Notion Press Malaysia Short Story Contest 2017

Quest: World No. 1 Singer-Songwriter

By Ctulhu in Fantasy

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 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.'


Copyright Ctulhu
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