Ghost of Chinese Past

Writer’s note:

Fun fact- I can trace my lineage to Princess Ping Yang’s brother, which makes her my great grand aunt, thousand times removed.

And this is how I imagine her- witty and quoting Shakespeare.

I apologize for any feathers I may ruffle with this piece, though indeed that is my intention, but not offensively. Although elements of this writing are (obviously) not 100% historically accurate, the keynotes persist.

I must emphasise that I do, and always have admire China as a nation. So rich in history and talent- fascinating to say the least. 

Yet, as I examine the social mechanics that surround me, I must return, to my roots, where it all begin.

P.S.: This is a work of fiction… or is it?


Photo credit: www.genstockphoto.com

BHAM!!

I slam a shot glass on the table; the force sends shock waves up my right arm.

My armpit fats are flapping violently.

I throw my head back, disheveled black curls bouncing. The tequila shoots right through my nasal canal and explodes in my brain like Merdeka fireworks.

“Oooohh, babeh!” I shriek, not unlike a hyena, simultaneously releasing what I hope is a silent burp. A burping hyena.

A few empty shot glasses sit before me in single file.

The bar counter where I’m perched is nearly empty, because what idiot waste away at the bar on a Wednesday night. The bartender looks amused as he places a new batch of shots before me.

“Your shots, ma’am.” He says with an air of professionalism. “That will be RM109.90.”

I fix him with a pointed look. “You!” I wave a finger at his distinctively oriental features. My wedding band is gleaming under the yellow fluorescent light. “Walking embodiment of Chinese male privilege.”

I pause, finger mid-jab…

Then everything went black.


Photo credit: www.alamy.com

“Babe, wake up. Babe!” Somebody is shaking my shoulders like an Osim massage chair.

I grunt.

The voice’s owner circles around and plops unto the stool next to me.

“Rough day?” she asked. I note her attire of black spaghetti straps and denim shorts.

My head feels heavy. I prop off the bar top with a mighty splurge of strength, not unlike a constipated dump.

I gather enough consciousness to study my new friend. There’s a scar on her left cheek, but not enough to taint her sublime Chinese beauty. Her long black hair flows all the way down her rich blossoms; her voice lined with sweet authority.

“Meiii aii elp youu?” I manage.

She helps herself to my shots. “Ooooff..” She blinks twice, then swirls her head around to face me. I notice a dark penis-looking tattoo on her left wrist.

She follows my stare. “Like it?” she says. “I got it last week. Reminds me of good times.”

“So, pray tell, of the affair that thrust you into this alcoholic rove.” She continues with a powerful gaze. Enchanting, even.

“I fought with my husband.” I say simply.

“Ahh… the opening to every good story ever.” She downs another shot. “How did he screw up? Obviously, it’s his fault.”

I relax a little. All hail the sisterhood. “Our first Chinese new year as a married couple is looming. And we can’t agree on where to spend new years’ eve reunion dinner.”

My fingers grip another shot glass, transferring its contents into my system. “Chinese tradition dictates we grace the male’s home. Obviously. Penis-ownership and all.” I don’t miss a beat. “As we know, the Chinese culture is one big tribute to the patriarchy.”

“He’s like, ‘why can’t we stick to the status quo?’ and all. And I’m, like, ‘I couldn’t care less where we eat. It’s the principle behind the gesture. We can’t allow another generation of gender-dictated policies’.”

I’m hyperventilating. And burping again- not so silently this time. But I don’t care. Rage is bubbling in my stomach, or maybe it’s the gas. It’s all pouring back to me. My friend who cares for her elderly father doesn’t get a cent of inheritance, while her useless brother gets all the land, on pure virtue of cock-entitlement. The other friend who slaves like Cinderella so her brothers can laze around like the douchebags they are, except Cinderella is a brainless masochist, while my friend has the misfortune of a vagina.

I’m seething with fury.

A balding uncle is eyeing me curiously. He’s either illiterate or a blatant jerk, judging by the cigarette in his mouth despite the striking “no smoking” sign.

My verbal diarrhea does not halt. “New years’ eve dinner seems minute, pick your battles and all. But these are the foundation to more palpable sexism. Rid the base, rid the peak, and rid the patriarchy.” I spit with fervor.

My new friend widens her eyes at me, a smile plastered on her lips.

She raises a shot glass. “Cheers babe. Death to misogynist.”

“Cheers.” I shadow her actions, chugging the glass down my throat.

A shot of adrenaline rockets through my body… and all went pitch black again.


Photo credit: www.youtube.com

I open my eyes, and then close them quickly again. Sun is beating down, right through my eyelids and cornea.

“Arghh… my pancreas.” I moan, still lying flat on what appears to be grass, flapping my arms like some pathetic grass angel.

I hear a snort to my right. “Babe, sit up. Check this out.” It’s spaghetti-straps-with-scar girl. She’s sitting with her knees to her chest.

“Where are we? What…” I begin.

“Sshhh…” she interrupts. “Look!”

I drag myself up and discover we are perched on… a hill? Below us sits a city, a prominent pagoda in sight. China? Despite our beaming sun, the city is covered in darkness.

I’m about to crack some Kungfu Panda related joke when a girl sprints out through the huge city gates. She’s clad in a ruqun and white shawl, running like her life depends on it. In fact, she looks like Mulan at the 100m event of the Olympics, with the skirt pulled right up to her boobs.

Ancient China?

Her hair flowing behind her, she’s running and running. She’s a good 3km or so out of the city before she slows into a brisk walk.

“She’s fleeing from Imperial assassins,” scarred-face chick commentates. “Her father and husband are heading a rebellion to overthrow the emperor. The emperor is a dick head and medical wonder- born without a brain. He poisoned his dad for the throne, then aspired genocide through attempts to expand the great wall and great canal. And you’ll think a nincompoop of that magnitude would lose interest and switch goals, but no, he gathers an army to invade Korea and Vietnam, and we all know how that went. ”

She continues. “Along comes her dad, who rose through ranks from peasant to general, pretty kickass story. Emperor Moron sends him on a series of dimwit missions, and he doesn’t even complain. In fact, he’s so freaking legit that the enemies submit to a peace treaty with him- they won’t attack Chinese land as long as her dad is in charge. Problem is, Emperor gong-gong decides its…” she rolls her eyes and raises her fingers in air quotes, “a threat to national security or some crap along those lines, and orders his execution. Hence, rebellion.”

“Wow…” I manage. Our hill has mysteriously trailed the general’s daughter.

“A few days later, she arrives at her home province.” The landscape before us fades, only to be replaced by a village, acres of sweet land and yummy topless men.

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

“The saga unfolds.” My raconteur gaze into the distance. “Our heroine sells her  family home and land for monies, which she uses to purchase weapons, equipment and tonnes of other badass shit.I watch as Mulan in the white shawl makes numerous exchanges. House. Land. Money. Bazooka. AK-47.

Next, she gathers every Tom, Dick and Harry Lee, Wong and Tan to aid her strive.

“Babe, keep in mind that this is the year 617, when men wore their egos like hair gel. The patriarchy then make 2017’s look like kindergarten play.”

The general’s daughter chick is so hardcore, she shaves her head and whips her homie peasants into shape, then proceeds to offer the surrounding warlord tribes 3 options: (1) bandit leader gets officer commission in her army, (2) gets bribed with food or money, or (3) get a serious ass-whooping in battle.

Photo credit: www.badassoftheweek.com

They usually say yes to army-membership. Soon, the army grows to an impressive 70,000.

I’m engrossed.

My companion’s face grows serious. She stretches her feet and arms out in front of her. We’re still sitting on the grassy hill as battle after battle, negotiation after negotiation flash before us.

“Not long after, she joins forces with her dad. Together, they beat the macam-yes Sui army into sorry, rotting pulps. Papa claims the throne, declaring himself Emperor Gaozu, first emperor of the Tang Dynasty.”

I pause, and my gaze falls on her penis-tattoo, then the bald newly-crowned princess at the foot of our enchanted hill. A wave of revelation traverse through me.

“You are her, with hair. You are Princess Ping Yang, daughter of General Li Yuan, aka Emperor Gaozu.” I point at her tattoo. “That’s the Tang Dynasty, which you helped forge, because only a badass feminist like you can form an empire shaped like a giant penis.”

Picture caption: www.badassoftheweek.com

She smiles good-naturedly and folds her legs. “The tale progress,” she says slowly. “As you know, I died 2 years later at 23 years old.”

The scene before us transforms into a throne/ administration room. Emperor Gaozu is sitting on his throne with a determined look etched on his face.

“… But she’s a girl. With a V-jay-jay. How can we allow this??” Says the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen.

“… Does she have Y- chromosomes? Huh? Huh?” I take it back, this one’s uglier.

Wú huáng, wàn suì, wàn suì, wàn wàn suì! Your majesty, we simply CANNOT allow this! Our customs and traditions simply disallows martial music at a woman’s funeral! ” This one looks like the offspring of an Orang Utan and Frankenstein’s monster, except deformed.

I’m watching with dropped jaw. “What’s their problem? You rallied the rebellion troops and helped form the empire! What’s their contribution? Other than comical relief with their faces?”

She sniggers. “The lizard-looking one had the audacity to harass my handmaiden? Pinched her ass. Male chauvinist pig.”

“Jerk,” I agree, leaning over our magic hill for a closer look.

“We value her contributions, and are eternally grateful. However, we cannot discount the fact that she’s a woman!” Lizard man is still talking.

I’m about to launch a chain of choice words when the emperor raises his hand. Silence follows.

“The princess personally beat the battle drums and aided my ascend to power. There WILL be martial music.” He relays with authority.

There may be hope yet.


Photo credit: www.timeout.com

I blinked, and the bar shimmers into sight. Princess Ping Yang is still perched on the bar stool next to me.

She has a shot glass in her clasp. “Cheers, babe,” she says, a twinkle in her eye.

I mirror her move. “Cheers, princess.”

We down the shots simultaneously.

And the bar plunge into darkness, again.


Photo credit: www.gettyimages.com

I snap my eyes open. We are back on the sunny little hill.

I study the view before me. I know a modern Chinese village when I see one.

“It’s the year 2017. Look through that window.” Princess Ping Yang gestures.

I obediently trace her pointer. A family sits around a table for dinner… it IS a family?

“The man is entertaining guest, the elderly couple. Miss his wife?” Her focus shifts and I follow. “She’s in the kitchen. She doesn’t have the ‘right’ to dine with guest at the table.” I’m horrified.

The panorama changes. A similar scene unravels. “Same shit, different home.”

And another. And another. Gosh… another?

Suddenly, we arrive at an unexpected scene. The husband, wife, and three guests are seated at the dining table, chatting and being merry. I’m so surprised I gasp aloud.

“That’s Li Xiaomin. She’s an elementary school teacher. She is this village’s only married woman who eats at the table with guest.” Princess Ping Yang relates. “She also earns 1000 yuan in monthly wage, way higher than the village’s average of 170 yuan. In northern rural China, a woman’s status is directly proportionate to her earnings.”

“The sexism in this village might seem like the exception and not the rule, and while the law may dictate that each child share equal inheritance, misogynist dies hard.”

She tilts her head and gathers her hair behind each ear. “For exactly this reason, girls must be educated, to raise the female status, everywhere. On top of improved status, education brings forth urbanisation, which entails independence and equality.”

“Every revolution begins with a tiny change- our individual role to play.


We are at the bar again.

“So, I should NOT oblige social norms, shut up, and follow my husband to his parents’ home?” I asked confused.

“Not exactly, I suggest you give the situation serious thought, fully informed. There is no handbook for feminism. Instead, we strive for generations of thinking woman. Woman who understand the ultimate goal- female empowerment. We must right the system, but be cautious not to, in the process, lose our soul.

I rest my chin on my palm and pout.

She winks. “I’ll leave you with that for now,” and raises yet another shot glass. “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I say goodnight till it be morrow.”

I clank my glass against hers with a grin. “Goodnight! Goodnight!”

We down.

And darkness envelopes me. Again.


“Baby, you okay?” A deep voice meets my ear.

I wrestle my torso off the bar top. Where Princess Ping Yang was, now sits my husband.

“I’m fine.” My voice is coarse. I eye his expression- slightly concerned, yet brimming with purpose.

Photo credit: www.mnfaj.blogspot.my

He holds up a 50 cent coin, turns it so I glimpse the Bunga Raya and Wau at alternate intervals. “I have a solution. I’m going to flip this coin. Heads, we spend new year’s eve at your parents. Tails, mine.”

I grip his hand just as he’s about to toss the coin into the air. “And then next year, we alternate.”

He shoots me that smile that turns my insides to agar-agar.

The coin leaps into the air, lands on the bar counter, and spins for a few seconds.

Then it settles- flat and stationary.

We bend over to determine the verdict.

Slowly, our gaze raise and meets. Smiles escape the corner of our lips.

“Amorous congress?” He asked.

“You bet.”

Then we beeline for the toilet.


P.S.: I am thankful that my parents raised my siblings and I strictly equal, regardless of gender. Some close to me will argue that I was raised as a boy, a claim with gravity given that (as far as I remember) the most feminine purchase my father has made for me are sanitary pads. However, many around me do not share that good fortune. I may not change the system, but I hope to do my part, because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record- every revolution begins with a tiny change.


References:

Princess Ping Yang

Rural North China

 

I m Pontianak: Part 2

If you have not already done so, please read Part 1 here!


Pontianak: Perempuan Mati Beranak
Malay folklore has it that a woman who dies during childbirth betides a vampiric form.
***
Sarah was an ordinary airline pilot, until parturition complications killed her baby. And her.
But grieve is over-hyped. Instead, she must survive.
For the native hunter is now the hunted. Therefore, she must harbour this secret, or risk demise.

I loved dogs- statement is grammatically accurate.

I still do, truly. My affection just isn’t reciprocated, those tattle tale little rascals.

Fluffy compact Pontianak detectors, they are. Pretty things howl their tiny lungs out when I’m approaching, then whimper like a baby when I’m near.

Given that my rice bowl is situated in an airport where men’s-best-friends roam like tai-tais in a morning market, this is unfortunately inconvenient.

The first time those traitors snitched on me, the airport police gave me a full pat down, armpit hair and all. Second time, they snooped through my nav bag and confiscated my entire Choki-Choki stash.

Catch me twice, shame on you; nail me thrice, shame on me.

I focus on my mojo and channel an intense draft through the open doors of the arrival hall where a uniformed man stand guard with his watchdog. The sudden gust flings a sitting pile of newspaper into the air and one sheet smacks doggie right in the flews.

He whines intently as I power walk past at lightning speed. The dog handler bends over to handle the mess, clueless to the twofold pretext behind doggy’s desperate pleas.

I love you, woof woof! Sincerely.

Today’s problems: one down, two to go.


The dreaded moment of truth has finally arrived.

Since my unique situation came into light, I’ve been acutely aware of the possible difficulties today might present: the annual pilot medical.

I am, essentially, dead. To be technically accurate, I am a frozen carcass with a soul. Without frequent human blood intake, I will become an actual corpse: rotting flesh, worms in the socket, the whole works. At least, that’s what I gather from my extensive Internet research, marvel of the modern world.

Thanks to Dee Dee’s mid-autumn festival “present” with her soaking pad, I missed the boat with that one.

During a pilot medical, one is required to surrender blood and undergo a series of physical tests. My heightened senses are no problem-o, human-blood-diet and all.

For a piece of mind, I slapped on a wig and aviators, marched into a private lab in downtown KL, and delivered a nice blood sample under an alias, Nicolle Davis (twin sister of squash queen). The results showed no peculiarities, so I decided that area was a go.

Which narrows my predicament to… the physical check. As a Pontianak, my heart beats at approximately 20 bpm with a blood pressure of a paralyzed snail.

No sane doctor with that knowledge with nod his head and stamp “fit to fly”.

But, I have a plan.


The aviation doctor’s clinic hasn’t change in 6 years. Same light blue walls, identical stain on the 2nd chair in row 4.

“Fill up form. Hand over license.” The nurse actually has the nerve to look bored.

How dare you. Pontianak shitting her pants here.

I comply and run through the motion like clockwork. The eye chart… weighing scale…

I watch a syringe penetrate my pale skin to draw blood. The scarlet goo is transferred into a waiting vile, and placed among other occupied vials.

Typically, the sight to me is like a blood buffet that will teases my taste buds and water my mouth. But today, my appetite is limited. Mostly because I’m distracted, as it’s face time with Doctor Razman Bin Baharuddin, MBBS, Dip Av Med.

“I just need to pee first,” I tell the nurse. Her boredom morphs into annoyance.

But I don’t care.

I speed away to the empty space in front of the vacant toilets and check the area for human life. Once satisfied that nobody is within range, I drop down into a burpee.

One, two, three… ten, eleven… fifty, fifty-one…

Yes, my ingenious plan involves good old fashion exercise to elevate my heart rate.

One, two, three… I’ve varied my workout into star jumps. A nervous energy is stirring in stomach.

My heartbeat picks up. This is working! This is working! 

The energy in my gut is bursting. I pick up my intensity.

I throw my arms wide in one violent thrust on “thirty”…

… And release the loudest fart mankind has ever known.

I think, well, that should fire up my heartbeat, when…

… The sound of a manly cough catches my attention.

I freeze mid-jump, quadriceps poised for my final leap.

I’ve got an audience.

Color rush to my cheeks, and I slowly turn to face my adoring fan.

Before me, stood an Asian Channing Tatum with shoulders the width of the entire Peninsular Malaysia.

Six packs are glaringly visible under a white Darth Vader t-shirt, begging to be licked. I mean, existing very prominently.

“Will you marry me?” I nearly spit.

“Nice form,” he says, not unkindly.

“Just, erm, exercise is exigent to the sustainability of one’s well being.” I squawk instead.

I raced away like a Pontianak Usain Bolt, the heavy stomping of my platform sandals attracting more attention than my cardio drill. “Wear the platforms,” said Dee Dee. “It’s a confidence booster,” she added. Gee, thanks Dees. 

But the open door of the doctor’s office is my saving grace. I dash in and shut the door firmly behind me. My heart thumps violently against my chest. Who knew looking like a royal fool in front of a broad shouldered hot guy did the trick.

“Hi Sarah,” doctor’s concern eyes search me. He knows about my dead baby. The aviation industry is shockingly small. News about my deceased offspring spread like wildfire. As a result, most people attribute my sudden anti-social demeanor to grieve.

And the lost still stings. Some nights, I lay awake mourning my departed child. However, most days, I’m distracted.

I mean; being a Pontianak is kind of a major life alteration.

“I’m fine, doctor.” Considering I’m a current member of the living-dead and there MIGHT be a Pontianak killer on the loose… yeah… pretty good.

He glances at a piece of paper before him. “Your blood test results look normal.”

“How are you feeling?” The worried look returns. Despite the death of my newborn baby, followed by the tragic transformation into a character from Malaysian folklore, I am perfectly fit to fly.

“Great, doctor.” Now just check my cardiac rhythm already before it resumes the default undead nature.

Finally, doctor pulls out his blood pressure meter and wraps the band around my arm. He squeezes the hand pump and I feel the fabric tighten around my upper limb.

His eyes sweep the gauge.

Immediately, his pupils are alert. His attention is focus on the reading.

He looks hard. And keep looking.

He squints and tilts his head to the left.

And pause.

Then purses his lips.

And squints some more.

I will my heart to race, not that its’ not already in a full-fledged sprint.

“How did an ant squeeze into the wedge of my meter?” He says, puzzled.

My heart is caught in my throat.

“Oh, and your blood pressure is normal,” he adds simply, releasing the tension around my biceps.

I weep with relief.


“Attempt to look alive. You conned a medical professional, now try to fool me.” Dee Dee gives me a sharp kick under the table of our local BurgerLab.

“Ouch! Must I be here? And I look ridiculous in this dress.” I tug at the mini dress Dee Dee practically forced on me.

“Yes, and stop sulking. You’re ruining your lipstick.” She inspects her my makeup, her handiwork.

I’ve lost count of the number of blind double dates Dee Dee has dragged me on. To be fair, it’s fun. We like to play a game called shackle, shag, or slag. The rules are simple: the timer starts when pleasantries begin. Fifteen minutes into the date, we stealthily whatsapp our decree- is our respective date: boyfriend material? (Shackle) Is he merely a yummy one-time-only meal? (Shag) Or, no-way-ever? (Slag)

If either of us decides “slag”, we abandon mission, make some lame excuse, and bolt out. There’s a catch though. One can overrule a “slag”, but only twice every year.

I’ve never overruled a slag. I’ve simply never met a guy I like enough. Dee Dee, on the other hand, repeals my “slug” twice annually. “He’s hot!” is her usual excuse.

I seldom “shag” a guy either. If he wants rite of passage into this secret garden, he’s going to earn it.

“No guy wants to be shackled to a Pontianak, Dees.” My words are overflowing with frustration.

“Then shag him.” Dee Dee says simply.

“We don’t know if that’s safe.” It’s true. With my supernatural strength and thirst, the poor guy might end up in the hospital.

But my whining is ignored, because in walks Jon, a.k.a. bulging biceps guy. Jon is a fellow pilot at our airline, so we’re not complete strangers. He strolls in with his hands in his jeans pockets, his slightly tan skin distinct against his white t-shirt. Jon’s mixed Malay-Chinese parentage does his features plenty of justice.

And you bet Dee Dee noticed. She flips her hair like I’ve seen a million times. That’s phase one of operation have-him-eat-out-of-her-palm. And it ALWAYS works.

As predicted, like a charm. Jon can’t take his eyes off her; except for the millisecond he turns to face me. “Hey, Sarah. My brother is parking the car. He’ll be right in.”

I nearly respond, “tell him don’t bother. I’m going to slag him.” But because Dee Dee will pull my blood-sucking tongue out, I just smile and nod.

“How’s your roster this month, Jon?” Dee Dee asked, twirling a strand of stray hair.

I can literally see his crotch rising. Geez, keep it in your pants, mister.

Jon moved his chair nearer to Dee Dee and swings his arm around her backrest. I roll my eyes.

My eyeballs are mid roll when Jon finally diverts his sight from Dee Dee. I hear footsteps approaching.

“Dan! Sarah, meet my brother, Dan.”

I slowly turn to face my blind date. From his dark blue canvas shoes, to the black 3-quarter shorts, up to his Darth Vader t-shirt that oh-so-perfectly hugs his crazy broad shoulders.

Before me, stood Asian Channing Tatum from Dr. Razman’s clinic.


“SLAG SLAG SLAG SLAG!!!!!!” I type furiously.

Dee Dee shoots me a don’t-be-a-drama-queen look over the table.

“OVERRULE” Came her reply.

What??!

“You can’t overrule me! He probably thinks I’m an idiot.” My fingers fly across my iPhone keyboard.

“Chill, babe.”

Which is how I scuffed down an entire nasi lemak burger in 3 flat minutes while Dee Dee and Jon flirt shamelessly. On the contrary, Dan and I exchange awkward glances while making awkward-er conversation.

At the end of the 55 minutes dinner (Chew faster! I type), the uncomfortable date comes to a fortunate end.

But then Dee Dee bats her fake eyelashes at Jon, and says, “Let me show you the thing I was talking about.”

“What thing, Dees?” I spit. “You’re my ride home.”

Dee Dee ignores the desperate plea in my voice and addresses Dan, “would you be a sweetheart and get my girl home safely.”

We need to reevaluate this friendship, my death stare screams.

My phone buzzes on my lap. “You like him. It’s obvious. You’re doing that twitchy nose thing.”

“What twitchy nose thing? May I remind you that (a) Pontianaks don’t date and (b) I farted mid-star jump? In. A. Clinic.”

But Dee Dee and Jon are already at the door.

“I parked three blocks away. I hope you don’t mind the walk.” Dan says.

Thunder roars and a bolt of lightning flashes in the evening sky.

“It’s drizzling. Why not you wait here while I get the car?” He continues.

“That’s okay. I don’t mind the rain.” I say quietly. I can easily rid of these rain clouds, but after the day I’ve had, I could use some refreshing.

We walk wordlessly past the first row of shop lots. The drizzle picks up, so we quicken our footsteps.

Without warning, the rain graduates into a heavy down pour. We break into a sprint, me the best I can in 4 inches of platforms. I’ll never take shoe advice from Dee Dee ever again.

We finally reach Dan’s beat up Proton Saga and slither through the doors, panting and soaking wet.

We sit quietly for a moment before a giggle escapes my lips. His face mirror my amusement and suddenly we are giggling hysterically.

“You really should have waited at the restaurant,” he remarks.

“Nah. I don’t need rescuing. Even in these shoes.”

He smiles good-naturedly then retrieves two Star Wars T-shirts from the backseat.

“Want to slip this on? You’re dripping like a sponge.” He holds my options up like a Pasar Malam monger. “I have Princess Leia and Chewbacca.”

“I’ll be the princess,” I reach for the oversized t-shirt.

He shrugs. “Cool, I’ll be Chewbacca. Btw, he’s a kickass pilot.”

I laugh.

Dan pulls his thoroughly soaked t-shirt over his head and I try not to stare. If his clothed body sent me into a seizure, his topless one is about to cause me a heart attack.

His lats are so well defined they look chiseled. Dee Dee thinks Jon’s biceps are impressive? Wait till she sees this baby right here. A few inches above his left elbow sits a tattoo. I study the marked ink.

“Nice tattoo,” I compliment. “Are those alphabets? Looks like an “I” and something…”

My heart involuntarily sinks when I ask, “girlfriend’s initials?”

He hurriedly pulls the dry shirt over his muscles and answer, “no. Just some random pattern I thought looks cool.” He offers me a shy grin.

My heart flutters. He’s single then? Well, he should be. He did agree to a double date.

We drive along in silence.

The car wiper goes swip-swap-swip-swap to combat the pouring rain.

“Today was fun,” he says suddenly.

He shoots me a reserved sideward glance. “Let’s do it again some time? Preferably without the best friend and brother?”

My heart skipped 10 beats.

The wiper now echoes yes-yes-yes-yes!

Maybe a Pontianak can date?


To be continued…

 

I m Pontianak: Part 1

 

Writer’s note: Dear all, please humour me and check out my brand new series- I m Pontianak. According to Malay lore, there are various versions of the fate that befalls a woman who passes in childbirth, or that of her stillborn baby. For Sarah, she just craves blood. And wine. Because, everybody needs wine.

Journey with Sarah, through life, death, then life-death as she struggles to survive. All while operating as a first officer of an Airbus 320.


Pontianak: Perempuan Mati Beranak
Malay folklore has it that a woman who dies during childbirth betides a vampiric form.

***

Sarah was an ordinary airline pilot, until parturition complications killed her baby. And her.
But grieve is over-hyped. Instead, she must survive.
For the native hunter is now the hunted. Therefore, she must harbour this secret, or risk demise.

Guess what? I miss my period.

I miss having period.

Every month, gallons of red juice gush out of my lady part like a freaking grade six water rapid.

The cramps were annoying, PMS a pain in the butt.

But it was a constant. Proof that my body function like God intends.

It was normal.

I was normal.

But normal is a luxury of yesterday.

Today, sanitary pads are still a huge part of my life. Popsicle-pads.

Confused? Let me back up a little.

My name is Sarah. 13 months ago, I fell in love with the man of my dreams, or so I thought. He gazed into my eyes, whispered sweet nothings, and gifted me a 65- inch plasma TV.

12 months ago, I peed on a stick and skipped a heartbeat when a second line edged its presence into the window of my pregnancy test. Verdict: pregnant.

I scrambled to tell the man responsible for the embryo in my womb. He went pale, planted an awkward kiss on my forehead and assured me everything was going to be okay.

Then within 24 hours of the aforementioned incident, he disappeared from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

I wept, threw tantrums, and smashed the 65- inch plasma TV with a frying pan. I binged watched the entire series of Gossip Girl and gave Baskin Robbins so much business I deserve a flavor named after me. Will abandoned-knocked-up-girl fit on a nameplate?

And then my inner feminist gears kicked into detent; screw you, male scum. I am an airline pilot. I am capable, financially stable, independent, and won’t take crap from an unappreciative, irresponsible jerk.

My parents were my pillars of strength. Not to mention my best friend Dee Dee, who sat through countless doctor appointments and prenatal classes. In fact, she folds a kick ass baby napkin. I suppose that’s the norm when you’re best friends with a cabin crew; “why fold it, if you won’t perfect it” she insist, ponytail bouncing.

3 months ago, the moment we’ve been prepping for finally arrived. When my water broke, dad raced me through the harrowing PJ traffic to the hospital, honking like there’s no tomorrow.

I huffed and puffed what felt like a 50kg watermelon out of my V-hole. Agony filled my body, every pain receptor begging for my attention. Muffled cries of “push! Push!” fills my ears, followed by “there’s too much blood!”

And then everything went pitch black.

When I regained consciousness, sad and concerned eyes blinked down at me. Dee Dee’s tear stained mascara lines a tell tale sign among my parents’ creased wrinkled ones.

Mum sighed with relief. “We thought we’ve lost you, honey.”

“Where’s my baby?” I spat eagerly.

My question is met with silence. Mum released a loud sob and dad puts his arm around her.

Dee Dee musters the courage, “babe, I’m so so sorry. Doctor did his best.”

What remaining color I had in my cheeks drained out.

“You were gone for a few minutes. The doctors resuscitated you,” she continues. “But the baby…”

Childbirth complication is a bitch. A bitch that killed my baby…

… And me.


I resumed flying duties a week later. It’s my one forte, even if everything else spirals around me.

And when I’m off duty, I avoid the living and pretend like the world doesn’t exist.

I did redecorate my condo though, with brand new Ikea furniture and banana leafs. Why banana leafs? Beats me. I just couldn’t get enough of those large leafy things.

Dee Dee bulldozed her way into my broody fort. When I insisted on staying home during the mid-autumn festival, she appeared on my doorstep with an overnight bag in hand.

“It’s a sleepover!” she declared. “Wine?” she asked, dangling a bottle in front of me.

We watched sappy chick flicks while snacking on meruku. “Easy there girl,” Dee Dee says mid-3rd bag, “Or we’ll run out of food soon”.

“I’m just so hungry!” I chomp my molars down. It’s true. I crave, well, anything. Yesterday, I was this close from ripping the Captain’s intestines out. Just kidding. Just kidding?

“Chill, babe. And you really should get some sun. Chop, I need to change my pad.” She runs to the bathroom.

But I wasn’t paying attention. A tinge of smell tickles my nose. Hhhmm… smells delicious. I trace the fragrance to the rubbish bin. Sitting in the basket amongst my leftover Nasi Lemak sat Dee Dee’s sanitary pad full to the brim with what was once her uterus lining.

On pure autopilot, I reached out and clutched the pad to my nose.

Joy burst into my lungs. Like a craving has just been identified.

I drink in the sweet aroma.

And. Then. I. Licked. It.

I licked my best friend’s sanitary pad.

I sucked it like an ice cream potong.

And then I paused, horrified. The huge grin on my lips replaced by a tangible frown.

I take a few steps backwards and threw my “meal” on the floor.

I sped back to the living room where my Mac Book sat idly on the coffee table.

Quickly, I pull up a search window and typed “eat blood. Hungry. Full moon.”

Words spill unto my screen. Perempuan mati beranak. Banana tree. Crave blood. Strong urges during full moon. White skin. Undead.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror. Bloodshot eyes glare back at me, my skin as white as a fluffy cumulus cloud. My brain race back to the few minutes before the doctor resuscitated me.

My heart stopped. Or was it ever beating?

I swallow the lingering trace of blood in my mouth.

I am a living (dead), breathing, pontianak.


Thanks to Google and my earth shattering revelation, I hereby self-diagnose myself as a living dead. Pro: money saved on sunscreen lotion. Con: an appetite for human blood and body organs.

I discovered my taste for blood peak during the full moon, but easily regulated with a large glass of Bloody Mary, with emphasis on the “blood”. And during these times, my strength and senses are heightened.

Thanks to my acute blood-detecting sense of smell, I locate every sanitary pad in my building’s rubbish dump.

And because lapping another girl’s hemoglobin is degrading on every level, I whip up a couple of grandma’s old recipes. My personal favorite- ayam masak merah just got a whole lot redder.

Alternatively, I fix myself a large glass of wine, extra flavor.

My pale skin is the least of my problems. Owing to Sephora’s wide selection of blusher shades, I now spot a less-dead-more-living look.  

Now, to behave less dead and more like a member of the living.

And nobody will ever know.


Once upon a time, caffeine was the drug that keeps me functional during morning flights. Those were pre-bloody-meal days.

Today, I stand with my back to the cabin, quietly chatting up Dee Dee at the forward cabin mid flight. Yesterday was a full moon, so I fix myself a full three- course meal, Pontianak version. My energy level is at a high, and I even managed to convince myself that Pontianak life is bearable.

“… And his biceps… to… die… for!” She bats her eyelashes like a lovesick puppy.

“Uhuh. And this, Jon… how old is he? ” Dee Dee is what you’ll call a total babe. Her Chindian blood gifted her long curly lashes with huge, mesmerising doll eyes, and a body that stars in every 14 year old boy’s wet dream. So, chances are, if she wants Jon’s bulging biceps, she’s getting his biceps.

And that’s when it happens.

A muscular arm wraps around my shoulders and pulls me towards him in one rough movement. I’m startled for a second before I notice a shiny reflective object eating into the side of my neck.

A knife.

My assailant spins me around to face the passengers in the cabin.

Somewhere, a woman screams. And a child releases an involuntary wail.

“This is a hijack!” yells Mr. Hijacker, his breath heavy with nicotine and body odor apparent all the way to Row 13. “You will do as I say, or I’ll f***ing slit her f***ing throat!”

From the corner of my eye, Dee Dee’s shock is quickly replaced by her training.

“Sir,” she begins, her expression a picture of calm.

“Shut up, bitch!” he yells, spraying his saliva all over the galley and my left ear lobe. Gee, need a mint and deodorant?

The audacity.

I’m annoyed.

I close my eyes. My arteries are charged with adrenaline. I direct my inner mojo. Mr-never-seen-a-bar-soap-ever is screaming demands and obscenities at Dee Dee.

But I don’t care. Instead, I drown his voice behind a stratum of cold hard resolve and channel a sudden bout of clear air turbulence.

Oh did I mention my other Pontianak peculiarity? I can bend the wind to submission. Kind of like Storm from X-men, except just the wind part, and with darker hair.

Mostly, it’s “get lost cumulus nimbus from my flight path”, or “hello extra gush of tail wind for shorter flight time”. Once, this giant thunderstorm sat right overhead our landing runway. It was either divert the flight or wait out the course of weather.

So I gave our friend a little nudge, just a couple miles downwind.

I stumbled upon this skill by complete accident. So here I am, minding my own business, sitting on the tarmac, when a sudden burst of rain starts pouring down like cats and dogs. I sighed and probe, rain clouds, go away, come again another day. I then playfully will a gust of wind to escort the monstrous chunks away.

And the rain thins. Peter-pater-peter-pater… AND STOPS. I look up in surprise. A clear blue sky beams down at me. Instead, the rain clouds blare angrily to the right of the airfield.

This abilities is subjected to my human blood consumption, of course.

So now I summon a gust of moderate turbulence, which throws Mr-I-eat-ciggies-for-breakfast momentarily off balance.

In his moment of disorientation, I yank his arm with my right hand, and throw him over my shoulder. Look, mum, one hand! I humor under my breath.

He lands on the galley floor with a thundering crash, his foot narrowly missing the door handle.

I stomp my leather boot onto his forehead, and the force instantly knocks him cold.

Despite that, I slam the other boot down on his motionless body. Just for measures. And because it looks cool.

“Who’s the bitch, bitch?” I gloat.


Being held hostage and knocking out a hijacker is hard work. Especially when the Chief Pilot of Safety and security department wants to hear all about it.

I spent 2 hours talking to men in blue, my mouth moving, but  head thinking: “gosh, I need a drink.” A fresh batch of “harvested” pads beckons from my freezer.

Thank God the day is over, I mutter, navigation bag in tow.

I slide my key into the keyhole of my 20th floor condominium and push the door open. Darkness meet my eyes, a splitting image of the unit I left this morning.

I fumble for the light switch and remove my shoes. Mamas’ home.

I pause. A sole earring lies idly on my living room floor. That’s not mine.

Puzzled, I bend forward and reach for the jewelry.

Huh?? I raise the dangly gem against a fluorescent light…

… When a cord coils around my neck, choking me.


My flailing arms instinctively reach for my throat. My circulation is begging for oxygen. I can’t talk. I can’t scream.

I struggle. But the hands around my neck are steady.

Concentrate. Dig deep.

I gulp. I tap into my mojo for the second time today.

With one big spurt of energy, I elbow my attacker and catapult him over my head and across my living room floor…


“Dee Dee?” I gasped, straightening my back. “Color me shocked.”

Dee Dee shoots me a pointed look from her landing spot by the sofa. “And color me annoyed.” She points a perfectly manicured nail at me. “You, lady, have a lot of explaining to do.”


“You WHAT my pad?” She spits. We’ve set camp in front of the television with a bottle of wine.

“I knew it. I knew something was off. Your one arm WWE takedown.” She takes a swig from her glass. “Besides, you called in sick thrice in the past 3 months. You NEVER call in sick.”

“About that…” I call in sick every full moon. To date, there is insufficient data to safely to commit hours, cooped up with living human beings in a metal tube hurling across the sky at 80% the speed of sound. I don’t want to risk an uncontrollable hunger pang at 38,000 above mean sea level.

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Dee Dee actually sounds hurt.

“Sorry. I feel like a monster.” I say quietly.

“You are a Pontianak. A Pontianak that sucks sanitary pads and wouldn’t hurt a fly.” She rolls her eyes. “Chill, babe.”

“That,” she gestures at the television screen, “is a monster.”

… early this morning. The alleged murder weapon is a sole carpenter’s nail, drove through the nape of the victim’s neck. This is the third case this month where the victim is murdered in this manner. CID chief, DSP Mohd…

“Psycho killer alert.” She continues.

But her words bounce off deaf ears.

I freeze. The wine is tasteless to my tongue.

Goosebumps spread over my skin like leprosy.

“Dee Dee, a nail through the nape of the neck…” I look her in the eyes, my fear on full display.

“That’s how you kill a Pontianak.”


To be continued…

Part 2