2018 Winners and Honourable Mentions

Day 2: Decay
13 November 2018


Alyssa Yap Xin Yi

Decay is a lullaby we sing to the dead.

Immortality is a lie, and it costs 20 cents.

Crafted from oil and heat, I heralded a golden age - as much a remnant of the past as I symbolised the future. A technological marvel - durable, light, versatile. And they made sure to utilize me to the very last bit.

First, I replaced their bags. Then their bottles. Modified versions of me stitched into clothing, melted into plates, assembled as machines. Soon I became a default in their lives, ever present as oxygen itself.

But my creators are fickle little creatures, always hungry for more. Never settling for anything less than desirable, one little tear was all it took to warrant disposal.

And dispose of me they did.

Tossed aside like nothing, I amassed in garbage bins. Landfills. Sewers. And when that ran out of space, the ocean was laid to waste. I lost count of the miles I have drifted, the waves I battered, the animals I've choked.

Decay is a ballad we send to the living.

Immortality is an apostasy, and it costs 30 cents.

There were some wise ones. A select few who realized I bore no good will. Oh, how fiercely they fought. Posters, campaigns, rebellions - such foolish creatures. The people who pulled all the strings loved me, and left me to my own devices. A few clean-up projects here and there to satisfy their conscience; a million more products to fill their pockets. Let them choke, they seemed to think, I'm perfectly fine.

Until I started choking them.

Decay is an hymn of memories past.

Immortality is a betrayal, and it costs 50 cents.

They only began mourning once the oceans were bare. Their forests crumbled beneath their fingertips, mountains shrouded in luminescent colours that were not meant to be there. They tried fixing the err of their ways, but it's difficult uprooting habits ingrained since childhood. Nevertheless, they persisted. And when every last piece of me as far as the eye could see was collected, they celebrated, patting their own backs.

But humans are superficial creatures, never looking deeper. They forgot how their predecessors adored me so, forgot the fact that tonnes of me still lay buried underground.

“It's fine, it will decay!”

Oh, and decay I did.

The end of the beginning, and the beginning of the end. The final stage of death, where others reap their first breath. I dissolved into their soils, suffocating their plants. When they began to starve, my flaking shards cut into skin they could no longer heal. As I began to disintegrate, they started wearing masks - not to stave off illness or dust, but the very fumes they created. But masks will not undo the atrocities they committed, and nature always collects its debts.

Decay is slow with me. Decay is patient. But nature's mistress of death and balance is, and has always been, persistent.

Immortality is temporary, and it cost them their lives.


Fiona Anak Ringkai

Tick, tick, tick.

The world was coming to an end.

The noise was a grim reminder of the impending doom. My hands trembled as I adjusted my mask. I was breathing in oxygen, but it was barely enough to keep me alive; my lungs felt as if a thousand knives were stabbing me repeatedly.

The final words of the prime minister echoed in my mind. “In 3 days, our oxygen supply will run out completely. I regret to inform mankind that it’s no longer possible to maintain human life on this planet; everyone is advised to resign themselves to our fate.”

He gave a small smile.

Perhaps he had gone senile, I mused. Asphyxiation did tend to cause brain dysfunction, after all.

“We had it coming.”

I turned towards the timer hanging on the wall of the bunker. The timer counting down humanity’s last moments read 3 minutes and 21 seconds, and it was counting down fast. After centuries of driving countless animals and plants to extinction, was it was finally humanity’s turn to become a mere speck in Earth’s history?

As the Earth turned into nothingness, those around me had started dropping dead. Human carcasses littered the streets. I was one of the last humans alive. My stomach twisted from hunger; the pain was overwhelming, but I was comforted by the fact that it would all be over soon. I looked up, and tried desperately to remember the warmth of the sun against skin.

As I grew older, I realized humans were pathetic, weak creatures. We were fragile, needy, controlled by our primitive needs. Humans used to worship nature. We fell on our knees and grovelled shamelessly, praying for good harvest, begging for endless rain. Earth was truly kind to us. I heard old tales of clean air, fresh water, and good soil.

So, what went wrong? We were consumed by our hubris. We plundered the earth for all it was worth. Loggers chopped down acres of trees. Factories dumped barrels of oil into rivers. Animals were hunted to extinction.

We squabbled amongst ourselves, pointing fingers and holding signboards. Us humans ran thousands of campaigns-- ‘Save the rivers!’, ‘Protect the forests!’, ‘Stop illegal poaching!’. Try as we might, it was all in vain after all. The term wildlife became non-existent.

Their words were loud and clear, yet none of their actions spoke volume.

There were no longer forests to forage, no land to plant our crops. There were no plants to provide oxygen, and no rivers to claim water from. I couldn’t help but think, if the past generations had controlled their greed and doubled down on conservation efforts, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing a worldwide crisis that threatened Mother Nature and humanity itself.

Perhaps humans were inherently suicidal. In our determination to stay alive, humans ended up killing the Earth-- and ourselves.

The timer read 0. As I took my last breath, a thought entered my hazy mind.

The smell of putrid decay of human corpses was sickening.

Ling Ke Jia

My life is such a blur.

Mother brought me to the world in Okinawa, Japan. It was Spring. Mother claimed that cherry blossoms bloomed beautifully on my birthday.  I had never seen cherry blossom. It should be a gorgeous scenery to appreciate but I thought otherwise. I could see the pain in Mother's eyes when she recalled her memory.

 I remembered that I lived in a tiny space since the day I was born. I saw more and more of my race were confined in this space. They were often motionless and looked forlornly out to the world. They said they missed home. Home which was wild and free. My mother said this was a nightmare. I never understood why. This place provided us food and shelter. We didn't have to go outside and fight to survive. How wonderful it was! 

Then I witnessed most of their death. Including Mother's. 

 I saw Mother and others carried away by people. I didn't know where did they go. Lost. I was clueless and helpless. My tears rolled down. Nobody saw them because I was a “vicious beast” . I was a child who lost my mother.

Aquarium was closed down after that. They released me.

 "Let her be back to the wild! That's where she belongs! "

 But...... I belonged here. Where could I go?

They released me back to the "ocean". A place I was totally strange to. They went away. I didn't know what to do. I swam around and around. There were no more walls. I was free. And I was scared. I had no choice but tried to adapt myself.

The longer I lived in the ocean, the more and more I fitted in to my race. They told me to stay away from fishing trawler. Do not try to mess with them. They were the worst.

 I knew this was dumb but when I saw human who I used to be familiar with, I went near. I thought I was friend with them. They would not do any harm to me. Then, they proved to me that I was wrong. Extremely wrong. 

 They caught me and cut my fins off me. They tossed my body back to the ocean. I could not swim or breath. I was miserable! I sank deeper and deeper to the heart of the ocean. The ocean embraced me like I was her child. Tried to comfort me gently and reduce my pain by giving me a hug. It had been a long time since Mother died.

"We're assumed as bloodthirsty beast waiting in the waves to feast on human flesh. Yet, they are the one who cut off our fins and throw us back in the ocean. Waiting for death. Leave us in pain. To decay. That's how your papa died. " I remembered what Mother told me.

Human is never kind. I understood it too late.