The gift

“Ming, tell us a ghost story!!”

“Tell them about the time you played catching at the old blocks!”

Ming fell silent. The things he saw at the old blocks had scared him. “No la, nothing to say.”

“Tell us about your old house leh!”

“Eh do you think it’s just you, Ming? And all these things are looking for you?”

Ming shook his head. “If they are, I don’t know why they’re looking for me. I’ve never helped any of them before.”

Ming never understood why people were so interested in the things he saw. He also never understood why the spirits kept coming to him. Some beckoned to him, spoke to him in languages he could not understand, and followed him home. Some people called his third eye a gift, but it was hardly a gift. There was no use. He didn’t know what they wanted from him and he couldn’t help them.

——————————————-

Ming lived in the same flat for two years. Strange things started happening when he first settled in. Initially, it was just things going missing and then reappearing somewhere else. There was once he heard knocking on the bathroom door when he was inside. It was several loud raps. Thud thud thud thud. He opened the door but there was no one outside. The house was empty except for him.

For the first few months, he didn’t see anything. But then, they started appearing. There was a girl who sat on a chair, her hair cropped short, framing her pale face. There was a woman who stared at him from outside his room. He hung his clothes at his doorway, and she peered at him from between the fabric. Sometimes, from his room, he would hear women talking loudly in the kitchen, laughing, enjoying themselves. Curled up on his bed, he felt like these women in the kitchen were the real occupants of the house that he was paying rent for. Amidst the noisy chatter he was the stranger, quietly existing in a place that was never truly his own.

Every space is shared. No space is truly our own when we share it with the other entities that drift in and out. Different energies, converging and diverging. The strongest point of convergence happens during the seventh month, where different streams of consciousness interact easily with each other.

That was also when Ming met Shan again.

Shan was about his age, with a pretty oval face and a skinny frame. He was sitting on a park bench when Shan saw him. She asked if she could sit beside him for a while. “Go ahead”, he said, trying to conceal his excitement. Ming sometimes saw her when he walked his dog, but never quite had the courage to say hi. She was too pretty and he was too shy.

Ming took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, lit one and took a long drag from it.

“I’m Shan. You’re Ming right? You stay at the block behind?”

“Yeah, I uh- I used to see you around sometimes…When I walked my dog.”

“Used to?”

Ming was hesitant for a while. “Ah, my dog passed away.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

A few moments of silence passed between them.

“Nice night.” She mused.

Ming nodded. “I see several others are enjoying this weather too.”

“You know, my mother always says: ‘Girl ah, don’t stay out so late, now seventh month you better come home quickly!’. But I like being out at night, you know? It’s so peaceful.”

Ming lit his second cigarette. “She’s right. You don’t know who or what you will encounter. Or if they are good or bad.”

“Well, then are you good or bad?” Shan teased.

Ming smiled. “What do you think?”

They spent a while more talking. Shan was chatty that day and Ming liked it when she was chatty. He liked many things about her. The way her lip curled when she smiled. How she threw her head back when she laughed.

“-Anyway! I have to go now. See you around…Next year maybe.”

Ming watched as she walked away, disappearing into the night. For a brief moment, all the other spirits had vanished from his sight and he focused only on her…Her skinny silhouette slinking away. He finished his second cigarette, and walked back up to his flat. Exhausted from the day, Ming lay down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. His thoughts drifted off to Shan. She was an attractive young woman, and he would have wanted to date her. It was a pity that he was a year too late for any chance of that happening. Ming remembered how he recognised her photo immediately as he walked past the void deck. He remembered being in disbelief, feeling like someone had punched him in the throat. One moment she was here and the next –

Ming sighed a content sigh. Well it depends on where ‘here’ is. She’s still here now. Perhaps his third eye was a gift. Perhaps it wasn’t given to him so he could help others, but rather, to prepare him for the yearly encounters that were to come.

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