Thursday, December 24, 2015

Chapter Two: Illuminating



(The Dreamwalker’s) Soul Mate

Chapter Two

“After brushing my teeth, I turn for the door of my room. Before pulling the door open, I can’t help but grit a smile at the framed reminder hanging at the back of it that says ‘A New Day of New Memories’.” —Isagani King

Someone said that gravity is stronger in the morning. At first, I thought it was an overstatement, nonsense. But today I can feel the grain of truth out of that theoretical joke. It has been hundred times this morning that I have told myself that the tropical storm has left the country to China. In other words, the family reunion on my mother’s side will triumph. The joy I felt last night upon knowing the storm might stay a little bit longer that could potentially cancel the sudden week-long reunion seems to be a distant memory. It is fine with me to go but for one week? I can’t waste one-third of my semester break for this.

Since last night, I had been creating powerful reasons to avoid going with them but nothing convincing enough for even trying. Well, old people say, no guts no glory. I better go and tell Mama that I can’t go. I’ll just be honest and who knows, she would understand.

But it feels so difficult to wake up. My body and my mind seem to be arguing with each other so early for today. I can even imagine my two selves arguing in my subconscious. I am half-awake that I can feel the sticky morning dribble like a thick paste stuck in between of my right cheek and of my newly changed pillowcase; and also half-sleep that I still tend to get mixed reality with little pieces of many trivial thoughts in my head. There was even a very quick dream-scene where I was in a bunny suit (but in my dream it felt so serious like it was something so normal for people to wear costumes like that) but no one was looking at me, as if I was invisible. There was a thin sheet of fear covering each inch of my body that felt like I could die anytime.

Then in a snap, the angry face of Hannah Kharis suddenly crosses my dizzy thoughts, I force my cold feet to snake down into my house slippers. It feels like I am dragging my gravity-pulled body out of my room. Oh Hannah, you are even scarier than a real bully! What you’re doing to me?

Now on my feet, I walk few lazy steps towards the window, step on the cold foot rug positioned near the window, and then push the window wide open. The cold morning air dashes in, brushing my face with its tender dampness. The sky is still grey. Everywhere I look is wet. Some people are busy in cleaning up in their front and backyard.

I look down from my window and see Mama and my three-year-old sister Psyche checking the buds of different breed of roses which they hope have survived the storm last night. Then I hear Psyche squeal that thin high pitch in a long series of yes that as they go, they seem to sound longer and higher. She has managed to do that while she hops around while raising her hands up and down oppositely. That tells me that the roses did survive the wild night after all.

She looks up and sees me. Automatically she waves her happy hands to me. From that distance, I can even hear her pitchy voice saying, “You’re up finally!” I just smile back at her. Then she continues singing around to her roses. Mama just shrugs and giggles next to Psyche.

I feel a little jealous of them. It pains my heart for not remembering the time I spent with Mama when I was at Psyche’s age.


I close my eyes and try to recall anything from the first ten years of life. I only see an infinite space in black. Even if sometimes I see vague faces and other images, nothing really solid that could shed light to the darkness in me. I try a little harder but there is nothing much coming up. This has been me ever since I roused up from two-month comatose, waking to unwanted amnesia that they had to feed me again with some old memories I could hardly remember. This is why I don’t feel comfortable with reunions. Everyone would be digging old stories which I don’t even know at all.

Mama tried to fill in those blanks and holes in my head by retelling old stories, anecdotes, and even going through our family photo albums with me almost every day. I suspect that all the pictures on the walls are part of it.

When Mama feels sometimes that I still seem to forget her as my mother, she will automatically insist telling the part where she cried buckets and buckets of tears by my side in that accident as they carried me to the hospital. I appreciate it so much to be loved like that. However, it gets awkward sometimes especially when she recounts this in front of my friends or whenever we have visitors at home.

I inhale some more fresh air, trying to take in as much as I can until it hurts. A part of me is wishing that I can just exhale the pain in me which even myself cannot understand the logic behind this pain. It is very tiring. Many times I want to give up but I just can’t. Something in me always refuses to stop trying remembering those years. All of me feels somehow uncanny wrong. I feel like I am running in circles, there will never be an end to it. But I still wonder…when my memories are coming back?

After brushing my teeth, I turn for the door of my room. Before pulling the door open, I can’t help but grit a smile at the framed reminder hanging at the back of the green-painted door that says “A New Day of New Memories.” The hallway is also covered by many pictures of our big family. They are intelligently arranged in two groups (the above and the below lines of picture frames), forming a baseline in the middle, where every frame is the opposite size of the one across it. That continues to the endless family photo frames all hanging on the wall by the stairs. Upon reaching the floor downstairs, a wall-table greets me with another set of picture frames. Our house feels like a museum of old photos to me. Everywhere I look there is always a picture frame of our family.

I am very sure that this creepiness started after that vehicular accident from which I lost my memories. But Mama insisted the opposite of it. She said that the house has been like this even before that fateful day. But something about these looming pictures is telling me not to believe that.

I go to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. It looks like everyone—Mama, Nicolas, and Psyche (Papa must be at work by now, he works for the local government)—already had their breakfast. The sink is full of plates and other stuff. But I am not alone in the kitchen. I am surrounded by each member of our family—in picture frames. It is like everyone is staring at me, watching every single thing I do. At first, it was very comforting. But after some years, it is now annoying. I open the mugs cabinet. At least they did not try putting pictures on the mugs, too.

Even from here, I can still hear the joyful laughter of Psyche in the garden. That easily comforts me. Psyche always makes me smile. She is so advanced for a three-year-old. Everything she does amuses me. Perhaps it is because she was born after that accident. She is not part of my forgotten past.

We are very close, despite of our age gap. I always tell to Psyche all the questions in my head, all my frustrations, all my dreams. I know she does not understand any of it. But the way she attentively listens to me, that is very comforting.

After eating a few pancakes, I run upstairs to prepare my gadget bag—containing my DSLR camera, my sketchpad, pen, a notebook, a voice recorder, and a Swiss knife. There is so much to capture today and I won’t let myself miss them all.

I check again and I realize that I don’t have any charcoal pencils inside my bag. So I decide to hunt some charcoal pencils in my other-things box under my bed. In the process of taking a couple of charcoal pencils from that wooden box into my gadget bag, there is a very quick moment that I feel being tricked or hypnotized. When I have picked the charcoal pencils from its box going into my bag, a part of my hand I am using seems to stay on the box, instead of being now in my bag. It is as if I left another hand on the pencil box for some swift seconds. But it is so quick that it fades right away. It has left me so confused that I can’t decide if I am going to believe it happened or just a product of my sleepy imagination.

Then I remember last night. There was something about last night that happened but I can’t completely remember all the details. Oh, looks like my amnesia is becoming a teenager this time. Since I can’t decide on it, I have chosen to ignore it.

When I open the door, the sunshine smile on Psyche’s face effortlessly melts my heart.

“You’re going out?” she says, throwing a snooping look at my bag, as she dances on her feet.

I kneel down to level my face to hers. The dimple on her left cheek makes her even cuter.

“Yes, why?”

“Can Psyche tell you something before you go?”

“Sure, what is it?” my smile broadens on my face as she starts clasping and unclasping her hands.

“I just discovered my talent,” she says, now smiling sheepishly.

I let go a quick broad grin as I remember a family joke about Psyche. Everyone in our family is very talented, either in music or other categories of arts. But Psyche can’t dance, can’t sing, and can’t choose what musical instrument to play. It’s very understandable for her age. But it’s so cute to tease her. We sometimes tell her that if she hasn’t discovered her talent yet before her 4th birthday (which will be happening next year), she will never have talents for the rest of her life!

“Wow that is so great. What is your talent, little princess?”

“You sure you want to know?”

“Way so sure.” I wink a smile for a gentle push.

She breathes in some air, as if she is about to say a very important speech of her young life.

“When I say things, they become true,” she says almost in a whisper, and then she quickly covers her mouth with her two hands.

I just stare at her for few seconds, trying to process the words she just said, careful with how my reaction would reflect on my face, then bite on my lower lip, trying to suppress a threatening round of mirth. She is so cute!

Her smile grows bigger, more childish. I can see that she is so proud telling me about her new discovered talent.

“That is so…cool. That is a beautiful gift which you should cherish and develop to inspire more people,” is all I decide to tell her.

“Cherish?  Like a cherry?” she asks, brows knitted.

“Cherish, like…treat it like it is very important to you. Just like those roses in the garden.”

She nods, thinking.
  
“This morning Psyche said the day would be sunny and look outside, it is sunny!”

I keep smiling with tight lips, thinking that most probably she woke up while the sun was up already.

“You know what I am thinking now?” She looks up; curiosity brightens up on her eyes.

“What?”

“We need to celebrate your new talent! Yey!” I pretend to jump while I am on crossed legs on the floor.

“Wow. But how are we gonna do that? It’s full of mud everywhere.”

“I’ll treat you some ice cream, how ’bout that? You like ice cream, right?”

“No, I like Jollibee.”

“Yeah, sure. We can do Jollibee. So you go to Mama and tell her, so you can get changed.”

“There’s more I want to tell you…” she starts twisting and untwisting her fingers which she usually does when she is nervous or excited, “today…”

I shoot her with my most encouraging smile so she could go on with whatever it is she wants to tell me. She giggles, showing her dimple again.

“…today is going to be very, very exciting for you!”

That easily warms my heart. My arms hug tighter around her, until she protests and wants to let go. She looks at me, my eyes meeting hers. Her eyes are illuminating in emerald green! She blinks a few times then they go back to her usual charcoal black eyes.

I cannot speak for some seconds. My brain seems to stop processing what just had happened. I can’t find a quick scientific explanation why and how that happened. Then I remember the hand trick just minutes ago. Thus I conclude this; I overslept resulting to extra-active imagination. I am not really satisfied with my conclusion but that is the only explanation that my human brain could accept and process at this time.

Psyche seems to notice my sudden quietness, “Kuya?”

“That’s so sweet!” I exclaim, forcing a labored smile.

Just that, then she runs away from me and dashes into her room.

“I’m getting my camera! The roses are blooming!” she says, running to her room.

“I thought we’re going to Jollibee?”

“Can we do it not today? Psyche’s busy! The roses are blooming!”

I am left standing on the hallway, smiling. I pick up my gadget bag, loitering in the hallway for few minutes, still caught up in the series of weirdness of the day. Then like a knock at the door inside my head, Psyche slams the door right after she comes out of her room.

“Careful!” I yell, feeling my heart twists in fear as she runs down the stairs.

“I’m careful!” she yells back.

I stand by the hallway window, peeking into the rose garden. Psyche seems not wanting to stay in one place for more than three minutes. She keeps hopping around each rose in her garden like a grasshopper. As I lift up my gaze a bit from their location, I notice a man in black standing silently by our gate. He seems to be observing Mama and Psyche. But as I look deeper into his vague face, I realize that he is looking through me. A spooky chill runs up my spine as I feel my eyes meet his. I can’t move for few eternal seconds.

Then my phone suddenly rings. My heart picks up some speed when I realize it’s the 26th text message from Hannah Kharis! It completely diverts my mind to Hannah Kharis. We are supposed to meet up in Paint House at ten this morning. I check the time on my phone and it shows me that I only have ten minutes left to run for it.

While shoving my feet into my sneakers, the floor and walls suddenly shake and then tremble so strong like a drumming drumhead, throwing me off my balance. The house feels like sinking into a huge hole into the ground. My heart is tripling the tremors within my chest as I choke on the word, “Earthquake!”

I try to stand but I only fall back into the floor, then I decide to crawl as fast as I can, watchful of anything that could fall over me.

Then the world sets still and quiet. Even the birds are quiet. The wind seems to be hanging so silently that it is almost hard to feel it.

Then I hear Mama scream. Very quickly I feel my heart jump up to my throat as I think of Psyche. I almost fly down on the stairs and speed out in our front door.

Mama is very hysterical, pointing into the ground, in the spot near her rose garden.

“Help me, Psyche fell into a hole!”

“What hole?” my heart seems to be beating even faster than my panicking feet. I almost dive into the muddy ground as I reach the spot where Psyche fell.

There is a hole in the middle of our garden which was not there before. It is a very tiny hole that only thin people, or children, one at a time, could fit into it. It looks like an old well—for midgets?—dug long time ago. And I don’t remember our lolo and lola telling any stories about old wells inside the parameter of our 500-meter ancestral lot. Psyche is caught by old roots, which look like medium-sized tree branches, in the middle. She is covered with mud all over her body and some on her face and hair.

“You okay, Psyche Jean?” Oh God, please keep her safe. I don’t want to start imagining how possibly deep the hole, or what could be at the bottom of it.

“Get me out, get me out… It looks scary down here,” she sobs.

“Yes, we will. Don’t move.”

“We need to get ropes!” Mama squeals.

“I can’t understand, why there’s a hole in here?” I ask Mama, anger and worry are mixed in my voice.

“I don’t know. She was just standing there and…”

“Okay, I’ll go to the garage and look for ropes!”

But before I can push my right foot an inch, Psyche calls out to me.

Kuya!”

My heart twists in a very tight painful beat. I almost want to cry, as if crying could resolve it all instantly.

“What is it? You okay, right? Just don’t move, okay?”

“Something moving, something moving…” she says, looking down into the well. I can imagine the fear she is feeling right now.

“What are you saying?” I ask, desperately curious.

“What is it, bunso?” Mama asks, trembling and kneeling right next to me.

Psyche looks up at us. The fear is so real in her eyes. She seems not listening anymore. She just keeps on crying.

Hiss…hiss…hiss…

My heart has never felt so huge in my life, as a fact slowly emerges in my head. Am I hearing snakes?

“W-what is that? Oh dear, something is down there!” Mama gets even more hysterical.

I stare through the crying face of Psyche and the roots holding her, I am not so sure but I think I am seeing long, shiny things down there. It is very dim reflection of slimy animals deep below inside the wall. There are hundreds of snakes!

I jump up and, with full of determination, my feet seem to be flying over the wet grass as I aim for the garage. Ropes, ropes, ropes!

When I reach the front of the garage, the man in black—black polo, black pants, black belt, black boots, black trench coat, black cowboy hat, and black six-pointed star brooch—is standing in the middle of the doorway.

“Excuse me? Who are you?”

He just stares straight into me. His eyes seem to bore into my very soul that I feel so paralyzed from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. What is this man?

“What do you want? We are in an emergency situation. Get out of my way!” I scream in my head since I cannot move, even my lips.

“Hello, dreamwalker. Can’t move, eh?” he says in a deep manly voice matter-of-factly.

“Please let me go, my sister needs me.” I whisper in my head, not sure if he could hear me at all.

“She will be fine, don’t worry. Those snakes are the most vicious of their kind but so powerless to hurt your family. If only your sister wants, she can even command them to push her up out of the hole in one piece, safe and sound. Too bad that none of the living members of your family knows your secret history.”

“What are you talking about? Can we drop your history lectures for now, unfreeze me and let me go?” I whisper again, hoping desperately that he will hear my thoughts and let me go.

“Hush! Relax. I am sorry. I don’t follow orders. I give orders. And when I do, they obey…”

And just that, with a blink of his black eyes, I am thrown up in the air for few quick seconds and find myself falling in a rapid speed. I have thought that he would catch me somehow but he has not. He lets me fall hard into the ground.

For the first time I feel thankful to the storm last night, making the soil a little bit soft—and very sticky—that instead of breaking a couple of ribs, I think I only have heard just my right shoulder break. My heart stops beating. No air can come into my lungs. Oh boy, I can’t breathe!

This man is a witch! A man-witch? Or witch-man? Whatever witch. I need to do something but what?

My vision starts to blur. I can still hear him very faintly chanting poetry as I think he is about to throw me up one more time in the air with just one look. If that will happen, I think I am going to die and I won’t be able to save Psyche.

I focus hard in my head to organize my thoughts but he seems to read my mind. That’s it. Perhaps I can beg him to stop this for now until I save my sister. I can offer something in return, something like becoming his personal slave for…say, one year?

But I cannot connect to him anymore. His chant seems to block me from reaching his head. I try harder but it is not working at all. I want to bite my own tongue in desperation as I realize that I can move my tongue now. But wait, I can actually move now every part of my body, but it is too painful to do all that. As my realization progresses on, I realize that he is no longer talking. I can’t hear him anymore. It is quiet, in fact. I am still hearing some noises but they sound too far. It is like shells have been put on each of my ears, and start hearing the ocean. It is the same feeling.

I try to peek through the flickering lids of my eyes and I can only figure that the black form standing in front of me is the witch-man. The black form carefully inspects my broken shoulder, asking me if I am okay. His voice sounds different. It is not him, it sounds female to me, and familiar, Hannah Kharis?

“You okay, Bunny?”

“Ouch, not there, aw, that hurts! H-hannah? Quit calling me bunny!”

“Don’t sit up, you look so broken. Don’t try to do anything stupid to kill yourself, okay? Stay here, stay still. I got to get Psyche out of that hole! You can recover later. Can’t believe this, everything is weird today!”

Upon hearing the name of Psyche, the worry and fear return immediately.

Hannah Kharis helps me sit up on the grass. She looks at me as if checking if I could live through the next five minutes on my own.

“Get the ropes…” I say in labored voice.

“I got it,” she says, showing the ropes hanging on her other shoulder, still not looking at me but into the muddy wet grass around me, at the same spot where the man in black used to stand minutes ago. Wait a sec, where is he?

Hannah Kharis continues searching for something in the grass. I am about to ask her when she finds a shiny small marble which she quickly picks up and puts inside her side pocket.

Without saying anything more, she runs so fast to the rose garden, which I can’t see from where I am left alone. I try moving my shoulder and the rest of my upper body to go and help, but then I stop and almost scream as a pain rushes through every vein of my body. The pain is beyond all the physical pains I felt before. It is as if I would faint any moment from now. My eyes feel so heavy. Then, without realizing it, I fall into the thick space of nothingness.

(The Dreamwalker's) Soul Mate is the first of the five books which the author refers to as Soul Series. The next book will be entitled (The Dreamwalker's) Soul Rival. Please support by liking www.facebook.com/soulmatenovel.