THE OTHER FRIEND

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 By  Aries  Jake L.  Montilla

December  15, 2003

Our college  barkada ( circle  of friends) loved to organize parties, out-of-town  trip,  and anything else  that sounded like fun.  With 16 members, we’re  a big group  when we get together, and we have one hell of an experience to share.

We held our Chirstmas party at our friend’s condominium unit in  Westmont,  Paranaque . Inspired  by the victim! Show  where  people  play practical joke,  Florinel and  I came up  with a prank  to pull on our friends. She told them that she was pregnant and that  I was the father.  After a serious of dramatic dialogue, we managed  to pull it off,  making  everyone  believe  that I was  fathering Florinel’s child.

After  making our friends squirm  for an hour and a half,  we came clean and told them that it was just a prank.  Everyone was both  relieved and mad at us for pulling  a fast one on them.   But in no time at all, they laughed and marveled at how good  we were.”Wala talaga kayong magawa, ano?  Hindi nakakatawa pero tawanan nalang namin. Akala ninyo ha. Gaganti rin kami sa inyo  ( You have nothing better to do,  eh?  It wasn’t funny  but we’ll just laughed about it.  Just you wait, we’ll  get even  with you)!”

Lester joke. A few hours later,  we prepared for bed. And since we all wanted to be together, we share one room. We managed  to fit because  some of us slept on the floor.  Unfortunately, I was given the “privilege” of sleeping near the bathroom.

I wasn’t sleepy  yet so I struck up a  conversation with the two people  next to me -Wilbert and Francis.  Of course  the first topic  we talked about  was ghost stories and the supernatural. As Wilbert  was talking  about an urban legend, Francis interrupted  him and  claimed  that he could see  a pinkish fog in the air by the airbed, which was on the other  side of the room.

“Saan?  Wala naman, an (Where? I don’t see anything)!” Wilbert  said.   As they  were  scanning the room, I saw Bernadette get up  from her bed  and  walk in front of me as she  headed  to the bathroom. I watched her,  only turning away as  she reached  for the doorknob. I heard  the bathroom door lock  from the inside.

“Nice try,  Francis,  I said.  I thought he was joking, but Francis  was serious.  He insisted that he saw something. I told him that maybe he was just too engrossed with our topic.

A few minutes later, I had to use the bathroom. I did not see  Bernadette leave, as my attention was focused on the talk we were having.  I got up and went to the bathroom door.  I tried the knob but it was locked. I really needed to go so I knocked on the  door.  “Berns?” I called. No reply. “Berns?” “Ssssh! Ang ingay mo, ‘di mo nakitang  and dami nang tulog (Sssssh! You’re so noisy. Can’t you see that  most of us are sleeping)?” Wilbert  scolded me. “At sino ang tinatawag mo riyan? Tulog na kaya si Berns (And who do you think  you’re calling? Berns is already fast asleep).” He pointed at Bernadette at the far end of the room.  She was curled up like a cat on the airbed, asleep.

“Naka-lock and pinto eh. Akala ko nasa loob pa si Berns. Na-lock niya yata kanina nong nag-CR siya ( The door is locked,  I thought Berns was still inside. Maybe  she accidentally locked it when she used it earlier),” I said. “Wala namang nagsi-Cr diyan ah. Ako kaya  ang huling  gumamit niyan. Pero  sigurado akong di ko ni-lock iyan (Nobody had used the bathroom. I was the last to use  it. But I’m sure  that I didn’t lock it),” Francis said. I remembered  Francis going to the bathroom before we began  our”forum” That was  before I saw Berns  use it  during our talk. I insisted that she had used it; Francis and Wilbert  insisted that she hadn’t  That’s  odd,  I thought. Then it dawned  on me: “Nice try!” I said  to Francis and Wilbert. I smiled at them.”Gumanti na kayo, ano (You’re already getting back at me,n  aren’t you)?”

They exchanged  confused looks.

I was convinced that they had played a prank on me. But three months later, a peculiar event happened that caused  me to think  otherwise.

MARCH 19, 2004

Our barkada headed to Tagaytay for our summer gateway. We were  packed  inside a rented jeepney,  and all of us were looking forward  to a great time.  We had  booked  a room at  a house near  Picnic Grove and everybody was in high spirits.  However, I was disappointed that Lester couldn’t join us. He called  earlier  to tell me that he was feeling sick; he had a headache and high fever. When I told the  rest of the gang about Lester,

They said too bad, It’s just his luck that he  got sick and missed out on what was sure  to be a great time.  We arrived in Tagaytay at around 9 in the morning. We unpacked our things  and headed  to Picnic Grove for a lunchtime picnic. We then went to the place  in the Sky and spent  the rest of the afternoon there, returning to our rented apartment by 6 p.m.

After dinner, we played  parlor games. Having been eliminated early,  I stood by  one of the windows and watched my friends.  It was only a split second, but I thought I saw someone in the trees looking  at me.  I thought he looked like Lester; he had a  white shirt and had a fair complexion, although he  did look a little pale.

Half an hour later, as I was still debating whether it was Lester or not,  one of the girls screamed. Sheila pointed at the window and said, “May nakita akong tao roon! Tapos paglingon ko ulit, wala na ( I saw  someone over there! But when I looked  again,  he was gone)!”

“Ako nga rin, eh (Me too, )!” Helen said.  Actually, ako rin,  Akala ko nga rin imagination ko lang kaya di ko pinansin (Actually, I saw it too. I thought it was just my imagination so I didn’t pay it any mind),”  Florinel said. “Parang kamukha ng ni Lester pero ewan ko  ( I thought  it was Lester but  I don’t know).”

Our other friends chimed in that they saw “someone” by the windows. A  creepy feeling swatched the room. I didn’t want to add to the tension so I kept  my mouth shut about what I saw. Just thinking about it  made my hair stand on end.  “Baka naman may tao lang doon ( Maybe  there was just someone there),” Wilbert suggested.

“E di tingnan mo (Why don’t you take a look)!” one of us said.  We looked at each other nervously until  finally Francis and Roy volunteered  to go out and check.  As the minute dragged by, the rest of us recounted our own versions of the incident. I noticed that Helen was talking on her cell phone. “Wala namang tao roon (Nobody was there),”  said Roy as he  and Francis returned. Helen called everybody attention. She had hung up  and there was a  strange look on her face.  “Guys may problema tayo (Guys, we have a problem),” Helen said. “Tumawag sa ‘kin  ang ate ni Lester. Sinugod  daw siya sa ospital. 50-50 daw siya ( Lester’s sister  called me.  She said that they brought Lester to the hospital.  He could go eiter way).” she started to cry. “Ilang araw na pala siyang nilalagnat… ( He’s had a fever for several days now)”

We did not hear  the rest of  her explanation because some of the girls screamed.  I noticed that they were pointing at the window. I turned and experienced one of the  scariest moments of my life.  Standing by the window was a white human form.  It was smiling. It was the  same person I saw earlier out by the trees. I tried to scream but no sound came out. It’s Lester’s ghost, I thought, I felt my body shake. Most, if not all,  of my friends were  screaming.  Then the “ghost” laughed! An  evil sounding laugh.

Amidst the screaming, I heard laughter . I turned  around and saw Roy, Francis, and Helen laughing their heads off. They shouted, “Victim!”

It was a joke, a prank. They had  gotten their  revenge. I felt relieved and angry at the same time.  “Lester, pasok ka na (Lester, come on in),”Francis said as  he opened the door. “Pare ang galing mo a (Dude, you’re good)!”

The rest of us  were still in  a state of shock that nobody could speak. Roy,   Francis, and Lester smiled at us.  Their prank was too much and that made most of us angry. “Sabi namin sa’yo gaganti kami eh ( We told you we’d get back at you)!” Roy reminded me. I didn’t know what to say. I was  thankful that there was an explanation for what happened. Roy and Francis kept teasing all of us.  Lester just smiled.

After the tension and anger subsided. Roy told us the details  of their “big act.” Lester was the mastermind; he planned everything a month ago, including making the  reservation for the room. He got Roy, Francis and Helen to be his accmplices. Lester  would call me and tell  me that he couldn’t go with us to Tagaytay. He would then follow by bus.

Roy and Francis gave him the signals and updated him on what was happening.  He would  stroll by the window to scare us while Helen would act like she received a call from his sister. They told us they were sorry but they had to think  of a convincing story to get back at the prank we pulled on them last December.

There was a knock on the door.   The owner of the house heard the screams and came to check what had happened.  We told her about the prank and we apologized  for the noise. “Nice one, Now we’re even, “I told Lester. He smiled  at me as  I gave him a high five. After the excitement wore off,  we continued with our parlor games. Everybody  was having fun, the prank already relegated to memory.

However,  I noticed that Lester wasn’t joining in the activities. I asked him  if something was bothering him and  if he was feeling all right. He just nodded at me. He  looks like he’s going to be sick. Sinasapian ba ito?  (Was he possessed?)” I thought “We’re finally complete! Time to celebrate!” Wilbert announced.  Everybody agreed with the idea but nobody wanted to go out and buy  the drinks. Finally,  it was decided that the one who came up with the idea should be  the one to buy the beer. “Ok, sige na nga (Ok,  I’ll do it),” Wilbert said. “Oy, Lester, samahan mo ko ha ( Hey, Lester,  accompany me)!”

Lester agreed. They left, Wilbert draping an arm around Lester’s shoulder. I  watched them through the window as they boarded a tricycle. Wilbert was animatedly  talking to Lester.  The rest of us settled down and talked about the night’s event. It was something  definitely to be remembered . As we laughed  and joked, my cell phone rang.

The screen displayed Lester’s  name. I thought something had gone wrong, like they needed  help in carrying the beer  of their money was’t  enough. I answered my phone.   It wasn’t what I expected. It was Lester, all  right,  but he was  calling from  a hospital.  I asked him what happened and where we should go meet him.

He had met an  accident and he was confined at the San Juan De Dios  hospital.  That hospital wasn’t  anywhere near Tagaytay ; it was  in Pasay City! How did he get all the way there? I thought. My spine tingled and goose bumps spread on my arms.   I carefully listened to Lester, assuming it was another prank, but he sounded  very serious.  I hung up and told  the rest of  the gang about  the phone call.

Earlier that day at around 10 in the morning, a car along Coastal road hit Lester while he was  on his way to Tagaytay. He lost consciousness  and he woke up  this  afternoon.   He told me not to worry because he wasn’t seriously injured  and that he  was going to be okay. He told me  to convey his apologies to Roy,  Francis, and Helen  because he wasn’t able to carry out their plans.

I knew that everybody was thinking the same thing; the prank had pushed through without a hitch. They looked at me suspiciously, sensing  another prank. I, on the other hand, was thinking it was still  part of  Lester’s plan. I insisted that I was serious.  We called Lester’s mother, to verify if Lester did figure in an accident.

She confirmed that Lester was confined in the Hospital since that morning.   The room fell silent.  I felt the hair on my neck rise once more.  I felt my hands shake The sound of an approaching tricyle broke the silence. We exchanged nervous looks.

When someone knocked on the door, I opened it.  It was Wilbert. He was smiling, holding a case of beer. “Nasaan na iyang  si Lester? Nanloloko na naman iyon. Iniwan ba naman  ako roon. Bumili lang ako nito at bigla na lang nawala ( Where’s Lester? He’s playing  a trick again.  He left me there. I just bought this and he was gone),” Roy said. He was  confused at the expressionon our  faces.  I have  never been more scared  in my life.

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