Monday, October 17, 2016


We walked
As we would,
On a night
Like any other.

Peering on a mother
Who shut her lights
And sang her son
To slumber.

But, that was down under.

Up here, I fear
We’re headed into another fight.
Tears stream from your eyes
But, no one can hear your cries
In this space now our own.

With no respite
From the solitude
That’s now our plight.
With no change in attitude
That ever stood
The test of time.
We have no peace of mind.

I know.

I know,
But not exactly when
You started to hate
All things human.
They, who stole our children.
And I hesitate to state
That as of late
You’ve begun to loathe
Them too then.

Our sons and daughters
Who give their labour
To guide sailors
Through dark waters.
And see that
A drunkard in town
Still finds his way around
To his house.

My friend, lover and dearest spouse,  
The light bulb
Is an invention
Of no ill-intentions
Against you.
And I would love to
Plea and entreat.
But, the odd feat
That leaves my breath
Bated and beat
Is that my voice
Cannot travel through a vacuum.

Yet, do not assume
I did not observe
The love
Curled on your lips
When they saw,
In awe,
What they knew to be an eclipse.
That, or your adoration shown
When their explorations
Led to the first
Visitors we ever had in our home.

So, as your orbit,
I beseech you to forfeit
These horrid and morbid
That leave you overwrought
With lonely grief.


Firm your belief
To the beings
Who aspire
For great things.
Beings you inspire
Who in turn admire
You through song and dance.
So please, give humanity a chance.

In this empty universe,
They are the first
And perhaps the only ones
Who know us for who we really are.
So, even if they stole our stars,
It may have never been on purpose.

On their surface,

They’re no longer met
With the twinkles
That come past sunset.
Instead what persists
Is the abyss
Of space;
All save for the pale face
That stills lights
The night sky.
And that’s you:
The only moon they’ll
Ever see with their naked eyes. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Far From Fantasy: Chapter Two

 Kelp, it was the one thing that smelt the strongest in Niharja’s office. The fish scales of his nose were pinched by his fingers as he crunched on dried kelp. Raised from his seat, his head stayed just inches under the ceiling; his height challenged the walls of books behind him.

“Nora, I’ve been getting complaints from Luther,” my supervisor groaned.

My eyes widened, feigning surprise, “you have?”

“Yes, you’ve extended the deadline another six months and you’re also re-negotiating the editing on Nikolas’ behalf so drop the act.” Niharja sternly said, his voice was deep but with a slippery slur following every other word or so.

“Nick is a perfectionist,” I reasoned.

He lowered himself down back to desk-level; “No, Nick is a vampire-,”

“He’s a blood-kin, sir.”

“Same thing,” Niharja then cleared his throat; “He’s a bloodsucker with anxiety. I know you’re on a special case with him but you’re his agent first, his advisor third.”

Ignoring the racial slurs, I raised a brow; “who’s second?”

“Silver Spine Press and their editors,” he replied, resting his cheek on his knuckles; “Luther’s editors to be precise.”

“Have you read Nick’s manuscript?” I asked, folding my arms. Admittedly, Niharja’s size and demeanour often intimidated me.

“No, but I know what it’s about. The whole office has been talking about it.” He said, rolling his eyes.

“Then you know why the negotiations are not going very well.”

“Yes, I do,” he nodded vacantly; “But, that concern is part of your job, not mine. Editing his manuscript may have been initially your job, but eleven complete rewrites makes me think you should be credited as the co-author.”

“That’s…” I fumbled, Niharja made a fair point. “I get it. But, that’s not the only issue.”

“As I can imagine, Luther and his boys are kicking themselves because they wanted a stare down with a cockatrice,” he said. His fingers toyed with the lit tip of the lure on his forehead; “In my mind I see that bull now in his office, ‘who knew there was so much at stake for us if the famed Nikolas Bibikov flops the next book and pisses off half the world? There’s that and the humans. We’ll just have to try our best to dial down the manuscript because we definitely don’t trust the mad author.’”

I smirked. It was an intentionally poor imitation of the minotaur who had been a pain to me, Nikolas and now my direct superior. “So, I should spend more time convincing Silver Spine to grow a pair. You got it, boss.”

“Good,” Niharja rose again and made his way to the door; “Now get back to work and let me know if there’s a complaint heading my way next time. I’d like to prepare some answers before I meet the higher ups.”

“Alright,” I noted as I made my way out of the office. Just as I was about to, I felt a finger tap on my shoulder.

“There is one more thing I mean to ask,” Niharja suddenly said between his kelp chewing; “Nikolas’ book, what are your thoughts on it?”

“It’s complicated but it has potential. He wants to make it a one off novel but I’d say a trilogy would be better based on how much stuff he wants to cram into the story.”

“Is that so…” the naga trailed, a thoughtful look written on his face before he dismissed the whole thing altogether; “Anyway, off you go. I’m sure you have queries to sort out.”

I took off my earphones and stretched my arms overhead. From my seat, what came to my ears were the sound of inconsistent typing and phone conversations a little too far off to hear anything. It had been a week since the book signing and I was only now getting ahead of the slush pile along with everything else I had to do.


I jumped as I heard someone calling my name right behind my chair. I swivelled around.

“I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you.” The young girl who startled me blurted. Colour began to form in her cheeks, setting a contrast beside her long black hair. She was expecting a reprimand of some sort.

“Don’t worry about it, Carmen.” I dismissed through a bated breath, “what can I do for you?”

Carmen nervously twirled her finger around her tail, still sheepish that she snuck up on me without realising.  Her white blouse was left generously unbuttoned from the top, revealing her fair skin just below her collar bone. Carmen started working at Vera Oaks a month ago. Assigned mainly to me, small talk happened here and there but most of our conversations were often about work.

“No, really, it’s alright,” I reassured her; “I’m not the type who bullies the new interns.”

“I finished reading the requests you told me to look through,” she said. Her tail lowered, brushing past her ocean blue skirt slightly. Half human, half serpent, the different shades of desert brown and light green on her scales mesmerised me. Carmen was, however, smaller compared to the people like her that I’ve seen.

“That would be the slush pile. So, how was it?”

Carmen drew a sigh, “a lot of it didn’t follow the submission guidelines.”

I nodded, waiting for her to go on.

“The others either had a lot of grammatical and spelling errors, wasn’t the genre that we- I mean, Vera Oaks are looking for, or umm…” She paused, her voice grew smaller and smaller as she went on further down the list.

“Whether it’s something worthwhile that I’d read and represent?” I guessed.

She replied with a meek nod.

“I wouldn’t be worried about that if I were you. It comes with experience and even then it can still be a hit-and-miss.” I informed her plainly in between yawns. Checking the clock at the far end of the room, I rose from my seat and started packing my things. 

“Oh, it’s six o’ clock. Are you going home now?”

“Nope, I’m going down to Pratha Managa for some drinks. It’d be suicide if I tried to go back to Soma at this time,” I told her, “you want to join me?”

Her eyes widened in surprise, “are you sure?”

“Yeah,” I shrugged.

“S-Sure, let me just go get my things.”

I watched her hurry off, returning minutes later with a messenger bag. The latter had enough weight I was convinced it would give her a stiff shoulder eventually as the strap sunk into her shirt. I turned off the computer as we made our way out the front door of the office. My other colleagues were also preparing to leave as well. Inevitably, I noticed the discomfort in their eyes as they stole glimpses in askance.

Carmen opened the door and led me out first. She pressed the button to call for the elevator and waited next to me.

“Hey, Carmen,” I turned to face her.

She jumped, “yes?”

“You’re rather timid,” I noted, “not to put that against you.”

The intern hung her head, “yes, I get that a lot.”

“It’s going to be rough if you have to deal with someone like Niharja,” I laughed.

“I know that. I didn’t… it’s not…”

The elevator arrived.

“I’ve been like this all my life,” Carmen stated as we went into the metal box; “It runs in the family.”

I pressed the button that would lead us to the ground floor, turning back my attention to Carmen once the doors closed.

“It’s difficult and embarrassing to explain.” She said, toying with the tip of her tail again.

“I don’t mind difficult, but I’m okay if you don’t want to explain it.” I comforted her, giving her a soft pat on the shoulder.

The elevator stopped and we walked out of the small office lot. I took a deep breath and so did she. We both apparently shared the same discomfort of the office air. I fished out the packet of cigarettes in my pocket.

“You don’t mind do you?” I asked, keeping in mind that she was a lamia and like Ralph, she might have a sensitive sense of smell.

Carmen shook her head; “Not at all, i-in fact, can I buy one off you?” She asked as she opened her messenger bag. She was looking for what I’d reckon would be her purse.


“Oh, okay,” she murmured. Disappointed and slightly ashamed, she fumbled over closing her bag; 

“I’m sorry, I should’ve-”

I waved a stick in front of her eyes, “you don’t need to buy one off me if you want one.”

It was very amusing to watch her eyes light up; surprise, gratitude and joy reflected off the windows to her soul. She took the cigarette I had offered and the lighter I passed her shortly after that. Enjoying the first puff, the smoke escaped her thin lips through a blissful sigh of relief.

“Thank you, thank you so much,” Carmen said as she passed back my lighter so that I could use it.

“No worries,” I gestured, “I’m surprised lamias smoke.”

“We don’t, normally,” she started; “But uhm… I really like the smell and taste of tobacco.” She mumbled, loud enough for me to hear at least. She was also beginning to blush again.

We started to make our way down the sidewalk until we arrived at Pratha Managa just around the corner. The restaurant had set up tables outside. We sat down one such table. It took me a while to do so as I had to look for a chair meant for humans.

The restaurant was nearly a full house as the customers there shared the same idea to wait out the pedestrian traffic. It felt reminiscent to school seeing people sitting amongst their own races. Some of them would steal a curious glimpse at Carmen and I, just like how it was in the office. However, the humans in the crowd who glanced our way didn’t share the same sentiment; disgust stuck to their faces whenever they took another look.

I was used to that.

“It’s amazing that Managa has restaurants opened twenty-four hours.” Carmen remarked, looking to see whether she could catch the attention of a waiter.

Sitting myself down, I raised my hand when I saw a waiter who was looking at our general direction.

The waiter inside of the restaurant saw us and sauntered over. Small in stature, pointy ears, and green, the imp made his way over to us. Once he was at our table, he took out a notepad and pen from the breast pocket of his shirt.

“Iced milk tea,” I requested.

“I’ll have a glass of warm water please.” Carmen did the same, brushing her hair to the side with a finger.

The waiter jotted down our orders and disappeared.

“Nora,” Carmen called.


“You’re the first human who’s nice to me,” she said, “even the ones I’d meet who are not very religious to keep away from lamias.”

“I’m not surprised but I probably won’t be the last human you’d meet that’d have a drink with you,” I said.


I nodded as the tip of my cigarette grew redder.

“I don’t mean to pry and it’s okay if y-you don’t want to answer me but are you a Pallian?” She asked as her fingers were on her tail again.

“Yes and no,” I replied. “I went to Motley Pallian High School when I was younger so you can imagine how much religion was forced down my throat. Maybe I was the unlucky one, but I grew up with a lot of questions and very little answers.”

“You must know a lot of about the Pall then.” She remarked, leaning forward slightly.

The imp arrived, setting our drinks on the table. He then briskly made his way to another table flagging his attention.

“You could say that,” I smirked, taking a sip of the tea. “If you look into the history, the laws and commandments can come off as arbitrary.”

“I’ve read online somewhere that it’s like that.”

“It’s true to an extent; the Pall dictates that the world we live in is a binary one and that humans should approach it in the same way; angels and daemons, Pallian wizardry against the devil’s magic, the chosen race and the heathens. The chapter on lamias adds to why it’s difficult for you to find friendlier human folk.”

Carmen lifted the glass mug to her lips with both hands. The warmth of her drink drew a wide smile on her face. “Lamia belief is similar and there are gaps. Wow…”


“I just realised I’ve never had this conversation in real life either.” She said, her eyes peering up in disbelief.

I extended my glass to her, proposing a toast; “Here’s to first times?”

Carmen giggled as she tapped my cup with her mug. The both of us took a sip of our drinks right after. “There’s a hierarchy in lamia society. It’s complicated but my mother taught me that it’s to do with gender, the pattern on our skin and our size. The women would be above the men and that’s because they’re normally bigger than them.”

“That would mean-”

“Yes,” She sighed heavily; “My family and I have always been treated as a lower class in lamia society. The higher your class, the closer you’re to the Goddess.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that.” I said, placing my hand on hers. Even when she was holding a mug of warm water, her skin was oddly lukewarm.

“No, no, it’s fine.” She waved her free hand in a fluster. “That’s why we’re in Managa and things have worked out for the better.”

I withdrew my hand.

“But, it’s frustrating,” she continued. There was a wistful look in her eyes. “I watched a video of a theorist explaining that lamias share their genes with the snakes in the world. He said that we shared their size, their scales, even their…” she trailed.

I knew what the next word on her list was going to be.


“And you found out what family of snakes you were from,” I observed.

Carmen nodded, “Oxyuranus microlepidotus.

I tilted my head to the side. I knew little about snakes, lesser on their scientific names. On the off hand, I was also brushing away a crude pun that popped into my head. This was a very inappropriate time for that. My eyes flickered as the restaurant turned on its exterior lights.

“The inland taipan.”

“Ah,” I exclaimed, still not recognising the snake. But, I pretended that I did as I drew a mental note to look them up later.

“Other lamias have tried to shrug it off as nonsense.” Carmen remarked, getting visibly worked up.

“That makes sense. It’d undermine the hierarchy,” I noted. “But, it’s not fair.”

“It isn’t,” she cried. “It makes me feel like me, my father and my mother lost out on a lottery.” She then said, sinking into her chair.

I nodded, understanding the frustration that ate at her. Thankfully, it was perhaps less so now she was in Managa as she said earlier.

Silence ensued around the table for a while as we finished our drinks. After which, Carmen raised her head to me to speak.

“Thank you, Nora.” Carmen said, smiling warmly; “I’ve read it in books and the manuscripts. But, it feels so good to have someone to talk to about-”

The muffled ringtone of a phone played, accompanied by the whirring of vibrations coming from within Carmen’s bag.

“Sorry,” she exclaimed as she made quick work to fish out her phone. She pressed it against her ear; “Hello?”

I finished up my cigarette, only realising now just how dark it was. The sun has set completely and we were now into the early hours of the night.

“Oh, I’m out right now with a colleague having a drink. Yes, I’m having dinner at home. What, mom, no! It’s not a man.” Carmen cried, her cheeks blushing again. Her expression changed suddenly as she flashed a guilt-ridden glance at me; “N-No, it’s not a human. Alright, I’ll be careful.”

“That explains the glance,” I thought to myself.

Carmen put down the phone.

“Your mother?” I asked.

“Yes,” she nodded.

“It’s alright,” I interjected right before she could apologise again. “You do what you have to do. I understand,” I smiled.

The lamia nodded again.

I peered over to the cashier, noticing people were starting to leave. I turned back to Carmen. “It’s about time we head out, any sooner and we might as well wait out the crowd in the restaurant.”

Rising from our seats, we made our way over into the restaurant. Considering who I was with, I brushed aside cigarette butts and ash on the floor with my foot. My head turned for a moment to see if Carmen was following me.

“Where do you live?” She asked; “Maybe I can send you home.”

“Soma,” I replied as I fished out a few notes for both our drinks. Turning back to the imp sitting on a tall stool behind the cash register, I told him our order; “Warm water and iced milk tea.”

He took my notes, not even needing to tell me how much the bill was.

“Oh, I live over in Binsin Street here in Domingo,” Carmen said.

I shrugged, hopefully the gesture would come across that I’m fine with public transportation.

“How much was the warm water?” She then asked.

“Warm water’s free.”

We stepped out of the restaurant. Carmen obliged in letting me walk her to her car. Down the sidewalk, we’d overhear conversations of other people from time to time and made disgusted faces whenever we passed a sewer grate.

“What’s it like working with Mr. Bibikov?” She suddenly asked. It was expected that she would because of how big a name he was.

“Slow, he’s peculiar and fickle about everything.” I said, kicking a can aside. “But, that just shows he’d want to right by himself.”

“What do you think about a world where only humans live?” She asked. In one question, Carmen summarised what has made negotiations with Silver Spine Press a nightmare.

“To be honest, I don’t think much about it. Thinking about what’d be like if everyone was human instead is too big a picture for me,” I partially lied. “It’s a bold attempt for Nick to take up. Some people, a lot of people, say that he doesn’t deserve to write such a story. But, it has potential to be a good one and that’s all that matters to me.”

“I see…”

“What about you?”

“Oh,” Carmen exclaimed. It took a few seconds for her to think on an answer. “It’s going to be different, definitely. I don’t see people fighting as much over their differences if everyone was human.”

We stopped walking, having reached her car. The driver’s seat was taken out and its pedals modified to allow lamias to drive.

“In a world with humans and no magic, I don’t think there’d be many different beliefs either. It’s hard to see lamia culture in a world where everyone was human. Sure, you could differentiate them by the colour of their skin or their country. B-But… I don’t know. I see what you mean.

“Interesting…” I trailed, intending to note that down later. “Anyway, you shouldn’t keep your mom waiting. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Oh, okay. Thank you so much for tonight, Nora.” Carmen said, bowing; “You are a special woman.”

I laughed, “I’m still too young to be called one.” I slid my arms under hers and wrapped her in a hug. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, Carmen. You’re not too bad yourself.”

After I withdrew, we bid our farewells. I watched Carmen off before making my way to the bus stop by the main road, away from the office buildings.

A world where everyone was human,” I thought to myself. I definitely brooded on the idea more than I should. But, like Carmen demonstrated, I didn’t have a complete opinion that I sat comfortable with.

I fished out my earphones and plugged the jack into my phone. Music made good company when the way home was a long road. 

The bus stopped on Wandering Street, not too far away from the apartment.  

I arrived home later than expected thanks to an accident on the road. It took a while but I was finally in front of the guardhouse. I tapped the card on the reader and pushed the security gate through. It had been a long day and all I wished to do was tune out and wind down to bed.

Walking up the hill, I saw my block coming into view. A chill wind brushed past my face as pellets of drizzle fell from the sky. It was going to be a good night to sleep.

I heard a distant commotion above me, coming from the same floor of my studio. A tingle rolled down my spine, especially when the noise seemingly came from my unit. I backed away from the steps leading to the lobby.

Staring up, I picked up screams battling against what I can only describe to be the guttural noise only monsters would make. I watched on, fear stirring within me as I saw fiery lights emit out of the window’s blind. Suddenly, there was a loud crash as I saw the concrete that held the window crack and burst into debris. The explosion had destroyed my studio as well.

The shadow of something large and dark flailed in the air as it came down crashing. It hit the ground with a loud thud, my senses only then registered it was Ralph.  

My hand reached to my hip, unbuckling the clip on my holster. I took out my gun, unsure of whether he was a threat.

Ralph’s eyes scanned around the street before fixing itself to me. Like the rest of his body, his face was severely burnt as he bore his fangs at me, the side of his mouth bubbling profusely. He growled as he regained his form. Now on all fours, he was poised to pounce.

I felt adrenaline kick in as I pointed my firearm at Ralph, his figure a blur down the focus of the iron sights. Squeeze after squeeze, there was no room to hesitate. Shots rang through the air as I unloaded the silver bullets in the clip; even as Ralph faltered and slumped back down onto the tar, even as the beast writhed in pain and howled, even after the only movement left then on were the muscles twitching where the bullets punched through.

The slide of the pistol popped back after I fired the last shot. My ears rang, the only sound I heard was the heavy breathing coming from my own lungs. Lowering my weapon, I assessed the feral werewolf before me.

Lying still, dark red started to pool from my former neighbour’s body. He still bore that same expression on his face; enraged, fangs bared and eyes bearing nothing else but a wild frenzy.
I turned my head upwards. The silhouette of a daemon in her true form stood at the edge of the room, motionless as she stared on. I saw the shadow of wings and a long tail. Though it was too far for me to be sure, I knew she had her eyes fixed on me somehow.

As I felt my heart slow its pace, I heard the blaring of police sirens growing closer and closer to the apartment. To add to that, my sense of smell started to become aware of the gunpowder and burnt flesh lingering in the air. I doubled over, my hands on my knees holding my body up as I hurled; due not only to the smell but also the realisation of what just happened.

Ralph was dead. I killed him.

This Man is a Writer

This poem is about a man
With the pen in his hand
On a road not taken
All alone.
To make some bones
He can call
His own.

For that man is a writer
His art is not a phase
It’s his passion
Like the tiger
Setting the forest night ablaze

Actually, that’s a lie.

This poem is about me.

You see, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder a long time ago. Even now, I can still see the stares and glares of my parents; worried sick over the disorder in their son’s brain and whether they could truly ever bring themselves to call him sane… and mean it.  

That was when I was fifteen. But when you have ADHD, you may be liable to Janus Syndrome; seeing the past and the future wedged into the present.

All at once.

At the same time.

Every single day.

Aside from having more than one voice in my head,I haven’t even started talking about the worlds that I could weave.

No matter where I stand, I don’t need to close my eyes to marvel upon planetary, crystal cities where the artists would lie on moon marble and gaze at the dark sky; lit by whales meandering through space carrying nebulae on their backs.

I don’t need to train my ear to hear the dolour and grief of the sweetly succubus suffering an ontological crisis. The daemon breaks down as she screams to the beat and broken man she sees as her prey, “I am far greater than you will ever be. Why is it then that I look like you?”

I don’t need to sweep someone of their heels to feel the intimacy and romance between a pencil and an eraser; separated by their families who saw each other as mortal enemies.

I shared their merriment and their anger. When they cried, so did I.

Yet, it hurts.

It kills me when someone dismisses them as mere reveries; when someone tells me that, “it’s only just all in my head.”

I can’t accept that.

I refuse to believe the days I spent laughing off my feet or the nights when tears rolled down my cheeks were wasted on a layman’s view on fiction. They don't deserve that. They’re as real. Just as real to me as the slam poets who express their love, joy, and anguish on the stage; behind a mask of courage they spent years mustering.

And that's why this writer keeps writing.
That’s why this man is a writer.

Not for the fame. Not the money. Not the prestige. Not the passion.

But the stories that no one will ever know; stories that only I can show.

So, if you see me as I recite this poem 
And you see me shed a tear and weep,
It’s because there’s a fire in this writer
With no book of his own;
Just miles to go before he sleeps.
Miles to go before I can sleep.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Far From Fantasy: Chapter One

The crowd spanned a commendable line. The bookstore was rowdy with Nikolas Bibikov fans waiting to have their memorabilia signed; they were mainly books, but some brought posters and others even brought handmade gifts for the author. The latter would be the occasional ones dressed up as characters from his novels.

“Thank you very much.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed the trilogy.”

“That’s a very cool costume.”

I would hear Nikolas go over his routine lines, flashing a soft smile at each fan as he worked the pen in his hand. He brushed off security from time to time, permitting a photo.

Yet, what was supposed to be an ordinary book signing was a little off. As I stood beside Nikolas, I could see the shake in his leg. Restless, not only was he against crowds but he was also anxious to get back home to continue writing his next novel.

My train of thought derailed as I noticed a fan approaching me. His face pale just like Nikolas’ as he clutched one of the latter’s novels in his hands. Like the author, he appeared young.  

“You’re Nora Alisa,” he stated shyly, extending a hand, “thank you so much for your hard work.”

I shook his hand and smiled, “I’m only doing my job.”

“Vera Oaks must be lucky to have someone like you.”

“Oh, wait 'til the boys back in the office hear that one,” I chuckled, waving off the flattery; “We all put our scales against the sand, believe me.”  Admittedly, I was surprised he knew the name of our literary agency.

“Can you sign my book as well?”


I took the pen he fished out from his pocket. It was uncommon for fans to acknowledge the agents of the authors so it felt nice whenever it happened.

“Thanks again, and good luck to you,” he said, bidding his farewell.

As I watched him leave the store, my head was tilted to the side. I didn’t want to overthink it but somehow I felt there was more to his well-wishes than I’d like to leave at face value. I brushed it off and returned my attention to Nikolas.

Having wrapped up the book signing for the day, we were still in the Atophelian; the same mega-mall which housed the bookstore. Escorted by plain-clothed security and the owner of the bookstore, we meandered through the unsuspecting crowd and made our way to the elevator. Passing by familiar chains selling clothes, jewellery, and phones, I even caught the whiff of carnation perfume along the way.

“Thank you so much for sharing your time with us,” the bookstore’s owner said, a rather pleasant lady. Wearing a summer dress and a cardigan, I saw the soul gem she had inside her chest which probably served to hold her slime flesh together.

“The pleasure is mine. Thank you for having us,” Nikolas replied, turning his head to flash a smile.

“Yes, thank you,” I parroted as well.

We stopped by the huge double doors belonging to one of the elevators, left waiting once the guard pressed the button to summon it.

“What did Luther say?” Nikolas asked me, his voice was soft as he stretched his arms overhead.

I sighed, recalling the contents of my email exchange with the publisher: “Passive-aggressive fluff, he agreed to extend the deadline another six months. But, we’re really starting to pluck at their feathers now.”

“Expectedly,” Nikolas shook his head, the soft features of his face scrunched into a frown; “Did you manage to read through chapter seven and eight of the manuscript?”

The doors to the elevator open. Thankfully, it was empty as all of us entered. I made sure not to step on the guard’s serpentine tail as I made my way in. Once inside, he prompted the elevator to bring us to the rooftop.

“Not fully, but I took some notes,” I addressed Nikolas’ question; “All in all, Jonah’s monologue was good but a little purple. He sounded like an orator from Ancient Sparakos.”

“I feared he’d come across like that, anything else?”

“I’m having trouble trusting my gut on this one but we need to do a double take on how we shaped England. That’s the placeholder name, right?”

He raised an eyebrow, “yes, for now but do go on.”

I let out a sharp breath, eyes glancing over to take a quick check on what level we were passing over. In the corner of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of a forked tongue flickering out of one of the guard's lips. 

“I prefer the idea of making Jonah’s home and tribe run parallel to this new land he was brought to; a place that is far more advanced than his own yet… sharing these same ideas like death, God, family and love. I really liked that.” I explained, my hands gesticulating to help bring meaning to my words.

Nikolas folded his arms and hunched over, something he did when he was really putting thought into something.

“But, it doesn’t make sense to me that everyone should share that same belief given the economic and political circumstances the English would be in. I envisioned it to be how it is like in Canavan.” He explained.

I made a sound agreeing with him.

“By the way, I’m most likely sticking with the name. England and English has a pleasant ring when it rolls off the tongue.”

I nodded, making a mental note to write that down later.

The elevator stopped, its bell ringing to inform us we’ve arrived onto the rooftop. Stepping out onto the parking lot, I picked up the faint smell of manure coming from the riders who didn’t feed their companions properly. Griffins and wyverns of all breeds were either just arriving or leaving as we made our way to the end of the open space. At the end of a long line of winged creatures was Nikolas’, an arcane wyvern he named Misha.

“I’m sure you have more to say but you can email me later.” Nikolas said, running his hand under the wyvern’s jaws to stroke her neck. The purple and ocean blue creature closed her eyes and seemingly purred.

“Sure,” I said absent-mindedly as my attention was more on Misha. I brushed my hand on her scales and around some of the arcane crystals which protruded from her skin.

Nikolas slipped on his safety jacket, woven with the same arcane crystals mined off places like Misha’s initial home. It was more of a uniform for all riders that would help them breathe and stay stable against the air pressure and winds respectfully. Mounting her back, he gave a soft pat on the wyvern’s neck.

I turned my head around, surprised as I didn’t notice the guards took their leave. It was a common occurrence in people who slithered instead of walked.  

“Do you have a ride home?” Nikolas asked, “I’d hate for you to take public transportation. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but there’s been a string of murders as of late so I’d prefer hailing a cab for you.”

“I’ll be alright,” I replied, patting on the firearm holstered at my waist, hidden by my clothes; “I’m a Managan, we’re in Managa. I know my way around.”

“Still, you can’t be too careful,” he said, fishing his phone out. “I’ll get a cab for you.”

“No, please Nick, it’s fine. You don’t have to,”

“Well, Nora, too late. Your ride will be arriving in twenty minutes, Monday evening traffic after all. He’ll be picking you up at the ground floor drop off, white Peron, number plate WXU 124 B. Got it?” 

I sighed, “Nick, you really didn’t have to.”

“But, I want to. It’s the least I can do for my agent and you’re doing more for me than any other agent already. Besides, now you can use the money you just saved for that stone on your neck.”

“That’s what my share of your advance and royalties are for,” I murmured under my breath. “Thanks, Nick, safe ride home.”

I stepped away as Misha started to stand, stretching her wings and readying herself for flight. There were tiny glitters of arcane dust fluttering off her as she did so. Half a minute later, she kicked herself off the rooftop, lifting herself gracefully into flight. With her, she would bring Nickolas back to his abode on the outskirts of Domingo, the capital city of Managa.

Hopefully, he would be wiser this time not to spend too much time on his phone while in the air.


I was on the ride home not too long later, sitting in the passenger seat of the cab Nikolas hailed for me. The driver appeared older than me by half a decade or so, human as well. Passing by skyscrapers, restaurants, and pedestrians, I gazed out the window as the car made the corner onto the freeway. All the while, my mind was running through deadlines, query letters, and Nikolas’ book.

“Excuse me,” I heard a voice call from the driver beside me.

I snapped my head towards him, “yes?”

“I’m fine if you want to have a smoke. You’re the last customer for the evening and I saw you smoking on the block earlier so I don’t mind.”

“Oh, okay then,” I shrugged after a pause, fishing out my pack.

The window beside me lowered slightly as I lit up the stick. Feeling the nicotine kicking up to the brain, it woke me enough to make some small talk: “You from around here?”

“Yeah, I’m from up north,” he nodded, opening the cap of the water bottle resting in the cup holder. 

Its contents pretty much finished save for a few drips left; “You?”

“I grew up around Domingo my whole life,” I disclosed, tipping some ash into the bottle.

“Oh, what do you do here?”

“I work for Vera Oaks Literary Agency,” I replied, shifting slightly in my seat; “I’m one of their agents.”

“Ah, I’ve no idea what that means,” he chuckled sheepishly. “Oh, my name is Thareni by the way.”

“That is a very Northern name,” I remarked, it was also a traditional one at that.

“I get that a lot. What’s yours?”

“Nora, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

“Wow, okay, I thought it was just me but you speak Managan so formally. It’s weird.”

“I know,” I blushed. It still got to me how I never picked up the Managan accent; “I grew up in a Canavan institution, so I learnt how to speak Common first before I learnt Managan.”

“Oh, your parents didn’t teach you?”

“No, they did not.”

Thareni hummed in intrigue, it was an ordinary reaction I received whenever they heard this part of my backstory.

Dumping the cigarette butt into the bottle, I smacked my lips together, anticipating the next question this line of enquiry often led to.

“So, are you… a Pallian?”

“Yes, yes I am,” I replied, withholding the fact I didn’t practice the Pall as religiously as the rest of the Managans.

“But, you’re not a sorceress.”

I folded my arms, “no, I am not.”

“Oh, okay. Sorry, didn’t mean to pry too much.” Thareni then said, snapping his head back to the road to focus on our destination; “We’re close now anyway. Villa Heights, Wandering Street, right?”


I didn’t even realise at this point we were almost arriving at the Soma district, where I lived. Once a town, it took two decades for the district to look like a lesser Domingo, the capital. This was the home for Managans, like me, who couldn’t afford a life in the main city. Coming up close to Wandering Street, newer shopping complexes and offices towered over the worn down shop lots.

“Can you pick me up at Pratha Managa?” I asked him, intending to get dinner before going home; 

“It’s right beside the apartment.”

“Sure, but you’ll have to make an appointment first.”

I tilted my head to the side. It took a full second for me to realise that I had used the wrong word: “I am so sorry. I meant can you drop me off at Pratha Managa?” I corrected myself in a fluster.

Thareni shrugged, obliging. He pulled over before the apartment, stopping me right beside the open air restaurant.

“Thank you,” I said, popping the car door open.

“Anytime, be careful now.”

I got out of the car, not too long after Thareni was already out of view. Turning around, I walked over to the cashier to order take-out.

I waited in the lobby for the elevator to arrive. My packed dinner in one hand, I patted the ash off my jeans with the other. Now that I was alone, it gave me time to think about the direction of Nikolas’ story.

“What was that thing I was supposed to make a mental note of…” I trailed, voicing my thoughts in an empty lobby.

“Oh look, it’s our neighbour,” a girl’s voice suddenly uttered behind me.

It was only then I was aware of the footsteps gradually growing closer and closer; that and the audible sound of sniffing. Turning around, I saw the couple.

“Someone’s been hanging with the dead,” the man remarked, bearing his fangs in a grin. Noticing that he had my attention, “would you like me to show you how fun it is to be with the living instead?”
He was tall, towering his partner and me by a few feet. He was those kinds of people proud to be in his true form. The fact his polo and khaki shorts had to be tailored for his size told me that much as thick grey fur layered his skin past the sleeves. There were also several black patches of birth marks on his arms.

“Knock it off, Ralph,” his partner hissed. Dressed in a lazy fashion, she wore a cap over her blonde hair and her whole body was covered by an oversized hoody. She was petite and appeared more like a teen than an adult.

The elevator doors opened, I stepped in first followed by my neighbours.

“It’s not that bad, maybe I can convince you to be a werewolf.” Ralph said, sleazy in the way he licked his lips right after.

“Not interested,” I replied, placing another cigarette in the corner of my lips. I brought the flaming lighter to the other end of it.

Ralph’s face scrunched up as the noisome smell of tobacco invaded his nose. He withdrew to the far end within this small, claustrophobic space.

“Bitch,” he murmured under his breath as he covered his nose.

“Nope, and I don’t intend on being one either,” I thought to myself before wondering whether he’d report me for smoking in an elevator.

I left my neighbours behind as soon as the metal doors opened. Weary, I wasn’t in the right state of mind to be attending to people, especially the couple behind me. Putting the key into the lock, I glanced over to my neighbours passing by. The young girl turned her head to me along the way. There was an amused smirk cocked at the side of her lip before she looked on ahead. I cracked the door open as they did theirs and stepped into my studio apartment.

“So good to be home again,” I sighed in relief. I was all the more glad to have cleaned up the place the night before. The only stain remaining was the ashtray on the coffee table before me, its bowl filled to the brim with ash and cigarette butts. Walking over to it, I stumped out the cigarette that spared me from exchanging words with Ralph.

“I smoke way too much.” I remarked, making a note to empty the ashtray later.

I turned on the lamp by the bedside and moved over to the window beside it. Drawing the curtains, I stripped myself off my navy blazer and blouse. My hands then worked to unstrap the holster of my gun before taking off my jeans. I then took off the choker housing the arcane gemstone that allowed me to speak followed by my glasses.

It was then that my phone rang, the ringtone dampened as the former was still in the pocket of my pants.  Reactively, I doubled over to the bed where I dumped the denim and fished out my phone. Answering, I placed the receiver speaker to my ear and heard a familiar voice instantly.

“Hello, Nora?” Nikolas’s voice came through the phone.

“Ha-” my voice gave way, only then realising I took my choker off just moments ago.


Scrambling, I grabbed the choker on the bedside table and stuck the gem to my throat.

“Nic- gi- me a mi-,” I tried to say, the magic in the gem was still channelling into my vocal chords.

“Oh, oh, your choker’s off. My apologies, take your time,” he blurted.

Putting the phone down, I fixed the neckpiece on, clearing my throat before I picked the phone up again.

“Yeah, what’s up Nick?”

“Right, I know I said we’ll exchange emails about it. But, I was wondering whether you could tell me the rest of what you said earlier since I’m going over the changes right now,” Nikolas said.
From his tone of voice, I imagined him talking on the phone as his eyes focused on the manuscript before him. It prompted me to move over to my laptop on the coffee table. Folding my legs to sit on the floor, I turned it on; “Oh, okay.”

“So, what were you saying?”

“Hold on… yeah, I was just saying that perhaps all these different concepts could be reflected off the side characters that appear in England. Of course, it means more work.”

“More work isn’t the issue,” he dismissed, “it’s an idea to consider but I just want to make sure it’s coherent.”

“Definitely,” I nodded before realising I was having a conversation on the phone.

“Was there anything else?”

“Not from earlier no. You can see the rest of it in the notes Walt and I put into the manuscript files.”

“Yes, I’m going through them right now.” He said thoughtfully; “Nora, what’s that noise?”

I felt blood rushing to my cheeks. Instantly, I was reminded why I preferred exchanging emails rather than talking over the phone when I was in my own apartment. From the neighbouring unit, lewd noises seeped into my room. Groans and moans muffled through the walls, still loud enough to be picked up by the microphone of the device I held to my ear.

“Those would be my neighbours fucking,” I explained, burying my forehead into my palm; “We should continue this conversation over email, Nick.”

“No, no, I don’t mind.”

“YEAH… YEAH…” a slightly muffled, guttural growl boomed from behind me.

“Oh dear, is it normally like this?”

“Yes,” I felt myself go even redder at that point.

“I should come over one of these days; it’ll be good material to draw fr-”

“Nick, no,” I groaned, very differently from the way Ralph was at least.

I heard Nikolas laugh, “I’m only joking. Well, half-joking, it’s not that bad an idea.” He stayed silent for a moment before his voice came through, “email, it’s starting to distract me now.”

“Thank you.”

The line clicked, signalling the end of this mortifying experience. Turning my head around, my eyes rolled as I cursed in silence. I returned my attention to the blue light of the laptop monitor. Putting on some music, I took off my choker and connected my earphones into the audio slot; the sigh of relief much greater now that I drowned out the sex. There was work to be done and it wasn’t like I was going to get sleep for a while.