Podcast Episode 1: Sarah Ong 

We hear someone opening the door, before stepping into the room. The door clicks shut behind them. Static, then OTIS speaks. 

Otis: Welcome, Talia. My apologies for being unable to help you with your bags. 

Talia: Hey, Uncle Otis. It’s fine, I have few things anyway. Did my parents tell you how long I’ll be staying here? 

Otis: Well…no. 

Talia: They’re still scared of me after I became a Paranormal, aren’t they? 

Otis: Of course not! You were away for the past 15 years for Paranormal Service, so your parents are probably taking a few days to set up the house. … So was it a smooth journey here? 

Talia: Quite. (She takes a seat.) All the Normals were so scared of me they gave me the whole MRT train cabin to myself once they saw my wristband. Though none of them had the decency to keep their unpleasant thoughts to themselves. 

Otis: You can’t blame them for that. Many of our kind did commit heinous crimes against society. That’s why Service was started in the first place. All you can do now is just move on with your life. 

Talia: Well, that’s going to be hard, isn’t it? As much as I hated Service, at least I had a purpose then, predicting criminal activity in Singapore. How am I supposed to just move on now when there’s nothing for me to move on to? 

Otis: You could find a job with the criminal investigation department? 

Talia: (snorts) Like any Normal would allow a Paranormal to join the police, Uncle. Besides, I only had that job in Service because of my ability, and I don’t have access to it now. 

Otis: What if you could? 

Talia: What are you talking about? We can’t use our abilities once we’re out of Service, remember? 

Otis: Would you like to help me with my business? It’s called Olympus,  and it’s a call service where normal people can hire people like us to solve their problems. A request just came in, one that I think requires your help. Though…you will have to interact with Normals. 

Talia: I don’t think I’m ready to meet a Normal so soon after Service. 

Otis: How about you just listen to the request first before making your final decision? 

Talia: …Fine. 

There’s a beep and SARAH’s recorded voice is heard. 

Sarah: Hello, is this Olympus? Um, God this feels weird just saying this on a voicemail, but I was wondering whether it is possible for me to experience my future? Like, uh, through time travel? Something like that. I don’t really know how this works. (nervous laugh) Oh! I’m Sarah, by the way. I’m sure you guys can see my number if you get this message so please get back to me as soon as you can. Thanks! 

There’s another beep when the message ends. 

Talia: You couldn’t find a Paranormal time traveler here, huh? 

Otis: Yes. You’re the only Paranormal I know that can see into the future. So, what do you think? 

Talia: To be honest, I absolutely hate the idea of helping Normals after all they did to me, to our kind. … (sighs) But I have no other skills except my ability, and you know the government only released me because it has weakened to a relatively harmless 

state. Who knows when I’ll ever get to scry again before I can’t for good? It’s been the only thing keeping me going for the past 15 years. I can’t just…throw it away like that. 

Otis: Then I will send Sarah my reply and set up a meeting. Is that alright with you? 

Talia: I just hope she doesn’t sound as uncertain as her voice message. 

The opening theme plays. When it fades out, we hear a chair creak. Static is heard. 

Otis: Talia, I know we finalized the location 2 days ago when we got the voicemail, but I have to ask again. Why did you decide to meet Sarah Ong in our flat instead of the private locations I suggested? 

Talia: The location doesn’t matter since she signed the confidentiality agreement you sent her, Uncle. Though I hope she’s smart enough to realize that we have to be discreet since what we’re doing is technically illegal. Besides, you say Yura will erase Sarah’s memories if Sarah talks about us to anyone. 

Otis: That makes sense. … You know, your parents would be proud of you for taking this huge step. 

Talia: Maybe. Though it does seem strange, Uncle, that my mother would send me to stay with you for the time being, given that you and her haven’t been on good terms even before I was born, right? 

Otis: Well… 

The doorbell rings. 

Otis: That would be Sarah. 

Talia: I know. Let’s get this over and done with.

A chair screeches back as TALIA gets up and opens the door. 

Sarah: Hi, I’m Sarah. I’m here to meet Otis and…Talia? 

Talia: I’m Talia. Come in.

SARAH steps into the room. The door closes behind her. Someone sits down noisily. 

Otis: Hello, I’m Otis. 

Sarah: You’re a voice. In the wall? What…how? 

Otis: Indeed. Unfortunately, I am no longer physically present in this world and thanks to my technopathy powers, managed to transfer my consciousness into the cloud before my death. 

Sarah: So you’re a Paranormal too? This is so cool! And judging from your wristband, you must be the scryer. 

Talia: Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to sit? 

SARAH takes a seat. 

Sarah: Sorry. Uh, you know, Service sounds like an interesting experience! 

Talia: Oh, you mean the part where the Singaporean government separates 8 year olds from their families just because they have a mutant gene that gives them supernatural abilities, then makes them basically free labor for the state for the next 15 years? Sounds interesting

Sarah: Um…no? 

Otis: Sarah, along with your payments, you also mentioned that you would like to see if you recently made the right decision applying for a corporate law degree. Could you elaborate on that? 

Sarah: Yeah. My uni year is starting, but I’ve found myself doubting whether law is really for me. Um, I’ve never been good at making decisions, so I guess what I want to know is what the future version of me chose in the end? 

Talia: (mutters) She’s indecisive, I knew it. 

Otis: I’ll leave you two to it, then. 


Sarah: So …how does your power work, exactly? I thought scryers used crystal balls, not bowls of water. 

Talia: Yes, because crystal balls are just lying around and not expensive at all. 

Sarah: That…answers my question, sort of. Um, the government only released you from Service because your powers have lessened to a state where it poses no threat to society, right? So are you sure you’re okay doing this? Not that I’m questioning your ability, or anything. (laughs nervously

Talia: Sounds like you are. Be quiet. I need to concentrate. 

Sarah: (whispers) Right. Sorry! 

There’s a few beats of silence, punctuated occasionally by TALIA’s breathing. Then the faint sloshing sound of moving water. 

Sarah: It’s working! I see stuff forming in the water by your finger!

Talia: (mutters) Oh, good. You have eyes.

We hear faint street sounds, interspersed with the occasional honking of cars. SARAH talks over the ambient sounds. 

Sarah: Oh, there I am on the bench, with Ma. Though I don’t look so well. My eye bags are huge. And are those white hairs? 

FUTURE SARAH speaks in a muffled, echoey voice. 

Future Sarah: I want to quit my job, Ma. I’m working all the time, even on weekends and holidays. Anytime now my phone will ring and tell me I have to finish drafting that contract, prepare for that meeting, call that person. I’m not eating well, sleeping well. I just…can’t do it anymore. 

Mother: Don’t say that, Sarah. You’re exhausted right now and not thinking straight. Quitting is a big thing. It’s too sudden, you haven’t thought this through. All you have to do is to take a few days off of work, and you’ll feel fine again. Stress is just a phase you’ll have to get through. 

Future Sarah: It’s not just stress! I told you— 

Mother: Promise me you’ll at least think about it. Don’t throw away all your hard work to become a lawyer just because you feel like giving up. 

Future Sarah: …(quietly) Okay. 

Both of them fall silent. TALIA speaks. 

Talia: Now that that’s done, I’ll show you to the door now. 

Sarah: But, but I just said I wanted to quit being a lawyer! Clearly if I go down this path, I’m not going to end up in a good place. Can you…give me some advice, please? 

Talia: That’s not part of my job requirement. 

There’s the crackle of static, and OTIS speaks. 

Otis: It wouldn’t hurt to just hear Sarah out, Talia. It won’t cost you anything. You will have to interact with more Normals from here on out and this would also be a good opportunity for you to learn how to socialise with them. 

Talia: And if I refuse? I told you I want nothing to do with the Normals. I’m just doing this to help you. Not to help them

Otis: I’m sorry, Talia, but as your boss and not your Uncle, I am telling you to listen to what Sarah has to say. 

Talia: So what makes you so different from my government handler in Service? I can’t even get a say in this? 

Sarah: Uh, you know what, it’s fine. I can just figure my stuff out myself. You guys don’t need to fight. 

Otis: No. Talia, all I’m asking is for you to listen to Sarah. 5 minutes. That’s it. Silence. 

Sarah: Yeah, I don’t think— 

Talia: Fine. 5 minutes only

Otis: Excellent. Carry on, then. 

The crackle of static, then everyone falls silent again. 

Sarah: So, um, I guess since we’re doing this, we might as well make the most of it, right? 


Sarah: Uh…I’ll just start talking now, okay? So the main reason I wanted to be a lawyer was because it’s just…easy, you know? 

Talia: Being a lawyer is easy

Sarah: Okay, it’s more like it’s straightforward? Between taking care of my two brothers because my parents are always working and juggling school at the same time, I’m too exhausted to think too much about my future. Much less have the time to explore what I really want to do. And you know those lawyers in dramas? Yeah, I thought that wearing a suit, arguing with judges feels…empowering, you know. So just, why not? I just feel like… there’s not many choices left. So…what do you think I should do next? Should I keep with the lawyering or should I change? 

Talia: I’ve been made to do the same assigned job for 15 years without a say in the matter. And you think I am able to tell you how to choose a job? 

Sarah: I mean, you’re a scryer, right? You already know that’s what you’re good at and going to do for the immediate future. I don’t have that kind of certainty. 

Talia: Right. Don’t you know that I’ll lose my powers for good in a few years? Without my powers, I’m skilless. 

Sarah: Can’t you just go for classes? 

Talia: Like there is any class out there that is willing to take in Paranormals. Haven’t you wondered why my kind’s employment rates are so low? Or why there aren’t any famous Paranormals for reasons other than them committing a crime? You think Normals are willing to accept us willingly with open arms? We’re treated like criminals even when most of us haven’t even done anything except exist

Sarah: Oh… 

Talia: You know why I can’t give you advice? We’re opposites. You are part of the majority of Normals, I’m from the despised Paranormal minority. You’re self-sacrificial, too busy putting everyone else first, taking care of your brothers, helping your parents, that you neglected yourself. Me? I’m selfish. Like Uncle Otis said just now, I’m only doing this because I need to practice putting up with Normals so that I can get a good job that allows me to adequately support myself. So I can’t find any part of myself that empathizes with you. You’re so used to someone telling you what to do, now you’re on your own. See how that feels. 


Talia: Uncle? This business is concluded. 


Otis: You have a few minutes left, though … But judging by your face—Thank you for contacting Olympus, Sarah. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, though I’m certain our paths will not cross again. 

Sarah: Oh, uh, yeah. I’ll show myself out. … 

There’s the screeching of a chair being pulled back, and footsteps. SARAH’s voice comes from a distance. 

Sarah: Um, bye! Thanks for…everything. 

The door opens and shuts. Then silence. 

Otis: What happened? You were doing so well, up till that last 5 minutes. 

Talia: What do you think? I already said I wasn’t comfortable meeting with a Normal so soon after service even before I decided to help you. 

Ots: Well, I’m sure your parents— 

Talia: Stop using my parents to persuade me when they’re too scared of me to even let me return home, or let least look me in the eye! 

Otis: You…you already knew that this was going to be a permanent living arrangement? 

Talia: How could I not? Mom and Dad never bothered to contact me in the 15 years I was in Service. Then the first thing they write, it’s to tell me I’ll be staying with you for a while

Otis: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to keep this from you. I just didn’t want your first few days back from Service to be spent miserably or in anger. 

Talia: Too late. Was just now not a testament to my anger? It reminded me that in this world, I’ll forever be beneath Normals, servicing them. My own parents are petrified to be in the same space as me. I’ve been put down, thought to believe that I was the lowest of the low. I was raised, brain-washed to hate myself, fear my powers. Even though I’m the one with superior capabilities. I’m sick and tired of that! 


Otis: It’s just how society works, I’m afraid. 

Talia: Then I’m going to find a way so I get absolutely no interaction with Normals. 

Otis: You can’t even tolerate a Normal’s presence for long enough without blowing up? So are you just going to stay holed up in here until your hair turns white? 

Talia: I don’t know, okay? Leave me alone! 

TALIA stomps away. A door slams loudly. TALIA collapses on the bed, which creaks loudly. She lets out a frustrated sigh. 

Talia: Damn it! Uncle must have spent so much time running Olympus that he has forgotten that the Normals are our enemies. They would not hesitate to sell us out if it benefits them. Normals refuse to have anything to do with us, but when they are desperate and need help to solve their petty problems, who do they run to? Why, us, of course! 

In their eyes, Paranormals are nothing but their favourite slaves. In Service, I’ve watched from afar as fellow Paranormals were commended and called good and loyal citizens only after they’ve done exactly what their government handlers told them to do. And in the next second, if they even dare to lag one step behind, they’re spat at, called slurs. We’re ostracized, feared, and throughout it all, we’re supposed to be subservient, forever obediently at the Normals’ beck and call, act like we’re eternally grateful to be even given a chance to exist and serve them. Why does it have to be this way? 

Pause. The bed creaks. 

Wait. Why do other Paranormals go along with it, anyway? Are they too afraid to say anything, or are they genuinely happy where they are? Actually, now that I think about it, I never actually met another Paranormal face to face except for Uncle. And if I want to thrive in this society and beat out the Normals, I have to learn how to put up with them first. So I have to find out what makes other Paranormals able to tolerate them despite what they have done to us. Maybe by looking at the records of Olympus’ past jobs, I can find out why my fellow Paranormals would want to help Normals. (sighs) Though I have to ask Uncle. Ah, but I’m still mad at him. Whatever. I’ll ask him tomorrow. I’m exhausted. 

TALIA yawns, then we hear her slow breathing. After a few seconds, there’s a burst of static

Otis: I’m sorry, niece, I shouldn’t have pushed you to talk with Sarah in the first place. I’ll listen to you next time. I won’t force you to do something you’re uncomfortable with. Oh, you’re asleep. (quietly) Actually, it’s a good thing. I’m afraid that I will lack the courage to tell you this when you are awake. The real reason you hate Normals, the real reason why your parents fear Paranormals, it’s all because of me. I was the one who made them so terrified of you. … I hope you’ll never find out, so for all you know, I was never here. 

There’s the crackle of static, followed by a few seconds of silence. The ending theme plays. 

Sandra Pong Wen Ying (Class of 2023) is an avid reader who considers herself to be grounded in reality. Her mind, however, occasionally amuses itself by churning out stories about sentient kitchen towels and girls turning into robots, on a good day.