Hi, my name is Sarah.
I was 20 years old, a Dean-list student in pharmaceutical department, having slightly tanned skin and ermmm, what most people called as perfect curve. Yes, exactly as what you were thinking,I was…
And it all started with that DING!
DING. Main quest activated : Become the wo...Learn MoreHi, my name is Sarah. I was 20 years old, a Dean-list student in pharmaceutical department, having slightly tanned skin and ermmm, what most people called as perfect curve. Yes, exactly as what you were thinking,I was… And it all started with that DING! DING. Main quest activated : Become the world number one singer-songwriter. Main quest 1.1 : Make your debut. Explanation : A good song needs a good singer. Craft your own legendary song and make your debut. Restriction : Hide your identity and your figure. A good song makes no use of physical image to touch listeners’ virtual heart. Timeline : One year. Failing to do so will result in severe punishment from the system. ‘God, what system? What world number one singer-songwriter?’ Sarah could only scream in her heart. Even singing toads would get 5-star ratings compared to her voice. Not to mention songwriting, even if she could write one, then every random people was Shakespeare. Mumbling paracetamol, thalidomide and other drug names was only useful to hit big in exams. It was on that one random morning. Her sleepy head plunged deep into pillow, hiding from the noisy phone. As much as she hated the alarm, she couldn’t bear to part from it. Such love-hate relationship. Then, from the blue sky, the DING came. That was her first. ‘Hehee, was a nice dream. How fun if I were going to become a singer…’ The half-awoken Sarah said, drooling. Exactly 30 days after that, the ‘DINGy dream’ came again. ‘aaah, another same dream…’ As Sarah brushed it off. Only crazy person would take that kind of thing seriously. Little that she knew that she was going to be one. DING! DING! DING! Notification : You haven’t make any preparation for your debut. Please work hard in the remaining 30 days. The notification started to spam her head everyday on this supposed to be the last 30 days. She just couldn’t take it anymore. ‘No, this is far from tinnitus. This is ultra mega tinnitus!’ She complained to her ENT doctor. And for the first time in that certain hospital’s history, a young female patient was accused of abusing her doctor. Well, she only tried her best to make sure there was nothing wrong with her ear, anatomically and physiologically. ‘No, I’m not an abused child nor a victim of sexual assaults. I shouldn’t have any psychological problem.’ She re-affirmed herself. Her fingers touched a certain name on her phone. “Mom, it’s me.” A random passerby once saw a family with a shaman entering the dormitory area. The next few days, were it a group of male nurses in white and a stretcher? Don’t forget a random scream to pipe the scene. ‘I’m just telling them I’m not crazy. It’s just the voice. Wuuuu…’ Somehow she ended up on this sandy beach at 2 a.m. where most people were sleeping. Well, excluding her family which had been frantically searching for her since the evening. ‘Hey, are you for real?’ As crazy as it sounded, she tried to communicate with that spamming voice. It was not her first try. Still, there was no response. The voice was exactly a brainless moron who only knew how to spam and scam people’s head. The moon and stars were exactly useless, just like that voice. They only knew how to shine brightly, dazzling the night sky without giving a thought to her feeling. She was sad and frustrated, you know. At least make the night sky as dark as it could be! What dean’s list student? What if you got a cup that could hold envy from millions of women? Everybody would push you away when you showed a hint of being ‘unwell’. ‘But I’m not crazy. I’m just having DINGy sounds spamming my head, asking me to do quest…’ Sarah retorted. ‘What if I try to fail the quest intentionally?’ Somehow she started to giggle, though it was covered with her unkempt hair. She got two choices in order to fail the quest that was supposedly given by the voice. First, just endure the spamming voice till the end of one-year timeline. It was only one week short anyway. Second, cut her head off. Everything would end fast. The voice wouldn’t spam an unused head, right? The second choice seemed to be fast and easy, which caught her to be badly outplayed. It was not just the salty seawater that gushed into her stomach and lungs, the sand actually got their hand too. Those sands, and maybe some shell, perhaps random plastics really know how to tore her throat. She wanted to scream a big ‘hurt’, but she was no Ariel. She was just a random frustrated young woman who tried to drown herself. ‘Hello, is there any God watching? Help me, I’m repenting. Just take me…’ But the response was no god as it started with a DING. Sarah instantly lost all her nine lives and seven reincarnations. Notification : You cannot die before fulfilling the main quest. Secondary notice : Please work harder as the timeline is approaching. Failing to do so will result in heavy punishment from the system. Sarah wanted to cry but the deep sea pressure won’t allow her such thing. Her nose, mouth, throat and her soon-to-explode stomach hurt as hell. ‘Dear sea, must you punish me so hard for trying to give a free meal to your children…’ ‘Mr. Random Voice, can you at least put me at the shore first for trying hard to keep my life?’ As expected, there was no response. She was not a swimmer. It was not long before she blacked out. ‘I don’t want to be this kind of immortal…’ Somehow, the moon and stars felt wronged and so, they asked the sun to come. It wasn’t long before the morning light shone on the whole beach. A man could be seen trying his best to wake up a lady covered with sand. “Miss, are you okay?” ‘Eh, eh’ Burning throat and bloating stomach, there was no way Sarah would be okay! She tried her best to pull her super heavy eyelids, yet she only ended up with slit eyes. ‘Gosh, there’s even sands in my eyes.’ She wanted to rub her eyes, but she wasn’t that stupid to make use of her sand-covered hands. And then there was this seemingly young man standing close, with his face expressing concern, perhaps. Her irritated eyes were blurry after all. But realizing that there was people, especially this random young man, looking at her in this kind of situation made her more irritated. “Your grandmother over here is sunbathing. Can you please remove yourself from that shiny sun?” Sarah felt like burying her head deep into the earth. It was awkward. Well, let’s get things sorted. Since things had come to this, time to YOLO. ‘Since you really want me to become the world renowned number one singer-songwriter, let’s see how far you can make me go!’ Sarah snorted deep in her heart. Maybe that voice would stop dingggging in her head once she gave her best, but ended up failing. For God’s sake, she was no hidden prodigy. She hated this Mr. Random Voice for falling onto her life, just like an apocalyptic meteor. Yes, she decided to name the DINGy voice in her head as Mr. Random Voice. A random mister who only knew to give notification with loud DING and never give any reply. One week left, or to be specific, six days for her to debut. Should she take a vocal class? Lest she would make fun of herself. But she ran away from home last night without a single penny. Perhaps she could make use of woman’s power to get free teaching. Provided the vocal coach was a male, of course. But that was crazy. That was exactly like running from wolf’s den to end up in tiger’s den. Still, how are you going to get tiger’s cub if you don’t enter tiger’s den? ‘Arghhhh, I must be crazy enough to take these kind of things seriously now.’ ‘Mom, you can take your girl back to the mental hospital now.’ Anyway, she needed to find a place to live for these remaining days. A wannabe world renowned singer-songwriter shouldn’t be living under the bridge. ‘O Saintes TV3, won’t thou please make singing audition right now and provide free accommodation for the participant? And free vocal course? And free debut?’ Her heart wept. Don’t forget to add some instrumental class. All those famous singer-songwriter always have instrument accompanying them, be it guitar, piano etc. ‘It’s really impossible…’ Murmured Sarah as she hovered around the beach. ‘Even all-knowing Google can’t turn the nerdy me into a superstar in few days.’ To be frank, this beach was quite far from her house. Her family surely would be searching for her at her friends’ houses, not at this beach. Getting a room to rent here would be nice. ‘Room for rent.’ A notice could be seen hanging from afar. ‘Eh.’ Sarah couldn’t believe her eyes. Did God finally answer her pray? ‘A room for rent. Student is preferred. RM 150 per month.’ Yay. The matter of rent payment could be postponed to the end of the month. For now, let's just solve the living place issue. “Hey, are you sure you want to rent this room?” A man asked her monotonously. “No drug, no bringing partner bla bla bla” His voice felt familiar, but Sarah couldn’t make a clue of it. “Are you perhaps the owner?” “I’m no owner, but my mom surely is. Those are her rules, not mine. So, no bargaining.” Ahn replied. That was his name. He surely was in a bad mood. He tried to help a lady on the shore out of concern but he got scolded by her instead. Now, that lady was standing in front of him, acting like nothing had happened. ‘Surely she wasn’t an ashore mermaid, but a goldfish indeed.’ He sneered in his heart. “Remember, it’s just a room on the second floor. Not the whole house.” Ahn reaffirmed. “Don’t worry I got this.” Said Sarah as she moved her body to the upstairs, smilingly. Things finally came to her way. But it wasn’t long before her face darkened again, ‘my phone!’ RIP iPhone 7s 2017-2017. ‘No laptop, no phone, no access to anything, how am I going to make my debut song…’ Sarah plead. ‘Mr. Random Voice, can you at least provide a song to me?’ As expected, no response or whatsoever. Sarah cried, ‘I’m not your slave…’ The room was just enough to fit a bed and a desk. The price of RM 150 seemed unworthy, but perhaps being near the beach justified it. The windy breezes made up for the lack of air conditioner, and a white fluorescent lamp was enough to lit up the whole room. It was by no means extravagant, but it wasn’t lacking either. Sarah locked the door and snuggled under the bed sheet. Minus today and yesterday, there were only five days left before the timeline ended. Time surely flew fast, million times faster than her brain. ‘Let’s see, maybe I can make use of three days making the lyric, two days making the melody and random music and a day planning for my debut stage.’ At least she tried. ‘Something catchy will be fun,’ she thought. ‘Let’s see…’ ‘Twinkling twinking star… da da daa da daa’ DING! Notification : The song quality is too low. An artist’s debut song is her pride. Please change to a better one. It was Mr. Random Voice. ‘God! So there’s requirement for the song quality.’ Sarah’s heart wanted to bleed, but seemed like there was no blood left. It was too much. ‘It wasn’t even completed yet and you already rejected it. Why don’t you just killl me now and here.’ She really wanted to shout loud curses but no sound would come out. As per usual, no response was given. ‘It wasn’t fair,’ as she thought things were going to be better. Things were quiet after that as she fell asleep. These two days really put a really heavy toll on her body. Even the word ‘tired’ wasn’t enough to describe her tiredness now. Quietly, another day passed. DING! The same daily notification from Mr. Random Voice in her head woke her up. Her long black hair was a mess and her skin wasn’t smooth and shiny as it was before. Still, she was a natural beauty. ‘Tokkk tokkkk’ “What nowww!” Sarah jerkingly shouted as she was still mad with Mr. Random Voice for disturbing her sleep. It was Ahn who knocked the door. ‘I really can’t brain this crazy girl. I just knocked the door and you shouted at me like I had been peeping on you for the whole night.’ He really regretted coming to call her for breakfast, out of kindness. ’Besides, it’s this old wooden door who is loud, not me!’ He cursed deep in his heart. “Sorry, I don’t usually eat breakfast early in the morning.” Sarah said monotonously with poker face. ‘Then why are you non-stop devouring this breakfast of mine like a crazy dragon.’ Of course he wouldn’t say these words out loud. He could only smile wryly at this weird girl in front of him. She didn’t even apologize for shouting at him early this morning, so he better not to make any issue out of it. He got a feeling that nothing good would come out of her. “By the way, today at noon we got an event for orphans and oldies in front of the house.” Ahn explained. “You know, to the right is an orphanage, and to the left is elderly care home.” “mmm,” That was the only sound that came out of Sarah’s mouth. She had been starving for good two days. It was better to shot her dead if she was going to let these many foods go in front of her eyes. ‘Perhaps I can get some inspirations from watching kids and the elders!’ It was as if the legendary yellow bulb of idea had appeared next to her head. “You better not cause trouble and help us instead. My mom may even consider lowering the monthly rent.” Ahn continued. “Speaking of it, when are you going to pay the deposit?” “mmmm” “...” “mmmm” “Nevermind. We’ll talk about it later.” This was the first time in his life to feel this dejected. Did he step on poo or break a mirror yesterday? Hi, my name is Ahn. I was 20 years old, a carefree young man who studied management. My dream was to own a resort. Yes, exactly as what you were thinking, I was… And it all started with that DING! 'The voice won't stop nagging at me like an old lady, so i call it Madam Random Voice.' ... Read more
I stare down at the floor; red blood drops on bright white tiles, making a trail from the bedroom to the living room. She must have walked from bedroom to call her husband sitti...Learn MoreI stare down at the floor; red blood drops on bright white tiles, making a trail from the bedroom to the living room. She must have walked from bedroom to call her husband sitting in the living room. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Disbelief, reluctance and fondness is what I felt as I looked at my ringing phone. “Shasimenon, mobile”. I press hold the green and swiped to answer. It has been a long time since I heard my best friend’s voice on the phone. The rain hits heavy and cold against the windshield and splashing on the side of the car. Our Porsche still smells new and Ivan my husband weaved between other cars on the road. He just returned from Philippines business trip a couple of weeks ago and will again leave to India tomorrow evening. We are married for seven years; in the pan of those seven years I had two miscarriages which broke us into pieces at all levels. We are no more talking about making babies like we excitedly did on the first year of our marriage. We avoid the conversations at all cost and we are no more spending time with our friends who have children. It’s not because we are jealous of them, but we are tired of their free advices and no matter how carefully they handle the topic it still upsets us at the end of the day. I sighed when we arrived at our condominium building. We live in a perfect suburban area, with quite streets, a few malls and loads of greenery. It’s a gated community where security and privacy of the residents come first above all. Ivan is excited about living in an affluent township, a perfect place to unwind from his tiring business trips. A cloud of depression and heaviness seems to surround me every time Ivan leaves for his business trips. I try my best not to show my loneliness because I understand it is his passion. After all, he is working very hard to provide the best live for us. I used to travel with him a lot too. Now I spent almost every moment taking care of our home and nurturing my mini garden. Ivan was in the room packing for his trip tomorrow. I sat on the oversized reading chair in the living area and my thoughts were back to what Shasi’s said on phone this evening. After Shasi ended his call, I took a Grab car and went to his house. Entering his house felt like entering a time warp. I took a deep breath and looked at Shasi who is sitting in worn green bean bag with his cigarette still burning on the ashtray. He is sad and his forehead is wrinkled in the middle. “I don’t know who else to call. You are my only friend. She is crying the whole day and I don’t know how to console her”, his eyes became ponds of tear. I stare down at the floor; red blood drops on bright white tiles, making a trail from the bedroom to the living room. She must have walked from bedroom to call her husband sitting in the living room. Shasi grabbed my hand and brought me to Erna’s room. I promised myself not to see Erna again in my life, but here I am standing inside her house holding her bedroom’s door knob. I know Erna have wronged me in many ways, but I am here as Shasi’s best friend. Shasi needs my help now and I will be here for him, no matter what the situation may be. I gathered myself together and twisted the door knob. The door opened and I saw Erna lying on her bed. Her high cheek bones were sunken in deep sorrow and her dark eye circles were staring at me. Before I could say anything, she started to cry. “I lost my baby boy. We lost him.” she wept. I hugged her tight; their pain reminded me of my own pain few years back. First tear broke free from my eyes and the rest followed like a small stream. After about one hour Erna finally started to calm down. I wheedled her to take a shower and get proper rest. Her body must be weak from blood loss and her state of lowness will only delay her body’s healing process. There is no worse feeling for a pregnant woman to go through confinement period and not having a baby sleeping next to her. I remember how depressive it can feel. I came out to the living area and saw Shasi mopping the floor. They are sad and heartbroken just like any parent who lost their child will be. I know no amount of words can comfort them. I can only be a listener and company them during this stressful moment. It’s even better to just shut up and just listen. “How is she doing?” Shasi asked. “She has slept”, I said. “I thought you will never come”. He looked into my eyes with love and gratitude. “Anytime, I am always here”, I smiled and rubbed his shoulders. “I am going to send Erna to her mother’s house tomorrow. Erna wants to be with her mother until her confinement period ends”, he continued. “I think that’s a good idea too. She needs special confinement food and care”, I nodded. Shasi called a taxi for me to return home. After a short tour around the busy city I arrived home. I extended MYR30 to the driver and got out from the taxi. “Madam, did you enjoy seeing both of them in pain, just now?” the driver asked. I turned to him, gave him a sharp look. “What? What are you talking about?” I asked in fury. The driver smiled and immediately left without saying anything. “How he can be discourteous?” I shook my head. My jasmine plants at the balcony are just blooming and the fragrance of jasmine flowers shifted my thoughts back to my oversized reading chair. I wonder if Ivan has finished packing his stuff. I got up and went to our bedroom to check on him. He has nicely packed his luggage and already sleeping. I wished good night to my mini garden plants, my furniture and to my bolster. They are my friends in this house out after Ivan left to work. Ivan’s cell phone vibrates me awake. I opened my eyes to see the window as the sun rays forcing us to remove our blankets. Ivan makes a sound; he slides next to me. His chin is easing on my shoulder. “Please say you enjoyed their pain yesterday. I did it for you”, he said absently. “What do you mean? Ivan? ” I asked. I held up his chin to look at his eyes but he has returned to his dreams. An unsettling feeling began to invade. I got up from the bed scratching my forehead. I haven’t told Ivan about yesterday’s incident at Shasi’s house and how the taxi driver could possibly know about Erna’s miscarriage? I drove Ivan to the airport and returned home around 7pm. I called Sahsi to check on Erna’s condition. It seems he has sent Erna to her mother’s house. I ordered pizza for myself and went to bed early after watching Seinfeld. A humming sound from the kitchen woke me up. I swiped my phone and it’s 2 in the morning. It’s my favorite song. Is Ivan’s flight canceled? “Alvin is that you? I told you many times not to come uninformed” I sighed. I switched on the kitchen light. “Who are you? What are you doing in my house?” I shouted. “Oh, I am sorry did I wake you up? I am just looking for some potato chips. Where do you keep them?” He was wearing a pajama and he looked very comfortable as if he is living here with us. “What are you talking about? No, I am giving you any have potato chips. They are mine. Now get out from my house or I will call the police!” I ran to the bedroom to get my phone. Something is odd. My bed sheet, I just changed the cover this morning. The weirdo outside is wearing a pajama that has the exact pattern as my bed cover. And where is my favorite bolster? “You slept on my bed too? How dare you!!” “How long you have been inside my house? You touched my things? What else you stole?” “You are so dead when the police arrive in a while”, I said furiously. “Oh calm down. Do your ‘chill dance’. You stopped dancing after your second miscarriage. You used to dance in front of the mirror every night, remember? I sure miss your dance,” he said mimicking my ‘chill dance’ moves. I stopped dialing the police and put my phone on the table. I pulled out the dinning chair and sat. “Who are you?” I asked the man. “No one knows about my ‘chill dance’ except Ivan. Even he doesn’t know I dance in front of the mirror,” I looked straight into his eyes, hoping to get an honest answer. “I know you will calm down if I mentioned about the 'chill dance'. Hey, did you go to see Erna yesterday? I want to punish her until you are avenged” he said in a stiff and sully tone. “Punish her for what? She had a miscarriage. Miscarriage is not a punishment!” “It is a punishment for her from us your friends in this house. Now she knows how it feels to suffer a loss. Instead of comforting you during your hard times she used your weak situation to her advantage. Have you forgotten?” My eyes are now frozen over, while my thoughts wandered deep inside. The pain is still in here, I know it but I have put all the memories inside a box, locked it and threw the key somewhere I couldn’t find. I have cried many nights and Ivan do not let me contact Shasi after that incidence. That’s the reason why I didn’t tell Ivan that I visited Erna yesterday. How could you Erna? At that time Erna wasn’t married. She wouldn’t understand the excitement of getting pregnant, waiting to hold a tiny baby. She couldn’t understand the distress of losing all the hope within two hours. Maybe she would have known if she has gone through miscarriage like me. At least that’s what I told myself so that her betrayal made sense to me. “I will be happy if you are avenged” he came and sat beside me. “How you know so much about me? I never told anyone about my pain”. “Yes you do. You talk to me every night. Your tears wet my shoulders as you fall asleep every night. I am your best friend for many years. So does the coffee table, sofa and the tiny plants outside the balcony. We know your joy, we know your pain, we know the moment you felt so much love for Alvin. I can even know how tired you are after a long day”. “But… but Erna’s miscarriage? How…?” “Oh you see we don’t think much. Our minds are empty and calm most of our lifetime. That’s makes it easier for us to manifest anything we put our focus on. It was your Little Black Dress’s idea. We hated watching you cry every night. Then one day, Ms. Little Black Dress suggested we should let Erna to taste her own medicine” he told enthusiastically. I woke to our marble dinner table; the radiant sunlight filled our living area. An empty potato chips bag is on the coffee table. The man I saw last night is nowhere in the house. I got up and went inside the room and saw my favorite bolster is on the bed. Thousands of cold water drops hit my skin as the last night’s dream played on my mind over and over like a movie. I will never enjoy Erna’s miscarriage even for a second and I never wished her and Shasi to go through this hard situation. Today is Thursday. As usual I will company Erna to the miscarriage support group. It is her 6th week and she is recovering fast. After Ivan got back from India, I told him that I am going to continue my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I am working as a tutor at a refugee camp. Plus, we also have added two new furry members to our family. We are no longer living in that lonely apartment, but in a place far from the city with a bigger garden for me. Ivan and I will do the ‘chill dance’ sometimes, and I dance in front of the mirror when Ivan is not looking. I still talk to my plants, furniture and my favorite bolster in my house. I hope they hear me and happy to see me smiling wide every single day. ... Read more
The Unknown Journey
I’m late by 10 minutes! Why is it so difficult for me to wake up when the alarm goes off? I cursed myself while driving thru the traffic that seems endless like an army of ants marching to work. I was determined not to be late for work as it will decide my future in the organizat...Learn MoreThe Unknown Journey I’m late by 10 minutes! Why is it so difficult for me to wake up when the alarm goes off? I cursed myself while driving thru the traffic that seems endless like an army of ants marching to work. I was determined not to be late for work as it will decide my future in the organization that I’m currently working with. I have slogged myself for the past 5 years with the determination to be appointed as one of the partners. “You better be early tomorrow, otherwise you’ll miss the interview for your promotion and we have to find a replacement candidate”, that was the last word from Alex before he left his office yesterday. Though I knew he was joking, but I couldn’t shake the doubt that he might be serious about what he meant. Alex, in his 50s, tall, athletic frame, a salt and pepper style that suits him best and he charms everyone with his wit and humor. Alex is the kind of manager that every employee would love to work with, hence that does not exclude me as well. I would rather admit that I do not stay in an organization for more than 2 years, but the devotion and admiration I have towards Alex somehow discouraged my job hunting spree after 2 years with New Dimension. A loud screech followed by a loud bang jolt me up from my day dreaming and I spontaneously jammed my leg on the brake. Oh gossshhhh! I had to blame the heavy rain which could have caused the terrible accident that took place right in front of my eyes. I was stunned and my adrenaline rush made me to sit still and not knowing what to do next. The accident that happened in a blink of a second resulted in numerous vehicles being piled up and there are lots of people running around asking for help, however the rain made it impossible for passersby to stop and help. I was so fickle minded whether to stop or just drive pass. It is a tough decision between mind and heart, to be a Good Samaritan or be selfish and ensure not to miss my promotion interview. Damn! Let me just stop and help those victims, as the most it will cost my promotion. I dropped the signal indicator to the left and slowly pulled over my car. As I was about to off my engine, my phone rang, Oh God, its Alex! “Good morning Alex”! I answered. “Good morning Ashok, where the hell are you? Do you know that you’re late by half an hour? Do you expect the senior partners to wait while you take your own time to be here? Hello… hello…. are you there?” I was stunned by the way Alex was blaring over the phone without giving me a chance to explain the situation that I’m currently in. “Hello, hello!! Are you there? Can you at least have the courtesy to reply?” Alex was screaming at the pitch of his voice. “Hello Alex”, before I could continue I realized the phone line went dead, and I’m pretty sure Alex hung up the phone! I truly hate the latest invention of mankind; what kind of invention is this? The phone signal is so poor during heavy downpour! This is totally unacceptable and they call it’s one of the greatest invention of 21st century! Unbelievable! Even though my guts told me to return his call and explain the situation to Alex, but looking at the situation outside, I just dropped my idea. “I’m sure, Alex will be able to accept my explanation later when I get back to the office”, I consoled myself while turning off my engine. I got out of my car, grabbed my umbrella and rushed to the scene. The horrific scene in front of my eyes, “Oh God, I’m sure there a lot of people who needs urgent medical attention”, this is the first thought came to my mind as I was getting nearer to the scene. “Anyone need help? I have my car parked at the end of the road, please follow me and I can take you to the nearest hospital”, I was literally screaming at the pitch of my voice due to the heavy downpour as well as the horn blaring from some irresponsible drivers who are practically impatient by the traffic jam that was caused by the accident. I realized my voice was not heard in the midst of heavy music created by Mother Nature and the “heavy metal” music caused by non-stop honking from the irritated drivers who are either late for their work or rushing for some sort of an appointment. Despite the obstacles, I did try to extend my help to those who are badly injured, but looks like my kind gesture went in vain as there were no takers. I believe most of them were reluctant as they are still in trauma. “What is the matter with you guys? I got wet in the rain, skipped my promotion interview and all I get is some weird looks from all of you?” I cursed myself and rushed back to my car before deciding to drive to my office. Oh shit! The time on my dashboard was showing 10.45 am, “Damn, let me call Alex and explain to him about my situation!” I grabbed my phone from my pocket and got a shock when I saw there were 50 over missed call from Alex and Yalini. I know I’m screwed after seeing the numerous missed calls from Alex, however my face brightens up the moment I saw Yalini’s name on the screen, at the same time I was cursing myself for not informing her that I had stopped by to help the accident victims. I quickly called her back and before I could hear the ringing tone at the other end, I heard Yalini’s voice. “Hello…Hello…?” Practically Yalini was screaming from the other end. “Honey, listen to me! I was on my way to work and guess what? There was a massive accident that took place right in front of my eyes where it involves a couple of cars and I decided to stop and offer my help for those who were badly injured”. Without even waiting for her reply I continued with my explanation for not being able to answer her calls. To my surprise, she just hung up the phone and before I could call her back, my phone rang again and I saw her name on the screen. I quickly pressed the answer button, “Hello honey, can you hear me?” but there was no respond and her line went dead again! I just hate this, guess my phone totally gave up on me after it got wet in the rain, which by default is my mistake for not leaving behind my phone in the car. “I should be reaching my office in 20 minutes and I’m going to call Yalini even before confronting Alex, WHAT A PERFECT START OF THE DAY”, I thought to myself and repeatedly blamed myself for not being able to wake up on time. On a second thought, I know that I missed my interview and I’m totally drenched after getting wet in the rain, therefore I decided to go back home to get myself refreshed and change into a new cloth. Probably I can even call Alex once am back home to explain the reason for my failure to show up for the interview. As I was nearing the main gate to my house, I saw my dad’s car parked outside which was a total surprise for me. Though my parents live around my place but they hardly come by during the weekdays because they know I will be at work and most of time Yalini will be busy with her daily chores at home. I parked my car and as I stepped out I saw Yalini and my parents were standing at the porch and they were crying out loudly. My heart began to beat faster as I knew something bad has happened, without even locking my car, I quickly rushed towards Yalini and my parents. Just a few inches away from Yalini and before I could grab her hand, my leg stopped when I saw a policeman standing at the pillar and I could clearly hear his voice, “I am truly sorry for what happened, but I need one of you to follow me to the hospital to get the necessary processes done before we can release the body”. I was confused as to who and what happened? My dad’s phone rang and he answered, “Hello Navin, yes it’s confirmed that Ashok is no more, he got involved in a terrible accident today morning while on his way to work!!”, I heard my father breaking the news to my cousin. My head started to spin and my leg went wobbly but everything started to fall in place… why Alex and Yalini couldn’t hear me, why none of the accident victims responded to me and finally I realized it is true that I’m no longer ALIVE because Yalini just walked through me before she fainted in front of my eyes. My tears flowed as I stood there helplessly. -The Unknown Journey Continues-... Read more
They never believed me. Not even after so many years. They always say it all happened in my imagination. But I know. I know all these to be real. Just like the dews that you see in the morning, turning to mists under a hot sun. They existed and then they never were. ...Learn MoreThey never believed me. Not even after so many years. They always say it all happened in my imagination. But I know. I know all these to be real. Just like the dews that you see in the morning, turning to mists under a hot sun. They existed and then they never were. Just like ghosts. It happened maybe 20 years ago. My father took my mother and me out to east. His job required him to go for long hours in the jungle just to take the readings with an instrument. At that time, I didn’t know he was a surveyor. Just that he would scribble something on a paper after looking at his funny looking instrument each time. He usually went with an assistant. But this time round, he wanted to bring along the family for a holiday. Well, dragging both my mother and me for the trip actually. But it never occurred to him that we went deep in the middle of the monsoon season. So, it rained and rained and rained. We pretty much spent half the time cooped up in the hotel room. It was pretty frustrating. My father was unable to get the work done because he couldn’t get to the land which was rained out. My mother was irritable, because she had to take care of two restless souls...one adult, one child. “Told you already….monsoon season, don’t come. You still want to come,” she would snap at my father when her patience ran out. “I thought I can do some work while we bring the boy to the beach”. My father defended himself. “See what beach? It’s raining every day like nobody’s business. All we are doing is wasting money staying in the hotel. Do you think money fall from the sky?” my mom would attack back. My father would then just keep quiet, knowing it is better to keep his peace. However, as luck would have it, the weather cleared the following day. Rain stopped and the sun made a welcome return. My father promptly left for his work, probably just to get some peace of mind. However, I decided to follow him. My mother left us two to it and went shopping in town. We drove some ways out of town, my father and me, in his old Volvo. I remembered that day very clearly. Despite the non-stop rains for the last few days, it was unbearably hot. The ground quickly dried up, making everything humid. The green of the jungle was verdant as we drove on the old trunk road. My father never spoke much. He’s a man of few words, prone to let his actions do his talking. Still, I could tell he was secretly pleased that his son tagged along for the work. I never understood why I chose to follow him that day. Something prompted me. An instinct? A desire for adventure? Or I just wanted a really cool souvenir to take with me back home. Whatever it was, it led me to the fateful encounters that happened much later. That had left a lifetime of memories for me. Despite whatever my fancy imagination conjured, I was left pretty much bored and disappointed. My father just went ahead with his work and left me to my own devices. He just told me a stern “Don’t wander off into the jungle” talk and promptly forgot about me. So, I just waited and waited in the car. Eventually, I got fed-up and got down from the car. We had parked near the edge of a jungle, just next to a trunk road. My father was doing a quick survey of the location and was about few metres down the road. Feeling hot and sweating like crazy, I walked into the shade beneath one of the trees. Immediately a cool breeze blew. It was very nice. It felt much better than being in the hot car. My father would probably be angry with me for wandering off. But the car is just nearby. No big deal. Or so I thought. I could still see him down the road from where I was, looking into his funny instrument and scribbling down notes. The wind blew again, leaves swaying. I heard the sounded of moving water. Curious, I went further in the jungle to have a look. We never saw any river from the main road. In my excited mind, picking up a coloured rock would have been exciting to show my classmates at school. A souvenir from a jungle excursion. 13 years old kids are easily impressed. My father’s warning forgotten, I went to look for the source of the sound. I walked a bit ahead. The water sound getting louder and louder as I walked deeper into the jungle. I walked through a jungle path that seemed to be a rough trail. Birds were chirping and insects making their strange music as I walked through. I hear the sound of the distant river. Following the trail for awhile, I came out into an open space. I could see a river in front of me. It was about as wide as a big road. But the water looked deep and fast moving. But being a bored 13-years-old boy, you don’t think about danger at all. You think about adventure. You only think about finding a cool rock to bring back and impress your friends. So, I excitedly went to the riverbank and began my search. I never thought about my father or his warning or that I was in a jungle by myself. Without a soul around me. I couldn’t find anything cool on the riverbank. Just some pebbles and old branches. I got frustrated and threw some of the pebbles into the river. As the pebbles sunk into the moving river, I spotted something shiny in the middle of it. It looked vaguely like a coloured stone. But I have to wade out to get it. The decision was easy. I stepped into the water. It came to my knee level I could barely keep my footing in the fast moving water. However, the shiny thing kept my attention. I waded further into river and pretty soon, the water came to my thighs. Then my hips. The stone barely just out of reach…..a few more steps…..a white stone….flecked with colours… Then all of a sudden, there was a sudden hush in the jungle. No more bird songs, no more insect buzzing. Just a strange sudden quietness. I felt as if there was something looking at me. It was behind me. A staring presence. I didn’t know how I know. Survival instinct? A feeling of danger? I just knew something was behind me. I turned around slowly….. Nothing. I looked around. I saw nothing. There wasn’t anyone….or anything….there. It was just the river. The trees. The shadows. I turn back to the object of my hunt. I took a few steps further. It was close now. I saw that it did look like a rock from where I was. A white colour rock. I was now wading in the water. I reached out to grab it. Suddenly, another intense feeling of being looked at. This time round, it felt like needles were prickling me between the shoulder blades. It was much closer. I turned around again. It was as before. River. Trees. Shadows. Except the shadows were a lot closer now. It felt as if it was bunched together. Coiled together. Moving like smoke. Until today, I didn’t understand what I saw that day. It was a shadowy darkness. But it moved. Rather, it slithered like a snake. It wrapped itself around the trees and then it shifted in an unnatural way. It was just right across the river bank, not further than few metres away from me. Getting closer. I stood transfixed to my spot, cold sweat breaking out. My heart was pounding like crazy while watching the strange shadowy thing moving from trees to trees, getting closer as it approached the river bank on the opposite side. As the thing draw closer to the edge of the river, I saw within the darkness a pair of human looking eyes. Its pupils were green and red rimmed. But I could see that there were no body in the inky darkness. Only that pair of eyes within a shadowy human looking form. I could smell a horrific stench that reminded me of compost. Or something dead. I couldn’t move. I was paralysed with fear. Suddenly, I felt something clasped my hands, waking me up from my trance. I looked around and saw that there was a girl next to my side. She was garbed in a dress that looked like brocade but it shimmered with every colours of the rainbow. There was a mysterious smile on her lips. The girl had a strange, unearthly beauty. She looked no older than me but had a feeling of great age. Her hands were soft and warm. Yet, gripping my hands with great strength despite her tiny size. She brought me back to the side of the river that I came from. Rather, I was pulled along, like a floating log. When we clambered out of the river, she continued to hold my hands. We started running. I don’t know how long we ran but it seemed like ages. Minutes? Hours? Time ceased to exist during the mad dash in the jungle. From the corner of my eyes, I could tell the shadowy thing was behind me. Chasing us…..slithering and shifting, as fast as the wind. It always stayed on its side of the river. As we continue to run, I heard a thunderous sound. It was as if the river is crying out in anger. It drowned out my panting as I saw that we had arrived at waterfall. It was very tall with many rocks and boulders surrounding it, like walls defending a castle. The waterfall cascading with a strong and powerful force, the water turning to mists. She brought me close to its edge. So close that we can feel the mists wrapping around us. She turned to me and spoke not a word. But I could sense from her that she was anxious that I should not leave her side. All this while, our hands were clasped together. An eerie silence filled the jungle once more. Darkness grew, the shadows slithering like a living thing. It stopped at the edge of the waterfall. It appeared to have grown bigger, like a coiling mass of smoke. The movement has grown faster and fiercer. Roiling thunderclouds in a storm. Perhaps, it was a trick of the eyes. But it seemd that sun has set. There was a sudden darkness, just like before heavy rain comes. Smoke like, the darkness encircles us, like soldiers charging a rampart. Suddenly, the clouds opened up and there was a ray of light. Like the final burst of sunlight before night falls. It fired through the canopy of the trees. Just as it touches the waterfall, it exploded into a prism of light. A rainbow, every colour of the rainbow dancing like a living thing. It chased away the roiling darkness, disintegrating in the light. Life, light and sound resumed again. It was if the darkness never were. I looked at the girl and she had her eyes closed. She was wrapped in a cascade of rainbow colours that seemed to seep into her dress.It stayed for a moment like an afterimage when light shines into your eyes. Then it too faded. She opened her eyes and smiled at me. It was then that I saw for the first time that her eyes had every colour of the rainbow too. She took my hands once more. She led me away from the river, out of the jungle. I felt the warmth and softness of her hands. Then away, away we go….the paths opening in a corridor of trees. We reached the edge and I could see that ahead, was my father’s car. I could even make him out somewhere down the road The girl pointed ahead. I looked. When I turned back towards her, she was gone. So were the corridors of trees. I stood at the exit of the jungle. I felt as if a door was shut forever. I walked back to the car. My entire body flopped down the back seat. Tired and totally drained, I fell asleep instantly. When I woke up, the car was moving. My father was driving back….blasting the air conditioner at full blast. An old song was playing on the radio. He turned to look at me. “Wake up you sleepy head,” he said. I rubbed my eyes. I felt thirsty and hungry. “Dad, how long did I sleep?” I asked. “About 10 minutes,” he answered. “How long was I gone? I asked him, hoping he won’t scold me for wandering off. “Gone? You were sleeping the car the entire time. Lazy boy”, he answered. A dream? The moving shadows with a pair of eyes? A beautiful girl in a rainbow dress that rescued me? A majestic waterfall bursting with the powers of a rainbow? Was it all a dream? A feeling of warmth suddenly in my hands. I opened up my palm. It was a white colour rock. Oddly enough, it felt soft to the touch. I must have picked it up during the time I fell in the river and held it all the while. A dream or a memory? I spent a lifetime wondering about that day in the jungle. Nobody believed me of course. Not my parents. Not my classmates. They say I dreamed up the whole thing. An overactive imagination. My parents laughed at me that it was probably my stomach upset from eating too much spicy food. Years later, I enquired about the place and heard no legends or stories about it. Yes, there is a place in the area that is called Rainbow Waterfall. I visited it once, many years after the encounter, but it didn’t look like the waterfall that I escaped to. It was in another part of the town, too far away. I went back to where my father took his survey during that afternoon. There is a housing area there now. The jungle had vanished. There is no river and there was never a river in the place to begin with, the town people told me. All I had left was my memories and that strange white stone that I kept until today. A reminder for that strange day that I spent lost in the jungle. A souvenir from my youth. When I hold it up the sun, sometimes I can still see rainbows. ... Read more
Crumbs the mouse looked into the mirror and shuddered.
Though it had been days, thick, flaki...Learn MoreCrumbs the mouse looked into the mirror and shuddered. Though it had been days, thick, flaking blood still matted the fur across half his face, and his ear on that side was gone. Contrasted with his white fur, it looked as though he was wearing half a mask, as if he were a dancer in a masquerade. Yet, he did dance. In here, he danced with Death every day. “Final Showdown’s beginning soon,” a tweet sounded gravely behind him. The Gamemaster stood at the door, raven-blue eyes inspecting him. His beak, like the rest of him, was the colour of midnight. “I see you’re ready. Come.” Crumbs sat on his haunches and rubbed his face. His whiskers quivered, his paws were trembling. “Come,” said the Gamemaster again, and Crumbs rose. They exited into the dim hallway. Other challengers, defeated and spiteful, glowered as they passed by. A bat bared his fangs. A mole clawed at the ground like tearing through flesh. Crumbs cast his gaze downward and avoided their eyes. “Who’s left?” he asked, hoping the answer had changed. “Armadillo,” the Gamemaster replied flatly, and Crumbs felt his heart fall. “His previous fight had been too easy,” the bird added without apology. “And while you were gawking at yourself in the mirror, the Mouse Elites have been feeding him.” Crumbs raised his head. “Feeding him?” “Muscle regenerators. Sense enhancers.” The Gamemaster turned around, his eyes wide. “Mind dampeners.” Crumbs was taken aback. “Isn’t that against the rules?” “When did the Mouse Elites ever obeyed the law? I bet the confused mammal doesn’t even remember his Wish anymore.” “What would he say when—if he wins, then?” The bird shrugged his wings, and they fell quiet. They reached the gate at the end of the hall. Crumbs waited with his whiskers quavering for the solemn bird to open the doors, but the Gamemaster spoke instead. “Thus far you have been a fool, stray mouse,” the bird said to the doors, his voice steel, his eyes stone. “You had spared every challenger you’d faced, winning with cleverness rather than carnage. Yet your last match may be the last of you, for the merciful only destroy themselves.” Crumbs felt his throat constricting. “Why aren’t you opening the gate?” The Gamemaster flitted a furtive glance at him. “Hear me: when orange strikes, move. When blue strikes, stay still.” “I don’t—” “His eyes. Armadillos have weak eyesight and handle dehydration poorly,” the bird pressed. “It’s noon, stall.” Crumbs blinked at the Gamemaster in disbelief. “Why are you helping me?” “I guess I’m a fool as well.” He pecked at a button on the wall, and the doors creaked open by themselves. Immediately, piercing sunlight flooded the hallway, and the yells of thousands of beasts thundered like a riotous ocean. Everyone was shouting over one another, but it wasn’t hard to make out what they were saying. They all screamed for blood. “Annnd here he finally is, carnivores and herbivores!” Out of speakers boomed the voice of the unseen Announcer of the Battles, his chirps an octave higher than the raven Gamemaster’s. Crumbs squinted as he was pushed out of the doors and into the bright arena. The Announcer’s voice rose above the crowd’s, proclaiming the customary introductions: “Standing in the Moon Gate, looking worse for wear and needing a shower, is our miniscule, one-eared, quick-thinking, no-kill Champion of Group A, the literal runt of the litter... Crumbs!” Simultaneously five thousand voices erupted into jeers. Crumbs ducked as an apple flew past his head. His eyes adjusted to the brightness and he took in the arena where his final battle was taking place. Under a cloudless sky the open-air arena basked reverently. Pillars, crumbled then repaired, made up the boundary between the Battles and the unheeding world beyond. On the stained ground lay in grotesque sleeping positions past challengers, scattered where they died, descendant from the first up to the present Battles. Crumbs gagged. The smell was worse. Fresher. The buzzing louder. He looked and saw skeletons and open-eyed faces. Some of them familiar, some almost dear. He covered his eyes with his paws. Around him, the noonday sun was white hot. The ancient pillars yellowed white. And in the elevated seats, yelling for the Showdown to begin, were five thousand white-furred beasts that looked exactly like Crumbs, but for his missing ear. “Shame!” Crumbs caught the high-pitched word from among the multitude. A mouse noble, clothed in purple and gold, sniffed disdainfully. “Death!” cried another mouse. Younger, impressionable, lost. Crumbs covered his eyes as their voices filled his ear. Traitor. Disgusting. Coward. The Announcer saved him, his voice raspy from the static. “Ahem! If I may do my job, please? In the other corner, awaiting his dramatic entrance behind the Sun Gate as we speak, is the gigantic, brawns-over-brains, seismic-stepping, all-kill Champion of Group B, the reigning King of the Battles... Armageddon!” Crumbs heard the armadillo before he saw him. The doors of the second gate on the other side of the field of bodies creaked open and suddenly the very particles of the air shook as a roar tore across the arena. Armageddon came into view with his head thrown back in that ear-splitting shriek, and Crumbs staggered back, deafened and stunned. The monstrous creature was five times the size of a large rabbit. Covering the top of his head and back was his armour—black leather plates, scaly like the shell of a turtle. His snout was like an anteater’s. His striped tail like a lizard’s. His ears like those of a bat. To Crumbs, the mammal was a walking amalgamation of all his worst nightmares. The Announcer raised his voice over the frenzied cheers of the audience. “After weeks of sieving the weak among the desperate, both remaining challengers—our Champions—are now on the field! But only one will emerge triumphant as the King! Let the Final Showdown of the 13th Wish Battles begin!” The armadillo charged. Crumbs dove out of the way, and the crowd went wild. He hit his face on something soft. Wet. He looked, and it was a headless weasel. Crumbs fell back in horror. The armadillo didn’t stop his advance, and Crumbs turned back in time to see the armoured creature ramming into the wall. A thunderous boom rumbled the arena with the impact, and large chunks of the already ruined pillars collapsed. Armageddon backed up, and in a moment of horror above horror, Crumbs cowered behind the headless weasel. The armadillo sniffed the air. Crumbs felt his fur bristle. He held his breath, willed his heartbeat to slow down. The crowd broke into an excited cheer as the armadillo opened his mouth wide, and Crumbs knew something was coming. It was like lightning without the thunder. One moment Crumbs saw the white mice, the rotting flesh, the cloudless sky. The next moment everything was black. It lasted merely a second, but when it flashed away, what had been in its path was now a mess of ash and burnt meat, and Crumbs finally understood why some of the bodies were charred. “There it is! There it is!” shouted the Announcer over the speakers. “Armageddon’s signature Beam of Black Breath! A Hot one at that! That was fast! I guess his full stomach is really working, eh, my dear Elites?” Armageddon threw his head back and screeched, and Crumbs felt his blood run cold. How did he ever convince himself he could win? He’d lost his ear, he’d drenched his paws in blood. But his previous opponents were nothing compared to the armadillo. They had been manageable. He could find holes in their battle plan. Weak points in their stance. They’d underestimated him, thinking nothing of him. But Armageddon... Armageddon wasn’t thinking at all. “Oh, oh, oh!” twittered the Announcer. “Are my eyes deceiving me? Is he—is he going for another Breath?” Crumbs almost sobbed. The weasel was still against him, and even though he had hoped that the fresh blood was enough to cover up his scent, the armadillo was facing his way. Armageddon opened his mouth, and in a search for emotion, Crumbs looked into his eyes. His eyes. It was glowing orange. Orange! Crumbs threw himself from the weasel just as the arena lit up with black lightning. When the flash subsided, Crumbs was lying in a pile of broken bones, the end of his tail sizzling, and the headless weasel was now bodiless as well. “It’s another Hot Breath!” the Announcer pronounced. The audience was shouting their approval of the destruction, but Crumbs’s mind was revived. When orange strikes, the Gamemaster’s voice sounded in his head, move. Armageddon reared up on his hind legs, towering as high as the arena seats, swatting at the sun and panting. Crumbs put a paw over a bone and cracked it. Instantly the armadillo snapped his head towards his direction. He landed back with an earth-shaking boom on all fours, and as he opened his mouth for the third time that Showdown, Crumbs looked at him straight in the eyes. Blue. When blue strikes— “Why isn’t he jumping away?” the Announcer rasped. Stay still, stay still, stay still, Crumbs chanted in his head, wide-eyed and trembling for fear he’d been fooled. Was he a fool? The armadillo’s open mouth looked as if he might be snickering. “What are you doing, mouse?” yelled the Announcer, and the world went black. Crumbs could recall a day, long ago, when he had licked his paws after a fine dinner. He had bent down to lick the plate, but his father slapped it out of his paws. If you want more, his father had said, just ring the bell. The servants would get it. His father brushed the crumbs off the mahogany table to the marble floor. The servants would clean it. The memory burned in his mind. He learned a lot of things that day, and since then he knew that in their society, crumbs were unwanted. Crumbs were swept aside. Crumbs did not deserve a place on the table. That’s what his father had always said. That’s what every single Mouse Elite—all of mousekind—believed. They were named for what they were, and Crumbs had chosen his. “I do not believe it!” gasped the Announcer over the speakers, echoing five thousand shocked voices. Crumbs’s vision cleared. All around him the bones of past challengers were still intact. He was untouched. “It was a Cold Breath!” the Announcer chirped, and the crowd was wailing but the bird almost sang. Crumbs glanced across the field at the Moon Gate. It was shut, but Crumbs could feel his presence. It was ridiculous. Did the bird somehow know what he hoped to accomplish? He looked back at Armageddon. The armadillo was turning circles on his feet, sniffing the air, scratching the ground as if to dig for water. His long dry tongue was dangling out. Stall. The Announcer tutted. “Seems like the sun and all that Breathing ain’t doing good for our knight in overheating armour! This is the perfect opportunity for the runt of the litter to go for the kill.” As if that was his cue, Crumbs approached his opponent. The armadillo froze, detecting movement. He gave a warning growl, whipping his head every which way, but Crumbs picked up another bone between his teeth and cracked it, and now the armadillo knew exactly where he was. The creature opened his maw, but Crumbs stepped right up to his snout and sat, a speck of dirt facing a colossal mountain. Armageddon’s mouth was wide open, but his eyes flickered. Orange. Then blue. Every glow dying out before his Breath could discharge. The disloyal audience was screaming for the coward mouse to finish the armadillo, but he shook his head. The armadillo wasn’t his aim. “Surrender,” Crumbs whispered. From the top of his snout, Armageddon stared down at him, and something in his normal black eyes changed. Crumbs knew in that moment the armadillo could see him perfectly. His opponent closed his mouth, lay down, and closed his eyes. “He’s done,” the Announcer declared. The audience howled with indignation, and Crumbs turned around to face them. Each mouse was clothed in purple and gold. Velvet scarves. Feathered hats. Some of them were crying. The armadillo was not his aim. The Announcer recited: “The Final Showdown is over. Mice and Non-Mice, we have our winner.” Crumbs met their red eyes. They were named for what they were, and now, he wasn’t Crumbs. He was King. The Moon Gate creaked open, and from it the raven Gamemaster glided out over the bodies like a phantom, a cone held between his claws. He landed without a sound beside Crumbs, tall and broad, and the wind from his wings ruffled his tainted fur. “Talk into it,” he said, and as the mouse took the cone from his claws, his wing brushed him in an almost pat on the back. Crumbs thought the solemn bird might have smiled, but he turned away before he could make sure. The beasts in the arena gritted their teeth for the customary silence in honour of the King’s Wish. Crumbs could feel the anticipation in the air. His voice was magnified by the cone in his paws, louder than the speakers. He spoke: “I, the King of the 13th Wish Battles, wish for... the granting of one Wish from every challenger, both the dead and alive.” A collective gasp swooshed across the arena. But Crumbs wasn’t done. “By default, I get another Wish,” he proclaimed, his voice unlike his own. He looked at the sun gleaming off the polished white fur of the beasts on the seats. He thought of his father. He thought of the other challengers. “My Wish,” he continued over the shouts of protest, “is the abolishment of the Mouse Elites system.” All at once five thousand mice rose from their seats. The Gamemaster grabbed hold of Crumbs, but it was a gesture of support, not malice, as Crumbs collapsed to the ground, exhausted and done, the cone rolling out of his grasp. He felt the first of the paws claw at his face. Then three more at his flanks. The screams of condemnation were right in his ear now. He felt incisors ripping his flesh, and his vision was a blur of white and purple and gold. “Now, now, my beloved mice,” the invisible Announcer cooed, safe behind the speakers. “This might not be a bad Wish at all.” The Gamemaster spread his wings, and everything turned a starry blue. Crumbs was engulfed into midnight feathers, but the clawing did not subside. Above the din of rebellion, he heard a last shout of “All hail the King!” over the speakers before the sun, the beasts, and the feathers asphyxiated him. Crumbs the mouse closed his eyes and stilled.... Read more
For as long as I can remember, I was raised in hiding. I know nothing of the light from the sun; living by the light of oil lamps, candles and the moon. We had moved in the darkness, behind whispers and cloaked in hoods, my parents never told me why we had to li...Learn MoreFor as long as I can remember, I was raised in hiding. I know nothing of the light from the sun; living by the light of oil lamps, candles and the moon. We had moved in the darkness, behind whispers and cloaked in hoods, my parents never told me why we had to live this way; the nomadic lifestyle with no place to call home. Two words were always used to quench my thirst for the truth, ‘To survive’. Now, without knowing the truth, I am alone. My parents who I had always been with had disappeared in the morning - I believe that was what it is called when the sun comes out - the night had never felt colder. The autumn which I turn sixteen, I have no one to call family. I dare not move in light of the sun; the disappearance of my parents had instilled in me, a fear of the light I have never knew existed. There is no one I could turn to, no means to learn who I am and why I had to live in safety of the dark. Then I knew, there was a place I could go to, a place my parents once told me held the secrets of many. That is where I have to go, the Archaic Library of Origins. I set forth to leave the place of my hiding, glad that the library was not far away, glad that my parents had decided to stopped at the capital of Aluin and grateful to find that it was not opened at night. Feeling that luck was on my side, I scaled the walls to find an entrance. Strangely, there were no guards. Were these books so unimportant that it needs no guarding? Or was there something happening in the capital that no guards are available? This was very disconcerting; it did not bode well. I have no choice, I needed entry. There were answers I needed to find and I was sure it was inside the library. An opened window, a chance for the truth. I slipped in quietly. Once inside, I met; not just a few shelves of books but walls of shelves as far as the eye can see. I know not how I should locate the information I much covet but something was pulling me along the shelves. Somehow, my heart seemed to know where to find it, somehow my hands pulled out a book. It was titled, “A World before Ours: The Humans”. What did it mean? A world different from now had existed? And what are humans? Was it a race? Questions upon questions flew into my mind as I flipped opened the book. It was a history of the human race, something called science existed then, what is science? Is it some kind of rare material? A rare gem? Why was it so important that it is written as a part of the human race? Does it not exist now? In the book, it was said that humans drove themselves to near extinction, not until they created the races that we have today. Overpowered by their creations, many of them did not survive. Illustrations of how a human looked like were in the book, and I looked exactly like them. Am I a human? As I continue turning pages upon pages, I reached a section, “Last of the Humans” describing that there were only three humans left that are known to be still in existence and in it, were the names of my parents. I am a human? Is that what I am? Why was it that I cannot be seen in the light? My parents…are they alive? Are we being hunted? The book mentioned that the whereabouts of the last remaining humans were unknown, but there are those looking for them. There was a legend that the one who found the last of them will have access to unsurmountable riches, never-ending knowledge and great powers. But it is just a legend, no one knew whether it was true; however, it did not stopped hunters from hunting down humans. Was this why my parents disappeared? They were caught? Why did they spare me then? What should I do now? I left the library through the same window in which I came. Carefully, I went down the wall and moved in the shadows of the houses; avoiding light casted upon them by tall and slim structures which my parents called 'street lights'. I finally made it to my hideout, a crevice in the wall that opens up when I push the key stone by the wall. It was not a big room, but it had all that I need to survive for another week or two. I sat down on the floor in the darkness and sighed, I had no idea where my parents were and had no idea where to begin searching. As I pondered on where to begin, I hear the trap door opening... I stiffen where I sat. No one knew about this hideout except my parents and I, could it be, I hoped desperately in my heart, that it would be my parents. Waiting with abated breath, I listened for their voice but the voice that greeted me was far from what I had hoped. It was a voice that I have never expected to hear again. "Adrian...Are you here?" asked the voice, I hesistated, I do not know if I should answer. Was he an ally? Or was he a foe? The last time he left, it was without a word and I was only six. I gulped and decided to answer him, "L'ciel..." "So you are here," said L'ciel as he lighted a torch and set it upon the bracket on the wall. L'ciel was as I remembered him, like every other werewolf, he walked on his hind legs, has a snout and keen ears, but unlike most werewolf, he was raised by my parents. He partially raised me before disappearing one day without a word, "L'ciel, I'd never expected I'd see you again..." I said coarsely. "I'd never expected that I have to find you," he answered sadly, "What do you mean, you have to find me? The sadness in your voice...you have news of my parents, don't you?" I said with fear in my heart. L'ciel nodded gravely, " You see, kiddo, back when you were six, your parents told me that I had to leave in order to protect you. I was tasked to set up hideouts in various locations so that your parents can safely travel with you and show you the world. This room, it was prepared for you by your parents and I..." L'ciel started to explain, I could not help but interrupt, "How does travelling around with me, keep me safe?" I asked in bewilderment, " And what does it have to do with my parents' disappearance?" I continued impatiently. L'ciel held up his hand to stop me, "It all leads up to your parents' disappearance..." he said, I stared at him and kept quiet, taking the cue, L'ciel continued, "There is no safe haven for humans, which is what you are, in this world. Your parents knew that by travelling around, they will avoid detection. Although they had stayed in the same location for six years without being found, it was too big a risk to continue staying when you were already at the age of curiousity. In order to prevent you from wandering out of the hideout alone, they decided to travel and show you the world," L'ciel paused and looked at him, wondering if I had heard what he had said, "How do you come into the picture?" I asked. "Your parents gave me the freedom to travel around the world when I was of age, I only returned to them when I found out that your mother was pregnant with you, I knew I had to stay by their side. I had to protect them. I had to protect you. It was so hard to leave them and you, but your parents insisted that they needed my help to set up places to hide. So I left with great reluctance. For the past ten years, I have managed to set up hideouts in every major city in the world, allowing your parents to travel to different places with you. This is the one time that I had the chance to meet them. But it was too late." L'ciel said sadly, his eyes has begun to water. "If only I was faster! If only I had figure it out! Your parents...they were taken by the Hunters' Guild... We were going to meet up yesterday night while you were asleep to discuss where to go next and what to do... I was delayed as I was gathering some materials to pass it to your parents. As I reach our meeting place, I was stopped by two hunters from the guild, they had surrounded the area and forbade anyone from entering or passing through..." said L'ciel coarsely, "I couldn't do anything, our top priority was to keep you safe, I saw them putting your parents in cages before leaving the area. They headed towards the Courts," "Why?" I asked as I struggled to withold tears that threatened to flow down my eyes, "Why? Why is that your top priority? Why didn't you save my parents? Why!? Why did they take my parents!?" L'ciel kept quiet. He had no answer to give me as tears streamed down my eyes. There was no point in holding back any longer, this was too much to take, "My name...it's not in the book about humans," I said as my voice shook. He looked at me with wide-eyes, "So you have found out," he said, I looked at him, my tears have stopped. "Your existence is unknown. You are a child born in shadows, you are child born of science and magic," L'ciel said looking straight at me. "Science? Magic?" I was confused, from the book itself, science had ceased to exist. Magic prevailed. "You will be able to use science and magic, you are able to use them both in balance... You will be the one to turn the wheels of fate." L'ciel continued, looking stright into my eyes. I know not the future that lies ahead of me, it was fearful. I did not have my parents with me. L'ciel... how much does he know? How much will he tell me? The wheels of fate and I, why are we connected? I was silent... "I'll leave you be..." said L'ciel, I looked up at him startled, "Are you going to leave me alone here?" L'ciel soften and looked at me, "I need to find a way to save your parents..." he replied. I nodded, "How can I help? What can I do?" I asked earnestly, hoping very much that I can help in any way in order to release my parents from whatever, whoever had taken them from me. "Stay out of the light and...here - " L'ciel handed me some books, "- read these up. Your parents' wrote them, these books contain all their research," he said and continued when I look at him questioningly, "You'll understand more about this current era and how it came to be and I believe you might find yourself in them too..." I stared at the books and looked up the see L'ciel leaving through the trapdoor. I looked up at the ceilings and wondered, what will the future bring? For now, I can only hope for the safe return of my parents. Until that day arrives, I will survive.... Read more