ms. eldritch horror

the contrarian
jun lei

those we left behind:

Message to Readers

trying to catch up on old prompts again now that i realise i keep on submitting old pieces for contests because i don't have it in me to write new ones. hopefully this makes sense to at least one person.

if you enjoyed this piece, comment!! likes tell writers nothing without feedback
reviews very much appreciated

endless, we count on

October 8, 2019


0 is the time and space between sleeping and waking. it is lying half-conscious on an air mattress in a place far away; it is foreign, to be sure, but not necessarily across the ocean from home; it is staring at red numbers blinking 3:46 until the image burns into your retinas and you dream of red stars and planets accreting and crumbling again faster than you can perceive.

1 is the singularity of life; that it must end. some argue that taxes are also a constant thread in the weft of humanity, but our ancestors scoff. we cannot remember a time before capitalism was our prevalent master. we walk the road towards our destination, ever so often faltering, but the path was meant for us to falter. did we really ever have a choice? the gods sigh, no.

2 is the choice between a duality. up or down. left or right. north or south. east or west. black or white. him or her. we ignore the grey areas of morality and decision making as we stride towards an answer with a contrast that justice can permit. we grasp it fully with two fists and proclaim that this is the way we should live. heaven and hell, why can't we just stay here?

3 is the wine of storytellers. three wishes, three beautiful girls, three bold tasks for the hero, three golden apples, three unforgettable nights, three incandescent gowns, three brothers, three companions as the hero completes his quest. how it curves, the tale they spin; a silver tongue cannot buy bread. now we sell our stories by the roadside of the ether; too many lost to time.

4 is a nuclear powerhouse. they smile in family photos, suits iron-pressed and dresses only worn once. but is it not worth it for the sake of the illusion? this abridgement of their lives shows nothing but joy; it does not show the bruises beneath the indigo sash around her waist; it does not show the dog buried in the backyard. it will never show their youngest son's collection of pressed flowers.

5 is the bitten and torn remnants of a sane vanity. you stare into the mirror with shadowed eyes and a mouth that parts as if it needs to tell you something you don't know. yet. you used to love your fingers. now, you lick the blood off your digits. they will grow back. just give it time. it was satisfying in the moment, but now all you feel is the pain and regret of breaking the seal of your self-applied embargo.

6 is poverty. plain and simple. it does not need big words to explain how little their children are, how little food they have, how little they have at all. more children, more, more, just for the hope that one survives in this world that does not want us. you always feed the children first, they need it more than you do, but when they die because it still was not enough, what will you do then?

7 is another mythkeeper's spell. seven swan brothers, seven dwarves to protect the princess, seven deadly sins, seven heavenly virtues, seven, oh holy seven, over and over again til the word loses meaning. you find a bible in your bedside drawer - you didn't put it there - but you don't read it. holy words seem to have lost their effect on you after a lifetime of depravity.

8 is what we call forever. it doesn't exist, of course, but we foolishly promise the word to ourselves. i'll hate you forever. i'll love you forever. forever and always. everything will end; scientists have proven it. yet we still cling to this idea of forever and selfishly claw to keep its mystical powers for ourselves. no one has forever. not even the sun. and when we all die - because of ourselves, not divine intervention - it seems the sun won't take so long to swallow us whole.

9 is the uncertainty of the future. what comes now that we've left that which we know. the crags of our expectations look far too high to climb. but we must, lest we be impaled when gravity shifts against us. look up, they tell us. aim high. there's something beautiful waiting up there, just for you. they tell it to the next person, and the next. we were all too busy climbing to find that which was truly beautiful. you look up to the sky as you fall.

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  • Dmoral13

    you definitely know how to make everything interesting. i was avoiding math homework because i hate numbers and you totally just changed that. looks like i need to stop overlooking things...

    24 days ago
  • The Moving Finger Writes

    And THIS is why I follow you. Absolutely beautiful, and the different meanings of the numbers could not be more perfect.

    8 months ago
  • Bookworm101

    Amazing, thank you for sharing! Very clever and the language is beautiful.

    8 months ago
  • Anha

    @rainandsonder five is me trying to write fancy about bitten nails. guess it didn't work rip. nine is meant to represent a kind of threshold, since it's the last number before double digits, it's like looking over the precipice of an uncertain future, one you know is coming, but will change everything you know and how you know it. maybe i'm just projecting my anxieties about finishing high school and having to find a university, idk.

    8 months ago
  • rainandsonder

    oh i love this! such fantastic writing, the way you tie in common stereotypes about numbers that i hadn’t even thought of, the four-person nuclear family and the way eight = infinity; the one suggestion i have is that in some places the tie between the number and your writing for that number isn’t as clear as the others, like nine and five. excellent work!

    8 months ago
  • Dani A. Remlap

    I adore your writing.
    I plan on reviewing this and a couple other pieces as soon as things slow down enough and my schedule allows it

    8 months ago
  • aryelee

    afasjldkfjas;ldkj this is such a gorgeous take on the prompt!!!! all the number associations, the singularity, the duality, three as a number in stories all around the world, the nuclear family of four, just EVERYTHING about this is incredible. this is honestly the best take on this prompt i have seen. your writing continues to blow me away, i can't get enough of it!!

    8 months ago