SCARLET

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 By: John  Boyle O’ Hamlyn

Unit 4, Rose  Street.  The address sounded  so inviting to her. She always  had a taste for archaic  sounding  names of places and this apartment had that same  appeal to her.  She felt like was welcoming her in its way. The house  had a homely atmosphere, a distinctive feel  that made  her imagine that she’d  been here  before.  But she  was so sure that she  had never been in  this part of the Metro before. She never even heard of this village before.  And that was her purpose in the first place.  She wanted  to get  away  from familiar places to  forget things.  There are  a lot of things  she wanted  to put behind her. She even decided  to quit her job at the airport where she  worked  for five years since her college graduation.  It is  a small  house-one bedroom, a small  kitchen and a  roomy bathroom. Now  this is unusual. It is common for most  apartments in the Metro to have a bathroom that  is proportional in size to  the rest of the house.  But this  one had a  bathroom which is  almost twice the size  of a normal  bathroom.  She liked  that particular  oddity and smiled to herself.  When she  first entered the house,  the smell of  dama de noche greeted  her.   It was as if someone took away  all the funishing and filled  the house with dozens of  those flowers and left them there for a week.  Dust had settled  on the red  concrete floor  making her  conclude that it had been sometime since someone had last occupied this  place. A small window opposite the front door opened to a small backyard filled with  bougainvillea trees.  She leaned through the window and tried hard to find the dama de noche in the backyard  but found  none.  The bougainvilleas have quiet overgrown the  entire backyard, the dama de noches could be somewhere  further back in the  empty lot.  She convinced herself that if it  were not  in this particular  apartment,  it could be  in one  of the  other houses for rent.

She walked  into the bedroom and stared  at the empty  floor  for the longest  time.  She’s trying  to   visualize  how her  things would  be arranged  in the room,  her bed,  the dressers, the lamps,  the curtains, the circular table for  her incense and  candles  and  even her  favorite scarlet carpet.  She used  to gave several paintings above her  bed in her old bedroom but she  decided to give them to her mother. All those paintings were made  by Joseph  and she’s  trying  to get away from anything that would  remind her of him. She imagined in her mind how her room  would look like  without  the paintings and she like it.  She planned the living room afterwards. She was halfway planning her kitchen  when she felt cold air blown on her back.  She could  hear a light scraping  sound coming from the bedroom like a chest was being dragged across the room slowly. She could not move. She felt  her blood rush to her head and felt her head throbbing. “Max! Aren’t  you through yet?” Her younger sister  was half grinning while peering  through the single front window.  “You’ve been here for three  hours, Max!! And you made me wait  outside in the  car all this time!! You are definitely buying  dinner, sister!” she said, laughing. Max’s  jaws drapped  wide open in disbelief. She quickly  recounted  in her head  the things she did in the house and she was  convinced  that she had been here  for 45  minutes at the most.  “I know what you’re thinking , sister. You’re  not going to act your way out of  this one, Max.  You’re  definitely buying ,” her youngest sister said  half-grinning.  All Max could do was  laugh.  Her baby sister was  making one of her legendary impish grins that has become very famous among their peers since they were young. She’s  only older by a year  but Max took care of Denise as if she  were 10 years older.  She conceded to  Denise and locked up all the windows and doors  and quickly  made her way out of the house.  Denise drove the  car while  Max made brief glances at  every house they passed  by in the neighborhood, trying  to catch a glimpse of the  dama de noche trees but saw none.  “You looked  shaken when I called  out to you, Max. Is everything OK? Denise asked.  “I thought I heard  the sound of something being dragged across  the floor of the bedroom,”Max replied.  “You know how these old houses are,  the wood had already swollen. It’s probably the door rubbing against  the floor,” Denise suggested. “You’re probably right,” Max agreed as  Denise made  a turn to enter the parking lot of a famous restaurant-their favorite place for dinner. The sky was just starting  to dim and the lights in the nearby establishments  and bars were starting  to make the  whole place look alive. Max left the car and saw a man staring at her from  across the  street. He looked  familiar but before she could  give him a good look,  a truck passed  by  and he was  gone after it passed out of sight. Max moved  into the house  a week later. Denise  stayed  with her  for four days to her help her clean and unpack. They drank  their favorite vodka when everything was  cleaned up  and in its proper place.  Everything  went well in the first month of her stay.  She found a new job and  forgot everything  about Joseph. After another month, she found  her new officemate Lisa.

crying in the parking  lot because  she found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her.   she quickly remembered Joseph. They had  been together  for five years and he kept from her the fact that he was already married with kids, and still  living happily with his wife. Lisa ask Max to go with her  and have a few glasses. Max did not  even hesitate; she felt that she could also use a drink. After two glassed, Max saw  the same man  staring at her  again  when she  and Denise  had dinner. But this time, he was crossing the street going to the bar  where they’re in. He  really looked very familiar. He entered the bar and  approached her. “Don’t  tell me you no longer recognize  me. Maxine? the said to her,  smiling. She stared  at him blankly and thought for a long time. Suddenly, she remembered!

“Danny!! Is it you, Danny?” She  said excitedly. “I always said that you have  an excellent  memor. I haven’t  seen you since  high school graduation. I tried calling but- ,” Danny was interrupted.  “We moved a lot when dad died. My grandmother decided to seel our  old house and mom agreed. Bought  and sold  three houses in a single year before  my mom  decided  to stop moving,”  she said smiling.”Now that explain everything ,” Danny replied. Max introduced  Danny  to Lisa  and the three  of them talked a lot that night . Danny  and Max decided to see each other  again  the next day. They left the bar at  around 2 a.m.  They all took  three separate  cabs home.  Max’s  car was  still  with Denise  because  she wouldn’t  let Max drive  while still  depressed.  When Max got home, she  switched  on the light in her living room and was  surprised  to see her  entire living room covered  with blood.  A bloodied  man was  hanging  by his head  from her ceiling  and his internal organs were scattered all over place. She screamed as she ran to her nearest neighbor and banged at their door.  By this time, almost everyone in the neighborhood has woken up from Max’s screaming and they all went with her back to her  apartment. But when they got there, they were  surprised to find nothing. None of the things Max had described  were there.  The house was exactly as it was  when Max left it.  Max called  her sister and Denise arrived in less  than an hour.  Everyone  convinced Max that it might  just have been  the alcohol from the bar;  Max reluctantly agreed. Denise  stayed with her sister  that night.  The next day after work, Max met with Danny and she immediately forgot about last night’s incident. They enjoyed each other’s company so much that  she forgot about Joseph.  When Max got home, she got to bed  immediately since it was already very late.  As she  was about to fall asleep she smelled the strong  pungent  scent of blood. Images   of the night before flashed into her mind  and she froze in fear again.  She could now distinctively  hear plates in the kitchen breaking on the floor.  She grabbed  her phone and called  Danny’s  mobile phone but there was no answer. The noise suddenly stopped   and the smell of blood was replaced  by the sweet smell of  dama de noche.  The next morning,  she check her kitchen and saw no sign of the broken plates or anything that was broken. By this time, Max was convinced that the house was  haunted. She called Denise  and asked  her to look  for a new apartment for her.  Denise  thought it was just her depression playing  tricks with her mind  but she still  consented  to look for  a new testament.  There are times whent he ghost would pull her blanket  off when she’s  about to sleep at times, she’d have her coffee and see blood  dripping  on it from the ceiling  but when she’d look up, there’s nothing there.  What really freaks  her out  is the image of  the man hanging by his neck with blood and organs all over. It happens  during Fridays  so she decided  to sleep at her mom’s  house during weekends. Denise got  curious and hired  someone to gather information on the background  of the house.  Meanwhile, Danny and Max started dating. And Max’s frequent meetings with Denise and Danny  helped  her  go through her ghost experience while she’s looking  for  a new apartment. She didn’t  even mind that Danny  had been trying to avoid telling her   where he worked and lived.  They became closer every day and the memories of Joseph have now been  locked up completely at the back of Max’s mind. It wasn’t  hard since they’ve known each other since they were 10 and  became bestfriends in high school.  Danny decided to propose Max over dinner at her apartment. So she prepared dinner, brought out new seat covers  and hung new curtains. Danny said he’d  come over  after work. He has  never  been to  Max’s house but  he had a clear sketch in  two versions.  Max made  one for him two days  ago and  Denise  made another  one this  morning,  just in case Max was too excited in making the sketch and left out important landmarks.

Max brought out her most expensive candles and lit up the entire  apartment with candles. She wanted everything to be perfect. She awaited until around nine  but started to feel impatient.  She tried calling Danny’s mobile phone but there was no answer. She gave up calling  since she  never got any answer  from Danny’s  phone from day one.  He explained that the ringer  was damaged  and he rarely brings it with him.  After a few minutes past nine,  her home  phone rang.  Max rushed  to her bedroom to answer the phone; she remembered giving all her phone numbers to Danny and this made her think  it might be  Danny.  She lifted the handset but the line was dead.  Suddenly a strong cold wind blew  through  her apartment that shut  her bedroom door.  At the bottom of the door,  she could see the flicker of the few  candles that survived  the wind. Where did that wind come from?  All the windows were locked  except the one in the kitchen and the one in the bathroom. Max put down the phone and was about to leave her room when she  started  to see blood flowing  into her room from the  bottom of her bedroom door. The  pungent  stench of decay and blood was extremely overwhelming. Max hurriedly  stepped back to her  bed as she started  at the blood flowing.  She  was about scream when the phone rang again. She  lifted  it to her  ear and heard  loud  stabbing sounds and gurgling noises like someone was chokingon his own blood!! She  slammed  the phone down.   The blood  has now  reached the foot  of the bed and Max  jumped  up on her bed  as she stared  at it in horror. She could  now clearly see a pair  of bare feet from behind  the door!! She froze in terror. The door knob was slowly turning.  Someone or something  was trying to get into her bedroom!!

Suddenly her mobile  phone rang; it was  Denise. She hurriedly answered it and  closed her eyes because she was sure her door would open any minute and she did not  want to see who it was.  “Max!! You’re not  going to believe that  found  out about your apartment!!”   the voice from the other line said.  The chill  and stench in the room subsided  and Max  slowly opened her eyes. The blood was no longer  there. The sweet  smell of dama de  noches started  to fill the  room again.  “Hey! Max!!! Are you there?” Denise asked.  “Yes,  I am here . Could you  please come over?” Max said,  her voice  quivering.  “I am  in your  car driving to your apartment. I am just five minutes away and I’m getting you  out of there,” Denise  said firmly.  “What did you find out about the house?” Max asked.

“Someone died there three years ago. The killed by drug addicts.  Apparently, these drug addicts were imagining that they were making a blood sacrifice to Satan and the victim  was brutally murdered, his internal organs  were hung on the apartment walls,” Denise  explained. “Go on,” Max said as she felt her strength returning. She heard  a car stop  in front of her apartment.

“I’m  at your door and i’m unlocking it. Wow, some dinner you have here. sis  too bad though,” Denise  remarked.  Max hurriedly went out of her bedroom and  hugged Denise tightly. They went  outside  in the waiting car and Denise drove off. ” And you know who it was that got killed in that house?  Denise continued . “I don’t  think  I care  who it was,” Max replied. “But you need to know. It is someone you know well,” Denise said in a serious tone.  “Who?” Max said as she stared at Denise  with chills running up her back.  “Mark Daniel-Danny!! Your date!! Danny has been dead for three years!!” Denise exclaimed. Max was shocked and she  could not  answer. ” He had crush on you since highschool  and he never had  any girlfriend  even after college. I called his mom to confirm it and  she said Danny died in that apartment. His mother said he  has been looking  for you since he  has been graduated from college four years  ago to court you and ask you to marry him,” Denise explained

Max was speechless until they reached their mother’s house. Max’s mother hugged her tightly; she obviously  knew what’s going on. Max  suddenly remembered  that Danny’s house had a lot of dama de  noches  and they used to stay in the backyard  filled with Dama de noches  whenever she and  Denise  come to visit.  Max moved back to her mother’s house and felt stronger  after that experience . Since she broke up with Joseph, she has always felt no  one could  love her  for who  she truly is.   She thought she’d always be just a second-option-girl.  But even though her  experience in that apartment was terrible, she was sure someone loved her  more than  she expected… Danny loved her her beyond death.

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