Chapter 29–Epilogue

In this novel that draws on Malaysian folklore, Suraya's grandmother gives her a "pelesit" — a ghost or spirit — named Pink. But Suraya finds it difficult to control Pink's dark side.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. wane
    grow smaller
    They sat on the curb in a row outside the cemetery, first the ghostly form of Hussein, then Jing, Suraya, and Pink each casting three long, thin shadows in the waning sunlight.
  2. bravado
    a swaggering show of courage
    Pink could see the ghost shrug, trying to put on a cloak of bravado he clearly didn’t feel.
  3. croon
    sing softly
    Elephants never forget, and I never want to forget you, she’d crooned.
  4. incessantly
    without interruption
    Suraya relayed this information to Jing, who pulled out her phone, still dinging incessantly.
  5. hinder
    be an obstacle to
    It would take your mothers at least four hours to arrive at this place, and that is if there were no traffic to hinder them.
  6. contrite
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    Jing’s face was immediately contrite. “Sorry, Sooz. I didn’t mean it like that.”
  7. engrossed
    giving or marked by complete attention to
    The only people in sight were those manning their businesses, and even those were few and far between; the man in the shop proclaiming Photostat, Printing, Binding, Laminating, We Take Passport Photo Also was struggling to bring down the metal shutters and close up, and the aunty presiding behind rows of plump white steamed pau was engrossed in a telenovela playing on her phone, squinting so she could read the subtitles.
  8. musty
    stale and unclean smelling
    In the stale, musty air, her whisper carried like a shout.
  9. ominous
    threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
    The moon hung round and full and bright in the sky, but its light was often obscured by clouds, which were so billowy and ominous that they blocked out even the stars.
  10. oppressive
    weighing heavily on the senses or spirit
    The air was damp and heavy, that oppressive heat and humidity that promised a glorious thunderstorm.
  11. concede
    admit or acknowledge, often reluctantly
    I'll own that it's not an ideal option, he conceded.
  12. falter
    move hesitatingly, as if about to give way
    With every step toward the cemetery, Pink felt Suraya’s footsteps falter a little more, then a little more still.
  13. amend
    make better
    “Hi, ghosts.”
    They both turned to glare at Jing, who hastily amended her greeting. “I mean, uh, salutations oh residents of the grave.”
  14. conspicuous
    without any attempt at concealment; completely obvious
    Suraya gripped the marble in one hand and cleared her throat conspicuously.
  15. mediocrity
    ordinariness as a consequence of being average
    The witch used to call Kuala Gajah a “stuck” town: “Stuck in time, stuck in customs, stuck in mediocrity,” she’d snort.
  16. lethargy
    inactivity; showing an unusual lack of energy
    It wasn’t a town where young people built a life; it was a town you moved away from while you still could, before it captured you in its web of lethargy and sucked the energy and ambition from your bones.
  17. jaunty
    having a cheerful, lively, and self-confident air
    Even Pink could recognize the familiar, jaunty little tune.
  18. querulous
    habitually complaining
    “What are you staring for?” he said, his voice loud and querulous.
  19. glower
    look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
    And he glowered at them as though he’d have liked to have them disciplined right then and there.
  20. clad
    wearing or provided with clothing
    Only this time, it was a kind-faced woman, plump as a pau and just as white in the moonlight, and clad in a worn-out kaftan with fraying bat-wing sleeves, her hair hidden beneath a ghostly knit cap.
  21. peevish
    easily irritated or annoyed
    “It’s these kids,” the uncle-ghost said peevishly, pointing at them.
  22. preen
    pride or congratulate oneself for an achievement
    “Saloma?” Suraya squinted at the plump ghost, who preened at the attention. “Like...the famous singer?”
  23. trill
    pronounce with a flutter of the tongue
    “A name, dear, give us a name,” Saloma-or-Salmah trilled.
  24. belligerent
    characteristic of an enemy or one eager to fight
    Suraya’s anger bubbled inside her until it boiled over, seeping into her words, turning them loud and belligerent.
  25. rend
    tear or be torn violently
    Then it was impossible not to look back, impossible not to watch as those tiny, monstrous shapes swarmed all over Pink, impossible not to scream as sharp claws began to rend his skin, as the pointed tips of tiny teeth began to gore his flesh.
  26. apparition
    a ghostly appearing figure
    There they were, rows of not-quite-there apparitions, bearing thick wooden branches and rocks picked from cemetery dirt in their barely opaque hands, and leading the charge were Saloma and Badrul, who glowered at the interlopers.
  27. interloper
    someone who intrudes on the privacy or property of another
    There they were, rows of not-quite-there apparitions, bearing thick wooden branches and rocks picked from cemetery dirt in their barely opaque hands, and leading the charge were Saloma and Badrul, who glowered at the interlopers.
  28. melee
    a noisy riotous fight
    Through the driving rain, Suraya could just make out her long, sharp nails and the menacing grin on her pale face as she swooped down among the ghostly melee.
  29. sodden
    wet through and through; thoroughly wet
    The rain turned their baju kurungs into sodden, heavy nets that clung to their skin, weighed them down, and caught at their ankles; it seeped deep into the earth, turning it into thick mud that alternately made them slip and slide, or gripped their shoes and refused to let go.
  30. trinket
    a small cheap ornament, knickknack, or piece of jewelry
    Jing ran toward the trees, the toyol hot on her heels, and as she ran she scattered bright colored cheap plastic toys, candy, and coins that they’d cobbled together from their own pockets and from the shelves of the only 24-hour convenience store in town. The trinkets shone and glimmered in the moonlight.
  31. peruse
    examine or consider with attention and in detail
    “Oooooooh,” they heard him whisper as he sat to peruse them properly, turning each one over and over lovingly between his fingers.
  32. vagrant
    a wanderer with no established residence or means of support
    You just need the blood of a murdered man. And nobody notices one less vagrant, one less drug addict, one less drain on society.
  33. finesse
    subtly skillful handling of a situation
    But the thing is, while the polong do what they’re told, they have no...finesse. Send them to exact revenge on my enemies and people just wind up dead.
  34. miscreant
    a person without moral scruples
    We’re going to go, you and I, before people come looking for you little miscreants.
  35. biddable
    willing to carry out the wishes of another without protest
    “I knew as soon as your mother told me about you, that you were the sort to obey. A biddable child, a child who does as she’s told. A child who doesn’t like to make trouble for other people. A good girl.”
  36. inevitable
    incapable of being avoided or prevented
    Suraya didn’t know what was going through her friends’ minds, but her own was filled with the cold dread of words like goodbye and gone and forever, and she couldn’t shake the fear that saying anything at all would bring their inevitable parting even closer.
  37. placebo
    an innocuous or inert medication
    You remember that time you insisted you were sick? You threw such a tantrum when we told you that you were perfectly well, the doctor gave you placebo pills. You thought that was what the medicine was called, when it actually wasn’t medicine at all. It was fake, a little lie to make you believe you would get better.
  38. leaven
    an influence working subtly to lighten or modify something
    The witch shook her head, the lines on her face leavened with sadness.
  39. testy
    easily irritated or annoyed
    “I’m family,” the witch replied testily. “And what’s more, you never even come to see my grave. Young people today, honestly.”
  40. solemn
    dignified and somber in manner or character
    Slowly, he got up and stood before Suraya’s mother, who seemed not at all surprised to be addressed by this scaled, horned, solemn-eyed beast.
Created on November 27, 2020 (updated December 3, 2020)

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