Editor’s warning: What follows is a horror story; it contains some disturbing imagery.
The sun was setting. It was surrounded by an unusual reddish orange, the kind usually seen in landscape art pieces. It was visible through the clear glass windows that surrounded the office. Countering the view were photographs of the top salespeople in the company.
The clock ticked exactly five and everybody in the office prepared to log out from the company database. All except for Althea.
Every afternoon, when it was almost time to go home, her face would cloud with gloom. She did not really want to go home. Behind her back, her officemates said she was going through an emotional roller coaster, but she was careful enough to hide it.
Althea waited until the line of coworkers at the biometric scanners dwindled before she got up from her desk. Althea slowly half-stumbled half-walked. She continued in this manner until she reached home. At times she would cover her right ear, but hesitantly, as if she wanted to conceal her actions.
She lived alone in a small studio condo – just enough for her and another guest on occasions. But in the five years that she has been living there, she never had any visitors. She stayed aloof from her officemates.
As she approaching her door, she slowly straightened up, as if expecting someone to whom she needed to act properly.
She reached for her keys in her hand bag then took a deep and soothing breath. In through her nose and out her mouth. Slowly.
She opened the door unhurriedly. The moment it swung a few inches away, warm air from the inside of her room welcomed her. There was a mixed scent of candle, earth and grass which accompanied the air.
She turned on the lights before entering the room. Everything seemed normal except for the muddy footprint on the floor near her bed. She reached for the mop standing inside a pail of water and soap. She cleaned the print.
And then she had dinner.
* * *
It was twenty past eight. She hopped from one channel to another on the television.
A huge, dark figure appeared next to her. It was shadow-like. The edge of what appeared to be its head almost touched the ceiling. The darkness of its face stared at her called to her – waking her up from a deep sleep. She was conscious of what was happening but she could not move an inch. She realized that she had fallen asleep on the couch because she could see from the side of her eye the static screen on her television. She looked to the wall clock hanging just atop the fridge next to the foot side of the bed. It said three.
Three! This was the time of the night that she dreaded. She panicked. She could hardly breathe. Her limbs felt like they were tied to where she was lying.
The dark figure slowly drifted towards the left side of the couch. Its stare was not broken. She could feel it piercing through her head. It was talking to her just like it did yesterday.
She wanted to stare back but the feeling of heaviness overcame her. She wanted to fight back but her frustration ate up what was left of her strength. She broke the connection between their stare and focused on how to break free from her immobility.
She realized that the center of the weight was on her stomach. A few small voices were shouting at her from a seemingly far distance. She indentified these almost inaudible voices instantly as those of her deceased parents and an older brother. They came from their photographs sitting on top of her bedside table. She had had the ability to talk to people, alive or not, through their photographs. The pictures spoke about the truth about the person in the photograph. She treated them as her safe refuge from the lies of people around her. This was why she always kept her distance from people – to protect herself from harm.
Now the pictures were coming to her rescue. It was they who gave her warning of what might happen to her if she would not make her move.
“He is… holding you… down… through your… stomach… Quick!” That was the clearest that she got before everything went silent.
There. She saw. The dark figure was sitting on her stomach. It weighed enough to immobilize her.
* * *
Everything went silent. The photographs gave a soft wail. She could hear the soundless chuckle that the aura of the dark figure was emanating. She lost her battle again.
She rose up from the couch and sat.
In two weeks, maybe three, the bulk of her tummy would be noticeable. That was why she avoided the sunlight: to hide her shadow from being noticed by others. After a month, her shadow would give birth to an indeterminate form – much like the dark figure. And then the figure would appear yet again – to fetch its child. How many times had this happened?
She stood up. She looked for a leather belt. There was a deadly calm in her eyes.
She tied the belt on a single rail used for the curtain in her bathroom.
* * *
Her desk was vacant the next day. No one bothered to ask about why she did not come to work.
* * *
The clock struck three. From her room, the sound of metal rubbing against a metal broke the eerie silence.
Her lifeless body started to shake. The belt buckle rubbed against the curtain rail as she swayed back and forth.
The dark figure appeared from nowhere. She fell from where she hung. She tried to crawl away from the creature but her hands and feet were too weak to allow her to move. Soon, the darkness that cloaked the being touched her.
“Come, my dear. Your children have been waiting for you. They have their own mates now – the vessel of our kind. Just like you, they were chosen because they speak our tongue. The breath of Legion.”
Jake received his degree in Philosophy from Ateneo de Davao University. He has worked as beekeeper, photographer and writer, sometimes all at once.