by Abe Llarenas
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. You may also submit a story anytime of the year. Enjoy this one!
Prompt: “Not again” you say as you realize you are falling from a great height, with a bored look on your face.
The massive gates look less glorious than when I saw them last year. Its crystal-covered bars definitely fascinated the multitudes who have come hoping to be given entry. Beyond these gates, into the lush greenery, is the haven.
It was three years ago when I first stepped before these gates. That time, I only wanted to be somewhere I can have peace and quiet. I only wanted to drown out the chaos in my head and I heard this is where I can find it. But it comes with a rather unique price. To be able to enter the gates, one must successfully accomplish a mission on earth.
I look around me and I am surprised by the absence of other guardians. That is how we have come to be known. And as one might easily guess, our missions involve us “guarding” over a “ward.” I have failed too many times before, and I honestly don’t care any longer what verdict I’d get today.
“Have they all passed successfully?”
“That’s right,” answered a booming voice just beyond the gates. “If you’re lucky, mister, you might be able to enter now.”
I snort at his remark. “Yeah right! With my luck, that’s highly unlikely.”
“I really hope you pass this time. I swear, if you fail once more, you might have to rethink your choices…”
I step onto the circular platform, half-listening to the gatekeeper who keeps rambling on about my inability to pass the test faster and earlier than the others. The gatekeeper stops when the platform starts lighting up.
“Ah… I missed seeing these lights, you know!” I shout to the gatekeeper. He doesn’t answer and I hear him tapping on some keys.
I was half expecting that the platform would finally declare that I succeeded in my mission. But then I feel its familiar tug.
I cross my arms over my chest and decide to let my body do a free fall, the raging winds sluice through my hair and untuck my dress shirt from my pants. Nice. I spent an hour neatly pressing my clothes and this is what I get. I let out another huff of breath and look behind me.
My brows crease as I see the same cityscape, the same neighborhood that I spent the last year in. And right before I hit the same building on which I landed before, I flap my wings out and gently land on the concrete rooftop.
My eyes instinctively dart toward the entryway leading down to the units in this apartment, remembering the first time I was sent here, and the woman who came bounding up the stairs and almost saw my wings.
I shake my head. “This mission is over. Why am I here again?” I say to the night sky. There’s some sort of white noise that muffles the honking of the cars below. And then I hear the gatekeeper speak to me.
“Your record shows your mission changed. The woman—”
“But I already explained why I had to abort the mission. Come on! It’s just going to bring more harm to her if I enter her life again. I will only bring her more pain.”
“Your absence has already done that.”
“What?! Ugh! What’s the new mission then?”
Any retort that formed in my mouth disappeared when I heard her voice.
The voice that irritated me at first when she pointed out that my pinky and ring finger in my right hand look crooked. But then she told me to always take care so I don’t hurt myself again. I eventually told her days later the story behind my crooked fingers. She laughed so hard at my story and the tinkle in her laughter did things inside me.
I missed her voice. Her voice that called my name as if it was the most beautiful in the world. The voice that is soft when she is happy, and goes amusingly loud during the few times I annoyed her. The voice that can magically pacify my troubled mind.
And the voice that told me I am loved.
I snap my head toward the direction of that voice and all the air seems to be knocked out of me.
I didn’t know when or how it started. But I tried to kill my feelings because I know I couldn’t stay with her.
There is no hatred in her voice. Not even a hint of surprise in seeing me standing here in the same spot where I left her. It’s as if she expected me to be back.
“I…” I look at the long line of cars below, then at the skyscrapers beyond, then at the clothespins that keep rattling off somewhere on the rooftop. If I can pretend to look at the wind, I’d do that. Anything, just to avoid looking straight through her eyes. I don’t think I would be able to bear seeing her again.
I try swallowing the lump that formed in my throat. “I just wanted to check on you. See how you’ve been.” I’m surprised to realize that I did want to see her again.
She takes a few steps, closing the distance between us. Her eyes pull mine and I can no longer look away.
“Then, are you… are you l-leaving, again?”
I look up at the sky, then back at her. Maybe it was the soft glow of the moonlight landing on her face. Maybe it was the number of times I failed to enter the gates. Or maybe it was the universe telling me that the haven I have been tirelessly seeking isn’t found beyond those glorious gates.
If I’m being totally honest, the only peace and quiet that I need is not a place, but a choice—a choice to let beautiful things happen between this woman and me.
I am at peace when I finally make my decision. Let this be the last fall I take.
“Not anymore.” ☁️