Something about the night stained trees and the decayed smell of leaves almost framed the scene like an enticing painting. The place felt too familiar. Have…I been here before? It almost felt like Apple was meeting a hazy past in the present. But she was just… overthinking, wasn’t she? She looked back down at her book (Spells and Demons by Bomoh Ibrahim) and flipped to the next page on Protection Spells. She had read heavily on how to cast one since she’d received the email, hoping that she would somehow impress Bomoh Fauzia with her skills and knowledge on spell casting. “The protection spell is one that, when finally conducted, lights up the darkest sky in a fluorescent purple. If a green light is observed instead, one should immediately stop the ritual, for this accident would yield effects of the spell of curse and undoing (ref. Pg 236)”.  Purple. Purple, not green. Purple.  

The eerie silence of the jungle made it terribly difficult for her to concentrate without her attention drifting away. Her fingers instinctively fumbled around her necklace’s pendant nervously. It was her lucky charm, given by her late dukun grandmother when she was young, although she has since forgotten why. Somehow, its golden keris pendant had never failed to comfort her. She sighed. It was quite the poor decision to arrive here half an hour early.

Apple’s watch struck midnight. It was then a figure draped in black made its way gracefully down the stairs. It had its head wrapped in a loose batik selendang, and held a parasol that was rimmed with a veil that obscured her shadow (strange choice of accessory, considering the lack of rain or sun). That must be Bomoh Fauzia! Readjusting her shirt hurriedly, Apple took a final look at her mirror. Everything had to be as perfect as possible.

“Ms Lum,” Bomoh Fauzia’s voice was sweet yet firm. She lifted the veil that was draped over her parasol to reveal a bony, pale face that was jewelled with a pair of orange eyes. Apple was lost momentarily. Bomoh Fauzia’s eyes had entranced her with an unfathomable familiarity, and she could have sworn she had stared into them before. She couldn’t have met this woman before. 

“Call me… Apple, Apple Poppy Lum!” Snapping back from her reverie, Apple took Bomoh Fauzia’s gloved palms and shook them vigorously. She noticed that Bomoh Fauzia’s eyes had drifted to the glint of her keris pendant, and her eyes almost carried a scornful look of distaste. Was it that ugly? Apple hurriedly detached it and stuffed it deep into her pocket.  

“Do not touch me, thank you.” Bomoh Fauzia replied, pulling her hand back. 

“Sorry, I….” Oh god, I’ve messed up!

“It is the peak of the purge, and we will have to hurry. Lest you want the tiger rakshasa to escape,” Bomoh Fauzia gestured to Apple to follow her into an unlit path down the hill.  

“Of course! I brought a torchlight from home. Do you want me to use it? I can…light the way!” Apple said, reaching into her bag.

“NO! I detest light! Keep it this instant!” Bomoh Fauzia snapped back, her orange eyes almost lit with fury. Putting the torch back into the bag hurriedly, Apple was on the verge of tears. First day of the job and it was already going terribly!

The trek continued in silence and in complete darkness. Apple observed her surroundings instead. She saw the scenery change from sparse foliage to dense raintrees as they continued their trek deeper in. Somehow, the mysterious shadow of deja vu stalked Apple the entire trek. The deeper they went the more familiar everything got. The leaves that she traced her hand along almost felt like they bore the touch of her younger self once. A memory had then suddenly flooded her eyes. She was running…through this same path, as a child, barefoot, alone and afraid. Except…she wasn’t running somewhere…she was running away from something. What was it? Apple’s head had started to throb. 

“I am afraid I have to leave you here now. I prefer to carry out the spell and the tiger exorcism at the site alone.”  Bomoh Fauzia announced abruptly, arriving at the foot of an angsana tree.

“I can’t, can’t come?” 

“No. Now hand over the bag, I trust everything is in there, especially the Zamzam Water, ”

“Of course it’s inside, I packed it really carefully!” Apple said as she slid the bag into Bomoh Fauzia’s arms. Does she not trust me?

“Are you sure, I…can’t help? I’ve read a lot on the protection spell, you could, maybe, give me a chance to cast it?”  Apple suggested sheepishly.

“I can handle it myself. Just stay here and wait for me. I am much more experienced than you,” Bomoh Fauzia turned her parasol on Apple, and clambered over the roots of the angsana tree into the ocean of darkness, leaving Apple alone in the dangerous jungle.

Apple reached into her bag for her medicinal oil. She needed that comforting menthol scent to calm her down. She rubbed the oil under her ears and her temples. The spicy smellーwasn’t there? Apple wondered, Apple turned the vial to see the ingredients list. The label stared back at her.  

 “Zamzam Holy WaterDO NOT Forget.” 

She needed to return the water to Bomoh Fauzia before it was too late. Sure, she would get scolded to death, even fired, but she couldn’t bear to think of endangering Bomoh Fauzia’s life just because of her stupid blunder! What if the exorcism goes wrong and Bomoh Fauzia gets killed by the tiger rakshasa? She needed to fix this. But where did she go? Apple looked beyond the angsana tree. It was a sheet of darkness. She would have to enter the jungle…alone. Taking a deep breath, Apple walked past the angsana tree. The scene that greeted her was a patch of trodden leaves. Apple choked on her emotions. She recognized the clearing. Now she knew why the place gave her such a sickly vibe from the start. It was the place where she almost died. 

Apple’s mother had once told her about when she was five, and disappeared into a jungle. She’d described how there were mysterious bloody claw marks that trailed deep into an angsana jungle, and how she was only found by the police a day after. Apple had always disregarded this, but now that memory was clear as day. Something demonic had tried to kill her that day, something that was not from this world. It had chased her deep into this jungle, and into this clearing of trees. She had ran as fast as she could, but ultimately, she stopped in front of this same tree, her keris necklace hanging from her neck, dripping with blood and sweat. Her hands tightly clenched around the pendant, she glanced over her shoulder. 

She was too slow. The demonic pair of felonious orange eyes stared back into her soul. 

Apple had no time to scream. The entity pounced onto her. 

Apple stepped back, her knees shaking. The urge to just turn and run was too strong. She did not want to relive this nightmare… But yet, a part of her fought against the urge. No! Bomoh Fauzia needs the water. I need to do this. She composed herself. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the clearing. 

Inching her way anxiously, Apple’s fingers fixed themselves tightly on her torchlight. “Boom!” a sound bellowed from the sky. In the distance, she saw a striking green light suddenly erupt from the sky. It must be Bomoh Fauzia! She must have started the protection spell casting. But something was not right… “The protection spell is one that lights up the darkest sky in a fluorescent purple.” The light was not purple. It was green. It was the spell of curse and undoing. 

Apple quickened her pace. Was Bomoh Fauzia okay? Did something go wrong? Was it my fault? Her shoes had started splashing on the mud as she started to run, more nervous with every step. Suddenly, her foot splayed on mud, casting Apple into a deep fall into a hidden pit. Her back rammed violently against a boulder,  her ankles buckled, and a gashing pain slit down her thigh. It was all numb and wet. Everything felt broken. The only sensation was a strange growing warmth on her lap. She looked into her pocket. Her keris pendant was glowing. A scene suddenly flooded over her.

This was not the first time she had seen this.

She had been found in a shallow pit, her back rammed against a bloody boulder. “What happened?” Her family would ask. “I fell.” She would say. But she knew this was a lie. She was pushed. By a tiger-like demon. It was ready to sink its jaws into her, when something most peculiar happened. Apple could still remember the sensation around her neck. The same keris pendant had pulsated a brilliant warmth across her. She could remember it slowly transforming, sharpening itself into a mystic blade. There must have been something about it that had scared the tiger to its core, for it cast itself back into the darkness of Bukit Timah.

Apple lifted herself up painfully from the shallow pit. The green glow had gotten stronger in the horizon and the pendant had also started tingling in her pockets the closer she got . Her heart raced. In front the bushes was the source of the green light. A dark blurry silhouette was standing at its source. It was Bomoh Fauzia. Her parasol was on the ground and her arms were waving ritualistically in the air. Finally! This disaster  Apple gripped tightly to the torchlight and pushed open the bushes. She shined the beam of the torch onto the body of Bomoh Fauzia. A silhouette had inked itself onto the dirt.  

Apple remembered everything now. The demon was a tiger. Her younger self had seen the tiger rakshasa, in its true form. It was half translucent, and it had possessed. A pair of felonious eyes. That glowed like orange gemstones.

Bomoh Fauzia cast the shadow of a tiger. 

Bomoh Fauzia turned her head back. Her original face of calm had manifested into a cunning visage. 

“I told you to stay at the tree, you little imbecile!” Bomoh Fauzia hissed, her canines now showing 

“Stay back! Please! I didn’t see-didn’t see anything!” 

“It does not matter. You are disposable! Why do you think I asked you to come? You are only here so I can stick to that stupid policy the SASS set. ” Claws had erupted from her fingers.

“B..But the things you asked me to p-” 

“Can you not see? Tonight, with my undoing spell…the demons of the jungle will be freed!” 

“I..Stay back! Or I will…splash the Holy Water on you!” Apple cowered fearfully under her growing figure. 

“You little fool. That would not harm me! You are so clueless, you would not even know how to kill me even if you could! Prepare to die!” she chuckled.

Bomoh Fauzia had started to grow in size, her figure turning more animal-like. She had risen up into the sky, revealing her true feral form, a ten foot tiger of darkness.

Apple shot back into the woods.

She ran, panicked, against the pain in her back. Something had driven the tiger rakshasa away that 20 years ago! What was it! Her hair was growing sweaty and loose against the wind and she could feel the necklace slowly slipping from her pocket. Suddenly, she felt the heat of the necklace disappear. Apple looked back. The keris necklace had plummeted out of her pocket onto the ground. Shit!  Apple winced, and left it with a heavy heart. A large deafening roar of pain suddenly thundered. Apple turned back. The tiger rakshasa had collapsed, its paw injured and sizzling. What happened? Was this a trap? Taking a closer look, she saw it. A burn mark was charred onto the sole of its paw. It was her in the shape of the keris pendant. 

That was what scared the tiger 20 years ago. It was the keris pendant. Its weakness.

This time, Apple no longer ran. She turned back to the immobilized tiger, picking up her keris pendant.

“Bomoh Fauzia!” Apple lifted the keris pendant above the tiger. It started growing, and sharpening itself majestically into an arm long keris, its blade glowing as if it was fulfilling a prophecy.

This was it. Apple finally felt strong. 

“Go back to hell, scumbag!” 

Apple flashed a final smug grin, before thrusting the dagger straight into its heart with a shredding boom.

“No! I can’t be killed! Not by…you!” The final pained demonic scream boomed from the tiger’s gushing lungs.

The mighty terrorizer of the jungle had finally fallen with a thundering thud into the mud, ending its long reign of terror. The rain had stopped, and the green glow had ended promptly. The figure of the tiger melted into the ground, leaving only an imprint of its shadow. Apple saw something sparkling in the ground. The mist had parted like curtains to reveal:A pair of tiger eye stones.

Tham Yu Xuan (Class of 2023) developed an interest in writing after someone told him his Primary 4 composition was “a pretentious attempt at writing a novel in 200 words”.