by San Lin Tun
It was shadowy in the forest. No sounds at all. Only some living creatures were crawling in the undergrowth, producing inaudible sounds. An inquisitive young man entered the forest with a smile on his face. He fancied that there might be some hidden treasures in the forest after browsing through a recent book on treasure hunting.
That evening he went to the edge of the forest out of curiosity. He did not know what dangers would confront him. He went in unprepared with bare-hands and curiosity. He also liked to gaze at trees, big and small. He wondered if the forest housed exotic and colourful birds as shown in the documentaries on television.
He was free of ancient fears and dogmas because he believed in science. He thought that a forest was only of trees and animals and there could not be any harmful or playful spirits lurking in the deepest, darkest corners.
He needed to tread carefully in the forest, he discovered, otherwise, he could stumble and fall on the protrusions made by the obtrusive roots of the big banyan trees. He suddenly started humming the lyrics of the Guns and Roses’ song called ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in his mind.
After walking about thirty minutes in the forest, he thought that his throat was dry. He was thirsty. He looked for a stream to drink cold and clean water. He listened carefully to the gurgling sounds of a stream somewhere. Suddenly, he saw a butterfly flapping its wings gently in front of him. It aroused his sense of curiosity and wonder. The butterfly led him to the stream.
He was very happy when he found the stream. When he looked for the butterfly, it had disappeared. He thanked the butterfly in his mind from the bottom of his heart. He squatted at the edge of the stream and bent down to long mouthfuls of water. It completely quenched his thirst.
After drinking the water, he washed his sweaty face to refresh himself. Then, he felt a bit hungry and remembered he had not had enough lunch that afternoon. He thought that he would look for some fruits. Then, he found some wild, peachy fruits growing on a big tree near the stream.
He pondered whether to climb the tree to pluck them or hurl stones to bring them down? He found some pebbles in the stream and gathered them. He hurled those pebbles at the fruits. Some stones hit the fruits and they fell off the tree.
Happily, he picked up one big fruit and bit into it. It was tasty and so he bit it again and again. After having three or four fruits, he found his belly was full. He lay down on his back and instantly he fell asleep.
His sleep was punctuated by a strange dream. He found a gnarled and crooked-nosed, red, bulgy-eyed woman trying to talk to him. She had a long and curly nail which she tried to insert into him. It seemed that she was the guardian spirit of the tree.
Petrified, he yelled out aloud. But no one heard him. He was completely alone in the forest. He could not move his body a single inch. Gradually, the guardian spirit came nearer to him and tried to say something to him. He apologized to her for not asking for permission to eat fruits of the tree. But, she took another step towards him.
‘‘Arrrrrrr’’ – the sound was so loud, even the owls resting on the trees were startled and flew away. He knew that it was the end of his life. He tightly closed his eyes. He saw his feet start to turn into a flap of a bat. Soon, he was going to be a bat and sleep upside down. The guardian spirit would rear him as her pet.
He did not want that. But he did not have strength to fight back. Instead he had to yield to her because he felt that he was paralyzed. He noticed that his hands were changed into wings which had started to flap slowly. He could not resist the strength of the spell. Within a minute, he completely changed into a bat. It was a metamorphosis.
The forest seemed to have spelled its curse on him.
He tried to speak out. Comprehensible human language was replaced by the sounds of a bat. He understood that his life was gone, completely gone. He did not know how he would regain his human form. He blamed his own foolish fate because no one warned him against going into the cursed forest.
He knew that he should not have indulge his whim.
Daytime brought the young man back to his village in his own form as a human. He related the story to his fellow villagers who did not believe him and assumed that he was an exhibitionist buffoon trying to draw attention to himself. He insisted that he had really turned into a bat the night before because of the spell cast by the guardian of the tree. People laughed at his story and they thought that he had made it all up to gain importance and sympathy.
As darkness gathered the village into its folds, the villagers started to go back to their homes. Suddenly, someone noticed that the young man was missing, they could not see him. They called out to him. But there was no response.
Only, a bat persisted in flying towards them, hovering up and down over their heads. It almost flapped on the scurrying villagers’ heads. There was chaos.
San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short stories and novels from Myanmar and English. Sometimes, he draws cartoons for fun. His writings has appeared in Asia Literary Review, Kitaab, Mad in Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, NAW, PIX, Ponder Savant, South East of Now, Strukturriss and several others. He has authored ten books including ‘‘An English Writer’’. He lives in Yangon, Myanmar.