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THE COMPASS WITH NO NORTH

Edward is a boy who has been thrown into the world of adults prematurely, robbing him of his youthful years after the loss of a loved one. Victor, an old townsman was partially responsible for Edward's current state. Edward must find the strength and courage in his heart and soul to not only forgive Victor, but also himself when a natural catastrophe wreaks havoc in his village.


“I can feel it. I can feel my legs giving out, and my feet bleeding as I leave a trail of lifeless blood behind. The barren land collides with my tender childish feet and I feel it screaming in agony.” Edward could feel the cold grasp of death creeping up on him. “I can feel it. I can feel the cold. I can feel it piercing through my skin and holding my heart hostage. I feel its mighty winds tearing apart the land beneath my very feet. For a second, I feel like I’m flying, walking on air. However, I don’t feel the elation that freedom often brings with it, all I feel is misery, regret, pain, and my legs begging me to stop and give in.” He keeps forcing his legs to work but eventually, they snap like twigs, leaving him at the mercy of the raging tornado. He feels the frigid cold as the tornado stops dead in its tracks. Edward tries to observe this unnatural phenomenon but a bright light bars him from doing so. He covers his eyes with his palms instinctively but a different kind of pain settles in. His cold skin melts away; the brittle bones, turn liquid; he feels every bit of it and he begs for mercy but this unknown force of nature turned a deaf ear to his pleas. The light shined brighter then ever and Edward caught a glimpse of the source of the scorching heat, a demonic smile, chaos birthing more chaos. The formation of something spectacularly horrifying right before his eyes as the soul melts like the flesh and the tears are lost in the rain.


Edward wakes up in a pool of his own sweat, sleeping on the cold floor of his hut. Five years. Five years of uninterrupted nightmares, a boy at the mercy of his own demons. He wipes his face with the palm of his hand and pulls himself up before his mother could see him like this. He brushed off the nightmare as just another dream but deep down he was too embarrassed to admit that he hasn’t moved on. How can he? He was just a boy. An unsuspecting child. A childhood snatched away from him by mother nature’s caring hand that breeds unforgiving forces. He grabbed his sickle and rushed past his mother, obstructing her from a glimpse of her tired and humiliated firstborn. “Moriah needs more attention.” He thinks as he slams the door behind him, leaving his mother in the company of his toddler sister……. Just a boy.


“Why do you always have to try sneaking past me, boy?” “Why do you always have to be perched on my doorstep?” the old man smelt of dung and dust, “As dirty as his soul.” Edward thinks to himself as he helps the old man onto his feet. The duo venture towards the rice fields, Edward escorting the blind yet sharp old man through the crowded ruins of their once esteemed village. The village never healed from that god-forsaken tornado. They were too scared. What’s the point of building if another disaster just sends it crashing back to the ground again? Every way you turn, you’d find paranoia slowly eating away at their souls. The children were no exception. There was a time when they’d play with the empty shells of watermelons. It was nonsensical, but they found great joy and comfort in it. Now those, makeshift playgrounds are deserted and the watermelons play with themselves as they tumble due to the might of the roaring winds. Edward remembers. Edward remembers those simpler times. The times when the streets were crowded and his people danced around a bonfire every Saturday to celebrate some “benevolent” god. Benevolent. That word would make him lose his temper. How can God be benevolent, if he tortures his sons and daughters like this? “Help! Help me!” “This would’ve been a lot easier for the both of us if you just gave us the bag!” “Never.” The child grunted, refusing to surrender to the blows of his seniors, but how long could he survive? The sharp cries for help snapped Edward out of his self-imposed exile from the present he should thrive in. He noticed the heinous crime coming to life in front of him, but something even more haunting was accompanying it. Edward kept walking in the other direction, escorting the old man, his ears ringing violently and his palms sweating profusely. “Edward-“ “Not now, Victor.” “Then when?” Victor didn’t need eyes to notice the reluctance clouding Edward’s face. He displayed a heartbroken smile of his own as the helpless old-timer was being dragged away from an opportunity to do good. A heartbroken smile resonated with that of a particular man wearing indigo slippers as he observed the greatest crime of all, purposeful ignorance.


“It was him. It was him.” Edward was paralyzed by the memory of the past he wants to forget. He tried to cloud his mind and decided to slash away at the crops with his sickle, trying to overload his body to distract his mind. His soul felt anxious, his heart ached, and his face was a pale-ish red. He wanted to pay heed to the malarkey that the other farmers often indulged themselves in but he couldn’t get the image of that man out of his head. “Indigo slippers. Indigo slippers. It was him.” He continues to chant subconsciously. He can feel his muscles bulging, nearly breaking through his skin, his fragile legs trembling under the weight of the sickle, the world before his eyes losing its distinctiveness as his eyes close and his body tumbles to the ground.


Edward jolts awake. “Watch it, kid!” a bystander says as he walks past him. Edward looks around aimlessly before realizing that he was sleeping in the middle of the street but something’s not right. Actually, no. Everything is perfect! The streets are crowded, they breathe life. A couple of kids bumped into him while playing their silly little games. “Sorry!” they said with the enthusiastic energy of a hummingbird. They giggled. They weren’t giggles of a long-forgotten past, this is real. Edward can feel it. It has to be real. He needs it to be real. He toils around purposelessly, merely feeling the exuberance of the life that was snatched away from him. He wants to throw his hands into the air and dance with the twittering birds, oblivious to the murmuring in the crowd. That aperture in his heart was being filled with an unparalleled sense of relief and appreciation. He trots around the village like a horse, bumping into others, and causing discomfort to the residents of the crowded street but nothing could stop him now, nothing could stop him from living his reality to the fullest. Nothing except one man. Edward bumped into a lean-figured individual. The collision was hard enough to snap him out of his flow. “Oh! I’m so sorry.” He extends a helping hand. All it took was one glance at the face of his companion to turn the firm and steady hand into a pale and fragile one. “It’s really no big deal. I appreciate your enthusiasm. Not a lot of people really enjoy what we have, who knows what tomorrow has in stock for us, right?” the man replied with a joyous chuckle. Edward wasn’t amused but he couldn’t help but crack a smile as tears welled up in his lively eyes. “Dad?” “Excuse me?” he chuckled nervously, but Edward knew it was him. The long nose, the spectacles barely hanging onto his head, the lean giant that he was, it was him. Edward didn’t ask any further questions and hugged the man with all he had as he started to wail in his arms. Edward’s father, such a kind soul. He didn’t know who this was but that didn’t stop him from petting his head and whispering into his ears repeatedly, “It’s alright. It’s alright…” Edward didn’t have any control over his emotions, yet he felt calm. For a brief moment, he found serenity between anger and frustration even though it wouldn’t last for long. As he was crying into his father’s chest, he could feel the warmth of the Sun wither away, giving rise to the dreadful winds. The repeated assurance by his father turned desperate. The tears of joy gave way to untamable fear. It was no dream. It wasn’t reality either. This was the stuff of nightmares and for a second Edward asked himself, “Is this hell?”. Reluctantly, his father runs towards the tornado brewing around the other side of town. “No! Not again! I won’t let you!” Edward rushes behind his father, tears streaming down his face. He keeps begging him to stop, he begs and begs and begs but his father won’t stop running. A tree comes crashing down, separating the two, and slowing Edward down. Time keeps slipping away. “This can’t be it. It can’t end like this. Not again.” Painful thoughts racing through his mind but it’s too late, 5 years too late. The tornado calmed down, and from the ashes rose a dark figure. “He….He’s alive!!” Edward convinces himself of this beautiful lie but his world comes shattering down when he notices nothing but a frail old man, the one who cursed humanity, and thought nothing good could ever sprout from it. Edward refuses to believe this. He rushes past the man, and for a second, he notices the tears in his eyes too. Edward rummages through the rubble in vain. Nothing. Nothing. Gone. Forever. Victor places his hand over his shoulder. “I’m sorry.” He whispers. Edward kept working and didn’t stop for a second. “He’s gone, son.” “I’ll believe that when I see his body.” “Please, listen to me.” Victor’s voice cracked. Edward paid no heed to him. He didn’t listen to a single word but there it was, proof. He held it in his hand as he tried to suppress the tears. “Lies. This isn’t real.” “I’m sorry.” “Why? Why did he have to save you?” Victor remained quiet, struggling to catch the breath that was slipping through the cracks of his heart. “They’re just slippers. Could be anyone’s.” Edward says to himself but he knew full well about the heritage of these slippers, for they weren’t any ordinary slippers. Indigo. They were indigo slippers. His father’s favorite color. It was his, and that’s when reality and the dreamscape merged.


“Edward? Edward! You okay?” the voices seemed so distant. He felt a cold sensation, tiny drops. He woke up screaming as a bucket of ice-cold water was dumped on him in a last-ditch effort to help him regain consciousness. The other farmers were surrounding him. “Hey. Take a break, kiddo. Alright? We’ll have Victor substitute for you.” One of his accomplices whispered into the caring farmer’s ear. “Victor? Seriously? Old man can’t do anything even if his life depended on it.” “You got a better idea? Enlighten me.” He pulled out a cigarette and offered Edward one. With the little strength that he had, he declined the offer and was dragged towards the shade by a couple of his fellow farmers. Edward waited in the shade, waiting to regain his strength. He kept holding on to his pocket, fiddling with something residing in its deepest corners. He keeps fiddling on and on as he stares blankly at Victor, struggling to pick up a sickle let alone get some work done. He didn’t need his full strength, he was hurt, heartbroken, and lost, and it all stems from that man. Edward got up to his feet, struggling to walk like a newborn child, and approached Victor with unfiltered rage in his eyes. “WHY?” “Excuse me?” “Why you? You’re a cynic. A cold, frustrated, and purposeless cynic. All you do is complain. Complain about others. Complain about yourself. Not doing one thing to change any of it. Why you?” Victor let out a weak chuckle. “Fantastic. Bravo. I haven’t heard a more contradictory statement. So right you are for a boy your age, yet such a one-note hypocrite…..” Edward lost his balance a little. He didn’t expect a fight back from the old man. “….All of those wonderful points yet all of them stuck in the past we work so hard to forget.” “Why did my father have to save you? He was nobler than you could ever be!” “I asked myself for a long long time, this same exact question. I don’t have an answer, but you’re not here for one. You’re here to win. To prove to me that I will always be worthless…...” Victor smiled and returned to his duties. “…Perhaps, you can convince yourself that he was a man who believed in what we CAN be, not what we ARE.” “One event doesn’t change anyone.” Victor burst out laughing at this comment. “You make me laugh, boy! That was the most authentic laugh I’ve let out in years!” Victor wiped his tears, continuing to laugh. “What’s so funny?” “You! You are the living example of how an event can change a person. A singular event! Don’t you remember that young, vibrant little boy that used to roam the streets content with just a rubber tire and a stick? No. You want to bury that child within you. The worst part is that it’s not even your fault.” “It’s yours.” “No. This is the work of the benevolence that we worship.” “How typical. Blaming God for your mistakes?” “What mistake? Existing?” Victor dropped his sickle. “Tell me, I want to know. Why do you think I’m cold? Because I’m purposeless?” Victor spread his arms, showing Edward the very field that they are standing in. “This is my purpose. It’s not a lot. I can’t do a lot. But, it’s honest work. I help whenever I can. I help because your father taught me a better way of living. Try again. Why am I cold?” Edward fell silent. He tried to fight the tears. He couldn’t believe that he was losing this argument. He was fine with loss, just not now. Not this argument. “You’re the man of the house now, Edward. What happens if another storm blows us all away? Are you going to stand and nod? Are you going to stay quiet and fight the tears? Or are you going to live up to his legacy and fight? Fight for yourself, fight for your family, fight for us all?” Edward maintained silence. Victor sighed. “You know why I think YOU are cold, boy? All this time, you’re so focused on money, food, clothes, shelter, and whatnot. Of course, they’re necessary, but when was the last time you talked to your mother about that night?” “Shut up. You have no right.” “Oh, yes? When did you last pamper your sister to sleep when she cried for you?” “I said stop.” “When did YOU last fight that tornado instead of running away from it?” “Shut up!” the words echoed throughout the field, capturing everyone’s attention. “Where’s the compass?” “What?” “Your father’s last gift. Where is it?” “It’s a broken compass. Why do you care?” “You keep that compass close to you, always carrying it in your pocket, but you’ve never used it have you?” Edward was tongue-tied. Victor returned to his work as he heard the rage-fueled receding footsteps. He shouts, “The compass was never broken, boy!” Victor realized that Edward had no interest in further conversation, “It heals.” He says to himself as he returns to torturing his frail old body for the betterment of his people.


Feeling defeated, Edward set out to explore the village in search of a distraction. His spirits needed to be lifted. He needed to pretend that his strolling around was important. He needed to pretend because he knew that he was the one without any larger-than-life purpose. He pulled out his untrustworthy compass and blindly followed its direction. He often found himself strolling in circles but then the occasional bully would pop up, accompanied by his father’s spirit, as they would mercilessly prey on the vulnerable, and poor Edward had no choice but to watch with a tormented soul that refused to move on. Occasionally, his subconscious would scream “No more!” and he would extend a helping hand before quickly withdrawing it before everyone could see the haunting uncertainty in his trembling hands and slippery palms. All he could think of was the burning image of that heartbroken smile that won’t leave him alone. “What am I doing wrong? Why can’t you let go of me?” attempts to convince himself that he wasn’t the one holding on to a distant memory, all in vain. Tired and lost, Edward eventually found the compass to be pointing towards him. He turned around and realized what the compass was trying to communicate. Roaring flames and choking smoke rise into the sky. People run away, panicking, wailing, and chaos all around in the blink of an eye but only one name parted his lips. “Victor.” The source of these hellish flames…. was the rice field.


“No! No! Stop running! We need to put out the fire!” “Victor you, old fool! What are you doing? You need to run!” “Not this time, boy! Not this time.” Victor rushed in with his frail hands carrying bucket loads of water. The fire kept roaring in front of Edward. His eyes felt the familiar scorching heat of the chaotic smile from his dreams. He contemplated his decision to stay and help Victor but he couldn’t let the old man die like this. The duo tried their level best to put out the fire by dumping water on it as frequently as possible but it kept raging on. An unstoppable force clashing with the immovable resilience of the seemingly fragile old-timer. Edward started to think about his mother and his sister, “Are they safe? Should I be looking after them? Mother’s capable enough. But what if she isn’t?” the thoughts crowded his mind as he filled the buckets and returned trotting towards Victor but it was too late. Victor had succumbed to the choking smoke and he lay unconscious, letting out little moans of distress and heartbreak as the flames prepared to feast on him. For a moment, everything stood still. The panic quieted down. The screams became faint. Edward looked at Victor’s dying body with fear, fear of letting him down as well. He wanted to scream for help but no one would respond, why would they? They have their own lives to worry about. He stared at Victor’s soul leaving his body slowly and painfully and the ringing in his ears sharpened for before him stood, in the middle of that hellscape, standing over Victor, that same heartbroken smile, those same pair of indigo slippers. Edward clenched his fist and stared directly at his father. With a final breath of fresh air and a spiritual leap of faith, the youngster rushed into the battlefield. He struggled against the flames, his skin burning a little here and there. The smoke choking the life out of him, making him feel dizzy, and making his father seem almost real. Oh, how badly he wanted to be reunited with his father. How terribly he craved it. Yet it wasn’t meant to be, for his destiny wasn’t to succumb to these flames but to overcome them with his newfound will and sense of purpose. He could feel his skin peeling off little by little, the fabric of his clothes mingling with the soft yet fatal infernal touches. With the little strength that he had remaining, he dragged Victor, failing to find the energy to lift him in his arms. The modest rice field felt like an Olympic race track with no end in sight. Yet, Edward kept pushing forward. He had to push forward. For his mother, his sister, Victor, his father, and most importantly, his own guilt and uncertainty-ridden soul. After toiling for what seemed to be eons, Edward felt the breeze of fresh air once again and immediately collapsed, struggling to catch his breath.


“Why?” the faint question woke Edward up from a deep slumber. “Victor? Oh god! You are alive! I thought you were done for!” both of their faces were scarred with dust, soot, and burns but underneath it all, lay two hearts. One happy with himself while the other tries to see the best in this tragic circumstance. “Why did you save me? You said it yourself. I’m nothing. Purposeless. So, why did you save me?” Edward was startled! “I-I don’t know.” “No. No. I know you know it, son.” Edward looked at his companion with confused glances as tears began to shed, slipping past his wrinkled eyelids. “Please tell me I did good…” he continued. “…..Please tell me I kept my promise.” “What? What promise?” “Your father…” Victor’s voice cracked. “…He made me promise. To look after you. To make sure that you don’t follow the path of inglorious cowards. To make sure that you know when to step up and do what’s right. He knew he’d never survive. Some things are greater than the noblest of men, but he chose for his legacy to live on. THAT…..that not even the Gods can kill. Please, Edward. Tell me I kept my promise. Tell me what you felt deep inside your heart.” Edward’s heartfelt contradicting emotions. A part of him was shattered completely while the other started to rebuild with the adhesive nature of hope. His lips parted as he began to narrate, trying his best to not choke on the tears and pain. “I felt cold. The same sharp coldness I felt all those years ago. It came back to me. It strengthened its grip on me. I waited, Victor. I waited for the scorching heat that burns me in my dreams. I could feel the flames crawling up my skin. I could feel them burning me little by little but, I felt something….grander. I felt a warm heavenly light. I felt it brushing over me, choking out the frigid cold. That light. I swear Victor, it belonged to hope, faith, and the childhood that I never had. It belonged to whatever good still remains in this world. It belonged to my father.” Victor smiled with tears embracing his cheeks as both of them stared emptily at their hard work being burned to the ground. Edward looks towards the horizon, away from the flames that destroyed his empire, choosing to focus on the prospects of building a new one. However, standing near the horizon was the man who started it all, this time with a bright fulfilling smile as he began to walk away from his son. “No. Wait.” Edward said as he rose to his feet and chased after him. “Don’t go! Please! I need you!” he was already out of breath but it didn’t matter. “I can’t let you go again! Please! Come back!” he saw his father turning around to take one last look at his son. The son he was never there to raise, the son who allowed him to die a happy man, even though it was against that very son’s wishes. Edward almost caught up with him, chanting continuously, begging him to stay, and for a second, he saw a tear in his father’s eye as he smiled and merged with the silver moonlight. “No!” he screamed as he collapsed. “I can’t…..I can’t do this without you. Please.” He whispered. He felt the cold growing once again, waiting for that raging storm to consume him like it always has but this time he felt a firm warm hand placed gently on his shoulder. “I have to stay strong.” He whispered to himself. “No, boy. You did that before. It never helped. The strength of a man is determined always by how true he is to himself.” Edward burst into tears and hugged Victor, finding closure to his unresolved grief. “I could see,” Victor said to himself as he realized that his blindness was merely restricted to his sense of purposelessness. No matter how blind he may be, the sense of purpose and its scent will always draw him to where he is needed.


“Oh! My boy where were you? I was worried sick!” the mother didn’t waste a second in hugging her son as soon as he walked past the door. She whimpered and stuttered, relief trying to wash out the fear that had taken control of her. “I thought- I thought-“ “It doesn’t matter, Ma. I’m alright. I’m fine.” “These burns….” It didn’t take her long to understand the true nature of his whereabouts. “Ma. Seriously. They’re nothing. For once, I truly feel fine.” Edward’s attention diverted from his mother’s tears to the muffled cries coming from his sister’s room. He tip-toed and sat next to her, trying his best not to wake her up. It had been so long that he almost forgot how to comfort her but some actions become instinctive no matter how much we try to distance ourselves from them. In this case, it was Edward’s natural instinct of comforting others, inherited from his father, buried for far too long. His mother smiled watching him run his hands gently through Moriah’s hair and softly singing into her ear. It was magical! No matter how hard she tried she could never make Moriah fall asleep, moreover, keep her safe from her nightmares. Edward, on the other hand, mastered it and retained that loving and caring touch of his which remained dormant for half a decade, facing extinction. Moriah slept like a baby after uncountable sleepless nights, all thanks to her brother finding his purpose in the people who gave him the strength to keep moving. However, Edward’s work wasn’t done just yet.


“Ma?” “Yes, Edward?” she quickly wiped the tears away to protect her boy from the bitter truth. The bitter truth of how she had to conform, pretend to be strong like all mothers do while her heart remained broken just like Edward’s. She underestimated her child for sons share a rather special bond with their mothers and a mere veil portraying a smile is never enough to keep them from learning the truth. “Ma, are you okay?” “Yes. Yes. I just…” she looked at her son, the man that he had become. A part of her smiled with all the joy in the world while the other part was haunted further. “…I just miss him so much and today. I look at you and I think of the man he was. The man that you are becoming and it breaks my heart. I just can’t do this again, Edward.” She rested her shaking head and on the tabletop, trying to resist the tears but all the effort continued to be in vain. “I can’t lose you too, Eddie. I can’t lose you too.” She whispered weakly as she felt her son’s comforting palm rubbing her back, healing her heart and soul by some unknown sorcery. This touch. This touch of love, compassion, and care had been absent from her life for so long that she felt apprehensive about this strange feeling. This sense of healing. “I’m sorry, Ma.” “No. No! Don’t say that! You have nothing to be sorry about.” “I do, Ma. I left you alone. We shared the same roof but we never talked to each other. We never talked about that night. You didn’t have anyone to listen to your woes, how much you miss him, how much we changed. I left you in the dark, Ma and that’s my fault. I can’t possibly imagine how abandoned you must’ve felt. I’m so sorry.” Edward wrapped his hands around his trembling mother, somehow helping her return to stability with a sense of belonging, with the realization that a roof doesn’t make a home, family does. The person you return to every night after toiling does. Home isn’t a building made of bricks, it’s always a person. “What now? The crops are all gone.” It felt as if they were surrounded. You heal spiritually and you face the wrath of the real world almost instantaneously. “It’s fine. We will build again but this time we won’t fall.” “How so?” she smiled childishly at her son’s determined eyes. “Disasters will strike again and again. Today it’s a fire, tomorrow it may be a tsunami. The only reason we never rebuilt since the tornado is because we weren’t ready to move on. The tears we shed now, Ma, I promise you, they will build the foundations of our new empire. We may lose in front of these mighty calamities but we will never die. We won’t survive anymore, Ma…..” Edward hugged his mother tightly and they both closed their eyes, enjoying each other’s company after an extensive period of time as he finished his sentence. “….We will thrive.” No longer a boy.


The flames were still managing to burn brightly, killing the crops, and choking the birds passing by, and watching it all was little Edward and his trusty compass. Edward played with the compass, thinking about his father’s last act, thinking about how his father is truly gone forever. He was unable to distinguish between satisfaction and disappointment. It hurts to keep holding on. It hurts to play with this compass. It hurts to watch its needle go crazy. Edward needed to move on. He needed this to end. He got up to his feet, his hands firmly gripping the compass, the flames in front of him begging to take a souvenir with them. He hurled his hand backward, breath shaking, arm suddenly trembling. “I have to let go.” He fails to release the compass as he crashes down to the ground with a sharp exhale. The compass falls before him, rolling in the grass, reminding him of his father’s childish cheerfulness. Edward reached for the compass with uncertain hands, failing to grasp it a couple of times, unsure of what he will do with it. “Cast it into the fire with your past!” screams his brain. “Keep it with you. Keep a piece of the past that defines you. Don’t forget your roots. Don’t forget who you are!” screamed his heart and soul in retaliation. Edward opened the compass, having a good look at the spinning needle. Spinning and spinning and spinning before coming to an abrupt stop as if it had a voice of its own and wanted to choose its destiny….and it chose Edward. Edward closed the compass and with teary eyes pressed it close to his chest as goosebumps wreaked havoc on his skin. His moral compass had a direction, his spirit had a goal, his body had a purpose, and his heart was being mended but a part of them all continued to feel a little broken. Perhaps, it isn’t the undying bitterness or the unwavering compassion that makes us human. In a perfect world, maybe. Perhaps, it’s the flaws in the goodness of our being, the gaps in our spiritual constitution that truly complete us.


THE END.


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