A Twinkle in the Sky



Original poster

EVELYN LEE WAS blissful and reflective. She was listening to Vincent, her favorite song with its poetic lyrics and silky melody. A tribute to the famous Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh, it had been made popular during the seventies. A time capsule beneath the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam held a set of the artist's brushes and a copy of the music sheet.
Hers was a life filled with pain, loathing, and uncertainty. She could not appreciate her existence. To her, it was a nightmare.

Vincent van Gogh suffered from epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. He died in 1890 after shooting himself in the chest. Sadly, Evelyn had come to identify herself with the misunderstood man.

The year was 2029 when Evelyn recalled her encounter with a mysterious object that had fallen from the sky. It could have ruined her life. Or so she thought.

The hit tune was particularly nostalgic for her. She lapsed into nothingness as the last line of the last verse floated across the dimness of her room.

Perhaps they never will.

ON APRIL 20, 2004, a major publication, the Front Times, carried a curious article on its first page with the headline, "Hamas Men's Killings Condemned by Singapore." In the report, the Republic criticized Israel's targeted slaying of two Hamas leaders, Sheikhs Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantissi. It was concerned that this would only lead to more hostilities in the Middle East. Israeli commanders, however, pointed to the militant group's campaign of suicide bombings as justification for its actions.
Hamas did not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and had called for its destruction. Two men had founded it in 1987. Born in 1938, Ahmad Yassin was injured during his youth in a playground accident. A quadriplegic, he was almost blind in later years. On March 22, 2004, the spiritual head was eliminated in an Israeli helicopter missile offensive. Upon his passing, Abdel Aziz Rantissi assumed the leadership of the establishment. A hardliner, he had opposed ending attacks on the Israelis, and he had vowed to kill Jews everywhere. Less than a month into his new role, at the age of fifty-seven, he became a victim of another Israeli air strike in Gaza City on April 17.

Hamas had gained prominence among many Palestinians because of its extensive welfare programs, and it was perceived as being efficient and honest. It had, however, also carried out attacks on civilian targets. Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States had listed it as a terrorist organization.

After the assassinations, Israeli officials were quick to declare that Yassin and Rantissi were marked as they were responsible for numerous terror assaults that had resulted in the deaths of many civilians, both Israelis and foreigners.

International reaction followed. The UN Secretary-General, British governments, and White House all denounced the slaying. The United States, however, added that Israel had the right to defend itself.

A representative from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the killings could not be condoned and were contrary to the peace process. They would only perpetuate the cycle of violence and did not serve the interest of Israel, the Palestinians, and the world.

In his office, Colonel Dexter Chia was a little perturbed. Being the pragmatist, he was certain that it would be a matter of time before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved itself.

The road towards an amicable solution had been slippery but was now potholed. He was nevertheless optimistic, regardless of the periodical upheavals in the history of the two people since the 1880s.

"It had long been forgotten by the gods," he ruminated.

But he was not going to let this minor detail distract him from the more pressing issues since 911. For now, the threats of terrorism loomed larger than ever before.
O_O I like this a lot, Flare. :D It's very interesting. Can't wait to see more. :3

2004 COULD ALSO mean the shortened form for April 20. To the local Chinese who feared the netherworld, the number four was inauspicious. It sounded like death to them. It was to be avoided as much as possible, more so when the figure popped up twice in a date with an eerie numerical coincidence.

OO The more gullible had chosen to stay home to shun the bad vibes that might wreak havoc on their lives. That day, however, had a different and profound significance for Jusse Yumin. The sprightly, young man had graduated with honours. Not quite twenty-nine, he fulfilled two-and-a-half years of compulsory military service prior to enrolling at an institution of higher learning. His passion was in computers, but he had opted for a course in Mechatronics to allow him maximum career opportunities. He took on the job of a systems engineer initially, but he left as soon as he had grasped the fundamentals.

OO The humidity on Wednesday was exceptionally high. At thirty-three degrees Celsius, the heat was stifling. Standing a few hundred meters from an underground rail excavation site along Nicoll Highway, he was swigging chilled soda that he had bought from a roadside stand. He had just left his agency in the Golden Mile complex on the opposite side of the road. At 12:45 PM, lunch was very much on his mind.

OO He heard a maddening roar just as he had crossed the heavy traffic to get to the cavernous Suntec City mall. He turned to his right and saw a fast-approaching motorbike. It whizzed past him at breakneck speed.

OO "Maniac!" he muttered as he narrowly missed being mowed down.

OO He reckoned the rider was going over a hundred kilometers per hour, but he managed to make out the license plate. JK 298. He appeared to be slim built, and he was clad in a dark T-shirt that covered three-fourths of his arms. A striped, red-and-blue helmet shielded him. On his back was a grey haversack.

OO Then a peculiar thing happened. The daredevil raised his left hand and punched the air, as if in triumph.

OO "He must be in high spirits," Jusse thought.

OO At 1:20 PM, a deafening rumble greeted Jusse and his pal, who were both tucking into salmon steaks while seated at a congested restaurant at the hip shopping center. It was no clap of a thunder. It was more like an explosion. There was an immediate buzz as the diners craned their necks in the direction of the disturbance.

OO Jusse was seated near a glass panel, so he had an explicit view. A thick cloud of smoke billowed from the MRT worksite. Ill at ease, he did not know what to make of the midday incursion.

OO Seven minutes later, they heard another blast. This time, there was smoldering black smoke, and Jusse presumed it was a cave-in. His appetite came to an abrupt end.

OO "Whoa! What in heavens was that!?" his lunchmate exclaimed. "A bomb or something?"

OO "It looked nasty," Jusse said. "Could be a landslip. Let's hope so."


OOInaya Izz Din eased her Phantom into a public car park by the sea off Elias Road in the northeastern mainland. She waved to a Caucasian man who was wearing a green shirt and standing at a bus stop. A bandanna encircled his neck. He gestured with the V-sign symbol for victory, and she briskly made her way to a jetty not far away while he strolled toward her two-wheeler.

OO She then boarded a motorboat and headed for the boomerang-shaped Granite Island, better known as Pulau Ubin and well-known for its natural and rustic charm.

OOTime had stood still for the nineteen-year old when she learned of the highway collapse in the late afternoon. She was overwhelmed. She was glad she had pulled off the stunt.

THE SPECIAL PEOPLE Association aimed to reach out to the intellectually, visually, and physically challenged. The intellectually disadvantaged were often referred to as slow learners while the visually handicapped could not see beyond a distance of six meters. Any disability that permanently restricted mobility was considered a physical disability, and this included speed impediments.

OO At the age of thirty-seven, Evelyn Lee was as contented as ever. She was happy to have joined the group where she could share her experiences with the less fortunate. It suited her in many ways. She had come a long way, and she was pleased she could lend her voice in a concert by special people. The Color of Optimism was staged at the Hope Community Theater on December 29, 2002. Even though it was a rainy Sunday, the auditorium was filled to capacity.

OO Evelyn played the role of an unfeeling sister drawn to partying and fashion. She didn't care much for her sightless brother. Her attitude changed completely when she lost a leg in a hit-and-run car mishap. She realized her wanton ways and sought her kindred's forgiveness when she had recovered from her trauma. She acted and sang well, and the audience gave her an ovation during the closing credits. It was a short play, but it was a tremendous booster for her.

OO That evening, she arrived home alone. She walked with a limp with her gait slightly tilted to the right. There were two rows of potted plants of ferns and cacti and a pair of flip-flops outside her three-room residential flat in Tampines. It was barely furnished. As she switched on the lights in the living room, she sighed. She had made her way back without any assistance. Years ago, that was so hard to accomplish.

OO She was wheelchair-bound in 1992 for three terrifying years. She was at her prime. A stroke had left her semi-paralyzed. Her mouth was twisted, and she was close to losing her ability to speak. She loathed her repulsive look. As luck would have it, she had to put on glasses. From perfect eyesight, she was now six hundred and fifty degrees myopic.

OO Some days, she thought she had lost her mind as she could not even count from one to ten. Her cognitive process had taken a tumble. She felt so much older than her twenty-eight years.

OO By the time she was able to walk on her own again, she had incurred a debt of almost $100,000. It was a struggle after that. Her monthly loan repayment meant an eternity. She was subsisting on her daily wage of $16 as a newspaper vendor, working four days a week from 2:00 to 10:00 PM. It was never enough. The days were unbearable.

OO Evelyn had no one to turn to for help. She was scared of the days ahead. She was broke and wretched. Her self-confidence had been flattened. Her desperation and despair overflowed. She blamed her Creator for the misery.

"MRT WORKSITE COLLAPSE Mangles Nicoll Highway." That was the shattering front-page news in the Front Times on April 21, 2004. Similar upsetting, attention-grabbing headlines appeared in other publications.

OO The massive collapse of the construction site stunned many. It wrecked a stretch of the sizzling road near the Merdeka Bridge. The incident resulted in the death of a construction worker. Three persons were missing and feared dead, while several others sustained injuries.

OO "From the look of it, the highway has to be closed for a while. It's going to take six to nine months," the transport minister commented.

OO Meanwhile, thousands of commuters were affected. The traffic disruption was unprecedented. The expressway was a popular route to the workplaces in the financial hub of Shenton Way.

OO "There has been no indication that foul play was involved," echoed a spokesman from the Minister of Home Affairs, responding to a grim-faced reporter's inquiry.

OO Six days later, traffic police from Johore in West Malaysia were alerted to an abandoned, burnt motorcycle near the seaside resort of Desaru, not far from Singapore. It carried the license plate TNA53-002, which was still evident.

OO The Kriss speculated that the vehicle could have come from neighboring Narathiwat in southern Thailand. The owner had apparently taken off after the machine had caught fire. Inquiries did not reveal anything.

OO A distance away, a beachcomber had chanced upon a rectangular, bright yellow piece of plastic that the waves had washed up. It looked like a nice find. He salvaged it and hung it outside his corrugated hut. He hoped it would bring him fortune.

OO The recent events bothered Jusse Yumin as he read the bulletin in his room in the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. It was midnight, and he was still awake after a full day's seminar on combative science and a dinner engagement at the opulent Jade Peony. He recalled the speeding bike and the rider punching the air. Then the highway disaster had happened. He mulled over the reported wreckage that he surmised as a trifle freakish.

OO Wondering if there were any connection in all of this, he thought, "Was it the wrath of nature? Or had a case of human negligence led to the MRT tragedy? Or could it be remotely possible that it was a terrorist attack?"

OO It was a fascinating equation.

OO On his way back, the private investigator made an unscheduled stop. The modest town of Desaru was tranquil. Swaying coconut trees dotted the beach. He was surprised that it was rather deserted. Then what he saw struck him.

OO A registration plate hung from the dwelling of a villager. It had "JK 298" on it. His lower jaw stiffened.
o.o long. Lots of chapters but so far so good. ;p i'd be interested!
Thanks for the comment, Mag. :3 Stick around, 'coz the terrorist plot is yet to be revealed, even. ;)


IN HER YOUTH, a pretty and dimpled Evelyn was a picture of health and innocence. She was, however, not academically inclined. Six years of primary education in a Christian school was all that she had. By then, her mother had decided she should help her peddle meat buns and cream puffs in filthy Banda Street in busy Chinatown.

OO At seventeen, she met Errol Ahn, a long-haired drifter eight years her senior. He was a smooth talker, and she came under his spell. Ten months later, they have a shotgun marriage. They named their daughter Rinci. Her constant cries added to the rising stress. It was trouble right from the start.

OO Poverty drove Evelyn to work the third shift as a factory operator with Nizho Semiconductor in resuscitated Toa Payoh, once a swampy area. It paid little. She didn't have much of a choice. It at least settled the bills of her baby's milk powder. She left Rinci in the care of her mother. During the day, she helped in the family's shabby pastry shop.

OO Errol became aggressive, and he couldn't hold down a job for long. They began to drift apart. At dinner one day, he told her that he'd be flying to Taipei with a partner who wanted to set up a dim sum restaurant there. His friend had suggested that he join him there. They'd be in the Taiwanese capital for a month to size up the location.

OO She saw a glimpse of hope, but she wasn't exactly enthusiastic because it implied that he'd be overseas indefinitely. But it was a better option, and she was persuaded.

OO He came back a week too soon. The business deal was a flop. She was disappointed, but she didn't show it. When she got home from work at eight thirty the next morning, he had already left. She deemed it unusual. The loafer would normally still be lying around.

OO His travel bag was on the floor. The zipper was unfastened. A few items of clothing were inside. They were crumpled and obviously soiled. Shaking her head, Evelyn bent down and drew out the clothes. As she did so, several polyethylene squares spilled out. The sight of the packs of condoms sickened her.

OO Errol was intoxicated and in bed when she returned the next day. Fuming and suspicious, she had to find out. She reached into his trouser pocket and took out his wallet. More than $2,000 was inside. She was bewildered, thinking he could not have that much cash on him. But she was totally unprepared for her next find, a snapshot of a young female who was neither curvy nor appealing. Actually, she was chubby and looked rather sad. Behind the photo, she had neatly written. "Darling Errol, the Taipei trip was memorable. Cui Fen. Jul 15, 1982."

OO Whatever he saw in her and she in him were of no consequence. Evelyn was too devastated to delve into it. She was seven months pregnant.