Man on the Road
I looked at the back seat to see if my mother and her long-term friend, Nadia, was safely in their seat. I nodded at Chik Amin, our personal driver. He put our Innova into first gear, and the car rolled on.
“Oh, Singapore mahal dong!” Nadia exclaimed.
“Ia, beli nya apa?” my mother said in response. (What did you buy?)
They were talking about Nadia's trip to Singapore and how expensive it was there. Nadia pulled out a branded shirt and other stuff from her shopping bag, which I had lost interest in. I think it is silly to pay so much for a brand. The conversation at the back carried on as we drove down Jalan Hang Nadim, one of the leading roads from the Nadim International Airport.
“Gelap malam ini,” I said, looking ahead. (It's dark tonight.)
“Ia, ada lampu yang tak jalan,” Amin replied, tipping his head to point at the streetlights ahead, some were not working.
“EH! APA TU!” I screamed out. (Eh! what's that!)
I looked at Chik Amin but he carried on driving as if he had not heard me. My mother and Nadia did hear me and had stopped their yakking. They came closer, trying to look at what excited me.
“Apa Nak? Apa?” They kept repeating as they bobbed here and there between Amin's and my head.
I pointed to the front, some one hundred meters ahead, to something dark in the middle of the road. It looked like someone was lying in the middle of the road.
“Mana? Mana?” (Where? Where?) Came the shrieking voices from the women.
All this time Chik Amin remained silent and just drove on. I was quite angry with him for ignoring me. And when the black thing on the road was nearer, I screamed again. IT WAS A MAN! He lifted up his head, and I could see his eyes glowing against the car lamps.
Oh my God! He's been hit and left to die! I thought.
“Stop! Stop!” I shook Amin's shoulder hysterically.
But Chik Amin did not stop, nor did he slow down. I could not believe it. I thought for a moment that Amin had become mad.
Was he going to run over the poor man? What kind of a man would do that? Were we wrong about Amin all this time? He had always been sweet and gentle. How can a man like that want to run over a poor man who has been hit and left to die? I could not stop trying to make sense of Amin's nonchalance in this dire situation.
When I turned my face back to the front, I saw the poor man's eyes widen in horror. I screamed, and I screamed, and I slapped my head in total shock. I just didn't want to be a part of what Amin had done, he had just run over a helpless man! I felt my gut churning and fluid running up my gullet.
In her own hysterics, my mother wrapped her arms around me and held me tightly against the back of my seat. I wanted to be as far as I could from Chik Amin. I started to hate him. This man: who has ferried me back and forth from school, with whom I had sat at the same table for meals, whom I had considered part of my family and addressed him as “Chik”(uncle). How can he turn out to be so evil and run over a human being like that?
“Itu bukan orang,” Amin finally said. (That was not a man.)
Immediately, I knew what he meant because I had not felt the bump. I turned around and craned my neck to look out of the rear view window. There was nothing on the tarmac. I turned back to him.
“Mengapa tak kata tadi?” I said. (Why didn't you say it earlier?)
“Tadi tengah berdoa.” (I was praying.)
My mother and her friend huddled together. They were squealing like little girls even though they had not seen anything.
According to Chik Amin, he sees the same ghost often when he drives down Jalan Hang Nadim. He was actually surprised that I saw the sprawling apparition too.
The next day, I became very ill. I had a very high fever, which the doctors could not explain. They put ice all over me yet the fever persisted for a couple more days. Then Amin called a bomoh[shaman], and he prayed over me. After the prayer, I felt better, and recovered fully on the fourth day.
AMurdiayani, 18, student