Chapter 1:

Maybe, I am but a Withered Flower (Part 1)

The Curious Case of Clemsey

The strong aroma of a freshly brewed coffee really does wonders to the soul. I started softly humming a tune I’m not even sure I heard before while moving around and dearly holding my second dose of the perfect cup. Indeed, I am not setting a good example as a librarian here, nevertheless, I feel like spreading its fragrance to the whole of The Meliora Library. Walking on the carpeted floor and passing by shelves filled with books both old and new, I could picture a scenario wherein I'll trip out of nowhere, unintentionally pouring my coffee all over. "Then maybe, I’ll fall..yeah..face down..and beneath the shards of sharp glass, a terrible stain of dark liquid spreads out on the carpet and then.. errr, wait stop…stop thinking out loud." Too much caffeine has this weird effect on me.

While trying to erase Aunt Gigi’s screaming-bloody-murder-over-spilled-coffee face on my mind, a familiar book suddenly caught my eye, - “A Brief Account on the Ancient Theories of Soul.” My eyes widened as nostalgia began to hit me hard.

“This is such a good read! Akisa, I can’t believe you’ve been staying in this library for so long and not pick up this book.”

In my head, I can hear Van’s clear deep voice which doesn’t really fit his somewhat whiny attitude when he’s trying to sound convincing.

“Soreno…,” I leaned over and offered him a cup of coffee and an exasperated frown. “My head was still exhausted from the last book you made me read.. you know that, History of the World Map, something-ish, and besides, this genre’s under Aunt Gigi’s section of the library,” I said, as I walk towards my little brother Enith and check out his cute attempt on modeling the play-doh into a cat figure- or a dog?

“Akisaaa, the History of the World Map by Map,” he said in a ghostly voice with a strong emphasis on its part that I got wrong. “That aside, you read waaay too much mystery books with waaay too much accounts of death, don’t you ever stop and wonder what happens beyond that?” Gently, he pushed the leather- bound book on wooden table towards me and Enith, "just… give this a chance. Remember what Miss Gigi would always say, even the most pressing of questions you have, can be answered if you look hard enough. Who knows, this might be it for you.”

That moment, for some reasons, was pretty vivid to me. For one, it was undoubtedly his low key way of telling me, “I know you’re always afraid and that you’re always looking for a reason not to be, therefore, I am giving you a reason not be.”

I distinctly recalled how my eyes wandered from the gilded corners of the book, to its complex title printed in a seemingly complicated font until slowly, I Iooked up at Van, exhibiting that bright smile of his, weaving chords inside of me that are as intricate as the celtic knots drawn on the four corners of the book. “O-okay, fine, good thing, this isn’t as massive as the History of the World Maaap by Maaap,” I said, while I hastily looked away to hide my flustered expression.

Guess, I’ll give this one a read again.. and this time, I better look hard enough.

I gripped the heavy book with my free hand and embraced it tightly like a familiar friend, one haven’t seen for a very long time. “Hey, you’ll finally meet your familiar friend next week,” I whispered to the book whose history comprised mainly of being brought home by the same person over and over.

As I gulped the last of my coffee, I started walking back to the staff room with a refill in mind, a book to read in hand, and a hope that all these will spark even the slightest light to the somewhat dull mystery story I was trying to write. However, as I was about to turn into the corner down the hallway to the staff room, I suddenly froze. The whole of my body stood still, the same way one would when hearing a very dire news. I felt numbness in my cheeks that travelled down to my arms.

“Craaash!” Something fell on the floor. “Clemsey, that was your coffee cup!” I thought.

“Thuuump!” I heard another very bad sound. “Clemsey, you made that noise!” The book!

Yes, it was me and I couldn’t comprehend whatever’s happening. Or maybe I could and I am just afraid to be right. I had a sudden sensation of drowning. I am gasping for breath. There’s a deep pang of pain shooting violently in my chest. The Meliora seems to be fading slowly right before my eyes- or is it me who’s fading from The Meliora?

Aunt Gigi, I’m sorry for the mess I brought upon you and on your floor, at least there’s no coffee left on my cup. Van, I’m sorry for being a coward. I’m so sorry.. Mom, Dad.. I am so so very sorry, Enith..

“I am so-rry..,” I lift my hand as my last attempt to reach out to someone or to something. Anything. In the brink of an impending doom, all I can manage to reflect about were the things that I felt sorry for, one being, that the only witness to my final fall, was a coffee cup and a book I was forced to read a long time ago. I thought, If only I could live my life again, I’ll definitely live it in a way that I wouldn’t have to utter too many apologies to the people I love the most. This lamentation made it sound like I didn’t do or gave enough for them nor for myself.

I fell to my knees and slowly, the rest of my body followed, falling flat, face down. I urged my body to stand up, the same way I did this morning and for so many times before under any circumstances. I struggled but, a voice gently whispered, “No can do.” It was my heart, sadly responding. Little by little, I turned cold, as cold as wind that continues to blow outside. Soon, winter will cease to exist, but I guess, so do I..

My eyes closed. In that very moment, I felt like I was left alone in an eerie forest trying to find my way back home, only to realize that I was walking in deeply, down to the edge of the cliff, until there’s nothing underneath my feet. I am falling in what seems to be an eternal darkness.
Ahhhh- I am.. falling?
I am falling..
still falling..
continuously falling..
falling and falling and falling..

I am falling and like a shot in the dark, I asked the question one would normally ask in the face of sheer uncertainty-

“Wait… w-what the heck is happening?”