NJ Draft Two

Written between 2016-2017

Nneka

I’m in a yard, alone. The yard is surrounded by trees, so enormous they touched the sky. Some look like they reach into space. There are these bizarre looking flowers too, that have large petals and beautiful vibrant colors. It’s so comfortable here. I lie down on the grass and the ground is so warm, like I’m lying on a bed. I am looking up at the sky. It  seems to go on forever.

Suddenly,  I’m lying on a bed, in a place that just feels like home. I am not alone now. I hear a woman reading a story. Her voice is warm and soft as she reads.

I am laying in a man’s arms with a little girl who looks like me and a young boy who appears to be  older than me. We are all cuddled up on the bed, listening to this woman read to us. I look up and make eye contact with the boy and in the span of a second, we’re all in the backyard, the same yard where I was lying down in the beginning of this dream.

We are playing with these strange toys and having a blast. The aroma of food fills the air I play with that boy and girl and a few other kids. There are so many other people in the backyard now, it’s a party. I’m having so much fun. We’ve been playing catch. Someone throws the ball to me, I catch it and I hear this alarm so I quickly throw it at the girl who looks like me and she throws it back to me. It starts up that alarm again so I throw it at this other kid, he catches it and throws it straight at my head. I fall down on the ground with my head hurting like hell… and now I’m awake.

 

Stupid kid. I should go back to sleep and make sure his mom puts him on time out!

Shit. I woke up late again. I need to get to class! If I don’t move quickly I won’t be able to buy breakfast. I really don’t want to leave my bed. “Okay, I’m up, I’m moving.” I said to myself aloud. Moving around this damn messy room is the worst. I really need to clean it, but between work and school and my chill time, I hardly have time to keep this place clean. I’ve found clean pants, socks and a T-shirt, thankfully. I’m finished getting ready and in 10 minutes, I’m out the door and rushing into the Deli at the corner where my breakfast is waiting for me.

After class, my best friend Clarice should be waiting for me outside. We’ve been friends since freshman year in high school. It was love at first sight, we instantly knew we were going to be the best of friends. We had almost everything in common. We watch the same shows, play the same video games, read the same books. She is also my only family ever since my adoptive mother, Lauren died. Now it’s just us. We are a dynamic duo.

We walk towards each other and both say in our most regal voices

“Hello, your Majesty.” with a slight nod.

“Might I walk you to your next class, ma’am?” She asks, continuing the regal voice.

“You may walk me to the exit. My class is canceled, my lady” I say, taking her arm in mine and start heading towards the exit.

“Might I say that your hair looks beautiful this fine day” I say, continuing the act, but she drops it when she says

“Thank you. I got it cut. My head of flame was starting to look crazy.”

Clarice has magnificent flaming red hair, pale skin and freckles. Her hair was long and reaching the small of her back and now it’s just touching her shoulders. It looks amazing on her. We’re the same height, an elegant 5’4. We have different body shapes though we share the same size in everything. My shape is more athletic. I’ve taken self-defense classes all my life and hers is more ‘I play video games most days and wrestle my brothers for exercise’. She has 6 older brothers. As you can imagine, my favorite nickname for her is Ginny.

“Well, you’re beautiful as always. Wanna eat before I go to work at the Hole? I could go for a Chipotle date with beautiful woman,” I said speaking normally now because I knew I’d fuck up that sentence.

“How can I ever decline a Chipotle date?”

“Can we go to Hailey’s later? I need to pick up some socks and underwear and a T-shirt. I kinda don’t want to do laundry”

“No! You have a washing machine and a dyer at home. Clean your damn clothes!”

“My room is a mess too.” I mumble

“You better get your shit together this weekend. Your beautiful boss Timothy will be going on vacation so no work. No school. So clean up!” I start laughing. Clarice always looks out for me. I appreciate how much she cares.

“Fine”, I say. “I’ll clean up and you can come over Saturday night for the Day of Binge. And you really need to get over your crush with nerdy Tim”

The Day of Binge is the day we lay around, watch TV shows and eat loads of foods. Every binge night has a different theme. Last time was Sushi Saturday and we watched Mean Girls. This time Slay Saturday so Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clarice will be doing the cooking.

“I’m not sure if I’ll make it David and Marcy are coming with the kids. I haven’t seen my nephews in so long”

“Really? They never come down. They must have news. What if Marcy is pregnant! What if she has a girl and you finally have another girl in the family.”

“Please, don’t get me too excited”

David is Clarice’s oldest brother. He married Marcy and they have two boys and are trying to have to have another.

Clarice and I head out to run our errands and show up to the Hole just before my shift starts. The Hole also happens to be our favorite bookstore so before I start getting ready for work, Clarice and I dive into our favorite section, teen fiction, sci fi/thrillers. These books are what Clarice and I have bonded over.

 

The Hole is different from other bookstores. It’s crowded with so many books, old and new, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It feels comforting. Like being wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of tea on a rainy day. Like you’re safe. This is my favorite place in all of New York. You know what, the world. It’s my favorite place in the whole world. I am so happy to be working here.

 

My shift came and went in a blur of books, boxes and friendly faces. The manager completely ignored me all day, which I am thankful for.

At home, I put on relaxing clothing and attempted to start cleaning up but then I got distracted. I stumbled across the journal that was with me when I was a child. When I was found 15 years ago, I was a young girl alone and crying in Prospect Park with what looked like someone’s journal and pendant. I was told that no one could understand the book so they just assumed it was something I found in the street. I cried when they tried taking the journal or the pendant away so they let me keep them both. A gold chain with a pendant in the shape of a crescent moon and the name Nneka on the back and a black raggedy looking journal. I still don’t understand anything of the journal but I look through it anyway. The journal has all of these drawings of new machines and creations and scribbles around the drawings. I can only make out a couple of words on each page, like the person who wrote it was constantly rushing. I love puzzles and this book is the biggest puzzle of my life. Who wrote this? and why do I have it?

When I look back at my phone, it’s 3 in the morning. I’ve been so into the journal that I didn’t notice the time or that I’ve been playing with my pendant. I get up and head for bed.

Tonight feels strange, I keep seeing things, like the walls changing colors or doors turning into walls.  I obviously need to go to sleep. Before I reach my bedroom door, it turns to a wall, but unlike the other hallucinations, this wall has strange carvings and symbols on it. The wall glows as if it’s breathing. A living wall, I must be going crazy. When I reach out to where the doorknob should be, I just feel the carvings. I glide over all the curves of the wall and I start feeling a warming sensation from my neck and it spreads all through my body. It feels strange, yet comforting. I get lost in it and close my eyes and feel.. wind. Rushing up against my skin. When I open them again, I look down at myself and I’m glowing. The carving from the wall are on my skin, like living tattoos. They wrap around my arms in swirls lashing out in all different directions like a windy storm. I can feel the wind on my skin, like I’m standing in an open field. The feeling and the tattoos leave my body slowly and the wall turns back into my door. I’m left standing there completely confused with the lingering sensations all over my body. Before I can really think about what just happened, exhaustion hits me. I rush into my room and dive into my bed and within seconds, sleep takes me.

I wake with a start the next morning. I quickly assess my surroundings and when my body finally settles, I realize how sore my entire body feels and remain lying in bed for the day.

Clarice calls me in the afternoon to check in with me and when she hears that I’m not feeling too well, she decides she will come over to make me some soup.

A half an hour later, a red faced Clarice is at my door. She has two bags filled with groceries and I already know she is going to make me her “special soup”.

“He tried to grab my fucking arm and your place is still a damned mess!” she says. I let her calm down from being assaulted by some creepy old man before I ask her how her day was. “It was glorious. I got paid, bitch and I am making SOUP!” She responds.

 

“Soup?”

“Soup”

“SOUP!”

“Soup, darling”

 

“Well, sweetheart, let’s get in that kitchen!”

 

We head to the kitchen and start cooking.

Clarice and I spent 2 hours in the kitchen dancing around and singing. Taking breaks to eat ice cream and take swigs of wine. I always enjoy cooking with Clarice. It’s a party with someone who understands you so fiercely. Someone who knows which spices to put into the mixture or the exact amount of time to wait until you know when to taste the soup, just to see if it’s on the right track. Cooking with Clarice is an adventure and an experience. We try new recipes, we spice things up or sweeten it up or just ruin our meal but it’s always a blast.

Clarice and I wind up back in bed with steaming hot bowls of soup and two bottles of wine. We lay there for hours watching YouTube videos until we both fall asleep laughing drunkenly at something Tyler Oakley said two hours ago.

The next morning, Clarice heads out to go see her family and I get ready to start reading that journal again. Time for some chamomile tea and to figuring where the hell I come from. These dreams and now that my adoptive mother’s passing, I feel so alone. I want to know where I come from and maybe this book can help me.

I can only ever make out some of the words within the scribbling mess in this book. It’s usually the words “remarkable” or “shit” and a few words that I assume are names. I can only clearly see is all the details put into the drawings. It’s really beautiful.

The person who owns this journal usually only draws machinery and mechanisms but every now and then, I’m surprised to see they’ve drawn faces. There are so many drawings of this women with almond eyes, a beautiful smile and a lots of curly hair. Her face is round and in every sketch, her eyes are bright and they twinkle. She looks so happy.

I think she could be my mother. I think she and I look similar, or I hope we do because she is stunning. Do I look that good to other people? She and I have the same small, round nose and almond eyes. Our hair even looks the same She could be my mom. Or is that  just wishful thinking. She’s truly breathtaking. I believe the owner of this journal is in love with this woman, whoever she is. 


Late at night when I was a child, I’d open the journal just lay in bed and admire her features. Imaging this woman as my mom, holding my hand and taking me to the park or the zoo. Or I’d imagine her holding me at night lulling me to sleep during a thunderstorm. Lauren wasn’t one for comforting during storms so I’d have to stay in my room alone, imagining.

 

I catch myself doing that now. Thinking about what it would’ve been like to have had a mom who loved me. Someone who played in my hair, took me shopping, sang songs with me. Someone to guide me throughout all of the tough times in my life.

 

I spent 30 minutes staring at this woman’s face, imagining until I finally decided that after all these years of searching through this book, I won’t find anything new.

I’m feeling pretty miserable today, so I decide to turn in for the night and spare myself the pity party. Nevertheless, I take the journal with me. If I’m going to dream, why not dream of another life — one with a real mother.

I get so lost in daydreaming that when I get out of my daze, I realize that I’ve spilled tea on the book. I begin to rush to the kitchen to get some paper towels but after two steps, I feel lightheaded. Like I got up too fast but when I try to sit back onto my bed, I stumble and fall onto the floor with my body feeling hot and my muscles tight. Within seconds, I’m lying on the floor in fetal position panting and sweating. Too dazed from the pain, I realize too late that my necklace is glowing bright yellow. I felt a strong gust of wind just before I went out of consciousness.

I wake with a start, disoriented from what ever happened the night before. It took a moment to realize that I wasn’t looking at my room. That I’m not lying on the floor of my bedroom, where I passed out but on dirt. I get up quickly still analysing my surroundings. Did I sleepwalk to a park? I couldn’t have, right? It took a moment to realize how strange the plants looked. One plant looks like a huge butterfly. It was as big as me and flaming red. Another plant looks like a man-eating sunflower. Most of the plant life here were still green but looked more alive. Patches of grass change colors as they swayed in breeze. Trees so tall it looks like they reach the sky. Neon green poppies, chartreuse roses. Dandelions electric blue and as big as an umbrella were twirling in the air.

I needed to sit down before I passed out again. I sat down, covered my eyes and began to cry. I’ve lost my mind. I am certain. I’m probably locked away somewhere and this is the world I created for myself. At least it’s beautiful, but then again, flowers that big need to be pollinated. As if on cue, I heard buzzing coming from my left. I got up quickly and ran as fast as I could into the opposite direction. Once I passed the first line of trees, I ran into something warm and solid. I looked up to see bright grey eyes staring down at me.

Without a word, he pulled me down to the ground and watched intently  as the buzzing got closer. I refused to take my eyes away from this strange woodland man. Staring at this strange man who could be a murderer. Then again, why would I dream up a murderer. Figuring him out in my mind is better than seeing the source of that loud buzzing. He was only wearing nature green shorts and these odd looking sandal/sneaker mix of shoes. His face along with the rest of his body was covered in mud. My eyes landed back on his shorts, I needed something to focus on. It wasn’t long until I realized that I’ve been staring at his butt this whole time. I decided that the strange patches of grass were much more interesting. 

 

The buzzing sound got softer and my eyes started to hurt from the changing of the grass. The boy turned to look at me. He looked me up and down as I did him. Silently observing each other.

Then I asked, “Who are you?”.

He looked at me for a second longer and turned around and started walking. I quickly ran up to him asking again who he is and what’s going on and why he just freaking walking away but while I yelled and questioned him, he kept walking, silently and unflinching. It wasn’t long until I gave up and started to walk silently along with him. We walked for about a half hour until I started seeing structures popping up along the tree line. He walked straight there and although I was nervous I kept going. It looks so much like a dream I once had. Like I’ve seen this before.

As we get closer, I notice that we are walking into a golden city. At least, it looks golden. When I look closer. I notice that the buildings are made of glass that looks gold from afar. Balls of yellow sunlight glow on each street and reflects off the glass buildings. As you get closer you can see people bustling within the buildings. We walk further into the center of the city, and more greenery begins to appear. The plant life here is different from where I was before. I pause for a moment to look at this rose that is the length of a person and it’s… burping… fire? 

I notice that the strange man has gotten too far head and I rush forward and grab the his arm. Once our bare skin makes contact, a light blueish color starts glowing under his skin. The color starts from our contact and is soon covering  his body. Moving over his and changing in color as it glides over his skin. Something about it reminds me of a snake. As I watch, I notice there is a pattern. The glowing on his skin pulses and the more I stare at him, the more it pulses. I look up at him and instead of the expressionless face I received before, I was given curiosity. His grey eyes bore down on me for a moment longer until he gently pulled my hand away from his skin and smiled.

“I’m Tariro and taking you to my Thema. What name were you given?” he asks. His voice is deep and velvety, warm.

“I’m Nneka. What is a Thema?”, I gave him a weak smile of my own because I can’t hold it back.

“This is my home, Sunbloom. You should not have been in the forest. I know you are not from here, she will help make sense of your arrival.” Finishing his sentence, he turns and continues walking.

I was filled with so many puzzling questions that I just remained silent and followed behind him. Wrapping my arms around myself as if creating a barrier against this strange world.

We walk past people scuttling around and yelling to each other holding papers in their hands and waving the for emphasis. It seems like they are discussing something important. The people here seem to be working harmoniously, smooth as oil. This center is filled with people but it doesn’t feel chaotic. *books, musical instruments, different types of shops, books, libraries, shops, absence of churches, etc.

Tariro leads me up a pathway filled with greenery which goes straight into a grand building the shade of onyx. Before entering this building, I expected to see something from a princess story but the entrance, though it was grand, looked more like an office. There are people in suits and lab coats rushing across the marble floor. No one notices as as we walk to the stairs. I was careful to stay close to my guide as I took in all that was around me. A group of people in lab coats stand facing screens on one wall that is displaying graphs and charts. Another group stood around having a heated argument. Those were the ones in suits so I’m not surprised.

Tariro guides me through the halls of the castle and I quickly lose track of how many turns we are taking but before we know it, we stop outside grand ivory doors and knock.

A middle aged man opens the door, to let us in. His appearance is much different from the people downstairs. He wears a white loose short sleeved shirt and grey pants. His white shirt shows off his strong arms  and the reddish glow that shows against skin, the shade of ochre.

The middle aged man introduces himself as Yuri, Tariro’s father. Tariro and Yuri embrace one another before they both turn to the woman looking out the window. Her gown a ghost white and looked to fit her body type perfectly. Her curves were outlined in the dress in a way that made it look like a second skin to her. Her deep bronze skin stood out against the dress. To top it all off, her hair was in a high bun and her head was guarded by diamonds. When she turned to look at us all, Yuri and Tariro gave her a deep bow and I followed suit. She was so stunning, I couldn’t help it.

 

“And what can I do for you, Tariro?” She says in a cheerful voice. When she looks at me, she quickly drops the smile and looks confused.
“Amara…?” She asks hesitantly.
“No. Nneka…”I answer
“My apologies, you look like a friend of mine.” She looks to Tariro and asks “Why did you bring her here?”
“I found her out in the forest, she looked lost and resembled… her. So I thought it would be best to bring her to you.”
“I thank you for bringing her here, Tariro.”
She looks to the middle aged man in the room and asks “Yuri, could you take Tariro to the dining hall. You both should get ready for dinner. Emem is cooking dinner for us all.”
Yuri puts his arm around Tariro’s shoulder and guides him out of the room.

Now that I’m alone with this woman, Thema, is that what Tariro called her? I stand there as she looks me over for a long while before she finally decides to speak. In the warmest voice she says, “My name is Asali, Thema Asali is what I prefer you call me after we leave this room but as for right now. You may call me Asali. I am the ruler here in Sunbloom. Now that you know a little bit about us. Can you tell me something about you?”

 

“Um… Yea, I’m Nneka. I don’t know how I got here.” I was so entranced by all that was around me since I got here that I forgot how I got here. It’s definitely not a dream. I know that now. “I was at home reading a journal and then my body started feeling hot and I was on the floor… “ I look down at myself, remembering the yellow glow of my necklace as I was lying on the floor. It lays around my neck dormant and cool to the touch. Asali looks at my hand around my necklace and her body gets rigid. “Is that yours?” She walks slowly closer to me and give me a questioning look.

 

“Yes, I had it since I was a child. I- I don’t know where I got it from.”

 

“Come. Come sit with me.” Asali guided me to a couch I didn’t see in a corner near the door.

 

“Dear heart, how did you get here? Where were you before? Please tell me if your journey.”

 

“No. How did I get here?” The reality of the trip set it and my panic starts to rise. “I have no idea. I was in my apartment. I was home and reading and then my necklace.” I glance down at my necklace again. “It.. glew. I was so hot all over and then I woke up here. I was home. How am I here? I was home!” I start to stand. Feeling finally rushing into my body. I could’ve been drugged. How am I here?

 

Asali reaches up for my hand and I quickly pull away. Moving towards the door. “No. What did you do to me!”

 

“I did nothing, dear heart. Please sit down. Let’s talk. Just relax.”
 

“No. I won’t. I don’t know what’s happening.”

“Dear heart, I have an idea of how you may have gotten here.” Asali sighs before she continues, her voice getting warmer. “Your pendant, I’ve seen it before. The crescent moon is a symbol for the House Moon. It’s from a great friend of mine. All descendants of their household have their own. My house is the house of Garnet which is why I carry this stone with me.”

She shows the deep burgundy  stone that was hidden under her gown.

“Now, I am unsure of how you have come to have this pendant but I do know that the most recent descendants of the house Moon were our top scientist. They specialize in studying intergalactic travels and developing the best high end technology for us to move forward within our community and expanding ourselves with other worlds.

My old friend, Mairee, was our lead engineering scientist. She and her husband enjoyed experimenting with traveling. There is a chance that one of their experiments came off world and happened to fall into your care.”

“But… I’ve had this pendant for my whole life. How could I have gotten it?”

“I am not too sure. There are possibilities, it could have passed through a portal

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