* ‘Abah’ and ‘Bu’ mean Dad and Mum in Malaysian Malay. ‘Sayang’ is a term of endearment in the same language. Unfortunately the story occurred in Indonesia but am not too sure about these terms in Indonesian Malay… so I settled for terms in a language I am more familiar with :)
Here’s the tale of a family on 26.12.2004.
It had been raining hard for the past two days. Khai looked worriedly at the stack of semi-dried fish in the corner of the kitchen. Mainly mackerel, the stack was higher than it had been in years, a sure sign that something big was happening out there – at least that was what her fisherman husband had said. When the sea catch increased in such a great fold, it meant the waters were not at peace.
“Bu, Rex ran out. She was acting all funny and hissed when I went near her.” It was her eldest, Himo.
Khai smiled at him. “Don’t worry, Rex will be all right. We can’t look for her now, there’s a gale brewing and it’s dark outside.”
“Won’t Rex be afraid? I don’t understand why she was acting all funny.” Himo’s dark eyes were wide.
Khai bent down and looked Himo in the eye. “Animals are smart, she’ll find shelter. The howling wind probably unnerved her a bit.”
Himo nodded. “Can Ju and I sleep with you and Abah tonight? Ju’s afraid too.”
“Come on, let’s get you two into bed,” Tajir said from the kitchen doorway from where he had been watching this exchange. “Sayang, it’s past midnight, surely your kitchen work is done.” He looked over at his wife.
“Almost. Get the kids to bed? I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Tajir bent down and scooped up their son into his large sea-weathered hands. “Shall we go and collect Ju? I wonder where she can be.”
“I’m right here, Abah,” said a small voice from right behind him.
“Oh, so you are!” Tajir said in mock surprise, then gave his eldest a broad wink, making the six-year-old giggle. “Well, come along then and give your mother some peace.”
Khai laughed and turned back to the food she had been putting away in the fridge. As she put the day’s leftover soup into the bottom shelf, in her mind’s eye she saw a frightening image. She saw huge foamy waves submerging the humble huts that made up their village, heard fear in the voices of people around her and felt the raging wind tug at her and throw her off balance, and somewhere in that chaos she saw the top of the mountain she and Tajir had climbed years ago that was on the outskirts of the village. The mountain seemed to call to her, compelling her. Then she felt the cold air from the fridge again and her eyes focused once more on the clear fluid in the transparent plastic container in front of her.
Before she knew what she was doing, her legs were carrying her towards the bedroom, and she had flung the bedroom door open. “Sayang, get the girls. We have to get out of here.”
Tajir had been massaging the sole of his right foot. “What?”
“Tajir, trust me. We have to move, quickly.” Her voice was calm but Tajir saw the urgency in her eyes.
“There’s a storm outside,” he objected, standing up. “What’s going on?” His brows knitted together in a frown.
“And it’s going to get a lot worse. I can’t explain. Just trust me on this.” The certainty in Khai’s voice seemed to surprise even herself
“Himo, Ju, come on.” Tajir held out his arms to his children and they clambered into them, a bit confused. Carrying them he stopped in front of his wife and wordlessly handed her their three-year-old.
“We have to go to that mountain beyond the village well,” she told him, glancing down in surprise at her right hand which was gripping a large bottle of drinking water. When had she grabbed the drinking bottle from the kitchen table?
The yellow light from the bulb overhead flickered. “Run,” she whispered softly into her husband’s ear.
The story’s super long. So am breaking it apart into 2 posts…