Fiction / October 2018 (Issue 41: Writing Singapore)


by Daren Goh

 To show that he was tough on crime, the Prime Minister appointed his top cabinet member, Minister Lim Chiu Kua, to lead the poster initiative.

Minister Lim was lauded nationally as an intellectual miracle. He graduated from Oxford’s prestigious Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) program at eighteen, and was the youngest undergraduate in the program’s history. Upon returning home, he became Singapore’s youngest Chief of Defence at twenty years old, and was accountable only to the Prime Minister. Without much speculation, it was common knowledge among the inner cadre of ministers that he would be appointed the next Prime Minister. All he needed to do was stay alive.

As part of his mandate to focus on stopping the crime wave, Minister Lim was promoted to Senior Executive Minister (SEM) of Domestic Affairs. Although it was an expected move, this shocked the ambitious Ministers who coveted that position, but they could only watch enviously as SEM Lim took charge of all the country’s internal affairs.

His first job was to tackle the surge in crime. To do so, he built upon the poster initiative with every inch of his esteemed intellect. He pulled together the minds of the most senior officials from each government agency, and formed a task force that met weekly to discuss solutions. After a month, an eighty-page paper was published. The solution was to incorporate three core values – Community, Alertness, and Cooperation – into the fabric of the nation.

“Embodying these core values will be the key to our eventual success. We will not be conquered by crime,” said Minister Lim. He chose to address the nation via YouTube, through the first livestream for any minister, or anyone in government.

To reinforce his message, Lim invited an international cast of bloggers and YouTube personalities to participate in the campaign. All he asked was that they create online videos that answered the question, “How can we stop crime together?”

The allure of a million-dollar prize drew an immense number of submissions. The most popular video was by an entrepreneur who designed micro bikinis, and posed in them seductively on her website. Customers were then encouraged to procure the used bikini by outbidding each other. Upon payment, it would be sent to the winner, complete with loose sand and dried salt crystals.

In her submitted video, she is seen posing in one of her famous neon yellow micro bikinis, frolicking unnaturally on the beach. The camera roams all over the curves of her body, as the foam from the receding shoreline sizzles seductively in the background.

A man runs into the frame and grabs her breasts from behind. It surprises her, as she takes a moment to realise what is going on. With melodrama, she shrieks forcefully into the camera, causing the man to run out of sight. Her shriek continues until two exceptionally shirtless, muscular men come into view. She points towards the direction of the escaping assailant and says with fake helplessness, “Oh, please stop that man. I need your cooperation to stop crime.” The two men nod in acknowledgement and enthusiastically run off into the distance. She turns and smiles at the camera, holding her gaze, as the words ‘Stop crime. Cooperate with your community.’ appear across the screen.

Another video, viewed over fifteen million times, was by a band that had never released a music track in their career. Having gotten by on their good looks and flirty smiles, the band of two girls and one guy were known only for being seen in other videos, frequently saying, “Hi, we’re a band.”

They also regularly appeared in advertisements for soft drink and financial consulting companies. Their pretty faces made people seek out videos from their Snapchat account, which showed each band member having expensive meals, or looking despairingly into their phones. Over time, their creative flair for selfies on Instagram overshadowed their questionable lack of musical produce. It didn’t matter. As long as fans could connect with them through deeply introspective Facebook posts about their absent fathers, or other lost loved ones, people watched them with anticipation.

In their video, the three of them sit on the floor of a yoga studio. Each of their hands is holding up a glass of warm tea at the same height, with steam over their faces, and its logo pointing prominently at the camera. The guy, handsome and young, has a frown on his face. He looks into the distance and thoughtfully asks himself, “What more can I do to help the country I love?”

The girl in a tight black tank top comes into frame. Visible from the chest up, she looks distantly away from the camera and says, “I wish we could look out for each other more, then there would be nothing to fear.” The video cuts to a shot of all of them in frame, with the other girl raising her hand, saying, “I choose community over myself.”

All three of them flash a choreographed smile. The handsome guy speaks, while both girls hold their smile alongside him. “When we are together, we are strong. We are a band.” The video cuts to a tight shot of their faces, as they nod and proclaim in unison, “Community. We are nothing without it.”

Their band name appears across the screen in a large font. As the camera zooms out, they collapse in laughter and flash flirty smiles at the camera, as if they were never meant to be seen in the first place.
Editors' note:
"Community" is an excerpt from Daren Goh's The HDB Murders (Math Paper Press).
ImageDaren Goh is an amateur fiction author with a day job. He's also part of the founding team of The Proletariat Poetry Factory, and has performed as a poet, musician, and manager through its performances at The Night Festival, Singapore Writers Festival, and flea markets over the last ten years. His personal reading habits include long books but D-named authors he doesn't quite understand (David Foster Wallace; Don DeLillo; Dostoevsky), but hopes to one day. In the meantime, he'll work on his fiction novels (he has 3 full ones, and 2 half ones) until they're crisp and tasty enough to be published and enjoyed by people all over the world. [Fiction]
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