Unmasked: A Collection of Short Stories

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March 2019

By Aditya Singh

Sun Blotches text

Sun Blotches and Angelic Smiles

Everybody in my family has different hands. Mine are light brown with weaving veins, like rivers flowing through a desert. Curvy lines streak across the surface of my palm, bards silently singing the story of my life.

My sister’s hands are smooth and innocent, round knuckles jutting out when she curls them into a fist, the nostrils of her nose flaring with adorable anger.

Dad’s are rough with hardship, his palms jeweled with callouses. He has broad fingers and nails thick and ridged, like clam shells. His sinewy tendons bulge when he flexes his hand, strong and supporting, always ready to help.

Grandpa’s hands are like sandpaper. The skin on his hands is wrinkled and blotched with sunspots. His fingers are like the gnarled limbs of an ancient oak, weathered and wise.

Grandma’s are small and pudgy, the fat from the hams of her hand gently creasing as she grasps her cup of ginger chai.

Uncle’s hands are light as feathers, his long and slender fingers gracefully sweeping across the keys of the piano, like a casual wind fluttering across the surface of a sandy beach. Knotted joints curl around the tips of his metacarpals and phalange bones. I want hands like Uncle, a musician’s hands.

Auntie’s are always gleaming with eloquence, her designer acrylic nails sparkling like shining stars. Her hands are a smooth tan, their oily surface engulfing me in a warm, comforting hug.

But Mom’s hands—Mom’s hands are the summer sun, soft, welcoming, and always warm, like when her eyes wrinkle with joy and her mouth peels into an angelic smile.

Everybody in my family has different hands, some lighter, some darker. Some smoother, some rougher. Some are warm, but they’ll eventually become cold as old Time washes over them. Hands. They hold the marks of our past and will soon tell the story of our future.

*          *          *

Clocks in Tuxedos

Thick sheets of tension drape over the room as trembling fingers reach across the boards. Beams of intense concentration emanate from players’ eyes, lines of focus creasing their foreheads. Shiny raindrops slip down cheeks, the result of many conceding defeat. Faces flush with a despaired red, their egregious mistakes abruptly annihilating all hopes of a trophy.

Then, the horn bellows its long, sonorous sound, announcing the time has come. The judges, dressed in their neon-green and orange vests, place down the Chronos timers. Wavering sighs of anxiety escape from many mouths at the sight of the timers. Dressed in a tight black tuxedo, my timer begins to drone in its monotonous tick-tock tick-tock. With each passing second, an ounce of apprehension grows, sticky sweat coating the back of my neck. My opponent is an older teenager, wearing a red-and-blue-striped shirt. Burgundy freckles are splattered across his face, and he has curly maroon hair. Behind his pair of claret spectacles, his eyes suddenly light up with joy. As his mouth peels into a beaming smile, he confidently brings his hand forth and moves his queen across the board, placing her next to my king and says the words of a chess player’s nightmare: “Checkmate!”

*          *          *

Tree of Salmon Berries text

The Tree of Salmon Berries

The tree of salmon berries is an unarmed merchant, constantly being harassed by malicious robbers. They reach in their selfish fingers and pull off its jewelry as the tree screams a silent plea. The tree’s green neighbors remain in stupid oblivion, frivolously fluttering in the July breeze as they revel in the company of heaven’s water. The wavering limbs of the tree shake with anger, futilely attempting to slap the thief.

But it is a tough tree. Always coming back fuller than ever, only to repeat the vicious cycle. The tree of salmon berries is the man in the maze, constantly navigating through and overcoming obstacles, only to find the next corner and hurdle. The tree sees me as yet another monster of greed. And the tree is right. I am very greedy, but I need to be. The greediest are the most successful, for without greed there is no motivation. Caesar, the indomitable emperor of insatiable greed, led the ancient Roman Empire to power and might. Without greed, one is weak and will find oneself bending to others’ wills, becoming more servile with each passing day. I will continue to steal from the tree, ripping its children from their home and devouring them like a cannibalistic demon. The tree of salmon berries will remain the subject of torture, forever ruled by the great lord by the name of Greed.

*          *          *

Conquering Ghosts text

Conquering Ghosts

Dear Young Aditya,

So stop. Don’t get on the bus and go home. Turn around and tell the truth. Don’t let the ghosts of your actions haunt you, weaving their threads of guilt and shame into your brain. Confront and conquer them, so you don’t wage an endless war with the demons of your past. What’s the worst that can happen? Mom and Dad find out and yell at you.

But, in the matter of a week or two everyone will forget about it. The burden will be lifted from your shoulders, no longer plaguing you. On the other hand, if you internalize your crime, little straws of hay will be sprinkled upon the pile of guilt every day. As time passes, and your shameful secret gnaws at your insides, that pile of hay will become a stack, which in turn will become a heap. A heap of guilt and shame so heavy that it will be too late to turn back and tell the truth. You will have to live hampered down by your impulsive, rash decision, always present and ominous, like a painful scar seared across your skin. Please don’t do what I did. Don’t walk away.

Your older self,
Aditya

*          *          *

chalky powder text

Chalky Powder and Salty Breezes

Aditya. In Hindi, it means the sun. Although I’ve always felt my name was more triangular than circular. Circles don’t change. It’s the same repetitive cycle, and if you flipped a circle upside down, it would still stay the same. But when you flip a triangle, it becomes something different. A new perspective, a fresh idea. In my religion, a triangle represents creation, destruction, and preservation. I’d prefer to create things. I think my name is a creator name. It’s like the number 6. In control, with power, on top.

Aditya. To others, I believe my name is like a gray piece of grass. Unusual, yet dull. Most people I meet think it’s an interesting name, although they usually say that out of politeness. My name is not flashy or exciting. Just like my personality. I’m a quieter person, who likes to observe and listen.

Aditya. My name has its ups and downs. Slide down the A only to meet the vertical face of the d, impossible to climb over. But I will persevere, turning trials into triumphs. Eventually I will get over the d and onto the dot of the i. And all the way over to the cliff of the a, with a frightening drop. In these moments of apprehension and anxiety, I will methodically weave my way past the obstacle, scaling down the spine of the a onto the welcoming ground.

Aditya. It tastes like the salty breeze near the sea. It is the stunning decorations bursting with explosions of vibrant colors, celebrating love and unity. The thick-yet-comforting smell of chalky powder. Sometimes the feel of cracked lips and cold handshakes. My name is the strums of the sitar on the radio as my father cooks lunch. Each note an expression, winged emotions, from one artist to listeners across the world. That’s what I want to do. Send my emotions and ideas across the world, inspiring and motivating.

Aditya. A name that will ignite passion, drive innovation, a symbol of humanity’s desire to succeed and progress. Yes. That’s the legacy my name shall leave.

Unmasked: A Collection of Short Stories Aditya Singh

Aditya Singh, 12
Bellevue, WA

About the Author

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