Fiction / December 2015 (Issue 30)


Two Tales From Somewhere Between Two Worlds

by Lily C. Fen

Under The Stairs

Pedring was a skinny young man, slight of figure, with unkempt hair that kept falling over his eyes. He was often hunched over, ever so slightly, as if he were apologising for his existence.

It was in the middle of a hot afternoon when he came across a coffee cup in the dusty storage room under the stairs. He had been making a feeble attempt at bringing order to all the junk that had accumulated over the years and had wandered into a soot-covered treasure trove of memories instead. 

Each object he placed in his hand held so much of the past, he could barely get through a single item without letting minutes go by.

The clock ticked on in that dark, dank room where objects had been forgotten. They lay there silent, until the moment he held them.

When the cool glazed clay lay in the palm of his hand, he stopped. 

He crouched over his finding by the light of a lone light bulb that sputtered every now and then, as if infected by the old objects. He clutched the ceramic thing, full to the brim with caramel-coloured granules that looked like tiny pebbles.

A few teal kernels glinted out of the chocolate specks, and if Pedring looked closer, he could make out that each piece was the shape of a shriveled worm. There was one in particular that was a perfect shade of sapphire, and he held his breath as he took it out of the cup with his fingers, holding it up to the light.

The blue thing winked at him in the stillness of that room that time had forgotten, as if to acknowledge his presence, and his discovery. 

This little fleck seemed to be important, as if he had found a secret, something that was living and only lying in wait. 

Pedring scrounged around for the glass of water he had been gulping down when he had entered that dark little box. He plunged the fossilised worm into the clear liquid, his instinct telling him that this was what the speck needed. 

He wasn't at all surprised when the bean began to sprout turquoise extensions that stretched out from the glass and quickly grew to a height of two feet as it landed on the dark mauve clay floor. It had taken the shape of a small creature, like some grotesque, hunched up old man, his eyes popping out, his teeth a gapped mess.

Small and shrunken, he was the height of a child, bent over and grey. His large eyes were practically falling out of their sockets as he gawped at Pedring, who stood there, unmoving.

For a moment, Pedring and the creature looked at each other, as the clock tick-tocked outside the poorly-lit berth.

Tick-tock.

Pedring was not sure how much time had elapsed, how much of the sweltering afternoon outside had gone, as he and the creature peered at each other.

The little man finally spread his fleshy lips into what looked like a toothy grin. Pedring did not know if the gesture was meant as a threat, or if it was supposed to be a sign of friendship.

And then the creature dashed out through the doorway, quick as lightning, into the sunshine.

Pedring remained there, his feet glued to the cold floor.

 

Multo

Leilani groaned and yawned at the same time; she didn't really want to get up in the middle of the night, but her bladder was complaining. Hair tousled and eyes half-closed from the cobwebs of sleep, she slowly and clumsily sat up.

This was Caloocan City, in the northern part of Metro Manila. A busy, cruddy place. Her sisters snored softly in their beds next to her, the thin bed sheets tangled with knees bent in sleep.

Leilani got up.

The bathroom was unfortunately a great voyage away, at least it seemed so to her in her sleep-induced stupor. She walked drunkenly through the bedroom door and tottered down the dusty hallway, feeling her way along the narrow corridor until she reached the dilapidated bathroom door, it's wooden base eaten away by water and soap and time, the mint-green paint chipping where the wood was receding, like jagged, rotting teeth.

Ungracefully, she sat down on the cool toilet seat. It was one of those poorly done ones with no plastic layer, just the porcelain bin so low and so thin that it was uncomfortable to be squatting there at all.

And as she relieved herself, precariously resting on her toes to keep from touching the cold seat, one hand on the wall for balance, she thought she saw something in the corner of her eye. Something that seemed to be about her size, a shadow, had moved. She felt goose pimples rise up on her arms.

She looked to her right, where she thought she'd seen the movement, gazed out through the bathroom door in the dim light of the night and its shadows. She saw a figure looking at her with glowing eyes, a figure squatting, just like her, on the floor. All she could see was its silhouette, and its eyes of amber.

Then it smiled at her, as it turned its head 180 degrees.

Her scream died in her throat.

 
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