Ever since he could remember, the karung guni had been visiting the same block of residents. They ignored him most of the time, but when they did acknowledge him, they never failed to mention how he never seemed to age.

And as a matter of fact, he didn’t.

Like many other karung gunis, he was over two hundred years old.

He couldn’t remember his own name, but he could remember finding the urn in the forest with the boys from his village. He remembered the curse that tore the mortality from him and bound him to the creature that still held his life in its hands.

The creature’s name was Tau Lang. It had allowed the karung guni and the village boys to age until they were seventy before summoning them again, pulling on their minds until they complied. By then, their bodies had begun to wither, the pressure on their bones becoming painfully oppressive. 

“Bring me the current news, and I will bring you peace.” Its lips had stretched wide, a grotesque imitation of a grin. “I want to understand your world.”

The karang guni later told it that the rapist in his village had finally been executed. Tau Lang had sniggered, and with the twist of its finger, the karung guni had felt the pressure of arthritis in his knees lessen.

The agony had returned the next week, and the karung guni realized he was a slave, bound to regularly return if he wanted to continue walking on his own two feet.

When the government brought the concept of flats to reality, the karung guni and his friends kept Tau Lang in an apartment they shared. The creature could not have been more delighted with the constant supply of news carried between corridors and blocks. The karung guni was too– he could simply read narrative after narrative from the newspapers gathered from neighbours as the pain of age left him. 

But like all good things, the bliss didn’t last.


The karung guni had felt the slow, subtle shift in the air as he trudged from block to block. Newspapers now spent pages proclaiming the newest gadgets for outrageous prices while screeching salespeople yapped about data plans from every street. He never saw this ridiculous trend as something that would last, it was improbable that an entire nation could change in a handful of years.

And then, newspapers became scarce. The shouted greeting to his horn fell silent, and his footsteps echoed in the corridors louder than ever.

Deep down, the karung guni already knew that he was doomed. But a desperate part of him that had watched the nation grow and shift recklessly still clung to the hope that this was a passing phase, that the novelty would wear off and people would return to the old, reliable ways.

Yet, things grew worse. When Tau Lang overheard the karung guni and his friends nervously discussing the lack of recent newspapers, both from sales and from residents, it had growled, low and dangerous, the air growing thick.

“I have suffered in that urn for longer than you know, and you dare grumble about difficulty?”

The karung guni wished, not for the first time, that Tau Lang would leave him to die. However, he never dared to protest aloud, not when he knew the creature could withdraw all means of comfort if it so desired. 

One evening, when his body hurt too much to bear, the karung guni took the MRT home. For the first time, he noticed no one paid his rusty cart any attention, all of their heads bent over unnaturally bright devices.

His shred of hope withered, and for the first time, the karung guni understood that this was no passing trend. This was the future, filled with luxuries he could never afford. The world had left him behind to rot.

Theodora Ho was a Literary Arts student from 2016 to 2019. Her time in LA has fostered in her a deep affection for writing. Since then, she has relied on the power of words to express both delight and pain.