An Unbelievably Wooden Dialogue
Previously, the agents that comprised Team Bunga Tahi Ayam and their de facto field supervisor Puan Izani travelled to Ulu Yam to investigate the disappearance of Team Bunga Kemboja Capital Laundry Services (Malaysia). Their investigations led them to a kedai runcit owner named Sabri Mat Hassan and an ancient occult book written in arcane Jawi titled Kitab Serba Serbi Budi Bicara Alam. Also, they were attacked by undead gunmen.
The mission continued…
- Azizah a.k.a. Jijah (Yuzi) – a Fifth Form student who is also an experienced spy from Pulau Langkawi.
- Badrul (Bazli) – a 65 year-old antiquarian from Ipoh, Perak.
- Lucy Abdullah (Farah) – a “plumber” from Tangkak, Johor.
- Rayha a.k.a Ray (Noriha) – a linguist from Batu Pahat, Johor.
- Talhah Abdullah (Rizal) – a computer hacker from Segamat, Johor.
A KAMPUNG HOUSE STANDS ALONE
The team decided to travel deeper into the rainforest but their phones beeped.
It was Pn. Izani, texting them on their Necronomiphone secure chat app.
Where is everyone? Why are you taking so long? We have these files to send to the Pengarah! Finish up and get back to the car quick!
They had decided to return to their car, parked in front of Sabri’s kedai runcit 15 minutes away on foot when they heard a rooster crowing a hundred metres or so into the jungle. It was time to move away from the beaten path.
Not two minutes later, they discovered a clearing with an old rumah kampung built in it. The traditional village house was made of mostly wood and on raised stilts. There were decorative flowers in pots placed strategically on the ground surrounding the house giving it a pleasant colourful feel.
The house structure was like a ‘T’ whereby a long central section from the concrete steps in front to the kitchen split into two lateral sections in the back, each extending right and left respectively. The house’s window panels were open as far as they could see. There was an enclosed external bathroom to the right of the house. An ASTRO dish was perched atop the nipah roof as ASTRO satellite dishes are wont to do.
Dozens of roosters and chickens were pecking on the white sands that covered the ground in the clearing.
There was no sign of any human life. But, their own personal wards around their necks were emitting heat.
So they decided to investigate.
Lucy and Talhah volunteered to enter the house through the front door. Jijah took a step back and muttered, “You’re so brave.”
They went up the concrete steps at the house’s anjung towards the raised beranda that led into the open front door of the house. Because Lucy was on point with her weapon drawn, she missed a detail (Spot check of 81 from 70%!) that Talhah did not. There was dried blood on the steps which appeared to be 2 weeks old.
They entered the living room. The open windows had allowed leaves to be scattered all over the floor. There was a smashed television that had fallen onto the carpet.
The sofa set however was notable in that sitting on the seats around an old coffee table were two wooden sculptures. They were grotesque, vaguely human-shaped and reminded them all of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. Taller than any human, they looked like they were chiselled and sandpapered smooth, then varnished. Their caricatures of hands were holding the sides of their heads. Their disquiet eyes were round as if they had looked at something unbelievably horrifying. Their open mouths – the shapes of impossible toothless Os – reflected the terror expressed in their eyes.
Between the two figures was another figure: an actual human this time.
He was dead.
DEATH IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
The man appeared to have died two weeks ago, from his state of decomposition. His head was bashed in with extreme blunt force trauma. A closer inspection of the deceased indented unrecognisable head reveals wooden splinters. He had been killed by multiple hits to the head with a something wooden.
They stared in horror at the sculptures. However, they could not find any sign of blood on the pair.
Talhah began taking photos of the sculptures and the corpse with his Necronomiphone and distributed the images to the rest of the team. He asked Lucy, “Should we tell the team outside to check the perimeter?”
Badrul volunteered to check around the back and headed down the left side of the house.
Meanwhile Lucy and Talhah stepped over the bendul between the living room and the central room of the house. To the side on the left was an unmade bed. Here they smelled a strong scent of death. Something died recently here. The hair on the backs of their necks stood up.
Jijah who went around to the right side of the house (rolling 70 over 70 for her Spot check) spotted through the window of the kitchen another one of the wooden sculptures. It seemed as if was looking directly at Jijah, making eye contact. She also noted that the hands on the side of its head are blood stained.
Inside the house, Talhah crossed over the bendul into the kitchen. Sure enough the sculpture was there. Its back was to Talhah.
More importantly, there was a dead body on the floor which appeared to be only a few days old. From the photos provided by Pn. Izani, he recognised the corpse as Keith Yong, the leader of Team Bunga Kemboja.
“Don’t you think it’s funny that there’s a dead body wherever there’s one of these statues,” Lucy commented.
“What is the connection between them?” asked Jijah safely from outside the house refusing to enter because of the creepy things. Talhah approached and studied the statue closely but was unable to discern anything besides the obvious descriptors.
Lucy said who was holding station outside the kitchen entered to speak to Talhah. “Bro, what’s up with this statue! We need to call Ray in here.” When she arrived, Rayha too was puzzled by them. It was nothing she had ever seen before.
Talhah then called out to Jijah outside to come in through the wooden steps up to the back door into the kitchen. Looking at the staring sculpture she did not want to, but she was obliged to.
THE THING IN THE HOUSE
Lucy went to check Yong’s corpse. She fished out a warrant card, a piece of an old yellow parchment and his wallet with RM200 in it. His Necronomiphone had been smashed unusable. The parchment seemed to be from the Kitab Serba Serbi Budi Bicara Alam. As a linguist, Ray deciphered the arcane Jawi script on it. It was a spell that could summon or banish a specific entity which she could not identify clearly from the text.
Meanwhile, Talhah was keeping his eye on the kitchen statue and the blood on its hands. (He rolled a Sanity check and failed, losing 3 SAN.)
They all decided to withdraw from the house and take the blood stained statue with them. (Jijah successfully rolled a Luck check and discovered something to help them.) Jijah found a red four-wheeled trolley under the house. They lowered the statue onto the trolley on the ground and Talhah pushed the trolley back out towards the jungle trail.
A SLOW RETREAT FROM DANGER
Badrul saw them from the back of the house and walked towards them. As he walked past the bathroom, he heard something from within, behind the closed bathroom door. It sounded like a scratching. He cautiously approached the door.
He grabbed the latch… and pulled it open.
Something flew out at him in a furious cloud of billowing feathers. It was a chicken. It was probably trapped for days in the empty bathroom. Badrul hoped no one saw the chicken attack. He regained his composure, saw all the tahi ayam in the bathroom and walked away. (Badrul had to roll a Sanity check but succeeded.)
He quickly rejoined the others who had formed up in front of the anjung of the house with the sculpture on the trolley. Then, the realisation hit Jijah (with a successful Occult roll). She had read about this before.
These creatures were known in ancient times as semangat kayu. The Laundry’s research department theorised that they were entities that came through a gate from another universe that could only enter wood that has been cut to look vaguely humanoid. There were rare reports of sculptures coming to life and killing people in the Laundry’s records.
If someone was looking at it, it would not move. If not then, it will move without being observed!
The entities could not actually bend the wood that it infected. It was physically impossible to do so. As long as there was a sapient observer (like a human) who kept his view on the infected wood, then the semangat kayu would not move. When nobody was looking at them, then it would be able to reshape reality around the infected wood to seem as if it was moving. (Just that no one could see it move.)
“So this semangat kayu will not move if you look at it,” said Talhah. “But if we don’t it will attack us. This one on the trolley is the one we found in the kitchen. Did we look at the ones in the living room?”
They all look at each other.
“Now who’s going up?”
“Jijah and Ray!” said Lucy cheerfully.
“I only investigate humans!” said Jijah, who reluctantly went back to the house and peered through the window. The two sculptures and one corpse were still at their previous places.
Lucy said, “We haven’t checked the first dead body yet. We know that Keith Yong was the one in the kitchen, but who is the one in the living room?”
Now Jijah had to go back into the house.
Talhah mused, “Someone will have to cover the statue at the trolley while the others cover Jijah in the house. Who’s going to do that?”
Everyone quipped, “You are!” and left him alone with the possible semangat kayu 20 metres away from the anjung of the kampung house. He kept a close eye on the wooden figure.
As Jijah entered the living room, Badrul, Talhah and Lucy covered her from the window. Lucy said, “You can do this, Jijah. We believe in you!”
Jijah made a face at her.
She searched the dead man’s pockets while eyeing the two wooden hulks beside him. She found a wallet with an IC belonging to one Saad bin Ibrahim, some family photos and there were carving tools in his pocket. Mister Saad must have been a wood carver who had lived here. How did his statues come to be infected by the semangat kayu?
Meanwhile, Talhah was holding on to the trolley with the 80-kilo statue on it. Because the fatigue and stress was getting to him, Talhah involuntarily blinked when no one else was looking at the statue. (He made an Endurance checked and failed with a 44 over 25%.)
After the blink, Talhah saw the statue had turned its head and was looking back at him with a menacing look on its face. He did not see it move! It was as if it had been sculpted all along to be looking at him!
“THIS STATUE JUST LOOKED AT ME!” he yelled. “HELLO! I don’t think we’re bringing this with us any further! We have to burn it!”
“I have C4!” Lucy remembered that she had explosives given to her by their quartermaster back in Kuala Lumpur. “Jijah, you have to push out the other two statues!”
“I’m not pushing out an 80-kilogramme statue!”
“Okay,” Lucy said. “I’ll help!”
(While they were transporting out the statues, Talhah had to roll Endurance again and failed with a 49 over 25% which amused the entire group to no end.)
“I BLINKED!” yelled Talhah and everyone saw that the statue on the trolley had turned its torso to look at him. Its arm was raised, poised to smash Talhah’s head in.
“Push the trolley near us!” Lucy cleverly suggested. Talhah heaved and pushed the trolley back towards the house near the others without blinking once.
Lucy carefully split the C4 into three pieces and placed the pieces on the statues. None of them took their eyes of them. Then they backed away slowly still within view of them. They were almost behind cover on the left side of the house when they realised that they would be out of sight, in which case the semangat kayu would be animated again.
A FIERY CONCLUSION TO THE PROCEEDINGS
And so Lucy drew her weapon and fired. The first statue exploded in a colossal ball of flame, causing the other statues to blow up as well. The fireballs consumed the front half and the kitchen section of the house, turning it into a thousand fiery debris.
(Everyone had to roll Agility checks.)
When the dust had settled, they found that Ray had been hit by a wooden shrapnel on her left thigh. She was bleeding badly. (Her hit points had been reduced to a mere 2.)
Their Necronomiphone messaging apps beeped together.
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT EXPLOSION?
Before they left, they bunched together to take a group selfie (also known as a wefie) with the burning house in the background. Then the sun disappeared into the horizon, the team helped the limping Ray back to the jungle path and headed back to their car.
To be continued
Bahasa Melayu – English Glossary
- anjung – the front porch of a house
- ayam – chicken
- Bahasa Melayu – Malay Language
- baru – new
- beranda – house verandah/balcony
- bendul – wooden threshold on the floor between sections of a house
- bunga – flower
- bunga kemboja – frangipani
- bunga tahi ayam – lantana camara (big sage flower)
- Jawi – traditional Arabic script adapted for Bahasa Melayu
- kampung – village
- kayu – wood
- kedai runcit – grocery store
- nipah – nypa fruticans (nipah palm/mangrove palm)
- Pengarah – Director
- puan (Pn.) – madam
- rumah – house
- semangat – spirit
- tahi – excrement
- Yes, I
adaptedshamelessly stole ideas from the Doctor Who episode “Blink”.
- Also, the entity was inspired by SCP-173 at the SCP Foundation.
- The speech text are more or less verbatim as an audio recording of the session was made.