I had been here before.
I was tracking down my own black magician. And I was also interested in the village of the night that serviced its population. Out of sight, out of mind. Even in a strictly enforced area of Islam, it seems to work well.
‘A girl’s got to make a buck too,’ said Bernhard, who was rubbing his head. ‘What was the king hit for cunt?’
You were under some kind of spell and throwing your money around. ‘I just didn’t want you throwing all your hard earned cash at those boobs.’
‘Not even a grope,’ says Bernhard, who lights up a Dunhill for both of us. It’s his way of saying thanks for saving his bank account.
Despite my better judgement, I took some more herbs and tucked it under my tongue to dissolve.
‘You are sure it’s the spiritual herb that Beni gave us?’
‘Well I fucking hope so.’
I just wasn’t sure. Bernie seemed confused.
‘Here, get this down you,’ I said. I handed him another Red Bull, ‘and follow it with an ice coffee. Might clear your head.’
Ten minutes later, heading due south, a pedestal in the middle of the road indicated that we were close.
It was nearing midnight and the witch with bull horns smiled.
‘How the fuck can a statue smile.’
Maybe it was designed that way, to smile.
Or maybe the herbs were already working on us.
‘Turn left, cunt.’
Which I did, and about five hundred meters down the road, Bernie said to chuck a right.
He was on Google Maps.
‘And my sense of direction is better than yours.’
I was feeling in better shape. This is where our mystical journey began.
I parked the car and outside, a guy was waiting for his parking fee.
In the distance I could hear loud techno music.
‘Always a sure sign there are whores around,’ said Bernhard, who seemed to have spring in his steep. He was no longer the stooping man on the wrong side of 50.
‘And so should you,’ he says, ‘I’ve also given you some of the anti-arthritis herb.’
I was feeling ten foot tall. Blood was surging around places that hadn’t received blood for many years.
‘A bit early for hardons isn’t it.’
I didn’t mean that.
‘Of course you did,’ said Beni, who appeared from out of a shadow leading into the main street of the village.
Now how do I explain this place? I always have issues with writing about atmosphere.
‘About six bars on each side of the street,’ says Bernie, ‘guys ducking in an out, loud music, pub crawl Indonesia style, no fights, and hookers sitting outside calling in punters and hookers inside sitting with punters and crooning the night over sets of Bintang and Pilsner beer, you know, that dark beer.’
Well fuck a duck, Bernie has potential.
‘It’s not about what you see,’ says Beni, who seemed dressed up in a 70’s get up, hair sleeked back and he seemed 20 years younger, ‘it’s about what you feel, and I can only guess you are feeling much younger and optimistic, am I right?’
Too right he was fucking right. I was feeling superb.
‘Now what will it be?’ asked Beni, ‘ more slobbering over big tits, we have plenty of working girls who are Double D’s, or would you like a glimpse into East Java mysticism.’
‘Both,’ said Bernie.
‘Ok,’ says Beni, ‘follow me.’
He led out of the village to a trot.
‘No slackers,’ he said, as we caught up to him in a fast trot, ‘as you’ll notice, your knees aren’t playing up, there’s fluid in your motion, nothing jolting, your pores are opening up, you are feeling at one with your environment and if you look further in the distance, you’ll see Mt. Ijin bubbling sulphur fumes and lava. This is a mystical land.’
Then he stopped, we were a good two kilometres on the main road standing next to the pedestal we passed on the way in.
‘She likes you,’ said Beni, and he winks at me. ‘She thought it was a blast that you had your mate Frank frozen into a statue and displayed on a pedestal where our patron saint now stands.’
Frank was a colleague and a real horn dog.
‘I’m glad you wrote the fucker out in this version,’ said Bernhard, ‘he was costing me far too many reads.’
So you read that version?
‘And the one before that.’
‘If you look down the road, about 20 kilometres from here, you’ll find another statue; it’s of a western surfer, with blonde hair. He opened up East Java with the surf culture. We had many surfers looking for the big wave come over here. Our waves are sometimes bigger than those in Hawaii.’
The witch smiled at me and started cackling. She only had one eye. She spoke to me.
‘We put up the statue in the 90s are the purge of our villagers who were accused of practising black magic. It’s a warning for anyone not from here to respect us or receive the wrath of the patron of Sweet Smelling Water.’
What’s her name?
‘Emelia,’ he says, ‘she’s never dead or alive. When you take the herb, she will speak to you.’
And when you don’t take the herb?
‘She may still smile at you and communicate through telepathy Wi-Fi.’
What the fuck.
‘Actually a fuck can be arranged,’ said Beni, who I suspect was keen to sell more of his herbs. Bernie was smoking a Dunhill and admiring the beauty of this one eyed witch.
‘I’d fuck her,’ he said.
‘I see the herb is acting on you,’ says Beni. ‘Maybe it’s time to go back to the village and meet the real and living witch, which this pedestal was based on.’
So Bungyuwangi doesn’t like outsiders imposing their standards on them?
‘We are between two cultures, we aren’t quite 100 percent Muslim, and nor have we jettisoned our Hindu heritage which can be see all over the place, if you care to look more carefully.’
I cared to look more carefully. From here, it was only a forty minute ferry ride to Bali. It’s inevitable that there would be influences.
‘We are East Javans, and have never liked being told what to do by a centralised government in Jakarta. They have no right to kill off local politicians and then blame it on villagers killing black magicians who have done them harm.’
I was starting to see the bigger picture.
‘We don’t kill those who have done us harm, but once we slip some herb in their welcome drink, they are given a flash back of those killings and the killings in the 60’s when centralised Jakarta told us who could live and who couldn’t.
Apparently 500 000 were chosen to die.
‘I can show you a few mass graves if you like,’ said Beni. ‘We will never forget when family members killed their sisters and mothers and grandparents, anyone who was considered a communist sympathiser, were hit over the head with a car axel and buried. No questions were ever asked.’
This was getting heavy.
‘It’s amplified,’ says Beni, who starts trotting back to the village. I light up a cigarette and follow. ‘Let the celebrations begin,’ says Beni, who was like a horse running to water, ‘we still have more to discuss and feel.’
More to feel, this was looking promising.
We sat down at a table inside one of the bars, which Beni seemed to own, when considering the attentiveness of the mamsan and wait staff.
‘I do own it,’ he said, as he poured us each a beer, ‘and I don’t usually sell the herb, but felt if I gave it to you for free, you might not appreciate it. Besides, there are costs in manufacturing it and I sold it at cost.’
‘Well I’ll have some more,’ said Bernhard, who pulled out a few more red notes.
Beni touched Bernie on the shoulder and said, very solemnly, ‘you are an honorable man,’ and he looked at me, ‘I’ve been given feedback from my nieces Adul and Fitri, and they tell me you were gentlemen, no attempt at groping.’
I was going to tell him about the tity rubs, ‘ doesn’t count,’ says Beni, who cut into my thought. ‘What matters is that you gave from your heart, wanting to help two waitresses who were paying their way through University, that’s admirable in my books.’
I was really glad we passed muster.
‘So was I,’ said Beni, who was holding a kris, a traditional Indonesian dagger, ‘ otherwise I’d have to use this.’
Bernhard handed a few more notes, and said, ‘the rest for the dowery will come later.’
Beni laughed, and slapped his hands on his knees, ‘you two are crazy fuckers, one a kiwi and the other an Aussie, let the party begin.’
In walked the mamasan, she only had one eye, the other socket was empty, but no horns.
‘Yes,’ said Beni, ‘I know what you are thinking, and yes, the statue was modelled on her.’
She transformed before our eyes.
But I was more curious about the night shift on top of Mt. Ijin. The herbs was making me perky. I had all this excessive energy and wanted to feel what it was like to be young again.
‘We can set you up with a big set of boobs, or catch up with my friends on top of Mt. Ijien,’ said Beni. ‘And I might go into more detail about the magical property of the sulphur rock.’
No whoring, can you read my lips.
‘I can see the verbal diarrhea coming out of it,’ says Bernie, who picked up the car keys from the table and said he’d drive.
Beni paid up the tab.
‘On the house boys,’ he says, ‘but all I ask is that you put a few hours of work on top of the summit. I want you to feel what it’s like to be a miner in Indonesia.’
I needed a a work out and I’m sure Bernhard wanted to witness me doing hard work for once in my life.
‘You couldn’t work in an iron lung.’
With a few more Red Bulls and another pinch of that herb, I think I’ll be fine.
A few more reds were handed over and Beni provided another pouch.