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I could hardly believe my eyes when I got down from the bus. Everything has changed since I left for Vancouver to further my studies. Kampong Belagor was not the timid old village I used to know. I had to feast my eyes for a moment to look.

The bus station I set foot on was now filled with buses of all sizes and the whole station was renovated thoroughly. People of Kampong Belagor who used to wear simple, old and quite tattered clothes, now wore decent new clothes and did a good job of keeping them clean. The ticket counter has charged into self-service ticket machine where you just have to slot a coin and press the button of your choice and the ticket would come out automatically, printed the place of your destination. There were also vending machines for junk food and drinks, and a cafeteria at the left side of the station. I could not help feeling amazed and awkward at all these sudden changes.

“Ooh! What’s in your bag, sir? It’s heavy!” A teenage boy complained as he carried my luggage out of the bunk of the bus. He was the conductor, I suppose, for I remember him taking my ticket.

“Sorry, boy. Those are my prized collections in there. Here’s for all the trouble,” I apologized and slipped him a 10-ringgit note into his pocket. He looked amazed and went away happily with his unexpected tip.

“Jackson! Jackson!” Before I could decide which way I should go, someone called my name. I turned around and saw my youngest brother, Adrian, running towards with his arms outstretched. He jumped on me and hugged and kissed me before I had time to react. I finally felt like home all over again, after being 5 years away from my family.

“How did you know I was coming back? I meant for it to be a surprise,” I pulled Adrian away and set him down.

“Your college mate told me. She’s my pen-pal,” he explained, “Remember Colin?”

I knew Colin. She was my best friend when I was in Vancouver. We studied Modern Electronics together, and we both graduated with flying colours. I was happy to see her in her graduation clothes, embracing her family lovingly, and I felt very empty because I knew my family could not afford to buy tickets for themselves to Vancouver to watch me receive the degree. I did not want to tell my eldest brother, Micheal, who works as a reporter and my second brother Alex, who was in the badminton field because I did not want them to trouble themselves with the expenses. Colin filled my empty feeling by inviting me to dinner with her family, and I must admit I felt much better.

“Don’t worry,” said Adrian, grabbing one of my lightest bags, “I told no one about it. I came here alone.”

Suddenly, a loud explosion was heard. People were sent flying at all directions and buses burst into flames. I turned around and look to see a few boys somewhere in their mid-20’s carrying big bulky guns and firing at all directions. I grabbed Adrian tight and ducked for shelter. It was obvious that they were involved in some gang fight but they did not have to include innocent people in it. Adrian was not the least bit surprised and said that this has been going on for a couple of months. I carried both my luggage and Adrian in my arms to get away from the scene when I spotted at the corner of my eye a boy who looked very familiar. I tried to get a better glimpse and saw that it was my second youngest brother, Richard sitting in a Volkswagen together with the gangster boys. I tried to call out for him but Adrian’s safety is in my hands. I had to ignore Richard for the time being to get to safer spot.

One we were out of the scene, Adrian led me home. I mentioned about Richard and immediately he fell into a glum.

“Richard is no longer one of us, Jackson,” he explined, “ever since this village has been declared to be developed. Everything has changed. We could do nothing about it because it was the government’s order to let us live in decent homes. Yes, our daily lives have been much easier but it didn’t change for the better. Our village has been declared a city and people from other cities came in, bringing all kinds of bad habits about. That was one of them.”

“But what about Richard?” I asked. “What happened to him?”

“He became those gangsters’ so-called ‘bell-boy’ to earn a little extra pocket money. Although he doesn’t take drugs or alcohol, his attitude changed. He became anything a bad boy can be. Father gave him a telling-off and he never came home since.”

I was taken aback. I could not believe that modernization has turned my people into inhumane creatures and even turned my brother Richard against the family. Did Micheal and Alex know about this? If so, why didn’t they do something about it? As if he read my mind, Adrian said, “Micheal and Alex tried to help Richard but it was in vain. Before your graduation day, Alex had bought tickets to Vancouver for us to go and watch you get the degree. But on the way to the airport, a gang of motorists, together with Richard, attacked us and robbed us of our valuables. When Micheal and Alex tried to fight back, they were shot and our sister, Rachel, was paralyzed because she was hit by one of the motorists when she tried to run for help.

“Micheal and Alex survived the shot, but Alex could not play badminton anymore because his arm has to be amputated. He is now writing books for a living. Richard did not do anything to harm us, of course. He just sat on the bike as usual and watched.”

When I reached home, my parents were, of course, surprised to see me. They hugged me joyfully, but I could not bring the feeling of home to me again. I saw Rachel sitting on her wheelchair and Alex in his room, typing on the computer upstairs. I stayed silent all the time when we had tea in the dining room. Adrian did most of the talking.

“Don’t mind us, Jackson,” said my father, patting my shoulder, “You’re home, and that’s the important thing. Everything will turn out alright the end.”

No, I thought. It will not turn out right. As long as my family stays in this village, they will never have peace. I swore to myself, that someday, somehow, I will move them all to Vancouver. And out of this grief-stricken place.


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