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Crimson Dreams

by Tanya Carlos


Foreword: 

I am God’s horrible creation, 

Violet cheek, bared teeth, 

Fathomless eyes, Crushed jaw, 

As I bite, and I bite, 

Fresh flesh and titanium bones drip all over my face, 

There are no excuses, 

There are no saints, 

I leave behind my castle ruins, 

My dreams and tears and humbled family, 

What a sight I must make, like some wild dog, 

Escaping the clutches of their feral owner, 

The moon is high on the night sky, 

The town is blissfully quiet, 

Everyone and no one will know, 

And as I limp towards nowhere, I smile, 

Because 

No, I will not go out quietly, 

Anymore 



i. same blood flowing through our veins. 

The dinner table is a sacrosanct place. We devour, or we used to devour. Now, I just sit and watch as her sneer grows and shrinks, as her chin lifts up. Blood curls. Your silver crucifix necklace glistens in the fireplace. We eat pomegranates and bread, and father wishes to be in his bed. But like me, we are both stuck in this predicament. I wonder what you would do, if you knew I was wishing for diabolical intervention. 


“No. You cannot go. Do you see the desolate state of our farm? Do you see how hard your father and I work? Can’t you just be grateful?” 


The fork flies in the air, food splatters everywhere. “It is unbecoming, impolite.” I echo in my head. All our lady lessons are a farce it seems. Not that I say any of this out loud, you wouldn’t appreciate the interjection, I know.

 

“Mother, at least let me try. At least let me have this chance.” I plead, as my traitorous eyes glisten. It is a losing battle, a non-pyrrhic victory. 


“No.” 

“But Mother!” 

“An ungrateful, petulant girl. I thought we raised you better than that.” “Moth-“

“Eat your food.” 


A glance at my silent father, cowardly, foolish. His eyes can only trace over my flayed being, thrumming with sadness and frustration. Of course he could not stand up. When has he ever defended me? Let what rivers flow, flow. Let your daughter be swept away in the storm. 


Red droplets, tendrils spread its wings, pomegranate red. I wonder “How many seeds did I eat, to be stuck in this hell with you?” Blood boils. 


ii. the life I want to lead. 

I await with bated breath, in line to see the pretty ladies in the pictures. The sidewalk is littered with strange figures, men in dark coats, women with pretty parasols, and the high rises that watch us all. Fidgeting with my cheap polo, I hope I don’t look out of place. 


But I feel like they are watching me, pointing out the outlier. Big black cars and luxury shopping bags stain my vision. Large groups of friends frolicking in the park, spilled wine and messy cake. Smoking in the open, fresh air. I want what I don’t have. I want what I don’t have. 


The movie house is dark, so much colder than the farm. It is all so idyllic from here, the pretty girls descending from the stars. They hop and dance and leap elegantly from the screen. Sometimes I have to cover my eyes, cause I’m afraid they’ll jump out at me. At the end of the day, roses are thrown at their feet. They flash a glistening smile, and bow to whoever’s near. Curtains close, lights flicker out, and they run to their partner, twirling around the dressing room. Flowers are placed in a vase, and their mother kisses their forehead, bathed in her grace. 


But the facade is cracked. Broken and weak. “It’s not real.” Underneath the scorching white sun, as I monotonously feed the horses hay, veins of envy pool at my feet, and once it starts, it’s hard to stop. I stare at the heavens, trying and failing to find an answer. God never shows his face, never answers my prayers, never. 


Am I only meant to stay here? Will I forever remain as someone’s beck and call? A supplicant at their feet? My life is a mimicry of mediocrity, a shadow of its empty glory. I slam the pitchfork into the hay, for I fear if I grip onto it some more, the horse might be our dinner. 


iii. an invisible cage. 

“Dinner’s ready. Come down.” 

Mother’s grating voice irks at my reverie. Glancing at our family portrait, I feel a sense of longing for times gone past. Staring at the girl in the mirror, can hardly recognize the sweet

baby within. The sweet baby I’ve repressed and crushed and swore I felt nothing for. The broken dreams shattered like obsidian, blurring my vision. Why do I not try? Why did I not try hard enough? They may cut me down, bit by bit, peeling back the layers until there is nothing left. But why do I let them? 


“Let it all out. Relish.” 


Yes, the little devil on my shoulder spurs me on. Temptation is the sweetest thing, dissatisfaction is their weapon of choice. I have been necessitating it all my life. Following every rule. Going to every service. Milking all the fucking cows. I want to, I don’t. No, I will devour. 


I do not go downstairs. I can barely hear the scraping of the plates as mother finishes up her paste. The soft gurling of my father’s mouth as she feeds him slowly. Is this what my life is condemned to be? My dreams are second-hand priority to tend to this? 


iv. alter ego. 

I know their patterns. At nine-thirty sharp the lights will all turn black. At ten-o’clock Mother finishes praying the rosary. At eleven, I blink open my eyes. It’s time. 


The reflection in the mirror mocks me. “You are a coward. Good for nothing. Selfish girl.” It’s her voice again. The devil doesn’t need to persuade me much, they just need to feed me more of her wickedness. 


It was truly unexplainable, all of a sudden I felt superhuman strength. Punching it square in the center, the mirror’s cracks form a kaleidoscope of, me. Again and again, glass cracks and bottles are spilled all over the room. The bed sheets are ripped and my pillow’s feathers descend in some heavenly way. The wallpaper is a mauled victim of a tiger, my books are bent and dirtied and indistinguishable. Our family portrait is thrown out of the window, into the night. “Let the maggots take it.” 


And oh, it felt good. It felt amazing to let it all out. 


When I saw myself again, my irises were red. 


v. farewell, farewell, farewell. 

The door creaks slowly, as I bite my lip begging that they won’t wake up. They’re softer, in slumber. More human. Less domineering and annoying and more like the parents I see in the pictures. Gentle. Tender. Loving. 


The living room is adorned with all these picture frames, and I trace my fingertips over each one. There’s oil in our basement, dark and damp. This room used to scare me when I was a child. Now, I look around the paint cans, old action figures, and light fixtures with fondness. It is the last time I’ll ever see them. I spread the oil over the entire downstairs area. The living

room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom. Over ugly tiles and peeling wallpaper. Sticking to white-lace tablecloths and ceramic mugs. It’s calming work, like painting a blank canvas. I see it all. I’ll miss it all. 


It was hard to douse the living room. Hung there was a picture of the three of us, in front of this very house. When it was freshly-painted and vivid, the start of something wonderful. Or so it seemed. And I realized then and there that I loved them so much I was going to let them kill me. I was gonna stay and toil and work myself to bones in this farm if it meant I would see affection like that again in their eyes. But I never got it. I haven’t seen it in so long, I have forgotten what it feels like. To be embraced warmly. Looked upon gratefully. So now, I wanted to raze it all to the ground. And I will. Because it’s been a long time coming. And I’m only young once, right? If I don’t chase after my dreams now, when will I? 


A burning building, shrill screams, music to my ears. I thought I wouldn’t feel any regrets, but even when you’re gone, I still hear your words. Maybe I am truly an ungrateful petulant child. Maybe you were right. There is nothing in this world more frightening than that. 


But at least I’m free. 


Afterword: 

The chains of my sins are heavy at my feet, 

One step after the other, 

Keep going, going, going. 

Word spreads quickly, 

Town catches fast, 

It was a midnight murder, 

A sublime, macabre blaze. 


Some called it beautiful, 

Others, utterly deplorable. 

Don’t they know? 

Anger is the motivator, 

I am the gun. 


But now I’m before the crowds, 

And you can barely see the farm work in my hands, 

The callouses have smoothed out, 

Countless faces, rough seas of crowds, 

I’ve never seen so many roses after I’ve bowed. 


The game is over, 

And I have won, 

I’ve proven them wrong, and I hope they know.

Wherever they may be, burning or lounging,

At least they can look down and see,

That I was worth more than that life. 


And if I burn in the afterlife, 

I fear none, 

I fear not the torture nor the pain, 

Eternal damnation nor the demons,

For I’ve already burned all of mine,

To the ground


 

Tanya Carlos, 17 is a hesitant dreamer from Rizal, Philippines. She writes to let out her feelings, calm her unease, and go somewhere far from the present. Beyond writing, she deeply enjoys reading, editing videos, or watching hours upon hours of film.

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