Posts Tagged With: short story

Cleaver Crush

Just you and me. The director asked us to stare each other down. I almost blushed. I knew you would be my ultimate foe. I know my foes like I know my knives. Yours were beautiful. Sleek, simple, tasteful. Sharpened to minute perfection. The best knives a cook could have. Except a little more sweet.

Miyo. A name like kittens rolling on a rug.

They took their time filming the scene. You had no love for me. I straightened, sweated, struggled to strike out as calm, collected, instead felt like a chicken with its belly slit on your chopping board. I craved a laugh in those black ice eyes, wondered at the image. Wanted a smile, a flash of white, a girl somehow appearing beneath that determined façade, giggling, cute, falling like flour so freely tossed in my hands.

Miyo bowed, I nodded.

“Timer begins… Now!”

Fires flared, pans heated, sugar melted and browned, machines whined and protested under the pressure of ice cream folds and milky licks. I crafted, calculated, poured, mixed, beat, pinched together flavors and spices like an artist painting a passionate scene. You and I we knew our skill and swirled unhindered seamless across the kitchen focused and fluid I might have swung you in an arm and kissed you before flying back to smoke and flame not a breath wasted.

We pause. Director wanted a shot of the sweets in all their half-done ugliness. Miyo I yearned to say something funny hear you laugh yet toyed with jokes in my mouth like badly seasoned food. Strip me again with that unkind gaze I sweat beneath this uniform a clumsy boy with silly dreams while you, you stand like a strike-box deity.

They’ve taken the shots. The game resumes I set aside my pines and fine tune these fingers until they’ve set a sweet so tart and crisp a woman could die on first taste.


I pull back. I pant. We both fell as people do frightened and flushed, swamped in everything so wrong and thrilling like riding a coaster just a little bit broken but oh much more exciting. The end, we lived, we smiled. Miyo you smile like children laughing in a sunlit hall I might have fallen to one knee and asked for eternities spent with you.

But no.

They judged.

I watched my creation picked and licked and imagined how spice and sugar danced on critical tongue. You barely breathed. I worried more for how you fared, what you thought, how you wanted, wished, waited.

My name was called.

I unraveled like a stretched coil, ruined and released at the same time. A bed of money now grinned like coals burning my pocket.

Sometimes a boy will fight and fight a girl he truly likes. And then he wins. You hate it. The guilt, shame, worry. A girl so lovely you’ve hurt like crushing sweet things in your hand. I turned to her, cheers mute, just some beat in my ear. Miyo.

She bowed. I exhaled. A breath of worry, a bashful smile. A step forward.

We hugged.

I burned a bright red and felt the world could get no better than this.

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

The Blue Hat Bully

I wrote this short story a long time ago. Wanted to experiment with writing from two character’s points of view. It’s an unfortunately true story about bullying that I’m glad I can share. And for all you curious types, Sue’s my nickname (well, actually it’s Susu, but that sounds like a very bold word in Tagalog. Google it. Yeah, my mom was pretty angry at my dad for giving me that nickname — he didn’t know any better, but I can’t change it anymore). Enjoy!

The Blue Hat Bully

Red Fox Chasing Hare

Part One — Sue’s Story

My name’s Sue, and I’m a fourth-grade bookworm. I’m the scrawny girl with the two long braids and the big heavy bag stuffed with books and papers which never bear low grades. Teachers give me honey-tart grins whenever I bashfully smile at them, and classmates don’t give a sniff about me since I’m quieter than a whipped puppy, not to mention I also resemble the playfulness of a dead leaf. Maybe if they join me someday at my farm they’d discover how fun I can be. I have loads of animals to show them: ducks, chickens, dogs and cats, the occasional gopher, tadpole or lizard that I’ve caught. I also have a tree house. But in school, I’m too shy to tell them about my interesting life at home. So here I am, Ms. Quiet, a skinny little chicken thrown from the coop into a forest full of chop-licking foxes… and speaking of which, here comes one now.

The bully always wore the same stupid blue cap, which was fine for me since it made him easier to spot from the crowds. He was a skinny boy with two cronies protectively flanking his sides, and he walked with a gangly gait, arms swinging like loose twigs barely stapled to his body.

It was the end of my class, but I had to wait for my younger sister to get out of hers. She was on a late-bird schedule, which meant that her classes ended thirty minutes after mine. That meant thirty minutes of torture for me with my blue hat bully.

I don’t recall the first few days this bullying began, but I remember clearly the times when I was already being bullied. Maybe it’s because of the fear I started to feel whenever I anticipated the bullying to start. My heart would pound real badly, and I’d feel awful sick and pale.

That’s how I was feeling when I just spotted him. I started the first tactic of my usual escape-the-bully routine: Hide.

What I’d do here is that I’d cram myself in the crowds of leaving students as much as possible, dodging the bully’s sight and preventing him from finding me. But when the crowds were swallowed in their parent’s cars, I had no place to hide. I’d be like a mouse in a field that’s just been plowed, no weeds to hide in, and he’d be like the hawk high above, spotting me in an instant.

So I’d have to jump to my second routine: Run.

We had a school with three large building complexes, each out in the open by the side of a large playground field. My class was in the middle building complex. It was around this building that I’d push my scrawny legs to the limit and dash like a rabbit round and round the building, once, twice, three times! All the while the bully and his cronies at my heels.

But I’d grow very tired, and very quickly. When you reach this level of fatigue, a sick sense of hopelessness starts to eat at you. I’d try a few sad attempts to hide close to the stairs of a locked classroom, but since this was an open-air building, you can imagine how easy it was for them to find me.

The bully’d then snag at my arm. This was the part I hated most. For one: where’d he get an evil clutch like that? It really hurt, all the time, like two trucks smashing into each other, my arm would be right in the middle of that crash. For two: I hated feeling that sick sense of defeat. Did you ever see this Discovery Channel predator-and-prey animal chase? The one with the pretty snow rabbit being chased around by some fast-as-lightning fox? I know, the poor fox is real hungry, but look at the rabbit! Running and running, and there are these moments of hope for her when she dashes under a log or boulder, but then that fox would scratch at that rabbit until she freaks and dashes out again. You could see her energy draining. She’d dash, stop a moment, and then the fox would almost catch her. But she’d dash again, but more feebly this time, until… finally….

Well, let’s just say that fox won’t be hungry tonight. But imagine. All the energy the rabbit spent going through those moments of fear and hope, only to get caught in the end. The only difference between the rabbit and I was that the rabbit would scream a death-cry… and I wouldn’t utter a sound.

So now I’m caught, feeling sick and defeated. What would happen next? I’d go to my third routine, and this one came naturally to me: Stay quiet.

The bully and his cronies were clearly upset that I had tried to run – you could tell from their pissed-off expressions – and Blue Hat wouldn’t let his painful grip loose on my arm. His cronies would surround me and he’d start dragging me over to the playground park to this copse of trees by the faraway fences. Ironic thing was that this was a beautiful place, but I never really liked it because of them. Blue Hat would corner me into the thick trunk of a tree and let go of my arm, and his cronies would encircle me, making sure I had no way to escape. Then he’d start talking.

He’d ask me my name. I wouldn’t give it to him. He’d keep on asking until he got fed up with my silence, then start talking to his cronies. I really don’t remember what they talked about, but it must have not been good because they’d laugh so obnoxiously after each line.

This would go on for a few minutes and I’d wait until they’d let me go. I was used to them being this way, and it was always the same thing. They’d eventually get really bored of my silence, and then Blue Hat would break the circle so I could walk away.

But today, something was different.

For one, he wouldn’t let go of my arm. He pressed me to the tree’s trunk, and his cronies just stood slightly away, not forming the usual circle around us. For two, he was really quiet, and so were his cronies. I hated more the way they seemed. It was the solemnity about them, as if they knew something they’ve never seen before was about to happen, and they were curious.

My heart was still beating fast after our usual chase, but now it doubled in pace, and I started to feel prickles of fear cross all up my back and neck.

He jerked my arm so I could stumble close to him.

“Kiss me, come on. Give me a kiss,” he said.

I tried to pull my arm away but he held tighter to it, pulling me closer.

“Kiss me. Kiss me—”

“No, let go,” I numbly said, jerking my arm away from him. Since this was the first time they’ve ever heard me talk to them, Blue Hat paused as if mildly shocked, but this didn’t last for long. He gripped my arm harder and pulled his face close to my own, asking again and again for a kiss. I really started to panic, squirming and pulling my arm, and all the time I was saying no—

“Kiss me, just once—come on, give me a kiss—”

And my heart and my nerves were more terrified than all the chases this bully had ever subjected me to.

“Kiss me—”

“No! No, let go!”

He stopped. He let go of my arm, backed away a bit from me, and his cronies kind of looked grimly bewildered. A heavy silence fell. I felt numb and couldn’t look at them, only at the ground. My arm still hurt from his grasp, my heart pounded wildly. I finally looked up.

Blue Hat looked incensed, humiliated. For a long while he wouldn’t do or say anything. Then he told his cronies to get the worms that live in the bushes near the trees. They came back with – I think I remember, three or four of them. They weren’t worms. They were these fat caterpillars, vibrantly colored yellow, black and orange. He took them and grabbed my hand with his free grasp, and he put the caterpillars in my palm.

I was not scared at all by the caterpillars. In fact, I really liked them. How does he know that I’m the farm girl who likes looking under stones and collecting the slugs and slimy things that crawl beneath them? So I took the caterpillars and I fished into my bag for my pink and purple SpaceMaker box. I threw out the crayons into one of my bag’s compartments and put the caterpillars gently in the box, and then I placed this into my bag.

The boys never asked what I was doing, but if they did I’d probably tell them that the caterpillars were going to become my pets. Yeah, my mom would probably throw a fit if she found out that I had them, but I’d make sure they were well hidden under my bed, with plenty of their favorite leaves to eat.

Another long moment passed, and they finally started their usual talk with each other. It was as if nothing happened. I started to leave, wondering if they’d stop me, but Blue Hat looked like he didn’t care. As I was leaving, I had this strange feeling that they finally seemed alright with me, as if the bullying was over.

And you know what? Ever since that day, I never saw Blue Hat again.


Part Two — Jace’s Story

Hey. Yeah, I’m Jace. Look at the back of the class and you’ll see me slouching there, the papers on my desk scrawled with stick-figure people running away from zombies. I couldn’t focus on Mr. Woodrow today. I’m really upset about something. My mom made me dress up in the same crappy clothes she made me wear yesterday, this moldy grey shirt and faded blue jeans. The only thing I have to make me look better is my favorite blue cap. I couldn’t stop shaking my leg. I was really nervous today. I shot glances at the two desks beside me.

My buddies Bill and Joe looked bored. They’re not so bright to hang around with but they make me feel clever around them. They also listen to anything I say. My parents rarely do that.


Mr. Woodrow sternly reminded me to copy down today’s assignment. I started writing but my pencil was dull from all the scribbling I used the lead up with. It was also so chewed up that I couldn’t properly sharpen it, so the bell rang before I could finish copying my assignment. I really didn’t care, for that bell ringing just sent a blaze of adrenaline through my heart. Class was over.

I appeared casual as I was getting out of class, but my heart was thudding really fast. I pulled my blue hat snugly over my head and my two buddies flanked my side. A lot of kids were leaving their classroom and it was all just a chaotic mess, so I stopped just outside our classroom stairs and started looking over the crowds.

You see, there’s this girl I always hang out with after school. I don’t get why she wears the same dull clothes every week, nor do I get why she keeps the same boring braid, but for some reason, I’m drawn to her. It’s really lame though, the way she acts shy and stuff, but I admit she’s sort of pretty. Sort of.

My eyes are sharp, so it’s not long before I spot her getting out of class.

I once watched this cartoon, the one where the big bad wolf goes after a lady in red after she makes his eyes pop out when she’s performing on stage. She runs from him and he chases after her. I’m reminded of this cartoon whenever I see Braidy (yeah, I’ll tell you later why I don’t know her real name, real stupid reason). A funny thing about her is that, after trying to slip past my sight by hiding with the crowds, she really knows how to run. A girl who knows how to run that fast not only makes my blood boiling mad, but shot with the same stuff that makes that big bad wolf chase after little red riding hood. At least, that’s the best way I can explain it. I don’t really get what I feel sometimes.

Keeping my eyes on her, I see Braidy trying to hide in the crowds. Kind of makes me feel sad seeing her do that. Where’s she going to hide after all the kids have left? So I don’t need to rush when she’s trying to hide. All I have to do is watch her from a distance, following her just enough so she doesn’t slip too far away.

Okay, the crowds have finally gone. Now she’s really out in the open. And sure enough, there she is, lingering close to some classroom as if hoping they’d be out any second. Real sad. But I find myself smiling, and my two buddies smile just as amusedly beside me. She watches us approach her until we’re only a few feet away. I can’t stand that look in her eyes, like a deer caught in the headlights. Then she bolts.

How she’s able to dash like that with her heavy bag behind her, I have no idea. But she keeps on running nonstop round and round the fourth-grade building complex. I really don’t get why she does this, every-single-freaking-time. Really gets me frustrated, especially when my lungs are burning and legs killing me. But soon enough she gets worn down and she starts to feebly hide behind a stair wall. I lunge at her and manage to grab her arm as she makes one last attempt to flee, and since I’m so furious with that chase she gave us, my grip on her is really tight. Let her know exactly how mad I am.

She never makes a sound. That really gets on my nerves sometimes. We half-drag, push her toward this copse of trees that hug the far school fences. I really like this place. It’s shady, private and quiet. Nice to hang out with people you like. I started taking her here long ago, thinking that maybe she’d like it. Fat chance. She hated it.

What we’d do next was keep her against a tree while my buddies and I surrounded her. After having to chase her so much, how can I trust that she wouldn’t dash off again?

Now I’ll tell you why I never knew her name. It’s because, no matter how many times I’d ask her for it, she’d stay quiet! What’s the big idea?! So I’d drop my questioning and start up some jokes with my buds, try to make her, you know, laugh a bit. But she was like a corpse pinned to the tree, head always facing the floor and as dull as a book without pictures.

Today, however, I didn’t plan to continue the same routine with her. My buddies Bill and Joe knew what I was up to, but by the way they seemed so silent as they watched me press her against the tree trunk while I was holding her arm real tight, I noticed they were shocked to realize I was serious. Now you know why I was so nervous today, and the reason why I was so pissed that my mom had made me worn the same dirty clothes I was dressed up in yesterday. Who’d want to have their first kiss smelling like dirty laundry?

My heart was racing really fast, and it wasn’t from the chase that I just had with her, but because I felt so excited, in a furious way. I really liked this girl, but why was she always making it so hard for me? Yeah, I tried to express myself to her many times before. You know, taking her to this nice place so she can hang with me and my buddies, telling her jokes and such, but what do I get? A ring-around-the-Rosie chase, and her forever persistent snub-me routine. I couldn’t take it anymore, really, and now, here I was, heart beating like an out-of-control wrecking ball in my chest.

She was so close, and she looked really pretty. The world around me faded to black, and all I could see was just how close she was, her big brown eyes and skinny frame stringed with a mix of fright and rebellion that drove me to finally lose it.

I jerked her toward me and tried to pull my face close to hers.

“Kiss me, come on. Give me a kiss,” I said. She was like a fish caught on a hook, trying to wriggle free, but I held on tighter to her arm and only pulled her closer. “Kiss me. Kiss me—”

“No, let go.”

That shocked me. Imagine having known someone for so long, but you’ve never even heard them speak once to you? Can you guess what a surprise it was for me to finally taste just what kind of voice she had? Hers was numb and low, sadly sweet. That voice of hers spurred my wish for her kiss only to heighten. I gripped her harder and pulled her close to me, trying to push my face to hers—

“Kiss me, just once—come on, give me a kiss—”

I was so close, but she was like a rabbit squirming to be freed from the jaws of a fox. This was more exhilarating than all the chases I’ve ever had with her.

“Kiss me—”

“No! No, let go!”

And suddenly, just like that, like a hundred breath-knocking blows thrown against my chest… I stop. A searing flush of humiliation crossed my face; I back away, and I can’t look at her. It really hit me then — this girl didn’t like me. She hated me, she was frightened of me, and I just realized that… I was rejected.

The long silence afterward sent a bitter cold sweat across me, and I was suddenly very angry. I wanted to get revenge on her. Joe and Bill were no help at all. I couldn’t stand the way they were staring at me, as if they felt sorry for me or something, so I ordered them to get those worms from the bushes. I’m going to make her shriek with disgust. Girls hate worms.

I took the worms and slipped them into her palm. But could you believe it? She… she looked cheered by them! Where’d she grow up in, a swamp or something? The girl placed the worms into a SpaceMaker box and tucked them into her bag. Guess we were all dumbfounded because we didn’t say a thing.

A moment passed and my buddies started their usual joking around, and I joined them. Was like nothing had ever happened between her and I. She started to go and I just let her. She’s kind of alright, in an odd sense. Not like any other girl I’ve known before. By the way she liked those worms, she might’ve liked to join my all-boys’ club. We’ve got spiders and moths in jars. And she runs almost as fast as a boy. That’s admirable.

And since that day, yeah. I just let her alone. But I missed her a bit. Just a bit.

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

A Conversation With Lost


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.


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

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

Segunda’s Secret – Part One

Credit: Josh Eiten, Deviant Art

“Crystal Caves” Credit: Josh Eiten, Deviant Art

I’m taking a bit of a breather from my main literary project to write a short story. This one takes us into the Philippines, where folklore lives on deep in the heart of Filipino culture. Here we follow the journey of Segunda. Her tale is fraught with mystical creatures such as elves, dwendes, tikbalangs and asuwangs set in a rather darkly run underground fairy world.

I’ll post a part of the story once or twice a week until it’s complete. Until next, happy reading!


Part One. The Elf Prince.


There is no place as dangerously precarious yet beautiful as a wild rainforest. With her lush green foliage like emeralds splashed with rain and vicious creatures hiding beneath her wind blown canopies and shadow eaves, you’d die in beauty if ever her hidden dangers befell you.

Segunda was the village’s one beauty. Though her father was dark and wizened like a cracked riverbed during the dry season, Segunda’s skin glowed as a full moon does and was as alive as a bouquet of freshly blossomed white roses. And though her mother vanished easily in a crowd like a plain field mouse lost in the weeds, Segunda conquered attention as an eagle does sweeping over the mountains. She possessed grace like the tall and whispering bamboo that moved with the wind yet possessed a character as strong as a typhoon. With eyes the color of sun-kissed honey, Segunda seemed as if she had been born from the fabled secret world of elves, dwendes and other mystical creatures of the forest.

But that was perhaps because she was.

On her sixteenth birthday, Segunda’s father called her into his room. His expression was very somber as he began to speak.

“Anak, I have to tell you the truth of your past. When your mother was four months pregnant with you, she fell very ill. According to the doctors, you were developing in the wrong spot inside of her. We were too poor to afford surgery. You and your mother would have died had I not gone into the forest cave, seeking a miracle. It was then when I met Viktor, king of the elves.”

Segunda’s father breathed, his eyes lost in the past. “Viktor looked like any ordinary man, but his eyes shone like firefly lights as he spoke to me. He said he knew of your mother’s sickness and had a offering. He would save you and your mother’s life if I agreed to give your hand in marriage to his son when you turned sixteen. Since I had no other way to save your life, I agreed.”

Segunda, although shocked at hearing this, could not speak as he continued.

“That night as your mother slept, Viktor sat beside her bed and placed his hand to her belly. He whispered some foreign words over and over again, then removed his hand. At first it looked like nothing had happened, but I noticed the change in your mother’s face. Whereas before she had been pale and waxy, silently suffering in pain, her skin transformed into a healthy glow. Life had once again returned to her. She was no longer sick.”

Her father then took his daughter’s hand and looked her in the eyes with a grave seriousness she had never seen before.

“Viktor said that you would be born beautiful and wise, fit to marry a king’s son. But if you refuse his son’s hand in marriage, you will suffer a curse, one that would affect unborn children for years to come. That is why…anak, you must not be selfish. Do not throw away the gift of life and risk the lives of others. Tonight, I will take you in the forest cave and you must be brave.”

Her father took her into a comforting embrace, but Segunda could not utter a word. All she could hear was the thudding of her heart in fear and her thoughts racing, screaming in her mind. She did not want to be left alone in the forest. She did not want to be married to a stranger. She needed a way out…but it seemed there were none, and when her father finally left her, and she was certain that he would not hear her, she began to weep.

Night fell across the village like someone had thrown black paint over a colorful palette. Segunda was escorted by her father out of her home like an animal being taken to the outhouse for slaughter. Her mother could not even say goodbye nor look at Segunda before she left, but if it was because of shame or heartbreak, Segunda could not be certain.

Once they were at the forest’s edge, her father placed a blindfold over Segunda so that she would not know how to return. They walked for almost three hours until Segunda could no longer recognize the rivers they crossed over and the way the forest breathed around them thick and wild, for they were in the depths of the forest were not many ventured.

At last her father removed the blindfold from her eyes and aimed his flashlight toward the mouth of a cave that she had never seen before. It was so large that it seemed to inhale the dark night around it. The forest here was strangely silent and calm, giving Segunda the impression that a very dangerous predator was lurking about, and the forest creatures dared not make a sound lest they lure it to their hideout.

“Anak…Segunda,” said her father. Her heart trembled and jumped. She wanted to run and scream into the dark forest, chance any other monster there than whatever lived in the cavern. But she faced her father one last time and nodded. “They will treat you well. You are alive because of their magic. This is were you belong. Do not be afraid.”

He gently lifted her chin with one finger and wiped the tears that fell from her amber eyes. “You have never been mine. You were already lost before you were born. You are a jewel I have borrowed from royalty. I am blessed to have held you for so long, my one beauty in a world of hardships. I now let you go.”

He held her one last time before lighting up an oil lamp and giving it to her. “Head down into the cavern until you come to where it splits into three separate, smaller caverns. Wait there, they should come for you. Goodbye…anak.”

Segunda bid her father her love and finally turned away. She did not look back, carrying herself into the cold darkness of the cave that spiraled down and down, soft earth slipping beneath her feet and smelling like decayed wood and moist earth. Cavern fangs from above dripped with cool water that sparkled menacingly in the light of her oil lamp, like a snake’s wide-mouthed venomous jaws, ensnaring her shivering soul. Dark holes in the cavern walls howled mournfully as if lost souls wandered there. She felt as if she were detached from herself, a puppeteer joyfully pulling the strings of her body from above, moving her where she did not want to go.

Her lantern’s light eventually exposed the place her father had described. Three smaller tunnels divided the cavern. In the center was a clearing where a large stone slab marked. Feeling apprehensive, she made her way to the stone and sat on it, resting her lantern beside her. And she waited.

It was not long before she sensed something there before she could see. Like a leaf had dry rolled and whispered. She turned, eyes searching a darkness and seeing nothing. Her heart quickened, and in the silence she could almost hear it. Drumming. Drumming. Stop heart. Stop!


She turned. Just a whisper. Nothing more. Segunda picked up her lantern, adjusted herself on the cold hard stone. Her hands lifted her lantern toward the darkness where the whisper had come from. For a second, just a second, she thought she saw a tall dark shadow. Then it was gone. Just the darkness of that cavern’s corner where someone must have been but was no longer there.

Chills stitched up her arms and down her spine. She began to cold sweat. With numb lips, she uttered, “Who’s there?”


Someone hissed! Right by her ear. So close she felt the warmth of the whisper, brushing back the downy hair near her ear like a soft gust of wind.

Shocked, she threw her lantern toward that direction and in her haste, it fell from her hand. Dropped to the floor. Sputtered and then was out. Darkness and fear enveloped her like a suffocating blanket. She was paralyzed. Now it was just her and her hammering heart.

Still as a statue, gazing into the darkness straight ahead, she felt someone standing there. Right before her. But she did not move.

“You are pretty. Just as father promised,” said a voice. A young man’s voice. Gentle. Amiable. Cool. “I hear your heart. Where I live, we make music from heart beats.”

Suddenly she felt he no longer stood before her. His voice then appeared next to her. Close by the ear he had whispered in.

“This darkness terrifies you. I will not lie. You are more beautiful afraid than brave. Like a bird ensnared, gauzy waterfall rainbow wings sputtering in the sunlight while I laugh and gaze.”

She felt a finger press against the center of her chest, firm. As if someone intending to pierce open an animal’s skin with a knife. Segunda fell back, the finger trapping her down to the cold stone before lifting away.

“So helpless. Human. I fall in love even more.”

The hiss of a match. Light exploded in Segunda’s eyes and she was blind for a moment. The elf prince sat beside her, looking down at her face. His skin was like hers, pale and watery like a rain-washed moon. The firelight played in his unusually colored eyes, like flames laced in grey ash. Dark hair framed his face. Shadows lined his strong jaw.

Segunda finally found her courage and pulled herself up, quickly backing away from the mystical being. His dark brows frowned, not hiding displeasure at how she retreated, but he did not say anything. Instead he stood up, a tall, lean being that commanded respect dressed in a darkly simple royal suit, and gently bowed his head. “I meant not to scare you. My name is Aeron.”

He leaned down and picked up Segunda’s fallen oil lamp, lighting it up with his match flame before placing it down on the stone slab. “Please,” he continued, gently offering his hand, but his eyes burned as if a refusal would prompt a murder. Heart still racing, Segunda felt sick as she took his hand and he guided her off the stone until she was standing beside him. His presence made her feel as if she would never get far if she tried to run, and his hand firmly held hers in a tender, yet controlling, manner.

“We will leave the lamplight here. Come with me. Now step. One. Two.”

And as she left the safety of the light and was further pulled into the blinding darkness, she could not help but sense the sinister soft smile that played on Aeron’s lips.


Categories: Creative Writing, Filipino Folklore, Haunting, Horror, Philippines, Tikbalang | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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