Episode 2

Wafts of incense smoke swirled around in ghastly shapes, slithering effortlessly through the sanctum of the Death Temple. The ominous atmosphere was accentuated by dark drapes hung behind windows; only the faintest of sunlight was let in. Four coffins laid in a huge cavity at the centre of the room, swallowed up in complete darkness, only their golden tinted edges could be seen shining like the last sparks of life before being smothered out. A few monks walked in from a side door, each pushing a cart of red poppies.

“Whether in sickness or health, in sorrow or joy, in pain or comfort, we ask for your eternal protection. The Almighty who rules over the life after, spare the suffering of those whom you have taken to the afterlife. And those whom you have not claimed, O lord, we wish you will never come.”

Crows that were circling the temple spires began cawing.

Krrraaa!! Krraaa!!!

Monks emptied red poppies from crates

Krrraaa!! Krraaa!!!

into those black coffin beds

Krrraaa!! Krraaa!!!

silent and still, their unmoving hearts ached.


“Miss Poppy, I have placed your dinner tray outside,” the Handmaiden knocked softly, sighing at the lack of response. She was used to it now. 

At the unripe age of seven, Poppy had all the physical features of a normal child – big round eyes, stumpy arms, brown freckles on her russet cheeks, so no one had really seen it coming when she started collecting jars of insects. Rotting, dead insects. Her fascination with morbidity had grown so swiftly and unexpectedly that before long she turned into someone completely unrecongisable. For hours on end, she would stare at her precious collection of jars, her normally dull eyes gulvanised to life, mirth and wonder swimming in those black beads. As if in the blink of an eye, her childish innocence disappeared, and was replaced by an intangible hideousness that made all her servants shiver in discomfort.

In her times of insecurity, the Handmaiden sometimes wondered whether her young mistress’ marked change in personality was due to her own failure in raising her into a normal child. Despite having never said anything about it, the Handmaiden was aware that Poppy was simply a pawn in Madam’s masterplan of monopolising the Religious Sect, a pawn that was piled with heavy expectations and isolated from other children since the very beginning. Because she was aware of all this, she had tried to shower Poppy with as much love as she could dole out, love that she knew Poppy would never receive from her mother.

“Miss Poppy, the food is getting cold. Please hurry and have your dinner.”

The Handmaiden was about to knock on bedroom door again but stopped short, as she was seized suddenly by a flash of memory. Before Poppy’s inexplicable change, she had a rather friendly relationship with her, teaching her how to read and write and play with her. Poppy had come up to her one day, carrying a huge dictionary, tiny finger gesturing at a particular word on the page, and innocently asked with a toothy grin “you read?”.

She took a look. 

Death, n. The permanent termination of life.


Barren landscape. Parched earth. Sweltering sun. He woke up with chapped lips and a burning throat. Blocking out the blinding sunlight with his hands, he squinted his eyes. Endless sand that stretched on and on. A strangled cry of desperation escaped with his hoarse voice.

A lone poppy sprouted on the ground beside him. Its red petals projected outwards like a gramophone.

“Well, well. I’ve got myself a tormented father who can’t let go. This is going to be fun.”

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Episode 1

Screams of rebellion shattered the night sky above Vines Mansion. A lopsided structure reduced to its skeleton, any of the former glory one might glean from its high-arched balconies or its dimly lit front porch disappeared with a second glance. In a room hastily sterilised, filled with flustered midwives and butlers, she came to the world.

“Congratulations, Ma’am.” The Handmaiden, a feisty woman whose eyes of tenderness would put any mother to shame, held the small thing up for Madam to see. Bathed in the cold damp air of reality, she screamed and kicked, longing to return to the warmth of the womb. Her white arms smeared with red flailing wildly, red face scrunched up in distress at the foreign environment. Madam had stared at her all this time through unseeing eyes, hazy with anaesthetics. A strange sense of pride ballooned within her chest. There lay in front of her the ultimate magnum opus that no science or miracle could ever hope to achieve. She had finally created life.

The red reflected in Madam’s eyes.

“Name her Poppy.”


“We are a polytheistic society built upon the faith of ordinary people, as I’m sure you’re aware. As such, as head of the Eleven Temples, I declare you a heretic for trying to undermine the divine words of God. You have misguided people through the blasphemy that you call “atheism” and we will no longer tolerate such blatant acts of heresy. Take him away.”

Five-year-old Riven broke free from the grip of a monk, and run after the disappearing shadow of his father. Tears rolled uncontrollably down his russet cheeks, his vision shaky and wild. The chamber in his heart containing all his fear and desperation and frustration crashed as he tripped and tumbled to the ground. His howling cries gathered no sympathy. 

The monk that had held him earlier picked him up, before being unceremoniously shoved with as much strength a five-year-old could muster.

“Forget it, boy. That’s the world we live in. If you want to survive, believe blindly.” He was met with sobbing hateful eyes.


The Goddess of Death loathed people who clung onto life obstinately when their time had expired. And a large majority of her hypocritical worshippers in the human realm who did not even believe in her existence in the first place worshipped her for exactly that reason. Everyone wanted a delayed ending, wanted more time to make up for their mistakes, more time to enjoy life.

She despised the agonising heartbeats, the viscous flow of blood through veins, the people who lived on borrowed time. And she was going to make her displeasure known to all.

The Body Hierarchy

Prologue

The Heart looked on. It looked at the rationality of the Brain, the eloquence of the Mouth, the sensitivity of the Ears, and the nimbleness of the Limbs. For what would every decision, word, sound and action be without emotions? It was a curiosity indeed. So curious that the Heart decided to cease the relentless production of emotions and take a backseat – to be a mere spectator. It was lonely, but it was not lonely.

The Brain

The Brain had built a considerable reputation for itself – a reputation of always maintaining its objectivity in the face of any possible crisis, even the most perilous ever known to mankind. Rationality was the Brain’s deity, and the Brain worshipped it night and day, generations after generations. In its pursuit for rationality, the brain had distanced itself from the Heart, instead, drawing closer to Eyes, Ears, Mouth, Nose and Limbs. The Brain trusted its five subordinates, and trusted them wholeheartedly.

Never once did the thought of doubting them cross its mind.

The loyalty that existed between them was of that between the king and his warriors – unquestionable and resolute. Without the hindrance of emotions, the Brain excelled in becoming rational. It was just steps away from becoming rationality itself.

But, the Heart knew better.

The Heart knew where the seeds of doubts were deeply buried in the eternally dark subconscious of the Brain. The Heart knew that rationality was unravelling the Brain, taking away, piece by piece, remnants of its original self. The Brain was losing its mind – its mind stolen by rationality.

The Heart knew all this, but it just watched. It was pitiful, but it was not pitiful.

The Mouth

The voluble mouth, the sweet-talking mouth, the sinful mouth. There existed a string of aliases for the Mouth. If the Brain were a snake, the Mouth would be a snake charmer. It beguiled, then ensnared. Set in a perpetual plastic upward grin, the Mouth spewed forth its offspring. Yet, it failed all its parental duties. On the twisted tongue of neglect, its offspring bred, deflowering every language with their dirty roots. Rules bent at the sight of the Mouth. Lies lay in its bed.

The Heart despaired.

It had realised what the Mouth was capable of, and despaired. For a long, long time. Strangely enough, without emotions, the Mouth became more docile. A mere mouthpiece for rationality. Having rejoiced at the sudden change, the Heart wondered if it should stop producing emotions forever. Painful memories of the Mouth were locked away, chained up, in a desolate corner of the Heart.

Words were bullets that had pierced the Heart, and words alone could not describe the pain. It was heartbreaking, but it was not heartbreaking.

The Ears

Birth, the natural beginning. Death, the inevitable outcome. Born from the Mouth, and died in the Ears – the graveyard of words. That was their cruel fate. Despite its talent at eavesdropping, the Ears only took in guests it welcomed. At the doors of the Ears, secrets were kept, secrets were divulged; lies were told, lies were noticed.  

Before being polluted by the Brain, the Ears were close friends of the Heart, sheltering it from the hurtful Mouth. However, as the wax in the Ears began to thicken, the Ears became an inspection centre, aiding the Brain in its pursuit of rationality. What passed through them must be quality-controlled, cold, hard facts. Only facts and no less. Playful banters and jovial jests were promptly discarded.

The Heart resigned.

It accepted what had become of the situation. There was nothing more to say. For there was nothing to be heard. It was dull, but it was not dull.

The Limbs

As the agency of the Brain, the Limbs struck fear in the Heart. With clinical accuracy and efficiency, the Limbs executed all the grand plans of the Brain. All actions, all movements, all motions – all to seek out rationality – were orchestrated by the Limbs. Their erratic movements mimicked the wild palpitations of the Heart every time it carried out the Brain’s orders.

The Heart was helpless against the Limbs. Emotions and actions were separate entities, existing in different realms, with no means of intervening with each other. The Heart could only endure the assaults of fear and anxiety, until it was left bleeding by the vein.

It was heartwrenching, but it was not heartwrenching.

The Heart

After the ordeal. When the Heart wanted to reawaken all its dormant feelings, it realised it had long forgotten its natural instincts – instincts of survival, instincts of protection.  

Emotions.

 

 

The Necessity of Falseness

(Told from the perspective of a con-man)

Lies are flavours, just like seasoning you add to spice up your food. Everyone seeks the ultimate truth, but no one can stand to see the whole truth. The bare-naked truth is unsightly, grotesque and very unappealing. If that miserably love-struck woman knows that she is just one of the many chapters of the book the man is so happily reading, she would have long been crushed by the hollowness of love. To make false love real, you need lies. If that middle school child knows that he can no longer say he wants to marry his sister when he grows up, he would have been devastated at the arbitrary ways of the world. To make innocent love lasts, you need lies. Lies are the cornerstone of mankind. Lies work to preserve the truth and lies shield us from the truth.

I met an old lady on the train. She told me all her daughters had abandoned her to live their own lives. She told me she was old, but she was not blind. She told me she needed to learn to let go as a mother. She told me that she needed some money to live through the week.

“What truly unfilial daughters you have,” I said.
“Insight comes with age,” I said.
“Letting go is part of life,” I said.

I gave her a $100 counterfeit note, for she, like me, knows how deceiving lies can be.

Another Poem

One more poem for the night,
For some cheap thrills and frights.
Join in for the ride
And let your wrongs be rights.

Another poem for the day,
Have been doing so for May.
‘Til the tail of a stingray
Is found in a pile of hay!

Words slap me in the dozing face,
And I become the rat in the race.
Over those green grasses I graze
All in poetry’s maze.

The suspense left me on the hook,
What a cunning little crook!
Clues found from the nooks
Make the criminal almost crude.

Another poem, another surprise.
Through the repeated reprise,
We pay the price
Of Another Poem.

Scissors

Woman

She asked for a pair of scissors to cut away her. Umbilical cord. The cord of life. I refused. 

I saw a Woman. With guilt and shame. In her eyes.

Eyes that mirror my own.

Not my blood. I could manage.
Not my child. I could cope.
Affairs. I could accept.
Not love. I could pretend.

Murdering an innocent life. I would not tolerate.

I responded with a firm and resolute “NO”.

She took the scissors anyway. Behind my back. As usual.

 

Man

“Give me a pair of scissors. I want to cut it away.”

“Please, relax and calm yourself. We have to approach this delicately.

It’s a life we’re talking about he—.”

“Give it to me.

I beg you.”

“…You dug your own grave.”

“You Men are all the same. Hypocrites. You want to watch me suffer now?”

“Those were nightmares. They’ll go aw—“

“NO! Don’t you DARE tell me they’ll go away!

They have been h-haunting me for FIVE BLOODY YEARS
and they ARE STILL HAUNTING ME!

Those…men… I’ve slept with.

You also cheated, didn’t you?”

 

Scissors

My metal blades dangled cruelly near the entrance of her lips, working their way around. Eviscerating their way around. Blood pooled as screams filled.

Smooth skin. Marred flesh.
Pink lining. Torn tissue.

Self-inflicted by a fool.

Tearing the unborn apart, amniotic sac pierced. Membrane ruptured. Amniotic fluid rushed forth. My blades, still cold and sharp.

Its head. No longer a head.
Its torso. No longer attached.
Its tiny hands and feet. No more.

No more.

Through sin I cut, sinful I am.

Against the Woman. Against the Man. Again and again.