by Joseph F. Nacino
Twenty-five detainees were lined up outside Selda 34 under the pouring monsoon. Many were dressed in regular shorts, slippers, and shirts. A few wore sandos, their bare shoulders shivering in the cold. Sullen and red-eyed, they squatted with their hands on their heads in the small courtyard of the police station, watched over by a handful of policemen taking shelter under the station’s roofed inner corridors.
Among the detainees was 16-year-old Binoy, trembling from being drenched by the rain. He vainly tried to stop his teeth from chattering.
“Tangina. What’s taking them so long? Why are they making us wait like this?” someone muttered behind him.
“Tanginang mga pulis ‘yan,” someone else replied.
“Pu-putanginang mga pu-pulis,” Binoy whispered to himself as a small act of rebellion.
Binoy had been playing a game of street basketball with his friends in their neighborhood when the police had come barreling in with their guns drawn. Two of his friends were shot seconds after. Binoy was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. He was brought to jail and tagged as a drug addict for processing, while his two dead friends were called drug pushers. He wondered if his mother knew where he was.
The guards, already half-drenched in their dark blue police uniforms and opaque plastic raincoats, held thick rattan sticks that had seen use. Despite their sleepy eyes, they kept careful track of their detainees with their batons.
Meanwhile, two police officers in casual clothes, their police IDs hanging around their necks, looked over the empty detention room that had the number 34 painted at the top of the door. The wall fronting the corridor was rusted jail bars with a large bolt; the other three were simple concrete walls with no windows.
Yawning, PO2 Elizalde Guevarra, the Duty Investigator, stood by the entrance of the dark selda and scratched at the stubble on his face. Inspector Aimee San Roque of Scene of the Crime Operations tied her long hair back and then put on gloves taken from her crime scene kit before kneeling on the floor. The floor of the selda had been sluiced with water and mopped, but there were still signs of bloodstains.
As she took pictures of the cell with her digital camera, San Roque muttered, “What’s the point of calling us if you’re going to clean up the evidence?”
Guevarra shrugged and looked around. Lighting a cigarette, he muttered through a puff of smoke, “I can’t believe they can fit 25 people inside. I can probably take a half dozen steps before I need to turn around.”
“Do you have to light up here?” San Roque said testily as she used a small LED flashlight on the corners of the room. The selda was only illuminated by the lightbulb hanging from the corridor outside. “You’re contaminating my crime scene.”
“Any forensic stuff you find here has probably been trampled anyway,” Guevarra said, flicking the half-finished cigarette into the rain-swept courtyard.
“First, the police station detention area is supposed to accommodate only ten detainees while they’re waiting to be processed for their court appearance,” San Roque enumerated. “Second, you can do 10 steps if you take smaller ones.”
“Third,” she added as she used a tweezer taken from her breast pocket to pick up a tiny piece of black feather stuck to the wall, “There’s always evidence to be found.”
“What is that? Is that a feather? You think a chicken was the murderer?” Guevarra joked.
She ignored him as she placed the feather in a small plastic bag. “Come on, let’s get out of here so that they can bring the detainees back in. I don’t understand why they’re being made to stand outside in the rain.”
A voice outside the cell said, “They were all drenched in blood. It was the easiest way to wash them.”
Both turned to see Chief Superintendent Hermie Balagtas, the police station head, standing near the entrance of the cell. The first thing Guevarra noticed was that Balagtas looked like he had been sleeping in his uniform.
“They’re still people, Chief,” San Roque said. “They got rights.”
“Not under our President,” Balagtas replied tiredly. “If you want to hear why I called you guys, come with me.” He shuffled away in his slippers. Guevarra and San Roque glanced at each other before they followed.
The silent policemen led the detainees back into the cell with threatening gestures of their batons. Some of the detainees muttered curses, but most of them kept their heads down.
Seeing this, San Roque thought being a member of the police made it hard to see the detainees as individuals waiting for their time in court instead of criminals, despite the fact that many of them had not even had a chance to talk to a public attorney. She knew her fellow officers didn’t have that problem anymore. As the police led the detainees past her, San Roque caught one of them— Binoy—looking at her, but he fearfully turned away and this act pained the policewoman.
The first thing Binoy learned on the street was that you shouldn’t get the attention of the police.
“Finally, we’re getting out of the rain,” Binoy heard someone complain.
Inside the selda, he found an empty spot on the floor and sat down with his back against the cold wall. As the other inmates settled down around him, he doubted he would get any sleep tonight.
“Putanginang pulis talaga,” he whispered again like a mantra. He felt tears roll down his face but didn’t let himself be noticed by the others that he was crying. It was dangerous to show weakness inside the selda.
“Why is the selda called 34 when the station only has one?” Guevarra mused as they walked.
San Roque whispered, “Look, the doors have numbers—31, 30, 29. I heard this was a school building before they turned it into a police station. They probably turned number 34 into a cell.”
“Maybe a bathroom,” Guevarra grumbled. “Explains why it smells like one.” The older police officer glanced at San Roque’s stomach. “I’m really glad you were at the station when the call came in and they assigned me this case. But are you sure you should be here, being pregnant and all?”
“I need to put in my hours before I go on maternity leave. Can’t rely on what Jojo earns teaching while I’m giving birth.”
“So, are you ready to hear what happened?” Balagtas asked as he looked behind him. The two other police officers caught up with the superintendent. “At 11:30 pm, we heard screaming coming from the selda. When we went to investigate, we found the detainees fighting. We managed to clear the selda and found a body on the floor.”
“Do you have a suspect?” San Roque asked.
Balagtas nodded. “Just one.”
“How come you guys only called us now?” Guevarra looked at his watch. “It’s 1:19 am. More than an hour since this happened.”
“We were busy doing something. We only had time to call it in now,” Balagtas answered with a shrug.
Guevarra gritted his teeth. “You got a dead detainee in your police station, Chief. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. When things don’t go right, you want the human rights people to step in? They have lawyers too, you know.”
The three stood before a door at the bottom of a stairway. Balagatas replied as he unlocked the door, “We’re keeping the body in another room before sending it to the nearby funeral parlor.”
“You shouldn’t have moved the body to begin with,” said San Roque in a peeved tone.
The police chief exhaled in frustration and ignored her. “His name is Ador Melencio. We arrested him several times for harassing women on the street. This guy’s also been accused of feeling up the other detainees in the selda at night.”
“Someone finally got pissed and decided to stab him with a smuggled-in knife?” Guevarra asked.
“Whatever he did, someone got more than pissed off,” Balagtas commented. He opened the door and switched on the long fluorescent light above.
The first thing Guevarra immediately noticed was the smell of blood and shit in the room. San Roque ignored the odor as she strode into the room full of dusty file boxes arranged haphazardly on tall, rusted metal shelves. In the middle was a metal table with a body wrapped in a bed sheet. She carefully unwrapped the bloody sheet to reveal an old man, his face pale, and his ripped-open torso showing a mess of innards. Guevarra cursed.
San Roque put down her kit and examined the body with a discerning eye. With a pair of new gloves, she began to process the body, sometimes walking around the table to get a better view. “Estimated time of death is around 11, so right in the timeline you gave, Chief. This doesn’t look like a simple stabbing, more like a single blow with something long and jagged. I would guess that this man had been disemboweled. Did you find a weapon like a bolo?”
“No, we did full body-searches on the detainees afterwards. We found nothing on them, not even a shaving razor,” Balagtas answered as he leaned tiredly against the wall beside the door.
“Now this is interesting,” San Roque said as she peered closer into the stomach.
Guevarra made a face, “I can’t see how you can stand looking at stuff like that.”
“It’s my job,” she said absentmindedly. “Besides, you’re used to looking at dead bodies, too.”
“I look at dead bodies,” Guevarra replied. “I don’t look into them.”
An annoyed Balagtas asked, “What did you find?”
San Roque reached into the open stomach with her tweezers and plucked something out. “It’s… an eggshell, I think.” She was holding the tweezer into the light to show the remnant of something black.
“A black eggshell?” Guevarra said as he lit up another cigarette.
“I don’t know,” she replied, distracted, as she peered into the dead man’s body. “But the stomach is full of it.”
Guevarra turned to Balagtas, “Do you guys have somebody I can question? Or is this just a dead body case?”
Balagtas nodded and opened the door. “Yeah, we’re keeping the suspect in another room.”
Back in the selda, Binoy couldn’t help but overhear two fellows beside him whispering.
One of them murmured, I’m telling you, they’re not normal people.
Shhh, someone will hear you, the other one replied.
Binoy wondered if they were talking about the old man who was murdered inside the selda. He wondered if it was a gang-related killing. Some of them were obviously part of a group, the way they stuck together. He was sure the one who had killed the old man was—
A low voice spoke, so quiet that he was sure no one else but him and the two other detainees could hear it, so threatening that it ran shivers down his spine. Puta. Go to sleep or I’ll gut you all.
That shut the two fellows up.
Binoy shut his eyes tight and pretended to sleep.
The two policemen entered a door two rooms down from where they left San Roque. To Guevarra’s eye, it looked like a basic duty room for police officers. Balagtas walked to a large metal cabinet and shouldered it aside to reveal a wooden door.
“We don’t have an interrogation room, so we use this storage area,” the police chief said apologetically. “This cabinet’s empty so nobody looks behind it.”
“A hidden room?” Guevarra shook his head in distaste. “If human rights people ever found that out, you’d be out of a job.”
“Not under our President,” replied Balagtas, like a religious response.
Inside was a small, bare room with a single light bulb hanging over their heads. Seated in the center was a teenager on a student’s wooden chair, his wrists were handcuffed and resting on his lap, his head was bowed down to his chest.
To Guevarra, the boy looked like any other teen who wandered the streets and alleyways of Manila: unkempt, thin, and dark from so many days under the urban sun. His hair was ragged and long such that it covered his face. Likewise, he was dressed in a faded black Metallica shirt and basketball shorts. He was barefoot.
“Suspect’s name is Goyo, no last name given. Age 18 years old. We picked him up along with another kid for vagrancy,” Balagtas announced. “The only reason he’s alive is because we already filled our list.”
Guevarra ignored the statement. He knew most police stations had to work on filling their quota of drug arrests required unofficially by the President, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. After a closer look at the boy, Guevarra thought the chief was lying. The teenager looked more like he was 14, not 18. Probably so that the boy could be imprisoned rather than sent to social services. He asked, “No other record aside from bagansya?”
“No,” Balagtas replied. “He gave the cell phone number of his grandmother in Batasan Hills when we arrested him. Says he lives with her. But the old lady insists that he’s not one of hers.”
“Batasan Hills? That’s pretty far from here.”
“Yeah, he claims that he and his friends were hitchhiking to Baguio on a whim. Manila to Baguio without any money?”
Guevarra thought otherwise, having met a few teenagers who had done the same. He approached the boy. “Huy.”
When the boy looked up, Guevarra grunted. The teen could pass for a TV star, with his soft features and long eyelashes. He wondered how the boy had lasted on the streets with looks like that.
“Your name’s Goyo?” he asked. The boy nodded. Guevarra walked up to the boy and sat on his haunches, “What’s your full name?”
“I don’t have any,” the boy replied calmly, as if he wasn’t sitting in a police station for questioning for a murder.
“That can’t be right,” Guevarra said. “Didn’t your parents give you a full name?”
The boy shrugged, “I can’t remember my parents.”
Guevarra understood. He had met many street children with the same background. The help of social workers was too few and the homeless children too many. “What can you tell me about what happened tonight in the cell?”
Goyo looked at him, “I killed him because he was an aswang.”
Balagtas leaned and slapped the boy, “Gago!” The move caught Guevarra by surprise so much so that he jumped up. Goyo covered his face with his handcuffed hands, the first time Guevarra saw the boy react.
Goyo cried, “I’m not lying!”
For a moment, Guevarra remembered the stories told to him by his Yaya Andeng, the old woman hired by his mother to take care of him when his family used to live in the province. Shaking his head from the memory, Guevarra asked, “Why would you say that he was an aswang?”
The boy sniffled, “Because he showed me a black egg that he said would turn me into one.”
San Roque was done processing the body and was now removing her gloves. Lost in thought, she gazed at the body before her. Finally done, she stretched her arms and her back. As she did, she thought how she’d eventually become big with her pregnancy like other women, and her back would hurt. This was her first pregnancy, and she didn’t want to let Jojo know she was nervous.
She turned her mind back to the corpse before her. It seemed like the killing cut came from a giant knife like a bolo, but the ragged edges of the cut seemed to indicate a claw of an animal. And then there was the matter of the black shells she found in the stomach. She couldn’t wait to get this body back to the lab so that she could examine it properly. Then she heard something click, looked at the head of the corpse, and exclaimed in surprise. The jaw had fallen open, and a long, maroon tongue had rolled out.
With her scalpel, she prodded the man’s tongue, and it broke open in his mouth in many long strips like a wilted sea anemone. Each strip was short, but they were almost rubbery, and she stretched one to unfold its triple length. Peering closely, she noticed that the strips themselves were lined with small, serrated teeth, like the tongue of a goose she had once dissected in med school.
“What the hell were you?” she wondered as she took pictures with her cellphone.
I can smell you.
She looked around. The loud whisper sounded like it was right in the room with her. She didn’t see anyone, though the looming shelves could have hidden anything behind them.
“Hello? Is anyone else here?” She called out and used her small flashlight to illuminate the shelves and boxes. It was useless, she could barely see anything past them. Having heard nothing else except for the constant pouring of the rain outside, she went back to packing up her equipment.
I can hear the two hearts beating inside you.
The disembodied voice seemed to come from outside the room now. She drew her service Glock 17 from the holster on her belt with one hand, the other jerked open the door. Pointing her gun outside, she saw that no one was there. With the corridor empty before her, she felt like she was all alone in the police station. The only dark spots on the corridor floor were the wet footsteps they had left behind. She wondered where everyone was. They couldn’t have all gone home because of the heavy rain, could they?
Are you looking for me? I’m here.
The voice sounded fainter, as if the speaker was coming from a distance. But she thought it was coming from the direction of the selda.
Come to me. Come to me.
Her steps echoed through the empty corridor. She felt her heart beating fast and she felt on edge. But her hand on the gun was steady.
“Anybody out here?” she called out again. This time, she only heard a chuckle, and the sound was even tinier and farther away. She finally reached the door of the selda, could see people inside despite the lack of light, all of them lying down or hunched over.
You found me.
She thought she heard the voice, barely. She stepped closer to the door to get a closer look. A large, hulking figure slowly stood up in the middle of the cell.
“There are no aswangs,” Guevarra said. “They’re something to keep kids like you at home after dark.”
“But they’re true!” Goyo replied in a rush. “My grandmother used to tell me stories about them–”
“So did mine,” the police officer said. “But they’re not true. They’re just made-up to make us behave as kids–”
“–Puta, the boy’s playing us,” Balagtas said.
“–The old man,” Goyo continued, “No one liked the old man. He was new. Also, everyone knew that he had been harassing women on the streets. Gaudencio tried to beat him up for that, but the old man was stronger than he looked. The old man pushed Gaudencio against a wall and hurt him. After that, they left him alone.”
Guevarra threw a quick glance at Balagtas who nodded.
“Tonight, I saw him,” Goyo continued on with his story. “He was crawling on all fours over the others who were sleeping. Then he went up to Mang Relly. He was also sleeping, Mang Relly, because everyone could hear him snore when he did. The old man crouched over him, and the old man looked like he was going to cough on him because his mouth was open.”
The boy looked down. “I couldn’t sleep. Taba stole my sleeping spot and the only place where I could stay was the corner. That was when I saw the old man. He sounded like he was going to throw up on Mang Relly and there was this thing coming up his throat. Then I saw a black egg in his mouth.”
“A black egg?” Guevarra asked.
“Yes,” the boy replied. “My grandmother told me that an aswang was created if a person would eat a black egg that came from another aswang. Then that person would become an aswang.”
“You really want us to believe this shit?!” Balagtas snarled, stepping closer to Goyo again.
“Hey!” Guevarra shouted as he moved his body to block Balagtas.
When he turned to look back at Goyo, the boy’s eyes had suddenly become large, turning a deep crimson, looking like small, round pools of blood on his face. The eyes reflected Guevarra’s face upside down. The boy’s arms jerked and twitched like no human body parts could. The nails on his fingers began to extend and sharpen. His torso and legs shuddered, as if his bones were breaking and healing at the same time.
Then the boy smiled.
He raised his handcuffed hands and, with a twist of his now-muscular forearms, broke the chain between them.
“Yes,” he rasped, a long tongue slithering out his mouth as he spoke. “The old man shouldn’t have done that.”
“Hoy! What are you doing there!”
San Roque turned to see a uniformed policeman running across the courtyard towards her. As he came close, she saw the policeman was young and unsure of himself. The policeman steadied himself on the wet ground. “Ma’am, it’s not a good idea to be near the detainees.”
A sound from inside the selda interrupted them. They saw a dozen people now standing among the sleeping detainees. One of them was the first figure San Roque had seen. And she realized that the voice she heard had come from him.
The standing figures began to convulse and jerk, their bodies and limbs stretched and bent at odd angles. Then they opened their eyes— red and glowing– and they all stared at San Roque.
San Roque pointed her gun at the figures. “All of you! Put your hands on your heads! Now!”
This woke up some of the detainees. They noticed the figures standing in their midst, their shouting woke up the rest. As they scrambled to move away, a few started to stand up as well, backing towards the walls and the cell door.
This blocked San Roque’s view. “Get down! Don’t block my– hey!” But no one listened to her.
When the figures opened their mouths with sharp teeth and tongues, the other detainees clambered to keep themselves away.
“Let them out!” San Roque urged the young policeman. “Let them out!”
Binoy had fallen asleep with his back to the wall and was jostled awake by the panicking detainees. He had no idea what was happening, only knowing he had to protect himself from being trampled. He covered his head with his arms and tried to make himself as small as possible.
An inhuman screaming jolted him to his feet. The adrenaline-powered fear sent him scrambling towards the human press at the cell door. As he tried to push and kick himself to hide into the human mass fleeing the center of the cell, he glanced back–
and saw one reach down to a detainee blubbering while on his knees, pick him up by the head, and tear through his neck like a juicy fruit. Another detainee nearby was accidentally pushed into one, and it retaliated with a backhand slap that twisted the man’s head around to face Binoy before he slid dead to the ground.
That last glimpse sparked a primal electricity which raged upward from the deepest parts of Binoy’s brain, the part that was afraid of the dark and its inhabitants with too many teeth, sharp claws, and bat-like wings.
“Saklolo! Saklolo! Let us out!” he screamed with the rest of the detainees.
The dark figures in the cell waded into the crowd of soft human bodies.
Guevarra shouted in surprise, trying to take a step back.
But Goyo quickly stood up and grabbed the wooden chair to smash it against the police officer, exploding it into splinters against the side of his head. Guevarra fell against the wall.
Balagtas was cursing and trying to draw his firearm. Goyo hissed at him, handcuffs still dangling from his wrists, and leaped at the man. The boy latched onto Balagtas’ neck and shoulder with his teeth grown outrageously large from his mouth. As Balagtas screamed and blood sprayed, Goyo clutched at him with his claws lashing at the police chief’s back, ripping off pieces with each pass.
Still dizzy, Guevarra brought out his service arm, aimed it towards the creature and fired two shots. But the boy quickly jumped onto the wall, sticking like an unnatural spider, giggling. Balagtas, his eyes having rolled upward, tottered and fell to the floor.
Guevarra ran for the door. As he exited the room, he slammed the door behind him then realized the lock was on the other side. He gripped the doorknob, looking around to see how he could keep the door jammed on this side. Cursing, he clutched at the empty cabinet and pushed it against the door. He then ran outside the room and saw the chaos happening several doors down.
The door to the cell had been opened and detainees were fleeing out of the selda. San Roque was screaming. “Go! Get out! Go!”
A policeman was trying to extricate himself from behind the cell door that had been furiously pushed open by the detainees against the wall. As he did so, something inside the cell reached out and grabbed to pull him inside. San Roque fired twice, her shots bright in the semi-darkness of the station’s corridor. The screams didn’t stop.
Inside the room Guevarra had left, something large rammed against the door behind the cabinet, and a teenager’s gleeful voice called out, “Please, Guevarra, let me out!” Then it laughed.
Guevarra ran towards his partner. “San Roque! We need to get out of here!”
The surviving six or seven detainees had run for the main gate of the station. Closed and locked, they crowded before it, trying to get it open. The remaining policemen were running towards the selda. One policeman was loading a clip into an AR15 assault rifle, another was on his cellphone, calling for help. A third had brought a riot shield and a baton, while another ran behind him with his service firearm.
A figure scuttled from the selda to the corridor’s ceiling and leapt towards the policeman holding the cellphone. The policeman dropped the phone; the sounds of crunching noises were loud despite his screaming. Several creatures crawled from the cell like cockroaches and scattered to wait on the walls of the station and the roof overlooking the courtyard. The two other police officers fired at them.
One creature danced jerkily after being hit by the AR15 and fell to the ground where it writhed. Another shrieked as it was hit by the policeman firing his pistol but was able to shrug off its wounds. A hulking shadow charged from the cell in a blur to attack the two officers. One policeman fired off three more shots from his pistol but the approaching figure dodged his shield-bearing companion, disemboweling him with a lingering pass of its clawed hand.
This signaled the others to attack the remaining officers. While fending one creature off with his shield and baton, a policeman found himself caught by two more crowding around him. Screeching, they dragged him to the roof where they proceeded to tear him apart.
Another creature leapt at the officer with the AR15, who flipped his rifle into semi-automatic and fired a burst that exploded its head. He crowed triumphantly. Then coughed in surprise as an arm exploded from his chest, his heart in its fist. The look remained on his face afterwards as his head was ripped off.
In the midst of the fighting, San Roque stood in the middle of the courtyard under the rain as she frantically tried to make a call on her cellphone, her pistol in her other hand pointed downward. A shadow loomed behind her, extending its mouth wide with its sharp teeth.
“San Roque! Behind you!” Guevarra shouted, aiming his pistol. But his partner was blocking his aim.
San Roque clicked the flashlight on the back of her cellphone, pointing the bright light at the creature’s eyes. It screamed and turned its head. She fired a shot, blowing away a part of its face.
Reaching his partner, Guevarra stood back-to-back with San Roque. “How many clips do you have left? I’m down to my last one.”
“Those were my last shots,” she held up her now-empty pistol.
“Dammit. I don’t suppose you have a stingray’s tail?”
“I remember that’s one of the few things that can beat these things.”
They heard the sirens of approaching police cars. “Jojo was on my quick dial. Good thing I told him where I was going.”
As they heard shouts from the arriving police from the other side of the gate, San Roque saw Goyo standing before them, his features still recognizable despite the changes to his body.
Guevarra stepped forward, shielding San Roque with his body, pointing his gun at him, “Give it up, Goyo. You’re going nowhere.”
The boy smiled, shook his head. In a deeper voice than before, he said, “We just wanted to make a point.”
“Which is?” Guevarra asked.
“Your people have been hunting the streets at night. Your President says they’ve been going after drug dealers and pushers. He said only those who are guilty should be afraid. He was wrong. One of those they killed was Melencio’s son. He wasn’t a dealer or a pusher, just a boy who was on his way home from school. Melencio said he was going to make more of us. He would raise an army from those hurt and killed by your tokhang and go all the way to Malacañang to gut your President like a pig.”
Goyo spat to one side. “We couldn’t allow that,” he said quietly, though Balagtas and San Roque could still hear him over the drizzling. “We couldn’t let Melancio reveal to the world that we exist.”
He looked up again, a snarl crossing his face, “You think you own the night. But you don’t. Face us again and we will show you why we haunt your nightmares.”
Sheets of rain suddenly obscured parts of the courtyard. When it let up, most of them—including Goyo—had disappeared. But his voice lingered in the air of the courtyard.
We will take back the night.
Guevarra lit a cigarette under the cover of the ambulance van back door and watched teams of heavily armed SWAT securing the police station. The remaining detainees were sitting to one side of the gate, two police officers guarding them with M4 rifles.
He thought it ironic that the detainees looked grateful to be arrested again.
Guevarra turned to see several cars passing by, their lights flashing through the darkness of the night and the rain. The area around the police station was primarily residential, and most of them were alight with normal people looking at the emergency lights and sirens in fear and curiosity. In the distance, the outlines of a commercial business district were lit up like giant toy boxes. He knew that many of them were still full of people working through the night, part of the 24-hour call centers that were the lifeblood of the country’s BPO industry and economy. The city never really slept, its streets lit up to ward away the darkness of both the humans and the monsters that inhabited it.
“Do you really need to smoke?” asked the peeved paramedic who had just wrapped Guevarra’s head in a bandage.
A troubled San Roque patted the paramedic’s arm, “Give us a moment, will you?”
The disgruntled paramedic shrugged and strode to the police station with his medical case. Guevarra uncharitably thought the paramedic wouldn’t have much to do inside.
“What are we going to say?” San Roque asked.
“Nothing,” Guevarra replied.
“Who would believe us? That the station chief and his men accidentally arrested some aswangs and they were pissed about it? I wouldn’t believe it myself and I was there.”
San Roque thought for a moment, then sighed. “Fine.”
As another car passed by, it cast its headlight across a darkened house across the street. As the light swept across the second-floor window, Guevarra thought he saw the glimmer of red eyes in the darkness of the room.
“Best to live and let live,” he said as he threw away his cigarette. “And chalk it up to another night of work.”
Nearby, Binoy—who sat together with the other detainees on the ground, their hands bound with zip cuffs—was suddenly racked with a fit of coughing. He wondered if he was coming down with pneumonia because of the rain. He shivered, remembering how his Auntie Tilay had died of pneumonia, and they weren’t able to bring her to the hospital because they didn’t have money to rent a jeep to take her.
He felt something come up his throat—hot, sharp, bitter—and retched until he spat out. Between his legs, he saw a piece of black shell floating in his spit.
Binoy looked around quickly, then flicked the shell away from him.
About the Author: Joseph F. Nacino writes for a living while also trying to live for writing (but failing miserably). His stories have been published in international (Fantasy Magazine, City in the Ice, Kitaab’s Asian Speculative Fiction) and local publications (The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, the Philippine Speculative Fiction series, A Time for Dragons, Friendzones, etc.). He’s helmed three anthologies featuring fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the Philippines published online, and in print and ebook form. Otherwise, he’s pretty normal.