Sugi pours his tea into a crystal glass beside him. Cigarette’s smokes don’t stop billowing from his mouth. From the place he is sitting, Mount Merapi seems vivid, grand, and arrogant; like a ghost that sometime knocks on his window. The cold air forces him to tighten up his sarong and pull it over his body. He doesn’t know why his living room suddenly becomes so cold this time. The cigarette and the sarong cannot even make it go away. He can only hope for the warmth of the liquid from his strong tea in his glass. And the rest, he helplessly doesn’t know how to cope it.
Sugi, or Sugiono, lives alone in a house his father left him. Brick house covered with limestone, it looks like a house from a children fairy tale, sweet and beautiful. In a corner where he used to sit hunkered down, there are stacks of little barrel full of formalin; those barrels belongs to his sister who run a small chemical shop at the corner of the street. Sugi lives alone. Sometimes, his sister comes to bring him food and check on the stock of her formalin. Sugi is rarely cooking for himself. Living alone makes him not really wanting to deal with the kitchen. He would only go to the kitchen to boil water for his bath or to make tea. More than that he would prefer to depend on Yu Parni’s food stall that is located just around the corner or waiting for his sister to send him food from her house. His sister’s house, Mbak Suti, is not far from his house. He only needs to walk along the main street, turn right and head north from Yu Parni’s stall. And there it is, a big house which windows are painted with red tint, a place where his one and only sister is living in. Her husband is the village chief of Kaliurang. Her family is considerably rich and she always prepares excessive amounts of food just in case if there are guests visiting.
Sugi has a pointed feature. His nose is as sharp as a noble’s. His good look should make it easy for him to get a wife, but he always refuses every invitation and seduction from a lot of women. His soon turn fifty; silver streaks can be seen lurking shyly from the crack of his wavy hair. Silver hairs and his awkward move make him looks mature. His life is always full of mystery. Brought up by the rich family of his village and always been spoilt since he was a kid grant him with enough reasons why he doesn’t need to socialize too often. Sugi is a stolid, indeed. His sharp and striking eyes makes lot of people feel uncomfortable to spend time with him.
Kaliurang, a village that is located in the slope of Mount Merapi, has always been famous as a tourism site for local people of Yogyakarta. The cool breeze and fresh air become the main attraction for some urban citizens who have to breathe polluted air almost every day. Every Saturday and Sunday, people come to this cold village as a flock. Most of the local people welcomed the tourist happily, because they can get additional incomes as tour guides or food seller by their visit. Pak Lurah, Sugi’s brother in law, is also renting out some of his unused rooms in his big house as an inn.
And because of the great amount of the domestic tourists, the local people are busy becoming a host every weekend. One and only person who really don’t care is Sugi. His house is always locked down tightly. Yet, there is a little difference on Sugi’s behavior since the arrival of the tourists; he seems to spend more time doing activity outside the house. In the beginning, his neighbors seem astonished; but knowing that he never intrudes into other people’s life, they stop paying attention.
Since they are always seeing Sugi walking back and forth with a machete and a sack, they presume that he was grazing for his cattle, although not really understanding what it was. Once in a while, something happen inside his house; like the sound of things falling. But the neighbors never take it seriously. Sugi’s new activity becomes an ordinary thing for the local people in Kaliurang. Lately, Sugi also rarely ask for food delivery from his sister. No one knows why he always orders the food from Yu Parmi’s stall. Beside of these little differences, everything seems all right. Sugi still is the stolid man with a sharp-stabbing eyes.
Not far from Sugi’s house, there is a stream of a river that is not too deep but quite swift. The local people use this stream just for bathing and washing. And only on the slope side of the river. The river is actually not too ideal for daily activity. It flows in a bottom of the ravine so that only a small part that can be used to wash and bath. So, one must use a special ladder to go up and down the river. Until one morning, a sensational incident happened. Mbok Ratmi, who was doing her laundry, smells something unpleasant several meters from the southern side of the place where people used to wash their cloths. At the beginning, she thinks it was just an animal corpse, but as time goes by its smell become stingier. Because the source of the odor come from a steep riverbed, the best way to inspect it is by going down to its ravine. Drived by curiosity of the unpleasant odor, people command a boy to go down the river and inspect the source of the smell. Unwillingly, the boy goes down to the river following the command. By using a patch up of strap, he creeps down into the riverbed heading to the river bank. He is shocked when he finds the source of the odor: a piece of human hand gets caught in a branch of a fractured wood in cross position. The boy ran frantically and try to creep up the line, but his nervousness it difficult for him to climb up. He keeps trying to crawl on a loose soil in the edge of the river vainly. Mbok Ratmi who is waiting for him above also cried frantically. And so it is, uproar happens in a peaceful village. A piece of hand get caught on a river behind Mbok Ratmi’s house.
A number of policemen come around to investigate the finding. Day by day elapsed, they still trace the river trying to seek for the remnant of the body. After more than one week searching in vain, the investigation has been stopped. The one who own the hand is still a mystery. The tranquil village is momentarily shaken. The finding of the mysterious hand is still becoming a hot issue for days. Lots of rumors and speculations occur with unknown answer. Slowly hushed by time, the story of the mysterious hand was forgotten little by little. The peaceful village then covered with a foggy mist once again. Unfortunately that state of peacefulness only happen for a while. Later, this village is startled once again by a finding of human corpse: a woman body. This time, the corpse is more complete, but the head and the hand were gone. Besides, her breast has also been chopped out. The woman body was found, once again, at the edge of the river bank in a somewhat far area in the south. The poor man who found the body is a young man who was looking for a location to make video clip for his band. The poor man was stunned and went nuts by what he saw and then founded by the villagers by the mid day under the big bright yellow sun. His eyes were wide open and his mouth were raving uncontrollably. After being soothed and with pale face that still looked frightened, he showed where the mutilated body is placed. That body must be broken and decayed after hitting the stone in the river, but the police who come after points out that the body is not too old. It means, the killing was approximately not more than two or three days ago. This time the polices work harder. Together with the villagers, they try to comb out the river in the upstream and downstream. But, once again they fail to find even a single clue. The mutilated body is later connected with the hand that was previously found. The police then work harder than before; each villager who lives near the river bank is interrogated. Moreover, the police also relate the finding of the corpse with a lost report around that location. Finally, with a very hard work, the police find the lost report of two young women from Kentungan and Gejayan. Based on the report, the last activity they did was going to Kaliurang. The found body is then shown to the raptors of the lost report, but the result was not satisfying. That body was too wrecked and the recognizable part was not enough.
This second finding makes Kaliurang’s atmosphere becomes more mystical and haunting. The number of visiting tourists slowly decreasing. The murder story really makes the tourism industry, which was just built up, fall apart. The village that was once crowded with tourists slowly becomes deserted. There is no more young couple dating in the park near that huge Banyan tree. People would prefer to go to Parangtritits beach rather than lounging by the swimming pool at the slope of Kaliurang hills.
Somehow the fog feels thicker than before. Sugi seldom showing up. His sister was dead awhile agoout of heart attack, some says. Her husband was failing the election for the next period of village chief. Black cloud is seemingly covering this grand family. The small white house that belongs to Sugi slowly aged. Bushes are scattered over its yard. Awhile later, Sugi disappeared. Villagers who is still haunted with the horror atmosphere do not seem to care. Slowly, the thought of Sugi went away. Forgotten. His house is scattered with bushes and gradually falls apart. His neighbors avoid passing over his front house. Some people often see a man like Sugi sitting or walking with a girl with an odd figure around the remnant of the house.
In 2010, the volcano erupted. Mt.Merapi’s eruption covered almost every side of the village with volcanic ashes. Most of the villagers migrated to town. This village momentarily covered with a thick volcanic ashes.
One week after, the villagers come back from their evacuation camp as a flock. Houses and yards which were once enclosed by the ashes slowly being cleaned up. Except one house that is left untouched again: Sugi’s house. Slowly, what was once a beautiful house becomes a mound. The neighborhoods are still seeing a man that looks like Sugi passing over the house together with a woman with an odd figure. But no one knows for sure whether it is Sugi or not. Nobody have courage to greet or cross way with them. The disappearance of Sugi become a new mystery, just like the finding of the two corpses that was never solved.
Until one day, a young woman and her husband have an idea to revive Kaliurang village as tourism site. Along with their community, they try to held an event in this village. For the needs of that event, they walk around Kaliurang to search for the appropriate location as their project site. After find the best location that they look for, these young people interested in Sugi’s house remnant. One of them, a young man who was just arrived back from his study abroad, sees a heap that attracts him. His art libido then bursts out. He intends to create something atop of the remnant. The local people prefer not to prevent the young artist. They were also not intending to remind him of how mystical the place is. They really need an effort to attract the tourist back as it used to be. The harvests are not ready yet, they still have to cultivate the land after it was buried by the volcanic ashes. All the plants are dead and dried up. It needs several months for the volcanic ashes to turn into fertilizers. Helped by many local youth, the young artist starts to clean the remnant up. The ruins are set aside. The fragile wall is cleaned up. They find a room that seems somewhat intact. Even the door is still closed. Locked. The roof above it is indeed collapse; the heap of woods of the roof seems crossed over one side of the room. Curious with the locked room, they then decide to break it down. And then they are all shocked. On the wooden bed, filled with dust and wooden wreckage, there is a figure of human skeleton and woman corpse that seems intact. The skeleton is seemingly squashing the woman corpse that magically seems complete. Run frantically as madman. Those young people scream and run outside the remnant of Sugi’s house.
The police come over again. This time they work more thoroughly, along with them there are forensic experts who later take the sample of the skeleton and the woman corpse. Soon after, the result of that visum is presented. The skeleton that squashes the woman corpse is a man, while the woman corpse is a set of two women that was combined as one. The head, hand and breast parts are different with the body. They also find a yarn’s leftover in every part of the body that was attached. Something that becomes the question for the forensic experts is why does the combined corpse are still intact while the other becomes a skeleton. The result of the investigation electrifies the whole village. Kaliurang people relate it with sightings of Sugi and the woman with an odd body, which was seen every other times.
The police cannot pinpoint whether the skeleton was Sugi’s or not. There is no data to be return to with the rest of the skeleton. While the corpse of the combined body whose neck, hand and breast was sewn by stitching evidently came from the two women that was reported missing. The two hands, the breasts and the head were parts of a college student from Atmajaya named Karolina from Gejayan, while the body, and the slim legs were parts of a woman named Heti Wulandari, a karaoke guide from Kentungan.
Once again Kaliurang is in a hustle. Lots of people come to see the remnant of Sugi’s house. They come as such swarms by riding motorcycle or cars. The village that once was deserted now becomes busy again. The local people open their yard as a parking lot. The food stalls are reviving, the homestays are started to be filled with the tourists. Sugi’s house becomes the new tourism excitement. Hundreds of people taking selfies every day in front of the house with the beautiful Mt.Merapi as a background.
While the young artists who were trying to do an art event in Kaliurang was found traumatized. The couple who initiated the event decided to step out of the art scene. From the funds they loan, they try to run a craft shop and built itinerant photographer service. While the young recently-graduated artist from abroad who initiate the idea to response Sugi’s house remnant decided to be a stamp maker. Not long enough, he then moves to another country following his girlfriend.
While Kaliurang villagers become more excited, because of Sugi’s house remnant (it is what they called it now) their business become revine. Kaliurang is not an abandoned village anymore. Buses and vehicles filled the crowded asphalts streets. The ex-chief of the village who once was Sugi’s brother in law is now running the remnant of Sugi’s house. He earns his living by selling photo service and parking. His life is improved. He even just married with his second wife, but the chemical shop business which was pioneered by his former wife went bankrupt long time ago. The diminished of Chinese descendant in Kaliurang makes the turnover of the formalin, that was usually injected in their dead body, decreased. While meatball sellers can’t help the shop to survive.
Kaliurang villagers are still indeed seeing Sugi and the woman with the odd figure passed by occasionally. But they are not frightened anymore. When they see them they will greet them and say thank you, with their deepest gratitude. Sugi was the reason why the tourism in the village that was once deserted starts to revive.
(AGUNG KURNIAWAN, SEMBUNGAN KOTA HANTU,2017)