The Un-Beautiful Ones 

I am Un-Beautiful. Not ugly, thank God I’m not part of the Ugly Ones. I’m just not beautiful. I am the opposite of beauty.

I wish I could tell you I was as pretty as an autumn leaf floating down from a tree, or as attractive as melted butter sunshine. I wish I had a perfect pearly smile, or eyes fringed with long, dark lashes. I wish I could tell you of my porcelain, smooth skin, tinged with a peachy pinkness on the apple of my cheeks.

But I can’t tell you that. Because you told me I’m not beautiful. You, and many others. Some of you said it directly, and some of you implied it through subtle actions.

You know, there was a time, when I thought I was beautiful. I loved looking at myself in the mirror, admiring my slender neck, my big dark eyes and hair that was long and silky, and ran down my back like a waterfall in the moonlight.

But then I met you. And you told me I wasn’t beautiful. You said, I didn’t have the right skin color, the acceptable weight, or eyelashes that weren’t long enough. I didn’t understand any of that though.

I looked in the mirror (it was my favorite in the entire house, with it’s delicate gold frame, and the quirky giraffes painted on the wall besides it), and saw beauty. I saw sincerity in my eyes, I saw laughter on my lips. So, then, why did you say I was not beautiful enough? You implied that I was alright, but not beautiful, not gorgeous, not extraordinary. Why would you say that when all I saw was beauty.

Some would say I was vain, and maybe I was. But then aren’t all of us vain? Don’t all of us like admiring ourselves in the mirror? At least I never broke the illusion of your own beauty with scathing remarks. You are so vain, you need to look down upon us to feel beautiful.

At least I am not an Ugly One. You, the Beautiful Ones, do not spare those poor souls with your ridicule. I would say I feel sympathy for them, but I’m also secretly glad that I’m better than them. I wish I were you, but at least my fate is better than theirs.

You are sending us away soon. And for that I despise you. Sometimes I think you actually might be the Ugly One, for all the hurt you cause. But we are not allowed to say that out loud, because for now, you are the ruling ones. Have been for many centuries. You see, beauty casts a spell, a spell so powerful that even us who hate you, come under the spell. We follow you around, trying to absorb your beauty. It never works, but your spell let’s us think it might work someday.

But now you are sending us away, and I won’t be able to bask in the warmth of your beauty, and dream of a day when I’m as beautiful as you. I don’t want to go the place where you are sending us. I have heard it is dark, and sad there. There is no sunlight, just rain and dreariness.You’re sending us away because there is no need for us to litter your beautiful days with our lack of beauty.

But at least I won’t have to see you. I would be with my own, the Un-Beautiful ones. We would feel comfortable among one another.

That is better than the fate of the Ugly Ones, I’ve heard. It is said that their fate is worse than death. In a twisted way, I’m happy that at least some have a fate worse than me. I know that’s not very nice of me, but you finished all the good that there was in me, with your cold, demeaning looks.

I’m happy that you’re sending me away, so that you don’t have to look at me, and I don’t have to look at your beauty with envy. I’m happy that I’ll be with others who are just like me.

I have to go now, pack away my beautiful mirror, for we aren’t allowed to look at our reflection where you are sending us. I am happy. I really am. At least I won’t have to be in your presence, and feel not good enough.

I have to go now, your people are rounding us up, like sheep, so that we can be sent away to our new home.

But before I go, can I tell you a secret?

Deep inside my heart, I wish I was you, as beautiful as you. And I wish you were me, so that you’d understand the pain of not being beautiful.

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The King of Everything

You, who stand there, not far from me. Yes, you with that pitying look in your eyes. Don’t mock my bare branches. Don’t feel sorry for my old, lined trunk.

For I too, was once a glorious tree. I had a crown made of the greenest leaves. Birds of all colour came to sit on my branches, to build their homes. The ants and skunks, the rabbits and squirrels, they all came to sit under the shade of my branches. I had a thousand hands and a strong trunk. I was the unconquerable one.

In the day, birds would perch upon my branches and sing of happiness and hope. The ants would build their homes near my strong, reliable roots; the squirrels would bury their nuts deep under the ground, worshipping me to protect their food while they went on more quests. The sun would shine diligently upon me, to give me the light I needed to grow. The clouds would give me shade when I was warm. The rain would come fast and hard to wash away the dirt from my beautiful leaves. The humans would come to me too. Sometimes just to take a rest underneath my expansive shade, sometimes to take sweet, ripe fruit that hung from my branches like miniature golden suns.

At night the stars would shine upon me, and the fireflies would gather around me, like gold dust floating in the air. The animals would burrow themselves into the protection of my roots, and the birds would sleep peacefully in their nests on my branches. Always knowing that I would protect them.

Everything and everyone would come to me, because I had something to give to every being in the world. Even the other trees would look upon me, for I was the tallest of them all, with the most leaves, and the sweetest fruit. They bowed to me when powerful winds blew as I was the only one that stood upright, unbending during the strong winds.

And this power, this knowledge that every being depended on me, was heady and magical. It made me feel invincible, unbreakable. I ruled the forest, and everything within it.

I was the King of Everything.

But I forgot one truth. In fact, the only truth there is: everything that breathes must die one day. If not yesterday, if not today, it may tomorrow. Death comes in different ways, at different times, but it always does come. The only thing that gives comfort is the knowledge that you were loved, and that you loved. I was loved for my generosity, but I was too proud to love.

The disease came suddenly, attacking us one by one. At night I would hear the creaking trunks, the crumbling of the branches, the leaves rustling down to the ground. I was sad for the other trees, but my branches hung proudly, for the disease had not gotten to me. I was too strong to be attacked by the insects that ate from the inside, causing all of the forest to slowly disintegrate into nothingness.

The fireflies were the first one to go; they did not like the crashing sounds during the night. And then the stars went into hiding too, as if it was too unbearable for them to see the sadness of our fate. Soon, as the leaves were beginning to fall, the birds took flight too, off to find some other magnificent forest. The animals went away too, to find new homes. As the last of my fruit fell to the ground, the humans stopped coming too.

I am the last one to stand, and will be the last one to fall. I should feel pride in having come so far, but as I feel my insides crumbling into nothingness I wish for only one thing. To have died with the others, and to not have to face the unfortunate prospect of death alone.

As I feel my branches weakening, drooping with the weight of the disease, the clouds cover me, as if out of pity, to hide the disgrace I am without my crown of leaves. They are the only ones who still protect me from the sun when I am too warm, and there are the only ones who have stayed with me all this time. I am glad that at least I have the clouds with me.

But still, without my crown of leaves, I have nothing left to rule.

I am now, the King of Nothing.

Princess of The Tsunami

Legend has it, that there is a Princess of the Tsunami. She lives deep inside the ocean, as a prisoner of the sea, trapped forever. There are many accounts of the story; some say she is a mermaid, some have said they have seen her ghostly figure walk along the seaside on stormy nights.

But one thing is for certain. She is beautiful. The villagers who have seen her, say she has hair made of the finest black silk, eyes as dark as a starless night, and skin that glows in the moonlight. But her eyes, her beautiful eyes, are haunted with the memories of our world.

She was a human too once, you see. But one evening, while she was dancing in the rain on the seaside, the sea fell in love with her beauty. The sea raised its tentacle like waves to drag her into the sea, to possess her. Her mother had warned her many times not to go to the seaside when it was stormy, but she had paid no heed.

She tried to run away from the wet grasp of the waves, but legend was her silky blue kimono had got caught in the rocky ground, causing her to fall. She cried out for help, ‘No! Please let me go. Please. I have a family. Please let me go.’

The sea paid no attention to her pleas; it wanted her beauty. With a great big wave, the sea engulfed the girl, drenching her with the coldness of the sea, the sea water washing away her salty tears.

The sea took her, possessing her forever. But she didn’t want to live in the sea, she wanted to go back out to the world where it was sunny, and where she could put her arms around her mother and apologize for not listening to her. It was dark, and lonely under the sea.

So every time she had the chance, she would try to swim away and escape. And every time she escaped, the sea would rage and roar with anger, causing great big waves of tsunami, until it was able to drag her back into its possession. Many disliked her, for she was the one that caused such anger in the sea, destroying the lives of the villagers.

She was only a myth, but I believed in her. For you see, I had seen her in my dreams, calling out for help, her hand stretched out in desperation for me to help her escape from the sea. And I too, like the sea, was in love with her beauty. I was a young and foolish man, entranced by her beauty, not caring what would happen if I helped her escape. I wanted to save her from the wrath of the sea.

So every time the sky grew dark, and thick gray clouds shadowed the ground, I would go out and wait for her. But she never came. The weather, after awhile would go back to normal, and I would go home disappointed. It was as if she had almost escaped, but the sea had taken her back before she could even come out of it.
But today was different.

Today I could feel the Princess of the Tsunami coming. I could feel it in the quaking of the ground, and the clouds that loomed above me on the ocean side. The waves were getting angry, rising up above into the air, sharp claws ready to devour everything in their way. In the distance, Fuji San (Mt. Fuji) stood pristinely, unbothered and untouched by the chaos of the sea.

The screams and yells of the sailors in the boats were being drowned by the thunder of water crashing down. It was a magnificent sight. Sad, but also magnificent. I know I should have run while I had the chance. But as I said I was a foolish, young man in love.

My feet were frozen to the ground, watching nature take its power over all living beings. Tonight, I was finally going to meet the Princess of the Tsunami and save her from the sea, even if that meant everything would be destroyed. I looked around for her desperately, frantically searching for her on the seaside, the rain drenching me.

And then I saw her. She had escaped finally, but the sea was angry. Of course it was angry, she was its most precious possession. She was dancing in tune with the rough roar of the sea, her hair shining in the lightning. She didn’t care that she was causing destruction, she was free from the darkness of the sea at last.

She wore a red and gold kimono, a bright beacon in the gray landscape. Her smiling lips matched the kimono, and there was a sparkle in her eyes. I ran towards her, eager to be her savior. I was going to help her escape forever. I felt very proud that she had chosen me, after all, that is why she had haunted me in my dreams. She was even more beautiful in reality, and she was going to be mine. All the villagers would be in awe of how I had saved her from the sea. I would be the bravest sailor in the village, in possession of the most beautiful girl.

Her dancing hair was just out of my reach. I stretched out my arm to touch it, to feel the silkiness of it, but my hand went through it, and for the first time I saw the smokiness of her figure. She really was a ghostly being, the sea had taken her life that first night it had captured her. But I did not care, I was still in love.

She turned around, and smiled serenely at me. I beckoned her to run away with me, my hand still reaching towards her. She looked back the angry sea, worry in her eyes, but with a determination started following me, away from the angry waves.

The sea was getting rougher and angrier, for no one was allowed to take away its princess; no one was allowed to possess what it had possessed before. The waves were rising higher; the wind was blowing even faster, causing the sand to swirl around us, like small dancing figures. I could feel the salty spray of the sea, could taste the anger in it, but I was still not scared. Indeed, I had won from the sea, taking away its glory.

We had almost reached dry land, near the sailor houses. I was going to take her away from the village as soon as I had the chance, but before I could plan more, the sky cracked with the loudest thunder I had heard. I looked up to see lightning strike, as if the sky was breaking into pieces. I had underestimated the sea’s power, blinded by love.

I looked back, to see the greatest wave tumbling over us, our screams lost in the crashing of the water. I looked into her eyes, and I could see that she had given up. This would be the last time she escaped from the sea. She tried to push me away, to save my life, but I didn’t want to be saved. As the salty water filled my lungs, I should have regretted losing my life. But I didn’t. I was in love.

If I could not live with her in our world, I would do so happily in the depths of the sea.

The sea never raged again.

The Curious Boy

Oscar was a curious boy. He wondered about a lot of things. Why was the sun yellow, and not blue? Why did bluebirds sing, and the owls hoot? He lived with his mother, in a town called Ordinary where every day was the same.

Everyone in the village did the same things every day, without getting tired of the routine. They all liked doing ordinary things, day by day, and disliked change. But Oscar was different; he wanted to learn of the outside world. He was fascinated with what life would be like outside of the village. But no one was allowed to enter the village, or to leave it. And Oscar’s biggest wish in the entire world was to step out the village boundary, and see the world. He knew that there was more to life than just doing the same things over and over again.

He would often ask his mother if they could visit somewhere outside the village, but she always shushed him.
‘Oscar, please don’t ask such questions. Our life is perfectly fine here,’ would be her reply every single time. ‘It isn’t safe out there. Don’t you know curiosity got the cat’? But Oscar didn’t think it was perfectly fine. In fact, he thought it was absolutely dreadful in the town.

The only place interesting in the village was an old abandoned library. No one was allowed to go inside, and rumour was that it was haunted by the ghost of a child that had become enslaved by an evil magician.

Ever since Oscar could remember, the library had been closed, and every time he walked by it, his heart was filled with the desire to go and look inside, to ruffle through pages of the books. If he couldn’t go outside the village, he could at least explore fantasy worlds through books.

So one night, when the moon was high in the sky, Oscar decided that he was finally going to explore the library. After a supper of bland chicken and plain rice, Oscar went up to his room, pretending to go to bed early. He lay in bed, hearing his mother wash the dishes in the kitchen, and the low hum of the television. Every night, his mother followed the same routine, and never seemed to get tired of it. It was as if they were all stuck in time, but Oscar wasn’t. He wanted to move forward, but couldn’t while he was trapped in this village. Tonight, though, he was going to immerse himself in the fantasy world of books.

Awhile later, when the house had gone quiet, Oscar got up from his bed and sneaked out of the house quietly, his footsteps muffled by the carpet. The village was dark, only lit by the dim moonlight. In the distance owls were hooting into the night, singing of wisdom. Oscar pulled his jacket tighter, as dead leaves fluttered through the dark street he was walking through. Upon hearing a shuffling in the dark, he looked around worriedly; he had never been out when it was so dark. What if there were monsters out there?
Oscar should have gone home.

But shaking his head, Oscar continued walking towards the library, his pace faster. It was probably just a squirrel. And his curiosity was greater than his fear. Reaching the library, Oscar looked around to find a way in, as the door was boarded with wooden planks and the windows were covered with thick dust. The library was worn down, like an old man that had little life left in him. He wiped one window with his hand, and peered in. It was very dark, but a sliver of moonlight was shining upon shelves of books filled with worlds much different than Oscar’s.

His heart beating fast, Oscar pulled up one of the windows with all his might and climbed inside. Looking around in fascination, he felt an excitement rising inside him. There were so many books to discover. He walked through the shelves, running his hands across the dusty books.

Which one should he choose, he wondered. There were thin books with gold writing, thick and tall books, some covered in leather binding, all of them worn out as if a hundred fingers had gone through the pages. After much thought, he chose a thick book, with a red cover. Wiping off the dust, it read ‘A Guide to Magical Places & Strange Lands’. Eagerly, Oscar opened up the book, ruffling through the yellowed pages covered with paintings of strange lands. He stopped at a picture of a striking town, lighted with trees covered with jewels. He wondered if such a place really existed outside his gloomy, lifeless village.

As he was going through the pages of the book, a key fell out of the book with a heavy clang on the floor.

Oscar picked it up, turning it around in his hand, wondering which door it opened. Looking through the pages, he read ‘For those who are curious, and wish to see a place of magic, use this key to enter the town of Fireworks. The door to the key will appear to only those who believe. But be warned…’ The rest of the sentence was faded out.

Looking up from the book, he saw an inky blue door had appeared out of thin air. It had an ancient feel to it, with a heavy gold knocker. His hands trembling with excitement, Oscar put the key in the lock and with a slow, long squeak the door opened. Holding the book close to his chest, Oscar stepped into this strange town.

And what a magnificent, strange town it was. The trees were covered with glowing jewels. Emeralds, topaz, sapphires, rubies, all of them as big as Oscar’s fist. There were brightly houses lit all around, and there was a warm, delicious scent of roast chicken and mashed potatoes in the air. Oscar followed the scent to a nearby house.

Now, Oscar knew he shouldn’t, but the thought of food was making his stomach rumble. He knocked on the door tentatively, waiting for a nice old lady to open the door and offer him a warm and delicious meal.

But there was no answer. Looking around, Oscar reached out and opened the door. Stepping in he saw a banquet of food laid out in the centre. Looking around to see if there was anyone around, Oscar took a plate and piled it high with food.

As Oscar was eating a plate full of roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, he heard a shuffling behind him. Turning around, he saw a strange man wearing a long black coat, red bow tie and a top hat.

Before Oscar could say anything, the man took his hat off and pulled out two rabbits out of it! They hopped around Oscar in playful circles. Oscar giggled, a magic show only for him. The magician gave him a silent smile, and proceeded to pull out jumping jacks, clown hats and gold coins out of his hat. Soon there was dancing confetti all over the place, a set of drums and harmonium playing on their own, magically. It was a happy tune, and Oscar started dancing to it in delight. This was the best time he had ever had in his life.

After awhile of many more tricks though, Oscar was feeling sleepy, and he knew he must go home.

‘I have to go home now’, he said to the magician. ‘I’ll come back tomorrow, and you can show me more tricks’.

The magician was silent. He had not spoken a word since he had appeared, thought Oscar. Shrugging his shoulders and clutching the book, Oscar made to move towards the door. But the magician shook his head, and with his index finger spelled out the following words in smoky writing completing the unfinished sentence from the book, ‘But be warned upon entering the town, do not look back to the life of past.’

Oscar ignored the magician, and although his heart was beating worriedly he continued walking towards the door to leave. He twisted the knob, but the door wouldn’t budge. He was locked inside. Alone with the magician. Looking closer at the magician, a shiver went down Oscar’s spine. The magician had a creepy smile, and his eyes looked strangely empty now. Before Oscar could think anymore though, the magician strode towards Oscar, and grabbed him by the back of his jacket and pushed him into a dusty, old cupboard.

Oscar yelled and screamed. ‘Let me out! I need to go home’. He slammed and kicked at the door but it wouldn’t budge. Tears rolled down Oscar’s face, he wanted to go home to his mother. He was willing to do the same things over and over again, just so that he could be home. He fell asleep thinking of his mother and whether she would be worried that he was missing.

The next night the magician came back, and let Oscar out. Once again there was a lavish buffet laid out, and the magician started the magic show and tricks. This time Oscar tried sneaking out the window, but just as he was about to escape, the magician roughly grabbed him and pushed him back into the cupboard.

After a few nights of failing to escape, Oscar realized he was never going to leave the town of Fireworks. He had got all the extraordinary change he had desired in the town of Ordinary, but now all he wanted was to go back home. And every night he would be reminded of one thing his mother had always said to him about curiosity and the cat.

Curiosity had after all, got the cat.

Welcome!

Welcome to ‘Whispers of a Painting’!

As a child I always wanted to be a painter. I had an overactive imagination full of fiery dragons, spring full of magical wild flowers, and birds that fed their baby birds ice cream (don’t judge me, I was an 8 year old with a vivid imagination).

I wanted to paint it all out, lash at a blank canvas and cover it with a rainbow of my imagination. I rather liked to think I would one day be as famous as Picasso or Van Gogh (I wasn’t picky).

So I begged and whined to my mother until she got me a set of water colors and a big white canvas ready to be splashed with color. I was so excited, I even tucked a paintbrush behind my ear to be all artsy. And then I began to paint. I spent days on it, giving it my best, trying to paint all my thoughts onto the canvas.

But it was a horrible painting to say the least. Let’s just say I couldn’t draw a stickman to save my life.

And so I gave up. I put away the paints, the brushes and the disgraceful canvas into a cupboard, stashing them away, hiding them. But I could not stop thinking of all the wild stories swirling around in my mind.

After a few weeks, while studying paintings of Van Gogh in art class, our teacher quoted: ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. And I was like okay, maybe I can’t paint the stories but I can write them onto paper. Instead of painting with a brush, I could paint stories with a pen.

I began writing stories, pouring out all those characters that wouldn’t leave me alone. It was a lot of fun to go overboard with my imagination. I still loved paintings though, and always wondered what it would be like to live inside a painting, to live the story of it.

That’s how ‘Whispers of a Painting’ came to life. Here I’ll be sharing the stories I’ve been inspired to write by paintings from all over the world, along with the paintings themselves.

So if you like to read short stories, enjoy a bit of a wild imagination, and love paintings this is the perfect place for you. Come along with a cup of tea (or coffee) and settle in for a relaxing, yet entertaining read. I promise it’ll be fun! 🙂