#StrangeLit Fateful Turns || Excerpts and Things

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With eleven stories, Fateful Turns is the biggest collection of stories from the #StrangeLit workshop. (Can you say, bargain? ) Behind the cut are a few excerpts from four of those stories. Hopefully, some of the ones you haven’t quite read about yet. 🙂

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Spirit by Nina Tuballes
Excerpt:

Serenity

I didn’t know how long we stayed in each other’s arms, but I watched as the sun readied itself to set. I felt Ethan drifted on and off of consciousness but I didn’t sleep. I wouldn’t, I was scared that when I wake he’d be gone. I wanted to stay like this and savor the feeling of being secure in his arms.

I remembered a time when we were in Necropolis, when we were cramped in a small space as we waited for the Risen to disperse; I never even once felt that we were in danger. I’ve always felt safe with him, like nothing can go wrong even though the world was already falling apart.

“I’m sorry Ethan.” He didn’t answer but I could still feel his chest rising and falling. I assumed he’s asleep. “Reminds me of a time when we were in Necropolis. You almost got yourself killed to save me from the Brotherhood and now here you are. Dying because of me. Because I’m cursed and I brought nothing to you but—“

I stilled when his arms tightened around me. “Please, stop saying those things.” I looked up at him and saw his once tan face turned to the color of death. His eyes were pleading, his voice hoarse. “You give me hope each time I see your happy face. I—“ he groaned and threw his head back as he clutched on his chest. I panicked as blood spurt from his mouth.

“Ethan!” I tried reaching for the first aid kit but he caught my hand and pulled me towards him.

“No. Don’t go away. Stay here beside me.” He embraced me tight as he convulsed and murmured my name over and over again. “I-it hurts. I-I’m scared—I’m scared too. I don’t want to leave you here. I hope—I hope you will forgive me, forgive me Serenity. I—I’m sorry.”

“Sssh. Don’t say anymore. I’m not mad. I’ll be right here beside you.”

He chuckled but pain stopped him. “You don’t-you don’t understand. I-I kept so many things from you. I’m sorry, I had to. I had to make you forget. You see, you can hear thoughts and I—I control memories.”

Made me forget? Ethan can control memories?  I pulled myself away but he stopped me. “Please. Please listen to me, Serenity. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. There’s not much time left.” I felt Ethan kissed my hair and tilted my chin up so I’m looking at him. My eyes widened with shock and I froze as his lips met mine. He—Ethan kissed me!

“I—I’ve always wanted to do that. Always wondered how that would feel.”

“Ethan…” but he put a finger over my lips.

“Please, please. I’m not your-your brother. I—I’m not who you think I am. I’m sorry. Please forgive me, I just had to. I just love you so much. I-I have loved you for-for as long as I-I can remember. I was so-so selfish. I’m sorry. Ah!” Ethan released me as he fell on the ground hugging himself as tremor shook him.

I sat rooted on my spot. If he wasn’t my brother then who is he? Who am I? How dare he lie to me? He told me to trust him and I did! I trusted him and I wanted to be mad and demand an explanation from him. But I can’t. My head reeled with so many questions and tears streamed my face as I thought of how miserable he’s been all these time. He’s loved me for as long as he could remember. He could control memories. He could’ve made me remember that I was his girlfriend, that I was madly deeply in love with him but instead he made me remember him as my brother. He made me believe that I was his sister!

All those years we were together in Necropolis, he could’ve taken advantage of me, but he kept his distance. Without a word, I cradled my trembling lover in my arms and planted a light kiss on his lips like he did to me. “It’s okay, I forgive you. I understand.”

“You-you do?” I nodded but uncertainty filled his face.

“Well, maybe that’s why I keep having strange feelings for you. You could’ve told me.” He chuckled at my dry humor.

“I’m glad I didn’t” He wiped my tears away. “If I—if I did, you’d just-just force yourself to-to love me back or-or—“he started wheezing and though I hushed him, he continued. “or pretend like you’re doing now. I know-I know what you’re doing. I always know.”

“I’m not pretending! I love you. I love you with every breath I take. You’re everything to me. And now you’re leaving me! What will I do without you Ethan?”

His lips quivered. “You really love me?” I nodded and he closed his eyes as he smiled. “I could die right now.”

“No, please open your eyes. Not yet please.” There were so many things I’d like to ask. I wanted to know how we met, when he realized that he loved me, who I am, who he is, how we ended up like this?

 

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The Eternal Harmony Funeral Homes by JM Agustin
Excerpt:

What am I doing here?

The rosary tied around the rear view mirror is bouncing wildly while the two guys in front are talking about movies or something. I look out the car window and there’s nothing to see but an unending row of trees by the side of the road.

It was a smooth four hour drive from Manila to the middle of nowhere until we experienced some turbulence caused by the uneven, pothole ridden street we just turned into.

When will we get there?

This trip is taking longer than I thought. After waiting two hours to get past the traffic in Manila, I thought it’d be smooth sailing. But now I find myself just trying to plant my butt on the car seat so I don’t get a concussion.

My wallet is making it even worse, every bounce causing it to dig even deeper into my bone. Maybe it’s because I’m about as thick as a barbeque stick but, aside from the rosary flicking back and forth on the rear view mirror, I’m the only one having his problem.

I could have been at home playing the new Friday Night At Frank’s. I hear it’s really scary — as if. I haven’t once felt scared while playing those games. Most of those games just rely on shock factor to trick the audience into being scared — no build up at all. Right off the bat, they just shove something “scary” onto your screen.

“Pit, you ok there?” Michael asks me, turning away from the road.

“I’m fine. Eyes on the road!” I yelled when his head continued to face me.

“Relax, man! I got it, bro! By the way, thanks for coming with me guys. I know it’s a long trip but we’re almost there.”

“Don’t worry about it. Your grandfather was really nice to me and Pit whenever we were at your house. It’s the least we could do. And we got to bring Pit out of his house, right?” Jerry says.

“Right, bro! All alone in his dark room, playing those horror games? He’s on his way to becoming a serial killer, dude.”

“What did I tell you, man? I knew there was something wrong with him.” says Jerry with a grin.

“Careful, bro. He could crack anytime.” Michael says, laughing.

“Who’s to say I haven’t? By the way, I think I know who my first victims will be. Out here with no signal on our phones and all these trees? No one would ever know.” I say, deadpan.

Jerry and Michael look at each other. Silence followed after.

Now I remember. We’re on our way to the wake of Michael’s grandfather. Was a really nice guy, Lolo Jun but, apparently, also really old. He used to give us candy whenever he saw us at Michael’s house, which was a lot when we were kids.

We never really knew how old Lolo Jun was until he died. 99 years old — just one more year and he’d have lasted a century. Which was funny because he was always the most cheerful one in the room and you wouldn’t have made him out to be that old.

Lolo Jun wanted to be buried in their province which was really far away from Manila. Michael’s parents had gone ahead to take care of things, leaving Michael alone in Manila because he had an exam his professor didn’t want to reschedule for him. Jerry and I thought it’d be better to go with Michael when he followed to keep him company and pay our respects.

Twenty more minutes of the butt-shattering car ride and we finally arrive at our destination, The Eternal Harmony Funeral Home. A two floor funeral home with two rooms on each side of the floor, making for eight rooms in total. The building looks fairly new with some scaffoldings still littering the side.

We make our way to the back of the building where the parking is. It’s a fairly big parking lot with a lot of empty spaces. Not a lot of the spaces are occupied — just cars belonging to those that are visiting Lolo Jun. There’s also an old building on the farthest side of the parking lot.

The old building also has two floors but is a lot smaller than the one in front. It doesn’t look abandoned, though — just very old. There’s some light coming from a window on the top floor so I guess that means there are people inside.

We were able to park fairly close to the new building thanks to the mostly empty parking lot. And as we walk to the new building, I point out the light I saw in the old building. Michael tells us that the old building was the one the funeral home used before the one in front was completed.

The new building had apparently been finished just a few weeks ago, so the old building was still being used as an office until they finished transferring everything. Since they had to close for a week to set the new building up, Lolo Jun is actually the first…err…customer to use the new wing and, at the moment, the only one.

That explains why there are so few cars here. Aside from Michael’s relatives and Lolo Jun’s close friends, others would find the trip too long. Especially with the traffic, it’d take them the whole day to get here and back.

Fortunately, Lolo Jun’s remains were on the first floor right by the entrance so no stairs for me. Not that I’d mind but I’d rather not walk all the way to the end of the hallway, climb up the steps, and feel my legs burning with each step I take. I’m not exactly the fittest person around. It’d be no problem for Michael who basically lives at the gym, or Jerry who plays almost every sport imaginable. But for me?

Yeah, I’d rather not.

“Bro, guest book.” Michael says pointing at the guest book by the entrance.

We head to the guest book and sign our names.

Michael Salazar

Jeremiah Casuco

Jerry hands me then pen, after signing. I write my name on the guest book.

Peter Rosario

I put the pen back down on the pedestal but I’m getting this weird feeling all of a sudden. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. I can’t knock the feeling that someone’s watching me.

I look around the entrance hall. The hall’s pretty dimly lit except for the light coming out of Lolo Jun’s room. Come to think of it, the place is pretty creepy with just one room lit. It’s not really helping me to be noticing that now. It only makes me more uneasy.

The only light is coming from the entrance and Lolo Jun’s room. With the doors of the other rooms slightly open, it’s just enough to see into the darkened rooms with long benches inside all facing the wall at the far end. Every shift in movement is making the shadows twitch and change shape. And then there’s that old lady holding a broom, her sunken eyes leering at me from the end of the hallway — wait, what?

“Bro, looks like you have a fan,” Michael says, as he and Jerry start snickering.

“I know right. Really hot. She’s just my type.” I say with a straight face and an annoyed voice.

“Don’t worry about it, bro. Looks like she’s a janitress here. An old lady staring at you won’t hurt you, right dude?” Michael adds.

“Guess not, just makes me really uncomfortable” I answer.

The old lady continues to leer at me until we go inside. While I’m normally nice to old people and comfortable with them, this old lady with the sunken eyes, bone thin, hunchbacked, and a sharp face was very creepy.

She’s like a character from my horror games. If I’d have known this was going to happen, I would’ve just stayed home and played my video games.

Michael’s parents greet us in the room. Contrary to the cars parked outside, there are quite a number of people here inside and it’s fairly lively. We see Michael’s parents have their hands full entertaining the guests so the three of us decide to help out.

 

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Fate by Sue Donymko
Excerpt:

Felicity had disappeared.

All of Dan’s calls and messages went unanswered. He went to all the places they went to on their total of ten dates, but she never went there.

He felt like his life was tearing him apart, and he took it out on saving people like a madman. Lita almost cried when he went home once with a burn mark on his side after a challenging mission.

“It’s nothing, Lita,” he said, even as she applied some special balm she made herself.
“This is not nothing, Daniel Santiago!” she had cried out. “I might lose Ka Asyong, and I won’t lose you too.”

He promised then that he’d be more careful. She was right; he was being selfish with his recklessness.

He left church alone—again. Lita still wasn’t taking any chances with Ka Asyong. The courtyard was empty already as he had gone to confession immediately after mass.

Dan put his hands in his pocket and stepped off the church’s last stair.

Immediately, he felt a strong invisible force push him back up the stairs just as a huge chunk of the angel statue that used to protrude off the ceiling over the stairs came crashing down where he had been standing.

“I told her to leave you alone,” he heard someone whisper.

He whirled around.

Felicity stood there in a wispy white dress, her long wavy hair in a loose braid. Daniel had a lot of questions, and had in fact prepared them in his mind, but all that flew out of his mind when he saw her. “Who?” he rasped out instead.

She came to him slowly, warily. “My sister… She found out about you. I’ve been watching over you the past few days. Keeping her from harming you.” She looked up to the sky, then around them. “She’s gone now. She won’t be bothering you anymore today.”

She stood in front of him, her eyes sad. “Are you going to kill me?”

Dan closed his eyes and took a huge breath before answering. He opened his eyes and took her hand. “Can your kind…you…be killed?”

She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

“I don’t even know what you are,” he admitted.

She smiled a sad smile, looking down at the floor. “Does it matter?” she asked.

Silence stood between them. “I’m not sure,” he finally admitted.

Then he took a step forward, closing the gap between them. “But maybe, just this once, it wouldn’t matter.”

He pulled her in his arms and her chin tilted up, and their lips met, clung. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, but they didn’t pull away.

Wordlessly, she led him he knew not where. All he knew was that he’d follow her anywhere she wanted to go.

He’d follow her anywhere, as long as he lived.

 

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Enduring Attachments by Johann Farson
Excerpt:

The knock came as expected. Three quick raps followed by a solid slap on the aging balsa frame of the door. No doubt it was from the courier service which the seller from SobrangSulit.com had employed.

His signature and full name were required. John Demetrio Ocampo, with a full exaggerated flourish of J.

God may not have come through at times. But from where he was standing, it was nice to see that some random stranger over the internet had done so. Even though he might have been the Devil for all anyone knew.

From an initial first examination, it looked no more special than a piece of charred rock which had been dutifully picked up of the ground, dusted off with a toothbrush, and ever so meticulously furnished with a bit of oil and varnish.

For sale: Palm-sized meteorite, found while taking a trip in the backroads of Pampanga. Previously purchased from a seller who claimed to have discovered it from a local river. Willing to sell for 500 pesos, or trade for certain items. Meetups can be arranged through text.

The description and link to the ad made its way onto John’s email in the spam section. The transaction was wired within a couple of days.

The question now was what to do with it?

One of John’s best friends had a passionate hobby in Geology, and it had been John’s plan to get this rock for him as a present.

Now though, he wasn’t quite sure what to do. He hadn’t quite been this fixated on an object since the time his dad had left his ‘bomba’ magazines lying around in the bathroom, ripe for his consumption.

Perhaps the rock would look good, lying on the center of his display cabinet.

Or not. Maybe it was just best to cover it up, ensuring that John wouldn’t have to be entranced by its unusual detail every time he passed through that section of the living room.

The shrill ring of his home T-phone brought John out of his trance.

He slowly flipped the rock beneath his blankets and got off the bed. The phone rang about five more times before John was able to reach it and press the intercom button.

“Ah, hello?”

“O is that you John? We’ve been looking all over for you kanina pa.” The voice of his friend Jen began with a whisper.  “So get your ass over here and let’s have us a party!”

John pulled the phone back, as his ears rang from her outburst. “Hay naku, Jen. You’re planning on sleeping with several of the party guests again, no?”

Aba’y why not? We only live once, dude!”

“Fine, fine. Who am I to argue about your promiscuous approach to doing things? I’ll be there in an hour. Just have to make sure my car won’t conk out on me if I take it that far.”

Jen replied. “Oh while you’re at it, I was hoping you could pick up a few things for us as well.  The whole tropa I mean.”

John sighed. “Fine, I’ll go grab a pen and make a list.”

An hour later, John walked into the house where the party was being held. It was located directly at the top of a small hill, and the gate enclosing the border of the property had been a small one that John had easily climbed over.

There didn’t seem to be all that many people around at first glance, though there were a few scattered drunks lying about on the grass. But as soon as he entered through the sliding door at the side entrance, he knew he was in for an untidy crowd.

Most of the guests(Who were made up of teens and people who could pass as teens)were either playing beer pong by the poolside, or lining up for a round of Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle with the party hosts who sat with their legs crossed on the center of the dining table.

“The Circle’s big with the crowd.” John turned around at the sound of the familiar voice to meet the mischevious face of Jennifer Reyes, one of his more friendly colleagues. John peered over his sunglasses to take her all in. She wore a small green Beanie hat which did well to hide part of her smooth, long flowing locks of purple-streaked black hair. Her arms and legs seemed to have a little more toned-up muscle now, especially after the last time he had seen her.

“Our hosts, I mean.” She motioned to John’s side. “They’ve had a real reputation of being able to really perform. Whether it’s in the shower, on the bed, in the pool, or just inside somebody’s pants, supposedly they can really give some of the best orgasmic moments you can ever imagine. That is, if they come to really like you.”

Bale, the guests over there all just waiting in line, hoping to get a little lucky?” John asked.

“I guess that’s the gist of it.” Jen grinned and put her arms around his head, leaning in to kiss him quickly but fully on the lips. “And now, I guess you got a little of that luck yourself.”

John took a step back, steadying himself. After a moment, he looked back up and returned her grin. “Grabi, ang landi mo pa rin!”

The two of them laughed and embraced.

“It hasn’t been quite the same you know, talking to you and everyone on the phone lang, all the time.” Jen spoke as she pulled away from the embrace. “This past year, I was so preoccupied by family matters in the province,  that I never got to meet up with a lot of you guys. Things felt like they were crumbling around me.  But I get to this party and just like that, I’m back!”

“Good to hear you’re enjoying it.” John smiled.  “Speaking of friends, where would you say ours are?”

She pointed a manicured finger towards the ceiling. “Well, Tim and Jessica are upstairs, enjoying the view.”

“What about Ricky and Jerry?”

“You know they never really go for these types of parties. This crowd was just never for them. They promised they’d be there for the after-party thing, though.”

“Ah, I see.” John nodded. “ So…Should I place the items that I bought-

Jen pressed her left thumb against his lips. “Oh ,shh shh, let’s not get into that just yet, ok? There’ll be plenty of time for that later. For now, just go around the party, get to know the people here.” She gave him a concerned look. “I mean, only if you want to, of course. I’ll understand if you want to avoid them altogether.”

Bahala na.”  John indicated with his lip at the hosts who were now making out on the table.  “Ikaw, were you planning on getting into a piece of some of that?” He asked.

“You know, one of them DID catch my eye a while back…So, yeah. I just might initiate a little contact first, you know just to test the waters…And the bed. See who starts screaming first.” With a wink, she pushed him to the side gently as she walked over to where the hosts were playing.

Hanep talaga”. John muttered under his breath as he walked a short ways into the kitchen.

He pried the cover off the cooler, and reached inside, grabbing hold of a cold can of beer. For a few moments he stared at the design on the can. Finally he proclaimed: “Defend us in battle, o Saint Michael.” He pried it open and chugged the contents into his parched mouth.

A few beers later, he was finally ready to socialize.

He slugged a few steps forward into the back, past the sliding door, where the lengthy indoor pool was brightly illuminated and being enjoyed by several partygoers.

One of them was reading a book and had her feet dipped in the water. John immediately noticed that she didn’t seem to mind that her hair was partly in the water.

He tapped her gently on the shoulder, as he took a seat beside her, on the edge of the pool. She looked up from the native-looking hat she wore on her head, a quizzical expression on her face.

“Do you know what time it issss??” John couldn’t help but slur his last word, already feeling the effects of his binge.

“Oh uh, yes.” She took out her T-phone and took a peak. “It’s 6:07. Bakit? You getting bored already?”

“I wouldn’t sayyy thattt.” John uttered.

“No really, you can tell me. I’m one of the hosts anyway, so it’s my job to keep things from going dull.” She set her book aside and lay her palms out in a questioning gesture. “Well? Think you got any ideas for making this event a little more interesting? Cause I’m all ears.”

“Hey, it’s not really myyy placeee……To judge. The inuman’s good thoughooooo.” This time, he was slurring his speech intentionally.

From the grin he was managing to elicit from her, it looked as if his plan were working. “Hold on now. Mukhang napasobra ka na ng kaunti ah!” She moved to steady his arms, which seemed to be flexing uncontrollably, as he teetered near the edge of the pool.

“No, no it’s fine.” He indicated, and she slowly let go of his body. He raised his hand as if to shake her hand, at the same time sending his body into a teetering movement. “I’m John by the way. And-

He was cut off as he slipped and slid off into the cool waters of the pool, splashing her legs and clothes.

John couldn’t make out her expression as she replied. “It appears we’re both wet.”

 

Again, don’t forget to get your copy of Fateful Turns from the Buqo app! More stories await you from Justine Camacho-Tajonera, Carla De Guzman, Ren Mayari, Sette Luis, Will J. Sarm, Rose Gallardo, and yours truly.

 

 

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