From the Collection of Short Stories titled, Scream At Will (Copyright)
– 0 –
Pato whistled a happy tune. His long day of turning off every person he met was just beginning. Noli was often the first on his list.
As per his rule, he did not come only in the mornings: any mealtime he wished to gatecrash was anybody’s guess. His hearing was too keen especially when chickens sounded alarmed: someone’s menu included the fowl.
What Noli did not know was that he used the tall grasses at the back of the hut to hide and spy on his prey.
Rounding up toward the creek, he slowly waded in the shallow water. He peeped through the bamboo slats and watched Noli shaking his head repeatedly.
Pato controlled his urge to laugh, lest Noli would discover how he predicted with regularity when was the best time to barge in.
– o –
Another week passed. A powerful typhoon had just left, which brought heavy rains and strong winds that toppled trees and destroyed most of what was ready to be harvested. The damage to vegetation forced the village folks to go to neighboring areas to scour for food.
Noli was among them.
As a secondary purpose, he also needed to see a friend about tree seedlings. Since the journey was a long one, he decided to stay there overnight and be back the next day.
In a small village, where almost anyone knew what anyone was up to, any news crawled quickly, passed around, that in a day, almost everyone was informed. Noli’s trip was no exception.
He boarded the only passenger jeepney available at midday. Carrying a small bag with his change of clothes and some small gifts for his friend’s wife and children, any observer could guess he would not be back soon.
Pato stood immobile at a distance, surrounded by banana plants, confirming Noli’s departure. It was his chance to enter the man’s hut without someone bothering him.
The front yard was a pool of stagnant water and wet mud. Footprints could not be helped but be left, leaving marks of intrusion.
Even alone, Pato was in a hurry to ransack the place for hidden food or whatever interested him. Of course, he would be the prime suspect but that was just about it. No repercussions whatsoever.
There was nothing on the table. The stove was cleaned and so were the dishes.
“Damn!” he swore maniacally. Noli made sure he would have nothing to steal.
He noticed the open cupboard near the wall. There was something covered: a small but thick sack cloth was haphazardly placed on top of what looked like a stack of fruits.
Aha! His nose was not lying. He smelled ripe pineapples.
He grinned, approaching his find quickly.
“You fool! You think you can hide something from me!”
Instead of getting a knife to make ready for the peeling, he brusquely grabbed the cloth and uncovered what was hidden.
He was correct: five or more fruits lay there. But, something was also present.
Unable to react as fast as he could, the unfamiliar taste of the sticky substance was left on his lips as if he was kissed by Death itself. The next bite to his neck was redundant because the first was already lethal.
Pato staggered backwards, falling down a few feet away from the front door. Escape was the last option in his mind.
But before he lost his sight, the hazy image of the retreating creature slithering toward a small hole at the base of the wall was the last imprint in his memory. A rodent, figuratively like he was, probably entered the hut which invited his murderer in.