Crimson’s Creative Challenge #86

The door remained shut.

He could hear the scratching. And the hungry moaning. He was hungry too – so hungry he wished he could just run down to the convenience store and get something to eat.

The door remained shut.

Those days of careless decisions were long gone. Now, there were only cold-blooded decisions in the interest of self-preservation. Memories and relationships were nothing more than useless baggage which would spell doom for him.

The door remained shut.

Things were different now, when you were nothing more than just food in this new world, easily torn apart. He witnessed that too many times to too many loved ones. Only survival mattered, so he shut himself off.

The door remained shut.

Then, he heard new sounds. Clawing. Banging. Snarling. He must be imagining things. The horde could not have increased!

The door remained shut.

But how long would it hold?

Prompt Source: Crimson’s Creative Challenge #86

Welcome to my weekly challenge—open to all—just for FUN, FUN, FUN

Here’s how it works:

Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.)
You respond with something CREATIVE

Here are some suggestions:

  • An answering photo
  • A cartoon
  • A joke
  • A caption
  • An anecdote
  • A short story (flash fiction)
  • A poem
  • A newly minted proverb, adage or saying
  • An essay
  • A song—the lyrics or the performance

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

  • Your creative offering is indeed yours
  • Your writing is kept to 150 words or less

If you post a link in the comments section of this post I’ll be able to find it
If you include Crimson’s Creative Challenge as a heading, WP Search will find it (theory)
by ‘Searching’ in the WP Reader (fingers crossed)

Three Line Tales, Week 231

three line tales, week 231: the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset

photo by Lerone Pieters via Unsplash

Everyone walked across the bridge – they had drunk the soup of forgetfulness given to them by Lady Meng.

With each step, their memories faded.

She was ready for her next life at the end of the bridge, free of worries, regrets and guilt.

Prompt Source: Three Line Tales, Week 231

You’ll find full guidelines on the TLT page – here’s the tl;dr:

  • Write three lines inspired by the photo prompt (& give them a title if possible).
  • Link back to this post (& check the link shows up under the weekly post).
  • Tag your post with 3LineTales (so everyone can find you in the Reader).
  • Read and comment on other TLT participants’ lines.
  • Have fun.

Happy three-lining!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman, ebook

Bird Box has become so phenomenal a viral trend – “The Blindfold Challenge” – had people doing all sorts of tasks whilst being blindfolded. While the movie enjoys a great success, there is a dismal lack of similar interest in the book. I have read the book before watching the movie and thought the movie has massacred the essence of the plot. Unlike other adaptations which may choose to translate certain elements from the books into theatrical aesthetics to preserve cinematic experience, I felt that the movie seems to have misunderstood the motives which drive the characters and their actions, the most misunderstood character being the heroine of the novel, Malorie.

“Malorie stands in the kitchen, thinking.” – Starting line from “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman

In this one starting line, Bird Box has set the tone for the entire book – a woman, originally in a domestic domain and her frame of mind. Right at the start of the narrative, Malorie is established as both a static and dynamic heroine: static because she is physically still as she “stands”; dynamic because she is mentally active as she is “thinking”. Ending with this simple word “thinking” is a powerful storytelling as this uncertainty cleverly achieves its desired effect. We are used to narrators telling or showing us the thoughts and motivations of their characters – ending with this word allows Malorie to tell us what she is thinking throughout the entire narrative – through different techniques – and the range of roller-coaster emotions she is experiencing as the novel unfolds.

Not only that, the narrative is told in a nonlinear temporality from Malorie’s perspective; the constant flashbacks of retrospection and the gnawing self-doubts of current circumstances festering in her mind are an overarching theme throughout the entire narrative, achieved by this single word, “thinking”. Beginning with her fears of becoming an unwed mother, Malorie is only concerned about whether she is pregnant, who the father is, how her family would react to the news and whether she is capable of raising her child alone.

Those thoughts, however, are re-shuffled upon the quick realisation that the threat to her motherhood comes from an unseen enemy in a literal sense – alien creatures which drive people crazy through sense of sight. This never-seen-before creatures become a parallel motif to the unseen dangers threatening her motherhood and the survival of her unborn child. While the unforeseen circumstances of single parenthood may drive Malorie crazy figuratively speaking, the unseen creatures would drive Malorie crazy literally.

Interestingly, the physical space, “kitchen”, represents a very domestic and everyday life. While the threat starts spatially distant in Russia, Malorie’s impending single parenthood looms temporally near. However, once the alien threat becomes a global problem and invades the domestic space, Malorie’s pregnancy is dwarfed – it seems survival and safety for both the mother and unborn child alike have become a battle. Malorie needs to navigate in a crazed world with her eyes closed, in both physical and temporal sense. The alien creatures present a physical danger which invades the domestic space Malorie can safely raise her child and the blind faith in her ability as a single caregiver represents the temporal challenge she has to overcome.

This is where the cinematic version deviates from its book counterpart. In the book, Malorie’s motivations are largely driven by the need to survive and subconsciously, the maternal instinct to protect her unborn child. She is active in her decisions as she consciously chooses to seek out the safe house advertised in the newspaper and four years later, rowing down the river with two children to seek out a sanctuary communicated to her via a radio transmission four years prior.

Her decision to make the journey is not due to circumstances, but after careful deliberation. This is where I feel that the cinematic version butchered Malorie’s character and more importantly, her strength and willpower. Malorie is moving out of the comfort of her previous domestic space into the unknown and she is constantly wary of whether she has trained the two children well to survive the alien threat. Her two children also demonstrate, embody even, Malorie’s will. That is what I felt is the essence of the book, captured in the starting line.

Coronaviral Adventures #15

During the 2 months of circuit breaker, it seems many people have mastered a skill they dreamt about. I have heard of people picking up culinary skills, needlework, painting, drawing, writing and the likes. Then, there are also people who do HIIT, yoga, pilates and the likes.

How productive they were during this period!

Am I the only one to sink into debauchery, watching random TV series and eating junk food?

Three Line Tales, Week 227

three line tales, week 227: graffiti of a human falling

photo by Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash

He was very focussed on crossing the finishing line first – so focussed he paid attention to nothing else.

Until the idea of crossing the finishing line first ensnared him and he became its slave.

That was all he ever amounted to – success.

Prompt: Three Line Tales, Week 227

You’ll find full guidelines on the TLT page – here’s the tl;dr:

  • Write three lines inspired by the photo prompt (& give them a title if possible).
  • Link back to this post (& check the link shows up under the weekly post).
  • Tag your post with 3LineTales (so everyone can find you in the Reader).
  • Read and comment on other TLT participants’ lines.
  • Have fun.

Happy three-lining!

Coronaviral Adventures #14

After 2 months of circuit breaker in Singapore, the government finally relaxes the measures a little and we are able to return to work or school. The fine print is still safety distancing and personal hygiene.

I’m proud to announce that today is the day of my two biggest achievements.

1) I was able to wake up early and go to work on time.

b) I was able to squeeze into my work pants and there weren’t any rips or tears.

Reports of gaining weight and becoming obese during the circuit breaker have been greatly exaggerated.

Coronaviral Adventures #13

I’m ambivalent about the end of circuit breaker in Singapore on 2 June.

I mean, it’s nice to have the routine back – going to work, seeing the students physically in classrooms, marking physical copies of exam scripts, discussing work matters with colleagues and generally, going about life, albeit with safety distancing and personal hygiene in mind.

But at the same time, I’m going to miss the 30-second travel time from my bed to my work desk, the joy of waking up AFTER sunrise, the convenience of refrigerator 50 steps away and generally, the freedom of being bare-footed.

I guess I better go try on my work pants to see they still fit.

PS: This is born out of sheer annoyance after marking so many essays with similar mistakes. To college/university students who love to abuse the words “ambivalent” and “albeit”, allow me to disabuse you of their usage. And when lecturers talk about ensuring parallel structures in academic writing, the words in italics are simple examples.

Book Sharing – “I Am Death” by Chris Carter

“I Am Death” by Chris Carter, e-book

“Oh, thank you so much for coming in at such short notice, Nicole,’ Audrey Bennett said, opening the front door to her white-fronted, two-storey house in Upper Laurel Canyon, a very affluent neighborhood located in the Hollywood Hills region of Los Angeles.” – Starting line from I Am Death, Chris Carter

The seventh book in the series, Chris Carter adheres to the cardinal rule of “writing what you know” and plots his murder in the setting he knows best – Los Angeles. Although the series follows a homicide detective Robert Hunter and sometimes makes references to the book prior to the story, they are all standalones which can be read out of order if you so wish to.

The story begins with a kidnapping and naturally, as advertised in the title, ends with a gruesome death awaiting Robert Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia, to solve. And time is running out as one dead body appears after another, all equally gruesome, mounting pressure on the detectives to catch the perpetrator as the psychotic killer taunts the homicide detectives with the cryptic message “I am death” at each scene.

The novel is quite a standard length but because of the quick pace and the hooks which promise further illumination to the investigation, the novel can be read in a relatively short time. Interestingly, the short chapters also serve as a natural bookmark, allowing a reader to return to the story at ease. Even the switch from one point of view to another is well handled, setting up the stage for the story to develop further.

What sets Chris Carter apart from other detective stories is, he does not resort to clever but obscure deductions that are too farfetched. Instead, Carter makes use of his expertise in criminal psychology and his wealth of research from interviews with criminals to scaffold the thriller. This provides an interesting take to the detective story as readers are exposed to the psychological state driving the killer to commit such unspeakable and violent murders.

No doubt, the violence possibly far exceeds expectations but surprisingly, I have to say, Carter tones down the violence in this book. Even the almighty prowess of the protagonist, Robert Hunter, appears to be diminished as Carter presents an interesting premise to the reader, “Can a sociopath serial killer be nurtured under the right circumstances?” With this question in mind, a reader is not just reading the unravelling of mystery but also the motivation driving the story.

Naturally, this invitation is reflected in the starting line, when a posh lady welcomes the victim, and by extension the reader, in. Death is often painted with a beautiful and exalted exterior, but often, one forgets the horrid and gruesome aspect. This novel would certainly remind the reader so.

Coronaviral Adventures #12

Badge of Honour, Tien (2020)

While I get unexplained bruises, I don’t really bruise that easily. This is, by far, the biggest badge of honour I received from a blood donation. Luckily, drug abuse by injection is not that common in Singapore, although I really wonder what people’s reaction is if they see such a huge bruise. And there is this sense of solidarity at the blood donation centre, when I see some familar faces, either donors or medical workers thanking each other despite the pandemic we are going through.

But the biggest adventure is probably the bus ride. For a small city-state which the local populace depend mostly on public transport for commute, you have no idea how exciting it is to see a relative empty bus. I finally got a chance to sit alone throughout the entire ride – I don’t even have to worry about someone sitting next to me.

Thanks to safety distancing.

Covid-19, personal space ambassador…