White Pailin Rose

“I can’t believe it took us this long to finally make the trip,” said Khun Neary, pulling Chet from his musing of the lone semi-ruined cottage in the middle of a green field.
“Oh, yes, considering how much our friends tease us,” he replied, head shaking slightly thinking about the hundreds of times they’ve heard the phrase, “Chao Chet and Khun Neary” by literally everyone who knew their names, even by that quirky colleague at work upon receiving their wedding invitation a week ago.
In a way, it seemed like they had been made for each other.

God was a cruel playwright. Chet learned this when his father died of a needless traffic accident twelve years ago. He supposed from then on, he might have subconsciously setting himself up to meet his soul mate, his Khun Neary.
She would be the woman of all his dreams- pretty, witty and bold. The young Chet grew up waiting for his lead actress, the goddess to complete his shrine. His life would not start, Chet felt, not unless he’d found his other half.
And when a charming-looking new colleague introduced herself as Khun Neary, Chet knew at once. This was her. This sweet looking woman with black flowing hair and a hint of permanent smirk on her face who spoke with a tilted Siem Reap accent was literally the Khun Neary to his Chao Chet.

Chet looked back at his newly-made wife, bathing under the warm September morning sunshine which was sipping stealthily into the tiny car they’d rent for their trip to Pailin. Arrays of light made her rosy cheek a shade darker, like a rose ready to bloom. In a way, she had always looked like a rose to him, full of thorns, but beautiful, oh so beautiful, to behold.
To call her his was probably what it felt like to be the master of a garden full of perfect roses- proud and content.
Struck by a thought, Chet rummaged through his backpack to find his forgotten treasure, a single white rose which he’d manage to purchase this morning without Khun’s knowing. His wife’s brown sultry eyes lit up with surprise. Hand grasping for the flower, she gave him a quick peck on the lips- a noiseless thank you to a noiseless offering.
They did not need further acknowledgement; both knew the other was content.

With Khun laying her petite head on his shoulder, Chet steadily fell into an easy nap to the rhythm of his wife’s cute little snores, and the silent hum of the car’s engine. If this was what being in love felt like, he could easily do it every single day for the rest of his life.


The couple were woken up by the soft persistent call of the driver. Of course, they’d just got a flat tire, in the middle of lunch time, no less.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” apologized the driver, sweat running down his cleft lips. “I’ll fix it as soon as possible.”

Grumpily, Chet nodded. They both decided to get out of the small rented taxi to sit under the shade of a huge umbrella tree near the road. The heat was prickling on Chet’s back, and he felt like despite the enormous amount of gel in it, his hair would shoot up like bed springs any minute now. As if she’d read his thoughts, Khun smoothed his sweating head in a familiar gesture, perfected by regularly practices. She’d always liked it sleek- simple and sleek. Controllable, predictable, not like his originally curled black locks, wild and full of literally surprising twists.

This was not supposed to be how it should go. They were supposed to have a smooth ride to Pailin, the province where their respective fictional characters had fallen in love and fall in love all over again. This taxi was not supposed to stupidly die in the middle of everything!

“We should get something to eat,” urged Khun, peeking from under the big pink scarf he’d given her on their first month-versary. To this day, nearly 6 months later, Chet still felt that moving sensation in his breast every time he saw the batting coal-black eyelashes of his wife’s, or the way she scrunched up her eyebrows every time she was troubled.
Again, Chet was shot with a pang of ecstasy. This wonderfully beautiful woman. She’s all his. She’s all his.
They had the rest of their lives to be happy.

“We were supposed to stop at the provincial town for lunch. Now, what?” Khun asked again, now with an unmistakable tint of frustration laced in her smooth voice.
If only you knew how to cook, then we’d not be sitting here and complaining about food, thought Chet. Though he knew better than to say it out loud. It shouldn’t have bothered him, her not knowing how to cook, but it was hard to ignore the nagging disapproval of your heart when your stomach was also in the chorus.

“Did you know that white roses are considered to be the opposite of red roses even though they are both roses?” Chet asked, looking at the snow white rose Khun kept in her pale, veined palm.
“You know I love your literary musings, but I’m really not in the mood for story times right now.” But Chet could not stop. He had to go on; he had to. He felt like he was being chased by an invisible monster close behind his heels. His wife had always been fond of his idle musings, and now he was afraid, incredibly afraid that if he stopped now, the monster would catch up.
Must go on. Must go on.

“Red roses symbolize love whereas white roses symbolize… death.”
Khun glanced at him and steadily held her gaze for a good solid minute. Her face went from pure wide-eyed surprise, to puzzled, then to surprise again. For some reason, Chet knew. He knew she’d also seen the monster. The monster which was chasing them both.


Tap, tap tap.

Hundreds of droplets of rain suddenly fell from the seemingly clear sky. Chet and Khun hurriedly scurried back into their small grey taxi. Panting, Chet tried to desperately combed back his unruly curly hair back into its place. It was no use, the angry locks shot up from the roots of his head like bamboo sticks, coiling like springs in every direction imaginable.
He glanced up, half astonished, half ashamed to see mascara-stained eyes looking back at him. Underneath the eyes, powder and blush all blended in and rushed away from Khun’s cheeks like a city under flood.

They both laughed.
The monster had caught on.

The Dancer and the Spectator

It’s day 3 of the lookout now.

Seems like she’s doing fine. The girl actually smiled today- the first one I’ve seen since I was assigned to her.

It came quite unexpectedly, like a sudden gush of cooling wind during a hot summer’s day. However, not unlike a hot summer’s day, the wind succeeding it still continues to be hot, warm, and somehow oppressing.

She’s hunching over her desk right now, typing away as if her life depends on it; maybe in a way, it does. The little arrow on top of her head is still pointing south, a grim reminder of my duty once the time comes.

If you’d ask me, I’d say this job was not quite bad. It’s the equivalent of what you’d call a therapist, really.

Though instead of talking people into life, I talk them into death.

Tip, tap, tip, tap, the sound of her keyboard seem to magnify among the silence spell that was casted in the room. She has been writing profusely since dinner. Of course I can take a peek if I want to, but that would be too rude, even for me. Mind you, though without a body, my manners are still intact.

She is concentrating so hard that veins looked like they are going to pop out of her pale, fragile neck in any second now. I hope whatever she is writing is enough to channel her soul back to earth.
The arrow is going down in an alarming rate these past few days, and even with hours hunching over her computer, it’s barely lifted.

Left with too much free time on my hand, I start to glance around her room again. It is helpful to have your human’s background information at hand when the time comes. There is a beautiful art corner with a well-used wooden easel, and dusty art supplies, tucked away like an old well-loved toy once one’s grown up. It is pretty clear this corner was once her favorite part of the room. Once before. Before the illness came.

The little alarm clock on her study desk chimes, and her whole body jolts. It is interesting to see how a human can be so absorbed in an activity that they seem to have lost contact with time and space. I wish there were more moments like these- when people can be lifted from their worldly existence, even if just for a little while. Then maybe there wouldn’t be too many hopeless and lonely people. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to be here.

The rustling of covers bring me back to earth, and I realize she just tucked herself in. Apparently, she’s been setting sleep times.

10 sharp, a few sleeping pills and off to bed.

Really, it’s plain that she’s been trying. Trying to live out a normal existence. For god’s sake, the girl is regulating her sleep time with an alarm clock and sleeping pills. It is scary how one can acquire sleeping pills so easily in this country. My last human couldn’t get a hold of any pills unless there was an official prescription. I guess the law makers’ concern is well-founded after all as I eye the pill bottle suspiciously. It is an aid for now, but when will it turn into a foe?

Fifteen minutes in and she’s sleeping as soundly as a baby. I sit at the window ledge, looking out to the beautiful summer night from her first floor bedroom. There’s a streetlight a little left the balcony. Judging by the amount of toys and childish bits and bobs scattering around her bookshelf, she must have been living in this room for quite long, or maybe for her entire life even. It must have been a pretty sight, this window view at night for a kid with a mind like hers. The clash between the cold night and glowing, yellow lamplight must have once delighted her artistic heart.

Maybe she sat on this very same window ledge, thinking about her dreams and future.

I bet whatever her tiny mind could imagine did not involve being on suicide watch by a ghost at the age of 18.

Maybe the view was beautiful to her once, but now, all she wants to do is to drawn out the night and sleep.

Day 4 is pretty much the same.

You know, the thing about suicidal people is that their lives leading up to the critical moment are almost never out of the ordinary. You can pretty much see them living and think everything is going quite fine. They wake up, eat their meals, and go off to work or school. They pay their taxes, and say their thank you’s.

Really, if I hadn’t known any better, I’d have thought she was fine. The way she greets the homeless man at St. 51 every day on her way to school, or the way her head bobs gracefully to the music she always listens to during break. Really, she seems like a pretty normal girl until the mood strikes, and oh boy, do they strike often.

It is now day 6. She’s doing so fine that I think I will have to leave her be in a few days. That is… until her mom gives her yet another gift- a wooden clock this time. God, what is up with these people and their obsession with woods?

The round wooden clock with its hands going round and round and round seem to signify to her something larger than itself. She looks at the clock for a long moment, and her eyes shift to the nearby bed, and makeup stand, all made of black and red glistering wood. Contempt mixed with disgust are evident on her bunched up little face.

I know there are things, lots of things bothering her, or else I wouldn’t have to be here, but what exactly? Most of the cases I’ve encountered had an obvious cause- an unrequited love on a friend, abrupt financial ruins and debts, or the infamous heartbreak.

But this girl.

She’s not seeing anyone.

She’s not attracted to anyone.

And she’s living just fine, with money to spare to the homeless.

So what? What exactly is bothering her?

Gosh, I sometimes wish I could read minds. That would make the job way easier, but then again, nature has some pretty sick, twisted laws, and what can one do, but to learn and live with them?

If this keeps going, she will be able to see me soon. Without knowing why, I check my wings to make sure the feathers are in order. I hate being this self-conscious, or sprit-conscious, or whatever, but when your sole communication was with occasional humans you have to kill, you would also want to look presentable for the occasion.

Her laptop lays closed on her desk. It used to look like a wonderful silver-skinned animal with its own howl and rhythm when she typed it the nights before. Now, it resembles nothing but a dead rock, lifeless and bleak.

Instead of working on the laptop, her eyes stare fixedly at the collage of photos behind it. These people all look happy. There is this one photo with her in large goggles, and lab coat, grinning with only a few scattering teeth present. Then there are photos of her with people, most of whom I’ve never seen. They look happy in that moment, all smiling, posing for the camera, including her. As she is staring at the photos, her mood darkens. The arrow rapidly draws south.

What is happening exactly? Which one of these smiling flesh hurt her? Or did they all turned their backs on her?

“Who are you?” she suddenly asks out croakily. I am shocked, to say at least at the unexpected question.

So she can see me now after all.

“I said who are you?” she asks, slightly louder now. Maybe she is not just sad, but quite mad as well.

“Uhm… I’m your ghost guide.”

She looks skeptical, but the twitch at the right corner of her mouth gives away her curiosity.

“Are you going to kill me?” she asks. The level of calmness in her voice chilled me. The girl is staring at what she thinks is death, and her mind is as calm as the ocean.

“Uh… would you like me to?”

This question seems to have taken her by surprise. Maybe, she has been bracing for death, and is surprised at the chance to choose. After a long pause in which I continue twitching my right wing, and looking anywhere but at her, she finally utters, “Yes.”

You know, it would be so much easier to just kill her right then and there, but then again, that is not my job. You people get Grim Ripper all wrong. I’m the closest resemblance to The Grim and most of the time I just talk, awkwardly, I might add.

I turn to face her. Her brows are furrowed in concentration, and lips quivering. I can’t tell if they are chanting a prayer, or shaking out of fear.

“Why? If you don’t mind me asking?”

A hint of annoyance flashes across her face, and I instantly add, “You know, I have to ask these kinda questions before doing my job.”

“I just… I… This life I’m living…,” she pauses, seemingly lost for words, “it feels like death.”

Maybe sensing my confusion, or maybe she thinks I am just a figment of her imagination, she decides to continue, “This body,” she gestures to herself, “feels like it was borrowed. Every time I see myself in pictures, it feels like seeing a complete stranger who happens to look like my reflection.”

She has looked pass me now, eyes fixating on the streetlamp outside.

“You know, life is like a spectacular dance in which I, myself am a part of, but at the same time, I feel like I’m one of the spectators watching the scene from afar.”

I nod as if to confirm that I am still listening.

Silence fills the air; not even the occasional howls from the street below can break our oppressing spell of a moment.

She glances at the framed picture of her family on the desk, with her dad smiling. “Go on, darling,” he seems to be saying, “go on, kill yourself, my love.”

Tear has started to fall down, creating a wet trail across her hallow cheeks. It’s clear she’s not someone who likes to cry too often, and this tear seems to have been stored away, way past its expiration date.

Maybe knowing you will die in a minute makes it easier for you to let the tear flow, to let your guard down, to be true to yourself at last.

“So, just, just do it,” she continued, voice quivering as if uttering these words takes her a great deal of effort.

“No.”

She opens her eyes. I haven’t even noticed she’s held them shut. This is not the face of a willing warrior, embracing her fate. It is one of a foolish victim, expecting a death sentence.

“What do you mean no?”

“No, as in you’re not ready,” I speak slowly and deliberately while shuffling my feet a little. “I’ve been watching you for a while, and I think you just hate the life you’re living. Seems like you don’t hate life in general.”

She rolls her eyes to the upper right corner, a sign that she’s pondering something. Her brows furrow, signifying great concentration.

This is it. This is my chance. This is the tact or break moment! “You know, it seems like you don’t really like the life you’ve been handed, but I know you have a life in your head, a life you would be proud to call your own.”

She looks at me, unseeingly for a second.

I look at her empty eyes for a few moments and thinking this is it. I am not able to save this one. Yet, she stays silent, solemn in her own head until as if alarmed, she whips around the room, trying to locate something out of sight.

Tentatively, she questions, “Are you still here?”

After scanning the room for a few times, it seems like she’s decided to give up. She’s probably thinking I am a figment of her overly stimulated imagination after all, and who can blame her?

The alarm goes off.

10 sharp.

But instead of taking her oval white pills as usual, she turns on her computer. As if grateful for the chance to live, the machine roars and roars under her fingers as she types words after words, sentences after sentences into the night. I sit at the window ledge, not wanting to disturb her work, not that I can anyway.

Humans have a fascinating mind. One moment. One moment is all it takes for some of them to decide to live or to die. One moment. One night is all it takes to point the arrow north, and with that thought in mind, I ready myself for departure.
It’s now 6 in the morning. She’s still fast asleep- the first time I’ve seen her asleep with no chemical other than what her body produces.

She looks almost peaceful now with dim sunlight shining on her pale face, and rose-bud lips producing soft little humming snores. Something is telling me that I will never get to see this girl again. That she will live out her natural life with all the strength her small frame can muster. Well, in that case, maybe, a note won’t hurt.

Good bye, #34 and live well.

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