Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 4: A First Job

"Ouija channels for sale! Ouija channels!"
"Voodoos! Get your voodoos here!"
"Extra! Extra! Read all about the Euthanasia scandal!"
Darren found himself in a bustling marketplace full of traders and shoppers. It felt almost every bit like those he'd been to before, from the chattering ladies to the screeching hawkers. Hurried people pushed past him as he stood there clueless on where and how to seek a job.
It wasn't that everyone was unfriendly, he just didn't feel like he was one of them yet. Well, the newspaper boy seemed more than approachable the rest.
"Er, excuse me!" he dared himself. "Do you know where I can get a job?"
"Job?" The buck-toothed kid stared back curiously. "Did you say you wanted a job?"
"How about mine, then?"
"Yours? You mean, as in, selling newspapers?"
"You got it, pal."
"Uh...okay," Darren leafed through some of the papers. There appeared to be a rather sizable bundle still waiting to be sold.
"Hey, about the pay-" He looked up in dismay to see the boy already out of sight. Drat. That kid didn't even tell him anything about his job scope. What was he supposed to do, stand there and wave newspapers at passer-bys the whole day?
"Newspapers...come get your newspapers..." He felt extremely foolish, having always been the one who waved off loud-mouthed sellers instead. Furthermore, the people (or Ghosts, whatever) going by somehow could sense he was new and constantly gave him second glances.
Almost an hour passed and still no one came up to him. Maybe he should try checking out the headlines first instead. "EUTHANASIACS DETAINED - We knew nothing about it, say victims."
Now this sounded interesting. Darren browsed through the article and a few other reports inside. Some authority in Ghostopia was rounding up new Ghosts who allegedly came in through mercy killings. Apparently suicide in the previous world was considered a crime over here. How strange.
"Hey, you. Hand me a paper, will ya?"
He looked up from the newspaper, a little caught by surprise. It was a lass with short hair and big earrings dressed in black. She didn't look older than him.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 3: Stepping Out

"Hey, you," Mortie waved a hand in front of Darren's face. "Is any of this getting through to your head?"
Darren stood there in stoned silence, then slowly shook his head.
Mortie groaned in exasperation. "Why do you young people need so much talking to? All right, all right, let me spell this out reeeal slooow."
"You, Darren, are dead. Don't ask me how or when, I'm just the gatekeeper around here. So far so good?"
"I-I'm dead?"
"Dead as dead can be, I'm afraid. Which is why you have now come to Ghostopia."
So it was true after all. As he had feared, this was no prank nor dream. He really had died, and he didn't even know how. The bitterness of it didn't come all at once, but slowly he came to comprehend what being dead meant.
Being dead meant he would never see anyone he knew again. It meant all his dreams and ambitions were nothing but dust now. Most of all, he wouldn't get another chance with Emily. Ever.
"I do suppose I'm going to be here forever, aren't I?" he asked quietly.
"Forever." came the grim reply. "Till the skies part."
Darren pressed his eyelids together, willing the tears in his heart to come out through his eyes. However, he didn't feel like crying. In fact, he didn't feel like doing anything but to let it all sink in.
"Let's go," Mortie gave him a back-slap. "We can't afford to be wasting any more time. You'll learn to get along here, trust me."
Still with a faraway look in his eyes, Darren stared at him. "Go where?"
"Take this," He pushed a strange-looking card into his hands. "This will be the affirmation of your GIC. Lose it, and you lose your identity as a Ghost."
It was a six-sided cardboard with an indention of "DARREN 33866" and odd symbols below it.
"Now, go through that wall and you'll come to the townplace. Once you're there, choose your company well, and if you're lucky you should get a decent job in no time."
"If I'm lucky? What if I'm not? Then I don't get a job at all?"
"Maybe yes, maybe not. You could be a Demon, an Angel, or even take over my place. You'll just have to find your place in this world like you found yours in the previous."
It all sounded terribly discomforting yet exciting at the same time.
"Oh, well," Mortie sighed. "Since you're already here, you might as well make the best out of it. You're not the only one to have ever died young, you know."
Darren remained silent. "I guess I'll be seeing you around, then."
"Yeah sure, go knock yourself out." He propped himself back on his desk.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Writer's Block

Uh, sorry for constantly peppering you with Writer's Blocks, but here're a few points I forgot to mention in the just-concluded one:
Firstly, oh WOW! Was going through my archives yesterday, and I realised I've just gone past the 100-post mark! Now, assuming that I've been blogging for 5 months now - which equals to 150 days - it adds up to an average of a post every 1.5 days. All together now - "Dudddde...you've been blogging waaaay too mucccccch..."
Another thing is, there's this issue in my head of what sort of story Ghostopia is going to be. I'm talking about this more in terms of length; meaning how long-drawn everything will be. One thing's for sure, if it's going to be novel-lish, there're bound to be chapters where nothing major happens at all. Notice how Chapter 2 is somewhat like that. Though I've brought this up before, that thing about every chapter ending with a cliffhanger just isn't right here. It's not some TV series, for crying out loud!
Well, that pretty much sums up all you need to know about my inner workings for today. Stay tuned, y'all, for more floozy-woozy stories ambling y'way soon!

Writer's Block

Wheeee~! It's been a while, but I'm getting back into the groove of enjoying writing "random stories with characters which appear out of nowhere".
Okay, so admitedly I'm exercising more restraint now compared to Blogspot. But still it's cool to be smack here at a stage where the story has just taken off. You have no idea how thrilling it is to turn down characters and plots which I don't deem fit enough on a daily basis! Taxing, but thrilling.
It's been a blessing that the first two chapters of Ghostopia came rather easily, cause the Exciting Story In Brew Syndrome was striking me hard last week: "The more you think about it, the more stuff you come up with, and the more stuff you come up with, the messier it becomes."
In fact, I had sat down a few times in vain to type out Chapter 1. It's always so difficult, so scary to put into word that defining first line. Feminist me insisted on a female protagonist, but the big hairy dude withing thought male characters are much easier to handle for such premises.
"But that's what makse this story so unique, dah-link."
"Shut up, you sissy."
And so Darren came to be. All right, it's actually because I think I've found a way to use a male protagonist while allowing shades of my feminity to seep through in other characters. Therefore, Belinda Cransley, whose name you shall Google till you know of, remains my only female lead in memory.
Mortie shall die tragically in the end! No wait, Emily! MUAHAHHAHAHAHA

(Disclaimer: tHis post was tyyped in arahter DrowSy sTATE OF MIND)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 2: Through The Case

If this was a cartoon, the entire scene would zoom in on Darren, then fade to black. He plopped himself down on the cold marble floor, reading the words on the book over and over.
"You...are...now...no...longer...one...of...the...living?" He took off his glasses and furiously wiped them. Still it read the same.
He closed his eyes and tried recalling the moments leading up to this strange scenario. He was at the graduation, yes he was, then...he'd asked something from someone.
Yes, yes! He'd asked for a picture with her! And then...
Then what?
She started screaming and running, as did everyone else. In an instant everything turned dark and he had felt this sensation. What was it again? It wasn't a pleasant one, that was for sure. It came over him without warning, pressing on every inch of his body so hard till it gave in. That was as far as he could remember.
So where was this room? Was he really dead? He picked up the book and read it once more.
"Welcome to Ghostopia. You are now no longer one of the living and have become a Ghost. Please step through the bookcase to complete verification of your citizenship."
This had better be a sick joke, he thought. There was no reason for him to be dead. Here he was, all fresh-faced and out to live life to the fullest, and now supposingly dead. Simply ridiculous.
"Step through the bookcase? You've gotta be kidding." Darren placed the book back on the shelf. To his amazement it sank itself into the wood, then vanished!
Whoa! Did he really see that happening? He felt the same spot with his hand and gasped out loud when his hand disappeared as well! It was still there - he could feel his fingers wiggling - but his entire hand just seemed to be buried inside the inner walls of the bookcase.
Suddenly something grabbed the invisible hand and pulled him towards the bookcase. He fell forward through the bookcase and stumbled awkwardly into a black room lined with streaks of orange.
"Get up quick, boy." a sharp voice rapped. "Your name is Darren, am I right?"
It was a stocky man about twice his age, seated directly opposite him.
"Answer me, quick! Is your name Darren?"
"Good," he straightened his collar. "First of all, welcome to Ghostopia, may your stay here be out of this world. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, HA!"
Darren faked a half-laugh, not having the remotest idea what they were laughing at.
"Funny, funny. Anyhow, you can call me Mortie, and I'll be assigning you your Ghost Identification Code, or GIC."
"Uh...yeah. Cool."
"So tell me, do you want to keep the name Darren or change to a new one?"
Darren stared at Mortie blankly, not knowing what to say.
"I'll take that as a retention of the name Darren. Oh-kayyy..." He scribbled something on his notepad and turned a page. "Darren 33866. Yup, yup, that's your GIC."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 1: Life After Death

(Note: This purely fictional story is a product of the writer's imagination and should not be taken as an actual depiction of the afterlife. Allow to simmer and enjoy! )

"CHEESE!" Black square hats flew up in the air.
The fresh graduates of the Class of 2004 let their cheers ring throughout the campus. After three years of sticking together, they now were officially a part of the big outside world they'd heard so much of. Boys and girls whooped with laughter as everyone posed for those once-in-a-lifetime photos.
"Um, Emily," A spectacled young man approached a girl in his class. "Would you, er, mind taking a picture?"
"Hold on, Darren. Right after these guys. CHEESE!"
Suddenly terrified shrieks echoed round the scene. Everyone fled for their lives, covering in fear. Everyone except for Darren who froze in place. He felt this enormous weight pressing down on his heart. It twisted and contorted, squeezing the life out of him. Then everything went black.



Darren's eyes opened much later. Slowly a checkered ceiling of orange and black came into focus. Rather sluggishly he peered to the right, then the left. Something didn't seem right, but he couldn't really put his finger on it.
Wait a minute. Wasn't he at the graduation? Where had everyone gone?
"Robin? Thomas? Guys? Speak to me!"
He tried getting up from his lying position, only to find his legs badly cramped. Nevertheless, he succeeded after a whole lot of teeth-gritting.
Curiously enough, he was in a medium-sized room large enough to fit a class. On one side of the wall was a wide bookcase containing only one leather-bound book. The rest of the room was glaringly bare.
Still very much in a daze, Darren plodded over to the bookcase and reached for the book. There were no words on the cover, nothing but a rough scaly surface. He flipped it open.
"Welcome to Ghostopia. You are now no longer one of the living and have become a Ghost. Please step through the bookcase to complete verification of your citizenship."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Writer's Block: Another Cendol Story

Like I had several times before, I found myself alone in Seri Petaling at 4pm after a foolishly-spent RM9.18 KFC lunch.
Alas, this tale gets off to a most predictable start: a blazing hot Malaysian afternoon. However, this time around I was a man with a mission. I knew what I wanted, and where I was headed.
There. Tucking itself neatly under some trees was the Cendol Stall Of Lore. The one which would deliver me from the sun's unrelenting rays.
And like the script says, I park my car, order a standard bowl of cendol, refuse his offer for rojak as well, and kiasu-ly ask for lebih kacang. Round and round his machine grinds the ice, giving birth to my beautiful bowl of cendol (okay, maybe that's taking it a bit too far).
As I take the first few sips, a wind starts swooshing to life. Little droplets land themselves on the table, and I, fearing for the blemishing of my pure cendol, make for his sheltered van.
The cendol man sat there on his stool, smoking a cigarette. He looked at me briefly before resuming his smoke. "Nak duduk kah?"
"Tak payah lah, uncle."
He was a cheerful-looking Indian man, probably in his early forties. Murugan. He looked every bit like a Murugan. I didn't have the nerve to ask him his name, but I felt quite sure he was called Murugan.
Casually I chatted up with Murugan on how business was. "Aiyah, ini hari teruk lah...lagi-lagi hujan, mana ada orang datang."
As he spoke, the small drizzle turned into a considerable downpour. Not the sort that'd send you scurrying home totally soaked, but enough to put any sane person off cendol.
Apparently Murugan had been selling cendol for quite a number of years, having moved his stall from Old Klang Road due to increasing competition. He had two children, the older one aged 14. Quite a difficult time for the pockets.
Though he had lips forever curved upwards, Murugan's eyes revealed some degree of hardship and toiling. There was a certain weariness in the way he sat smoking, looking at cars and people passing by in hope they wanted to buy cendol.
"Ini hujan takkan lama punya."
I nodded instinctively to agree, then paused. Was he making a statement of affirmity, or was it one of hope?
"Baik jugalah hujan, hari-hari pun begitu panas."
Simple words, but ones which I felt spoke deep into the heart of an ordinary cendol seller. Many times in life, we are torn between what's best for ourselves and what's best for others. On one hand, Murugan needed it to be unbearably hot so that he could earn more. But on the other, he, like any other one of us desired a clear blue sky. What Murugan was selling - comfort from the heat - was suddenly being given for free by God.
I placed my empty bowl on the counter, and handed him one ringgit.
"Dah nak balik?" he asked.
"Yalah, bos. Hujan."
"OK lah. Hati-hati."
And so ended my latest Cendol Moment. Now, if I could just find an ice-cream man...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Very Special Bumper Edition Of Writer's Block

And would you believe it! Twisted Tales approaches five months of being ALIVE AND KICKING, people! Yours truly is indeed in a jovial mood today, so much that he's even forgot his pleasantries. Welcome all to, like the title says: a very special edition of the Writer's Block After A Story Is Complete. Only the second one ever, mind you. Whoa, I do seem to have a lot on my mind today. Have been planning to jot all these down for a while, and finally I found the time and motivation. So here you have it all, the culmination of some week-long thoughts:

Should I still be looking back on The Secret Room? From my point of view, it was pretty okie-dokie stuff. The added characters Stella, Jan, and Phyllis weren't all too bad, though I do wish I could've used Phyllis in less rushed manner. It did cross my mind of adding in a few more encounters with her, but I didn't want to drag the story any longer when there wasn't anything substantial to drag it with. The continuity could've used some tweaking, as with Mrs. Banks' motivations for evil-ness. If only, if only, then the ending would have been undisputedly strong. But...heh, it's what they've come to expect of me. All in all, nothing to be ashamed of here.

Am somewhat very into blogging these days, sigh...this blog is the perfect thing I need to rekindle an interest for writing. Not to mention gain a minor audience without sticking pieces of paper in their faces. It did seem a huge waste of time at first, but bit by bit I do find it enjoyable. Haven't had had a proper medium since those days of "polluting" the school magazine, haha.

Should I change the template again? New story, new template? But this one is sooo nice, and it's just too much trouble to have to move everything again. I had initially planned on wrapping up The Secret Room before my mid-term break last week, then scout around for good templates. Instead, I missed the deadline, and heh...here we are, right smack in my end-nearing term. Will still be on the lookout if I have time, but don't hold your breath. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Let's move on to something more interesting: the art of storytelling, through my eyes. I was typing out an old story which I wrote for my 2002 SPM English paper the other day(It'll be up shortly, I promise) when this popped up. It's always heartening to see how glaringly obvious your mistakes are, as compared to the first time when it seemed like the best piece of work ever written. Storytelling is indeed a mastery, one very closely linked to marketing, human behaviour, and psychology, all of which I've become keen to in the past few months. And nowhere have I studied more about this than through that much-criticised TV show: Wrestling.

Allow me to illuminate your senses. Pro wrestling started off back since who-knows-when, not much more than cheap entertainment played mainly to dull old men in dingy bars. For years it remained the same, a sport which only those who enjoyed knew about. Now, I'm rather sketchy when it comes to details, but sometime around the mid 1980s, a man by the name of Vince McMahon Jr made televised wrestling a money-spinning success. He, of course, was and still is the chairman of the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). McMahon did this through the brilliant innovation of Wrestlemania, an annual wrestling spectacular where celebrities, singers, sporting greats, TV personalities and the like were roped in to add glitz. Though televised wrestling had existed long before that, Wrestlemania brought the concept of wrestling pay-per-views to a whole new level. It is said that the first Wrestlemania had to be a success for McMahon, or else he would've gone bankrupt.

On the back of a certain Hulk Hogan the WWF enjoyed a remarkable period of success. (If you've never heard of Hulk Hogan, you've probably been blogging since you were three). This period would come to be known as the "Rock N' Wrestling Era", where long hair and rocker dudes were the way to go. In those days, wrestlers were gimmicky, over-the-top, and the kids just lapped it up. Good guys were macho and heroic, bad guys were nasty to the core. Some of you might even recall a certain cartoon series featuring Hogan and his friends defeating the nefarious baddie wrestlers. You get the idea. Then somewhere down the line, they just became tiresome. Audiences could no longer tolerate the kid-friendly musclemen pandering for cheers, what more with Hogan and his eternal title reigns. They started tuning in to some new shows put on by upstart wrestling companies; mainly ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) and WCW (World Championship Wrestling).

ECW appealled to audiences for their cutting edge hardcore action never before seen in a wrestling ring; for once the wrestlers felt real. Their shows were held in a very closed environment and the wrestlers constantly went into the crowd. The interaction, the bonding, call it what you will, it was truly there in every ECW show. WCW, on the other hand, was a stroke of genius led by a very, very clever man named Eric Bischoff. Backed by billionaire Ted Turner, he did one of the dumbest things any fledgling company would dare to do: go toe-to-toe with the giant. Bischoff was convinced that in order to be the number one company, he couldn't just appeal to a niche audience. He had to take on the still massively popular WWF straight. Like McMahon before him, failure on Bischoff's part would make him out of a job. Bischoff did some pretty unethical things; he broadcast the results of WWF's taped shows on his shows, he lured WWF wrestlers to WCW and made them diss their former company on air, and even recorded some not-so-nice commercials. The thing was, the more he did these outrageously wrong things, the more interesting it became to watch WCW. It didn't help that WWF's own product was faltering. The power shift was complete one night when Hogan (now in WCW) teamed up with two blokes by the name of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the New World Order, or nWo. The three would wage a storyline war against the entire WCW company, garnering tremendous viewership as their faction kept growing.

Meanwhile, WWF was in serious trouble. Wrestlers were defecting like there was no tomorrow, and viewership was declining steadily. Try as they could, they just could not find enough likeable wrestlers to carry the company. The period of gloom continued through 1997, when even their most entertaining wrestler Shawn Michaels refused to take part in Wrestlemania that year. More controversy ensued later when WWF Champion Bret Hart, having signed for WCW, did not want to lose it in front of his home country. McMahon would then conspire to "screw" him out of the title live on national TV, making McMahon one of the most despised characters in the wrestling industry. Just when the world thought that McMahon had no one but himself to blame for WWF's demise, the turning point would show up. If the previous era had been built around Hulk Hogan, this would be the man for the new era. His name was none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Some of you might recall a period around 1998 to 2002 when everyone watched WWF at least once in their lives, the infamous "Attitude Era". No one could possibly not have heard of the names The Rock, Stone Cold, Triple H, Undertaker, Mankind, and so forth. Once again, the people were cheering. They cheered when Stone Cold beat up McMahon, the "evil boss". They cheered each time The Rock quoted his famous catchphrases. For one magical moment in time, wrestling didn't seem like two guys in tights whacking the stuffing out of each other. It was an utterly hip phenomenon, a pop culture people cared for and made a part of their lives.

This story, known as the legendary "Monday Night Wars", is a story which has deeply fascinated me since I started watching wrestling in mid 2000. It has long intrigued me why nine out of ten people these days say they used to watch wrestling, but it's no longer fun these days. Could they have grown tired of it? But wrestling was by no means a new thing when it peaked in 1998. Nor was there a sudden upheaval in the company. It is, no matter how many times I see it, incredibly puzzling how a whole population could've stood up and taken notice of an old, tired product all at the same time. I've watched and read countless related material, and yet it still is intruiging how and when the tide turned. How did Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, mere wrestlers like so many before them, manage to whip entire arenas and millions of viewers into a frenzy each time they appeared?

And that is how so much can be learnt from the mad, mad world known as wrestling. We've all seen wrestling matches before. We know how they end many times. We know what the wrestlers are going to say, going to do, and most of it seems fake. There're countless situations which could never happen in real life, but you do sometimes still get goosebumps waiting for two guys to go at it. It's all a combination of the logical and the magical.

Congrats if you made it to this final paragraph, though I doubt many of you did. A HUGE shout out to the always-excellent columnists of OnlineOnslaught.com, where I get my fixes of wrestling news, previews and reviews. Thank you for teaching me how to tell a story that first and foremost, gives what the reader wants, not what you want. I still have a long, long way to go before I perfect it, but the journey is always the exciting part. Having said that, let us wrestling fans wait for the next Attitude Era like they did in 1995.

P.S.: I'll be taking a short break before the third story commences. Just need a little time to develop this cool idea I have in my head, and brush up more on effective storytelling. It's called "Ghostopia", by the way. ;^)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Secret Room, 25th Chapter (Conclusion)

"Welcome to the gang." These words greeted Will as soon as he woke up. "From now on, you're one of us."
Slowly his vision came into focus. A horde of those skinny kids gathered round him.
"P-please don't tell me Mrs. Banks locked us in." His heart beat faster than ever.
Jimmy stepped forward, nodding. "You shouldn't have meddled with the Secret Room. I tried my best to keep you away."
"How? HOW?"
"You remember that new lady Phyllis? That was actually me. I would've actually stopped you straight from coming here, but Mrs. Banks was watching me too closely."
"Same thing here," the girl who called herself Stella spoke. "I kept warning you, but in the end Mrs. Banks found out as well. Now she's terminated my worker personality."
"You're all mad! Mad, I tell you, MAD!" Will screamed at them. He ran to the door and kicked it repeatedly. "Anyone there? We're trapped inside! HELPPPPPPP!"
"Save your breath, you're going to need it," Jimmy said. "That Mrs. Banks, she's been doing this for a long time. The Secret Room is just a set-up for her to get workers to keep the orphanage running."
"I bet you don't understand," another girl said. "Let me show you."
She led him to a cleverly hidden compartment with many sets of buttons and knobs. On top of each set was a numbered screen, all of which read "ASLEEP".
"You see this?" she motioned to Screen Number Three. "I'm the worker called Pat."
Will's mouth gaped in horror. "You mean..."
"Yes. That's Martha...Ruth...Teresa...Bessy...Polly. Stella, whom you know, is Stella. Jimmy is that new girl Phyllis."
All the nice ladies were in fact kids trapped in the Secret Room. It was a truth too crushing for him to bear.
His knees buckled. "So...those nice ladies who walk around each day...what are they?"
"Nobody knows. They could be robots, or illusions, or spirits...only Mrs. Banks has any idea."
Stella and Jimmy came over. "You found out the hard way too, huh?"
Will looked at Stella. "What happens to you, now that Mrs. Banks has killed off your nice lady personality?"
"You only get one personality," she said grimly. "Once she catches you doing anything wrong, that's it. You'll never get to see anything but the four walls of this room."
"But what wrong did you do?"
"I told you about the consequences I were bearing for this, didn't I?"
"Yeah," Jimmy quipped. "I almost got into trouble too as Phyllis the other day, blurting out your name like that."
Will covered his ears, wanting to hear no more. But it could not be undone. He was doomed to spend a lifetime inside the Secret Room.
As the days wore on, Will found out more. Twice a day some sorry-looking excuse for food was served through an air pump located at the ceiling.
Escape? It was as possible as flying elephants. The doors were both made of solid metal, strong enough to withstand thirty kids pushing against it. Slipping notes under the door to people outside was prevented by the second door located at least five feet away from the main purple door. Any noise was also drowned out by the room's soundproof qualities.
He also discovered that some months ago, a few kids managed to unlock the second door from inside. They poked their fingers underneath the door while screaming for help, in hope that someone would notice them. Unfortunately, only Mrs. Banks found them the next morning. It was a good thing they didn't know that Will was right there outside and could've saved them if he didn't freak out. Jimmy wisely kept his mouth shut too.
But the worst part was that the kids in the Secret Room weren't really kids at all. Some of them had been locked up for ten or twenty years, they just never grew up in the Secret Room. A few, like Teresa and Ruth, had been able to keep their jobs as nice ladies for all the time, but many weren't as lucky. They made some mistakes, causing them to not even get a chance to see the outside world through the eyes of a nice lady.

Now, you may be thinking why Will doesn't somehow rescue all the kids or defeat the evil Mrs. Banks. After all, he is the protagonist of this story and they always win in the end, don't they?
Well, Will is sadly just not one of those protagonists. For all his efforts, he has merely become another dot on the Secret Room's long list of victims. Perhaps someday a true protagonist will come along and free Will, Jimmy, Stella, and all the other kids. Or maybe it could even be Jan. That, I assure you, is another story.
But until then, I bid you farewell and a simple warning: Stay clear of the Secret Room!

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Secret Room, 24th Chapter

At least a dozen skinny kids who looked like they had been locked up inside for ages lay sprawled on the floor. There were both boys and girls of various ages, all sharing the same sunken cheeks, bony limbs, and malnourished bodies. They were snoring away, which explained the sounds he'd just heard.
Will scoured the ghastly scene, hardly able to believe his eyes. Then he noticed one on the far end slightly more plump than the rest.
"Jimmy!" he called out in utter shock. "There you are!"
The commotion caused one boy near his feet to stir. It didn't even take the boy a second to snap out of his dreamy state. "G-guys! GUYS!" he croaked. "There's someone here!"
All the other kids opened their eyes at once. "Oh my gosh!" shrieked one of the girls. "There really is!"
Even Jimmy appeared stunned to see him. Not caring for any pleasantries, he hollered at all the top of his voice, "Come on, come on, let's go before she catches us again!"
The kids all scrambled to their feet, albeit weakly. "Oh, Will!" A teary-eyed girl about his age clutched his sleeve. "I knew you would come!"
"W-who are you? I've never seen you before."
"I'm Stella!"
"I said MOVE! No talking!" Jimmy barked at everyone like an army commander.
Will felt like it was all a dream. Why were all of these kids so afraid of Mrs. Banks? How did they get in here in the first place? And who was that girl who called herself Stella?
"That's as far as you'll get, children." A bone-chilling voice rasped at the doorway. It, of course, belonged to Mrs. Banks.
The kids started backing off in fear, as though she was pointing a gun at them. Some of them even began crying like three-year-olds.
"Don't lock us up again, Mrs. Banks." A lanky boy knelt down beseechingly.
"We won't tell anyone about this, we swear." Tears streamed down another girl's face.
"Let us be free, we beg you."
"I miss my mommy and daddy."
Will looked on incredulously. Even Jimmy was joining them pleading Mrs. Banks!
"What in the world are you guys afraid of? She's not armed or anything! Let's all take her out!"
"Oh, it's you," Mrs. Banks grinned broadly. "You attacked me just now, didn't you? Naughty, naughty."
That was it for Will. He felt this great rage overcome him, the rage of seeing his friends so stripped of their dignity. "AHHHHH!" With a crazed cry he rushed towards her, one fist raised.
The last thing he saw before blacking out for no reason was her laughing fiendishly.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Secret Room, 23rd Chapter

Like a stand-up comedian about to perform for the first time, Will could feel his palms grow sweaty and breath hastening. A plan! He had to think of a plan!
The first thing that came to his mind was to wait for her to finish unlocking the door, then knock her unconscious. That seemed kind of daring, though.
He had to be very careful not to let her see him. His eyes darted around, searching for some sort of weapon. They chanced upon an old broom lying nearby. It sure seemed hard enough to knock someone out.
Stealthily he picked it up, stopped breathing, and tiptoed towards Mrs. Banks from behind.
Uh-oh. A gulp of saliva went down the wrong pipe. Try as he could, Will had no choice but to...
"ACKH!" he coughed and wheezed at the same time, making her spin around.
"WHY, YOU-" Mrs. Banks roared, arms reaching for his throat.
"DIEEE!" In a moment of madness, Will smashed the broomstick onto her head with everything he had, breaking the stick into two. Mrs. Banks' eyes rolled upwards and she collapsed on the floor, knees straight.
Oh my, oh my! What had he done now? He was going to be in awfully deep trouble when Mrs. Banks woke up. Looking at her limp body lying out cold on the floor with splinters everywhere, Will felt like he'd crossed some invisible point of no return.
However, every single bit of those bad feelings cleared when he saw the door to the Secret Room unlocked. Unlocked. UNLOCKED! U-N-L-O-C-K-E-D!
He was so excited he could almost feel himself salivating. Come to think of it, cut that "almost" out. All the waiting, all the guessing, all those warnings from Mrs. Banks, Stella, and even that new nice lady Phyllis were now things of the past. This was what it had come down to - only one unlocked door sperated him from the Secret Room!
Enough with the time wasting already. Will pushed open the heavy metal door to reveal...another door inside.
However, it was the sort that was secured just by a latch only openable from the outside. At this point, sounds which resembled grunts could be heard rather clearly. Weird.
He took one last deep breath and reached for the latch. Click, click! There. It was undone.
Now, what would be inside? Would Jimmy and Stella be there? Whatever it was, Will had a feeling he wouldn't be disappointed.
Creeeeak! His trembling hands forced upon the rusting door.
"No...this can't be true..."
Will gasped in horror as he finally realised the horrible secret behind the Secret Room.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Writer's Block: Fools In Love

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

Sunday morning in church. As usual, I could've easily said. But suddenly I stopped singing and looked around. Something just seemed strange today.

I'll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

A thought crossed my mind. How would I feel if this was my first time here? It was a remarkably absurd sight. Old ladies, retired men, housewives, working adults, college students, and school children were standing staring at an LCD screen. A lady stood on stage, but they weren't listening to her sing, nor was she listening to them sing. In fact, nobody was singing for anyone else to hear. It was as though they were singing for themselves only, yet everyone sang their hearts out.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship

As if on cue a large portion of the crowd lifted their arms in the air. Some raised one arm, some raised two. A good number put them over their hearts, and there even were those who performed actions for each verse.

And it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

The lady on stage motioned her hand in a circular manner, signalling for the pianist to play again. She said some words many in the crowd had been hearing all their lives, yet they nodded like they were truly touched. Once again they repeated the song from the beginning, word for word. Not a very entertaining thing to do.

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

Incredibly, everyone was still listening to it like it was the first time. Every single word spoke to them like the most beautiful piece of poetry ever written. And this was an often-repeated song they'd sang over and over again.

I'll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I smiled to myself. How foolish they appeared to the world.
Indeed, they were fools.
Fools in love.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

Friday, March 04, 2005

Writer's Block

Yesterday was, indeed, a proud day in history. While flipping through the newspaper, I chanced upon this tiny ad in the cinema section. "Robots", it read. "Coming soon."
Err...before you start panicking and thinking we're being invaded by tall suave machines more attractive than us, that's just the title of some new animation-ish movie from the creators of Ice Age. This is truly a must-see movie with an excellent plot and charming characters you'll simply fall in love with. Okay, that's all the blog-commercialisation for today, hopefully that'll give the movie an extra 3 viewers.
Getting back on track, "Robots" got me thinking about my third story. Let's see..."Robots"..."Monsters Inc"..."A Bug's Life"..."Toy Story"..."Finding Nemo"...get the connection? All heart-warming stories, exactly the sort I'd planned on writing next. But most importantly, they're all set in a make-believe world with a certain theme. A world of robots, monsters, bugs etc. Heh heh heh heh. (If you don't know what I'm "heh"ing about, here's to a vague, vague life ahead)
A week ago, I somehow got this idea of (breathes in) escaped-hardened-criminal-finds-refuge-in-innocent-child's-shed-without-knowledge-of-child's-parents-and-has-hidden-agenda-to-murder-them-or-something-but-eventually-is-touched-by-child's-innocence-and-turns-over-a-new-leaf-just-before-he-gets-shot-by-Mister-Policeman-Assigned-To-The Case.
Reeks of Hallmark, doesn't it? Like so many stories before, I filed it under "This is SO my next story", but a few days of clearing my mind have opened me up to so many other options. Ah, the sweet joys of the thought process. It comes sometimes, with nothing more than a blink, and if you don't grasp it then, it's gone with the next.
Right now I'm sort of pleased with this "Theme World" idea, I really think it'll be the one I eventually settle for. Already, bits and pieces are swirling in my mind; I'll likely need to jot them down for later use. (What do you mean what sort of "Theme World" I have in mind? Get in line and wait for me to tell you like the rest of the world, honey) ;^)
But yeah...I'm all for adding in elements of romance in it as well, maybe even making it the main theme! Woohoo! Time to brush up on those Sweet Valley books. DON'T ASK.
Pardon me if I'm mentioning this again, but I do see Story Number Three as the make-or-break tale for this blog. Blogspot was pretty run-of-the-mill which served its purpose of treading water well...The Secret Room, on the other hand, is essentially a re-write with new twists added onto the main sundae. Therefore, if I must say so, I've run out of tricks for the next one. It'll take building from scratch, proper planning, and sheer storywriting ability. I'm caught completely naked here, folks.
And before anyone gets any improper thoughts, let us all shift our attention to a game with the single most brilliant concept E-VA. It's so hillariously spot-on and down-to-earth, any dumbell can relate to it. Especially the dumbells. ;^)

Try this on for size too, big boy. My high score's 12,998

Sigh. And I had so much going for me.

The Secret Room, 22nd Chapter

Will breathed into his chilly hands. "Why don't they ever turn down the air conditioners around here? Brrr."
He had been up and waiting for nearly half an hour now. As always, the utter darkness and aimlessness seemed to make it ten times longer.
This was only the third time he was staying up to keep watch of The Secret Room. The past two rounds ended with someone missing. Quickly forcing that unpleasant thought out of his head, he tried making shapes out of the long shadows on the floor. Two minutes, and that became boring.
Being alone sure made time go a lot slower. Though they didn't talk much during their previous "missions", he wished Jan or Jimmy was sitting beside him feeling just as foolish.
Another ten minutes passed.
Ten more.
Already Will was feeling skeptical this plan would work. Unlike the last time, there was no one to take shifts while he caught a quick nap. "If only Jan had come. Darn."
Ten more minutes of sheer torture ticked by. The last time he had been here, Jimmy was the one who had dragged him. It would therefore make perfect sense for him to ditch the formerly brilliant idea and sleep like he should.
But deep down, he knew he would never be able to live with himself if he did nothing. With nothing but sheer resolve Will forced himself to stay awake for another fifteen minutes. Still no one came.
"That's it, that's it," he yawned for the zillionth time. "She's not coming tonight."
Then as fate would have it, he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. At the blink of an eye his sleepiness dissolved, giving way to heart-thumping suspense.
"Calm down, Will, maybe it's not her." he said to himself, well-hidden behind a pillar.
Like a child waiting for Santa to appear, Will tried his best to stifle his excitement. Of course, he didn't do a very good job of it.
Could it really be her? He placed one hand over his mouth to control his sudden heavy breathing. A burning sensation started coming over his ears.
The footsteps reached Will's floor and proceeded walking down the corridor. Plod, plod, plod, then they stopped. Right in front of the Secret Room.
Wiping away the cold sweat on his brow, Will stuck his head out slowly to peek.
It was Mrs. Banks!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Secret Room, 21st Chapter

Will truly felt all alone. "So you're going to just quit having anything to do with the Secret Room?"
"It's not that...I'm still very much interested in finding out what happened to Stella and Jimmy. But there's no way I'm putting myself in danger of ending up like them."
"Oh, come on. You could go missing any time of the day, as long as you're involved."
"You have no idea how frightening all this is," she said. "It's like one of those horror movies where everyone sits around waiting to get killed next."
"They're not dead."
"You can't be sure. Call me a coward, but I'm just too afraid something bad will happen to me."
"Oh, and you think I don't care about that? Jan, there's something dark about that room. Something dark, evil, mysterious that has been going on for many years now. It's something many kids in the past have tried to figure out, and I can't believe nobody has been able to."
Jan fixed her gaze on Will, at a loss for words.
"Since that night I saw those fingers under the door, I knew we kids have been fooled by Mrs. Banks all along," he continued. "Maybe I should've just left it there, but I dragged you, Jimmy, and Stella into this as well. Now that they've both disappeared, I'm in too deep. I can't just end it here."
He thought for a while. "You're right, probably. I guess it's selfish of me to make you come along. It was my plan, after all."
"So...you're really going to stay up tonight?"
"I'm turning mad, I tell you," Will knocked his head with his fists. "I have to go inside the Secret Room, or I'll seriously become crazy. So guess that's a yes."
"I see," nodded Jan slowly. "There's this tiny part of me that wishes I was as crazy as you. But...good luck."
"Take care, will you? If anything happens, scream as loud as you can. She won't dare lay a finger on you."
"Whoa, sounds good. I'll keep that in mind."
Little did Will know that this would be the night everything came to an end.