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It Is Not the End of the World, It Might

October 3, 2014

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.

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