Ana didn’t dare move from where she was standing. She didn’t know what to do. She was too stunned, too weak to move, and the shadow of a scream echoed in the back of her throat. Her History professor’s mangled body and bloody face was watching her with his dead black eyes.
She slumped to the ground, tears falling from her own eyes. A familiar figure knelt down beside her.
“Luntian, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have… I should have stayed home…” Ana said as tears fell on her cheeks and the lump in her throat made it hard for her to talk.
“No, I should have helped him. I should have gone back for him,” Luntain answered, looking at Pulo’s face and then bowing as if in prayer.
Ana bowed her head, too, not knowing what else to do.
“I would understand if you don’t want any part in this. I am the last of Sumakwel’s Naiwan guards. Just close the portal forever,” Luntian said, looking up again and then at Ana. Ana thought she heard relief behind Luntian’s grief.
Ana looked up, too. “What about the other Naiwan… And even the Iniwan?”
“Few of us here are left who remember Malaya as home. Many of us were born here. This is the home we know,” Luntian said pensively, rising up and approaching Pulo’s body.
“What about you? What will happen to you?” Ana blurted out, her nerves calming down, the weight on her shoulders feeling lighter. She stood up and followed Luntian whose now glowing palms were facing Pulo’s body.
“Even in death, the idiot wanted to put on a show,” Luntian joked halfheartedly. Pulo’s body glowed and exploded into a thousand glittering shards. Slowly, the air took away Pulo’s dust and scattered it all around them. “He had more reason to go back to Malaya.”
Luntian pointed her glowing palms at the sigbins on the floor and their bodies too exploded into glittering dust blown away by the wind.
Ana took Luntian’s arm and forced the engkantada to face her. “What will happen to you, Luntian?”
“I don’t know,” Luntian said, and then Ana remembered Pulo’s words about Luntian. She was a dayo here and even in Malaya. “I suppose all I have left is an eternity to find the answer.”
She snapped her fingers and the alley appeared clean from the violence. Even the words written in blood on the wall disappeared, too.
But Ana could still feel Pulo’s body there and the blood. Funny that no matter how good you are at hiding blood and scars and violence, you’ll always know it was there like writings on the wall.
“It’s surprising how many lost things are hiding in plain sight,” Luntian mumbled, a tear falling from the corner of her eye, the weight of eternity pulling down on her voice, the dust of death floating all around them.
“Come to the library tonight to close the portal,” she said with finality.
Ana turned to her, but she was gone. A wave of realization came to her in that moment when she felt the most alone.
Ana didn’t feel like going home nor going about life like nothing had happened. Even the library, which she has always found comforting, felt hostile to her. She had expected life to change at the start of this week. She had expected to change herself, but the change was happening too fast, too soon, too much. The truth about her past. The secret of the Lagusan. The asuang attack. Pulo’s death. So she wandered around the unversity aimlessly and wallowed in her dark thoughts.
By nightfall, Ana went back home to check on Tori, feeling more distraught and confused than she did this morning.
She found Tori lying on her bed and staring blankly at the ceiling. She was still wearing the same pink dress she wore last night. She hadn’t moved since Ana laid her down. Ana knelt on the side of the bed beside her, and she got a closer look at her friend.
Her eyes were hollowed and dark. She was sweating profusely and her skin was lacking color. She reached for her friend’s hand. It was ice cold.
“Ana, something is wrong with me,” Tori said weakly. “I feel nauseous.”
Ana saw the empty green vial on her friend’s bedside table and sniffed at the contents. She smelled the faint scent of sour kalamansi and ginger. Tori began to cough wildly and then lurched, but only black saliva spewed out of her mouth. She heaved in one heavy breath after another. Ana helped Tori sit up to help her breathe more easily. Tori lurched forward again and made gagging sounds. Thicker black goo flowed out of her mouth. Tori fell back down on the bed. Ana felt helpless. All she could do was pull her friend close to her. She patted her back, which made Tori gag some more. A small feather covered in black muck came out of her mouth.
Ana’s eyes widened upon seeing the feather, and she hit her friend’s back a little harder. More black feathers came out.
“Ana… Get it out… It hurts…” Tori begged, black tears streaming down her face.
Ana pushed Tori’s head to hang on the side of the bed and firmly tapped her back, more black goo came out along with more black feathers. Tori screamed as she clutched at her stomach, calling the attention of everyone in the house.
“Tori!” Trinidad yelled from downstairs, followed by a flurry of footsteps running up the stairs.
Ana hit harder making Tori vomit a large black lump. Upon closer inspection, the lump looked like a black featherless chick covered in black slime.
“Anak!” Trinidad exclaimed upon seeing the scene in Tori’s bedroom.
She ran up to them and picked up the chick gently in her palms. She looked behind her and commanded the maids who had followed her to take Tori away.
The maids pried Tori away from Ana, who fought to keep her hold on her friend. Two maids pulled her back and held her face down on the bed. Two other maids carried Tori who had fainted out of the room.