A Really Short Story by HANG KASTURI

It was the final night of the Hungry Ghost month. The air was dull grey and smelt of joss. The waning moon smiled against the black sky peeking between two grey ominous-looking clouds. A dog barked in the distance.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a time when restless ghosts rise, when makeshift roadside altars glow with burning joss paper and when the living do everything they can to appease the wandering spirits. This year in Malaysia, it coincides with the Sabah State Election. – Photo credit: chineseamericanfamily.com

A small hut stood lonely in the open field. It was lit bright from the inside.
In the hut, a woman sat behind a desk. In front of her, a stack of ballots. A man stood quietly behind her standing directly alongside another table.

On the table, a ballot box.
It looked as if they were waiting for something or someone.The woman sighed.
“I really think it is a waste of time,” she said.The man behind her kept quiet.
“No one will come here,” she added.
“We are supposed to keep the ballot box opened until it is time to seal it,” the man replied. “It is the law.”
The woman sighed again.
“Don’t worry, there’s always someone,” he reassured her.

He was right. In the distance, the sound of a kapchai was heard heading towards them. The woman turned her head around and smiled to the man.
“I think someone is here,” she commented.
The man nodded.“We shall see soon enough,” he said.

Within a couple of minutes, the kapchai appeared. A young man of about 20 years old was the rider. He looked like a food panda deliverer with the recognisable food box riding pillion. He took off his helmet and rushed over to the woman.
“Excuse me, is the ballot still opened? I’m sorry I’m late. I got lost and was rushing to send a food delivery just now…in fact, I nearly had an accident just now…luckily I swerved and avoided the lorry…so I hope I am not too late to vote?” the young man asked in between gasps.

Voters List

“Yes…it is,” she replied. “Can you please check if your name is on the voters list here?”
The young man stepped up to the table and checked the list.
The man stepped forward to see what’s holding the young man.
“Is this the correct voting center?” the young man stood back up and looked around him. There was only silence. Even the sound of crickets were not to be heard.
“This place looks dead,” the young man observed. The man and woman exchanged glances.
“Wait let me check my phone,” the woman replied as she took out her phone from her pocket.

The young man felt edgy and nervous.
“I think you should update the list,” the man informed the woman.
She nodded.“What’s your name again?” she asked the young man.
“Lim Seong Wan,” he answered.
“Ahhh yes…your name just appeared on the list,” she replied smiling at him.
She showed him his name on her phone.
He bent forward to read the name. “Yes, that’s me.”
“Good…you know, our system is very old and new data gets updated very slowly,” she said.
“I thought the lists were updated weeks ago?” the young man asked.
“Nooo….over here, the system is updated in real time,” she said.
“Yes…in real time,” the man added. He smiled at the young man. “You can sign in and we will give you the ballot.”

The young man hesitated. Looked at his watch. It was 7.36pm.
“It’s already night time,” he murmured to himself.
“Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to choose,” the woman reassured him and handed the ballot slip to Lim.

Lim took the piece of paper and walked over to the ballot box table.
He looked at the ballot and saw two symbols.
One is the symbol of fire and the other the symbol of clouds. He scratched his head.
“What are these symbols? How do I know which one to vote for?” he asked the man.
“You don’t know?” the man asked Lim.
“I know who I want to vote for but he is not on the ballot,” Lim asked in an exasperated tone.
“Of course he is,” the man said. “There’s only two choices…but you should already know which one to choose.”
“I wanted to vote for DAP,” Lim answered.
“Ahhhh…then you cross this one,” the man pointed to the fire symbol.
“Really?” Lim asked suspiciously.
“Yes….yes…” the man smiled. “All DAP supporters choose that symbol.”
“Hmmmm…you know what, somehow I believe you and yes…I believe I will cross the Fire symbol,” Lim announced confidently.

“Are you sure?” the woman asked him. The man immediately threw a stare at her.
“We do not promote any party!!! It is up to the individual to choose,” he said to the woman in a stern voice. She immediately kept quiet.
“It’s okay…I know who to vote for,” Lim said
He stood behind the ballot box, took out a pen and crossed out the Fire symbol. He folded the paper and dropped it inside the box.
“There. It is done,” Lim said triumphantly.
“Yes,” the man said. “It is done.”
“It is done,” the woman repeated.

Fire And Brimstone

Suddenly, below Lim’s feet, the ground suddenly yawned opened. Lim could not do anything but fall into it. As he fell into the abyss, Lim witnessed a frightening world full of fire and brimstone.
“Niaaammmaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” he screamed as he fell into the pit many kilometres deep. His screams slowly subsided and silence returned to the place.

A dog howled in the distance.
The moon sneaked behind the dark clouds.
The hole in the ground grumbled and slowly sealed itself. It looked as if nothing had happened. The ground was as pristine as before.

“Sad,” the woman quipped as she began packing.
“What’s sad?” the man asked.
“It’s sad that those who die a violent death like he did, does not realise he is dead and continue to try and complete the task he was about to do before he died,” the woman answered.
“True…but what is sadder is that he still voted for Hell Fire when he could have voted for Heaven,” the man replied.

“Yes…DAP supporters never learn,” she added.

THE END.

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