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He strode past the wooden walls and tin roofs of dreary houses, decomposing trash and filth on the ground, his tactical boots sloshed through black mud and grease, as he chased after a lanky 13-year-old boy, who wore an oversized, tattered, stained gray shirt, and a pair of old brown jersey shorts. Left, right, left, then another left, Eduardo pursued the minor relentlessly through the maze-like alleys, cramped and narrow, of the slums in the dark of night.

He saw the kid enter a shanty on whose makeshift door Eduardo angrily knocked. “Get the f— out of there),” the big man bellowed. He pounded on the door repeatedly with all his might, to no avail. He reached for his holster, took out his gun, and pointed it at the only thing that was blocking him from the child. “Hindi ka lalabas ‘dyan? (Are you not coming out?),” Eduardo yelled. No response. He hammered at the door three more times, blag, blag, blag, but this time he heard a desperate scream from the inside. Bang, bang, bang. Blinded by rage, Eduardo shot at the door.

He woke up frantic, confused, distraught. No. What he felt was beyond mere nouns. Eduardo sat up, brushed his hair up with his hands. Orbs of cold sweat dripped down his skin. While his muscles were tense, his senses were heightened. He heard clearly the faraway barking of dogs, the howling of the wind outside, and the static noise from the bulky cathode ray tube television by the foot of his bed. He stared at the television screen for a couple of minutes, rocked himself back and forth in an attempt to calm down. He remembered what was on the television before he fell asleep — a news report on a manhunt for the killer of a boy who was shot to death in downtown Tondo.

His disbelief grew. He reached for a pack of cigarettes on the side table. Sweeping through the table top, syringes, foils, and packets of crystalline powder fell to the floor, where lay a police uniform carrying a tag embroidered with the name Eduardo. He lit up a cigarette and, along with the fumes, his anxiety dissipated. He looked at the time, at the hanging wall clock above the television set. It was 3:33 in the morning.

All of a sudden, the minute hand of the clock stopped. Everything fell silent. The television that still showed random dots, pixel patterns of static, did not produce any sound. No breeze blew in from the window. The air was still and stagnant, as if everything around Eduardo was suspended in time. He then heard a sharp ringing sound. His head was about to burst. It throbbed, as if being squeezed, a violent, visceral, excruciating pain in the mid-section of his brain, as if a red-hot waffle iron were stuck to it. He wanted to vomit but couldn’t.

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A creak on the old hardwood floor jolted him out of his misery. In a snap, the pain was forgotten. Eduardo was left in a state of befuddlement. He heard more creaking in front of him, the sound of footsteps approaching. Then he heard a loud cry from behind him. It sounded aggressive, angry, indignant, howling. It made the hair on the nape of his neck stand on end. There couldn’t be anyone behind him, he thought, since that would be where the window was, and he was on the second floor. He turned, but as he suspected, there was no one. He pivoted back to his initial position, and the door to his bedroom slowly opened. A small, shadowy figure peered through the gap of the door slightly ajar.

The figure made a menacing grin. The smile was wide, from ear to ear. “Hindi ako (It wasn’t me),” it spoke. The door squeaked as it opened a little bit more. “Hindi ko alam (I don’t know),” the figure, still smiling, cried. “Hindi po… Ako (It’s not me sir),” it said, as the entity opened the door more widely and stepped into the room, revealing who it was, the kid from the dream, black and bloodied.

Terror overwhelmed Eduardo. Fear became tangible, a living force that crept over him like a hungry beast, paralyzing him, completely immobilizing his brain and body. He was held captive by fright, by the entity in front of him, and by himself. He tried to steady his breath. He shut his eyes tightly, hoping that the figure, the distorted and ghastly thing, would disappear. For a second, silence filled the roomed. But then on his left ear Eduardo heard a whisper, “Lumabas ka (go out),” bang! The door slammed shut, flying outward, unhinged.

Eduardo opened his eyes, looked around, and the figure was gone, leaving his bedroom door broken. He took his gun and holster, and ran outside. He went downstairs, and rushed to the front door of his house. Blag, blag, blag. A furious knocking came from the other side of the door. “Get the f— out of there!” someone shouted. It was immediately followed by another set of knocking. “Hindi ka lalabas ‘dyan? (Are you not coming out?),” the same voice called out.

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Eduardo was afraid to open the door. He looked for another way out. He searched around his house and, to his surprise, saw the figure once again, but in a more contorted and grotesque form. It was crawling down the stairs toward him. “Lumabas ka (go out),” the figure cried. He shot at the entity, which bled, but continued to creep forward. Eduardo finally lost it and screamed out of desperation.

Bang, bang, bang! In response to Eduardo’s gunshots, he was fired at from outside the door.

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