Suddenly I hear a baby cry next door. Didn’t I hear it earlier in the day? Just a normal human baby crying for food, right? Of course it isn’t a ghost.
Rustammy brings Dewi out of the trance, and this time it seems like Farida has genuinely left.
“So, you saw a pontianak,” Rustammy says to me.
“But she didn’t come when I called her myself,” I say.
“But that’s exactly what did happen. You called her,” Rustammy says, “and she came to you, through Dewi. You saw Farida. She’ll be with you tonight.”
I think about that for a moment and say, “Never mind, that’s okay. I got what I came for.”
Rustammy gets really pissed off.
“But you called her. She came. You made a deal with her.”
Now my monkey mind recalls the story “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” Faust and all that. I don’t have a valid contract with a pontianak. Or do I?
Of course I don’t believe all this stuff. But I also don’t want to insult my hosts by appearing to not take it seriously. “What can we do?”
Rustammy obviously is disappointed in my lack of commitment.
“You’re not convinced, I can see that. But still, you called her, and she came.”
“Chicken blood should do the trick.”
I look bewildered.
“She wants your blood. But she’ll settle for chicken blood.”
It is about midnight on a Sunday night. We are in a middle class, residential neighborhood of Pontianak. You can’t just go into the backyard and grab a chicken. And the live chicken market is surely closed.
But this is Indonesia, and everything is possible. I dig into my wallet and hand a few bills to a young man. Forty-five minutes later he comes back with an unhappy looking red chicken strapped to his motorcycle handlebars.
“Do I need to kill it myself?” I ask.
“No, since you’re not a true believer we can do it. You can go home.”
I don’t like the religious connotation of whether I am a “believer” but perhaps I am overreacting.
To be certain I ask one last time. “So this will satisfy Farida and keep her happy?”
“It should be okay. She probably won’t bother you tonight,” Rustammy says. “But you never know.”
* * *
I return to my comfortable hotel around one in the morning, have a shower and hop into bed. I have no fear that a pontianak has followed me home. I don’t believe in such stuff. I turn the air-con up and snuggle in for a good rest.
Just as I am hitting that never-never land between consciousness and sleep I hear a faint sound that jars me awake. I listen more carefully. It is the cry of a baby. Unmistakable. Coming from the next room. Damn, that meddling pontianak Farida did follow me home.
And then I remember. Earlier in the day I had heard a baby crying in the adjoining room. Parents travelling with a young child; so common in Indonesia as not to be worth a second thought. Surely that is the baby’s cry that I hear. Of course it isn’t a pontianak. Surely not. Just a normal human baby crying for a feed. Isn’t it?
*** The End ***
Paul Spencer Sochaczewski is a Geneva-based writer who has lived and worked in more than 80 countries, including long stints in Southeast Asia. He has written 14 books; the latest, Dead but Still Kicking: Encounters with Mediums, Shamans, and Spirits, was published by Explorer’s Eye Press in May 2019. He can be contacted at www.sochaczewski.com.