A short-story. Not for the faint-hearted.
This tale combines two popular Kayan (a Borneo warrior tribe) stories, that reportedly happened in the jungles of Borneo in 1974 and 1979. Maureen Obong Jau, a native Kayan, communicated these gruesome stories to me in early April 2005.
It was already 4 pm when the group of hunters reached a clearing that marked the boundary between the village’s palm plantation and the edge of the virgin forest. Josef, the eldest of the men, was in his early fifties and led the group. From his tattered, bleached cloth one could recognize him as a villager. The younger men, trailing behind and chatting, looked different. Wearing blue jeans, fashionable sunglasses, and polo shirts it was obvious that these youngsters had become city kids already.
When Josef reached the jungle, he took his self-made hunting rifle from the shoulder and gently placed it against a majestic ficus try. He slowly grabbed a pack of cigarettes from his hunting bag, pulled a cigarette and lit it. He turned back toward the village and saw that the other men were gradually catching up. A humorous, cheeky smile appeared on his rugged eagle face as he followed a conversation between the younger men.
“Are you really in love with that girl?” asked Lohab, the slightly overweight chap of some 19 years, his eyes full of glowing curiosity.
“I’m mad about her,” replied Ajang, a tall and handsome lad of some twenty years, who had a mild, gentle face, and a romantic glow in his eyes. “I cannot get her out of my mind. She even comes to my dreams. If I’m with her, I cannot get enough of her. And if she’s away, I cannot stop thinking about her, and what she is doing right now. I miss already the touch of her long, black hair, her sweet delicate skin. But what about you, Lohab?”
“I’m always horny for any girl. I can’t get them out of my mind, too. Sex is everything for me. My favorite chick is Lynn. She’s a gorgeous, hot girl.”
Josef, who had watched the two men chatting, drew on his cigarette and puffed a few ringlets of smoke into the moist air. Some dark clouds were gathering above the forest. He faced the young men, and said: “Don’t talk about love and sex in the jungle! You know that we are not alone out here. You may have heard what happened to the young couple of Long Miri, four years ago.”
“Oh my,” said Lohab. “Can’t you leave us alone with your silly village tales. Nobody believes that crap anymore.”
“Let him talk,” said Ajang, laughing. “I find Uncle Josef’s stories amusing. Go ahead, Uncle Josef.”
The men sat down on a trunk of a fallen tree, opened a bottle of Tuak rice wine, and passed it around.
“The lovers of Long Miri were a young steamy couple. They were so obsessed with each other that they choose to spend the summer away from the Longhouse, in a simple bamboo hut, the kind of hut we build at the rice paddie fields. That way they could have sex whenever it came to their mind, which was quite often.”
The two young men laughed with a glimpse of nervousness in their voices. Josef drew on his cigarette, and said.
“They were young, just like you, and equally innocent. One day, the young man went to the river to catch prawns. Not long after he had left the hut, the girl heard knocks at the door. ‘Who is it,’ she asked. ‘It’s me! Don’t you recognize your lover?’ Somewhat surprised she opened the door to see her presumed lover return. ‘I thought you went fishing prawns,’ she said with a trace of confusion in her voice. ‘True, but on the way to the river I was overcome by my feelings. I missed you so much, and returned to see you. I desire you so much, right now.’ With those words he took her in his arms, and kissed her with brutal passion.
“They made steamy love for two hours. Then the man said to the girl: ‘Let me go know. I must go fishing before it gets too late. Don’t miss me too much, Ok. The girl smiled as she saw her lover disappear. She felt exhausted and rubbed her belly. ‘Somehow it feels strange,’ she thought. Some ten minutes later she saw her lover returning back again from the jungle, carrying a pouch with three pounds of large, gray prawns.
“You should have gone fishing with me,’ he said. ‘I never caught so many prawns in such a short time.’
The girl looked at her lover with some bewilderment. ‘But you were just here with me, a moment ago.’ ‘Are you joking,’ said the young man, deeply amused. ‘No, I’m not,' answered the young lady. 'I made love with you for more than two hours. You never screwed me like this before. It felt powerful and strange at the same time. Actually, my belly hurts quite a bit.’ Suddenly the young man understood that something had gone terribly wrong. He looked shocked and frightened, and said: ‘The person that made love with you wasn’t me. Some evil ghost took my shape, caught your desire, and played with you. Let’s go immediately back to the village, and consult our chief medicine man. Maybe it’s not too late to rescue you.’
Josef paused, and took a sip from the Arak bottle, and looked at the two younger men, who listened somewhat bemused.
“That’s what they did,’ said Josef. “But unfortunately, like so often, help came too late. The medicine man couldn’t help her any more. The jungle ghost had left his evil juice in her body, burning and scouring her body from inside, as if infused with vitriolic acid. The unfortunate girl died two days later. If the evil ghost comes close to you, by sexual contact or by sucking your blood, you’re going to die. There is no hope, no rescue. That’s why I told you not to think about sex in the jungle.”
“What a bullshit tale,” bloated Lohab. “I don’t believe a single word,” and exploded in a loud, nervous laughter which echoed back from the jungle. Ajang looked calm, but equally nervous. Josef didn’t say anything. A cheeky smile hushed over his wrinkled leather-skin face, before turning composed and serious again.
It was Ajang who broke the uneasy silence. “It’s getting late. The wild pigs are descending from the jungle highlands already. Let’s go.”
The men took their guns and marched in silence. Not long and they saw fresh boar traces in the wet jungle ground.
“One of you young lads should go up to the hill, and make noises. That will drive the boar down to the river, that’s where we can shoot them,” whispered Josef. “I’ll position myself at the river and shoot them at the line of trees,” pointing to a row of tall trees that lined the shore of the tea-colored, shallow stream.
“Let me go,” said Lohab. “It’s not the first time I went up there,” whilst pointing to the hill, which loomed covered in dense jungle.
“You go, but please watch out,” said Josef and gave Lohab a piercing, thoughtful glance, as the young man turned around and disappeared in the underbrush.
It had started to drizzle. Thunder rolled and echoed from the foggy mountain range to the east. It was a strange kind of rain. A long, wailing sound rippled through the darkness.
" Have you heard this," whispered Josef to Ajang. "The evil giant is on the loose again. He is calling his hunting dogs. Keep cover from the hot drizzle and don't move."
Ajang nodded and took shelter below a large palmetto, its radial leaves fanning out as pale rays against a dark sky. Distant lightning hushed over the jungle, as distant dark mountains reappeared far off in the distance. Large drops, that had gathered above in the canopy, fell on huge dry leaves like litle bombshells, and made loud bobbing sounds. Thunder rolled from the far distance.
In the meantime, Lohab had walked steadily for about fifteen sweaty minutes under the hot rain. Suddenly he heard noises ahead. He stopped and positioned his rifle. What was this? That was no pig! Someone was chatting, and laughing, right there in the middle of the thicket. How could that be? He cautiously advanced. In the penumbra of the jungle he saw a bush hut, where a group of young, sexy and half-naked ladies were having a barbecue.
“Hey, young man, welcome to our party” said one of the girls, and smiled lusciously toward Lohab.
“You… Lynn, is that you? What are you doing here,” answered Lohab bewildered, as he recognized his village girlfriend. Though he couldn’t make any sense of what he saw, his mind surrendered to the vision of unmatched beauty. Never had he seen Lynn looking so beautiful, her hair so shiny and dark, her eyes sparkling with lust and joy.
“Surprise, surprise..,” she mused. “Are you alone?”
“No, my friends are down at the river.”
“Go and bring them, but first have a drink.” She hugged Lohab, and offered him a glass of rice wine.
“Go now,” she said. “Don’t let us wait too long,” she said, and gave Lohab a sensuous glance full of promises.
Down at the river, Josef and Ajang were scrutinizing the wall of trees that formed a dark mass against the mountains and the black clouds towering above. Suddenly, there was a noise, a ripple that shivered through the jungle.
“The boar are coming down,” whispered Josef. A faint click was heard as Ajang armed his rifle.
“Don’t shoot yet,” he whispered into Ajang’s ear. “Let them come out first.”
Suddenly two shots pierced the silence. “I told you not to shoot,” shouted Josef, with an angry voice.
From the other side of the river a voice was heard: “Don’t fire, it’s me.”
“You lucky bastard,” said Josef, and gave Ajang an angry look. “You might have killed your cousin. Thanks to God you don’t know how to shoot.”
Ajang became pale, and didn’t say anything, as Lohab waded through the river toward them.
Lohab looked excited. He had run down the hill, forgetting the hunt and the pigs, and arrived at the river, panting.
“What happened to you,” said Josef, half amused, half bewildered.
“You won’t believe what I saw! Up there in the thicket, I met Lynn, together with a bunch of sexy girlfriends from Long Boma.” He paused gasping for air, then said: “They’re having a barbecue, and we are invited! These girls are horny, I can tell you that.”
“I’m already hungry,” said Ajang. “If someone offers me barbecue, why should I kill a boar?”
“This doesn’t sound good to me,” said Josef. His face looked worried, and sad. “But I will come with you, because I’m afraid you might do something stupid.”
“Don’t come with me if you don’t want,” said Lohab. “You’re a grumpy, old man. You’ll spoil the party, anyhow. Nobody can stop me to be with my girl,” he said with proud voice, full of himself.
“Please, don’t go,” implored Josef.
“You can’t tell me anything, Josef,” replied Lohab. “Ajang, come, let’s go!”
Ajang was about to follow Lohab, but Josef grabbed his arm, and whispered with a tone full of subtle authority: “Don’t behave stupid, Son! These girls ain't no girls. They are evil jungle ghosts, vampires. Let him go. You’re my nephew, and you’ll stay right here with me.”
A chill ran down on Ajang's spine. Eerie pitchy-voiced laughter echoed through the forest far from the distance. Hot drizzling rain was falling again.
“I’ll better go now,” said Lohab. “You guys take care. See you in a while.”
With these words he headed for the jungle. It was getting dark, and the jungle was buzzing with the sounds of wild animals that greeted the night.
“Ajang, please come and help collect dry wood for the fire, before it gets too wet, and big leaves for the night shelter. Our boar hunt is over. The boar is clever, and has receded to the high gorges. They know we are around,” said Josef. Together they built a simple hut, lit a smokey fire below, and relaxed in as the night fell. The buzzing of thousands of insects, the trumpeting of jungle birds filled the darkness. Then, gradually, silence returned.
The fire crackled. From far the two men heard eerie laughter, and Lohab’s distorted voice singing a popular song. There were also cries of lust, and of joy. Ajang was in an angry mood. He felt he was missing a great party, a joyful event his uncle’s authority had prevented him from joining.
Josef, who had detected his nephew’s mood, whispered to Ajang with a gentle voice: “Don’t regret anything, Son, tomorrow you’ll understand better,” and gave Ajang a sharp glance. A massive downpour of rain fell. A while later both men fell into an uneasy sleep.
It was dawning when Josef woke up Ajang. “It’s time to look for your friend Lohab,” he said. “And be prepared for the worst.” The two men shouldered the guns, and followed Lohab’s water-filled tracks left in the brown clay from the day before. Not long, and the two men smelled smoke. Josef beckoned to Ajang to advance in silence.
Behind a group of bushes a faint string of blue smoke was rising up to the canopy. A sweet smell of cold barbecue filled the air. The men approached in silence, and peeped through the leaves. But what they saw gave them a chill that ran down their spines like liquid nitrogen.
They faces had turned grey with awe. In a clearing a group of pale-blue-grey skinned girls were kneeling on the ground and bent over something. Sounds of cracking bones were heard.
“They are killing him, and feeding on his flesh” muttered Josef.
What lay on the ground was Lohab’s naked and half chewed-up body.
“This is atrocious. I can’t believe it,” whispered Ajang, his heart beating madly.
Suddenly one of the girls looked up, and saw Josef and Ajang. With dark purple-rimmed hollow eyes she growled, and black blood flowed from her vampire fangs onto her naked icy-blue chest, tattered with purplish kiss and bite marks.
Ajang howled in wild, desperate anger. He seized his gun, rapidly pressed it against the shoulder, and fired two shots of boar cartriges into the group of vampire ladies.
But as the oily smoke lifted above the steel-blue barrel, the forest only reverberated in gun-shot thunder, and eerie laughter. Right infront of the startled men, the vampire ladies transformed into a flock of owls, and fluttered away in different directions. Then, finally, the jungle returned to an uneasy silence.
That day Josef and Ajang carried the bloodless corpse of their friend Lohab back to the Longhouse, and there was a lot of grief in the village.
Picture: Bad weather above the Dulit Range, a wild poorly charted mountain area in Sarawak near to the border divide with Kalimantan.
© 2005 by Franz L Kessler