On planet earth Lynette Tan Yuen Ling is an award-winning lecturer and Associate Director of Student Life at the National University of Singapore, where she teaches Film Studies, academic writing as well as Singapore Literature. She is also the author of the ‘Pittodrie Pirates’ series of books for children, and one of 10 poets featured in the Haiku anthology ‘Equatorial Calm’. In an alternate universe Lynette is First Mate in dNd, which currently holds the international and all time guild PR record under the leadership of the intrepid Captain Sharky.
She didn’t think that it could but the sinking feeling in her stomach had gotten even worse. They were in mid-rumble and the other pirates were not only way better than her, her own troops appeared to be struck with some wasting disease and were melting on the battlefield like they were made of jello. They reminded her of the jellyfish that she and her cousins had brought back to Ah Kong’s house at Pasir Ris, meeting a fate much worse than being stranded on the beach where they had been picked up. Nefarious imps that they were the children (she included of course) had gingerly placed the unfortunate creatures on the cement steps under the blazing sun, and watched them liquefy before their wicked eyes. She groaned inwardly as her last recruit met his demise and the foul 6 letter word blazed across the screen.
Her husband looked over at her, a bemused expression on his face.
They were sitting in bed, in that wonderful hour just before sleep where the world stopped spinning and nothing else mattered but just the two of them sharing one space, one life, one destiny. Well usually anyway.
‘Just got defeated in battle.’ I could hear the disgust in the brittle tones of my voice.
‘Look at this’ he pointed to his iPad. ‘I’m really worried about Trump and that crazy North Korean president… we’re not far from another world war.’
She put her phone down and snuggled next to him, laying her head on his warm chest. Two belligerent men stared at her. She should be frightened by what she saw, their eyes like ice chips and the grim lines of their mouth shouted to the world that they were more than. More than what you would expect, more than what you could handle, more than it would take for there to be peace, more than the world could contain and definitely more than ready to send some nukes out there and obliterate life as we know it. But what could she do about it anyway? The world was broken, a thing of beauty when you were looking from far far away, like in 2001 a Space Odyssey, all blue and green and white and perfectly round, but when you got closer the stench suddenly hits you — decaying flesh and rotten blood, vultures preying on the weak, destruction and chaos for no other reason than man’s inhumanity to man. It was too depressing.
‘We’ll just plan on doing what you said’ she let her voice be sweet and planted a kiss on his grizzled cheek. He nodded. The grand plan was to buy some property in New Zealand, far far away from everyone and everything, Lord of the Rings country. Farm the land and find a way to recreate Eden, then when the apocalypse came and hopefully there were no zombies, they would be Adam and Eve, or maybe Mr. and Mrs. Noah, and there would be a new earth all clean and shiny, just green and blue and white and perfect.
Her island was being attacked again — the enemy troops were on the rampage and her villagers were scurrying into the buildings to hide as if they actually had a hope of staying alive. The buildings were actually the worst places to go to in these attacks, if she were on that island she would dive into the surrounding sea and float on her back, threading the water until the carnage was past. She wanted to shout to her little minions ‘Put on your swimmers you fools! All the buildings are going to collapse on your heads, run into the sea! Run like the dickens!’. Perhaps if the game developers had deigned to draw some ears on her villagers it would have helped, as it was however, her poor deaf pirates ran to certain death as fast as their little legs could take them.
-22! That was brutal. A drop in rank after an attack was the norm, but sometimes the extent of that drop still caused a double take. A victory led to an edging upwards of sometimes +2, or if you were lucky, a +10 in rank, but these defeats … it was one step forward and two steps back much of the time.
The day her mother died had been like that — life before was golden, so bright that she couldn’t bear to look back it hurt too much. It was a steady building up of positives, every smile, the kind words, the looks that said ‘I’m so proud of you’ the holidays and the presents that said ‘I can’t say I love you but I’m showing you’. And then the plunge on that black day. It was like the game, but more than. -1000 points after all the +1 and +10’s over the years until her rank was in deficit. The hollowness was the worst of it, like someone had burrowed in through your heart and proceeded to eat up all your insides, starting with your organs, the soft fleshy tissues, moving onto your muscles and gristly tendons then finally crunching on your bones until you were a walking balloon. That was the unbearable lightness of being, when you were a balloon being tugged along by the hand of fate, wishing you could pop and put an end to your miserable existence but being dragged along relentlessly. Then as if by some miracle (some have called it time) your insides start to re-grow. First the stomach and you begin to feel hungry again. Then your lungs, you start to take deep breaths and notice that the air isn’t quite as stale as it used to be. Then (you never thought this would be possible), your heart. You’re still a mushy walking creature without your bones but pumping at your centre is your heart and it’s urging your backbone to reform. And it does, vertebrae by vertebrae until you’ve got your spine back and you can pull at the string in the hand of fate. There’s some reluctance but fate knows it’s fated and lets go.
He was sleeping now. His reading glasses still on his nose, and his mouth open. His features are eerie in the light of his iPad but they are familiar to her. She takes his glasses off and puts them on his bedside table. He’s got quite a firm grip on his iPad but she manages to ease it gently out of his hand and she places that next to his glasses.
‘Wha? I was just asleep there! You do this every night, you have to stop waking me up!’ He grumbles and turns over, burrowing deeper under the covers.
She grins at their little routine, and leans into his neck to get one last whiff of his scent.
A message blinks on her phone, ‘pirate recruitment complete’. Logging on to her game again she sees that her village has regenerated, the buildings pristine as the first day they were made, and it’s time to get back in the rumble.Continue reading
Christopher Impiglia is a writer and art book editor based in New York. He received an MFA in Fiction from The New School and an MA in Medieval History and Archaeology from the University of St Andrews. His words have appeared in ‘Kyoto Journal,’ ‘Columbia Journal,’ and ‘EuropeNow,’ the journal of the Council for European Studies at Columbia University, among others. Follow him on Twitter at @Impigliato
I saw the stars tonight,
and know they saw us
just as we see them:
as pinpoints of light
in a vast pointillist canvas.
As their earthly parallel
made by the same master
but of different material:
they: of dying light,
us: of living pulses.
And just as some stars burn brighter than others,
so it is true of you:
the focus of their lofty perspective,
their Polaris, their Sigma Octantis.
Without you, unanchored by your glow
they would wander aimlessly,
lose themselves in their heavenly sea,
unraveling the constellations,
leaving gaping holes
through which we would fall
each night we gazed up at the sky,
swallowed by the ever-expanding darkness,
consumed by nothingness.
First, all was nothing:
darkness upon darkness.
Then, we played our hands at God:
we reached and grasped and touched and caressed,
we crafted and molded and heated and quenched,
and we relinquished to witness
the two new worlds we created:
The first one is without you:
desolate, parched, scorched—
the true pilgrim’s path and ultimate test.
The second one is with you:
lush, humid, bountiful—
the settler’s dream until realized
and the insects torment and the plain no longer beckons.
We should have remained in the darkness,
the only forms in the formlessness,
to undulate endlessly
as the substance of dreams.
With deep interests across literature, visual arts, culture, education and digital technology, Chua Chee Lay’s literary writings reflect his diverse influences and span across modern poetry, prose, song lyrics and short stories. Chua holds a PhD in East Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin. A linguist, educator, award-winning poet and children’s book writer, he is also the Chief Editor for several books and series, including Keeping My Mandarin Alive: Lee Kuan Yew’s Language Learning Experiences (Chinese, English and China Edition) and Journey of Our Young, a Young Writers Project by the Ministry of Education.