not a trace was left. The police were even more annoyed when they saw that the job would need to be done again two days later.

Today, there is a massive portrait of John Lennon, in brilliant pink and black, that stands out against the rest of the wall. He is staring out at the few people who have come today, through the biting cold and swirling snow, to celebrate the ideals of love and peace and be inspired to spread those ideals around a world that desperately needs them. There is a quote next to John Lennon. It is from Albert Einstein, but it looks as if John himself is saying it. He says, “Imagination is more important than knowledge, knowledge is limited, imagination encyrcles the world.”

It has been nearly thirty years since this beige wall on a tired side street near the Vltava River was transformed into a monument to human perseverance and the capacity within every single person for love and peace. The police kept painting the wall over, but they were fighting one of many losing battles at the time. Those police have long since faded away into the cloudy memory of history, but the Lennon Wall lives on, and the art of creation has never ceased.

This portrait of Lennon, serenely giving the world he looks out on two thumbs up, did not exist two weeks ago, and in a few months or years will most likely vanish, lost beneath layers of paint that are sure to be added. New people will come, and they will bring their own unique visions of love and peace. They will paint over this masterful portrait, not in beige, but in all colors, and in the process, they will help to create something infinitely more beautiful than any single piece of art on this wall. They will ensure that this monument remains as alive as any person on earth, because love and peace can only survive if we, today and in the future, work to keep them alive. Someday, nothing on this wall today will be seen by passersby. But, underneath all the layers, all the colors, and all the words that will be added from now until then, that portrait of John Lennon will still be there, looking out on the world and showing his approval.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vegetable Quiche

6 eggs
1 cup cream
½ cup milk
1 cup ricotta
Artichoke Hearts

Mix together room temperature cream, milk and ricotta. Beat in eggs. Add salt, pepper, paprika and nutmeg, to taste. You don't need to use very much nutmeg, in particular. Take a 9'' cake pan, and coat it with vegetable oil lightly. Chop up some spinach, dice one zucchini, and put both, with artichoke hearts, on the bottom of the cake pan. I would use five or six leaves of spinach. You can also use about 10 oz of frozen spinach. If you want, chopped ham, chopped mushrooms, chopped onions, or bacon bits can be good, as well. Pour the mixture into the pan, and put in a pre-heated oven at 325 degreed Fahrenheit. Let bake for 45 minutes. Remove, and let it settle for 10 minutes.


8 Roma tomatoes
6 leaves basil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 baguettes french bread
olive oil

Wash tomatoes and remove stems. Try to remove as much of the seeds and juice from the center of the tomato as you can. Dice each tomato and place into a bowl. Mince the garlic and basil separately and add to the tomatoes. Mix. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix again. Add freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and mix again. The bread can be served as is or toasted in the oven for 5 minutes at 450 degrees. Either way, slice the bread in about 1/2 inch slices. If you toast it, you can add some olive oil onto the pan before putting the slices in the oven. Serve.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Inception is a masterfully crafted film. That much can't be denied. Every technical aspect of the movie is spot on, the acting is engrossing and visually it looks like...well, a dream. On the surface, it seems difficult, if not impossible, to find fault with Christopher Nolan's latest, but if you try to dig a little deeper, you might find yourself hitting bottom sooner than expected. Despite sporting such a high, cleverly constructed concept, Inception turns out to be a shockingly straightforward affair, barely scratching the surface of an incredibly compelling idea.

Once you understand the overarching concept of dream manipulation and dreams within dreams, which is made abundantly clear by the avalanche of expository dialogue in the first third of the movie, Inception careens through a fairly simple, though boldly original, plot. Nolan is so meticulous about explaining his world that in the last half of the movie, we already know everything there is to know; the only thing left is to watch our heroes get from point A to point B. There are no kinks, no hidden secrets (save for Cobb's (Leonardo DiCaprio) personal issues, which are either known to the audience for most of the movie or turn out to be fairly predictable) and no surprising turns. Granted, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but in Inception, it's hard not to feel a little let down that there wasn't any more to Nolan's maze-like dreamworld than what was essentially lectured to us, in oftentimes redundant fashion, in the early going.

Every member of this ensemble cast turns in a fantastic performance, which makes it a shame that so few of the characters ever achieve relevance to the story. We become intimately involved in Cobb's personal battles with guilt, his memories embodied in the specter of his deceased wife, Mal (played exceptionally well by Marion Cotillard), but we quickly find that there is not much to know about any of Cobb's teammates. It feels like everyone is just along for the ride, and we never get insight into anyone's motives, desires, tendencies or anything remotely compelling. After a while, it gets a little boring to watch so many characters that have been reduced to either plot points or set pieces. Walking out of the movie, I found it difficult or impossible to remember half the characters' names I had just spent nearly three hours watching, which for me is usually a good indicator of how much I was invested in those characters.

The focal point of Inception is, of course, Cobb: his struggle to return home, and his struggle to overcome the guilt he feels about the loss of his wife. Cobb is the only character in the film who has any sort of development, yet it is a choppy and uneven development. Straying from the artful way he slowly and gradually transformed a frightened, directionless Bruce Wayne into the brooding, determined Batman in Batman Begins, Nolan presents Cobb's development in snapshots: here we see Cobb defiantly resisting pressure to face his guilt; here we see Cobb forced to trust an outsider with his secrets; here we see Cobb facing down his guilt and finally conquering it. Each emotionally charged scene featuring DiCaprio is well acted, and well executed, but none of them are woven together. It's a step-by-step approach to character progression, and that makes for some unconvincing drama at critical times in the movie.

It's worth mentioning again that really, despite all the issues I have listed, Inception is a superbly crafted piece of art. Rare are the times we see such a fresh and daring concept put together so confidently and intelligently. If Christopher Nolan did indeed spend the better part of a decade working on this screenplay, the dedication shows. He also deserves credit for serving up an ending that will no doubt be debated for years to come, carefully laying breadcrumb trails of evidence for both sides of the fence to follow, rewarding repeat viewings. The entire cast turns in spirited performances, and Hans Zimmer's score perfectly induces just the right feelings of tension, relief and catharsis at just the right times. We are treated to a radically imaginative world, but ultimately not a whole lot of dramatic tension to populate it. Any chance Inception had at being thought-provoking was snuffed out by the glut of weighty, technical explanations that made dreams make a little too much sense. At times, I'll admit I felt guilty about feeling bored in the midst of such a dazzling display of artistry, but I could never find myself emotionally invested in the people on screen, and a telegraphed and predictable plot didn't help matters, either. Inception is good enough as it is, but as the forger...what was his name again...Eames says, “You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Familiar Room


He was imprisoned, voices bearing on him from all around the familiar room. The basketball in the corner complained about its lack of use. The family photograph on the wall demanded an explanation for the lack of communication. The blanket on the ground condescendingly inquired as to the whereabouts of that nice girl who always used to come by. The symphony built up to a crescendo, and he could take no more.

Elias was not mad. The voices were friendlier, usually. Some days, they were more contentious, and on those days, Elias would take a brief walk outside. He shoved his bare hands into the pockets of his faded jeans, to protect them from the outside elements. The night air was frigid, as if the world was encased in an imperceptible tomb. Stolid oak trees lined the street, their vibrant green hues forgotten in the tenebrous pall of night.

There was an abandoned house not far from Elias’ own. Paint had begun to peel from the front months ago. Elias looked at it curiously, its former grandeur permanently seared into his pale green eyes. The house, once the home of a happily married couple and their two energetic young children, was now almost unrecognizable. The children had both left, one to college and one to war. The brightness in the couple’s faces gradually drained, and grew pallid. One day, they received a phone call from the police department in the city of the university to which one of their children had gone. He had died of a heroin overdose. The couple left to identify the body. They never returned.

The wind wailed mournfully, the lone sound assailing an otherwise peaceful silence. Its force hindered Elias’ movement, and he reluctantly turned back, accepting the wind’s guidance as it pushed him back toward his own house. Moisture had accumulated in his eyes, and he hurriedly wiped it away with his sleeve. A strong wind will do that to you, he assured himself.

Translucent light seeped into the room as the day broke. Elias shambled through the house and looked out the kitchen window. The encroaching light unmasked a world shrouded in grey. The light’s source could not be seen; it was as if the clouds themselves emitted what little light there was to be had, and if they dissipated, the world would be reduced to nothing. Water filled the cracks in the pavement below, as a strong rain fell over the street. He listened to the rain’s assault on the windows, and was comforted. It drowned out the voices.

Elias’ stomach felt empty, and he remembered that he had not eaten in over half of a day. He made his way to the refrigerator and scanned its contents. He shook his head. Combining all those ingredients to make something that was going to last a matter of minutes seemed like too much of a hassle. A lone pear had slunk back to the corner of the bottom shelf. He let out a soft, short chuckle. “Thought you could hide?”

Elias sank into his couch, legs outstretched. The television, a portal to worlds uncharted and less mundane than his, came to life on command. He briskly explored a few of these worlds, eagerly. A documentary about bullfighting in Spain, a sitcom set amongst the towering skyscrapers of New York, a movie about lovers in France; they all opened themselves up to him, and he fell into their warm, digital embraces. Wrapped in their warmth, his consciousness floated away piece by piece, until his eyes, unbeknownst to him, closed.

Her face flashed in his mind like an after-image, smiling at him lovingly. Elias opened his eyes. She was gone, but her voice hung in the air, lilting over the hum of the television. A nearby pillow pulled tightly around his ears did nothing to exorcise the voice which currently possessed him. He tried desperately to capture sleep, but found it elusive, like a mouse that taunts a cat by poking its head out of a hole in the wall, only to pull back once the cat raced near. The struggle continued until, at last, sleep caught him instead.


He was in a vast, dark cavern, lit only by luminescent rocks that adorned the walls. Rising to his feet slowly, Elias allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness. The only noise to be heard was the sound of his breath, coming and going lightly. He surveyed the yawning expanse before him and was awestruck; the rocks glowed with brilliant shades of indescribable hues spanning the entire spectrum of visible light, illuminating deep pools of crystal clear water and great, towering trees, with trunks wider than the greatest of modern skyscrapers.

The dark, smooth barks of the trees stretched upwards, until the trees disappeared into a seemingly endless darkness. Large, lavender colored fruits fell from the unseen tops of the trees, coming to earth as slowly and gently as snow in late autumn. Elias caught one in midair, and bit into it. The flesh burst with juice, filling his mouth with an unimaginable sweetness and unleashing an intoxicating aroma, finer than the scent of a sea of roses and carnations. He looked around once more, and saw everything he needed in order to survive: water, food, and a safe place to sleep. He smiled, as a feeling of warmth spread through his body, filling him from head to toe. For the first time since he had been a child, he felt like he was home.

“You do not belong here.”

Elias turned his head wildly, looking for the owner of the voice, but the cavern remained undisturbed. No trace of an intruder could be found. He was alone. He must have imagined it. After all, the voice had been so soft, an almost imperceptible whisper. He crept cautiously across the cavern, conducting a cursory investigation. There was no one else but him. He had imagined it! The warmth, which had temporarily drained, returned, and he laughed at his overactive imagination. He approached a nearby pool of water, and began to drink.

“You do not belong here.”

There was no denying it this time. The voice was much clearer and much more audible. Elias strained his eyes in the faint light, searching for answers. Where was this villain hiding? The air around him seemed to shift, and he stood frozen. Beads of sweat formed in his palms and dropped into the pool below, creating small ripples across its once placid surface. He had felt something. It was not a physical sensation, but a feeling of something oppressive in the atmosphere. It permeated his body, and dampened his soul. A faint wind began to blow.

As if carried by it, Elias followed the wind. The piquant charm of the cavern had been irrevocably, if only slightly, tarnished. Elias searched the cavern and still found the rocks, trees, and pools to be pleasant and inviting. Nothing had changed, he told himself. Elias smoldered in defiance of these crass interruptions. This place was hallowed, sacred in some inexplicable way, and he would not be told that he did not belong.

The ground began to slope downward. Elias zealously stormed across the cavern to confront any insipid force that would dare try to undermine his presence. The rocks around him grew brighter, illuminating more of the world around him. Elias could now see that the whole cavern was shaped like a giant amphitheatre, and that he was heading to the stage. He tore past the slabs of stone jutting from the earth, resembling crude seats. In his stupor, he failed to notice a smaller stone directly in his path, and his foot struck the top of it. Elias crashed to the earth and tumbled downward along the incline until he reached the bottom, where his body came to a violent halt. Furious, he pushed himself up, ignoring the drops of crimson falling from his hands, poisoning the ground below.

The stage was a majestic tree, overseeing the entire cavern like a medieval castle lording over its realm. Hundreds of lavender fruits lay scattered under its immediate dominion, in varying states of decay. Most had cracked, their dried skins revealing pale, rotting flesh underneath. The sweet smell was absent. More pieces of fruit floated down from the branches. They withered as soon as their journey downward had ended.

The rocks emitted a strong, fluorescent light that illuminated the entire cavern. The light drained the cavern of all heat, so that the beads of sweat on his body began to freeze, chilling him as the crystals dug into his skin. Elias’ eyes burned as he gravitated towards the great tree, as if being pulled in by a grotesque vacuum. A pall had fallen over the entire cavern, and his footsteps echoed against the desolate silence. At last, he saw the vacuum, the source of the voice, and the source of Elias’ rage.

It was formless. It appeared to be a billowing black cloud, hovering above the ground and towering over him. The cloud somehow resembled a human, or perhaps only gave that impression. The cloud flickered and fluttered like a tattered, ancient cloak which has seen far too many storms. Two hovering, glowing orbs were transfixed on him, boring through his body. Elias’ head felt heavy, and bowed to the haunting presence of this omnipotent specter. Its command over him went far past the sense of sight, as he experienced unfathomable dread in his remaining senses. All he could feel, all he could imagine, were those two awful orbs. There was no escaping them.

“You do not belong here.”

The voice was calm and compassionate, like a doting mother to her small child.

“Yes, I do!”

“You do not belong here!”

A thunderous roar came from all around him, as if from the cavern itself. The fruit had begun to fall as proper gravity on our planet would dictate. Their soft, red insides exploded into unrecognizable stains on the ground below. The snowfall had become a hailstorm.

“You do not belong here!”

A faint hissing rose from underneath him. The pools, once placid, began to bubble and froth, steam erupting into the air. A sulfuric odor intermingled with the floral scent, causing a horrible wave of putrescence to permeate the atmosphere. It was the smell of sweetness tainted, irreversibly.

“You do not belong here!”

The rocks’ gentle glow changed, the myriad hues dulling and emitting beams of a searing red. The cavern had become glacial, and the moisture in his eyes clung to his face. Elias flung his head to and fro desperately, like a cornered fugitive with only one bullet left, to find some part of the cavern that had not been transformed. Despair spread where warmth once did. The cavern still seemed so familiar. It could still be the sanctuary he remembered from such a short time ago.

“You do not belong here!”

A gathering of clouds had formed, watching the lone actor writhe on stage. They leered at him, their voices, in unison, declaring a single, inarguable truth.

“You do not belong here.”

The voice came in a whisper, again, from behind. Elias quailed as the frozen tears melted and flowed down his face and into the ground beneath the great tree. Elias’ eyes slowly rose to meet the orbs, now directly in front of him and glowing with kindness, and without malice. The voice, at last, spoke once more. Pained, it pleaded softly:

“Please leave.”

Elias felt his body jerk upwards, and was thrown from the ground. He hurtled towards the canopy of darkness and saw the fruit fall from the branches and begin their descent, gentle once more, like snow. He was propelled past the top of the great tree, the flurry of fruit falling slowly from it, creating a sea of lavender and emitting a smell sweeter than he could ever have hoped to imagine. Elias passed the tree, and was banished from the cavern.

He continued upward, and looked down at the entrance. Teeth-like cogs began to mesh together at one side. They continued all along the mouth of the cavern, until it was sealed shut. Sinewy green vines as thick as his arm grew up from all around the mouth of the cavern, intertwining and coagulating until the teeth were sealed away from view, the entrance disappearing completely.


Elias pushed himself up, the cold sweat from his brow dripping onto the couch. He remained still for a few moments, waiting until he readjusted to reality. The dream came to him now in bits and pieces. There had been harsh light, and bloated fruit, and persecuting demons. It was a nightmare he wished to forget, one with no redeeming values.

The television still glowed brightly, illuminating the room more effectively than the meager offerings of the pallid clouds outside. A commercial peddled something, and in the millisecond between its end and the beginning of another, there was a heavenly silence. He was too busy wiping the crust from his tired, swollen eyes to notice it.

Elias had left the television on a channel dedicated to travel. He enmeshed himself with the program: a guide to the outdoor sights of Eastern Europe. He marveled at forests that could engulf hundreds of his streets, of mountains towering thousands of feet over the highest of the houses surrounding his own. How amazing the rest of the world was! Elias allowed himself to be taken in by the television’s glowing embrace once more. These lands were paradise.

Another commercial break began. His attention broken by the interruption, Elias gingerly rose to his feet. The voices, anxious to resume the trial, became excited by his movement and hurled their contentious accusations and cross-examinations with renewed vigor. The storm outside crashed against the windows and the doors, holding them fast. Anger suddenly bulged inside him, like magma of a volcano long overdue for eruption.

“Enough! Shut up!” Elias screamed at the voices.

Stunned, they fell quiet, shocked to have been addressed in such an unexpected, brusque manner. After all, they were only reminding him of what he once had, and what he had loved. Surely, he did not want to forget how happy he had once been. The voices searched the room and found no one else. They were his only company, his lifeblood. They were protecting his sanity! They were all he had, a bulwark against the desolation banging against the doors and windows. How dare he express such ingratitude!

Eastern Europe was back on. Elias’ craven eyes darted back to the television. He could go, he could fly there. Where, where? To the place in the television, the opposite side of the earth. He had money. He had youth. He did not need these voices, or this room. Clothes strewn across the floor were stuffed into his backpack. He tore through the house, through the ill-ventilated bathroom with the moldy ceiling, through the kitchen rife with the smell of rotting food, through the bedroom with the spotted, ragged carpet, collecting only what he needed to survive. He zipped up his life, and assailed the door. The storm relented at this tremendous force, and allowed its prisoner to escape.


The life that sprang from this new place was pulsating. Elias reached for the nearest rock, grabbing it and pulling himself farther up the mountain. Sweat dripped from his forehead as he paused to take a swig of water from the bottle resting in a pouch on the side of his backpack. He surveyed the part of the mountain he had already conquered and the land below, a rolling sea of green trees. Surely, the voices could not reach him here.

It had been years since he freed himself from that oppressive house. Elias glowered as he recalled it, remembered how his tormentors would taunt him, haunt him. He shook his head dismissively and took in the beautiful sights around him. He would not want to forget this. Elias took off his backpack and rummaged through it for a few minutes before finding his camera. Putting it up to his eyes, he zoomed in on the scene below him, in all its majesty, and captured it.

Elias, satisfied, carefully put the camera back into the backpack and took up the whole load on his shoulders. Climbing the mountain was becoming more difficult. Steep rock faces leered at him, mocking his dedication to his goals of conquest. Elias hauled himself up to those faces, and found more than enough jutting rocks to finish the climb. The summit was just a breath away. His hand enclosed itself around the lowest rock, and he began his final ascent.

Hand over hand and arm over arm, Elias was fighting his way to the top. He was a shade more than halfway up the face when he pulled against a loose rock which came free in his hand. The weight of the backpack fastened to his body caused him to lose his footing and hurtle toward the ground. Elias slammed into the uneven, rocky ground a few feet below. For a few moments, the entire world degraded into a nonsensical blur.

When his eyes regained focus, Elias gingerly rolled over and checked his backpack. It looked like it had held up against the impact. He poked around its contents, concerned for the welfare of his camera. He found it, and pressed the power button anxiously. The screen came to life, and Elias breathed a sigh of relief. His senses returning a little more, he felt a sharp pain in his arm. He looked at his elbow, and saw blood flowing from a wide gash. Frantically, Elias dug through his backpack and pulled out some bandages and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. After disinfecting the wound, he wrapped his arm up tightly. He gingerly moved it up and down, to reassure himself that no bones were broken.

The sun was now disappearing behind the mountain. The final ascent would need to wait. Elias’ arm was far too tender for him to go any further. Elias leaned against the rock face, contemplating his luck. It could have been a lot worse. At least his camera wasn’t broken.

The night air was cold, but a hint of the warmth offered by the day remained. Elias detached his sleeping bag from the top of his backpack, and unfurled it. If he was going to be stuck here for the night, he might as well be comfortable, and the strenuous climb had left his bones and muscles drained of all vigor. Elias was annoyed at the rock face, but he was happy nonetheless just to spend a night in the cool, living air. There was something enchanting about being unfettered, unchained to a single place. He didn’t need a house. He had the entire world.

In the sleeping bag, exhaustion caught up with Elias, at last. His arm was still throbbing, but it would probably feel better in the morning. He would finish what he started. He rolled over on his non-injured side and closed his eyes.

He saw her face. Elias opened his eyes and looked around the familiar room. Voices whispered from the rock face, and the trees, and the sky. He rolled over onto his back, and laid still. Those were good times, weren’t they? He smiled grimly.

Yes, yes they were.