By Tan Kaiyi
This is my 3,184th New Year—or so I’ve counted.
I might have forgotten a few years along the way with all those bloody calendar changes: the Chinese, the Mayan, Julian and the Gregorian. There are definitely miscalculations but once you go past your 3,000s, who really cares? It’s funny when I hear some young ones complaining about how old they are in their 30s or 40s—hell, even 70s. Why would you want to live so long?
There’s nothing new under the sun. Not that I would know.
From the rooftop, I look at the windows of the opposite block. Most of them are dim. I’m guessing the flats’ occupants are out for the last night of revelry of the old year. The ones that are lit contain groups of friends and families, choosing a quieter and homely transition. Some are alone. An old woman is sleeping in front of her TV, the soft glow of the screen accentuating the wrinkles on her face. I feel a tinge of envy when I see them.
Curious about what she is watching, I attune my hearing to her flat. From the strains of modern Mandarin, Indian and Malay pop melodies, I come to understand that the TV is tuned to a countdown show.
Two floors down, I see a lady at her dining table. She drinks a glass of wine by herself. I scan her flat for heartbeats and I locate her son’s in his own room. I try to read her mind, capturing her scattered thought streams. From the pieces I put together, she married young to a Korean man she met at a conference. They bumped into each other in an elevator which malfunctioned halfway. They struck up a conversation while they waited for the repairman to get their lives going again. However, years into the marriage, they found their fiery temperaments too incompatible and they decided to live apart. He would fly back to Singapore, or she would fly to him in Korea, on occasions to keep the marriage alive. This arrangement allowed them to maintain their bond, and the semblance of a family for their son, who rarely speaks to her. Right now, she wonders what would happen if she had taken another elevator instead. She feels that it would have been the better path.
Melancholy and reflection always infect me at this time of the year, no matter how many have passed. It’s like two stakes being pierced through the heart. Centuries have gone by and countless events crash into each other in my memory. The cycle of living and dying seems endless and I remember hundreds of friends and lovers that have gone through this never-ending wheel. There is a theory that states everything happens to God all at once. I’m sort of starting to understand how that works.
I hear thoughts from the block beneath me. Some are drunk on alcohol or festive cheer. There are the typical ones that want to exercise more and live more healthily. Others want to marry or earn more money. But I also catch a singular male voice that resolves to become a woman.
As for me, I want to die and pass on to a peaceful afterlife. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t know what awaits us after death. Before I drained him of blood, a priest once asked me if there was a God. I told him that I didn’t know, and that when I focused my hearing and sight to the heavens, all I perceived was vast emptiness and silence. But his question stuck with me and I’ve been searching for the truth behind the silence ever since. It’s easy to die. Just walk out into the sun and that’d be it for me. But I have to make sure that the afterlife is there—without judgment or flames. And so, as an emissary of the night, I went to a few night Bible classes. We don’t really burn up when we walk into a sanctuary. While it’s a great clue that there are no holy forces awaiting me at the end, I had to be sure. I didn’t care for the classes themselves, but I wanted face time with a priest. The Scripture doesn’t say anything about what happens to creatures like us when we die. I needed a human opinion. Father Lim was helpful but he was very young. I asked him once if the already damned could be saved if they repented. He asked me what was “already damned”. I said, “You know, vampires and ghouls.”
“You mean demons?” he asked.
“No, vampires and ghouls,” I said. He was earnest enough to take the time to search the Bible and Catholic writings, as well as seek the opinions of his bishops and archbishops. He only found mentions of unicorns.
For now, cutting back on my Feasting will do. I figure that if there’s a God to judge me, I have something to show at least. Outside, the countdowns are starting. The Hunger grows and I feel the heaty thirst in my fangs. I get ready to hunt. One last one perhaps, it’s the New Year after all.
A young man walks slowly on his way home below. He is alone. Snatching him away from the footpath will be easy. My toes are already beyond the edge, my entire body ready to pounce.
But he keeps walking and I remain standing. He disappears into the block below as the chorus of zeroes echo throughout the estate. The low thudding of distant fireworks began.
Something’s got to change.
It’s the New Year, after all.
Tan Kaiyi is a content consultant at a marketing communications firm, based in Singapore. His poems have been published in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS). His play, On Love, was selected for performance at Short & Sweet Festival Singapore. Kaiyi’s horror story, The Siege, appeared in Kitaab’s Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018).
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