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.

Monday, December 12, 2016

[Short Story] Gods of Everything Imaginable

[WP] There are Gods for everything from Fire to Life to Death, but what they represent has nothing to do with their morality. Many evil sounding Gods are actually benevolent and vice versa

Picture a bar. It is a normal looking bar, with patrons dressed rather formally, chatting happily with their friends, almost all of them with a drink in their hands.

Now picture two odd looking individuals sitting at the corner of the bar, not quite fitting in. Sitting on one side of the table, facing the street, is a young looking lady, with an eye catching hair dyed in a mixture of neon pink, green and blue. She is speaking quite flamboyantly, constantly moving her hands around. Like she has endless energy to spare.

Opposite her, an older man stares dully at her, his graying hair in a rumpled mess. Unlike his companion, he is dressed rather somberly, in a black leather jacket, black pair of slacks and a pair of black leather shoes.

From the looks of it, they seem to be engaged in quite a lively conversation, though it is mostly the girl doing the talking. "Come on, D, I don't understand what you're complaining about? What's wrong with constantly bringing new life to this world?"

The old man, whom we shall call D, seems annoyed at the girl's statement. "Stop calling me D, Goddess. 7 billion people and counting is no joke to this world. You know this world cannot support too much human life, and I'm already overworked to death trying to keep the population numbers in check," he angrily retorts.

At the mention of death, the girl laughs hysterically, almost toppling both their drinks. "Oh my D, worked to death! Did you hear yourself? That was the joke of the century!" The goddess taps the old man's shoulder playfully, only making him more annoyed. You could almost see the smoke coming from his ears.

"I didn't call you here to joke, Goddess. I am here to discuss serious matters. As Gods, I expect us to exercise our responsibilities more cautiously, in a more measured manner, not just simply to our whims and fancy," the older man replies bluntly, in a slightly raised voice.

Yes, you did not hear it wrongly. The old man calls the both of them Gods. In fact, let me let in you on a little secret. The girl with the strikingly colourful hair, many know her as the Goddess of Life. The old man opposite her? Oh, you definitely don't want to be near him. He is the guy they call the grim reaper, his job something needs no explanation.

The goddess of course, true to her nature, rolls her eyes. "Oh puh-lease. How can someone who takes away the life of people expect to lecture me on responsibility?"

"I do not flaunt my powers carelessly, Life!" Death slams one hand on the table. "Every soul that I reap is done with a reason. Not carelessly. Unlike you, who simply give lives to those who are least prepared for it, to those who did not even ask for to be born. You simply bring life to this world, without caring how that life will turn out eventually."

Death continues glaring at the Goddess. "Look at the state of the humans right now! Those who are least prepared to be parents are breeding like rabbits, while those who will make great parents are denied the chance to."

"Hey, it's not my fault that the poor likes to fu-"

"Enough!" Death shouts back, waving his hand into her face. The conversation is not going the way he intends it to be. Picking up his jacket, he turns and walks away, down the street before disappearing into the crowd, leaving the Goddess of Life mid-sentence. Around them, people continue on with their activity, oblivious to the exchange. None sparing a look to their direction.

Now picture the Goddess sitting there, fuming mad from having been told off by Death, that sulking good for nothing old man. She looks around, spots an obviously underage couple getting drinks by the bar and smiles mischievously to herself.

"Me not responsible huh," she mutters. "Well, why break the record now?"

The goddess flicks her finger, before disappearing to the night herself, leaving only whispers of a giggle behind. Three months down the road, the couple is met with rude surprise when they find out that the girlfriend is pregnant. All because the Goddess of Life was unhappy.

Why am I telling you, you ask? Well, I thought it would be good to let you know about the existence of Gods out there, in fact there are countless Gods, for everything imaginable. Life, Death, Fire, Disease, Water, even a God of English! How funny is that. He's the one that dies a little whenever a student makes a grammar mistake.

But I digress. The reason I am telling you this, is because I love telling stories. I like setting imagination free, letting minds wander from the boring reality that is life (no offense to the Goddess, of course). Like Death and Life that you just saw, I am a God too. Not as powerful as them, but still a God nonetheless. All the fables, urban legends, myths and even the stories in this subreddit? I have a hand in that!

After all, I am the God of Stories.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

[Horror - Short Story] I got into this tunnel. I don't think I am ever getting out. (Part 6)

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

*

12.47am

Have you ever ran like your life depended on it, to the point that your whole body is burning and feels like breaking apart, but you know you just can’t stop?

As mentioned in the previous note, I eventually went to investigate the Myvi, while Dave stayed behind with Cecilia. I still don’t know why I agreed to do it. As a precaution, I chose not to approach the car directly, deciding that it would be safer to circle around, so I made my way to the Toyota beside it instead. Having a physical barrier gives me a better sense of security.

As I made my way to it, I passed by a peculiar looking vehicle, with a boat strapped on the back of it. There was an overpowering stench coming from the boat, over and above the rotting scent already in the tunnel. I had to cover my nose as I walked past it, to prevent me from puking all over.

I arrived next to the Toyota after passing another car, its rusty body separating me from the Myvi.
My eyes did not dare wander to the Myvi the whole time I was crouching over, afraid of what I would see. But now that I was at my destination, it was the only thing left to do.

I raised my head slightly over the Toyota’s door, peeking through the back seat’s window, towards the Myvi. There was indeed a person in the back, directly behind the driver’s seat. The figure was no longer sitting still, rocking back and forth, its mouth mumbling something. Its face was covered by its hair, swaying slightly together with its movement.

My heart was debating on my next course of action, when the figure suddenly turned its head towards me. Not the type of smooth turn when you turn your head sideways, but rather a 90-degree sudden snap towards my direction, as if it knew that I was there, staring at it. I let out yelp when I saw the face. Its eyes were white and glazed over. Skin were peeling off its face, and its lower jaw was horribly disfigured. Maggots crawled around its face.

But what freaked me out was the most was the familiarity of the face. It was Amanda’s. But how could it be? It has only been barely a day since we lost contact with her.

Amanda seemed to read my thoughts, and grinned with her deformed jaw. She moved her mouth, and I heard her. She was whispering, but yet I could hear clearly, her voice coming surrounding me.
“You all left me…” she croaked, her voice dry and cold. She opened the car door and stepped out, revealing an almost skeletal figure. Her skin hugged her bones tightly, her clothes worn and tattered.
“No… We didn’t… we didn’t leave you,” I replied immediately, almost in a whimper. I moved a few steps backwards, away from Amanda who was slowly dragging her feet towards me.

She shook her head slowly, her hollow eyes never leaving mine. “I waited for you all, I searched for you all, I didn’t stop, and I drove and drove until I reached this place…” She walked past the Toyota, coming to face me directly, her voice trailing with each drag of her feet.

“…and now I’m dead… D-E-A-D… dead… because of a STUPID WISH!” she screamed as she lunged at me. My reflexes kicked into action and I avoided her by mere inches, I was sprinting for my dear life away from there. I looked back a few times to see if Amanda was gaining on me, and to my horror saw several dozen more bodies dragging themselves from across the bend we saw earlier. The groans seemed to grow louder, the stench of decaying flesh stronger, filling every available pockets of air.

Each of the figures looked equally horrible, one had half his face missing, another seemed burnt from head to toe, the skin black as charcoal. But they all shared the same pair of dead, blank eyes, all focused on my direction, the hatred from them burning through me, and mixed with the fear that they must have felt when they were still alive.

Cecilia was already on Dave’s back when I reached them, and there was no need to explain anything. They had seen everything from where they stood. Dave simply shouted “Run” towards me, and we ran like we never had before in our life, zig-zagging through the empty vehicles, away from Amanda, away from whatever creatures that were chasing us.

I did not know how long or how far we ran, but the vehicles around us seemed to grow older, more ancient, and more distorted. The flames that we saw flickering when first step foot into this place grew brighter as well, bringing with it an ominous vibe. As if death itself resides there. Behind us, the mass of creatures seemed to have grown larger in numbers, still coming towards us. Just when I wondered if we would be running towards the flames Dave pointed to structure nearby.

“There! Head there!” he shouted towards me, and we made our way there. The structure looked like a lifeguard tower you would normally find in a crowded beach, reaching towards the ceiling of the tunnel. A ladder reached up to platform a few metres above the ground. It looked strangely out of place standing there, in the middle of all the abandoned vehicles, but it was a welcomed sight, nonetheless.

Dave shouted for us to climb the ladder, and both Cecelia and I hastily made our way up through the metal rungs, finding ourselves on a platform overlooking the tunnel. Dave made it up shortly after and pulled the ladder up with him. He gave a long relieved sigh and the two of us collapsed unto the platform, catching our breath. Cecelia sobbed softly into Dave’s chest.

Below us, the voices of the dead drifted upwards, as they reached futilely for us. I could still hear Amanda’s voice mixed together with theirs, accusing us of abandoning her, leaving her to die.
The three of us didn’t talk for a long time, relishing the short break that we had, letting reality sink it.

We would most probably meet our end here, there is little doubt on that. I peered towards the direction that we came from, the Myvi is but a tiny speck now. In the opposite direction, the vehicles went on and on as far as your eyes could see. I struggled to see if there was anything else beyond it, but it was hard to make out anything after certain distance.

The exhaustion was starting to kick in when I laid back down on the platform, staring at the ceiling which is now not far from us. Amanda’s face kept coming back to me. Her decaying skin, her skeletal body, the deformed jaw. It doesn’t make sense. According to my notes, we had only been gone less than a day, but the condition of our car and her death suggested otherwise. I shudder to think of how long we’ve actually been here, and if we would end up being like Amanda if we do die here, which seemed very likely now.

Dave seemed to read my thoughts, and his left hand squeezed my shoulders. “Don’t worry, I promise that this will be over soon. I will make sure of it.”

I hope he’s right.

[Part 7]

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

[Horror - Short Story] I got into this tunnel. I don't think I am ever getting out. (Part 5)

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

*

10.00pm

“I think I know where we are.” Hearing those words leave Dave’s mouth, I didn’t know what to feel.
We were sitting on the back of a pickup truck, resting from all the walking that we’ve done. It was hard to feel anything already, anyway, other than a looming sense of dread.

Around us the gagging smell of rotting flesh still clung stubbornly to the air, while the shadows from a faraway burning flame danced on the walls, teasing the dying electric lights. Moans and groans occasionally bounced off the wall, and I shuddered to even consider what was making those noises.

“Go on,” Cecelia urged him. Dave’s eyes lingered on the both us. You could see the regret he was feeling behind those eyes.

“It was during one of my deployments,” he finally mumbled. “We… we did things that I am not proud of. Things that continued to haunt me until today. And now, it seems that my sins have finally caught up to me.”

“What do you mean your sins? What could you have possibly done to warrant this?” I pointed towards the apocalyptic scene before us. The words rolled effortlessly out my lips, fuelled by the building anger inside of me, at finally knowing.

Cecilia turned towards me and shot me a disapproving look. Or was it a disappointed look? She then reached out to Dave and squeezed his hands. “It’s okay, Dave. You can tell us.” I only felt my anger towards Dave growing. But I kept quiet, nonetheless, and let Dave continued.

“We… we killed civilians. Children. Women. During one of our operations. It was just after another incident of roadside bomb, killing half of our squad. We were angry. We wanted… revenge.” After his deployment, Dave rarely talked about his experience. Perhaps this was the reason why.

“I never wanted to do it, you know. I regretted every day for what we’ve done. When we started to shoot the children to threaten them, one of the women, in between her screams, repeatedly chanted against us.” Dave’s voice was breaking now.

He continued, struggling to maintain his composure. “I thought it was just profanities in the local language, but after coming back, members of my squad who were there that day began disappearing one by one, with no explanations. At first I thought they were unrelated, but…”

Before he could finish, however, a loud bang sounded in the distance, shocking the three of us. It sounded like a car door slamming, but it was loud enough to startle us. The three of us exchanged nervous glances. Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Dave motioned us to keep quiet and waved his hands towards the source of the noise. I think he wants us to investigate it.

*

11.27pm

After the bang that we heard earlier, the three of us crept slowly towards the source. Dave the way, while kept watch on our backs. Even though the freeway looked abandoned, the scent in the air seemed to suggest something more sinister was going on. It was a thought that I was sure we all shared, but are too afraid to voice it out, lest it becomes true.
We made our way through the numerous abandoned vehicles, zig-zagging in between sedans, convertibles, trucks, vans. Strangely, they all faced the same direction. Towards the faraway fire, it seemed.

Who drove them, and how did they end up in such fashion? It looked as if all the vehicles were caught in a sudden traffic snarl and the owners decided abandon them, walked off to god knows where. One thing that struck me however, was that as we walked away from where the vehicles were facing, the models of the cars tend to get newer, in terms of their years of release. But despite the differing years of release, they all looked similarly worn out, like they have been there for an equal amount of time.

I did not have a lot of time to process that observation though, because as we passed a BMW with its passenger door missing, we stopped dead in our tracks. Nestled between the wall and a Toyota, only a few feet away, a familiar sight greeted us. A car that looked eerily similar to what we were driving less than a day ago, a Malaysian produced car called the Myvi. Painted blue with the words ‘JD Car Rental Services’ emblazoned in red and yellow at its side. Like the many vehicles that we had encountered, the Myvi looked as if it has been there for some time, even though only a few hours had passed after we last saw it. The tyres were flat, the paint less vibrant, coated in dirt.
Surprisingly, was how the Myvi was the last car in the long line of abandoned vehicles, the Toyota just inches in front of it. As if it was the last car to join this queue of vehicular death. Behind them, only empty road remained. There was a sharp bend not far away, which prevented us from seeing anything beyond it.

Dave seemed to be studying the Myvi, while his right hand told us to stay. After a while, he turned back to us, his face pale. “I think there’s someone sitting at the back of the car.” A cold ran down my back.

I peeked out from my location, hoping that Dave’s eyes were playing tricks on him, and although my view was partially blocked, there was indeed a figure at the back of the car. Or what looked like a human figure. The dim lighting made it hard to discern what I was looking at. I stared at it for a good few minutes, hoping to make out what it is, but it just remained still the whole time, unmoving. I could clearly see a figure resembling a human, but the features were covered it shadows.
What unnerved me was how the longer I stared at the figure, the more uneasy I felt. It was like the figure was staring back at me, though that I could not see its eyes. Fear got the better of me, as I quickly crept back towards Dave and Cecilia. The image of the figure lingered at the back of my mind.

“So, what should we do?” I hastily asked, hoping to shake off the feeling that I had. From Dave’s face, I guessed he experienced the same thing too.

“I’m not going there,” Cecilia curtly responded, her hands wrapped tightly around Dave’s arms. I still could not understand how she’s still able to love him, despite his recent confession that he was responsible for the mess that he had gotten us into. I wanted to punch him on the spot if I could. But she was genuinely afraid, you could see it on her face, and perhaps why she clung to him.

Dave studied Cecilia, then turned back to me, his eyes already asking me for a favour. “Could you just go check our car out? Perhaps you can figure out if that is indeed our car, and what or who is in the backseat?” I was hoping that he would not ask that.

I asked Dave to give me a while, which he agreed. To be honest, I am just stalling for time, because a nagging feeling is telling me that we would not like what we find.

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