The seventh month this year, 2012, will commence in ghostly style on the 17th of August - that's this midnight! - and end on the 15th of September. This month is one of the many things which, to myself, makes life in Singapore the vibrant tapestry of colors that it is hailed to be.
The Hungry Ghosts Festival, celebrated - more like taken very seriously - by many Chinese around the world, brings with it some very haunting beliefs. Here's the ten no-nos during the Hungry Ghost Festival that the Chinese folks in Singapore believe:
- One should never curse or swear during this month
- Don't take the lift at night; you might have unwanted company
- One should never look into a mirror at night, you may see 'stuff' you actually never expected to
- Never walk along walls during this month or you may be possessed by spirits that "fly" along them
- Never paint your nails black; only corpses have black nails
- Do not hang your clothes our at night during this month; it attracts spirits
- Don't swim, for there are increased instances of drowning during the month
- Do not go out late
- And of course, don't tell ghost stories
- And very, very importantly, do not step on burnt offerings or offerings of paper money - or you will be hounded for 'claiming' offerings that belong to 'them'
Would you dare go against any of them? Go against them, at your own risk. Remember, when the clock strikes twelve tonight, the gates of Hell open... Meanwhile, enjoy the ghost stories I have in store for you...
Don’t curse and swear
Fourteen-year-old Jin Heng opened the door to his home. As usual, there was no one. His mother was at work and his father was too busy having an affair with one of his many women to bother much about what Jin Heng was doing. Frustrated, he threw his school bag down on the chair, grabbed his keys, and went downstairs.
A gang of teen hoodlums was thronging the void deck and listening to the radio quite loudly. They saw Jin Heng as he came downstairs. “Eh, come and join us lah,” they asked casually, one of them even extending a cigarette. Jin Heng recognized some of them as his school mates from Secondary Three, a year older than he was. Pleased to have some company, and to be part of the “cool” crowd, he took the cigarette and joined them.
They were all sitting down and lighting their fags when a small boy on a bike lost control of it and rammed into one of their toes. “Go and die lah!” the gang’s leader, Boon Seng, scolded him. The rest of the gang followed suit. “Go and die lah! Go and die lah!” The frightened little boy scuttled away.
The words became a mantra that identified the gang, and the boys didn’t go anywhere without saying it. From then on, it was part of the ‘gang vocabulary.’
It was late when Jin Heng’s mother, Mrs. Ng, came home to cook dinner. He breezed into the apartment and saw her cooking. “Finally,” he grumbled. He kicked off his shoes and helped to lay the utensils on the table.
During dinner, his little brother proved to be his usual irritating self. He grabbed Jin Heng’s drumstick. Jin Heng, of course, was irate. The words came automatically to his mind and he blurted, “Go and die lah”. Jin Heng scowled at the little boy.
“HENG!” his father bellowed. “Who taught you to say that? We should not curse and swear, certainly not during the seventh month.” Jin Heng ignored his family and stormed into his room.
Jin Heng tried to rush through his homework. But he had a whole back log of work to complete. He had been too busy hanging out with the gang or playing with computer games. “That stupid Mrs. Lee. So much maths. Go and die lah!” He said, as a force of habit.
The work was too much to complete, and he found himself feeling very sleepy. He did not know what came over him, but whatever did dragged him 40 floors to the highest floor of their apartment block. He jumped.
Image Source: http://www.gorestruly.com/2010/11/21/asian-ghost-archetype-unoriginal-or-culturally-significant/
Are you alone in the lift?
Bob was super stressed up. He stared at the piles of paper in front of him; he was not able to finish writing a single report. He guessed that he would probably have to spend the night in the office working on them.
“Eh, Bob,” his boss, Mr. Tan Seng Lee came over to his side. “I’ve no one to help me today. Do you think you can do me a favor? I need a report on the latest Rux Soap product from our company to be done by tomorrow.”
Bob groaned. It was always him. He needed to leave the office earlier. Still, he relented. “Ok. Leave it there. I’ll work on it.” Mr. Tan put the report on his table and left.
Bob shook his head and decided to focus on his work. There was nothing to do but finish the work, he supposed.
He arrived at his apartment block in Jalan Bali at about 3 a.m. The corridors, as expected, were dark. The management wanted to save electricity by not turning the lights on. With poor visibility, he made his way to the lift.
Just then, a young lady in red pushed past him into the lift. “Wh...." Bob just shook his head. The two of them pressed the buttons for the respective floors.
“Damn,” he suddenly remembered. His mother had warned him not to take the lift at night during the month long festival of the Hungry Ghosts. He figured that he could ignore the warning this once; it was 3 a.m. in the morning and he was super tired. He still had to report for work early the next day.
With a jolt, the lift broke down. He frantically pressed the button; but he supposed no one would come at 3 a.m. in the morning. He braced himself for a long night in the lift. The girl in red was strangely calm. She gestured to Bob, “Follow me. I’ve a way out of here.” With amazing strength, she pried the door of the lift open.
Outside, it was dark. Bob stepped out, feeling an increasing eerie feeling. Shadows of what seemed like heads suddenly materialized in front of him. Faces began to form; empty eye sockets began to show. “Wait... Miss... Where are we?”
The girl in red turned to him. She was horribly pale, with the same empty eye sockets and blood running down her cheeks. She reached out and grabbed his hand. “Welcome to hell.”
Image Source: http://zombievamp.blogspot.sg/2007/07/16-chinese-ghost-story-siu-tung-ching.html
Walls have ears
Mrs. Lim Mei Yee was, by far, the favorite “karang guni” or junk collector around the neighborhood. Everyone knew her and loved her dearly. Her warm demeanor never failed to make the day of those she encountered in the neighbourhood. Children called her “Auntie Lim with affection. Mei Yee was an old lady living on her own. She had a characteristic limp in her leg from an accident she had sustained years before.
It was sometime in the afternoon. She ran into a neighbour as she collected cardboard cartons. Because of the limp in her leg, she has to lean against the wall to balance herself. One passer-by neighbour helpfully called out to her, “Auntie Lin, be careful! Don’t lean against walls during this month.” He referred to the month when the Hungry Ghost Festival was supposed to be celebrated. “Why?” Auntie Lim, busy collecting thecardboard and putting it on a cart. “Ghosts are supposed to be flying against walls; you might get possessed by one if you are not careful.” “Oh dear,” Auntie Lim was vexed. “The best time to collect is at night, actually...that’s the time when everyone throws their things out.” “Well,” the neighbour said, “That’s up to you.”
Auntie Lim was at home when she heard the loud crash of someone throwing something on the void deck landing. She peered out of her window. It was cardboard. She felt elated; it was like a treasure to her. She ignored the warning and hurried down to the void deck.
She picked up the cardboard and with great effort hauled it onto her cart. She felt a sharp pain rise in her hip and she could help it no longer; she leaned against one of the walls of the void deck.
Auntie Lim felt a strong breeze blow through her body. Then, everything went black.
When she got up, she realized that she had no limp. She glanced at herself in the mirror. She smelt of rotting flesh. Her eyes had become sockets. Her hair was deathly brittle. She was one of them.
Image Source: http://x-files.wikia.com/wiki/Hell_Money
Who’s calling me?
Darren gazed at his reflection in the mirror, proud of his status as the office casanova. Popular among the ladies, he was proud of his looks and ability to get a date. He seldom had a weekend free. He smiled to himself and he stared at his own reflection in the office mirror. He had the brains to go along with the looks as well, being one of the senior managers in the company.
“Hey Darren,” one of his secretaries, dressed in a tight fitting blouse and pants, came over to pass him some information, and of course, to get a little bit of his attention. She shot him a “please notice me” look. "The boss needs to see you.” Darren basked in the attention she was trying to give him, and tried to shoot her a smouldering gaze. “Sure,” he winked at her to show that he had indeed observed her. She was attractive after all. The type of girl that Darren always looked out for.
He planned to ask her out on a date one of these days. He gazed at the clock. It was already 5pm, time to set off for home or go girl hunting at one of the bars his friends often frequented. He packed his briefcase and set off.
He bumped into some burning incense paper along the way, He was annoyed; these folks who burnt incense paper during the month of the Hungry Ghosts really should use the bins provided for the task. He swerved away from the paper, trying not to step on it in case he offended.
“Darren,” He heard his name being called. He turned back immediately for a look. Greeting him was the most sultry, seductive Chinese lady he had ever met. She had cascading brown hair, wide almond shaped eyes and was, of course, fair skinned. He wondered how she knew him, but could not come up with any explanation. Well, it didn’t matter. It was probably one of the girls he encountered on one of his nights out but failed to notice.
“Hi,” he smiled the widest, most charming smile he could muster. “Have never noticed you before. Who’re you?” “Name’s Lillith,” she answered. “You can call me Xiao Hua if you’d like,” She looked at him and pouted ever so slightly. “Shall we have a drink? We can get to know each other much better,” she looked at him meaningfully.
Darren grinned readily. “Sure, anytime.” The two left for the nearest bar and grill, her arm touching his shoulder.
The name Lilith sounded nice in his ears. It must have a lovely meaning, he thought. Hey, didn’t someone tell him once that he was not supposed to look behind during the seventh month when his name was called? Whatever. Here was a gorgeous girl practically throwing herself at him and he wasn’t about to waste the opportunity.
The two of them chatted for a long time over drinks and eventually found themselves at Lillith’s apartment. She placed her bag on the seat and smiled at him coyly. “Wait for me for a while, need a shower.” Darren returned the smile and looked around her apartment.
Strange. The apartment was a curiously rather empty one; there was no refrigerator in the kitchen, nor was there any available food. He wondered what she lived on. No wonder she keeps that sexy figure, he grinned. He suddenly grew cold; there was a draft blowing in the window. No matter. He went into the bedroom and sat down on the neatly made bed in front of him.
He removed his shirt. “Darren,” he heard Lillith’s voice. He looked in the mirror to hopefully catch a glimpse of her fantastic figure, but it was nowhere to be seen. He gazed over at the bathroom. Nothing there either. “Darren,” came the voice again. He swiveled around.
There was a very, very different Lillith. She was no longer her seductive, well formed self - she looked very much the demoness, with slanted, bloodshot eyes that exuded evil. Her nails were horrendously sharp; her black hair blew ominously with the draft of air blowing in the window. Her face was pale; her teeth almost non existent.
Darren gaped. Then, coming to his senses, tried to back away. With the strength of ten men, Lillith pinned him to the bed. Darren had no route of escape. At all.
“Didn’t your mother tell you not to turn behind during this month when your name is called?” She sneered. "By the way," she added, "Lillith means Demoness from Hell."
Image Source: http://www.anthropology.uci.edu/~wmmaurer/courses/anthro_money_2004/GhostMoney.htm
These clothes are mine
“Eh, don’t play with the things on the shelf, they belong to Pa Pa.” Madam Ng sighed as she swept the floor, looking at her son playing with the model aeroplane on her husband’s bookshelf. “Only for a little while,” her five-year-old, Daniel, retorted. “I won’t spoil anything.” Madam Ng shook her head and continued sweeping. She looked at her son’s kindergarten assessment books lying on the desk. “Have you completed your homework yet?” she questioned Daniel, who was still busy trying to dismantle the model airplane he had taken off the shelf. “Finish your work before Papa comes home,” she gave the instruction which went in one of Daniel’s ears and out the other. The little boy continued to playing with abandon.
Madam Ng looked at the clock. She had been so busy helping Daniel with his homework and sweeping that she didn’t notice that it was already dinner time. “Mum,” the little boy tugged at her shirt. “ She knew that she had to attend to the boy before his restlessness made him even more of a menace. She quickly put her broom away, sighed, and went into the kitchen to prepare dinner.
“Alamak. I come home from work and dinner’s not ready?" Her husband questioned as he came through the door and slammed the grill gate. “I already got a tongue lashing from the boss because something went wrong today. All I want is dinner. So hard, ah?” He glared at his wife and threw his socks onto the sofa which Madam Ng had just cleaned with painstaking effort.
She quietly took them and threw them in the washing machine, continuing to fry the vegetables in the overheated wok. Her husband continued his incessant grumbling as he discovered that their son had almost destroyed the model plane he had fixed only the night before. “What! Can’t you even control a little boy?” he growled. Madam Ng tried to ignore him as she continued cooking, tears running down her cheeks.
They ate the meal in silence. Madam Ng cleared the table with speed once they were done. She still had clothes to hang dry. She grabbed the bamboo poles used to hang them out of her window and began her work.
She noticed her neighbour, Mrs.Chen, looking out of her kitchen window. “Eh, Madam Ng. It’s the ghost month, remember? Why are you hanging clothes at night?” Madam Ng sighed. “I know. Got no time la, my boy and husband always complaining.” She placed the clothes on the bamboo pole with expert ease and attached them to the holders outside the window.
“Good luck then,” Mrs. Chen smiled and shut her windows. Madam Ng finished putting out the clothes.
Daniel's yellow tee shirt and black shorts flapped, without stopping, in the night wind.
Madam Ng crawled into bed after Daniel had finally gone to sleep. The little boy had been very difficult to coax; she had just finished reading him his favorite bedtime story. He groused as he got under the covers, refusing to let his mother leave.
She slept next to her husband, feeling her tired eyelids snap shut. The hard toil of the day finally got to her.
Madam Ng was a very light sleeper. As she dozed off, she felt something tugging slightly at the blankets.
She opened her eyes, and was aghast with horror.
A pale faced, wide eyed, stoic boy stood in Daniel’s clothes at the foot of her bed.
“Wh.....who’re you?” she finally managed to squeeze out her non-plussed stammer.
The figure’s voice came almost like a whisper. “I’m also Daniel. I died two years ago.You hung the clothes out. I borrowed them.”
Madam Ng screamed.
The episode was enough to scare Madam Ng out of her senses. Against the wishes of her skeptical husband who thought that she might be having a few screws loose, she brought Daniel to Mrs Chen, who happened to know of a few mediums.
“Here’s the address of a man who might be able to help, “ she supplied helpfully.
Madam Ng and her son found themselves at a temple in Central District of Singapore. She asked the medium, a frail but friendly old man, what she should do to get rid of their unwelcome “visitor.”
The medium asked her what clothes her son was wearing. After she told him, he paused thoughtfully. “You’ll have to burn the yellow tee shirt and black shorts at the young boy’s burial site. Let me try to find out for you where it is.”
He rubbed Madam Ng’s hands. “He’s actually at a grave site near this temple, as it so happens. Bring the clothes and burn them there.”
Madam Ng and Daniel found themselves in front of Daniel’s grave at the cemetery the medium mentioned. They laid out a brazier and Daniel’s yellow tee shirt and shorts.
The clothes were put in the brazier for burning. As they were being burnt, a face seemed to be reflected in the light. It seemed to be smiling.
“Thank you,” Madam Ng heard a very faint voice. “I needed to wear these.” The face faded away, together with the diminishing flames.
Item Link: http://www.beyondhollywood.com/chinese-horror-flick-midnight-beating-gets-an-updated-trailer/
Swim - at your own risk
Soon Hock stretched his arms in the water, lounging lazily as he paddled backwards, executing the backstroke he was so famous for. He heard the whistle blowing. He got up, leaned against the wall and launched himself forward. Swimming the freestyle like a fish, he cut through the water like a knife cutting a cake in neat slices. Before long, he reached the finish line. He pulled himself out of the pool to ask his coach for the recorded time for the swim.
“1:30 mins.” The coach announced proudly. “That’s even better than Joseph Schooling’s time,” He patted Soon Hock on the back, referring to Singapore’s Olympic bound swimmer.
“If you keep this up, you’ll be able to beat him at the next local championships.”
Soon Hock glowed with pride. The National Sports School student was elated at his coach’s comments. He ambled over to the shower and ran himself through the water,a warm smile on his face. He was now ready for the next hurdle.
But there was another obstacle that he would never expect.
Soon Hock opened the door to his apartment and threw his ruck sack with wet swim trunks on the sofa. His mother came out of the kitchen and gave him a disapproving look. “Alamak. I’ve just washed the cushion covers. And now your wet things are on them.” She shook her head. “Get ready, we’ll be having dinner soon.”
Dinner consisted of his favorite fish, the soon hock, of course. During the otherwise quiet meal, Soon Hock’s mother reminded him to be sure to return for dinner the following day.
“It’s the first day of the seventh month,” she reminded him of the Hungry Ghosts Festival, an important date in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. “We should have a meal as a family.”
“But Ma,” Soon Hock protested with his mouth full. “The National Championships are happening soon, and we’ve got late training tomorrow.”
“Aiya, you and your training,” his mother nagged. “You’d better not be swimming tomorrow, boy. It’s the first day of the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. There are higher incidents of drowning during this month. “
“Ah, forget those old wives tales, mom,” Soon Hock’s youthful arrogance made him to brush his mother aside. “We have training tomorrow, the championships are more important than all this nonsense.”
“But...” his mother continued. Soon Hock raised his hand. “Mom, keep quiet. I’m eating.”
Sergeant Lee Tiong Boon sighed as he looked at the unfavorable task in front of him. The male corpse that lay in front of him reeked sorely of decomposition; the pallid face of the young man who had died would make even the most experienced of police men quiver. I The body had been found near the jetty at East Coast Park; his colleagues had to fend off curious on lookers as investigations continued.
The corpse was clad in nothing but a pair of red swimming trunks. Its mouth was open and it looked at Tiong Boon with a sorrowful gaze.
“Looks like another case of drowning,” the detective lifted its hands and examined the finger nails. “His chest is waterlogged too, and of course there are the trunks.” He addressed the forensic pathologist assessing the area for samples. “Doctor Ang, what do you think?”
The doctor scraped the dirt underneath the fingernails of the corpse and stood up. He noticed a very faint red palm print on the corpse’s back. “Perhaps.....but it looks like he may have been pushed.”
Tiong Boon groaned. Why did he have to deal with a case of murder during this month? He looked over at the doctor. “Dressed in red, possibly murdered....we’ll check him for some ID. Thanks, Doc.”
Dr. Ang grinned. “Better try to make your house ghost proof. It’s even worse when the dead person wears red; seems it comes back for revenge.”
Tiong Boon shot him a dirty look.
Soon Hock and his team mates on the National Swimming Team arrived at the East Coast Park and settled into their training routines. Soon Hock looked at the calm waters and felt a pleasant sense of relief; the training session wouldn’t be so tough. He pulled off his shorts and stood on the pier,wearing a pair of black trunks ready to launch himself into the water.
He dived into the water cleanly. No one could fault the experienced swimmer for his technique. Slicing through the calm waters easily, the fish nearby had him confused with one of their own.
Then, a sudden pull. Soon Hock felt the tug on his leg. He struggled to break free; then a menacing grab around the ankles. He felt someone punch him on the back. Soon Hock struggled, gasping for breath; he wanted to cry out, but no one was around. He had swum too far ahead of the others.
Arms flailing, he gasped vainly for air. Finally the strong swimmer’s body gave in and went slowly under.
Sergeant Lee shouted into the phone. “What!! Another one!! What do these young fellows think we are, very free!” He slammed the phone onto the receiver and ran to his car. Jamming the keys into the ignition, he drove hurriedly to the East Coast Park.
Doctor Ang was already standing over the dead body of Soon Hock. “Another one, Sarge. Again, with a slightly red palm print on his back. He looks pale and choked. Your colleagues found his ID...he’s Wong Soon Hock.
“Another coincidence. Take a look at the colour of his trunks.” Sergeant Lee looked, nonplussed. The trunks were flaming red.
Image Source: http://www.beyondhollywood.com/chinese-horror-flick-midnight-beating-gets-an-updated-trailer/
Don’t step on that, it’s mine!
Weiming gazed with impatience out of the window, observing with indignation as his friends played at the playground outside. Some of his friends, all boys, made faces at him as they ran by. They knew that he had not been given the permission to go downstairs.
Being his usual spoilt self, he gave his mother a pout. “Look mum,” he started his irritating wail. “Kevin and the others are already downstairs. Why can’t I go too?” His request was girlish, almost petulant.
His mother sighed. Try as she might to keep him indoors, she knew that it couldn’t be for long. Like all working parents who wanted to appease their children, she finally gave in.
“Alright,” she relented. “But don’t be too long. And it’s the Seventh Month...don’t stay out too late.”
Her warning hadn’t been heeded, for the door had slammed shut. Weiming was no longer in the living room.
Downstairs, Weiming zoomed by on his bike like a professional racer. He was thoroughly adept, scowling at his friends in the playground as he went by. “Who says I couldn’t come down,” he grinned. “Mum couldn’t hold me in.”
The others in the playground quickly stopped their game and went over to the basketball court a few blocks away. Weiming was well-known as the neighborhood bully.
He shrugged, and continued riding. As he glided by on his bike, he noticed a few burnt offerings of food and incense that someone had put out in respect of their deceased ancestors.
“What a nuisance,” he grumbled with irritation barely hidden on his face. “Because of these people, we can’t play properly.”
Then, a naughty idea began to form in his mind. What if he taught these people a lesson?
He began to trample on the offerings, releasing the incense paper about as if they kites.
A shriek made him turn behind. “Hey, you..........don’t you think you’re being a little too much! Stop throwing!”
Weiming turned around to see a little boy running towards him. The skinny Chinese boy, dressed in a cap, had a look of consternation on his face.
“Stop that! Those are offerings for the dead.” He glared at Weiming.
Weiming chortled mercilessly. “Dirty offerings get in my way! Who are you?”
The boy stared at him. “I’m Daniel. Now you’d better stop it or....”
Weiming ignored him, continuing to mess with the pieces of incense paper.
When Weiming went home, it was just about dinner time. He whined at what his mother put on the table. “What? Bak Kut Teh again!!” He grumbled. After eating reluctantly, he went to his room, completed his homework, and threw himself into bed.
A sudden noise woke him. He was sure it was his imagination, but the books on his desk had moved. They were stacked up neatly, not carelessly like he had left them. He thought it was his mother who cleaned up after him. Dismissing it, he went back to bed.
But he wasn’t at peace for long. The doors of the bedroom closet swung slightly open and a cold draft had come into the room. Weiming sat up, beginning to feel uneasy.
The windows banged shut. Weiming was really frightened now. He grabbed the sides of his bed, and lifted himself off; he wanted to go to his mother.
The door of the bedroom closed behind him.
The books on his desk lifted ever so slightly, and he could not believe it - he began to rub his eyes. Were they flying? Indeed, they were way off the table; they began to move towards him. Faster. Faster. Weiming ducked, and the books were flung against the wall.
Turning around, he saw Daniel standing at the bedroom doorway. “Wh.....who let you in?” Daniel’s figure grinned, almost menacingly. “I warned you not to mess around with the offerings, didn’t I??” he growled. “I warned you.”
Weiming shuddered. “But....who let you in? No one did.”
Daniel's chortle was evil. “I let myself in. After you messed about with my offerings, I followed you home."
Weiming’s teeth began chattering. “I......I didn’t see you.”
Daniel shrieked, enraged. “Of course you didn’t, you idiot. The only place you’d see me is at the Choa Chu Kang columbarium. I died two years ago.”
With that, he floated closer to Weiming, brandishing a slipper in his arm.
Image Source: http://www.screentrek.com/watch-japanese-horror-films/
The Wrong Place to Sit
“Ah Pah!” Lee Yee Ming pointed to the new with excitement to the newspaper in front of him. “There is going to be a Ge Tai performance near our block. You’re a Ge Tai fan, so shalpleasl we go after dinner tomorrow?”
Yee Ming was referring to the performances near Housing Board estates which are held every year during the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, observed by Chinese Taoists and Buddhists the world over, in the 7th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Chinese make it a point to make offerings of the favorite food of the deceased and burnt joss incense during the month.
One of the hallmarks of the Hungry Ghost Month was, and still is, the Ge Tai or road show performance. Enthusiastic singers burst into songs in Mandarin or Dialect, pleasing the usually elderly crowd.
Yee Ming’s father, Yee Tsai, was no different. He loved a good Ge Tai, and was raring to go. Father and son made plans to set themselves there early the following day. It promised to be more exciting than they had hoped.
The crowd, though, had arrived early and proved to overwhelming for Yee Ming and his father. They stood milling around with the rest of the late crowd. Yee Ming, a little shorter than most, jumped about in a frenzy as he tried to look over the shoulders of the taller audience members blocking him.
“So Sian,” he grumbled, pacing about and avoiding the push of the crowd, most of whom were pushing and shoving, lost in their own activity. “Let’s try to find a place to sit,” he tugged his father’s arm.
“Ladies and gentlemen, don’t sit in the first row, please,” came the droning voice of the announcer. “Please don’t sit in the first row of seats.....they’re reserved for you-know-who.”
“Who?” Yee Ming stamped his foot in frustration. “Let’s go and sit there any way. There are so many people around, yet these seats are still reserved. Too much!” They plonked themselves in the first row, disregarding the glares of onlookers.
As they sat, Yee Tsai could not help wondering whether positioning themselves there was a good idea.
The Ge Tai performance came to a climax. It was a roadshow of Yee Tsai’s favorite Cantonese numbers. Father and son made their way home, stifling huge yawns because of the lateness. The two tumbled into bed, disregarding the body odor they had because of the sweaty humidity.They crawled thankfully beneath the linen sheets and went straight to bed.
What they did not notice was the company that had followed them home, making itself comfortable in the kitchen.
Yee Ming arose with a long stretch. His bones felt cramped from sitting through the two hour performance the previous night. He fumbled his way to the kitchen.
He didn’t know whether to be pleased at what he saw. He had lived together with his widower father in the same apartment for years since his mother had died years ago; the apartment was often left in disarray, including the usually unkempt kitchen. Now, however, cups and saucers were in the correct places in kitchen cabinets and the soap in the soap dish had been changed. Plates, knives and forks were now gleaming with perfection.
“Wonder what got into Ah Pa today,” Yee Ming stifled a yawn and brushed his teeth. His father strode into the kitchen. “Ah Boy, did you clean up? Good. I’ve been trying to get you to do that for weeks!” At that, Yee Ming swiveled around in shock. “What! I thought you were the one who did this! I certainly didn’t!” Yee Tsai scratched his head. “No, I didn’t. Too used to the unwashed plates to bother. So - ‘
The two of them stared at each other. It looked as though they should have taken the announcer’s advice.
“Pa, I don’t know who did this, but it looks as though we need to pay the temple a visit. This is too creepy,” Yee Ming waved his arms in the air. “I think we’d better find out who - or what - helped us. Not that I don’t like it, but it makes me uncomfortable, you know?”
Yee Tsai nodded. “Let’s go then.”
At the temple, they told the Taoist medium their story. He smiled his reassurance. “Yes, you have a presence in your home, but she doesn’t mean any harm. You went to a Ge Tai last night didn’t you?” Yee Ming smiled sheepishly. “Yes, we did.” “And you sat in the front row?” Yee Ming nodded his reluctant admission.
“Well, now you know why you should not be impatient and always leave those seats free,” the medium supplied helpfully. “Fortunately, this is not a harmful spirit. She’s just an old lady who died in a home for the elderly some years ago. All she wants is to be reunited with her son.” He waved a charm in the air.
“Phew,” Yee Ming wiped his brow. “How do we help her then?” Yee Tsai leant forward for an answer. The medium wrote down a few instructions. “You’ll have to take this charm and find out the address of her son from her. Perhaps you can help her then.”
“YOU do it.” said Yee Tsai. “No Pa, the honour is yours!” The two men pushed the task to each other deftly, the unstated intention obvious. Yee Ming sat down on the sofa, head in hands. Being the younger and more responsible, he made a decision.
“No use avoiding it, la,” she mumbled. “I’ll stay up by myself tonight and see what I can do.”
So he did. He sat in the living room, nervously watching television. The kitchen area was enveloped in darkness; though he feared it, He made room for the spirit to arrived.
A draft blew the windows of the kitchen shut, and Yee Ming knew straight away who it was.
He went to the kitchen doorway and looked in. What greeted him was a pleasant surprise.
An elderly lady, small sized an somewhat frail, seemed to be moving things around. She wiped the kitchen table and placed dishes in the rack like any other person would.
Yee Ming walked behind her tentatively, unsure of what brought about his sudden courage. He tried to tap her on the shoulder, only to find his hand touching - nothing. He drew back hesitantly. After a minute’s pause, he asked, “Auntie.........how come you’re here? What can we do for you?”
The “old lady” stopped in mid activity. She stared at Yee Ming, who could now see her frail, drawn, though affable features and wrinkles that seemed to line her forehead. “What? What can you do? I followed you home because I’ve got no place to go. Hell doesn’t want me,” she sighed.
Yee Ming felt a tinge of pity for the spectre. “Auntie, we’ve been to see the medium and he’s told us your needs. Maybe you can give us the address of the place you lived at so that we can find your son for you.”
The old lady seemed to smile a wan smile. “Thanks, my boy.” She pointed, eyes filled with longing, at the next block. “He actually lives over there.”
Yee Ming and Yee Tsai went over to the next block on the following day with a feeling of surprise because they had never met this old lady around the neighbourhood. They asked around about anyone who had lost their mother lately and came up with an address on the tenth floor.
They knocked. A gruff young man with unkempt hair, dressed in a singlet and khaki bermudas answered the door. Yee Ming began tentatively. “Sorry,” he broached tactfully, did you lose your mum recently?” “Why so kay poh?” He leaned forward aggressively, seeming to see their show of concern as intruding on his privacy.
“Your mother,” Yee Tsai brushed aside his son, who was about to return an irritated retort. “Has visited our home.”
“What nonsense are you talking, old man, what visited our home?” the aggressive young man questioned. “I’m Keong. How did you see my mother? She’s dead. You expect me to believe you?” He gave the pair an incredulous stare.
Yee Tsai persisted. “Her spirit’s visited us and helped us with some cleaning. All she wants is to meet you. Oblige la.”
The nonplussed Keong shifted his gaze from father to son. “Ok. I want to see what you two goondus are up to.”
Keong arrived at their apartment promptly at 6 p.m. as arranged. He joined them with a long face for dinner and waited restlessly in the living room.
After some time, his patience seemed to be wearing thin.”Eh, so where’s she?’
“Wait,” Yee Tsai instructed. “It’s still early.”
They watched a little television till it the midnight screening of Die Hard had ended. The same draft of wind was felt; it blew the windows shut.
Keong began to shift in discomfort. He looked nervously at Yee Ming. “Is that -”
“Yes, it is,” Yee Ming ushered him kindly to the kitchen. “Go and see her. I think she wants to say hello.”
And so the two men went back into the living room, leaving Keong and his ‘mother’ deep in conversation.
Image Source: http://lifeinstillmode.blogspot.sg/2007_01_01_archive.html
What do you see in the mirror
“Arrgh!” Ang Meilian stretched in exhaustion, eyes watering blearily as she stared at the computer monitor in front of her. The figures that she was auditing were a jungle of numbers. Monica, her colleague in the Lee and Lim accounting firm where they both worked, was strolling by her workstation with a cup of coffee. “Looks like you need more than a breather,’ she smiled in sympathy. Meilian snorted. “We spend the whole day here, and when our bosses work overtime, it means that we have to help them to tie up loose ends. Who doesn’t need one? Look at me!” She gestured to the loose flabs of flesh hanging down from her skinny arms.
Monica leaned casually against Meilian’s work station and looked over her shoulder. “Haizz,” she sighed. “The only benefit we will ever get out of working in an office like this is
"Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.” She referred to a condition where the median nerve in the hand became squeezed because of too much typing at the computer’s keyboard. “Carpel’s what?” Meilian looked up incredulously. “Never mind,” Monica shook her knowledgable head. “Hey. Let’s look around for a place to exercise. We don’t want to become flabby from working in the office too long.” Meilian drummed a pen on the table. It seemed like a good idea; auditing work often involved being stuck in the office for hours on end; the only workout they got was with the wrists. “Yes. Let’s grab some exercise. We can’t get it if we stay in the office the whole day!”
Meilian, Monica and a few female colleagues found themselves at A New Me Yoga Studio, a gym near their office at Raffles Place. Like all busy Singaporeans, they were relieved at the convenience; ever so important was it because of their busy schedules. They left work promptly in the enthusiasm of experiencing their first session.
The studio was like any other; paralleling with all dance studios, the four walls were lined with expensive, flattering mirrors. “I’ve never seen myself looking so slim before!” Monica, squealing like an excited schoolgirl, pranced up and down the shiny rows of glass, all the time looking at herself. “Don’t I look good?” She teased, posing viz Marilyn Monroe. “Super,” Meilian and her other colleagues could not stop laughing at her bonhomie behavior. “Hey. Class is about to start. Do you want to out do us by getting exercise even before it begins?” Monica came to and quickly laid out her mat. The instructor, an attractive Chinese lady in signature leg warmers, strolled in and the class began.
The class began with a few Yoga stretches and warm ups. The girls assumed the downward dog position, some with more ease than others. Meilian had laid her Yoga mat right in front of the row of long mirrors. Lissome and slender, she was flexible and stretched with ease, much to the envy of the others in the group.
She looked up to check her position. The lights in the studio were dim; it was necessary because bright lighting often meant excessive heat and discomfort for perspiring workout participants. Whilst stretching, she observed the reflections of the rest of the ladies out of the corner of her eye; some were struggling with their workouts, having never exercised much before. She grinned and continued stretching.
In the middle of one of her stretches, she caught a glimpse of a face in the mirror which seemed to belong to one of the other female participants in the workout. The class was full and popular; working out was becoming an increasingly popular Singapore past time. Meilian did not pay much attention, being too busy with her stretches. The face, though, seemed etched with pain. Her eyes and cheeks were sallow and sunken, and it had furrowed brows. It was crowned by jet black hair cascading at the sides, billowing gently. Meliian assumed its sallowness was because of the tiresome stretches and did not look any harder to see who it belonged to. She continued, making up her mind to offer assistance during the break.
She was taken aback by what she saw when she next looked up. The face seemed more unusual, more -ethereal. The sunken eyes, sallow cheeks and furrowed brows became more prominent. They seemed BIGGER. It was as if the zoom function on a computer had been clicked; the now enlarged face seemed to be staring right at her out of the mirror, with darting eyes reflecting unimaginable sorrow and unspoken fear. Meilian blinked, hard, and shook her head. She dismissed it as a figment of her imagination. She probably needed some rest.
The ladies left the Yoga class with sets of aching muscles. Meilian, usually bright and bubbly, seemed unusually quiet to her colleagues. As they headed for a late night snack, Monica nudged her friend. “Hey. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Meilian answered, deep in thought. She faced Monica squarely. “Did you see anything in the mirror while you were stretching?”
Monica chortled. “Of course I did. What a dumb question! Of course I saw myself in the mirror! Didn’t you?”
“Of course. I meant something else. Did you see - a woman’s face?” Meilian’s voice was rising with more anxiety. She clasped her fingers uncomfortably.
Meilian’s disturbed demeanor finally caught her friend’s attention. Monica looked at her with increased concern. “Okay girl. What’s gotten into you? Are you too tired or something?”
Meilian sighed. “I saw this disturbing - “ she paused, looking at Monica, afraid of how she would react when she told her colleague about what she had seen. “I saw this eerie looking face in the mirror while we were exercising. At first I didn’t look hard, and thought that it belonged to one of the participants. I was looking out of the corner of my eye, you know? But it feels - different. Scary.”
Monica patted her friend on the shoulder. “It’s been a long day. You need to pack off to bed.”
The girls returned for the next Yoga session, with Meilian feeling a tad disturbed. She laid out her mat, preparing for the round of warm ups the teacher would start off with. She glanced nervously at the mirror in front of her, hoping that was she had seen in the previous lesson was but a figment of her imagination.
“You’re bending over backwards too much,” the instructor advised, and Meilian complied with her instructions. Not for once did she dare glance into the mirror; however, on getting herself back up she was forced to take a peek into the frames of glass lining the walls.
It was a peek she would not forget.
As she stared into the mirror, she saw the same ethereal, pallid face. It stared out at her, eyes gleaming with what seemed like hatred. They exuded fear and an unquenchable thirst for revenge.
As Meilian’s eyes were forcibly locked to the mirror, the face drew back and Meilian could see the rest of the body it belonged to emerging. A lady’s figure appeared gradually, dressed in blood stained pink clothing. Accompanying it was a pair of blood-stained, tattered jeans. Her pale, whitish neck was lacerated, split asunder, with blood making its presence felt with an unwholesome gush. The figure seemed to be moving ever forward.
Meilian could stand it no longer. She ran to the bathroom and retched.
“Meilian, how’re you feeling?” Monica looked at her with concern, holding her as she puked into the toilet bowl. Meilian now looked deathly pale, shaken by the gruesome sight she had just witnessed. After some time, she regained her composure. “I’m fine,” she said, “I’m fine.”
“No,you’re not, you look completely shaken. What happened? Did you -”
“I saw her again,” Meilian cut in. “I saw her again.And more of her this time. It was -” She interrupted this by retching into the toilet bowl.
“I think a visit to a medium might be in order,” said Monica. “Susan says that she knows one,’’ She pulled Meilian up decisively, making a reference to another colleague. “We’ll check out his address with her tomorrow and pay him a visit.”
Meilian was too weary from the vomiting to respond.
The Medium to whom Meilian and Monica was introduced was of slight build, with shifty, gleaming, catlike eyes. To accentuate his already threatening presence, the apartment where he lived seemed to be filled with grotesque looking deities, each looking more ghastly than the next. There was an impression of a demon pulling out a woman’s tongue. Meilian shuddered. Hell seemed to have surfaced on Earth, or at least in this apartment. The statuettes surrounding the whole apartment seemed as though they were alive.
“So,” the medium began, his piercing eyes darting over Meilian, who was still taking in the eerie atmosphere of the apartment. “What can I do for you?” Meilian was too consumed by the overwhelming atmosphere of the apartment. She did not dare to meet his eyes.
Monica related Meilian’s problems to the medium, who listened, nodding his head in what appeared to be ethereal wisdom. When Monica finally finished telling him what had happened, he looked up from his reverie and stared at Meilian in contemplation.
After a time, he answered. “It sounds as though you have a problem with an aggressive spirit,” he mused. “Judging from her appearance, she seems to have been involved in either an accident or murder in which she died an untimely death.”
Monica looked at Meilian, who seemed more distraught at hearing the medium’s assessment. She shifted her feet impatiently. “Ok. So what can we do?” She asked,raising her hands in the air.
“Well,” the medium paused ponderously. “There is a way, but it depends on whether you girls are game for it or not.”
Monica glared at him impatiently. “Alamak, out with it already! She’s already traumatized here!”
The medium ignored her impatience and continued in measured tones, “She has to face the spirit herself since it showed it self to her. It’s an aggressive spirit because it suffered so much pain before it died.” He brought out a talisman and handed it over to Meilian. “Here, take this. Wear it and remain in the studio after your lesson ends. Make sure you are alone. The ghost will make her appearance.” Meilian looked increasingly disconcerted.
“Well, that’s all,” said the medium. “There is no other way. Anything else?” With that, the two girls left his home. The demon statuette that stood on the altar seemed to be glaring menacingly at them.
As the Yoga class ended next week, the girls slowly filtered out of the studio, wishing each other their goodbyes. Monica glanced over at Meilian, looking quite worried. “Can you manage?” She shot her friend a questioning look. Meilian was looking more distraught, dreading the task ahead of her that she knew she had to accomplish. She braced herself.
She ushered Monica out of the room. “Hey, gal, I’ll have to do this myself. I’ll be fine,” Monica looked uncertain. “You sure?” “Yes, I definitely am. Now go.” She waved Monica away, biting her lip and almost regretting her pretense at being brave.
She gazed at the mirror in front of her. She did not want to look; she held on to the charm the medium gave her, alarmed at its wetness that came about because of her sweaty palms. She uttered a few prayers under bated breath.
She looked up. There was that haunting, ethereal face in the mirror. It drew back, joining with the rest of its body. Slowly but surely, the figure began to step out, hands outstretched, reaching for Melian’s cowering figure.
“What do you want?’ The poor girl cowered.
Then all went black.
She woke up, not in the Yoga outfit she was wearing, but in a pair of torn, bloody blue jeans. Looking at her profile, she was donned in the torn pink shirt the girl in the mirror was wearing. She heard herself speak in a low, guttural voice. “You’ve asked me what I want. I want to live again.”
Image Source: http://orbsandghosts.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/hospital_ghost103107b.jpg
Vanity comes at a high price
Meileng placed her head in her hands, and slumped on her desk. She did not feel like joining the conversation that was going on in the classroom or listen to the annoying chit chat of the girls who were so happily discussing the party that was supposed to be happening in two days. A plain, mousy haired girl, she was often ignored by the rest. She covered her ears in disinterest and plugged her ears with her headphones.
One of the girls, Melinda, long-haired, pretty and part of the popular crowd, could not resist going over to the non-descript girl and rubbing some salt into her tiny wounds of ignored frustration. “Hey, Meiling,” she sniggered at the plain Jane. “We’re going to the party and going to get some nail polish. Do you want to come along?” She smirked, making it seem that she was doing Meiling a favor.
Meiling frowned. “Don’t think so, I won’t be going anyway,” she muttered, turning her face towards the window.
The ever mean Melinda pointed to Meiling’s plain nails. “I don’t blame you, everything about you is plain, even these.” Wickedly, she held up Meiling’s hands and showed them to whoever was nearby. “Check these out, so attractive!” With that, she and her group of popular friends left the classroom for recess.
Meiling almost cried at her sarcasm. What was she to do about being plain? It wasn’t her fault. She ambled over to the toilet, shut herself in one of the stalls and began to cry.
Meiling trundled with her head down all the way home. She still heard Melinda’s mean voice ringing in her ears. She looked at her nails, then at herself. She simply could allow her plainness to continue.
The teenager made up her mind to make herself look a little bit prettier. She stopped at the Guardian Pharmacy underneath her block of flats and grabbed a bottle of black nail polish.
Black, after all, was the “in” color. It was the color of death.
She laid out the nail polish and cotton wool and looked at her plain nails. She would do something about them immediately. Meticulously, she covered them in the velvety black polish that she had just bought.
She sat back and inspected her handiwork, holding her hands up. She was pleased; it should show those girls a thing or two.
Indeed, the nails did get Meiling the attention she craved. Melinda came round to her desk. “Finally!!” she screamed. “Why didn’t you do this before? It makes such difference to you.” The girls all came round, each looking more excited than the other. “Yeah! You should’ve done this earlier; what stopped you?” Meiling basked in all the attention, even if it was for only that day.
Then, the unexpected. Melinda faced her and smiled. “How would you like to join us in that party we’re going to?”
Meiling smiled to herself. It was the invitation she was waiting for.
She got ready for the party, sifting through her many articles of clothing, each of which seemed too plain. Finally, she came across a black dress she had worn to someone’s funeral a few months before. Everyone wears black these days, she thought. She took it out of the closet and put it on.
She looked into the mirror and was pleased with what she saw. Her mother came into the room. “Girl,’ she admonished. “Your nails should not be black! The Seventh Month has just started with all these ghosts about....you’d better change your colour.”
Meiling laughed at her mother. “Mum, you are just being too superstitious.,” she grinned.
She had to make herself seen at that party. It was the only chance she had at popularity.
She didn’t notice a pallid, svelte, expressionless figure with an evil squint in his eye look portentously out of the mirror after she left.
The party proved to be the turning point for Meiling. She danced with abandon and was surrounded by a group of handsome young boys ready for a chat. They readily exchanged numbers and Meiling was on top of the world.
Going home meant that she had to walk through a dark and deserted trail. The darkness did not seem to bother her; she smiled as she walked, happily humming a tune.
Then someone, or something, grabbed her from behind, stifling her screams. The portentous figure in black surfaced. “Your mother warned you not to paint your nails black...you did. So it means you want to join us.....”
Then the ground beneath her opened, swallowing her up.
At Meiling’s funeral, her mother sobbed uncontrollably. “So young....I told her not to paint her nails....what happened.......what happened......” the crying would not cease. The whole family went around Meiling’s coffin, offering flowers.
They left the cemetery, with Meiling’s mother still in tears. In that time, Meiling’s facial features had taken on a strange twist. It had become svelte, pallid and expressionless. She had become the figure in black.
Image Source: http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2010/09/8-ways-to-prettify-yourself-wh.html
The Festival of the hungry ghosts is indeed a platform for traditional storytelling - one of the most unnerving forms of storytelling around. Be careful not to do any of the above things like the characters did in the stories....or the consequences could be DIRE.