Book Review: Lord of the Flies

There is something inherent in dystopian allegory that calls out to us. We can’t really explain it; it’s almost like we take pleasure in the fact that it’s not as horrible as it could have been, that we don’t have a Big Brother – circa 1984 – looming over our backs or ‘Firemen’ burning, at Fahrenheit 451, all our books about such things. I myself am quite attached to the field, although I can’t say with any conviction why I do. They have simply always intrigued me, often enough to warrant a second or third read, with me marveling over how accurate and yet inaccurate these things seem. However, of all the pieces that I have read and loved, there has always been one that stood out, one that unnerved me to such an extent that I felt terrified even to just go back to reading it. Lord of the Flies, in all its glory, has been simultaneously the most intriguing and yet the least appealing book of them all.

What is so fascinating about this novel for me is not quite the fact that it brings forth imagery that is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time, as it would have been with most other fictional works. It’s not even the long-praised intricacy of the allegory that represents the nature of human beings in such a horrifically brilliant way, though it does it in such a way that no other novel that I have read as of yet can even dream to follow. No – it’s rather the irony of the moral roles that these children are written to play, of their positions – their representations – and their actions. And how this is, while not particularly put in light that often, as accurate as any other allegorical aspect of the novel, whether it had been intended or not.

The division of the boys, the symbolism, is widely acknowledged in any analysis of the book; Ralph is the initial leader, the one who strives for and represents order and civilization. Jack stands for the animal yet primal nature of human beings which ultimately heads down the spiral of barbarism. Of these two conflicting sides, it is clear that William Golding himself supports the civilized nature and instinct of Ralph as the better one – but it must be taken into note that it doesn’t mean that Ralph is good. Good, or moral purity, is rather represented better by Piggy, at first, and Simon, before his death. Piggy is better known as the symbol of intellect and reason, while Simon is more often taken to be the moral compass of the story. The story, with its heavy-laid symbolism within the characters and many more objects – the conch and Piggy’s glasses being examples – fills almost every page laden with meaning.

Thanks to that particular consideration of Golding’s, searching for humanitarian ironies in Lord of the Flies isn’t hard – they’re everywhere, hidden and exposed, intoned and flaunted between the lines of text. One may express, for example, the ridiculousness of the fact that the group of bloodthirsty killers – excluding ‘Samneric’ and the littl’uns – started out as a group of church choir boys. It is also ironic that they are the ones that are the most disciplined at the very beginning of the novel, with their controlled movements under Jack’s almost military reign, only to fall hardest to the streak of barbarism and bloodlust when the time comes. That it is not Ralph and Piggy’s orderly attempt at smoke signaling that brings forth rescue, but the arson that was committed to search out and kill Ralph is. Or the fact that the Naval Officer who eventually comes to rescue them make a quip about “I should have thought that a pack of British boys – you’re are British, aren’t you – would have been able to put up a better show than that – I mean –” when he himself is part of what is, essentially, the glorified and more technologically advanced version of the chaos happening in the island; the list goes on endlessly. But in particular, this reader would like to point out, as to not veer too much from the central theme, the moral hypocrisy of the protagonist, Ralph.

Ralph is the obvious leader, the one that everyone looks up to. He leads – or rather, tries and eventually fails to lead – the other big’uns into a semblance of order and civilization, and with the help of Piggy, keeps the littl’uns in control to at least some extent. However, the book itself is opened by the cruelty and egotistical nature of that very boy himself, the one that the writer is obviously aiming for us to sympathize to. He meets Piggy, and, despite the other boy’s protests to call him anything but, persists to call him the name ‘Piggy’ and does not cease to be cruel to him in that respect for the entirety of the novel.

Ralph begins the book by being intentionally cruel to Piggy, by calling him names and actively disrespecting nearly every personal matter that the latter boy calls to attention. He does not act nicely, and this, while not often called to attention, may be seen as the immaturity of the boy, even when he is the one that is supposed to be the responsible, leading, and eventually ‘good’ one. What’s worse is that this doesn’t just stay a singular conduct, but becomes an effort at herding; an effort to bring the group on the quest of torment. Take this exchange, only a score of pages in:

“You’re talking too much,” said Jack Merridew. “Shut up, Fatty.” Laughter arose.

“He’s not Fatty,” cried Ralph, “his real name is Piggy!”



“Oh, Piggy!”

A storm of laughter arose and even the tiniest child joined in. For the moment the boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with Piggy outside: he went very pink, bowed his head and cleaned his glasses again.

While this relationship may not have been intended as the way it has been read by this particular readership, it still struck an impression into me. Of course, it may be said that Ralph was also the only one to truly defend Piggy, protect him against Jack Merridew’s antics and the tribe. However, these defenses, at least outwardly, hardly went beyond the acceptance of Piggy’s usefulness, the ways in he could be useful with his intellect and glasses or the like. Ralph protects, but he does it almost out of a sense of necessity and not from some obvious sense of caring, at least not until the very end. This is evidenced by the fact that he is still one of the tormenters that ridicule Piggy on an almost chapter-ly basis, either as the perpetrator or the onlooker. This exchange in particular, soon following Simon’s death and very near the end of the novel, becomes a great representation of the concept that had me balking in horror:

“Smoke’s getting thinner.”

“We need more wood already, even when it’s wet.”

“My asthma-”

The response was mechanical. “Sucks to your ass-mar.”

Ralph is a very malleable character. He starts off as irresponsible and impressionable, maybe a little less so, as other boys on the island, only to grow into his sense of civilization and order to the point that it does actually become a necessary part for him. He has a somewhat dual nature, like when he succumbs to the thrill of the hunt or when he gets swept up in the insanity of the festival of the hunters. However, him, Piggy, and Samneric stand out because they retain conscience and feel guilt and horror by the fact, and restores their sense of order. But the fact that this one particular aspect does not change until the very end of the novel is a somewhat terrifying notion. Not only has the symbol of moral responsibility taken to bullying that has become so ingrained that it is, to quote, mechanical, this is the one negative aspect of Ralph’s that stays mostly unamended until the very last scene, in which he laments and weeps for ‘the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.’

Chilling as it is that this casual torment of the weak – or rather, the intellectual – by the morally responsible never stopped, it was also enlightening because it was such an accurate depiction of how things actually are. Science and intellect are often frowned upon by the general society, not always for the destruction they may potentially bring but for antagonism toward the unfamiliar. It is not just the bullies, the evil ones prone to hatred that display such antagonism; it’s Ralph, the shining beacon of civilization and order.

I know that, as is with the brothers that share the genre, this book is a simple, massive What if situation drawn by a particularly pessimistic painter of words. But the fact that the horror isn’t even situational – you don’t see any oppressive government trying to will them into submission and torture – and simply drawn from the human mind, in a way that is expressed, albeit subdued, daily and moment-ly around us, unnerves me more than any cruelty of a fictional future government might have. But it’s not just about whether the Lord of the Flies makes us into Jack, Ralph or Simon; it’s about whether that distinction makes a difference. And it chills me so that maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t. (Unless you become Simon, in which case, well, good for you.)


Blood Drive (Part 1/3)

“Excuse me, but is there anyone here who wants to participate in the blood drive?”

The attention of the entire classroom swiveled towards the open front door, thirty-one pairs of eyes – some expectant, some curious and some wary – examining the somewhat unremarkable attendant who had entered following a polite series of knocks. Class had barely started, a pity in that it was likely to have been a very exciting event given that the teacher himself looked bored to death, but, students being students, most were relishing the welcome interruption to what had had the prospect of being an actual class session.

I did, however, take the liberty of being amused at how excited the teacher seemed to be at the interruption, at his zero hesitancy on closing the textbook. Some days, no one did feel like class. Today seemed like one of those days, and there was no reason to kick out a voluntary distraction.

“Well then, I’d apologize but since I’m abandoning the lesson for good cause, we’ll just hold off learning about things you already know until next week, shall we?” The teacher announced with a chuckle, rolling up his sleeves and heading out past the amused nurse. Many others stood up, each with their own observation of the situation – “I’m actually wondering if we’ll ever get any lessons done at this rate?” “If I didn’t live where it’s supposedly infested with malaria-” quite a lot of people snorted at that, having heard the same rant every time the blood drive happened, “-I’d have been able to get a free freaking cinema coupon!” “Do you think I’ll still have problems with blood pressure?”

I turned my eyes back toward the desk, a sudden buzz in my head. This was the first time I’ll be actually available for a blood donation at all, age and medication having interfered the last two occasions this had happened. But then again, I thought, I hadn’t really been medicated then – unless you count Tylenol as viable blood donation risks.


Truth be told, I’d been scared. I was never very fond of needles, more so than the average person; I had embarrassing childhood accounts of rolling on the hospital floor in resistance to prove it. But still, it really was a good cause, and I did know, albeit theoretically, that those needles couldn’t hurt any more than the injections that we didn’t really have much choice but to take. I tended to overreact, pinching my thigh to distract myself even with those injections, but I did know that it couldn’t actually hurt that bad… right?

I thought back to a friend of mine, one that I particularly looked upon. He was probably the one life who had the most hardships throughout my knowing of any acquaintance, and he had been a very vocal enthusiast of blood donation. He’d only recently contacted me to alert me of his twentieth donation, to which I’d responded with the appropriate awe. I pushed my reminiscence the tiniest bit more to recall that time when he’d given me the most heartwarming speech in terms of his wishing for my happiness, and that tipped it for me. I stood up as flippantly as possible, and ran downstairs to where the vehicles were parked.

Another nurse directed me to the cafeteria, where the paperwork had to be filled out. I sat down nervously next to my classmates, eyeing the blood-plasma yellow paper. My mind supplied that it was pretty ironic that the blood drive paperwork had the color of what was essentially the liquid part of blood, but I kept that to myself. It probably wasn’t even intended, anyway.

“First time?” a voice asked as I turned, startled. The nurse who’d called us out for the event was hovering next to me, having obviously sensed by hesitance. I looked around and realized that no one else was having problems with simple paperwork. Flushing slightly, I nodded. She smiled sympathetically, and pointed out the boxes I needed to fill, and the boxes I didn’t really have to, unless I wanted to. Purely out of spite, I filled out my address as the nurse observed it in obvious amusement, probably taking note of my rebel soul.

She shuffled me over to the makeshift receptionist’s desk, where a man in a suit (looking horribly uncomfortable, god, that suit must be absolutely suffocating-) stamped my papers and sent me off with a, “Go up and into the bus labeled with the number four, if you will.”

I complied and went inside, and immediately let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding until then. The familiar sight of my classmates greeted me, and the ease in which they were holding themselves convinced me that hey, maybe this isn’t going to be so bad after all.


I’m…. trying my hand at narrative diaries? With a little bit of fiction touch to them?

So this is basically a snippet of my life, about a month back during midterms when I couldn’t just write it up.

Also a PSA that blood drives are important for hospitals because they often don’t have enough to give out transfusions to those who need it! Doesn’t even hurt that bad, really, and if you live in Korea you’ll get snacks and movie tickets and a little blood donor identification card that allows you a discount whenever you get a transfusion yourself, so yeah. Give life, give blood!

Happy (albeit belated) April fool’s?

Yes, I am aware that it has been literal ages since I last posted (not that I think anyone would actually care? this being more of a self indulgence than an actual functioning blog)

Life gets in the way, and it gets in the way a lot. Tibbets of fiction and nonfiction and thoughts will still go up sporadically, but precisely that – sporadically. 

april fool's

Sometimes we all need an excuse to get out of some things, and an excuse to make mischief. That is not to say that we always need it, or that some (most) wouldn’t do it without the excuse – it’s just easier for everyone when there is.

April fool’s has been that day for us. I can’t vouch for other people, but for as long as I can remember April fool’s actually being a thing – which basically means since middle school for me – it’s been a very grandiose thing without exception. Back in middle school, I’d trade places in class with my then-doppelganger, sitting out of place in the seniors’ classroom but everyone enjoying themselves a bit too much when the teacher passes by the girl in short hair that really does resemble the boy she’s replacing. We’d drag our desks out into the outer hallways, exclaiming that we had a picnic class of sorts, or we’d hold our teacher hostage (there were karate chops involved) until she bargained to get out of it over the ransom pay of ice cream. Flip the desks to face the other side of the classroom, be absolutely nowhere we had to be – it was really the time of our lives, in a way.

And then high school came, and even if it weren’t that much of a giant change, it really couldn’t be denied that it was indeed one. Crazy things weren’t that largely tolerated, because craziness. Craziness is usually frowned upon when not everyone is crazy. Not just on April fool’s, but in general, the crazier part, eccentricities of a person had to be subdued or risk something akin to derision on every corner. Of course, it managed to manifest itself in ways outside of it, but still – it was a bit of a shock that for some people, obsessions of every kind were frowned upon. Three years of absolutely living outside normalcy had ruined normal for me – it was bland and uninteresting, to say the least. I don’t even remember what we did for the last two years – it’s very plausible that we didn’t do anything at all, or at least not anything worth note.

But the last year of high school – now that’s special. There are two spaces of time in a Korean human being’s life when being near clinically insane is passed over with a cluck of the tongues and light head shaking at the most. The first is when you’re born and you’re a helpless baby who literally can’t do anything to fare for their actions. The second is when you’re in your last year of high school.

(Truth be told, anytime between that and your admission into college, but that’s just a little bit too depressing of a story to think about.)

There’s a bit of a tradition for us, and for our homeroom teacher. His spans a bit further than ours. He’s been in charge of the last class on the roster for six years to boot, and always the Spanish majors. Mostly because the subject he’s in charge is happens to be Spanish. (There is word, on good grounds, that his subject isn’t actually Spanish but the well-rounded subject of college itself.) And the Third-graders, the Goh-Sahms of the country, will take it upon themselves to mutilate the teacher’s long suffered and loved car with whatever equipment they can find. A couple of years back, they themed it into a wedding car, with the ribbons and flowers to complete the look – last year and the year before that had been a thorough coverage of the car, meticulously done in post-it notes. This year, we envisioned a tank – envisioned being the key word.

As the photo will no doubt prove, it wasn’t a very nicely done job. Our cannon, devised out of connected Pringles’ containers broke down in the middle of the taping process; we ran out of paper to cover the car with soon enough that we ultimately decided that we won’t do the parts of the car that went unseen unless you took efforts to go that way; and even then, it was a very hastily and messily done job. Some of the kids scoffed at us, claiming that they needed to actually go to college and went in the way to stop us doing it properly. It was a mess, and frankly, the end result was little short of embarrassing.

But it had been so much fun.

And really, that was all it. Sure, the things we were doing were thanks to tradition, and for the most part it was for show. But that didn’t mean that the process, no matter how butchered and how messy it had been, was fun. It was fun because it gave us the chance to unhinge – to go crazy, mad, stop thinking about responsibilities (ironically enough it was through another responsibility that we managed to do it but still) and just go for it, for once. It failed spectacularly, but who cares? It was all nothing more than pieces of construction paper that we were going to tear off sooner rather than later.

There hadn’t been that many incidences when I felt that I could truly unhinge, especially after coming to high school. High school had made that count closer to nil than I would have liked. Being a Third grader certainly didn’t help. But for once, to unhinge, to let go – it had felt so immensely good.

And even if I am aware that this is probably a very illogical and very odd conclusion to come to, not to mentioned hurried, (I really do have to go to sleep and I’d prefer to not put this post off for any longer), it really was just that. The chance to unwind, to have fun regardless of the consequences. Another eight months of this and it probably will be close to being done with; I can’t wait to see what that might bring. College apparently brings forth chances for you to regress into your high school uniforms and to relive memories. I have no doubt this one, this year, has been one that will etch itself into my memory to spring back at those moments, along with the ones where I was stuck in the place of my doppelganger. :)

Happy April fool’s, everyone.

Essay: Thoughts on the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

If you grab a hold of anyone, literally anyone right now and ask them ‘What’s the biggest social media syndrome these days?’, it would probably be guaranteed that they will answer: “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. With the self-explanatory title, the ‘viral’ quality of putting something that can be interpreted as fun – more like downright hilarious in some cases – on video and posting it on social networking sites, and ‘nominating’ the next three people to either donate or go through the same ordeal, this campaign has probably had the most success in the least amount of time, and the most recognition out of the most recent funding events.

A brief explanation about the event (although I’m sure everyone knows about this already but just to make it a well-organized post): ALS(Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), more commonly referred to as Lou Gherig’s disease in certain countries. One of its most well-known victims is the scientist Stephen Hawking, and as we see in his case, reduced to a helpless state on a wheelchair that will only get you so far (even if it didn’t – much to the great relief of the scientific community – affect his ability to come up with genius scientific theories), ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that will most commonly lead to loss of control in the muscles, and eventually an early death (in most cases). The ice bucket challenge was coined from a previous awareness campaign that based itself on cancer research – once you are nominated by someone, you either donate 100$ to the ALS foundation or douse yourself in a bucket of ice water, nominating another three people in the process.

It is simple, it is (ironically enough) fun, and it is effective.

Of course, as all events are, it is not without its points to criticize. Many people have pointed out the fact that this is something that we’re supposed to approach with sincerity and not as a joke. The amount of water put to waste by all the people dumping buckets of it on their heads are also an unrecorded, but nonetheless severe consequence of the event. More practical concerns include the fact that the concentration of attention and donations to a single community out of the sheer millions of medical conditions – out of which ALS is far from the only one that needs more attention and more donations -, the sustainability of the donations, the effectiveness considering the usage of the money donated – there are many points to reconsider, and while it is obvious that the intentions of the campaign are admirable, the consequences and worries which it brings to mind are also not to be ignored.

Some concerns are easily discarded – for example, people are worried that the viral factor of the challenge, the ice bucket part, distracts people from fully understanding that this is a very severe problem and thus requires our very serious attentions. However – and it must be noted that this is merely a personal opinion – those people, I think, are taking things far too seriously. I’ve seen people on facebook practically condemning others for having laughed, for having not kept a straight face while they were doused in water. The Korean media – who loves to make things look as if they are better and more important than they are – even came up with the idea that the ice bucket factor was there so that participants would be able to ‘feel the pain of muscle contractions that the ALS patients go through daily’. Other than the fact that this is completely false (the ice bucket factor was coined from a cancer donation campaign that preceeded this one, not even to mention the fact that the pain of ALS is not something as light to be compared with merely a bucket of cold water), I think people are overlooking the fact that this is a campaign to raise awareness out of all things. Oftentimes, commercials or other advertising methods also take the form of short, well delievered humor, because it is effective. The same goes to this occasion as well. To think that the method itself is devoid of the humor factor seems ironic to me. And if it helped – well, it certainly reached the intended goal of awareness.

(This does bring upon the question of whether or not the ends can justify the means, however. However, in this particular case, especially since the means aren’t malintentional but more along the lines of ignorance when it does come into play, my belief is that when such good comes out of it, the possible errors made from ignorance can, indeed, be justified)

Of course, other problems are not so easily ignored. The most serious of which being the sustainability of the donations, and its repercussions to the ALS community. The Ice Bucket Challenge, long-lasting and influential as it was for a simple social media syndrome, is essentially that: a syndrome. In other words, it is, by definition, meant to be a one-time event. The ideal outcome of this flow of events would have been the people influenced by the proceedings of this event to maintain a continued interest, and support, to the ALS community. However, it goes without saying that the maintenance of this level of attention and support is borderline impossible; and that fact might end up doing the ALS community more harm than the good that it did. One side of analysis is a simple observation of market economics: if the value for something, expressed in the forms of investments and the like, rises astronomically in a short period of time, the cooling off period might bring the value of the said commodity down to a level even lower than it had been before. Applied into this situation, it could mean that the donations and the level of interest, having peaked so suddenly, might drop back down to the near-ignorance levels of before or even worse; to become practically forgotten.

Another problem is that research or any form of investment made by the ALS community would end up being unsustainable; rendering them unable to utilize the precious donations in the ways it would help the most. Medical research is a tricky and complicated procedure; you never know what exactly you’ll be able to achieve. Even with the astronomical amount of donations happening right now, it will inevitably run out at some point, which, when the time comes to it, will open up significant complications.

But, despite all such reservations and depressing possibilities (and let me add once again that these were just personal opinions and predictions on my part), I still do support the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It raised donations that would otherwise have not been used to any constructive purpose, it has helped the ALS community itself immensely already, and will continue to do so in the future if coupled with the correct judgment on how to handle the donations. But I also dearly hope that the attention doesn’t dwindle too drastically once everything cools off, and that more people would become aware of the situations of minority medical conditions. The value of human life and dignity aren’t something to be decided by how profitable it could be; I hope that the Ice Bucket Challenge has also helped in refuting that particular status quo, as it has done for me and several others.

(on a completely unrelated note; Stephen Hawking has survived with ALS longer than any medical professional would have predicted – does that mean his status of Great Scientist and thus the subsequent amount of support might have possibly helped his survival? Or is it completely irrelevant? Something to think about, I guess)

Book Review: Predictably Irrational

This is more of a very belated review; I read the book a couple of years back and because I was SO unwilling to study in the past few days, I just picked this up from the shelf for the first time in a couple of years and got reminded of exactly why I’d liked this book so much :)

As always, this review is also up on my goodreads account, feel free to check it out if you will!


Continue reading

Writeworld Prompt #2: Short Story

I’m back with another one of those stories! Once again, this is an image from the writeworld tumblr blog.

Original image source is here

Backgrounds - Workshop by Scummy

The dull, gray atmosphere of the city rushed past me as I turned up the collars of my coat to shield my face from the cold. Winter in the cities were brutal – at any rate, they certainly didn’t grant me any mercy. It was just like the city itself. Merciless as it went on in its own course, tripping down the unprepared while they scrabbled to get a hold of themselves. Freezing in place the ones who weren’t strong enough to fight, or the ones who simply refused to go on anymore.

I turned a corner to avoid the worst of the wind, and kept my eyes on the ground as I marched forward. People bumped into me as they passed, my mumbled ‘sorry’ deafened by the roar of the wind, and one of them ended up slamming me to a wall. I jerked my head up to see who it had been, maybe shout a few words in anger – not a word of apology, wow, was everyone raised in a barn these days? – only to face a deserted street, the people rushing past as if they hadn’t seen a thing. And they probably hadn’t, ignorant of their surroundings as they were. Oh, how I longed for the warmth that only a civil human could bring me! The warmth that seemed so far away, now, that it had been so long since I had last felt it. The city was truly a miserable place.

I heaved a sigh as I dusted off my jacket and unraveled my scarf. But just as I was about to wind it again, a gust of wind flew it out of my hands because of course everything has to happen to me. I ran after it, cursing my short stature as my fingers brushed the edge as it flew through the alleys. After a minute or two of sprinting around alleyways, it caught on the side of a shop sign, and I momentarily sagged in relief. I retrieved it and glanced at my surroundings. Sure enough, I’d been led into the completely unfamiliar side of town. Looking up to the sign that had saved my scarf, golden embellished letters reading Anciens et Nouveux stared back at me. A quick glance inside told me that the shop was open, and I stepped inside, hoping to ask for directions.

The door opened with a soft ding as I entered. The smell of wood, coupled with what was probably several fine layers of dust rushed into my nostrils, and I inhaled a deep breath. It smelled of home, something that I hadn’t been reminded of for a long time.

In the center was a huge yellow armchair – the kind in which you sit on and drink hot chocolate on a day such as this, if you have the time and space for it. I brushed my fingers across the armrest, feeling a phantom of warmth that was oddly reminiscent of body heat. I lifted my head to look around the shop more carefully. In every corner was an assortment of little things, things that one wouldn’t have any use of in a practical world but for the sentimental value. In every visible nook and cranny was an explosion of colors – so different from the dull gray tones of everything that surrounded me in the outside.

My eyes zeroed on the windowsill, where a steaming mug of something was placed next to an ornate box painted gold. I made my way towards it and noticed that there was a note:

Yours, if you would please.

The steam emitting from the mug indicated that it hadn’t been long since it had been placed there. Pondering about the lack of human presence in the seemingly open shop, I perched myself on the windowsill and flicked open the clasp of the box.

It was a music box, of sorts. A figurine of a ballerina had popped up from the inside, frozen in mid-twirl, waiting for someone to allow her to continue her dance. I tentatively wound up the spring, and the soft notes of Clementine started flowing from the box. I absentmindedly picked up the mug. The note had to be an offer, right? For whoever would enter the shop?

I closed my eyes and took a sip, losing myself in the soft notes coming out from the box.


I jerked awake, my eyes flying open as I sought to make sense of my surroundings. The music had disappeared at some point, and I vaguely remembered sitting down on a windowsill at a shop somewhere, but this place was definitely not the shop that I had been in, but someplace familiar. Someplace that I hadn’t been in in a long time. Someplace that had…


My little sister jumped and squealed in delight as I called her name, having grown so much and yet stayed the same since I had last seen her. She was dressed in a checkered skirt, the knee-length stockings and mary janes bouncing around as she flitted around like the exuberant eight-year old that she was.

“It’s really you! But when did you- when did you come back? You didn’t even give us a call!” She all but squealed, excitement evident and yet summoning a pang of guilt on my part for not having contacted for so long.

“Well, I wasn’t really expecting to come over so soon.” I said, nervously brushing back my hair. “In fact, I don’t even know how I just did.”

Little Elizabeth’s smile faltered for a second, face morphing into one of confusion before focusing back on my face.

“But you’re here, and that’s what matters, right?”

I had to smile back. “Yes, for now.”

After learning that both our parents were out for business in town, and having my little sister escort me on a tour of everything that had changed about my own home, we went down to the beach with a picnic basket to watch the sun set atop of the sea. The sky was flooding with so many colors, colors that filled me with warmth and yet had been lost to me for so long, I felt a strange emotion blooming in my chest. It wasn’t entirely foreign per se; it was something that I had tried to suppress so hard since coming to the city, that, by doing so, prevented me from connecting with everything that had been around me. An invisible barrier of cold that I had despised so much, and yet was projecting myself.



“You ‘kay? You look like you’re going to… I dunno, cry or something.”

I blinked twice at that observation, not realizing that tears had welled up in my eyes. I hastily brushed them aside, and shot her a grin.

“It’s nothing.”

She let out a contented hum at that, and started to doze off in the warm sunlight, bundled up against the nonexistent cold as she was. I held her with a fond gaze for a while and picked her up gently, packing up and heading for home.

The sun hadn’t disappeared completely yet when I laid her sleeping form back in the bed. I stared at her peaceful expression for a moment, cherishing the moment that was so common and yet so deprived to me at the same time. My forlorn gaze was interrupted by the sudden ringing of familiar notes floating through the air.

Recognizing the music that had magically brought me here, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sensation of being swept up by the soft melodies carrying me through space and time. When I opened my eyes, I found myself exactly as I had dozed off in the antique shop, perched on the windowsill. Next to me was the music box, slowing down as the spring that I had wound up made its final turns and coming to an end.

I got up to leave, brushing imaginary dust off of my jacket, when another note, one that had decidedly not been there when I had first come in, caught my eye.

Here’s to hoping you had a good experience of your true heart’s desire.


Smiling, and deciding not to inquire about the mystery and magic surrounding the shop, I stepped out the door and onto the sidewalk. I still didn’t know the road home, but my feet stepped onwards with a purpose.

The weather had not eased up any, the wind just as harsh as it had been before, but suddenly, it was feeling so much more bearable. A pleasant warmth had settled itself in my chest, warming my body up to the tips of each finger even as it numbed from the cold. It was as though I had dropped an armful of ice from where it had been freezing me from the inside. The world was still a dull, banal grey of concrete, but it had a glow to it, a sheen of color that had been previously unnoticed because of my own reluctance to see properly. It wasn’t such a desolate environment – not if we decided to see it otherwise.

I glanced around, observing the undertones of color of every passerby walking past. Everyone trying so desperately to hide their warmth, to hold onto the icy coldness unbeknownst to themselves while hating every moment of it.

A faint buzz awoke me from my musings, and I scrambled in my pockets to retrieve my phone. Without looking at the screen, guessing who it might be already, I flipped the screen and held it to my ear.


“Hey, sweetheart. How have you been keeping up?”

I couldn’t help the smile that started to creep up as I answered. “It’s the city, miserable as always, but it’s certainly started to look up lately.”

“That’s good to know, hun. Listen, your sister had the most amazing dream today and told me to pass it on to you….”

I now grinned widely and shamelessly, as an elderly man radiating turquoise walked past. “Tell me all about it.”

“Well, apparently she dreamt that you suddenly showed up at home….”

Those who enjoy;

Finals week are approaching, and it is nothing if not a long, tedious and stressful affair. Students in our grade have to take eleven exams for the finals; including the language that you’re majoring in, your social studies elective(geography or economics), your required science subject (chemistry or biology), and one choice from either physics or sociology&culture.

I’m a spanish major myself, and I have physics, biology and economics as my electives. Since biology was notorious for its sheer overwhelming amount of material to study (and also the fact that the topic had to be genetics and heredity), physics for everyone’s collective inability to understand and economics for its complexity, many others with the same electives as I did were reduced to the verge of tears; even without all the other subjects, it was just too much.

Fortunately for me, I was rather blessed as to be able to understand most of the material given to me, and as a result, many of my classmates come to me to inquire about questions that they had while studying the material. I had somehow become the substitute teacher for most of my classmates, and to be perfectly honest, it was a really good feeling. Pride at the fact that I managed to understand something that so many others didn’t, gratitude at the fact that all these people trusted me to know the answer and to inform them accordingly, but also the strange feeling of achievement that came whenever I manage to explain something and the friend would leave with a, “You’re really good at this! Not just the material, but at explaining, too!”

I never minded people asking that of me; I know a lot of people with grades much higher than mine respond to such requests with a, “No thanks, I’m busy and I have a lot on my own plate right now.” But I tried not to do that if possible. Not just because I’ve too frequently been on the other side of such an exchange while in middle school, but also because it really was a win-win exchange. And I liked the feeling too. A lot. So I basically became the go-to person for biology, economics and physics.

In the final days before the actual exams began, it really began to peak. But something interesting happened regarding the issue. On my last period today, I’d basically given up studying for my own material, sporadically interrupted as it was by such questions, and had taken up to chatting with my classmates.

They were both taking economics as their electives, and were part of the social studies branch(as opposed to the science branch in Korean high schools). One of them were basically giving up on economics after a particularly hard question, and was demanding why I, a science branch-er, had better understanding of economics than he did. The other friend was defending my position (while I sat back and tried to claim that no, I’m not that good at economics) by telling the former of my affinity for economics, not just the school subject but in general. I’d once told him that I had read Guns, Germs and Steel and New Ideas from Dead Economists before, and he was saying that ‘she reads these things for fun, you know. She’s really interested in all of it, regardless of her branch.’

I was just sitting back, not sure how to participate in the conversation when the topic was about me, when a friend came over with an economics inquiry. I eagerly explained the relevant terms related to it, how to solve the problems with that information, and had just send her away when I realized my defender from before was looking at me with a curious stare. I asked why was he staring like that. The conversation went something like this:

“You must really like studying a lot, and I mean really.”

“…and whatever gave you that impression?”

“Just now, when you were answering her question? And explaining the material? Your eyes had this sparkle in it. The type that tells you, ‘I am so happy to be here, to be doing this right now. I feel so awesome.'”

Although my friend was a little off on exactly what had captivated me so much in that moment, it really made me think. I chose economics as opposed to geography not only because I hated geography with a passion but because I actually liked economics.

I enjoyed the time I spent in class learning the material, the feeling of achievement whenever I successfully tackled a particularly hard question and got it right. I’m not really sure if I started to like it because I was good at it, or if I came to be good at it because I liked it, but I definitely know that the two things worked as a positive feedback system: I started to put more effort into economics despite it not being particularly necessary for my college admissions, and getting good grades on the subject suddenly wasn’t a hardship anymore, especially compared with when I was in middle school.

Upon this epiphany, I was reminded of the old saying that goes something like this: “Geniuses cannot prevail over the ones who try hard, but even the ones who try hard must admit defeat to the ones who enjoy.” I’m not saying that I’m the epitome of academics or anything even close to that suggestion, but even from my case it is clear. Whatever your motivation for enjoying a subject, once you do, you achieve a level previously unimagined by just trying to ‘study’ a subject.

I’m not saying you should force yourself to enjoy something; if it were possible, such a saying wouldn’t even have a need to exist. But one’s reason for enjoying something need not be complex either – it could even be as simple as a form of attachment following a valiant effort. Heaven knows it worked for me at least. But thinking about that ‘sparkle’, about doing what I truly enjoy – I couldn’t help but feel warm inside, because it managed to reaffirm my passion: communication, and the sharing of information. People have suggested teaching as a legitimate prospect for my future, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not too strongly opposed to the idea either; I suppose we’ll see.

P.S. Finals are three days away and look at what I’ve just done! I really must be reluctant to study