Saturday, March 11, 2017

What does a banker truly do? A DBS Sparks story

Image: Popspoken

Think being a banker is just all about endless, soulless number crunching, all in the name of profits? Well, think again, according to Team DBS. While the core of the job still revolves around numbers, it doesn't mean that you can't do good too through your work, and latest DBS campaign aims to disprove the stereotypical notion of soulless, boring bankers.

Packaged in a short video series, DBS Sparks aims to showcase the other side of the banking industry, one that is filled with hard work and passion. Viewers are able to see the the story that don't often gets told, following the journey of a team as they navigate clients and challenges in the industry. Most of the stories depicted are inspired by true events, too.

Sure, a series on bankers may seem a little exaggerated, but if TV can dramatize lawyers, police officers and doctors, why can't bankers right? But don't take my word for it. You can catch the series at the DBS Sparks Website and decide for yourself how the production fares.

Of course, the DBS Sparks video series is not the only outreach by DBS. Just last week, on a Monday, me thinks, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion organized by DBS on Digital SMEs of the future, where the discussion focused on a category of entrepreneurship that do not often receive as much attention: social enterprises.


For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, social enterprises are basically run like businesses, meant to be self-sustaining with a revenue stream, with the exception being that they're focused on serving the community through various means. Like charity organizations, if you may, but using a business model. There's a product for sale, and the company profits through that.

It was quite an enlightening discussion, listening to social enterprises founders like David Pong, Gillian Tee and Neil D'Souza sharing their experiences in starting out a business focused on helping others. From providing education to supplying clean water to the underprivileged, social enterprises are focused on making the world a better place by helping those who need it the most, though it can be quite difficult maintaining a social enterprise since you know, most of us are not that kind when it comes to helping.

So it is quite good to know that organizations like DBS are chipping in to help, through its DBS Foundation programme. Since its inception in 2012, more than 100 social enterprises have received funding through the programme, where every small step count towards making our world a better place to live in.


To get a better understanding of how social enterprises and banks can work together for the greater good, the latest installment to the DBS Sparks video series aims to do just that. Premiering on March 17, Episode 7 of DBS Sparks depicts the story of how a social enterprise aims to bring education to low income communities. The episode takes inspiration from the real life story of Zaya Learning Labs, who also happened to be the grand prize winner for DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia.

You can view the trailer at YouTube and do let me know what you think of the series!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

[Horror - Short Story] The Missing Child

First off, just let me say that I work as a thief. Not exactly proud of that, but hey, when you drop out of school at the age of 15, with no one to take care of you (both my parents are dead), you got to find a way to survive. Somehow breaking in houses and stealing came naturally to me.

I have been doing this for a while now, mainly breaking into big houses in those wealthy suburbs, looking for expensive things that I can steal and sell it off. Cash is usually the best item, but rich people rarely keep them around. Jewelry, trinkets, paintings, electronics, these are my usual targets.

About a week ago, I was in this neighbourhood nestled in between a golf course and the beach. It was the prime residential area in the city, where the richest stayed. They even had their own security team patrols.

Call it career advancement, but I had always wanted to break into houses in areas like this. Sprawling mansions, extensive gardens and massive walls. One could only dream of the riches that awaited me in these houses.

Getting into them was the tricky part. These rich people usually have an array of security measures installed — CCTVs, guard dogs and alarm rigged doors — but to an industry veteran, they were nothing more than minor annoyances.

I was over the walls in a matter of minutes, quietly sprinting towards the grand white mansion in the middle of the compound. My first target in the neighbourhood. The house was supposed to be empty tonight, as I earlier spotted a car leaving the place, and the windows were mostly dark.

Flinging my ropes up to the white columns that extended from the second floor, I pulled myself up to what must be the master bedroom's balcony. Tip for breaking into houses: Try to enter through the upper floors. They usually tend to be less guarded.

Climbing over the railing and unto a marble floor, I was greeted with the sight of a glass sliding door. Nothing unusual, until I saw what was behind the door. Or rather, who.

Staring right back at me was the face of a little girl. She was wearing a bright blue pajamas, and her hands were tied above her, around the metal bedframe she was leaning on. A duct tape was plastered across her mouth. Her hazel eyes implored me to free her.

But what unnerved me the most, however, was that her face was one that I recognized. My sister's daughter, Julie. What was she doing here, being tied up in a completely random house? And why hasn't Julie told me about her daughter being missing? Why didn't she inform the police?

Questions filled my head as I rushed to the door, unlocking it with the tools that I brought. But I had to free Julie first. My hands worked expertly at the lock, and with a satisfying click, I pushed the glass door opened and made my way to Julie. I quickly made my way to Julie, cutting the ropes that held her and removing her gag.

"Uncle Tom!" she cried out and hugged me tightly as soon as I was done. Her skin was bruised in multiple places, and I could not bear to think of what she may have been subjected to.

"Shh, don't worry, Uncle Tom is here to save you," I reassured her, hugging her tightly. Julie smelled like she has been there for days. She was trembling uncontrollably in my arms, whimpering.

Thoughts of stealing anything was out of my mind then. I knew I had to get Julie out. My ears scanned the surrounding, trying to hear if anyone heard the commotion. Aside from Julie's whimpering, the house was dead silent.

I pulled Julie away from me, but my hands remained firmly on her shoulders. "Okay Julie, Uncle Tom is going to get you back to mummy. But I will need you to follow my instructions and stay real quiet, okay?" She nodded her head.

It was slightly more challenging to exit the place with a child in tow, but Julie's small size made it easier. I was out from the house in less than half an hour, driving at full speed to my sister Amanda's house. She must be worried sick.

Beside me, Julie just sat quietly, with the occasional soft sob.  "Don't worry Jules," I reassured her. "We'll be reaching mummy's house soon."

My free hand reached out for my phone, as I quickly dialed Amanda's number. A sleepy but clearly grumpy voice greeted me on the other end.

"Why the hell are you calling me at 2am, Tom?"

"What do you mean what the hell? Aren't you worried that Jules is missing?" I asked.

It was Amanda's turn to be confused. "What do you mean Jules is missing? She's sleeping right here beside us!" She switched the call to FaceTime, and sleeping soundly on the cot was Julie, in the same bright blue pajamas.

It was then when I realized why Amanda had not been even a little worried at all that her daughter was missing. Because she never was. But if that's the case, who's the girl sitting next to me?

"Uh, sorry, my mistake! Am drinking a lot!" I immediately said, before hanging up the phone.

"Uncle Tom, are we reaching home soon?" the Julie who was sitting beside me asked. I can't help but to feel a sudden chill run up my spine.

"Uhm, your mummy isn't home right now," I bluffed. "So you'll stay with Uncle Tom tonight alright?"

I drove back to my house, with more questions than answers in my head. One the girl was clearly not Julie. And I could feel something sinister happening behind the scenes. I guess it's up to me to find out.

+++++

“Uncle Tom, why aren’t we going home yet?” Julie asked me repeatedly. It was a question that I didn’t have the answer to, because I simply didn’t know what was happening. Amanda, my sister, clearly showed me that there was a Julie sleeping in her house when I called her, and yet, there was another Julie right beside me. How on earth did I end up with two identical nieces, when I should have only one?

“Okay Jules,” I said as I sat Julie down opposite me. “Before Uncle Tom can bring you back to mummy, can you tell me what I bought you for your birthday last year?”

“Rainbow Dash!” Julie shouted, her face breaking into a smile. “And you brought Julie to Hello Kitty Land!” Well, at least she got that correct.

“Good girl. Uncle Tom will bring you home tomorrow, okay? I promise. But tonight you’ll stay here, alright?” I tried to reassure her.

She nodded weakly, her round eyes staring at me. “Uncle Tom?”

“Yes Jules?”

“Will the bad guys come and take me away again?”

“No they are not,” I sat beside her, bringing her into a hug. “Not if I have anything to say about it.”

After that, I called my girlfriend Elsie over, to help me look after Julie while I formulate my next steps in my head. She wasn’t too happy at me disturbing her sleep in the middle of the night, but I told her it was an emergency and she reluctantly agreed.

Thirty minutes later, familiar humming of Elsie’s car told me that she was here. She asked me what the emergency was, and I told her that my sister had asked me to look after Julie for the night, and I needed her help. A necessary lie, as Elsie did not know about my “job” and it would be hard to explain to her about me finding a duplicate of my niece in a mansion I was breaking into. It was up to me alone to figure out the truth.

That night, I didn’t manage to get a good night’s sleep. I dreamt that I was back in the mansion, climbing over the balcony again, in the cover of darkness. But instead of Julie, what awaited me behind the glass door was not Julie, but myself. Tied to the bedframe, slumped lifelessly over. I walked slowly towards my own body, my hands reaching out to touch it.

Just as I was about to make contact, its head suddenly jerked up, my face morphed into Julie’s. Only that she looked different. Her cheeks was melting off her face, like some sort of goo.

“Uncle Tom, save me,” she cried from beneath the grotesque sight, her face splattering on the floor, revealing her skull underneath.

I jolted awake in cold sweat, finding myself back in my room, Julie and Elsie sleeping soundly near me. Elsie had helped to clean Julie up and put her to sleep earlier, before falling asleep herself. My gaze lingered on Julie, again wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. If only I had not broken into the mansion earlier. For the remaining of the night I could not bring myself to sleep, the sight of Julie’s face melting before me burned unto my mind.

The next morning, I asked Elsie to keep Julie busy. I lied again, saying that I needed to run some errands. Elsie gave me a suspicious look, but did not protest.

“Just make sure you come back before lunch,” she simply said, and I told her I will.

I drove immediately to Amanda’s house.

“What’s the great idea calling me yesterday night at 3am?” My sister was clearly furious when she saw me standing outside her house.

“Hey sis!” I jovially greeted Amanda, trying to avoid her question as I walked past her and into her place. Amanda gave a frustrated grunt before closing the door behind me. Her husband Joe was not around, but seated on the carpet of the living room, playing with a soft toy was Julie, still in her blue pyjamas. The smell of cooking breakfast hung invitingly in the air. But I was not there to eat.

“How’s my favourite niece doing?” I called out to Julie, my sister’s Julie, as I made my way to her.

Julie turned towards me, a smile flashing across her face. “Uncle Tom!” she cried with delight as she ran to me and hugged my legs. My eyes shifted towards the toy that she left on the carpet.

“Say Jules,” I kneeled down to her height, an idea forming in my mind. I was going to prove that she was a fake. “What’s that toy you’re playing over there?”

“Oh that one!” Julie went to pick up the toy and ran back to me. “It’s Rainbow Dash! Uncle Tom gave me on my birthday! And brought Julie to Hello Kitty land!”

My heart sank. I couldn’t differentiate the both of them. Both Julies acted and talked the same way. But surely one of them must be fake?

A tap on my shoulder broke my focus. Amanda’s stern face was waiting for me. “Mister Tom, you’ve not explain why you were calling me at 3am yesterday. And what are you doing over at my house so early in the morning?”

I struggled to come up with an answer, my mind still trying to grapple with what was taking place. Before I could answer my sister, however, my phone started to ring. It was Elsie. I hurriedly stepped out of the house to answer the call, worried that something wrong may have taken place.

The voice at the end of the line, however, wasn’t Elsie’s. It was the voice of a man, heavily muffled and distorted.

“Come back to the white mansion. Tell no one.”

+++++

After I received the weird call from Elsie’s phone, I drove home immediately. Despite the instruction to head to the white mansion immediately. I didn’t know why I did that. Perhaps a part of me didn’t trust the phone call. They were not even supposed to know it was me who broke into their house and took Julie.

Amanda was just as confused when I told her that I suddenly need to leave without giving her a reason, but I figured that the less she knows, the better. I certainly did not want to drag my sister into whatever mess that I was walking into. Like they said, ignorance is bliss.

When I reached my house, I could immediately see that my gate has been left wide open. I parked by the driveway and rushed in immediately. The front door of my house was also left open, the people who had been here wanted to immediately.

“Julie! Elsie!” I called out to an empty house, hoping to hear a reply. But who was I kidding.

I scanned the house, looking for clues of the people who took Julie and Elsie away. There was no indication of any struggle. Two plates of uneaten breakfast was left on the dining table, probably cooked by Elsie. The bedroom was not any different from the morning.

As I went back to the living room, I pulled out a pen and an A4 paper. In case I don’t make it back. On it I scribbled the address of the white mansion, along with the message: “I am headed to this place.” Just as I was finished writing, my phone rang again.

Elsie’s number. But with the same distorted man’s voice. “I thought we have politely requested for your presence at the white mansion you visited yesterday. Going back to your house and leaving a message on a paper won’t help.”

I whirled around immediately, my eyes going through the house wildly. How on earth did they know what I was doing at that exact moment in time? As just on cue, the voice continued. “There’s no need to guess how we know what you’re doing, Mr Tom. We would appreciate if you can head over immediately. Or else…”

The voice let its sentence linger. In the background, the terrified cries of Elsie and Julie were clearly audible.

“You bastards-“ I cursed through the phone, but was promptly cut off by the voice.

“Remember Mr Tom, we hope that you would let no one know of your current… situation. Two lives are in your hands, Mr Tom. And please, the clock’s ticking.” Then the line went dead.

A wave of anger mixed with fear washed over me at that moment, as I looked at my phone helplessly. I wanted to kill that bastard behind the phone so badly. I went up to my room where I kept a small handgun of mine, hoping that at least some protection would be good.

To my dismay, however, someone had already sifted through the cabinet. My gun was no longer there. I then went to the kitchen, to discover that all the knives or anything resembling a weapon have been removed. Those idiots were thorough. My brain went through other ways I could obtain a gun or at least a knife, when my phone vibrated again.

A picture of my gun, along with the message: “Mr Tom, clock’s ticking.”

“Fuck,” I cursed under my breath as I headed back to my car. Those bastards seemed to know every step that I was taking. The journey there was a blur, as my mind could only focus on rescuing Elsie and Julie. Who are these people anyway? And how are they able to be constantly one step of me?

The giant gates opened slowly as my car approached the building, inviting me in. In the day, the mansion looked normal from the outside. Like any other buildings in the neighbourhood. But behind those dark glasses, something much more sinister is going on.

The double wooden door that stood guard at the front of the house opened as my car slowly eased into the porch of the mansion. Two tall white columns held up the roof of the porch, while marble slabs covered the floor. From behind the door, a man in suit stepped out, middle-aged, his sleek dark hair combed back neatly.

I killed my engine, before stepping cautiously out. The man in suit was still full of smiles as he slowly approached me. “Welcome, Mr Tom, we’ve been waiting.” His voice was no longer distorted, but it was without a mistake the voice that spoke to me through the phone. He reached out his gloved hand to shake mine. I did not have the time for pleasantries.

“Where’s Elsie and Julie?” I demanded as I reached out to grab him. Before I could reach him, I felt a sharp pain on my neck, followed by a spell of dizziness. My vision began to spin as I struggled to keep my balance, but eventually I collapsed onto the floor. The sight of the man smiling was the last thing I saw, before everything cut to black.

When I finally woke up, I was no longer outside. I was sitting on a wooden chair in what seemed to be an empty underground room, with only a swinging light bulb above me for lighting. As my eyes adjusted to the lighting, I saw a man seated not far from me, his face hidden in the shadow. The man was wearing a different suit than the one I saw earlier. White in colour, topped with white pants.

His voice, however, was the same. “Welcome, Mr Tom. We’ve been waiting for you. Shall we begin your tour?

+++++

“Tour? Tour of what?” I asked.

The man in the suit smiled, his teeth gleamed in the dark. “Well Mr Tom, a tour of our facility, of course.”

Two men that I did not notice earlier stepped out from the shadows and cut my bonds loose. My hands felt a sharp sense of relief as the circulation flowed back to them. As I turned to see the identity of the two men, I was shocked to see that they looked exactly like the man who greeted me at the front door, the man who was opposite of me. Except that one of them was in a full red suit, while the other was in blue.

The man opposite me, whom I shall call White, seemed to have noticed my shocked expression. A soft giggle escaped his mouth, as he approached me. “No need to be alarmed, Mr Tom,” he said, before patting me softly on the shoulder. “You’ll understand soon enough.”

I felt a gentle push on my shoulder as White slowly walked to the room’s exit, beckoning for me to follow. I wondered if I could attempt to escape, but decided against it with the presence of so many hostiles around. The door was closed after me, leaving Blue and Red in the room.

We were standing at the end of a long corridor, which stank terribly. There was a mixture of rotten and piss the air, and I resorted to breathing through my mouth to stop me from gagging. White chuckled when he saw my reaction, seemingly unaffected by the horrid smell. The corridor was illuminated poorly by the same yellow bulb in the previous room, while numerous other rooms lined both the sides of the corridor.

“So Mr Tom, allow me to begin,” White said as he walked slowly down the corridor, the sole of his show clacking noisily against the rough concrete floor. We passed our first room, where an observation window allowed me to peer into it. Two men were lifting black trash bags and throwing them into a burning furnace, which licked hungrily at the contents. I saw black reddish liquid drip from the bag, and the realization of what could be in them sent shudders down my body.

“I’m sorry to be starting our tour from the back, Mr Tom, but allow me to introduce you to our incineration room,” White said as we stood in front of the window. “This is where we dispose of our waste.”

He moved away immediately after, bringing me to the next room. The room looked like a freezer with a table in the middle, with what seemed like compartments built into the wall. One man, dressed in green suit was in the room, along with what seemed like a body of a child on the table. He was operating a chainsaw, cutting through the body, and depositing his work into a black trash back next to him. I had to turn away to prevent myself from puking.

White, however, was still unaffected. “This room is where our waste gets proportionated down into smaller and more manageable pieces, before we send them to disposal.”

My mind however was reeling by then, the sight of the dead body on the table burned unto my mind. I shudder to think that it could have been Julie who was on the table.

“Where’s Julie?” I demanded, as a surge of anger boiled within me.

 White maintained his posture. “But we’re still not done with the tour yet,” he said with that fake smile of his.

“WHERE’S JULIE?!” I screamed as I lunged at him, not caring about my own safety anymore. I just wanted to pummel this abomination’s face. But White was faster than me. He managed to dodge each of my attempt at punching, kicking or just grabbing him. He was stronger too. Each of his punch and kick sent immense pain all over my body. My pathetic attempt at fighting him ended in less than 5 minutes, with me lying bruised and battered on the ground, without even landing a single scratch on him.

“Well I guess you’re no longer interested in the tour,” he said chirpily, before pulling my hair and dragging me across the corridor. I could only howl in pain as he did that. He dragged me past several other rooms, which in my pain I could only catch glimpses of. Men in a laboratory setting, small cages the size of children, and what seemed to be like an operating theatre. He finally pulled me into a darkened room, lit only by flickers of blue white light.

And at the corner of the room, I saw them. Julie and Elsie. Both their hands and feet were tied, and their cheeks were still wet. They both called out to me. I tried to reach out to them, only to be met by a swift kick to my stomach by White. The pain was excruciating.

He was grinning, as I rolled over on the floor, gasping for air. The shrieks of Elsie and Julie felt like they were in a distance. White pulled a chair in between us, as he faced me. “My, my, my, what a reunion,” he teased.

“What do you want from us?” I groaned as my eyes struggled to focus amidst the pain.

White scratched his head. “Simple. Just wanted to tie up some loose ends, to ensure that the nature of my organization’s business does not leak to the public.”

“You mean your murder factory?” I asked, the sight of the body and the furnace still fresh in my mind.

He chuckled at my sentence, as he rose wand walked towards the other end of the wall. My eyes followed him, to find that the flickers of light that lit the room came from hundreds of small screens mounted on the wall, above a console with numerous buttons. The entire room was like a security room you see from the movies. White was standing in the middle of them, his silhouette edged clearly among the bright monitors.

“You see, Mr Tom, what we’re running here is a service. A service that many parents, like your sister Amanda, have come to trust and rely on,” White explained.

He continued. “You may ask what service I am running. On the surface it’s called A Better Child Center, where parents send their problematic children, like behavioural issues that your niece Julie has, for example, in the hopes of us helping them solve the issues. Make the issue go away.”

White flicked a finger, and all the images on the monitor synced to show the same thing. A recording from Amanda’s house. “While other places try to change the original child, what my place does is a step ahead of time. You see, who we are is a product of our genes, behavioural problems included, so the easiest and most effective way is to of course change our genes.”

He walked over to Julie, and pulled her over to him. She screamed and I tried to rush over to her, but to my dismay Blue and Red was already in the room, with Red firmly holding me in place. “And the fastest way to change our genes is through cloning, where the unwanted genes are removed or replaced, to generate an exact same person, only that well, there’s this issue of the original copy that we have to discard.”

I struggled against the strong grip of Red as Julie whimpered helplessly.

“There are many ways to do this, you don’t have to kill. Your methods are despicable,” I shot back.

White laughed. “What matters is not the process, Mr Tom. It’s the results. Besides, how else can I achieve my grand plan if I don’t plant a kid in every house who is under my control?”

White signalled to Blue with his free hand, who emerged with a gun in his hand. My missing gun.

“From how I see it, you have a simple choice to make right now. Either you walk away from this place a free man with your beautiful girlfriend there, or the furnace will have extra two free meals tonight. What do you say, Mr Tom?”

Blue extended my gun to me, and my hands reached out for it hesitantly. “Don’t even bother about using for escape, Mr Tom, because there’s only one bullet in the magazine,” White warned, as if reading my thoughts. My shaking hands took aim at Julie.

“I’m sorry Julie,” I muttered as I pressed the trigger. A single gunshot rang in the room.

It has been weeks since the incident, where the memory seemed like nothing but a haze now. Almost as if I watched everything from afar. Elsie and I are currently enjoying our new life, and the reason I am writing here is to let you, who is reading this, know that I am no longer a thief. Instead, I am one of the professional training execs at the prestigious A Better Child Center, where we can help to turn your out-of-control child to a dream child, with a 100% success rate. Literally.

Just don’t ask for a tour of our place!


Monday, February 27, 2017

[Short Story] Karma Mall

Prompt: When you die you go to a mall where each store represents an afterlife. The karma you've accrued in life is the currency you may spend at each store. You may pick any afterlife according to your taste and your budget

When you die you go to a mall where each store represents an afterlife. The karma you've accrued in life is the currency you may spend at each store. You may pick any afterlife according to your taste and your budget"Welcome," the doors chimed pleasantly as I walked through them, still trying to grasp the situation that I was in. The memories were still hazy, but I remembered walking down the street, followed by loud honk. I braced myself with my hands and closed my eyes, and when I opened them, I was already standing on a cloud, a huge mall before me.

There were others around me, and they were all headed for this mall. Since it was the only building in the vicinity, I decided to follow them.

A soft and peaceful music drifted from the speakers in the mall, as patrons wandered from one shop to the other. Curious about the entire place, I walked up to the receptionist table facing the entrance, where a lady dressed in shining white robes and majestic wings was busy greeting everyone who passed her.

"Excuse me?" I called out softly to her.

She turned to me, her bright smile filling me with warmth. "Yes, Amy, how can I help you?" She even knew my name.

"Well, I just wanted to ask about this place. Where am I actually? Am I dead?"

She nodded her head. There was a strange soothing effect from her presence, as I could feel all my fears dissolve away in front of her. "Yes Amy, you're in the purgatory, and this is the karma mall. Based on how much karma you have accrued in your life, you can decide on the type of life you want here."

"Ohh.." I said, as my attention turned towards the various stores in the mall. There was one that promised an eternity in most beautiful beach in the world, another where you are served by hundreds of Justin Bieber lookalikes and yet another where you can spend exploring the most exotic places in the universe.

I felt good too, because when I was alive, I have tried my best to accumulate good karma. I volunteered in animal shelters and soup kitchens. I always leave a big tip to my servers. I never cuss or swear when I am angry. And I always give way in traffic. My karma score should be quite high.

I muttered a thanks to the angelic receptionist as I hopped towards the beach store, the idea of lazing in sunshine with the gentle sound of waves has always been my idea of eternity. Another equally angelic looking cashier was standing behind the desk, as different images of different beaches flashed across the walls of the store.

My finger immediately pointed to the one with a mountain behind it, with a lagoon with crystal clear water. "Excuse me, I would like to have that beach, please," I crooned, already imagining my days sipping from a coconut, sleeping on the soft white sand.

The white lady appeared to be typing something into a console, before turning to me with a worried face. "I'm sorry Amy, but it appears that you don't have enough karma score to buy this afterlife. In fact, I'm afraid you have none."

"What?" I called out in anger, the first time I was losing my temper in decades. "I have done so much good deeds in my entire life! Countless! Donated to the poor, left the toilet seat down, how could I not have even any karma?" I demanded.

The angel scrunched her face at my response. "I'm really sorry Amy, but didn't anyone tell you? We've upgraded to use Reddit karma in this mall."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

[Short Story] My Child from the dead

Prompt: A couple unable to conceive and not allowed to adopt have spent years learning the dark arts. Tonight they visit the local graveyard with plans to raise a child.

"Are you sure about this?" Alex's hushed whispers echoed in the silence of the night, louder that he liked it, as he struggled to keep up with Sam.

"I thought we agreed on this?" Sam shot back, his voice not hiding the annoyance that he felt. There was only one goal in his mind that night, one that even Alex could not stop.

"I just think we should rethink this," Alex tried to protest, his voice laced with fear and uncertainly. He looked around him, studying the tomb stones that reached out scarily into the chilling night. He tried to not imagine what laid beneath their feet.

Sam however, was not one bit affected. "Finally," he exclaimed, standing before a small cross, flanked by two angel figurines.

*Here lies little Angeline, who was gone too soon from her beloved family*, the carvings on the stone read. The dirt beneath them was still fresh, its dark brown colour a stark contrast to the green surrounding it.

Sam extended his hand to Alex. "Can I have the candles, please?"

"Sam, listen to me, I think we should really rethink this, maybe we can get a pet instead?" Alex said, his hands gripping the straps of his bag tightly. As they trudged through the cemetery, he was beginning to regret his decision to agree with Sam. To raise a child from the dead, so they could call their own.

Sam stepped aggressively towards Alex, his hand still extended. "Candles, Alex." Sam's voice was firm, loud. Alex gave a loud sigh as he handed the bag over to Sam, wondering if he has just made the biggest mistake in his life.

"Good," Sam simply said, before he poured open the contents of the bag and began setting up in front of the child's grave. Alex stood there, arms folded across his chest, with only the thought of leaving. He studied the flower wreaths around the grave, wondering if it was despicable of them to desecrate the recently deceased with their longing for a child.

But it was hardly their fault, anyway, he tried to console himself. They had tried so hard to adopt a child, but everywhere they went, the authorities just refused to let them. They were not a traditional family unit, those people would argue. Every child needs a mother, they would say.

Fed up with the absurdity that was the adoption system, Sam suggested an occult practice instead, 'to show those idiots they cannot control us'. Alex agreed initially to humour Sam, to let Sam cope with the anger and disappointment with the authorities. He never knew how serious Sam was with the suggestion. Until that night.

As strange rumbling beneath Alex's feet broke his attention, as he nervously stepped away. "Sam? I think it's working," he called out to his other half, but Sam was not listening. Seated in a strange circle surrounded by candles, Sam continued to chant a language that Alex had not heard before.

"Sam?" Alex called out again, only to be interrupted by a hand shoot up from beneath the dirt. He could see the skin and flesh peeling off to reveal the bone underneath. Alex tried not to scream as he made his way closer to Sam, the rumbling beneath him getting stronger and louder.

Sam continued on his chant, his voice filling the darkness of the night, permeating through the entire graveyard. Alex watched in horror as he saw more hands piercing through the dirt, not only from the plot they were at.

"Sam!" He screamed this time, no longer able to contain the rising fear inside of him. "Stop! I don't think you're only summoning the child from this grave!"

The chants from Sam stopped, but the around them, the dead slowly began to rise from their resting grounds. Sam turned his head to face Alex, who shockingly realized that Sam's eyes were glowing red in the night now.

"It's okay, Alex," Sam said, his voice a strange pitch, like there were many entities speaking from within him. "I have always wanted to have many children."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The million-dollar question — Executive Condo or HDB




With today's fast population increase, the hurry to get hold of a location to live is great. It’s been an aged old argument on which housing type is best suited for Singaporean. Executive condos or HDB?

HDB

Public housing in Singapore is handled by the Housing and Development Board, and thus the name HDB. Most of the residential housing in Singapore are publicly owned and constructed. HDB flats are relatively inexpensive, and financial assistance through the Central Provident Fund is available. They are found in proximity to many necessities that most homeowners seek.

Benefits and Eligibility

There is an added flexibility when it comes to the HDB Eligibility plan for singles 35 years of age and above. If you satisfy these standards, you are qualified to purchase the resale flat on your own as a single based on the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme. On the other hand, you may also buy the resale property with another single, for up to 4 applicants, based on the Joint Singles Scheme.
Singapore people can buy HDB flat if they are 21 years old and above. They should have the capability to develop family nucleus, and each must have another family member who is either one of the family nucleus or a permanent resident of the country. Finally, one should be able to satisfy the standards when it comes to household status, income ceiling, and the elapsed time before the date of submission.

How to Buy

After reviewing your qualifications, find a Singapore HDB flat that's for sale via the HDB official website. Then, establish your loan qualifications for buying an HDB flat and submit your buying application online or by completing a form at any HDB Branch. Has your flat booked after being shortlisted for buying? Finally, sign the lease agreement and obtain your keys from the agent.

Singapore is one amongst most visited tourist spots in the world. Perhaps due to its natural beauty, its ethnicity, cultural heritage, or the Indo, China and Malaysian mix culture.

Since decades, Singapore has offered lucrative business opportunities to people all over the world. It could be better regarded as a hub of finance, electronics, and communication, thereby strengthening residential and commercial real estate investment in Singapore.

It is because of these factors that the real estate market and scenario in Singapore both in the residential as well as the commercial segment is very lucrative, to say the least.

Most of the Singaporeans live in apartments, which are developed by the housing development board of Singapore (HDB).  The average cost of these flats hovers around the 550,000 Singapore dollars.

Real estate investment promises to find better homes at competitive prices.
Depending upon the general requirement the HBD brings up two, three or four bedroom flats in the motion of the HBD laws and act.

To make an investment in the real estates of Singapore, aid, and assistance of real estate firms is sought. The firm needs to be capable enough to pacify all customer needs and requirements. These firms can be looked up in magazines, journals, etc. 

The quite spacious and often luxurious apartments that are located in some good neighborhood are termed as condo units. The prices of these units are very high, and this is because of the demand. The average price of these unit’s hovers around the $3000 for ft2.

Executive condominiums

An executive condo can be of many types. You could look at condos with one, two, three or more bedrooms. You could also consider studio apartments if you plan to stay alone. The same thing applies to a cluster house. You could look at different sized houses in various parts of the city so that you find just the right house for you. It will take time and effort but believe me when you are planning to own a property the time spent is worth value to you.

How will you find your choice executive condo or a cluster house in Singapore? One way is to contact real estate agents and have them show you around. This will not be very tough because Singapore is not the largest country in the world. But this process has its disadvantages.

The biggest disadvantage is that you still end up spending a lot of time going through the listed properties. Since you don't have the filter option available you need to see what the real estate agent shows you. For buying a single executive condo or a cluster house you probably need to go through hundreds of listed properties. And in the heat of Singapore, this is not the something you will desire.

A much better option is to go the online route. This means that you visit a real estate website and see the listings online. The biggest advantage you have in this mode of property searching is that you can filter and see exactly the properties you have in mind. This will take care of the size of the property you want to buy; this will take care of the area you are looking to buy your property in, and most importantly, this will take care of your budget. Buying a property is a good investment, and this filter option is extremely helpful.

After you have shortlisted a few of the listed properties, you can then go for a visit. This will ensure that you can finalize a shorter list thus saving you time and effort. Once you finalize your property, you negotiate, pay and complete the paperwork, and your property now belongs to you.

It is great to have an executive condo or a cluster house in Singapore. Put in the right effort and you will have your dream home. Use the web to select a few properties so that you don't stray away from your plan. It is the best way to own your property in Singapore.

HDB or Condominium

One of the very first decisions that a young Singaporean Investor has to make is the choice between buying an HDB or buying a condominium as his or her first property. This decision is one with far-reaching effects on their future property investment portfolio. This article aims to aid such investors in choosing the most viable option based on their objectives.

Let us first examine the scenario of owning an HDB flat as a first property. There are two avenues that a buyer can obtain an HDB flat, one through HDB directly in the form of Build-to-Order (BTO), and the other through a seller in the resale market. BTO units are typically heavily subsidized by HDB and are a popular choice among young couples with the intention of getting married. However, it is sold through balloting, which can require a great amount of luck for the couple to be able to get a good queue number especially in highly desired locations where the BTO is likely to be oversubscribed.

On the other hand, while HDB flats bought in the resale market are not subject to balloting, buyers are at the mercy of sellers who control the Cash-over-valuation (COV) of the unit. COV has no maximum cap and is determined by market forces, with recent transactions reaching levels in the range of $250,000 COV for an HDB flat in Queenstown. On a brighter note, buyers in the resale market will have access to the CPF Housing Grant (capped at $40,000) and Additional CPF Housing Grant (capped at $40,000).

Buying an HDB flat comes with a strict and rigid set of regulations which prevent the investor from buying any other form of residential property or from renting out the whole unit during the 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). For BTO buyers, this restriction starts from the date they collect the keys to the unit. Typically, a BTO takes about three years to complete, which means that for the next eight years, the investor will not be allowed to own another residential property under his name.

Now, let us examine the scenario where an investor buys a condominium as his first property instead. The main differences between buying an HDB flat and buying a private property is that the investor does not need to be married if he chooses the latter option. He is also not restricted regarding renting out his unit to tenants immediately after the purchase, which could give him a good passive income per month if he chooses his investment prudently. The only two restrictions are that selling his private property within four years would incur a Seller Stamp Duty and as long as he owns a private property under his name, he is not eligible to purchase an HDB flat.


The prudent investor would do well to have his objectives clearly in his mind. "Is owning an HDB flat very important?". "Are you willing to wait 5-8 years before you are allowed to own an investment unit?". These are the questions that the investor has to assess and decide for himself individually.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

[Short Story] A World Without Men

Prompt: A Dystopian society where women have taken over and stored enough sperm to last them a million years. Scientists even figured out how to genetically engineer to make sure you always give birth to females. After giving birth privately in your home you notice something different on your child.

"You sure the baby is in this house?" Mike's voice echoed through the helmet's intercom, as the squad moved stealthily through the trees.

"Yes, according to our source."

"And what source could that be?" Mike asked, skeptical. They had been falsely led several times over the past few years, each incident resulting in several casualties.

Though they did managed to take down several of the enemy, numbers were not on The Resistance's side. Sacrificing more men for false flag operations is not what Mike preferred. Still, he understood the dire need of these Seek and Retrieve operations. The Resistance's lifeline depended on it.

"The mother's," the voice at the other end announced. "She just gave birth less than a week ago, and she's desperate for us to help before the Sisterhood notices."

Mike sighed under his helmet. As one of the oldest veterans in the team, he remembered a time when men could walk freely among women. A period of equality and respect. Not this brutal, repressive regime. But all that seemed too long ago, only a hazy memory.

"Roger that," he said to his mouthpiece. His hand made several movements to the squad members around him, and they moved into their respective positions, hidden in darkness. Satisfied, he moved through the backyard of their target, quickly but silently.

As he approached the backdoor, his left hand reached for his pistol, while his right hand tapped on the wooden door. Three quick taps, followed by three slow taps, and then two quick taps. There was a moment of silence, his pistol aimed straight at the door. The last operation he went, the whole door was booby-trapped by the Sisterhood. The poor sergeant never stood a chance.

After what seemed forever, taps echoed from behind the door. Two quick, three slow and three quick. The signal. He heard a soft click as the door unlatched. His free hand slowly pushed the door open, which creaked a little too loudly in the silence of the night. He quickly slipped in through the door, to be met with a woman dressed in a simple t-shirt and shorts. Her blonde hair glowed strangely in the darkness of the house, her face framed in a petite heart shape.

But Mike was not there for her. He shifted his gaze to the baby in her arms, sleeping soundly in a sheet of folded cloth. His package for the night. As he stepped forward to retrieve the baby, he noticed that the mum's eyes were still red. She hesitated in handing the baby over.

"Will he be safe?" the mother asked. A question that so many others have asked Mike before.

Mike merely nodded, as he holstered his pistol to carry the baby. The boy stirred lightly, his face momentarily turning into a frown. Perhaps he knew that he was no longer able to see his mum. Mike wanted to assure the mother more, but the voice from HQ interrupted him.

"You gotta get out of there soon Mike, we have a couple Nightsisters coming in." His heart sank at the mention of the famed femme fatale squad.

He turned to leave, but the mum tugged at his sleeve. "Will I see my baby again?" she asked, tears flowing down her cheeks this time. It reminded Mike of his wife.

"You will know," Mike simply said, ignoring the pain that was shooting through his heart. He quickly made his way out from the house, mindful to not leave any evidence behind. Within minutes him and his squad would have disappeared into the night, just like how they first appeared. If anything, the Sisterhood would just subject the young mother to a series of interrogation, without the brutal reeducation class. Mike hoped HQ has been clean in covering their tracks.


The last thing he wanted was for an innocent mother to bear the cost of their mistake. Not every female was their enemy. And if everything turned out well, perhaps one day they would return to the old way of life, and Mike could finally meet his wife again. But for now, they had no choice but to resist.

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."

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