3 Friends and The Ghosts
This horror short story is about Mr.Thongkarm when he was 24 years old. He had already moved to the city of his dream, Bangkok, for a decade. Thanks to his illiteracy like barely finishing Pratom 4 (believe me, it was true) , he had to pass the variety of menial jobs with no future in sight, even to make the ends meet sounded quite optimistic. He shared the same rental house with the 2 young men: Narong and Bonmee - the hillbillies who were the elementary school dropouts like him . However, they incredibly looked positive and energetic, ebulliently seeking a better life despite the long endurance of penury. Their ultimate aims were to get wealthy, tie a knot with the beautiful Bangkokians and have the warm families with several ingenious children.
Eventually, Thongkarm found an odd job as the truck driver of a glorious company. He was allowed to take both of his housemates as the truck-mates who would help him load and unload the merchandise in his truck on each trip. It was a trick of company to reduce the opportunities for the trucks to be robbed or stolen. Some mechanical tools were also marked as the potential weapons for them to protect themselves. His friends, though still reeling from the reverie of being the nouveau riche in the capital city of Thailand, were more than pleased to accompany Thongkarm. They were being unemployed and regarded this job as merely the travels during the long holidays. Above all, they would seize the opportunities to visit their beloved hometowns, though they had to be interrogated about the so- called prosperous lives in Bangkok they used to promise before departing.
At last, Thongkarm enjoyed finding himself a vagabond who fulfilled his wanderlust in the guise of a truck driver.
It was 9 pm of the night with the clear sky, but the crescent moon among the scattering slim clouds was so thin that the country road ahead of them was utterly dark. Seldom that they would behold the flickering lights from the faraway houses in the dark. They were currently tasked to convey some merchandise to a province in the Lower North and needed approximately 4 or 5 hours to reach the destination.
In the dark the 3 Musketeers were rambunctiously blathering about the colleagues, the girls and the films, especially the one starred by the young and handsome Elvis Presley - the king of Rock and Roll. He was concurrently the singer who enormously aroused the titillation of the girls around the world by only shaking his goddamn hip. Narong despised Elvis because he was an ardent fan of the musical composers in the classical period like Haydn and Mozart. He proposed that music should not have brazenly exploited the sexual elements like this. Thongkarm agreed and added that it was probably exhibiting the hidden decadence of the American society in the 1950s under a veneer of repression - like the Victorian era of England.
Bonmee chuckled and asked them what aim music should have had. Narong replied that music should bestow serenity upon the edgy human minds. On the higher level it should enhance human being to transcend his lowly instincts to be reunited with his lofty nature or the world of forms, according to Plato, the Greek philosopher. Narong insisted that he had this kind of epiphany from time to time, especially while listening to Mozart's The Piano Sonata No 16 in C major.
Thongkarm Out of the blue hit the brake when a dark shadow was audaciously standing in the middle of the lonely road. Everyone jerked forward and almost got hurt.
"What the heck is that dude doing at the time and the place like this?" mumbled Thongkarm.
"He is longing for death: some kind of suicide which will make our hands blood -soaked and land in jail. Bastard! It is me who will beat the crap out of him,"
Bonmee snarled. He grabbed a hammer and was about to dart out of the truck to confront the stranger who was standing not far from them.
Narong restrained his friend.
"Boonmee, don't be so rash! He might be a decoy of the robbers lurking beside the road to ambush us."
"This sounds reasonable. Let me deal with him first."
He then beeped the horn and flashed the headlights repeatedly, but that tall and sturdy dude was in the same gesture.
Thongkarm began to lose his head.
"What is really this man?"
Bonmee turned to be scared and said in a shaking voice ,
"If he were the decoy, he had to pretend to be injured or something to draw our sympathy , not standing with a bluntness like this. So, he must be a ghost intent on terrorizing us !"
"That is such a mundane explanation. Try to be imaginative, my friend. This jerk might be an extraterrestrial being who is visiting the world to warn us about the danger from the bloody race of nuclear weapons among the superpowers. It possibly assumes that we will relay this message to Dwight D. Eisenhower [the US President] and Nikita Khrushchev [the Premier of USSR]."
"Narong, you should change your career to the science fiction author and become renowned like Isaac Asimov. Or you just steal this plot from the Hollywood film 'The Day The Earth Stood Still', don't you ?"
Narong laughed heartily, but Bonmee looked obviously anxious.
"No more time goofing around! Thongkarm, you should pretend to drive the truck toward him, so he will frightfully jump out of our way."
Thongkarm scratched his head.
"If he didn't move ‘cause he was just the suicidal man, the blood would be on our hands, though at this hour there is not even a single witness."
Bonmee was agitated.
"And what the hell shall we do? We can't simply pass him anyway because the road is bloody narrow. Turn our truck back to find another route? That's insane! We will not arrive at the factory on time, and our wage will be pathetically cut. Our landlady will also no doubt kick our assess out of her house."
3 of them had a bickering for a while. Thongkarm finally caved in to Boonmee's advice, especially when Narong concurred.
Thongkarm leaned out of the window and spoke aloud,
"Hey, brother! Please step aside, otherwise you will be crushed by my almighty truck. Your corpse will be uglily flattened on the road like a poor bullfrog!"
When the mysterious man still didn't budge an inch, the driver decided to move his truck forward and increase its speed. Thongkarm wished that this would scare him away; being a murderer would burden his mind for the rest of his life, though with impunity. But Thongkarm's fear finally came true. However, by the seconds the truck inevitably hit that man, he just vanished into thin air. Thongkarm stepped on the brake; everyone was stupefied and started sweaty.
Boonmee looked around and murmured,
"Unbelievable for an ordinary man to escape with such a swiftness! That is the modus operandi of the ghosts to frighten the people. I really want to know: along the way here, has anybody offended the sacred thing like abusing verbally or peeing on a shrine of the guardian spirit? "
Narong yelled out,
"No, we don't have time for this darn contemplation. Thongkarm, let's get the hell out of here! He might be jumping on the back of our truck right now!"
Thongkarm abruptly followed his friend's dramatic plea. It was funny that the deadly silence fell on the truck -diametrically opposite to the atmosphere before the incident. They seemed distraught and always looked around. At the incredible speed the 6 wheels of their truck grinded to a halt at the gate of factory before the schedule. While some workers there were unloading the merchandise, Thongkarm loitered under a tree , lighting a cigarette with the shaking hands. Boonmee joined him and grabbed another cigarette. Both didn't know what to talk about but hoped the white smoke around them would ease their traumas even a bit.
It was Narong walking there to break their silence.
"I have something to tell ya. It might exacerbate our problem now, but we have to face the truth. It is exactly like Bonmee's wild imagination: I had noticed from the rearview mirror that the bullying ghost jumped and grasped the back of our truck firmly. I was about to warn you, but with this kind of speed and frenzy, our truck would certainly meet the horrific accident , so I kept silent."
His friends panicked and thoroughly checked the truck - nothing.
Narong said flatly,
"Don't worry he might have used our vehicle as a one-way trip toward here for some worthy business. Or he is probably camouflaging himself in this truck before attacking us again."
Thongkarm pounded on his friend's back.
" Smart-ass, shut the fuck up! I hope the room for us in this factory has the image of Lord Buddha or some talismans toward him off."
The factory's manager ran toward them and handed in them the wage. The middle-aged man then said quite hurriedly,
"Thanks to you all, my fellows. It is almost 2 am now. And we feel so guilty that we don't have the accommodation for you, because all the rooms are closed for renovation. There is not a motel around here either. I suppose all of you are accustomed to sleeping in your own truck. Our factory is going to be closed within a few minutes, adieu!"
The factory had been closing in a manner that reminded the 3 friends of the pandemonium in Bangkok before the bombardment from the planes of the Allied air forces during World War 2. Thongkarm suspected that those workers, including the manager, were aware to a certain extent about the paranormal activities around here or perhaps the uninvited passenger in their truck. Now they felt being mercilessly abandoned with the unembodied creature they were not sure whether was posing a grave threat to them or just pushing them around for a savage amusement.
While Thongkarm and Narong were standing anxiously in front of the factory's gate and their truck, Boonmee walked smilingly to join them.
"Just now I asked a young worker about the direction to the nearest temple from here: simply drive straight for a while and turn left. This time, though the temple has already been closed, I still hope such a sacred place can at last be our refuge, even merely an area outside its fence. Believe me that might and grandeur of the Lord Buddha cannot be confined by just a rough material."
"Boonmee, haven't you ever heard the stories about horrors in the temples? Temples are the places that ghosts can wantonly hang around; even the monks can be their victims too. The hilarious scene is that they are running away from the ghosts, intruding into their dwellings, with such a hysteria that their robes are almost all blown away by the wind. "
Thongkarm became livid.
"How about driving to the La Scala theater in Milan, Italy, instead and letting the trilling voice of your favorite Soprano like Maria Callas in 'Tosca' exorcise that dude from our truck? Stop acting like Mr. know-it-all, Pal!"
Narong chuckled. Their friends were quite perplexed whether he was really scared or not. He was however presumed to be struggling between superstition and skepticism in his naughty mind. But most of all, they were irritated by his untimely friskiness.
"Perhaps that menacing ghost is already going somewhere else, since we aren't that charming. Or it is my hallucination from a lack of sleep to have seen him using our truck as his luxury horse-drawn carriage. But I think Thongkarm should take a rest now. Your drowsiness behind the steering wheel is much more dangerous than the ghost itself. We should find some appropriate place to close the eyes before the break of dawn and return to Bangkok."
Their little conference went on and finally reached the consensus: taking a nap near the closed gate of that temple and waiting for the monks to perform the morning chant at 5 am. Asking for blessing and holy water from a venerable monk was also the best idea of boosting their morale. Nonetheless, they en route heard some strange noise in the empty back of the truck. The snobbish Narong was coerced into checking it, but he steadfastly resisted. He claimed it was merely a desperate large bird stranded over there, and they could wait for the first sunlight before releasing it. His friends looked at each other and sneered.
Thanks to the tremendous fears, they found the adverb 'for a while' on the way to that temple looked like an eternity. Narong attempted to distract his friends with a sensational topic: the repercussions for the world after the Soviet government had sent the troops to ruthlessly crush the uprising in Hungary 2 years ago. But talking about the carnages and the deaths of the Hungarian revolutionaries, their minds turned to that ghost again, especially when the noise resurfaced from time to time. So, Boonmee changed topic to be about the dirty jokes instead.
Thongkarm became reckless for no reason; he used his elbow to bang the little wooden wall behind him and yelled,
"Hey, would you please have an etiquette, my holy spirit? This is how you have shown gratitude for your hitchhike?"
Boonmee looked horrified and slapped his arm.
"Thongkarm, don’t offend him with sarcasm ! Our situation could be much worse."
The truck finally stopped near the wooden bar gate of the temple which looked awfully dark and forlorn. They hoped that the sound of engine would make the dogs in the temple bark, but they were disappointed. Thongkarm decided to switch off the engine, and everything around them was in the eerie silence - the notable absence of the music of crickets or other insects that normally adorned the night. The truck's headlights were switched off almost in tandem and made everyone feel that place was even creepier than cemetery.
Thongkarm said that the idea of beeping the horn was tempting, but he had noticed from the headlights a moment ago that a large forest was behind the gate; the dwellings of the monks might be very far from the gate.
He then asked,
"Or should one of us climb over the gate to wake up the monks or the temple boys? If we manage to convince them that we are not the thieves, but the refugees from the psychological war with the ghost, they might not hold a grudge against us much."
Narong looked around and shook his head.
"I don't think it is an intriguing idea , my friend. Inside of the temple looks much scarier than our place. I have some doubt that we will encounter the things sinister beyond our imagination there. We should only stay here and wait to see whether here is the real temple or not. Look ! There is not even a name plate above the gate. Boonmee's guide might have pulled a prank on us.
The same noise in the truck turned up to startle them again, but this time it was so drawn-out along with a grunt and a squeal like an animals. Everyone realized that it wasn't certainly the spunky cute bird. They thus darted out of the truck. Thongkarm still had time to grab a large mat and a flashlight kept under their seat, so they could make the makeshift refugee camp in front of the gate.
When the torturing minutes went by, the attacks from a swarm of the voracious mosquitoes made everyone lose their patience.
Boonmee said in annoyance,
"We'd rather go back to the truck. Being bullied by that ghost is even less insufferable than this! I will go to check the back of our truck myself and beg him to get lost."
Suddenly they heard a voice.
"Who are you, the strangers? What are you doing at this late hour?"
Thongkarm turned the flashlight to the gate. They saw a bald old man in a monk -like dress standing behind the gate. He looked friendly, perfectly fitting his voice which sounded incredibly smooth and filled with kindness.
The 3 musketeers rose to their feet and Wai [paid respect in Thai style] to him.
"Father, we are the truck guys who had some business around here. And now we are being intimidated by the mean ghost. We need your help so badly."
The old man stared at them shortly before opening the gate by just unlatching it and stepped out to them.
"Of course, the strangers. It is one of the noble tasks for a monk to help the persons who are fleeing from danger, isn't it?"
"Thank you so much, Father. Aren't you afraid that we are indeed the marauders or some sort?"
The monk chuckled.
"How can you expect the priceless treasure from this ramshackle temple in the sprawling forest? Even if you slice my body into a hundred pieces, you will get nothing. Besides, I have the superb insight to fathom people from their outward looks, I therefore know that your friend spoke the truth. "
Narong was curious.
"Really? Father, pardon me if I ask you: how come you still don't sleep in the dead of night and have been here without torch or flashlight ? You are assuredly exposed to the poisonous animals or even the ghouls."
"I am having the meditation by walking. Meditation is the best method for a rest - even better than a wasteful slumber. The invincible power of the Lord Buddha has as well protected me from all perils, even though I am the only resident of this temple, and the last time the locals set foot on this temple is a year ago. Now tell me more about your adventure, young men."
After Thongkarm had told him all, the old man stood near the truck and closed his eyes for minutes. He turned to everyone and said meekly,
"There is one restless, ferocious spirit in the rear of your truck right now. He is disgruntled about your disrespect for him. But don't be too alarmed since he doesn't have a proclivity of homicide. He just wants to avenge himself by keeping spooking you."
Boonmee noticeably exhibited his angst and rushed toward the monk.
"But how are we certain that he will never cause the bodily harm to us? Please help 3 of these wretched people, Father! "
Narong grabbed his friend's shoulder.
"That's enough, Boonmee. We shouldn't bother Father any longer. When this is not too serious, I think we have to bite the bullet a little and went on our way, letting the sunlight in the morning suppress him."
The monk interrupted,
"I'm afraid that your crisis won't be solved easily like that, because he will be back to torment you again by the nightfall wherever you go."
Thongkarm kowtowed to the enigmatic monk.
"Father, what should we do now? Would you please enlighten him by preaching and telling him to leave or at least have mercy on us? We are ready to ask him to accept our heartfelt apology, especially me who used to offend him."
Father looked earnest.
"You must go to my chapel and join me for the ritual to formally appease him, so he will leave you in a lasting peace. Moreover, you must be blessed by the holy water and the incantations for your own spiritual strength."
The 3 scaredy-cats had a brief discussion and eventually complied with the monk's advice. They asked him to accompany them in the truck to go to the temple's chapel which, according to him, was a bit far from the gate, but the old man refused.
"You three go ahead. I will follow you by walking, as I don't want to depend on the modern technology. Don't worry, I can walk very fast in spite of this age, plus I can see everything so clearly without a light , this is my another gift."
Their truck slowly ran along the dark narrow road. The stars were unduly enshrouded by the thick clouds that had gradually assembled. Their truck stirred a wind to shake the trees and the bushes along their way, but they still felt that the air around them was extraordinarily still and sweltering. And even though the morning was coming within 2 hours, their fears were not allayed at all.
"He is such a kind-hearted monk and also very brave to ramble through the place like this all alone."
"Yeah, he is probably acclimated to this kind of life for a long time. The utmost strength of his mind helps him to cope with loneliness and trepidation like a hermit. By the way, it is fortune smiling upon us to meet him. Next time I will gladly return to make a merit at this temple."
Narong chimed in,
"Hey, isn't it a bit odd that he is too generous? I don't believe a normal guy would live by himself in such a dreadful forest, let alone a nocturn stroll. Although he claims it is the method to attain the Nirvana, it appears more like he is tactically waiting for our arrival. Wait, I am quite familiar with his face!"
"What now? I assume you are sleepy and drowsy yourself. That's making you senselessly paranoid. Remember that you are the none-believer, so you fail to grasp the essences of Buddhism: compassion and peacefulness of mind. Next time, stay with him and find the path to your salvation."
Narong suddenly roared,
"Yes, he looks exactly like that ghost -just in the different dress !"
Boonmee raised his voice.
"Nope, this time I won't let myself suffer again, although I acknowledge that you have a keen sense of face recognition. I will assume that you are so groggy that this sense of yours is now greatly diminished. Narong, go and have a blissful nap in the sacred chapel. I remember one good news: we can wake up very late, because our boss doesn't have the urgent task for us today."
Thongkarm knew that Boonmee attempted to console himself, because deep down inside they knew that Narong was unfailingly punctilious.
But to lighten everyone's mood, Thongkarm said,
"Please believe him, Narong. You are too tired: your eyes are bloodshot, and your voice is palpably quivering. By the way, I think it is unfair that you denounce that old man as your specter, because he is prudent and has the profound wisdom. Life of such the prestigious monk like him will be kindly protected by the Lord Buddha, so he will never become a ghost."
"According to eyewitnesses, ghosts can appear exactly like humans in any incredible forms. But that's just the unfounded folklore. Let's see whether my own perception is deluding me. At most we will bravely square off that old ghoul to death like the Hungarian revolutionaries did. But if we are slaughtered and become the ghosts ourselves, we will enjoy kicking his ass every day."
Everyone roared with laughter.
The chapel in front of them looked creepily forsaken. No sooner had the truck's headlights been switched off than they found being enfolded by the dark around that place - like its gate. Without even the flickering light inside, the chapel resembled a macabre morgue more than a religious hall.
"I hardly believe that he should at least have lit a little candle before a morning chant."
Boonmee looked at him.
"Don't you remember Father claimed that he can see everything in the dark? And the first ray of sunlight is approaching us soon."
He then turned to Narong.
"So, you are about to say that he comes from another planet and has the extrasensory perceptions, right? Thus, this is a base of his flying saucer? "
Narong didn't smile this time.
"We should investigate that chapel quickly: whether it is the authentic one. Gee! Where is the monk's dwelling? Don't say that he also uses this as his lodging place. "
He as well suggested the use of the truck's headlights, but Thongkarm refused as he was afraid that it might squander power of the truck's battery. So, Thongkarm used the flashlight as their trustworthy guide to that chapel. His friends took a hammer and a wrench and acted like they were the deadliest weapons in the world. Everything in the temple was in an abominable silence. Narong daringly quipped that if there had been a single howl from the temple's dog, he would have felt much relieved, but no one laughed.
That decrepit chapel was all made from wood and above it was the thatched roof in the same condition. It also looked peculiar by barely having the walls. Boonmee said the old monk probably had lived the too austere life, without the lavish donations from the rich laymen. They later found the chapel's wooden floor was loathsome. It was covered with a pile of ragged clothes and some liquid that looked like slime. The unbearable stenches across the place forced them to cover their noses. Everyone began to quiver with profuse sweat. It was an embarrassment that their belief in the virtue of that old monk began to vanish.
By the time Thongkarm turned his flashlight to a large figure sitting against the only wall, they could see an elegant Lord Buddha's image, but its mouth and some parts of its body were covered with the fresh blood like it was a blood-sucking vampire. One of them screamed. Thongkarm stepped back with fear but stumbled upon something in the dark corner. He found several human corpses lying on the floor. They were severed like being mauled by a fierce and powerful animal or monster, but their blood was nowhere to be seen. So, this meant that being had already sucked them all with an enormous appetite.
The truck guys rushed back to their vehicle in a frenzy, wailing like the lunatic. Narong was the first to keep his composure, telling Thongkarm to flee without delay. Thongkarm twisted the key to start the truck, but the engine became unexpectedly paralyzed. He attempted to do it over and over again, still, nothing changed.
Thongkarm mumbled and was about to check the engine in front of the truck, but Narong abruptly warned,
"Don't get out! Now our vehicle is being under the assault of that ghoul's spell. You will fall prey to him in no time, so just wait and see."
They had simply confined themselves in the truck for minutes. They didn't know what to do but were tormented by the extreme dread. Boonmee found from his watch that it was already 6 a.m., but the sky was still dark like it was only midnight. They realized that they were being trapped in the ghostly dimension.
There was suddenly a long, unsettling snarl outside their truck. It was that old monk, standing not far from the truck. The benevolence and savant-like smile were completely transformed into his grimace and baleful red eyes which were spectacularly sinister. Both long fangs protruded proudly out of his lips, with the likely ability to penetrate anything in the world. The 3 friends noticed that his attire wasn't the monk's robe at all; it was just a cloak stained with blood. He terrified them more by twisting his neck and body all the time.
The ghoul glared at them and snarled continuously; everyone on the truck could miraculously interpret his beastly language :
"You should admire me for my ability to precisely imitate the character of that darn old monk. Although he was so sagacious, his entrails, especially liver and spleen, tasted terrible. His followers' blood was much better, but still bland. This time I hope your organs won't disappoint me, as I've wasted my time playing the game of deception with you. By the way, I had been deeply impressed with your intellectual talks on the truck, so your brains must be all delectable."
The ghoul then plodded toward them, but this still looked intimidating. The 3 Musketeers dashed out of the truck. Narong threw the wrench at him, but it bounced off like having hit the wall. So, they started to run like hell along the road. There was briskly a swarm of bloody hands arising from the road and the trees beside them, scrambling to tear their bodies apart. Boonmee used the hammer to smash most of them, while his friends hysterically kicked and punched the remaining. Nonetheless, they managed to escape, though they had to suffer some scratches and bruises.
Boonmee suddenly stopped on the way and told his friends:
"You two go ahead! I will be standing right here to fight that dude. At least I can buy some time to let you off the hook. If we just run away, he can finish off all of us."
Narong shook his head.
"No, just you and your lousy hammer? Why do you suddenly become so brave? His damn fangs will rip your head off in an eyeblink!"
Boomee still had a nerve to smile.
"Mr. Narong, I am long aware that you have always scorned me since we know each other. Although I am not as smart as you, I have some secret which you have never known in your entire life."
He grabbed something out of his tote bag; the amulets and the necklace of sacred beads emitted their haloes in the dark.
"Don't know before that you are the closeted sorcerer! Let us stand by you and give you the helping hands here."
Boonmee still insisted,
"No! Just run, my friends! If I can get rid of or at least temporarily subdue him, I will come looking for you afterwards."
Narong and Thongkarm consulted each other before begrudgingly following his friend's order. They struggled to run; Narong tumbled on the ground and was immediately sustained by Thongkarm who looked as pathetic as him. In the dark they felt that the road ahead was so long and treacherous, contrary to the feeling they used to have on the truck.
Just barely a quarter-hour passed by, they heard Boonmee's squeals in an excruciating pain. They looked at each other again.
Narong said in a trembling voice:
"Will we go back to help him?"
Thongkarm shook his head.
"Doing that is extremely inutile. We, not with a single version of incantation, will become that ghoul's immediate victims for sure. May Boonmee's spirit rest in peace! Can't believe we have just lost our dearest friend tonight. "
They went on running for 10 minutes but with much slower paces. It was presumed that ghoul was still teasing them as he should have snatched their heads already.
Thongkarm almost shouted in dismay,
"Look! We still can't find the gate, so it means that ghoul is using its spells to incarcerate us here endlessly. Darn it! He has tricked us like we are the fools."
The 2 friends found that their steps were wobbly, and their vision was also horridly blurred because of exhaustion and fright. At last, they unwittingly got lost in the forest. After they had sat down for a while, Thongkarm trudged through the large bushes behind them and found a concrete white mound that appeared like a little pagoda. It was almost cocooned by vines and branches of trees. There was a hole above its base, so they decided to help each other climb into it. Fortunately, there was enough space for them to hide, though it was quite slippery because of the thick layers of moss. They quietly tried to adjust their bodies, stretching their legs in a position that was as snuggly as they could. The air inside was stuffy, suffocating them a bit, but they still could tolerate it.
Thongkarm asked in a whisper,
"Do you think that damn ghoul will be able to find us?"
Narong yawned and said,
"I don't know. Let's be comforted by the assumption that this is perhaps the blind spot for that ghoul. He recently took Father and his followers as his supper, so this means he probably doesn't know about this temple much. Or this pagoda might be sacred enough to shield us from his omniscience."
"My own ears must dupe me after the hours pass by; you are normally the non-believer."
Narong looked dead tired and was about to shut off his engine. His voice sounded gradually weaker.
"There are plenty of things, I have never believed all my life, emerging incessantly this night, for example, we just learnt that Boonmee had some magic prowess to fight against that rapacious vampire. Maybe I have been wrong about everything all along, night-night!"
Thongkarm promptly nudged his friend's arm.
"Wait, don't sleep yet ! What if that ghoul can find us here?"
Narong mumbled while his eyes were still closed,
" I'd rather die from his fucking fangs than the fatigue from not sleeping. You can be vigilant and warn me about his attack."
Thongkarm disapproved of Narong's gift to do this during such a precariousness of life, but he decided to follow suit. He had fervently begged the pagoda to protect their peaceful sleeps before passing out like a machine was turned off.
Narong couldn't distinguish between the dream and the reality, because it was so vivid: he and Sunaree , his ex-girlfriend , were lying together on cozy bed .The record player beside a window was playing the sweet-sounding 'I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling' of Ella Fitzgerald. Their room was in broad daylight, but he didn't know what exactly the time was.
Sunaree fondled his hair playfully and asked,
"Sweetie-pie, what are you reading? You look so heedful."
He glanced up from the book and showed its cover.
"It is the novel 'L'Etranger' of Albert Camus. The author is the French philosopher who just received the Nobel Prize in Literature last year. I guess you used to read it before."
"Of course , mon cheri. It begins with ' Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas'(Today , my mom is dead , or perhaps yesterday, I don't know)," said she while still beaming.
Narong chuckled and caressed her white arm.
"Bon! That’s why I become enamored of you more and more, my darling. You seem to know too well about everything I immersed myself in."
She giggled and embraced him. He could smell her strong perfume which aroused his passion enormously. She said,
"I think perhaps we are the true soulmates, a couple that was created for living together forever. By the way, do you think its protagonist, Meursault, symbolizes something? He looks so depraved when he shoots that Arab man."
"He was the man whose does everything that is not based on rationality. The murder is a symbol of absurdity of life. Don't mess it with morality or law, that will regrettably miss the point of the author."
She rewarded him with the long and passionate kiss, and said meekly,
"You seem to know everything about literature and life. What about a life after death? Do you think ghosts really exist?"
Narong was stupefied.
"Why do you ask me like that? Aren't we supposed to philosophize about life and politics? We'd rather talk about the possibility of the Marxist parties and guerrillas to throw off the yokes of our fellow proletariats around the world in the future without the vicious Moscow which has acted like the imperialist."
Sunaree's face was all of a sudden transformed into that ghoul, whose fangs never failed to terrorize him. Fitzgerald's song stopped and turned to be the sound that resembled the beast's roar. He pointed at the young man with the long sharp nail like sword and said in the gruffest voice,
"It is no use talking gibberish like that, numbnuts , because I am the ghost; I exist and will dig in your freaking brains with my nails right now, ha ha."
Narong woke up with sweat on his forehead and gasped. He saw that outside of the pagoda was so bright like the atmosphere around the room in his dream. He also saw Thongkarm absent-mindedly staring at the same direction as his.
Thongkarm turned to him.
"You must have had a pleasant dream; you smiled while closing your eyes."
"Of course. I haven't dreamt about Sunaree for a long time. Boy, I long for her kiss so much. How long have we, or I, been asleep?"
Thongkarm showed his watch.
"I don't know. My watch had stopped probably for hours. But when I woke up, it is already like we see. Now we are torn between 2 assumptions: first, that ghoul surrenders to our will of survival and goes back to the place he belongs. And second, this is a deadfall he sets up for us to go out of this pagoda. His mind can change the atmosphere around us wantonly."
"Regarding his determination to devour us, second is certainly the most reasonable. But we can't hole up in here forever - even a single day. Regardless of how sacred this pagoda was, we need food, water and more space."
Thongkarm moved his legs to alleviate his cramp.
"I agree with you. But do we have to get out and become his tasty meals? It is so creepy that our brains would be fried on his sizzling pan. Aw, I can't image their smell; perhaps your brain is more delicious than mine."
Narong laughed but stopped when hearing his stomach growling.
"Luckily, we have a plan - the only plan that can save our asses. Listen, in my dream I read the book 'L'Etranger’, the novel I used to tell you ages ago. Do you remember? It is about the absurdity of life. We, humans, just attempt to make the senses out of our lives thanks to our despair. I thus develop the theory: we just create the ghosts to make our lives on earth worthwhile, because the ghosts symbolize the macabre side that we don't desire."
Thongkarm looked stunned by Narong's unorthodox theory but let his friend go on.
"So, we should stop believing that ghoul exists. It becomes more manipulative and ferocious as it is insuppressibly feeding on our fears of death. Thongkarm, remember your experience when you were young? You told me that you could do away with even the Lord of Darkness near the river only with your mind."
Thongkarm shook his head.
Of course. I am so sorry that I forgot about it. At that time, I felt at one with the mother nature -the only serendipity I had until now. But when I grow up, my mind is clouded by lust and greediness. And what about Boonmee? Can you postulate his sudden death? He's gone because of our imagination?"
"Perhaps. Deep in our hearts, we hate him but still create his existence out of our pure fantasy of hostility. Eventually we have successfully erased him though he indeed had not been with us all along.
Thongkarm scratched his head.
"Your theory is so weird. I don’t hate him because he has never pissed me off. But I can't find other ways to get us out of this maelstrom."
"So, try hard to retrieve your memory and use it. We must get out of here while constantly warning ourselves that all the dastardly things happening to us here are only imaginary. We might fail at last but at least we are trying."
The 2 friends went out of the pagoda's hole with hardship. Both thought it was too awkward for them to walk hand in hand, so Narong just let Thongkarm grab his arm. Self-hypnosis was earnestly practiced by both, though there was a little trace of skepticism on Thongkarm's mind
However, they saw Boonmee standing before them.
Thongkarm was staggered.
"How come you are able to be here? Boonmee. We heard your squeals and presumed that you had already been butchered by that ghoul!"
Boomee smirked though he looked clearly haggard. They noticed that his dress was quite messy and drenched with blood. The bloody hammer was also on his hand. He said cheerfully,
"You merely heard my voice when I was attacked by that darn ghoul for the first time. But I still survived and finally gained a firm foothold. We had engaged in the brutal battle for hours before I could finish him off. Don't you notice that the night now miraculously turns to be the day because his power no longer exists? I searched for you but had no inkling of where both of you were hiding. But when I found the pagoda just now, you were climbing out of that hole."
Narong said in a frenzy,
"No! I don't believe you. You are that ghoul in the guise of Boonmee, waiting to snap our necks when we are unguarded. Thongkarm, let’s imagine straight away that he doesn't exist!"
Thongkarm looked reluctant. He swiftly darted toward Boonmee and touched many parts of his friend's body.
"Narong, can’t you see that I touch him? He has the soft skin and the warm body. Besides, if Boonmee had been that ghoul in disguise, he would have attacked me already. Or you can interrogate him as much as you want."
Narong looked incredulous.
"No, no, no, that is his insurmountable power to completely get a hold of our minds. I won't ask him about the personal information because that ghoul had ability to absorb every inch of minds of his victims, including all memories. Thongkarm, get away from him now!"
The 3 musketeers stood in stalemate for minutes. Thongkarm exclaimed,
"Yippie! I have a brilliant idea. Narong, isn't that pagoda sacred? We can test Boonmee by getting him to climb into it. If he is that damned ghoul, he will writhe and melt with utmost pain in no time."
Narong had mused for a while and nodded. Boonmee dropped the hammer before climbing into the pagoda. He had sat there for more than 10 minutes, still, nothing happens. The sorcerer then climbed out of the pagoda triumphantly.
He yelled out,
"See! I am the real Boonmee - your friend who conquers the ghoul. Let's get..."
The young man barely finished the sentence when he felt the utter pain in his head which was quickly attacked by the thick metal object. Boonmee fell on the ground covered by the pool of his own blood. It was Narong who wielded the hammer to hit his forehead only twice, but it was fatal. Then Narong looked horrified and dropped the hammer stained by the little pieces of Boonmee's brain. He dissolved into tears and hugged his friend's lifeless body before insanely wailing,
"Boonmee, I am so sorry! Just now I saw the red radiant from your eyes and supposed you were that ghoul. I am sorry!"
Thongkarm stood still in horror. He got furious with Narong but then relented when noticing that he was genuinely inconsolable. Thongkarm eventually rushed to grip his shoulder.
"Don't be too consumed by the self-guilt; I know you are overcautious, and you did this to save us. Now this time Boomee is really dead. I hope his spirit will truly rest in other-worldly peace and forgive you. By the way, I believe that we will find the good reasons to convince the police that we are innocent."
Narong stopped crying but then shouted,
"Bastard, I almost believe you! Do you think the police will buy into our account -the supernatural adventure like this? C’mon, I'm afraid that you too will be suspected of being my accomplice."
Thongkarm turned to be so flustered that he bit his nails and walked around. Narong said adroitly like he had already planned it:
"Or we just hide his body around here and leave. There is not a single witness about our arrival at this temple. We just tell our boss and other friends that we have an emotional dispute with him, and he goes his separate way. Boomee is also a loner: he doesn't have friends or family, apart from us. So, nobody will be looking for him in the future."
Thongkarm nodded with the silly smile. They thus hurriedly helped each other pick Boonmee's body up and put it in the pagoda. After pushing it as deeply as they could along the hole, they felt that his body fell through another one inside. Thongkarm said a prayer to the spirit in the pagoda to protect his friend's corpse forever. When they walked toward their truck in front of the chapel, they found the carcass of that ghoul on the ground. It was a gut-wrenching sight, like some ugly animal being torn into pieces. Both its fangs were broken.
But the atmosphere around them was incredibly idyllic: the sunlight was increasingly strong as it was almost noon now. The birds on the tall trees were merrily chirping as always. The tranquil forest looked mellow and beautiful with the colorful flowers across it.
While leaving the temple, Thongkarm happened to reminisce about Narong's dream of Sunaree. Several years ago, it was scandalous among the residents in the rental houses that Narong's girlfriend had the fling with Boonmee. However, their infidelity was exposed because Sunaree was pregnant, and Narong didn't believe he was the father of that baby. Sunaree solved the problem by fleeing and hadn't been seen ever since. Narong and Boonmee didn't have an argument at all, but they were extremely estranged for a year. They did not utter even a word to each other, although they still lived at the same house because of their financial constraint. It was only months ago that the 2 guys decided to bury the hatchet. The word 'hate' from Narong while they were in the pagoda then arose on Thongkarm's mind. He began to secretly observe Narong on the way back to Bangkok.
Thongkarm was then a bit startled to sometimes see the faint smiles on his friend's face. Suddenly the song 'I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling' - Narong's favorite- mysteriously came from somewhere, and Narong sneakily sang along with it.