By Kathy Anne Wang
Discussed: Domestic violence
Because of a bad storm, the power went out, and my friends and I told ghost stories to each other. It was one story that warped my young, naive perception of class and wealth.
It was around eleven in the morning when the skies began to darken, and Sun barreled through the door, late again to the party. I caught a glimpse of the clouds looming in the background as the door swung open, its gray a sharp contrast against the red-tiled roofs of the houses lined on the horizon. Mei looked at me and shook her head as I grinned and waved Sun over, patting the open seat next to me.
It was normal for Sun’s feet to be soiled, his clothes unkempt, and his hair free and wild, tousled and teased by the unrelenting wind that seemed to terrorize only him. With an unfaltering smile on his sauce-stained face, Sun embodied his name—he was the happiest boy I knew. His late ah-ma often said he came out of the womb smiling.
As Mei fussed over Sun, helping him rebutton his lopsided shirt, I glanced out the window again as the clouds moved even closer. Now, only slivers of the sky peeked out from one seemingly large mass of black clouds. Mei got one last scolding in when I turned off the small cable television my ah-ye negotiated for at the pawn shop, the warbling of the cartoon show coming to an abrupt halt.
Sun poked me, his smile spreading wider. I grinned back, even though I wasn’t quite sure what we were smiling about. He had that natural effect on people around him.
“Hey, don’t turn that off. I was about to watch it with you!”
Mei beat me to a response. She huffed out something about Sun always being late and never watching the show with us anyway, but the roar of the rain drowned out Sun’s response. We looked at each other, crap, and bolted to shut the windows and fetch the buckets to catch the water that dripped from the sagging spots on the ceiling.
Sun collapsed on the floor just as he placed down the last bucket, his chest rapidly rising and falling. Mei and I struggled to catch our breath too, and I collapsed next to him, my short and stubby legs unable to hold me up for much longer either. Mei sat down next to us, wiping her sweat-clad forehead. For a long time, we listened to the thunder crash and the ground shake, waiting until our breaths slowly returned to normal. Sun broke the silence first.
I thought for a bit, then said, “not much we could do in the dark.” Mei hummed in agreement, then got back up and disappeared into the dark, presumably to get some candles. I snuggled closer to Sun, my eyelids drooping.
“We should tell scary stories,” Sun whispered. “I’ll start.”
Mei returned and shook her head, setting down the candle. Lightning flashed, illuminating the room briefly.
“There once was a very old woman, who lived on the top of Falling Moon Hill…”
When Sun finished his story, he crossed his arms and pretended to fake-shiver. Seeing the unperturbed faces of both Mei and me, he pouted, uncrossing his arms.
“Hey! At least pretend to be scared.”
I laughed and nudged him with my elbow. “Who’d be scared of talking frogs, other than you?” Mei chimed in, teasing him with scaredy-cat.
I wanted to go next, so I started. “Not long ago, my father told me this story…”
“…but not a single person lived there,” I said, trailing off. I glanced at Sun’s face as my story came to an end, who was as white as a sheet and pale as a ghost. His little arms tightly latched on to Mei, and he burrowed his feet into the blankets.
“That was so scary!” he cried out, still holding on to Mei. My eyes flickered over to Mei’s face, but the only thing discernable about her indifferent expression—and you really had to look–was the small quirk of her lips upwards. Now was my turn to pout.
“This is one of my scariest stories,” I loudly complained, snuggling deeper into Mei as well. “Nothing ever scares you, Mei.”
A couple of beats skipped, and Mei said,
“Since you two are all done, it should be my turn right?”
“My story starts with a small boy who lives in a big house with two very loving parents.
“Anything he wants, he gets. A new shirt even when it’s not New Year’s? Easy. A new toy even if it’s not his birthday? Done. A new dog even when he has two others? Of course.”
“Doesn’t sound much like a horror story to me,” Sun quipped, and I shushed him, watching Mei. This was the rare time she didn’t scold Sun for interrupting her.
“But what the boy wanted most of all was something that couldn’t come true. Even if he wished day and night and got calluses on his knees from kneeling, no one would grant his wish.
“You see, this little boy lived with a monster. This monster only came to his house when all the birds outside stopped chirping; when you could hear a feather fall onto the floorboards, when you were hiding deep in your blankets, hoping you could fall asleep before it came home.
“This monster was very mean. He would yell insults at the little boy’s mother and then stomp up the stairs to catch the little boy. The little boy would always pretend to be asleep, so he could avoid the monster, but when the monster left, his room would reek of alcohol. And even though the little boy did his best to air out the room, the bitter aftertaste never left his nose or mouth.
“The little boy is a good boy. He could never ask his parents to get rid of the monster.”
When Mei finished her story, tears were rolling down Sun and I’s faces. Sun wailed loudly and buried himself in Mei’s arms, and Mei’s shoulders were drenched in my tears. Only, she didn’t sigh exasperatedly. She waited simply for Sun and me to stop crying, but we couldn’t until many, many minutes later when the clouds lifted and the sun tiptoed back in. When the sun’s rays filled the room and hit our faces, I noted Mei’s tear-stained face. Our hearts ached for her. The darkness of the room enveloped us in a strange kind of comfort—safety from the rain, warmth from friends, and the gentle lullaby of rain pitter-pattering into the buckets we placed down. I yawned, ready to drift into dreamland.
The epiphany personal essay workshop inspired this piece, along with my cultural roots.
Kathy Wang is a passionate and loving idealist. She romanticizes staying home to write during snowy weather. She loves hot chocolate, strawberry croissants and a good historical romance.