Malaysian Mystery Memoirs: Hungry Ghost, Tender Host

In the serene backdrop of a small town in Penang, Mei Ling’s childhood bore a unique companion, in the form of a spirit that had seemed to have taken a liking to her. The revelation unfolded during her kindergarten years when a minor playground dispute led to an unusual incident. Her classmate, after a small disagreement, attempted to push her. However, as his hands made contact with her, a searing sensation shot through him, and he hastily recoiled.

Teachers dismissed the occurrence, for no visible harm or scarring marred the boy’s hands. Still, Mei Ling’s family couldn’t ignore the mysterious incident’s unsettling nature. Concerned, they sought the counsel of a Tongji, a Chinese medium. The Tongji revealed that a spirit had “latched onto” Mei Ling, likely enamoured with her.

Curiously, this revelation should have filled Mei Ling with horror and dread, much like her mother, who feared the potential harm the spirit could inflict but Mei Ling felt neither fear nor anxiety. Instead, she nurtured a deep sense of sympathy and pity for the supposedly lovesick spirit. To her, the spiritual attachment felt not menacing but protective, as if a guardian watched over her.

Despite her empathetic outlook, her mother’s apprehensions persisted. She feared that, over time, the spirit’s attachment might escalate into a more perilous situation, endangering Mei Ling or those around her. Hence, she resolved to take her daughter to the Tongji regularly for banishing prayers to sever the connection.

Years passed, and the enigmatic spirit never manifested itself again. But Mei Ling’s thoughts frequently gravitated towards him. Then, at the age of fifteen, the time of the Hungry Ghost Festival arrived. Traditionally, offerings were made to wandering spirits, and Mei Ling couldn’t help but think of one spirit in particular.

So, she meticulously prepared plates laden with delicate dumplings, savoury noodle soups, and sweet rice cakes, just as the rest of her family did. However, as she placed the offerings, she softly whispered, beckoning the spirit to partake, thanking him for his affection, yet gently explaining why their connection could no longer persist. With that, she retired to bed.

Morning broke, and the family ventured to dispose of the uneaten offerings. Something peculiar caught their eye – the plate Mei Ling had set out bore clear signs of consumption. Her grandmother suggested that it was likely rats or other pests that had partaken in the night’s feast. Mei Ling remained silent, hesitant to confess her clandestine conversation with the spirit.

As she reached out to clear the plate, her mother’s abrupt gasp froze her in her tracks. The dumplings had been devoured, the rice cakes vanished, and the noodles separated from the soup – except for the latter, which remained almost untouched. Tears welled in her mother’s eyes as she hurriedly retreated into the house, leaving Mei Ling and her grandmother bewildered.

That night, curiosity led Mei Ling to her mother’s door. To her surprise, her mother welcomed her with flushed cheeks and a radiant smile. She gestured for Mei Ling to sit on her bed and retrieved an old photo album, flipping through its pages to reveal a photograph of a young man grinning at a table adorned with a spread of dishes.

Dumplings had been eaten from the center, noodles separated from the soup, and a hand held up the final rice cake.

“This photo was taken mere hours before your father’s tragic accident,” her mother whispered. “These were his favourites.”

* All illustrations AI-generated by DALL-E

Malaysian Mystery Memoirs is a series of fictional horror tales by JUICE, for entertainment purposes only. Any similarities to actual persons or situations are purely coincidental.