Kaleidoscope: slices of life – The Gatekeeper

Written by: Katelyn Joshy (21-U1), Nigel Ng (21-A3)

That fateful night… 

I lifted my gaze and focused it on the hideous figure that stood inside the mirror- Thick overgrown, ebony black hair covered its raven black eyes. Its crimson red lips parted to reveal a row of gnarly teeth. ‘Why must you be such a freak?’ I glowered. 


Growing up, the world taught me a cruel lesson, ‘Fit in or don’t.’- I was, unfortunately, part of the reject pile from day one. I was born on 13th November 1997, a Friday, in the dead of night amidst a raging storm. I came into this world, red-faced and bawling at the most ungodly hour- 3:00 A.M. Yet, the peculiarities of my existence were only just being discovered. It quickly became clear to all in the delivery room that night this was no ordinary child. As the nurses swaddled me in the washcloth, they couldn’t help noticing the stark contrast between my mother and me. There wasn’t a hint of Mum’s traits in me- Her blonde hair and aqua blue eyes never translated to her child. 

Needless to say, my childhood was abnormal. There were so many strange phenomena I experienced throughout my early years that I could never quite reason out. It started with small things like the allure of the darkness, then it quickly escalated into something more sinister. I started hearing voices and seeing people walking that aren’t there. Anything I touched seemed to die shortly after, from the flowers in the garden to the neighbour’s dog. Yet, the most bizarre of all is the recurring nightmares I have every night:

In a world bathed in darkness, a powerful man sits on a throne of skulls. This man is tall, with stately features. He has unruly Vantablack hair and a menacing gaze, clad in a sweeping black rob. His world is loyally protected by his pet, a three-headed dog-like creature. Then a thunderous sound erupts as a bolt of lightning flashes- suddenly, the man is no more. All hell breaks loose as spirits, demons and many more subhuman entities escape the dark realm to reach Earth. The world is in an apocalyptic state as shadow spirits roam the Earth, searching for human victims. Humans become possessed at the sight of the entities, and mass suicides occur…

I remember vividly the first time I had this vision, and since then, I slept with a dreamcatcher over my bed, but the nightmares never left me- even to this day. 

The incident left me traumatised, and I was never the same again. Then, it became clear to me ‘different’ wasn’t celebrated in this world; it was something outcasted, which my family became. At times, it felt so isolating- just me and my Mum against the rest of the world, but there was strength in the knowledge that we were together. 

“You’re special, son. I mean it.”, “One day, you’ll find your place in this world and realise the destiny you were born for.”, Mum once told me. At the time, I thought Mum was just saying to make me feel better. Yet, it was really the beginning of my journey to manifesting my fate. 


That fateful night…

“Zach! Time for bed!” Mum hollered from the kitchen downstairs. I instantly spun on my heel, tearing my gaze from my reflection in the mirror. Flipping the light switch, I raced to my bed, diving under the covers. Fatigue soon took over me, I fell into a deep sleep.   

In a world bathed in darkness, a powerful man sits on a throne of skulls. This man is tall, with stately features. He has unruly Vantablack hair and a menacing gaze, clad in a sweeping black rob. His world is loyally protected by his pet, a three-headed dog-like creature. Then a thunderous sound erupts as a bolt of lightning flashes- “ZACHARIUS!”, the last word that escapes the man’s lips before he is no more.

A searing agony shot through my body, jolting me awake. “AAHHHH!” I cried like a banshee. Then, a wave of blistering heat wept over my body, singeing my skin. In the struggle, I fell off the bed and saw it; Fern-like patterns of blue-black cutaneous marks sprawled across my arm. 

“…WH..WHAT?!!”, my gaze was fixed on the horrifying sight. A flurry of thoughts ambushed my mind.

 ‘MY NAME! HOW?!.. HE SAID MY NAME!’. 

Suddenly, the world purpled down into darkness, and the ground beneath my feet trembled with rage. The tremors grew in intensity, building up rapidly to a crescendo before the land was ripped into two. Then, shadowy figures started creeping out. I felt a dull ache as the feeling of déjà vu descended upon me. ‘THIS ISN’T BE HAPPENING! THIS ISN’T BE HAPPENING!!’, my mind screamed. Suddenly, a black void materialised before my very eyes, and an unseen force shoved me into it. I let out an ear-piercing shriek as I fell through what seemed like a dark, bottomless pit. 

Suddenly, the unseen force overpowered me and gently lowered me to the ground. I awoke in a world bathed in darkness. It was the place I saw in my nightmares. “WHERE AM I? WHY DID YOU BRING ME HERE!” I yelled aimlessly at the darkness. A moment of silence ensued before an unseen voice whispered, “Let me show you.” Suddenly, a pair of hands reached out from behind me and covered my eyes- I started seeing visions. 

The powerful man in black robes affectionately strokes the pregnant belly of a woman- his wife. His family disagrees with the union; the man fights furiously with his older brother clad in white robes. The powerful man’s wife is banished from his world, sent back to live amongst the mortals on Earth. Her face was revealed as she turned back to look at him the last time- MOTHER. 

“NO!” I screamed. “IT CAN’T BE!” I struggled to free myself from the unseen hands. 

“It is. You know it yourself. The childhood you had, your life experiences were by no means a misfortune. You are no ordinary boy; you are the son of the Divine. A half-blood prince, gifted with the abilities possessed by your late father”, the voice boomed.

“THIS IS NOT REAL!”, my hands flew to cover my ears. I shut my eyes tight. 

‘What about now?’, the unseen voice whispered in my head.

My eyes flew open in horror, ‘HOW?’ 

‘This is real, Zacharius. Believe it.’

“What do you want from me?” I croaked.

“It is not what I want from you. It is what your father would have wanted from you.”

“My father..”, my thoughts lingered on the mention of my father- the biggest enigma of my life. 

“Tell me what you know.”

“Very well. The man in your dreams is your father- you are the son of Hades, God of the Underworld. By loving your mother, the King of the Underworld went against the rules of Olympus- Loving a mortal. Their love was forbidden, and Zeus, your uncle, banished your mother to Earth. When Zeus found out about your existence, he was ready to end your life. Your father tried to stop him, but nothing stands in Zeus’ path.” the unseen voice echoed once again. 

A stubborn lump formed in your throat, “So he killed him”, my voice trembled with silent rage. 

“Zeus couldn’t afford a half-blood succeeding a God. It would disrupt the order of our universe- The Gods above and mortals beneath them, no exceptions. The sanctity of Olympus was at stake.”

A long, painful silence ensued as I tried to let reality sink in. A flurry of emotions plagued me, choking up my throat as I forced the words out; “The pain…I felt when I saw…when I saw the visions… of his death….”

 “A part of Hades resides in you; when Zeus’ bolt struck him, you felt it too. A part of you died that day.”

Those words set me ablaze, ‘A part I will never get back.’

“Those dreams you had since childhood are not nightmares- Like your abilities, they are no coincidence. They are visions of the prophecy you are to fulfil when the time is right. That is your fate. From birth, you were destined to avenge the death of Hades and bring salvation to mankind by taking your father’s place as Gatekeeper to the Underworld.”

“That time is now…” the rage that seethed within me built up to a fever pitch.

“I am ready for Zues”, every syllable dripped with contempt. 

“Not so fast Zacharius, battling Zeus is not a simple task. Drink the ambrosia from this urn; it will give you the strength to fight Zeus- God to God.” 

I could vaguely make out the silhouette of an urn by my side. Grabbing it, I brought it up to my lips, hastily wrestling the lid off. I titled the contents of the urn into my mouth and swallowed it in one gulp.

My body started morphing, “AAAHHH!”. My bones stretched as I grew to a colossal height, towering over the lands. My wounds healed, the Fern-like scars gone. My palms glowed an ominous grey as my pupils enlarged to fill the whites of my eyeballs. 

‘Are you ready to feel the wrath of The Gatekeeper?’ 

Kaleidoscope: slices of life – Love, Furniture and other delusions

Written by: Chen Jiulin (20-E1), Hana Razali (20-I1), Leia Ong (20-U1)

Designed by: Liew Yi Xuan (21-E1)

An empty, dark stage. Spotlight on a single chair in the middle, with TOMOKO, a teenage girl wearing a school uniform, standing behind it in darkness. As TOMOKO speaks, the stage lights gradually go up, illuminating her surroundings. 

TOMOKO: I used to live, once. I used to live… everyone did. But no one else has lived since then. Some sort of plague, probably, that had made you die, and grow cold and unfeeling and steely. And everyone had died. No one laughed, no one sang, there were no voices because no one was kind anymore. I could not find you. I could not find you in this mess. One morning I woke up and everyone had become a piece of wood, some electrical appliance, some household item. Some thing.

No, no, this will not do. You — have to save me. Show me that you… still have a heart. You can’t expect me to be okay. You can’t expect anyone to be. I am drowning in a sea of bloody furniture. The world is like an IKEA store, and I can’t find a way out.

Can you believe it? No one ever says what they feel. I feel claustrophobic. They are not living, are they? Everyone is too courteous. Too lifeless. And please tell me you realise that, because I would be disappointed otherwise. 

A pause. Someone taps TOMOKO’s shoulder and she turns. It’s a human boy, also in uniform. 

TOMOKO [Aside]: Well, except for this guy.

Stage lights go up fully. TOMOKO and the boy, SOSUKE BOSUKE, stand in a school corridor in the early morning. Numerous pieces of furniture litter the stage, moving and talking.

SOSUKE BOSUKE [panting]: What’s good? I almost made it on time, but then the prefect at the door blocked me. Darn.

TOMOKO [knowingly]: That umbrella stand. Awful piece of work.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Tomoko, you know that’s not true. 

TOMOKO: Laugh away, Sosuke. I’ve been trying to tell you for weeks, but you know they have changed. You’re just in shock from everything that happened.

SOSUKE BOSUKE [sighing]: No, no. We’re not starting this again. Please, no one’s turned into furniture

A pause. They stare at each other: TOMOKO unrelenting, SOSUKE resigned. 

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Whatever. Anyway, did you hear about the assignment Ms Fan asked us to do?

TOMOKO: What! Well, to be honest, I couldn’t tell if it was her or the teacher’s table speaking, so.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Tomoko…

Still bickering, they enter a classroom. It is filled with twice the amount of furniture and household appliances than usual. 

Someone catches Tomoko’s eye — a tall and good-looking figure sitting at the back of the classroom.

TOMOKO [dramatically]: Oh! Oh. He’s here.

Spotlight on the figure. It is revealed to be a tall and good-looking refrigerator.

TOMOKO: Fridge Kun. 

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Stop calling him that, you know his real name’s— 

TOMOKO: Fridge Kun. God, Fridge Kun. [SOSUKE BOSUKE rolls his eyes, exasperated.]

TOMOKO goes over to the refrigerator, clearing her throat. 

FRIDGE [falsely pleasant]: If it isn’t Tomoko Chan. How’s it been, a month or so?

TOMOKO: Fine, I guess. I mean, after the break-up, I was hoping we could still stay— 

FRIDGE [interjecting smoothly]: Friends? Of course. 

TOMOKO: That’s nice, that’s… great. [Her eyes dart around.] Who was that other… person who was with you the other day? I saw you across the street, opposite school— 

FRIDGE: Oh. She’s my girlfriend. It was a real heat-of-the-moment thing. [He laughs.] She’s great, she’s really caring. Too soon?

TOMOKO [laughing uncomfortably]: It’s fine. I actually… just got together with someone a week ago, too. He’s… really mature. I’m a little naive so it’s great to have him by my side, I really… respect people… like him. [Aside] He’s gotten hitched already? How dare he?

FRIDGE: [chuckles politely] Wonderful. No hard feelings, I hope.

Pause. FRIDGE goes back to reading his textbook. TOMOKO doesn’t move.

TOMOKO:  I don’t… understand. How are you — why are you — you’re still different. You are not who I knew you were. You really have… died, too. You are a refrigerator, and your heart is cold like any other empty… fridge.

Stage lights down as TOMOKO and FRIDGE are spotlighted.

FRIDGE [coldly]: Tomoko, I don’t follow.

TOMOKO [increasingly agitated]: Stop. Stop coming here and showing your face when this isn’t even your homeroom, when you just want to see your stupid new tool! What’s her name, now, huh? Daikin? Mitsubishi?

FRIDGE [controlling himself with an effort]: Tomoko, please. It’s Dyson. Besides, I have every right to be here. My next class is here; this has nothing to do with you.

TOMOKO: I don’t care. How can you come for class early — knowing I’m here — and not expect me to get mad at you? Especially after you rub it in my face that you—  You know we made a pact to never see each other again. How could you break that?

FRIDGE: We made no such pact, Tomoko. 

TOMOKO: Well, I just did, at any rate. And so should you. How can you just — sit there like that all cold and smug and lifeless, knowing what you did to me? And so quickly get attached again?

FRIDGE: Tomoko, it was for the best. We are clearly incompatible. Look at us. Now please honour your pact and never speak to me again. Good day.

TOMOKO [exclaiming]: How was I supposed to know that when we first met? I wish I’d never met you — no, sometimes, I feel like pulling your plug!

Horrible silence in the homeroom. The furniture-students have turned to stare at the altercation. TOMOKO whirls around. 

TOMOKO: Yeah, you heard me! All your plugs, I’ll pull them! I’m insane! You’re plastic! [She laughs maniacally.]

SOSUKE BOSUKE: [going over] Tomoko, that’s enough! 

They exit the classroom together, SOSUKE BOSUKE bodily tugging TOMOKO outside.

TOMOKO: Sosuke, why did you stop me?

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Tomoko, you can’t just say stuff like that! That was nuts and mean and probably socially unacceptable on every level. You’ll go viral for that.

TOMOKO: Why? They won’t care. They don’t even have feelings. They’re furniture!

SOSUKE BOSUKE: They are human people

TOMOKO [in distress]: Not like you and me! You don’t understand! They’ve never been!

SOSUKE BOSUKE stares at TOMOKO, who is breathing heavily, and shakes his head.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: No — you don’t understand! What’s with the ‘us’ or ‘them’? There is no ‘us’ nor ‘them’! Please, can’t you try to be normal! Can’t you try to agree with me, just once?

A pause. SOSUKE BOSUKE laughs defeatedly.

You know what? You’re right. I don’t get it, and I don’t think I ever will. But now I don’t want to understand anymore. I can’t be friends with someone who says things like that to other people. You’ve gone too far.

SOSUKE BOSUKE turns around, back to TOMOKO. 

SOSUKE BOSUKE: This is it. Bye, I guess. It was good while it lasted. [He picks up his things and walks off.]

TOMOKO stands alone in the hallway, silently watching SOSUKE BOSUKE disappear. As he nears the end of the corridor, he is replaced by a chair, moving in the same direction.

TOMOKO [whispering]: All of them, the same.

Blackout.

Some months have passed.

SOSUKE BOSUKE stands alone on a dark stage, a chair beside him.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: You really left. I didn’t think you would actually transfer out. I had kept hoping that that day had been an — an anomaly, that you were still the bright, imaginative Tomoko I used to know, but in the end I guess I really never knew you at all.

That day, I had hoped that that ‘you’ would return the next day. And yet… and yet… in the morning as I had gone for class, silence had wrapped about me like a virus. You never came back. Nothing had changed at all.

And I can’t say that you were wrong either. Everybody had indeed gotten colder after that day — though seeing them as furniture might have been going too far. If I ever saw you just once, I would make amends.

Stage lights up, revealing SOSUKE BOSUKE and TOMOKO standing in a train cabin, and the chair to be a passenger seat.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Tomoko. It’s been a while. How’ve you been?

TOMOKO [shocked]: Sosuke. 

A pause. The train jolts.

I’ve been… great, actually! After I transferred out, you wouldn’t believe how many desks and stools I’ve become friends with. Everyone there is so studious, so quiet, and they love to listen whenever I talk to them.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Listen, about last time— 

TOMOKO [interjecting]: You know how there’s a new movie coming out? I’m in it.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: What movie?

TOMOKO: The new movie, you know? I’m acting in it.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Really? What’s its name?

TOMOKO: Well, I mean, I’m playing a side role. Not that spectacular, but still commendable if I say so myself, considering I’ll be the only human in it.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: …So what’s the name of the movie?

TOMOKO: Okay, maybe not a side character. An extra, but still… 

TOMOKO’s voice fades away as the lights fade out, leaving SOSUKE BOSUKE alone onstage again.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: You haven’t changed, either. I wanted to make amends, but you’re not the Tomoko I knew before, before you told me people had turned into chairs. You’ve been so caught up in your own world, that I don’t know how to talk to you anymore. I feel so… distant. 

Talking to you is like talking to… a piece of wood.

A few more stage lights go up, revealing a chair in front of SOSUKE BOSUKE. TOMOKO has disappeared.

SOSUKE BOSUKE: Well, I guess this is… farewell.

Curtain.

Kaleidoscope: slices of life – the bittersweet pub

Written by: Ashley Koh (21-A1)

Designed by: Liew Yi Xuan (21-E1)

Five drunk guys walk into a bar, and the bartender gains catharsis through her reconnection with one of them. 

Glasses clink. Chatter rises and falls in volume. Drunken laughter fills the air. Chairs and stools squeak as people, inebriated, shift uncomfortably in their seats.

Dawn sees all of this as she calmly wipes a drinking glass. The towel in her hand is rough and caked in dirt, passed down by generations of bartenders. But though her eyes scan the bar, her mind isn’t here. 

The harsh words her boyfriend yelled at her this morning still echo in her mind, and she winces as she recalls the equally piercing words she screamed back. He left their home in a huff, slamming the door and leaving Dawn to sob by herself. 

Since then, it’s been radio silence from him. 

She checks her phone again. No messages. Sighing, she slips it back in her pocket and continues to absent-mindedly wipe a glass. 

“Dawn!” Her coworker, Tyler, calls. “Help me bring these bottles out.” 

She places the glass next to the sink, and hops back into the inventory room. 

“You got it?” Tyler asks as he carefully loads a few liquor bottles into Dawn’s arms. Focused on not dropping the bottles, she can only nod. 

As she leaves the inventory room, she hears the bell attached to the door ring. 

“Welcome to the Bittersweet Pub! I’ll be with you in a second.” Drunken shouts greet her words, and she sighs once more. There’s maybe about five people here. Carefully, she places the bottles down, then turns around to face the counter. 

“What can I get you-” She stops. 

No. It can’t be. She thought she would never see that face again.

“My buddy Kenny’s getting promoted! It’s his last night as a mortal man! We want everything on the menu!” 

She thought she would never hear that name again. 

“Stoooppp,” one of the men slurs drunkenly, swiping at his buddy’s shirt aimlessly. 

And though his words are muddled by alcohol, she never thought she would hear that voice again. 

“R-right. What, uh, what would you like to start with?” She furiously tamps down the feeling of panic, and her customer service smile smoothly slides onto her face. “May I recommend the Portuguese Water to start? It’s gin-“ 

“Anything’s fine, lady. Just get us drinks and keep ‘em going!” She nods wordlessly, then turns behind the counter. 

Internally, she’s screaming. The last time she saw him, she was seventeen. 

And he was her first boyfriend. 


Kenny Rodriguez seemingly had it all. Student Council President, head of his CCA, popular among a vast majority of the school. And he was Spanish, which made him even more alluring to most of the school. 

Dawn wasn’t a nerd, nor was she *unpopular*. But Kenny’s popularity reached superstardom, while she preferred mingling in small groups. 

They were never supposed to meet, let alone hit it off. But when they attended the same woodworking workshop as part of the Sabbatical Module, something between them clicked. 

They were friends at first, but quickly their relationship evolved into something more. In each other, they found the best friend they never knew they needed.

At the start, everything was perfect. Both were head over heels for each other, and even thinking back to then 10 years later, the level of attraction her 17-year-old self had towards Kenny still makes Dawn’s heart pound. 

But slowly, she realised that dating a guy with so many commitments in school spells trouble, inevitably. 

They had dinner dates on Thursdays, and went out together on Saturdays. But gradually, she had to wait more and more for him. 

Minutes turned to hours, then days. He always came back, apologising profusely and like a fool, she always forgave him. 

Then one day, four months later, he sat her down and broke up with her. 

“You deserve someone better, who can give you the things I can’t give.” That was the line Dawn remembered the most. When she soaked her pillow in tears and screamed into her bolster for nights afterwards, she latched onto that line like a toxic lifeline. It sustained her rage and her resentment, and gradually she grew to hate him. 

But a part of her also hurt, because she dug out such a big hole in her heart for him and now there was nothing left to fill it. 

For months and years after that, she dated a whole string of guys that were so obviously wrong for her, just to feel something close to what she felt before. 

It always failed. And ten years later, that failure has come back to haunt her as she sees him sitting, drunk, in front of the bar counter she works at. 


All night, Dawn serves them drinks. She’s glad that even inebriated, they are civilised enough to keep their hands to themselves. Unfortunately, she isn’t saved from drunken leering and them egging each other on in front of her. 

‘It’s just another day of work.’ Dawn reminds herself, ad infinitum. Not just to have the patience to deal with the men, but to have self-control as her eyes hover over Kenny’s face again and again.

When the clock strikes two, it seems a switch has been pulled. Phones vibrate, ding, and even ring. As the men open texts and pick up calls, the only one still sitting down at the counter, nursing his drink, is Kenny. 

One by one, they file out of the bar, and Kenny waves goodbye to each of them drunkenly. 

The last to leave, presumably his best friend, murmurs, “I’m not that drunk, so I can still drive you home.” Kenny waves him off, and the other man laughs. 

“Suit yourself, idiot.” Then he looks at Dawn, then back at Kenny, and a look of understanding slowly appears on his face. He winks, then laughs and leaves the bar. Dawn’s jaw clenches, and she focuses on pouring away the rest of the drink in the glass. As the door slams, the realisation sets in her. 

It’s just him and her now. 

“So, promotion, huh?” Kenny looks up blearily at her, then nods his head slowly in response to her comment. “What position?” 

He takes a while to think, then murmurs something too soft for her to hear. 

“What?” 

“I said, Assistant Manager.” He says more loudly, sounding more annoyed than drunk now. 

“Sorry,” Dawn says, palms up in surrender. “What company?” 

“Redwood. It’s a…law firm.” Dawn smiles. Somehow, even though he was so busy, she always expected him to go down the traditional Asian route. He loosens his tie, then places it down on the counter. 

Then he coughs, as it was choking him. Under his breath, Dawn hears him swear. 

“Y’know, I never wanted this promotion. I was happy. Happy to stay where I was and just toil away. 9 to 5 suits me. All I need to do is keep my head down, do my job, and mind my own business.” He rests the cold glass against his forehead, and when he pulls it away, rivulets of water chase each other down his forehead to his cheeks. 

“But now, I need to care about what everyone wants. It’s exhausting.” Kenny sighs, and lays his head on the table. 

Quietly, he murmurs, “I had enough of that in JC.” Dawn stiffens slightly. 

“Uh, what did you do in JC? That made you so tired of leading people?” At this point, Dawn is pretty impressed with herself for only calmly wiping glasses and not throwing them down and sprinting out of the bar. 

“Everything. Council, CCA president…” He begins to slur drunkenly, then shakes his head. “I did all kinds of stuff, ‘cause I thought they would…look good on my resumé.” He scoffs. “Turns out none of that stuff matters in Uni. Or when you apply for a job.” 

“But you managed to get into a law firm! That’s pretty impressive.” What is she doing? Consoling him about his own insecurities? Where is the hatred she felt? 

“Yah, after struggling like hell. Honestly, I only got in because I’m best friends with the Manager’s son. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even have had a chance to go for an interview.” 

He sighs deeply, then lifts his glass for another drink. Dawn moves to the liquor bottles, but something in her says no. 

“You can have tea instead. I’m sure you have work tomorrow,” She pushes his glass away. His reproachful look only earns him a firm stare, and he backs down.  

From beneath the counter, she fetches a dusty old kettle, and begins to boil water. As she pours the water into a tiny jade tea cup, Kenny starts to speak again. 

“There was a girl. Who I dated for a bit at the start of JC.” Here it is. Dawn swallows nervously, and carefully places the teacup in front of him. 

“What was her name? Diana? Danielle? Daphne? Wh-“ 

“Drink it while it’s still hot,” Dawn quickly interjects. Her eyes glance downwards. To her horror, she realises her name tag has been pinned to her uniform all this time. Hastily, she unpins it and shoves it in her pocket. 

“Thanks.” Kenny mumbles, oblivious to her hurried movement. In one swift movement, almost like taking a shot, he gulps down the tea. Afterwards, he shudders and shakes his head vigorously, almost like a dog getting rid of excess water. 

Eager to escape the situation she’s found herself in, she stands up and steps in front of the counter. “Come on, you should go now, it’s late. I’ll get a cab for you.” 

He staggers up obediently, and nearly collapses on Dawn. Luckily for her, she has quick reflexes. Almost immediately, she catches him by the shoulders, and turns him around towards the door. 

“This way.” She steers him out of the bar. 

Outside, as Dawn calls for a Grab, he plops down on the pavement next to her.

“It should be here in about ten minutes. Can you wait?” 

He smiles, and nods his head. She returns the smile, and moves to head back into the bar. 

“Thank you, Dawn.” She stops in her tracks. 

“It-it’s nothing. All of those in the service line should put their customers first.” He probably just remembered her name from the name tag. 

“And I’m sorry to you for what I did all those years ago.” Oh. It wasn’t just the name tag. Hesitatingly, she sits back down on the pavement next to Kenny. 

“I was a mess.” Even though her first instinct is to reject that statement, Dawn knows deep down it’s true. 

“I didn’t handle things well, and I took on way too much, just to prove I was worth something. But you were the only one who ACTUALLY made me feel I had value, and that there was someone who wanted me around.” In response, Dawn’s throat tightens. “I was an idiot. I didn’t value you enough. Or maybe I just couldn’t back then. I don’t know if this is enough, but I truly am sorry for what I did to you.”

He wipes his face, and with a start, Dawn realises he’s crying. Kenny Rodriguez, former shining star and untouchable school icon, is breaking down in front of her. 

“You DID deserve better, but I shouldn’t have used that as an excuse. I was just being a coward.” Quietly, he sniffles. 

“Afterwards, I missed you so badly. I did everything I could to put you out of my mind, but I just couldn’t. I kept asking about you, until all of my friends knew I wasn’t okay, that I was heartbroken. I kept wanting to go back to you. But it was too late. I saw you, slowly moving on, becoming a star in your own right.” Quietly, Dawn laughs. That’s how he saw her? Wow. 

They sit in silence for a bit, then abruptly, he turns to her, and catches her hands in his. The look he gives her is both blood-shot and absolutely desperate. 

“Please, I messed up all those years ago. If you can, please, let me try again. With you.” 

Dawn’s breath hitches. Isn’t this the second chance she wanted all those years ago? To feel how she felt about Kenny again? 

She wants to say it so badly. Her seventeen-year-old self is screaming at her to say it, to just say yes. What are you waiting for you absolute idiot? 

And yet, she can’t. Surprisingly, a larger part of her doesn’t want to. As mad as she is at him, her current boyfriend’s face floats into her mind. 

“I’m sorry. But that was 10 years ago. And I think what happened in the past should stay in the past.” 

He looks crestfallen. 

Guilt is beginning to swallow her up. Did she make the right choice? Should she have said yes after all? But he stands up, wobbling a little, and Dawn shoots up next to him. 

“Okay,” he says, looking at her with still blood-shot but now earnest eyes, “okay. I get it. But I’m still sorry for treating you that way.” She smiles. 

“I appreciate it.” She pauses, then continues. “And you should know that you have value. You’ve always had value, because you work hard for what you want.” 

Blearily, he grins at her in thanks. 

Bright lights shine onto them from a distance, and tires crunch on gravel as a yellow taxi pulls up into sight. 

Kenny staggers into the taxi with Dawn’s help, and settles heavily onto the back seat. 

“Get home safe,” she tells him as she closes the door. Kenny nods, then takes Dawn’s hand and kisses it through the open window. 

“Goodbye, Dawn.” He says, grinning. 

“Farewell, Kenny.” Dawn murmurs as the taxi drives off. Slowly, she caresses the spot on her hand where Kenny kissed, then drops her hand completely. 

Her phone pings. 

BABE I’m sorry for what I said this morning. And for disappearing. Let me make it up to you. 

BABE Where are you? I’ll come pick you up. 

She smiles. 

DAWN I’m still at the bar. 

DAWN And it’s okay. I shouldn’t have said what I said either. 

DAWN I love you. See you soon. 

She tucks her phone into her pocket, and looks up at the sky. It looks bright. The stars are out, and Venus is particularly luminescent today.

Kaleidoscope: slices of life – that woman stares at me

Written by: Nigel Ng Ngan Siang (21-A3), Tan Le Kai (21-I4), Zuo Yuning (21-A1)

Designed by: Jervis Ch’ng Yun Ping (21-U5)

The power of any mirror lies in the fact that you can see yourself in it. 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

The princess took a bite from the apple,

Destined, she fell into a lifeless slumber. 

Motionless, she laid for eternity,

A prince she awaits, desperately

Till the day he came along,

Courageous, charming and rich,

He saved the princess from the witch.”

“Aren’t you the next Eminem?” His mother complimented, ruffling his long, unkempt hair.

“I may spit sick bars, mother, but unlike Eminen, I love my mother very much”. He said, staring at his mother with his deep, dark, naive eyes.

“It’s bedtime dear. Take your medicine and go to bed.”

“Yes mother.”

The next day, the boy and his mother went to explore the sleepy town. It was a quiet, remote town that remains relatively unknown to the outside world, apart from occasionally winning giant pumpkin contests. When they first moved in, the duo had travelled an hour of dilapidated road to reach the town. The boy wore a white shirt with vulgar words printed on it. It was slightly larger than his size, clearly not made for a child. Then there was his mother, a young woman who seemed to have no style. Her outfits were always a mere rotation of what was found in her closet, and it did not take long for the townsfolk to notice that her wardrobe selection was limited. Everyone in town knew everybody, so it was not long before the town folks took notice of the fresh faces. It was not long before the conservative town came to view the mother negatively. They noticed her drinking habits and questioned the choice of clothes for her son.  

The duo had moved into a house. A plain house. The house had been abandoned for a few years after the death of its home owner.It must have been sold by the government because the previous homeowner led a lonely existence.  The house was just as unmaintained as it was when it was sold. The lawn was overrun with tall grass and the structure of the house remained just as flimsy. 

From the early mornings to the late evening the mother would leave the house. The boy told the townsfolk that his mother was out for work and the townsfolk accepted his narrative. There was not much to do in town, and one had to move out of town to find decent work. The boy was instructed to stay home at all times, which he obliged. That was until curiosity got the better of him. He ran down to where the old people were found, where there were barely any children around. The old people were nice to the boy. They offered him candy, which he quickly accepted. He told them stories which utterly captivated them. This was where the town folk were first captivated by the narration of the pumpkin man. “He was tall, very tall.” the boy said. “ He wore a pumpkin for a head and is not from this town. He is from my hometown I think. I remember him as a child. I always see him in the mirror.He stands over me.”

At night, the mother returned with dinner. The boy was starving, but he imagined himself full. He stared deep in the mirror and saw himself with his belly full. The two convened over their day over dinner. The boy went on about the neighbours. Before bed, the mother and the son brushed their teeth. The boy stood in front while the mother stood behind. Through the mirror, the son looked like the mother. After that, the mother would tell the boy one of her stories, and tuck him in, not before he took his medicine. 

It was that night where things took a turn. The night was dark, but through his window the boy swore he saw the eyes of a man, who moved away upon being spotted. The man was on the lawn. The boy woke his mother up immediately, as repeatedly instructed. His mother hurried down, grabbing the key under the mat of her bathroom and unlocking the drawer. It revealed the gun that the boy had seen before. The mother stood in front, ten feet from her front door while the boy cowered silently behind her. 

It was a ghastly scene when the police arrived. It must have been stenched for days because the neighbours who reported it have smelt it from far away. The police would have confirmed two days later that bullets were fired, but only from the mother’s gun. It however would be definitive, confirmed by the police, that someone had broken in. It is however most peculiar that the stench was from a dead boar, those that frequent the woods around the small town, and to a lesser extent rotting pumpkins. Further investigations reveal footage the boy had bought the pumpkins himself from the store himself. Despite the disappearance of the boy and his mother, there was no evidence suggesting foul play so they were simply reported missing. Not except the note left behind by the boy, which included a detailed drawing of the pumpkin man as himself with a pumpkin on his head, with a note which wrote: Happy Pumpkin Day! We are going down the yellow brick road to see the pumpkin man! Good bye!

kaleidoscope: slices of life – The Final Trip

Written by: Aaron Wong Jielun (21-I4)

Designed by: Leanne Soh Li En (21-E6)

“She’s dead. Chloe is dead.” 

I begged the universe that whatever was transpiring was just a horrible, cruel prank. That her mother on the other end of the line would simply laugh it off, and say, “Oh, I was just kidding. Chloe is fine. She’s right beside me now. Why don’t you say hi to your friend, Chloe?”

The television screen in front of me displayed—like a tasteless elegy—the words: Breaking news! Tragic train accident. No survivors.

The phone I was holding to my ear dropped to the floor. 

My throat tightened. My hands wrapped around it and my fingers clawed at its unyielding flesh, trying to wrestle control away from the contracting muscles. I couldn’t breathe. 

Then, I remembered the power that I had. 

My throat relaxed, and I took in a few deep breaths. My eyes refocused and locked onto the television. As images flashed across the screen, bits of information burned into my retinas. Train ran along the Blackwell line. Accident occured at 1.23pm. Suspected train fault. 

Now that I had all the information I needed, I squeezed my eyes shut, and thought about the past. I pictured my childhood. A memory took shape: a little boy, playing with a little girl. Both of them smiling and giggling together, as if laughing at some joke only the two of them in the whole wide world could understand. The boy chasing the girl around a playground, never reaching her, always just barely out of arm’s reach. The blurry outline of her back, fading away along with the sound of her voice as her laughter slowly died away…

My eyes opened. The television in front of me had vanished, replaced by a looming oak tree whose shade neutralised warm, early afternoon sunlight. The cramped surroundings of my room had been replaced by the expanse of a park. 

I shot out my left wrist and hastily scanned the expressionless watch face affixed to it. 1.04pm. I had about 19 minutes to save her. I would just barely make it. I silently cursed the arbitrary restriction to my power—I could temporarily travel back to the past for at most one hour, but I could only travel back in time by three hours. Because of that, I didn’t have the option to travel back any further. Those 19 minutes were going to have to count.

Furiously whipping out my phone from my pocket, I dialed her number faster than the digits could appear on screen. My heart sank as the ringing tone continued for an excruciating few seconds. 

Please, pick up. Please…

The ringing tone abruptly ceased, and muffled noises sounded. Then, I heard barely audible background noises; a cordial announcement, played over a speaker, and the steady thrum of a train in motion. A chirpy voice soon drowned out those sounds.

“Hiya Max, it’s cool to hear from you! How’ve you been?”

“Listen, Chloe, you have to get off that train.”

“Uh yeah, I plan to, once it reaches its next stop in about half an hour!”

“No, you don’t understand. You have to get off, NOW. In 18 minutes, your train is going to get into an accident down the line, and everyone is going to die. You need to alert the crew. Or you can break a window, jump out, then-”

“Haha, I’ve always liked that dark sense of humour of yours.”

“No, I’m not kidding you, Chloe, I swear. Please, I beg you, get off the train now!” My voice had begun to crack like fissures on a sculpture, my commands reduced to desperate pleas.

“Wow, Max, you’ve really polished up your drama skills, haven’t you? Listen, the train’s coming up to a tunnel real soon, so we’ll lose connection, but I’ll call you back afterwards! I can’t wait to hear the second act of the great Shakespearean tragedy, Maxbeth! Talk to you later, bye!” 

Before my shouts could leave my lips, she had already ended the call.

I never got the return call. 

My surroundings shifted once again. I was back to the confinement of my room, its four walls trapping me in on all sides. Back in the present.

“She’s dead. Chloe is dead.” 

The same few words stabbed deep into my chest for a second time. Things could not end this way. I had to change everything. I would change everything.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I travelled back to the past again…

…where I ended up failing once more. So I travelled back again. Then, I failed. So I travelled back once again. This mad cycle continued on endlessly like an eternal purgatory. 

Not giving up, I tried every single method that I could think of. Across many different attempts, I called the police and also contacted the train service. I told them the truth. I told them lies. I spun them every single story I could concoct—family emergency, bomb threat, terrorist attack, and every other reason why a train would possibly want to halt. Across all the attempts, I was greeted by a mixture of disbelief, ridicule, and strained patience. Despite the variation, two conditions always remained constant: the train could only ever stop at its next station, and the train would never reach its next station.

Calling Chloe never ended well. Her warm, vibrant energy only dragged me deeper down a spiral of despair each time I heard it. Her playful voice, brimming with enthusiasm, was always oblivious to what was to come. It tortured me. 

She’s dead. Chloe is dead.

The words echoed in my mind for what was the… hundredth… no, thousandth time? I had lost track ages ago. Not that it mattered at all. Nothing that I did mattered. My power was meaningless… it couldn’t accomplish anything.

I hurled the phone in my hand towards the television as I yelled a disgusting, bitter cry. The phone crashed against the screen. Images and lights flushed away, leaving a shattered, black surface. I saw a face staring back at me from within the black void of the screen’s reflection. Disfigured by thready cracks, the pathetic face possessed blank eyes, its facial muscles contorted into a mask of raw, visceral pain. On its cheek was the unmistakable glint of moisture. I sucked in a shallow breath. Shut my eyes.

Okay. One last trip. 

I appeared back in the past. Slowly, with a shaking hand, I pulled out my phone. I dialed her number with greater difficulty than usual, my finger trembling with each tap. As her answer came close, my hands gradually became steadier. My rapid breaths stabilised, and my heartbeat slowed to a crawl. I knew what I had to do.

“Hiya Max, it’s cool to hear from you! How’ve you been?” 

Despite our physical distance, her excited voice enveloped me in a warmth that burned hotter than any fire. But underneath that warmth, I also felt a cold sadness. 

“I’m… doing fine, Chloe.” 

“That’s good. ‘Fine’ is good!”

I imagined the smile that she had on her face at that current moment. I also wished to smile, like her. My face relaxed, and the tension melted away. At last, the corners of my mouth perked up barely perceptibly. I had managed a weak smile, at least.

“Chloe… I have something I want to tell you.”

“Well, just say it, Max!”

“Chloe, you’ve been a great, dear friend to me all this while… You have always been at my side, even during the times when I didn’t realise I needed your support… I wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world… I want you to know that I’ll always remember you… even after a hundred… no, a thousand years…”

Tears streamed down my face. I paused, as much to collect myself as it was to give Chloe a chance to reply in confusion or jest. However, the other end of the line remained silent. She was waiting for me to continue, as if she was somehow expecting what I was about to say. 

These were the last two words I was ever going to say to her. I had made my choice. There was no going back after this.

“Farewell, Chloe.”

Kaleidoscope: slices of life – home

Written by: Katelyn Joshy (21-U1)

Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)

‘Please report to the nearest San Francisco police department to verify your citizenship status.’ My eyes halted at the last line; it was at that moment I realised that the jig was up, no more running from the truth. No more- My life was about to change forever, and there was no turning back. 

For as long as I can remember, America has been my home. I was raised here in San Francisco and had the typical American childhood: sleepovers, trick-o-treating- you name it. I grew up singing the national anthem. I recall proudly reciting the pledge of allegiance every day in school with a hand over my heart. There was never a shred of doubt in my mind that I belonged here until this came along: A letter from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It mandates my family show proof of our documentation. It quickly reminded me of my real place in society- an undocumented immigrant nobody and suddenly home was not home after all. My parents came from Pakistan, at the time a war-torn nation. The instability and political strife were what drove my parents to make the bold move of escaping with little me, just a few weeks olds and swaddled in a washcloth in the dead of night. I don’t know what happened that fateful night; my parents never spoke of it- like a horrible truth they wish to suppress. All I know was that we could have died that day, and it is a miracle I’m even here. We’ve been hiding from the authorities for all these years- registered under fake names and addresses to avoid detection. All this while, I thought we were in the clear- ‘Life is going to be normal,’ I said. Yet, with this letter in my hand- it seems we are finally on their radar.

“Maawa? What happened, child?” the sound of my mother’s voice echoed from behind me. My hand shot to my eyes, drying them off the tears that came streaking down my face. “Nothing, Ammi,” I said, shoving the letter behind my back. My mother insisted on seeing the letter, and soon panic set in as she glanced through the letter’s contents. “I will tell your Abba.” She said, trying to sound strong as she strode off to find my father. A plethora of thoughts plagued my mind; ‘What proof are we going to show when we have none?’, ‘What is going to become of us?’ and ‘What if we get deported?….’ are just some to name a few. Yet, the most important question remaining was; ‘What now?’, of that I had no clue of where to start. The decision laid in the hands of my father, who for years had furiously protected us and kept our family safe from any discovery. ‘Abba will know what to do.’ I reassured myself and waited with bated breath for his decision to be made known. 

That night, after dinner, my father called for a family meeting. “As you probably know, this morning we received a letter from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement… They are ordering us to show proof of our documentation as legal immigrants here within a week of notice… I know this is a shock for you as it is for me…” pausing, he tried collecting his thoughts; “The truth is, I don’t have a solution. We can’t deny they sent the letter to the wrong address, not when they’ve sent it to this address… All that’s left is to leave this place because it’s not safe here anymore… I know someone that can house us in the neighbouring city till we get this situation sorted out. For now, pack your bags. We leave tomorrow morning.” Those words caught me off guard, leaving me dumbfounded- ‘Abba doesn’t have a solution?’ Suddenly, my world turned upside down, and the future was uncertain. That night the house stirred with activity as everyone scrambled to pack their whole lives into a tiny suitcase. The stripped bare beds, fallen over the bookcase, and half-emptied cabinets gave the impression we left in a hurry- but we weren’t interested in impressions. All that mattered was we got to our new hideout safely.

The next thing I knew, we were packed off into a black jeep sent for us and drove miles away from San Francisco. We crossed highways, interstate lines, and borders- putting a distance between our old lives and edging closer towards our new ones. It took us days to get there, and of course, not without some close calls. At last, we finally made it. I peered out the window and caught my first glimpse of the small suburban neighbourhoods of Sacramento. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city were colonies of modest family homes lined up in neat rows. The jeep halted before a quaint red-bricked home that stood steadily at the end of the street. Its porch had all the perfect elements, complete with a porch couch and swing. It was made of limestone rock and cream walls, giving a sense of calm to the abode. A lush green garden bounded by a white picket fence grew out front, giving the home a sense of vitality. Just as I was taking in the splendour around me, a man came rushing out the front door: “Come my dear Anwar and family! We have been anxiously waiting for you!” ‘This must be the person Abba was talking about hosting us yesterday.’ I pondered to myself as I watched him help my mother with the baggage in the trunk- eyeing him suspiciously the whole time. ‘Why would anyone want to help a couple of strangers?’ was the first thought that came to mind. However, all those questions disrupted once I heard his backstory; His name was Hussain, and he happened to be a close friend of my father. Turns out, he was once an illegal immigrant himself till he managed to gain US citizenship years ago. Then, he settled down here in Sacramento with his wife, Mira. Suddenly, it all made sense, and I let my guard down.

Once inside, we were warmly welcomed by Aunty Mira. “Make yourself at home, dear”, cooed Aunty Mira as she led me to would-be my room. “I’ll fix you something to eat. Are you hungry?” she asked. I shook my head, shy of asking favours from a stranger. “Are you sure? You must be ravenous after that long journey. Come, tell me, what would you like to eat?” she insisted. “That’s alright Aunty, I’ve just eaten. Thank you for asking me.” I said. She gave me a warm smile: “Let me know if you need anything at all, dear.”, and she left me alone to unpack my things. As soon as she had gone, I shut the door and threw myself onto the bed. ‘Hello new life, goodbye old.’ I thought to myself woefully. Time went on, and we ended up living with them for several months before father could find us a stable home just a mile away from Uncle Hussain’s home. “It’s a single-story house; 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and half furnished!” father announced as we tucked into dinner that chilly September night. “I’ve made the down payment already. We can move in next Thursday,” he said, beaming. Those words were met with much joy by all at the dinner table. “Allahu Akbar!” cried Uncle Hussain. Lady Luck was looking upon us at last. ‘We’re finally getting our lives together, and everything will be just as it was.’, I thought to myself with a grin. 

In the blink of an eye, Thursday rolled around, and it was the day of the big move. “Call us anytime you need something, buddy. We’ll always be here.” Uncle Hussain choked back tears as he held father in an embrace. Soon, the trunk was filled, and the car doors slammed shut. “Have a safe journey!” they said before our vehicle zoomed off, turning the couple and their lovely home into tiny specks in the distance. As I gazed out the window, my thoughts drifted to our new home, and for the first time in a long time, I let out a sigh of relief. Yet, little did my family know that we were far from safety…

As soon as we arrived at our new home, we were ambushed by a group of officers. It was a trap! We were never safe! They’d been watching our every move, baiting us with the home to catch us in the open. I still remember that moment of anguish when the officers pinned my father to the ground and cuffed him. The sound of my mother’s hysteric voice still rings in my ear whenever I recall that moment. They shoved us into the back of a squad car and drove us to the immigration and customs headquarters. Now, deportation was a very real reality for us as the court order was being processed. “The court declares you must leave this country by 11:00 P.M. tomorrow night.”, said our caseworker. I was gutted, blinking away angry tears. I yelled: “THIS ISN’T FAIR, AMERICA IS MY HOME! YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO US!”. Yet, she said nothing, just gave us a rueful smile and walked away. My parents tried to console me, but it was futile. “It’s alright, Mawaa. Everything will be fine.”, said my mother as she placed an arm around my shoulder, squeezing it tight. “No.. no, it won’t..” I replied through my sobs. “Aren’t you devastated?” I asked, looking up. “We have to leave our home..Why aren’t you sad?” I said as my eyes searched theirs for any sign of despondency. “No, we aren’t, Mawaa. That’s because we have you,” they replied calmly. “I.. don’t understand,” I said, looking quizzically at them. With a sigh, they said: “Mawaa, you are our home. When we left Pakistan, you were all we brought along- the only memory of our former lives. That’s why we named you Mawaa- meaning home in Arabic. So, no matter where we are, as long as you are with us, we will always be home.”


Definition of culture specific terms used:

Ammi- the Urdu word for mother

Abba- the Urdu word for father 

Allahu Akbar-  phrase meaning ‘God is most great’, used by Muslims in prayers and as a general declaration of faith or thanksgiving. 

kaleidoscope: slices of life – A strange sensation

Written by: Nigel Ng Ngan Siang (21-A3), Tan Le Kai (21-I4), Zuo Yuning (21-A1)

Every passing second, the angry irritation grows in her trembling heart.

‘Hack this… Why am I so angry for no reason?’

Her feelings indeed have no apparent cause, long-term or short-term. Physically she is in the best state possible. She is not hungry, she is hydrated, and she does not in any way feel tired. There should be nothing troubling her mind too. As a student she should be happy with the ‘A’ grade she has obtained at a recent test, and as a fan of novels she should be glad to have just bought a copy of her favourite series. Really, what is there to be this frustrated about?

Is there anything? No? No. 

Unless…

Mind blank, she still has no idea.

Looking up at the sky, her eyes are attracted to the yellow circle hanging in the endless, boundless space. Earth’s celestial partner radiates beams of gentle light and casts them right to where billions of human beings came and went, the mortal world whose gentle glamour is reflected by the yellow mirror up in the night sky. The power of any mirror lies not in that it displays appearance without any bias, but in that it offers any passer-by a chance to take a closer look at herself. Even the darkest soul can be lit by this gentle light, for it calms minds with the magnificent wisdom of the natural world. Surrounding the moon are bright spots blinking naughtily at the girl in the room, comforting mortal beings and assuring them of peace and permanence. Everybody knows that even stars will die one day, but all that matters is that those bright dots have been there for billions of years and will stay there for billions of years to come. Glancing at them is enough to remind humans of the transiency of their existence and prompt the most egoistic person to revise their arrogant self-perception and know better their place in the world. 

Knowing one’s position is a giant step towards calm. Even her erratic mind has gained some peace.

And once again, she can think properly.

There is a reason why she’s angry.

It’s nothing but… she yearns for something.

The presence… The company of a certain somebody… 

The somebody whom she is so familiar with, the somebody who she knows has loved her since day one.

But why is this feeling assaulting her now?

She has known her junior and roommate for such a long time, but for so long the two of them have been so distant. She doesn’t feel like they are the same kind of people, for the one year difference in age has made it hard to understand her roommate’s thoughts. She also doesn’t ever think she can be on the same page with the other girl, for her frequently unpredictable mentality can frighten her a little at times. She definitely cares for the younger girl’s well-being, but that’s a friendly concern rather than a romantic interest. Definitely, is it not? In this room it has always been the younger girl constantly attempting to display her ‘burning love and passion’ to her elder roommate through annoying antics, and for the longest while she has relentlessly punished her roommate every time that happened and denounced her same-sex love as ‘twisted’ and ‘weird’. She might have been right at those times, but how could she explain the prickling sensation that creeps to her heart whenever she recalls the younger girl’s face now?

Maybe… No, definitely… This can definitely be explained by what happened a few days ago. When one’s illusory understanding of self and others is shattered by the least expected person, he/she likely won’t live on with the same beliefs and attitudes as before. It was the idiotic arrogance she carried with her that lowered her guard against her dizzy head and hazy cognition. When she lost consciousness and fell onto the cold cobblestone floor of the back alley at ten at night, she thought that nothing could save her from descending towards where she originally belonged. She did boast the title of the all-round top student at her school, but that couldn’t help her powerless body straighten her shaky, cotton-like legs. In fact, she could not even push her eyelids open. Heat departed her body, and a single drop of tear made its way down her stiff cheeks, wetting the ground down beneath. It went just without any stickiness of fluids, as if the liquid molecules had contracted, freezing in the endless night.

That’s why the return of senses shocked her. Pain, the saturated, dry kind of pain, throbbed in her head like a ticking bomb. Her inflamed tissues, angry trapped monsters, pounded against her confines as if they were no longer content with staying in her weak body. Putting strength in her eyes, she forced them open by just a little only to have them pricked by the dazzling motionless white shining above. Slowly her eyes adapted to the brightness, and she realised that the white above is not at all stationary; instead it is in frantic motion, flashing before her eyes ceaselessly. Am I moving? She asked herself. That was certainly the case, for the deafening noise assaulting her eardrums and the bumpy journey whacking her spine vociferously proved the point. How am I here? That’s the second question she wanted to ask. She couldn’t remember what had happened; in her mind there weren’t sounds, images or emotions for that period of time. The only thing she knows is that instead of the creepy, horrid chill of death, it is a pleasant, numbing warmth that surrounds her body now. Clenching her teeth while stretching her stiff arms, she can feel an overwhelming mass pushing them down. 

I see. I’m in a moving bed, am I not?

Her second question remained unanswered, but the mere comfort from being at this time and staying at this place made that whole inquiry irrelevant. Yeah, nothing can possibly threaten her here, and she just needs to let her eyes close and relax.

Is it after a very long time or just a moment that motion stopped and she was transferred to a larger, warmer bed? She didn’t know; she didn’t care. Her eyelids grew heavy, and like a submarine her mind sank to the depths of the dark sea.

In her subconscious, as she traversed the placid black, a sonic signal penetrated the dense water, reaching right for her inert radar. Soul, just returned to her body, trembled with unknown pain.

She decided to open her eyes. She doesn’t want that agony to persist.

The first thing she could see was a gilded ceiling, and the first thing she could feel was a cheerful chill that seemed to come from the air-conditioner. It was not the morning calm in the room, however, as occasional sobs kept interrupting the peace.

Wait… Who is that…?

Her neck was in excruciating pain, and she forced it to tilt to the side just slightly, with pure determination. There a familiar figure entered her sight; that slim and short physique was so familiar to that something in her mind. But… AUGHH! Somehow she forgot the identity of the someone sitting right next to her, but since she knew instinctively that that person is particularly important to her, this feeling is all the more painful. She must recall, for her own good.

And her efforts paid off. Even the hardest thing in the world can be achieved with enough hard work.

Wasn’t this girl sobbing at her side the very person she had woken up to meet every single day? Wasn’t this person her junior whom she always sought to protect, because she thought she is stronger, older and hence more capable?

Why was she here then? Why did things end up like this, with the life of the strong saved by the weak?

The sobbing girl seemed to have noticed her movements, as she lifted her hands to take a glance. The instant she saw the elder girl, she put her hands on her lap and squeezed out a smile on her face.

‘Ah, you are awake.’

The bright smile on her face couldn’t erase what had already taken place. The tears that easily escaped her roommate’s eyes were just a tiny part of the tremendous worry and concern boiling in her young heart. And yet even as she was suffering so much emotionally, she had tried her very best to hide her feelings deep inside herself. Was she worried about making others feel sad for her? Was she trying to take the whole burden herself? 

But… why? The elder girl couldn’t understand. She couldn’t understand why her roommate should feel so miserable for something she isn’t suffering from directly, and she couldn’t understand why her roommate refused to express her feelings. She just knew that at that very instant, she truly understood her younger roommate’s love.

Her love isn’t only about carrying out perverted antics; it implicates all the things she’s willing to do, and the lengths to which she will whole-heartedly go, to protect the person she loves

Her love consists not of ambitious statements and empty promises; its only substance is an unwavering guarantee of always being at her love’s side no matter what happens.

And, above all, it can’t care less about whether the favour is returned.

Isn’t leaving her love unanswered any longer a little too cruel?

As she looks up at the stars again, she finally gets it. She finally understands the source of her anger and her genuine desire, at this time and place.

The door clicks, and her heart stops.

‘I’m back…’

Standing up and turning round, she holds her breath nervously as she gazes at the face she has known for far too long. As she approaches the younger girl, she can see the slight shivers in her eyes.

‘Wh… What are you doing?’

She doesn’t reply, as she knows action speaks louder than words.

Stretching her arms ahead and leaning forward, she surrounds the girl in her embrace, robbing her of her breath.

‘I’m sorry. I know, you have been waiting for these words for way too long…’

She takes a deep breath.

‘… but, I love you.’