I met you earlier this year. It was the first time - I stood there looking at you, with a tingling sensation I could only describe as adoration. As I knew you more and you became comfortable with me, I took solace in your presence. You sheltered me from harm and provided me solitude when I needed one. I would stay with you until piles upon piles of sand flowed. Until the sun has shifted its arc.

Time has changed.

Scorching harm has come to me. Solitude no longer feels like one. Staring at you from a distance is a routine. Staying with you is a necessity. I would rather escape your presence and bask in another oasis.

Perhaps you cease to please me with the descent of a new season. Perhaps it is the companionship that I seek; one that you can never offer me. Perhaps life is simply not that simple that fingers can be pointed to a single face.


Oh, my chamber, no longer you are my haven.

(credits to TristanGreer @ deviantArt)
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Silent emotions

Imagine this and imagine it vividly in your mind as best as you can:

You sitting in your chair in front of your computer and books.
You stopping whatever you were doing and turning your head towards the large window to your side, while one arm supporting your chin as your gaze drifting softly at the scene beyond the window.
You watching the continuous stream of traffic on the road across your vision field, hearing the muffled sound of vehicles zooming pass as people move on with their lives and realising you with yours.
You noticing the distant sky scattered with clouds and the sun shying away behind the thick still clouds.
You barely knowing what is in your mind at the mundanity of the moment and being oblivious that you are caught in a tranquillising trance.
You holding in this position in the physical and mental sense for minutes and minutes that when you snap out of it you realise perhaps 10 minutes has gone pass.

This is how I lost presence in this world. This is the melancholy in me emerging spontaneously at random times. This is one of the moments in life that I feel most calm and become deadly quiet - almost everything seems so crystal to me as I observe a snapshot of the world outside my window moving with time while my body is held in time stasis.

Speaking of time, I realise it is a waste, but I simply cannot help it.While in this trance, a great concoction of feelings comes splashing in an overwhelming force and these feelings are often the most difficult things for me to describe. Is is sadness? Longing? Helplessness? Frustration? Or is this what melancholy really is?

Perhaps I will never know the answer. But the answer does not matter to me. The whole experience means so much more to me. I consider it one the pleasures of life, actually.

You might raise an eyebrow to that last sentence, but I consider experiences and savouring emotions as ways to live your life fully. I thinks I would miss out on a lot if I didn't get to experience as many different kinds of emotion. It's just a waste to live without tasting them. (Okay, I think I'm starting to not make any sense, so I'll stop talking about it. But if somehow I do make sense to any of you, maybe you have found a mate!)

Although my melancholy can be brought about deliberately (which isn't very common of me), it is oft most triggered. By music. (Not again)

Here's one:

Just click on it. Three minutes of audio data is hardly a permanent damage to your monthly internet quota.

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed its knees

By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me...

Cause, I built a home
for you
for me

Until it disappeared
from me
from you

And now, it's time to leave and turn to dust...

Rarely you come across such powerful lyrics. Good songs are truly difficult to come by nowadays.

P.S. I may be misinterpreted by you as being "emotional" (the term as defined by people to describe certain difficult-to-handle people, as in "You're soooooo freakin' emotional!!!"). Those who truly know me would know better than to say I'm that kind of emotional.

P.P.S. Maybe I just simply miss home.

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Humans are humane? Chicks will disagree.

This is a baby chick.

In case you still didn't get it, this is also a baby chick.

Attack of the chicks. Please tell me that you get it already.

Oh, I knew very well what you are feeling right this moment. Go on, feast your eyes some more at these precious photos of cute, charming little chicks with their awesome cuteness that capture their pure innocence cutely.

I remember when I was about 12, my family had a small chicken cage-- no, scratch that - a relatively large chicken cage considering the population. It was the size of four moderately sized washing machine put close together, and it housed three adult chickens (one male, two females) with their little chicks. During the day, we let them out to roam free around the house. They especially liked to dance on the soft, green grass.

I watched the chicks grow up right from their hatching up to adulthood. Man, chickens do have a super swift biological development, and I sometimes wished they would stop growing at day 4. That is when they are cutest (see attached pictures).

Then today I watched something very, very disturbing. Too disturbing indeed that I had to share this with other people - yes, that means you. But this is not because I find it entertaining (read: NOT akin to spamming other people's inbox with stuff that is considered to be hilarious) but because I think the chicks would definitely want the world to know and take some sort of action.

Embedded below is a short documentary recorded at the world's largest egg-laying breed hatchery in Spencer, Iowa. I urge you to watch it immediately. I can guarantee that it is VERY disturbing to anyone, so don't say I didn't warn you. But you still have to, should, and must watch it. (I think I just contradicted myself)

If only Americans knew.

I don't know how exactly it is done here in Australia, but for the poor chicks' sake, I sure hope Aussies have a more gentle and humane story. A true chicken soup for the soul, if you will. (Was that a pun?)

What do we do? I'm not too sure myself. I don't think I will go vegan (as recommended at the end of the video) but at least I found something useful from Daily Finance website. Maybe we can do something after all. To quote:

Addendum: Many commenters have suggested that buying organic or free range eggs is the answer. While that is certainly preferable, it is not the answer; the chicks raised by Hy-Line and other hatcheries using instantaneous euthanasia can and do go to farmers who raise organic and free-range eggs. If you buy your eggs from a grocery store, they are almost certainly the fruit of this broken industry. I realize now that even the chickens I keep in my backyard for eggs (and treat extremely well, in a way incomparable to factory farms) were probably born in a hatchery only to see their brothers head toward the grinder. The answer is to buy chickens and eggs raised by very small, diversified farms. They're probably the ones at your local farmer's market, and they probably charge prices I've mentioned; as much as $5 per dozen for eggs and $6 per pound for meat. Talk to them, learn more about their practices and beliefs, and thank them.

P.S. If you were eating chicken while reading this entry, I apologise for the trauma I may have caused. If it makes you feel any better, the chicken in your hand was probably very well taken care of.

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"We bake our own iPhone"

When countless technologies are condensed into such a small device the size of roughly a short stack of business cards, it becomes extremely difficult not to bring said device everywhere you go. If you own such device, you might say, "I bring and use this incredible device everywhere simply because it makes me a productive person," and you continue to ramble on with reading online news, typing notes and ideas, and organising schedule. Perhaps more often than not you just want to look cool and be the subject of admiration among aspiring, trendy teenagers. But whatever, the reasons don't really matter.

What matters is that you do bring the magical device literally everywhere as if it is actually surgically attached to your body. That includes bringing the device to a dark storeroom to shine your way around, and to a kitchen to look for a French recipe (stupidly ambitious, considering you don't even know what tarragon is).

One day I carried my iPhone with me for a visit to the toilet in my own house, thinking I might as well be "a productive person" and read some news while I'm at it (or maybe I just wanted to look cool, not that anybody is there with me in the toilet to admire my coolness). After I was done and all and had flushed the toilet, I was punished. My iPhone slipped and "splash!" it went straight into the toilet bowl.

My iPhone must be so proud to be honoured as such.

It took me a full two seconds before I decide to fish it out from the (thankfully flushed) bowl. After patting it relatively dry with some tissue, my medical knowledge told me to sterilise it in some makeshift way that I can try in my house. I sanitised it with a liquid disinfectant (read: Dettol) and dried it again. My iPhone screen was dark and blank, as if the brief swim had taken its poor soul out of it - you could pretty much call it a diePhone now. To be honest, I'd probably be left soulless myself if I had that kind of a swim.

The whole process seemed to turn my iPhone off unintentionally. I didn't dare to turn it on immediately in fear of short-circuiting my iPhone in case the water had already went deep into the electronic circuitry. Operating under the assumption that the worst case scenario has happened, I thought of ways to dry it.

I placed it in front of my room heater switched on and left it there overnight. Then I used my hair-dryer a bit (I can't believe I just said that). There was still some water underneath the touchscreen, but I was somewhat confident that most of the moisture had evaporated from the circuitry, so I tried turning the iPhone on.

(A partially chomped off apple appeared on the screen)

My iPhone survived the horrible ordeal, but the water underneath the screen was a massive annoyance to me as I didn't need a less-than-sensitive touchscreen and I certainly didn't need an abstract artform to permanently shadow the screen. I needed a way to drain those moisture out.

After doing a bit of research in numerous forums (turned out I wasn't alone after all - I'm so happy), I found out some really rad and crazy methods of drying an iPhone (or any other electronic devices for that matter). I switched my iPhone off, took out my baking Pyrex, filled it with uncooked rice, and buried my iPhone in the middle of the rice. Supposedly, rice is just inherently thirsty, even going as far as sucking toilet water to quench that thirst. To speed up the drying process, I needed to raise the temperature. Since a microwave would just fry any electronic device and render it useless, I opted for conventional oven, as professionally recommended by some random people in forums. Setting the oven up on low temperature (about 100-120 degrees C; you don't want to melt your iPhone as I suspect it won't be very nice), I literally baked my iPhone for 9 hours.


I just LOVE the sound ovens make. This time around, however, it sounded even more pleasant than usual. I took the Pyrex out of the oven and digged for my iPhone. I turned it on to find that it worked perfectly fine and the touchscreen was devoid of water! It seemed that life has once again returned to the soulless device. Who knew a baked iPhone can make a man happier than a baked lasagne?

I know any normal person would now be traumatised enough to not bring such a device when visiting the toilet next time. Once is quite enough.

But since I'm not normal, I still keep bringing my iPhone to the toilet. What? I like to be "productive". Go away. (flushing toilet sound)

P.S. What do you think happened to the rice?

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The Gaze

Media: Ikea pencil (HB? H?), B pencil, mechanical pencil on paper.
Date of start: 23.8.2009
Date of finish: 23.8.2009

I always wish I could draw more often (damn you, medical course!). Now and again, I would feel like drawing or sketching but I usually suppressed my desire so that I could focus on the more important stuff at hand.

Today, however, I had the strongest urge to draw and there was no way I could let that unheeded. So I said to my journal article critical appraisal assignment (which is due next Friday), "Ah, screw you!" and grabbed my sketch book and the nearest pencil I could see at that time. That pencil turned out to be a short pencil that you get for free when you go to Ikea. Just so you know, it was a lousy pencil.

When I started to draw, I thought I wanted to produce a familiar face. So I took a self-portrait of mine as a rough source material. After 4 hours and some imagination on my part, the result was a Caucasian guy (what the--?). If not fully Caucasian, the guy is at least half-Caucasian. I guess I was kinda curious as to how I would look like if I were a white guy. Not sure if I would be that good-looking, though. (quirky smirk)

Major alterations: Nose, facial structure
(Very) Minor alterations: Eyes, lips
Retained features: Ears, brows, hair, neck, hoodie

So yeah, basically the guy has the same exact pose and clothing as the source photo, with some of my facial features incorporated. Wouldn't say he's me, and wouldn't say he's not me either.

Anyway, I focused on brushing up on my shading and lighting skills, especially on the face. That's why the hair was drawn unsophisticatedly and the shading on the hoodie was light and simple. I just wished that the scan would look better than this. The scanning process has a habit of bleaching out the lighter shades. Oh well, let me admire the original art by myself.

To those of you friends who have seen me in real life, do you think he has my resemblance? Even if you've never seen me face-to-face, you're more than welcome to drop your thoughts/comments. Maybe you can talk about his gaze? Or maybe he looks familiar to you? Like an actor or a model, perhaps? Hey, wait, where are you going?

P.S. That was my hair 3 months ago.

P.P.S. In retrospect, the hair wasn't that much different from what I have now.

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Take out your kitchen mixer from the cabinet, and set it nicely on the counter. Next get a top-notch orchestra assemble and an esteemed choir (which go very well together indeed), and gently place them in the mixer bowl. This might seem a bit strange to some, but now grab a rock band by the neck and put it in the middle of the ingredients in the bowl. The next step is very important: DO NOT turn on the mixer on high setting as this will cause the sound coming out the mixture to be simply tasteless and inconsistent. To avoid having to throw out the mixture and start all over again, mix the ingredients gently and slowly instead so as to produce a flavourful, creamy, and chromatic music that may be enjoyed again and again with your family and friends.

I'm guessing a lot of people might think that it takes the form of the following equation:

orchestra + choir + rock band = Rock You Like a Hurricane

Well, the album Epicon, by Globus, I assure you, is very much different than Scorpions. In fact the left side of that equation is not quite right. Not all of the tracks are rock. It is difficult to categorise the album into any of the conventional genres that we have today - it has a mixture of rock-driven orchestral track, choir-orchestra combo with solo vocal, ethnic music, orchestra-supported rock music, classical music in Italian, and choir in Latin. I could go on, but let's not go there, shall we?

Cover art of Epicon

In any case, once you have listened to the whole album, you would agree that the tracks are very emotional, grand film soundtrack-like, and simple EPIC. It's funny that some would even classify the album under the genre of 'epic'. To be honest, I think it's a fair classification since it is immensely difficult to pigeon-hole Epicon. Besides, 'epic' pretty much sums the album quite accurately.

In the Hollywood film-making industry, the making of movie trailers are usually commissioned to a trailer company that specialises in producing, well, trailers. Film production companies are far too busy with the film projects themselves (especially during principal photography and post-production) to make trailers for advertising purposes. Now trailer companies usually have their own composers to create music for the trailers they are making. Generally, however, big-budget films necessitate trailer music that match the quality and calibre of film soundtracks. For this reason, trailer producing companies may then purchase music (or license, rather) from another specialised company to be used in the trailers.

This specialised company is what we call "movie trailer music production company". The companies employ numerous composers to compose music beforehand and then keep the music in their library. Big companies literally have hundreds of such high-end music that sounded exactly like film soundtrack, sorted according to genres (such as comedy, drama, thriller, and so on). Other production bodies may browse their extensive libraries and purchase the license for use of the chosen music.

Complicated stuff, and you'd think film-making or even trailer-making is simple.

One such movie trailer music production company is Immediate Music. It's a huge and very successful company that has been providing music for trailers of famous movies, such as:

Spiderman 2 trailer (Warning: music is quite obvious.)

Now, since I'm not a PR officer for Immediate Music and I'm not gettin' paid for it, I'm not gonna list down other movie trailers that have used their music (go Google that yourself). However, as an informed fan, I will let you know that following popular demand, Immediate Music has formed a collective band consisting of an orchestra, choir and a rock band that is Globus. Several trailer music were hand-picked by the composers and re-arranged for the album. This explains why the album is "very emotional, grand film soundtrack-like, and simple EPIC".

And I just had to capitalise the word "epic". EPIC.

The wonder of Epicon is that it brings all sorts of emotion with different tracks. I generally like the whole album, but I especially love "Preliator", "Europa", "Orchard of Mines", "Madre Terra", and "Sarabande Suite".

Here's a medley of almost all the music in the album Epicon for you to have a taste.

And one of my personal favourites: Europa

I can't remember how I came by the tracks from the album early last year, but I do remember before having a copy of the album (which I eBay-ed from UK), digging as deep as I could for the music and live performance at YouTube. You might actually just do the same thing.

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"No, it can't be true..."

Media: 2B pencil on paper
Date of start: 30.10.2008
Date of finish: 31.10.2008

Today, I digged up my close-to-a-year-old HUGE stack of papers, notes, hand-outs, feedbacks, and whatever crap I get from classes. You see, I have this one special corner on my bookcase that I accidentally dedicate for all sorts of paper I get and simply wasn't quite sure where to file into. I lost count how many times I rolled my eyes and grimaced upon sorting through that ridiculously tall stack - there were some papers I would have thrown away in a heartbeat but for some magical reason slipped their way into the stack.

Wait, that's not the point. The point is that I discovered my second year portfolio. The med faculty at Monash Uni has this really weird habit of asking students do all sort of even weirder stuff as part of academic assessment. Some of the assignments we had to do were:
  1. a report on Behaviour Change Project, in which you had to change a bad behaviour/habit of yours and improve upon it by utilising some of the outlined methodology and strategies. While a lot of people chose to exercise or eat better, some people chose to stop nail-biting.
  2. a report on Human Lifespan Development, in which you had to interview some random guy/girl you choose and get info about the stage of life he/she is in (e.g. young adulthood) and probe into their previous life stage (e.g. adolescence). Weird stuff.
  3. a report on Critical Learning Incident, in which you recount and reflect upon one incident in your life that you find has brought great impact and hence, 'critical'. I don't wanna use the word "weird" twice, but hey.
  4. two additional pieces of work, in which you can pretty much submit ANYTHING you want (really, anything) as long as you can relate your work to medicine. Some made "clinical examination for idiots" videos (you can find a lot of those on Youtube, you know), some constructed a huge model of brachial plexus or human eye (yeah, I know, real easy to slip into your average folder), and some wrote poems.
      Well, suffice to say that the med faculty wanted us students to be a well-rounded doctors one day. I do understand that, but to do all those stuff when you're busy with classes and other more important assigments and revision was an absolute torture. You'd actually stare at the monitor while typing and think for a while, "What the hell am I doing again?"

      Anyway, the drawing at the top was one of my two additional pieces that I submitted as part of my portfolio. I even wrote some description to couple with the drawing. Seeing back the drawing within the huge stack of paper sure did bring back memories. Aww.

      All medical professionals would agree that one of the greatest joys derived from the profession is to see smiles carved on the faces of their patients, after the pain is lifted from them, or knowing that they have been fully cured. Doctors also enjoy great merriment and satisfaction when their patients shed tears of joy after being told that they will be alive after a fierce battle with their fatal disease.

      However, it is inevitable that the opposite of these situations happen as well. It is gravely difficult for patients to receive bad news, and it is also difficult for doctors to deliver them. This drawing serves as a reminder that a patient's reaction may vary greatly depending on how doctors deliver bad news. It is important that one in the medical profession master the art of delivering bad news.

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      Media: Black ball pen on paper
      Date of start: 27.7.2009
      Date of finish: 27.7.2009

      It was a quick (lazy) sketch of Dhall, whom The Nameless One met only to find even more questions. Took me less than an hour to draw, so I don't think I'm doing the character much justice. Well, he certainly did not look like how I imagined him would be. I suck at sketches.

      Dhall is extremely old, and definitely not human. His skin has a trace of yellow, like old parchment. Dead charcoal gray eyes lie within an angular face... a non-human face, as the ears narrow to points. A large white beard flows down the front of his black robes like a waterfall. He coughs occassionally. The book he works in front of is huge, and seems to contain many names of corpses that have been brought to the Mortuary.

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      PST: The Mortuary (1-3)

      Chapter 1-3

      In the centre of this room stood the largest book I had ever set my eyes upon. It was placed on its metal stand so that the bottom nearly touched the floor, and it was tilted about 30 degrees from the vertical plane. Taller than an average man, the old book was bound in brown leather of unknown origin. Concealed behind the book was a living person, obviously one of the Dustmen. He was attentively writing in the huge book.

      The scribe looked very old… his skin was wrinkled and had a slight trace of yellow, like old parchment, like the pages he was writing on. Charcoal-grey eyes lie within an angular face, and a large white beard flowed down the front of his robes like a waterfall. His breathing was ragged and irregular, but even his occasional coughing did not slow the scratching of his quill pen. The book he was writing must have contained thousands of names. As I approached him, he did not look up from what he was doing.

      Morte interrupted, “Whoa, chief! What are you doing?!”

      “I was going to speak with this scribe. He might know something about how I got here.”

      “Look, rattling your bone-box with Dusties should be the LAST thing—”

      Before Morte could finish his rant, the scribe began coughing violently. After a moment or two, the coughing spell died down, and the scribe’s breathing resumed its ragged wheeze.

      “And we especially shouldn’t be swapping the chant with sick Dusties. C’mon, let’s leave. The quicker we give this place the laugh, the bet—” Before Morte could finish, the scribe’s grey eyes flickered to me.

      “The weight of years hangs heavy upon me, Restless One.” He placed down his quill. “…but I do not yet count deafness among my ailments.”

      “ ‘Restless One?’ Do you know me?”

      “Know you? I…” There was a trace of bitterness in the scribe’s voice as he spoke. “I have never known you, Restless One. No more than you have known yourself.” He was silent for a moment. “For you have forgotten, have you not?”

      “Who are you?”

      “As always, the question. And the wrong question, as always.” He bowed slightly, but the movement suddenly sent him into a bout of coughing. “I…” He paused for a moment, caught his breath. “I… am Dhall.”

      “That question was but the first, Dhall. There is much I wish to know…”

      “Very well. What did you wish to know?”

      “What is this place?”

      “You are in the Mortuary, Restless One. Again you have… come…” Before he could finish, Dhall broke into a fit of coughing. After a moment, he calmed himself and his breathing resumed its ragged wheeze. “…this is the waiting room for those about to depart the shadow of this life.”

      “This is where the dead are brought to be interred or cremated. It is our responsibility as Dustmen to care for the dead, those who have left this shadow of life and walk the path to True Death.” Dhall’s voice dropped in concern. “Your wounds must have exacted a heavy toll if you do not recognize this place. It is almost your home.” His last sentence sent shivers.

      “Shadow of life?”

      “Yes, a shadow. You see, Restless One, this life… it is not real. Your life, my life, they are shadows, flickerings of what life once was. This ‘life’ is where we end up after we die. And here we remain… trapped. Caged. Until we can achieve the True Death.”

      Restless One? Why do you call me as such?”

      “Restless is as good a term as any…” Dhall drew a ragged breath. “Something keeps you here, does it not? Something that must be resolved, some passion that must be quenched before you can reach the True Death?”

      “True Death?”

      “True Death is non-existence. A state devoid of reason, of sensation, of passion.” Dhall coughed, then gave a ragged breath. “A state of purity.”

      “Sounds like oblivion. Why would anyone want that?”

      “Is it worse than remaining in this shadow of what life once was? I think not.”

      “Perhaps you can explain why the Dustmen want me dead.” I recalled Morte's warnings about these people.

      “We Dustmen are a faction, a gathering of those of us that recognise the illusion of this life. We await the next life, and help others on their journey.”

      Dhall sighed. “It is said there are souls who can never attain the True Death. Death has forsaken them, and their names shall never be penned in the Dead Book. To awake from death as you have done… suggests you are one of these souls. Your existence is unacceptable to our faction.”

      “ ‘Unacceptable?’ That doesn’t sound like it leaves me in a good position.”

      “You must understand. Your existence is a blasphemy to them. Many of our faction would order you cremated… if they were aware of your affliction.”

      “You’re a Dustman. But you don’t seem to be in favour of killing me. Why not?”

      “Because forcing our beliefs upon you is not just. You must give up this shadow of life on your own, not because we force you to.” Dhall looked about to break into another coughing jag, but he managed to hold it in with some effort. “As long as I remain at my post, I will protect your right to search for your own truth.”

      “You say that I have been here more than once. How is it that the Dustmen do not recognize me?”

      “I am a scribe, a cataloguer of all the shells that come to the Mortuary.” Dhall broke into a fit of coughing, then steadied himself. “Only I see the faces of those that lie upon our slabs. The dark of your existence lies safe with me.”

      “Do you know who I am?”

      “I know scant little of you, Restless One. I know little more of those that have journeyed with you and who now lie in our keeping.” Dhall sighed. “I ask that you no longer ask others to join with you, Restless One — where you walk, so walks misery. Let your burden be your own.”

      “There are others who have journeyed with me? And they are here?”

      “Do you not know the woman’s corpse interred in the memorial hall below? I had thought that she had traveled with you in the past…” Dhall looked like he was about to start coughing again, then caught his breath. “Am I mistaken?

      “Where is her body?”

      “The northwest memorial hall on the floor below us. Check the biers there… her name should be on one of the memorial plaques. Mayhap that will revive your memory.”

      “I don’t know. I don’t recall ever travelling with a woman.”

      Dhall made no response to this. He simply stared at me in silence.

      “Before, you said there were others interred here who journeyed with me?”

      “Doubtless there are, but I know not their names, nor where they lie. One such as you has left a path many have walked, and few have survived.” Dhall gestured around me. “All dead come here. Some must have travelled with you once.

      “How did I get here?”

      Dhall snorted in contempt, as if he found the memory repugnant. “Your mouldy chariot ferried you to the Mortuary, Restless One. You would think you were royalty based on the number of loyal subjects that lay stinking and festering upon the cart that carried you.”

      “I arrived here on a cart?”

      “Yes… your body was somewhere in the middle of the heap, sharing its fluids with the rest of the mountain of corpses.” Dhall broke into another violent fit of coughing, finally catching his breath minutes later. “Your ‘seneschal’ Pharod was, as always, pleased to accept a few mouldy coppers to dump the lot of you at the Mortuary gate.”

      “Who is this Pharod?”

      “He is a… collector of the dead.” Dhall drew a ragged breath, then continued. “We have such people in our city that scavenge the bodies of those that have walked the path of True Death and bring them to us so that they may be interred properly.”

      “Doesn’t sound like you like Pharod much.”

      “There are some I respect, Restless One.” Dhall took a ragged breath and steadied himself. “Pharod is not one of them. He wears his ill repute like a badge of honour and takes liberties with the possessions of the dead. He is a knight of the post, cross-trading filth of the lowest sort.” He frowned at further thought of Pharod.

      “Knight of the post?”

      “A knight of the post…” Pharod coughed. “…a thief. All Pharod brings to our walls come stripped of a little less of their dignity than they possessed in life. Pharod takes whatever he may pry from their stiffening fingers.”

      “Did this Pharod take anything from me?”

      Dhall paused, considering. “Most likely. Are you missing anything… especially anything of value?” His voice dipped as he frowned. “Not that Pharod would take exception to anything that wasn’t physically grafted to your body, and sometimes even that’s not enough to give his greedy mind pause.”

      “I am missing a journal.”

      “A journal? If it was of any value, then it is likely it lies in Pharod’s hands.” The instructions tattooed on my back told me to read the journal, then find Pharod. It seemed that I have to act in reverse, if indeed this man kept my journal.

      “Where can I find this Pharod?”

      “If events persist as they have, Restless One, you have a much greater chance of Pharod finding you and bringing you to us again before you find whatever ooze puddle he wallows in this time.”

      “Nevertheless, I must find him.”

      A slight warning creeped into Dhall’s tone. “Do not seek out Pharod, Restless One. I am certain that it will simply come full circle again, with you none the wiser and Pharod a few coppers richer. Accept death, Restless One. Do not perpetuate your circle of misery.”

      “I have to find him. Do you know where he is?”

      Dhall was silent for a moment. When he finally spoke, he seemed to do so reluctantly. “I do not know under which gutterstone Pharod lairs at the moment, but I imagine that he can be found somewhere beyond the Mortuary gates, in the Hive. Perhaps someone there will know where you can find him.”

      “Earlier you mentioned my wounds. What did you mean?”

      “Yes, the wounds that decorate your body… they look as if they would have sent a lesser man along the path of the True Death, yet it seems as if many of them have healed already.” Dhall coughed violently for a moment, then steadied himself. “But those are only the surface wounds.”

      To my questioning look he replied, “I speak of the wounds of the mind. You have forgotten much, have you not? Mayhap your true wounds run much deeper than the scars that decorate your surface…” Dhall coughed again. “…but that is something that only you would know for certain.”

      His coughing now and then brought about a trace of concern within me. “You sound ill. Are you not well?”

      “I am close now to the True Death, Restless One. It will not be long before I pass beyond the Eternal Boundary and find the peace I have been seeking. I tire of this mortal sphere…” Dhall gave a ragged sigh. “The planes hold no more wonders for one such as I.”

      “Are you certain? There might be some way I could help you.”

      “I do not wish to live forever nor live again, Restless One. I could not bear it.”

      I stood for a moment, considering him. However, I needed to find a way out of the Mortuary.

      “Can you tell me how to get out of here?”

      “Hmmmm… the front gate is the most obvious exit, but they will not let anyone other than Dustmen pass…” Dhall broke into a ragged cough, then continued. “…one of the guides by the front gate has a key to it, but it is unlikely he will open it for you unless you are extremely persuasive.”

      “Thank you. Farewell, Dhall.” As I turned to leave, Dhall spoke.

      “Know this: I do not envy you, Restless One. To be reborn as you would be a curse that I could not bear. You must come to terms with it. At some point, your path will return you here…” Dhall coughed, the sound rattling in his throat. “It is the way of all things flesh and bone.”

      “Then perhaps we will meet again, Dhall.”


      1. Dustmen: The "Dustmen" are the caretakers of the Mortuary, a huge morgue filled with bodies. The faction seems to be a pretty somber bunch, rarely showing expression or interest in anything. They seem intent only upon taking care of all the dead bodies that come into the Mortuary, catologuing them, preparing them, then burying them... somewhere.
      2. Bone-box: The mouth; named because of its inherent nature - the teeth, jaw, and skull make up the bony structure of the mouth.
      3. Copper: The currency used in the city of Sigil; a coin made of copper.
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      Cola lab-proven to be beneficial!

      Do yourself and your child a favour. Click this poster!

      I couldn't agree more.

      If you were to present to me the scientific fact that the earth actually revolves around the sun, I would still find this poster even more agreeable.

      I love the way they make cola sound like a supplement you get over the counter. And I LOVE how every single sentences literally make me roll on the floor then tumble down the stairway almost snapping my neck in two. Read the poster out loud to get the most laughter. Don't forget to use that 50's and 60's optimistic voice!

      COLA Promotes Active Lifestyle!

      COLA Boosts Personality!

      COLA Gives baby essential sugars!


      Yeah, babies will just DIE if you don't give 'em essential sugars. What does that even mean? And please tell me there is actually such a thing as essential sugars. Now where can I get them? Oh, wait, I forgot. Cola.

      P/S: I don't drink Cola-Cola. But I do drink Nuka Cola. Like, A LOT.
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      The Honest Woodcutter (Part 2 of 2)

      Then there was a long silence. The water spirit breathed a gentle but lengthy sigh. "You have lied to me this time. You are not the first to drop an axe into my pond, young man. Those men chose to lie when their greedy eyes laid down upon the golden axe in my hand. Yet you lied to me when I hold this haggard axe. Pray, tell me why did you not lie and claim the golden axe belonged to you, like all the men before you?"

      The woodcutter looked to the ground before lifting his strong eyes to the spirit. "That golden axe could have given me the luxury many men craved... I could sell it in the village. Then I could stop cutting woods and live without having to think about money for the rest of my life perhaps."

      He continued, "It is the nature of men to desire easy living. I find that there is nothing wrong with that. Who would enjoy living a life when you cannot afford to acquire the things that you want, or most importantly, the things that you need? What makes a man utterly ugly is when that desire is stronger than other more meaningful desires. It breeds greed and dishonesty."

      "However, I admit that golden axe would have made my life easier," the woodcutter added slowly.

      The spirit simply looked at him with gentle eyes and the woodcutter's weary eyes was on hers. After a moment's silence, she broke it, "But that is not what you most desire."

      He nodded almost imperceptibly. The spirit posed more questions to him, "Why then did you refuse to admit the silver axe was yours? Did you not drop the axe into my pond?"

      "I did drop that axe into the pond, lady, but it is not mine. I found it deserted in a mill and I took it. But that does not make it mine... I have yet to decide what to do with that axe, much like my life."

      The spirit smiled and waited, as if she knew he would talk more if adequate silence was provided. Soon the woodcutter's voice echoed in the forest, "Like that silver axe, I hold my life in hand in front of me. But what shape I want my life to take form I do not know... And I am embarassed with that uncertainty. How could I claim that this life is mine when I cannot proudly proclaim what I want to do with my life? You have to decide to make it yours."

      "Therefore, no, my lady, that axe is not mine!" he finished.

      "I understand," she said softly. "But why did you lie when I presented the third axe," she lifted the axe higher. The blade of sunlight through the high canopy of the forest rested on the axe's head, giving it a fresh beauty of gleam. "- this worn iron axe that I hold right now?"

      The woodcutter's face frowned in reluctance. His lips fluttered with a duality of preserving and breaking the silence of the woods. He made his mind up and finally said, "Perhaps I lied because I refuse to return to my life in the scarce cabin, spending time with no one but the animals."

      "You are a very lonely man, are you not? And it pains you," her voice stirred the water around her.

      "Loneliness is like barbed vines. They grow slowly at first without you noticing. By the time you realise its presence, your body and limbs are already twined - both your mind and heart encumbered down. The thorns cuts deep into the flesh of your soul and they only go deeper. With your hands numb and trapped, it is simply impossible to strike the vines down. Only a companion can save you from that suffering," he gave his answer.

      He added, "Taking that axe back from you would mean that loneliness will consume me again and nothing will change. I would return home with my axe, continue to chop woods as I always do. I would chop and chop all day long. And chopping is all I have time for. To find companions, I would require time and opportunity. Both I do not possess."

      The water spirit looked at him, while he looked at the ground near his feet with his head down. When she spoke, one could gather it was with compassion. "Tell me, my dear man. How would that lie help you achieve what you most desire? For dispelling that engulfing desolation is what you desire most, is it not?"

      "Yes, I desire that more than anything. To have companions by my side - ah, that would deliver great joy to my heart! But I believe the lie and denial were nothing more than an initiation. In my contemplation, I realised that to change my life the first step was needed. Without it, there never will be any following steps forward and I will never reach new places. While I do not know how I will reach those places, I have first shattered the stasis."

      A smile of gladness dispersed across the spirit's splendid face. In her mirthful voice, she said, almost songfully, "Then you have not told me a lie, but instead a beautiful truth. For your newfound wisdom and honesty, dear sir, I reward you with these axes." As she spoke, two more axes ascended from the deep blur of the pond and levitated on her right and left - the white glow of the silver axe and the yellow glow of the golden axe seemed to radiate warmth. She continued, "With these axes, discover how you will shape your life. With these axes, you will learn how to take the second step, and the next, and the next, until you reach new places. Return and may your virtues bring you fortune!"

      She elegantly immersed into the water before the woodcutter can express his gratitude. Regardless, he softly said, "I thank you, my lady." He knew in his heart that the spirit could hear him.

      And so the woodcutter returned home to his cabin and he eagerly told his story to the sheltering animals.


      Once upon a time, in a large warm, cozy cabin at the edge of a quiet forest, there lived a wise woodcutter with his beloved companion. Living among affectionate squirrels, rabbits, and birds, the couple spent their life together in happiness. And of course, as a woodcutter, he cut woods.

      - The End -
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      The Honest Woodcutter (Part 1 of 2)

      Once there was a woodcutter who lived in a tiny cabin that sat on the edge of a quiet forest, just a few strides away from the outskirts of a village nearby. His life was a lonely one and he rarely had anyone to talk to except for his animal friends - at least that is what he likes to think of them. He provided the swift squirrel and the chirpy pair of birds the occasional seeds. For the hoppy rabbit he gave her a small portion of his vegetables.

      His friends seemed really grateful for the food - the woodcutter sensed this - and in return, the animal provided him the much needed company. Small animals scattering around the worn wooden cabin floor and birds perching on the window sill while chirping songs he wished he could understand gave him a little bit of chaos in midst of the stagnant stillness of his home cabin. He would talk to the animals about the same little things he did every day and yet his stories never seem to bore the animals. After all, they could not understand him.

      Near the modest table where he ate his warm dinner was a somewhat aged axe leaning against the wall adjacent to the cabin door. One could tell the age of the axe based on the sturdy hardwood haft, in which dirt, stain and scratches painted the grip and the belly of the handle. Contrary to the haft, the axe head was cared for very well - the iron head was oiled to retard rusting and the blade had signs of daily sharpening. The owner of this axe must have held it dearly, as if his survival depended on it.

      Before going to bed, the woodcutter would stare briefly at his pair of callused hands and then shifted his gaze to the lone axe glimmering faintly in the darkness. He would also think and finally letting a soft sigh escape from his nostrils before he lied and covered himself with a wool blanket that has kept him warm for the past five years. He did this every night.

      One fateful morning, he decided to not cut woods. He had cut more than usual for the past two days and figured the profit he earned from selling the woods to a middle-man (who would then sell them at the village market) was enough to allow him time off for today. He decided to have a rest and just wander around in the forest.

      He stood on the threshold of his cabin door and breathed in the fresh air of yet another summer morning. He looked down to his trusty axe by the right side of the door and thought. Finally, he decided to leave it behind. He said to it, "You deserve a rest just as I am resting for today."

      Perhaps he meant what he said, but perhaps it is also because he wished to have nothing to do his axe or woodcutting, at least for a short while.

      So off he went into the forest that he had known very well as much as he was familiar with his own name. He never went too deep; treading the bounds of the forest, akin to running a finger along the edge of a mug.

      As fate would have it, he stumbled upon a clearing and in the middle of that clearing is a windmill that unmistakably looked abandoned. The windmill was tall and the sails rotated lazily in the slow air.

      "I suppose no matter how well you know something, there will always be a part of it that you don't know about," muttered the woodcutter.

      He explored the windmill and discovered a silver axe, among other discarded tools, instruments and basic furnitures. For some unknown reason, he felt compelled to take the silver axe and only the silver axe. He grabbed it by the handle and left the building.

      He continued his pointless journey in the forest. Yet another surprise for him, he chanced upon a pond not much larger than twice the size of his cabin. The pond was encircled by five peculiar trees with roots that radiated outwards in all direction, extending somewhere between three and five feet away from the trunks before sinking themselves into the soft earth. The still water of the pond was magically pristine.

      The woodcutter approached the water to have a sip after that long walk but tripped over one of the countless roots. The silver axe flew from his grip and into the pond with a silent splash.

      He picked himself up and brushed off dirt from his meagre sleeves and pants. He looked up to find a beautiful lady standing in the centre of the pond. In her hand was a golden axe that shone with a brilliance that the woodcutter had never seen before.

      "I am a water spirit and I reside in this pond," the lady said in a soft and graceful voice. "An axe has fallen into my pond. Is this your axe, dear sir?"

      The woodcutter thought for a while as the spirit waited patiently for his reply. He finally said, "No, lady, that axe is not mine."

      "Are you certain? This axe is really beautiful, don't you think? Just look at the gems notched in the cheek of this axe!"

      He hesitated but said, "Yes, I am certain. That axe is not mine."

      With that, she dived into the pond. Just when the woodcutter thought that she would not resurface, the water spirit appeared magnificently out of the restless rippling water. She was this time holding a different axe - one made in silver.

      "Is this your axe?" she asked.


      She tilted her head to the side as if asking for confirmation. "Are you sure?"


      "Very well," again she sank into the depths.

      The spirit re-emerged, holding a worn axe. The woodcutter instantly recognised that axe - how could he not! - as it has been his most valued tool of living. He was very sure he left it by the door. "Is this your axe, dear sir?"

      He fought against his own natural instinct to answer immediately. Restraining himself, he thought for a long while in quietude. He thought and thought and thought. Never has he thought so much in his entire life.

      His clear voice shattered the tranquil stillness of the woods, "No."

      "Are you sure this axe is not yours, young man?"

      There was a very brief silence. "Yes, I am sure. It is not mine, my lady."

      (credits to publicenergy @ flickr)
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