Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beauty and terror in a night's entertainment

In Batui 5, I don't normally have my bath that late: for the two months that I have been living here, I have made myself a habit of going out just before sundown. This is for no other reason than that the public well where I wash myself have no artificial illumination while the well's lip is merely 10 cm high lend credence to one's fear of tripping down into the well in the dark of the night.

But by then it was already 6.30 pm, my body felt sticky all over after playing with the kids in a nearby river and I needed to wash. Assuring myself that then it was only a couple of days past full moon, I assure myself that nothing will be going wrong with ample lunar illumination (and in doing so, I embarrassingly forgot a basic fact: the moon won't rise until 9 pm, well after I'm supposed to be done with my wash. Truly a disgrace for an astronomy graduate.)

And yet even without lunar illumination, it turned out that taking a bath that night was simply splendid: I had never before, taking a bath with entertainment present. There were fireflies swarming a nearby coconut tree and another--a leafy flower tree. A dance so dynamic I couldn't help but be transfixed.

I moved the pail from the well rather automatically, transferring the water to a bigger bucket nearby. Because truly, wouldn't you rather enjoy the flickering twinkles of fireflies than staring down the gaping maw of the well's darkness?

That night's bath almost had all the ingredients I needed for me to have my bath leisurely. Almost, because from inside the gaping maw there's a persistent sound of something repeatedly dunking under the water and then surfacing. The sound of splashing continued even when I stayed still, making sure that it wasn't caused by water dripping from my body to the well.

Leave it to the stubborn splashing sounds to ruin a perfectly enjoyable bath. I don't have a particularly active imagination, but a persistent sound in the night will inevitably play suggestions to one's mind. Not least of all, mine, which often jumps to the most morbid possibility.

It also didn't help that I've just finished Koji Suzuki's novel: you remember Sadako Yamamura (of The Ring) met her watery end inside a well, don't you? Even if you don't, I did.

When I finished my bath, I don't exactly scamper--that would be undignified. Though I don't suppose one can scuttle with much dignity either. I shall leave it until the morning light reveal what terror lies in the well's gaping maw, I thought. Knowing full well that it would make me feel ridiculous afterward.

The following morning before school begin, I returned to wash myself, and to see what denouement awaits inside the well--now no longer a maw it had been the night before under the bright daylight. And to no-one's surprise, the promise of a revelation doesn't disappoint: there was indeed something big bobbing inside the well. The culprit of the sound, however, was rather disappointing, it was no foul spectre and there was no trace of any Sadako.

It was just a big toad, trapped inside, unable to climb the wall of the well.

A toad with a very ordinary appearance.

In toto, this had not been an earth-shattering news of the year.

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