Monday, June 25, 2012

Kaleidoscope, Ch. 2

Hurry up, Botan...
Serenity stood on a sturdy tree branch, waiting for Botan to catch up with her.  Serenity knew Botan was down below, running as best she could—jogging, really—around the rocks and branches scattered on the uneven ground.  She realized that it honestly wasn’t fair for them to race when Botan didn’t have her oar to fly on.
She crossed her arms and leaned back against the trunk of the tree, a smirk playing at her lips.  Her high school’s track and field coach had approached her on numerous occasions, praising the “godlike speed” he’d observed during gym period, begging her to join the team and lead them to victory.  But all his bribes and threats amounted to nothing; Serenity preferred to display her innate talent for sprinting on her own schedule.  She prided herself on the fact that, like a rare and elusive wild animal, she had never been tamed.
Serenity spied Botan near the base of the tree, gasping for air.  Still smirking, her eyes now a happy shade of blue, she climbed down from her perch and put an arm around her.  “You’re such a slowpoke,” she whispered, with humor in her voice.  Botan nudged her good-naturedly, and they shared a laugh.  Together, they began to walk the remaining distance to Ratoshi’s house for the reunion; soon, they could hear raucous laughter and party music.
As Botan and Serenity approached, they noticed a tall, skinny figure standing in front of the house.  This was Rumichi, who had been living with Ratoshi for some time.  She had taught Serenity all of the martial arts she knew as well as introduced her to the rest of the Urameshi team.
Her black and blue hair flying behind her, Rumichi ran the rest of the way to greet her friends and escorted them to the porch, where other people were chatting.  Botan, why are you so sweaty?” she asked. 
Botan jerked her thumb toward Serenity.  “With this one, it’s like a never-ending game of tag,” she puffed.
“Speaking of tag, Serenity,” Rumichi said, “Kurama and I want to race in the backyard.  Maybe you can finally beat me.”
“Hmph.  The usual; I should have known," said Serenity.  "Is our dear host Ratoshi not coming this time?”
To answer her question, Rumichi pointed a short distance away, where a lean and lanky brunette was standing on the porch amidst a handful of people.  From the girl’s back grew large wings the color of ebony.  Serenity knew the small crowd was oohing and ahhing over them; she shook her head, smiling.  Ratoshi Verdesca: part Angel, part fox demon…one hundred percent the center of attention.
Rumichi, Serenity, and Kurama all left the porch and walked around to the back of the house.  Serenity whistled in amazement at the size of Ratoshi’s backyard; even though she’d been to this house countless times before, the wooded lawn that stretched behind it always took her by surprise. 
The trio all climbed up the nearest tree, each settling onto a different branch. Kurama transformed into his half-demon* form.  Serenity watched the metamorphosis: Kurama’s hair changed from red to silver, his eyes changed from green to gold, and he acquired silver fox ears and a tail.  Rumichi transformed into her half-demon form as well, gaining features reminiscent of both a wolf and a gryphon.  Her facial features became more angular, and a lion tail grew from her backside; pointed, furry ears became visible through her thick hair. 
Serenity crouched close to the ground, like a runner about to take off from a starting block, and chuckled to herself.  Don’t need special powers, she thought.  These two legs of mine work just fine.  Her eyes glowed green with determination.
Serenity heard Rumichi’s voice through the Mindlink, which allowed them to communicate telepathically across considerable distances.  :First one to the fallen tree at the far end of the yard wins.  No holds barred.:
:Sounds good to me,: she countered.
Kurama counted to three, and the race began.

*the “half-demon” form in this fan-fiction is the demon form in the original anime and manga by Yoshihiro Togashi, and a character's demon form is his or her corresponding animal.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kaleidoscope, Ch. 1

When Serenity woke up from her nightmare, the color red had not yet faded from the insides of her eyelids, and about ten seconds passed before she could breathe normally again.
She was sitting in a big, comfortable easy chair in the den, located at the back of the house that she shared with Botan.  When she’d settled in for a nap thirty minutes before, Botan had been standing nearby, looking out the window at their wide expanse of back yard in silence.  Now Botan was facing her, brow furrowed in a familiar expression of worry.  Serenity stared back at her, trying to keep her face as neutral as possible so her friend would relax. 
Serenity’s poker face didn’t work as well as she thought it would.  Botan spoke quietly, the worry lines still in position.  “You were having a nightmare.”  A statement, not a question.  As if she’d known this information for quite some time and was just now admitting it.
            Serenity’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly.  “Botan, I told you never to read my mind.”
            Botan shrugged, and a smile played at her lips.  “Sura*, I didn’t have to.  Your eyes can’t keep a secret.”  She’s definitely right about that, Serenity thought.  She’d always known that her eyes changed colors based on her mood.  Botan had lived with her long enough to decipher most of this ocular code.  “Before you went to sleep, they were white, like they normally are,” Botan continued.  “Right now, they’re gray.  That means you’re afraid of something, doesn’t it?  And what else is there to be afraid of while you’re asleep, if not a nightmare…?”
            Serenity gave Botan a look—brilliant deduction, my dear Watson—got up from the chair, and walked to the window, staring out at nothing in particular.  As she stared, she deftly brushed her fingers over the stark lines of the barcode tattoo on her left wrist.  Serenity had matching ones at the base of her neck and on her lower back.  She had received these marks quite some time before.  Although it was clear that the circumstances under which she'd received them had not been positive ones, she couldn’t for the life of her recall the details of the experience.  Whether this amnesia was convenient or involuntary was anyone’s guess.  
            Eventually Serenity turned from the window, expecting a barrage of questions, but Botan remained silent, respecting the fact that the topic of Serenity’s nightmares was closed for discussion.  It was surprising; usually Botan’s chattiness and her desire to be helpful made Serenity want to throw up her hands, march off to her bedroom, and lock the door.
            After another moment, Botan's face cleared, and she broke into a smile.  Serenity breathed a sigh of relief; a worried expression on Botan’s face was just so unnatural.  “You know, Sura, the team should be gathering for the reunion at Ratoshi’s place just about now,” Botan said.  A welcome change of subject; now it was Serenity’s turn to smile.  Unless a Dark Tournament was imminent, the members and friends of the Urameshi martial arts team were usually scattered across various realms.  But once a year, during the summer, they all gathered together in the abode of Ratoshi Verdesca, Yusuke Urameshi's half-sister, to play games, spar, and swap stories about their various exploits.  In Serenity’s opinion, the occasion nearly rivaled Christmas, New Year’s…possibly even her birthday.  She had probably started counting down the days until the reunion months before, on the morning after she'd turned eighteen.
            Serenity’s eyes changed from gray to gold (denoting excitement, Botan remembered) before she turned away and began to walk from the den.  Before exiting completely, she looked back over her shoulder and mouthed two words: “Race you.”
             Before Botan could say anything in response, Serenity had already run out of the room.

*sura: short for yasuragi, Japanese for “serenity”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kaleidoscope, Introduction

Serenity Funaka was sitting on a bench, smiling as she swung her legs back and forth, feet barely brushing the ground.  It was the perfect day for a park outing with her mother and father—the sky was completely clear, and the grass was practically glowing emerald green in the sunlight.  There were kids her age flying colorful kites near the small pond in the center of the park, teenagers playing baseball, adults casually strolling along the walkways.  It was a picture of ultimate peace, and as a little girl still easily satisfied and easily entertained, she couldn’t ask for anything more.         
Her gaze rested on a man and woman who held hands as they walked aimlessly around the grassy area directly across from her.  When they saw her, they smiled and joined her at the bench, sitting on either side of her.  Mommy…daddy, she thought contentedly, laying her head on the woman’s lap with a smile.  
“Serenity,” her mother said, gently smoothing her auburn hair with a hand that smelled faintly of floral-scented lotion.  “Your father has a gift for you.”  She raised herself off her mother’s lap so she could look up at her father, into his dynamic green eyes.  With a small grin, he reached into the knapsack that he’d been carrying and pulled out a wooden cylindrical object, about six inches long.  He held the object between him and Serenity, at her eye level, so that she could see it better.  As he slowly rotated it, she could see the scene that had been painted expertly around the tube.  Three tall cherry trees, branches decorated with the reds and yellows of autumn, stood against a background of rich green grass and a pale blue sky decorated with small cotton ball clouds.  Funaka had been painted on each tree trunk in stylized kanji.  The artist’s skill was undeniable; Serenity felt she was looking at a photograph attached to the tube, not a painting; even the characters that made up her surname looked like realistic carvings.
 As pretty as Serenity found her father’s gift, she still had no idea what it was; her look of puzzled admiration told him so.  He chuckled softly.  “It’s a kaleidoscope,” he explained.  “Put it up to your eye and turn this part of the tube…like this.”  He demonstrated the process then handed the still-foreign object to his daughter.  She followed his instructions, not knowing what to expect.
“Wow!  Look at the colors,” she said, almost to herself, as she put the kaleidoscope up to her eye and saw the bright pattern of triangles and diamonds.  As she turned the top part of the tube as her father had shown her, she heard a sound like small beads shifting around, and the pattern inside the tube began to change.  She barely noticed that she was squealing in delight, as any eight-year-old girl would be when given something colorful.
 She looked up from her new toy, intending to thank her parents.  But neither of them was there.  She was alone on the bench again, and her immediate surroundings were oddly silent.  A cloud of confusion began to form at the back of her mind.  With her new kaleidoscope in her left hand, Serenity stood and walked around, looking for the kite fliers, the baseball players, the sense of peace that had recently vanished.  To her dismay, she found that the whole park was now deserted.  Even the sun had taken its leave; the sky was now cloudy, gray, ominous even.  There was even a haunted quality to the air.  As if to emphasize this point, a chill started to creep up Serenity’s spine.  By this time she had walked to the center of the park.  Facing the edge of the pond, she shut her eyes, hoping that once she opened them again, her parents would be coming to find her so they could laugh and eat ice cream and skip stones across the surface of the water.
“One…two…three,” she whispered under her breath.   She slowly opened her eyes, like someone who has been awakened from a deep sleep.   Nothing had changed; she was still alone in the gray and the dim.  A stormy sense of confusion and fear was gathering strength in her mind.  Her heart was beating harshly in her chest, as if doing its job was suddenly a great burden.  Her palms were sweaty, even with the chill that was still dancing up and down her spine.  Trying to calm her nerves, Serenity stood in the same position for a while, locking her gaze onto a tree directly ahead.  After about a minute, she decided to follow the example of the other park-goers and make an exit.  Still clutching the kaleidoscope in her left hand, Serenity lifted her right foot off the ground, about to take her first step away from the desolate place—
Cold, unfamiliar arms wrapped themselves around her, one holding her neck in a chokehold, the other tight around her waist.  The difference in temperature between Serenity’s body and these arms was astounding; she wondered if any of the eight winters she’d experienced in her lifetime could even compare to the cold she was now feeling.  She was dimly aware of her father’s gift, the kaleidoscope, leaving her fingers, landing on the grass, rolling before coming to rest a short distance away, the beads inside making a faint sound until their container ceased to move—a pleasant afterthought, trailing off as if the noise were made in error. 
Serenity squirmed silently, in too much of a state of shock to scream for help or even to cry; her captor’s hold was not loosened in the slightest by her efforts.  The unfamiliar arms lifted her off the ground, and a voice—smooth, dark, disturbingly familiar—broke the tense silence, causing her to shiver as she continued her pointless squirming.  As she struggled to keep breathing and her sight blurred, this voice whispered six simple words in her ear:
Serenity, Serenity…your calm has ended.
The once perfect scene faded from gray to black in sickly slow motion.
Afterward, nothingness.  All five senses ceased to exist at the same instant.
Then, without warning, there was a violent flash, the color of fresh blood.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kaleidoscope: Author's Note

back in middle school, some friends and i wrote fan fictions.  the longest running project was our collection of Yu-Yu Hakusho fictions.  even though some of us were nothing more than quiet fans of the anime (i didn't even watch it regularly), we all created original characters and storylines, periodically sharing stacks of typed and handwritten pages with the others in the writing circle.  i never finished my fan fiction, called Kaleidoscope, but i've kept it since the 7th or 8th grade; what i wrote is currently sitting in a folder on my computer's hard drive (and on my external hard drive too, just in case...).

i always wanted to go back and finish that story.  looking back on the original draft, i can honestly say it's worse than the Twilight series (half-hearted apologies to all Stephenie Meyer fans).  the characters had no depth, the plot had no legitimate substance...i was basically writing because all of my friends were writing.  this realization is in part what led me to conclude that i was never meant to write prose.

even still, that desire to get to the end of my plot line hasn't left me.  so, although i'm a college graduate and my middle school shenanigans seem like ancient history, (re)writing Kaleidoscope has become an ongoing project once again.  and i've decided to post it here, in installments, as i revise each piece (just don't expect them too regularly; i am on my way to medical school).  some parts may still appear rough and Twilight-esque, but i'm no longer terribly concerned.  i'm mostly doing this for myself, to one day say that i finally finished, even if every other one of my friends put their pens away a long time ago.

thanks for indulging me for a (very lengthy) second,

for the sake of consistency, i'll probably refrain from giving canon characters a physical description so readers who are unfamiliar with YYH know when a character can be googled and when a character is coming straight from my brain or the brain of one of my friends.

and to that original band of fellow storytellers, thanks for reading, critiquing, and even helping to write parts of the very first draft.  i still have the pages with your comments filling up every available space.

tatted up

is this weird?

i'll probably never get a tattoo. but i know exactly what i would get if i decided to. and it's a rather lengthy list that's still growing.
  1. a barcode at the base of my neck
    • update 5/31/18 - considering a working QR code that links to something 
  2. right beneath #1, "3Ni" 
    • update 5/31/18 - will probably do "ENi" instead; found out recently that 3Ni means something and I'm not a fan of the meaning
  3. kanji for "ebony" (黒檀) either right next to or beneath #2, on my left wrist, or behind my left ear 
  4. kanji for "fire" (火) on my back, between my shoulders, possibly with red and orange flames around it 
    • update 5/31/18 - would consider it on one shoulder instead of between my shoulders
  5. a music note (probably a dotted eighth branched with a sixteenth, just to be a bit creative) behind my right ear 
  6. "pain" in katakana (ペーン) twice around my right wrist, facing me on one side and facing outward in the other. this idea comes partly from Naruto and partly as a reminder that we are capable of hurting people just as much as people hurt us. a bit dark, but it is what it is 
  7. a quarter rest on my ankle or behind my left ear if nothing else is there
  8. a semicolon somewhere (ankle? finger?), in reference to the semicolon movement that raises awareness about mental illness and addiction--my story isn't over yet (
  9. "worth • the • wait" around the base of my left ring finger
  10. "mercy > judgment" and "James 2:13" on my left forearm
  11. "overcomer" on my right collarbone 
  12. "Jehovah Jireh" in Hebrew (יְהוָה יִרְאֶה) on my right index finger 
  13. Namaste in Sanskrit/Devanagari (नमस्ते) on one of my ankles
  14. "a scar is just a plot to kill you that didn't work," possibly on my right forearm
  15. A small chocolate chip cookie.  For my cousin who died June 2016; his nickname was “Cookie Monster”

i'm so bad at goodbyes...

i never quite know what to say.

(if anyone's wondering, this was supposed to publish itself as i left college about 2 and a half weeks ago.  it never did.  and i didn't want to delete it so i decided to post it now, because it's still true.)