I was rushing. It was raining. My blasted Japanese boss kept phoning me, yapping on and on about this year’s big project. He’s a perfectionist. He’s so perfect it’s annoying. And I’m not the kind who does well with someone always looking over my shoulder.
I wasn’t surprised he kept sending back my designs for rechecking. I made around 11 legit gas plant designs, and all of them got rejected. And I couldn’t understand what he wanted to do because of the damn language barrier. He was like: “No, no! This, no good! Need more methane pipes. Too long. Make this, harder.” I imagined him pointing at my crappy draft flashed on his screen, while on the other end of the line I was thinking of… something completely unrelated and stupid. He’s in Japan anyway, so he’ll never know, right? Unless he’s a mind reader. Hopefully not.
When I reach the main lobby, it’s already midnight. The two guards chatting by the reception desk glance at me, then back to tomorrow’s Basketball Championships. Apparently, it’s endangered of being postponed because of the typhoon tonight. The lens of the CCTV glower red.
The tinted glass doors slide open, and a blast of cold, wet wind greets me too excitedly. The rain screams at me as I step out. My brain immediately searches for a cab in the terminal far across. There, a singular white silhouette with blinking hazard lights at the very front. What luck.
Looking from left to right, I run across the almost-deserted business avenue, my backpack a meager shield from the rain. I could barely look up beyond my feet. I read the cab’s plate number painted on the side before reaching for the handle. The door clops open, and I shove my skinny but first into the back seat then close it. I look onto the driver’s seat. It’s empty. I sigh. I just want to go home.
I think of waiting for a bus instead, but then I couldn’t bear the thought of facing that deathly downpour again. Maybe the driver just jingled elsewhere. I decide to wait for him. I take off my bag, when my elbow nudges on something. I look to my left, and a curled-up little girl is staring right at me.
“What in the…?” I couldn’t finish my sentence. I’m paralyzed. My brain couldn’t process what my eyes are seeing. A rumble of a bus engine zooms past, the headlights swaying the shadows in the cab. The tip of a knife glints crimson between her knees and chest, then I realize she’s naked.
Her silver eyes are wide open, and a cascade of blonde hair flows down to her buttocks. I notice the color of my arms are far darker compared to her skin. And the angles of her face… she’s definitely a foreigner.
I’m about to say something, when the young foreigner brings a finger to her lips, and “Shush.” I shut my mouth.
A dark figure suddenly appears by the driver’s door, one hand in his pocket and the other fumbling on the handle. It opens, and another pair of foreign eyes peers at me. They flash a violent expression, his other hand pulling out a gun, when the girl leaps, brings the knife to his neck, and swipes it back up.
Blood splatters on the driver’s seat. The dark figure clasps his open neck with a free hand. He brings out his gun-wielding hand on his chin, only to pull the trigger, lodging the bullet deep into his brain. The deafening rainstorm muffles the gunshot to oblivion. He falls on the sidewalk, a pitiful accident suicide.
Blonde murderess girl transfers up front as quick as a cat, takes the dead guy’s gun and keys. She kicks his head out and closes the door. She straps herself, puts the gun between her thighs and starts the car. She pulls the hand brake, pushes to second gear and steps on the gas, the back wheel rolling over the poor dead guy’s skull. I think I heard a horrid crack of bone underneath.
“What’s your name?” she starts shortly after. Her words don’t register quickly. I’m still shaken by the events that just happened. Did that really just happen? I couldn’t tell. My mind’s still stuck in office brooding over my next design fail.
“My name is Celah,” Blondie girl starts again, this time, slowly. “What is your name?”
I’m staring at her from the back seat. Her accent doesn’t sound American. Maybe she’s from Scandinavia or something, I don’t know. Her naked lower body sits on a dead guy’s blood, the red soaking into her long, ashy hair. I look at the rear-view mirror, and she’s looking at me. I imagine her small bare feet barely touching the pedals. I say my name.
She smirks. “That’s a very old-fashioned name, mister.”
“We’re very traditional.”
“I noticed.” She says, as she slowly grinds to a halt, minding the stoplight. “Filipinos have very close family ties. It sometimes annoys me.”
“I couldn’t bear taking care of my old nagging mother and minding my idiot siblings. I can’t imagine living in a house I bought myself with them inside it.”
The familiar intersection feels so alien. The big screen outside flashes a new car model advertisement. I find it blinding for some reason.
“How old are you?”
Silver eyes look at me in the mirror. “How old are you?” She smiles.
I honestly couldn’t tell. By the way she spoke, she seems older. But her voice, her stature, her body; it says another. Maybe it’s just the night playing tricks with my mind. I remember a weather report forecasting a blood moon tonight. Full moon makes normal people feel crazy and crazy people feel crazier. Is this the effect of it?
The sudden pull of the engine snaps me back. She turns left to main road.
“You’re quite the asker, mister. I think you forget your position here. You just witnessed a gruesome murder.” Her eyes turn sharp in the reflection, and I turn the blurred window. There was fog forming on the corners. There’s no vehicles outside at this hour. A woman is walking with a red umbrella outside by the row of different car showrooms. She is alone.
I try to impose a long silence after that. I don’t like where the conversation is going. I don’t like where this whole trip is going. But her stare is piercing and ungodly; eyes of a sinner. Suddenly it doesn’t matter what she looks like. Maybe she really is older, and the longer this silence continues, longer I’d be kept here without a doubt. There’s no lights open in local orphanage, the asyIum behind it looming ever so constantly. “I’ve seen worse.”
I sneak a peek at her expression. She’s now trained on the road. I couldn’t see half her face on the mirror, and the dark makes it worse. “Really? Like what?” She’s so devoid of anything I couldn’t help but feel anger. Why is she prying anyway? What’s she got to do with my past? How could she say that without thinking how I’d feel? A thought passes my mind that maybe-
Then soon enough it just as quickly subsides into numbness. This is useless. I’m such an easy target.
“My house was robbed. I was robbed of my wife and daughter.”
My voice sounds detached, far removed from my being. I close my eyes. Bursts of blood on the floor. On the bed. The open drawers. The bodies of two twisted and contorted, like blasphemous art.
I open my eyes. I sold a house long ago.
“I see.” The way she dismisses the matter somewhat relieves me.
The car takes a familiar turn down a minor street, and I know we’re going to my house. I don’t say anything.
“I bet you had a beautiful house, once,” she comments.
“It’s not beautiful if it attracted flies.”
She giggles at the mirror. There must be something in poor countries that makes everything a twisted irony. I couldn’t help but smile either. We’re nearing my house.
The car stops in front of a run-down apartment. The skanky owner is still awake, her silhouette illuminated against the thin curtains by the shallow teledramas she watches.
I scoot over to the back of the driver’s seat to open the door, when I kick on a severed leg on the carpets, piled with all other body parts of its owner.
“Don’t worry, the stains won’t stick long. And make sure you scrub it with body soap so there’s no blacklight trace.”
I jump out of the car. The rain’s just a mere drizzle now. Sometimes I regret getting a shrink after the incident. Now I’m just dull and jaded, desensitized from everything.
“Don’t thank me.” Murderess foreigner girl smiles. “It’s not my car anyway.”
I glance wayside. “Okay.” Everything looks so unreal; the cab, the shrill voice, the innocence and violence, sitting on a bloodstained seat of another man’s car.
“I like you. You should call us sometime.” She looks down at my crotch. It feels extremely uncomfortable when a child looks at you down below. I slight my stance a bit, and she laughs.
I shut the door and the car rolls away.
I look down, brooding over the night’s events. I had no idea how she knew where I lived. Or how she seemingly knows about me. Maybe I’m being monitored. Maybe what I thought was right. Maybe she really was-
Then I notice a white corner poking out of my pocket, and pull it to reveal a blank card. A phone number scrawls itself in pencil on the surface, and nothing more. It seems like a phone number of another country, though I don’t know which.
The rain has stopped. Clouds swirl at the corners of the sky, and I know I’m at the eye of the storm. The sparkle of stars are dulled by the blood moon, dyeing everything like a special spotlight just for me. My watch ticks a quarter before one. It’s already tomorrow.
I still can’t get over the fact that I’m going to work only to get another 13 plant designs rejected.
(Adventures in Spectrum Drive, #1)