Sirwin
Sirwin

Sang Belang - A Malayan Were-Tiger Fiction

By NukeAbe | Verbal Diarrhea | 18 Feb 2024


e23a2cd3d0f143e6ecf7c2150705b5a25cdb40cb8850c3bd17c313e4e4e6f7a9.jpg

 

Yon golden terror, barred with ebon stripes

Low-crouching horror, with cruel fangs

Waiting in deathly stillness for thy spring 

 

A woman dressed in the sarong, a plaid skirt of silk, walks rapidly to the river, carrying a long bamboo and some gourds, which, after her bath, she fills and begins to walk home through the wealth of vegetation that clothes the whole face of the country. She follows a narrow path up from the bed of the clear stream, the jungle trees and orchards, the long rank grasses and tangled creepers almost hiding the path. 

 

Suddenly, she stops, spellbound. Her knees give way under her, the vessel drops from her nerveless hands, and a speechless fear turns her blood to water, for there, in front of her, is the great black and yellow head with cruel yellow eyes, and half-open mouth showing a red tongue and long white teeth. An exceeding great fear chains the terrified woman on the spot, and the tiger, thus faced, sulkily and with more hoarse grumbling, slowly draws back into the jungle and disappears.

- Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham, Malay Sketches (1895)


  


***

8e0474a32ce9dec55eaae1620d5561965ffae61a491a7018c8adf3e843e6633b.jpg

The gentlemen were staring at the exquisite details of our Nusantara’s first modern artist, Raden Saleh’s “Deer Hunt” painting, - which was hung in the kitchen of the permaculture cabin converted from a small abandoned tea warehouse on top of the hills in Lenggong, Perak. Though the textures were missing and the colours were worn off from the printed copy of the artwork but the chaotic energy of the spooked horses, frightened dog, escaping deer and the horror on the faces of the men reacting to the tiger in mid-air attack centred perfectly in this masterpiece from the 1846 stills leaps out of the flatten image and into the minds of its viewers.  

 

“Seriously Mr Lao, I think I saw a white tiger last night walking outside. It was down the hill. Crossing the dirt road,” said the mid-twenties Malay man wearing the 1974 Mokhtar Dahari’s Harimau Malaya football jersey.

 

“You sure you’re not dreaming?” question the Chinese man who was using his tiger’s eyes necklace like a prayer’s bead to his young student. “I heard the babi hutan (wild boar) la. But no tiger.”

 

“Are you boys still talking about the Sang Belang?” remarked the middle-aged Eastern European farmer, the husband to the owner of the land. 

 

“I mean, think about it. Your cows have been missing for a couple of days now. The wild boars are coming closer into your area since the loggers have been chasing them out on the other side of the hill. Surely some predators came running for their meal down this side,” reasoned the young Malik.

 

“Choy. Those loggers bring bad luck,” commented the Taoist Farmer Lao.

 

“And the fuck up part is I can’t even call the authorities because they have been trying to chase me out of my farm," added Vlad. "Eight years I have built this home, six years they have been trying to chase me out and sell it to the loggers.”

 

“I am so ashamed of my own race sometimes.”

 

“Eh, every country’s politicians are crooks. Mine’s worst,” said the caucasian with a past. “This is why I am here. Jom we go see Rama practice his archery outside.”

 

“You boys go right ahead. I wanna make a pot of tea first,” said Lao.

 

 

The man with roots back to the Caspian Sea guided Malik Selamat out of the cabin and down the hill where the early thirties, top of his prime Indian man named Rama was eyeing his target and releasing arrows. It was the twilight hour. The sun was slowly hiding behind the rows of clouds below the horizon giving the farm an otherworldly golden glow. The sound of the streaming river to the side of the hill and the insects mating calls backed by other vocalization of the forest sets the symphony of this scenic setting. The Enggang Hornbill bird flew in the sky above.

 

“Did you know that in the tales of Prabu Siliwangi, they said he was protected by two white tigers on his sides whilst meditating in the jungle?”

 

“Who’s that?”

 

“Wait, you don’t even know about the great Sundanese King and Silat master with that magical keris and what not?”

 

“Urm,” the sound of embarrassment croaked by the young man who had forgotten his Nusantara origin.

 

“Well, what I'm trying to say is that - maybe that’s your ancestor. Harimau Keramat (Ancestral Tiger Spirit). Or a family’s Saka (Jinn),” explained the well-informed foreigner. 

 

“I don’t think that my parents ever mentioned anything of sorts.”

 

“You should take the initiative to understand your history. You at least know about the Lenggong Man right?”

 

“The oldest caveman, yes. It was in our history books.” 

 

“You got to read outside the books too, young one.”

 

“Vlad! The water is not working,” shouted the Chinese man who poked his head out the kitchen’s door.

 

“Haish,” uttered the white mid-forties farmer running back to the cabin.

 

“Are you still trying to wrap your head around that harimau of yours?” asked Rama walking up towards Malik with his bow and arrows in his hands.

 

“Yeah, man. Didn't you see or hear anything last night?”

 

“Look, I was fast asleep in my tent near you. But I remember hearing you got out from your hammock in the middle of the night. I assumed you were doing nature's call,” said the handsome Indian man placing his hands on his brethren’s shoulder and assuring him that he wasn’t going insane. 

 

“Yeah, I got up to pee off the ledge and that’s when I saw the white tiger staring up back at me from down that road,” pointed the Malay boy down the hill. “Good thing I was  pissing or else I might have pissed my pants.”

 

 

“Have you ever heard of the lost P Ramlee’s film, Sitora?” questioned Rama who led his friend back up to the cabin.

 

“No. I don’t think so.”

 

“Well, I don’t expect you to have seen it. It was never broadcast on TV. Also, the master copy of the film mysteriously disappeared. The film was about a were-tiger. Harimau Jadian. A Cindaku.”

 

“Wait, are you saying what I saw last night could have been a half man half tiger? Huh? What? Wait, what happened to the film?”

 

“I don’t know, man. Just theories.”

 

The Malay man and the Indian man reached the front entrance of the cabin and joined the Chinese man and White man who was discussing the potential clogging of the water pipes with the Orang Asli (native tribe) man. 

 

“Okay Bossman,” confirmed Eng from the Semai tribe wearing a Tiger beer brand singlet.

 

“Eng! Tunggu. Are you going up the hill?” exclaimed Malik.

 

“Yeah. Up the river. To the water source. Checking for clogging. Wanna follow?”

 

Nak!”

 

Jom,” invited the Orang Asli to the Malay.

 

Wah, I thought you would be scared of the tiger,” remarked Vlad.

 

“Should we take the flashlights?”

 

“You’re gonna be with Eng. He pretty much grew up here,” joked Lao.

 

“Be careful,” wished Rama.

 

“Quick you two, the sun’s going down.”

 


***

The two men were at the small waterfall on top of the hill, unclogging the dead branches and leaves that were stuck in the tubes that were feeding the cabin with fresh clean water. Wet and slightly exhausted from their trek up the small river. Their journey was longer than expected due to the clogging being higher up than they previously thought and hope for. The sun was nearly down when they finished clearing up the debris. The mosquitos were coming out to feast on the rare delicacy of the city boy in the jungle.

 

The Semai Orang Asli worker suggested taking a shortcut through the wilderness to reach the dirt path that would make the rest of their journey down to the cabin an easier task rather than climbing back down the river in the dark. The young Malay man who even though had some experiences in the jungle agreed with the plan assuming that his guide would be more familiar with these parts.

 

Malik wasn’t sure how he found himself here. Artist turned Farmer. Within just a year as a permaculture student, he has had various numbers of training underneath many teachers. The Taoist Doomsday Prepper farmer, the Eastern Promise farmer who married a local and reintroduce the permaculture revolution in Malaysia and of course the jungle survivalist veteran that fought in the Indonesia Confrontation. He doesn’t want to bring shame to any of his gurus by getting lost in these woods. He trudges onwards in this swampy dark personal Vietnam.   

 

“Eng, you sure this is a shortcut?”

 

“Ya.”

 

The nervous young Malay began looking through his phone and turning on the flashlight for more visibility in the harsh vegetation that they were trying to forge ahead and carve through using the walking sticks they’ve picked up. With a hard push from the Orang Asli, they’ve managed to break through the damped marsh-like growth and up onto the more solid ground.

 

“Wait, this is not right. Something's not right here. We shouldn’t be here.”

 

“What?” Malik tried to force a laugh, hoping his guide was joking.

 

“We should double back. We need to go back.”

 

“What’s going on.”

 

Jom. We go back to the waterfall and go down that way,” hastened the native tribe man who was hoping he was just confused. He turned around to his companion and caught the tiger tooth necklace that was hanging on Malik.

 

“Is that a real tiger tooth?”

 

“Urm, I don’t think so. It was my brother’s before he passed.”

 

“How did he die?”

 

“I don’t think now is the best time to talk about this.”

 

“Sorry, just remembered something. Takpa (Nevermind). Jom.”

 

“What did you remember?”

 

“Oh, they said when the Sultan of Melaka ran to Perak. He was supposed to build his castle up here in this hill where we are now but something about a Nenek Kebayan and a dewdrop promise made the king establish his new kingdom elsewhere. There was a similar story of sorts with the Semai.”

 

“Oh okay, I didn’t know that.”

 

“Yeah except with us there was…” Eng stopped dead in his tracks.

 

“What? Apa?” asked the oblivious Malik.

 

Shussh. Tutup lampu. Diam.

 

The young Malay man did as he was told and turned off the lights and remained silent as his guide listened to the emptiness of the jungle. No crickets or birds were chirping. Just pure dead silence. The crushing pounds of the river made it harder to listen properly to any movement in the jungle made worse with the final light of the sky dimming ever faster. 

There was a horrid stench of dead flesh in the air. Like a rotting carcass. Flesh and blood filled the atmosphere. Immediately alerting the hairs on the gentlemen’s neck. Their eyes widen. It was instinct. They knew exactly who was in the midst of the darkness with them. Pak Belang. Their heartbeats quicken their tempo to ensure the blood rushing through the men’s brains keeps them on high vigilant mode. Scouting their surroundings as thoroughly as possible with their conditioned-by-smartphone eyes. Both of their ancestors would be ashamed of their poor physical prowess to tackle this problem. A pair of bright yellow eyes blinked and stared at them in the black wilderness in front of them. 

 

Lari (Run),” shouted Eng as he dashed away in the opposite direction. Far far away from the eyes and into the thick jungle.

 

The young Malay man froze. Stunned and shocked that he was left by his guide and facing something he has been dreading for the entire day. His body shook in fear. The cold sweat pours down his cheek and back. Barely able to even blink. Realizing his hand was still holding his phone and was ready to turn the flashlight back on, he quickly pressed it in the hope to scare the beast away.

 

The bright light from the phone shines directly onto the bushes where the eyes were but there was nothing there. Malik gave a sigh of relief that was immediately shortened by the low growling in the darkness. He quickly darted his light onto every single bush in his surrounding trying to locate the animal.

 

The theme song from the movie Rocky, Eye of The Tiger by Survivor began ringing from his phone as he received a call from the farm owner. 

 

“Oi! Malik. You Selamat (safe)? Where are you guys?” 

 

“Vlad….” the scared young man managed to utter. “Hari. Harimau.”

 

“What? Did you come across the tiger? Where’s Eng?”

 

“He ran.”

 

“Shit. Are you at the river?”

 

“No.”

 

“Get back to the waterfall and just stay put. We’re coming to get you.”

 

 Click. Just as the phone call ended, the battery died. Leaving him with a brick of tech. Alone in the dark jungle. Armed only with his walking stick and whatever survival knowledge he may have picked up from his time in the national service army camp and his time working as a permaculture apprentice. 

 

3b0723b53074c78e4127d6d8ae5b6632eef5cc453785c654c3b8f2cd2fe23cd9.png

 

There was a scream of a man in pain. It was the voice of Eng. Somewhere in the deep dying rainforest of the Banjaran Titiwangsa mountain range, the backbone of Malaysia; - there was a cry of an Orang Asli

 

The young Malay man pondered on his predicament. The scream came from the opposite side of where the waterfall should be. Where he know there would be some sort of safety coming for him. But he can’t just leave his friend out there alone facing this terror of the night. The flying foxes glide in the stars.

 


***

The blade of the parang panjang (long machete) slashes through the thick overgrown as Vlad leads the rescue party consisting of Lao with the old tombak (spear) and Rama with his bow and arrows. All wearing their halo of headlights being led by the flaming torch born by the owner of the farm. Piercing up the river and across the wilderness in search of their lost comrades. 

 

“Malik!” shouted the leader and echoed by his party members.

 

“Vlad,” alerted Rama who was kneeling to the ground staring at the big paw print of a tiger. It was the size of a human head. This was no ordinary animal. It was far bigger than anything ever recorded. It must also be very stealthy to leave just a few tracks behind for something so huge. It made very little sense to these well trained and experienced gentlemen.

 

Regardless of their concern for this strange phenomenon, they knew that nature and the universe are often far more surprising than one would expect. Such a creature could easily exist. This is not for debate at the moment. The more pressing matters were the safety of their friends who are lost out here in the jungle without lights, weapons and countless tries to contact them on the phones have been fruitless too. 

 

Tolong (Help)…” 

 

There was a low soft whimper in the distance. A fallen man. On the ground. In an excruciating blood-filled cry of help. The rescue party rushed towards the man without hesitation. 

e61a37a5e21b4fd428cb03728f6b734ae84295c8dac6c491f9d7fa5f87bb00fb.jpg

 

It was Eng. He was scratched and mauled by a large vicious animal. Leaving his guts splattered on the stairs of the roots where he rested against the tree. His torso was ripped apart barely attached by a slither of innards. His fingers were bitten off and a large feline tooth mark can be seen on his right shoulder. His face was dragged to the side from the crushed skulls that leaked and dripped down in the incarnadine pool of red liquid.  

 

“Selamat…….Malik” extinguished the final breath of the victim.

 

The group of men stared in disbelief. Traumatized. Rama kneeled to the deceased body and closed its eyes. 

 

“This doesn’t look like a normal tiger attack.”

 

“You’re right, Mr Lao,” said Vlad as he scouted his parameters.

 

“We need to find Malik,” said Rama as he placed the arrow on his bow.

 

“What’s your plan, Rama?” said the Chinese man gripping his spear.

 

“He doesn’t need one.”

 

Vlad stared up the hill where the blood gold crescent moon slowly rises behind the powdered cloud, there between the rows of large Merbau trees, roofed by its branches, a silhouette of a large tiger stood on its hind legs roaring in a loud rage of anger. A Cindaku. Its aged teeth are still red from its victim. Its orange topaz brutal eyes. Their fear filled awe gaze was fixed onto the Sitora, half-man half-tiger. The yellow of the Pak Belang shines with the moonlight. Even with the dirt and mud that gave it, its extra camouflage, the glow of this majestic creature was spellbindingly frightening. 

 

The Harimau Jadian stomped back down and raced around the trees circling the three men who were immediately on guard. The speed of the beast was faster than their eyes could captured. Its yellow fur flashing everywhere. Disorienting the prey. Confusing its true location. A natural illusion. That disappeared with a blink of an eye. 

 

It was elegant, fast and terrible. It exists to destroy and destroys to exist. Once seen, it will never be forgotten. It will remain with the people who have lived to see it, perhaps in their dreams or more likely their nightmares for a long, long time.


 


***

 

There was something Malik never told anyone. When he was a little boy at the age of seven when his family were back in the kampung for the funeral of his grandfather, that night was very much alike tonight, a blood gold crescent moon, he was sleepwalking and was found by the villagers to be resting against a protective white tiger next to his grandfather’s tombstone, or at least that’s what his late brother told him. 

 

Kill. Kill. Bunuh. 

 

“Kill who? Hello? Siapa tu? Who is there?”

 

The young Malay man wanders alone in the jungle at night.

 

Bunuh dia. Satu lagi. (Kill him. One more.)

 

The screams of the rescue party screech and howl in the air, ringing in Malik’s ear. He quickly rushed towards the source of the flickering lights in the distance. He reached a small clearing between the rows of large Merbau trees. 

cc76f16e172f09b12496f2c7232fdeebb5618248a6aff5bb7aaf232a33c1dd0e.jpg

 

On the edge, at the feet of a tree, next to the broken tombak lay Lao who had large chunks of him eaten off. On the branches hangs Rama who was missing one of his legs but yet still clutching to his weapons. The diminishing fire from the torch lay on the ground next to the decapitated head of Vlad, the limb that was still holding the parang and with bits of human parts scattered like a gruesome Yusof Ghani’s painting in the dirt. 

 

The young man dropped to his knee and shouted in a fit of furious anger and grief. The shockwave of his scream scared the birds and other smaller critters that were safely hiding in their home.

 

Kenapa engkau mengamuk? (Why are you angry?)

 

“Kenapa???? YOU KILLED MY FRIENDS!”

 

Hahahaha. Pedosa. Aku hanya bunuh orang yang berdosa. Hukuman berpatut.

(Hahahaha. Sinners. I only kill those who sin. They deserved it.)

 

“And who are you to judge?” shouted the Malay man into the night.

 

Aku Malaya! Aku Penjaga (Protector)! Aku nadi tanah darah ini! (I am the blood of this land!)

 

“Penjaga? Huh! Tanah ni dirogol oleh orang kaya, oleh penjajah dan engkau tak ada dimana mana pun. Jaga? Huh! Engkau dah pupus! (This land has been raped by the rich folks, the colonizers and you’re nowhere to be found. Protect? You’re extinct!)”

 

The flashing yellow shine of the large beast circles the young Malay man debating morality with the guardian of the forest. Malik Selamat stood his ground. 

 

“If you dare to judge others. Then come forth and fight me like a man. Tangan dengan tangan (hand to hand). Mari kita bertanding (Let's duel). Adab Melayu (Malay Custom). Bagi ku menemu ajal dengan maruah (Let me meet my ends with honour).” 

 

Engkau Berani. (You’re brave.)

 

Aku dah lama tak jadi manusia. (It’s been a while since I was a human.)

 

Lima (Five) Ratus (Hundreds) Tahun (Years),” said the silhouette of the tiger that transformed into a man.

 

“Aku dah makan (I’ve tasted) Portugis, Belanda, British, Jepun, Cina, India dan juga Melayu. Aku boleh bertutur (I can conversate) in every language that has been on this land. I have watched you, Melayu youngsters, losing respect and not knowing how to appreciate your history and culture. What makes you think that you’re worthy of this duel?” said the mysterious man as he stepped out of the shadows and into the clearing and under the moonlight.

He was a medieval Pendekar (warrior). Dressed in the traditional clothes though it has seen better days. His hair was long and grey. His facial hair was wild and gave a whisker-like impression. His eyes were still yellow and cat-like with sharp canine teeth. Both his fingers and toenails were long and claw-like. He was barefooted. He reeks from centuries of unwashed filth. 

 

A white tiger spirit walks calmly between the trees behind the Pak Belang unbeknownst to the were-tiger creature. The tiger tooth necklace began transmitting a spell of protection on the young Malay man’s chest. His eyes connect with his family’s spirit protector, the white Harimau Keramat’s eyes.

 

The Teruna (young man) without thinking, kneeled and placed his palms together in a prayer-like manner before immediately bouncing back up and getting into position. Buka Bunga (Open Flower). Signalling the opening of a Silat duel and the take over of the genetic heritage of his ancestors.  Possessed by history.

 

“Aku Anak Malaysia. Masa depan tanah air ini,” braven Malik.

 

Pak Belang grabs his right fingernails and breaks them off with a quick snap. Within seconds he fashioned the claws into a keris. He laughed as Malik was surprised by his enemy’s dirty play.

 

Pak Belang lunges forward with the claw-like Keris aimed straight towards Malik who dodges the attack and grabs the attacking hand before folding it at the elbow forcing the keris to aim back towards the attacker. The ancient warrior manoeuvres his head away from the dagger as he scratches Malik in the chest forcing the young man to retreat backwards by the blow. 

 

Malik’s eyes were fixed on the sharp keris and the Harimau Jadian’s claws. Hoping that he had a magical weapon of some kind too. 


He ran towards the torch and threw the fire at the were-tiger who springs into the air dodging the flames. Using the Wu Tang Clan’s Tiger Style flying knee to the face, Malik managed to elbow the creature’s head in mid air.

 

With just his thoughts and intentions, a mythical lost keris shoots out of the Perak River and flies through the jungle towards Malik’s open palm who grabbed it instantaneously. 

 

“Prabu?” Pak Belang uttered under his breath as his eyes widened from seeing the ancient keris. The creature dropped his weapon and begs for mercy. 

 

“Engkau adalah anak cucu (You’re the lineage of) Prabu Siliwangi.”

 

Malik looked at the sheathed Keris in his hand. He pointed the blade upwards. With his right thumb, he pushed sarong up and pulled it up revealing the beautiful pamor (pattern) of keris' special steel made from a fallen star. 

 

“I will teach you the ways of the tiger if you spare me. My life in servitude to you, my lord,” said the were-tiger warrior who was at Malik’s feet.

 

The super Malay man kisses the blade of his Keris and places it on his forehead before aiming it up into the black canvas of the universe above.  

 

e4ddf35c7df69a21716c986994952d8fe4b4142be6f84e69972ddad3896eb372.jpg

 


***

SANG BELANG STRIKES AGAIN

March 23 - KUALA LUMPUR 

 

In another strange case of vicious attacks on the Malaysian Political Landscape as the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture was brutally mauled by a large beast that the media has dubbed as Sang Belang. Eyewitnesses swore it was a man but the forensic points to a large tiger. This came days after the Environmental Minister of Perak was found dead in his golden bathtub of a similar fashion. Some are suggesting that these attacks are politically motivated by a vigilante or eco-terrorists group. 

6589efcdc7f64bd993cb84bc47fa97cb39857dba8a9f820c774db1641274d51d.png

 

4f1c8c794d4c34724649d341e40a2f963157c13b3204a6feba9c6053de5e221a.jpg

 

All artworks are by Raden Saleh (1811-1880)

 

How do you rate this article?

2


NukeAbe
NukeAbe

Nazreen Abraham Stein


Verbal Diarrhea
Verbal Diarrhea

The shit that comes out of my mouth.

Send a $0.01 microtip in crypto to the author, and earn yourself as you read!

20% to author / 80% to me.
We pay the tips from our rewards pool.