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Person I

DOT: Putting an end to a story. A dead story. Or a story which has yet to come alive? One which is not too far ahead of us, on the timeline with a zigzagging storyline. With lines of light conjuring up clouds, the sea, palm trees, sandy beaches and so on. A mesmerising morning landscape. A mirror copy of a painting. A painting of nature. The clouds look fluffy, the sea continues to rumble. The fronds of palm trees wave gently. The shifting sand wishes to whisper the unsent secrets from the land on the other side; washed ashore by the waves, and pulled again into the torrent. And so on. What about us? Already at the end even before the beginning: “A dead story. Or a story which has yet to come alive?” The moment when clouds, the sea, palm trees, sandy beaches and others vanish into the speck of a full stop. Into a point that refuses to stay in its line. Into the dot.

“Is that your perspective?” I ask. I’d like to know her point of view—first person singular. A view transfixed on a certain landscape. A spellbinding view?

“I…,” says Noor as the soft wind caresses her hair, “think so too.” A view merely to agree. To avoid from giving complicated answers that will raise more and more questions? To dissatisfy me. Noor is like that. Just like before. If the question is brief, the answer will be just as brief too. Even her voice is barely audible. Other words she has uttered have probably been blown away by the wind of the Strait. Just as the busy wind briskly brought my wish—my desire—to this island. To George Town for its landscape paintings. From who-knows-where. Where am I from?

The sampans, unmanned boats, sway by the jetty. Moored in loneliness. At the entry of the jetty, behind a lamp post, a man in a pink shirt is still standing. Who is he? Clicking his camera, capturing the morning landscape. Or capturing our photos? I try not to care. Just like how Noor keeps repeating, “I guess he forgot to put film in the camera.”

A ferry is approaching.

“Because of his talent,” I explain to Noor, “Apart from his fluency in English.” Indeed, the landscape painter Abdullah Ariff would never be accepted into the Penang Impressionists, an art club consisted of European expatriate wives, if not because of his mastery of the visual language. A language of the eyes. Solely the eyes. I remember an oft-repeated tale: When Charles Jackson recommended the Malay art teacher while showing two of his artworks, the British housewives were so surprised that they “raised their eyebrows as high as Penang Hill!”

For better or worse, I have to find the landscape painting. That last landscape painting by Abdullah Ariff, the watercolour artist who lived and died on this island. The final painting which was inspired by the two early works that made their eyebrows rise “as high as Penang Hill”. The painting has never been seen by anybody—except by Awang Dot. And my coming here is indeed to meet him. To meet Awang Dot.

“You still want to meet him, Indra? For that final landscape?” Noor asks. A question she often repeats.

Standing at the end of this jetty, what else can I say except, “Because in the end, we’re all seekers of beauty.”


Person II

The ferry refuses to kiss the jetty. Why is it still drifting in the middle of the sea? Like a landscape painting; a jetty and a ferry that would never dock, has never docked.

Even Indra is motionless at the end of the jetty.

“I…,” he says, as the sweltering sun squeezes beads of sweat on the forehead, “...want to be the sea.” He then casts a glance towards the depths of the ocean. The rough and violent strokes of the rolling waves portray his obsession. He is no longer the same person. He now craves to be seasoned by the sea. Indra, our generation weren’t as well-seasoned. We are… “If this morning panorama is a landscape painting, what do you want to be, Noor?”

“The sky,” I answer hesitantly, “I want to be the sky.”

The boats keep knocking each other. Blown by the hopeful wind.

The man in the pink shirt is still standing by the entry of the jetty, capturing the morning with his camera. Eagerly framing the sea and the sky.

The sea and the sky we see today—or at any other time—on this island, this town that is being rebuilt after a tragedy, even if they are breath-taking, everything is different from before. How should I explain this to him? Indra, reach for the fluffy clouds in the sky, grab the sand at the beach that is trying to whisper in your ears, everything from the time before is gone. This scenery is currently being projected from up there, from the peak of Penang Hill. Yet the clouds, the sand and anything in between, they are not lies. They’re truth replacing the void of absence. This is too tricky. And so, I just let the wind of the Strait sweep it all away. To nowhere.

“Why the sky, Noor?”

“A secret of the universe?” I guess. But I do know that apart from the world above, the secret of the universe also lies down below. Whether we seek for it or continue to wait; let it be revealed in front of our eyes or let the secret stay a secret.

“You’ve always been like this, Noor. It’s true. Just like before,” says Indra. If the expanse of nature in a landscape painting is calming and soothing, I hope you will feel so as you look at what’s laid out in front of you. As for me, nature’s expanse cures my longing. “Did you know that in a landscape painting, the sea and the sky are only divided by a line. A fine line, Noor. Very fine—”

His phone rings, shouting a call to rush Indra over there. To where? When I try to follow, he forbids me. “Don’t go, Indra. Don’t!” I plead. It’s true, he’s no longer like before. He simply goes. His words reach my ears, “See you at the cinema this evening!” Making me feel even more disgusted with all the charade of the conglomerate people and their lust for art. Disgusted with my father. And now even Indra is involved.

Awang Dot, the person rumoured to have the last landscape painting by Abdullah Ariff, hasn’t shown up. His promise: To hand over the painting before he departs, leaving this cursed land forever. The painting no longer means anything on the mainland on the other side. But the promise remains merely a promise.

Only the man with the camera hanging around his neck is still there, by the entry of the jetty. He’s probably trying to unravel the secret of the universe from the photos of the sea and the sky. They are “divided by a line.” But in reality, the sea and the sky can never meet, will never meet, right?


Person III

I am Detective Osbert Teo. All the scenery I’ve seen all this while has only been through a lens. Including the panorama along this Weld Quay, where I've been since morning. Like all the mornings before. Twisting the lens—zooming in and out—to compose the sky and the sea in the viewfinder of my camera. Until two jetties burst into the lens, into my eyes. Both jetties stretch towards the sea, towards the mainland on the other side. Launching my memories to the time before this island, before this town:

The phrase “Penang Glorious Holidays Abroad” with an Art Deco-styled typeface caught my eye first before the lens managed to capture it. The bright yellow writing explained the reason I accepted the offer from the conglomerate with open arms; to return to the island. I'm not sure how many reprints have been made, but the landscape filling up the silkscreen poster measuring about two by four feet was still mesmerising: a red funicular train heading towards the peak of Penang Hill; a monkey (or three?) observing from a leafless tree, the blue-orange clouds and Abdullah Ariff’s signature curling on the bluish leaves in the lower left corner of the landscape. Was it the thrill of riding the vehicle or the sense of appreciation of the scenery? Modernity encroaching on nature or being intimidated, overpowered by nature?

The ferry arrived and I stepped forward with a conscience: this is not a vacation. Even though the news of Noor’s—and others’—disappearance was no longer a concern on the mainland, I still have to bring her out of the island, from the town. I have to take her home right away.

Every once in a while, I blow away the pink dust from the front of the lens. Then frame the composition of my subject: Noor and Indra. Both of them are still standing by themselves at the end of either jetty. But both jetties are too far apart from each other. Thus, when seen through the viewfinder, the composition feels off. One jetty is too far to the right. The other is too far to the left. Both jetties are too close to the opposing ends of the frame. I don’t want this landscape photo to look symmetrical.

But it’s impossible for the landscape photos I take to look like paintings. Indeed, my way of working is to record as it is. I’m not an idealist. Yes, I used to be—and am still—jealous of the romantic landscape artists who paint in solitude, far from the crowd, to be near nature. They are not realists. Indeed, their way of working is not to paint accurately but freely. And that is the freedom that I’m looking for. The freedom to choose whatever I want. And that is more personal.

“Penang Glorious Holidays Abroad”: Even though it’s not a vacation, it is a freedom. To see for myself the landscape coming from the lines of light projected from up above, from the peak of Penang Hill. To see for myself is to scrutinise in detail, to investigate: why is Noor still here? What is she looking for, what’s in the island’s panorama that is calling for her to return? As for me, the only landscapes that I’ve known and admired since the beginning are all of the ten paintings by Robert Smith, made throughout his stay in Penang. But that kind of beauty is far too different from what is currently pictured.

There’s a time which overlaps another time. The waving palm trees seem like they are not really there. Now and then, their swing and sway at Weld Quay overlaps with the bodies of the labourers carrying goods from inside the boats and sampans. Bull carts wait loyally, continue to wait.

There’s a rumour that the conglomerate people are the followers of the Cult of the Picturesque. They want to rebuild an idyllic world—a world that used to be idyllic—through the landscape paintings of any watercolour artists who used to breathe the air of the island. Thus, the effort to collect all these landscape paintings becomes more intense, more zealous. To breathe life into this island. Probably. Another conspiracy behind a conspiracy. Maybe all they really want is just to collect those artworks. Who knows? Simply to own. And the payment is an illusion.

Slowly I twist the lens. An assured focus. Indra and Noor will be separated in their own frames. Each of them will be alone, with their own space in their own frame. Composed according to the rule of thirds as they enter the aperture and freeze with a click!


Person I

“You’re like this because of a tragedy, Indra. We’re like this due to the tragedy.” Noor’s words still ring in my ears. Leaves alternate with rocky boulders, turning into yellowish-green strokes with the occasional grey on my right and left, as the red funicular train speeds upward; windows unable to freeze the view. Turning into impressionistic strokes, capturing light with wild streaks, freezing the ephemeral. Freezing me. She said it again, “You happened after a tragedy.”

It’s only when I’m alone in this red funicular that I have the time to digest her words. Words which in the beginning almost stopped me from coming here, to this town of Ayer Itam. But the call cut your words short, Noor. Put a full stop to your words. The call from Awang Dot. That is why I have to come here. Because I always lose out to my own instinct. Who’d expect that Awang Dot himself will hand over the painting by Abdullah Ariff to the Landscape Godown at the foot of Penang Hill? Whereas, all this while, he’s been adamant in refusing to let it go.

And I arrived right as the songkok-wearing figure stepped out of the warehouse. I didn’t have the time to ask, “Why?” Since the last Abdullah Ariff’s landscape painting was already on its way to the top, to the peak of Penang Hill. I want to see it. Am willing to die to see it!

The red funicular speeds up as it cuts through the forest. My right and left sides turn black. Pitch black as we’re swallowed by the tunnel.

My instinct strongly says that this memory doesn’t belong to me; I become the first among my people to be a traveller-artist after finishing my study at a fine art school. The academic training I received has allowed me to excellently document the various angles of the land that they’d recently explored. Very excellently. They and I, we’re all admirers of beautiful landscapes. The beauty of these lands before they were razed to build factories. Before my place was taken by photographers. And somehow, out of nowhere, they reappeared in front of me. These conglomerate people then assigned me to retrace all the landscape paintings by watercolour artists who lived and died on this island. Only those who use watercolours, not oil paints or any other media. At least for now. “To save them,” they explained, “To preserve and repair.” But I don’t want any payment. All I want is to look at the last Abdullah Ariff’s landscape painting. The painting which by now should have arrived at the peak of Penang Hill.

I push open the metal door with all my strength. The sombre yet sweltering room couldn’t stop me from entering—from intruding. By the wall in front of me, under the weak lamp, a number of recognisable paintings lie still: several of Robert Smith’s landscape paintings and a painting-in-a-painting, The Great Malaysian Landscape (1972) by Redza Piyadasa.

A corridor leads me to a space far inside, a gloomier room. The noise of clashing metal. Gears turning their ferocious teeth. A gigantic spherical machine is blowing hot vapour out of the steam pipes on its head. Fervently devouring the landscape paintings, one by one, as a conveyor belt diligently feeds them into the machine. Through a glass opening, I see how Landscape (1952) by Yong Mun Sen is being scanned inside the machine. Vertical and horizontal lines of light run alternately from left to right, back and forth. Waves of nostalgia vibrate the image, causing the faded blue-green pigments of the hills in the old painting to become unstable. Scans after scans

—the painting evaporates, vanishes with a streak of light.

Other paintings await. Where is the last of Abdullah Ariff's landscape paintings? I can't see clearly in this dingy space. Everything is hazy. But my instinct directs me to that one. The one currently being fed into the giant metal sphere that is always hungry for art objects!

With the little energy I have left, I push the switch towards the label “OFF” as hard as I can. But I can’t. My eyes hastily roam over the whole space before they fix on a hammer located by the door. I grab it instantly, take a few steps away, turn around and throw it as powerfully as I can towards the voraciously turning gears. The teeth of the gears are gaping wide now. A shrieking scream comes from the collapsing system. The machine suddenly trembles—running amok!

The siren blares its fury, glaring its red eyes. I look at both my palms. The saving hands. What’s my fault and error? At this point, my fingers are being slashed by lines of light. On and off. On. Off. With flashes that reincarnate. That obliterate. The machine is choking on its own vapour. The glass shatters. A brilliant light radiates free; with no chance to scan the last Abdullah Ariff’s landscape painting. No chance to open my eyes. No chance to wake me up with the yell from the loudspeaker, funnelling a regret: [NOOOOOOO!!!]


Person II

A poster of The Cameraman is displayed outside the Odeon cinema. The poster, with a bright yellow background, shows a caricature of Buster Keaton tightly hugging his three-legged camera, while being pulled by a policeman from behind a truck. The scene is being watched by a monkey. Indeed, humanity will always be watched. Will continue to be watched.

Penang Road is now less inundated by cars. A horse cart is huffing and puffing, as it carries its master home. Similarly, the late evening drags, leaving the day. The smell of warm popcorn is wafting in the air, teasing my nose. Suddenly my anxiety starts to sizzle. Even the cold Coca-Cola can’t calm my consternation. Ah, where’s Indra?

Mere seconds after he left in rush earlier, my phone started to ring. I threw it into the sea. Leaving the call to drown in question marks. I feel guilty, Indra. Truly guilty. For using you, Indra. Using you. All for art’s sake, for the lust of the conglomerate people. I have to explain everything to Indra later. I must. Explain how he and I, all of us, have become this way due to the tragedy.

Some say that the conglomerate people themselves are the one who feigned the explosion of their factories as an accident. As a distraction? From what? Who knows? Since there’s another speculation that is yet to be cracked, will never be cracked even if it’s thrown onto the rocks of Weld Quay: this is all generated by whom? By what? No one has ever gone up there, to the peak of Penang Hill. Some say that all of this is not created by us. Others say that it is all from the other existence. The secret of the universe? Who knows?

“Who is this?” I ask a balding middle-aged man as I pass by his photography shop. There’s a silhouetted figure in a sepia-toned landscape photograph newly hung on the display wall. I step into the shop right away and realise that the interior of Mun Sen Studio is full of different landscape photos, all containing a similar figure, standing and looking away from us, facing the scenery at the front. The composition of every photo follows the rule of thirds; when the frame is divided equally into three, horizontally and vertically, the height of the standing figure usually never exceeds one third of the frame.

“No-one in particular,” replies the middle-aged man as he inserts cuttings of film negatives into their sleeves, “It’s only a staffage.” Staffage? He explains that it's like what you always see in landscape paintings, it’s anything added by the artist to give life to its landscape. It seems as if it’s not really there. A double exposure? The staffage is no longer a mere accessory or decoration. Our gaze has been snatched from us before it is released towards the disquieting grandeur of nature in front of it. Our gaze is its gaze.

Someone bumps into my shoulder. More people rush to enter the cinema. The silent movie will never wait. The silent movie will only speak when it’s time. With a soothing voice, calming my nerves. Where’s Indra? He’s no longer like before. Hopefully he’ll arrive, look for me and sit next to me soon. And I follow the crowd to enter the cinema. To join the congregation of solitude.


Person III

I am Detective Osbert Teo. What I heard: “We will win. Even if we’ve lost our individual battles.” He introduces himself as Awang Dot at the end of the line. The line which breaks as I walk past the jetties along the Weld Quay. The wind of the Strait continues to greet me. But I don’t care for it. Who will win? And who have lost? Who are “we”?

My shirt is covered in pink dust. The shirt which has been shrouding me with the smell of the sea since this morning. Indra, I am so enchanted by your light. The light that will never fade from my memory. When you were rushing due to a call. When you bumped into my shoulder at the entry of the jetty, to hail a steam-powered taxi nearby. Why did he want to go to the Landscape Godown in Ayer Itam, at the foot of Penang Hill? Why was he in such a hurry? My forefinger was stunned on the shutter button; no time—and not able!—to do anything.

I don’t know how long have I been on this island, in this town, but I still can’t figure out the roads. I still need the lines to meet on the map, even to go to Light Street, the first road built here. Perhaps the first of anything will always feel so far away. Especially when we are so close to the ending. Though the world that is visualised on the map is a perceptual and conceptual world, the perspective is uneven. It’s different with the landscape, which is a world pictured via the sense, a world of perspectives—one, two or three. Nature communicates directly with the body, in which we don’t truly move in the space, but it’s the space that moves with us.

I leave the sea-sky scenery resembling an impressionist artwork as it races to capture the fleeting light. There’s an urge to finish the artwork as soon as possible. An urge to solidify the impermanence outside the studio, out in nature. An urge to be done with nature. The dusk accompanies me as I step left to head to Light Street, while others around me are racing against time. Cars’ engines are roaring louder. A shirtless rickshaw puller is running even faster. Because the dusk is so brief. And I love this transitory period. Really love this time that divides the day and night. The day has a clear start and end. The night has a distinct start and end too. But the dusk is simply the dusk. A fine line of time, a very brief red.

Street lamps light up one by one.

“See you at the kopitiam later tonight,” says Awang Dot at the other end of the line, of a call that glides through my memory on the curving rails of the steam-powered tram; past a pink clocktower; past a fort; past a vanishing din. Only the pulse of George Town remains. I fold the map and keep it in my pocket. I brush my dusty shirt and pants. The smell of the sea still lingers.

“At Light Street?”





Person I

My body floats, contracts, and elongates in the dark. A deep darkness. A darkness that overlaps with another darkness and coldness, submerging my petrified body. I cannot see my own body. The darkness has already engulfed the light. But I know that everything is here. Still here. Every movement feels heavy. But I brace myself. As long as I’m moving. I don’t want to stay here indefinitely. Alone. I don’t want to live in the dark. Or is this… death?

God forbid!

I still have my senses. The sensation remains as I move my fingers, as well as my toes. I move them as much as possible. Together with the joints on my legs, knees and thighs, elbows and shoulders. Flailing and kicking the darkness with all my strength. Yet everything feels endless. Yet the pitch black remains in front of me. Am I still here, not moving anywhere? The only thing left is my huff and puff, making me realise: I’m still alive!

Or… if this is how death feels like, I want to get out of here, out of death. I want to return to life. O God, show me the way out, the way to life.

The coldness of the prayer unexpectedly conjures up a boundless curved line and a dot on top of it. I focus my gaze into the dot for some time; not sure whether the dot is small or far. I try to grab it; I can’t. I try to move towards it, I push my body in that direction, as the curve seems to become straighter; but not closer. My sorrowful sighs are all for nothing. Since the darkness has already engulfed the sound.

As how the void has silenced the howl of agony. While all the dimensions from every corner are slicing my body to form my other selves. Then one by one, each of me morphs, trying to form into clouds, into the sea, stretch into palm trees, disintegrate into sands and so on. But nothing works. Nothing turns into anything that could return—pierce!—into my gaze. Nothing like the line and dot with their layers of meanings.

Are the line and dot the beauty that I want to look at for the rest of my life (or is this the beauty that ends and stops my story): Abdullah Ariff’s final landscape painting? The last moments of an artist who was no longer free to go out and paint, thus drowning in a new domain amidst his cough and last gasp: a dot and a horizontal line. We don’t know and will never know what attracted him to this domain. Or is this an unfinished artwork?

Perhaps the work to create this final landscape hasn’t even begin—has never began—is still stored in his head?


Person II

Others have left for quite some time, except for me, still here alone on the chair facing the huge empty screen. It feels as if a flash of concern is replaced by a worry is replaced by an anxiety that plays and moves in this space, in this emptiness. Unseen, but felt. An emptiness that was just filled by the movement of light and shadows of The Cameraman. Numerous times. And that is the reason I’m here. Until the projector is turned off. Terminating and quietening the silent film, as well as the throng of the audience which filled the cinema earlier. Every one of them were as dead as the light. Me and a few others are embedded deep in our seats, submerged in our own thoughts, until I realise that those few others are long gone too. Except for me.

Stepping out of here feels heavy. After who-knows-how-long, I steel myself. Once in a while, I sip the remaining Coca-Cola in the bottle with the straw. It is still one-third full as I leave the Odeon cinema, one of the few Art Deco-inspired buildings left in this town. Several shirtless rickshaw pullers are waiting, shifting their gaze to another direction as they see my face. As if they know my impulse: I want to walk. From under its black veil, the night spies on me as I walk past the rows of double-storey shophouses. Following the rhythm of my steps as it merges with the pulse of George Town. Following the footsteps of my shoes, erased by the dust from the ruins of memory. The pink dust. At Penang Road. At Leith Street. At Northam Road. At Farquhar Street. Everywhere. Where do I want to go?

Glancing backwards, to the top, at the peak of Penang Hill, I see that the dot of light is gone. I have to move. Keep moving. Even as the light from each of the street lamps begins to greet me. Revealing more and more disasters underneath. Along Leith Street. Everywhere. The black sky fails to shroud my memory in darkness and I still remember that I have to go there, to the old kopitiam on Light Street. Other than the smell of tea and coffee, there’s an aroma from the past, jolting my senses. I want to swallow the worry stuck in my throat. I want to shout, “Indra, where are you!” As loud as I could. He’s no longer like before. And somehow, as I step into the kopitiam, my eyes are fixated on a red-framed painting hanging on the left wall. As if it’s stopping me from taking a seat. A pitch-black painting with a horizontal line and a dot above it. Black on black. A blackening black. I approach the painting slowly. Approaching the line and dot that aren’t black. The line and dot that are summoning me. And after studying it carefully, I realise that the line and dot are not coloured, and the bare canvas is visible underneath.

I guess I forgot to put film in the camera,” as displayed on the screen at the cinema earlier, the words voiced by Buster Keaton in the silent film, The Cameraman. Forgotten? I’m not sure, that’s just a guess. Because if we gaze deeper into whatever it is that is “forgotten” to be coloured, the horizontal line in the painting starts to curve, the black ripples and the dot pulsates, as if they’re moving!


Person III

I am Detective Osbert Teo. Typically, Noor would simply throw a careless glance at the red-framed painting as she walks into this kopitiam at Light Street, yet she is now standing motionless in front of the painting. Her gaze tonight is unlike the previous nights. Her gaze is deep. And sitting in the deeper corner, near the courtyard of the old shophouse, I continue to simply observe her. A bottle of two-third empty Coca-Cola is held in one of her hands. She approaches, contemplates the hard-edge painting titled The Last Landscape: Looking Through A Red Window. I still don’t know who the artist is, when it was completed. The others—those who didn’t suddenly vanish earlier—at this kopitiam are also clueless.

But Noor seems like she really wants to know. Probably not about when the artist had completed the painting or even what its title is; but whatever it is that’s seizing her whole gaze in that moment. Before she sits at the nearest round marble table to keep looking. And I’m still staring and continue to stare at her. Twisting the camera lens as it switches between the landscape painting and her face. Hence making me realise: our real pursuit is probably not to look at new, changing panoramas anywhere with the same pair of eyes, but it is enough to stay here and look at the same panorama with new, changing eyes.

There is dust on the table, and I streak it with my middle and index fingertips. With a streak of my curiosity.

An old lady replaces the Coca-Cola bottle with a glass of cham peng on Noor’s table. The camera lens brings my eyes closer to Noor’s face. A wounded face. A grotesque face distorted by a catastrophe. A face of sorrow. And I sip the remaining cham peng on my table. Dissolving the worry in my throat. Drowning my dream to head to Mun Sen Studio at Penang Road. I have to look for another photography shop; to develop the negatives of landscapes I’ve captured. Panoramas of the island that continue to fix—transfix?—my gaze. Or is it because Indra and Noor were there? The Rückenfigur that grabs my gaze.

Those who came in threes are left in pairs. Or alone. Everyone is confused. Looking for a deliberation from the reflection of their own faces in the glasses.

Indra’s photos will be kept for myself. And I will deliver Noor’s photos to the conglomerate, to her father to show that she is here, she is happy. I don’t want any payment. I’ve seen everything. I’ll stay here. And I know Noor will too. I will not pull her deep gaze out of The Last Landscape. For what reason should she be taken out from this town, from this island? If everything now has turned back into reality.

Noor is no longer there. As my thumb rubs against the dust on the index and middle fingers, the thicker the pink dust gets. Sometimes it made me question in jest: is the dust from my body? Our body? Signalled through the gesture of money? I laugh in silence. Maybe I’m too tired. Maybe I need a rest.

To look back at the leftover pink dust means to remember. To be reminded of the dust from a catastrophe. The dust created by—which in turn devastated—the factories owned by the conglomerate that had metastasised in the underbelly of the island. The dust that threw up the pink nightmare at the river mouth. The dust that distorted and broke the lines of perspective, destroying the landscapes of this island. The dust that killed nature. The dust that brought death and life to the citizens of a tragedy, like Person I, Person II, and me—us. Because when the pink dust mixes with the light shining from above, from the peak of Penang Hill, all will reappear: nature, the grand landscapes, the mesmerising panoramas. As well as the souls that used to be. To soothe the trauma of—or as how the conglomerate people used to say, “to save”—the surviving souls. There’s also a rumour that the conglomerate people are trying to redeem their fault and error. I don’t know, maybe it’s my fault and error. But I know there’s a speck of light far above, at the peak of Penang Hill, which has been extinguished. An inspiring extinguishment. Where there are no more sandy beaches, coconut trees, the sea, clouds and everything



Born in Penang, Azrin Fauzi is the author of three short story collections: Urban (2015), Metaskandal (2018), and Amok-Imago (2022). His short stories have been published in Malaysian anthologies, journals, literary magazines, and newspapers. His fourth short story collection-slash-artist’s book, Spesimen is in progress (to be unfinished) of which “Panorama People” is a part. He is on Instagram and Twitter at @azrinfauzi.