Saturday, December 15, 2007

Between Gold and God

Both of them were popular and famous. Both were adored, highly looked upon, favoured by many, company enjoyed by all. He was smart and witty, good looks and height. She was the princess many desired to be, the beauty with the brawns. A match made in heaven, friends agreed. Simply perfect, the others chimed.

And both of them were debaters. The best in the college and state. Representing their college at national and international tournaments, they were more often than not paired together in the same team. The chemistry between them is simply amazing, almost magical. Where one compliments the other, and each one a master of their own field. He reads widely and is knowledgeable in a wide spectrum of motions, she is quick and her mind spins without making her dizzy. The golden pair of the college, even debaters from foreign land know of their partnership on and off the debate arena.

Beneath still waters there will always currents that those who admire the still surface will never see. Currents, precisely, can never be seen. It's only felt. By those who dive into the waters of their relationship and experience the currents. The current is from him. A current of jealousy, a current of vengeance. Even towards the one he loves the most.

He was made for war and from war. Man, after all, are either made for war, if not from war. He was made for both. He's a fighter, a soldier, and he never loses. What he wants, he gets it. If not, he grabs it. In the instance if both the earlier and latter fails, he fights for it. His fuel is not motivation or determination, and certainly not the desire to be better. It is the green in his eyes that burns with anger of being the loser, fury that pushes him to never lose.

The thing that he'll never understand, is why she would be getting higher speaker scores than him. While he's the one that strategizes their case, trashes out the points and spearheads their team, she was getting the greater glory than him. After every debate, the praises heaped on her far exceeded those he could remember. Adjudicators speak highly of her, and in contrast of him.

What's wrong? He asked. Was it that he was lesser charming than her? Was it because her voice sounded much sweeter than his?

He was angry. Frustrated.


And jealousy, like poison, seeped into his blood. Carrying the venom into the deepest chambers of his heart, he turned love into hatret, allowed passion for debates to evolve into a competition of who's the better speaker. He distanced away from her, secretly doing 'training' of his own, furiously reading up as much as he could, so one day he could beat her in the arena again.

Then I'll be invincible! The edges of his lips curved into an evil looking smile. Wiping it away quickly, afraid that anyone would see it, he turned back to his books.

There was, however, one particular thing that really left him peculiar. She never spent that much time in training, or engaging in debates, or reading. Instead she spent most of her time in church activities. She was a worship leader - an awesome singer with the voice of an angel - and a musician at the same time. She invited him to church before, and he enjoyed the service. Soon he was part of the worship team - he too was a musician by training - and they enjoyed worshipping together.

Until the venom striked. He started to utilize church time for reading and training. He taught that those lost time in church can be replaced back after he wins a tournament. Besides, he'll be in the college for a while - what's the big deal of skipping church for 2 months?

Days before the Worlds debate, which was the largest debate tournament in the world, the college held its selection competition. He did his best, he was proud at his performance, but the results sent shivers to his spine.

Your points were utterly disappointing. Almost irrelevant
Were brought forth by the opening houses, no new extensions presented
We sensed a slight shaft in your case

His scores fell even below some of his juniors'. He fell from the usual top team to almost the last team, barely making the cut. She on the other hand, was comfortably at the top. This time, another guy took his spot.

He couldn't accept it. He was fuming. How could he have beaten me?

It was by God's grace, that both her and his team made it to the semi-finals. His partner, though junior, wasn't as bad as what he expected. Beating tougher opponents from Australia and England, they were finally at the Everest of the debate arena. A first appearance in a major international tournament. Thus far, their achievement is something worth shouting about.

He, on the other hand, had an agenda in mind.

Beat her team. Trash them. Devastate them!

He turned to an evil scheme. While they were preparing their cases for their semi-finals, he sat close to their team and eavesdropped. Taking down notes as if as he was preparing his own case, he laughed in his heart knowing that his victory and her defeat was sealed. Another evil smile carved his face, and he smirked at the very thought of the looks on their faces when the results would be later announced.

And indeed, her team lost, and his won. He was jubilant. He was proud.

I did it!

Joyfully trotting past her team, he tried to be compassionate and sympathized their defeat, but he failed to somehow cover up his evil look. She look right into his eyes, and suddenly he was convicted. Fear suddenly floated from the depth of his heart, and he shivered. For a long time, he thought that he had nothing to be fearful of. And suddenly, that look from her eyes, and he was scared. Cold sweat.

Trying to walk off, an announcement came over the PA.

"Semi-finals room 1, may the opening government and the closing opposition approach the front desk to meet the adjudicators please."

It was his and her team. They both silently went up to the table. A sombre look on the face of the chief adjudicator. He was not in a mood to fool around anymore.

"You cheated didn't you?" the CA asked. I didn't! Why should I?

"We have witnesses claiming that you eavesdropped on her team while they were preparing. There's no room for forgiveness or leniency here. Your team has been disqualified and the victory goes to the opening government." Looking to her, the CA went on. "Congratulations, I'm very proud of you. You were the truly deserving winner. All the best in the finals."

The adjudicators left almost as quickly as the news were delivered. He was left, stunned. How short the victory, how hollow the win. What happened?

"I couldn't believed you actually cheated," she blurted out. He refused to look at her, but he knew that she was crying. She ran off to the toilet, her nicely straightened hair plopping up and down her back. He felt so ashamed of himself, he felt so disappointed, he felt dejected.

And all at that moment, he realized that his labour went all in vain. He was now reduced to nothing. Once the high flying and proud riding debater who partnered the girl he loved, now disqualified because he cheated. Not able to bear the burden of his shameful exit, he walked out of the debate arena and headed towards the open space.

A bonfire was set up. It was supposed to be for the grand closing ceremony later the evening. He sat there, looking at the fire, watching the sparks fly around. He grabbed a stick, poked at some ashes, and then threw it into the fire. The dry stick burned and was turned into a black carbon. He sighed. How simple can life be, yet how painful.

Burying his head into his bent knees, he sobbed. The fighter now cries, not because the pain is too great, but because he lost. Not just a defeat in the debate, but a defeat in morale and emotions. He reflected at his own action and himself. He turned into a monster, a blood-sucking creature that no longer loves even the person he was supposed to love.

Is there any hope left for me?
He silently asked.

A hand wrapped around his shoulders. It was a familiar touch, and he knew for sure. It was a touch that he could never forget, despite the fact that it now seems so foreign and alien.

"I still love you, you know," she said softly as she took her spot beside him and tightened her hands around him. "Nothing has changed that."

From behind her, she pulled out a gold trophy. He looked fondly at the gold trophy, one that he has so badly wanted to win, so badly wanted to fight for, yet failed to get it.

"I've won this, but it doesn't mean anything to me. Now you can choose, whether you want this or not." She handed the trophy to him. Something tugged him in his heart to stretch forth his arms and take it, but he refused to. It no longer was ego that held him back, it was remorse. Gold, is now meaningless.

And she threw the gold trophy into the flames, and it burned slowly. The gold resisted the heat, but soon succumbed to it. Slowly losing its original shape, the gold trophy now looked no different from the other pieces of wood burning in the flames.

"The day I picked up debate, was the day I learned that gold was in a grasp's reach," she said. "Gold, and I refused to pick it up. I never allowed it to take first place in my heart, because it already belonged to God.

"Gold and God, and I chose God. I chose Him, and with that choice came the privilege of Gold. Gold, without God, is meaningless. The 'l' between the alphabets O and D, is merely a stick, another piece of wood that eventually dries up and burns up in the flames.

But God, always remains there. Is always more valuable than Gold. That choice I made, made all the difference between me, the champion, and you, the disqualified one."

He knew that she was right all this while. He left God for the gold, he left the heaven for the world. He left, and the blessings left him to. She stayed on with God, dwelling in His presence, and the blessings just kept flowing into her life.

At that crossroad of his carrier, he made his decision. It was a makeover, and a comeback. A comeback in the debate arena - as a consequence of his cheating act, he was suspended from all international debates for 6 months - and a return to the heavenly family. He turned back to God, and with that came the blessings he longed for. Blessings he could have never received. He became a champion again, the speaker he always wanted, he once again made top rankings with her, and both of them once again worship God happily in church. The currents were dealt with, other than occasional recurrence, he is back on the track, walking down the road that was long paved for him.

From there, he learned that when the gold may seem more lucrative than God, it is, at the end of the day, only God that has the power to give the gold to anyone He wants to. Only by putting Him first, will gold come much later in life. He chose God from Gold, what would your choice be?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

And The Reyarps Fell

It was, arguably, an unusual day for an ordinary weekday. The hustle and bustle of the city remained the same. The cars, the buses, the cyclists, the pedestrians; the traffic, the jam, the long wait.

What was noticably different, was the traffic jam without the honkings and noise. Instead of staying in the make-comfort of the air conditioning of the cars, drivers and passengers started winding down their windows. Heads popped from the cars, all looking uniformly towards a similar target. One by one, people got down from their vehicles, ignoring the jams or traffics. Slowly but steadily, no heads turned, more and more congregated at Liberty Square, a huge open area in the heart of Zanotopia's capital.

The fingers pointed accurately at the number 5 on the ancient clock high on the Liberty tower. Right below it was a huge television screen, which coincidentally became the prime focus of the congregation. It was the evening news, and conventionally the screen would be telecasting live from Zan Network, the republic's premier cable.

That could probably mark a historic rate of viewers. Twenty thousand gathering in front of Liberty's screen, with millions more staring at the same time all across the nation. But it wasn't something the network wished to report. The celebration was at deficit, and the ratings were now hollow. Juxtaposting with the weight the news carried, there was almost nothing that now mattered more.

It was a nation at stake. First was images of the enemy camp in the Kalanis region, 100km away from the republic. Quickly following it was a recorded video from the enemy. Evil laughter, threats of destroying the republic with nuclear, more threats of taking all citizens as hostages and turning them slaves.

Then came the real blow.

"The reyarps, 12 of them in total, failed to infiltrate enemy's camp in a neutralization attempt." the people gasped. Caught between disbelief and shock, there were hushes and whispers all around. How could the reyarps have failed? Weren't they invincible? What happened?

Fear gripped the nation, tighter than a man choking another by the neck. National security was now at stake. The republic's sovereignity was now on the line. The reyarps were the epitome of the nation's modern defense, the elite of the elites. Now that the strongest have failed, what is left to protect them?

Even before the people have overcame their fears and anguish, yet another shocking news came.

"One of the 12 captured is the son of the General, Sergeant Reinzer, the commander and leader of the elite reyarp squad."

Dumbfounded, those watching turned to one another, with no words slipping from their lips and no questions exchanged, there was only one thing on their mind:

What's going to happen to us now?

If there was anyone who knew the whole story, who could vividly recall the events that slowly unfolded in the cells of our captivity, it would be me. This is the true story of what happened, what the reyarps went through for the next 72 hours, the struggle we endured as one nation waited in fear as hope of survival and victory slowly faded.

The Grand Finale of the Zanotopian series
-coming soon-

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Ghost

Suddenly, a tear caught my eye. I knew it wasn't the rain - couldn't even feel it - and it landed nicely on the edge of my eye. It was just a single tear, yet unmistakable. Straining to know what is going on, I held my breath, waiting for something else. And it came.

A sob. Soft, as if as she was fearful of someone overhearing that sob while passing by. Swimming into her emotions, I identified that as a struggle. She was trying to hold her tears back, so hard, yet it fell. Struggling to not cry, but she still sobbed.

I knew what needed to be done. I wasn't created with abilities to understand the human emotion without a purpose. More than just being able to understand humans, I could also move to and fro in time, into the past and the future. The power to look past the physical barriers of humans - walls, buildings, obstructions - and the power to dwell in a being that invites me in.

But somehow, I never like being what I am. Despite all these abilities I have, I will never be seen. Nobody can see me, minus the heavenly beings. Not anyone can sense my presence, though some will and had before. When I was made, I was made differently. Unlike my other 'friends' in heaven, I wasn't made with 3 pairs of wings or with a with white sparkling apparal. Only ordinary, with no shape or form, only me.

And I was often picked at.

"No wings!" Laughter. Mockery. "How is it that you're not wearing clothes?" More laughter. More mockery.

What's wrong with not having wings? What's the matter about not having a form? I am made as what I am, not what I wanted to be.

Not enjoying the company of those heavenly but rather unheavenly beings, I roamed in the Man's world. Moving between cities and nature, floating around, listening to the laughter of happy families, smiling at the cries of a new born, cheering at the victories scored by people who never gave up.

And occasionally, like in such an instance, to help wipe some tears away from a crying person.

I knew where I had to go. In no time, I was staring at that young lady. Swollen red eyes, she stared into blank space. Stains of dried tears smeared her otherwise lovely and rosy cheeks, eyes that could sparkle had it not be for the crying, and a face that no one couldn't love anymore. She was, indeed, a fine young lady. And at first sight, had almost no reason at all to even cry.

Her past was stained with the harshness of this unforgiving world. She never had enough to eat - her dad was a poor worker - and never had the love of a family - her mother died of tuberculosis while she was still little. Struggling to survive, she walked into the world of thieves and bandits, washing dishes in a dark pub, with whatever the meager wages in return of her labour, place bread on the table for her younger siblings. Social welfare gave her a scholarship, while studying she stinged on every single penny and sent it back home, knowing that it would help elevate the burdens of her dad.

The longer I looked into her past, the more my heart sank. Her dad, being the good man and the loving husband, developed a staph infection while working in the recycling factory. The boss refused to send him to hospital, and one day he fainted and bled from his nostrils and ears. It was just too late. The girl was crushed. Gave up her scholarship, and for the second time, walked back into the arms of the world itself and selled her soul in a light deficit corporation. Lies, deception, backstabbing became her wounds and scars. Battling against people of similar nature, she was deceived by a man who seemingly loved her yet betrayed her for the flesh. And now, she lied motionless at the corner of her little apartment in a slum, accompanied by grief, anguish, bitterness, anger, and despise.

I saw the spirit of despise and the spirit of grief encircling her. Every time it revolves around her, it left a black mist of doubt and anger around her. I knew this dirty scheme. It blurs her sight and vision. It leaves her disillusioned. It makes her depressed. It condemns her and herself. I've seen enough of this. Too many people have fell prey to this mist. Too many families torn apart, too many lives lost, and too many went astray. In me, fury raged. A fiery anger that could not tolerate black and darkness. And I knew what had to be done.

With a loud cry, I charged at the spirits. Tearing them into pieces, I didn't leave them with a chance. They were no match against me. With me was a secret weapon, a small knife made of light that allowed me to use it freely against darkness, and I had no hesitation against them. They vanished into thin air along with the dark mists, but the girl was still crying.

Wrapping my form around her, it was my turn to encircle her now. Instead of leaving behind dark black mists, I left her with warmth and light. Moving my 'hands' to wipe her tears away, I whispered into her ears.

Hang on! You're not alone!

She looked up, not knowing that I was closer than what she thought I was. Her last drop of tear fell, and as it fell she allowed these words to slip her lips:

"Lord, what must I do now?"

With mixed feelings - relief, frustration and a tinge of disappointment - I marched up to my Father. The One who created me. He knew I was approaching, because even before I saw Him, I already heard His question.

Why are you angry? Funny isn't it, I'm supposed to be the one that's asking, and instead He asks me first.

First come first serve. You know the answer, don't You?

He motioned me to step into his arms. Thus far, only He can hug me because no one else could. Again I felt encouraged, felt at home and comfortable, at least, while the other beings are not around to tease me about not having any wings or white apparels.

"Why are bad things happening to good people?"
"Why are darkness shadowing the light?"
"Why are people suffering and crying?"

Paused. The most important question took a while to come out. Reluctantly, I blurted out,

"Why am I just a ghost?"

Looking down at me, the same loving Dad He has always been, He pointed in front. I looked up, and saw a glimpse of the world.

A huge auditorium, with thousands of people dressed in smart suits and beautiful night gowns. Resembling an award ceremony. They were standing, applauding a young lady clad in an awesome red dress that was slowly making her way to the stage to receive a little trophy. And I looked closer.

It's her!

"Look on."

She walked to the microphone, beaming with pride and flashing her million dollar smile. Compared to the her I saw moments ago, it was a complete transformation, a stark difference, a total makeover. From the shriveled girl that was hiding at the corner of the room to the proud and tall lady in a night of acknowledgement and appreciation.

"I walked through life with nothing more than a torn pair of sandals. My dad was too poor to purchase proper shoes for me. I started work at the age of 10, with nothing but my bare hands to wash dishes. I entered the corporate world at 19, because my father died and left me responsible for the welfare of my 3 younger siblings.

"Journeys, my friends, may be tough. Punishing. Disappointing. Sometimes you'll never get what you want. I once wanted a man, and when I thought I met the right guy, he left me after having a rough time on the bed with me." Stopping, there was a mixed response from the crowd. Some laughed, thinking it was a joke. Some gasped, holding back doubts and disbeliefs that all that she said about herself was true.

Clearing her throat, she continued. "People, in times of trouble, hang on to things. We all need something to hang on to. I won't know what you would hang on to, but I knew one promise that I've always hung on to faithfully, despite not knowing what the future holds, even though I may not see things changing, I have walked through the last 15 years of my life, seeing God's goodness in my life, experiencing His grace in my walk with Him, and constantly amazed at what He has done in my life.

"That promise is simple. It is a promise that He will never let me walk alone. A promise that no matter how tough the road ahead can be, He's there. And if you ever doubted that, I stand before you, a witness, a testimony, of how God has been such a wonderful companion in my darkest nights."

I was held breathless. Lost for words. Could this be true?

"You see," He finally said. "You were never a ghost. Ghost, is simply a name the rest give to you."

"You are a representative of me. A messenger of my promises. You don't need to do anything, but just be with them and in them. You know who needs you most. You know what needs to be done."

Go do it!

I smiled. Satisfied with what I heard. In front of me, is the girl. She's still at the corner of the room, she's still crying, she's still in pain. I saw what I know will come true, and I did what I had to do. I stayed on with her, for a long time, with that vision at the back of my mine, and for once never minded about what the other beings made fun of me. It takes more than just wings or a white gown to make a difference in people's life. Or maybe, you don't need to be an angel to be more than the angel that people need.