Tuesday 10 August 2021

Deesha Tokas, ShortStory 2021 Longlist


Darkness submerged her, but Hope gladly accepted it, falling into its clutches without complaint. She opened her eyes to the bright light above her, the Sun. She looked around to see that she was on a mat in the park she always stayed, a basket of what was once food and a sketchpad beside her. A normal picnic. Although disturbed by the sudden change in scenery, she composed herself as she took up her pencil to begin sketching again. It was always her hobby to do so. She even took up a degree in art. But her big art debut was still yet to come. Taking a look at the sight before her, she decided on what she would copy, a small photograph of a moment, just not as perfect as a photo but still a reminder of the memories that were made. An elderly couple sat by a bench, holding a bag of bread crumbs and feeding it to the pigeons in front. It was a calming sight, like a promise that everything would be alright even though the troubles the two had to go through. A sign of hope that happiness could be reached even through many years of tough times. After drawing the figures lightly, she decided to take a cup of coffee before she would begin to finalize it. Before she would erase them and darken the lines. Before she would work on the tonal values. And before she would see if the hope she held onto through her art career was worth it. As she walked by smiling at the elderly couple, she stared at the map to the cafe famous for the black coffee she loved. She made sure she knew the image she was trying to copy by heart so she could continue it at the cafe. She didn't know if her effort would pay off, but she continued to hope it did. She refused to believe that the time she took to convince her parents, that she would get enough money even as an artist, was all for nought. Once she was energized enough, she completed the artwork. After that, she took her phone to see if the exhibit had open slots to showcase her art. They did, but first, they would have to see how it was before accepting it, to see if the art was worth their money. As she walked, she saw a man carrying a small can, begging for a little money by the side of the streets. She took the loose change she had gotten from the cafe and she placed it inside He didn't look that bad, but she could tell he had been living there for quite some time, maybe a year or so. He had ash blonde hair and green eyes, his clothes quite tattered and dirtied but still quite good, and she added more to the money in hopes of making someone happy if she couldn't herself. He thanked her as she smiled back at him, rushing to the exhibit in front of her. She was both excited and scared, feeling many emotions all at once as she opened the doors of the exhibit. She submitted the sketch, and they told her to sit by the doors for the owners to decide on it. As she sipped her coffee, she looked around to see the other works of art, aspiring to make pictures as beautiful as the ones she looked at. She smiled as it was a reminder of what inspired her to get into art. She looked to the side to see that the owner was smiling at her too, making her hopes rise as she thought he would tell her some great news. This is it, this is my big break, she thought. He said, "Hi, Ms Hope. Your artwork was exceptional." To this, she smiled, her spirits rising. "However, we cannot accept this. It did capture the right moment, but it isn't what we're looking for. We're sorry, but this doesn't mean that it's the end, maybe others would accept this?" he said sympathetically as the smile on her face faded like the dimming light outside of the building.

She nodded and managed a small smile, a little gesture of gratitude, but the owner understood what she was trying to say. She took her sketch back and walked out. The man she had given money to earlier looked at her again, and she did the same. "Are you okay?" he asked. She nodded her head, but it had no emotion. And he noticed its "I'm Leonard, I know it seems like I'm barging into your life. But please, maybe l can help," he spoke in earnest, smiling like he was the one who had everything she needed, not the other way around. "I'm sorry, but I have to go," she replied, feeling scared that a random stranger was talking to her and terrified that his words had brought her a little comfort, something she hadn't felt in a long time as her parents had always told her to change her profession whenever she came to visit. But that was before. There was no one to tell her that now. She continued to visit the park and attempted to get her art to the exhibit, and every time, she met the strange man. Leonard, he called himself. For some reason, he was always there to comfort her. But it was still strange and she couldn't bring herself to accept that a stranger would offer her something her parents couldn't. She continued to refuse until she couldn't take it anymore. She knew she had to continue to move forward, but she needed a little break. Just a short one to catch her breath and pick herself up. As she went out of the exhibit building, she sat by the bench as let a few tears fall. She didn't mind that Leonard was in front of her, she didn't care that she had allowed him to comfort her, and she ignored the looks she got from passersby. She needed the comfort, and no one could judge her for that. Feeling much better, she cleared her tears and took a closer look at Leonard. He had a small smile on his face, quite close to her but maintaining his distance. "I'm sorry, Leonard," she muttered. "Ms? Everyone needs to slow down for a while you know. You don't have to apologize for something you can't control. Fate." "Thanks. My name is Hope. Thank you for that act of charity, Leonard. I guess I needed it." "No problem, Ms Hope. If you want, maybe you can find more consolation in a field I always visit. Would you like to come with me?" he gently asked, offering his hand to get her up. She contemplated it, not minding the voice inside her head that told her it was a bad decision as she nodded. "But first, let me get us some food and drinks. You like coffee, don't you?" He looked at her, his smile dimming slightly but not completely, "I haven't tried coffee." She nodded in understanding and said, "Maybe you should try cafe mocha first. Come." She led him to the cafe again, and she ordered the food and drinks, taking it to go. She gave some to him, and he looked at the contents inside of the bag. He led the way to the field, and she was met with a wonderful sight. Different flowers were scattered all around, a mix of colours seemingly perfect, but the dandelions caught her attention the most. She rushed to the field, wanting to be closer to the beauty in front of her. Leonard followed her through the field and sat down right beside her. As they stared at the view, they breathed in the clean air, far from the city's pollution. "How do you do it? How do you live in this world without falling into misery?" she suddenly asked, "I guess, you can imagine it this way. A ship. Waves are lapping against it. Trying to make it sink. But it doesn't, as long as it stays outside. A ship only sinks when water gets inside. If you're the ship, if you let the waters of sadness and doubt get in, well, you'll fall. But you shouldn't.

Continue to hope." "Wow, a really good philosopher, aren't you?" "This cafe mocha is really good, by the way."How did you find this place?" "I was going to go by the exhibit, but I passed by here. I've been visiting ever since." "Does anyone own this?" "Well, not really, I planted some of these, and no one has objected, so I'm saying no." She nodded and took a dandelion from the soil. She gave it to him and said, "Make a wish." He took it from her and blew the seeds away, making a wish as he did so. He took another dandelion and offered it to her, doing the same. "For my art to succeed," she thought as she blew the seeds too. The two took turns, wishing for their dreams and hoping they would come true, no matter how silly they seemed. Hope took her sketchpad and began sketching Leonard blowing the dandelion's seeds in the field. He smiled, happier than he had ever been in such a long time.It was her big break, the exhibit accepted it and she got a good amount of money. The next was the ship he had explained. Artworks continued to pile up, and it seemed as if her wish had come true. They stayed together, her providing some of his needs as he worked as a repairman in the exhibit and him giving her ideas that would spark so much of her imagination to create such beautiful art. A year had passed, and her career was better than ever. The two decided to visit the field that started it all, and it was quite nostalgic to visit. Leonard rushed to their favourite spot and sat down, as he picked up another dandelion. Something was wrong, she could feel it. But before she could stop him from doing anything, he blew the seeds of the dandelion away. And as they went with the wind, he too disappeared. The world broke down like fragments of a mirror, and she was left alone in a murky place, darkness engulfing her once more, but this time, she didn't accept it. She woke up in her bed, feeling tears in her eyes as she felt like Leonard had left her to deal with the world. She noticed nothing had changed, It was just like before her career was still on the ground. and there was no Leonard to comfort her. She visited the park she stayed in and began to sketch what she remembered from the dream. It was hard, the memory was fuzzy, and she couldn't copy it. She went by, again and again, going day after day. But at night, she always looked for Leonard, even though he was probably just a figment of her imagination, a person from her dreams. The wind would rustle through the grass, blowing against the flowers on the field. The sky above her was as black as ever, and it scared her. No stars and no moon to be there and shine some light in the darkness. Even the dandelions that once kept her company. They were fading into nonexistence. She tried picking one up, but the once vibrant colour turned into black. pea She quickly let go of the flower, dropping it like it would live again if it weren't in her hands, As expected, it didn't. Instead, it faded away. Darkness. It reached out with its long arms, carrying her in, drowning her in hopelessness and misery. "Hope? Where are you?" a small voice called out. Leonard. "I'll be right there. Wait for me," she shouted out into the darkness. But she didn't know if it was true. Leonard appeared in the distance. His eyes darker, his hair more dishevelled, and the hope he used to have seemed darker. Like he had lost it. She rushed to his place, offering the comfort he had given first. Once closer, she noticed how tired he looked. His imperfections, scars from the cruel fate brought upon him. It made him perfect, made him human. She wrapped her

arms around him, and he relaxed in her hug. Comforted and at home. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "Shh.." she hugged him tighter, hoping it would help. "You can't say sorry over something you don't have control over." It made him smile. It was one of the first things he had told her, and it happened.Nothing was ever fixed by just tears. She heard someone clear their throat. Someone right beside her. Leonard. She hesitated.What if it was all just a dream once more? What if he would leave her again? Many what-is clouded her mind as tears fell even more freely. But she approached them nonetheless, For he was her dandelion of hope. And in this cruel and seemingly hopeless world, hope, faith and love were the only things could hold on to.

After reading the story of Leonardo and hope, ask yourself, it could be anyone, who is your dandelion of hope??

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