The totems coruscate with the tints of amethyst, ruby, canary and emerald and a lot more that the spectrum of colours can expand to. Every colour is ablaze with emotions and tells the stories of not happy families and evergreen love stories, but tales of traumatic memories and catastrophic plot twists that are discarded and wished to wash away with the azure tides of the sea that recede and fade away, never to splash its feet on withering rocks and giggling children.
Fauna hands a claret totem over to a customer that wishes his charcoal memories bombarded with iridescent ones instead. He’s dealt with deaths of too many loved ones; they’ve tainted his sanity ebony. Darkness and atrocities are what all scarper from.
“Jackass!” Fauna hollers at a customer who lunges over the counter hoping to get hands on a totem that doesn’t have his mark on it, “you, especially, will never get yours. Now back off.”
In a world where crime runs unrestrained and cops take thirty-six hours to get to the scene, sometimes forgetful of a pending interrogation, only a handful scurry toward the good, and there are a majority who shred down the morality built and structured for centuries on an end.
Gladys, the workplace manager, approaches Fauna’s desk in haste, her heels click on the marbled floor, like teeth that clatter in the piercing cold. “Dear, my son’s fallen sick, and I’ve to tend to him. I’m sorry for leaving you here on your first day.” Fauna nods and smiles like vibrant daisies that withstand the harsh weather. What could happen? Another outburst from desperate customers? It isn’t rare, and she knows how to fend them off.
“It’s nothing. Take your time.” With a squeeze of her hand, Gladys exits and she reclines on her chair, taking regular sips from her Boba tea.
Outside, pale shaved ice clothes the signboard that reads Totems of Fresh Memories like white fairy beings. Snow obscures the roof as if on a mission to make it look winter wonderland chic. In the array of frozen blooms, the air kisses the lungs so cool. In a moment, the world becomes a snow globe; one of the Christmas ornaments children love to shake and watch the snowflakes swirl in unseen currents. Fauna watches the crisp blizzard from her desk as the whitewashed landscape falls into companionable placidity.
She doesn’t leave the building, for she’s stuck in the deranged blizzard; she could’ve left with Gladys, but the files can’t write and sign themselves. The files contain the documents of customers that ask for fresh memories and the totem they depart with. They are copious with the same type of memory they wish to shut out, but keep surging to taunt them for their misery — childhood trauma and abuse. The horrors that live in them watch them ignite in a pyre and incinerate until the dun ashes waft away along with the wind.
In the moments of boredom, Fauna is an ancient ship upon the vermilion sea, sails blithely, relaxed upon the mast. Now that she’s organized every file before time, her hands are vacant; she could try to move out of the building and rush to her house, but something else captures her mind and in fact, she’ll be alone even if she heads back home. She eyes the door that leads to a staircase coiling upstairs. It’s a floor that allows only the hard-hearted staff members from exploring. They say if anybody other than the designated members sneak up, there’s always a sense of distress that infiltrates them, but she knows what lives on it — the repudiated memories.
She’d taken up this job for her only hope: to find what happened to her lamented husband. Everybody had asked her why she took on this profession.
“I want to help people bury their horrifying memories and sow seeds of a new life.” She’d said, but flinched inwardly because none of it laced with veracity and she felt regression pin down on her. She felt selfish. The past, unfortunately, was immutable.
Upon days of contemplation, she surrendered on wanting to avenge Lorcan’s death; they’d said his death resulted from a sudden heart attack, but what Fauna had concealed with such certainty was that she’d caught an excruciating wound that painted a plum galaxy on the canvas of his abdomen the day he counted his last heartbeat in the hospital. It petrified her of what other terrors his body had to exhibit. In gloaming, she found brightness; an inky wall on which a hole marred it. A tiny hole that was a pinprick of hope. Fauna would have to shatter the wall with the axe that was her belief and reach out to hope that twinkled with a flickering intensity.
Fauna winds up the staircase, cognizant of the unsure, but oblivious of what was about to happen. Ahead of her, an enormous hall rolls out, waning out into the tenebrosity; doors of various sizes and colours hang midway in the air, suspended by nothing but sheer force of invisible strings of air. A prominent feature of the hall: the doors glide up and down, left to right, like fantastical elevators. Fauna stops in front of an albino door, strangely covered in a dirty-grey streak.
a wild tale
an innocent face.
The words, in cursive, line across the door.
The flash emitting from it almost blinds her as she takes a tentative step into it.
The flash evaporates, and she finds herself in a room. A chuckle resounds behind her and she snaps her head toward the source, but it’s dark. A shriek escapes her lips when a little boy walks past her, unacknowledged of her presence. She extends her hand out toward him, but it stabs right through his lean body. He can’t see or sense her. Fauna follows the boy when a man appears into thin air and strikes him in the face. The boy collapses on the ground and the man vanishes, a woman emerging out of nowhere. She rushes to the boy and wraps him in a warm swaddle of her chest and arms. The warmth that swims around him, vanquishes the agony of five years. If only he could stay in her arms forever. That way the beast would never dare lay hands on the adolescent.
The puncturing flash reinstates, and when it diminishes, Fauna’s back in the hall. She nictates her eyes and adjusts to whatever happened just a few seconds ago. The other doors tempt her so much, she enters almost every in sight, and comes back learning about every battered memory people have left behind. Every colour has an emotion in it, but it’s a twisted story to tell.
they both loved
each other, but
it was never
The burgundy door narrates the story of a destroyed adoration. The intimacy between two men, shamed upon and endangered by the uncanny eyes of the society.
has their demons
and he wants
to run away
Fauna steps into a midnight door, and everything is dark. But with adequate light from an unknown source, she sees something that knocks the breath out of her: in front of her, is her Lorcan lifeless on the ground while a man hovers over him, a crimson knife in hand.
“I… I can’t keep up with this anymore. You guys know what sin you’re committing, don’t you?”
“Your opinion isn’t required here, Brother. Be loyal to the cult or behead yourself. Will you do it? Kill yourself like those who lose faith in the cult?”
“That’s not the point. What if the other professors get to know we’ve killed Lorcan? Can’t afford that, can you?”
“Remain a Brother or take the steps, Conláed.”
“How about neither…”
Conláed, guilty of his past, wishes to forget his memories. Not only victims of brutality, but even sinners, repulse at the thought of affliction. Lorcan, one professor, had witnessed a sacrifice within the school premises and when he objected, Conláed’s Elder demanded his life. Fauna bolts out of the door and crumples to the ground, her lips quaver and eyes water.
Fauna sprints downstairs and shuffles through the crumbling files, flipping through pages to look for the guy. A spark of relief catches in her eyes when Conláed tops a list of names. His address, his phone number, everything is mentioned beside the name.
Once again, Fauna can avenge her husband. And when she finds a pleasant rhythm and realises what to do and how; when a pathway emerges to the goals of her heart, she feels relieved.