Le Papillon

BTSB - Le Papillon Cover


Autumn leaves waltz on the melancholic floor while I straighten Veronique’s hat. I give her a kiss on the forehead and tighten my grip on her tiny fingers that always radiate intense heat for the whole world to feel. She responds with a content smile; and off we go, losing ourselves into the crowd of busy eyes that are quietly searching for something unpronounced.

We get through the stamping of the shoes and sit on a grey-painted bench, next to a grey stone wall. The red letters scream, 7 minutes. Just enough time for Veronique to get bored, so I start to gently rock her on my lap, humming a song from my childhood — kilometres of sundried grass, serpentine streams of clear water, and never-ending sunflower fields.

C’était un’ petit’ fille

Qui s’appellait Suzon

Qui allait à l’école

Tout près de sa maison

sol la si do do

do si la sol ré ré ré

ré mi ré do si la si do.

My voice suddenly turns cold, out of some strange, unknown longing. I let Veronique sing louder when we get to the second verse. It’s her favourite song, and has been since she learnt to speak. How has it already been four years…

Qui allait à l’école

Tout près de sa maison;

Dans son chemin rencontre

Un joli papillon

”Maman, I want to see a butterfly, too!” she cries interrupting our singing. Smiling, I tell her that it’s not possible to see one before the spring arrives.

”How long will it take, maman?”

I pause briefly and then go on about how soon it’ll all be green and happy. ”Close your eyes and you’ll see. Let’s go!”

We imagine a cloud of colourful butterflies flying above a verdant meadow; we imagine the first flowers of the spring peeking from the trenches of promesse; we imagine dance steps here and there, bright lipsticks, first touches of the spring sun, final exams, moving ceremonies, excitement on school girls’ faces.

”But maman, when can I see it myself?!”

I force a smile and make empty promises once again. It’s only October, but I’m too afraid myself to admit that it takes about half a year until she can see those oh, so important butterflies.

”Vero, we’ve got to go now, take my hand.”

I’m already rushing toward the metro that would be arriving soon when I realize that the extension of my arm isn’t following me. When I turn around, I see my little girl standing still, weakly pulling my hand toward herself.


”Vero, what’s wrong now? We’re in a hurry!”

”Non, non, maman, look, on the floor… you could’ve tripped on that paper and hit your head. You’ve said it yourself, you’ve said that we always have to watch where we step.”

I feel guilty, culpable of all these everyday injustices I let happen to my only child, blaming lack of time, tiredness, or hastiness. In the middle of endless quotidian responsibilities and tasks to carry out, I sometimes come to question my motherly abilities.

”My little life guard, you’re right. Thank you.”

She throws a mesmerizing smile and off we hurry, escaping the darkness that’s chasing me and my girl who is loyally following her infallible guardian.

Dans son chemin rencontre

Un joli papillon

Ell’ le prit par la patte

Et lui dit : mon mignon

sol la si do do

do si la sol ré ré ré

ré mi ré do si la si do.


Ell’ le prit par la patte

Et lui dit : mon mignon

Que tu es donc heureux !

Tu n’as pas de leçons.

Someone knocks on my shoulder and I turn around telling Veronique to wait a moment. A ragged stranger grabs my arm and pulls me aside. I become aware of the arriving metro; it’s already shaking the grey ground. I have just the time to open my mouth intending to complain about our hurry, when the man starts to proclaim in a thick Parisian accent:

”Madame, you must listen to me for just a moment! I am sure you have time for this, because my announcement is very important!”

He doesn’t even breathe before he goes on for a few more words, until I interrupt him, rudely, in a way so very unusual of me. When rushing toward the metro that is now slowing down only about a hundred metres away from the platform, I keep thinking about my nature that I’m sure has changed into identical with the busy city people, who don’t care about anyone else surrounding them. They know how to dispirit a childishly enthusiastic tourist, the likes of whom I once served in the countryside. In my past life, I would happily bake them cakes and pies, pour perfectly steamed milk into espresso, and decorate chocolates, with a wide smile complementing my features; but when they would return to the melancholy tango of car lights on buzzing yet depressingly grey streets, they would forget all about the texture of my divine dark chocolate truffles.

There’s the crowd again, swirling and moving toward the metro. I fake a smile once more, preparing to take Veronique on her first metro trip to a whole new part of Paris. ”Vero, are you ready for an adventure?”

Que tu es donc heureux !

Tu n’as pas de leçons

Tous deux de compagnie

Nous nous envolerons.

Suddenly, there is no answer.

Everything is fine, I must be overreacting, I tell myself — the girl stood next to me a second ago, I’m being paranoid, surely she just wandered a few feet away from me, and now all these people are just covering her tiny figure; she’s so easy to lose if you let her hand go for a single second… It really is about seconds.

The seconds I wandered around the metro station felt like hours. When it finally struck my mind, the one thing no one should ever have to experience, which eventually ended up being the truth, everything went silent.

Like in a movie, people start to scream here and there, pointing toward the metro tunnel, staring and marvelling. It felt like a disgrace — as if there wasn’t enough pain to get through in the accident itself. From that day on, I started to dislike people.

Tous deux de compagnie

Nous nous envolerons

La clochette m’appelle

Adieu, cher papillon.

I make my way through the crowd of faceless Parisians now in disarray, to see what is going on.

There lies an angel on the rails, and she is smiling; her smile is cruel and beautiful. A left foot’s shoe has flown metres away and a right arm bent unnaturally. I stare at this sight without any understanding, thinking that the angel looks relieved, happy even.

But it’s not spring yet.

I jump down not noticing the tears falling down my cheeks. ”Oh my God, she’s breathing, what are you all looking at, the angel is breathing and she’s happy, she’s enjoying the spring sun, she’s smiling, can’t you see…”

La clochette m’appelle

Adieu, cher papillon.

Slowly, my senses begin to work again, and a clear comprehension strikes my mind. My bones start to ache, my lungs shut down. I can’t hear any noise of breathing, the body next to me is ice-cold, the smile is gone.

Suddenly, I am being dragged away from the last scene of her I ever get to witness again. I lift my head and notice a painted butterfly on the concrete wall behind her.

It’s smiling.

Poetry Practise



This article contains amateur poetry written in verse (barring the two short ones at the end). I’ve wished to write poetry for quite a long while now, and being part of the BTSB crew gives me the opportunity to actually publish it, as well as the chance to review it at a later date.

Of writing poetry, I have the following to say. Firstly, it is surprisingly difficult. I had four major points to consider; rhythm, metre, rhymes, and general expression of what I wanted to say. For me, I feel as the rhythm was the most difficult aspect (it remains far from natural in what I present in this article) – perhaps this is felt by other ESL speakers and writers as well. Secondly, writing poetry feels weird. I constantly felt like I was, in an indescribable way, pitting myself against someone or something. Lastly, whilst I thought trying my hand at poetry was extremely enjoyable, sometimes I felt like abandoning it all and writing an article about something easier and, more importantly, less personal.

The short verse-snippets in this article tell of the lives (usually in a mocking tone) of the Nine Worthies, a set of heroes named by 14th century French author Jacques de Longuyon. The Nine Worthies include the following characters, listed in order of appearance in this article; Hector of Troy, Julius Caesar, Joshua, King David, Judas Maccabeus, King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon. Alexander the Great is, of course, the 9th Worthy, but I opted not to write about him at this time.

In my poetry, I thought it wise to allude to the KJB and Shakespeare’s works to show off what I had read before. Likewise I found it difficult to resist the opportunity to include puns and wordplay. Unfortunately, these factors might make understanding what I aimed to say difficult – and therefore ruin the poetry. This is somewhat ironic, as I have always thought that reading amateur poetry was annoying specifically for this reason. With that being said, I had fun in trying out poetry, and hopefully you, the reader, might be inspired to give it a go one day.


Here we lay our scene, played by writer lone,

accompan’d by nine Princes of ages lost.

Set betwixt mind and map, in realms unknown;

wherein man meets Human, at an untold cost.

Should thou seeketh sorry savoury purpose

for wit-working writ in this-like domain,

know thus: it is jealousy of sweet corpus

given life by Poets born nevermore again.

Righteous removal of hatred and hope

mine noble effort doth aim to achieve,

purposing to will a will: graciously cope

with thine deficits, and thyself not deceive.

An unjoyous task be an unsightly view,

howbeit combined, us ten may our sins subdue.



Down in the deep darks of Underworld dwelleth thou now, paragon.

Once-worsted warrior, won by Worthy wrath, answer I: wert thou war’s pawn?

Virtue or Vice, venture we to weigh, be Man’s grim glory-greed by nature:

opinions oppos’d ought to cull, ere culling come their feature?

Heracles-hatched held thou not, as title; heroic deeds were-

thy toil to Troy’s tale. Thus, live in legend, lacking mine rage to incur.



Follow we hence an Ancient with another,

driven to decimate this well-Worthy rank

with cruelty akin to that conferr’d by brother

and heavy heir, whose heart in happy jealousy sank.

Then fall, res publica! no father, mother,

no dictator can truly-taught treachery thank;

bloody betrayal will any bond-breath smother,

right-rooted trust from former-friends’ souls yank.


Thy death promis’d propagators prosperity,

power war-won, and Divinity dismal:

most bounteous boons by bandit-business.

Follow’d annihilation of austerity;

th’estate of august Athens’ heirs, turned abysmal-

thy life and reign tainted, by want of wiseness.



Now after the death of Kaiser, our words spin

backwards in time, speaking of asp y Nun-son,

whose deceitful deeds Worthy-worth, held by his kin-

worth the while, deems only I, of being justly undone:

the tribes of th’Twelve would without thou have won.

O Clandestine conqueror; ill cit-servant;

thy victories aptly amount to Cain and one.

In viperous Vices wert thou fervent,

epithets of these Worthy, bestowed by the observant.



Comes next not Nero, but an other

of his kind; a sonorous song-writing King,

whose fiery feud with fiendish Foe slayed tother.

A Man hosting Heavenly heart, with offspring

of Greatness well-deserving; to this cling,

since thy sovereign sling better never brought.

Saviour-spawning for, honour thy memory we ought.



Writ or sang, may be songs of gallant heroes

which here world hath witnessed manifold-

many ascrib’d fame, some reduced to zeroes;

thy name thine ruin foretold, fair friar of old.

Holofernes himself hesitated,

in revealing thy nature and natural-name.

Designated traitor, art thou ill-fated

to suffer the slings and arrows of defame?

Revolting as thine atrocious acts are,

take in this: from Iscariot’s vile will art thou far.



Dragon-descendant boast thee thy title, bear king;

Lord of the castle, Protector of a table-

grandeur and chagrin both did thy knights thou bring.

Lo! of their fearsome feats tell many a fable.

In stories, yea, unmatched remains thy glory,

as testament to power of the auditory.

Without contest, likewise was fair thy Queen,

whose affairs arduous were deemed obscene.

Fine a match in matrimony; thou and her!

save there a sea of spears had between thee been.

Myth equal the merits of eager exertion, Sir.


Tedious tales of warlocks, and Knights Green

may – perchance – fail to entertain those keen.

What is fiction? but display of smoke and air;

as Revels are ended, what remains on Scene?

Myth equal the merits of eager exertion, Sir.




mannered King

conquering, uniting, governing.

Inviolable, untouchable a ruler.




Of Bouillon hail thou, good God-Fear,

King of Jerusalem! oh dear!

Renouncing the title,

thought our man vital;

but he died after a single year.


I Left It In Myles Bay



The snow fell in heavy lumps that really couldn’t be described as flakes. Nothing about them was flaky; they stuck to the ground and onto the windshield even though Diego had the windshield wipers working like the heart of a hummingbird. The inconvenient white powder continued to slam against the glass only to be wiped away, revealing a glimpse of the road ahead.

“You had to pick this day, of all the days in the world, to have a mental breakdown,” Diego grumbled and fiddled with the radio, trying to catch a decent station. “If you weren’t my favorite cousin I’d be at home, watching Netflix right now,” he declared.

“At least there’s no traffic,” I said, offering what little positive input I could.

“Joanna,” Diego said and turned to look at me with sincere wide brown eyes, “That’s because no one in this whole wide universe is dumb enough to drive in this weather.”

“I’m sorry,” I said and put my gloves on. The car was warm enough but my fingers still felt like icicles from running into a gas station and buying the huge map that was folded out on my lap.

I had to give Diego some credit; he had only started to complain after a full two hours of driving in silence. He was the kind of person you called up in the middle of the night and asked to get in a car and drive to an undisclosed location with no questions asked. He was also the kind of person who insisted on red Twizzlers for road trips, which is why we had to stop by a 24/7 Seven Eleven before we could head for the highway.

“Hey, didn’t you guys use to rent that summer cottage?” Diego asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

Diego sighed audibly and danced his fingers over the steering wheel. “Joanna, Joanna, don’t tell me we’ve driven all this way for you to tell me we’re going to be doing some breaking and entering.”

“I know the code for the key,” I said and shrugged my shoulders, “It’s not a crime if you have a key.”

“Yeah, remind me to never hire you as my lawyer,” Diego remarked and went back to staring at the road, glaring at the snow as if he could melt it away with his stare.

“I need to go there,” I said, my voice quiet, almost washed out by the sound of the radio. “You don’t understand, but I need to.”

“Trust me, I don’t understand why you need to go to some shabby cottage in the middle of nowhere, but I do understand that you need to go there.”

Foggy roadI guess I felt thankful. He didn’t need to know why, and he didn’t ask. I wanted to tell, but I was afraid that it would ruin the trip and it wasn’t a very good trip to begin with. But I had managed to push It away, just for a while. And I needed It to stay away. I was so scared of It coming back. I’d kept It away by thinking of happy times and happy moments. Each one gave me only so much time. It ate away at my joyous memories and eventually burned through them like fuel. But I knew. There was one place, with memories too good, a place where every room rang with laughter and held the warmth of sun rays in the floor, a place where I had always been happy. It had always stayed away, never daring to enter this place, secluded by tall pine woods and water. I was out of fuel. I had no other choice but to go. So I packed a bag at five AM and called Diego. Then it was the concerned looks and awkward explanations.

“I need to go to Myles Bay,” I’d said.

“Yeah and I need a week in Cuba,” Diego had laughed, standing in my driveway on Markham St. his dark curly hair flailing in the wind. “What else is new.”

“I need to go,” I had insisted and looked back at the house, noticing my parent’s bedroom light switch on. “I need to go now and you can’t ask why.”

He’d given me this look, this look I’d seen on his face many times before ever since we were little kids. When I’d had tantrums in Walmart, embarrassing his mom who swore it was the last time she’d babysit me niece or no niece. When I’d spent my entire sixteenth birthday locked in my room. When I yelled and cursed at my parents, which was unheard of in this family. And when I’d come back from our trips from cottage country, he saw It settle in, and the look was there to tell me so.

“We are at Owen Sound,” Diego announced, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Are you sure we can’t stick around here for a while, it’s the first decent station I’ve found in ages,” he laughed triumphantly. And indeed the radio didn’t screech and rattle with bad connection, but played clearly, filling the car with a beat and melody.

I looked at my map, ignoring the music. “Thirty more minutes or so if we don’t stop,” I tried a smile, “Next pit stop is Wiarton, they have that huge statue of a mouse I’ve been telling you about.”

“Ah, the infamous Wiarton mouse statue,” Diego rejoiced, “Seeing that damn thing better make up for this trip, cuz.”

“It’s pretty glorious,” I said and smiled.

“Full speed ahead,” Diego declared and indeed did go above the speed limit. The drive to Wiarton passed in a blur. Diego was happy and excited about the music and seeing the mouse statue and I didn’t let myself think. When we finally drove passed the Wiarton mouse named Willie, Diego slowed down and gawked in awe. The thing was completely covered in snow; it looked like Santa Clause with a heavy beard of white. “How can you even tell it’s a mouse?” He exclaimed. “This, this is outrageous, Joanna.”

I gave him an apologetic look, tracing the roads on the map. “You gotta remember we’re on six not on ten anymore.”

“Wha- What does that have to do with the mouse?”

I furrowed my brow. “N-nothing?”

“That’s it. I see a Timmy’s ahead. We’re stopping for coffee. Who knows when the next opportunity will come along.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” I protested as he steered the car into the abundantly empty parking lot. “No drive through…We’ll wish me luck. I’m going out there.”

I waved him a meek goodbye and shuttered as the car door slammed closed. Diego was my oldest cousin. We had two others; Janine and Amber. They were twins. The lived with Uncle Harry and Aunt Connie in Brampton. We saw them for Christmas and birthdays and all the big holidays. Diego and I, however, had grown up in the same neighborhood a couple blocks apart. We’d gone to the same school and we’d played in the same soccer team. Both of us quit after a year. I’d known him all my life and he was more of an older brother than a cousin to me, but that was because my parents were very busy people and Diego’s mom, Christine, got stuck with me after school and on the weekends. I couldn’t remember a week that had gone by without us not seeing each other, except for those that I’d spent at Myles Bay with mom and dad. Four weeks out of the summer in complete isolation from the city, from Diego and Christine and from work and school and everything that messed things up. So I felt a bit guilty, for letting him come along this time. And I was scared that maybe the place would lose some of its magic having him there. But he had a car. And a driver’s licence. Two things I no longer possessed.

The door opened and let in freezing air. At least the sun had gone up while we made the drive. It made everything look so bright in a fresh coat of snow.

“I got you hot chocolate and a muffin,” Diego said and handed me a greasy paper bag. “And don’t tell me you’re not hungry because you haven’t eaten anything since we left.”

“Blueberry,” I noted. “My favorite.” I accepted the food and the warm hot chocolate because I saw no point in arguing, which was unusual for me. I had a tendency of always finding something to argue about. But Diego was very disarming with his concerned looks and his blueberry muffins and radio stations. So I settled with nibbling on my muffin as he continued to navigate us up a road that took us through fields and shaky looking buildings.

“You gotta make a right turn here,” I said.

“Into the woods,” Diego remarked. “Meryl Streep was great in that movie. Meryl Streep is great in everything.” He laughed to himself as we drove on a slippery sand road through a thick forest. I knew it wouldn’t be long now. Five minutes tops. I sat at the edge of my seat. Leaning in to see through the snow covered windshield. We broke out of the mess of pine trees and I saw the water. “Oh,” I gasped, “Look at that.”


The lake thrashed with wild waves, the body of water too large to freeze even during the winter lows. The snow hurtled into the dark blue and sunk to join the waves. Behind it, in the horizon, a beach followed by the edge of yet another enormous patch of trees colored in various dark greens covered in snow dominated the view. Rows of summer cottages lined the other side of the road, I recognized every single one. I remembered walking up and down that road with dad, inviting people over for a barbeque. I’d never see him wear an apron anywhere else. Or flip-flops. Not even in the summer when the city sizzled and bubbled with heat.

“This place looks deserted,” Diego said and slowed down on the icy road.

“No it’s not. It’s so alive it’s almost scary,” I said and pointed towards a house with a wide terrace and a sloping roof, “That’s the one.”

Diego pulled over and I stumbled out of the car. The cold stuck to my skin as I scrambled for the door, carefully navigating the stairs. “Hold these,” I said and handed my gloves to Diego who was right behind me. I punched in the familiar code and opened the little vault, the key dropped onto my bare palm, the metal so cold it felt like hot needles. I tried the lock and it opened without any issues. Both of us hurried inside.

“The heat isn’t on,” Diego complained and quickly took in his surroundings. The whole place was very tacky, decorated with the most extravagantly horrendous furniture. For some reason the owner had decided on a rainforest theme for the living room. “I’ll go see if I can do something about that.”

I stood in the hallway. Looking at how the familiar tiles zigzagged on the floor. It was a little better. Not how it used to be. But that could have been because of Diego. Or maybe the snow. I hugged myself and pulled my jacket closer. “Something…” I mumbled and walked further into the house. “Why is this…” I opened the door to my bedroom. The bed was stripped and all the linens folded neatly in the closet. The wall was still as pink as it had ever been. But something, something was wrong, because I could still feel It. And It shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t be able to come here. I became frantic, going through the rooms, the drawers, the kitchen cupboards. I could feel my pulse sky rocket and my face flush. I knew that wasn’t good. Knew it from experience. “Stop it,” I told myself, but my hands kept rummaging through the utensil drawer; I spilled forks and knives and spoons on the floor. They rattled like instruments on the tiling. “This is…this can’t be. It’s supposed to be good, so good…” I muttered and moved on into the living room. I stopped abruptly as I found myself staring at Diego, kneeling in front of the fireplace. He’d managed to get a fire going, effectively warming up the space.

“Check this out Joanna, I fixed it,” he exclaimed as he turned to look at me, his smile faltering as he noticed my current state.

“You didn’t fix anything,” I said, my voice strung high with panic. “There’s something wrong. There’s something wrong with this place. There’s something WRONG,” I couldn’t stop it. My plan had failed, the last scraps of power I’d clung onto were gone. It was over. It was here and I’d brought It here.

“Jesus, calm down,” Diego said. I waved him off and stormed out. I shed my jacket on the porch and enjoyed the numbing wind. I could hear him following me. “Wait, Jo!”

I kept walking until I reached the water. Dead plants and frozen soil made a barrier between me and a rickety dock. I slouched over the remains of weeds and stopped to wedge off my winter boots. “Oh shit,” I squealed as my feet hit the cold wet ground. But I didn’t care. Because I was going to drown It. Just like those snowflakes drowned, dissipating under the layers of dark and freezing waters.

“What are you doing?” Diego called. “Are you insane? Are you out of your goddamn mind? You’ll freeze to death, Joanna!”

I kept moving, keeping my steps quick. I glanced back and saw Diego hesitating on the road. He saw me look. “I’m not gonna come after you. I’m not gonna die of hypothermia because you’re having one of your freak attacks!”

I cringed. He wouldn’t?

He wouldn’t. That was good. I didn’t need to drag anyone else down with me. Let him go home and eat his Twizzlers and listen to the good station in Owen Sound as he drove down. I waded through the water, holding on to the slimy side of the dock so the waves wouldn’t wash me away. The water was up to my stomach. It was paralyzing cold. It was hard to keep moving so I stopped when it was up to my shoulders. My hands dropped under the surface and I found my entire body had gone numb. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. The dock was just a couple of steps back, but I couldn’t will my legs to move. I felt It. Stronger than I ever had. Clenching its fist around me, squeezing out my breath, holding me still even though the waves around me splashed and raged. It’s just a lake. It’s never been this angry. I’ve never been this angry.

“Joanna!” Diego called, he stood at the very end of the dock, peering at me. He was holding out a hand, but I couldn’t grab it, couldn’t move. “Grab my hand!”

“I can’t” I sobbed, not sure if the wetness on my face was due to the water or tears or the invasive snowfall. “I can’t. I can’t anymore. I can’t stop It.”

“Jo, Jo, please,” He begged and reached further. “Just get out of the water.”

“But it didn’t work,” I screamed.

“I know, I know. But we’ll fix it.”

“I can’t fix it! I’ve tried, but I can’t. It’s all over me and It won’t let go,” I breathed, my teeth rattling and my body violently shaking.

“Try just this one time, just one more time. You’ve been doing so good,” Diego coaxed, “You’ve been doing so much better…And mom’s not mad about the car anymore. I swear, she’s all giddy buying a new one. We can start having Sunday dinners again. Roast chicken and lime beans.”

“She’s not mad about the car?” I asked, sniffing.

“No, she’s not mad about the car. Just like she was never mad about Walmart or baking you a birthday cake you never ate. More frosting for the rest of us,” Diego argued, “Now, get out of the water.”

I stared at his hand sure I could reach it if I tried hard enough. The look in his eyes was pleading, convincing, bargaining.

I wondered for a second if grabbing his hand would be like reducing a hurricane into a gust of wind, tucking it neatly into a drawer in my bedroom, waiting for it to gain strength so one day it would burst out, wrecking everything in its path. I wondered if it would feel like crashing a car into a brick wall, pointless, splintering, and anticlimactic. And I wondered if it would cause more trouble than do good.


Anime Review: Legend Of The Galactic Heroes


This article contains light spoilers.

My relationship with Japanese animation was always a complex one. Our generation grew up watching Dragon Ball Z and the likes on TV, but openly admitting that you like anime was considered slightly embarrassing for quite a long while. However, with the Internet becoming integrated into our daily lives and larger audiences gaining easier access to outstanding works like Studio Ghibli’s animated films, I feel as though anime also grew more popular. I’m unsure whether anime still stands at an equal rank to Western television for most people, but I think it definitely should – there are countless of anime that avoid the most common tropes of the medium and are great works in their own right. The foremost example for me is Legend of the Galactic Heroes, often hailed by its fans as ‘the endgame of anime’.

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes franchise consists of several adaptations. In addition to the 110-episode main anime series produced by Kitty Films over a period of nine years from 1988 to 1997 and the original science fiction novels the anime series is based on, there are numerous video games, two manga series, three films, two spin-off anime series, as well as a stage musical. To further complicate matters, anime studio Production I.G (responsible for the famous animated sequence in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. I) is currently producing a remake of the main anime series, intended for release later this year. In light of this new adaptation, it is an altogether fitting time for me to write about the renowned space opera.

Although the main anime series, Legend of the Galactic Heroes (henceforth LOGH), is beloved by nearly all of those who have bothered to view the damn thing (at the time of writing, it boasts an impressive 9.1 rating on IMBD and is ranked as the 8th best anime on MAL), many anime fans abstain from watching it due to a number of issues. LOGH is notoriously difficult to get one’s hands on, the dated animation and extremely slow start bother those viewers more used to modern anime, and the length (110 episodes, roughly 25 minutes each) troubles others. Also, the nature of the series, being extremely dialogue-driven, scares off some of those simply expecting brainless action, sugary romance, or cute girls.

Fear not; LOGH has all those things mentioned above, too. The narrative sometimes switches focus to self-contained stories, often told in flashbacks, like the one seen in this clip – helping the viewer better bond with the series’ many characters.

Despite (or maybe just because of it) the series being chiefly dialogue-driven, its scope is, for the lack of a better term, gargantuan. As a fan of literary classics, this is perhaps why I enjoyed LOGH to the extent I did. The series bears remarkable similarities to Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace, which is one of my favourite literary works. LOGH’s soundtrack likewise suggests connections to the classics: it consists mainly of classical music, with well-known pieces such as Mozart’s and Beethoven’s Symphonies blasting over pretty much whenever anything important happens.

As the name of the series suggests, it is set in space and the future. After a disastrous period of global wars, the surviving remnants of mankind have long since chosen to abandon Earth, and have successfully colonised thousands of planets across the wide galaxy. The series does not explicitly tell this to the viewer until Episode 40 – a gloomy and misanthropic episode – in which mankind’s history within the series’ narrative is explored in detail. I would recommend someone interested in LOGH to consider viewing this episode first, since it provides the viewer with extensive background knowledge of the setting without really spoiling anything.

An excerpt of Episode 40, starring the first Galactic Emperor: Rudolf the Great. This character is based on both Hitler and Sulla, meaning that he is, essentially, as evil as they come.

The main focus of the series is the seemingly everlasting space-war between two rival entities; the democratic Free Planets Alliance (FPA), and the monarchic Galactic Empire. The moral values of the two are further embodied in their high-ranking military commanders, Admiral Yang Wen-li of the FPA (who wishes to retire and become a historian), and Reinhard von Lohengramm of the Empire (who, in turn, desires to become Emperor and conquer the galaxy). Although the scope of LOGH spans across nearly every aspect of human life and the political spectrum, its main concern can be said to be the contrasting of the merits of absolute power with those of democratic freedom. This endeavour the series accomplishes with a level of insight and maturity unknownst to any other work of art I have encountered so far.

Admiral Yang exploring the natures of warfare and history with his protégé, Julian.

Reinhard’s posse and their celebratory customs. The series does an excellent job of portraying both sides of the conflict with dignity.

Even if Yang and Reinhard can be called the primary protagonists of the series, it devotes incredible attention to most every character. And there are quite a few characters; their names are often visible on the screen whenever they pop up for the first time in an episode, probably to remind the viewer of their name and military rank, or occupation in the case of civilians. Indeed, in spite of the series being a space opera at its core, some of the characters the series dedicates considerable focus towards are not high-ranking or otherwise famous men or women at all. The inclusion of such characters adds to the already impressive scope of the series and further suggests that LOGH can be, without a doubt, called an epic work.

High Admiral Ernst von Eisenach of the Galactic Empire. If I had to pick a favourite out of the many characters of LOGH, it would have to be him.

In LOGH, not only do the characters get a voice. The series makes use of an omniscient narrator who narrates the heroic (and, at times, unheroic) deeds of the characters to the viewer. The narrator is given a considerable role whenever the series tackles on serious subjects such as war, fate, and death; his laconic style makes him very suitable for this. He also dates major events according to both the Empire and FPA calendars, as well as a third calendar system introduced later in the series. Moreover, the narrator delivers short yet touching eulogies for most of the many characters who die during the course of the series – this writer is not embarrassed to confess that these moments often saw him in tears.

The narrator doing his job. Watch with care; the content is extremely graphic – rivalled only by the series’ horrifying depiction of nuclear warfare against civilians during the fictional Westerland Massacre – obviously, a serious taboo in Japanese culture.

Before proceeding onto my final appraisal of the series, I feel as though I must present a warning of a sort, as a foreword. LOGH is lengthy and, at times, extremely dull. The sheer amount of characters combined with the depth of their characterisation will undoubtedly confuse even an experienced fan of anime. Furthermore, since many of the readers of BTSB are students, I should point out that it will probably be difficult for you to find the time to watch such a lengthy anime in the first place. Still, if you’re looking for a challenge and willing to deal with the fairly low-quality animation, I would recommend giving LOGH a try.

Then, to sum up. Yes, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is to me the greatest anime ever made, with Galaxy Express 999 and The Rose of Versailles being among the few anime series I would consider to be in the same ballpark. It is not flawless by any means – but many of its flaws appear to be caused by budgetary concerns as well as date of production, and these I am fortunate enough to be able to overlook. It’s basically War and Peace in space, with Beethoven and company as background music; something that I never really expected from an anime series. The storylines of several characters also draw heavily from Classical antiquity, which seems to me a big bonus. Granted, a few of the numerous story arcs are tiresome, but so is Pierre’s delving into the wonders of Freemasonry in War and Peace, so I’ll give this a pass.

Past BTSB reviewers have sometimes employed a star rating in closing out their articles. I personally am sceptical when it comes to rating art of any kind on a numerical scale – therefore I’ll refrain from doing so.

I remain convinced that Legend of the Galactic Heroes has plenty enough stars on its own, anyway.

The third opening to LOGH; song is called Sea of the Stars.

La Mer

BTSB la mer

She was brought up by the sea

her mind was the ocean, easily upset

fierce now, calm in an hour

her hair was made of the salt

straws, shadowing her complexion

raw, like the little rocks on the coast

not yet softened by the waves.


She found her core in the sea

her spine was the breakwater

her heart the shipwreck far out

her arms the eternal to and fro

her meaning on the crest of waves

her wisdom the salted blow of cold

that whistles in brave boys’ ears

on the coast

her heart, in wooden pieces.


She found her love in the sea

she saw it in the black mirrors that

she threw away, back, away, back

she felt it in the white froth

she smashed apart, back, apart, back

she heard it in the deep waters

she wept afraid, not – afraid, not.


She grew up in the ocean

her breath the blasting of tidal waves

her joy bright colours in the shallow waters

her pain caught in the drops wind delivers

to the hardened shoulders of the coast

her feet, tangled in a lock of seaweed.


There she was

drowning, but there was home

in the lightless freeze of the ocean,

in the sinking grip of the sand,

in the everlasting tie of the algae;

there were wild whispers of the salt

there were stories sung by the whales

there were rhymes cracked by the pebbles

there were taming beats of the seagull;

there lived she her eyes locked,

lit up

like the lighthouse on the coast.

The World’s End 1998

Retro boombox

1998. March. Maine.

 The rain started falling heavier and Fay decided to risk it.

“Oh, what the hell”, she said and started jogging down the hill towards the house. The others followed her suit and the four of them slipped and slid down the muddy road. Before reaching the house, however, they slowed down. When there was no sign of life, Fay stepped onto the porch and out from the now pouring rain. The others joined her and stood there shivering, giving the door wary looks.

“Okay”, Fay said and breathed in. “Okay.” She reached for the handle and pulled carefully. The door opened easily as she had expected. The lock wasn’t broken, however, but that didn’t mean much in the end. She and Daniel took off their backpacks and set them down quietly. Nicole mouthed ‘be careful’ and Minh nodded with the nervous smile the boy always wore. Fay pulled the door open enough for her and Daniel to slip in.

The air was stuffy and there was a strong smell of mould. Fay fingered the gun in her coat pocket. The cold metal felt comforting in all the wet and stale and soft. She and Daniel moved further into the house, their footsteps muffled by the decaying carpets. They walked through the first floor together and saw nothing. Most of the furniture looked as if they hadn’t been touched at all and none of the windows were broken. In a way this serenity was more unnerving than the typically overturned tables and smashed glass over the floor. But here there was nothing.

“Up or down, big guy?” Fay whispered, giving a hopeful glance at the stairs leading to the second floor. Daniel motioned towards the door behind him and Fay nodded. She started walking up the stairs while Daniel descended to the basement.

Ah. Here was something at last. Unmistakable, rust-coloured stains on the white floorboards, leading to one of the two doors. Fay kept her hand on the gun and stepped inside. A bathroom. Some more stains on the floor, a shower curtain with pale yellow ducks, and mouldy hand towels. Nothing else. Fay tried the other door and found a nursery. Nothing. She let out a long breath. It was shaky and shallow. She tried again, breathing in and out slowly until her heart had calmed down and her shoulders relaxed.

“Clear”, she said as she walked down the stairs to find Daniel waiting. The man nodded with a very tight smile, his face pale in the dim light. “You?” Fay asked, her hand quickly back on the gun.

“Safe”, Daniel said with his low, gentle voice. “But don’t let the others go down there.” Fay shuddered.


“Ooh, make-up!” Nicole said and limped to the vanity table with her cane. She picked up a lipstick and tried it on the back of her hand. The surface was dried but after rolling it on her skin for a while, Nicole managed to get some colour out of it and brought the stick to her lips, dabbing at them with the bright red. Fay watched with amusement as the women tried out the other products as well.

“Let an old woman have her fun”, Nicole said as she caught Fay’s grin from the mirror

 “48 isn’t that old”, Fay said.

 “It is in this world”, Nicole said. Fay shook her head with the grin still on her face and left the other woman to her business.

Daniel and Minh were in the kitchen, checking the closets in silence the way they always did. Daniel was quiet either by nature or trauma and Minh too shy. Fay hadn’t figured out yet how much the boy understood English, but assumed it was more than he showed. He and Daniel had piled canned food on the table and Fay set to checking out the best before dates. It didn’t matter much, of course, but Fay wanted their first meal at the house to actually taste like something.

“Beans and tomato soup, boys? We’ve still got that bread, too”, she said. “SpaghettiOs for Nicole, I think. She only eats beans when there’s no choice. Cherries for dessert.”

Daniel started preparing the food while Fay and Minh picked a few buckets and took them outside and placed them on the soft grass. The rain was still pouring and the buckets filled steadily. The two of them carried these back inside and into the kitchen. By this, they were dripping wet themselves and went to put on fresh clothes.

“O ho!” Fay shouted as her eyes caught a whisky bottle in the bedroom where she had been changing. “O ho!” she cried again to annoy Nicole.

“What now?” Nicole, still at the vanity table, snapped.

“It’s going to be a right feast tonight, grandma!” Fay said and got hit in the face with a lipstick.


A feast they did have. The still soft bread was heavenly and the beans and soup were better than most of what they had been living on lately. The whisky was saved for dessert. Fay dropped a couple of canned cherries into her glass to get a laugh out of Minh. The boy complied with that same small smile of his. Everyone raised their glasses.

 “Anyone know a good toast?” Nicole asked.

 “’Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy’”, Fay tried.

 “Nice”, Nicole said. “’Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker’?”

“’Here’s to staying positive and testing negative.’”

“Fay, don’t ruin this.”

“’May we be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows we’re dead.’”

 “’May we get what we want, may we get what we need, but may we never get what we deserve.’”

 “To absent friends.”

The laughter died and everyone cast their eyes downward. A moment passed during which the only sound was Nicole murmuring a prayer under her breath. Then they raised their glasses one more time and drank in silence.


The sun was setting and the four of them moved to the living room with the backpacks and sleeping bags. There was a large sofa and mismatched armchairs with a low coffee table between them. The small tv was in one piece as was the stereo set by it. Fay inspected these and made her second great discovery of the day: a small cassette player that worked on batteries.

“Hand me some AAs”, Fay said eagerly to Daniel who dug into his backpack, bringing out a handful of assorted batteries. Fay picked out the right ones and set them into the player.

Golden Oldies”, Fay read the name of the cassette inside the player. The others gathered around her and they sat down on the moist carpet. Fay fiddled with the thing, her hands shaking with excitement. It wasn’t often they found a piece of working technology.

“Got it!” she cried out when the tape started rolling. Suddenly the room was filled with a clapping sound, soon joined by music and then female voices singing in harmony.

    Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

    Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen


Fay felt something tighten around her chest.

“I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard music”, Nicole whispered from somewhere far away. “Must be two years. Ever since the first attack.” Fay nodded absent-mindedly, barely registering that the older woman was speaking.

    Sandman, I’m so alone

    Don’t have nobody to call my own

    Please turn on your magic beam

    Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

The song ended far too quickly. Fay made a move towards the player, but a new song followed.

    So darling, darling

    Stand by me, oh stand by me

    Oh stand, stand by me

    Stand by me

When a string instrument started playing, Fay’s breath was taken away. Like Nicole, she couldn’t remember the last time she had heard music. She raised her eyes from the little player and looked at the others. This group of complete strangers clinging to each other as their one and only anchor in the shattered world. She watched Nicole sway and quietly sing along, Minh with his small smile, Daniel with his eyes closed. They were all crying and when Fay felt something cold drop on her cheeks, she realised she was crying too. The tears were welling in the corners of her eyes where they pooled, cooled down, and then rolled down her face, cold as ice.

    I see trees of green, red roses too

    I see them bloom for me and you

    And I think to myself

    What a wonderful world

Fay felt a sob build up, but it never made its way out. Instead the cold tears kept on rolling down her cheeks. She reached her hand to Minh’s and grasped it tightly. The boy’s hand was small and warm. Fay gave it a squeeze and Minh stroked hers with his thumb. She wanted to say something. Something to convey the feelings that were swirling around inside of her, but she found no words nor voice and as she glanced around she could tell she didn’t need to explain.

    I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do

    They’re really saying I love you

Fay didn’t want the music to ever end. She wouldn’t be able to bear it if it did. But it did. For a moment, there was nothing but the sound of rain outside. Then Fay silently reached for the cassette player, rewinded the tape, and the songs began anew. Fay kept on holding Minh’s hand while Nicole rested her greying head on Daniel’s shoulder. Fay closed her eyes.

    And I think to myself what a wonderful world

    Yes, I think to myself what a wonderful world

Wordless Agreements


A funeral; people dressed in black, shifting awkward looks. They surrounded me. They encircle me, gazing at me with expectant eyes.

It was a cloudy day with a high expectancy of rain; I could practically feel it gathering up in the air. If life were a movie, this day would have been the perfect set for a funeral. I saw my grandmother clench her umbrella hesitantly. She was waiting for the rain as well. I suppose we were all waiting for something to relieve us from this suffocating moment.

I, my younger brother, and my father stood next to the casket opposite from the pastor. Everyone was looking at us or blowing into their handkerchiefs, which I was sure they would use later to dry their tears. I looked down. I was looking at my black heels that were digging into the soft grass. They were brand new and uncomfortable. They chafed my feet, making them bleed. I frowned, realizing they’d be stained.

I distantly registered the pastor speaking. I’m sure he was telling everyone present how good of a person my mother was. Had been. He went through the typical stuff people get graced with when they die. I thought it was nonsensical. Everyone here loved my mother, that’s the reason they were here mourning her in the first place. I stopped listening and concentrated on the grass that grew among the headstones with admirable persistence.

The casket was lowered, prayers were said, and I, I was still looking at the grass as I felt the first drop of rain fall into my court shoes. It sank through my stockings and wet my toes. I felt my little brother, Nick, squeeze my hand. I raised my chin to look at him. His round face looked devoid of color, practically lifeless.

“Everything is alright,” I whispered.

“I know,” Nick said, “But you’re crying.”

I put my fingers to my cheeks in confusion. They were sticky with tear stains. I wished that the droplets falling out of the corners of my eyes had been water, but the bitter salty taste they brought to my lips made me think otherwise. Crying was the last thing I wanted to do. I had no idea why I was crying. All day I had adventured inside my numb mind and I wasn’t nearly ready to step out from its protective nooks. It was rather amusing; it was as if my mind was completely isolated from my body, as if my body was just doing what it had been programmed to do.

Walk. I walk.

Speak. I speak.

Sit. I sit.

Cry. I cry.

But I could feel it disappearing. The shelter I had so gratefully accepted was falling apart. Little by little I began to hear people speaking more clearly. Little by little I started to feel the chill of the crispy autumn air sink into my bones. Little by little my feelings began to resurface. For weeks I had kept them to myself, buried somewhere deep inside my mind. I wanted to walk through them blindfolded in the dark. Unfortunately, now they started to wake. I quickly pushed them back before they made it all the way to the surface. I forced my gaze back to the grass. By now the small blades of grass were carrying the weight of huge water droplets. I had never identified with a blade of grass like I did just in that moment.

My grandmother opened her umbrella. People calmly made their way to their cars. They locked out the gloomy autumn day and drove off safe from the rain. I, my father, Nick, and grandmother stayed for a while, standing in the empty cemetery. Father didn’t say a word nor did he open his umbrella even though the stubborn gusts of wind and rain wet his best suit and tossed his blonde hair. His mouth was a tight line and his dark eyes were somewhere far away.

Nick and I gathered under grandmother’s big black umbrella. It wasn’t of much use considering that we were already soaked through, but it seemed like the proper thing to do.

“It really is terrible,” grandmother mumbled. I raised my brow.

“To go and tragically die like that,” she continued in an accusing tone.

I had learned not to let grandmother’s comments bother me. She had never had much discretion and wasn’t the most delicate person to begin with. It was no secret she’d never liked my mother. As far as she was concerned, father had been incredibly stupid and childlike to marry someone as reckless as mom. I didn’t know quite how I felt about it.

“What difference does it make how she died? You didn’t even like her,” I stated.

Grandmother frowned and crinkled her nose in disapproval. She grabbed Nick by the hand and told me to go wait in the car.

I sat in the backseat and stared out through the tinted window. Everything looked so much more depressing though it. Mom had always hated tinted windows. She always used to say that even the prettiest day looked like funeral party through them. I couldn’t appreciate the irony. We always fought about those tinted windows, every single time we got in the car. This morning, however, no one had mentioned them. Was a car ride even a car ride if we didn’t argue about the tinted windows? I didn’t know, but what I did know was that this morning had felt particularly empty.

My thoughts were disrupted as Nick opened the door, sliding into the seat next to me. “We’re leaving now,” he said, looking beyond relieved. He wanted to get out of here possibly more than I did. Grandmother sat next to dad in the front, getting ready to navigate. Dad turned the key in the ignition and the car purred into life. We drove away from sacred land, the gates closing behind us.

“Hey Bree,” Nick began.

“Yeah?” I wondered if he would bring up the tinted windows.

“My shoes got all dirty. Do you think mom would mind if I walked around the house with them?” He cocked his head to the side, waiting for an answer. Honestly, I didn’t understand why he would ask such a dumb question. He should’ve been more concerned with what grandma would say about the dirty shoes. I shrugged my shoulders. “You know, I’m not sure. I’m gonna have to think about it.”

I watched the corners of his mouth tug down, his entire being seemed to deflate. “You’re gonna tell me when you figure out, right?”

“Of course,” I replied, even though I didn’t want to spend another minute thinking about the dumb question. I leaned back and watched dad and grandma through the rear view mirror. Exhaustion shone on both of their faces, but they looked so very different. It was hard for me to recognize dad through the mirror. He looked so lost. All day he’d been wandering around like a puppy, having grandma order him around.

“Nick?” I tried. “Do you think we should get a new car? One without tinted windows.”

I saw the smallest smile flash across his face before he became very serious. “I think it’d be a really good idea,” he said and looked out the window.

“Dad.” I waited a bit to get his attention.

“What?” He answered in a monotone voice.

“Nick and I think we should buy a new car, one without tinted windows.” I watched his every move, through the mirror I saw his eyes sparkle a bit.

“That is not funny,” Grandmother snapped sharply and took a calming breath. I stared at her in awe. Why couldn’t she leave it be? Why was no one allowed to laugh? I crossed my arms, closed my eyes and leaned against the window.

“I thought it was funny,” Nick whispered.

“It was goddamn hilarious,” I muttered under my breath.

We had and old Victorian house. It was the American dream house with the white picketed fence and perfectly cut grass. Actually, right now the lawn was a muddy mess. As I stepped through our familiar front door, nothing seemed familiar to me. The bright colorful walls contrasted wildly with all the people dressed in black. My house looked like a bad music video. I walked into the living room full of people I was sure I knew but couldn’t recognize. We served coffee, cakes, cookies, pastries and everything grandma knew how to make. A constant hum of voices filled every room. I sat on the couch among familiar strangers and tried to make proper conversation. In no time I just began listening to others while untangling my long messy hair. I came to the conclusion that people talked about the weirdest things at funeral receptions. Almost no one mentioned mom. It almost felt like they were avoiding talking about her. When they talked about the food or décor they all wondered how my father had managed to make such a lovely home. The truth was that dad had nothing to do with our food or décor. Mom had painted the walls. Mom had mowed the lawn and picked out the decorative pillows. It was no wonder things felt odd, she had been gone forever, or so it seemed.

“Bree! Honey!” I heard a familiar voice exclaim. Looking up I saw mom’s sister, Elizabeth. She walked over to me and hugged me in the middle of the living room. It felt uncomfortable. People were looking at us; looking and judging everything I did.

We moved into the kitchen where grandma was busy trying to find space for all the food people had brought over. That too, I thought was nonsensical. We put out food for the guests and they lugged their own bodyweight’s worth of food over to our house. It was absurd. Mom never understood the custom either, but still she brought a casserole to every funeral reception we ever attended, because it was just what you were supposed to do.

“Were you there today?” I asked.

“Of course we were. Peter just got lost on the way there. I told him to bring the GPS but you know how stubborn he is,” Elizabeth said and smiled gently. I nodded, because I really did know what Peter was like. He was someone who danced between fine lines, someone you never quite managed to figure out, and someone who would definitely not listen to a GPS.

“Oh honey,” Elizabeth sighed, “I’m so sorry, I still can’t believe that Mary is gone. I feel like I haven’t grasped it yet. I keep waiting for her to walk through the door and give me some of her famous unsolicited advice. You do understand, don’t you?”

I nodded. I knew.

“She was always making the oddest remarks,” Elizabeth continued. She seemed to thinking back, almost nostalgically. She made it seem like she’d last seen mother years ago, even though we all visited grandmother for her birthday a few months ago.

“Do you remember how she always said I order Peter around too much?” Elizabeth asked, narrowing her eyes. She picked up a strawberry covered pastry and bit into it. “You know, Bree, I never understood that thing of theirs. You know, the one that made it seem like they had some kind of agreement that the two of them would stick up for each other till the end.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Like last week, I told Peter to get a haircut, because he looks so shaggy when his hair grows too long. And guess what he said to me?” Elizabeth crossed her arms. She was getting herself upset with her own words. She seemed to be inventing pain as if the pain that already existed wasn’t enough.

“Well?” I asked, not really caring about the answer. I glanced at the clock hanging on the bright yellow wall. Again the wall contrasted Elizabeth’s two sizes too small black dress strictly. Others didn’t really fit into our house.

“Well, he said that he wants to grow his hair out, like he had it back in college,” Elizabeth said, sighing dramatically, “You know, sometimes I feel like I have three kids instead of two.”

I nodded and tried to look like I understood even though I had no idea how we’d gotten from my dead mother to Peter not wanting to cut his hair. On the other hand, I understood it completely.

“He went to college with mom,” I stated as nonchalantly as I could. “Maybe he’s going through a mid-life-crisis or something. You’re lucky he’s not buying a Porsche.”

“That, Bree, my dearest, I don’t think I could handle.” She sighed again. She did that a lot.

I pursed my lips and looked out to the backyard where Peter sat on the wet grass next to the flowerbeds. He was speaking with Nick. Nick was smiling. I smiled. I wondered if Elizabeth would smile if she knew.

“Lizzie,” I began, “I think I need some fresh air. I feel like I’m suffocating in here.”

Elizabeth gave me a bland smile, not looking pleased at all. “Well, do put on a cardigan, I wouldn’t want you to get cold.”

I nodded once again and marched out without a second thought about the cardigan. As soon as I stepped out the cold hit my bones and I sort of liked it. A bunch of people stood next to our backdoor, lighting their cigarettes. The gray smoke slithering in the air, forming strange shapes didn’t bother me in the slightest. Not even the toxic smell made me go back inside. Instead it woke me up. I took off my shoes and walked across the grass, the mud and humidity soaking through my stockings. I sat next to Peter and Nick, cross legged, it wasn’t very ladylike. A small ray of late autumn sunshine reached my face as I took a deep breath.

“Nick, Lizzie wants to talk to you,” I said, lying blatantly.

“About what?” He asked. Again, it was a rather useless question. I would have told him had I known. “She said something about muddy shoes.”

Nick looked terrified for a moment. “Do you think mom saw the muddy prints on the carpet?” He looked at me first, then at Peter.

“Angels see everything,” Peter replied, smiling, “But I doubt she’d care about things like that.”

Nick seemed to calm down for a bit. Peter sighed,” Elizabeth on the other hand…Well she’s never been a fan of muddy footprints.”

“Oh man,” Nick sighed, copying Peter, and started his way back to the house.

As soon as he was in through the door I turned to look at Peter. He looked different from what I remembered. The Peter I knew was always smiling, and when he wasn’t, you could tell would have liked to smile. Now he was smiling, but I could tell it was the last thing he wanted to do.

“Do you have to feed Nick bullshit about angels?”

“Do you have to lie to Nick about muddy footprints?” Peter replied his voice gentle as always, calm and composed.

I balled my hands up into fists at my sides. “How’d you know I was lying?”

“I figured you might want to talk to me,” he said sincerely, “but don’t worry. If you hadn’t lied, I probably would have.”

“Figures,” I mumbled and stared at nothing.

We were quiet for a while. I patted the grass and finally spoke. “You know what I wish for?”

Peter gave me a quizzical look.

“I wish I was like Nick. I wish I could just feel sad and mourn my mother in peace, but I don’t think I can do that.”

Peter gave me a knowing look. “You’re mad.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s dead. And I can’t be mad at a dead person, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Not everything makes sense,” Peter stated and handed me a white tissue.

I stared at it in confusion for a while before I felt the familiar taste of tears again. I was crying again. I could hear myself gasping for air as I grabbed the tissue and dried my eyes. “Y-you know, I don’t even f-feel like crying.”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Peter said and placed his hand on my shoulder. “If you need someone to be mad at, you can be mad at me. I’m alive. It makes more sense that way, doesn’t it?”

“I-I don’t really want to be mad at anyone.” I couldn’t stop the sobs now.

“Lizzie knows,” Peter said. He looked down at the grass, studying it carefully.

I wiped my eyes and tried to focus on him. “Um, Lizzie…She wants you to, um, cut your hair.” I watched as a raindrop slid down a blade of grass, releasing it from under its weight.

“I probably won’t.” Peter smiled to himself.

“I kind of thought so.”

Based on a True Story…But Who Cares?


The film industry has long had a rather turbulent relationship with true stories. You’ve all seen the infamous “based on a true story” tagline and probably shrugged your shoulders at it. You can find these films in practically any genre with one of my favorite examples occurring in the horror genre. Any kid that grew up in the 90s will likely remember the hoopla surrounding the release of The Blair Witch Project. I still have a very clear memory of the first time I heard about it, which was through my older brother who, as older brothers are wont to do, had a tendency to tease me. This time, he was telling my poor, naïve younger self that there was a documentary coming out about a real witch that snuck into a village and kidnapped their children. Of course, they were never seen again…

As we all know, The Blair Witch Project isn’t really based on a true story and, contrary to the claims of the excellent marketing campaign, was entirely fictional. However, there are many films even in the horror genre that attempt to strike a balance between being fictional and being based on reality. Of these many, the two that I want to focus on the ones based on the adventures of the real life Warrens, The Conjuring 1 and 2.

Ed and Lorraine Warren were a married couple who also happened to be paranormal investigators and have been associated with some of the most famous paranormal incidents of the last century including the Amityville haunting and the Enfield poltergeist. Ed himself was a self-taught demonologist while Lorraine claims to be a clairvoyant, as in someone who is able to gain information through extrasensory perception. Putting aside belief in the paranormal, the Warrens have been criticized for exploiting these situations for their own personal gain. As Ed himself says on their charmingly outdated website, “They said, ‘Ed Warren wants to be written up in newspapers, he wants to have books and movies. He wants to be exposed to the public” because he insisted on having people from the media come with them claiming that he wanted to “expose the devil and expose evil.” In addition, people accused them of profiting from these events but Ed responded by saying “we don’t get any easy money and the money we get we deserve and we don’t charge for our services.”


In any event, there are two issues at heart here regarding the authenticity of these stories: the truthfulness of the Warrens and the truthfulness of the actual paranormal activity. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly where I fall regarding both of these but consider me skeptical. To be even more honest, what the hell does it even matter?

When the second Conjuring film came out, I listened to people criticize the movie for not mentioning the possibility of the Warrens being conmen or frauds. Even people who generally liked the movie found this to be a valid criticism of the film itself but it is honestly irrelevant regarding these movies. Let me explain beyond “it doesn’t matter.”

The Conjuring films are, first and foremost, horror films. They are not documentaries and are not obliged to cover all of the facts even if they are “based on a true story.” Although these movies are based on supposedly real hauntings, their goal isn’t to give you both sides of the tale. Their goal is to scare the living daylights out of you and they’re really good at doing that. The director, James Wan (Saw, Insidious), shows a clear understanding of what makes a horror movie effective. Some might argue that his films are derivative of older horror films but it makes a world of difference when he actually understands the language of an effective horror film. He doesn’t have a jump scare every other minute, complete with an artificial loud sound. Every jump scare sound comes from within the film world itself, not from the film soundtrack, and he also knows how to make them all the more effective by building tension. There’s a good amount of time in the beginning of both films where he is simply building up tension without a single jump scare disrupting it. Now, imagine if all of this expertly crafted tension were broken up with “oh, btw, this might not have actually happened.” Wan knows what to sacrifice in terms of reality in order to craft an effective film.

Going back to the Warrens, I argue that this also applies to their depiction in the films. There is never any doubt regarding the authenticity of the Warrens in the film. They are our protagonists and, this is going to sound a lot more sappy then I intend it to sound, their love for each other is the heart of both films. The chemistry between the two stars, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, is palpable and feels incredibly genuine, adding a human touch to films about paranormal disturbances. They are our heroes. They’re the ones we root for and it’s not just because that’s what the script demands, it’s because Wan actually makes us care about them. As funny as this may sound to say, there’s actually a heartwarming scene amidst all of the horror in The Conjuring 2 where Ed takes out an acoustic guitar and plays Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” to the family of children that they’re there to help as Lorraine silently watches him from afar. You can sense the love she feels for him and the fear that she might lose him. It’s a scene that sounds corny but ends up feeling so genuine because we care about these characters.


Now, imagine if this same scene were surrounded by moments hinting or downright showing that the Warrens are actually be frauds. How can you root for characters that are possibly exploiting a scared family? Or, hell, how can you root for them even if they’re helping the family exploit others. It changes the film entirely and that’s why I say “it doesn’t matter” if someone brings up the authenticity of the real-life Warrens while discussing The Conjuring films. There is certainly an interesting story to be had there, but that question is completely irrelevant to the stories in these films. In these films, the Warrens are the heart at the center, and I don’t think they would work half as well if Wan hadn’t expertly made it so.

It’s possible to enjoy a film depicting the Warrens as genuinely good people trying to help others, while also being skeptical of the real-life Warrens. There are interesting stories to be told in both cases, but if you are criticizing The Conjuring for not covering this aspect of the Warrens, then you are criticizing The Conjuring for not being a different movie all-together.