Data Log 0003

When you live on Jupiter’s coldest moon, Europa, it takes a lot to make you lose hope.  Like if a neighboring moon, Io, were to or by chance began to deteriorate and rain chucks of itself onto Europa causing mass spread destruction. Another piece of Io came crashing down in the distance. People around me fell into a state of anarchy. From the hardest working businessmen to the pettiest thug, everyone despaired. The never-ending cold felt unbearable, more now than ever. Another meteor fell and as if waking from a daze I took off like a bullet. Where I was going, I couldn’t tell you. Away from here was the only place I wanted to be.

I made it out of the city with relative ease as the rest were trying to find a way to escape through means of spacecraft. Only the wealthy would be able to board through. The rich live on as the poor get crushed by the weight of a moon. Poetic, or maybe it just sounds that way with no real meaning. Regardless, I’m now miles away from the once flourishing city of Cryosthesia. I decided to rest. Not out of exhaustion but to internalize the spectacle around me. The city falling to its knees, much like its people in the face of their inevitable destruction. Though there is a way off this frozen wasteland, a mothership known as The Beyond. A space shuttle that is unbiased towards its passengers and through a complex algorithm chooses those who get a seat in its hull completely randomly. My last hope.

 It leaves in 10 minutes and is only a few miles away. I can make it. Once again, I fly off towards my destination. The icy lake is no match for my legs. Prosthetic, of course. If they weren’t, I don’t think I could have made it out of the city if I didn’t have them. It’s a shame more people refused to go through with the vessel project. They might have a higher chance of getting through this global cataclysm. My mad dash to the neighboring city is almost complete by the time I finish that thought. This city is in even more chaos than Cryosthesia, people crowding around the ship futilely trying to overpower the heavily armed guards in an attempt to get on the ship after presumably losing their spot on The Beyond by cruel fate. 

I go up to one of the guards and ask him for a chance to get on. He smirks, saying, “It’s full, no space for any more civilians.” Using my enhanced vision, thanks again to the vessel project, I spot more than enough seats. When I confront the guard about this, he tells me, “You think us guards would protect this ship for free? Then again, you were dumb enough to give up your humanity for a couple of upgrades.” He laughs. “Our payment is a way off this hell hole,” the guard says before seemingly disappearing into the crowd.  I feel my world start to collapse in on itself, my eyes start to blur. There is no escape. The mourning of my own life is interrupted by the thrusters on The Beyond lighting up as, in record time, it blasts off into the atmosphere. 

As I watch it leave the ground and fly up into the sky, I turn around in defeat only to hear a deafening sound. Quickly spinning around, I watch The Beyond having a mid-air collision with a colossal piece of the Io, splitting into two before crashing in a fiery end. There is no way out. 

As the other people like me fall to the ground in despair, I begin to hear something. It sounds like ringing. 

“Return to t-the, the l-l-last failsaaaaafe.” I whip around to no avail. Nothing is there. Others like me begin to look around, as confused as me. The voice sounded strangely familiar for a voice in my head. If hearing a voice in my head wasn’t strange enough, seeing a beacon shoot up from a mountain was the cherry on top. I figure I have nothing left to lose, so I begin to follow the beacon. Others of my kind follow me, bounding across the ice with such speed that the ground shook beneath us. Reaching the source of the beacon, we see what looks to be a man-made cave in the said mountain. 

 Entering it with caution, a meteor lands behind us sealing us in. The cave is nearly pitch black, though we are still able to see fine. As we travel down, we enter a strangely well-lit room? It looks like a factory. This feels like something out of the dream. Suddenly, a voice comes up over the intercoms.

 “Hello, I’m The Architect. And this is the factory where you were all made. I made you. I am the creator of the vessel project.” This is the part where I mention that not just my legs are prosthetic, but my entire body. The vessel project allowed humans to partake in putting their subconscious inside an android. However, the creator of this project died thousands of years ago. “I have truly died, just like yourselves, I transcended to a higher life form The only difference between me and yourselves is that I did not put my subconscious in a mechanical exoskeleton and instead placed it inside the factory itself. The very ground you are walking on is me.”

“That’s great and all, but it doesn’t matter as we are about to be crushed by another planet!” Yells out one of the ways to survive through anything and everything. 

“I am the greatest Inventor of all time, do not doubt my creations.” Suddenly, I slowly become almost tired. “You may feel consciousness slipping away. That is because in the end you are still mine and I will keep you dormant until you are needed by the next civilization that comes to Europa. Your memory banks will be wiped as they have been many times before. Sleep well.” 

>End of Data Log 0003


Alabaster metal met obsidian with a clang that resonated throughout the courtyard, early morning light striking the pale blade in such a way that it seemed to glow from within. The trimmed maze of shrubs snaked around the two figures as they danced over and under in a deadly tango of reflex and skill. To a casual observer, it would seem that the pair were evenly matched, accustomed to each other’s fighting styles over years of practice. Yet a sharper eye might notice a slight misstep, a strike just off mark, a parry almost a second too late. 

“Watch out, Princess,” Emity smirked as her blade barely missed her opponent’s arm.

Adhara narrowed her eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?”

“Once you get this move right,” the woman shot back. Adhara’s only warning was a flash of dark silver before she found herself stumbling backward, the sound of her sword clattering to the ground ringing in her ears. Emity bowed down in an overly low curtsy. “I believe that I’ve won, Your Highness.”

Adhara pursed her lips in a failed attempt to keep from smiling. “Manners don’t look good on you, you know.”

“Nor do they look good on you.” Emity grinned, straightening up as she tossed an auburn braid over her shoulder.

“Nope, they don’t,” the princess agreed as she picked her sword up from the ground, her dark eyes twinkling. “Why don’t I prove it to you? Ready to lose?”

“Oh, you’re on. I admire your — ”

“Princess Adhara,” a nasal voice bellowed. “Just what are you doing?”

Adhara spun around and couldn’t help the frown that sprang to her face. Before her stood a middle-aged man dressed head to toe in blue velvet robes embroidered with gold. A matching feather hat sat atop his meticulously coiffed hair. Adhara rolled her eyes. The royal advisor had the uncanny ability to appear at the worst of times. “Does it matter? I can do whatever I want. It’s my castle.”

“Now, now, Your Highness. That’s where you’re wrong. This castle belongs to the Astel Dynasty, to the benevolent rulers of Cordin. It belongs to the King and Queen, and afterwards, it shall go to the Prince, which means you must follow their rules, and that starts with ceasing these… activities.” He wrinkled his nose as he waved his hand in Emity’s direction. The woman glared daggers at the man but said nothing.

“Too scared to come up with a comeback?” he sneered.

Emity set her jaw. “No, I just don’t want to get fired.”

“No one’s getting fired,” Adhara cut in, trying to ignore the sudden flurry of butterflies that had risen in her chest. “Your commands hardly have any weight to them, you know, especially with that awful hat. Honestly, where in the world did you find that thing?”

The man’s face turned scarlet — either from embarrassment or anger, Adhara could not tell. “As the official advisor to the King and Queen, I refuse to accept this type of behavior. Now you are to return indoors for your lessons right this instant.”

“You can’t tell me what to do.”

Something in the advisor’s eyes darkened dangerously. “Oh, I’m not telling you.” He moved to the side, and almost reflexively, any sign of emotion dropped from Adhara’s face.

The King of Cordin had always been taller than average. Once upon a time, Adhara had been convinced that her father could touch the Sun itself. She knew better now, but the way he was towering before was formidable, to say the least. He frowned as he took in the scene; the silence was palpable, Adhara’s face a carefully composed mask, Emity’s bold features a display of uncharacteristic fear.

“I looked out at the sunrise this fine morning, and what do I see but two shadows staining my gardens. Shadows,” he repeated. “Like dirt on ivory walls, tar on white marble, blood,” he took a step forward, “on silk tablecloth.”

It took Adhara a surprising amount of energy to keep from rolling her eyes a second time.

“It’s impudence,” the King continued. “Outright disobedience. It’s rebellion, which will lead to Darkness. Light must eliminate Darkness by all means possible. Whatever it takes to keep the flame burning. Hence, I have made a decision. This was by no means an easy decision, but it must be done. I regret to inform you,” he turned to Emity, “that you are no longer a part of the royal army, no longer part of this castle. Never were, it seems, if this has been going on for as long as I think it has.”

Yet another clang sounded throughout the courtyard as the black blade tumbled from trembling fingers. “I — w-what?”

“No!” Adhara cried. “You can’t do this. It was… it was my idea! I dragged her into this. Please, it’s not fair.”

The King ignored them. “Adhara, I won’t have you contaminating Light. Never let me catch you with this sort of peasantry again.” With that, he turned on his heel and left, the royal advisor scurrying after him like the weasel he was.

Adhara couldn’t hold back any longer, and she rushed towards Emity. Her vision was blurring — tears, she later realized — yet somehow, paths intersected, and the two friends found themselves stumbling into a wordless embrace. Seconds stretched into minutes, and for once, Adhara was grateful for it.

It was Emity who pulled away. She tried for a small smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I should — ” she drew a shaky breath. “I should probably go now.”

Adhara had never thought that the combination of these five words could render her speechless, particularly not when spoken by the person before her. A thousand possible replies tumbled through her head, and a thousand of them all seemed wrong. All she could do was look up at her friend, memorizing every detail for the final time. Brown met blue, and though they were very different colors, in that moment they shined with the same light.

Emity swallowed hard. “The sword,” she managed, gesturing to the obsidian black blade on the ground. “Take care of her for me.”

Adhara cleared her throat, blinking hard. “It’ll be here the next time you dare to challenge me. R-ready to lose?”

The former guard wiped her eyes and gave a small smile. “I admire your confidence,” she replied, voice trembling only slightly.

If beginnings were celebrated with fanfare, perhaps it was only fitting that this was an ending in silence. Adhara gazed at the courtyard gates long after Emity had passed through them. How strange it was that not long ago, adrenaline had coursed through her veins, her movements quick and deliberate when now, she didn’t want to take another step. The hedge around her hardly reached her waist, but the maze seemed infinite, twisting around her like vines that crawled up her arms and stole the breath right out of her chest. They created a labyrinth with her at the center.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, rose gold receded to cerulean, and the morning mist drew away. But the tears still remained. Soon the courtyard was flooded with light, void of all shadows.

* * *

Night was the best time to brood. As the sun sank below the horizon, the darkness deepened so that it was almost tangible, velvety drapes that wrapped one in perfect silence. The princess silently cursed the wide windows of her room that ensured that it would never be completely void of light. The full moon tonight was unusually comforting, though, its wide face non-judgmental as it shined down upon the sleeping kingdom below. Starlight illuminated the tears on Adhara’s cheeks, turning them silver as they fell through the air before disappearing into the stone of the windowsill as though they’d never existed in the first place. From the East Tower, a sea of trees stretched out before her, curving around the edges of the kingdom in a delicate embrace. If she squinted hard enough, Adhara could see the tips of a distant mountain range between the line where the land blurred into sky. The cool night air caressed her cheeks, drying her tears for the time being. Adhara sighed. Her breath curled into gossamer mist that sailed out across the moonlight before disappearing completely. Not even the night bothered to preserve any sign of her sorrow. 

And suddenly there was fury, blazing white-hot from within. 

The constant darkness seemed to mock her, taunting her with the way that it sat still, unmoving, unchanging. Adhara wanted to shatter it all, tear the solid sheet of moonlight into shreds, rip every star one by one from the sky, destroy the night and show everyone her pain. She wanted to scream and shatter the darkness, make them all suffer like she was. 

And then she’d laugh. Laugh at the pleasure of watching such destruction, smile at their fear as she waltzed through the kingdom, and reveled in the look of betrayal painted on every person that, no matter the face, would be one and the same.

I admire your confidence.

For a space in time, her heart seemed to stop. Adhara could imagine her friend’s face, jaw set, ready in a fighting stance, but in her eyes — shards of a broken mirror. Haunted. Haunting. In an instant, the fire evaporated. Neither smoke nor ashes remained, just suffocating emptiness.

She was hollow.

Adhara pinched herself. Who was she becoming? How could she let this happen? Why?

The final question echoed in her mind. The ground seemed to tilt until it was rushing closer. The walls were caving in, the darkness heavy, and she couldn’t breathe.

She was falling, falling, falling… spiraling downward, inward forever… 

And then there was a scream.

Adhara’s first instinct was to clap a hand over her mouth before common sense kicked in. Her throat didn’t feel raw from the sheer volume of producing such a noise, and there were no frantic servants or family members crashing through the door. The scream had really sounded far away, too far to have been coming from her. Surely her mind and heart weren’t so far apart? 

Maybe you’re losing it, a voice in Adhara’s mind said helpfully.

The princess frowned; it didn’t help that some part of her brain was actually considering that possibility. She closed her eyes against the breeze and attempted to mimic a sense of serenity… and there was the sound again, piercing the night.

It was really a chorus of sounds, closer to yells than screams, that clamored over one another like waves crashing against the coast. Her eyes shot open, and she found herself searching for the source of the sound. It wasn’t difficult to find. A spot of brilliant red-gold hovered before the steps of the castle. The shouts ricocheted off of cobblestone streets and granite pillars, twisting around wrought iron lamp posts with shrieks that clashed with the hum of steel blades. Torches seemed to set the swords aglow, blazing in the night, the fire too bright to be warm as it lit the faces of commoners and guards alike.

And yet, as Adhara glanced at the finery of her bedroom, the colors seemed muted, the sounds muffled as though she was watching the scene unfold through a veil. Three stories up above it all, the distance was palpable. She turned away from the window, the din fading into nothingness. Perhaps she just needed to sleep.

Like Living Creatures

Music. It’s what keeps us entertained, it’s what people have in common, it’s what genres we listen to, it’s what cultures we spread, and what languages we speak. Music is all around us. It is what makes my life so special, both now and when it first inspired me. In every way, shape, and form, it is the instruments that truly make music come alive. 

Music, and the instruments it is played on, have been a part of my life ever since I was little. The first time I was inspired to play music was when I listened to a popular classical piece by Ludwig van Beethoven called Fur Elise. The different techniques used to play this piece captured my imagination and showed me so many new possibilities: how fast the fingers moved, how loud or how soft it was played, how fast or slow different parts of the piece were, and what notes were played with. The moment I heard and experienced this piece, I knew that I wanted to start playing the piano. I never looked back, nor do I regret it. 

Beside the piano is one of the places where I feel the happiest. It makes me come alive. The keys on the piano make me feel so free. Every single black and white key located on the piano has a different tone and pitch. You can play two notes at once and they will sound different. The moment I touch the piano, I let out all my emotions and just focus on the beautiful instrument in front of me. Piano is also what inspired me to start playing the violin.

I prefer the violin over the piano because the violin has a much more pleasing and delightful sound. Like the notes on the piano, each note on the violin brings its own unique sound. Each string on the violin is a different thickness and texture. The lowest string on the violin, the G string, is a lot thicker than the E string, the highest string on the violin. Violin requires you to have diligent and concentrated fingers in order to successfully execute the violin. Every single technique used to properly execute the violin requires concentration and diligence. 

Of course, concentration and diligence mean nothing without lots and lots of practice. You cannot expect to be perfect all the time, or right away. As the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman says, “One must always practice slowly. If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly.” When I first started playing, it was a nightmare. My violin sounded terrible, my notes were all out of tune, my bow sounded scratchy, and I had poor knowledge of where the notes were on the violin. It was not a very pleasant experience. A scratchy bow on the violin with out-of-tune notes is equivalent to the sound of a dying goat. Not a very delightful and pleasant sound. 

 But I practiced, I had lessons, and over time, my playing got much better. Before playing the violin, I had no idea that composing music, and not just playing it, would be life changing. I discovered a new passion that I had no idea I loved so much. I also gained new friends because of orchestra and got to experience what it is like to play in a full orchestra. Playing as part of a full orchestra is an entirely different and fantastic experience. I got to be surrounded by the music in a way that felt entirely different from just playing by myself in my living room. 

My piano is located in the living room of my house. There, it sits waiting for me to warm it up and move around its keys that are getting older day by day. Everyday, it waits for me to sit on its seat and put music on its stand, and flip the pages of its music books. Every hour of every day, it sits in agonizing silence, waiting and waiting and waiting. I look and walk past it everyday in my house. My violin sits in a case in the family room of my house. In its case, it is nice and snug, sitting in the right environment to keep it from breaking or cracking. Everyday, it sits cozy in its case while waiting for the right time to be used. When it is time for it to be used, its strings prepare to make beautiful sounds, and its bow prepares to produce the beautiful sounds that come out of the violin. As every minute, second, hour, and day goes by, it loses the beautiful pitch and tone that it makes, gradually growing old, and eventually unusable. Instruments are like living creatures. Without the right care and nourishment, they will quickly rot and eventually die or become unusable. The longer they are in use, the slower they will break and become wasted. Music and my instruments is what keeps me engaged, dedicated, and passionate. Without music, I may not have discovered my true talent. I cherish every part of my music journey. 

Music brings me joy, happiness, peace. I hope by describing why music makes me happy, it will show how important and meaningful it is to me. Not just because of the way I play or what sounds come out, but because of the way it allows me to express myself without actually having to say words.

A Prisoner to War

There was a prisoner lying on the wet ground, covered in mud from the battlefield so that their uniform was indistinguishable from the surroundings. Standing there in my own uniform, spattered with mud myself as one of the victors preparing for the punishment, I could not even make out the telltale signs that would show that he was from the opposing side. He was a prisoner, I told myself. That was how war worked. Thousands of lives could be lost in one day, one battle, lives that were indistinguishable from one another in the face of death, with all their separate memories and stories blending into one consciousness. War was good versus bad, each side convincing themselves that the others were subhuman and evil, justifying the slaughter and cruelty. But man was a single race, with only petty distinctions of appearance, separated into the categories of nationality and physicality. It was human nature to want to distinguish, I thought, as I saw the lesser officials march up under the gray sky and wrench the pitiful man to his feet. Was he even human in their view, a prisoner who was soaking and half-dead? Was this how they were going to justify his death at their hands? A feeling of horror rose in my chest and crept into every corner of my brain. How could this be routine? What had his life been like before the war? I imagined his wife and children standing in front of their house, waiting for his return that would never come. Did such deaths even mean anything in the grand scope of the war? I watched the proceedings continue with mounting dread. When the gun went off, I felt like I had been shot myself, and although I stood straight and showed no emotion as I marched away, my insides felt like they were melting away from me. I knew that I could not remain as I had been before.