Tower in the Sea


Static crackles, turning into the sound of fire. Shouts and sirens sound in the background. Voices of announcements and news presenters layer over each other, each reflecting a growing level of chaos.

Radio Announcer One: Thirty missing in freak tsunami on the first Thursday of 2030. Rescue missions have not been able to dispatch…

Radio Announcer Two: (frantic) The experts were right about rising sea levels!

Automated Voice: Evacuate to higher ground. Evacuate to higher ground.

Podcaster: What does this mean for humanity? Will the world as we know it be forever changed?

Click. Tape recorder whirs to life. 

Ambi: a draughty, echoey room. In the background come faint sounds of ocean waves gently washing over the shore.

KEI – a young, high-pitched voice around 9 years old – speaks.

Kei: Is this working? Is it– hello? Is this on?

Tape ends. Another one begins.

Kei: Oh, wow! That was– wow. I just played back my voice. That was my voice! Hi! My name’s Kei!

A resounding crash in the background. KEI yelps.

Kei: Sorry – I knocked into some of the, er, boxes… that I brought upstairs. Couldn’t leave it in the basement, you know, it’s probably going to flood soon. 


Kei: Okay… Here’s a proper introduction. Morning! My name’s Kei, and we are… Somewhere in March 2033. At least, that’s what my calendar says. After so many sunrises and sunsets… The days just swim together. I’m recording this from a tower. It’s in the middle of nowhere. We have plenty of windows, where I can watch the ocean from – and there are boxes filled with things I’ll never finish using.

Kei: But… the water levels keep on rising, and eight floors of the tower are already submerged. So… there are only two floors left. I moved into the ninth floor last week. 

Shuffling. KEI plays with the buttons, which beep and ding.

Kei: Tape recorder, I found you inside one of the boxes I was moving, with a couple of other used tapes. I’m planning to save them to listen to over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’ll make some of my own recordings – to you.

KEI snaps his fingers.

Kei: Hey, tape recorder… Maybe I should name you, instead of calling you ‘tape recorder’. What are those words on you? (pause, as Kei attempts to read the machine) Phil… Ips. Philips. I guess that’s you. Hello, Philips. It’s nice to meet you!

KEI taps his feet on the ground anxiously.

Kei: You know, Philips, you’re my first friend here. I’ve been living on my own here… for a really, really long time. Ever since I can remember, really. 

KEI exhales deeply. 

Kei: Well, I think I’ll save you for some other time. Bye for now, Philips!

Click. The recording ends. Click. New recording begins.

Ambi: draughty, echoey room. A light drizzle patters down.

The bed creaks, as KEI shuffles up his mattress. He lies in silence for several seconds.

Kei: Evening, Philips. I know that I told you I’ve been alone here since I can remember. But… I… I do remember someone.

The silence sinks in.

Kei: My sister, Hanni. She taught me words. The alphabet. It’s how I read your name off that label on you, Phillips. 

A low, ringing laugh. The voice is gentle, mellow. 

Kei: Philips, do you remember when I found you inside that box, alongside the other used tapes? I listened to one of them today. Here, listen. 

Click. Clip ends.

Click. Ambi: Soft, barely audible jazz tune. Plants rustle in the wind, and a chime tinkles in the distance. HANNI speaks – a low, soothing voice around 16 years old. 

Hanni: (faraway) Kei! Kei, say hello!

Young Kei: Hello, Hanni!

Hanni: To the recorder, silly! Hey, hey, don’t you run away from me! Sit down!

Giggles, and a yelp. 

Hanni: Today’s the 31st of January, 2030. Dad just bought us this new tape recorder. Oh, don’t be shy. Be brave, Kei. Let’s practise saying it together, tape, recorder. 

Young Kei: Tape recorder! Hellooooo, recorder.

Hanni: That’s right! So, I wanted to record this song. Maybe I’ll bring the tape recorder closer to the radio.

Jazz tune grows louder. It’s Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin.

Radio: Somewhere beyond the sea, somewhere waiting for me… My lover stands, on golden sands…

Young Kei: (singing, childish) And watches the ships! Go sailing.

Hanni: (low, melodic) Somewhere, beyond the sea, she’s there, watching for me…

Hanni and Young Kei: (struggling) If I could fly, like birds on high!

The pair both fail to hit the high note. They fall to the floor, and erupt into laughter.

Hanni: (softly) I’d go sail-ing…

Click. Clip ends.

Click. Present day recording plays. KEI is safely back in his tower. He fiddles with a knick-knack.

Kei: Hey, Philips. It’s night-time now, but I can’t fall asleep. Something out there’s making noise… Water outside the walls, maybe.

KEI hums a tune, in an effort to drown out the dripping. Unsuccessful, he groans, and shuffles around in his blankets, dampening the sound of the recorder.

Kei: Can’t go back to sleep now… 

KEI breathes.

Kei: Maybe I need some air.

KEI throws the windows open. Wind howls through the opening. Overhead, seagulls fly in a group, squawking in unison. It is silent, and peaceful.

Kei: Hanni… Are you somewhere out there?

KEI sighs. As he stares into the distance, he hums the tune to Beyond the Sea. His voice fades into the next clip.

Click. New clip begins. 

Ambi: The radio blares in the background as shouts sound faintly from the outside. The wind chimes ring, as two pairs of footsteps thud against the ground. A car door slams, and an engine revs.

Hanni: (frantic) Kei! Kei, buckle your seatbelt! 

Young Kei: Okay, Hanni!

Hanni: Today is the 8th of March, 2030. 

Young Kei: We’re going to the mountains! 

Hanni: Mum and Dad told us about a safe house, when the floods first began. There’s a tower there that stretches right up into the sky. It’s the highest up that we can go. 

Young Kei: The car is packed with boxes! 

Hanni: Right. I packed all we could fit. There’re my clothes, Kei’s clothes, lots of rations, Dad’s old fishing rod, and his nets… 

The car jerks. Boxes shift. YOUNG KEI gasps.

Hanni: Kei! Are you okay?

Young Kei: I’m okay Hanni!

Hanni: I’m so sorry! … What am I doing, I don’t even have a driver’s licence, I’m sixteen… If only Mum and Dad were here… 

A slam on the car window.

Passerby: Please, help, help!

HANNI rolls down the window.

Hanni: (hesitantly) … What’s wrong?

Passerby: (panic-stricken) Please, help, where are you going? Are you headed to the town council?

Hanni: No. The town council’s abandoned. I’m going up those mountains.

Passerby: (pause) There’s nothing on the mountains.

Hanni: There’s a tower there. I can take you if you want.

Passerby: (distraught) You’ll never make it! There’s no one living there anymore, they’ve all gone to the cities! With the officials! Wait… where are your parents?

Hanni: … Our parents are in the city too. They told us that the city was flooding, and to go to the tower. They… haven’t texted us since. 

Passerby: … Go ahead if you’d like! But I’m not coming.

HANNI sighs, and revs the engine. 

Hanni: Good luck.

Click. Clip ends. Click. New clip begins as KEI sings Beyond the Sea.

Kei: It’s far beyond the stars… It’s near beyond the moon… 


Kei: But where exactly is she, Philips?


Kei: There’s this dream I’ve been having. But after listening to so many tapes, now I’m sure. It isn’t just a dream. It’s a memory. It’s the clearest memory I have of her. 

Thunder and lightning resounds. Wind whips at clothing. Tides swell and crash, and the ocean roars, as if threatening to swallow them whole. The audio is echoey, as if in an enclosed space. 

Kei: The tower was pitch-black. I could hardly see her. Dark water was spraying through the cracks in the walls.

Seedy, thin streams of water hiss in the foreground, drowning out the end of his sentence. 

Kei: (clear) She said she’d left something in the basement.

HANNI is barely audible.

Hanni: (echoey) I have to go down, Kei. You stay here, okay? Stay here and don’t move! I’ll know if you move! 

Young Kei: (frantically) You don’t have to take it! It’s too dark!

The sea shakes the tower even more violently. Pebbles leap up and down.

Kei: She patted my head and headed down.

Feet slosh clumsily through the water. After several seconds, sounds of the chaos seem to fade. It turns unsettlingly quiet. 

Young Kei: Hello…?

YOUNG KEI’s voice echoes back at him. 

Kei: I… couldn’t breathe. Each second, I felt my fear rising with the water levels. After some time, I decided to go down and look for her. I made it to the stairs, but couldn’t see any further.

YOUNG KEI wades through the mini swamp. Fear seeps through YOUNG KEI’s bones, and he begins to sob.

Hanni: (increasing in volume) Kei! You’re still here! I’m… (grunts with effort) so proud of you!

Young Kei: You’re okay! Do you need help? What… are you pulling?

A heavy dragging across the hardwood floor.

Hanni: This? Oh! It’s a boat. You can leave me with it, Kei. Let me handle it. I came back up, didn’t I? 


Hanni: Say you trust me, Kei.

Young Kei: … I trust you, Hanni.

Click. Recording ends.


Tape recorder begins.

Kei: Morning, Philips. We’re moving upstairs again. I got out of bed this morning and found my socks soaked. Some of the books aren’t looking too great, either. I’m almost done packing everything, it’s just this last box. 

Water sloshes around KEI’s feet. He walks up a flight of stairs, socks squelching with water.

Heavy sigh. KEI sits down. Something falls out of the box, and hits the ground with a hard thud.

Kei: Oh! (a moment’s hesitation) It’s the last tape left. Let’s… save it to listen to later. In case we never talk to anyone again, you know?

Kei: Philips… Sometimes, I think that maybe… I’m never going to talk to anyone other than you ever again. 

Deep breath.

Kei: Not that I don’t enjoy talking to you, Philips, it’s just that… You’re a metal box. There, I had to say it. (emboldened) I know, I know. It’s sad. I’m talking to nobody! But I think of you as my friend, Philips, and I have to believe it, or– or reality will set in, and I’ll just be talking to a black metal box all over again! And– and each day, I’ll sit here, waiting for the sun to rise, and then set again. Like… the world keeps spinning without me. The same old sun, from the same old tower. Like no one’s here. It’s… enough for me to…

Water babbles gently.

Kei: (quietly) One day, the ocean will rise to the final floor. It’ll be a day just like today. With the sun barely awake, and the water quieter than ever. I’ll wake up to salty air, and drenched feet. And I’ll know there’s no more staircase for me to escape to. Where would I go, Philips? Leave the tower? Like my sister did? 


Kei: Maybe I’m the last one out here.

Outside, it begins to drizzle. KEI leans against the wall. 

Kei: Sorry, Philips. I… don’t know what came over me. (pause) We’re in the same boat, you and I…

Seagulls guffaw in the distance. KEI sighs, and slumps to the ground. The familiar sound of water sloshing against the rocks fills the recording.

Kei: If Hanni was real, then… Why did she leave me?

Click. The recording ends. 

Click. Another clip begins.

Ambi: Rain attacks the tower, harsh and relentless, as if made of metal droplets. The ocean churns, raging. Miserable gales howl.

Kei: … A storm. Again.

KEI’s breathing quickens. He tries desperately to slow it. He fumbles around the boxes and slips, falling into the water with a heavy splash. KEI resurfaces, gasping.

Kei: Ah! 1… 2… 3… Breathe. 1… 2… 3…

Young Kei: (echoing) Hello…?

Kei: Breathe… 1… 2… 3…

Young Kei: (echoing) …I trust you, Hanni.

KEI’s breathing hitches. The churning of the storm grows louder. Desperately, he fumbles around for the tape recorder. He clutches it like a lifeline.

Kei: Philips… It’s dark here. I can’t see. The only light is coming from the window. Where the water is flooding in.

The wind whips at him, and a malicious little voice whispers inside his head.

Voice in Kei’s Head: You lost your sister in a storm just like this.

Kei: This won’t be like last time. It’s been years. I’m alright on my own.

Voice in Kei’s Head: (hissing) Every time there’s a storm, you hide inside this tower and cry. But the tower can’t keep you safe this time.

Kei: Stop.

Voice in Kei’s Head: Where’s your sister now, Kei? Where is she? Can you trust her now, Kei?

Kei: (close to tears) Stop it. Now!

The voice stops temporarily. The rain continues its assault on the tower, brutal and unrelenting. 

Kei: Philips… let me hear her voice.

Click. Clip ends. Click. The final tape begins.

Ambi: A light drizzle.

Hanni: Hey… It’s September, 2030. I’m Hanni, again. Kei’s not here for now, he’s still sleeping. I wanted to do this while he was out, you know. 

Hanni: (sighs) To be honest with you, the first floor’s now completely flooded. And… I’m starting to realise that we can’t live like this any longer…

Hanni: Each day, we eat the fish around our tower, and make up stories about the birds resting on the roofs. We read books, and we sing along to old songs together. It’s great, with the two of us. 

Hanni: But we haven’t seen anyone in forever. And it’s been months, and we’ve done our best, but… I don’t know what happened to… the school, and I don’t know where Dad and Mum are. But I can’t accept that we’re the only ones left. There have to be more people out there. 

Hanni: And Kei… He’ll grow up eventually. He can’t grow up like this, with only me as company. I’m… constantly worrying about a future that might never exist… Did you know Kei can cook now? He steamed a fish today. 

Hanni laughs between sobs.

Hanni: I have to leave. I have to hope that there’re more people out there, waiting for us… If we have no hope, we have nothing. 

Something heavy is dragged across the floor. 

Hanni: This is the boat I brought out from the basement. Kei, if you’re listening to this in the future, I hope you’ll understand why I left the tower. And I hope I’ll be back, Kei, I desperately do. I don’t know what will happen, but while I’m gone. Keep yourself safe, Kei. Be brave. I’ll be back for you. I promise.

Clip ends. Clip begins.

Ambi: Storm. Thunderous, turbulent, water churning.

Something knocks against the tower walls. A moment’s respite, and then it returns, scraping. KEI starts. KEI has to raise his voice to be heard over the downpour.

Kei: Philips, it’s a boat!

Young Kei: (echoing) Hanni? Hanni!

Hanni: (echoing) I’ll be back for you. I promise.

Thunder cuts off the end of HANNI’s voice. 

Young Kei: (echoing) Hanni? Hanni!! 

Kei: The day she recorded this… Hanni disappeared off the horizon with her boat. And I never saw her again.

Water gushes into the room, sweeping Kei’s belongings around.

Kei: Philips, the boat is floating by. What do I do, Philips? 

KEI treads water, breathing heavily as it rises. He spits out a mouthful of water.

Kei: … If I stay, she might come back to the tower. She’ll find us here. She’ll know what happened to us. She won’t blame us… She can’t, after so many years.

Hanni and Young Kei: (echoing) If I could fly, like birds on high!

Kei: … Hanni.

KEI finishes the melody.

Kei: Then straight to her arms… I’d go sailing… 

Hanni: (echoing) Keep yourself safe, Kei. Be brave.

Kei: … Philips… to live, we’ll have to leave.

A thud. The boat bumps the wall beside KEI.

Kei: Philips. I feel something. I think it’s the boat. 

KEI grunts, and climbs onto the boat. He rolls inside and lands with a thump. 

Hanni: (echoing) Hey hey, don’t you run away from me! Sit down!

Kei: (groaning to himself) … Easy for you to say. My head is spinning.

The memory of HANNI’s voice laughs. KEI continues to hum the tune to Beyond the Sea. Around him, the storm rages. KEI picks up an oar, and rows the boat out of the tower. 

Kei: Philips, say goodbye to the tower.

All at once, the sound quality grows louder, and clearer. The atmosphere is sharper, but calmer. KEI has left the tower at last. 

Click. The clip ends.

Click. The tape begins. The ocean is calm. 

Kei: Hi Philips. I have no idea what day it is today. But I’ve been doing okay. I’m catching fish, as usual, and stopping to rest on rocks every now and then. Wait – Philips – I hear something.

A low, lilting voice floats through the air.

Voice: (singing) Happy we’ll be, beyond the sea…

Kei: … And never again… I’ll go sailing.

The voice stops. 

Hanni: (shocked)… Kei?

Kei: … Hanni?

Hanni: Kei… Oh, Kei! Kei! 

The two boats collide. HANNI’s voice is close to the microphone.

Kei: …You’re real.

Hanni: (overcome) I’ve been looking for you all this time!

Kei: (slowly) Happy we’ll be, beyond the sea…

Hanni: (laughing) And never again! I’ll go sailing.

Click. Philips’s final recording ends.

The outro to ‘Beyond the Sea’ by Bobby Darin plays. The music swells.

Music: No more sailing / So long sailing / Bye bye sailing…

​​Wong Jun Yi (Class of 2025) draws inspiration from childhood memories, dreams and current events. Fueled by seafood, Spotify and splendid stories, this marks her entrance into the world of dystopian writing.