Sergei’s People

Date: 28th January, 2019
Edited: 1st February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe
Prompt: Take a news article and spin a story from it. I chose this.

A cozy living room. Warm yellow lights. Old, worn, yet comfortable armchairs. This was the scene that greeted me when Sergei welcomed me into his humble 1-bedroom apartment. To be honest, I was expecting his choice of home decor to be a lot more…eccentric given his art.

I initially emailed Sergei back in March when i first saw his works. I thought getting his er…unique…thoughts would make a good story to cover on my blog. He hasn’t replied until a week ago. It was then I found out that he had just moved into the city where I currently live in. He not only agreed to answer my questions, but he also agreed to be interviewed. In person.

“So, Mr Sergei-”

“Bah. Just Sergei.” His accent was strong. European. Not French. Not Spanish. Something vaguely Eastern. “You make me sound old with…ah…mister.”

“Sergei then,” I relented easily with my best people-pleaser smile, “ What brings you to XXXXX?”

“The mannequins,” the certainly old and balding man replied.

Of course. It had to be the mannequins. His entire Facebook gallery could be summarized and labeled with the word “MANNEQUINS”- filled with thousands of pictures of pale plastic skinned people with lifeless expressions in various states of dress and undress. They weren’t even crappy photos. They were taken methodically, from different angles, using different lenses and filters and settings to bring out different effects in the images. Everything around the mannequins looked fantastic, sharpened to extreme detail or brushed over with the blur or gaussian tool to create washes of color that resembled that of watercolor paintings.

But then, there were the mannequins in the photos.

Cold. Frozen. Lifeless.

Greyed out like statues fading from existence but somehow, commanding the attention of the onlooker. To notice them. To look at them. Look them straight in the eye…or where they’re supposed to have eyes and finally acknowledge their existence.

I found the entire thing unnerving. And I wasn’t the only one with these feelings online.

“Why the mannequins, Sergei?” I asked the old artist, my smile unchanging.

“Because they are lonely,” he answered, lacing old spotty sinewy fingers together.

I was not expecting the sentimental angle from him.

“Why do you say so?”

“Because…I…I was lonely,” he smiled back at me, “I understand mannequins. They speak to Sergei. I help them be noticed. They help me. No more lonely.”

It was then I looked around the living room again. The walls were devoid of picture frames. There were no shelves bearing knickknacks collected over the years. Just these two comfy armchairs, some cushions and a coffee table. And on that coffee table, was a single photo in a beat up wooden frame. A colored photograph with a slightly younger looking Sergei posing for the picture with an old woman wearing a striking purple dress.

Oh.

“Come,” he suddenly said, standing up, “I help you understand. Then, you let people understand. Yes?”

I stood up and followed in his tottering footsteps into a side room. Sergei turned on the lights. All the mannequins, in various states of dress and undress, and one wearing a striking purple dress, stared back.

6th February, 2019
Writer’s Notes:

Writing this piece was both incredibly fun for me but also very conflicting. The news article (linked above in the prompt) put me through a sequence of feelings. First I was creeped out, then I became even more unnerved, and then, it suddenly made me feel bad about being creeped out. The artist in the article was really passionate and earnest about the message he’s trying to send to whoever looks at his art pieces. I can totally relate to that. I write a bunch of weird things and have a lot of weird ideas and I’m scared about people judging them (even though I really shouldn’t be!). So yes, I felt bad.

I respect the artist and his passion but the bottom line is- I still am creeped out by mannequins. I can’t help it!

So this is what this story became, the twists and turns of my feelings translated into fiction and personified in the journalist character. As for that ending… I still love meself some supernatural horror. 🙂

I might continue this in the future so look out for more from this Journalist fellow!

Until next time,
The Writing Borb

Born Thrice, Died Twice

Date: 22nd January, 2019
Edited: 1st February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe meetup
Prompt: I am a zombie but I can still think.

The girl was born on Christmas Eve. It was decidedly not a “Very Merry Christmas” for her parents that year. Her mother spent 8 agonizing hours in labor while her father, late as always, spent 2 of those hours having the bones in his left hand ground to dust doing his job holding the mama-to-be’s hand.

People say the girl is a Christmas miracle but really, the real miracle was being able to pay the rent and bills on top of the expenses that come with having a newborn baby.

Faith’s life has always been defined by the mighty dollar. Mama and Papa made sure of that, dressing her in modest and neat skirts and blouses to always look presentable and putting books into her hands instead of toys.

“Be presentable and study hard. You’ll be a doctor one day and earn lots of money.”

The clothes, the books and the schooling seemed to be only luxuries this small family could afford. Everything else was minimal, cramped and frugal- fitting three generations of this family into a tiny apartment. Faith could see that and had been told so over and over again. She was an investment. It was clear and she understood. This was why as a child, Faith had no choice but to bury her hopes, her dreams, herself…and she died an obedient premature death.

Middle school.

A time for changes to happen.

The grave Faith had dug and so neatly covered up years ago had been disturbed by the unquestionable and inevitable force that was “puberty”.

She rose from that grave- awake for the first time in years.

Her rising wasn’t pretty.
She didn’t feel pretty.
And it hurt.
Being alive hurt.
Being awake hurt.
Knowing hurt.

She was something grotesque, inside and out. Spending multiple years in a grave would do that to a person. The rot had spread everywhere. It was inescapable. Not one inch of her skin was spared. It had spread past her skin, seeped into her innards, coating tendons and muscles and nerves and her brain in this sickness only she could see and feel. (Or was it even a secret? Who else knew?)

She was in a manner of speaking, a social zombie- this outsider, outlier, this mistake of a human being, staggering through life at a snail’s pace in pursuit of the mighty dollar because that’s all she can do.

But this zombie could still think- “Please, please, end me.”

Faith was spending the night alone in her college dorm like she always does. She didn’t have much of a reason to go out and party. Much less, spend time with friends. She was here to fulfil her role after all. Even as a social zombie, she had successfully fooled the system, pretending to be the right kind of human, the human she was born to be- a put together elegant woman, quiet, reserved, but not so much to not be a doormat and to be pleasing to others on a surface level. She had years of practice after all with nothing else to take her attention.

But Faith had peeked past the veil during her travels to adulthood. She had seen what lies on the other side- or at least, a possibility of it. So Faith, very quietly, so as not to disturb or alert anyone- not her parents, not her siblings, not her acquaintances- and walked willingly back into the empty grave once more. And this time, Faith knew it would be the last time- she had faith in what comes after.

Today, he has a garden.

A magnificent one. In the middle of April, tulips of every color from the spectrum of the rainbow would bloom and spill out from behind the white picket fence and into his neighbors’ yards (they certainly don’t mind). The garden is the envy of the neighborhood. He deserves it. They deserve it. He never worked alone on his beloved plants. He was always with a friend, his partner, his children.

And together, they are happy.

6th February, 2019
Writer’s notes:

Honestly, writing stories like this makes me nervous. I just have no confidence writing using the voices of other people- especially those from minority groups that I definitely do not belong to. Mainly because I don’t feel like I’m giving these voices justice. But I think, stories like this, especially those with happy endings, need to be told. I decided to write this piece because I personally have friends who are trans and from the LGBT community in general and quite a few of them can’t see themselves having happy futures.

In terms of writing… I’m not particularly happy with this piece. I think I can add more to it and describe the journey Faith has to being his true self in more detail but I ran out of time. Actually taking that leap of faith (ha, see what I did there) to making a change in your identity and in turn, your life, is a HUGE undertaking. It’s rife with perils and pitfalls and people WILL go against you, even people that you care about and have cared about you. It is the unfortunate truth. I wish to write more of this topic in the future AND give hope for a happy ending… but that would mean more confidence from me and a loooot more research and talking with people. Perhaps I’ll try again once I’ve done so.

Cheers to all you guys at the Writers’ Cafe that week. It had been a while since I last attended but I felt at ease and slid right back into the routine. Thank you all of you and it was really educational and amazing to hear your stories as well.

Until next time,
The Writing Borb