Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2019 finalist, Lauren Lin! Lauren finished 7th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Sieve of Memories”
Sieve of Memories
by Lauren Lin
Standing alone on the desolate hillside with one palm against the willow tree, Evela gazed at the luminous stars as they peeked out of the curtain of dark, engulfing sky to greet their only audience. The bark was coarse, the grass of the hill dry and uneven, Evela’s cloak billowed out behind her while the wind bit at her skin, yet she simply stood in place. As she stood, she didn’t feel her legs falter at any moment; she did not seem to be able to feel anything at all, save the slight impressions of the bark against her palm. Not a single soul accompanied her, for she was utterly alone in a world of darkness.
Death had left an everlasting mark on her and had altered her future completely. She had not left that spot ever since, hadn’t left for days.
Each night, she’d merely stared up at the great expanse of star-littered sky. The daytime had passed quickly as she simply had fallen and let her hand slide down the trunk of the willow before sleeping on a blanket of grass. As night wrested control, her eyes would blink open and see the bright lanterns in the sky, and she’d merely stand and watch the stars or remain lying on the grass. She had begun to lose all sense of time, had begun to mistake the days for the nights. There wasn’t much of a difference to Evela anymore.
While her body was rooted to the hill and was utterly still, her restless mind was far elsewhere. The stars in the sky, the willow tree, and the hill, were the only things that anchored her to the world. Her thoughts swirled, fought, and grew in an internal whirlpool. She could not help but think of her past, and especially of him, of Ernest. Almost as soon as Evela rose from her slumber through the day, her mind would plunge into a sieve that would only accept thoughts of him and pure despair. Even in her sleep, her mind lingered on them. It seemed she could only live in either the past or in dreams.
Above all, Evela wished she lacked a memory. Even as she gazed at the stars, each cluster prodded her mind to remember.
She remembered when she was joy itself. It seemed to be a lifetime ago. She remembered how blithe, naive, resilient, unassuming, and purely jovial she once had been. She remembered the little village by the river where she’d spent her childhood, frolicking amid the larkspur meadows, harvest fields, and aspen glen. She remembered the yellow daffodils her ma had always entwined in her hair. She recalled the way she once looked: her cocoa hair, her startling meadow-green eyes, her youthful skin, her litheness. Now, all that was left was faded hair, cold eyes, wan skin, and a feeble body.
“Enough,” she whispered to herself as her hand trembled against the bark. She detested losing utter control of her emotions and memories, but she was more often than not subject to it. If honesty was reflected in the stars, perhaps they would have shown the fear she suppressed but felt for it as well. She feared her mind would go beyond, to the realm of memories of love, to the realm of Ernest.
Ordinary memories flowed in waves, but those of him surged like a flood that washed away all other thoughts and emotions from her mind, until she was only left with sorrow and anguish.
She remembered his dark, ebony hair that was always bedraggled from the wind, the hue of his eyes that had matched that of the river exactly, his pale skin, his thin frame, and how he was endearingly socially inept whenever he was with anyone else. She remembered how he’d found her weeping by the river when she was so young. He had sat with her as she cried. When she’d finally begun to speak through sobs and gasps, he had simply listened as they watched the moon’s reflection ripple through the water’s ebb. Together. It had always been together. He had been with her always, whether she’d protested or not, similar to a loyal shadow.
He had always been able to interpret her every action, until she couldn’t keep a single thing from him. She remembered how he’d held her in his arms and comforted her as darkness swirled around and within her. She remembered how he’d stood in her path and refused to move unless she agreed to take him with her on her journey.
Most of all, she remembered the way death had taken him.
She remembered how he had thrust her windward, away from the clutches of darkness where he stood.
She had seen the ebony waves enrobe him, swirling and encircling him until it had consumed him entirely within seconds. Yet she had not prevented it from happening, hadn’t even tried. She had been too much in a state of pure shock and fear to act quickly enough. Afterward, she was immediately stricken with remorse and despondency.
If only she had done something. Perhaps he would have lived, would have been next to her at that exact moment, his hand over hers on the tree. Perhaps that was the true thing that anchored her to that spot on the hill with the willow tree.
The spot where he had left her forever, the spot where she’d allowed him to leave.
She was waiting, waiting for darkness. Waiting for it to come and retrieve her as well. She knew its ways. If one did not run from it, it would consume them. Perhaps within its shadowy depths there would be a way to see Ernest again.
She’d considered fear of it, but it had quickly slipped out a crevice in her mind. She couldn’t be afraid of darkness, not when it had already taken her last ray of light. She had nothing left to give, and no more reason to be fearful.
Darkness was the embodiment of death; they were one and the same. She would give in to it to fulfill her only purpose left: to see Ernest one more time, to beg his forgiveness.
And yet, she was still alive. Evela blinked and ran her hand along the crevices of the tree as she thought through her confusion. She had waited for this moment since the day he’d died. She had stayed until she could decipher exactly why she had remained, why she was drowning in a pool of memories. And she’d finally discovered why. She would never forgive herself, least of all her mind would, lest she could implore Ernest to do so first. She was beckoning for death and darkness to come, but it wouldn’t. She was surrendering completely to darkness, giving in quite more than Ernest had. So why wasn’t it here? Surely it would be jubilant at another dismayed spirit to be consumed.
She thought of all the memories she had. It had been love which had created them all. She glanced at the slightly gnarled willow tree. She glanced at her hands, now scattered with callouses. She glanced at the stars and the light the moon would yield. She glanced at the hill, as a breeze wove through the grass. She glanced beyond, beyond her surroundings, beyond her memories, beyond herself. Far off into the distance, a dim light glowed increasingly brighter, piercing her eyes and the world of darkness. The sun combatted the darkness and began to light the nature that surrounded her. She struggled to keep her eyes open as the sun’s rays penetrated her vision.
Darkness would sometimes dissipate, but it was relentless. The sun’s rays struggled to spread and fully blanket the world. It amazed Evela how the sun continued the challenge of illuminating the world everyday, even when darkness won control through the night. Instead of complying with darkness’s reign, it continued to fight, to shine. Each day, the sun fulfilled the promise of the last time it rose by giving the world light again. Each day was the legacy of the last. Everyday the sun lost to darkness when night fell, but it never ceased its resistance. It never truly flickered out. Was Evela very much different?
She was the legacy of Ernest’s sacrifice. She had to ensure Ernest’s light was never truly extinguished by rekindling her own. She had to continue on where he could not.
Perhaps that was the reason darkness could not take full control over her. She still had some light left within, a purpose worth living for, strong enough to fend off darkness. A reason to continue on…
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