Borderless, August 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor


The Stars were Shining There for You & Me, for Liberty… Click here to read.


The Making of Historical Fiction: A Conversation with Aruna Chakravarti unfolds the creation of her latest novel, The Mendicant Prince, based on the prince of Bhawal controversy in the first part of the last century. Click here to read.


Tagore’s humorous skit, The Treatment of an Ailment, has been translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Arise, Arise O Patriot! and Helmsman Attention! by Kazi Nazrul Islam have been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter Night by Munshi Premchand has been translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Song of Hope or ‘Hobe Joye‘ has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.


Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, Ratnottama Sengupta, Mike Smith, Rituparna Mukherjee, Tony Brewer, Ahmed Rayees, Ron Pickett, Ramesh Dohan, Sister Lou Ella Hickman, Sambhu Nath Banerjee, Candice Louisa Daquin, Oindri Sengupta, Gigi Baldovino Gosnell, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Tanvi Jeph, George Freek, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Mini-Sagas: A Dozen Examples, Rhys Hughes talks of a new genre with dollops of humour. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life


G Venkatesh has a stopover in the airport to make a discovery. Click here to read.

The Loyal Dog in Loyalty Island

Meredith Stephens makes friends with a dog in the township of Wé on the Lifou island, an ‘overseas territory’ of France. Click here to read.

The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…

Dr Kirpal Singh ruminates over what led to the making of an island state, Singapore. Click here to read.

Remnants of Time Once Spent Together

Sayali Korgaonkar ruminates over loss and grieving. Click here to read.


Rupali Gupta Mukherjee journeys through the moonlike landscape housing a monastery with her camera and a narrative. Click here to read.

King Lear & Kathakali?

PG Thomas revisits a performance that mesmerised him in a pre-covid world. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In A Bone in My Platter, Devraj Singh Kalsi shares a taste of running a restaurant. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

Suzanne Kamata writes a light slice from life in The Boy & The Cats: A Love Story. Click here to read.


Does this Make Me a Psychic?

Erwin Coombs tells a suspenseful, funny, poignant and sad story, based on his real life experiences. Click here to read.

Hard Choices

Santosh Kalwar gives a glimpse of hope for an abandoned girl-child in Nepal. Click here to read.

No Rain on the Parade

Tan Kaiyi goes on a hunt for the National Day Killer. Click here to read.

Until We Meet Again

Shivani Shrivastav transports us to Manali for a misty union. Click here to read.

The Hatchet Man

Paul Mirabile tells a story of murder and horror. Click here to read.

I am Not the End

Aysha Baqir takes on the persona of a computer to unleash a poignant and chilling story. Click here to read.


How Many Ways To Love a Book

Sindhu Shivprasad describes passion for books. Click here to read.

Hiking in the Himalayas with Nabinji

Ravi Shankar explores more of Himalayas in Nepal. Click here to read.

Freedom is another word for… Zohra Sehgal

Ratnottama Sengupta gives a glimpse of the life of Zohra Sehgal, based on the book Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts by Ritu Menon, and her own personal interactions with the aging Zohra Sehgal. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In Can We Create a Better World by Just Wishing for it, Candice Louisa Daquin dwells on the question to locate answers. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir by B. M. Zuhara translated by Fehmida Zakeer. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Michael R Burch’s poetry book, O, Terrible Angel. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Tagore’s Four Chapters translated and introduced by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjatsabam visits Mamang Dai’s Escaping the Land. Click here to read.

Aditi Yadav reviews Pallavi Aiyar’s Orienting : An Indian in Japan. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal visits Neelum Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janki. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India. Click here to read.

National Day Special

Singapore Celebrates…

After a pause of the pandemic years, this island with its otters, idyllic beaches, palm trees, angsanas, parakeets and golden orioles mixed with modern technology and tall skyscrapers gears up to celebrate its National Day — a day when it came to its own fifty seven years ago. Veteran writer and academic, Kirpal Singh, who was a young boy at that time (1965), shares with us his memories of what had been the past in the years Singapore was born as a country. On the other hand, Tan Kaiyi, a young writer, celebrates the feeling of holiday in the air with a dark story — a typical local favourite — focussing on the parade. We also share from our treasury some pieces by expat writer Ayesha Baqir and poetry by iconic names from Singapore like Desmond Kon Zhicheng–Mingdé and Marc Nair — all these giving us a glimpse of Singapore of a post-independence era.


The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…Dr Kirpal Singh ruminates over what led to the making of an island state, Singapore. Click here to read.

No Rain on the ParadeTan Kaiyi goes on a hunt for the National Day Killer. Click here to read.

Singapore’s Secret Recipe by Aysha Baqir … Click here to read.


The Contingency of Saying and Eternal Motion by Desmond Kon… Click here to read.

Rasam & Sunil the Brahmin by Marc Nair. Click here to read.


No Rain on the Parade

By Tan Kaiyi

“No, I did not commit those murders.”

“But the evidence was overwhelming.”

“Overwhelmingly false. The judge dismissed the case and I was not convicted.”

“Everything, from the knives to the bags to the photos were found in your HDB flat[1]. How can you deny that?”

His eyes shifted. “I…I am not denying anything. If the public is unhappy, they are free to disagree with the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

The faces froze on the projector screen. Mahesh placed the remote on the table.

“There,” he indicated to Leong. “When you said you were not denying anything, there was a slip. If you did not do it, you should be confident. Viewers might notice these things.

Leong took a sip of water. For a thin sixty-five-year-old man, he looked radiant and alert. His appearance was such that it seemed to acquit him already from the murders he was accused of. But Mahesh believed that Leong could pull them off if he was half his age. Though his client worked as a simple administrative assistant for most of his life, Leong was one of the sharpest people he had media trained.

“Isn’t it natural to stutter? Even when I speak sometimes, I might not utter the exact words in mind,” Leong said.

“People are more forgiving in a casual conversation. Here, you will be in front of the nation talking about killings you did not commit.”

“It sounds like I’m on trial again.”

“Unfortunately, Mr. Leong, you’ll always be on trial.”

When they first met, Mahesh didn’t think much of Leong. In fact, he was surprised that a man of Leong’s age knew about public relations and had the money for his services. The client had come through a fellow freelancer, Marcus. They had worked in BCW for many years until they decided they had enough of working for people. “Who commissioned the media training?” Mahesh asked. Marcus was sheepish and vague. All he responded was that it was someone from linked to the government.

“Wouldn’t it have come from GeBIZ?” Mahesh asked. Government contracts usually came strictly from the online tender portal.

“Would we be talking if it was on GeBIZ?” Marcus replied.

The circumstances didn’t matter. As long as he was paid, Mahesh was happy to oblige.

Mahesh and Leong ran through a few more practice interviews. Each time, Mahesh sharpened his questions, trying to steel up Leong for the upcoming onslaught on CNA(Channel News Asia). About an hour later, Mahesh called for a break. They sat down and had their refreshments.

“You were very hard in the last round of questions,” Leong said.

“Rather hard now than suffer later on TV,” Mahesh said, taking a gulp from his Coke Zero bottle.

Leong sipped on his green tea. During the break, Mahesh studied him. He looked exactly like how the witnesses described the National Day Killer in the report. Lanky and not very tall, the perpetrator looked as if he was a homeless cardboard collector. However, he had the fitness of an NS[2] commando. A police report stated that a pursuing officer was unable to catch up with a masked figure leaving the scene of a murder. The policeman was in his twenties and won numerous fitness awards in his cohort. Despite that, he couldn’t keep up. Mahesh examined Leong. The old man was certainly lean and walked in steady strides.

The media trainer shook off those thoughts once he was aware of them. He reminded himself that the Supreme Court’s decision was final. Leong was innocent and he was here to help him reinforce that to the public.

“Shall we go again?” Mahesh asked Leong. The old man nodded wordlessly.

“Let’s do one last round,” the younger man said.

Leong indicated that he was ready to go with a thumbs up.

Mahesh introduced himself as a fictional TV presenter and began the questioning. Leong learned fast. He now was able to deal with the unpleasant topics around the time before he was acquitted as the National Day Killer: the comments from the public, the stares and flashes he received from cameras when he was shuttled between the prison complex and the courthouse and the crushing sense of injustice that the real murderer was out enjoying the serenity and freedom that rightly belonged to him. He flinched before but now, it was as if he was truly innocent. As if, Mahesh caught himself thinking. There’s no as if. Leong was not the murderer.

“The killer left messages about how it never rains on National Day. What do you make of that?”

“I don’t know. Why not you ask him?”

“Him? What makes you think it’s him?”

“I don’t think I’m fit to answer these questions. It should be left to the police.”

Leong was getting more confident.

“In the notes he left behind, the killer said that his killings were a tribute. It appeases what he calls the great spirits of the earth and calls on their blessings for whoever rules the land. The fact that it never rains on the parade was proof of his success. What do you think of that?”

“I have no insights into the mind of a madman. I’m sure you’re curious but this is a question, again, for the police,” Leong said it assertively while maintaining a steady gaze at Mahesh. Good, the younger man thought.

“So, are you the National Day Killer?” Mahesh asked abruptly. He noticed that Leong tended to get tired around eight minutes into the interview. A direct question was meant to throw him off and test him.

Leong responded brilliantly and firmly, “No, I am not.”

Mahesh switched off the camera. “Fantastic, I think we’re done.”

Leong smiled, patted his hands against his legs as if congratulating himself on a good day’s work done and stood up. The old man thanked his trainer for the session and offered his help to pack up.

“You did very well today. If you need to revise before the broadcast in three days, just give me a call,” Mahesh said as he kept his cameras, laptop and other equipment.

“I’m afraid that’s all the money I have for this,” Leong said, chuckling.

“I hope it’s worth the investment. Not a lot of people would think to prepare themselves before going on camera. CEOs have frozen on screen for answers that were not as pointed as what you’ll be receiving.”

“Well, it wasn’t entirely my idea,” Leong said.


Leong had walked off to the far corner of the room to dump the empty cans of beverages they had consumed during the session. He returned and said, “That’s the last of it. Shall we?”

The two men left the room and Mahesh locked up the office he had rented based on a favour from a friend. The younger man offered the older man a ride to the nearest MRT[3]. “Thank you, it’s quite a walk,” Leong said. “This old man needs to protect his legs,” he said while walking untroubled to the car.

An MRT against HDB flats. Courtesy: Creative Commons

During the journey, Mahesh went through what would happen on the day itself again. He assured Leong that he’d be there on the 12th of August and reminded Leong of what he should wear and when he should show up at the studio. When he discussed the schedule with Leong in the car, Mahesh was worried that he might be overbearing. He had run through these details multiple times with the older man, but he knew that people could be forgetful under stress, and it was better to be sure. The media trainer wondered why they would want to air such as controversial story three days after National Day, but he guessed that the producer must have been desperate for exciting content. He or she must have fought the government censors ferociously to get the green light.

Once he was satisfied that the Leong remembered all the details, he switched to other topics of conversation for the rest of the drive.

“Mr. Leong, do you ever feel that it’s unfair to you?”


“That you’re put on trial by the public like this and the real killer is out there still.”

“There’s no fair or unfair. You just accept what the world gives you.”

“That’s quite a grim outlook.”

“Not really. We just have to live with history, with what is given to us and what we should do next.”

Mahesh drove on quietly, taking in the Leong that was slowly unveiling beside him. During their time together, they were so focused on the media training that the younger man had no time to strike up a personal conversation with his client.

“What do you mean by live with history?”

“It was that outlook that made us. Our country went through a tough time before it got to where it is today. We forget that our streets were riddled with crime and blood. Just about sixty years back, we were killing each over the colour of our skin. And then, for some reason, we made it.”

“We had good leaders.”

“Yes, but facing the uncertainty of this world, even great leaders cannot succeed if they haven’t been elected.”

“But our people elect them.”

“I’m not just talking about people. History must elect them. That is the ultimate reason for success.”

“What do you mean by history?”

Leong went on, “The flow of events, the spirit of the ages, the soul of the people. All of these must be aligned for our success. And is it too much to thank these forces that have allowed us to flourish?”

Mahesh couldn’t really piece together these momentary revelations immediately. It was only after a few weeks after the broadcast of the interview, which went seamlessly, that he thought of whether he should contact the police.

The judge dismissed the case and I was not convicted. That line of Leong from the video replayed in his head.  

The judge dismissed the case and I was not convicted.

The car approached the pickup and drop off point of the nearest MRT station. Mahesh, not fully knowing what to say, told Leong as the older man exited the car, “It was very nice meeting you, Mr. Leong. What you said was interesting. Perhaps, there are some truths to be learned from the pioneer generation.”

“There’s nothing. All we need is to be thankful,” Leong said as he smiled and shut the passenger door.

[1] Housing Development Board flats. Nearly 80% of the population stays in HDB flats.

[2] National Service or a two year compulsory uniformed service for all male Singaporeans and Permanent residents, normally served from age 18-20. Subsequently, the have to return and serve for a short period (few weeks) for a given tenure.

[3] Metro rail. Mass rapid transit


Tan Kaiyi is on a literary odyssey to unearth the wonders and weirdness within the mundane. His poems have appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS). His play, On Love, was selected for performance at Short & Sweet Festival Singapore. He has also been published in Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018), an anthology of science fiction, fantasy and horror stories from the region.



Halloween Greetings

Ghosts, Spooks and Pirates

Why do we enjoy literature on spooks and ghosts?

A million dollar question that seems to have no satisfactory answers. While around October-November, many cultures pay respects to the departed, there are those who do pray at a different time of the year. Is there a link between that and the fun of disguising and collecting candy or playing tricks on Halloween? There are no conclusive answers or evidence to link these.

In this special edition, we decided to have a bit of fun with imps, pirates, ghost, zombies and spooks brought to you from across the world on Halloween as well as a concluding essay on the reasons we celebrate spooks. Enjoy!


Witchy Halloween: Michael Lee Johnson gives us a magical glimpse into Halloween night. Click here to read.

Pirate Poems: Jay Nicholls brings us fun-filled ‘spooky-gooky’ adventures across the Lemon Sea. Click here to read.

The Tickle Imp: Is this horrific, funny or what? Only can be had from the bizarre or genius pen of Rhys Hughes. Click here to read.


The Turret: An eerie story by Niles M Reddick that seems to be right out of an edition of The Most Haunted Houses. Click here to read.

The Return of the Dead: Gita Vishwanath explores spooks in afterlife in a short story. Do we become zombies? Click here to find out.

Ketchup: A scintillating ghost story by Rakhi Pandey, set in the old Residency at Lucknow. Click here to read.

When Two or Three are Gathered: A weird dark tale from Tan Kaiyi where a victims of a virus mutate. What kind of fear is instilled by this situation? Click here to find out.

Welcoming the Dark Half of the Year: Winding up the section is Candice Louisa Daquin’s essay that takes a relook at the evolution of Halloween historically. Click here to read.

National Day Special

Vive La Singapore

Singapore is a tiny country connected to the bigger land mass of Malaysia with two causeways. It started out as a small island inhabited by pirates and legends. Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826), a British East Indian administrator, thought it strategic and relocated some of the trade routes through the island. Migrants from many countries merged here — some looked for a better life and some served as coolies and prisoners of the colonials. When Malaya threw off the colonial yoke in 1963, Singapore continued part of the country till it gained sovereignty in 1965.

Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister envisioned a multicultural society where people of different cultures lived as one people. He said in one of his moving speeches in 1965: ” We will prosper, and a multi-racial society will take roots here. And it will do so because when you don’t allow people to play communalism, or racial bigotry, or religious bigotry, you breed an atmosphere of tolerance.”

Fifty-six years later, Prime Minister Brigadier Lee in his National Day speech clearly took the bull by the horns and said, while social media highlights the negative altercations of race and religion, it fails to highlight the positive ones. “Many more happy interactions happen every day but these seldom go viral.” He added these were values that needed to be reinforced with every passing generation. Read to find out what some Singapore residents feel about the outcome of Lee Kuan Yew’s vision, not just of race and religion but of living in a city state which hopes to continue as ” one united people“.


Poetry of Kirpal Singh 

Fifty-six years down the line, eminent academic and litterateur, Dr Kirpal Singh, comments on the dream of the first Prime Minister of Singapore. Click here to read.

Unaccompanied Baggage 

Marc Nair, a multifaceted artiste who moves from photography to writing to music with equal elan, reflects on life in Singapore. Click here to savour his work.



Dr Kirpal Singh talks of his life and times through colonial rule, as part of independent Malaya, and the current Singapore. Click here to read.

Flash Fiction: Horizon

Tan Kaiyi, a young vibrant writer, evokes the spirit of the Singapore National Day amidst the darkness spread by a deadly virulence. Click here to read.

Singapore’s Secret Recipe

A recent immigrant, Aysha Baqir takes us through the flavours of life here on the tiny island during the lockdown. Click here to read.

The island state continues a home for many immigrants — some came early and some late. As a first generation immigrant, to me the little red dot is Asia’s gateway to the rest of the world. I enjoy its sand and seas very much. We conclude our ensemble with a little poem to the green islet that nestles between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea rippling with notes of harmony…

Anointing with Love 
By Mitali Chakravarty

Listen to the swish of the waves.
Feel the breeze whisper caresses. 
See the mangroves stretch 

their roots above the ground, 
in a siesta during lazy sunrises 
and sunsets. Murmurs from the 

ocean come wafting as 
coconut fronds sing in the
fringes where the sand 

welcomes the surf. It is a 
party at the beach with
differences woven to 

harmonise into a melody 
sung in tune. A crescendo
that anoints with love. 

First published in Daily Star, Bangladesh

Borderless July, 2021


Reach for the Stars… Click here to read.


In conversation with an American poet, Jared Carter, who has received multiple encomiums like the Walt Whitman Award, the Poets’ Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship and much more. He tells us of his life and how he writes a poem. Click here to read.

In conversation with eminent academic and translator, Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.


Two songs by Tagore written originally in Brajabuli, a literary language developed essentially for poetry, has been translated by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Balochi poetry of Akbar Barakzai translated by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Korean Poetry written and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Poetry in Bosnian from Bosnia & Herzegovina, written and translated by Maid Corbic. Click here to read.

Translation of ‘Dushomoy’ by Tagore, from Bengali to English by Mitali Chakravarty on behalf of Borderless Journal. Click here to read and listen to Tagore’s voice recite his poem in Bengali.


Click on the names to read

Suzanne Kamata, Lorraine Caputo, Rhys Hughes, Kinjal Sethia, Emalisa Rose, Shahriyer Hossain Shetu, John Herlihy, Reena R, Mitra Samal, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Shubham Raj, George Freek, Marc Nair, Michael R Burch, Jay Nicholls, Jared Carter

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In The Scottish Homer: William McGonagall, Rhys Hughes assays into the times of this bard known as the best of worst poets! Click here to read.

Nature’s Musings

Penny Wilkes takes us Down the Path of Nostalgia with a mix of old and new photography and prose and poetry on how a decade after the end of the Second World War, she started her love affair with photography and nature. Click here to read

Musings/Slices from Life

Summer Studio

Jared Carter writes of a childhood in mid-twentieth century America. Click here to read.

Three Men at the Lalbagh Fort

Marjuque-ul-Haque explores Mughal Lalbagh fort left unfinished in Dhaka, a fort where armies were said to disappear during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Click here to read.

A Stroll through Kolkata’s Iconic Maidan

Nishi Pulugurtha journeys with her camera on the famed grounds near Fort William, a major historic site in Kolkata. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Managing Bookshelves, Devraj Singh Kalsi cogitates with wry humour while arranging his book shelves. Click here to read.

Adventures of the Backpacking Granny

Sybil Pretious concludes her adventures this round with a fabulous trip to Generous Indonesia, a country with kind people, islands and ancient volcanoes. Click here to read.


Peace: Is it Even Possible?

Candice Lousia Daquin explores war and peace through history. Is peace possible? Click here to read.

Corona & the Police

Subhankar Dutta reflects on the role the police has taken in a pandemic torn world. Click here to read.

A Prison of Our Own Making

Keith Lyons gives us a brief essay on how we can find freedom. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

In Richard Hughes: The Reporter Who Inspired Ian Fleming, Bhaskar Parichha showcases a journalist who wrote globally, spicing it up with humour. Click here to read.


Flash Fiction: Horizon

Tan Kaiyi evokes the spirit of the Singapore National Day amidst the darkness spread by a deadly virulence. Click here to read.

Flash Fiction: Ice Storm

Niles Reddick tells a weatherman’s story with a twist of humour. Click here to read.

Mr Roy’s Obsession

Swagato Chakraborty spins a weird tale about an obsession. Click here to read.

Magnum Opus

Ahsan Rajib Ananda shows what rivalries in creative arts can do. Click here to read.


A poignant real life story by Jeanie Kortum on adopting a child. Click here to read

The Literary Fictionist

In Scarecrow, Sunil Sharma explores urban paranoia. Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

The Parrot’s Tale, excerpted from Rabindranth Tagore. The Land of Cards: Stories, Poems and Plays for Children, translated by Radha Chakravarty, with a foreword from Mahasweta Devi. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

A Sense of Time by Anuradha Kumar reviewed by Rakhi Dalal. Click here to read.

Murder in Daisy Apartments by Shabnam Minwalla reviewed by Gracy Samjetsabam. Click here to read.

The Third Eye of Governance–Rise of Populism, Decline in Social Research by Dr N Bhaskara Rao reviewed by Bhaskar Parichha. Click here to read.

A Special Tribute

Dilip Kumar: Kohinoor-e-Hind

In a tribute to Bollywood legend Dileep Kumar,  Ratnottama Sengupta, one of India’s most iconic arts journalists, recollects the days the great actor sprinted about on the sets of Bombay’s studios …spiced up with fragments from the autobiography of Sengupta’s father, Nabendu Ghosh. Click here to read.

National Day Special Stories


By Tan Kaiyi

The whole nation was watching, Guna was sure. He wished that he was home too, holding Eshwari and Rajeev in his arms. But he had a job to do. After this, there were more bodies to be burned. He pushed the thought out of his head. He had to allow himself a moment of respite, or the corpses’ embers would sear his mind permanently. There was no way to go home for the moment. The bodies were waiting, like unmoving lovers who refused to give up their ashen affections for him.

“How long do you think it’ll take before it disappears into the sea?” Chan asked.

Guna shrugged, observing the receding giant figure. “I don’t care as long as it doesn’t come back.” The shadow was slowly shrinking out from view, soon to be flattened within the eyelid of the horizon. Even though it was far away, Guna could still see the gigantic pores of the thing’s skin. Some of them were opening and closing, gnashing like hungry mouths waiting for their next meal. He shuddered, nearly dropping the can of cold coffee he had in his hand. Guna had seen the greenish plumes ejecting out of those holes, engulfing people and entire districts. Some people collapsed instantly, most died within minutes. The worst were those who survived, crying out for an end to their suffering. There were still many more to be attended to. That was Chan’s job, and it was not one that Guna envied. He never wanted to catch sight of those pores again.

“Why do you think it left?” Chan asked.

“Maybe, we asked it to leave nicely,” Guna replied.

“You believe what they said, that we managed to communicate with it?”

“I have no idea.”

The whole country had seen the creature withstand desperate barrages from light firearms, tank cannons and missiles from fighter jets. The armed forces were throwing everything they had to stop its advance but their violence fell on invincible hardened skin. The only thing that kept the creature at bay was its own resting patterns. It would interrupt its streak of poisonous fumes and physical destruction by coming to a complete standstill. Like a misplaced iceberg in an oppressive humid climate, it would stand unmoving for weeks and months. The longest stretch of peace and silence the nation had was six months. The thing slept the sleep of the invulnerable. Nothing would penetrate it, nothing would wake it. 

“Daddy, what’s it doing?” Guna remembered Rajeev asking. He didn’t have an answer for his son, so he went for the easiest, “It’s sleeping.”

“Is it going to stay that way forever?”

“I don’t know,” Guna said. He gave his son a lot of ‘I don’t know’s’ during these two years. Why is the creature so big? What are the green clouds coming out of its back? Will it be stopped? Why did his best friend at school Daniel stop showing up to class one day after falling sick? Guna was worried that his son might think he was an idiot for knowing so little about the world.

The people lived in an uneasy tension when the creature froze. Even when the government allowed businesses to resume, there was hardly any cheer. People met loved ones not knowing when they will see them again. On the third day of one of the re-openings, Guna remembered sitting at a kopitiam, watching the channel dedicated to broadcasting the creature live all around the clock. He was observing the patrons around him as he nursed his third and last bottle of beer. Their gazes were chained to the TV screen, their mouths double-locked in silence. No one could get drunk.

Seeing it move again was a terrible sensation. The familiar sense of dread swept through everyone and terror became dangerously monotonous. When Guna read the reports of those he cremated, he came across an entry of a woman who apparently just sat on a park bench as she saw the green fumes coming at her.

She could have run, as the fatal smog took a few minutes to reach her. She just sat there, staring.

The sky turned dark as dusk. The heavens let out a whistle and a pop and bursts of white and red stars appeared above. “It’s starting again,” Guna said.

“What do you think it means?” Chan asked. Guna had memorised the sequence. Red, red, white, red white, white. Over the past month, this specific sequence of fireworks was fired into the air on the Floating Platform in the Singapore River. The fireworks stopped the creature in its tracks and it looked at the flashes as if it were hypnotized. Someone seemed to have figured out that we were able to connect with the creature with colours and sounds. At this moment, no one knew what the sequence meant but there will be plenty of time for that. Guna imagined the conspiracy theories that would be drawn around this mystery. Fake news was another battle for another day.

The blasts and sparkles faded. The national anthem played softly through the public announcement system like an afterthought, as if the entire country suddenly remembered that it was the 9th of August today. The song continued playing when the creature disappeared, and it went on for some time until it was cut off abruptly like an underground party being raided by the police. Chan took this as a call back to work. He stood up and told Guna that he’d see him soon. Guna didn’t hear him. Instead, he stared ahead into the rising night, beseeching it to seal the departing creature forever and always.


Tan Kaiyi is on a literary odyssey to unearth the wonders and weirdness within the mundane. His poems have appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS). His play, On Love, was selected for performance at Short & Sweet Festival Singapore. He has also been published in Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018), an anthology of science fiction, fantasy and horror stories from the region.