Locked up

I must escape
 From the horrors
  Of my mind.
I am trapped
 In an endless torture
  Of my own imagination.
I hear things they don't.
 I see things they overlook.
  I feel things they ignore.
I run and run
 With nowhere to go
  And nowhere to hide.
I know you have the key.
 Let me out.
  Set me free.
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Earth’s Wrath: The Rage of Fire

I have lived in darkness for the past three days.

I am alone in this small room with nothing but a bed, a pot for my wastes and a door. No windows or candles to provide the smallest hope of light. My hands are tied behind my back. I have tried to escape thrice only to be thrown down by a man twice my size and my bonds made tighter. But I am not the only one suffering.

There are four of us — there have always been four — here in this temple. I hear one of the girls at night, crying to sleep. One prayed, only stopping when it’s time for dinner — the only meal the men provided us. The other one is silent that I wonder if she can’t talk at all. Then the last one is me, who always fought. I will never stop fighting till I died.

Today’s the fourth day, the last day. And the men have come for us.

The sun is almost setting but the light still hurts my eyes. The men lead us out the temple, toward the raised dais where four posts were set, facing each direction. Below the dais are people whom we know. We have lived in the same village, smiled at one another on the streets, and helped each other in the time of need. But tradition dictates that four women must give their own life for the continuance of other’s. There are many who supports this tradition; I am one of the few who don’t.

The men tie each of us to individual posts and I flex my wrists apart so they can still move. Kindlings are set upon our feet, encircling the posts themselves. They intend to burn us. I will not let them.

A priest starts bringing the orb of Fira into the middle of the dais, his lips moving faintly with his prayers. The crowd is silent as the priest bellows, “Praise be to the goddess of Fire!”

“Praise to her and all her glory!” the crowd answers.

“Today we shall witness yet again our goddess’s love and passion sweep over our lands and families. And how else can we show her our gratitude? How else can we make sure that she never leaves our side? Today! These four young, beautiful souls will enter our goddess’s sweet loving arms and make the goddess divine satisfied!” says the priest.  The orb glows bright red in the center and I know that if I somehow get a hold of it, I might get the chance to live.

The priest then takes hold of a torch, walks toward the praying girl at my right, shouts, “Let the fire burn our diseases!”, and sets fire to her.

The crowd cheers but the sound of the girl’s cries rings louder in my ears. Soon her cries are doubled by the girl opposite from me and then tripled by the girl at my left as the priest lights them up one by one, burning away “calamities” and “conquerors”, as if us girls are manifestations of the things they hate and fear.

I am wrong to stay in this village for too long. I am wrong for thinking I could live here in peace. And I refuse to let others live while I die for their sakes.

The priest comes for me but I have already loosened the rope around my wrists.

“Let the fire burn the wicked!”

I wrench the torch from the priest’s hands and hit his surprised face with the burning end. A satisfying crunch and the sizzling of burning flesh fills my ears as the priest went down. The crowd gasps and the closest to the dais backs away. But I don’t worry about them; let them help him to his feet. The orb of Fira has already caught my attention.

I sprint toward it; the men guarding us realizing too late that it isn’t the priest’s demise that I am after. It is my freedom and life of all the girls that would have succeeded our sacrifice. I reach towards the glowing orb and I’ve prepared myself to be burned but —

What? The orb is…cold?

Suddenly I feel…lighter than I’ve ever felt before. My flushed body calms as brightly colored wind — no, not wind but fire! — envelope my body. Flashes of blues and greens and golds lift my hair and swirl around my arms.

I look up the sky and laugh. So this is power.

I lower my gaze upon the crowd that not so long ago cheered for the deaths of four girls. Four. Because the girl I was died and now I am reborn as fire. I open my arms and release myself unto them.

            Burn them all.

Earth’s Wrath: The Cry of the Ocean

It was said that the water from Eau temple could heal. The temple itself was in the middle of the sea, and only us, priestesses, were allowed inside. Later this day, I received a letter containing my sister’s plummeting health condition. I had prepared a full canteen of the temple’s water when a second letter arrived. With greatest sadness, my sister did not survive.

It was said that the water from Eau temple could heal. But I believe it could do so much more; no, not the water, but the source. I believe it could bring back the dead.

I didn’t allow grief to sway me from my plan. Coincidentally, it was my turn for performing the cleansing ritual, an act which would allow me to go near the source, and borrow it for a few moments. I promised myself that I would bring it back once everything was done.

Our house wasn’t far from the shore and all members of my family were there; my sister in her simple white dress lying on her bed. She looked like she was sleeping except for the absence of the rise and fall of her chest, of the color in her cheeks, of the movement of her eyes beneath her lids. I gripped the glistening Eau orb to my chest as I slowly approached her.

“Daughter,” mother managed to rasp from her hoarse voice and tear-stained face. “You are too late. She is gone. You are far, far too late,” she accused.

As if my sister’s frail health was my fault. As if I was to be blamed for her death. I refuse to accept my sister’s end even if it goes against what was taught in the temple. “It is never too late, Mother. Not with the orb of Eau with us.”

My mother gasped. And so did my father and brothers. “What have you done, child?” my father bellowed. “That sacred orb must never leave the temple.” His eyes were panicked as he continued, “You have doomed as all.”

I stopped hearing everyone’s fearful cries for safety and stopped caring for their silent, frantic steps to flee. I knelt beside my sister’s bed and placed the orb right above her chest, made her small, delicate hands to wrap around it.

The orb started to glow and with it my hope grew. This was the right thing to do. I will save her, I thought. Outside our house, people were screaming for help, for salvation, for safety.

“The sea! The sea is retreating! Run!” they called.

Suddenly, a huge amount of wind shook the thin walls of our house, lifting my hair and skirts in every direction, lifting my sister’s body off the ground.

“No!” I screamed and scrambled atop the bed, covering my sister’s body with my own. “Ilyanae, wake up!”

And she did.

It worked! The orb worked! I was so happy a tear escaped my eye.

But as I studied my sister’s features, her eyes… Her dark blue eyes were blank and stared at nothing, her face impassive. “Ilyanae?” I whispered. Her skin turned from cold to freezing. And as her chest expanded in an inhale, water leaked out from every hole in her body so cold it burned then quickly froze. I snatched the orb before it stuck in my sister’s frozen body and watched in horror as cracks slowly formed from her eyes like tears running down her face, splitting in every direction, every part of her body, until finally it shatters into a million broken pieces.

No!” I screamed, clutching the orb to my chest, just as the ocean came crushing down upon me.

I shut my eyes. I’ve failed —failed to save my sister, failed in my duties as priestess, failed as a daughter. And yet, even as I wait for the crushing pressure to drown me, nothing came. I took a breath and realized that I could. I opened my eyes one at a time and saw the ocean above me, beneath me, around me and I realized that I’ve been cocooned in a bubble of air.

But where there should only be water, the faint light of the sun illuminates the destruction the water has done to my village. Huts that should have been in the sand floated around in pieces, carried by the strong current. Worse, I saw bodies of men and women and children, some already bloated, some still struggling to resurface, some only parts of them remained.

The terror gripped me so hard, I shook. Why was I the only one unharmed? Why was I the only one left alive? Why—

My eyes drop to the orb clutched to my chest and my father’s voice echoed to my ears.

I have truly doomed us all.

Earth’s Wrath: The Stillness of Air

It wasn’t meant to happen. This wasn’t meant to happen. I never meant for it to happen. I did everything I was told and I did it perfectly; there was simply no room for errors.

The temple of Aera was set on the edge of a cliff, its long pillars chapped from centuries of harsh weather conditions. The old tales referred to this temple as the birthplace of storms and of hurricanes. I knew what to expect but calling the place ‘windy’ would certainly be the understatement of the year. The wind shouted warnings that my partner and I continued to ignore; warnings that were simply overlooked knowing what treasure lies within.

Inside the temple, the wind sang its history. Its lyrics were of monks who had long ago turned into dust and of hunters whose dead bodies remained a mystery. In a line or two, the wind whispered locations of hidden rooms and trap doors but only those who have been trained knew how to listen and interpret. I was one of the chosen.

“Slowly…slowly…,” my partner murmured.

“I know what I’m doing,” I snapped. My palms sweat even though the air was cool. I took a breath or two to calm my racing heart. I was hyperaware of the treasure that was laid before me and of its replica in my hand. All I had to do was quickly replace the opaque Aera orb with the fake, taking the genuine one with me and scram. And I did. My partner and I got out of the temple safely, a little out of breath, but safe. I remembered looking into each other’s eyes, our success shining in our faces. Then it happened.

It started when one of the temple’s pillars cracked; a deafening sound of stone against stone. The wind blew harder—we had to fall on our knees just to stay on the ground—and after a moment, it suddenly stopped. I looked up and saw that every natural movement—the swaying of trees, the sound of the wind, the crumbling temple—stopped. Then my partner made a choking sound.

He was clutching his neck; his eyes bulged, his face growing purple with his mouth opened as he made gasping sounds. I reached his side and tried to pull his hands away and demanded what was wrong.

“I can’t…breathe…”

“What?” I was dumbfounded. I didn’t understand what was happening till the first bird dived to the ground. I tilted my head and saw that the sky shed birds as tears, all of them plummeting to the ground, some instantly died while some in the same state of my partner then went limp.

My partner grabbed my arm with fading strength, his face pleading for me to do something.

“Help…me…”

But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what to do. My naivety had caused this catastrophe and as I watched my partner sigh his last breath, I became aware of a faint glow tucked in my coat. The treasure—the orb—was glowing and it was this, I realized, that triggered everything. I looked back to the temple only to find its remaining half, the other half now fell to the sea beyond. There was no hope.

Unintentionally, I dropped the orb to the ground. The instant I lost contact with the orb, my breathing was cut off, as if I’ve swallowed a cork to my esophagus. No, I thought, clutching my throat. Panic engulfed me as I frantically searched for the orb. The moment I touched it, air came rushing back to my lungs and it took every inch of me to stay conscious even as I heaved like a fish out of water.

What have I done?

Eyes as windows

He told me it’ll only hurt at first.
He told me it won’t take long.
He told me it’ll make things better.

Sure, at the beginning, it hurts.
Then it hurts more.
Then it hurts so much.
It hurts too much until it hurts no more.

We see people on the streets.
At home.
In school.
At work.
Everywhere in everyday.

Although these people we see are living,
Some of us are dead inside.
If you look through the windows of my body,
You’ll see the ruin in me.
Death lives within me.
He resides in my body.

Death took one look and one look only.
He saw I was falling apart.
He saw things crashing down within me.
He saw hope running low from me.
He saw where he could be.
He knew what I’m going through
And that’s when he decided where he’ll stay.

He offers me his company
For the times I was down and lonely.
Then finally he asked me to let him stay.
He told me it’ll only hurt at first.
He told me it won’t take long.
He told me it’ll make things better.
My body as his shelter
In exchange for my pain and sadness to go away.

Death wants to dominate this body,
So first, he touched the armor of my strength—it rots.
It made the pain unbearable for there is no strength to endure.
Second, he put out the flame of my kindness.
Death doesn’t like warmth, so he made everything cold.
Third, he flick off the switch of my emotions
For pain and sadness to be no more.
Lastly, he blew the little candle of hope in me.
Death likes darkness so he puts out anything that glows.

I know I’ve decided this.
I know this is my own doing.
I’ve turned myself into something so pitiful.
I gave up on myself and let others take authority.
I thought this is better
Not feeling anything at all
I thought this is cooler
Not caring about a single soul
I forgot that I have my own soul too
Now, look into my eyes, I scream for help.

Heavy

a time comes in our life that we discover a part of us that we
don’t like.
and we keep on denying that it’s not who we are, that’s not how
we were brought up, that’s not who we will be.
and then we wonder what triggered those things, who made us
this way, what are we going to do.
then it becomes a burden in our hearts, weighing down our every
gasping breath for clarity, for peace, for freedom.
we pass people on the streets and think, “Can they feel my feet
dragging on cement at every step I take? Can they see beyond my
eyes to the crying soul beneath? Can they hear my double and
rapid intake of air as if I were a fish out of water and can’t get
enough of it?”
maybe some people did but were hesitant to take the first step.
maybe some people did but they just didn’t care.
maybe some people did but when they do try to hold out their
hands to us, we shut them out.

Hannah

All the things you’ve said
The bad ones, the hurtful ones,
The forceful ones, the pleading ones
Would soon not matter
Would soon turn to nothing but dust
scattered in the wind
With no one to remember them
But yourself
As you beheld her broken body
Lifeless
In the sea of her blood
As she drowned
In her grief and sorrow.
And then I think of what it must have felt like
If it’s freedom from them
And a prison for her
Or if it was the other way around.
I think of what they might feel
Would they feel anger and regret and sadness and longing
If I do the same thing.