Discover Challenge: Splinters

Discover Challenge – Splinters – The Story Behind a Door


Would you want to… walk through my thoughts with me?

I promise there’s nothing scary in here. Look, sit under the shade right there, that’s it. I know it’s hot; I live in a tropical country, after all. But I’ll show you how to eat these fruits-no, don’t bite through it, silly! It’s a Rambutan. Red ones are ripe and I know the hairs make you feel weird, but you just have to peel it-here you go.

Sweet, isn’t it?

When you’re done, you can toss the seed in that meadow you see over there.

It’s crazy. I never thought this dirt beneath our feet could ever make anything grow. But that Rambutan seed you just threw? It’ll grow into a big, strong Rambutan tree soon. Whether it lives or dies, depends on the both of us. But the fact that you threw it in the first place, I already consider you a friend.

…A few years ago, this place was nothing. It wasn’t even this open field of trees and flowers. I don’t remember much anymore, but I know it was dark. A dark room in an dark mind. It didn’t start out that way, that much I’m sure, but there was a period of transition… That moment when your life went from autopilot to manual, and suddenly you held the reins of your body; made your own decisions and faced its consequences.

I made one life-changing decision. I entered a boarding school.

Oh, and I might as well have walked into a den of wolves. For all their talk of raising outspoken speakers, they silenced me every time I called out their injustices. ‘It’s a tradition,’ they said. ‘Shut up and take it like we had.’ ‘We had it worse.’ ‘You better listen to us because this is a hierarchy, and you’re at the bottom of the ladder.’

Consent was non-existent then. It didn’t matter that I consented to doing anything; what the seniors wanted, they got. Through verbal abuse and social punishments. The whole school turned a blind eye because it was acceptable.

My parents had raised me to say right is right, even if no one is doing it and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Even if your friends turn against you because they were afraid.

Even if they denied you again, and again, a chance to spread your infant wings. Denied your opportunity to grow. Drove you into a corner so tight, that you spluttered on unsaid words, choked on blood because you bit your tongue. My self-confidence laid in tatters. The bottom of the abyss felt like desperation and anger and too many tears.

I was desperate for happiness.

The little girl back then, she scrawled ‘happy’ in every piece of paper. She tried to smile in front of a mirror, and for once, liked what she saw. She only wanted to smile. She only wanted to laugh again.

I had turned to writing, because that was my comfort, my reprieve. They took my voice, so all I had were my hands… And I created, in my mind, in this place, a small room. Dark and empty, I spent so many hours in there in times when physically living brought me too much pain. The door was open. It was wide open and yet, I stayed there.

Until the moment when that little girl decided she would tolerate no more. In the middle of the room, in a sunken pit, a fire sparked to life.

My parents held my hand on my way out. As my body gathered my belongings, my mind gathered my memories. They were broken shards of something that had shattered but I no longer remembered what. Those pieces, I placed them in a chest and shoved it into the pit to burn. To melt. To no longer plague me as I turned my back and sealed the door.

Are you still listening? …Thank you.

I found this field when I walked out of that room. And it has grown. I have grown. But if you look behind that hill over there, you’d find a large, heavy oak door. And behind it, a fire still burning.


Sometimes I read the poems and stories that I wrote as a thirteen year old, and my heart clenches in pain at her sorrow. The room, the fire, the chest, they were all my real coping mechanisms. I truly did burn a chest full of painful memories in that room. I chose to keep a few happy ones, but the rest I figuratively burned. I’ve only come to realise, after a few conversations with friends, that I can barely remember those memories now. It comes slowly, after much prodding and not without being prompted.

I’ve decided it’s not a loss.

I made the right decision.


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