Our Pale Lady Clad in Red

Our Pale Lady Clad in Red

A Story by 瓦砾卡夫卡 (Kafka of the Rubbles)
"

A tale between a deserted statue found by an abandoned child which leads to an unnoticed murder.

"

Our Pale Lady Clad In Red

I turned around slowly, scanning the surrounding. Anticipating, I lowered my eyelids, obscuring the surrounding so that with a limited field of vision, I would have found Dina suddenly bursting out of the bushes. She would then chided me for entering this abandoned garden. You will never know if there are snakes around here, she would say while giving me her greasy smile. If I beg her enough, she won't tell my aunt about this.

I continued to tread forward, to the deserted old hut that I'd heard rumors about.

The hut stood after a few paces, hunchback and forgotten. Wild flowers and shrubs grew all over it, triumph against the wooden structure, as if they've forgotten how much alike these wooden planks were before they sacrificed themselves. A wind blew gently, and the hut seemed to sigh at the teases.

I'm not sure who lives here. Perhaps someone does. Squinting my eyes, the hut revealed in richer details; a wall has been demolished, there was no door, only a big opening, the rubbles were suspended in their toppling motions, they probably stopped just now, as they sensed my arrival. I cautiously approached the hut and found ample rubbish: broken furniture, a book, glass shards, a broken broom, and now adding to the collection"an unsure child (I think one or two grown-ups would even call me “unpromising”), who rather pretends to find a door to Wonderland than to write an essay on the subject of goodness.

That was when I saw a figure, so unearthly white but perhaps just as broken, in contrast to the mundane things. I approached the figure and fearfully touched its smooth black fur. The expected movement didn’t come, so I mustered a bit of strength and a whole bit of courage, and yanked the figure out before setting my finding on a tall table nearby.

It was a statue of a woman, dressed in nothing, her torso bare but her lower half missing. She could barely stood perfectly on top of the table when my fingers left her.

I watched her from a distance. The black fur was her long, disheveled hair. She wore a blank expression; maybe she was serenely mad at the abandonment of the hut and herself. The more I looked at it, the more I’m sure about it. I righted her arms so that they spread outwards to me, her palms facing upward.

I knelt down before her.

This statue is very beautiful, and yet very fearsome. Her eyes are dim, but full of a sort of dignity.

She seemed to be expecting someone, and I wondered if that someone could be me.
••

The first time I've encountered faith and religion, it forced me to remember it better than my favorite food, a problem that frustrated Dina. I just had no idea that a religion is so simple.

First, there will be a big statue (some people call it an idol). The big statue will be sitting at the top of a tall table, taller than you, most of the time. If it's short then you have to kneel, because the statue has to be taller than you.

The statue will always look so fearsome. The more I stare at it, the more it stares back at me, as if looking at them for much longer time than I was allowed to is a sin.

I told Mother about how creepy the statue looked, and that I'm scared. I was about to tell her that I would not like to pray to that statue when she had said, in an awed tone:

"If you have not been sinning, then there is nothing to be afraid of. Unless you talk bad behind your mother's back. Then the god would be looking at you right now, angrily."

I suppose I haven't been sinning, but I looked away from the statue. You see, the statue sits there all the time, he doesn’t walk around and check on us, so I suspect him not knowing that I hadn’t been sinning at all.

Next, there has to be a person singing, or dancing, or chanting loudly, to the statue. Sometimes it's in a language that I suspect no one understands. Sometimes I understand though; you have to tell the statue that it is the best, and that you follow what it says. The words are all variation of “good”, and maybe “smart” and “nice”; one could learn all the words needed for writing (such as an essay on the subject of goodness) from the chanting.

I was just wondering about how can we listen to what statues say when I’d discovered that the statue has a diary. Or it had, before it became a statue. Teachings are written down and that's how followers could do the following. Sometimes the person who does all the singing and chanting and dancing would also do the loud-reading.

It all seemed so easy to start a religion, the components so simplistic, and I just thought that everyone could start a new one. Yet, despite all the traveling, I keep seeing just the same lot of statues.

"Mother," I'd asked. "Are they a specific group of people, special people, that only they may start a religion?"

She looked at me, as if she was disturbed. "What are you even saying?"

I flinched when she had said that, because I expected a slap from her. It didn't come.

"Well, uh." My eyes met hers, and there was the same fearsome look in them. "Nothing, Mother."

She slammed down the Diary on my lap, which made me winced.

"Listen. You do not doubt the gods. They are gods and you are a mortal. If you doubt them, you will burn in hell."

I listened, and tried my very best to not doubt them.

••
And I didn't doubt them. I didn't even allow anyone to doubt them, including myself.

But I wondered if they'd doubted me.

I even tried believing in them, so much so, that I once spent an evening by my bed, thanking the gods for everything I'd had: my body, my room, the food I consumed, everything. The gratitude was so long that it cut over to my dinner, and I'd skipped it entirely. Mother was furious that I'd not responded to her repetitive summons, and marched to my room to give me a grave beating, which broke my lips. I was just glad that I finished the thank-you before she came. She did ask me on what was I doing, but I kept quiet.

I kept quiet because I wanted some personal connection to the gods.

Everyone has talked to them before, and personally. I just don't know why haven't I. Even the bully next door had met one of the gods during his prayers, and he once ate three grasshoppers without cooking as a part of a dare with his friends. I know that the gods did not say in the Diary that it was wrong or not, but I was almost crying when I saw how the grasshoppers struggled in his mouth. I know cause I had memorized the Diary and there was nothing about grasshoppers. I memorized the Diary and everything.

Yet, the gods never look at me, or find me, or touch me.

Every time there was a worship, someone will be touched by the gods. People will be crying even when they're laughing. I know because I was the only one not to do that, and watching them doing what you could not is the only activity you have when you're not part of it.

You see, I've never felt the loving embrace of the gods. Ever. They never come to me. I'm sure I cried out to them the loudest in my silent prayers, but they never heard me.

I didn’t notice until now, but I have felt forgotten since then.

••
I cleared away the unwanted rubbish lying around the hut and cleaned the table, careful not to disturb the woman statue and her humble abode. She looked at me apprehensively.

I walked to a nearby pond and washed my hands. Then, when they're cleaned, I plucked some berries from a shrub and laid them in front of her.

I took some steps back, and knelt before the table.

She looked at me, but I could not tell if she liked me or not.

Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw the book. I realized that the book must be her diary of sorts, and that she left it here to be entrusted to someone worthy.

I looked up and saw her smiling fiercely at me, even though it was brief and at the next second it was gone. So I walked up and grabbed the book. I opened it, and was surprised to find that it is empty. There is nothing for me to do the following! I am confused.

I grabbed the book and headed home.

My aunt was not pleased with me spending my time being lost out there instead of being at home. She may not be most of the time, but when she is, she expected me to be seen here frequently.

Her favorite words are "No strange business. Never bring me strange business.” I suppose attending a worship is one of those strange business. She was never found at the temple, never praying, never thanking the gods. She spends all her time doing what she called real business, and gains a lot from it. Her house is a mansion, she has three maids whom she all named Dina, regardless of their actual names, because she thinks remembering their names is annoying. She is, by truth, more affluent than my parents ever were. My aunt used to say that it was because she didn't spend her time dabbling with strange business, but after they died she never say that (without drinking too much).

I hid the book behind my back when she had summoned me from the door, after hearing a thud of the door closed.

"Where have you been?" She asked, setting her cutleries down.

"I've been exploring around the area," said I, ignoring the real question.

"Searching for strange business, in other words. What time is it now?"

"Seven o'clock."

"Good. I expect your hunger to teach you a good lesson about being home on time." With that she dismissed me, and my dinner.

I went back to my room, feeling strange, because usually I would have felt anger at her unpromising house rules and that condescending tone she used on all of us. I would muttered to myself about how she probably does not pray because she feels that she is a goddess, with all her success and blessed fortune.

But tonight was different. I felt calm and purposeful.

I took a quick bath, changed into my nightly attire, then climbed up to my room. Once I reached my room, I laid the book at my bed. The leathery cover, though dusty and a bit worn-out, struck me in a kind of lump in my chest. I flipped the book carefully, my other hand fumbling my pen.

I struggled to not let the gods enter my mind, if they somehow remembered me. Because if they enter they would see that I do doubt them, I doubt them so much, that they are all strange business to me.

••
I started doubting them since my parents died.

We were attending the largest worship I'd ever attended. People stacking over people. Some of us couldn't even sit down, because there wasn't enough seats for everyone. They said it's one of the most important birthday of an important god, and so everyone and even other gods would attend the worship. I was hoping so hard that they would finally remember me, and visit me, so I never stopped reciting the praises since the beginning of the event.

During the event everyone was crying. There was a man in the middle who had been dancing in circles while loudly reading out the Diary. Suddenly someone cried out about seeing white light surrounding her and then it spread. Everyone was smiling and laughing and crying about how the loving light of the gods embraced them....

Everyone but me, again.

My Mother was gripping the Diary to her chest when she had been talking to the gods. I asked her to tell the gods to let them see me, and let me see them too. She didn't hear me so, I turned to my Father.

My Father was not like my Mother, who revered all gods. My Father has a favorite, and this was his favorite’s birthday. He said he had been a host to this god a lot of times, and that a lot of times his words were not his but the god's. When I was looking at him, he was staring straight ahead at the largest God statue in the center, his eyes in tears. I knew they must be communing in the head, in some heavenly plane.

The thing was, they were so peacefully ecstatic when they were in the worship. They looked fearsome, what with their expressions all a jumbled mess, and they forgot all about me, but they were joyous! The gods may forgot about me, but they did not forget their two most devoted followers, especially when they'd shared such intimate relationship together--Mother said to me that she communed with them in her sleep frequently. Father said he host one of them.

They should be very, very, very close, the gods and my family.

And yet, directly after the worship, while we were going home, my parents had a big fight in the car.

I forgot what was it about, but their actions were puzzling. They lost whatever joy they had gathered during the worship, and they were so miserable. They fought so hotly that I prayed for everything to stop, that the gods appear to them and bestowed them some spare joy. The same gods who had been sharing their joy with my parents.

I was praying when a brilliant white light engulfed the car. I thought the gods finally saw me. But the white light slammed onto our car and the gods replied me with words so sharp and odd that they clawed on my cheeks and swallowed me into their throat.

I survived, and I was transferred to my Aunt's care.

They confuse me.

The gods were close to my family, and yet directly after our presence at his birthday, he didn't even give my parents happiness to take away. Their actions confused me. I don’t want to hold grudges but it’s bad enough that I've never felt their embrace.

But how could they abandoned us when my parents were fighting each other for something so forgettable that I don’t remember now, even though it’s my parents’ killer? How could they abandoned us…. And abandoned me?

••
I frequently visit the hut where Our Pale Lady resides after school. There, I prostrate myself before her, praise her for her hatred towards the evil of the world. I praise her for her fury at any form of abandonment, and one day, I started dancing in front of her with a stick I found near the hut. I hurled the stick at the grass, imagining myself as Our Pale Lady when she had risen up and fought the people out there who practiced abandonment.

            And She said to her followers, "Repeat what Your Lady say: 'Our Pale Lady is weak. She is not strong yet. But I devote my life to gather her strength, to deliver her sustenance. Our Pale Lady fought the evils of the world, thus her strength was lost. Our Pale Lady is abandoned, but she is resilient, she is powerful, she is weak and yet she shall rise once again. I devote my life to you, my Pale Lady. I devote my life for your eternal fury at any desertion.''

That was when I first felt such joyous sensation coursing through my body. My senses heightened, I felt the wind, the grass, the smell of the flowers and the warm, loving presence of Our Pale Lady. My sweat bathed me in complete elation. A feeling of joyous fury filled me, and I found myself suddenly full of such strength and courage.... In my tears, I saw my Pale Lady glistening under the evening sun, her barren body shone in blinding light.

My Aunt was not at all delighted with me not coming home from school straight.

"Look at that eyes of yours and tell me those aren’t eyes entrapped by strange business!” She bellowed, her face paler by the seconds, her one hand inexplicably clutching at her chest. “Where have you been?"

I did not say because I wanted the relationship between me and my god to be intimate and exclusive.

"Answer me!"

"It's seven o'clock, Ann," I answered, confident that my newfound joy and fury could carry me.

That night was the first time I've seen my Aunt lost her usual calm exterior. She extended her arm and gave me a hard slap on my face.

Suddenly my courage and joy deflated, like a balloon burst at the explosion of the slap. My heart darkened. I felt alone, scared and unwanted, just as the time when I'd stayed conscious enough to see the remains of our accident, and the last remains of my parents. I burst into tears.

"Ma'am!" I heard Dina cried.

Aunt Ann was coughing oddly loudly. She wobbled and hoisted herself up from the chair. Her face contorted in agony turning oddly red, her eyes bulging hideously like pimples of an old hag’s behind.

When all three Dina rushed to her, I quickly ran to my room.

••
The next morning I did not go to school. Instead, I went to the temple. I would like to see how the old, decrepit gods were doing. I saw pale flowers sticking out of the rubbish can nearby. My heart once again swelled in sorrow.

These pitiful flowers! They were used as offerings to the gods, and yet after a day when they no longer look beautiful, they are thrown out just like that, as lowly as common rubbish!

I quickly yanked out the flowers as my first act of rescue, as a true follower of My Pale Lady.  They sighed in gratitude and one of the flowers pointed at a red cloth, dirty and ragged nearby. I picked the cloth up, and held it close to my nose, inhaling the light fragrance this cloth used to have--no wonder the gods could abandon me. They do not even appreciate the clothes they have!

'My child,' The Furious Pale Lady Clad In Red said. 'How ignorant of the world to practice abandonment! Once I'd gained my strength, I shall punish them by deserting them.'

"Hey, you!"

It was the Abbot of the temple.

"What are you doing rummaging through the garbage?...A child? Aren't you supposed to be at schoo--"

I did not listen to the rest of his words. I scanned the man who had practiced abandonment on the flowers and the cloth, who had also revered in gods who did not care about anything but themselves. I looked at his round body, his plump arms pointing and waving. I cannot fight him now, not yet.

I turned and ran.

"Why you!" He charged behind me, and we both ran.

I prayed to My Pale Lady for protection.

He chased me, and I realized that if I moved directly to my shrine, I might endanger My Pale Lady.

I ran to the market and tried using the stalls to distract him. I turned around to see if he was still giving chase, only to watch just in time, catching him being doused by boiling water from a food stall. Most people would attribute that to coincidence, but I knew better.

I ran back to the shrine. And there, My Pale Lady stared blankly at me, her arms forever spread wide at me.

I placed the flowers at her feet on the table, then, with her permission, I climbed up the table and sat face-to-face with her. Muttering my praise to her heroic rescue just now, I carefully wrapped her with the red cloth.

The red cloth may look worn, but My Pale Lady looked even more royal and eminent than the gods the fat man prayed to.

My eyes teared up as I wrapped my arms around Her. Immediately, I felt Her arms wrapping me.

••
It was an eerily quiet afternoon the morning had ascended to. I picked up the scent of a familiar fragrance, and yet I didn’t recognize it.

"Please visit your aunt in her room, alright?" Dina said once I returned home. Her words sent chills to my spine.

I looked at her, my eyes widened. "What is it?"

"She's very sick. I'm scared that she might not make it these days. The doctors had tried, but none could find the source of the illness."

I said nothing.

"Please go talk to her. She didn't mean to do that to you last night," said Dina. "She was crying so hard after you locked your room."

Taking Dina's advice, I went to her room. I think about my Aunt over and over again in my mind. Then, I'd decided that I do not hate her; she maybe uptight, but she was never against me or anything. She probably hated the gods too, in fact the gods are all strange business to her, and now to me, and I understood that I should have showed her My Pale Lady, she would understand. So I prayed to my Pale Lady Clad in Red again, and asked her to forgive my Aunt for her practice of abandonment.

My Aunt laid in her large bed, weak, yet resilient like the strong business woman she is.

            And She said to her followers, "Repeat what Your Lady say: 'Our Pale Lady is weak. She is not strong yet. But I devote my life to gather her strength, to deliver her sustenance. Our Pale Lady fought the evils of the world, thus her strength was lost. Our Pale Lady is abandoned, but she is resilient, she is powerful, she is weak and yet she shall rise once again. I devote my life to you, my Pale Lady. I devote my life for your eternal fury at any desertion.''

"Please, no strange business," she said weakly as I muttered, even managing to roll her eyes.

"This is not strange!" said I indignantly. She needs to shut up, my Aunt, or else My Pale Lady might withdraw her help and that would be all her own fault.

"I suppose not. After all, the real strange thing was how I'd reacted to you last night. I'm afraid that I can't make it, so I shall apologize before I go," she sighed. "I hope I'm forgiven."

"How long have you been sick?" I said instead.

"As long as I could remember! Alright, maybe last year. After you came," she replied, then coughed. "See, not all of my long trips are for my real business. There were trips to the doctors, too. Not that you should know about it, I wouldn't want you to fret."

I looked away to the window.

"Enough about me. You have been acting strange, child. Is something amiss? Please do not hide anything from your aunt. Not at these moments."

I'd thought and considered, and finally said: "No, Ann." My Aunt will be introduced, but her head is still strong and her heart is still hard, so I need more time.

Just then I heard a loud knock. Minutes later, Dina's startled cries. I hurried out of my Aunt's room and closed the door tight.

"This isn't your home!" Dina cried to a plump man. "You don't have the rights to come in! My mistress is sick...I'll call the police if you don't go now!"

I suddenly felt a huge rise of anger. All the other emotions were gone, leaving nothing but a sort of righteous fury. I balled my fist and chanted under my breath.

Our Pale Lady fought the evils of the world, thus her strength was lost. Our Pale Lady is abandoned, but she is resilient, she is powerful, she is weak and yet she shall rise once again. I devote my life to you, my Pale Lady. I devote my life for your eternal fury at any desertion.”

YOU!" The fat man recognized me. "I knew you were that Ann's kin! That sort of vile disrespect is too obscene to be of natural temperament. It’s only possible that it is taught by examples of your aunt! --Where is your aunt, hmm? I shall tell her that you played truant!"

"You shall tell her nothing," I tried my best to contain my anger.

"Why you little!--"

Dina quickly moved to shield me from the fat man, but I moved aside. With a quick and sudden shove, I pushed the fat man down the stairs he was standing to get to our door. He tumbled down like a heavy ball.

I quickly dashed out of the door and sprinted, ignoring Dina's shouts.

••
The fat man chased me all the way to the shrine of the Pale Lady Clad In Red. The hot afternoon sun burned my body, but I didn't care. In my mind, I could feel Her presence, giving me the strength I did not possess to brace the horrendous trial I'm facing. It was the same feeling when I'd picked up the stick, before I started dancing.

The fat man came to the clearing where I frequently danced in front of Her.

"Dead end, kid," He said. His head was bleeding--perhaps he hit a rock while tumbling down the stairs. "Now where are you going to run to, hmm?"

I backed away from him, getting closer and closer to the shrine.

Our Pale Lady shall rise! Rise, Pale Lady Clad In Fury... Fight the evils of this world, those who preach and practice desertion, those who choose who to remember and who to forget! I devote my body for your spirit, I devote this man for your sustenance!

The fat man grabbed my collar and lifted me away, his eyes full of his own sinful fury, snarling. I have no idea what he was planning to do before his ugly eyes picked up the afternoon sunlight reflecting from Her unearthly body, and looked, perhaps marveled at Her beauty.

His lips trembled as he smacked me down onto the ground.

"Blasphemy!" He screamed. "You defile this entire land with this.... this perverted god of yours! You... you worship a demon, and dare feed him, dare defile the flowers and cloth of the gods' with this perverted demon dressed as a god! Blasphemy! Heretic!"

He grabbed a piece of rock and ran to the table, his hand shaking. My heart leaped as he lunged his heavy body to the table, his arm curling backwards with the rock, his other arm somehow grabbing a copy of the Diary.

That was when the sky suddenly darkened.

My senses heightened. I found myself filled with a sense of joyous fury, and I leaped.

My hands grabbed the fat man's neck, pulling him down from his action and from the table. The fat man struggled, but I did not let go--I merely grabbed it tauter with my newfound strength. He pushed, shoved, and kicked, but I felt my mind focus on nothing but his neck. He simply could not removed me.

I devote my body for your spirit, I devote this man for your sustenance!

His face started turning red, his mouth gaping in such erratic sounds. I found myself rejoiced at his apparent weakening.

O My Pale Lady Clad In Red! I devote this man for your sustenance! Praises, My Pale Lady Clad In Red!

Death rattles escaped his throat.

Then he finally limped. His eyes lost the light of life as I slowly released my hands ceremoniously. I lifted the body and placed it in front of Her, then retreated myself a few distance back, prostrating, my eyes not looking at Her.

I started singing a song that I've never thought I knew, as the sounds of a man's whimper and cries perforated the song now and then, along with delighted chuckles and giggles of a woman.

When it is finished, I looked up and started digging the mud with my bare hands. I dug it deep enough to bury the fat man's body, and laid him in it. Once I'd placed the mud back at him, I danced again at the top of the burial ground.

"With this offering, My Pale Lady, may I request forgiveness for my aunt?" I asked, never breaking my dance.

With another circle I continued: "Please protect me, my Lady. Please never abandon me."

••
Dina woke me up the next morning. She found me sleeping in a thick meadow.

"How could you sleep here? There may be snakes around!" She chided with a greasy smile.

I rubbed my eyes and realized that I had been sleeping on top of the burial ground. But there was no sign of a digging at all.

Praise to you, My Pale Lady Clad In Red! She is powerful, almighty. Praise to her divine fury at all forms of desertion!

Flowers, shrubs and unknown green plants burst from the burial ground, covering them, as if nothing had happened here. All in one night.

She has never abandoned me. When everyone else did, she’d never!

The powerful, resilient Pale Lady Clad In Red.

Dina must have caught my smile: "Gosh, look at you, grinning like an idiot. You have your poor Aunt worried sick, do you even recall that? --You lost the big man, didn't you?...Come back home, and take a bath! You must see Mistress Ann again...In clean clothes!"

I nodded, already standing up.

Dina looked behind me and suddenly reached out to the plants. She plucked something down and stuffed them into her pockets. I thought about it, and picked some fresh flowers of various colors to be gifted to my Aunt.

By evening Aunt Ann walked downstairs to the dining room.

All the Dina and I were pleasantly surprised--she could not even walk this morning when I'd seen her! We all thought she was goner.

"I must praise whoever prescribed that medicine for me, Dina," she said. Her voice sounded like a bell, so fine to the ear. "I just felt better all in a sudden! Thank you."

The Dina who woke me up earlier shrugged. "I made the medicine, ma'am. It's an old remedy from my family for common sickness. I found the right herbs and I just made them... I didn't know that it would worked so well, what with your sickness being, well...." As she trailed off I looked at her and found out exactly how astonished she, and the rest of the Dina, were.

"It's very refreshing," my Aunt replied, her voice full of happiness. "I feel brand-new. Strong."

The maids smiled sheepishly at each other and hurried to the kitchen as she dismissed them, telling them that she would like to speak to me in private.

Soon, there was no one else in the room but I. I grinned at my Aunt as she pulled the chair beside me out, and sat. It’s so great to see her smile again, and that we are getting back along.

"I'm happy that you felt better, Ann," said I.

My Aunt laughed. "I'm not Ann. She is dead."

I stopped eating and looked at her.

I looked at Her.

Then respectfully, I left my chair, knelt before Her, and kissed the foot of My Pale Lady Clad In Red.

 

 x

© 2016 瓦砾卡夫卡 (Kafka of the Rubbles)


Author's Note

瓦砾卡夫卡 (Kafka of the Rubbles)
This is my debut tale here; it's very unpolished and lackluster, and I won't say this is the best I can do (gotta' give people a bit of hope, shouldn't I?), but I am just a casual writer, really. With that being said, I welcome all reviews and hopefully readers who enjoyed it. Please check out my profile too!

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Featured Review

I really enjoyed reading this story. I was wrapped up in it, wondering what was going to happen to the protagonist and the shrine that they found. The tension kept building with each visit, and the confrontation with the big man was very suspenseful. The ending was awesome, too! I'm glad I read it.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I really enjoyed reading this story. I was wrapped up in it, wondering what was going to happen to the protagonist and the shrine that they found. The tension kept building with each visit, and the confrontation with the big man was very suspenseful. The ending was awesome, too! I'm glad I read it.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on August 9, 2016
Last Updated on August 9, 2016
Tags: short story, debut, kafka of the rubbles, absurdist

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瓦砾卡夫卡 (Kafka of the Rubbles)
瓦砾卡夫卡 (Kafka of the Rubbles)

Malaysia



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己の珠にあらざることを恐れるがゆえに、あえて刻苦し.. more..

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