Fiction Podcast

Episode 10: Mirrored Sacrifice

Upbeat news introduction music plays in the background. 

English news: Daily reports of falling oxygen levels in the atmosphere are causing 

great levels of distress and rioting in some countries… 

The English news fades and the same report starts to play in many different languages 

like Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish and French, some parts overlapping the other. The news reports get louder and louder, then come to a stop. 

The upbeat, melodious soundtrack of “Deadline” by Grouplove starts playing.

Host: In a world with insufficient oxygen, chaos is promised to ensue. The increased burning of fossil fuels over the past 60 years has caused oxygen saturation levels to decline everyday. With spikes in temperature to scorching degrees, flora and fauna dying on the sidewalks and humanity in the jaws of death, how is our survival guaranteed?

The soundtrack stops. 

In the background, hurried footsteps rush past, zooming of cars and honking can be heard. Soon, a soft timer in the room begins to count down from five to indicate when the host will start speaking. A humming sound fills the room and now, there is complete silence. 

Host: Welcome back to “Deadline”. Brought to you by Singapore Oxygen Centre. Over the past nine episodes, we’ve listened to poignant, infuriating and even humorous stories about people’s lives during this unfortunate time. We regret to inform you that today is our final episode of Deadline. Due to many obstacles and tribulations, we are no longer able to keep this podcast going. However, on a happier note, we have a very special guest to share their story with us today. We even prepared a surprise for him. Stay tuned! 

A soft yet slow whoosh can be heard, indicating that a heavy door is opening. ELIJAH enters the room and the drag of a chair against tiles can be heard. He sits down in front of the desk, clearing his throat. Soft tapping of a microphone can be heard, followed by a soft screech of feedback. 

Host: Today we have our youngest ever guest, and also our last one, Elijah Lim, an 16 year old boy currently studying as a year four student at the School of the Arts.

ELIJAH clears his throat once again and starts speaking somewhat hesitantly. 

Harsh bronchial inhalations can be heard in the background. 

Elijah: He…Hello? (it echoes slightly, and the microphone screeches again.) Is this thing working? Um… My name is Elijah Lim, I’m 16 years old and I— currently live in Tiong Bahru with my grandfather Noah Lim. Well… used to.

He stops talking for a while and soft sniffing can be heard, the soft inhalations of controlled breath through an oxygen mask can be heard between pauses. 

Host: Don’t worry Elijah, just keep speaking. You can start with what you were doing when this all started. 

There is a long pause. The gasps of air through a tube make a soft sucking noise, the sound echoes, almost like the tank is already empty. 

Host: Elijah? Are you alright?

There is a slight pause again, and ELIJAH sniffs again. He clears his throat and continues. 

Elijah: So— on 15 November, 2040, I was on my way to school with my grandfather— when the CNA broadcast on my school loudspeakers started playing. (cough) 

The microphone screeches and it transitions to the loud honking of a car. There are children screaming and laughing in the background. A school bell rings and overlapping chatter can be heard. 

Noah: Goodbye! See you later! 

Elijah: Bye Grandpa! Remember to bring my earphones when you fetch me ah! 

The voice of the live broadcast echoes, as if it’s being played from afar. Muffled whispers can be heard in the background, fused with the soft inhalations of oxygen. 

CNA: Breaking news! As of the 13-14 November forest wildfire, the National Environment Agency (NEA) declares that the overall oxygen levels in the atmosphere has drastically decreased by 75%. Based on data provided by NParks, there was a 79% increase in animal corpses, scattered all around the world. Most of the plants and trees in local gardens have wilted, contributing to the continuing decline in oxygen. 

The closing theme of CNA NEWS plays loudly then fades to silence. The people are talking extremely loudly now, discussing the news. Tense music plays in the background. 

Teacher 1: How can it be? Oh my god… is the world ending? 

Teacher 2: The news is right leh! Yesterday when I came downstairs, the void deck was full of dead birds! It was damn scary sia. 

Parent 3: You know I heard yesterday… Mr Lim’s granddaughter died! Some problem about her lungs not having enough oxygen. So sad… 

Parent 4: I can’t believe there’s no more oxygen! What’s gonna happen to us? 

The last sentence echoes slightly, followed by silence. The tense music increases in pitch, the sharp note at the end transitions into a high-pitched ‘beep’ of a MRT gantry machine. 

Hurried footsteps can be heard, followed by the overlapping beeps of the gantry and the automated “doors opening” recording. The automated voice announces, “Next stop, Singapore Oxygen Center.” The heavy doors swish close. 

Soon, people talking can be heard in the background again. There are sounds of constant beeping machines, clanging of metals, whirring of conveyor belts, vehicles honking and people shouting in the background. 

Manager: Hurry up Noah! Stop taking your time. I made you an assistant manager for a reason. Our orders just hit 2 million! I’m going to have to order more oxygen tanks and labels. 

A loud hacking cough and the brief snap of latex gloves that NOAH puts on are heard. 

A loud beep of a machine can be heard. The machine whirs and printing sounds can be heard, as well as soft clanking of metal. The machine starts speaking in an automated voice. 

Machine: Gases absorbed, traces of lead, carbon monoxide and sulphur oxide detected. Oxygen extraction starting in 3… 2… 1… 

Whirring of machines continues, then a final whoosh. 

Machine: Oxygen tank production complete. Transporting to the loading bay. Awaiting orders to be fulfilled: 957,894. 

A news broadcast begins playing loudly over the faint noises of the factory. 

CNA: Decrease in oxygen saturation can lead to headaches and shortness of breath, or in serious cases, Cerebral hypoxia. If you notice spots of blood in your phlegm or a bluish discoloration in skin, report to your local hospitals immediately. Your life could be in danger… 

The broadcast fades to silence. The sharp ringing of an alarm can be heard. An automated voice repeats “2.30pm alarm. Pick up Elijah from school.” The alarm gets louder and transitions to the ringing of a school bell. 

The sound of cars and people walking past resumes. A school bell rings and children can be heard laughing and screaming, although slightly muffled. 

Noah: Over here Elijiah! (cough) 

Elijah: Hey grandpa! Did you see the news? So terrifying… 

Noah: Yes I did… I’m sorry boy. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

Elijah: I know… how unlucky can I be? Sixteen was supposed to be the peak of life. Now we’re stuck in this crappy world where there’s no more fresh air… 

The school bell dings, interrupting Elijah. There is a short staticy sound coming from the speaker before the familiar tune of the news broadcast introduction plays. 

CNA: NEA has advised that everyone drop by their neighbourhood town councils to collect their 3L oxygen tanks. Collection will be open until Wednesday, limited to one per person. See you next time. 

Noah: Just in time. Let’s go before they run out of stock. I spent all morning filling up those damn tanks, my hands feel like they’ve fallen off. 

A soft whoosh is heard, followed by the sound of hanging door bells. An upbeat, soft automated voice says “door opening”. Papers rustling, stamping of ink and clanging of metal can be heard. People talk softly in the background. 

Administrator: Next up, number 368, Noah and Elijiah Lim of Tiong Bahru estate, counter 5! Please show your identification cards and hologram of residence. 

People chatting softly in the background can be heard. More rustling of papers heard. 

 Noah: Walk faster la! I’m so old I still can walk faster than you. 

Suddenly, a loud buzz can be heard from a machine. 

Machine: Elijah Lim, collection denied. One oxygen tank per person maxed out. Tense and suspenseful music plays. 

Elijah: Huh— what do you mean? I haven’t collected anything! This is my first time! 

Administrator: I’m sorry. Are you Elijah Lim? Your oxygen tank has just been collected. Please remember that repeat collection is not allowed. One per person only. 

Noah: Don’t talk nonsense! We have his ID right here. It hasn’t even been scanned yet. Who could have taken it in his place? 

Administrator: Sorry sir, due to our client confidentiality agreement, I cannot give out any information about our clients. If you wish to collect another oxygen tank, you’ll have to wait for the next round of production. 

Mysterious music plays louder, metal clanging and typing can be heard in the background. 

Elijah: Grandpa, can’t you get one for me? What am I going to do? 

Noah: (frustrated) I know, I know… Don’t worry, I will figure something out for you. 

A soft whoosh is heard. The automated voice saying “doors opening” is cut off and it glitches, the buzzing sound of the power lines can be heard. Suddenly, a loud scream is heard, followed by the sound of breaking glass doors. 


Metal can be heard clanging loudly and screams can be heard. The background noises are now silent. 

Man 2: So what if your son needs more oxygen? So does my wife! Why does HE get special treatment? 

Security guards: Security! Put down your weapon sir! Violence is not permitted here! 

More screams are heard and running footsteps can be heard. The coughing in the background is more prominent. Glass shatters and dragging of chairs. Sounds of people struggling and fighting. 

Person 3: Give me your oxygen tank! Look at you! You’re perfectly fine. My daughter needs it more than you! 

Punching sounds can be heard as well as people grunting, followed by a loud thud. The soft clicking extrusion of a penknife can be heard. 

Person 4: No, stop! I said stop it! 

The intense sounds continue, evident of a struggle as they slowly fade into the background.

Noah: Elijah! Quick! Behind the counter! Let’s hide!

The chaotic sequence continues in the background and tense music plays. 

Noah: Elijah… look. The whole stock of oxygen tanks is here. We should take one for you. 

Elijah: Are you sure it’s okay? But… how would we take out the tracker? 

A forceful ‘pop’ can be heard, the metallic sound of a thin disk being lifted up from within. 

Noah: Did you forget that I make these tanks for a living? Here. 

A chuckle is heard. 

Elijah: Thanks, Grandpa. Let’s get out of here quick. Before the fight gets worse. 

Quick footsteps can be heard as they run away. In the background, the screams get softer until they stop. A pause. 

Soft news introduction plays in the background. 

CNA: Channel News Asia, reporting live from Tiong Bahru Town council. Just this afternoon on 15 November 2040, a fight broke out between a 53 year old man and a 36 year old woman. Both claiming to have more rights for collection of a second oxygen tank, the argument turned into an aggressive fight, resulting in five people injured, and the death of a six year old boy. 

Tense music plays in the background softly. The broadcast continues playing. 

CNA: In our most recent updates, many different groups of people have begun protests and even riots in all parts of Singapore and there has been an increase in people stealing oxygen tanks. Do not participate in these protests and bear in mind that you will be punished with up to 3 years of jail time if caught in a protest, or if you steal an oxygen tank that was not assigned to you. 

The broadcast music plays faintly, while the sound of running footsteps begin again. 

Noah: Come! Let’s stop here and put on our oxygen masks first. 

Loud breathing followed by coughs can be heard. 

Elijah: Grandpa! Are you okay? Faster! Put this on! 

A hissing sound can be heard as the pressurised gas fills up the tube. 

Machine: Valve and mask connection complete. Insert breathing tube into nose and wait for a few seconds before oxygen supply starts. Remaining oxygen quantity: 100% 

A soft buzz plays and several deep inhalations are heard. 

Noah: (coughs) so much better… 

Elijah: Come on, let’s go home. We’re going to be much safer there. 

Footsteps can be heard but they suddenly stop. 

Noah: Oh my god. 

The syncopated rhythm of drums plays loudly. At each beat of the music, there is an increased amount of people chanting and shouting. 

Person 1: Stop unfair distribution of oxygen! 

Person 2: People who steal our oxygen should be punished! 

Person 3: Why should we have to suffer? 

Crowd: (chanting in unison) We are all equals! 

More people can be heard shouting in the background. Police sirens can be heard loudly. 

Batons beat against soft flesh, people’s stumbling footsteps stagger across the grainy floor. 


Screams can be heard as more people continue shouting, the uproaring protests soon fade. The soft and eerie sounding roll of a metallic canister on the concrete leads to a loud booming sound and the hissing of tear gas leaking out of the canister. 

There is stamping of feet as people run in all directions from the source. Wheezing and coughing can be heard, along with cries of children screaming for their parents. 

Elijah: GRANDPA! (heavy breathing) WHERE ARE YOU? I CAN’T SEE YOU! 

The huge crowd of noise slows, a slow cocking of a gun is accentuated in the soundscape. The gunshot echoes, the dramatically slow whiz of a bullet through the air as it sinks into flesh. 

There is a beat, followed by a few other gunshots. Screams erupt from everywhere, more hacking can be heard as people run aimlessly. Several thuds can be heard as bodies collapse on the floor. NOAH’S groans of pain can be heard from afar, faint and weak. 

Noah: Elijah! I’m here… Hurry up… (out of breath) 


Pushing and shoving of bodies can be heard, the soft hissing of the oxygen canister continues. A melancholic tune plays as the people shouting and footsteps slow. 

Noah: (groans) Elijah… Oh… good. You’re safe. Good… 

Elijah: (sobbing, voice cracking) Grandpa… you’ve been shot… 

There are weak gasps of air and a sudden slam of a body against the floor. 


Noah: I’m fine. Don’t— (rattling cough) Don’t… overreact. 

Elijah: NO PLEASE… I’m going to bring you somewhere safe… stand up Grandpa— Stand up… please.

Police sirens can be heard getting louder. The tumultuous crowd breaks apart as people’s footsteps fade. 

Noah: Elijah… I want (cough) I want you to— take my oxygen… and run… 

Elijah: (crying) NO. I’m not— leaving you… 

A soft click can be heard, the hissing of oxygen stops. 

Automated voice: Oxygen mask: disconnected. Remaining quantity in tank, 56%. The sirens grow louder, footsteps can be heard getting closer. 


Noah: Hurry… take this— you have to go… don’t (cough) don’t let them catch you. Devastating music plays. The clanging of metals can be heard. 

Noah: I love you, Elijah. 

Elijah: (sobbing) I love you too, grandpa. 

There is a soft thud on the floor. The scraping of metal against the floor as the tank is lifted up. The music grows louder as running footsteps can be heard, growing softer and softer away. 

The background noises dissolve to silence. The soft piano notes of the music fade back to the main theme song of ‘Deadline’. 

ELIJAH can be heard crying in the background. The microphone screeches. 

Host: Oh… I am so so sorry for your loss, Elijah… Here, have a tissue.

Elijah: Thank you. For listening to my story. 

Host: You’re welcome, Elijah. Please call the hotline again if there’s anything I can do for you. So… are you doing okay so far? 

There is a sound of a chair being dragged across the floor. Footsteps fading away from the microphone. 

Host: Umm… Elijah? Where are you going? The podcast isn’t over yet! Excuse me… Elijah: Thank you for your time. 

Host: Wait! What about your surprise gift? It’s an oxygen tank! 

Elijah: (short pause) It’s okay… It’s— just not worth all this.