By Karl R. De Mesa
My Friend Jack and I both had girlfriends who lived in the Antipolo area. This was in the mid-nineties. They also lived in the same suburban village to boot. On Weekends, we’d usually go visit them at the same time and, since we’d usually finish up late visiting with our significant others, we’d also go home together.
The ride home to Quezon City was long and usually safer with a friend. Jack had a car, I didn’t Jack hated commuting, I hated riding with Jack. As a typical speed demon with moody demeanor, he’d commonly gun his car whenever the chance came up, shout at other motorist who cut him off (whether they did so intentianally or not is beside the point to Jack), and play tricks on poor me who was usually left a gibbering mess riding shotgun, what with the dozens of near collisions, scrapes and pedestrian’s missed by inches. Hated it? Completely terrified would be right term. I’d usually just fasten my seatbelt, tiltmy head on the seat rest, and conk out on him until we reach QC.
Let Jack pull all the insane stunts he wanted. Plus, I got a free ride home. The ghost in this story was the result of a prank. One of Jack’s favorite jokes was to drive down the Antipolo road with the headlights off. A dangerous thing, especially with all the blind curves, but that was Jack for you. I think he got the idea from the movie Urban Legend. We scared quite a few cars when he would suddenly turn on his headlights .
If any of them stopped in anger and seemed like they were going to pursue, no problem: Jack would just push his car faster until they got tired or were left behind. Jack was very good at this, mind you. In time, I stopped being scared of this stunt and coped with it by sleeping in Jack’s car. On the few times that I was actually awake, Jack and I saw some weird things.
Shadows seemed to cross at unusual places where there were no houses, people at corners seemed to be waiting for jeepneys or buses but there was nobody there when you actually pass by. One time, a very big, black dog without a collar was sitting in the middle of the road and refused to budge to the loud horn.
Jack and I were both superstitious so whenever Jack pulled his “no headlights, ma!, stunt, we’d lock our doors, fold the rear-view mirror and the side mirrors. We both believed ghosts could never be see directly, only from the corners of your eyes or on reflective surfaces. ”
“Why don’t you just stop with the ‘lights-out’ crap?” I asked Jack.
“Then how would I stay awake with no kicks?” he retorted. “You’re always sleeping!”
He had a point, so I just said, “Right.” and closed my eyes.
One time, I woke up and Jack was doing his stunt once more. He’d forgotten to fold the mirrors though. I pointed this out to him. “Oh yeah. Sorry,” Jack said. “Could you fold the mirror on your side?”
I folded the side mirror on the passenger side. Before I could, I saw a girl suddenly rise up from the back seat as if she had just woken up from a nap. She smiled at me, showing perfectly even, perfectly white keyboard teeth. She tucked her hair with both hands behind her ears then she looked out the window. Her smile was so sweet that I actually smiled back and, as inconspicuously as I could, whispered to Jack, “Who’s the hot chick?” “Huh?” he shrugged. “Chick?”
This was when I turned to the back seat to say hello to her. Only there was no girl. The backseat was empty. On the rear-view mirror I could still see her looking out on the open door window (we usually drove without the air conditioner since the Antipolo heights made it cool enough), one hand on her chin, the wind buffeting her long, slightly brownish hair. I poked Jack in the ribs.
“Stop playing around and fold that mirror! What are you looking at anyway?” he hissed. He was already starting to fold the mirror himself when he too saw the girl. We both looked back. Nothing in the back seat. We looked again at the rear view. The girl was still there but this time the pretty face that seemed right out of the magazine cover had blood running down one side of her face and a murderous expresion that marred her beauty.
Jack and I both screamed. In retrospect, we both screamed shrilly. Jack stopped the car and we both ran as fast as we could out of sight of the car. “She’s coming out!” Jack yelled and , looking back, I could see one of the back doors opening so I ran faster. I don’t think I ever ran faster in my life. Not even when a neighbor’s bulldog had gotten free of its leash. I was worried about rabies, but at least they had injection shots for a bite.
This nameless terror Iwas fleeing from seemed out of reach of both physical and mental medicine. Jack and I stopped at a sari-sari store that seemed like a mile away but was probably just several blocks off, it was closed but the lights were on outside. We colapsed on the wooden benches. We hardly speak a word.
I stared out at the lights of the city. Still in shock. Jack’s face as was as white as a sheet. We both were breathing through out months. After about half an hour later, we were both getting cold. I got up and muttered “Forget the ghost, let’s go.” We both walked back to the car. There was a mounting sense of horror in my gut as we neared Jack’s car. But there was no girl. Only the back door, on the passenger side, remained open.
In all the confusion, it was amazing how jack and I still had the presence of mind to shut both our doors. It was miraculous that the car itself was still there. Then again, there were no people or houses in sight. The first thing Jack did when he got inside was to fold the rear-view mirror with his eyes closed, I got in. “She’s gone, “he said. “That’s the last time I’ll drive with no lights.” Jack started the engine. I shook my head and pounded the dashboard. “Screw you, I’m taking the jeep.”
We both did. Jack never took his car up to Antipolo ever again and wecommuted there whenever we visited our girls. On the commute down, I try to avoid looking in any mirrors.