the paper filter

residue of my consciousness

Category: Stories

/r/WritingPrompts You have the ability to steal wishes from a wishing well by taking the coins people drop in. However, you can’t know what the wish is before you decide to take it.

I dipped my finger in the well. Eenie-meanie-miney-mo.

I submerged my hand into the water and gripped my fingers around a dull, blackened coin, sighing as I pulled it out. Surely this would be a hard and heavy one.

Tyche and Kamadhenu have been slacking again. Since the rise of Atheism, these fuckers have been refusing to do any work. They want to be worshipped before they lift a finger. Lazy, egotistical bastards.

That’s the problem with Idolatry. Maybe the Muslims had it right; except now most of them are worshipping a man and a book too, just like the other religions. That’s not what Mo’ wanted, yo.

I see what you did there, God. The irony is not lost on me! Idolatry is the trickiest of all your lessons, even for deities.

I’ve been stealing wishes from the fountain for a while now. Consider me a vigilante of sorts. I’m pretty sure the Dude is keeping an eye on me, but the others don’t know. They’ve been too self-absorbed to be prioritising their responsibilities over their vanity. Which is why I do what I do. It’s not an easy job, but someone’s got to do it, and if I don’t, the universe tips over, unbalanced.

I’ve been stealing wishes from the fountain for a while now. Consider me a vigilante of sorts. I’m pretty sure the Dude is keeping an eye on me, but the others don’t know. They’ve been too self-absorbed to be prioritising their responsibilities over their vanity. Which is why I do what I do. It’s not an easy job, but someone’s got to do it, and if I don’t, the universe tips over, unbalanced.

Wishes need to be fulfilled for existence to be justified in its… existence. Humankind has wants, desires, drive, passion. Even animals have instincts and needs. Seriously though, without them, what are we?

I turned the darkened coin over in my palm three times and felt a warmth spread from my hand to the rest of me. Amina Abillama wishes she had a big set of Crayolas for her 5th birthday. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Okay, this was a good one. An easy one. There was more than enough time to manipulate the fates to make that happen. I just needed to align this wish with another for it to happen.

I have mixed feelings about wishes: they give me hope and despair at the same time. Some days are harder than others. I’ve helped people with mass genocides in the name of the Almighty, and murderous plots to climb the political ladder, but I’ve also helped them fall in love and bring new life into the world.

I don’t get to pick and choose the wishes I have to fulfil. It’s a harsh reality. It has taught me to expect nothing and accept that the world is what it is and. People are who they are. In all my years of existence, their vastly opposite and opposing natures have been the singular constant that I have observed. I would be foolish to think that I could make a difference. Unlike Humanity, I was not created with free will. I may not like what has to be done, but I understand the weight of these actions on the universe and what happens to the big picture if they go unchecked. Somebody’s got to do it.

I put my hand into the well again and pulled out a copper coin this time. I flipped it over three times in my hand and waited for the wish to wash over me, hopeful for something positive.

I wish he were dead. The warmth of the wish went cold in my hand and the dread slowly burned in my chest. Isn’t it funny how lives intertwine? Even if these two souls meet, they would never know how much their lives have influenced the other. I saw it play out in my head. Unfortunate circumstances will cost someone their life. The vacancy they leave behind will be a job opportunity for Amina’s mother who is looking for one. Amina gets her crayons in the end.

My usually buzzing consciousness quietened from the sudden sombre turn. Disheartened, I slipped the two coins into my pocket, bracing myself for the task ahead. If there was a way I could actually communicate with humans, I would tell them to be careful what they wish for. Their words carry more weight than they know.

A genie offers a man three wishes. After hearing his wish, the genie straight up refuses to grant it.

The genie felt uncharacteristically vexed. This was just another descendant of Adam, wishing for meaningless things. It exasperated him to no end.

“What? Why the heck not? It’s just a car.”

Here they were, the blessed living race to whom the angels bowed, the reason for all genies to be cast from paradise and barred from His presence, and this was the peak of their desires. The genie’s voice escaped in more of a growl than what he had intended.

“That’s it? That’s all that you desire?” 

The human felt a shiver run down the back of his spine and pool uncomfortably in his gut. Just a moment ago, the genie had been even-natured and friendly. Now, he sounded dangerous.

“W-what do you mean? I want those other two wishes too. ” he stammered. His eyes betrayed him for a moment as he saw the genie’s features skew into a monstrous mask. In the shadows, he could not be sure. Perhaps there was a flickering in the light. Yes. That must be all it was. It did not stop him from taking a half step back. There was a pause and a silence that stretched a second long enough to turn that pool of discomfort into a frozen lake.

“Perhaps Iblis was right not to bow to the humans.” In the sliver of light that filled the shadows, the human thought he saw disappointment in the genie’s eyes that accompanied the palpable sizzle of anger in the air. He was absolutely puzzled by what was happening. He wondered if he was going to die. This was not what he had read about in books. Wasn’t he owed three wishes?

“You who have been blessed bountifully by everything that surrounds you: Knowledge, Beauty and Love. And what you seek are Riches?

No. It doesn’t work that way. Genies cannot produce what is not there. We can only manipulate circumstances to create the opportunity for chance. Besides, what good are Riches if you are unable to cultivate them on your own? You would exhaust them, with no means of gaining more. 

I cannot help you.”

With a last look at the human, as though waiting for it to change his mind, the genie turned on the spot. His form began to flicker and shift, shadows returning once more to the ring from whence it came. With a tinkle, the ring jumped a few inches from it’s spot on the floor. 

The human stood with his mouth agape for a few moments, utterly perplexed by what had happened. I mean, sure he was frightened for a moment, but what kind of genie didn’t grant wishes? 

Tentatively he picked the ring up from the floor, shook it in his fist. Anticlimactically, nothing happened. Well, that was a waste. He thought for a moment and then tucked the ring into his pocket. He whipped out his phone and looked up directions to the nearest underground market.

Tall Tales

Yes, yes, yes I am the best!
I am the tallest of tall
amongst the best of them all
And here I stand taller than the rest

When Morning comes, how I loathe it.
My bones creak from the growing heat
And though my belly of steel and concrete
is no match for the wind,
The seagulls come in their fleet
Squawking me to death, Oh how I despise it.
Bloody sky rats pelting me in faeces,
How dare they?! Do they not know who I am?
Lucky I have these human things to repel from my crown
To wash every bit of me, from my top, all the way down.

But oh that heat, that heat is a new kind of hell.
That morning sun paves the way for hours and hours of swell
ing and creaking as my frame expands.
You try being bloated everyday.

I can’t lie though,
The sunsets are spectacular.

The heat dies with the sun
and the cool chill of the evening sea creeps across the sand
and whispers it’s way up my windows and darkness covers up the land
And the cold brings down the inflammation.
I’ve seen many a firework and the endless proposals but nothing beats the hum of the earth.

The night brings along with it a bed of stars above and below.
I don’t feel so out of place for being the tallest of the tall with the endlessness above
And the city lights below keep me company and make me feel in love
With being me.
The Burj Khalifah

The Cult of Blackened Hearts

So much to say without walls to hear them
So I guess I’ll scrape out the insides of my heart
And smear them on this pixelated paper.

You see this font?
Imagine it red like blood from stained hands,
Proffered like the preferred ink pad of some sacrilegious cult of blackened hearts.

You see the hearts were once red.
That same hue of passion and lust and hurt and love.
A hot, fiery ember made safe by an ivory cage.
But like all poachers put out light for ivory, the fires are put out and our bones are stolen.
Leaving us spineless, hopeless and charred.

And so the embers become post-coals, weakened and scattered to the winds with a single touch.
There’s hope for me yet, while these words are still red.

House

I am a house, haunted by ghosts of a not so distant past.

A house surrounded by an infinite land of trees.

Each one grown of a seed of a different memory.

Seeds borne from their fruits, the ripened and rotten.

Risen from the ground; tall, taller and tallest.

Some became the homes of birds called hope, while some died from fungus.

As a haunted house, I remained, with my haunted forest around me.

You would come to harvest my sacred lumber for your craft that you thought you so loved.

You didn’t realise ’til it was too late, that you loved me most of all.

You razed all that remained to blackened soil and soot with your technology.

The black smoke left stains on my outer walls and the fumes lingered in my halls.

And yet sunshine came, and so did the rain and my trees: they grew again.

I am stuck in a world behind closed doors and broken windows where you and I will always be together.

But all I am is an empty house.

Haunted.

Moon

Oh, great Moon!
How I wonder about you…

Ever since I was little, up til now,
I wonder if you can hear all the voices that speak to you of their hopes and dreams, pain and frustrations, their love and desires…
I mean… since you’re so high up there.

Are you listening to them?
You can’t help it right? Not like you can eradicate your own existence.

Anyway,
I have this idea that you are this emotional, spiritual process.
You are like this great big round tank of light.
In the beginning you are empty and as the nights go by you listen to the cries and pleas of everyone that speaks to you, these voices that address you.
And you collect every word that they say and turn them into light and thus you wax.
It must be so heartbeaking to feel so helpless…
To hear them every night and yet be able to do nothing to ease or coax whatever they feel.

At when your tank is full and you’re at your brightest, at your peak,
you are bursting with this radiant glow, bathing every inch of the night sky with your warm glow.
You’re so bright that even the stars’ shine power is no match for you.
You probably don’t know this,
but you are such a humbling wonder in the way that you don’t shine so brightly and show off like the stars do, but glow so quietly and unimposing because you grow brighter and dimmer gradually.

Am I making sense?

Also, what you don’t realise about your humbling self, is that your humility in your glowing, existing and being gives us, the voices, back everything that we gave to you to wax,
and so you wane.
We take back your light and turn it back into hope and love, humility and strength to remind us that things could be worse off and that we really are going to be okay.

And when we’ve taken it all and you’ve emptied out,
we start this process all over again.

when you thought you’d never stand out

The door burst open in a resonating bang and like a manic marathon runner this headless husk of a human flew out and onto the streets.
It was hard to control her movements because of her missing head. She could not see, nor hear; all she had to guide her were her instincts and the movements of the wind.
“Run,” they said.

She could not see the looks cast upon her by the people on the street; disgusted, discombobulated and horrified, at seeing a headless body running past their very eyes.

She could not hear the toe-curling yells of these terrified individuals, screaming for their gods in blasphemy at this literally running headless chicken.

Luckily, she could not. In her panic, it really was the last thing she needed.

All she knew was where she needed to be.
She felt the searing warmth of the bodies she grazed past, against her frozen skin.
She felt the cool moon rays on her bare arms and feet, chilling her bones.
She felt the pull of her belly leading her in a direction that her feet seemed to recognize and she gave in to Fate.
She knew it would take her where she needed to be.

The concrete continued, harsh on her bare feet, with twigs and things that strayed the path.
She gave no mind to it(no pun intended).

She felt a hook behind her belly that commanded her to stop and her headless frame swayed a little as she regained her balance. She shivered, cold from the night air.

“Hey, you left your head here…
Oh that’s right, you probably can’t hear me,”

Her hands reached out, sensing a familiarly peculiar warmth and her heart calmed.
She felt friendly fingers gently wrapping themselves over her small hands.
But suddenly, without warning (how could she have known), a sharp and shooting pain struck her in the neck.

She buckled over, howling in agony, as she held her neck, pressing hard as though the pressure would ease the pain.
She felt big strong arms catch her and a soft whisper beside her ear,
“I’m sorry, I had to pop your head back on,”

The arms cradled her as the pain dulled to a slow throb. She rested her head against the warm torso as she steadied herself.
She heard the heavy heartbeat beneath it.
Encouraged, she took her first breath.
Raspberries.
And then she took her next breath.
Basil.
She stood quite still, her chest heaving, circulating the oxygen to her tired frame.
She felt the arms firm around her, guarding her, and bravely she opened her eyes.

Soft orange light flooded her vision, spilling from a dragon lantern and she felt soft lips press against her forehead.
She sighed.

One Headlight

He had been driving all night not knowing where he was going. It had been hours of the incessant humming of his beat up 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS Coupe filling the silence, breaking the chaos in his mind and led him along the road taking him nowhere in particular.

He had been smoking heavily, with the windows rolled down and the chilly night wind cut through his hair. He patted the passenger’s seat for his semi-crushed King-sized box of cigarettes and flipped it open; one left. He was down to his last cigarette. He sighed and put the box to his mouth to grab the last stick between his lips. Without a thought, he threw the empty box out the open window and proceeded to light his last hope for salvation. He took a drag.

He listened to the sounds of the traffic around him and his own breathing. He didn’t want to turn on the radio or listen to any music. For that moment, he didn’t want to have to think at all. His mind was shut off to the world and he was lost in the moment, just being, existing, behind the wheel. He chucked his lighter on the dashboard and carried on staring at the road ahead.

The night was dimly lit by the moonlight and the lone working headlight of his old Chevy shone enough for him to see immediately in front of the car. The light of the scattered street lamps every 50 meters flashed in his peripheral vision, like a strobe in a disco, as he chauffeured the pounding of his heavy heart farther and farther away. There had been too much going on at home.

The house was in a disarray, with boxes packed to the ceiling and so many things left strewn about, and it was so noisy. There were packers everywhere dismantling things, packing things and the sounds of masking tape screeching as they sealed box after box. His mother and father were busy barking orders and trying to manage the tedious flow of the move. It was too much. He was so overwhelmed, he couldn’t even sort out his own thoughts. Frustrated and desperate for some peace of mind, he left a quick note with his dad and took off.

As he flicked the butt of his cigarette out the window, he sighed, the last breath of nicotine evaporating into the air. That was it. What else was there? He wasn’t sure if he was ready to go back home one last time. He wasn’t sure he’d be ready to leave it again. There were too many memories to leave behind in this town. He couldn’t take his car with him either. He dispelled the questions as quickly as they came. It was no use hovering on things he was powerless over.

He almost stalled the Chevelle, shocked as he realized which road he was turning into. He half-smiled, amused at himself for subconsciously bringing him here and shook his head as he found that a parking spot was available right in front of him, eagerly awaiting his arrival as if to say, “what took you so long?”

He rolled up the windows, parked the car and locked it. His feet led him down the familiar pavement, as he walked with his hands in his pockets and his eyes tracing the pattern of the cracks on the ground. It was like a ritual.

He stopped short by the tree and made to hug it, and in one big sweeping move, he threw his weight into the tree and he climbed. His hands and feet found the familiar crevices as he climbed higher and higher until he reached the window ledge. He snapped a twig off a branch and slid it under the latch and opened the window.

He peeked past the curtains. There she was, lying in bed, sound asleep. He climbed through and landed swiftly on his feet. He looked at her again; he hadn’t stirred her. He slipped off his shoes and socks, leaving them by the windowsill, and closed the window before turning to her again.
He took off his t-shirt and shimmied out of his jeans, leaving them in a pile on her bedroom floor.
He padded across the room to her bed where she laid. He pulled back the corner of the duvet that cocooned her.

She woke with a start, a gasp escaping her lips, before her vision focused in the dark, realizing who it was. Still groggy with sleep, she scooted over in her bed until her back was against the wall and she waited for him to settle next to her.
He placed the covers back around them as he kissed her in greeting and settled to face her. She looked incredibly cute, half asleep and just looking at him. He stared quietly back as he felt her warm hand slide gently into his under the covers. She smiled at him sleepily.
His heart warmed and he felt his throat choking up and the prickling of tears in his dry eyes. He snuggled as close as he could get, burying his face in her shoulder, his frame shrinking into a ball.
Her arms circled around him, holding him closer still and he cried silently, lamenting his eventual goodbye.

Morning came and she awoke to find herself alone in bed. Was last night only a dream?
No… The space beside her was still warm. She looked around and her heart stopped. Her hands trembled as she reached for the note anchored by a familiar set of keys.

Take care of her for me, babe.
I love you.
I’ll see you soon.

Jamaica Farewell

the sunlight creeps up the walls and climbs back down before eventually disintegrating into shadows as the day bleeds into night and i struggle to find something else, anything else, to fill the thoughts that haunt me and keep me awake.

the ache in my heart has worn out to a dull gnawing throb beneath my breasts.
it hasn’t subsided a bit since you’ve been gone, my body has adjusted itself to harness the complete and utter loneliness and misery that my heart feels.
heavy, and completely terrible for my posture.
i feel numbed. my eyes won’t cry despite the breathlessness of my lungs.

my face will not smile anymore.
instead, when i look in the mirror, i see the lines of my face stone cast, not lifting. my cheeks feel heavy. my lips feel heavy. smiling is such a hard feat.

and so i sit bracing the morning sun
as the sky lights up in orange and pink
till the sunshine hurts my eyes.
waiting is all i have left to do.
but i don’t know if that’s what i should do

Nimrod

He’s the epitome of every high school nightmare.
a smart ass.
an asshole.
a gossip.
and he’s fooled all of you into liking him with his special blend of apparent charm, wit and self-depreciating remarks.

yes, the sarcasm is just a mask of the truth of your words.

and it’s not until he’s fucked you over that you recognize him for the absolute disappointment he is.
He’ll tell your friends his twisted tales of you
and watch in glee at those who turn away from you.
because they wouldn’t know any better until he does it to them too.

the funny thing is, high school’s been over for three years already.
you’d think he’d have grown up a bit.
but no.
drinking is his sustenance
partying is a rite of life.
getting trashed is his life mission.
being an asshole? don’t worry.
it’s just a birth defect; the make up of his DNA