Happy Halloween, everyone!
For 364 days of the year we’re told not to take candy from strangers. On Halloween it’s aight. But only if you’re dressed as a wizard or a skeleton or a firefighter or a princess. Or a skeleton princess wizard firefighter. I never realized how freaking weird Halloween really is until I tried explaining it to my students and fellow teachers. But it is so weird.
To celebrate the holiday here I will be dressing as a confused foreigner and going door to door trying to get dinner so I don’t have to eat ramen and bananas again.
In honor of October 31st and all things spooky, here’s a choose your own adventure starring you and an assortment of Indonesian ghosts. Read the text, choose one option, skip to the section it tells you to. Repeat until you’re done. You could just read it all at once, but that’s lame and not exciting and not nearly as spOooOOOookyY
There’s a Ghost in My Fork:
A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
You plan an awesome after school Halloween party with your students where you carve watermelons, make paper masks, and talk about American monsters and Indonesian ghosts. You lose track of time and before you know it it’s dark. You stay behind to clean up and one of your students offers to give you a ride to your home on his motorbike. You politely decline; you’re only a ten minute walk from the school and the cool night air will feel nice after a day spent sweating in the heat.
You head home, following a route you’ve taken many times before. You reach the three-way fork with the mango tree and know you’re almost back. You’re about to take the left fork like always when you notice a figure standing in the middle of the road.
What do you do?
- Take the middle fork just to be safe. —> Proceed to Pocong
- Continue towards the figure. —> Proceed to Kuntilanak
- Run down the right fork as fast as you can. —> Proceed to Tuyul
- Turn and jog away from the fork. —> Proceed to Nyi Roro Kidul
The figure creeped you out a little, so you decide just to take the middle fork instead. You’ve gone this way before, and you’re pretty sure you know your way back. All of a sudden you hear a thudding behind you bumpbump bumpbump. You stop walking. The bumpbump stops. You take a step. Bumpbump. Frightened, you start walking faster and keep your eyes focused ahead. Bumpbump bumpbump bumpbumpbumpbump. Not stopping, you turn around and see a rotting, pale green face with two gaping, hollow eye sockets. The rest of the body is wrapped in a white Muslim burial shroud. You’re speedwalking with the vigor of a 90 year old mall walker who wants to make it to 100. The thing is swaddled like a baby and hopping, yes, hopping, behind you and this would probably be hilarious except you see its skin peeling away from its face and you’re about to pee yourself.
Crap. A pocong. Its burial shroud, like all Muslims burial shrouds, is tied in three places: over the head, around the neck, and under the feet. If the ties aren’t undone after 40 days, the soul of the deceased cannot escape and so the body hops on out of the grave and frolics around. If it finds you, it’ll follow you forever, like a puppy except a corpse. Great.
What do you do?
- Turn around, plant your feet, wave your arms, and scream at it.
You decide to confront the pocong by standing in its way, wildly waving your arms, and loudly screaming profanities. This was a poor decision. You stood in the pocong’s way and ain’t nobody gonna stand in pocong’s way. It kills you. It may not have arms or legs and may essentially be a giant Easter Bunny minus the candy, but still, it kills you.
- Stop, drop, and play dead.
You fall to the ground and pretend to be dead. The pocong hops around your body, bends as close to you as it can in its rather stiff shroud, sighs “Not again,” and continues hoppin’ on down the road. You swear you hear it softly and soulfully singing Adele’s new hit single, “Hello.”
- Approach the pocong and wrap your arms around it in a warm and awesome hug.
You decide to do the only logical thing when faced with a zombie corpse–you give it love. After years without any human contact, the pocong likes this and you know it would hug you back if its arms weren’t trapped. You unwrap the ties that keep the shroud in place, and it falls away. Finally free, the pocong soars up up and away.
You hear the faint sound of a crying baby coming from somewhere, but think you spot a bakso cart next to the figure. It must be a vendor going to sell some food with his kid. Excited at the prospect of food, you move forward with purpose, a smile on your face and a spring in your step. You get closer and realize to your disappointment that what you thought was a food cart is actually just a pile of construction rubble and a banana tree.
Then you remember the figure and look at it. It’s a beautiful woman. Random, but okay. You mutter “selamat malam” and continue on your way. But something makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. You turn around. Where the beautiful woman stood is now an extremely pale woman dressed in white, her long, black hair covering her face. You notice her nails are very long and very sharp. You are very scared. Crap. A kuntilanak. The spirit of a woman who died in childbirth.
What do you do next?
You start to scream and she pounces on you, digging her fingernails into your stomach and feasting on your organs. Your eyes went wide when she pounced, so she sucks them out for dessert. If you’re male, she rips off your man parts and devours those too. Finger lickin’ good
- Run down the road.
You ran track in high school and know you can outrun her. But she ran track too. She catches up to you and pounces, digging her long but recently manicured and nicely painted fingernails into your stomach and feasting on your organs. If you’re male, she rips off your man parts and devours those too. I guess they’re halal?
3. Dive behind the pile of construction crap.
You cut yourself on something sharp. It’s a nail. You’re about to toss it away when you remember something. The kuntilanak pounces on you and you drive the nail into the back of her neck. She turns back into the beautiful woman and smiles at you. The two of you get married and spend the rest of your life together. Hope you didn’t want children. And don’t take the nail out or she’ll feast on your organs.
Creeped out by whatever the hell was standing in the middle of the road, you take off running down the right fork to get away from it. After about ten minutes, you slow down to catch your breath. You’ve got your hands on your knees, you’re hunched over staring at the ground, and you’re panting like crazy. All of a sudden you see something small dart by you. You whip your head sideways and catch a glimpse of a sickly green and gray toddler darting into a bush. It’s naked with small hands, a large head, pointy ears, and razor sharp teeth. You see its enormous red eyes staring at you. Crap. A tuyul.
What do you do next?
- Slowly approach the bush.
You offer it some oleh-oleh from America and a few drops of your blood. It cautiously approaches you and you become fast friends. The tuyul steals money and jewelry from everyone in town for you and in return you give it milk in the mornings, sweets throughout the day, and your constant love and affection. The two of you enjoy listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989 together and have matching red batik shirts.
2. Ignore it and keep walking down the path.
If the tuyul doesn’t have a master, then it won’t cause you any harm. After five minutes or so you realize that you have no idea where you are. You stop and look around to figure it out. And then the tuyul springs on you and, like an angry oompa loompa, kicks you in the shin, bites your foot, steals your backpack, and runs off into the night. It had a master.
You collapse. That sucked, but you have your life, if not your pride. And then you realize your passport and all three dozen documents you need to give to immigration in order to legally stay in the country were in your backpack so now you’ll have to go to the immigration office at least 27½ more times and you scream and scream and scream because you have your life but you’re in hell.
3. Rummage through your backpack.
You dig into your backpack and pull out some marbles and a few beans. Thank God you always carry some around in case you run into evil demon ghost toddlers. You throw them at the tuyul, which comes out from the bush and gets distracted by playing with the objects. You quietly open Google Maps and slip away to find your way home.
Nyi Roro Kidul
Your heart starts beating fast at the sight of the figure, so you turn around and begin lightly running (you don’t want to panic) back the way you came. Then you hear something crunch beside you and you break into a run. You try to angle towards the school, but take a wrong turn somewhere and end up at the beach. The full moon illuminates the sand and the water. The beach is quiet and stunning. You pull on a green sweatshirt from your backpack and sit on the beach to think about life. You’re pondering how not to be a failure when you see a figure (what is with all these figures tonight?!) rising out of the sea. It is a beautiful woman, no mermaid, clad in green. She looks regal. Crap. It’s Nyi Roro Kidul (Queen of the Southern Sea).
What do you do next?
- Pick up a nearby shell and throw it at her.
You grab a shell by your foot and chuck it at her. Your shell finds its target. “Ouch,” Nyi Roro Kidul says. Unfortunately, your shell was just a shell and NRK is a mythic spirit-queen who lures people to their deaths. Next thing you know she’s wrapped her clammy arms around you and you’re making a bee-line for the water. First your toes, then your torso, then finally your head all go under and you’re left with the horrific realization that you left your iPhone on the beach.
2. Rummage through your backpack.
You unzip your backpack and whip out a serving tray, a thermos of hot, sweet tea, and a few Tupperware containers of snacks. You put your green sweatshirt over your backpack to create a makeshift table between you the mythic sea queen. You politely serve everything and invite NRK to eat and drink, saying “Silahkan, makan. Silahkan, minum.” Pleasantly surprised, she accepts your hospitality and the two of you chat until dawn. Before she heads back to her underwater kingdom she asks for your BBM pin and adds you on Facebook.
3. Scramble to your feet.
You quickly stand up, wrapping the green sweatshirt tightly around you. Big mistake. Green is Nyi Roro Kidul’s special color and you DO NOT wear her special color. Not ever. She rips the sweatshirt off you, ties it around your ankles, and drags you into the sea. You try clawing at the sand to latch onto something, but quickly give up and take solace in the fact that you have a granola bar in your pocket.
Thank you for playing. You should know that while I was writing this (at night, by myself) a cat (maybe??) almost came in through my open front door and I about had a heart attack. I finished writing from the safety of my bedroom.
Until next time,