Demons and Daggers I

You have to take that to Aling Miriam.

She flashed Jamie an irritated look. How many times had she brought up that subject? Pulling her arm off  from Jamie’s hands, unrolling her sleeves down, she walked ahead and heaved out a deep sigh. She stopped for a second and looked up as if in search for relief. Dark clouds. They’d been there since yesterday.

Jamie caught up. I’m sorry. But I’m your only friend. If I didn’t know what’s best for you, I don’t know who does.

Thanks for constantly reminding me that.

And she continued walking. Away and fast.

The air was musty. It’s extremely humid and claustrophobic. There was scarcely a source of light. No windows but a small hole on the wall, not even two inches wide. That’s her only gateway view to what’s outside. Not that she’s eager to see’s what’s out there. Or that she wanted to be seen.

She’s accustomed to sweating. That’s one of the things she mastered ever since she could remember. She did not understand comfort. Or perhaps one would not understand what they did not come to know.

She’s looking back at the girl standing in front of her. Her eyes were piercing she wanted to look away. But her figure was one nobody could stray away from. It was not the first instance she came across her. Her eyes bore the exact sadness she saw the first couple of times she saw her. She was naked. Her body’s a work of a thousand unspoken words. She could tell she was beautiful at one point in her life. Misery has worn her down. She’s marred in every way. Body and soul. Mirrors never lied.

Why wouldn’t you love me back?

Because I can’t. Stop this, please. You won’t understand.

Why not? I need to know, please tell me.

I just don’t love you. I can’t.

And she walked away. He was left on his knees, waiting for the clouds to start pouring.

She pulled her dress up and turned from the mirror. She mingled with the dimness of the room, avoiding the thin ray of light passing through the tiny hole on her wall as she walked to one corner and sat down. Tear drops fell to the floor.

Now why would you let a perfectly caring and handsome guy out there in the rain? Not only was that soap opera-dramatic but gravely insane. Have you gone completely crazy? Jamie’s words echoed in the hallway.

You know I can’t involve myself in another relationship. You perfectly know what happened in the past.

You’re scared of what you don’t know. I’d say, go out there, take risks, forget about your past, be happy.

I know what I’m doing.

You don’t believe that.

The sky. Clear, magical. The stars danced with the sound of silence; the trees, grasses, at the slow swoosh of the wind. The moon was at the center, shading everything underneath with its light.

She was thirsty. I have to go find water.

She found herself by a stream, fighting her gasps as she drank dry from the palms of her hands. How she found the stream, she considered instinct. An impulse. Something inside her voiced she’d been there sometime before. Not a very long time ago. Her chest relaxed, her body was relieved of the tremble. The nauseating feeling was gone and she felt she could breathe again.

Clouds passed along the moon, elegantly letting through streaks of glorious light. And she remembered why she was there.

Something was approaching. She could tell it by the low-toned noise from afar. It’s nearing her direction. She trusted her impulse. And her impulse said run.

Now she could hear the growl. And she’s more afraid than tired. She stopped minding her toes wounded and strained. She realized she was barefoot and for probably hours. She tried to keep herself from looking back, but she needed to know how faster she should run.

Then something grabbed her by the neck.

She was pulled back, unable to use her limbs to resist the force. The hands were rough and strong. She could feel her neck being crashed and she was too weak to do something about it. She felt her back cracked when she landed on the ground. Now she’s being held tight by the hands and it made it harder for her to move, let alone fight. Then a voice spoke to her face, the breath was putrid. She opened her eyes and she was terrified as hell.

You’re with me, once again. Thanks for coming back.

She screamed at the top of her lungs. Sweating, she reached for something at her side. She dropped an uncapped bottle and spilled the water from her lamp desk. She’s down on her knees at the foot of her bed. The clock ticked 3:00 AM.

She stood up, undressed herself and faced the mirror. And she could never be more terrified to see herself. She’d never be able to see her body again.

Wash them with soap and clean water. Apply this twice a day. It’s mashed wild leaves and lamb fat. Don’t skip.

She cringed at the pain as the old woman was putting on a greenish concoction over her neck wounds. Her skin turned numb after a while. Her whole body was.

Alright, turn your back to me please.

It was the old woman’s turn to cringe.

Her back was no better story. Bruises, cuts, wounds swelling on every surface.

Tsk, tsk

She cried tears. She couldn’t hold it longer.

I do not know what to do. It keeps doing these horrible things to me in my dreams. I think it wants me to kill myself to save him the trouble. I fear that no one would ever take me because of these.

Aling Miriam let her cry for a moment.

You have every right to be terrified. It’s an angry demon. A very wild beast. Killing it will not be easy.

When the old woman was done treating her wounds, she poured them cups of tea.

Drink this, to make your nerves relax. It’s not easy, what you’re going through.

She took a sip.

Aling Miriam had to ask, How long has it been going around for you?

It started appearing in my dreams. I was so scared. Alone. I thought at first they were just dreams. but wounds started to appear on my body. I need to get away from it, whatever it is.

Did you not ask for any help? Where are your parents? Do they know?

My mother died when I was born.

And your dad?

I do not want to talk about him.

I’m sorry.

Then there was silence. The two women sipped their cups of tea quietly.

Tonight, you must face your fear. Demons are dangerous. They’re forceful, greedy creatures that will kill to get what they want. Lustful ones go for women your kind. Scared. Weak. They feed on innocence and pleasure themselves with helplessness. They have their own needs after all. Tonight you must face it.

She could never feel more sorry for what had become of her but she did not want another tear to fall. Before she let herself out of the door, the old lady said,

Some demons need to be faced. All it takes is courage to accept yourself for who you have become, regardless. We all are scarred in many, different ways but we must move forth. Forge that dagger. Sharpen it. Kill the demon and set yourself free.

The old woman’s words echoed in her head. Tonight, she must bravely face her fear once and for all. To put an end to it. She willed herself to sleep with not much ease and it took her long before she found herself lying by the stream once again. It was the same stream she’d been many times in the past. The moon was at the exact position as she remembered. At the background, an eerie silence.

Then a voice spoke beside her.

It’s been a while since you’ve been here purposefully.

She didn’t speak back. She’s afraid, but was trying to conceal it. He was lying next to her, naked.

I waited for so long. Why were you hiding from me?

She remained silent and focused of what she planned to go there for. He stood up in front of her. His silhouette, masking the light from the moon.

Then he advanced on top of her. He kissed her ears gently.

I have you now my baby girl. Everything’s alright. Ssshh.

Then his hand landed heavily on her face. It was all so sudden. Dizziness danced inside her head, she couldn’t make out anything. She felt his hands wildly run through every part of her body.

He was squeezing her breasts so hard she felt they were being crushed. His smell was suffocating. The grease all over his body was sticky and seemed to be binding them together so she couldn’t move.

She let out a faint cry when she felt him inside her.

You’re mine now. Completely mine. You will never go back. Not to the men you fantasize you’d have. You’re one silly whore. I’ll get inside of you to till you become mine.

It was long process of pain and lustful longing. Blood and dust. Sweat and everything mixed with the humid air of the night; the moon was the only witness to the terrible fate she succumbed to. Her whole body was painful. She’s bleeding and sweating at the same time. He kept slamming her bruised and wounded body in every direction.

He made her bend over. Her face rubbed against the soil and sharp, small rocks. She’s being held by her two arms stretched towards her back, her bones were breaking. She couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was outrageous.

He’s reaching his peak and so he continued with his thrusts. Faster and faster, he let out a loud cry.

She’s tired, almost lifeless. For one second, she thought she died.

I can’t. Not yet.

He turned her around, laid her on her back on the dirt. He looked right towards her eyes. The fright all came back to her. She recalled her purpose for letting him used her completely.

Your mom and I love you. Very much.

His mouth to her face, she could not stand the sour stench of his breath.

I will not let you feed on me again. 

Lying down, she reached above her head in desperation. She caught something and took it with both her hands. In an instant, she managed to sit on top of the demon and pointed a dagger towards his neck.

I will kill you. You have inflicted me with so much pain and I couldn’t let you take control of my life, she heard herself say.

He flashed her a grin. You can’t do that. You’re too weak.

Her phone rang. She picked it up. It was her mom.

Your dad died today. Her voice couldn’t hide the sadness.

She’s quiet for almost a minute, her mom had to check if she’s still on the other end. She didn’t feel compelled to speak.

Aren’t you going to ask what happened to him? He’s still your father.

What happened to him?

He was killed in the prison by one of the guards. It was because of a little argument, it cost your father his life.

Serves him well. I often dreamed of his death.

Whatever he did to you, it doesn’t matter, not anymore. He was your father, and he’s dead. What he did to you was all your fault. Show some respect.

She had to hold her tears back.

I did not get my share of respect from him and I don’t care if you loved him, but he was sick and he deserved death and suffering more than anyone in this world.

With that, she hung up.

On the other line, her mother was devastated. She lost a daughter more than she lost a spouse.

She had to fight though his piercing look.

You cannot kill me. I am a part of you now and forever will be. You are scarred and broken and weak and nothing can ever fix you. Not even that dagger. Submit yourself to me, like you always did.

The dagger vertically thrust to the demon’s neck. She pulled it out and thrust it back. In and out, she repeated the process until the neck that connected the head from the body was almost entirely mashed. The demon laid lifelessly marinating in his own filthy blood.

Then she let go. And let herself free. She now must. All was over.

In her room, She woke up with eyes widely open. She realized she’s soaked in her own sweat. She blindly turned her lamp on and reached for a bottle of water on her side desk. She drank all that’s in it and continued running after her breath.

The nightmare was over, at last.

She stood up, undressed herself and looked at the mirror. She never thought she’d see the girl again. And this time, she bore a bit of peace in her eyes and a stance that of a woman. She brushed her hair back. She felt warmth. And finally, a bit of comfort.

Tonight was when she would never have to face her demon again. She looked down, held her belly, and whispered goodnight. A few months from then, she would give birth an angel who would completely free her from her past.

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Film Review: The Purge (2013)

Note: This review contains spoilers.

The Purge is a 2013 film by James DeMonaco that introduces us to an annual spree called “The Purge” during which all criminal activities become legal for 12 hours. Ever since its institution, the United States of America hits all-time low unemployment and crime rate, all attributed to this practice. From 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM every year, all citizens are allowed to discharge all repressed negative emotions in any way they want. In the movie, we arrive at the Sandins’ suburban household, as they prepare for The Purge.

The conflict started when Charlie Sandin, the youngest of the two Sandin children, lets a stranger into their highly-secured home during the first few hours of The Purge. The stranger is running from a group of masked participants who is willing to kill anyone, including the Sandins, to get a hold of the stranger.

As thought-provoking and ambitious the plot may be, there are some things that felt awfully wrong about The Purge:

  • For a seemingly strict, overly-protective, difficult father, Mr. Sandin handled his emotions very well at his son’s grotesque stupidity, letting a stranger into their supposedly Purge-free home. If I could gravely screw up without being grounded, I’d sure love to be adopted by the Sandins.
  • Mr. Sandin, just like any other head of the family, is so willed to protect his family, no matter what. Just like any other father, he does the right thing, out of his unquestionable love for his family, by readily choosing to hunt down the stranger that intruded their home and give him away to the masked Purgers, before the Purgers does the hunting themselves, killing his family along the way. He’s determined to fight to the death, until he changes his mind after five minutes and chooses to save the stranger, with the Mrs. Sandin and Charlie’s help that did not have a hard time convincing him to do the moral thing.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sandin finally catch the stranger, manage to knock him unconscious, and are now tying up the stranger up in order not to get free. Regaining his consciousness, the stranger wiggles to get free, which makes the tying difficult. To knock him dead again, Mr. Sandin instructs his wife to press on the strangers side wounds with a letter opener (which she has to fetch at the faraway side table), thinking that this works better than knocking him on the head with something, say the vase they used about three minutes ago to knock him dead.
Photo credits: Universal Pictures
Photo credits: Universal Pictures
  • When they realize that their lives might be in danger now that the masked Purgers have broken into their house, the only safe place for Charlie to hide is the basement. But why doesn’t Charlie or Mr. Sandin lock the basement door when Charlie went there to hide? And is he trying to get caught by playing with that flashlight?
  • Even when you let a bleeding stranger in, angered a group of murderers, or leave your hiding place accessible, The Purge shows that in times of grave danger, someone will always be nearby in time to save your neck:
    • Just before the bloody stranger kills Zoey, Mrs. Sandin hits him with a vase. Zoey is saved.
    • Just before a masked lady kills Charlie at the basement, Mr. Sandin arrives and shoots the attacker. Charlie is saved.
    • Just before Mrs. Sandin is slashed by a masked woman, a masked man pinning her to the ground, two of their neighbors arrive just in time to save her. Mrs. Sandin is saved.
    • Just before the leader of the masked Purgers shoots two of the Sandins as they gather around the dying Mr. Sandin, Zoey happens to be just around to shoot the leader dead. The rest of the Sandins are saved.
    • Just before the Sandins are killed by the crazy neighbors, the bloody stranger grabs one of them shoots another, interrupting the killing. Once again, the Sandins are saved.
  • As overly cocky and fearsome as they come across, the masked group of Purgers seems to have lacked proper purging training. They seem to have exerted more effort putting together their rhetoric and picking the best outfit than actually working on how to efficiently kill. They only have a helpless family of four to kill (which includes two women, and a nearly-adolescent boy), yet more than half of them ended up killed before dawn.
  • Mrs. Sandin finds Mr. Sandin bleeding at the staircase. What better idea to save him than to shout on top of her lungs for her kids to come over, calling out attention from the leader of the masked Purgers who happens to be hunting them? Charlie, by the way, happens to be around and immediately join the scene for the Purger’s convenient killing.
  • When Mrs. Sandin says there’s no more killing, she means it. And although they outnumber the Sandins, and for a motivated group of The Purge participants, the neighbors meekly obliged and waited for The Purge to finish at 7:00 AM and everything ended OK.
  • Why is this bloody stranger being pursued by that masked group of Purgers? What did he do that was so wrong to anger them? Are the masked Purgers a group of vigilantes? What do they fight for? Why does Charlie feel so strongly about letting a stranger in? What is the family’s moral take on this whole idea of The Purge? There was so little disclosed about the Sandin’s “imperfection” that has compelled the neighbors to purge them – why are they so angry at them?
  • And most importantly, (and I probably should have asked this first) why does the youngest member of the family know the password to the house’s high-end security system?

There are just too many questions that are unanswered and so many possibilities that are not explored. The story, although promising, is served half-cooked, and there is no strong basis to excite the viewers. The characters are flat; they lack real motivation that we can identify with. It almost felt like a foreign idea was shoved down my throat and I was expected to digest it without water or taste. There’s just emptiness, and if there was any deeper meaning to the story, it is just lazily told, hence, anyone would find it hard to make sense of. The viewers’ imagination cannot always supply it all. At the end of the 85 minutes’ worth of the gunshots, blood showers, mad laughing and screaming, I was tired, confused, and disappointed.

If this concept was given enough time to be developed and mastered, if the story-telling was carefully planned, the film would have been a masterpiece. Until another filmmaker revives the concept a few years down the line, this film will just be another messy slasher film.

 

Paranoia

Photo Taken by Jano Boscher in Laguna, Philippines, October 2010
Photo Taken by Jano Boscher in Laguna, Philippines, October 2010

You missed to push that tiny lock button, one night, and you never presumed it was your last.

Losing it

200px-Descartes mind and body
René Descartes’s illustration of dualism. Inputs are passed on by the sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the immaterial spirit. (Image via Wikipedia)

Talking to one’s self is more so listening than talking. Talking to one’s self in public, however, is creepy and potentially dangerous.

It gets more frequent everyday – I more often catch myself speaking alone and it freaks me out. I know my mind can be so active at times and that my brain could not shut up especially after an overwhelming situation. But everything to me is overwhelming and I am just a thin hair away from being out of control.

Speaking to myself, for the longest time, seems a bit normal to me. I’ve been doing it, consciously or not, since childhood. I was not the active type – I was quiet, timid, and alone-in-the-corner kind of kid. I did not have many friends. I dislike (or fear) people. Every day I made it a point that I’d made the most minimum contact to people possible. I was the only child, having no one but my mom to grow up with. My everyday routine consisted of waking up for school, going home after school, finishing my homework on my own and watching TV alone in between. It’s not that anybody forced me to be a loaner; some people thought I grew up that way because my mom never wanted me out of the house and of her sight. It’s been more so a choice since I was ignorant of the whole world and did not have to think of anything serious. And I just did not want to play tag and get all sweaty and stinky, and likewise, I did not get bullied or hurt by any stupid kid whatsoever. Reading and TV-watching were two of the activities that let me use my imagination. Since then, I loved making up stories, and have to say that it was difficult for me to draw a thin line between creatively making up stories for the purpose of making art, and actually lying. I did not have too many fellow kids to share my stories with so I tended to share to the most faithful companion that I had – myself.

OK, so I have forgiven my juvenile and seemingly deranged self who grew up (or at least tried to) fairly normal. But now that I’m on my early adulthood, I felt so compelled to set standards for how myself should act. I only have one rule anyway: everything my whole body does should be something I know and approve of. I know that, naturally, the whole body and mind should work as one unit, a system of complicated components but is naturally capable of functioning harmoniously. But I find this notion hard to carry out a lot of times – it becomes more ideal to me than natural. Over time, I’m finding my mind and body so apart from each other that they both have their own sets of interests. I feel like being in between situations when I am chasing one part of me crossing a dangerous street while grabbing the other by the arm as it attempts to roll down a bushy cliff. And one clear sign of this problem is me speaking alone, not only to myself when I am alone, but also, and it’s becoming more frequent, when I am out and with the company of several people. Sleeping is also an avenue for me to speak to myself. My mom, and Joan (my wife-to-be) would make fun of me when I wake up, showing me how  I had been as I was sleep-talking, and I would laugh with them at the situation, but deep in me, I am scared. Joan calls it paranoia; I call it an honest-to-goodness fear of losing control.

When your body does something your mind does not know of, it scares you. I remember catching a documentary on the Crime Investigation channel about this woman who was violently killed by her significantly younger fiancé subconsciously while they were making love. The intercourse was a bit violent; they wanted it a bit sadomasochistic so to speak as it gave them the thrill; but at the night of the murder, the violence had gone way too far. The woman was strangulated to death. The young man, her fiancé, came to the police saying, “I might have killed my wife.” It was later found, through the medical investigation the young man went through, that he killed his fiancée while he was sleeping. This scared me a bit as I have been found doing something else too while sleeping. I only did as much as speaking while sleeping but I this had me thinking: if speaking is a physical activity and it’s something that I often do while asleep, then It’s not impossible for me to learn to do other things while asleep; and what those things could be is something I’m afraid to know.

I have a book or two that talk about psychological imbalances and psychiatric diseases, or whatever the right terms are; the topic always fascinated me, and it’s more than about learning the matter, it’s more so about wanting to know and understand myself. I never finished reading them, perhaps because I am depriving myself of the idea that would confirm my thoughts of me being potentially a basket case. I kept on considering the idea of getting professional help, from a therapist perhaps, but I am embarrassed to do so, or maybe it’s just a bit early to seek help from one when the signs are just too insignificant for other people. For now, I’m finding comfort in the thought of having a companion, who I can always rely to in times of feeling irrationally needy and the one who would always listen to me when I need to speak. Joan is my unpaid therapist and a very patient one. Many times, when I get stressed and upset, she goes to me with the desire to make me feel better in any way she can and I could not be more thankful. A hug, most of the time, suffice. A warm talk often brings me back to my senses, reminds me that I am alive. She never fails to make me find the connection between the seemingly insurmountable gaps my mind and body separate themselves with. I think a guy like me, (the not-quite-crazy-but-getting-there type) only needs somebody to talk to and help us get out of whatever kind of cage our childhood or whatever the situation we had to go through built to surround us forever. And for now, having Joan’s company, her selfless care that became a refuge at my disposal is reassurance enough for me. Losing that refuge, however, is the fear that I reserve for tomorrow.