LXI | Someone's Gone

My eyes open

even though
the sky’s not bright yet.

I usually sleep until


enters the room.

Right now,
the sky’s still purple

and a heavy blanket of silence

lies over
the asylum.


woke me up.

Tammie’s hand
squeezes mine

and I look over

at her.


Someone’s screaming.


she says it,

hear it.

Loud, shrill and piercing.

I jump
when I hear it,

even though Tammie
gave me warning.

I let go of her hand

and tiptoe

to the door,
opening it





The empty landing is brightly lit.

no sign

of any commotion.

Did we imagine it?

I ask Tammie,
crawling back into bed.

She takes my hand again

and snuggles

into my sweat-soaked bed.

I stare

at the dim LED light
on my ceiling

until Moonlight Sonata

seeps through
the walls.




I notice it immediately

when I reach
the main hall.

Li Wen

sitting in
Raymond’s chair.

It’s obvious

because she’s alone.

not there.

After her outburst

the day before,

I was sure
she’s the one

who will disappear.


You were wrong.


Tammie giggles across the room
at me.

I’m distracted

by the stench
of vomit

from where I sit.

is the one

who’s disappeared.





My name is called
and I know

I don’t have long

to think

before they give me

to make me forget.

Nine patients
created chaos,

of course

one has to go.


if that’s the case,

then it can be avoided
simply by

admitting just one new patient

in the first place.


The eyes of the masked nurse
in front of me

are Nina’s.

The other nurse has Oman’s eyes.


Eat your medicine,


Nina commands,

flexing a gloved hand.


Don’t ask
so many questions.

Just because I answered before
doesn’t mean I like it.


Oman nods his head
for his sister

and continues
in a lower voice,


I just don’t want to owe you anything.


I eat my medicine

and the nurses’ eyes

go back to normal.

She nods at me
when I stare across the table.

Her voice

has no Malay intonation
like Nina’s.


You can go now.


She’s definitely Chinese.




doesn’t chase me away

when I follow her

into the studio.

She changes
into the leotard she says

“helps her practice better”

and turns up
the volume

of all the CD players

so they’re blaring
all at once.

I sit at a safe distance,

hug my knees

and think through the noise.

Tammie spins
like a wire top,

veins and bones

jutting out


as she contorts
her body.

She doesn’t get bruises anymore though.

I don’t know why.

I can hear
the sound of bone
hitting metal

even over the dissonant music.

There’s a smile on her face,
          a light in her eyes,

an ease to her dance.

I guess
it’s a dream

she’s really

serious about.


There is

I’m supposed
to think about

but I got so mesmerised by Tammie’s improvement

that I’ve forgotten
what it is.

It’s about a disappearance.

A name,
A name comes to mind.


Someone whispers it to me
from behind.

I turn around

but there’s nobody


is the latest


Even though
Li Wen was the one

who made a fuss.

But even before Raymond disappeared,

the nurses brought
two patients in


there was already

seven of us.


The sound of skin
sliding down metal.

I blink.

Tammie lands on her feet,
tousles her own hair.


Don’t think about it.
It’s over.

Li Wen started the commotion

because of Raymond.

Now that Raymond
is gone…


Tammie leans in close.

I can see
the sweat

dripping down her chest

but I only smell


Her grey eyes
fill my field of vision,

head tilted.


…the problem is solved,
isn’t it?




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