Friday, February 17, 2017

[Short Story] Bobby and Me

Prompt: [WP] You had one wish, and you wished that your dog would never die. Now you have long since moved on to the afterlife and you find that many of the other spirits have stories about what became of your beloved dog

I thought I was doing Bobby a favour when I made that wish. For him to live forever. I thought it was what he would have wanted. Silly me. How could a man understood what his pet dog would have wanted?

"Hey, you're Jack right, Bobby's owner?" an unfamiliar voice called out to me, followed by a pat on the back. I groaned as I turned around, the sight of the glowing new halo and shining white robe greeted me. Another newcomer.

"Yes, I am," I half-heartedly reply, as I began to move away from the guy. He obviously did not get the hint, following after me.

"How could you do that man? Wishing for your dog to never die? He's been waiting ages for you!" the newcomer said. Something that I had heard countless of times over the years. It was really beginning to annoy me, and you're not supposed to feel negative emotions in heaven.

"Look, you're not the first one who said this." I snapped back at him. "I didn't know okay. I just wanted Bobby to be happy. And just like how he brought happiness to me, I had naively thought that perhaps he could bring happiness to others too. How was I supposed to know that he would miss me so much?"

The guy frowned at me. "Geez, Bobby's Fan Club was right. You are indeed a terrible pet owner." Great. A Fan Club. What next, a legal team to sue me in heaven? And to think that you're not supposed to judge another person in heaven too.

I rolled my eyes at the guy, before flying off to the next nearest cloud. There was really no use arguing with these people who think that they knew Bobby as well as I did. But then again, it has been decades since I left Bobby. And every single soul who entered heaven since then had told me the story of Bobby, of how he continued to faithfully stand guard over my tombstone, hoping that I would come back.

*Why must you be so loyally stupid, Bobby?*

I was flying across another cloud when a felt a strange pull at my feet, which grew stronger by the second. Before I could react, however, my whole body was hurtling towards earth, my vision a blur of colours. I landed with a thud on the ground, and thank goodness I was already dead.

The sight around me seemed unfamiliar, as I was surrounded by various graying tombstones. It was then when I heard a familiar bark.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

[Short Story] Sneezing six times

Prompt: You're the only person who knows that people sneeze six times in a row every time they tell a significant lie. Your wife just told you you're going to be a daddy... then sneezed six times.

"Bless you," I said matter-of-factly for the sixth time, trying to hide my concern as I handed Julie a tissue.

"Ugh, thank you," she said in between the loud noise of her blowing her nose. "Not sure why I suddenly sneezed so many times."

Six times, to be exact, I thought to myself. And I knew exactly why.

"So... are you serious? We're going to have a baby?" I asked Julie, my voice more of disbelief than joy. I would have felt joy, to be honest. After all, we have been trying for years to conceive. Being a father was something that I've looked forward to in years.

But I just cannot shake the feeling that Julie sneezed six times. Because from as far as my life went, I've come to learn that when someone sneezes six times immediately after saying something, it meant that they're lying. A significant one at that.

The time when mum told me that my dad was going to come back? She sneezed six times. Or when Aunt Mary told me that Santa exist? She sneezed six times as well. Not forgetting how Darla, my first ex, also exactly sneezed six times when she told me she was not cheating. And now, Julie, my wife, sneezed six times after she told me that I was going to be a daddy. I can't help but to be wary.

"Yes! We're going to have a baby!" Julie exclaimed. "And you're going to be a daddy-" she tried to continue, only to be interrupted by six sneezes again.

"Ugh, not sure what's going wrong with my nose," she declared, before disappearing into the toilet. I just sat there, knowing exactly what was wrong, my stomach tied in knots. Why would she lie to me about having a baby or me being a daddy?

Was it part of an elaborate prank? But Julie was not someone who enjoyed pranks. Or could the baby not be mine? But technically if the baby grows up in my house, I'm still counted as the baby's father, right? Sort of? Thousand questions ran in my mind.

As the weeks passed, it was obvious that Julie was not lying about having a baby. Her belly did grow bigger, and we were already making visits to the doctor to have tests, discussions, all the nitty gritty that comes with the new responsibility. There were talks about the baby's room, the baby's gender and future plans involving the baby.

There was definitely a baby in her tummy, which shifted then shifted the question of whether the baby was really mine. What started as a suspicion evolved into a full blown paranoia. I snooped around her phone and dug up her old texts to see if she was contacting anyone around the time she got pregnant. I began to grow suspicious of her, questioning her whenever she's on the phone or going out with friends.

I asked around, googled on the internet, trying to see if it's possible to have a paternity test before the baby was born. Something that doesn't involve Julie knowing. There was a method called the non-invasive paternity testing, though that still involved getting Julie's blood to be sent for testing. Luckily for me, the hospital was willing to send the blood sample for testing, provided that I pay a fee for it. I gladly signed the bill and waited for the result, more than certain that Julie cheated on me, and the baby wasn't mine.

When the result came back a few weeks later, it was not something that I expected. The lab determined that the baby was mine and Julie's, a perfect match, and that I was the biological father of the baby in her stomach. Despite the test results, I still felt uneasy. All my life six sneezes meant a lie, but everything so far proved that it was not.

Perhaps this time was different, I thought to myself. Perhaps I was mistaken.

Until our routine appointment at the hospital.

"I'm afraid that Julie is not strong enough to give birth to the baby," was the bomb that was dropped unto us that day, in that cold white office of a Dr Hampshire. "The best option now, for the mother's well-being, is to abort."

The news completely caught us off guard. Julie cried for the entire day, her hands refusing to leave her now bulging tummy. "How am I supposed to abandon our baby like that!" she screamed to me, her face soaked in tears. And I couldn't help but to feel an immense amount of guilt, having doubted her in the first place, letting my fear control me instead of being there for her during those first few months.

All I could say, as I embraced her in the brightly painted room in our house, was that we're going to make it out of this okay.

She looked at me teary eyed. "Are you sure that we'll be okay?"

"Yes," I assured her, bringing her closer into my arms. And then I sneezed six times.

Friday, February 3, 2017

[Short Story] The Adventures of Sir Minion

"Daddy, daddy, tell us a bedtime story!" two childlike voices screamed as they jumped around their beds. Standing not far from the door was Mike, exhausted from the day's work, his shadow cast dully against the plastered wallpaper.

Mike gave a tired smile, and sat himself on one of the small beds, covered in a Disney princess sheet. The two girls, Laura and Jenny, gathered around Mike. His hands patted one of their heads. "Now, what story do you want me to tell?"

The older girl's hand shot up. "I want a story about daddy's day!"

"Yes, I want it too!" the younger girl echoed.

"Alright, alright," Mike said, "I will tell you the story of daddy. But lets call him Sir Minion for the story, shall we?"

"Okay!" the two girls shouted in unison.

Mike smiled again, seeing both his daughters eyes fixed on him. Adjusting his voice to make it sound more dramatic, he began the story. "Long ago, there lived a daddy called Sir Minion."

"But Daddy, you're just right here," Jenny interrupted.

"Now Jenny, what did daddy said before about bedtime stories?"

"Shh-!" Laura hushed her sister.

"Sorry daddy."

"It's okay," Mike replied, rubbing Jenny's head. "Now, where was I? Ah yes, Sir Minion." The room's yellow lamp flickered slightly above them.

Mike continued. "Now Sir Minion is one of the Royal Knights of the Oglivy Nation, in charge of spreading the capitalist message far and wide."

Laura's hand shot up again. "Daddy, what's a capitalist?"

"It's what you see during commercial breaks, Laura, that ask you to buy things. You'll understand it when you're older." Laura nodded.

"So now, being a Royal Knight in Oglivy is not an easy job. At exactly 7am, Sir Minion's trusty sidekick, Siri, rang to wake Sir Minion up, just like every other day. But today, however, today was different." Mike dropped his voice to a whisper.

Jenny whispered back. "What's different, daddy?"

"Well, today was a big day for Sir Minion. King Oglivy, also the boss of Sir Minion, has decided to send a delegation over to the Kingdom of Nike, in order to win over King Nike's trust. And Sir Minion was chosen to be the Royal Knight to head delegation."

"Was the journey hard, daddy?"

"Of course," Mike replied. "Sir Minion had to ride his trusty stallion across the land, dodging the enemies sent by the commute out to stop him. They all tried to smash into Sir Minion's stallion, big dragons, trolls and the evil BMWs, but none of them were successful, because Sir Minion knew the rules of safety driving."

Jenny's head was lying on Mike's thigh now, while Laura's rested in between her palms.

"After hours of torturous journey, Sir Minion finally arrived at the great golden gates of the Nike Castle. He was immediately ushered to meet King Nike. It turns out that in order to win over King Nike's trust, Sir Minion had to engage in a life-or-death duel with the fearsome Finance Dragon."

"Having come so far, Sir Minion was not keen to fail his mission. He took out his trusty Excel Shield and Powerpoint Sword, and challenged the Dragon to a fight to the death. The dragon snapped and breathed fire at Sir Minion, but with years of training, Sir Minion managed to dodge each of the Dragon's attack before finally stabbing it through the heart with his ultimate attack, the Case Studies Slam."

"With the Finance Dragon dead, the Nike King was very happy, and decided to reward Sir Minion readily with a box of treasure. Sir Minion brought the treasure back to Oglivy Nation, and everyone lived happily ever after."

Both Laura's and Jenny's eyes were half-closed, and Mike moved away from the bed. He carried Laura over to her bed, carefully tucking them both in. After he was done, he tiptoed towards the door.

"Daddy, why does Sir Minion do what he does even though it sounds to hard?" came Laura's voice.

Mike stared across the room, at the two tiny figures beneath the blanket. "Because he has two beautiful princess at home. And he wants to give them the best life that he can," he whispered back, before turning off the light.

"And daddy?" another voice came from the darkness.

"Yes, Jenny?"

"Your story is bad."

Mike chuckled. "Goodnight, my princesses.

"Goodnight, Daddy."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

[Short Story] "I can hear dog. I kid you not."

Prompt:  As you are walking down the street, a dog pulls on his lead to try and greet you. You bend down to stroke him, when he suddenly speaks in a deep voice: "The beast and his armies will rise from the pit to make war against God." His owner smiles and keeps walking, as if nothing happened. 

"I can hear dog. I kid you not."

The man opposite Johnson could only offer an unsympathetic stare. "You know if you're not helping yourself if you keep talking like this right?"

"But it's true! I have heard them! All of them! And if we don't do something soon, humanity will be wiped out!" Johnson screamed from behind the door. The man, one of the facility's wardens, flipped through the chart hung in front of the room.

Lyon Johnson, 29 male. An aspiring researcher at Harvard until he went bonkers one day. Started to claim that he could hear dogs talking, that they were warning him against the imminent invasion of the devil. Started to stock up on guns, ammunition and researching ways to build IEDs. He had to be brought in. Family showed no prior sign of mental illness, no reason behind the sudden onset of the symptoms.

Johnson tapped on the door slightly. "Do you know how I know your name, Michael?"

Michael sighed. As a warden, one of the strict instructions he must follow is absolutely no contact with any of the patients. He had been doing that fairly well for the past 10 years, until Johnson called him by his full name. He even named the labrador Michael used to own: Brady. It has been months since Michael lost Brady. Hearing the mention of his name made Michael wanted to know more.
"Tell me," Michael whispered through the cracks of the door.

"You know the first dog that I told you about? The one that told me that the beast and his armies will rise to wage war against god? Turns out, his owner stayed not far from my house. When I saw him a second time, I had to talk to him."

"And what does that have to do with Brady?"

"Shh! I'm getting there. Turns out he goes to Happy Vets for his weekly grooming!"

Michael felt his hair stand. It was the same vet that he used to bring Brady to. And there was a Maltese that Brady seemed very fond of during his visits. "Are you... are you talking about Bumper?"
"Yes!" Johnson exclaimed. "That Maltese dog! Brady's best friend, right?"

Michael kept quiet for a while, trying to process his thoughts. Just knowing Brady's name doesn't really mean anything. He told Johnson that.

"I knew you would say that. What if I can tell you where Brady went?"

Michael's blood froze. The memory of that day was still fresh in his mind. He had come home from work, when he noticed that his front door was slightly ajar. Entering his house, he called out to Brady, expecting the grey labrador to come jumping to him as usual. But what greeted him was only silence. He searched the entire neighbourhood for Brady, put up posters, pleaded with authorities, but no one seemed to be able to offer him any lead.

Brady seemed to have disappeared into thin air. And a little of Michael went with him. Hearing Johnson, whom he has never met, talk about him finding Brady again, Michael felt a stir of hope in his heart.

Logically speaking, it was a crazy gamble that would cost Michael everything should Johnson turn out to be a psycho like what the reports claimed, but Michael knew he would never forgive himself if he abandoned Brady to his fate.

He took out his keys, and slid them into Johnson's door. "Now, don't me regret this," he said, amid the sound of the lock turning.

Behind the door came Johnson's reassuring voice. "You won't. Because we are going to save the world. With the help of man's best friends."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

[Short Story] Make-a-Wish

[WP] You receive a call from the Makeawish foundation, a dying child you've never heard of wants to meet you

+++++

It was just another day at the office when I received the call. At first, I hesitated in picking up the call, thinking that it was one of the many erratic customers that I had to deal with on a daily basis. But the voice at the other end was proper and jovial. "Is this Mr Tom Johnson?" the female voice asked.

"Yes, speaking," I answered, wondering what the complaint will be this time. But the voice was neither a customer or calling in regarding a complaint.

"That's great!" the woman exclaimed happily over the phone. "We're calling from Make-a-Wish foundation, and it's regarding a wish that one of our beneficiaries has."

i scratched my head, wondering what wish a child would want with a mobile service provider. "And how exactly can our company help you?"

"Oh, this is not about your company, Mr Johnson. It just so happened this is the first number we got when we googled your name," the female voice quickly clarified. "It's actually you who the child wants to see. You're the child's wish, Mr Johnson."

"What?" was all I managed to say after hearing her response.

"You must be making a mistake," I flatly told them. My name was Tom Johnson, and over the thirty decades of my life, I have done nothing particularly interesting to warrant a dying child wanting to see me. I was not a famous actor nor a famous singer, heck the only screen time I got when I walked past a TV interview, and I have never indulged in any form of charity. My life was mediocre at best, with no outstanding achievements at any time in my life. As how many may put it, I am just a regular guy.

"I think you must got the wrong guy," I repeated to the woman.

She, on the other hand, was undeterred. "No, no, no. We're pretty sure we got it correct. You have a Reddit username called /u/F0rgetfuL_Scribe, right?"

"Yes, I do," I said hesitantly, growing more confused by the moment. How did she got my name from Reddit? And what is the link between my alias in Reddit and a dying child's wish? I asked all of her that.

"Well it's a really long story..." she replied.

I stared at the clock on my office wall. "And I got all the time for it. Now tell me."

+++++

The door creaked loudly as I pushed it open, stepping into a small room with a single bed in the middle, flanked by all sorts scary looking machinery. The whole room smelled like medicine. A boy laid on the bed, numerous tubes going in and out of him. Beside him, a bouquet of flower lay dying, just like the boy.

"Hey Alex," I gently called out, as I pulled a chair and sat beside him. It still felt warm.

He stirred from his sleep, his eyes fluttered weakly as he adjusted his head towards me. It seemed that he had undergone a lot of pain, and I felt a strange feeling welling at the back of my throat as I looked at him.

"Mr Scribe?" he called out, his voice barely audible amidst the beeps and bleeps of the machine.

"Hey, I'm here," I tried to smile. My hands brought out a book from the bag I carried. "And I brought you a gift."

He smiled weakly at me, his left hand reaching out. Both my hands held his in return. "Thank you for coming, Mr Scribe."

"Hey, no problem. Anything for my number one Reddit fan," I said, trying to choke back my tears. The foundation staff had warned me that meeting a beneficiary, especially a child, is never easy, but I did not expect how tough it would be.

"Mr Scribe, can you tell me the ending to your dragon story, before you post it on Reddit? Mummy said I may not be able to go on Reddit anymore."

I nodded and pulled my chair closer. "So Merrybeard and his gang had been attacked by the Dragon's Henchmen, and they were certain that they will be meeting their end..."

+++++

That night, his mother called me, crying softly through the phone. "Thank you," she said in between sobs, "for making Alex's last wish come true."

As I hung up the phone, I was unable to hold my tears in any longer. I let them trickle down my face, as my fingers typed in a new entry in my calendar: Alex's Memorial Service.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

7 Ways to Make Money While Traveling



Thinking of taking an extended vacation or becoming a full-time traveler? There are plenty of ways to earn a little extra to fund your travels while you're out there on the trail. No working a regular job and saving up week after week- these are all valid ways to fund your travels as you go whether you switch cities every few days or every few months.
Work Online
The first thing that might come to mind is working online. Though it might take a month or two to work up to a full-time income you can start earning in your first few days. This works perfectly for people who have skills that work well online- writing, graphic design, code, and translation are all excellent skills that will let you work with no more than internet access and a laptop.
Lease Your Car
You've probably rented a car while you were on a trip at least once. Why not rent out your car? With several online services, your can easily and quickly find someone that needs a car for a while (as little as a day or as long as you are offering). This can bring in enough revenue to cover your car payment and regular maintenance while you're gone- maybe a little more.
Use Your Skills
Maybe you're a beautician or a massage therapist. You could speak the local language and offer your translation services to fellow travelers. Maybe you have a musical streak and have always wanted to try out busking. (Just make sure it's legal.)
Lease Your House
Just like you can rent your car, you can rent your house if you have one. Alternatively, you can choose to participate in a house swap though that's more likely to save you money rather than make it. If you're going to be gone a while, renting (and having a friend or neighbor check in once in awhile) can keep your home from being robbed or going through the stress of being empty (burst pipes, animals, etc.)
Pick Up Seasonal Work
Farms all over the world are looking for workers. It's usually manual labor, so you need to be in decent shape but the wage is fair, and you just might learn a few things (or get some farm-fresh produce) as a bonus.
Be a Courier
If your idea of travel right now is more "road trip" that round-the-world then a messenger job could be perfect for you. Depending on the type of vehicle you have, you could pick up any number of objects- from cake to furniture. Animal lover? Many owners and even breeders are looking for people to deliver pets cross country as it's so much less stress than air travel.
Offer Tutoring or Lessons
No matter what kind of skills or knowledge you have, sharing it can be profitable. This is something you may be able to do online or could offer as a local, once-in-a-lifetime course set up in a library or community center. If you plan to stay in one place for a while, you could even put ads online to beginner lessons in your subject. Languages, computer skills, music, mathematics- these are all good places to start.

By using the assets you have on hand, it's possible to keep traveling as long as you want- until you feel the urge to head back home. Whether you're renting out your home and car or selling your skills, you might have more to offer than you think.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

[Recap] 2016

As 2016 comes to an end and we bid welcome to a brand new year, just wanted to do a short reflection of the year, to give thanks for everything that has happened and in case my future self wanted to keep track.

- Left my second job at Inconvenient Questions, my brief one year foray into media and publishing. Had a lot of fun producing videos, writing articles and covering Singapore's general election, an experience unlike any other. Sad to note that it has closed down, given the potential that it had, but alas things don't always go your way.

- Joined and left IPG, my even briefer foray into an advertising/social media agency. It has been a really great six months there, where I learned so much in that brief period of time. Helping to support NDP's social media coverage was really memorable, and it's funny to note how my first official national day celebration was with my adopted country. It's sad that I had joined IPG when I am in the middle of settling down in life, because it would have been one hell of a journey.

- Fulfilled one of my wishes to join the public service, which is quite the interesting experience when you get to see things from the other side. Would definitely want to see how far I can go in this job, and hopefully 2017 will be an equally exciting year career wise.

- Visited Cambodia, particularly Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, our only overseas trip this year, and it was quite an unforgettable vacation. Angkor Wat, the Killing Fields, they all served as a reminder of how small and insignificant our lives can be in the larger scheme of things, which is why what matters most is living out a life that you want it to. No regrets.

- Of course, last but not least, celebrated the two year anniversary with the girl who has been a constant throughout my one year journey, this year: Dawn Chan. It has not been an easy path, of course, filled with numerous challenges and obstacles, but I am thankful that we have journeyed through 2016 together, both good and bad memories included. I've grown so much thanks to her amazing patience with me, and there's no one else that I want to face 2017 with than her.

2016 has been not a bad year, to say the least. I've met with so many amazing people, and despite how short our time together were, be it through work or other areas, I realized that I have still so much to learn. There are many other things that I've not mentioned too, like officially stopping blogging and starting to put in more effort into creative writing, but nevertheless I hope 2017 will continue to be an equally amazing year (provided if the world doesn't end by then).

And to everyone who's reading this, wishing you an awesome new year ahead and happy 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

[Horror - Short Story] I got into this tunnel. I don't think I am ever getting out. (Part 8)

[Part 1] - [Part 2] - [Part 3] - [Part 4] - [Part 5] - [Part 6] - [Part 7]

Present Day

I never spoke to anyone about the incident. It was easier that way, despite how vividly I still remember that day. Some nights I would dream about being back in that tunnel again, lost and alone, the dead bodies of Dave and Amanda pulling me into the tunnel, accusing me of being a coward and a selfish bastard.

"All for a wish," they would repeat again and again in those dreams, as their skeletal fingers clawed at me, ripping into my flesh as I tried to escape.

Days soon became months and months became years. Despite the occasional nightmares, I have come to accept that that fateful day may have been a figment of my imagination, my memories of that day no more than a side-effect of the car crash. It was the easier truth to digest, the easier reality to live in. After all, if no one besides myself experience the reality, surely it must have been all in my head.

Until today, that is. As I stood before my study desk at home, a brown envelope lying discreetly on it. 

There was no return address, no stamp, only my handwritten name on the front. Thinking it was some contract from my work that needs signing, I tore open the seal and numerous A5 sized papers dropped out from the envelope. Each of them had a chunk of text printed on them. Curious, I picked up the top most one and began reading it, and the first sentence jumped at me.

"It was supposed to be an ordinary road trip with my buddy Dave, his girlfriend Cecelia and her colleague Amanda..."

I began to look through the other papers, as a fear began to build inside me. Each of them contained a note that I had written back in the tunnel. 11.45pm 12.16am. 1.00pm. 18 notes with 18 different time stamp. Each in my own words. Exactly how I had typed them in my phone. I thought they had disappeared, erased together with the existence of Dave, a figment of my imagination, but holding them in my hands, despite how much I wanted to believe that Dave, Amanda and the tunnel had been nothing but a bad dream, they were not.

There was another paper behind the notes, folded in half, in another colour. I flipped it, and scrawled across the paper were two sentences. The first sentence looked faded, with a strikethrough going through it. While the second sentence looked fresher, as if just written recently. They both looked something like below:

Hajat anda akan ditunaikan.

Hajat anda telah ditunaikan.

I tried pronouncing the first sentence aloud, hoping that perhaps it would give some clue. As the words slowly rolled off my tongue, I felt a strange of deja vu, as if I have heard the sentence before. I repeated myself louder, slower.

"ha-jat-uhn-da-ah-gan-d-du-nai-gan”

It was then when it struck me. A phone that I thought was not working had repeated the sentence to me, from a memory that was supposed to have been a dream.

Feeling genuinely freaked out by now, I copied both the sentences into Google translate, something that I had wanted to do back then, hoping that they would turned out to be just gibberish and doesn't make any sense. How wrong I was.

Your wish will be fulfilled.

Your wish has been fulfilled.

My head began to suddenly throb, and like a switch turned on, I started remembering. First in blur, sketchy snapshots, but over the time they became clearer. Memories of what happened one night earlier. The night before we drove into the tunnel. There were the three of us, sitting by a beach bar, enjoying a few rounds of drinks to celebrate our trip. Me, Dave and Cecilia. Amanda had said that drinking was boring and went off to her own adventure. I, on the other hand, ended up being the unwitting third well, regretting my choice of following Dave and Cecilia.

It started out normal, of course, just friends chatting with each other, talking about our trip. But as the drinks flowed, the conversation slowed. Dave’s hand was slowly caressing Cecilia’s back, and before long they were in each other’s arms, just letting their passion take over.

I remember walking away, in my drunken state, feeling slightly bitter and annoyed. There was jealousy mixed together in it as well. The image of Dave’s tongue in Cecilia’s mouth kept replaying in my mind. When I first found that Dave was with Cecilia, I told myself that he was my buddy, and I cannot do anything to betray him.

But it was not easy, suppressing any feelings that I still had for Cecilia while trying to be a decent friend. After all Cecilia was the reason I agreed to join this trip in the first place. I wished that Dave never existed, that it was me who was with Cecilia instead. It was petty of me, in hindsight, but alcohol has a way of messing with your feelings.

I continued my lone walk along the beach, unsure of my destination, until I saw a small wooden hut about half of my height, nestled under a coconut tree, no larger than a dinner table in size. Lights danced within. It look strange, how a lone hut stood at the beach.

My curiosity piqued, I walked closer towards the hut, and found a black statue perched in the middle of it, flanked by several burning candles. The statue wore a wreath of flowers, two of its eight hands clasped together as if it was praying. As I was studying the statue, a voice startled me from behind.

"It's a deity that's supposed to grant out wishes." I turned around to see an old man smiling at me, dressed in a white top, his legs wrapped around in a traditional looking cloth. "Any... wishes?" I replied to that old man in my slurred speech.

"Yes, any wishes. It's very effective, our people come here all the time to pray. You can pray to the god to grant your wish too. Only for 10 dollars." The old man's smile never disappeared.

Great, a tourist trap, I remember thinking. Still, my hand removed a 10 dollar note from my pocket, and handed it to the old man, the image of Dave and Cecilia still playing in my mind. "If it's as effective as you said it would be, I wish for Dave to disappear and Cecelia to be mine!"

The old man smiled even wider, nodding his head, and handed me a note with a sentence on it telling me that my wish will be fulfilled. The exact same note that was now on the table, the only difference was that there was one new sentence there.

Dave and Cecilia found my passed out by the beach, and dragged me back to the hotel. I woke up the next morning with a hungover, the events of the previous night completely forgotten.

Until today. The revelation made me sick. Dave has always existed. Amanda too. They were never a figment of my imagination, as much as I wanted them to be. And I had killed them, unknowingly. 

Because I made a drunken wish to a stupid statue thinking it was a tourist trap. Who then, delivered all these notes to me? And why the need for a sudden reminder?

A sense of dread overwhelmed me. Fearing the worst, I quickly reached into my pocket. The phone fumbled in my hands as I took it out, my fingers clumsily searching for Cecelia's number. The call went through, and the familiar dial tone gave me a temporary comfort. After about a few seconds, the familiar voice of my wife answered.

"Hey baby, how are you?"

"How goes the shopping trip with our daughter?"

"Okay, great, that's good to hear. Can't wait to see you both tonight. Tell Jessie daddy loves her."

Before I could end the call however, the line was abruptly cut, but did not went dead. Instead, it was replaced by another call. My screen showed that I was on a call with unknown. I tried to hang up the call, pressing the red button and even the power button, but the call remained. From unknown.

Hands shaking, I put the phone close to my ears. "Hello?"

The voice at the end of the phone sent a chill down my spine.

“Hello Tim, I hope you’ve received our letter.” It has been three years since I last heard it, but there was no mistaking the voice. Dave. But raspier, drier. Each of his word was punctuated with heavy breathing.

"What... what do you want?" I managed to blurt out, my voice obviously trembling.

"Oh, just wanted to see how you're doing with your wish. Quite the happy ending, eh? A wedding with your high school crush and a daughter too!" another voice crooned. It was Amanda. Plus our boss here wanted to ask for a favour, for his services, you know."

"Boss? Favour?" I continued to stammer. Out of nowhere, a familiar stench made its way to my nose. The smell of decaying flesh.

Dave's voice came back on. "Yes, Tim. Our boss. The guy who runs this place. The guy whom you asked a wish from. The guy whom you gave our souls to. Him. Given how your well your wish has turned out, my boss has come to collect the remainder of his payment."

My head was spinning by now, "Wait, what payment?"

"Another soul, Tim. Your daughter's." It was neither Dave's or Amanda's voice now. I could feel his creepy smile through the phone. The old man by the beach. "You only asked to be with Cecilia, removal of Dave and I gave you that. But you never asked for the safety of any of your children. So here I am. You don't think that 10 paltry dollars is enough, right?"

No.

"Dear Tim, I'm afraid that there's always a catch in asking for a wish. Else there's no point granting a wish, isn't it." Laughter from all three of them.
No, there's got to be a way I pleaded. I begged. "Anything," I told them. I am willing to do anything that doesn't involve giving my daughter away.

More laughter. Evil, maniacal laughter that shook the insides of me. Then, Dave responded. "Oh you're so cute, Tim. If only you were this brave when we were escaping. But no,you chose the selfish path instead. Running away, leaving me to die."

Post all the notes online. Let the world know of my misdeeds. Of my cowardly actions. Tell the world of the wish-granter by the beach. Those were the conditions given by them.

So here am I, posting these notes online to wherever I could find, to let the world know of Dave's and Amanda's story, of what a coward I have been, in hopes that it would be enough to appease them to spare Jessie. To honour the memories and existence of two persons that I had erased, due to one toxic mistake.

And should you ever need a wish to come true badly, you know where to find the wish-granter. Just be prepared for the consequence that awaits you should you decide to seek it out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

[Horror - Short Story] I got into this tunnel. I don't think I am ever getting out. (Part 7)

[Part 1] - [Part 2] - [Part 3] - [Part 4] - [Part 5] - [Part 6]

*Aftermath*

I am tired, exhausted. My muscles are aching, my body protesting. But I must complete this note. I can't forget.

I had fallen asleep soon after typing the last note, unable to fight the exhaustion any longer. When I opened my eyes, Dave and Cecilia were already awake. Dave was whispering something to her, both his hands holding her face. Tears were streaming from her eyes as she tried to control her sobbing.

I tried to ignore them, as I looked around us. Nothing much seemed to change. Below, Amanda and the dead continued to wait, their eyes trained on our platform. They never flinched, never blinked.

They knew that sooner or later we would need to go down. The platform would not keep us safe forever.

A tap from Dave broke my thought. He had a weird determined look in his eyes, and I would never forget his final few words to me.

“Take care of Cecilia for me.”

“No, you would not be able to run as fast as I do.”

“There’s no way for the three of us to survive this together.”

“I will try my best to see you guys again, I promise.”

I protested. I knew Cecilia did too. But there was no changing Dave’s mind once he’s decided on something. He made us promise to him that we would follow his plans, that we would not deviate and we did just that. Cecilia and I ran. We ran like never before. While Dave ran in the opposite direction, towards the flame, leading the creatures away from us. Baiting them. Taunting them.

Shouting “Stay alive” with all his might, before his figured disappeared, blended in together with the tunnel.

We ran past Colin Nessbit’s Mustang. Past the pickup truck. Past the boat. Past the Myvi. We ran towards the bend in the road. We did not know what awaited us after the bend, but somehow it felt right. And it was. As soon as we stepped past the bend, reality altered. From the bleak, dark tunnel we were running from, the stinking stench and tortured voices, we were greeted by a proper road and uniformed lights that lined the tunnel. Normal cars passed us, some slowed down to stare at us.

I looked behind me, expecting to see remnants of where we came from, but only the sight of a normal and proper tunnel remained, with the exception of a slightly mangled Myvi against the tunnel’s walls. A tunnel that we should have been through. It was like we stepped right through a portal that connected two worlds.

I turned immediately towards Cecilia, elated. Our nightmare was finally over. I grabbed both her hands and jumped around in joy. “We made it, we finally came back!” I happily exclaimed.

But she only looked at me with confused eyes. “Came back from where?” Her body had bruises that appeared out of nowhere and I felt a sudden, stabbing pain in my arm. A long gash ran down it, blood oozing. There was smoke coming from the crashed Myvi, its front crumpled against the wall.

But shouldn’t it have been somewhere else?

Confused, I checked my watch. It read 12.00am, the date being the day before, when one day should have passed. I opened my phone, wanting to see the notes that I had written previously, to convince we did experienced a night of horror, but they were all gone. I only stood there, stunned.

According to the medics who came later, we had crashed the car into the wall of the tunnel while we were driving down. We lost control, they said, but I don't remember driving the car. They told us that we're lucky It was only a minor accident, as both Cecelia and I walked away there unharmed, with only minor injuries and bruises.

I asked about Dave, about Amanda. But I was only returned with more confused looks. There were only two people in the Myvi when it crashed, me and Cecilia. I tried talking to Cecilia. “Don’t you remember Dave? Amanda? That the four of us came her for vacation?”

She only stared back weirdly at me, with a baffled look. "It was only the two us who came for this trip... I didn't wanted to come alone, and you offered to be my travel buddy."

No.

I was told that I may have suffered a concussion during the crash, and it may have affected my perception of reality. That I am remembering things that are not there. Or that what I remembered were dreams instead of reality. But I knew better. That scent of the decayed flesh. The abandoned cars. Dave, my memories of Dave. They can’t be false. They can’t be my imagination. They felt too real to be a dream.

On the ambulance to the hospital, I checked my Facebook. I checked everything online. There was no Dave among my friends. No pictures of me and Dave. I searched his family’s Facebook. No profile of him. Searches of him online returned zero results. There was no profile of Amanda either. It’s like they never existed, when just one day ago we tagged our group picture in Facebook.

I made calls, sent messages. To anyone who knew Dave or even Amanda. Their family, close friends. But every single time, I only received the same response.

"Who's Dave?"

"Who's Amanda?"

[Part 8]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

[Short Story] Record Holders

[WP] Anyone holding a world record is immortal as long as he holds the record. You are the oldest person alive.

"Impossible..." the man's eyes stared at me wildly, his two hands still on the blade plunged deep within my heart. After eons of living, my body had become so accustomed to pain that even an explosion to the face feels like nothing but a tight slap.

"Surprised?" I asked coldly, before removing my hand from my pockets. A loud bang echoed against the walls, followed by a thud on the floor. The man groaned loudly in pain from the bullet I had put through his chest.

A shot like that would have killed any normal person. However, just like me, he was immortal. A record holder.

"Arghhh.... fuck, fuck, fuck...." he cursed under his breath, both his hands on his chest. While immortals can’t die, they can clearly feel pain. This man was clearly not used to it. And immortals can definitely be taken out, even for a brief moment, if you know what to do.

I pointed my gun at his head. A few more few more shots rang out and the man laid there, motionless. Trauma to the head, either through the use of guns or a stab with a sharp object is usually more than an effective way to knock out an immortal, especially a novice like the man before me. It was a fact that is not well known though, as it would be used against the population of immortals.

Which was why I was here, in the supposed lair of the “Heart Stealer”. A good name, if not for the disgusting acts that he had done.

I raised my hand in the air, indicating that things were under control, and several armoured officers from behind covers. They immediately cuffed the man before dragging him away.

As I watched the men disappear, the commanding officer walked over to me, his hand offering me a cigarette. He was a sergeant in his late thirties, and from my guess, not an immortal. "It’s sick, isn’t it? The record that he was pursuing."

I lit up a cigarette and took a few puff from it, my eyes fixed on the puddle of blood on the floor. Heart Stealer. Named because he kills his victims with a stab to the heart. He would first lure the victims, normally homeless people or prostitutes, bringing them to a secluded area, before plunging a knife to their heart. Just like he did to me. All in the name of a record. All because he wanted to achieve immortality. I was supposed to be his 104th victim, the next entry in his record, but he had not counted on me being an immortal just like him.

The sergeant's eyes then shifted to the blade still lodged on my chest. "Are you not going to remove that?"

I looked at my chest, the blade still lodge there, my shirt now soaked in blood. "Sorry, sometimes I tend to forget that," I said as I calmly pulled the knife out. I still remember the first time I was stabbed, which also happened to be when I realized that I was immortal. The pain was unbearable, like my whole body was on fire. All of my senses were overwhelmed, and my mind could not focus on anything else but the pain.

But that was eons ago. Like I said, my body had grown so accustomed to pain that they are no more than mild annoyances to me.

The sergeant tapped on my shoulder, before pointing to the waiting police cruiser at the side of the road. "Anyway, thanks again for agreeing to help with this case. I'll need to head back to HQ to process the criminal, and we’ll keep in touch," he quickly mumbled, before walking away.

I saw as the car door slammed and drove away, leaving my alone there in the night. He would be sure to call again, they always do. After all, it was my job to help them, in exchange of them keeping off my back. I exited the compound, walking along the road towards the city.

With nothing but the silent road as my company, my thoughts began to wander. On how the government in general views us immortals in distrust, and would very much prefer to keep us in check. Locked up, if they may.

Hypocrisy, if you ask me, as I know of several officials who were immortals themselves. But unlike them, I was special, a totally different record holder, you may say, which was why governments, not just one but most, have a special interest in me. If they could, they would have locked me up a long time ago, keep me away from the public, so they could study me. Maybe unlock the secret of stopping immortality.

But I have connections that they don’t. Connections that they’re afraid to touch. Besides, I help them with the growing problem of people seeking out immortality, using whatever devious means they could.

Most kills using a rifle. Most kills through the use of acid. Most limbs dismembered. Most eyes gouged. All sick and cruel methods, but to them it was just means to an end. The heart stealer was but another person in the never-ending list of wannabe immortals, seeking out a long life through a method most would condemn as immoral.

Why couldn’t these people choose a less barbaric record to break instead, like the most meatballs eaten in 10 minutes? Or the most consecutive hours you can sleep at one go without waking up? They had to choose a record that involves killing. Or worse, torture.

The buzzing phone in my pocket jolted me from my thoughts. I fished the phone out of the pocket and pressed it against my ears. A familiar voice greeted me from the other end. “So, I assume that work tonight went well? I miss you, just so you know,” the voice purred.

I laughed. No matter how long I had lived, Eve’s voice never fails to bring a skip to my heart. After all, she was the first woman that I had met. And like me, she was an immortal too, holding a record that was not too different than mine.

“Yeah, we caught that sick dude. But like the rest of the other record-aspiring criminals, he would be quietly locked up without any news coverage, to prevent others from trying to break his record. With any luck, he would stay locked up for a long time,” I replied.

There was a short “Uh-huh” from the other end of the line, before going silent. Something was bothering her.

“What’s wrong, my dear?” I asked.

Another period of silence before she finally spoke. Her voice sounded much more serious now. “The US President called again just now, asking for an audience with you-know-who. Despite me telling him that it’s almost impossible, we ourselves have not had any contact for more than 2000 over years, he just refuses to listen. And I think his patience is running out.”

I pressed my head at the sudden news. I had hoped my friends in the Congress would have convinced him to lay off the both of us by now, but this new president was unlike any other. Brash, loud and not able to take a no for an answer. “Tell him to give us a little more time. I’ll figure out something,” I responded.

“Promise?”

“Promise. I need to go now, but I will see you later. I love you dear.”

“And I love you too.”

There was a short beep and the line went dead. I stopped in my tracks, staring at the sky, hoping for some response. Or a signal at least. But it has been more than 2000 years since He went silent, for reasons even us the immortals do not know.

He had promised to return, a second coming, and as each day passes, with the possible catastrophes facing earth getting increasingly precarious, I wondered if He had drifted off to some other universe to create another world building game. After all, Earth was started off partly as a joke in his head.

“What if I make anyone who holds a world record an immortal?” I remember Him saying, during many of the walks we had in the garden. I remember asking him what a world record was, which he patiently explained to me.

“Wouldn’t that make me a default record holder then?” I remember asking, to which He broadly smiled in response.

“Yes! Isn’t it brilliant? No matter how many records others may have or could be broken, yours is by default the unbreakable one!” He proudly declared at that time, seemingly amazed at the loophole that he had created for me. For Eve.

But that was really, really long ago. Before the fall. Before humans discovered the secret to immortality. Before we realized that it was a curse as much as it was a gift I had lived to a grand total of 930 years according to records, as many other of my children, but it was then when the persecution started, when the non-immortals hunted us down, locked us up, tortured us in every way possible because they envied what they did not have.

That was when we realized that it was best to keep our immortality a secret, a knowledge only a few knew. Of course, He came again, a second time, when civilization started to flourish. In the form of a human nonetheless. I had tried to make contact with him, being all the way in China then, but I was too late. He was gone in less than three years, with the promise of returning again soon.

Since then, He had gone silent, seemingly abandoning us, leaving this world to evolve on its own. And we immortals had to learn to adapt. The core immortals, at least. Those who came from the ancient times, forever zealously guarding their records.

I stared at the sky harder, hoping for something. Hoping that He would respond. And that was when I heard it. His voice. Coming from all around me, but yet at the same time, from within me.

“Adam, my firstborn. It is almost time.” It announced.

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