Eve collapsed into a heap on the ground, clutching the grass as if the green mass was the only thing keeping her from being pulled to the center of the earth. She trembled, feeling as if all the bones that had supported her for the past twenty years had been painfully extracted from her, though concerned onlookers viewed no signs of physical aching. Yet she felt torn away from all these people, their worried voices a distant concern to her own well-being. The deep pain that she was experiencing was of no concern to them.

Flames engulfed her lungs and the burning crawled up into her throat. She freed the grip of one of her hands in order to check her throat for scorch marks, but there was no trace of any physical torture. Eve wanted to tear all of her thick, brown hair out, but decided against it. She regained a firm grip on the ground, realizing now that a persistent screech was echoing through her whole body, causing her insides to shake. The scream was the most tormenting for the girl, who was using every ounce of her strength to resist the unbearable sound.

It took Eve quite some time to realize that she was creating the maddening sounds. At that moment the screeching ended, but her mouth continued to hang as if she didn't have the will power to clench her jaw. She struggled to her knees, clutching the grass for what seemed like days. Her eyes had remained closed for this entire scene, and knowing what lay on the other side of her eyelids, she allowed them to remain closed.

Slowly, the back of her eyelids began to redden, signaling the approach of day. She decided that it was time to open her eyes and face exactly what had happened the previous night. Still clawing at the rich earth, she managed to loosen the features on her face in an attempt to see, but she realized that a crusty film had formed over the seams, her tears from the previous night attempting in vain to protect her from the horrific truth. Undisturbed by extra pain, she ripped her eyes open, feeling eyelashes falling onto the ground near her hands.

She only saw a vivid green all around her, which didn't reassure her any. She wanted to leap to her feet in order to search for him, but she was sure that her legs wouldn't be able to support her weight. The pain in her heart was too heavy. Instead, she used her remaining strength to lift her head in order to view more of the field on which she lay. Her eyes crawled up the glen, until they laid rest on a finger. A stinging in her lungs developed. Did she want to go on? Did she really want to know? Her eyes seemed to do the thinking on their own, creeping forward in an effort to reveal the identity of the person to Eve. A hand appeared, and then an arm. The shoulder would be next, thought Eve.

She felt a jolt. Having used up all the strength she could muster, she saw no more and collapsed on the soft, wet ground.

The young woman awoke with the sun resonating, watching shadow-less people walk through the dank earth, searching for survivors. She spotted a dark figure in the distance that seemed to catch sight of her as well. The dark figure began to scramble for the bushy haired girl. Eve waited, wanting to find out who it was. As the figure drew increasingly closer a revelation took place. He wasn't running towards her; that was someone else that she didn't care about at this moment. He was the one lying next to her. And the battle that took place, on the field where she now weakly lay, was all coming back to her...

A winding path snakes past all the run down houses and shops in the village of Moor. The town is centuries old and seems to remain untouched by the western world. When gazing past the ramshackle rooftops it is easy to see exactly why. Mountains loom as the protectors from the North, keeping the vast sea of the South mindful of its duties. Limitless marshland sandwiches the town from the East and the West. Isolation has not kept out all technology, however. Save for the cobbled main street, all the roads are paved, though there are no cars. Instead, trolleys that appear out of place with the land provide transportation. Great, steam locomotives grace the outskirts of the village. Though rarely used, they transport both children and adults to the secluded schools miles from any other civilization.

The main quarter is the great, cobbled street and everything that resides on it. Melancholy houses with their droopy, ancient windows grace the quarter and quaint shops with their lacey counterparts pop up without giving notice. Narrow alleyways separate the houses and shops like a crooked old man's fingers holding a cigar. They wind downhill, to the rest of the secluded civilization.
If a stranger were to stroll down the main quarter, he might find a small peculiarity. Where all the shops are brightly colored on the quarter, when one reaches the final storefront, the color abruptly stops. It is as if this shop wants to remain unnoticed, a shadow. This theory would quickly be squashed, however, as the stranger would notice that people bustle in and out of the shop quite frequently. The tiny store, rightfully named Diminutive Gifts, ends the chain of stores and only the cobbled path continues. The path zigs and zags through fields of flowers until it simply stops at the edge of a dismal looking marshland. The ground in this land is dank, but fertile, and the grass glows green in the night. This is where the final battle took place.

How it began is uncertain. For centuries, turmoil had taken over this unnoticed land. At the turn of the 16th century a group emerged from nowhere called L'espionage. This group cast a dark shadow across the land for some time. They were a band of thieves that had come from the mysterious mountains and soon became notorious for their vicious acts against the townspeople. They carried deadly weapons unknown to the people of the Moor, which shot lead that could pierce the skin in less than a second. As most of the townspeople grew more terrified of L'espionage, a select few banded together to destroy the group. They became known as The Order, the protectors of the village.

During the end of the 18th century, L'espionage disappeared, and so the Order rested for a while, though not all of them disbanded, as they believed the thieves had not gone forever. Their beliefs were right. Almost a full century later the group emerged again, and L'espionage wreaked havoc on the land once more. Their technology was different now. Their lead was faster and their weapons looked more advanced. A war between the Order and L'espionage soon began, though both groups had few members left. Little did anyone know that the final battle was fast approaching.

Most of the Order had been indulging in a day off. The members of the Order had been people watching from the balcony of the office, which was incidentally above the storefront of Diminutive Gifts, when a character clad in black ran past the trinket shop. However, the rag doll-like nature of the man's run and the snarl etched on his face weren't what caught the group's attention. Rather, it was the man he was chasing, a man with a green skull embossed on the back of his neck- a symbol for L'espionage.

The Order's twelve members became entranced by this man and sprinted after him. Everyone ran deeper into the marshland, except for the man in black, who was told to stay where he was. It may have looked a bit odd to the townspeople, who were intrigued by the action, but the unwary dozen people from the Order kept running until they lost sight of the town and lost the man.

Abruptly, the members of the Order found themselves completely surrounded by the notorious band of thieves. It had been an ambush. A terrible battle ensued, one that lasted for days, though most of it was uneventful. On the third day a man near Eve was shot. The bullet had only grazed him, but he was hysterical, acting as if the wound were fatal. She ran over to calm him down, but as she began to tend to the man a deafening CRACK issued from the other side of the marsh. She closed her eyes in anticipation.

Before the shot, a familiar figure leaped in front of her, taking the hit for himself. She lost her breath as she watched her love fall to the earth, sprawled out as if he were a toy forgotten by a thoughtless child. He lay there, and she could only bear to look at his hand, and the ring that rest on it. She didn't need to look any further to identify the person. Now it was certain who he was.

That was when her knees buckled. Eve collapsed into a heap on the ground, clutching the grass as if the green mass was the only thing keeping her from being pulled to the center of the earth...

...But now the battle was over and Eve lay in a state of utter exhaustion. The dark figure had reached her and was now checking her for possible injuries. As he stepped out of the shadows Eve realized it was Daniel, one of her oldest friends. Eve opened her mouth to speak, but the figure was strong and forced his hand over her lips in order to prevent her from uttering a word. She was becoming frustrated, not being able to move was a bother in itself, but not being able to find out the truth about the outcome was too difficult to bear. She had so many questions to ask, so why was the man prohibiting her from doing so?

Eve, I'll let you speak once you've calmed down, okay?

The deep voice was soothing to her, but it wasn't the one that she longed to hear. And calm down? What did he mean by saying that? It was then that she noticed that her teeth were rattling; in fact her entire body was shaking viciously.

The soothing voice sounded again.

Dear, you've got to calm down. Otherwise, we'll attract attention to ourselves. I need you to be calm, or I can't tell you anything.

Eve nodded. If she wanted to find out the truth, she needed to regain her self-control. She began to regain composure when she glanced in the direction of the outstretched hand and her violent spasms began anew. Stop it, Eve, she thought to herself, you need to get control, or you'll never find out what condition he's in. The thought of being able to find out the truth caused her heart to swell, almost as if it was a sponge absorbing the poison that swam through her body.

Okay, she said. I've calmed down. Although her voice trembled, it was extremely meek.

What do you need to know?

Daniel... How is..?


Daniel finished her thought for her, knowing that he had this coming since the events of last night.

Harry's... Eve, you know that I don't want to put you through this. Its hard for me, you know that.

Daniel, tell me, that's him over there, isn't it? Tell me everything that happened after I... I...

Eve, first you've got to take it easy. You've got to promise me you're going to be calm while you listen.

She nodded.

Daniel began, After you saw Harry get hit, you mean.

Eve sobbed loudly.

Daniel ignored her disobedience and continued.

Eve, there's not much to tell. He's gone.

Eve mustered enough strength to pull herself up to a sitting position. At this point, she threw her arms around Daniel and began to sob violently. It should have been me, she thought, and she began to loathe herself. As if Daniel could read her mind he began to reassure her.

There was nothing that you could do. It was his choice to take the hit and you know that. Deep down you know that it was a final realization of his love for you.

Daniel began to silently cry for the loss of his best friend. L'espionage had taken so many people from him, but Harry was the one that he missed most. They had been through it all together. And for the first time in a long time, he was able to share his tears with someone else.

They sat there together for quite some time in complete silence. Night began to fall when they finally seemed to gain enough strength to say goodbye to their fallen friend.

Daniel went with Eve, partly as a reassurance to his dear friend, but partly in an effort to say goodbye to the first friend that he ever made. He remembered his first encounter on a train ride when they were still small, the uneaten rabbit sandwiches left on the train on that day, the chocolate moustaches they had both sported after engulfing too many chocolate-pumpkin tarts together, and the lasting ties of friendship they would forever hold. Tears streamed down his face as he went to say one last goodbye.

Eve tried to remain dignified throughout saying goodbye. Her love, her only love, was lost, forever. As she reached his sprawled out figure, she noticed a tranquility almost shining on his hushed face. Her knees began to wobble, but Dan stood next to her as a crutch, and she was able to move on. She bent down next to Mark, ready to say a last goodbye. It felt as if years past as she wept by his side. She clung to his shirt as if she would never have to leave him if she hung on. It was too unbearable for Eve to look upon his face, so she kept glancing down to the muddled Earth. As she glanced to the side of his fallen figure she noticed a piece of parchment that had settled into the ground, which seemed to have fallen out of his pocket. The parchment was addressed to her, and her heart deeply ached as she read what was written.

As the moonbeams on the silver frost

Guide through the night those that are lost

You have guided me to your heart

And in this way we'll never part

Though I may pass through heaven's gate

Until you arrive I'll forever wait

Though surrounded by the radiant sky

Without you my heart cannot fly

I feel so lost when separated from you

My soul wanders, not knowing what to do

Fore I am the weary traveler filled with fright

And you, my moonbeam, my guide in the night

A few of the words became dark puddles of ink as Eve's tears graced the page.

Inside Joko Jun

Joko Jun features Filipinos from around the world... musicians, writers, photographers, and other creative people.