Chemical Manila - Part 5

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I couldn't stop running. I felt like running was my punishment and redemption at the same time, the scenes of what had happened at the precinct kept on repeating inside my head. Each time, I felt the humanity of the situation felt lesser. I began to forget the idea that we had shot our own professor. No, to me, we had just protected ourselves from monsters. We did what we had to do. We did the right thing.

I felt like a kid. I didn't want any responsibility from any of it.

So I ran.

The road we traveled on was well lit, and there were signs every now and then pointing to where the observatory was. I felt that the observatory was now our safe haven. We have been trying to go there for many hours already, through many experiences. Deep inside, it was probably my ego that forced me to keep pushing to go to that place.

And then there was Toffee.

She was pale, but hardly from exhaustion. I've always seen her as somebody more athletic than me. She wasn't pale because she was tired. No, her eyes told of a different story. Her eyes were marked with horrified expression. In the end it wasn't "us" who shot a man. It was her.

As it turned out, she was thinking of the very same thing. "When I was younger," she just started speaking as we began to slow down from the increasing incline of the road, "my dad asked me to practice with him in trap shooting. He loved that sport, but I never understood why he had to take me with him."

I stopped to catch my breath for the first time that night by the roadside, between vast sections of trees. I just wanted to hear her out. She was staring out into space, seemingly untired from our running. Toffee continued. "He told me it was for my own protection, but I never thought I'd ever need a gun to protect myself. I thought of it as a game instead. The closer I got to hitting bullseyes, the better."

And it was that lucky hobby of hers that saved us, I thought, but kept to myself. "I never knew that side of you," I told her. Toffee nodded. "Being good with guns isn't something any girl would want to brag about. And after we came back from the States, I've stopped practicing."

It must be wonderful to have something you can get really good on. Unlike her, I've always been mediocre at everything I did. I can do a whole lot of things, but never get really good at any one of them. Toffee on the other hand was good at something, and something very few people can ever get good in.

Toffee turned away and remained silent. "Can I ask you a favor?" she said with a shaky, hushed voice. "What is it?" I asked. "When we meet up with father, can you never tell him that I killed a man with these hands?"

I moved sideways to see her face under the streetlamp. She looked angry, but with tears in her eyes. Was this the frustration that came with guilt? I pumped her hands once. I felt I could offer no more consolations. How many times more must she cry because of what was happening to us? I pelted her chin with my finger and waited for her gaze to turn to me. I smiled. "Okay," I reassured her, "but before worrying about that, we need to head to where your father is."

She didn't reply, but we started moving towards the observatory again, slower this time.

After a while, we finally hit where we had stopped before I was knocked unconscious. My red knapsack was right where I left it, which I slung on my back.

Just as we got moving again, we heard footsteps coming from another road running adjacent to the nearest intersection. I strained my eyes to see if they were people from the military, but as they drew closer, it became evident that they weren't.

They had school uniforms. Our school uniform.

There were five of them but I couldnt recognize their faces because of the play of darkness. I noticed dried blood all over their clothes, nothing else. They didn't shout at us either. I was reminded of Mr. Santos. I wanted to see their eyes to see if they were no different from him. I was far from optimistic. We waited while their walking became a brisk jog, heading for us. Toffee looked ecstatic.

Soon, they were running.

After they got close enough, I noticed their movements were strange, almost convulsive. And then under the streetlamps, I finally saw their eyes. Blacked out, seemingly lusting for blood.

"Toffee," I nervously said as I pulled her by her arm. "We should run."

Toffee gave me one look, disapproving but helpless. She didn't say a word. But when I took that first stride up the ever steeping slope to the observatory, she followed suit immediately.

I knew at that time I couldn't stop running again.

I felt like a kid escaping his problems.

I ran.

1 comment:

Menaya Garces said...

That would have killed me, to see my ex classmates shimmying up to me in their zombie gait. I'd probably sit and wait for them.


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