K.A.R.T.H.I.C?K

person under umbrella walking on street

SHE SANK ME ONCE, AND SHE’S GOING TO DO IT AGAIN

So, you’re still with us? Interested are you?

The last time you were with us, Karthick had found himself in the middle of an unfamiliar circumstance, well, partially familiar that is.

‘Oh God, you narrating again?’ Karthick retorted.

Well, what else should I be doing?

The rains were over, leaving a moist cold breeze in the aftermath, along with many puddles filling up the potholes. Karthick had found a quiet place in a back alley, by a local bar, far from policing eyes, enjoying a hot cigarette and a cold glass strangely glistening Chinese tea.

‘I believe it’s just called “tea” here.

That be the case if we were in actual China, but we are not aren’t we?

‘You might have a point there,’ Karthick eyed three women in miniskirts walk into a club of some sort. They were peculiar looking; short, petite, beautiful and one even winked her squinty little eye at him. ‘Then again, maybe you’re wrong,’ he reiterated.

Oh, come on.

Karthick refused to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of the extraordinary; the glowing drinks before him, the faces of some individuals with pointy ears and noses, the food still barely alive and moving (Ok, maybe the food is not ALL THAT extra-ordinary) and let’s not forget the fucking DRAGON floating about in the sky, just shitting neon as it goes about.

‘Why a dragon though?’

Why not a Dragon Karthick? Would you prefer something else?

Karthick cavalierly sipped his tea, unabashedly undermining the level of seriousness. The glow stuck to his upper lip, giving him a strange comically radioactive looking moustache.

‘I mean he was the Dragon King wasn’t he?’

So what? What does it have to do with you? I mean like ‘personally’? You think this is all about you, that this is all in your mind?

‘Think about it, the whole thing feels like a dream. The whole place, this odd Chinatown, but with neon lights and pretty oriental girls, it all kind of screams “ME”. What if I just haven’t gotten up?’

Would a punch in the gut work?

Karthick stopped. He looked past the table at a group playing mah-jong. There were 4 of them, and by the looks of it, had emptied 4 bottles down, each. He had a ghastly idea. No, Karthick!

‘Relax, I’m sure It’s just the drugs, or I’m in such partial semi-lucid consciousness. The best way is to wake up is… well… by “morning sex”. The second best…’ he inflated his chest and started to walk.

He stopped inches into their personal space, and it was noticeable. There was already a strange hostility brewing and as it was his plan to purposefully escalate things, he then went ahead and stupidly pressed one of them on their shoulder with his index finger. The man looked back, his eyes extra squinty, his face flushed, and his cigarette still freshly lit.

NO.

Karthick then behaved more like a little bitch by bringing his fingers close to the man’s face and gleefully removing the cigarette away while he placed it on his own lips.

Karthick, you fucking idiot.

The men jolted up from their seats. They appeared sober for people that had downed all that beer. Staring at each other, they smirked and laughed. The shop-owner started yelling for the whole of them to leave.

They slowly moved to surround him like a pack of wolves, then cornering Karthick to a wall. Without any forewarning, the one closest to him landed a fistful straight for the lower sternum, while Karthick fell forwards, folding himself over the assailant’s arm. Another strike from the back and our protagonist was on the floor, his back aching, his peripheral nerves tingling, unable to get up, he hurled out everything he had just consumed, glowing and glistening mixed with his own acidic stomach contents.

A barrage of heavy foot stamping proceeded, and once satisfied, they left his bruised curled up body on the dirty tar.

‘So?’ Karthick tried to speak, as he spat out bouts of blood and vomit. The remainder oozed from the gash in his torn lower lip. ‘Are we back home yet?’

I’m afraid not Boss.

SCENE 2

‘So we’re calling it scenes now?’

I do believe it’s best we spare the readers the rudimentary details. A good story always needs some good editing.

‘So how do you decide which parts are good?’

Well, I’m here, aren’t I? I believe the parts you suddenly conjure me would make the most sense of what we think is relevant.

‘Yes, you are here and so am I,’ Karthick replied while screening his surroundings. His swollen left eyelid was preventing a perfect scope of vision and hence there was a lot of neck tilting, but still had trouble figuring it out. ‘Where am I?’

We sat on wooden chairs in a large stuffy room, with just a dimmed light stand to help navigate in the dark. Metal clanked and rod bars screeched. A door opened and a tall man in uniform approached as he sat before us across what can be assumed to be his desk.

‘Just tell them where we are,’ Karthick exclaimed, without a single understanding of how suspense is built.

‘What? This guy? You wanna build suspense for this guy? He’s just a night cop. He’ll ask some questions and some money and we’re on our way.’

‘I’ll what now?’ asked the officer.

‘I was sure you didn’t hear that,’ Karthick attempted to vaguely apologies.

‘ID please,’ the officer urged.

Our protagonist proceeded to withdraw his wallet from his pants. He opened it only to realise it was empty.

‘Shit!’

‘Excuse me?’ The officer queried. ‘Who are you?’

‘I am Karthick, K.A.R.T.H.I.C.K, dutiful and law-abiding citizen of the Republic of Singapore, P. I… I am here on a case,’

‘I meant in writing,’ he interrupted.

‘I had my driver’s licence but…’

‘I will need a passport then,’

‘Yeah, it’s back at the hotel,’

Karthick was well aware that there was no hotel, so I was eager to learn about the depth of his commitment to this sprouting lie.

‘Hotel Shangri-La,’

‘Which one?’ the officer further queried.

‘The one nearby,’

The officer nodded and sat back to rest on his chair. Some others around him approached and whispered at his ear. By their demeanour, they seem to be his underlings but there was a sudden change in the air. It was palpable that an argument was budding. The details aren’t important but what is most interesting is how suddenly the face and general attitude of the night cop just changed. Suddenly it was horror-stricken and suddenly, he looked as he had better have nothing to do with this.

‘Very well. I have been informed about your “unique” situation. Please go back to your hotel room and try not to get in any more trouble,’ the officer concluded before abruptly getting up to leave.

It was apparent that Karthick and I had been dismissed, clear for the exit and without facing a smidge of consequence. The officers wouldn’t even face us anymore. The front door was all that was wide open to us. Karthick peered hard at the underlings, and one of them stared at him long. It was apparent this character was going to resurface at some point later in our story.

As Karthick stepped out and lit a cigarette on his lips. ‘You know what it all means don’t you?’

Unfortunately, I do. You are clearly insinuating that this goes above law enforcement.

‘Or outside them, more likely,’

Like the underworld and those sorts?

‘Those sorts,’

So where to?

‘Look,’ Karthick pointed. It was a tiny lot amongst others that had a neon sign in Chinese that read ‘Shangri-La’.

‘Might as well,’ he cleared his throat of dried blood and on we went.

How did you know?

‘There’s always a Shangri-La.’

SCENE 3

‘No,’ Karthick stopped. ‘I’m on the toilet with one hand on my phone and another on my dick. Be civil,’

Fine.

SCENE 4

The bed was old so much so the mattress was sunken on both sides and the metal parts were rusty, barely supporting it. The walls were grimy, and it looked like it rained on the inside. There was a decent coffee maker though with some packets by the side. Immediately, Karthick brewed a 3-in-1 instant for himself.

‘That’s gonna do the trick,’ he blew out a long exhale, his breath so distastefully overwhelming, yet I could feel the calmness in him. In truth, he needed the time to think, in fact, we both did. The fresh aroma of the coffee did help.

The phone started to ring.

‘That’s oddly convenient,’ said Karthick while reaching for the dial.

‘You mean the receiver,’ he corrected me.

It was an old phone, and not something you would see around these days, but this was a strange dark alleys in a family-run Shangri-La.

‘Oh, you think those skimpy little “barely-legal”s we saw downstairs were family?’ Karthick smiled from the corner of his lips. ‘Cute,’ he smirked.

I suppose he meant to say they were sex workers. But then again, I’m trying to give the story a better polish, maybe clean up the protagonist’s character a bit.

‘Shhh. This sounds more important,’ Karthick had his pressed against the receiver as if trying to interpret what the other person was saying, his eyes squinting gradually more intense.

‘NOW?’ he nodded. Then he said, ‘OK’ and kept the phone down.

SO?

‘I could have sworn it felt familiar, and a part of me doesn’t believe it,’

Now YOU’RE the one building suspense.

‘Yes, but at least for a far more interesting character,’

SCENE 5

She asked us to be punctual, and that was to meet her at exactly 11 pm GMT+8. Karthick was convinced he knew who she was but deferred from revealing the details of his conversation until he was impeccably certain it was the woman he was picturing.

We stood where she asked us to, like bait, we waited, for the trap to consume us.

‘I disagree, she saved us once. This can’t be a trap.’

You mean she did the whole thing with the police?

‘At least she took credit for it,’ Karthick replied while scanning every member of the crowd. None of their eyes was on him, all but one.

From a distance away, a tall Chinese woman stood, limber, pale, her eyes were inverse, the bright of the moon for pupils against a starry black sky, and a smile wide from ear to ear. Her hair tar black, straightened, flowing like curtains edging the tiny supple mounds of her breasts, and her gown, red, satin, and dissolving before the slender soles of her feet.

She crawled forward, her flip-flops threading carefully. Puddle or not, she came in a straight line, so light the water stayed still and hardly made a ripple. Her eyes were transfixed on our protagonist as he was on hers. The crowd paid no heed to her, in fact, it looked as though they were magically making way.

‘How?’ Karthick was bewitched.

‘It’s been a while,’ she answered in a husky but sweet voice.

‘It has,’

Much to my surprise, it was apparent that Karthick and this woman had a previous relationship.

‘What?’ Karthick looked surprised at me. ‘You don’t’ recognize her?’

It was when I had a better look I realised who she was. It was the woman he had been raving about all those many years; his ex-wife, the one who stole his heart and gave it the Dragon King. I hate the metaphor, but that was how Karthick always put it.

‘I see you are still talking to ghosts,’ she replied when she saw Karthick interact with me.

‘I believe I’m looking at one right now. I love your contact lens. They’re so…mesmerizing,’ he stared into her eyes, lost in it. I was losing the boy.

‘Those are not contacts,’ she claimed. ‘Touch them,’ she proffered.

‘WHAT?’ he backed away. ‘No, go ahead,’ she smiled.

He approached her eyes and noticed her eyelids didn’t flicker. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ she chuckled. Karthick was getting afraid.

‘No I’m not,’

‘Then touch,’ she pressed further, but noticed he was too hesitant, so she grabbed his wrist and forced his fingers on it. ‘TOUCH!’ her voice grew sullen.

It felt cold, hard like marble stone.

‘It’s…’

‘Yes,’

‘Then how are you seeing?’

‘I’m not,’ she replied.

‘What?’

‘A very different world, the life of the Dragon Queen,’

‘He said he would be good to you,’

‘Did he now?’ her voice started to swell and her face turned an obvious frown. There was clearly some resentment from the past. I’m afraid I can’t polish this story anymore seeing where this is going.

‘Look, Jun, I…’

‘You what Karthick?’

‘Not a day goes by I don’t think back,’

‘Of what?’

‘Of how you left,’

‘I left?’ She reached out her hand from under her sleeves and a ghostly tentacle shot out from her digits surrounding his neck, constricting him tightly as a noose, then lifted him 2 feet off the ground with paramount ease.

What the fuck? Jun, let him go.

Karthick was choking, his face turning black (well, blacker…). ‘Please,’ he begged. The crowd around us didn’t flinch the slightest, as though they weren’t present with us in the same shared reality.

‘You sold your wife like she was a common whore. Then you finished the money in more debts. And now you act as if I left you,’ she cried. ‘Admit it,’

Karthick shook his head. Her neck stretched as she grew taller than him in the most unnatural way possible. She stared down at him, from her nostril she blew a soft steam.

‘ADMIT IT!’ her mouth burst wide open, her lips cracked all the way to her ears, jaws retracting wide enough to swallow Karthick’s head. She had teeth of crocodiles, dripping with blood just waiting to snap.

He desperately attempted to nod and barely let out a whisper, ‘Ye…s..ss’

She let him loose and regained her contained form. Karthick’s legs fell asleep and he was on the floor, coughing, whimpering and gasping for air.

‘It was nice to meet you Karthick, and you as well, Ghost,’ she stared at me, not at my general direction but right at me, as if she knew.

‘I swear to God, when all this is over, you will suffer greatly Sayang, and I WILL be the one to kill you.’

‘Wait,’ Karthick forced himself up but…

(whoooshh)

A thick red cloud billowed viciously from the ground she was standing on. With her neck craned up and her arms loosened, she disintegrated and vanished into smoke.

‘That was not her,’ Karthick exclaimed.

I want to believe so, boss. But then again, who else knew about the Dragon King but you and her?’

Karthick glanced hard at me, ‘Only one more person. The King himself,’

Then I believe we know what to do next.

‘Next scene?’ he asked anxiously.

No! Are you kidding? Not after all this. Next chapter.

‘OK’

TO BE CONTINUED…

MOST LIKELY…

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