I can’t believe I choose to write this right now when I could just go straight to bed rather than continue to scare myself by listening to the sounds outside the house. I don’t know what sound seemed the scariest. Is it the:
- (a) the cat (or cats..you can never be too sure with them) outside trying to topple down the garbage bin and making bangs every now and then?;
(b) the piteous howl of Grey, my cousin’s female askal who seems to be in pain that I can’t help that I should check upon her (agh! Security breach alert..opening the doors at this hour is such a no-no)?;
(c) the splashing of the water at the artesian well adjacent to our sari-sari store (I mean seriously. Who would be up this time to fetch water or even take a bath?)?;
(d) the kiss-kiss sounds of lizards chasing each other behind The Last Supper painting above the kitchen table?;
(e) the tick-tick-tick sounds of keyboard?;
(f) the gentle hum of the electric fan (we don’t have airconditioning in the house so to keep the computer from heating up quickly)?;
(g) Grey’s yelping that has increased in volume then suddenly fades away?;
(h) the vicious snarl of a much bigger dog threatening Grey which is outside the door (Am I still writing this? Seriously??? Is it normal for dogs to sound so mean like that? And besides, we don’t have a dog in the house nor one who stays just outside our door. But how come the it sounds so near? Or is it because of the deafening silence that’s why everything sounds magnified? And did the dog jump over the fence without breaking a stride and rattling the gate?)?;
(i) the cackling of the rooster?;
(j) or my fear?
In Philippine folklore, it is believed that 2 a.m. (some argue it’s 3) is the bewitching hour – that time of the night when non-human creatures would roam the earth and do whatever it is that pleases them. And woe to him who meets them at this time or any other. Growing up feeding on these tales has filled me with a rich imagination although I still am very sure it wasn’t my imagination who did the listening when I spied a chain being dragged across the pavement at around this time also 19 years ago.
As a kid, I used to sleep with my aunts in my lola‘s house because ours has less space then plus I enjoyed the little freedom I get being allowed to sleep elsewhere, like winning bragging rights over the younger sibling. On one of these nights, I woke up to the sound of cling-clang-blag-cling-clang-blag just outside the wooden wall that protects us (me and my sleeping aunts) from the elements. I was in that state of awake/not awake yet so I paused to hear more of that sound although my brain was already wracking what it could be. Cling-clang-blag-cling-clang-blag. I thought that it really did sound like a chain but at first I wasn’t too sure because to my young mind it’s impossible for a chain to be dragged like that without hearing the shuffling of the feet or even the sound of the slippers making contact with the pavement of the one supposedly dragging it. As the chain dragged on, the sound got louder and louder until it stopped just by the mansinitas tree beside the artesian well (and from where our store now stands..umm..yeah, we had to obtain “special permission” to cut down that tree). I admit I was very curious to see who or what dragged that chain and the window was just within my reach when I realized with dread what it was – a lost soul. People say that there are among us souls who will never find peace for grave misdeeds they have done when they were still alive and whoever accepts anything or even responds to them will take their place. Cebuanos scare young children with stories of kalag nga nagkondenar to make them avoid being rowdy when twilight has already set in, and offending these spirits in the process. You bet when the realization hit me, I tried to make myself really really small making sure that my brown feet would be covered by the thin blanket trying not to think so much of the fact that the bamboo slats as our floor (my aunts’ room is on the 2nd floor and directly beneath it is a pen for a pig or the hens) are not straight-edged, that there are noticeable gaps in between them and that anyone with super thin fingers and super sharp nails could easily get us even ruining the banig we’re sleeping on.
While the mean dog was snarling and luring me to go out, all my fears as a kid came back. It was scary and crazy at the same time because at the back of my mind, I know I shouldn’t be scared and do something really stupid like open the door. As I was making the sign of the cross to ward off the fear, a beautiful thought enveloped me, Yes, dog, you may sound really nasty but my God’s way stronger than you. And then there was silence as if to say Amen.
Update: When I woke up today, my aunt told my mama that she heard 2 dogs last night in our property as our present house is adjacent to hers – one small and the other sounded very big and mean. She was confused how could the dogs be over our property unless those two jumped over the gate. Although I don’t want to say that I’m happy somebody else “got scared” like I was last night, but at least I’ve confirmed that it wasn’t my imagination running away with me. (And oh, my aunt had their house renovated years ago so no worries about the bamboo slats anymore. 😉 )