A tale updated from Thai folklore by Colin Devonshire
‘I’m so excited; I can’t wait to see the river,’ Libby said.
‘We’ve still got classes to teach. Then we can relax and enjoy the trip,’ answered Libby’s boyfriend, Pan.
‘Have you ever fancied teaching in England?’
‘Would they employ a Thai teacher to teach English? I doubt it?’
‘Here come Nin and Noo, ready to go, girls?’ asked Libby.
‘Yeah, it would be great to get away from my parents,’ said Noo.
‘What about you, Nin? You’ve already escaped your parent’s grip?’ asked Pan.
‘We are ready to go.’
‘We, as in, you and Jim?’ They all laughed at her discomfort.
‘Where are the boys?’ asked Pan.
‘They are coaching the school’s first team. They won’t be long, then we can have a pre-trip beer before the big off in the morning,’ said Noo.
They all sat in their favourite restaurant near the school.
‘Are we all going to swim in the river?’ asked Libby.
‘Not me; there are snakes and monitor lizards in there,’ answered Jules.
‘Me neither,’ the Thai girls said together.
‘You are a load of chickens. I’ll swim with you, Libby,’ said Jim.
‘Because your team won tonight doesn’t make you a swimmer,’ said Jules.
Nin cringed at her boyfriend’s act.
They split the bill and made their way home, ready for an early start.
It was agreed that the minibus would collect them all at the school gates at seven am. His mother dropped off Pan as Libby ran up to him and cuddled.
‘Do you think Noo stayed with Jules last night?’ asked Libby.
‘I doubt it, and I’m surprised her father let her come at all. But, of course, it was only because she told him she was sharing a cabin with Nin.’
They were laughing as Noo skipped around the corner, ‘I’m not last,’ she said.
A taxi door opened as Jules dropped his backpack’s contents in the street. He stuffed his clothes back in, paid the fare and ambled across the road.
‘Who’d believe it, the two living together are late?’ said Jules.
A motorbike taxi dropped Jim off.
‘Where is Nin?’ asked Noo.
‘She is unwell. She may join us tomorrow.’
Noo immediately tried calling her friend. ‘No answer.’
‘No, she is still sleeping,’ said Jim.
The chatter was lively, ‘Who is driving the boat?’ asked Libby.
‘It is not a boat. It’s a barge,’ Jim snapped. ‘And a boat, or barge, has a pilot, not a driver.’
‘Has anybody got experience as a “pilot”, then?’
‘I’m happy to take a turn,’ offered Pan, ‘I’m used to various types of craft, my dad sails. It is easy enough, and I can show you.’
‘That’s set then. We have a captain,’ said Jim. He winked at Libby.
The barge owner gave them a guided tour, plus limited instruction about the rules of the river and explained how the craft worked. His lesson was in Thai; Jim and Jules didn’t understand a word but agreed it all seemed straightforward. The others nodded.
They set off. The cloudy and cool weather was perfect for the trip. After an hour, they moored, hooking up to trees overhanging the river. Out came the picnic. All but Jim handed over plastic plates loaded with food. ‘Sorry, guys, Nin was arranging the snacks. I guess I forgot.’
‘Never mind, dig in. You can buy the first round later.’ They all laughed.
The females sorted the cabins, and Jim would be alone until Nin showed up.
‘Is Nin coming?’ asked Noo.
‘I’ll call her,’ said Jim as he walked to the bow. ‘Yes, darling, we are having fun. Are you well enough to join us?’
‘That’s funny, she didn’t answer her phone when I called her a few minutes ago,’ said Libby in Noo’s ear.
Jim rejoined the group as Libby excused herself and went to the head.
She returned and tapped Noo’s leg and shook her head. ‘Is Nin okay?’ she asked Jim.
‘Yeah, fine, all better now. She’ll join us tomorrow,’ answered Jim.
‘That’s funny. She didn’t answer my call.’
‘Maybe she only answers if she sees my name?’ said Jim.
Later, they moored again and went ashore to stock up on food and beers. Further upriver, Pan secured the craft. Jim moved and sat next to Libby; leaning across, he whispered in her ear. Libby stood and sat next to Noo. The evening party began. Spicy dishes were shared, and beer bottles clinked. The karaoke system was warmed up, and the wailing of Thai and English songs belted across the water. By one am, the singers were losing their voices. Couple by couple, they sloped off to bed. Leaving Jim alone, he went to sit at the bow and stared down at the gentle waves.
An hour later, Pan needed the toilet; as he closed the door, he glanced out at Jim through the cabin window. Jim had his arm around Nin. ‘How could that be?’ Looking and staring harder, Pan was sure what he saw. ‘But, why is she sitting in a puddle? Don’t tell me she swam across?’
He rushed off to tell Libby what he had seen.
‘Are you sure it was Nin?’
‘Well, no, I only saw her from the back. She has long black hair and the same size.’
They looked again.
‘Hilarious, great prank, you woke me to look at a splash of water?’ she pointed down at a wet patch on the deck.
‘No, I mean it. ‘
He ran to Jim’s cabin.
‘Where is he? And where is she?’
They searched the barge, waking the others. But there was no sign of Jim or Nin.
‘Oh God, maybe they fell in?’
‘He was pretty drunk.’
‘What shall we do?’
Jules tried calling Jim’s mobile, no answer. Noo tried Nin’s number, hoping they had gone home. Again no answer.
The boys looked up and down the river; the girls then phoned the authorities for help.
Soon a rescue craft arrived, questions were asked and answered, and then a diver slipped under the barge.
Noo jumped as her phone trilled, ‘Thank god,’ she breathed, ‘It’s Nin.’
But it wasn’t. It was the police. ‘You were the last person to call this number. Can you tell me why?’
The police were in Jim and Nin’s rented apartment. Neighbours had called complaining about the noise of breaking glass and screams.
Inside was the body of a young Thai lady, battered with a blunt instrument giving her broken bones. Someone had packed the dead girl inside a large suitcase.
Divers found no body in the river.
Pan asked the minibus to pick them up and take them home. On the trip back, he told the passengers the Thai folklore tale of Pi Prai.
‘Pi Prai is a ghostly woman that lives underwater. She is pregnant and comes alive to avenge any female who a male has wronged. The drowned victims will appear days later.’
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