Just a little walk in the dark

Flash fiction by Raymond Sigimet

Source ABC: A dark track at night

“Bro, hariap ya! Plis o! Move a little faster yah.”
He kept talking and irritating me, like a betel nut stain on a wall.
I’m big for my size and quite slow. That’s why.
I’m also fed up with the nagging. I truly am.
Like I’m fed up with how friends compare me to an overfilled water balloon.
Or they say I’m fed up with how my family compares me to a whale with limbs.
Why in the name of my beloved ancestor did I let this bugger tag along?
He needs to zip it. I felt drained listening to him.
“You forgot the torch, bro. Hau yu lus tingting ya?” his voice sounded like sour lime.
“We need the torch…. can’t see where we’re goin’. Hat long lukluk gut ya. There are snakes and centipedes and scorpions.”
Oloman! Man ya bai toktok yet ya. Yes, I’ve become forgetful lately.
It’s dark and there’s no torch but I don’t need to have my ears bashed.
“I know. Sori mi lus tingting long torch ya.” I had to respond.
I felt bruised from all his talk and tired from all the walking.
He started again.
“It’s dark bro… don’t like the idea of walking in the dark. Kainkain samting stap ya…”
“You’ve been talking forever!” The irritation fermented in my mouth.
“Just concentrate on where we’re going. My ears are bleeding man… just stop talking, will you?”
I wiped the sweat from my forehead. It was unpleasantly cold and sticky.
“If you’re thinking of becoming a radio repeater station, I’ll leave you standing here in the dark.”
His rambling criticisms seemed never-ending. I did not need to be constantly admonished by this kapamaus.
I’d already scolded myself for forgetting the torch and didn’t need him to keep piling on.
I doubled my pace just to keep calm and not be provoked.
Come to think of it, what kind of friend is it who continuously irritates you over minor things.
Mi belhat na belkaskas wantaim ya. I was sick and tired of his rebukes.
We’d been on good terms since I can remember. But now, he was not acting like a friend at all.
“If only we had the torch, we could see where we’re goin’,” he started again. My face flushed.
“Mi hat long lukluk ya … You sure we’re goin’ in the right direction and not in circles.”
I detected a note of fear in his voice. Was he afraid of the dark?
I was contemplating whether to increase my pace even further to put more distance distance between us.
Instead I decided to ease his anxiety.
“Even if it’s dark, I’m quite sure of the path,” I assured him. “This track is familiar – like the back of my hand.”
“Look, we can’t see in front of us and …” he stammered.
“Yes, I know. My brain is also processing. What’s your point. “I hope you’re not going to mention the torch again.
“But…” I blew up before another word passed his lips.
“Shut up! Stop! Just don’t talk! Inap long toktok ya!”
I spun around to face him and we stood still like burned out tree trunks for a while.
I then turned and walked on.
He didn’t speak for some time. Nor did I. We just strode blindly along the track. Me in the lead, he following.
The tall trees, the rattan and brush seemed to close in making each step unsure.
But at least the torch nagging was quelled.
After a few minutes, I heard him talking.
“You remember the man and woman, the red-hot couple?
“The ones who claimed they got lost and walked in circles in the forest for a whole night?”
“The short one and the tall one. Yeah, I remember.”
“Well, the gossip was that they were actually meeting in the forest.
“It was when they were taking a dive in the deep that they were caught.
“Yeah, well, what I heard was that they were playing rugby when they were disturbed in a tackle by some youths.”
“Well, they claimed during the mediation that they were on separate errands when the short tree spirits tricked them and.… but everyone knew what happened in the bush,” he said.
“There was gossip brewing in the village and magistrate Zero didn’t want a scandal. The magistrate was also sympathetic to the hurt parties.”
“So did they pay compensation for their sins?” I asked. “I did not attend the mediation.”
Mediations in this part of the world are like public inquisitions without the stocks, stakes and fires.
“No, there was no compensation. Both denied everythin’. Life went back to normal for everyone.
“It’s strange how people forgive and forget and life continues as if nothing happened,” he continued, talking more to himself than to me.
It was then that we approached the clearing leading to the village.
“You have arrived at your destination.” His mimic of the woman’s voice on the GPS was clever but unnecessary.
We could see fires and silhouettes of the village houses. We were home.
I stepped into our house and could see my father husking a betel nut for another chew.
He’d been keeping a lookout for me. He knew I hated doing his errands in the night.
“Hey, you’ve returned so quickly,” he said.
“Yeah, I had to walk fast,” I responded. “It was dark.”
“I guess so,” Pa replied, “I noticed some minute after you left you forgot the torch.
“It’s still on the chair where you left it.”
He pointed to the cheap plastic chair where I’d been sitting before he sent me to check on grampa and gramma who lived at their own place 20 minutes away.
“I thought I heard you talking with someone just now. Did you come with someone.”
“Na, no pa, it was just me,” I stammered, feeling stupid.
“I, uh, was talking to myself. Just urging myself along in the dark.”

belhat na belkaskas wantaim – angry and furious at the same time
bro – brother
hariap – hurry
hat long lukluk gut – hard to see clearly
inap long toktok ya – stop talking
kainkain samting stap ya – all kinds of things are here
kapamaus – someone who constantly talks or nags (may have originated from the irritating sound metal scraping against metal)
lus tingting – forget
mi hat long lukluk ya – I’m looking hard
plis – please
sori – sorry
ya bai toktok yet ya – you really can talk

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: