Sunday, July 31, 2005

reCAPPENING: Ghostopia, Chapters 41-45

Darren tries to get them both out of the narrow shaft when Kat, being claustrophobic, suffers a breakdown. Suddenly Mortie appears with Amelia, much to their relief.
Shortly after that, the Spook which has been trailing them for a while catches up with the group, and Mortie confronts the Spook who is intent on arresting Darren and Kat. The conversation soon turns sour and Mortie reveals a hidden weapon - the ExorPrism. The glowing green prism gives off devastating effects to the Spook, eventually causing it to wither and die in agony.
When asked, Mortie tells Darren that the ExorPrism was created after the botched escape attempt years back. After the few remaining Ghosts who escaped Exorcism returned, they secretly created the ExorPrism which had great power over anything that wasn't a Ghost. However, the authorities put an end to production and destroyed the recipes after the prisms were misused to Exorcise Spooks. The original makers were never found.
After the explanation, Mortie leads them out of the building along with Todd, Fletcher, and Scarlet. Sure enough, Mortie confirms that the records were taken care of. Unfortunately, Lester demands a full report from Mortie tomorrow before their GIC Cards can be returned. Mortie obliges, and the group walks out to cheers of their first mission accomplished.
Fast forward to the next morning, where Darren is dreaming of his graduation day all over again. Suddenly, Nelson wakes him up with news that Darren is featured in the morning paper - leading us into Chapter 46.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 45: Morning News

"Oh, lookie lookie," Robin elbowed Darren in the ribs. "Jonathan's hitting on that new girl again."
"Again? That's like the sixth time or something, man!"
Though he cringed mockingly, Darren felt an uplifting lightness in his heart as he watched everyone he'd known in his four years in university mingle. Boys and girls in robes hugged each other, smiling and crying at the same time. Some of the scholarship students were shaking their lecturers' hands furiously. Cameras went off everywhere like fireworks. At the far end of the field, he could even spot a group of guys tossing Thomas in the air, repeatedly singing some march anthem.
Darren smiled to himself, content to soak in the scene from afar.
Then she walked past.
Emily, her layered black hair bouncing in the slight breeze, giggling with her girlfriends at a joke one of them made. She gazed at him momentarily, then made her way to a circle of guys fiddling with an expensive camera.


"Dude," Robin nudged him, pointing at Thomas' group. "Let's go join them."
Darren's feet felt heavy. He should be making good of his chances - this was his last day being able to walk up to Emily and talk to her so easily. Reunions always bore the stigma of catching up and pleasantries. Phone calls required some previous goodwill. Internet messengers? Phooey. He didn't fancy being one of the five simultaneous conversations she was probably having.
Why yes, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. Take a picture with her, then maybe get her phone number. He'd figure out an excuse for calling, no doubt about it.
"Uh, why don't you go ahead first? I'll come by later."

"Hey. Wakey-wakey."

Puffing up his chest, Darren walked up to her. He might not look like the most suave guy on the outside, but inside he was brimming with confidence. He tapped her on the shoulder. Untimidly, you might add.
"Um, Emily...would you, er, mind taking a picture?"
Oh, no. It was starting again. He was sounding like a practiced nerd.
"Hold on, Darren. Right after these guys. CHEESE!"

"YO! I said, WAKE UP!"

The scene blacked out. Darren could feel his eyes blink twice. He was lying on his side on something soft, a lumpy pillow resting between his arms. He turned around to find Nelson standing by the bed, arms akimbo.
It had all been a dream. Darn.
But what was he, in the first place, doing here in Nelson's house? Darren tried hard to remember, but nothing was registering. It felt like a hangover without alcohol.
"You're lucky I was up late last night. Otherwise you would've freezed to death outside my door."
Oh yeah. There was some vague memory of Nelson letting him into the house.
"What can I say? Thanks." he mumbled groggily.
"Oh, you'll be saying a lot more," Nelson waved a newspaper in front of his face. "Congratulations, Darren. You made it to the morning news."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Here's More Writer's Block

Props to Jillie, she never fails to keep me on my refer to her post in the tagboard which goes as follows:

<jillie>: hmm, funny how i also realized that darren reminds me of your everyday generic bimbo, who wishes he could see emily, but not people like his parents/family. *sweat* is that on purpose? ahahah!

I was almost about to reply that yups, Darren did at times seem like a dumb blonde, what with his endless "Oh I see"s and inadequacy to hold an unfumbling conversation with Kat. However, Jill's perspective was something altogether new - I'd always figured Emily alone would suffice for all of Darren's cherished memories of the living world, and now there's talk of family. Sheesh.
Then it dawned upon me.
Of course!
The clueless guy persona, the loser with chicks, then now continuously pining for his "girl" (a very loosely used term here) but not his family? The pieces of the puzzle fitted perfectly! The blurred edges became crisp as a freshly baked cookie!
There could only have been one dude I was unconciously basing Darren on!
It was...
it was...
Fry of Futurama!
Hahah! Figures, doesn't it? And no prizes for guessing who plays the part of the orphaned-at-birth, kick-butt Leela! Now all we need to do is to get Nelson to start smoking cigars and downing beers like water.
Heck, it doesn't end could even draw certain parallels between Mortie and Zapp Branigan, or the Spooks with those two annoying cop guys.
Oh, mannnnn....
I was, all the while, getting inspiration from a defunct cartoon series! A fabulous one, but nonetheless a cartoon series!
Well hey, that's creativity for you...fashioning something new out of stuff you've seen and heard before.
Going back to our beloved protagonist Darren, I do believe the ship can still be steadied with the suddenly-crucial next exchange between Nelson and him. So we now have one more item added to the "to accomplish" list there - establish a neat lil' story for Darren's past that extends beyond "American High School Sitcom". Remember how I said in my previous Writer's Block that Kat is the only one whose past we don't know about? Well, scrap that off. We need pictures on all their pasts.
At the end of the day, what our lead dude is lacking here still boils down to likeability. Something which there's no recipe for. I could blah-blah-blah on about how the story would be better, but that would just be that: blah-blah-blah. Let's instead be assured that the story will get better!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Writer's Block

What, it's not time for a Writer's Block again so soon? You're darned right it isn't, so count your lucky stars!
Heheh, I distinctly recall a time when Writer's Blocks would come by no less than every 5 Chapters of the story. Perhaps with Ghostopia turning out into such a long story, it's inadvertently "stretched" everything. To prove my point, you might've noticed that, horrors, the whole of this month was spent on ONE SCENE. That break-in scene, in fact, has spanned NINE CHAPTERS. Which is almost as long as the final scene of "Blogspot", but that was updated more frequently.
But does updating more frequently count? People don't drop by the site everyday anyway. Hmm...
Moving on!
It's great that the break-in scene is done with, plus having left behind many interesting tidbits to follow through on. It was rather a wild shot in the dark, mentioning Emily's name out of nowhere in that last part - I just can't' believe that I've gravitated towards hints of romance here. HAH! Cringe at the sheer cheesiness of it all!
And Nelson, Nelson. The next scene will have to do wonders for his character depth, not to mention lay the groundwork for Ezisa's future. Scene-wise, that would translate into the break-in to the Main Office or them returning to the human world. Hope I'm not making anything seem too obvious here.
As with Nelson, Darren will benefit from the coming few Chapters, finally giving him a stand on the situations. Time to bring out the flashbacks.
By the way, is anyone still curious on the way he died? Remember?
Kat, on the other hand, already has a stand, but it would be cool if I could add some "twists" to her. Her past plays a very important part in shaping her character, and yet she benefits from us having ZERO knowledge of her past at the moment. She needs something unpredicatable to break through. Everyone does, actually.
Too lazy to touch on Mortie right now, basically it hasn't changed much from the views I pointed out in the previous Writer's Block. Oh yeah, musn't forget to address the ExorPrism. it just me, or are these Writer's Blocks getting dry? I mean, there're only so many times you can talk about character development and plot focus before they start becoming show-off gibberish.
Doesn't storytelling become so unromantic when you write not for yourself to see the world, but for the world to see yourself? Should it be both ways? Or neither? I dunno, I've been typing this paragraph for the past half hour.
My back aches, and my eyes hurt. Boo hoo hoo.

Ghostopia, Chapter 44: Mission Accomplished?

The three of them followed Mortie down the stairs, constantly wary not to attract any more attention. Somehow, Darren didn't feel like the worst could happen with him leading the way.
Down one flight of stairs, and they reached the second floor without any further hair-raising encounters.
"Oh goodie, there they are." Fletcher, Todd, and Scarlet were almost waiting for them near the foot of the stairs. "Minus the rampaging Spooks."
Darren caught Kat hanging her head slightly in shame.
"So, did you get the records?" they asked him excitedly.
"Hoho, good thing you reminded me. I completely forgot about that, with all the thrill that was going on up there just now."
Whoops! Darren felt like an idiot for not asking that earlier. It was, after all, the sole reason they were there.
"We took care of it." Amelia said in a reassuring tone.
A collective smile of relief registered on everyone's faces before Mortie jolted them back to the situation at hand. "Come on now, the potion's not going to last longer than ten more minutes. Out, the same way we came in."
The group stepped confidently down to the first floor. Lester was standing with his arms crossed at the same spot they first saw him.
"Leaving so soon?" He cocked his head and beamed at them.
"Yup," Mortie replied. "Our GIC Cards, please."
"Oh yes, before I forget," He lay the seven cards on the table. "You're not getting these back without a full-filed report of which organisation you're from, and what you did here."
"That's impossible. Am I supposed to produce a report out of nowhere right here?"
"Send it to my office tomorrow morning. Here's the address." Lester handed him a hastily-scribbled piece of paper.
Mortie studied the address and frowned. "Okay. No problem. I'll drop by your place tomorrow with the report."
"Good. I'll be there with your card."
"Come on guys," Mortie grinned at the rest. "Let's go."

Once they stepped into the cold outside, the group laughed and slapped each other high-fives. "Well, what can I say? Mission accomplished!" Mortie punched the air.
"You can say that again!"
"I wouldn't mind saying it all night," Mortie couldn't stop grinning. "But you guys are all probably dead tired now, myself included. Let's call it a night and catch up tomorrow night at The Haunt. Same time, same place as always. Great working with you, guys!"
Again they cheered like a stadium crowd. Darren hadn't felt this sort of rush since taking his class graduation photo. Of course, that was mere seconds before his death.
"Hey, Darren," Kat smiled at him. "Thanks for taking care of me when we were in that shaft. I really appreciate it."
"You're welcome," he smiled back.
"See you tomorrow."
"Yeah, see you too."
A quiet wind picked up and gushed dried leaves around his feet. Suddenly, Darren wished terribly he could see Emily again.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 43: The ExorPrism

Taken aback, Darren stared at Kat and Amelia. They shrugged back, equally clueless what was going on.
Mortie held the object even closer to the Spook's face. It bent over to the floor, still screaming in agony and trashing wildly. It tried desperately to snatch away what was in Mortie's hands, but he always kept it out of its reach.
Soon a grotesque thing happened to the Spook. It shrivelled and cracked up like a heated glass, lumps of jelly-like substance peeling off. Screeching like it was terrified for its life, it tried slithering away, leaving behind a trail of colourless goo, but Mortie's object glowed even more intensely.
"Amelia," Kat nudged her. "Do you think that's..."
She nodded slowly. " is. But where could he have gotten one?"
"What?" Darren asked. "What's that? Is he going to kill the Spook?"
Kat's reply was cut off when the Spook let off a beastly roar. In a crazed frenzy it started ripping apart its own face to shield itself from the green rays.
Mortie's lips quivered rapidly, as though muttering something. "Now you DIE!"
The object burned so brightly it became white. Gripping it tightly in his palm, Mortie drove it into the Spook's face. At once the Spook's screams became muted as its whole head disintegrated. Mortie muttered something again before turning to face them, forehead glistening with sweat.
"Cool, huh?" he grinned.
"Mortie," Kat said slowly. "Pray, tell me that isn't..."
"It is. One of the last few ExorPrisms remaining in Ghostopia. Quite an acquistion, this."
"But that's impossible! They were all wiped out!"
Darren raised his hand to halt the conversation. "Before you guys get carried away...what's an ExorPrism?"
"This," Mortie proudly held up the object which resembled a prism. "Is an ExorPrism. You might've heard there was a previous escape attempt years back. Of course, it was a disaster and only a few of them returned - the rest were Exorcised."
"However, the remaining ones, having seen the Exorcism process at close range, were determined to find a way to counter it. They launched a secret project and after two years, a small batch of ExorPrisms were made. The ExorPrisms would have devastating effects on anything that wasn't a Ghost, as you've just seen."
"Unfortunately, word leaked out on the project and someone started misusing it to Exorcise Spooks. The authorities stuck their noses in and the guy was eventually caught. He ratted on where the rest of the ExorPrisms were hidden in exchange for his freedom, and all of them were destroyed, along with the recipes. They never did, however, manage to catch the makers."
"Interesting." was all Darren could muster.
"Then how did you get your hands on one?" Amelia quipped.
"That story, my dear, will have to wait." Mortie winked. "For now, we've got to get the others and leave this place before the potion loses effect."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 42: Can We Leave Now?

Darren's head jolted back in utter fear. A hoarse croak, intended to be a scream, escaped his trembling lips.
"Shhh. It's me."
Mortie! Darren felt like collapsing with the sudden rush of relief.
"Have I ever felt more glad to see you," Kat smiled. "We've got a bunch of Spooks on our heels, in case you don't know."
Amelia stepped out from behind Mortie. "Would that explain those footsteps?"
Darren, still rather out of breath, nodded.
Then to his horror, a silhouetted form came into focus down the shaft. With the methodical steps of a hunter approaching its prey, it half-lumbered and half-glided to them, never once letting up on the haunting thud thud thud.
Darren turned to Mortie, who had a stern look on his face. "Now this is going to be difficult. Let's see if we can talk things out."
And he turned back towards the approaching Spook.
"Mortie!" yelled Kat. "Are you mad?"
But it was too late. Mortie was already face-to-face with the Spook.
"Anything seems to be the problem?"
"I suppose those two are in your charge."
"All three of them." He beckoned to Darren, Kat, and Amelia.
"I am putting them under arrest for suspicious behaviour."
"Hah!" Mortie laughed. "Since when did 'suspicious behaviour' become a crime?"
The Spook drew its face so close to Mortie's they almost touched. "You wisecrack like that one more time and I'll have you arrested as well."
"Hey, hey, lighten up. No offense. But anyway, we're due to report back in ten minutes. Can I send you these two for interrogation later tonight? Just leave me your station address."
"No. They're coming with me right now."
"I told you, they can't. We have to report back immediately."
"I'll explain it to your officer. Bring those two to me."
"For the last itme, they're not coming with you - and that's it."
The Spook turned a scorching shade of crimson. "There's something about you four I don't like." It rasped. "You're up to no good, and I know it. I'm going to call the rest here."
A gaping hole opened in the middle of its face, forming a mouth.
"Wait!" Mortie called. "Before you do that, I have something to show you."
He fished some sort of triangular object, gleaming with an enchanting emerald glow, out from his pocket.
Before they even had time to react, the Spook howled shrilly.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Writer's Block

Fun Fact For The Day:
Did you know that if you search for "Twisted Comma" or "Ghostopia" in Yahoo, this beauty you behold before your eyes comes in second on the list of results? Same goes for "Ghostopia" in Google! Strangely, "Twisted Tales Blogspot" bears no fruit.
That was your Fun Fact For The Day, brought to you by Monday!
Moving on.
Sigh...another three weeks or so since the last story-progress Writer's Block, guess this'll be the rate I can muster at the moment. Story's really taking its own sweet time to unravel too - always a fine line away from draggy - but I'm betting on it being well built up.
And what has the cook served up since our last Writer's Block? I'm pretty pleased with the whole "break-in" scene - it didn't open up any logic loopholes, it had enough helpings of excitement to keep things going, and we got more insight on Nelson. Kat too, if you count the claustrophobia thing. You never know, it might be a major plot device later on. But FYI, the whole idea only came as I was writing it!
You know, the most difficult part of "slogging" (as opposed to blogging) is that it really "slogs". Already I have almost the whole skeleton of the story in my head, but I can't write it all in one shot. Of course, updating daily would be the ideal solution but nahhh...I have trouble even keeping to a schedule of brushing my teeth twice a day. So, I have no choice but to constantly further the story in little spurts, while the whole thing bubbles and boils in my head most waking moments. Seriously - most waking moments! I must be going crazy!
On the upside, the story can only get better after so much editing and re-editing. You could say slogging is the ultimate form of not rushing through a masterpiece. A classic example of a good story delivered prematurely has to be "Insanity". Hmm, hmm, hmm...a thought just crossed my mind. We are still lacking a fourth story, after all.
A little low-down on where the characters in Ghostopia stand now, from a character development point of view:

a) Darren - For a dude with the story told through his eyes, he's revealing fairly little. Yeah, he's timid around girls, he's clueless about Ghostopia, but there's gotta be more. Needs a serious tune-up after the break-in.

b) Kat - At this point, Kat's biggest selling point has to be her intruiging past - which leads to my utmost fear that it'll all be a letdown. Gotta be careful not to over-exaggerate her qualities, otherwise she'll turn into a caricature, not a character.

c) Nelson - A glimmer of hope came for Mr. Monotone Sidekick when Kat revealed that Nelson had old ties with the Ezisa. Needless to say, this history will be the cause of many conflicts of beliefs-slash-taking sides as the Escape From Ghostopia draws near.

d) Mortie - Gotta love his value as a "throwaway" character. He isn't so pivotal that the story can't do without him, but yet he has enough spice to become a very instrumental character. Meaning: I could kill him off to "create impact", or polish him into a powerful...I dunno, villain? Lots to explore here.

e) Fletcher/ Scarlet/ Todd/ Amelia - Also throwaway characters a few notches below Mortie. It would be very difficult to delve into the backgrounds of all four characters - if I were to elevate anyone, it would most likely be Fletcher or Amelia. Otherwise, they'd be good as props, "killing-for-impact" subjects, or anonymous followers.

f) Spooks - Probably need a Spook head honcho to give a face to the battle against Spooks. Throw in some incident that'll make the Spook community take notice, and we've got a bunch of dastardly antagonists nicely gift-wrapped.

g) Emily - Somehow I can't let go of her, eventhough I'm still scratching my head on how to get her involved in the story. Maybe it's because she could be the perfect key to adding more depth to Darren.

Yup yup yups, that's all my weary fingers are gonna dish up to your teary eyes. And one last's official! Barring a shocking end to the story in the next Chapter, Ghostopia will surpass Blogspot as the longest story yet!
A smiley, the only way fitting to end this edition of Writer's Block: %^)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 41: Claustrophobia

Kat froze in dread. "Do you hear that?"
The rumble went up to a steady thud, thud, thud, not unlike that of ominous thunder before a downpour.
Darren could feel his heart knotting itself in fear. Those were the unmistakable footsteps of enraged Spooks after their necks. Was there any chance they could hide behind one of the doors? Already Kat was trying that, but it didn't seem like any of doors were opening.
Thud! Thud! Thud! They were sounding deafeningly close now, maybe even just round the corner.
"Run!" He grabbed Kat's hand to try and run further down, but she wouldn't budge. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly, eyes shut and drawing long, controlled breaths.
"I-I'm afraid...of...small spaces."
Darren racked his brain for options. The thought of carrying her away in his arms crossed momentarily, but he quickly swiped it away. Nah, not him. He wasn't one of those buffed TV heroes who always had the situation in grasp.
Breathing so hard the veins in her neck throbbed, Kat forced a few steps. "I'm okay."
They shuffled through the strangely-wet shaft for a few more minutes. All the while, the footsteps sounded terrifying close, always teasing the chance of a Spook clutching them from behind.
Suddenly Kat stopped ahead of him.
"You okay?"
Her knees buckled for a moment before she sat herself down. She puffed her cheeks in and out and shook her head from side to side.
"Guess that's a no."
She smiled weakly at him. "I-I must look l-like such an i-idiot."
"Nah," he grinned. "I once had a friend who wouldn't take the lift, no matter how many floors up he had to go."
"L-lifts are okay," Her breathing became more regular. "But this ceiling...the walls..."
She inhaled deeply.
Kat pressed her elbows against the floor, again forcing herself up. "No time for talk."
Whatever glimpses of light there had been earlier were becoming dim as they ventured further in. On the other hand, the rhythmic thuds never ceased.
Stopping without warning again, Kat coughed and wheezed loudly.
So loudly, in fact, that Darren didn't hear a pair of arms approach him from the back.
And grab his stiffened shoulders.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

reCAPPENING: Ghostopia, Chapters 36-40

The guard, Mr. Lester, finally is convinced and lets them in in exchange for their GICs (Ghost Identification Cards). The plan - Darren and Kat will go to the fourth floor, while Todd, Fletcher, and Scarlet go to the second. Mortie and Amelia will then trick the Spooks on the third floor into going to the second and fourth floor, leaving them both free to work on the records.
As the plan dictates, Darren ends up on the fourth floor with Kat. While passing time, he finds out from Kat that Nelson has actually been in Ghostopia for over four years, and had connections to the Ezisa in the past.
Shortly, the Spooks sent by Mortie come up. Kat tries to deceive them by means of a "faulty security wiring". However, the bluff falls flat as both Kat and Darren say the wrong things. Things go from bad to worse when the two real Spooks on that floor appear, giving them away. Kat and Darren flee to the third floor in search of Mortie, eventually coming to a narrow shaft with many doors - one of which Mortie is behind. As the two, on their wits' end, try to figure out which is the correct door, Darren hears the thundering footsteps of the Spooks coming for them - leading us into Chapter 41.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Writer's Block: Borrowed Time

'Scuse me sir, 'scuse me sir,
Mind sparing a pinch of Time?

Of course not, you haven't given back
That chockful you borrowed last week.

Oh, that! I think Mr. Homework has it
I recall him saying he was running short.

But didn't that happen last month?
That was quite a handful I loaned you.

That was no fault of mine, no it wasn't,
Miss Friends came and demanded for it.

She couldn't have taken it all, surely!
There was more than your share.

Yes there was, but have you forgotten?
That Lil' Sleep came begging for scraps.

And you gave him more than he needed?
I couldn't say no to those tear-stained eyes...

Sigh...will you ever learn? What about
that gift-wrapped box I gave you on New Year's?

It would still be here, had they not come knockin',
Aunt Leisure and Uncle Laidbackness.

Those two, never up to any good,
What did they say to ask for it?

They needed to feed their hungry children
TV Junior, Compudear, all the rest.

That ladle, filled to the brim, while the holidays?
Oops! Left it in Grandma Family's home.

How about that cartful on Sunday?
Ack! Stashed it in Pastor Church's coat.

And that one glass I passed you over the fence?
Hmm...don't know, don't know where it went.

Truth be told, I think you got it all wrong
They told me there was a prowling thief
He might've sneaked your Time off
Oh's a last pinch I can spare.

Why, thank you, kind sir!
I'll manage this one the best I can.

Ghostopia, Chapter 40: You Get What You Give

He tried to nudge Kat, but she was too occupied to take note of him. "My superior is downstairs. I'm whisk him up here to explain the situation to you guys."
Darren watched in horror as the other two Spooks noticed the small crowd and swooped over. He whispered through gritted teeth, "Kat...the real Spooks are here. We have to go."
She looked where he was looking and a lump stuck itself in her throat. What in the world were they doing here? She wouldn't know what to say if they revealed themselves also to be Spooks guarding the fourth floor. "W...we'll be back up in a few minutes."
She hurried down the stairs, two steps a time, not even bothering to make sure if Darren was behind. He was, of course.
"Idiot," Kat muttered to Darren. "You didn't know Spooks have no gender?"
He shook his head sheepishly.
"Well, keep that in mind next time. For now, I think we have to get Mortie and leave at once."
Before they could even make it to past the tenth step, a slight commotion played itself out upstairs. It didn't take too long for the Spooks to figure out something was terribly amiss with the two 'Spooks' they'd just seen and give chase.
"Shoot, they're coming after us."
They sprinted down the last flight of stairs, straight to the third floor in search of Mortie.
"Those two had better be done with the records." Kat muttered again - Darren wasn't sure to herself or to him.
A terrifying march of footsteps rang out above them. For such seemingly lumbering beings, the Spooks could move frighteningly fast.
"Here! Stop!" Kat took his hand and dashed through a crevice between two yellowed walls, so small an untrained eye would have passed on it. It led them to a claustrophobic shaft with an array of doors.
"ARGH! The map never mentioned so many doors! How am I supposed to know which one they're in?"
She seemed on the verge of pulling her hair out. Darren, feeling a little headache creeping in, didn't know what to do.
Meanwhile, the low ceiling quivered with a distant rumble of footsteps.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 39: Here Come The Spooks

Darren braced himself, following Kat's lead. He wasn't sure what to expect.
Mortie's words came back to him. "Those Spooks will see you as Spooks - and Spooks are always in control. Never betray that fact."
"So what's the problem here?"
Darren gulped. Two intimidating Spooks, both four heads taller than him, stepped up to him. So close he could hear their scratchy breaths.
"There...well, there was..."
"A problem," Kat deepened her voice as much as she could. "With the security wiring."
"Which section?"
"Section Four." she replied without even stopping to think.
"Section Four? Don't they name them by colours?"
"Oh, you guys are still going by the old system, I see. Well, I'm not too familiar with that one. Let me take you there instead."
She started walking off, Darren tailing cluelessly behind. The Spooks went with them, probably already a bit suspicious. He had to resist the urge to glance backwards to see whether they really were. A couple of minutes later, Kat pointed out a circuit board on the wall to them. "Here's the faulty one."
The first Spook took a closer look. Its empty face turned a darker shade of red. "Did I hear you wrongly?"
Was that a brief look of uncertainty on Kat's face? This wouldn't be a good time for their cover to be blown away.
"I said, this is the faulty electrical wiring."
"If there's anything faulty here, it's you." The other Spook snapped. "This isn't part of the central security wiring, it's a peripheral circuit. Is this some kind of joke?"
"No, it is not," Kat retorted. "The Office doesn't use central wirings anymore, they switched to parallels last month. You guys must be new here."
"That's a mightily rude way to be talking to a senior Spook, pal. Whose division are you in?"
Darren knew he had to save Kat. "Forgive her, sir. She's new."
For reasons unknown, Kat glared daggers at him, eyeballs bulging wide.
"HER? Since when did Spooks become female?"
"You two are acting way too weird. I'm going to have to report you to Mr. Lester."
"Wait," Kat said in a thinly-veiled fuming voice. "You two stay here. I'll go to the floor below to check things out."
"Check things out? Isn't this the floor with things to check out?"
Darren was about to say something when his jaw fell open in horror. At precisely the worst moment possible, the two actual Spooks who were guarding the floor appeared from the distance.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Writer's Block: A Final Cendol Story

The sky was cloudy, maybe even to the verge of a late afternoon downpour. My car rattled down the starkly empty road in Sri Petaling back home, me and Friend putting up a great fight to stay awake. For my part, at least. Nothing, and truly nothing, would stop me from getting home and curl up in bed ASAP, I told myself.
Already the strangest time and place for A Final Cendol Story to take place.
And yet it did.

Before I even realised it, my car had parked itself by the road, right before the Cendol Stall of lore. It was by no means a calculated decision - I was still deadset on giving in to my sleepiness at the traffic lights five seconds ago. Something about the lonely white Cendol truck framed by waving trees, gloomy clouds, and everything but people just struck me. The same manner run-down houses rumoured to be haunted always made you look twice, and sometimes even go in.

Only a middle-aged Indian lady stood there, tending to both the rojak and Cendol. I couldn't recall seeing her there before, there usually were some Indian men in funny black and white costumes.
"Dia adik saya."
Oh. She was the elder sister to one of them, in case you didn't get that.

Without me even noticing, she was already filling two bowls of shaved ice with brown sugar solution and coconut milk. The ladle hit the bottom of the big pot, echoing a half-hearted thunk, thunk. Two scoops of beans for me, two scoops for Friend.
I sipped long and hard. It was, as the woman had earlier asked me, nearing six. Soon cars of tired people longing to forget the day they'd been through would throng the streets. Yellow and black buses ferrying yapping kids home where they stopped yapping. Even the Indian man in black and white, who appeared from nowhere, was folding up the tables and packing the stall umbrellas. A big curtain drew itself down on the whole day. It felt like something big was about to happen, something everyone was preparing for. The night? The rain? Their homes?

The last of the plastic chairs stacked up. We had apparently been their last customers for the day.

"Well, that was...neccessary." Friend said to me as we drove away, the Cendol stall fading in the distance.
I winked back. "Told ya."

Monday, July 04, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 38: Nelson And Kat

Four years? Nelson had been dead for more than four years?
"But why would he want to lie about that?"
"Not sure. But I know that he was in some way related to the Ezisa - a long time ago, even before Mortie joined us."
Darren listened in silence, very much shocked. He had always wondered if there was more to Nelson than the good-natured peddler who died young like him. And sure enough, if Kat was to be believed, there was a whole lot that Nelson had kept from him.
"Did you know him before you met me?"
"Of course," she smirked. "Weren't you listening?"
"No, I mean personally."
"Can't say we're friends," she said. "Or even acquaintances, for that matter. I knew about him through my minor affiliations with the Ezisa some years back. As for him, he probably heard about me after I gained fame for conning gullible newcomers."
"Gullible newcomers like me, huh?" Darren cracked.
They laughed.
"Wait, wait, we're steering a little off course here," Darren said. "Wasn't I asking you about your former life?"
"Umm..yeah, I believe you were."
"So," Kat bit her lip. "Heheh. It's a long story, really."
"Well, we've got lots of time."
"Actually, we're supposed to be on our toes for the Spooks to arrive."
"And they're not here yet."
She looked at him, half-grinning. "Sheesh, don't you ever give up. All right, I was in high school when I died. Six days short of my sixteenth birthday, in fact. Good enough?"
"Hm. Hardly. What did you die of?"
To his surprise, her face turned downcast at once. "It's not something I want to talk about."
Whoops. He somehow had a knack for spoiling fine conversations. "Why of course, who likes to reminiscence about their own death. I hate the way I left too."
She forced her lips into a smile. "Well, you never told me about that."
"It was...oh, really unexpected. I still don't know what happened. And you know the worst thing? It took place right durin-"
Suddenly Kat raised a hand to interrupt him. "Shh...listen."
It was the sound of steady, thudding footsteps, growing louder at a rapid pace.
"The Spooks are coming."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 37: Kat Talks

"Hey, you got all that?" Darren turned to Kat as they strode up the gradually steeping staircase. "I mean, the plan."
"Uh-huh," she looked back. "You didn't?"
"Nah, just asking."
They went up another flight of stairs, ignoring any Spooks they came across. It was intimidating to have their massive bodies glare your way for a few seconds before coming to the strange conclusion that you were one of them. Faithful to Mortie's advice, Darren and Kat just returned passing glances and went on their way.
"Okie-dokie, here we are," Kat said at the end of a remarkably difficult flight of stairs. "Now we just wait for the Spooks Mortie send to show up.
"Right." He nodded, wanting to add something but unable to.
She clasped her hands together.
Was he supposed to say something?
Darren tried to listen out for any sounds from the lower floors, but only a holed-up silence echoed. He stared at Kat again. Now her eyes were shut, as if trying to recall something.
Oh well, Darren sighed to himself. He was being silly again. Nothing to it, you idiot. Just start a freaking conversation.
"How was your life like? When you were alive."
She laughed. It sounded a little nervous. "It was okay. Died young, not much of a story. Bleh."
"You know, you're sometimes very hard to understand Kat," He was surprised he actually said that. "You have such strong viewpoints about Ghostopia, about life, about just anything, but I have no idea what shaped these viewpoints."
She couldn't help raising an eyebrow.
"Uhh, I'm sorry if I was rude," he said. "I've been wondering, that's all."
She laughed again, louder this time. "Didn't Nelson tell you about my past?"
"Nelson? He told me about your exploits as a consperson, but I figure that's all he knows."
"Liar. He knows a whole lot about me."
"Why would you say that?"
"I bet he told you that he hasn't been here for long too."
"Hmm...about a year."
"A year? Crap!" She faked a laugh. "He came in before me. And I've been dead for four years."