” I think we have passengers with us,” uncle Z whispered to me slowly but surely. I still remembered the exact phrase he said that night.. I THINK WE HAVE PASSENGERS WITH US. He sounded serious, and I knew for sure he was not pulling my legs, as I could feel the presence too.
We arrived at the Kuala Kubu Bharu reservoir around noon. After having our preplanned picnic at the Gazebo, everybody was excited to enter the Tourist Gallery. There was nothing much for the children, but we the adults took the time to read the historical facts on the precompletion story of the Selangor’s Dam. Suddenly the Gallery Manager, greeted us with the warmest welcome, especially my aunt ‘J’. ‘ Hi! How are you? How have you guys been doing?,” asked the fulled smile middle aged Indian lady. “So you come again with your family?,” she asked again specifically at aunt J and even placed her hand on aunt J’s shoulder. “Excuse me, you are?,” my aunt started to feel a little bit strange with the cordial and too friendly manner of the Gallery Manager.
“Madam, you don’t remember me?, I’m Prema, we met few weeks ago…”, the Gallery Manager was still smiling and fulled of assurance. “I’m sorry you must have mistaken us with somebody,” I intercepted the conversation. “It was recently, there have been not many visitors at the Gallery, I’m pretty sure it must be you last week,” said Ms Prema with a little bit of ‘head moving’ like the way Indians always do. “Ms Prema, are you sure? It must be somebody else, this is my first time here,” aunt J gave Ms Prema the ultimate answer. Now it is Ms. Prema’s turn. Ms Prema looked a little bit stunned with aunt J’s last statement. There was a few seconds of silence before she continued to speak. ” Well, difinitely that lady looked pretty much like you,” Ms Prema finally spoke. She sound a little bit dissapointed perhaps there was a sense of nervourness too.
Now, all these incidences collided together, scattered pieces of jigsaw puzzles that came back and reattached to make up the full story. Aunt J didn’t recall the story of Ms. Prema, now for the second time she recounted another story that she encountered few years back. This time, she caught my interest, and gave the full details of the event.
It was around 2.00a.m to 3.00a.m in the morning. I couldn’t remember the exact time but it was very late. Very very late in the night. As a matter of fact it was very very early in the wee hours of the morning right after midnight. My husband, your uncle Z and me went up the Fraser Hill that time to celebrate Christmas. It was one of those invitations that we could not turn down. Uncle Jim and Aunt Sara, our best friends had pleaded us to join their Christmas bash with some other friends. We were on the second night at Fraser’s Hills. Suddenly, we felt very bad. We missed the children very much. We decided to go back to KL at the moment! I was determined too. “Okay, let’s go!”, I quickly packed the luggage and threw them at the back of our Vovlo S80. We didn’t even inform our host. We just might as well call them tomorrow once we have arrived in KL, we thought.
Once I was outside, I could feel the chilly weather that spiked through my bones. That night was strangely quiet, there was no sound of any nocturnal animals, except the whispering of the chilly wind of Fraser’s Hill or better known as the ‘Little England’. We were not in the mood of talking, so I turned on the CD, and listened to some of our favourite english songs. The Gap! Who’s gonna mend the Gap? Suddenly, the fact that we have to cross down the narrow one way road called the Gap to the foothill made me worried. For those who are not familiar with the traffic going up and down Fraser Hill, take note that at that time there was only one road enough for one vehicle to follow through. Therefore at each point of the road there was a some sort of traffic controller that stop vehicles from coming up or down, when the turn for opposite flow takes placed and vise versa. But the Gap is not manned by any traffic controller after 11.00 p.m! That was the last traffic allowed to use the road. From 11.00 p.m the Gap is considered ‘close’ for any vehicle.
Any vehicles that uses the Gap after 11.00pm will be at their own risks!
We passed the sleeping ‘Little England’ without any exchange of words, knowing that we are soon to approach the point of the Gap! True enough the post was closed. There was nobody manning the traffic flow at the Gap. The lighted fluorecent bulb at the post was the last light that illuminated the dark road that we were heading. After a few corners, we couldn’t see the light from the post anymore. It was pitch dark in front of us as well behind us. It was quiet outside . The songs from Quincy Jones just passed by my ears without me giving any kind of attention. The sound of the screetching from our vehicle’s tyres could be heard breaking the deep sleep of the forest night. The fresh chilling air blew my face as our S80 slowly descending the winding road called the Gap!
It has been quiet a while that suddenly I felt that the view infront was getting darker and darker despite the fog lights were put on. It felt that the dense fogs made the visibility close to just few feets upfront. I could sense that uncle Z was having a hard time manouvering the drive. The speed was slowered. His wheel turnings were becoming aprupt, as if he couldn’t see the bend only at the last second. I was swirved left and right. The use of brake was getting more frequent. And most of the time, it was a sudden brake that made me flung forward making my nose almost touching the windscreen. I was not upset but somehow I was kind of freakin with the situation that we were facing at the moment. It was becoming insane. My stomach arched and my head became drowsy with the nauseau feeling. It was a terrible ride. I had been up and down Fraser Hill few times before, but it had never been this bad!
Suddenly, I could feel that the air becomingr became freezing cold. My nose was blowing thick layer of fog. I could feel that my feet were cold as ice. I felt the uneasiness. The intensifying feeling of nervous and worries were justified by the sound of my fast heartbeat. I was being watched!! Uncle Z and me, both of us were being watched. I could feel that . I was not kidding. And I was pretty sure we were being watched, being scruntinized by ‘something’ behind us from the back seat of the car! The windows that blowing in the chilly wind inside the car, were quickly closed by uncle Z with a push of a button at his side. Simultaneously, I turned the CD off!
” I think we have passengers with us,” uncle Z whispered to me slowly but surely. I still remembered the exact phrase he said that night.. I THINK WE HAVE PASSENGERS WITH US. He sounded serious, and I knew for sure he was not pulling my legs, as I could feel the presence too. Nor did I reply neither I had the guts to turn my head behind. (to see at the ‘things’ sitting at the passenger seat behind us). I could sense that the ‘passenger’ were not alone. There were two of them! During this point, I could sense the strong aroma of fresh “Bunga Kemboja” that kept filling the air every now and then…..
The air in the car felt thinner! I gasped for air. Whatever they were behind us were big and took so much space in our S80. Suddenly, Z took my right hand. His palm was wet. “Follow what I read,” Z whispered to me slowly. I was dumbfoulded. There was nothing that I could remember. Not even a single verse of the Quran.
It’s the longest ride ever that I’ve ever encountered, the only visible lights were those coming from the car itself. As we drove on, we kept on encountering unexpected obstacles on the road….broken branches along the way but we didn’t stop. We just let the Volvo took the obstacles with the hope that the car would not stall. According to uncle Z much later that he could see from the rear view mirror, the shadow of the 2 unknown passengers.
With his one hand holding on the steering wheel, he held my hand and never let it go of his grip as if protecting me. He was reciting Quranic verses and for a long time suddenly we were nearing the Selangor Dam area. We could not remember passingthrough the junction at the foothill But the street lights of Kuala Kubu Baru town was a relief. The dim lights from far away were visible gave us the assurance that everything would be fine…. we thought!
But it was a mistake! The sight of Kuala Kubu’s light didn’t guarantee our safety….
As we drove on, the road in front of us suddenly turned pitch black. AGAIN!! We experiencing the similar ride as to the one we had encountered while driving down from Fraser’s Hill to the foothill….my heart was pumping harder again…and I told myself, no… it couldn’t be that we were being brought back to the same winding road as before. It was going back into a time tunnel. At a spur of the moment, uncle Z muttered that we have to make a U turn, a belief from the old folks that if ever you encountered a situation driving on the same road in circles, beat the spell by making a U turn.
After about 500 meters after the U turn going back to the direction of the Fraser’s Hills we saw the road signage pointing towards Fraser’s Hill (this was somewhere near the Selangor Dam). We made another U turn from that point. This time the road was normal, no longer pitched black and safely brought us back to Kuala Kubu Baru. Immediately after the ordeal uncle Z was suddenly hit with high fever upon reaching the town and though still in a daze, I took overt the wheel and managed to drive us back to Kuala Lumpur safely.
That was the story. Whatever it was, Aunt J and uncle Z would never, never again adventure the Gap and the long winding road of Fraser’s Hill alone in the middle of the night……
and who could Prema have seen who look so much like aunt J at the Tourist Gallery of Selangor Dam???
GM: FYI, my aunt J is sort kind of a modern woman, having been educated in Hawaii kind of thing. So just imagine somebody like Cate Blanchett having that kind of life experience story.
Tanah Tujuh: Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos
chronicles Antares’s initiation into a fast vanishing aboriginal cosmomythology
that offers an alternative view of reality.