To The Other Side


If you told thirteen-year-old me a year later I’d be dead, I wouldn’t believe you. 

When I was younger, I stumbled upon this website documenting the number of deaths worldwide. Each second I sat there, the number increasing, I’d think, “That wouldn’t be me, not for a long time.” 

I couldn’t have been more incorrect. 

Shrill beeps from my pink wristwatch jolt me back to reality. I make out the number–6.00 pm– through the small cracked display. 

 “Happy anniversary to me.” 

Glancing around this rooftop, I remember how Ma and I spent daily hours painting and making this our holy ground. But Ma hasn’t been up here ever since… Did she forget me?

Stop it. I’m just being selfish. That was the normal thing to do- move on. Yet everyone was capable of that but me. 

As if I have conjuring abilities, the rooftop door swings open with a bang, the widest grin spreading across my face.  

“Ma?” My eyes zoom across the rooftop in search of her petite figure. Instead, I zero in on his silhouette.

Liam. My neighbour and classmate throughout primary school. Despite that, we weren’t close- he’d sit way behind with his degenerate friends, always up to no good. What was he doing here? 

My gaze falls on the bottle of spray paint in his hands. He aims the nozzle toward the floor, the red paint dripping like blood. 

“Stop-” I scream, before biting my tongue. What was the point? I could only stand and watch some vandal desecrate my formerly sacred place. 

But then he drops the bottle like a bomb, alert eyes landing on me. 

Could he… see me? No, it was impossible. 

“Elena? Is that you?”

How is he talking to me? 

“You can…see me?” I finally stammer, realising that he’s waiting for my response. 

“Why wouldn’t I?” 

His stoic appearance confirmed my speculations. He didn’t know I’d died-or simply didn’t care. 

“The name’s Eleanor.” I heave myself onto the floor, keeping a safe two-metre distance between us. 

“I knew-” 

“Save it.” 

 Both our eyes land on the red paint on the concrete, him pressing his hands together. “Please don’t report me, I can’t get involved with the police. This would be my third strike…” 

I stop myself before I can tell him that I can’t report him. I should seize this opportunity. 

“I won’t report you… on one condition.” 


“Can’t you do this yourself?” he groans, pressing the doorbell. Hearing the shuffling of feet inside, I can’t help thinking this is a bad idea. How will Ma react? Maybe there’s still time to run-

Too late. When the familiar door flies open, it takes me a while to recognise their forlorn faces. 

“Can I help you?” Hearing Ma’s brittle voice for the first time in a year takes everything in me to not crawl into her arms.

Liam turns towards me. “I was your daughter’s classmate, and Eleanor wanted to tell…” 

As soon as Liam says that, Pa raises his hand and brings it down onto his cheek with such force, I know this couldn’t have been any worse.

 “Eleanor is dead!” Pa’s voice drops to a threatening whisper. “You think it’s funny to mess with her parents on her death anniversary?” 

Ma cowers behind Pa, covering her mouth to silence her gut-wrenching sobs. “Don’t approach us anymore or you’ll regret it.” He slams the door in our faces, vanishing. 

My eyes dart to Liam’s baffled expression, struggling to take in the bright red spot on his cheek. “She’s not dead, she’s right here…” He slowly turns, realisation setting in. “Why can’t they see you?” 


I was only thirteen. I had my whole life ahead of me. Why was I so stupid as to disregard that prominent bruise? Maybe if I cared more about it, I would’ve been cured

That was the pleasant start to my pleasant year. A year ago on this day,  I was hooked to a thousand screaming machines gagging and crying, as Pa kept telling me it was okay to leave. When Ma whispered “I’m not going to be a mother anymore”, I didn’t want to be awake. Then I wasn’t. 


Just reliving it causes my hands to quiver. observing Liam’s deadpan expression, it’s impossible to know what he was thinking. 


“I need more time to… process everything.” 

Sitting in silence, I start overthinking everything I reluctantly told him. Does he believe me? 

“You’re the only one that can help, Liam. I can’t leave if I’m still attached to life here- I must accept that I’m… dead.” 

When I was certain I was reaching the end, I read this website about the afterlife. I didn’t manage to read it all, though- Ma caught me and chided me for imagining the worst. 

“How could you not know I was dead? Did no one in class care that I stopped showing up?” Not that it would come as a surprise. 

“We assumed you just transferred schools…” That explains why none of them attended my funeral. 

Liam squeezes his eyes shut, struggling to comprehend everything. “You have to be joking.” 

“So, what do you say? Will you help me?” I stand, hoping he couldn’t tell that I was desperate. That he was all I had. 

He turns, avoiding my gaze. Does he not want to help me? I’ve been stuck here a year. What’s the point of Liam being able to see me if he didn’t want to help? 

I turn away, furiously blinking back tears. This is fine. What’s one more year on Earth?

“Please tell me you have a plan that doesn’t end with me getting slapped.” He breaks the palpable tension, the widest grin spreading across my face. 


The things I would do to get my sense of touch back… so I could slap him across the face. 

“Stop freaking out!” I shush him, dropping the watch onto the table with a thud. When Ma sees the distinct watch, she’ll know I was here, right?

“She’s in the toilet. We need to leave now. ” He sticks his head out the cracked door, fingers drumming on the doorknob. 

“Let me say goodbye first, okay?” Without hesitation, Liam darts toward the main gate and vanishes. 

Has it been a year since I was here? 

Under the moonlight glow, my room looks much emptier than it used to. Despite Ma and Pa leaving everything the same-the mountain of books on my desk, the unfinished paintings on the floor-it felt quite the contrary. 

The door flies open then, catching me so off guard I let out a shriek. Ma leans against the door, hands wound tightly around the doorknob.

When her gaze lands on the watch, she reaches over and clutches it close to her chest.

“Come on, Ma, notice me.” The beam of light from the flickering bulb above illuminates her face with a ghostly pallor. 

Pa bursts in closely behind her, tugging at her hand. “Irene, We locked her room for a reason-being back here doesn’t help anyone. You need to stop coming in here every day.” Ma stands immobile, unwilling to budge. 

“I’m right here!” Were they purposely trying to aggravate me? A sudden gust of wind swings the window open, overturning a picture on the desk. Ma wraps her shawl tighter around her neck. 

She turns to Pa, tears dripping onto the cracked screen. “Coming here helps me. You don’t even acknowledge her anymore! When people ask if we have children, you say no.” She pulls her hand away. “How can her watch be here? It wasn’t before.”

“I put it there!” At that, I slam my foot into the back of the desk chair, the tightest knot in my throat. Couldn’t they sense my presence? I was less than a metre away. 

Pa pushes an estranged strand of hair out of his eyes. “She didn’t even like that watch. Remember the tantrum she threw when we got her that after PSLE?” He rubs his nose bridge. “Who knew pink was a childish colour?” 

At that, I involuntarily wince. Was it too much to hope that they hadn’t remembered?

He pries the watch from Ma’s clammy hands, setting it onto the table. “Eleanor wouldn’t want to see you like this. There’s nothing we can do to get her back, but doesn’t that make us cherish our time together even more?” 

In a perfect world, I would have a second chance. Another life where I was cured, where I didn’t spend my last year in the hospital hooked to machines supposed to save me, yet felt like they were just slowing the inevitable. For the past year, that new life has been a hope of mine. Yet I know that I could stay here for another year or ten, and that would never happen. 

It was the other side or nothing.  

Pa pulls Ma into a hug, holding back tears of his own. As I wrap my arms around them, I tell myself that when they step out of this room, it’s time for me to do the same.


Sliding out of the flat, I come face to face with Liam, right in front of me. Good, I needed to talk to him. 

“What took so long? I thought you got trapped back there.” Liam covers his mouth to stifle a yawn. Just judging by the night sky, it can’t be any earlier than 9 pm. 

We step into the privacy of the stairwell, not wanting passersby to think Liam is crazy for talking to himself. 

“I’m assuming your stupid watch plan failed.”

“Actually. It… worked out.” Not in the way I’d wanted it to, but when did anyone get what they wanted? 

“How did you manage to move on in ten minutes?” Visible confusion clouds his face, but I don’t have time to answer. Some foreign, unconscious part of me feels the need to go back down there. Immediately.

I point to the door of the stairwell. “I need to go back there. I just wanted to thank you for helping. Now, help me open it.” 

 I start walking toward the door but he steps in front, blocking me. 

“Liam! Move!” 

“You can’t just decide you’re over it and leave.” 

“Why not?”

“We… have a Math test next week. I was thinking you could whisper the answers to me… No one would be able to see you anyway.”

Involuntarily, because this idea is so ridiculous, I laugh. That couldn’t be the reason. I saw the way his “friends” treated him. 

When I move on, a part of me will miss Liam. “You deserve better than your delinquent friends. None of them would have willingly helped me-you saved me from being stuck on Earth for the rest of eternity. Promise, I’ll be there. Math test and all.” 

He pulls the door open, flashing a wry smile. This time, tears roll down his face.

“Happy anniversary. No one will forget you, Eleanor. Come visit,” he whispers as I step into the stairway. When the metal door swings shut, I stand there watching the space he used to stand in, thinking how much I will miss this.  

Running down the corridor leading to the familiar house, I notice bright flashing lights emitting from the inside. Flashing lights… the same shade of pink as my watch. 

Strangely, the door is wide open. For the past year, that has never been the case. 

I squeeze into the flat, past Ma and Pa fast asleep on the sofa, my photo book in Ma’s arms. Didn’t the light wake them up? 

When I see the source of the light, it hits me. This is the end. 

I stand outside the familiar door to what once was my room. Surprisingly, my heart wasn’t racing as I’d expected-I was ready. The journey that led me to this bright light was Hell, but it brought me Heaven. 

Quite literally.

Word count: 1985

Tan Ying Tong Laura (Class of 2026) is an aspiring writer who reads roughly ten books a year. She deeply enjoys crafting stories, most of them for her eyes only. Her writing is deeply influenced by her dreams and experiences.