About a year ago, a tragic accident happened along that spacious Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
Perhaps, you might have forgot about it, given the impressive statistics of road accidents that happened on that Godforsaken highway.
Remember that bus?
The one that got crushed with dozens of people still in it?
That's the one.
I will never forget it.
Nothing too sentimental, really.
No loved one had died in there.
Nothing I know of.
I will never forget it because of that girl.
She's banging on my door right now.
And although, no coherent sounds is coming from her mouth, I knew she was begging me to open up for her.
I would if I knew that up close, I won't lose my sanity just by looking at her.
Because you see, she's not all there.
She's missing some parts of herself.
My mother always said that I was a hoarder, a keeper. That taking anything of value is an art that I mastered very well.
I haven't finished college. I quit numerous menial jobs that I had, not just because those jobs were tiring me out.
I quit because my mother has a huge pension check.
And lazy as I am, I calculated that it can cover most, if not, all of our household expenses.
And really, who wants to work when you can just stretch out your feet and guide Kratos on his horn breaking, Medusa beheading quest?
Well.. To tell you the truth, a year ago, I had a decent work. That is, if you can call selling shoes and tying shoelaces for brats in exchange of a minimum wage a decent work.
I was coming home from that shopping mall in Mandaluyong where I work.
Halfway through Commonwealth Avenue, a huge traffic forced my bus to a full stop.
I waited for what seems like hours but the bus didn't budge.
Not an inch.
So we're in for a colossal traffic jam.
The worst kind because it was late and the bus were supposed to be flying along the highway.
The air started to fill up with frustrated grunts from the work weary commuters.
Colorful languages came out from that huge mouth of the driver. Some of the people riding decided to get off the bus and just walk the remaining kilometers.
I was one of them.
Cursing, I reluctantly left my comfortable seat to trudge the graveled shoulder of the highway.
At first the walk was not so bad; all I have to do is absorb the rhythmic swaying hips of that office girl in front of me. With a smirk and lots of imagination, I think I could go on for miles.
The traffic jam seemed to stretch to oblivion.
Soon I felt my knees giving away.
That's when I saw it.
The cause of all this commotion.
The ground zero.
The place was cordoned off with yellow emergency tapes.
Gawkers and bystanders were everywhere.
It seems like this mass exodus of commuters (which I was in) also ended up as gawkers as well.
I remembered feeling excited.
It was not everyday that one received a special passes to see mutilated bodies.
And there is something about any accident, especially if proved fatal, that arouses feelings of curiosity, dread, and relief to each and everyone of us.
Relief because that horrible thing happened to somebody else, and the doorway to hell was shut momentarily for all of us.
Using my exceptional agility that helped me dodge that girl I got pregnant a couple of years ago, I slipped through the crowd.
It was not easy.
No one wants to give up their vantage points. But after some pushes, ass pinching and a lot of shouldering, my effort paid off.
Suddenly I found myself in the best seat in the house.
The front row.
The sight was rewarding. In a macabre sort of way.
Media accounts of that horrible pile up says that at 10:30 pm, a ten wheeler truck was speeding along the highway.
The driver, apparently drunk, drove with an attitude of an action star. Zigzagging along, and barely missing other cars.
At last, with a steady speed of ninety kilometers per hour, it struck the backside of a passenger bus.
The impact was so strong it dragged the bus for several meters.
The two giant vehicles mowed other cars.
One car actually flipped twice before finally resting in a sidewalk, pinning and killing two cigarette vendors in the process.
Finally the truck and the bus in front of it banged on a bridge abutment with enough strength to make the bridge tremor for a moment.
The aftermath, strangely, does not support any of these.
What I saw beyond the yellow cordon seems like a gigantic dead animal.
The bus and the truck merged perfectly and formed a new monster robot straight from the late night movies.
Mashed up cars were everywhere.
Bodies on stretchers.
It was chaotic, bloody, and GODDAMNIT EXCITING!
Some passengers were still trapped inside the bus. They were shouting for help.
I don't want to dwell on the condition of those passengers, given the twisted and beaten-to-a-pulp state of the vehicle.
A woman in a blood stained stretcher caught my attention. She was complaining about her left leg, missing from the knees down.
Why on earth does her leg look liked it was torn out of place instead of just being cut off? The wound is rugged on the edges, not the clean cut like in the movies.
And oh, the pain.. The pain is too bad so won't somebody just please kill her?
Put her out of her misery, please?
I am a lot of things, but sadist is definitely not one of them. So I decided to leave that awful place.
But just like Lot from the parable, the last look back ruined me.
We have to look back right?
Who can't resist the temptation of taking a one last look on horrible things? Maybe file it at the back of our brain under the header: "things I should forget but simply can't".
So I took my last look, and that's when I caught her eye.
She was a girl of maybe eight or nine.
Her mangled head was in such a bad angle that she was forced to face us, the spectators.
Her braids were tight. Not a single strand of hair was loosened up by the accident.
Her left arm is missing from the elbows down.
She was wearing a pink dress that was crimsoned with blood.
She was from the bus.
One of the first batch of bodies that the rescuers recovered. And amazingly, her chest is still heaving.
Though her breathing is laborious, each breath sends a gout of tacky blood from her mouth.
I shouted at the nearest paramedic. A young man who is busy on pretending that he is very busy.
I told him, not too kindly, to get his thumb out of his ass and help the little girl.
She's still alive! She needs urgent medical attention. Thank you very much!
The crowd issued an angry assent.
The young paramedic hurriedly went to the girl.
Soon she was attended by three paramedics, they were only waiting to load her into the ambulance. That's my cue to go scat.
I was circling the crowd, and is near the bridge when something caught my eye. It was lying on the gutter.
Nobody noticed it. They were all facing the "ground zero."
My head suddenly ached.
It was like my head turned into a horse track.
My eyes watered from the vicious pain. And then, sudden as it came, all at once the pain went away.
My eyes cleared.
I discovered myself on my knees.
Maybe, I blacked out.
Good thing nobody saw me kneeling there like a fucking Saint.
On my way home I stopped on a store to buy my evening tranquilizer: A pack of cigarettes and instant coffee.
I was waiting for my change when I saw a figure, walking no, shuffling from the end of the street.
There are many drunkards in our neighborhood and I thought that this shuffling figure is one of them.
Finally Aling Doring gave me my change and I hurriedly left.
I wanted to catch the late night news. Maybe I was there on a cameo.
The streets are empty.
It was late and a weekday. Most of the streetlights are broken and I had to walk in the dark for two blocks.
That is when I heard the noise.
A thin wailing sound that halted my steps.
It was coming from behind. I turned to look and I saw the same drunkard, now only several meters away from me.
The boozer is a small man, no taller than a child.
He's still shuffling. Maybe a polio victim as well because he appeared to be dragging his left foot? He was also an amputee. His left arm is gone.
I want to run, but it felt like my knees are tied down with invisible weights.
Now only ten meters away. And though it is dark, I could see that man clearly.
He was wearing a pink dress darkened with dried blood.
At last my paralysis broke.
My knees, previously seemed to be weighed down, now became angry pistons.
I don't know why I ran.
I thought I was overreacting, so I stopped and looked back.
Clearly, the thing which is now in front of me is no toper. She resembles the child in the accident site. And just like earlier, our eyes locked for what felt like hours.
This creature terrified the shit out of me.
No prosthetic could have imitated her fatal wounds dripping with dried blood.
Once again, I started to run.
Sprint, as if all the Devils from hell broke loose and is now after me.
Questions of what exactly is that creature, why is it after me and why she choose me for this royal ass fucking floats in my mind while I was running hysterically on the streets.
In spite of her bad foot, she is gaining on me. She is only inches away and I could clearly hear it's voice; a childish mewling that raised all the hairs on my body.
At last, I saw our house. I went straight to the door. I tried the knob but of course the door is locked.
While I am fumbling for my keys I summoned all my courage and looked back, expecting to see the zombie girl's face only inches from mine.
But she was gone.
I collapsed in front of the door. Exhausted and relieved.
Is it all only my imagination playing games with me? Punishment for over taxing my mind by feeding it those horrendous images from the accident?
I slowly got up, gathered my things that were scattered on the pavement. And went inside the house with my knees still shaking.
I am on my second cup of coffee. Half the pack of cigarette is gone when I heard shuffling footsteps from the living room.
I got tensed, but the lights went on. Then I heard my mother's voice.
"You're late," said my mother as she entered our kitchen. She eyed the almost full ashtray in front of me, then grunted with disapproval.
"Overtime." I said.
She made herself a cup of coffee. Then sat in front of me. "Well, I hope that overtime will appear on your pay slip".
"Mom, really?" I said. "I had a very long day, and quite frankly, I'm on the pits so lay off me.."
She snorted. But thankfully changed the subject.
"Have you seen that accident on the highway? It was all over the news! Is it really that bad? You passed it on your way home right?"
The mutilated face of the dead girl rose in my mind.
"Yes I saw it. It's bad mom. I don't wanna talk about it."
A playful smile appeared on my mother's lips. "Oh really.." she said. "You're having a.. Whatyacallit.. a trauma, huh? Poor baby". She cackles, and it reminded me again of how lucky I was having her as my mother.
I was getting ready to say something smart that will surely irritate her, when our doorbell rang. Three rapid sets of rings which galvanized my mom into action.
"It's one AM! Who the hell is this now?" she hurriedly left for the front door.
I would've stopped her but my whole body froze. I have a vague idea on who's outside our door.
The silence is palpable I'm not sure I could take it. I followed my mother into the living room. She's just standing there on the doorway, her face looked puzzled.
"No one's here.." She said.
I felt my stomach sunk. I was holding my breath all along.
"C'mon mom.. Maybe it's just some prankster.." I said, only half believing my own words.
Later, I was on my room, tossing and turning in my bed. I can't sleep. Who can blame me? I got up and smoked beside the open window.
I was contemplating on the reality of my bizarre race with a zombie girl. But then, I saw something just across the street.
A girl, standing beside the electric post.
Inarguably, it is the same creature that chased me. In that instant, all the doubt in my mind about her existence crumbled like wet cement. And then, she grinned. Grinned at me.
I slept very little that night. Maybe only two hours. I kept on looking across the street. The third time I peeked, she was gone.
I saw her again the following day.
She picked one hell of a lousy venue to show up.
Maybe you're thinking she might showed up in a dark, quiet place.
These creatures, ghosts or whatever often does it in the movies right?
But my zombie girl is an exception to the rule.
I was just standing in my station, pondering about the events of the previous night, when I heard her begging, mewling voice. Almost that of a cat whose tail is stepped on.
My head snapped upwards.
And sure enough, there she was! Standing by the counter, twice as real and five times as ugly!
People around her were clearly oblivious of her presence.
The cashiers just went on gossiping.
The customers only passed by her.
She is still wearing her blood curdling smile.
Much to my shame, I fainted, just like a girl.
When I came to, I was in the mall's infirmary.
The company nurse looked up from her pile of paperwork.
"Mr. Nolasco, your blood pressure is fine and we can't see anything wrong with you.." She said.
"Well, maybe it's the heat.", I said.
Still looking unconcerned, she answered. "Maybe, but the doctor signed your paper. You're free to go home."
Under other circumstances, that would be good news. But I don't want to go home now. My mother is with my aunt. She said she would sleepover at my aunt's house that night.
But since I have no choice, I went home.
And she followed.
I saw her at the Metro Rail Transit station. Just standing there. (Waiting perhaps for the train?)
I tried to ignore her.
When the train came, I immediately got on and sat on the bench.
She followed, with her shuffling footsteps.
Fuck, she even sat beside me!
Like we shared a secret joke..
There's a fair number of people inside the train. Curiously, nobody, not even one tries to take her seat. It's as if unconsciously, everyone knows someone or something sits beside me.
I tried my best not to faint again, and looked through the window.
Six months later, I became a jobless hermit again.
I hardly take a bath.
My beard grew all the way to my shins.
My mother made the mistake of letting that wretched girl inside the house.
She always left the door open when she's going out for some errand. That ignorant, selfish bitch.
By that time any doubt in my mind whether that girl existed or not is out of the question.
She's here alright.
And wherever I go, she followed. Just like that overly popular song.
It doesn't matter where.
In the market.
At the house.
Once, I was riding a jeepney running at a respectable speed and there she was.
In the middle of the road.
Blood dripping from every hole in her body.
I think I screamed that time.
No matter how many times I saw her, I will never get used to her.
But for some reason, she can't go inside my room.
Maybe my zombie girl knows that if I saw her mangled face first thing in the morning, I will be batshit insane.
And insane people are boring, not much of a sport to scare, right?
I checked the calendar. Today is the anniversary of the highway accident. My mother is in the other room. Running her mouth about the same old things.
When will I look for a new job?
Do I plan to just stay in my room for the rest of my life?
"Do you want to be institutionalized? Just say so, so I can arrange things for you."
All throughout her speech, I could hear the begging, mewling sound.
The banging on my door.
Just like a dog that is left in the rain.
Begging it's master to let it in.
I found myself wondering about the night of the accident.
Under the bridge, I saw something.
And whenever I think about it my head would ache.
I'm aware that that time, my room stank into high heavens.
A smell that faded but still there, clinging into the walls.
I was wondering about my bag, left untouched since that night.
Why would I be scared to open it?
My mom always says that I was a hoarder, a keeper. That taking things, whether it is of value, or not exhilarates me.
I think, now, I need to be locked up in some asylum.
My taste in taking souvenir went a little overboard.
Way out of the moral etiquette of our society.
I think I will open the door now.
I am always fascinated by that girl's wound in her severed arm.
Why does it looked like her arm was "torn off", not "cut off" , just like in the movies?