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Quiet Beginnings

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Behind every soul is a magical yet dark journey. Quiet Beginnings is an anthology of short stories experimenting between modern and primeval settings. These bizarre events follow girls teetering between adolescence and womanhood or teenagers walking down the memory lane.

Adventure / Fantasy
4.0 1 review
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Meet me in Oz Cafe

“It’s more like every electron in every atom in the universe paused, breathed in deeply, assessed the situation, and then reversed its course, spinning backward, or the other way, which was the right way all along. And afterward, the universe was exactly the same, but infinitely more right.” -Lydia Netzer, How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky

The first day I met my muse, the sky dripped. It was drizzling. Gray, lifeless, and monochrome. A perfect setting for the painting Mr. Kawazaki asked.

He’s the veteran librarian and he wanted me to visualize a portrait for the lobby’s dingy walls. The Public Library needs an artist’s touch, he muttered to me once. With the promise of a few bucks, I readied my sketchpad for the template.

I wanted perspective. That day, the view changed. As if the world lost all its magnetism and tilted on its axis.

At first, I intended to draw the skewed stained-glass window. It was near the entrance to the library and the angles were good. Swish, swish, my brush would glide as it rubbed with the canvas. I scratched out the missed outlines and went for my kit. When I craned my head for the view, a silhouette blocked my vision.

Dumb luck. I frowned and felt my face turn sour at the sight. With the skewed window now covered, I couldn’t finish the portrait on time. I needed to complete it by next week, or else, I’m doomed. That was a portrait that would afford me a week’s stay on a youth hostel.

As things took a turn with the window, the silhouette wasn’t just an annoyance. It was a…girl. A girl my age sitting comfortably in one of the library’s most odd windows.

Her hair was too well-kept, silky, and straight as a tamed fox. A silver watch decorated her wrist like a moon drop in a starry night. On her lap rested a large book with numbers and symbols I couldn’t figure out. Too focused on the material I’m beginning to wonder whether Mr. Kawazaki would let me bypass another week before submission.

I decided against it. Moving my vantage point to the right, the girl’s silhouette remained the same. What the-? I mean, I couldn’t simply just start all over again and find another vantage point. I realized then and there that she was the landscape. All things else were just chaos and chatter.

As I pondered over the obstructed view, I was caught up by the change. The world lost its balance in time with the drizzle that turned to rain. I chose not to finish the portrait by then. This girl needed to be there.


On the seventh day, the intimacy grew. With each stroke of my brushes, the girl became more to me.

I learned how every span of an hour, she would lift up her wrist and check for the time. Her deep, dark brows would sometimes be deep in concentration as she pored over her books. Never looking outside the window nor spying the other library guests.

She was the gray and white in my portraits. I used to paint with animation, with colors splashed everywhere. The cat licking its paws beside the trash. An old man sitting on a tattered mat behind the building. A young couple playing around in the nearby park. Life itself became a part of these portraits.

Far from it, the girl was steady as a kite. She was the paradox. Her features, how delicate they might look, were asymmetrical. With cheeks and eyes that didn’t seem to match, she was imperfection and not what I thought life should be. A broken shard of glass, I guessed.

It was chaos and beauty all drawn into one.


“Can I ring a call for Mr. Kawazaki?” I ask the receptionist idling behind the counter. She’s dressed in a cream-colored blouse, a black skirt, and spectacles that make her eyes seem bigger.

“Of course. Fill up the appointment card and I’ll inform him immediately,” she replies, her voice switching between highs and lows. “Pardon me. I didn’t catch your name. What is it again?”

“It’s Will.”

The receptionist types away and looks up with the same stern expression. “Any last names?”

I haven’t got the time to answer before someone bumps my right shoulder. I whirl and look behind me, “Hey! Watch wh-“

The culprit runs so swiftly without even muttering any apology. With that, I assume nothing can be further resolved.

Until I catch sight of an opened book. Splayed on the floor, its pages folded in the edges as if used for an umpteenth time.

“Excuse me,” I warn the receptionist as my feet find their will to move.


I run and run. My sweat clinging to me like a barnacle. Where did that ungrateful piece of-

“Give me back my book please,” a soft voice startles me. I turn towards it, almost dropping the book to the ground.

It’s her. The girl leaning behind that broken stained-glass window. Too imperfect. Too skewed. The kind of face you will not forget entirely.

“Why would I?” I defend myself. “You’re the one who bumped me. Now, where’s my apology?”

“I’m sorry. Is that okay?” she points out, provoking me as her brows cinch together.


“You’re an absolute zero!” she protests, clearly annoyed this time.

“What did you just say?” I ask her again.


“Come with me to the Oz Café. I have to tell you something in exchange for this,” I dangle the large piece of a book in front of her. A science textbook? Well, not enough knowledge on the area but who cares?

“You’re a creep, you know that?” she asks sarcastically.

“Blunt, if you ask me. Better than any nice, smiling guy you’ve met before.”

“Uh-huh. What makes you think I’ll tag along?”

“Because I know this book means something to you.”

“Are you stalking me?”

“Um, well, maybe.”


“Please. Alright, I’m a creep; I’m a painter who paints the library’s exterior. Then one day, voila!” I pause for effect. “Here comes a weird girl who sits on the very same window I’m trying to paint.”

The streets are still for a moment. She laughs maniacally and turns her back to me.

“Okay, okay,” she says, wiping the happy tears from her eyes. She’s weird, alright. “I’ll come with you. On one condition. You’ll give my book back and you’re going to let me see that painting.”

I nod in return, a ghost of a smile playing on my lips as she leads the way to Oz Café.


“So, absolute zero, what did you mean by that?” I ask her as the waitress hands us our orders. She opted for a macchiato while I braved the usual Americano. The brew is too strong; I can’t see her clearly through the haze and smell of roasting behind us.

“I’m a science student from Northwest Polytechnic. It’s a thing about thermodynamics.”

I almost spit out my coffee when she mentioned the latter. “Thermo-what?”

“Thermodynamics. Didn’t you go to school for that?” she asks, her fingers wrapping on the mug too carefully.

“No, but please do enlighten me.”

“Of the three laws of thermodynamics, the last one’s really got me.”

I raise a brow at her. The subject is still a foreign jumble of words. As if on cue, she explains further, “The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero.”

Now, it’s even more alien to me. She can talk about space jets for all I care and I’ll still listen. Like a stupid, infatuated teenager.

She laughs with the silence I gave. “Remember when we used to measure temps using Celsius or Fahrenheit?”

I nod.

“Well, for more accurate measurements in class, we usually use the K scale instead of Celsius or Fahrenheit. In theory, at zero K or absolute zero, entropy stops. Entropy is the degree of randomness or disorder in a system. Thing is, no scientist has ever reached absolute zero. Metaphorically speaking, it symbolizes a state where things will stop going into chaos. The world will fix itself. No wars, no disasters, no disorder.”

I still don’t follow where this is going but my ears keep on reaching. Listening and reaching out.

“There’s no such thing as absolute zero because perfection is impossible. I’ve always learned it the hard way. When it comes to love, it’s an absolute zero. To life, it’s an absolute zero. It’s a metaphor for imperfection.”

Now that struck me harder than I thought. The right word ringing between us.

“If absolute zero exists, magic can happen. But that’s life, isn’t it? We’re supposed to bask on the chaos. Enjoy the entropy.”

Her logic is simplistic for me, to say the least. Enjoy chaos? Who in their right mind will accept that?

“Do you think science and cynicism work that way? Life will be messy sometimes. People will dislike you. Things don’t go the way you want them to, but at the end of the day, you know what’s the catch?” I ask her, intent on knowing her reaction.

Her face remains nonchalant. With her doleful eyes staring vacantly outside, I find my cue and explain to her.

“If we just accept the chaos, it will consume us. You don’t let it be; you must act with or against it. Do you know what I saw when I see you the first time?”

She arches a brow at me, clearly getting where this is going. I choose my next words carefully. Not to threaten or make her suspicious of me.

“I see life in a different view. I saw you, sitting alone behind that window. I love to paint and draw; my usual muse is always the typical shot of life. Happy, smiles, and colors. But you? You’re the opposite of it.”

All of a sudden, the tension breaks and she scoffs.

“I can’t figure you out. You’re a creep, but you don’t mince your words,” she says, amused this time. “Is this the newer tactic to ask a girl on a date?”

“Look, I’m serious.” I try my best to make my face remain stoic. Better to stay consistent than go round in circles. “You don’t get it, do you? Not all things can be explained by science. There are far more intriguing things that even logic can’t defend upon.”

With that, the barbed wire breaks and she’s running away. Away from Oz and from those endless circles.


The city swarms with chaos. If I said something wrong, I could at least apologize for it, couldn’t I?

I don’t even know her name! Odd chances are she’s close. I run again and again and crane my head for the stop sign. From there, I find her standing alone under a shed, waiting for the next bus. I cross the street with trepidation. What do I say to such a fleeting moment?

As I approach her, people are beginning to mill around. The bulletin beside us glows in red neon signs. Three minutes. That’s all I have before this – whatever this is – ends.

I reach for her, with just the tip of her shoulder. “Look, we may have gotten on a wrong foot. I won’t change my mind. It’s clear something made you think that way. What I want to tell you is to stop glazing at the chaos. I never intended to push that belief on you-“

“Then what? What else do you think art has in store for us? That it will save us from doom and keep our worries away?”

“If you take it that way, then so be it. You mentioned about magic earlier and that tells me something.”

“About what?” she asks, the space between her brows wrinkling. Hesitant and curious at the same time.

“You believed; even if you try to deny it, you have faith in things that matter.”

With that, I rest my case. I turn to head to the library but she stops me.

“Wait!” Her hand reaches for my left wrist with a little tug. “I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Will,” I reply, only to find a small curve forming around her lips.


“It’s William Thomson. And yours is?”

Things are starting to get clearer; like inside a portrait, the picture becomes whole. But the two of us begin to slip away; for that moment, the sound of a bus gets closer and closer.

“Mia. Call me Mia!” she calls out as she follows the queue. Passengers pile up, and Mia, wherever she is, disappears among the crowd.

What can I say to such a fleeting moment? Shall I take the chance? Get on the bus too? When things happen too quickly, I always find myself in limbo. Except now. The tug is more profound, more fulfilling.

That’s when it hit me. I have to move. And I did.

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