Membayangkan Tenggelamnya Ibu Kota lewat Cerpen Madina Malahayati
Ilustrasi oleh Sarkodit.


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Indonesia 2038

Membayangkan Tenggelamnya Ibu Kota lewat Cerpen Madina Malahayati

Apalagi yang diumbar-umbar para politisi ketika Jakarta sebentar lagi jadi rumah bukan hanya bagi manusia, tapi juga ikan-ikan di lautan?

*Cerpen ini tayang sebagai bagian dari 'Pekan Fiksi VICE: Indonesia 2038'. Redaksi meminta penulis-penulis muda potensial negara ini menjelajahi kemungkinan situasi Indonesia pada 2038. Naskah yang kami terima rata-rata bercorak fiksi ilmiah, menyajikan gaya tutur segar, serta sudut pandang menarik saat mengulas topik seperti teknologi, lingkungan, agama, hingga nasib bahasa di masa mendatang. Para pengarang dibolehkan menulis dalam bahasa apapun selain Bahasa Indonesia. Cerpen pekan fiksi VICE kali ini ditulis dalam Bahasa Inggris.


Selamat membaca!

churning waters

jakarta is silent like no other – the ghost of honking cars and scorching heat haunting its horizon, as if the city is saying: it was not supposed to be like this.

the water crashing against skyscrapers and concrete isn't a welcome soundscape.

wulandari steps out of the paraheli with a grace that can only be derived from frailness. she’s trying,
honestly – but she knows she’s failing. to be stronger in that grace, to keep her head high and walk to the edge of the viewing platform without a trace of pain in her features – for the cameras around her; for this wretched, lovely city; and for herself. she looks out to this city that she tried her best to save – but seeing the destruction, even amongst the new and glittering structure built on top of its deceivingly calm waters, just breaks her chest even more.

every year. even after four years, four years of her standing on top of jakarta, the bitterness has never left her.

the gathered media around her is silent. her bodyguards are silent. sometimes she loathes it: this too-late showmanship of respect to her, when that should've been done fifteen years ago.

fifteen years of begging to every political party around her, every person in power, to please, jakarta will
drown. please, if you do not want to save its land, if that's not profitable to you, at least save everything
that is above it. countless years spent campaigning and her voice being dampened, until at last she was
arguing in the headquarters of a property conglomerate in north jakarta when they all felt the crack
splitting the building in half – the roaring waters outside that should not have been there, screaming to
her, you were too late.


it wasn't fear that seized her heart that day, no.

wulandari was already familiar with that, the choking starting to sit just behind her ribcage years ago while nobody seemingly listened. but at that point, herself and countless other important people being dragged to the newly-deployed first generation paraheli – it was anger that clouded her. it was no wonder that everybody tried their best to look away from her in that crowded heli, either in shame or discomfort, because wulandari had made herself known for being a doomsdayer since the first day she held even an inch of political power – and now, a doomsdayer with proof.

with jakarta crumbling on its drained aquifers, the sewage water mixed with the rising seawater of the
coasts – she had said that, over and over again, but her voice was a wisp in the midst of intolerance,
scandal, corruption.

cassandra of jakarta, the international headline news of that day called her.

only after being in her hotel room in palangkaraya, surrounded by unneeded paramedics asking her if she had any injuries or family, the news listing out the number of casualties and playing her broken voice just days ago – pleading, begging about this exact scenario – did she let herself sob into her hands.

she was so, so tired.

she was forty five, yet the exhaustion in her bones then told her otherwise.

but that didn’t stop her from jumping to the next paraheli back to jakarta for months after the collapse –
even after the president held her hands, trembling as he asked for forgiveness, which she replied to, like
a broken record, with a not to me. even as she collapsed in fatigue in her first press conference after the
sinking, and woke up to chaos on the streets and shattered holoscreens with streaked blood strewn
around the country – demanding why it was only her that is acting up, and to the subsequent
impeachment of the then-acting president – her guilt only ate her up endlessly.


she’s done enough, the experts on TV would say in their early-day discussion to the newscasters, she’s
done everything she could have. but her mind goes back to the historical artifacts and documents that
she didn’t save, the laughter sliced from every kampung, the kaki-lima vendors and the small businesses evaporated from jakarta’s asphalted streets, and think: not enough.

“langsung dari daerah istimewa jakarta,” the voice brings her back to the present, her mouth protesting
from being kept in that tight-lipped smile for too long. “ibu wulandari, politikus dan pendiri tur nostalgia maya jakarta, pada hari peringatan keruntuhan jakarta yang terjadi empat tahun yang lalu.”

even as she wants to be silent, even as wulandari wants everybody who's watching this televised and
livestreamed to know and feel her bitterness across the holoscreens – her first instinct as a politician will
always take over.

“selamat sore, jakarta,” she feels like she should be choking on tears, but the blinding light of the cameras distracts her. “sudah lama kita tidak bertemu.”

after the first anniversary of the sinking, her advisors showed her the playback of people's livestreams
and footage of their reaction to wulandari’s bittersweet speech. she can imagine it now, the newly elected president clenching her fists, the crowd with their somber faces, students trying to ignore the pang in their chest as they divide their attention from the split-screen of their lecture and the mandatory nationwide newscast.


her uban-streaked sanggul is drooping, and her kebaya is definitely wrinkled, but she cannot bring herself to care. her thinning skin does nothing to beat the now-characteristic whiplash of hot and cold wind alternating between the tops of the skyscrapers.

it's eerie, her magnified voice blasting all around the tour platform without the rowdiness that usually
accompanies the virtual nostalgia tour area – the noisiness that, when she visited incognito and closed
her eyes in, she could almost see as the crowded streets of jakarta just years ago.

all the technological advancement made by the world – and still poverty, still motorcycles on roadwalks,
still smog up in the sky.

“tur nostalgia maya ini adalah dua-duanya surat kasih sayang dan permohonan maaf saya kepada
jakarta,” and that is what all this grandeur is for – to remember what they have lost, what they once had
loved, but can now never touch. “untuk museum-museum yang saya tidak bisa selamatkan, untuk nyawa- nyawa yang saya tidak sempat selamatkan – saya berharap kota ini bisa memaafkan keterlambatan untuk itu semua, tapi saya tahu bahwa itupun tidak mungkin.”

the held-back sobs from the crowd around her are starting. she can't even bring forth that initial anger, if you truly cared, you would have done something earlier, because she's so, so tired. the headache is

already starting and is threatening to clasp her head in a vice and make her start crying in front of the
masses. they've seen her tears, they've already seen her sob – but her twenty-year old voice that still
won't go away is still trying to put her pride first, and not let the nation see a woman breaking down
because of her heartbreak.


it's these times that wulandari will never wish that her thirty-three years old self – still full of tentative hope and trust in the people and in this country – can grow old to witness this sunken city. grow only to witness her last attempt to make this city real, for generations after her that will never hear the broken hum of the hovering bajays lurking in the city's jalan tikus, the smell of sate and bubur during the evening, ordering martabak at ungodly hours after most of the city has closed down.

these are what the churning waters have buried.

“untuk jakarta yang kita tidak bisa selamatkan,” her voice cracks – and after that, one of the reporters in
the horde before her breaks out a sob that he cannot hold onto.

wulandari's steps are unsteady as she carries herself across to the end of the viewing platform, but she
motions her helper away. the batik covering her feet drags on the inactive holo-glass – showing not an
aerial view of jakarta as it progressed through the years, but when turned off, only the drowned city
below. the air is misty with a the faint smell of burning garbage and salt, but it only makes her chest curl up.

so familiar, and now nonexistent.

now high above the skyscrapers, wulandari can feel every ray in this sunset blinding her sight – but she
doesn't want to close her eyes, not now. the glittering, rusted skyscape sways in front of her eyes, which
once upon a time could only be seen from a rooftop bar or in an airplane at the perfectly timed moment.


she stays still, as her chest cracks yet again.

because even after this devastation, life still goes on. this is, after all, her first visit in over a year.
wulandari's work has never stopped in palangkaraya; poverty is still here, even after this world of
holograms and hover transports. other nations have asked permission to continue this series of virtual
nostalgia tours for those cities ruined by climate change worldwide – and so, she never has time.

even if her heartache is still there, everything before that will always comes first.

and jakarta, even after its destruction, does not stop for anyone.

*Koreksi: Terdapat kesilapan redaksi VICE mengenai judul cerpen Madina Malahayati akibat penyusulan naskah final dari penulis selepas tenggat internal proyek "Fiction Week" pada 13 Desember. Judul cerpen (yang terletak setelah pengantar redaksi) yang dimuat sempat tertulis "It Is 2038, and Jakarta Has Sunk". Judul yang benar adalah "churning waters". Redaksi melakukan penyuntingan ulang pada 5 dan 6 Januari 2018. Mohon maaf kepada penulis dan pembaca sekalian atas adanya kekeliruan tersebut.