The south Indonesia sun was hanging at its apogee, the scorching heat made all of us perspired. I was covered in sweat after pushing a cart filled with bricks which were for the missionaries to rebuild the village which were obliterated by Mother Nature’s tears. The undulated paths leading to the decimated village was making our work more laborious, more effort was required to push the carts filled with building materials.
The sweat secreted by me completely drenched my clothes, even the white cloth clinging around my neck was soaked until it could not retain any more sweat. I stopped the cart in the middle of the group of fifty people, they walked past me with the stench of unpleasant smell, deluged with sweat all over their body. I removed the wet cloth off my neck, twisted it to let go of the liquid in the cloth. My head was getting dizzy, a heat stroke was knocking hard in my head. I took off my shirt, did the same thing I had done to the shirt, and hung it on my shoulder.
“Bang… Ada air tak?” I called out to the person next to me. He pulled out a water bottle from his back and handed it to me. “Terima kasih.” I muttered under my breath as I immediately quenched my thirst to cool down my body. My head was throbbing lesser, the obnoxious pain was subdued for the moment.
When I passed the bottle back to him, his expression was deadpan as if he had met a ghost. The missionary workers around me stopped whatever they were doing, staring at me, my scarred body. I felt mocked when they scrutinised my scars with pitiful looks, they felt sorry for me.
“Yohanes!” The voice of the group leader, Ali, called me, “Apa sudah terjadi kepada kau? Jatuh atau apa?” Ali further investigated my scars by touching them. Images of terrified, fear, paranoia, terror, lucrative, haunted my thoughts when I was least expected.
The horrible thoughts were momentarily suppressed by me, I had to explain to them sooner or later, “Bukan.” I patted at my scars and beamed, “Saya diselamatkan oleh rahmat-Nya.” Zero anxiety, but an abundance of His grace prompted me to tell them about the incident that changed my life. Flood gates of the reminiscence of the incident were lifted up, my thoughts were inundated with past memories as I was doing the explanation to them.
The times when al-qaeda were roaming across the land, wrecking chaos around the places which they passed through. The jihadists in the terrorist group were inhumane, they slaughtered any living thing which came across their eyes, not even a breath of life were scented from them, they only permeated the wrenched smell of death.
The village which I was bornt in was completely oblivious about the happenings around the world. We did not know that cities nor cell phones existed, we were as archaic as those who lived in the stone age. We lived in tree houses, caves, and the chief of the village lived in a wooden cottage by the river. We hunted and gathered foods to ensure our survival, to carry on our life without knowing the world outside us, the grave danger which was right at out doorstep. The sharpest tools we had to defend ourselves and for hunting were stone spears, we did not even have bows and arrows nor rock slings, we did not even realise the bedraggled wretch situation we were in if the village was under siege.
Every night, we sat around the campfire behind the chief’s cottage to share about the experience we had during that day and having dinner at the same time. The small congregation of forty-seven people told us stories which were tedious, often were stories from their hunting sessions. However, the chief shared the most interesting stories among all every night.
Once upon the shining twilight, there were numerous tiny sharp red dots in the dense forest around the village. Legends said the ruby reds were the blood droplets of the devils that signified the impending danger and mortal peril. Devils roamed about the Earth freely without the supervision of any higher beings. The blood droplets were stains from its previous prey, meaning that the devils were near to a place, searching for its prey because it was hungry. The devils’ hunger could eventually devour the whole village.
This was a myth passed down by generations to generations in the village. The curse bled through the timeline of the village. Drought, famine, flood, flu, death awaited us after someone had witnessed the dreaded sign. This myth had the most influence to my mind, I became more aware about the surroundings around me. I trained myself relentlessly, I invented new and stronger weapons during my free time in order to defeat the ‘devil’. But, little did I know, how powerless I was.
I did not know how old I was, there was no knowledge for counting in the village, we did not even know the calendar was invented. The thing I only know about the village was when the sun came up, it was a ‘cycle’ or something along those lines. I know that when I heard loud noises which came from south of the village, it was another ‘giant cycle’ which meant I was older by another ‘giant cycle’.
The riverside of the village became a small site for me to create weapons and to think about my life. After ravaging for fruits in the dense forest, my time was mostly spent there. My thoughts about the world lingered upon the little spot of the village, dwelling into an infinite abyss of deep thoughts, making me feel the joie de vivre.
The inquisitiveness in me brawled against my obedience for the rules that was set by the chief which was not to explore the world outside. I succumbed to my curiousity, I started to claw the floors of my tree house to aid me in knowing when did the loud noises was going to happen. My father was not receptive of my actions because I assumed that he was too preoccupied with hunting and was still grieving for my mother’s demise when she gave birth to me. He was a man with no words, he did not teach me about the basics of life, he had a broken heart that had made him live to just simply exist.
There were three marks on the floor. When I was bornt, I was taken care by the chief, he taught me many things. As I ‘came of age’ that the chief announced in a ceremony, I was forced to stay with my father whom I did not know. The chief told me about stories about how great was my father, he was renowned as the ‘silent hunter’, but everything changed when my mother gave birth to me, she died giving birth to me. My father thought I was a curse to his wife which made him despise me.
As I moved in to live with my father, I was neglected by him, he did not talk to me, not even a word, I doubted that I know how his voice sounded. The three marks symbolised three ‘giant cycles’. I had lived with him for that long.
The day of the loud noises were approaching, I geared myself up the follow the noise.
PHEW! BOOM! CRACKLE! PHEW…!
Once I heard the noises, I sprang out of my reverie, ran towards the noise. I had never came across this route, none of the hunters ever ventured out of the south of the village. I kept running, the noise became more distinct, shimmer of lights came into my view. When I came to where there were no more trees, there was a slope which I almost fell into, I was awestruck by the distant colourful glowing lights. I had never felt so much sense of life since I was borned. I sat down and tried to comprehend every details which came into my sight.
A surge of warmth was in contact with my upper body, it was a weird feeling that I had not felt before. My eyelids pried open, my vision was uplifted and blurry. I shook my head to snap myself back to conscious, my body turned into a fall unto the forest ground. My thoughts was still in a disarray, I sat myself up and saw a familiar figure walking away from me. A hand gestured to me to catch up with him. My father was holding a spear, leading me back to the village.
Growll… A faint noise from a hyena was let out from the west of us. My father immediately crouched, I followed suit. We got cover from the dense bushes, making each step as inaudible as possible, avoiding from the snapping of branches which would indubitably spell doom for us. Step by step, my heart raced faster than I could catch my breath.
The hyena sprang unto me, it was closer to me than ever, just before he sank its claws into my skin, the spear flew with high velocity, killing it with a coup de grace. The blood splattered all over my body, I felt disgusted, but thankful to my father. He lifted his prey unto his shoulder without muttering anything under his breath. The journey back to the village was orchestrated with the musics of the nature, but my father was quiet all the way. Did he really care about me as a son?
As we reached the entrance of the village, my father dropped the carcass of the hyena and left the congregation who were worried about my disappearance for the night. I was bombarded with barrage of questions from the villagers, but I told them nothing about the city and the hyena encounter. I continued my day at the river, washing myself up from the blood, ruminating about the true personality of my father and the city. Should I go back there? Why is my father called the ‘silent hunter’?
I returned to my tree house, he was absent again. I grabbed some fruits on the table to munch on, I stared out of the frame to the forest. It was getting dimmer by the moment, I clawed unto the usual spot, noting that a ‘cycle’ had past. My ear twitched, my father was back. He placed his spear by the table, put some roasted fish on the table.
“Pa…” My father neglected me again, he walked past me, grabbed the fruit on the table and went out of the tree house. My heart was banged against the walls of my ribs as he brushed past me as if he did not notice anything.
It was night time, I was supposed to be around the camp fire, but I ran out of the village again. When I was running, a strong arm grabbed me up out of the blue, I did not have the power to fight back, I tried to struggle but to no avail. I was carried back to the village by my father, his face was deadpan as he brought me back to the village.
For several consecutive nights, my attempt to go back to view the city was in vain, the synonymous situation happened on my every attempt as if he knew my motives in his guts. I got flabbergasted for trying and failing every single time. I got smarter this time, I went to the forest to grab some of the ‘sleeping’ berries to knock out my father, the essence of the berries were squeezed unto the fruit stash in the tree house.
As he entered the tree house, he laid down his spear, grabbed some fruits to munch. However, he smelled something wrong about the fruits, he threw back the fruits into the stash and discarded the whole thing out of the tree house.
Regardless, I made another attempt to get to the city, I went to the riverside to grab my stone knife which fitted perfectly with my hands that I had crafted for a long time. I took another route out of the village, I circled around the forest, and headed south to my destination. When I reached the area where I was caught back most of the time, I slowed down my foot steps, spinning my head around to scan through the forest, looking out for my father.
Swish. Swish. The rustle of the grass from behind indicating me to prepare myself to combat with him. I broke into a run, trying to shake him off. He was getting closer, I jumped unto a tree, climbed as fast as possible, but he was still catching up to my pace. My heart skipped a beat when his hands missed in an attempt to capture me, my hands clamped unto a vine and swung across to another vine, I sustained my movements, swinging from tree to tree like a monkey.
I decelerated when I did not notice him chasing after me, perched on a tree which was apparently at the border of the forest because the view of the tall stone structures stood majestically in front of me, radiating colourful lights which astounded me. My limbs eventually gave me up, I sat down at the bough of the tree, enjoying the sublime city landscape.
The bough of the tree vibrated in an unnatural way. I turned my head, seeing him and his spear across his back. I lifted both of my hands up as a gesture of surrender, he marched towards me with such vigour, I did not have energy to back off from him. As he got closer, he pulled me into his embrace as if he had regained, rejoicing with someone who had been lost forever. He was sobbing, there was no sound from his sob nor his cry, just tears rolling down my back, and his ventilating chest.
He can’t talk.
He can’t hear.
The abrupt recognition hit me like a truck. For all this time, he did not notice that I was in the tree house, he thought he was living all by himself. He only could ‘see’ when he was out for hunting, when he was back to the tree house, he just shut himself back into the perpetual prison of darkness, prohibiting himself from the outside world to earn himself some rest.
My father released me from him. Our gaze interlocked, I saw my reflection formed on his cornea, I looked beaten up, I looked unkempt, but I was glad he finally responded to me, recognised me as his son. His mouth was moving in an odd shape, “Yo-ha-nes.” I repeated my name after him.
My father beamed, he pointed to the building which was right out of the forest, his fingers formed a small house. I nodded, understanding that place was a safe haven. He took my hand, led me back to the village, silently.
On our way back, the myth came real to my eyes, I saw numerous red dots across the patch of forest from the village. I nudged my father, he picked up his pace and rushed back to our tree house.
It was too late.
Half of the village was torched, people with long machetes was having a slashing spree in the village. My father grabbed me tightly, forced our way back to the tree house. We suffered minor cuts here and there, nothing major, yet.
We quickly climbed into the tree house, disconnecting the ladder to the tree house, cutting away the link for the enemies to kill us. My father was ransacking the tree house to find something important. It was a necklace that my mother used to wear. He tied it across my neck.
A machete went through my father. Tears surged my eyes, it happened too fast. He gave me the last, the brightest smile he could muster, blood was streaming down both of his lips. He pointed behind me, asking me to run for my life. The image of him dying in front of my eyes was tattooed in my mind. He gave me a little push and turned around to wrestle with the enemy.
I jumped out of the tree house, holding back my grief.
I need to save myself now.
I was lacerated badly along the way out of the village. I ran as fast as I could to the destination. When I reached halfway out, the hoard of devils was shouting, shrieking at the back of me, I could not outrun them. Sticks of sharp ended flew past me. I pushed my legs to work harder.
T’chi. An arrow sank into my left leg, I pulled it out immediately, letting out a loud scream of pain. They definitely noticed me by now. A mud lake was at the east of me, I limped to the pool of mud, took a long deep breath, sunk myself into it.
Images of him lingered upon my mind, keeping me in the pool, clinging on to the hope that I would be alive after his sacrifice. The hoard passed the surface as if a herd of bulls just stormed through the valley, stampeding everything in there way. I was nearly out of breath the midst of the mess. I quickly let my head out to take a quick breath.
I waited. No more sounds on the surface. I climbed out of the pool of mud.
I thought the coast was cleared.
A slash nearly torn my neck apart. I was pulled out, slashes was sent to my upper body, my legs. The pain was beyond imagination, it was excruciating, it was a hell lot of pain. The devil thrown me unto the ground, my vision went very blurry, I thought death was going to take me away.
A voice popped in my head out of nowhere, acting as the catalyst to keep me moving. I saw a familiar figure wrestling with the devil, it was him.
The voice rang again. I got out of the hell hole, limping my way across the last few miles to the destination. The pain was eating into my skin, every step I took, death grew stronger, but the voice kept buzzing in my head. Two ‘cycles’ past, I became weaker by the very second, I was dehydrated. Half crawling, half yearning to be saved in the last few steps to the spot where I sat to enjoy the city. When reaching the place, I let my body to roll down the slope.
Crack. My head crashed unto the rock. My body became unconscious.
get up. the safe haven is in front of you.
The voice was oddly calm all the time. I pulled myself together. Crawling to the building which was the safe haven.
Someone was in front of me. I waved my hands and called out with every ounce of my energy to get his attention. He ran towards me.
The next thing I remembered was lying on a white bed wearing a white gown. Tubes were attached to me. Endowed me with nourishment to live on.
Days past, the revengeful heart grew stronger day by day. But, the serene voice in my head halted me to seek for vengeance. My heart grew meeker to Him, I believed in Him because I was saved by Him.
As I finished off my encounter with Him, every one gathered around me, hugged me, cried.