The Tale of Ah Huat

Ah Huat squatted behind his mother’s food cart and peered through the spokes of a rusty, dented wheel. The pavement beneath his feet was dry and dusty, and an empty plastic bag with thin bright pink strings for handles flapped in the breeze, a damp straw sticking to the ground. Only traces of the Green Spot that had once been it remained, seeping at the edges.

 

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Life After Death

I have been dead for three years now. I died at the ripe old age of 66, peacefully, calmly, of a heart attack in my sleep. My heart just suddenly froze, went into a few spasms, and then stopped like a battery gone flat. The whole affair was so smooth, even I didn’t notice it. I only realized what had happened when my wife came into our room, saw my lifeless body, and screamed for our grown up son who then came running, got all flustered and made a phone call on his mobile, striding up and down the room with a hand on his hip.

 

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The See-Through Girl

So a bird never diverts from its path of flight, little Kwan never deflected from her goal of becoming transparent. She was a wall of glass, a crystalline pane that the world could reflect itself through; a film through which parties on either side could see each other but not themselves. And, of course, being transparent also meant that Kwan was invisible.

 

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Rami

Under the shade of the willow tree, eight-year old Rami dangled his toes into the muddy river water. He had parked his oversized, rickety bicycle against the wide girth of the tree trunk and flung his singlet on the ground. His flip flops too had been kicked off and lay resting on the parched grass, like to wet fish out of water. The hot afternoon sun beat down, too bright for rays, instead one all consuming blanket of heat that wrapped itself around every creature, every blade of grass, every human in a clingy embrace. Occasionally a breeze would break through the curtain of heat, drawing it apart for a momentary swish, then letting it fall back closed again, a heavy drape that let nothing through.

 

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Packing for Four

The flat boxes arrived and sat in a stack on the verandah. Big ones, small ones, some clean with just the movers’ logo, name and number printed clearly on the sides, fresh and unused; others with labels from previous moves. “Books and toys”; “old baju, storeroom”; “plates, bowls, blender, mum’s wok”; “gor gor’s shoes and uniforms.” In different handwriting, some scrawled, others neatly penned, each one a mark of a life that shifted, a family, a relationship, an upheaval and dismantling of the little bits and pieces that stick together in a home, the minutiae of our lives, taken apart, bundled in newspaper and bubble wrap, boxed in, taped up and labeled – to say where their new destination was, the right place for them to end up in.

 

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Fiction

A Swim in the Lake

I am a swimming in an icy blue lake. The water is deliciously cold and the colour of navy: clean, strong and peaceful. Around the lake are mountains laced with conifer forests. The trees gather around the lake’s edge, dipping their feathery fingers into the water, tasting it, brushing it. They are densest near the lake and as they move up the mountain side they peter out, finally becoming strands of green on white-grey speckled rock. The mountains are immense, huge slabs of rock rising out of the earth and piercing the flawless blue sky. They roar with might and tower over everything around them, earth’s sentinels, our gatekeepers. Their seemingly impenetrable mass belies a belly of caves and rivers, an impossible labyrinth, a world beneath our own.

 

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