Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Visiting Rights

The epilogue of Web in our anthology The Secrets That We Keep.


---



Pinned.

It was now his life. A completely different reality that’s unlike how everything used to be.

Shackled.

Unable to do anything but wait while the world carried on with its usual business. 

Stuck.

Robert hated every single bit of this existence.

These three words swirled in his head every single day as he lay on the hospital bed, with one wrist cuffed to the metal bar on his flank. He was brought here immediately after getting kneecapped by his former mentor with a sledgehammer. The details after that excruciating moment were fuzzy at best as he was anesthetized after the cops brought him to the emergency room. When he opened his eyes, he was already cuffed in one of the private wards, his injured leg wrapped in a cast which pulsed in pain every now and then.

Robert lost track of time, no thanks to the lack of a wall clock in the room. He didn’t know how many days or weeks or even months have passed. The TV mounted on the wall didn’t work, so he was forced to waste countless hours staring at the ceiling or at the closed window panes as it was illuminated by the sun’s rays or bathed by moonlight.

The nurse visited at random intervals to bring him food, to check on his condition, to give him sponge baths, and to help him go to the toilet. Whenever she entered, Robert thought of swiping the keys of the handcuffs from her pocket, but his broken leg rendered such plans as nothing but fantasies.

As the doors swung open when the nurse entered, Robert got a glimpse of the outside world for a few seconds. The only thing he saw was the wooden door of the private room across where he was confined, nothing more. Sometimes, he had a glimpse of little kids running in the hallway or people visiting the patient in the other room, carrying a basket of fruit or a bouquet.

During this mind-numbing confine, he was given all the time in the world to think about his actions, particularly the one where he chose to be greedy. Whenever the kids in the hallway laughed or played, he was reminded of that fateful night where he treated Jason like a package that was to be delivered and obviously never to be seen again.

All for the sake of money.

Robert believed that his injury was punishment for his avarice, though back then he thought that he was just doing everything he could to get a new lease in life. The payment he could’ve received from the kidnapping was more than enough for him to move to a new city, find a decent job, and live a normal life. More importantly, it could’ve ensured that the money he sent to his family in the province was no longer earned from crime.

Now, he was no longer able to work and send much-needed cash to his mother as he was surely bound for imprisonment soon. He was now in an inescapable situation, trapped inside a room with a door that didn’t have a lock he could pick.

Better yet, he was stuck in a web he himself spun.  He was both the spider and the fly.

Robert entertained these thoughts as he lay on the bed one cold night, with the rain pouring hard outside which filled the silent air with a comforting ambiance. Thunder growled from the distance as the intermittent bolts of lightning briefly lit the darkness of the room. 

Something clicked on the door. Robert didn’t bother looking, it must be the nurse. She did forget to pick up the meal tray on the side table this afternoon.

The door closed.

Another click followed. It was locked.

This made Robert turn his head.

His eyes shot wide open.

-----

Every fiber on his body quaked and froze, not because of the cold but due to what stood in front of him.

Robert amassed all of whatever strength he had left and prepared himself for the inevitable. He was filled with both fear and fury as he knew that he was a loose end, yet he wanted to break free from his cuffs and go down fighting even though it was impossible.

So he had no other choice but to stare with clenched teeth, anticipating whatever it is that might come next.

The man stepped next to his bed, an index finger pressed on his lips. Robert noticed the glint of lockpicks wrapped in the man’s other gloved fist.

“I know that you want to scream your lungs out, to get the attention of everyone that your mentor is here,” the bald man said.

Robert pursed his mouth. That was what he was planning to do. Someone had to know the truth about who this bastard really was.

“Who would believe you though? Do you even have a shred of proof?”

“I’ll tell them everything. I’ll tell them that—“

The man interrupted, “That what? I taught you? Introduced you to the website? Think about it, Thompson, there’s nothing you can come up with.”

Robert felt the realization sink into his core. The room didn’t even have a CCTV camera that could’ve recorded everything this man said. There was absolutely no evidence to back up his claims. He had nothing else to do but to lay on the bed as he was driven to a corner with no moves left.

“Besides, I was not to blame in your recent crime. I wasn’t the one who told you to kidnap Jason. I never told you to break our code.”

The man grabbed a stool and sat next to the bed, meaty arms folded across his chest. The grey three-quarter sleeve he wore was drenched by rainwater, making the fabric press against his chiseled physique. Looking at him, he was more of a bouncer than a burglar.

“Why are you here then?” Robert asked.

His mentor sighed, “I realized that I did somehow have a fault in your fiasco.”

Robert raised both of his eyebrows. He didn’t expect those words to come out of the man’s mouth.

“Kat and Jason now live in my house as the kid is too afraid to return to their apartment. He was traumatized by what you did. Now, he couldn’t be left alone anymore. He always wanted someone he knew to be a few steps away from him. Hell, he doesn’t even want to brush his teeth all by his lonesome. I thought he got over it after that incident, but later on he suddenly  became blue and as the days passed he slipped into this downward spiral.”

He continued, “He no longer uses the computer. Instead, he prefers to stare off into space, sometimes while whimpering or rubbing his neck, probably the area where you sedated him. He sometimes plays with his toys or reads a book, but only for a few minutes until he stops and watches the walls or the skies until he gets tired.”

 “Shit,” Robert muttered under his breath.

“I thought that, had I not set you on this path, then this wouldn’t happen to Jason. Had I not trained you and let you become a thief. Or maybe, had I not left you to run on your own. Had I kept watch and stayed with you.”

The man paused for a few breaths. Robert wanted to interject, to tell that his mentor was indeed the one to blame.

The man continued, “That’s what I’m going to do now. To avoid such unfortunate circumstances in the future, I vowed that I would not let the next Treasure Hunter be—“

This time, Robert did not stop himself from interrupting, “What the fuck? Are you still continuing the heists?”

“I am indeed. In fact, I’m already grooming the new recruit, a talented burglar who’s also a jack of all trades. I learned from what happened with you and Jason, and that’s why I am taking precautionary measures. Such an unfortunate circumstance will not happen anymore.”

“How can you live with this while seeing Jason suffer because of what we’ve done?” Robert asked.

“I can’t let go of the site that easily, you know. I wish I could explain it all to you but, let’s just say that some things are better left in the dark for the good of us all.”

Robert shook his head in utter disbelief towards what the hypocrite just said. If only his leg wasn’t broken, he wanted to get up and beat this pretender to death.

The revelation did give him one card to play. An ace up his sleeve that could very well take this bastard with him down to hell when the time comes.

The man spoke, “If you’re thinking that you’ll tell the authorities about the website and link it to me, then I’m afraid that I’m also here to quash that fantasy of yours.”

Robert pretended to be unfazed by this maneuver.

“Let me ask you something first, Thompson--- err--- Robert Rivera. I’ll use your real name as this question is very much personal… Answer me this: when did your mother visit you?”

The question was like a sucker punch to the gut that exhaled every bit of air in Robert’s lungs. He remained frozen in bed, unable to say anything, paralyzed by the painful truth. No one, not even a single relative, paid him a visit. Perhaps they were too shocked by his crime which was surely all over the Internet and the news on TV. Perhaps they now abandoned him, ashamed of having a criminal who shared their blood.

Discarded. Forgotten. Left to rot.

“Well?” the man asked with one eyebrow raised.

Robert sniffed and closed his eyes, not wanting to let a tear drop and give this man satisfaction in seeing him in his absolute weakest. But the pain was becoming too much to bear, swelling in his core that now reached critical mass.

He waited for his family every day, hoping at least one of them would drop by. Maybe Robbie and Ryan would step into the room with his mother. Maybe they’ll give him a hug, tell him that it’s alright, that he won’t be alone in this fight. Maybe they’ll still accept him despite of what he did.

But no… Only the nurse came.

And this man.

The tears finally trailed down his cheeks.

“You don’t have anyone left,” the man voiced what Robert’s head whispered.

Robert’s voice began to break as he spoke, “Where are you going with this?!”

The man rested his arms on the handles on the bed, “I know that you’re the one your family relies on for money. I also know that you’re worried about your nephews, that you love them so much. Trust me, I know how it feels to be depended on, yet at the same time being treated like shit. To be the provider, yet also being no better than a worm.”

He opened his palms as he continued, “I can arrange something for them since I do have a fault in this tragic turn of events. I can help them financially, get your nephews through their studies, and help your mother with the expenses. I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I’ll think of some kind of way to send them money. Make them see that it came from you.”

“You’re trying to buy my silence,” Robert’s voice was weak, but the man surely heard him.

“Two birds with one stone, Robert. Makes you think about what you’ll get if you decide to rat me and the website out. At least here, we’re both paying for our crimes. Hell, we’re both limp, don’t know if you noticed that.”

Robert sniffled, “At least you have a family to come home to. You’re not trapped in this sorry excuse of a room, and you’re most certainly not bound for a jail cell.”

The man reached for Robert’s arm and gave it a pat, “I can pull some strings. Move you to a better room. And when you finally start your time behind bars, I’ll ensure that you’ll get a decent cell. It’ll mean a lot since you’ll be looking at a life sentence.”

Robert turned away from his mentor and stared at the window panes. 

He was defeated. He had no more cards to play. His life was now set on a course, his fate set on stone.

And he was going to be all alone.

The man stood up with a faint groan, “I always fulfill my promises, don’t you worry about that. Once I find a way on how to send those kids money, I’ll come back to you and show you proof. Looks like I’ll be your frequent visitor from now on.”

Robert still refused to look at the man. He hated this charity-slash-mockery-slash-bribery. He never asked for this, even if it was for the sake of the two eggheads.

The man limped towards the door but, before he opened it, he patted his thigh, “Oh, by the way, do you remember the story why I got this nasty limp?”

“You fell off a roof which led to you recruiting me,” Robert answered without looking.

The man snorted, “Ever thought of other reasons aside from that? Especially now that we’re related in many ways.”

Robert turned to look at his mentor.

But the man was gone.

The doorknob locked with a click.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

This Will Be The Last Time I'll Write About You

I've always thought this moment would come
When our paths diverge, our trails split up
As we walk on roads that take us further apart
Yes, we will still watch the same night sky
But we will be guided by totally different stars

I'll bring with me the words left unsaid
As I begin my journey while you head home
These thoughts, these messages, these feelings
May never see the light of day, ever
For they will be locked away for all eternity

Be that as it may, remember
You've been a part of my life's story
As I most probably have been in yours
And you'll always be in these pages
For you have touched me
And made me see the light
Made me feel warm
And made me smile

And I wrote my praises to you
All my verses have a piece of your beautiful soul
Maybe you read them before
And probably you never noticed
That you were all there
In codes, or with your name in plain sight, yet hidden
And I think it will always remain that way
In the days ahead
Even if this is the last one
A fragment of your splendor will surely still be present
In the words I'll weave

So, I wave my hand as we drift away
Your back turned towards me as I watch you fade
Oblivious. Yet that's for the better.
You don't have to know
You don't need to know
Even the world doesn't have to know

In the end I might probably regret
Letting you become the one that got away
But still I thank the heavens for allowing me
To have known someone so extraordinary like you
You might not see it in yourself
But I do

I think I'll always do...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

These Are The Words

It happened on a bright and sunny Saturday.

I remember it because, the night before, I knelt before her and slipped a diamond ring on her finger. I asked her to be mine for all eternity. Luckily, she said yes.

That Saturday, I was getting ready for work while she sat on the edge of the bed, watching me dry my hair with a towel. She then said, “Can I ask you something?”

I nodded without looking at her.

“What will you do if you found out that I cheated on you?”

I stopped running the towel through my damp hair and looked over my shoulder. Our gazes met, with my eyes squinted in utter curiosity. Why was she asking me this? Probably one of those many questions where she just wanted to gauge my reaction towards specific things. Like that one time when she asked me what would I do if she died.

“I don’t know. I’ll get hurt, of course. Terribly hurt... I might even have a hard time forgiving you,” I answered then resumed the drying of my hair. It was still too freaking wet.

She hung her head, speechless.

Worried at her sudden silence, I turned towards her again. “Why?”

Tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

Sobs then followed.

A chill ran down my spine. My soles froze. Every vein in my being turned glacial.

One word escaped from my mouth, through my frigid breath.

"No..."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Eighth Day

The national museum was one of Delphine’s favorite haunts. She loved visiting the place once or twice a month even though she already saw each and every exhibit.

But today was a special day as there were a new set of displays made available to the public. She saw the advertisements about this new exhibit and that it was about a very important moment in history.

Delphine went to the museum one Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the new exhibit. It was set in a small room with wooden floors and white walls where framed pictures hung. The air was frigid enough to make her breath seem like she was swallowing a blizzard, and the case that stood in front of her sent a glacial trail down her spine.

The guide gently placed his fat hands on a display case and spoke, "These are some of the husks that were recovered after the Eighth Day."


Memories rushed in as Delphine was but a young girl when the Eighth Day took place. It was a day like no other, bright and sunny with blue skies and monstrous fluffs of clouds.

Until everything became black as night, while the air was filled with a buzzing noise that heralded their arrival...

Legions of winged insects carpeted the green lands where Delphine's family planted their crops and fed their livestock. The horrifying creatures landed everywhere, mandibles gnashing on every surface be it wood or flesh.

There were blood-curdling screams from both man and beast. 

Delphine and her family were lucky enough to have a basement that ensured their safety, while her father and her brother swatted every winged monster that managed to wiggle through the cracks in the walls.

After a nightmarish hour, the insects dispersed in different directions while some fell to the earth as if their life was snuffed out with the snap of a finger. The crops were devoured, the fat cows that Delphine used to ride on were reduced to dry bones. Some of her neighbors, her friends, her classmates, were barely recognizable with the thousands of tiny cuts that ripped their bodies apart.

Before the cataclysm occurred, some of her neighbors reported sightings of a man in black clothes and pale makeup who warned everyone about the impending destruction. But none took heed, thinking that the man was just some nutcase in costume and body paint. Her neighbor told her about a certain librarian who talked to the said man, but she just disappeared one stormy night, never to be seen again.

Now the husks were nothing but lifeless displays on the case, a grim reminder of what almost eradicated every life in this world.

The guide extended an arm towards the entryway to the right which contained more display cases. Delphine moved with the other visitors towards it but, before she could go through the door, she found herself frozen and unable to move. Her limbs stiffened, and she felt this petrifying grip climb up to her shoulders.

Before she lost control of her head, Delphine turned to look over her shoulder and saw the display case opened.

And one of the husks missing.

The prickly sensation on her neck confirmed where it went to.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Wait

One thing he asked of her
"Will you wait for me?"

Will you stay and wait for me?
Even when the mountains part?
Even when the seas dry up?
Even when the stars fall?
Even when pain and frustration coalesced?

She hesitated.
What he requested of her.
It was too much.
It was probably something she could never do.

She held her head up high.
Looked him in the eyes.
And planted a kiss on his lips.

"Yes, I will."

She was indeed willing.
She could wait until fate decides
That they could be together again.

As he was that kind of guy
Who's worth waiting for

T.O.T.G.A.? How About T.O.W.I.G.A.?

From your screen, you watch him form his world
His quest is quite a sight to behold
Building skills, reaching goals, being great
In a great many things he's au fait

While you view his many feats
They change the way your heart beats
His grace got you in a bind
His beauty etched in your mind

From afar you adore
You want him more and more
Meeting him makes you melt
Butterflies you sure felt

"He's perfect," she says
"Notice me? No way"
So she only writes
Wishing she's his wife

He'll leave one day
Gone far away
No hey, no hi
Only goodbye

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Three Reasons Why You Might Need A Vision Board

Last December 28, I was sitting face-to-face with the company psychologist as I needed to talk to someone about the difficulties that plagued me. She gave me several assignments at the end of the session, and one of those tasks involved making a vision board. 

Back then, I was not familiar with such a thing. I even doubted its efficacy, I mean how can a bunch of cut-out pictures possibly contribute to my well-being? Nevertheless, I decided to gather the materials, thinking that I’ve got nothing to lose if it turns out to be hogwash.

So off I went to the mall to buy the supplies for this assignment. Since I had no magazines at home, I just grabbed pictures and quotes from the Internet.

Okay… I must confess that I was somewhat excited at this point.

Once I had everything, I went home and pinned the pictures to the corkboard. After some difficulty in determining the positions, I finally succeeded in arranging the images in a not-so-messy way.

Ta-da!


The completed board was placed on my table which earned a questionable glance from my mother when she was still here (Who are those people? Who's Liam Blunt?). At first, I didn't feel anything whenever I looked at it. The effects my shrink told me was not kicking in. I asked myself, "What the heck was this for?"

That was until I actually set myself back on track in writing. See, I've had a ridiculously-long spell of a creative drought, exacerbated by a string of circumstances that basically made my life really unpleasant. 'Twas one of the things my psych told me:

Do something about your life. Don't just walk around aimlessly like a wanderer who's got no destination in mind. Be someone who knows where he is going.

I forced myself even though my right hemisphere strongly hesitated. Butt on chair, word processor opened, WRITE. The vision board was just several inches above the laptop, so I could always see it whenever I looked away from the screen.

Then I eventually realized how it worked. If you're curious, then just read on and find out more about why you might need one for yourself:


1. The vision board serves as your map


The vision board is a tool that represents your aspirations. It constantly reminds you of what you want to achieve, or maybe who you want to be like in the future. Perhaps you want to be a successful blogger? Or maybe you want to have your own startup? Or maybe you want to create a platform that helps other people find work on the Internet? Or maybe you want to visit the Bahamas sometime in your life?

Just take images that closely represent these dreams and stick them on your board. With this tool, your goals will become absolutely clear, and you’ll be happier knowing that you are aware of what you truly want to pursue. You're neither lost nor aimlessly trodding the streets with no direction in mind. You are now laser-focused towards a specific location.

In my case, I pinned pictures of my favorite authors, namely Frank Herbert, James Rollins, Michael Crichton, and Steve Berry, because I always wanted to become a successful author like them someday. Bit by bit, day by day, even with baby steps, I try my best in working towards this. Every single day, I work on my projects. Regardless if I penned an entire chapter or just a scene, progress is progress.

Moreover, I deliberately left a lot of vacant spots on the corkboard because I know that I'll need additional space for new objectives and motivators. 

Speaking of motivators.

2. It also triggers your brain to action

Another benefit of the vision board is motivation.

The tool ensures that your goals are always at the top of your mind, that’s why it is integral that you place the corkboard someplace where you’ll see it every day. That way, your brain will always be fired up into chasing your targets by any means necessary.

In this pursuit of your dreams, you might now find yourself doing things you never did before like showing initiative, volunteering, meeting new people, or anything else that lays the foundation for your ambitions.

You can reinforce motivation by placing quotes on your vision board, like how I did with mine. You might notice that one of these said quotes isn't related to writing, and that's okay because fixing things in my life was one of my objectives as well. Ditching the clusterf**k of a past, fixing the messy present, and building the future.

You can also add things like mementos, a picture of someone special who encourages you to do your best, or anything else that serves as an inspiration, be it directly or indirectly.

3. It helps you get out of a rut

You might be wondering why I have pictures of Darren Hayes, Beth Riesgraf (set aside the fact that she’s my celebrity crush), Aaron Paul, and Christian Slater on my board. Do I idolize them? Do I want to be like them too?

The thing is, I always look for celebrities who closely resemble the characters I write, and I'm pretty sure many writers do the same thing.

I treat the pictures of these actors as the actual faces of the fictional characters in my stories. Aaron Paul's look is quite close to the protagonist of my upcoming short story Web, while the other three play a role in my full-length novel (and they're my favorites as well).

So, why are they there exactly?

Their faces remind me that I created them. They have their own lives, aspirations, personalities, quirks, favorite food, loved ones, destinies… Basically, they’re living, breathing human beings even if they just reside in the pages of my stories here on my hard drive.

Whenever I find myself in a creative slump, I look at the board and there they are… My babies.

And if I created them, surely I can create more of them, right? 

So, if you’re stuck in a rut, try placing a picture of something you created. A character? A painting? A beautiful photograph you took yourself? A dish worthy of Gordon Ramsay's praise? Pin away!

In conclusion

Now, keep in mind that the vision board will not grant you supernatural amounts of motivation once you complete it. It is not some ancient puzzle that bestows a boon on your person because you assembled it, nor will it make the planets align and alter your destiny so your dreams will automatically be fulfilled by just waiting for them to arrive on your doorstep.

No.


The vision board is just a map and a motivator for what you want in life. It is also the lifebuoy that keeps you afloat whenever you're about to sink while swimming towards your aspirations.

You still have to take action if you wish to achieve all of your desires. This tool will be useless if you just pinned pictures on it and stared at it every single day without doing anything to attain those things you fastened.

Look at it as your guide. Draw strength from it when you’re down. There will be pitfalls. There will be detours. Hell, you will fall one too many times in this pursuit of your dreams. But, don’t lose hope, as these are inevitable when it comes to going after the things you want.  

Relish the feeling of taking down the pictures because you finally achieved those goals, and savor the moment when you’ll pin new images again.

It means you’re not stuck.

You are freakin’ chasing your dreams.

That, my friend, is how you truly live.

Don’t you want that feeling?

Why don’t you get started now? Get those pictures, grab a corkboard, and start plotting the roadmap to destiny.

While you're still here, check out this video of Steve Harvey talking about his vision board.