Why She Sings

20 Januari 2017 Pojok Cerita   |    Vania Cheryl Antono

I know why the old woman sings... why she sits on the riverside by the weeping willows, always staring at the waters, always voicing out the same melancholic melody over and over again. I don’t know what scares me more-the haunting notes she sings or the dead look in her eyes when she does so.

I just moved to this village not so long ago, my snug little cottage at a visible distance from the river. Every morning, I might not know what the day would bring but if there’s one thing that I can predict, it’ll be that when I look at the window revealing the view of the river, she’ll be there; the old woman with the long grey hair that hangs down to even below her ankles and whose feet were always bare-the old woman who sings.

"She lost her husband and two boys in the war a long time ago. She’s never quite recovered from the trauma; walks around barefoot and singing beside the river all day before disappearing at dusk, only to do the same thing the next day. I say she’s already halfway through losing her mind trying to cope with the grief." Mrs. Clark, the village baker, had said while shaking her head.

That was the first time someone’s talked about the old woman to me. I try not to let her words faze me but the idea’s already sunk into my head and I find myself checking if I’d locked the door of my cottage every time I leave or stay inside.

The thought of a madwoman entering my humble abode did not soothe my nerves at all.

But it didn’t stop there.

Then came the other words-disturbing pieces of gossip, bits of history and facts-from the others-the mailman, the waitresses at the diner, Mr. Evans (who was rumoured to be as old as the old woman!) and even Peter, the village truant.

They said that the length of her grey hair represents the days since she’s buried her 2 sons (her husband’s body was never found).

They tell me that she goes to the river to howl out her pain and anguish because that’s where her children were buried, right at the spot where those weeping willows grew.

They whisper in hushed tones to me that the songs she always sings has words from a dead language that only she remembers, that she sings to the river spirits, wailing and pleading the spirits to bring her husband back to her; to let the river carry her husband’s body back to her.

They also said that her husband’s cause of death was drowning when the war troops were crossing a river, a river that if you actually look at the map, somehow at some point intersects with the river were the old woman sings.

Cursing my curiousity, I burned the map where I made that realization soon after.

It’s been months that I hear the same sound over and over again and no matter how long or how many times I listen to it, the song never fails to shake me to the core-that horrific, grieving melody.

I don’t really remember what happened next. All I can recall is that in a particularly bad weather, the river currents churning dangerously, I look out to the window only to see the old woman standing up instead of sitting down. She sings louder and louder, the sound hypnotic to my ears, and then there was silence...a silence more chilling than the song itself.

She had jumped, letting the currents take her.

Perhaps she was so full of grief that she couldn’t bear to live any longer or perhaps she really did let the river spirits lead her to her husband. I find myself unable to stop thinking of the reasons on why she had jumped. It fills my mind, whispering possibilities to my ears.

Then, one day, a young woman from the village came to take the old woman’s place. She’d sit by the river at dawn and sing the exact same haunting notes that the old woman had once sung.

"It’s terrifying, really, that she’s come to sit by the riverside like the old woman once did. Not to mention the fact that she’d sing the same song. It’s creepy on how she can even sing the words of the dead language when no one’s ever told or taught her of that. It’s a curse I tell you, a curse! What if she jumps as well? I say she’s already halfway through losing her mind." Mrs. Clark now says. The others could only nod in agreement.

As for me, well, I am that young woman the other villagers speak of.

I can already hear the river calling my name.

(Penulis saat ini sekolah di SIS Kebun Jeruk)