Short story: The Grey Thread by Vanessa Ng

Starting this week, Kitaab will bring to you excerpts from Kitaab’s The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 and Best Speculative Fiction anthologies.

Click on the links given at the end of the excerpt and help us sustain our efforts to bring literature from across Asia to you. Read on!




If you are to fall asleep while being physically transported, you will start experiencing something out of this world. To be specific, if you happen to be moving at an extraordinary pace while in deep sleep, your consciousness will not be able to catch up, and you can be separated from your physical being. You will, then, be in two different places at the same time.

When that happens, you will cease to breathe. Your brain will start to wander, and conjure up a third place to make sense of it all. This is when you wake up at The Place.

The Place is a manifestation of consciousness; being ever-evolving, it can have unlimited variations. Its eventual form is perceived differently, based on each individual’s experiences and hopes for the future. Whatever the case, if you get too attached or fail to leave The Place quickly enough, you get stuck there.



Hailey was staring at an oil painting. She neither understood the intense mess of the strokes, nor the utterly mismatched colours used. There was a mishmash of painting techniques and a total disregard of the colour wheel. All the disorder made her nauseous, almost seasick. Blinking hard, Hailey stepped back from the chaos and took in a deep breath.

She signed the guest book and bought herself an Amethyst keychain from a nearby souvenir booth. It was a stone in her favourite colour, and it was one that coincided with her birthday month. In fact, it was her birthday today. That made the heavy price tag easier to ignore. Hailey checked herself out in the mirror before leaving the art gallery.

While she took the elevator up, she rubbed the Amethyst with her thumb; it was almost too cool to the touch. She looked at the information tag on the keychain and wondered who in the world still believed in protection stones. It was a marketing gimmick, and she of all people should know that. Still, the design was too pretty to be passed up.

When the elevator door opened, Hailey started grinning to herself. She checked herself out in the mirror once again before exiting. The curls in her hair were flamboyant, and her black bandage dress hugged her figure well. She was so young, so beautiful.

Making her way to the ledge of the rooftop, Hailey smiled. She closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and jumped.

Hailey woke up in a three-dimensional white space that stretched on forever. There were no walls, no doors, no locks, and nothing obstructive or intrusive. It was almost like a colossal, blank canvas for life to breathe. Hailey stood up, confused.

She took a step forth, then a step back. The ground felt surreal and absent. It was cold, too cold, almost like the Amethyst she’d bought. Hailey reached into her pocket to check its contents, but her hands grabbed nothing. In fact, her hands were kind of see-through. Translucent.


Read the complete story in The Best Asian Short Story 2018. Show your support for contemporary Asian voices. Order your copy now:

For Indian buyers: Flipkart &

For all buyers (except India): Kitaabstore 

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