11/09/2017

29 years and 364 days

November 9th, or what is the same, the day before my birthday. Thus it is time to look back at this year of 29. And what a year! I jokingly call it the year of the islands, but let's do things in order.

During this year, my first full year as a PhD lots of things happened. Because I had finished my PhD it was time for me to find my following position, ideally in academia. This did not come easy, I tried to apply for grants, but I either got rejected or did not fulfill the criteria. I sent emails almost begging for a position, anywhere, but yet, nothing seemed to work. A heavy bout of imposter's syndrome and depression did not help (add that having to move back to my parents and feeling like a failure in life too), for sure, but then I saw the light in form of a unique opportunity. An opportunity that has taken me to move away from home and into Paris, a city I have always loved, a city I have always thought I'd love to live in. I have been here a little more than two months and I still can't believe my luck, not only because of the city itself but because of the professional opportunities that my first post-doc is giving me.

This year has also given me travels, and thus why the year of the islands, Lanzarote, Iceland, Paris (Île de France, literally Island of France, so shut up), and UK. Lanzarote was my vacations after defending my PhD and my first time in the Canary Islands, getting tanned in December is a strange feeling, but a cool one. However, during those vacations, I was busy with work, which made it a bit stressful at times. Iceland was a chance of a lifetime, a unique opportunity to travel somewhere I had always wanted to go, only marred by the fact that I could not go around an explore at my own pace, but nevertheless, Iceland is heima and I know I will return to the midnight sun and the auroras borealis. Paris, Paris, Paris, I flew here first in July for the job interview trying to soak as much of it as I could, knowing that it was my shot to be able to come live here but scared that I had screwed it up (I had never been so nervous in my life while giving a presentation), fortunately, everything turned out great and I am writing this post from the city of lights. And then, UK which was my first trip for work in here and also my first time taking the train across the channel, which is not as exciting as it sounds. I barely had time to see anything in London, the days being filled with the workshop and the nights needed for as much rest as we could get, but still, I did get a taste of a city that I was visiting for the third time.

Other things that I did this year,... I did finish writing a novel which is actually book 1 of a series and now I'm basically procrastinating over it. I went to some weddings, which is not news anymore, and I think that is about it.

On personal growth, well I learnt that sometimes you need to take the first step and ask for forgiveness (and that dreams are bitches) and that sometimes it is very very very hard to let go (and sometimes it is made harder) so hard that in truth you don't want to let go. I have also learnt to follow my gut and not try to rationalize everything because it only makes it worse. Finally, I have realized that once everything in your live starts fitting together, you start missing things that you don't have and don't even know how to get.

I still can't believe that these are my last hours as a 20-something. And I still can't believe that 30 sounded so scary some years ago (I also cannot believe that everyone keeps asking me whether I am married and have kids, like shut up people!)

10/23/2017

City of love

"The city of love" people called that city that was becoming hers, piece by piece. Or maybe it was the other way round, she was becoming the city's. Either way, it made no difference, the city, the people, had welcomed her well enough, despite her shortcomings in French language and her clear air of foreigner. The legend, the aura that enveloped the city, had been another matter, however. The city of love was intent on reminding her that she was alone and that there was no way to tell if she would always be. It was announced on the Champs de Mars, where couples posed in romantic attitudes with the Eiffel tower behind them, and on the Pont Neuf, that had become the place where all the locks from Paris went to die after they had been evicted from the Pont des Arts. That always made her think about how love can wreck you, as it almost tore a bridge down. And then there was always the question.

-Et ton mari?

No, she didn't have a husband, thank you very much. Or even the other question.

-As tu des enfants?

Children, the last thing she needed, but something that seemed to be a mark of social status in the city of love. A city of love that was only such for those who had already found it, but not for those who had been seeking, knowingly or not. She walked around the city, sad eyes over the river, a river that had her heart and had her pain. A river where the love went to die as the locks fell as they rusted away from the bridges.

9/25/2017

Tired

She woke up tired. She did of late, she didn't know if it was the new mattress, the new house, the new silence around the house, or the new void beside her in bed. Or maybe it was the dreams that wouldn't go away, dreams that chased her during the day, making her wonder if any of it had been true. Dreams that made her wake up in the middle of the night, searching for a familiar scent that was no longer there.

As usual, she dragged herself out of the bed and into the shower as soon as her alarm rang. It was still dark outside, the lazy winter sun waking up much later than herself. The warm water washed away the last dregs of sleep, but it wouldn't do the same with those of dream. She stood in the shower, remembering, knowing that she was only hurting herself more.

She went through her day, trying to keep busy, her eyelids heavy at times, her heart, at others. She endured the day the best she could and fell on her bed as soon as she got home. Maybe if she was tired, she would have a dreamless sleep, she lied to herself again. And as she slept, she dreamt again, she dreamt of all she had lost and would never have again.

7/27/2017

Wedding

I stole a last glance at the mirror before leaving the house, my mother already making me rush not to be late at the town hall, I was wearing a simple tea-length dress, a color closer to bone than to snow. It was going to be a small and simple wedding, we both had wanted it that way, I never liked big weddings too much and we didn't have enough money to do a big wedding in the way we would have liked to, it was always more a matter of the guests to feel at ease and well-fed, than of us showing off. My mother hadn't liked that very much, she even insisted on paying part of it so Aunt Betsy from Florida could come, even if I have seen her twice in my life and she isn't even my real aunt. At that moment, she was dressed over the top for the ceremony, but I am her only daughter, so that was to be expected. Father is much more composed, although I can tell he has been crying, we both headed to the car. Lilly and Rita, my best friends, were there, they insisted on being my bridesmaids although I didn't want any. I told them that I would kill them if they dressed in the same way, but it looked like they only picked the same color.

The ride to the town hall was a short one, we had decided to marry in my hometown because the town hall was prettier even though we lived across the state at that time. We ended up getting there ahead of time, so we are forced to make a detour for everyone to get inside before me. This is a tradition that I hated, but my mother told me that I had to do it for her. The traffic helped us on that and by the time we were in front of the town hall again, there was no one in sight. My mother went in first, as she was to be escorted by my future husband's father. Lilly and Rita went next, doing whatever duties they considered bridesmaids needed to do. I was last, my father taking me by the arm, proudly, I shifted, trying to get a good grip of the bouquet, one that I had made myself picking flowers from the garden, that felt more like myself than spending money on some impersonal flowers. We entered the town hall and were directed to the room, I had sent some potted flowers there in advance to decorate the room and give it a more personal touch, it didn't disappoint. As I entered the room to the beats of a cheeky song I had picked up, everyone turned around to look at me, I didn't even see the faces as I was focused on Robert who was waiting for me at the end of the aisle. We always joked that he wasn't going to cry, but he did, and so did I, and I felt stupid for it, but I did.

I don't remember most of the ceremony, but before I knew it, it was over. That was when I discovered that one of the bridesmaids' duties that my best friends had assigned to themselves was to give everyone rose petals and confetti to throw us after an unexpected colorful rain caught Robert and me as we left the town hall. Everyone gathered around us to congratulate us and that was when I saw him. And a wave of embarrassment, fury, and sadness washed over me. I knew I had to do something and I knew I had to do it fast. I escaped the crowd for a moment, which wasn't an easy feat, and headed towards him, who was standing apart, supervising everything. He smiled at me when I got to him.

"Congratulations." he said.

"Why are you here?" anger seeped through the words as I hissed them, I was mad at him for ruining a day that he had no right to ruin.

"I just wanted to see you get married, you always said this day wouldn't come."

"David, why are you here?"

"I still love you."

"Fucking selfish idiot! You never ever loved me, you never did."

"I did, I was just too scared of showing you, you have always been so independent,..."

"So that gave you the right to play with my feelings? That gave you the right to have girlfriends while you made me believe there could be something more?" in that moment I wanted to hit him in the face as strongly as I could.

"I should have kissed you when I had the chance."

"I'm glad you didn't." I said before turning around and heading forward towards my new life with Robert by my side.

5/30/2017

Dream On. Chapter 87: A ruin of charred stone

Previously...

A ruin of charred stone

Octavia and Robert, with Tom following at their heels, sprinted up to the cathedral, sidestepping away from all the people who were running away from the fire. They saw several people lying on the floor, with shreds of glass lodged on several parts of their body. Some were bleeding profusely, some of them might even be dead. They tried to avoid looking at the horror the explosion had produced, but it was hard to turn your face to a young mother crying by her child, or to the couple holding tight together, both of them wounded. Some people started approaching the wounded with medical supplies, and some other were preparing makeshift stretchers to transport them to the nearest hospital. It was a massacre, and because of the traffic jam, it would take hours for the ambulances to arrive. Octavia didn’t want to think about how many victims there were, and it only looked worse the closer they got to the building. Just at the doorstep, several bodies were buried under the heavy iron gates, some of them were wearing priest robes, another, deeply disfigured, had long brown hair. They looked up to see how the black smoke started escaping through the holes of the windows.

Oddly, the fire had gone completely off after the explosion. The inside of the temple was a complete mess of blackened stones. The structure still held together, but most of the decorations had fallen off and were scattered around the place. To get inside they had to circumvent some fallen tubes, similar to some they had found outside.

-I think that is part of the organ.- Tom pointed out.- It was one of the oldest in the country, and it made beautiful music.- he finished sadly.

They left it behind and made way to the center of the temple. Everything looked desolate, and all the forms melted into one black mass. It was eerily silent after all the screams and crying they had heard outside. They wouldn’t talk, communicating only by signs, too afraid to say out loud what they all thought. That no one would have been able to survive that.

The altar, which had been covered in gold, had melted completely, brown fingers of molten gold streaming down of it. Because of the impression of seeing it in such state they hadn’t realized that there was a gigantic hole on the ground.

-What the hell is that?- said Robert.

The hole was full of glowing coals, red against the black. It was not until they got closer that they saw several forms next to it. The one that was closer to them moved slightly, showing its burned red skin through cracked black patches.

-Water, water.- they heard her beg.

Tom ran to her.

-Marla? Marla, is it you?- he said with tears in his eyes, not being able to believe that that mess of charred meat was his daughter.

She opened her blue eyes, unable to hold her head. Her father kneeled in front of her, too afraid to touch her, knowing that it would hurt her too much.

-Dad, I’ve missed you. I didn’t want to do all this, they made me do. And I became a prisoner in my own body. The power poisoned me, controlled me. There was nothing I could do. And now I’m dying, and all these people died because of me.- her voice started fading away.

-It’s okay, sweetie, it’s okay. I’m here with you now, I forgive you, I know you didn’t want to do it. I really know. Now just go to sleep, baby. And wait for me on the other side.

Marla smiled weakly and closed her eyes, breathing for the last time. Tom fell on her side, holding her tight, crying desperately. Octavia and Robert left him mourning his daughter and started looking for their friends. Just opposite from the ember pit, they found Dalia, sitting next to a completely calcined body. She looked up at them when she heard them and quickly stood up to throw herself into Robert’s arms.

-It was terrible!- she said sobbing.

-Is that…- asked Olivia, fearing the answer.

-Albert, yes.

-And Myriam?- inquired Robert, still holding her tight.

-Dead too. She died trying to save Albert, and then Albert went crazy and made everything explode.

-Albert did this?- Octavia and Robert asked at the same time.

-Yes.

The silence covered all like a blanket, not even the mourners inside or outside the cathedral could break it. Everything was over, although not the way they had expected.

THE END


Dream On. Chapter 86: Burning

Previously...

Burning

Albert could feel how his clothes started to get soaked from sweat, he was tempted to do like Marla and take them off. However, he knew that if the fire did ever grow out of control he was safer with them on. And that was a possibility that he needed to contemplate. He stepped out of the fire a bit, to get less heat because he was starting to feel light-headed. Marla saw it.

-The little rabbit is afraid to get roasted. Too bad, I always liked grilled rabbit.- she got closer to the flames as if she couldn’t feel the heat, Albert saw that it was mockery, as she soon started sweating, all her skin glistening under the fire.

A heavy column of smoke started rising to the ceiling. For once, Albert was glad that the temple was so high and all made in stone. He didn’t want to imagine what would have happened in a tighter space with wooden ceiling. He quenched the fire a bit just enough so he could see Marla clearly without his eyes watering. He saw that her hair was matted to her skin because of the heat she had endured by getting closer to the fire.

-You know why I am here, don’t you, Marla?

-So I can slaughter you?- she said, still her old self.

-No, to finish you.

Albert then tried to do one of the things she was known to do better, render the other person’s body useless. He focused on impeding any kind of movement in her body and succeeded. Marla stayed where she was immobile, stiff as a stick. Nevertheless, Albert allowed her to be able to talk.

-You and all of them outside think that you are better than me. That you don’t let the power possess you, but you are living a lie. Having power and not taking profit of it is throwing your life away. Though, I have to admit that you have learned a lesson or two. Have you been practicing? Of course, not. You would never hurt a fly, would you? If you kill me you won’t be better than me, you will be exactly like me, killing other people to get what you want.

He wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying, he knew that she was trying to make him lose focus because it was much harder for him than it had been for her. He could hear her talking and talking, until he decided that it was time to put it to end. He tightened his grip on her throat, making her unable to speak, and having her panting to breathe. He felt how he was growing more tired, and how she was opposing to his control. Albert could feel the fury on Marla, boiling in her veins. Then he felt that he was losing it.

The next thing he knew he was lying on the floor with something heavy on his chest. He recovered all his senses and realized it was Myriam, who was severely burned. And dead. The flames were higher now, and had actually spread to every piece of wood there was in the building. He saw Dalia running towards a stone staircase in her intent to escape the fire.

-Your little woman has saved you, you know?- he could hear Marla’s scorning voice.- I had regained control and I threw you a fireball, I thought it would be nice for you to die both burned and because of an impact, you know? Because of your grandmother and your sister. But that stupid little girl got in the middle. I still don’t know what did you see in her… Well, I should thank her, now I will have even more time to make you suffer, which is one of my favorite hobbies.

Albert was on his knees next to Myriam’s body, unable to believe that yet another innocent person in his life was dead. He cried over her corpse, he cried until he ran out of tears, and the fury settled in. He took her body in his arms and hid it in a hole in the wall that he guessed was intended to hold a tomb, it seemed right for her to rest there, at least for the moment. He faced Marla once again from across the fire.

-You’ve taken everything I loved from me. Is it what you wanted? Do you think I will become a broken person like you? A person who only thinks about his own benefits? Do you think you’ve made me a selfish person? You’ve killed my grandmother, you’ve killed Mayra, and now, you’ve killed Myriam. But you have not made me worse, you haven’t won, I am not you and I will never be. And now you have nothing else to take away from me, there is nothing for you to blackmail me with. You’ve made me free, and this means that I can now end with you because I have nothing to lose.


He increased the fire intensity, avoiding Marla’s resistance as if she had had the strength of a toddler. He increased it even more, the flames already halfway the ceiling. And then he set the air on fire, making all the windows explode.

5/26/2017

Dream On. Chapter 85: Fire.

Previously....

Fire

After making sure that Myriam was okay, although a bit freaked out for having to stay with a corpse, Albert headed back outside. Marla had cornered Dalia behind a pillar, and he could see that his friend was grabbing it as if it were a floating device. Whatever Dalia had done in the past, she didn’t deserve this, so he decided to intervene. He climbed back to the bench pile and shouted.

-You never get tired of being a bully, do you?

Marla turned around so fast that she almost lost balance.

-Why don’t you fight someone as powerful as you?- he hassled her.

-The little rabbit thinks he is a worthy opponent, doesn’t he?- she said throwing her head back in laughter.

-Well, this little rabbit took something from under your nose without you noticing, didn’t he? By the way, it is really ugly to kill elderly women.

Marla’s laughter stopped abruptly. She glanced at the top of the pile a second time to make sure what Albert said was true. In the meantime, Dalia had taken profit of not being the focus of her attention to sneak to one side of the building in order to go keep Myriam company.

-The little rabbit has grown bold, I see. But this doesn’t make you powerful, you just profited that your sneaky friend was distracting me. Everyone can do that, this doesn’t mean that you can compare to me, which you don’t. No one can compare to me, and you know why? Because that old woman that I killed, was the original Creator. She tried to fight me, but she had transferred me part of her powers, and she was helpless against me. Talking about powers, that little trick you pulled off in my room, I didn’t like it. It’s time to fix it.

Marla reached the back of her dress for the zipper and pulled it down. She then took her dress off, standing in there just with her red lingerie, her high-heel shoes and a bandage wrapping her stomach. She unwrapped it carefully, and Albert could see how some parts of the wounds still bleed a bit. It looked dramatic under the candlelight, and under other circumstances, she would have looked even sexy. She, then, looked down at it and touched the scars with her fingers, they started to vanish. Albert was surprised, although not much because he had already expected her to have more powers than she really knew. She kicked her shoes off, not having any intention of putting her dress back on.

-Well, little rabbit, now I will be able to forget, don’t you think? Let’s play.

She waved her hand making the flames on all the candles inside the temple burn higher and brighter. The ones surrounding the pyre became a solid wall of fire.

-You're not the only one who likes to play with fire, little rabbit. I must confess that I drew inspiration from the charred ruin you made of my precious garden. Although I wasn’t expecting you to be the one in the center of it, I must confess. I always pictured you pleading mercy while you saw how the flames were getting closer to that little woman of yours. Anyway, all is good, if you won’t work for me, you won’t be able to escape alive either. I am curious, what are you going to do now? You said that you were going to fight me, but as far as I remember you needed to be asleep to do so.

Marla was talking a lot, it was clear that she was confident, and that was good for Albert, the more confident she were the easier it would be for him to fool her.

-Maybe I will take a nap, in here, it looks pretty comfortable, and it is warm. I always liked to sleep warmly, and silently.- he saw a flicker of annoyance cross her straight face.- Anyway, I think I’m not the only problem you have, how come all those priestly friends of yours are locked outside?

-That’s none of your business.- she cut him.

-No, of course, it is clearly yours. However, I would start to get worried, because they seem to be finding a way to get in.

He focused on making the gates pound louder as if someone were trying to ram the door down. That made Marla turn around to make sure the gates stayed closed and still, which Albert profited to escape from the fire circle and get on the opposite site from Marla. He then lighted the pyre. The heat and the flame made Marla realize that something wasn’t as she expected.

-The little rabbit has learnt some tricks of his own too.- he said from the other side of the roaring fire.

-You shouldn’t be able to do this.- Marla shouted angrily.

-And you shouldn’t exist at all, and people doesn’t say that on your face.- Albert came back boldly.


-You are going to regret this.