I wrote this when I was in a dark place almost 2 decades ago. It was intended to be a children’s story I was to read to my children for many a bedtime. I guess the darkness of the time is very obvious with how this turned out…
Imagine if you can a world not quite like our own. Here, there are many things walking the world that we rarely, and almost never, see in ours. There are demons and devils, and spirits of every kind, there are animal gods, gods of every little thing, minor gods and great gods; there are all kinds of beings, wraiths, ghosts, and creatures, both benevolent and malevolent. All these co- exist with this world’s humanity – a term in itself subject to much debate and argument. The gods of this world are seen effortlessly and are not confined to the houses they are worshipped in, nor in the hearts and souls and whispered prayers of the devouts who serve them. This is a world where heaven and hell are simply a stairway and a pitfall away. Literally.
Erick Lackluster (whose life is not as dreary and dull as his name suggests) lives in his mother’s house located at the outskirts of this world’s largest city, Stairway. Standing on a hillside, not surprisingly solitary, the house is surrounded by a lush and beautiful garden filled with colorful flowers and vegetation of all sorts. It is quite odd that all the plants in this garden grew and blossomed well despite the fact that the house always had, literally and figuratively, a dark cloud over it. Erick, as far as he can remember and as far as all the people he has encountered won’t make him forget, is considered to be the unluckiest young man in the world. He was born on the day the most vicious storm in recorded history wreaked havoc on the city. And despite the magnitude of the rain and wind bought by this storm, 13 buildings managed to catch fire and burn down, including portions of the very hospital he was born in. It can be said that he was accorded by the fates pure dumb luck by having as a father an inept, totally useless, unfaithful drunkard who abandoned him and his mother when he was but a year old. Althroughout his childhood, Erick was a tormented soul. As far as all his endeavors went, he always ended up with the shortest straw in the lot, so to speak. He would always figure in all sorts of incidents and accidents that often leave in its wake mayhem and destruction. He would always be, year in year out, a slave to all the school’s toughest bullies. He would never escape being blamed for each and every prank done by the other kids simply because he is always at the wrong place, at the wrong time. This was the story of his life. He is sick of this story. He is sick of his life. He is planning to do something about it, and tells his mother.
“What?!?” Erick’s mother exclaimed.
“You heard me. I’m going to kill the god of bad luck.”
“Mother. I have to do this. I am sorry but you can’t stop me.” Erick replied coldly, thus ending the very short exchange.
And so, Erick prepared all his things and kissed his mother goodbye. She was crying, as she could not help it, but felt that Erick had to do what he wants to do, and only out of love is she allowing him.
Erick had a fairly good idea where he can find the god of bad luck. Stairway City is called as such because it is where the stairway to heaven is located. The stairway is a twisting ladder-like structure whose topmost end touches the clouds and is covered by them. They say at the end lies heaven. You only get to the end when it is your time to do so, and nobody can say when that is. Erick figured, and he is probably correct, that the god (and no less) of bad luck must reside underneath the greatest ‘ladder’ in the world.
Just as he was about to leave, Erick passed by their garden to say goodbye to his best friend, Ivy. Ivy is a flower yet to bloom, a bud with a thin vine as her body, tiny leaves as her arms. She can talk, which isnt very surprising in this world, and says:
“Where are you going? I feel like I am to bloom soon and I don’t want you to miss it for the world!”
“oh, Ivy! My best friend…my only friend, I cannot even begin to ask you to come with me on this very perilous journey! I must do this, even though I would not want to miss your blooming” replied Erick.
“Erick, do you not know me? You should realize that when it comes to me…you need not ask.” Replied Ivy, and jumped out of her pot and unto Erick’s pocket.
Erick and Ivy then began their journey. Just a few miles away from where they live, there is a main road where jeepneys pass through on their way to Stairway City. Byaheng Langit, it says on the label on their windshields. Erick flagged down a jeepney that was only half-full. As they were looking for somewhere to sit, and they thought they would not find difficulty doing so, Erick’s horrible luck struck again. It turns out the the Jeepney was full after all. And half of the passengers were spirits on their way to the Stairway. Spirits tend to be invisible to people who are not gifted to see them. So, after shouts of “hey! Im frickin’ sitting here!” and “watch it asshole! Get off my lap!”, Erick grudgingly decided to just hang on to the railing at the far end of the jeepney. Sabit.
“You fuckers wont go to heaven with mouths like that.” Erick thought to himself.
Suddenly, just as the jeepney was managing a ravine overlooking the great forest, it hit a very big bump on the road, hurtling Erick violently towards the thick foliage below. Bumpity bump bump. Erick woke up and felt that his left arm was cut off.
“oh, for the love of–!!! My arm! Damn you god of bad luck! Damn youuuuu!” Erick shouted at the top of his lungs.
“Does it hurt? Erick? Are you ok? I think we should turn back now.” Ivy says, worriedly.
“Suprisingly, no. And like hell will I turn back now. I’m killing that son of a bitch!”
“But I think we are lost.” Ivy said anxiously, looking around, ahead into the dense thicket.
They were. Since the ravine was much too deep, it was impossible for Erick to climb the cliff wall back to the road. He decided to just walk through the forest straight to Stairway. He shuddered as he remembers the stories of his mother about the monsters that lurk the forest, but it is soon replaced by his anger towards the god of bad luck. So, they pushed on. After travelling a few miles, warding off branches and vines with his remaining arm, Erick suddenly remembered something.
“Good thing I brought this with me. To repel any further bad luck we may encounter yet!” Erick exclaimed, holding a salt dispenser in his remaining hand.
“I will spill salt over my shoulder, for good luck!”
And he did. He threw just about the entire contents of the dispenser over his shoulder. Then suddenly, he heard a loud cry behind him.
“You hurt my eye! My eye!!!” Growled the…well, the eye behind him. A huge eye, with arms and legs and a mouth, of course (for how is he to shout in pain had he none). The eye was veiny red and full of tears as the salt obviously stung.
“Oh for the love of—! I didn’t see you were there! Why do you sneak up on people like—“ Erick was cut short by the ripping off of his right arm from his body. He was more surprised than hurt from the savagery this eye person subjected him to. He did not mean to hurt anybody (except of course the god of bad luck), after all.
“There. Were even. An arm for an eye. “ And with that the unusual being went off about his way, still scratching his body, which was also his eye.
Ivy could not talk to Erick after that. He was now, more than ever, determined to carry out his plan and rid the world, his world at least, of the god of bad luck. She shed a tear, and was surprised that a bud can actually do so. Erick was walking briskly now, unmindful of the tree branches and vines hitting his face. He couldn’t see very well where he was going but he pushed on. Then suddenly, with a loud squish, he stepped on–
“Shit! I stepped on shit!!! Of all the—?” shouted Erick, wanting to slap his face as an expression of his dismay for yet another turn of bad luck, if not for the fact that he had no arms anymore.
“Excuse me?” Exclaimed the huge thing underneath Erick’s foot.
“Did you just call me shit?” The thing added as it detached itself from Erick. A lump at first, but when examined closely, a humanoid being with brown skin wearing a dashing, albeit similarly colored suit.
“I’ll have you know that I am Mr. Effle. I am the owner of the most reknowned restaurant in Stairway City and I was resting upon the grass before I went on to deliver my ingredients to my chef” It, He, went on.
“I am a tolerant man–” It, He, added.
Erick and Ivy still could not see how it can go on calling itself a man. “But I draw the line when people say I look like shit.”
Erick and Ivy were snickering by now. But trying not to be obvious about it, which is impossible for Erick as he had nothing to cover his snickering with.With an indignant scream, Mr. Effle pulled out his shear, which he uses to gather herbs, and cuts off Erick’s left leg. Just like that.
“Good day to the two of you” Mr. Effle bowed and went on his way.
Hippity hoppity hop. After much sobbing and swearing at this very very unfortunate turn of events, Erick was still determined to see his quest through and was now hopping furiously on his remaining leg. He was mumbling all the way, swearing at everything he sees. Ivy knows that sadness drives Erick’s mean streak and there was nothing she could do about it, so she just shed a few more tears.
It was in front of a bridge, that Erick suddenly stopped hopping. He took out Ivy from his pocket, with his teeth, and looked at her with suddenly teary eyes.
“I’ve dragged you in my foolishness long enough. I cannot bear something happening to you. With my luck something will, soon enough, and my heart will not be able to take it. It is broken enough as it is” He whispered, not being able to look Ivy in the eye. Yes, Only Erick knew where Ivy’s eyes were.
“Erick. Don’t even think about—“ Ivy tried to argue back. Plead.
“This is goodbye. This MUST be goodbye. Im sure you will find your way back, and you’ll be much safer than you are with me.” He spat Ivy out towards the river.
“Erick! No!” Shouted Ivy “Its bad luck for friends to say goodbye on a bridge! They say friends who do never see each other again!” She was able to shout before she hit the water.
But Erick never heard her. And he went on. Hippity hoppity hop. He felt empty inside. Empty except for the hatred he felt for the god he was most determined now to kill.
Three days pass and, Erick was finally reaching the edge of the forest, for the undergrowth and shrubs and foliage were getting thinner. He decided that he needed another lucky charm to prepare him for the battle ahead. He thought twice, given the salt incident, but decided to go ahead with it. He laughed hard, thinking that his luck finally changed, as he saw a rabbit’s foot (he could not see the entire rabbitty body) sticking out from a hole, presumably stuck.
“A rabbit’s foot. Surely a potent good luck charm” he thought as he ripped the foot off the rabbit with his teeth.
Erick smile was quickly wiped off from his faced as a gigantic figure rose in front of him, towering over, its shadow totally engulfing him.
“My pinky!!!!” Growled the hairy beast. “You bit off my pinky!!!!!”
“Here I am sleeping under my blanket of cool damp earth, dreaming of little butterflies, when you bit off my pinky! I should cut off your remaining leg for what you’ve done!” Added the beast.
“Oh no, please not my only remaining limb–” cried Erick.
But the hairy, fluffy, beast did so anyway. After a hearty chuckle, which somewhat revealed that it is but a child, the creature dug a deeper hole and resumed his slumber.
Erick now had no arms and no legs. But he knew he was near, and he will not quit now.
He travelled three days more, one he had at least his one leg and went on and finally arrived under the stairway to heaven by bouncing with all his strength. Stumpplity stump stump. He was fuming, he was angry, he was hell-bent on inflicting the god of bad luck pain so much more than what he has gone through. Never mind that he didn’t feel too much at all. After all, the pain he was reeling from was that of a broken heart. He cannot for the life of him comprehend what he could have done in his lifetime to deserve all this punishment. He lost his legs, his arms, and he lost his best friend. He tried to forget all that and prepared for his encounter ahead. He sneaked as best he could, bouncing very very quietly, around the sandy lot surrounding the area underneath the stairway. There were no people around, as the main entrance to the stairway was located at the far other end. So, without further incidents, Erick finally reached THE door. His destination. The culmination of his adventure, the termination of his suffering, the end of the road. He bounced on.
Beside the door he saw a flower. How odd, he thought, that something so beautiful should grow beside so much evil. He could not help stare at it. It was so beautiful. Then suddenly, it spoke.
“Erick. It’s me, Ivy.” She was smiling, and only Erick knew where her mouth was.
“My best friend. Oh, It really is you, isn’t it.” Replied Erick, unable to contain his joy. He kissed Ivy, on her lips that only he could see.
“You are so beautiful, I am sorry I wasn’t there to see you bloom. However did you get here?”
“A bird brought me here, it was in his beak that I bloomed. We looked from the sky but could not find you, so I asked to be brought here.” Said Ivy.
“I am glad you are here. To witness my revenge.”
“Oh, Erick. Must you still?” Ivy dissapointingly asked, but she knew she would support whatever Erick does. She loves him so.
“You know I must.”
So Ivy went and wrapped her stem to his body. At the innermost door to the lair of the god of bad luck stood guard a black cat. Erick did not hesitate at all when he lunged using the stumps that used to be his legs forward and bit off the guard-cat’s head.
“Ha! You call that a guard?!” He mockingly shouted.
He was, for better or worse, at the end of his journey. And all that stood in his way towards revenge was a black door. He entered, unafraid. What the hell else could happen to him now after all?
Inside, sitting on its throne, was the god of bad luck. A thin reed of a man with a cat-like head, and golden cat-like eyes. It looked gentle and kind, and not at all like what a god of bad luck should look like (if anybody had any idea what one looked like, anyway)
“I need to know why! Before I kill you, tell me why!” Said Erick.
“Erick. Finally.” replied the cat-like god. But its lips did not move at all. “My most favored subject has come before me”
“What are you talking about?? Do you always destroy the lives of your favored subjects?” Erick shouted. He was angry, and he was crying.
“I say this to you: the fastest way one can arrive to perfection is through suffering. And now…you are. Perfect.” Said the god, smiling. “Look into your heart, put aside the hate you feel, and see.”
For some reason, Erick understood everything at that very instant. He thought that he has experienced everything anyone could ever experience in a lifetime. And he always knew what to do. How to endure. How to survive and bounce
back. It wasn’t so bad after all. You can always bounce back and achieve what you set out to do. He looked at the god in front of him, its eyes. He still wanted to tell it off, shout at it, but could not do so, his hate was gone. Instead he winks at the god of bad luck as if to say thank you. The god winks back. I’m sorry, it seems to be conveying, and you’re welcome.
“Erick?” Ivy whispered. “What is it? What do you feel? What will you do now?”
“I feel alive. More than I’ve ever been. It funny that everything happened so suddenly but I understand everything now” Erick replies. “Let’s go home. I want to start–”
“Oh, wait.” The cat-like god interrupted Erick’s epiphany. “You know the guard outside? The cat who guarded my door? That was my son. You cut his head off. Its only proper that I cut off yours too.”
And it did.
Erick’s mother was working in her garden when she received a black box, with tiny holes on it, wrapped in a ribbon. She opened it and was shocked to see a head inside. Erick’s. And on his mouth, bit without teeth, was Ivy, a most beautiful flower.
“Mother” Erick said with a smile on face. “I’m back.”
Many many years pass. And given Erick’s vast knowledge and strong will against adversity, he was loved by all and was elected to lead and rule their land. He became literally, and figuratively, the head of the state.
He ruled their world until he died, happy and content, three hundred years later. He married Ivy. Don’t ask whether they had children or not, or if it is even at all possible. Because their life is another story, filled with good fortune and happiness. That type of story isnt told.
It is lived.