What do you see?
“Where are they?”
He rushed down the flight of stairs to the ground floor, angered why his orders were not followed. There would be hell to pay for the lapses: an administrative sanction has to be meted out.
Brownie argued with the rest of the team, explaining to them what happened.
“You’re not talking sense,” Randy, one of the medical assistants, said. “I checked the heart beat, the pulse, nothing. That man was stone cold.”
“Man, he woke up!” Brownie argued. “He talked to us!”
“That’s impossible!” Teddy exclaimed. He and Randy were too experienced to make such a simple mistake of declaring a man dead if he wasn’t. “There were already traces of ongoing decomposition.”
“Where is the ambulance?” Detective Moreno asked, approaching the group. “Why aren’t you up there? I told Brownie to tell you to restart.”
“I don’t understand.” Randy said. “We did our job.”
“We went to the wrong apartment. It should be 23-D, not B.”
“Detective, we were at 23-D,” Teddy clarified. “I have the floor plan here, taken from the building owners.”
“Are you telling me I am imagining things?”
The three looked at one another while Brownie began to accept something went wrong up there.
“You don’t believe me? Ask Brownie.”
“Sir, we can go back up if that’s what you want,” Randy suggested. “If you are correct, Teddy and I would do as you say. Deal?”
Detective Moreno called out to the policeman who found the body: he sat inside his patrol car.
“You turned off the sound, didn’t you?”
“The portable player was in the bathroom.”
“You saw the man moved?”
“Sorry, sir. I did not see it. I was already out the door, remember?”
“Sir?” Randy motioned to him if they should go or wait for the ambulance.
“We’re going back!”
Brownie did not move an inch. He decided to skip the re-entry.
Apartment 23-B and D faced each other with both doors identical. Teddy signaled them to wait while he entered first. Randy and the policeman were close behind.
The detective was lost in thought: he was confused if 23-D was on the left side or right when he walked toward the stairs.
The same music was playing: the lying body was visible from the opened door as was earlier.
Randy did not say a word nor did Teddy.
Detective Moreno was often quick to admit if he was wrong, which did not normally happen. At that instance, he was slow to apologize because he was not sure he committed a mistake.
“Where is the knife?” he asked, recalling the stages of the investigation.
“You said to leave it as it is,” Randy reminded him. “You’d bring it with you when you finished checking your angles.”
He felt his pockets, searching for the evidence if indeed he took custody of it. Nothing.
Again, he ordered the policeman to turn the music off. He hopefully expected that the man would rise up when the sound stopped. That could settle the misunderstanding.
Nope! The man did not move. Lifeless as Randy asserted.
“Look here!” Teddy pointed to the number on the door. “We’re at the right place.”
Once more, the detective walked toward the body and waited.
“Sir, the ambulance is here,” the policeman interrupted Det. Moreno’s thoughts.
“Take it to the morgue. I want all paperwork at my desk ASAP.”
The three excused themselves, leaving him standing alone beside the corpse.
“Did I imagine the whole thing? Brownie saw it, too.”
Ah! The fish! If it was still in the sink, then there’s a possibility he witnessed a part of reality.
It was not there.
(to be continued)
Before you answer, I just want to point out that the following is my personal opinion. You do not need to agree with my view. 🙂
“Can someone be lovelier with some deformity?”
If you answer no, you maybe wrong. As they say: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
If you answer maybe, you’re safe. You are not sure but you are thinking now where the deformity lies.
If you answer yes, you know something that other people might see everyday as normal, not a deformity.
Before I tell you what is it, or if you have an idea, I want to tell a short story. Mine, of course. 😀
When I neared my adolescent years, I was a bit conscious on who I was physically. I was a bean pole, undernourished for reasons of my own doing: I hated vegetables. I was Mister Fry. All the vitamins I got were from capsules and some fruits I loved to eat.
But what really distracted my thought was my lack of something most of my classmates have. Yes, money is one but I had accepted the fact that we were poor. That’s not what bothered me though.
Today, as I looked it up on the Net, there is a way to get it though surgical operation. (If you are thinking of enlargement of some part of the body, you’re absolutely wrong.) (laughs)
Why didn’t I have it? How did others get it in the first place?
When I smile, I know I am happy. But something is missing in my face. 😀
I wanted to have that partial facial deformity, the one that could make me look younger. ???
But I guess, it’s a bit too late now. My parents should have thought of it when I was a baby: there was an artificial way. They could have had a son who has dimples. 😀
(Condensed version. From the Collection of Short Stories: Scream At Will)
He kept running, the mud continuously splashed on him as his shoes stamped hurriedly on wet soil. No one seemed following him though his inner voice warned him of personal injury if he stopped.
An hour ago he passed by the well-lighted cemetery as late visitors began to vacate the premises. His routine has not been broken once since he discovered the short cut from his classmate’s house back to his place. The long way added another hour to his journey and the lateness of the hour did not sit well with his parents.
“Why go home so late?” his mother asked, worried for his safety. “You know it’s dangerous walking at night.”
“Ma, I have to use a computer. You know I need it but we can’t afford to buy one.”
“Your father is working overtime. Just wait, please.”
“I understand, Ma. It’s a sacrifice I have to bear. I want to finish high school like the rest. I have dreams.”
His mother could only sigh. She could not do a thing except pray for his son’s welfare.”
“Are you sure you can take care of yourself?”
“Don’t worry, Ma,” he smiled to allay his mother’s fears. “I always carry my lucky coin.”
Ahead, the big branches of an Acacia tree were the perfect cover for some rest. His lungs could burst if he continued his pace. All he needed was a minute to collect his thoughts and to plan his escape.
He heard the unmistakable sound of flapping wings descending as if ready for a landing: there were no birds at such unholy hour. It had to be the creature following him.
“You can’t run this time,” the ghoulish voice called out to him. “You’ll be like me.”
“You are not real!” Paul screamed, hiding in the shadows of the tree. “You’re a wretched spirit!”
The terrifying laughter sounded more like screeching tires, prolonged for its desired scary effect.
“Oh, yes! I am real. You will see once I get you.”
“Never!” he shouted as he automatically broke into another sprint.
The sound of flapping wings neared him, quickly closing the gap. His legs could no longer match the aerial speed of his pursuer.
Suddenly, he felt the air brushing him from behind, then sharp claws tried to hold his shoulders, ripping his shirt in the process. It was very close miss that slightly wounded him, but he was free.
Still, he ran, taking advantage of adrenaline flowing through him.
Another swoop and the creature successfully planted its claws on his waist, ready to lift him up like a captured prey. The creature screeched, its sound not of laughter but disappointment. It could not lift him as if he weighed a ton.
He was loose once more, running, giving his all to decrease the creature’s chances of another attempt.
Paul saw the small plantation with rows of year-old mahogany sampling, his natural allies where the flying predator would have much difficulty swooping down on him.
He entered it: he slowed down, catching his breath.
“I will get you,” the creature followed his path. “You’ll be mine!”
He was too tired to run further. A few hundred meters more and there would be another clearing. He would be defenseless unless …
The creature circled above waiting for his next move. If he stayed where he was till sunrise, he could fall victim to other creatures of the night, venomous and similarly deadly.
“You have to kill me first before you can get me. I am useless to you, dead.”
The screeching laughter came once more.
Paul picked a round piece of broken branch from the ground. Like a baseball bat, it became his crude weapon to fight back.
Calmly, he walked out of the plantation and into the edge of the clearing. He was prepared for the creature’s immediate attack.
From his left side, it came, like a seabird diving fast. He was ready, a man at bat waiting for the pitch.
He did not hit a home run but a wicked foul ball, the creature’s head receiving a hard whack, its loud agonizing screech painful to the ears.
It fell hard on the ground, dazed, its body like a downed spread eagle, wings temporarily immobilized.
Paul rushed to it without fear, watching it helpless like any ordinary human, injured.
From his pocket, he took out his lucky coin and pushed it in the creature’s open mouth to swallow. With a follow up blow to its face, the coin would not come out again.
“I don’t need that anymore,” he shouted, looking down on his vanquished foe. “It’s yours!”
The creature’s face displayed fear, his existence uncertain.
“What have you done?” the creature tried to vomit, trying to flap its wings. “I can’t fly!”
Paul’s derisive laughter was something the creature has not heard of before.
“Come sunrise, you don’t need to.”
As I related yesterday, the distant neighbor’s loud party was celebrated without a hitch. It ended two hours after midnight, about 22 hours ago. I was still online so I heard the last strains of the final song before I slept.
Six hours later when I woke up, I had no idea that something happened before the party ended. While I trimmed the rows of suntan plants near the fence, my kumpare stopped by and relayed the freshest news from the village center.
“Do you know that three friends, drunk if I may add, nearly got into a fist fight early this morning?”
“Perhaps, they wanted to practice drunken boxing,” I joked, the image of Jacky Chan crossed my mind. “It’s not far fetched, you know.”
“That’s not it. They fought over the microphone.”
“So, that’s why the song was cut short,” I revealed. “I thought no one was left standing.”
“What was the song?” my kumpare asked, trying to confirm the information he heard.
“My Way,” I replied without a doubt. The song would never be absent in any karaoke session.
“There was scuffle between them. The house owner had to turn off the sound system to stop their fight.”
“Why not just play the song three times, in succession, so they could have equal chances?”
“Each one wanted to go first.”
Yeah, that was possible. History proved that the song was a notorious killer: heated arguments, similar to the one we discussed, resulted to deaths. It was fortunate the three were not added to the statistic.
“You know, drunkards. They lose their diplomatic sense when too much alcohol dilutes lucid reasoning,” my kumapre spoke through experience, though he himself was not of a similar attitude when inebriated.
“Where are they now? Were they apprehended by the village civilian guards?”
“You won’t probably believe this?” my kumpare shook his head.
“Oh, yes, I can.” I averred. “I have been living here for too long that the inexplicable that often defies explanation can be a reality.”
“When I passed the corner store a few minutes ago, I saw the trio eating together as if nothing happened. They were laughing their hearts out.”
“I’m not surprised at all,” I remarked. “We can be too shallow sometimes.”
There are always days when coordination between the brain and other parts of the body is far from satisfactory. When ideas were hard to come by, hands were too ready to accomplish anything they were ordered to do. Other times, ideas overflowed while the hands were too lethargic to move.
Today is one of those days. My hands seem to be uncooperative. Its fingers would not type the way they should be. I am not a very good typist unlike professional encoders but two fingers in both hands suffice.
Early this morning, I was invited by cloudy skies for some field work. It was a bit colder than normal so inducing perspiration out of the body was called for. Part exercise and part chore, hacking tall grasses with a long single-bladed knife seemed to be in order. Besides, I had postponed it several times due to bad weather the past days.
Sundays are considered rest days for many people. Farmers, like me, work any day of the week. We could have Sundays on Wednesdays (hump days for many) or any day we feel like it. Sometimes, we forget what day it is for no reason at all: it will always be work the next day.
My hands probably needed a break. They’re probably going on a a silent protest, trying to get their message across by being lazy. Well, that could be an excuse for my whole body to follow suit.
Another tricky problem arrived at my doorstep. The bearer was innocent enough to be shooed away.
By mid morning, I had recovered my bearings, not that I lost it. I was in the process of turning the introspective event back to the natural rhythm of things.
“Ninong, can you help me with my assignment?”
I was accustomed to such requests that I made it a point to squeeze them through in my schedule. I always believed education should be given to anyone, especially to children.
“Perhaps, your mother can teach you. How about your father?” I teased him, trying to remove the frown from his face.
“Mother asked my father to teach me. When I showed it to him, he told me to come here instead.”
“Yeah, he’ll do that,” I agreed without reservation.
My kumpare was allergic to school which he claimed so himself. He related that he was the most notorious absentee during his days.
“I brought my book. There are pictures. But there are things I could not understand.”
“Well, you come to right place. I am the best teacher around.” Bragging was free after all.
I was still feeling proud of the contents of my brain while he looked for the particular page in the book. Surely, there’s Google as backup if my answers did not satisfy him.
“Here it is,” he offered it to me. “Read it first before I ask my question.”
What was on the page gave me a sudden shudder. My palms got sweaty, my mouth dried up as if the saliva evaporated in the air.
“Are you sure this is your lesson? You seem so young studying about this.”
I could talk about almost anything under the sun except what he wished me to discuss.
“Yes. Is there a problem, Ninong?”
“It is difficult for me to explain to you the male and female reproductive system without discussing sexuality.” I said in a calm voice. I was grateful I managed to say that with a straight face.
“Sex?” he blurted out like it was just the homonym of text. “That’s how our parents do it to make babies.”
“Who told you that?” I was too surprised he already knew that fact.
“Ninong, this is the modern age. We know a lot of stuff you didn’t know back then.”
The teacher in me felt like a student of child psychology. Where was I when this was happening?
“I guess I am mentally torturing myself for no reason at all.”
I felt like a boxer.
That’s figuratively speaking, of course. It would be foolish to imagine myself taking punishment so that others would be entertained.
The walk kept me thinking straight. The distraction helped clear some of my doubts as to where I was truly headed. The constant jabs to my confidence could not pound my perseverance to surrender. I had to evade time and again, the left and right hooks of unseen problems, the uppercuts of malice from other people and the knockout punch that could end all my dreams.
Like Muhammad Ali, I needed a rope-a-dope style to life, bobbing and weaving, keeping my distance to deny my foe, boredom, the ability to clinch and stuck to me like glue. It could sap my energy, wriggling away from the hold.
“You look haggard,” my kumpare observed later, a few hours after he left me near my house. “Is there something wrong?”
“I had an uneasy sleep,” I admitted, clicking my tongue to signify it was a small matter.
“Tell me, man!” he asked adamantly. “I could help, you know.”
“You see, it bothered me a lot learning about the wars going on in other parts of the world.”
“That I could not help you with,” he remarked. It was his turn to click his tongue.
“Aren’t you bothered at all?” I was surprised by his marked indifference.
“Life is hard here at home. We have our own war to fight. You know, daily survival.”
“I see!” I sighed, accepting that his logic was correct. “You are a family man.”
“Why not look for your other half?” he suggested, the grin on his face came back.
Ouch! I should have not mentioned the word family.
“All of you has this ability to turn every topic back to my status.”
“You’re tough, man. But you will be tougher if you have someone beside you. Besides, your godchild pesters us with questions about you we have no answers of.”
“Children,” I smiled comfortably, “will always stay innocent until the world teaches them otherwise.”
“There you go again,” he laughed loudly. “Can you speak in plain language for once?”
I stepped out the door this morning, aimless as to where I was going. I thought it would be a good idea to receive what life had to offer without any concrete personal plans to follow.
Clad with the most casual outfit I could wear in a windy and cloudy day, my feet led me to the national highway where the parade of motor vehicles was underway. Being a Saturday, there were more of them leaving the city, when students coming from rural areas rode toward home, taking advantage of a long weekend.
I stood momentarily by the side of the road, trying to count how many transports passed by. This practice was based on a joke, usually advised to someone who had nothing worthwhile to do with his life. The sarcasm was embedded in the jest.
“Kumpare, where are you going?”
“Anywhere,” I replied without any specific destination in mind. I stared upon the long straight road as if absent-minded that someone talked to me. I kept walking.
New houses were under construction on the left side, meaning new neighbors staying for good. Another period of getting to know one another was in the making.
Motorcycle drivers were getting younger each day that passed. They seemed oblivious of the dangers of driving without protective gear, risking life and future as if they did not care less.
City lifestyle was coming to the rural setting: the new generation was switching to modernity. Yet, the old ones were not as easy to be deluded by the transformation, clinging to mastered ways of generations past.
Thirty minutes gone and the road seemed endless. The distance was uncounted nor it had to be. Free walk never intended any obstruction from mental mathematics, only creative absorption of everything the eyes observed.
I heard a motorcycle decelerating behind me. Perhaps, someone had to make a stop and answer a phone call. Not my business to look back and check as I continued walking my pace.
“You’re going too far, man!” a familiar voice yelled. “Come on! Let’s go home!”
I stopped on my tracks, my legs feeling the exertion of the walk, my blood rejuvenated.
“You look like a zombie! What has gone to your head?” my kumpare grinned, no insult was intended.
“I was a zombie,” I concurred seriously. “Now, I am human.”
“You are so deep, man!” he patted me on the shoulder to jar my senses back to normalcy.
I laughed. For the first time, someone noticed who I really am.
“What are we waiting for? Let’s go!” I said, heading to the parked motorcycle. “Do you want me to drive?”
“You’re back to yourself,” he admitted with a chuckle. “You do not know how to drive, remember?”
“There’s always a first time.” I reasoned out.