Little White Mice


The first thing she saw was the hole in the wall. Why was her head pounding?

She didn’t remember doing this. But the punctured wall and the scars on her fist say she did. She really could not remember. In fact, she didn’t remember much of what happened the night before.

Her usual breakfast slop wasn’t beside her this morning. Usually a metal tray sloshed with some cold, undefinable paste would be waiting beside her before she even opened her eyes. It felt odd it wasn’t there; they never missed a schedule. Were they punishing her? And for what? She was getting a headache just trying to figure everything out.

She shuffled down, trying to get to the other side of the room. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Her stomach started to growl in protest. She sure could use some of that slop right about now.

She hated this side of the room. The bulb had burnt out a long time ago and none of them had bothered to replace it. It didn’t make sense since she was here as punishment anyway. Let her suffer, they must’ve told themselves. She hated the dark so much.

Her heart was pounding. Something wasn’t right. She felt her way through the dark, uncertain of what she would find. Logically, there shouldn’t find anything here. She had a barren cell, devoid of any entrances and passageways except for those kept secret by her captors. Only they knew the way in and only the could find their way out.

She held her breath. Her arms were stretched out before her, feeling their way in the darkness. There was nothing but air.

Wet. She felt something wet and thick at her feet. She tried to keep her footing, but the dark and her bare now slippery feet caused her to lose her balance. The floor smelled like fresh meat.

Her hand touched something that felt too frighteningly human. She had no intention of finding out. She shuffled quickly to her feet.

Get out of the dark, get out of the dark, she said to herself. She could feel something stirring. It didn’t feel good. It wasn’t safe. For once, she wished her captors would come for her.

She flung her arms, fearfully. Desperately. Maniacally. She thought she scratched something. She felt blood underneath her fingernails.

One more step and she would be back in the light. She stumbled onto the hard floor, her back never so grateful for the cold cement. It took more than a minute for her heart to stop racing. Her breaths were deep and fast.

Slowly, she got to her feet. Her movements, unsteady and far from graceful. She pushed her body against the wall for balance. She was out of the dark at last.

Something wasn’t right though. A fierce chill went down her spine. She looked up at the blackness before her.

Another pair of eyes stared back at her. She could see nothing else. Just those eyes, piercing, turning her body as cold as the floor she’d picked herself up from. She scrambled frantically to get away.

In her panic, she lost her footing. Arms flailing, she grasped at the first thing within reach. The latch was flimsy and broke off the wall in an instant. She slipped and slammed her head against the wall. The everything went black.

The first thing she saw was the hole in the wall. Why was her head pounding…


Dancing Solo


Early last weekend, I was running an errand and cut through the mall before any of the shops were even open. Amidst the closed stores, an older gentleman was dancing an old-fashioned waltz by himself. It looked like was practicing. He saw me, looked away and kept dancing like I wasn’t even there.

Now, days later, I wonder what he was practicing for. A ballroom tournament perhaps? Did he mean to take the championship away from a lifelong rival? Maybe he was practicing to dance with his daughter, the lovely bride-to-be. Or did he have a date? His first one since his wife passed away all those years ago.

I do not know his story. But does that even matter? His dance alone triggers a million more.

HE knows his story. And maybe, in the end, that is all WE need to know.

© August 2016 Shirley Tan

The Hoarder


She made no apologies and hoarded books like a puddle collected the rain. She would read every single one of them, take in every word. Their contents filled her inside and became part of something she knew could never be taken away from her. Books can never be stolen once they’re in your head. And in her mind, she was rich beyond her wildest dreams.

© July 2016 Shirley Tan

Walk The Day


The darkness stretched on forever. At least, that’s what it felt like as they travelled on, night after night. The day was too wrought with the risk of being caught. The boy understood this. But he grew tired of walking, even on those beautiful nights when the wind blew cool and an ocean of stars painted the evening sky.

Prophesy says, at their journey’s end, they will walk the day once again. The boy could not wait.

There were days when he wasn’t as hopeful. When the nights proved more difficult, more endless, more futile. His patience ran low. And he cursed The Elder One, “This is foolish! What if at the end of all this, there was never a light?”

The Elder One never missed a step. “Then, that is when you be one, my son.”

© July 2016 Shirley Tan

12 Months With Vincent: Unrequited

Landscape with Figures, 1889

Landscape with Figures, 1889

He never loved her back again.

She will never forget how his parting words first felt. Like a small, cold shard of ice. Nothing lethal. Just enough to pierce under the skin. A splinter, if you will.

But words, they dig deep. It wasn’t long before they took their hold, grew roots. Soon, the cold spread like a cancer. And she was never the same again. It was hard to tell if this was a good or bad thing.

Their paths still cross every day. There was no other way for her to go about her life without passing the road that ran parallel to his field. On rare occasions, he would look up. She would see him but she was never quite sure if he knew she was there. The sun could be quite high and blinding.

Either way, she would always walk by with her head held high.

It wasn’t easy. Putting one steady foot in front of the other. Making sure you stay on the path. Not when you can always turn back. It was so easy to just run back. If only she were a coward.

Does he think of me? She would always wonder if he ever once felt regret. The hardest part was feeling like not one of her happy memories ever happened. It felt like a lie, all of it. Like this part of her life never existed at all. And it was the happiest she had ever been.

Was he ever happy? Did it really matter now? She knew it would do no good to play the scenes back in her head. But questions needed answers like fire needed kindle to burn. That was the nature of things. That was just the way things should be. She was a firm believer of balance.

She didn’t always doubt herself. Sometimes she would cross the path, humming a cheerful tune and forgetting that he was there. She was all right most days. She would say spectacular, even. Everything was perfect and she was on top of the world.

Hidden past the trees, that’s when she let it all go.

© 2015 by Shirley Tan

Embrace Your Ugly


Embrace your ugly
The anger, the worry, the envy
The jealousy that makes you insane
The thoughts that keep you awake at night
The fears that paralyze
The feelings that just won’t go away
Whatever your ugly,
Treat it as you would a friend in need

Let it in and offer it some tea
Strike up a conversation
Don’t speak
Listen to what it has to say
Ask it what’s wrong
The answer might surprise you

After it’s done, thank it for its time
If there is nothing else, then sent it on its way
You needed to hear what it had to say
As much as it needed to say it
When it’s gone, stay quiet a little longer
And have the rest of the tea

Do you remember what it said to you?
Do you know how you can help?
If not, that’s okay
Sometimes your ugly doesn’t want to be fixed
It just wants to be heard and let out some steam

Its voice is loud and annoying and disruptive
But if there’s one thing ugly isn’t
It’s a liar
Like a good friend, your ugly always tells the truth
Your fears, your worries, your anger, your sadness
Those are all real
To deny them
Makes you the liar

So embrace your ugly
Hold it tight and give it love
Be as kind as you can be
Always have that spot of tea ready
Forgive its interruption; it is only passing through
But right now, at this very moment
Embrace your ugly
Because your friend needs you

© 2015 Shirley Tan

Give Love


Just because you’re single, doesn’t mean you can’t show some love. Make a donation to your favorite cause this Valentines Day. 🙂