Delirium

Going without sleep for long periods of time can produce a range of experiences, including perceptual distortions and hallucinations.

Waters, F., Chiu, V., Atkinson, A., & Blom, J. (2018). Severe Sleep Deprivation Causes Hallucinations and a Gradual Progression Towards Psychosis With Increasing Time Awake

Isolation is an interesting experience.

When you’re used to being surrounded by people, suddenly having to be alone with your thoughts can be terrifying.

She lays in bed in her dark bedroom, and the only source of illumination is her phone screen. She’s staring at the device as it vibrates with an incoming call, but she doesn’t answer – she just silently pleads for the person on the other side of the line to give up and leave her alone.

A few moments later, the vibrations stop and a string of incoming messages ping their way to her inbox.

The girl turns off the ‘read receipts’ option and puts her arm over her eyes, swallowing the sudden spike of bitterness that she feels.

She’s trying to fall asleep, but it continues to elude her. She’d put on her favorite pajamas, made sure the room was the perfect temperature, and even put a few drops of vanilla oil in a diffuser. But sleep is being hostile, and she is imprisoned by her mind.

She stands up and leaves the room to get a glass of water, standing over the sink as she drinks, and droplets of condensation from the cold surface of the glass splash on her bare feet. She sets the glass down and rubs the back of her neck as a sudden restlessness takes over.

She opens the sliding door to the terrace and steps out into a pool of silver moonlight. She climbs up awkwardly over the barrier and stands with her back pressed to the cold metal, her feet just barely within the confines of the concrete ledge. The sleeping city twinkles below her, and she grips the railing a little bit tighter and curls her toes so that they don’t peek over the edge.

The call of the void, she muses, this is what it’s called.

She pauses to think, her breathing racing in shallow gasps. The wind whips her hair into a frenzied halo, and she curses under her breath. Calm down, she tells herself. This is depression. Despair is a normal reaction to extreme stress. This is not the best course of action.

She climbs back over the railing and sinks to the floor, trying to calm her heartbeat. The lines of the metal fencing are etched into her arm, angry red against her pale skin, and she laughs at herself, thinking that if she really wanted to die, she wouldn’t have held on so tightly.

The clock chimes 1 o’clock.

Her phone vibrates again from her bed and she feels a stab of irritation. She briefly considers throwing her phone over the ledge, but swiftly chastises herself for her irrational thoughts. She stands up shakily, holding on to the wall for support, and makes her way back inside.

It’s an unknown number. Hi, are you still up? the message asks.

She answers. I can’t sleep.

Can I help?

I don’t know. Can you?

I’m trying to be nice!

I haven’t slept in more than two days. Skip the niceness and give me a solution.

There is a ‘typing’ indicator on the other person’s end, then it stops. She waits, resting her cheek on her pillow as she watches the screen. The other person starts typing again, and then pauses just as abruptly as the first time. She is about to turn off her phone when it suddenly starts flashing a notification for an incoming call.

Well, why not? She asks herself, her finger hovering over the ‘answer call’ button. After a few seconds of deliberation, she takes the plunge and answers.

His voice is nicer than she expects and she nestles into a comfortable cocoon in her bed, her phone tucked behind her ear. “Tell me why you can’t sleep,” he says.

“It’s the lockdown,” she answers. “I haven’t been sleeping much since it started. And my sleep cycle has been messed up – I’m awake at night and asleep during the daytime.”

“You probably need less screen time,” he jokes. “You should put away your phone and properly go to bed.”

She stays reticent, not rising to his bait. She realizes that he probably just wants playful banter, but she does not know him personally and therefore does not try to alter her actions or censor her words.

“Hey,” she interrupts him. “What do you do when you feel hollow inside?”

He falls silent, and for a brief moment all she can hear is his breathing. He sounds so close that she imagines she could reach through her phone and smother him, cutting off his air supply, if she wanted to.

“Is that what you feel right now?” He asks finally, throwing the question back to her.

“I feel detached from everything,” she murmurs, staring at the ceiling and absently rubbing the red marks on her arm. “Did you know I haven’t spoken to anybody in three months?”

“That sounds difficult,” he admits. “Why won’t you talk to anybody? It seems like you need support now, more than ever.”

“I really like your voice,” she says.

“Don’t change the subject,” he laughs. “Can’t you talk to somebody you trust?”

She considers his words, wondering how to answer. “I mean…I have a lot of people that I trust. But I don’t feel comfortable opening up to them. In their eyes, I am the last person who should feel depressed, considering the circumstances.”

“Ah, I see. And perhaps you also feel that they would think that talking about something like this is too out-of-character for you.”

She sits up. “Yes, exactly!”

“Well, that’s silly. You’re fully entitled to feel whatever way you want. And if someone says otherwise, they can go to hell. We’re living in strange times right now and it’s perfectly acceptable for you to find it difficult to adjust. Your feelings are valid, too.”

She smiles, forgetting that he couldn’t see her. “Thank you,” she says shyly. “I feel a lot better now.”

He laughs on the other side of the line. “You’re welcome,” he says. “Any time.”

“It feels like I know you from somewhere,” she muses. “You feel very familiar.”

“Maybe I am,” he teases. “Maybe I’m just a figment of your imagination and you’re totally making everything up right now and I’ll be nowhere to be found when you wake up.”

“Sounds right,” she shrugs. “You could be a hallucination for all I know – just my own brain trying to make me feel better.”

“Am I at least doing a good job?”

“Yeah,” she says, meaning it. “You’re my favorite hallucination.”

He doesn’t say anything in response, but she hears him laugh.

“Where did you come from, anyway?” She asks, trying to suppress a yawn. “You caught me just in time.”

“Just in time for what?”

Shit.

She tries to think of ways to backtrack, then decides that the best course of action is to skirt the issue entirely instead. “Did you just randomly text my number?”

“You’re not answering my question,” he reminds her, his voice dropping to a whisper. “Sorry I’m being quiet right now, someone’s outside my room and I don’t want them to hear me.”

She blinks sleepily, pressing the phone closer to her ear. “That sounds nice,” she says absently. “You should whisper more.”

“You weirdo,” he says in a lowered voice. “Don’t start creeping on me now.”

“I’m not,” she protests, her voice growing slow and heavy as her exhaustion finally catches up. “You just sound very…soothing.”

“And you sound very sleepy.”

“Whisper nice things to me,” she demands in a sleepy voice, giving up and finally closing her eyes. “So I can fall asleep.”

“Like what?” He whispers.

“Anything,” she whispers back.

They stay silent for a few minutes, and the last thing she hears is him whispering good night before she finally succumbs to sleep.


She wakes up to painfully bright light and she blinks, sitting up in a disoriented manner. It’s 9 in the morning and her phone is dead.

She yawns, stretching as she gets up. She opens the curtains to let the daylight in and a scrap of pink fabric catches her eye – it is snagged on the terrace railing and it looks oddly like her pajamas.

She looks down. There is a tear on her pajama bottoms. She feels her pulse pick up and she inspects her arms, her fingertips brushing lightly over the already-faint red lines from the iron railing. She runs back to the room and places her phone on its wireless charger, waiting impatiently for it to have enough charge to turn on.

That wasn’t a dream, she assures herself, her hands cold with nervousness as she goes to her messaging app and opens it. She scrolls past hundreds of unopened messages in a futile attempt to locate her conversation with the stranger.

There are none.

She opens her call log. Missed call after missed call blur past her eyes. The last one is a missed call from 12:17 the previous night. There is nothing in her call history to prove that she had ever spoken to him.

He was right – it was her imagination all along.

She sighs, shaking her head in amusement even as disappointment burns in her chest. A gentle breeze blows from the terrace and she glances up, watching the white muslin curtains dance in the playful wind.

She gets up, goes out to the terrace and leans on the railing. The wind caresses her hair, and she closes her eyes, soaking in the sunshine

Her view of the city down below is beautiful.

In Light of Recent Events

I’m taking a short break from writing fiction to writing about what’s happening in the world right now. And no, I’m not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, although that is also a valid concern and one that we must strive to overcome together.

I’m talking about the massive display of injustices happening all across the world – the protests happening in the United States in response to the escalation of police brutality and racially-charged crimes, the ongoing riots in Hong Kong, and even what’s happening to the Philippines right now, among others – our citizens are being being treated as second class in favor of the Chinese, the freedom of the press is being curtailed, and all sorts of injustices are happening on a daily basis. Worst of all, a Terror Bill (Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020) is being fast-tracked to ensure impunity and silence anti-administration sentiments.

I’m saddened when I see people on social media criticizing and belittling others for sharing their views and opinions on what’s happening right now. You have to remember that the freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly are among the fundamental rights granted to us by the Constitution and it is wrong to shame anyone for wishing to exercise these rights. Furthermore, silence helps the oppressor and never the oppressed.

There is a quote by Desmond Tutu that I really like – he says “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

People say that protests never accomplishes anything. Now that things have taken a violent turn, they are saying that violence is not the answer. So what do they want?

The issue in the United States right now goes beyond race, government overreach, and police brutality – if you look closely, it will bring us all back to where true evil comes from: capitalism. You can’t deny that racism is a tool utilized by capitalists to dehumanize other races they deem as ‘inferior’ for profit – as you might recall, African slaves were brought over to the US in the first place for this very purpose. No wonder the police, who exist to protect the elite, have no trouble committing racially-charged crimes and suppressing the working class and the press.

There are complaints about how burning down government buildings, police stations, and department stores are destroying communities. What about the destruction brought about by capitalism – tyranny, poverty, unemployment, lack of housing, overly inflated prices for healthcare, abuse of police power, lack of funding for education, mass imprisonment, and more? This just goes to show that peaceful protest and pushing for reforms is not going to work. You say that violence is never the answer, but sometimes, it is.

In a revolution, sometimes people have to die. Even if it’s me or you. The reason I take part in demonstrations like these is because I would rather sacrifice my life trying to overturn a bulwark that has rendered our citizens victims of systematic abuse and propaganda than stand by in silence. The government has failed us yet again and people are beginning to take notice.

Do you have to go this far to help?

No, of course not. If it’s not something you are willing to risk your life and your future for, I don’t recommend it. But you can make your opinions and your wants known with your votes, with how you spend your money, and with your advocacy and your voice.

Don’t be silent.

Speak up.

The Gamble

“So what do you say?” The man asked, the barrel of his gun pressed to the kneeling woman’s forehead. “Do you also believe in a higher power?”

She looked up at him unblinkingly, seemingly unbothered by the threat to her life. All around her, bodies lay in crumpled heaps, their blood seeping on the library’s faded Oriental carpets. She seemed to be mulling over the question.

“Well? Do you?” The man asked impatiently, his eyes wild and nostrils flared. Probably a psychotic episode or a mental breakdown, the young woman observed. “Answer me carefully or you’ll end up just like them.”

She smiled. “Tell me, are you a gambling man?”

“Shut the fuck up!” He snarled, slamming the gun against the side of her face. “Answer my question!”

She let out a short exhale and spit out a mouthful of blood to the side, licking her lips in mild annoyance. “How impatient. First, let me know. Are you familiar with Pascal’s wager?”

He narrowed his eyes at her lack of fear and casual attitude. “It sounds familiar.”

She looked delighted, her mouth curving with satisfaction. “Is it, now? Let me refresh your memory. Basically, the wager is a philosophical argument presented by mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal, claiming that humans make bets with their lives in choosing whether to believe if a higher power exists or not.”

His hand loosened its grip on the gun. She’d caught his interest.

Bingo.

“Are you trying to say that belief in a higher power is not irrational or illogical?” He sneered. “Sounds like something a theist loser would say.”

She laughed. “Or something that a pragmatic and sensible person would say.”

“How the fuck is that sensible?”

“Well, look at it this way. If you’re truly a rational person, you would side with where your best interests lie, would you not? In this case, it’s simple – if, in the end, we all find out that a higher power exists, would it not be better to have lived a life wherein you believed?”

He gritted his teeth. “That’s not-“

“Please. Let me continue.” She had gone from a kneeling position to sitting on the floor, looking far too comfortable in spite of the situation. “In simple terms – if a higher power does not exist, you will only suffer a finite loss. If a higher power does exist, you will receive infinite gain and avoid infinite losses. Does that not sound practical to you?”

“That doesn’t prove the existence of God at all!”

She looked at him, a peculiar expression on her face. “The wager does not intend to prove or disprove a higher power’s existence. It’s just a practical approach to an inconclusive situation .”

“So if we apply what you’re saying to my situation. If God exists, then I’m fucked. If he doesn’t exist, then I have nothing to be afraid of?”

“Ah, that’s debatable. It depends. What is legal is not always necessarily moral and vice versa. After all, you’re breaking the law and committing a crime – you should fear repercussion from your fellow humans as well.”

The gravity of his actions seems to dawn on him for the first time, and his hand shakes as he sees the corpses for what they are.

The girl was openly smiling, her lips parted in a wide, feral grin. The man felt a stirring of unease in his gut.

“Shall we make a bet?”

“I don’t think you’re in any position to-“

She ignored him, interrupting. “What do you say? If I can prove to you that a higher power does exist, will you believe?”

From a distance, the wailing of sirens pierced the silence.

They both looked out of the window. “Shit,” said the man.

“Well? What do you say?”

He raised the gun again, looking for a way out. “Lady, I’ve got more problems to think of right now.”

“What if a higher power makes them disappear? Will you surrender your life and your soul? Will you worship?”

He looks unsure, perspiration beading on his forehead and upper lip. From outside the building, voices are starting to surround them, the red and blue flashes of light illuminating the windows from the outside. “Organized religion is wrong.”

She grinned. “I’m not talking about organized religion. I’m only talking about belief.”

The doors to the library crashed open, and a thunder of footsteps rushed towards them.

His face crumpled. “Fine. Ask your God to do something.”

She studied her fingernails, a bland expression on her face. “You keep mentioning that name. The Judeo-Christian God is not the only higher power, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

She saw the primal fear in his eyes reach a crescendo as shouts deafened them and men in full SWAT body armor began to surround them.

He slowly brought the gun to the side of his head. “Goodness, how weak is your will?” She remarked in a bemused tone, rolling her eyes in annoyance and snapped her fingers.

All of a sudden he was falling, hurtling down an impossibly dark abyss. She was floating above him, looking mildly disappointed. “I gave you a chance, but now I’m tired of playing with you.”

“I thought you said we had a bet!”

“I gave you a chance and you didn’t take it.” She was beginning to fade and he was slowly resurfacing back to reality.

“Save me!” He screamed. “You’re supposed to be merciful!”

The last thing he was aware of as he met a hail of bullets was a whisper, deep in his consciousness, saying “I never said I was benevolent. I’ll see you very soon.”

Eternal Life

Azrael

There are multiple kinds of infinity, and some are larger than the others.

Am I making sense to you?

Essentially, there is a countable infinity, and an uncountable infinity.

Countable infinity is what we all typically think of when we hear the term ‘infinite.’ For example, you start counting at 1, and then eventually, sooner or later, you’ll get to the really big numbers like a million, a billion, a trillion, and so on.

Uncountable infinity is, on the other hand, an infinite set that has too many elements to render it countable. It’s impossible to determine how many there are, because you can’t really pinpoint the ‘starting number’ in the first place.

It doesn’t even stop there! There are infinities that exist for power sets, and power sets of infinite sets, subsets, all kinds of sets!

Then we have real numbers and natural numbers. Natural numbers are also infinite, but significantly less so when you compare them to real numbers. To quote someone smart, ‘there exist as many real numbers as there are subsets of natural numbers, so the power sets of the naturals is as large as the set of reals.’

So when you take the power set of the real numbers, you’ll end up with something that’s even BIGGER than uncountable.

Amazing, right?

There are intellectuals who strongly feel that infinity is a lazy mathematical concept, and there are physicists who claim that the concept of infinity is ruining physics.

I don’t know why they even bother to fight. When mathematicians and physicists argue about something, it usually gets nowhere because what might be theoretically correct for math can also be practically incorrect for physics.

But infinity? Humans are wrong about that.


Tristan

It was a rainy night. I ducked into a dimly lit coffee shop to escape the downpour, and I sat in a secluded corner with my hands wrapped around a cup of steaming coffee. The staff had kindly brought me a towel and I dried myself as best as I could, giving my hair a good rubbing and my face and arms a quick swipe. Good thing my backpack was waterproof and my phone and books were safe and dry.

Speaking of phones.

My phone started vibrating the moment my food arrived. My brother’s name showed up on the screen, but I was too hungry to answer it. I figured he’d call again later anyway, so I polished off my Reuben sandwich and my fries in record time. My phone stayed silent throughout the meal.

The rain was still falling as heavily as ever, and I decided to settle in and do some homework for the meantime. I signaled the wait staff over for a slice of cake and another cup of coffee, and then took out my books and got lost in my anthropology assignment.

My phone vibrated again.

I stuck a pencil between the pages of my book and answered absentmindedly. “Hey,” I said offhandedly.

“Hello,” answered a voice that most decidedly did not belong to my brother or anyone I knew.

The very first thought that came to mind was how ridiculously attractive the voice was.

“Who is this?” I asked, puzzled.

“I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I called a random number because I want somebody to talk to.”

I glanced outside the window. The rain still hadn’t let up. “I’ve got time,” I told her. “What’s up?”

“My name is Azrael,” she said. “I’m going to kill myself.”

The first few seconds after her announcement were tense. “Are you kidding?” I asked, sounding incredulous even to my own ears. She sounded so calm, so matter-of-fact. She didn’t sound like someone who was about to kill herself.

I took a sip of my coffee.

“Where are you located?” I asked.


Azrael

A fact: dreams are far more real than you can ever imagine.

Does this confuse you?

But there, it shouldn’t really matter. Because – nine times out of ten, in fact – there is a good chance that you are nothing like me. And believe me, that is a good thing.

Another fact, if you wish: pain is an entirely different universe, independent and virulent, but also perfectly capable of colliding into your much more mundane everyday lives at will.

How do I know this? It’s because dreams and pain are a part of my everyday life. I live in them and with them, I endure them, and in some twisted way, I subsist on them.

Let’s talk about pain.

When you’re immersed in a world of pain, reality begins to warp and your dreams set in. All there is are your hypersensitive senses and the clean stabs, waves and throbs of pain. If you’re not used to it, misery often follows – but if you can endure it to its very pinnacle, you will experience a desperate sort of euphoria instead.

I’ve learned to cope over the years. I’ve learned to live and take pain as it is, and now I’m more lucid when the physical pain hits. It’s not as dark and fearsome as you might think.

Actually, it’s bright and sharp and clean. So stark that you can almost hear it shrill and buzz. Crystal-clear.

Sometimes, among all the white-hot needles of pain, there are burst of color.

Like, for example, that day I fell. I remember, because the air smelled like iron, and the sky was like bright and frothy blood.


Tristan

She lived one city away from me. I told myself I was crazy, taking the train at 9:30 in the evening in the middle of a rainstorm to meet some random suicidal girl. But I couldn’t just let it go. She was calling random numbers, trying to find help-or at least, that was what my mind rationalized.

It was almost midnight when I reached her city. The train station was deserted, and I went straight for the line of benches near the wall. She said she was going to wait there.

And there she was – a slender girl, bundled up in a black hoodie. She was wearing black skinny jeans and white sneakers and a baseball cap. Her dripping umbrella was sandwiched between her knees.

She nodded in greeting, a serious expression on her face. It was an interesting face, a mixture of porcelain doll and horror movie ghost. Pale skin, huge eyes, dark shadows on her eyelids and under them.

“Hey,” I raised my hand in greeting, feeling uncharacteristically shy.

“You look cold,” she observed.

“What to get some tea?” I asked.


We walked out of the station hand-in-hand. Her skin was soft and warm and comforting. Somehow, touching her didn’t feel strange. All I wanted to do was to make her hold on to life – and the fact that I found her very attractive helped, too.

All the cafes were either closed or about to close, so we ended up at McDonald’s. The second floor was empty so we stayed in a corner booth, drawing smiley faces with ketchup on paper napkins and letting our sundaes melt. We talked in low, quiet voices, leaning on each other comfortably.

I had one arm around her and she was resting her head on my shoulder. It felt natural, somehow.

“Hey,” I said, playing with her fingers. I would smooth her hand open then curl them up into a fist and repeat the process over and over again. “Why exactly do you want to die?”

She laughed hollowly. “I’m just so…bored…with life,” she answered, looking past me and out the window. “I’ve done everything, gotten everything I wanted. There’s nothing left for me to live for.”

“First world problems,” I grumbled.

She poked my cheek, and I bit her finger playfully. “Sorry,” I murmured when I heard her gasp slightly.

“It’s fine,” she said, turning away and reaching for her sundae. She dipped her spoon into the half-melted ice cream and licked it clean.

“Are you really all right?” I wrapped my arms around her tighter. She nestled into me, and I felt her nod. I kissed the top of her head.

“When I look outside,” she began softly, “all I see is despair and ruin and greed and hopelessness. It wasn’t like this before, you know? Everything used to be so fresh and bright and I was so eager, so full of life.”

She lapsed into silence once again and I accompanied her in stillness, waiting for her to speak again.

“It was exquisite, at first. I was powerful and I felt like the world was in my palms. That everything was mine for the taking. I traveled around the world, I saw all these new and exciting events and discoveries take place. I had plenty of friends, at first, but one by one, they started leaving me behind, either forgotten or succumbed or…killed.”

I stroked her hair softly as she spoke, combing through the strands with my fingers. “I won’t go,” I whispered into her ear. “Stay and live, and I’ll be with you forever.”

She turned to me and smiled, and it was such a sweet, heartbreaking smile that in one bizarre moment, I decided that all I wanted to do was dedicate my life to making her feel happy again.

“You can’t,” she told me, holding my face delicately in her hands. “You’ll eventually leave me too.”

“I won’t,” I protested, but she silenced me by leaning forward and placing a gentle kiss on my lips.

“I appreciate that you want to help,” she said. “Will you come home with me?”


We were silent during the cab ride to her house, wrapped around each other, feeling pleasantly warm and sleepy. My eyes fluttered close a few times and she kissed my eyelids softly. I tried to suppress my shivers, but eventually I couldn’t stop myself and I bit her, leaving a deep imprint of my teeth on her shoulder.

She breathed in sharply, her lips close to my ear. “Better save that for later,” she laughed.

I squeezed her tighter, nipping her behind her ear and making her squirm again. “I don’t like waiting,” I told her.

We didn’t even bother turning on the lights once we were inside. We fell into her bed and I pulled off her jacket, and then she was in my arms only in a tank top. I managed to leave a few bite marks on her arms and shoulders and they bloomed like dark flowers on her skin.

“You’re beautiful,” I told her, caressing her face. “I don’t understand why you would want to die.”

She had her arms wrapped around me loosely, and we were pressed together so closely that I could feel her heartbeat like it was my own.

“I just have one problem,” she whispered, bringing my face closer and looking intently into my eyes. It’s the first time I noticed that they are pure, liquid black, that there’s something not quite human about her. “I can’t die.”

I wasn’t scared. All I felt was resignation.

“What do you need for me to do?” I whispered back.

She traced my cheekbone with her thumb and brushed her lips over mine once, twice, thrice, until I rolled her over so I was on top and finally kissed her properly.

“I want you to kill me,” she said.

I laughed, tilting her face to the side and sinking my teeth into her exposed neck, gently at first and then with more and more pressure. Her fingers dug into my shoulders and her breathing became rapid. But she wasn’t fighting back, even when blood started to pool around the bite marks and run in dark tear-tracks down her neck.

“I can give you eternal life,” I told her, slowly licking the blood and kissing her so she could taste it as well. She kissed me back, her eyes half-open and unsure. I pulled back and stared at her face, her lips and the area around her mouth streaked with dark red. “What do you think? You and me, living forever. All I need is one thing. Your soul.”

She turned to look at me, and all I could see was infinite sorrow, as old as time itself.

“I don’t have a soul,” she said quietly. “And I already have lived forever.”

“What are you?” I questioned, grazing my lips over her now-closed eyelids, pressing my body close to hers and feeling her heartbeat starting to become erratic.

“I’m…not quite human.” She sounded honest, simple, resigned. It almost seemed like an appeal, not a statement of a fact.

She ran her fingers lightly over the back of my neck and pulled on my hair while I sank my fangs into her skin. I pierced her flesh in random places, lazily lapping up the little streams of blood like we had all the time in the world. I kissed her deeply, her fiery heat beautiful but almost painful at the same time.

By the time we were done, she was dozing off, her heavy eyelashes fanned on her cheeks and her face half-obscured by her raven hair.

“Are you all right?” I asked her, covering her with a blanket and pressing a kiss on her shoulder.

In response, she turned towards me and nestled her face into my chest. The blanket covering us slid down to her waist, exposing her back.

In the pearly swath of moonlight that illuminated us, I could clearly see two symmetrical scars on the ivory skin of her back. Roughly six inches long, each gouged deeply into her flesh.

That’s right, I mused. She’s missing her wings.

Now the name made sense.

“You’re one of the fallen.”

She stayed silent, and I traced the scars lightly, feeling her breathing stop. Her entire body was tense like a tightly coiled spring, ready to lash out anytime.

“I don’t want you to die,” I implored impulsively, reverently kissing the spot between where her wings should have been.

“There’s nothing left for me,” she repeated quietly.

“You have me,” I told her. “We’re both immortal. We can rule the night, you and I.”

“No,” she answered, turning to me. She stared at me with those fathomless eyes, and I felt a stab of fear deep in my gut. “I don’t even have that,” she said, sounding vaguely impatient. “Did you not know that my blood is poison?”

Moon Rabbit, Rabbit Moon

Rabbits are symbols of fertility, they said-
but how come I always find them dead?
It’s their nature to breed with determination
as part of their instincts to prevent their extinction.

Rabbits are tricksters and deceivers, I was told-
but their innocence cannot be undersold.
They are forthright and clever, tranquil and at peace,
a tripartite that symbolizes happiness and bliss.

There’s a rabbit who lives on the moon, I have read,
he pounds on his mortar to make rice cakes, they said.
He looks down on Earth and the shadows he cast
inspired the moon-man legend of the days gone past.

There was a pantheon of one hundred rabbits before,
they were all drunken warriors according to lore.
The debaucheries they threw were to the very extreme,
but now they only exist in a long-forgotten dream.

Be like the moon-dwelling rabbit, my child, I was told,
for your future is shaky and dim, they foretold.
Like them I will flee to fend for my life on my own,
just like the moon rabbit who lives his days all alone.


I was inspired to write this after watching the movie Us, because of you know, the rabbits. Haha. Anyway, I based the rabbits in this poem on mythology – the first stanza is the only one that’s based on fact.

The second stanza is about the African trickster rabbits and the tripartite ‘three rabbits’ symbol from Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism.

The third part is about the moon rabbit legend of East Asia, and the fourth stanza is about the rabbit pantheon of the Aztecs.

This poem is a rough draft – I’ll polish it later on, so don’t be surprised if you come across it again in the future. 🙂

Why My Dormitory’s Mirrors Are No Longer Aligned

I lived in a dormitory throughout my four years of university. My school had a good selection of student residences, but I chose the one that was most recently constructed. It was set way back at the very edge of the campus, but I didn’t mind the extra exercise to and from classes.

The first thing I noticed when I moved in was that the building was U-shaped, with an open courtyard in the middle. The corridors were open on one side, meaning we could easily cross to the opposite side without walking all the way around the dorm. There were also tall, floor-to-ceiling length mirrors every six feet or so. We would spend time fixing our hair and primping there before classes.

We first started encountering problems with the mirrors a couple of weeks into the semester. Apparently, a younger student had been combing her hair in front of the mirror. Since it was a huge mirror, she could see the other mirror at the opposite corridor clearly. She claimed that she saw her reflection just standing still, not mimicking her movements. She had passed out, and after a week she transferred dormitories.

I don’t know if it was because of the rumors or hysteria, but the mirror-related incidents began circulating more frequently after that. Some of the girls had begun to cover the mirrors in the evenings, so they wouldn’t see their reflections when they came back to their rooms late at night.

One morning, I was in the cafeteria getting breakfast. I was dawdling near the fruit and juice section (the cafeteria was vegan – another horror story IMO) when a girl from one of my classes approached me and said Hi.

I greeted her back, turning to smile at her. She looked tired and sick, dark bags under her eyes, pale skin, and a listless facial expression.

“What happened to you?” I whispered, picking up my tray and following her to a table.

She picked at her granola cereal, not even pretending to eat. After a few minutes, she finally looked up at me.

“Have you ever looked at your reflection on the other side of the corridor?”

I laughed. “What do you mean? I look at myself in the mirror every day.”

“No. I mean the mirror across the courtyard. Have you ever tried doing that?”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, I get it. Was there another ‘incident’ with the mirrors?”

She wouldn’t meet my eyes. “I’m not kidding. I did it last night – accidentally – but I’ve had nightmares all night. I barely slept.”

I was concerned. “Maybe you should take a nap. Or go to the clinic. Do you want me to take you?”

She gave me a wan smile. “No. Thank you, but I’m fine.” She picked up her untouched tray of food and stood up. “See you around?”

I nodded. “I’ll see you around.”

I never got to see her again.

It was a few days before I even heard that she committed suicide. I didn’t ask how she did it – I didn’t want to know. But I knew it was messy and bloody and included several broken mirrors.

Several carpenters were working on the mirrors, removing the broken ones and replacing them. One of the residence advisers quietly instructed them to position the mirrors in such a way that they wouldn’t be directly opposite the ones on the other hallway.

The dormitory was scheduled for a blessing soon afterwards. I stayed in my room, losing myself in online games to distract from the aura of gloom that hung over our residence.

That night, I was walking to the laundry area at the back of the dormitory. I purposely kept my eyes straight ahead, not wanting to catch a glimpse of the mirrors. I breathed a sigh of relief when I arrived at the laundry room, then spent a good half hour listening idly to the hum of the washing machine as it churned my clothes.

I didn’t look at the mirror on purpose.

It happened by accident. I guess my clothes weren’t as dry as I thought, and they’d been dripping. I slipped on the floor, landing on my back. My clothes scattered everywhere. I muttered to myself as I was picking them up. When I grabbed the last shirt, I noticed that I was directly in front of the mirror, part of the last pair still in their original positions.

I looked up.

Big mistake.

My eyes automatically went past my reflection and focused on the mirror opposite to mine. There was somebody in front of that mirror, and when I squinted, it didn’t look like me at all.

I whirled around, looking for the person on the other hallway. But there was nobody there. It was already past midnight, so everyone was probably asleep. The whole courtyard was dark, the hallways dim.

I laughed at myself, blaming my overactive imagination.

Then I caught movement from the corner of my eye, and I turned back to the mirror, turning rigid with fear as a broken, bloodstained face grinned at me from behind the glass.

I screamed, scattering my laundry for the second time and running to my room. I slammed the door shut and dove under my sheets, shaking with fear.

A few moments later, I heard my roommate’s bed squeak and her footsteps pad towards me. Not wanting to talk, I squeezed my eyes shut and pretended to be asleep. She sat down beside me, then started combing my hair with her fingers, something she often did. She repeated the gesture until I fell asleep.

I woke up late the next day. When I opened my eyes, I caught my roommate entering the room with two cartons of breakfast. She greeted me cheerily, and I sat up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.

“Thanks for last night,” I said. “I have the craziest story to tell you.”

She cocked her head to one side, looking confused. “What about last night?” She asked.

“You know. When I came back from the laundry room.”

She set the food on our study nook, then faced me.

“Didn’t you see my text? I headed out a bit after you did. I spent the night at my boyfriend’s apartment. I can’t stand this creepy place anymore.”

A Traveler’s Tale

I travel a lot for work.

It isn’t as glamorous as you think – it’s actually rather tiring. After the first few months of excitement, the novelty fades and the reality of my situation remains. This means that my back and limbs are almost constantly sore, the back of my head and the underside of my thighs molded into the grooves of my plane or vehicle seat.

The other downside to constant travel include the occasional bouts of upset stomach from foreign food, body pains, headaches, and pest infestations. I can thankfully say that my worst experience traveling was when we booked into a hotel that was unfortunately crawling with bedbugs – but that’s another story for another time.

One of my traveling companions is an elderly lady who is rather religious. I personally love work trips with her because she’s a seasoned traveler – I never have to worry about missing a flight or getting lost, as long as I tag along. Another reason is because, due to her extensive experience, she has a treasure trove or stories that she dishes out like treats, during dull waiting moments in the airport, or while we’re bored on the road.

Her stories range from humorous to poignant to downright creepy – although if I had to be honest, I would rate her scary stories as my favorites. She was a gifted storyteller, and she had a way of spinning out the tale in a way that made me hang on to every word she said.

I’ve had this job for almost five years now, and over time I’ve built up my own arsenal of creepy stories to tell.

This is one of them.


We often travel to certain places that are reportedly haunted. This ranges from old hotels to ancient manors. My very first work-related supernatural experience happened during my first work trip.

I was a 19-year-old girl fresh out of university, literally bouncing with excitement over my job. We had settled into an old hotel for the night. Since we didn’t book in advance, we were forced to share rooms – not that I minded, I am a very social person and I love having company.

My designated roommate was the elderly lady. We shared a king-sized bed and fell asleep pretty quickly. However, my slumber was short-lived, since I felt somebody tugging on the sheets.

I admit that I got annoyed. We had been on the road for close to 10 hours, and all I wanted was a good night’s rest. I kicked off the sheets and moved as far as I could to the edge of the bed, shut my eyes, and attempted to go back to sleep.

I was finally dozing off again when I felt fingers brush and stroke my bare foot. I was enraged. I snatched my feet away and exhaled in annoyance, hoping to convey my displeasure. I was about to say something when I noticed that my bed-mate was fast asleep, her hands clasped on top of her stomach.

Huh.

My anger died down somewhat and I sat there in confusion. After a few seconds of watching her steady breathing, I convinced myself that I must have been dreaming. I settled down and lay on my side, and after a few minutes I was once again dead to the world.

This time, when I woke up, the situation was undeniable. I could feel strong hands clutching my ankles and pulling – and boy, was I pissed. I kicked hard and sat up with a snarl – and that’s when I noticed that the other side of the bed was empty.

I shrieked. Not my finest moment, I admit, but I was so tired and frustrated that I thought I could get away with being a brat for once. At the sound of my screech, the bathroom door opened and light flooded the room. My companion stepped out in alarm, her eyes scanning the room for intruders.

“What happened?” She asked, sitting beside me. I was fuming, rubbing my ankles. They seemed itchy all of a sudden, the sensation akin to having brushed against poison ivy.

“I swear I thought somebody was trying to pull me out of bed,” I complained petulantly. “I felt hands on my legs. I’m not making this up, I promise!”

She shushed me, then furtively drew the blinds to peek out. The window was slightly open and breeze snaked in, making us both shiver.

“Are you all right now?” She asked, getting me a glass of water. I thanked her and then gulped down the water, nodding that I was fine. For some reason, she seemed disturbed. After a few minutes of idle conversation, she persuaded me to go back to sleep. She kept the lamp on her nightstand on, claiming that she was already awake and was going to do some light reading while I caught up on sleep.

The rest of the night passed without incident.

During breakfast the following morning, I enthusiastically told our other companions about what happened the night before. My roommate was oddly silent. She finished her breakfast quickly, then said she was going to take a walk in the garden before we left.

I downed the rest of my breakfast and followed her. While we walked briskly around the hotel grounds, I brought up the incident the previous night. At first, she didn’t say anything. Then she turned to me and told me something that made me shiver.

“I didn’t want to bring this up until after we left,” she began. “But last night, there was a reason I didn’t go back to sleep and kept the lights on. You see, when I stepped out of the bathroom, I saw a pair of arms with very long fingers slither back under the bed.”