1. The ancient book
The soft texture of ancient paper under my fingertips was like holding rose petals in my hands. It wasn’t ancient in the way it looked, but ancient in the way it felt.
The red cover was like blood dripping from orchids. A bit elegant, a bit beautiful and full of wonder and wisdom.
It’s all I had to keep myself busy during the quarantine.
I hated hearing the news, I despised any talk about the virus. It’s because flowers were slowly withering and trees were slowly dying along with humans. All the news ever talked about nowadays is how many more were dead. How many more were expected to die.
Death wasn’t something I liked to think about.
So I hid myself under my bed covers to once again open the novel. I've read it so many times now, the pages were becoming as thin as ice. My hands gently traced the golden intricate title on the cover. ‘Bloody Kingdom’ is a historical novel set in ancient China, where the heroine uses all means necessary to become queen.
I loved the ambition and drive she possessed. Something I knew wasn’t possible for a simple girl like me. The world wasn’t a fair place, and I wasn't given a fair role to play.
I was just a seventeen-year-old orphan living in a city full of bones. You could smell the ashes in the rain, the withering petals in the night.
The world became a hell of some kind. Now we were all prisoners looking out at what once used to belong to us through glass walls.
You can look.
But you may never touch.
Reality was a cruel nightmare.
If life was a book, I'd be one of those small characters living in the sidelines, and that used to be totally ok with me.
But I've found that lately I've been craving more.
I wanted it all. I wanted to lose myself in my daydreams, visit legends with fantastic dragons and get bitten by rogue vampires. I wanted to experience a crazy adventure and maybe fall in love and have a life filled with excitement.
But as I said, that wasn't possible for a simple girl like me.
"Clarity! dinner is ready" Cobalt shouted from outside the door, knocking twice before leaving.
I sighed unhappily as I wrapped my hair into a bun with the worn-out scrunchie I treasured so much.
This became a daily routine, we'd wake up by one single knock, go to eat with two and go to bed with three.
It was loud and cheerful where the children gathered to have breakfast. But the noise was alright with me, I could drown it out with the story in my hand.
I could drown out the whole entire world with the thin pages of this book.
I could escape the tragedy that was my life.
But not for long enough.
A tear escaped my eyes before I could stop it. I wiped it away with my long sleeves. No, big girls don't cry. As lonely as it is, it's all going to be fine.
Sometimes being alright is hard, but with time, anything can be healed. Even a wounded and broken heart.
I just need more time.
Sometimes I wish I could be reborn. A new start into a happier world. I wish I could have loving parents and a place to call home.
I wish I could fall in love like the rest of the world.
My tears cascade down onto the pages at the same time as my thoughts went wild with sorrow. Then, in a single heartbeat, something magical appeared before my very eyes.
It's a bird with feathers in all the colours of the rainbow, and it's silently watching me with what seems to be a pleased expression on its gallant eyes.
I'm sure I've finally gone crazy. The boredom and sorrow seeping into my soul with this lockdown has finally made me go insane to the point where I'm hallucinating.
Because I hear it speak.
The magical bird is talking to me.
"Your three wishes may be granted"
Next thing I know, the world is spinning around me and I'm falling into a black hole that's nowhere and everywhere at the same time. My heart thumps like crazy in my chest to the point where I feel it drumming in my ears. My mind is a maze. It's loud, it's quiet, it's crying.
And in the end...