Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Monday, April 14, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (45)

It was after dinner on a peaceful night in the family home when ’Pak Bambang wearily pulled up his aching legs one after the other, to rest them on the footstool. He could hear the clatter of crockery being washed up by the pembantu as he leaned back into the cushions of the sofa, folding his arms in a way that had become habitual when preparing for his customary after-dinner nap. But the pain he felt in his chest this evening was tormenting him more than usual, causing him to abruptly slip his feet back off and on to the floor, while pushing himself upright, once more. He leant forward slightly, easing the pain. Damn thing can’t leave me alone for a minute, he thought.

Seeing this, his alarmed wife moved across to him from her chair, to lay a hand on his shoulder. “Indigestion again, sayangku?” she enquired, to which he silently nodded a false affirmation, his upper body now slumped forward, arms dangling down towards his feet. Unsteadily, the pensive old woman then retreated to the kitchen to fetch his usual antacid, after swallowing which ’Pak Bambang would, as always, feign complete recovery. Kasihan. He’ll be all right after he takes this, she thought, unknowing.

Back in the drawing room, the old palm industrialist had begun another series of black, wheezing coughs. A sequence that always started with a sharp intake of breath and ended with a spluttering of wet mucus and red, bulging eyes. The kind of cough that leads to the grave, he sighed inwardly, while dabbing at his mouth with a handkerchief. After a brief respite, another convulsion followed. Every hacking compression of his chest felt like a knife going in. He prayed the pain would stop. Kenapa saya, Tuhan? Why me? Hearing his wife’s shuffling return, he looked up to cast her his usual loving smile, before placing a hand on top of hers as she once again patted him gently on the shoulder, while passing him the magic potion. A remedy which, she convinced herself, would instantly restore him to complete health. And everything will be all right. He thanked her and dutifully downed the pills, quietly praying to whatever God might be listening, for time. Just give me a little more, he begged…

Most of us are content to swim unquestioning, through a sea of blind acceptance. Swallowing everything around us, effortlessly happy. But Anath was different. A gifted boy, he just happened to be the victim of circumstances that were cast before he emerged into the world. For whilst the hex that had been thrown his pregnant mother’s way failed to make any impact upon his physicality, it had perhaps somehow permeated his soul. Poor Anath had never known true happiness. From an early age, he was haunted by a profound awareness of everything around him, never able to gloss over the facts, or airbrush out any of the detail. It was as if he possessed an extra sense, some additional equipment that intruded, forcing him to receive signals that others could not detect. A kind of crystal clarity that crackled in his own airspace, to the exclusion of others. But to a large extent, this constant state of wakefulness was not wanted.

So when the sense of some incoming message hit him shortly after noon, despite his irritation at its intrusion, he knew it was real. Something urgent and filled with… love. And concern. But this particular signal was weak, it was distorted. Coming from way off. From the place of his past, perhaps. He struggled to break its code as it began to fizzle out, dissipating back into the aether. Anath cocked his head slightly, while squinting an eye. Sitting quite still, he waited for more; but there was nothing. Maybe I was wrong, he mulled, now disappointed. But I’m sure I felt something then. He passed off the fleeting sensation as a kind of aftershock from his encounter with the Captain, accepting that he was spooked and, now forcing a stilted grin, scared. But he remained troubled enough by the experience to continue his meditation, urging the message to return.

Overhead the sky had darkened, in preparation for the afternoon’s shower. It was that precise moment when a stillness descends: when the birds quieten and desist from taking flight, sitting instead to await a free bath. Shaking their feathers excitedly, in the certain knowledge of events shortly to come. Anath knew it, too, and began covering his newspapers with the plastic sheet he had tucked behind the stall in preparation. And as the first drops of rain pitter-pattered on to its plastic surface, an old red Toyota pulled up at the roadside in front, its engine halted with the turn of a key.

For a second, all was still and eerily quiet, but for the water that fell, from a generous sky.

posted by Kirk at 9:25 am  

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