2. Septic shock.

It has been a few days since Ben had that freaky incident. It must have been work stress and everything negative blowing up at once on his face; he consoled himself.

Yet, deep within his subconscious, the explicit image of the corpse was glaring at his soul. Was that a message? Has he been watching too many horror shows on netflix?

He turned to his hobby to clear his head. It was woodworking. Splinters and calluses were a common sight, but it granted some satisfaction to cover that gaping void in his life. Most of the things in Kiki’s room were handmade. The coloring table which she loved was painstakingly crafted over a week. He recalls her tiny hands working furiously on the crayons, scraping against the chiseled wood with a piece of drawing paper.

“ZwZZXwZZZwZZ” The wood cutter was rumbling to life. Ben took a deep breath and inhaled that romantic woody scent. Goggles on, he pressed down hard for a snug fit. He found the safety goggles too much of a hassle and grumbled about poor accuracy, but Lylia made the goggles mandatory for fear of splinters piercing his eyes.

“Too much final destination” He would chuckle, but listened to her anyway.

“RRRRRRRRRRR” The blades whirred. The outline was perfectly drawn on the cedar. It was the skeleton of a rocking horse. It was a pretty big project for an amateur like him, but it should be completed just in time before Kiki’s birthday in August.

The cutter sawed through the cedar effortlessly. The smooth swift edges would make any carpenter pleased. Backyard blues was playing in the background. Ben felt at ease.

Slowly, the wood chippings fell off the table. The aromatic smell filled up the tiny shed. It smelt like the fireplace last winter where he brought the family for a cozy getaway down in Alaska.

The slightly curved base for the horse is gradually coming to shape. Ben became more meticulous now, taking great care to soften the edges by controlling the angle of the woodcutter. He had prepared tools and saw-paper to help round them perfectly later on.

“XXZZZZZZZZXXXZZ!!” The blades worked hard. It was loud and drowned out his spotify. Suddenly, the lone light bulb flickered.

Ben looked up. The light bulb started swinging precariously. He reached for the button to stop the woodcutter.

“CLICK” He pressed on the plastic tab. The cutter was still spinning at a voracious speed.

“CLICK!” He pressed on the button anxiously. Nothing happened.

He looked up again. The light bulb was swinging like a bird on the freeway, casting shadows on the shed like a rave party.

What’s happening?

“Bloop.. bloop” he blinked uncomfortably. Something was pooling up in his goggles. With his free hand, he grabbed at the goggles attempting to rip them off. But they were stuck.

“Damn it!” He shouldn’t have pressed on so snugly.

The liquid accumulated and is on the rise. It stained the goggle lens. It was red. It was blood.

IT WAS BLOOD.

Too many things were happening at the same time. Ben’s brain was frenzied and tripping all over the place. The light bulb, the goggles, the whirring woodcutter. What in the hell???!?!!

Soon, he had to close his eyes as the blood was rapidly rising.

The lightbulb was making creaking sounds as it swung madly. Ben was only aided by his hearing at that point. His eyes were tightly shut.

A low raspy voice then echoed in his ears.

“SHE BLEEDS!”

The thunderous words caused him to let go of the woodcutter in shock.

“ZZZCCCZZXXXCC!!” The blades pierced through his stomach like scissors on origami. Pain shot up instantly and left him crippled from the intensity.

He fell back on his hind, throwing the woodcutter away from him and desperately tried to remove the goggles again.

It came off this time.

The light cast across the shed is now an ominous ember. It looked like the inside of an active furnace. He peered at his stomach. Blood was spurting in all directions.

It was crimson on the floor. Thick, goopy mess.

At the corner of the shed where the supply rack was, the same grotesque corpse materialized from the shadows. The light was still flickering. Ben’s head was spinning from septic shock.

His hands were stained with his own blood. It trickled like an angry army and smelt like death. The pain immobilized his feet.

The ghastly girl seemed to be in a worse state than before. The last bit of skin on her face was consumed by maggots. The creepy larvae was wriggling boldly on her cheeks. Her hair was matted and dripping wet. Slowly, she crawled towards Ben, joints crackling like logs tossed into a robust fire.

She looked lesser like Kiki this time round, more corpse-like. except the lifeless eyes still retained the shape of the beautiful round orbs, it was no doubt it resembled her! Or rather, whatever left that remained.

“HELP ME DADDY… “

The voice was no longer raspy. It was child-like and it sounded pitiful. It was a plea.

Ben pressed hard on his wound to prevent further loss of blood. The creature was crawling closer and closer to him.

It made soft wailing noises. In his dire, curled up gait, Ben thought about that one time when Kiki was haunted by nightmares. She made the same soft cries.

But the immense pain and blood loss made it hard for Ben to fully focus on anything then. He backed up fully against the wall of the shed, using his arm to drag his limp legs along until there was no more inches left to distance himself from it.

Everything started to blur out. The pain left him convulsing. The creature reached out for his feet.

Ben blacked out.

“Crreakkk” His eyes opened partially. His heart started pounding faster when Ben remembered the ordeal and realized he’s opening his eyes to reality.

He clutched his stomach. There was nothing. No blood. No cut. Just his worn out A&F tee. The light bulb was still creaking but it was dancing peacefully in the mild zephyr that was blowing in from the tiny window.

No ghost.

The shed looked exactly like how it was before when he first started his work. The wood cutter wasn’t whirring. It was lying quietly by the base of the rocking horse.

He got up from the ground and dusted himself. Wood shavings flounced off him as he shook up.

Ben approached the table to inspect the wood cutter. It was switched off and even had the safety lock on. He lifted the sturdy wooden base off the table – And saw some red stains on the table.

Goosebumps spread throughout his body and chills ran down his spine like an untamed current.

With trembling fingers, he flipped over to the other side of the wooden base.

It was the same blood red paint again. (Or is it real blood?) But this time, there weren’t words. It was a children’s drawing that looked really familiar.

1. What’s in the water?

The deepest darkest night lulled over that Saturday. Ominous clouds embraced the moon, light disappeared.

He was alone in the bathroom, going through the usual routine. It had been a tiring day at work. Slumped shoulders bore the weight of resent, of bitterness and regrets. He slinked into the bathtub, wishing and wanting for the soapy suds to ease the stress away. He wasn’t used to the dead silence, even though it has already been months since she took off with their only daughter, gushing in the arms of another man.

“Bloop… bloop”

Bubbles form on the placid surface where bubbles once were. It has been half an hour, but he was still soaking. The warmth of the bath too, has long left. He let out a fart, watching in near amusement as they gently rose to the surface.

“Bloooop.. bloop blooop blooop”

He froze. Somewhere at the far end of the tub, where his feet were perched against the smooth ceramic, were bubbles rising to the surface. That can’t be him!

He was unable to move. Eyes fixated on the spot, he found himself gripping both edges of the tub, stricken with fear.

“Blooooooop. Blooop Bloop Blooop”

It continued. Bubbles were emerging, breaking out on the surface almost violently.

Could it be the stopper coming loose by accident? He snapped out of his fear and dismissed it as childish. All the months of living alone must have gotten to him. In a bid to be rationale and solution orientated, he plucked his hand away from the edge. Blood flowed through his palm once more.

He bent forward, hand dipping into the lukewarm water, searching for the stopper.

The soapy water suddenly looks like a horrid shade of dirty brick red, no thanks to the last drops of bubble wash from his daughter Kiki, He groped around aimlessly for the stopper.

His fingers touched something. As though an electric shock, fear shot through his body, leaving him paralyzed from the touch. His fingers grabbed onto the object instinctively as he pulled it out from the water.

It was a large pile of hair.

Long, dark, crinkled strands of hair. They seem to flow endlessly like a ball of mating snakes, writhing in his hand.

His heart palpitated so fast as he threw the ball of hair away from him, and bolted out of the water.

“What the fuck?” he murmured to himself as he grabbed on to his towel.

“Okay, Ben, relax, you fucking idiot. It’s just hair. This is what you get for leaving the toilet unkempt since Lylia left.” Hands worked in synchronization as he worked hard with the towel, drying himself up in a bid to regain his composure.

“UUURPPPPPPPPP. BLURRRRP”

Ben turned to face the tub. The tub was being emptied all the sudden.

He could feel his jaw dropping, feet rooted to the ground. He watched, dumbfounded and face marred with horror.

The water was receding. The sides of the tub was dyed with remnants of the obnoxious orange bubbles. Slowly, an outline became visible.

“…..” Ben gasped.

It was mortifying. The last droplets escaped through the sinkhole. What was left, was the body of a young child. Naked, and white as death.

He took off for the door without so much as a second look. Towel wrapped gingerly around his privates, he ran into his bedroom and tried to reach for his phone.

The ceiling light flickered, and then went off. He was basked in darkness. The only light that came, was the soft orange glow from the bathroom. Ben continued looking for his phone, clumsily groping in pitch black.

“Daddy… help me… help”

Soft cries came from the bathroom.

Was it the child corpse? It’s alive?????” Thoughts ran amok in his head.

“Please… daddy. Please help me.”

The cries streamed on, loud and distinct, chiming across the room.

“Run.” Ben’s mind urged him logically. But his feet were doing just the opposite.

He inched towards the bathroom. Slowly…. the tub came into sight. Bony fingers were grasping the edge of the tub.

Craaaaaaackkkk”

The sound of bones cracking reverberated throughout the bathroom. He was planted firmly in his spot as the corpse mustered strength to pull itself upright.

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He couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Kiki. Or, rather, something that resembled her. Her eyes were lifeless, and her body was skeletal. Hair was partially ripped out from her skull.

“…Kiki?” Words left his mouth without much thought.

Upon hearing her name, the girl started crying.

Ben tried to inch towards the tub, but fear was standing against him. His heart was slamming against his rib cage in protest.

He reached out his fingers. Suddenly, the girl stared blankly at him, her jaw dropping to an impossible length as though it has dislocated. The light went out with a sharp flicker.

“SAVE HER!!!!!” The young crying voice morphed into something deep and hoarse. Her eyes started bleeding.

Ben yelled in horror.

The lights then came back on. It was gone.

The tub was still filled with the fizzy orange water. There was no girl, no hair, and no sound. It was back to the silence that filled the house once before.

The only sound came from the rampant beating of his heart.

Ben lunged forward to the tub. There was nothing in the water. His hands sloshed around. He reached for the stopper to drain the water out.

His head was in a mess. He stared hard at the tub as the water went out. Then there it was, scribbled like nails against a chalkboard, were poorly written words. Almost illegible.

Save her.”

Saudade//

Her fingers interlaced his hair like silk, a wet smile lit up the room with a brazen gloom.

I wrote a great many stories about heartbreaks – Like poverty, like fame, Why do some people experience it more than the others?

Today, I felt it again after a long, long time. However, it is different this time round. Perhaps, like a fresh wound, the acerbic tones pierce you like it’s the first time all over again.

Today years old me, know that love and emotions are all processed in the brain. Not the heart. Hence, imagine the shock I received when my heart started writhing in pain.

Is that a placebo effect? Surely I have outgrown that.

It felt like I was a gigantic cell, and there was an incoming viral attack on my mitochondria, slowly spreading outwards, lengthwise, eating everything along the way. I seem to gradually diminish, my defenses are worn down. Pain exacerbated. Like as if my heart has gone into shock.

The attack spread outwards, down the span of my arms. The burst so explosive the hairs on my body sprang up in fear.

It was irrevocable. I couldn’t grasp at the pain nor could I make it stop. The exultant invasion clouded my vision. It has consumed so much of me that I felt light. I was floating away into a void. I was no longer whole. I have drowned in the anguish, and asphyxiated – All this time despite I am still very much alive.

Then, it dawned onto me. I figured that my brain was unable to process that much pain that it had to come up with a directive. It had to direct all that pain somewhere else in order to still function. To remain sane.

Because you can’t die from a heartbreak. But it kills you anyway.

Memories are like a slideshow of emotions. A Pandora box, leering at the love that remains.