Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Story For My Dad

I've never had an easy relationship with my Dad.

In fact, most times I just hate him.

I think it started from when I was a kid and everyone told me not to grow up to become like him.

You see, I resemble my Dad greatly. We look the same. We walk the same way. We share certain undesirable traits like talking faster than we think, a tendency to make fools of ourselves in public, indecisiveness and being overly happy-go-lucky.

But no doubt about it, my Dad is a deeply flawed person. A flawed Dad as well. Hence, I was conditioned to never follow his footsteps. To become a better person. And in my young mind, this equated to not respecting him.

In my early schooling years, I hated it even when he touched me. It just felt awfully disconcerting. Almost as though he had no right to do so.

His inability to communicate in a proper and dignified manner also made me want to tear my hair out. He was always a hit among coffee shop apeks and sundry shop ah sohs, but he wasn't exactly someone you would bring to a Parent-Teacher conference.

And of course, there was his embarrassingly loud booming voice. No matter what time of the day it was, whatever occasion, he would speak in the same crass volume.

In fact, if you've been reading my stories for some time, you'll realise that I never mention Dad. My characters always have Moms.

I've never truly, personally understood the concept of a Dad.

So fast forward 20 years later, and here we are still. I've mellowed somewhat, but he still irritates me when he asks me to do a few things.

One, logging on to the Internet.

Two, reloading his handphone credit.

Three, writing cheques for him.

It frustrates me that he's almost into his sixties and he still can't do simple things like these. Granted, he only studied till Standard Six and has never worked in the corporate world before. But still. It makes me feel like he doesn't appreciate my time.

I know, I'm a sorry excuse for a son.

I tried teaching him many times, but he's not very keen on learning. Over time, I realised that we're both happier if I just do it for him instead. And the worst part is when he says "Thank you" with this extremely dumb grin, like a child who just escaped passing up his homework.

I really hate that.

This past Monday, I went to meet a client near my house. We met at a mamak stall.

After the immensely boring meeting, we walked back to our cars together.

"Where did you park?" I asked him.

"There." He pointed to some car just 10 metres in front of us.

Then he pointed to a car in front of his. "Whose car is this ah...never turn off the lights one."

I gulped. It was mine!

The utter stupidity.

After some fiddling around and triggering the alarm system umpteen times, we came to the obvious-from-the-start conclusion that the battery was dead. I decided that I needed help. I told my client to go back first. I would call my Mom.

So I did. And Mom said, "I'll call your Dad."

He's the only one in my household who has an inkling about cars.

So I waited for 15-ish minutes by the roadside, each passing car making me feel more foolish.

Finally he came. Coincidentally, the same time as my Mom.

I was expecting him to berate me for wasting everyone's time with my carelessness. But he only chided me gently for parking in such a deserted spot. "It's dangerous... sometimes there're people fighting in these back alleys."

"Oh."

As the orange streetlights washed over him bent over my car bonnet, I couldn't help but feel... small.

And stupid.

I could use the computer, reload handphone credit and write cheques. But I was clueless when it came to changing car batteries.

Dad could've been rude at me, like how I usually acted when he needed my help. But here he was, patiently fixing my problem.

On that starless night, in the silent back lane of Restoran BRJ Kuchai Lama, I uttered a prayer.

Lord, forgive me for dishonouring my father. Grant me patience and strength to love as You loved.

"OK, done. You check and see whether it's working."

I think I caught a glimpse of the dumb grin.

Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. The car started perfectly fine.

"Uh...thanks Pa."

I sunk into my driver's seat, relieved.

And guess what? He asked me reload his handphone credit AND write a cheque the next morning. I did it, with a smile...somewhat.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Doodle Speaks A Thousand Words

I'm currently hooked on MSN doodles. They're great conversation pieces and make me look like I'm artistically talented.

Here's a sample of my works featuring the incredible Miss Hilary from a conversation this morning.

"Emo"

"Tiffany's surprise birthday party at 8am"

"Tiffany after being woken up"

"Hilary's reaction" (to my doodles, at this point of the conversation)

"Dinnertime @ the Tan household"

"Daniel @ March 2010 (by Hilary)"

"Hilary & friends"

"Mystery portrait (by Hilary)"

"Jhow Weh @ 1pm every Sunday"

"Jhow Weh (by Hilary)"

"Angela speaks" (FAIL)

"Angela / Marilyn Monroe (by Hilary)"

"Tiffany studying for SPM"

"Like a G6" (or chu sek, meaning 'pig eat' in Cantonese)

"Peter talking to Peter at Deric's wedding (by Hilary)" (Btw, Deric's my brother. He got married last Saturday.)

"Daniel marches in like a robot at Deric's wedding" (Sorry to Jane the bridesmaid, for making you look pregnant. This doesn't usually happen.)

CONTINUED:

"Hilary plays, Tiffany studies"

"No, this is what Tiffany's actually doing" (by Hilary)

"Tiffany blanks out during SPM"

"Hilary VS Daniel: 'No, I'M Tiffany's best friend!'"

"Alice Lee screws up" (Alice Lee is a waitress at the McD we went to for lunch. She was extremely tense and carefully arranged our drinks and stacked our burgers on top of each other. Then Hilary called out a little too friendlily at her "Hellooooo.". Doesn't the picture make SO MUCH SENSE now?!)

Special feature: "Eyebrows are like clouds for eyes" (from conversation with Li-Shia)

Let's all draw more, speak less and make the world a beautiful place! Hehe. =)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Asylum (Part 5: Conclusion)

I'm back! Together with fresh memories of this year's VBS (Vacation Bible School) which just ended on Saturday.

So how was it? For starters, it ended abruptly. VERY abruptly and anti-climatically. Just a memory verse competition, prize giving, and the grand finale of... GOODBYE SONG. Then we took down all the decorations, cleaned the church and normalcy resumed.

Just like that.

Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

But I must say, it was awesome while it lasted! Though I'm shy to admit it, I actually had the time of my life worship leading and acting (as bad guy
summore) onstage. Add to the fact that I finally managed to memorise all the dance steps to the songs this year, taking away the need for awkward glances at the dancers while leading. Need to pro sikit okay.

One thing VBS has taught me again is to truly enjoy worship. Not just children's worship, but any worship. It's good to show passion and joy in worship, and in life. The Lord delights in it.

*End of VBS recap*

So here we arrive at the finale of The Asylum!

Is anyone actually reading this?

Low self esteem. Haha.

Enjoy!

The Asylum (Part 5: Conclusion)

"Hi, Ling."

Amanda's childlike voice greeted me as I stepped onto the grey cement of Corridor 6B-11. There she stood directly opposite me, in her dowdy ward clothes streaked with strands of loose hair and one slipper missing.

An almost surreal ambience painted the scene. It felt like I had known her all my life, yet was meeting her for the first time.

"Where are they?" I spoke, trying to make myself brave. "Crystal, Bala and Grace."

Her thin lips curved upwards. "They are not important now. They are only props in this story about the both of us."

"You remember me, don't you, Ling?"

You remember me.

We met in Kuala Lumpur.

"Yes, miss?" The nurse came into the room, unaware of what I was going to do to her.

"Can you come over here? I want to show you something." I slowly reached for a pillow from the bed of the child, whom I had conveniently locked in the washroom.

"Mm hmm?"

Before she could react, I quickly overpowered her and pressed the pillow over her face.Caught by surprise, she fell over backwards and knocked her head against the drawer. As she thrashed wildly, desperately, trying to get me off her, I felt glee rushing through my veins. The slut was getting what she deserved.

I have no idea how long she lasted. It could have been 1 minute. 5 minutes. 15 minutes. 1 hour. I don't know. Time had long lost all meaning to me.

She looked so ugly when I removed the pillow. Purple veins all over her face. I hope I never die this way.

Who was that girl?


Don't you remember?

No I don't.

It was you, Ling.

Me? How could it be me? I'm here.

No you're not. I murdered you in Kuala Lumpur. But a part of you never left me. I had been following and watching you for 4 weeks. I knew you so well. We even fell for the same guy. The more I understood you, the more of myself I saw in you. The more I became in love with you. But at the same time, I hated you and I knew I had to murder you. When I killed you, it felt like a part of me died as well.

So when I arrived here, I recreated you in my mind. I am Amanda, the bad girl who killed Ling. I am also Ling, the good girl who Amanda killed. We should never be apart. I need to hate you forever and ever.

But I'm tired, Ling. I really am. I'm so tired of hating and missing and wishing and longing. I just want everything to be over and to be normal again.

But how can I ever be normal again?


Slowly, I climbed up the railing and struck a match, illuminating the small area around the balcony. My eyes darted in tune with the dancing flame, drawing a smile from my lips.

Already I could hear people coming. They knew I had escaped.

Six long storeys down. If I landed right, I would have no problem killing myself.

Time had stopped. Everyone around me was frozen, leaving me free to examine their faces slowly and clearly.

There was Grace, the bubbly and animated girl who always had a story to share. She was the diary that had kept me company all the nights as I scribbled down notes on Ling's schedule and mannerisms.

Crystal, the sweet Barbie-looking darling of the hospital. She was the doll I used to pose as a parent to sneak into Ling's hospital, insisting that I had to pass it to my child though visiting hours were over.

Bala, the big goofy guy who never failed to look huggable. He was, of course, the pillow that I smothered Ling to death with.

And of course Ling.

The one I hated the most.

"Amanda, please." A voice called out, I wasn't sure whose. "Get down now."

Selfish. They all needed me for their own selfish reasons. That was why they didn't want me to die. Nothing else.

Because if I died, they would die as well. Grace, Crystal, Bala and Ling would no longer be living, breathing characters but inanimate objects and a dead girl in Kuala Lumpur.

I was just so tired of all these games. So so so so so tired. I needed a break.

"See you all in hell."

I jumped to my death.

*****

"Amanda Ling Kar Yin, ID 3361." Dr. Rizan ran his finger through the report. "Time of death: 11.42pm, 25th October 2010. Reason of death: Head trauma from fall caused by suicide attempt. Well, another one bites the dust."

"What happened actually, doctor?"

"I treated Amanda for two and a half months." He removed his glasses and sat. "She suffered from a combination of both advanced schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder, or what you would commonly term split personality."

"Her emotional instability was first triggered by a break-up with a boyfriend, whom she referred to as Thomas. This led to an obsession with Thomas' new girlfriend, Cheah Sze Ling, whom she eventually murdered. But before killing Sze Ling, Amanda actually observed her for weeks. This was when the split personality began."

"As she observed Sze Ling, she associated Sze Ling with all the perceived good qualities that Thomas liked. She wanted to be like Sze Ling, and to be with Thomas just like her. Eventually she made the decision to murder Sze Ling, as a logical consequence of stealing her boyfriend. But emotionally, she was unable to dissociate herself from the consciousness that Sze Ling was a girl she aspired to become."

"This is when she came into our hospital. It took some time for me to identify this section of her history, and the root of all her problems. I believe there were also some other characters involved. She could have been dealing with more than one split personality."

"I thought we were making good progress. Unfortunately, it's gone now. Perhaps all the multiple personalities were too much for her to handle."

His assistant sighed.

"Oh well," Dr. Rizan shrugged. "Sometimes you never know what's going through an insane person's mind."

He got up, strode over to a wooden drawer and unlocked it. Inside lay a inconspicuous light brown notebook, slightly tattered around the edges. He flipped it open, searching for the last written page.

"This was Amanda's final entry."

My name is Cheah Sze Ling, or Ling for short. This is the story of my first-hand encounter with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the suicide of Patient 3361 on the night of 25th October 2010.

THE END.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Asylum (Part 4)

A lot of emotional upheaval going on this past week! Which explains the sudden slowdown in updates. More so, the once-a-year VBS (Vacation Bible School) is here again! And my brother's getting married. And work's coming in fast and furious. Bring it on, world! But ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no schedule busy enough to keep me from writing! Only 2 more chapters to unravel everything. Something's. Gotta. Happen. Soon!

BTW, I've recently fallen in love with The Twilight Zone series. I wanna write for it! I mean, come on - Twisted Tales meets the Twilight Zone? Gold, baby, gold.

The Asylum (Part 4)

Without warning an overwhelming fear came over me. I felt - no, I knew - that the three of them were hiding something.

They were part of Amanda's plan to kill me.

It didn't make sense. But it was the truth.

I couldn't stay here any longer. I turned and ran.

Like guided by an unseen force, I fled down the hospital's dark hallways, slowly allowing their surprised cries to fade into quietness.

In the stillness of the night, each step echoed with a haunting melody, as if leading me to some unknown destiny.

Still, the very real and raw sensation of fear lingered.

Crystal.

Bala.

Grace.

Amanda.

The letter.

The vision.

The SMS.

Somehow, everything was connected. I could sense it.

Suddenly, nothing seemed certain any more. I wasn't even sure who I was.

I shut my eyes, trying to recollect my thoughts.

Blank.

I couldn't remember anything.

What's happening to me?

I needed someone to talk to. Someone I could trust.

Fumbling, I dialed Thomas' number.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings.

Come on, pick up already.

Twelve rings passed without reply. He never waited so long before picking up. He must have left his phone somewhere.

I pushed the phone back into my pocket and slumped against the wall, drained of all hope.

I had never in my life felt so lost and depressed. And yet tears refused to come out of my eyes. I had no way of explaining this emotion I was feeling. It was most parts fear, but also with tinges of anger, disappointment, loneliness and sadness.

Yes, a very, very deep sadness.

Rrrr. Rrrr.

It was my phone vibrating!

Thomas! It had to be him.

Without even checking, I pressed to receive the call.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Ling." It was a girl's voice, not much different from mine.

It was Amanda.

"Amanda, where are you?" I tried my best to remain calm.

"I am at the corridor on Floor 6B-11, East Wing. You know where that is."

"Yes I do."

"Good. Come quick. We have lots to talk about."

"Amanda, I need you to just stay there okay? I'll be there in 3 minutes."

"I know you're thinking of calling the doctors. No doctors. You know why?"

"Why?"

"Because," a loud interference was heard on the other end, as though she had switched the phone to loudspeaker mode. "Your friends are with me."

A muffled Help us could be heard over the background. I was pretty sure it was Crystal's voice.

"If you bring someone else, I will kill them." Amanda explained in a most polite voice, almost like a teacher explaining something to a child. "I'll see you in 3 minutes. Bye."

She hung up, leaving me even more confused than ever.

How could she have abducted all three of my friends in the short space of 5 minutes?

How could she have wandered all the way to 6B-11 without anyone noticing?

How could she even have obtained a handphone, or my number for that matter?

It all pointed to a simple yet glaring conclusion.

The incidents of tonight had all been carefully and deliberately orchestrated for one reason alone - to murder me. Amanda wasn't alone in this game. A much greater, more sinister force was at work.

The best thing for me to do now would've been to ignore all the questions and run.

But I just couldn't.

Something had to be accomplished at 6B-11. Something that required me.

Slowly, fearfully, one step at time, I made my way there.

To be concluded.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Asylum (Part 3)

And here we go! Right smack into Part 3.

Was actually thinking of extending the story by an additional chapter or two. Unlike Murder in 5sc1, this one thrives on building up suspense and mystery while Murder throws you straight into the action. I'm just afraid that the story ends before anyone actually understands what's happening.

But after much thought... nah.

I suck at long stories. I really do.

Gotta cut to the chase.

So...enjoy it while it lasts!

The Asylum (Part 3)

I snapped out of my daydream, horrified.

Where on earth did that scene come from? I had never in my life seen someone die. Not especially in such a disturbing manner.

Did it have something to do with Amanda?

Amanda.

By the end of tonight, you will die.

"Hey," A soft hand patted my shoulder, making me jump.

It was Grace, with Bala behind her.

"I'm so sorry girl! Didn't mean to scare you like that."

"I'm fine," I replied, obviously lying. "You guys saw Crystal?"

"Yeah," Bala pointed his thumb behind. "She went to get the guards. Heard Amanda wasn't in her room."

I nodded.

"What's that envelope?"

"Oh, this? We found it in Amanda's room."

I handed it over for them to read.

"Wow. This is bad."

His grim tone made me anxious. Bala was rarely so serious. "Why? Our hospital isn't big. Surely we can locate her easily."

He seemed unsure whether to continue. "A few days ago, Amanda had a really bad fit. She was screaming at everyone, throwing things around - it took quite a number of us to hold her down. Dr. Rizan said he had never seen her this way before. She was always so calm."

Bala glanced quickly at the letter again. "In her fit of rage, I heard her scream that she was gonna escape and...kill somebody."

Grace gasped.

I felt my pulse quicken. "Why me?"

"I-I...how would I know?"

"Maybe it has something to do with her past. What do you know about that girl she killed?"

"Ah, this I can tell you clearly. Dr. Rizan tells me all the time. Amanda had this boyfriend who went to work in Kuala Lumpur. During his time there, he fell in love with this girl and eventually broke up with Amanda over the phone. Heartbroken, she travelled all the way down to look for him and beg for a second chance."

"However, he had covered up his tracks so well that she couldn't find him. This was when she started becoming unstable, alone and depressed in a big city. Then finally after a few months, she found him by accident. She was at the hospital seeking treatment when she saw him leaving with the girl."

"That girl was a nurse in the children's ward."

My heart skipped a beat. Wasn't the girl in my vision just now dressed in white and surrounded by kids?

"And the best part is, you know how Amanda killed her?"

I waited for him to continue.

"She was plain psycho, man. She stalked her for weeks to understand her schedule. Then she posed as a parent to one of the children, sneaked into that girl's room and smothered her with a pillow. Suffocated to death. It wasn't pretty."

"Did they catch her?"

"Yah, of course. The cops were all over the place. But of course, they couldn't sentence her to death or anything. She was judged insane. And that was how she landed up here."

But it still didn't explain why Amanda would want me dead.

Suddenly an incoming SMS tone rang out. It sounded deafening in the surrounding silence.

It was mine. From an unknown number.

Be careful of your friends. They're helping me to kill you. Don't trust anyone. See you soon. Love, Amanda.

I looked up from my phone.

Bala seemed strangely anxious.

Grace nodded by herself. She had been fiddling with her phone since just now.

Crystal was still nowhere to be seen.

To be continued.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Asylum (Part 2)

I'm so dead tired from work, but I still want to finish Part 2 before I sleep.

I think I'm spending too much time in front of the computer these days. Haven't finished a couple of books I bought. Happy Deepavali or Divali to all!

The Asylum (Part 2)


"See? It's empty!"

"Yeah." I took a good long look around the room. It was spotless as usual, with the curtains drawn back to keep it cool at nights. On the bed, there was nothing where the pillow usually lay propped up against the wall.The sheets were neatly folded without a single crease. Just the way Amanda liked.

Only she was nowhere to be seen.

"Wherever she went," Crystal opened Amanda's personal cupboard, revealing it to be bare. "She took her favourite things with her."

"And that would be?"

"That doll of hers. And a diary."

Now I remembered. She was always carrying that creepy plastic doll everywhere she went. Couldn't recall much about the diary though.

"Wait," Suddenly Crystal produced an envelope from the cupboard. They had somehow missed it previously.

"It's got your name on it." Her eyes grew wide, staring at me.

A little unsure, I tore it open. It read:

Dear Cheah Sze Ling, (can I just call you Ling?)

You may not think you know much about me. But you do know a lot about me, just as I know a lot about you.

By the time you read this, you are worried where am I. You should be worried! I could do something really dangerous to you and me.

You are concerned about many things. But maybe the one you should be most concerned about is yourself. Because I know you very well. Because by the end of tonight, you will die.

From,

Amanda

My fingers grew cold as I handed the letter over to Crystal.

*****

"I'll contact security at once." Crystal reassured me while we walked back to our posts. "Don't let it bug you. She's just a crazy person. Crazy people say crazy stuff all the time."

I shrugged, too disturbed to speak.

"Let me get Grace or Bala to accompany you. They'll make you feel better."

I sat myself down behind the comfort of the nurse's counter and took a long sip from my tumbler.

"Crystal," Suddenly I spoke. "What else do you know about this Amanda?"

"Huh? I told you, she's crazy."

"No, tell me more. She murdered someone previously didn't she?"

"I-I'm not too sure of the details. All I heard is that the girl was a third party in her relationship."

"And then? She murdered her just like that?"

"I don't know. Seriously."

"Okay, never mind."

"Sorry. Be right back." she scurried off.

I cupped my head against my hands. It felt numb and throbbing, like the prelude to a massive headache.

Why was the letter affecting me so much? I had heard mental patients say some pretty nasty and scary stuff before, and I always was able to brush them off easily.

Perhaps this one was chillingly personal.

Or because Amanda could be anywhere.

Or because of her history.

As I shut my eyes to let my mind wander, words stopped appearing.

Instead images took their place.

In my head I saw a shimmery, almost unreal scene with a girl around my age and size. She was dressed in white, smiling and talking to some children. They seemed happy to see her.

Nothing happened. She kept laughing with them, playing silly games together.

A little boy clapped and bounced on his bed.

Next I knew, she was lying dead on the floor with eyes rolled back.

To be continued.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Asylum (Part 1)

Sadness. So October passed with hardly a beep on the radar. Don't blame me - I was actually planning to get this up by end of last week, but had to keep re-writing to make everything fit nicely into place. You see, I am now highly fearful of long stories without a solid pre-planned ending. Especially after last year's not-so-magical October Special Feature, ahem ahem.

Yes my lovelies, it's been a while since a sexy 5-parter saga. Let's hit it one more time!

P.S. For the 25th consecutive year, I failed to celebrate Halloween.

The Asylum (Part 1)

She struck a match, illuminating the small area around the balcony. Her eyes darted in tune with the dancing flame, drawing a smile from her lips.

Six long storeys down. If she landed right, she would have no problem killing herself.

It felt like time had stopped. Everyone around her was frozen, leaving her free to examine their faces slowly and clearly.

There was Grace, the bubbly and animated girl who always had a story to share.

Crystal, the sweet Barbie-looking darling of the hospital.

Bala, the big goofy guy who never failed to look huggable.

And of course Ling.

The one she hated the most.

"Amanda, please." A voice called out. She wasn't sure whose it was. "Get down now."

Selfish. They all needed her for their own selfish reasons. That was why they didn't want her to die. Nothing else.

"See you all in hell."

She jumped.

*****

My name is Cheah Sze Ling, or Ling for short. This is the story of my first-hand encounter with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the suicide of Patient 3361 on the night of 25th October 2010.

It was exactly two and a half months from the date I started working as a full-time nurse here in the mental hospital, or asylum as the local folks like to call it. Since my first day, rumours had been circling around of this strange patient known only as Amanda.

This Amanda, who arrived around the same time I did, had supposedly undergone severe trauma after an incident involving an ex-boyfriend and the murder of a young lady. What made her special was how extremely normal she appeared. My close friends had spoken to her several times, and mentioned surprise at how she was able to hold a proper conversation, even repeatedly showing intelligent awareness of her circumstances. However, numerous psychiatrists had examined her with the same conclusions - she was an extremely deranged and dangerous individual who required special attention.

The story began earlier in the night as I was on the phone with Thomas, my boyfriend of 7 years. I would usually call him during night shifts, as there rarely is anything to do after the patients' bedtime.

Midway through our call, Crystal interrupted me with a frantic message.

"Amanda's not in her room!"

"Sorry dear, something urgent came up. Call you back later kay? Bye." I hung up.

"Come again?"

"I said, Amanda's not in her room!"

"Impossible. I checked her just now. The door was locked shut."

"She pried it open, somehow."

"Did you check with Bala and Grace?"

"Yes! None of them saw her."

"Relax," I grabbed a torchlight from my desk. "Come with me. We'll find her in no time."

I had no idea what lay in store for me that fateful night.

To be continued.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Dreamed A Dream

Oh my my, it's October already! The month where Twisted Tales gets Twisted To The Extreme! Ideas, anyone?

Mustering all her courage, she stepped onstage and patted down her shimmering gown for the umpteenth time. From up the stage, the hall appeared much bigger. And there were so many people.

I will not be afraid, she nodded to herself. I'm up here already. Give them the performance of a lifetime!

As the first strains of the familiar melody played, she gripped the microphone tighter and softly cleared her throat.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by

When hope was high and life worth living

A smattering of cheers and applause greeted her. She looked up proudly to realise that the entire hall was hushed and listening.

I dreamed that love would never die

I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Every note was pitch perfect and every gesture rehearsed to its best. Slowly but surely, the butterflies in her stomach were flitting away.

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

Smiling, she closed her eyes and let the moment sink in. Up above her, she could feel the chandelier glowing almost like tender arms reaching from the heavens.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder

A knot grew in her stomach as she neared the dramatic high note. Please, please, let it happen!

As they tear your hope apart

As they turn your dreams to shame

Yes! Her voice soared in flawless harmony with the stirring note, climaxing in a brilliant crescendo of violas and cellos.

And still I dream he'd come to me
That we would live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

As the orchestra played her out, the stage was set for a rousing finale.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed

Now life has killed... the dream I dreamed

She did it! It was over! In her heart, she knew that she had given one of her best performances ever. Singing onstage always made her feel so alive and talented, worlds apart from the plain Jane demeanour everyone saw. Here, she was the queen of her universe. Nobody could touch her in sheer vocal prowess.

Beaming, she placed the microphone back on its stand and stepped carefully off the stage, half-expecting the audience to break into rapturous applause.

Of course, they didn't.

They were all too engrossed in their stupid shark's fin soup.

A pudgy lady next took to the stage with a brutal rendition of
Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Receipt Stories

"With receipt stories anyone has a chance to be a published author. If you have a short story, a poem or even a haiku to share, please send it to us. As long it's no longer than 100 words long, you're welcome to contribute as many as you can write..."

"After you've submitted your entry, it will be uploaded and posted on the receipt stories website for everyone to read. If your story grabs our attention, we'll print it out on our BookXcess receipts for all our customers to read. You'll win a prize as a token of our appreciation, and claim bragging rights for being an official receipt stories published author!"


(Read more in today's The Star, Weekender Page 7 & 8, or visit their site at http://receiptstories.my)

Enough said. World, here I come!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Atlis Disease

I have Atlis disease.

When I first found out that I had it, I was shocked. Devastated.

In just that short instant, my life turned completely upside-down.

I had to wake up every morning with this realisation that my organs were degenerating. My systems were shutting down. My body was dying.

It was hard to imagine, but my life could end at any moment. Every new morning was a gift, as I never knew whether I would be able to climb into bed that night.

From that point on, every day mattered. I couldn't bear to watch any of my limited time slip away.

I wrote down all my dreams, and my fears that were holding me back.

I listed down all the dear friends I stopped keeping in touch with.

I recalled all the things I wished I could do with my loved ones.

I cut out pictures of all the places I always wanted to go to.

I learned to sing, dance, paint and cook.

I laughed louder.

I loved harder.

I lived fuller.

Funny thing is, I'm still alive and well today. All without the need for medicines or therapy. I like to call it my personal miracle.

I haven't beaten the disease yet, though. And I hope I never will.

You see, this Atlis Disease I have actually stands for Awareness That Life Is Short.

Once I diagnosed myself with it, there was no turning back. My one life meant everything, and I had to make it count.

You don't need a real disease to realise that you're dying. You are.

Have you contracted Atlis Disease yet?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Will You Marry Me?

In case you haven't noticed, I've recently sorted out the old stories in my blog according to genres. Loads of gems included, even those old 'So You Think You Know' series and Cendol Stories. Quite amusing to see how I used to preface every non-long story posting with 'Writer's Block', and the dreadful lack of paragraphing. Having said all that though, my sheer volume of genius still amazes me.

Which brings us to today's story. I noticed that I have a surprisingly low amount of stories under the 'Romance' category - extremely unbecoming for a sentimental sop such as myself. This is my desperate attempt at increasing my Romance numbers, complete with sweet-as-candy chic lit-style cover. Prepare to be swept away.

"Will you marry me?"

She felt her cheeks flush red.

There he knelt in all earnestness, diamond ring in one hand and bouquet of red roses in another. How very old-fashioned. And sweet.

It was pretty much how she had always imagined it to be. Just more... for lack of a better word, embarrassing. Out of the corner of her eyes she could sense people looking and gushing. One side of her wanted to slowly savour the moment. Another wished to just quickly get it over and done with.

Yes?

*****

In no time they were walking down the aisle, reciting their vows in church. He lifted her veil and kissed her, and all their friends and family clapped.

Gosh, I can't believe it's been so fast. We're actually married.

Married life brought with it all the bliss and aches of living together. Sometimes they yelled at each other, but every time they kissed and made up. She was a carefree and whimsical soul; his was a meticulous mind. It seemed a recipe for disaster, but they always found common ground to share a part of each others' lives. She loved cheering him up with little thoughtful surprises, while he always made her feel really special on those big days.

Then came their first child.

How quickly their lives turned! Now the attention was no longer on caring for each other - everything went to the child. Over time problems started to surface. She complained that he was never there for their child. He was annoyed at her seeming obsession over the child.

"We never spend time together any more." he grumbled. "Like we once did."

"You're blaming me!" she retorted indignantly. "When was the last time you changed his diaper?"

Things became worse as his business suffered. As much as they both hated it, they found themselves constantly bickering over bills and spending habits. She found herself making one too many compromises, each layering her heart with more bitterness. Many a night she slept in silent tears, torn between the duties of a supportive wife and doting mother.

It frustrated him even more to see her like this. He felt angry at her for not trusting him enough to share her feelings, and angry at himself for being unable to make her happy. The more they tried to talk things through, the thicker the walls between them grew. Eventually they learned not to talk about it, preferring to revolve their conversations around the child.

Without warning, the years crept by and the child was moving out to college. They bade him goodbye without a single tear, though their hearts silently sank. He had been very much the centre of everything for almost two decades. It hurt deeply watching the meaning of their lives slip away.

It was strange speaking to each other again without the child. For the first time in years, they were forced to look into each others' eyes and talk about themselves.

It wasn't easy to reopen old wounds. And it wasn't necessary, they decided. Holding hands, they took a stroll down the beach where they first met and sat dreamily before a glorious sunset.

He held her chin up and smiled. "We've known each other for 26 years."

She rested on his shoulder. "Yeah."

"Remember when I proposed to you at the chalet grill? I wonder if that place is still around."

"Mm hmm."

"You were blushing!"

"Of course I was, silly," she giggled. "Everyone was looking at us."

"Did you...expect it then?"

She paused, unsure. "Actually...I kind of guessed."

"I knew it!" he laughed. "But come to think of it, it's better you guessed. Otherwise you might've given the wrong answer."

She stroked a loose hair on his forehead and smiled. "I would never."

He returned her smile. "You'll always be that same silly girl I knelt before that day."

*****

"Will you marry me?"

She jolted back to reality. He was still on his knees waiting for her answer.

"Y...yes."

The other diners clapped and cheered wildly.

It was the beginning of a beautiful love story.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Cacat Parking

I attended a funeral last night. Suddenly it reminded me of Ju Liang. I guess becoming numb to death and funerals is another part of growing up. In the first 20 years of my life, I never attended any significant funerals. Then came my ex-boss. Then Ju Liang. Then my grandmas. Somehow, funerals always have a way of drawing me closer to God. =)

Anyway, enjoy the following story which I thought of at... the Mid Valley car park.


2.25pm, Mid Valley Megamall car park


"June, text Ida to tell her we'll be 15 minutes late." Stan made an umpteenth turn into Zone C, patience wearing thin.

"Okay."

Suddenly a Kancil cut into his lane from left.

"HOI! BODOH!" he slammed on his horn. "MAU MAMPUS KAH?"

Ignorant and now ahead of Stan in the queue for parking, the Kancil driver starting yapping on his phone.

"These moron Malaysian drivers. Brainless pigs."

June pursed her lips and thumbed through the documents again. She knew it best to remain silent when he was in one of his moods. Well, at least Ida was one of the nicer clients who understood how hard it was to get parking at Mid Valley during lunchtime. They had a nasty Chinaman client who once made to a big fuss to their boss when they showed up 10 minutes late for an appointment.

Finally the cars started moving again. Stan stuck his neck out to seek any vacant parking spots, though it made no sense. If there were any vacant spots, one of the many cars in front would have taken it already.

He turned up the air conditioning. He always did this when he was in a hurry.

June glanced nervously at the car clock. 2.35pm already. Even worse, Ida had replied: "Ok. Im already there. C u."

She was probably waiting there in boredom, twiddling with her Blackberry. Wondering why they were never on time.

"YES! PARKING!"

Amazing! So they didn't need to be that late after all.

In one smooth flick, Stan signaled left and turned in.

Only to discover a huge yellow painting on the floor.

It was a disabled parking space.

Stan cursed till no end. June just sighed and continued to observe the clock's blinking seconds.

*****

3.45pm, Mid Valley Megamall car park

"Remember to get that contact report done and send it to her by today. She didn't seem too pleased." Stan reversed his car out, to the delight of a waiting car behind.

"Sure."

"Now I'm late for my next appointment with Mr. Ho." he fastened his seat belt. "What a screwed up day."

As he sped towards the exit, they passed another section of disabled parking spaces.

"Just look at that," he shook his head in anger. "6 good parking spaces turned into 4 cacat spaces."

"If they had the sense to allocate more spaces for normal parking, we wouldn't need to have these stupid jams and parking queues. Instead, they keep wasting space on these stupid cacat parking. Which are empty almost all the time."

"Well, disabled people can't come out often. That's why they're usually empty." June interjected.

"Exactly. Since they stay home most of the time, the cacat spaces should only be open at certain times. Like weekends for example. So it doesn't interfere with us working people."

"But many disabled people work too."

"Surely it's easier for them to take public transport. Some more, they have the government to support them what. Who supports us?"

"It's all the Malaysian mentality lah. Just because some NGO makes noise about cacat rights then they will give in to it. If 10 NGOs make noise, then they need to run 10 different campaigns. How to progress like that? Everything also must accommodate everyone."

"Eventhough it's just a small thing like parking, it reflects our whole country's mentality. Wasting resources on unimporta-"

Stan was so engrossed in his speech that he didn't see the oncoming trailer as they exited the car park.

Crash! It rammed straight into him from the driver's side, paralysing him waist down.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dear Malaysia

Click to enlarge!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Facets Of Facebook

My my! Haven't cracked my head at rhymes for some time. Now all I need is to write 200 more of these, and I can publish a book!

We're buddies, lovers, siblings and more
We've said all the mushy things before
We're not a couple, just friends infatuated
We're in a relationship and It's Complicated.

I check your friends, they sure look fine
In return, you can look through mine
Though I'm a loner and don't go out often
I'm real glad we have 500 friends in common.

Today I saw a video that touched my heart
It was touching, inspiring - a work of art
I clicked 'Share' and scrolled on to my dismay
24 other friends had already shared it today.

I am a boy, she is a girl
We fell in love playing Cafe World
Eventually, I found out it was all a bluff
She was just using me to send her stuff.

Some suspect you're falling for another
Others think you fought with your father
But I see through your status update clearly,
You're just quoting dumb lyrics from Katy Perry.

Wow, you created a group out of nothing
That's like, so awesomely super amazing
Of course, I must join and invite 200 more
After all, that's what friends are for.

That night I got drunk in a pub downtown
I woke up naked in my bed face down
Boy, was I relieved no one saw that tragedy
Until I realised someone tagged a photo of me.

Once I liked "OMG who's that jerk?" "It's my dad."
It seemed witty, creative and totally rad.
Alas, I wish I never became a fan that moment
Because now everyone likes random statements.

You plead with tears, beg with sorrow
Again and again my answer is clear - no.
You promise me riches, power and glory
But no, I will not unlock your panda in Country Story.

No more pics or videos with mature content
No more inappropriate posts or comments
Indeed, it was the day my Net life became a joke
The day Mom added me on Facebook.

I say hi, I await your reply
Silence, you leave me high and dry
I tell myself you're busy, it's all fine
But I see your green status on 'Friends Online'.

61 friends commented and asked what's wrong
38 Liked my status, one dedicated a song
Even my BFF called, sobbing and emotional
All because I accidentally changed to Single.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Final Step

I think I've finally found my niche as a writer. It's writing kiddy-themed stories in an adult way.

It's always the final step that's the hardest.

That darned final step.

She had already come so far, driven by dogged assurance. And now doubts lingered.

Can I really do it? Maybe yes. Maybe no.

She took a long hard look at herself. Here she was, a 14-year old girl so insignificant in the big world. No one ever gave her much credit for anything. Well, not like she deserved any. She was pretty average in all she did, unlike those sweet young things everyone else fawned over. She had some friends. Her parents treated her like any other would. She did quite okay in her studies. She was rather plain looking. She wasn't a loser or failure. She was just...there.

Sometimes, she wished that she could be a really bad girl. At least people would notice. Like this girl in her school, Serena. She was a real troublemaker and every parent's worst nightmare. But she was the sort that everyone shared their problems with.

But it's all going to change! Today is a new day. Yesterday is history.

Silly thoughts ran through her mind. Things her friends said. Words of those who never believed in her.

I can do it!

She wanted no more to wrestle with these energy-sapping emotions.

I can make a change!

She was no ordinary 14-year old. She would no longer moan and whine about petty troubles like her friends did.

I want to be different!

She would stand up and do something. Sure it would hurt, but everything would be worth it in the end. There would be no regrets.

One by one the voices in her head faded. Gradually a still peace took hold of her as she surveyed the view.

It was beautiful, majestic - the splendour of the world laid before her. Orange and pink streaks creased the sky, giving the day its final rays as the sun dipped into the horizon. The laughter of playing children breezed through the air, interrupted by the occasional honking.

Ever so gently, all her cares dissipated. She had been through a lot. It was now time to let the past go.

How could I ever have been so childish. To think that silly little feelings made me cry.

She smiled and nodded, assurance renewed.

I am strong.

She dialed the number.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Leon? Remember me? Mich?"

"Uh...yeah. What do you want?"

"Remember when I said you would regret cheating on me?"

He was speechless.

"Remember that, Leon. You're gonna regret it. Big time."

"He-"

Click. She hung up.

Taking in one last breath, she flung the phone to the ground.

Yes, I can do it.

She jumped to her death.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Commercial Recollections

Wow! Time sure is in a hurry.

It's been exactly 1 year since I left CC+J Adhaus (now Joescher+Adhaus), an ad agency I worked in for 2 years as a copywriter. Looking back, every person I met and lesson learned there fitted so perfectly into the pieces of my life. There were lows indeed, but all the lows put together were worth the highest highs.

Thanks for the memories, guys.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ding Dang...Datang Lagi!


Last night I bought a box of Ding Dang at 7-11.

Quietly it lay there, a memory of a bygone era, surrounded by the bigger, better and yummier snacks of today alongside its big brother Tora. As I spent a fair part of my childhood growing up in a kedai runcit, these were extremely familiar friends who kept me company after school every day. And the ads. Who could ever forget the ads.

I picked up this quaint little snack and examined Tora too. They both looked exactly the same as I remembered them. They could have been transported here directly from 1994 and nothing would be different. I almost shed a tear.

Suddenly, after over 20 years, I realised both came from the same manufacturer.

It was like realising that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are the same person.

Never mind. I'm too old to mope over such things.

Another thing that caught my eye was how crazily expensive it had become. Almost double the price. Ding Dang, once 50 sen, was now 90 sen. Tora - from RM1 to RM1.70.

Poor kids these days, I thought. 90 sen was about my daily pocket money back then.

But it's okay, there's always a price to pay for indulging in nostalgia. Happily I set down the Tora and paid for my first Ding Dang in a decade.

With all the eagerness of a nine-year-old waiting for Kesatria Baja Hitam to start, I ripped open the plastic covering and opened the box.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

Five measly chocolate biscuit balls.

Each the size of a 5 sen coin.

Ah wait, my mind told me. You're missing the point. Ding Dang is never about the chocolates. It's all about the toy.

Oh goody, there it lay under the chocolates in a separate pack. I opened it up, hoping for the best.

A balloon, so seriously flimsy I was afraid to blow it up. Plus a cheap yellow plastic noisemaker that produced a shrill fiewwwwww which sounded like a cross between a chicken laughing at me and a Mat Rempit whistling at passing girls.

All for a good 90 sen.

Disgusted, I threw the box away. After finishing the chocolates in 10 seconds and chucking the noisemaker into my car.

Childhood memories aside, I hereby declare that Ding Dang SUCKS!

Choki Choki is way much better.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rojak


Was reading this delicious lil' book last week - Rojak by Amir Muhammad. If he sounds familiar, he's the guy who directed Lelaki Komunis Terakhir, a local film that was banned here and created some controversy.

I came across this book by accident actually, hearing it during an afternoon interview on BFM. Always having a soft spot for short stories, I thought it sounded interesting. Summor Malaysian write one hor!

So I ended up at MPH, and there it was. Now, the struggle with short story books is always between kiamsiap-ly reading them in the bookstore and actually buying them because you enjoyed them. Bless my indecisiveness, I actually walked to the cashier and back with the book twice before parting with RM35.

So one week later, any regrets? None at all! It's the sort of book you can't stop reading. Some stories literally made me laugh out loud, while most were really creative in a made-in-Malaysia context.

For example: You know those sign language broadcasts that appear during the RTM news? There's a story about a girl who used it to start a 'rebellion' against the government. Loved the ending line: "It took 14 years, but I'm glad I lived to see it. Change comes slowly... and it often starts in silence." Some very recent happenings are touched on as well, such as the January church arson. Best of all, the stories are only about 350 words long. That's less than 2 pages.

Intrigued? Go get it lah. Or better yet, borrow it from me. =p

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Well of Shadows

Too many story ideas at the moment, too little motivation to write them. So you'll have to settle for this average-at-best tale, which I half-stole from a Youtube short film and seems more at home in a Form 5 school magazine.

Last night I met a man who wasn't there

He spoke not words but the death of his stare

*****

"This is the place." Jonathan whispered to Drew.

"Wow. Scary."

It was Halloween night, and the streets were lined with streams of trick-or-treaters. The two boys had only just met by accident, and here they were standing in front of this supposedly haunted Well of Shadows. It was a long-abandoned well tucked behind an unassuming spot in the woods, where the moon cast its haunting fingers from behind the fringes.

Drew peered over into the endless blackness. "Hellooooo."

Looo looo looo looo
, replied his echo.

"So this is where everyone died?"

"Yeah."

"What happened? And take off that silly mask. Nobody's watching."

"No way! A true trick-or-treater never takes off his costume." Jonathan laughed, adjusting his Power Rangers suit.

A sudden rustle in the bushes silenced him. It was only then that Drew realised how quiet the woods really were. Unnaturally quiet. The only sound he could clearly hear was that of his increasingly thumping heart.

"This place gives me the creeps."

"That's because it's...haunted." Jonathan set down his bag of candy. "So, you wanna hear the story or not?

"Uh, sure."

"Good. I figured you would chicken out."

"Nuh-uh!"

A soft, soundless gust blew as Jonathan began his tale.

"Twenty years ago," he gestured dramatically. "Two boys just like you and I came to this well."

"Being curious, they wanted to know how deep the well was. So one of them had an idea to light a match and throw it all the way down. But something went wrong."

"Once they threw the match in, it never went out. It fell down and down, down and down, then... WHOOSH! A great fire lit up from inside the well, and burst out straight to the top."

"They became frightened and tried to run, but they couldn't. The flames jumped out from the well and danced around them, growing taller and taller. And that's when it happened."

"As one of the boys fell, he saw in horror that his shadow was still standing. It came alive, stepped out of the ground and grabbed his leg. He called for his friend to help, but he couldn't move. Something was pinning him to the ground. They watched, screaming for their lives, as the boy's foot fizzled into a stump, and then appeared - poof! - on the shadow's foot."

"Next, the shadow grabbed the other boy's arm. He struggled and shouted at the top of his lungs, but the raging fire drowned everything out. Before he knew it, his arm was gone too and attached to the shadow."

"No one is sure what happened next. The town people found these two boys dead beside the well next morning - one missing a foot, the other an arm. Later, some kids found tracks of a single foot leading deep into the woods, and tried following them to catch the shadow. They never returned."

Drew gulped, wincing in fear.

"They say that shadow is still out there somewhere - stealing body parts from kids unlucky enough to meet it, hoping to someday become a complete human."

"W...what happens when it does?"

"No one knows, because it hasn't. There's still one part it's missing."

"What's that?"

Jonathan motioned for him to come closer.

"A face."

Suddenly a deathly chill ran down Drew's spine, paralysing him.

Jonathan tore off his mask, revealing a gaping hollow where his face was supposed to be. No eyes, no nose, no mouth. Only an eerie black space.

It was the last thing Drew saw before everything went dark.

*****

Last night I met a man who wasn't there
He spoke not words but the death of his stare
I searched with my eyes but he was nowhere
Only in the darkness of my nightmares

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Colours Of Nips

Help! I can't stop thinking of Nips-related stories.

I was watching TV this morning when the Nips in my hand started talking.

They were squabbling over who was the best Nip of all.

"Red is always the leader!" declared the Red Nip.

"Says who?"

"Says the Power Rangers!"

Everyone else rolled their eyes.

"Orange tastes the best! And it's rich in Vitamin C!"

"So what! Yellow is rich in Vitamin C too, and we're bright and colourful!"

"What-everrr." Green flicked her hair back. "You guys sure got a lot of class, and it's all low. Unlike moi."

"Shut up, you kids!" growled Brown. "Go play with your toys or something. Grown-ups like me have lots of better stuff to do."

The other Nips started shouting angrily at each other.

"Guys, GUYS!" I yelled into the pack.

They stopped and stared daggers at me.

"Why are you even fighting? Nips don't come in flavours! Unless you're talking about Peanut and Peanut & Raisin."

"We don't?"

"You kidding me?"

"Man," the Red Nip slumped. "I always figured I was Apple."

"No you're not." I affirmed. "Though all of you look different on the outside, deep down you're all the same - chocolate."

"Yes!" Brown Nip pumped his fist, drawing dirty shots from the others.

"So my dear Nips, there's really no reason to argue who is the best. All of you are equal. You just gotta accept your outer differences. Don't let your silly little colours divide you. They mean nothing!"

"But," quipped the Green Nip. "That's what you humans do."

All the Nips giggled.

Embarrassed, I sank into my couch and changed the channel to TV1.