I had a feeling that there was something wrong with the intermediate double-storey terrace house which the agent showed us a week after we — my family and I — arrived in KL from Singapore back in November 2007.
For one thing, even in the guise of the fresh paint, the house had all the tell-tale signs of a prolonged disuse, like an abandoned old barn in the woods.
I reckoned it might have been more than a year — could have been more than a decade for all I know — since the last occupants walked out of the rusty gate, the paint of which was flecking in the sun like dead skin.
Yet, for another, I could feel that something had remained there, taking refuge in the darkened corners of the house; and I could feel the thing was not alone. The fresh coat of paint didn’t look inviting; but I could feel the house — the things in the house, whatever they were — I could feel them waving at us, urging us to go in and have a look because we might like it in there…
Come in, come in, we won’t hurt you, I could almost hear them whispering by the window. Come in, for we haven’t had blood in more than a year — might have been more than a decade for all we know — and to tell you the truth, quite honestly our dear Jackson man, we have almost forgotten the taste of it. Come in!
You see, I had a strong feeling that the house was haunted.
The agent, he was a real-estate negotiator, his business card said — big deal, his business card did not say — the agent did not mention anything about the house, except that the owner wanted it rented out for RM600 a month.
“Two plus one, half-month utilities, 15 per cent stamp duty,” the real-estate negotiator said, spewing out the terms of the rent in quick succession, in a manner only a real-estate negotiator truly at ease with his own attractiveness and awesomeness can manage.
He repeated the terms moments later when he noticed the puzzled expression on my face, this time very slowly, complete with addendum and further explanation as per necessary as though I was a slow learner.
It was the school that sealed the deal. If not for the school, which was within walking distance from the house, we wouldn’t have ended up renting it, not when among the first few items we found in the house was a worn-out long-sleeved Polo shirt lying on the floor with spots that looked like blood stains. Was someone murdered here?
I could only imagine what might have happened in the house in the past. This house had stories to tell but no one was telling, not even the landlord or the real estate-negotiator or the neighbours. Yet I could sense a presence even in the broad daylight.
By that time, we had already been putting up at a hotel for over a week and we desperately needed a home. My meagre fund was dwindling fast, and besides, I would have to report for work soon.
So on November 30, we sealed the deal and the day after, we came to clean the house. On December 1, we moved in and on the same day, we bought our first few possessions — two mattresses, a closet, a fridge, a washing machine, two cooking gas tanks and a cheap stove.
During the first few days of our stay there, we slept in the living room, while the things — the family of ghosts — seeing that we had claimed a place there, decided to move upstairs.
We lived in peaceful co-existence during the period. We kind of more or less agreed to stay within our defined territories — us in the living room, them upstairs. You don’t encroach into our territory, we don’t encroach into yours, just remember that, Jackson man!
But I don’t make deals with ghosts; so on the second week, we claimed the upstairs as well.
By that time we had bought almost all of the basic items we needed to function and make the house our home. The ghosts would have to go. The house was ours now.
Even months after moving in, I could still feel their presence though not as strong as before.
Sometimes when I was alone in the living room, especially late at night reading blogs and browsing the Internet, I could feel the homeless ghosts coming near — and coming real close that I could feel their cold presence brushing against my neck. I could feel them looking over my shoulder, perhaps wanting to see what on earth was I doing tapping on this strange-looking book of spell.
“This thing is called a laptop computer, you silly ghost, not some book of spell… and I am browsing the Internet if you know what I mean. I bet you don’t have this thing in your world, huh?”
I said that once, under my breath, and meant it to be a joke. But if my little joke was funny, I had no way of telling if the ghosts were laughing.