The Garden of Eden, Atlantis, Eldorado, Shangri-La and Singapore. All of these are places that should not exist and yet, Singapore is a thriving island city-state of 5.6 million people and growing. Like any other city, the majority of the population go about their lives, ignorant of the secret wars happening in the forgotten places just beyond their usual commute.
Groups of unique individuals fight late into the night while the island sleeps peacefully. Unlike everyone else however, James have seen much more than he should. His ability to ghost through things has enabled him to see a side of Singapore, only a select few, would know.
His careless actions eventually lead him into the crossfire between two warring factions who have been at it since the beginning of time. James must now cautiously navigate the dangerous underbelly of Singapore or risk dragging his friends and loved ones into the fray.
The Golden Mile Complex is a peculiar building.
“It was constructed as a commercial and residential development which provided offices, retail, entertainment services and apartment living all within its podium block and stepped terrace.” At least, that’s what the Wikipedia page I’m taking all this information off, says.
My first impression of this monolithic concrete Goliath of a building was that it’s extremely ugly. It was conceived as a prototype mega-structure for a living environment intended to be the catalyst of urban development in the area but I couldn’t imagine how anyone in the past would have ever wanted to live or work there. Sure, it’s a nice idea to have everything you ever need in life conveniently in one place but imagine, your entire life lived out in a monochromatic place like this.
I’m paraphrasing but I’ve heard the people from Japan who invented the idea remarked that they had only dreamt it up, but us Singaporeans were crazy enough to build it!
These days, the brutalist architecture is being referred to as a vertical slum, an eyesore and a national disgrace. But recently its reputation as an ethnic enclave for the Thai population residing in Singapore have started rejuvenating the place. Personally, I love the food. A spicy cocktail of thai discos, mookata restaurants has helped bring many customers to the sleazy massage parlours and sleepy convenient shops.
However, away from the noise of the podium, the upper floors remain disparate. Countless embassies, security & law firms and private investigators take up the majority of the office block. Perpetually dimly lit. Perpetually lifeless. The only groups of people who infrequently frequent the place were local instagrammers looking for an otherworldly place to take selfies and droves of architecture students who have been indoctrinated about how immaculate the “idea” was.
No one saw the building as Annie and I did, or perhaps the lonely men and women who come every night to lose themselves in drunken stupor do, but for a different reason. Golden Mile is our safehouse. A foundation built as a sanctuary for people like us to get away from the clutches of Legion and organisations like them. That day, it became the same for James.
“This is a really sketchy place.” James remarked nervously. “But it’s not your first time being here, is it?” Annie said pointedly as she turned off the engine and pulled the key out of the vehicle. James’ jaw dropped.
It is no surprise to him that he had been kept on surveillance for some time before our meeting. By us and by Legion. Since he discovered his ability to ghost through things, he never looked back. He spent the majority of his time after school exploring the country. Taking long bus and train rides, alighting at and then exploring any buildings of interest to him.
“What would you like to be when you’re our age, James?” Annie asked with a kind smile as we waited by the rusty red door of the elevator.
“A superhero crimefighter like you guys, hahaha...” James tried to break the tense air between Annie and I, but quickly realized none of what we do is like what appears in the media. “Architecture perhaps, seeing how useful my abilities are when it comes to going through walls.”
Good save kid. The elevator arrived for us but James keenly noticed none of us had pressed for it. Hesitantly, he stepped in with us. “Which floor?” He offered. I shooed him away from the doors as it struggled to slide shut. Music came on as it usually does for us, masking the kinks and groans as the elevator worked its magic.
Gravity pressed on us lightly as we seemingly descended downwards. The smell of James’ prata and curry became notable as we reached our destination. Perhaps it was the elevator at work, perhaps it was just myself feeling hungry. The music stopped and the incandescent bulb above the elevator doors lit up with an analog ding.
We stepped into a narrow carpeted hallway framed by plain white plaster walls and unmarked gated doors. James observed how each gate was iron-wrought in the exact same make and style. He smartly pointed out that we were not in a section of the building that was accessible to the public. The incandescent lights that dimly lit our walk were the main giveaway.
“Thanks, I’ll ask him to update it later.” I uttered as we finally reached the Golden Mile. James gave us a blank look because we had stopped in front of a blank wall. “We’re here.” Annie said firmly as she paced. A muffled male voice from behind the wall responded, “Just a minute!”
“Greetings!” An elderly American man stepped through the solid wall. He looked frail but was as lively as he’d always been. “Very nice to finally meet you!” He said as he shook James’ hand vigorously.
“Y-you can ghost too?” James was visibly stunned, he never thought he would be able meet someone with the same ability as him.
“Oh, no no no! But it is inspired by what only you can do!” He winked, “Oh! Where are my manners! My name’s Dr. Clifford Brady but you can just call me Doc. Please come this way, no need to ghost here.”
“Thanks for setting this up, Doc.” Annie said with gratitude as we stepped through the wall.
“It was no problem at all, Ms. Genova, barely an inconvenience! Especially given the circumstances we’re in. We ought to play it as safe as possible.” Clifford said as we settled around the boardroom table.
I explained to James that Clifford is the Deputy Director of the foundation and the person in charge of our logistics. He is to the Golden Mile, what Lucius Fox is to Bruce Wayne. He develops all of the tech while Annie deploys and maintains them. She became his understudy ever since we discovered the foundation.
After a few exchanges, James turned to Clifford and asked, “So how did you set this up, Doctor Clifford? We’re not actually in the Golden Mile Complex, are we?” He was confident with his deduction but Clifford was happy to explain in greater detail.
The eager man took a quick glance at his wristwatch and calculated that we had enough time before the Director arrives. In his words to James he explained that we were, in fact, still within the Complex.
The elevator he had sent for us was a type of particle accelerator he developed which could break down matter on the molecular scale into quantum data. The descending sensation we all felt when the elevator activated was in fact the process of our bodies breaking down into data which he encrypted to ensure no one can pay us a surprise visit through the same means. Clifford gleefully expressed that he even chose the elevator music himself.
James’ noted that the breaking down of particles was probably the reason why the smell of his food noticeably became more fragrant in the elevator. As he unwrapped his meal from the takeaway packet he also noticed how it didn’t have a smell or taste anymore. A side effect of the elevator.
Clifford continued to explain that the narrow hallway we were in was a digital “Limbo” of sorts wherein he could store our conscience temporarily as he transferred us to one of Golden Mile’s many safe rooms within the building. All the offices in the upper floors of the complex belong to the foundation and the many sketchy companies that permeated the building were in fact a front to hide our presence. The key to the Golden Mile’s Security infrastructure, Clifford was so proud of building, was the fact that we were not just in one room in the complex, but in all of them and none of them at the same time.
“Like Schrodinger’s cat!” James exclaimed, the hairs on his arms raised. “Spot on!” Clifford gave the boy a high-five. “But why did you mention that the Limbo you created was inspired by my abilities?”
“That’s a very good question, dear boy!” Clifford exclaimed, “Tell me, do you know how your abilities actually work?”
There was a long pause. This is probably the first time anybody had asked him such a pointed question. James began, “Erm, isn’t it obvious? I just focus my mind and go through stuff.” He demonstrated himself ghosting his fingers through the table. “It’s like, the world around me glitches out and I can walk through anything like there is a bug in the game.”
“Interesting observation.” The Director suddenly blinked into an empty chair beside Clifford while James almost fell out of his. His sudden loss of concentration left several odd shaped holes in the table where his fingers were. “It’s true, our abilities does seem like a glitch in this, universal game, we all play. My name is Gareth Xelenski, nice to have you here, James.” In contrast to Clifford, Gareth was tall and serious.
“Call him, Mr. Xelenski.” Annie whispered to James. “Hi-” Before he could introduce himself, Gareth ordered. “Do you have the mask?” I handed the mask that we swiped from Lisa to Gareth as James quietly ate his dinner.
“Report.” Gareth turned to Annie with his usual stone cold expression.
Annie reported that she had already informed her counterpart in the Internal Security Department of Singapore (ISD) about our truffle with Legion which we have now officially coined the “Bugis Incident”. This particular situation was especially serious because Lisa herself was on the move. Apparently, James was one of the “cases” they did not want the Golden Mile to get in touch with. Since the incident Annie and I were involved in a decade ago, Legion had been laying low but the increase in activity recently shows that they seem to be searching for something and are getting desperate to find it.
“Get whatever information you can about their movements from here.” He passed the mask on to Clifford. “We need to know who their next target is, ASAP. Best not be one of his friends.” He pointed to James before blinking out.
James looked up at the blank seat where Gareth had vanished. With a curry lathed slice of prata perched precariously onto the tines of his disposable plastic fork, he uttered. “What?”