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by Nikki
Rated: E · Short Story · Mystery · #2313106
A short story I spent one night writing for the early 2024 contest by Story Unlikely.

Shape me a kingdom.

While these words may be a strange introduction, let me tell you that an empty Earth is truly a boring sight.

I gaze at my right - there's a bumpy, barren and gray land. A bunch of burning rocks lay layered on top of one another.

I then peer at my left - it's a massive pool of murky water. Can it even be called water? I suppose so, according to my common sense.

I turn on myself to observe the back view. A mountain. Towering is the proper word. Among all of its peaks, I can count at least two dozen that are piercing clouds - yes, peaks. Can't say why. That's the way this mountain is built, and certainly not a fact my hands can change.

To finish off the tour, I gaze forward. There's colors - yellow, navy blue, and dark green - here. That's a human. A girl, or a woman, though her dainty features makes me hesitant to claim this fact. I observe the blond mass that originates from her scalp - the bundle of hair hugs her shoulder. Sadly, I can't see them flutter. There's no wind - but may it be the case, it would be a gorgeous spectacle.

The girl is dressed in an oversized cardigan. The blue color comes from this piece of clothing. Likewise, her skirt brings the dark green. Amidst all this gray - including my clothes - they're perhaps more important than the girl's life. I could explain it; even if she's dead, the colors don't fade. The logic is sound under most circumstances.

I've noticed a strange look on me. Given my knowledge, the culprit isn't a mystery. It's the girl. Why, though, is another riddle far above my qualifications to solve.

"You're staring at me." She says. That's the first time I've heard the girl open her pretty lips. As dry and ashen as her tone is, she doesn't give me a bitter impression.

"I know."

There's perhaps, sometime later, a possibility for us to engage in a meaningful conversation. For now, I'm testing the waters.

The girl tilts her head. A strand of hair slowly slides across her cheek. Like a teardrop.


I can't tell whether she'd prefer a sincere or a proper answer. The dilemma is pointless - nobody can judge me for my thoughts. No society. No friends. Only this unique girl remains. And, I'm not as weak as to be concerned with a single person's opinions.

Thus, I chose the sincere option.

"Your clothes are pretty."

You couldn't find a trace of hesitation in my tone. Well - stress is meaningless. Perhaps I was a little cold just then. The girl doesn't show much of a reaction at all. No wrinkles around her eyes. Her facial muscles don't contract. I believe we have the same thoughts, her and I. Don't bother.

"Why?" She asks me again, however without the head tilt. It makes her appearance less agreeable.

I laugh. Low and controlled - it's a barely a chuckle, really. Because I'm not accustomed to this exercise, my cheeks fell stiff. Judging by the girl's faint display of disgust, I must be quite ugly.

"Look around us." I ask in return. Though my words aren't an order, she executes them in a heartbeat. The girl drags her butt on the floor. I see her sideview once. Then her well-defined back. The sideview again. Afterwards, she loops back to her original position, all in about five seconds. I was busy peering at the girl; the count may be wrong.

Even after following my little charade, her expression remains unfazed. No - it's worse, if I narrow my observations.

"I saw."

"Saw what, exactly?"

"Gray." She utters. "It's gray everywhere."

I'm enjoying seeing the girl's lips move. An approving nod complies her to continue.

"There's rocks. Maybe five or six layers." She claims, while passing her index over her lips. Is this a display of personality? Too shallow to be one, perhaps. I'm in no position to be picky, though, therefore I'll assume this gesture to be one.

"Indeed. What else?"

The girl pauses. She doesn't appear to be deep in thought nor heart-struck. It's a whim, to summarize; one which I'm defenseless against.

"Some are burning."

She peers at my right, and I follow her gaze. These are burning rocks, yes, without the crimson tint you'd instinctively associate with fire.

Sometime later, the girl switches her focus to my left. Her assertions changes in accordance.

"Others are boiling."

I frown. We're currently observing the lake - the grayish water, almost turning to mud. From there, the scent of wastes swirls to my nose. I agree that it's disgusting, but they're not boiling rocks.

"Boiling?" I ask with a high pitch, as though that girl is the world's biggest idiot. She may deserve this title, actually. We're two. I don't have enough intel to claim whoever is smarter between us two. In fact, calling us geniuses wouldn't be a stretch either. The wording is to your liking.

While I'm busy thinking, the girl sighs, then elaborates on her point.

"I've been observing this area. Some time ago, it was full of rocks. But they've been boiled."

Some time ago. I can't disagree. The concept of time became funny here, without a sun or a clock. Forget about sleeping - neither of us can.

And, according to the girl, sometime ago was a stretch of time significant enough for rocks to start boiling. Mind you, I can believe this fact. My conception of reality is twisted - that girl stopped questioning this world all together. I fancy her attitude.

"I see."

I imagine that our conversation will soon wither away.

However, to my surprise, the opposite is true.

"What's your name?" The girl asks me. While I appreciate the thought, my blank expression betrays another sentiment.

"I forgot." I blurt out, at first unwillingly. To make my point clear, I repeat the two-word sequence once more.

"I forgot."

Like that.

As expected, the girl is stoic. No - I did expect a tiny reaction, no matter how petty it may be. A fright, perhaps. Confusion? That would've been a fine outcome either way.

"You forgot?"

I nod, causing a strand of hair to collapse on my forehead. I brush it off, as it's irking my skin.

"I did. Are you any better?"

The girl reciprocates my nod. This sight is refreshing; it's like I'm peeling off her social defenses, piece by piece.

I can't tell. Might be a delusion.


There's a massive piece of intel that I'm glossing over - She remembers her name? I hope it's a womanly lie.

"Tell me."

"Tell you what? ...Ah."

The girl drags out the expectation for longer. Eventually, the payoff arrives to my ears.


Jun. Is that a name?

"You wanted my name. I'll give you a tiny present."

That is indeed a name. Jun - it slides off the tongue effortlessly. Her parents were competent in that regard.

Jealousy bubbles in my heart. Despite my attempts to hide this shameful emotion, my urges got the better of me.

"You're lucky." I mutter. Of course, Jun can hear me amidst this complete silence.

I understand that I'm pitiful. We're in the same situation, Jun and me. Whether we remember our name or not - that's a luxury. And, if I scored badly on the luck roulette, I'll not complain.

Jun glares at me. She's scrutinizing me, as though I'm a wanted criminal.

"I can't recall my family name." The blonde-haired girl says.

"My neither." I counter.

Is it a contest - who's the most deserving of your charity and time?

Jun claps her hands together, the sudden noise startling me. I can't explain her next gesture - she sits legs-crossed before patting her lap - her thighs. My wrinkled, frowning gaze turns my thoughts transparent. Jun knows them.

"Come here."

For the second time, Jun pats her lap. She has a clueless expression, but her brazen attitude tells me otherwise. Again, she knows my current thoughts.

"Why?" I ask, neither repulsed nor thankful. My tone hovers in the realm of confusion. Yet, Jun's lips part way to answer me matter-of-factly.

"Don't you want to?"

Jun flashes an alluring smile. I realize she was a much prettier girl that her initial composure led me to believe. While not jaw-dropping, it's plenty for me.

I take a reluctant step forward - in reality, I slide my knees across the floor without standing up once. Jun encourages me by curling her lips into yet another smile.

Before I realize, my vision has shifted. I'm peering at a canvas, its color a blend of crimson and soft gray - the sky, or what remains of it. There's a bouncy feeling on the back on my head. Almost an embrace. Not long after, Jun's tender features clog my vision. Her round ocean eye are peering at me with a hidden expression. Though I can't decipher this enigma, Jun's expression seemed to have loosen.

I feel five fingers running through my hair, while a hand caresses my cheek. Though I don't get this situation, it's a pleasant one for sure.

"Should we talk about my name?" Jun proposes.

"Your name?"

Jun laughs. Not half-heartedly, nor a chuckle, but a proper and powerful laugh. However, rather than happiness, my expression darkens.

"What's wrong,?" Jun asks while massaging my hair. She's accumulating dirt and grease - her hand is turning oily.

I'm concerned.

Before I can talk, Jun uses her lips to seal my own. I freeze. The words does too. I can't appreciate the kiss - it's a dry, hot and thorny sensation that lasted less than a second. There's no emotions nor passion. It's rather a mean to communicate. Or so I believe.

Jun stares at me with a serene expression, her face an inch away, with the lips pushed outward to a comical extent. The gesture draws my gaze towards them - the lips, and their surroundings. Crusts of dead skin are everywhere, and blood clots have already exploded into narrow red trails. My hazy mind tells me that its gruesome, but I can't avert my gaze.

I rummage through my thoughts for some amount of time, during which Jun does not say a word. My expression turns sour.

"Are you dehydrated?" I ask carefully. However, Jun doesn't take my meaningless tact kindly.

Her next words are bold, like a thunderbolt.

"Yes. I'm going to die."

"Do you want to survive?"

"I don't think so."

Silence arrives after Jun's words. I neither agree with nor deny her words. My opinion is split - I do want to live, except there's not much reason to. It's an irrational instinct that I hate.

Jun caresses my scalp yet again. That makes it three times. In return, I offer a faint smile.

"Talk to me - about your name."

"I'd love to." Jun answers, her expression a ball of happiness. Whether it's false or not, my eyes are feasting.

"I have a few memories of my parents. They often told me that my name was decided well before my birth. Jun - they chose. Perhaps they wanted a boy, I can't say. Do you know what this name signifies? I've read a few meanings - in Korean, it would be handsome, ruler, or talented. All of which do not fit me. The Chinese meaning is quite similar."

Upon hearing Jun take a breath, I frown.

"Korean? Chinese? What are those?"

Jun shakes her head. "I don't know. These words are from my scattered memories. But if I try to recall, they may be countries."

"Countries?" Our conversation has taken a bizarre turn. "I do remember this concept."

From my awkward point of view, I try to make out my surroundings yet again. The molten or boiled gray rocks, the gray sky, and the boundless horizon of terrain - I print it all on my eyes.

"Hey -" Jun interrupts my peering. "Should we build one? A country."

She leans her body towards me. I could steal her lips once more, but choose to decline the temptation.

"Why should we?" I ask, in desperate need of an answer. Jun's actions have been erratic at best - there's no pattern to analyze.

"Come on, be with me." She pulls me upwards, using her own body weight as a lever. I'm sitting to her right, and our shoulders are stroking. "It's a thought experiment. Something meant to kill our boredom." Jun adds, emphasizing that last point.

I begin to think; there's indeed no noticeable harm to playing along. However, Jun voices out her thought first.

"I'm already noticing a problem, you see." Her gaze snaps to me. "A country is hardly one with two citizen." Jun sighs, enveloping me in a shared sense of dread. I soon fire back a counter argument.

"Assuming we are both rulers, our subjects would be the thousands of souls. They must be here somewhere, floating in the sky, I assume."

Jun holds back a laugh. "Do you believe in the afterlife?"

"I don't think there's anything I can't believe in. Ghosts are not exceptions -"

"Also." I'm interrupted in my tracks. "You called us two rulers. Then, we would not be in a country, but rather a kingdom. At best, an empire. The concept is completely different."

Begrudgingly, I nod to her logic.

"Does my mistake bother you?" I ask.

"No. I like this concept. Let's build a kingdom. It'll be grander and larger."

"Where to begin, then?"

Another period of silence passes. While observing Jun's demeanor, I can tell she's sincerely devoted to this game. Sometime, her pupils are dull and stable. Then, they twitch, as though she's gained a bright thought. The cycle repeats itself a few dozen times, but the wait isn't long at all. Jun's body language is quite fun to witness.

Jun turns to me.

"Have you found anything?" I ask, not bothering to hide my curiosity.

"Yes, well..."

Jun directs her left index to sky, while her left arm pulls me further into her embrace.

"I'll start by coloring this sky a bright blue. With hints of orange, perhaps."

"Isn't that too much?" I reply jokingly, but Jun sends me a bad signal. A glare, to be precise. However many wishes that girl has, painting the sky might take an infinite amount of time. And, for the time present, I'm willing to believe her delusional claim.

"...Never mind. It's a great start."

Immediately, Jun's face is beaming. Any lingering traces of hostility vanish out of expression.

"I'm beginning to like your enthusiasm." She pulls her left arm above my shoulder and around my neck. While I'm not certain, this gesture may be correlated with the concept of friendship. The idea remains buried in a corner of my mind.

"Let's continue, shall we?"

"Ah, yes."

"Let's get rid of all these rocks. They're uncomfortable and not befitting of us royals. I'll roll a red carpet on them so thick that we'll be unable to feel any pain."

"You have big ideas."

"Yes." Jun grins. "A ruler shouldn't spare money on comfort."

"Aren't you saying that solely for your own sake?"

"My dear king, you'll eventually come to understand."

Hearing this girl call me a king is a surreal experience. Her excitement is both contagious and poisonous. I don't wish to be swept by her flow.

"Perhaps." I sigh, before tackling yet another issue of our policy. "What about our citizen, then? Let's think this through - they don't need a place to sleep, nor do they need roads."

"A hot spring..." Jun mutters under her breath. Without a warning, she grabs both of my wrists to position me in front of the boiling lake. I'm standing at the edge, my trust given to Jun's balance.

"The souls need a place to relax !" Jun shouts, as though her sentence was the most obvious claim in this world. In turn, I reciprocate the shout.

"That's incredibly futile !"

"Ah?" After being gripped by the collar of my shirt, I flail my arms in theatrical desperation. On one of Jun's whim, I could fall. But I don't. Because she wants me alive.

A devilish grin spreads across Jun's face - the curvature of her lips looking especially ominous.

"Don't you think of the poor souls? They should deserve a nice bath?"

"...Do they?"

I reach out for the sleave of Jun's cardigan before pulling on it. She collapses on my chest, which makes my balance a mess.

To summarize, I fall. We fall while hugging each other.

I have trouble describing my sensations.

It hurts. As though my head is being hammered from all sides, and dozens of spikes are entering my flesh. The pain helps me stay conscious, though I can't tell if that's of any use for the future.

My hearing is turning blurry - my bones breaking make muffled cracks. Warmth envelops my body. Perhaps it's Jun's heat. It may be my blood, as an alternative.

I lose my sight, now turned into a gradient of gray.

There was a point in time where the pain dimmed down. Here, the world stops shaking. It's how I know that I - we - have stopped falling.

My condition is at follows -

I have something similar to a rock inside of my left eye.

My right eye is punctured.

I'm feeding dust and blood-stained minuscule grains of rock to my lungs.

My skin is scorching hot.

- I understand that it's not great. But, simultaneously, I'm feeling lively. Perhaps a little happy. Because, while trying to contract my arms, I'm met by resistance and a girl's complain.

For now, Jun doesn't speak. Only her hushed breaths fill in the scenery. I hear her spit out a wide array of elements, most of which I assume do not belong inside of a throat.

The lack of stimulus makes my body heavy. It's as though a force is pulling me to the ground. I belong here.


I catch a low voice.

"...If that's the way souls enter the afterlife, then they may fancy a bath...No?"

No matter how hard I try, nothing escapes my throat except a bestial noise. Yet, Jun doesn't stop.

"I've decided. May I ever reincarnate, this will be my dream."

A period of silence.

"...Taking a bath. That's silly."

Again, nothing. Not a noise. Not a motion.

"Hey...Do you have a dream?"

Of course, I failed to answer her. If I had to give an answer, then it'll be -

"...I can't remember mine."

- that dreams can't bloom in emptiness.

© Copyright 2024 Nikki (collegewriter at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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