WHEN SWORDFISH ATTACKED SINGAPURA – A View From The Lie of The Land : 2.5 minute read by Farriz Mashudi 06/11/20
Where concrete high-rises and steely skyscrapers dominate, the earth beneath a grassy mount fortified with stones is red in hue, the people say, from the slaughter of an innocent.
Were they there that very day? Had they witnessed the act with their very eyes, in that time of sampans and coconut huts that no one amongst them wished to remember and fewer still could bring themselves to talk about?
It pains me to hear the name attached in ignorance today to this part of me. Bukit Merah, ‘Red Hill’, is laterite, rich in iron oxide, which makes my earth in these parts rusty. It really was as simple as that. The matter of the slain boy itself is less straightforward. As twisted and pernicious as Zeus’ battle with Prometheus, the human form being modelled of clay substantiates my locus standi. And I shall tell the tale as enacted on my body free of criticism or judgement. Alas, what’s done it done. If you knew me well-enough, you’d appreciate how difficult it is to refrain from interceding. The rare occasions when I’ve failed at this, have been, historically speaking . . . rather explosive. To not risk blowing my top, to keep calm and still my faults and multi-levelled layers from potential upset, I shall endeavour to remain as I have these many eons, passively neutral in that place known as Singapura.
The torrent of killer fish swarming her seas and attacking her fishermen was already in retribution. By whom? No, not me. I don’t do a lot remember? Lying around is my area of expertise. Let’s call it the universe, that energy that keeps the world in balance, the gods that have existed from the beginning of thought and ultimately an absolute power. The swordfish were sent by Him, a divine spirit of order to teach Singapura a lesson. Unbeknownst to the island’s common denizens, the lowly and unwitting rakyat, their Sultan and his plethora of court advisors had caused to be slain an emissary of light.
“Beware,” they implored, “his religious speech can lead the rakyat astray and threaten your Majesty’s ability, even might and right to rule,” the advisors, working for their own interests, advised in the palatial Istana. Day in and day out like the drops that soften the hardest of granites, they persisted until the visiting saintly representative was arrested and killed, if not at his hand, by the Sultan’s own wishes.
Not a handful of days passed before sharp swords from the sea battered the beaches with their attacks. Despite shields of wood and metal, no number of soldiers organised in lines along my shores could reduce their numbers nor stem their returning barrage. Here it was that sand and briny foam remained stained in salty crimson for months from the bloody waves of soldiers who trusted in following orders blindly, without question.
The solution that saved Singapura eventually came from one very bright child. “Replace the barricade of men with banana stumps,” he recommended.
This caused the fishes’ sharp protrusions to be stuck in spongey cylindrical trunks, and soon had the islanders rejoicing in feasts of swordfish. From being raised at first to the rank of advisor and being showered with wealth by the grateful Sultan, what was the boy’s fate after that? Foresight alone, lacking in Afterthought — like the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus not thinking in synch, can lead to fatal mistakes. Such was the case of this unwitting fellow. “Too smart for his own good.”; “Too smart for anyone’s good.” The Sultan and the rakyat alike were fearful of his potential. “What might he do when he’s grown up?”; “He’ll lord over us all and enslave us!”
Thus, upon his return to me in the dark of night thrust into a shallow grave out of sight of all but mother nature, I welcomed the young corpse with open arms. His creative spark was too great to be wasted amongst mere mortals.