Evidence of Not Knowing


Chapter 1: Restless – Arabella Nicola Millais-Scott 
(Written by Kyra Yeo) 

Chapter 2: Ghosts – Silas Gillis 
(Written by Rebekah Chia)

Chapter 3: Swindler – Marie Allard 
(Written by Lea How)

Chapter 4: Arrival – Marie Allard
(Written by Lea How)

Chapter 5: Ella – Arabella Nicola Millais-Scott
(Written by Kyra Yeo) 

Chapter 6: Singing Canary – Silas Gillis 
(Written by Rebekah Chia

Map of Lichter

Chapter 1: Restless – Arabella Nicola Millais-Scott
(Written by Kyra Yeo)

Ara huffed as she stepped out from the taxi, surveying the street. It was empty, a dry wind sweeping through silence. Amidst still atmosphere, sunlight shone in patches, glancing off unassuming exteriors of buildings. She blinked in the quiet, taking in her surroundings in mild apathy. The Grand Lichter Hotel hovered over her, thick and faded. Its name was plastered across the front of the low-rise building in a large dull grey Arial. Ara  shoved the frosted glass doors open. The stale air-conditioned air soaked into her skin as she pulled her luggage onto the stamped concrete flooring, her leather suitcase rolling smoothly into the modestly decorated reception.

The young lady at the desk surveyed her outdated laptop uninterestedly, “Room 41 is booked under the name Valerie Millais.” Shifting her weight, Ara glanced at her phone and frowned impatiently, “That’s my Mother, she got caught up with something important back in London. She’ll be here soon.” 

“I can’t check you in without the proper identification.”

Ara tilted her head in annoyance, eyeing the fair-headed girl, “My Mother owns the Caldera Mining company. Are you just going to make me wait?”

“Ma’am why don’t you have a seat in the lobby until she arrives?”

The lady’s English was clear, despite being young. She must have been educated internationally, Ara thought absently. Yet the slightly lilted accent still swam faintly beneath the sophisticated British accent. It was reminiscent of her mother’s, which was seldom heard, a hint of their native language buried under years in a foreign country. Ara yanked herself away from the straying thoughts soaked in washed out memories, pulling her luggage to the flat brown chairs laid out in the lobby.

2 hours later

Her mother still hadn’t arrived. Apparently, there was another hold-up, and she didn’t know for how long. Ara sat in the hotel lobby, restlessly refreshing her inbox and resending an email until it finally went through. The wifi sign showed two bars, and nothing seemed to load smoothly at all. The town of Lichter had a population smaller than her university and was hot as sin. It was old-fashioned, maybe a little odd if that was the right word to describe it. No matter how Ara tried to explain it, there was definitely something in the air, a mix of uncertainty and unease. She could feel it seeping into her skin the longer she sat in the cold empty room. 

The doors to the hotel swung open, as there was a beat of silence. The redhead that opened the doors wasn’t the elder brunette Ara had been expecting. Her pale freckled skin and odd aura seemed to strike anyone that looked at her long enough. She had sharp features, with bright thoughtful eyes steeped with a sort of gentleness which softened her presence.

The instructions detailing the job stated clearly that her client spoke English. This lady obviously wasn’t a local. She wore a business suit, which Arabella scoffed at internally. A suit in this heat, at a small town of mildly uninteresting historical origins. How impractical. 

“Excuse me,” the woman eyed Ara up and down, “Are you by any chance Madame Valerie?”

“Oh! I’m Ara, Arabella Millais? I’m the official private translator for Caldera Mining. I’m so sorry, Madame Valerie has been… held up at the moment. ” Ara replied, rising to meet the gaze of the lady, “And you must be Caldera’s hired paranormal  investigator?” 

“Ah, so you’re Arabella! Good to meet you, yes I’m the ghost-buster girl! Marie Allard if you will.” 

Ara nodded, shaking Marie’s hand in a firm hold, “I’ll be your translator for as long as you need. My- Madame Valerie should hopefully arrive by tonight. Are you staying in this hotel as well?” Ara’s mind raced, did her mother completely forget all her commitments? Madame Valerie did seem a little off these days, perhaps it was stress, Ara thought morosely. 

“Yeah, I checked in earlier but headed back to the station to look for Madame Valerie. By the way, you’re British, aren’t you?”

“London, Caldera Mining is based there too.”

 “Ah, well I’m from Nevada!! So why did you choose to study the uh…  Lichter speak?” 

“Actually, my father was born and raised here. I moved to London when I was young and chose to pick up Pripat to continue the culture and heritage of my ancestral roots.” She replied with the model answer, repeated when asked at interviews. It was a convenient excuse to cover up the fact that she learnt it to spite her mother, who often chose to hide their low-class origins and wanted nothing to do with Lichter. Until now, of course. 

“I see, well do you mind showing me around some of the more famous spots? I’d love to chat with some of the locals.” 

Ara almost snorted. There were no famous landmarks or sightseeing spots in the minuscule tow. It was just small and dry as dust. It was bizarre finally returning to the place she was born. It felt the smallest bit underwhelming, though Ara refused to let the thought surface more than a fraction.

“It’s my first time here too since I was young, but I’d be happy to accompany you to talk with the locals.”

“Well then, I’ll pop back to my room to grab my equipment then we’ll be off!” 

Ara fiddled with her luggage straps as Marie headed towards the lifts, wondering what she was supposed to do if her mother didn’t arrive soon. Her baggage would have to come along with their ghost-hunting expedition. Ara barely knew anything about people who worked with ghosts. Marie seemed overly friendly while having such a serious job, but then again she wasn’t from around here, maybe in America, ghosts aren’t all that important.

It turned out that Marie’s only official ‘equipment’ was papers and a pen. Ara realised quickly that as a paranormal investigator, Marie couldn’t do much but find out if the place was haunted and give advice, as she also doubled as a medium. Being able to see spirits didn’t necessarily mean that Marie could get rid of them. If this town was haunted, Ara was sure the only advice she would follow was to run far away and never return. 

The old lady in front of them had been chattering away for almost 40 minutes. The sun was sinking and Ara could almost swear she saw a tumbleweed blow by, “She said there’s loads of suspicions but they’re all just speculations.” 

“Have there been any strange happenings around the mine recently? ” Marie was scribbling on her paper, her eyebrows scrunched. 

“It’s just creepy that’s all. There’s only the weird things around town.” Ara translated.

“Can you ask about how it collapsed again?” 

Ara almost groaned out loud. That’s how her  day had gone, recount after recount of supernatural encounters, weird happenings and retellings of the same story over and over. All while lugging along her stupid, stupid leather suitcase. Locals thought the abandoned mine, just to the west of the town, was haunted by those who died in a mining accident years ago. 

Ara felt another bead of sweat trickle down her back, dampening her shirt as she repeated the sentence in exasperation. The lady started rambling again, never taking a breath.

“No one goes near the mine or anythin’. You know how we don’t let little kids go near the sketchy places because nobody really knows what goes on there. No one ever got hurt though, ‘cept that kid who thought it was a good idea to go down the mine. It was quite a while ago, an’ nobody really knows what really happened but ‘e got badly hurt he did. His mother almost had a heart attack, poor thing.” The old woman paused, nodding her head thoughtfully.

Ara yanked her mind back to what the lady had said, as Marie glanced at the darkening sky. Not waiting for Ara to translate, Marie stood quickly and shot the lady a half-smile.

“Thank you, for your input!” She picked up her pencil, “You’ve got my card and number so just call me if anything! Really you see anything strange and just ring me okay?” 

Ara jumped up, nodding a brief thank you to the lady. She flexed her fingers, sore from clutching the leather straps of her heavy luggage. Marie shuffled her stack of paper notes busily, ginger hair shining gold in the setting sun. 

Marie was pleasant enough to work with, and the way her demeanour changed when working was always surprising. Marie swapped back to the confident professional lady Ara had seen when she first walked into the hotel. Marie was so smooth with asking questions, charming in her own way. The two got along quite well.

They clambered down the patio steps, Marie grabbing her notes tightly as she turned to Ara, “So I’ve been thinking about that old mine, I kinda wanna see it for myself.”

“I’m curious too actually. It’s not a regular mine is it?”

“No, it’s a uranium mine, never seen one before. Apparently it’s big.”

“Oh it makes sense now, uranium is pretty expensive. Probably why Caldera wants it so bad. ”

“Crazy the things people do for money.”

The sun had sunken into a dull amber glow as they approached a boy, with hair as brown as his skin. The boy jumped in surprise as Marie ran up to him, his skittish demeanour and confused gaze somewhat endearing to Ara. He looked like a lost puppy, darting glances around and fidgeting with his fingers. Ara thought he looked about 16, but the way he acted made him seem younger than he was.

He was playing with another kid, whose eyes lit up as they approached, his wavy red hair ruffled. In a matter of seconds, Ara realised that he was Marie’s little brother, Cole. She remembered Marie mentioning she had brought him along since there was no one else back home. The two kids were drawing figures with sticks in the dirt, not understanding each other but amiable enough. 

 “You guys are still playing on the floor? Come on we gotta go.”, Marie tilted her head towards the fading sunset. 

Cole did surprise Ara when Marie told her about it. Marie almost fully took care of her little brother, with her own mother hospitalised. She did carry a heavy burden, and Ara had to admire her hard work. 

“This is my friend, Ella. Frrieendd.” Marie had spoken with an exaggerated pronunciation to the local boy as if he was a toddler. He stared on, uncomprehending but good-natured all the same. Ara rolled her eyes, speaking to the boy herself, “It’s Ara. Just Ara, not Ella.” 

He kept silent, waving goodbye to Cole as Marie grabbed her brother’s hand.

“I’m Ara, I don’t like being called Ella or Arabella. It’s kinda embarrassing.” Ara scrunched her nose in distaste as Marie shoved a piece of paper at the boy.

“Oh sorry! Sometimes I get confused, you know. I have a cousin, her name is also Arabella but she goes by Ella. It’s a really pretty name I think.”

“Thanks really. But it’s fine, I just don’t fancy the name. No one  calls me Ella anymore…” Ara trailed off as Cole waved one last time to the boy.

“Was it like a childhood nickname?” 

“Yeah, something like that.”

“I getcha, come on Cole.” Cole tugged on Marie’s sleeve as they strolled down the road, “Did the nice boy take good care of you?”

“Yeah, he didn’t boss me around at all. He was fun to play with.”

“Maybe you can play with him tomorrow as well, I’m kinda busy. Do you know his name? ” At this Cole frowned, biting his lip.

“No, but he drew a lot of bird people. Maybe he likes birds.” Ara bit back a smile, as Marie rolled her eyes. 

‘Yes sure, he hasn’t got a name but he liked birds. You won’t be able to find him again like that, do you really wanna stay in the hotel all day? He’s responsible, and I bet you don’t want to be alone all day…”

Chapter 2: Ghosts – Silas Gillis
(Written by Rebekah Chia)

Anterograde amnesia:

“Affecting memories for a period of time immediately following a precipitating event (such as traumatic brain injury) and especially from the time of onset to the present.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

There were many things Silas did remember, and chief of all was his name.

The things he didn’t remember included: what he was doing here, how he got here, and any events that had transpired since his last memory in a place that most definitely was not here.

He was alone, shoes buried in dirt, heart pounding against his chest. His limbs were sore and bruised, and he stood lumbered, head lolling to the side. His body felt heavy, like something was weighing down on every move and action. He stumbled forward, his head spinning, the world a complete blur.

It was cold and there was a breeze. Silas felt something against his skin. He clutched his arms and realised that he was wearing a windbreaker. He could hear the rustling of leaves, and the hoot of owls roaming the night.

He once prided himself on his night vision. But it was dark now, and he could hardly make out the shapes in his surroundings. His eyes stung, unadjusted to the lack of light. It took a lot of effort to look clearly at what was ahead of him.


Where was he?

There was a rock protruding from the ground. It was round, shaped like a tablet of sorts, and there were inscriptions carved into it:


A tombstone.


It wasn’t the only one. To his left and right were rows upon rows of them, stretched out as far as his eyes could see. Pathways made of stone snaked around patches of grass, stretching far into the area.

The graveyard. What was he doing on the opposite edge of town?

The only lights he could see were coming from the silhouette of a small cottage in the distance. Without thinking, he began to limp towards it.

He was not as alone as he had thought.

A sharp cry rang through the air, loud and high-pitched. Silas covered his ears. Another, deeper voice responded to the first, this time clearer but more distant.

They spoke with clear syllables, but Silas could not make heads or tails of anything they were saying. It was all gibberish to him, loud and frightful.

And then he saw them.

Red masks, eyes gilded with some kind of reflective sheet, the lower half of it stretched out into some kind of beak. Black cloaks enveloped them, dragging against the dirt, almost like they were floating.

He saw them and felt an almost visceral reaction. It wasn’t exactly fear, but he wasn’t unafraid, either. He felt a feeling of discomfort that he could neither understand nor resolve.

The figures drifted up and down the pathways. From time to time they would shout, going back and forth in some foreign tongue. Almost like they were looking for something.


Silas’s heart almost skipped a beat. He looked up, and it was right there, standing before him on the stone floor.

The ends of its cloak faded into the night, indifferentiable from shadow. It stared at him with its red mask, beady eyes shining from the reflection of moonlight. It wasn’t moving, or at least didn’t seem to be. But Silas wasn’t taking any chances.

He dashed, darting into the maze of graves beside him. He squeezed his eyes shut, which was a bad idea, because almost immediately he ran straight into a headstone. He let out a cry and staggered back.

Pain shot through his head and panic rose in his chest. He took a deep breath, in, out, in, out.

“Who’s there?”

This voice was different. This voice was low, and coarse, and tired. This voice spoke in a language that Silas could understand.

“Answer me! Who’s out here?”

Footsteps thundered against the stone pathways. A flashlight shone in Silas’s face, and he looked up, one hand over his eyes to block out the light.

“Gillis?” At the other end of the flashlight stood a man in a singlet and trousers, staring disbelievingly at Silas.

“Silas Gillis!” The man exclaimed, his expression equal parts surprised and confused. “I haven’t seen you in ages, boy! What are you doing in my cemetery?”

“The…” Silas’s eyes darted around the grounds. “The red masks…”

They were gone. Not so much as a sliver of a sight of them no matter where he looked.

“This is no place to chat,” the man before him shook his head, and gestured towards the cottage in the distance. “Let’s get you someplace nice and warm, first. Yeah?”

Silas remembered the gravekeeper. His name was Andrew Cress, and he loved to chat with students who passed by the cemetery near school.

Silas did not remember, however, the pot-belly or the beard Cress was now sporting. He had the same face, and the same friendly demeanour he always had, but still it felt like he was talking to a different person.

The cottage was well-maintained, but barren. There was a single television across a wooden coffee table. They sat on a woollen couch older than Silas himself. The fabric had tears in it, exposing stuffing that turned yellow and dry over the years.

“So, tell me. What’s happened to you, boy?” Cress seemed energetic. Perhaps he was excited to have company. Silas wondered what it must be like for him, living alone out here. “You haven’t been to this side of town in what, five years?”

Silas frowned. “I…Haven’t?”

He lived on the east side of Lichter, but the hour-long trek from home to school was well ingrained in his mind. It was odd to hear that he hadn’t been to this side in so long.

“Well, if you have, then I’d’ve seen you,” Cress chuckled, “And I haven’t. So—”

A thought struck Silas.“Mr. Cress,” he asked, “How old am I?”

Cress paused, and looked up at Silas. He appeared confused for a moment before something clicked in his head. “Oh,” he grinned, “is this one of them trick questions? Well, I say, boy, you don’t look a day over seventeen!”

Seventeen. Less than an hour ago, Silas was twelve.

What happened to him, exactly?

“I’m surprised to find you out here at this hour,” Cress said, drawing Silas’s attention once more, “What with all the spirits lurking around and everything. You mentioned red masks, didn’t you?”

Silas felt a chill down his spine. “Those were spirits?”

“What else would they be?” Cress sat back and sighed, “Town’s haunted. That’s what the medium lady said when she came here, isn’t it?”

Medium lady?

Silas had a strong feeling he knew who Cress was talking about, but he couldn’t place a finger on it. It irked him—he felt like he was missing out on something very important.

He wasn’t sure what prompted him to reach into his pocket, if it was instinct or some sort of muscle memory. Silas felt something in his jacket and pulled out a business card. It was crumpled, and torn at the edges, as if it had been stuffed into his pocket in a hurry.

Cress tilted his head and asked, “What’s you got there?”

Silas looked down at the card. It read:


This was yesterday. The yesterday that he remembered, anyway. He was with his brother, and life was as normal as it could have ever been.


They sat at the dining table. His brother was doing his work, and Silas was pretending to do his own. It had been silent for most of the afternoon, so Somer seemed a little surprised to hear his name called.

Silas asked, “Have you ever been to the old mine?”

It was a simple question. He hadn’t intended to cause any discomfort. But Somer’s face grew ghostly pale.

“Why?” He frowned.

Silas, ever-oblivious, cheerfully confessed, “Some of my classmates invited me to go and explore it with them.”

It wasn’t that much of a surprise. In a town as small and dry as Lichter, there wasn’t much to see or do. There was one vaguely exciting thing in the area, and it was the abandoned mine north-east of town. And, for Silas, it was a thirty-minute walk from home.

“Don’t go.” There was no hesitation in Somer’s voice, no uncertainty, no humour. His response was not advice, it was a command. “It’s dangerous there, Silas. You don’t know what could be lurking down in the depths.”

“You only say that because you’re a wuss.”

Somer reached over and smacked his brother on the back, which earned him a triumphant giggle from the younger. “Watch your mouth! I’m stronger than you, you know.”

“Still a wuss.”

“What do you want me to say?” Somer sighed, leaning back in his seat. “Silas, if you go to the mine, I will personally throttle you if the spirits don’t get you first.”

“Alright,” Silas grinned. Under his breath, he muttered, “wuss.”

Somer rolled his eyes, but eventually they fell into silence. The next day, Silas would ignore everything his brother told him, and follow his daring classmates to the infamous Lichter mine.

The “day” after that, Silas would wake up in the middle of a graveyard, five years older than he remembered. Any of his memories between then and the last thing he remembered were gone, as if they had been replaced with ghosts.

Chapter 3: Swindler – Marie Allard
(Written by Lea How)

“Thank you so much! I never thought I’d be able to speak with Claire again…” Wrinkled, calloused hands clasped softer ones as the elderly man in front Marie bowed.  She plastered a smile on her face, shaking her head slightly, “No worries, Mr Will! It’s always a pleasure helping people connect with their deceased loved ones.” 

Soon after they parted ways, Marie clambered into her car at the parking lot around the corner,  flipping through the bills in the envelope Mr Will had passed her. Marie grimaced, seeing the amount of cash that Mr Will had given her for a fraudulent seance. She would’ve thought that after 7 years in the industry she’d grow accustomed to it, but it seemed that recently, she’d feel more and more fatigued from exploiting her client’s wishes to see the dead, especially when they were magnanimous elderly. 

Her thoughts went back to the job, where she had set up a ring of candles on Mr Will’s dining table, the distinctive smell of smoke wafting around the stuffy dining room. Despite Mr Will being like an intelligent gentleman, he still seemed to believe that Marie could genuinely help him connect with the dead, even though he had no solid evidence to prove so. Throughout the seance, Mr Will had obeyed every word she’d said earnestly, with eyes shut tight, hands trembling in hers, lips chanting. It was easy to tell that he, along with almost every other client she’d worked with, desperately wished to see their departed loved one(s), even though scams in the industry were high. 

Marie shook her head, clearing her mind of the avalanche of guilt that was starting to form in her heart, and looked at the cash. Mother’s hospital bills that I’ve been putting off, this should cover it – but  I still have to think about Cole’s medicine. And, of course, rent is due soon. Marie pinched the bridge of her nose, muttering, “Wow, I could really use a drink right now.”

 Finances had always been a problem, but it had never been as serious as this. Her mother’s recent hospitalisation due to heart problems and twelve-year-old brother’s condition left her with barely any money for her personal use. In fact, since America’s healthcare services were so expensive, Marie had had to pack and fly to Europe so the cost would be cheaper. 

Letting out a groan, Marie looked at her phone and refreshed her inbox repeatedly, but it remained empty. Work was scarce these days due to the growing belief that mediums and paranormal investigators weren’t actually able to do anything. She’d had multiple people tell her before that staying in this profession wouldn’t benefit her at all in the long run, but she couldn’t just drop this job. She’d already worked so hard to make herself and her company successful, and not only that, but it was the company her mother had handed down to her. She clenched her fists, dropping her head against the off-white steering wheel, trying to calm the grim, overwhelming mix of frustration and anxiety bubbling up her throat and eyes.

Marie stayed in the same position for several minutes, practising breathing exercises. Okay, I could pick up some part-time jobs, get some cash… but then I won’t be able to look after Cole… Whatever, I’ll worry about it later. Marie glanced at the darkening skies that beckoned her to make that half-hour drive home quick and turned the ignition on.

Marie raced up the tight, dim stairway to a narrow corridor,  stopping outside a scratched, peeling wooden door. Her keys jangled wildly, soon accompanied by the creaking of her door. Marie’s bags fell onto the small, creaky console table besides the door with a thud, and she quickly entered the living room to see Cole splayed across their stained fabric sofa, watching TV and eating wholemeal bread. 

“Cole, I’m so sorry, the job took longer than expected…”

Marie felt a pang in her heart as Cole ignored her, munching on his bread, the coloured lights dancing in his eyes. He was definitely mad at her from coming back late. She bit her lip and trudged into the kitchen. Opening the battered door, she stared pathetically into the almost emptied freezer.

“Oh my God, I’ll have to do the groceries tomorrow,” Marie muttered to herself,  taking the last fillet of salmon out with some corn and carrot for Cole’s dinner. It always had to be rich in fats and nutrients due to his cystic fibrosis, a condition that hindered his growth. Even though Marie’s budget was low when it came to just about anything, she would always be willing to provide Cole with the best she could offer. 

Soon, the smell of grilled salmon filled the tiny kitchen, leaving Marie’s mouth-watering and stomach growling as she stared at the fatty fish wistfully. Compared to her sad dinner of instant ramen, his dinner looked like a luxurious meal. How she wished she could afford to buy food like that for herself, too. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten something that wasn’t filled with preservatives or MSG.

“Dinner’s ready!” Marie announced, setting his plate and her instant ramen down on the shaky dining table in front of the couch. Cole sat up, letting Marie take a seat beside him. They ate in silence, apart from Cole’s occasional wheezing and coughing. 

Although their studio apartment was small, leaving Marie and Cole to mostly be in each other’s company, they had barely spoken to the other since their mother’s hospitalisation, since Marie was too preoccupied with trying to find work. Marie knew that Cole felt neglected because of it – they’d been extremely close to each other previously, and she made a mental note to reconcile with him.

Marie turned her phone on and sorted through her calendar, lips pursing as she stared at her almost empty month, save for a few reminders to visit her mother in the hospital. Suddenly, a new notification popped up: it was an email from ‘Caldera’. Fingers crossed, Marie’s breath hitched as she prayed for it to be a job request. She hastily opened the email, browsing through its contents.

Cole stood up, picking up his plate. “Don’t forget to take your medicine,” Marie reminded him absent-mindedly, receiving a grunt in response. “What the heck is this?” she breathed out. Her heart started racing as she squinted at the email, not believing what she was reading. Her eyes ran over the minuscule text, which seemed to grow smaller and blur over. 

The email was ominous at best. Marie gnawed on her lip, feeling like she’d suddenly lost the ability to breathe. A weird sense of cold dread coursed through her, making her skin buzz, feeling warm yet cold, and her headlight.

‘We know that you swindle, we know who you are, and where you are. Caldera needs you for a job. We know what you need, and everything will be covered, if you agree.’ At the bottom of the email, her mother’s hospital records, making her heart leap for the second time. Wasn’t doxxing and blackmail illegal? But they hadn’t threatened anything, albeit sounding a bit commanding. What were they offering? 

Marie shook her head, clenching her jaw as she typed a quick reply. There was too much at risk here – she could potentially lose her job.

A reply pinged in almost immediately and she glanced at it again, tilting her head in thought. The reply asked for a meet-up, addressed from a lady named Madame Josephine Valerie. Quickly typing in Caldera Mining into google, Marie was flooded with information, ranging from job offers to news and information. Most notably, the CEO Madame Valerie, who inherited the business from her late father. Why would a CEO of a mining company be offering to cover hospital bills? What could they possibly want, and why her?

Bells jingled as Marie swung the wood-framed glass door open to a cream-coloured, vintage-styled cafe. The strong aroma of coffee struck her almost immediately, and Marie inhaled deeply, indulging in the bitter, yet sweet scent. Marie had always appreciated the aroma of coffee – it was something she’d grown to love. The quaint cafe was relatively empty, save for two couples, a student, and a middle-aged blonde lady in a full business suit sitting at a booth, an uninterested look on her face as she scrolled on her phone. 

Marie swallowed nerves as she approached the business suit lady whom she assumed was the CEO Recognition flashed in the lady’s eyes as she glanced up at Marie, before a polite smile graced her lips, beckoning to the seat opposite hers. 

“Hello, I’m Madame Josephine Valerie, head of Caldera. Please, take a seat.” Marie sat down slowly, wary of the woman. 

“Would you like a drink?” Josephine offered, the same small, scary smile plastered on her face. God, is it permanently sketched on her face like that? Marie thought to herself, shooting Josephine a smile that probably came out as a grimace, shaking her head.

“Alright. So, about the job,” Josephine started. 

“Yes, I need more details on the job. You’re an English company, why are you here? Looking for me? I won’t be staying in Europe for long.” 

Josephine leaned back on her seat, the sides of her lips quirked up, gracing her perfect wrinkle-free face. “Before we get into that, I have an offer to make,” Josephine ignored Marie’s question. Confusion overtook Marie’s features as she heard that statement. What could this woman possibly want from a swindler?

“Would you be interested in deluding an entire town into thinking that it’s haunted, for $100,000?”

Her breath caught in her throat. $100,000? That was enough to pay for 2 years of her apartment rent and pay for Cole’s medicine, not to mention Marie would finally be able to eat better food and take Cole out more often. 

“Pardon me?” Marie questioned, not believing what she’d just heard. 

“Lichter Town has a uranium mine, but they won’t let my company buy it for fear that doing so will upset the spirits in the mine, which is rumoured to be haunted,” Josephine explained, “So, we need you, a professional swindler, to help us trick Lichter into thinking that their town is haunted. And once they think it’s haunted, everyone will move out and I’ll be able to buy the mine.” 

Marie took a moment to process everything that Josephine said. Swindling a few people at once? Okay, easy, no problem. But an entire town?

“If you don’t agree to this deal, I’ll release evidence of you being a swindler, and you won’t ever get any customers. Business will go down for you, and you’ll eventually have to shut down.” Josephine’s smile suddenly turned sly, a cruel glint in her eyes. “And of course, if you don’t comply, you won’t get the money to sustain your mother’s life support, pay your rent and, last but not least, how would your brother fare if you don’t have enough money?”

Marie’s heart clenched as she heard that statement, horror seeping into every nook of her body. Her limbs couldn’t move, it was like she was paralyzed. How did she know all that? Marie stared at the woman in front of her, her fear of the older woman growing with each passing second. No smile on Josephine’s face could ease Marie’s apprehension. 

There was no doubt that this woman was dangerous, but Marie desperately needed that money… She fiddled with her ear studs, a habit of hers whenever she was nervous. 

“So? How about it?” Josephine prompted, smirking. 

Marie hesitated for a moment. She placed her hands back onto her lap, mind decided. “What do I have to do?”

Josephine’s smile grew wider, mimicking that of the Cheshire cat, and began telling Marie the details of her plan.

Chapter 4: Arrival – Marie Allard
(Written by Lea How)

Visiting her 56-year-old mother was never easy. It always left her feeling empty, seeing all the tubes shoved into various parts of her pale sun-spotted skin, mouth covered by the oxygen mask. The smell and dizzyingly white lights of the corridor outside didn’t help much with the subfuscous image either.

“Mom, how’re you feeling today?” Marie asked, tucking a few strands of grey hair behind her mother’s ear.

“Just fine, dear… they’ve been treating me real good here. Better than that American shithole,” her mother, Avery, chuckled. “What about you? You haven’t visited in quite a while. I hope you’ve been taking good care of Cole here.”

“Of course I have! Cole, tell her I do,” Marie turned to him, who was sitting at the foot of the hospital bed, playing with Marie’s phone.

“I almost starved to death last night because she forgot about me again,” Cole stated nonchalantly, eyes trained on his game. Marie’s jaw dropped. What a little snitch!

“Again?” Avery softly gasped as she turned to look disapprovingly at Marie. 

“It was an accident, I swear,” Marie defended herself, putting both hands up. “My job ended late because I got lost driving back from my client’s house! He literally lived in the middle of a forest.” 

“Really? You sure you weren’t disgracing the company name and getting complaints?” Avery asked jokingly. 

“No!  Mom, you know I take my job seriously, I’d never do that,” Marie exclaimed. Biting her lip, Marie hesitated a bit, hating that she would have to stretch that lie even further. “In fact, on the contrary, I’ve been doing the opposite.” Grabbing Avery’s wrinkly left hand with both of hers, Marie gulped, feeling the familiar rise of anxiety she’d learnt to deal with, whenever she lied to her mother. She could lie to anyone without batting an eye, which was, of course, only to be expected due to the nature of her job. However, when it came to Avery, there was just something about her that compelled Marie to always tell the truth. A mother’s love, I guess? 

“I got offered to work as a paranormal investigator at Lichter, a town north of here. The pay is $100,000,” Marie injected as much enthusiasm as possible into her voice, hoping she came off excited enough.

“$100,000?” Avery gasped, “Good golly, that’s wonderful! Take good care of your brother there, okay? You better do the best you can on that job. Do you still remember the techniques I taught you when it comes to investigating-”

“Yes, mom, I know,” Marie groaned, “if I didn’t remember how to do it, I wouldn’t have accepted the job in the first place, now would I? That’s beside the point, anyway – we’ll finally have the money to pay for your heart surgery now!” 

A sigh left her lips as a bitter smile formed on Avery’s pruned lips. “Dear, I’ve already told you… I’m an old lady now, spending all that money on my surgery won’t do any good if I’m just going to die soon-”

“Mom, stop it,” Marie warned. “I don’t want to hear any more of this negative talk from you, okay? We’re getting the money and surgery. Cole still needs you. We need you. Did you really think you could get rid of us that easily?” she joked.

Avery wheezed-chuckled, lifting her arms weakly, which Marie took as her cue to lean in and hug her. “Oh, dear, what would I do without you… thank you for taking care of your younger brother for me. I don’t know what I’d do without my little ghost-hunting Marie. Cole, my baby boy, come here.”

Instantly, a mix of guilt, fear, and hopelessness coursed through her body. She relished in her mother’s warmth and familiar scent, moving slightly when Cole climbed up the bed to rest on top of Avery. Oh, how she wanted to simply tell her everything – about how she couldn’t actually see ghosts, that the actual job was to dupe a town, that everything regarding her job was a fraud. She wanted to weep in her mother’s arms just like she did when she was young, pouring her frustrations and secrets out. But she couldn’t now, she was an independent adult with two people to support, she had to be their pillar of strength now. 

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Marie replied softly, “I love you, mom.” 

As far as Marie knew, she and Cole were the only ones in the economy carriage of the train. Cole had taken advantage of this by going to the other end of the cabin, spreading himself out on the slightly bulky, blue fabric seats, probably playing with his figurines or sleeping. 

A cloud of condensation formed on the window as Marie watched the world whirl past, a blur of green and blue. They’d left for Lichter about 2 hours ago, so they should be reaching soon. A wave of unease washed over her with every second that ticked past, the whir of the train seeming to accelerate the tides. 

To distract herself from it, she looked down at her phone, aimlessly scrolling up and down through her countless notifications, which she never cleared. Then, a new one from Caldera popped up, letting out a tiny ding! 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have now reached Lichter Town. Please alight carefully, and thank you for riding with us.”

Marie’s finger hovered over the notification and looked out as the train slowly screeched to a halt, faintly hearing the distinct sound of metal whining. The world outside was completely different from where she’d been staying at previously – this was more… barren, looking like a set from a movie on the wild, wild west. She could almost see a dead bush rolling by. 

Sighing, Marie walked over to Cole, who was currently draped over two chairs and drooling on them, his figurines lying on the floor. “Cole, wake up,” She gently shook him. Groggily, he groaned, lifting his head off the chair seat slightly, blinking blearily at her confusedly through half-lidded eyes. 

“We’ve arrived at Lichter.” 

Chapter 5: Ella – Arabella Nicola Millais-Scott
(Written by Kyra Yeo)

It had only been a few hours before that Ara had walked with Marie on barren streets exactly like this one. On this side of Lichter, the thick forest loomed on her right, shadows clawing for grip on the solid pavement. She had imagined a cave in a mountain, perhaps sealed off by debris and rocks, or maybe even mine tracks snaking down into the depths of an endless tunnel. But the yawning cavern in the ground completely caught her off guard. It was bigger than she expected and seemed to go down forever. The darkness that crawled out clung to the fence surrounding the mine, shrouding the area in black.

Ara climbed over the warning bar and clambered closer to the gaping pit. After the accident, any maintenance efforts seemed to have been ditched completely. There wasn’t a sign of life.

Ara walked closer, cautiously picking her way through the weeds sticking out of the barren land. It was like somehow, the cold desolation that hung over this place had killed any flourishing wildlife. Or maybe it was the radiation. 

Her mother had planned on starting excavation by the next half of the year, at least. But the spirits that supposedly hung around here would cause another problem for both the town and miners. Ara prayed that Marie would dig up some answers.

She peered over the land, eyeing the shadowed sunken crater. The ground was dry and slippery, her sneakers sliding over the rough terrain as her gut rolled in unease.

A sound. She stopped, her heart freezing in her chest. Was it illegal to trespass into this area? No one owned it, and there were no rules about venturing in. Ara peered around at the  ground soaked in the moon’s placid glow. The crunching of weeds startled her again as she spun around. There was someone following her.

Backing up hastily, Ara hopped over the fence and back onto the brightly lit road. The fluorescent street lights made her head spin as she blinked, disoriented.

“Ella? Ella…”

The voice was hollow, a whisper so faint it almost could have been the sweeping wind. Ara felt her head reeling, thoughts plummeting through like hail. The words rang in her ears, a tone cold as the breeze and a voice that rang familiar in her consciousness. The streets fell quiet again, the only sounds being the pattering of her hasty footsteps and her ragged breath.

Breathing hard, Ara clutched her phone as she turned and ran down the road, seeing the larger highway’s faint blur up ahead. Going out to exercise alone at night was not such a good idea after all. Ara cursed herself breathlessly as she eyed the empty roads. The mine was nothing but bad news, and with her own foolish curiosity she had gone and got close to it. It had taken her 20 minutes to jog from the hotel to the mine, but her stumbling legs managed to propel her back in what felt like a couple of minutes. 

Ara stumbled across the deserted road and into the lobby of her hotel, red and panting. Blood rushing through her ears, she slid into a lift. Was it the creepy mine or the chilling sense of familiarity of the voice that made her skin crawl? She would have assumed that the voice was just something that her mind had tricked her into hearing, but Ara knew that voice. Whose was it? 

Exiting the lift, her thoughts swirled in her brain. The voice was male, maybe. She couldn’t clearly remember, but she could swear that it came from somewhere in the mine. No. Not in the mine, somewhere on the other side of the mine. The mine was closed, but could it have been someone trapped in there? Fallen in and calling for help? 

Maybe she had just imagined it, although it felt too real to be a hallucination. She could feel an old wound surfacing and boiling over her senses, her attempts to suppress it hindered by the panic pumping through her veins. She didn’t dare to give the thought a voice. But it spoke despite her, filling her mind with all sorts of panic. 

Ara inhaled shakily and yanked her room door open, feeling like she was going mad. She headed towards the window stepping over her unopened luggage that lay on its side, carelessly flung onto the maroon carpet earlier that day. Was anyone awake at this hour to have seen her mad rush back to the town? Tentatively tugging on the grey draped curtains, Ara peered down at the deserted town. 

There was a figure. A silhouette just barely visible, flickering into her vision and out again as it backed up into the woods. Ara blinked, her eyes just blurring for a second before she registered what she had seen. 

Ara yanked the curtains so fast a spray of dust sprang up, making her eyes water. Rubbing them in frustration, Ara paused to organize her thoughts. There was only one person she could go to for help, because… no one else really knew, or understood. 

Grabbing her phone, Ara only hesitated a second, before dialing the number and sighing. Pressing the phone to her ear, she leaped up and paced the room. The phone rang once, twice. Then the call was picked up and a tired, almost irritable voice murmured on the other side. Ara winced involuntarily. 

“Hey… Mom? Are you in your room?” Ara paused, listening as her eyebrows furrowed in thought. 

“Oh…. great. I was just… I think… I’m not crazy, but I think I saw Dad.


Chapter 6: Singing Canary – Silas Gillis
(Written by Rebekah Chia)

“You know, there’s been talk of evacuating town.”

Cress’s voice fell to a serious tone, his expression concerned. He wasn’t looking at Silas, even though he faced the boy’s direction. The gravekeeper was staring right past him, out the window and at the graves outside.

Silas glanced down at Marie Allard’s business card, then looked back up at Cress. “Because of the spirits?”

“Because of the mine.” Cress got up from the couch, and walked over towards his window. Silas wondered for a brief moment if he should follow suit. “They say it’s the ghosts of the miners who died in the accident. They want us out. So far it’s only been vandalism and animal deaths, but they said it would get a lot worse if we didn’t leave.”

“Who did?”

Cress fell silent for a moment, then hummed, “The medium lady, and her translator. You know, that business card you have?”

Silas frowned, “She wants to evacuate the town?”

He didn’t know why he felt so skeptical. It should have been reasonable to him. He’d grown up with tales of the spirits of the mine, so what reason did he have to believe it wasn’t haunted?

He thought back to the masked figures he saw in the graveyard. Something felt off, but he couldn’t place it.

“She seemed pretty freaked out,” was all that Cress said. Silas got the feeling that there was something else he wanted to add, but did not.

So he asked, “How do you feel about it?”

It was a lot to take in. Silas tried to picture it in his head: moving out, moving to another place, another town somewhere else. Where would he go? What would his new home be like? He couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Lichter, small and dry as it was, was all he’d ever known, all he could ever know.

It seemed like Cress echoed his sentiments.

“I don’t think I’ll die anytime soon,” the gravekeeper said, and he was looking at Silas this time, “But, when I do, I want it to be here.”

Here. In Lichter. In his home.

Silas remembered, just under an hour ago, standing over the edge of the abandoned mine.

It was a large pit. There were pathways by the sides that snaked downwards, leading to a large pool of sky-blue water. It spiralled down, and down, and it seemed like it would take forever to walk to the bottom, where the entrance to a dark tunnel stood crumbling in disrepair.

There were three classmates, none of them tall enough to reach over the warning bar, so they climbed under it to get here. They weren’t supposed to, but they were twelve and bored, so here they were.

They stood over the ledge of the pit, and looked at each other.

“Shall we go?” Natale was the shortest, but the surest of them.

The other two did not look at him. Their eyes were trained on the pool at the bottom of the pit, a long way down from where they stood.

“Are you sure about this?” It was Silas who asked the question, picking at his nails. “You know, I asked Somer yesterday, and he said—”

“What does Somer know?” Natale scoffed, “All he does is stay home all day and read books. He doesn’t know the first thing about going outside.”

“Don’t talk about my brother like that!”

Silas stomped his foot on the ground, and the boys fell quiet. He was a docile kid, most of the time. He didn’t mind being made fun of, or laughed at. But his big brother had always been a sensitive topic.

“Right,” the shorter boy said, “Sorry.”

“Forget it,” James—their other companion—shook his head, and began to turn. “I can’t do this. I’m not going down there, it gives me the creeps.”

“Oi, come on!”

Natale called after him, but James did not respond. Silas stood there and watched as his friend walked away, heading back towards the way they came from.

His remaining companion turned to him, a sheepish expression on his face. “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me now, huh?”

Looking back, that had been Silas’s last chance to walk away. Looking back, he should have taken it.

Looking back.

Without the benefit of hindsight, mistakes are easily made.


Dear Diary:

I can no longer recognise my own face. This morning I looked in the mirror and a stranger looked back. He had long hair and ear piercings and ugly facial hair. Seriously, what was past me thinking?

Mom has kept all these pictures of me in the past few years. It’s in this big binder that she keeps under her desk, as if she knew that someday she’d have to prove to me who I am. Looking at them in sequence, the changes seem natural, a normal boy growing up and growing taller. But I still feel like a tiny twelve year old.

Next week, I’ll be turning sixteen.

When I’m old and wrinkly, is this how I will feel every morning? Will I have to wake up and spend hours reading through years’ worth of diaries just to know what’s going on?

Is this how I’ll have to spend the rest of my life?

Cress made sure that the sun had fully risen before he allowed Silas to leave. When it did, the gravekeeper wished him luck, and told him to come by again soon. Silas said he was going to head home, though had no intention of doing so.

 He thought about the red masks he saw in the graveyard. If Somer and his mother were home, then would he lead the figures right to them? Who were they, in the first place? Better to find out more about them first.

And, if they were spirits, wouldn’t it be better for a medium to deal with them?

There was also the matter of his memories. If he had, indeed, forgotten everything about the past five years, then what had he forgotten? How did he end up in a graveyard in the middle of the night? And was this the first time this had happened?

The streets of Lichter had remained more or less the same. There was a new restaurant across the road from the police station, and the old hotel had been renovated. He walked with the business card in his hands, feet dragging along the tarmac. If Marie Allard was staying in town, there was only one place where she could be—Grand Lichter Hotel, the only place around for a visitor to stay.

The receptionist at the counter seemed to recognise him. She saw him enter the building and raised an eyebrow, “Mr. Gillis! What’re you doing here?”

“I’m, uh, looking for this lady,” he said, and placed the business card onto the desk.

“Marie Allard…” she read the name, aloud, and looked back up at Silas with a frown. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to tell you where she’s staying.”

“What?” That didn’t make any sense to him. “But it’s urgent. I need to see her.”

The receptionist shrugged, “They paid good money to keep it private. I’m sorry.”

“Can’t you make an exception?” Silas was almost shaking now, the agitation clear in his voice. The receptionist remained calm, smiling sympathetically at him. “It’s important. Please.”

“I cannot do that, Mr. Gillis. I am sorry.”

There was a ding from the elevator, and Silas turned his head. A woman walked out, carrying herself with a sort of calculated finesse. She had blonde hair, tied into a ponytail, and she didn’t look like she was from around here.

The receptionist raised an eyebrow. “That’s Ms. Allard’s translator. You can speak to her now, if you’re so desperate to contact her.”

Silas didn’t respond. He was looking at the woman. He felt like he had seen her before, somehow. But he couldn’t remember her name.

She seemed to notice him staring, and shot him an odd look. Her eyes lingered on him for a while, as if she, too, was trying to recall something she couldn’t remember. Then she shook her head and walked away.

“Mr. Gillis? Are you alright?”

Silas turned back to the receptionist with a sheepish smile. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Thank you for the help.”

He turned and left in the direction that the blonde woman had gone. Over his shoulder, he could hear the receptionist say: “Take care!”

Kyra Yeo (Class of 2022) is a Film student from the second LA cohort. She often complained about poetry but truthfully finds it to be an outlet that is especially comforting and precious.

Lea How (Class of 2022) is a Film student who was in the second batch of Literary Arts (2017 – 2020). She enjoys bringing her imagination to life through words. 

Rebekah Chia (Class of 2022) is a Film Student, formerly from the second batch of Literary Arts students. She is passionate about reading and writing and has a disproportionately intense love of puns.