All Your Names

May 6th, 2014, 11am


Harold was sure he didn’t misheard the name coming from the man at the end of the aisle. Even when it was said twice. The stranger looked a little tanned and sweaty, like he just stepped into the mall to escape the heat outside, and strolled into this bookstore, to this very aisle in the Horror section where Harold was contemplating on another book purchase. The man was a head taller than the bookshelves, rather plain in his clothes and nothing distinctive about his features. Harold would’ve ignored him easily if it wasn’t for the name, the one only his mother alone would call him. Pip.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?”

The man smiled, as if amused about some inside joke. He took a step forward.

Harold stepped back, ready to fling the thick volume of HP Lovecraft collection for self-defence. “Who are you? And how did you know that nickname?”

The man raised his hands and chuckled. “I’m sure you don’t remember me. You were only a baby when we last met. I gather your mother never told you about me when she was still alive. I’m not surprised. Oh, Sheila, why do you always do this to me?” He took another step forward.

“You haven’t answered my question! And I’m not afraid to call security!”

He stopped two paces away and nodded. “Look, Harold… I mean you no harm. I just want to get to know my sister’s only son.”

“What?” Harold lowered his weapon.

“I’m your uncle, my dear nephew.”

A yellow glint sparked past the man’s eyes in a swift second, his smile less comforting. Harold raised his book again. Other than his height, the man showed no resemblance to his mother. But that glimmer he caught, was something he’d seen from time to time when his mother was younger. He’d thought it was normal, that all mothers have it, and never questioned it. She was his mother, the woman who raised him single-handedly from the day he was born since his father died months earlier. He hadn’t seen that bright glimmer in her eyes in the twilight of her years, as if the inner light faded away over time.

“My mother never mentioned you. How do I know you’re not lying?”

“Why don’t you put down that book and we’ll go somewhere to talk.”

After much hesitance, Harold joined the man named Lucius at the bookstore’s cafe, a place public Harold had insisted, in case this “uncle” tries to pull anything funny. This continued to amuse Lucius, a name that felt unfitting for an unremarkable looking man. Harold crossed his arms, and clenched his teeth, scrutinising every bit about the man across the table.

Lucius laughed and apologised that it was all he could put together at the last minute. “This is not my usual look.”

Seeing that Harold was unimpressed, Lucius went on with his story, about being away for a long time though he didn’t precisely indicated where. He regretted for not being in touch, and would’ve come sooner to at least say a proper goodbye to Seraphine, and make sure Harold is cared for.

“Liar!” Harold stood up, jabbing his finger in the air towards Lucius. Then realised all eyes are focused on him in the cafe. He plopped himself back on the chair and whispered loud enough for Lucius to hear, “I knew it! You’re not my uncle!”

A realisation came upon Lucius, followed by a smile Harold finds irritating. “You didn’t know her real name. Sheila was the name she thought sounded benign enough. Much like yours. Harold. Your sisters had far better names.”


Lucius leaned forward, eyeing Harold closely. Another yellow glint, a little darker. “This is going to be fun.”

Share this moment

Andrea Tan

I'm a writer who shoots stuff (with my phone, that is).

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook