“Doom doom” Loud noises startled me awake. The creaking of my floorboard was no longer critical compared to the probable disaster my fantasizing mind could picture.
“Was it furious thunder? Has the wrath of God descended upon our people?” I worried.
I went over to my parents and shook them hard, “Aba, Ummi, wake up.” Anxious, I repeated the action even harder, “Wake up!”
“Something’s happening outside,” I said.
My dad and mum reluctantly rose off, agitated, scratching their sleepy eyes. Before they knew, I had forced open the emergency plywood door and went outside to clear my wonder.
“Aba, Ummi, come quick!” I shouted while experiencing panic attack witnessing the night sky beyond the woods across my old shack flaming orange.
As my dad and mum reached the door, they were stunned, seeing the magnitude of danger that could implicate our family. At the same time, masses rushed through, carrying tonnes of buckets. I saw familiar faces among the troops — Pak RT, our kampong‘s leader, Bu Bidan‘s son, and the backstreet boys (read: my hangout gang) joined the frantic group.
“Kebakaran, kebakaran” Pak Hansip, our kampong‘s self-appointed security guard, screamed, knocking his kentongan rapidly.
“The church is on fire!” Pak RT — still running — cautioned the confused us.
Without even a slight pause, my dad ran to the small landing we setup for washing our clothes and grabbed a mid-sized bucket. “Wake up the children and stay here,” he instructed my mum, “I’ll come and pick you up if it goes out of control.”
He then dashed to catch the fleeting flock. I followed him closely, ignoring my mum’s gesture of disapproval, “Humayra!” But it’s too late, she couldn’t possibly catch up with me, leaving my brothers all alone in the house.
We went about the woods and arrived at a decent housing complex where the scene of the burning church caught our immediate attention. Despite standing more than ten metres away from the church’s gates, we could feel the heat radiating from the blazing fire burning our skins. Silhouettes of men passing buckets of water from the shallow reservoir on my closest side of the woods were visible. They worked together effectively, bringing as much water as possible to cool off the fire’s anger.
At a distance, Shaykh Ja’far stood still, on a small mount of construction pebbles, with his hands extended outwards towards the fiery scene. “Allahu Akbar!” he proclaimed, summoning the fire to subdue upon the Greatness of God.
Almost an hour had passed, yet the combined spiritual and physical effort hadn’t managed to settle the flame. It did however prevent the hot spot from growing bigger, grilling its neighbouring homes and furnitures.
Half of the church’s roof crumbled. At that moment, the sound of siren echoed, getting closer and closer, blowing a breeze of hope to the exhausted fire-fighting volunteers. “Hooray,” they cheered and clapped, but didn’t stop.
The red truck came in from the other side of the complex, opposite from where we were. Between the dancing flames, I could see four fire fighters — in their yellow, anti-heat jumpsuit and protective helmet — briskly unwinding two thick hoses from the rescuing vehicle. In seconds, jets of water impacted the church’s gates and walls without mercy.
Slowly, the flames began to dim off, surrendering to the power of H2O propulsion. In between the noisy sound of two water jet engines, I could hear subtle hissing of dislike made by the fire as it was reluctantly defeated by the cooling droplets. The crowd rejoiced, “Hooray,” clapping and shaking each other’s hand.
A few policemen, who had apparently been there, joining hands with the volunteers, started fencing the scene with a yellow masking tape. CRIME SCENE, it said.
“Crime scene?” I was puzzled, “Why?”
Before my curiousity met its satisfaction, someone called me, “Humayra!” I turned and looked at my dad, expecting an order. Seemed relief, he said, “Let’s go home.”