Week #50: The Antique Perfume Bottle

There it is. Gathering dust. Looking more and more antique as the days pass. There was a time I frequently brought it out, let the fragrance arise together with incense to the Throneroom. Now, I rarely bring it out. In corporate or big celebrations, perhaps. But regularly? No, it feels to painful to do so. Maybe because it’s too spent out. Maybe because I’ve grown too accustomed to the smell. Maybe because —

I’ve too many excuses. I should get it out. Fill up the vial once again. Fill it with my tears and my cries. Wipe the dust off with my hair. And let the fragrance arise.

Once again.


* * *

And so ends the 50-week-though-not-really-50-week Writing Challenge. How should I push myself in writing this 2015, I wonder? Well, one thing I am sure of – it is going to be a wonderful writing year. ;)


Weeks #48&49: A Mystery

“He was unconscious when I found him.”

“Huh? Come again?”

“Oh, sorry. There’s a piece of paper stuck in the drawer. I was just reading it out.”

“‘He was unconscious when I found him,’ huh. Go on. It sounds intriguing. Like something out of a mystery novel.”

“Actually, it does look like it’s part of one. Look. It’s a draft. A page from a manuscript, maybe.”

“Let me see. Ahh, yes. The strikeouts. The proofreader marks. That one’s a draft, alright.”

“Do you think it ever got published?”

“Who knows?”

“So maybe the person who owned these drawers was an author.”

“That’s one possibility.”

“How exciting! Hey, do you think we can track him or her down?”

“Hold it there. Don’t get carried away or else we might be the ones stuck in the mystery.”

“Hmmm. Maybe I should start writing my own draft, too.”

“Now that’s a thought to ponder.”


Weeks #46&47: The Portal

He hadn’t seen anything like it in his 20 years of teaching. The class inventor had outdone himself again. With his exceptional knowledge of time and space continuum, the student had managed to create a time travelling medium. One simply had to sprinkle a special solution on a printed photograph. The photo acted as a portal – anyone could transport to the time and date the photo was taken, but the person could only stay for 30 minutes in that point of history.

His sister wanted to try the time portal out. “There’s someone I wish to spend 30 minutes with,” she explained.

“Pacifico said it’s still in its testing stages, sis.”

“Pacifico is a genius. I know the thing works.”

They sprinkled the boy’s solution over a photo she printed from files she kept in her old Nokia N73. “Are you ready?”


Pale laboratory walls vanished and the girl found herself surrounded by rose bushes and butterflies. The air was cool, just as it was in the north. She was exactly where the photograph was taken. At a garden in Cameron Highlands.

There she was. Stuck in a pose, smiling. The woman was wearing sunglasses. She wouldn’t know if the smile ever reached her eyes. “Teh?”

“Oh hey! Are you enjoying the trip so far?”

“Yeah. I’m taking lots of pictures.”

“Take some more! Here, I’ll take one of you.”

She wanted to tell her so many things but she just stood there and smiled at her mentor. Gosh, she missed here.

“Take a photo of me eating the grass!”

“What??? If you say so, teh.”

30 minutes. That’s all she had. It was a good five years between the present and the date in that photo. She decided to just live in it and not make any changes, lest the fluttering of the butterfly wings bring great storms in the years ahead.

“Sis, are you okay?”

It was over. The teacher looked at his sister and saw that the corners of her eyes were more than a little moist.

“I’m okay. Tell Pacifico I said ‘thanks'”.


Weeks #44&45: Four Times a Matchmaker

LTTF Elevator. Capacity: 10 people. Current occupants: 9. One hipster joe in a flannel tee, two newbie corporate janes, one big shot ceo on his cell, a shy wallflower blending in with the elevator walls, two hunky swimmers fresh from a chlorine bath, a petite lady fiddling with her iPhone 6, and me, the resident lady in black. There’s space for one more, but the swimmers’ gym bags keep anyone else from squeezing in.

The elevator goes down. Down. Down. And down. From level 143 to the lower ground floor. No one presses any other buttons in between.

Level 127. Hipster Joe and Corporate Jane 1 seem to be making eyes at each other. Hmm. Interesting. What happens if I give the two a little nudge?

Level 101. Corporate Jane 2 seems bummed that her bestie has left her for some man. She tries to discreetly glance around. Aha. Swimmer Dude 1. He looks interested. A slight push, maybe?

Level 83. Mr. CEO has finally let go of his phone. Ms. iPhone 6 has used up all her batteries. Good. Disconnect to connect, they say.

Level 59. Swimmer Dude 2 has been sneaking glances at Ms. Wallflower for quite some time. There’s a word for that in my language. Torpe. Come on, bro. Just talk to her already.

Level 40. 31. 25. Ahh, love is in the air. The pairs are making small talk inside the claustrophobia-inducing space. I hope you get each others’ numbers. We’ll reach LG soon.

The door finally opens. The couples throw furtive smiles at one another. I hustle, pushing my way out. There he is.

“Hey, love. Guess what happened just now? I was four times a matchmaker. Pretty cool, huh?”

He gives me a peck on the cheek and adds in a wink. “Pretty cool.”


Weeks #42&43: Intruder

It was up to her to investigate how the accident had really happened. For her to do that, she had to go back to the scene of the crime. The survivor’s home.

“There’s someone in the house!”

“Shhh, Alma. They’ll hear us.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll try to keep it down.”

“Did you happen to see who the person was? Do you know him? Or her?”

“I’ve seen him from the past. He’s roamed these halls before.”

“I see.”

“Ten years ago. He lived here ten years ago. He’s been in and out once or twice since then. But he was a permanent resident before she decided to let go of her past.”

“So now he’s back again.”

“Looks like it.”

“To bring her shame. To put her down. To tell her nothing has changed.”

“She seemed pretty wrecked.”

“He doesn’t know she’s stronger than that, though.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I can tell. She’s a fighter. A believer, too. She’ll trade those ashes for beauty.”

“Beauty, huh.”

“Whatever shame he’s caused her, she will find a way to redeem it. She knows the secret of surrender.”

“I see. That’s good then.”

“It is. Now, enough chatter. Let’s go catch that intruder.”


Week #41: Drowning

It’s hard to say, but my earliest memory would probably involve salty water rushing up my nose. I was probably three or four then. We were celebrating my birthday (and the heat of summer, hurray!) at the black-sanded beach two hours away from my hometown. I had a cake — vanilla with white and pink frosting. And I had donned on a tiny red bathing suit. Well, at least that’s what the pictures of the old photo albums show.

I don’t remember the birthday songs. Nor do I remember the presents or how the cake must have tasted on my tongue. I only remember the rush of the current trying to pull me down and warm sand flying, billowing about.

Someone must have saved me. I will never know who. My father? My mother? An aunt? An uncle? One of my cousins, maybe? Or myself? Did I just stop splashing about and find myself washed up ashore, breathing in the grace of a second life?

Who knows?

What I do know is this. I am alive. Each breath that I take is precious. Every gulp of air is as costly as diamonds and gold. I will not dare to squander it.

Yes. I am alive.


Last Ten


They’ve put up the Christmas decorations. Very well. That means it’s time for the last ten, then.

41. Subject: What is your earliest memory?
42. First Line: It was up to her to investigate how the accident had really happened
43. Dialogue: “There’s someone in the house!”
44. Scenario: You go down in a lift that doesn’t stop for hours. When it finally opens, what do you see?
45. Title: Four Times A Matchmaker
46. Subject: Who from your past do you wish were still around?
47. First Line: He hadn’t seen anything like it in twenty years of teaching
48. Dialogue: “He was unconscious when I found him”
49. Scenario: You’ve bought an old chest of drawers and discover a piece of paper stuck inside. What is written on that piece of paper?
50. Title: The Antique Perfume Bottle

It’s time to finish off what we have started. Game!

Week #39&40: Message in a Bottle

39. Scenario: A friend has been staying with you since his relationship break-up. He has overstayed his welcome but you don’t want to ask him to leave. Think of an imaginative scheme to make him decide to go.
40. Title: Messages in a Bottle

“Dude get up.”


“I said, get up, man.”

“Go away.”

“It’s been three months. It’s time to get out of that funk.”

“I need… more… time.”

“Fine then. I’ve got something for you. Here.” I shove a red bottle towards him.

“Urg. What’s this?”

“A present. You’re supposed to drink it up.”

He reaches for the bottle, knocking down the lamp, a picture frame, and, well, almost everything on top of the coffee table next to the sofa he was sleeping in. “Sorry, man.”

I sight. “It’s alright. I’ll fix it up later.”

He glugs the red potion down. The thing seems to be burning down a trail of fire down his throat.

“Man, that was strong.” He looks more awake now. “What was that?”

“Something I got from the old man down the street.”

“That weird, crazy dude? Wow, he’s got good stuff.”

“Err, yeah. Do you feel any different?”

“I feel — young and free! Like I can do anything. Like I can take on any challenge?”

“Like you can move out of this house?”

“Like I can move out of this house! Wait, what?”

“Dude, I need you to move out. This isn’t helping either of us anymore. I mean, sure, the first few days it was okay. But when your stay eventually became months, I’ve got to say… well, there’s no easy way to put it. I can’t have you stay here anymore.”

“Well, uh, why didn’t you just say so in the first place? You could have just told me.”

“I tried, man. I tried.”

“Well, that bottle got me feeling great. Where are my stuff? I should start packing. Hey, man, thanks for letting me stay over.”

“It’s, uh, not a problem. But next time… let’s hope there wouldn’t be a next time.”

He shuffles away and gives me a languid wave. “So long, Lucas.”

“So long, SP. You take care.”

“You, too. You, too.”

*Author’s note: Any guess what the red potion could be? And what SP stands for? Speculations are welcome. :D