Of Which We Fall

Caleb Wu

© Copyright 2021 by Caleb Wu

Photo of a stormy sea.
Life is a bitter journey, some climb higher and higher, only to fall, while others, perhaps more fortunate; walk in a straight path with no end, a slave to their own choices. Others plummet, like a broken bird, they fall and break their legs, so as too never get up again. I was one of those who could never get up. As a child, I had many dreams, each one racing around in my head, like splendid visions. But dreams are a lie, life is bleak, and what are we but mere slaves, strung up on it and dragged along. My years on the streets had toughened me, and the reality of being homeless had long since wrapped itself around my mind. Like a serpent, it had squeezed all hope out of me, until I was nothing but an empty shell, a husk of a person. Each day on the bustling streets of New York seemed bleaker then the last.
Snowflakes, small, white and cold to the touch, drifted lazily down onto the streets, coating everything in a pristine coat of white. Sheltering myself from their chilling bite, I propped my threadbare jacket on top of my head. Winter was especially cruel this year, with winds howling and ripping, clawing and sinking their freezing unforgiving teeth into my skin. Stumbling, I made my way past buildings laden with snow, until I reached the dark alleyway I called home. Settling into the corner, I plopped myself in between a crevice, the cold and rough embrace welcoming to my thin frame. Despite the screaming of the wind, and the persistent pelting of snow, I was mostly untouched. Sinking deeper, I closed my eyes and sighed. My breath escaping my weary body, like a miniature cloud. Fumbling blindly, I reached into my coat pocket, grasping the packet of crackers I had saved. Famished, I tore the thin plastic apart and greedily gulped the contents down, crumbs clinging to my beard. Combing my hand through my beard, I collected as many crumbs as I could before tipping my head back and pouring those precious bits down my throat. My mouth watered as I stared in disbelief at my own hands, the empty packet taunting me. Preserving what little heat was still clinging to my body, I parked myself into the tiny crevice and stared at the sky above me. My life was miserable, and heaven itself seemed to know it. The icicles, glistening, seemed to mock me, dripping bits of water I could never catch with my parched and torn lips.
I angled my arm to use as a makeshift pillow, and prepared to sleep. To my surprise I felt something jutting out, poking my arm. Reaching out, I closed my hands on a bottle, roughly the size of my hand. Fingers wrapped around it, I cradled the small bottle in my grip. Despite the freezing temperature, the bottle wasn’t cold to the touch, but was almost warm. Squinting, I struggled to read the words engraved into the glass. I couldn't seem to understand these words, their angles jutting out aggressively, and the symbols intertwining with one another. My cautious nature, honed from years on the streets, seemed to scream out “DON'T TOUCH IT!!”, and “THROW IT BACK!” I knew something about the mysterious bottle wasn't right, but my tongue watered and my stomach screamed. Sitting forward, I decided to take a whiff. Unscrewing the rusty cap, I stuck my nose over the opening. Like the smell of rich honey and scented sugar, the waft overcame me instantly. Recoiling, my nose was filled with these scents momentarily. Nothing of this magnitude had ever graced me with their presence. Hesitantly, I touched the bottle to my lips, tipping it back slightly, allowing a drop to escape into my open mouth. Like glowing charcoals, it burned my throat, but was instantly replaced with a cold, soothing calm sensation. My eyes rolled back into my head, and I tasted turkey. The taste was exquisite, and gravy dribbled down my chin. The tender meat was seasoned well, and my stomach yearned for more. As I closed my mouth, the freezing shock of winter hit me, and I awoke to find myself back in the alley clasping a bottle, my teeth gnawing. Dejected, I licked my lips, but found nothing but blood and bits of dead skin. Dismayed, I put the bottle down and lay to rest. My mind, however, egged my body on and so I found myself picking the bottle up again and staring at it. I promised myself just one sip, and tipped it back again, greeted by the same hot and cold sensation.
Now, I found myself on a beach. The sun gleamed at me, and the soft sand enveloped my toes, tickling them. Walking forward, I found myself filled with newfound strength, as I strode to meet the coming tide. The waves caressed my thighs, and the distant squawking of seagulls greeted my ears. I started running, I didn't know where, but it didn’t matter. Striding purposely to the retracting waves, I tripped and fell, and woke up in the same dark alley. My hands trembling, the bottle clutched in my arm, my grip like steel. Desperation clouded my mind, seeping in like a deadly toxin, and I furiously unscrewed the lid again. I swallowed the rest of the drink, not even pausing to acknowledge the rich taste. Gulping frantically, I awoke to the singing of birds, and atop a mountain of bills. Their crisp edges digging into my back. Greedily, I grabbed fistfuls of them, stuffing them into my jacket, and pockets, until they too overflowed. Continuing in a frenzy, I grabbed and threw fistfuls of the bills, before I realized I was starting to sink. As my torso was consumed under the mountain, I relaxed myself knowing I would wake within any second, similar to my other fantasies. Hoping to hasten the process, I closed my eyes, but realized I could still feel the weight of the bills in my pockets, weighing me down like anchors dragging me farther and farther. Realizing that I hadn’t yet woken from this nightmare, I opened my eyes to find that my neck was now submerged. Panic, like a wave rushed over me, as I began struggling, yelling and peddling, I tried to fight, but to no avail. As I slipped under, I felt the familiar sense of déjà vu, and felt the cold embrace of the winter winds, and so I waited to awake.
The boy and his father walked down the streets of New York hand in hand. Despite the chilling winds, and temperatures, they remained warm and comfy in their fluffy jackets, and oversized pants. They purposefully strode forwards until the boy stopped his father, tugging at his jacket, and pointing at something in the alleyway. It was regular that the streets of New York were filled with the homeless, so the father paid no heed to the foolish antics of his son. Being a child, the boy was filled with curiosity and ran towards the alleyway, something must have caught his attention. Approaching the body, the boy stared at the shrunken corpse of a man, who was most definitely dead. The foul scent however, was drowned out by the sweet waft coming from a bottle clasped in the man's arm. Reaching gingerly, the boy pulled the bottle out of the man's grasp, and stared at it. How strange, it wasn't even opened, the contents untouched. As the boy pocketed the bottle, his father caught up to him, and after rebuking him for his careless actions, he planted a firm grip on the boy, steering him away from the corpse, and back to the street. As they continue their walk, the father continues to rebuke the boy. The boy however, doesn’t hear a word of what his father says, instead delving on the bottle, his hand anxiously rubbing it. The contents seem to call to him.

I am currently in Grade 11 at Steveston-London Secondary School.  I composed the original draft for this story during one of my English classes during a free writing session.  I was heavily inspired by the Disney Short: The Little Match Girl, and drew concepts and ideas from it. I refined this story a bit, in preparation for my submission.  The title is meant to point towards the flaws in our human nature, mainly, greed, lust and selfish desire.

As a child, I enjoyed reading a lot of fictional books, and was often inspired by events that transpired in those books.  I am an avid watcher of movies as well, and often immerse myself in my own plots and stories, many of which present themselves in my own creative writing.                                                                                        

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