Kekuasaan, Sihir, Dan Kidung Kematian: Resensi Buku “Lullaby” (Chuck Palahniuk)

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Pertama kali saya membaca sinopsis buku ini, saya sudah jatuh cinta pada pandangan pertama. Ketika selesai membacanya, hati saya sepenuhnya takluk pada karya Chuck Palahniuk yang pertama kali terbit pada tahun 2002 silam ini. Lullaby, menurut saya bukan hanya novel horror yang menceritakan kematian, black magic, maupun kisah tragis kehidupan manusia yang terlibat di dalamnya. Lebih dari itu, Palahniuk dengan gaya khasnya berhasil membungkus cerita ini dengan sentuhan satir, juga kritik terhadap kehidupan; sebuah refleksi yang bisa jadi renungan kita semua. Buku ini memiliki beberapa tema penting, salah satunya adalah bagaimana kekuasaan bisa melahirkan sebuah terror.


THE CULLING SONG

Bercerita tentang Carl Streator, seorang lelaki paruh baya yang bekerja sebagai seorang jurnalis di harian lokal, tanpa sengaja ‘tercebur’ dalam sebuah investigasi kematian-kematian bayi yang janggal. Kejadian naas yang menimpa para bayi ini mereka juluki ‘sudden infant death’, atau ‘death crib’. Menemukan pattern yang sama dalam setiap kejadiannya, ia akhirnya menyadari bahwa penyebabnya adalah ‘culling song’, atau African chant dari buku berjudul Poems and Rhymes Around the World. Streator pun menemukan bahwa puisi yang sama telah menyebabkan ia kehilangan anak dan istrinya beberapa tahun yang lalu.

Memiliki kekuatan ini lantas membuat Streator menjadi pembunuh berantai dengan membunuh orang-orang di sekitarnya. Ia pun mencari cara untuk mencegah penyalahgunaan lagu pembawa maut ini. Dalam perjalanannya, ia bertemu dengan Helen Hoover Boyle seorang agen real-estate, yang juga mengetahui (dan menggunakan) kekuatan dari puisi kuno ini. Bersama dengan asisten Helen bernama Mona dan pacarnya Oyster -yang merupakan anggota coven, perkumpulan penyihir- keempatnya terlibat dalam perjalanan mencari the last remaining copies of the book, dan menghancurkan halaman dimana terdapat kidung kematian tersebut.
Namun perjalanan ini ternyata bukan hanya tentang lagu pengantar tidur yang membawa maut. Helen ingin menemukan ‘Grimoire’, yaitu sebuah spellbook yang dicurigai merupakan asal mula dari kidung kematian ini, dengan harapan dapat mengetahui sihir-sihir lain yang terdapat di dalamnya. Streator ingin menghancurkan buku tersebut, namun ketiga rekannya ternyata memiliki tujuan berbeda-beda.

Gaya storytelling Palahniuk terlihat dari tokoh utama berlaku sebagai narator sekaligus tokoh, juga karena sudut pandang berasal dari sang tokoh utama. Dialog tokoh utama selalu dihantarkan dalam kalimat tidak langsung, membuat tokoh utama dan narrator membaur dan cenderung bias. Tokoh utama sendiri digambarkan sebagai seseorang yang sangat peka terhadap detil. Hal ini dipertegas dalam ketelitian penggambaran suasana, tempat bahkan furniture, membuat kita merasuk ke dalam tokoh dan berbagi pengalaman yang sama dengan sang tokoh utama.

Framing yang digunakan oleh Palahniuk membawa kita pada inti cerita pada awal bagian buku (dan beberapa epilog yang diselipkan di beberapa chapter) lalu memecah ceritannya dalam bagian-bagian kecil, dengan waktu yang non-linear. Tanpa mendramatisir, ia membawa pembaca kepada konklusi dengan sangat halus dan tidak terduga.


BIG BROTHER AND CONTROL

Lullaby adalah sebuah karya yang lengkap dan berkarakter. Tanpa meninggalkan kualitas fiksinya, Palahniuk memeriahkan elemen-elemen pentingnya dengan menyusupkan sentilan-sentilan khas terhadap masyarakat, yang bisa dibagi dalam beberapa sudut pandang namun tetap dalam tema yang sama, yaitu kekuasaan. Misalnya ketika Streator merasa terganggu dengan para tetangganya yang bising dan ‘kecanduan’ terhadap kebisingan itu sendiri. Juga bagaimana Big Brother menaruh candu dalam hal-hal trivial untuk mengalihkan mereka dalam ‘berpikir’.

“Big brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you’re awake. He’s making sure you’re always addicted. He’s making sure you’re fully absorbed.
He’s making sure your imagination withers. Until it’s as useful as your appendix. He’s making sure your attention is always filed. And this is being fed, it’s worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what’s in your mind. With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.”

Hal ini merupakan kritik terhadap kita, yang hidup dalam era dimana informasi terserap tanpa ada filter. Semua masuk dan dicerna secara tekstual, tidak peduli baik buruknya, benar tidaknya, penting tidaknya. Penguasa, atau yang dominan, bisa mengendalikan manusia, membentuk pola pikir manusia baik dalam selera maupun kebutuhan, sehingga batas antara yang diinginkan dan dibutuhkan semakin kabur.

“There are worse things you can do to people you love than kill them. The regular way is just to watch the world do it.
The music and laughter eat away at your thoughts. The noise blots them out. All the sound distracts. Your head aches from the glue.

Anymore, no one’s mind is their own. You can’t concentrate. You can’t think. There’s always some noise worming in. Singers shouting. Dead people laughing. Actors crying. All these little doses emotion. Someone’s always spraying the air with their mood”

Hal-hal seperti ini, setelah satu dekade lamanya masih relevan dengan kehidupan kita sekarang. Seperti kita lihat dalam program-program di televisi swasta, acara-acara yang mengetengahkan lagu-lagu dan tarian komunal sebagai ‘konsumsi rakyat’.

Tema kekuasaan juga dirasakan dalam alegori lagu pengantar tidur. Dalam suatu bab, Helen berkata bahwa:

“This isn’t about love and hate, it’s about control. People don’t sit down and read a poem to kill their child. They just want the child to sleep. They just want to dominate. No matter how much you love someone, you still want to have your own way.”

In many ways, pernyataan ini ada benarnya. Secara tekstual, contohnya lagu pengantar tidur ‘Nina Bobo’, juga merupakan dominasi orang tua terhadap anaknya. Ada ancaman yang berbunyi ‘kalau tidak bobo digigit nyamuk.’ Terlepas dari konteks budaya, yang harus digarisbawahi adalah, bagaimanapun kita mencintai seseorang, kita akan tetap berusaha berkuasa di atasnya. Alegori ini sangat menggambarkan jelas, bahwa dominasi tersisip dalam segala aspek kehidupan.


THE POWER CORRUPTS (CORRUPTED) MIND

Kekuasaan bisa merusak dalam dua cara, yang pertama jika disalahgunakan, kedua jika tidak terorganisir secara sistematik. Palahniuk memberikan contoh saat restorasi kanal Welland pada tahun 1921, untuk membuka jalur transportasi di Niagara Falls.

“The sea lamprey has infested all the Great Lakes. These parasites suck the blood of the larger fish, the trout and salmon, killing them. Then the smaller fish are left with no predators and their population explodes. Then they run out of plankton to eat, and starve by the millions.”

Hal ini menggambarkan bahwa overpopulation, akibat dari kekuasaan yang tidak terorganisir dengan baik, dapat menyerang balik dan menjadi bencana bagi populasi itu sendiri. Disesuaikan dalam konteks sosial, kesalahan sistematis dalam kekuasaan bisa merusak tatanan yang telah dibangunnya. Dalam artian lain, bahwa kekuasaan membutuhkan stabilitas dan kendali atas dirinya sendiri, selain kendali atas orang/hal lain. Ini adalah paradoks tersendiri dalam persoalan kekuasaan, that if it’s corrupted, it will lead to self-destruction.

Dalam buku ini, juga terdapat beberapa tema pendukung, salah satunya eksistensialisme. Tema ini terwujud dalam refleksi Streator terhadap kehidupannya yang tersirat dalam beberapa soliloquy. Terkadang Streator memberi jarak antara dirinya dengan realita yang dihadapinya, dengan menempatkan dirinya sebagai non-partisipan.

”The best way to waste your life is by taking notes. The easiest way to avoid living is just to watch. Look for the details. Report. Don’t participate. Let Big Brother do the singing and dancing for you. Be a reporter. Be a good witness. A grateful member of the audience.”

Lebih dalam lagi, pergulatan batinnya terbagi antara penyerahan diri untuk kembali ke ‘humanity’, dan justifikasi atas perbuatannya. Apakah dengan menjadikan dunia sebagai musuh kita, kita mendapatkan pembenaran dari tindakan kita? Jika begitu adanya, apakah kesalahan dan kebenaran hanyalah persoalan sudut pandang?

Dari perbendaharaan kata yang kaya, cerita yang kuat, dan penokohan yang unik, Chuck Palahniuk berhasil menyatukan segala elemen-elemen ini menjadi sebuah karya kontemporer yang bisa membuat para pembacanya tersihir, halaman demi halaman.

Mengutip dari pemikiran Streator,

“Maybe you don’t go to hell for the things you do. Maybe you go to hell for the things you don’t do. The things you don’t finish.”

So, my suggestion would be: read and finish the goddamn book.

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The Woman On The Antique Store

I was with my non-vagabond non-adventurous family, consisted of young parents and me as the only child, when we were visiting an antique store somewhere uncertain. My dad is a very tall young man, with blonde and wavy hair -though he’d look better with glasses- while mom is an average lady on her age. Not skinny, not tall, she dyed her boring haircut with caramel color.

I wasn’t sure why we decided to go to this antique. I didn’t even know on which part of the world were we on that very day. The strong scent of incense sticks strung over my nose as we walked in. The place wasn’t too shabby, but smelled a bit like old books. There were three long and verticals mahogany tables putted on the center of the room, we could see them as we enter the front door. There were some beautiful cobalt and copper with colored enamels on the table. Some other tables on each side of the room were filled with some porcelain wares I haven’t yet to figure. On the first row of this mahogany table were the dragon jar, goldfish vase, and some bone china. The second row was for tea bowl, tea caddy, and black pottery. On the third one there were ceramic stone statuette and funerary vase. The last row gave me a creep.

There was this lady, the patron, with bizarre smile, embraced us warmly and took my parents around to show her best collections. I was dead uninterested with any of those so I decided to tail them from behind, while pretended not seeing this creepy woman kept checking me out. She had this very big head with long and messy black hair. That red lipstick on her lips wasn’t flattering her eerie feature at all. In fact, it was like defining her obscurity. You could get goosebumps just by seeing her funky long nails, her pale skin, and her ridiculous eyebrows. Not to mention her dark and scratchy voice.

To me, she looked more like a ghost rather than human.

She brought my parents to the other room, separated only by a curtain. I stopped following them and decided to look around a bit, which I still regret until now. Only if I had known that was the last time I could see them.

That odd woman came back to me again to the room where I was standing, but without my parents. I was about to panic because it seemed that something was off, then she startled me by saying: “You’re the chosen! We’ve been waiting. Tonight is yours, my lady.”

I said what the hell. Where’s my mom and dad? 

“You’re belong to the night, to the moon, to the darkness. You’re the child of hatred. You’re the daughter of revenge.”

She was not listening. I said you’re fuckin crazy. I insisted to go the other room and find my parents. She held my arms, strongly. Her eyes were getting bigger and bigger.

“Look, the moon is ready for you.”

She held me close to her and turn my body over to the window on our left so I could see through it. It was a dark polluted sky, with no stars at all, but suddenly a big helluva moon came closer and got bigger, bigger, bigger. I saw my reflection on the window, my eyes began to turn white. I felt my joints began to loose, my skin started to itch, my bloods heated, I thought I was about to dissolve but suddenly my jaw was getting heavier, and from my pale skin, came out disgusting fur. It was on my back, my chest, and my arms. My jeans all wrecked, my blouse torn off, I was totally naked.

Then I saw my reflection again. I already turned into a morbid yet ugly and less specific being with the bone and flesh of a human. some covered with fur but face like a wolf. My breasts were still there, my vagina was still there. I still stand on my two feet. I’m a monster.

One thing that I remembered: I could smell my own blood, even that woman’s blood. I was salivating.

“Now we have to feed you, my lady.”

I tried to scream but the only thing that came out from my mouth was groan.

“First, we have to feed your anger.”

She made me drink something, from one of her bone china. It was turquoise and juicy, stinky like rotten worms. Then I collapsed.

First thing I heard when I woke up is my dad groaning. It wasn’t like mine, it was more like moaning. I believe I was transferred to a different room, in which I was sure it wasn’t the same place where I fainted before. It was a motel room and I was in the bathroom. The bathroom was damp and stinky. I didn’t dare to look at the mirror, so I tried to find the keyhole and looked outside. It was really my dad. He was naked and fucking. The girl was moaning too. It appeared that she was actually screaming and crying, in joy and pain, I failed to figure. Hearing them fucking made my nipples got erection, my feminine juice dripped into my thighs. Then I realized it was not my mom, she was a lot younger than mom.

No way, it was me. I was raped. I started to groan and kicked the door with my right foot. My dad scream, the little girl cried. I jumped to my dad and bite his face. I ate him alive while he was trying to resist. Starting from his lips, his nose, his cheeks, his eyelids. Blood was dripping to his neck, yet he was still screaming in pain. I bite his neck until his skin was tattered, then I drank the blood dry. I ripped his chest, with my bare hand, then ate his heart.

“Baby,  it’s me.”

I looked at him on the eyes, while groaning like a monster. I don’t know what happened but the girl has disappeared, the room was changing, we weren’t on that motel anymore. We were on a dark empty room. My dad was wearing the same clothes when we were on that antique store. My dad died with his eyes opened. In my arms.

I groaned so hard that the ground started to shiver. I tried to speak to the woman, because I still felt her presence there, she watched the whole show. But all that came out from my mouth was an ancient language. Or animal language.

You made me kill my own dad. What is wrong with you? What do you want?

“In order to gain more power, you cannot feel love. So we have to kill any possible sources”

I said fuck you, what did you do to me. i should kill you. Show me your face.

“Your hate to me is the only bond that we have. Beside, the more you hate anything, the more power you will gain.”

Let me kill you, you bastard.

“You should be glad, killing feels so good, ain’t it. Don’t ever resist.”

I groaned and cried while standing on my knees. I covered my face with my furry yet bloody hands. The sky was getting darker. The moon began to shrink.

“Now let’s find your mom.”

 

 

to be continued