By: Julia Zhu

“Take a seat,” an old lady motioned with a shaking hand said to the girl. The girl dazedly complied and sat cross-legged on the straw putuan. She could have sworn that she was hunched in her chair at home slaving away over a desk, burning the midnight oil. Now she was seated at a small table with the steam wafting from a teapot. A door to her right and widows that had intricate hand-carved designs funneling in light. Wispy clouds were visible through the windows. The clouds bled into the room merging with the steam from the teapot and creating a veil of mist inside the room. 

The girl, taking it all in, asked “Why am I here, I could have sworn I was somewhere else?”

The lady answered “Yes, you must be confused, why else are you here?” The smoke 

twirled as she spoke.

The girl said nothing, eyebrows furrowed. The lady sipped her tea “I can answer all the questions of the world, what is yours?”

The girl pursed her lips and asked “If you are so wise then, which path should I embark on, one of stability or one of risk?” The girl was hesitant about the future, and sincerely hoped for an answer of whether or not to go down a certain wishful path. She knew the predetermined path was cut in stable marble, but dreams needed to be carved in sandstone and hardened with time.

Alas, the lady replied dryly “That is for you to answer.”

The girl frowned, even more, her lips lopsided, and said, “How do I leave? I will be leaving now.” 

“There’s the door, and take that with you,” the old lady said, pointing to the red tassel charm hanging on the door handle.

“This? It’s not mine.” 

“It is yours, put it on.”

The girl tied the tassel around her wrist, where it hung loosely, and she stepped out. 

“Where did you come from?”

The girl turned to see a small child. 

“I just came from…” The girl quickly glanced around. The building had disappeared and she stood on a sandy beach. She could feel the grains of sand finding their way into her shoes “Are you sure? Are you dumb?” The child cackled. “Whatever, I don’t care, I’m going to go play.” She watched as the child toddled to a boulder on the shore. Then she walked over and sat down wondering what the child would do. He suddenly hit the rock and it shattered. The girl jumped away, wide-eyed and in shock.

“You could have hurt me,” the girl scolded.

“Your fault, you sat there.” 

“You are a very rude child.”

“And? I do whatever I want when I want. You cannot say the same.”

The girl said nothing back and instead watched as the child fumbled the shards of stone into a pile. The child started to arrange them, building a small, rocky, sandcastle with it. She walked over and picked up a stone, the tassel on her wrist swaying. 

The child glanced up and asked “Where did you get that?” pointing to the red tassel dangling on her wrist.

“Does it matter?” The girl replied back. 

“I suppose not, where did you get it?”

“I got it from an old lady.”

“You lie, the old lady has nothing of the sort,” the child retorted.

“I tell you the truth and you tell me I lie.”

The child shrugged and returned to making his makeshift castle. The girl sat back down to inspect the stone shard. She ran her thumb over the spiderweb-like cracks on the surface of the shard. The child was so strong, the impact so mighty. She missed the naivety that childhood allowed, the pursuit of so-called arbitrary things. She sat in thought and gazed at the tumbling waves. 

Suddenly, a dragon rushed out of the ocean, flew high into the sky, towards her. The girl froze and her eyes went wide.

“Have you seen a child play on these shores?” The dragon questioned in a booming voice. Its voice echoed into the distance.

The girl grimaced. She turned to check on the child, but all that was left was a trail of light footprints that disappeared within seconds. If not for the shattered bolder and the little sandcastle, she would have thought that she hallucinated.

“Human, answer me!” Said the dragon, coiling in the air. 

“I have not seen a child.” 

The dragon furrowed its brows and looked at her with squinted eyes “So what have you seen human?”

The girl stood deciding how much to say.

“I have not seen much, nor do I have anything to offer,” she finally 


“Ignorant human, you have something,” as the dragon gestured to the tassel. 

She again puzzled over what the dragon meant.


“And, you have seen enough to go.”

She asked, “Seen what, go where?” 

“Your choice.” The dragon answered as it shot into the sky, presumably in search of the child. The clouds did nothing to hide the dragon’s writhing body as it traveled in the sky.

The girl was left to ponder what they meant, and the future she would embark upon. She walked along the shore, and when the shoreline ended she continued to walk down her rightful path. Eventually, the tassel tied on her wrist lifted her into the clouds and flew.