Monthly Archives: January 2015

Four Hours It Stared

This story is based on the accounts of a mentally-ill patient I once cared for as a student-nurse in Mariveles Mental Hospital, Bataan, Philippines. I just posted it for publication review on Creepypasta.Org and Creepy Pasta Network. Hopefully it will go through and reach a large base of readers. Until then, here it is!

*****

Four Hours It Stared

IMG_20150114_140926_1

For me, life was a whirlwind of lights and smoke, music and men. I lived in a beaten up shanty close to North Edsa, crammed in a closet-like room with a bunch of other woman. We slept on mats on the dirt floor and shared the space with mange-infested dogs, flea-bitten cats and cockroaches. My wardrobe consisted mostly of skimpy skirts, tank tops and the cheapest high heels you can buy in Quiapo.

After a hard night at the bars of dancing and exposing myself, sometimes spending time in a back room with a heavily drunk man and my eyes like a dead fish staring at the ceiling, I earned enough cash to go to the ukay-ukay. Thrift shop. The weather in Manila had become chilly at night, and I needed a sweater.

I took a walk down a few streets that smelled of garbage and human urine mixed with the smog from jeepneys, tricycles and trucks that never ended. It wasn’t long before I found a street lined with second-hand clothes, undoubtedly from American charities but somehow grabbed by greedy merchants looking to make extra pesos.

The sweater was like a pearl in murky waters as it lay neatly on top of a bunch of tattered, motley clothes. Wondering how someone had not yet bought it, I quickly took it in my hands and studied the richness of the fabric. It was as soft as a rabbit’s fur and just as warm. Across its front was a large pouch where you could put your hands into for warmth, and that’s where I found the note on a crumpled piece of yellowed paper. It smelled like the section of a library where ancient books could be found. Dust and dank. On the paper where scrawled the words:

Where: 67th Banawi Street

Pay: One thousand pesos a night.

Job: Lie on the bed. From 11pm to 3am, keep your eyes shut. Never open them.

Past 3, your money will be on the dresser.

Banawi Street. The note did not say which city, but I recalled the name of a street in Quezon that one of my roommates used to visit for a client. It was where the more upper class people lived.

I stuffed the note in my pocket and paid the merchant. Only thirty pesos, not bad. The sweater was wonderful on my skin and made me glow like a snowflake. I felt like one of those young starlets on our local Kapamilya TV network.  And in my pocket was the promise of an easy, high-paying job. Those came so rarely. I must admit that, even if the job seemed sketchy, the promise of a thousand pesos a night was tempting. I could get myself out of my situation. Maybe go to college. Find a real job.

After a lot of asking and searching, I found the house that night. 67th Banawi Street was in desolate condition, even if it was in an upper class neighborhood. A single story house surrounded by a short wire fence. Yard unkempt, weeds stuck up like tousled hair. Boards molded, loose, shingles chipped, paint faded. Windows cloaked with dust. Still it was a hundred times better than the shanty I slept in. The light of the patio was on as I approached, and when I knocked, the door opened as if ajar.

I called hello. No answer. The interior smelled aged and sour, like wet laundry left in the wash for days. I stepped inside, leaving the door slightly open so the light from the patio can illuminate my way. The floor felt as if it might give way beneath my weight. I felt the walls pressing in on me, heavy and damp. The place reminded me of a body they had found in the sewage canal close to where I lived. Bloated and bruised, deteriorated. I passed the dark living room. There was a TV, a battered couch. A coffee table with an ashtray and some empty cans. The room reeked of cat urine and dried feces. No one there. I attempted to turn on some light switches but found them useless. I turned away and headed down a hallway, noticing a pale light glowing beneath a closed door.

I called again. Absolute silence. I clasped the handle and pushed, ignoring the greasy residue it left on my palm.  I found a single bed covered in drab sheets, one dresser beside it with a digital clock. It illuminated the time strongly through the darkness.

10:50pm.

Feeling disturbed, I might have turned away. The house was empty. I admit I thought the job was just going to be another man looking for a quick fix, but now I was curious. It didn’t seem that way, and the uncertainty of it unnerved me. But still, one thousand pesos was too good to pass. I needed to find out if it were true.

I lay on the bed with the note in my hands, facing the glow of the clock.

10:54.

I listened. The house made no sound. Muffled as if a hand lay over it. I felt afraid but excited.

10:56.

My heart throbbed from my chest, through my throat, in my head. I imagined the ticking of a clock, tried to match my heart with its beat.

10:59.

I shut my eyes. Waited.

11 came. I knew with my eyes closed because the change in the atmosphere was immediate. I was not alone. My eyes were shut, yet I felt it. So close to my face, the minute hairs on my forehead tingled. It breathed. Tight, stressed, as if forced to breathe only from its nose. I felt the air warm the area just above my lips. I smelled it. A sour smell, like pickled gums, and there was something else. Pungent, thick, sweet. The smell of blood.

I resisted the urge to gag. Seconds turned to minutes, and still the presence lingered against my face. My body suffered, paralyzed with fear. I felt every strained breath. In. Out. Slow, afraid. I felt the slightest itch on my body. Prickles against my legs, bites up my thighs, behind my back and neck. Sweat creeping, crawling, brushing upturned hairs and begging me to scratch and move. I didn’t. Bones ached, muscles wept. My heart. My heart struggled like a sparrow caught in someone’s hands.

The presence continued its steady closeness to my face. My forehead glittered with sweat and now began to throb. My nose pricked, twitched. I wondered if it saw that. Even my eyelids sweated, my eyes behind them stiff, shot, scared. Hiding behind lids like frightened children in a closet.

The smell relented. My lungs resisted its entry, asking for me to turn my head away, escape from such a foul smell. Yet I could not. Every part of my body was frozen so long as the thing stared into my face.

Never open them.

My hands still clutched the note. As long as I kept my eyes closed, I thought, nothing could happen to me.

I analyzed the letter in my mind. Repeated those three words. Never open them. Again, ten times. Uncountable times. Stealing myself to start my next move. My first move.

I breathed. A long inhale. Sourness and the sickly smell of blood swamped my lungs. I gagged. Coughed. And then I turned. I turned away into the bed, curled myself, fetal-like, eyes clamped shut like vices. And when I relaxed, I felt it. Still there, a hair’s width away from my face. It was hovering, floating! How could the thing have moved with me? I did not feel any weight on the bed during the transition, any sign to suggest that it had crawled over me, moved beside me, refocused itself against my face.

I allowed a few minutes to pass before I tried again. I moved, slowly, deliberately, sensing it against my face. And it moved with mine, smoothly, soundlessly, until I was completely on my back. My face, eyes shut, staring straight up. The thing looking down upon me, relentlessly. I grimaced, knit my brows, sweated. I wanted to bat at it, but I could not. I was too afraid. All I could clutch on to was the promise that this could end. I waited, ached. Sweated, prayed. It stayed with me. Always there. I could not sleep.

3am.

The digital clock alarmed, and just like that, I was released. The thing that had looked on at my face for four hours was gone. I did not immediately open my eyes. I waited until the sweat on my brows became cold and dry. I listened to my body unlock, one by one, like a warden walking through a prison, releasing the prisoners cell by cell. I could breathe again. My heart pumped, bold and strong. I felt my fingers, the warmth on my skin. I yearned to stretch and let life sizzle through every part of me.

I opened my eyes. One thousand pesos lay on the dresser. One thousand pesos for the horror I had endured. I took it and did not look back as I left.

A week had passed since the night I spent there. Although my money was gone now, spent over things I can’t even remember, the memories from that night had not. Not a moment went by where I wasn’t thinking of the thing that had breathed so close to my face. Could I have been imagining it? Perhaps my fears had been so strong, my mind had created something to justify it. But my senses could not have been tricking me. I smelled it, blood and sour rank. I felt it, warm breath on my face. Who had left the money? What was the presence I felt? And, the question that caused me the most dread: What would have happened if I had opened my eyes?

My return to the house was no longer just for money, but answers.

The evening I returned, I noticed that nothing had changed. The only difference from the first time I had been there were the bed sheets, still crumpled from my use. The effervescent light from the clock was resolute, like a statue’s stern gaze, almost punishing as I lay on the bed.

Just a few seconds before 11pm, I shut my eyes.

The thing appeared close my face exactly on the second. This time my fears were replaced by a studious curiosity. I noticed that right before it arrived, I did not sense anyone walk into the room. Its appearance was fluid, soundless, as if it had materialized from thin air. The thick smell of blood and sourness were consistent with the first time. I turned my head slowly left and right, and every movement was mirrored perfectly by it. Like studying yourself in a mirror, your reflection so close to your face, you could fog it with the breath from your nostrils.

I dared to do the one thing I had not the last night I was here. I brought my hands up to my face, cautiously, feeling my bones creak beneath the tense muscle and cold skin, the sweat building on my frightened palm and fingers. As my hands reached close, they stopped. Protested. Hesitated. My heart banged like wild mice in a cage. I grimaced, summoning all my courage, eyes sweating behind the lids, temples pounding. My hands moved again. The unseen presence continued its breathing, steady, undaunted. Unmoving.

My fingers touched something. I stopped. Every part of my body froze. I could not breathe. The blood on my face swelled as I choked on fear. The breathing from the thing changed. It grew raspy, excited. Its putrid breath hit my face more powerfully. I could not tell my fingers to move. They stayed where they were, paralyzed, touching it. The length of time that passed after, I could not recall, my mind too swamped in fear. All I could remember was that, at last, the lockdown of my mind had subsided enough for my fingers to try and comprehend what it was touching.

Hair. Sticky and cold.

My heart banged. My fingers moved, slightly. I felt the firmness of a scalp beneath the hair. The thing continued to breathe as if enthused. Somehow I had managed to detach myself from the paralyzing terror of my body, and now I was moving my fingers like a puppeteer would to his marionette. They followed the curve of the scalp, lowered until I felt skin. The skin felt torn and jagged, and the sticky fluid was thicker there. My fingers passed the broken skin, and now I was palpating what felt like flesh. The flesh of chopped beef parts in the market, sticky and soft.

I lowered my hands. My heart thumped so hard, I thought I might die of heart failure. I was too scared to continue the investigation. It felt like… like I had been touching a severed head.

3am.

Again, I waited until I was relaxed enough before opening my eyes. Like before, one thousand pesos lay neatly on the dresser. My hands, still paralyzed from what they had felt earlier, were clean. I thought they might have been soaked in blood, but there was nothing.

I ran from the house, terrified. Perhaps a ghost was haunting the building, and I promised never to return, no matter how much I needed the money.

But that was a month ago. My roommates and I had taken a turn for the worst. Town officials were cracking down on businesses like the one we worked at, and required to show proof that we were tested, just to make sure we weren’t spreading any… diseases. But lab tests required money. The bar managers I worked for were snapping up only those girls who could give him the negative tests quickly, and space was limited. In spite of the fears I felt, the promises I had made to never return, the need for money was greater. After all, hadn’t nothing bad ever happened to me while I was there?

11pm.

The demonic presence returned. I grimaced my eyes tight, determined not to let it scare me. I told myself, the job was easy. Keep my eyes closed from 11 to 3, and I will be paid. Handsomely.

I suppose I had gotten used to the presence, for only a few hours into the night, I found myself fighting the urge to sleep. The rhythm of its breathing lulled me. In. Out. In. Out. Its sour, fetid breath mixed with the sickly sweet smell of blood, perfuming me to sleep. I tried hard to fight it. I failed, and soon sleep’s heavy hand had successfully pressed down on my weary mind.

The girl in my dream was pretty. Slim body, short. Hair long and straight, as dark as the skies in the province. Eyes deep and shadowy. She watched me as I slept. So close to my face… I could place a hand to her cheek and ask why she was there.

“Leave,” she whispered. “Leave.”

Her face grew distorted, and then she started making choking, gagging sounds. I sat up with horror and watched as her skin turned to a ghastly blue. Her eyes bulged and turned red. She was trying to scream, say something, but all I could hear were the hoarse, ragged breathing sounds that watched me… Watched me as I—

And I was awake. By some miraculous reason, I had not opened my eyes, but the room was filled with the same choking, gasping noises I had heard in my dream. The floors shook as if there were some violent commotion happening in the room with me, and then… Silence. Only my beating heart banged in my ears. Still I did not open my eyes. Not now. Not until I could hear the alarm so I can safely take the money and leave. But it did not end there.

The next sound I heard sickened me more than anything I had ever experienced. A rhythmic, moist sound, like someone carving flesh with a saw. And then dripping. A thump as something heavy hit the floor. I heard footsteps, heavy and slow, headed my way. Every inch of my body screamed to open your eyes! Run! I was shaking, sweating, so fear-stricken like a bellowing animal held upside down before its throat was slit. The footsteps kept coming. Breathe! Breathe! I couldn’t! I needed to run! But I couldn’t! I was afraid. I’d lasted for too long keeping my eyes closed. I couldn’t open them, no matter how insane it sounded.

The footsteps stopped, right next to the bed I lay on. The thing was once more pressed close to my face, breathing, gasping. It felt like my muscles would snap under the tension. My fear was like a thousand knifes angled toward my body, the slightest move threatening to kill me. Minutes stretched on, slowly, cruelly. I wanted out. Out of everything. The room. The need for money. The nights with strangers and terror of it all. Call girl. I wanted out. Out. Out!

And then, a blessing like the sun after a typhoon… The sound of the alarm clock.

3am.

I opened my eyes and found myself in an empty room. There was nothing there. Nothing on the floor where I had heard someone screaming and their body being carved. The money on the dresser, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t even grab it. I fled out of the house like a beaten dog.

I could not sleep for the rest of the night. The next morning I sought out some answers to the house I had been visiting. The town captain believed my story that I was sent by a wealthy family to find out if the house was for sale and check if there was any history behind it.

“Years ago, a wealthy man once lived there. He was quiet and kept to himself, seemed to cause no harm to anyone. Every once in a while he took in a call girl to keep him company for the night, but many men did the same. Not much to be suspicious about… until the neighbors smelled something foul coming from his home. They found him in his room with the headless body of a girl on the floor. Who knows how long he had been there with the body, maybe days. He was standing still, like an upright coffin, and in his outstretched hand was the girl’s head. He wouldn’t put it down. Just held it out, so steady and still, his expression dead. They shot him right there.”

The captain opened a drawer and drew out a file. “This is a photo of the girl they believed was killed. She was an orphan, only sixteen. Probably did what she did for the money. The other girls who worked with her said she had been with the man two other times; it was on the third night when he killed her. Here, take it.”

She was the same girl from my dream, but what chilled me more what the sweater she wore in the photo. White and soft. The same one I had found in the second-hand store with the note in the pocket. I thanked the captain, barely able to let out the words.

When I returned to my shanty later that day, I discovered that the white sweater had disappeared from my closet, and so did the note. When I asked my roommates if they had seen or taken it, all I got was the answer no.

I gave up working as a call girl and found a job as a caregiver for an elderly couple. Although the work was hard and slow, I persisted and saved up enough money to start college.  Sometimes I pass by the thrift store where I had found the white sweater with the cursed note. I remember the three nights I had spent with the dark presence and how insane I had been, returning even after so much fear. For money… for curiosity. That’s what a call girl’s life did to you. You become jaded to the dangers you repeatedly put yourself into. Sleeping with strangers, potential murderers. Returning for the money and thrill of it. I tried to stuff the memories into the dark cracks of my mind. Forget it. But still I wondered… What if I had opened my eyes?

A few years later, I came upon an article in the news. A small one among a few other murders. They always wrote these stories with such detail, and my blood curdled.

The body of a call girl had been found, her head severed.

The girl’s eyes were wide open.

Categories: Creative Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Conversation With Lost

IMG_20150114_141848

Sunny found Lost today. He was alone in the dark hole of a weeping willow. She almost didn’t see him for he was dressed in shadows. She asked to stay for a bit… It was raining out, very hard, and she was quite distraught. Sunny was a very young girl, and she had never been caught out in a huge storm before.

Lost welcomed her in. They introduced themselves. Lost was a boy that never smiled, but Sunny didn’t care. Lost was polite and prepared biscuits for them both, and they then settled on a small coffee table together, eating their biscuits by the light of a single candle that Sunny had brought with her. The sound of the rain outside was the only noise between them.

Soon, Sunny was finished, and she didn’t know what to do. Lost never looked at her, but he seemed to be waiting for her to talk.

“I have never met you before,” she said. “Where do you come from?”

“A place you’d never want to live in,” he answered. Lost’s eyes met hers, and they were without emotion. “You wouldn’t want to know.”

“I might have to live in such a place one day,” said Sunny. “I have to move, soon.”

Lost was quiet for a long length of time.

“Are you sure?”

Sunny solemnly nodded. “Yes.”

Lost regarded her for a serious moment. Something she wouldn’t say was hurting her deeply. Lost turned away and felt bad for her. He briefly wondered about why she would have to move, but didn’t ask.

“Where I come from,” he began, “You’re always in the dark, stumbling. There are no fires, no stars to guide you.”

Lost killed the single candlelight before them. Everything was now entirely dark, and Sunny couldn’t see an inch in front of her.

“You’d have to catch fireflies and keep them in jars for light. But their light never lasts long…they always die in captivity. If you love them, then imagine having to do this, all the time. I’d let them go, but then I’d have nothing to guide me.”

Sunny heard him trying to strike something.

“You try to light a match, for fire,” he said. “But it was always raining there. Inside and out. Everything was cold and wet, heavy with rain. Impossible to find warmth.”

The match finally lit. Light illuminated Lost’s grim face, Sunny’s quiet one.

“With firefly light, the world you’d see was desolate and dangerous. Empty streets went on with apparently no end, or dead ends. Same with stairs, but they’d end to sheer drops. There were always locked doors. The opened ones, you’d have to be careful with. Most would trick you. You might end up meeting a demon. Other times, you’d get locked inside an empty room, or a deadly one, and never be able to come out.

“Every place there was in ruin. Abandoned houses, no people inside to warm their internal furnaces. Withering gardens, the rose bushes choked with weeds. Lonely parks with ponds of murk and quiet playgrounds with molding swings and toys.

“And the people there… Something, or someone, was always missing for them. They were always sad company.

“In a quiet club, I once met a dancer who wouldn’t dance anymore. She’d lost the one who gave her the music. She just lay on the floor, in the dark, dressed so beautifully… I think she’s still there, and she hasn’t yet moved. I hope I’m wrong.

“In a studio, I found a painter. He was slumped sadly over a painting. He could paint nothing but black and white paintings of completely no purpose. He’d lost the color in his palette, and the life to paint of.

“There was a child who’d never smile — she never had the family to teach her how to laugh. A good man who could never do enough to help the world, feeling useless, for where was the voice to tell him thanks? A lady hunched over with bags of trouble. An old man who had lost his voice because he had grown too tired trying to speak — he had no one to listen to him. A toymaker who wouldn’t stitch eyes on his toy bears faces, for where were the kids to see and enjoy them? A writer who could never complete one story. How could he when all the endings to his own life’s story were sad?

“It wasn’t only the people, the creatures were hurt, too. I met a duckling who never stopped looking sadly into a pond, thinking he was ugly – he had no friends to tell him he was a swan. There was a dog that kept running into things – he had no friend to guide and teach him. A cat stayed eternally up in a tree, too afraid to go down. Where was the one below to call her, or help take her down when she mewed? There was a sparrow all shivered-up in a bush. Where had her flight gone, to guide her toward warmer weather?”

Lost fell quiet. Sunny noticed his eyes, too tragic and deep. He’d seen too much, and knew so much, too.

“In a world where everyone is lost,” he heavily continued, “you’d find those who’d drag you down with them, in all their misery. They were the demons. Then there were those who’ve lost hope and given up… No one could get to them.

“The dancer, the painter, some of the others I’ve mentioned to you and more yet that I have not… I’ve tried to help them all. I sang a song for the dancer to dance, but even with the melody, she wouldn’t. I could have sat beside her and sorrowed eternally with her, but I’d have been lost too. For the painter, I posed. He didn’t even look once at me. I told the lady to let go of some of her burdens so I can help carry some for her, but she kept on picking up more along the way. The dog wanted to bite me when I tried to teach him how to come. The bird wouldn’t believe me when I told her she should go south for warmer weather. You see, they could not stand up anymore, even with my help. They had stopped…trying. I would’ve stayed with them until they had learned how to try again, but I was not strong enough to. It was too dangerous. But not everyone had lost hope…

“The child… She may not have had a family to learn how to smile from, but she did smile when I found her and gave her a reason to smile. The man, I thanked, for giving me advice on how to keep strong, and I became the gratitude he needed to carry on saving the world. The old man… I knew how to listen to his story, even though he could not speak, for it could be told through his eyes. The toymaker stitched a bear for me, and he was glad to see how I enjoyed it. The writer wrote a story for me with an end, and though he himself didn’t have the good endings to his own life, he learned how to write what he wished for. The gosling – I told him he was a swan, and that gave him the strength to look up and believe in himself. The cat came down when I called her, and though she was afraid, she trusted that she’d fall into my arms.

“They fell away into their own paths as I went through my own dark world. They were my friends, just small lights to help guide me, just as I was a small light for them.”

Again, Lost fell silent.

“How did you escape…?” Sunny quietly asked.

It took him a long time to answer her.

“I never escaped,” he said. “I’m still trying to get out.”

The rain outside had grown stronger. A stray wind violently raced through the crevice in the door of the weeping willow’s hole, and their candlelight was gone again.

“Light it,” said Sunny, and she felt scared. “Please.”

“You light it,” he told her. She felt his cold hands place the matchbox in her own. She quickly tried to open it, but the lid burst open and the matchsticks fell to the wet floor. She found some and tried to strike them. None would light.

She was shivering now, in the dark, from the cold and now her fear.

“Why are you here?” Lost whispered.

“Because you invited me in,” she said.

“No, you found me,” he told her. “Why were you out in the rain, Sunny?”

Sunny felt hot, rancid tears begin to stream down her face.

“I don’t know!”

Lost pushed open the door. The rain burst in, instantly soaking them. He didn’t seem to mind, just stared at her, his face soaked and expression grim.

“Do you know where to go? Where’s your home, Sunny?”

“I…I don’t…just shut up, Lost!” she yelled, and then she was running out the door and into the rain. She didn’t go very far until she slipped. The rain kept on falling. She was gazing up at the heavy grey skies, thinking about Lost’s world.

Lost’s face appeared above her, shielding her from the rain.

“I just lost the people I love…very much,” she said. “I don’t know where to go anymore.”

Lost didn’t look surprised.

“We’ll find some fireflies to guide us,” he said.

He’d grab her hand, but he’d learned that demons could try to pull you down. He’d sit with her, but he knew that he couldn’t, forever.

“Get up, Sunny.”

She did.

******

A Conversation With Lost won 17th Place in the 2010 Writer’s Digest Nationwide Short Story contest

Categories: Creative Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Storyteller

The white house on the farm glowed warm from within. Outside, the night skies were so cold and crisp, even the far stars seemed bitten by the chill and shivered where they hung. The goats and lambs and chickens and ducks seemed frozen where they slept in the barns, pressed against each other for warmth and waiting for the morning sun. Only the mice ran excited through the quiet barns while the coyotes, foxes and owls lurked and scavenged in the sweet corn fields and woody almond orchards.

A soft voice carried through the warmth of the small white house, rising and falling with the music of a story. Six children bunched like wildflowers amongst each other, listening, enchanted, fascinated. Their mother’s eyes sparkled as she spun to life the stories of her childhood from when she grew up, wild and unbroken, in the heart of a mountainous rainforest in the Philippines.

“If you keep following the ravine up the mountain, there is a beautiful lagoon,” she said. “I would stay there for hours, sitting on the rocks by the cool water and singing. And the faeries would be listening.”

“Have you ever seen the faeries?” the children would ask.

At this their mother would smile. “They were there, sitting in the trees and hiding in the shadows. My father would tell me that if I continue to sing beautifully, they would give me magic. I would keep practicing until my voice was sore, and the birds and insects would be singing with me. And further up the mountain is a cave where they said the faeries lived. Sometimes I was afraid of singing close to the cave. I did not want to be taken away by them.”

And then she would be describing the fantastic lives of the faeries. Deep in the caverns where it seemed the darkness had a life of its own that might ensnare even the bravest man, and further beyond until the dripping fangs and outstretched claws of the caves finally disappeared, there was a golden door as large as a thousand narra trees. The only way to enter was by singing to the door until all the gold glowed in approval of your voice.

Inside the faerie world, they dined on meals that never rotted and drinks that never dried, and there was always a hundred dances a day and celebrations a night. The skies forever glowed with the light of a million giant fireflies, and the air was eternally scented of jasmine or the ocean breeze, fresh rain or spiced honey pollen.

But even with all the grandeur and wealth, a human would always be doomed if they were ever to live in such a beautiful world.

“I have heard of the stories,” their mother would say. “In a village not too far away from my own lived the beautiful daughter of the village captain. She would often go to the forests and sing, just as I did, but she was as white as a jasmine bloom with rare eyes like a blue ravine. One day, she did not return home, and the next morning, the villagers found her body slumped by the mouth of a cave. Although she was alive, she was lost in a deep coma, and she would only wake up once every two weeks. Each time she did, she would be telling them stories of how she fell in love with a faerie prince. He would take her to the kingdom deep in the caves and shower her with many gifts. But then came a day when she never awakened from her sleep and her body eventually died of starvation. I have also heard of the same kind of sleep happening to children, perhaps victims of a faerie couple that wanted a child. That is why you can never live with the faeries. They only take your soul away with them.”

Sometimes their mother would tell them of the deadlier creatures that lurked in the forests: The asuwang with a tongue as long as a snake that ripped the hearts of children out from their chests as they slept at night, or the small but mischievous dwende that stole your valuables.

“One time I stayed out playing for too long, long after the cicadas had stopped whirring to warn everyone of nightfall. I was walking as fast as I could through the forest, crossing over ravines and cutting through shortcuts in the shrubs when I suddenly heard something following me from behind. It sounded like a small pig, and I could hear it grunting and its hooves rustling up the dead branches and leaves of the forest. I was terrified, remembering the stories they would tell me about the asuwang and its magical abilities…”

If you could recall the sight of some poor creature on the side of the road, struck by a car and twisted into something almost unrecognizable, the asuwang was just as grotesque. The creature was human by day, a cursed one that would transform into an animal by night, leaving its legs hidden someplace safe and sprouting large bat-like wings on its back so it could fly and hunt. When it saw a potential victim, particularly children with their meat still sweet and size perfectly filling, it would take on the appearance of a black animal, sometimes a small pig, dog or cat. The creature would then hunt the child down until their arrival back home. And when the night was at its ripest and the child was locked deep in slumber, it would land on the roof of the house, slid its tongue through even the smallest hole, and feast on the child’s heart and organs in an instant.

“When I arrived back home, I looked for every sock and piece of cloth I could find and stuffed all the holes in our house with them,” continued their mother. “I was so frightened that night and could barely sleep, so from that day on, I always did my best to come home long before dark.”

At that moment, the children were very glad they lived in a house with a solid roof and walls.

Their mother’s storytelling always ended like the way a rather good moment passed and was suddenly a memory. It just fell to a sigh like a leaf falls to the earth, and then the children were all tired and ready to continue those tales with their dreams. The wondered if they would ever live in the Philippines one day and find out if their mother’s stories were as real as she made them to be.

And they did. And I can tell you, the stories are still as real as they seemed.

1513658_10153351806294377_2679930240531687709_n

Ilaya (inner island). My mom’s childhood playground.

Categories: Creative Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.