XCV | Something's Not Right

When I open my eyes again,
I’m surrounded

by my portraits of Tammie.

The LED light
above my bed

is a familiar one.

The smell of Tammie
engulfs me entirely.


Why does hell
look like

my bedroom at the asylum?


Tammie giggles.


You idiot.


She rubs her hair
against my shoulder,

from my bed,


I’m alive.

Tammie smiles, apologetic.

I don’t know
how to feel about this.

I watch her
spin around the room,

to music

I can’t hear.

Does she wish
I was dead?

I can’t tell

from her face.

I don’t want
to ask.


Sitting upright,
I realise

all the casts and bandages

are gone.

My limbs have
dark red scars and
black bruises

but nothing hurts.

They didn’t kill me.

Moving is a different matter altogether.

I feel
like my own limbs

have been replaced
with someone


It takes a while
just to get to the door

without falling over.

By the time
I climb down

the stairs,

I’m tired—I wanna go back upstairs

and get in bed again.


But something makes me

Walk forward.

Further into the main hall.

Look each patient
in the eye.

The main hall looks the same
as it always did.

No sign

a fire

ever happened.

The only difference
is the study room

has a red door now.




Everyone is gathered
in the main hall

like it’s medicine time.

There are nurses

like it’s medicine time.

Queenie is gone.
A new patient has taken her place.

A dude
who’s scratching his
private parts.

His eyes meet mine.
No trace of shame.

‘Who are you?’ I ask.

‘Benny,’ he responds.

Takes out his hand
from his pants,

holds it out

for me to shake.

I move on to the next armchair,

David—who’s lowered his head,

into his chest.

He ignores me
and my hand

in front of his face.

Pei Xuan laughs as usual
but it becomes


when I pass her armchair.

Her shrewd eyes
meet mine.

I look away quickly.

Her nails are sharp.
They dig into the armrests.

The only one
with traces of grey hair,
a Malay man.

One of the newer patients.

What’s his name?


He keeps staring at his hands.
He looks up at me,


But then his eyes dull
and he looks



Two new patients.
I have to ask for their names.

A girl with pretty rebonded hair

who doesn’t smile
even when she says hello.

A long-haired guy
that I mistake for a girl

who glares at me

even though his voice
is kind.

Who are they replacing?

I sit in a random

too tired

to cross the room
to my usual seat.

The cushion covers
of this armchair

have a dark brown liquid stain.

I remember
what I touched

crossing the smoke-filled
main hall

during the fire.

The corpse
on the armchair.

This is that armchair.


That means the other patient
who’s not here

also died in the fire.

Wei Xiang.
The zombie dude.


The fire was not part of their plan?

I think about it now
and understand

for the first time.

The nurses in the fire

were not keeping me
from reaching Tammie—

they were trying to save me.

Then in that white room,
they were treating my injuries.

wasn’t helping them

kill me.

She doesn’t want me
to die.

This realisation
makes me smile.


The fire

was an accident.


But what about
the corpses in the studio?




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