Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Relearning To Write

It's been over 7 full years since Twisted Tales came to life.

Back in October 2004, it was just a silly impulsion to start a blog. If I could go back in time, the first thing I would tell my 19 year-old self would be to choose a less embarrassing name.

Though I love the whole concept of keeping journals, I've always been pretty bad at it. I don't even have proper photo albums apart from friends tagging me on Facebook. Rather than apathy, I attribute it all to laziness.

Should I die tomorrow, or with the rest of the world on Dec 21 next year, Twisted Tales will have to suffice as the most accurate and comprehensive life journal that I possess. Sometimes on still nights such as this, I comb through the archives and relive the different seasons life has taken me through. Though my blog consists almost entirely of fiction, I am able to clearly see in each story the circumstances that compelled me to write it then.

When I started my first story in 2004, it didn't even have a name. I naively envisioned an interactive blog where readers would contribute ideas as I wrote, making the story flourish organically. Unfortunately, I possessed neither the writing flair nor social connections for this to materialise. Eventually, the story became a boyish man-versus-machine fantasy that wouldn't be out of place at a Digimon fanfic collection. It was entitled 'Blogspot'.

After that came 'The Secret Room' which was actually an expansion of a story in a book I wrote for someone many years ago. It still fell strictly within my limited repertoire of 'clueless boys trapped seeking for answer to  perplexing mystery leading to twisted conclusion' stories. Something notable about this period though - I averaged about two posts every three days. Craziness. I can never imagine getting back into that sort of blogging regularity now, even if I quit my job.

One season I particularly remember is late 2008 to early 2009, when I ditched the wannabe adventure tales and started writing simple stories that spoke of dreams, happiness and love (my favourite: The Toll Gate Girl's Special Ability). This was the latter stage of my working life in CC+J Adhaus (now Joescher+Adhaus), a time which I truly cherished and grew so much in. Of course, as with the best growing experiences, I came close to breaking point. I bore so much on my shoulders and utterly refused to let anyone else into my life. Eventually, this load turned into emotional baggage that I sometimes still catch glimpses of in myself today.

Around this time, I also started designing fancy 'covers' for my stories - a fun but ultimately pointless endeavour.

2010 was a good year too, as I churned out quite a number of good stories. I guess I was increasingly losing passion in my job and harbouring serious ambitions of becoming a writer. Some might even recall the email I sent to the Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named. Looking back at my submission, I'm thankful that they did not just reply my email with "LOL".

And now at the end of 2011, I don't feel like I have a lot to show for this year. I mean...13 posts? And most of them aren't even stories.

Maybe, just maybe, the time of fiction has passed in my life. In the past, I enjoyed hiding behind the facade of make-believe stories. Whenever I wanted to convey a message, I never needed to be specific. All I needed to do was sprinkle some wise-sounding words over generic characters in a preconceived scenario and voila! A story was born.

Yes, I wrote well but my stories always lacked heart. That's because they never came from my heart in the first place. They came from my mind.

I was never honest with my stories. Sometimes they feel like lies and half-truths.

I was afraid of my feelings, my experiences, myself.

When you write from the heart, it really, really shows.

So...do we have a new year's resolution here? I hereby promise to write with more honesty and sincerity. Ultimately, I still love stories. But I no longer want soulless, twisted tales.

Give me more of Life, One Story At A Time please. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's VBS Once More

Day 1

"Teacher, do you have any other scripts?"

I stared at her, indignant.

"This one seems kind of boring."

Boring. That one innocuous word pierced deep, unearthing a newfound fear that she could, despite being a little brat who knew no better, be right.

"It'll be awesome after we practise, I promise you. The best thing ever seen on that stage. At the end of it all, the crowd will go wild and cheer for us."

Like any well-behaved kid should, she said nothing more.

Unfortunately, unknowingly, she had opened a can of worms and they were squiggling out of control. How dare she use that word on me. I've heard weird, lame, crazy - but not boring. I don't do boring.

"You know, many people told me that this script might be too hard for you guys. But I believe in all of you. I believe that you guys can make this one of the best VBS performances ever."

"Nooooo...no teacher...we can't."

"Ugh. If even you don't believe in yourselves, how can I believe in you?" I spouted the obvious cliche.

"Yeah...don't believe in us teacher."

Double ugh.

Quickly I ran the actors - if you could even call them that - through their parts. It was a lot worse than I was used to. These weren't teens. They weren't even half-teens. They were kids. Kids who wanted nothing more than to chase each other, toss balls around, lie on the floor, ask dumb questions and disappear into the hall.

Halfway through, the main actress S didn't want to act anymore. Her last straw came during a scene where they had to pretend to be in love. All the kids wanted to express it by 'SMSing'. No, I said. Only one can do that. I want variety.

OK, we'll talk on the phone then, they went. I slapped my forehead and attempted suicide.

"So do you still want to act or not?" I raised my voice somewhat. "It's not going to be easy. I never told any of you it's going to be easy. Anyone who doesn't want to act can change to the other show now."

(Earlier on, the kids were given a choice to take part in the sketch or a fashion show. Sketch was the overwhelming favourite.)

To cut a long story short, we swapped S for another girl A who became the new main actress. Personally, I felt A was a lot more main actress calibre.

I might have been exercising my authority, but underneath I was shaking like a leaf. This could be the year I bit off more than I could chew.

Day 2
The guy who was supposed to play Jesus was ill and didn't come.

The speakers I borrowed to play the music during practice weren't loud enough.

The actors were still half-hearted at best.

A's brother watched us and remarked, "Looks like this isn't going too well."

Nearing the end of practice, one of the actresses just refused to act. In that scene, they had to all die. She didn't want to. I told her that she could just sit down and close her eyes. She ran off and hid. When we found her, all she did was shake her head and say "I don't want to die." I committed mental harakiri again.

And I still had no idea where to look for props.

Day 3, Morning

30 minutes. That was all that stood between us and the full dress rehearsal. Obviously it wasn't going to be full dress for us, as we had barely begun looking for props and costumes.

Ghosts of VBS past started running through my mind. Tian Mi Mi, David Beckham, Snow Brown and the Seven Lengluis. Did this group deserve a place among those greats?

Frantically - only for me, I guess - we rehearsed as much as we could in those 25 minutes (the first 5 minutes spent looking for a new ball after two boys tossed the original ball down the balcony). This time round, it was a lot better. They were starting to become as urgent as I was.

Rrrrrring! Time for rehearsal. Too soon for my liking of course, but I rest assured that we had done our very best with all we had.

Fast forward to X amount of minutes later, and we were next.

"Go get 'em, tigers!" I imagined myself saying to them.

Day 3, Afternoon
"Hey," one of the Fashion Show kids called out to me. "You told us that they would clap at the end. But they clapped for me!"

I rolled my mind's eye.

Was it good? Was it bad?

There were some parts that were reeeeeally long and draggy.

It's not your fault. People will either love or hate performances like these.

"You know," my class co-teacher interrupted my thoughts. "For three days, I had no idea what your sketch was about."

Sure, sure. Let it out.

"But today after seeing it, I finally got it. I was very touched when I saw it just now."

"Oh, really? Thank you so much!"

I broke down and hugged him. In my mind.

The performance got mixed reviews, though mostly positive. Unfortunately, someone even asked if I was okay as they had never seen such a B-O-R-I-N-G sketch from me before. This person genuinely asked me if I was going through personal issues and needed help.

Despite the other optimistic feedback, this was the only one I could focus on for the entire day. I'm just that way.

Driven, I listed down six areas that were needed to improve the sketch:
1) Make the whole thing more concise - remove some scenes, shorten some others
2) Add more variety to the songs
3) Choreograph and rehearse the final scene
4) Improve the slides design (since what was going on onstage wasn't that visually interesting)
5) Make certain scenes clearer with the help of subtitles on slides
6) Finalise the props and costumes (this was eventually done with the help of a surprisingly talented girl M)

All right. Time to rock...

Day 4
...and roll.

I woke up the next morning, realising I had not finished the slides.

Thankfully, it was VBS Carnival Day and I could afford to reach later. And very much later I did reach - 9.20am.

But would we have time to rehearse?

No way, tosai.

The kids were coming with their parents and it would be very hard to peel them off. Moreso, I had no idea where they would be in the crowd. Once I found one, asked him to stay and went to look for the others that first one would wander off. It was like looking for sheep in a haystack. Or needles on a seashore. You get the point.

I met a pair of girls and asked them to wait at the balcony, as I tried locating the rest. Nope. Nothing.

Finally, I decided to rehearse with them one by one. As I pulled one boy to the side, suddenly a pair of girly voices called out to me from above.

"Teacher! Teacher!"

Lo and behold! Most of the main students were there on the balcony waiting for me. I couldn't believe my eyes - it was as though someone had Ctrl + Selected and dragged them all into a folder.

Eagerly I scampered up and commenced the Final Rehearsal.

Day 4, Showtime
Now the kids were serious. I could see it in their eyes. They were taking ownership of their roles, their props, their performance. This wasn't something I forced upon them any longer, it was theirs.

I told them something about not having faith in them at first, but now truly believing in them. Let's go out there and make history, I said. I don't think any of them bought it. We finished with a prayer together.

And...our turn!

Neatly the 6 main actors stood in a line, too far behind the stage. I motioned for them to come further out.

Walking with a swagger back to the computer, I did some crappy intro that nobody listened to, clicked play and let the show begin. I'd been here before. The same breathlessness and staring eyes. The same frozen expressions on the actors, as it dawned on them how big the moment really was. VBS magic was about to be made.

At the end, the crowd clapped.

Day 4, After Showtime
"Bravo! Bravo!" I applauded and slapped high fives with them. "That was awesome, and I mean it."

They whooped for joy and returned their props to me, glad it was all over.

Slowly I packed the stuff, went downstairs and stared at them trying out the carnival games.

That was it, kiddos, I wanted to tell them. We did it together. They said we couldn't, but we showed them. They'll be talking about us for years to come.

Someone asked me for a ride home. I gladly obliged.

Day 5
I jolted awake at 6am, way too early for church. I tried going back to sleep but couldn't.

Oh well. I brushed my teeth, made a cup of Pak Hailam white coffee and turned on the computer.

Instinctively, I played the performance songs on loop while numbing my brain with Tetris Battle. A sip of coffee every now and then lent a little class to the whole scene.

As the sun's slight rays began flitting through the trees, that was my little slice of heaven.

All was well with my heart.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tetris Temptations

Purple T block. Shift all the way to the left, drop down.

Green S block. Rotate, shift two steps left, drop down.

Dark blue J block. Rotate, drop down.

Light blue I block. Shift to store.

Yellow O block. Shift three steps right, drop down.

Another I block!


Fumbling, I hurriedly slammed my laptop shut and packed it.

I was late. Again.

For over a month now, I had been playing this Facebook game called Tetris Battle. It was simple - two players battling over a two-minute game of Tetris by sending lines to each other and scoring KOs.

As I grew more familiar to the game, what started as a midnight curiosity quickly sprouted into gnawing obsession. One aspect of this game made it particularly addictive - energy. For each game you played, you had to spend 5 Energy points which were recharged only at the rate of 1 per 5 minutes. Now if that's sending your brain into convulsions, each game requires 25 minutes of charging Energy. Hence, you were inclined to finish your Energy whenever possible so that it could charge while you were away. The games were a precious limited resource.

Evil. So, so evil.

Every morning, I would wake up and...

My energy! It's sitting there waiting for me!

Du-dung! My laptop came to life.

The game makes a very distinctive sound of rhythmic keyboard taps. Hence, my mum would know and suspect that I was playing games instead of, um, not playing games. The zombified look on my face didn't help, I guess.

Whenever she chided me or asked me to do something else, it would snap my focus and make me more prone to defeat. I couldn't help it - with the level of opposition I was facing, total concentration was needed.

It made me terribly annoyed at her, but yet there was nothing I could do. Only dumb kids quarreled with their parents over computer games.

So I did the next best thing. I started blasting songs from Youtube each time I played. Among my favourites were Hillsong's 'Holy, Holy, Holy', 'It Is Well With My Soul' and 'Hosanna', Ah, yes. Nothing like using Christian worship songs to fool your parents.

My best-ever record of Lines Sent.
Next, the inevitable occurred - I started seeing Tetris blocks everywhere. It was worst when I looked at people when talking to them. Without warning, multi-coloured blocks would drop down across their face, rotate quickly and fit into spaces. It was horrifying, as the person would just continue talking as though nothing was amiss. Many a time I wanted to grab his or her shoulders and scream, "What's wrong with you? CAN'T YOU FEEL TETRIS BLOCKS ON YOUR FACE?"

Sheesh. Maybe it was just me.

Some statistics to put things into perspective: Each Tetris Battle game lasts for 2 minutes. This excludes logging in, buying stuff from the shop, loading time while it searches for new opponents, and some way-too-long congratulatory screens that pop up after every game. So let's factor that in and assume each game to last 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

At the time of writing, I had played 1437 games. That totals up to 186,810 seconds. Which is 3113.5 minutes. Which is 51.9 hours. Which is 2 days, 3 hours and 54 minutes.

And that's not including the games I played on the fake account I created. What, a fake account you say? Let's leave that story for another day.

So wow...2 full days that could and should have been spent on something better. Like feeding the poor. Reading books. Exercising. Bonding with family members. Playing Restaurant City.

The craziest opponent I've ever encountered.
Oh wait, there was this other guy who did T-spins EVERY 2 SECONDS.
I'm not sure if that was just a nightmare or it really happened.

In case you're thinking that I lost my mind, I didn't. I was still a perfectly sane and rational person. That was the part of addiction that sucked most - you knew that it was a meaningless game, you knew exactly how dumb you were for throwing away your life, you knew what the right thing to do was, but yet you were utterly powerless to quit.

It was the same story over and over and over and over. If it was made into a movie, it would be the most boring movie ever. Play too much Tetris, suffer some consequence, vow to quit, get bored, play a little Tetris again, play too much Tetris. Rinse, wash and repeat. If I won, I wanted to play more since I was on a roll. If I lost, I wanted to play more to redeem myself. There was no other outcome.

Someone once told me that addiction is like boiling a live frog. The frog sits in cool water which slowly becomes lukewarm. As the water temperature slowly goes up, it becomes increasingly comfortable. It doesn't even notice that the water is being heated up, or is just too comfortable to care. Before you know it...stewed frog is served!

As I drove to my meeting in Bangsar, already 15 minutes late, I made a solemn oath to myself. No more. No more. I want no more of this. I'm smarter than this. It's false happiness being traded for lasting joy.

Tetris Battle, I'm done with you.

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition (and Tetris Battle?) when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S Lewis

(Less than a week after this, the author comes out of Tetris Battle retirement, much to the delight of his adoring fans. However, he tries his best to not get carried away with maximising his energy and leveling up. After all, it's just a game right?)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Fake Life, Real Lessons

Promo video with generic music and random shots of people having fun that doesn't concern you.

Note: While clearing my computer, I found this testimony I wrote for a Korean pastor about Life Game. And since we're still without a September post...hey, why not!

I first attended Life Game in 2007, having heard lots of great stories from my church friends who previously went for it. Being an avid fan of games of all sorts, it was a very exciting experience to be immersed into this whole new world. I recall how I attended the camp one day late, causing me to skip the whole education stage and start work as a high school dropout.

From there on, the game mirrored life perfectly – each time I thought that I had everything figured out, the unexpected would happen. When I planned my expenses to fit right into my plans, inflation came. When I thought I would lead a long and prosperous life, I died in an unfortunate ‘accident’. When I said to myself, “I know how this game is going to end”, a shocking twist happened.

The finale was so soul-stirring that I couldn’t help being shaken to the core. Yes, it was a very well-crafted game, story and experience, but beneath all that lay a powerful life-changing message. I learned to see how small our lofty ambitions were when held against God’s eternal plan. No matter how much we possessed or enjoyed, nothing was left once the game ended.

From my 2007 Life Game!

A friend of mine played the game extremely well. He aced all his exams, got a high-paying job, shot up the ranks of society and eventually accumulated multiple property lots. Of course, we all knew that it was a Christian game and somewhere down the road we would need to go to church. He believed that once he achieved his financial targets, he would then make time for church.

He never went.

At the end of the game, he was left only with nothing but regrets. No property, money or prestige. Only regrets.

And therein lies the beauty of Life Game – there are just so many lessons to be unearthed from it. Everyone who plays is bound to learn something unique to their own situation. In my second time playing, now wiser, I was taught the urgency of saving souls. As hard and as fast as I tried, there simply was not enough time nor workers. Eventually only a handful came to know God. The vast majority finished the game without hearing the gospel.

On the way home in the bus, many of these lost souls came up to me in jest, “Brother, why didn’t you save me?” I laughed them off, but deep down I prayed that this would never happen in real life. If I were to one day stand before the gates of heaven and look down, my unsaved friends and family members wouldn’t be asking me in jest. They would be screaming at me in accusation. Clawing and begging for a second chance. Weeping eternally at my selfishness.

Of course, these are only a handful of stories from one person’s perspective. Ask ten more and there will be dozens of other wonderful stories. You don’t have to wait till the end of your life to learn such amazing lessons. Life Game is a window from which you can peer into the rest of your days.

To whoever reads this, I hope that you can someday join Life Game as well and be blessed with your own life-impacting story from God.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No Fireworks

"But they always have fireworks on Merdeka Day, Mom!"

"Not this year, dear."

The little boy sat down and pouted. For as long as he could remember, Merdeka Day had always been highlighted by the colourful fireworks streaking across the sky. It was the only night of the year when he was allowed to come home past midnight.

There was a little hill near his house where the fireworks display from various locations around town could clearly be seen. As early as 11pm, people from around his neighbourhood would gather to book the best seats. As the hour wore on, more would show up hoping to jostle for a better view.

Then without warning - poof! All restlessness dissipated as the sky lit up with bursts of purple, yellow, orange, blue, pink, green, red drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd. The little boy would steal peeks at the faces of the people, enjoying their smiles of wonderment captured in brief flashes.

But it was not happening this year. Merdeka Day clashed with Hari Raya, marking the first time in his memory that the sky would be dark.

As the clock neared twelve with nothing but variety shows and heavily-censored movies on the telly, he shut it off and walked to the hill optimistically. Fortunately his mother was asleep - she would never have consented.

Hoping against hope, he strode quickly to his cherished spot. True enough, there was nobody there. No cars. No children. No eager chattering.

He stood there for five minutes, staring at the black sky. It seemed so vast tonight.

Beep beep! went his watch.


No fireworks.

"Happy Merdeka Day, Malaysia." he whispered to the Kuala Lumpur cityscape.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

June 2011

"Why?" She crouched in a corner, bawling to no end. "Why me? WHY?"

The other months stared at her, then at each other. Nobody knew what to say.

This was certainly a curious case, the first of its kind.

"Look at all of you!" She jerked her face up and screamed. "All the way from October 2004 till May 2011. A good six-and-a-half years!"

"Is anyone of you BLANK?"

Uneasy silence.


"Me?" March 2009 squeaked. "I had just a short 3-liner post, totaling 18 words."

"Uhm, I was just a video and a paragraph." August 2009 chimed in.

"Yeah, mine wasn't that great either." added May 2011.

"Same here." April 2011 nodded reassuringly, as did March 2011.


"Hey...it's not your fault really." the 2011 months gathered around June. "No one even reads any more. It's just not the same now."

She remained inconsolable. "I always dreamed of being like all of you. It didn't have to be a five-parter or poem or picture entry. Even a Writer's Block would've made me happy."

They patted her back, only able to afford sympathetic frowns.

"But...nothing. Never would I have imagined..."

She choked.

"What will the other months to come say about me?"

As she continued sobbing, the crowd slowly dispersed. There were just no words powerful enough to mend her heart. For when hopes are dashed, dreams are murdered. And words simply cannot undo that. Only time can.

Eventually, only one month was left. He stayed by her side stoically, not a single word escaping his lips till her tears had run dry. His own time was coming up, for around the corner another new month peeked.

"Come now," July 2011 helped her to her feet. "We must go. Time waits for no one."

She shuffled away, still sniffing.

"Oh, and one more thing." He tugged her arm.


"Thank you for giving me my story."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

White Knight, Black Knight

After half a year of emo posts, it feels good to write something manly again!

It was the time of White Knights and Black Knights in medieval England.

Clearly as day and night, the White Knights were upholders of justice, peace and righteousness while the Black Knights were the purveyors of wrath and wickedness.

So the story is told of a lone White Knight who traversed the land in his relentless quest to defeat and rid the realm of every last Black Knight.

Miles and miles he rode, kept company only by his trusty steed and lance. He seldom stopped for anything but to cook a meal and sleep at night.

He never smiled, never cried, and never once looked behind. The only thing that drove him come rain or shine, day after day, was his unyielding desire to vanquish the Black Knights.

Over the years, he became so honed at his craft that no Black Knight could last more than a solitary minute against him. He knew just by looking into their eyes exactly which way they would attack and the best way to counter them.

Anticipate their attack. Parry their strike. Disrupt their balance. Finish them quick.

It was the same story every time. The steed would rear and whinny, while the Black Knight grimaced in pain and tumbled into the mud. As his horse galloped away, the Black Knight looked up at the White Knight approaching with his lance raised and knew that death was inevitable. He could only pray for it to be swift.

The fear in their eyes as the clutches of death loomed over them - it thrilled the White Knight to see fearsome warriors such as them reduced to whimpering cowards before his might.

One moon-washed night after an evening drizzle, the White Knight rode searching for a place to retire. As he went down an inconspicuous dirt path, an ever-so-slight rustle in the bushes caught his ear.

Wary, he raised his lance and directed his steed to the source of the noise.

"Halt! Are you friend or foe?"

From the shadows a White Knight appeared. Relieved, our protagonist lowered his lance and saluted.

Before the other White Knight pierced through his armour with a fatal strike.

Shocked beyond speech, he fell off his steed onto the muddy earth.

Why did the White Knight attack me? Has he no code of valour?

I always knew no Black Knight could defeat me. How ironic that I should die at the hands of a White Knight.

As he lay there, life seeping out of him, he chanced upon his reflection on a puddle.

He had become a Black Knight himself.

When a man fights evil, he must first of all take care not to become evil himself.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

May promises to be a month of ends. The end of my one-year ill-advised gym membership, my almost-two-year stress-inducing retainer copywriting stint at MCK Creative Resources, and the internship of 3 fun girls at Sakae Sushi. :D

As for today's story...this started off more as a dumb joke. I still don't fully consider it a story. It's just something I want to get out of my system as I continue re-learning how to write.

I...hope you enjoy it.

I always feel envious when I see couples holding hands.

There's just something insanely magical about the moment - their hands swinging as they walk, lightly brushing against each other by not-so-accident. Their faces register only a hint of coyness, barely detectable to the untrained eye. Knowingly, they gently bring their hands close, allowing him to slip his fingers around hers as she adjusts to fit snugly around him. Never once breaking in stride, they turn to each other with smiles only those who have been in love will understand, ecstatic in the fact that they belong to each other.

Ah, to love and be loved. How sweet it must be, to know that the one you adore feels the same way about you.

Why am I writing this? Because up till today, I never once held a girl's hand. Unless if you count dumb stuff like forming a circle or human chain during PE in school. It's ironic that you only get to do these things when you're young - too young for holding hands with a member of the opposite sex to matter.

So here, let me say it again - I have never held a girl's hand in a romantic manner.

Up till today, of course!

Her name is Kelly. I met her at a high school reunion, where we were the only two single people. Admittedly there may have been some other single people, but I didn't really care. All I remember was how well we connected that night. I never remember her being so chatty in school before. But there we were, laughing embarrassingly loud at each others' jokes, reminiscing about endless school stories that we never realised we shared, ganging up against the couples and even...flirting with each other?

The others kept teasing us, saying that we were secretly dating. To which Kelly vehemently denied and I played along. At last after continued annoyance, we gave in and made up far-fetched stories of how we got together. Now they were the ones groaning and rolling their eyes. Kelly and I slapped high fives and laughed some more.

At the end of the night, I walked her back to her car. Thankfully, she kept the silence at bay with questions about my work.

"Okay," she turned and smiled widely at me as we reached her car. "Thank you so much for accompanying me!"

"No problem."

"Bye! Good night!"

"Hey...you have Facebook?"

"Yeah, sure! Add me. You can find me from Charles and Lee Fang's page."

"Okay. I will."

"Keep in touch!"

My heart smiled.

The next morning, I added her on Facebook. I had first wanted to add her the night before, but decided against it in fear of appearing desperate.

She approved me that very afternoon, and I waited a good twenty minutes before initiating our first chat. It went quite well, with us rehashing some of last night's jokes and shaking our figurative heads at the silliness of it all.

Unfortunately, I noticed that I was the one doing most of the talking. She seemed somewhat occupied.

The next day, we chatted for a while but she had to rush off somewhere. Oh well.

It was the same for the following few days. Sometimes she didn't even reply.

Gradually, I started feeling like just another online contact of hers.

What made me most frustrated was that she never once said hi first. It made things seem like a one-sided affair. I felt cheated. Didn't we share amazing chemistry together? How could she act as though nothing had happened?

One night I dreamed about walking with her along the beach, giving each other that knowing look. In my dream, our hands slowly slid into each other and we continued without a word.

Hand in hand.

I woke up with a feeling of utter happiness and contentment, only to snap back to reality. But still, the lingering feelings overwhelmed me.

I rushed online to look for Kelly. There she was!

Hi :), I said.

No reply.

Two minutes passed. Five minutes. Ten minutes. But her status still showed that she was Available.

Dejected, I went on Facebook and clicked on her profile.

Only to find her happily engaging in a conversation with another guy on her Wall.

There and then, I did the stupidest thing imaginable.

I called her, not sure what I wanted to say. And guess what - I said nothing. She put down the phone after several hellos, noticeably uncomfortable.

I tried calling to apologise that night, but again didn't know what to say. This went on a few times until she told me sternly not to call again.

Horrified, I left messages on her Wall trying to explain. I was never one for words, though. I think it came out as incoherent rambling.

Next I knew, she had removed me as a friend.

No matter how many times I called her, she refused to pick up.

Texts went unreplied. Emails, Facebook messages. All ignored.

Just 13 days ago, we sat side by side talking and laughing like best friends.

I even felt our hands brush against each other.

I was so sure.

Now, there was nothing left.

She tricked me.

But don't weep! This story does have a happy ending.

Remember how at the start I said that I held her hand today? I wasn't lying.

But of course you're wondering: if things turned out so badly for Kelly and I, how did I end up holding her hand?

I can be pretty resourceful, you know.

Kelly, I'm sorry it had to end this way. I miss chatting with you.

You were such a liar even till the end. I asked you whether you had feelings for me and you said yes. Just because I threatened you.

If you had feelings for me, why did you ignore me?

I'm glad I did it anyway. Now I won't need to be subjected to this agonising false hope any more. I should never have expected anything from you in the first place. I had no right to.

It was a one-sided affair from the start, and it still is.

Even your hand feels so limp in mine now.

Personally, I find holding hands overrated.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shades Of Grey

"Why haven't you written any stories for such a long time?"

Dear readers, it's because I've lost it.

"Lost what?"

Lost the clarity and sharpness in my mind. The ability to pick out little mundane things and transform them into larger-than-life Twisted Tales.

And it's not as simple as writer's block. It's because my life is right now shrouded in shades of grey.

Back in college when I learned how to paint (I was horrible at it, in case you're wondering), the lecturer always told us to avoid mixing grey, brown, black or other 'dirty' colours into the paints whenever possible. Doing so would dull a paint's natural hues, making the painting less vibrant and unattractive.

(Bear in mind, this applies only to commercial art. Fine art is a different story altogether.)

When you paint grass, you use pure green and dot it with tinges of yellow or white, making use of dark green for shadow areas. In my amateurish mind, I thought of mixing in a little brown to create a more 'realistic' effect. Bad idea.

In the same way, our lives become a convoluted mess when we attempt to mix in too many colours without an end in mind. I'm learning the hard way now that black needs to be black, and white must remain white. The more grey you allow to creep into your life, the more unhappiness you will endure.

Grey always seems exciting at first. It masquerades as the best of both worlds, freeing you from the need to choose. But just like paints, it eventually runs and smears other previously well-defined areas of your life as well.

You try desperately to fix it. Sometimes it works, if the damage hasn't been done. But if it's beyond repair...

You need to start all over again.

*crumples up paper*

"Sir, may I have more time?"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Writer's Block

I was bored during a long and boring meeting in church. Suddenly someone passed me a notebook. Thus...

(Pictures taken / edited with Wen Cheng's iPhone. Apple: Simply the better choice.)

Meanwhile, on an unrelated note...I love hymns. They're so rich in meaning and teachings that you need to pay attention to the lyrics, instead of just 'losing' yourself in the melody. Of course, it's doubly awesome that they're written like beautiful works of poetry.

Two of my favourites:

I Gave My Life For Thee

I gave my life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might'st ransom be,
And quickened from the dead;
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for Me?

My Fathers house of light,
My glory circled throne,
I left for earthly night,
For wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?

I suffered much for thee,
more than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony,
To rescue thee from hell;
I've borne, I've borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?
I've borne, I've borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?

I can't recall any other Christian songs being written from the perspective of Jesus himself. Sometimes, it's almost as though we forget that God is very much alive with feelings.

Is Your All On The Altar?

You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.

Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.

O we never can know
What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul
He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.

Who can tell all the love
He will send from above,
And how happy our hearts will be made,
Of the fellowship sweet
We shall share at His feet,
When our all on the altar is laid.

Often contemporary songs only throw questions at God. However, hymns do provide us with simple answers grounded in His word as well.

Thank you, hymns! =D

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Practical Magic

She said the wishing lanterns in the sky were beautiful.

He said they were a hazard to passing planes.

She wanted to light candles along the path they trod.

He said they were bad for the environment.

She longed for dinner in a posh French restaurant, just the both of them.

He said it was a waste of money.

She sighed to herself, as she always did.

However deep down, she knew that he loved her with all his heart.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Lonely People

We are all lonely people - each travelling down a path uniquely ours.

We rush through our lives, surrounding ourselves with hustle and bustle to dull away this loneliness.

We smile at people, we stop at places, we laugh for a moment or two.

Sometimes we meet other people who are equally lonely. They make us forget too.

Sometimes we fall in love. Sometimes we fall out of it, when we learn that the ones we love aren't perfect. We continue searching.

We laugh and cry, we dance and sing.

On warm summer nights, we lie on the grass and count the stars in the sky.

One, two, three, four, five... endless as the people who enter our lives.

When people enter our lives, they leave a part of themselves in us.

But no one truly stays.

When they leave, they take a piece of our hearts along with them.

Sometimes it makes us more alive. Often times it hurts us deeply.

Once every while, we dream of turning the clock back to simpler times.

When every stranger was a friend waiting to be made.

When the future seemed so far away.

When we were easily satisfied.

We try to pause our lives, only to get left behind by others who look just forward.

Sometimes, we discover new passions.

We give our heart and soul to them, only to realise that they are poor substitutes for our dreams.

We grow weary and unhappy.

But then we wonder, what are our dreams?

Could any one thing possibly sustain us for our whole lives?

And a voice tells us that we are weird. We are different from the people of this world. The contented, comfortable souls scurrying around day after day after day.

We tell ourselves that nobody understands us.

Nobody loves us.

We are truly alone.

Little do we realise that when the dust settles...

When the stars fade into blackness...

When words cease...

We are all lonely people.

Lonely people connected only by mutual loneliness.

We grow up.

We grow old.

We grow lonely.

We die.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I recently took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test.

Now, I'm not really a fan of personality tests as I always find them overly general and assumptive. However, the MBTI test appears different. Even the way the questions are structured, there seems to be a scientific approach to it. Hence, the results turn out very accurate. Frighteningly accurate, in fact.

Apparently, I'm an ESFP. (Extremely Silly and Funny Person?)

Let's find out more about ESFPs:

First things first, do you know what ESFPs are known as? I'd always fancied myself as an Inspiring or Loving or Positive type.

But noooo...get this. ESFPs are termed:

The Performer.

Performer. Wah lau weh...

And in case you're wondering, this Perform doesn't refer to Prestasi (results-oriented performance). It's the Persembahan or Pertunjukan type of Perform. Think circus acts, juggling, magic shows, stand-up comedy and the like.


It made my heart sink a little. I mean, it's a plain fact that I'm an entertaining person. My mere presence makes people laugh. But I always thought that my entertaining capabilities were means to an end. It was just sad to realise that...they were the end. I was born to perform. Destined to entertain.

Sigh. Let's read on.

Performers are the people for whom it can truly be said "all the world's a stage." Born entertainers, they love the excitement of playing to an audience, and will quickly become the center of attention wherever they are.

Performers aren't comfortable being alone, and seek the company of others whenever possible -- which they usually find, for they make wonderful playmates. Performers are smooth, talkative, and witty; they always seem to know the latest jokes and stories, and are quick with wisecracks and wordplay-nothing is so serious or sacred that it can't be made fun of.

Performers also like to live in the fast lane, and seem up on the latest fashions of dress, food, drink, and music. Lively and uninhibited, Performers are the life of the party, always trying to create in those around them a mood of eat, drink, and be merry.

Agreed, agreed, except for perhaps the third paragraph. Anyone who knows me well will know that I'm not much of an 'enjoying life' type of person. I am perfectly happy with having the same tried-and-tested food over and over again, and always have this nagging desire to go home early.

But I can't believe they mentioned wordplay! That is so so so right up my alley. Valley. Sally. Jelly. Telly.

Now, moving on to career options:

ESFPs are good at many things, but will not be happy unless they have a lot of contact with people, and a lot of new experiences. They should choose careers which provide them with the opportunity to use their great people skills and practical perspective, which will also provide them with enough new challenges that they will not become bored.
Possible Career Paths for the ESFP:
• Artists, Performers and Actors
• Sales Representatives
• Counselors / Social Work
• Child Care
• Fashion Designers
• Interior Decorators
• Consultants
• Photographers

Yikes, where's advertising?

So this explains my perpetual discontent with my work! I can't get stuck doing the same thing for too long. Especially when I'm dealing with soulless words and don't get to build connections with the people I work with. I'm a freelancer, you see. I can't work for overly long hours in the same place. Which is, unfortunately, how most relationships flourish in the advertising industry.

After having let it simmer for a few weeks, I'm starting to embrace this Performer thing. I realise that being a Performer doesn't just mean putting on shows to entertain people. Behind the curtain, there is a sincere motivation to make sure that everyone's happy and well taken care of. It's something that has always been my core since I was young. I love seeing others happy.

So perhaps, I should think of myself less as a clown, and more as a candle. Mmm...yeah.

The more you learn about yourself, the more you can love yourself. And once that happens, you'll never need to fight against yourself any more.

Perhaps I should start writing less fiction.

I'll end with this deep inspiring passage Zhi-Yong wrote about me years ago:
"C.H. Mok, Daniel is the author of the international best sellers as well as numerous other equally interesting but unequally selling short stories, poems and personal accounts of his life stories that both inspire, amuse and entertain to various degrees.

They are available on the world wide web from his personal web log that draws international criticism and acclaim in equal parts. Although irregularly updated, his readers await with bated breath the next chapter of his 'short' stories, listen adoringly to his poems and eagerly consume accounts of his inspiring life that revolves around... cendol, church and baja hitam.

Ok la... actually that guy ah... very nice wan... although he looks like a clown but inside... is also a clown... deeper inside... his life ambition is to be a clown... if u dig deep enough and reach that small little engine that runs the whole body you find out that it's quite warm inside actually. Yeah, nice and warm. And that's what counts."

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2 Years And 8 Months

If you think falling in love is scary, wait till you try falling out of it.

There he stood in front of me, unsure, unprepared, almost reminiscent of that breezy afternoon 2 years and 8 months ago.

Similarly today, the dandelions swayed in chorus to the wind's unseen fingers, watched over by a passing parade of cotton clouds. A hint of sweetness from the grass wafted in the air. I always loved the feeling of ticklish grass under my bare feet. It was such a pity I had to have shoes on today.

To the eyes, ears and nose, nothing had changed. But to the heart, everything had.

"Why do you keep saying things are different?" he inched forward. "What is?"

I avoided his gaze. I didn't know what to say.

2 years and 8 months ago, everything was so much simpler. He was my best friend who told me that he had a crush on me. At that time, I was just so tired of boys and relationships. The more he cared for me, the more I found him annoying. But the more I couldn't get him out of my mind.

One fateful afternoon amidst the dandelions, I said yes to him.

Everyone said that we were perfect for each other. The couple who were meant to be. Even our teachers said that we would get married.

As girls usually do, I fell headlong into love. Though I was a pretty awful cook, I would make him his favourite sandwiches and spaghetti for breakfast from time to time. In return, he gave me sweet cards with cute doodles and scribbled poems that made absolutely no sense to anyone but the two of us.

Unlike normal couples, we didn't quite fancy shopping malls, cinemas and the like. Instead, our favourite pastimes consisted of incredibly boring activities such as eating ice cream, taking walks in parks and trying different mamak stalls (yes, MAMAK STALLS). As one may observe from our choice of interests, one thing we shared in common was our love for talking. Most of my friends found me annoying as I had this tendency to ramble on and on about utterly random and incomprehensible topics. However, he was one of the few who always could make sense of me and keep our conversations alive. His energy, wit and intelligence were nothing short of inspiring.

Deep down, I always had this fear that he would someday change and find me annoying. He was a man destined for great things, I knew. He would probably want to study or work overseas. I didn't want to be a stupid girl clinging on and holding him back.

Life's funny that way sometimes. Eventually I was the one who changed. I was the one who left.

After we graduated, I was sent to an outstation university while he managed to continue his studies locally. I immersed myself into this scary yet exciting new world out on my own. New friends, new sights and new experiences left their mark in my life. Though I always held on dearly to the memories of school, it was very clearly a past chapter. And he was a very huge part of that chapter. My heart didn't know how to take him along into this new beginning.

We continued to keep in touch through SMS, MSN, Skype and all. Nine times out of ten, he would be the one who said hi to me first. I tried to respond lovingly, but I knew I wasn't sincere. He knew too. Most of our calls became nothing more than formalities and an exhausting cycle of arguments and apologies. I would always blame busyness and adjustment for acting this way, but in truth I was hopelessly confused. I didn't know why I no longer missed him or felt reluctant to pick up his calls. Many nights I just cried and wish things hadn't become so complicated.

"I know we're going through a tough time." One of his SMSes read. "But I promise I won't ever change the way I feel for you. I will give you all the love and support you need, and wait for you back here."

Please don't, I thought. I don't deserve such love. I'm a horrible person.

And he kept his word. He never changed. Through his blog and Facebook, I constantly caught glimpses of his joy and passion for life that attracted me to him in the first place. The lame jokes, the heartwarming creativity, the wisdom behind his words, the way he loved others as himself.

But I had changed. I was no longer a schoolgirl in a prefect's uniform holding hands with him, sipping bubble ice tea and chasing dragonflies. I stopped looking forward to his SMSes or calls. I hated the way he always wanted to fix problems in our relationship. I felt tired of trying so hard to become a better girlfriend, and supporting him in becoming a better boyfriend.

I...fell out of love.

Now as the dandelions watched, I had to let go.

"Please," He was almost about to cry, but I knew he wanted to stay strong for me. "I still love you."

"I do, too...but..."

"But what?"

"We can't go on like this."

"We can. Just trust me. We can."

"No. No. Not for now."

He sniffed, pretending it was a runny nose.

I tried my best to stay expressionless. "I need to go home now. Bye."

He mouthed bye.

As I turned and walked back to my car, a mischievous breeze ran through my hair and made it fall messily over my eyes. I paused and realised that I had to fix it myself.

Just like that, 2 years and 8 months passed.