Monday, May 5, 2014

The Prize

I actually wrote this short story a long time ago, in 2008, and it was published in Write Out Loud: a series of original contemporary writings, by Oak Publication, with editor Karen Ann Theseira, retailed at RM29.90 in MPH, though they no longer print them :p

It is one of the reasons why I never gave up on writing. I must be doing something right, isn't it? ;)

Enjoy! :D

****

THE PRIZE
by Lisa Kwan

            “Good morning. Welcome to Brittany’s Beauty Shop. How may I help you?” chirped a young bespectacled girl. A tall, slim woman wearing a red suit stood in front of the counter.
            “I’d like a manicure and pedicure, please.”
            “Wonderful. If you’ll just write your name and address in our guest book here, you’ll be right on your way to a relaxing time at Brittany’s Beauty Shop,” she said, still in a chirpy voice.
            The woman took the pen handed to her and signed her name. She was certainly an elegant woman, well dressed with simple but effective make-up on. She had features that many women would envy. But the young receptionist was not looking at her face like the others in the beauty parlour were. She was staring at the slender, polished hands that held the pen.
            Her fingers. So beautiful. So……perfect.
            She gave her ‘Brittany’s Beauty Shop’ smile as the woman completed writing the details and looked up.
            “We’ll be sending you some brochures on the latest offers and packages at Brittany’s from time to time, Miss……”, she glanced down at the page, “…Miss Anna. Would you like that?” she watched her and cocked her head suggestively.
            “It’s madam, actually. And yes, I’d like that, thank you,” the woman answered.
            “Oh, yes. My mistake. I beg your pardon, madam.”
            Oh. She’s married. That will complicate matters a bit.
            “Well, if you’ll just follow Chloe here,” she gestured to the girl standing beside her, “she’ll take you to the parlour.”
            “Thank you, er……Sara,” the woman bent over to read the young girl’s name tag.
            Sara smiled. “No. Thank you, and have a nice day.”
            As the woman walked away, Sara looked at the guest book and copied the address written by the last customer into her personal notebook.
            No. She grinned. Thank you.

****

            Anna sighed and laid her head on the headrest of the swiveling chair in her office. She studied the ceiling of her air-conditioned room, just to let her eyes rest after staring at the computer the whole day. She closed her eyes and let her mind drift as she stretched her arms.
            Boy, am I tired. There’s just so much work to do. So many deadlines! All these projects are just killing me. And the kids! Thank God for Mrs. Houser. She handles the children better than I ever could. We don’t pay her enough for watching them at home.
            She gave another sigh.
            I’m just…so…tired……
            And before she knew it, she was fast asleep.
As everything turned dark, Anna found herself walking along a lonely street. It was badly-lit. Even the moon didn’t lend its soft light to help guide her way. She couldn’t even see what was at the end of the street.
She walked quickly. Her hurried footsteps echoed loudly in the quiet night. There was no one in sight. She felt alone and so afraid. Where is this place? Her heart beat wildly and she couldn’t calm her poor, wrecked nerves. She hugged herself tight against the bone-chilling winds.
Was she really as alone as she thought? She sensed a pair of eyes watching her every move. She glanced behind her as she quickened her pace. Nothing. She looked straight ahead. Where am I going? She did not know.
But that uneasy feeling overwhelmed her once more and she stopped dead in her tracks. She swung around, her heart beating faster than before.
A dark figure loomed before her. The figure lifted his arm. His hand brandished a knife! And before Anna had a chance to open her mouth to scream….
“Hey, boss!” A booming voice pierced into her subconscious mind.
Anna was jerked back to reality, sweating profusely. Her hair around her face was drenched in sweat. She panted like a thirsting dog.
“Me and the other guys were gonna grab a bite to eat after work and we were wondering…..er, boss?” the short, plump man in his thirties suddenly noticed Anna’s condition.
“Boss, you okay?” he looked concerned.
Anna smoothed her wet hair and sat upright.
“Yeah, I’m fine, Tim. Uh….you guys go on without me. I’m just gonna whip something up when I get home. Besides, the nanny will be waiting for me so she can go home. Don’t worry about me,” she added when she noticed her colleague staring at her strangely. With a nervous chuckle, “I’m fine, really. Go on,” she said and ushered him out.
She blew a deep breath, relieved.
What a scary dream. Thank God it’s just that. A dream.
She had been having the same dream for the past few weeks. And she was getting worried. Could dreams like this be a sign, a warning? But that just seemed ridiculous. Which was why she hadn’t told Eric about it.
I’m being silly, she thought as she packed her things into her briefcase.
It’s just a dream and nothing else. Scary, yes, but a dream after all.
Or was it?

****

            Sara sat in the seat of her old blue Datsun. It was a second-hand car, about fifteen years old now. Everything in the car creaked. And she winced every time it did. She must be careful.
            She shifted in her seat. Her back was getting sore from having to sit still for so long. But it was crucial that she did not alert anyone of her presence there. She had even changed the number plate of her Datsun earlier. She wouldn’t want someone to recognize the car.
            She took a deep breath. She was always nervous at this time. She returned to watching that particular house on Sunnyside Street. The lights in the hall were still on.
            She must still be doing her yoga. It’ll be anytime soon now.
            She took a sip of coffee from her flask and placed it back on the dashboard. She needed to stay alert. It was important.
            She had chosen a Sunday night to do it. After spying on Anna for the past three weeks, she knew her routine by heart. She had penned down all her daily activities in her personal notebook.
            Sunday night was when the husband would work late and the kids were put to bed early for school the next morning. Then, she’d do a little yoga before she went off to bed. The maid would have left ages ago. She would be alone at home with the three children.
            The lights in the front of the house were turned off.
            Ah. Good. She’s going to bed now.
            Upstairs, the lights turned on instead. A while later, everything in the house was dark. Outside on the street, every other house was in darkness too.
            Good. This will make things much easier.
            Sara got out of the car with her bag. The contents of which, only she knew. She crossed the street silently and stood before the dark blue door nervously.
            She played in her mind everything she had planned. She knew where the spare keys were kept. She saw the husband retrieve it once. She knew where her bedroom was. She knew the husband wouldn’t be back till much later. Giving her ample time to finish what she came here to do. And she knew exactly what she needed to do.
            Sara could hardly contain her excitement, nervous as she was. She rubbed her gloved hands eagerly.
            The time had come.

****

            Anna sat up on her bed facing the window, and watched the stars twinkling brightly. The sky was full of stars tonight. Slowly, she lay down again on her warm bed. She listened to the crickets making their nightly music. She listened to the sound of her own breathing. Anything to get her mind off the uneasiness she felt right then.
            She emptied her mind of all things. Then, one by one, she thought of her family – her husband, Eric, and three darling children; Lee-Ann, Matthew and baby Carrie-Ann. She felt more at peace. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
            In a second, her eyes flung open. The uncomfortable feelings she was experiencing had intensified. She turned around. And she saw a dark figure above her which was all too familiar. As the light streamed in, she recognized the smiling face.
            A knife gleamed in the moonlight.
            Nooo!
            Darkness enveloped her.

****

            Sara returned to her apartment, exhausted. She was always tired out after. She left her bag of tools in her closet and took off her gloves. She just felt like having a nice, warm shower.
            After she had washed up, she went to her dressing table where she had placed her prize. She felt such immense satisfaction as she stared at the container.
            Finally, another addition to my collection.
            She lifted the container up against the light and admired the slender, delicate finger with the blood red nail polish. Perfect.
            Carefully, and gently, she laid the narrow tube into the icebox beneath her dresser with the others.
            She thought of Miss Heather whom she had met that day at Brittany’s. She, too, had beautiful fingers. Perfect fingers.
            A wave of excitement came over her. She shivered in anticipation as she turned off her bedroom lamp.
            I just can’t wait.


THE END

© COPYRIGHT OF LISA KWAN 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Safe

by Lisa Kwan

Written for: The Writer's Tower
Theme: The Evil Within (May)
Deadline: 2nd June 2014

The police are here.
Sirens wail and the flashing red and blue reflect off the walls. I am crouched beneath Rob’s work desk in his home office, heart pounding, but surprised to realize that I am still trembling.
I anticipate their kicking down the front door, bursting upon the scene like the heroes they think they are, knights in shining armour atop equally shining white horses.
Armed officers case the living room as they enter, then swiftly move further into the house, checking the other rooms, yelling “Clear!” Still, I wait, patiently and calmly, for them to discover me. And discover the bodies. Whichever came first.
“Sir! In here, sir!”
They must be in the kitchen now. Thundering footsteps moving towards the back of the house, away from where I am, then almost absolute silence. I can imagine the sight that greets them: a cluttered kitchen with a carton of milk spilt over, an upset box of cereal, sticky leftover bowls of batter for pancakes—an abandoned breakfast. And of course: blood spattered everywhere, two mutilated bodies, barely recognizable anymore, and severed heads, placed side by side, their eyes wide open, looking mildly astonished.
A female scream. Then gagging and throwing up, hopefully into Donna’s well-polished sink. She never liked messes, especially in her kitchen.
Well. I guess there’s nothing she can really do about it now.
“Search the rest of the house! Secure the boy!” The gruff voice of probably the head of police. More thundering footsteps as they spread out about the house.
An officer enters the room I am hiding in. He pauses at the entrance, then takes several rapid steps forward, turns around and aims his gun at me, under the table. I whimper, and scoot further backwards, attempting to hide in the shadows under the desk, absolutely terrified.
“Shit,” the officer muttered.
“Sir, I found the boy! East section of the house!” He calls out to the Head, then kneels down in front of me. “Come on kid, don’t be afraid. You’re safe now.” He offers a hand and, still trembling, I reach for it. This stranger pulls me into a fierce embrace, and I almost feel safe.

***

I am sitting on a couch in what seems like a coffee room down at the police station, heavily wrapped in blankets. I had protested, but everyone fussed around me, barely listening. Nursing a cup of hot chocolate in my hands, I almost felt normal again.
Detective Sean, a middle-aged man sporting a rather pathetic-looking goatee, strode into the room, clutching a file in one hand and staring intensely at an ancient-looking pocket watch in the other. He had earlier introduced himself, back at the house; he seemed like a nice, dependable if rather eccentric man, especially his sad-excuse of a goatee.
I must have looked funny, because he abruptly said, “You can go ahead and laugh. Everybody else already has. But you just wait a couple of months, it’s going to be glorious, and everyone will have to eat their words.” He smirked.
But then he sat down directly opposite me, placed the file between us on the table, suddenly all solemn and businesslike. He glanced at his pocket watch once more before pocketing it, seeming more like a nervous habit than anything else.
He cleared his throat. “Charles,” I cringed at that name, “I know this is difficult, but I really need you to tell me what happened, anything you can remember.” He leaned forward. “Everything that happened before, right up until the moment you called the police.”
I slowly shook my head, tears filling and, just as quickly, falling from my eyes. “I-I can’t.”
Detective Sean looked pained. “Do you think you could try? I’m going to be here, and I’ll help you every step of the way. Whatever you say could help us find the bastard—pardon my language—who  murdered your parents in such a gruesome manner.”
When I remained stoically silent, the detective got up and tentatively sat beside me on the couch, slung an arm around my shoulders. “I’ll make sure whoever did this is brought to justice. I promise you. But I need your help. Do you think you could?” He prompted, gently.
I took in a shuddered breath, and lied.

***

Detective Sean held my hand as he led me towards the lobby. A grey-haired matronly woman stood waiting, her eyes looking over every inch of me, like a worried mother hen. Strange, since I have never met this woman before in my life.
She hugged me, so tightly I couldn’t breathe. “Poor baby, oh you poor baby,” she sobbed. She ran her knobbly hands up and down my back; I stiffened.
“Hold on a sec, buddy, let me talk to Mrs. Lee for a bit. Then she’ll take you home.” He kneeled in front of me, like that other officer did before, and looked me straight in the eye.
“Don’t be afraid, okay? I’ll take care of everything. In the meantime, Mrs. Lee will take good care of you while we figure things out. Okay, buddy?”
I nodded, silent, eyes downcast.
As the detective and Mrs. Lee spoke in hushed tones in the corner of the lobby, I shuffled around listlessly. Then I spotted a ladybug crawling along the edge where the floor meets the wall. How often do you see one? I inched closer, lifted my foot, and stepped on it.
“Come along, Charles. Let’s go home.” I frowned at the mention of that name again. I hated it, because it sounded so old-fashioned. I had always preferred Chuck, but Donna and Rob insisted on calling me that stupid name anyway. It annoyed me to no end.
Mrs. Lee took my hand and we walked towards the main entrance. Detective Sean gave a quick wave, but I turned away, trying to look as upset as I should, considering the circumstances. I’m recently orphaned, I told myself, so I should act like it. I had to keep up the pretences. The stuttering, the trembling, the crying. At least for a while.
As Mrs. Lee and I drove off in her humble old car, she glanced at me and hesitantly spoke. “I’m really so sorry about your parents, Charles. Nobody deserves that.”
I looked out the window, let the tears flow, made sure Mrs. Lee saw. Who knows what counts as “deserving” of such a death? Maybe they were liars and cheaters? Or maybe they called me ‘Charles’ one too many times? Who is to know?
A flash of Donna and Rob’s faces, their mouths rounded in wide ‘O’s, as I stabbed them over and over again. Their looks of shock and betrayal, of not understanding. Then their gradually weak resistance and struggle as their blood and life seeped out of them. The thrill, the adrenaline rush!
This time, I hid a smile, made sure Mrs. Lee never saw. I just had to be careful. I already had the detective and now Mrs. Lee eating out of the palm of my hands. After all, I’m only a helpless six-year-old orphaned boy, a victim. If I keep this up, I just might be able to get away with it. I’ll be safe.



THE END


© COPYRIGHT OF LISA KWAN 2014