I don’t write a lot of short stories. In fact, my attempts at writing short stories often is more of a recent thing.
While looking back on some of my works, I stumbled upon my last NANOWRIMO attempt, a paranormal mystery set in a very rural place entitled “The Mystery of Barangay Wiska.”
Barangay is a Filipino word which means small settlement. It’s like the component of a city or municipality.
I thought of injecting in some Filipino folklore into the story which was set in a modern era.
Re-reading the first few chapters renewed my interest for the story. I don’t even remember the direction my story went, but I vaguely remember I ran out of ideas, and I also ran out of time with the NANOWRIMO attempt. However, I got myself up to 30 chapters…
Which got me thinking… can I complete this story? While it may not be finished as a full-fledged novel, perhaps I could at least finish the story. With fresh perspective, perhaps I can, finally, save this story from Work-in-Progress purgatory… hahaha…
As of now, I don’t know what direction I will take the story. Will it be a happy ending, or a tragic one? What lessons will my main protagonist learn? How will he grow from this encounter?
I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I guess that’s why it still is a work in progress, eh?
Let me share to you a bit of the story, please let me know what you think.
Here is a brief excerpt of the two chapters I got:
The Mystery of Barangay Wiska
Marcelo was not too enthusiastic about this summer’s trip. He was being sent to the country side while his father handles some business.
“Wow, trees!” Marcelo spoke with the enthusiasm of a dead rat.
“It’s not that bad, son. Wiska has its charms.” Marcelo’s father, Mark said while he navigated the small, bumpy road.
Whatever those charms were, Marcelo could not see them.
Barangay Wiska was a small, rural farming village surrounded by fields of rice paddies as far as the eye can see. Green fields met with the blue sky far into the horizon.
Marcelo expected the summer to be a snooze. He found the place barely interesting as they drove aboard his father ‘s black Isuzu pickup. The truck was built for rough terrain but the road to Barangay Wiska was posing a challenge even for the vehicle’s tough suspensions.
“Damn these roads!” His father complained as the truck hit a hole on the road. “Are the politicians here lining their pockets more with cash than lining the roads with concrete?” Mark gritted his teeth as he gripped the steering wheel tighter to regain control.
A small, cement marker with cracked edges and faded letters painted on its face by the side of the road told Marcelo that they were close to their destination. In the distance, a large tree which seemed to be covered in cascading vines loomed on the horizon.
The black pickup truck slowed down and stopped by the roadside beside a small, single floored concrete bungalo. The red roof showed signs of rust and the brown walls seemed to have more dirt than paint on.
The truck stopped but Marcelo refused to get down.
“Can’t I just come with you, Pa?”
Marcelo’s father gave his son a stern gaze from behind his half-rimmed glasses.
After a few moments of silence, he let out a sigh.
“We talked about this already countless times, son… I’d be heading to a really important client, and I’m afraid I can’t talk business and look after you at the same time…”
“I can just stay in car!” Marcelo answered enthusiastically as he saw a loophole. He’d rather be cooped up in the car than with people he don’t know.
“I’m really sorry, son…”
Marcelo’s enthusiasm dropped faster than a lead ball.
“I know these people. I grew up here. It’s not going to be that bad.”
Marcelo hopped out of the car, and his father followed shortly.
They were greeted by an old man who looked wrinkled like a prune. He wore a white shirt which seemed closer to dust in color than the clouds up in the sky.
Marcelo watched as the two men exchanged pleasantries, then went inside. Marcelo followed shortly.
“Ah, so this is young Marcelo?” The old man said. The old man offered his right hand to Marcelo, to which he responded by taking the old man’s hand and bowing while pressing the old man’s hand to his forehead.
“Mano po…” Marcelo said.
“Bless you, child.”
“This is Mang Isko, Marcelo.” His father introduced the old man. “He took care of me back when I used to live here when I was very young.”
The old man chuckled.
“You make it sound like I am very old already.” The old man smiled. He didn’t seem to have most of his teeth anymore.
His father then instructed him to stay in the living room while the two men went in the kitchen.
Marcelo did not pay any mind to what the two were talking about until…
“You should not have brought him here as this time of the month! It is too dangerous here.”
Marcelo stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Mang Isko warn his father.
“What do you mean it’s not safe for him to be here?” His father spoke.
“The moon is full and ‘it’ demands blood!” Mang Isko said gravely.
“Are you referring to that old folk tale you used to tell me when I was a kid?”
The old man did not respond.
“Geez, old man! Weren’t those just tales meant to keep little children in line?”
His father’s words echoed off the empty house.
Mang Isko seemed to have mumbled a reply but Marcelo did not hear it clearly.
Marcelo could not see the two arguing… in fact he preferred not to. He pretended to be really interested in a speck of dust on top of the table while he stood there in the middle of the living room.
Their argument seemed to have died abruptly when his father stormed into the room.
“I won’t be gone long, alright, son?” While his statement seemed light and cheery, Marcelo saw a hint of anger repressed behind his father’s eyes and furrowed brow.
Marcelo watched his father drive away, beside him Mang Isko stood with his two bags.
“Can I take a look around town, Mang Isko?” Marcelo said as politely as he could.
Mang Isko’s eyes widened in surprise, as if he forgot that he was with another human being.
“Ah, yes, child, alright. However, I must warn you…” his voice deepened and his eyes lost the smile they had earlier.
“Make sure you are back before the sun sets.”
Marcelo nodded and walked away, as he wondered what loose screws the old man must have up in his head.
Marcelo found himself walking along a street lined with small huts. Most were closed to his left, a woman was sweeping the ground for leaves and garbage, next door, a pair of women were chatting with each other in front of their houses, and in the distance, he could see a group of men drinking gin.
They all seemed to stop what they were doing and followed his movement with their eyes.
Marcelo walked faster.
“Hey, new kid? Where do you think you’re going?” A boy’s voice from the side of the street called out.
Marcelo didn’t turn to look who was speaking, and tried to walk faster.
“Hey!” The voice called again, this time the speaker moved closer, close enough to give him a pat on his right shoulder.
Marcelo spun around clockwise, arms raised in a closed fist, ready for anything.
He faced his opponent, and saw that it was a small, thin boy, probably around ten to twelve in age. The kid was taken by surprise, and quickly raised his arms in surrender.
“Hey, I don’t want any trouble…” The boy spoke up, arms still raised.
Marcelo saw the boy and slowly lowered his fists.
“I saw you got off at Old Man Isko’s house in that big car earlier…” The boy said as he quickly dropped his arms back to normal position. “That was one sweet ride!”
Marcelo just looked at him and let him talk.
“I was just wondering where you’re going.”
“Nowhere.” Marcelo replied.
The boy’s face said that he didn’t understood what Marcelo meant. He smiled and nodded as though he knew what he meant, but didn’t really.
“I meant I don’t know where I am going. I’m going to have a look around.”
“Cool. Can I come along? I can show you around.”
“Eh, sure… why not.”
The kid’s face lit up like a light bulb and his smile was wide enough to show most of his teeth.
“I’m Berto.” The kid said as they walked.
That was all the introductions they made as they walked around the place, Berto pointing out notable people and places as they moved.
“That is Juanito’s house. He’s bad case. I’d suggest you stay away from him.” Berto said as he pointed at a large hut with a rusty old jeep parked on the driveway. “His father’s the Captain here, so he tends to have everything he wants.”
“What is the deal with everyone here?” Marcelo finally blurted out once they were walking along a large rice field.
“What do you mean?”
“They keep staring at me. Some would look when they think I’m not looking, but some would just stand there and stare. It’s weirding me out…”
“It’s because you’re new….” Berto said as he picked up a stick from the ground.
“I was new here once. They did that, too. But they’ll warm up to you eventually. Maybe. We’ve been here for five years already and some of them still give us the ‘eye’.”
“Yeah, me and my mama and papa, and my big brother Pedro.”
“You’re brother’s name is Pedro?” Marcelo chuckled. Berto stopped walking.
“What’s so funny?”
“I don’t know… Pedro and Berto sounds funny to me. They rhyme.”
“Yeah? Well so does ‘Marcelo’….”
“It does, too, doesn’t it?”
“Weirdo…” Berto mumbled at his new friend’s antics.
“Hey, Berto… What’s that?” Marcelo stopped walking and pointed at the large tree in the middle of the field. It had trunks and branches gnarled and twisting, with vine-like leaves dangling down its branches like thick hair, unkept and needing a good combing.
“That’s the balete tree..”
“That’s a belete tree? Wow. I haven’t seen one before.” Marcelo was excited about his new find.
“I only heard about it in stories… you know, like Balete Drive?”
Berto nodded. He knew of the tales, too.
“I didn’t know they grew that big!”
“This one is unique – the oldest in the country, they say.”
“Interesting…can we check it out?”
“Maybe another time. The sun’s setting. I need to get home.” Berto said.
Marcelo sighed, but he had to follow his new friend and guide. It was getting dark and he did say he was going to be back before dark.
“My house is along they way to yours. This way. “
Berto’s house was tiny, with wooden walls and roofing made of rusty sheets.
“Come on in.” Berto invited.
“I can’t. I have to get going, too. Some other time?”
Berto agreed on the grounds that Marcelo promise that he would visit his house soon.
“Well, this town seems much more interesting now…” Marcelo mumbled to himself as he started his short trek back to Mang Isko’s house.
The sky slowly turned from blue to orange. Marcelo quickened his pace.
“Marcelo!” It was Berto shouting from behind.
“Wait!! I need your help.”
Well, that’s all for now. How was it? I am most welcome to constructive criticism so I can become a better story-teller.
Anyway, thank you very much for reading.
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