by Vina Paramitha

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My dear reader,

If you could change the world with a drop of ink, would you?

Because if all the ink I have left is the blood flowing in my veins, then I’ll tell a story till they find my drained corpse on the floor.

Despite my resolve, the uncertainties still cause my fingers to shake and my mind to be clouded with doubt.

I don’t know what came over me to write this letter. I don’t even know if this will get anywhere. However, if by chance, someone is reading this—if you are reading this… well, these words would serve as my last. Quite unfortunate, I would say. But then again, is there really any point in telling you? After all, humans couldn’t care less when it comes to the well-being of people they do not know. 

Anyway, you must be wondering what is the purpose of this letter. Well, my dear reader, it is to tell you a story. A story of someone who comes from no man’s land—a land where stories are forbidden.

That is why by the time you’re reading this, I would already have Death knocking on my door. Perhaps you can say that this is my death will. And with this letter, with this story, I am breaking the rules of death. After all, who among us can overcome the fear of impending death to leave behind a cryptic dying message? We, as humans, as fragile beings, are never told. We are never warned in advance that this is it. That this is our last moment. The last breath we’ll ever take.

Tell me, my dear reader, do you believe Death has ever stayed His scythe because you fell to your knees and cried that you’re not ready? Do you think Death has ever hesitated to place His cold hands around your throat because you begged Him for mercy?

No.

There aren’t supposed to be rules to dying. We’re left on our own when we die.

But when it comes to stories, anything can happen. That’s why they are forbidden.

They think stories are powerful, you see. As to who “they” are… well, I can’t tell you that. In case this story actually gets somewhere, I should keep the details to a minimum. I come from a no man’s land, after all. We are not to let our existence be known. We are not to let ourselves be found.

But now that I have already allowed my ink to flow on this paper, I guess I could reveal to you a few things. They are just as powerful as the stories they think of. And I think you know how the rest of the story goes: when the mighty ones come across anything else that screams power, they don’t see it as a friend; they see it as a threat. And do you know what powerful people do to threats?

They make sure they don’t ever see the light of day.

They’ve tried everything, I tell you. They’ve burned every book that was ever known to our land. They’ve had guards patrolling every corner, listening to each and every word we say. They’ve banned us from writing; every time someone has their hands on a piece of paper, the only ink that wind up flowing on the white sheet is their fresh, crimson blood.

I know everything I just said sounds utterly ridiculous, but you must continue to read on. You must believe in me. Because just like any other story, this too, has a message. And you, my dear reader, are my messenger. This letter has fallen onto your hands for a reason; you are chosen to spread my message to the world.

They say seeing is believing. Perhaps you’ll believe me if you visualize my world in your mind. Tell me, my dear reader, can you imagine living in such a world? A world where every action we take, every word we say, is being watched and heard?

I apologize for being too hard on you. I know it’s difficult to imagine situations that we don’t wish to happen. Perhaps you should stop imagining now if you were before. After all, in my world, every day feels like waking up to a nightmare. It makes you wonder how long it will go on. Then it makes you wonder how many times you’ve had that thought. And at last, it makes you wish that you would just stay asleep forever.

I know you must be thinking I’m crazy for doing this. And maybe you’re right; maybe I am crazy. As I’m writing this right now, word by word, going against them, disobeying their orders. And they definitely do not like it when people do that—especially small, insignificant people like me. 

But I don’t care.

Stories are not meant to be kept in the shadows. Stories are meant to see the light of day. Stories are meant to be written, to be read, to be shared. And I’m trying to prove it to you now, my dear reader. I’m trying to prove that even the most powerful of mankind cannot stop stories from growing. They will always grow, like dandelions sprouting out from the cracks between the pavement.

And if you’re reading this, it means I have succeeded—even though I end up dying in the end.

But I don’t regret anything. I have been waiting for this very moment my entire life. The moment where I’d gather the courage to pick up the pen and paper I have hidden under my bed and start to write. And on this very night, on the night when the moon seems to shine the brightest for as long as I have been living, it finally came to me. Yes, my dear reader. I don’t regret anything.

I have already wasted too many nights. Nights where I would only stare blankly at the sky and wonder. I would wonder how nice it would be if I were living in your world—not that I could fathom what it’s like. But I’m sure it’s much better than mine, right? I’m sure I could tell someone about the dreams I have every night without having to fear for a bullet piercing through my skull. I’m sure I could write down how my days went without having to fear for someone knocking down my door and staining the bedsheets with my blood.

I’m sure I could live without fear.

During those nights, I would also search for a shooting star and make a wish, in hopes it would come true. Everyone thinks it’s just a myth, but myths are also stories. And I believe in stories. And so I wish. I wish stories would not be chained in my world. I wish stories would fly freely from one person to another, travelling around the world, and perhaps, reaching people’s hearts along the way.

But I knew my wish would never come true. They have locked each and every one of our stories in the deepest part of our hearts. It’s hard to admit, but I can understand why they would go as far as to do such a thing. Stories are indeed powerful. With stories, we can make something happen. We can bring something to life. We can form something that nobody else could ever think of.

Yes, we. You. Me. Everyone.

With stories, even the smallest and most insignificant people are given the ability to create

But they think that’s precisely what makes stories dangerous. 

Perhaps they aren’t afraid of our ability to create. Perhaps they are afraid of what we would create. Of their own creation. Of what people think of their creation. You see, my dear reader, there are many uncertainties when it comes to stories. And those uneasy tugs pulling at each and every heartstring may just be the spark that ignites the insecurity in each of them—in each of us—and we’d end up feeling small… and insignificant.

But, my dear reader, do you think our creativity should be extinguished just because we’re afraid of how small—or big—the fire inside us is? If it’s small, we would be left disappointed, because it becomes a reflection of our insignificance. But if it’s big, the fire within us may not only burn others but also ourselves. The conflict brought by the unpredictable outcome of our creativity is what makes them afraid—what makes us afraid. And what we’re afraid of, we believe it as dangerous.

But I’m here to tell you that it’s wrong, my dear reader. As this story comes to a close, I, as someone who is forbidden to create, will pass on a message.

Never stop creating.

You have the world in your favour. What are you afraid of?

Do not be afraid of the spark inside you. Do not be afraid of the fire it will become. Unleash it, my dear reader. See it dancing in your eyes. Feel it burning in your heart. Creativity is not something that should be put out. Creativity is not something dangerous unless you believe it so. If you believe in yourself, believe in the beauty of your creation… you are no fragile being. You are powerful—no matter how big or small the fire inside you is.

But remember, my dear reader, your fire is not meant to harm others. Your fire is not meant to dismiss those with little sparks or tiny flames. Handle your fire with care, or else you may end up burning yourself. And just like stories, your fire—your power—is meant to be shared with others. That’s how you grow to be more powerful; how your fire will burn brighter than ever before.

And this, my dear reader, marks the end of my story… and perhaps the end of my life. But even if you were to forget me, I hope you won’t forget the one thing I taught you: that anything can happen when it comes to stories. After all, with stories, the possibilities are endless—such as that I may get out of this alive. That would be quite a twist in the plot, wouldn’t it?

If I really do end up alive, you can definitely expect another letter from me. But that, of course, would be a story for another day.

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