Friday, July 15, 2016

The Sewing Machine (缝纫机)

My friend Mr. Saw used to own a garment factory in Ipoh before it went down in blaze some years ago.

There were a few sections in his factory and the sewing department is just one of his many departments. There used to be about 50 sewing machines in Saw’s factory and one of them is believed to be haunted by the restless spirit of a lady operator known as Siew Mei.

As far as I know, Siew Mei was a single mother with two children who died in a freak accident on her way back after doing overtime work. It was a rainy night Siew Mei was on her bicycle holding a large umbrella. Perhaps she lost balance due to strong wind and she fell onto the road and a lorry ran over this unfortunate lady.

The incident happened one week before payday. At that time, factory workers of small factories were still being paid with cash instead of directly crediting into the person’s account.

So, on the payday; the payroll clerk as usual put the money of each worker into an envelope and habitually walk from one end of rows of sewing machines to the other until everyone is paid up.

When the clerk walked passed Siew Mei’s sewing machine, she habitually put the envelope filled with money beside the machine and asked for a signature. Of course, at that time the payroll lady didn’t really raise her head to look at everyone at the sewing machine… she just walked passed one machine and made a rollcall. She would only lift her head if there was no answer from the sewing machine.

As recalled by the payroll lady later, she thought she heard the familiar voice of Siew Mei responded to her when she passed Siew Mei her hard earn money. At least the clerk thought the sewing machine was running and that ‘someone’ was sitting behind the sewing machine. But only after the payroll lady walked a few steps from Siew Mei’s place, she suddenly realized that she only attended Siew Mei’s funeral a few days ago and who was working on Siew Mei’s machine?

After realizing that she has perhaps gave the money to some strangers, the clerk immediately turned her back and returned to Siew Mei’s machine…

Strange enough though, the money was lying on the sewing machine intact. There was no one at Siew Mei’s machine. The clerk asked Siew Mei’s fellow workers and they unanimously said that no one was working at Siew Mei’s machine at that time. But interestingly speaking, when the clerk looked at the signature on her receipt; true enough! It was indeed the signature of Siew Mei herself!

Since then, the sewing machine was said to be haunted and night watchmen even claimed to have heard and seen this specific sewing machine operated by itself at night though no one was seen near the machine.

My college mate, Joanna wanted to find a part time job so I introduced her to work for three months with Mr. Saw. It happened that Joanna was assigned to the sewing department to take over the place vacated by Siew Mei.

One night I came to the factory to fetch Joanna for late night supper. Since I was quite close to Mr. Saw, I could just walk into the factory. It was near Chinese New Year, not many workers were on night shift then. When I was at Joanna’s place, I saw an unfamiliar lady operating the sewing machine. So I politely asked the stranger if she has seen Joanna, the temporary worker. Before I could finish my words, the lady gave me a queer look and said: “I have been working here for more than 10 years on this machine. There is no replacement that I have known of…”

At first I thought I have made a mistake as there were about 10 rows of sewing machines. So I turned my head and looked for the shift supervisor.

As soon as I have turned my back, I heard Joanna’s voice calling from a distance: “Hey, wait for me! I just went to the toilet!”

Hearing Joanna’s call, I turned my back again and while I was swing my head, I habitually took a glance at the sewing machine… and there was no one there! I could only see Joanna hurried towards me…

Perhaps I just saw Siew Mei’s ghost, or perhaps it was just my hallucination as I was fairly tired at that time.

A few weeks after Chinese New Year, Mr. Saw’s factory caught fire and burnt to ground. Many people said it was the work of Siew Mei as she wanted to keep the sewing machine for herself for all eternity because she felt her job was threatened. However, there is no conclusive answer as of today.

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