Kamis, 24 Agustus 2017

How My Life Ends

Couchsurfing Writers Club
FB & Co, Bandung
August 24, 2017
Theme: Oxymoron

I don't know what time it is. Midnight? Past midnight? Maybe even just a little over 8 p.m.? Never mind that. It doesn't matter. What matters is what is standing before me.

Who is standing before me.

I didn't expect to find something - someone - quite like her tonight. I mean, it's a graveyard - I don't generally expect to see anything other than lonely soil filled with dead memories when I come here once a week just to be alone.

Tonight, though, proves to be different.

I was just about to sit under my tree - a big cypress located conveniently in the center of the whole cemetery - when I caught a glimpse of her.

I was scared, at first, but I tried not to show it. "Act naturally," I said to myself, "don't be afraid. There's nothing to be afraid of." Either I convinced myself with that, or I faked bravery to prove to no one in particular that I am no coward, I tried to focus on what I thought I saw.

And there she was. Standing, right where I see her now.

I don't know what it is - but something about her is painfully beautiful. Is it her hair? No, she barely has any more hair. Her smile? She isn't even smiling. But this is what I know: her beauty will be the death of me... And I'm okay with that.

I say nothing. She says nothing. Can she say anything with her ripped lips? I don't know. What I do know is that this silence is deafening. I need to do something... Anything. I need to know her name.

So I ask her, "What's your name?"

But she doesn't answer. Maybe she can't answer. She just stands there staring at me with her left eye - the place where her right eye should be is left with a gaping hole. Huh. I didn't notice that before.

The night gets deeper and I can't take it anymore. I know what she wants. I know what she wants, and she can take it. I know how stupid that is, but I don't care. It's my only choice to be with her, even for a second.

So I walk, one step after another, towards her. She opens her arms invitingly. I submit, giving her a warm embrace, soaking in the fact that we're alone together in the universe for this moment, and for this moment only.

It's perfect. It's everything I never knew I needed.

She then opens her mouth, and proceeds to eat my brains. Yeah, okay. I accept the fact that I'm gonna die being devoured by the walking dead.

Jumat, 18 Agustus 2017

Antara Hitam dan Putih


Putih adalah kita, kau bilang.
Putih adalah kita, dan hitam adalah mereka.
Hitam adalah mereka dan bukan kita.
Tidak pernah kita.
Tidak akan pernah kita.
Hitam tidak pernah putih, dan putih tidak sudi menjadi hitam.

Karena putih di atas hitam,
Dan hitam tenggelam di dasar kolam
Jauh, jauh, jauh di bawah

Abu-abu? Tanyaku.
Tidak! Jawabmu.


Hal lainnya tidak penting, katamu.

Pintu cokelat.
Aku pamit, pergi sebentar.
Kau mengangguk.
Aku buka pintu cokelat itu.

Kemudian merah!
Dan warna-warna yang sebelumnya tidak aku tahu nyata
Berlarian, berkeliaran bebas
Menggenggam tanganku,
Memeluk tubuhku,
Menatap mataku,
Dan mengenaliku.

Pintu cokelat.
Aku mengucap salam, tanda kembali.
Kau menyambut
Aku kembali ke hadapanmu.

Merah, ku bilang.
Ungu! Hijau!

Tapi senyum yang kucari tak bertengger di wajahmu.

Geleng geleng geleng kepalamu.


Kau bilang,
Putih adalah kita, dan hitam adalah mereka.
Tidak ada merah, atau ungu, atau hijau.
Putih adalah aku, dan aku tidak sudi menjadi hitam.
Aku tidak sudi kau menjadi hitam.

Maka aku mengangguk, lalu berkata,

Lalu kau mengangguk, dan berlalu.

Tak kauperhatikan merah, ungu, dan hijau yang kujaga di hatiku.

Kamis, 03 Agustus 2017

The Fake Englishman

Couchsurfing Writers Club
Kopi Popi, Bandung
August 3, 2017
Theme: Einstein's Riddle

It's a nice evening. The man in the red house sits on a chair on his front porch, enjoying the view that the sunset offers him tonight.

The whispers of the wind chill him, so he introduces the warmth of his Pall Mall to his lips. His birds chirp a song of disapproval that he doesn't listen to. "Don't smoke," they say, "free us!" In vain is their effort, for the man doesn't even move his head to acknowledge what is being said from inside the cage.

It's just another night for him.

A shadow approaches from the right. His neighbor, the Dane. "Hey, Daniel," she walks toward him.

He smiles at her. "Good evening, Abby. What have you got there?"

She gives him the small blue bag she's been carrying. "A little something from my trip to your homeland," she says. "I know it's your favorite thing."

They nod as she says good bye. As soon as she disappears from his sight, he opens the gift he has just been given. The familiar smell annoys his nose. He sees what's inside.

It's tea.

He closes the bag immediately and glances at a glass full of milk sitting on the table just beside his chair.

He sighs, full with relief. No one has found out that he doesn't like tea yet. He isn't ready to be called The Fake Englishman yet again.

Sabtu, 24 Juni 2017

. (30 Hari Menulis #24)

We used to mean everything to each other
I used to be your right hand
And you used to be my heart

My brain and my soul
My night and my day
My oxygen

But the moment we realized
We were going on different paths

We said good bye, good bye
For we were two different people
That should never have even met

Kamis, 15 Juni 2017

I Was Supposed to Die, Not Rule A Kingdom and Start A War! (30 Hari Menulis #15)

Picture taken from The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor

What would you do, if you were told you only had three more months to live?

It sounds like a cliche from a movie or a book, doesn't it? That's what I thought, too. In the movie, the character would probably be devastated. They would probably start regretting what they'd done in their lives, and think about what they'd want to do before their life ended.

Me? I shrugged.

I mean, the seventeen years I've been on this Earth can't be counted as 'living', anyway. I have a strange heart condition that nobody in the world can figure out. Something's wrong, but what? Doctors don't know. Not the doctors in Bandung, or Singapore, or Cleveland. They started experimenting on me when I was four, but after three years, it took the toll on my mom. That's when she decided to let go of me.

But I'm still here, ten years later. Barely, anyway. I haven't gone to school in a month. It's okay, I don't really want to. When I'm there, I feel like a stranger in the class all over again. I struggle in catching up with the rest of the class because when they were covering trigonometry or some other mathematical gibberish, I was slipping in and out of almost-comas. Why should I know any of that stuff, anyway? Physics, chemistry, math... They all won't matter when I die.

What will? I have no idea.

Calm down, I'm not suicidal. I don't want to die. I just don't have any reason to dread it. I'm not welcoming it, per se, but maybe... maybe it's better if I die.

My parents, they're good people. They just hit the reverse-lottery with me. Sometimes when I think of what they could have done with their lives if they didn't have me, I can see their genuine smiling faces. The ones they show me are restricted--painful. They don't deserve me. I say this as a matter of fact, not from an emotional point of view.

So when I overheard Doctor Marino telling my mom that she would finally be free of me in three months or so (not her exact words, obviously), I just shrugged. Good for her. And finally, I guess. I'm not sure if I believe in an afterlife, but even if there isn't one, I'll be okay. I will no longer be a burden to her, or to my dad, or to classmates who have to struggle to remember my damn name when I'm attending classes once in a blue moon, or to my country, or to the world.

Now, what do you imagine death would be like?

I've fantasized about mine quite a number of times, honestly. Not much you can do when you're constrained to a bed in an empty hospital ward by yourself, night after night. In my mind, I imagine it will come at night, when I'm alone, just like tonight. Hopefully it'll be painless. It'll be better if it happens when I'm asleep, I think. So I'll close my eyes, fall asleep, and then just never wake up. It'll be perfect.

What I never once imagined is that death would come in the form of two guys with bright green eyes and a weird sense of fashion.

After I died, I wake up in the dark. I think I'm outside. It's super chilly, and just realizing that I'm cold sends shivers all over my body. My supposedly dead body. That wakes me up. What in the everloving hell happened to me?

I open my eyes. I am outside, and it is dark. I don't recognize where I am... I mean, I haven't been to many places besides my parents' house, the school, and various hospitals anyway, so I don't suppose I should know areas like this--especially with this many trees surrounding me. Am I in a park? No... A forest?

"You're awake," I hear someone whisper from my side, and footsteps coming from another. I turn my head to my right, and there he is--one of the guys who barged into my hospital room like criminals in action movies. This time, there's no detective daddy or super-powered boyfriend to save me, though. They just killed me and took me here.

Hold on, what?

"What..." I try to ask them the million questions that form in my head, but realize that 1) my throat hurts, and 2) my voice sounds like frogs swallowing Boncabe. "What the...?"

"Okay, sorry. I know you have a lot of questions," says the guy who now I remember tore open my freaking chest and took out my freaking heart and then freaking burst it right before my own two eyes.

Hell yeah, I have a lot of questions!

"But we're here to save you," he continues, apparently not getting the signals my eyes are making to tell me more details on how BREAKING AND ENTERING into my room and KILLING ME and then KIDNAPPING ME count as saving me. And from what? The only danger I have ever been is if my heart stops pumping blood, and that's literally what they let happen.

"I'm Aadi." I suddenly hear the other guy say. I turn to him. He looks humongous, standing over me. Maybe it's because I'm lying on the ground and he's just standing there, looking down on me. Terrific. "And that's my brother, Archan. We were sent here to take you to our kingdom and prepare you for the war."

I mean... Guys, whoever is reading this--does ANYthing this guy says make sense to you? Because to me it doesn't. It really doesn't.

My confusion probably shows on my face, because the other guy--Archan, was it?--starts shaking his head. "Okay, I know it's confusing. It's... We... I don't even know where to begin."

"Try," I croak.

He sighs. "Our princess died, Mara."

He said it as if I'm supposed to understand what's going on with just that sentence. Princess what now? Where are they from, The United Kingdom? What does any of it have to do with me?

"And we're at war," says the older guy. "Well, we will be, very soon. We need her to lead us to victory, but she died, and now it's up to you to save our kingdom and our people in it."

I mean, I'm not crazy, right? It's completely normal that I don't understand anything that they've been spewing out of their crazy mouths, yeah? I shake my head slightly (because damn does it hurt to literally do anything with my body right now), trying to make sense of every single thing that has happened tonight.

"Aisha--Our princess, she has--I mean, her heart is strong. That's where she got all her powers from. Before she died, we managed to save her heart, and we've put it in your body. The one beating inside you, that's hers." The boy kneeling beside me looks sorrowful as he says all this. "I'm very sorry we didn't have the time to explain before taking your heart away, but... There's no time, Mara. It's getting dangerous every second."

"Archan." Aadi says suddenly, his voice alert. I look at his poised posture, and that's when I feel it--danger.

There's danger lurking, and I don't know how I know it, but I can feel it. They can, too, I think. I get up slowly, ignoring the screams of pain from every bone in my body as I do so. I look around. I don't see anything out of ordinary (except for the fact that I'm sitting on the ground in an unknown forest with two strangers at probably two am), but the presence... I can feel the presence.

And suddenly I see it.

"THERE!" I cry, pointing at a pair of red eyes just floating around ten meters in front of us.

I haven't had the time to panic or feel scared before Aadi stands in front of me in a defensive stance, and Archan running toward the danger. I will my eyes to stay open, because what's happening in front of me is unbelievable:

The floating eyes develop some kind of darkness around them,

Archan muttering some stuff and pointing his fingers to the danger,

Green lights come out of his fingers, shooting the shadow,

And as its darkness fades, consumed by the green lights, it cries

A loud shriek

Something I've never heard of before

Something that shouldn't be real

And then it disappears, and the whole forest fall silent once again.

Only this time, Archan and Aadi quickly turn to me, see that I'm okay, and each take my hand and we run. We run and run, I don't know how long we've been running and where, but I can sense the urgency and fear that they don't bother hiding anymore.

As I move my legs, I can't help but think that maybe, maybe, death is better after all!

Rabu, 14 Juni 2017

The Wall and A Young Girl's Dark Gazing Eyes (30 Hari Menulis #14)

The forlorn gaze coming from the dark eyes of the teenaged girl is quite possibly the most familiar thing this wall has known during the last several years, now. It does not know how it feels about that.

The Wall likes the girl, it has decided. She comes often, and every time she does, she doesn't make a fuss, like most other people who frequent here. She just sits or lays there on the bed, does whatever the woman in the white robe tells her to. Very rarely does she speak.

She comes often. Maybe every few months or so--walls do not have the interest in keeping up with humanity's obsession with time. Every time she comes, The Wall can't help but feel joy. Which is strange, because walls aren't supposed to feel anything. But there is something about this girl, it feels, that makes it somehow... alive. Even for just a little bit.

She comes often, which makes The Wall happy, but also sad. The frequency of her stay means she doesn't have long--her time is ending. This is what The Wall has learned over the few decades of his life, since it was built with the hard hands of the tender-hearted men who thought of their family and loved ones only. People come and go. Sometimes they come back, looking more frail each time, and then they stop coming.

It's nearing midnight, and this time, she is staring at The Wall again, as she does every night without fail. Today marks the fifth day she has been here. Anyone can probably guess what is going on in her mind right now, maybe. What the doctor told her mother did not sound very good. Even The Wall understands that.

Unbeknownst to the sighing girl are two young men standing just outside the window to the balcony, their eyes sharp, watching her. The Wall would squint its eyes to see more clearly, if it had eyes. It would alert the girl of the intruders, if it could. But alas, such is the nonlife of a wall, and its fate to just be present and watch terrible things happen.

The girl gasps as they come in, but quickly stopped from uttering a single word by the quick hand of one of the young men. The other one goes to the door, checking that no one is coming.

Her eyes look frightened, wandering left and right, trying to make sense who these people are, and what they could possibly want from a 17-year-old girl with a weak heart and probably three months left to live.

The fellow took his hand off of her mouth, putting one finger in front of his. "Ssh," he whispers, "we're not here to harm you."

"We need to go," says the one by the door impatiently.

"Okay," the one by the bed nods, not to the older boy, but more to himself. "Mara, we are here to save you."

Mara's eyes show something else now--confusion. And also anger? "What the hell? Who are you guys?" She sits straight up.

"We don't have time, just do it!" The Impatient One goes to the left side of the bed.

On the right side of the bed, the boy puts his hand on Mara's right shoulder, which is quickly removed by Mara's swift hand, and a "Don't. Touch. Me." warning from her mouth. It scares him a little, The Wall likes to think, but he doesn't show it.

"Mara, seriously. We are not the enemy," he pleads.

"You sure look like one to me," says Mara. For a quick second, she takes in a deep breath, and as she starts to scream, The Impatient One does something with his fingers that sends tiny blue lights to her mouth.

She screams, but there is no sound. She tries and tries, but the end result is the same: silence. She tries not to let it, but fear starts to consume her.

"Damn, Aadi!" The younger one looks panicked. "Why did you do that?"

"We don't have time, Archan."

"You just wasted your power!"

"Brother. Just do it."

The one called Archan stares at his companion, his eyes communicating how much he doesn't want to do what he is told to do, while knowing there is no better way. Finally he gives up, and turns his attention to Mara, whose hands now are on her neck, her face a chaos.

"Mara, lie down," Archan says. "Please."

Mara looks at him, and does as she is told. The Wall is confused by her action--surely these strangers want something out of her, so why is she giving it to them so willingly all of a sudden?

What it doesn't know is that Mara saw something in the boy's eyes--she doesn't know what it is, but there was no intention to harm her. There hasn't been, even since they entered the room. Mara senses something strange. The urgency of this two boys barging in her room at midnight feels bigger than her.

As she lies down, she studies the faces of the strangers. No, she doesn't recognize any of them. But why does she feel like she should?

Archan closes his eyes, and his hands start glowing. The room, that was pitch-black, is now incandescent with the red glow that grows around his hands. He hovers them over Mara's chest, and she starts glowing, too.

Aadi is now holding a wooden box in his hands out of nowhere--neither Mara nor The Wall noticed the box when the boys came in. He opens it, displaying something inside. It... it moves. It looks almost alive, but not really. It glows also, but with a dim yellowish light around it. It feels strange. It feels foreign.

It feels like something that shouldn't be.

Mara looks at the object, trying to figure out what it is. But as the glowing red light on her chest grows brighter and spreading all over her body, bringing warmth with it, she loses her energy to focus on anything. So she closes her eyes, and trusts the two boys to do what they have to do. She doesn't have time to think about what this means, or what is about to happen. She feels almost content.

But what comes out of Archan's mouth takes away all that contentment: "We are going to take your heart out."

As she opens her eyes in protest, Archan's hands rip apart her torso, and there it is--her heart. Her red heart, beating very weakly in his hands, and she is staring at it. She never thought she'd be looking directly at the very organ that has kept her alive all these years, but also the same one that gives her misery.

She starts to open her mouth, but Archan quickly pulls her heart away

and her life with it,

so she dies

and she does what dead bodies do:

lay unmovingly on the bed.

The Wall screams in silent terror, one that no one and nothing will ever hear.

It shuts away its consciousness, numb with the pain of losing the very person it has ever been able to show interest in. It's becoming just another cold, blank wall in the cardiac hospital.

By doing so, it loses its power to see what happens next: Archan taking the object out of the box and into Mara's gaping chest. Aadi taking Mara's heart and putting it in the box, as it slowly stops beating. Archan uttering something with his hands hovering over Mara's corpse once again. Mara's torso slowly closing itself, her blood seeping into her vessels in command.

And for a full minute, the room is once again dark and silent.

And then, something happens.

This time, there's no tiny blue lights or red glows coming out of Archan, or Aadi, or Mara. This time, there's no sound, either.

It's just Mara's eyes opening again, ever so slowly.

Only this time, they're not dark--they're light blue.

Minggu, 11 Juni 2017

Melindungi Mara, dan Hal-Hal Tidak Mungkin Lainnya (30 Hari Menulis #11)

Mara mempercepat langkahnya. Ini gawat.

Kami sedang berada di wilayah yang tidak kami kenali, dan matahari sudah lama berpulang ke peraduannya. Aku dan kakakku, Aadi, sudah mati-matian membujuk Mara, orang yang harus kami jaga, untuk mencari tempat yang aman. Bukan hanya dia yang membutuhkan istirahat--kami juga. Apalagi, sekarang ini kami belum berhasil mengontak siapa pun di istana, sejak kami kembali dari Bumi. Sama sekali tidak ada siapa pun yang mengetahui posisi kami saat ini. Jika Baug, musuh kami, menjadi orang pertama yang menemukan kami... Entah berapa banyak goblin yang akan dia kirim untuk menghabisi kami.

"Kalian pikir aku makhluk lemah, yang harus kalian jaga? Hanya karena aku perempuan, dan kalian laki-laki. Iya kan?" pekiknya, persis tiga menit yang lalu ketika kami lagi-lagi gagal membuatnya mengerti kacaunya situasi kami saat ini. Aku mengangkat bahu dan Aadi menghela napas berat. Kata-kata "coba ingat-ingat, siapa yang baru saja kami selamatkan dari sebuah rumah sakit jantung di dunianya?" tidak jadi aku lontarkan.

Kami masih berjalan mengikuti Mara, dengan Aadi sesekali mencoba membujuk Mara. "Membujuk" bukan kata yang tepat. Biasanya "percakapan" yang terjadi hanya seputar ini:

Aadi: Mara, sudah-
Mara: Tidak!
Aadi: Kamu bahkan tidak tahu-
Mara: Aku tidak perlu tahu!

"GAAAH!" adalah apa yang keluar dari mulut Aadi kemudian, dengan kedua tangan yang terkepal dan diangkatnya ke atas, tinggi-tinggi.

Aku menahan tawa. Harus kuakui, kukira orang yang akan kami selamatkan adalah sesosok perempuan yang rapuh dan lembut. Bagaimana tidak, hanya beberapa hari yang lalu kami menculiknya dari sebuah rumah sakit, mengeluarkan jantungnya, dan memasukkan jantung putri kami ke tubuhnya (ceritanya panjang, kita tidak punya cukup waktu untuk itu). Tapi perempuan yang sedang berjalan di depan kami ini jauh dari kata rapuh--kadang, aku rasa dia punya lebih banyak keberanian daripada diriku sendiri. Sedikit demi sedikit, aku mendapati diriku mengembangkan rasa kagum terhadap dirinya.

Aadi kembali mencoba untuk membujuk Mara, kali ini dengan meraih tangannya--tindakan yang salah. Mara meronta, berteriak, dan mereka akhirnya benar-benar berseteru sekarang. Mataku membelalak atas kejadian di depanku, kemudian segera berlari menuju mereka, menghentikan kekonyolan ini.

"Cukup!" bisikku setengah berteriak, "Jangan berisik!"

"Kamu yang jangan berisik!" sentak Mara segera. "Atau kamu mau menjelaskan sekarang juga kenapa kalian menculik aku dan membawaku ke tempat ini?"

"Sekarang bukan waktunya untuk itu..."

"Archan benar, Mara..."

"Diam, diam! Aku sudah bosan mendengar cerita tentang putri kalian, jantungnya... Kembalikan aku ke dunia di mana sihir hanya ada di novel-novel Harry Potter!"

Saat itulah, aku melihatnya. Sekilas cahaya merah dan hijau berkelebat di sisi kananku, di belakang Mara. Aku membeku. "Mara."

Mara masih mengoceh tentang sekolah, ujian, dan sesuatu bernama kuliah.

Aku meraih mukanya. "MARA."

Akhirnya, dia terdiam. Matanya melihat ke kiri dan kanan, mempelajari keadaan kami saat ini: terkepung. Dalam sekejap saja, ada sekitar delapan goblin yang berdiri mengelilingi kami.

Goblin yang berada paling dekat dengan Aadi mencoba menyerang duluan, tapi berhasil Aadi hindari. Hal itu justru memacu goblin-goblin yang lain untuk memulai penyerangan terhadap kami. Aku dan Aadi mati-matian mempertahankan posisi dengan Mara di antara kami agar dirinya tidak terluka. Hanya saja, dengan beberapa minggu berada di Bumi untuk mencari dan menyelamatkan Mara sudah menghabiskan kebanyakan energi magis kami.

Beberapa goblin terkapar di atas rumput--entah empat atau lima--entah bagaimana kami masih berhasil mengerahkan seluruh sisa kekuatan kami. Hanya saja, magi kami hampir habis, begitu pun dengan energi fisik kami. Napas kami terengah-engah. Aku tidak tahu bagaimana kondisi Aadi, karena aku bahkan tidak bisa melihat dengan jelas--kepalaku berat dan mataku berkunang-kunang. Ini gawat, jelas gawat. Di mana Mara?

Teriakannya di sebelah kiriku membuat mataku kembali awas, dan menemukannya sedang berusaha menendang dan memukul dua goblin yang berusaha melemahkannya. Aku berlari ke arahnya, tapi seorang goblin menyerangku dari belakang, dan aku terjatuh ke depan. Seraya berusaha berdiri, aku melihat ke arah Mara--Aadi sedang berlari ke arahnya. Dan itulah saat hal itu terjadi.

Entah dari mana, hutan yang gelap dan lembab itu berubah menjadi sangat terang seketika, dan hangat. Untuk beberapa saat, aku tidak bisa melihat hal lain, atau menggunakan inderaku yang lain. Yang bisa aku rasakan hanyalah nostalgia--aku pernah bertemu magi jenis ini sekali. Betapa aku merindukannya.

Detik-detik berlalu, dan perlahan-lahan semua inderaku kembali. Aku mengedipkan mata berkali-kali, mencoba untuk memperjelas pandanganku. Yang kudapatkan adalah para goblin yang tersungkur tak berdaya di atas rumput, dan Mara yang membenamkan kepalanya di dada Aadi. Aku dapat mendengarkan isaknya.

Aku hanya berdiri, diam di tempat, tidak tahu apa yang harus aku lakukan. Aku yakin pasti berat baginya, mendapati dua orang yang berpenampilan sedikit berbeda dengan manusia pada umumnya menculiknya dari rumah sakit tempatnya menunggu kematian, untuk kemudian diceritakan kisah tentang seorang putri yang sudah mati dan jantungnya yang masih berdetak. Apalagi ketika dia mendengar bahwa sekarang dirinyalah penjaga jantung sang putri.

Ingin rasanya kuselimuti dirinya dengan pelukan, dan bisikan bahwa ini semua tidak apa-apa, kami semua akan baik-baik saja. Tapi mungkin ini bukan waktu yang tepat dan mungkin aku bukan orang yang tepat pula.