I can't believe I wrote this
There might not be life after death, nor heaven, nor hell. Perhaps, it is just people keep living their dying moment.
It was dark when K realized he was blinking from the fast flickering lights on both sides of the road. He held on the steering wheel tightly when it hugged a sharp curve to start ascending up the hill. The road turned darker as the street lights were left behind, drowned in the darkness. K looked into the rear mirror, checked for his cat and the fish tank on the back seat, make sure the cat didn’t put his paws into the water on impulse. He took a deep breath, "the air smells dusty" he thought, "I wonder if the car's air conditioner is too old or the air itself is?" Giving up chasing the answer of random thought, K reached for the radio knob to turn it on. The sound of canorous blend of French horns and violins with cello's deep bass took over the engine's humming noise. K's face relaxed, his favorite song was playing, The Second Waltz from Shostakovich. K was well versed in the language of classical music, especially waltz.
K's mom loved classical music. She had the wooden shelf with full of LP records. She started to collect them long before she was married to K's dad. K remembered the grey turntable on the dark, hazelnut wooden coffee table, sitting below the painting of a river in the yellow autumn evening that did not seem to flow. He remembered sitting on a sofa in the living room after waking up, looking at his mom putting on the record every morning before making breakfast. Strangely, in his memories, she never turned to him. He only recalled the outline of his mom’s small shoulder, slender waist and the yellow dress she wore every morning. However, the music remained so vivid in his memories, the black and white cover of Liszt's record, the snow white beard of Tchaikovsky, and the melodies of piano fast moving notes.
Being the only child, K was used to being with himself. He found the simple connection between him and classical music, there were no words that needed to be spoken or heard after all. He grew fond of the special kind of silence, like words without letters that he could only share with this delicate music. In high school, K would go to the gym, put on headphones and played a waltz while performing his workouts. He imagined as if he was dancing with the weights in the mirror.
It took the human’s brain a short pause to understand different languages simultaneously.
K loosened his grip on the steering wheel when the oboes started playing. Suddenly, he was startled because of a strange noise, sounded like someone was talking. He narrowed his eyes, tightened the grip, his sweat started to break out. He glanced at the rear mirror, saw no cars on the passing lane, he swiftly swung pass the eighteen-wheeler, speeded up, and steered back to his lane. He focused on the music to calm down. "Aren’t I the only one in the car?" he thought. However, when the sound started to make sense, K fixed his eyes on the visible road from the car headlights, stiffed and disbelief.
The soft meowing, followed by a high pitch voice "What is the chance for him to play different song, for tuna sake! We have been listening to this song over and over again whenever he got back to this car" The white Cat, mumbled lazily while inspecting the pink flesh on his front paws.
Cat sat in the back seat, he was wrapped up in a dark brown blanket. Next to Cat was a small, spherical fish tank. The red fish slowly made its way out of the yellow plastic castle. Fish had sparkling silver fins on its bright red skin. The white barbels on its half-opened mouth swung softly as Fish swam toward the edge of the tank. Fish’s figure made him looked old and wise, like some supernatural force from old Chinese folktales.
Fish looked like he was wearing goggles with the half-opened eyes through the tank glass. He motioned his mouth, let out the bubbles which made popping breaking sound once they reached the water surface.
“Beware young man! Embrace the familiarity, it will punch an itchy hold that you can’t scratch in your brain if he plays different song now” Fish said to Cat, his eyes didn’t bother moving.
“But…the cello’s bass always makes my heart pump faster, I am already hot under this fur” Cat said while making his way out of the blanket.
“When I was young, the cello’s bass scared me too. It shook the water and my castle every morning when his mom turned on the vinyl player. I was placed next to the speaker so it kept soaring into my ears. After a while, it became a norm, more like an alarm clock. If I felt the water waking from the sound waves, I would make my way out of the castle and be part of his family in the morning.” Fish continued “Do you know that the human distinguishes themselves by different acts? The boy always sat on the sofa with his sleepy eyes, listened to the music and only came to the table when called, the lady always made eggs and toasts, the man always sat in the far end of the table with newspaper on his hands. The roles never seem to change, it repeated itself everyday like the same song he is playing. They don’t mind repeating the same activity over and over as long as it serves some functions.” Fish’s eyes fixed on the front windshield, he looked nostalgic.
Whenever the car passing the street light, letting it swallowed up in dark behind, the shadows of the three living creatures grew more intense. Its length kept on stretching until the next light shining upon the car.
“You are so old my friend, you remember things from years ago. I wonder how a gold fish makes do with its short memory. I bet you are so old that your bones is as soft as tofu.” Cat giggled while placing its paw on the glass where Fish was swimming.
“I think I just have to make do with what nature gave me,” Fish shook his head and continued. “The strange thing about human is that once their routine is disrupted, their lives seem to fall into a pause and they don’t know how to react. Sadly, that level of uncertainty happens to everyone. I remembered, it was a lovely morning, the sun rose and made its way through the glass. I was swimming around in my castle, waiting for the stirring of the music to start the day, but I kept on waiting and nothing happened. I heard a loud noise, not the music but human speaking, high pitch, I can distinguish sound very well since it travels much clearer through water. I made my way out of the gate out of curiosity. The boy was still sitting on a sofa, but this time, the man sat with him. Both of them were fixing their eyes on the lady who was still in her yellow dress, she was facing me. She mumbled something I wasn’t sure, I was young so I could not understand human language. She never turned to look at the man and the boy, who then were crying. She took one of the LP and put it in her suitcase then made her way to the door. I never saw her again” Fish said, he tried to look at the rear-view mirror, seeking for K’s face. junior party
Fish was brought into the house after K had got in middle school, with few other gold fishes. They got along nicely in the spherical fish tank that were placed next to the speaker on the wooden bookshelf. Being friend with gold fishes meant that he had to accept the fact they tend to forget things. They told him that they would get food on the surface. But half way there, they would forget the hunger and made their way back to the yellow castle. However, they remembered Fish, perhaps it is his bright red skin color that indented a deep line on their tiny brains.
“I am not so bright, I can’t remember things, but I know you will have a long life” one of the goldfish said.
“Longer as in our time frame or human’s time frame? I feel like being in this tank for years already, even though we just got here last week.” Fish said, sarcastically.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know how I am going to have a long life, or why. But you still believe in it?”
“That’s right. I know you will outlive me and you will see a lot of things.”
“Things will be clearer when I got old then… But how do I know I get old if I don’t know when I am going to die?”
“I’m sorry, I am not very bright.”
“Man alive,” Fish said, rolling his eyes and scratching his head.
K’s heart started beating hard, like a dry sound of someone’s tapping on the cardboard box. The sound echoed inside his heart chamber. “Was that animal talking?” he asked himself, confused.
“Yeah…yeah, that is right, we were talking. Don’t be alarmed now, I can read your thoughts and see your dreams. You can call me the mighty Dream Reader” Cat chuckled, made his way to the passenger seat, facing K.
“There we go again!” Fish let out a sigh.
Silence fell upon the three of them. The car was still cutting through the unknown darkness ahead, making its way up the hill. There was no sign of other cars. Like travelling to the top of the world, the higher the height, the lesser the people occupied. The song was finished by a touch of a fierce violin solo. The melody was so intense and sharp that it pierced through K’s ears, crawling into every neurons in his brain and stretching them as tense as they could explode all at once. Then, the car’s speakers vacuumed all the sound, only left the engine low humming. The world had lost its voice.
Cat took back his serious voice “I am sorry, I was happy every time I see you so I can’t help myself to tease you a bit. But it is better to let Fish talk to you. He is wiser than I am.” He turned back and told Fish “Wake me up when we reach the destination, I would hate to miss saying goodbye”. Then, Cat curled up like a conch and fell asleep. His fur waved up and down when the air conditioner blew by, like paddy field’s waves in a windy afternoon of the harvesting season.
K found himself sat on the sofa every morning, at the exact angle that facing the painting, looking for the missing static noise of the vinyl player. The air was heavy, quiet and stiff. He felt as if he was suffocated from the act of breathing itself. The dust flew in the air from furniture that had not been swept for a long time, circling around K. The bright morning sun that usually shone through the window, laid a long bright color across the kitchen table to the sofa, then seemed to change its color. It became the dark, heavy yellow shade of late autumn afternoon, the moment right before the sun lost itself to the other side of the Earth. The living room changed its color like the window looking into the garden was replaced by the evening autumn painting on the wall. Time stopped and sound lost when the lady with the yellow dress walked out of the door.
One afternoon after coming home from school, K was having a glass of water at the kitchen and looking out the door. Out of a sudden, he caught glimpse of a person wearing yellow clothes outside of the door’s glass. The water glass dropped on the floor, made an ear-shattering sound as K sprinting to the door, opened it. Strangely, there was no one. It was still the same street he walked by every morning, motionless and with full of dust flowing from nearby construction zone. The hot sun reflected off the ground, heated up the air. The hot air made the street look like there were pot holes filled with boiling water everywhere. K felt the air blowing on his cheeks, hot like a nuclear blast. The air penetrated his body, grabbed his heart and incinerated his soul then flew away, leaving him the body filled with emptiness.
“What are you? You are a fish…and you are talking to a cat!” K’s eyes moving frantically. Trying to keep his focus on the street but also, checking if Fish and Cat conversation was real.
“I know it is quite shocking hearing animal talking, isn’t it?” Fish said, the bubbles float to the surface, broke and made a “pop” sound.
“Am I dreaming? That can’t be! I was driving, for a long time. It is impossible to fall asleep, and who can dream without sleeping?” K tried to focus on the music to regain his awareness of himself and his surroundings.
The question threw Fish for a moment. He swam around the castle three times then said “You are sort of dreaming, it is out of my power to convey the meaning of this phenomenal to you. All I know is, I am here for a mission”
“A fish with a mission, interesting!” K thought. Then, he pressed on “So, are you not from this world? What are you and what is mission you are talking about?” K found himself talking to Fish.
Fish said without a blink “The existential attitude begins with a disoriented individual facing a confused world he cannot accept. However, the individual accepts and even embraces the absurdity of life.”
“What is that?” K was amazed by the answer, although confused.
“Robert Solomon, philosopher. Basically, he meant that I am what you are believing I am. Even though you know there is no talking animal exist.” Fish said nonchalantly.
K was human, after all. Human believed in things that they could see. Who would think there were people believe in aliens from another planet? But they saw a flash of light moving in the sky. In their mortal eyes, the symbol transformed them into the believer. The kind of belief that could change their entire lives. Needless to say, symbol was important.
“I am a fish, but not really. I was made into a fish, because you have a fish. My mission is to make sure things govern the way they do, to avoid the reversibility of order.” Fish continued.
K left out a laugh “You are talking like you are a god or a Buddha or some kind of higher power.”
The curves on the road were getting sharper as K was almost reach the top of the hill. His steering wheel turned steeper like the car was drawing a circle with its tires.
“I am neither a god nor a Buddha, I am me and I was made into a fish. I am any definition you want to define.” Fish continued “Don’t let these things get to you, you will know when the time comes”
K and Fish stopped talking. They both sank deep into their own thoughts. Four eyes staring into the dark, deep void on the left side of the car. Cat was still laying there, asleep. The radio frequency traveled in the air, looking for the antenna to establish its voice. Like that of the lonely moth looking for the bright light. When the last tree was passed, the antenna exposed, sucked in the signal. The Last Waltz started to play. K was driving by instinct, without thinking, he passed all the road exits to descend down the hill. Then he found himself stopping on the top of the hill, right in front of the large rock.
Fish called out to Cat, woke him up. Cat open his eyes, which filled with sadness. Cat and Fished exchanged look, they both nodded like they understood something was about to happen. K was staring at the rock, confused. Fish said “It is not possible to undone things are already done. The same action, the same consequence will always happen regardless of the time frame, regardless of the life time. We three were on a mission to look for the yellow dress and the missing sound. You may not know but here is your final destination. You are destined to end your loss and your despair, with us and at this place.”
K sank deep in the seat, his mind draw a blank. Suddenly, there was a whirlwind from the back of his head, like a stirring force that dissolving sugar in water. It blended the reality and the dream together. Which brought him the realization why he was here.
K always questioned the day his mother left. His mind kept on wondering back to the house at the moment the door snapped behind his mother’s back. He was sitting on the sofa, eyes filled with tears. Those were tears of confusion. Tears of the child who got the most precious person taken away from him. He knew that he was abandoned – nobody told him, even his dad. He knew he would never see the yellow dress again.
The house grew cold and empty. K and his dad grew distant, both were trying to find the definition of the meaningless words. One year, two years, three years, K hopelessly wished he would see his mother again. However, the face he hoped to see, turned away from him, deleted from his memory. K found himself looking for her face in the tunnel with no exit, where no light could penetrate through.
From the day his mother gone, there would never be a moment he stops asking why she would have to leave, why would she have to hurt him. K endured the emptiness of the house, endured the long shadow of the yellow dress that fell upon his life, endured the emptiness of himself. One day, K realized the emptiness he was enduring is like a vacant house, which had no locks and that anyone could come in and hurt him. He had to get out. That night, he took the fish tank along with the stray cat who always stayed in front of the glass door. They are the only two creatures with hearts pumping in his house. K put them in the back seat and drove away.
It was the tunnel he was looking for. It was inside the large rock. The rock stood up perfectly with the flat surface like it was handpicked to put on top of this hill.
The Last Waltz entered its climax, the cello player played the melodies slowly and seductively. K’s feet pressed on the gas pedal. The car slowly rolled its tires. The water in the fish tank bashed on the wall, create a mini vortex, sucking Fish in its center. Cat jumped back to the back seat, crawled under the blanket, and closed his eyes.
The car went faster, aimed for the tunnel in the middle of the rock. K’s eyes motionless, like he was looking beyond the rock.
The moment the car entered the tunnel, K saw a yellow shade, it was at the end of the tunnel. He could smell the fragrant of his mom’s dress which he usually buried his nose into after coming home from kindergarten. He could smell the toast he hadn’t eaten for so long. He could feel the texture of the newspaper that his dad were reading. He could feel the warm of the sun on his face. He could hear The Last Waltz playing again in the living room. And then, the sun shone right at the center his eyes, so he blinked.
It was dark when K realized he was blinking from the fast flickering lights on both sides of the road.