Today was the day I did something dangerous.  The day I would either die or leave with my bright future ahead of me. 

The morning sun was shining explicitly brighter than usual, such a contrast to what was to come. I chewed on the cold porridge I was too lazy to heat up from yesterday’s dinner. 

“Morning dad,” I greeted my old man. He came down shirtless and wearing his old boxers. His one arm was holding onto a mug of coffee from yesterday. He ignored my greeting, placed the mug on the table and entered the toilet, slamming it behind him. How typical. 

The silence was killing me, the only thing that resembled any form of noise was my phone, buzzing around like a fly disturbing one’s peace. Turning to my phone, I saw a barrage of messages from Larry, my senior manager, demanding I finish the final segment of code. I deleted each one with deliberate slowness, relishing the thought of never seeing his nagging texts again. I hated him with all my guts, and to this day I still hate him, his nagginess was just like his best friend, my very own dad. 

 My key to escape was coming soon, I was lazily flipping through the 483-page document on the table, detailing everything I should know about the danger that was to come.  However, only the summary page intrigued me. Reading it made me feel like going back to bed: 



The purpose of this experiment is to test the success of the machine known as the Memory-To-Dream (MTD) Simulator. MTD simulator acts as the baseline for the Imagination-to-Reality (ITR) Simulator. In which, the government will be able to use the imaginations of humans in order to create real life simulations of weapons to be used in battles, instead of the usage of soldiers. As memory and imagination are deeply intertwined, memories will be used as the prototype of the experiment. 

As a participant, you will be required to follow through with the following procedures: 

  1. Be strapped to a chair for a few hours 
  2. Have a headset covering the participant’s entire face (with a space for oxygen to enter your body)
  3. Being injected with a sedative for the participant to enter a dream-like state 
  4. Enter a simulation of memory module after memory module, in which the participant has to watch a memory play out until the memory is completed. 
  5. The participant shall walk through the “neural pathways of the memory” in order to reach the next memory module. The “pathways” will be represented in metaphorical senses (such as doors and hallways).
  6. Step 3 is repeated. The number of memory modules are dependent on the researcher, whether they have collected sufficient data. 
  7. The participant is subjected to a break midway through the experiment. 


1)The participant will have a communication device linked with the participant’s psyche and the scientists. In case of any emergencies or panic that may come up from the participant. 

2)The memory module that plays out depends on the participant’s thoughts at the moment before entering the memory module. Should the participant not enjoy the memory being displayed, the participant should avoid thinking about bad memories, focusing on good ones instead. 

3)The length of the memory is limited to a certain degree, depending on when the participant had stopped remembering the event. 

4)As the first participant of the experiment, you are subjected to a cash prize of 100 thousand, provided alongside insurance in light of psychological damage to the brain.

5)The experiment must be kept private and confidential.

There it was, the 100 thousand bolded and underlined. That was my ticket to freedom and paradise, where I would no longer be tied down to people who despise me. 

“Nivia, have you eaten your breakfast?” asked dad as he came out of the toilet. 

I moved the document from the table to my lap, as dad sat down at the chair next to me. He watched me scoop more spoonfuls of the cold, vomit-inducing porridge into my mouth, a faint smile appearing on his face. The smile wasn’t enough to fool me. Dad was never genuinely happy with me around. 

“How was the date yesterday?” He asked. 

“Teddy’s fine,” I answered. “I don’t want to talk about it.” 

He did not question further. The two of us continued to sit in awkward silence, none eager to talk to the other. At this point, the only thing bonding us was the blood in our veins. The whirring of the ceiling fan and the buzzing of my phone being the only things sounding in our large, yet empty bungalow. 

“When will you finish your hangout with Genevive today?” My dad broke the silence. 

I gulped, a sense of dread rising inside of me knowing the truth of the matter. A “hangout” was the furthest thing from what I would be participating in soon.  “I’m not sure. Genevive didn’t mention it.” 

My dad pursed his lips. I remembered all the times he did that, it was almost surely a sign that he was withdrawing a yell at me. Instead, he shook his head, using the tone he always used when he wanted to be a pain, “Fine, I’ll have to contact her later, ask her when she’s done. Meanwhile, you, young lady, really need to get your own car. I don’t like having to be your cab driver all the time.”

The nagginess of his tone today was so serious, I could no longer take it, I instantly raised my voice against his bossiness. “I get it, dad! You don’t have to keep rubbing that into my face!” 

“I’m not in the mood, Nivia,” Dad grumbled, furrowing his thick bushy eyebrows and showing off all the wrinkles on his forehead.. 

I clenched my fists. “Not in the mood? Dad, when have I ever been in the mood for your nagging? And now when I’m defending myself, you’re not letting me?”  

My dad had taken the challenge, the buzzing notifications from Larry did nothing to help the scenario. “Is this about your stupid artist dream? Because if it is, you have no right to be talking to me like that. We’ve gone through this multiple times.” 

The wounds in my heart started to reopen, the pain bleeding into my scrunched up face and my mouth. My brain was no longer in control,  “I never wanted the job you forced me into! How could you say that my dream was stupid when you never even gave me a chance! That’s what I’ve always wished for since the war happened. You’re not letting me!” 

 “Nivia, you are already 30 years old! It has been 6 years since the war, look at Teddy, he’s doing so well with his job as general! And your friend, Genevive, was it? She’s doing so well in research! I know you suffered from the war, but all of us did! Look at my arm! Do you think you’re the only one who went through a lot?” 

Dad sat back down on the chair, his face a shade of red. I couldn’t argue with him at this state, guilt washing away my anger. “I know Larry has been harsh on you,” dad continued, swallowing back many words. “But he just wants the best from you. Nivia, you have been jobless for almost 4 years. You kept telling me that an art gig would work, but you show up with only a few hundred cash per week, it’s not going to end well for you.” 

“I was doing fine, dad,” I argued, also trying to keep my temper down. “But during those years, I was slowly building my personal brand. Now, my youtube channel has ten thousand subscribers dad, it’s a milestone! Please dad, you have to believe me. I’m already big enough to take care of myself. I know what I’m doing with that art gig. If you could just let me quit this job, and let me focus on my passion, I’m going to get a lot of money sooner or later. I’ll work hard, I’ll pay the bills, I’ll do anything. Please, dad.”

 My dad did not face me, his eyes still staring into the distance. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had not listened to me at all during my begging. That was the thing with parents, wasn’t it? They always expected you to listen to them, but they never listened to what you had to say.

“No matter how many times I nag at you, I tell you what to do, you never listen,” Dad grumbled. 

I blinked several times at the absurdity of nonsense he spouted. “But–” 

“If you so desperately want to ‘follow your passion’, so be it,” dad stood up from the table. “I’ve done my responsibility as a father. I’ve given you a job, I’ve given you advice. Yet you still want to continue on with the unfavourable route.” 

He started to leave the dining room, before turning back to face me once again. “If you wish so much to be independent. Fine. Feel free to live your life independently. I’m not sending you to Genevive’s.” 

“What?” I stood, trying to explain myself. “But I’ll be late, I still have to finish breakfast, I–” 

“No need, it’s just a hangout after all. Genevive is “laid back” and “not-a-planner”. She’ll be fine,” my dad huffed. “If you want to be independent, now’s your day to do so.” 

I watched him hurriedly dash up the stairs, leaving me behind to process what had just happened. He had always been doing this bad habit for the past 6 years,just walking away when he no longer wanted to talk to me. Anger was fueling the blood inside of me, with so much strength I haven’t mustered for a long time since the war., I dumped my belongings and the document into my bag, left my half eaten porridge behind, grabbed the keys and stormed off to unlock the front door. 

The soft thudding coming from the stairs signalled to me mum was coming, but I didn’t want to talk to her. She was, after all, going to be dad’s echo chamber. I was tired of both of them. 

Wearing my usual combat boots, I stormed off into the neighbourhood. The cold morning breeze tampered with my dark hair. Using my phone as reference, the journey was thirty minutes away by foot, and every stomp on the tar road was a testament to my frustration towards both my parents. This would be how they treated their only daughter, weren’t they so helpful? Memories started coming back of the number of times I asked them for help but they never reached back. All those memories made my stomps louder than previously. If they would never understand me, then fine, let them be. 

My life was only so terrible because of the war. The war that took everything away from our family. It took away dad’s arm, mum lost most of her family and her parents, but most importantly, it took away the mum and dad that I had known since I was a kid. Those mum and dad would have continuously supported me. They would have spoiled me and I would have loved it. At least the three of us could be together, bonded well and forever within each other’s reach. But we spent most of those six years tending to the wounded, witnessing dead bodies drop to the ground, the bombs, the gunfire sounding, the screams… 

Shut up Nivia! Let’s not think about all that. I felt myself panting and sweating as flashbacks of the war started coming back. Using the technique I learned from my therapist, I took my time breathing in the air around me, and slowly exhaling the air, “You’re safe now. That was a long time ago. It doesn’t matter anymore.” I assured myself. 

Hopefully whatever experiment I was helping Genevive with, it wouldn’t just guarantee me a ticket to start my own dreams, it would prevent another war disaster from happening again. 


How can people always let the past be the past? 

It was hard to let things go easily. Especially when one can vividly remember all the smallest details that made up such terrible events. Back then, throughout the six years of the war, I had heard 476 shots of the gun. Ash and smoke filled my lungs on a daily basis. I was always having to run across rubble, dirt, and the corpses of men, women, children and soldiers alike in order to scavenge for the remainder of food. Even now, I could clearly recall their terrified faces, some with blood flowing from their heads, some who died from shock with their eyes and mouths wide open, others who had lost several limbs… These were people who had to die in order for the politicians sitting in their chairs to get what they wanted. These dead had their lives taken away, while the living’s spirits continued to waver amidst the blood and destruction. 

These are the memories that linger the longest, the ones that swirl violently in your head, and crush you down more. They tend to stick to you ‘till death. The ones that evoke a sense of fire inside oneself. 

I couldn’t believe how lucky those peasants were for being blessed with such forgetfulness. Six years after the war, and everyone’s flames must be barely burning inside of them. With only smoke, ashes and embers remnant of the fire. Such is humanity, always forgetting and repeating the same things again and again. I hoped to be the spark that ensures this flame would be everlasting. It would last until it reaches their grave, and they would die knowing how worthless this cruel world was. In my case, I wanted this girl to remember what she did past her death. She deserved to pay for what she had done to me, and to the people she had killed that day. 

This secret military project was such a dangerous experiment. It was a perfect catalyst to exact my revenge. And to make it even better, I got my target to be the guinea pig for the guinea pig. 

She was so desperate when I met up with her at the gas station. She kept blabbering about the money she needed in order to “live her dream life”, and so she could “escape the oppressors she had back at home.” Like her life was so filled with so many unpleasantries. She lives in a bungalow downtown with parents to accompany her! She has so many friends, not to mention, her own personal boyfriend who always hangs out with her! How dare she complain of not being able to live her dream life, when so many other people couldn’t even accomplish their dreams!


A voice snapped me out of my thoughts, I turned to see my lab rat, Nivia strapped to the experimental chair. 

 “Look I know you said this was all not guaranteed, and you won’t know what could happen to me,” said Nivia, gritting her teeth. Her shivering made it look like she was struggling from the straps.  “But could you at least guarantee I won’t die?” 

Her eyes were misty, a sign of mercy in hopes she could at least get a certain answer. Such power to be in her mercy. “You read the document, didn’t you? Everything should have been explained there.” 

“Oh yes, yes I did,” said Nivia, grinning widely. 

Using my fingers I pulled back the messy strands of my strawberry blonde hair, retying my hair into a messy ponytail, before retrieving the syringe filled with the yellowish sedative from the countertop I had prepared beforehand. “Ready?” 

Observing the syringe, Nivia’s chest started heaving. 

“If you don’t want to continue, we could just unstrap you, and find another person.”

“No! No, I want to continue. Just give me a moment.” 

One could only imagine what was going through her mind as she took those deep breaths. “Ready,” she said, her voice wavering.  

The sedative was injected into her system. Nivia kept her eyes on me, before she slowly closed them, rested her head on the chair, like a little kid going to sleep. 

I placed the headset over her entire face, though it’s hard to call it a headset with those tangled wires jutting out from every area of the headset. The headset covered the upper half of her face, leaving only her mouth exposed to the dry air of the lab. The wires were needed in order to connect Nivia’s mind to the simulation, and also give me tabs on her status in the simulation. I walked off to the observation deck, where most of the show would take place, and I would finally have justice for myself.  

Everything was going so smoothly so far. I checked the storage room for my colleagues. I couldn’t deny the dire consequences I would face for knocking out my colleagues and trapping them in the room, but it was the only thing I could do to gain full control of the situation. Besides, I made sure the ventilation and air-conditioning was great! Things wouldn’t have to come down to this if they had just let me be lead researcher. I already gave them many chances. I pressed the knob of the entrance door to the laboratory room, ensuring no one else would trespass. 

The screen’s monitor showed the loading progress bar at 33%. Every fibre of my being was stuck to the chair, my eyes glued to the screen, watching the number slowly increase. This was it. The moment I spent all my sanity waiting for. 

The progression bar reached 100%, the bits and pieces of the simulation starting to appear, from the structure of the surroundings, solid colours filled the structures.These vague shapes gained more features, different shades of light, hue and saturation. Three human figures started to pop up on screen, sitting down on a small hill overlooking a beautiful garden. The greyscale humans eventually turned to a mother and father, and a young girl with black pigtails. 

The memory simulation was now complete. The father’s, mother’s and child’s facial features were complete and shown on the screen. The mother looked so much like Nivia. And the young girl was a plump and fat version of Nivia when she was so squishable. The beautiful scenery surrounding them was that of a plain grassfield. They sat on top of a hill overlooking the luscious greenery. Orange sunlight painted the tips of the grass blades, creating a beautiful colour gradient. Such a vivid memory, like a painting. I’m sure Nivia replayed this memory almost everyday in her head.. 

Though while she would be having so much fun here, she wouldn’t in the near future. Revenge was finally at my fingertips.


Was I dead? I hoped I wasn’t. 

The more I thought about it, the more I was coming to realise how much risk there was in this experiment. Everything about the laboratory gave me the creeps, especially Genevive. I didn’t know she would be the only one running the experiment. Genevive herself was acting rather strange. She would normally act dramatic and exaggerate almost all of her words, but today she sounded so… aloof. I almost wanted to quit from the wackiness of the experiment, but a part of me decided to hold on. 

This part of me yearned for more meaning to life than the yells of an ungrateful boss every day.  They wanted life to be stuck in a bubble, where we could craft our own destiny with drawings and sketches of mundanity.  If only mum and dad were more supportive. If only the war didn’t happen. Then perhaps in another timeline, I would be safely sound at home. 

And the first thing that appeared really struck my heartstrings at the right moment. I felt the back of my ears tingle as weird shapes– the scenery in my memory, I think, started forming all around me. 

When I was small, mum, dad and I used to go to the park nearby home. We would normally come here during the hours of dusk. The sun would set across the city, leaving the sky right above us to be a beautiful shade of midnight. One of those special moments was being played out right now, at this moment. 

I felt right back at home. The trees were positioned just as I remembered it. The smell of the burnt egg cartons set up by dad gave me a sense of nostalgia, and I could almost feel his presence, such a small act defending us against all the mosquitoes. I could feel the taste of butter, kaya and bread in my mouth, but I didn’t feel like I was chewing the bread. Besides my mum and dad, there were the open-containers mum had prepared to store the sandwiches, a vase of flowers dad had placed in the middle of the picnic blanket, which was the usual red and white-chequered patterned one. I hadn’t seen all these items in so long, I thought the war had washed it all down the river of forgetfulness. But it was playing out right now, just as perfectly as I had remembered it. My mum and dad had warm smiles plastered on their faces, beautiful smiles that were refreshing to my eyes. They watched young me, possibly just seven years old, busy drawing in her old notebook. 

I could turn my head in all directions and observe everything just as I had remembered. I could even walk around the simulation, feeling the wind blowing against me. But the vigorous wind did not seem to affect my present state. My hair was still neatly placed over my shoulders, unaffected by this “wind” . The three figures did not seem to notice the weird adult watching them, peacefully enjoying the family moment. 

“Genevive, can you hear me?” I called out to my surroundings. 

“Yes,” Genevive’s voice echoed in my head. “The comms thing should be working fine by now. I’ll be busy doing analysis and will be here in case anything bad happens. Anything weird that happens is completely normal. I’ll be turning off the comms now.” 

“Wait I just wanted to say-” 

The sound of a loud beep in my head and silence filled the beautiful surroundings. I wanted to thank her for allowing me such an opportunity. Why did I ever think things could go badly? 

I got closer to the three of them, noticing more details than before. This whole simulation felt like a video game. The closer you got to an object the more realistic things were shown. Like the faint orange sunset shining onto a part of my seven-year-old self. Toddler me was colouring on a piece of paper with a weird stick-like figure, a pencil? A crayon? I wasn’t sure. The stick-figure was just a shade of grey, like a hole in the simulation. The image itself that was being coloured was also just a mushy grey mess. I guessed it made sense considering I did not remember what younger me was drawing at that time. 

“Here’s my drawing dad!” the younger me handed him the piece of paper she was “drawing” on. 

My dad looked amazed at the blurry drawing. “Wow. My dear, you have so much to look forward to in the future,” said dad, giving me a pat on the back. “I’ve never seen such a cool drawing! It’s so creative.” 

I could feel my eyes strain with the attempt of creating tears, but no tears came out. As the younger me said, “Thank you dad! Hehe, if you really like it, instead of drawing greenie, I could draw you!” 

Greenie? Who was my young self talking about? The name rang a bell, but it was a very faint one. 

“Of course you can, my dear. You can draw anything you like,” Dad’s smile was beaming with so much happiness. I couldn’t believe he was smiling because of my art. 

None of them seemed to notice the weird adult watching over them. Even though my tight-knitted blouse and baggy pants made me a huge revealing figure.   

“Mummy, would you like me to draw you too?” asked the toddler-me. Her dimples were more revealing than before. 

Mum smiled. “Of course sweetie.” 

“Yay!!!” My young self cheered. She flipped a page in her notebook and started drawing another blurry splotch of grey. She excitedly kicked her legs in the air, her stomach lying flat on the ground as she continued drawing more blurry splotches. Mum and dad watched over their own child drawing, their mouths seem to be moving but nothing seems to be coming out of their mouths. 

A weird feeling stirred inside of me.  What sort of warmness was this? The fact I got to witness this moment of peace within the family. After everything that had happened to us. 

I genuinely wished I could stay here forever.  

“Memory Module 1, complete,” A robotic voice suddenly sounded in my head. The mum, dad and younger me started to freeze in place. I faced my father and mother, their smiles frozen in such tranquillity. Behind them, the sunset was frozen in a spot of beauty, spotting them in a mesmerising orange light. 

This was truly magnificent. Thank you Genevive. For the opportunity. 

         Peace was quickly interrupted when a weird wisp of light appeared within the corner of my eyesight. I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of familiarity at the bright figure appearing from this light. It had long thin threads of pencil lining protruding from its dark wooden forehead. It had thick bristle eyebrows that were the same solid colour as its brown trunk. It seemed to be peeking out from an open door, its mouth in an “O” shape as its cartoony eyes stared at me… Weird. An open door in the memory? 

         As I turned to face it, it squealed and ran off, leaving the door behind it open. “Hey!” I called out for it, chasing it to the doorway. Turns out, the segment of the dusky sky was actually a frame of a door, camouflaged into the orange sun and faint blue sky.. Looking through the inside of the door, I could see a long winding hallway reaching all the way to the end. The weird figure was running in this hallway, getting smaller and smaller as time ran by. Should I follow it? Should I leave it behind and just stick to the current memory I was in? 

The current memory seemed to be in the same frozen moment as usual. Except there was something about the drawing that was no longer that greyish spot of blur. 

Observing the drawing younger me had done for mum and dad, I realised that a subtle figure was now forming on the paper. The figure was very similar to the weird stalker I saw just now. Greenie, was it? Greenie… Drawing… Pencil strokes on head, looks like trees… It couldn’t be them, could it? 

Suddenly, the blurry splotch my young self was drawing no longer was a shade of grey, as I finally remembered who it was on the drawing

My good old buddy, Greenie the upside-down tree. With roots for its head represented by pencil strokes, and walking tree branches dotted with leaves as his legs. In the drawing, it looked much cuter compared to the real-life version that appeared. 

But what was it doing here? Surely it was something important. And if I was going to get more pangs of nostalgia by having a good look at it, I might as well follow it.  

A chilly feeling crawled up my skin as I entered this long winding hallway stretching forward into oblivion. Genevive assured me that everything I saw there would be really weird. But she didn’t tell me how cold it could feel. The hallway was a vibrant shade of pink, orange and midnight, the colours of the sunset. It was the only colour that dotted the floor, ceiling and walls. My footsteps created loud echoes, signifying the hallway’s hollowness. Greenie was getting smaller and smaller as the hallway progressed. “You can’t catch me!” Its voice reverberated through the hallway. I didn’t want to stay in this hallway for long, dashing forward until eventually I could see a door at the end of the hallway. Like the door just now, this door was camouflaged with the colours of the hallway. With its outline barely visible if not for Greenie using one of their thick branches to open the door. I was a few feet away from the doorway, Greenie gave me one cheeky glance, showing off its toothy grin, before closing the camouflaged door on me. 

I stopped before the camouflaged door, trying to comprehend the mystery behind this door. I gripped onto the side outline of the door and pulled it open, a bright glow emitted from the door. I had to shield my eyes from the blinding light, taking small steps into the torture. 

         The scene that revealed itself around me was not that of the nostalgia I seeked. It was the usual gym I would hit every weekend. This memory seemed to take place around the treadmill areas, and I saw a much recent me, wearing my usual gym pants and sports bra, running on the treadmill at such crazy speed. This was the day I was too hard on myself, punishing myself for drinking two cups of boba, and because of that… well… I got into a stitch. The gym was rather crowded that day, with a few other people hitting the other treadmills, and playing with the other equipment available. There were even a few walking past the treadmills. All these people were portrayed in greyish human figures, which made sense considered I never cared about my surroundings that much. Beside my own treadmill was Greenie, running along the treadmill with much exaggerated movements of running. They noticed me and immediately ran off to the other side of the gym. 

         “Hey!” I called out for it. I started to run off towards him when I heard a loud thud coming from behind, and my own self running on the treadmill tripped and fell onto the side of the floor. The grey figures surrounding me started to turn to my direction and snicker, their faint snickers causing me to cringe at how embarrassing that whole situation was. 

         The memory of myself was blushing hot red, her head facing the ground as she continued on with her running exercise. “Memory module 2 complete,” the sound in my head mentioned. 

         I didn’t notice Greenie who was opening the outline of a door camouflaged into the room of the gym. ‘Forget it man!’ I told myself, before running off to chase after them. 

         As per previously, I was back in the hallway. It was much narrower than the usual, and it had a few twists and turns to the hallway. I ran after Greenie as fast as I could, but Greenie was always ten steps away from me. This time, it seemed like we reached the end of the hallway, but there was no outline of a door right in front of me. What happened next was so bizarre. Where I was hoping there would be a door, Greenie started to walk up that piece of the wall instead. I gawked at his seemingly calm nature walking up the wall, following his walking to the ceiling, where there was a clear outline of the door. 

         Everything was too much for me to handle. I blinked several times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Gravity did not seem to bother Greenie, as it opened the camouflaged door and entered its bright blinding light. Just like previously, Greenie peeked out from the door and gestured with its hand-like branches to tag along. 

“Remember what Genevive said?” It called out with its high pitched voice, imitating Genevive’s tone and accent: “Anything weird that happens is completely normal.”     

         I decided to just place one foot on the wall first, extending my legs and knees until my entire foot was safely placed on the wall.It was hard to place my other foot on the wall, as I felt the loss of balance trying to put both feet on the ground. However, when I jumped, my two feet started to hook themselves onto the wall. It was just like walking on the usual floor. And the piece of floor that I had been walking on was now the walls of the corridor. Soon enough, I was walking casually on the “wall” like it was nothing. Overhead, the next door was swung right open, begging me to run towards it. 

         The previous memory, as embarrassing as it was, was just the 2nd memory module. Perhaps I could finish this quickly and return to the real world. The memory of the treadmill kept occupying my head, as I struggled with focusing on the chase and thinking about that dumb memory play out. 

Opening the door to the next memory, I found myself in Les Vasei Restaurant, the spanish parlour Teddy and I occasionally checked out. My memory self was sitting at a table alongside him, and I think this was the same day I finally finished the 2-month art commission I was working on for a customer. That’s why we were celebrating here, and my memory self was smiling so happily as she chatted with Teddy.  Teddy the poor boy had his face blurred out like the rest of the people in the restaurant, but everything else, from the spanish deco to the tables and chairs were just as I remembered it. 

“Do you know what this means? We could finally go watch a movie together!” My memory self squealed. “What would you suggest?” 

Teddy had his mouth opening and closing as he was saying something, but I could only hear muffled sounds coming from him. My memory self was also not keen in listening to the conversation, her eyes were staring past him and looking towards a stranger, a figure in blurry grey. The blurry grey was waving at her, and she eagerly waved back with such enthusiasm. Something was off, and the Nivia in memory turned behind her to see another grey figure coming from behind her, the person who was actually being waved back. As the invited grey figure sat beside the stranger, memory Nivia buried herself on top of the table, covering her head with her hands. Teddy being the supportive boyfriend he was, laughed at the comedy show he just witnessed.

         Seriously? Another embarrassing and awkward memory? Where were the nostalgic memories? Greenie’s snickers snapped my attention from my thoughts, as it entered the doors of the restaurant to the same hallway. I couldn’t help but feel a slight suspicion towards it. Was it possibly the one responsible for these bad memories?  

         With my heart beating nervously, I continued my chase for Greenie. It seemed like a long chase that the two of us went through. And it was a constant cycle of hallway, door, memory, door, hallway and so onward. 

         The hallways changed as I progressed. The next hallway right after this didn’t involve me walking, but swimming instead. The hallway was filled with water all the way to the ceiling. I felt like I was holding my breath underwater, but there was no need for any effort to hold my breath, because I could still feel oxygen flowing into my lungs. I barely felt anything despite the water surrounding me. Wait, if there was water here, would it flow into the memory? I turned to the door behind me which was wide open, but the water still remained in the hallway, barely touching the memory. I pressed my hand on the space of the open door, and felt an invisible barrier at the door’s opening, explaining the reason for such weirdness. 

         Greenie moved its branches as it reached for a trapdoor on the floor. That trapdoor looked so much like the door of the bunker we used for shelter. With deep breaths, I pushed those thoughts aside and continued my swim for my imaginary friend, who dived into the open trapdoor. 

         I hurriedly followed along, swimming into the bright glow. The next memory was another embarrassing one, this was one of those memories that your brain would suddenly throw at you when you were bored. I let out a long groan as I watched my memory self, who kept apologising for saying the wrong things in the team presentation for class, which had cost us a few marks for our assignment. Memory module 3 complete. 

         The situation I was in started to grow tiring. Memory after memory I chased after Greenie, going through all kinds of hallways. There were hallways lined with many kinds of doors, in which I had to figure out which door Greenie had entered. After another memory in which my mum and dad had complained about my bad behaviour to my aunts and uncles (in which I could hear their laughter from my room), I entered a cramped hallway where I was forced to crawl instead of walk. Going forward, I felt the entire hallway squishing me from all sides until I entered the next door. More embarrassing memories were showcased. What a cycle it was, entering hallway after hallway, memory after memory that were sometimes vivid and sometimes very blurry. Whatever the memory was, it gave rise to so many difficult emotions. Yet Greenie was always one step away from me.

         As I entered a hallway where I had to jump over multiple pits of lava in order to reach the door on the other side, the memories soon transitioned from embarrassing ones to ones that evoked anger instead. Teddy and I having to missed our bus to our hometown because the taxi driver we were riding on had a tyre punctured, my distant relatives laughing at me when I told them I was going to pursue a career in art, myself spraining my ankle for one week and having to miss Teddy’s concert, in which I kept scolding myself in the hospital bed for being so careless…

One time instead of walking, I was falling down in a large pit. My screams sounded across the vast darkness below me as I seemed to fall for long moments of time. “Weeeeee!!” Greenie stretched out its leafy branches like it was a bird. I tried to grab it, but it flapped its branches like a bird, far away from me, as we continued falling into a large trap door which was wide open. I had to flap my own arms and legs to avoid landing on the open trapdoor. 

Things went south when memories of wartime appeared. Me watching over dad, who was hospitalised in bed and now armless. Me trying to draw cartoons to cheer up the remaining surviving children, who were too traumatised to appreciate my drawings. Genevive and I arguing over who took the most rations, when mum showed up to scold us for our arguing… 

         This place wasn’t so nice anymore. Looking back at all those memories fuelled a sense of rage inside of me to continue forward and quickly finish this. What memory module was I on again? Greenie kept leading me through more bad memories. In one memory, I was succumbing to the cycle of procrastination as I laid down half naked in a blanket scooping large amounts of ice cream into my mouth and watching soap operas, my body and mind unwilling to touch the painting due tomorrow. Geez, what was so interesting about that memory that the simulation could show it so clearly? But then after climbing a seemingly long ladder up to the next door, I was in another memory of the war, this time of my jealous self watching a younger Genevive being hugged by my parents, my mum and dad. As she cried over their warm embrace. My younger self sat beside them, watching my parents give so much love to a child they did not own… 

“Genevive, do you remember what happened?” I asked. 

There was a long silence before Genevive answered me. “It was nothing important. I was just upset because I couldn’t handle the war any longer. Your mum and dad were there to support me, that’s all.” 

I watched Greenie run into the door, but could no longer care less. Looking at this moment of my parents giving love to Genevive, I didn’t know what to feel. 

When I reached the next memory, I witnessed Genevive and myself sitting by the same hospital room my dad was in. I remembered this, it was one of the few bonding sessions that we got together as friends. In the memory, the two of us were spouting muffled nonsense as we chatted excitedly next to my dad. There was a slight shift in tone however, as Genevive stopped smiling, turning to my unconscious father lying weakly on the hospital bed. 

“You’re so lucky your mum and dad are still alive,” she said. “I lost mine in the war.” 

“I’m very sorry about that,” said my younger self. “My mum and dad will be eager to welcome you of course.” 

“Memory module 34, complete,” forgetting about Greenie, I finally paid attention to the number of memory modules I had travelled through. 

The door to the hallway was left wide open, courtesy to Greenie. I swallowed my feelings and continued forward. 

Greenie’s cheeky laughter echoed across the gigantic hall I stepped into after witnessing that memory. It was a massive room that stretched out into nothingness. I was just realising how much I had run, and I could feel my skin trying to pour out sweat, but nothing came out. I remained just as relaxed as I was when I started the memory maze. My patience was starting to wear thin, I let out a long sigh, took a deep breath, and charged forward. Greenie opened the usual camouflaged door, it took a peek inside the blinding light. This time, instead of entering, it stood there frozen, its branch half peeking through the door. It turned to face me, its expression serious for the first time since this chase began.

“Well done, Nivia,” Greenie said, its voice echoing through the vast hall. “You’ve made it this far, but you must be wondering why you’re seeing all these unpleasant memories instead of the sweet nostalgia you crave.”

I stopped a few feet away from Greenie, catching my breath. “Yeah, you think?” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. 

Greenie’s expression was hard to read. It formed a small pout with its lips and face all scrunched up, though it was hard to see when everything from its nose, eyebrows, and lips were all the same brown colour as its branch. “I’ve been watching you throughout your whole life! Sometimes, I whisper stuff to you, and you wouldn’t really listen to what I had to say. It was so boring in your mind, and when I realised I could manifest with this simulation, and I could meet you face to face, I knew that I could use this chance to play with you!” 

My body was frozen in place, trying to comprehend what I had just learned. “What’s the point of this? Why are you making me relive all these awful moments?”

“I wanted to use those memories to send you a message you kept ignoring when I was merely in your head,” Greenie sighed, the sound like the rustling of leaves. “Those memories, bitter or not, are a part of you, Nivia. They’re the experiences that shaped you, that pushed you forward even when you wanted to give up. The nostalgia you seek is sweet, but it’s not what drives you. The anger, the embarrassment, the regret—they’re what fuel your desire to keep going, to improve, to fight for a better life.”

I frowned, my mind racing. “So, what? I’m supposed to embrace these terrible memories? Let them define me?”

“Not defined,” Greenie corrected. “Understand them, accept them. Only by facing these parts of yourself can you truly move forward.”

I glanced at the door behind Greenie. “And what’s behind that door?”

“I don’t know,” Greenie said, shrugging off its thinner branches. “To be honest, I don’t have control over what memory comes up and what memory doesn’t. But as someone who’s been in your head for a long time now, those were the memories that you kept trying to push away.” 

Many ideas of what memory could come up swirled in my head. I just hoped it wasn’t anything war related. But just merely thinking about the word “war” caused so many flashbacks of the war. The images of the crossfire– I took slow, deep breaths, clearing my mind off the flashbacks.  “Alright. Let’s get this over with.”

That moment stretched out, as if time had slowed, and the hallway seemed to narrow, focusing all attention on the door and Greenie’s panicked expression. This was different. Greenie had been mischievous, even playful, throughout the previous memories, but now there was a palpable fear emanating from my old imaginary friend.

The door began to close slowly, and a voice, mechanical and devoid of emotion, echoed through the hallway: “Memory module 10 initiated.” My heart pounded in my chest. This was the final memory, the culmination of this entire experiment, and something about Greenie’s reaction made me dread what was coming.

With a mix of apprehension and determination, I ran towards the door. Just before it closed completely, I managed to slip through into the blinding light. The transition was jarring; from the sterile, surreal environment of the hallway, I was plunged into darkness.

My surroundings were that of a bedroom, a pitch dark bedroom with only a faint night light illuminated the dim area. My younger self, not a toddler but a teenager, was sleeping peacefully in her room. Watching this scene was all too familiar, I felt my heart beating out of my chest, my lungs were grasping for every possible amount of air I could find myself with. This was the day it all started. I tried to find the camouflaged door, but the simulation was too dark for me to make out any door.

“No…” I said, trying to close my eyes. But no matter how hard I tried to move my eyelids, I couldn’t. I was stuck watching my 18 year old self, so innocent and so relaxed, unaware of what was to come. 

“Do you remember this, Nivia?” Genevive’s voice echoed in my head.

“Yes, of course I do,” I said, feeling myself crying as I watched my poor old self cowering under the blanket. I swear I could hear screams coming from outside. “They attacked out of nowhere. No one, not even the government knew that it was coming. We only prepared underground bunkers in case the nukes were detected. But somehow, we were never alerted of the attack.” 

There was dad, rushing into my room and screaming at me to wake up. In which my memory self immediately did, like she knew this day was coming sooner or later. I watched father and daughter run out of the room and the location of the memory shifted, from my old bedroom to the staircase of our previous penthouse, and then to my mum who was waiting for us at the door. We ran down many flights of staircases, until we eventually reached the entrance of the old street, back when it was still functional. 

The first thing that greeted them was a falling building. I watched the building fall onto the ground, creating a thundering strike and sending flying shards of glass, debris and rubble to the surroundings. The air was thick with smoke, my vision was blurred from the smouldering debris all around me and I heard my memory self cough heavily. I could see figures moving, some running, others fighting. Explosions echoed in the distance, followed by the sounds of guns piercing the flesh of many innocents. Children were crying, cars were honking, the entirety was chaos. This was a memory I had tried so hard to forget, a time of terror and loss that had left deep scars on my soul. I tried to cover my eyes with my hands, but then I realised that my hands were no longer there. I tried to turn back but my perspective kept shifting in which I had to watch everything unfold around me. 

Why was I forced to watch all this? I felt more of my eyes trying to cry out tears but no tears came out. Amidst the chaos, a faint beep sounded. The faint beep kept on echoing louder and louder, and when the beep ended, the sound of an explosion could be heard and many blurry grey figures would be tossed across the battlefield. Realisation grasped onto my breath as I realised what was going to happen soon. 

Ahead of me, I continued to try and track my teenager self holding onto my parents hands as the three of them ran across the street to a bunker. Several people were following us behind. There were a few blurry grey figures guiding people into the bunker in an orderly fashion, preventing people from entering through different sides. We lined up behind a long line of people, withstanding the explosions and bullet piercings. Sometimes a grenade or two would blow up, sending us to brace ourselves on the ground. However, a loud beep sounded near my area. My teenager self had heard the beep, knowing what it would do. She started to push more people into the bunker, alongside a few others who understood what was to come. We were the final three that entered the bunker before we heard the beep increasing in sound and frequency. 

In front of my teenager self, were tens if not hundreds of blurry figures begging to enter. They reached out to enter the bunker, but the beeping sounds were so much louder than their screams and begs. “No!” I screamed, my voice raw and broken as I watched my teenage self, her face filled with so much fear, closed the door of the bunker. 

Everything froze in place. The memory ended. But I thought I could hear the same roars of the bomb as it blasted off everyone who was outside that bunker. The chaotic sounds ended. Everything was back to normal. “Memory module 10 complete,” the mechanical voice intoned. I fell to my knees, my body trembling with the intensity of the emotions that surged through me. 

I killed those people. I robbed them of a chance to survive. And here I was doing all this for money. So I could achieve my dreams. 

I couldn’t handle this anymore. This wasn’t worth the money anymore. “Genevive?” I called out. “I want a break. Please. I can’t bear with this anymore.” Silence echoed across the empty memory. 

All of a sudden, this silence was subtly swept away by laughter. I clenched my jaw at the maniacal laughter that sounded like fireworks in my eardrums. No amount of covering my ears was enough to have the laughter toned down. 

“Sorry Nivia,” Genevives voice echoed in my eardrums. “Do you finally feel it? The guilt crawling up inside of you? For doing such a heinous act against those people and still walking on this earth?” 

I felt a sense of dread rush up my throat, speaking while swallowing my words, “What do you mean?”

“Did you really think that this was all just some experiment? Where you could take away the cash prize without taking accountability? I am definitely not satisfied.” 

“Woah, what do you mean satisfied?” I said. My head throbbing with all this confusion. “I can’t take back what I’ve done, it’s over.” 

“It’s over?” Genevive’s voice cracked. “No it is not! I have increased the number of memory modules you have to complete,” said Genevive with a sinister tone. “So that means more running, more climbing, more swimming, and more memories to revisit!” 

At that moment, the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks. At that moment, two figures in the crowd who were frozen in place, the ones that were chasing after the shelter, were the ones right in front of the bunker. I remembered now, their horrified faces begging for entry and trying to claw into the bunker itself. The mother looked so much like Genevive. 

But I didn’t entertain them. I let them die from the bomb.

By inviting me, Genevive never intended to help me. She was using my memories against me, showing me the entire scenario that happened, again and again. 

“Genevive, please! It was an accident!” I yelled. Greenie’s hand-like branches patting the back of my hand. “I didn’t mean to stop them, I was just thinking about myself, about surviving!” 

“We all wanted to survive, Nivia,” Genevive silenced me. “We all wanted to live. I wanted to live happily with my family. You and your family didn’t even do anything to help out. Your family just focused on the children under 18! But what about me?” 

I stood there in silence, looking at the frozen moment of my memory- the poor victims reaching out for the bunker door, only for the bunker door to close on them. I knew this was my fault. I had failed her and cost Genevive the life of her parents. I would also hate myself for doing something like that. 

“I have been thinking about this moment for so long,” Genevive said harshly, focusing on every syllable. “Ever since someone told me you left them behind, I’ve always been waiting for this moment. I joined this experiment to show you your wrongdoings. I hope you remember what you did until you die! Just like how I, myself, could never forget the day I lost everything!” 

As the echoes of Genevive’s screams reverberated in my mind, I felt a surge of hopelessness inside of me. 

“Your only choice is to continue forward,” echoed Genevive one last time. “There’s nothing else you can do.” 

The sound of the static went silent and I knew she had cut off the line for the comms. Gritting my teeth, I pushed myself to my feet, ignoring the trembling of my limbs. I had to find a way out of this nightmare, no matter what it took. But what else could I do? 

“It’s ok Nivia, I’ll be there for you.”

I turned to Greenie, who placed its branch onto my hand. 

“Greenie, I can’t do this. I have to leave this place. I–” 

“Nivia, I know your friend has trapped you here. But for now, there is nothing you can do. You have to continue to face your memories,” Greenie stroked my hand. “But along the way, we’ll figure something out.” 

“You don’t understand,” I trembled, my legs shaking. I realised that I could finally blink and move my head around, clenching my teeth knowing who had forced me to watch that scene unfold previously. “This was all six years ago. I’m not going to look back at all those painful memories. I’m living so happily now, my boyfriend, my parents…” 

“But didn’t you come here because you wanted to get the money to leave your parents?” asked Greenie. 

“I was wrong,” I said, feeling my heart shattering as I continued speaking, “I do love my family, I don’t hate them. I know they were just looking out for me but—” 

I took a deep breath, trying to get my thoughts together. 

“Ok you were right about those bad memories. I do use them as motivation.No matter how much I try to forget, they keep on coming back. And everytime they do come back, I always try to run away from them only for them to come back and haunt me. Especially when I’m doing boring stuff.  I’ve tried so many ways to make myself forget, but I couldn’t. Only art could really bring my mind to peace,” I sat on the ground, hugging my face to my knees. “I just wanted life to go back to normal after everything.” 

Silence enveloped the two of us, Greenie hugging me with its sharp, thin branches. And myself stuck in this state of crying with no tears. My own head kept on replaying those memories in my head, the war, mum, dad, Teddy… All the happy memories, the embarrassing memories, the bitter memories… It was like huge amounts of water flowing into one single bucket, to the point where the bucket had been overflowed with water. 

Yet, now as I sat in the frozen simulation, recalling memories old and new, instead of the usual bitterness that came with these memories, I felt a sense of clarity. It was great to know why one would act in certain manners, or do things in certain ways. I felt more connected with myself.

I allowed those memories to flow in my mind. I didn’t judge them, or let them evoke any sense of guilt. I just let my stupid mind replay those memories. The gunfire, the bombs, the screams… I was more certain that they were just thoughts in my head. 

Everything about my present situation was so absurd. No matter how real those memories were, I was really just stuck in a mind simulation. All those hallways, swimming, walking and running into different reflections of my memories. Even my own imaginary friend coming to life. And as I prepared to confront whatever challenges laid in store, I knew one thing for certain: if I could survive the war, I could possibly survive this absurdity.

With Greenie’s hand in mine, I focused on the door ahead, the gateway to yet another memory. With each step forward, my mind tried to think of every possible fiasco that could appear in my mind. My thoughts attacked me as usual, but I bore no mind. The past was a part of me, but it didn’t have to control me now. I was ready to move forward, to face whatever the future held. 


In a cold sweat, I woke up from a nightmare, showcasing my daughter being stabbed in the forehead by Genevive. 

Trying to assure myself that it was just a nightmare was no use, that nightmare felt so real… My daughter was yelling for her father to come save her. But in that nightmare, I could only watch as she continuously got stabbed by my dear Genevive. 

The time on my phone read 7p.m. I walked out of the bedroom to Nivia’s room. She wasn’t in her bedroom. 

“Honey!” I yelled. “Have you seen Nivia? Is she home?”

“No honey!” Patricia replied from downstairs. 

I immediately started to call Nivia. I kept calling and calling her, but the message on the phone: unanswered, annoyed the heck out of me. I decided to call Genevive. But to no avail. 

Many worries started to crawl into my head. Were they both dead? Were they both drunk? Were they both harassed by boys? Kidnapped? I couldn’t process any further. 

What were those two doing? It wasn’t like either of them to simply not answer me. Ok, maybe Nivia’s case would make sense. She’s probably still mad at me… But Genevive? 

Genevive always replied to my calls when I called her. In fact, she would normally call me daily. Though the war had made me more distant from my own daughter, I had found myself another daughter in Genevive.

That was the case, until two months ago, when I told Genevive about the truth of her parents, and what Nivia had done in order to defend herself and the people in the bunker from the bomb. Patricia and I had always known this fact. We felt so guilty about this that we decided to temporarily adopt Genevive while being stuck in the underground bunker. Genevive knew her parents had died, but we did not dare tell her about how they died. 

After the war ended, we still kept in touch with her. Genevive was a nice girl. She had a very good memory, and that great memory of hers would definitely land her a good degree in psychology. We had been so close, until I could no longer hold myself with this lie anymore. And one day, I told her the truth. Since then, Genevive stopped calling me to tell her about her life. 

Now, knowing that Genevive knows what Nivia had done, what was their hangout like? Part of the reason I had sent Nivia walking was that I hoped she wouldn’t continue, staying at home instead of crazily taking the extra mile to walk. That crazy girl really had a mind of her own, huh. 

As time ticked to 7:02, I decided enough was enough. Luckily, Nivia had sent me the address of the place they were hanging out at, someplace I’d never seen before. 

Grabbing my car keys and saying one last goodbye to Patricia, I drove off into the night. 

I tried not to think about what was happening, but I had to know my daughters were still alive. To be continued.

Written by: Lee Ann

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