Sunday, 28 September 2014

Skin Of Death

Maxine looked at Minah and wondered what on earth was going on? Had the natural order of the world just gone slightly wrong? She looked at the beautifully wrapped up present that Minah held in her hands and then looked at Minah, thinking that something had to be wrong. This would not be right if nothing was wrong. She even narrowed her eyes at here, despite the fact that that was such a rude thing to do. Minah just laughed at the look on her face and smiled a big toothy smile. She gestured for Maxine to take the present with a little pleading look on her face and started to say something. Before she could get the words out of her mouth, Maxine opened her mouth and spoke first.

'Okay, Minah. Why are you doing this? And don't tell me it's my birthday.' She insisted on being very forward. If there was anything besides good gesture behind this, she wanted to know. Minah sighed and shook her head. She kept the toothy smile on her face and put a hand on Maxine's shoulder. Maxine had to make an effort not to recoil. It's not that Maxine was a particularly horrible person. It's just that she had apt reason to be wary of Minah. She had been deceived by that congenial smile one too many times in her life. 'Don't worry Maxine, there is no bomb in there. It's just that, I am not sure how to say this. It' just that I miss you and I am sorry about all the things I did. I missed the times when we were friends and I would like to have that back.' Maxine's jaw dropped at the humble statement that humbled her along with it. She immediately felt guilty for all the possible reasons she had just been concocting in her head to explain the sudden friendliness in this girl who had caused her so much pain.

Maxine smiled and took the wrapped gift. She took it and then, still holding it, embraced Minah warmly. They then looked at each other for awhile as Maxine smiled and felt the package. 'Still like guessing before you open it?' Maxine nodded and asked whether she could open it there and then and Minah laughed and asked what she waiting for. Maxine undid the scotch tape as carefully as she could and took out the piece of cloth from within. She opened it up and looked at it with sparkling eyes. It was a long, tie-dyed dress in deep yellow and black. It had straps for sleeves and was made of the softest material anyone could imagine. She did not think that Minah could have possibly bought this from anywhere; she must have bought the dress and dyed it herself. When Maxine asked her, Minah just shook her head mysteriously and said that she had bought it but she was not going to tell her where from. Maxine absolutely loved it and promised she was going to wear it as soon as she had a chance. 'You have no idea how happy that would make me,' said Minah, smiling her usual toothy smile.

Maxine woke up two days later past noon and got ready to meet her boyfriend in town. She opened her closet and took out the dress. She smiled to herself and held it in front of her, looking at it for a while before starting to put it on. She put on the dress, which fit her perfectly and flattered her figure. She closed the closet that held her full length mirror and went outside to put on her shoes. She had finished getting ready and walked to the lift. Just as she went in she felt a sudden sharp pain in her left foot. She cringed and held the door open with her right hand as she looked down at her sandal-clad foot. It looked perfectly normal to her as far as she could tell. She limped into the lift and cringed again as she press the button. She bent down and examined her left foot but found nothing wrong with it. She sighed and concluded that it was just one of those things that involved muscles which sprained without their owners knowing why. She walked toward the bus stop and then decided to take a taxi. There was no way she was going to take the bus to the station; she would have to do a considerable amount of walking. She limped towards the taxi stand and got into a taxi. She then directed him to where she wanted to go.

When she reached her destination and as she was about to alight from the taxi, she braced herself for the pain she thought was going to shoot up her leg when she got out. But when she did get out, her foot was perfectly fine. She was pleasantly surprised. She got out of the taxi and walked to the bus stop where her boyfriend would be waiting for her. When she did meet him, she was still shocked at the fact that her ankle did not hurt. The pain had been so intense that she could barely walk into the lift when it struck. She asked him what it could have been, it disappearing so fast and all. 'Pain gone; why you worry?' He laughed as she hit him at the back of the head and pouted. 'Do you have any idea, how painful it was? I was actually considering not coming and paging you to call off the date, you know?' She narrowed her eyes, exaggerating anger as he put his hand to his heart and put on his best hurt look. She was about to open her mouth to speak when she gasped instead, her right hand moving towards her stomach and clutching it.

'Jordan?' she said, softly, obviously taking a lot of effort to do so. 'My stomach, something is wrong.' For some reason, guys always decide make practical comments when it counts the least. He supported her with his own body and tried to hold her. 'I thought you said it was your foot that hurt.' She shot a glance at him that would have made him take a step back, if he was not supporting her. 'It did,' she growled emphatically. She moaned a little as they made their way to the nearest outdoor seat and sat down together. Maxine could not explain the sudden decision her body had made that day to keep causing her pain. She looked up at the trees, suddenly afraid that a trouble making bird would decide to use her head for target practice. She was thinking this exact thought when the pain subsided. She suddenly got up and looked at Jordan, who was looking at her with that bewildered look on his face. 'It's gone!' She exclaimed, snapping her fingers. 'Just like that! Like my foot. I mean, my foot is still there, but the pain just disappeared. It's miraculous. Annoying in some sense, but miraculous. There is definitely something wrong with me, Jordan.'

They looked at each other for awhile and then at their watches. They had been sitting there for about half an hour. They decided to continue to walk around for a couple of hours before Jordan eventually sent her home. When she had got home, she was so exhausted that she just sat down to dinner without taking a shower or changing her clothes. She felt a dim pain in her stomach and decided not to eat. It went away, like her other pains when she got ready to go to sleep. She sleep peacefully that night, not being able to remember her dreams when she got up. She told her mother the next day about what had happened and her mother was suitably concerned. They knew a modern healer. He was a personal friend and she said that if it happened again, to tell her about it so she could call him and have him give them both a diagnosis. The next time it happened, Maxine was out with her brother, Carl, getting a present for their father's birthday. Looking for something to accommodate the hot weather but was not too scruffy, she slipped into the yellow and black dress.

Maxine almost collapsed all of a sudden from the sudden pain in her stomach. She swore and told him what was happening. Like anyone else, he did not know what to do and did nothing more than attempting to comfort her. She tried to regulate her breathing to ease her pain but gasped as she felt something icy sharp shooting up both her legs. She fell to the ground. Carl, four years older then her and fairly well built, tried to pick her up but he could only carry her to the nearest bench. When she was well enough to move, he supported her into the lift and to the taxi stand. She told him to call Uncle Chan. At home, she changed and the pain subsided. They waited for Uncle Chan to come over. She hung the dress she had worn over the dining room chair inside out so as to air it out. There was no point in washing it yet since she had only been in it for an hour. Uncle Chan came over, hugging each of them in turn and stopped short at the sight of the dress that hung on the chair.

'Who gave you that?' he asked Maxine. She looked at him, rather puzzled, responding that a friend had given it to her. She did not like the way he was looking at it. He looked at it the way someone would investigate a mysterious bloodstain on the dining room carpet. He picked it up and looked at it. He then held it up and then let the family see it. 'Can you see it?' 'See what?' they all asked in unison. Maxine's jaw was the first to drop. She grabbed the dress and stared at it. She then turned it inside out and looked at it, realisation sweeping over her. She turned it back out and held it out to her family. The dress's patterns were made up of two main splotches of black and yellow. They were huge and created patterns throughout it, the black dye sometimes fading into grey or turning the yellow into a sort of muddy colour. What she had not seen was something on the top splotch that spread over her chest. Amidst all the black dye, there was a very specific pattern. She had noticed the outlined of a circle first. There was a perfect circle within the splotch, made up of two wavy lines that kept intersecting each other, making it look like a braided stream which ran in a circle.

This had caught her vision and led her eye to the centre of the circle where in faint lines of grey slightly different from the rest. There was the out line of a man in a moustache. He wore a turban and sat cross legged, his hands together as if in a gesture of prayer. The sight was extremely unnerving. It could have been an accidental design and it not been do perfectly symmetrical. Her mother placed her hand on her mouth and Carl actually took a step back when he made out the design. 'Your mother told me about your problem; I think this may be your cause. Did your friend get this from another country? They do this thing in some places where they work their religious designs into their products. They use the cloth to cover corpses. It is called the skin of death.' He looked at her for awhile and then suggested she throw it away. He then went on to add that it could have also been an act of malice by the person who made it. They might just have another copy of the picture in their home over which they cast spells.

That thought was just too much for her and she almost ran to the chute to throw it down. She apologised under her breath to Minah and then let it fall to the bottom. Whoever had made this dress would have no more power over her. Three days later in schol, Maxine sat down next to Minah, slumping onto the table. Minah smiled and said that she needed to go to the toilet and that she would be back. Maxine simply smiled and then pick up Jasmine's file to move it so she could put her head on the table. She smiled as she looked at the pictures of her favourite actors on the side that faced up. She turned it over to look at who was in store on the other side. Her heart stopped. On white typing paper, drawn in black marker was a man that sat within a circle. He sat cross legged, wore a turban and had his hands together in a position of prayer. He seemed to look up at her as she looked down on him. In his ankles and his stomach, there was thumbtacks inserted into the cardboard of the file. They glimmered in the light of the classroom made her shiver.

Minah came in and looked at Maxine, smiling her toothy smile the way she always did, her friendliness seeming more fake than it ever had. 'Why are you looking so tense?' Maxine stood up and pushed her chair back, looking at Minah straight in the eye. 'Don't you ever talk to me again.'

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Heavy Metal

Matt popped the tape into his Walkman and listened to it, rather impressed at what he heard. He heard a set of bridge chords running at a speed he had never thought possible. He grabbed his Walkman and rewound the tape so he that he could hear it again. He would have rewound it the entire thing and listened to it from the start, but he wanted to listen to the whole thing before he reached school and rewinding would take time; a problem the compact disc player would make easy once it started becoming popular and cheaper. But till then, it was the good old fashioned tape.

He kept on listening until the rain stopped at the station he was supposed to get off at. He picked up his bag, careful no to get entangled in the wire that came out of it, and walked out of the door still listening. Enchanting maybe the wrong word to use to describe rock music but Matt was really enchanted. even when he was through the college gates where at times the discipline master stood, he was reluctant to take off his headphones. But as he approached the assembly area, he took off the metal band that connected the two little woolly muffs and placed them in his bag. He was not only amazed at the music but also at the fact that the band's lead singer had given him the tape in the first place. It was a demo tape that contained five songs, one of which they had not even played for anyone else yet. He was amazed that Gavin had even thought about him when he was giving out the tape. Considering they had quite a negative and short-lived history, Matt had even been suspicious when the tape was handed to him. Matt had dated Gavin's sister for awhile and she had been unusually upset about their breakup. The story was long and tedious and he did not want to go through it in his mind. Gavin was two years older than his sister and the same age as Matt was. Matt and Gavin had known each other through basketball and were closer than acquaintances but not close enough to be called friends. The day after the breakup, Gavin had cornered Matt before school started. Being considerably larger than he was, Gavin took him by the collar to pin him against the wall.

Well, the story went as one would think the story would go. Gavin shouted a number of not so empty threats and Matt nodded a lot, wanting to be out of the bathroom and in the safe company of people. The rest of the day had gone by as usual and so had the rest of the days till then. They no longer talked. The tape occurrence was indeed a very strange thing. Maybe it was his way of saying that things were okay between them. Of course he had only thought that in the morning. He saw Gavin three times that day and was totally ignored by him. The song was all he could think about so it did not matter. He knew Gavin's band had been good but he had had no idea that they were super good. He supposed that Matt would have just been giving it out to everybody and that he just happened to see him first. Either way, good music did not need a reason and he was happy with the tape.

He found himself listening to that particular song once again during his lecture while trying to concentrate on indices. He happened to look down at the rows in front of him and found Gavin staring up at him. When their eyes made contact, Gavin's lips curled up into smile. Matt would have smiled back if he had not thought that Gavin's smile was more for himself than for Matt. It was three days late when Matt found himself listening to the same song on the train to school. He had come to not simply be amazed by the music but had almost come to fall in love with the song. He had kept rewinding it and playing it over and over. Each time he listened to it, he would discover something new about the song, the way the last chord of the second verse would reverberate, the way it almost sounded as if there were two sets of drums. Gavin must have used some electronics device on his voice for the last part.

He had developed a headache on the second night when he was trying to sleep. Music had always helped him to sleep and when he played the song, not only did it help him sleep, it almost seemed to cure him of his headache. He had slept like a baby and had woken up to the sound of the tape jamming itself on the stereo system. It was one of those systems you had to switch off when the tape was done so that it would stop being pulled along. He took out the tape and placed it in his Walkman while getting ready for school so that he would not forget to bring it. Four days after he had been given the tape, he found himself very restless in class. He was unable to concentrate on anything and began to think about the song, playing it in the Walkman of his mind. He had listened to it so often that he could hear every specific sound in his mind; though of course nothing was good as listening to the real thing. Finally, he got the Walkman out of his bag and placed the headphones over his head, sliding it down to the back of his neck where it could not be seen. He lay down on his desk where he hoped he would be inconspicuous and listened to the music that he actually might have believed was made by the angels in Heaven.

The relief he had got when he popped the headphones over his ears unnerved him for awhile. It was like how some brands of food were sprinkled with nicotine so the people would crave for them. The music was like a drug... A week after he had been given the tape, he had suffered three headaches which he promptly soothed with the song he had taped multiple times onto one tape. he almost had his Walkman confiscated during one of his lectures. It took him ten minutes of pleading and numerous vows of how it was never going to happen again before he could get it back. Promptly, he stashed in his bag till the next lecture where he took it out again. A fortnight after he had been given the tape, the same teacher caught him listening with his headphones, during her tutorial. She had literally held him back after class and demanded that he give her his Walkman. He refused and the argument eventually evolved into him walking off only to be pulled by the sleeve.

In a reflex action, he had used his free hand to take the nearest plastic chair and hurl it at her, more to get her off him than to hurt her. He was violent. In a state of shock, she had just watched as he ran out of class, looking as if he was trying to escape from an ugly monster. There was definitely something wrong with him and it definitely had something to do with the music. he had slept listening to it every night since he had got it and he needed to hear it in order to do anything. Something was wrong with it and he knew it. maybe it was something scientific, like the way certain sights and sounds could cause your brain to send strange signals to your body. There was something wrong with it and he would have to tell Gavin about it. He would have to ask him if anything had happened to any of his band members when they listened to it. He would have find out who else he had given the tape to. It was then that it finally hit upon him. 

Gavin might have been the one behind the whole thing in the first place. He could not believe he had not realised this in the first place. It was completely unnatural that he could not function without the song. Lunchtime was approaching and he would confront him. But in the meantime, he needed to listen to that song so he locked himself up in a cubicle and put on his headphones... 'What the hell in on this tape Gavin? Tell me!' 'Tape? Music! What else?' Gavin looked at him with exaggerated perplexity. 'Gavin! Please stop this. I can't even get through a normal day...' Matt was speechless when Gavin cut him off. 'Oh! Oh you can't, is it?' His voice was sarcastic. 'Well, now you know what my sister went through. You think i don't know what you did to her?' 'I did not do anything! Our relationship just did not work out,' Matt tried to explain. 'Please, just take the tape back. Can you? It's not worth doing this for your sister. We were friends before.' 'You are not my friend! And don't you dare insult my sister! Good luck to you. You are never going to be able to throw that thing away. You can listen to it for the rest of your life. In fact... you have to!'

The sun was such that the light fell perfectly through the small windows of coloured glass that ran along the church wall. The multi-coloured light fell onto the carpets as the sun sank along the horizon, painting a distorted copy of the window's picture onto the floor. Matt ran in and looked into the confessional booth in a panic, seeing if anyone was in there. Finding no one, he ran to the church office to find the priest he had been looking for doing some paperwork. 'Father!' he burst out as he almost fell through the door. 'I need your help, please.' Telling him the entire story, Matt was almost in tears in his desperation. The priest took the tape and played it in the ancient looking machine that he kept in his office. He listened to the song and told him that he could not hear anything wrong with it. But he knew some people who knew some back masking techniques. They had worked on a teen and parent retreat he had held; one of the topics had been the peril of rock and roll decadence.

Meanwhile, he placed his hand on Matt's forehead. 'I want you to give me this tape willingly. I want you to say it out loud and to renounce its power over you.' The entire process was difficult be he had managed to. He did just like the priest had said and he felt something lift from his shoulders. It was three days later that he received a call from the priest saying that the tape had been back masked and that there had been words recorded on the other side. They were in Latin and were hard to interpret. The words were probably from a curse or had been said in accordance with a ritual that had been performed while the song was being recorded.

Pulling the tape from it's casing and cutting it with his scissors, Matt dumped the musical carcass on the canteen table where Gavin sat with his band. 'I don't need your stupid tape anymore.' Gavin looked at the tape and raised an eyebrow at Matt. 'The poison is in your blood. It might not strike now, but sooner or later, it will cause your death. I bet it is sooner.' Matt broke down and cried.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Love Potion

Jordan had grown up with his two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother. The three of them lived together with his parents in a five room flat. The flat, consisting of three bedrooms, one living room and a balcony with a connected dining area was divided out as such; his parents got one room, his sister got another and he shared the last with his brother. Their family was close to one another and everybody confided in everybody else. Of course there were generation gaps and sibling rivalry, but that was part and parcel of living together. Jordan had been twelve and his sister fifteen at the time the incident occurred. He remembers how weird she had been acting. Not weird in a sense of being unnatural though, she was simply acting the way every fifteen year old female would act when they were 'in love' so to speak.

For the past two months, she had been walking around the house as if in a day dream, not hearing anyone till they repeated her name at least four time. At dinner, she would play with the food on her plate for a full half hour, smiling to herself before she started eating it and would buy a new CD filled with love songs every week. Jordan's parents knew she had a boyfriend. They did not want to probe, knowing that since they had just got attached and they would probably want that time to be for them and them alone. They knew that she would bring him home when they are ready. Jordan's mother was getting curious though. She trusted Carol, knowing she knew how to make right decisions. But as far as she was concerned, no teenage boy would be good enough for the task of being Carol's first boyfriend. Unfortunately, the reason why Carol did not tell her parents was not that she had wanted to wait. Regarding not thinking that any teenage boy was good enough, her mother might have changed her mind about that had she found out the real reason why Carol was not sharing with her what seemed to be the happiest experiences of her life so far.

Jamal was not a teenage boy. Jamal was thirty two. She could not imagine telling her parents that the ring she wore on the chain around her neck was not just any ring. Jamal had given it to her as an engagement ring at their two month anniversary dinner. Jamal was a romantic. He would bring delicious food from his house just for her and would feed her lovingly. He spent on her whims and fancies. Three months later, she told Jordan about what was happening. She told him about Jamal and how they had been together for the past five months. She told him about his age. 'Are you crazy?' He had shouted out loud, his eyes almost bulging out. 'Hallo! He's practically Dad's age!'

Carol rolled her eyes. 'Yeah Jordan, but age has never been an obstacle for love.' 'Still? He is too old for you, sis. Actually since you are crazy enough to even consider marrying this joker, I should be saying you are too young.' 'h shut up, I knew I should not have told you.' 'I'm telling Ma.' Apparently, this possibility had never even occurred to Carol. She jumped at him and pinned him on the floor, holding him down by the arms and looking straight at his face. He finally gave into her due to the sheer factor of pain and, saying that he would not tell. But unable to sleep that night, he stared up at the ceiling. He got up from bed and walked over to his parents room. Waking them up as gently as he could, he told them. After being woken up from her dreams she could not remember, Carol was startled to open her eyes to what seemed like her parents. Jordan had cleverly gone back to his room so he would only have to face her wrath the next day. After three hours of shouting, threats and theories, her parents boiled it down to one thing.

'Listen here Carol,' her father had said, rubbing his temples which were almost visibly throbbing by then, 'if you don't promise to break it off, I will personally withdraw you from school and make you take your 'O' levels privately. You will stay at home where we can see you and you will not go out unless it is with us. You will not see your friends because we won't know whether it's them you are actually meeting and you will not speak to anyone on the phone that even sounds like a man. Now give me that ring around your neck and go back to sleep.' She cried the next day when she broke up with Jamal, telling him what had happened the night before. He was angry beyond belief. In fact, she had never seen him so angry before. He reassured her that while he was sad about having to break up with her, he was not angry with her. It was her parents that made him lose his temper. 'I know, Jamal. I told you. They said you were too old and that I was being stupid and that I was at an age where I should be getting to know more people and all that crap. My dad took the ring. You have no idea how sorry I am, about everything. Yesterday was the worse day of my life.'

Jamal being angry was an understatement. The word 'furious' might have been more appropriate. What right did her parents have to do this? He thought this as he rung his grandmother's doorbell. When his grandmother opened the door, he greeted her, asking her how she was and whether she was busy. She was actually with her elderly friends. They were chatting and laughing away, her usual get together every once a week. But for her favourite grandson, she would do almost anything. She excused herself and gave her full attention to Jamal. The grandmother knew he was engage and that he was waiting for his girlfriend to finish school before they got married. Of course he never told her that she was only sixteen. She had assumed she was in the university and that they would be getting married once she had got her degree. When she asked to meet her, he would simply say he did not want to ask her about things like that now because she was very busy; even he had not met her parents.

He told his grandmother that day that upon finally meeting her parents, they had disapproved of him straight away and that they were not allowing them to get married. He said that they had not even bothered to get to know him and that if he ever went near her again and they found out, she would be locked in the house and never let out. His grandmother was angry as well. She was thinking about the unfair way her grandson had been treated. She told him that she would take care of it and that all she needed was her parents first names and their home address. Three days after the incident at home, Jordan's parents got up in the morning to go to work. Jordan's mother ran to the toilet to throw up. She assumed that something had gone wrong with her stomach because she had not even eaten anything. By the time she had finished, she was so weak that she didn't even want to think about going to work. Her husband tucked her back into bed, kissed her good bye and then left for work. Despite the fact that his mother was sick, Jordan did not sense anything being wrong. He started to get worried only when the same thing happened to his father the next day. He was worried that it was something the family was doing and that soon, they all would be sick.

As far as he knew, stomach problems were not contagious. The thought of something horrible and virus like crossed his mind but he threw the horrid thought out straight away; paranoia was the last thing everybody needed. But the things got steadily worse. Soon, his parents were both sick and because of that, the family was in a state of turmoil. His father had started to find tiny bumps on his skin that looked like tiny boils. Touching them would cause him great pain and even lying down was difficult because of the ones on his back. Obviously, tempers were flying within the household and everyone was shouting at each other. Carol was really upset and she did not know what to do about what was happening in her house. She could not concentrate on anything and she dreaded going home. It came to a point where she could not stand it and she finally dialled the number she had been forbidden to dial, on the public phone downstairs. She told Jamal what had been happening and asked whether they could meet to talk.

When they met that day she had been so happy to see him. She cried when she told him what had been happening at her house and when she started crying, she could not stop. Jamal could not take watching her like that and even though he knew it was a stupid thing to do, he confessed to her the fact that he was the one who had cause all her problems. He told her about his grandmother and that she had special powers. She got up from the park bench where they had been and stood in front of him. Her eyes were filled with both anger and betrayal. She was angry with her parents but she knew what they had done, they had done with good intentions. What his grandmother had done, she had done it out of spite. He had tried to calm her down as she started shouting, saying that he would get his grandmother to reverse the spell she had cast. He apologized over and over again that it was not his fault. Carol turned away and walked over to the side of the road, hailing a taxi. She had never felt so lonely. It took awhile for her parents to get better. She wondered whether he had hesitated in asking his grandmother to reverse the spell. For a whole week, she watched her parents health take a plunge for the worse before their bodies started to heal even remotely.

Strangely, a week later, Jamal came to their house with a fruit basket to enquire about their health. What was more strange was that her parents welcomed him with open arms. her father even called him son-in-law.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Teenage Witch

Demi had always been strange; but Julie was about to find out just how strange she actually was. Julie and Demi were fourteen years old and were in the same class. Their entire class was separates into groups of four for their geography project ad Julie had ended up with Jensen, Celine and much to her despair, Demi. She had nothing, of course, against making new friends. After all, that was what teenagers were supposed to do. But Demi was not just any teenager. From the first day of class, Julie had been very wary of Demi, not because she thought Demi was out to get her, but because she was just so afraid of her.

Demi always seemed to be lost in her own world, and yet very aware of what was going on. She could be staring at her nails for an entire hour and when the teacher asked her something about what was going on, she would look up and give the teacher the entire analysis of the lesson. She was very intelligent and yet very withdrawn. In every class, she would sit alone at the back with her bag as her sole companion. When they were thirteen, there was something about Demi's eyes. They had been very defined and very penetrating. Her lashes were thick and dark and her eyebrows always seemed to be arched in question or condescension. A teacher had once called her up in front of the class and told her to take off her eyeliner. She had told her that she was not wearing any. The same teacher had come back up two periods later with make up remover and cotton from the monitors room and found out that she had been telling the truth. Some people thought that she was eccentric and some people thought that she was just plain crazy, silly. Julie however, had no opinion about her; she just did not want anything to do with Demi.

Besides the fact that she was weird, many people had commented about how hard she was to work with. The project was due in one and a half weeks and they got together in the canteen that day. Jenson, despite the fact that he was the only guy, had the nicest handwriting of the three and was writing everything down. Julie was planning the format of their write up and Celine was dictating things to Jenson. The three of them wrote or read furiously because they were hoping to finish this early and be done with it so they could have extra time to spare. Demi just sat there, pushing back her cuticles with her thumbnail and occasionally adjusting the hair-bun on her head. After about an hour, she suddenly looked up and glared at the three of them. 'Can we go home now? I have better things to do than sit here with you all.' They were taken aback and all stared at her in disbelief. Jenson and Celine opened their mouths to speak but closed them when they realized that they had nothing to say. Julie on the other hand had been getting increasingly irritated with her for the past hour and had been noticing her blatant attitude towards the whole project. She had not so much as lifted a finger except to look on. It did not look like she was going to be doing anything anytime soon.

'Maybe if you started helping us instead of living in your little alternate reality for a minute, we would get all this done much faster.' The minute the words came out, Julie wished she could have swallowed them. She looked at Demi's face. It became a shade darker and her eyes were ablaze with anger. Quickly, Julie tried applying damage control and tried to take back her words. 'Okay, okay. Forget it. You go back; we'll stay here.' Demi stood up and took a step towards her. Seeing this, Julie took a step back. 'Do you have a problem with me?' 'I said for...get... it. Just go home, okay?' Julie sighed. Demi opened her mouth, as if to speak but thought twice about it. She smiled a mysterious smile at Julie and turned towards the exit. 'You'll be sorry,' they could hear her say as she left.

In the minutes after she had left, all three let out a sigh of relief. 'We have only two more days, and the whole thing is far from complete!' Celine uttered in despair. They were seated together during recess, in order to discuss the project. Celine and Jenson were eating, but Julie had her head against the tabletop. Her stomach was twisting painfully, and that killed any appetite she had. She had been to the doctor twice, but nothing he prescribed helped. It felt as if knives were twisting through her guts. Another jolt of pain shot through her and Julie bent over the side of the bench, groaning. 'Sorry,' was all she could managed as Celine laid her hands on her back. 'This is ridiculous,' said Celine. 'How are we going to finish without her? We all live so far apart, whereas her home is right across the street from school. The least she can do is provide her house for us to finish up today and tomorrow. Not to mention that Julie has been sick for so long.'

'Do you really think Demi would let us into her house? Julie laughed weakly. 'We have no choice. The school gates shut at five and we will have to do it elsewhere,' Jenson added. 'Yeah, I'd guessed we hove no choice,' the two girls replied. Julie and Celine were looking at Jenson intently. He knew their intention and sighed. Getting up from the bench, he walked over to Demi who was sitting alone at another table. Five minutes later, he returned, with a rather surprised look on his face. He told them that she had agreed quite readily, but made it very clear that she did not want to be bothered at all. They all considered that reasonable, considering the circumstances and agreed. Jenson added that she did not actually want to do anything; they were only going there to use the house. Celine groaned and Julie rolled her eyes but they knew they had no other choice. They were in Demi's living room that evening, sticking things on a piece of vanguard and typing on the computer outside. They had stopped to take a break after they all thought they would suffer from burnout and just sat and talked for a little while. They looked around the living room and commented about how normal everything looked. Jenson shook his head and asked whether any of them had a red marker. They shook their heads in turn and Jenson opened his mouth to shout at Demi who was in her room, but thought better of it.

Demi had left her bag in her living room; or rather she had just dumped it there after locking the door and then stalked off to her room. Julie took her bag and opened it, looking for her pencil case. She searched for awhile and then found something cylindrical and round. She thought that maybe it was a whiteboard marker and fished it out of the bag. It was only when she took it out and looked at it that she realized what it was. She looked at the smooth white candle over and wondered what it was doing in her back. She turned it around and found part of their class photo pinned to it. She squinted and to her horror she realized that the part of the photo that had been cut out was that of her face. Her face had been pinned to the top of the candle and the vague outline of a body carved out, perhaps with an ink-less pen, beneath it.

She looked at it and quickly zipped the bag. She stood up with it in her pocket, checked whether Demi's door was closed and then showed it to the others who were as speechless as her. Jenson opened his mouth to speak. 'So you think it is, you know, one of those voodoo things?' Julie shook her head as he passed it to Celine and said how voodoo usually involved pins. 'Besides, why would she do that to me? It's not like I did,' she faltered. 'That day I shouted at her.' 'Julie, take a look carefully at this.' She handed the candle to Julie who looked at where her finger was pointing. She squinted and looked at the tiny spot around the belly. She ran her finger over it and realized that there was a pit in the candle surface. A pin was inserted into the candle. The pit was just so deep that she had not seen it. She could not see a way to take it out without digging her nails into the wax and peeling a bit of it off. She slipped the horrid thing back into her pocket and stood up, wondering what to do.

'I'll help you. Give the thing to me.' They turned around and were shocked. Demi was sitting on the armchair. How on earth she had entered the room without being noticed is still a mystery. Within minutes, Julie was cured. No one ever talked about it or Demi, ever.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


'Fred?' His wife looked at him with surprise. 'I thought you were in Malaysia? Why are you back so early?' Fred now knew the meaning of seeing red. He looked at the woman in his bed, as if she was a stranger. She was half dressed, lounging on the bed. The noise his wife was making woke the man, and Fred got to see his face clearly. Fred did not know the fellow. All he knew was his wife was with a stranger. He wanted to smash his wife's face in, as well as the man's. His head was swimming in anger, and he could not think straight. He had come home early that day, back from a business trip. Something had cropped up and the deal was off. It had been a disastrous trip. He was looking forward to going back to his wife, and the warm comfort of home. The shock of seeing his wife in bed with... he could not remember. His anger was freezing his mind.

'Fred, I can explain,' his wife struggled for words. 'You see...' 'Save your breath, Sasha,' he spoke coldly. Throwing her a look of contempt, Fred turned on his heels and strode out of the room. It was clear enough. Five years of marriage had just gone out of the window. He went into the living room and picked up the phone. 'Mr. Lee?' He called his lawyer. 'My wife and I are divorcing. Arrange for the necessary papers.' Putting down the phone, he turned and saw his wife. Her sparkling eyes, that he used to find so beautiful, now looked like cold hard stones. Sadly, he looked at her. 'It's over.' He walked around the house but the man was gone. That was a strange thought. Where could the man have gone to.

It's not over,' she replied. 'I'll make you sorry.' Fred shrugged, and left the house. He was sure the man could not have just vanished into thin air. But he was too angry to stay in the house. Money had always been important to Fred, not to mention the fact that he had lots of it. Although he was not one of those people who was in love with money and was concerned about only that, there was something that he knew for a fact. One could be happy with or without money. But what if by chance one was sad? Would it not be better to be financially comfortable at the same time? Between Fred and Sasha, they owned eight houses. Some of them were attributed to the fact that they both had good jobs and some of them were attributed to the fact that they had both had rich parents and few siblings. In fact, Fred had had none. His money was all hard earned and multiplied through a few good investments. For the trial, Fred had employed the services of a very prominent local law firm. Jasmine, not to be outdone, engaged the services of an overseas one, from the United Kingdom. It was a scandal that the media loved. By the time the case was over, Fred was left with only two and a half of the houses he bought with Sasha, and he had to sell one to cover the lawyers fees.

Still, Fred could not walk away with that. He felt that the decision of the court was unjust, and had decided to appeal. He made a mistake. But strange things started to happen the day he decided to appeal. He fell terribly ill and was unable to do anything productive. He felt someone was following him wherever he went. He would turn around but there would be no one. He did realize he would still be able to survive without the house; he had assets in liquid form. Yet, he did not want to lose by such a wide margin. He wanted to win. After all, it was his wife who cheated on him and he did not understand why people could not comprehend this simple fact. In the court, there were no witness on his side that had ever seen his wife with another man. She was wrong and he was right, he thought. He had a fever and at one point could not even get out of bed. The more he became angry, the worse he got. He had gone to three doctors all of whom had prescribed him the same medicine. It was obviously not working. Because of that, plus his normally unquestioning faith in modern medicine, he started to suspect that the root of his problem was not merely physical. The pain was becoming unbearable.

He did have an open minded. He went to a medium to find out if the medium could help him. The medium was worried when he saw Fred at the door. Fred told him that at night he felt like someone was cutting him with small pen knife cuts. He would wake up with his own screams. The medium told him after a short session that someone was definitely trying to harm him although he could not tell who. There was something he would have to do. Fred was willing to do anything, he wanted help badly. The medium had, in the traditional way with Chinese brush and paint, painted eight specific characters on a piece of yellow paper. He then nailed it to a tree there and said a few prayers. Over the next two weeks, the medium visited Fred in his home three times. Each time he went for a consultation, Fred had got visibly better. On the third day, the medium had brought him what had seemed like an ominous warning.

He had told him not to continue fighting the case; that the case had something to do with that fact that he had got sick. Fred had simply nodded his head reluctantly; there was no way that he was going to stop fighting. He wanted that was rightfully his. He was not happy that the medium had rearranged his furniture and even moved his pictures on the wall. The minute he recovered, he continued with the fight that had already been going on even when he was not well. He rearranged his house again, the way he liked it. Three days later, he woke up and realize that he could not get out of bed. everything from the waist down felt like lead and he could not move his legs. He thought he was dead. What scared him most was the shadow in his bedroom that was always hovering on the ceiling. The shadow looked like the man who was with his wife. He started to panic and screamed out. Luckily for him, the phone was on the side table next to his bed. He grabbed the receiver and called his best friend, Alfred, who had the key to the house. Next, he called for the ambulance. They both arrived at the same time and it was a good thing because Alfred hurriedly unlocked the door for the hospital staff to get in. 

Fred had fainted. Fred was lying in the hospital bed the next day when he saw the medium coming in, shaking his head. Knowing very well why, Fred expected a stern scolding but was relieved to find out that the medium had been shaking his head in sympathy and not disapproval. They talked for awhile and the medium said a few prayers before he said goodnight and left. Before leaving, the medium advised Fred to sell away his house. The doctors out him through many check ups but could not pin point what was the cause of his ill health. At the hospital, Fred's health was deteriorating. He had more frequent bouts of dizziness and felt tired and exhausted.

Two days from then, the medium came back to find countless colorful flowers standing all over the room. He then ran out and the next thing Fred knew, he saw the medium coming back in with two nurses who then proceeded to take out all the wreaths of flowers from the room. As they did, the medium went to his bed and sat on the side, explaining in a soft whisper that someone had put a spell on the flowers and sent them to him. The medium looked at him for awhile with a certain kind of expression and opened his mouth to speak. Fred already knew what he was going to say and spoke before he could say anything. 'I know. I am happy with the case already; I'll tell my lawyers to pull back the case, okay?' The medium smiled and nodded and proceeded to say some prayers over him. Fred was better within the next three weeks. He never tried ti pursue the case. Strangely, Sasha wanted to buy the house at any cost but Fred tore the house down and sold it as part of an en-bloc sale.

Over the next few years, he went about rebuilding his life, and soon regained his lost fortune. Five years after the case, Alfred told him that Sasha had just filed for bankruptcy. What was worse was that she had lost her mind and was put in an asylum.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

End Of Days

'If you want it done, you have to go and look for it, you coward!' She hissed at him. 'But how am I supposed to do it? She'll see me!' 'She's buying food, you idiot! Besides, she broke up with you remember? I don't think she wants to look at you at all. So you better go and find it now!' She shoved him towards the bag. he stood there hesitantly. When he turned back, she gave him the fiercest glare she could muster, and pointed to the yellow bag in front of him.

Looking around quickly, he scurried over to the bag, unzipped it. He rummaged roughly through, until he found what was he looking for. When he found it, he fished the little blue brush belonging to his former girlfriend and shoved it into his pocket. Without wasting another minute, he zipped the bag closed and walked back to Yvonne hurriedly. Yvonne stood there, looking at him approvingly. The two of them had been good friends since secondary one and had been streamed into the same class in secondary three. She looked at Martin with exasperation, and wondered why he was such a coward. They walked down to the school garden together, looking at the blue hairbrush. Yvonne grabbed the brush from him and examined it closely. 'Yvonne, do you think it was a good idea to take Ping Ping's hairbrush?' Martin asked nervously. 'What if she finds out it's missing?' 'What if? She did not see you taking it from her bag, did she?' Yvonne questioned impatiently. 'Anyway, stop whining. You want to get even, don't you?' 'Yvonne, I know I am not an expert with this witchcraft stuff but I am quite sure you can't use a stupid brush for it.'

'How dumb do you think I am?' sh retorted, still looking at the brush. 'Get some tissue from my bag.' Obediently, he did as told while Yvonne continued to study the comb closely. Yvonne had been reading up books on witchcraft for the last few years. Some people in school said before that she had magical powers. Firstly, she was doing extremely well in school, even without putting in as much effort as her friends. And she always faired much better then them. Secondly, even though she loved food and ate enough food for two men, she never put on weight. She would eat anything she wanted' ice-cream, chocolate, french fries any high-caloried food, but she stayed the same. No one had seen her cry and she enjoyed taking long walks alone. 'Okay idiot, listen. I am not taking her stupid brush. I am looking for hair.' She pulled a single strand of bleached hair from the brush and waved it in front of his face.

'I just feel that what we are doing is not right,' Martin muttered. 'You don't want me to go up to her and pluck it from her head, right?' He shook his head and laughed. Quickly and efficiently, she laid the few strands hair on a piece of clean tissue and wrapped them. Martin look on, and thought that would look pretty strange to anyone walking past that part of the school now. 'You coming over today to see what I am going to do?' She asked him. 'I guess I might as well. Hey, thanks. This is going to be damn funny, but don't torture her too much, okay?' 'If you ask me, I think she deserves it; I hate traitors. But then again, if you had listened to me in the first place, this would have never happened right?' Martin thought about what he had seen and the look on Ping Ping's face when she saw him looking at her holding the other guy's hands. 'How did you know she was like that?' 'Oh please! It's so obvious. Guys can be so blind.' 'I...' He sighed.

Later that day, they went straight to Yvonne's house after school. In her room, Yvonne unwrapped the little piece of tissue with Ping Ping's hair in it. Leaving it on her table, she stood up to fetch a blood red candle and a needle. 'It's a good thing that Ping Ping had a long hair. If not, things would be troublesome,' she remarked to Martin as she worked. When the things were prepared, she passed the needle to Martin. 'Hold it for me,' she commanded as she began to tread the needle with the few strands of hair. When the strands of hair was halfway through the needle, she stopped. Taking the needle from Marin's hands, she pierced the candle with the needle, drawing the strands through the candle wax. When the needle was firmly lodged inside the candle, she picked up a pair of scissors and snipped off the hair near the eye of the needle, leaving the strands protruding out of the candle. When done, she took the candle and handed it to Martin. 'You take this home. Write down on a piece of paper what you would like to happen to Ping Ping, and place it under the candle. Lit the wick and let the candle burn. If you want the spell to end, just let the candle brun down. The spell would end then.'

He smiled, as he took the candle from her. 'But be careful. Make sure you don't pull out the hair,' she warned him. 'I know. I know,' he uttered impatiently, his eyes bright on the candle. 'You are such a nagging grandmother.' 'what an ingrate! If I had known, I would not have helped you.' 'Okay, okay,' Martin joked. 'You are the best. Thank you, thank you, thank you!' It was in the middle of Mathematics lesson that it happened. Madam Teo had he back to them, as she tried to explain the complex formulas she scribbled on the blackboard. Behind her, the class fidgeted restlessly. Suddenly, the searching sound of metal against concrete could be heard. Yvonne, who was falling asleep, looked up in time to see Ping Ping rushing out of the class, her hand over her mouth. Madam Teo had turned at the noise.

'What's going on?' She asked the class. No one answered at first. 'It's Ping Ping. I think she's not feeling well,' the class monitor replied finally. Yvonne turned around to look at Martin, who was seated a few seats behind. At her raised eyebrow, he smiled back knowingly and shrugged nonchalantly, as if nothing had happened. That bothered Yvonne greatly. The moment the recess bell rang, she stood up and walked to his desk. 'You made her sick?' 'Not seriously sick. I just asked that she start throwing up a little,' he chuckled wickedly. 'She probably thinks that she's pregnant.' 'Martin!' 'Okay, okay, I'm just kidding. I'll burn the thing day after tomorrow when I get back from school.'

By the third day, Ping Ping's condition had deteriorated greatly. Pale and weak from throwing up, she could barely make it to class. She slumped down on the chair at her desk and simply put her head down on the table. 'Are you happy now?' Yvonne looked with him reproachfully. 'When are you going to burn the candle?' 'I'll do it today. I told you already, didn't I?' 'You know, I really regret helping you with this. I never knew you were so revengeful,' Yvonne hissed at him angrily. 'You'd better burn the candle soon, or else she's going to die.' Martin could only stare at Yvonne. 'Well, all this rate she's going, if you don't stop the spell soon, there will be nothing else she could throw up.' Watching on, Martin felt a tinge of guilt. He had wanted to burn the candle down the night before, but the memory of her betrayal haunted him. He had decided to torture her, just for one more day. Now, all he wanted was to run home and burn that candle. The moment he got off school, Martin was in a hurry. Throwing his bag in a corner, he started looking around his room for the candle. It was not on his desk; he remembered placing it there the night before. A sinking sensation appeared in his stomach. Pulling out all the drawers, Martin still could not find the candle.

'Mum! Sis you see a candle in my room?' He yelled to his mother, who was seated outside watching television. 'Yes, I threw it away. I don't know why you keep these sorts of things,' Her voice floated to him. 'You what? You threw it away?' He stomped out of the room. 'Yes,. Why?' She looked at him queerly. 'I thought I told you to stay away from my room, right? Didn't I? Didn't I?' he shouted at his mom. He tried to control his temper but could not. 'Did you throw it down the chute or what,' he half screamed again. 'Don't you shout at me, young man.' His mother was losing patience. 'Oh shut up!' he yelled, not caring that she was his mother.

He went straight to the door. Slipping on his shoes, he slammed the door and ran downstairs. At his void deck, he yanked open the door to the chute, nearly gagging at the smell of stench that hit him as soon as the door was opened. Flies hovered over the garbage chute, and he could see cockroaches scurrying off into the shadows. Brown stains covered the walls around the chute, and the bin was overflowing with refused. Martin looked on with disgust, and could feel bile rising in his stomach. For a while, he felt like giving up. After all, she was the one who dumped him. Almost immediately, Yvonne's words came back to him. Ping Ping would die if he did not find the candle soon. Gritting his teeth, Martin rolled his sleeves up, and started rummaging through the bin. A few broken bottles lain in the chute, and Martin nearly got his arm cut. It took him nearly an hour to go through the contents. The longer he searched, the more desperate he got. The candle could not be found. He went back up to his apartment, totally in despair. He had merely wanted to make her pay, but not with her life. His mother was waiting for him inside the apartment, her face stern and angry.

'Here's your precious candle,' she uttered, 'Next time, you clean your own room. Don't expect me to do it for you.' With disbelief, martin looked at the candle with a few strands of bleached hair sticking out of it. 'Where did you find it? I thought you threw it away?' 'I did, but I was too lazy to bring out the trash,' she retorted angrily. 'You smell terrible. Go and have a bath.' Martin was more relieved than anything else. 'Thank you, thank you,' he also tripped over with his thanks. 'Thank you or no thank you, you are grounded for a month. This behaviour is totally unacceptable.' Martin was still thanking her. 'That's better,' his mother's tense face relaxed a little. 'But you are still grounded. Go take a shower now. You stink like a pig!' 'Yes, anything, Mum!' He picked up the candle quickly and went straight to his room.

He waste no time , setting the wick of the candle aflame immediately. As he watched the candle burn, Martin felt the tension fade away together with his anger. He was no longer angry with Ping Ping.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Black Magic

Nathan sat there in his bed, cursing the chicken pox virus. He looked at the condition of his skin and sighed. The urge to scratch at the pus-filled blisters on his arms was overwhelming, but he forced himself not to. Placing both his hands underneath himself, he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. The blisters appeared a week ago. If he had his way, the virus would have run its course by now. His friends had told him about the new drug that was supposed to speed up the effects, so that the entire episode would be over in a week. But his mother, who believed in all things natural, insisted that he left it run its course. Who knows what kind of side effects drugs might have had on him? And goodness knows how much they would cost? You will have to pay through your nose if you get ill in Singapore.

Bitterly, he looked at his blemished skin and got up to open his closet door. The door swung open to reveal a full length mirror, and Nathan saw an unfamiliar face covered with pockmarks. He closed the door with disgust. For a while, he glanced at the phone, wondering whether to invite his girlfriend over. She had wanted to catch chicken pox from him, just so that she would get it over and done against the idea. After a while, he decided that it was better that she stayed home. The house was to quiet for him. He slipped back into bed and pulled the sheets up, taking care not to break the blisters on his bare legs. The pills the doctor prescribed were beginning to take effect. He was about to go to sleep when he heard the chime of the doorbell. He laid still in bed, listening out for the sound of his mother's slippers shuffling to answer the door. No sound came. The hallway outside was quiet. The doorbell continued ringing. With another sigh, Nathan got our from bed and peered into his mother's room. She was lying on her bed, asleep. He would have to answer the door.

He went to the door and looked through the peephole. A man in blue uniform was standing outside. It must be the newspaper man, here to collect the monthly subscription. Nathan was about to open the door when he realized the sight he must have looked. Quickly, he glanced into the mirrored partition and arranged his hair, only to realized that nothing he could do would improve matters. Resigned to his fate, Nathan opened the door. The shock on the man's face was enough to tell Nathan how hideous he looked. Somehow, he irritated Nathan. 'Delivery for Mr. Nathan,' he uttered hastily, thrusting a basket of flowers in Nathan's face. As he did, he took extra care to stay away from Nathan. 'It's okay,' Nathan snapped exasperatedly. 'I'm past the infectious stage. Don't worry.'

Somehow, the man relaxed a little. Still, he took care to avoid touching Nathan when the basket changed hands. Stifling an angry growl, Nathan grabbed the basket and slammed the door in the man's face. He carried the basket to the table. Filled with roses, the basket was a pretty sight. An unsigned 'Get Better' card was propped at the basket rim. His girlfriend must have sent it to him. Nathan smiled, picked up the phone and dialed Rina's number. 'Hello Rina?' 'Nath! How are you today?' His girlfriend's voice gushed over the phone. 'Thanks for the flowers. You shouldn't have; the look expensive.' 'Huh?' 'The flowers. I just received them.' 'Hello, my dear, who sending you flowers that i don't know about?' A hard edge appeared in her voice. 'Oh! They are not from you,' Nathan kicked himself. He was going to hear about this for the next month or so. Every other female acquaintance of his was going to become a suspect in the great mystery of the flower sender.

'It's probably someone in my family,' he thought quickly on his feet, crossing his fingers at the lie. 'No one in your family would send you flowers, even if they knew you are dying,' she spoke his thoughts aloud. Rina was not stupid. 'Hey, take it easy. Okay?' He laughed nervously. 'I'll find out the sender and send them my chicken pox. 'You'd better do that before I get my hands on her.' 'You are being paranoid, you know?' He knew it was a mistake the moment he said it. For the next few minutes, Nathan winced as he listened to the high pitch tirade over the phone. it took him a while to calm her down, and by then, Nathan was already yawning. 'Rina darling, I really need to sleep,' he let off a huge yawn. 'Oh all right,' she muttered irritably. 'This is not over yet, but you'd better sleep.' 'Yes darling,' Nathan said with relief. 'Bye darling.'

Hanging up the phone, Nathan looked at the flowers for a while, wondering who had given them to him. The thought of a secret admirer amused him. It must be someone who knew him very well, well enough to know that he preferred artificial flowers to real ones. they would never wilt and were value for money. Then again, it could have been just a coincidence. He returned to his room, and slipped back to his bed. His eyelids were feeling heavy, and it did not take long before gentle snores filled the room. Nathan opened his eyes to direct sunlight. squinting, he checked the time; it was eight in the morning. Nathan groaned with pain as he tried to sit up, wondering why he had woke so early. His question was soon answered s his stomach started to churn violently. He needed to throw up. On instinct, he dashed out of bed, and sprinted out of his bedroom. He practically slid across the polished marble hallway to the toilet bowl, and made it just in time. He emptied his dinner into the bowl.

When done, he rinsed his mouth hurriedly, trying to wash the rancid taste away. As he did, he tried to recall what he ate for dinner, a cheese sandwich and a glass of water. how could he get indigestion from that? He thought of blisters lining his stomach walls, and shuddered. it must be the chicken pox virus. Sighing, he walked back to his room. Every step he made jarred his brain. The headache was getting more unbearable. when he finally reached his bed, he sat down only to feel his stomach churn once more. Once more, he dashed madly to the bathroom. Upon his return, he groaned miserably, wondering what he had done to deserve this. For a while, he starred at the phone, wanting to whine to Rina about everything, but decided against it. He sat down on his bed gently, praying that his stomach remained still, and was glad when his head finally touched the pillow. He was feeling feverish, but he was too weak to go to the kitchen for painkillers. Soon, he was fast asleep.

His fever built and the pounding of his head got worse, as the day progressed. By evening, he had thrown up over five times, much to the concern of his mother. She had called his father to ask for help, and was told to sponge Nathan down. If that did not work, she would have to take him to the doctor. His father was on his way home. Nathan's father came home to find his son seated in the leaving room, starring blankly at the television screen with a wet towel over his forehead. Nathan's eyes were glazed, and he did not seem to notice his father. His wife stood nearby, and he could see that she was worried sick about Nathan. 'Nathan?' His father asked. 'Are you alright?' His father left his briefcase by the door, and had come to sit across him. lifting the towel, he felt his forehead. Nathan continued starring blankly ahead of him. A frown appeared on his face. Quickly, he put the towel back and held his hand over it as he began to pray. His lips moved rapidly, as he chanted a mantra taught to him as a child. As he chanted, he could see more light appearing in Nathan's eyes. Soon, Nathan looked up at his father, and for the first time that evening, his father saw recognition in his son's eyes.

'How are you feeling?' He asked Nathan. Nathan did not answer and just moaned. His father turned to his mother. 'Was he this sick yesterday?' He asked her sternly. His mother shook her head. 'Did anything unusual happen yesterday?' 'The only thing that came for Nathan was those flowers on the table. Even Nathan don't know who sent them. I hardly think that the flowers made him sick,' his wife said, trying to stay calm. Nathan's father did not wait for her to finish, and was already tearing the basket apart. He did not seem to hear her and started to pull out each individual flower out of the green foam at the bottom of the basket. When all of the flowers were lying in a heap besides the basket, his eyes widened at something inside the basket. The green foam used for holding the flowers in place was cut in very precise manner into the rough shape of a human being.

He felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand as he looked at the marks that had been made by the plastic flower stems. They all centered on its stomach and its head and had created almost two big holes at those two points. He picked the doll up and looked it up and down. He then turned it around to find two Chinese characters written on it and pinned to the back of it. He took out the pin carefully and took the piece of paper to the door. Slipping into his slippers, he walked over to his neighbor's house and rang the doorbell. His Chinese friend opened the door smiling and asked what was up. Nathan's father showed him the characters and asked what they meant. 'Oh!' he had replied rather surprised at the words. 'That's your son's name in dialect! Who did that?' 'It's a long story; maybe some other time.' Nathan's father was thankful that he trusted his gut instinct. He presumed that if this was causing his son so many problems that it worked when it had arrived at the house. So, if it was not there anymore, it would not cause anymore harm. So he did the only thing he could think of doing; he walked over to the rubbish chute, threw away the foam doll, then burnt the yellow piece of paper with his son's name on it.

I supposed you could say that we would never know if what it was that caused the fever and the headaches and the vomiting. Nathan's father believes that it did. It may have been coincidence that Nathan's started recovering almost straight away and that his temperature was back to normal within the next three hours. His father asked him when he was well, whether he had any idea who sent the flowers. He said that he did not and his father went to tell him what he had done. Nathan was of course shocked. He had no idea who would have wanted to do that to him; but at least he could tell Rina those flowers did not come from an admirer. Nathan's father did not want to alarm his son by revealing who the sender of the flowers was. the flowers were not for Nathan, but was for him. but Nathan had touched the flowers first, and since their names were similar, the curse went to him.