TUESDAY. 1:20PM. That particular Manila afternoon was killing me. The rainy season was supposed to have begun a few weeks ago but there I was, sweltering in my room and cursing for all I was worth because the damn freaking weather wasn’t helping me write something. The heat was unbearable and it was eating up what little stored energy I had. It didn’t help that my PC was also having one of its seizures — restarting itself even if I was in the middle of a program.
Banging the mouse forcefully on the table, I got up, strode to where the airconditioning unit was installed, and turned it to full blast. I decided to discard my t-shirt, free-throwing it to the corner where the laundry basket was placed. I missed my mark, the sweat-stained shirt ending up lying rumpled on the floor. I would have wanted to take off my blue jersey shorts too but thought it awkward and downright disturbing to be writing with nothing but my briefs on.
I went back to sitting on the swivel chair in front of my PC, my sweaty fingers poised on the keyboard, ready for that moment when the creative juice starts flowing again. But nothing. Nada. Nein. Not a single drop of the wished-for precious juice. “It’s this damn effing weather!” I cursed, blaming it for my misery. Feeling totally frustrated, I turned the PC off. Or, to be more exact, the PC turned itself off.
I pushed myself away from the table, irreverently straightened my feet on top of it and sort of reclined my back on the swivel chair. Then, closing my eyes, I tried to shut down all intervening thoughts except for one cuddly little scene: me writing non-stop with that Cheshire cat smile plastered on my smug face. But in this time of need, that writing technique wasn’t helping me at all. I couldn’t focus mentally. My mind was so distracted; and not just by the weather. All I could discern were fragmentary thoughts, snippets of overheard conversations and mental images ranging from a black chrome Sony Vaio laptop I saw displayed in PC Hub, to a sexy, bikini-clad woman dancing to the tune of Careless Whisper, et-so-distracting-cetera. Specially the last one.
I let out a long sigh. I just resigned myself to another day of fruitless endeavor and focused instead on savoring what little cold came out of the groaning air-con. Besides, my mind was now pleasantly preoccupied with something else. Not the writing technique. And not the Sony Vaio either.
“BLOODY WEATHER you have here, no? ”
I had been dozing on and off for about a half hour or so when I heard the voice. I felt irritated, not without a just cause. The voice had just interrupted one of the most titillating dreams I’ve ever had in years. Thinking it was just my conscience trying to stop me from pursuing a stream of guilt-ridden thoughts, I tried to brush it off my mind and decided to continue dreaming the dream from where it left off. Guilty pleasures are rather hard to fend off, I realized.
But something didn’t feel right. As far as I knew, conscience doesn’t have a British accent. At least, not if you’re a Filipino. And this one had!
My curiosity now aroused, I forcefully opened my eyes. Then, I lifted my feet off the table and planted them softly on the floor in one fluid motion. I sat erect, my back firmly rested on the swivel chair. My eyes scanned the room in one sweep, trying to place the voice on something tangible. Feeling a bit foolish for even thinking that somebody else might be in the room, I laid my gaze back on the PC lying dormant in front of me. The soft hum of the air-con and the gentle slaps of chilly air on my cheeks were lulling me again to the realms of sleep, back to the joyous, rhythm-filled realm of a beautiful bikini-clad woman sensuously dancing.
I was about to doze off again when a small flurry of movement on the keyboard caught my sleepy eye. I thought I saw a grayish thing move. To afford me a better view, I leaned my body closer to the table, clutching the chair’s armrests for support.
I almost died of shock when I saw THE THING squatting snugly on the small space between the ESCAPE and F1 keys of my computer keyboard.
“YOUR EYES are really big, you know.”
I blinked. Its shrill and raspy voice had snapped me out of my petrified state. I realized I had been staring at the thing with eyes bulging wide and mouth agape. “Who… wha…?” I stammered, completely at a loss for something to say.
“Blimey, you’ve got an eruption too.” The thing was now standing on the keyboard and seriously scrutinizing my face with two shining green orbs that, I supposed, were its eyes. He — I mean, it — was completely human in appearance. A human being in miniature, to be exact.
“Wh. . . what?” I said, still in shock.
“I mean to say, you’ve got a pimple.” A hint of a smile crept up on his miniature face. There was something cold about that smile which sent shivers down my spine. It may have got to do with the way his upper lips curled upward, hinting at a row of white predatory teeth.
“What?” My jaw dropped a second time. I was now looking at him quizzically. Having recovered a little from the shock, I noticed that he had a generally shabby and dusty appearance. A single grey linen with tattered fringes was draped around his body, forming a robe. It had an unwashed and dirty look to it. His whole getup was familiar, overly familiar.
“Oh, boy!” He let out a low whistle, slowly moving his head from side to side. “For a writer, you’re quite slow.” The hint of a smile earlier now turned into a full blown sardonic grin.
I felt a bit slighted, maybe because he drove the nail home. My initial shock of seeing him had slowly worn off. I was now burning with insatiable curiosity. “What are you?” I managed to blurt out.
He did not answer. Instead, he fished out a green leaf — or was it a blade of grass? — out of a dried snake’s head hanging at his side. He started munching it vigorously, then flinching a little, he downed it in one gulp. “Aaah…! Nothing like a good old Yggdrasil leaf to invigorate your whole being.” The sarcastic grin crept back on his face. “This blasted weather is sapping up my mana even faster than a bloody vampire, so let’s get down to business, quick! ” His gaze locked on mine.
Silence, marred only by the gentle humming of the air-con, enveloped the room.
Seeing no reaction from me, other than the befuddled look covering my face, he began traversing the keyboard by hopping on the keys one by one, avoiding the gaps dexterously, until he reached the ENTER key. Once there, he squatted himself in the middle and folded his arms, like it was the most natural thing to do. Then he stared back at me nonchalantly, his mouth twitching in a bemused expression.
“Let’s break this impasse, shall we? First off, I am not here by accident. Far from it.”
Another silence ensued.
“I am the harbinger of your death.” He paused, seemingly for effect. “Matter of fact,” he continued, while reaching for something from behind his back. For a moment I thought he just wanted to scratch an itch there, but then, two identical strange-looking weapons suddenly appeared on his right hand. “I am your death.”
I just threw him an incredulous look. If the person uttering those words were about my size, I would have whimpered there and then. But coming from a diminutive, two-inch tall creature, I only felt a little apprehension. I was even mildly amused. Yet there was something menacing about his whole being. For one thing, his skin had a sickly pallor, like he hadn’t been exposed to the light for quite some time. His hair was unruly and unnaturally long and his shining green eyes twinkled with deadly cunning and intelligence, a kind of twinkle that tells you this man, or whatever he is, enjoyed plucking wings off butterflies as a child.
“Curse it! Was that a cliché?”
“I, aah. . . what?”
“What I just said. Harbinger of death. Was that a cliché?”
What the fuck is he talking about? I thought to myself. I felt stumped, like I was talking to a fish that just spoke French.
“I knew it! I just uttered an abominable cliché,” he hissed, glaring at me with murder in his eyes. “One of your faults, see.” He had already clamped one of the shear-like weapons on his right hand, fastening it securely with the long piece of torn cloth he had ripped from the linen he wore. Using his mouth to hold one end of the torn cloth, he started fastening the other weapon on his left hand.
I still couldn’t make heads or tails of what the creature was babbling about but I knew at once that those were weapons he was holding because they felt vaguely familiar. I knew I had seen them before. I just couldn’t figure out exactly where or when. While he was preoccupied with the fastening of his weapon, I was also busy scrutinizing his every move, trying to find any tell-tale signs that would give me another clue to his identity.
“. . .kill you now,” I heard him say. He was now standing on the ENTER key, his two deadly hands slightly raised. “The dark and stormy night of your life is now fast app–damn it! That was another cliché.” He stopped, checking himself. If looks could kill, I would have dropped dead that very instant from the venomous look he shot at me.
I stared back at him, oblivious of his hate. I was still wholly focused on observing all his minute moves. And one particular movement had caught my interest. His neck seemed to oscillate involuntarily in a reptilian fashion, like a snake bobbing its head to and fro.
And that’s when it hit me! That one tiny unconscious act told all. That was how I knew; how my brain instantly clicked on cue upon recognition and how all those forgotten memories came rushing back to my mind in a flood. I had known this creature all along. I had known because he was my creation. He was the dreaded villain in one of my discontinued novels, The Blackmoney Inheritance.
“Gromico Bracklehurst!” I muttered under my breath, my mind still in complete disbelief.
“The very same, my lord and creator,” the creature spoke. He then bowed his head slightly and raised his right hand to his heart, a mocking curtsy. “The very same Gromico Bracklehurst whom you made into the most evil assassin in Rune Midgarts without even explaining why he became so. The very same Gromico Bracklehurst whom you made into an orphan unnecessarily. And the very same Gromico Bracklehurst whom you forced to spit out abominable cliches all his life!”
I dared not interrupt him. He spoke in a deliberately slow voice and there was that certain sense of menace beneath every carefully spoken word. His whole body was now completely composed and relaxed. The short flash of anger he had shown earlier was long gone; his whole being radiated with utter calmness and serenity which to me was more menacing and dangerous than his earlier outburst.
This time, I began to feel afraid. Really afraid.
“So what’s it gonna be?” the creature asked, matter-of-factly.
“Wh. . . what’s it gonna be what?” I noticed my hands were shaking.
“You know. . .” his eyes bored through me contemplatively. “I really wonder how you became a bloody writer. You seem to have no imagination at all.”
I couldn’t speak. I was stunned. Not just out of fear but also because he had just echoed one of the most nagging doubt I had of myself as a writer. It was as if he had already wounded me with his weapon. I was deeply hurt. “I. . . uh. . . you. . . you. . . cannot. . . kill me. . .” I could only stammer.
“Is that so?” his eyes twinkled with malice and his lips curled into a smirk. “Let’s give it a go then–”
I barely had time to blink when he suddenly launched himself from the keyboard like an arrow, his arms extended upward and joined together. My surprise was so great that I toppled from my chair just mere inches before his weapon could connect to my face. As I hit the floor, I grabbed my t-shirt lying nearby and threw it in the direction of my face, intending to smother him, or at least, prevent him from wounding me.
I was already up on my feet just as the t-shirt settled again on the floor. At that moment, I felt the exhilarating rush of adrenaline coursing through my body. Not intending to give him a second chance, I quickly snatched the keyboard from the table even as wires snapped. And with all the strength I had, I clobbered the rumpled shirt repeatedly for over a minute, only stopping when the keyboard split into fragments.
Panting and drenched in cold sweat, I cautiously poked the shirt with the half-end of the keyboard. Regrettably, the shirt was riddled with holes and gashes. But of the creature. . . nothing. Not a single trace.
I sat down on the floor feeling weak. Chunks and pieces of what used to be my computer keyboard awhile ago were strewn all around me. I looked at the pieces wistfully. Then, almost suddenly, I was seized by an uncontrollable laughter. I was so tickled by the absurdity of my situation. I was laughing so hard that tears started to well out of my eyes. I had just destroyed my goddamn keyboard and one of my favorite shirts was ruined. All because I was under the delusion that one of my created fictional characters was out to kill me. No other comedic tableau could have made me laugh harder than the one laid out in my room.
But the experience seemed so real. The shock, the incredulity and the fear I felt. . . They were all real emotions I experienced awhile ago. And I swear the image of a diminutive creature hopping along on my keyboard had been imprinted on my mind in great detail and color.
It had to be the weather, I began to rationalize. There could be no other explanation. The oppressive heat must have played tricks with my mind. Or it must have made me delirious or something.
I was about to stand up when I felt a sudden itchy pain on my left cheek, just a little below my eye. I gently rubbed it with my right hand. I could trace a small swelling on the area. Must be a mosquito bite, I thought to myself.
Then I noticed my hands. The whites of my fingernails were slowly turning bluish. I started to get up from the floor again but to my amazement, I found out I could not. I suddenly felt unusually drowsy and tired. And it almost seemed like all the force had been sucked up out of me. It must be the effing heat again, I thought, shaking my head. Unable to stand up, I slowly laid my back on the floor as my body was seized with an overwhelming desire to sleep.
This Manila afternoon is really killing me, I muttered weakly, just before I closed my eyes.