IV | Some Warning

Tammie smiles politely
and hides her hands behind her back,
flashing her uneven teeth.


Do I know you?


I shake my head.
‘I don’t think we’ve met before.’

Tammie ignores the nurses
when she approaches me.

The strong odour
of bile and vomit
makes me choke.

I cover my mouth instinctively.

She takes a step back,
a dark emotion flickering

in her hooded grey eyes.




I can’t un-smell it
even though she’s a distance away.

The odour clings to her

like a cloud.

I shake my head.
‘It’s not your fault.’


It is.


Tammie tilts her head
and buries her hands

in the pockets of her oversized cargo pants.

The faint traces of her smile


Want to see something cool?


I don’t

but I nod
and follow her

pass the named doors,

counting them
in my mind.


There’s eight of us.

The last door
is latticed,

and it opens when Tammie touches the knob

into an indoor garden.

The air is colder in here
and the perfectly-shaped stones
are like ice

beneath my feet.

Like a greenhouse,
three of the walls are panelled glass,

extending upwards
in the a similar spire shape

as I’ve seen from the outside.

In one corner
of a glass panel,

I read the words


The glaring sun makes me feel hot quickly
but the air remains frigid

like chilled wine.




Tammie watches me
from a few feet away,

that apologetic smile on her face.


It’s beautiful, huh?
This is my favourite place.


‘Because it’s green?’
I ask.

Her smile lights up.


My favourite colour.


From the corner of my eye,
I see the pretty nurse typing


on her mobile phone.

The one with the bob
smiles at me,

a silent reassurance/a knowing look.

Tammie disappears
through the gap between two rowan trees.

I follow after her,

leaving the nurses behind.

This small space

reeks of the sewage
that I’m coming to terms with

as Tammie’s smell.

On the other side
of this gap,

is a chessboard of flowers

that someone has painstakingly

Black flower,
white flower,

then a black flower
and a white flower again.

A brown face pops up
from beside the flower chessboard.

‘I’ve been waiting for you,’
she speaks with an Indian accent.

Her hair,
braided perfectly down her back,
is streaked with grey.


How did you get the roses to turn black?


The woman ignores Tammie,
eyes that reflect the sun

focused solely on me.

‘You’ll figure out
‘what this place really is.’


What is she talking about?


‘I guess this place
‘is a real asylum,’ I say.

I watch the spade in her hand,
just in case
she decides to throw it at me.

‘I won’t throw it at you,’
she says with a shake of her head.

‘It’ll hurt the trees too.’

How did she know
what I was thinking?

She wipes dirt
from her free hand

and holds it out to me.

‘I’m Krishna.
‘I’m a fortuneteller.’

I spot the nurses
in my peripheral vision again,

waiting a distance away
on the cold stone path.

I dig my feet into the warm dirt.

‘Then, I’m the president of Singapore.’

Tammie stifles a giggle beside me
but Krishna isn’t offended.

She smiles

a peaceful knowing smile,
and whispers,

‘Be careful who you talk to.

‘Your bright future
‘might disappear.’

So cliché.

Krishna looks triumphant
as she says this.

‘Then, I’m going to stop talking to you now,’
I tell her.

She nods,
eyes flickering

to the nurses behind me.

‘That’s a good idea.’


She’s a little off her rocker, huh Fifi?


‘Yeah,’ I reply.




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