Really, I did. I saw toyols. My second cousin Tahir was with me and he saw them too.
I must be eight at that time. So was Tahir. Me, emak, Tahir and mak mah were visiting Mak Long in Sungai Biur. Sungai Biur was a Kampung in Batu Pahat. It was my favourite kampung for one reason, it was a riverine kampung. It was accessible only by dugouts. We had to take a bus to Parit Raja and from then on ride on the dugout canoe with the outboard motor.
Imagine a little piece of Taman Negara in Batu Pahat.
For those who are thinking of retracing my exploit and travel to this exotic part of Batu Pahat, they will be dissapointed. With the construction of the dam and water treatment plant in the early seventies, the river and its rich biological habitat and habitants dissappeared. This could be the only written record of Sungai Biur.
Pak Long’s house was by the river. He had a small kolek or dug out. That would be under my custody every time I visited him during the holidays. I never fancied swimming but I certainly loved exploring the river in the dugout, alone. Pak Long would be setting up the rawai, a long line with multiple hooks. I was contented with the hook and line. The harvests would be baung, putih, kelah, seluang. The river was wide, and the water was clear but peaty.
That particular afternoon Mak Long took us to a neighbour’s house. By the kampung’s standard the house was relatively big. There was the amben, the platform that connect the two tiered stairs. While the ladies were chit chatting tahir and I were hanging around at the amben watching the riverine activities unfolding.
The house was weired. At one end of the main house there was a non see through mosquito net which even in the late afternoon, during the time of our visit, was still drawn. It was not stowed away as commonly done.
There was something else too. Hanging on the panel or dinding of the house on a piece of nail was a gold chain, things that people would stow away for custody.
Unexpectedly something appeared from the safety of the mosquito net. Two bald headed kids, naked and giggling, ran out, past us and off they went having a whale of a time swimming and jumping into the river.
They were playful and after some time walked past us again and disappeared into the net.
We told the ladies of what we saw. Did you see? We asked them. They did not.
Mak long was not surprised. The neighbour had been known to keep toyols.
Budak kecik belum baligh yang masih bersih memang bolih nampak, commented Mak Long. I was angellic, have not reached puberty, and therefore could see the other beings, literally translated.
Did you see the necklace? The toyols protected the house of the owner, clarified mak long.
That was the first and last time I could see toyols or ghost for that matter. I am glad I have lost my angellic disposition.
Looking back, and remembering the kampung, I realized how we have lost a piece of paradise, how easy and how immediate it was.