THESE PLAYTHINGS

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By: Aya Paredes

This story   was told to me by my uncle who passed away a few  months ago.   I remember while he was in his hospital bed, he was talking  a lot, most of the time,  he’d talk about senseless things. But there was  one thing he kept talking about and I knew that it was something real. It was so real that it haunted him until the last days of his life.  During the 70s, my uncle was  a reserved army  who was called on  duty one day to help the government contain the rebel movements in one  of the remote provinces in Mindanao. My uncle, along with around 15 other reserved men, formed a  group and went up to the mountains where  they thought the enemies were hiding.  Three days  passed, but no trails  of footprints were ever found in the mountains. On their way back, they  saw an old mansion that looked abandoned. They were dumbfounded.  They took the same path in their ascent but they failed  to notice a  mansion as grand as the one before them. They were  thinking the same  thing-how could a team of 15 men not notice a mansion sitting on a  mountain?

Hungry and tired, they decided to go inside the house and,  for a  change spend the night under a roof.  They were also hoping that they  could find something to eat inside, which was very unlikely since the mansion looked like it had been abandoned for several years.  When they entered the house, they were surprised to see that its interiors were clean and polished. They figured it might not have been  that long since someone was in the house.  It had seven big bedrooms  In the kitchen, they saw boxes of canned goods that could sustain their  group for weeks. Some of my uncle’s comrades proceeded to consume  the food in the kitchen.  My uncle, on the other hand, proceeded directly to one of the rooms to take a nap.  They weren’t  able to get a decent sleep for days.  My uncle cheeked each room. He was surprised to see that all  the rooms had giant cabinets containing  ivory dolls.  My uncle thought it was weird.  Who would have wanted to collect such weird-looking  dolls?  He thought that the owner of the mansion might be a collector  or just plain nuts. He tried sleeping in one of the rooms,  but he felt uneasy .

He could feel the dolls looking at him. That made him uncomfortable. He took his pillows and went down to the foyer and slept in one of  the couches. Before finally dozing off, he heard some of his comrades  making fun of the dolls, some even snapped  the dolls’ head  and threw   them all in the garbage bin.  Too tired to even share a laugh with the  others, my uncle slept.  He ignore his hunger  and the noise coming  from his comrades.

At one point during the night,  my uncle thought he heard the others  scream. But he was too weak to even open his eyes. He dismissed the  screams and thought they might just be drunk  or playing pranks  on him.  He went back to sleep again and awoke up the next morning refreshed.  He sat on the couch and listened for a sound from his comrades. Hearing  none, he thought they were all  still sleeping, tired from last night’s “party.”  But something in the silence made him anxious. He quickly got up to check on the others.  What he saw made him scream.  All of the rooms were filled with blood.  His comrades were killed in their sleep.  Some of them were stabbed to death.  Others had bruises on their necks indicating that they were strangled.

My uncle took his gun,  and quickly scanned the place afraid that someone might attack him. He ran from one room to another. All the comrades were already dead. One was even decapitated.  My uncle felt like surrendering to insanity.  As an army man, he was a  witness to a lot of bloodshed but nothing could compare to what he was  seeing them.  He checked the rooms to see if the killers left something to  identify them with. He was shocked to see that the dolls were all over  the place. When he picked  one of them, he saw the head was detached  from its body.  He picked another one, he saw the doll was stabbed  numerous times with what looked like an ice pick.  Something caught his eye.  He slowly turned his head to the right where he caught a glimpse of something moving. It was something he’ll never forget.  One of the dolls was moving! It had something in its hands. It looked like a cutter.

Fearing  he might go insane in a moment or get killed  by a moving doll,  my uncle ran for his life. He ran nonstop, he ran for hours. And then  he  reached their camp base.  He told his captain what happened. He didn’t believe him. Nevertheless, he dispatched  several groups  of soldiers into the mountain   but all reported that they didn’t see any mansion up there. Also, none  of my uncle’s comrades seen.  They were finally declared missing in action.   After a series of tests,  my uncle was dismissed from the army  and was advised not to tell anyone what happened. He was given a chance  to go back to Manila and live in normal life. He was sent away from the  families and friends of his comrades for him  to avoid questions about  what really transpired in the mountain. His superiors  apparently took  care of everything,  including fabricating a seemingly true story of what happened to the  soldiers whose bodies never found.  But my uncle live through it.  And he died still haunted by the incident.

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