Is it the Malay, or is it an Asian parents' characteristic of bringing up their children by instilling fear in them? I was a victim. I was brought up with many adults around me: my grandparents and their peers -- so they each have some favourite way to scare you to bits with tangible or intangible beings.
As far as I remember, as a child, the folowing are the most fearsome:
This Hantu brought the thrill to playing hide and seek. Will you, or won't you get caught this time? But I wonder if it in fact killed the joy. This Hantu must be female, because it has huge breasts (kopek (to east coasters) is breasts or tetek (to west coasters)).
For some reason untold, we children were warned that we would be hidden under the Hantu's kopek, never to be found again, should we play hide-and-seek at maghrib time (dusk).
Later, I found myself making a generalisation of the warning to being abducted by Hantu Kopek if I hid in dark places, even if it was not at maghrib.
Mak Sang Kelembai
This makcik isn't very nice. It perches itself on the tops of coconut trees at midday. All this information isn't written in books but I made the inferences needed from my grandmother's constant reminder: "Keluarlah tengah-tengah hari ni; nanti tegur di Mak Sang Kelembai, jadi batu. Dia duduk atas pokok kelapa tu."
The rest was up to my imagination: could I still see if I were turned to stone? Would someone bring food for me? I never asked where this Mak cik went at other parts of the day, because the threatening tone as well as the you-should-know-this glance from my grandma told me not to.
I would simply hang about in the house, getting in my grandmother's way until after her nap and her kuihs before I ventured out to friends' houses.
Mind you, Wan (my grandmother) passed away when I was six, so I must have been going out to others' houses younger than that!
Orang Tajam Batu
This tall, dark, unshaven, turbaned guy with a gruff voice was noticed at a slightly later time than the introduction to Mak Sang Kelembai. This time I was already playing hop-scotch and Police and Thieves/ Police Sentry.
Orang Tajam Batu may be tangible, but Orang Tajam Batu was mysterious. Orang Tajam Batu was never friendly with the children: he only dealt with the adults. You didn't get to see him very often, which made it worse. But when he came round, most nice mak ciks and tok ciks would be thrilled. They would get their dull batu gilings and kisars sharpened.
But us children would run helter skelter and hide away till he was well beyond earshot before we would nervously step out to resume play. Orang Tajam Batu's song: Taaajam batu, tajam batu, batu giling! with the last syllable said out like a question.
Tapioca Hill in Kuantan is very different from what it was 40 years ago. The frontage now are brick buildings housing Eng Hong Mini Market and another, Klinik Yusof. The end unit of a row of terrace houses was a kandang kambing, belonging to Allahyarhamah Mak Long Siton.
The simple setup of the pen was a cause for concern to me; for within it was a black ram, with curled up horns, and his harem. The wooden fence looked too flimsy to protect passers-by from the ram should it run amok, which, to my imagination he was extremely capable of, and it would happen when I happen to pass by.
Another cause is the unmistakable goat smell wafting from it, especially in the morning. The ram's favourite pastime, at any time of the day was to sidle up to the fence entrance, rubbing its tick infested body against it, letting out a snort and a groan once awhile. I believe I had never taunted the ram, unless with a group of friends, but would still be alert, in case he managed to jump at us.
Now, to get to school on the black and white Bee Huat bus, I had to walk the 500 metres to the main road, passing the pen. Here was where I would bend my head, so as not to be in eye contact with the male goat, and walk as fast as I could down the slight incline. I would then be able to breathe properly, and not because of the smell from the goats' urine and droppings.
There had been times when the pen was open and the ram pranced about, scaring the wits out of children. I don't remember the ram further from the poutside of the entrance, but the fact that he was free was scary. I guess the adults were afraid too, but were able to disguise it.
Now Mak Long Siton also kept a black-and-white lanky siamang under her house. His cage was a long, narrow shack, with a plank right at the back of it for the siamang to rest on. Otherwise, he was happier clinging on to the wire door of his cage,hands spread out way above his small head and legs apart; trying to get attention from people. Otherwise, he would agilely carry himself from one end of the cage to the other.
One day, however, as we were lying on the floor of our living room in the afternoon,the siamang suddenly appeared, dangling from one hand on our window. How we screamed. We were taken by surprise: some of us were half asleep and half dazed, we scrambled to our feet; some of us totally dazed and had to take several seconds to make sense of things. But my father just stood up and chased it away. Pheeww.
So I guess I should include the siamang as its appearance was totally unexpected.