Friday, July 8, 2011

When life becomes memory

Long time ago, someone told me a story about a man trying to survive a huge flood by staying on the rooftop of his sinking home. The story was short but had a powerful point that while faith and determination always turn things around, stupidity ruins everything after. The man in the story had strong faith in God and because of that, he was able to stay alive for help to arrive. At the same time, he was stupid enough to take this faith a little too literally, so he rejected all the help from passers-by like boats and choppers by saying 'No, I don't need your help, I am waiting for God to help me and He will!' The ending of this story is obvious, I usually get a good laugh out of it when sharing it with others.

Lili is the first person I shared this story with, three years ago. Only this time, I fail to make her laugh. I guess she isn't old enough to get the point yet. She is only 11, her mother is a good friend of mine who's always working long hours. Therefore, I babysit Lili from time to time. She is a really smart, innocent girl who loves to talk about science and nature. Today is Saturday, here we are at my house waiting for her mom to come pick her up. The TV's on, and we are watching TV documentaries about animals and nature, which is always our favorite topic of discussion.

This program is about the nature and lives on Komodo island, Indonesia. It's also the first time Lili takes a good look at nature's deadliest monitor lizard: the Komodo dragon. As soon as she sees this 3-meter-long creature slowly crawling through the woods, she becomes quiet and amazed by such fearsome creation of the mother nature. I know I'd not want to encounter such a magnificant creature in real life. This cold-blooded lizard has excellent sense of smell that allows them to stalk their prey for weeks, then strike the target with venomous bite. They can take down preys 10 times larger than their size with a single bite. It's a nightmare to be wounded and then stalked by the dragon armed with deadly claws, sharp teeth and the horrific fork tongue of death.

Lili quickly relaxes when scene switches to a large herd of buffalos marching toward a river. She likes to laugh at buffalos due to some kind of connection she made previously with her favorite cartoon character 'Ox king', this is something I will not get. Nontheless, It's good to have her all relaxed. Speaking of buffalos, it is one of those species introduced to the island of dragon by human migration. I do have a lot of respect to this giant horned creature. In my opinion, they are very intelligent animals that combine might, hard work and strong social bondings to achieve their greatest success in evolution. In fact, any bovine animal will remind me of the society that I personally live in. They live their lives by creating strong bonds among individuals, and I believe that they can feel what we feel for the most part. My dad once told me that during his time in Mongolia as a butcher, he noticed that cattles were the only animal that would cry when seeing the man they trusted with the butcher knife walking towards them. Therefore, my dad stopped eating beef long time ago.

The encounter between buffalos and Komodo dragons aren't on daily basis, because these two creatures have very different lifestyles. However, at the largest river delta on this island where all lives gather, any encounters are possible. I forgot the name of this delta, it doesn't matter because it's just like the Nile Delta or the Amazon River in their ecosystems, this place is the life sanctuary where all animals will go to no matter how hard it is. The delta gives all lives power, energy that they've been working so hard to obtain. It's the place where dreams come true. "Yes, just like hollywood!" for whatever reasons, I mumble out of the blue, which is soon responded by Lili's funny look. The same delta where lives flourish can also be the place where danger lurks. Remember, the moment when animals have the most pleasure and comfort with the resources, they are most likely to forget what they are supposed to do, and hence become more vulnerable and open to danger that will end their lives. That is what predators are counting on, and so they wait patiently by the river. This is the ideal place for the dragons if they want a chance with the much larger buffalo.

Hundreds of buffalos gather by the river, they are less cautious than their African counterparts. Perhaps, they don't know what lions look like on this isolated island of Indonesia. One particular buffalo is being focused by the film crew. It's an adult female. She is everything you can ask for in a buffalo, the tenacity, power, sheer size has earned her respect from others in the herd; she also fascinates the film crew. Therefore, she is given a name Linda by the crew members who've been filming this herd for weeks. Linda's popularity is without a doubt, She gets to feed in larger area with more food; she always has other buffalos arounds her; she even shows signs of playfulness to the film crews by getting extremely close to the camera lens and trying to smell it. Every person on the science team likes her, specially her big eyes, perhaps they can see the beauty of this creature through them. Such pair of eyes, just like a twin crystal clear lakes in a mythical virgin land. Looking into them, summons the purest authentic desire to protect and love that's hidden in the deepest place of heart of men. I don't know where to find such crystal clear lakes on earth if they do exist. It would definitely be in a place far from civilization. Where would I find this pair of eyes in humans? Lili has such eyes, the authenticity, joy and innocence that can not be imitated by any advance technology. Her power comes from life. Looking into her eyes, who can resist giving her the deepest, earnest blessings from heart? Don't you want to bless her for the rest of her life to be safe, successful and happy? That's the power of Linda's eyes.

River delta gives lives, but it also gives challenges. In other words, this isn't a paradise in reality despite what it is perhaps considered. Linda's popularity made her the center of attention, yet it also brings her shadows of darkness that she is not aware of. The komodo dragons, although there are only two hanging around, have been focusing on her as long as the film crews have. Normally in African Safari, animals around the pool will be well on guard. Even the tiniest movement around the bush can send them running. Yet, it's not the case here in Komodo, although the hot mid-summer breeze does carry the scent of predators from miles away, buffalos aren't too worried. What can two small lizards do? They are probably just waiting to have their share of the pool. This is why the cold-blooded dragons are such successful hunters. Patience is one of their biggest weapon, another is their abiliy to smell the easiest target. Scientists are still trying to figure out this sixth sense of the dragons. While the scientists are still working on it in the lab, the dragons already know that Linda will be the easiest target despite her size, strengh or popularity, they creep in closer and closer.

The beauty of life is it's unpredictability, nobody, even the wisest man in the history couldn't figure it out. It is fascinating to see the seemingly unrelated decisions can lead to entirely different life-changing outcomes. It is the greatest dream of human to want to go back in time in order to change past events for a better present existence. Therefore, we consistently live with regret an pain. For animals with less intelligence, they certainly can't analyze the way we do, they go by basic instinct. In some cases, they can correct their action in time to prevent further progression to undesire outcomes, but oftenly nature only offers one shot in their lives. There is a saying that curiosity killed the cat, it couldn't be more true here for the buffalo as Linda's curiosity of uncommon things has made her dangerously close to the two dragons. The decision of her trying to smell them alters her life. Only in her case, satisfaction isn't going to bring it back. The dragons launch a quick attack on the buffalo's front leg, so lightning fast that the camera barely catches the movement. Although the Komodo dragons are known to prey on buffalos, it is rare to be captured on camera. The film crew is excited, they zoom in on the bite mark of the animal's front leg and notice it is slightly bleeding. The single bite seems to break the otherwise tranquil poolside, as birds take off flying, rodents run and buffalos stop their bath.

Linda is wounded, however it doesn't seem to be fatal. Perhaps she doesn't realize what just happened. To her, maybe it was a kiss or an unpleasant touch on the foot by some weird looking creatures that can barely reach her knee. She walks away and resumes her normal activities while the dragons stay. She doesn't know what it means to her when bitten by this lizzard. She might even feel good about that as if this is some validation that she seems to demonstrate her popularity. Hence, she isn't going to take it seriously, after all, she is just a buffalo.Interesting enough, there are no struggles between predator and prey, the whole relationship forms as if both are willing to with satisfaction. Maybe this is the agreement that has worked so well for centuries.

The filming of Komodo dragon's predation isn't easy. It usually takes weeks to see the whole process from attacking to feasting. Therefore, the crew has to be just as patient and focused as the predators themselves.

In the next day, Linda's wound starts to get worse. More blood trails on her path. Several times she reaches down to lick her wound. She is just wondering where the blood is coming from and perhaps doesn't even remember much of being attacked. As time goes by, Linday's acting more unlike a buffalo. Unknowningly, the body of Linda is marked by the scent of the fearsome komodo dragons, this is perhaps an irreversible outcome in the wild. Linda starts to repel other buffalos. They still recognize her as a member in the herd, yet they somehow sense difference of her, so subtle yet so dark. It is the darkness that can potentially end the life of any healthy raging bulls. The itching and burning sensation from the wound has irritated her to a great deal that she starts rubbing her legs against any objects she can find, or even on other buffalos. She no longer approaches the film crew but prefer spending more time by herself in the mud trying to cool off her burning leg. Lili is concerned of the prey, she asks me 'So what will happen to her next?' To comfort her feeling, I respond "Well, I think she will be ok, as long as she stays in her herd, her friends will help her out."

What Lili has not known yet is that the venom will get deeper and deeper into the blood and heart of it's victim as every hour passes by. The only way to save the victim is by antidote made from the blood of the venom's maker, the dragon itself. Another day has gone by and Linda becomes less energetic. She is limping and obviously weakened. It is unknown as since when there are four dragons waiting not very far from Linda, but they are all waiting for the same thing. Linda's skin gets darker, she rarely moves. Occasionally, other fellow buffalos come by her wanting to mingle; she impatiently drives them off. The only thing she wants is covering her face in the mud. The dragons aren't so worry about their prey. For cold-blooded reptiles, they don't need to eat as often, therefore they have plenty of time to wait. They know there is no need to pursue Linda anymore since she is already hooked. Other targets aren't their concern at this time, unless the animals are curious enough to come forward them to try their bite.

It has been almost one week since Linda was bitten. Her condition is getting apparently much worse. The eyes of Linda is different now. There is no longer love and joy in them, they are filled with rage. She is completely singled out by the herd, they are obviously afraid as if there is a dark cloud hovering over whereever Linda goes. It is uncertain whether her rage comes from not being accepted anymore, one thing that we can all see is the helplessness and desperation she exudes. She grawls occasionally in searching for an answer to her misery. Yet the responses she gets is the dragons moving in a few more feets, now she is much closer to the Komodo dragons than her own herd members. The dragons are just a few feet away. Linda seems to allow them in her proximity. Some buffalo members do still come by to check on her, but it is getting different as Linda no longer gives them welcome. Maybe her rage has taken it's toll on her that she is feeling tired so quickly after growling a few times, She chooses to be indifferent to the presence of her fellows now. What's fascinating is not just the patience of the dragons, but their focus on single target. throughout the whole time when other buffalos come by Linda, they unknowingly get dangerously close to the predators too. Surprisingly, the dragons don't even pay attention to these seemingly easier target and ignore them. It is almost as if their sixth sense is telling them who is the easiest target so they will never waste their time and energy on uneasy ones. Imagine if a salesman has a sixth sense that tells him which customers want to buy the product and which don't, he will make millions effortlessly. Well here in Komodo island, the dragons aren't millionaires, but they surely live productively.

Another few days have passed by and Linda's still alive. Normally the victim will die by now, but Linda refuses. Maybe she doesn't know why she is so weak, or maybe she already knows but stops caring just like she doesn't care the fact that now there are ten dragons around her and some of them are within inches close. She slowly opens her eyes after a quick nap, her glaze is empty and aimless. The fork tongue of one dragon extends and reaches the face of the buffalo. Lili tightly holds my hand as she watches, 'Linda, get up and stay away from them' she can't help but wishing miracle to happen to Linda's survival. I am sure other buffalo members have the same concern and wish for Linda's well being, in fact they don't want to give up on their fellow members. That's why they have delayed the departure from the delta. However, it is obviously too late now. The venom perhaps already worked its way to the vital organ of the buffalo as Linda appears unreactive to the touch of dragon. More dragons get closer to Linda, fork tongues from all directions touches the unmoving body, they are talking in hiss to persuade her to give up. Linda slightly moves her body and the dragons back off. She is still alive on borrowed time, the dragons know she can't make the difference anyways, so they will wait instead of risking injury to forcifully kill her.

The buffalo herds finally decides that tt is now time to move on and leave the delta. By instinct, Linda should know that. Several buffalos are reluctant to move on, they can't leave without her. Yet, Linda is completely surrounded by these creepy, dark grim reapers whose now once again reach out with their fork shape touch of death. They growl hoping Linda will get up, but she can no longer. The camera captures Linda's last glance at life. The every same pair of eyes that once touches the heart of everybody for it's pure love, joy and crystal beauty is dry, fading and dusty. It is like the once bottomless crystal blue lake now covered by a thick layer of oil spill and industry waste; it is like the once paradise virgin land where all lives roamed free is now the smoldering ruin filled with dirts and construction sites. It is different now. Linda is no longer able to growl, instead she is hissing just like the lizzards. She hisses as if asking the grim reapers to take her so the misery will end sooner. The dragons on the other hand, know that their feast will soon begin, therefore all they want is their victim to die comfortably and quickly. Lili is feeling really sad, she keeps asking why nobody tries to save the animal. I know it is very hard for anyone to watch any beautiful things decay into rotten waste, specially when we know we still can turn things around. The fate of Linda has concerned many people who watched. Needless to say the film crew who have developed emotional attachment to Linda over the past week have felt the deepest sorrow to watch her go.

'Will God save her if she asks?' Lily mumbles at me. 'Remember you said God tried to help that man from flood?' Until now I just realized that Lili was taking my joke too literally, it is her wishful thinking as part of her innocence. She seems to have already accepted the final fate of the dying buffalo, It's just that from the deepest love of her innocent nature, she keeps wishing a different outcome. 'Well, then it wouldn't be fair to Komodo dragons if external force interferes.' I know how hard it is for the film crew to stay out of it the whole time just like it is for me. As the feast ends, nothing is remained except the skull of a bovine animal with two big sockets where a twin crystal lake full of life and joy once filled. It is still very much alive as if it wants to pass on a message to whoever lucky or unlucky enough to come across "Don't die like me."

My only wish as the show comes to an end, is if Linda does have a soul, I want her to realize the truth so she can rest in peace. I turn to lili, re-experiencing the magical eyes of crystal clear purity, I feel warm and thankful. Lili looks back, I see questions from her eyes, she wants to ask lots of questions that are difficult for me to answer and difficult for her to understand. Therefore I just tell her 'Lili, just be a good girl and stay with good friends.' I don't know why I would say something like that. Well, maybe there is no why.


  1. Interesting story. I was wondering what the biblical tale had to do with the story but it's good that Lili mentioned it later on in the story. No offense but one of the last lines:

    'Lili, just be a good girl and stay with good friends.'seems a bit weak. I think you could come up with something better to say. Though, the whole why thing at the end of the story was good.

    Here are some corrections for future reference:

    with "a" venomous bite

    Lili quickly relaxes when "the" scene
    'Ox king";"'

    between buffalos and Komodo dragons aren't on "a" daily basis

    She gets to feed in "a" larger area

    of "the" heart of men

    just like twin crystal clear lakes (there should be no a)

    to"wards" the film crews

    she always has other buffalos arounds her "and" she

    Patience is their biggest weapon (take out "one of")

    history could figure it out (no "'nt")

    It is fascinating to see "that" the seemingly unrelated decisions

    It is the greatest dream of human"s"

    with regret an"d" pain.

    analyze what we do (take out "the way we do")

    Interesting"ly" enough

    "waiting for"? with satisfaction (It's not "willing to")

    end the life of healthy raging bulls (take out "any")

    She no longer approaches the film crew but prefer"s" spending more time by herself

    "It is unknown as since when there are four dragons waiting not very far from Linda, but they are all waiting for the same thing." (should become "it is unknown when she will die but, not very far away from Linda, four dragons await her death.")

    so worr"ied" about their prey

    unless the animals are curious enough to come forward "so they can be bitten."

    The eyes of Linda "are" different now. (No "is")

    She "c"rawls occasionally (No "in")

    Yet the responses she gets "are" the dragons moving in a few more feet (no s), now "that" she is much closer to the Komodo dragons than her own herd members.

    What's fascinating is not just the patience of the dragons, but their focus on "a" single target.

    Imagine if a salesman ha"d" a sixth sense (no s)

    just like "how" she doesn't care "about" the fact

    are within inches "from her" (no "close")

    she can't help but "wish for a" miracle to happen, "for Linda to survive"

    "nonreactive" to the touch of "the" dragon

    they are talking "hissing trying to" persuade her to give up

    "who are" now once again "reaching" out with their "tongue" of death

    The "very" same pair of eyes that once"d" touche"d" the heart of everybody for it's pure love

    it is like the "one" paradise virgin land where all lives "roam" free is now "a" smoldering ruin filled with dirts and construction sites.

    she keeps asking why nobody trie"d" to save the animal

    I know it is very hard for anyone to watch any beautiful "thing to"

    'Remember you said God tried to help that man from "the" flood?'

    I turn to "Lili"

    1. Thank you, I really appreciated.

      How would you suggest for the last line?


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