owl perched on a tree branch

Kinjo-san | The Girl with the Moon Bird

Without our spiritual guides, we are lost.

It’s not often I see a person with the luminary moon bird, especially one so young. It was there, so still, perching on her left shoulder. People know it as the owl. My mother called it the moon bird, for it appears only under a bright moonlight. The person with the moon bird holds wisdom and has the ability to change the course of things. I wonder.

Apart from the moon bird, there are other creatures too. For example, the forest deer, the ocean turtle, the grey heron, and the banded snake. Some call them guardians; others call them protector spirits. My child likes to call them avatars. I call them spiritual guides. Though most of us cannot perceive them, they are there. Some spiritual guides come to us at certain phases of our lives, while others remain with us from birth to death. Without our spiritual guides, we are lost.

Just the other day, I was listening to the wind and it reminded me that all life came from the ocean. The ocean holds the secrets of life. It was at that moment I decided to take the girl with the moon bird to the ocean, to peer into it. And indeed! The flaming pearl revealed itself to her. It was well worth the trip.

One day, she will understand her journey and place. Like I have, and like those that came before me. I will not see this for myself, but in the darkest of the night, may she trace the shadows of the moon, and lit it bright.

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child reading book with mother in garden

Amy | Future Past

“Those were my memories.”

“But how? How did you recreate your memories in the metaverse? It was almost documentary.”

June 2050

Instead of busying myself with extra credit courses and internships for this summer break, I decided to come home. Mother was distressed when we last spoke. She was not someone to worry about. I knew she wanted me home too, which I found ironic given her free-spirited nature and tendency to travel spontaneously.

I got home on a redeye flight. We had brunch, and then she took out a newly bought V-Skin Generative X., Also known as V-Skin GX. Oh yes, mother was into new gadgets. She liked to buy stuff too. She told me that the latest V-Skin was intuitive. In her words, “it almost has a soul.”

The earlier versions of the V-Skin were in glasses and contact lenses. Users put them on and accessed the metaverse. But the V-Skin GX had taken it to a whole new level. It was a lightweight headwear that connected to the user’s brain synapses. You did not even have to speak or make any hand gestures to turn it on or navigate the metaverse. You simply talk with your head and enter the metaverse with your mind’s eye. How cool is that! I know, right?

So mother told me to put on the V-Skin GX and watch the replay of a story she created. I put on the gadget and accessed our family’s virtual house. A five-year-old girl was sitting in a corner, flipping through books.

I was amused. “Is that you?”

“Just watch it.”


She was reading voraciously. They were introductory encyclopedias, and the girl was consumed by the contents. She was reading a book on volcanoes and then another on deep-sea creatures. The next book she read was on ancient civilizations, and then a book on food cultures. Finally, she found a book on ancient china within the piles of books. She loved it instantly. She savored every page of it and hugged it.

And then, she beckoned me to follow her into a room next door. I followed her and watched a family gathering take place. The girl showed her prized book to her relatives. Surprisingly, she received snide comments. Someone mocked her, “Why are you so cheena?” The girl looked confused, ashamed, and disappointed.

I asked my mother, who was quietly waiting outside the metaverse for me, “What does cheena mean?”

No reply. The story continued. The girl grew older, and she always found herself cornered by the voices around her:

“You like Chinese? Seriously?”

“Eeeyur, I can’t speak Chinese.”

“You like Chinese culture?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why do you want to go to China?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“China is so dirty!”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

The story ended; I put down the V-Skin GX and wanted to give my mother a hug so badly.

“What does cheena even mean?”

She replied softly, “It means someone from China or someone very Chinese influenced.”

“I know we are Singaporeans but aren’t we Chinese? At least ethnically? Aren’t our relatives all Chinese, and from what I can see, your schoolmates are Chinese too? Mum, that story was so real. It can’t be a figment of your imagination, can it? I know you are a great storyteller but… I am not even sure if I can call that racism because those nasty people are Chinese themselves! But if it is not your imagination, then-“

“Those were my memories.”

“But how? How did you recreate your memories in the metaverse? It was almost documentary.”

“I don’t know. I put on my V-Skin GX, and what I thought appeared right before me. Some of what I thought I did not even realize. It was like they float up from my subconscious. I was hoping you could tell me since you major in these things in school.”

I looked at the V-Skin GX carefully. “I don’t know. I don’t even think my professors know.”

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hermit crab under the water

Echoes from the Ocean, Yutas of the Islands

The spirit kisses the mutable sand,
Chisels the weathered limestone rocks on every coastline.
It sweeps across the Ryukyu Islands,
Searching for a match with a soon-to-be Yuta.

Not by blood or by will or whim,
The spirit chooses her; she lets it in.
A union, a psychic awakening of she who then shells herself,
Like a hermit crab that is amongst others but truly alone.

A Yuta speaks to all who seek the echoes from the ocean.
No, she cannot be self-serving.
But she too can be lost in the eye of a hurricane.
After all, she is not a god.

One day, just like how all rivers run back to the ocean,
The spirit will retreat.
She knows, but she can only see it go to the horizon,
Leaving her, the hermit, only with her torn, weathered shell.

*For more information on the Yuta, visit: The Yuta, The Noro, And The “Okinawan Witch Trials” by Tofugu

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brown aquatic plants in close up photography

Lynn | Seeking Pearl Again

“The pearl seeks you; you do not seek the pearl.”

“Kinjo-san! I swear I felt the pearl in my hand! But the next second, it was gone!”

With an ear listening to Lynn and the other ear paying attention to the sounds of the fu champuru frying in the wok, Kinjo-san barely gave a response but a little grin at a corner of her lips.

“Where did the pearl go? Can we go back to that magical ocean place again?”

Kinjo-san paused her cooking and replied firmly, “No.”


“It’ll be a waste of time.”

“No, it won’t!”

“Yes, it will.”

“Why would it be a waste of time?”

“Because you will not find the pearl.”

“Why not?”

“Because you are obsessed with it.”

“That doesn’t make sense!”

“The pearl seeks you; you do not seek the pearl.”

“But last night, we went seeking for the pearl.”

“That’s not seeking.”

I stared at Kinjo-san in disbelief while she enjoyed every bite of her fu champuru.

“Don’t believe me? Go try it yourself.”

“I will.”

That night, I went to the castle grounds on my own. I walked up to the wooden gates, kneeled, and said a prayer. And then, I got up and pushed the gates. They would not open. I tried again a few more times until they finally cracked open. I went in, but instead of finding myself in the cave leading to the magical ocean, I found myself falling onto the heavy vegetation of the castle grounds.

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