by Chiean Tien Thum, Age 17, Malaysia
In The Blood-streaked Dress
I reached out for the seven hundred and sixteenth time.
The little girl strode towards the park. The lingering confusion clouded my face again, but this time it came along with a deep sense of depression. No one seemed to be able to see me or hear me. They did not even respond to my touch.
No way, it couldn’t be! A sense of panic overwhelmed my mind.
I waved my hands aloft, seeking another man’s attention as he jogged past me. But as I had feared, he did not see me.
Nothing actually made sense.
It was six o’clock sharp in the evening, I remembered, and I was at the square gazing at the town clock. Out of the blue, a blinding light blasted onto me. Its temperature was blazing, which hurt me for a second.
Blood spilled everywhere from where I stood, staining my white satin dress a dark scarlet design from the bottom up, just like an April rose, but much darker.
Snapped out of my daze, I looked around. A blue car was a few meters away, its driver frantically staggering out with a drunken look on his face. A girl about my age was lying on the ground, lifeless as a statue.
I spotted several similarities between us. Black curly locks, a white gown stained in crimson, full lips, all exactly similar to mine.
I felt a shock passing down my spine as I realized the truth. I fell to my knees. It…it was me.
I was dead.
“Girl’s Tragic Death in Accident,” the headlines in the papers blared.
That newsstand used to be my favourite spot in town, but now it was much despised.
I paced the streets alone. This loneliness soon felt familiar to me somehow. When my legs finally started to feel sore, I rested at the railway station, watching people living their lives.
One time, a young man came and sat down next to me. His movements seemed casual as I peeped in his direction.
“Hello,” he said in a whisper.
It was, in fact, the simplest choice of words one can pick while starting a conversation. I turned to face him, only to see the young man staring at me, his eyes gleaming with a thousand tales, a twist on his lips.
He was talking to me; he could see me.
The word “how” sprang up in my mind almost instantly. As I felt my ashen face start to blush, a wave of shyness crept up on me.
For a moment I wanted to run away, feeling weird facing someone who could see me.
What a paradox. For the last three days, I had been attempting to seek attention everywhere, but now, I felt like burying myself in an abyss.
Johnny, the boy who had noticed me, was a partial nuisance. He would follow me everywhere, asking me questions, telling me stories.
Was he a ghost too? I chuckled at the idea. But I could not deny it. I had accepted myself for what I had become: a ghost. Most of the time I tried to keep myself alone, hanging out in the library or at the park.
Perhaps I began liking the surrounding silence, or perhaps I wanted peace.
My dress was a mosaic of red and white; it could not be taken off somehow. Mother was alone now. I went home to see her occasionally, but it hurt my heart to have to see her sewing curtains for a living.
Sometimes I allowed Johnny to keep me company. Well, at least some of his stories might eventually cheer me up.
I felt the flush on my cheeks when he complimented my eyes. He said they put the stars to shame each night. He seemed rather affected by me. But I was dead. How could I love him, a living person?
One breezy evening Johnny took me to the riverside. The sun was setting, its rays shimmering on the water. In the soft sunlight, our cheeks had turned rosy.
”Please….” He looked nervous, as never before. “I need you to hear this.”
My heart beat like a giant’s footsteps, butterflies were fluttering in my stomach. He confessed his feelings for me. My heart dropped. I knew my answer would be no.
I led him to the town’s graveyard. The fastest way to explain my rejection was to show him my grave, as I could not bear to say the cutting words.
The sun had dyed the sky tangerine and crimson. I heard my glass heart crack and shatter into pieces as we came to the place.
Underneath a pine tree, we found the gravestone with my name carved on it: LUCY PRICK. I signalled to Johnny that my dress was streaked with dried blood, hoping that he would just turn around and go away.
Tears fell like a broken string of pearls, streaming down my cheeks, which were once rubicund but now pale as ash.
Go! Run away! Be afraid of me! I screamed in silence.
Yet, Johnny remained.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me to the east yard. A tall grey stone stood there all by itself.
It read: JOHN CULAS.
My mouth fell agape. Teardrops continued their journey to the ground.
“Didn’t you notice a hole at the back of my shirt?” he asked in the same whisper he had used on the first day we met. Robbers had stabbed him five months ago. He had bled to death in a back alley.
I pulled him close, tears moistening my wan lips which had twisted into a smile.
Chiean writes: “I am a young Malaysian student filled with daydreams, currently seeking his place in the world.”