|Truths Unseen: The second Beginning
||[Dec. 1st, 2006|01:37 am]
I tried to do NaNoWriMo but as usual, I slacked and let life get in the way, so this is all I have. Thanks for the company and prodding, swollenfoot! We'll get it next year, ne?
So here it is. Truths Unseen
If Kite del Mundo had been less experienced, she would have assumed that the hush of the classroom meant she was alone. She knew she wasn't, but she continued to write in her spiral notebook as if she was. There was homework to finish, and she had no time for games that night. She had other plans.
As she neatly drew a square around her final answer, Kite wondered who it was this time that was watching, waiting for the perfect opportunity that would never come. It had been happening for more nights than she could remember, never consecutive, always random and scattered so that she wouldn't notice.
But she did.
An eruption of laughter from the quad broke through her thoughts. Looking up, Kite noticed that the watcher was gone. Back into her imagination.
Kite shut her trigonometry notebook and stood up in one motion. The sky was shuttered in pink and violet; dusk was coming, along with everything that came with it. She hurriedly threw her things into her backpack, shrugged it on, and quickly made her way down the stairs and into the lingering group of students. Some were rolling up student announcement posters, others were playing basketball or watching from the sidelines. They were the extracurricular students – those who excelled and those who lived up high school for all it was worth.
"Oy, Kite!" A chubby girl called from one of the subgroups. She waved Kite over, ignoring the way some of the girls were raising their perfectly plucked eyebrows. Pauline was head of the Student Council communications committee. She mixed with people of all kinds, much like how the ends of her hair twisted this way and that, despite its initial straightness. "Coming to the Delta?"
"Nope." Kite replied, shifting her backpack. "I have to do something tonight."
"Not another stupid 'mission'." Laughed someone beside Pauline. Her small eyes, dark and sharp, were anything but friendly.
"Anna," Pauline chided.
Anna pressed her thin lips together. "Well, they are."
Kite said nothing, merely let the words and looks slide over and past her. The sun was close to setting. Patting Pauline's arm, she bid the group farewell. Some of them snickered behind their hands, while others belted out a chorus of "Bye-bye!" to cover it up.
"We could use some help for the summer festival tomorrow." Pauline called after Kite. Kite raised her hand in a half-wave as her acknowledgement.
At the exit, the threshold between the safety of school and the lure of dusk, she paused long enough to gather her sleek strands into a ponytail and secure it with a tiny clip. Lifting her head, she analyzed the darkening sky and slant of light, and guessed she would most likely be late. Her little brother would be thrilled. Botoy loved to be the better child, and often pretended to be the eldest too.
With an exasperated sigh, Kite set off.
On the bench by the exit, a place where the maids and drivers often waited, he stood up, stretched, and walked after her in long, easy strides.
They got off the jeepney barely a second before the metallic beast took off in search of more passengers just down the road. Tomas steadied Sala, who'd been the last one to step down just as the public transportation vehicle began to inch forward in anticipation.
"Thanks." She said. Tomas immediately drew away from her and began to walk ahead, despite having barely an idea of which direction they were supposed to go. Sala shook her head, more amused than puzzled, though she was both. "Do you know where you're going?"
"Yes. Near Halaan compound." He replied.
"For a boy from out of town, you know your way around."
Tomas shrugged. "I've been hunting here a lot longer than you have."
"I'm not hunting." She corrected. "I'm investigating."
Sala mentally sighed and wondered if it would be like this the whole time they worked together. If he hadn't needed help, she was sure he would have never have agreed to team up with her. As it was, his reluctant attitude was trying, but she sensed he was finding her just as difficult.
"Remember, we're not going to confront him if we see him there." Sala told him, just to be sure.
Tomas’ eyes were focused ahead in concentration, impatiently trying to glimpse the campus. "I know. You needn't keep reminding me." Already, his tone was rising in irritation.
Sala put a calming hand on him. "Your temper seems like it could use some nagging."
His arm was rigid, but he didn't pull away. Instead, he looked to the side somewhat guiltily in remembrance of what had transpired the other day. "Is your shoulder all right now?" For a moment, he sounded concerned, but it was hard to tell, especially when he added in a sharper tone, "The way you're moving, it looks like it is."
He was observant, she gave him that. "You're right. It's fine." In truth, it was still sore, but the bruise was already fading into pale lavender.
"You know, of course, that I didn't mean to hit you. I just didn't think that damn dwende could move so fast."
“That’s why you shouldn’t let those creatures bother you. He’ll poke at your patience too once he finds out who you are.”
Tomas stopped abruptly and swirled his finger in the air. Sala immediately pulled a cloak of dark and wind over herself and Tomas.
"Someone's near." He murmured. In the shifting shadows, his face was a glowing ashen.
Sala, too, felt the presence. It was like firelight – flickering and fleeting, a sudden burst of heat that quickly receded. It often happened before she met a friend or a foe. The problem was, it was always difficult to tell which.
"Do you see who it is?" she asked.
"Not yet." Tomas replied before taking off, stretching the web of shadows between them, nearly causing it to slip off. Sala had to run after him, her steps muffled, her heavy breaths muted.
Tomas was obviously not used to slowing down for a partner. He looked back at her impatiently. "Hurry, or it'll be gone."
Sala gave him a look and called back, "If I could hurry any faster, I'd be there already."
Tomas briefly faced forward again, then turned back once more to reach out a hand. She automatically extended her own to meet his. He took a firm grip and began to mumble something unintelligible while tracing his thumb over the back of her hand. Before she could wonder, her feet instantly lightened and she practically lifted off the cracking pavement. She looked up at Tomas, but he had already started running again.
Digging her heel into the ground, Sala gathered her momentum and rocketed herself forward. It took two skips to catch up with him, one to get ahead of him. Sala laughed when she saw his expression as she passed.
"I meant to give you a boost, not make you faster than me." Tomas said bluntly.
Sala smiled and skipped further ahead, but not enough to endanger Tomas slipping out into light. "So this speed thing is a trick."
"What else would it be?" Tomas grumbled.
"Show me how to do it, and I'll show you how to use it."
In the moment it took her to wink and him to deadpan, they were gone.
Even in such a thick crowd, Daro could spot her from a great distance. Such was the presence of the Kite.
It did help that she sported the Calinoan uniform too. The plaid green and violet bow around her neck matched an equally too trendy skirt, cut to enhance any body type. Their school may not have been at the top of its class, but it certainly topped aesthetics, not just in uniform fashion, but also in its smooth, curved buildings, open classrooms and detailed landscaping.
In many respects, Kite did not fit into the superficial class of the school. Her skin was not bleached with skin-whitening products and her way of walking was not quite graceful. The plum purple backpack she'd had since she was a new freshman was worn from years of activity. Scuff marks were visible on her black shoes, even when it was obvious that she polished them every morning.
All that might have been forgivable if her personality had been outgoing or her intellect was above the norm. As it was, Kite participated in orgs reluctantly and constantly struggled to keep her marks above 83. Generally, that was acceptable.
It was her eccentricities that were not: her steel composure that made her snobbish, her recent penchant for wandering into the night to - Daro laughed to think of what she sought, and he always, always had to hold himself back.
But it would be worth it to see her reaction.
As if to tempt him, her dangling earrings glinted in the dying light, attracting his eye. If that flagged his attention, then there was no other way. He had to do it.
It was no problem getting through the throng of pedestrians. Swiftness had always been a talent of his. There was also the fact that people tended to step aside when he passed, their eyes never quite catching sight of him, reacting like ripples to a stone. Most moved without meaning to, yet there was always the odd person that didn't. Naturally, that odd person was Kite.
"Leave me alone, stalker." She told him as soon as Daro was within earshot, maybe even before. He heard, nevertheless, and dropped all effort to disguise his approach. He was fast, but he'd never been light in step.
Daro easily caught up with her in two strides when it would've taken another guy four. "Why would I wanna stalk you, Katie?"
"Because you enjoy irritating me." Kite answered accurately. "And stop calling me that."
Daro chuckled, which annoyed her even more. She hurried to get away from him, but he effortlessly kept pace. While she cursed his abnormally long legs, he caught sense of something. Before he could determine what, she abruptly stopped walking and glared up, up, up at him, tearing through his focus in the process. He hated when she did that, and thus readily obliged her with his own dark look.
"That may work on your classmates," said Kite, her simple features edged with petulancy. "But I'm not part of your star section. Stupid people aren't as easy to scare, and stupid people don't need to pretend to be polite. So, go away."
"But I've come to help." said Daro, putting on his sincerest expression. Kite wasn't fooled.
"Help? You've come to sabotage me."
Daro didn't deny it, though he did his best to stifle a smile. His face was prone to glaring, which helped immensely, but it was still a struggle. "What makes you say that?"
"Remember the Santos house incident? When you saw me unlocking the door with a key THEY gave me to look around, you rounded up the neighbors and told them someone was robbing the house?" Kite ticked off a finger. "Or how about the time you creeped out that guy I was interviewing about those fake white lady sightings. He thought YOU were a demon." She ticked off another. Kite went on – there was much to go on about and it was no surprise she was exasperated beyond measure - but Daro had stopped listening.
There it was again. Someone looking. The pinpoint of eyes.
The street they stood on the side of was choked with noisy traffic. Vendors dotted the street at random intervals, sprouting as they did overnight and disappearing the next. Commuters were either literally running to catch a jeepney, or were idly standing, waiting for one to come. Horns honked, people called out "para!", but despite all the activity, the sense was still there. It wasn't just a passing observer; it was an intense watcher with a vested interest. Daro moved to find out what.
"-and now, after you claim you want to 'help' me, you're just going disappear?"
Daro paused in his departure. He smiled handsomely, even if she'd told him on more than one occasion that he was as ugly as a horse. "Did you want me to stay, Katie?"
"Just leave, idiot." She pushed him, her tan fingers splayed across his shirt cuff, palm pressing against his bare skin. The contact made him nearly topple over, but he exaggerated the fall and finished with an acrobatic move that involved a complicated twist.
He looked back to see if Kite had seen his awesome move, but she had just disappeared into a side street.
Somewhat let down, Daro set off. There was nothing he liked better than being appreciated for his talent, although annoying the Kite was proving to be just as enjoyable. If he'd only known sooner how easy it was, he wouldn't have given her the benefit of peace for all those years.
He had never ignored her, though. And as much as everyone else pretended, no one could either.
Tomas, both his hands gripping a bolo, pointed his lips at the tall, dark boy who was walking beside a visibly irritated girl. It was obvious they didn’t belong together. The boy was square and brutish while the girl was smooth-edged and fragile.
"Is that him?" Tomas asked as quietly as possible.
Sala didn't bother in lowering her own voice, disguised as it was as wind. "Yup, that's the guy. Daro Vesiro, high school junior, track varsity, student of Ignacio Calinao high school since kindergarten."
"Since kinder? Tomas repeated dubiously.
"Everything I've found confirms it. School records, students' memories, you know the deal. His presence wasn't spun out of nothing."
Tomas analyzed what she said, his eyes looking through her as if he could see into her own guarded mind. Sala merely reflected back at him, making him blink, startled. Shaking his head, he said, "So he's not a transplant. That still doesn't mean he's not dangerous."
Sala shrugged, the ends of her dress swaying with the upward movement. "We've only got theories at this point."
"But you have a witness, that girl who gave you her testimony."
"She didn't give it to me, exactly. She-"
Her cover of shadows suddenly flapped up, nearly twirling off of them. Sala closed her eyes and made an awful face, like one someone would make while trying to tow a car with her bare hands.
Sala gritted her teeth, made an effort to speak. "He knows we're here."
Tomas had guessed as much, already scanning the spot they'd last seen the pair, but both were gone. He gripped his weapon tighter, although the bolo by itself wasn't much use when dealing with matters like these.
He stood up straight, even as the shadows flickered, revealing his shoes, his legs. "Save your energy, Sala."
"We're not confronting him." Sala repeated, refusing to let go despite the sweat trickling down her temples.
"If he finds us first, what else are we going to do?"
Sala stood up in a jilted motion. "Run."
Tomas found himself running with her against his will, what few shadows Sala managed to hold onto leaping ahead to muffle the pounding of their feet.
Sala had her arms out wide and her fists clenched into the air, looking as if she were a child pretending she could fly with an imaginary cape. They made their way deep into a subdivision of housing, where it was quieter and hopefully, safer. There were few lampposts, but once the sun set, they would cast megawatt light and equally as sharp shadows that Tomas thought Sala could make use of if necessary.
The cicadas hummed noisily around them from the empty lots here and there that were yet to be bought and developed. Mosquitoes nipped at Tomas' bare legs, hungry for blood, but he was moving too fast for them to latch on.
His companion wasn't. She slapped at her arm as she plodded on, steadily growing slower by the second. Tomas had known from the start that this would be a major disability – her firm yet undoubtedly plump body type wasn't made for physical exertion. Sala began to slow, her breaths coming hard and fast. "Your trick, Tomas, do your trick."
Tomas shook his head. "I can't so soon, not without using everything up."
"How weak." said a boyish and good-natured voice. The source himself appeared soon after, looking straight at them with his large, unnatural eyes. "That cover is sloppy. I can see your toes peeking out."
Sala exhaled and the cover dissipated, revealing her and Tomas, both of whom were catching their breath. Sala looked considerably disheveled from the exertion, physical and mental, but she managed to glare back so fiercely that Tomas would have winced if it had been directed towards him.
The suspect raised his eyebrows in a questioning manner. "I'm sorry, did I offend you?"
"Yes." Sala snapped.
Tomas had to step forward to distract Sala, who looked ready to pounce despite having no offensive abilities. Her nostrils were flared and her eyes were impossibly vivid, almost a molten hazel, but they toned down as soon as he moved in her line of fire.
For someone so quick to avoid confrontation, Sala was just as quick to get heated in one, Tomas observed. The suspect likewise observed, his eyes scanning Sala up and down, then moving onto Tomas in a quick once over that left Tomas feeling insulted.
Tomas used his darkest, most intimidating voice. "What do you want, Daro?"
To Tomas’ astonishment, Daro broke out in laughter. He laughed, and laughed some more, doubling up from the hysteria of it. Charcoal brown strands fell into his eyes, clearly not into line with school grooming policy.
"Stop it." Tomas said, still in alto.
Daro roared and pointed.
Sala fidgeted uncomfortably. "Maybe you should talk in your normal voice.," she whispered to Tomas behind a cupped pale hand. Tomas waved her off, and was grateful his brown skin covered a deep blush of embarrassment.
"All right, Daro." Tomas said when the boy's laughter didn't abate.
Daro continued to let out loud, guffawing laughs that echoed through out the quiet street. It was a miracle no one had come out to see what was going on. Many owners were probably caught in a snarl of rush hour traffic, but typically there was at least one person guarding the house, usually a maid or an elderly grandparent. The dogs were certainly barking up a storm.
Growing frustrated, Tomas repeated, "I said all RIGHT." The lamps flickered at Tomas' last word, shutting on and off several times before regaining their steady beam. The dogs fell silent.
Daro unfurled himself from his doubled-over posture, moving with a slow deliberation that didn't suit the track star. "What I want," he said in equally deliberate words. "is to know why you're following her."
Tomas and Sala were taken aback. They looked at each other, then at Daro.
"Her who?" Sala asked, confused.
"That girl you were stalking?" Tomas said at the same time.
Daro looked skyward, and at his height, there was little point to the move. His head was clearly already lost somewhere up there. "I wasn't *stalking*. I was chaperoning."
"You were being annoying." Sala corrected.
The suspect bared his teeth and Tomas took a half step back. Daro's teeth were rounded and large, each yellowed tooth exactly the same as the next, all fit impossibly into Daro’s square jaw. It was then that Tomas realized that Daro was smiling.
“That too.” Daro replied. Proudly.
Disgusted, Tomas lifted his bolo up, its sharp, curving blade glistening softly in the dusk light. A bead of oil dropped from the tip, plopping onto the white, cemented pavement that was the street.
Daro watched, still not reacting to him, to them. He said idly, "So you're after me, is that it?"
Sala, too, stepped forward so that she and Tomas were inline. Tomas didn't spare her a glance, keeping his gaze firmly on Daro because to lose sight of him would be to lose him completely. Sala likewise kept her eyes forward and posture proud and confident, but Tomas could feel her tremble nervously beside him. Her nerves were pulling him in with her, just as it did earlier when they had run, and he was balancing carefully on edge.
In his normal, understated tone, Tomas answered, "Yes."
Daro took in a relaxed breath, still smiling. "If that's all then," Crumbling bits of cement from the street crunched as he pivoted around. Strangely, his back was just as intimidating as his front.
Tomas raised his blade. "Thanks for the target."
Tomas resisted looking at Sala. He glared at Daro's back instead. "What?" he hissed.
"You can't hurt him. We're not sure yet." She said quietly.
"What do you mean? You said yourself he's been following all those students who've disappeared. Do you want him to take more?"
"No, but I can't read it on him, and normally I can-"
"He's just blocking you." Tomas raised his arm again but Sala tried to get in his way so he couldn't complete his move. He shoved her aside so she wouldn't get hurt, raised his bolo high above his head, and decisively swung downwards. The force of his swing caused a breeze to ruffle through Sala's wavy hair.
Sala stared. Tomas' bolo was now glowing a soft, barely perceptible inky violet. "I thought you were going to throw that at him." She looked back at Daro, but he was gone. Tomas cursed, having lost sight of the boy for that split second Sala had gotten in his face.
"I'd love to stay and get attacked,"
Sala and Tomas spun around to find Daro had moved some distance behind them.
"But I've got homework to do, unlike *some* students." Daro said pointedly. "You're from the city, aren't you? Hope you don't get lost on your way home."
"We won't." Tomas said. "But you might not even make it to yours."
Daro had a secret smile on his face, but other than that, he did nothing, waiting for them to make the next move.
His bolo boiling black, Tomas gripped the handle and obliged.
On the outside, the house looked as normal as its neighbor, other than the fact that no one lived in it. It wasn't abandoned, as the cliché went. Its owner had simply gone abroad with intentions to return for vacation soon.
The years passed, and the layers of dust thickened, and soon never quite came. So the house stood against rain and sun, and as the neighborhood children grew older, the stories they had made up for fun about the house soon morphed into truth.
The fact was, according to the maid across the way, the house was haunted. The maid herself was from a far-flung province, making her accent heavy but her Sight clear. Fire, she'd said, eerie balls of fire flickered through the house some nights, staining the walls with strange colors. If she peeped just far enough when it was day, she could make out a scramble of drawings through the parted curtains that should've been closed.
"They curses, all over everything, they corrupt the house and anyone who enter it." The maid explained as she wrung out a pair of jeans she'd been rubbing against a jutted wood slab. "That is why no one goes in to rob. All those antiques – no one steal them for all these years. For sure, that house haunted. Don't go near it or it will stain you too."
Other than the rays of dying sunlight filtering through the windows and flooding the house with orange, Kite didn't see anything else stain-worthy. The walls on the first floor weren't a pristine white, but they were bare of any evil drawings, save for a few paintings of fruit spreads that looked alternately of brains or feces.
Drop cloths, grayed with dust and time, covered all the furniture. She made a careful walkthrough, pulling off the cloths one by one, causing hardly any dust to rise up. The maid was right about one thing: they were antiques, although Kite didn't think they were the kind worth stealing. The bamboo bench looked particularly uncomfortable to sit on.
Replacing all the cloths, Kite ventured to the kitchen where ant trails had sprung up. There was a scurrying of small bodies, and a flash of tail through a gnawed hole in a cabinet door. Kite rolled her eyes, holding back a laugh lest she inhale any rat germs. This was just another house, as she'd thought, given a bad rep only by years of being alone. She could relate to that.
A creak reverberated through the ceiling above her. Alert at once, Kite found the stairs and quickly ascended, despite the dimness of sunset and the aging wood. The advantage of creeping through dozens of houses like this one was that she could move without making a sound.
At the top of the stairs was a hall. A mirror hung lengthwise on one side, just above a mantle that showcased two smooth bamboo weapons. She grabbed one and turned to the first door on her left. One breath, her hand was on the doorknob, the next, she shoved the door open to an empty room. She moved down two steps and repeated the process on the next door. Nobody. At the end of the hall were two doors. She opened the left first, and upon finding nothing, she faced the right.
Raising the stick more awkwardly than she liked, Kite steeled herself. If someone was in the house, they would be in that room. She put her hand on the knob and twisted.
It opened onto darkness, all remnants of the sun completely gone. Everything was still. Her eyes adjusted slightly, and she could see shadows of dressers, of the bed, the chair, the lamp that came towards her so rapidly that she didn't register it had moved.
Kite froze for a moment, wanting to scream, even silently, but she could not let herself, not when it wasn't real, this looming thing that stood right in front of her, imposing and impossible, reaching out with a luminescent point of color that looked yellow one moment and blue the next, mesmerizing...
Suddenly, Kite pulled herself back into motion and knocked the point of color away. There was an audible smack of skin on skin, and Kite thrilled in the fact that it had been impossible, that this was a person, and nothing else. He tried to leave, but Kite grabbed his slim wrist and swung him back into the room where he thunked on the floor with a very female, "Ouch."
Kite pointed her stick at the girl and reached for her flashlight. "Who are you?"
Just as she switched on the penlight, the girl knocked the stick out of Kite's hand with a painful kick. Kite dropped the light to grasp her stinging right hand, automatically thinking about how she would explain this to her mother, but she had no time to worry about that as the girl firmly hit the back of Kite's knees and caused Kite to fall backwards onto the bed.
Before she knew it, Kite was pinned there by the very stick she had used. The girl held the pinpoint of color above Kite's head.
"Don't mess with hoodlums if you're not one yourself, poser." The girl said. She had a lilting voice that would have otherwise been pleasant in another situation. "You oughta be taught a lesson for being out past your bedtime." The pinpoint of color wavered. Kite couldn't be sure if it was pointed or not.
"Listen," Kite blurted. "I thought you were someone else. I didn't mean to-"
"Startle a criminal? Too late, baby. You want my name? Why don't I trace it on your forehead?" She drove the pinpoint of color down.
And THAT is all I have. Woeeeee! But I'm glad I've written something. I haven't done creative stuff in a while. Me needs more discipline and practice!