When Murakami Double Crossed Chekov. Or not ?

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Now, I’m going to write about a literary review. I never study literature, well, I might though, back in the high school, but I didn’t get so many things that I can call myself a literature-pro. So, I’m just going to do it with my knowledge from many things. I studied semiotics in college by the way, so, it might somewhat be related with it.

This time I will talk about my new favorite writer, Haruki Murakami. A friend, two friends to be precise, introduced me to him. I think it might be interesting to start reading on him, since I am now enrolled in a Japan Area Studies, it might help my study. It is, at some extent. So, the first Murakami I read is 1Q84, the thickest one I think. It was well written, I love how he writes anything in details, with so many references throughout the literary world. Then, I read his short story collections: After the Quake. Another nice pieces of his writings. Surrealistic stories, imbued with a pretty well hidden symbolism. Of course, I won’t know if he really meant that, but hey, the author is dead anyway (look up for Roland Barthes’ Dead of the Author, you’ll see why I say that the author is dead). Then I read what people said to be his best work, Kafka on the Shore. It’s nicely written, but I still think 1Q84 is better. Personally, subjectively, of course. I can’t force you to like or unlike beef steak, it is all personal.

There are so many things I found interesting in Murakami’s book. At first, the surrealism. Of course, it brings you somewhere you’ve never think you will ever go. Having sex with your mom, getting pregnant without having any sexual intercourse, going into the woods and find an old imperial Japanese army, etc. So many things seems unreal, but for the characters, it is real. It is their reality. For me, it is a metaphoric realization of a metaphor. Confused ? Contact me via private line, a phone call is preferred, I can’t really explain it well through a chat. But I think it is, something like that. Second, Murakami loved to include popular figures into his novel. Colonel Sanders, Johnnie Walker, that Tiger Billboard (only Japanese readers or those who have been in Japan in such times the billboard existed might know this, but I can imagine), Beethoven, Bach, and many other figures. Why is it interesting, because it is just happen. It is chaotic. No order. It is just the way it is, it is just the way it has to. Third, well, I can keep going if I’m doing this, so, I guess I will stop at third. Eh, no I haven’t mention the most important part. The third one: he quotes Chekhov, Anton Chekhov twice, and might or might not betrayed him, twice or thrice, or never, I’ll let you be the judge, but I think it is never.

Before we go, here’s a little bit about Anton Chekhov from his Wikipedia entry. I haven’t read his book, so it is kinda obvious if I ask wiki, it is not a scientific writing after all. Anyway, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is somehow Russian Tompi who happened to live in the 1800s. Why do I call him Tompi ? Because he is a doctor, who is also a physician, and also a writer. Awesome. And why Tompi ? Because he is a doctor, and a singer, and occasional politician (IYKWIM). Anyway, I don’t really know Chekhov, but I think I’ll just floor his importance on this literature think tank. One of the most famous principle is the Chekhov’s gun. In which he said: “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” And why is this important in this writing ? Because Murakami quoted it twice on his books, different books. And, I sometimes question myself, did he betray Chekhov, or not ? And the answer, I can’t tell, I can only show you some possibilities.


The first one came up in the Kafka on the Shore. One of the dialogue between Colonel Sanders (yes, that Colonel Sanders, the KFC dude) where Colonel Sanders Emphasize the importance of the stone Mr. Nakata’s have been looking for to Mr. Hoshino. That time, Colonel Sanders explained that (I quote this directly from the book that was translated by Philip Gabriel)

“What Chekov was getting at is this: Necessity is an independent concept. It has a different structure from logic, morals, or meaning. Its function lies entirely in the role it plays. What doesn’t play a role shouldn’t exist. What necessity requires does need to exist. That’s what you call dramaturgy. Logic, morals, or meaning don’t have anything to do with it. It’s all a question of relationality. Chekov Understood dramaturgy very well.”

From this dialogue, we can infer that what Chekov means is that any –thing, character, places, you name it- that popped up in a story, has to have an importance role to the story. One does not simply pop it up, and *poof*, it doesn’t have any matter anymore. In the Kafka on the Shore story, Hoshino questioned the importance of the stone Mr. Nakata have been looking for. In the end, the stone marks the start of an end to the story, and in the end, it close the end of the story. It have such importance, that if it is a gun, it is been fired, and might hit someone dead, erasing them from the story.

At first, Hoshino was thinking that lifting the stone is a pain in the ass. Moreover, it has to be taken from a sacred Shinto shrine which might get him cursed in the end. So, at first, he won’t bother picking the stone. But, after Colonel Sanders explained it to him about the Chekhov’s Gun, he agreed, and in the end, if it is a gun, it is fired anyway. In this case, Murakami did not betrayed Chekhov. It does fired.


The second one come from the 1Q84, this one is less metaphoric. I think it is quite interesting that Murakami takes the metaphorical principle from Chekhov’s gun, into the literal situation between Aomame, Tamaru, and the gun.


The Chekhov’s gun talks begin when Aomame asked Tamaru to get her a gun. She thinks that it is important to protect her from Sakigake’s follower. At first, Tamaru have doubts about letting her get the gun, because he somewhat might wind up if Aomame come in contact with police, and it will ruin his clean history on the police database. This time, Tamaru told Aomame about the Chekov’s gun. He said that if a gun come into story, then it have to be fired. He said that in order to makes Aomame understand that if Aomame decided to get hold of a gun in a very dangerous mission of murdering the Sakigake’s Leader, the gun will mostly taken into action. Tamaru’s concern is ‘can Aomame pull the trigger when the time comes ?’ Aomame argued that she won’t use it to kill people, she will use it to threaten them, to buy her times to commit an (almost, almost, almost) painless suicide. In the end, Tamaru agreed to give her the gun.

In the end, the gun didn’t fire anything. It was cocked for a few times, but Aomame never have nerves or chances to pull the trigger. In this sense, the Chekhov’s metaphorical gun have become a literal gun, and it didn’t fire anything. Does it means Murakami betrays the Chekhov’s gun principle here in the 1Q84 ?

One’s say he might, the other said he isn’t, and the other said he is, while the other haven’t read the book, and the rest are just don’t care at all. Me, I’d say he is not. Let’s take it back to the Chekhov’s quote. The necessity of something exist when something exist in the story. So, when a gun –which main purpose is to shoot something- come into story, it has to be shot. If it is not, it will lose the meaning of its existence. This one part is interesting. The Chekhov’s real intention is to show that if something is not important to the story, it shouldn’t be brought up. But, the gun analogy is weak. Maybe, maybe, Chekhov never did any security studies.

In security study, a presence of military corps in one’s country is important. Its existence threaten another party to not mess with them. But, in this case a gun doesn’t have to be shot to ensure that one’s military force is strong enough to deal with other’s military force. For example, when Indonesia adds up a bunch of Sukhoi fighter Jet from Russia, it will be a threat to the neighboring country, let’s say, Malaysia. Malaysia and Indonesia’s relation has been conflictual lately. So, when a war break out, those Sukhoi fighter Jet will be a massive threat for the Malaysian. But, in order to be a threat, the Sukhoi itself doesn’t have to fire its missile, doesn’t have to be undetected in the Malaysia’s radar, doesn’t have to be fast enough to run from Malaysia’s fighter jet, etc. By just being existed, it has become a threat. So, it serves another purpose here: a threat for another country. In the other hand, it gives the Indonesian air force a calming sense to have such technology in their hand. Another purpose for the Sukhoi: a reliable weapon that gives a calming sense.

From my analogy here, it can be said that the gun, the weapon, does have another purpose in existence. It will make the bearer feel safer, and it might (since it never happened) threaten the enemy when they know. In the story, the gun does not have a significance impact to the story, but it gives Aomame the calmness she needs to come into the leader’s room in the hotel. And it MIGHT give her an impact somehow, when she tried to kill herself a few times, she felt doubt. A doubt where the gun might missed her brain, a doubt where she might slipped the trigger so in the end the gun doesn’t shoot the part of her head she wants to shoot, etc. This doubt cancels Aomame’s urge to kill herself. And these doubts are produced by the gun. When the gun comes into existence, it doesn’t shoot, but it made Aomame feel the safety, and the doubt. That means, the gun did gives an impact in the story, it might not be big (but, if Aomame did kill herself with let’s say, pills, or lethal injection, she might never find Tengo, vice viersa) but it doesn’t have to be fired. For those who said Murakami betrayed Chekhov in 1Q84, you might think of this now.


The most interesting things I can pick out from those two are, how Murakami use the Chekhov’s principle metaphorically (to the stone in Kafka on the Shore), and literally (to the gun in 1Q84). I think it is one of the most important think to understand Murakami’s novel. On how to understand metaphor. On how he brings metaphor to the real life, or/and the real life into a metaphorical sense. I think this is why he should be call genius.

So, in the end, Murakami never betrayed Chekhov. He only make an impression that he might. I think, again, the author is dead, so it is my duty to GUESS his intention, my guess can be wrong, but yours can be wrong too. Although, there is something odd with another Murakami novel I’ve been reading. It is his newest one, Colorless: Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. But I think I need to re-read it. In short, there’s this character, Haida, who doesn’t really have such an impact in the story (I think, that’s why I have to re-read it), but Murakami gave him a lot of portion in this book. Maybe I’ll update this one later on. He might betray Chekhov here.

So, what do you think ? did he, or did not he betrayed Chekhov ? Feel free to contact me if you’re interested !



12:11 AM

I know I should’ve been sleep right now. It’s in the middle of the night. It’s late. I’m tired. I just arrived from Bandung. Today is Monday, and in 8 hours or so I should’ve gone in my car, start up the engine, going away to campus or after filling the petrol into the tank. Instead, I opened up my laptop and start writing. October 20th, always special. It is my birthday. I wonder what my mom was doing in exactly 25 years ago, the day when I was born ? Well, maybe at this time, she was sleeping,  waiting for be to be born. She said that it was not that tense. She’s a strong woman, so maybe, she’s right. Or maybe, she lied. She’s a good liar sometimes. She always lied when saying “no I am okay” when she is sick, or “go on, take on the last piece” when she is still hungry, and me or my brother are eyeing the last piece on th plate, or “no, I am fine” when I asked her if she get angry for my behavior, although she is. It is what a mother does right ? Lying to make their children feels better. Anyway, on 25 years ago, it is still aroud 11-12 hours until I cry to sign my existence on the earth. My mother always said that I was born right at the time it is to do the Jummah prayer, pretty neat huh ?

Anyway, enough about the past, let’s talk about today. Today, right now, here I am in my father’s house in Jakarta. Alone. In the dark room. The only source of lights would be my laptop, a peek of light from the bathroom door (which I forgot to switch off after use), and the air conditioner’s light indicating that it is turned on. Those lights are accompanied by the ticking clock, the hum of the air conditioner, and the clicking sounds my laptop’s keyboards made when I type on them. Lovely. I always love this ambience, I write nicely in this kind of condition. One of my friend said that it’d be bad for my eyes, I know it might, but, I don’t know, I’m feeling that it just right. I write whenever I feel like to. People saying that it is sentimental, melancholy, or anything, I don’t care. I just simply, truly love it.

That was the detail in my current situation, let’s take the present talk into something in a broader sense. I am now in a phase of boredom of life. Many said that it is the quarter life crisis, when life is getting it’s grip to suck everything out of you. I don’t know. I enjoy my life. In fact, I have to be grateful for it. Of course, my family are fine, I am surrounded by great persons, the likes of Aya, Cakky, Geja, Reja, Nata, Meok, Irul, Fahmi, Diptjeu, Diva, Aros, Aboy, Ojun, Dawot, Archyd, Bosky, Yassa, Rendy, Adi, Mrs. J, my nice current class mates and senpais as well, I’m blessed being surrounded by these people.  Even those from the past are sometimes comes to my dream just to say hi or something. I have to be grateful. But sometimes, life is going to flat for me. I feel hollow. I can’t really explain it, but it is. Sometimes. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, it is just that. I just do. I just do laugh, I do cry, I do smile, but that’s just that. Sometimes I don’t even understand why. I don’t know how to say it, but it is something like that.

But anyway, 25 years is not a short time. In 25 years Lionel Messi can make himself known to the world, in 25 years, video games have evolved into something people in 25 years ago never think of, in 25 years, I’ve grown up from a little baby, a crybaby, obnoxious schoolboy, nerd, slackers, and finally into something(or one ?) I am right now. Well, I hope in the next 25 years, I could be something that my mom and dad can be proud of. Anything though, anything. A writer, a diplomat, lecturer maybe, anything. I don’t like to set goals too much. It’s just kills me whenever I missed the score. So, for a while, I’ll follow anywhere the wind blows. As long as it doesn’t bring me into oblivion, I’m fine with it. Maybe.

See, I use so many maybes. That is simply because human’s life is so complicated, it can go anywhere, it can go right, it can go wrong, it is just go. People can make plans, but in the end, the God have His own better one. So, whatever happen it’ll just happen. Sounds like a fatalist –relying on fate- but, God won’t even give us His plan if we just stay and not doing anything. Sounds contradictory with my previous paragraph ? Not really, I’m still doing my best on finishing my master course, when it’s over, I can pick those 3 ways anyway. A fatalist would just stay at home, waiting for something good to happen. I am not. I go to the university, takes the class which mostly I’ve understood through the study of many mangas I’ve read since I was 10 or something, socialize, read novels and other books, pretty sure it won’t be a waste, and it is not ‘doing nothing’. I’m just waiting for the wind to be blown.

In the end, this writing is totally random. I don’t expect this to be good. I don’t really expect anyone to read this, maybe some regulars visitor to my blog will. It is totally spontaneous. Anyway, happy birthday, me.

Kura-kura Hijau dan Angsa Merah Jambu

Cerita ini dimulai di sebuah hutan besar di suatu dunia yang tidak dihuni manusia. Di dalamnya, hidup berbagai macam hewan. Hewan darat, hewan air, pemakan tumbuhan, pemakan daging, pemakan segala, hewan besar, hewan kecil, serta berbagai macam hewan lainnya. Mereka hidup dalam damai. Tanpa harus diajari siapapun, mereka hidup dalam sebuah sistem. Sebuah hewan pemakan tumbuhan memakan tumbuhan, hewan pemakan daging memakan hewan pemakan tumbuhan, hewan air hidup di dalam air,  hewan yang bersayap terbang di udara, semua hidup dengan alami. Tidak ada yang mengajari.

Di dalam hutan itu, ada sebuah danau yang indah. Karena tidak ada manusia, jadi tidak ada yang menamai Danau itu. Tanggung jawab saya sebagai narator adalah untuk mengajak pembaca agar dapat dengan mudah memahami cerita. Karena itu, saya diberi kesempatan khusus untuk menamai danau tersebut. Saya namakan saja Ezeras. Danau Ezeras adalah sebuah danau yang luas dan dalam, namun tenang. Hanya sesekali saja desiran angin membuat danau tersebut beriak. Lainnya, hanya gerakan hewan-hewan yang hidup di dalamnya. Danau ini sangat indah, jernih, airnya dingin. Sayang sekali tidak ada manusia yang bisa menikmati keindahan danau tersebut. Padahal, apabila dilihat dengan begitu saja pun, saking jernihnya, dapat terlihat penghuni serta dasar danau tersebut. Di pinggir danau, batu-batu berbagai macam ukuran berserakan. Batu-batu itu juga tidak kalah indah, bagaikan lukisan abstrak yang dibuat oleh manusia, ini adalah abstrak dalam makna yang sebenar-benarnya. Tidak ada yang menyusun batu tersebut agar terlihat abstrak. Batu-batu tersebut berserakan begitu saja, ada yang besar, ada yang kecil, tempat tersebarnya tidak beraturan, namun tetap enak dilihat.

Danau Ezeras menjadi tempat tinggal berbagai macam hewan. Ada ikan, ada angsa, ada katak yang sesekali berenang, ada juga hewan-hewan melata serta hewan-hewan bercangkang keras yang bermukim di sekitarnya. Tentu tidak semua hewan yang hidup di danau itu hidup di dalam air. Ada juga hewan yang hidup di sekitarnya. Di antara hewan-hewan itu, ada dua ekor hewan yang sangat unik, Kura-Kura Hijau dan Angsa Merah Jambu. Keduanya hidup di sekitar danau itu. Si Kura-kura hijau adalah kura-kura yang sangat istimewa. Namun, karena keistimewaannya itulah ia seringkali diejek oleh kawan-kawannya sesama kura-kura. Kura-kura yang hidup di danau itu adalah kura-kura berwarna kuning-hitam, hanya si Kura-kura Hijau ini lah yang berwarna hijau. Bukan keinginannya untuk lahir seperti itu, tapi, tidak ada seekor hewanpun yang bisa meminta seperti apa ia ingin dilahirkan. Ia lahir seperti itu begitu saja.  Selain berwarna hijau, tubuhnya pun kecil, namun ini tidak membuatnya putus asa. “Aku kecil, tapi aku cepat” begitu katanya. Walaupun sering diejek oleh kawan-kawannya, ia tidak pernah ditinggalkan oleh mereka.

Si Angsa Merah Jambu juga tidak kalah istimewa. Ia terlahir berwarna merah jambu. Berbeda dengan si Kura-kura Hijau, semua angsa lain ingin terlahir seperti dirinya. Warna merah jambu itu menarik hewan manapun yang melihatnya. Termasuk para predator tentunya. Angsa Merah Jambu selalu dikelilingi oleh kawan-kawannya. Berwarna merah jambu tidak membuatnya jadi merasa istimewa, atau malah sombong. Teman-temannya lah yang mengistimewakan dirinya. Ia sering merasa bahwa sebenarnya ia adalah angsa yang biasa saja. “Apalah arti sebuah warna ?” begitu pertanyaan yang sering ia lontarkan ke dalam pikirannya sendiri.

Pada suatu hari, Kura-kura Hijau dan Angsa Merah Jambu berpapasan di pinggir danau. Mereka sering bertemu satu sama lain. Tentu saja, karena mereka berasal dari satu habitat. Tiap kali berpapasan, Kura-kura Hijau tidak pernah memalingkan pandangannya dari si Angsa Merah Jambu. Ia terkesima melihat keindahan bulu merah jambu si angsa. “indahnya, seandainya aku terlahir istimewa seperti dia” begitu pikir si Kura-kura. Si angsa juga sulit memalingkan pandangannya dari Kura-kura hijau, karena ia memiliki warna yang berbeda sendiri. Angsa Merah Jambu selalu berpikir “Apakah si Kura-kura Hijau itu juga istimewa di antara teman-temannya ?”. Namun, tidak pernah ada perkenalan terjadi. Mereka hanya saling tatap, dan begitu seterusnya.

Pada malam itu bulan terang benderang. Awan-awan di sekitarnya seperti yang malu untuk menghalangi sinar matahari yang terpantul melaluinya. Di sarang Kura-kura si Kura-kura hijau sedang  berada di dalam sebuah pesta. Kura-kura besar yang merupakan pemimpin para Kura-kura, berhasil mendapatkan titik galian baru untuk mencari cacing yang menjadi favorit mereka.  “Ayo semua, kita makan sampai kenyang malam ini. Mulai besok, kita tidak perlu jauh-jauh mencari cacing lagi, semua ada di dekat sini ! Ayo berpesta !”. Suasana di sarang kura-kura pada malam itu sangatlah meriah. Ini tentunya sangat tidak biasa. Kura-kura adalah hewan yang lamban dan kalem. Mereka jarang bersifat agresif. Kiranya begitulah yang digambarkan dalam kisah-kisah fabel terdahulu. Namun, tahukah kalian, jika kura-kura sebenarnya bisa menjadi agresif di depan mangsanya ? Otot leher kura-kura sangatlah cepat, ia bisa mencaplok mangsanya dalam kecepatan tinggi, bagaikan anak panah yang terlepas dari busurnya oleh gaya pegas. Kiranya, begitulah gambaran kura-kura yang sebenarnya.

Dalam pesta itu, si Kura-kura hijau terdiam dan tidak banyak bicara. Sesekali ia mengunyah semut kesukaannya. Semut adalah makanan kecil yang sangat populer di antara kura-kura. Mereka renyah, tidak sulit untuk ditemukan, dan memiliki rasa yang unik. Salah satu dari kura-kura bertanya kepadanya “Hei kecil –panggilan si Kura-kura Hijau- kenapa kau diam saja ? Ayolah ikut bersenang-senang, makan cacing yang banyak !”. “ah maaf, aku sedang tidak bernafsu hari ini” jawab si Kura-kura Hijau sambil menoleh ke arah kura-kura yang bertanya tadi. “Ah kau ini, pasti masalah betina ya ? Ceritalah sini, kita kan teman.” Namun si Kura-kura Hijau hanya menggelengkan kepala. “Ya sudah, kalau mau cerita, cerita saja nanti ya, aku mau bersenang-senang, sayang tuh cacingnya masih banyak !” kata si kura-kura tadi. Kura-kura yang bertanya tadi adalah kura-kura yang paling besar di antara kura-kura lainnya. Namun, ia bukan si kura-kura pemimpin. Beda kura-kura. Hobinya makan, oleh karena itu tubuhnya besar. Gerakannya paling lambat di antara kura-kura lain, tetapi sepertinya, ia adalah kura-kura yang paling tahu cara menikmati hidup. Ia selalu tertawa dalam kondisi apapun.

Yang ada di kepala si kura-kura hijau hanyalah si Angsa Merah Jambu. “Apa aku bisa kenal dengannya ? Jika bisa, bagaimana ? Aku hanyalah kura-kura aneh yang sering diejek oleh temanku, dan ia adalah angsa yang sangat cantik , teman-temannya selalu terlihat seperti mengawalnya, atas dasar kagum. Apalah aku dibandingkan dirinya ?”. Malam terus berlanjut, selama kura-kura lain berpesta pora, si Kura-kura Hijau hanya termenung dengan berbagai macam “apakah” di kepalanya. Ia mendongkak ke langit, lalu melihat bulan. “Hei bulan, kamu tahu si Angsa Merah Jambu itu kan ? Aku ingin kenal dengan dia, aku tahu dia ada di sekitaran danau ini, maka ketika aku melihat kamu, dan ia juga melihat kamu, berarti kami melihat sesuatu yang sama kan ?” Tanya Kura-kura Hijau kepada bulan. Tentunya di dunia inipun bulan tidak bisa berbicara.

Di sarang angsa,si Angsa Merah Jambu sedang berkumpul dengan kawan-kawannya setelah makan malam. Seperti biasa, teman-temannya memuji keindahan bulu si Angsa Merah Jambu “seandainya aku terlahir seperti kamu”, “indahnya bulu-bulumu”, dan “jantan mana yang tidak tertarik denganmu ?” adalah pernyataan-pernyataan yang sudah bosan ia dengar. Setiap saat ia dengar kata-kata seperti itu. Namun ia hanya bisa tersenyum dan mengatakan tidak tahu. Beralasan, bahwa itulah hadiah Tuhan untuknya. Ia juga seringkali mencoba memuji angsa lain. “Paruhmu itu indah, aku iri.” Atau “Kamu memiliki leher yang istimewa, seandainya aku juga terlahir sepertimu”, namun itu tidak berpengaruh banyak. Semua angsa ingin terlahir dengan bulu berwarna merah jambu.

Pada malam itu, si Angsa Merah Jambu bertanya kepada salah satu kawannya, seekor angsa berparuh hitam. Ia adalah sahabat baik si Angsa Merah Jambu. Angsa berparuh hitam ini adalah satu dari sedikit angsa yang tidak pernah memuji si Angsa Merah Jambu. Ia sadar bahwa si Merah Jambu tidak suka ia puji.  “Kamu tahu, beberapa waktu belakangan ini kita sering berpapasan dengan para kura-kura, ada seekor kura-kura yang berwarna hijau ?” Tanya si Angsa Merah Jambu. “Hmm, aku tidak memperhatikannya. Aku tidak pernah tertarik kepada para kura-kura, maaf. Memangnya kenapa ?” kata si paruh hitam bertanya kembali. “Entahlah, kamu tahu masalahku kan ? Aku selalu diistimewakan karena aku berbeda. Aku hanya penasaran saja, mungkin kah si Kura-kura Hijau itu juga diistimewakan oleh kawan-kawannya karena ia berbeda ?” kata si Angsa Merah Jambu serius. “Entahlah, mungkin. Kenapa kamu tidak coba berkenalan dengan nya ?” jawab si paruh hitam. “Berkenalan ya ? Aku malu.”

“kamu istimewa, kenapa harus malu ?”

“Dia juga mugkin istimewa”

“tapi kamu penasaran kan ? Jadilah temannya”

“Iya. Baiklah, nanti aku akan berkenalan dengannya”

Nah, begitu dong”. Kata si paruh hitam menutup obrolan.

Angsa Merah Jambu lalu berpamitan dengan kawan-kawannya yang sudah bersiap-siap untuk tidur. Ia ingin coba berjalan-jalan di danau pada malam itu, karena bulan sedang benderang terang dengan indahnya. Pantulan bulan di permukaan danau yang tenang bagaikan memperlihatkan ada dua bulan di dunia ini. Di langit, dan di bumi. Di atas danau. Seandainya ada manusia di dunia itu, ia pasti sudah bersyukur kepada Tuhannya karena diperlihatkan pemandangan seperti itu.Si Angsa Merah Jambu pun melihat ke arah bulan. Bulan yang asli, yang ada di langit. Sembari berenang tenang membelah pantulan bulan yang ada di danau, “hey bulan, bisa kamu sampaikan perasaanku kepada si Kura-kura Hijau ? Aku ingin berteman dengannya ! Aku tahu ia bisa melihatmu juga di tempatnya,kamu bulan yang sama kan ? Yang ada di tempatnya itu bukan adikmu kan ? seandainya kamu bisa bicara, tolong sampaikan ya !”. Begitu kata si Angsa. Namun tentunya itu percuma. Bulan tidak mendengar, bulan tidak berbicara. Mungkin. Mungkin bulan tidak mendengar. Tapi pasti ia tidak berbicara. Tidak di dunia ini, tidak di dunia narator.Setelah itu, si Angsa Merah Jambu pulang ke kawanannya dan tertidur. Ia tidak tahu, ketika ia sedang berada di danau tadi, jauh di dalam hutan sana, seekor Serigala yang tersesat sampai ke hutan pinggir danau mengintainya. Sudah lama ia tidak makan angsa. “kalau makanan di hutan ini sudah habis, itu berarti giliranmu !” gumam serigala itu.

Keesokan harinya, beberapa kura-kura pergi bersama untuk mengunjungi tempat baru mereka mencari cacing. Si Kura-kura Hijau pun ikut serta. Walaupun ia sering diejek, namun ia selalu diikut sertakan dalam kegiatan-kegiatan para kura-kura. Alasannya sederhana: diejek tidak berarti disingkirkan. Apabila si Kura-kura Hijau ini adalah manusia, maka matanya merah dan berkantong, berjalan lunglai, dan tidak fokus. Ia kurang tidur. Rupanya, semalaman itu ia memikirkan si Angsa Merah Jambu. Si Kura-kura hijau yang biasanya gesit dan cekatan, kali ini hanya berjalan lunglai mengikuti kawan-kawannya. “Ayooo semuaaa semangat dong jalannyaaaaa !! Kita mau mencari makanan ini !” Teriak si kura-kura besar pemimpin, semua kura-kura lain bersorak kegirangan. Si kura-kura besar yang suka makan terlihat sangat bersemangat sekali. Ia berada di barisan paling depan. Tapi itu hanya berlaku sesaat saja. Karena tubuh beratnya, ia pun tertinggal, dan sekarang ia ada di barisan paling belakang, bersama si Kura-kura Hijau yang berjalan lunglai. “Hei, kamu kenapa, kok lesu ?” tanya si kura-kura besar sambil terengah-engah. Nafasnya mulai habis. “Ah, tidak apa-apa, hanya kurang tidur” jawab si Hijau lesu. “aaaahh, pasti masalah betina itu ya ? ayolah cerita siniiii” kata si besar sambil menggoda si hijau. “hhhh.. bukan, bukan itu kok” si hijau berbohong. “ah kau ini, sudahlah. Aku tidak akan tanya lagi, tapi tetap ya, kalau kau mau cerita, cerita lah !” kata si besar sambil menepuk tempurung si Hijau. “iya. Eh, ayo cepat, kita mulai tertinggal tuh” ajak si hijau.

Mereka lalu bergegas mengejar barisan kura-kura tadi. Tak lama, mereka tiba di tempat yang dibicarakan. Ternyata memang benar, di sana banyak cacing berlimpah dengan berbagai macam ukuran. Ini membuat semua kura-kura bernafsu. Mereka lalu bergegas menggali tanah untuk mengambil makanan mereka. Cara mereka membawa cacing-cacing itu adalah membelahnya dengan mulut mereka yang keras, lalu menaikkan badan-badan cacing itu ke atas daun, lalu mereka menarik daun tersebut dengan mulut mereka. Itu apabila mereka ingin memakan cacing tersebut dan berbagi dengan kura-kura yang menjaga sarang. Itu pulalah yang mereka lakukan sekarang.

Ketika sedang asyik mencari cacing, tiba-tiba ada suara yang menarik perhatian para kura-kura. Ternyata ada rombongan angsa di dekat situ. Ternyata, tempat itu adalah sarang para angsa. Kura-kura besar pemimpin lalu mendatangi gerombolan angsa itu, dan meminta izin untuk membawa cacing-cacing tersebut. Mereka bilang tidak apa-apa, silahkan saja, angsa tidak makan cacing. Begitulah kiranya.

Melihat kerumunan angsa, hati si Kura-kura Hijau langsung berdegup kencang. Angsa ? Berarti, si merah jambu… ada di situ ? pikiran itu langsung menyambar kepala si Kura-kura Hijau. Benar saja, ada seekor angsa yang mencuat di tengah-tengah kerumunan itu. Ia berwarna merah jambu. Si Angsa Merah Jambu ada di situ ! kata si Kura-kura hijau. Ia kembali terdiam dan terpana. Si kura-kura besar yang hobi makan, bukan si pemimpin, mendekatinya, lalu berkata “oh, itu yang bikin kamu tidak bisa tidur ? Ingin kenalan ?” tanya si besar. Si hijau terdiam sebentar, lalu menggelengkan kepala dan menjawab dengan gugup “ti.. tidak kok, tidak…”. Namun, ia tidak bisa menyembunyikan kegugupan itu, segera saja si kura-kura besar dengan suaranya yang lantang berteriak “HEY ! ANGSA YANG MERAH JAMBU DI SANA, ADA YANG MAU KENALAN NIH !”. Si Kura-kura Hijau lalu reflek memukul tempurung si kura-kura besar sambil berbisik “diam kau hei !”, namun terlambat, si Angsa Merah Jambu sudah menyadari keberadaan mereka. Angsa Merah Jambu itu lalu mengarahkan pandangannya kepada si Kura-kura Hijau. Seperti biasa.

Tak lama, si Kura-kura Hijau mulai bergerak. “aku harus berani” pikirnya dalam hati. Ia lalu mendekati si Angsa Merah Jambu. Akhirnya, walaupun dengan gugup dan jantung yang berdebar, si Kura-kura Hijau berhasil berkenalan dengan si Angsa Merah Jambu. “a, aku si Kura-kura Hijau, temanku memanggilku si kecil, karena tubuhku yang kecil, ka, kamu siapa ?”. Kira-kira, begitulah pertanyaan yang dilontarkan si Kura-kura Hijau ketika ia mengajak berkenalan si Angsa Merah Jambu. Angsa Merah Jambu pun menjawab “temanku memanggilku si Merah Jambu, seperti kamu bisa lihat, bulu ku berwarna merah jambu”. Itulah awal perkenalan si Kura-kura dan Angsa Merah Jambu. Bagi si Kura-kura Hijau, perkenalan itu adalah sebuah berkah, sebuah mukjizat, seekor kura-kura aneh bisa berkenalan dengan angsa yang cantik. Bagi si Angsa Merah Jambu, perkenalan itu pun sangat bermakna, ia dapat menemukan sesosok hewan lain yang juga istimewa, ia menemukan sosok untuk berbagi kisah, sebagai seorang kawan.

Beberapa hari ke depan, si Kura-kura Hijau sepertinya hidup dalam kesenangan. Ia berharap bahwa kesenangan itu tidak akan pernah berakhir. Akhirnya, ia berkenalan dengan seekor hewan yang sudah lama ia kagumi. Si Angsa Merah Jambu. Makannya semakin banyak, pekerjaannya –memperkokoh sarang- semakin membaik (walaupun sebelumnya memang sudah baik). Si Kura-kura besar yang bukan pemimpin pun seringkali bertanya kepada Si Kura-kura Hijau, walaupun ia sudah tahu jawabannya, ia hanya menggodanya. “Hei, sepertinya sedang senang nih ?” dan kejadian itu setiap hari berulang. Si Kura-kura Hijau sendiri bertemu dengan si Angsa Merah Jambu setiap beberapa hari. Hari di mana kelompok kura-kura mengumpulkan cacing untuk dikumpulkan dan dimakan. Ketika kura-kura yang lain pulang, Kura-kura Hijau tetap tinggal di sana untuk berbincang dengan si Angsa Merah Jambu. Si Angsa merah Jambu ini pun sepertinya sangat menikmati pembicaraan itu.

“apa makanan kesukaanmu ?” tanya si Angsa Merah Jambu

“Tentu saja cacing, kadang-kadang semut, kamu ?” jawab si Kura-kura Hijau sambil balik bertanya

“Aku suka makan rerumputan yang tumbuh di pinggir danau, kadang aku makan ikan juga”

“Wah, mungkin karena itu ya bulumu makin baik setiap hari ?”

“Entah lah, hehehe”

Pembicaraan seperti adalah sesuatu yang muncul setiap kali mereka bertemu. Sekalinya mereka berbincang, mereka bisa menghabiskan waktu satu hingga dua jam apabila diukur dengan waktu manusia. Hari itu adalah kali kedua mereka mengobrol sebagai kawan. Setelah obrolan selesai, si Kura-kura Hijau pun pulang ke sarangnya, dan si Angsa Merah Jambu pun kembali ke kawanannya. Mereka berjanji, apabila pada suatu malam mereka ingin bertemu, mereka tinggal melihat bulan dan berkata kepadanya untuk saling menyampaikan. Mereka tahu itu percuma, namun, akan lebih baik apabila melepaskan perasaan kepada sesuatu, walaupun itu benda mati bukan ? Setidaknya, itu melepaskan beban di dada mereka. Malam harinya, si Kura-kura hijau keluar sarangnya untuk berbicara dengan sang bulan.

“Hei bulan, sampaikanlah perasaanku ini pada si Merah Jambu. Kamu tahu kan bulan ? Kamu tahu apa yang ada di dalam sini ?” Kata si Kura-kura Hijau sambil menunjuk dadanya sendiri.

Di tempat lain, di sarang para angsa, si Angsa Merah Jambu juga berenang ke tengah danau. Seperti biasa, ia membelah pantulan bulan yang terrefleksikan di tengah-tengah danau. Ia lalu menengadah ke atas, dan berkata kepada sang bulan.

“Hei bulan, kamu tahu, si Hijau itu sangat menarik. Aku masih ingin belajar banyak darinya, tolong sampaikan, aku ingin bertemu lagi dengannya. Boleh ?” kata si Angsa Merah Jambu. Ia lalu bernyanyi mengiringi malam yang sunyi itu. Suaranya jelek. Tapi, ketika kamu menarik, siapa peduli dengan suaramu ?

Keesokan harinya, terjadi kegaduhan di sarang angsa. Seekor angsa putih ditemukan tewas dengan kondisi yang sangat mengenaskan. Yang tersisa dari tubuh si angsa hanyalah lehernya yang panjang. Semua angsa panik. Mereka tahu ini pekerjaan predator. Padahal, alasan para angsa memilih untuk tinggal di sekitar danau adalah karena jarang sekali ada predator di dekat sungai. Kebanyakan predator ganas seperti Singa atau Serigala tidak bisa berenang, sehingga ketika mereka diserang, mereka akan lari ke tengah danau, dan akan menunggu di sana hingga keadaan dianggap aman. Untuk tidak mendekati air adalah insting para predator.

Si Angsa Merah jambu juga termasuk salah seekor angsa yang ditanyai oleh angsa lainnya. Karena pada malam sebelumnya, ia meninggalkan sarang mereka untuk berenang ke tengah danau. “Benar  kau tidak melihat apapun yang mencelakai si Leher Panjang ?” tanya salah seorang pemimpin angsa. “Aku tidak tahu, aku hanya bernyanyi di tengah danau” kata si Angsa Merah Jambu. Ia tidak berbohong, ia memang tidak melihat apapun pada malam itu. Tidak si Leher Panjang, tidak juga apapun yang mencelakainya. Sejak saat itu, kelompok angsa pun mulai memperketat hubungan mereka dengan spesies lain, termasuk dengan kelompok kura-kura. Mereka khawatir, bahwa ada spesies lain yang dengan sengaja mencoba mencelakai mereka.si Angsa Merah Jambu khawatir, jikalau ia tidak dapat menemui si Kura-kura Hijau lagi, masih banyak yang belum ia tanyakan kepadanya. Dan yang paling penting: “Menurutmu, bagaimanakah rasanya menjadi istimewa ?”.

Dua hari kemudian, tiba waktunya kelompok Kura-kura kembali mencari cacing. Si Kura-kura Hijau pun termasuk di kelompok pencari cacing hari itu. Ia meminta secara khusus kepada si Kura-kura besar pemimpin untuk mengikutsertakan dirinya dalam setiap pencarian cacing. Ia tahu, itu adalah satu dari sedikit kesempatan untuknya untuk bertemu si Angsa Merah Jambu. Hari itu matahari sangat cerah, namun bersinarnya matahari tidak semerta-merta membuat udara menjadi panas. Hari itu sejuk, hari yang sangat menyenangkan untuk digunakan mengobrol di pinggir danau sambil menghabiskan waktu, dan itu jugalah yang sudah ia niatkan untuk lakukan bersama si Angsa Merah Jambu.

Ada yang aneh pada hari itu. Biasanya, kelompok Angsa dengan senang hati menyambut kedatangan para Kura-kura, mengajak berbincang, tersenyum dengan ramah. Namun kali ini, mereka hanya melihat dari jauh, dan tidak berbicara sama sekali. Si Angsa Merah Jambu juga ada di situ, mengarahkan pandangannya kepada si Kura-kura Hijau. Seperti biasa, mereka mencari cacing dengan riang. Namun mereka juga merasa aneh dengan kelakuan para angsa. Bagi mereka itu tidak masalah, selama mereka masih bisa mencari cacing. Selesai mencari cacing, Si Kura-kura Hijau mendekati kawanan para angsa. Namun ia sadar, itu bukan hal yang bijak, para angsa yang besar dan terlihat kuat mencoba menghalangi langkahnya. Tiba-tiba, ia ada suara yang muncul dari belakang para angsa. “Hijau, tunggu, aku ke sana !” itu adalah suara si Angsa Merah Jambu. Setelah mendekati si Kura-kura Hijau, si Angsa Merah Jambu mengajaknya untuk duduk di pinggir danau. Mereka pun mulai berbincang seperti biasa. Kali ini, si Angsa Merah Jambu bertanya tentang bagaimana rasanya menjadi istimewa.

“Aku sadar, kamu seperti aku. Kamu memiliki warna yang berbeda dengan warna-warna kawanmu yang lain, apa perasaanmu, apakah kamu selalu diistemewakan ?” Tanya si Angsa Merah Jambu.

“Istimewa ? Aku tidak pernah merasa istimewa ?” jawab si Kura-kura dengan agak kaget

“Aku dengar kau suka diganggu oleh teman-temanmu ?” si angsa kembali bertanya

“Aku tidak pernah sekalipun merasa diganggu oleh teman-temanku. Mereka baik kok” kata si kura-kura kalem.

Si angsa mengerenyitkan dahinya yang kecil sambil bertanya “kamu kan terlahir dengan warna yang berbeda, tetapi, mengapa kamu tidak pernah merasa istimewa ?”

“aku tidak pernah merasa istimewa, karena aku yang memutuskan untuk begitu. Mungkin kamu dan yang lain melihat aku berbeda. Tetapi aku tidak pernah merasa dan tidak pernah mencoba untuk merasa demikian.” Kata si kura-kura serius.

Si angsa terdiam.

“Kamu selalu merasa diistimewakan oleh teman-teman mu ?” Tanya si kura-kura.

“Begitulah, sepertinya semua orang ingin sepertiku. Ingin bulu mereka berwarna merah jambu. Tapi aku, jujur saja aku tidak suka dianggap istimewa. Aku sama dengan angsa lainnya. Nyanyianku jelek, tetapi semua diam karena aku dianggap istimewa. Aku tidak suka itu.” kata si angsa

“Kalau begitu, berhentilah merasa begitu. Kamu merasa istimewa karena kamu merasa diistimewakan. Padahal tidak begitu. Sebagai angsa, kamu sama dengan angsa yang lain. Hanya saja, kamu berwarna merah jambu. Itu tidak membuatmu lebih istimewa dari mereka… Ada juga angsa yang berleher panjang, berparuh hitam, dan lain-lain kan ? Semua juga istimewa.” Jawab si kura-kura.

Si angsa kembali terdiam sejenak. Lalu ia berkata “mungkin kamu benar, mungkin aku yang merasa diistimewakan, semestinya, daripada merendah, lebih baik aku coba untuk tidak merasa begitu saja ya ?” tanya si angsa sambil tersenyum.

“iya, begitulah. Tapi, asal kamu tahu saja, bagiku kamu itu….” belum sempat si kura-kura menghabiskan kalimatnya, gerombolan angsa tiba-tiba berteriak memanggil si Angsa Merah Jambu. Angsa Merah Jambu mengerti, bahwa itu adalah panggilan untuknya. Panggilan untuk mengakhiri obrolan. Obrolan terakhir dengan si Kura-kura Hijau. Malam sebelumnya, ada pembicaraan tentang keamanan kelompok angsa pada malam itu, diputuskan bahwa angsa tidak akan lagi melakukan kontak apapun dengan spesies manapun hingga suasana aman. Hanya spesies ikan saja, kontak yang dilakukan pun adalah dengan memakan mereka. Lainnya, tidak ada. Termasuk dengan kelompok kura-kura. Si Angsa Merah Jambu sangatlah sedih, Si Kura-kura Hijau adalah hewan dari spesies lain yang sudah ia anggap sebagai sahabat. Ia tidak mau kehilangan waktu-waktu berbincang dengannya. Si Kura-kura Hijau memiliki kepribadian yang bijak. Ia tahu, ia membutuhkan sosok itu. Namun, masa yang sangat sebentar itu akan segera berakhir.

“Maafkan aku Hijau, ini terakhir kalinya kita berbincang. Aku harus pergi, selamat tinggal.” Si Angsa Merah Jambu pun berlari, sebelum si Kura-kura Hijau mampu menjawab atau menyampaikan apapun.

Si Kura-kura Hijau bingung, di manakah salah ia sehingga si Angsa Merah Jambu mengucapkan selamat tinggal dengan alasan yang tidak jelas. Ia pun kembali ke sarangnya dengan langkah gontai. Dan seperti biasa, setelahnya hari-harinya dipenuhi dengan “kenapa kau, cerita saja jika itu bisa membantu !” ala si Kura-kura besar bukan pemimpin.

Hari demi hari berlalu sejak saat itu. Hanya ada satu cara buat si Kura-kura Hijau untuk menyampaikan rasa rindunya, dengan berbicara kepada bulan. Entah kenapa, ia tahu, bahwa di bagian lain di dunia ini, di tempat si Angsa Merah Jambu, si Angsa Merah Jambu pun melakukan hal yang sama. Perasaan si kura-kura tidak salah. Si Angsa Merah Jambu pun melakukan hal yang sama setiap malam.

Beberapa hari telah terlewati, waktunya kembali bagi para kura-kura untuk mencari cacing. Kali ini, si Kura-kura hijau tetap ikut dalam rombongan, walaupun ia tahu, kecil kemungkinan si Angsa Merah Jambu datang, dan mengobrol dengannya. Namun, kesempatan sekecil apapun tetap ia coba. Ia tidak salah, memang si Angsa Merah Jambu ada di sana, namun, ia tidak mendatangi si Kura-kura Hijau. Menoleh pun tidak. Si Kura-kura hijau diam lesu.

Di tengah perjalanan pulang, tak sengaja ia melihat kumpulan tupai yang sedang berbicara. Si Kura-kura meminta izin kepada pemimpin kura-kura untuk menepi dan mengobrol dengan para tupai untuk sementara. Tentu ia dibolehkan, tugasnya sudah selesai. Tupai adalah makhluk yang cerdik, jujur, dan jahil. Namun, mereka butuh sesuatu untuk membuka mulut mereka. Mungkin, dalam bahasa manusia itu disebut uang sogokan atau sejenisnya. Si Kura-kura tahu para tupai ini tinggal di atas pohon, dan melihat kegiatan si Angsa, ia pun bertanya kepada para tupai. “Hei tupai, boleh aku bertanya kepada kalian ?” tanyanya. Si tupai menjawab dengan sederhana, sambil tertawa “hahhahaha, bayar dulu dong !” Si Kura-kura bingung, ia tidak memiliki apapun untuk membayar para Tupai itu, ia pun bertanya kembali “aku tidak punya sesuatu apapun untuk membayar kalian, bolehkah aku menggunakan tenagaku untuk membayarnya ?” tanya si Kura-kura sambil menengadah ke atas pohon. Para tupai itu saling menoleh dan terkekeh-kekeh. “oke, oke, kami bantu, dengan syarat, coba kamu pohon itu !”

Memanjat pohon bukanlah hal yang sederhana untuk kura-kura, tempurungnya yang berat membuat ia tidak bisa memanjat pohon. Ia pun bertanya kepada para tupai apakah mungkin tugas itu digantikan dengan tugas lain ? Para tupai berkata tidak mungkin, bagi mereka, akan sangat lucu melihat seekor kura-kura mencoba memanjat pohon. Si Kura-kura hijau terdiam sejenak, ia lalu memaksakan diri untuk memanjat pohon tersebut. Baru saja ia berhasil berdiri, ia lalu terjatuh di tempurungnya. Sulit baginya untuk bangun kembali, walaupun akhirnya bisa. Berkali-kali ia coba hingga di tempurungnya penuh dengan luka. Namun ia terus berjuang. Pada awalnya, para tupai itu tertawa, namun lama kelamaan, mereka menjadi iba dengan situasi si Kura-kura. Mereka pun berkata “eh, eh, sudah cukup. Sudah. Tidak perlu memanjat pohon. Kami cukup terhibur dengan kekeraskepalaanmu. Karena itu, kami memberimu kesempatan untuk bertanya dengan gratis kepada kami. Silahkan. Berapa pertanyaanpun bebas. Kami tahu gosip yang ada di seluruh hutan !”  Kata si tupai itu.

Si Kura-kura pun tersenyum dan menanyakan apa yang terjadi pada kelompok angsa. Si tupai menjawab bahwa para angsa memutuskan untuk tidak lagi berkontak dengan spesies lain hingga keadaan aman. Aman dari apa ? Tanya si kura-kura, si tupai pun tidak bisa menjawab karena mereka tidak tahu. Ketika tupai menjawab tidak tahu, maka benar mereka tidak tahu. Mereka adalah hewan yang jujur. Kura-kura pun kembali ke sarangnya. Kali ini, dengan perasaan yang lebih tenang. Ia tahu, ia bukanlah alasan si Angsa Merah Jambu tidak mau berbicara kepadanya.

Pada malam harinya, ia kembali melihat bulan, dan berkata “aku rindu padanya bulan, tolong sampaikan padanya !” katanya. Lalu, terbesitlah sebuah pikiran di kepalanya. Ia tahu, ia berjanji kepada si Angsa Merah Jambu, apabila ada rindu, katakanlah pada si bulan. Maka ia akan menyampaikannya. Ia sadar. Ia bisa menemui si Angsa Merah Jambu pada malam hari, di bawah sinar bulan. Ia lalu menyusun rencana agar bisa bertemu dengan si Angsa Merah Jambu. ‘Menyusun rencana’ sepertinya agak berlebihan, mungkin, karena ia hanya butuh meminta izin kepada si Kura-kura besar pemimpin, dan itu sangatlah mudah, karena belakangan ini si Kura-kura Hijau bekerja dengan sangat baik. Benar saja, keesokan harinya, izin itu diterima, dan ia pun akan melakukan perjalanan ke tempat si Angsa Merah Jambu pada malam harinya.

Setibanya di danau di tempat sarang angsa, ia pun melihat sosok seekor angsa dengan bulu berkilau merah jambu sedang menyanyi di tengah danau. Suaranya buruk, tapi ia tetap menikmatiya. Ia menyanyi dengan perasaan. Si Kura-kura Hijau tau, itu adalah si Angsa Merah Jambu yang sudah lama ia rindukan. Ia terdiam sejenak di pinggir danau, lalu mencoba mendekat ke danau. Mendekat, dan mendekat, diiringi oleh nyanyian si Anga Merah Jambu, lalu tiba-tiba muncul sesosok hitam yang bergerak dengan cepat dari dalam hutan. Gerakannya sangat cepat, si Kura-kura Hijau menghentikan langkahnya. Bayangan hitam itu hanya terdiam saja di pinggir danau, si Kura-kura tidak berani mendekat. Tak lama, si Angsa Merah Jambu sadar akan kehadiran si Kura-kura Hijau. Ia senang. Senang sekali kawannya datang. Ia tidak menyangka. Yang ia pikirkan adalah, si Kura-kura hijau sudah melupakannya karena ia tidak pernah bisa menyapanya lagi. Ia lalu mendekat, namun, tiba-tiba, bayangan hitam itu bergerak dengan sangat cepat mendekati si Angsa Merah Jambu. Ternyata, dia adalah Si Serigala yang tersesat di pinggir danau.

Dalam sekejap, si Serigala berada di depan si Kura-kura dan Angsa Merah Jambu. Ia langsung mencakar si Angsa Merah Jambu, lalu menjilati kukunya, beruntung, cakarannya tidak dalam. Tak lama, ia pun mengambil ancang-ancang untuk kembali menerkam si Angsa, kali ini, si Kura-kura Hijau, dengan segala kekuatannya, meloncat ke hadapan serigala dan dengan tempurungnya berhasil menahan cakar si Serigala. Si Serigala kesakitan. Sekujur tubuhnya merinding, kukunya patah menghantam tempurung si Kura-kura yang keras. Tapi ia tidak berteriak. Ia tahu jika ia berteriak, gerombolan angsa akan mengepungnya –walaupun ia sadar tak ada seekor angsa pun yang dapat melawan ganasnya serigala, tetapi, akan sangat merepotkan melawan serigala itu.

Si Angsa Merah Jambu terdiam. Ia kaget. Ia tak bisa bersuara. Kali ini, si Serigala berhadapan dengan si Kura-kura Hijau. Si Serigala pun berkata “hei makhluk menyedihkan, minggir, aku mau makan.” Si Kura-kura lalu mengangkat tangannya ia menantang si Serigala “hadapi aku dulu jika kau mau memakannya”. Dengan gagah ia mencoba mengambil kuda-kuda menyerang. Namun, namanya juga Kura-kura, secepat apapun dia, dia tetaplah seekor kura-kura hewan yang lamban. Si Serigala tahu akan hal itu, ia berhasil mengelak, lalu mencoba mencakar kembali si Angsa Merah Jambu. Namun, ia tidak sadar bahwa kecepatan leher Kura-kura sangat lah cepat. Ia masuk ke dalam wilayah jangkauan leher si Kura-kura. Segera saja ia mengigit si Serigala. Ia kesakitan, perutnya berdarah. Namun ia tidak berteriak.

Kali ini, ia memalingkan mukanya ke arah si Kura-kura. Si Kura-kura menantang si Serigala “Lewati aku dulu, baru makan dia”. Dengan mata yang melotot, si Serigala berkata “sebegitu inginnya kah kau mati ? Kalau begitu, biarkan aku menggigit tempurung mu, gigiku jauh lebih kuat daripada cakarku.” Gigi Si Serigala sebenarnya tidak terlalu kuat, namun tekanan yang dapat diberikan oleh rahangnya sepertinya mampu menghancurkan tempurung kura-kura. Dengan perlahan, ia mengitari si Kura-kura. Si Kura-kura ini hanya bisa terdiam, matanya mengikuti gerakan si Serigala. Lalu, dengan cepat si Serigala mengayunkan rahangnya ke arah tempurung si Kura-kura.

Saat itulah si Kura-kura mulai bertahan. Ia tahu, rahang serigala cukup kuat untung menghancurkan tempurungnya. Ia juga tahu, bahwa jika tempurungnya hancur ia akan mati. Namun ia tetap bertahan. Tetap bertahan demi Angsa Merah Jambu yang ia kagumi. Tidak. Bukan ia kagumi. Rasa kagum itu sudah berubah menjadi suka. Bukan, cinta. Bukan hanya suka, tapi cinta. Makhluk apapun yang memiliki nyawa, akan bersedia menukarkannya demi seseorang yang ia cinta. Karena itu, ia tetap bertahan di rahang si Serigala. Si Serigala terus bertanya “masih mau hidup ?” si Kura-kura hanya diam, berkonsentrasi agar tempurungnya tidak pecah. Sebenarnya, sekuat apapun ia berkonsentrasi, ia tidak dapat mengubah cangkangnya menjadi baja atau apapun, tapi, itu jauh lebih baik daripada memikirkan kematian. Ia memikirkan ia akan selamat, dan hubungannya dengan si Angsa Merah Jambu akan kembali berjalan. Akhirnya, si Angsa Merah Jambu mampu mengeluarkan suaranya, ia berteriak “HIJAU ! SUDAHLAH, BIARKAN IA MEMAKAN KU !!!”. Namun itu tidak mengubah apapun. Si Serigala tetap menggigit tempurung si Kura-kura, dan si Kura-kura tetap diam dan bertahan.

Tiba-tiba terdengar suara retakan yang keras. Si Serigala melepaskan gigitannya. Si Kura-kura merasakan rasa sakit yang amat sangat yang belum pernah ia rasakan sebelumnya. Tempurungnya terbelah. Namun di sisi lain, si Serigala pun mengerang kesakitan, giginya patah. Si kura-kura, hanya bisa terdiam. Ia langsung berpikir tentang ajalnya yang sudah tiba. Si Serigala itu kemudian lari, giginya sudah patah, tidak mungkin lagi bisa memakan apapun kecuali rumput. Hidupnya sudah usai. Tidak ada karnivora alami yang bisa hidup tanpa memakan daging. Ia akan menjalani sisa hidupnya tanpa dapat memakan apapun.

Si kura-kura terdiam. Rasa sakitnya membuat ia tak mampu berkata apa-apa. Tempurungnya terbelah, namun di sisi lain, ia berhasil mematahkan gigi si Serigala. Ini seperti kisah pedagang senjata yang menjual perisai dan tombak. Ia mengklaim bahwa perisai tersebut tidak dapat ditembus oleh apapun, sedangkan tombak tersebut mampu menembus apapun. Seorang pembeli yang cerdas bertanya, apa yang terjadi apabila kedua perisai dan tombak itu diadukan ?. Mungkin seperti inilah jawabannya. Keduanya hancur. Si Angsa Merah Jambu menangis. Ia sedih. Sosok yang ia kagumi sedang berada di ujung kematian. Ia sedih karena si Kura-kura berani mengorbankan dirinya. Ia sedih karena ia tak bisa berbuat apa-apa. Ia sedih karena masih banyak hal yang ingin ia ceritakan kepada si Kura-kura. Ia sedih.  Si Kura-kura juga tidak bisa berkata apa-apa. Rasa sakitnya sudah merenggut suaranya. Ini adalah sebuah kisah yang tragis. Kisah yang menyedihkan. Namun, kadang, di tengah kesedihan inilah keajaiban muncul. Keajaiban muncul bukan dalam kebahagiaan, tetapi di dalam kesedihan.

Tiba-tiba, tempurung si kura-kura hijau terjatuh dari tubuhnya. Namun, yang si Angsa Merah Jambu lihat bukanlah organ dalam si Kura-kura, melainkan sebuah tempurung lagi yang berwarna hitam-kuning, warna normal kura-kura di sana. Ia pun terkejut bukan main. Ia langsung memanggil-manggil si Kura-kura Hijau. “Hijau ! Bangun Hijau ! Bangun !”, si Kura-kura yang tadinya sudah memejamkan matanya, terkejut dan kembali membukanya. Ia tidak sadar –saking sakitnya, ternyata ia memiliki dua lapis tempurung. Lapisan pertama yang berwarna hijau, dan lapisan kedua yang berwarna sama dengan kura-kura lainnya. Kuning-hitam. Seperti manusia yang banyak dilahirkan dengan kondisi yang ‘istimewa’, seperti tingkat kecerdasan yang lebih tinggi, atau ketangkasan olah raga yang di atas rata-rata, dan lain-lain. Begitu juga dengan kura-kura. Dalam hal ini, si Kura-kura hijau memiliki keistimewaan berupa tempurung yang berlapis. Ia tidak jadi mati. Ia selamat. Ia dapat melanjutkan kisahnya dengan si Angsa Merah Jambu. Ia lalu bangun, dan dalam beberapa menit –dalam hitungan manusia- ia sudah mulai merasa kembali normal.

Si Angsa Merah Jambu bertanya “sekarang kamu sudah sama dengan kura-kura lainnya. Kamu sudah tidak istimewa lagi bukan ?” si Kura-kura tersenyum dan berkata, “kamu sudah tahu jawabannya”. Si Angsa Merah Jambu tersenyum “hmm, apakah jawabannya ‘kamu tetap istimewa, karena bukan tempurungmu yang membuatmu istimewa, tetapi apa yang kamu selalu perbuat untuk orang sekitar’ ?”. si Kura-kura lalu tersenyum dan berkata “iya, benar, akhirnya kamu sudah mengerti apa itu makna istimewa, dan bagaimana cara menjadi istimewa.” Si Angsa Lalu terdiam, Si Kura-kura melanjutkan pembicaraannya. “Kamu tahu, bagiku, kamu itu istimewa. Bukan karena bulu indahmu. Ya, mungkin dulu karena bulu indahmu, pada awalnya. Tapi ternyata aku salah. Jauh di balik bulu indahmu, kamu jauh lebih istimewa. Kamu adalah keindahan dalam makna yang seutuhnya. Ketika kamu sadar kamu merasa istimewa, dan kamu merasa itu salah, di saat itulah aku merasa kamu istimewa. Sekarang kamu sudah tahu perasaanku, bolehkah aku mengenalmu lebih jauh ?” Tanya si Kura-kura. Si Angsa terdiam, terpaku. Lalu ia tersenyum lebar. Ia senang. Ia menemukan apa yang selama ini ia cari. Tanpa ragu, ia berkata “iya. Ayo saling mengenal lebih jauh. Aku ingin mengetahui lebih dalam lagi apa itu arti keistimewaan. Dan aku tahu, aku bisa mendapatkan jawabannya di dalam dirimu.”

Bulan bersinar jauh lebih indah dari beberapa hari sebelumnya di atas Danau Ezera, kali ini bulan kehilangan fungsi keduanya sebagai penyampai pesan si Kura-kura dan si Angsa. Kali ini, bulan hanya jadi penerang untuk mereka. Apa yang terjadi malam ini, apa yang terjadi bermalam-malam ke depannya, akan menjadi pesan-pesan abadi yang hanya akan  menjadi milik mereka berdua. Selamat ya Kura-kura, selamat ya Angsa, semoga kalian berbahagia !

When the Rain Signs the End of Everything

Rain. I always love rain. Not that I love to soak myself in rain, I love the ambience that it gives. It gives me  a melancholy. I become melancholistic everytime those drops of water fell into the earth, and the earth give its petrichor smells out. Rain is life for many people. In many society, rain is the source of life. It gives the field water that it needs to feed people. We also drink rainwater sometimes. It goes to the center of the earth, stored by the plants, drained, and drank by us. When the clouds gets blackened, the air gets cold. It is one of the best feeling to feel the cold breeze floating near my skin. Rain is my blessing. But it is all before everything happened. It was my blessing now. It was my blessing, until I met the Ame Onna –the rain woman-. My name is Yukiko Kashiwagi, everytime I hear the rain, it signs the end of everything. Of my everything.

This is the third time I visit the Okuyama Pyschological Counseling Clinic. I visited so many different clinic to treat my mental condition. I know that I have a problem with my mind. Especially, after ‘that’ thing happened to my life. I don’t have anyone to talk to. I don’t have any kid, my husband left me for his work abroad, although he always sends me a big part of his big salary, and based on what I see and hear, he is not in any affair with any woman. He just loves his job more than anything. He becomes more obsessed with his job especially after ‘that’ incident. He works in a big car company as a head of manufacturing somewhere in South East Asia. I can’t speak with my neighbors, they seems reluctant to talk to me, also, after ‘that’ incident. All that can I afford is a profesional help. I have visited so many clinics, but everything is pretty much over in my first visit. I don’t know why, but I always feel those psycholog I visit seems to be like only exorting money from me. My husband’s money. They don’t really hear what I’m saying. They only give me sleeping pills so I can sleep at night, and that is not what I need, I need my mental health back. But this one, this is special. I know I can trust them, and I know they can help me.

The Okuyama Psychological Counseling Clinic located in front of a mini market near the park around my neighbor. It is a very small building. It only consist of the receptionist, the therapy room, a small bathroom for visitor, a small room for the employees which only a receptionist and a helper, and a private room for the psychologist. The psychologist’s name is, of course, as the clinic’s name suggest is Okuyama. Okuyama Mizuko. She is a very pleasant lady, she seems to be like 5-7 years older than me, she is around her early 40s. Her hair is long, but she always keep it neat, tying it behind her back as a ponytail. She always wear pretty and luxurious dress, in my first visit, she wears an Yves Saint Lauren dress, while in second visit she wears  a summer dress by Gucci. Always as lovely as ever. She always makes the conversation easy. Like talking to a best friend in the highschool time. I have a highschool best friend once, but it was long in the past. I never met her anymore.

As soon as I arrived in the clinic, the receptionist give me the number, which of course it is number 1 since I make an appointment first before I come here. I really like this psychologist, I feel that I can trust her. She’s different. She has this vibe that surfaced from someone who really care for you.  I really want to meet her. That’s why I make an appointment first, to make sure that I can meet her. I sit in the bench near the receptionist when he called me to come into the therapy room. The receptionist is a youngman in his early 20s. He always been there since my first visit. He wears a white short sleeved shirt without tie. He always have his hair combed nicely, parted at the middle. His face, I can’t really say, but it is that kind of face that you will simply forget after you seen it. Not long after I sit in the bench, the receptionist called my name. “Kashiwagi-san, please come in.” I haste my step into the therapy room, I really can’t wait to see her.

Inside, it smells as nice as usual. A refreshing smells that you get if you visit a prestigious office. Like my husband’s. Inside, there are so many wooden furnitures. The bookshelf, her table, the couch where I sit and lay while she extract some information from me –in a positive way-, the only thing that bugging me is that she have so many fish ornaments in the therapy room. Wooden statue in a form of fish, Catfish I presume ? Crystal statue in a form of fish, it’s a shark definitely, old National Geographic magazines with sea monsters in the cover, which are also fishes. But everything seems to be moot as soon as I talk to her and she talks to me.

Today, she wears a beautiful black armani dress. As usual, she keeps her long hair neat as a ponytail. She smiles as I come in, “good morning Mrs. Kashiwagi, you look better today. Please, take a sit.” I smiled, and sit at the teraphy couch “I have to thank you and your teraphy sensei, I can sleep nicely lately.” “oh, I’m glad to hear that ! it means that our progam is going well” she smiles even bigger. “okay, now let’s start the teraphy again. Please lay down on the couch. This time, I want you to be ready to tell me what haas been bugging you lately, then I can really solve your problem” she said calmly.

I then rest my body onto the comfortable couch. It is so comfortable I can sleep anytime soon. But no, I have to tell her what have been bugging me all this time. In my first two visits, I never reveal my true story on how I lost my son. But this time, I have to. “okay sensei, just promise me you won’t laugh at what I’m going to talk about. It is about how I lost my son. It will sounds insane to normal people, but it really happened.” I’ve been trembling to say that. “of course no, Mrs. Kashiwagi, it is my job to hear you. And how can someone laugh at a story when a lady lost her son ?” she replied with ease. “I’m sorry, but people tend to think that I’m crazy whenever I tell them the story.”

The story on how I lost my son is one of the biggest mystery happened on my life. The first few times I tell everyone the true story, nobody belives that, not even the police. They think I am crazy. So, a story was made up by either the police and my husband that I lost my son to a child kidnapper, and the kidnapper is still on the loose. My husband have to do that because too many absent will leave his position in his office in Jeopardy. He loves his job THAT much. While for the police, the child kidnapper story will sound much better for the media than the real one. It will make their job easier. I lost my kid due to my unawareness on him, but it is not like that. Something took my son. Something took his life. Something that happened in that day. ‘that incident’.

As I try to open my mouth, nothing came out of it. I was too afraid. But then, Okuyama-sensei realized something, and she tried to calm me down. “just calm down Mrs. Kashiwagi, take a deep breath, release it slowly. And tell me your story”. I get calmer as soon as I told her. And I can start to tell the story.

“It was one rainy night at my house. As I told you before, this story might sounds like a nonsense to you.” I reluctantly told her, “no Mrs. Kashiwagi, it’s fine”. “okay, at that night it was like the usual rainy night. I’ve told you that I love rainy night, right ?” she smiles and nods. “It was cold, and calming as usual, I opened the door to my yards. It is so lovely to see those little raindrops making small puddles in my yard. To see how the rain drop in the middle of the puddle, making a beautiful circle around it with some help of the gravity. Nothing seems to be different that night, everything was as perfect as ever until….” I stopped. This is the part where everything goes nonsensical. But I have to finish this. At least for one more time, to Okuyama-sensei. “Mrs. Kashiwagi ? You okay ? Or do you want to take a break first ?” She asked me carefully. “I’m okay, I will continue. It was then I heard footsteps outside my yard. The sound of a walking human on the wet surface after rain. The sound of a foot stepping on a puddle. I thought it was a burglar, but no. No one is there.” I close my eyes, and then trying to take a deep breath. “I was thinking that it was only my imagination, but no, it feels so real, then suddenly, I heard somebody was knocking the door. It was a slow, very slow knock. It was like knock…. knock… knock.. then stop. And another three knocks. Then another. And another. And another. I was taking my time to close the door into the yard first. I’m afraid that it really was a burglar. When I was about to open the door, that somebody is stil knocking the door. When I open it on the second knock. No one is there.”

I paused my story to see how Okuyama-sensei face is. Her face is showing a serious expression, she really listens to my story. I asked her if my story sounds like a nonsense, she said no, and asked me to continue. “then, I come back inside. My son, Takeshi was still sleeping on his bed. He was 4 years old back then. It was our pact that I will get to name our children if it is a boy, and my husband will get to name our children if it is a girl. I named him Takeshi because it sounds though. It was before my husband got sucked into his job. He was caring but…” I have another pause, and this time I realized, that I was talking about my husband. I’ve talked about him in my second visit. I told Okuyama sensei the reason why I don’t want to get a divorce eventhough he seems to love his job more than anything. It is simply I still need money from him. I don’t care about anything anymore. I vowed that I will only get marry once. If I got divorce, then that means I have to get a job. But I can’t, because of my psychological condition. “Sorry, I got carried away. Should I continue my story ?” Okuyama-sensei smiles, and nod “go on Mrs. Kashiwagi, that’s okay. It is okay if you want to tell me the story about your husband.” “no, I’m going to stick with this story. “after checking on Takeshi, I went back to my room. Then I started to get sleepy. So I turn off the light and try to close my eyes. And then,I hear another knock. It was the same knock as before. I was about to call the police, but no, it might only be my imagination. I let the knock goes, but it never stop. I’m afraid that it will disturb the neighbor, so I brace myself to go to the door and open it. It was the same thing. No one is there. I close the door, locked it, and walk back to my room. It was then I feel something has gone wrong. My feet step on slippery floor. It was all wet. At first, I’m afraid that someone might have break into my house, but no, there aren’t any mud stain or something in it, it is just wet, like, someone soaked up in water walk inside my house. When I look up, there are no water falling from the ceiling, so it is definitely not a leak. I realized that the water has somewhat made some kind of a trace. The trace of the water leads me to the door that leads to the yard. I checked on the door, it was locked, no sign that someone have opened it. Then, I realized that the trace was somehow branched in the living room. So, I follow the other one. It leads into Takeshi’s room. And it was.. it was… there..” I gasped. I’m choked. This one is the hardest part to tell. I’ve told this story hundred times before. But then I stop talking about it because no one’s believe it. I never think that retelling this story would hurt this much. I lost my son that night. Takeshi was not in his room that night. His bed was all wet.  He’s gone.

Then I told Okuyama-sensei on how there is no sign that somebody has break into my house, and crossed out any possibilities that it was a crime. That night, my son, my only son, my everything has gone into the rain. The rain signed the end of everything. My everything. I cried a lot in the theraphy room. I don’t think about anything anymore. I just cry, and cry, and cry. It was then Okuyama-sensei talked to me. “Mrs. Kashiwagi, that was very brave of you telling me on how you lost Takeshi.” I try to stop crying, and then Okuyama-sensei told me so many things that makes me calm down. Mostly is about Zen Buddhism, on how emptiness can fill one’s mind. I have to admit that it calmed me down. A lot. It is a great relieve to me that someone finally  belive in my story. Then, Okuyama-sensei told me to go home, and get some rest. As she feels that today was too much for me. She then asked if Miyazaki –the receptionist- should take me home. I refused, since I feel like I can go home by myself. Then, we made an appointment, that we will meet again in the next 3 days.

I spent the next two days full of smile. It feels like something have lifted up out of my body. The chains that has been binding me has finally been broken. Although sometimes I still cry whenever I remember Takeshi, but I know that those are the reminiscent of him. I know I can move on from this, I can be healed, my mental state will be back to normal. I will become the good old Yukiko. The one who always smile, and cheerful. I will be back to my normal self.

Then, comes the day that I’ve been waiting for. I come to the Okuyama clinic at around 10 am. I’ve made an appointment just like before, so I’m getting number one again. I never see another patient here though, so I asked the receptionist. And he said that the other patients usually comes afterwork. I’m the only that come in the morning. Well, maybe the next time I visit, I don’t need to make an appointment first. It is really close to my house, I should just come and go on with the treatment. I sit on the waiting bench when Okuyama-sensei signaled her receptionist to call me. I come into her room. And she is as magnificant as ever. She invited me to sit in the therapy coach, this is my 4th time, and I’m getting used to it. She then asked me to tell her how do I feel about losing Takeshi. I told her in a simple and uncomplicated way. I don’t know why, but I feel that after the last session, the burden have been somewhat lifted. I can tell her that I really-really lost Takeshi, but the most burden lies beneath me is that my guilty feeling of not keeping Takeshi the best I can. She nods, and then she started to take a deep breath. “I understand your feeling Mrs. Kashiwagi, as a your psychotherapist, I know that I should never discuss something like this with my patient, but your case is very-very special. May I be open to you too ?” At first I was confused. Is this a way a psychoteraphy comfort their patient ? By opening herself ? I don’t think so, but I always think this Okuyama-sensei is special. I don’t mind befriending her outside the clinic. So I agreed to listen to her story.

“10 years ago, I, too lost my 4 years old son. His name was Souji.” I lost at word, so I just look at her eyes. “When you told me that you lost Takeshi in such a bizzare incident, I believe it. I really believe it. Because what happened with Souji, is exactly the same with what happened to Takeshi. I lost him in the middle of the rainy day. I already have lost my husband at that time, he left 2 years earlier in a car accident. It was all the same, with the wet traces around the house, the slow creepy knocking on the door, the footstep on the puddle. So, I have no reason not to believe your story.” She said it with a frown. I don’t know how to respon. I opened my mouth, but words seems to be reluctant to come out. I was surprised. But then Okuyama-sensei continues her story. “My neighbor think that I might have murdered Souji, so that I don’t have to raise him alone, but no, I would never do that. I love him. He is a replacement for my husband. That night too, Mrs. Kashiwagi, I lost my everything. But in the end, I can finally stand up. Although sometimes, I always wonder how would Souji looks like in his twenties ? He must be as handsome as his father was. But no, that kind of thinking will just weaken my resolution. I decided that I have to move on and go on with my life. I’m sorry Mrs. Kashiwagi, was that too long ?”. I’m still freezing, but then I shake my head like a dog who shake their body to keep water off their body. “I’m surprised to hear that. I never think that it would happen to anyone. You are definitely stronger that I am, Okuyama-sensei”. “No I am not, it is just happened to me way before it happened to you. I have more time to recover. Here I am. Almost fully recover, finished my Psychological studies, and getting my own practicing licence” She said while pointing the licence hanging on the wall. Then she told me the story on how her friends are helping her standing on her feet after she lost Souji, how she gets on with her life later on, but there is one question remains: who took Souji from her and Takeshi from me ? Turned out, Okuyama-sensei have an answer to that.

After losing Souji, she seek a peace of mind to a Shinto shrine in Kyoto. Turned out, the Kannushi or the Shinto priest told her a story about an old legend called the Ame-onna or the rain woman. It is a story about a mother who lost their children and become an Ame-onna who roamed in the middle of a rainy night, to snatch babies around. She will then eat them. The desperate woman who lost their children will then turn into another Ame-onna and will devour another children. The Shinto priest  told Okuyama-sensei that she should perform a cleansing ritual which she did, and she felt better after that. After telling the story about the Ame-onna, it was already 11.25 am. The therapy session is over, and she sent me home. She then ask me to come for one more time, and she promised to take me to the Shinto shrine later on when she’s not busy, to get me cleansed too. I don’t really believe in such story, but it might give me a peace of mind I need to move on with my life.

The therapy sessions with Okuyama-sensei really changed me. I am know more sociable, I can talk with the neighbor, they seem to be able to re-accept me, since they said “your face is now as bright as the sun !” I even called my husband a few times, he doesn’t seem happy, but he did told me that it is good to hear my old voice back. It is just about time for me to be able to love the sounds of the rain again.

The day to visit Okuyama clinic for the fifth time has finally arrived. I’m happy to meet her again. This time, I go without an appointment. As usual, I come to the clinic at 10 am, the still same receptionist is still there, and he gives me another number one card, Okuyama-sensei called me into her clinic, and I come in. As same as usual. The only thing that different is, Okuyama-sensei is now wearing a kimono, and let her hair loose. No ponytail. I think that it is a little bit weird, I wanted to asked, but maybe she’s just in the mood to do so.

“okay Mrs. Kashiwagi, how are you ? I bet you must be very fine. Your smile is better than ever.” She said while smiling nicely. With her hair unkept, and that kimono, she is performing a true Japanese beauty. I’d date her if I am a healthy 30 years old male. 10 years different doesn’t reflected in her face. She asked me to lay on the therapy couch as usual. This time, she asked me to close my eyes. Maybe she want to do some hypnotherapy or so. All of the sudden, she speaks very calmly, her sounds turned into something a little bit different. It was somewhat crooked. Somewhat like someone who have so many phlegms in her throat. “Kashiwagi, you are now as bright as the sun. The rain hates the sun. It ceased their existance.” I don’t understand what she said “what do you mean Mrs. Okuyama ?”. “SILENCE !” And then suddenly it is raining heavily outside, I opened my eyes to see something so twisted. I never see something like this in my eyes. Not even in a horror movie. I was laying in an old wooden plank. The room is not the luxurious room full of fish  ornaments that used to be Okuyama clinic. It is wet, shabby building with rains all over leaked roof. And what I see in front of me is Okuyama-sensei, she is pale, her hair is messy, and she is all wet. All wet ? Why ? “WHO ARE YOU ?” I screamed at her, but I can’t move. I can’t simply move, something unseen is holding me. “Heeheeeheee you want to know who I am ?” then she knock her thin finger into the wooden plank. Very slow three knocks. The EXACT knocks on the door the day Takeshi was disappeared. “Takeshi was such a delicious boy” she said while smiling, licking her lips soaked with the rain water from the leakage. “He was well bred, well fed, such a wonderful young boy. His bone, I finished his bone the last. It was the best. Crunchy, savory, nothing ever outbest them.” I can only stare at her, hoping that it would be a dream. A nightmare. If it is a nightmare, fine, let it be. But it is not. It is real. I can feel the cold rain drops on my body. She come closer. “STOP, STOP !!!” I said. But she didn’t stop. She asked me “do you know who I am ?”. “OKUYAMA YOU FRAUD !” I screamed at her while trying to move my body. Nothing works. “I am Ame-onna. The one that feed on your children. I pity you Kashiwagi. With some make-believe stories I made, you believe me and it makes you better. You just a selfless bitch who needs someone to talk to. HEEE HEEE HEEE HEEE” she laughed maniacally. I don’t what to do. My vocal chord is not in my control anymore. She gets closer, and closer. I close my eyes, hoping that when I open it, it will be in my room, hoping that I will see the lamps hanging in the ceiling. Hoping, that maybe, my husband and Takeshi in front of me. Hoping that this is all a dream.

But then, when I opened my eyes, the deranged face of the Ame-onna is the only thing I see. Then, she screamed loudly “YOU SHALL BE ONE OF US” while soaking my face with her wet kimono. It gets dark. And silent. It’s over.

On the next day, there were never an The Okuyama Psychological Counseling Clinic in front of the mini market. The only one existed there is an old building soaked by the rain, ready to get torn down. Somewhere, in another city in Japan, a new Psychological Counseling Clinic is now open. The board in front of it said: “KASHIWAGI PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNSELING CLINIC”. It is all nice and newly furnished.


Illustration of Ame-onna by Matthew Mayer

The original file can be found here

But Mom, I don’t Want Watermelon, I Want Cucumber

August 16th. It was a typical Japanese summer vacation. For elementary school student in a suburban Tokyo,  summer vacation used to be spent at home since the father of the family is so busy that they cannot take the leave from the office, you have to be a high ranking employee to do so. And if you are, you wouldn’t live in the suburban Tokyo. Typically, the children are going out at the noon, playing together either baseball, or bug catching, or swimming in the public pool. Although, swimming is not a good option. The pool always full on the summer. Of course, when it is hot, the best thing to do to get colder is by putting yourself in a water. When your body got burned, it is always a bucket of water that you need to put the fire off and that is what happened  in the summer, being inside cold water is a gift. But not everyone can enjoy it truly, as in the crowded public pool, the water would still get hot due to the human temperature inside. So, it is not always a good option to go swimming to the public pool.

At night, they’re typically working on their homeworks. A 40 days vacation means 40 days without school. And that takes an approximate 264 hours off the school, that means 264 hours without any knowledge adding material (or so it seems by the school). So, the school thinks that a bunch of homeworks would ‘help’ the student make up for the 264 robbed hours. For (some) elementary school children, the most interesting homework for the summer vacation is the the diary, in which the student have to keep records of things that they’ve done the entire summer (some of which the entire August, which is pretty generous, taking 10-days of the works). They have to put the date, the weather that day (which of course mostly hot, very hot, I’m burning in hell, or raining), and the activity they’ve done. Mostly, they only write like “today was ‘I’m burning in hell hot’. I do nothing but sleeping in front of the air conditioner, eating kakigoori (shaved ice with syrups).” It ends just like that for a day. Not even a half page. Half paragraph might be the best. But some of them write it like a very nice story. They build it seriously, which ended up in one page full or even more per-day.

The cicadas are singing the main anthem of the summer. The vibrating sounds of their wings are actually creating a melody one love to hear. Well, not everyone, but the 12 years old Toshio Suzuki seems to really enjoying it. Toshio is an elementary school student, 6th grade, and about to enter the Jr. Highschool. This is his last summer vacation as an elementary school student. Toshio is not a bright student. He’s a so-so student, ranked 17th in class out of his 32 classmates. Not bad, but not good either. His special ability is in Kendo, A traditional form of Japanese martial arts. He is so into Kendo. His father, Kimura Suzuki taught him the art of the sword. Kimura was a captain of the Kendo club from his Jr. High time up to the university time. He is indeed a legend in his small town, but he never gone big enough for the national as he (his team, actually) is always losing in the preliminary. That is why he wants Toshio to be his more successful succesor. Toshio promised his father, mother, his older brother who is 3 years older, that he will join a Kendo club as soon as he enter a Jr. Highschool.  Toshio’s father always put a big hope on him, as his brother prefers robotic over Kendo.

Toshio’s summer vacation days are filled by the typical stuffs, but his most favorite one is catching bugs. Since he always saying that it is one of the activity that can improve his Kendo skill. Swinging the net like a Kendo fighter as fast as possible is the key on catching those bugs. Toshio also loves to swim in the small river near his home. It is only 5 minutes walk from his neighborhood. He always go there every 3-4 times a week with his two best friends, Hiro and Kenji. They go to the same school, and the same class. Their parents know each other well, so they never have problem with them going out together, also, they always do their homeworks together at one of them’s house, so they will finish their homework on time. It has been like this since they’re in the 3rd grade.

Aside from Kendo, Toshio is also a keen writer. In writing his diary, he’s not the half paragraph type. He’s more like a half page type but with pretty well chosen words. He writes his diary as if a great painter paint his painting on a canvas. At 12 years old, he can already tell that the cicadas are singing the summer theme song, while the other 12 years old tells how noisy the cicadas are. He is very gifted in writing. Toshio’s mother was a highschool teacher before she got married, she teaches English. When Toshio was a child, she used to read books just before he went to bed. It is short stories about daily life in Japan. So, Toshio’s vocabulary is way better than most of kids on his own age. But other than that, he’s just almost below average in other subjects.

In the August 16th entry of his diary, he wrote:

August 16th

Sunny, 32 degrees of celcius. Dear summer, are you going so soon ? Only two more weeks until I start picking the bag and going back to school. Why is that ? I still wanted to hear the cicadas singing, I still want to catch bugs with Hiro and Kenji just like today. Still a lot of things I wanted to do. So, please summer, don’t go, and come faster ? Please ?

Anyway, today I went to catch bugs with Hiro and Kenji. I caught a big rhinoceros beetle, while Hiro and Kenji got nothing but cicadas. We finally release them, because I love the song of the cicadas. And Hiro and Kenji only wants to release those cicadas if I want to release the rhinoceros beetle. So I did, I just like the cicadas so much.

Oh, and the we went to swim in the small river near our neighbor. In the river, I met an uncle who swim very fast. He’s wearing green full body swimsuit. It was pretty cool, like a frog’s skin ! If I meet him next time, I want him to teach me how to swim, so that I can finally beat Hiro ! (Hiro is the fastest swimmer among them).

Toshio Suzuki.

August 17th.  Another hot day. Same as yesterday, 32 degrees of celcius. Toshio woke up at 6.30 am, 30 minutes before his father goes to his office. They usually have breakfast together –the whole family, father, mother, two sons-.  Toshio’s mother, Tomoko Suzuki (her maiden name was Onda) is a also a great cook. She always cooks everyday, and today for breakfast, she cooks pan fried Saba (Mackerel), accompanied by the never absent miso soup, horenso (Japanese spinach) braised in shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), home made pickles, and nori (dried seaweeds) heated by direct fire specially for Toshio (he likes nori so much), all are served before a piping hot white rice. This family never got bored by the mother’s cook. It is always simply but perfectly seasoned, never been under or overcooked, perfect, just perfect. Even at some times, Toshio bragged to his schoolmate that his mom can even defeat the Legendary Hiroyuki Sakai in the kitchen stadium (although he never onve tried Sakai’s dishes, but he’s just a kid, that is how a kid brags).

After the breakfast, Toshio’s father left to catch the train at 7.15 am. It is only 10 minutes walk to the station from their house, so he never late. Except for once, when he suddenly have hungover from an after office party, he wakes up late, and by the time he reaches the station, he realized that it was a Sunday. It’s the panic that caused the unfortunate but funny even. It is almost serendipitious. His father doesn’t like drinking and got drunk easy, that’s why his father used to come early. But that might be the reason why his father hardly got promoted, his superior doesn’t really like him since he is rarely go into the after office party.

Toshio’s older brother, Keichi also left the house regularly at 8 am. In summer, he joined a robot club program it his school. Keichi is one of the ace of the club. Under supervisor of his teacher, he can build a mini fire fighting robot lately. It is a big thing for a 15 years old. He’s aiming to study robotic engineering later on in the university. He and Toshio is very close. They always plays video games together, read mostly same genre of manga (Japanese comic books), and always share their daily life with each other. It is their mother that always taught them to be together.

It is then 10 am when Toshio’s mother ask Toshio if he wants to eat the watermelon watermelon. Of course Toshio wants it. It is his favorite fruit in the whole universe. If someday he goes to heaven, he wanted to be posted in a watermelon field. Yes, he likes watermelon THAT much. He even imagine if someday, his brother can build a robot that can plant watermelon automatically. Highly unlikely but, come on, it is a children’s imagination. Toshio’s mother said that she can let Toshio get his watermelon early (before his dad and brother come home), and have it again later on when his father and brother at home. Two slices of watermelon ? Why not. He said in his mind. But, in order to get that, he have to cut the grass outside his house that getting wilder and wilder everyday. It is no problem of course, his house only have a small yard. He would do it twice for those watermelons.

As soon as he cuts the grasses, he sits down in the family room waiting for his first slice of watermelon of the day. As soon as his mom brought it, he eats it violently. It is cold, he’s sweaty after a physical work outside which was pretty hot considering it was summer, the watermelon tasted like an oasis in the middle of a raging desert. After finished it, his mother have another surprise, she doesn’t cook, but instead, she’s ordering Toshio’s favorite food: Sushi. Ater having sushi for lunch, he ask his mom permission to go outside and plays with his best friends, Hiro and Kenji. His mom let him go an hour after lunch, after he explained that they’re going to swim again in the small river. It is healthy, so why not ?.

After that, Toshio went home at around 5 pm, by the time, his brother is already at home playing video games, and his dad arrived no more than 30 minutes later. They then have dinner, his mom cooks Curry rice for the night, finished up by a sweet, cold watermelon. It was a nice day for Toshio, as he wrote on his diary:

August 17th

Sunny, but not too hot. Maybe it is hot, the weathercast said that it is 32 degrees, same as yesterday. But maybe, because today was so fun, the heat didn’t feel so bad. My mom is being pretty nice today, she let me eat two slices of watermelon today, in addition of sushi for the lunch, and her best curry rice for the night. I wish it’d be like this everyday until the end of summer. I don’t mind if everyday becomes summer if it is like this. I’d do the homeworks on time !

Oh, and together with Hiro and Kenji, I went swimming again. In the same small river. And there, we met the green suit uncle for the second time. This time, I bravely ask him to teach me swim. He said okay. But he had a very strange face and voice. His face looks like a bird, and it is all green. But then Hiro said that it is a new model for a swimming goggle. In other words, he only wears mask. How bout the voice ? Maybe he got a flu, that’s why his voice is husky. But, if he got flu, why bother swimming ?

Ah I don’t know, the most important thing is, he agreed to teach us swim ! as long as we give him cucumbers, 3 cucumbers for each lesson. That means, each one of us have to bring one. Well, I can ask mom for that. The lesson will start tomorrow ! So excited.

Toshio Suzuki.

August 18th. Toshio woke up earlier than usual. Only 5 minutes earlier though, but still, earlier than his alarm clock. He always wake up with alarm clock. His mom taught that since he was in the 3rd grade.  It will be good for his future she said. Toshio is so happy waking up, remembering that he will learn how to swim properly  for a pretty cheap price, a cucumber. He is sure that his friends Hiro and Kenji will also bring the cucumber. He knows that Hiro doesn’t want to be outswimmed by him. How to get cucumber from his mother ? Easy, just say it is for lunch, stating that they will have lunch together at Hiro’s or Kenji’s.They’re making cucumber filled sushi together. In the end it is at Kenji’s, since his mother is out, and if somehow his mother crosscheck (which is highly unlikely) she won’t be there. Toshio rarely lies to his mother, this is one of the first few times. But he can’t be honest this time. An unknown uncle who will teaches swimming for cucumber sounds really wrong. His mother can hardly trust him to a stranger. (And Toshio wasn’t aware the concept of sexual abuse, so he doesn’t really know how weird an unknown adult, a kid, and a cucumber would be).

Toshio then goes out to meet Hiro and Kenji at 11 am. They have made a promise that they will meet at 11 am in a family mart near the neighborhood. They have to feel their stomach at least an hour before swimming, or they’d have a cramp which is dangerous and unpleasant. They want to have fun after all. Toshio and Kenji are having an onigiri (rice ball) filled with umeboshi (fermented plum), while Hiro is having a bento set. Sometimes they save their monthly allowance so that they can buy something without their mother knowledge. Sometimes to buy ice cream, or little toys, or snacks, or even onigiri in times like this. After having lunch they went into the little woods near the river. They talk and talk and talk as their stomach diggest their foods, while waiting for the uncle to come and teach them swimming lesson. Their cucumbers are neatly readied inside a grocery bag Kenji brought from his house.

Later, the uncle with the green swimsuit come. He is not alone. He come along with two other uncles. They’re wearing an identically same suit, and diving masks. It is weird for Toshio to see them. But it might be just that they are from a same swimming team he thought. They gave the uncles the cucumbers, and they put it on their backpack. It is something that Toshio haven’t realized, these uncle are also bringing a unique backpack. It looks exactly like a turtle shell. Toshio wanted to ask, but finally decided not to. They’re unique after all. And the the lesson starts.

The uncles movements are so elegant their movement is like an olympic level swimmer. No hesistation, the flow of their body are flowing eloquently through the water. They’re seems to wear a special flipper shoes that integrated with their unique swimming suit. They really are professional, said Toshio to his other two friends. They also wear a flipper shoes like gloves on their hands. With a little bit of claw in the end of it. It is kinda creepy, but again, Toshio doesn’t want to know why, he just simply want to learn to swim. He just want to get better. The uncles skins also smells fishy. And by fishy, he really meant it. It smells like fish. The smell you would’ve expected if you go to a fish market. Smells like that. And again, none of his concern. And with all the maybes, it is going to be okay. The lesson was fun, the uncle taught them nicely, although they all have a creeking voice, they’re speaking in a really polite way.Toshio and his friends are really enjoying this, except for Hiro. He doesn’t seem to enjoy the lesson.

The lesson is pretty simple though. How to move the arms and legs while swimming. When to take a breath, how hard should you kick to gain power and reserving stamina, etc. In no time, Toshio feels that he is getting better. And he will be better even than the great Michael Phelps. After the lesson, they promised the uncle that they will meet them again two days later. And still, they are asking for the cucumbers. The kids finally went home after having a nice chilly Kakigoori (shaved ice with syrups) on the nearby stall. Toshio is having the watermelon, while Hiro and Kenji are having the sweet melon.

This was Toshio’s entry that day, sounds as exciting as ever:

August 18th

Sunny. It was a great. I don’t really care about the weather anymore. As usual, I went swimming with Hiro and Kenji. But this time it was special. There are uncles who taught us how to swim. They looks funny, green swimsuit, weird flippers, big backpack than they even wear while swimming. Maybe, a kind of training method. Like the weight you wear when you’re running to gain more power. They are nice people. Their voices are weird, but they speaks nicely. I like them. And they’re promise to teach us swim again in two days !

How fun, I wish the next day ends quickly.

Toshio Suzuki

August 19th. Toshio went out with his family. It was Sunday anyway. Toshio used to be very happy when his parents take him and his brother to go out somewhere. But this time, he wasn’t really happy. His mind is nailed into the swimming lesson two days later. He only wrote this very short phrases on his diary, shorter than a paragraph.

August 19th

Very hot. Went out with family to Bic Camera. Dad bought a new phone, then we have lunch together at Yoshinoya. I just want to go to swim for tomorrow.

Toshio Suzuki

It was very short. The teacher will be surprised to see this page.

August 20th. This time, Yoshio even woked up earlier than before. It is 10 minutes earlier than the alarm clock. After having breakfast with his family, his father left and his brother too. And then Toshio helps his mom for chores, before going out again with his friend. Today, his mother promised him that she will make a bento to be eaten together with Hiro and Kenji before they go to swim. Toshio directly ask his mom again for a cucumber.   He said that he wants it as a desert. His mom think of course that it is weird. She was going to give him a diced watermelon, way more refreshing than cucumber with mayonnaise, which also taste pretty nice, but still, watermelon is his son’s favorite. She finally gave in when Toshio forced her “But mom, I don’t want watermelon, I want cucumber.” He then going out again to swim, to learn from the weird uncles, together with his best friends. But this time, only he and Kenji brings the cucumbers. Hiro said that he doesn’t want to take anymore lesson from the uncles, they smells fishy. He doesn’t want to lie to his mother for the second time of the week, And he’s been a good swimmer afterall. So he’s going to just stay there and swim alone.

When they arrived, the uncles are already there. Three of them. After explaining the situation with Hiro, one of them left. The tallest one. Then the other two starts teaching Toshio and Kenji. Meanwhile, Hiro swim alonein the other part of the river. Nobody else there beside them. Toshio doesn’t know why, but again, he doesn’t want to question such luxury he gave. It is way better than swimming in the public pool, almost like owning a private pool free of charge and maintenance services. After the fun lesson, they promised to meet again the next day, and again, cucumber for the ‘payment’. And the uncles said that they can have the lesson until the summer over. When they’re about to go home, they cannot find Hiro. Toshio and Kenji think that he must have gone home early. Sometimes, Hiro like to be a loner. So it is not a strange thing to notice something like this.

This is on Toshio’s entry on August 20th

August 20th

I don’t remember the exact weather. It is not raining for sure, but I don’t know how hot it was. The day was too fun to be concerned with the weather issue. Another day, another lesson from the uncle. Today, the uncle taught me how to backstroke. It was really fun, and cheap, for a cucumber, a private swimming lesson in a river that mimics a  private pool is just amazing. Although Hiro is being unpleasent, we can still have fun with the uncle !

Toshio Suzuki

August 21st.  The things happened yesterday happened again today. Toshio wakes up early. But this time it was different, as soon as Toshio woke up, his mom asked him about Hiro. She said that Hiro didn’t come home yesterday and is still going missing. Normally, he will feel worry or something, but this time, it feel just like Hiro ‘deserved’ it for neglecting the swimming lesson and being different with him and Kenji. He told his mom that Hiro went home earlier than him and Kenji. Same thing that he told her last night.

Toshio only have one thing in his mind now: swimming. He even forgot Kendo. It was something magical that drawn him into swimming. The uncle’s words and movement moved his heart. He really is into swimming now. And the thought of going out swimming again today just made his mood. The only problem is, how to get another piece of cucumber ? This time, he decided that he will buy it on the market. He still have some money to do so. Before going out, his mom reminded him to be more careful. She is concerned about the disappearence of Hiro.

After having lunch at home, Toshio went out and meeting with Kenji on the market. They both bought the cucumber and went to the river. This time, the two uncles have waited for them, taking the cucumber and starts teaching them lesson. For an unknown reason, they felt less friendly, but they’re still teaching them right. After the lesson, they promised to meet again in the next day. Again, with a cucumber. Toshio was so drained out that day. Of course, a full course swimming lesson for two days in a row is exhausting. He only wrote this on his diary:

August 21st

Sunny. Swim. Tired. Tomorrow. Swimming. Again. Fun.


August 22nd.  This time, Toshio woke up really late. 2 hours after the alarm ring. He was so exhausted last day. He sleep more than he should. Or maybe, that is just amount time he needs to be fully fit. He feels fit, but something has been dragging out from him. He doesn’t know why. Is it because I was so tired ? No, it is not something like that. It is something mental. Hiro ? Ah, yes, where is he ? Have they found him ?. But no, it might not be him. He left us anyway. Remembering that today is another swimming lesson by the uncle, Toshio get his spirit back. His mom reheated the dish she made for breakfast, and let him eat alone. She doesn’t talk about Hiro until Toshio asked her. And still, Hiro is nowhere to be found.

Toshio’s allowance has been used for the onigiri, kakigoori, and the cucumber these past few days. He doesn’t have anymore money, and asking her mom would just  rise another suspicion. She have been suspicious that he asks for cucumber rather than watermelon. “but mom, I don’t want watermelon. I want cucumber” he said. So, he decided to go without the cucumber. He met Kenji at the river and the uncle are already there. Two of them. When Toshio beg the uncle to teach him without the cucumber, they reluctantly accepted it. So they start the lesson. Or, in the Kappa’s point of view, they start ‘cooking’.

Meanwhile, at the Suzuki’s residence, Tomoko Suzuki starts to read his son, Toshio’s, diary. She felt that Toshio has been weird lately. So she thought that she found something in Toshio’s diary. As soon as she read it, she realized that his son have been in touch with Kappa. Kappa are magical creature that live in the river in Japan. They loves cucumber. They look like a giant bipedal turtle that mixed with frogs. They can be vicious when they got angried by a human. They love to eat cucumber, it is their number one food. But, they also love to eat human. Human are the second best food to cucumber according to the Kappas. While fresh cucumber is the tastiest cucumber, children are thetastiest of human. Their meats are soft, their bones are crunchy, they’re simply delicious. It is a common knowledge to a Japanese parents that time. It is a mythology that have been told from ear to ear. But for the Suzuki family, keeping the kids believing in such things are make believe. So they never taught their children about Japanese spiritual creature. Why ? Because they believe that they doesn’t exist. Until Tomoko Suzuki found out that his son has been in contact with one of them.

In the river, the Kappas started to ‘cook’ their food. At first, they drowned their victims head –Toshio and Kenji- to the river. Down the river, Toshio and Kenji saw Hiro’s head laying in there. In the bottom of the river. Head and few bones from their body. He have been devoured by the Kappas before. It is their turn to be devoured now, as Toshio and Kenji is starting to lose their grasps to reality, the Kappas start eating them. Toshio and Kenji can feel the sharpness of the Kappa’s teeth. And at that time they realized that it was not a swimming suit, it was not a flipper shoes and gloves, it was not a mask, it was not a backpack, it is all the Kappa’s body feature. As they scream in pain, blood are everywhere. The Kappas claw are gouging their eyes, their teeth keep on gashing onto their bodies, they keep on eating. And eating. And eating. It tastes almost better than cucumber. Almost. And it is in large amount. They don’t have to eat for a few days after devouring a human.

Toshio’s mom finally come to the scene, only to see his second son is being devoured by the beast. If, if only. She taught Toshio about the Kappa. If, if only she believed that there are another creature other than human and beast in this world. If only she is more curious with the cucumbers. If only she read his son’s diary a little bit earlier. And many other ifs. She wouldn’t have to see this grotesque view. The ifs can’t save anything. The damage has been done, it is over. One of the Kappa, the one holding her son, stare at her and grin, bunch of blood in its teeth. Her son’s.


Illustration of Kappas by Matthew Mayer.

The original file can be found here.

The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons

so, as I was saying on path, I want to challenge myself in order to improve my writing skill. So, once in a week (any random day) I will post a short story about a Japanese youkai (demon). The Youkais will be exerted from Matthew Mayers’ book. The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons or Hyakki Yagyo (you can find the information of the book here). So, I pick one random demon a day, and write about the demon in my own style. The first one would be about the water demon Kappa, and the story can be found here. Enjoy !

It Is Not the End of the World, It Might

There are hundred hypothetical ways on how this world is going to end. All of them are thanks to the wonderful minds of the sci-fi movies, books, video games creators. We have seen countless alien invasions, epidemic viruses, robots rebelions, natural disasters, anything. We have seen how aliens didn’t come from the outer space, they come from the core of the earth. We have seen on how mushrooms infect human. We have seen how technology outgunned human. We have seen tidal waves and giant earthquakes. We have seen anything. On screen. It was exciting to imagine how the world is going to end. But if it is, in reality, it is not that fun in any possible way.

I was sitting in the sofa, reading a copy of an old The Adventures of Tintin comic. Tintin is a Belgian reporter who often got involved into something really-really dangerous. This time, Tintin is on his adventure on visiting the moon, it was a fascinating journey. Composed by science, action, spy, and of course, imagination. What makes this story so special is the fact that it is written around ten years before people can really land on the moon. And by people, I mean the US, with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and co. Writers like Herge –the one who wrote Tintin, in case you didn’t know, is often praised for something like this, for thinking beyond the age they were living in. I guess, that is why the apocalyptic stories are always fascinating, they’re thinking the unthinkable, or I’d say, what normal people doesn’t want to think about.

Tantra sit across from me, on the floor. He wears striped shirt, and short cargo pants. It is all dirty, it hasn’t been washed for 3 days straight. Of course, water is something precious in this kind of time. His face is as friendly as usual, the beard is as wild as ever, but I think he’s trying to change it now. His hand wields a combat knife, a knife he called ‘Bruno’, who (or which ?) have bathed in bloods of many thing, but it is still as sharp as ever. He is trying to get his beard done by tidying it up with the combat knife. Knowing him as clumsy as ever, it is just about time he scream as he cuts his own skin with that knife. Idiot.

Adhir and Erlang sit in another sofa in the room. Both are wearing hoodies, red and black, respectively, unwashed for I don’t know how long, and trousers, which also, unwashed, for I don’t know how long. They’re engaged in a conversation, I don’t know what they’re talking about, and as usual, I don’t want to know. I think they’re talking about stories they’ve read these past days. Adhir read Orwell’s 1984, and Erlang read the Animal Farm. Maybe they’re both talking about socialism adn communism. It is really important to read something like that right now, in the time when the government almost dissolved, and we’re on the way to build a new one. But that’s way-way far in the future, as surviving is our topmost priority.

All of us are now in a safehouse, prepared by the government. Not a big house, but enough for us to wander around. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, kitchen, a perfect place to start a new family, not ending one. The wall are all painted white, the tile floor is cold and cozy, something that you’d have expected from a 500 million rupiah house. This house was part of the housing area that was intended to be sold to the people in a cheap monthly payment. With 5 million rupiah a month, the payment can be finished in 5 years. Pretty cheap for a highly paid executive, and choking for those aren’t, but luckily, we’re getting this house for free. You can always thankful for anything, right ? But no, this one, I kinda bribed the official so that I can live here along with Tantra, Erlang, and Adhir.

It has been 1 year since the professor’s funeral, which indicated the lockdown. Yeah, we’ve been living like this for almost 1 year. At first, the lockdown was simple. Nobody can get out of the city, out of Bandung, but now, it is all different. Government has issued a new housing system, where they decide who lives where. Many opposed it, but they don’t have anything to fight against it. It is for their own good –or at least that what the governement thinks-, they have to listen to them. For people who have a lot of money, they can simply bribe the government, take ‘the test’, and then going to other countries when it is safe. Safe from the things that have been haunting us for years. After the lockdown, families falling apart, nobody wants to talk about their own family. Eventhough they’re the bestest friend ever, but it is just sad to talk about families in this kind of time. Reminding of the past isn’t a form to build up your spirit, it diminished your spirit, it is a form escapism, which can end in a rope connecting the ceiling and that circle knot around your neck.

At the beginning of the lockdown, we can still watch television and contact each other with our mobile phones, but later on, it changed. The airwaves that sends the signal to the TVs are slowly gone, so does with phones, mobile phones. The analog phones still function properly, it is only about time until it is out of order. It all happens because the government jumbled the housing, so no one can maintans the towers that sends airwaves for TVs and mobile phones. The radio still working, but everytime you turn it on, only a painful screech can be heard from it. As it tells you how lonely the studio is, nobody there. No one can operate it, no one care to be exact. Everyone is on their own now. That’s what occurs with other people, but not us. We, seven of us, me, Tantra, Erlang, Adhir who lives together, along with Lisa, Dwi, and Christin, who also live together in the different part of the city, promised that whatever happened, we will help each other, and we will survive. No matter how.

It was a hot afternoon, air condition is never an option, we have to preserve elecricity supplied by the government. Electricity and water are still maintained by the government. We use it to drink and cook. With an electric stove, gas is of course out of option. Electricity helps in the night, it keeps out the ‘Orang Bebal’. And by orang bebal, I mean zombies. Orang bebal means ignorant, stupid, foolish, dumb, in English. We named it that way because zombies sounds lame. Lisa named it. She said, and I quoted “You know, zombie sounds lame. Sounds sooooo mainstream, how about naming it according to our culture ? You know, they’re presistent, although guns are in front of their faces, they can only groan and groan. It is stupid. They ARE stupid. How about, ‘Orang Bego ?’” Everyone objects it, it sounds stupid. “okay then, how bout this, Orang Bebal ? Sounds scary and though, right ?”, and thus, we named it Orang Bebal, or Obal for short. While the government are still calling them the exposed. We still don’t know by what or why they’re getting exposed, the sure thing is, we aren’t, I think some scientist had some hints on those, but we don’t know, google is dead here.

When a person got exposed by this epidemic, the first thing they realized would be a rash on their body. A purple-ish rash like when you hit your stomach with a police issued rubber bullet (I saw this one in Jackass, Johnny Knoxville once hit by a shotgun with rubberr bullet, the rash stays for 3 weeks or so). And then you’ll have a ‘cold fever’, or so they said. It is literally, a cold fever. When you got a fever, normally, your body temperature will rise up, you’ll become hot outside. It is your body mechanism in fighting infections inside you. But this cold fever, instead of getting hot, you’re getting cold. Some say that when you touch the body of the exposed, it feel as cold as a metal being exposed by a 19 degrees air conditioner. It is THAT cold. The scientist said that it is because instead of fighting the infection, it let the infection runs inside your body. I don’t know how, I don’t study biology, and I can only listen to the scientists. But still, they don’t have cure, or how the exposed disease can be spread. But I think, as usual it’d be some degree of contact. Bodily fluid, air, foods, I don’t know, but the thing is, until today, we’re just fine.

In the later stage, the rash will not spread, but it is getting darker, and soon, the exposed will starting to forget many things. Like people with Alzheimer, but it degraduate so fast. It goes like, today you can remember the integral formula, at the night you can’t even remember your own name. In that phase, you will feel an urge to eat. Eat anything, eat a lot. You’ll even eat raw meat, raw eggs, dirts, anything edible. By edible, anything that can go into your mouth and can be chewed or swallowed, so steelpipe or rocks are not an option. And of course when you goes eating anything, human is always nice pick. They’re big, and tasty, maybe, according to Issei Sagawa, it is though. And then finally, the urge to eat takes over you, you’ll be controlled by it. It is then the end of you. You can’t fight it, so it is either you, or other people. And other people will think it is either them or you, then BANG ! a bullet on the head, or a strangle on the neck, or a nice clean hit on the head with a steel bat, anything. They’ll trying to kill you, to defense themselves. While you’re trying to eat them to fill the urge.

The room is now hot as hell. Well, some will call me a disbeliever, because the believer will say that hell is much hotter than this, but come on, it is only a hiperbole. A figure of speech. It is really hot goddamnit. In the room, there are a set of sofa, a three seater, a double seater, and a single seater. It stink, but comfortable. Like a cloth you wore for years, at the threads are starting to fall apart, it is getting fitter to your body. The smell, the texture, it molds with you. And then there’s the coffee table in the middle of the room with playing cards all over it. Playing cards is always fun, even in this kind of time. Small chats really lighten up this life and death situation. The table is made from a wood, I don’t know what woods, never fancy of carpentry, with black glass in the middle of it. I remember that one of my friend broke this kind of table once in the field study session of my university. He put his very heavy bag on the glass side, and it simply broken. I bet Tantra still have the memory on it, he have a very great memory. We were on the same group back there. And there are empty mugs on the table, it looks dull, as dull as our condition right now. But no matter how dull, a mug is a mug. As long as it has no hole around it, we can still fill water and drink from it. It still maintains its main function. So does human, as long as they keep their mind clear, they can still act as a human, no matter how messy they look.

“hey, you know, Tintin went to moon 10 years before Neil Amstrong did, amazing eh ?” I tried to open a conversation that include everyone in the room. “Of course, it is not Tintin or Professor Calculus or Captain Haddock that is amazing, it’s Herge who can think 10 years before the true event” said Adhir. “yeah, okay, then I should say that Aoyama Gosho is awesome to be able to think how to kill with a waterfall”, I replied. “yeah, sort of.” Short answer came from Adhir’s mouth. “yu kno, ic ish aways fashinet me theshe wrytersh”, Tantra’s words aren’t coming nicely because his undermouth is pressed by the combat knife he use for shaving his beard. Kinda remind me of our friend, Michael who talks funny like that. We used to make fun of him. Meh, I wonder how he is now ? Is he finally succeed robbing an ATM and escape somewhere ?.

“yeah man, you know, imagination can leads you into anything. Into innovation. No one can think of communicating wireless in the time of Star Trek, it was only imagined back there. But today, there’s bluetooth and anything” Erlang tried to get himself invited into the conversation. Of course he is invited, everybody is.

“You mean yesterday ? Today, we’re like back into the old age where Kurt Cobain is still alive, and destroying stuffs, and you know, we’re still playin tazos and stuffs.” Said Adhir

“dyud, weyre you 25 in the tyme cobayn still alive ?” Tantra replied, still with the combat knife. I’m enthusiastically waiting that combat knife shaving goes wrong, it’d be funny.

“fuck you Tan”. Replied Adhir. He used to be mocked like that. Because, it is suspected that he actually is a 100 years old human. Or so, judging from his appearence. But of course it is a total joke.

“so, what do you think guys ? For how long shall we live like this ?” I’m changing the topic to a more serious one.

“I don’t know, it never occurs to me that we will live our life like this. In paranoid, nobody knows when these bebal will attack us, or when the government will finally lift the lockdown, which is highly unlikely.” Adhir said while throwing the copy of 1984 to the other unoccupied sofa. Maybe he’s bored and trying to be a basketball player. The book fell off the sofa, he missed it. it caused a big thud on the floor.

“well, I don’t know, deep inside, I always wants to try something like this you know ? Surviving with the techniques we got from movies and games. It is fun protecting the girls, making strategies and stuffs.” Erlang is the one who is really interested in the situation. He thinks that daily normal life is killing him. He was a banker back then before the lockdown. He works in Jakarta. I occasionally meet him, maybe like 2-3 times a months, just to relieve our stress from the daily life. Me, Lisa, Christin, and Erlang lived in Jakarta. We sometimes meet, once a month at least. It was always fun to release the tension among these people, they’re mad.

“oh really ? I thought it was fun at first. But it is not. Once the thought of becoming an Orang Bebal hits my mind, I lost my appetite on this. I just want to go back to that normal but boring life, it is better you know. Maybe, this is a God’s way to tell me that I oughta more thankful for the life He gave me.” I replied

“weyll, I think… OUCH.” Finally, Tantra cut his own chin. Not too deep, but enough to make him bleed. “Tissue, hey, tissue,” he panicked. “use this” said adhir, he’s throwing the wet tissue box at him. “OUCH DUDE, SHIT, ALCOHOL !” Tantra screamed as he was just stepping into the hot hell floor. Oh come on, it is just alcohol on small wounds. Tantra is the most athletic among us. But he have a very low pain tolerance. Almost zero. But, in addition to that, he never got hurt in fighting the Orang Bebal. He’s fast, his attack is precise. When he used the steel bat, he can hit the Orang Bebal in one hit on the head. After the Orang Bebal fell down, he’d then decimate the Orang Bebal face with the army knife his dad gave him. After such encounter, he’d clean up the knife and resharpen it. It is a very high quality knife, no matter how much you sharpen it, it seems that it will never broke.

After that, we have our afternoon nap. We’re going like one person get one hour nap. When one person is sleeping, the 3 persons have to wake up, fully aware, and then switch with each other. It has to, because we have to stay awake up until the night comes. When the night comes, same things happened, only, it is 3 hours for each person. It has to be done so that we won’t be outwitted by the Orang Bebal. When Orang Bebal came, together we fight them, kill them, and then burn them in anyway possible. The unique thing about Orang Bebal is, when you burn them, it will automatically lit on fire. So you don’t need gasoline or any substance to make it start burning. Orang Bebal can be ‘killed’ if they’re wounded in two places, the head where the brain resides, and the heart. It has to be those two places. Both of them. Adhir almost being eaten once when he thought he ‘killed’ an Orang Bebal with a nice shot on the head. Turned out, it is still moving, and almost grab him at eat him. Good thing Tantra is quick enough to shoot the brain. This killing method we learned back at the funeral. The Government agent with the radiation suite shoot the Professor’s exposed body in the head and in the heart. It is a trial and error process later on after the lockdown. After they killed, we burn them own. The most amazing thing is, after they’re being burn, the remains would just become ashes in only like 3 hours or so. The body melt first, like a candle, and then it get dried out, and after it, *pooff* disappeared. Another convinient thing about these Orang Bebal is, they doesn’t bleed. So, you can shoot them anywhere without concerning that your tile floor will get bloody and stink.

As for now, we have some weapons in our hands. I bought it from a shady government agent. 4 guns, each of us have one, a mini axe, a machete, Tantra’s combat knife, and an own made sledgehammer. When I first bought the guns, I also bought a lot, almost thousands bit of ammos. I know that if something like this happened, the lockdown, soon, the money would be worthless, as there is no one selling anything. So as precaution, I invested my money on ammos. Good choice. And to burn the Orang Bebal, we have this blow torch for cooking, it is simple and cheap, and we have a lot of them. Adhir’s parents were once had a restaurant. When we found out how to kill and burn the Orang Bebal, those are the first things we saved. It is good for a portable means, if we’ve been attacked by the orang Bebal at home, after we killed them, we would bring their body outside, and burn them with the fire we collect from the electric stove. It save the gasses.

The phone rang when Adhir was sleeping. I am the one who picked it up. It was Lisa. I expected it though, it is either Lisa, or Dwi, or Christin. Any one of them. Since, we don’t really have other contacts, yet, I hope.

“hey, what are you guys doing right now ? We’re bored” said Lisa

“It is our nap time now, what’s up then ? Want to come along ?” I replied. They use to come to this house, it is only like half an hour drive by a car. And they can always go with an army vehicle here. Lisa have this kind of connection to the army. Her dad was a well respected sergeant. When the lockdown happened, they give her one bodyguard and an access to the army’s vehicle, simply because Lisa refused an escape to other country. “to be with my best friend, is the most important things. If you can’t take them, then let me stay here”. It is such a luxury to have a bodyguard, but Lisa doesn’t approve the him, as he is too rigid for this kind of condition. But she sometimes asked the bodyguard to pick her, and Dwi, and Christin to our safehouse. Oh, and they always get new stock of weapon every week. They didn’t share with us though, because the army are limiting the weapons nicely. They mastered it quickly since the army really trained them.

“Hmm, no, I don’t think  so, we’re not in the mood,lately, Dwi seems to be remembering someone from her past, when she got into it, she is being stressed out, and meeting you guys seems to be unwise, you know, your jokes are sometimes cruel” Lisa explained.

“well, okay then, why bother calling then ?” I asked.

“because we’re bored.”

“so ?”

“I think calling you guys is fun”.

This kind of things happens a lot. We talk, and talk, and talk, each of us get time to speaks with the girls over the other part of the city. It was fun. And yeah, phones are for free. Use it as much as you want. We all talked for like 2 hours on the phone, and it is already dark outside. It is time to end the phone then, it is time to survive.

“okay then, it is 7 pm already, and we have to be prepared. Good luck in surviving. See you someday.” Erlang ended the phone. He’s the last one who held the phone. The other person in the end of the phone is Dwi, I presume. Since, Erlang said “oh come on, just forget it”  a lot.

The Orang Bebal only strike in the night. Like a vampire, they can’t stand sunlight. Not because they’ll got burn, *they might get burned by an Arabian desert sunlight though, it is my hypothesis”, but because they can’t see in sunlight. So they wait until the sun gone and the moon takes over.  It was a Crescent moon outside. I remember someone who really loves the sky at the night. “I can see star, there’s the antares the brightest star in the night, beside it, it is mars ! the red planet,” she always explain how amazing stars are, and how beautiful they are. To be honest, I missed her a lot. I don’t know where she is now. Before the lockdown started, I always like it when the night comes. The sounds of the cricket painting the silence of the night, the stars are shining on the sky, hanging out with each other, the moon reflecting the sunlight. It is beautiful. But for now, the sky doesn’t change. Still as beautiful as always. The cricket still sing the same old song. But the surrounding, well, Orang Bebal can come anytime.

We guard the only door into the house. The gun is held nicely in the gun holster in my belt, so does everyone’s. This time, I get hold of the Machete, Tantra, as always with his army knife, and Erlang, with the sledgehammer. Adhir ? Sleeping, it is his time to enjoy sleep. But after guarding for 3 hours, it is my turn to sleep, and then Tantra’s, then Erlang’s. Fair enough, right ? The first Orang Bebal shown up at 8, only one of them. Good, then we won’t get overwhelmed. As usual, Tantra is going first with his speed. Out running the Orang Bebal who walked slowly, like an oldman who is starting to forget on how to walk, and he simply stabs the Orang Bebal’s head. The orang Bebal is a male, around his 40 maybe, black hair, wearing twisted Metallica T-Shirt. I want that shirt so bad, but meh, it was Orang Bebal’s I doubt it that it is sterile. And right after the orang bebal fell down, it’s Erlang’s turn to hit the Orang Bebal right in the heart. Violently. The Orang Bebal stopped moving. And just to make sure, I finally stab the Orang Bebal right in the chest. A gentle stab that would make a stab in the heart. Sounds like an emo song. Meh.

The nights still going, up until 6 am, it won’t stop. They’ll keep on coming, and we’re still guarding the door, waiting for our turn to get some sleep. In the end, we’ve managed to kill 3 Orang Bebal at that night. It is normal I asume. We got like 8-15 Orang Bebal a week. There are nights when no Orang Bebal came at all. We call it sterile night. After it reached 6 am, we call the girl, asking their condition. Of course they always okay, they’re way more trained than us. And their weapon is still ahead of us. After that, we burn the Orang Bebal’s remains. If they can be easily burned, then why don’t just burn them without killing them first ?. It is too dangerous to do so; 1. They can still walk, which makes them a walking fireball. 2. No more reason. There’s only number 1, and that sole reason is enough on why we should incapacitate them first.

After piling up the orang bebal, 4 of us watch as they burn. We’re talking about what will happen to humanity later on.

“guys, I don’t know, I always feel bad to kill them. You know, they were once have family, they were once smile, they were once have their own though. Yet now, we’re killing them just like that.” Said Tantra who have the highest killing count up until today. He’s the most concern with the ethic on killing the Orang Bebal. He always thinks that it is just wrong to kill them.

“dude, always remember this. It is either us, or them. It can never be both.” I convinced him.

“yeah, I know, but…” just before Tantra can finish his word, I cut him.

“no but, stay focus on this, pity will makes yourself killed Tan, don’t pity them. Yes, they were once human. But they WERE. They’re dead once they got exposed”

“you’re right. But, ever think if we got exposed someday ?” Tantra asked, from his eyes, I know he’s worried. Because up until know, nobody knows how the exposure come. It might be the next day, we woke up with that rash in our body. We’ll never know.

“no, never. Don’t ever think of that, and we know our oath. The day one of us become that kind of thing, it is the day that we become a murderer of own friend. It has been a year, we’ve been in a lot of contact with them, yet everyone is okay. Don’t worry” Adhir calmly added. Then the silence came into play. When this kind of talks arised, it always left us in an awkward silence. It is true, that one day, we might have to kill one of us. In case one of us turning into Orang Bebal.

“you know guys, I always thinking on how the world is going to end. The robot rebellion like the one in termintor, or alien invsion like the one in the independence day or the Pacific Rim –in which the Kaiju can’t be stopped even with the Jaeger-, or like the one in 2012 where the earth is ‘simply’ tears apart. But turns out the zombie appocalypse is the most realistic one for now. It is going to be the end of the world.” Said Erlang thoughtfully. He always think that the Orang Bebal is the scenario for the end of the earth.

“you know, Lang, Tan, Dhir. I always think that this is not the end of the world. It might. But it is not something that is coming with a certainty. It might not be stop. But the chances is as good as it might be stop. We’ll never know. We can’t look into the future. Future seems to be far from now, but I know it is there. The most importnt thing right now is to survive. Don’t die. Therefore we’ll see the future. Just wait, and survive. We are the master of our own destiny.” I have to keep their spirits up.  We can’t survive if we think we can’t. We have to think that we can. Surviving is something that have to be done even before the outbreak started. The only thing that differs it would be, this time we need more effort. Much more effort. What Tantra think is something that isn’t going to help in this kind of time. It might kill you. It is like a moth that is drawn to a flame. Moth likes flames, but it kills them when they get too close. This kind of thinking, taking your life before you become something you hate, something you want to kill, is way better than live long enough to see yourself become one of them. My logic can accept that, but no. I don’t want to. I want us to survive. We have to live. Live long enough to see the real end of this. It is much more interesting.

“sorry for bringing up this kind of conversation, you’re right. We have to survive. In truth, we don’t know what is happening out there. Maybe, somewhere in the world, they have found the cure for the exposed…” said Tantra in regret.

“I doubt it dude. It might be like AIDS or something, even if they really found the cure, they won’t use it. Maybe, this is one of the way to decrease the earth’s population” Adhir calmly replied.

“You might be right Adhir. Seriously you might be right. We are cut off from any news for now. Maybe, just maybe, it is time for us to make ‘the move’. You know, the resistance, trying to break out the lockdown, and see what happened. As once the wise words said, we’re turtle inside their own shell. We can’t see the world wholly as long as we trapped inside.” You can see the enthusiasm inside Erlang’s voice. He means it. He really means it.

“okay, I guess it is time. Commencing operation RESISTENTE.” Everyone nodded in unison, like a little kid who is being asked ‘who wants some ice cream ?’ by their teacher.

the ashes of the Orang Bebal have flown along with the wind. It is the wind that will bring them to heaven. Maybe. God is good right ? He is nice. These Orang Bebal died twice in their life(s). He should put them in heaven. It is just cruel if you dead twice, then you’re going to hell. It’ll be you’ll be dead thrice. And that is just inhumane. Well, God is not a human after all anyway ? But He’s good.