I was on the highway, driving us back to my place in TTDI, confident, until we ended up in a place much like Kuala Besut. Past some shop houses, a building that almost looked abandoned. Huge dirt garden, double storey white shop lot. We drive in, tyres kicking up the gravel. Inside the shop, you flip on a very dim yellow light and I realise parts of the polished cement floor (home memory?) are damp with have puddles. There is a sound of dripping water.
We put our bags down on a long table in the center of the hall, stretch. We realise in the factory/shop there are cages, of beastly fish. And two Chinese persons, maybe more. A gruff man wearing a once-white singlet, sitting on a tall wooden stool allows us to take a look around at the strange collection. The fish are large, like deep sea creatures. In a large fish tank placed on the floor and dimly illuminated I see a large white flowerhorn-like fish, huge lump on the head and impressive underbite. It swims along other darker fish, of similar size. I try to get a better look, flip a switch: several fluorescent white lights come on. In the distance the man cautions me but I’ve already felt it’s a bad idea. The animals can’t handle the light beyond. As the man approaches I’ve already switched off the fluorescent lights and am nodding — he’s being apologetic but firm. I don’t want to hear more of what I already know. The room goes back to darkness with a few cages and tanks illuminated by dim orange lights.
To the left of the room: A snake, possibly defanged but still vicious. The man is friendly, but hesitant to say exactly what kind of snake it is. I get the impression it is very illegal to own one. The snake is coiled up, wit a large thick body, white scales on top that eventually turn a pale green towards the belly. It’s dark tongue keeps forking in and out as it stares at me. A woman is explaining something about the snake to me, but she’s like background noise. She’s friendlier than the man but I still feel antagonism or judgemental remarks on our part would endanger us.
A cage with water. Small things moving at the bottom, quickly. I assume baby crabs, the closest approximation. Something eating the baby crabs.
Another cage. Huge dogs. They look black, fierce and mean. Boxers? But very large, mastiff size. I wonder why they’re kept along the endangered animals. It lounges, it lunges, it lounges. I can feel it’s power, see its strong muscles.
The dog lunges. It breaks loose, omg, runs for the huge glass window by the entrance. There are children outside. I grab the leash, try to hold the dog back, it’s too strong. From the outside, you menyambut the dog, catch it, but it manages to run out the gate anyway. You were protecting the children around you. The snake is also a threat — is it free too? The animals are caught, returned. The man invites me to have a hobby similar to his. I am uninterested and uncommitted, but the excuse I mumble is about space. He acknowledges it’s an investment, that’s why he has this run down building just to keep the animals.
As we’re leaving the place I look at it in the rearview mirror. Can I find this place again? Were the man and woman friendly enough I won’t call the authorities for them to investigate the legal status of the animals?
I’m in front of a computer, trying to google the snake. Was it a white cobra? A grass (but poisonous) snake? Can I find the place on google maps?