No More Fairytales

No More Fairytales

A Story by Carramae
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It is believed that the New Angel comes every Cambodian New Year to bless those who offer her food. But after a year in what is later labeled a genocide, Soriya no longer believes in silly fairytales.

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No More Fairytales

 

I remember it was only a year ago that I was at the temple burning incense with my family by my side.  I pressed my hands together and prayed with all my might that my family would have a good year.  I eagerly waited for the bell to toll, remembering what my mother had always told me.  Once the bell rings, the New Angel will hear it and come to give us her blessing.

 

Now another new year has come, and I sit in the corner and listen as my older sister tells the same story to my younger sister, who is only three years old.  I don’t want to hear anymore of it.  “Channary, don’t listen to her.  She is lying to you,” I tell her.  “There is no such thing as the New Angel.  It is just a fairytale.”

                “Soriya,” hissed Maly, “Why are you so harsh?”

                “I don’t want to lie to her.  What good has happened this year?  Nothing, that’s what!  Either the New Angel does not exist, or she has abandoned all the Cambodian people!”

                Maly pulled Channary in her lap and combed her fingers through Channary’s thin hair.  “Hope is the only thing left,” she said.

                “I have lost hope long ago, and I know you have too.”

                If I could take back anything I had ever said, it would be that one sentence I said to Maly that day.  It hurt her hearing those words, and she quickly wiped a tear away with her palm.  I knew she was thinking of Mother and how she was not here to celebrate the New Year with us, but I didn’t feel like comforting her.  Instead, I curled up into a ball on the wood floor and drifted to sleep.

 

                Although the Cambodian New Year was a time of celebration, we did very little celebrating.  Instead we stayed in the hut, trying to replenish our energy from the strenuous days of work in the fields.  Two days passed too quickly, and on the third day the family woke up somber, wishing that time would stand still so we wouldn’t have to return to work.  Only Channary was blissful, dancing in the large puddle brought forth from last night’s rain.  I watched her, wondering what it was like to have such little understanding of the world.  Did she know why her balloon stomach always screamed for food?  To her, it was just the normal way of life.  I envied her ignorance.

 

                With the passing of the New Year came the end of our holiday.  I found myself away from my family once again and back in the fields picking rice.  The sun gave us no rest that day, and it irked me that out of all the colors, the Khmer Rouge forced us to wear black, which attracted the sun’s rays.  I yearned to just lay down and watch the sky, but a skull peaking from out of the soil reminded me to keep working, or else I would share the same fate.  Socheata, my best friend, wanted to have a race to see who could pick the most rice.  Like my little sister Channary, Socheata could find the light in the darkest of times.  I agreed to the race, and even managed to smile.

 

We didn’t return to the camp until the sun sank beneath hills and the stars could show themselves again.  Once we had our small portion of rice, all the children eagerly anticipated Socheata’s nighttime stories.  Instead of the ordinary fairytales that were set in the old days, Socheata enjoyed telling modern-day Cinderella tales.  She always started off with a poor girl who would later find a rich boy to sweep her off her feet.  And in Socheata’s stories, she would describe the Cambodia we used to know, with the city streets filled with the savory scent of food the street vendors always sold and the restaurants serving Cambodian noodle soup.  We all listened with wide eyes, our stomachs unconsciously grumbling from the thought of eating the food that was once apart of our daily lives.

 

I asked Socheata one day, “Why do you keep telling those stories?  Doesn’t it make you sad thinking about the past?” 

“It does sometimes,” she replied.  She lost her smile to a slight frown.  “But don’t you understand Soriya?  The Khmer Rouge has taken a lot of things from us.  They have torn us away from our families and homes, taken our food, and forced people to marry those they will never come to love.  They can even take our lives away.  But what they cannot take from us is our imagination.”

I found my eyes fogging over with tears.  I suddenly realized how precious Socheata’s story times were, and how she enabled us, for a brief period of time, to get away from this nightmare and live the way we were meant to live.  Never before was I so thankful towards her.  I wish I told her how grateful I was, because a month later she was taken away.  The Khmer Rouge told us she was moved to another village, but I knew otherwise.

 

Nearly a year had past since I’d last seen my family.  I didn’t even know if they were even alive.  My question was answered when my brother appeared before me one evening. 

“Father is sick,” Sovann said to me.  “He wants to see you.”

“What about Maly?  Have you told her yet?”  I asked.

His frown sank deeper into his thin face as he said, “She is no longer with us.”

I bit my lip as I struggled to keep back tears.  “And what about Channary?”

“She is under Aunt and Uncle’s care.” 

A soldier was within our view and to avoid confrontation, Sovann left to return to his work camp nearby.  I couldn’t sleep that night, for the news I had heard was too troubling.  I thought about Maly and all of our times together, and I also tried to figure out how I would see Father for one last time.

 

The next day, I went to the chief of the village, hoping she would grant me permission to see my father.  Her response to this was, “You are not a doctor and you can’t treat your father.”

It looked like I had to take matters into my own hands.  That night I decided to escape from camp.  The village itself was surrounded by a river that I had to cross.  As I waded into the water I could feel the strong current wishing to sweep me away.  I managed to get halfway across until a hand grabbed my shirt and pulled me out of the water.  To my horror it was a Khmer Rouge Soldier.

 

Although my belief in the New Angel has been lost, I do believe that people have the ability to become angels, if only for a brief time.  That night, that soldier became my angel.  If it would have been any other Khmer Rouge soldier, I knew I would have been killed on the spot.  But it was him and he took pity on me.  He told me the safest route to get to Tonle Sap, the village to where my father resided, and sent me on my way.  I got to my father safely, all thanks to him.  It was only later that I learned that he was new, and that he was forced to join the Khmer Rouge.

 

I found Father lying on the floor of my aunt and uncle’s home.  His eyes were open, but unseeing, as if only being able to see the heavens above.  Although unconscious, he must’ve felt my presence.  It seemed as though he was waiting for me, because five minutes later he closed his eyes, never opening them again.  Not one word was said to me, but I already knew what he wanted to say.

“Stay alive.”   

 

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been to Cambodia.  As I walk out of the plane I am suddenly stricken with bitter memories of the past.  But no matter how many memories weigh down upon my heart, never will I stop cherishing the present. 

 

Congratulations, Channary.  I wish you a happy marriage.    

© 2012 Carramae


Author's Note

Carramae
This story is partly based on my mother's experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime. Sorry for the strange paragraph structure. I meant it to be a picture book, but I never finished drawing the pictures.

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Added on January 21, 2012
Last Updated on January 21, 2012
Tags: Cambodia tragedy Khmer Rouge Gen

Author

Carramae
Carramae

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I've always loved to write and have been writing stories since the age of ten. Although my true passion lies in art, I do hope to publish a book someday. more..

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