The Embrace of the Rengas Tree

Dwi Ratih Ramadhany

Translated by Linda Lingard, edited by Marjie Suanda

Illustration by Leopold Adi Surya

Illustration by Leopold Adi Surya

If she had to choose, Biaju wished to die in the embrace of the rengas tree that was the cause of her grief. Now her heart was frozen, the son whom she loved with all her heart had returned home lifeless. She shut the doors and windows of her house, leaving a gap for the air to carry her bitter cries to the ears of those who had not shut their eyes. She wailed and howled loudly, till the night was drowned in her tears.

Earlier that day, Biaju was looking after the clothes shop, occasionally dreaming of a quiet life in her advancing years. Lintang, her neighbour's son, rushed towards her, his anxious face drawing curious looks from all corners of the market. The sad news that Lintang brought caused everyone to put aside their merchandise, to look up and to whisper furiously about the misfortune that had befallen Tapang.

"Why, did he say?" asked one of the traders in a loose dress while chopping off the head of a catfish.

"He has been cursed by the rengas tree."

"Hush! Don't say that, Tapang was a good boy. He was always obedient to his mother."

"He wouldn't listen. Always casting his net near the sacred pangkalima area without permission!"

"His boat broke apart, only half remained. As if it was torn in two by the river."

Then their shoulders trembled and they fell silent. In reality, no one knew exactly how Biaju's son had died. The villagers had found him floating at the mouth of the river, near the roots of the rengas tree that seemed to be entwined around his arms, they said. The shocking news immediately crept into everyone's ears. Everyone speculated, quite a few were suspicious.

Later that night, Biaju’s daughter Gema knocked on the door of her mother's bedroom. No answer. Only Biaju's cries could be heard, searing Gema's heart. She could not bear it and wished to hug her mother. Her heart was crushed. Her cheeks drenched with her tears.  Everyone had gone home after accompanying Gema and Biaju in their mourning.

"Mom, open the door. Don't be like this, Mom, I'm worried," Gema began pounding on the door. Her voice was hoarse as she kept calling her mother. Her heart too was broken into pieces like shattered glass. Her one and only brother was no more. He who had always protected her and accompanied her was no longer at her side.

Soon, the door opened. Gema found her mother with swollen eyes. Streams of tears flowed endlessly down her gaunt cheeks. Gema threw herself into her mother's arms. She cried uncontrollably until the veins in her neck ached. She knew her sadness was probably nothing like that felt by her mother, her feelings of loss could not possibly come close to what a mother must feel for the loss of her own flesh and blood. She could not imagine that from now onwards, there would only be the two of them, without her brother's laughter and cheerful face.

"It's not possible that your brother was cursed, Gema. Nature has never harmed us," sobbed Biaju.


"The rengas is actually a poisonous tree. If you come into contact with the sap, you will itch. Some people have died. But don't worry, as long as you cut it in the correct way, it is absolutely safe," Tapang said. Although he had only completed high school several years ago, Tapang was not ignorant of the environment around him.

The two of them were helping their mother to look after the clothes shop. Biaju was attending to the keramba at the floating house. Beside the shop, Gema could see a medicine man asleep in his chair. Sweat dripped down from the top of his head. Wrinkles, weariness incarnate, lined his forehead that was partially covered by a wide-brimmed hat. The tortoise oil for acne and leech oil for male virility seemed to no longer attract market-goers.

Gema too felt the heat causing her to fan her neck with the cash book. The market seemed to be experiencing an endless drought. A drought that appeared in many forms. A drought of foodstuffs, a drought of income, as well as a drought of customers. It was all very frustrating.

Gema drew a deep breath. She scanned the market area, as far as her brown eyes could see.  Her gaze fell on an old man who was sifting siamese rice. An old man who was paid only seven thousand rupiah for each 25 kilogram bag of rice he sifted. She had heard that the old man, who was often called Pak Sawun, had contacted the sap of the rengas, resulting in blisters on his left arm. Leaving pockmarks as black as soot like that which remained after a forest had been brutally burned. 

"Although I have only finished high school, I know a lot about plants. You who have gone to high school should also understand,” Tapang said. “The sap of the rengas tree may be poisonous, but the wood is good quality. Therefore, many people look for it.”

"People say, you are always looking for rengas near the pangkalima area. You shouldn't do that, Pang. Your skin may become like Pak Sawun's," Gema said still fanning herself.

"Says who? That was because Pak Sawun wasn’t careful. When I go to the pangkalima area, I don't damage anything, I only walk along having fun, looking for fish or wood. Sometimes playing with a monkey. There's no problem," he added. He smoked a cigarette butt, puffed out the smoke and sang along to a dangdut tune that echoed loudly to all corners of the market.

"Like I said, that's what people say, Tapang. You may be cursed if you do not get permission," added Gema. She sat facing her brother, frowning.

"Mother said it's all right as long as we have good intentions. I will take you there one day. There are no ghosts. Sometimes I even meet people who want to cut a lot of rengas trees." Tapang stubbed out what was left of his cigarette, the length of his little finger.

"Listen," he continued, gazing at his sister. "I’m never greedy. When Father was still alive, he taught me to use a tree only as necessary, so that we can continue to live in the floating houses. I often go there so that those people will be afraid. Sometimes when they see a boat approaching or hear voices, they will stop until the people or the boat has gone. They are afraid of being found out."

Gema tried to digest what Tapang meant. Apparently, she was beginning to understand why her brother often traveled along Kahayan River and went near the sacred area. She nodded calmly, still listening. She ignored the rowdy noise of the fishmonger who was cutting catfish in front of the electricity bill collector. She did not move when some fishy water splashed onto the clothes on display in front of the shop.

"What if something were to happen to you, Tapang?"

"I want to go there again later and I will try to go in deeper, pretending to look for another monkey. But lately, I seldom see them."

"Maybe they have left because they don't feel safe. So now you don't have to go there anymore," pleaded Gema.

"I have to investigate again. Maybe until afternoon. If it's really clear, I will return immediately. You’re not worried anymore, are you? Don't pay any attention to gossip about me. I'm going home now, all right?"

Gema nodded and switched her attention to Pak Sawun. Perhaps it was true that Pak Sawun had not been cursed by the rengas tree near the pangkalima area, she thought. Then Tapang waved his hand so close to Gema's face, she was startled for a moment. He smiled, turned his back and walked away. To Gema, his footsteps sounded different. Perhaps that was the sign that she could not interpret. The premonition that she did not understand was a goodbye from her brother. Until twilight settled upon her shoulders and the sad news wrenched her heart.


"It's not possible that your brother had been cursed, Gema. Nature has never harmed us," sobbed Biaju.

Biaju rubbed Gema's back. Biaju no longer cried hysterically, but her breasts rose up and down, in short breaths, as if her lungs had shriveled. What mother would not be driven mad to see her own flesh and blood lying lifeless without knowing the exact cause? Biaju continued crying silently, she did not wish Gema to see her mother this weak. Biaju braced her heart, steeled herself so that Gema, her one remaining child,  could lean on her.

"I know, Mother. Tapang has never damaged anything. It was the others who were greedy. Tapang wasn’t cursed."

For a moment Biaju’s tears seemed frozen. "What do you mean ‘the others’ were greedy? Who?" Biaju's hands gripped Gema's shoulders.

"Tapang said there were greedy people who were cutting the rengas trees. Tapang saw them himself, Mother," stammered Gema."Tapang said, those people often went near the pangkalima area to steal rengas."

"Wait here, Gema. I'm going there. Do not follow!"

Biaju went to look for her sarong to cover her body from the cold night wind. Gema was confused.

"Where are you going, Mother?"       

"I'm going to look for those people. They must be the ones who have killed Tapang, dear." Biaju rushed out holding a torchlight in her hand. Gema felt dizzy. Her hands and legs trembled.

"Mother, I want to go," Gema pleaded. Biaju did not respond. Gema's tears began falling again. She went after her mother who had by now turned on the boat's engine and sped away. Gema reached out towards the boat, but she was too late.

Biaju followed the river towards where Tapang had been found dead. Blood boiled in her head. She was convinced that Tapang's death had something to do with the greedy people mentioned by Gema. She could not be patient. She stared wide-eyed towards the mouth of the Kahayan, trying to catch any suspicious movements. She tried to examine the silent Kahayan until her ears became alert to any sounds that might bring her to the cause of her beloved son’s death. 

Anger churned swiftly within Biaju. Her thoughts were becoming confused. If it were true that they had killed Tapang, then she would do anything to soothe her wrath. To avenge the wound in her heart, the wound as deep as an abyss.

Back home, Gema was still wailing. Her neighbours gathered to question her. Gema could not say anything. She could only point to where the river was flowing taking her mother with it.

"Take me to my mother..." she moaned. She sat up and coughed in between her cries. Her neighbours pitied her.

"Earlier I saw your mother on a boat over there. Alone," said one of the men who had a bucket of glass catfish in his left hand.

"What does she want there?" asked another.

The first man shrugged.

Lintang rushed into the houseboat with a glass of water for Gema.

"Mother has gone to the pangkalima area. I want to go there!"

Several of the people shuddered. They wouldn't dare go near the pangkalima area, especially notat night. But in their hearts they pitied Gema. Some were afraid, some didn't care.

"Perhaps it would be all right if there were many people," said Lintang's father. Several people nodded their heads, others chose to withdraw and to wait at the houseboats.

"Two boats should be sufficient. Bring a saber or anything just in case. Our intentions are good, to help another, hopefully nothing bad will happen," another person chimed in. 

So they took courage and started the boats' engines. Several of the men grasped torchlights and sabers. They observed everything along the mouth of the river, as far as their eyes could see. A cold breeze began creeping around their shoulders. Fear and anxiety began creeping up to the roots of their hair. All were silent, watching and listening closely.

Except Gema, who was sobbing and murmuring for her mother every now and then.

The boats were approaching the pangkalima area. They saw the boat that was carrying Biaju. A cracking noise startled them. They were shaken and wished to leave immediately. Nonetheless, with determination, they steered their boats towards the left of the mouth of the river, where Biaju's boat had come to rest. Gathering their dying courage, they got off their boats and walked near the mouth of the Kahayan, towards the lush overhanging rengas trees and other trees.

Torchlights were directed to the front and to the left and right. Their eyes and ears were vigilant, searching deeper into the dense leafy trees that shielded the moonlight. Gema started screaming when she saw the sarong and torchlight that her mother had carried hanging on a rengas tree that had been cut. Splotches of blood on the sarong caused her to reel. Her legs buckled.

Everyone shouted Biaju's name and spread out not far from where her sarong and torchlight were found. They continued shouting and calling and followed the trail of blood and anything that seemed suspicious. Before them, a part of a tree had been cut and had fallen.

Softly, Gema continued calling her mother. Her voice was increasingly inaudible. Her eyes felt as if they had been attacked by a thousand fireflies and her head was beginning to spin like a top. Gema could still faintly hear people shouting out her mother's name.

"So where is Biaju?"

"She couldn’t have drowned. We would have found signs of it if she had drowned. Could she have been eaten by the tree?"


The rage in Gema’s head was getting worse. "Mother..." she murmured. Her chest heaved up and down. In the distance the voices were fading, Gema's body grew weak and her eyesight blurred. Until the stars had fallen from the night sky, Biaju was never found.



Pangkalima: Supernatural guardians of the forests and rivers in Kalimantan, many people believe in their existence.

Keramba: basket or case made from bamboo strips for fish breeding


© Dwi Ratih Ramadhany. Translation © Linda Tan Lingard.


Dwi Ratih Ramadhany


Jika harus memilih, Biaju ingin mati dalam rengkuh rengas yang menjadi sebab jiwanya yang gundah. Karena kini hatinya telah timpang. Tapang, anak lelaki yang amat dicintainya, pulang tanpa nyawa. Biaju menutup jendela dan pintu rumahnya rapat-rapat, menyisakan celah luput untuk udara yang membawa lolong pedih tangisnya hingga ke telinga orang-orang yang masih membuka mata. Biaju menangis sekeras-kerasnya, sekuat-kuatnya, hingga malam tenggelam dalam airmatanya.

Siang hari itu, Biaju tengah menjaga ruko baju sambil sesekali melamunkan hidup bersahaja di usianya yang mulai tua. Lintang, anak tetangga, menghampirinya dengan tergesa-gesa, wajah cemasnya menebar rasa penasaran ke segala penjuru pasar. Berita duka yang dibawa Lintang membuat orang-orang meletakkan dagangannya, menengok sebentar, lalu berbisik-bisik gusar perihal musibah yang menimpa Tapang.

“Kenapa katanya?” tanya salah seorang pedagang berdaster sembari memenggal kepala ikan patinnya.

“Kena tulah pohon rengas.”

"Hus! Tak boleh bilang begitu, Tapang kan anak baik-baik. Tak pernah dia lawan ibunya.”

“Dia tak mau dengar. Selalu lempar jaring didekat area pangkalima tanpa permisi.”

“Perahunya patah, tinggal setengah. Seperti dirobek sungai.”

Lantas bahu mereka bergetar dan mereka membungkam mulut sendiri rapat-rapat. Sebenarnya tak ada yang tahu persis penyebab kematian Tapang. Warga menemukannya mengambang di dekat bibir sungai.Dekat akar rengas yang seperti merangkul lengannya, kata mereka. Lalu kabar menggemparkan itu segera menyelusup ke lubang telinga para warga. Semua orang menduga-duga, tak sedikit juga yang menaruh curiga.

Malam itu, anak perempuan Biaju, Gema, mengetuk-ngetuk pintu kamar ibunya.Tak ada jawaban. Hanya tangisBiaju yang terdengar dan menyayat hati Gema. Ia tak tahan inginsegera merangkul ibunya. Hati Gema pun remuk,seperti gelas yang pecah berkeping-keping. Bulir bening tak hentinya menganak sungai di kedua pipi tirusnya. Para tetangga telah kembali ke rumah setelah menemani Gema dan Biaju berduka.

“Bu, buka pintu dulu. Jangan begini, Bu, Gema khawatir.” Gema menggedor pintu, suaranya parau. Kakak satu-satunya yang selalu melindungi dan menemaninya kini tak lagi berada di sisinya.

Tak lama, pintu dibuka. Segera Gema menghamburkan diri ke pelukan ibunya. Menangis sejadi-jadinya hingga penat urat lehernya. Ia tahu, kesedihannya tak mungkin sepadan dengan rasa kehilangan seorang ibu terhadap darah dagingnya sendiri. Tak bisa Gema bayangkan kini ia hanya akan tinggal berdua dengan ibunya, tanpa gelak tawa dan paras ceria kakak lelakinya.

“Kakakmu tak mungkin kena tulah, Gema. Alam takkan pernah melukai kita,” ujar Biaju sesenggukan.


“Rengas itu sebenarnya pohon beracun. Kalau kamu kena getahnya, kamu akan gatal-gatal. Pernah sampai ada yang meninggal. Tapi jangan khawatir, selama kamu menebangnya dengan benar, pasti aman,” tutur Tapang. Meski hanya menyelesaikan sekolah menengah atas delapan tahun lalu, Tapang tak buta akan pengetahuan tentang lingkungan sekitarnya.

Keduanya tengah menjaga ruko baju untuk membantu ibunya. Biaju sedang mengurus keramba di lanting. Di samping rukonya, Gema melihat seorang penjual obat-obatan duduk tertidur di atas kursinya. Keringat tampak mengucur dari ubun-ubunnya. Lelah menjelma kerut di keningnya yang sebagian tertutup topi tanggul. Minyak bulus untuk jerawat dan minyak lintah tapa untuk keperkasaan pria agaknya tak lagi memikat pengunjung pasar.

Gema pun merasakan panas yang membuatnya mengipas-ngipas leher dengan buku catatan uang. Pasar seperti mengalami kemarau yang tak pernah berhenti. Kemarau yang menjelma berbagai wujud. Kemarau bahan pangan, kemarau penghasilan, maupun kemarau pelanggan. Semuanya menyiksa hati.

Gema menghela napas panjang. Kedua mata cokelatnya menyapu sekeliling pasar. Tatapannya berhenti pada seorang lelaki tua yang sedang menampi beras siam. Lelaki tua yang hanya dibayar tujuh ribu rupiah untuk setiap 25 kilogram karung beras siam yang ditampinya. Ia sempat mendengar bahwa lelaki tua yang sering dipanggil Pak Sawun itu pernah terkena getah rengas hingga melepuh kulit tangan kirinya. Menyisakan bopeng-bopeng sehitam jelaga seperti sisa hutan yang dibakar secara brutal.

“Meski Tapang hanya lulusan SMA, Tapang tahu banyak tentang pohon-pohon. Kamu yang sudah SMA ini juga harus paham,” kata Tapang. “Pohon rengas, meski getahnya beracun, tapi kualitasnya bagus. Makanya banyak orang yang cari.”

“Tapi kata orang, Tapang sering cari rengas di dekat tempat pangkalima? Tak boleh, Pang. Nanti bisa seperti Pak Sawun kulitmu,” tukas Gema sembari terus mengipas-ngipas.

“Kata siapa? Itu karena Pak Sawuntak hati-hati. Lagipula, aku kan tak merusak, hanya iseng jalan-jalan cari ikan dan kayu di sekitar sana. Kadang main sama monyet. Tak masalah,” timpalnya. Ia mengisap puntung rokok, lalu mengepulkan asapnya dan bernyanyi mengikuti irama dangdut yang heboh menggema dari pengeras suara toko DVD bajakan sampai semua sudut pasar.

“Kan sudah kubilang, kata orang. Nanti Tapang bisa kena tulah kalau tak permisi,”timpal Gema. Ia duduk menghadap kakaknya. Keningnya berkerut.

“Ibu bilang tak apa asal niat kita baik. Kapan-kapan Tapang ajak kamu ke sekitar sana. Tidak ada hantu. Kadang Tapang malah ketemu orang yang mau tebang banyak rengas.”Tapang mematikan puntung rokoknya yang tersisa seujung kelingking. “Dengarkan ya,” lanjutnya, ia menatap adiknya dalam-dalam, “Tapang tak pernah serakah. Dulu waktu Bapak masih hidup, Bapak ajari Tapang untuk pakai pohon seperlunya. Biar kita bisa tetap hidup di lanting. Tapang sering ke sana biar orang-orang itu takut. Kadang kalau mereka lihat ada kapal yang mendekat atau ada suara orang, mereka berhenti sampai orang atau perahunya pergi. Mereka takut ketahuan.”

Gema berusaha mencerna maksud cerita Tapang. Ia mulai memahami alasan kakak lelakinya seringkali pergi menyusuri Sungai Kahayan dan mendekati area keramat itu. Gema mengangguk tenang, tetap menyimak. Tak menghiraukan suara gaduh penjual ikan yang memotong ikan patin di hadapan penagihiuran listrik. Air amis yang sedikit menyiprat ke beberapa baju yang dipajang di depan ruko tak membuat Gema beralih.

“Kalau terjadi apa-apa pada Tapang bagaimana?”

“Nanti Tapang mau ke sana lagi dan mencoba masuk lebih jauh, pura-pura cari monyet lain. Tapi akhir-akhir ini Tapang jarang melihat mereka.”

“Mungkin mereka sudah pergi karena merasa tak aman. Jadi sekarang Tapang tak usah ke sana lagi, ya?” pinta Gema.

“Tapang harus periksa lagi. Mungkin sampai sore. Kalau benar-benar bersih, Tapang langsung pulang. Sekarang Gema sudah tak cemas lagi, kan?Jangan peduligunjingan orang tentang Tapang. Tapang pulang dulu, ya.”

Gema mengangguk. Lantas mengalihkan perhatiannya pada Pak Sawun.Mungkin Pak Sawun memang bukan terkena tulah rengas dekat tempat pangkalima, batinnya. Tetapi Tapang melambaikan tangannya nyaris menempel ke wajah Gema, membuatnya kaget. Tapang tersenyum,membalikkan punggung, dan berjalan menjauh. Langkah kakinya terlihat begitu berbeda bagi Gema. Barangkali itu adalah pertanda yang tak dapat dijabarkan olehnya. Firasat yang tak dipahaminya sebagai salam selamat tinggal darikakak lelakinya. Hingga temaram turun pelan-pelan di bahu Gema, dan berita duka meremas-remas jantungnya.


“Kakakmu tak mungkin kena tulah, Gema. Alam takkan pernah melukai kita,” ujar Biaju sesenggukan.

Biaju mengusap punggung Gema. Dadanya naik turun, sesak, seolahparu-parunya mengerut. Seorang ibu mana yang tidak gila melihat darah dagingnya sendiri tergeletak tak bernyawa tanpa tahu penyebab pastinya? Biaju kembali menangis, tetapi tanpa suara, ia tak ingin Gema memeluk sesosok ibu yang lemah. Dengan mantap ia mencoba menopang hatinya, menguatkan dirinya agar bisa menjadi sandaran satu-satunya anak yang tersisa.

“Gema tahu, Bu. Tapang tak pernah merusak. Orang-orang itu yang serakah. Tapang tidak kena tulah.”

Biaju menangkap sesuatu dalam kalimat anak perempuannya. Air matanya seketika membeku.

“Apa maksudmu orang-orang itu serakah? Siapa?”Kedua tangan Biaju mencengkeram bahu Gema.

“Kata Tapang di sana ada orang-orang serakah yang menebang rengas. Tapang lihat sendiri, Bu,” Gema berkata terbata-bata. “Tapang bilang, orang-orang itu sering datang ke dekat tempat pangkalima dan mencuri rengas.”

“Gema tunggu di sini. Ibu mau ke tempat itu. Jangan ikut!”

Biaju melepas cengkeramannya. Ia mencari sarung untuk dikalungkan dan menutupi bagian atas tubuhnya dari angin malam yang menerpa. Gema kebingungan melihat ibunya.

“Mau ke mana, Bu?”

“Ibu akan cari orang-orang itu. Pasti mereka yang bunuh Tapang, Nak. Sudah Ibu bilang, rengas di Kahayan ini tak mungkin jadi penyebabnya!” Biaju bergegas keluar menenteng senter di tangannya. Gema merasa pusing. Tangan dan kakinya gemetar.

“Bu, Gema ikut,” pintanya lirih. Biaju tak menggubris. Mata Gema kembali berkaca-kaca. Ia mengejar ibunya yang menyalakan mesin perahu dan melaju. Gema menjulurkan tangannya ke arah perahu, namun terlambat.

Biaju menyusuri sungai menuju tempat Tapang ditemukan tewas. Darah mendidih di ubun-ubunnya. Ia benar-benar  yakin bahwa kematian Tapang ada kaitannya dengan orang-orang serakah yang disebut Gema. Ia tak sanggup bersabar. Kedua matanya menatap nyalang ke arah rengas di bibir Kahayan,berusaha menangkap gerak-gerik apa saja yang mencurigakan. Telinganya mencermati sunyi Kahayan hingga menjadi tajam menangkap suara-suara yang mungkin dapat menjelaskan sebab kematian buah hatinya

Biaju begitu cepat memintal amarah. Pikirannya mulai tak keruan. Jika benar mereka yang membunuh Tapang, maka ia akan melakukan apa sajauntuk memuaskan murkanya. Membalaskan luka hatinya yang amat dalam serupa palung.

Sementara itu di lanting, Gema masih menangis meraung-raung. Para tetanggamenghampiri dan menanyainya. Gema tak sanggup berkata-kata. Ia hanya menunjuk-nunjuk ke arah aliran sungai yang membawa ibunya.

“Bawa Gema ke Ibu....” rintihnya. Ia terduduk dan terbatuk-batuk di sela tangisnya..

“Tadi saya lihat ibunya naik perahu ke sana. Sendirian,” ujar salah seorang lelaki dengan ember berisi ikan lais di tangan kirinya.

“Mau apa dia ke sana?” tanya salah seorang lagi.

Lelaki yang pertama mengangkat bahu.

Lintang bergegas masuk ke dalam lanting dan mengambil segelas air untuk Gema.

“Ibu pergi ke dekat pangkalima. Gema mau ke sana!”

Beberapa orang bergidik. Mereka tak berani mendekati area pangkalima, terlebih di malam hari. Tapi diam-diam mereka menaruh iba pada Gema. Separuh hati mereka takut, separuh lagi tak tega membiarkan Gema terus menangis.

“Mungkin kalau ramai-ramai tak apa,” ucap bapak Lintang meyakinkan. Beberapa orang mengangguk setuju, yang lain memilih mundur dan menunggu di lanting.

“Naik dua perahu cukup. Bawa mandau atau apa saja buat jaga-jaga. Niat kita baik mau menolong orang, semoga tidak terjadi apa-apa,” timpal warga lain.

Lantas mereka meneguhkan hati dan menyalakan mesin perahu.Beberapa lelaki menggenggam senter dan mandau. Semua meneliti apapun di sepanjang bibir sungai yang sanggup dijangkau mata.Angin semilir menjalari pundak mereka. Rasa takut dan cemas merambat hingga ke pucuk rambut mereka. Semua terdiam, mengamati dan mendengarkan dengan hati-hati. Kecuali Gema, yang masih menahan sengguknya dan sesekali bergumam memanggil ibunya.

Perahu semakin mendekati area pangkalima. Mereka menemukan perahu yang ditumpangi Biaju. Namun,suara letusan mengagetkan mereka. Mereka panik dan ingin segera pergi. Namun, tekad membuat mereka mengarahkan perahu ke bibir sungai sebelah kiri, tempat perahu Biaju berhenti. Dengan mengumpulkan keberanian setengah mati, mereka turun dari perahu dan berjalan merapat di bibir Kahayan menuju rerimbun pohon rengas dan pohon lain yang memayungi.

Senter mereka arahkan ke depan dan sisi samping kanan-kiri. Mata dan telinga mereka tetap awas mencari semakin jauh ke rimbun-rimbun pohon yang menghalangi sinar bulan.Seketika Gema berteriak,ia lihat sarung dan senter yang tadi dibawa ibunya tersangkut di dekat pohon rengas yang ditebang. Bercak-bercak darah pada bagian sarung membuatnya kelimpungan. Kakinya lemas.

Orang-orang berteriak memanggil nama Biaju dan menyebar tak jauh dari lokasi ditemukannya sarung dan senter Biaju. Mereka terus berteriak memanggil dan mengikuti jejak darah danapapun yang mencurigakan. Di hadapan mereka, sebagian pohon tumbang dan ditebang.

Lirih, Gema masih berusaha memanggil ibunya. Suaranya semakin tak terdengar. Matanya bagai diserbu seribu kunang-kunang dan kepalanya mulai terasa berputar seperti gasing. Samar-samar Gema masih mendengar orang-orang berteriak memanggil nama ibunya.

“Terus ke mana Biaju ini?”

“Tak mungkin tenggelam, kita pasti tahu tandanya kalau ada yang tenggelam. Masa dimakan pohon?”


Kepala Gema semakin berkecamuk. “Ibu....” gumamnya. Dadanya naik turun, sulit bernapas. Suara-suara perlahan makin sirna. Tubuh Gema semakin lemas dan pandangannya menjadi lamur. Hingga malam menggugurkan bintang-bintang, Biaju tak kunjung ditemukan.



Pangkalima: Pemimpin spiritual yang bersinggungan dengan hal gaib. Penjaga adat untuk hutan/sungai (Kalimantan). Sebagian besar orang percaya akan keberadaannya.

Keramba: Keranjang atau kotak dari bilah bambu untuk membudidayakan ikan


© Dwi Ratih Ramadhany.


DWI RATIH RAMADHANY was born in Sampang, 1993. She studied English literature at Universitas Negeri Malang, East Java. Her short stories have been published in various Indonesian media, and some were compiled in Pemilin Kematian (UM Press, 2015). Ratih attended Novel-Writing Academy held by Jakarta Arts Council in 2014. Her first novel Badut Oyen (GPU, 2014) has been translated into Malaysian.


LINDA TAN LINGARD is managing partner of the YGL (Yusof Gajah Lingard) Literary Agency. Prior to that she worked in the PR and publishing industry in various roles. This included one-year in Jakarta as a translator of economics papers. In 2013, she attended the literary translation workshop organised by InterSastra, and now she hopes to do more translation from Indonesian to English.