Island Form: An Inexplicable Encounter with Gili Labak’s Strange Presence

There remains on Gili Labak an unspoken conception, one known only to the island’s 50 inhabitants. Such is its obscurity, the majority of visitors are unaware even of its corporeal presence, let alone the folklore with which they have become unwittingly endowed.

The traveller wanders down the beach. Behind them, a column of smoke drifts listlessly in the aether, as if controlled by celestial hands with no interest in its direction. Its source registers dimly on the traveller’s consciousness, but only briefly; something else has caught their eye. Their pace quickens, but only imperceptibly. Behind them fishermen begin loading their boats in readiness for their night’s work; imposing wooden Bagan frames, their eventual destinations, pitch and turn in the swell; intimidating, silent and solemn.

Before the traveller lays a stump. Its contours and shape belie a strange truth; it writhes, for all the world, like one simultaneously suffering great pain and writhing in supreme adulation. Most strange of all, it corresponds to a recognisably animalistic shape; imagine the lumpen mass of a pig, dragged onto its hind legs in a grotesque parody of the human form and endowed with a physicality slightly less than that of man.

Strange Shape

The traveller retreats; intimations of a disembodied voice play on their mind and of a sudden, they become frightened by the shape. Instead, they observe it from a distance.

A familiar voice insinuates itself into the atmosphere. The traveller turns to meet the gaze of a man who until recently they had been on nodding terms with. His smile is gracious and his bearing commands respect; evidently, he is one of the village elders. The man’s face is weathered and conveys the impression of a life lived on the ocean. He begins to talk but the traveller is distracted.

Before them, they see a girl, no more than a child, approach the shape. Such is her deference it takes on the characteristics of an ancient idol. She leans forward as though in a whisper; the traveller is convinced the shape responds. Suddenly, the girl turns briefly. She fixes the stranger with the briefest of glances before, smiling with the innocence of devilry, affecting a disappearance. The traveller barely notices as the form begins to advance.

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