The Bell: A Short Unexpected Tale
I wrote a few stories in the 1990s. The stories were usually related to my practices as an artist as well as to some of my sculptures. I published here, The Bell, which appeared in the September 1995 edition of the irregular Tanpa Tajuk.
It was dusk when it started ringing. I had just finished working on ‘The Lamenter’ for the day. At first I thought it was just an ordinary ringing from whatever bell of the neighborhood, but when it didn’t stop for about nearly an hour I started cursing and swearing. It rang like a church bell though I’m not that familiar with the church bells’ ringing – I thought I heard a church bell rang somewhere a long time ago. And it rang and chimed and clanged and tolled…
I peeked through the studio’s window. There’s a commotion on the empty ground, about 50 yards from the studio. To my utter disbelief – people were surrounding a huge bell mounted on a strong wooden structure. I didn’t know when the structure was raised and when that blasted bell was mounted either. The people seemed to be looking… admiring the bell. They didn’t seemed to be disturbed at all. How strange… it was ringing like hell in my ears and the bell was not moving. Which bell was ringing then?
I closed my ears. But the ringing and chiming and clanging and rolling… kept penetrating, deep, deep into the ears.
I ran outside towards the commotion. There were about twenty-or so people, circling the bell, the mysterious bell – where it came from? I knew most people in the commotion; they were familiar faces of the neighborhood. But there were a few that I’d never seen before – they must be somehow related to the bell as there’s none in the neighborhood got anything to do with bells. There were no bell-makers there.
I grabbed a youth whom I knew. Some beside him turned, looked strangely at me as if I was interfering an important if not holy occasion. ‘What’s happening? Where did it came from?’ I asked loudly – my ears were ringing, banging. The youth pored over me with puzzled expressions. He answered, or seemed to be saying something. I couldn’t hear him. It kept tolling, clanging, chiming. I asked again. He answered but I couldn’t hear anything. What had happened? It kept tolling, clanging, chiming…
A few gathered around us. They were talking, and I couldn’t hear them too! The youth continued staring at me and said something. I tried to read his lips but to no avail. It was really hopeless. It kept tolling and clanging and chiming and clanking and banging… I began to loose concentration. I saw black. Total blackness. I closed my ears. My ears…
When I regained consciousness I heard no more of the bell. I was lying on the sofa in my little living room. My head was drowsy – there were distant chiming – but it slowly faded away. Everything was quiet – except for the usual sounds of the night. I sighed, wondering who brought me in… the bell… the bell. I jumped to the window. Yes, strays of lights from within the area silhouetted it – it looked like a big fat monster. No more people were surrounding it. It stood there on the wooden structure.
Found myself a torchlight and I was ready for it. I didn’t know what the time was but it must be past midnight. There were no human voices heard, no music and most of the lights in the neighborhood were out. I crept silently towards the bell. There was no moon in the sky.
I inspected the bell. It seemed to be finely made_ a bronze piece! Curiously, I re-inspected it again, hoping to find some clues that could be associated to the ringing and tolling and clanging in my ears. I also wanted to know what actually it was, who made it and why it was there.
Finally I found a small rectangular bronze plate, welded nicely and located just above the bottom part of the bell. I ran my fingers over and felt there were some kinds of engravings on the plate. I shined the torchlight over and read_
Sculpted by Tsabri Ibrahim
April 10th 1994.
Hey… that’s my piece! I wondered what on earth have had happened that I forgot all about it. I embraced the cold bronze and started to compose a short poem… The Bell that tolled to be a bell.
The September 1995 edition of the irregular self-published Tanpa Tajuk, with a mono-print, entitled ‘Simbol Alam’ (Nature’s Symbol) by Riaz Ahmad as the front-cover illustration.