Old Blue Bucket: A short story

One night, you find yourself listless, sprawled on bed. You are exhausted. Everything you do seem to be failing. You work your fingers to the bone, but you don’t feel an inch closer to your dreams.

You sleep the night away; all troubles fading, worries vanishing. You see yourself drifting in space like a bug stuck on a falling leaf. You are falling, and you are falling gracefully. As you descend deeper an empty space, your body feels lighter. Your mind grows calmer and happier. You are forgetting where your exhaustion, which defeated you seconds ago, came from. It feels good to be weightless in empty vastness…until your back hits the bed with a thud. Not that loud, but its heavy drop produced a sound.

You wake up. It’s 7:00 in the morning. You smile and stretch your arms, excited to face the day. You remember your blue bucket which your parents filled with toys. You think of how lovely it would be to feel the floor’s wood beneath your bare feet, and how your bare feet will make you jump higher for Chinese garter.

You jump out of bed and run to your cousin’s room. You push the door, albeit you know it will be locked as usual.

Knock, knock, knock.

No answer. You call out her name and knock three times.

Knock, knock, knock.

You hear your cousin unlatching the door, and then a sleepy face peers between the door and the door jamb.

“Let’s play,” you said.

“Wait for me,” your cousin answers.

Your cousin wears slippers and gets out of the room. You pull her hand towards the blue bucket beside your TV set. You lift the bucket’s cover and cherish the sight of toys reaching the brim. Slowly, you pull down the bucket, careful not to spill them pell-mell all over the floor.

Your cousin begins picking toys that she likes while you stir down the toys from the bucket’s bottom, making sure that you don’t miss a nice toy. You pick Barbie and your favourite – Early Birdie in her pink car. You take a mini bed and set it beside a mini closet. You grab a handful of toy sushi, toy cake, and other toy dishes in a plate, as well as little toy bottles of cola. Elsewhere, your cousin has Mulan’s home all set and ready for visitors like Barbie and Birdie.

The game starts. Mulan utters a knock-knock-knock upon Barbie’s invisible door.

“Oh! There’s a visitor!” Barbie goes to the invisible door and makes an-opening-door sound.

“Hi! I’m Mulan. What’s your name?”

“Hello, Mulan! I’m Barbie.”

“Hello, Barbie! Can we be friends? I live near your house.”

“Of course, we can be friends! Come in! This is my sister, Birdie.”

“Hello, Birdie! I’m Mulan!”

Mulan waves her stiff arm while Birdie, in her pink car, hops Hello.

Mulan then asks, “By the way, I have a party at my house tonight,” now here comes the magic word, “Want to come?”

“Oh, yes!” Barbie beams.

Then they both say See you! while hopping their way to the closet. This is your favourite part since your toys get to change into their best clothes.

The little play goes on until you and your cousin don’t feel like playing with these toys anymore. You help each other put all the toys back in the bucket, and lastly, keep the toys safe behind the bucket’s lid. You part ways to get your adventure backpacks.

You meet by the stairs as agreed. One by one, you bring your stuff out of your backpacks to show each other what you’ve got – a spool of thread, toy camera, toy telescope, and of course, a notebook and a pen since you are adventurers/investigators of sorts.

You take the spool and tie the thread around the stairwell’s baluster. Sitting, you begin descending the stairs whilst rolling the spool.

“I’m going down the mountain!”

Your voice echoes in the empty living room downstairs, creating a mountain-like sound effect.

“I’ll follow you!”

Your cousin watches you sitting on one tread at a time. Finally, your bare feet land on the cold tiles of ground floor. Your cousin begins climbing down while holding the thread, her face crumpled with effort.

Downstairs, you both peep through your toy telescopes.

“Let’s check that cave!” your cousin points at the dimly lit kitchen. You skip your way towards it, and the adventure goes on until you both don’t feel like being adventurers/investigators anymore.

“You stay in that room. I’ll hide, you find me. Wait for my signal,” your cousin says.

“OK!” You beam, running to the spare room.

You wait for 5 minutes, excitement welling in your chest.

“Ready?” You ask on top of your voice.

“Not yet! Wait for my signal!”

You can tell from her voice that she’s far from the spare room. She is probably downstairs.

15 minutes passes. The thrill is slowly dying. You lie on the bed, enduring such a long waiting time.

“Find me!” your cousin shouts from what seems to be just outside the spare room. You hear her scurrying away. A smile spreads in your face. You push the door open.

I am here. A sign is taped to the toilet room’s door. It’s your cousin’s handwriting. Oddly, the outside latch is on. She can’t be inside. You search on.

You find another sign plastered on the wall near your cousin’s room. She’s downstairs. Below the words is an arrow that points to the stairs.

You walk to the stairs and find the thread still knotted to the baluster. You use it to climb – well, more like slide – down the treads. Just at the wall near the last stair step, you read another sign.

You can find me where you first found yourself this morning.

Suddenly, you hear footsteps upstairs. You rush up, wondering which room your cousin might be hiding. You also think that it can be another misdirection.

You do a quick second check in the toilet room and spare room. None. You stop to mouth the clue: You can find me where you first found yourself this morning.

Your chest pounds as you walk towards your cousin’s room. You can’t hide the grin in your face. She is probably there. You went there this morning.

The room’s door is ajar. You can tell that its lights are off. You step in. She is nowhere in sight. You look under the bed. You open the closet doors with a force that will surprise your cousin at being found. She, however, isn’t there.

That means, your cousin is in your bedroom.

You run towards your bedroom’s door and turn its knob. It is locked.

“I know you’re inside! I found you!” You giggle.

No answer. You knock once, twice, thrice. No answer.

“Hey, the game’s over! I know you’re in there. Open the door now,” you chuckle.

Still, you hear not a single scratch from within the room.

“Hello?” You are starting to get a tiny bit bewildered.

Suddenly, the floor begins shaking. It is a side-to-side mild shaking at first, then it progresses to an up-and-down, side-to-side earthquake. You hold onto the door’s knob, trying to keep yourself still. The intensity is getting stronger beneath your feet.

You start banging the door. “Please! Open the door! There’s an earthquake!” You still hear not a sound from the other side. Rage is rising in you; the shaking grows along with it. You try to calm yourself, knock on the door three times, then scream her name, “ATE MARIES!”

The door flings open, and you are tossed atop your empty bed. Things begin whirling, and again, you are drifting in space. The bed is as light as a leaf. You laid yourself, sprawled on the bed’s surface, holding on to dear life. Dizzying. Quite dizzying. You close your eyes…and doze off in the endless fall.

A few seconds after, you land on your mattress like a plane crash. You wake up with stiff muscles. Your clock says 7:00 in the morning. You remember that you have work at 9:00. You remember the tall stack of papers on your desk.

You sit. You smile. You remember your old blue bucket outside the room. It is beside the TV set.

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