a friend of hers died two days ago. suicide. she wondered how she committed her suicide. the dead woman looked peaceful lying there in the soft insides of the white coffin, a twisted smile etched in her face. how could someone kill oneself and die smiling? the image still burned in her head. there were flowers that cast smell of death in the evening air and candle lights were the only sources of light. black outs are just normal in the province. and it’s just normal to find the streets void of people as soon as the dusk sets in. it was already 8 o’clock in the evening and she wished the road she was taking be flooded by light. she wished that people still stayed outside. the next house was still a long walk away, standing nearby a river. she was afraid.
she continued to walk. anxiety took over and made her apprehensive of everything that surrounded her. the cold air; the trees that lined the street, swaying and whispering; the silence broken only by the sound of insects; the light coming from the misty glow of the moon and from the candle she was holding in her right hand to light her way. the road was soft and muddy and it looked like the rain would pour soon. unfortunately for her, she forgot to bring one. she walked on trying to calm herself by breathing slow deep breaths. but somehow there was an eerie feeling that someone or something was breathing with her. she could feel it blowing at the back of her neck but she shook the thought off. the next house would be only 60 meters away. she just needed to cross the bridge and soon she’d be home.
she walked on until suddenly, there was an absolute silence. the insects couldn’t be heard anymore, same goes with the swaying trees and the wind. the silence was only disturbed by the sounds made by her feet against puddles of water, her fast breathing, and her heart beating up her throat. the breathing at the back of her neck remained slow but this time accompanied by soft footsteps. she never dared to look sideways nor look at her back. she was determined to look ahead and go home. she walked a little faster. and with a heartbeat she heard something, right at her left ear. she didn’t understand it. it was a whisper. an unintelligible hush of words that made her skin crawl. she broke into a run…
she ran with eyes closed trying to block anything but even if she did so, the image of a wake was still seared hot on her mind. she tried not to hear anything nor feel. it was all in the mind, she thought. she ran the length of the road, her skirts and hair swaying violently against the air and her legs were stained with mud. she stopped. every breath stabbed her sides and her heart was trying to break out from her chest. she opened her eyes slowly… very slowly… she waited for her eyes to adjust to available light. there was no light. the light from her candle was gone. the only light was from a faint glow of the moon that had successfully penetrated the clouds. it started to rain. she looked ahead and found herself before the bridge; black angry water churned beneath it.
she hated crossing the bridge. it was only made using bamboos weaved together but still proven safe as time went by. what she didn’t like about the bridge was that it’s narrow. very narrow. only two people could fit in its cramping width. if two people crossed the bridge towards opposite directions, it was impossible for them not to brush shoulders. boats were unavailable due to big waves caused by the rain earlier that evening. there was a house nearby but it seemed deserted. she had no choice.
it was quite a long bridge. she crossed it very slowly. the bamboos were slippery due to the pouring rain. her gait was a series of calculated fall. her hands were struggling on the slippery bamboo bars on the sides for support. she couldn’t see clearly due to the scarcity of light and the thin sheet of visionary wall made by the rain. still breathing heavily and heart pounding, she was glad the sound of breathing and footsteps had gone, drowned away by the angry waters below her and the rain pounding on her ears. she looked and continued to walk across. half-way, she saw a silhouette far ahead. it was a woman. she was excited to see a living soul at last.
the excitement and relief died in instant. something was wrong and strangely weird about the woman in front of her. she was not moving. she just stood there in the middle of the bridge, head bowed, and waiting. her long tangled hair covered her face, dripping wet. she was wearing a tattered daster printed with little pink flowers. she was barefoot. she didn’t know what’s more eerily weird about the woman: the fact that she’s standing in the middle of the bridge looking like a lunatic or that she’s slowly running her fingers on the hair of porcelain doll, eyes missing from their sockets. the doll had no arms too. the woman’s pale white skin glistened in rain water… and blood?
the woman before her scared the hell out of her. but she had no choice but to move forward. she couldn’t go back. the nearest village was very far away and transportation was hard at that hour of the night. she heaved a very deep breath, sighed and slowly moved forward. her eyes never left the woman in front of her and closer and closer she went. her heart is beating frantically when she came in level and brushed shoulders with the woman. and in that instant she felt an unexplainable chill that ran from her neck down to her body. it was neither the air nor the rain. it was caused by something she couldn’t explain or rather something her mind won’t entertain. she mustered every ounce of courage she had left and moved forward and past the woman. she was just five steps away when she heard it. it was the whisper she had heard earlier. it was an unintelligible whisper, followed by a girlish laugh like a giggle; a mirthless laugh that made her skin crawl once again.
the woman was calling her.
it was a soft and prolonged but very audible sound.
she wanted not to look back but her neck was somehow forced to. very slowly she turned her head and the image she saw brought her to the edge of sanity. she was looking into the eyes of a woman without a soul. her eyes were empty. but what really petrified her to the spot was her sinister smile. and then, the woman suddenly leaned backward against one side of the bridge and went overboard. she had a last hint of a smile on her face as she got swallowed by darkness and the churning waters below.
her thoughts were numb. she ran as fast as she could, even slipped a couple of times but she didn’t care. and suddenly she was home. she was safe at last. she was crying. it took her some moments before she noticed that her house was in total darkness. the darkness scared her. she decided to light the candle she was still holding with a lighter from her purse. and when the light slowly flooded the room she saw it again. right in front of her were empty eyes and a twisted smile she knew so well…
"tumalon ako sa tulay…"
she wondered how she committed her suicide. she got her answer.
. . .
this is my post for the halloween season. this was the story i was very scared to write. just like i had said, my imagination scares me a lot. i usually write at night but i wrote this entry this morning starting at 7 am. but still i had goose bumps while writing the draft. i am just relieved that i was able to let it out of my head at last.
there’s this superstition (pamahiin) that when you attend a wake (burol) and went straight home, the soul of the deceased would follow you. creepy eh? awoooooo! happy halloween guys!