Story by | Genevieve Soh (she/her), Staff Editor
Illustration by | Ishmam Ahmed (he/him)
Strapping on bright orange tights, with eyeliner on fleek and flappity royal blue wings gleaming, Halcyon begins the day! To start, they make their way to the Cendana College Office, where one of the college dogs, Gohan, sits waiting for his office hours to begin. Halcyon takes a seat next to him.
Halcyon: Morning Gohan!
Leaping impressively on his hind legs, Gohan springs up excitedly onto Halcyon.
Gohan: Mowning Halcyon!
Halcyon: What are you doing sitting alone on this carpet?
Gohan: am waiting for 10.30 am! Once me office hours start I ams never alonez!
Halcyon: Oh that’s true! I heard from Wallace the other day that you’re really popular with the students!
Gohan: Well, of couwse I ams. Even Wally knows it! Evewyone loves to pat me and give me tweats! I’m sooo iwesistible! Me floOfiness makes everybody squeal! And peoples love to squish me cheeks!
Chuckling, Halcyon bends down and gives Gohan a few scratchies behind the ear. Gohan’s tail wags happily, drumming against the floor of the office.
Halcyon: Wow! Your fur is soft! How do you keep your fur so lustrous? I wash my feathers everyday with morning dew from leaves but they’re never quite as shiny as yours!
Gohan: Hehehe! That’s ‘cus I has me own fur-care roOtine! Come come, let me teach you!
Gohan tugs Halcyon over to a low cupboard. The doggy paws at the doors till they creak open, and the rows and rows of dog shampoo bottles within come into view.
Gohan: This is me pretty fur’s secwet ingwedient! I wash meself with this shampOo three times a day! I scrubba dub dub me floofiness, me makeup team brushes me fluff, and POOF I become me fluffy cute self!
Halcyon: Three times a day! Isn’t that a lot of shampoo?
Gohan: It’s for me pawsome fur! So it’s worth evewy dwop silly billy!
Halcyon: Hmm you got a point there! Maybe I’ll go online and buy some kingfisher shampoo to try. I’ve got a 20% off Shopee voucher to use!
Gohan: YAY! Yess go twy it outs and show me your bootiful feathers! Having floofy fur and seeing your pwetty feathers will make me so happy!
Halcyon: Alrighty, I’ll do as you say, beautician Gohan!
Just then, the office doors swing open, and the first group of students begins pouring in.
Gohan: OO YES 10.30 am! They’re here!
Gohan takes a step towards the newcomers then stops. Like a lightbulb has sparked above his head, Gohan twirls back around to Halcyon.
Gohan: OH OH! You know what would make me happiest? You should teach me fans the beauty roOtine too! They’ve been looking super tired theze days.. Me makeup team says it’s ‘cuz at dis time of year they get dis disease called exams? Whatever that iz? As their idol I want them looking BOOTIFUL and happy too! Looking your best = Happy after all! Whatdya say, Hally? A whole College beauty tweatment!
Halcyon laughs and nods their head.
Halcyon: That’s a brilliant idea, Gohan! I’ll see it done!
Gohan: YAY! Hally is the best hehehe! Okeii, see you later! I gotta go entertain me fanss!
Halcyon waves goodbye to Gohan and leaves the office just as the students sit down around the beige-furred celebrity. Gohan smiles widely and wags his curled tail, basking in the belly rubs and treats he is showered with.
Next, Halcyon skips over to the Multi Purpose Hall, where another college dog, Wallace, is taking a stroll with his caretaker. Halcyon flaps their wings, waving to Wallace and his caretaker, and squats down beside the doggy.
Halcyon: Good morning Wallace! Your fur’s looking really shiny in this sunlight!
Wallace: Oh! Hi Halcyon! Aww shucks, thank you. Gohan has the shiniest, floofiest fur though!
Halcyon: His fur sure is something, I have to agree. Your fur’s really sleek and nice too though Wallace! You should try some dog shampoo, Gohan just taught me his beauty routine and he said he scrubs himself in it 3 times a day!
Wallace: Really? Wow, Gohan’s really dedicated, I should learn from him! I use shampoo too, but I’ll go ask him later which brand of shampoo he uses.
Halcyon: Alrighty! What’chu doing now?
Wallace: Just taking a little walk. I love how warm the sun feels. It’s quiet at this time, so I like to just listen to the leaves rustling as I go.
Halcyon: Oo that sounds really relaxing! Ok, let me try!
Halcyon stays silent for a few seconds. Lifting their wing, Halcyon cups it behind their head, straining their ears to listen.
Halcyon: … All I can hear are my Mynah cousins arguing over a bug.
Wallace: Oh so that’s the chirping I’ve been hearing! I thought they were singing, it sounds pretty to me.
The sound of soft chatter drifts over to Halcyon and Wallace. Wallace turns his head towards the library, watching a pair of students chat as they stroll past.
Wallace: Another favorite part of my walks is passing by people, watching them happily walking across campus like me.
Halcyon: That’s nice! Taking strolls must be a well-enjoyed hobby by everyone!
Wallace: Yeah maybe, although even I know you can’t have too much of a good thing. Sometimes on my walks I pass by people who look tired, and I know they must’ve taken too many walks…
Halcyon: Yeah perhaps, everyone has to walk many paths in life if you think about it.
Wallace: Exactly! I’m a little shy around new people, but I hate to see them down. So when I see a tired human cross my path, I always approach them slowly and give them a little sniff.
Halcyon: Why a sniff?
Wallace: In doggy language, a sniff says “Hello, I’m here for you!” So I want to tell people “I see you’re tired from too much walking, but if it helps, I’m here for you and I love you!”
Halcyon: You’re so charming and sweet, Wallace. I bet you have a ton of loving fans just like Gohan!
Wallace: O-oh nah… I’m not even brave enough to jump up to people like he does. But I guess he and I do have something in common: we both love making people happy!
The sun has now risen just above the trees. With a wave goodbye to Wallace and his caretaker, Halcyon continues down the path towards the Oculus. There, beside the softly shimmering Ecopond, sits the lizard of many names: he goes by Guava or Pancho. The majestic campus green iguana’s bright scales fill Halcyon with awe as they descend the steps to the pond.
Halcyon: Good day, Pancho! Or do you prefer Guava?
Pancho: Both names are gorgeous, so both equally suit my fancy.
Halcyon: Alrighty then! What are you doing out here under the hot sun? I don’t think I could last a minute under that sunbeam you’re under.
Guava: I am sunbathing. It is under this radiant sunlight that my beautiful scales gleam the brightest. Behold! Dost thou not witness mine iridescence?
Halcyon: Oh! Yes yes of course, you’re glowing! Let me try too!
Pancho grins proudly, raising his head even higher. Halcyon takes a seat beside Guava and spreads their wings under the sunlight to try their “wing” at being iridescent. Pancho’s eyes widen at the sight of the light rays cascading off Halcyon’s gleaming feathers, the royal blue feathers turning a shimmering silver.
Guava: My my, Halcyon darling! Your wings are absolutely stunning in the sunlight! Well… not as stunning as my scales… but still!
Halcyon: Aww thank you, Pancho! I was chatting with Gohan and Wallace earlier about improving my—uh, what you said, Oh!—iridescence even more! Gohan and Wallace both use shampoo to keep their fluffiness floofy and lustrous! Do you use shampoo, Guava?
Pancho: … I haven’t the slightest idea what fluffiness or floofy are but… Halcyon, dear, as you can see I have no fur.
Halcyon: Oh! Right! Oops sorry Guava. I was gonna get some shampoo for my feathers and… yeah it seems like you don’t have those either.
Pancho: Right you are, dearie.
Halcyon: How do you keep your scales so shiny, then?
Guava: I will let you in on a secret, dear Halcyon. It truly is the sunlight and sounds of nature that nurture my vibrance. I fear I would have been reduced to a clump of moss by now had it not been for this campus’s wonderful basking spots! Wouldst thou believe? Moss!
Halcyon: Oh! It’s unimaginable to see you as moss, sir.
Pancho: Thou dost flatter me, Halcyon dearie. Anyway, is it me or do the humans crossing through my pond these days appear incredibly moss-like?
Halcyon: It’s not just you, sir. Gohan and Wallace have noticed the campus humans looking pretty gloopy these days too… Apparently it’s ’cus of, uh, exams?
Guava: Who’s this exams thou speaks of?
Halcyon: We’re assuming it’s a disease the humans get once in a while each year.
Pancho: Good heavens! A disease! Why, this simply will not do! I can’t bear to have mine dear subjects falling ill!
Guava: They constantly attend to me with words of praise, capturing my beauty with pictures, so they are my loyal subjects.
Halcyon: Makes sense to me!
Pancho: My poor subjects, falling ill on the job. I have to help them! I am sure they are in desperate need of some revitalizing relaxation! Do me a kindness, and inform them that they are always welcome to join me here by the water for a rest in the sunlight.
Halcyon: Sure thing, sir! Do you think that will be enough to get rid of the terrible exams?
Guava: Oh, trust me, Halcyon dearie. Some indulgence in nature and their iridescence will be restored.
Halcyon: Of course, Pancho! Maybe I’ll even join you here by the pond again soon to sun my feathers more! And, would you look at that, I actually sat under this sunlight for more than a minute! The sunlight was refreshing after all.
Guava: I toldst thou so! Now, just remind my sweet subjects to mind my personal space. My lizard instincts hold that I shall not hesitate to smack any human who lays a finger on my precious scales. Everyone doth know not to touch a masterpiece.
Halcyon and Pancho cannot help but burst into laughter. Waving goodbye to the magnificent green iguana, Halcyon sets off towards the Elm and Saga courtyards. As they pass the Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre, they hear scuttling sounds on their right. Halcyon looks over to find a small furry brown head poking out from behind a white column. It’s a squirrel!
Halcyon: Hi squirrel!
Surprised, the squirrel pulls her head back to hide behind the column. Halcyon chuckles and cautiously steps closer.
Halcyon: Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you! My name’s Halcyon, what’s your name? I promise I won’t hurt you, I just wanna be friends!
Ever so slowly, the fuzzy brown head reveals itself again to Halcyon. The squirrel’s nose twitches as she sniffs the air, before a relaxed smile spreads across her face.
Squirrel: OK, y-you smell like a friendly bird, I trust you! My n-name’s Penelope!
Halcyon: You have a beautiful name, Penelope!
Penelope: Aww, t-thank you. W-wait, let me come a l-little closer.
Penelope leaps off from the column and onto Halcyon’s head.
Penelope: Is this a-alright with you?
Halcyon: Of course, whatever’s more comfortable for you!
Penelope: Yay g-great! ‘Cus I feel r-really safe on your head!
Halcyon: Are you new to the campus, Penelope?
Penelope: Y-yeah, actually! I moved here f-from the Clementi forest. My mommy encouraged me to live a-away from home s-so I could learn to be independent! I travelled h-here together with an iguana! H-His name is Guava, o-or was it Pancho… Ah I can’t r-remember. B-But he was nice enough to l-let me ride on his back the whole way here!
Halcyon: Wow, I didn’t know you and Pancho were travelling buddies! He’s a really nice iguana, and his scales are THE BOMB.
Penelope: Hehe, I know right! He said he normally wouldn’t let someone touch his scales, b-but he said he’d give me a o-one time exception so he could carry me on his b-back!
Halcyon: You’ve been granted a once in a lifetime opportunity, Penelope! And, just wanted to say, you’re really brave to start a new life away from home!
Penelope: Aww, hehe, thanks Halcyon. It’s been almost a m-month, but I-I still don’t feel very brave yet. I’m still p-pretty s-scared of humans. I can’t help b-but quickly jump away when a human just l-looks at me!
Halcyon: It’s OK, adjusting takes time!
Penelope: Yeah, t-that’s true. I was r-really shocked by them w-when I first arrived! I didn’t know a-anything about humans, s-so I asked the older squirrels for advice. They told me the h-humans here are special ‘cus they’re just like me—t-these humans moved away from their homes t-to start a new home h-here too!
Halcyon: Oh! That’s right! They probably understand what you’re going through.
Penelope: I’m sure some of t-these humans must be feeling homesick just like m-me. T-These days, I still miss my mommy very much. So, e-every week, I write a letter to her, and my Mynah friends help me d-deliver it! Sometimes I w-write to tell h-her about fun stuff I d-did that week, and sometimes I w-write just to t-tell her I love her. Writing these letters always makes me feel happy!
Halcyon: I’m sure your letters make your mommy really happy too!
Penelope: I s-sure hope so! I still d-don’t dare to go near humans yet, b-but I want to help them feel less h-homesick! Halcyon, c-could you help me ask the h-humans to try writing to t-their families too?
Halcyon: Okey dokey! Thanks for the sweet advice, Penelope!
Penelope: Hehe, no w-worries! Well, I b-best be heading off, it’s time for m-my nap. See y-you around, Halcyon!
Penelope bounces off Halcyon’s head and into the trees. With the sun hanging just off the sky’s center, Halcyon makes their way past the Elm College gates. Suddenly, a loud, almost screech-like sound echoes around the courtyard. Shocked, and somewhat puzzled, Halcyon turns towards the source of the noise to find a handsome-looking rooster standing proudly in the middle of the field.
Rooster: HELLO FELLOW BIRD.
Halcyon: Oh! Hi! Wow, you must have very powerful lungs!
Rooster: YES I DO. THE LADIES LOVE MY VOCALS.
Halcyon: What are you doing alone in the middle of the courtyard though?
Rooster: WAKING UP THE HUMANS. ROOSTERS CROW AT THE CRACK OF DAWN.
Halcyon: Um. Uh. But it’s 3 pm.
Rooster: OH. REALLY? OH WELL, AT LEAST THE HUMANS GET TO ENJOY MY AMAZING VOCALS.
Halcyon: Oh, uh, okay then! I’m Halcyon, by the way!
Rooster: PLEASED TO MEET YOU, HALCYON. I’M MR. JIMMY NUGGET.
Halcyon: Oh! Mr. Nugget! I just read about you in an article from The Octant! It’s so great to finally meet you!
Jimmy: I’M FLATTERED. THANK YOU.
Halcyon: I was just chatting with a squirrel who recently moved here to stay! Are you a new resident here too, Mr Nugget?
Jimmy: YES. I CONVINCED MY WIFE TO MOVE HERE WITH ME A FEW WEEKS AGO. I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO STAY IN THIS JUNGLE.
Halcyon: But… But Mr. Nugget, this is a college campus.
Jimmy: JUNGLES HAVE TREES. THERE ARE TREES ALL AROUND ME HERE. SO THIS IS A JUNGLE.
Halcyon: Um. Well, alright as long as you like the place!
Jimmy: INDEED I DO. MY NEW JOB HERE IS SO FULFILLING. I DIDN’T KNOW JUNGLES HAD SO MANY HUMANS, BUT ‘CUS OF THEM, I GET TO WORK AS AN ALARM CLOCK. IT’S GREAT.
Halcyon: That’s cool! When are your working hours?
Jimmy: IT’S A BUSY JOB. DAWN COMES EVERY HOUR, SO I CROW AROUND THE CLOCK.
Halcyon: Wait… Every hour?
Jimmy: YES. THE SUN COMES OUT OVER AND OVER EVERY HOUR. THERE WILL BE SUDDEN DIMNESS, THEN THE DIMNESS SLOWLY DRIFTS AWAY, AND THE SUN APPEARS IN THE SKY AGAIN. THEN I CROW TO WAKE THE HUMANS.
Halcyon: Um, Mr Nugget, that’s just when the clouds cover the su—
Jimmy: EVERY DAWN IS IMPORTANT TO ME. I AWAIT EACH HOUR’S NEW SUNRISE, BECAUSE THAT’S WHEN I HELP MY HUMAN NEIGHBORS GREET A NEW DAY. EACH TIME I CROW, I WANT THEM TO WAKE UP REFRESHED AND ENERGIZED, READY TO START THE DAY.
Halcyon: W-well… I’m sure everyone appreciates you caring for their wellbeing!
Jimmy: THAT WOULD MEAN A LOT TO ME. I TAKE MY JOB VERY SERIOUSLY.
A large patch of cloud begins drifting overhead, towards the glowing sun. Jimmy fluffs his feathers.
Jimmy: DAWN’S COMING SOON. I MUST GET READY TO WAKE THE HUMANS. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT. LET’S TALK AGAIN SOON, HALCYON.
Flapping their wing, Halcyon waves goodbye to Jimmy Nugget just as another glass-shattering screech fills the air.
It has been a long day of chats with the animals of Yale-NUS College. Halcyon heads back to their nest with warmth in their heart. They hope the tired humans of Yale-NUS will feel better knowing that the animals around them on campus do love, and care for, their human neighbors.