POSTED 11/01/2018 13:59:48
Towards the east side of the Tower, just across a patch of green lawns and over a small wired gate, a black metal gate swung open noisily. The sound of busy clatter and clear steam seeped out of the door, and also the noises of grinding and clanking of metals. Then the metal gate swung close and the noise stopped abruptly.
Two men wearing stained white aprons and matching what-used-to-be-white shirts on ash pants came out through that gate. They were both carrying huge brown baskets. The air was warm as the sun was still beginning its ascent. They walked across the green lawn and reached the small wired gate. One of the men reached for the thin metal handle and gripped it. He grunted as he gave it a pull, balancing the basket in one hand.
The wired gate creaked as it slowly moved inwards. The men waited for it to stop and then walked through.
"III-I hate feeding dd-those dogs." One of the men stuttered as they walked through the gate.
"I do not love it either." The other one said.
He was older, possibly in his sixties, greying intensely over his oily brown skin. His name was Bondi. Bondi turned towards the other man, a lanky specimen with big eye sockets and a protruding Adam’s apple. This man was balding also, and greying all over but he was barely thirty seven. At least that was the word back in the kitchen. His name was Jo. He stuttered lightly, especially among his friend, Bondi. But on the days when he was agitated or frustrated, he switched to full blown vein-popping, fist-smashing stammering.
"But we have no choice and we have been doing this for years now. Surely, you should have been used to it by now." Jo nodded and kept walking beside Bondi.
The grass lawn soon finished and their feet began scraping hard concrete floors. They both turned left into a hollow passage and reached another small gate which was painted yellow. The air by now was already musky from the smell of canines. Bondi dropped his basket and reached his hand for the lever holding the yellow gate in place and pulled it. The small gate swung open.
He picked up his basket and walked in. The area consisted of a large open space demarcated on either side by two metal rails. Behind each rail was a walkway, almost like the ones in prisons, which went through the front of each dog cage. There were eight cages on either side of the area. Each cage was inhabited by two dogs. So, this meant sixteen cages and a total of thirty two dogs.
Although there was a huge cage centralized just at the point where the two walkways converged, this lone cage was inhabited by a ferocious beast of a dog named Adam. The two men split up. One to either side. The area had become roused with the yelps and groans and barkings of the excited dogs. It was feeding time.
Bondi pushed aside the small sliding door at the entrance of the walkway and walked up to the first cage. He reached his hand into the basket and brought out two large greasy pieces of meat clipped together at the edges. This way, he had a total eight pairs of greasy raw meat in his basket.
He felt the breaths of the dogs as they leaned on the cage. He slid down a small window and threw in a piece of meat. As was normal, the big one rushed for it, giving Bondi enough time to toss the other one for the smaller dog. This was the routine.
He walked along the walkway until all sixteen dogs had been fed. Bondi looked up when he heard Jo stutter and curse. He shook his head and began walking around towards him. Jo gripped the slippery piece of meat and cursed at the dogs as he threw it in.
Walking steadily and dragging the meat basket, Jo grabbed a piece of meat and was about to throw it in when he heard a rattle coming from Adam's cage. Jo sneered and walked slowly towards the cage. Bondi was now around the walkway over at Jo's side.
"Be careful, Jo, and go back to feeding the dogs." He said and began approaching Jo.
Jo hated the dogs, but he hated Adam even more. The beast was just too terrifying.
"Yyyou want dd-this, dd-don't you?" He stuttered, waving the piece of meat over the cage watching the yellow eyes.
He heard the vibrating growl of Adam and was terribly relieved that it was inside the cage. He smiled and turned to Bondi who was now almost close to him.
"Don't wo-worry, I..." He didn't finish the statement when the rattling increased and the huge door swung open.
Jo fell back as he was knocked off the ground by the huge door. He turned on his back and watched the bright, yellow eyes begin to draw closer. He could hear the increasing growling, and feel the heat from the dark cage. Adam emerged out of the cage, one heavy paw first followed by the other.
He was a huge hybrid dog with light yellow fur, which was so light it looked like its skin, and charcoal black paws. Adam shook its head and snorted; it was not used to seeing daylight. The area was now uncontrollably noisy; perhaps the dogs knew that a rare spectacle was about to take place.
It let out a loud bark which vibrated the air and the area was suddenly calm. It sniffed the air and then shifted its head towards to piece of meat on the floor. This was perhaps Jo's saving grace.
Bondi paused where he was and watched in shock as the huge beast walked out of the cage. This was a disaster. He quickly glanced at Jo and then at the beast.
"Get out of there!" He yelled to Jo, who seemed petrified on the spot.
Bondi ran up to a rusty red utility box on the wall and pried it open. He grabbed the small tranquilizing gun and the only three tranquilizing darts. Apparently, no one planned for the eventuality of Adam bursting out of his cage.
Jo regained his senses and watched as the beast gobbled up the huge piece of meat. His throat bubbled up and down as he gulped. He watched in horror as the dog slowly shifted his gaze towards him. Gripping the cold concrete floor, he shifted backwards, still on the ground, and felt the basket of meat behind him. All the while still locked in gaze with approaching dog.
He grunted and pushed the basket in front of him and towards the dog. This seemed to work as the dog pounced on the basket. Jo heard Bondi's voice and quickly sprang to his feet, running through the walkway and sometimes colliding with a cage.
"Get out of here and lock the gate!" Bondi ordered.
Jo nodded and ran out the gate and closed it behind him. He paused and then turned. He could see the dog tearing away at the basket and Bondi, as he slowly approached it. From this point, the beast even looked bigger. This was suicidal. He certainly couldn't leave Bondi all alone.
He looked around for anything that could help and then his sight suddenly locked on a silver box mounted on the wall. Bondi slid in one of the thin, white plastic dart into the gun and walked slowly, his hand raised towards the dog. He could hear the rough growling and sneering as Adam ripped through the basket.
He breathed in and the squeezed the trigger. The gun let out a light whooshing sound as it propelled the dart towards the target. The dart stuck to the skin of the beast, but only for a second. Bondi watched the dart fall off and quickly loaded in the second. He also noted that Adam had abandoned the basket and was now gnarling and moving towards him.
He fired again and watched the dog yelp softly as the dart pierced through the skin on its neck and it struggled to get it off. He loaded the last dart with shaky hands and fired again. He missed. Bondi dropped the gun and began to take slow steps backwards. The dog wiggled and shook the pin off its neck and then stared madly at Bondi who was steadily increasing his pace backwards.
The beast growled and made to leap into the air when a loud shot cracked into the air. Bondi stood still, panting heavily and watched the beast whimper and fall to the ground. He immediately turned around to the source of the shot and relief flowed through his body. It was Jo.
Bondi quickly regained his composure and looked carefully at the beast; it looked dead, all limp on the ground. But then, the body heaved slightly as the beast snored quietly. Bondi relaxed himself again. It was very important that Adam didn't die. Sure, he nearly killed them but in all truth he was worth more than the ordinary kitchen hands. Speaking of which...
"Thank you." Bondi said abruptly but sincerely when he reached the shaky Jo.
"I hhhh-hate thhh-dogs." Jo answered.
Bondi patted his arm and grabbed the long silver rifle from Jo. There was a tranquilizer gun built for Adam afterall; if only they kept it close by. It would be best to hand over the situation to dog keepers and get back to the day's work. That was exactly what Bondi said to Jo.
"I ddon't want to go out thhh-there." Jo whined.
Bondi walked past the gate and into a small shed. He reached for the side of the wall without looking and picked up the receiver of a black phone. He mumbled some words into the receiver, narrating in quick details the past couple of minutes. He replaced the receiver with a loud clank and turned to Jo.
"You say that like we have a choice here. You know how it is, we have to get to the market and restock the fish room."
Jo shrugged, "You know woo-what today is?"
Bondi started walking away from the area.
"It is memorial day." He said without turning back.
The dinghy rocked slightly as Jakob edge closer to look into the darkness. The water around him rushed quietly, almost serenely; the way he had grown to like it. He watched the darkness fade away slowly like wind rushing through a cloud of smoke and saw, to his surprise, a strange being like a man, but made entirely of black smoke.
This man – this being – stood on the surface of the almost-clear water as if it was a board made of wood. It had eyes that glowed white; but a kind of white that seemed strange and maybe even alluring. Its face was a mass of slow moving dark smoke; a face without a nose or a mouth. Just those eyes.
"Who are you?" Jakob asked, surprised at his calmness.
The smoke-being drew closer, walking lightly on the surface of the water. Lightly, because the surface around where its feet touched gave out a light ripple as it does when a lone drop of water from a tree touches it. It stopped just a few metres from the dinghy. It was so close that the glow of its eyes reflected on the body of the dinghy.
"That is one question that does not matter at the moment." Its shrill voice rang out.
Jakob stared intently at those eyes, a pair of tiny moons they were.
"That is what I want to know." He said bravely. If this smoke-being wanted to harm him perhaps it would have done so since. Perhaps.
"I am a spirit." It said, "one of justice and vengeance.”
The thing about this spirit of justice or whatever, Jakob noticed, was how it spoke. It had no mouth so it was as if it communicated through its thoughts. Loud clear thoughts. Jakob was curious now. He wanted to know more about this strange being, this – spirit of justice and vengeance – but the sun was already starting its day and he had to deliver his fish in time for the memorial. Instead...
"Why are you here?" He asked.
The spirit began to walk around the dinghy, the black smoke trailing behind it and the water on which it walked sloshing a little loudly. It circled the rocking dinghy and then halted at the exact same spot it had been standing moments ago. Jakob did not once break his gaze.
"See." It said, its voice whispering through the early morning air and trailing off. It raised up an arm and turned its palm, conjuring a thick cloud of more dark smoke.
"See," it repeated and hovered its other arm over the cloud of smoke forming about its palm.
Jakob shifted himself from the seat bolted beside the outboard engine and moved towards the edge of the dinghy, his weight tilting it slightly and rousing the water a bit.
He opened his mouth slightly as he peered, almost dazedly, at the images forming in the cloud of smoke. He watched it, not minding the wavy palm of smoke or the other hand hovering around it. He didn't mind the wind that was picking up or the sun's increasing warmth he was beginning to feel, or the fact that the fishes by now would have been aware of his presence. No, he was focused on the images of his boy being dragged away by Soldiers. Images that began to stir up a form of hate in him. A hybrid hate, if you may. One of fear, sadness and anger. Fear that maybe his boy was already dead, sadness that he just was powerless to do anything and anger because, well, because of every other thing.
His hand gripped the sharp metal edge of the dinghy tightly. He was bruising himself, but he felt no pain. The hate intensified when the image of Pok Mak Loho appeared. He didn't think of him as a supreme leader, certainly not. He was a man just like him. He...
The Spirit closed its palm, interrupting Jakob's train of thoughts, and ending the images.
"Do you see?" The spirit said in its usual shrill voice.
Jakob clenched his fists. He could see alright. He nodded slowly, suddenly feeling weak. The spirit was suddenly on the dinghy, and by his side. Jakob didn't turn to look, he only felt a certain warmness as though he was inside a haze of smoke and the voice that came out next was possibly that of his thoughts. For all he knew, this was a hallucination of some sort.
"Perhaps you should do something about your grievances?" The shrill voice asked.
He didn't answer.
The voice continued, "Perhaps, you should have the vengeance you so crave?" It asked in a trailing voice.
Jakob nodded. Perhaps, he thought to himself. But what can I do?
"That is easy. I can help." The spirit said. Jakob then moved his head slightly; apparently he had thought that out loud.
"How can you help?" He asked cautiously.
The vanished from his side and appeared just in front of the dinghy, standing with its arms outstretched.
"I am the spirit of justice and vengeance after all." As it said this, the surrounding water body lifted up into an impressive transparent, rushing wall.
Jakob stared in awe as the river rushed noisily into the air and then fell again. The spirit dropped its outstretched arm and everything was silent again.
"I could give you the power you need to have your vengeance." It said, drawing closer to him.
Jakob thought about this. He certainly could use an impressive power like that. What else could it do? Or was it restricted to water based trickery? Is this some sort of river spirit and most importantly, what was the catch? He decided to ask.
"What do you get if I have this power, what is the price attached? Do I have to sell my soul, kill someone?" He had no intention of doing any of those.
The spirit chuckled. If you could call it that. A croak release of sound. An empty, almost scornful laugh.
"I am the spirit of Justice and vengeance." It said for the umpteenth time, "There is no price tag. I am like a messenger. I have a task to do which is to deliver deserved justice and vengeance. I only came here because you needed me. Deep down, you summoned me. I am at your command, no price attached."
Jakob smiled for the first time that morning. A wry smile, the kind you subconsciously display when browsing through a selection of ways to deal with an enemy.
"I need that power. I need to teach that man at the Tower a lesson. I need to avenge my son and speak up for everyone else." He said this through gritted teeth and clenched fists.
"Then it is agreed. Your wish is my command."
Jakob smiled, but his smile faded almost immediately.
The smoke around the spirit intensified and its eyes that were a pair of shiny moons became blood red. The smoke around its face grew darker and more agitated. It grinned. And yes, it grinned with a mouth. A thin line cut across its face from end to end and then tooth-like fixtures began protruding out of them. Its palms that had been relatively normal shrunk inside and left only what looked like a wrist. The wrists became longer, having a pointy edge. Its two legs combined together into a single whirly black smoke.
In just a matter of seconds, what had been a somewhat approachable spirit now looked like a hell spawn. It grinned wider and flew up into the air and then rushed towards Jakob. Jakob saw it coming, but it was too fast. He felt it surround him and seep slowly into him through the pores on his skin.
He could hear that shrill voice in his head, fighting his own voice, the one he was used to. He felt the shrill voice overcome his own and push it deep down where he could no longer hear it. He felt dizzy, like he was drifting off into sleep. His eyes closed slowly, blurring out the environment and then they shut tight.
The smoke was all gone. The dinghy rocked on the water and the sound of the agitated water body filled the air. Jakob suddenly opened his eyes and grinned. His eyes were blood red and his teeth sharp as pins.
He looked around him and lifted an arm. The water parted a fishes flew up and into the baskets he had loaded earlier. He stretched forth another arm over the fishes and tiny black smoke entered into them.
He grinned again, it was time to sell some fish.
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