THE SACRED WATERS…
Faster and faster Victor ran, but in the vacuum of darkness there seemed to be no end.
Victor Lee began to panic....Learn MoreFaster and faster Victor ran, but in the vacuum of darkness there seemed to be no end. Victor Lee began to panic. In the black nothingness, there was no direction, no guidance. For what felt like forever, he was groping in the darkness, not knowing where he was. He was even beginning to doubt who he was. With his hands and feet, he had tried reaching out for something—anything. But there was nothing. Not a single hint of a solid object that he could use as a guide or at least just a hope that there was something in the vast emptiness. Not a wall within reach, not a table to bump into, not a person, not an entity—nothing at all. There was only him and him alone. It was the shadows. The shadows had engulfed him. He was trapped in a chasm, and there was no escape. “Please! Let me out! Abra! Kadabra! ANYBODY!” There was nobody. His chest tightened. This couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. It was just a dream. He knew it was just a dream. Even after the stupid wish, he should be able to wake if he wanted to. He willed the blackness away, but nothing happened. The reality that was his and only his would not leave. Victor Lee was desperate. Why was it that the boy, whose name sounded so much like victory, had never tasted victory? Even his own dream dominated him. If he was so pathetic, what was the point of anything? “Abra! Pleaaassse! Help!” He pleaded, conjuring images of the benevolent little guy with blonde moustache that extended down to his chest. But the dwarf that he came to love gave no answer. Then he called for Abra’s old wise sidekick. “Kadabra!” As he feared, Kadabra the bald old man would not come to his aid either. Kadabra used to come to him in his cosy little hut holding a silver spoon in his left hand. It might have been because of his childhood obsession with Pokémon that his dreamt-up friend was called Kadabra and held a spoon. Victor did not ponder the details; he was just glad of the company—the company of people who were always there for him when he needed them. Except now. Where were they when he needed them most? Even Munchies the rabbit and Serene the butterfly were unavailable. He had tried reaching out to them with his mind like he always did, but there was no answer. He was all alone, lost in an infinite emptiness. How could it be? This world was so promising—so safe, so perfect. It was a dream come true; he was living his dream—literally. It was a haven, his haven. Why did it turn against him? Where did it go wrong? On his first visit, years ago, there was only a small, barely furnished hut in a desolated forest clearing. The days were bearable enough—it would be warm and not too sunny and he would spend it going for a walk or fishing. The nights were cold and uncomfortable. Whenever he started shivering, he would tell himself it was just a dream and then he would wake. As the visits became more frequent, the hut evolved. Each time, more furniture would appear, and he loved every one of them. Miraculously, they were exactly what he would have chosen. If he were told to picture his dream home, it would look precisely like what the hut became. Then came a time when the hut changed no more. It was perfect, just the way he wanted it. The kitchen was always fully stocked, there was a bookshelf with his favourite books, and neatly chopped firewood was always piled up at the back, ready for him to use in the evening. Sometimes he would just lie on his bed. He loved the bed. It was soft and cosy, with a simple blue duvet, and his favourite childhood toy—a Mickey Mouse that he lost at least a decade ago—always sitting at the edge, waiting for him. The weekly visits turned into nightly visits. Without fail, he would dream of his lovely hut the moment he dozed off. During the weekends, he would take nap after nap, just to live in his dream. He spent more and more time there. It was a welcomed escape, because he hated his rented apartment. And because whenever he was awake, he had to deal with his demanding, overpowering girlfriend; a chaotic, pointless, low paying job; and parents who would not talk about anything but marriage. He was approaching 30, and they wanted him to settle down with the high-flying Su Li as soon as possible. But the only place he wanted to settle in was his hut. Over months, Victor managed to build a garden behind his hut. Butterflies and bees started to drop by. There was one butterfly, he noticed, that was bigger and brighter than the rest. It was a striking Monarch butterfly, with brilliant orange wings. And it was always there. One day, it landed on Victor’s hand. Gently, he stroked its wings. “Hi, beautiful,” he whispered absentmindedly. That was when he first heard her voice, soft and smooth and clear. “Hi!” It echoed in his head, and it was so beautiful he wanted never wanted it to stop. “Is that you, darling?” “Of course it is,” the butterfly responded almost immediately. She was Serene, she told him. Serene was here because she knew he needed company. “I would be here with you for the rest of your days, if you wish,” she spoke into his mind. “Of course,” he replied. “I would love that.” He really did. Victor did not realise how lonely he was in the hut until then. Munchies the rabbit came a few days later. He communicated psychically too, but in a deep, manly voice. Victor offered him some carrots, but Munchies refused and wanted to have tea with him instead. Victor soon found out that he preferred a human’s diet—which was great, because he would have someone to dine with. A few days later, Abra, and Kadabra turned up together. They were waiting for him at his doorstep and he invited them in for tea. With their arrival, his dream-world was complete. For a few years, Victor enjoyed their time together. They would go hiking, swim in rivers and waterfalls deep in the forest or just stay in the hut. When they got bored of having only a garden to tend to, they built a farm. Slowly, the farm grew and soon, there were dozens of chickens, cows, sheep, goats and horses to tend to. Sometimes, they would spend their evenings riding the horses and when it gets dark, they would retreat into the hut to have dinner. Before bed, they would read, play games or watch strange television programmes that Victor could never remember. Munchies would join them if he was not sleeping. Often, Serene would observe them silently, ever present, like a guardian angel. Once in a while, a third person—an enigmatic character who claimed to be a wizard and was able to grant any wishes—would make an appearance. He called himself Alakazam. Alakazam was a tall, slender man with a silver spoon in each hand and bore an uncanny resemblance to Kadabra. He was a man of few words, and when words did escape his thin, almost non-existent lips, it was to encourage Victor to make a wish. Sometimes, he would linger and watch them from a distant; sometimes he would just make a statement and depart. In each dream, a few days or only a few hours may play out. On rare occasions, a month may go by in one dream, and Victor would wake up feeling as if he had just gone on a long vacation. But no matter how much time had passed in dream-world, he was always reluctant to return to reality. He loved his perfect little dream-world. He never wanted to leave. Victor slept more than ever, and the people around him started to notice. His parents branded him lazy, Su Li labelled him useless and his one and only good friend mocked his asocial tendency. Then one day, without warning, Su Li left him. She only sent him a short text telling him that it was over and then emailed him a long list of reasons why she knew it was the right decision, ending with ‘you’re not good enough, and never will be’. Instead of talking it over with him, she had sent him an email, as if he was just one of her clients. For days, he tried reaching her, calling her over and over again, hoping to speak to her, hoping to change her mind, but she never answered. A week later, he was fired for a mistake he never made, but he had no say. He never did. And so, Victor had all the time in the world to dream. Most of his days were spent sleeping, dreaming of the world he knew so well. As reality shunned him, his dream embraced him with open arms. Every time he reached his hut, Abra and Kadabra would be standing at the front door, welcoming him, and tea was always waiting for him in the kitchen. It was the perfect life—he had a supportive friend in Abra, always ready to listen and comfort and motivate. Then there was Kadabra, caring and wise. He would be the one to look after the hut when Victor was awake, and was the one who planned their daily routine when Victor was around. Everything was great—except that he had to wake. In the end, it was just a dream. Even when he was there, enjoying life in his precious little hut, he knew. Each morning, he would arise, empty and defeated. Victor wanted to be there, always. It was a world where he could make things happen. It was a world where he could taste the sweetness of victory. There, he was king; there, he was everything. But when he discussed his wishes with Abra and Kadabra, they unexpectedly disapproved. Their faces darkened, and they warned him against it. “We love you, but this is not where you’re meant to be,” Abra said without a hint of his usual optimism. “It’s not right, and it’s dangerous,” the little man added. “You don’t know what it’s really like,” Kadabra admonished. Serene remained indifferent. “This is your dream, after all,” she told him. Munchies was the only one enthusiastic about his plan. Victor fed him well, and he loved Victor for it. Despite the objections, Victor carried on with his intention. The next time Alakazam dropped by, he made a wish. “I wish I could live here forever and never wake,” he told the wizard. Alakazam nodded, did some dance with his spoons, and just like that, Victor’s wish was granted. He never woke. Abra and Kadabra soon forgotten about their dissent, and for many days, Victor lived happily in the hut without any interruptions from reality. Days were spent gardening, hiking, farming and tending to the hut. The garden thrived, with flowers of all kinds blossoming, painting a lovely mix of colours. The farm expanded as the animals began breeding. Everything seemed to work out. But amidst the peace and tranquillity, dark, menacing, shadows lurked. They were there, and had always been there, waiting for their time to come. Those dark creatures had been dormant for far too long. Lately, Abra noticed their activity had increased, and one of them actually took the trouble to attack him. It was an aggressive thing, and it almost succeeded. He was alive for now, but he knew the shadows would destroy everything soon. Abra and Kadabra had always known what the shadows were, just as they had always known what they themselves were. They knew, but Victor—creator of the dream, creator of them—did not. And so, Victor spent many blissful days in his own dream, oblivious to the threats that await them. Until one day, he saw them. Two dark, formless shadows casually made their way to the stable and with a forceful lurch they pounced on one of the horses and swallowed it. Nothing of the horse remained. Terrified, Victor ran inside the hut, slammed the door shut, and proceeded to lock all windows. Abra and Kadabra, who were in the kitchen, listened to him calmly before revealing the truth. “Everything here will be gone one day. It has already outlived the average lifespan of a dream-world. The shadows will do their job anytime now,” Kadabra explained. Victor was horrified and brooded for the rest of the day. In the evening, the shadows took half of their garden. He finally decided to accept his fate. Even in his own dream, he could not win. He had to leave—it was imminent. The next few days were spent hunting for Alakazam, but no matter how much they called for him and how fervently Victor willed him to appear, there was no Alakazam. How was he going to return to reality? While he contemplated that question, a group of shadows emerged from the ceiling of the hut and within seconds, he was consumed by their darkness. He tried running, walking, touching, jumping and practically everything he could think of, but there was only infinite blackness—nothing else. He screamed and screamed for help but no one heard him. Maybe there was no one to scream to. Maybe his precious world was no more. Victor steeled himself. If he was still there—still moving, still breathing, still existing—there was hope. He would not be eaten by his own dream. Alakazam was his creation. He himself enabled Alakazam to grant wishes. All he had to do was believe otherwise. Earlier, he had willed the darkness away, all the while still believing in Alakazam’s power. Now, he told himself that Alakazam was just an old man, incapable of granting wishes. He repeated this thought to himself until he lost memory of the wizard’s power. There was no Alakazam the wizard, only a queer man with spoons. This was his dream, and he could leave if he wanted to. All of a sudden, he felt a jolt, and the blackness brightened to deep orange. Whispers could be heard. He realised he was awake. Then, for the first time in weeks, Victor opened his eyes. The black emptiness was gone, replaced with pure whiteness. His lips curved into a triumphant smile. He knew he had conquered his dream. As his eyes adjusted to the brightness, a face came into focus. It was a man in a white coat, staring down at him. “Victor? Can you hear me?” “Viiic…torrr…eee,” Victor Lee murmured. ... Read more
48 HOUR MIRACLE
The sound of a music box filled the air. Placed in an ill-lighted room, the seemingly innocuous box was a burst of colour, with delicate pink roses and crawling vines etched onto its porcelain sides. The box sat upon a quartz pill...Learn MoreThe sound of a music box filled the air. Placed in an ill-lighted room, the seemingly innocuous box was a burst of colour, with delicate pink roses and crawling vines etched onto its porcelain sides. The box sat upon a quartz pillar, surrounded by a pool of effervescent water. The hypnotic tune it played enchanted those who were cursed to hear it. It whispered a pleasant, though oddly chilling, series of notes, a symphony expertly designed to draw in its victims, capture and eliminate. Click, clack, click, clack. Footsteps echoing from a nearby hallway cautiously approached the room, the owner holding a torch that was already close to burning out. The music box jumped and whirred, excited for the chance of a delicious dinner. Click. The music became louder, the song full of glee, Clack. "So close, so close was she!" the music box sang in beautiful music that came to a magnificent crescendo- The music stopped. It seemed that unfortunately for the music box, Lady Grythanos was wearing ear plugs. With a triumphant smile, the music box was plucked off the pillar and tucked safely away in the Lady’s leather pouch. - I could hear the sound of the curtains being enthusiastically grabbed and pulled to the side. It was an effort to allow the soft light kiss my eyes awake I suppose. Alas, I was no longer in the dystopian world that I had built from rubble. Instead, I was brought back to reality with the blazing sun urging me to shake off my blanket of protection. Not at all the welcome I had hoped for. Clothes were scaterred helter-skelter around the room. As usual. I created these worlds. In my head. I dream of them every single night, hoping to become Elleanore. Elleanore was not real but she embodied everything I aspired to be. The epitome of perfection. My throat felt dry. I reached for the glass of water on my bedside table next to the bottle of prescription pills. But seeing as I was ever so clumsy, that simple action caused the glass to fall to the carpeted ground. It was my fault really. I should not have tried to take it whilst buried under a mountain of pillows. Thankfully it did not break. So I turned in my bed, facing the ceiling. Here, I was not Elleanore Grythanos, not your dedicated and dependable Lady ready to save the realm from evil forces. I could not capture targets like the seducing music box, I was not at all the confident, strong woman. I was awkwardly quiet instead. Of course I had friends, but only one was someone I could talk to on a daily basis. Lady Grythanos killed those who deserved to be brought to justice. I on the other hand, have only tried to kill myself. Emotional and full of angst, I know. The worlds distracted me from my anxiety and my urge to self harm. I hated myself. Even more so, I hated that I hated myself. It was an odd paradox that often consumed me whole, leaving me awake at night with threatening thoughts and a blade. The worlds I make were an escape from the terrifying reality I had to face. I let out a sigh. I did not enjoy these thoughts. Nor do I find joy in sharing them as some people might assume. They would all just think I crave attention or don’t receive enough love or care. But it wasn’t that. I had a family that loved me. And for my family, I had to at least try. And I do try, every day. I reluctantly forced myself to leave the comfort of bed and went through my daily routine. I ate my breakfast of cold and soggy cereal alone. Alone mostly because my brother who had opened the curtains in my room earlier had already went to work, also because I preferred eating alone anyway. I think. After wiping my mouth with some tissue rather uncouthly, I took my empty bowl and put it in the sink, letting the water flow and trickle down. "I’ll wash it later," I thought with a lazy shrug, turning the knob to stop the stream. I turned around to see my backpack leaned against the white dining chair. My backpack was unique to say the least, for it was a slightly translucent, cyan blue with golden stars. It attracted people in ways that were both good and bad. I threw it over one shoulder and ventured out the door. It wasn’t a breathtaking day outside, nor was it an awful one. It was average. I walked down the paved sidewalk, grateful for the trees that stood high and mighty, forming a canopy. Not that it was hot or anything, I just preferred the serene shade over working up a sweat. I could see someone wearing an adorable sundress grinning vivaciously at the school gates awaiting my arrival. "Elle!" she chirped, skipping towards me and wrapped her arms around me. I was taken aback by the sudden display of affection, but I returned the hug all the same. Anaise had bright curly orange hair that looked like flames in the sunlight. I looked bland in comparison, what with my dull jet black hair. She took my hand and placed in it a piece of grey paper. "What’s always coming but never arrives?" it wrote. I let out a small chuckle, the answer was obviously ‘tomorrow’. She does this for me everyday. At times the riddles were very simple, other times they boggle my mind and leave me wondering how she came up with them. The riddles were attempts to brighten my day. Anaise had a certain sadness to her. I couldn’t explain it. She was bubbly and goofy and merry and yet, there was something in her eyes I couldn’t quite place. Something that never went away. I squeezed her hand as I told her the answer. "Correct! Oh Elle, you’re so smart," she says and proceeds to talk about her day and how it had been. It seemed as though the past weeks had been rough for Anaise. It was evident in the stories she told as we walked along the halls and into class together. We trusted each other a great deal and frequently divulged our secrets with one another. She knew of my harsh distaste for my life. No matter how many times and hours I take up as I rant and complain about the littlest of things, she was always there to listen. Her gentle advice would put me at ease, but it was her mere presence and listening ears that calmed the most dreadful of storms in me. I guess the dark attracts light. Or the other way around. I’m not sure. Either way, she was the sun to my storm. No, more like the rainbow after the rain. Nothing out of the ordinary happened today other than Anaise telling me she had errands to attend to when class ended. I was slightly disappointed not to be able to spend time with her, but I did not let it get to me as I made my way home. I knew that I could count on Anaise until hell freezes over, even if at the moment we couldn’t hang out together like we usually did. Upon reaching home, my father gave me a quick hug and kissed my forehead. It seemed like my brother wasn’t home yet since his room was unlit. I made up my mind then that it was going to be an early night before my thoughts could catch up to me. I made sure my blade was far away as I reminded myself that tomorrow was a new day. Our mornings usually went like that. The next morning was no exception – except that Anaise wasn’t at the school gate. I figured I would meet her later. I paid no mind to the dissonant sounds in the school hallways and went straight to class. Wasting time only left me feeling more worried and anxious. I was greeted in class with a piece of paper that had red scribbles with almost undecipherable handwriting on my desk. After careful analysis of the peculiar document, it turned out to just be the daily riddle from Anaise. I couldn’t help but smile. I went into the hallway and began the search for my friends. It was cramped and excruciatingly uncomfortable trying to weave through the crowd. However, the noise today was unbearably louder than usual. For good reason. I could not believe what was reaching my ears. I could not believe what they were showing me. So, I ran. I pushed away the people who were in the crowd, not bothering to apologise, not bothering to look back. I ran and ran and ran, not knowing where I was going, tears utterly blinding me from noticing all my surroundings. I ran as fast as I could, which honestly wasn’t fast at all since I wasn’t an athlete. Ran and ran with questions fogging my brain until finally, finally I stumbled on the root of an oak tree and fell to my knees. I screamed and sobbed and thrashed around. Screamed until my lungs gave out and my voice left me. I screamed, arms flailing around, pulled out my hair and kicked the ground sending dirt into the air. I screamed as if it would numb the pain. I lost track of time. Miri and the others found me in silence, defeated under the tree we used to sit under together. They hoisted me up and for once in my life I couldn’t feel my legs. Perhaps because they were overpowered by my heart that felt too much. Sorrow. Anger. Hurt. Disappointment. Guilt. Everything after that was a blur. Upon arriving home, my father and brother tightly embraced me. They offered words to console me. Everyone offered words to console me that day. It never made a difference. Nevertheless, I appreciated them. Even climbing the stairs to reach my room took too much of an effort. But miraculously I did reach it, and then I fell on to my bed face first. What seemed like only seconds later, though in reality were a few hours, my laptop let out a buzz. I felt myself looking up. I noticed Miri was inviting me for a call on Skype. Although I was exhausted, I accepted the call. Miri was not alone. She was surrounded by our group of friends. I didn’t give a care of asking where they were. We talked about random things, I’m sure they actually just wanted to check up on me. The atmosphere was tense, as expected considering someone we held dear to our hearts was beaten to death with a broken wine bottle. We all shared the same bloodshot eyes, tired faces and heavy hearts. But we carried on. That was the only logical option. All things come to an end, even if it was early like Anaise’s life. The call ended. I turned the lights off and tried to fall asleep. I couldn’t. The questions were plaguing my mind. How did she know her death was near? How could she pretend to be so happy and not tell a single soul that she was abused? Was she so happy on the morning of the day she passed because she knew it was all coming to an end? Am I the one to blame? I didn’t notice my hand wrapping around a familiar blade. Perhaps the answers were in her last note. I did not want to read it. Not because I could not read her incomprehensible handwriting, but because it meant saying goodbye. We did not realize how broken Anaise truly was. I did not realize it. She was more broken than me. More broken than her home. More broken than her family. More broken than her mother’s arm courtesy of her wonderful father. And so I began to draw pictures into my arm with the blade. Questions and sentences that I hoped could reach Anaise no matter where she may be. My best friend. My soulmate. Someone I considered to be a sister. Gone and never coming back. I let out a whimper of pain as the blade slashed a red line from my forearm and slowly reached my wrist. But I was not afraid. Not afraid anymore. The blade pressed down but it did not draw blood for I had paused. Indeed, I was no longer afraid of the voices tempting me to let the pool of red erupt from underneath my skin, to let the pain eat me up and join Anaise. But for whatever reason, I stopped. The blade never reached my wrist. Then the world faded to black. - The graveyard was solemn. I placed a bouquet of flowers on her grave. It was the third anniversary of Anaise’s death. It was also the third anniversary of my survived and final suicide attempt. They had found me the morning after barely breathing with the words carved into my skin. To this day, some scars had healed, but not all of them were shallow cuts. My friends and family were eternally grateful I had made it alive. But of course, they wanted to know what had made me stop. I smiled whenever someone had the courage to ask me. And that is because Anaise saved me. On the day Anaise passed I had told her of my dream. I remember the ghost of a smile on her face when I finished. She told me to find meaning in it. To understand. I continued living because the world was cruel and Anaise was one of the many unfortunate victims. I live, because I refuse to concede to death. Instead, I live my life to the fullest for her. To show death it cannot bring everyone down with its sweet promise of closure. Anaise could have allowed herself to be as miserable as I was. She too could have held the blade. But unlike me, she didn’t let life become her murderer. She loved life still, or at least she loved and lived every single good time in between. There are those good times you don’t think about – the canopy’s protection in the morning on the way to school, the father’s kiss on the forehead, the brother’s pulling of the curtains. The little things to love and live for. Anaise taught me that everyone is worthy of love. Even me. Even you. My dearest, Anaise. On the night you passed, I was in an ill-lighted room. I heard the chilling sound of a music box. It called to me, singing the tragic yet alluring song of death. It whispered to me and sang of the peace death would grant and I almost gave in. I guess you could say, Anaise, unfortunately for the music box, I was wearing ear plugs. And they were you. ... 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When I was twelve, I found myself in the middle of the street...Learn MoreWhen I was twelve, I found myself in the middle of the street I had never seen in my life. The sky was clouded over with grey clouds, but still light enough to pass for daytime. A slight breeze was ruffling my hair, blissfully cool for a summer afternoon. Faded pavements bordered the gravelly road with equally faded shops sitting quaint and patient in an orderly line down the street to the other end where the street curved to the right and disappeared from view. There was only a few occasional passers-by, all hurrying to goodness knows where, not bothering to spare a glance at the young girl staring at them much longer than is considered polite. All these I took in with fascinated apprehension. Being the age I was, this was all but an unexpected adventure that only ever happened in books. The nearest shop to me next to the florist was a cafe that had the most amazing display of iced cakes and muffins in the window. I was tempted. I had some money leftover from lunch. How much would a muffin cost? It wouldn't hurt to ask, my brain decided, succumbing to the loud symphony consisting only of percussions my stomach was rumbling out. A few steps took me onto the slightly crumbled pavement and right outside the cafe door, where a handwritten sign told me that it was, obviously, 'open'. I pushed open the frosted glass door, wincing slightly as invisible tinkling bells announced my entrance. The first thing I noticed was the most heavenly smell of cinnamon and butter and fresh bread, all mingled together into a grand feast for the nose. Beanbags and couches formed cosy communities around sturdy tables. Infinite amounts of books stacked the shelves lining the walls, enclosing the dining area with faint smells of polished wood and crinkly old paper. I picked my way through the beanbags to the counter. There was a woman busying herself behind the counter with her back to me. She seemed deeply engrossed in whatever she was doing because apparently the bell on the door had not alerted my presence to her. I cleared my throat. "Um, excuse me." The woman turned and flashed me a smile. "Yes, sweetheart?" She couldn't have been older than my own sister of 24 years. Her eyes were the deepest shade of brown I'd ever seen, and as warm and kind as the colour was deep. Her features were soft and somehow familiar. I liked the look of her immediately. "I was wondering," I started, "if I could get something for, um…" I made a hurried count of the coins I had in my pocket. "Yes, of course," she replied before I could finish. "Help yourself," she told me with a bright smile. "You get a book to read too while you're at it." I thanked her and chose a muffin from a plate on the table. Not in much of a hurry to get home, I browsed the book shelves, noting that I had quite some of the books myself and marvelling at the several titles that I hadn't seen before. Almost all of the books looked second handed, yellowed and well-fingered. There was a particularly old one that caught my eye. The spine was a dark velvet blue and the title printed in gold: Meeting Myself in the Future. It wasn't a catchy title at all, more of a cheesy essay title teachers would ask of students in school, but somehow it captured my attention. Cramming the last of my muffin into my mouth, I slid the book from its place and examined it. The cover was velvet like the spine, and there were no illustrations whatsoever- just the title, in elaborate cursive. It was a hardcover, the expensive kind, and though it was a little battered on the edges, I could see that it was well cared for. "You like books, huh," A voice beside me made me jump. I was so intent on the book that I hadn't noticed the woman had come up beside me. She was looking at the book with a funny expression on her face. I nodded. "My dad buys me one every month if I'm good," I told her. She smiled at that information. "My dad used to too," she said, surprisingly. "He bought me a book every month until I went away to college. Most of the books here," she waved her hand around the cafe, "are my collection." "Cool!" I had thought the books were donated, or bought from flea markets. I had a small library back home myself, and I took pride in watching it grow over the years. I told her so. "So this is one of yours, too?" I showed her the book. "Actually," her expression was thoughtful, "I'm not sure where that book came from, but I've had it for ten years. Exactly ten years today," she added, her eyes twinkling at me. "Really?" Ten years was a long time to a twelve-year-old. "So what's it about?" I asked. "Well, it's mostly about a girl who accidentally found herself in the future and met herself," the woman told me. "Her future self gave her a journal containing some advice to last her for ten years." The plot sounded as boring as the title. “It’s a pretty good book,” the woman continued. “I learnt a lot out of it. In a way, it made me who I am today.” She paused, her expression thoughtful for a moment. “Tell you what,” she said suddenly, looking straight at me. “You can have the book. I’m sure you can learn out of it as well.” I was taken aback. “What?” “Sharing is caring, child.” She took me by the arm and steered me out of the cafe. "The muffin's on the house," she said briskly. "As for the book... It's yours now.” I understood her as far as muffins went, and no more beyond. "You're giving me the book?" "Yes." Her reply was short. I looked at the book in my hands. It wasn't very heavy considering its thickness, but it had the comfortable weight of a good quality book. I hesitated. "Are you sure-?" "Very. You have to go now," she said. "You'll know in the future." I would have been highly annoyed if any other adult had said that to me, but somehow her tone had an effect on me. "All right then. Thank you very much." I tried to be as formal as I could. She replied with a wave and a smile, and disappeared into the cafe again. It has been ten years since. I never found that street or the cafe again, which had been quite a disappointment, but the book was reassurance enough that my little adventure had happened. It is still with me, and just like I was told, it had taught me a lot, and had made me who I am now. Today, though, was the last chapter in the book. The bell on the door tinkled, signalling the arrival of a customer. A timid voice piped from behind me: "Um, excuse me." I turned and smiled. "Yes, sweetheart?" ... Read more
"Making through... Excuses!" She jostled through the crowd thick with stale sweat and vinegar sour, pushing anyone that's in her way, right after the door of the tube was wide open. She couldn't be more panicked, after realizing she had 5 minutes left before getting reprimanded for the first day of work. Her hair bun was a tangled mess, with some strands left ...Learn More"Making through... Excuses!" She jostled through the crowd thick with stale sweat and vinegar sour, pushing anyone that's in her way, right after the door of the tube was wide open. She couldn't be more panicked, after realizing she had 5 minutes left before getting reprimanded for the first day of work. Her hair bun was a tangled mess, with some strands left untied gently taking flight in the summer breeze. But all she concerned at that instant was her punctuality, praying and hoping that the consequences would not get in her way before stepping herself out of the aspirational entrance. Her heart pumping as hard as it could manage, she took the mere risk by gullibly taking the junction up ahead, even though the road was piled with big and small vehicles, some were prestigious as it seemed, and some were in the range of average. Neglecting on how sore her legs must have been after sprinting without stopping, the glint her eyes stayed calm. "Just a little bit further," she muttered under her breath, trying everything within her power to suppress her anxiety over this, but it seemed that her heart had massively invaded her mental interpretation. Looked like nothing could resist her temptation. Just as she was few blocks away, unintentionally, her body bumped into a guy, who was about 10 inches taller than her. His hair was like flaming sunset until you could observe a slight tint of halo casting over his head. His failed-to-be-tanned porcelain skin appeared to be the underscore of his general figure. Nonetheless, disappointingly, she didn't help herself to look any second longer on the bumped victim, but instead, she just went off without an apology. The guy looked at the runaway girl doubtfully, as he was curious on what was happening to her. Giving up his time for the morning wrap in his hand, he rushed forward to expect an explanation. "Miss, slow down. Is there anything I can do to help you? You seemed lost," his voice resonated in the air, although it was mildly cracked at first, it was audible enough in the end. She stood at the spot where she’d last placed her foot on, physically frozen when an immediate offer which sounded as cordial as it seemed ringing behind her ears. She turned her head back momentarily, trying to make up her mind whether she should irrationally put up a smile. But as soon as she realized every second was ticking away, she knew she had to decide fast. "I don't know how to reward you back, but I would request a short-distance ride from you to work." She beamed absentmindedly, as he gave in her eyes and smirked like he just found something enlightening. Taking the car keys out from his pocket, it dangled between his fingers like cathedral chimes. "Let's get moving," *** She hopped into the passenger’s seat in his classic Volkswagen, feeling some quite taunting for someone who would treat her in such prosperous hospitality. As far as he got into his driver’s seat and have the safety belts secured, it was already 8:57. Three more minutes, her breathing quickens. Three minutes before the door will be locked from intruders permanently. The engine roared in pain as he skillfully rammed the keys into the keyhole, hands on the steering wheel and began speeding like a reckless professional. Her mouth gaped and was dry in fear as he dashed through the red lights, morphologically beyond her expectations. It made her weak stomach did a little churning flip, and what tired her more was when the overwhelming speed, as she was on the brink of passing out. It was then when she halted him contradictorily, a vile tang of remorse remained stagnant in her mouth. "I think it's wise if you could bring the speed a little lower, I'm not used to crossing the borderline," his aware eyes transfixed on her for a while, before put off the excitement. Until then when she took in and scrutinized, his eyes were the most alluring shape of hazelnuts, immersed in the color of the serene crystal blue water. What arrested more of her attention is from the mass of sincerity in his eyes, the one of a kind that you presumably wouldn't usually find, as there was more intangible ology masked like a hidden blade behind those beautiful eyes, as no one except himself could understand the depth of his inner soul. His eyes found hers for a moment and snapped away before she could read them attentively. "Slow, yeah, of course. Sorry 'bout that." His words were soft and husky at the same time, but somehow cracked a little as it got to the end. It killed her at that instant. Suppressing her temptation to laugh, she sat quietly beside him while fixing her eyes on the immaculate window frame. The journey was stranded in complete silence, except for the heart-wrenching soprano Rhapsody hoovered in wane kept them entertained, in an arid quality. There was so much for her to say, or to be cordial, to gratify him, for his willing personality and his heart of an angel, technically lend her a hand despite both of them are radical strangers. But her mouth was abruptly dry with speechlessness, and her hands gained cold sweat from the second of his offer. Instead, she just sat there like a paralyzed victim without making any verbal activity. But in the end, he spoke before her just as his car halted in front of the traffic lights. "Your office is right after this junction where we're heading. We'll reach there in no time at all." Just a few twenty more deliberate seconds before we would be apart? How's that possible? Wait, what was she even thinking? She blamed herself without rhyme or reason. What made the scenario more hilarious was that she did actually it for someone that she's just bounced into amidst the aisle, and that mindful interpretation of hers made her hoovered in thoughts for a moment. After attempting all his effort taking her there, she thanked him with her face flushed with embarrassment, and insisted on the right to pay. But he declined as what she appeared to her like a gentleman although he explained the need for him to do so. Indecisively, she shoved the notes into her coat pocket and rushed the prime entrance of her office. Before she shook her legs, he converted something to her out of the circle of expectation. "The reason why I helped you, is because I find you familiar somehow. I don't remember where we've met before, but I have a feeling it was a few weeks before Thanksgiving." His eyes shimmered reflectively in the golden daylight. "I was selling a basket of Christmas cookies, and for me it was a tiring task. No one noticed me standing beside the aisle in the relatively violent snow, as if I was some ghost to them. Until you came approaching me, and paid for 30 bucks for all the cookies in the basket. What's more to that, is you gave me this," he paused as he took out a tiny wretched notebook, wrapped securely with a Georgia brown hardcover. It was torn at the edges, but if you neglect the distortion masking the book, it's fresh with inspiration. His fingers curled and encircled the binding strings along the spine of the book, saying "Your writing is decently enthralling, and utterly a thoughtful form of composition. I read it every single night since that day, my love for this book gets firmer and stronger each time I lay my eyes on your compelling motivation within. It gave me hope to a new beginning each and every morning, at the very start when the birds began chirping in optimism and the clouds drifting along the cerulean bright sky. I couldn't love it more, but I believe it's time I return it to its rightful author. It is the time when it needs to realistically provide its penniless but profound service to the one who produced it. Here," he said, with his hands extending the book to her. She breathed in, as she retrieved it in response with uncertainties. It felt good under her fingertips, the smooth surface of the few-centimeters-thick cover accompanied by the silent call from itself. Despite it was supposed to be given back to her, a feeling inside urged her to steer the expected decision away. "You know what? I think it's best if you keep it to yourself, since it has encouraged you so much in various aspects. God knows what it will bring to you in the future. Please, take the honor on my behalf," She enunciated like a knowledgably substantial women, her hands covering his while giving him the book in person. The lights in his eyes went dancing in delight, those wild expressions coming from the pair of sapphires made her stomach churned, in a badass way. "I don't know what to say. Thank you so much," his smile perched at the edge of his lips for a while. She was glad that made him happy. As soon as the party of gratitude was over, she bid farewell to him with pure satisfaction and turned away. But her keen on him didn't stop there, until he proposed, "May I know your name? ... Read more
I rubbed my temples as they started throbbing painfully. I downed some painkillers out of habit. Ears ringing, perhaps a sign of pending tinnitus. Alas for me, that was not the case.
Her piercing scream and bloodied hands haunted my dreams. But I failed to see her face. “Damned woman....Learn MoreI rubbed my temples as they started throbbing painfully. I downed some painkillers out of habit. Ears ringing, perhaps a sign of pending tinnitus. Alas for me, that was not the case. Her piercing scream and bloodied hands haunted my dreams. But I failed to see her face. “Damned woman. I don’t even know who you are,” I cursed. The dark circles around my eyes were the testimony of my frequent insomnia episodes. Fresh water for facial absolution could not provide instant remedy to the temporary biological damage. Eye-Mo drops would do, just to relieve the dryness and irritability. Staring at my torso, I frowned at the scar to the left of my sternum. I once asked my mom about it when I was at the age where curiosity got the best of me. She simply said that I was born with that. “That’s your birthmark,” her words echoed in my mind as my right fingers traced the outline. I swore that it looked more like a stab wound, and sometimes it hurt like hell, especially when the nightmare occurred. I wriggled myself into the office wear. Weapon harness was fastened securely, housing my Beretta 92. Glock 26 was secured at my ankle. All firearms were concealed nicely. I shoved my badge into my pockets, along with other IDs. Once I was satisfied with my appearance, I grabbed my leather satchel and stormed out of my apartment to catch the early morning MRT ride. “You look awful. Coffee, black?” she offered the steaming mug. I just shrugged and shook my head vigorously. My satchel landed on my seat with a thud. She rolled her eyes. “Excuses, excuses. Anyway, how is it with the investigation?” I knew which she was referring too albeit I caught her pouting towards the mountain of papers on my work desk. Time for serious updates. “Sir, I’m meeting Prof Ku tomorrow to have his opinion regarding the weapon used by the killer.” ASP Kavitha took one of the files. She maintained her professionalism but her scorching gaze literally burnt my soul. “Detective Arman, we’ve been dragging this case to almost a month. This is not like you,” her voice sounded edgy. Yes, she was right. I had not been myself lately. “Look, sir. I admit that it’s my fault for the delay. But, I will do my best to close this case,” if I have other leads and angles, were the words remained unspoken. To mention that this case somehow was related to my dreams would be a catastrophe. There was no way the work of a medium would be recognised as standard police procedural. The door flung open. A lady in red made a remarkable entrance, like a prima donna under the spotlight on a centre stage delivering an aria. Her red summer hat hindered her face from full exposure. “Officers, I want to lodge a report,” her breaths were shallow, almost hyperventilating. “I have witnessed a murder,” with those words, she fell into Kavitha’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably. Kavitha removed her hat, revealing the most familiar face. Our eyes met. Her eyes widened, a pleasant surprise spread across her face. And judging by her expression, she knew. Goddammit, she knew. She steadied herself, detaching herself from Lydia. She approached me, her hands shook as she grabbed mine. Her palms cold in my grasp. She leaned closer and whispered, “This time, you won’t turn your back on me, would you?” She was Mirandized prior to the interview. I let Kavitha lead the interrogation. I did not pay attention to the content of the interrogation as I tried to assess my feelings. My gaze flew on her features. After all these years, she was still a vision. Something caught in my throat so I excused myself to exit the interview room. At the water dispenser, I chugged down the cold water. “Are you trying to intoxicate yourself? If you are, you have a poor choice of a drink, Arman,” her sultry, seductive voice caught my attention. I spun around and found myself vis-à-vis with her. “Pei Ni,” was all I could muster. She smiled easily. Her hand reached for one of the paper cups. The cold water jet-sprayed into her cup. “Who would have thought my former beau is now in the royal police force.” I made no comment on that. Her eyes scanned me. I swallowed hard. “So, the murder is connected to a case I’ve been investigating. You are now our valuable asset. We really appreciate every information you have.” She sighed. “Au contraire. I can also be a liability. I don’t want to be in the witness protection programme, you know.” I crunched the paper cup and tossed it into the waste basket that was ten-feet away. Triple point score. “The murder weapon was a folding fan. Similar to the one that I’ve lost when we were in Form Five. No, let me correct that version. The one that you threw away when we were in Form Five,” she thoroughly had given a thought on that. “At least that eliminates you from being one of the suspects. We couldn’t find the fan after all,” at least I was relieved to know that she did not own the fan anymore. On the stage, where the auditorium was dimly lit, she expertly flicked open the folding fan and began to dance. Slowly, gracefully, in sync with the invisible tune. Until she eerily sang a haiku. Taint this fan with blood Of the heart of a true love Death by my own hands And she continued to dance. I could not understand the rhythm. The steps were too complex and complicated. I called out to her but she did not listen. Or refused to listen. Until she collapsed on the floor, the fan clasped shut, pearls of sweats drenching the wooden parquet. I rushed to her side but I gasped when she turned to look at me. I felt my blood draining. I could only see the reds of her eyes. No pupils. Why could I not see the whites? Perhaps it was just the reflection of the crimson lanterns hanging as stage props. She was the one who mouthed whether I was all right. Weird, I could not hear her words. At least her pupils looked normal. “What?” She grinned and playfully hit my forehead with the folding fan’s head. “I was asking whether you were OK. Gees, you looked horrified, as if you’d seen a ghost or something.” I tried to help her on her feet. A cloying jasmine scent clung strong to my nostril. I sniffed around but it did not come from her. She eyed at me suspiciously. “What are you doing?” “I’m trying to smell something,” and sniffed closer to her. She shoved me away in annoyance. “Pervert,” she muttered. “No, there’s this overbearing jasmine scent. Can you not smell it?” I tried to grab her but she edged away from me. “There’s seriously something wrong with you. If you want to ask what kind of perfume I’m wearing, just ask. Sheesh…” Hurt by the accusation, I surrendered. “Fine. Anyway, next time please don’t sing something scary.” She was bewildered. “Huh? Sing?” I was desperate. “Well, you did, during your recital. A few minutes ago?” She threw me a confused look. “I didn’t sing. And I don’t sing. My recital doesn’t involve singing. Just dancing. What’s wrong with you? If you’re doing drugs, please stop.” She said accusingly. I wished I could say something. Instead, I clamped my mouth shut, teeth clenched. And I stared at the folding fan in her hand. Call it illusion but I swore that I saw something crimson dripping. I yanked the fan from her and threw it as far as I could. I grabbed her hand and led her away from the stage. She cursed and hit me as we ran from the place but I never let her go. How could I when I heard screams, cries and the haunting haiku echoing from the edge of the stage where the folding fan lie. I just ran with her until the evil sounds faded. She was crestfallen. “I searched high and low for it the day after. But somehow, the fan vanished. Untraceable. You don’t know how hard it was to explain to my dad about the fan went missing. It was one of a kind. Just imagine the cost.” “Did your dad tell you where he got the fan?” this detail was very crucial. She rolled her eyes. “Not got. Bought. From Japan. It was handcrafted. That’s how rare it was. And you just threw it away!” “It scared the shit out of me, Pei Ni. I thought you were possessed. But you were not. The fan was playing a mental trick on me!” enraged, I blurted out everything that I had bottled inside for years. It was akin to a physical blow. She kept quiet. She refilled her cup with another douse of cold water. The silence was overwhelming. “That was the reason you turned cold towards me, wasn’t it? That’s why you left me. You thought I was possessed,” her voice was still. “No,” I took a seat on the nearest bench, my head in between my legs. “I left because I saw your death. It will happen if you stay with me. I’ve been cursed by the spirit residing inside the fan,” I moaned. She sauntered towards me, kneeling in front of me. She held my cheeks and looked directly into my eyes, dead serious and with determination. “Well, our paths have crossed again. And this time, we’re in this together.” “As you can see, the folding fan doubles as a weapon,” Professor Ku, a renowned anthropologist, demonstrated by pressing a button guised as a rivet. A dagger automatically sprang out, the sharp blade glinted, and once the button was released, it retracted into its sheath. “Although this is just a duplicate, it provides an accurate explanation about the murder weapon used by the killer. Thank you, Prof Ku, for your insight and time,” I turned off the video recorder and made a mental note to have the footage analysed. Professor Ku watched me intently. “Detective Arman, I would like to show you something.” “What is it, Professor?” intrigued, I was more than welcomed to see what kind of surprise he had for me. Behind his magnificent mahogany desk, Professor Ku retrieved a rolled parchment from his drawer. The parchment contained a painting as magnificent, portraying the majestic Yamato era. “It was more of a tale, you see. Around 600 AD, about a young geisha of Indian origin falling head over heels with a Sino warrior during the Battle of Baekgang. She saved him and would be tried for espionage should the court learn about this. Her extravagant lifestyle prevented her to spend time with the warrior so he was left under the care of a maiko. So, the warrior was deeply in love with the maiko who nursed him back to health.” I was mesmerised by the realistic drawing. I wondered why the dark-skinned geisha had a veil on her face. “The warrior… he looks like me.” Professor Ku nodded. “The resemblance is uncanny.” I gulped, my heart was palpating wildly. “How did he die?” “A blade pierced his heart as he tried to save his bride from being mutilated by the lunatic geisha. And the geisha performed seppuku due to grief,” Professor Ku grimly explained. And the maiko, the bride-to-be, resembled Pei Ni. How weird could this be? “How about the bride?” Professor Ku rolled the parchment and again kept it inside his drawer. “She was safe and fled from the scene, carrying his unborn child. She travelled far and finally sought refuge in Langkasuka, or Kedah as it is known in the modern world.” I was born in Kedah. This information was very unsettling. I left Professor Ku’s premise after properly thanking him for his immense help. I went home and did my research on my family tree via online. It was deep-rooted. The more I dug, the more I marvelled at how the history unveiled in front of me. The truth set me free. I was one of his descendants. Staying late at the office, I examined the photos of every victim. All females had the same features. There was something here that connected them all but what was it? I received a text via SMS from Pei Ni, saying that she would be having late practice at the theatre. A few minutes later, I received another text but it was from Kavitha, saying that she would keep an eye on Pei Ni. Frustrated, I moved from my work desk and ambled towards Kavitha’s. I saw her family photo and felt a hard slap on the face when I saw her in veil. I ran to my desk and pulled all photos together on the computer screen, inclusive of Pei Ni’s and Kavitha’s. This was it. This was the missing link. And this meant Pei Ni’s life was in danger. Pei Ni was gagged and tied to one of the columns. Tears streaming down her cheeks and drenched the gag around her mouth. Kavitha played with the folding fan, the retractable dagger was out of its sheath. “After centuries, you still appear.” Pei Ni struggled in the bondage. “You had him before. Now, he will be forever mine,” Kavitha cackled and was about to drive the dagger home. Gunshot was fired. Sulphurous odour filled the air. I meant to unman her. But my shot was fatal. It went straight through her heart The folding fan dropped to the ground. Lydia spun around. Crimson cloud darkened her white blouse. My clutch piece was in my hand. I was crying. “Why, Kavitha? The other victims… They were innocent.” “Call it vengeance so none of them take you away from me,” you are my love, my one sweet warrior. She slumped face-down on the floor. There was a detailed report that I needed to file. Yet I put it aside first because there was a funeral early in the morning that I must attend. Who would have believed my superior was a serial killer? Who would have believed supernatural was at fault? Yet it happened. Somewhere deep within, my heart felt somewhat pulverised. Somehow, I felt my eyes misted. Get a grip, I told myself. I unceremoniously placed the folding fan next to her frozen body before the Hindu priest performed the mukhagni. I offered a silent prayer of peace for her soul. She was part of my past. My future and destiny was standing right next to me, in flesh. I turned and saw that her face showed a mix of relief and concern. And love. Always love. “Let’s get out of here,” I whispered. We both exited the temple, hand in hand, walking towards the sunrise.... Read more