“What’s that for?”
I was afraid, not scared, and curious why my cousin’s husband picked up a palm-sized rock from the ground. With the faint illumination coming from a disposable lighter with a pilot light, we trudged through the gravely path, not knowing what to expect on the road ahead.
“You don’t get frightened easily, are you?” he asked, glancing around, suspicious of the various sounds that disturb the stillness of the night.
“Nah!” I lied a bit. The specter of encountering a snake, lying in the middle of road did give me the creeps. “I can manage.”
“Grab something to protect yourself,” he suggested. “This is new territory.”
An owl hooted from atop a nearby undistinguished tree. A few seconds later, another hoot. I was not sure if there were two birds or just one repeating the unique call.
“Do you believe in supernatural beings?”
“If I see one, perhaps I will believe,” I remarked with reservations. I did not fancy a meeting at that moment when I was so tired walking for over an hour, carrying a heavy burden.
“If we meet one, I’ll run,” he jested, his voice sounding nervous.
“Don’t wait for me,” I laughed. “I might overtake you.”
A black dog suddenly appeared from nowhere. It passed us by as if we were not there.
“Don’t stare,” he warned. “We don’t know if that’s a real dog.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked angrily. “That’s a dog!”
“You know, somebody might be playing tricks with our eyes.”
I wanted to rebuff his wild theory with sarcasm when an unidentified creature flew overhead.
“Plik! Plik!” The sound was repeated within short intervals.
“I don’t trust that sound,” he confided, looking up, guessing if the creature would come back for another fly by.
“What is it? Tell me!”
“Local beliefs identify such sound as unmistakably coming from an aswang. The hairs on the back of my neck rose a while back.”
“Are you scaring me on purpose?” I asked, trying to banish in my mind the image of a grotesque creature that was believed to capture humans and eat their livers.
Before he could answer, further ahead, the tall grasses on both sides of the road swayed, the rustle was not natural because there was no wind to promote movement.
“This is not good,” he said, walking faster than our current pace. “Quickly!”
I started to jog, my heavy load seemed lighter, the scare perhaps summoned adrenaline to take over. I overtook him.
Then, a huge creature walked out from the grasses. It was black as the night.
I stopped, frozen stiff. When I saw the long horns, I did not know what to do. I began to believe that there were mysteries in the world that humans could not explain.
“Hey! Move on!” he shouted impatiently, a few meters behind. “Haven’t you seen the animal before?”
“Perhaps, someone is playing tricks with our eyes,” I said, unsure why I mimicked his earlier remark.
“That’s a carabao,” my cousin’s husband said. “That means we are near the house.”