Purgatory is an island in the middle of the sea. The sand there is the colour of snow. The flowers grow fur. On the high branches of trees there are crystals that sing. And down below, there are sins languishing on the shore. They lie on their backs in the mud and dream of better days. And then there are the regrets, scuttling by on thousands of little legs. They curl into balls and roll. They roll down the slope to where the dust piles up, away from the sea, toward the centre of that island in the centre of the sea, roll down to where the angel waits— the mossy-mouthed angel with marble skin and golden eyes.

Repent, says the angel. Repent, it says to me.

I stand staring, not sure whether to tell the truth, or to bury everything in the sand and lie.

So I ask, “Repent? What for? I can’t repent if I don’t know what I’ve done.”

Repent, it repeats. Repent.

Then I flee, scurrying over the sand. My words scurry with me. We are fast. We have tens of thousands of legs among us. We tip ourselves into the rowboat and off we go. Dark water laps at the oars. And as we head toward the horizon, the sun begins to set. My regrets shiver, huddle by my feet.

Soon, I tell them. Soon we’ll be free.

Portia Yu

Portia Yu lives in Hong Kong where she likes to write about dreams, memories, and unstable realities.