The Presents and the Gone

A dusty white car went bump, bump, bump down a red dirt road. The air was thick and soggy; the humidity was stifling. It rumbled through a sea of coconut trees, palm fronds, rice fields. Closer, closer, closer to the house that sat at the heart of the dense greenery, the house that was crumbling, shaking, sinking. They wait there: men, women, children, ever so patiently. They have waited for a long time. They have missed living company. In this world, in this time, in this place, the past bleeds in to the future; those who have moved on are never truly gone. But they live out their afterlives unseen and unheard; they are the Gone and their descendants are the Presents. They linger in the shadows, and watch time pass them by. Watch their families grow old and move on. Watch the world forget them…

The van arrives and creaks to a halt. The inhabitants of the house fly down the arching steps, laughing, shouting, cheering. “You’re here! You’re here! Let’s celebrate!”

“My goodness, this place. It’s so… dead,” a little boy says when he descends from the steaming van. “It looks so lonely.” How does he not see the girl running around merely a foot in front of him? How does he not see the legions of men, of women, of children scrambling to the front of the house to welcome the Presents home?

“We’ve kept the house nice for your visit.”

“Look at this place, it’s a mess.” And it was. The white latticework was chipping and falling off the house’s green-painted exterior. The doors were missing. The walls were steeped in sadness. The last of the Presents jumps down from the van, and they begin the trek up the crumbling steps to the house.

An echo of a laugh, long lost to the Presents, bounces up and around the walls like a babbling brook. Shadowy children play hide-and-seek amongst sheet-draped furniture and boarded-up crates. Men sit cross-legged on the floor, discussing long-gone politicians, ancient village affairs, new family faces. Spectral women bustle around the kitchen, squawking and gossiping. The Gone fill the house with life.

“I’ve never seen this place so empty.” The Presents amble listlessly around the house, floating through seemingly empty corridors and rooms, sighing with regrets. How could they have let this precious place fall in to such ruin? They think they have let their ancestors down.

In this world, the Gone are cursed. A grandfather sees his grandchildren for the first time; sees his son after twenty years. He places a strong hand on his son’s shoulder, and envelops his grandchildren in a warm embrace. But, the grandfather’s joy is tempered; they do not see him. They do not feel him. The grandfather feels. Are the Gone truly gone?

In this world, the Presents are cursed. They do not see their past standing right in front of them. They do not see the Gone waving desperately to grab their attention. They do not hear them whisper encouraging words into their ears when they are afraid and alone and forlorn. The Presents live with the memories of those that have moved on. They are fixed to the past like flies stuck to molasses. They sink into the regrets of things left unsaid. The Presents may live on, but do they truly live?

 

flash fiction by Kimaya Lecamwasam, age 15

2014 Gold Key, Silver Medal

BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale

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