C C Z H

Category: Stories

Fluid

“They watched the long grass moving around them. The wind pushed it, attacked it, struck it in one place and then another. It rose and fell and rose again. It flowed, like water.”

It was a peaceful evening. The pool I was in was illuminated, rather beautifully, by streaks of orange. My head was tilted backwards, allowing me to catch a glimpse of a falling leaf. It was brown and riddled with holes, a mere shadow of its pompous, greener past. It brushed my swaying arm as it fell, before landing gently onto my wet forehead. It was quite a sight, one that I was glad I had the privilege to catch. What I didn’t manage to catch, however, was my breath. I was drowning.

Water rushed violently into my open mouth each time I went under, muffling my attempts to attract attention. Kicking off the ceramic flooring, my head broke the surface yet again – but I knew my time was running out. As I frantically heaved, it wasn’t air that greeted my nostrils, but cold, unforgiving water. You don’t know desperation until every breath of yours is torture, a frigid trail down your nasal passages. And cruelly enough, each breath had just enough air to keep me going for that much longer. It was everywhere, that damned fluid beast, and it knew it had me.

I was eight then, hardly considered mature by any conventional standards. Yet, I was able to grasp the gravity of the situation – and perhaps scarily, how laughable my end was to be. There they were, my beloved family, laughing merrily in the living room, separated from me by a mere layer of glass. All I needed was for one of them to turn their head. Then again, I was the one who made that choice, that single step towards the deep end of the pool. Time seemed to slow as my muscles began to seize, and as my head broke the surface for what might’ve been the very last time, I froze.

A sudden breeze struck my face – one that seemed to have come from another world, an ethereal current that tugged at my soul. The sun wasn’t orange anymore, for it had dissolved into an ocean of colours, all before melding into a solid white. Eight-year-old me had a rather simplistic notion of heaven. I pictured a cloudy paradise where good people would go after they’ve uttered their final goodbyes. Till this day, I still remember my final thought in that god-forsaken pool – I wondered if I needed special shoes to walk atop clouds.

Someone grabbed my hand, and no, it wasn’t an angel. My Father yanked me out of the pool so swiftly and abruptly, it was a miracle I didn’t lose an arm. Contrary to my expectations, he offered neither tears of joy nor a furious slap across my still-damp face. With a simple pat on my back, he sent me on my way. Take care of yourself, you toot, he said. I still do. Perhaps my love for live stems from my discovery of how fragile it can be. I’ve a long life ahead of me, one that flows like a river, one that twists and turns till it finally finds the sea. I still haven’t found my purpose, my sea – much less when I was eight. Looking upwards, I let out a sigh of relief. The bloody sun was orange again.

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Dandelion

“Only the wind knows where it will carry our dandelion souls.”

The crickets were singing, their indecipherable chorus ringing in my ears. They seemed to carry a message, some ancient insect dogma far beyond my human understanding. It was a quiet afternoon, one that brought with it much-needed respite. Choa Chu Kang Park was where I decided to spend my idle hours. After all, its quaint beauty had always struck a chord with me. Notebook in hand, I hoped that the peacefulness surrounding me would alleviate my writer’s block. In my notebook lay dozens of unfinished pieces, each one a fragment of a lost time. Some of them oozed anger, others nascent hope, albeit hope that was never nurtured to fruition. I know of people who pin their writer’s block on a lack of inspiration, but I pin mine on perfectionism. Irritated at my lack of progress, quality progress, to be precise, I tore up my latest piece. To my horror, my violent movements sent shreds of paper sailing into the wind.

——

Closing my eyes, I exhaled. Streams of seeds erupted from what was once a flowery globe, strips of white bleeding into the wind. They melted into the orange horizon, free at last. Pastures new awaited them. A fresh start. A new home. A place to start their new lives, and give birth to yet more. Brave seeds they were, forging onward, embracing their unknown destinies.

——

I’ve always wanted my words to go on air, but the situation I found myself in was a tad too literal. Shaken by the prospect of a hefty fine – Singapore takes a tough stand against littering – I chased after my tattered work. The looming sun illuminated each shred of paper, and for a moment, I was taken aback by the beauty before me. Swirling with the evening wind, spirals of written word danced before my eyes.

——

It was beautiful.

——

It was beautiful.

——

Before long, every last piece fluttered beyond my farthest reach. I stood agape, overwhelmed by a sudden heaviness. I muttered a solemn goodbye, and walked back the way I came. As the sky gradually darkened, I came to a sudden realisation. Pieces of me were out there, scattered by my own hand. They would grow, they would preach, and they would live to tell their own stories. Before I could organise my newfound thoughts, I was struck by yet another realisation. I had a story to tell.

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Beautiful

“Everything beautiful has a mark of eternity.”

It rained the other day, a few miles into my weekly bicycle ride. It was eleven at night, and the moon hung dreamily amidst twinkling stars. My hopes for a passing shower were quickly dashed, for the heavens soon opened up and unleashed its fury onto me. Being the intrepid, reckless soul I was, and indeed, unwilling to waste any more time, I foolishly decided to set my course for home. Adjusting myself, I put on my cap and pedaled away.

The frigid wind whipped against my torso, each gust leaving behind a trail of rainwater on my shirt. My clothing proved to be inadequate at providing insulation, for water seemed to weave its way past the interwoven fabric effortlessly. My damp attire was akin to a layer of frost, ruthlessly biting at my bare skin. The exertion of continuous pedaling soon got to me, for my muscles bulged and throbbed in contempt. They weren’t ready for such levels of intensity – then again, neither was I. Droplets of water clung onto my lenses, clouding my vision. The headlights of passing cars danced like fireflies before me, each emitting a faint, blurry glow. Frantic groans were emitted by my tires as they struggled to find traction on wet tarmac – a wrong move then could have had fatal consequences.

A final hill was left for me to scale, one that ended mercilessly with a sharp turn. I stood upright, throwing my full body weight into each turn of the pedals. At the peak of the unforgiving slope, my head spun with must have been an intoxicating concoction of adrenalin and exhaustion. I sat back, allowing gravity to do its work as I accelerated downhill. There it was, the godforsaken turn, mere meters away from me. Reaching for the brakes, my fingers slipped, brushing in vain against the metal lever. You know the clichéd description of how time slows to a crawl in times of danger? Well, it did. I imagined how depressingly comical it would be to find my crumped body against a tree and how ironic it would be given that I was the one who planted it. Somehow, I managed to engage the rear brake, leaving a streak of burnt rubber behind me. I wrenched the handlebar to the right, and an arc of water erupted from the base of my rear tire – all before I came to an abrupt stop.

Leaping off my bike, I took a moment to catch my breath. The rain had subsided, much to my irritation, as I had just made it home. The dark clouds that hung so ominously above me dissipated, revealing the gleaming moon. It was a full moon that night, and she gazed cheekily down at me, as if mocking me for my impetuous antics. Now, I could go on and talk about the fragility of life and what I have learned from my misadventure – but that would be an unfitting end to what was, quite simply, a beautiful experience.

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Shots

She liked her steak rare, black and blue even. Watching those crimson slices of meat disappear into her mouth, I was always left halfway between awe and disgust. Her taste for blood unnerved me, yet for the better part of two years, she was my favourite dinner date. Few had her explosive appetite for knowledge and constant fascination with the world around her. Even fewer had her natural sensitivity towards feelings and unparalleled ability to light up rooms with her positivity. The balance between intellectual and emotional aptitude is a tough one to strike, but she had it perfect, not a touch more on either end. I adored her, and I wanted her to be my forever.

I thought she shared my sentiments, but then again, I was probably deluded. The first move, in my mind, would have been hers. Alas, my expectations of her were as untrue as they were unfounded. Before long, she faded away, her glorious light disappearing into the growing chasm between us. As she drove off in search of new sights, I could only watch on helplessly, stranded like a streetlight on an infinite highway. She could dream of the future, for our past was a burden left for me to carry alone. I had a clear sight of the target, pity I never took a shot, and pity how I may never get another.

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Letter

Where the sky ripples and the stars twinkle, I hope you’ll be with me. Where the stone towers rise and the desert floor cracks, I hope you’ll be with me. Your hand, so soft, wrapped tightly around mine. Though your breath sends white clouds spiraling into the crisp midnight air you would sing, a gentle, silly love song that’ll bring a smile to my tired face. It will be your eyes, as it always was, that fiery stare that tears me apart yet puts me back together. I’ll grow old with you, hold you close, bundle you up in winter and bathe with you in the oasis when the trees grow green again. Don’t leave the desert, Donna, as empty as it may seem. For with you by my side, it never is. Your love, Fredrick.

(EXTRACT FROM SELF-WRITTEN NOVEL, TITLED LITTLE NAVIGATOR)

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Christopher

He could hear the monsters, loud and clear.

Every night they whispered stories into his ear.

Christopher was a strange child, shunned by many. His scraggly white hair was swept back and held in place by a red hairband. The meatless limbs of his were connected by bony joints, and his eyeballs seemed to levitate within empty caverns. He would stumble about at an uneven pace, hunched over, seemingly in fear of sunlight. Words never emerged from his mouth, at least not in the presence of others. What others feared most about Christopher was his piercing stare, for when lifeless eyes met those that were not, peculiar things happen.

The first time John met Christopher, he dared not approach him. Christopher was facing a blank wall, muttering words under his breath. In is hand was a pencil, which, under his control, drew circles over the grey concrete. The dull screech of graphite against the wall seemed to go on forever, up till it ended with an abrupt snap. John instinctively flinched, his shoulders rising and falling in a quick motion.

“Sit with me”, Christpher suddenly bellowed, his firm, resonating voice a stark contrast to his feeble appearance.

John started to inch backwards, trying desperately not to agitate his compatriot. He could see the muscles in Christopher’s neck start to bulge as Christopher prepared to turn around. Holding his hands up to his face, John prepared to see eyes filled with anger and hatred. But they did not come, for the look in Christopher’s eyes were not threathening, but harmless, a harmless gaze of compassion that warmed him to the core. His guard dropped, John shuffuled forward to sit.

“I’m glad you came, now, let me show you my friends, they know things you don’t.”

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Coffee

Couples wrapped tightly together with scarves scuttled hurriedly along Saint’s Street, braving the frosty weather. Every exhalation of theirs sent a white cloud into the winter air, which quickly dissipated. I was sat in a warm café, separated from the harsh weather by a glass window. Raindrops fell steadily on the damp street, sending concentric arcs racing along the worn asphalt. My coffee had a shot of whiskey in it, and every sip from the porcelain mug seemed to thaw me from the inside out. The brown liquid slid down my throat with alarming ease, almost like boiling honey, searing its way down my throat.

Setting the mug down, I signalled for a waiter. The middle-aged man that promptly arrived was dressed neatly in a suede grey suit, with a pretty little rose sitting atop his left breast, splashing colour on his otherwise uninspiring outfit. The left side of his head was completely shaven, and what was left of his hair was combed back over the bare skin. His hair was almost compulsively neat, glossy and textured, it made me ponder the extent of the effort he puts into his black grass. Tapping three fingers on the white oak table, I said a few words about my pleasant experience before paying the bill. Upon getting up on my feet, I straightened my blazer before striding towards the door, my platform shoes sending the paved floor into a creaking frenzy.

(READ WHILE LISTENING TO: BLUE BALLAD – PHIL WOODS)

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Sleep

Beacons of ships danced like fireflies in the darkness, with only the soft whistle of sea breeze disturbing the tranquil silence. The pair stared blankly into the distance, no words were exchanged. The sand which they were sitting on was incredibly fine, behaving almost like liquid when hands were run through it, providing ample cushion. John sighed, his long breath punctuating the serenity for a brief moment. He was exhausted, after all, three days in a desert would make even the most hardened adventurer cry for mercy. Taking a sip of water from the stream, John lay prone. Palm trees swayed around the pair, dancing to the rhythm of the wind. Arranged in a circle, they enveloped the pair, providing then with a natural shield. Protected from the elements, they fell soundly asleep, having succumbed to the lull of nature’s lullaby.

(EXTRACT FROM SELF-WRITTEN NOVEL, TITLED LITTLE NAVIGATOR)

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Rain

The dull thudding of raindrops against the black fabric of my umbrella was all I could hear, as I stood silently by the pavement. I was wearing my suit, neatly ironed and fresh, bearing the welcome aroma of clean linen. Jet black leather shoes acted as the buffer between my feet and the cold, wet ground. A single rose sat lonely atop my left breast pocket, its velvety red colouring a stark contrast compared to my monochrome outfit.

I gazed at the bus stop opposite the road, but alas, it was empty. Clutching my pocket watch harder, I glanced at its sleek copper cover, before flipping it over with a flick of my forefinger. My lonely little heart broke again. The fire of hope was quickly extinguished, as the simmering flame illuminated my heart no more. The cold silver against my chest suddenly became painfully apparent, so I yanked my necklace off. It broke into pieces, twinkling silver flying like fairy dust, landing on the pavement, giving the rainwater a magical glitter.

Throwing my umbrella as far away from me as I could, I ran into the distance. My suit absorbed rainwater like a sponge, chilling me to the bone. But still I ran, my muscles screaming in protest. Every puddle I stepped on rippled, beautiful circles running from their epicentres. Then I stopped. Guffawing like a maniac, I danced in the cascading rain, the sheets of water acting like stage curtains. I never felt so free.

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Past

I looked deep into his eyes, but I just couldn’t find it. Where was the love? Had it all faded away? An apology hung on my lips, and there it stayed. My pride, my darned pride, it didn’t allow me to stoop down to that level. He doesn’t deserve it, I don’t deserve it. A certain guilt echoed within me, after all, it was probably my fault. I wanted too much, I expected too much, and I guess such high expectations always leads to disappointment. It started as doubt, then denial, followed lastly by outright rage. Cutting all ties, it’s as difficult as cutting your own flesh. The cold shoulder felt more like a cold blade to my neck. But I was determined. You’ll come begging to have me back. I know it. I will win this fight. I will have the last laugh.

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