photo credits here
by loh pei yi
The pain was excruciating.
Sparks and sparks of pain fizzled in his limbs, like balls of fire, penetrating his body, gnawing at his soul, menacingly devouring any sense of comfort left within him.
Ironically, his limbs were cold. Or, put precisely, numb. They didn’t seem to belong to him anymore, and a bitter iciness slowly crept up them.
He tried to keep his breathing steady, as he lay, askew, on the soft grass. A gentle zephyr blew past, ruffling the grass and stroking his face. He attempted to stretch, but every slightest twitch made black and red dots muddle his vision, and he felt something warm trickle down his limbs. It was frustrating. He wanted to shout, to cry out, but words refused to emerge from his bone-dry throat; all sounds he could make were low, hoarse groans. He wanted…he wanted to do several things, but now he was restricted. Restricted by the pain. By the thirst.
He watched, helplessly, as moonlight reflected off the grass and shrubs, bathing the landscape in a silvery sheen. If he had been elsewhere, unhurt, tonight would have been a glorious time for him to take a nice stroll with his family. In the obsidian night sky lay, scattered, millions and millions of shiny stars, like tiny fragments of diamond studded atop a never-ending piece of silk. They winked, in the serenity of the night, and the gentle moonlight, casting convoluted shadows gaily gambolling under the trees. A deceptively peaceful night, he mused, sighing to himself. Who would know about his plight, when everything else seemed so tranquil?
His tongue was as dry as sandpaper, and his body felt as if it was on fire. Yet all he could do was to fixate his gaze on the stars. He could only silently watch, silently pray that hope would arrive, blazing like a comet, illuminating his bleak predicament. While the stars shone and dimmed, gently waltzing in the night sky, he couldn’t help but to associate them with little brilliant specks. Mentally, he could see the phantom lines connecting each and every star together, forming constellations, networks, eventually forming a gigantic masterpiece of Mother Nature. Those specks, those dots, were stunning.
Dots. An immediate wash of familiarity engulfed him. He adored them dearly since young. He loved to use dots in his paintings and murals. Using any spare ink or drops of juice from the bin, he could make intricate drawings with those, showing the smooth gradation of colour, varying with the illumination. But his favourite was still connecting-the-dots puzzles. They spoke for themselves, and defined existence as a whole. He had always thought that every individual was a unique dot–with different hues, different shapes, different sizes. And it was kinship, friendship, all sorts of relationships that weaved those dots together, bringing everyone into a social network. Even different communities of living things were connected in this way– as everyone is somehow related. Together, these lines drawn from dot to dot would form a magnum opus, sustaining the basis of life.
To attempt to connect individuals together, he had started occasionally by slipping these puzzles into various homes, for he wanted to make them connect the dots between the puzzle and its deeper essence. The smiles of pleasure and exclamations of surprises on their faces after completing those sophisticated drawings were inexplicably moving. He would obtain his materials from food scraps and spare inks—he loved the economical and eco-friendly option.
The acquisition of the materials was a treacherous process, though. Having to travel discreetly to avoid arousing attention, his heart would always be in his mouth as he slipped, fully vulnerable to danger, across the neatly trimmed grass to the bank of resources. He had to be careful.
Another bout of pain sent his head throbbing violently. He remembered, so clearly, so vividly, how he had arrived in this state. It seemed so recent, yet so long ago. Inwardly, he started to regret his earlier decision. But he really had to acquire the paints. The world started spinning, and images of what had happened churned and swirled, as he lapsed into the memory…
It had been just like any other time. The grass had just been mowed, adding a scent of freshness into the frigid night air. He scuttled, nimbly, across the soft tufts. If the place had been better illuminated, he might have observed the change earlier, but out of the blue he realised the surroundings were unusually dark. Even the grass no longer reflected starlight. He looked up. A colossal object greeted him. And it was looming. Atop. Him.
He froze. What is it? Why is it pursuing me? What did I do to provoke it? In a loss, he dashed about madly, trying to escape from the grip of the object. He accelerated, using all the energy that his legs could muster, sprinting to the left, veering to the right, making skilled pivot turns and a series of stunts.
The grooves on the base of the lurid yellow object became increasingly clearer. He could see stains of mud and flecks of grass on them.
He ran on.
Deep inside, he was amazed how adrenaline had transformed him into a stellar athlete. Blood beat in his body like a slack drum, and he could barely hear his heavy breathing, yet he persisted, even when his legs complained incessantly and he could hardly breathe.
But it was to no avail. The object was becoming bigger. And bigger. And bigger—
Everything had been so sudden. Before he could respond, the object pressed onto his legs and lower body. He heard his exoskeleton crack. He could no longer feel anything. Tears welled up in his eyes as he lay, forlornly, his body being plunged into an inferno. The object left immediately, its pounding on the grass diminishing in volume.
The world was seemingly located atop a centrifuge, and more black dots mottled his vision, jolting him back into reality. In this state, he knew he wasn’t able to survive for long. Melancholy welled inside him, when he thought about his family and friends. He would miss them. Mustering the last bit of energy, he sunk one mildly injured arm into the soil, forcefully carving down his last words. If anyone could see them.
By now, his entire field of vision was covered with myriads of dots, big, small, vibrantly coloured, over the black, exactly like how the pain stood out amidst the cold numbness. He sighed, as it became increasingly harder to breathe.
His last bit of sentience started fading away.
His world was swallowed in darkness.
The cockroach lay, still, on the grass, so near yet so far to the dustbin. Free from the spite of the gargantuan humans, free from the pain of their attacks, free from the wounds that the shoe had inflicted upon him. The dots of his life were finally connected as a whole, forming a perfect circle.
Dear Reader, I’m sure that by now, observant as you are, you must have connected the dots.