Chapter 1:

Sketches on the Runway

Apparently I, an Unrecognized Mangaka Prodigy, was Reincarnated to Another World Where My OCs Become Alive, So Obviously I Will Make a Harem in that World with All My Beautiful Characters

If you ever need a fact-check on the airport noise, I’m your man.

Man, oh man, it's loud!

Like a never-ending concert where the performers are a fleet of planes - each one a unique beast, from small private jets to monstrous jumbo airliners - their landing gear screeching against the tarmac, and those darn trolleys - all vying for the ‘loudest instrument’ award.

Let me introduce myself - Nanang's the name. Baggage handling’s the game.

So what does a baggage handler do, you ask? It starts with the crack of dawn, a rush to don the fluorescent vest and head out to the tarmac. Then there's the endless stream of luggage–black, blue, pink; big, small, oversized; locked, tied, overflowing - coming in from all over the world. We decipher coded tags, juggle loading priorities, and lug these travel stories from the cargo hold to the carousel, all within the blink of an eye. In the blink of another, we reverse the process for outbound flights. Rain or shine, Christmas or Eid, we keep the world's luggage moving.

Basically, we're the unsung heroes who make sure your luggage makes it from the plane to the baggage claim and vice versa. We load and unload, push and pull, lift and lower, all day long. Ever wonder how your suitcase magically appears on the carousel after a flight? That's us. We brave the heat, the noise, and the never-ending stream of suitcases, just so you can be reunited with your belongings.

And if you’re thinking, "Sounds exciting, Nanang!" then let me burst your bubble. It's about as exhilarating as watching paint dry, only louder and hotter. Think of the midday sun, beating down relentlessly on the tarmac, turning the airport into a giant frying pan. Only with more heavy lifting. But hey, it's a job, and as a high school graduate, I’m not complaining.

Well, not much anyway.

You see, in this whirlwind of organized chaos, I've found an oasis of peace. And it fits right into my pocket! I'm talking about my A6 sketchbook. It's small, it's portable, and it's the best listener I've ever had. The paper doesn't complain about the noise, and the pencil doesn’t judge my sometimes wonky sketches.

The art of sketching, to me, is like a conversation between my heart and my hands. It began as a pastime in high school and grew into a burning passion. It was an escape from reality, a space where I could lose myself, and in the process, find myself. My sketchbook became my confidante, my place to vent, and my window to a world that only I could shape.

People often ask me, 'Nanang, what do you sketch?' Well, it's a mixture of reality and imagination. Sometimes, I recreate the tranquil scenes from nature documentaries I watched as a kid. At other times, my hands have a mind of their own, sketching characters inspired by the people around me. You don't need to know who they are yet, but someday, I hope to give them life beyond these pages, maybe in a manga of my own. But for now, they're my quiet companions amidst the noise.

A perfect companionship, right?

On this particular day, I found myself tucked away behind the baggage carousel, leaning against a pile of luggage that resembled the leaning tower of Pisa, if it were made of suitcases. With the mini art studio - aka the A6 sketchbook - open on my lap, I lost myself in the rhythmic dance of sketching a serene village nestled in the hills. The roars of the airport diminished, replaced by the soft whispers of imaginary trees swaying in the wind.

Suddenly, a voice bellowed, "Look alive, people! Cart comin' through!" I recognized the voice - it was old Mr. Irfan, the senior handler with a gruff voice but a heart of gold. I jolted, and my trusty sketchbook shot out of my hands like a hockey puck. It slid across the floor, its pages fluttering in protest.

"Great!" I groaned, pushing myself off the suitcase stack. "Stay put, little buddy," I called after the fleeing sketchbook, "I'm on my way!"

As I moved towards the sketchbook, my heart pounded in my chest. The world seemed to slow down, every second stretching out like an hour. An ominous chill swept over the tarmac.

That’s when the big rumble happened. An off-course plane. A real big bird. And let me tell you, seeing a plane charging towards you is not as fun as it sounds.

A thought flashed in my head - "Is this really happening?" - followed by, "Well, this is going to be a pain to sketch!"

But the thunderous crash never came. Instead, the world became a surreal painting of chaos. The once blue sky split open in a blaze of blinding white light, spilling ribbons of fiery colors that twisted and twirled, performing a macabre dance against the backdrop of impending doom. The thundering engines, the shouts, the clatter – it all twisted into an eerie symphony of noises, so loud it was almost silent.

And then... silence.

The deafening airport noises? Gone.

The hustle and bustle? Gone.

All replaced by a blank, black canvas.

The last thing I remember is thinking of my mom. I remember her warm, comforting smile, the smell of her special rendang that filled our small house during festive occasions, the soft lullabies she sang to me as a child. I saw her worry lines, proof of years of hard work and sacrifice. I felt a wave of regret wash over me for not having made the time to visit her, to tell her how much she meant to me. 

I remember a particular rainy afternoon when I was a little boy. I'd been sulking because I couldn't go out to play. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, handed me a pencil and an old newspaper, telling me to 'create my playground'. As I doodled my first wonky house on the margin, she watched with an affectionate smile. That was the day my love for drawing was born, in the comforting aroma of wet earth and mom's warm presence. As the world went dark, I yearned to relive that memory just one more time.

But, her image grew fainter and fainter as the darkness crept in.

Ahh... is this really the end?

Then, just like a stubborn light bulb in an old, deserted attic, my world flickered and went out. Looks like I'd found the stillness I'd always wanted, but in a manner not quite to my liking.

Now, isn't that funny?