It was nighttime and the forest was dark as forests are when the moon is shy. In the middle of this darkness — passing through the trees with great speed — a lady was running. Clad in a long white gown, with her straight black hair down to her hips, the running lady looked like a wild jellyfish puffing and poofing on the forest floor. Not that any human being would see her running, since she can’t be seen, technically. She’s invisible. Until she wants to be visible that is. She doesn’t exist but she can exist if she wants to. Such is the life of a ghost. And this lady was known in ghost society as Pontianak D37, the 37th Pontianak in District D.
When Pontianak reached a little hut beside a river bank, she stomped her feet and shouted: “Adam is alone at the office!” At this exclamation, the four ghosts who were hanging out under the hut turned to look at Pontianak.
The first was Jiang Shi (or Jiji, as they called him), a Chinese vampire dressed in the uniform of an official from the Qing Dynasty. His face was stamped with a wide strip of paper that covered his face entirely. On it was written the eight trigrams, or Gua, which acted as a seal that prevented his movements. The second one was Toyol, a midget with a penchant for stealing and strategizing. The third was Orang Minyak (or Omi), who wasn’t actually a ghost but just a victim of racism, and the fourth was Hantu Raya (or Haya), a beast-like figure who was also an ambitious go-getter. The four of them were not ghosts of the highest order, but they were Pontianak’s (Ponya’s) best friends in the world.
“Papa Adam?” Jiang Shi the Chinese Vampire asked.
“Can’t be Papa Adam” Orang Minyak added quickly.
“Which Adam?” the gigantic Hantu Raya asked, scanning the panic on Pontianak’s face.
“Adam S! The journalist from the Star!” Pontianak replied.
“I see,” Jiang Shi said, nodding his head, “But what’s with him?”
“Are you sure he’s alone?” Toyol asked, looking at Pontianak with a serious expression.
“Yes. And I need your help. I want to scare his brains off.” Pontianak said. She was never one to shy away from a target.
“If I could move, I would’ve gone there myself. But seeing as I still have this seal on me…” Jiang Shi said, looking regretful as he let out every word, like a wise poet.
“It’s easy,” Toyol said to Pontianak. “Just do the FoolMeTwice.” He smiled.
Pontianak was surprised by his answer, but when she imagined it, she let out a big grin. “That might just work!” she said. The others reacted the same too.
FoolMeTwice™ was a technique developed by an American ghost who rose to global ghost fame in the 90s. The technique consisted of making the target (read: the human) look back two times, and to surprise him with an appearance on the second. You only needed to make some noise behind him, so he would turn back to look, and when he did you had to position yourself behind him again, so that when he turned his head back in front he would see the surprise waiting for him. BOO! It was as simple as it was effective. And it was especially handy when the target was alone in a dark place. Like Adam was in his office.
“But wait a minute,” Orang Minyak said to Pontianak, “What if he talks to you?”
“Talk to me? What… What do you mean, talk to me?” Pontianak replied. She looked puzzled.
Hantu Raya closed his eyes for a few seconds in contemplation. And then he opened them again. “I see what you mean, Omi.” The others looked at him, and then back to Orang Minyak, like school kids waiting for an adult to tell them the secrets of the world.
Orang Minyak looked at them. “Remember when Langsuir tried to scare Adam last year?” he asked them. They looked blank.
Orang Minyak sighed. “You don’t remember?” he asked them. None of them did. “Langsuir was doing the Nenek Kebayan move. She was sitting in a corner of an alley Adam was walking on. When he saw her disgusting figure, which should’ve made anyone scream and run away, he stooped down and said “Are you okay, Pavithra?””
The others recoiled in horror. “He asked her that?” Pontianak said.
Orang Minyak nodded with an air of hurt dignity. “Adam thought Langsuir was his boss Pavithra.” he added.
Pontianak was stunned to silence. Her face betrayed the question she was asking herself: What do I do if Adam talks to me? It is the worst thing that can happen to a ghost. Of course the ghost can just talk back — that was harmless. But what if the conversation turned engaging? What if they continued talking and became friends? It was this prospect that terrified ghosts. After all, no one is scared of their friends.
“I have a solution.” Toyol addressed the pale-faced Pontianak. “It’s called Plan Alcatraz’’ he continued as the light from the moon danced on his small shiny head. The name of his plan, which Toyol thought was brilliant, didn’t seem to impress Pontianak or the others. But he was not the kind to give up.
“Plan Alcatraz is the perfect solution to this dilemma. All you need to do when Adam talks to you is mumble incoherent words. He would freak out because he can’t figure out what you’re saying. Nonsense is scary. That’s Plan Alcatraz.” Toyol gave his friends a fatherly smile.
Jiang Shi jumped up and said “Brilliant! What a terrific plan. I expect no less from our brilliant Toyol, who’s just so very brilliant… heh heh. I would like to suggest you to follow Plan Alcatraz (brilliant name by the way) if you want to succeed against tonight’s target. I am just deeply saddened by the fact that I couldn’t help you follow the plan. I would give my heart and soul for this trigram to be removed so I can walk again and help you… which I want to do above everything with my heart and soul.” When the final word was uttered, he gave a bow and sat down.
Pontianak was still restless. She acknowledged Toyol and Jiang Shi by nodding slowly, more like rocking back and forth — which is code for thank you, next!
Not one to pass an opportunity like this, Hantu Raya leaned closer to Pontianak and said, “Adam is not your typical target. If you’re going to scare him, you’re gonna need some backup.”
Pontianak shot him a look that said Duh, that’s why I asked for your backup! but before she could say anything Hantu Raya added: “Backup from the Haunted House Squad.” which made everyone raise their eyebrows.
The Haunted House Squad, or the HS, as they were called in ghost society, was the best of the best when it came to scaring humans. The humans who went to haunted houses were usually the brave types, the ones looking for a thrill, so it was decided by the ghosthorities that the ghosts in charge of the place should be elites, the John Wicks of ghosts.
Pontianak nodded, and not wanting to miss a second more, she took out her gPhone and dialed the HS headquarters. It wasn’t long till someone picked up. The call was on speaker.
“Hello?” Pontianak said.
“HS Headquarters, how may I help?” came an androgynous voice.
“I’d like to request urgent backup at The Star office, KL.”
“May I know who is speaking?”
“Okay. Please wait.”
“Alright.” Pontianak said, sounding agitated. She waited for 2 minutes.
“Hello?” came the voice again.
“For your request of urgent backup at The Star KL, we have these members available: Hantu Tetek. Would you like us to send her now?”
Pontianak turned to her friends.
“Hantu Tetek is a boomer ghost. She doesn’t scare millennials.” Hantu Raya said.
“Isn’t there anyone else?” Pontianak asked.
The voice replied swiftly: “I’m sorry. None of our members are available to give backup at this moment. They are training the DeathStare1000™ technique developed by Dato’ Seri Penanggal D7.”
“Are any of the Pocongs available?” Pontianak asked, sounding even more agitated now.
“No they are not. I apologize for the inconvenience. Is there anything else I may help you with?” The voice replied.
Pontianak lowered her phone. “No.” She hung up.
Her friends looked at her and saw the deepest disappointment and frustration. But it wasn’t a surprise to them. All of them knew how much Pontianak cared about scaring people. It was the only way to succeed in ghost society. And Pontianak wanted to succeed more than anything else. She wanted to be so terrifying humans would make a movie about her. That was the dream.
Orang Minyak stood up. “All right boys, let’s do this.”
Hantu Raya understood the gesture and started doing some stretches. Toyol was looking at both of them quizzically.
Noticing their sudden movements, Pontianak raised her face towards them, “What are you guys doing?”. The frustration on her face was still palpable.
Suddenly they heard the sound of a paper tearing off, and they turned to look at where it came from.
Jiang Shi had freed himself from the eight trigrams, and lo and behold, they saw his brilliant and ugly face for the first time — it had no skin on it, just bits of dangling muscles here and there, yellow bones, and two red dots as eyes. But Jiang Shi was smiling. “We’re gonna send that Adam bastard to God.” he said.
“Yes!” Toyol immediately replied. “But give me a second, I have just the plan for this.” and he giggled like a university professor.
“Come on.” Hantu Raya said to Pontianak. He took her by her arms and lifted her onto his shoulders. Then he ran. So did Jiang Shi and Orang Minyak.
“Guys! Wait!” and Toyol followed suit.
The lift reached Level 13. “This is it” Pontianak said. The boys looked grim and serious and professional. A SWAT team of ghosts.
When the doors opened, Pontianak led the way. They passed the glass doors, then the marketing department, then the logistics department, and finally they reached the boundaries of the finance department.
In the middle of the darkness, they saw one lighted cubicle, with a bespectacled guy sitting in it. It was Adam S, and he was focused on his computer. What a good employee, they thought to themselves. He didn’t even notice them making their way across the room, not even the big Hantu Raya.
The group took cover behind a big pillar, and Pontianak whispered a question to them: “What now? GhostBang?”
GhostBang™ was one of the most powerful techniques ghosts have ever developed. It consisted of four or more ghosts (ideal for Pontianak and the boys), and a simple coordination. The ghosts would act as a unit, approach the target quietly from all directions, and at the same instant, surprise him with an appearance. The omni directional nature of the attack was powerful because the target had nowhere to run. In the few instances ghosts have pulled this off the target fainted. That was the supreme achievement ghosts could hope for. After all, ghosts couldn’t kill humans. They could scare them, or take over their bodies, but they couldn’t hurt them. None of them knew why. It was just one of the things that was a given. Like how they could speak the same language as humans.
The boys nodded to Pontianak’s question. They were gonna GhostBang the fuck out of Adam.
Toyol persuaded them to let him go first. He wanted to go inside Adam’s desk, which he thought was an especially creepy position to surprise him from. And he’s right. It’s damn creepy.
Toyol made his way to Adam’s desk from the left side. The others took their positions and followed Toyol’s lead. The five figures approached Adam quietly in the shadows.
When Toyol was a few feet away from Adam, he noticed something on Adam’s monitor, and his eyes opened wide. Shit, he thought. Pontianak, Orang Minyak, Hantu Raya, and Jiang Shi were all coming closer to Adam now, but they didn’t notice what was on his screen. They had all their sights on him. Shit.
I have to save them, Toyol thought, so he waved his arms frantically, hoping Adam wouldn’t notice it and look. Pontianak was directly across from Toyol, so she noticed first. And when she did she instinctively stopped Hantu Raya, Orang Minyak, and Jiang Shi by blocking them with her hands. Surprised, they looked at her, but she gestured towards Toyol, who was waving for them to come back behind the pillar. They refused to, as they were so close to the still-oblivious Adam, but Pontianak kept her hands where they were. So they went back into the shadows and quietly made their way behind the pillar again.
They found Toyol sitting on the floor, looking absolutely helpless. His face was pale green like mint ice-cream. They were furious at him, but the sight of this dampened down their anger slightly.
“This better be good.” Hantu Raya said.
“What’s up?” Pontianak asked him.
Toyol looked up towards them and asked “Did you guys see what was on his computer? What he was looking at?”
“No” they replied in unison.
“Did you see where his hands were?”
“Cut to the chase Toyol.” Orang Minyak said.
Toyol closed his eyes and breathed out a strong gust of wind. And then he opened them again and said: “Adam was watching what humans call an adult movie.”
At this, Hantu Raya and Orang Minyak collapsed onto the floor. “Jesus.” they muttered together.
Jiang Shi sat down too, but without a clue as to what’s happening. Pontianak was the only one standing.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Hantu Raya made Pontianak sit with them, and then he asked her “ Have you forgotten our 8 Commandments?”
Pontianak looked blank. Hantu Raya continued: “Commandment number 5, thou shalt not scare a human being who is horny.”
“That’s nonsense.” Pontianak replied.
“No it’s not.” Toyol interjected. “Horny people are never scared.”