Fourth Concubine Of Lee Ah Seng, Head Of How Fatt Tin Mining Kongsi, Taiping, Malaysia 1874

(C/W: coercion, drug use and implied sexual violence)

“Was he rough?” Second asks. Ling feels a bruise blossoming on her thigh, a musky heaviness in her groin. Yesterday he’d shown her the raintree, its foliage dipping into Lake Taiping like a woman washing her hair. How lucky, she’d thought, to have escaped Guangzhou for this powerful man.

Last night flashes – his foetid sweat, a slicing pain, grunting. “I expect sons,” he’d said, throwing her cheongsam at her.

“This will help,” Second hands her a pipe, sweet-smelling smoke snaking out. Ling inhales, floating back to the vast, verdant stretch of paddy fields, to a time when she was nobody.

This story won First Prize and the People’s Prize in the May 2023 monthly micro fiction competition.

About the author: Sumitra Singam writes in Naarm/Melbourne. She travelled through many spaces to get there and writes to make sense of her experiences. She’ll be the one in the kitchen making chai (where’s your cardamom?). She works in mental health. You can find her and her other publication credits on twitter: @pleomorphic2