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I squirmed in the seat, smoothing my baju. Dr Siti's eyes were unwavering, like a cat's. Her hands held a pink cardboard file. My case file, I realized with a start, and I swallowed, suddenly afraid.
Now, please do not judge me. I am not even sure why they referred me to her. I am an educated woman; my thesis is about Joan of Arc, a medieval saint. I do not need psychiatric help.
"Tell me about her," Dr Siti's voice was soft.
"What do you want me to say?" I said. My voice cracked.
I met her in a crowded night market. The throngs of people milled around the stalls selling tasty treats like fried chicken wings, Ramly burgers and freshly made churros with their distinctive cinnamon fragrance. My mouth watered. The churros stall was the most popular with young men and women lining up for their orders.
I was on summer vacation, already eager for home-cooked food. Dressed in casual jeans and t-shirt, I winced at the humid weather. Same old, same old. It was then I lifted my eyes to see a woman, about my age, dressed in a sky-blue baju kurung. Her hair was long and black, her skin smooth. She was pretty like the girl next door kind of pretty. She must have seen me watching her. She smiled back.
Farhan chose the wrong time to show up. "Hello sayang!"
I started. "It's you! You scared me!" I said. The woman was already gone.
He was laughing. I liked that about Farhan. He was carrying an orange plastic bag filled with... churros! I was impressed. We retreated from the crowd and ate the churros while the stream of people flowed and ebbed. Under the peepul tree, it was pleasantly cool. We chatted about old times, his relatives and my research. I knew he didn't like me sounding "smart", as he told me once. So I shut up and munched on the churros, suddenly missing my school campus.
We had sex later. I insisted we use protection. He sulked and brooded. In the end, he complied. The sex was rough. I hated that. But Farhan liked it and I just endured silently while he huffed and puffed. I was relieved when he came and promptly pulled away from me, falling asleep immediately.
I tried to sleep. I wanted to go home, while ibu waited. I had to tell her that I missed my bus and the route to our village was dark.
It was when I closed my eyes I saw her again.
She was reaching out with her right hand. Come, little sister, I have things to show you.
Wordlessly, I rose from the bed, away from the snoring man and took her hand. Her palm was warm.
I have things to teach you. I have things to tell you. You are a strong woman. That man there… They are all like all men.
"So, she appeared to you in a dream," Dr Siti said, cocking a finely-penciled eyebrow. I wanted to growl at her. My nails dug into my pants. I wanted to lunge at her for being so... presumptuous.
"Dream. Out-of-body. So what?" I retorted back. She started scribbling furiously into the file. It was a form. I could already see that the form was packed with rows and rows of words.
"Continue," she waved her hand.
I bit my tongue, stopping the insult before it flew out of my mouth, clawed and cruel.
She showed me how to fly.
You have wings. You can fly.
At first, I couldn't balance. I felt stupid. I wobbled. I cursed. She didn't laugh. She was patient, correcting how I lifted my arms and legs.
You have wings. Therefore, you must fly.
When I flew, exhilaration flooded me like wildfire, like the fire that burned up dry bush behind my student house.
She showed me how to hunt.
We prowled in the darkness, hearing the sounds and whispers from the houses. The coughs, the baby cries, the sounds of sex and soft laughter. We didn't, couldn't land on the corrugated roofs, because many of the houses had verses of the Quran written on the walls.
There are some sisters who tried to land and only their claws scrapped on the roof, the woman said. They cannot get in. But the people are frightened.
I knew that she was a Pontianak. Yet I didn't care. I called her Kakak. Older sister.
Then, she showed me how to take the blood of the living.
The blood of the living was fresh, hot and the sweetest when taken from the jugular. We took the blood from men, women and children. We took the blood when they slept. We took the blood when they walked along dark roads. We took the blood while we sang sad songs and lured the unsuspecting to our teeth.
Farhan saw the change in me. He was perturbed, because I looked good and felt good. Our sex became rougher. He said mean things to me. On a couple of times, he hit me on the face. I hid the bruises from ibu. I was an educated woman. I shouldn't be hit like an ordinary housewife.
"So, he hit you," Dr Siti said.
"Yes, so what?" I bit back.
"Did you report him to the police? This is physical assault."
I felt the smile coming back, Kakak's smile. "Because I killed him."
When Farhan came at me again, I was ready.
My face hurt from his previous beating. We were quarreling more now. I wanted to go back to my studies. He insisted I stay, because he wanted me to marry him, settle down and have children. I refused. His fist slammed into my cheek. I fell hard onto the marble floor.
That man there... They are all like all men.
I looked at him, Farhan, the man whom I thought I loved, and smiled the smile Kakak had when she slit the throats of men and let the blood flow out in dark rivers.
"I will put you into place, you stupid bitch!" Farhan yelled and screamed in fright when I lunged at him. He pissed in his pants. My teeth tore his throat. He fought and fought. With a snarl, I bit off his windpipe. Silence. He was dead. I drank the blood deeply, letting the powerful fluid course down my throat and fill my body with strength. I was soon very full and sated.
Farhan lay there, the whites of his eyes showing, his upraised hands like claws. His skin was bloodless. I sank down, shocked. I killed a man. I killed a person.
Many people do not understand us, Kakak said to me once when we were done hunting. We sisters have to hunt, because we need to hunt. We do not let things distract us. We are powerful.
Powerful, I repeated the word. Powerful.
The woman you study is powerful, but she is not understood too. That's the way of the world. That's the way of how men see us. They will hate us. They will curse at us. They will kill us. But we will remain.
I thought of ibu, of her gentle life under my bapak. Never complaining, never fighting back even when bapak came back drunk.
I didn't want this kind of life.
You will still hunt, Kakak reassured me. Even when your feet are on foreign soil, you will still remember who you are.
I wiped off the blood from my mouth and face. I sent a silent call to Kakak.
When she finally arrived, I gave her the corpse as a gift.
Well done, little sister.
She ripped into the flesh with relish.
Dr Siti stared at me, putting the file down quickly. She backed away. "I am going to call the police," she said, her voice now shaking. "You murdered someone."
I simply looked at the doctor. I wondered about my thesis. In the end, I would be like her too. A woman with a PhD.
How narrow-minded she is. She lives in a small world dictated by her degree, her wealth and her pride.
"Don't you feel any remorse?" Dr Siti challenged me, her fingers trembling as she tried to hammer out the number of the police station down the road on the touchpad of her smartphone. She kept on missing. "You are a psychopath with fantasies of being a supernatural creature! You were abused by your boyfriend! You need help! You need - "
"Oh shut the fuck up," I cut her short, and leaped.
Her blood in my mouth was sweet and pleasing. She did not fight back.