Quick announcement

I’m currently working on a new writing project. All I can say is, it will be a novel. And as much as I hate making a commitment as to when I will be done with it and then disappointing people, I have to make myself accountable. Therefore, I hope I can finish the novel before the end of the year.

The next thing on my list would be the actual incorporation of a company. My friends and I have already finalised the name, the amount of shares, gotten our office address, and endorsed the company. It’s now in the final step of making payment for the registration and waiting for approval by the authorities. As for what we will be doing, we’ve got some ideas but the main one we have right now is to build a software-based platform for consumers.

The final thing would be me trying to manage my time when it comes my full-time job. From what I understand about my new job scope, I suspect, I wouldn’t have much time for anything else and it’s a scary prospect. However, there are bills to be paid, life to live and food to eat. So it will end up at the centre of my attention most of the time. Unless, well, someone is kind enough to support me financially as I get my company up and running and writing done.

In light of this, I am already considering cancelling my Netflix subscription. I’ve got another paid-tv subscription which I will terminate once I’m done with Games of Thrones Season 8. This way, I can put a roadblock on my entertainment needs. If I do need rest and entertainment, there’s always video games to play and books to read. And those are more beneficial to me than mindlessly watching videos and shows because they do get my brain moving.

Murderous House

Part 3

You can read part 2 here


“Jake, I need to rest,” Alec’s voice was weak and his body suddenly heavy, threatening to pull Jake down to the ground.

“A few more steps and we will rest over there,” Jake pointed at a clearing up front with an old tree stump.

Alec nodded and tried to draw on some hidden energy deep within him so that he could keep moving. Just a few steps, he told himself. And off he went with his buddy providing physical support.

Once at the clearing, Jake helped to take off Alec’s backpack and dropped it on the ground, against one of the roots. He dropped his own bag next to it. He then went to assist Alec as he sat down on the grass patch between the two giant rotting roots that formed a V when viewed from the top. A quick sweep of the torchlight across his buddy’s face revealed tired and pale face. It was as though blood had all drained out. The humidity at night was not helping one bit. Tiny beads of sweat were forming on both of their foreheads.

“You looked like you are about to die,” Jake said wryly as he remained in a squatting position on Alec’s right.

“Hell no!” Alec retorted. “I just feel giddy and need a rest.”

“Sure…”

Alec felt sick in his gut. It was churning. His head heavy. He thought the forest smelled really bad. It was like someone kept pounding at it with their fist. It didn’t take long for the nausea overwhelmed him. He instinctively turned to his left but before he could position himself properly, he vomited. Most vomit landed on his shirt and pants instead of the ground. After he was done, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He rested his head against the tree trunk, “Much better. But my clothes…”

“Ewww!” Jake gave a disgusted look. Then he leaned closer, gently lift Alec’s head up by the chin and watched those pupils as he swept the torchlight at an angle across. They didn’t narrow accordingly.

“Looks like a concussion. Let’s rest here for a bit. After that, I’m tossing you in the tub for a hot bath.”

“If you dare.”

Jake grinned, gave a Alec a quick peck on the cheek and ruffled the hair at the top of his head. Alec smiled. At the same time, he felt all warm and fuzzy inside. He always liked it when Jake ruffled his hair.

“Get some rest,” Jake ordered as he sat down. He watched, secretly laughing, as Alec struggled to stay awake before finally giving in to the sleep monster.

A surge of sleepiness hit Jake like a train a moment later. He realised he hadn’t slept once ever since reaching the house. Neither did Alec. Adrenaline was the only thing keeping both of them up all night in that house. A part of him still felt unsafe, unsure if those things at the house could follow them out. Then they were out here in the woods without any form of shelter or protection. If those entities didn’t get them, the animals would. So he tried to stay awake for a little while longer to keep watch.

But fighting against exhaustion was futile. After sliding the power switch on his torch to off position, he dozed off.

****

Alec wasn’t sure how long he had slept when he woke up. The pain had mostly subsided, allowing him to move more freely. He was happy about that but the smell of his own vomit continued to linger in the air, dampening his mood. He desperately wanted to head to the nearest river he could find to wash himself clean. He looked around to see Jake snoring away with his head lowered at an angle.

“Jake,” Alec called out as he patted his buddy’s left thigh. There was no response. He called out again and patted even harder, almost like he was slapping. Still no response. So he shook Jake by the shoulder and called out even louder, “Jake!” All Jake did was to make a grunting sound.

Alec sighed, got up and rampaged through his bag to find the set of clean clothes he packed before coming on this trip. In the past, they didn’t packed extra clothes because of the weight. But after an incident two years ago, when they had to trek through the woods in sub-ten degrees celsius temperature with wet clothes and barely made it out to get help, they learned to pack an extra set of clothes to change. Hypothermia was no joke.

He found the t-shirt and a pair of pants. He took off his shirt, tossed it to one side and put on the new one. His pants came off next and he put on a new pair. The dirty clothes were then shoved into a Ziplock bag to prevent them from contaminating the rest of his belongings.

“Aleeecccc,” an echoey voice called out.

Alec thought he was hearing things. He chose to ignore it and continue to pack his bag.

“Alecccc…”

He stopped immediately and swore it definitely sounded close. He spun around and swept the torch horizontally across the woods. All he saw was green and brown. There was no one.

“Alec!” It was right beside him

He twitched and dropped the torch on the ground. It landed on the grass with a soft thud. He scrambled to pick up the torch. Cold sweat beads started forming on his forehead. His hands turned sweaty. His heart thumped violently as though it wanted to escape from the prison that was his chest.

He had trouble grabbing the torch on the first couple of tries. When he finally got it, he got up so fast that blood couldn’t reach his head in time. He felt a little lightheaded but it didn’t stop him from sweeping the torch around to locate whoever called out to him.

Again, there were only trees and shrubs. The light landed on Jake’s face but it did nothing. He was still sound asleep.

He felt a cold sensation down his back as though someone rubbed ice cube on it and let the cold condensation flow down. He froze. There had to be someone or something behind him. What the fuck?

He plucked up his courage and spun around, swinging the torch at whatever was there in one swift continuous action. When he regained his composure, he realised there was nothing there. He blinked several times before scanning his surrounding. Still nothing. He began to suspect he’d lost his mind.

“Aleccc!”

He spun around to see thick white fog around him. Jake was no longer visible. So was the forest. The light from his torch danced erratically against the fog as he tried to make sense of what just happened.

“Jake! Where are you?” He looked around hoping to catch someone or something but his surrounding was as still and calm as water in a stationary cup. He turned around and called out again. There was no response. His eyes began to swell up when he caught sight of a human silhouette standing amidst the fog. The fresh but painful memory of encountering a black figure made him think twice about interacting with this one.

Then the figure approached.

Alec’s eyes went wide and his breathing increased in tempo. He backed away while he kept the torch on the approaching figure. In his head, he was getting himself ready to turn and run should the figure turn out to be a threat.

The figure was at least three arms’ length away when Alec decided he’s not going to risk it. He spun around and ran. With the fog reducing his visibility down to no more than three metres, he wasn’t sure where he was going. But he decided to keep going anyway. A part of him hoped that he could get out of this strange fog. He kept the torch aimed at an angle at the intersection between the fog and the ground so he doesn’t trip over anything.

The further he ran, the fog became thinner, allowing him to make out the trees and thick undergrowth beyond three metres with the aid of his torch. He looked behind him occasionally to make sure no one was following him. He brought himself to a gradual stop at the fork in the path. He was tired and needed to catch his breath. And the sore spots on his body started throbbing.

After regaining his strength, he regarded his surroundings for a moment. He knew he couldn’t continue forward since he didn’t know where it led and traveling alone in the woods while the sky remained dark was a bad idea. Turning left would take him back to the house. And that was something he would never do.

Just before he turned around, questions started appearing in his head. If the house was haunted and they got out of it, why would the figure be out here? And what was that that kept calling out his name? And where did that fog come from?

When the truth finally dawned on him, he knew he had to go back and get Jake. He spun around. What he saw sent his eyes and mouth wide open, letting out a soundless scream. He stumbled a couple of steps backward and fell.

****

Jake woke up. He turned on his torch and looked around. Alec was not at his original spot. The only thing left was his backpack. He stood up wondering where his buddy had gone.

“Alec! Where are you?”

Only the echo of his own voice came back to his ears. The other was the sound of crickets chirping away. He tried again. When there’s no response, he couldn’t help but grew concerned for Alec’s safety and well-being. But he didn’t know where his boyfriend went. He couldn’t just randomly pick a direction and go that way. Yet he couldn’t help but wonder what if his boyfriend was hurt and unconscious somewhere in the woods. There would be no way for Alec to hear him call out.

He spent the next few minutes debating with himself about the pros and cons of attempting to find Alec before coming to a conclusion. He gathered all their belongings and strode off towards the east.

A few steps later, he heard a ghostly whisper that came out of nowhere, “Go back.”

He stopped and turned his head to the right, thinking the voice came from there. He waited for a couple of moments before deciding that he was hallucinating and continued moving forward.

“Wrong way!” The voice was raspy and sounded like it was coming from behind him.

What the hell, Jake thought to himself. He turned around to see who was behind him but he didn’t catch anyone. “Alec, is that you?”

There was no response.

“Stop messing around! Either you come out or I’m leaving without you!”

There was only the sound of leaves rustling from the sudden wind gushing through the area. The muscles around Jake’s face tightened and his breathing increased in intensity. Jake spun around and continued walking towards the east.

“Go back!” The raspy voice was now louder and closer. Jake thought from it came from behind him.

Jake chose to ignore the voice as he had enough of the prank he thought Alec was playing. He yelled into the air, “You can stay here if you want. I’m leaving!”

“Wrong way!” The voice was more forceful, catching Jake off guard. It was as though the voice was scolding him. He stopped and looked around hoping to catch whoever it was.

“Help,” someone whimpered, sounding almost like Alec. “I’m…m hurt.” Jake’s head turned to face the direction of the voice and felt his heart sank a little. He wasn’t sure whether to believe Alec since he played a similar prank a year ago that got him all flustered and worried for no reason. When he did find Alec after a difficult hike through the woods, his friend was well and alive.

“Go…o back…k,” The voice trailed off.

“Oh fine. I’m coming,” Jake uttered under his breath as he rolled his eyes. He turned around and stomped his feet into the ground as he went towards the house.

Jake froze the moment the woods disappeared and he found himself back in the house. His muscles tightened up on instinct. If anyone were to move his limbs, it would be like trying to move the limbs of a corpse in rigor mortis.

“Oh fuck!” He cursed and his head turned left and right furiously, scanning the room he found himself in to make sense of what just happened.

Little did he know, both of them never got out of the house. The inhabitants made sure of that with their reality-shaping abilities.

“Alec!” Jake yelled. “Where are you?”

The square room was unfurnished with wooden flooring and walls covered in dirty-looking green wallpapers that were decades old. He spun around and saw the wooden door. He placed his hand on the knob. But before he could turn it, it crumpled in his hands into ash. He went wide-eyed and felt his heart thumping away.

“No! No! No!”

He felt his hands around the door hoping to find an alternative. When he found nothing, he pounded at the door, so hard that his hands hurt but he ignored the pain. He wanted out. Now.

He grew tired and hopeless as time went by. The door continued to refuse to bulge. He crumpled to the ground in front of the door, gave it a last pound before laying on his back. He stared at the dark ceiling above him with a face full of dried tears. He started to think that he’d probably die there in the room without anyone ever truly knowing where he was. It could be years before someone else stumbled upon the house and end up in the same room as him.

He continued to ruminate and lost track of time. His eyes felt heavy and he struggled to keep them open. During the moment before sleeping and being awake, he heard a creaking noise coming from somewhere in the room. He paid attention and listened. For a while, the room was quiet. Just when he wanted to dismiss it as a form of hallucination, the creaking noise came back.

With a rough idea of where the sound came from, he beelined towards the area. Then the sound stopped. He stood there and waited, his ears listening intently. He hoped it come back. If there’s creaking sound, either in the room or behind the wall, it would mean there’s a way out. A little far fetch, he admitted, but he needed that.

Seconds went by. The room was quiet. His hope began fading away gradually with each passing minute of silence. Then the creaking sound came back and he pinpointed it coming from the wall in front of him. Excited, he examined the wall, pressing it to locate hidden switches and tapping to locate hollow spots.

Tapping revealed the lower half of the wall was hollow but there was no hidden switches. The creaking sound continued to go on and off without any discernible pattern.

Jake took a couple of steps back and studied the wall again. He saw a golden hook on the adjacent wall that seemed out of place. He went over and gave it a pull. There was a mechanical churning sound. Moments later, the bottom part of the wall lowered itself into the floor, revealing a small man-made tunnel.

He raised an eyebrow and eyed the tunnel with suspicion. The tunnel was unlit. Even with the torch light, he doubted he would be able to see far. That means he could be moving towards danger and not realising until it was too late. He sighed. Despite what he’d been through, he thought he should have gotten used to scary stuff but he hadn’t.

More thoughts of all the things that could go wrong in the tunnel struck without warning, sending shivers down his spine and goosebumps rising all over. He shook them off and focused on what’s in front of him. He had a chance to get out of the room.

The tunnel was small. A child could probably fit in there. For him, it would be a tight squeeze even though he was only five feet tall and considered to be small-sized for his age and gender. Chances are, he might have to crawl instead of a crouch-walk. And that would slow him down dramatically. So if anything were to happen to him in there, he wouldn’t be able to get away fast enough.

But there was no other way out of the room. He had to get out. If not for his sake, then for Alec’s.

He tossed Alec’s backpack into the tunnel first, hoping to get it as far ahead as possible. His went in next. He could hear the sound of soft thuds of the bags crashing into each other. He crouched and scanned the tunnel with his torch. Satisfied that he could see the bags, he crawled in.

The tunnel was dry, warm and filled with cobwebs that forced Jake to sweep them away from his head constantly. What was surprising was the height of the tunnel.It was high enough for him to do a high-crawl and shoved the bags forward with each step.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been crawling. Time seemed to pass rather slowly in the tunnel. Then he came to a stop in front of a junction that branched into three separate tunnels and wasn’t sure where to go. He went with Eeny, meeny, miny, moe to help him pick and ended up with the tunnel on the right. He went with that choice with a mild worry. He wasn’t sure if that was the right one. But he convinced himself he could always backtrack and go with the remaining two options. So after following through with his choice for a few more minutes, he found himself in an empty room.

A quick sweep of his torch revealed a small corridor with no window and grey walls that seemed moist and full of sticky brown goo. There was a door on the other end and a set of stairs leading downwards connected to the center of the corridor. He suspected he had to be in the basement or something.

“Alec!” Jake called out. He hoped he wasn’t loud enough to attract any unwanted attention from the other inhabitants of the house. “Are you in here?”

When there was no response of any kind, he continued forward with one of the backpack on his back and the other in his free hand. He wanted to try the door first before heading down deeper into the basement. The door refused to budge even after he tried the doorknob several times. He gave up, backtracked and went down the stairs.

****

He opened his eyes to feel a surge of pain across his body. He was laying on his side and didn’t know how long he had been unconscious. The only thing he remembered clearly was falling and crashing through a series of wooden platforms.

He tried to turn and rest on his back but realised he couldn’t move anything below his waist. He tried again only for searing pain to shoot up his torso, causing him to grimace. When the pain subsided, he felt his way around his body and found it was mostly moist and sticky. In the dark, he didn’t know what was going on and could only imagine. Then he felt something coming out of his gut. It was slimy and squishy. His heart skipped a beat and he didn’t want to know more.

He looked around to see his torch survived the fall and was still shining light on the far wall. He wanted to crawl over but he didn’t want to risk further injury. Then he heard someone calling his name and recognised that voice immediately. He opened his mouth and wanted to let Jake know he was in here. But no sound came out. A few more tries and still no voice came out. His heart sank.

But just moments before he gave up, he heard the door rumbled and creaked. Someone opened the door. A beam of light came through the door and it didn’t take long for the beam of light to land on him. However, he couldn’t be sure if it was Jake coming through because his back was facing the door and turning around was practically impossible for him.

“Alec, is that you?”

Alec tried to answer but only a soft grunt came out of his mouth.

He could hear the shuffling of feet as Jake made his way over, torchlight trained on him. He could sense his friend getting closer with each step. It didn’t take long before he felt the air behind him shift dramatically.

“What the hell happened?” Jake dropped both backpacks as he rushed over. He knelt down in front of Alec, placed a hand on his shoulder as though to comfort him while the other hand was aiming the torch at his face and the red messy pile in front of his gut.

“I fell,” Alec managed to utter those words.

Then he caught a glimpse of his injury when the torchlight illuminated his gut and regretted it. It was bad. But he was also glad that he wasn’t all alone.

Jake’s here. And that was all that mattered.

“What?” Jake was as confused as he was shock. He swept the room with his torch, desperately wanting to know how Alec could get so badly hurt. He saw scattered and broken pieces of wooden planks lying on the ground not far away. It didn’t take long before he shifted his attention upwards. Alec’s eyes followed the torch light upward.

“It was a long fall,” Alec said as though it’d help make the situation any better.

Jake turned his attention to Alec. He broke down the moment their eyes met. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alec said, almost too soft to hear.

Jake looked at Alec with swollen eyes and tears streaming down his cheek. He desperately wanted to find something to say but found himself tongue-tied.

Clank!

Both of them twitched. Jake scrambled to get some light on where the sound supposedly came from. But the light revealed nothing. He swept the torch around hoping to catch whatever or whoever made that sound.

Clank, clank, clank!

“Who’s there?” Jake yelled. “Show yourself!”

Cold sweat started breaking out. His heart was beating rapidly and his vision a sudden blur. He adopted a combative stance, with one hand ready to punch at whoever was in the room with them and the other holding the torch and shining at the direction where the sound came from.

Another clanking sound from behind made Jake turn around.

This time he got to see who it was. His eyes and mouth went wide when he found himself staring at Alec. Instead of a handsome, boyish face that he came to love and enjoy, he was staring at a face that was old, badly disfigured with three scars running diagonally across. He turned his head so fast that he could break his neck just to look at who was lying on the floor. When he saw it was indeed Alec, he turned to look at the face of the person standing in front of him.

But before he could do or say anything, he felt something go through his chest and went out the back. He looked down to see a sword plunged through his chest, right where his heart was. For some reason, he didn’t feel pain. He looked up again to see the face had changed from old Alec to black face with yellow eyes and sharp teeth.

A split second later, the figure pulled out the sword, raised it high and brought it down on Jake’s head. The sword cleaved his head in half.

Just as Jake’s lifeless body crumpled to ground, Alec screamed with whatever strength he had left.

Despite the extreme grief he felt over losing his boyfriend, he felt the air around him shifted. He felt his head dropped a couple of inches and struck the ground in a weird manner. He didn’t know what had happened until he found himself rolling. When he stopped, he saw his own body with a red stump that was supposed to be his neck with blood squirting out the main arteries.

The last thoughts he had was of the time he spent with Jake before everything turned pitch black…

All in your head

Distraction.

It’s the thing that could destroy your productivity and send you down the rabbit hole of wasting time and achieving nothing. You will find yourself doing everything else but the one thing you need to be doing.

And you know what? The biggest problem isn’t with distraction. It’s not that video game. Not that Netflix show. Not that book. Rather, it’s you. You are the problem. You choose to play that video game, watch that show or read that book.

So why did you make that choice?

Is it because you lack the discipline?

Or maybe be that the thing you should be doing doesn’t have a strong enough draw to pull you away? Maybe it’s not as important as you think it is? And don’t kid yourself and be all defensive. After all, if it’s important, then why aren’t you doing those things? Why are you allowing yourself to be distracted?

It’s also a conversation that I’m having with myself every now and then.

As much as I like to think I have the discipline to work from home, it’s a lie perpetrated by me on me. The truth is being distracted is a recurring theme. There were so many projects that I want to do but ended up not doing them. I went with playing video games, stopped thinking like a writer and stopped thinking like a designer.

I even told my friends that I couldn’t find the time or concentrate on my stuff at home and needed to work outside. There’s just too many distracting stuff.

One of them said, “it’s all in your head”.

I won’t say I’m surprised. From what I have learned so far, it’s the truth. And the only truth when it comes to productivity.

And that’s a great reminder on who’s really in control.

No one else can make you concentrate or focus. You are the one who decide whether you can concentrate and do the work. Everything else that you say or fight against is just you finding an excuse.

What if you really think that your home has a ton of distractions and you can’t prevent yourself from utilising those distractions? Then go out there and find an environment to work in that allow you to focus. Otherwise, remove all those items in your house that distracts you. Move those distracting things, be it television, your internet router/access points, etc. to a storage unit. Smash them to pieces if you need to. You can always buy a new one later. It’s all about creating that environment you need to work.

And watch what you say to yourself. A lot of times, many of the comments or complains you make are just you being fancy and refuse to do the work. So shut up, and make a plan and execute.

Dont wait

We spend a lot of our time waiting for shit to happen. It could be we are waiting for the bus to arrive at the bus stop, waiting for that cup of coffee or waiting for that friend to arrive for a lunch appointment.

In hindsight, it’s a such a tremendous waste of time. But here’s the thing. There’s nothing we can do about it. The things I mentioned are out of our control. It’s something that we have to learn to accept and let it happen.

Easier said than done, right?

I know. It’s difficult because I’m still struggling with that. As far as I remember, I like to control aspects of my environment so that I get what I want. However, age has this effect of showing you it’s just stupid. Attempting to control anything else but yourself will only make you miserable.

So… let’s give up our control and mindlessly wait!

Right.

It’s one of the stupidest choices you can make because you are giving up opportunities to grow.

For those who know me knows that I work as a software engineer. In this line of work, you can’t afford to stop. The moment you stop or get comfortable, you will be replaced by something new or fresh. Technology is progressing at an exponential rate. And this fact is what deter some people that I know from this line of work because it’s hard to have a decent life. At least based on what I’ve been told and personally experienced.

Even then, it didn’t stop me from falling into the trap of getting comfortable and doing what I already know. You see, I started out as a Java programmer, switched to C# and now wants to go back because I love that language more than any other languages I’ve used. Furthermore, I saw that it’s time for me to specialise.

But there was no action because I went with waiting. Didn’t go for courses any more or bothering to read up on the latest stuff. And I’m waited, stupidly might I add, for the opportunity to switch the programming language that I use. No more pet projects too.

And look at where it got me.

I couldn’t secure any job interviews with the companies I really want to join.

You might think this situation only applies to developers or engineering fields. Have to be very careful with that. Because, as far as I know, no business, field or industry remain stagnant for a long time. Everything is a fair game when it comes to disruption. Look at how Uber disrupted the transportation industry. Or AirBnb disrupted the accommodation business within the tourism industry.

So the question is, are you going to wait until the day you are disrupted and find yourself out of job?

I for one don’t want that to happen.

So, it’s time to start from scratch again to build up my experience with the programming language I began with.

And no more waiting!

This is why I’m spending time to read up on Java again and using it to build pet projects. It doesn’t matter if the project idea has been done to death by other programmers. The key thing here is that you learn how to code in that language again to solve problems. You have to demonstrate to your future employers that you can write in that language without issue. And the good thing is I’ve got my own startup idea that I want to work on with my friends. It will be a great opportunity for me to practice.

Maybe for your case, you are working in a highly-specialised field and it’s not practical for you to be having a side business or side projects to learn or relearn skills that you don’t really use in your day-to-day job anymore. But it doesn’t mean you can’t learn other stuff. There are many other things that you could learn to make yourself a more well-rounded person.

For example, in this day and age, emotional intelligence is the most important skill anyone should have. Unlike technical skills, no amount of courses or seminar is going to teach you emotional intelligence if you don’t actively practice it in real life with your friends, family or peers. I for one know that I’m no good with that and it’s one of those things I’m constantly learning during my day to day work and interactions. Because I know that if I don’t work on this, I will alienate a lot of people and make it hard for people to work with me to achieve some goals. I can’t wait for something really bad to happen before I start practising.

Or, here is another example. Maybe you find that you are a very creative and chaotic person. You don’t really plan anything out because it doesn’t seem to affect your work. Yay, you are a pantser of sort. high five Therefore, you don’t really bother yourself with it. But does it mean you wait for something bad to happen before you learn how to be organise?

Because you see, having the ability, or some resemblance of ability to plan, is very important to achieve goals or targets. I’m a pantser and acknowledge the importance of basic planning. I do that from time to time if not my work process will be very chaotic. And the ability to plan or be organise could be the difference between you and some other creatives who are trying to show secure some sort of contract, sales or opportunities.

So what you could do is to go for courses on planning or even do it in your daily life. Like your groceries. Or getting the tools you need to do your work. Or plan out your finances. Whatever it is you can find to practice planning, just do it.

Don’t wait for things to happen. It might already be too late. Do it now.