From Issue #2: “Last Thursday” by Davian Aw

Jarrod stands before a mirror in the glow of his bathroom lamp, searching for himself within the eyes of his reflection until the weighing stillness of the night draws him back into the bedroom, where his other self sits by the opened box, one of Jarrod’s old school photos in his hands.

“It’s the same,” the other Jarrod says. No: Lionel. His name is Lionel, but Jarrod hears only himself distorted through another’s vocal chords. “Kent Ridge High. Secondary 4C. I was standing there, not you.” Lionel looks up, his stranger’s face hollow in the shadows from the courtyard’s vermilion glow. “It’s the same with all the other stuffimmunisation records, birth certificate, everything.”

The slanting windows let in just enough light to see by, carving out their shapes and that of the furniture upon the thinly-carpeted floor. There’s a single bed against the wall, a desk and chair and computer, and a bookcase, bare but for one shelf neatly stacked with a handful of files and tall slim paperbacks that all look the same.

“I compared our work logs,” Jarrod says, staring out the windows with his hands in his pockets. “They’re identical up to last Thursday-”

“That’s the day they moved me to the yellow floor.”

“I’ve always been here,” Jarrod says.

Lionel looks back at the box of mementos. He recognizes a pale green envelope with his wife’s handwriting on it and knows, without looking, that it’s his anniversary card from the year before. He has one just like it in his room.

“You write home too, don’t you?” he asks.

Jarrod’s gaze darts over. “Yes.”

Lionel winces. “Sorry. I’m not used to… sharing, either.”

Sharing. Jarrod feels again the burn of jealous confusion in his throat, that same flash of rage that a day ago made him shove Lionel against a wall, the other man’s wallet fallen open to the ground with a photo of Lynnhis Lynnsmiling out from behind its plastic window as Lionel screamed that that was his wife, her name was Lynn, they’d been married eight years and they had a daughter and he’d never seen Jarrod before and he wasn’t lying, he swore he wasn’t lying

Jarrod had yanked out his own wallet, and inside it was that exact same photograph.

Lionel started. “Where the hell did you get that?”

“She’s my wife!” Jarrod shouted. “Eight years! We have… we have a daughter…”

“…Chris,” Lionel said, as the colour drained from Jarrod’s face. “Her name’s Chris, isn’t it?” He picked up his wallet, pulled out another photograph, and Jarrod found himself staring at his own daughter’s face.

“That’s my family,” Jarrod said, his voice trembling. “They’re my family. They can’t be yours.”

Yet they werethe same family, the same home, the same memories and secret traumas, the cautious hostility of their initial conversation waning into fright, the sameness extending past their minds to the material records of their lives, bringing them, eventually, to this night.

“The key kept jamming in the door,” Lionel whispers. “So I… we… bought an electronic one online. Remember?”

They stand face to face in the shadows: one soul in two bodies regarding itself.

“It didn’t work.” A wry smile creases Jarrod’s face. “We didn’t know how to program it.”

“The whole manual was in German.”

Jarrod laughs. “Yeah.”

“The neighbour’s kids’ bicycles, out in the corridor.”

“The rusty one with the training wheels.”

“Hazel next door used to ride that. And then her sister, and… we thought that once Chris was old enough

she could take over. I’m sure they would have let her. Good kids.”

“I miss home,” Lionel says. “I miss the Surface.”

Their shared memory unspools in words. They might have been two different tenants of the same apartment, both knowing what it was like to push open the kitchen windows to embrace the morning breeze, the angle to hold the showerhead at so the water would come out right, how it felt to fall asleep each night to the drone of the television news until Lynn came and turned it off and picked Chris up from his arms to carry her off to bed. She’d be seven now. They both know of favourite meals and tiny annoyances, the neighbour’s kid playing drums at midnight, the yellowing plants along the corridor…

Lionel leaps up with a curse.

Jarrod glances at the clock. It’s 00:58, and Lionel’s terror mirrors itself on his face as Jarrod rushes after him to open the door.

“Go!”

Lionel stumbles out the doorway and runs.

There’s no one else in the hallway. Identical doors march down both sides, tiny green lights above each one. Jarrod’s is redthe door not yet bolted from the insidebut he has two minutes before the patrol comes by, and he wills Lionel’s feet onwards as he skirts clumsily round the corner with three floors and fourteen rooms to go.

Jarrod feels another stab of panic as the clock turns to 00:59.

There’s nothing he can do. Hands trembling, he bolts the door and crawls into bed.

He relives memories of the Surface: his sun-soaked childhood with friends and family smiling beneath an expanse of sky; running with his daughter through rain-fresh fields and the tear-filled hugs when he said goodbye. The mounting excitement as the shuttle dove Underground, being assigned this room, these duties, this life, snagging Employee of the Month on his very first month and getting drunk with colleagues in celebration.

He hears the night patrol glide by and sends up a desperate prayer.

Jarrod yanks down his sleeve. He stares at the long white scar stretching from wrist to elbow. He’d got that from a bicycle accident in primary school.

Lionel had shown him that exact same scar.


He wakes at the first bar of morning music. Faux sunlight falls in soft rays upon his bed.

There’s a letter from Lynn waiting in his mailbox.

Dearest Jarrod, it begins. Have they been feeding you well? Chris starts school next month and she’s really excited. (Let’s hope that lasts!) School books are tremendously expensive. Vaneeta passed me some from her son who’s in P2 now, so we’re getting by, but I don’t know how we’d cope without your help.

 He trails a finger over her neat handwriting, clinging tight to the reality manifest in her words. He holds the letter up to his face. He thinks it still smells of home.

Guards stand along the walls of the cafeteria as he enters, their arms folded as they watch the throng. The suits sit on a sunken platform beside a table of private luxuries.

Jarrod finds Lionel walking through the doors. “Hey,” he says under his breath. “You got back all right?”

Lionel glances at him. Jarrod realises in confusion that his uniform is light purple now, not the usual pale yellow. More importantly, he no longer feels like he’s looking at himself.

“You’re not supposed to be talking to me,” Lionel says. “I’m not from your floor.”

“Lionel

“My name’s Shane. I just got here yesterday.”

“Hey!” a guard barks.

Lionel instantly backs off, his hands up. He disappears into the crowd.

Jarrod turns towards where Lionel used to sit with the others from the yellow floor.

They’re all gone. It’s blue uniforms at that table, now.


The knock comes on his door an hour later. One of the suits. Young man. Early 30s.

“I’m Ed,” he says. “From the Logos department.”

Jarrod lets him in.

“There was a mistake,” Ed says carefully. “You weren’t supposed to meet Lionel. But I’m here to tell you

“He had my memories!”

Ed flinches. “Look, Jarrodyou’ve got to forget about him. We’ve dealt with it, and I’ve convinced them to leave you alone, but if they think you’re a threat

“Who’s ‘they’?”

“Our employers.”

“What… Wyler Shipping?”

“Yes.” Ed looks uncomfortable. “Well, they’re a little more than that, but the shipping thing is real. It’s not a front.”

“What did you do to Lionel?”

“Telling you would kill you.”

Jarrod snorts. “Knowledge can’t kill.”

“Tell that to Schrödinger’s cat.” Ed sighs. “You’re doing good work, Jarrod. You’ve got a homea familywaiting for you on the Surface. That’s much more than so many people can say. Cherish that. It’ll spare you a lot of pain.” Ed looks him straight in the eye. “I give you my word.”

With that, Jarrod gets the same jolt of self-recognition he had with Lionel. It’s fainterand somehow differentbut he suddenly has the feeling that Ed knows him far more deeply than it is possible for any human being to know another.

“Lynn and Chris,” Jarrod whispers, shaken. “Do they know me?”

“Yes.”

“Do they know Lionel?”

Silence.

“Am I real?” Jarrod asks.

“You shouldn’t

“Am I real?”

Ed sees the desperation on his face, and he softens. “Yes,” he says. “You’re as real as anyone else has ever been.”

“Why can’t you tell me what’s happening?”

Ed smiles sadly and turns to walk away.

“What if I want to be a threat?” Jarrod demands.

Mid-way to the door, Ed’s steps falter. He stops.

“You know,” he says after a long silence, “there was a time when something really bad happened, and I wished I could go back in time to warn myself.” He turns back towards Jarrod. “But the dead… they don’t hurt anymore, and changing history would mean losing all the good that came from the bad. The other lives that were saved, the friends who cared for me, all the… all the grief and healing, every hope… That’s a lot to lose, Jarrod. It’s losing yourself. Losing a world.”

Jarrod doesn’t speak.

Ed reaches into his pocket for pen and paper. He writes something down and hands it over.

Ed
46A 29th Ave.
Logan Commons, Q3

“Come visit me,” he says softly. “On your next day out, if you still want to know. But, please. Lie low until then. And think about this, Jarrod. Think about what you’re willing to sacrifice. Some things are so fleeting.”


They get a day out and $50 each fortnight to visit the city. The Surface is out of bounds until their contract ends, but everywhere in the Underground is open to them. They have until midnight to get back before the doors close. Outside, there’s no free food, water, or shelter. They’re all aware of the implications.

There are few people going Jarrod’s way. He sits alone on a train bench and watches scenery flash by as they skirt the rock face from one vast cavern into another, floodlights basking the subterranean world in daytime brilliance. Trees cluster between buildings, grass patches cordoned off with crisp lines of pavement. They zoom past terraced houses in the rock with well-kept gardens, flowers spilling down the stone in tiny bursts of colour. Kids wave at the train. Jarrod waves back.

29th Avenue at Logan Commons is home to a line of red brick apartments with narrow black gates warding off each strip of lawn. The gate for 46A is wide open. Jarrod enters and rings the doorbell.

He waits.

He rings it again. “Ed?”

There’s no response. The door is slightly ajar.

“Ed?” he calls again, stepping in. “Are you there?”

The rooms beyond are grey with shadows blowing gently in the draught from the open door. Ed is nowhere to be found.


“You know what’s at stake, Ed,” his supervisor says, not unkindly. “You more than anyone else.”

The administrative area of Wyler Shipping fills the top floor of the building, admin-only access guarded by key-card security.

Ed is slumped on the sofa. “You were right,” he says. “It doesn’t stop hurting. I know it’s selfish, but

“You’ve saved so many. If not for you…”

“I miss him so much.”

“You deserve your rest,” Julia says, tending to a pet cactus she had lovingly named Water. “But you can’t tell Jarrod. We can’t afford to reconfigure a whole floor again. And I know you don’t want to lose him. He’s the last of yours.”

“Yeah.”

Julia polishes a tiny cactus spike. “He did try to meet you, by the way. He bought a train ticket this morning. You could have risked the whole operation.” She sprinkles fertiliser onto the soil. “It doesn’t actually matter how much he suspects if no one tells him anything, but you’re just baiting him to crack you. And this was your second chance.” Julia looks up from Water the cactus. “I’m sorry. You know I don’t have a choice.”

Ed swallows. “You know there’s nothing left for me up there. This place is all I have.”

“There are always two choices, Ed.”

Ed’s apartment looks like a normal home. Nothing sticks out. Jarrod finds his full nameEdward Liu Yizhenand scribbles that down next to his address. An intranet search might turn up something, he thinks, shutting the door as he steps back out.

“Are you Jarrod?”

He gives a start. There’s a woman staring at him, arms folded on the dividing wall.

“Yes?”

“They took him this morning.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. I think he was expecting them.” She pulls out an envelope from the pocket of her dressing gown and hands it over. “He said to give you this if you came here and he was gone.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“I hope he’s all right,” she says.

“Yeah,” he says. “Me too.”

Jarrod hurries away and finds a small park behind the block: flower beds, scattered trees and shrubs. There’s only an old man seated on a bench munching quietly on a sandwich, and a middle-aged woman doing tai chi beneath an angsana tree.

Jarrod sits down and tears open the envelope. There’s a thumbdrive and a note in Ed’s handwriting:

Jarrod
If you’re reading this, it means they got to me. That’s not important.
If you’re sure you still want the answers, they’re on the thumbdrive.
The password is your daughter’s name.
Never forget who you are.
You are as real as anyone else.
Ed


He’s back before midnight.

Jarrod draws the curtains, sealing himself in a cocoon of warm light before sticking the thumbdrive into his computer.

CHRISTINA he types at the password prompt. File names pop up: numbered images, and a word document titled READ THIS LAST. He opens the first image.

It’s a newspaper article from a few years back. There’s a mug shot of his face that he has no recollection of ever taking.

Man Arrested for Tampines Murders, the headline reads.

There’s a name attached to the face. It’s not his name.

And, leaning closer to the screen with his heart pounding in his chest, he sees an utterly foreign stranger looking out from behind those eyes and the defiantly unrepentant smirk.


It’s Chris’ birthday. She’s turning seven. On the cake are lighted candles ringed with maraschino cherries sitting atop white swirls of cream. Her friends sing her birthday wishes, faces peeking out from under crooked party hats. There’s one on his head, too. It’s bright pink and green and purple. Lynn made him put it on, with a teasing smile he could not resist.

They’ve forgotten the knife for the cake and he gamely gets up to get it, offering a cheerful “Sorry!” as he almost steps on a particularly tiny kid. Jarrod hums as he goes to the kitchena riff on the birthday song, ad libbing new notes to fill the gaps.

He turns the corner, and he is there.

His doppelganger Michael is dressed in black, leaning against the kitchen stove with a jaunty insouciance that Jarrod never knew his body capable of expressing.

He lifts his head to meet Jarrod’s eyes. A parody of a smile twists his lips.

“Looking for this?” Michael asks, and Jarrod sees for the first time the gleaming knife in his hand.

Jarrod steps back. “You’re… you’re not real. This is a dream

Michael strolls over, circling him in inspection. “What did they do to us?” he asks, and in his words and face Jarrod gets a sudden sense of self that chills him cold.

“Who, the shipping company?”

All of them!” Michael yells. “Every one of them with their happy, oblivious lives who never cared about anyone until we made them care.” His eyes flash. “It was funny, huh? How they suddenly had to pretend to be all concerned about the deaths of people they’d been hating for years. They knew. They knew they wanted it. They gave us the targets and then they condemned us when we made their dreams come true.”

Michael is up in his face now, and there’s no escaping his eyes, the familiar shapes from the mirror filled with hurt and anger and hate. Jarrod reminds himself that this isn’t real, it’s not real, and Michael doesn’t exist, not any more, not ever again

“You killed people,” Jarrod says.

“You know what the problem with this world is?” Michael asks. “People don’t want to face themselves. They believe so many horrible, cruel things and still live in the delusion that they’re good people. But if someone wishes someone dead, I’m going to make sure they have that dead body to look at. I want them to spend the rest of their lives haunted by that body and knowing what kind of person they are, no matter how many lies they tell themselves, because there’s not enough honesty

“You think this will make them honest?” Jarrod shouts. “You think they… they noticed whatever twisted lesson you were trying to teach them by killing

They killed each other!” Michael screams. “Cowardice and incompetence is no excuse!”

Silence.

“And now you’re one of them,” Michael continues, his breath hot with the sting of betrayal. “They made us one of them.” He pauses, then in a spurt of violence flings his arms wide, the knife carving an ugly curve into the refrigerator. Jarrod jumps. “LOOK AT YOU!” Michael demands, his cry seething with loathing, and if this were real the kids would have heard; Lynn would have heard… “Look at you defending them. You’re pathetic. You’re the one who’s not real, Jarrod! You! And not just that, you’re the most boring person they could come up with. Your job is boring. Your hair is boring. Your doting wife and kid are boring, shallow, two-dimensional stereotypes who

Don’t,” Jarrod says, jabbing a finger at Michael and meeting his glare with his own. “Don’t you dare say anything about Lynn and Chris.”

Michael’s face hardens. Heavy silence hangs in the air between them.

Then Michael laughs. “It doesn’t matter what they do to our memory. It won’t change the past. The world remembers.”

No,” Jarrod says. “You’re dead. You died the day they wiped your memory and put me there instead. Ed caught you. You were on death row. You were executed. That’s what the news said. It’s just me left, working to compensate the families of all those people you killed

“It was you.”

“No!” Jarrod yells. “I don’t remember any of it! All that stuff… all that stuff you said, and the things Ed sent me, the things in the papers, the victims… You killed the only person he’d ever loved.” Jarrod swallows. “So he made sure you could never hurt anyone again. I was never you. Never. I… I remember my parents. The house we lived in, the… My friends. The games we played. I remember my schools. I remember my girlfriend, Lynn, and marrying her, and… and all the things we did together…”

I wrote your life, Ed said in his letter. That’s my job. I create whole new people, and others make them real.

 He shakes his head to dislodge the thoughts. “I… I remember Lynn teaching the little girl next door to ride a bike. I watched Lynn give birth. Chris. We taught her how to walk. I…”

“They’re all lies, Jarrod,” Michael says softly, watching him with a pitying contempt. “You know that. We both know that. Don’t keep fooling yourself. I am you. I always will be.”

No

Then his world spins, and Jarrod’s no longer himself but dressed in black and stalking out the kitchen with hate burning in his heart and a knife in his fist and he remembers, his life suddenly a weak falsity shot through with contrived joys and shallow pretences.

Children are screaming. There’s a woman with her eyes gone wide and hands raised to stop or surrender, but all he knows is the adrenaline shooting through his veins and the hot blood spurting over his hands in the perverse vindication of some point made, some justice served, some stranger’s safe oblivion shattered for another’s honesty, and the screaming gets louder above the sound of someone laughing, and laughing, and laughing

Jarrod jolts out of bed. He claps a hand over his mouth, heart throbbing in his chest, horrified at the fading sense of catharsis suffusing his body and the ghost of a knife in his hand.

He draws up his knees and hugs them to himself. He fights back the revulsion at his own touch, desperately embracing the suddenly-shallow illusion of who he is.

You’ve been here for five years, said the letter from Ed, now printed out by the side of his bed. Last Thursday, you got the truth out of me and didn’t like it. You hadn’t told anyone else, so we backed-up your memory to the last few days, added standard filler for the lost time and wiped the rest. Lionel got that backup by accident. Scars, props, they made everything. We didn’t catch the mistake until it was too late. No one knew him yet, so we just put him on another floor. We thought it wouldn’t matter. But then you two started talking.

I don’t exist, Jarrod thinks fearfully. But he wants to, and tries to drown out the scream of a buried self desperate to live again.

We used to replace criminal minds with basic AI and put them to work generating reparations for their victims. It didn’t work. They were like robots. There were crashes, human bodies glitching all over the place, walking into walls, getting stuck in action loops. But when we programmed in unique human consciousnesses, supported with backstories and external reinforcement… you became just like anyone else. Human. No longer criminal. And working for us. For your victims.

Jarrod wants to talk to Ed. He gets up on unsteady legs and walks over to the windows. He pulls the curtains open. The subterranean world outside is still.

You’re not Michael, Jarrod. You must understand that. You’re not a killer. I know because I wrote you. I wrote you to be a good man, to take that darkness and turn it to the light. And that doesn’t make you any less real, or any less human, than anybody else.

So many people, Jarrod thinks, staring at the rows of windows that cross the building outside; so many characters brought to life to inhabit and animate the corpses of the condemned. Who are they but embodied fictions of another’s imagination playing out a caricature of humanity, personalities subject to the quirks of another’s talent, histories shaped by the limits of another’s creativity, born not from a womb but rushing keystrokes awakened by the breath of a criminal soul…

He drops to a knee before the open box of his belongings and lifts out his primary school report book. Its weight is solid in his hands, the faded green of its plastic bringing back memories of form teachers carrying in stacks of the books beneath the nervous eyes of three dozen students.

He opens the book. His Primary Two mid-year examination results stare back at him. At the bottom, his form teacher’s comment: “Jarrod is a well-behaved and intelligent boy. It has been a pleasure teaching him.”

Lionel’s had been the same. The same grades, the same comment, identical but for the name—a simple programming replacement turning the standard into personal. Jarrod sees for the first time—now that he’s really looking—the slip up with the watermark, which bears the name and logo of Aljunied High School instead of Farrer Road Primary.

Assembly-line people, he thinks. That’s what they are: cheap, manufactured, assembly-line lives, both him and Lionel declared by Mrs. Goh in Primary 3B to be an attentive, cheerful boy who participated eagerly in class but needed to work on his Mathematics, both reports signed by identical fathers with identical signatures (which, Jarrod notices, have been copied perfectly into every signature box), and Jarrod’s heart cries out for a father who never existed but whose laugh and glower and stubborn smoking habit are etched so clearly in the crafted memories of his mind.

You said you wished you’d never known. You said that if you ever got close again, I should tell you to stop. I’m sorry I didn’t succeed. My pride and my pain needed you to know.

He lives only because Michael did. He’s human only because Michael was, without whom he would be merely an idea in a writer’s head, an innocent tale ensconced in the domain of fiction until perhaps injected into another abandoned shell to touch reality. And if he wants to be more than a man-made story, his body has a history beyond him that is no one else’s for the taking, searching for a soul to continue its journey into a human birthright waiting to be reclaimed.

Lynn and Chris are as real as you are. They shaped the person you became. They gave you real memories. They care about you. They write to you. If you can love them, they can love you.

He will never see them again.

So many people, Jarrod thinks. So many like him, each one living, breathing, filled with memories of an eternally unreachable home from a life that’s but a dream.

Jarrod returns to bed and falls against his pillow.

You made a choice, Jarrod. Where you go from here is up to you. Maybe, this time, the cat will get to live.


It’s dawn. The living room is quiet. The party is gone, sunrise slipping through the roman blinds half-open on the windows.

The knife sits on the table where a cake used to be. Its blade is clean.

Michael is standing by the blinds with his hands in his pockets, watching him.

“You were right,” Jarrod says quietly. “I am you. Wishing that I wasn’t doesn’t make it so, no matter what Ed said. I do have to face it.”

Michael gives a small, sad smile.

“But I’ve changed,” Jarrod continues, his voice stronger. “They changed me. I’m not a murderer any more. I’m happy. I’ve got a life. I’ve got a family.”

Jarrod’s eyes survey the living room, taking in the series of photographs hanging on the wall. Friends, family, Lynn, Chris, him, all smiling, each photo stirring up solid memories of a life from before. “And… yeah,” he says. “It’s fiction, all of it.”

His gaze settles on a card on the mantelpiece. “To daddy,” it says in clumsy crayon, and even if it was the work of the props department at the shipping company, all Jarrod sees is his daughter’s writing. Warmth fills his heart and brings a smile to his lips. “But it’s also the realest thing I’ve ever known.”

When Jarrod next looks at the windows, Michael is gone.


Jarrod wakes into morning music and golden light on cool white sheets. The memories of the previous night softly make their presence known. They feel unreal now, those remnants of another life.

Jarrod gets up and files Ed’s letter away. He keeps the thumbdrive in the back of his desk drawer.

It’s time to move on.

He goes down to the cafeteria. It’s still early. He gets his food, and pauses before his table.

Ed is sitting there. But there’s a newly cheerful demeanour to his movements, and he’s wearing the dark green uniform of Jarrod’s floor.

“Hi,” Jarrod says.

Ed looks up and beams. “Hey! Same floor, huh? I just got here last night. Name’s Sam.” He holds out a hand.

Jarrod shakes it. “Jarrod.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Five years.”

“Whoa.”

Jarrod sits down and starts on his breakfast. “Yeah. Time flies.”

Sam swallows a piece of potato and waves his fork towards a guard. “I think that guy’s staring at us.”

“They do that sometimes.”

“Whatthey think we’ll run away and give up all the cash?”

Jarrod grins. “Who knows. Maybe there’s something the folks upstairs don’t want us knowing.”

“They’re the ones in the suits, right? Walking around like they own the place?”

“That’s them,” Jarrod says.

Did someone else write you?  he wonders, watching Sam as he watches the guards. Or did you write yourself? Becoming one of your own creations, walking and talking with others you created and used to intimately know; if the entirety of both their lives and characters emerged from Ed’s imagination, would their interactions be little more than Ed talking to himself? Is Ed the only one who truly exists here, both of them a version of Ed who’s forgotten himself, Jarrod no different from Sam in their shared origins from the mind of an erased writer who perhaps still lives on through them…

“They look really stressed,” Sam says. “I’m glad I’m not one of them.”

“Yeah,” Jarrod says. “Me too.”

“Got any family here?”

“No, not here. I’ve got a wife and little girl up on the Surface.”

Reality is whatever you perceive it to be.

“Cool. How old is the girl?”

“Almost seven,” Jarrod says. He scoops scrambled eggs into his mouth. Chris would be starting primary school this week. He can’t wait to hear all about her first day.

“Never got married,” Sam says.

“Mm.”

Jarrod knows what Ed told him and what he read in the news, and in the sordid biographies of Michael’s life that journalists had tried to piece together.

But he also knows how much it hurt when he fell off his bike and cut his arm as a kid with lousy balance. He remembers Secondary 4C at Kent Ridge High, climbing through windows to get into locked classrooms to use the computers during recess, playing pranks on Ms. Yang, complaining about homework, making fun of the principal behind his back. He remembers the apartment block he grew up in, the neighbours, the police post, the stalls at the hawker centre across the street in a part of the country that Michael had never lived in.

He knows the sound of Chris’ laugh, and the bed that he and Lynn used to fall into together; he remembers the way the bathroom door got stuck, and cuddling by the window on National Day watching fireworks in the dark.

He has two more years before his contract expires and they turn him into somebody else on a different floor.

He has two more years to stop them.

“Come on,” Jarrod says to Sam as they finish eating. “We still have time. I’ll show you around.”


Davian Aw‘s fiction and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, Diabolical Plots, Mythic Delirium, The Future Fire and Daily Science Fiction, among others. “Last Thursday” was his first professional story sale. Davian lives with his family in Singapore, where he works as a web developer and knows a lot about Keanu Reeves.

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