“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The stopwatch began.
Seconds, that’s all I needed. I just had to dodge all the pellets and tag her on the chest with my sword.
The first had gone through and I had flipped over it.
The second grazed my helmet as I slid below it.
The third connected with my cardboard plate on my chest. It was over and I had lost to her again. I just needed to dodge that last pellet and I would have been close enough to connect my sword to her and I would have won.
Come on, again Powder?! I just can’t seem to win against your aim. No matter how fast I go I just can’t find the time to dodge your pellets. You’re too good for me.
It’s really nothing Ekko, I just had to find something for me to get good at, especially because I’m the most useless of our group.
Powder, she was a nice girl who inspired me with her determination to better herself, especially compared to our group. I thought she was pretty cool.
After our game we headed back to our alley, where the rest of the orphaned stayed in a tavern. I wasn’t actually orphaned, but my parents work so much for so little money that I almost never see them. Actually, I haven’t seen them since two Christmases ago. I’ve just been receiving small notes along with small amounts of cash attached. The undercity was not kind to us. We were not as lucky as the topsiders. They had days, months, and years to enjoy their lives in luxury. In the smog filled undercity, any of us could have perished at any given moment, just like my parents. As we were walking home, I realized, all we had were seconds to cherish.
What is Above Us?
I ask Vi, why us? Why are we down here? She says she doesn’t know while hitting the beat up and bruised punching bag. She doesn’t even know the answer to that.
Vander tells us that we are just born this way. We can’t do anything ‘bout it. He tells me to think of ourselves like fungus. We grow up fast from a toxic environment, able to adapt to any situation we’re put through.
Don’t believe him. He’s just saying that to make us feel better about ourselves. There is no reason why my parents work so much, to the point where every day, I don’t even get to see them, and we’re still stuck here. I want to do something about it. I can’t stand around playing fake sword fights while seeing our situation.
Of course, Vi has to act like an overprotective sister and she tells me I’m too young to change the world.
Oh, how I just want our family to be happy, to not be segregated down in the filth while they are soaking up the luxury up there. Oh, how I just want to see my parents and enjoy a nice dinner with them. Oh, how I need someone to slap me out of this terrible dream.
You know what I want though? A nice, fluffy, hot cocoa right about now. I’ve only had one of those in my entire life, and it was from a special import from the top side. Imagine the topsiders, they can get an infinite amount of those. Every now and then, I imagine what I would be able to do on the topside.
Toys and Gifts
Whenever I get bored, I always ask for a toy. Sometimes I see a nice advertisement of a new toy from newspapers that are brand new from the topside and because we are so poor, I just look at the ad and admire it. I mean, what else could I do, buy it? No, I try to replicate it.
Usually, I would build the toys with wood and metal scraps at the workshop, but today was different. Benzo was out today doing whatever a crafter would do and told me to stay at the tavern. It was unfortunate because I saw a nice image of a “Z-Drive Blaster” or whatever it’s called. It looks like a cool new release of toy guns with foam darts, and it gave me an idea.
Vi, where’s the paper? Claggor, can you give me tape? Do you have any spare glue Mylo? Man, running around talking to people is quite tiring, right, no? Well, I am talking to you so it’s not so different. Anyways, I intended my creation to be a toy gun for Powder, since she’s always the one shooting in our little game. So, I got to work. I put this here, and glue there, paper wrapped here, cut this, paint that, and some drawings and color and….
Done! Two thousand, six hundred and eighty-four seconds. That’s how long it took. Oh, did I tell you about my stopwatch counting habits? Well now you know that I like my stopwatch very much and that I like to count how long something takes. I got it as a gift from my parents. Just something to remind me of them.
I finished the toy, and it looks quite awesome. It has a sleek silver finish all over some paper wrapping with a cardboard interior with a cool lever mechanism to shoot out the little paper ball I made because I ended up not having that foamy thing that’s like soft fluffy and plastic so paper was the best I could do. Y’know, Mylo and Claggor thought my creation was terrible (They even said Ekko your creation looks terrible. Can you believe them!?) because it doesn’t have nearly the same power of a real Z-Drive Blaster (they’re not wrong), so it ended up looking like just a paper mache model. Apparently, that didn’t matter to Powder though because she seemed to like it and even hung it up next to the other 14 toys I’ve made for her.
There was an old man. He visited the tavern every day at midday. He was very witty and stubborn, but he always got orange juice instead of liquor or beer. He never came in with anyone, and was always alone, in the booth of the far-right corner, dusty, icky, under the flickering light. It always looked sad.
I asked Vander to see if we could replace the light to at least give him a nice spot to drink his orange juice, but all he responded was that he sits there for a reason. I mean, you do you, it doesn’t affect me, but there are so many other booths.
He doesn’t stay for long, maybe twenty minutes, although that is quite long for someone just drinking some juice. I call him Old Pa, I don’t know if anyone else does, but I do because he looks like an old grumpy pa, a little crooked on his back and a cane to pillar it. As sad as his booth is, something would feel wrong if he didn’t show up one day. Old Pa is definitely an unusual but welcomed individual at our tavern.
One, Two, Three, Eight, Ten
One, two, three, eight, ten. You’re one short!
Kid, that a two, not a one eh.
Oh, I’m so so so sorry. One, two, four, nine, eleven. You were right, I’m sorry.
Piss off eh, don’t ya try and scam me again. Vander shouldn’t even have you up here, lackin of brain cells to count eh?
Piss off eh, dontcha try scammin me agane. Yeah yeah yeah, stop being SO ANNOYING! They don’t understand that I make mistakes, do they? Either that or I take my time in counting and then they get mad at me for taking too long. It ain’t my fault your patience is miles shorter than your ego. You think you look so cool in that beer drenched beard and that yoga ball of a belly you have? You don’t, trust me, you don’t. I really wanted to scam him, but I cannot. The only thing I hate more than bloated drunkards laced in the stench of sewage is cheating people. That’s why I hated that drunkard accusing me of cheating him. What a farce.
Vander tells me that I should stop handling the money of our pastries if I don’t like my interactions, but not all of my interactions go like that.
There was a kind old little lady that accidentally gave me an extra five plus two and allowed me to keep it because she thought I was cute. I tried to refuse, ten times over, but she argued with me through kindness and convinced me into keeping it.
There was another man, poor in ragged clothes, who tipped me a twenty. He said that the money was better off going into helping young potential, rather than himself who had no future. I refused. I didn’t believe that he had no future either. Instead, I allowed him to get his bag of bread for free. Yes, I cheated myself, but it’s for the better of another.
I think my small chore as a cashier is definitely worth it. I may meet more bums like the drunkard than I do the kind, but each of the nice interactions I have are twenty times more memorable and valuable than a bozo interaction.
Everyone Loves Juice
Orange juice, really? Orange juice, not even lemonade, mango juice, or like a smoothie? Who even buys orange juice?
Never seen another orange juice enjoyer. Well, maybe one. There was this woman who bought a lot of orange juice, but she never JUST bought orange juice. She also doesn’t even come here anymore.
Heh, bahahaha. Vander, you see this kid? I hate how stupid he is that he made me laugh. I love it.
What? I’m stupid? I made Old Pa laugh? He loves it? How can he say something so contradicting? Sir, you haven’t answered my question. Y’know, telling me your answer doesn’t change anything, so you don’t have to answer, but if you’re going to call me stupid, you should at least answer.
I’m sorry kid, but that wasn’t meant to be an insult to you. It’s better as a kid to be ignorant, you don’t want to mess with all this adult stuff. Like they say, ignorance is bliss.
But what did I do that was ignorant? Did I involve myself with “adult stuff?” Oh, I’m sorry, I was just curious about your (poor) choice of drink.
Idiot, come back, I didn’t get to answer your question.
What is wrong with this guy? Hmm?
Guess, guess why I only drink orange juice.
Because it tastes good?
No, I actually hate orange juice. It tastes terrible and the pulp has a terrible texture. It’s just that Vander’s is the most bearable. Look, do you remember that woman you were talking about earlier? Guess who she was.
No, she was more than that. She was the woman of my life and dreams. She was very kind yet stubborn. She was always the one to ask the dumb questions that haven’t been asked before. She loved orange juice. I don’t know where her love for it came from, but the drink was just so appealing to her. Can you guess why she doesn’t come here anymore?
No, no I will not guess. This is the third time I’m going to guess wrong, and you will give me the answer regardless.
Hahaha, why do I even try to talk to someone as stubborn as you?
Says you, says you, says you.
She was killed. Killed because she was from the undercity, Old Pa said.
Lifetime in the Sun of Our Dreams
Do you want to see the sun? It’s your first time, right? Come on, let’s go.
Wait Powder, is it safe? Y’know, the whole climbing up an entire city to reach sunlight, that’s safe right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t go.
Wha-, ok fine, I’ll go.
Don’t call out my hypocrisy, let’s just go.
That was a decision that I will never forget or regret. Before, I didn’t understand life. What was the point? Now I know. For me, life is getting to see the sun. It was so memorable. I had never been so comfortable before. The warm burning of my cells, the masking heat making me want to cuddle up into a fetus, and the ethereal light produced by a mass of flames. I had never felt so much heat before. It was almost too much heat, but I loved it, it wasn’t painful, just shocking how much heat was exhibited.
The sun, second only to my stopwatch, for the first time ever, had stopped time for me. I had always thought time moved too fast, much too fast for me to enjoy anything. I asked how long we spent under the sun, and both Vi and Powder said only a few minutes. I don’t doubt their answer, but to me, it felt like a lifetime, but not a long one. It wasn’t everlasting, where the time spent felt too long, but it definitely didn’t feel like a short few minutes. I was happy. For just a few minutes, I was the happiest person in the world. I guess it’s not so much happiness, but more carefree. None of my worries and stresses reached me. The sun burnt them all before I could even think.
I am so jealous of the topside. They get the luxury of experiencing this every day, whenever they want. Unlike us, who have to waste time climbing up just to waste more time sunbathing. That is probably what makes the sun feel special to us though. I can’t imagine the topside always admiring the sun all day when it’s been a normal part of their entire lives.
Time Ran Out
How long ago was it? Let’s see, six, eight, maybe ten years since I’ve last gone to the tavern. That was also the last date of my vignette, when I reached towards the sun. Ironic how the day time froze for me was the last time I had time. I miss my ignorance, the innocence and bliss that came with it. Now I know what Old Pa meant when he complimented my ignorance.
Time passed way too fast, everything happened in a blink of an eye. Unfortunately, gramps passed not too long after my encounter with him. Turns out he died from a heart problem. Died the same way as his wife, no doctors to treat him, none from the topside wanted to treat someone from Zaun, and there are barely any down here. Vander, Mylo, Claggor all disappeared. Dead or alive, either way, they aren’t with us anymore. Vi and Powder had a fight and split off. Vi went to prison and Powder, well I don’t know what happened to her, she separated from us. Benzo’s workshop closed and he told me that I couldn’t stay there anymore, he couldn’t provide for me. I will never forget Benzo’s hospitality, giving a little Zaun boy a chance to live. I had also quit school the same time everything had collapsed. Now I’m stuck with a gang of smugglers and cheaters. Where have my morals gone? Guess it ran out of time too.
The only thing that cannot run out time is my stopwatch and the sun. Well, maybe in a few billion years the latter will meet its due date.
When I realized that we only had seconds to cherish, I was wrong. Milliseconds, that was the correct answer. One blink and it was gone. Guess what, none of this means anything in the eyes of the people above. They get an infinite number of blinks and nothing but luxury for them.
Huh, what a realization that is. My childhood ran out and so did everything else. We were bound together by our innocence and thirst for fun. Our childhood was the rope, and when it withered away, the bridge fell.
Not only the sun, but now my stopwatch has stopped time. – 403020101 Seconds
One thought on “Years to Seconds, Innocence to Reality”
I really love the writing of this blog post! I loved how the stories all tied perfectly together and the transition between the mini stories flow nicely. What inspired you to write these mini stories?