Namayani ang katahimikan sa buong paligid. Seryosong nakatitig sa akin si Rebecca. Nahahagip ng mata ko ang sitwasyon ni John. Siguro ay nagulat din ang lalaki sa pagiging straightforward ko. Ano ba naman itong iniisip ko? Saan nanggagaling ang tapang ko? I am now looking intently to Rebecca.
I cannot exactly read the reaction of the woman in front of me. Pero bakas sa mukha niya ang pagkabigla nang dahil sa tanong ko. May ilang Segundo rin siguro bago nag-iba ng expression ang mukha ni Rebecca. She flustered a made-up smile. Malakas ang kutob ko na may alam siyang hindi naming alam. The curiosity in my heart grew bigger. Ano kaya ang ikinagulat niya? Hindi niya ba ineexpect na someone will be interested to her article from a few years ago? Or she didn’t expect me to be the one who will notice it?
Magkahalong gulat at takot ang nakita ko sa mga mata niya kanina. It felt like she is waiting for someone to notice the article, but she is shocked because I am not the one whom she expects. I don’t know bakit ganito ang mga conclusions ko. I am not aware why I am thinking about this either? I cannot grasp my thoughts but one thing for sure, I need to see this tribe para magkaroon na ng linaw ang lahat.
After a few seconds of silence, the woman gasp for air and she made sure that we will not see her true expression but sorry for her, my eyes are keen. In a moment, she composed herself and speak. "Well, I will look on that. To be honest, currently, I have no contacts with the tribe leader. You know, it’s been years! What interests motivate you to go there?" she asked. Hindi ko alam kung sasagutin ko ang tanong niya. Bit by bit she is proving my suspicions. I am not sure yet, but I think I am right. She trying to cover-up her motives, but I am seeing it clearly. She wants to know if someone that she expects finally reached out and asked my help. Basic move. I watched a lot and read a lot of books with this plot. She cannot be better with me at this.
Basta, I feel like she is hiding something, and she expects someone to ask about the tribe. Clearly, I am not the one she expects. She is trying to see across me and know who is behind my sudden desire to see the tribe. But again, this is just me and Angelo, no one is behind us. Siguro, curiosity drives me insanely now. A kind of curiosity that I haven’t felt for years.
"Based on what I have read in your article, you describe the tribe as something powerful and mysterious which in fact can serve as a great help for my writer to spark motivation and inspiration to him. Sadly, he is experiencing a writer's block and he truly needs a fit illustration." I answered her questions.
On the other hand, I can see my boss in my peripheral. He recovered from my reckless actions. Siguro nasa isip na niya kung paano niya ako sasaluhin in case I do something tactless and immature. But in fairness, John is quiet. Mukhang tinitimbang niya ang situation para makabuo ng isang collective decision. He is observing me and Rebecca. Katulad ng babae, malalim din ang iniisip ng lalaki. I don’t know what exactly it is, but I am sure it is about the welfare of our company. Muling napako ang tingin ko kay Rebecca when she asked another question.
"What's your name again?" she asked randomly.
"Vera, Vera Marquez." I answered in a heartbeat.
Suddenly, she closed her eyes and smirked. She doesn’t look happy when she heard my name. She looked like someone who saw a ghost. Sinusubukan niyang itago ang emosyon niya pero ramdam ko ang galit at takot sa kanyang mga kilos nang marinig niya ang pangalan ko. But after those agitations, she let out a big sigh. I don’t know why she almost scolded me when she heard my name. Are my suspicions wrong? Ako ba ang ineexpect niyang makita?
"Oh, I am sorry I forgot. John, I’ll call you when I found the details. I promise you; I will work on this." Rebecca assured John.
Still, I cannot comprehend her reaction when she heard my name. Hindi ko alam kung nangiinsulto or may naaalala lang. After that she never talked to me again, instead she faced John. I don’t know why but I think somehow she expects me to see her o baka ako talaga yung gusto niyang makakitang article? Ano ba naman yan Vera? I think I am just overreacting. I shake off the ideas and thoughts in my mind and tried to see the situation in a different perspective. Baka naman kaya pinaghihinalaan ko siya because of my dreams. Vera, it was just a dream. If I will think rationally, Rebecca seems nice, and he is a typical businesswoman. Baka naman kaya ganon ang mga actions niya because of her work. Now, I am convincing myself to be logical. If I will succumb to this conclusion, I will be at peace but, my heart and mind right now is at war. They are not agreeing with one another lately.
"Okay, Ms. Razon. Thank you for your time and indeed it is a big help! We will wait for your call. Come on, Vera." John uttered, signaling that we will about leave. The man never showed any unexpected actions, so I am sure that for him, our visit to Rebecca is just one of the business meetings he used to attend to. So, it is me after all who overreacted. I am accepting my logical reasons now.
While we are packing and readying to leave the room, nahagip ng mata ko si Rebecca. She is looking intently to me, na para bang sinusuri niya ang pagkatao ko. She looks intrigued to who am I, but she is afraid to ask. At nang makita niyang nakatingin din ako sa kanya, she looked away. John once again faced her, uttered his goodbyes then we, approached the door. Finally, we are soon out of Ms. Razon’s room. John got out first and when I am about to close the door, I bowed to her, but in my surprise, she let out some words that stirred up my curiosity again.
"Ms. Vera, be careful on what you asked for." she said with a threatening tone. I closed the door immediately without replying to her. I want to run towards John who 5 meters is away from me, but I composed myself. Hindi ako pwedeng magcollapse dito a hallway.
My heart is racing in the beat of fear and my knees are trembling. I don't know if it is a threat or a concern. I am bothered by her words and actions. I don't know why. Still, my vision is playing vividly on my mind. The vision is somehow like my dreams, but the only difference is, after the shape shifting scenario, I found myself in front of the moon. I don't know if that vison and dream was my memory or just a fiction or maybe a story plot created in my mind due to Angelo's story. I am really in chaos. My mind is full of thoughts. Her words and voice echoed on my mind, and I kept thinking of what she meant about that. I am settled a few moments ago but now I am entering to chaos again.
"Vera, are you okay? You seemed unconscious?" John awakened me in the middle of the waging war in my head. I smiled and nodded as a response. When we reach the first floor, I go to the nearest restroom. Something is off in my stomach, siguro dahil sa takot at frustration na nararamdaman ko. I cannot grasp my own self. I am lost in my thoughts.
Then, pagpasok na pagpasok ko sa banyo, I saw a middle-aged woman with a unique fashion style. Hindi ko alam na uso pa pala ang ethnic inspired business attire but I must say she had worn it perfectly. I proceeded to the cubicle. "I saw you entering in Ms. Razon's office." the woman said. I don't know if she is talking to me, so I ignored her, baka mapahiya ako kapag sumagot ako. "Vera, right?" she added. Mukhang ako nga ang kausap niya. I go to the sink and wash my hands. Agad na tumama ang aking mga mata sa salamin na animo'y automatic. Finally, nakita ko din ang mukha niya. She is beautiful and she is divinely blessed in appearance. Her beauty is unique, I cannot take my eyes away from her. "I know that look. Do not be impressed. I know I am beautiful." she said with an overflowing confidence. I was stunned by her arrogance. Maganda nga pero may attitude. She is perfecting her lips with a red lipstick which truly suits her fair skin tone. "Just be careful. You do not know Ms. Razon full well. You might end up insane." she said in a low voice.
What is she implying? My mind is truly shifting from chaos to oblivion. "What?" finally, I found courage to speak up. Mukhang natameme akong ng presence niya. "Just be careful. Know the past, Vera." she said and leave immediately. "What are you saying?" I asked her and followed her at the door. Pagkabukas ko ng pinto, she is nowhere to be found na tila ba she vanished like air. I found John looking at me with a concern. "Sinong hinahanap mo?" John asked. "Did you saw someone walking out from here? Where did she go?" I bombarded John with questions. He shook his head and smiled a little. "Dahan dahan sa tanong. I just came out from the restroom too. Hindi ko na pansin na may lumabas maybe meron. Bakit?" John asked. I shook my head as a sign of giving up. Hindi ko na kaya ang stress today, ayoko ng madagdagan, kaya kesa sumagot kay John at mainis, I chose to give up this time. "Let's head back to the office."
I sat down in my office chair, completely drained. The woman stirred up my thoughts in the worst manner. Hindi ko na alam ngayon kung paano papatigilin ang chain of thoughts and questions that fill my mind. I let out a sigh. Then, I saw a letter on my desk. Nakaenvelope na pula ang liham. The envelope looks elegant, and it has a seal in a bold color of gold. First time kong makakita ng seal na ganito and it looks like a symbol. The symbol was familiar pero I don't know kung saan ko nakita. The seal has a circular frame and a half moon in the middle with both ends connected to the frame. I opened the letter and read what was written.
Walang nakasulat sa letter kundi isang address na sobrang familiar sa akin. The letter is from, Luna. Hindi ko alam kung sino siya at kung bakit niya binigay ang address ng bahay namin dati ng tatay ko. Sino si Luna? Kung hindi maganda ang envelope, I might think of this letter as a scam or prank. Medyo kabado ako. There are so many possibilities. Pwedeng magnanakaw or scammer yang si Luna or pwede ding something. Hindi ko alam. Andaming kaganapan. I cannot process everything.
Naubos ang buong araw ko, trying to calm down my thoughts. Believe me, I tried to get away from all that bothers me mula pa lang nung simula ng araw. Hindi ko maalis sa sarili ko ang pagkainis. Bakit ba kasi ako nanaginip? That dream is the root of all my problems today. That dream is the reason why I am losing my sense of sanity. Once again, I saw the letter at ang naghuhumiyaw sa kulay pula nitong envelope.
I immediately took my bag and rushed to the parking lot. I supposed to get a good sleep which I am planning kanina pa pero I don't know what drives me to decide this decision na suntok sa buwan at alam kong mas makakadagdag sa pagod ko, but I found myself driving towards our old house.
Hindi ko malaman kung anong ideya ang pumasok sa isip ko at talagang tumuloy ako sa address na nakasulat sa envelope. Vera nasaan ang talino mo dito? What if scammer yung Luna at may mga kidnappers ang nag-aantay pala sa akin doon? Pero mukhang hindi rin reasonable yung scenario na naisip ko kasi bakit naman ako maki-kidnap eh hindi naman kami mayaman? Kidding aside, to be honest, marami pa ring gumugulo sa aking isipan at nagtatalo ang mga ito kung bakit ako pumayag umuwi sa amin. Pero sa gitna ng nagwawalang isip ko, mas nanaig ang lakas ng kutob ko kaya ako nagdesisyong umuwi. I risk and took a leap of faith in this decision because I believe na masasagot ng pag-uwi ko ang lahat ng tanong ko at makikita ko sa address na ito ang magbibigay ng clarity sa mga bagay na hindi ko maintindihan. It has been 10 years, since my feet touched the grounds of our old home in Ilocos. I never managed to have the courage to return there after all the sorrows and memo
Dali-dali akong bumalik sa kinauupuan kong sofa at marahang tinitigan ang box na bigay ni Luna. I don't know if I am insane and hallucinating or totoo ang lahat ng naexperience ko. Gulong gulo pa rin ang utak ko. I can't believe in anything that's going on. I don't know if I should trust Luna, hindi ko nga sure kung nageexist siya or isang lang siyang illusion from my imagination. Nothing is special in the box. Medyo maliit ang size ng kahon, kamukha ng mga kahon ng relo. Walang bahid ng kahit anong kulay ang mala-nyebeng kulay nito, kumikinang sa kaputian. Sa ibabaw ng box, I saw again the same symbol na nakita ko sa seal ng envelope na natanggap ko kahapon sa office. Probably, it is Luna's signature. I tried to silence my raging thoughts. Nabibinggi na ako sa ingay ng mga tanong na nagkakagulo sa utak ko.I looked intently to the box. I cannot count the times I am tempted to open it. C
Wala akong maramdaman. It feels like, my whole body was consumed by a pitch black endless pit. I am totally numb. Wala akong makita kung hindi kadiliman. Takot na takot ako. This is the first time I felt such terrible fear. Am I dead? Ganito ba ang pakiramdam ng kamatayan? Wala din akong marinig. Maybe I am on a vacuum dimension. No air, no land, nothing is in here. Ito ba ang destination after death? I have a lot of questions in my mind but I think it will never be answered. Mukhang hindi na ako makakalis dito. Siguro, this is my eternity.Then, in a snap, a lamp post, a chair and a mirror appeared in front of me. The lamp radiated a soft light, just enough to outshine a portion of this dimension. The place is still covered with darkness but because of the light I am able to see myself. The light flickered twice. Suddenly, my body felt a strong force na tila ba binuhasan ako ng malamig
"Stop looking!" I shouted during my shame. I am totally embarrassed. What am I supposed to react? This is super awkward, and humiliating to the depths, as well. Then, John offered his jacket."Take this. It is too cold here."he said while stuttering and trying so hard to make the situation calm as possible. John's face was on the shade of deep red at bakas na bakas ang pagkataranta sa mukha niya."Thank you."Dali dali kong sinuot ang jacket. Buti na lang medyo matangkad si John, kaya mahaba ang manggas at laylayan nito. It is enough to cover me. He smiled awkwardly. Then, he helped me to stand. I was about to walk when John gave me something."Sayo yata ito."he is giving me acolor white boxna nanggaling sa hinigaan ko. I immediately took the box. Again, the box looks the same as what Luna g
Bago kami magpunta sa lugar kung saan ako dadalin ni John, dumaretso muna kami sa aming bahay para makahanap man lang ako ng damit na itatakip sa aking katawan. Pagkaraan ng ilang minuto, nakita ko si John na taimtim na naghihintay sa labas ng pinto. Paglapit ko sa kanya, walang ano-ano ay hinawakan niya ang aking kamay at dinala kung saan. Napapalibutan ng nagtataasang puno ang mga bahay namin dito. It is like our houses are in the middle of a forest. Liblib at medyo malayo sa ingay ng town. Akala ko sa isang bakateng lote lang ako dadalhin ni John but he is now leading me towards a secluded place, and I don't know exactly kung saan. "Saan mo ba ako dadalin?"I asked John but he remain walking silently na tila ba hindi ako nadinig. To be honest, medyo kinakabahan ako sa mga nagaganap. Hindi ko kayang mapredict kung anong motives or drive ang meron si John to lead me in th
"Lucy, bakit ka nandito?"tanong ko kay Lucy habang patakbo siyang lumalapit sa akin. When she reached me, she tightly hugged me na para bang matagal na kaming magkakila. Then, Luna's arrogant voice echoed."Enough of that little dramatic entrance. We are not in the movie."giit ng babaeng bored na bored na ang istura. Maya't maya pa, hinanap ng mga mata ko si John and I found him behind us. He is there but he is not moving, or should I say he is not in this moment. How come? Kanina lang before they arrived, magkausap pa kami ni John. The arrival of these women influenced the situation. For sure, Luna and Lucy's appearance might have stopped the time or had put us on a new level dimension. I don't know exactly kung anong nagaganap at kung nasaang dimension kami. Sa dinami dami ng naranasan ko, magtatanong pa ba ako? Definitely, hindi na. I am getting used to this kind of things.
John and I walked towards home. Walang nagsasalita, tanging tunog lamang ng mga kuliglig at bawat hampas ng hangin sa mga puno ang maririnig mo. Payapa ang gabing ito ngunit ang aking puso ay puno ng magkakahalong emosyon. My heart was raided by thoughts of vengeance and desire to finally reclaim whatever they had stolen from me and my family. My blood is flowing in my veins like fire that cannot be contained."Vera, would you like to drink some coffee with me?" John asked shyly. Hindi ko alam kung nagpapacute siya or what. Gusto niya pa ako makasama? I bet hindi, I would rather think that he would only want to see me and my newfound powers. I agreed to him since wala naman akong gagawin for the rest of the night.We reached their house. Pagkapasok ko pa lang sa bahay nila, my memories with his grandparents played like a movie in my mind. I am totally in awe sa lahat ng nai
Magpupula ang buwan sa ikatlong gabi. Hindi ko inexpect that it will be so soon. Rebecca's initiative to invite and accompany us to the tribe is not accidental but I have a feeling that she planned to take us there, on the night when they choose the next tribal leader. She is up to something. Sigurado akong pinaghahandaan nila ang pagdating ko. They are planning to kill me to finally wipe out ang mga tinuturing nilang taksil. I truly need to prepare. I need to awaken whatever power ang kailangan kong gisingin. I immediately tied my hair and wear comfortable clothes from my wardrobe. I wore my typical gym outfit. Then, I rushed to the woods.Pagkarating ko sa malawak na kakahuyan, malapit sa bahay namin, my eyes were caught by John's alluring presence. Hindi ko alam, why in my vision, John is shining. Siguro, effect lang ito ng maliwanag na sinag ng araw na direktang tumatama sa kanya. He