Yusof had a long tiring day.His father had fallen sick and Yusof had to take over his trishaw that day. He spent the whole day ferrying passengers, and sending children to school. Unfamiliar with the roads, Yusof got lost a few times and got severely scolded by his irate passengers.
At eleven thirty p.m., Yusof dropped off his last passenger and was glad to be finally heading for home. Peddling his trishaw leisurely, Yusof thought of his warm bed and hot beef rendang waiting at home.
The road to his home was a quiet and deserted one. A small road in the rural areas, it was only dimly lit at some areas. For the rest of his journey home, Yusof had to ride in the dark, with only the lamp from his trishaw lighting the way.
It was a moonless night. A blanket of darkness covered the countryside all around Yusof. The street lamps along the way were off. "Probably a blackout" thought Yusof. Still, he could not shake off a peculiar feeling. Nervously, he kept looking around him. Darkness has a way to inject fear in any human heart.
Along the way, he saw a woman flagging his trishaw down ahead of him. With her right hand waving at him, she was carrying a bundle with her left hand. Exhausted from the day's work, Yusof was thinking of refusing her.
As he rode closer to her, her beauty struck him. Her cheeks were so smooth, and like a dove, the lady looked so demure and alluring. With long flowing hair, she had a petite built and flattering figure in a red sarong kebaya.
He thought she looked tired. It would be very hard to get a ride out here in the middle of the night, but what was she doing here now? Despite his weariness, he found himself stopping for the woman.
"Yes, miss. Where can I take you?" Yusof asked.
"I need to go home," the lady answered sweetly. Her voice had a touch of distress in it.
"Where are you staying, miss?"
"Wah, very far miss."
"Please, abang. It's late, and my baby is
hungry. HOw much?"
"Yeah. So late now. It's not safe. Okay lar. I charge you ten ringgit, alright?"
"Thank you, abang. I'll pay you ten ringgit, and more." Smiling, she got into the trishaw with the bundle in her hands, rocking the baby once in a while and humming a tune.
Relieved that Jalan SUtera was along his way home and not in another village, he had lied to get extra cash.Yusof waited for the lady to be seated comfortably behind him, before he set off. In his mind, he was already dreaming of his mother's cooking awaiting him at home. He was definitely looking forward to a good meal after he dropped off the lady and her baby. She looked too young to be a mother.
Yusof cycled in silence. The road was bumpy. The baby wailed. The lady soothed her baby and started to sing lullabies to her baby. Although the lyrics were not familiar to Yusof, he found himself enchanted by the song, and the singer. Her voice was like that of a siren.
"What an attractive lady. Even after a child still look good." Yusof thought to himsel. Nevertheless, he was too shy to speak to her. After a while, he gave up and concentrated on bringing the lady and her baby safely home. He wondered about her husband. The baby stopped crying.
Something reaached Yusof's notrils. THe lady was wearing a strong perfume, a familiar one. Despite its strong scent filling his head, Yusof found that he could not grasp the name for it.
"Stop here," the lady ordered Yusof suddenly.
"Miss, that will be ten ringgit. Thank you."
"Can you kindly wait for me. I'm afraid I don't have enough cash. I have to go in my house and get it for you."
"Aiyoh, miss. What should I do if you dissappear and don't pay? I rugi, you know."
"Oh abang, will I chat you? Feel pity for me a little. WHy don't you hold my baby for me, just for a while? That way, you know I will come back."
Before Yusof could object, the lady handed Yusof her baby. The baby was soft and warm. Yusof could smell the faint scent of talc from the bundle. Before going in, she turned back and smiled at him, making hand gestures to ask him to wait.
"Abang, just rock my baby, it won't cry, okay?"
"Luckily the baby is sleeping. If it cries, I won't know what to do." Yusof thought, as he watched the lady dissappear into the house. The baby move a little, adjusting itself to the warmth of Yusof. Yusof gently held it.
Minutes passed but the lady was not out of the house yet. Yusof began to get worried.
"Why is she taking so long," he wonder. The baby started to wriggle more and Yusof was afraid that it will cry. He rocked it a little. The baby seemed a little heavier. He brushed the thought aside.
The baby seemed to be heavier.
Suddenly, the hair on the back of his neck prickled. Someone was watching him. Looking around, he saw no one. Nevertheless, he sense something was wrong, and felt very unasy.
"The perfume...I can smell the perfume...That is weird. How come I can still smell the perfume when she is not around?" he asked himself.
The baby was getting heavier. He neede two arms to carry it.
Goose pimples broke out all over his body. The whole place was eerily quiet, too quiet. Not even the sound of the crickets could be heard. He looked around several times, but could not find anyone.
By then, the bundle in his arms had got so heavy that he could not carry it anymore. Cycling the whole day had made his arms week. Since the baby was asleep, he laid it on the passenger seat of his trishaw. The moment he put the bundle down, the baby started to wail.
"Don't cry, baby. Hush, mommy's coming soon." Yusof cooed at the baby as he flipped over the wrap, wanting to comfort the crying infact who was wailing so loudly.
What he saw froze his blood. The wrap came off to reveal not a baby, but a small tombpost. THere was no baby. Startled, he took a step back and rubbed his eyes to regain his composure.
The sound of the wailing baby was still there as he took another step back. Then he heard the sweet, enchanting voice whispering from his back.
"Why is my baby crying?"
Yusof was about to turn around to explain but he remembered his mother's advice against turning around when called from behind at night.
"Is my sayang baby naughty?" she asked again as he felt a cold hand touch his shoulders.
THinking quickly, he took 2 steps in front and picked up the tombpost in the seat. As if it was a bundle of snakes, he flung it far away. The crying sound stopped when he picked it up for that brief moment. Not wasting any time, Yusof hopped onto his trishaw and cycled out of there quickly. He peddalled with all his strength.
Laughter came from behind. Frightened, he closed his eyes and muttered a prayer.
"Why won't you look at me? I know that you find me beautiful? I could see it in your eyes that you find me beautiful. Why not have me? I like you." She whispered into his lef ear seductively.
He swerved his bike to the right. All the while, he prayed to Allah for His Mighty Protection and chanted loudly, trying to drown out her voice. But it kept ringing inside his head.
"I need a lover and my baby needs a father. Join me." The enchanting voice was now coming from his right. It felt as if she was standing in his trishaw and was whispering into his ears.
Yusof turned the bike handle to the left, away from the sound, his eyes still tightly closed.
"Follow me, sayang. I know I can make you happy," a sweet giggle made his heart skip a beat.
The shrill laughter cam from above his head. Yusof looked up. Initially he could make out something white flying in circles, hovering above him. On a closer look, he realised that it was the lady. Terrified, he pedalled even harder.
Her laughter rang in his head. Unable to take it anymore, he stopped his trishaw, covered his ears with hands and chanted out loud, trying to drown out the woman's laughter. All the while, he dared not open his eyes.
Suddenly, all was quiet. He opened his eyes and looked around and realised that he was in the middle of a cemetary. Not looking back he rode as fast as he could back home. The adrenaline was pulsing in his body. Never had he rode with so much energy.