XCII | Ring

The sound of someone’s
slow claps.

‘Nice speech…
‘but why
‘must you

‘do this during class?’

It’s Mrs. Lim’s voice.

Julie’s phone disappears
into the depths of her desk.

The paper falls
from Rizwan’s face.

We all turn to look at her,

sitting nearby,
arms crossed.

‘Y-You heard everything?’ I ask.

She gives me a glare
beneath her glasses.


‘Is this related
‘to your project in any way?’

Rowan hides her expression
behind a curtain of black hair

but the tips of her ears
betray her.

‘Yeah, it’s related,’ I say.

‘We’re brainstorming
‘about why people want to die.’

Rizwan sits up suddenly.

‘Mrs. Lim,
‘have you ever wanted to die?’

The corners of her mouth

She seems to be deciding between
answering and escaping.

I’m surprised
when she chooses
to reply,

‘Of course I have.

‘When I was reading the proposals
‘you submitted,

‘I wanted to die.’

The surprise goes away.

She stands up
and escapes from the conversation.

Julie rolls her eyes.

Rowan’s the only one
who thinks seriously

about what Mrs. Lim said.

‘What does means mean?’ she asks Julie.

Julie tells her, ‘Nothing. It’s a joke.’

Rowan turns to Rizwan.
‘Nice question.’

The Malay boy shrugs.
‘I was hoping she’d give us a clue.’

He replaces
the piece of paper
on his face.

‘I’ll just be here thinking
‘of more ideas.

‘Let me know when you’re done

She nods,

her coal-black eyes
fixed on him

instead of turning to me.

She’s scared,
I realise.

The visions I saw with Mr. Ahmad
feel less like dreams now.

‘People who are suicidal,’
I say to her.

‘Have trouble accepting reality.’

Avoiding it may be easier,
or living in denial,

fitting facts into theories

so the world is more

‘The current world
‘is imperfect.

‘Reality and their ideals
‘don’t match.

‘Their superimposed version of the world
‘and their created reality

‘become incompatible.’


Evolution of societal beliefs.
Changing relationships.

A world that shape-shifts
while retaining it’s initial,
unchangeable shape.

‘But just like video games and virtual worlds,
‘it’s plagued with glitches and bugs.

‘The world they create
‘to live in by themselves
‘can’t survive reality.

‘it’s actually
‘the problem of an overactive imagination.’

Meaning disappears.
The save file deletes itself.

A section of virtual landscape

trapping you
inside a neverending


without a way
to exit the game.

Only a force-shutdown of the system,
deleting the programme forever

will save you.

But to delete
the reality you believe

with all your heart
with all your soul

the only reality that makes sense,
‘It’s the total annihilation of self.’

Her eyes don’t waver

they fix on me,
in all their intense
passionate glory.

A faint smile
—not on her lips

—in her eyes.

‘Since you’ve appeared in my life,
‘There’s been nothing but glitches and bugs
‘in my real world.

I thought it’s your fault,

that you’re the virus
corrupting my reality.

But when I think carefully,

that’s not it.

as real

as the real world.

‘So now,
the only option I’m left with

‘is to accept reality
‘or live in my delusion.’

‘Many prefer the delusion,’ Rowan says.

The fire burns
even brighter
in her eyes.

She knows

what my answer is going to be.

She holds out
her hand
to me

over the table.

Julie and Rizwan
look up as well,

we’re all curious despite ourselves

to see what’s
in her fist.

It’s a ring.

at different angles,

I take it
in my hand.

It’s wet.

I dry my hand
and hold it

Still wet.

‘It’s made of water,’
Rowan says,
watching me.

I slide it
onto the ring finger
on my left hand.

‘If I choose my delusion,
‘you won’t be there.’

The ring
fits my finger





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