Read chapter by chapter or read the whole thing down below in one go 🙂
It is the last day and the last chance that you have. Will you take that chance?
“Irises are such beautiful flowers; wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, yes I would.”
The sun streamed through the arched windows, creating a kaleidoscope of colours behind the glass vase. Her index finger drew circles on the table while she stared ahead, lost in thought. “What should I make today?” she asked, to no one in particular. Slowly, with great elegance and poise, she lifted herself out of her chair and paced around the room.
The sun was setting. She drew the curtains and returned to her seat, smiling. It was a terrifying smile, one that you would never expect to see coming from such a sweet face. Her brows furrowed, her lips stretched wide and drew flat against her teeth, her eyes closed shut. She regained her neutral expression with great difficulty, almost as if she was trying to cage a hidden beast. “My, my, it seems like it’s finally time…” She opened the curtains. It was day again.
Chapter 1: Dawn
Roses were in full-bloom, littering the streets with red, white, pink, and yellow petals. There was gaiety in the air and the chatter of voices could be heard through all streets of the city. One voice in particular, stood out. “Are you happy?”, it asked. It does not matter whose voice it was; it could have been a mother who bought a toy for her pleading child, it could have been a vendor who sold a young man a beautiful ring, it could be even have been a dog asking a sheep. It wasn’t the question that mattered, but the answer.
You could ask all the questions in the world, but if you do not have an answer, then what is the point? But, The Lady in Red, she had her answers. She had been preparing the answers since her childhood. Every day she would be asked a new question, “What is your name?”, “How old are you?”, “What is 2+2?” She always knew the answers, she knew how to respond, what to say, and what to do. But when she was asked “Are you happy?”, she was stumped. She did not know how to respond, what to say, and what to do. She just stared.
Some worried she had gone mad. Little did they realize, she had always been mad. Mad at herself, mad at the world, for she wanted all the answers but could not have them. She just thought and thought and thought. If she could not answer this question, why would she move on. What would it matter that she could answer other questions if there was one question which she never answered? She was tempted to seal her lips shut, but instead chose to remain forever silent. No one heard her speak again.
Chapter 2: Clock
Tick-tock, tick-tock… That sound had always annoyed him. It has always made him want to destroy the old grandfather clock that sits in the corner of his room. But he doesn’t, for the sound will continue anyway. Sometimes he turns his chair around and just looks at the clock, his eyes tracing the motion of the pendulum… back-forth, back-forth. He moves to the floor and lies down to gain view of his ceiling. He imagines that he can see the stars through the ceiling, even though it is daytime.
The Man in White loved to stare at his ceiling, only on occasions when he wasn’t staring at his clock. His perception of the world could change after one good afternoon stare, but who could he share it with? His eyes scanned the street outside his window. No one, not a soul. What good are the answers if there was no question? How can you know what you cannot share?
He has been in this cell forever. The sound will not stop, it will not leave him alone. But that does not make much sense. The sound should have stopped just for him, it should have stopped a very long time ago…
Chapter 3: Multitude
There is too much, she has come to realize, in this world for us to make any good of it. Why be good at one thing? Because you cannot be good at everything. Everything is too much and we do not have the time for it. We try to control everything, to know it and to have it in our grasp. How do we control everything? She knows the answer but will not respond, she just smiles.
One day, in the company of another, she had pointed, just pointed, she wasn’t pointing at anything in particular. Coincidentally her finger happened to indicate a jar of sugar which her companion promptly got up to get, for they had just run out of sugar. She learnt something new that day. The reason for our need to control, our need to fill in the gaps. Wouldn’t it just be nice if everything had a meaning? The world makes more sense that way, does it not?
Her newfound understanding was why she was there that day. An incident in isolation does not count as proof. If not anything else, she had a scientific mind. She needed more evidence. And in order to achieve that she needed to join the multitude.
Chapter 4: Someone
He had had enough; he couldn’t take it anymore. He needed to escape. The hands of the clock held him back, but he broke free. He needed someone, anyone to return him to reality. He raced out of the doors that no longer existed and saw petals in the sky, swirling into a slow descent. A red petal landed on his shoulder and colour returned to his eyes. The blues, the greens, the yellows, and spirit returned to his lost soul. He saw someone, a bright red, he felt whole again.
A memory returned, flashed in his eyes. He was sitting under the stars, the real ones, a cool breeze blowing through his hair. That was all he could remember. Would it have mattered had he remembered more? Our memories serve to remind us, but why should we be reminded of what we want to forget? Do we need to remember, do we need to know what happened, or could we live in the present in peaceful sustenance?
He no longer felt whole. He had gained a piece to a new puzzle, whose pieces he lacked. The Man in White couldn’t take it anymore. The energy that drew him out of his closed quarters drained away. He stood still, and slowly the hands of time reclaimed its grip on him.
Chapter 5: Serendipity
Fate is a foolish idea. Chance had always made more sense to the Lady in Red. Chance is too huge a probability to calculate, but her assurance comes from the fact that it is not impossible to calculate our chance. It falls within a rubric of numbers and possibilities, what-if-I-had’s and what-if-I-hadnt’s. Nothing can be assigned or destined, because otherwise all our actions would be for naught, and the Lady in Red could simply not believe in that.
She wore red every day for as long as she could remember. For as much as she believed in chance over fate, she would be just as happy to not acknowledge either’s existence. But it was that day that she was forced to question if she had been wrong all along. Forced to question whether all her “answers” were right or wrong. Sometimes she wished that she could erase that memory, that one anomaly in her list conforming patterns and sequences.
When she first saw him, he was charging down the street, a clear white, seemingly passing through those around him. The petals in the air appeared to fall more calmly around him even as he dashed forward. He stopped in front of her and asked, “Are you happy?” Her silence grew louder.
Chapter 6: The Anomaly
Shock flashed across her eyes. She appeared to be temporarily stunned. The corner of her mouth twitched while she returned him a blank stare. Had he asked such an inappropriate question? How had the times changed? “Are you happy?” This had been his usual address to people, prior to his confinement. He never had had such an odd response to his words before, but then again, he could barely remember a thing.
What had drawn him towards her, he could not tell. He felt a faint pull, as if he was being directed, no, pushed towards her. The warm brown of her chestnut hair created a pleasant atmosphere which was sharply cut off by her cold grey eyes. She didn’t say anything, but he could hear her voice, all the gears in her head turning, and turning, and turning. He had never quite heard someone say so much without having said anything at all. The turning stopped.
Slowly, the vision of beauty that stood before him turned around and began to walk away. It was a brisk walk yet she carried herself with an artificial sense of elegance. A new wave of petals descended from the sky, mixing colours indiscriminately. “Please come back!” he called after her. He didn’t expect her to turn around. But she did.
Chapter 7: Voices
What possessed her to turn around, she would never know. It was as if the apparition calling out to her had peeked into her soul. Her eyes glared at him though she didn’t mean for them to. She walked back to him and looked straight into his eyes.
The Lady in Red had never spoken to a man, but she knew that she didn’t need words to tell the friendly ghost what she felt. She gave him her hand, he led, she followed. Was the anomaly not an anomaly after all? It reminded her of an incident from her childhood, back when she believed in fate and didn’t even know what chance was. Back when she wore the colours of the rainbow and everything in between. Back when there were no limits or bounds in her small world of everything.
No matter how hard she tried, she could never remember what truly happened that day. She remembers the hand, the gentle fingertips that led her to safety. She was a lost little lamb that was saved only to be lost again. She lost her only friend that day. He was the only one who could ever stump her, but he was always there when she found out the answer for herself. She couldn’t answer the final question; she couldn’t answer it because her only assurance was gone. The silent voices in her head had ripped her heart to shreds. She never had cried.
Chapter 8: Repetitions
The Man in White didn’t know where they were headed. It was a compulsion moving him forward. They left the littered streets, they left the town, they just left. He did not know her purpose, he did not know his own, but the connection he felt was like he had found his own soul. What is it that keeps us moving? Why don’t we fall apart? Is it just the way we are, or are we only attempting to hide our scars? Which world do we believe in? Do we believe in what we were told to believe, or do we follow the answers to our world just as blindly?
We have a tendency to repeat ourselves, be it for emphasis or out of our own foolishness, no one knows when it will destroy us, but the Lady in Red knows with certainty that it one day will. Certainty? She forgot that now this word no longer exists, not for her, not for anyone. It was a trick, a hoax, and it took an illusion to teach her that. She was now in the same forest again. She could only wait as the hands of time came back to repeat the never-changing cycle, the hands of time that were wrapped around her thin wrists.
She stopped, he stopped. Now it was not petals but leaves that fell from the sky. But then again, what’s the difference? The ticking still hadn’t stopped for the Man in White, but he felt that it soon would. The Lady in Red felt lucky that the Man in White had yet not asked her another question, for if he did, she knew that she wouldn’t have the answers.
Chapter 9: Pathways
They were surrounded by towering trees and had long since left any charted path. We have long carved pathways to make our world easier. Destinations and directions, aims and goals, there is always a path to be followed. However, is that path the best path there is? Are there other better possibilities? Or is the best path simply because it is the one that exists.
The Lady in Red turned away the instant The Man in White turned to face her. She was dreading this moment because she knew what was coming next. Was there another way? Possibly not. Even in a multitude of alternate realities, you get to experience only one. Their path had been set long ago, long before they had started walking down it. She couldn’t help but feel trapped as the wall she put up fell not around her, but straight on her. She hadn’t seen quite so clearly in a very long time. He felt ties that bound him slowly slip away. He hadn’t felt this lost in a very long time.
The Man in White knew this was his last chance to escape his prison forever. The Lady in Red knew this was her last opportunity to be free of her silence. He waited for her answer. She waited for his question.
Chapter 10: One Word
“Please tell me…”
She turned to face him for the last time.
“If you had only one word left, what would it be?”
She just smiled.
She had waited for this moment for a very long time, but now that it had past, the brief joy she felt immediately vanished. “Tsk… why must these moments pass in the blink of an eye?” she murmured to herself. Pacing around her room in circles she tried to figure out what to do next. “It will be long before I have a moment of enjoyment again…What shall I do? What shall I do?” The shattered shards of glass lying on the floor still created the sparkling colours, but these colours were of a different kind. She was fed up.
She circled her room once again. The moon was reflecting its stolen light onto her sombre face. A star was shooting through the night sky, but she knew it wasn’t star, it was just our minds sentimentalizing a falling rock in space. That one question was never answered. It’s bothered her for a long time. But she has an eternity to get it right.