Winner

CATEGORY C : 18-24 YEARS
Day 3: Orang-utan
28 December 2017

WINNER

A Wake Up Call (1st Place)
Jasmine Regina Fong Chui Hsia

Philip rose early that morn to head on to his proposed construction site. Once he reached the site, an untouched jungle, he and his associates surveyed the area to build a new residential area. Once they hammered down the signboard that marked the land as property of their company, they started leaving.

Suddenly, a young lady with incomparable beauty mysteriously emerged out of the thick bamboos. Philip was stunned by her grace as she made her way to him. He felt his jaw hanging and immediately closed his mouth shut, realising what a fool he must have looked like in front of his companion.

“You mustn’t disturb the land here. This land belongs to the orang-utans. Taking this land would mean many of them will die,” she said in a euphonious voice.

Philip realised she was only going to be a hurdle for his project. Probably another one of those locals never-endingly protesting for their heritage land rights.

“Sweetheart, you're not supposed to be here,” Philip looked around for his associates for help but they were nowhere to be seen. He turned back to her as she continued, “Killing orang-utans will have its repercussions.” This time, in a warning tone.

“I don't believe in that nonsense,” Philip spewed, “You’re a lunatic.” He promptly left the deranged lady and made his way to his car to head home. However, as he was treading, he felt his clothes growing tight, as if he were expanding. He saw orange hair sprouting from his fair skin which was rapidly darkening and growing calluses. His back began hunching and his arms hung until his hands touched the jungle floor. Soon, his clothes ripped and his panicked screams evolved into animalistic roars. He touched his face. It felt wide and rough. His once gentle features were now warty and unrefined. He was covered in orange hair almost every inch of his bulky body. The enchantress grabbed him by the face and bore her eyes into his.

“Now, you will be persecuted for your ignorance.” Crows swarmed the woman like a whirlwind and blocked out all visible light. When they cleared up, the woman was gone.

Persecuted?

Bang! Bang! Gunshots were fired. Philip tried to run, but he wasn’t used to operating ape feet. He heard the rustling of foliage getting louder and louder until a blast of hunters emerged from the bushes. They gloated at their find: a big, fat orang-utan that couldn’t seem to run – an easy target for their exotic meat trade. Bang! A bullet went through his head before he even knew what was happening.

Philip jolted up from his sleep. He looked at his hands and saw that they were human. Oddly, he was asleep in his car where he parked it at the edge of the jungle.

Phillip immediately rushed to his office, and ran to the CEO’s office without delay. He burst through the door just in time to see his boss nearly signing the approval for the project.

“Stop!”

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Morio
Matdura Sivakumar

I sat silently in the confined space. Stared into the bleak darkness of my surrounding, wondering how I got here in the first place. It can be opined that I should already be accustomed to my life. I don't remember when was the last I had actually stood on all fours and wandered in an open space. Sometimes, I would like to think that it is actually still a miracle that I have survived this long when I look back at the circumstances I've encountered thus far. I am Morio, and I am an orang-utan.

Most nights, I have flashes of what seems to be a memory of my family. I remember living in the trees, playing with my brothers and sisters, and having lots of food to eat until our bellies were bloated. I never knew what despair meant back then. I'd do anything to go back to what life was like before. Before being taken away by the humans, before I fell into this deep, dark place called emptiness. A place with no hope.

Today, I heard a familiar voice. I am assuming someone is coming to feed me. It is most likely the usual, some scraps and leftovers of what these humans eat. I suppose it is better than not being fed at all for days. That happened to me some time back, when I was barely the size of a small plant. I don't know how many days went by, but as days passed, I became weaker by every sunset. Soon enough, I was brought to their attention, and given a few bananas to eat. I survived that day, but I don't know if I will in time to come.

The man with the ragged shirt came to feed me. I assume he too has the same fate as I do. Locked up in this place of misery for an eternity from now. I was given some bread and fruits, not enough to fill me up for the whole day, but I am grateful for what I've got. The man left me again to have my meal. As I was eating, I noticed the latch of the cage was open. I couldn't believe my eyes! What had seemed to be impossible for years, has happened right now before me.

I didn't hesitate any further. This is my chance, this is my moment. I took a leap of faith and slowly stepped out of my incapacious cage. I looked around and saw an open window nearby. I took big steps towards it and jumped out, and into the jungle. I am now free. With freedom came happiness, and with happiness came a sense of belonging. I am home at last! I took in the scent of the fresh air. Looked around at the lush shades of green surrounding me. I thought to myself at that moment, this is the life I want to live.

Look at Me
Yap Ming Yao

“Dreadful-looking beast, isn’t he?”

High-heeled boots clinked on the stained linoleum as the woman strode up to the cages. Her gaze did not wander as she sized up the chained ape. Benny gave her that, at least-most people wouldn’t do that, not willingly. Hell, he’d been waiting for an hour and he had barely taken a few glances at it. It was maddening. She must be his new boss, he concluded. Granted, dyed orange hair and a biker jacket were the last things on his mind when he considered higher-ups. He supposed they just made them differently these days.

“Yes, ma’am. Much bigger than the ones they have in the zoo.”

There he went, rambling off again. Rule number one for first impressions: don’t babble. He knew better than to do that, they had kept him waiting inside the warehouse for so long on purpose. He was sure it was a test of some sort, to size him up, see if he fit the job. He couldn’t help making small talk, not after trying so long to keep his mind off the seemingly endless cages in the warehouse. Not all of them were occupied, sure, but sooner or later they would be. Why else would they have so many?

Clean the cages, mop the floors, dust the equipment. A job description so simple, so menial, that a schoolchild would be able to explain it. Day in, day out. Do your time. Get paid-nothing to write home about, but it was clean money. At least there was that. And, of course, the perennial problem: don't dwell on the cages. Benny heard the last few kids quit because they couldn't take the sounds the apes made when they came to. Well, let them quit. He'd seen worse in his lifetime and he wasn't about to start caring about some stupid old monkey.

Except it wasn’t a monkey. Neither was it stupid nor old. Orang-utans they called them, some of the smartest primates to walk the earth, and damned if Benny wasn't twice its age. He'd seen sentience in the few times it had met his eye, understood that it had an innate capability to feel emotion. He wasn't so sure about anticipation or surprise, but pain, he felt, was there. The sores that adorned its withered frame seemed to him as conspicuous as the jewellery the woman in front of him wore. Its muscles had atrophied almost beyond recognition. Benny had no background in animal biology, no doctorate in the sciences, but he knew that the limbs protruding at odd angles from its body were limp from degradation. Benny squinted at the woman. Something terribly wrong was going on here.

“This has got to be under-the-counter, right? You folks dealing bush-meat? Private zoos?”

She looked at him sideways, lips pursed, the way a teacher admonishes an idiot child.

“No, no, not at all. Didn’t you read the fine print? We do cosmetic research. Shaving creams, skin-care lotions. All of this is legal.”