“I also saw the ghost in the shower room,” I tell Marcus, who’s peacefully eating his breakfast. His mouth falls open in disbelief.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
“When did you—”
“Are you sure you were not dreaming?” Owen laughs, a little bit over the top.
“I know I said before that I don’t believe in ghosts and such, but now that I witnessed it myself, it’s actually scary,” I explain.
Gab is silent.
“I told you it’s real!” Marcus exclaims.
“Maybe you’re just hallucinating or something,” says Gab. “You’re not wide awake, right? Maybe you just saw what you wanted to see.”
“Who wants to see a ghost?” I ask.
“What does it look like? Did you see it?” Marcus asks.
I am hesitant to answer the question. What if it appears in front of me tonight?
“Come on, tell us,” Marcus urges.
“You don’t need to tell us,” Gab says.
“Yeah, just forget about it,” Owen adds.
“Actually, it doesn’t look like a ghost,” I say.
“What do you mean?” Marcus asks.
“I think it’s a demon, like what Sr. Jenny said.” Their eyes are now fixed on me. “Ghosts can’t duplicate their bodies, right? I couldn’t see clearly in the dark, but I saw a body coming out from below the stomach of the creature I saw like it’s trying to detach itself.”
Owen coughs. Gab drinks water.
“Maybe it was really a wakwak or a sigbin,” Marcus says. “Or a manananggal?”
“Wakwak and sigbin can’t duplicate their bodies. And it didn’t have wings or halved body, so I’m positive it was not a manananggal either,” I say.
“Why didn’t you turn the lights on?” asks Marcus.
“I almost did, but I noticed the ‘ghost’ when a lightning strike. Then, I ran immediately.”
“That’s scarier than what I experienced.”
“Enough of that. Eat your bread and drink your milk. You haven’t touched it,” Gab commands.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight,” Marcus worries.
Me, too. Me, too.
Sr. Jenny knocks at our classroom the minute the first class starts. “May I excuse Gab and Owen?” she asks our teacher. I look at Gab and ask him what’s happening. “I don’t know,” he answers. I get the same reply from Owen. Their faces look so tired as if they didn’t get enough sleep last night.
At lunch, both Gab and Owen are nowhere to be seen. I start to get worried. Maybe they’re sick and went for a check-up in the infirmary? I tell myself. I look at Marcus, who is also not sure what’s happening.
“I think I heard them getting scolded by Sister last night,” he says. “I am not sure, but I think it’s Sister’s voice that woke me up last night. It was pretty loud like she was angry. After that, I saw Gab and Owen going to their beds.”
“What were they doing last night?” I ask.
“I don’t know.”
“We don’t have any assignments or projects that need to be rushed.”
Sr. Jenny enters our dorm and looks at the empty seats at our table. She looks angry. “Listen, everyone,” she says. “I sent Gab and Owen home.” Everybody goes silent. She doesn’t say anything else.
Even students with a failing streak in their grades are not sent home. It means Gab and Owen must have done something terrible—something that violates what this school and Sisters are teaching. I can’t believe it. My chest feels so tight I don’t think I can breathe. I want to cry. Will I ever see Gab again? What about Owen? What have they done? What’s happening?
We all remain silent. Sr. Jenny looks at Marcus, and then at me. She stares at us as if she wants us to say something, as if she knows some secret of ours and wants us to tell everyone about it. I know she thinks we know about Gab and Owen; I also hope I do, but I seriously do not know anything. “Marcus and Luis, follow me to the lobby.”
Marcus and I follow her; we stand in front of the giant mirror in the lobby. Sister looks at us with disgust; I know it because I have seen that look hundreds of times when she and other nuns look at Owen. I can feel her eyes interrogate us even before asking us any questions.
“Do you know anything about Gab and Owen?” she asks us. We don’t answer. It doesn’t matter even if we really don’t know anything. If we say no, will she believe us? Because of her tone, I know she thinks we know something. And what if we say yes? What will happen to us?
“I’m asking you a question,” She says.
“I don’t, Sister,” I say. I don’t have a choice.
“How about you, Marcus?” “I also don’t know anything about them, Sister.”
“Are you sure? You four were close,” she asks.
“Yes, Sister,” we reply.
“How come you don’t know anything? Aren’t you friends,” she asks. Just as I expected, there’s no getting away from her.
“They never tell us anything, Sister,” Marcus says. “And they act normal when we’re together.”
I only nod.
“If you don’t want to end up like them, you two should behave. If I catch one of you doing the same, I will not have second thoughts about sending both of you home. I don’t want any of you talking about this, okay? Do not tell anyone, even your dormmates,” Sr. Jenny warns.
At that moment, Marcus and I realized what they had done. But it doesn’t matter. They aren’t here anymore—Gab isn’t here anymore. It pains me so much I want to cry in front of Sr. Jenny. I never managed to express the feelings I have for him. I like him. Though, it seems he liked someone else.
Rumors start to roam around the campus again. This time, it’s not only about the supposed ghost in the shower room but also about Gab and Owen. Although everyone knows what they’ve done, some people just want to make their own story. Some exaggerate for the sake of telling a more exciting narrative, even if it’s a total lie.
“Why would Gab even want to talk about the ghost?” Marcus asks in a low voice.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe to let people think that he’s not at all connected to the rumors. Or maybe just to scare everyone, so no one catches them.”
“Like reverse psychology?” he asks.
“Maybe,” I reply.
“That explains why they’re so serious when we talk about what we saw and heard.”
“If only we knew something was up with them,” he says. “We could have told them to stop or wait until we graduate.”
“I guess we were never that close,” I reply. “If we were, we should have known or even felt something was off with them.”
Marcus nods. He turns his back on me and covers his face with his pillow. “Let’s sleep,” he says.
“Don’t cry,” I try to joke. I get up from my bed to close the windows. It’s windy tonight, and the sky is starless again. It almost feels like déjà vu. Only this time, no one’s going to ask me to wake him up when I’m scared, and there’s no ghost to fear.
Anthony S. Maluya is a graduating BA English (Creative Writing) student from the University of the Philippines Mindanao. He lives in Bukidnon.