in My Work, Process

The Journey

Hour Two

My nose itches, but I stand still in anticipation, not daring to move.  This place, as I’ve learnt in the past hour, has many rules in which everyone is expected to abide to, albeit some of them were downright ridiculous.

My favourite rule: Everytime I round pass the corner near the field with the bright red arrow sign, I get handed €200. My least favourite? The dice roll.

Whenever the dice lands, it costs such a rumble I nearly lose my balance.

“10!” I hear someone shout.

I quickly run 10 steps ahead and internally congratulated myself for not tripping over.


Pain surged through my body as I jumped and quickly hopped another step forward. Fuck, I must have miscounted my steps. I turned back to check, and indeed, now there were 10 steps between where I was standing and my original location.

This place, or The Board as the Makers call it, was certainly unforgiving at mistakes made, and did not tolerate disobedience. So when I saw what I had stepped on, I braced myself for what was coming.

My player picked up a card to read. Somehow, without her saying a word, I knew what I was to do. I marched over to the old lady across the street, hating every bit of myself.

“Ma’am, from now on your property shall be exclusively owned by me and you shall live out on the streets. Also, your €500 is now mine.” I took a deep breath as I snatched the cash from her hands.

Screw this place, screw their rules, I muttered under my breath as I walked back to my spot. I needed out.


  1. Hour 4

    Sweat trickled down my forehead as my eyes darted around The Board. The look on everyone’s faced affirmed how on edge we were, and a sense of apprehension and dread loomed over the horizon.

    Thirty minutes ago, we had sustained our first casualty. He was a clueless teenage boy, no older than twenty. I hadn’t had much interaction with him apart from when we crossed paths on the playing field, but like me, he had no memory of how he ended up in this place.

    All we could remember was being jolted awake by these electrical devices clamped onto our wrist and ankles, and this booming voice in the distance providing us with basic rules on how to proceed with the game. We quickly realized we were pawns stripped of free will, and we had no choice but to play along.

    His player had been recklessly mismanaging his funds, and the boy’s currency was spread thin within the first few hours of the game. We all were unsure of what would happen should our currency run out, but we were briefed in the beginning that it meant the end of the game for the player. Little did we know it would mean the end of us as well.
    The ground shook as his player took another roll of the dice, and I swore all the blood drained from the poor boy’s face when he realized his bleak fate. Unwillingly, he moved a step forward and was instructed to hand in the last of his money as rent to the current occupant of that space. None of us could possibly have imagined what would happen next.

    A minute of silence passed.

    Then without a tinge of warning, the ground around him caved in. And he was sucked into the abyss. I could still hear his wailing screams at the back of my head. Even in this instance.

  2. I have been staring at the four greying walls for the past hour. All I can do is to watch the paint chip off as time passes by. The cell was barely tall enough to fit me and I was crouched down the entire time. There were no mattresses, toilets, seats, windows, nothing. Just four dull grey walls and a metal gate shutting me out from the world.

    The prison cell was getting colder and colder. I might have eaten something foul hours ago. I could feel my internals suffering from the intense pain. Being crouched down on the floor is definitely easing my bowel movement.

    My abdominals was filled with flatulence and to my own discomfort, I unleashed the devil’s fragrance into my own cell. If the dead could speak, they would complain of the stench. I pinched my nose hard enough and prayed that I would be out soon.

    “Ew, did someone die in here?”

    Heavy footsteps echoed the empty corridors and a large looming figure stood at the gate of my jail cell. The prison guard opened the gate and I was finally out. Elated, I rushed out from the room. The smile on my face completely diminished as I saw the situation around The Board.

    What used to be eight people are now down to four.

  3. Looking ahead, I knew I was in deep shit, the game had progressed so far ahead while I was imprisoned.

    Crimson red skyscrapers now lined the street. In an obsessively orderly fashion, the buildings towered above as great monoliths going higher and higher that it blocked out the ‘sun’ (in this case a dingy old lamp hanging over the board). It cast a constant looming shadow that blocked out life from the street below, much like the city of Gotham, a lingering mist of polluted air accompanied and blanketed the bottom half of the cityscape. My path ahead was obscured, and I couldn’t even see past the first tile. Furthermore, I must admit, abysmal colour choice for buildings of such calibre.


    The board begin to rattle as my player rolled the dice.

    “2!? DAMN IT!” my player shouted in angst.

    “Look on the bright side Pam, at least you get to roll again.” a tone of mock-concern responded to my player’s exclaim of indignation. And even though I couldn’t see anything, I knew that bitch was smiling.

    Unwillingly, I inched forward, I was already unable to see and breath, I wasn’t about to get zap for overstepping again. “1… 2…” I counted as I made my way to my next spot.


    Pain surged through my body again. Bitch, what now? I resisted the urge to surge forward for I was sure I made the correct number of moves. My vision slowly adjusted to compensate the toxic air, a low humming noise resonated and intruded the surrounding air. And as I turned to face the source of the sound, I was immediately greeted with streaks of hot silver. A mass of electrical energy radiated violently from the monstrosity that lay before me. Toxic waste spewed out from its sides through sewage pipes, and black fumes erupted from its chimney tops. This was the source of the fog. A depressing sight to behold. The board’s electric company.

    “We will now commence with a short break, the game will resume in 15 minutes, the game will resume in 15 minutes.” a calm, over-friendly voice played through the public address system.

    Shit, I’m not going to last 15 minutes on this spot; the poisonous gas and the volatile electric currents, either way, I’m dead before the game even resumes. There has to be some way to stop this!

  4. Oh god please, I prayed for a miracle, this cannot be how I go down in this game.

    “Hey, no way we are stopping before my turn, I wanna get to roll the dice!” It was same patronising voice that was mocking my player previously. I saw the dice get snatched up and my heart soared with hope. The game was continuing and there was a chance for me to escape imminent death, I just needed it to be my player’s turn soon.

    The dice tumbled on the board. I turned around to see one of the guys left on the board running straight towards me. My first instinct was to step away from his path but I was unable to move at will. I braced myself for impact as I felt him knock into me, tumbling a few steps from the Electric Company. I coughed violently and gasped at the fresh air.

    I looked back to see the guy standing in the place I was standing at, a gradual look of fear creeping on his face as he started to smell the toxins that were making me choke up not too long ago.

    Now, we can take a break.”

    The board fell silent as the players left the premise.

    I was still on the floor – Pam obviously wasn’t bothered enough to pick me up – to thinking about how lucky I was to have been pushed out of the way. At the same time, I felt so bad for the guy who was now in my place. He seemed distressed but was trying not to show it on his face.

    “Hey!” I called out him. He glances at me, before going back to stare straight ahead.

    “Don’t worry, they will be back before anything happens,” I said, knowing that I was lying through my teeth.

    He ignored, and continued staring. Then, he started coughing violently.
    “I know I am not going to make it, but so what?” More coughing. “And it doesn’t matter how I go, because in the end, we are all bound to meet a fate as tragic as this.”

    “How can you say something like that? Do you have no will to live?”

    He gritted his teeth. “Look around. In the past hours that the game has been going on for, what makes you think that we have any say at all? We are just pawns in this big game, replaceable and freed of our will.”

    Suddenly, visions of him being commanded to beat his friend to death came back to me. It just happened an hour ago, and he was still visibly shaken by that memory. I felt a squeeze in my heart, thinking of what he must have been feeling. I thought back to the old woman I sent to live out on the streets. I remembered the people who have had to embarrass themselves countlessly and forced to do something that went against their morals. Anger surged in me.

    “No, we are getting us out of here. I am done seeing the way we are treated around here.”

    He raised his eyebrows. “And how are we going to do that?”

    I took a deep breath in. “Do you trust me?”

    “What do you have in mind?”

    I thought back to the guy who disappeared into the ground.

    “We lose the game.”

  5. “What did you say ??!?” He choked.

    “We will lose the game.”

    “Oh god, fuck this shit. We are all going to die in this god forbidden place. I didn’t fight my ass off just to end like this… not like this… Benjamin… I’m sorry, what the fuck did I do… I couldn’t… I couldn’t control myself!!!”

    I saw something in him snap, and his cold nonchalant façade came crumbling down completely. Breaking down into a sobbing mess, his legs gave way and he fell onto the ground kneeling, wailing loudly while cradling himself like a baby.

    This was bad. Extremely bad. I wasn’t going to lose my one possible chance at gaining an ally. I needed to calm him down, and quickly.

    “Hey man! Just hear me out!”

    “I know this sounds crazy, but all I’m asking for is a chance to explain myself, can I do that?” I gently persuaded him.

    “Go on…”

    “Great! I’m really sorry about your friend, I’m sure he’s a great guy.”

    “He was.”

    “But think about it, we’ve been in this game for what? Close to ten hours? What can we conclude from the time we have spent here? Everyone is forced to follow a strict set of rules and has limited control when the players are around. We traverse around this same playboard all the while doing the players bidding. The gamemaster instructed us that only one of us would win the game, but then what? There’s no guarantee of what will happen after we win. Maybe we will get out, maybe we will just be stuck here till the next set of victims arrive? I don’t want to think about it.”
    “I don’t know about you, but if our odds are already so unclear and nothing is as it seems, I’m not going to wait around and spend the remaining of my time doing some idiots bidding. I’m tired of being a pawn, and the only guaranteed way out of this playing field is through losing. Remember that guy that lost? We saw him disappear, but we don’t know what happened to him afterwards. I’m willing to take my chances. Anything is better than spending another second here.” I tried to sound as nonchalant and confident as I could, but deep down inside I was shaking.

    “How do you suggest we lose then?” He croaked.

    I thought hard, willing every bit of my brain to come up with a solution.


    I turned to him, new-found confidence in my eyes. This might be it. I smirked.

    “We Cheat.”

  6. 5 minutes have passed. Pam and the other players are returning to The Board soon. We had to hurry if we wanted to make the plan fool-proof. I propped myself up and began climbing up the high table. Every inch of energy I have left from this tiring game, I made use of it all. I could not perish like this, just like all the other pawns who did. I am definitely not just a pawn.

    As I finally reach the top of the table, I hear laughter and giggles from outside the door. They are busy balling and enjoying themselves whilst the rest of us are suffering here. I stood on the edge of the board. I knew that if I were to get onto the board, I would not have control over myself again. The board will take over.

    “How are you going to get me out?” he forced his sentence out through his heavy cough. He kept on hacking continuously before taking in short, sharp gasp of breath.

    At the corner of my eye, I saw two white cubes sitting right on the tabletop. Ah-ha, she threw the die out of the Board! I went around the Board, past the Electric Company and headed pass the multiple row of luxurious apartment. The other player glared directly at me, not missing a single inch of movement from me.

    “What are you doing?” She demanded in a very obnoxious & high-pitched tone. I hurriedly ran past her, leaving her bellows into echoes surrounding the Board.

    Thankfully, the last player was stuck in Jail and he would not have a say in any of this, not that it would change anything. The die were placed nicely by a tiny margin beside the Free Parking area. Fortunately, there weren’t any repercussions from standing on that lot.

    1.. 2.. 3… Ah, 8 slots. I counted the number of lots left for David to get out from the Electric Company. I flipped the two die over, intentionally forming the digit 5 on one dice, & the digit 2 on the other. The Board lit up again and the noises resume as soon as the die were rolled. The roar of the Electric Company’s gates opening and as soon as it did, he sprinted straight towards the Free Parking lot, passing the Community Chest and the apartments.

    We waited for a split second, to see if anything would happen. Silence filled the room, backed up by the return of the obnoxious voice from behind us. “That is cheating!”

    David smiled at me and squeezed a thank you from beneath his heavy breathing. His coughs were worsened in just that few minutes. At the end of it, it had that whistling sound indicative of when the airways are closing up.

    5 minutes left. From a distance, stacks of cash surround the Board. I look over at the Jail and apologize profusely under my breath. I went over to the fourth player’s side of The Board and dragged the notes over, distributing evenly between David and I. The poor guy in the cell only has a few notes left under his belt.

    2 minutes left, I sprinted over to the Bank. The Banker was the owner of the pawn who is still bellowing at me as loud as she could. CHEATER! I heard that annoying voice reflecting across the board, and occasional croup coughs following after.

    A sign at the front of the entrance clarifies that the Bank is closed. A security guard in pale blue uniform, with his baton hanging loosely around his belt, is snoring in his tiny seat in front of the Bank.

    How do I get in there? Sweat trickled down my forehead and I can hear every ticking of the last 90 seconds on the clock. My breath quickens as I felt a sudden surge of uneasiness swept through me. I swiped my sweat away and mentally prepared my tiny self to fit through the ajar door behind the security guard. His snores were so much louder than anything else. He was completely unfazed by the screams from the crazy rich lady across the Board.

    At his next snore, I took a deep breath and expeditiously squeezed my way behind his muscular and toned body and the tiny gap on the door. The sound of the clock ticking was getting immensely loud.

    The Bank was pitch black. The workers were all out for lunch. I did not know where I was headed but I knew what I needed. I continued walking around the stations until I finally found a shiny wall. Surprisingly, the vault was not locked, I snuck in and dragged as many stack of notes as swift as I could, rolling them up and pushing them across the Bank. As I finally reached the Bank door and made an attempt to exit, the sound on the clock indicating the last 30 seconds were becoming more deafening. I will not be able to make it out in time without getting noticed.

    The last rays of the late afternoon sun fell slanting through the Bank’s window. I rolled the notes over to the window, with much trouble. There is not enough time.

    10.. 9.. 8.. 7.. 6..
    I hear the laughter of our players getting close by, the snores of the Guard intensifying, the bellowing of the crazy rich lady getting higher & the clock tickings echoing the Board even louder.

    5.. 4.. 3..
    I look down at the distance from the Bank to the ground. It was almost 10 storeys high. With every ounce of courage I have left in me, I close my eyes and take a leap of faith out of the window, using the roll of money as my cushion.

    Thud! The loud bang on the floor shook the guard wide awake. And in unison, the clock blasted itself signalling the continuation of the game. Pam and the other players enter. I ran as fast as I could, pushing the roll of money along with me into a spot underneath the carpet, just behind the table’s leg.


    “Wait, where is my pawn? Wasn’t mine at the Electric Company?”

    “Let’s continue guys, the wind probably blew it away! Pam, you can use another pawn!”

    I could hear the players arguing and creating a huge fuss above me.

    A jingle rings across the Speakers. THE GAME HAS RESUMED. I settled down for a moment, catching breath of air and composing myself. And in my peripheral vision, I felt like I was not alone.

    I can see a figure, or two, watching me from underneath the gap of the shelves.

  7. They were motioning for me to make my way over and without hesitating to assess the situation, I lifted the carpet as high as I could, tugged the roll of banknotes underneath and slowly trudged my way towards them. Exhaustion was consuming me with each new step and with it, a total disregard for any safety precautions.

    “Mama mia! Are you crazy!? They could have seen you.” one of the figures shrieked as I reached the gap where they were hiding. But I wasn’t paying much attention to his unsympathetic hollering, with my two hands on my bended knee, I panted frantically to regain my composure. After what felt like an eternity, I felt my consciousness seep back in, my eyes reignited as the strenuous effects of exhaustion lifted. My thoughts begin to clear and concise from what they were mere moments ago. “David!” I exclaimed, turning around just in time to see his player release the dice. David shot me a last look of apprehension before The Board instantly took control of him, pushing him forward into the game, out of my sight.

    “Signora, are-a you okey?”

    “OKEY? BITCH, do I look OKEY? He needs my help, I have to save him!” Looking up for the first time, I finally got a good look at the strangers. Both of them were identically dressed in blue overalls coupled with a pair of brown shoes and white gloves. Even their facial features were similar; they had bright blue eyes with a moustache sitting below their button noses. One was shorter and rounder while the other was tall and lanky, however, the most evident aspect that separated the two apart was the underlying colour schemes they each seemed to take serious pride in; the shorter one rocking out in ruby red whereas, the taller one in a bright leaf green.

    “But-a Signora, you are doing it-a wrong, cheating is-a not the right way!” The red man responded in a calm convicted manner.

    “Y…you don’t understand, there is NO RIGHT WAY, who are you guys anyway? You’re not even from the game!”

    “Yes Signora… but we-a do understand.” both of them looking at each other and nodding in unisons. “You-a see, my brother and-a I, are from-a different game.”

    “Let me guess, you guys cheated, and that’s the reason why you’re SAFELY hiding under a shelf now? Great, that’s exactly what I want, to be safe and sound.”

    “No Signora, listen-a to me, it is-a too late for your friend. He cannot-a cheat anymore.”

    “Rubbish, utter rubbish, I won’t buy it. You guys may be from another game, but I think I know my game better than either of you.” I rolled my eyes in disbelief, the only reason I was still standing, the only reason why David was still alive was that I CHEATED.

    Just then, the man in green who had been silent all this while spoke out, “It’s one thing not to trust us, but it’s another to insult my brother. We’ve been here ever since your game started, observing every move, and trust me; it’s not much different from the game that we were in. My brother knows what he’s talking about so if you want to save your friend, hear us out.”

    Dumbfounded by the sudden profound accent, I nodded for him to continue.

    “In our game, much like you, we were the main characters. Our players picked us and subsequently the board gave us life. I know… as much as you hate to believe it, that’s the only reason why you’re alive. Our quest was different; we had to find an evil turtle who had kidnapped my brother’s love of his life. Her name was Peach, and time and time again as we got close to saving her, we would be too late. The evil turtle would kill and eat her right before our very eyes. The game would restart each time we failed, and new players would take over in an attempt to save Peach. But no one cared about Peach; they just wanted to complete the stupid game. Imagine seeing the love of your life getting ripped to pieces every single day because the players don’t ever take it seriously. The game was too hard, and no one could finish it.”

    “I’m so sorry to hear that…”

    “One day during the break interval, we decide to cheat just as you have. We managed to escape the board and ran along its borders to find Peach. And when we finally did, just as she took a final leap of faith to cross the fiery pits surrounding her prison cell, the game resumed, instantly pulling her down, killing her.”

    “Wouldn’t the game simply restart then?” I asked sincerely.

    “That’s what we thought too, but because we were no longer on the board, the game started to collapse. We only managed to survive because Mario, my brother here, had quickly crafted a pipeline portal for us to escape through. Ever since then, we’ve been hiding under this shelf contemplating what the next step should be. You see, if you get caught cheating, it only restarts the game all over again. But if your friend cheats and gets caught now, the game will collapse, and there won’t be a restart.”

    With furrowed eyebrows, Mario shuffled across to the mouth of the gap. Placing one hand on the wall, he gazed out and said, “My-a brother Luigi is right. Your friend has-a to win! It is-a the only way for him to-a live.”

  8. “To win this game, I have make sure everyone else ends up bankrupt,” I thought of my little adventure not too long ago that earned me the stash of money hidden under the carpet. “And the good news is, we are getting there.”

    I peeked through the gap of the shelves, and spotted David who was standing still with fear not too far away. I whistled to get his attention.

    He glanced at me with pleading eyes. I knew he wanted to get out of there. The question is, how do I get him to win, by bankrupting the rest?

    Someone coughed, and I spun around. Mario and Luigi were holding a Chance card.

    “Wait, I’ve never seen that before, where did you guys get that?”

    Mario chortled. “Signora, you don’t get to be one of the most popular game characters now without having a few tricks up your sleeves.”

    “All you gotta do, is make sure David’s player picks this card. Then, he wins. And you are freed.” Luigi says very seriously. “But this is not an easy task.”

    “Well, yeah no shit, you’re asking me to place this card on the stack without getting caught.” I took a look at the board, realising the stakes and correcting myself, “Wait no, you are asking me to step back on the board where I basically lose control of myself and go back to being a pawn.”

    I put my head between my hands and sighed. How was I supposed to make a decision like this? “Are you saying the only way for me to get out of this game is go back to being a pawn and risk letting them sink me into the ground again? After all I’ve been doing to try to get out of this goddamn game you are saying I have to be their bitch yet once more and let them control me once more just to have that mere chance of me escaping?” I was delirious with fear and anger and was not quite sure how to control it.

    “Calm down now –”

    “No! Luigi, you don’t get to tell me to calm down, I refuse to do so like this and I will stay out here as long as I can until I figure out a way to get out without having to go back in the lion’s den. You guys of all people should know how horrible it feels having no control over your actions, and not being able do anything but sit silently and take it. Well, I am sick of it, and I am so scared of losing control over my own body, that I would never –”

    I paused mid sentence when I saw Mario run into the board, holding that piece of orange card.

    “Mario, no!” Luigi ran after him, but I pulled him back.

    “Mario,” I looked at him bewildered, “why would you do that?”

    “Look, trust me, I know the pain you feel, and the only thing that has kept me going was reuniting with my love, Peach, for a brief moment every day. But now, it is no longer possible and I have lost her forever, and along with it my motivation to continue on. This is something I have to do, if it helps others who have a chance at escaping and living.”

    I watched him turn and run towards the deck of Chance cards and slide the cheat card on the deck right before David’s player had his hand out to pick the next card.

    With one last smile he could muster, Mario collapsed to the ground, limp as a stick.

    My mind was swirling, Luigi’s cries muffled in the background as I tried to register what had happened.

    “OH! I get to take all of your money, ha, I win!” David’s player exclaimed with glee.

    “No way, there is no such card.”

    “Let me see your card, better not be lying to us Brandon.”

    The players gasped as they read the card. “So, it is true then.”

    Brandon exclaimed with glee, “Does that mean… that I win?”

    Suddenly, the board started to rumble and started to shake vigorously. The buildings – apartments, Electric Factory, Jail, Bank and more started collapsing and getting sucked into the ground. Taken into the ground went the other three players and Mario’s limp body.

    Finally, all that was left standing was David.

    There was only silence, before he turned and ran towards me, engulfing me in a tight embrace. “You did it! You freed us! You are –”

    Then, darkness engulfed us.


    My head itches, but I stand still in anticipation, not daring to move. This place, as I’ve learnt in the past hour, has many rules in which everyone is expected to abide to, albeit some of them were downright ridiculous.
    My favourite rule: Everytime I round pass the corner near the field with the bright red arrow sign, I get handed €200. My least favourite? The dice roll.
    Whenever the dice lands, it costs such a rumble I nearly lose my balance.
    “5!” I hear someone shout.
    I quickly run 5 steps ahead. There was already another player on the tile and I went to stand beside him.

    I eye him up and down. He seems friendly enough. “Hey there, what’s your name?”

    “I’m Benjamin.”

    “Alright Benjamin, I just woke up in this strange place and I’m not sure what I’ve just gotten myself into but I have to get out of here, are you with me?”