ISSUE 15 September 2015
An independent magazine aimed at bringing the works of the young and talented to the whole world.
You WILL be rewarded a copy of Garde Magazine Anniversary Issue!
An independent magazine aimed at bringing the works of the young and talented to the whole world. Believing in ideas, thoughts and concepts, Garde Magazine follows the principle of simplicity and honesty.
Founders Cleo Tse Natasha Chan
Creators Emily Grove
Omar El Sakka
Contributors David Madsen
Special thanks Journal Collective
Content Key Chow Fashion Design - Menswear Borderless creativity with aesthetics
Information Experience Design Creativity with rationality
Omar El Sakka Communication Design Bespoke design for massive audiences
Creative Happening Free.D.O.M. Yuki Teraoka
Movie Review Mean Girls David Madsen
Story teller ODKST Kuro Ex Machina - Teil 3
Editorial A change of season has reached Hong Kong and since it is one of our favourite times of the year, we figured it was only fitting for us to bring new talents and a new little feature to our readers. In issue 15, we have Key’s menswear collection, inspired by a social networking app called Grindr. We have Emily’s project on the use of emojis too. Both are quite ‘up-todate’ in terms of mobile technology, while Omar, who studied Communication Design digs deep into consciousness and practices on Freud’s theory for his final project. We also have David, who has unprecedentedly written a review on a non-horror and non-cult movie – Mean Girls. It is very interesting to see what this movieholic thinks about and tells us. Yuki, after spilling the beans about interior and spatial design, is introducing his project on political liberation for Venezuelans in London who have been protesting outside the embassy. Young writer ODKST has continued the story: Kuro Ex Machina. One mustn’t miss out on the development of the story because tension builds up through the three teils. We have invited Journal Collective, who provides all Internet users free and paid images for projects, presentations and inspiration. Behind the group is one of our creators Jacqui J. Sze. Garde Magazine is more than happy to support entrepreneurs and creativity; the mixture of both is even better (after all, we are one too). Last but not least, happy reading!
Cleo & Natasha
Key chow Fashion design menswear
Borderless creativity with aesthetics
Key Chow has an interesting background as a designer: starting with studying business then hating the world of money, he switched to the world of design and creativity - inspired by his sister’s Vogue magazines. “I always stole them [Vogue magazines] and took them to read under my table during lessons. And one day I just thought: ‘why don’t I study fashion then?’ I just applied for a fashion design course and luckily I got in,” explained Key abou his journey towards fashion design.
Year 2012 was a great year for Key. Apart from winning first place of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers’ Association Talent Award, he was also given a scholarship of HKD 250,000 by Hong Kong Young Design Talent Award. Royal College of Art (RCA) was his second step. “I really loved the creative atmosphere in London before I had
made the decision of studying there. I also heard RCA was an amazing postgraduate university to study Menswear with helpful tutors and strong alumni,” said Key. Having learned and experiencing the culture of Hong Kong and London, Key said Hong Kong is more manufacture- and trade-based while London fosters creative individuals in terms of the fashion industry. “I am happy to see more and more creative people in Hong Kong now and they are trying to raise statements in the global fashion world as what the London fashion designers do for the local fashion industry.” Describing his works as romantic and sensual, Key’s latest project has explored racial elements in homosexual relationships. He tagged his collection with “romance, hedonism and sensuality.” This was inspired by a personal profile description on Grindr, a mobile phone application
Key Chow Inspired by the gay dating app Grindr’s profile description ‘NO Asians Please’, this collection starts a sensual revolution to turn everyone into a “RICE QUEEN”. #Asian Impressionism #Textured Raincoats #East-meets-west Silhouettes #Romance, Hedonism and Sensuality
where homosexual people meet friends, which said “No Asians please.” “Towards that profile description, I felt ‘you are going to miss some hot Asian boys. And then I realised that it is actually symbolising another problem.” Key felt interested in the identity issue in race and heritage because it entails Asians tend to underplay the problem of being over-obsessed with Western cultures, aesthetics and lifestyle that may not necessarily fit them.
working class 100 years ago and looked at how they dressed, the texture and the silhouettes of their garments, etc. They are so sexy and masculine in a softer way! And then I tried to modernise the silhouettes and textiles.” Key also mentioned that Ryan McGinley, an American photographer is his muse.
“The looks in my collection are all under my own unique aesthetic – romantic, hedonistic, innocent, Using his favorite materials such soft, impressionistic, with reference to as loosely woven or knitted fabrics, my muse. I really hope I could design which involve “roughness, seductiveness a collection shot by him in the future! and sensuality,” Key’s collection gives a His photography always inspires me and sense of delicacy with manly hints. The makes me want to be in his world.” use of colour conveys the flexibility and changeability of men. With another emphasis on his aesthetics, Key said he wants to “I want the collection functions be somewhere where people can feel to show the possibility of Asian aesthet- something from his aesthetics and ics, cultures, romance, sensuality with identity. To work towards his goal, he is the modern perspective of fashion in working and also planning to set up his the Western world and then turn evown brand to launch the Autumn/Wineryone into a ‘rice queen’ (rice queen ter 2015 collection. means a white homosexual man who is mainly into Asian men). So I took inspi- “It is exciting and worrying as rations from the photos and documenwell!” taries of Hong Kong Asian men in the
emily grove information experience design
Creativity with rationality
Emily Grove - Emoji Cafe I made Emoji Cafe for my graduate show at the Royal College of Art. It is an installation of furniture and objects that tells the story of an alternate future where every word and object is limited to emoji symbols. Therefore, every object in the cafe is a physical replica of a digital emoji symbol. Although emojis are used by millions of people around the world, the icons are limited and have both universal and subjective meanings. This means that to their vast audience, emojis waver between being easy and impossible to understand. But despite this communicative setback, they are steadily becoming more and more popular. Emoji Cafe is influenced by the principle of linguistic relativity, and suggests that homogenising and refining our language to emoji symbols would also narrow our minds and culture. The stories in the newspaper are ambiguous, the food available is limited to globalised favourites and Japanese specialties, and the clock only tells the time every half hour. Though a collection of hyper-real objects, the installation creates a sweet, sterile and sinister environment. The installation is open to be touched and explored so that the visitor can gain a deeper understanding about what this world might be like. It is accompanied by a take-away research booklet that explains the ideas behind the project in more depth.
Her final project is focused on one of the most popular languages in the world. It is not Chinese, neither English nor Spanish, but emoji language, which everyone in the world understands but interprets in different ways. Meet Emily Grove, a creator of Information Experience Design, which is about “transforming information into experiences through design in the format of installations, exhibitions and objects using both physical and digital materials.” “Communication underlies all of my projects,” said Emily. “I am always trying to say something through design. Language often crops up because I find it fascinating. I am a language geek! But it’s not always the main subject,” she said about her inspiration and themes of her projects.
Emily’s project Emoji Subtitles started with an assignment about gestures where she got interested in universal language that conveys both meaning and emotion. “Almost anyone can read them, but they also are pretty ambiguous! They are cute in terms of aesthetics but also quite blunt on representing emotions and objects.” “Finding out how different people use the same emoji symbols to mean different things probably is the most interesting discovery. The best examples are when there isn’t an emoji for something and people are creative at making substitutes. My favourite is using the red circle emoji to represent a Babybel cheese!” Emoji Subtitles are displayed in different formats: Emoji Café that has all objects that are a physical replica of a digital emoji
Emily Grove - Emoji Subtitles I began by making a collection of videos to examine the effectiveness of emojis as a digital visual communicator. I integrated them as subtitles for clips in different linguistic and cultural contexts. These subtitles have no rules or grammar, just like the emoijs in texts and emails. They can mean more than one thing, be used for their phonetic value, represent words, reflect emotions - the list is endless. These videos show that no matter how they are used, emojis can be effective and helpful for communication, even alongside different languages. They can clarify emotion and give helpful clues to words you donâ€™t know the meaning of. However, they also have a tendency to be ambiguous as well as unsubtle and over-the-top.
a face Emily Grove - Who needs when you’ve got emoji? I wanted to expose of this ther; clumsy nature of emojis fur to show how these digital symbols approximate our m in emotions and portray the de a exaggerated ways. So I ma your programme that replaces emoji facial expression with an ative face using Processing, a cre coding platform. McMy programme uses Kyle cking Donald’s FaceOSC face tra m software to read metrics fro nsa person‘s face. It then tra ues val se the in s nge lates cha ns, into emoji facial expressio . age im m bca we a on overlaid are ns Your own facial expressio pro ap (or red rro mi therefore nt fro ximated) onto a screen in of you.
Regarding her next project, she said, “Finding a job! I am quite an applied person so I’d love to find a job where I can continue the kind of work I did during my master degree.”
Emily Grove - ja panese-emoji. com If you’ve ever w ondered why there are so man y sushi and noodle emojis, it’s because they were first create d in Japan. In fact, there are a lot of emojis that make very specific references to Japanese culture and for those of us who aren‘t Japanese , they can seem a bit baffling. Therefore, I mad e a website to explain and cont extualise these references. Load up japanese-emoji.com an d hover over an emoji to compa re it to an imag e of its real-life co unterpart and click on the em oji to find out more informatio n about it.
symbol, Japanese-emoji.com that explains and contextualise references and a coding platform that can replace one’s facial expression with an emoji by detecting one’s actual expression.
ence and arts. I enjoyed science but felt like I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. In my year after graduation I saw a lot of designers at work and thought – I want to try that!”
Emily said that she has learnt a lot about Japanese culture since emojis were first made in Japan. The extensive invention of emojis is mostly about food and symbols of national festivals that can be quite alien to non-Japanese people.
Interestingly, Biological Anthropology has granted Emily a rational approach to problem solving “which is quite useful to design,” according to her. She now has quite a broad understanding of human behaviours and interactions.
From the project, the biggest lesson she has learnt is “once you’ve done a fair amount of research, it’s time to get out there and make, make and make – whatever it is! The more you do, the easier it gets.”
Emily’s rationality continues not only on her projects but also in her future. Regarding her next project, she said, “Finding a job! I am quite an applied person so I’d love to find a job where I can continue the kind of work I did during my master degree.”
Out of surprise, Emily’s background is nothing about design. With a bachelor degree in Biological Anthropology, she has taken an entirely different route to design. “I guess I always wanted to do something creative, but at school I had to choose between sci-
Her passion on Emoji Subtitles does not only transform into three forms of her projects but also another ultimate channel. “A real time speechto-emoji translator would be pretty cool…”
omar el sakka communication design
Bespoke design for massive audiences
For Omar, London is not only his field for training his independence and responsibility, but also for creativity, connection and inspirations. In his life, that is, slightly more than two decades, Omar has been moving back and forth to and from Cairo, Dubai and London three times. While his family and friends are in Egypt, he considers that his future creative career will be in London. â€œI sometimes refer to London as the design capital of the world,â€? said Omar. As a student graduating in communication design, Omar cares a lot about how to spread messages across in order to target audiences via design. From understanding a project objective to reading a brief, researching and finalising, every step is crucial because it reveals how much the designer understands the project and sends it across.
Omar has dedicated his time in various mediums of expression such as illustration, graphic design, typography, photography, computer design and drawing. Basic learning such as colour theories and design principles are necessary, he said. “The most effective way to get messages sent across to an audience is to fully understand them by gender, age and location. Once that is understood then the project should be tailored to fit them with relevancy in terms of design, colour, references, culture and humour,” said Omar. Omar’s graduation project is related to all human beings: psychological consciousness theory of Sigmund Freud. No matter if one believes it or not, Omar has tried to approach the mysterious humans’ mentality. The project, The Unconscious Mind, combines photographed images into collages and explores emotion from the unconsciousness. According to Freud’s theory, consciousness is like a pyramid where consciousness is realised and subconsciousness and unconsciousness are not within
Omar El Sakka - The Unconscious Mind Collage - Rise and Shine BRIEF. To explore the unconscious mind using collage and photography. ABOUT. Sigmund Freud explains that the unconscious mind is what forms most of an individual’s psyche, yet it is repressed beneath the conscious and subconscious mind. CONCEPT. To create a series of collage without allowing any conscious influence for a visual representation of the unconscious. Also a series of analogue photography for a stronger relation between my unconscious mind and the photographed subject. COLLAGE. The images placement and combination were never revisited once they were juxtaposed in order to avoid any conscious control. After the series was complete, noted realisations were made such as the mixture of people and places, hidden clues and meanings, and most importantly all the collages together create a window to my unconscious mind.
Omar El Sakka - The Unconscious Mind Photography PHOTOGRAPHY. The photographs are meant to visualise the ambiguous relation that we share with the unconscious mind. There are a few recognisable objects in the photographs to give energy for the imagination to roam the photograph.
memory. “Working on the unconsciousness is very challenging,” said Omar. “The main challenge is to capture emotions that are similar to those at the unconscious level. In order to capture those photographs, I almost forced myself to enter a different mindset while shooting them.” Through experimenting with different mediums, Omar eventually found the right ones to show the effects he had expected. While the collages are formed by the nearly-unconsciousness, the naming of the works is conscious with first impression. Interestingly, although Omar has visited his unconsciousness with expressions, he said he did not get to understand his mind better. He has a better reward from the production of the project. “I have a different connection with this project than any of my work. This is the only project that I advanced into two parts. It gave me an opportunity to explore more about my house, my identity and myself. I have started a new interest and I plan to continue it. I
am now opened to know more about my unconsciousness and I’m possibly going to create more.” Through the project, Omar hopes to encourage audience’s imagination. “The images are made to be very ambiguous to create room for the imagination to roam. It is more of a vehicle that connects the audience to their unconscious minds.” When asked about his dream project, Omar has his insights on mother earth. “My dream project would be an integrated campaign to change people’s behaviour towards nature and the planet. I would love to raise awareness about how serious climate change is and what we can do to stop it. I want to use my skills to help saving the planet, my country for everyone’s wellbeing.” Omar is currently looking for a placement in the advertising industry to expand his creativity and experience. “My ultimate goal is to find a creative job and to carry through with my hobby, make collages and do photography!”
Cairokee Vinyls (Packaging) BRIEF. To redesign Cairokee’s three albums as their old designs lacked meaning and relevance to their music. ABOUT. Cairokee, meaning singing with Cairo, is an Egyptian rock band that became popular with its revolutionary music during the Egyptian revolution in 2011. CONCEPT. To make the majority of the design components by hand to match the process of the revolution, where one can only rely on one’s own actions. The albums are redesigned as vinyl records to connect with the young audience that is once again interested in the nostalgic trend for vinyls. ‘AS I SIT BY MYSELF’. The album’s main song is about the loss of direction and hopelessness that some people go through in their daily routine. The dark blue was used to create a sensation of drowning in emotions because of the fading mindset that an individual would be stuck with during such emotions.
“The images are made to be very ambiguous to create room for the imagination to roam. It is more of a vehicle that connects the audience to their unconscious minds.”
We love food, we love photography, and so, it only seemed right to put the two together. We recently collaborated with a health food website where the brief was simple, use tomatoes, vegetables and fruit to create a styled but earthy look that promotes well-being. The results speak for themselves. Knowing that your time is precious, our aim is to help businesses and individuals who do not have the time or resources to create their own imagery. We are constantly gathering new props and our in-house studio uses glorious natural light making our photography one of a kind. Journal Collective was born with a high aesthetic in mind. We offer an ever growing stock catalogue with our distinctive look as well as offering bespoke shoots (without charging the earth). Find us at: http://www.journalcollective.com/
FREE.D.O.M. by Yuki Teraoka
Can freedom be existed without any control? What if there was an area within the UK exempted from UK legislation? This project is highlighting effectiveness of our democratic rights to enter democratic spaces such as museum, library, park, etc. The aim of this project is to find a location that is exempted from the UK law and to hack democratic spaces through restricted areas in order to expand our rights. My target is the Embassy of Venezuela. The political corruption causes several protests at the embassy leaded by Venezuelan UK residence who were demanding immediate change in the government. Therefore, I decided to help sending them into the embassy sdigitally ince I believe there is a virtual gate. Discovering the relationship and finding the elements that link the virtual (digital) and the physical social model is critical because the physical access is almost impossible due to the heavy access security. Consequently, I created website-base simulated society of Venezuela to project what would happen based on my hypothesis of future social system over there and tried to override it with my own theory of encryption system using form of sound which would change the behaviour of protest. - Yuki Teraoka
Yuki Teraoka - FREE.D.O.M. Gaming
Inspired by the Embassy of Venezuela, a popular location for protests against political corruption, Yuki aimed to create a digital democratic space which could expand human rights and freedom. “I decided to help sending their democratic space digitally into the embassy since I believe there is a virtual gate to the country,” said Yuki. “The virtual society
and reality are like two sides of a mirror, while the former is the only space that everyone has a chance to re-edit the system.” Yuki has his own interpretation of ‘society,’ which led him to the initiation of the project. “I think societies of developed countries are losing its control. The meaning of democracy is getting deteriorated and we are losing our rights to have
Yuki Teraoka - FREE.D.O.M. Gate
free will because of the overuse of surveillance projects.” “If human rights are to maintain our living as humans, the project should be reconsidered for the sake of our future generations.” The ultimate product of this project is a website-based simulated society of Venezuela. Even though the frame is set up, there are more details and structures that require time and effort to research. Yuki said it was started with laws and political systems because those were the most obvious features shaping a society. Moreover, the additions of these structures are the backbone of the future social model of Venezuela. Interestingly, before thinking like a technician on how to build up the virtual society, Yuki had to research on political topics such as constitutions and laws. “Starting to build a society from scratch with research is an endless process,” he said. The process followed by finding out how to build the virtual society within the Internet environment. “I had to study the mechanism of the website which took me quite a long time. I used a game engine called Unity to visualise the future website interaction and that also took me
â€œIf human rights are to maintain our living as humans, the project should be reconsidered for the sake of our future generations.â€?
Yuki Teraoka - FREE.D.O.M. Translation
Yuki Teraoka - FREE.D.O.M. Censor
quite a while,” said Yuki.
one can have free choice on studying.
Stepping out from the virtual world, Yuki shared his insight of utopia with emphasis on the educational perspective.
“Imagine if we could choose topics we like from the very beginning of the learning process, then every single student will excel in their chosen fields at an early stage. Of course there would be people who struggle to choose, however, the learning process would be faster, more efficient and worthy. They would find a purpose of learning, which is, I think, lacking in our modern society right now.”
“My utopia is a place without any suppression or manipulation. It’s a place to let you be yourself. As long as one lives in a society, there are always pre-made systems, especially education that unconsciously directs you on how the power wants people to be. I want a place where
Why people love Mean Girls and so do you by david madsen Mean Girls (2004), Paramount Pictures. Directed by Mark Waters. Rottemtomates.com
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Mean Girls is a 2004 romantic comedy set in a high school, written by then debutant writer, now comedy extraordinaire Tina Fey. It’s a film that, at least among my peer group, is highly regarded not just with women but men as well. This is peculiar since Mean Girls’ particular genre, the romantic comedy, or chick flicks as they are sometimes referred to as, rarely transcend gender. It isn’t the overall plot in-and-of-itself that makes this particular chick flick stand out, as its pretty bog standard for the genre: We follow ‘The New Student’, 16-year-old Cady, as she awkwardly maneuvers her way through the social intrigue and drama of high school after having been homeschooled and located in Africa her entire life. At school she is quickly through no volition of her own shovelled into the main clique of said school, The Plastics, consisting of the gossip girl, Gretchen, the dumb blond, Karen and their leader Regina. This trio of ditsy, self-absorbed, bratty assholes is shown to basically run the school cafeteria and is both adored and hated by the rest of the school’s pupils. The plot sets in motion, when Cady falls for Reginas’ ex, which Regina responds to by
“...it’s a film that nails the theme of female empowerment. This is a theme that is rare to see done well in Hollwywood movies, even today, in an industry that usually can’t do anything with female characters other than victimise or objectify them.”
demonstrably making out with said ex in front of Cady - something that she then retaliates by sabotaging The Plastics from the inside, hoping to leave Regina out in the cold, so that she can swoop in and get the boy. So as I said, pretty standard stuff: Girl falls for Pretty Boy → Girl has to resolve a conflict and/ or overcome obstacles to reach Pretty Boy → the point-of-noreturn requires a moment of self doubt from Girl → finally Girl
gets Pretty Boy.
As this tired plot synopsis could easily be gender swapped it could describe most films of the genre. Of course this is a fairly cynical and reductive statement as you could boil all genre films down to following a very specific line of events, utilising a set of tropes to connect one event to the other. After all, it is what the individual film does with these tools at hand, not the tools themselves that either makes or breaks a
And this is where Mean Girls shines. See, while my plot synopsis can be seen as entirely truthful, it isn’t exactly accurate. It’s true that the film is about the growing rivalry and backstabbing between Cady and Regina, fuelled by the desire to attain the aforementioned pretty boy, Aaron Samuels. However, the aspect where Mean Girls becomes interesting is that whereas most romantic comedies would have
the characters revolve around this conflict; this film is only interested in using it as a setup. The actual focus of the story isn’t the romantic triangle of Cady, Regina and Aaron, it’s the platonic relationship between the girls of the highschool and how their behaviour changes accordingly to what is expected of them so that they may ‘fit in’ to their represented clique. This becomes very apparent, when Cady starts changing attitude from the naïve, smart, innocent girl in the begin-
ning of the film to the self-absorbed airhead she devolves into as she becomes the person she tries to beat throughout the film: Regina. So the conflict revolves around the characters as they change, not the other way around. Of course the question is how this story plays out and which tropes of the genre the film uses. This is the second point Mean Girls nails, and very much the reason I gave credit to the writer
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in my introduction of the film, not the director Mark Wathers, as this is clearly Tina Fey’s achievement. Writer David Goyer mentions on the commentary track to Blade (1997), that writers are usually good at either structure or dialogue. Tina Fey is seemingly good at writing both. For example, the main trope Mean Girls uses is to have the protagonist narrate her thoughts. This trope is often the crutch of a poor screenwriter as the golden
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rule; ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ applies to most movies because film is a visual medium. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and Mean Girls is very much one of these. This is because the narration changes as Cady changes attitude towards her surroundings, enforcing her transformation from innocent outsider to full-on Plastic. Then there are genius details like a running high-speed school bus-gag. This gag is first used as an introduction to the high school as Cady is nearly run over when she approaches the school area. This cements the hostile atmosphere of the high school and that it is a place of danger for our protagonist. Secondly, the school bus is the climax to the main conflict as it runs over one of the characters in a brilliant pay-off to the first scene with it. Finally, it appears in the epilog to the film in which it nearly runs over a new group of Plastics thereby bookending the film perfectly, showing that the characters are now hostile towards The Plastics. Lastly, it’s a film that nails the theme of female empowerment. This is a theme that is rare to see done well in Hollywood movies, even today, in an industry that usually can’t do anything with female characters other than victimise or objectify them. Remember how I said that the romantic triangle between Cady, Regina and Aaron is really only a setup for the internal conflict between the girls of the high school? I mean this very literally as Aaron himself is just a McGuffin’ a barely defined object used to drive the plot forwards and act as a price for the protagonist and antagonist to strive after and compete over. He’s an airhead with almost no personality, who barely registers as a person. As a white, middleclass man who has seen hundreds of films that very specifically caters to my demographic; it is refreshing to see a film completely
flip the script by having a man as the object of desire, not the woman. But just because it caters to a female audience doesn’t of course mean that the film is only for women. It’s true that the film exclusively focuses on the troubles of adolescent girls and their destructive behaviour towards each other in an attempt to shield them from that very behaviour. However, the overall anti-bullying message of the film, the idea that lashing out at others only harpers more hostility amongst people, is one everyone should be able to get behind no matter the age group, race, social status or gender. You know, in all of my excitement, I forgot to talk about one crucial element of the film: is this comedy actually funny? It is. In fact it’s hysterical. Tina Fey uses the same deadpan humor and razor sharp witticism she used in 30 Rock to mock the entertainment industry and in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to tear down the media glorification of overnight celebrities. Here she uses that to deconstruct the destructive inner workings of a group of highschool girls. The jokes land, not only because they’re funny and observant in-and-of themselves, but because the characters themselves are funny. And while these characters inhabit certain archetypes of the genre, they feel like people, which is crucial for the films overall message, since it’s very much about unhealthy stereotyping. Of course, you already know this. You know it’s a funny film. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve seen it, and you love it. But now you know why it’s fantastic. Now you know why everyone else loves it, and why I know you love it. You’re welcome.
KURO EX MACHINA by ODKST
TEIL 3 Assassins
At the end of the next staircase, Dawn says: ”I have to go.” David looks up. He is walking behind her this time, a few steps down. She cranes her neck to look at him. The next platform is close, its massive underside shading the siblings from the sun. A square hole, just big enough for one of them to step through, hovers a couple of steps over them. Bright light illuminates the open square.
David nods. “Almost there. Try to hold it.”
Dawn sighs. They keep climbing the final part of the empty staircase. The gold-and-dark-blue plateau can be seen, far below them. From this altitude, the plateau is barely bigger than Joe Bob Fenestre’s suitcase. They step through the square hole, out onto a new platform. It is dark purple with large splashes of black. A wind draws past, and Dawn shudders, clutching her bare arms.
“Another empty one”, David remarks.
“Brotheeer”, she whines. He grabs her hand. “Come on.”
They walk to the very edge of the platform. He keeps her hand in a firm grip as she squats, pulling her pants down with one hand. David looks the other way while she goes. She is unfazed as she leans out over the edge; her blue eyes search the sky.
When she’s finished, she pulls her pants back up and David
helps her stand up, regaining her balance. They walk away from the edge. The wind ruffles their blond hair. Dawn says,
“I feel free.”
David is silent, surveying the new, purple-and-black platform. Dawn watches him intently.
Finally, he says: “It seems safe. Come on. It’s time.”
She nods. They sit down, face to face, in a yoga-like position. Dawn shuffles, impatient. David exhales slightly. The morning is quiet and clear, a blue sky over the platform. David reaches out, touching his sister’s forehead with his index finger. He keeps it on a spot slightly above the space between her eyebrows.
“From the rising of the sun to the setting, to its rising again, we place what is hard to endure with what is sweet to remember, and find peace.”
Dawn’s face gets very serious as he speaks. She keeps still until he is
finished. Routinely, he withdraws his finger. They remain sitting, but it is clear that the ritual is complete. Dawn sighs, leaning backwards on the palms of her hands. She bends her neck to the left, then to the right; it makes a slight crack. David looks at her, then away. *** David I went back to the living room sofa as she went to wash off the puke and sweat. The shady living room seemed even more silent and abandoned than before. Outside, I could hear the rain continue to fall. Eventually she came back. She appeared out of the gloom of the dining area, wearing a white terrycloth robe. She fidgeted with her still-moist hair and refused to meet my eyes as she sat down next to me on the sofa. For a long time, neither of us spoke.
“Why?” I said, finally.
I didn’t know how to continue.
We both looked at the sofa table for a while. My half-eaten box of ice cream was the only thing on top of the glass disc of the table. The ice cream had started to melt.
After a minute or so, I tried again.
“I didn’t even know you did … that thing.”
She smiled, weakly. “I’m fourteen, brother.”
We were silent for a while. I laid my arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer. She was no longer shivering. She leaned against me, putting one of her small hands on my T-shirt. After a minute or so, she started to softly clench at the fabric. We sat there staring at the darkened television set.
“Brother”, she said eventually.
“Don’t ever leave me.” ***
They walk across the purple-and-black platform. Nearing the next staircase, David stops to look at his sister.
“Where’s the backpack?”
Dawn stops, too. She’s been walking briskly on her bare feet, free of the pine green backpack with all its brass buckles. “I lost it”, she says.
David watches her in silence for a while.
“When?” Dawn points at the small, square hole in the platform from which they emerged. “When we were walking up the stairs. With the dog.” David sighs. “We really needed that backpack.” Her eyes dart to her feet. “Sorry.” She shyly hides her hands behind her back. “It was really heavy”, she says after a while. David shakes his head. “Let’s just forget it. You need to take this at least a little bit seriously.” She bites her lip and meets his eyes, nodding.
“Come on”, he says.
They continue up the new staircase. This one is not as long as the ones before it. After a short walk, they reach a new platform. It is forest
green, with advanced patterns in glittering gold stretching into and around each other like rolling, twisting lianas. There is a strange structure in the middle of the platform; two large stone monoliths stand right next to each other with a glowing, almost pulsating field of energy in between. The monoliths are the shape of a small D and a small B on the left and on the right, respectively. They are slanting softly from the top to the bottom, gradually growing broader until they shoot out into well defined, rectangular feet. The middle of the stone structure forms a perfectly straight slit, large enough to step through. This is where the strange energy field shimmers and radiates its warm, light blue glow. David looks at the monument. “That’s the door.” He turns to his panting sister. She is sitting on the green-and-gold platform, her legs crossed. She appears to have little interest in the mysterious door. David asks, “Are you ready?” She keeps panting, not looking at him. He repeats his question; “Are you ready?” She briefly looks at him this time, then shrugs and looks away. David looks down at her for a bit, then stretches his arms into the air; the double-bladed axe dangles on his back. There is no further staircase – this is the top platform. All around them, the magnificent view of the city; its multitude of colorful plateaus like schools of massive jellyfish. In the clear morning air, the city continues out into the distance, the green surface of the planet only a blur, somewhere impossibly far below. The tiny shapes of aliens, dark and jittery, are visible on a few platforms, but they are way too far off for their details to emerge.
David takes a seat next to his resting sister.
After a while, she says:
“Do we really have to do this?”
David cranes his neck to look at her. “What do you mean?”
“I really like him. I used to listen to him all the time.”
David searches her face. His blue eyes are indifferent. “It’s just a job”, he says. Dawn shakes her head. “He hasn’t done anything wrong. He just plays music.”
David says nothing.
“I don’t know”, Dawn pouts. She looks at the hundreds of brightly colored platforms, rising on incomprehensibly tall stone pillars in the distance. David mimics the way she bit her lip earlier. “Hey”, he says. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get the job done, then back to Mr. Fenestre. It won’t be a big deal. You’ve been like this before.”
“No I haven’t.”
“It’s just cold feet. It’s always like this before a job. I mean, I feel it too. You can’t do anything about it. What’s important is that we don’t let that feeling stop us from doing our job. Right?”
Dawn is silent. She grimaces into the distance.
“Right?” David reaches over to her, putting a finger into her left rib. She shrieks and pulls away. “Don’t!” David shuffles closer to her. “Right? Right?” He keeps poking her in the rib. She shrieks again, trying to pull away, but David is relentless. He pins her down, tickling and poking her. She breaks into hysterical laughter. “Don’t!” she keeps screaming. “Idiot!” David just laughs, increasing the intensity of his attack. Soon they are both lying on their backs on the platform, laughing uncontrollably as they wrestle. Dawn kicks David hard in the side. “Idiot!” she yells. “Idiot!” Their wound-up panting, laughing and screaming echo in the silent morning. For a while they lay on their backs, panting and resting. Dawn’s face is pink, she exhales in long, deliberate bursts, making a sound like ‘fuu, fuu’. David clears his throat and rubs his side where Dawn kicked him. The sunshine coats their platform in shimmering lines of gold. The strange energy expands and shrinks silently between the monoliths. Eventually, David sits up. He reaches into his pocket, producing the brown paper bag from Joe Bob Fenestre. Dawn, who has regained her ability to breathe, immediately looks at the bag. David unties the black string. He reaches inside, pulling something out which he hides in his fist. He ties the string around the bag again and puts it back in his pocket. Dawn also sits up. She bends forward, pulling her legs towards herself, all the time keeping her gaze on David and his closed fist.
“Are you ready?” David asks her. He has suddenly gotten very serious. Dawn, equally serious, nods. “Mm.” David looks at his hand, opening it. In his palm are two purple pills, about the size of jelly beans. “You go first”, he says. Dawn doesn’t hesitate. Bending forward, she takes one of the pills.
“Can I chew it?” she asks.
“Yeah.” She puts the pill in her mouth and starts chewing. David takes the other one, swallowing it whole. They come to their feet, turning to face the strange doorway. David takes a deep breath. Dawn is still chewing. David lifts one hand, and his sister takes it. They take three steps towards the doorway, stepping in between the two monoliths. There is a flash, long and drawn-out, as they touch the energy field. It is accompanied by a strangely melodic crackling sound, which along with the flash seems to absorb the siblings, who dissolve in the center of the doorway and are gone.
To be continued.
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