All of us were seated around the veranda chatting away happily. It was past eleven in the evening. Our grandmother was calling us to go into the house.
'Anak-anak, come in. It is very late, and you are still outside talking. What are you talking about? So talkative.' That was the sixth time our grandmother had called for us that night.
'Waitlah nenek. Too many stories to tell. Later, then we will come in. Why dont you go to sleep first?' Suriani yelled from the veranda. She was the oldest cousin among us, and our leader. We had gathered to spend our December holidays with our grandmother. Having not seen each other for a while, we were all curious about each other. Getting together, we took this chance to catch up with each other's lives, finding out who was going out with who, who got married, who got divorced, and so on.
The real fun started when Yusof started telling his ghost stories. The younger ones would be huddled together, trying not to show their fear. Large trees loomed around the house creating an eerie atmosphere. It was this kind of setting that made ghost stories scarier.
'Children, can you please come in? It is already twelve midnight. Not safe for young children to be out in the dark.' Our grandmother called us in again.
"Nek, we'll be in soon," Yusof said and continued on wiht his story.
Suddenly, we heard the rustling of the leaves. Everybody stilled, looking at each other. It was a breezeless night. The sound of rustling leaves continued.
"Whoooo, whooooo..." That sounded really familiar to me. Rafiq, the mischievous one. However, the girls let out a terrified shriek. Realising that they were conned, they started giggling.
However, as the giggles sudsided, we realised the rustling sound was still there. The boys looked up at the tree in front of the house but saw nothing. After a while, the sound subsided. Thinking it was a bat or an owl, we continued our story.
However, Arkam was fidgeting about. He seemed uncomfortable.
"Hey, let's go in and talk in the house instead. What nenek said is true. Come, let's go in," Arkam said to everyone.
"Alamak, why are you so scared? There are so many of us here. Nothing will dare disturb us." Yusof said, chiding his cousin for being so timid. "If you want to go in, you can go alone, you scary cat!"
With that, Arkam kept quiet. However, he was still fidgety and could not sit still. Soon, while everyone else was engrossed in Yusof's stories, Arkam kept looking at the tree. Seeing that Arkam was really afraid, Suriani also began to worry.
"Arkam, what is the matter?" Suriani asked, concerned. "Are you feeling alright? Tonight's dinner didnt agree with you?"
"We must go into the house fast. It is not safe. Please persuade everyone to go in now, especially the younger ones." HIs voice was jittery, with wide fearful eyes.
By then, the scent of frangipani in the air had become distinctly stronger. This time, everyone listened to him, seeing the worry on his face. Quietly, all got up and went inside.
When all had gone into the house, Arkam told everyone what he saw.
"I saw something up in the tree."
"Yes, I did. It was just staring at us and smiling coldly. It was listening to our stories. It even agreed with what Yusof was saying, nodding its head all the while."
"I'm not. It is true. I can see these things. I wish I can't but I can see. It was just waiting for the right time to catch one of us alone. Maybe not today, maybe tomorrow. But the things was watching."
In the meantime, our grandmother had woken up. When Arkam told grandmother what he saw, she told us that there were evil spirits lurking around at night, and they would harm the young ones, especially guys. What Arkam saw was a pontianak. We were told never to talk about ghosts in the middle of the night, for it would only invite unwanted attention from such 'things'.
That was the last time that we sat out at night to talk anything about 'them'. For the rest of our holidays, nobody went out alone after dark.