Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Secret

The grey-haired doctor shuffled through my chart, searching for words to explain his own uncertainties to a bewildered man in front of him. His pockmarked forehead was crinkled by lines of confusion as though asserting my suspicions that whatever was happening to me, it was definitely not one of a normal occurrence. While he puts on his thick glasses, he cleared his throat nervously and his eyes glide across the current sheet he was referring to before they rested intently on me. The air of the small white consultation room located at the end of the second floor of this recently privatised hospital was choking me along with his deep gaze.

“So, you have been experiencing this blood vomiting for almost a month?”
“Yes… Indeed. It has been exactly 29 days but no one can ever tell me what is wrong with me. I can handle anything so just tell me, doc”

He could sense my desperation for the truth through that quiver in my voice yet there was little he can say. He relayed an answer given by all the medical practitioners I have visited in the past month which is “We could not find anything wrong with you”. I got on my feet and turned my back on the doctor who was still perplexed with his own inability to determine my disease despite being highly recognised as the best in his field. Well, to me, he was only my 5th doctor who brought me nothing but further qualms of my condition. It seemed fruitless then to enquire further because I knew that I would only be further subjected to a series of inconclusive tests.

I dragged myself along with my thoughts back to my village. It was a silent journey of bus changes and taxi mounting before I had to take the humble roads that could only be traversed by feet. The moon was overtaking the sun as my torch and when I was at the edge of the village, my limp was slightly emphasised as I strolled hastily past Nek Bidah’s lavish abode that would be fitting for kings of yesteryears. Nevertheless, Nek Bidah would still know I am here. She always does, doesn’t she?

“Rosman, why are you walking so fast? Don’t you want to come to say hi to this old lady?” cried a coarse voice affected by many years of tobacco addiction.

I turned around to face the 107 year old woman who was flashing her perfect teeth to me in an evil grin. As soon as I saw her unbelievably smooth, olive skinned face, the urge to vomit overwhelmed me again as always when I pass by in front of this house. A light bulb was switched on in my head. Yes! It has always been right here, when I was going by in front of this house daily after work that I would throw up pools of blood. My head spun like a spinning top. My twenty-year-old frame could not take it anymore. Inadvertently, I had to stoop and give in to the offensive impulse yet another time.

I could feel her long nailed fingers rubbing my back, easing me during the process of discarding the unwanted off me. I could smell the fragrant jasmine that always adorns her hair without fail all these years as I grew up watching her. Nek Bidah is a cousin of my great grandmother but they have never been on the same page ever since Nek Bidah married a shaman who practiced black magic in my village. I also heard through the grapevines that Nek Bidah killed her own husband about 50 years ago as she developed the burning desire to become better than he was in sorcery. With that, she became one and she was rather famed across the country for her ability to dispel one from the surface of the Earth with a snap of her fingers. I suddenly got the chills when I realised those are the same fingers trying to relieve me from my misery.

I wanted to leap free from her but oddly, I felt relaxed and at ease with her. I turned to look at her and I almost fell out of horror. With bubbles frothing from her mouth, Nek Bidah was chanting what seemed like gibberish I could not comprehend with her blood shot eyes popping out from their socket. Realising my terror, she grabbed my right hand with her left hand firmly and held my neck with her other free one. Her vigor was so tremendous for a woman her age that I was lifted off the ground and was gasping for my breath. My hands were all over the place, reaching out for hope of being saved that seemed like a thing with feathers right now. I felt as if I would die in another few seconds so instinctively, I said a few prayers to God.

At the very instant, she let go of me and shrieked as if she was burning in flames. She rolled on my vomit that has become a puddle on the sandy ground and she was scratching her own face with her nails until it was bleeding. I was under a sense of shock and fled from the scene immediately. While running away, I glanced behind me to see Nek Bidah was writhing on the ground and shouting profanities. With my new found courage and strength, I darted off like a cheetah towards my own house at the other end of my ancient village. My heart was pounding with the intensity of my own speed and as I reached the veranda of my house, I fainted on the floor.

In the headlines the next day:

“A 107 year old woman was found dead in a horrifying state in Kampung Danau, Kuantan yesterday. The deceased was identified as Bidahtun Thajuddin who has been living alone for the past 50 years and is said to have no direct heir or next of kin to claim her body at the nearest hospital. Anyone who has any information about the death could notify the nearest police station as it is a suspected homicide”

Mother was dabbing some Axe brand oil on my forehead and lamenting on about how Nek Bidah was looking for someone to inherit her “saka” or guardian devil that has been taking care of her possessions all this while. The only reason why she has lived for more than a century was because she could not find a new master for the devil who lives on its master’s fresh blood. Mother recalled that the devil would have to devour the blood for 30 days and then, it will obey everything its new master says.

I was on a whirlwind of emotions. I just lost my voice and looked at my bruised hand, wondering what would have happened otherwise.