Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Hitchhiker I (不速之客 I)

If you are a Malaysian driver used to do night travels which ply between two isolated locations, then you would probably have a fair share of ghostly experiences; or at least some ghost stories to tell. Most of my Malay friends who travelled at night have one kind of eerie experience or another.

Old road that led from Kuala Kangsar to Lenggong in Hulu Perak was dimly lit and street lights were far and between. Many drivers who drove at the dead of the night would have a taboo as not to look at the rear mirror no matter what happened.

Pak Ali was my old neighbor when I stayed in Talang, Kuala Kangsar. He was a taxi driver and he frequently travelled from Kuala Kangsar to Lenggong at night fetching his old customer who was a businessman in Lenggong. He usually returned to rest early in the morning after dropping his customer. That was when I stepped out of my house to school. When he was free, Pak Ali too would give me a lift and told me many strange tales along the way. In Malay, a ride is called ‘tumpang’.

According to Pak Ali, he always sees a white figure under a banyan tree just off the junction of the road heading to Lenggong. At first, Pak Ali thought he was presbyopia due to aging. But after many encounters, he has somehow grown accustomed to the sighting.

This was one of those nights that Pak Ali has an unforgettable ‘tumpang’ (ride) from the other side. As usual, Pak Ali drove from his house to Lenggong just pass midnight alone. When he arrived at the junction where he used to see the white figure, suddenly his taxi halted right in front of the banyan tree. No matter how many he tried, the engine just wouldn’t start.

Just as when Pak Ali continuously restarting his taxi, suddenly he heard his left rear door opened and a breeze of wind coupled with the smell of perfume entered his taxi. Strangely speaking, right at the time when his taxi door slammed closed; the taxi engine restarted.

Instinctively, Pak Ali turned his head and to his surprised he saw a very beautiful lady in white sitting at the back seat. Though surprised, Pak Ali politely told the lady that his taxi wasn’t for hired. But the lady pleaded that she would get off just before the junction turning to Lenggong. Since it was pretty late then, the good hearted Pak Ali thought it would be awful to let the lady alone out there in the wilderness. Who knows what would happen if she came across some bad folks? So, Pak Ali didn’t say second words and continued his journey.

As usual, Pak Ali would start to strike a conversation with his passengers, but no matter what he said, the lady just kept silent. After some round of chatting alone, Pak Ali suddenly stopped talking and it was a dead silent in the taxi. At this point, Pak Ali inadvertently stared into his rear mirror. To his horror, the reflection in the mirror showed that his hitchhiker wasn’t look like near anything human! The ‘creature’ has long straight hairs, a half decayed face with eye balls popping out and fangs protruding out from mouth with missing lips…

It was indeed a ‘culture shock’ for Pak Ali and instinctively he turned his back but to his surprised, the beautiful lady in white still sitting politely in the backseat while smiling. The lady finally opened her mouth and said:

“Aku cantik tak?” (Am I pretty?)

Pak Ali thought he was hallucinating and again he turned forward and quickly caught a glimpse of the mirror reflection, and the ugly demonic creature was still in the backseat!

Though Pak Ali wasn’t a superstitious person, he at once recalled that the lady was some sort of demonic spirits. So, he just kept silent and continued his journey towards Lenggong.

Right before the taxi was to turn at the junction to Lenggong, Pak Ali heard a sweet voice and said:

“Ada turun. Terima kasih!” (I am getting off. Thank you!)

The taxi automatically halted and the backdoor opened and then slammed. As before, the taxi engine can be restarted and Pak Ali drove on without turning back.

According to Pak Ali, since the incident; he has a few similar experiences at the same locations until he finally retired to be a taxi drive. That is the strangest tale I have heard from Pak Ali. I have a few more tales of strange hitchhikers to share in future too… So whatever you do, please don't look back at night! You are warned!! 

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