Changes, and what lies ahead

Ahmad wondered why there wasn’t a single trace of his father in the house, not even photos. He tried asking his mother, but she always changed the subject without revealing anything.

No matter what she did to distract him, Ahmad got even more obsessed with his hunt.

His mum had never taken him to visit the grave before.

Ahmad wondered why. He imagined all kinds of crazy scenarios explaining where his father had gone.

Maybe he was a god, or a being of another world before meeting his death on this planet.

Ahmad also wondered whether he looked like his father. He must have had short hair with a round stomach and a moustache … maybe.


The clinic was a cold place unsuited to someone prone to vomiting and diarrhoea, but there, Ahmad was.

Half-an-hour ago, his mother had rushed him to the nearest clinic, but it was full, so they had to wait.

A lot of people strangely seemed to be sick these days. Maybe it was because the global pharmaceutical companies had found a way to profit easily. When Ahmad was younger, the clinics and hospitals were always deserted.

“How are you feeling?” asked Ahmad’s mother.

Ahmad pointed to his mouth, implying that it would be best not to say anything at the moment. His throat burned and his stomach felt empty. There was still one more patient before it was his turn.

The door opened and the patient left. There was a long minute before a nurse opened the consultation room and called out, “Ahmad Faiz.”

Ahmad’s mother accompanied him as they walked into the consultation room. When they opened the door, Ahmad saw, out of the corner of his eye, his mother stop dead in her tracks for quite a while before walking in slowly.

The doctor was typing away at his computer. What shocked Ahmad was that the doctor looked familiar. It was only when Ahmad sat down in the patient’s chair did the doctor look up. Ahmad instantly detected shock as the doctor’s eyebrows raised for a fraction of a second before they came down with forced calm.

“What’s the illness?” asked the doctor, staring at the blank paper in front of him.

Ahmad noticed that he was avoiding eye contact.

Nonetheless, he told him that he vomited blood earlier.

After more questions, the doctor said it might be gastritis and that he had likely very suddenly cut his diet. Ahmad agreed because he had not been eating well recently.

The doctor said he would give him some pills for gastritis and told him to take them three times a day.

“Are you free tomorrow?” asked the doctor. “Because your son needs constant check-ups.”

“No, we’re going to another clinic,” Ahmad’s mother snapped.

As soon as Ahmad and his mother left the clinic and got into the car, she whirled around and asked him why he had stopped eating.

Ahmad decided to tell his mother the truth because she had a talent for finding out anything she wanted, sooner or later.

“And by the way,” he added after he had finished, “why did that doctor look so familiar?”

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from ‘Changes’ by Tan Yuan Guan. It is part of a series of short stories – Secret & Lies: A Young Writer’s Anthology. Priced at RM31.90, the book is available at BookXcess. Royalties from the sale of the book will be channelled to Thrive Well’s (formerly SOLS Health) community centres.

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