A story about nothing

At daybreak, they flew out like great cranes cutting through the heavens. Some mornings, the air was turbulent. But today was calm. With the wind, cold and biting, in their hair, they watched the earth, eager for the time they can step on solid ground. They followed the stream that cut through the farmlands. The ground drew closer and closer with all its details; fields of water and rice stretched as far as the valley ran. In them, the clouds and sun were reflected. And then they let go. Their paper planes flew away without them. They fell and fell until the ground kept beneath their feet. They looked to one another happily.

The farmers greeted them in their rice ponds. In the heavens, the people looked like the slightest brush of paint against a landscape. But here, they animated with their sun-bleached and hardened faces. They ran to them with excitement and curiosity. “How was it?” Chang asked. “Did you see Death?” And Mon said, “Yes, it was indescribable. I don’t think it was sad, nor was it happy. But you’ll see it soon if you like. Please show me your hand.”

Mon traced a word on Chang’s hand. They smiled at one another. “Thank you.” They made their way to the village. With each step, their feet stuck in the mud. It was a welcomed sound, for they hadn’t heard such a thing for an eternity.  “Who will you pick?” Mon asked Xin. She smiled. “I’ll pick the store owner.” They settled in their seats when an old woman came out. She embraced one at a time. She had a hunch on her back, and she shook like her joints were rickety. “Lo, would you like to see the heavens tonight?”

Her stoic face brightened. “Thank you. I’d love to.” Xin took her hand and traced the word. “I’ll bring out the usual then?” Mon and Xin agreed it was good. They sat by the entrance, where a drizzle fell by their feet. And they ate slowly with their bowls of soup warming their cold faces.

A stroll through the rain, and they saw the magic shop. Its owner, a fat man, waved to them to come in. “How was it?” He asked, as he handed them some tea. Mon wasn’t particular of tea, but it warmed his hands. “I think it was good. I’m not sure. But I didn’t have the weight I carried here.” “That’s good,” the shop owner said. “What about you, Xin?” She tried to remember, but it was like a fleeting dream. “I also thought it was good. It was peace. I don’t think there was any pain. There wasn’t any other feelings either. But it wasn’t better.” She paused with a thought in her eyes. “It’s good to be back. It’s good to feel the ground. It’s good to taste Lo’s soup. And I’m happy to hear the rain fall.”

The shop owner nodded. He handed them two pieces of paper. Together they sat beneath the lantern’s glow and they folded their planes. They smoothed out each crease with their palms, making sure it was to their best, perfect. Alas, two planes of different shape and size. Mon and Xin left them at the magic shop, and they took their separate ways in the dusk.