the setting could have been perfect that day.
we were in the midst of casaroro, valencia’s beautiful waterfalls and the municipality’s gem that is frequented by tourists who bask in its almost ethereal beauty. casaroro falls is every trekker’s dream, and although it is inaccessible to even the most daredevil habal-habal drivers in this sleepy town of negros, several hikers still choose to endure the two-hour uphill climb that is ridden with sharp rocks and red soil that turns to mud once it is drenched by heaven’s tears. casaroro’s beauty, after all, is unmatched in all of negros, and once one is captivated by its natural serenity, the ordeal of trying to get there would not matter at all.
but this day was different – for amid the beautiful backdrop of casaroro’s poignant beauty, several people were huddled together in different groups: most of them were trying to subdue their sobs, while one of them, imelda’s mother, was wailing uncontrollably. as i was standing next to my brother, and merely observing the intensity of human anguish that had so consumed most of the people there that day, father vincoy was saying mass.
father vincoy is known in dumaguete as the priest who has the gift of exorcism, and several times before, he had been instrumental in purging the demonic spirits from those who were possessed by elemental beings. and while he endured the glare of the midday sun as he raised the sacristy for consecration, my mind had drifted towards the tragedy that happened four days ago.
five young souls who just graduated from high school were itching for an adventure before college would devour them whole in the coming school year. casaroro was their destination of choice, so before the break of dawn, they were well on their way to the treacherous trail that would lead them to one of nature’s finest creations. and at eight in the morning, all five of them were already bathing in casaroro’s freezing waters, and the morning fog had enclosed them in a world that was suspended in calming silence.
the water was rather peaceful that day, they all noticed, for they heard nothing but the soft ripples of water and the concoction of sounds from the birds and the early morning breeze.
but nature, they would later on learn, can be deceptive and inconspicuous with its wrath. for in an instant, the uneventful silence of casaroro was replaced by the anguish of large rocks that stampeded from the mountains – its hell path wreaking death on whatever or whoever it came in contact with. the sound of rock gritting, one of them would later say, was the very sound of death itself.
as they all scampered to the land for safety, one of them was caught by surprise by the sudden ambush of rocks, and as she flailed helplessly in the water to keep afloat, a rock hit her on the head. as the rapids continued its onslaught downwards, imelda’s body was helplessly tossed around like a twig by the wrath of the boulders – until finally, her body had drifted out of sight, and her companions were left crying for help on that fateful morning when nature, it seemed, decided to show its might and unleash its fury.
it would take three days and a massive manhunt operation for the authorities to finally recover imelda’s body. 300 meters down from where she initially was, her lifeless body was discovered entangled in a group of large rocks near one of valencia’s rivers. she barely had any hair left on her head and had swollen up beyond recognition. her body was in an advanced state of decomposition and it bore distinct wounds and bruises from being ravaged by the turbulence of the unrelenting rapids. the news spread like wildfire in dumaguete that by nighttime, numerous candles were lit at the altar for the eternal repose of her soul.
it was during the recitation of the apostles’ creed when i noticed that father vincoy seemed uneasy from time to time. ‘i believe in god, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…’, then he would momentarily pause for a good five to ten seconds, look up to where the water slowly descended from the mountain, and then continue on with his recitation of the creed. and because the midday sun was in its most imposing state as the mass was about to end, his face was lined with heavy streaks of perspiration when he was finally done with the eucharist.
it was during family dinner with father vincoy, one year after that unfortunate incident, when my father would once again revisit the grief that ensnared our small community when imelda had met her untimely demise. at the mention of the incident, the clairvoyant priest’s expression suddenly turned serious.
‘alam mo ba andy, may nakita ako nung araw na yun.’
everyone, upon hearing him say this, huddled closer to the table.
“habang dinadasal ko ang apostle’s creed, may dalawang malalaking boses na nagmumura sa akin galing sa itaas. at nung tumingin ako sa itaas, may nakita akong dalawang maiitim na pigura na nakalutang sa ere.”
he suddenly paused, as though to pace himself for the clincher of his story.
“at habang nakatingin ako sa kanila, ay nanlilisik ang mapupula nilang mga mata, habang sinisigawan nila akong umalis na dahil nasa kanila na si imelda.”
“at nang tumanaw uli ako sa itaas, ay may nakita akong isang babaeng nakapatong sa isang malaking bato, katabi ng mga maiitim na kaluluwa. at kahit napapaliguan siya ng sinag ng araw habang nakaupo sa malaking batong yun, ay nakita ko ang maamong mukha ni imelda.”
other entries for the horror writing challenge:
glentot's horror story challenge.
jap's spirit of the glass.
will's case of the abandoned hotel.