Chemical Manila - Part 4

Friday, October 24, 2008

I knew it.

The moment I saw Mr. Santos again, I knew I was right. They weren't dead after all. I heard gunshots and I panicked, that's what had happened. I almost forgot the dismal state he was in when I saw him by the window. Trivial. As long as he's here, we'll be fine.

Toffee's face lit up with joy as well, now convinced that he had indeed come for us. We couldn't see the two soldiers but we knew they were talking it out with him, possibly helping his injuries.

As I recall now, even at this point, I still did not know what was going on. I was still stuck in my fantasies, and perhaps, that was my greatest mistake of all.

Mr. Santos did not come for us at once. What was the delay? We became anxious inside the cell. Toffee wanted to run outside, but I tugged her hand. Stay here, I tacitly implied. That way, there'll be less trouble.

Then I heard an argument outside, then shouting.

No, it wasn't shouting. They were screams.

The same kind of screams I heard earlier, but without the gunshots.

I clutched Toffee's hand and prepared to run again without even thinking about it. I felt paranoid. One soldier ran towards the inside of the precinct then barred the door shut.

We weren't running away. Why would he lock the door?

The other soldier lunged at the window out of nowhere. His pale face pressing hard into the grills of the window. Loud banging came from the front door. I took a good look at the soldier. His eyes were bloodshot to the point of being blacked out. I will never forget the first time I saw those eyes. They were blood-dark, and instinctively sinister-looking. The soldier by the window gave a howl, while the one blocking the door was uttering what sounded like Our Father. His boots slid inch by inch on the cement flooring.

Then it dawned to me. He wasn't keeping us in.

The soldier was keeping "them" out.

I didn't know what drove me to do it at that time, but I let go of Toffee and helped push the door back. I saw fingers that probably belonged to Mr. Santos inch its way along the narrow opening of the door. The fingers then got pulled back after I slammed it close again.

"What's going on!" I remember shouting, "Why aren't we allowed to talk to our teacher?" The soldier grunted, he looked out of breath. "Take the pistol by the drawer at the table!", he instructed me in short bursts of shouting. I felt the force behind the door pushing us back. Toffee looked disgruntled behind me. "What's going on?" she frustratingly repeated my question.

"Do it!" the soldier cried. I gave the door one hard push then ran for the table he mentioned. The drawer opened up, but it was filled with papers. I had to throw away several layers of typewritten files before I saw a black handgun at the bottom. It was the first time I've ever held a gun in my life. What was the gun for?

"Shoot the door!" the soldier shouted at me. But how? But why? I felt a moment of questioning and slowly walked back to the door as though it was all fine. The door went half open and the face of Mr. Santos popped in.

No, I thought it wasn't him. Mr. Santos did not look so grotesque. His eyes were just as bloodshot and his mouth was foaming with saliva and blood. They splashed onto the cemented flooring. Toffee started screaming. I didn't know what to do anymore.

Mr. Santos howled.

"He's no longer human!" I heard the soldier scream. Shoot, damn you. Shoot. I took my aim and squeezed with my index finger. It wouldn't budge. My hands shook, just as my eyes caught Mr. Santos' eyes again.

"I can't pull the trigger!" I shouted back at the soldier. He could barely keep Mr. Santos out now. The other soldier was gone from the window as well, so he was probably by the door too. I was scared. "The safety!" I heard the soldier shout.

At that point, I felt the worst fright of my life.

So far.

The next events were a blur. I felt somebody grab the gun out of my hands. And before I could even take it back, it was gone. I heard something unlatch. Then I heard a gunshot that muffled my ears. I looked back at Mr. Santos, only to see the moment his forehead ruptured and explode like a watermelon. Several more shots followed. This time the shots went through the door, missing the soldier inside by inches. Splinters flew in all directions, a few of them landed on my skin.

I heard grunts outside, while the unmoving Mr. Santos slowly fell along the doorpane, his blood repainting the white finish with dark red. My body felt cold.

I looked behind me to see who took the shots and saw Toffee, with feral eyes one would associate with a killer on a rampage. She fell to her knees and dropped the gun.

Then finally, silence.

"I-I killed him," Toffee mumbled. Her eyes now dazed, and just as unbelieving as mine. The soldier fell to the floor like a ragdoll, exhausted but smiling. "Good shooting there, kid."

His casualness enraged me. Mr. Santos was right in front of us. Now our teacher is dead. I felt Toffee and I were once again left alone, with the stench of gunpowder and murder in the air.

"Why did we have to shoot him?!" I shouted at the soldier while clutching his camo uniform. "Why!?" The soldier shook his head. I noticed that there were tears welling in his eyes and and the earlier smile, now seemingly forced, was already giving away. "We didn't realize what was happening. I didn't know they would be able to go this far so fast."

Who's "they"? I interrogated the soldier. The soldier seemed bewildered, though somber. "You haven't heard the news?" he asked us. News? I haven't heard of any since the Pasig river news earlier. Toffee was in a silent, listening trance.

The soldier was about to speak, but he grunted from pain once more. His sleeve had stains of blood. "Looks like they got me too," he said with a struggling, disappointed voice. No, I thought he was weeping discretely. "I'd love to chitchat with you two but you got to go to the observatory now. I think the head there wants to talk with you two."

Toffee was delighted to hear this, momentarily forgetting what had happened. She clasped her hands and looked at me. I feigned a smile. The last moments of Mr. Santos proved to haunting, jarring for me.

"Let's go then," I offered the soldier a hand after I stood up. He shook his head and asked for the handgun back. "Property of the army," he said to me. I insisted. The wound must be treated. To late, he argued. Just give me the gun and then run. I shook my head, but Toffee unwittingly gave the gun.

"Come with us!" I remember shouting. It wasn't like I wanted him to be treated really. I just didn't want to walk out at night alone anymore. No, not after what has happened.

But he had the gun now.

His face twitched with pain. "I'll turn into one of them too if I take too long. So go." He sounded delirious, and I tried to approached him. But his face was fuming mad already. He pointed the gun at me, and I could've sworn I smelled the stench of gunpowder that came from it.

"Run or I'll shoot you myself."

I clenched my fist, darted for Toffee and then ran.

We ran once more. Away from that precinct where the body of a soldier lay flat just outside the door. We ran away from Mr. Santos. We ran away from the soldier. I cried along the way.

I cried when I heard one last gunshot from a distance.


Erik Gaius said...

"The soldier fell to the floor like a ragdoll, exhausted but smiling. "Good shooting there, kid."

His casualness enraged me. *snip*

"Why did we have to shoot him?!" I shouted at the soldier while clutching his camo uniform. "Why!?" The soldier shook his head. He was crying as well."

He went from smiling to crying in blink.. or is that the other soldier?

A bit of a mixup in the common-noun use... Sorry for being a grammer nazi, but I really really like the story. It's an expertly written roller-coaster ride, and I'm loving the twists.. keep it up!

Joan said...

Never thought it would be a 'zombie-ish' story. I should've known from the title.
Nevertheless, astounding story!


Looks like I missed that one haha. Good call, Thanks :)

Menaya Garces said...

Red Kinoko, your writing is phenomenal.


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