Listen, daughter. This story begins before the beginning, because that is the way of our people.
Once, there was a hero named Makisig, blessed by the gods and favored by fate. It is said that he was so strong, mountains would move aside upon his approach. It is said that he was so fast, winds would not dare blow without his permission. It is said that he was so skilled, he could even fuck mermaids.
The legends speak of how Makisig would come to kingdoms plagued by monsters, or beasts, or shadows. Makisig would come, and he would bring with him two swords, a lyre, and a cloud that spewed rainbows. Makisig would come, and he would rip out the shadows of the enemies; he would expose their hides to sunlight; he would scar them with his blade. Makisig would come, and kingdoms would be saved.
But Makisig had his price.
The women always resisted, all the storytellers agree. But Makisig was strong, and Makisig was fast, and his fingers were nimble, and he had a practiced tongue. The women always surrendered, all the storytellers agree. And so he would fuck them mercilessly until he would come, and come, and come, and then, Makisig would leave.
The legends speak of how Makisig honors, to this day, the hearts of the women he has fucked. These hearts he keeps in his own empty chest; these hearts he protects, lest they break; these hearts he defends as if they were his own. The legends lie.
For Makisig came to our kingdom; I’ve seen what he does to the hearts of women. He eats them. He chews on the tender parts; he sucks dry their juices. The hard, solid bits, he spits out; the thin, resilient skin, he ingests, to be digested slowly by his bowels.
And so it is that your father is a monster in his own way, but he is a hero, and he is a man, and so he is forgiven. Songs are written about him; men grow up wanting to be him; and the women he has discarded, and the women he has yet to discard do nothing but await his coming.
But for you, my daughter, I want something different.
I give you your father’s name, as it is my right, so that the gods may bless you, and fate may favor you, and you shall have the freedom I did not have. And I give you this story. Feed it to your heart, so that it may become dry and unyielding; so that if a man were to attempt to devour your heart, he would find it bitter and impenetrable, and he would spit it out whole and unscathed.
Now, go. Your father is waiting for you. Go and be a hero.
Listen, my bastards, listen. This story begins with Makisig, because I am blessed and favored by every fucking power there is.
Once there was a great hero named Makisig who was strong and fast and noble. While on a quest to slay the fearsome tikbalang, he met a beautiful diwata. This diwata had long hair and breasts that jutted out of her slender body like fat mountains. She wore flower garlands as robes, and spoke in cool, breathy whispers; but it was the loneliness in her eyes that moved Makisig’s noble heart.
Thus, Makisig did his best to ease her loneliness.
This diwata was a good fuck. She liked being taken with her legs splayed out in the sunlight, with the birds chirping in chorus with her screams. But Makisig is a hero; his duty lay with destroying the menace of a tikbalang. Thus, Makisig could not stay, even if his noble heart wanted to.
This diwata was a cunning bitch. She begged him with her eyes and fat breasts, and she whispered “Just one more time” over and over again. Makisig could not say no. Thus, he took her again; this time against a tree, where he could impale her repeatedly. But the diwata knew how to exhaust a man, even a hero such as Makisig. While Makisig slept, she opened his chest and took out his heart, hoping such an act would convince Makisig to stay.
The diwata was wrong. Makisig left. Makisig found great glory in the defeat of the ravenous tikbalang, while this diwata continues to roam mountains, always trying to find a man who can fuck her like Makisig.
As for the heart she stole, no one really knows what she did with it. Not even Makisig, your second brother, and frankly, I do not give a fuck.
I do not want it. I never did. It was always inconveniently sentimental, annoyingly self-righteous. But I’m getting old, and the stories say that a heart is good to have, so I have decided I will have one on my own terms.
And so I command you, all the bastards who bear my name, to find me a warrior’s heart. Find me a heart that deserves to be borne by Makisig. Find me a heart that is not like a woman’s—pleasant, but weak—but that of a man, powerful and potent.
I will, of course, reward the bastard who succeeds. With what, you ask? It doesn’t fucking matter. I could give you this stupid lyre, and you would be eternally grateful. What is important is that I, the great hero Makisig, will give you something of mine. I, the great hero Makisig, will show you a token of my appreciation. I, the great hero Makisig, by some generous interpretation, will have been rescued by you.
Now, go. Bring me back a heart. Be my fucking hero.
Listen, Great Babaylan. I am Makisig, the first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig.
Yes, Great Babaylan. Of course you know my father. I understand he crossed words with you before. I understand that he caused insult the last time he was within these environs. I understand you are displeased, Great Babaylan.
But I need your help.
Because I intend to claim his story as mine, Great Babaylan. Because I refuse the part that the gods and fate have set before me, simply because I was born without a sword dangling between my legs. Because I, first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig—I, who bear his name like all my brothers, but am least favored of his children—I intend to bring my father a heart he would not be able to deny is worthy. And then, I will take that heart and consume it whole, in front of him, in front of all my brothers, in front of the gods and fate, so that the world will know that I, a woman, am a hero, just like him.
Thank you, Great Babaylan. I knew you would understand.
Listen, nameless farmer. I am Makisig, the first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig.
And I know who you are. I know all the stories you have lost; all the glory you once had; the warrior you once were. And I know I can restore everything to you. Your name will be yours again. Your legends will be spoken in different tongues. And the gods and fate will smile upon you as they once did.
In exchange, I want your heart.
Do not laugh at me. If you wish an exhibition of my abilities, I will gladly perform one. See that beast terrorizing your fields in the far west? I will slay it for you. I will take it down, skin its hide, and bring the leather to you in less—
Of course I know it is a carabao.
Do not laugh at me.
What is it that you want, then? If it is fortune, I can obtain it for you. If it is women or men to fuck, I can obtain them as well. Is it a kingdom? A rare treasure? Perhaps you want more lands for your demon creature to terrorize? I would be willing to do anything—
You want me to farm. For a year. Is that all? Agreed. How difficult could farming be?
Listen, nameless farmer. I am Makisig, the first daughter—
I know I do not need to hurl my name at you at every encounter. But you have to understand. I am Makisig. I can match wits with the wise; I can give a good fight against the mighty thinkers. My comrades-in-arms know me to be a professional, willing to do what needs to be done, willing to work with any entity, regardless of race, but—
Your carabao. She refuses to cooperate. She refuses to even move. She obviously needs a firm hand—
No, I am not giving up.
Listen, nameless farmer. I am Makisig—
The insects. I cannot get rid of them. I am not afraid! Look, I am skilled with blades, and I can fight higante and monsters a hundred times my size. I can bargain with elementals, but—but—these insects!
They are small. Really, really small. I cannot keep swinging my sword at each and every one of them.
No, I am not giving up.
Listen, farmer. I am— Well, you know who I am.
Do not worry about me. I will be fine. I am merely tired. Yes, farming is hard work. Do not be concerned about your carabao. She will live.
Do not be concerned about me. I will not give up.
Listen, I am sorry to wake you. You were having a bad dream.
I just thought you might want— Never mind.
You listen. This story is not about Makisig. This is about a farmer.
Once, there was a farmer who was content with working in his fields. One day, a woman came, threatening his carabao, demanding the farmer surrender his heart. This woman claimed she was Makisig, first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig. This woman claimed she knew the story of a warrior whose name had been concealed within tales upon tales; whose victories had been attributed to other men, more blessed, more favored by the gods and fate. This woman claimed she could restore to the farmer all the glory the warrior had lost; all the fortune that had been taken away from him.
The farmer thought she would be an easy fuck. Thus the farmer set in motion his plan, beginning with an exchange: his heart for one year of her service. The farmer wanted to teach her a lesson. He wanted to strip her of glamour; but more importantly, he wanted to strip away her armor, so that he could explore the hills and valleys of a land that had long been denied him.
The days passed; then weeks; then months. She bargained with his carabao, instead of enlightened personages; she battled infestations, instead of giants. At night, when she was most weary, the farmer laid siege to her defenses. He used silence, then stories, then subtle caresses. And when the woman finally gave in, as the farmer had known she would, he gave no quarter. He took all she had to offer and more, and he used her, repeatedly, to find his own release.
I tell you this now, because you deserve a fair accounting. You deserve to know that I thought you would give up. You deserve to know that I had determined from the very start to use your body, until you conceded defeat. You deserve to know that things have changed.
Do you remember that night, when you woke me because I was having a nightmare? You thought I was dreaming of my past life, mourning its loss. You were wrong. I had made peace with the foolishness of my youth, long before you arrived. I was dreaming of losing you.
But I have never been a coward; not then, not now when I have no name. I will face my greatest fear, and I will survive it. Thus, my story ends, and yours begins.
You have won. But instead of surrendering my heart, as you, all those months ago, demanded, I will simply give it to you. It is the heart of a warrior and a farmer. It has seen battles, and grief, and joy, and, unexpectedly, love. It is a heart that refuses to give up; but it is strong enough to let you go.
And it is yours.
Find your story. Claim your name. Go.
Listen, old man. I am Makisig, the first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig.
I know the role you play in story. You are a hermit. You have brothers along this path, all of whom I need to be kind to, if I wish to receive a token. But I do not desire any token. I have succeeded in my quest. Soon, I will no longer need to announce my name. Soon, I will take my place in story. Soon, I will simply be Makisig, the hero, my name unsullied by qualifiers of gender and family.
Yes, that is what I want. That is what I have always wanted.
Now leave me be; I need to return home.
No, I am no longer certain I know where home is.
Listen, Father. This story—this story will be about Makisig, first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig.
Once there was a woman who aspired to become a legend, and this was the ending she dreamt of: Makisig coming home, victorious where her brothers had failed; Makisig coming home, her satchels filled with gold, silver, and jade; Makisig coming home, in her hands the heart of a warrior, potent and powerful.
The great hero Makisig, blessed by the gods and favored by fate, would acknowledge the heart his daughter has offered as the most worthy, fit to be borne by the most worthy of men. And Makisig, first daughter and seventh bastard of the great hero Makisig, would then devour this heart, denying her father his desire. And thus she would extract her own vengeance and, in so doing, become a hero.
That is what I dreamed, Father. And with the gods and fate as witnesses, I tell you this: I could have claimed this story. I have come home triumphant, where my siblings have yet to find their way back.
I have bargained with the great babaylan, cowed stormy elementals, vanquished monsters, prevented war between two kingdoms, and survived two princesses, one perverted bird, and one ribald prince.
I have also learned how to manage a carabao, to drive away swarms of insects, to accept the edicts of nature, to find peace in the rule of the seasons. And I have returned with a heart that has lived through the whims and cruelties of gods and hate.
But I will not give it to you, Father. Nor will I consume it as an act of defiance.
You are empty, Father. I see that now. Your eyes glaze with past adventures, but beyond your memories, you have nothing. There is a void in your chest, and your bowels have long been corrupted by the hearts you have eaten. You are the great hero Makisig, blessed by the gods, favored by fate, a fucking hero in the eyes of many. And you are an old, lonely man.
I will not become you, Father. I choose another path; I claim another story. And if history forgets about me—if people will not know what I have done and what I have achieved—if my life will continue without glory, then let it be so.
I will not live heartless, as you have done all these years, Father. Goodbye.
Listen, daughter. I am Makisig, a farmer, your mother.
Someday, you will experience horror and wonder. Someday, you will experience defeat and triumph. Someday, you will have your own stories to tell, tales of magic and kingdoms, and heroes and choices. And wherever I may be, wherever you will be, I will listen.
Kate Osias swears by the efficacy of cheap chocolate paired with carbonated drinks to solve stress-related problems. She is a two-time Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature winner, a GIG Book Contest winner, a Canvas Story Writing Contest winner, and has earned a citation in the international Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
Her work has been published in various volumes of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series, Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009, the Philippines Graphic, A Time for Dragons, Bewildering Stories, Philippine Genre Stories, and Serendipity. She co-edited the sixth volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction and is currently working as co-editor for the seventh installment of the series with her husband and co-writer, Alex Osias. Kate is a proud founding member of the LitCritters, a writing and literary discussion group.
Above image is from here.
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