HONORABLE MENTION in the Wintertime Grim Blunt Trauma Contest January, 2019
|You wish you could never tell this story to anyone. It still haunts every inch of you every time you think about the horror of it.
Not knowing how long you have traveled, you find yourself waking up with your forehead on the back of the front seat of the car. Your eyes and head still hurt. You get out of the car as your uncle greets you and your parents with a warm smile. You haven’t seen him for 14 long years since you moved to the city when you were five. He looks old now, and he walks very slow because of his obvious leg pain.
It is December – Christmas vacation.
The cold season in the tropical Philippines has started. You feel the air on your face becomes chillier than usual. The leaves are rustling as the birds are flying and chirping. You always love this time of the year, but you never expect to spend this vacation at your grandmother’s ancestral house in the country.
Now, you recognize how big the white stone house is. You know it was built around the 1800's inspired by the Hispanic three-century-old occupancy. There are many houses like this in the old towns, but you feel an overwhelming awe of how beautiful this one is. It is a well-preserved two-story historic structure standing proudly in the middle of the woods.
But apart from this amazement, you can’t help but sense the solitary presence of something you never understand. That feeling of hollowness and emptiness lingers all over this place.
"Come inside. We missed you," your uncle smiled at you and looked very happy to see you again.
"We?" you utter quietly. Your parents always mention that your uncle takes care of the house alone so how come he says - we?
"It's getting dark. The table is ready, so eat first and then go to bed. I'm sure you're exhausted." The old man pats your shoulders as he leads you and your parents inside.
The dinner is done, and it’s time to sleep.
"Go ahead and choose a room first." Your mom points at the stairs going up to the second floor.
The stairs and the floor upstairs are made of this shiny, red mahogany wood – which you easily hear footsteps when it creaks. You are now upstairs, you see three huge bedrooms before you. Instantly, you select the middle one since it’s the closest to the stairs.
Although the house is very old, the interior appears quite modern. You are very impressed. You like how big and new the bedroom is, but you notice there is no air-conditioning. Anyhow, you think it’s alright since there is a ceiling fan right above your bed - it seems to be antique, but it works just fine.
It’s very dark now.
You know it’s not morning yet, but you wake up sweating so much. The fan squeaks, so you’re certain it’s working, but you don’t feel its air. Now, you think it’s normal for an old fan, so you try to go back to sleep. You take your shirt off to feel better. Your parents sleep in the left room and your uncle is in the other, so you can’t just transfer to other rooms.
Another day comes.
“There are no other stand fans, sorry.” Your uncle tells you this when you ask him about your concern last night.
Finally, you decide to endure it anyway since you are only staying for five days more.
So, for the next three nights you always wake up in the middle of the night feeling very hot, but you try to get used to it. There is no reason to be picky.
During daytime, you sit down on the front porch and write your daily blog. You enjoy being alone and breathe the fresh air in the country. Your mom and dad always help your uncle in the farm which is 13 kilometers away from the house. You could have asked them to drop you off to the nearest town which is just three kilometers before the farm, but you prefer staying home for the rest of the week.
On your fourth night, you wake up again, but this time you hear heavy footsteps outside. It sounds like someone forgets to take off his shoes inside the house. But why? People there always walk around the house barefooted. You try to convince yourself that maybe it’s just your uncle or your parents. It goes on for around five minutes until it stops. You cover your head with your side pillow forcing yourself to go back to sleep.
While having breakfast on the next day morning, out of the blue you ask your mom about your grandmother whom you have never gotten to know for a long time. You only remember that she and your uncle were in the house when you left, but you don’t have any other memories of her.
“Mom, what was Grandma like?"
Your mom doesn’t usually initiate a talk about her late parents. However, this time, she picks up an old picture from the small steel box near the cupboard and shows it to you.
“This is her photo taken in her last days. She was 79.” Your mom hands the photo and lets you take a good look at it.
You can see her wrinkled, dark-spotted skin all over her face and arms. Her hair looks like what other elderly have – short, permed graying hair. She also wears night clothes and a pair of black boots. She seems skinny and sick.
“You see, when your grandmother got very sick, she couldn’t easily sleep at night complaining about how hot it was. She sometimes went out in the middle of the night with those rain boots on to get some fresh air. Also, she sometimes stood up on her bed trying to reach the ceiling fan to cool down for a few minutes.”
You don’t understand the sudden disquieting feeling you have now.
“At times, she would ask me to carry you in her arms. She said she always missed you.”
That night, you repeatedly wonder about what your mother told you. You learn that you never had the chance to know your grandmother well. Your mom’s words keep on playing inside your head until you doze off on your bed.
“Ah… It’s too hot.”
You wake up again at this time in the middle of the night. You still hear the screeching sound of the old fan, but there seems to be no air coming out. This time, you are very curious and confused, and for whatever reason you try to reach for your phone to check the time.
The phone is too bright and hurts your eyes. So, you quickly turn your phone facing the ceiling.
There... through your phone screen’s light, you see a skinny figure. No, it’s like a shadow of a person! It’s floating above you, seemingly staring back at you, with its head and body covering the fan. No wonder you can't feel the air from it.
You freeze up, but manage to turn your head to seek help around. There you're certain that you actually see your uncle at the corner of the room sitting comfortably, but he sounds weird making strange sounds from his mouth.
"Shhhhhshhhhshhhshhshshhhhhssshhhhh shshhhhshhh shhhh..." It keeps going on and on.
You try to get up, but you can't! With a little moonlight outside, you can still see the body floating above you. You can’t seem to scream! You have no voice. You can barely move and catch your breath. Then the shadow comes closer to your face really quick!
You already realize who it is. You immediately close your eyes in fear as you feel the cold wrinkled skin on your cheeks. Then, a hollow voice whispers in your left ear.
“My grandson, we missed you...”