It has been out for a month! While I do hope that our readers and supporters have managed to get their copy, here’s a glimpse at the introduction for Issue #4: This is a Test:
Keeping the Crust...
In a fast-paced world, it’s very easy to engage in self-criticism in order to keep ahead of the curve. For some people, failure is disappointment. For others, failure is their learning point. And for a few, failure is only the beginning.
Not many of us get a second chance, or a third. The first of our three guest authors, Esther Soh, tells her tale, 'Again', where Eric lands himself in his 39th or 40th chance of a day — stuck in an eternal situation without any sign of a way out. At least, unless he tries it the next… or same day.
Humanity has disappointed time and again, though often coming out with many lessons learnt once the dust settled. That being said, Ganaesh’s story brings up the idea that sometimes, the bandages we wrap around our festering wounds are just 'Never Enough'.
New editor Wayne’s advice rings common in many storytellers’ guidebooks. While his story is titled, 'Kill Your Darlings', you might want to sit tight on this piece for a bit.
In 'The Hole', guest author Kane Wheatley-Holder reminisces on an older man’s failure in life, and a chance to make everything right through a universe-tearing portal found in his own home. Will Sunny get his chance again?
Before we put our pens down though, get your treatment plans in check. D. M. Jewelle uncovered the files of a possibly, deranged mind, leading to what seemed to be 'The Most Arresting Infection'.
Keep safe, and remember that it’s still in its testing stage. That being said, we can assure you — this issue is not a test, and even if it is, you’ve done your homework and studied, right?
Thank you, and your time starts now.
Keep your crusts on!
For those who have already bought your copy of Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar #4: This is a Test, or any Pulp Toast titles for the matter, thank you all once again for your support! Find out more about Pulp Toast or get our other issues here. You can also get copies of Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar #4: This is a Test here.
Most stories don’t happen in one place, so this challenge was straightforward enough. That being said, I don’t know if I can stop this challenge just after one transition written in.
Prompts: When we were kids, What once was lost
“Gao,” she lowered her tiles on the green-felted tables.
The rest of the players lay back against their seats, one in frustration and the other two in resignation. All three looked like they would have to walk out of the place with bags over their heads just to maintain a shrivel of dignity. The wrinkled uncle on her right peered over, his forehead lined with both disbelief and anger.
Four sets of the directional tiles and a pair of Red Dragon tiles stared back like opulent gravestones. All of a sudden, she could see the relief in one of her other opponent’s shoulders.
Thank goodness we agreed on a winnings cap, she projected with a smile.
“Dai Sei Hei,” Resonance Wong said, “Maximum.”
The hesitant shifts in the other seats preceded the grudging clinks of point chips across the mahjong table. That sequence of events then preceded the next show of frustration.
“Okay,” the auntie in her bright flannel top and translucent jade bangle said before she rose from her seat, “That’s it for me, need to be up early tomorrow.”
The second auntie at the table did the same, albeit with a preferable sneer over the saccharine diplomacy from the first auntie counterpart. The last person to leave did so with an unnecessary comment.
“One day, you will see why you need to respect your elders,” the uncle spat at her foot.
Left alone with a table of washed up mahjong tiles, Resonance shrugged and started stacking the tiles back into the Hub’s crocodile skin suitcase. A few stacks in, she lifted her head to a sound she hasn’t heard in a while.
The footsteps stopped, and she slowly lifted her head.
Wilhelm was there, doing that annoying balancing trick he liked to do with the roulette ball on his left hand, holding a folded envelope in his right.
“Something happened,” Resonance said.
He dropped the ball back into his left hand, then handed her the envelope. It was already torn open.
She took the letter out and her eyes darted across the paper. Gradually, she put the piece of paper down, inhaling through her nose in an attempt to keep her eyes steely and unwavering.
“We cremated her yesterday,” Wilhelm said.
“So why are you here?”
“Care for a ride?”
There needed to be a term to describe the smell of the night breeze, Resonance thought to herself. She was named after the inkling of good things to follow - something her birth mother would look for, and get, while she was still pregnant with Resonance.
The view from the Terrace Gardens, atop Mount Faber, was postcard-worthy, but both Resonance and Wilhelm knew they weren’t there to enjoy any kind of view.
“What are you doing here?” Resonance asked, after Wilhelm locked his car and followed her to the closest railing.
“You correctly guess Mum’s death,” Wilhelm said, “Surely you can guess this.”
“I don’t guess,” she replied, “Your mother taught me not to.”
Wilhelm sighed, his breath exhaling through his nose.
“Rez,” he said, “Something happened.”
“Mum didn’t go because of age or sickness,” he continued.
Resonance got up from the railing.
“What did this contender leave?” she asked.
And that’s it from me this month! See you all next month for another Writing Challenge!
I am excited about this post because she is probably one of my greatest influences, especially in the realm of storytelling and managing your artistic / creative side hustle.
So without further ado, here’s Wena’s profile.
You have been incredibly prolific, to say the least - Spain, China, Japan - each travel producing a piece or a series of works. Which have spoken to you the most deeply?
Chang’an, the novel I wrote after spending too much time in China and Japan, about how the two tribes love and hate each other so deeply. The title of the novel is of the Chinese city on which Kyoto is modelled. I followed the words of a Chinese artist who once told me to go to Japan to find China. I did not know what he meant until I was older. China and Japan have reflected each other for thousands of years. As we say in Chinese, 我们之间有讲不完的故事 “between us there are endless stories.”
You have always struck me as an author who places the story and the feeling behind writing the story first - have there been times where you are concerned about the ‘messages’ behind your story and how did you manage to curb the feeling?
Huh? (Blogger’s Note: Oops!) I am always concerned about the message behind my story. If what you mean by message is the idea. The ideas come first, then the story, then the writing it down. No idea means no story. When I hear people saying they have writers’ block, it’s probably because they have no ideas. When there are no ideas, writing becomes a chore.
Which one of your protagonists do you still want to have coffee with today and what would you talk about?
Probably all of them! I miss them so I read my own books whenever I feel like visiting old friends. The designer Alessi said he uses his own products in his home. I agree!
This, however, doesn’t mean I write or self-publish for myself only. Stories are meant to be told and shared. I self-publish not because I can’t find real publishers, but because I have been published by real publishers when young, and now I am mature enough to, like those older Hollywood actresses, “have my own production company”. I distribute on Amazon and major book retail platforms because I hate to get an email from a reader saying, “I can’t get your book in my country.” Traditional publishers can’t guarantee whenever-wherever availability like Amazon’s POD services can. I belong to the Generation of “Instant Click To Buy.” So I want my books to be available the way I expect books to be available to me. I also binge-read and I write my books to be binge-read too! Can you imagine if you read Volume 1, only to be told Volume 2 is sold out or not available in your country? I would go insane. That’s why I do it via POD.
Looking at your Bibliography, you can release a part of a swordfighting serial in the first half of the year, then a chapbook about making madeleines the next - how do you keep your ideas in line and track of each of your projects?
I don’t. I just do whatever. When someone who wanted to write a novel recently asked me what my “process” was, I said “none”. I completed and shared with my friends my first novel at age 14 and wrote many, many novels since. I have been writing novels for 30 years. So, for those MFA types who ask me how I was trained if I didn’t get “training” in writing, I said how many years do you work at a job before people say you have adequate training? Does 30 count? 笑
You’re on a deserted island and you’re stuck with one of your characters, who would you be stuck with - Kai, Siegfred, Taliesin, or Roberto? Why?
Taliesin. He is a fox spirit and can take any form. He is crazy funny and is never boring and will never grow old! How entertaining that would be. And I see you have not met Arthur, hero of Chang’an and Cafe Jause...Arthur would be grim. It would be like spending time with a German philosopher. I can take Arthur in small doses - although he has female (and male) fans.
You’re stuck in a maze with only an hour to get out, who would you pick as your partner - Imogen, Regina, Sei, or Alejandra? Why?
Sei would know how to get me out because she’s the Greatest Swordsperson in the Empire of Jing (gender-neutral title at her request)!
So what’s next for you?
I am writing a turn-of-the-century mystery crime supernatural novel set in Victorian Singapore with an international cast. Using the fun characters in The Great Impresario Oguri: Sparrow, an American woman boxer raised in China by monks, Koto, the Chinese-Japanese son of a prostitute, and Nakayama, a British-educated magistrate from Nagasaki. Singapore will never be the same again when seen through their eyes! 笑
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
Wena has published 16 books of literary fiction and won or was shortlisted for a bunch of international literary prizes, including twice nominated for Singapore Literature Prize. Her website is www.wenapoon.com.
And that’s Wena for you! Stay tuned in October for another story, and its teller. See you all next month!
If you’re going to be around during the Illustration Arts Festival, you would see this familiar-looking cover floating around some of the booths *cough*ROLLING RONINS*cough*.
In a world that encourages overachieving at increasingly younger ages, it’s difficult to embrace the lessons that failure teach us. THIS IS A TEST showcases stories where failure is not only accepted, but a compulsory stage before success.
This issue features guest writers Esther Soh and D. M. Jewelle from Malaysian writers collective Prose-ACK!, local author and filmmaker Kane Wheatley-Holder, and guest artist Debasmita Dasgupta, from FIlms Positive.
Together with its first three issues, Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar Issue #4: This is a Test will also be available for sale at the coming Illustration Arts Festival 2018, with the Rolling Ronins. For more information on Pulp Toast, click here.
When I think Sonnets, I think poetry and it’s something I need to make some effort to get to. Luckily for my planner side, sonnets actually have a loose set of rules:
If you want to know what iambic pentameters are, this video does it rather well.
Prompts: Fading Light, Discovery
The Last Night at the Casino
Digits, coins, and cherries upon the screen,
The melody spins to the lever’s pull.
Wheels, spins, and sweeps wipe the Red and Black clean,
Chips gather, and clump the croupier’s last tool.
Felt tables give you fifty two to hit,
Be they two cards, five, or Russian thirteen.
Six-sided fate plays its last in the pit,
Schrodinger’s numbers in their final scheme.
Your tiles show you the way: North, South, East, West,
Signalling the last winds, the curtain call.
Chips cashed, the team settles down for a rest,
Mission accomplished, a side of windfall.
A final flick, when darkness came, a wave.
Until then, when they call, our next conclave.
Poetry and Sonnets are not necessarily my strong suit. Despite that, I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece! Stay tuned next month for another writing challenge.
I first met Joyce after Pulp Toast’s first panel at All In! Young Writers’ Festival 2017. While we didn’t converse much on the spot, it was clear that the both of us are interested in Young Adult (YA) fiction and telling stories.
After reading her debut novel, ‘Lambs for Dinner’, I got more interested in the imaginative mind behind her stories. So today, I’m happy to have Joyce come and talk with us about her work, and what’s to come for her.
What spoke to and inspired you to write ‘Lambs for Dinner’? Could you share more about how you came about the story?
For me, a novel always begins with the characters. I read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse in my second year of university, and was very taken by the idea of the man/wolf dichotomy. I wanted to explore the psyche of a person who believed he housed two disparate identities and how that would affect his relationship with people around him. How would a person like that approach a romantic relationship? What kind of relationship would he have with his surrogate parents? His actual parents? His best friend? How far would he go to protect them? That was where it all started.
Which one of your characters do you still want to have coffee with today and what would you talk about?
Come to think of it, a lot of my main characters are pretty damaged! But I still want to have tea with all of them. I like characters who are irreverent, speak their mind, and can talk about the most random things. For that reason, I'll have to go with Lexi, this free-spirited character from a YA magical realism novel I wrote back in university. Drew from LAMBS FOR DINNER comes a close second, mainly because he's so snarky sometimes. We'd trade insults back and forth until Skye tells us to break it up.
You have novels, picture books, and collections released - which medium do you find yourself gravitating to these days and do you think you’ve found a focus?
I typically write novels and short stories these days, but I've always loved writing novels the most. It was what first made me fall in love with writing, when I wrote a (terrible) mystery novel when I was 11, inspired by the Nancy Drew series.
I set up a short story blog with a couple of friends and write a short story every month, which offers a nice break from writing novels and keeps the creative juices flowing. But there's something about the process of writing a novel that keeps me coming back for more every time - plotting, developing character arcs, exploring character relationships, world-building, building the story up to the climax. It's also inevitably painful each time, but so, so worth it.
Writing is often touted as a solitary practice, but you have managed to participate in short story blog Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand for a while now. What are your greatest differences with writing on your own and with a group?
I set up Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand with my friends with the intention to keep myself accountable (nothing like a deadline and a posting schedule to make sure you produce those monthly short stories - no excuses!), to grow a reading/writing community, to experiment with different ways of telling a story (e.g. writing in different genres and forms), to get the creative juices flowing, to break away from writing the novel, and to discover new writers.
Managing this blog with Meredith and Nicole is really a group effort - we make a great team, with Nicole the meticulous organiser consistently keeping us on track, Meredith updating our Twitter profile and reaching out to fellow writers, while I handle the Instagram profile and brainstorm ideas for regular and new features.
Writing is a solitary effort, and sometimes it gets a little lonely. But with a project like that bringing us all together, it makes writing a more social activity because we share a common goal of making the blog as helpful and engaging as possible for our readers.
What’s Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand’s direction heading to nowadays? Is it aligned with where you’re going creatively speaking?
Apart from our regular stories, we're veering towards building a community and sharing our writing experiences and tips with our readers now - with regular series like Wondering Wednesdays and Writing Notebook, where we talk about each stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to writing to querying to publication. Because writing is often such a solitary activity, I love talking about process with fellow writers. It definitely reinforces my love for writing!
So what’s next for you?
I'm currently working on two manuscripts, one YA contemporary and another YA East-Asian fantasy. You can read about them in this blog post. I plan to finish either by this year and gather as much feedback and critique from beta readers and critique partners as possible so I can polish it as close to perfection for publication.
Just before we finish up, which quirky superstition do you still hold close to you today? And why?
I'm not a particularly superstitious person. But I do sometimes knock on wood especially when I accidentally blurt something unfortunate, like death.
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I'm a magazine editor by day, novelist by any other possible time. I write stories about broken people looking to belong, to settle, to escape. Those are also the stories I gravitate towards. Occasionally, I stumble upon a really good story that sweeps me away into another world, another life, another reality - and I hope my stories do the same for whomever stumbles upon them too.
Joyce Chua graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in English. Her contemporary YA novel, LAMBS FOR DINNER, was published by the Straits Times Press in 2013 as part of a nationwide competition. She currently lives in the perennially sunny island-city of Singapore, where she writes short stories at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand and shares her thoughts at The Writes of Passage in between writing her next novel and dreaming about mythical worlds.
August has come and gone, but September will arrive soon with another Story, and its Teller. Stay tuned!
The challenge given was not exactly a scene where a character dies, but a scene with a death in it. Despite this, I’m going to go with the prompts and see where this challenge takes me.
Prompt: Crossroads & Dead-ends, The Best Laid Plans
The Final Piece
If anything, I was going to cross over anyway.
Do not be upset, though I know that in your usual fashions, you will probably not listen to me. Instead, ask yourselves how you’re going to move on from here.
Eamon, keep at your driving. I know you’re often overlooked or feel taken for granted. But I can assure you - even from where I am - that you mean so much more to the rest of us than ever. When the time comes for you to continue your legacy and choose your own proteges, remember that it’s the strengths of their hearts that count, and not just their sharpness of mind and reflexes. You are ready to give back and pass your skills on. I know I’ve learnt more than a few things from you.
Iris, the closer you look, the less you see, remember that. I will always remember your first day at the compound - tricked into playing 52-Pickup by the rest of your seniors. Well, what a fat lot of good they turned out to be. I don’t ever have any plans for you because you often already have those. So the next time you sleight a card from your next target, ensure that you don’t give the rest of your teammates the same slip. You may be alone at the card table, but you’re never alone in life.
Keenan, you told me that you’ll be grateful to even have dice to roll than be afraid of the roll’s outcome. Look at how far that has gotten you! The world is as fair as the dice in your pockets, but know that the dice you weight can save us from time to time. I trusted my gut and brought you into the team, and that was the same reason why you have been able to excel so greatly. The next time you roll a pair for a major decision, however, think about this instead - Did the situation call for the need to leave it up to fate? Or have you already rolled the dice in your mind?
Wilhelm, my son, my dear son. I am so sorry that you had to see me like this while dealing with all the truths behind how the family treated you because of your gift. I’m so sorry that you never had the desire or the opportunity to really connect with your father. I’m sure I’ll be able to bump into him now that I’m where I am, but now a decision has fallen onto your lap - will you be able to continue what we all started or have our team find their own way? Regardless, we love and support you with your decision, whether it’s one you pondered or one you bet on at the wheel.
Resonance, the one who got away, the one I miss at the mahjong table. Whether or not you get this message from my son or any of the team, I want you to know that I’m proud of you - whoever you have become. I trust that you have been paying back, what we all teach our students to do, like you’ve always wanted to do for a while, and at least you know your way. Keep at it. We all know that the world always need a bit of that unique twist you bring to the table. We both know that it’s not exactly the luck of the draw at the table, but the form of the hand and the disposition of the player.
I won’t be able to give you advice anymore, but I leave this realm knowing and confident with the five of you.
Regardless, I leave the choice of this team with all of you.
Know that I will support and love you all, no matter your choice.
This has been my plan.
Know the team’s. Know yours.
So that’s it from me this month. Stay tuned next month for another writing challenge!
Samantha is one of the first few Speculative Fiction writers in Singapore I’ve had the pleasure to meet. When Val (the bestie) said her cousin had written and published a fantasy series, I was intrigued. Fast forward about almost a decade later, and here she is - a stalwart in the local self-publishing scene.
Let’s see what she has to share about her works and our publishing scene, especially for speculative fiction.
A few years after “Blood on the Moon” was released, you re-released another edition - how was each release like and what were the differences you were happy to make?
The first edition was my virgin foray into self-publishing, and that was a significant milestone for me. The second edition was more of a return to my formative years spent with Gothic Lit with a contemporary take on it. So instead of letters and news articles à la Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I use instant message transcripts and emails to tell parts of the story. I would say that the incorporation of these different modes of narrative was the change I was most happy to make, because it added so much lovely texture to the story.
Alegria does fight to keep many things together - non-human relations, her relationship, her job, her life - how does she do it and how similar do you think the both of you are?
Hah, she does have a lot of moving elements in her life at the same time! I think in the first book, Alegria’s way of dealing with it was compartmentalizing, but it became apparent to Alegria, towards the end of Blood On The Moon, that this approach was not exactly the best. She definitely does a better job accepting the overlaps in all the (rapidly) moving elements in her life in Hunter’s Moon, and part of that is a result of her embracing the shadow sides of herself in Blood On The Moon. This is still going to be a big challenge for her moving forward, because there are always more moving parts.
As to how similar we both are … I think in terms of keeping many moving parts together, I was more like her when I started writing Blood On The Moon, and now I’m markedly less so.
Which one of your protagonists do you still want to have a barbecue with today and what would you talk about?
Oh, for sure I would want to have a barbecue with Joao — like literally, co-host a BBQ with the Prince of Sleet City. Not just because the meat would be perfectly seasoned (and also sponsored by the Sleet City Clan, muahahaha), but because … as I and my characters evolve in tandem, I feel at this point I have much more in common with Joao than I did when I wrote Blood On The Moon. I think we would have a pretty riveting discussion about impostor syndrome and the corrupting nature of power, and how one deals with both.
You have been to various countries and places for research and for some time to just write - Portugal, Indonesia, just to name a few - which have been your most fruitful and why?
That’s a tough choice! I would say that my first hike up to (very) high ground in Taman Negara, my solo sojourn to Koh Lipe in Thailand, my first ride on the northbound Malayan railway up to KL, which — I later learned — my great grandfather helped to engineer (the railway, not my journey, though he did sort of indirectly engineer that journey if you want to get super technical about it). Happily getting lost in the streets of Tokyo, and also my forays into the mayhem of Jakarta and Saigon, cobbled streets and the crisp, gentle Mediterranean winter for the first time … these were all very fruitful for me.
Why? Well, every place I go has something to teach me, and each place makes my stories richer. And these places stood out particularly in terms of the value of the gifts I received from my experiences there. The first railway ride on the northbound Malayan rail up to KL felt like I was time-travelling and there was a possible Narnia situation impending; Koh Lipe because every minute spent underwater hanging out with grumpy fish among the corals helped me to create the sense of the sublime in Hunter’s Moon, and Barcelona because it was there that I understood what it would be like to live in the Sleet City Clan, i.e., surrounded by really good-looking men all the time. So. Fun. (Non-facetious reason: it was there that I was inspired to start using ley lines in the plot.)
If you had to rewrite Alegria such that she didn’t meet any Daywalkers, what other communities would you have her meet and why?
I would really like her to spend more time with Southeast Asian Supes, like apsara, werecobras, and rainforest dryads. Because I think a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction focuses way too much on mythological and supernatural creatures in Western folklore, while this rich (and often terrifying) tapestry of Southeast Asian myths and spooks is largely unknown to international fans of these genres. Possibly she could also meet zombies, but sort of advocate for them as they have very few legal rights (or rights of any kind, really). I’m not ruling either of these out as smaller plot threads!
You have come to a point where you have to choose an animal partner for life - which one of your were-animals would you want by your side and why?
I would like a wereotter by my side for life. Because they move really fast in the water, and they’re fantastic at catching fish — and I am at my happiest when in any body of water and while eating sashimi (both at the same time would be so frakkin awesome). As far as lycanthropes go, wereotters are freakishly strong, making them also very handy with gardening and heavy lifting. Romance, thy name is … not Samantha. :P
So what’s next for you?
There’s the next book in The Daywalker Chronicles to write, titled Dark Moon Rising. Before that, I also have a surreal and absurdist comedy + sci-fi(ish) fiction project that will be released by the end of the year, titled Molly and Manuel Find Earth-42. It features parallel universes and sentient plush creatures, including a mercenary plush lobster.
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
Yippee! About me TLDR: author of The Daywalker Chronicles, developmental editor, Cylon, and accidental sociopolitical commentator. Always happy to talk shop with makers of stories and other cool things/ discuss world-building of many sorts. Ping me on Twitter here (@mysterybunny) or find out more about The Daywalker Chronicles here.
That being said, that’s all for July! Stay tuned in August for another conversation with another regional storyteller - until then!
Yes, the Table of Contents is out and we’re at our last dregs of editing before we put this issue together!
To give you just a bit of background, this issue’s theme is: This is a Test - an issue that talks about stories where their characters embrace failure, coming out of it for better or for worse.
While I cannot confirm its release date for sale, Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar #4 will most likely be open for preorder by Singapore Toys, Games, and Comics Convention.
For now, get a glimpse of our final list of stories:
Preorder updates will be up on our Facebook page once we send this issue to the printers. In the meantime, take a look at our current issues on www.pulptoast.com or on our Instagram.
I’ll be honest - I’ve been waiting for this challenge for a long time, so let’s just get right to it, shall we?
Prompts: Inner Demons, A failed delivery
World / Fandom: Inception
The Mind’s Eye
Karine looked down from the helicopter with bated breath. The chopper pulsed, its beat banging against the back of her head as they flew across the tree canopies, finally coming to a clearing in the middle of the forest.
“There,” her partner, Dr. Kang, pointed at a building in the middle of the clearing, “That’s where you need to go.”
“Don’t you mean, ‘we’?” Karine yelled over the chopper.
The look Dr. Kang gave Karine reminded her of her purpose for this mission. Making the final checks on their parachutes, both of them waited for the signal on their trackers to turn on, before loosening their grip and plunging into the forest nearby.
Landing among the trees, the pair recovered quickly, hiding in the shadows, sneaking their way to the building.
“There are guards,” Karine breathed, her hands shaking.
“And we’ll handle them,” Dr. Kang replied, bringing the walkie-talkie to her mouth, “Control, help us out here.”
Karine didn’t hear anything apart from a slight crackle coming from the speakers.
From where it was previously, the chopper swooped closer to where the pair landed, releasing a clip of bullets onto another forested area on the other side of the land. Yells ensued beyond the barrier of trees, followed by the sound of propellers whizzing away towards a far flung direction. Dr. Kang hazarded a peek from the shadows.
“All clear,” she gestured towards Karine.
Despite their chopper’s rather effective distraction, both of them kept to the walls of this compound, armed and ready for conflict. There were no gates or fences separating this building from its surroundings, and they had to be ready.
“Where’s it?” Dr. Kang asked.
“What are you looking for?!”
“We’ve been working up to this stage for so long, you’re doing a lot better than our previous attempts,” Dr. Kang said, “What are you looking for?!”
Karine darted her eyes to the top of the building.
“Good,” Dr. Kang said, “I’ll cover you.”
The building was an older, rectangular building reminiscent of army barracks from the 1930s. Serviced only by staircases leading up on either side of the place. Back and shoulders against the textured concrete, Dr. Kang took the led, armed and ready for any of the skeleton crew still patrolling the area.
“You know which room you need to head to,” she briefed Karine.
Both of them nodded, and the two sped up, Kang first.
When they reached the second floor, Karine stopped and turned left, “Here.”
Counting the doors, Karine finally stopped in front of the fifth closed door. She put her palm on the surface, then to the handle.
It clicked. Karine looked at Dr. Kang with a smile.
Dr. Kang nodded.
Pushing the door ajar, Dr. Kang’s head jerked up at the sound of a pair of footsteps speeding up from behind Karine. She pushed her partner through the door.
“Go! Go on!” Dr. Kang yelled to Karine. Panicked, Karine bursts through the room.
She cocked the gun she had, and fired twice.
The two bullets found their marks on each masked man’s shoulders, sending them back a few steps and Dr. Kang forward the same few. As she got closer, however, she started to recognize their masked silhouettes.
Firing a couple of times, the bullets missed their mark, the two masked men coming closer and planting themselves as a barrier between Dr. Kang and her. Determined to push through, Dr. Kang dove through the tiniest crack between the two, only to be grabbed and pushed against the building’s railings.
“We’re kind of disappointed,” the two men said, now flanking her on each side, “We were hoping you’d be dreaming a little bigger.”
The last thing she felt was her body lifted over the railing, and off the ledge.
She woke up to see Karine, her patient, looking over her, furrowed brows and concerned eyes. Tables turned, she thought, waving Karine away and propping herself up on the chaise lounge.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Dr. Kang breathed, “I think that’s it for today, you can set your next appointment with Yasha outside… I’ll see you then…”
Backing up a little, grabbing her handbag a little too quickly, Karine nodded and sped out the door.
At the last dregs of her recovery, Wynne Kang opened a drawer near her chaise, extracting an EpiPen. With still-trembling hands, she clicked and injected its contents into her shoulder, before slumping back into the lounge.
“Thank you all for coming to this lecture, I’ll be taking questions now,” Wynne smiled at the end of her speech.
“What is your view on using your proposed bio-technology for purposes not as altruistic as what you’re doing now?” a familiar voice sounded from the corner, one of the same voices from the treatment scape.
Catching the asker at the corner of her eye, she smirked.
“I see your taste hasn’t changed,” Wynne said, dropping Eames at the lobby of the Carlton.
“How much of Arthur rubbed off you the last we saw you?”
She shrugged and smiled.
“Fancy a trip?” he gestured to the lift.
“The compound’s not a toy,” she replied. He shrugged, then entered the lift. She followed.
There was shuffling behind the door the two of them stopped in front of. Wynne’s brows furrowed. Eames smirked, and unlocked the door.
“Okay, everything’s ready, let me know when she…”
Arthur, in his familiar vest and shirt, stopped just as he finally laid his eyes on Wynne.
“Arthur,” she greeted him.
She walked past the two men, leaving them in the front lobby. Past the open bathroom, she leaned over the living area and saw the familiar silver case, clipped close.
On the other side of the room, Arthur and Eames kept their eyes on her - both softened.
“I called Dom for this,” she said.
“Dom’s retired,” Arthur shifted his weight, “So it’s us or nothing at all.”
Wynne paused, looking at her previous partners when she first started in the business.
“Alright then,” Wynne said, reaching into her bag and extracted a spray bottle the size of a perfume sampler, “Then we’re going under my way.”
This was probably one of my most fun pieces to write, and one of the pieces I’ll most likely expand on. Stay tuned next month for another writing challenge!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.