That sound whispers loudly once again through the small gaps of ventilation. It echoes in the dark.
I don’t recognize his voice, but why does he know my name? He is not from the Fantasy world I suppose.
“Jill, it’s me…” the voice continues. “William.”
Should I trust him?
William, my dear best friend in the orphanage. He came to this orphanage two days after my arrival. We were 10 months old then, we grew up together and became the closest friends in this house. Nothing could separate us, beside the moment when I took the murky passage that led me to Fantasy world and went missing for years. How many years? I suddenly can’t remember.
“Jillian, I know you’re in there.” Will says. “Please, do come out!”
Warmth is blanketing all of my body every time he says my name. William knows my hiding place, though I never took him in. He always pretends he never knew to protect me. I also never confronted him for keeping my hideout a secret, to protect him , to protect both of us.
“I won’t hurt you,” he says once again, pleading me to do what he says.
I take a sudden deep breath. I wasn’t breathing this whole time, was I?
William’s voice is different from the last time I heard it. He sounds deeper, calmer, and more mature. How long have I been missing out his life?
I try to crane my numb legs, but they hit the wall so hard. William and I both startle from the sound.
“Jill, come out now please before someone wakes up!”
What should I do?
What if it is the Minotaur who talks to me all this time? Pretending to be Will. But how did the Minotaur knows who my best friend is?
“Don’t be scared,” he says that again. “I miss you Jillian. Please come out!”
My tears sting so bad in my eyes.
I miss him too.
I push my self forward and screening the illuminating light through the ventilation gaps. There I found his blue eyes with widening pupils, staring back at me.
It’s him. It’s William.
I push the small door ever so slightly and shift my body out slowly. I close the small and invisible door behind me.
He’s there fifteen inches away from me, staring at me with disbelief.
I can feel his warmth and minty breath from the toothpaste we usually share.
I don’t really recognize his face anymore. He hardly looks similar. But that smile, those blue eyes, that satin smooth hair that is now so much shorter. They are all the same that the old William has, my dear best friend.
The rumbling sounds come closer now.
The Minotaur is already crashing the front gate!
My body jolts upwards and so does Will. We stare into each other’s eyes. We know what we need to do next.
My instinct tells me to hide.
I am once again back in the orphanage, where I have spent all my life here. The only place that is giving me nightmares every night, the only place that gave me this bad insomnia. I have always been scared both to sleep and awake. But now, I am back. I know it’s just a place for hiding. I can still sneak around and run back to Fantasy world when the Minotaur has already gone. Will I ever be able to do so?
I have tried to hide and run away from here several years ago, but I kept failing until I gave up. Then when I had stopped trying, there was where I could finally disappear for good. It was the moment when I discovered the murky passage that led me to Fantasy world.
Someone is tip-toeing the wrong footing somewhere. I remember just well how one of the wooden tiles in this building, especially in several steps of the stairs, are not concrete that make squeaking sounds when someone steps on them.
My instinct is yelling now. I look around the dark and humid room to find a small opening. I know where to hide! I run as quietly as I can but fast enough to reach the spandrel closet under the stairwell. This small closet has never been used or opened before. Because just like me, we are oblivious. I used to hide here when I didn’t want to be bothered. They never found me.
The small door does not seem so apparent, that’s why everyone doesn’t notice it that much. But somehow, for me the small stripes of ventilation on the wooden door are the most visible in this house.
I hook one of my fingers to one of the ventilation and tug the door out, making a small gap just for my body to get in. I have to fold my legs and hug them to my chest now. So, I’m taller now since I went missing? Because I still could sit straight the last time I hid here.
Someone is whispering loudly from the bottom of the stairs, just meters away from where I’m breathing.
I cover my mouth with my hand to hide the sound of me who is suddenly panting.
“Is anyone there?”
The footstep is getting closer to where I hide.
He sounds scared. We both are.
“Please, come out!”
His voice is now right outside the spandrel door.
“Are you in there?”
I can see his eyes wandering in the darkness.
They are so blue.
I gasp. My tears suddenly appear. My heart suddenly thuds and then stops beating. My hands are cold, but sweats spurting out from my forehead.
He knows my name.
He knows where I hide.
Who is he?
Where do I go now?
The passage is murky, it gives me chill.
What time is it? The cold night wind penetrates through my olive skin.
I’m scared, but I need to keep going.
I have to run away before the Minotaur captures me!
I was finally sleeping after fighting my insomnia for a year. The Dryads helped me with their song.
Yes, I was finally at ease. Until the Minotaur came to my wigwam and scattered all my books, as usual looking for an answer that is never there.
The Dryads didn’t give me a warning sign before their arrival. I was hiding under my blanket, until the Minotaur gave up his search. Minotaurs are blind at night, they don’t see very clear in the dark. That’s why I need to keep going further this passage. I don’t know what’s on the end of this passage, but I keep on going.
Rumbling sounds came from behind me. Like a tractor lost control in a corn maze, trying to swallow and cut everything in its way.
I swipe away my newly coming tears with the sleeve of my pajama. I cuss in between my breath, why didn’t I remember to put on thicker pajamas during Autumn nights? It’s almost winter!
I keep running deeper than the passage itself.
I found myself running into Steep Hill in Lincoln. I can run up or down there! All I have to do first is to look for an open shop and knock, but in this matter I need to burst in before the Minotaur gets here!
But it’s dark! All the shops are closed, somehow the pubs are out of business tonight. Where do I go? Up or down? Either way, I can’t find a place to hide. At least, not soon enough.
Without thinking twice I continue running down the Hill to Well Lane.
Wait, how do I still remember the name if this street? I feel like I’m home. But this is not my home, but I know I’m back to somewhere I used to belong in.
My home is in the Fantasy world! This is England, I suppose? Did I come from this world before I was lost in the Fantasy world? They’re two different worlds.
In Fantasy world, there will be no darkness allays the living creatures. There will be stars and bright full moon. In this world, the sky looks…sad and empty.
I need to stop wandering around, I need to hide!
Oh, I know just the right way! I remember this road. It will lead me to somewhere I can’t recall. But I know this place, I remember what it feels like to be living in my own nightmare.
I remember I’d always hated this place and wished to leave. I did! But why am I back here again?
Was that the passage I took that led me to the Fantasy world?
Why is it so easy to find, yet I’ve been living there for 10 years? Did I forget where I’ve come from?
The rumbling sound is now coming closer to me. It follows me back here!
Run faster! Go hide!
I don’t have to think about which turns I should take, or where this Hill will take me to, because I know where I’m going. I’m familiar with the street around me. The houses and street lamps. The silence. Everything is like in the back of my head in an instance.
I’m almost there.
Straight ahead, my old nightmare.
The place that gives me goosebumps. The place full of horror. The place that leaves the outcry in me. The place I will never forget.
The black gate is still standing tall, even a tornado won’t take it down. None can tear that house apart from the ground.
It is scary. I don’t want to go back inside, because once I set my foot inside I will never go out again.
The roar of an angry Minotaur is echoing from above, all the street lamps burst into flames.
I need to get inside.
I push the gate open without force and it’s already cracked open. I run inside and close the gates carefully behind me, trying not to make a creak sound. I continue running deeper into the house.
The scent of violence burns my lungs instantly.
Suddenly, I am taken back into my darkest times. I can’t run back outside, but I am scared to keep on going further into the house. What should I do? Where should I run now? Where can I hide?
The bond is now broken. The love is now fractured. We’ve been shattered, we’ve been burned. We’ve been through everything together since we came to this world. What’s the use of having each other’s back now if we’re only going to turn it all the way around? I don’t know how this happened, all I remember is that she came home with bruises while I was busy playing house with our youngest twin sisters.
We live in a farmland and sleep in a small house full of people. My father is a farmer, he grows fresh wheat and fresh vegetables and fruits. My mom is a baker, she always bakes so many kind of breads every morning and sells them to the city. Hannah and I were the ones who deliver them down the town My family is known for our fresh goodies to sell and special deliveries. People in my town love my mom’s Brioche and Manchet. Hannah and I used to pedal our hand-down bicycles to the market to sell the breads and dairies. In the evening, my mom bakes pies and muffins, sometimes biscuits. Then, Hannah and I back to rowing our bicycle to deliver them to the market. We visit houses to deliver our daily customer’s request. They order and pay a day before the delivery, so my mom knows what to bake and how many she has to make.
Hannah and I were so close like twins. Hannah is two years older than me. She was 16 and I was 14 when my mom gave birth to twin girls. Hannah wasn’t happy at all, elseways I was elated. Nevertheless, my parents weren’t too keen either. I was the only one who couldn’t understand what was happening. The three of them reckoned on adoption by stealth, I found out and begged them to let me help raising the twins. Moreover, no one in town wanted to raise twin girls. “There have been too many females in such a puny town like here,” an old woman who’s been friends with my family for years said. Eventually, they agreed to keep the twins and made me promise to watch them while my parents working. I said yes. Hannah stayed silent.
For a year of battles between outcries and dirty nappies, my family had been receiving frequent complaints about the babies and their slackness of producing fresh goods. “Their cries can be heard from my house which is six miles away, that’s not normal!”, “Your bread does not taste as sweet as it used to, I am going over to the new bakery for further order. Thank you for your lovely services these past three years.”, “I found pieces of baby wipes in the bag of potatoes for almost a year, I did not want to acquaint you such complaint in prior. But it is my grief, suffice to say that I have to finish my order from your farm furthermore. Thank you.” and more harsh letters came in the following year. Half of the town refused to buy more from our farm. My parents were on the rocks of impoverished and Hannah became more desolated.
Three years had passed. Gratefully, the family survived hungers, exhaustion, and sickness. My father carefully packs the bags of fruits and vegetables after he insisted to move the babies to my room (which is also Hannah’s room). Hannah was not happy about the idea at all. The night when the decision was made, Hannah asserted in disparity. “Why, Father? It is her decision to pet the babies! Don’t talk me into it!”
“They are humans, Hannah. You don’t pet them, you raise them with love!” I practically shouted.
“Hannah, I need the shed back for storage.” The twins have always shared a spare space with the crop yields in the shed. That was why an old man sent us a letter about him finding baby wipes in the sack of potatoes. Too often the twins get rashes from the wheat. There is no room for the twins inside the house. We only have one room which is for me and Hannah, my parents sleep in their own room full with packed vegetables and fruits. The shed is outside the house, I always sneak the twins inside the house and sleep with them on the carpeted floor near the furnace. The sofa is too small for the three of us, but somehow I managed the ugly tapestry became a warm and comfortable mattress. The twins never woke up in the middle of the night or cried, nobody knew I have been sneaking them inside the house for three years. I put them back to the shed early in the morning before everyone wakes up.
“The shed is big enough,” Hannah sulked with tears and angers. “Besides, you always use your room for storage. Why couldn’t you just keep using it, Father?”
“Because your mother has troubled breathing!”
“Then kill them or give them to someone who can afford to pay our debts and their needs!” She yelled. This was the first time Hannah lost control, she used to be so sweet and happy.
I roared and lunged my hands at her. I felt her skin inside my nails, both her cheeks bled. She cried. My mother was too weak to intercede, she has lungs issues when my father started to use their room for storage. My father pulled us away and screamed, “STOP THE FIGHTING!”
Hannah broke off from my claws and snarled teeth, “You should all go to Hell! You are a liar, Father! A liar, I say…”
My father slapped her so hard, she thumped her head into the wall beside her. There was silence. I clutched my hands over my mouth, stopping myself from both crying and shouting. My mother, she passed long ago in her chair breathing slow, grasping air for her wasted lungs.
“You are not grateful for what I have given you for years of your life. You never acting up like this, Hannah. Where is my old Hannah? WHERE IS SHE?”
Hannah stood up with her head bleeding. “Can’t you see her, Father? She had died when you promised her a lie, the day when they were born, the day we lost everything!”
“Hannah, I am still keeping my promise!” he reached out for her hand. I cold feel the guilt in his voice.
“And in what manner would you compensate? We have nothing but disgrace and unworthy drudgery! See all around you, Father!” Hannah left the house that night and didn’t return for a year.
My father and my mother searched all around town for her, sometimes I rowed my bicycle with my twin sisters sleeping comfortably in the sidecar I made. I found the broken sidecar near the pond across my farmland, then I fixed it and attached it to my bike. We would travel to the next towns and neighborhoods from dawn until midnight just to find nothing. I asked my father and my mother what Hannah kept talking about when she indicated that my father was lying, compensation, and promises. My father never said a word because he said he’d failed himself as a father. My mother, she’d cried and suffered a greater lungs problem. She died a month after Hannah disappeared. Then suddenly, Hannah became just a slight name that used to fill up my mind.
A year later when my father was away in his old and rusty truck to the next town for selling the crop yields, someone knocked on the door. The old woman who’s been friends with my mother came to visit and to deliver a news. “My son in Reno found your sister,” she said. “She is working as a baker assistant. She is married with no children. She said she was fine.” I delivered the message to my father that night. In my own scenario, he would be delighted and sobbed from happiness. Instead, he said to me in a murmur “Don’t mention that name to me again!” then he left the table without finishing his dinner.
My father found new customers in the other towns and even the people who used to buy our goodies came back and because our regular buyers once again. I bake the breads every morning and pies every evening, delivering them myself straight to them with my twin sisters. My twin sisters are walking on their own now, I modified Hannah’s old bike for them to use as their own bike.
One day when I was playing house with my twin sisters and my father was away, someone barged in to the kitchen and made loud banging noises. I hurried myself to the kitchen and found Hannah sitting in a chair, crying with bruises all over her body. She was holding a cup of water, her hand trembled relentlessly spilling the water onto her lap.
“Hannah, what happened to you?” I rushed over to her side.
“I’m sorry,” she breathed the words under her wails. “I’m sorry,” she said again.
“For what?” I brushed my hands over her swollen face.
“For everything,” she looked like in a great pain while sobbing her tears out. “I’m sorry, Father…” her voice trailed off and she continued her cry.
I put my hands around her and embraced all the memories we used to make back into my arms. I weep along.
After hours we spent catching up the time we lost, she looked a little bit more like Hannah, my Hannah. I desensitized her bruises and a newly cut injury in her left brow. She ate almost everything on the plate I gave her. Almost the whole loaf of bread I bake this morning, a half strawberry jam I also made, three pouched eggs, two slices of cheese, and a big bowl of chicken soup. The food was supposed to be for Father’s dinner, but I noticed her ribs are almost poked out of her skin and she said to me she hadn’t eaten anything for three days. After she settled, we shared stories. I asked her where she’s been and what happened to her body.
“I was walking without knowing where to go. It was dark that night, so I was blinded by my own direction. I didn’t notice how long and how far I had gone, all I remembered that it was already morning and I stood in the middle of an empty road. I sat there for hours, thirsty, hungry, and tired. I thought I was going to die, until a nice man in his nice car offered me a ride. He asked me where I was going, but I didn’t know where. So, I let him to take me anywhere he wanted.” she paused for a moment.I gave her a glass of water and she sipped the cup empty. Then she started to speak again.
“I fell asleep in the car and woke up to a dark surrounding. I panicked, but the man who took me said we were still on the road looking for a gas stop. We found one and he let me change clothes wearing his and he gave me food. I thought he was a very nice man, so I stayed with him. He took me to Reno, where he owns a tool shop. He gave me shelter, clothes, and food. He even let me worked in a bakery shop across the house. We got married a month later.” her voice trailed off. Her body shivered from a great pain or maybe it was the memory she holds that harmed her.
“I was pregnant two months later. But I lost the baby in the 8th month pregnancy.” she started crying again. She took in a deep breath and continue the story, “I was working and I slipped down the concrete floor. I tumbled down back first then my head. I woke up three days later in the hospital. There was something different with me. I couldn’t feel whole when I woke up. I felt a great pain around my back and there was something missing.”
I could guess it though she didn’t mention anything. She was too weak to recall the past. “I was in the hospital for two weeks. My husband never came to visit, not even once. He said he was busy. So, I came home and I found him there watching TV. We had fights every night since then. He wanted a child, but I can’t give him what he wanted because I ruined almost all my every part of my body. He cheated on me and became violent. He hit me with a baseball stick, sometimes he smacked me with a his own hands. I ran away the night he tortured me, I would die I said in my head. In a slight second, I got a flash of images from the past. How I used to treat the twins and you. How I became so harsh and changed into a monster. I believed it was my debt to pay for all those years. I took that with all my heart. But I didn’t find myself dead the next day, so I ran away. I can’t remember how I got here. But, I still remember where to find my own home.” she smiled weakly. She reminded me of mother before she died.
When the thought of her came into my mind, it was like Hannah could read it.”Where is father? or mother? Are they all right?” I could feel a pang of guilt for not telling her my story before she could ask.
“Father is selling the crop yields to the town,”
“She died a month after you left,” I said without any guilt. Father had always convinced me that she died because of Hannah. I wanted to believe him, but I never could. Instead, I always blame myself.
She nodded like she already knew.
Father came home with tears when he found Hannah and me laughing with the twins. He didn’t really welcome her at first and he hated the fact that Hannah was still alive. But when he saw her himself, he couldn’t resist the tears. We talked all night, and after a year father and Hannah would tell me what promise they made. Father had promised her money for school. Hannah always wanted to be a dancer, and father promised to sign her in to a dance school in town when she turned 18. But the twins were born and the family went short in money, so father used all her school money for the twins’ needs. That was why Hannah hated them so much. I was the only one who wanted to raise them, so it was all my fault. But father and mother told me that it was their fault. Somehow, I knew but I pretended to disagree.
A month after she was home, Hannah suffered from malnutrition. Her body was still weak and damaged from the miscarriage. Her body refused to heal itself, she ate in a rat portion. She refused to be taken care by doctors. She died from complication a week later. She is buried next to mother’s grave. The twins are now old enough to understand what is happening around them. They are learning to bake breads with me. Father has collected enough money from selling in different towns for one of the twins’ tuition. He signed one of them to the dancing school he promised to Hannah, one of them stays home to learn baking while helping with other matters.
Hannah is my sister, now and then. The twins came to this world for a reason. Hannah didn’t lose herself, she just lost her way. She went to the wrong direction. She’s paid her debts and now she is happy to watch us living our lives back, even better than years before, from Heaven with mother. They reunited. I hope they’ll wait for us to be reunited once again. Hannah, don’t forget me. I won’t forget you. Forever and wherever, we are destined to be sisters.
SORRY FOR THE LONG POST, HERE’S A POTATO
The plane was landing safely last night. She lost her track of time, she was blinded by the time. She stayed a night long in the JFK International Airport, too scared to explore the city that never sleeps. She knew she could have just booked a hostel nearby. But she forgot that her phone was still dead and had no service to access Google Map, and she was thinking that she could ask around. Yes, she did several times. But nobody answered her in a manner, like she was just a lost hobo looking for their pities. What they said, “Don’t you have a map?” or “Well, sorry I’ve no time.” in their thick New York accents. Well, she does have a map. It was the little green book from The Lonely Planet her mom bought her a week before her departure. She opened it in so many times, but she realized the she can’t read a map. She could not even read the map inside the airport, she could not find a way out! For God’s sake, such a starter for a young adventurer.
She almost cried that night, but then she met a janitor who was sleeping in the corner of the public restroom inside the Arrivals Area. She was mad, but she was lost and scared. So, she woke him up and asked him which direction is the way out.
“Believe me, you don’t want to go out there looking for a place to settle in by yourself with those loaded baggage.” he told her half smiling like an evil.
“Because you are just going to attract the rebel homeless to rob you out! You’re just a girl and you are new here. They’d know and you are just an easy prey to kill.”
She gasped. She wondered whether to believe him or just go find someone else to ask.
“My suggestion is that you stay here until the sun is up, then you can ‘get lost’ yourself out there!” he stood up. “Go find Starbucks or anything! You’re a white girl, you should be able to enter all the Starbucks stores in this airport.” he walked away, hobbling with one leg.
Well, she did not buy that strange idea. But, at least she knew where to find the way out from the most nicest security she could find. She took the janitor’s advice, but not looking for any Starbucks to stay. She found a Starbucks though in the Arrivals Area, but she was not very keen to buy a coffee or anything. All she wanted was to wish for her mom to be there with her.
As soon as she woke up, she realized it was already bright outside. The light came crashing in from all over the waiting area’s windows. She hurried herself to checking on her stuff. No sign of her being robbed or anything. She went to the bathroom near the Travelex ATM beside gate 1-2 in Terminal 7. She knew it would be awkward if she did brush her teeth, wash her face, and clean herself in the public bathroom. But she did, and she gave no crap about being stranded in an airport without knowing good manners. She gasped looking at the white rounded clock above the mirror. 10.00 AM. So, she set her flowery Swatch to 10.
She was blinded by the sunlight once she stepped outside the gate. Her body was charged by the warmth of July summer breeze, it was almost August. She still had nowhere to go. She took her first step into the new world, into the new beginning of her dreadful yet challenging adventure. She was all alone, with only one full JanSport backpack, and a heavy luggage. She took a long deep breath, and then she carried on. Walking with a thumb thumb thumb heartbeats and without no regret.