The Five Aggregates — Chapter Three
‘This is it,’ Terry thought; ‘This is probably what happened to John. Well, at least we’ll end up with the same fate…’ He tried to reassure himself as the dogs creeped closer, barking ferociously at him with the intention of murder in their eyes.
Then came another sound, in the distance… It was the rumbling of an engine, but not a car, or truck, no… as it drew closer, Terry recognised it as that of a moped. Indeed, a singular bright light emerged in the distance, drawing closer and closer towards Terry. It had caught the attention of the dogs, too, who turned their muzzles to look at the oncoming vehicle.
As the moped drew closer, Terry made out the large, bulky outline of its driver, who beeped as he approached Terry and the dogs. Most of the dogs scattered away from the road to make way for the oncoming vehicle, but some continued barking at it. The driver slowed in front of them and shouted the Thai expression for ‘Go away!’;
“Pi hi puhn!”
The remaining dogs continued to bark, so the driver reached down for a piece of rubble on the ground. He threw it at the most persistent dogs who, in response, shifted to the side of the road, still growling and snarling. The driver called out to Terry in a French accent.
“John! Get on, quick!”
Terry was curious as to why he’d called him John, but he knew he could ask questions later. For now, he leaped on the back of the moped as quickly as he could. The driver revved up the engine and took Terry away from the pack of dogs. Terry tried to speak, but his voice couldn’t be heard over the sound of the engine. He’d have to wait until the driver stopped before he could get some clarity on what he’d just said and why he’d saved his life.
After a three minute journey around the dark, winding roads, the driver turned to stop outside a large wooden gate. He entered a code into a lock and it opened automatically, making way for him to drive them through into the premises. He drove down a gravel road and stopped just outside the porch, of what Terry assumed to be the driver’s house. Since it was lit up, he could see the driver’s physical appearance more clearly. He was a middle aged, hairy man of caucasian complexion who was a bit tubby but also boasted a huge chest and arm muscles. Terry could understand why even the dogs had been intimidated.
As the driver stepped off the moped and turned to Terry, he frowned and spoke again in his French-style English;
“Wait a minute. You’re not John.”
“No, I’m not. I’m John’s brother, Terry. But how do you”-
The driver laughed.
“Well don’t you look similar? My name’s Jean-Luc.”
Jean-Luc held out his hand to Terry, who felt his hand crush under the strength of his grip.
“Nice to meet you, Jean-Luc. Thank you, by the way.”
“For saving my life.”
Jean-Luc grinned, revealing a sparkling golden tooth as he did so.
“It was nothing. You’ve got to be careful in a place like this, with dogs like these.”
“How is it, then, that you know my brother?”
“I know everyone in these parts, especially Thong Krut. I’ve known John ever since he started building here a few years back. He helped repair some rooms in my rum distillery, in fact.”
“Yes, we make rum here, famous all over the island for it. The distillery is over there…” Jean-Luc pointed to a group of buildings. “And the bar just there.” He pointed to a fancy wooden bar, lit up in the centre of the premises.
“Anyway, that’s enough chat…” Jean Luc said “You look like you could do with a rest. You can stay on my couch if you like.”
“Really? Are you sure you want a complete stranger staying overnight?”
“Anything for the rum distillery to get a good review on google…”
Terry followed his saviour into the house.
The next morning, Terry tried calling his brother multiple times, and still with no success. He could try facebook, but John’s account had remained vacant for the better half of a year. Given, John was never the most social of creatures, but this was far from in tune with his character.
Giving up and resigning himself to mystery, Terry ventured outside to find Jean-Luc behind the bar. The French voice called his name…
“Hey, Terry!” — Which sounded more like ‘Thierry’ — “Come over, I made something for you.”
Terry approached the bar to see Jean-Luc had made him a tea and a pair of croissants.
“Oh, you didn’t have to…” Terry sat down. His stomach rumbled with hunger.
“Relax, I treat all my guests here well. Whether you’re paying or you’ve been saved from a rabid dog attack.”
“You’re very kind…” Terry murmured with a mouthful of croissant and swig of tea.
When Terry finished, Jean-Luc headed out to the driveway. He hopped onto the moped, stuck the key in and revved the engine. Terry asked him;
“Where are you going?”
“You mean where are we going? To your brother’s maison, mon ami. Toute suite!”
The new development in Thong Krut had only been half-completed. Only the bone-like structure was in place — puddles from tropical monsoon storms covered the cement, presumably supposed to represent the floor.
Confusion washed over Terry. He thought his brother would’ve accomplished much more than this in a year. After all, he’d left school early to join a building crew and had a reputation for whipping up structures even if they weren’t necessarily above standard regulations. All his past projects on this island had gone swimmingly; so much so that they were all snapped up within a week of going on the market.
Terry’s doubts turned even sourer as he traipsed the weed-ridden development, Jean-Luc exploring another area. This place was beginning to look like ancient ruins. If John wasn’t working on this, than what had he been doing with his time? As Terry ascended the half-built stairs of the infrastructure, he felt something crunchy beneath his feet. Moving his feet away, he caught a glimpse of a pair of keys. They were familiar too. As he picked them up and rolled them about in his hands, a chill rushed down his spine. Attached to the keys was the England flag key-ring Terry had bought for John when they went together to see the footy world cup a few years back. They were hoping for a repeat of ’66 that never came. Still, Terry thought; most things never turn out as you expect…
Worrying and a flurry of questions surfaced in Terry’s mind; why would John just leave his keys here, and without saying a word? How long had he been gone for? Days? Weeks?
Jean-Luc called out from across the property. He was pulling at the locked door of a camper-van.
“I found John’s house!”
Terry rushed over with the keys. He stuck one of them in, and it opened.
The interior of John’s abode was jumbled mass of Buddhist paraphernalia. Meditation cushions, yoga mats, dream catchers, incense sticks and incense holders, bowls and statues of the fat, laughing Buddha. Adorned along the walls were cloths, depicting the heroic journey of the enlightened one — all the way from Prince Gautama’s excessive materialistic lifestyle to his renunciation of riches and moment of nirvana under the bodhi tree.
“I’m starting to see why John was so distracted…” Terry thought out loud.
“Of course,” Jean-Luc confirmed; “Didn’t he tell you about his consciousness work?”
“Yes — John has spent the past few months training to become a Buddhist Monk.”
Terry stared at Jean-Luc for moment as his brain struggled to ingest this new information.
“I hadn’t the faintest idea…”