This Side of Heaven

A comedian, a nun, a reality TV star and countless others meet in a garden. This is not the start of a joke, but the beginnings of a parable. These denizens may be running out of time, even as it seems there is all the time in their Kafkaesque world.

Excerpt from This Side of Heaven

A bullet to the side of your skull would do as much good as a toothpick under the fingernail, since we are here. If you cannot remember, each time after parting ways, all of you come back to the garden again, ready to unburden your testimonies in growing clusters under the watchful stars. By the end of every night, one of you succumbs to the music, gliding down the grass to the stage—sometimes dancing, arms raised in the air. The closer you dance, float, even leap to the orchestra on their circular, open-air platform, perhaps you notice that the musicians are missing their faces. Some even look up from their instruments to observe you approaching. Before your fear can overwhelm, the ground opens under your sliding feet, making way like smooth lips lustily parting. 

Falling into darkness, your body—which was never really flesh or bone—melting off you, until you are unalloyed consciousness, nude and raw. Memories of everybody you have ever hurt fill you, alternating with memories of everybody who hurt you. You relive each memory as if it were the first time—as if you were the one that was hurt, as if you were there. Each memory lasts a lifetime. A wail radiates from the centre of your being. Nobody hears it—nobody but you. And the memories keep coming—the trauma and the suffering. Followed by a choice: without any eyes to close, to shut out the remembering, you close them, anyway. You enter a void—you become void. A few hours pass—or hundreds of years—you will never know. 

Then arising, a movement like a sapling uncurling, shaking off the soil. You are forgetting who you once were—the more you lengthen from the ground, the more you forget. So desperate to become a vaster aspect of nothingness, you reach out with a hundred, non-existent limbs; roots dragging out of the seemingly infrangible earth, branches reaching the shivery blades of stars.

Epigram Books
2020

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of poetry collections and a collection of strange short fables. He has served as a mentor under the Creative Arts Programme and the Mentor Access Project, and a judge for the Golden Point Awards in Singapore. He is a past recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award for Literature. His books include poetry collections Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light, The Lover’s Inventory, the novel The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza and the short fiction collection Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me.