Little Nightmares

Sleep paralysis happens when your mind wakes but your body doesn’t. Your eyes might open but you find you can’t move, can’t even twitch a finger, and then the hallucination start. One time I opened my eyes to see a pallid humanoid creature with bulbous eyes staring right back at me; its too-large head rested on my chair, while the rest of its spindly body collapsed on the floor. Another morning, I opened my eyes and sighed in relief to see the sunlight pouring through the windows. My room smelled of warm clean cotton. While I struggled to get up, there was the slam of a door from out side my room. Then the screaming started.

A recurring dream. Moonlight pours in through the window and everything is black and white. From the folds of my blanket a long black shape emerges. Then another. I feel a hundred little legs crawl over my toes and thighs, and I cannot even open my mouth to scream.
With a jolt I wake up. Still paralysed, I can only watch as another insect clambers out from the dark.

At home I sleep in the top bunk of a double decker bed. My sister sleep talks, and moves around a lot so I’m being woken up by her muttering in the middle of the night. So it wasn’t a surprise to wake one night to hear wood creaking, followed by a bump. Then I remembered that she was away that night. Ear pressed against my pillow, I heard another on wood and wondered what was waiting for me below.

It doesn’t matter how often I check the door before I go to sleep, or even if I lock it; I’d wake up the next morning to find it open. Some mornings it is swung wide open, and I’d wake to hear my family puttering around in the living room. Other times I wake up in the middle of the night to find that it is open a crack, darkness just barely pouring into the room.

I wake up one night with the absolute certainty that someone was standing behind me. He – I know it is a he – is tall and looms over, listens to my shallow breathing. I wonder if I have enough time to call for help before he attacks.
Sucking in a breath, I scream. There is the crisp sound of a blade being drawn, just before it comes slicing down.
Little Nightmares

That Everything You Chose Was A Mistake

Fear is ending up as you:
potato chips crusting your fingers
as you regale us with tales of the time
you spent flying with gryphons,
of your twenty-three inch waist,
twenty-three also at your own wedding
where you carried lilies, auguring your own
future. For years your body grew bulbous,
fruiting. After a while, it just grew.
When I find myself spinning my yarns,
I shudder, snip the threads. It is so easy to slip
into you. Fear is that there is such a thing
as fate, as red threads, as karmic parallels.
Needles and knives sliding under skin,
choking down the hundred and thirteenth pill,
I gasp awake at the little nightmares,
watch other women with their husbands
slung over their arms like handbags.
At least they knew how to stop at two.

Prompt: Write a poem expressing something you’ve always wanted to say to someone, but couldn’t to their face.

That Everything You Chose Was A Mistake

The Filial Tiger’s Wife

The first thing you need to know is this: he loved his mother, and not in the way you think.

I married him because he was tall and strong, and had clean white teeth that shone in his mouth like pearls when he smiled. He courted me in the evenings when he passed by my home from the fields; first with bouquets of wildflowers, then new clothes, exquisitely embroidered. The final gift was a blue dress the colour of the sky. He told me I could wear it at our wedding. He promised he would care for me for all my life, so long as I cared for his mother while he was out in the fields.

That should have been my first warning.  Continue reading “The Filial Tiger’s Wife”

The Filial Tiger’s Wife

Strange Tales From A Singaporean’s Bedroom

The monk told him to give his wife realgar wine to force the snake demoness to reveal her true form. When her last breath sputters in her lungs, she turns white but does not grow scales. He never finds the monk again.
Four years after their exile from each other, the Cowherd tells the Weaving Maid that they must let go. If a day in heaven is a year on earth he will be dead in two months. Their children have long outgrown the baskets he carried them with when he chased her across the sky. He has new aches and scars she does not know. When he turns to go, the bridge of magpies dip under his weight for the first time. For years after, the clouds she weaves hang low in the sky, the colour of a bruise.

Continue reading “Strange Tales From A Singaporean’s Bedroom”

Strange Tales From A Singaporean’s Bedroom

Even Heaven Needs Colour

The cowherd prepares a picnic of the weaver girl’s favourite foods and takes them up the magpie bridge. As always, he gives her a crown of aster flowers he has woven himself, the violently coloured petals a shock against her dark head and pastel clothing. Her delight in receiving them are always the the same as the first time, on a summer evening by a lake. In heaven there are only peonies and lotus flowers, profusions of pale heads nodding obediently in gentle breezes, while the lady and gentlemen deities stroll, feasting on peaches. He can hear their genteel laughter trickle down to the Milky Way, and imagine all-too-easily their white hands and soft skin. His own has toughened into leather. Every one of his nails is cracked, and the dirt under them will not go no matter how hard he scrubs. This morning, he found a strand of white hair on his head. He wonders for how much longer they will be able to keep up these meetings, and can almost see the Queen Mother’s satisfied smirk. As though she can hear his thoughts, the weaver girl tilts his face down toward her, takes his hand and squeezes hard. He can feel the callouses on her palms. When he kisses her, he tastes the peach juice dripping from her lips, and feels the weight of the years lift.

Prompt: Write a pastoral poem that is also a poem of protest.

#EisnerBonus: Do not use language that potentially undermines the authority and legitimacy of a government and its public institutions.
Even Heaven Needs Colour