It was probably past midnight and I was lying on my bed, in my favorite sleeping position facing the wall. My bedroom was the room that faced the common corridor – a very common layout in 3-room HDB flats. I was staying at Ang Mo Kio Block 637 then, and I really loved that area as it’s near the food centre, wet market and Yio Chu Kang MRT.
My windows were shut as I was afraid of lizards or beetles suddenly flying/ crawling in. It wasn’t too warm though – all was good and I was drifting off to lalaland.
Suddenly, I heard a loud cough.
It came from right behind me, as though she was standing in the middle of my small bedroom.
Yes I could distinctly recognize the cough as a female cough. I could even estimate the age – it sounded like an old lady’s deep cough.
Problem was, I was the only one in my room.
I froze right there – and at the same time feeling like a slab of butter melting on a hot saucepan. It was hard to describe if time stood still, or if time flew past. The concept of time, when I heard the cough, did not exist.
She went on coughing loudly. Non-stop. It lasted for a while, and then it was silence.
Like how an animal would respond physically to being hunted (eg changing colour lol), every inch of my body became ultra-sensitive, as though to see if ‘she’ would come and touch my back or tickle my soles. My ears tried to hear if ‘she’ would start scratching my mattress. I had a big urge to turn back but obviously I did not allow myself to. I was not sure if I would see ‘her’, anyway I was not ready to see ‘her’! It was a classic situation of ‘wanna run but don’t dare to run, just rooted there waiting for dunno what’.
Then, I started to pray in tongues, silently. Haven’t done that for the longest time as I left church a few years ago. I just rambled away in tongues inside my head, praying for ‘her’ to go away, praying for my fear to go away, praying for immediate relief (eg just make me fall asleep right away).
And eventually, I drifted off to sleep.
And now, more than 10 years later, I could still remember that cough.