THE SICKLED MAN

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By: Mark Angeles

I secured my backpack on my shoulder and alighted from  the bus in  Cubao.  Fellow passengers swarmed toward the swinging  door.  A man of forty-something  wearing a worn out baseball cap wrestled  his way  through.  He caught the cord  of my iPod earphone with the tip of his  cap  and it fell off my right ear.  My impulse was to  grab the cord but the man  was already staring  right back at me,  his bloodshot eyes floating  on his dark brown face that shimmered in What I perceived  was grease.  By the looks of it,  he must  have been waiting for me to apologize for  what he thought  was my  mistake. It was scary . Weirded out, I apologized  and Maybe he took  offense at my elite university accent that I thought  he mouthed  something offensive. I wasn’t  sure so I shrugged it off.  I took the overpass to reach the other side of EDSA. I was on my  way home  to the province  and I was hoping to catch the next bus trip.  I took a window seat,  my iPod  drowning the commuter noise.  I hugged  my backpack, closed my eyes,  and took a deep breath.  I must  have dozed  off. Suddenly, I felt  trees outside. No signpost. On my  left,  a child, fair-skinned and wearing a school uniform, was holding a plastic of an orange drink on his left hand and the other stroking me with  his nails.  He was  staring at me much like how the man   with the cap did. Eerie. Weird. I reached  for my pocket and gave  him a  five-peso coin.  He smiled at me,  his mucus forming  a check mark from his nose across  his cheek.  He fished  something  from his  pocket  and handed it to me.  An old photograph of a man wearing a woven farmer’s hat. He is gripping  a sickle on his right hand,  an arm of the child  beside him on the other.  The kid chuckled. And then a  loud bang. Cacophonous screams.  Glass breaking.  A strong  force that pushed me towards the window as  if the bus tilted. A stranger’s body on me,  blood dripping from it. And  darkness. And then light.  When I opened my eyes, I was still inside the bus. We just passed by  Pulilan. No kid in school uniform.  No dead  body weighing over me. It  was just a bad dream.  My Lola was already waiting for me  when I  reached our family  house.  While  serving me Coke  and pancit canton,  my aunt was briefing me about the house beside ours.  It belonged to my lolo’s elder brother who  died last year.  No one lives there anymore. Tita mentioned a computer  on the other house.

Tita told me that my lolo’s brother was found  dead one early morning. He died in his sleep- maybe from old age. I didn’t see much of him.  Didn’t see  him either the last time I went home 8 years ago.  She said he  was like a breathing  corpse when he died.  My cousin said they saw fire balls flying  around his room when they found him on his bed. My lola  said it was  his soul leaving his body.  I couldn’t sleep that night so I decided to go to my lolo’s brother’s  house. I woke up my lola  to get the  keys  from her.  She asked my cousin to go with me and  keep me company. My cousin booted the PC while I waited. Picture frames decked the  living room.  My cousin gave me the expansion CD for Battle Realms so I could play Winter of the Wolf before he  turned  off the lights.  My cousin told me he needed to take a leak.

The computer screen was gleaming in the dark and on my  shirt.  The light coming from  the door  of the room where my lolo’s  brother  had died fall into my feet.  My heart was pounding, I was counting  the  seconds  from the  time my cousin left.  I was about  to exterminate my enemy with my clan heroes when all  of a sudden the fluorescent lamp  from the  room  behind me  flickered.  I whistled and waited for my cousin to come back  but he didn’t. I exited  out of the game and browsed at the icons saved on the desktop. The  lights  flickered again.

Without an inkling, I turned the swivel  chair towards the door and  caught a faint image of a man in white long sleeves and white pants. I  was  screaming in my mind when the computer shut down.  I had accidentally kicked the voltage regulator’s power switch. I was already  panicking.  The lights from the room stopped  flickering.  My cousin  came back. The computer restarted. I never mentioned  what I saw. I wasn’t sure  anyway.

That morning,  we went back to that house and checked out the  picture frames and photo albums. To my surprise, I picked up one faded  photo of an old man with a sickle and a kid  standing  beside him. My  cousin said it was my lolo’s elder brother with the child he lost in the  mountains  one time they picked up kamote from their farm.  I told him about the man that I thought I saw in the room last night.  He told me that my lolo’s brother wore the  same kind of clothes when  he was buried.  I was aghast.

If he killed his son, nobody know. He also claimed he lost his sickle  on his  way home.

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