Literary, Contemporary Fiction, Multicultural
Gold Medal, Contemporary Fiction, 2021 Global Book Awards (formerly New
York City Book Awards)
Finalist, 2021 SPR (Self Publishing Review) Book Awards
Finalist, Multicultural Fiction, 2021 International Book Awards
After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and
somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home where she grew
up. An adventure in which she can make some difference.
Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s
journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it.
But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his
Meeting later at a bookstore, Luna is fascinated by Lucien's stories and
adventurous spirit. She goes to a rice-growing village in a country steeped
in an ancient culture and a deadly history. What she finds there defies
anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?
An epistolary tale of courage, resilience, and the bonds that bring diverse
Luna: February, 2016
Ov’s thin upper body is slumped over his crossed legs, his forehead
resting on the platform. His brown, wiry arms lie limp, the right one
extended forward, hand dangling over the edge of the platform. Dried blood
is splattered on his head, and on the collar, right shoulder, and back of
his old short-sleeved white shirt.
It seems fitting that he died where he used to spend most of his time when
he wasn’t on the rice fields—sitting on a corner of the bamboo
platform in the ceiling-high open space under the house. It’s where
you get refreshing breezes most afternoons, after a long day of work.
The policeman looks down at Ov’s body as if he’s unsure what to
do next. He lays down his camera and the gun in a plastic bag at one end of
the platform untainted by splatters of gelled blood.
He steps closer to the body, anchors himself with one knee on top of the
platform, and bends over the body. Hooking his arms underneath Ov’s
shoulders and upper arms, he pulls the body up, and carefully lays it on its
back. He straightens the legs.
He steps off the platform. Stands still for a few seconds to catch his
breath. He turns to us and says, “It’s clear what has happened.
I have all the pictures I need.”
He points to his camera, maybe to make sure we understand. We have
watched him in silence, three zombies still in shock. Me, standing across
the bamboo platform from him. Mae and Jorani sitting, tense and quiet, on
the hammock to my left.
Is that it? Done already? I want to ask him: Will he have the body taken
away for an autopsy? I suppose that’s what is routinely done
everywhere in cases like this. But I don’t know enough Khmer.
As if he sensed my unspoken question, he glances at me. A quick glance that
comes with a frown. He seems perplexed and chooses to ignore me.
He addresses the three of us, like a captain addressing his troop.
“You can clean up.”
The lingering frown on his brow softens into sympathy. He’s gazing at
Jorani, whose mournful eyes remain downcast. He looks away and turns toward
Mae. Pressing his hands together, he bows to her. A deeper one than the
first he gave her when she and Jorani arrived.
He utters Khmer words too many and too fast for me to understand. From the
furrowed brow and the look in his eyes, I assume they are words of sympathy.
He bows a third time, and turns to go back to where he placed the gun and
camera. He picks them up and walks away.
For a moment or two, I stare at the figure of the policeman walking away.
Then I turn to Jorani. Call him back. Don’t we have questions? I can
ask and you can translate, if you prefer. But seeing her and Mae sitting as
still and silent as rocks, hands on their laps, and eyes glazed as if to
block out what’s in front of them, the words get trapped in my brain.
Their bodies, rigid just moments before, have gone slack, as if to say: What
else can anyone do? What’s done cannot be undone. All that’s
left is to clean up, as the policeman said. Get on with our lives.
My gaze wanders again toward the receding figure of the policeman on the
dirt road, the plastic bag with the gun dangling in his right hand. Does it
really matter how Cambodian police handles Ov’s suicide? I witnessed
it. I know the facts. And didn’t I read a while back how Buddhism
frowns upon violations on the human body? The family might object against
cutting up Ov—the way I’ve seen on TV crime shows—just to
declare with certainty what caused his death.
I take in a long breath. I have done all I can and must defer to Cambodian
beliefs and customs.
But I can’t let it go yet. Ov chose to end his life in a violent way
and I’m curious: Do the agonies of his last moments show on his face?
I steal another look.
All I could gather, from where I stand, is life has definitely gone out of
every part of him. His eyes are closed and immobile. The tic on his
inanimate cheeks hasn’t left a trace. The tic that many times was the
only way I could tell he had feelings. Feelings he tried to control or hide.
Now, his face is just an expressionless brown mask. Maybe everyone really
has a spirit, a soul that rises out of the body when one dies, leaving a
mansize mass of clay.
I stare at Ov’s body, lying in a darkened, dried pool of his own
blood, bits of his skull and brain scattered next to his feet where his head
had been. At that moment, it hits me that this would be the image of Ov I
will always remember. I shudder.
My legs begin to buckle underneath me and I turn around, regretting that
last look. With outstretched hands, I take a step toward the hammock. Jorani
rises to grab my hands, and she helps me sit down next to Mae.
Could I ever forget? Could Mae and Jorani? Would the image of Ov in a pool
of blood linger in their memories like it would in mine?
I know I could never tell my parents what happened here this afternoon. But
could I tell Lucien? The terrible shock of watching someone, in whose home I
found a family, fire a gun to his head? And the almost as horrifying
realization—looking back—that I knew what he was going to do,
but I hesitated for a few seconds to stop him.
About the Author
Evy Journey writes. Stories. Blogs (three sites). Cross-genre novels.
She’s also a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse (an ambler).
Evy studied psychology ( Ph.D. University of Illinois) initially to help
her understand herself and Dostoevsky. Now, she spins tales about
multicultural characters dealing with the problems and issues of
contemporary life. She believes in love and its many faces.
Just as she has crossed genres in writing fiction, she has also crossed
cultures, having lived and traveled in various cities in different
countries. Find her thoughts on travel, art, and food at Artsy Rambler