‘If you want to go home now, you should,’ the lady says to Sarah from behind.
Sarah doesn’t move, shocked first of all that the lady was home and second of all at what she had just said.
Doesn’t seem too welcoming of visitors, Sarah thinks to herself.
‘I don’t have time to wait around,’ she says. ‘Not everybody is ready to hear what I have to tell them.’
The door creaked again, this time, Sarah was sure, to a close.
No, no. Sarah began to panic. She couldn’t let the lady just leave her like this. She had come too far to go home empty-handed.
‘Um, no, I – I never thought of going home,’ Sarah replies.
’Then what are you doing standing there?’
She couldn’t tell the lady she had wimped out. That she had just lied and was about to lie again.
She cleared her throat.
‘I… left my wallet in my car,’ she tells her, motioning a finger toward her 5-year old Proton Saga, still having her back faced to the lady.
The lady huffs.
‘Then go get it. I’ll be waiting in the living room. Come in when you’re ready,’ the lady tells Sarah.
From a distance, Sarah could hear the lady walk back into her house, her footsteps at first faint, and then altogether inaudible as she progresses further into the house.
You always need a lie to cover up another lie, Sarah’s high school principal’s voice come into her head as if right on cue.
Sarah shuts her eyes hard.
But… the truth isn’t always convenient, she tells her principal. And sometimes, it betrays you.
She walks to her car, unlocks it, moves her hand around the driver’s seat before coming out, locking the car and walking toward the house again – all along knowing that her wallet had been in her handbag.
I’m a good person who sometimes lies, she tells herself. But that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. Lies protect people.
Ever since getting caught with a pack of cigarettes in secondary school, Sarah had gotten into the habit of justifying her actions. It allowed her to sleep better at night.
But more importantly, it made it easier later for her to convince other people it was the truth. If you believe your lie, it becomes the truth.
So she always had to believe it first.
As she approaches the front door of the house again, a wisp of deja vu sweeps across her mind. She was taking the same steps toward the fortune teller’s house again. But unlike the last time, she was no longer indecisive. The decision had been made.
As she goes closer, she notices something she had somehow missed earlier. Maybe I was too nervous to have noticed, she thought to herself.
But this time, she saw it clearly – a peculiar thing on the right hand side of the front door.
Hung above a wilting cactus plant was a small sign in Chinese. In white writing against a bright red background in what appeared to be aggressive calligraphy, it seemed more like a warning sign than anything else.
Sarah wasn’t Chinese-educated but she had attended enough Chinese lessons in her adult life to take a good guess what the sign meant.
She read it. And then re-read it again. She couldn’t believe what she was reading.
LEAVE YOUR DISBELIEFS HERE the sign seemed to read.
She rubbed her eyes and read again. There was no mistake.
Leave your disbeliefs here? What an unusual sign to put in front of a house, Sarah thought to herself.
She touched the door knob and turned it. Inside, there was yet another sign, this time bigger. Much, much bigger. The only thing that the second sign shared in common with the first was its aggressive calligraphy in red and white. Everything else was different.
I MEAN IT. LEAVE YOUR DISBELIEFS OUTSIDE OR DO NOT ENTER.
THOSE WITH DOUBTS DO NOT DESERVE THE TRUTH. the sign read.
Sarah’s heart jumped and a tingle of fear ran down her spine. Hairs stood on ends on her forearm.
Who was this lady and what had she just gotten herself into?