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.