The old lady was staring at her. She knew it.
Four months ago, Julia had married the love of her life. Her husband, Mike had just been named head curator at the art museum where he was working in. She was three months pregnant with a boy they would call Joey and after Joey is born she would quit that stressful writing job of hers to be a full-time housewife. Nothing could go wrong in her perfect life.
The day it arrived, Julia and Mike were busy unpacking their luggage from their trip to Venice when the doorbell rang. Julia ran out to get the door and when she opened it and looked down, there it was.
The package was encased by a bubble wrap, with an additional layer of plastic over it. At first glance it was about two feet tall and one foot wide. Julia carried it into the living room and unwrapped it. The rectangular wooden frame in the package was old, but kept in good condition. Flakes of the golden paint that coated it were coming off but it was still a beautiful frame, with very fine carvings of flowers at its corners. But Julia didn’t notice that, her eyes were fixed on the painting in the frame.
It was a portrait of an old lady who looked almost in her eighties. She had a sharp chin and high cheekbones and her pale skin was weathered and covered in wrinkles. The old lady’s graying hair was tied up in a bun and over it she wore a white bonnet. She had a hooked nose, almost too big for her face, with a sharp tip like the beak of a hawk. Below that nose she had very thin and dry lips. The edges of her mouth slanted slightly upward, giving her a smile that looked more like a smirk to Julia.
Life in the past few weeks can be summed up by four numbers : 2048. This crazy game has been the source of many number-related nightmares recently and I CAN'T STOP PLAYING IT.
Well, at least it's a better addiction than Flappy Bird because we can all lie to ourselves and pretend that playing a game involving numbers means that are somehow practicing our math and becoming a little more intelligent in the process.
During these few weeks of playing I have also came up with a list of lessons about life that we can learn from 2048. It also helps me feel less guilty about my addiction so that's nice.
1. The perfect match might never meet
The hands grabbed him out of the water and he gasped for air, struggling with all the energy left in him to free himself from the strong grasp. They held him down on the wooden board by the neck as a large metal stake was driven through his head. He wasn’t sure which was more painful, the stake in his head or the blade that was driven into his neck right after, slicing his belly apart. He watched in fear as his intestines were removed in front of him.
“That will be five dollars for the fish.” The fishmonger said.
Sometime in Senior High, I made up my mind to be a journalist. Perhaps not as a career, but I knew I definitely had to give it a try at some point in my life. I was never praised by any teacher as a good writer, my first ever A in GP had to wait till my 'A' Levels, and any of my Chinese teachers would probably stop reading Lianhe Zaobao if they found out I was writing for them now. But damn I love to write. So there.
Sometimes in your sleep your subconscious quietly visits you and plants little thoughts in your mind for your perusal in the morning. Some people wake up thinking they need to leave their job, some people wake up thinking that they need to move to another country, some people wake up thinking that they need a new alarm clock that can actually wake them up on time. For me, it was this.
I thought to myself, why not? I love to talk, I love to write, and I am definitely not the best at minding my own business and keeping within my boundaries.
So I applied.
I sat for the Chinese written test in the January of 2012. A few weeks later, after enlisting, I received the following message:
The moon illuminated the gradually darkening sky. It was a cooling evening but his whole body stank of dried sweat. He had been in the same spot for the past two days, braving the scorching afternoon sun, the cold nights and the occasional light showers. It was a lot to endure, but he did not dare to stray away from his post. That would put all his efforts in the past two days to waste. He looked around himself. He was surrounded by enemies. Every single one of these enemies was in the same situation as him. It was tough, but all of them pushed on. Giving up was no longer an option at this stage.
He looked at his watch, in about ten more minute's time, the gates would open and he would charge in, along with all the others with him out here. He ran through the plan one more time in his mind. Which location should he go to first? Which targets should he prioritize? Was there any flaw in the plan that he might have missed out? Failure was not an option right now, the people back home would be so disappointed, and he was determined not to let them down.
Five more minutes.
The moment was finally arriving. He was finding it hard to contain his excitement. He had waited so long for this moment to arrive. He eyed the man nearest to him who was staring right back him. Just like him, this man had been waiting here for the past two days. They shared the same objective but there was no love lost between the two men. The only exchange they had for the past two days were a series of hostile and primitive snarling. Still, it was good to have a companion in this lonely battle.
The two men glared at each other like two hyenas fighting over a carcass on the African savannah. This man would probably be the greatest enemy later, he made up his mind as he began to devise a plan to negate the threat in front of him. Maybe he could push him as they were running in later. Or perhaps he should be more discreet and trip him instead. No, the best way would be to just run faster than all the others and grab the target before they do. Yes, that would be it.