Fic­tion: Rule #2

Who ya gonna call?

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - By An­ge­line Woon

MUR­DER? no PROB­LEM. You can get other peo­ple to do the deed for you th­ese days. Out­source. That way, you won’t get blood on your favourite jeans. You don’t need to shower all the time to get rid of the stench of iron and de­cay, of the spurt of warm red­ness blos­som­ing in your hands, turn­ing sticky and slimy. You would prob­a­bly get to sleep at night.

Look. For­get for a mo­ment why I had to get rid of her. When you’re in my po­si­tion, you make de­ci­sions, hard and fast, or you’re dog meat.

RULE #1: RE­GRET noth­ing. I was very care­ful. I stud­ied the Mil­gram ex­per­i­ment, saw how they did it. The order came from some­one higher up. The guys didn’t know who was in charge. Dif­fused author­ity. It worked. I chose the right guys too—des­per­ate, cruel and stupid. I gave them her sched­ule, told them what to do and where to dump her body. The bas­tards went and did it. Kau tim.

RULE #0: Know Ev­ery­thing. My rules have never let me down. So, why are the bloody pocongs fol­low­ing me around?

Back in the kam­pung, I hated go­ing to the out­house at night, be­cause of the trees. On one side of the house was the jun­gle, the other, a fruit or­chard. In the day­time, the shade un­der the trees was a happy place to play. We climbed, we stole fruit, we got bit­ten by kerengga.

At night, there was a pe­nunggu lah, some girl in a red dress and pur­ple face, hang­ing with her tongue stick­ing out. And don’t talk to me about jas­mine trees, be­cause Cikgu kata the hantu danc­ing around them will steal your man­hood. For years, girls, who wore a floral scent, dark lip­stick and a red dress, and left their hair long, scared the s**t out of me.

But most of all, I hated the ba­nana grove out­side my bed­room win­dow. It was windy where we lived, and the un­der­sides of the leaves were of­ten ex­posed. Their light colour and the sur­round­ing shad­ows in the twi­light made it seem like some­thing was out there, wait­ing for me.

The funny thing is where the pocongs first showed up. I was snow­shoe­ing. In the mid­dle of win­ter. Among the white pines of Canada. The snow was pure and un­driven. The air smelt new. It was a bright af­ter­noon. If you are used to Malaysian jun­gles full of un­der­brush wait­ing to trip you up, the smell of rich com­post and the hot hu­mid­ity, you’d be sur­prised to learn that white pines grow tall and neat, like lamp­posts in the heart of KL, only with un­der­growth.

And then the pocongs showed up in their full glory, stand­ing up­right be­side the trees. At first, I thought they were plants cov­ered with burlap, to pro­tect them from frost, but no tree could have emit­ted that par­tic­u­lar foul­ness.

I couldn’t be­lieve that the kind of place that in­spired Fresh Pine could end up be­ing sul­lied by corpses rot­ting im­pos­si­bly in be­low-freez­ing tem­per­a­tures.

The shrouds, usu­ally pris­tine white at fu­ner­als (also in movies), be­cause peo­ple don’t usu­ally wait long be­fore burial, were drenched in pus and co­ag­u­lants, and emit­ted a yel­low odour and black blood. God­damnit. There’s no logic to this. I only had one girl killed. One. Those guys kept their traps shut, so they’re out of it. I didn’t kill them. What kind of man do you take me for? If I go down that road, it would be a blood­bath. Hey, I made sure they didn’t do any­thing funny with her, okay?

And another thing. Why should Asian ghosts travel that far just to bug the hell out of me? Why so many?

The next time I saw them, I was on my way home with a stopover in Seoul. I had an hour to spare, so I went to see if I could pick up a pair of de­cent boots in the underground. I made a wrong turn and found my­self in a tun­nel with shops on one side, all sell­ing clothes. There were no hu­man be­ings there, no liv­ing ones any­way. The pocongs were lined up in front of ev­ery store among the racks of clothes.

One day, at a meet­ing, they had dum­b­ass slideshows about pro­cesses and work­flows, and a s**tty pro­jec­tor. They had to close the blinds. When they drew them for the cof­fee break, I saw the pocongs hov­er­ing out­side the sixth floor win­dow, bump­ing gen­tly against it and leav­ing trails of ichor on the glass.

My God, they had faces. Or rather, the shroud wrapped around them had ab­sorbed what­ever ooze was liq­ue­fy­ing on the corpses’ faces. Their fea­tures showed. I knew who they were. They were all... F**k. I can’t say it.

They were in the car park, be­hind ev­ery pil­lar, be­side ev­ery exit, lean­ing against ev­ery car door. I made it to my car. They were in the car. I wanted to ram into them and run over them, but I couldn’t. Be­cause of the faces... They fol­lowed me up to my pent­house in the lift. I wanted them to moan, or chant, or some­thing. It wouldn’t have been as bad as wait­ing for them to speak my doom.

By the time I reached my bed­room, I was used to them. I pushed aside the cur­tains. In the re­flec­tion, I could see they were stand­ing be­hind me, judg­ing me in si­lence, with their faces, my face, set in agony.

RULE #2: Live With the con­se­quences, or die.

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