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Baby Nick drifts into dreamland populated by candy houses and pastel-coloured animals. Mother’s sweet lullaby conceals her own suffering and drowns out the meaningless murmuring of the old ceiling fan. Mr Raj the landlord, indifferent to her predicament, had sent the third and final notice this morning. If rental is still not paid by next Monday, she will be evicted. Today is Friday. Her nimble fingers are typing furiously on the cracked screen of her phone, asking for help from everyone in her contact list. She can no longer be bashful in a desperate time like this. But kindness is scarce in modern times; some demands repayment. None of her tear-soaked relatives who offered their sincerest, deepest condolences when her family died in the car crash last year replied to her messages. She swears she would do anything for her precious baby Nick. She is at her wit’s end when she hears a peculiar scratching sound and a strange, musty smell of old books coming from the tiny living room. Tiptoeing into the dimly-lit room, she has her phone camera on standby. Then she sees him – the nocturnal creature who appears to the down and out for help with a price. She already knows his name from her favourite fairytale. What riddle will he ask this time? With magic, the pages of the old storybook seem to transform into heaps of purple RM 100 notes. Miniature mountains of miracle promising to end her misery. She records him busy at work quietly. She swears she would do anything for the money.

Vernon Daim was born in Taiping, grew up in Kuching and found himself in Edinburgh. His poems have appeared in Readings for Readings 2, online literary journals such as Anak Sastra, Eastlit and Asiatic.

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