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Blog Tour and Excerpts : #StrangeLit – Darkest Dreams

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Title :  Darkest Dreams
Language: English/Filipino
Buy Links:  buqo
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Majesty by Jay E. Tria
Dare to Dream by Madelyn Tuviera
Lagablab (or How L Came to Be a Warrior-Magician) by Myra Mortega
Sojourn by C.J. Edmunds
Trade by DA
Bayani by Motzie Dapul
When it Rains in Mystic River by Therese Barleta
In My Dreams
I Melt by Chen Cabaluna
Gamechanger by Mikael Javellana

 

DARKEST DREAMS

Would you do a set of dares to prove someone wrong? Would you risk your friendship so you can find love? Would you admit your real feelings? There are a lot of complications when it comes to finding love. Get the feels when you read these sweet stories.

 

Majesty by Jay E. Tria

What would you do if the ghost of someone you loved appeared in front of you?

Excerpt:

Once I got over the initial shock of seeing a ghost, I started noticing the details.

Firstly, ghosts were not naked. Neither did they wear all white, or the last clothes they were wearing on the day of their death. That often repeated assumption planted gruesome images of victims of car crashes and preys of murder in my overly vivid imagination.

Majesty died in her room, pulled out from sleep by a wretched pain in her skull and abdomen—hypovolemic shock, the doctors called it, triggered by internal bleeding—but her ghost was not in pajamas. She wore what looked like her favorite printed silk scarf, a blue cashmere sweater, and a pleated skirt. I could not make out shoes though. The floating made it impossible. Her outline was blurred at the edges, the shape ending down her legs where her feet should be. I shuddered, deciding I really didn’t need to know about spirit shoes.

Secondly, ghosts were at the peak of health. Apart from the fact that they’re dead, that is.

I took note of all of these things as I hobbled around my room, trying to get dressed while keeping an eye on Majesty. I had rushed to the common bathrooms for a shower because she won’t shut up about my human need to be clean, and burst back into my room not fifteen minutes later. My heart sagged in relief to find her still here, her shimmering image floating idly around my square space.

“Will you come to class with me?” I asked as I stuffed my feet into socks, then boots.

She had her hand over my curtains. She moved her fingers over it, the fabric shivering when her forefinger came too close. She pulled back. “Probably not.”

“It’s Statistics day! I mean I’m not taking it anymore, but the class would still be there. You should totally go. Professor Grayson would love to see you.”

Majesty’s lips pulled up to a small smirk. “You really think that’s the way to get me out of here? Statistics?”

I shrugged. The sentiment card was worth a try. “Can you only visit me here? In my room?”

“It does seem like it.” Majesty closed her eyes, listening to that sound again that to me was only silence.

“Yes, it does.”

Why? I wailed in my head. But there were more pressing questions. “Where will you go?”

“Here. There.” Majesty opened her eyes and smiled.

In any other day before her death, I would’ve been furious at the vague answer. But now it just terrified me. I was afraid if I blinked, it would take only that second for Majesty to disappear. What more if I had spent the whole day outside? I would lose her again.

I hitched my backpack over my shoulder, one wary eye on my desk clock. Its minute hand screamed that I should have been out the door ten minutes ago.

“Can I see you again tomorrow?” I rushed out the words. My voice was small, but it rose like that of a child nearing tears.

“I don’t know.” Majesty floated towards me, her hands waving me out.

I backed against the door, the instinct of fear quick to grip my chest. Majesty halted, hovering a safe foot’s space away, her gray eyes smiling.

“I don’t think so, Andy,” she went on. “It’s not Wednesday tomorrow.”

I gripped the door handle, my voice climbing back up my throat. “But are you sure? Maybe yes?” I croaked, keeping my eyes on hers. The key was to ignore the floating. “If yes, I can be here all day. I don’t need to see Gale. I see too much of him now anyway. I’d make some excuse.”

“Gale,” she whispered.

Majesty’s gaze swept past me, as if pulling out a thread of images from a spool of memories.

I edged one small step towards her, trying to catch her gaze. My backpack dropped to the floor. My boot crunched on it on my next step.

“Do you remember him?”

About the Author:

Jay E. Tria writes contemporary Young Adult and New Adult stories about characters that live inside her head, about people she meets and people she wishes to meet. She also reads, daydreams, and blogs. She loves skinny jeans, sneakers, live gigs, and adopted cats. She is not a cool kid.

 

 Dare to Dream by Madelyn Tuviera

Step one: devise.
Step two: develop.
Step three: dream.

Weaving dreams is one part creativity and two parts quick thinking, Ellen believes – you receive an assignment as soon as open your eyes and are expected to absorb every single detail within the next minute so that you can craft an exciting dream for your subject. You have to monitor your Dreamer the whole time he’s snoring his heart out on his bed and going through the story you’ve made just for him. When your Dreamer rouses for a quick second then falls right back into a sweet slumber, you have to weave another dream for him that you’re certain will keep him asleep as long as he has to be. Rinse and repeat until the alarm sounds off – both for the Dreamer and the Weaver – then you move to your next assignment. That’s the routine. Easy as pie.

That is, until Ellen finds a couple of things in the dream she’d woven that she’s pretty sure isn’t part of the plan: two chairs, a flying platypus, stardust in the air. A voice she can’t recognize even if she’s supposed to know this world inside and out. And a man who isn’t her Dreamer changing the world she’s made and rewriting her Dreamer’s world altogether.

Excerpt:

Ellen looked around one last time and took a deep breath. The lights in the short corridor leading to her living room were now out, as were the lights in the kitchen. The whirring noise of the toilet had long subsided, and the only thing she could hear right now was the low humming of the fridge a few meters away. She couldn’t see much, only the faint outline of the couch in the distance and a couple of puffy shapes. Those were probably her throw pillows. Much closer to her, there was the shadow of the pillar that marked where the living room ended and the kitchen began. A hazy image of the grains on the wooden planks of her apartment’s floor.

Her bare feet. It would be pitch dark, except there was some light from her room sneaking through the narrow opening of the door, spilling onto the floor and bleeding between her feet. And it was cold. Maybe it was because her hair was still dripping from her bath, or because she hadn’t yet slipped into her night attire even if she’d already been out of the showers for a good seven, eight minutes. She would regret not drying her hair properly when she wakes up hours after. Maybe even during her sleep, but whatever – if there was one rule that she followed religiously other than having to drink coffee not later than eleven in the morning, it was following her strict evening schedule: dinner in the bus ride home, TV and books while waiting for 8:30 to strike, then sleep at 9:00 sharp.

Breathing out, she reached behind her and wrapped her fingers around the knob. She shivered at the contact against the cool metal, but craned her neck one last time just the same to check the front door. She’s pretty sure she’d locked it earlier. If she didn’t, well… She would just have to haunt whomever would attempt to break into her apartment in their dreams.

She laughed to herself. She wasn’t even kidding. She’s the last person who’d crack a joke at this hour about crushing someone’s dreams. She wasn’t the nicest of people after having been rudely woken up from sleep after all.

Turning in at nine in the evening had a good number of advantages and disadvantages. On the pros, in no particular order: it sort of assured her that she would wake up feeling refreshed every single morning (or that she could convince herself of that, at least). She didn’t get too many pimples from staying up too late.

She was guaranteed a traffic-free commute from the house to the office most of the time. On the cons, however: she followed a schedule too strict that she had to either make sure that she would be able to finish all her tasks at work by six or report to work earlier than usual. She also missed a lot of gatherings with her friends. And she often found it difficult to connect with them during her free time. Sure, she would message them from time to time, call them up and ask if they’d like to talk over coffee, maybe have a few good laughs, but still – missing out on all the good stuff sometimes made her feel bad about the routine she had designed for herself.

She snorted, laughed a little. Breathed out long and loud as she pulled on the shirt she’d prepared earlier, then slipped into her favorite pair of pants. She sat cross-legged on her bed for a while, stretching her arms overhead, before allowing herself to fall back into the cushions and letting them engulf her. There were rules to govern her life by, a schedule to follow like a religion. There was a thick blanket to be pulled from where they’d bunched around her ankles, all the way up to her shoulders. And there was work to be done. That was the reality she had to live.

With one last breath, she glanced at the clock on her phone one last time. 8:59 in the evening now. There was no time to waste. So she tucked her phone under her pillow and shut her eyes tight, waiting for the sensation she’d grown accustomed to to wash over her. Soon, she was feeling all the tension in her muscles crawl down her legs, all the way to the tips of her toes before going off in tiny explosions and dissipating into thin air. The tight knot of her eyebrows soon eased, leaving nothing but a dull ache there and at the pulse in her temples. Her eyelids were too heavy now and gravity felt much too strong to fight and oh, there it was – the stinging sensation on the soles of her feet, that thin line between wake and sleep, between reality and dreams scoring a line along her skin.

Tilting her head to the side, she let out a sigh and let her body slump against the cushions. The next thing she knew, everything else was fading – sight, touch, sound, the distant thought that it was now nine in the evening and it was time to let go.

In sixty seconds, everything went blissfully dark.

And with the slightest hitch of her breath, everything came back to life.

About the Author:

Madelyn Tuviera’s love affair with writing began in fifth grade, when she was put on the spot and was asked to write an expository paragraph about her favorite sport. She’s been writing all sorts of stories ever since, most of them peppered with romance and real life struggles. On the off-chance that she isn’t, she’s crafting designs for brands that you use almost everyday.

Madelyn in based in Manila, Philippines. She plans to stay there forever.

Follow: Twitter Blog

Lagablab (or How L Came to Be a Warrior-Magician) by Myra Mortega

If there’s anything that L takes great pride in, it’s the fact that she knows herself fully well. For example, she knows that she enrolled in law school because she just can’t take injustice. She also knows that she can see beings–various shapes and forms and figures nobody else can see. She has also been dreaming of the same dream for 24 years, and it has been driving her mad.

But one night, a shadow appears over her bed and tells her things that make her question her idea of who she is.

Intrigued, she goes into a wild goose chase to find answers and meets a bevy of beings–the White Lady, a wakwak, a kapre, among other things–that give her bits and pieces of her past and give her a glimpse of a future that’s far beyond her imagination.

Excerpt:

She dreamt of the sea.

She dreamt of ships and men clad in armor. They came with a thundering boom and pandemonium that shattered her ear drums.

They offered gifts from faraway places, and her people offered their friendship. She remembered not liking them, and she warned her people to be wary of the white men. There were omens, she said. There were premonitions of disease and death, she said. The spirits told me so, she said.

The tribesmen laughed at her. Back then she was a celebrated warrior. Back then she was a he, and she was highly regarded among her people. But it was the first time they saw ships of that kind. The white men brought strange ornaments and told strange stories, and it was the first time they had visitors of that kind. Let’s give them a try. We always welcome guests, the elders told her. And should they try to attack us, our warriors will protect us. You will protect us. Everything is going to be fine. Or so she was told.

She dreamt of the sea. The emerald waters were tinged with red. There were dead bodies everywhere. She saw aswangs ripped to shreds, lifeless shokoys floating on the sea, limbless tiktiks and wakwaks torn to pieces washed away on the shore.

“They have come,” the spirits whispered. The white men brought strange spirits with them. They are ravaging our land. Your people will be next, the spirits warned.

“What do we do? How can I help?” she asked.

“Remember who you are,” the spirits advised.

The next day, she called the councilmen for a meeting. She told them that the spirits talked to her, and they need to act. The strangers cannot stay in their lands any longer.

“But they haven’t done anything wrong. And they’re recounting a story of a man who descended from heaven to save them from Armageddon. It is quite intriguing,” the elders said.

But the story of the god turned into a story about an institution, and there were figureheads called priests that wielded much power. She was getting much agitated. The wakwaks would bring her stories every night, informing her that they’re losing people in their ranks, of the increasing death toll, and of talks about asking help from the northern islands to subdue the strangers.

“You will be next. Your people will be next. Drive away your guests. They are not your friends, they are conquerors,” they warned.

The next day, she called for a council meeting. All the elders were not present, but she still told them about the warnings from the spirits. Last night, the moon was red. A few days ago, there was an earthquake. This morning, she woke up to find animal entrails on her doorstep. “We have to act now!” she said, slightly panicking.

“They’re planning something. They want to conquer our land,” she added.

“We need to take up arms!” the warriors shouted.

“We will never be conquered!” the elders shouted.

They took out their drums and sang songs of heroes. She called on the spirits for help.

They were interrupted by the rajah, who admonished them for the din and the banging and the clanging.

“I have been baptized. My family has been baptized. We have sown our friendship to the priesthood of the white men,” he added, somber.

“Stop this savagery,” he ordered. “We shall start acting like civilized people.”

“They have turned you,” she said. “They have conquered you…” she added sadly.

She urged her fellow warriors to march on.

We shall take up arms.

We shall fight.

The next day, the waters turned red.

There were bodies on the water and on the ground. But they drove the ships away, and they were victorious.

They beat the drums, loud and proud. They celebrated their victory with fires and dancing. They mourned for their fallen brethren.

She thanked the spirits for their help.

She came home proud and mighty. She expected a grand welcome from her tribe.

Instead, she saw her house in shambles. A bright flame engulfed her home. The elders turned to her somberly. It was the chief, they said. He has been conquered. There were other tribes and other chiefs who have turned to the religion of the white men, and they were not happy. She had to disappear, they said.

She woke up, breathless and confused.

She always dreamt the same dream every night for 24 years. She has dreamt it with such regularity that sometimes, it doesn’t feel like a dream anymore. She has come to visualize every detail so vividly that she feels like the dream has become a part of her memory, like a forgotten snippet from her childhood that has come to haunt her back.

About the Author:

Myra has been enamored with strange worlds for as long as she can remember. She loves getting lost in fantasy, and she is grateful to Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, and Dr. Who for introducing her to alternate dimensions of make believe.

At the same time she loves words and daydreaming, and she feels that the two are just perfect for each other.

This is her second attempt at documenting her flights of fancy. She hopes to do more of this one day.

In real life, she is freelance writer and editor who’s glued to the digital world.

You may reach her at:
myramortega@gmail.com

 

Sojourn by C.J. Edmunds

Sometimes being a fish out of water can be a good thing. Only two things can happen. Either one adapts to the environment or simply peters out from intractability. Enter David Lansing, a half-Filipino call center trainer whose normal life took an unexpected turn when he suddenly woke up and is presented with visions and a spirit guide to boot! Why was he seeing these things? Who is the Guide and what did he want from him?

Peppered with appearances like the Tikbalang, Aswang and even the White Lady of Balete Drive, all part of Philippine folklore and urban legend, the story traces David’s existential journey of becoming; from his naive acceptance of the world to his burgeoning skepticism, and his acceptance of what his life is and how it could be. And while he’s at it, another Guide presents himself to him, one with a more pragmatic approach and outlook to the world of the supernatural; the same world that David is finally learning to accept and participate in.

But who is the better Guide or is he better off trusting his own instincts as he embarks on his journey to find that supernatural promised land;
a place where people like him are common and living the most normal of lives; a place that is known only to a few; the magical community of the Dark District.

Excerpt:

          I started to get dreams. Prophetic dreams, mind you. So much so that I would get a sense of coming back to something each time whenever I wake up. At times I would only recall bits and pieces of the dream and forget all about it the minute my feet would hit the floor.

          All of a sudden it would all come back to me whenever I hear something related to the dream or actually watch that sequence that I dreamt about, played out for me in reality. Like for example, the day that my grandmother passed away, she was alone in the house, and sadly, didn’t have her usual maid to stay with her, for she was impatient to stock up on grocery and asked the help to go get some in her stead. She lost her balance and fell down a flight of stairs and hit her head on the last step.

          The doctors couldn’t do a thing when they wheeled her into the hospital. She suffered a concussion as a result of the fall and fell into a coma. She was dead within the hour. I saw all that in my dream. I remembered the feeling of walking into the Emergency Room and seeing my grandmother there lying peacefully on the gurney and yet moments before entering the hospital, I did see a glowing visage of her walking normally out of the door and vanishing before my eyes. That was the dream I had. I also felt the fall and painful moment of impact. And that confirmed what I thought to be true when I arrived at the hospital that morning. That grandmother had been taken to that place in the sky where all things were well and perfect.

          The other example spelled my family’s fall from grace, so to speak. I kept getting dreams of father gambling away the money that we had. And when mother came crying into the room to tell me and my brother about the awful truth of our finances, I knew that it was too accurate to deny. I tried telling my mother that I dreamt that this would happen.

          “Son, you know nothing of life,” she told me, her eyes sad and resigned, “Life is a series of choices made, one after another. Not from a game of chance and imagery brought about from sleep or the lack of it. Your father made the choice to gamble away our fortune. And we are paying dearly for it.”

          And paid for it we did as I forgot about my dreams, literally. We gave up the house that I loved and grew up in and downsized to an apartment complex with a cramped garage that could only fit one car. Naturally all other cars that we had, had to be sold in order to pay the debt that my father incurred. We didn’t know how much money he owed up until we started taking stock of what we had and what had to go. Their marriage suffered because of that and we finally had to sell the business to a conglomerate who had been eyeing the paper for a while.

          The proceeds of that sale finally paid my father’s debt and we all had to start from scratch. My brother went to look for a more lucrative career in Dubai as an engineer and I was left to tend the fort and look for a job. Luckily I got in at a newly opened call center. Like everyone else, I started from the ranks as an agent and worked my way up to becoming a speech and skills trainer. I was twenty five at that time and during those trying years, I felt I grew up and added ten more years to me. But the good thing that came out of that difficult part of my life was that my father became a whole new person. He went back to his love of writing and journalism and wrote a book which sold well and added income to our diminished household. He and mother patched things up and all was well, up until he left us again, but not for gambling, but to join my grandmother up there in the palace in the sky, after suffering a stroke at three in the morning.

          His death paralyzed me as I was like a zombie, going through my days without purpose nor the need to find one. But as we all know, time is the best healer of wounds. And in the period following my healing, it rekindled in me the need to understand my dreams. This time I wanted to know more. Was I a fluke or did I perhaps have the “gift”? I never got to talk to my father about my dreams in depth and would only casually mention them. It had surprised me then that he was much more open minded than my mother. He said he used to have those dreams in his youth but paid them no heed.

          “My mother, your grandmother,” he said, “I know had the gift.”

          “It’s not a gift that I would want for myself but if you think you have it, then I encourage you should take care of it. At least, in your hands, something of my mothers would live on.”

          I didn’t know why he said that. Did he see in me a potential to take this search to the finish and cultivate the talent that was my gift? Or were those merely words of encouragement to egg me on, in the hopes that I would do the right thing. That was as much a reassurance and a confirmation of support that I got to proceed along with my quest, before things started to veer off into another direction.

          They say when you consciously are in search of something then that means you are ready. Ready for what awaits you. Ready for what will assail you. And I thought I was, until everything changed and my world turned to black.

 About the Author:
C.J. is a waking Geek magnet whose fandoms range from Star Wars to Vampires, to Elves, Wizards, Zombies and Superheroes. Currently he is the co-host of Mellow Nights; a weeknight program on radio over Mellow 94.7. He also hosts a segment for Geeks on Tuesday called Geek Central. He loves Chinese food, Filipino food and can most certainly be counted on to join you for buffet at Vikings, Heat or at Spirals on weekends. He dedicates this his first work to his father who passed away in 2008.

Follow: Facebook Author | Twitter | Facebook DJ

 

Trade by DA

Sacrifices have long reaching consequences for both the living and the dead as Carter discovers when Michael (yes, that Archangel) gives him a chance to be with his soul mate Alexa. He is tasked with being her personal guardian angel until the day she dies. But, when the end comes, Carter learns the hard way that life goes on no matter what.

Excerpt:

          “I have a job for you.”

          Time doesn’’t mean much when you’re dead, but I find myself welcoming an opportunity to do something with a purpose. This should be interesting. “Okay. What should I do?

          “You are going to watch over someone for three months. She will be yours to protect from any kind of harm. Once the three months are up, you are free to continue your existence.”

          All right.” It’s not like I have better things to do. And the dead don’t really question things anymore. When you’re dead there aren’t a lot of things that you’d want to know about because things just stop being interesting. Everything is just one big distraction after another until heaven or hell opens up to accept the dearly departed. “Where do I find her?”

          Michael cocked his head in the direction of the sidewalk parallel to the Old Burying Ground. “She’s coming. You’ll know her when you see her. I suggest that you stick to her because she won’t be passing here for another week.”

          The moment I turn my eyes she passes by. It’s her again. And she’s looking my way once more. “Her?” It has to be. I feel myself being pulled towards her. “Hey, Michael, what’s so special about -” I realize that I’m all alone in the graveyard so I shut up. It’s ridiculous to be talking to one’s self even if nobody’s capable of overhearing.

          I catch up with her at the T red line station at Harvard Square. We go to the outbound platform for the trains going to Ashmont and Braintree. She shivers a little, and I notice for the first time that she’s wearing a windbreaker over a long-sleeved shirt. No wonder she was practically running all the way; the temperature has to be in the low fifties outside. It’s fall after all.

          Michael’s instructions come back to me; I look at her, stumped. Will the cold harm her? I look at my translucent arms then back at her. She looks pale and icy under the harsh station lights. I look at my arms again. Will it work? Gingerly, I wrap my arms around her from behind. My body goes through her backpack but is resisted by her body. Interesting. She sighs and relaxes instantaneously. My right eyebrow goes up questioningly. Was I successful in becoming her heater?

About the Author:

D.A. has been amassing notebooks filled with scribbles over the years but has just recently worked up the nerve to show her writing to anyone. Being a fan of paranormal literature, she tries to write stories that make daily life a little bit more interesting.

Follow: Twitter

 

Bayani by Motzi Dapul

In the year 2050, Patrick “Paquino” Aquino: president of the Philippines, former superhero, and murderer–not necessarily in that order–deals with the consequences of his actions following four years of martial law and the raid that ended a bloody political dynasty in the far north.

With a death sentence looming over his head and a revolution rising against him, he begins to wonder if his bid to save the country, made back when he was the impetuous young bayani Lastikid, is worth dying for.

Excerpt:

Habagat Estate, North Luzon, Year 2047

“Something’s happening.”

“Shh, Luce.”

“There’s something going on out there. I can feel it.”

“We’ll be fine if we just stay quiet.”

          The steel door began to clang, signaling the eight to stand at attention, as they were taught. Michael released Lucy’s hand, wiping the concerned expression from his face as Juliano Roche Davide entered their shared quarters, the portly man wringing his hands together, a hunted expression on his face and phone blinking active hanging off one ear.

          “Shut up, Paulino. Just… I’m not coming back to this godforsaken place, I don’t care what you say, or what he does for that matter. No, I… of course I’m not just abandoning him, for all that he deserves it. He’s my father, I’m not a monster. I’m having Lucifer protect him…yes, his favorite one. I don’t have to listen to your bull, Paulino, take a plane over here if you’re so eager to help him, but I’m done. You won’t see me again, Lino, I’m done.”

          The eight stayed silent even as the man wiped his sweaty brow, only half focused as he surveyed the room.

          “Lucifer,” he said, and Michael stiffened as Lucifer glanced at him, briefly, before coming forward.

          “Right,” Juliano said. “You’re going to stay by my father’s side today, do you understand? Under no circumstances will you leave him, and you will guard him from any harm. Dis ducibus, young man.”

          At these words, like the pulling of the trigger, Lucy was lost, leaving only Lucifer behind.

          Lucifer, who did not look back when the door was once more shut, who glowed with the harsh light that blinded Michael’s eyes.

          They did not come back to that room, neither Lucy nor Davide, that day, nor any day hence.

          It was later, well into twilight, that anything happened again, and this time, it was a tall man of noble bearing who entered their room, having torn the steel door right off the wall, his expression stony as he surveyed all the young boys before him. Remy, the most frightened of them, keyed up all day from the sounds of conflict from above, shot at him, right at the center of his head, but he didn’t seem at all fazed by the attempt.

          He was older, much older, but it was the first time they’d ever met somebody like them. Somebody powerful.

          “Hello,” Michael said first, his voice hoarse from disuse.

          The man acknowledged him with a nod. “Hello to you as well. What are your names?”

          Michael gave him the names they’d been assigned, for they had no other, beyond the ones they made up for themselves. Vaguely he remembered being called Joben, deep in the recesses of his broken memory, but of that life he knew little.

          “There’s one more of us,” Michael said afterward. “Luce—Lucifer. We need to find her—I mean, him. I mean…”

          The man’s brow furrowed, and he gestured for Michael to walk by him as he left the room with his troops. He didn’t say a word, and Michael felt afraid, but he had to find out what happened to Lucy. He couldn’t do anything rash so long as she wasn’t safe with him, though his hands itched for a weapon, his eyes automatically taking stock of every threat and viable escape routes.

          There were soldiers gathered outside the compound—not theirs, though Michael eyed his old tormentors scattered among the fallen men and women, signs of a battle they had not taken part in. He could hear his brothers trailing behind him, the tips of their wings dragging against the ground. He could feel eyes on him as he was led to a familiar figure, sitting in the open back of a truck, a blanket draped across her shoulders.

          Beside her sat an older man, late in his forties or more, speaking to her in quiet, gentle tones as she nodded, hanging onto his every word. Even dressed as he was, in the green and dark matching all the others around him, Michael knew he was no soldier.

          Long after that day, the faith of every man and woman who survived that raid did not waver, and the hounding press never got wind of their president taking part in the operation, nor what he did to put an end to Huliano Habagat’s reign of terror.

          None of the winged supers who emerged from that raid spoke a word to the press either, seven of them, learning the world as they did, pledging service to the man who ordered their freedom in the first place.

          All but one, whom Michael had not heard from in years.

About the Author:

Storyteller, writer by passion and artist by trade. Long-time writer and longer-time reader. Lover of Philippine mythology and culture, propagator of LGBT+ literature and media. Every story will have an LGBT+ character, no exceptions.  Former Literary Editor of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde’s Benildean Press Corps and author of the Project Bayani independent komiks series.
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When it Rains in Mystic River by Therese Barleta

Whenever sirens sound off, Naomi is always worried that Seth is somewhere being chased by the police, if not already gunned down by rival gangs that pollute the south side of Boston. “Please help me just this one last time,” Seth would always tell her, but Naomi just wants to live a normal life as a pretend human being, not Seth’s Encantada girlfriend who always bails him out of his shady dealings. As soon as Seth finds an out from this life he’s known forever, he takes the opportunity before Naomi can even say no. How could she when this is the exit they’ve both been waiting for? Or is it a shortcut to their doom?

Excerpt

          The road whipped dusty, cold, and unforgiving wind into Seth’s face as his motorbike roared through the long stretch of road that was almost buried in beech trees. He could still feel the drizzle, remnants of the rain a while ago, misting lightly over his skin, unlike the debris that pricked at his cheeks, his mouth. The smell of wet leaves, wet trees, wet concrete filled his lungs. The stench, even if mildly rotting in its flavor, was welcome to him, just because it was brought on by the rain. He liked the rain.

          He thought about their run-down bungalow and hoped that water hadn’t dripped all over the sofa and the bedroom. All the leaks in the house were conveniently where things could be soaked up where they lay, and if it weren’t for the verdure surrounding the home, the rooms would be filled like an aquarium in no time.

          Shallow puddles splashed as his motorbike ran through them, angry, muddy spatters covering his boots and his jeans, making them look like a dog’s dirty coat. This was the kind of weather they’d usually bring buckets out for. And if it had started leaking, that would mean Naomi was up.

          Which he hoped she wasn’t.

          She sometimes had late-night gigs at some of the bars near Berkeley if she didn’t have last shift waiting on tables at Darryl’s. During those days she would come home late, something he didn’t mind, especially not lately.

          It’s been like walking on eggshells around her ever since he brought up the fact that he agreed to do the pharmacy gig. It was always like that when he gets a job. The air around them would be palpably cold and clammy, like there were droplets of water surrounding them. It almost felt like she brought on the rain. Maybe she did.

          Naomi had these weird set of capabilities that made him speculate that maybe the weather was also under her purview. She’d exhibited certain oddities from the day he met her. On their second date, she did an impersonation of Jimmy Carter, which was supposed to make him laugh, but he ended up getting confused and terrified instead. First it was only her voice that changed, but afterward her face began to morph as well. Her long dark hair started to recede into white wisps, brittle over a pale face that started to sag and sport age spots. Blue eyes stared back when the ones that belonged to hers were brown. It only reverted when Naomi noticed that Seth had started to look scared. Her visage quickly changed back into her actual face, like deformed rubber springing back to its original integrity. She looked as shocked as he was, as if she didn’t know what she’d done either.

          They both tried to pretend the next day that none of that took place. Who knew if it even did. They were several drinks in when that happened. But when the aberrations occurred more than once, Seth knew not to blame the drinks anymore. They weren’t fucked-up daydreams or illusions from any of the blunts they’d light up every now and then. Through all of the strangeness, he stayed anyway, and he’d come to realize that it was what bound them together later on.

          They’ve been together two years now. Although these past few weeks, things could be better.

          Seth skidded the motorcycle to the side, under the shade next to Sookie’s empty, rusting cage, before running inside the house. Sookie was his grandmother’s dog, who died a year after she did. The rottweiler always avoided Naomi. Seth felt the same creeping wariness once the door creaked open and Naomi stared at him, glaring, tight lipped. Seth passed her by without looking, as if she weren’t there at all. They’d been dancing around each other like ghosts for a week now, several days after he told her he needed her for this job.

          He pulled out a ziplock bag that he had tucked into the back of his pants, threw it onto the bed. He paid a lot for these documents, more than the usual rate, but his regular guy had been busted a few months ago and he had to rely on this other one that charged double. “Fucking criminal,” Seth muttered under his breath as he went through the contents of the clear plastic bag. Passports, Social Security IDs, voter’s IDs, and birth certificates, for himself and Naomi. At least these papers looked legit. By the time they used this, he’d no longer be Seth Astra nor would she be Naomi Cáceres.

          Naomi was looming nearby; he could feel it. Seth looked over his shoulder and she was there, mop still in hand, staring at the documents like he had hauled trash in and laid out the garbage on their bed just to spite her.

          “I told you I was serious about this. This’ll be the last job I’ll do, and then that’s that. We get out of here and then we’ll live. As normal people.”

          Naomi was still quiet, her uncertainty echoing without her even saying a word. “As normal people,” Naomi repeated, disdain coloring her words. “How long ago have you been telling me that, Seth?”

          “The corner store holdup. Mattapan. That thing with the Haitians—” Seth paced around and sighed, slid his hands against the sides of his hair while he did, as if the pompadour he was sporting was falling apart, when really it was only his patience that was crumbling. “This one’s different, you know that.” Naomi’s eyes darted toward the IDs on the bed, and she huffed silently. She couldn’t deny that the papers he brought in did solidify his claim that after this job, they could finally walk away, but promise after promise that he made had frayed her trust in him over time, a loose screw that was barely holding things together.

          “And you know I can’t pass on this job.” After his muling stint for the Haitians, Seth came up short. They turned up a couple of grams missing after the run, and he’d have to pay for it, one way or the other. Seth was tempted to think it was because of Tony, but he knew the guy wasn’t dumb enough to do that on an errand for Hi-J. “You know why I took this in the first place.”

          Naomi couldn’t argue with that anymore. Just like she felt she couldn’t, when she had gotten into a relationship with him, knowing what he did. But that wasn’t reason enough for her to want less, and she was starting to believe that she deserved more than being the deus ex machina to Seth’s troubles.

          She hadn’t said no to helping him just yet, but all the same, she couldn’t tell him no flat out. It left them where they were, at the same place two days ago, inconclusive, as Naomi went back to the living room.

About the Author:
Therese Barleta is a human anomaly. This chill frat man trapped inside a 12-year-old girl’s body enjoys HBO and Netflix a little too much. She likes reading and writing depressing stuff. Contact Therese at AuthorThereseBarleta@gmail.com

In My Dreams by Yeyet Soriano

Welcome to Barrio Malaya!

Everyone in Manila will visit Barrio Malaya at least once in their lifetimes. It is a rustic yet picturesque town, with the sea in the north, thick woods in the east and west, and a train station in the south. It is one of the stops of a high-speed train system, which the dying board to go to their next destination.

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Roxas has a lifetime pass and has almost permanent resident status in Barrio Malaya. She first visited the place when she and her father met an accident when she was seven. They explored the town and rode the train together. But at some point, they got separated—she had to get off the train and her father continued his journey. She woke up to a reality without her father, and with an emotionally distant mother. From then on, Olivia was homeschooled and prevented from having any access to the outside world by an alcoholic mother who seemed to both hate her and love her too much to risk losing her.

In her dreams, Olivia has unlimited access to Barrio Malaya, and it is where she learned about everything, from how to make friends, to how to live, to how to fall in love. She also continued to board the trains, in the hope of finding her father.

Nineteen-year-old Gabriel Sahagun first came to Barrio Malaya when he was twelve years old. Victims of a freak accident, he and his parents already had their tickets to ride the train, but at the last minute, someone pulled him back. He never saw the man’s face. He woke up in the real world discovering that his parents were dead, but he had developed the talent to transfer Death—he can take whatever is killing one person, take it upon himself, and then transfer it to another person.

Liv and Gab meet in Barrio Malaya. Gab visits Barrio Malaya whenever he is in mid-transfer, meaning, he is the one dying. They fall in love but have never met in real life. But that is about to change, because Gab has taken a terminal condition and has lost all strength to transfer it to someone else. As he lies dying in the real world, it is up to Liv to find him, find a person to transfer the condition to, and get that person to Gab before Gab dies.
Did we mention that Liv has never set out from her house alone in all her life?

Excerpt

My name is Olivia. I am sixteen years old. If I had any real friends, they would call me Liv.

When I was seven years old, I died. At least that’s what they said. Not to my face, mind you. But I heard them talking to my mom while I was in the hospital. They talked in whispers. She was crying nonstop. When I recovered, I understood why.

My dad died the night I died. Although I was revived, he wasn’t. I miss him so much.

It was a car crash. Some drunken creep drove on the wrong side of the road and hit our car head-on. Our car turned turtle and crashed. I still remember screaming for Daddy to wake up while I fumbled with the catch of my seatbelt, smelling the car burning. Daddy was able to get us out of the car before it exploded. Apparently they found us at the side of the road, alive but near death, with my dad’s back a mass of burns.

I wouldn’t let go of my dad and he wouldn’t let go of me. We were brought to the hospital in one stretcher. When they were able to separate us, we individually died. They were able to get me back after one minute. My father never came back.

That was the official version.

My version? After the explosion, which happened just in time after my dad was able to get us out of the car and onto a safer area, my dad grew weaker. I hurt all over and I was very hungry and he laughed when I told him. The fried chicken takeout, the reason for the trip in the first place, was burned with the car.

We heard sirens. I felt dizzy and then I nearly passed out. But I felt my eyes tearing up because of the smoke.

          “Daddy, my eyes hurt bad!” I said, tears running down my dirty cheeks.

          “Let’s get out of here, Livie,” he said weakly.

          We walked slowly to get away from the smoke and the smell of burning. We found a narrow path which was pretty, and we followed it. After a while, we no longer heard the sound of the cars on the road. We came upon a wooden gate, with a small wooden sign that said, “Welcome to Barrio Malaya.

          I read it and knew at once that malaya meant “free.” The gate was slightly ajar.

          Daddy pushed it open and we entered.

          “Wow, Livie, look! A quaint small town!” he exclaimed.

          “What’s ‘quaint’?” I asked. I breathed in the clean, crisp air. I felt a light breeze cooling me down.

          “Quaint means sweet, nice, and old-fashioned,” Daddy explained.

          “What’s old-fashioned?” I asked again. I was seven, sue me.

          “Not new. Not modern, something classic. This is like we are no longer in the city,” Daddy patiently explained, as he always did when I pestered him with questions.

“Like the province?”

“Yes!”

The town looked like it came straight out of a picture book. Put in a castle in the distance and it could have been a fairy-tale scene.

          We walked around for a bit. The air smelled of salt, meaning the sea was near, and I could have sworn I could hear the surf. I was feeling better, my eyes no longer hurt, and I wasn’t dizzy anymore.

“Daddy, I’m hungry,” I said, still longing for fried chicken.

“Oh . . . let’s see if we can find a place to eat.” Daddy took my hand and we walked on.

We found a diner. The sign on the door said “Kantina.” Daddy ordered us two milkshakes and a big plate of fries.

          Kantina was also very pretty, nothing like any of the places we had been as a family. But then we’ve mostly been in fast-food joints in the mall, and mostly Chinese restaurants for formal affairs. The place was made entirely of wood, which reminded me of the houses in the province. The waitress was very cheerful and friendly, and she had on a nice waitress uniform. She had short hair and a cute face like a fairy. She looked like she was the same age as my mom, and her nameplate said “Cherry.” She said I was very pretty with my long hair.

          I realized then that I should not have appeared very pretty because I was so dirty from the accident and I’m sure my hair was ratty, but I looked at my Daddy and I was surprised because I’d never seen him so handsome. His wounds and bruises and the dirt on his face and clothes were gone. He was clean and neat and very nice to look at. I turned to a mirror on the wall and saw that I was clean as well, and my long curly hair newly combed and shining.

          I wanted to say something to Daddy but my hunger got the better of me. I ate the fries and drank the milkshake. We finished eating in a short while.

          Cherry approached our table. “Hello there, your train will be arriving in a few minutes. I suggest you guys get started in walking to the station.”

          “Train?” Daddy asked.

          The waitress looked at him and smiled and said, “Yes, your train.”

          I was looking at Daddy’s face just then and saw that at first he was confused, but then something seemed to make sense to him and he nodded in understanding. He looked at me and smiled; at first it was a sad smile, but then it became the kind of smile that lit up his handsome face. He looked back at Cherry.

“Oh, then we best get going then,” he said, his voice filled with excitement.

“We’re riding a train to go home, Daddy?”

Daddy looked at me and smiled. “Yes, Livie, we are.”

“Cool!” I remembered the train we rode to Disneyland in Hong Kong and I was excited.

          Daddy and I walked past other pretty wooden houses and well-maintained gardens and even parks with playgrounds. The roads were wide and there were no cars in sight. Most everyone else was walking. There were a few on bikes.

          We reached the train station, and when we reached the platform, there were a couple of people waiting with us. On the platform was one row of benches, one bench after every few feet interval, as many as the eye could see. I looked beyond the platform and saw there were more platforms at intervals and in between several train tracks.

A train stopped in front of us and a conductor ushered us in. She was tall, quite pretty, with an easy smile. She looked like a movie star. Her nameplate said “Ms. Tupaz.”

Daddy and I settled into a seat and I felt sleepy. I felt my dad’s arms around me as I leaned toward him. I must have slept.

When I woke up, my Dad was talking to Ms. Tupaz. They were arguing. I held on tighter to my dad. The train was moving fast. It reminded me again of the train we rode to go to Disneyland in Hong Kong a few months before the accident, a seventh birthday present from Daddy.

“Livie.”

I looked up at my dad and I felt this overwhelming love well up inside me.

“I need to go to the bathroom. Ms. Tupaz will look after you.”

I nodded. Ms. Tupaz was really pretty. She had nice light caramel skin that I loved. I didn’t mind being left with her. Dad hugged me tight and kissed me on my forehead.

“You love your daddy?”

“Very much!” I said with a wide smile. This was a usual exchange we had between us.

“How much?”

“This much!” I stretched my arms as far apart as I could.

“And he loves you more!”

I smiled. He went to the bathroom.

After a few minutes, the train slowed and stopped.

Ms. Tupaz stood up and extended her hand to me.

“Come, you need to get off this stop. Your dad will follow . . .”

I took her hand and she led me to the platform to a bench.

We sat and waited. I saw my dad walking toward the door and I smiled wide.

He smiled back. But he stopped as he reached the door.

“Livie! I love you! We’ll see each other again one day! Take care of your mom!”

Before I could react, the door slid shut and the train sped away.

I started running after the train, and my dad, but Ms. Tupaz held me tight.

“Let me go! Daddy! Daddy!”

I saw the train disappear in the distance and my heart sank. I panicked. I cried. I was seven, after all.

Then I did what I did without thinking. I kicked and screamed at Ms. Tupaz and pummeled her with my small and insignificant fists.

“I’m sorry. I’m just doing my job,” she whispered.

She embraced me and I blacked out.

About the Author

Yeyet Soriano has been writing her entire life, first as an angst-ridden teenager, then as a single working woman, then as a married working woman with kids. Though the themes of her written works have changed over the years, she held on to one truth—she needed to write to keep the voices in her head at bay.

Her first foray into self-publishing was when she collaborated with some of her high school friends on a book in 2011, where one of the mini books was entitled “Yeyet,” and some of her nonfiction and fiction works were included. The book was Life in the Middle, A Discovery, and it is being distributed in print by Central Books (central.com.ph/bookstoreplus).

She just self-published Turning Points, her first e-book novel through Buqo, as part of the #JustWritePH writing class. It is included in the #JustWritePH For Redemption bundle, but will also soon be released as a stand-alone novel in e-book format.

Her day job is that of an IT manager for the Asia-Pacific region for a multinational corporation. She is married to a man who reads only to fall asleep, and they have three wonderful kids—two of whom love to read and one, only starting to learn to read.

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I Melt by Chen Cabaluna

Rick is predictable, organized & doesn’t like to take risks because of his condition. His clothes are color coordinated. His books are arranged by height. He only eats & drinks cold stuff. He’s very cautious to avoid human touch because he might melt. But then he met Alice, his new too perky lab assistant who helped him to overcome many inhibition and open up more to the world. There’s only one problem–he thinks Alice will melt him.

Excerpt

I drink cold coffee in the morning.

And when I say cold, I mean literally like my coffee has ice cubes and the water used is from the fridge. I like coffee. And I’m pretty sure that I like it cold given the fact that I’ve been drinking coffee since my high school days (ten years ago perhaps?) . Though someday, I wouldn’t mind having it hot. If ever that “someday” would come.

And I don’t just stop from cold coffee. I only eat cold food too. I always buy cooked food and place it on the fridge to have its temperature lowered before eating it. It has always been the drill since time immemorial. You see, when my parents are still here, they did the same thing and I just copied them—because I don’t like taking the risk. I am afraid of the unknown. Of what could happen to me if ever I experimented, if ever I go against the norms of my kind…of our kind.

And that’s the funny part. I am afraid of the unknown & experimenting, but that’s exactly my job—the thing that I deal with everyday. I am a chemist and I work for a famous ice cream company as a Quality Assurance Analyst. I make sure that the company’s products are safe for consuming and meet the highest standards. I perform a series of test and lab works everyday—in guess what—in a fully air conditioned room. My lab assistant of four years, William, often complained to me that he’s going to get a frost bite due to my air conditioning setting, but he can’t do anything about it because I’m his senior, and I exercise my utmost authority over him( just for the air con settings though)

Like my laboratory, my home’s temperature is pretty much the same since I have a centralized air con installed in my house. Every room, every nook and cranny is undeniably cold. As I’ve said, I can’t take the risk.

Like my car is also blasted with the cold temperature whenever I ride it to work. You see, it is very risky for our kind to live in a tropical country like the Philippines but we have no choice. We’re running out of options on where to hide, and being here is perhaps one of the best choices my grandparents did because for three generations, we managed to flourish, unlike our counterparts in European countries and other cold countries. I believe that they already perished. And the sons and daughters that they might have wouldn’t happen anymore. So lucky and unlucky me–I’m still alive, and like what I’ve said before, for my kind, the unknown and the risky choice is not even an option.

I like things that are predictable and already tested, mainly at first because of my condition. But that mentality soon affected basically most of my lifestyle – up to the extremes (I guess). If I give you a tour in my room, you’d see that my books are stacked according to size. My polo shirts, suits, ties, pants, socks and practically every clothes that I own are color coordinated. The book (that I’m currently reading) on my bedside table is placed in such a way that it is one inch away from the edge. And I make sure of it. I use a ruler (and make it a bookmark of that book afterwards).

And that’s not the only thing that I measure. I measure almost anything that would interest me or catch my attention. There’s this one time, out of curiosity, I measured all of my ten fingers. I recorded the measurement in my notebook just because. I also measured my cat’s tail during one time while it’s drinking milk. I guess I acquired this habit from measuring things in the office and comparing them to the standards.

In my kitchen, you’d see that I folded plastic wrappers and grocery bags neatly into small squares and I stacked them accordingly inside the drawer. My canned goods are displayed from tallest to shortest. I make sure that the walis tambo’s hair is properly trimmed. The tiles in the bathroom are squeaky, you-don’t-want-to-step-into clean.

I also had three locks for my door and two locks for my house gate. I don’t know if it is part of my quirky personality or if I’m just taking an utmost precaution.

I rarely make friends because of my condition. I can only count three—William, my lab assistant, Celia, my trusted house cleaner and my cat, Snow. And people around me tend to judge me because of this. They say I live a boring, monotonous life. They say my life is on repeat and maybe I would like to try some excitement in my life once in a while. If only they knew that again, I can’t take any risk.

And maybe I’m already contented with this kind of lifestyle. Maybe up until I leave this world or up until they find me—whatever comes first. And even though I don’t feel like it, maybe, I’m a legacy. Who knows that after my parents were found missing, I’ll be able to still thrive…continue the battle for survival (I know, I sound cheesy).

I thought because of my uncanny ability to keep a low profile, to keep a repetitive (boring) lifestyle, to stay away from normal people as much as possible and have the privilege to live in a tropical country, my life would progress in the most normal state it could. Never did I guess that everything would turn upside down this particular day that I went to work.

XXX

William, my trusted lab assistant was gone.

I came to work that particular day just to find out that he already submitted a resignation letter. He didn’t even tell me. For a few minutes, I was staring blankly at the office’s plain white wall, assessing myself, assessing my feelings if I feel sad or betrayed. I took a deep breath and I realized that I cannot put a finger to what I’m feeling right this very moment. I guess knowing my true feelings would be forever one of my weaknesses. I always can’t gauge what exactly what I’m feeling when drawbacks like this one comes into my life. I remember the day that my parents were nowhere to be found—I just sat on the corner of my room, stared at the ceiling and felt numb. I wanted to cry, but it didn’t happen. Up until now, I haven’t cried yet for my parents and I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing considering that there’s no proof that they’re already dead.

I quickly got my phone out from my pocket and fired a text message to William. Y didn’t u tell me? Wt’s d matter? Am I 2 bossy? I’ve waited for a couple of minutes for him to reply but he didn’t. And I know that he’s quick to respond to my text messages so I knew that something’s not quite right. Is it because I’m no longer his boss that’s why he didn’t bother anymore to answer my text asap? My heart sank deeper into my ribcage and I just hope that this is a legit feeling of loneliness, and if ever it is not, then I don’t know anymore what it is called.

I tried calling his number but I got nothing—only the operator telling me that the number I called is out of coverage area which doesn’t happen before. I put down my phone on the table and gave a big sigh. I guess I just have to move on completely that William already resigned and I’m all by myself starting today. Maybe I’m just paranoid of him not answering my text and call and maybe, he might fire up a reply later. Who knows? But for now, I’m up to some serious work.

Before I went to my laboratory, I’ve went to the dressing room like always where we, lab personnel wear our PPE or personal protective equipment. It is the SOP of our company to wear a lab gown, gloves, hair net, mask and goggles before entering the lab and the production area. As I’ve opened the door of the dressing room, I was taken aback— a female specie is standing besides my PPE cabinet.

“Hi Sir Rick!” The female specie squeaked. Her pitch is too high for my taste or maybe, I am not accustomed to hear a female talk in such a confined space?

“Uh..hi?” I managed to mumble unintelligently. “Who the hell are you?” Those words slipped into my mouth not because I wanted to attack her but because I was astounded. I am not a fan of the female populace—never as long as I can remember. Even during my grade school, high school and college. I’ve went to a COED school for all of my life which allowed exposure of the females but never did I’ve become close to anyone. Even a single one.

I remembered my closest encounter with one. Perhaps it can be called an encounter. It is during my 2nd year college. We had volleyball for P.E. and I’ve participated in a match between two sections. This particular female hit me with a ball, straight into my unsuspecting face, and the next thing I knew is I’ve kissed the floor.

When I opened my eyes, it is true that I’ve seen a multitude of stars. I thought that cartoons were just exaggerating when they make their characters’ head swim in stars when they hit their head. But the very same thing is happening to me that moment.

“Are you alright?” A high pitched voice echoed in my head. When I’ve gained enough consciousness to have a care with my surroundings, I’ve seen the female’s face dangerously nearing my face and I’ve felt hot—and that’s not a good thing.

I managed to get up quickly on the floor—away from the female while mumbling incoherently that yeah, I’m okay, no need to be that close (if you wanted to prolong my life, at least)

And that same life threatening condition is happening in my office

About the Author

Chenley Cabaluna is a registered nurse by profession. She is a fellow of the first batch of the eros atalia writing workshop. She already had several of her short stories published in books and online. You can read her other works at her Wattpad account with the username @Chenaciousley.

Gamechanger by Mikael Javellana

Mxyzalne – or Mix – has found her new Other: a boy named Jacob Dela Rosa. As a Herald, she knows she must take the boy under her wing and train him – in spite of how glaringly average he seems to her – if the world is to be saved.

When a powerful Decayed One makes an attempt on Jacob’s life, Mix calls his True Name out and sets a chain of events that will either save the world, or destroy it completely.

Excerpt

The Headmistress’ office used to be smaller than I remember. The room we enter has a ceiling at least two stories high, with wall-to-wall bookshelves. There are winding staircases to higher floors and more bookshelves. The books themselves float from shelf to shelf, rearranging themselves constantly.

At the center of the marble floor sits an antique wooden desk, papers scattered around, and a nameplate.

“Lola Basyang Altadolor, Headmistress,” Jacob reads aloud. “Seriously? Lola Basyang?”

“Hey, watch it kid. That’s my mom you’re talking about.” Marcus says, chuckling. “Look at the nameplate again.”

Jacob looks, and reads: “Basilica Anastasia Altadolor, Headmistress and Guardian.”

“Magic,” Layla grins, laughing a little at the expression on Jacob’s face, and the double take he does at Marcus. “The nameplate takes the name you know my mother best by before turning back into its true form.”

“So your mom is Lola Basyang, like the one from the stories?” Jacob asks, still a little dumbfounded.

“Who do you think they were based off of?” The twins ask in concert. Before Jacob can answer, though, Maria Cacao clears her throat.

“Drink your chocolate before it gets too cold, children. Also, perhaps we should attend to the matter of your missing mother?”

The gentle reminder snaps Layla back to her earlier demeanor – all business once more, as she gathers maps and books. Marcus is still somewhat jovial as he drains the last of his mug, which disappears as soon as the last drop is drained.

“What was she doing before she vanished?” I ask.

“She was here,” Marcus says, approaching a pedestal. “She was checking the All-Magic’s chamber for any change. It’s never been the same ever since Tita and Mom failed to stop what happened in Tokyo.”

“Wait, what’s the All-Magic?” Jacob asks, “And what does an earthquake have to do with magic?”

“The All-Magic is a more modern name for the ancient nexus that allows Heralds and Others to be Named, and for magic to flow freely in this realm, and connects us to the rest of the Otherworlds. Every disaster that has ever befallen this world has been caused by the Decayed Ones,” Makiling answers. “The All-Magic used to be able to warn us when one would appear, but the last battle for it caused the Great Tokyo Fire, prompting it to move again, to here.”

“The All-Magic has some sentience, Jake.” Marcus continues, “When its existence is threatened, it shifts locations – taking the school with it. Judging by your lack of confusion at the mention of the Great Tokyo Fire, I’d say you’re either a history buff or Tita told you all about it.”

Jacob nods, earning me a look from everyone else.

“He’s a mimic. I wasn’t sure until he used Layla’s Mindspeak by accident. I told him what I could.”

“Back to the task at hand, then,” Bessie says, ruffling her feathers. She’d been quietly perched on Marcus’ shoulder until that moment. She regards Jacob, and then continues where Marcus left off.

“When Mxyzalne and Li – the Headmistress – defeated the Decayed One that had killed their protégé, the All-Magic sealed itself, all but cutting this world off from the Otherworlds. Since then, no new Heralds have come forth, and this school has been balefully empty but for a few dozen Other children whose parents passed their Names and Heralds to them.”

Maria Sinukuan comes down from one of the upper floors with a few bottles and a staff with a yellow crystal set into it. She drops the bottles, prompting Jacob to dive for them, only to not catch anything as the bottles begin to float. She speaks as she begins to draw on the floor, inscribing the ground with a light from the staff.

“We think that the Headmistress has gone to the All-Magic’s chamber on the far end of the island, but the only other person who has access to that place is Mxyzalne, but since she severed her connection to her sister during her exile, she cannot enter the chamber’s vicinity.”

“But why can’t either of the twins do it?” Jacob asks again, getting to his feet as I approach Maria Sinukuan and observe what she’s doing.

“A special kind of being is called by the All-Magic, to guard it and to Name others. Basilica and I were called by the All-Magic when we were born, centuries ago. The All-Magic made us Mxyzalne, The Seeker – and my twin – Basilica, The Guardian. She was the first mimic.”

He looks at me like I’ve sprouted a second head, and I roll my eyes at him. He doesn’t even have to ask how I can have human blood family when I’m a cat.

“Heralds are an Other’s companion, not simply a familiar. We can change shapes, yes, but we were human to begin with. At least until the battle that moved the All-Magic here, and from that day we were locked in animal forms, unable to take human shape again.”

“Exactly,” Maria Sinukuan says, dusting her hands off. “She cut herself off from the All-Magic, and as such, can’t locate her twin. This will help, and we can find the Headmistress in no time.”

The circle she’s drawn on the floor is one that’s meant to restore a lost connection. She’s explaining it to Jacob as I pace its perimeter; I haven’t told Jacob that Others with the ability to mimic powers can potentially become the next Guardian, it’s too soon. I have a feeling that Bessie and Maria Makiling both know what I’m thinking, given the way they’ve been looking at me as I move.

“Mix?” Jacob reaches down to stroke my head. “Sinukuan says we can start whenever you’re ready.”

I sigh, and step into the circle, the Marias forming a ring with the twins at the north and south. The spell is simple, though it requires me to say my Name. The Marias begins the spell by chanting in the melodic language of the Diwata, followed by the twins.

“My Name is Mxyzalne,” I start, the first circle lights up green underneath my paws. “I am a sworn servant of the All-Magic.”

About the Author

Mikael Javellana is a full-time writer for a local start-up company. He enjoys writing stories at cafes, mostly in the realm of urban fantasy. This is his first published work of fiction.

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Author: Lorn (pakwanstripes)

Yogi, book lover, comic book reader, cat moma and diabetic :)

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