Nameless Wanderer

(This is in response to the Weekly Writing challenge: The Power of Names. Hope you guys like it.)

A forgettable young man hurries along a crowded cosmopolitan street, int the middle of one of the busiest evenings of the Imperial Calendar*, New Year’s Eve. He is wearing a great trenchcoat made of heavy cloth, wrapped around his tall and slender physique. He eyes his surroundings, taking good, long looks into the shadowy alleys and corner stores. The faceless mass of people never noticed it, but there were bright, incandescent red eyes staring back at the man.

The traditional paper lanterns were suspended high above their heads on a metal line, lighted by the gentle flames within. Left and right, there were people offering good-luck charms, talismans of all shapes and sizes, as well as necessities for the New Year’s Eve dinner table. All of them overshadowed by the titans that were the skyscrapers and commercial buildings and department stores that dominate the Capitol, selling their own brand of life-giving baubles and regenerative elixirs.

But this “young” man is looking for a different type of absolution tonight, on this festive, festive night.

I’ve been on the run for several decades now. I can’t tell you exactly how I got into this mess, but it has something to do with me doing forbidden rites at the right place at the right time. Its given me an unholy long life, control over the Aethyr*, among other terrifying and inhuman feats.

All of it for the low, low price of my name.

And, no, do not consider it, not for one moment. Never relinquish your name, the one given to you at birth, until you have something to replace it with, or if you’re already on your way to Nirvana. You can’t possibly know what it feels like to live without a name. Of course, there would always be the inconvenience of having to fabricate an identity over and over again, but that’s just the beginning…

Your name is where the “YOU” that you think you are begins. It is the dewdrop that condenses the storm that is the person, a placeholder for your own mark to be left in the world. Imagine being merely an existence, but never really living. No one knowing or becoming aware of your existence. You would always be that faceless stranger at the train. That nameless man you sat beside to in the bus. My powers could grant me power over my immediate reality without so much as making me sweat, but the Astral* placeholder for others to actually recognize that it was me that made the stars burn out before them, or caused the dead to come back to life, was missing, so I slowly faded from their consciousness, and they would soon relegate the causes of those miracles to more mundane sources.

And there’s also one more thing…

This young-looking man reaches an abandoned part of the marketplace district, and he slowed his pace as he noticed the fact that he was the only one there. It becomes difficult to breathe as the air grows thicker, colder. He pulls his coat over him to get warmer, to no avail. Shivering slightly, he gets truly uncomfortable as he feels the weight of over a thousand pairs of eyes gaze upon him. He looks into the darkness, but sees nothing.

I said something about names being the placeholders for one’s existence in the Astral, right? Lack of a placeholder would mean a lot of potential space. And remember that word, Potential. It comes from the word Potent.

And things with a lot of Potential, are great energy sources for those who feed on pure energy.

Did I ever say WHY I was on the run?

The winds pick up, quickly rustling up the light paper trash and plastic litter strewn across the empty pathway.  

It’s because I’m on the Menu.

Shadows coalesce into a barely human form, rising from the ground up, terminating in a horrible-looking impression of a human skull.

Y’know, Main Course…

It opened its jaws and let out a very inhuman screech before lunging furiously unto the silver-haired man in the abandoned street.

I’ve got to be somewhere! Of all the occasions to run into a metaphysical nasty!

The silver-haired man swiftly faced the creature and wrote a sigil into the air between him and the incoming creature in glowing red glyphs. 

And blinding silvery light shot into the darkness of the night.

 

*********************

*Imperial Calendar : The official calendar of the Serenian Empire.

*Aethyr: The probabilistic substance that forms from the thoughts and emotions of sentient beings.

*Astral: A parallel plane of existence made of completely of Aethyr.

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Review of Yvette Tan’s Waking the Dead

 

Among one of my most recent book buys is one by a local writer and journalist, Yvette Tan, entitled Waking the Dead, a collection of short stories about humanity’s struggles and horror against both monsters lurking in the dark and those born from an abusive relationship.

Waking the Dead, and other stories – Yvette Tan

Quite in the tradition of such renowned names such as Nick Joaquin, she sets the stories within the Philippines, with its folklore and wonder coming to life in awe-inspiring, and at many times, terrifying, ways into its inhabitants’ lives. But, diverging from tradition, she masterfuly weaves a mythology of her own, but still keeping true to her patently filipino style of writing.

Each story is a panorama of emotions set in a dream-like landscape of child-like awe. Everything is similar to how you remeber them, but still new. Such is looking at the world through a child’s eyes. The sense of wonder springing from discovering how much you really didn’t know.

And the gretest fears also come from not knowing.

It is also interesting to note is one story that put her, the writer, into one of the narratives.I’m not sure if this was a true-to-life account of a supernatural experience, or if it was one of those tall tales people are sometimes fond of teling. I’d be sure to ask her if I ever get the chance.

The characters were all inherently broken inside, whether it is the slow internal erosion caused by a dysfunctional relationship, or mourning over the loss of one’s beloved wife. It moves them into situations resulting in some of the most moving emotional conflicts I’ve read in a long time. Whether or not they are aware of it, they seem to know deep in their hearts that nothing is in the heavens or upon the earth that would save them, maybe except for themselves. Despite that, they still strive and struggle against whatever it is before them, this grim resolution to continue making this book one worth the time to read.

It explores some very sensitive topics like same sex relationships, illegal drugs, murders and child abuse, weaving the awe and horror of the world around them into their own dire situations.

Fade to Nothing, one of the more emotionally intense stories of the lot.

Another theme in particular that got my attention was the treatment it gave to the concept of salvation in two stories in particular, The Child Abandoned and Sidhi. The first explores how the legend of the Sta. Teresa, the child Abandoned, was formed, and how she initiated the Change, the great watery cataclysm that resulted in the cleansing of the Pasig River, destruction of the Black Nazarene and the crossing over of the Fae-folk into our world.

This story in particular treated the concept of salvation as an internal overhaul of destructive actions and habits, using the filthy Pasig River as a metaphor. That in the flushing out the trash and the destruction of long-held dogmas and beliefs, and letting the Change take you with it, and just going with its will, the world will become a more exciting place filled with wonder and awe.

Then, there was Sidhi, meaning Intense in Filipino, a story about Noah, called the Dreamer, a man who can supposedly bring temporary Salvation to those who can find him, and that of Jan the woman from whose point of view the story was told, living in the shadow of the one who can bring man and women to the stars and the depths of the void using his mind. Salvation on Earth.

It was the eve of the Feast of Sta. Teresa, a night where people came to both become cleansed as the Saint did to the river, and wallow in the mire of both human and non-human carnality. It was in many ways, a cautionary tale to accompany the message of The Child Abandoned. That temporary salvation was not salvation at all, as shown in the scene where Jan fled from Noah during the high point of the Dreamer’s spell, where she discovered that Noah’s already sanity has failed along with the steady decline of his health.

All in all, the entire book, in all its simplicity, leads the reader on a dreamy tour of landscapes and cityscapes similar to ours, but with wonder and terror just waiting to be discovered. It was a worthwhile reading and I recommend this book to anyone who wants a good book about night stalkers and fairies, giants kapres who’ve given up smoking, and widowers waking the dead, all while keeping a grim sense of realism and somber social awareness.