Jason Erik Lundberg was born in New York, grew up in North Carolina, and has lived in Singapore since 2007. He is the author and anthologist of over twenty books, including Red Dot Irreal (2011), The Alchemy of Happiness (2012), Fish Eats Lion (2012), Strange Mammals (2013), Embracing the Strange (2013), the six-book Bo Bo and Cha Cha children’s picture book series (2012–2015), Carol the Coral (2016), and the biennial Best New Singaporean Short Stories anthology series (2013–2017). He is also the fiction editor at Epigram Books (where the books he’s edited have been shortlisted for and won the Singapore Literature Prize and Singapore Book Awards, and made multiple year’s best lists since 2012), as well as the founding editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (est. 2012), and a recipient of the Creation Grant from Singapore’s National Arts Council. His writing has been anthologized widely, shortlisted for multiple awards, and honourably mentioned twice in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.


Occupy: An Exhibition*



  1. The early morning sky over Singapore’s Central Business District, grey and overcast. The clouds harshen the sunlight into flatness; one can almost hear them rumbling with impotent thunder, holding the air tense and stiflingly still with the anxiety of the forthcoming rainstorm that will not come.


  1. The ground floor steel-and-glass entrance of One Raffles Quay, Asian headquarters for international banks such as UBS, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Societe Generale. A chain of elderly women and men with interlinked arms forms a blockaded perimeter, some sitting in wheelchairs, some standing on aged legs and propped up with canes or walkers, some sitting on blankets directly on the ground, all of them staring straight ahead, unmoving.


  1. A similar linear barricade of the elderly, this time blocking the entrance to the ORQ offices inside the pedestrian underpass that links up with the MRT train station.


  1. A wide shot of the CBD’s other skyscraping seats of capitalist power and influence—including the UOB Building, the Far East Finance Building, and Ocean Financial Centre—all surrounded on the ground by calm, unmoving chains of the elderly, looked on by armies of ambitious civil servants and financial wizards eager to cross the line and earn the day’s manna.


  1. The gathered crowd outside ORQ, an ocean of white button-down long-sleeved shirts and black slacks and skirts. In the foreground, a handsome European man of indeterminate ethnicity in his late 20s, dressed from head to toe in tailored Massimo Dutti and holding a Fendi briefcase, representative of the financial success of the young men and women around him, likely with clients all over Asia and Europe, and an imported Jaguar housed in ORQ’s basement car park. On the man’s face is an expression of bemused confusion, as if unsure whether this is all a publicity stunt, or a government-mandated day of observance, or something else entirely.


  1. A close-up of one of the ORQ “protestors,” a Chinese octogenarian so thin that he appears barely more alive than a skeleton, clothed only in a stained singlet, greyish Bermuda shorts, and undersized thong sandals. The old uncle’s face is lined with deep crevasses, his skin leathery with a lifetime spent working outside under the scorching tropical sun. Despite his tired appearance, his eyes blaze with determination.


  1. A female police negotiator, engaged in a one-way conversation with an old Malay woman in a wheelchair. The negotiator’s posture and gestures are indicative of a willingness to discover what the protestors want, but the old woman’s gaze purposefully avoids eye contact, making it apparent that the police are not who the elderly will open to. Out of focus in the background are just visible a number of other police officers in their dark blue uniforms of authority.


  1. Mr. Massimo Dutti stands less than half a meter from the old uncle in the singlet, his mouth open in an angry tirade, no longer bemused or confused, his pointing index finger only centimeters from the uncle’s nose, the tendons in his neck protruding, a vein in his forehead swollen and standing out. The bankers in the immediate vicinity look uncertain whether to cheer the young man on or restrain his outburst.


  1. Mere seconds later, yet Mr. Massimo Dutti and his cohorts are recoiling backward in incredulity at the sight of the entire chain of elderly surrounding ORQ having transformed into stone as a reaction to the threat, looking for all intents and purposes as if they have been sculpted and then placed in that location as a work of public art.


  1. The ORQ protestors once again flesh and blood, the old uncle’s eyes projecting an implicit warning. The elderly on either side silently share the uncle’s expression, their attention now focused.


  1. Mr. Massimo Dutti, very likely not accustomed to being treated in such a way from a runty little uncle who looks as if he normally hassles hawker center patrons to buy packets of tissues, leans forward with his arm over his head, his Fendi briefcase in mid-swing on a trajectory to connect with the old man’s cranium, his lips drawn back sharply over his teeth. In the background, horrified looks from the assembled bankers. The female police negotiator reaches forward with one hand, her mouth open in a shout.


  1. The octogenarian effortlessly grips Mr. Massimo Dutti’s wrist holding the briefcase with one hand, a steely strength belying his age and appearance, preventing the Fendi from making contact. With the other, he has pulled the young banker close by the lapels of his designer suit jacket, his tight grip wrinkling the material into distortion, their faces close enough to kiss. The old uncle is completely calm. The young man’s eyes are widened in surprise.


  1. Close-up on the horrified expressions of the young bankers. Their features are pinched, as if responding to the sound of horrible unearthly shrieks that seem as though they will never end, and then cut off abruptly. Out of focus, a young Chinese man’s head is turned to the side, his hand over his mouth, as though about to vomit in terror.


  1. The sidewalk in front of the old uncle, where lies a desiccated corpse still clad in Massimo Dutti, the clothing now hanging loosely from the steaming husk of a human being. Only the legs of the old uncle and the elderly to either side are visible in the frame, but their skin glows golden as if from an infusion of siphoned energy.


  1. An overhead shot of the entrance of ORQ, where hundreds of people scatter in all directions at once, away from the elderly perimeter. The police officers in dark blue are just barely noticeable, attempting the futility of calming down the fleeing bankers or directing their egress.


  1. A long shot of the CBD, utterly abandoned but for the single street-level ring around each financial building and a smattering of drained corpses, the noon sunlight gleaming off skyscraper glass onto the empty thoroughfares below. Police barricades as far back as Niccol Highway form a secondary security perimeter.


  1. A shellacked MediaCorp television anchor, her mouth open in mid-word, nearly crowded off of the screen by the gigantic inset displaying an image of the link-armed elderly at ORQ and the words: WHO ARE THE 35K? WHAT DO THEY WANT? The static ribbon up top, in bright red letters: A National Day of Emergency. The news crawl at the bottom of the screen displays the time (2:24 p.m.), the Straits Times Index (down over 1,300 points), and the score of the latest Manchester United vs. Arsenal match (2-1).


  1. An army tank squats on the street just outside of ORQ, its cannon barrel aimed directly at the elderly perimeter, the afternoon sun glinting off of its green metal exterior, surrounded on all sides by young National Servicemen called up on reservist duty, covered head to toe in pixelated camo gear, their rifles raised and ready.


  1. The air thick with rifle smoke. Pockmarks dot the neighboring buildings, broken glass litters the concrete sidewalk. Three NSmen lay on the ground, their faces contorted in pain, hands attempting to quell the blood oozing from the holes punched through their bodies by their own ricocheting bullets.


  1. Out of focus, a camouflaged pant leg retreating to a distance behind the tank, a blurred variegation of greens.


  1. Close in on the muzzle flash from the barrel of the tank’s 120-millimeter cannon, the explosion of force a blazing orange mushroom, with a lighter orange line of trajectory extending forward from its middle, reaching, reaching, reaching for the statues in such close proximity.


  1. Stillness. Billowing smoke. What on first glance appears to be a grey sheet of paper drifting to the ground; on closer inspection: a rectangular sliver of concrete.


  1. The tank in retreat, its rear end displayed to the unharmed once-again flesh-and-blood elderly, turned away by non-violent resistance. On the sidewalk and the city street: concrete and rubble and shards of glass, all loosed by the massive concussion of energy.


  1. A line of young protestors beyond the police barricades, none older than thirty, mouths open in defiant yells, fists pumping the air, each holding a man-made placard: THE 35K ARE ALL OUR GRANDPARENTS! ABANDONED BY SOCIETY ≠ NATIONAL THREAT! THE 35K ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY! WHERE’S YOUR FILIAL PIETY NOW?! Unlikely that they would have been granted a permit for this protest, and yet the nearby police officers stand back, unable to join in, but unwilling to disperse.


  1. A MediaCorp news feed, but off-kilter as though the video camera has been bumped, zoomed in on a leg emerging from the rear passenger door of a black Mercedes-Benz limousine, clad in charcoal grey designer pants, the equally expensive shoe polished to a high shine. Recognizable outfitting of the Old Man. The time indicated on the crawl: 6:37 p.m.


  1. The mass of elderly protestors all stares at the Old Man, whose hands are raised in a questioning gesture. His face out of view, his back muscles tense against his ironed white short-sleeved dress shirt, his white hair cropped close to his skull as if just cut earlier in the day. A small irregular oval of perspiration in the middle of his back.


  1. The ORQ perimeter, now unfurled, reaching around to encircle the Old Man, all elderly eyes on their contemporary in age. The Old Man’s head is turned, shouting to someone out of frame, his hand up in a gesture of halt against the barrel of the handgun only just visible.


  1. From above, a double ring of protestors completely pens in the Old Man at its center. Outside the protective paddock, a confusion of security officers, hands to ear-mounted Bluetooth communication, body language indicative of panic.


  1. The wrinkled octogenarian uncle in singlet and Bermudas faces the Old Man, his mouth open, his hand extended to shake. The Old Man’s gaze at the proffered hand is wary and anxious, as though recalling the fate of Mr. Massimo Dutti and the other expendable bankers.


  1. Close-up on a tight handshake, the skin of both hands creased and liver-spotted, yet the muscles and bones underneath still convey power and confidence from both men.


  1. Tight on the Old Man’s face, his expression full of surprise and relief. The elderly in view behind him relax; some begin to smile.


  1. The entire perimeter, and the Old Man, sit down directly on the ground. The old uncle speaks. The Old Man leans in to listen.


  1. Over the shoulder of the Old Man as he calls to the other limousines parked next to his, the assembled crowd consisting of his son, the entire Cabinet, and various other members of Parliament, who lean forward to catch every one of the Old Man’s utterances.


  1. The suited government figures spreading out in all directions, each man and woman headed toward a different occupied area, not entirely comfortable but unwilling to contravene the Old Man’s dictum.


  1. An Indian woman in leg braces shakes the hand of the Old Man’s son, whose smile is practiced yet genuine. The woman’s sari is faded, its colors dulled with use and wear, yet it glitters in the fading sunlight, throwing sparkles onto her interlocutor’s face.


  1. A longer shot of the CBD, displaying more double rings, inside which sit each Cabinet minister and the other members of Parliament gathered for this summit, each locus of political power straining to hear the quiet, yet firm, voices of their constituency.


  1. From far overhead, the thick orange rays of the setting sun illuminate more than two dozen perfect circles, each circumference glowing a light gold, a color endemic of hope, acceptance, and optimism.




* originally published in Red Dot Irreal, Revised Edition, Infinity Plus Books, Dec 2012