The sound of a scanner ran through the barcode on the packages reverberated faintly.
A bespectacled aunty was glancing at the clock on her smartphone while she tapped her left foot with impatience. She was waiting for the young cashier to finish up inputting the prices of a large amount of groceries piled on the counter. The weather outside was very hot, but the minimart was pleasantly air-conditioned. However, warm waves of heat blew in occasionally, overwhelming the cooling air within.
Once a few items were being scanned successfully, the aunty haphazardly packed her things inside the shopping bags she brought along. Hey, hey, 20 cents per plastic bag was a lot. With five of it, she could buy a red bean popsicle. With this kind of mindset, the aunty liked to collect sturdy shopping bags made from cloth and plastic and brought them along everywhere she went.
As the bag turned full, she kept on opening a new one and filled them up again a few times. The other customers lining up behind the aunty were showing unhappy faces from the long wait.
“RM 223.25, Ma’am.” (1)
“Ah? Oh. Okay.” The aunty checked her purse and sweated when she found that she didn’t have enough cash in hand. She really needed to stop this impulse-buying habit!
The aunty panicked for a moment as she fumbled through her handbag, trying to find the credit card. It was tucked somewhere in an obscure corner of her trash-filled handbag. She had forgotten to place it back into her purse after filling gas yesterday.
“Aha!” A black platinum-labeled card appeared with the name “ARASH RIDHUAN” on top. She happily tapped the card on the wireless wave device beside the cash counter.
I love you, Ayang.(2) She murmured in her heart gleefully. It was convenient and pleasurable to buy things with a credit card. Especially when it was someone else’s.
Once the aunty was done with her purchase, she quickly walked forward and knocked into a person heavily!
“Ah!!” She became imbalanced and nearly fell but managed to right herself almost immediately. However, some of her things did fall.
The aunty was unhappy. If she bent down, all her other things will fall too!
A blonde hair distracted her for a second as it filled her vision. A beautiful, young, foreigner girl she had knocked into just now bent down and collected the fallen goods and placed them back inside two of her shopping bags with an apologetic smile plastered on her face. The aunty was in a daze with the girl’s beauty for a fraction of a second. She looked like a Russian beauty with pale pearly white skin, sky blue eyes, very light blond hair and a cute doll-like face; very contradictory with the people around here with their tan skin and black hair.
Once the moment of surprise was gone, the aunty felt grateful and muttered a sincere thanks before she hurriedly went out of the minimart. After all, the town she was living in did have an international college. The beautiful foreigner girl raised her hand in acknowledgement and smile before she went inside the minimart without a second glance.
Hana heard a long ringing tone that woke her up from being in a daze. Her head was still aching as she opened her eyes. As her vision cleared up; she looked around in confusion. She was standing within a deep darkness, safe for a bright light about fifty meters away.
The bright light was shining through a gap. She groggily walked to the hole and peered through. Lush greenery filled her eyes as the scent of earth and vegetation filled her sense of smell. The cawing of birds and the scary noises of random animals could be heard near and far, contrasting the eerie silence within.
She froze as her eyes widened in terror. What the hell?
I just came out from 99!(3) What's going on here?! Is there something wrong with my vision??
There were still four shopping bags on both of her hands, full to the brim. They were heavy. However, at that instance, she didn’t notice anymore. She threw them down in agitation. All the groceries items she painstakingly arranged inside the bags spilled out, littering the cave floor.
She rubbed and rubbed her eyes, many many times until they turned slightly red.
When reality sets in, she trembled and anxiously took out her smartphone to check for the time and date. It's just 1.15 pm and the date was still the same. She looked for signals while dashing left and right.
To her horror, her hopes were dashed ruthlessly!
However, the aunty didn't give up! She moved around some more and tried harder, covering every inch of the dark space. She needed to let her hubby know! Their daughters were in the car when she went shopping just now! Although the engine was on and the window was opened a little to let in fresh air, if she's gone too long, they would be terrified!
Suddenly, when she was wondering around in agitation, the signal on her smartphone flickered! She stopped and immediately noticed it was the spot where she stood as her awareness cleared up. She tried to make a call, but the line was too choppy, it truncated every single time. She then started to type a message, short and concise. She sent both using LINE(4) and the traditional instant messaging to her hubby.
"Ayang, emergency! I'm lost! Don't know where! I'm in front of 99 and now it's in the middle of a cave in some sort of forest! Kids in car in front of 99. Come home immediately to get them. NOW!"
When she saw 'read' appeared after an eternity of waiting, she felt so relieved.
She checked her traditional SMS. The message failed to be delivered. It was unsent.
She calmed down after taking three deep breaths and tried to sort her mind.
Hana realized, the only spot she could send her messages was the location she was currently standing on. It was a kind of node, albeit a weak one. However, the signal was quite choppy and weak, only a little bit of internet leaked through. Every time she tried to call out, the call failed due to the weak signal.
She was very worried. It was because her internet was the prepaid type, was it still possible to top up here? If not, she would only have about 20 days before the account go into passive mode. Will this ‘node’ persist? Or will it disappear soon? Will she be saved in time? She waited in agitation for her hubby to reply while thinking of the worse-case scenarios. She knew he must be truly agitated and tried to return home as soon as possible.
Arash received a message while he was still finishing up the proposal on his desktop in the office. He worked in an international engineering firm deep in the heart of KL(5), on one of the skyscrapers.
It was already lunch time but he stayed for a while to finish it up since it's almost done anyway. His other colleagues had gone first without him. He knew that the message would be from his wife. It's about time they reached home after fetching their eldest daughter from her kindergarten.
He glanced at the clock in his desktop and lifted his brows.
She must've went shopping a bit. If not, they'll reached home before 1.00 pm.
His wife always messaged him when she returned from somewhere everyday without fail. She said it was a kind of assurance; a safety measures (although he suspected it was just her personal habit). He acquiesced his wife's tendencies since it did give him a peace of mind when he knew she's safe and sound when he's not around.
He swiped his smartphone gingerly and read it. Instead of the usual "Already at home niii(6). Having lunch with the kids" with an attached photo of their food or the cheeky smiling kids eating to make his mouth watered, it was a shocking, mind numbing one.
"Ayang, emergency! I'm lost! Don't know where I am. I'm in front of 99 and now it's in the middle of a cave in some sort of forest. Kids in car in front of 99. Come home immediately to get them. NOW!"
Arash could feel goosebumps on his arms and back. He immediately tried to call Hana repeatedly but got out-of-coverage notifications every single time. He believed this was not a joke as his wife will never play around on this issue. He made up his mind to return as quickly as possible! He saved his work and dashed to the train station while messaging his boss for an emergency leave. His mind was already filled with questions on what could happened to his wife.
In between the rotting leaves in a deep dark rainforest, two black eyes opened.
When they opened, the cacophony of noises turned silent immediately, as the forest creatures noticed a sudden surge of malevolent aura permeating the surroundings. They cowered in fear and shivered amongst the trees and bushes. As the pair of eyes regained clarity, the malevolent aura reeled in and disappeared, as if it was never there. The sounds of the forest resumed.
The owner of the black eyes suddenly detected something and turned its gaze towards the hidden cave where Hana resided…
(1) “RM 223.25, Ma’am.” = RM stands for Ringgit Malaysia, a formal way of addressing money, same like USD, US Dollar.
(2) Ayang [sound: are-young] = short form of 'sayang' which means 'love'. A pet name between Hana and Arash
(3) 99 = There's a chain minimart in Malaysia which is called 99 Speedmart. People love going to these stores due to the wide distribution, convenient location and fair price.
(4) LINE = an online messaging app similar to whatsapp under NAVER popular in Korea and Japan. It has cute stickers.
(5) KL = Kuala Lumpur, the busiest location in Malaysia
(6) niiii = a noise and expression usually added to the end of english sentence/question into Manglish (mishmashing standard English with local words and slangs). It is to express the dragging of the sentence/question without the needing of a reply. It is a short form of 'ini' which means 'this'.
Hi guys, Mrs Mooncat had rewrite this first chapter today since she felt it needed a little upgrade after observing the reading trends of ASTHW in Scribblehub. Mr Mooncat and I had just returned from a tiring two-week journey and felt quite inspired after a good sleep! Hope it helps to increase the appeal to read our works till the end (wink!)
Will Mrs Mooncat rewrite other initial chapters? Maybe yes, maybe no. No guarantees. But when Mrs Mooncat was able to, she will definitely inform you guys of the update, like today.
Please help rate our novel, vote and review!
03:34 am 11 Apr 2019