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.
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?
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…