What Did the Little Girl See?
In Ameera’s home, Madam Azizah looks out the window of her living room, at the cordoned road and barricades, the police and soldiers at guard with the bright lights shining out.
On a loudhailer Major Tang addresses the residents to, “Please stay calm. We have placed these barricades for your own safety. We advise you to stay in your homes.”
“What do you think is happening? What are those things that came from the sky?”
Her husband, contemplating for a bit, answers, “Only God knows. But we’ll have to ask Ameera.”
Azizah asks her daughter if she’s all right. Ameera says she is perfectly fine, just don’t worry about me.
“Were you scared, Sis?” Diyana asks.
Ameera, sitting on the couch, arms folded over her raised knees, feet propped on the pillow seat, not looking at any of them, she barely registers what her little sister is saying, her sweet, sweet Diyana. Ameera answers a barely heard, “No. Not really.”
“What did the hand feel like?”
“Slime. Just slime and bone. It’s disgusting. Can we please not? Talk about. It. Please.”
“They’re removing the body,” Madam Azizah observes.
“Who?” Samad asks.
“Some men in some suits. Army. Or government or something.”
“What are those things?” Samad asks.
“They came from the sky. That’s all I know.” Ameera says.
“They’re coming upstairs, the soldiers.” Azizah tells them.
Ameera, her knees slipping off her folded hands, stands up slowly, in full anticipation, she says, “Good. Soldiers are good for us. Soldiers keep things calm and safe and in control. I like when things are in control. It makes feeding much easier.”
“Feeding? Meera, what are you talking about?” Her father asks.
With her eyes closed, she tells her family, “You’ll see, you’ll see.” There’s a knock at the door and a voice says loudly, “Please Sir, this is the Army, please allow us to enter your home. This is just a safety and security check.”
Hesitant, Samad does not move, but he’s somehow implored into action by his daughter Diyana who says, “Come on Pa, it’s all right, they’re here to help us.”
Seeing no other way, he lets his hand grip the doorknob, slowly open the door just a slight bit, and peeks his head out. Two soldiers with their rifles look at him seriously and without any empathy, they ask whether they can come in, you know, for security’s sake. It’s procedure. Really. Yes really, you do not need to doubt us Sir.
Their next-door neighbour also has the same thing going on, with soldiers wanting to enter the home for security reasons. Samad slowly opens the door and lets the two soldiers assigned to the flat to enter, and the soldiers enter quickly. The lead soldier grabs Samad’s shoulder. The other soldier runs and grabs Azizah’s shoulder. Both the girls’ parents suddenly stand emotionless, unmoving.
Ameera leans against a wall, arms folded. She nods to the soldiers.
Diyana, she takes a look at her sister, then snapping back and forth between the soldiers, and she realizes, “You’re not my sister. Give me back my sister!”
Diyana screams, “You’re not soldiers! You’re not soldiers! You’re all monsters! I can see you all for what you really are!”
Ameera tells Diyana, “You’re just scared, Didi, baby, these men can keep you safe.”
“What have you done to Ma and Pa?” Diyana says quietly.
“We’ve put them…under control,” Ameera tells her little sister. “Just be a good little girl, and we can put everyone under control.”
“No!” Diyana screams, “get away from me!” She yells, running to the front door but is caught by one of the soldiers, well, almost, as she slides under him and out the front door, running down the stairs, to the first floor.
“Leave her,” Ameera tells the soldiers. “We’ll take care of her later.”
Running down the stairs from her fifth storey flat she yells, “They’re monsters! Don’t trust them!” She stops just before she reaches the first floor, and realizes she’s left her mother, her poor mother, who’s always been there for her. For her school plays, for her stage performances, who’s always picked her up from school? Her mother’s always been there for her but at her most important time of need, Diyana isn’t there for her.
She takes one step up, but she hears something more unsettling than any fight or commotion in her neighbour’s houses, more unsettling than the slamming of body against wall, against door. She hears silence.
She curses herself, why didn’t I see them, why can’t I see them?
With tears down her cheeks, falling rapidly from her eyes, feeling guilty that she’s abandoning her family, she runs to the void deck, to a sight of police and army trucks and soldiers at guard, while other soldiers flank out and up the other blocks of flats, and she can now see them for what they truly are- visible to the outside world, to normal men and women, but she, she wasn’t born normal. She was born with something special. A sight beyond sight.
When she was a baby all she could do was cry. Day and night she cried wailing and thrashing her arms, flailing them, her mother Azizah had to calm her down with lullabies and prayers.
Her father Samad, who grew impatient with her cries, he used to resent her being born, always comparing how Ameera was a well-behaved baby, until one day, both parents, at the suggestion of a relative, visited a medium, a man of holy grace, who then with prayer and holy water, pacified her sight beyond sights, and the night after the visit with the medium she slept without a sound for the first time in her young life.
It was never mentioned again, at least not to Diyana, who has been leading a peaceful domestic life, although, secrets within secrets, she never mentioned to her parents that she still could see, but she just shut her eyes every time she saw something not of this plane of existence.
She did have friends in school but she didn’t have many, as she never wanted to meet them outside of the context of the school grounds. There was once, where, at lunchtime, the kids said, hey, there’s a something in the school hall, teasing all their friends, perhaps just cooking up stories.
Human nature, being naturally curious, always needs to know and explore the unknown, but they’re afraid of the unknown, afraid of what they can’t see.
In the school hall, in the afternoon hours after assembly, it was dark, especially backstage, where besides the weekly Wednesday performances it was barely occupied.
Diyana and her friends Lisa and Rachel wanted to go to the school hall after being told about it. They walked into the hall, and backstage, where they were told all the “things” were.
All three girls stepped onto the stage, trespassing behind the curtains, and into the dressing room. Lisa and Rachel, they were still smiling, laughing, pointing out the make-up and giggling like all school girls do, looking at themselves in the mirror and making jokes about how it would be great for them to be movie stars or stage actors.
But Diyana, all she could do was stand at the corner, restrain herself with her arms wrapped around her body; she looked at end of the hallway with tears in her eyes.
“Didi, what’s wrong?” Lisa asked her, goose bumps rose on her skin.
“Didi, are you alright?” Rachel asked.
Her two friends, they kept asking her again and again, what’s wrong? But Diyana still with tears in her eyes, arms wrapped around her, she told them, “Let’s go. And don’t look back.”
Hurriedly, the three girls ran out of the hallway, not looking back. Her eyes still streaming with tears, Diyana walked in front of her friends, back to their classroom, and they asked her what did she see?
But what Diyana saw, she would never tell.
Now though, things are different. She needs to tell everybody what she’s beginning to see. But she’s too late, as the army has placed everyone under arrest. “This is for your own safety. Please do not resist,” Major Tang calmly informs through the loudhailer.
Diyana screams, begging for them to let the people go.
Alex, about to enter his car with Uncle Wong, hears a little girl screaming and shouting. “Stay here,” Alex, tells Uncle Wong. “Don’t tell me you’re going out again?” Uncle Wong asks Alex, worried for his safety.
“Just stay inside.”
Alex walks to where the shouting is, to Diyana, who’s about the get caught by a soldier with a blank stare, holding an M-16 rifle with one arm, the strap slung across his shoulder and chest. Alex shouts a hey! You! And he’s not the only one who wants to help her, as ahead of Alex another man runs to the soldier, asking the soldier to stay away from the girl, but his request is silenced by the sound of a bullet exiting a rifle. The bullet travels faster than thought and embeds itself into the man’s chest.
What surprises Diyana is how the blood isn’t just a patch of red dot that seems to splash on his shirt, but it’s instead a bucket full of blood and meat and skin and bone exiting out the back of the man, who falls dead on his back, his hair like a brush dipped in blood-red paint. Alex runs toward the soldier, now distracted, pushing him down with his body, pinning the soldier to the ground and he tells Diyana to run to the car.
Uncle Wong, at the driver’s seat now, reverses the car, the rear tyres screeching and coughing up smoke, the car moves back, and then forward to the little girl, swerving to its side, the windows roll down and he shouts to her to get in.
Once she does the car drives over to Alex, who punches the soldier in the face, runs inside the car. The car rams through the barricades covering the main road, denting the hood of the car, while soldiers aim their rifles with pitch-perfect precision at the back of the car, fingers on the hot trigger, although the roads are brightly-lit at the distance the car is gaining it takes a hell of a good eye to aim that far and at brightness that dim.
But they open fire, their shoulders bracing the recoil of the rifles, supporting arms stable, their rifles riddling the car with bullet holes in the rear trunk.
“Get down!” Alex yells, pushing Diyana facedown into the lower cushions, as bullets tear through the rear glass. Uncle Wong expertly swerves the car in a zigzag pattern that breaks the soldier’s aim, and then straightens the car’s direction, driving off into the dark road, with the flashlight the only bit of illumination in the entire road. Alex slowly takes Diyana up to sitting position, her breath hard and heavy, and her eyes looking away, tears down her cheeks.
“You OK, girl?” Alex asks.
“Don’t think she wants to talk,” Uncle Wong tells Alex.
“I think we should pull over once we’re clear. Do you know where we’re going?”
“The industrial area. It’s safer there. Quieter.”
Uncle Wong parks the car beside a warehouse, the car parked on the side of the warehouse to avoid being seen. He keeps the interior light on, and turns to take a close look at Alex and the little girl.
Diyana keeps silent, and Alex remembers something she said just now, at the car park. “You said they were monsters. What do you mean?”
“Monsters like that blue thing?”
“Ghosts? You saw ghosts?”
At this instance Diyana loosens up, her breathing calms down, she starts to sit upright. She wipes the tears from her eyes. “They’re something like ghosts but not really. They don’t look blue like that thing that fell from the sky. But somehow, I couldn’t see them. Not when the blue thing came. Maybe they don’t want to be seen.”
Uncle Wong thinks back, recalling the blue thing’s landing, the crowd of people there, the girl who got grabbed by the blue thing, her family calling out to her. “Your sister. Where is she?”
“She’s a monster. Just like the soldiers are. I think she became one when the blue thing grabbed her ankle. She didn’t know it. And I didn’t see it. It’s like my eyes were adjusting to them. I only saw them when the soldiers said they wanted to go to our houses. And another thing. When the soldiers grabbed my parents, my parents stopped moving. Like they were under control or some thing. They want to control us.”
Alex and Uncle Wong look at each other, acknowledging the strangeness of the whole situation, and then focus their attention on the little girl, whose name escapes them. “I’m Alex.”
“And I’m Uncle Wong.”
“Diyana She pauses, making sure the introductions are done. She carries on, “Those soldiers, they attacked my family. They’re gonna take over everything now, take over everyone.”
“The whole city,” Alex adds.
Uncle Wong contemplates the situation and asks Alex “What do we do now?”