A story of friendship
by Abel Chan
Through teary eyes I watched, as the sun descended against its azure canvas. It has been a long and amazing journey, full of adventures and misadventures alike. And it has brought us here for its close. A fitting end for our grand tale. The sand was the gentlest hue of gold that had ever graced my eyes, earthen and muted, yet unassuming in its majesty. Upon the buoyant waves that caressed the island’s shore, a few pieces of driftwood resided, floating with a carefree disregard – a notion that I envied, given the affairs I was to tend to.
I got to work immediately, unpacking the bamboo that I had gathered earlier in the morning. This would be the second time I attempted to build a raft, with the first being fifteen years ago. However, I remain confident of my abilities. For despite all the time that has passed, my memory of that day remains uncannily vivid. After all, it was on that fateful day that the three of us had become friends.
We were but mere children, untainted and joyful in our adolescence. The village had not yet prospered, but its villagers were happy nonetheless. It was a time of peace. I was out at the northern coast, frolicking in the shallow waters. I would have returned to that very beach if the situation had allowed, but the foreign army had docked its ships there, and that was too big a risk for me to take. But I digress. Now, back to the memory. I was playing in the waters when I spotted the two of them – a young boy no older than I, and his little sister who dragged him by the hand, fuelled by unrestrained fervour and eagerness.
They were hauling a large sack of bamboo, which they proceeded to lay across the shore with violent excitement; an excitement so contagious that I found myself approaching them in interest of what they were up to. I do not make friends. I disliked people. Perhaps it was a mere reflection of how they tended to dislike me. For I was born with a cleft lip, a symptom of fiendish nature. Or so I have been told. People would avoid me as if gazing upon me would burn their eyes. As such, I lived in solitude.
But the two of them were different. They cared little about my hideousness. In fact, they acted as if my ugliness was non-existent, treating me as their equal. Upon my witless arrival, they smiled and beckoned for me to join them.
“We’re building a raft! Hurry and help!”
And so, we built the raft. And we sailed it out to sea. But being ignorant as we were, we forgot we needed paddles. The raft was left at the mercy of the tide, and we drifted further and further from the shore. Deciding that doing nothing would spell trouble, the girl suggested we swim our way back to safety. And so, we swam.
By the time we reached the shore, we were exhausted beyond measure. We laid on the soft sand, staring up at a sky made crimson with the evening’s arrival. And then, he laughed. And so did she. Not realizing what I was doing, I could not help but laugh alongside them. That was the first time I felt real joy. Her name was Atsuka, and his, Shogo. They accepted me as their friend, and asked for mine in exchange for theirs. Never having known that I had that right, I gladly indulged them in their request.
Shogo held out his hand, with his palm towards the ground. “So that settles it, we’re friends now. And we’ll always be together.”
“Always,” Atsuka chimed in, putting her hand on top of his.
I placed mine atop theirs, and the word cemented itself in my heart, as it left my disfigured lips. “Always.”
From that day on, the three of us were inseparable.
And that was not to be changed, even in these unfortunate circumstances. I refuse to let that happen. The village has been taken over, and the foreign armies had shown no mercy. Having grown to become the village leader, Atsuka was the first to be executed, with her advisor and brother, Shogo, coming to a similar end soon after. I was only spared the same fate because I was a nobody, having turned down their invitation to join them in governing, but amounting to nothing noteworthy on my own.
It was that lack of greatness that granted my safety, the same way that their greatness had led them to their demise. For the village had flourished under their leadership, and where there was prosperity, there was also enemies with armies that had their eyes on that fortune.
The sun had started to set, its descension nearly complete. I pushed my finished raft off the golden shore, and paddled towards where the sun had met the waters. The sky was scarlet crimson, the same crimson that shone so bright on the day that we had met.
Through teary eyes I watched, not the sun, but the island’s shore, as it grew further and further away. I bit my tongue and reminisced the past, as I paddled away from our home. With their cold bodies beside me, I found myself shaking from head to toe. And upon my cursed lips, did the ghost of a word slip out.
by Abel Chan
Abel Chan is a writer from the Southeastern island of Singapore. Though mainly a writer of stories, Abel also crafts non-fiction pieces surrounding the topics of philosophy, politics and literature. He is an editor for A Philosopher’s Stone and has published works in other named literary publications such as The Writing Cooperative and The Ascent. Making his debut in the world of freelancing, Abel seeks to deliver both aesthetic value and the awakening of emotions through his writing where he weaves storytelling into technical pieces, and perspectives of reality into his fictional works.
Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.
Todos los personajes son ficción. Cualquier semejanza con individuos reales, vivos o no, es mera coincidencia. All characters are fictional. Any resemblance to individuals, real, existing or not, is purely coincidental.