Feral Pigeon

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Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
Tiong Bahru, 6th October 2012

This carcass of a Feral Pigeon was seen by Jocelyn Yin.

I decided to feature this species as a commemoration of sorts: On 29th December, The Pigeonhole, one of my favourite cafes, closed due to rising rentals and funding issues. It’s a tragic loss, and it’s not only because I loved to hang out there with friends, or that I became friends with the owners, or that I loved the coffee and ciders.

For close to 2 years, The Pigeonhole wasn’t just a cafe to sit down with a cup of coffee and a book, it was a space for the arts and civil society, where small-scale events and exhibitions were held, where ideas were conceived and incubated.

The development of Monday Morgue itself beyond this blog has close connections with The Pigeonhole; it was during the Tanjong Pagar KTM and Green Corridor Open Mic session held there in June 2011 that I did a public talk about the importance of animal carcasses (with plenty of gruesome photos of animal carcasses I’d found along the railway tracks). The lively reception I received from the small audience helped me gain confidence in sharing about this rather niche (and very morbid) interest.

The Pigeonhole was also where I sat down one afternoon at the beginning of May to set up a Facebook page for Monday Morgue, a few weeks before I gave a talk at the Festival of Biodiversity. And I’ve lost track of all the times I wrote posts, or edited and processed photos, or uploaded old shots to Monday Morgue’s Instagram for #DailyDecay, while drinking toffee apple cider or brown latte there.

For now, The Pigeonhole continues to exist as an online entity, and hopefully, the owners will be able to find a new and affordable place to re-establish a physical space. Until then, this is my way of giving thanks for all the #pigeonholememories.

Find out how you can contribute to Monday Morgue too.

Festival of Biodiversity on Storify


(Photo by Fung Tze Kwan)

If you weren’t able to attend my talk on Sunday and want to find out more about the things I discussed, or simply want to relive your memories of looking at the many photos of dead animals I shared, here’s a Storify, which I compiled using tweets from my friends Chen Jiaxin (@fishyjelly) and Xu Weiting (@beastiet), who live-tweeted my talk:

Bodies of evidence: A morbid celebration of biodiversity
by Ivan Kwan

//storify.com/VaranusSalvator/bodies-of-evidence-a-morbid-celebration-of-biodive.js

[View the story “Bodies of evidence: A morbid celebration of biodiversity” on Storify]

Also, if you want to catch up on what happened before, during and after the entire Festival of Biodiversity, here’s a Storify curated by Gladys Chua (@cubismwonder) and myself. Jocelyne Sze also has a post with links to all the various blog posts and photo albums from the Festival.

Like I mentioned in a tweet yesterday, after the excitement and high from the weekend, I think I am now suffering from Festival of Biodiversity withdrawal.

Vote Monday Morgue!

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Me in my element: Guiding as a volunteer with the Raffles Museum Toddycats!.
(Photo by Boh Zuze)

It’s been such a fun and fulfilling weekend at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, sharing interesting stories about Singapore’s wildlife and wild places with members of the public. And I’m really pleased that my talk about the importance of documenting dead animals was very well-received. I’ll write about my weekend soon enough, but now that the fun and festivities from the Festival of Biodiversity are over, it’s time for Monday Morgue to focus on another significant event: the Singapore Blog Awards. If you recall, I’m currently a finalist in the Sold.sg Best What-the-Hell Blog category.

Voting opened last Monday, and everyone can cast one vote per category every day until 30th June. I hope that I’ll be able get more support, not just from friends who are familiar with this blog, but also with new readers. A big thanks to Crystal and Jerome, who are finalists in other categories, and who have shown their support for Monday Morgue!

In the meantime, while I prepare a nice blog post to show you all about what happened at the Festival of Biodiversity, here’s a short interview for the Singapore Blog Awards:

How do you feel about being one of Finalists in Singapore Blog Awards 2012?

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Orange-spotted Grouper @ Pulau Ubin

I’m really thrilled to be selected as a finalist! Mainly because I feel that there is a very strong nature blogging community in Singapore, but it has been overlooked by many in the local blogosphere; we all know about blogs written by people based in Singapore that focus on subjects such as politics, food, fashion, beauty, and gadgets, but Singapore’s nature blogs are sadly still quite relatively obscure, despite drawing impressive numbers of readers and attention from all around the world. Monday Morgue is quite a unique blog in terms of its focus, but through it, I hope that more Singaporeans will be able to discover the beauty of Singapore’s wildlife, and that there are things that we as ordinary citizens can do to reduce the threats to our often fragile habitats and ecosystems.

When did you start blogging and what drew you to it? Where do you get inspiration for your blog content?

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Changeable Lizard @ Bukit Panjang

I started blogging way back in mid-2003, with a personal blog that became a dumping ground for rants, a journal for my adventures, as well as random links and articles I discovered on the Internet. I stopped writing for some time, then resumed in 2008 with a blog entitled The Lazy Lizard’s Tales, focusing entirely on nurturing my passion for nature, wildlife and conservation. I realised that I am very enthusiastic where it comes to talking and sharing about wildlife and conservation topics, and have dedicated much of my time towards volunteering as a guide with local nature interest groups. Blogging serves as another platform to reach out to people and share the message that despite the massive loss of our original habitats over the last few centuries due to development, Singapore does still possess lots of fascinating biodiversity, but the future of its wildlife and wild places is not secure unless Singaporeans care enough to want to protect and learn how to balance development with an appreciation for nature and conservation.

Monday Morgue started out originally as a weekly series on The Lazy Lizard’s Tales; I love the outdoors, and explore and visit many nature areas in Singapore on a regular basis. On these trips, I frequently stumbled upon the carcasses of dead animals. Some had possibly died of natural causes, while others had clearly been killed as a result of human activities. I started developing a morbid fascination for taking photos of the carcasses or other remains of animals. Unlike many of my friends, I don’t have a DSLR camera with nice expensive gear such as telephoto or macro lens or tripods to take nice photos of birds or butterflies. What I like is that dead animals don’t run or swim away, don’t get stressed when you get too close, and better still, can be rearranged or repositioned if they are hidden and you can’t take decent photos.

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Spotted Green Puffer @ Changi
The photo that started it all: My very first Monday Morgue entry.

I eventually moved Monday Morgue to a dedicated site of its own in 2011, and this is the site that you see today.

What inspires me? It’s more than just a morbid interest in posting photos of dead animals and grossing people out, it’s also about showing clear examples of wildlife that can be found in Singapore. Many people don’t realise how much wildlife has managed to survive, and if we don’t know what natural treasures we possess, we won’t care enough to want to protect it in the long term. One thing in particular that drives me is the desire to tell stories about the many causes behind the deaths of wildlife in Singapore.

Some of the animals featured here probably died of natural causes, but others are very likely to have been killed because of human activities of some sort. Whether it’s snakes getting run over by cars, birds flying into buildings, a seashore wiped out by an oil spill, anglers leaving behind nets that entangle and kill marine life, or well-meaning people who believe that they are doing good deeds by releasing animals, but sometimes in the wrong environment, I do often try to show real-life examples of how human beings can end up killing animals, even if it’s not on purpose. It often saddens and even angers me when I come upon examples of how an animal was unnecessarily killed by human activities, such as accounts of birds being killed because they got entangled in fishing lines, or people thinking that they are acting for the good of their pets by releasing abandoning captive birds, turtles or fishes in the park or reservoir, when in fact they most probably condemned these animals to a slow, agonising death.

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Javan Myna @ Tampines

The animals featured here are all already dead, and although we can weep or rant all day long if we see a carcass of a rare and endangered species, nothing we do will ever revive them. What matters is that we can learn valuable lessons from the dead. Hopefully, the content in some of the posts on Monday Morgue can serve as catalysts for people to find out more about issues such as deforestation, the problems caused by urban development near forests and other nature areas, and the irresponsible behaviour of other people. By raising awareness of these threats, many of us in the nature blogging community in Singapore hope that this can then help people be better informed when we are discussing issues such as littering and clearing of land to make way for housing and other developments, and how wildlife can be negatively affected. Ultimately, our ability to understand these problems on a local, regional, and even global scale can help give conservation a much-needed boost and the attention it rightfully deserves, and lead to feedback that can help influence and shape public policy to build a Singapore that shows a widespread and genuine appreciation for our natural heritage. I may be an idealist at times, but there’s no harm in daring to dream big.

I’ve also recently started the trend of posting photos of dead animals sent in by others, and it turns out that many people do encounter very interesting examples of dead wildlife, often representing species that I have yet to see for myself. In this way, people all over Singapore can contribute to further knowledge of what animals can be found living in Singapore, a better understanding of how human behaviour and activities affect wildlife, and even alert us to rare specimens that can be retrieved for future research and education purposes.

How do you feel about the other Finalists in your category this year? How do you think you will fare compared to them?

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Horn-eyed Ghost Crab @ Sentosa

I’ve taken a brief glance at most of the other Finalists’ blogs, and while I can’t say that I am familiar with them, I have read some posts which I find amusing or interesting. On the other hand, I feel that Monday Morgue stands out because it has a singular focus. The only other Finalist in this category that has a particular theme and sticks to it is The Neo Tokyo Project, which is dedicated to cosplay. I’m not too humble to state that Monday Morgue does cover a rather… strange topic, even as far as nature bloggers are concerned; it is quite underground and unorthodox in terms of subject matter, and according to many of my friends, checking out the latest updates on Monday Morgue often makes them go, “What the Hell!” I’m not aggressively vying to win this category, especially since this is my first time as a Finalist, but it would be fun to find out how many more people end up reading Monday Morgue. And as long as more people become aware of Singapore’s biodiversity through visiting (and hopefully voting for) Monday Morgue and understand the need for conservation of our natural spaces, then it is a gain for the nature blogging community.

Here’s an example of one such photo that has drawn quite dramatic reactions. It’s the decomposing carcass of a domestic dog, which I found on the KTM railway tracks in Buona Vista last year, back when the trains still terminated at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Most probably a stray, the dog had clearly picked the wrong time to dash across the tracks.

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Domestic Dog @ Buona Vista

Give a reason why readers should visit your blog and vote for you?

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Rare-spined Murex @ Pasir Ris

Nature and conservation are topics that have been overlooked and underappreciated by many Singaporeans, even though we pride ourselves in being the Garden City, with numerous parks and green spaces scattered across the island. There are many other excellent local nature blogs, but as far as I know, mine is the only Singapore-based blog that looks exclusively at dead animals. How’s that for being unique? 😉

If you want something to liven up your dreary Monday mornings, or wake you up when you arrive at work still half-asleep, then I advise that you give the contents of Monday Morgue a try. At the same time, you can also learn some interesting information about Singapore’s wildlife, with links to more comprehensive resources on the Internet for you to discover more about the animals featured. It’s entertaining, builds up your resistance to gory and graphic images (excellent for maintaining that poker face while watching Saw or The Human Centipede), and best of all, it’s educational!

You can check out Monday Morgue’s Facebook page, follow me on Twitter via my profile @Varanussalvator, or the hashtags #MondayMorgue and #DailyDecay, or follow @MondayMorgue on Instagram.

Do vote for Monday Morgue!

(Cross-posted to The Lazy Lizard’s Tales)

It’s Showtime!

The Festival of Biodiversity begins tomorrow!

Many of us are busy making preparations for the weekend, with a wide range of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Besides doing booth duty as a volunteer guide with the Marine Exhibtion and the Raffles Museum Toddycats!, I also plan to participate in some of the film screenings, symposiums, and of course, not to forget my talk on Sunday.

I was quite surprised and pleased to see that my talk was mentioned in The Straits Times, as one of the many activities and events taking place at the Festival.

BODIES OF EVIDENCE: A MORBID CELEBRATION OF BIODIVERSITY

What: Learn what dead animals can tell us about wildlife and the impact of human activities on the natural environment in urban Singapore. Presented by nature blogger Ivan Kwan.

When: Sunday, 2 to 2.45pm
Where: Function Room

The press selected my photo of the skull of a wild boar (Sus scrofa vittatus), which I saw at Chek Jawa on 30th May 2009, to go with the article.

I’ve been quite busy over the last couple of weeks, getting my presentation slides done up, trying to create some coherence out of the whole jumble of photos of dead animals. Not to mention all the people I’ve been contacting for permission to use their own photos in my talk. A big thank you to all of those who have so graciously and generously granted my humble requests.

Here’s a sneak peek at the slides I’ve prepared.

It’s already more or less complete, and I hope that I still manage to keep to the 45-minute time limit. I’ll be spending tonight and tomorrow night practising and rehearsing, and hopefully, I won’t need to cull too much content.

Credit goes to all the people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes, including the folks at NParks, as well as volunteers and staff from all the various organisations. Do check the official blog for the Festival of Biodiversity (maintained by Jocelyne) for more updates!

I promise that I’ll blog more about the Singapore Blog Awards after Sunday (Vote for me). See you at the Festival!

(Cross-posted to The Lazy Lizard’s Tales)

Shameless Self-promotion

If you’re free this coming weekend, do take part in the Festival of Biodiversity, happening at the Botany Centre in the Singapore Botanic Gardens!

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From the NParks website:

Do you know that Singapore is home to more than 400 species of marine fishes? Do you know that Singapore is also home to 250 species of hard corals, which is almost one third of the diversity found in the world? Do you know that species such as the horseshoe crab and the banded leaf monkey can be found in Singapore? Join us at the festival to explore and learn more about Singapore’s rich biodiversity!

Join us in the many exciting activities we have in store for you at the festival, and find out how you can play a part in conserving our biodiversity. By participating in the festival, you can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Singapore’s rich biodiversity, its benefits, and relevance to us in Singapore.

Regardless of your age group, there is definitely something for you at the festival. Pen down these dates in your calendar and join us on 26 or 27 May!

There’s a wide variety of activities, including exhibitions, film screenings, art and craft and storytelling sessions, guided tours, and talks. Here’s a teaser from Ria, who created a bunch of cute mascots to be worn by the volunteers guiding at the Singapore Marine Biodiversity exhibition!

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Such an event presents an excellent opportunity for my very first talk about the importance of documenting animal carcasses. My talk will be on Sunday 2 pm, at the Function Room.

Bodies of evidence: A morbid celebration of biodiversity
2 pm @ Function Room, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Death is an inevitable part of life. Stumbling upon dead animals can be an unpleasant, smelly affair, but we have much to learn from carcasses. In this talk, you will learn how dead animals can tell us a lot about the presence of wildlife in urban Singapore, as well as the impact of human activities on the natural environment.

I’m still in the midst of preparing the slides for my talk, but I can guarantee that it’s definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach!

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Do follow the Festival of Biodiversity blog for further updates in the days leading up to the festival. Hope to see you there!

(Cross-posted to The Lazy Lizard’s Tales)

The growth of Monday Morgue


Wild Boar (Sus scrofa vittatus)
Pulau Ubin, 31st May 2009

Monday Morgue had a humble start. It began as a weekly feature on my main blog, The Lazy Lizard’s Tales, a way to provide filler material when I didn’t have the time or energy to write proper blog posts, while giving me the chance to share random photos I’d taken of dead animals I encountered while outdoors.

Last year, I decided to split it off and have Monday Morgue hosted on its own dedicated site. At first, I toyed with Tumblr, but eventually settled on Posterous. EDIT May 2013: And because Posterous has been shut down, I’m back here on Tumblr.

For some reason, Monday Morgue seems to have become quite a hit with many people.


Monitor Lizard (Varanus sp.)
Bukit Timah, 23rd April 2011

Perhaps it’s the interest generated by this combination of the morbid and the exotic; we are drawn to images that depict blood, gore, or violence, while at the same time, many of the animals featured on Monday Morgue are species unfamiliar to the average Singaporean.

Or it could be the strange hybrid of still life and portrait that attracts people; some of the animals most probably died very recently before they were photographed, and some might mistakenly believe that the animal is just resting. But these bodies are as animated as a bowl of fruit.


Stone Crab (Myomenippe hardwickii)
Changi, 14th November 2008

Maybe people are somehow able to see something horrendous yet beautiful in these images, whether it’s in the splatter of internal organs of a frog that was run over by a car, or the way sunlight and shadows interact on the skull of a domestic dog. Perhaps people like these images because they are a haunting reminder that we are all mortal, that we are all made out of meat, and that this is our eventual fate: to live is to die someday. Every individual organism is a character in the epic drama that is life, and even as each member of the cast arrives, only to eventually leave the stage, the show must go on.


Glittering Cuttlefish (F. Sepiidae)
Changi, 21st February 2010

Of course, I can’t possibly document every dead animal out there. I’ve been open to guest submissions since last year, and recently started posting some photos that various friends have shared with me. The result is that I now have a growing number of photos of carcasses encountered by friends or friends of friends, and some of them feature species that I’ve yet to encounter, whether dead or alive. These include the blue-eared kingfisher seen by Ho Yong Sheng and Gabriel Zhou, and the Oriental dwarf kingfisher seen by Tan Zhen He, which Amanda Tan subsequently shared with me.

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Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting)
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) campus, 8th March 2012;

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Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca)
Tanjong Pagar, 27th March 2012

Some contributions are of animals that I’ve seen while they were still alive, such as the Asiatic lesser yellow bat that Lynn Chan found, or the black-naped oriole submitted by Lin Juanhui, so these photos are valuable additions to the ever-growing list of species on Monday Morgue.

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Asiatic Lesser Yellow Bat (Scotophilus kuhlii)
Toa Payoh, 19th January 2012

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Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)
Yio Chu Kang, 11th January 2012

Other species have previously appeared on Monday Morgue, but the photos depict remains that are much fresher, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Such examples include the wild piglet that Low Youjin encountered and tweeted about, and the Sunda pangolin that Simon Tay stumbled upon; You can view the ones that I’ve uploaded so far by following the Guest Submission tag, and credit goes out to all the people who have willingly shared these photos with me.

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Wild Boar (Sus scrofa vittatus)
Lower Peirce Reservoir, 23rd March 2012

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Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica)
Bukit Batok, 9th April 2012

Monday Morgue… on Instagram!

I rely very heavily on Twitter as a resource to find interesting things to read, as well as an avenue to communicate with people, regardless of whether it’s intellectual discussion or just mindless (albeit entertaining) chatter. I’ve recently developed a habit of tweeting about my latest Monday Morgue uploads, using the hashtag #MondayMorgue.

A lot of my friends also use Instagram, an app which allows users to edit photos, apply filters, and upload their works online. If you’ve followed the news, Facebook recently purchased Instagram for the whopping sum of US$1 billion. For a long time, I’d been resisting the urge to hop on the bandwagon, but eventually succumbed sometime at the beginning of the year. The main thing that you could say sets my Instagram profile apart is that my account is entirely dedicated to Monday Morgue, sharing the very same images as the ones that I’ve uploaded here on the Monday Morgue site. People might not necessarily click through to the posts here on Tumblr, but they can still view the photos on Instagram, express their pleasure (or displeasure), and leave comments.


Instagram is still very much designed to be used on a mobile phone, and it is available on both the iOS and Android platforms, although there are external apps that enable you to view photos and change settings through your web browser: I use Webstagram.

A couple of weeks back, I realised that there were many photos from the archives that I wanted to share on Instagram. As a result, I began a new series: besides the usual updates every Monday, I have also started uploading photos from my older posts on a daily basis. I have to credit Elaine Chiam for suggesting that I adopt the name Daily Decay for this series.

If you are on Instagram, follow me at @mondaymorgue. Or you can track my uploads with the hashtags #MondayMorgue and #DailyDecay.

Monday Morgue… on Facebook!

I’ve also just set up a Facebook page for Monday Morgue. Even though it was officially launched just 5 hours ago, the page already has 22 Likes, and I’m sure this figure will grow. It’s not just another platform to publicise my photos of dead animals; people who are not so familiar with Twitter or Instagram can also share their own images, and I can add them to my list of guest submissions.

Monday Morgue… at the Festival of Biodiversity!

The main purpose for raising the profile of Monday Morgue is due to my involvement in the upcoming Festival of Biodiversity, which will be held on 26th and 27th May at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Inspired by the efforts of other active individuals like Ria Tan and N. Sivasothi in sharing about our biodiversity and what we can do as ordinary citizens, I’ve decided to give a 45-minute talk on why it is important to pay attention to animal carcasses. It also helps that when I gave a short presentation last June at the Tanjong Pagar KTM & Green Corridor Open Mic, where I shared photos of many of the animal carcasses I had found along the railway tracks, the audience responded in a very lively and positive manner. I’m currently scheduled to talk from 2 pm to 2.45 pm on Sunday, 27th May.

One of the main objectives of my talk is to get more guest contributions. It’s not exactly a citizen science effort, but I’m sure that somewhere in Singapore, somebody will stumble upon a carcass with a very interesting story to tell. For instance, the dead animal might show that a particular species still survives in Singapore, or at least represents a recent record that shows the occurrence of this species in a particular area. Or the carcass might show obvious signs that pinpoint human activities as ultimately contributing to the animal’s death. In such a case, Monday Morgue can serve as a platform to publicise such finds to the larger nature conservation and scientific community.

Another objective is to help raise awareness of the fact that should one find the carcass of a wild animal, one should contact the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, as the carcass can be retrieved and added to the museum’s vast catalogue of specimens. These specimens can subsequently be used for various purposes, whether as exhibits or in further scientific research.

Of course, besides my talk, there are plenty of other activities and exhibitions going on at the Festival of Biodiversity, but it would be great if some of my friends and other readers could attend my talk as well.

It’s certainly very interesting to see how a little side project documenting dead animals could have received such a positive response from many people, friends and strangers alike.

[Cross-posted to The Lazy Lizard’s Tales]

Monday Morgue on Project 79

Monday Morgue is mentioned as an entry on Project 79!

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Project 79 is a student initiated project by Chua Shi Min, Ye Xiao Xia and Zhuo Dandan, students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, School of Humanities, Chinese Media and Communication. Their project aims to collect stories relating to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the KTM railway lines in general. Out of all the materials collected, 79 top stories will be published on a website as an e-book for free viewing. Also, the figure “79” represents the 79 years of services provided by the station.

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I got to know the 3 girls behind this project at the Tanjong Pagar KTM & GreenCorridor Open Mic @ The Pigeonhole on 24th June, where they had a short presentation about Project 79, and approached several of the other speakers to share their stories. Apparently, my little piece on the dead animals I’d found along the tracks had made a great impact on them, and so I was asked to contribute as well.

The entire site is written in Chinese, and my entry itself is still incomplete, but you can read the introductory paragraph here. I’m the 75th story featured, and it is entitled The “Death” Railway.

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For the benefit of those not well-versed in Chinese, here’s a loose translation of what’s been written so far:

I think this is the most original story about the railway that I have ever seen.

Death makes people fearful and recoil in horror, but instead, he dares to get close and explore further. Even as the closure of the train station was imminent, we did not want to emphasise the idea of things stopping and coming to an end. However, Ivan’s relationship with the railway began with the concept of death itself…

(To be continued, stay tuned for the release of the complete edition)

I’m keen to wait and see what else the Project 79 team has to say about Monday Morgue, and in the meantime, am reading some of the other entries (while stretching my limited grasp of the Chinese language).

Do visit the Project 79 website to take a look at what people have to share about their connections and relationships with the railway and Green Corridor. You can also follow updates from the team by ‘Liking’ their Facebook page.