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 The cramped surroundings of my room had been replaced by the expanse of a park.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. 


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.’


Written by: Tricia Loh Qiuxuan (21-U1)

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

“Erm. If you ask me honestly, this is too much going on,” she said. Her wrinkly index finger near the canvas, she circled the air above the brush strokes. 

He swore Mrs Teo has something against him. Like some personal grudge of some sort which for some reason, could only be expressed through her much-unwarranted sarcasm when critiquing his paintings. Maybe he was just different. Over the years he acquired a certain style, there was surely a sort of idiosyncrasy in his works. Thick paint, thick outlines. Brave, dark, bold. 

“You know, the last time you said you wanted to paint a young lady, no? But the strokes here… Create this gloomy ambiance… It’s really not ideal. Actually, you make her look kind of wrinkly. But, you know, of course, this is only my opinion, you are the artist.”

He always found it ironic – the way she loved to stress on ‘her opinion’. It was, honestly, a terrible cover up for her stubborn contempt towards him.

The last time you said it was too plain, so I tried to add more depth to her features here, he explained. Then in a half-sigh, half-loathsome tone, she went on to ramble about his disappointing performance over the past year, how his works lacked charisma, appeal, effort, all the lovely adjectives. 

He was now in his usual element. He was the humble sponge, sucking her words dry, but processing nothing. Like a slow-mo scene in a movie. Sound is blurred. The camera pans to Mrs Teo with her delightful droplets of spit launched towards his face.  Camera cutting to the boy as he stares at her mouth with dull, vacant eyes. 

The lesson ended and he left in a daze. He didn’t exactly wish to impress Mrs Teo. But he couldn’t exactly bring himself to see his works deserving a ‘barely-passed’ for every coursework exam. Even in his essays, he was apparently ‘too technique-driven’ in his interpretations. 

Maybe it was dumb, the whole idea of becoming a successful artist. And in SINGAPORE? His mom was right, he really was deluded back then. There was no way he could become a local artist at this rate, let alone enter an arts school in university. 

Then a message from his brother came:

    ‘hey bro

what did she say about ur work’

He stared at it for a second.

‘lol. wanna make guess.

she detests me for no reason i swear’

theo (bro) is typing…

He groaned, placing his phone on the desk. He was absolutely losing it. Think of Theo, who, despite merely a few years older, was a part of the Singapore National Gallery’s arts management board. The brothers were always more on the artistic side. But Theo was different. He knew exactly where he needed to end up and climbed his way to the top.

A buzz. Half in a state of shock, he slammed the canteen table. 

“Alright – what’s going on. Why so shocked, man.” Phone snatched away from him, his friends peered over the tiny screen. 

“DUDE, you’re joking,” Emile says.

Sometimes, he felt like he owed Theo the world. He was exactly the brother he needed- the most assuring, devoted man he knew. Despite being an art student all his life, his works were never exactly considered worthy. He was always missing ‘signs of life’ in his paintings. Or at least that’s what Mrs Teo liked to think. 

But this text might be a game changer; this new exhibition was held at the National Gallery, and his piece was to be the main painting. 

‘Reimagining’, it was called. To feature up and coming local artists- to propel youth artists into the spotlight, apparently. He’d never considered himself as someone who’d fit into that bubble, but at this rate, he was more than ready to seize any opportunity. He couldn’t see himself as anything else other than an artist. 

Ransacking. A myriad of canvases were overturned that night. But none of them really seemed right. 

“This one?” 

Still-life paintings could never go wrong, he thought. He decided on a painting of sunflowers, one he painted in Paul’s place last year. Paul thought the piece was ‘completely him’. 

“I’m really proud of this. Paul said it’s one of my best works, too.”

Theo looks up from his laptop. 

“Good!” he said. He scanned the canvas, warmth spreading across his face. “I really like it.”

The two shared a moment of laughter. He loved sunflowers, they always seemed to smile at him whenever he walked past them at the florist. He had a series of sunflower paintings, his only works hidden from Mrs Teo. They were held too close to his heart and to subject them to her utter ruthlessness was the last thing he would do. 

Yet, for some reason, he felt compelled to seek her opinion. He spent the morning asking his friends at school, who all agreed that it was his best work. Today, he entered class with a fresh spirit of enthusiasm, pride welled up in him.

She was about to scurry off the moment class had ended, but he stopped her dead in her tracks. 

“You’re telling me you are going to be featured in an exhibition? At the National Gallery?”

He nodded, and took out the piece from his bag. I’m planning to send this in, it’s one of my favourite works, he said. 

Furrowed brows. Twisted face. 

“No lah. How can you send this in? Obviously not. I said already, your paintings are always too bold already, sometimes you need to simplify, don’t need so many patterns going on here. And if you want to make the flowers stand out, why did you only use yellow? The background should be a contrasting colour to bring out the sunflowers. If you want ah, I think you should go find something simple to paint. Paint the stars or something.”

He was crushed. 

Why can’t I have my own art style? Why can’t my work be bold? Just because your other students adopt a more conventional style doesn’t mean that I have to follow suit, right? I always find it stupid that I have to fit your stupid criteria and that you just CAN’T. LET. ME. BE. ME. 

A solo trip was what he needed most. Solitary, just a canvas and painting supplies. 


 He set the easel down aggressively. Why he was so heated over this, he couldn’t really tell. The fatigue grows within him. He used to pour his soul into painting, how much he loved showing the world through his lens. There was never a need to fit a criteria till he ended up in her class. He used to paint out of love. Because it was cathartic, because it made Theo proud, because painting was an anchor, it kept him going. 

Oh, how much he’d lost himself. And it was all thanks to Mrs Teo. Pain, turned into woe, turned into fury. He looked at the skyline before him, Marina Bay was indeed a spectacular classic, but his vision was tainted, with rage and condescension. 

“Why don’t you paint the stars,” she said. 


He thought for a bit. Looked at the scene before him. Then, dark, thick coats of paint lined the canvas once again. He was spurred on by an odd aggression, gripping his fingers. He couldn’t stand being dictated by Mrs Teo, and he needed to shove it up her face.

At this rate, he didn’t even bother perfecting his piece. Regardless of what he painted. his work was going to get featured as the main piece. So technically, it didn’t really matter what he painted, did it? Whether Mrs Teo liked it or not, it really didn’t matter.

It was past midnight when he was done. He stood up awkwardly from his easel, back tracking several steps. Yes, this was it, he chuckled to himself. That’ll show her. 

Theo was quite surprised to see the new painting. It wasn’t what he expected his brother to come up with, and he certainly wasn’t expecting to feature a potentially controversial piece as the main artwork in this exhibit. But there was something intriguing about a work so ironic as this and he found himself falling more and more in love with its absurdity. 

It was decided then. Mrs Teo was invited to the opening, but he refused to show her the piece before that.

Vest, suit, tie. Theo squeezed his hand around his shoulder. Silence fell as their eyes traced the creases of the velvet curtain draped over the canvas. He reached out, feeling the silk between his fingers. Electric. Then he erupted in laughter, his voice reverberating through the empty space. Think of Mrs Teo cutting his ego with words, then think of himself, directly giving her the one finger salute through his work.

By 7 p.m. the crowd started streaming in. He bounced his leg nervously as he was seated in a room away from his audience. Occasionally, he’d peek to see people in cocktail dresses sashaying in, fingers swirling wine glasses and pinkies in the air. Glossy heels gliding across the laminate. It felt quite surreal to hear the lively, indistinct chatter against gentle Blues in the background.

They got ready when the clock struck 8. The murmur faded to complete silence. With the crowd seated before him, while Theo gave a generous speech, his eyes darted around the crowd. Clad in her usual ‘Tai-Tai fit’ with an extra bling, he saw her, busying herself over the refreshments. 

It was now his turn to speak. 

“Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled when Theo told me of this exhibit. The moment I reached home, and Theo would remember,” he chuckled, “the way I practically ransacked the room, in search of a painting.”

“Then I settled on one,” he said, going on about his painting on sunflowers. He diverted his attention to Mrs Teo now. 

“My God, was I THRILLED to show her my piece. It was one of my favourite pieces. But for some reason, it didn’t sit right with her. She said it was too bold. That I needed to simplify things.

Mrs Teo shifted awkwardly in her seat. 

“She told me to go for something simpler. ‘Paint the stars” He waved his hands with mock incredulity. 

In his sing-song, story-like tone, he went on, explaining his trip to Marina Bay, following her advice. 

“Paint the stars. Mrs Teo, I took your advice. This is my piece titled ‘The Starry Night’.”

The curtain fell. Mrs Teo’s eyes grew. 

For some reason, the ‘starry night’ of Marina Bay wasn’t exactly ‘starry’ per say.

Black canvas and the warm glow of a nearby light post. Zero stars. 

Paint the stars, she said. 

kaleidoscope: slices of life – Safia

Written by: Murugan Rakshita (21-E1)

Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of epilep$y, ment@l illness, $ui¢ide and euth@n@si@. Read at your own discretion. 

Doth land upon me, Little

Vagabonds of joy, 

O’ Wanderers of the Eternal—Guardians

of Gaea

I barge into the room to find Safia staring out of the window. She shudders at my arrival and pulls a woolen blanket over herself. Holding the sides of my robe diligently, I walk towards her in quiet steps, and run my fingers imperceptibly over her face. Her expression sours and eyes well. 

Her wistful face haunts me. It burns every cell of my body.

“My baby, it’s alright, mama is by your side!” I cried, my soul bleeding in raging agony. Wrapping my hands over her face, I plant a kiss on her forehead. My knees wobble, and I fall to the ground. 

Creations of the Cosmos

Narrate to me stories! — Legacies

Of the Lands—Songs of the Earth

Chants of the Birds

Your abode, my heaven

The rustle of leaves    

Whisper joy into my ears—They,

Erase away all my fears.

A year ago I found my little Safia curled up in the corner of her room, with tears streaming down her face. Anguished eyes, swollen cheeks. She hunched her shoulders and clutched a blade to her chest. She muttered anxiously, “Mama, I see them.”

Was it the work of demons? Was it some form of Black spell, haunting my child? I sought answers. I searched for renowned places of worship. I put my child through an ordeal. I entrusted a stranger, he tortured my little one. I watched her writhing in pain, her screams reverberate through my ears to this day. No, it was not a spirit. 

Spirits do not exist. 

Countless apologies, but I will not forgive myself.

Tell me, fluttering entities!

Do you see the Pegasus

Seated atop a bed of magnolia 

Drowned in Tears 

That charge mother Earth—Like 

Thousand Arrows

They pierce upon the soft mud

The dewdrops sing—They sound like

Clatters of pearls—

Music of Temple bells—Upon Hearing it, 

My heart swells.

I brought my little Safia to a clinic. The doctor said she suffered from an illness — related to the mind, of some sort. I did not exactly understand what it meant, but I noted his prescription into my mind. I sent my Safia to therapy.

My darling, 

My Bundle of Joy

The day I held you, it’s

Etched in my mind 

Like a sapling that anchors

Its tiny roots into slippery 

Earthen soil

My love for you wraps its

Warm clutches over my Heart

It is the rain that nourishes Earth—Similar to

the timely ruptures that strengthen our Love

“Mama, I see things.” 

Safia was only thirteen when she complained of seeing things. I neglected it, refusing to believe her words. My heart languishes at the thought of my foolery. 

“It’s just a phase, Safia,” I had assured her with my blind beliefs.

What Sorrow 

Do you hide in your heart,

That you cannot utter

That you cannot tell

This sorry mother?

Do not suffer in silence, O’

Dearest one

She is here to protect you

To embrace you 

In her warm arms

To coddle you 

Onto her soft bosom

Nearest to her heart, Your 

Safe home.

My Safia was shivering, shaking. She collapsed to the ground, the doctors held her. She screamed, she sunk her nails and scratched her torso. Her body was frail and malnourished. Her beady eyes now bulged in horror and grief. 

“We can treat her, but only if you give consent,” they said. 

Anything for my Safia.

“But-” they stammered, “should there arise any unforeseen circumstances, we shall not account for it.”

The more destructive the monsoon winds, 

The brighter the rainbow that glows after.

Misery is impermanent.

Flowers bloom

Happiness sprout

Diamonds rain

Moon smiles. 

Beauty recreates itself. 

But my Safia, she was special. 

The star’s glimmer is resplendent, as is her radiance; tis eternal. 

Her last words echo through the empty vessels of my soul. 

“Mama, I love you.”

DISCLAIMER: The story is written for story-telling purposes ONLY and does NOT endorse any notion, except that mental illness is real and thriving, and proper treatment should be duly followed. 

kaleidoscope: Slices Of Life – some rich dude bought the sun

Written by: Aaron Wong (21-I4)

Designed by: Ashley Lay (21-O1)

The sun has been bought. 

Yes, that ball of fire hanging high above you, the great celestial object you would most definitely be familiar with (unless you’re literally living under a rock). The eternally burning orb and the omniscient witness of the millennia of human history; watching empires rise and fall. The giver of life that has birthed all organisms on Earth with its bottomless reserves of energy; the object tied so deeply to many of our spiritual beliefs, you may as well start calling it God. And some really rich dude bought it last Tuesday. 

There’s no way that happened, you’re probably thinking to yourself—as did literally everyone else on the planet when the news first broke out. A spoof headline, a hoax; the latest product of The Disinformation Age. That’s all it had to be. Perhaps this very skepticism, the complacent attitude that such a preposterous event could never possibly transpire, was precisely why it happened. 

Alan Musk, the world’s wealthiest billionaire, did what many thought to be impossible. Hiring the best and brightest lawyers in the world, the legal case was beautifully argued as his legal team deftly leapt through legal loopholes, as expertly as professional acrobats through flaming hoops. Now, the sun is his (technically, it is legally recognised as his property in 124 out of the world’s 195 jurisdictions).

While there have been many individuals— eccentrics or shrewd entrepreneurs, depending on your perspective—that have previously attempted to lay claim to the sun in times past, none of them had the same… persuasion, that Musk has, the kind that sways the legislation of countries. It would seem that money does buy anything.

    However, his crazy plan does not end just yet. What is the next illogical step in his delusional machinations, you might wonder? Why, it is to rename the sun. 

His application got through by email yesterday. I know that I must stop it from becoming a reality. Tomorrow, I will have a particularly eventful workday. 

    “We are absolutely not accepting Alan Musk’s application.”

    The faces spaced around the conference table were as clean as blank slates—the ones that were staring back at me, at least. A few of my other colleagues in the room had suddenly decided to count the number of wrinkles on their hands. Taking their stunningly verbose feedback of zero words into account, I carried on.

    “Even with our role as the International Astronomical Organisation, I believe it entirely out of our authority to change the name of the Sun.”

    “I disagree. We have assigned personal names to some stars before. Remember last week, when we named that star after some famous Spanish astrophysicist? Technically, the Sun is also a star, so I think we could probably give it a new name.”

A hushed agreement arose from the table, in the form of approving murmurs and eager nods. 

My head exhibited a rather notable lack of vertical movement—I was the only exception in the entire group. I could not help but raise my eyebrows at the puzzle unfolding in front of me. Had they all gone mad? 

“All of you seem to disagree with me…” I started, as my narrowed eyes swept the room.  That was when I noticed something most peculiar, something that confirmed the suspicion that had been gnawing at the back of my mind. 

“Hold on… Bart, isn’t that the newest Rolex model? That must have cost you a fortune.”

    “Haha…yes, it is…” Bart vaguely muttered in my general direction as he self-consciously adjusted his tie. 

    “Oh, and I couldn’t help but notice the chariot you rode in on this morning was not the public bus, but a brand spanking new car! If a Rolex simply broke the bank, then a car must have taken out the whole retirement fund!”

    “Uh, I’ve been saving up my-”

    “Hey, I get paid the exact same salary as you, so I know for a fact that that’s not true!”

    “Actually… it was, uh, a generous gift given from  a friend of mine…”

    “Oh! I see…Who’s the friend, huh? Was it Alan Musk? Hmm?”

    At the end of the exchange, nobody met my eyes. The worst of my fears had been confirmed; the entire management team was compromised. I cursed under my breath. I was a fool! I had not anticipated the possibility of Musk leveraging the sweet scent of monetary gain in order to bribe my colleagues.

    I spat out my farewells, then stormed out of the meeting. A sour taste clung to my mouth. I could trust no one but myself in the team now. That left me with one  final resort. I rushed through the office building, carelessly bumping shoulders with many but apologising to none.

    When I reached my destination, I skidded to a halt in front of a rotund man hunched over a computer. Without so much as looking up from his screen, he said with a deadpan register, “Justin from records, how may I help.”

    “You’re going to receive an order from higher authorities to update our names database. Whatever you do, do not carry out the update, I beg you.”

    “Oh, that order? I just got it two minutes ago.”

The monotone delivery of his words belied the unnerving nature of the news as each syllable pressed a needle into my heart. Panic started to swell in my throat.

    “But you haven’t updated the database yet, have you?”

    There still had to be hope; I chose to believe that with every fibre of my being. I must still have time to stop it from happening. 

    “No, I just rolled out the update moments before you arrived,” Justin turned his computer screen around to face me, waved at it, then said, “See?”

    My heart sank. The measly group of pixels on the screen hammered the harsh reality of my failure deep into my soul. The worst, most terrible outcome that I had been trying to prevent had occurred. It would leave a permanent scar on humanity’s civilisation for eons.

    To be clear, I had never been against the changing of the sun’s name per se. My issue lay with what the new name was going to be.

    Displayed on the computer screen boldly and prominently was the name: “Hot Stuff”. 

    What a horrible name.

Kaleidoscope: Slices Of Life – When you wish upon a star

Written by: Ashley Koh Yu Xi (21-A1)

“Look! Shooting star! Faster, make a wish!” 

“Okay! I wish for… sweets!” 

“Aiya, don’t you know that if you say it out the wish doesn’t come true anymore?” 

“Okay lah! Then you do lor…”

Eyes close, hands clasp. 

“So? You wish for what?” 

“Secret! Don’t tell you!” 

“No fair!” 

Childish laughter drifts into the air.


It’s the fourth time he’s late. 

Tung sighs irritably as she checks her watch. Scrolling through Instagram has long stopped giving her boosts of dopamine, so she stares at her watch face and watches the broken second hand as it moves and jerks erratically. 

 Pounding footsteps cause her to look up. There he is. 

“If you’re gonna be late, at least text me so I know I go to the bus stop first lah.” she says, a clear tone of annoyance in her voice. 

“Sorry-sorry,” Rao Eck splutters, panting heavily and gripping his floorball stick with his left hand. 

“The guys wanted to get bubble tea,” he catches his breath, then continues, “I was gonna text you, then my phone died. You got power bank?” 

Tung sighs, then fishes hers out from her bag. She’s always bailing him out. 

“Nah.” She shoves it at him. 

“Thanks, Tung,” he replies in a saccharine sweet voice, putting on such a ridiculous face that she has to laugh. 

“Stupid,” she grumbles, but her heart isn’t in it. Together, they walk towards the bus stop. 


Tung has been friends with Rao for years and years. 

They first met in kindergarten. Back then, Rao was pathologically shy, and Tung was a social butterfly. Even then, she sought the timid Rao out at break, pulling him to sit with her friends. Gradually, a bond formed between them, strengthened by him opening her eyes to the world of plants and her defending him from mean classmates who teased him about everything from his small lunches to his tattered shoes. 

Their parents noticed their blossoming friendship, and schemed to have them study in the same primary school. By some coincidence, they ended up being in the same class for the next six years. 

Tung and Rao’s paths diverged when each went to single-sex schools. Even then, they kept in close contact, going out whenever a holiday opened up. They were so close that people joked that they were a couple. 

Then, they stopped joking about it. Rumours began to fly. Rao had kept his head down, preferring to let everything blow over. But Tung took a different approach, especially when people insulted Rao. She was nearly expelled from school for getting into a fight. Upon hearing this, Rao had smacked her head and scolded her, “I’m not worth you getting expelled, stupid!” 

Tung had let her silence express her disagreement.  

After they graduated from secondary school, they agreed to go to the same Junior College. It seemed fate loved this dynamic duo together, since they got into the same class again. 

Said class has General Paper now. Rao hates this subject, Tung knows. More than once, he’s told her he thinks it’s a waste of time. “Bio,” he usually continues, “THAT’s useful.” Though his voice is steady, the passionate gleam in his eye is hard to miss. 

Tung’s copying notes as usual, so it takes her a while to feel the prodding in her back. When she turns her head back, annoyed, Rao grins toothily at her. 

“What? What you want?” She whispers. 

“Mr Goh’s fly is down.” He whispers back, unable to help his grinning. Tung’s eye gradually drifts down to their teacher’s pants and sure enough, the zip is down. 

“Focus, stupid,” she merely replies. 

He prods her again. 

“What lah?” She hisses. 

“You taking MRT today?” 

She’s just about to reply when Mr Goh barks at them both. 

“Ingrid, Rao Eck, don’t think I never see y’all in the back, whispering away. I may be old, but I’m not blind.” Then, he quickly tugs up his zip, and continues, “Or deaf.” 

In spite of Mr Goh scolding them, Tung and Rao share a snigger. 

“Laugh some more? Then get out of my class.” 

Tung’s head whips up. She’s not laughing anymore. Rao gets up, and does a mock bow. Mr Goh’s face reddens in anger, but Tung quickly grabs his arm, bowing and apologising profusely as she pushes him out of class.

“What the hell?” She roars, “I was being a good kid and copying notes, but you just had to drag me down with you? Seriously?” 

“Sorry lah Tung. But it was funny though, right?” 

In spite of herself, Tung can feel the corner of her mouth quirk upwards. Outwardly, she merely rolls her eyes. 

They stand there for the rest of the hour, chatting. 

After class, Rao’s buddies in the class pull him back in. They’re jostling him around and laughing, while Tung slowly trails behind them. Rao’s face is lit up with laughter, and he’s in the centre of his friends, sharing in their cruel jokes about Mr Goh and GP. 

A slight bitterness rises in Tung’s chest. 

What happened to the shy boy who loved plants? How did he change so much? A tear wells up in her eye. She quickly brushes it off and scolds herself for being stupid. Her friends in class are quick to comfort her and tell her how dumb it was that Mr Goh sent both her and Rao out.

“It’s so stupid! Only him talking, so why kick you out also?” One of them fumes on her behalf. 

In spite of her quiet anger at Rao, Tung still jumps to his defense. 

“He wasn’t talking a lot, lah. It’s just Mr Goh being irritating.” 

Eh, why you always defend him ah? You his girlfriend is it?”

“No lah, I’m his BEST friend.” Tung has said this sentence so many times it feels like she’s reciting a line from a play. But now, she can’t really be sure if she believes it anymore. 

Rao just never seems to have time for her. Just the other day, he was late for their outing because he was drinking bubble tea with his friends. The previous times, he said he was held back because of CCA, but now she starts to wonder if he was actually with his friends. In that case, are their outings actually preventing him from spending time with them? For the first time in her life, Tung starts to doubt her friendship with Rao. 

Does he still need her? Is she just a burden to him? 

She’s still thinking about this even after school. When Rao prods her again, she doesn’t notice. Only when he blows air into her ear does she start to glare at him. 

“Sorry,” he says, hands up. “Can we go?” 

She sighs, and follows him. All the way, while Rao chatters on, she keeps quiet. 

Finally, they reach her flat. As usual, he sends her to the door. Instead of leaving immediately though, he waits for her to open the door and goes into her flat with her. 

Tung barely has time to express confusion when their parents burst into the living room. Hers are holding a stack of waffles covered in buttercream and drowning in maple syrup, his are yelling “Happy Birthday!” at the top of their lungs. 

The only person she’s ever told about the cake she wants for her birthday is standing next to her, grinning from ear to ear. In his hands, he holds a star keychain. 

“Happy 18th, Ingrid.” He tells her, placing the keychain in her hands. 

It’s her birthday today, and she completely forgot about it. Yet, he remembered. 

She’s struggling to hold back the tears, but she still manages to rush to change out of her uniform into the dress she’s been saving for this occasion. Outside, her mother has lit the candles while her father is trying to place the camera on the tripod. Rao has also changed, and together with their parents, they take a few goofy, wide-eyed pictures together. 

“Rao, be honest. Was this ‘cause of you?” She says after the pictures. He rolls his eyes. 

“Who else knows you want a fat stack of waffles instead of a cake like a normal person?” 

She laughs and soon, they’re laughing together until they can’t breathe. Tung throws an arm around him and gives him a tight hug. 

“Thank you,” she murmurs. She feels his arm snake around her shoulder, but he says nothing. 

Her parents are sharing pictures of the two of them now. One of them catches her eye: a snapshot of her and Rao lying together on the grass, pointing at the night sky. She suddenly remembers: she never got to hear what wish Rao made that night. 

As if to answer her question, Rao chuckles as he points at that photo. “I remember you wished for sweets. On brand.” 

“You leh? I never knew what you wished for.” 

Simply, with no lofty emotions attached, Rao says, “For us to always be best friends.”