These things are not supposed to bother you on the Autobahn but they do. A tikbalang is responsible for my being SIX HOURS late to a crucial meeting with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt after I left Leipzig with plenty of time even in traffic. It popped up in the back seat of the car and after whispering various comments in my ears - too terrible to repeat, and not really relevant, although they were confusing - I found myself in Munich, far from my meeting, eating a cheap Turkish Kebab.
"What on earth are you doing here?" I asked him, "shouldn't you be off in the swamps somewhere, leading travellers off to their deaths in the mouth of a volcano or something?"
The Tikbalang wanted to order a Becks. I ever so gently corrected him and told him to order an Efes instead, which is a Turkish beer - and you wouldn't think the Turks would be so good at beer - but he liked it, and gulped it down.
"Not many people would be so nice to a Tikbalang that made him lose his way," he told me. "I mean, I don't carry money so I don't get to drink beer that often."
"I'm in love with the strange. Punk hitchhikers in China, Arab mystics in Colombia, I adopt them all. And I missed the meeting anyway, thanks to you - just doing your job, I suppose."
The Tikbalang began to cry. You don't want to see these things cry. They're half horse, anyway, and that just doesn't go well with heaving sobs, and the front part of their body bobbs up and down like a broken metronome. "You don't know how it is," he said, "I don't want to be here on the Autobahn. So I make some hedge fund manager lose his meeting: what's the fun in that? I used to lead people into foul, yellow lakes, and they would count their prayer beads and shout to Jesu Christo as they sank. I penalize the evil, you know," he said, looking morosely into his beer. "There are plenty of evil people everywhere, but all I can do with the evil people here is lure them into an industrial suburb of Belgium."
I sympathized with the bastard. "Why don't you make them crash their Audis?"
"I wish I could! I don't handle crashes, just make people lose their way...it's more effective in the jungle."
"So what did I do wrong to deserve this treatment?" I asked him, worried that he had seen some bad account in the hands of God and that my next enforcer would be worse.
"Oh, you didn't do anything, I just felt like stopping you from making too much money for your own good. Back where I come from, people worry about that, you know."
"Right. Well, would you like another Efes?"
"No more, thank you, but thanks for hearing me vent. Let me tell you how I got here...in.." and he said this with utter contempt ... "in Deutschland..."
"I'm listening," I said, "I have nothing else to do tonight, except go to the English movie theatre or pick up one of these really hard bitten whores passing by the window."
"I don't recommend it. That one over there killed three lovers. I'd make her lose her way but that would only help her. So, I used to live in Banaue, in the rice paddies. I never had a care in the world, and the villagers were all OK, so there wasn't any real murderous tricks I had to play...and then this bitch that was getting a job as a Hong Kong maid plucked my mane."
"The golden hairs. I lose them, I do your bidding. Anyway, she only got one, so I didn;t become a total slave, but I did become her free ticket to Hong Kong. Used to be, they would ask for pots of gold..."
"And did they get them?"
"No, we don't do that. But they would ASK and that's the important part.Anyway, I ended up taking her to Hong Kong on my back so she could clean the floor of some real estate developer and then one of my countrymen who got kicked out on a sweep of illegal immigrants decided to move to Israel
"There's a whole bunch of them there, trying to get a Jewish man." Here he withdraw a crumpled copy of Manila-Tel Aviv from his pocket and showed me all the tips from the writers and personal ads, all about bagging an Israeli man. I looked at it with a mixture of curiousity and horror. It was certainly understandable, but it hardly seemed dignified. I had to stop reading though, in order to listen to him - since he went on talking as I read. "Anyway, she made me carry her on my back, and I ended up escaping somewhere near Tel Aviv; from there it was an easy trip to Germany, after all, I am a Tikbalang.
"And now you just squat on the side of the Autobahn..."
"It's terrible! I understand that my countrymen don't want to suffer but they come to these places with long straight roads and arrogant employers and they live to send money home to their families and they don't take risks anymore...They don't even have a path to go on, so I can't lead them astray...and who will punish them when they do wrong? Who will make them lose their road and watch over them?"
"I think the people they work for do that."
"Self interest, earthly powers, not the same. They're punishing you to make you better tools, they don't care about your spirit. The trick isn't to live as a maid somewhere and have an easy life...It's to make lots of errors and let me make you lose your path on the highways...No one ever understood that the curse I give is blessing them. "
"I wouldn't drink too much more of that, friend, your cheeks are turning bright red."
"And I have more bad news," I said to him, steadying him as I picked at the last two golden hairs of his mane, "You have no idea how useful teleportation might be to a hedge fund manager..."