The lights flickered, plunging the room in and out of darkness. The only audible sound in the house came from the living room where the television was; its channels changing from one to the other.
Between the flickering of the lights and the blur of the tv screen, the whole scenario would be the perfect beginning to a ghost story.
In some ways, it was.
Its eyes, burning a soft hue of ember could be distinguished within the shadows. The protruding horns on the top of its head completed the silhouette of this beast plastered against the backdrop of the curtains. A frown was etched upon its face as it stared, unblinking, at the white screen in front of it; the lights, an epileptic barrage of colors, keeping it in a state of trance, utterly oblivious to its surrounding.
“Will you stop!” came a voice from behind the creature. A tall, lanky caucasian male was staring it down, hands on his hips.
“A hundred plus channels and not one thing on,” the beast moaned. “Why do we even subscribe to Astro anyway?”
“Because…,” another voice piped up, this one belonging to a young, spritely Asian girl, “then we would only have six channels with nothing on.”
The creature, a demonic being from the seventh circle of hell, the dark realm described in Dante’s Inferno meant for the violent perpetrators, continued sipping on his diet Dr. Pepper and moaned.
“Well what the hell am I supposed to do then?,” the demon, now affectionately known as ‘Drew’, bemused.
“You could change the living room lightbulb?,” his roommate Jesse suggested. “The thing’s been acting up for the past hour.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the lights,” Drew assured him.’ “Amanda’s using her blow dryer/ hair curler combo. YOU’RE GONNA SHORT-CIRCUIT THE APARTMENT AGAIN!” he screamed in the direction of the bathroom.
Despite the hum of the hairdryer, both of them could hear Amanda’s shrieks of protests emanating from the bathroom. As the droning hum of the hairdryer fell silent, Amanda poked her head out the door and glared at the two (well, one) men.
“I’m not,” she said dryly. “Besides, the only reason the electricity in our apartment went kaput the last time was because Jesse was using the oven and you (she waggled her finger at Drew) were doing some aweful aweful incantation. What? trying to contact your cousins or something?”
Drew cast her a stony look. That night in 2005 was the night Liverpool won against Milan during the UEFA Champions League finals in Istanbul. Drew had put down a lot of money in favor of the reds and they were already down three-nil; his team would need a miracle to win the match that night. So a miracle he did pull with the help of some Slavic demons and an old Peruvian mantra. A simple incantation to blind the goalie was all it took to have the reds climb their way up the scoreboard.
By the end of the night, his team had won via penalty with captain Steven Gerrard honored as footballer of the year for his role during the match. ‘It was a good night,’ thought Drew. Six years on to this day, Drew still denies he had anything to do with the match among other things.
“Hey, the ritual had nothing to do with the electricity going nuts,” he confidently said, while in a hushed tone added, “my chicken poppers did.”
Drew extended his sharp-clawed toes up on the coffee table in front of him. He loved the look of disgust Jesse always threw him whenever he did so. It wasn’t because of his feet, although he knew a thorough scrubbing wouldn’t hurt once in awhile, but because Jesse disliked, nay, abhorred the sight of feet being anywhere near a place they weren’t supposed to be; tables, vehicle dashboards, heads. But it was Drew’s money that bought the table from Ikea and it was Drew’s right to put his feet up anything he owned. He knew it wasn’t good manners to do so, but the look on Jesse’s face trumps proper etiquette any day.
Just then, Amanda briskly walked into the room. “Get your feet down, Drew. I eat there,” she demanded in a tone denoting a little more than annoyance.
Drew obliged, but only because Jesse had already disappeared to seek refuge in his own room.
“Going out?” Drew asked, his hands massaging his horns as he looked her up and down and up again, eyes settling comfortably on the rump of her black mini dress.
“Yeaf. Guhh a hate,” Amanda replied amid pursed lips while trying to apply lipstick on them.
“What’s it this time? Malay? Chinese? Indian? …. Chindian?,” he grinned.
“He’s Malay. Good looking guy. Works at Kenchana,” she replied while smacking her lips several times in front of the mirror.
“This should be interesting,” Drew smirked. “At least you’ll get a lot of discounts. And who knows, maybe you’ll get nicer bargains at the sundry mart downstairs run by that old Malay dude who always clutches that Koran.”
“He clutches that Koran because you’re there,” she huffed. “Plus, I don’t think he’s that kind of Malay. We’re going to a wine tasting session.”
“Ahhhh…,” letting out a long breath motioning he understood her while tapping the tip of his nose. “Those liberals muslims. The ones who have no problem chugging down a beer but wash themselves raw with dirt whenever a dog licks ’em. Got it.” he winked.
“Who knows. Religion, no religion. They all act and look the same to me,” Amanda drawled, letting out a long sigh.
“What are you going to do tonight?” she asked him back.
Drew thought long and hard. What was he going to do tonight? They could go to Sultan Lounge at Mandarin Oriental and make obvious remarks at the girls there. “Ey, you won’t score a Tan Sri tonight with those fat legs!” or “He’s only worth four million and already has three wives. He ain’t gettin’ you that Prada you’re fishin’ for”.
The bouncers keep him and Jesse well enough alone unless they’re actually heckling a Tan Sri or a girl associated with one.
Or, he thought, they could go throw stones off the Penchala Link down to the cars passing under the Damansara-Puchong Highway. Once, Jesse threw a decent sized rock straight through the roof of a Honda. To be fair, it looked more like a boulder than a rock, instantly killing the poor pooch riding alongside its owner. Jesse’s life pledge after that incident that night was to never buy a Honda.
Frustrated, Drew went through each activity in his head, all of them felonies of a certain degree. He ticked off one by one which went from stealing a cow from the UPM grounds to setting up an illegal gambling ring in the middle of the Bukit Kiara jungle. His eyes grew large and he sat straight up. He finally settled on a decision. It would be fool-proof, he thought.
‘It’s just so crazy it might work,’ he assured himself.
“Well, have fun Homos,” Amanda said as she left the house, car keys jingling all the way.
Watching her exit, Drew yelled to Jesse who was still in his room.
“Go get ready lesbo, we’re going out!”
From the small confines of his room, through the dark recesses of the hallway, Jesse’s voice echoed back, “What?!!”
Drew straightened himself on the couch. “‘What’ as in you didn’t hear me or ‘what’ as in ‘what are we doing tonight?'” he reaffirmed.
There was a moment of silence from Jesse’s end. Then, finally he piped entirely out of context, “Do you think rabbits give blowjobs?”
“What the fuck are you on about?” asked Drew, perplexed.
“I mean, you know the term ‘fuck like rabbits’, right? Well, don’t you think they’ve adopted more human forms of pleasure like foreplay before they jump right into it?”
“I imagine it might hurt, with their buck teeth and all,” Drew contributed, finding himself intrigued by this theory by more than just a little.
“My point exactly,” added Jesse. What Jesse’s point was, Drew will never know but it entertained him all the same.
“Ok, I’m ready.” Jesse said as he walked out of his room with shorts and a hoody. Jesse always wore a hoody when out with Drew. You never know when you’ll want to keep your face covered.
Drew scanned him. ‘Good enough,’ he thought as he swung on a bright yellow pineapple-themed shirt which contrasted horribly with his glistening red skin.
“So… what are we doing tonight?” asked Jesse.
“The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world,” Drew replied laughing after his Brain monologue from Pinky and the Brain. Jesse didn’t find it amusing after the twentieth time and put on his best poker face masking all signs of emotion.
“We’re going to help out at the Sekinchan Soup Kitchen. Now, while they’re distracted, I’m going to dump an entire bottle of heavy acting laxatives into the pots. Let the city be bathed in the mess that is its homeless!” Drew threw his head back and laughed maniacally.
“But before that, we need to go to Watson’s to get our ammunition.” he informed.
“What’s the purpose of this?” Jesse asked him sceptical.
“’cause it’s fun!” Drew replied enthusiastically.
“Fair enough,” concluded Jesse.
The pair left the house and jumped into Jesse’s car. Drew always appreciated the way Jesse took care of his stuff. Drew’s, if he still had his, would’ve been filled to the brim with fast food burger wrappers and empty plastic bags. The absence of Drew’s own beat up jalopy was associated with the fact that he totaled it while playing ‘Road Bezerker’, a self-invented game of pushing other vehicles off the road by attaching a scooper they sourced from a still operational backhoe at a construction site to his own car. There were no points involved and they played it solely for the heck of it.
As Jesse drove out from his spot, the appearance of Drew in the front seat of his Perodua Myvi attracted more than a few stares. This was only natural seeing as it’s not everyday you see the biblical-in-appearance spawn of satan driving around in a Malaysian-made car. Drew detested that title, ‘spawn of satan’. In no way was he affiliated much less blood related to the Dante-proclaimed prince of darkness, though he was created, much like all the other demons, from hellfire. Drew did in fact get used to people calling him that the first few months he made himself public here on earth.
‘Boy, that was epic,’ he thought to himself.
Drew was sick and tired of the limited work opportunities in his circle. It was either sign up for torture duty, assist new sinners to their respective modes of torture or babysit the new demons and teach them proper torture techniques that fit hell’s guidelines.
At one point, management got into so much trouble after a young demon from the fifth circle transferred into the third and tried to drown everyone serving their sentence there. Upper management believed that the sins of those thrust into the fifth weren’t fit for the devices intended for those serving in third. Drew just thought that they shouldn’t waste water from the fifth as it was brewed to specific measurements.
Lucky for the seventh, they could do practically anything they wanted.
Once, out of boredom, Drew dropped an orb with the equivalent mass and heat of the sun right on top of some Mexican’s head. Sure he would regenerate and ‘live’ to serve more years before his punishment was due, but seeing as Drew had used up all his strength to conjure the mass, he didn’t have enough to dispel it. Thus, the replicated sun stayed there burning sinners for a good 200 billion years, the equivalent to 2 years on earth. Needless to say, upper management came down on him pretty hard.
Frustrated, Drew approached Demon Resources to talk about getting transferred out of his current department. They provided only two solutions; get a job in hell, or get out. He chose the latter.
It was a difficult for Drew to assimilate himself into society here on earth during the first few months. People had a tendency to reject what didn’t look like them, kids with Down’s Syndrome, burritos and a five-foot-two inch walking demon complete with long pointed tail and horns protruding from the top of his head.
He was bombarded by death threats from the Christian fellowship, the Islamic Brotherhood and denied entry by all six Paddington House of Pancakes locations within the Klang Valley. He found the last one particularly depressing since they weren’t getting that much patronage anyway and banning someone from entering their premise was a bit too ambitious.
News stations, the media, they all focused on him for the next year or so. He was instantly thrust into the proverbial limelight with The Onion and Harakah, two equally fictitious sources of entertainment in their own rights, claiming his existence here on earth was to bring about the end of the world.
Drew was soon the target of various religious sects and countless fatwas not to mention fanatics who believed that eating his flesh granted them super powers. Drew was quick to entertain this notion when he sliced off a piece of his skin and fed it to one of them. Needless to say the only superpower the person ever got was Dysentery.
Not long after that incident, world leaders, Islamic extremists and Madonna approached him with an offer of full protection and steady income provided he divulge information regarding heaven and hell. Drew, did them one better; he wrote a book. Lazily entitled, “Here Ya Go, Ya Mooks”, it stayed on the New York Times’ bestseller list for a good three weeks after which it was bumped off by Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” of all things. The bestsellers list was only achievable due to its notoriety with the Atheist community claiming that bigoted Christians and fanatical muslims made up two-thirds of the population in hell while Atheists made up two-thirds of the population of heaven. “Your rationality on earth plays a huge role as a ticket into heaven,” it quoted.
And like all one-hit-wonders; Frankie Muniz, Justin Bieber, Aqua; Drew soon found himself an ordinary schmuck who had wasted his money away on collectible trading card games and ABBA collectibles.
Soon, he found himself out of luck and on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Nostalgia had brought him back to the Hellmouth located below Menara Maybank on Jalan Pudu where he sat there on the front steps of the building waiting for a saving grace just like all the other immigrants of KL.
Salvation came in the form of a torn out piece of newspaper floating in the wind that offered tenancy for a small room in Damansara. The price fit what little money he had left and Drew immediately jumped on the offer.
It was a relatively spacious 400 square foot space that comfortably accommodated the life size cardboard cutout of Benny Andersson and for Drew, that was all he needed.
Soon after, he was introduced to his housemates; Jesse, a lanky caucasian freelance graphic designer slash photographer and Amanda, a petite Asian girl who worked as a public relations officer and the rest is history. Seriously, they were added to Malaysian high school history textbooks. Drew however, considered the omittance of all mention of his acquisition of Agnetha Fältskog’s thong as heresy and did not grant approval for his inclusion within the country’s education syllabus, damning the Minister of Education while he was at it.
Jesse’s abrupt stop brought Drew out of his reminiscing.
“We’re here,” he said as he looked out at the Watson’s at Plaza Damansara in Damansara Heights. The neon sign, still merrily illuminating the deserted car park while the steel blinds were slowly descending provided little assurance as to their procurement of the items needed for tonight’s rendezvous.
“Shit! They’re about to close,” Drew cried as he rushed out of the car and sprinted towards the pharmacy.
Jesse looked on as his friend was persuading the attendant to open it up for him. The girl at the door wore a look of perplexion as Drew in all his glory, tail whipping under the florescent light bulbs above, pleaded to her to open it so he could grab the items needed. Just a normal night in KL, he thought.
As the passenger side door swung open, Drew clambered in carrying a crate of fast acting heavy duty laxatives.
“I just thought you were going to get a bottle,” Jesse asked, a look of apprehension plastered across his already apprehensive face.
“A bottle per dish,” Drew corrected him.
Jesse shrugged, pulled the gear back into ‘D’ and drove away hiding the worry beginning to crease across his forehead.
There were times when he doubted Drew’s lack of conviction against what was deemed a joke and what would be deemed detrimental to the state of the city.
Pumping the homeless full of laxatives could definitely be considered a bane for everyone. But at the same time, Jesse himself didn’t have a good grasp on what could be perceived as appropriate. Amid the laughter, silently Jesse swore he would never participate in an act of felony that involved a rock and the cars on any highway. What happened that night was just plain stupid. And deep down inside, despite Drew’s genetic make up, Jesse knew he regretted it too.
There were times back when Jesse first met Drew where he questioned the demon’s alignment on whether or not he was evil. But the more time he and Amanda spent with Drew the more they came to realize that Drew may be a denizen of the lower circles of hell, but he was much better than most human beings they knew. For one, he was smart. Drew, Jesse noticed, would come up with ridiculous activities that forced you to question the mortality rate of some of them but not once have they been life threatening. Throwing rocks off the overpass was Jesse’s mistake. Drew strictly told him to only use rocks of a certain size and weight but Jesse kind of got carried away. In truth, Drew had more sensibility in his right horn than anyone had in their entire being, the difference is he just wants to have fun.
Jesse never determined whether Drew’s lack of safety precautions and lack of morals was just a habit he picked up from Hell or something he adopted from when he was famous, but it has put them in very troubling situations. Nothing fatal or uneventful has happened to any human being, but it’s better to be arrested for endangering the public than actually endangering the public.
“Where is it again?” Jesse asked, slowing the car down to peek into the many lanes of Lorong Haji Taib once they reached the entrance to the street.
“Just up ahead,” Drew nodded.
“Looks like there aren’t that many people volunteering tonight. Greeeeeat.” he said stretching the end of his sentence, a sly grin forming on his lips.
Jesse parked the car a few metres from the back of the food truck. Nearly a hundred people had lined up waiting for food to be distributed, adults and children alike.
This was the city’s homeless. A progression of out of work and out of luck, mismatch of characters with the same expression of what little self-worth they had. Their sunken eyes the most alive they’d been in a few days as they stared in anticipation at the food loaded onto the back of the vehicle, wafting steam into their eager faces.
Drew and Jesse were regular volunteers at the soup kitchen. They started a year back when it was Jesse’s turn to choose their activity for the night. Drew thought it was only fair that Jesse get to pick and that he would try it regardless as Jesse has had put up with all sorts of nonsense since Drew had come into his life.
After their first night of volunteering, they never looked back.
Tonight however was different as Jesse eagerly approached the truck.
“Hey Anna,” Jesse greeted the port chinese lady holding a ladle.
“Jesse! Hi! Where’s Drew?” she replied enthusiastically. Anna was a regular volunteer. She had started back during the same time the Soup Kitchen had started making her one of the senior members of the initiative.
“He’s around,” was Jesse’s curt reply.
Jesse swiveled a full three hundred sixty degrees in search of Drew. The area was well lit considering it was the so-assumed “red light district” of KL and places such as these would be commonly plunged in darkness. A few cheap motels littered the area and what were perceived to be prostitutes merely presented themselves to be a few crazies and more than a few transvestites, far from the European red light district image many imagined a red light district-coined location to be.
As Jesse was scanning the area for Drew, Anna suddenly blurted, “Oh hi Drew!”
Drew was standing just behind Jesse, grinning broadly with his hands behind his back. Nonchalantly, he went up to Anna and gave her a tight embrace. He then walked past Jesse and made a beeline towards the styrofoam containers in a bid to help out in whatever way they can. Jesse slowly came up beside him. Jesse did admit that he was constantly surprised at the speed Drew executed his plans.
“Shouldn’t we get the hell out of here?” he whispered after noticing Drew picking up a container and filling it with rice.
Drew ignored him and remained quiet continuing his regular volunteer duties.
Some of the homeless were new to the area and made it obvious to everyone around that they were uncomfortable with Drew’s presence. Others that have seen Drew volunteer more than once gave him a curt smile and took the food out of his hands without much complaint. There were whispers of prayers being chanted by a few of the women while the children outright ran away hissing at Drew as they did.
Anna placed a gentle hand on his shoulders assuring him in her own silent way that his contributions were always appreciated. The other volunteers down the line calmly filled up the styrofoam containers with different dishes and handed them back to the homeless with hushed whispers of reassurance in a bid to calm the tension evident in the atmosphere.
There were more than a few, “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to take it,” or “he’s fine.” which reached Drew’s pointed ears. He even caught, “What? You’ve never seen someone with a cleft-lip before?” uttered by Razak, who he himself was cleft-lipped, a humorous attempt to draw attention away from Drew.
Drew appreciated the kindness from everyone there which made him almost feel guilty for their prank that night. Almost.
It happened around two in the morning. Drew had already emptied the two huge metal drums of its rice contents, his job was done while Jesse was resting near the drinks containers which was nearly empty. as Anna was going around accessing and assisting the other volunteers, they heard a loud scream coming from one of the alleys. Experience had told them that either two homeless people were fighting over a container of food or someone was being mugged, raped or assaulted. Either way, it hadn’t taken Anna and five other volunteers more than a few seconds to get there.
What followed was a clusterfuck of feces, vomit and tears; a night Lorong Haji Taib and most parts of KL would remember as “Brown Thursday”.
Amanda was lazing around on the couch before she noticed something that changed the entire atmosphere of the apartment. She took a whiff of it from her place on the couch. It was a nose-piercing soft stench that emanated all around her. Slowly, the soft-disturbing smell grew stronger and stronger.
Amanda got up off the couch and paced the living room trying to identify the source of this sickening stench.
As she was walking around, nose to the ground, she heard her two housemates chattering as they approached the doorway. What was a distant rumble of muffled words became a full-blown shouting match which evidently just made the smell grow stronger and stronger.
“… oh man, Amanda’s gonna kill us,” she heard Jesse cry out with anguish.
“No she’s not. The worst thing she could do is have us sleep outside,” retorted Drew.
As the door swung open, the most odious, foul-smelling, paint-peeling stench invaded the apartment.
Years later when asked, ‘What was the most horrible thing you’ve ever smelled?’ Amanda would instinctively reply, “My roommates covered in shit”. She would then continue to describe the smell as ‘a dropkick to the face followed by a bludgeoning blow to the nasal passage that proceeded to attack your nerves system from the inside out.’ Some would question Amanda’s dramatic explanation of this sensory jihad, but Amanda swore by it, even going so far as to admit she downplayed the description by a mile.
Amid the grinning faces of her roommates and the retching stench assaulting her senses, Amanda let out a whimper.
“What the hell is that smell?”
“Funny you should ask…,” Jesse began but was cut off by Drew who directed a simple question her way.
“Do you know what projectile defecating is?” he asked her with a huge grin on his face occasionally spitting residues of god-knows-what from the side of his lips.
Amanda could only gag amid screams of, “You two are sleeping outside.” and “I’m hosing you two off!”
The headlines of the newspapers the next day caught everyone’s attention.
Bold characters of “Taib row covered in foul smelling substance” littered the pages while less conservative newspapers printed “Shit Stained Street” on their front page.
It was a quiet month for Drew after the recent events as he hid from the prying eyes of society. An investigation was held to identify the culprit behind this incident which Malaysians had unanimously ranked third after the notorious ‘acid splasher’ and con artist Nigerians.
“Just another day in KL,” sighed Drew looking at the reporter on site at Lorong Haji Taib trying her hardest not to gag. “Just another day in KL.”