Thursday, November 13, 2008

A car ride which collected an extra passenger

How Does One Drive to Rizal’s
By Hazlan Zakaria

The old Honda lies stranded and idle by the side of the Kota Kemuning road, its driver and passengers locked in titanic battles, shared and personal, diverse and singular, mundane and spectacular...
“Left, left, it’s the second left… after the first right, after the empty field on your left….” Rizal’s disembodied voice continues its tirade of instructions over the mobile phone, tightly clasped to Hamdan’s right ear, by his scrunched right shoulder. Hamdan’s restless hands fidget impatiently on the steering wheel of his old Honda. Clasping and unclasping over the wrapped and circular plastic hollow tubing, which by degree of inclination would tell the two front wheels of his car which way to turn and how far.
      The tips of his oft clumsy fingers nervously caress the familiar worn sections of the plastic layers which are already growing thinner, peeling off in some places. Picture perfect depictions of perfectly roasted lamb begin to dance before his mind’s eye, causing his mouth to water and stomach acids to percolate and flutter.
      Turning fully towards Hamdan, as much as is possible when one is sitting and strapped by seatbelt unto the front passenger seat of a car, Lawrence leans forward and intently watches the long-distance conversation that is playing out between Rizal and Hamdan. His ears tune in to carefully absorb each and every syllable, soaking every bit and iota of information that he can. His mind works furiously trying to construct a solution to their present conundrum: 

           How does one drive to Rizal’s?
     Lawrence’s brows furrow downwards towards his nose, pushed lower by the decidedly herculean mental effort while his errant right hand unconsciously strokes his three-day old growth of beard. His other hand periodically tips his cap that covers his bare (in more ways than one) head backwards and forwards, see-sawing as if to a melody that only he can hear. Visions of Rizal’s magnificent tower library swim boundlessly in his imagination and threaten to drown his concentration.
      Behind the duo, Richard and Albert continue their discussion from their opposite domains upon the Honda’s backseat. Their discussion combs the width and breadth of the literary landscape. Combatants in a friendly academic duel, they exchange quips, insightful critiques and tactful repartees. An unlikely pairing of daggy insomniac academician, with his shock of jet back hair, and the well-groomed literary corporate intellectual, with his closely cropped and neat hair, both fall easily into each other’s argumentative company during that evening’s drive.
      Sparks fly and hammers fall - figuratively, of course - as the two rain blows upon the anvil of their discourse, highlighting tales such as the perfect job for insomniac writers, favourite authors, alternative literary works, as well as publishing and marketing tips for those aspiring to the title of “published authors.”
      There are raunchier stuff, of course, notably the actual reading, listening and viewing habits of certain literary figures. It is almost an exposé of sorts, which includes the likes of Britney Spears music videos and Japanese Anime and Manga. Identities and names, though, are withheld, as Richard has been sworn to absolute secrecy and total silence, or… not quite as it would seem ... if one considers the irony of absolute and total as opposed to just unnamed.
      As all the above continue, the Honda’s left signal light patiently blinks, keeping perfect time with its gentle ticking - tik, tik, tik, tik - its repeating rhythm punctuating the question that is beating a tattoo in everyone’s heads: 

        How does one drive to Rizal’s?
      But the fifth passenger sits patiently.  Insubstantial as she is. She floats around the confines of the car, rubbing against the four individuals. Touching them, feeling them, feeding on them, feasting on their physical and mental energies, as she sustains herself on her journey.
      It has taken some time and a bit of work to get there, in the car with these four individuals. Insidiously, she plays upon their individual hopes, dreams and fears, to engineer this trip to Rizal’s. Be it visions of perfectly roasted lamb, a magnificent tower library, or even the rousing camaraderie and jolly good cheer of a seemingly spontaneous intellectual discourse.
      But it was well worth the effort, for soon she will be truly at home.
      Soon she will be with her intended.
      Soon she will be with Rizal.
It is a journey which began long ago, at her former home and resting place, at the Lubuk Puteri Waterfall in Sungai Buloh, that gorgeous confluence of natural wonders which so captured her heart so long ago, when she was alive, and, later on, even after she was dead.
      She spent her life at the waterfall, she was buried there and she has been haunting it for decades past.
      But now she has another to share a home, another soul to call her own and someone to share her sojourn. And that person is Rizal, who understands the depths of her soul: someone who shares her loves and joys.
     Her journey began with a chance meeting months ago. She was playing at the waterfall, as always, when the unsuspecting Rizal came to the waterfall, her home, for a picnic and to spend some time writing his poetry.
      At first she just wanted him gone, and was preparing to play a few tricks on him. She was used to artists and poets invading her home. Mainly she just had fun playing tricks on them.
      That was her plan with Rizal, until he began to write his poem about the “Waterfall Princess”. It was uncanny, in that the poem mirrored exactly who she was and what she felt.
      She knew then that she had found the soul to share her eternity with. She wanted to take him then and there. But after the hours wasted of simply watching him, she forgot the time, and then morning broke and the cock’s crow signaled the end of her time in the living realms.
      But she was patient and she had time. So she schemed and planned. This brought her into the car today - after countless possessions of many hosts and the careful influence she exerted unto them.
      How does one drive to Rizal’s?
     One doesn’t, one just schemes and patiently waits.

© 2008 Hazlan Zakaria

Hazlan Zakaria: This story is based, in part, on a real life event: the misadventures of a few friends and me, as we attempted to follow the flawed directions given by a friend to his open house. It grew in telling to incorporate the serendipity of the moment when four individuals decided to suddenly join forces and embark on a trip, for reasons that appear to be their own. I was just trying to imagine, what if there is another reason for such a motley crew to come together? Given that Old Hallow's Eve was just around the corner at the time of the writing, I decided to churn a supernatural theme into the story.

Another motif I came up with was: they were four professional hit men, all hired to kill the same person at the open house. They ended up killing each other as the secret came out during the drive - to the sinister smile and raspy laughter of Rizal, the intended victim, as it was he who arranged their encounter. The directions were meant to be convoluted to delay them and engineer their deaths. Well that's one way, this is another. An interesting twist perhaps? At least, I think so.

Hazlan Zakaria is an aspiring word warrior and trainee philosopher king, a man and his pen, with a keen mind, a bag full of strong opinions, an overly large vocabulary and a penchant for poetry and the rant.

He is at the moment being patiently trained to fill in the shoes of Journalist and Junior Editor at an  online current affairs site, of which he is currently the webmaster.

Hailing from the north, he has been in several jobs across several industries, among them property development, construction, aquaculture, F&B, advertising, PR and IT.

Writing for him is a lifelong pursuit, as well as a passion. He has recently collaborated with friends in Poetry Underground to publish their first poetry collection entitled Voices From The Underground.


  1. LOL definitely! Good one Hazlan!

  2. Hi. One question, do you wish to write clever fiction or good fiction? Do you wish to show off or move your readers? Ok, that's two questions, but recently I was asked by MPH, as a one of the judges of the MPH short story contest, what I'm looking for in a short story as well as advice for Malaysian writers. It's too long to print here, but this is an area I should've touched upon but didn't, how some writers try to be clever at the expense of their story; this one is neither here nor there. Not funny, not scary and ends as it begins in confusion, with lots of loose ends. Start at the beginning, pick up this lady (maybe from her point of view), and only one point of view, so we can see the juxtaposition of the rambling literary discussion (let's actually hear it and not merely hint at it) with her true purpose of wanting to find Rizal. They're on a lark, and maybe thinking they're going to get laid, not knowing that she has other, darker plans and she's merely using them for the ride. Then this could be funny and potentially scary.

    The four hitmen, if done right, could work too. But your choice, be clever and witty and try to impress your friends, or write good fiction. Good luck, you got talent and you can write, just use that talent wisely!


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