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Three days na lang at mag-eeighteen na ako. Sobrang excited na akong dumating ang Saturday para i-celebrate ang birthday ko—well, not really celebrate dahil hindi naman kami nagpaparty. Kapag merong may birthday sa aming pamilya ay bumibili lang kami ng cake at ice cream, pero sa 18th birthday ko ay hindi na cake ang ibibigay sa akin ng parents ko kundi seven thousand pesos! Okay na okay na ‘yon sa akin dahil nasira ang phone ko last week at kailangan ko ng bago. Pandagdag ko na ‘yon sa ipon ko.

Sumakay ako ng jeep papunta sa street namin nang makalabas ako ng school. Akala ko nga marami ring sasakay sa jeep na ‘to dahil ang daming estudyante ang naghihintay sa shed pero bukod sa akin ay dalawang lalaki lang ang sumakay at pareho silang hindi estudyante. Nagulat naman ako nang tumingin sa akin ang isa kaya napaiwas agad ako ng tingin. Lumapit ako banda sa driver at nag-abot ng bayad pero kakaiba rin ang tingin niya sa akin.

Suddenly, I felt something odd and eerie. Gusto kong bumaba ng jeep pero parang umurong ang dila ko at natatakot na rin akong gumalaw dahil pareho nang nakatingin sa akin ang dalawang lalaki. Mas lalo akong nagpanic nang nag-iba ang daan ng jeep at unti-unting lumalapit sa akin ‘yong dalawang lalaki.

“M-manong . . .” I pleaded but he only smiled at me.

Sa sobrang lakas at bilis ng tibok ng puso ko, pakiramdam ko ay lalabas ‘yon sa dibdib ko. I felt the danger I was in and it intensified when the jeep halted. The two guys smiled and slowly approached me.
 
“We finally found you, heiress,” sabi ng isa at natakot ako sa boses ng lalaki dahil hindi ‘yon ordinaryo. He sounded like three persons with different voices.

“You need to die. Your death will be the salvation of our kingdom,” the other one said and both of them lunged at me. Sumigaw ako sa sobrang takot at sa loob ng isang segundo ay nagflash sa utak ko ang buong buhay ko, gaya ng sinasabi ng mga taong nasa harap na ng kamatayan nila.

However, their attacks didn’t reach me. Instead, I heard them shrieked and I saw a shadow moving around them. After a few seconds, the two guys and the driver collapsed and another guy showed up in front of me.

“Are you okay?” tanong niya at doon ko lang narealize na pigil na pigil ang paghinga ko. 

Hindi ko nakontrol ang luha ko at tuluy-tuloy lang silang umagos dahil akala ko ay katapusan ko na kanina. Inabutan niya naman ako ng panyo pero hindi ko ‘yon kinuha dahil wala nang lakas ang kamay ko para igalaw ko pa at natatakot din ako sa kanya. Ilang segundo pa ang lumipas bago kumalma ang katawan ko sa panginginig. Pinunasan ko ang luha ko nang nakaramdam ako ng lakas sa braso ko at tumingin ako sa lalaking kaharap ko.

“S-sino s-sila? S-sino ka?”

“I’ll explain all of this but we need to get out of here first,” then he offered his hand but I was hesitant. “Please trust me. I won’t hurt you like they did. I am not your enemy. In fact, I’m here to help you.”

Tinitigan ko ang lalaki habang nakalahad ang kamay niya sa harapan ko at napansin kong kakaiba ang kulay ng mga mata niya. They were gray, just like the color of the ash and the stormy sky. He was wearing a black leather jacket, scarf and black jeans that covered his entire body. He has a very pale complexion and when I stared at him for a long time, he looked transparent, as if he would disappear in my sight anytime.

Napailing ako at tumingin ulit ako sa kanya. If I were to choose, I would like to run away but my knees already gave up on that idea. I had no other choice since he might hurt me if I try to escape. I heaved a sigh before placing my hand on his. He picked his cap from the jeepney’s floor and held my hand. I was about to stand but he suddenly pulled me closer to him.

“T-Teka—”

“Hold on to me tightly.”

Itatanong ko pa lang sana kung para saan at bakit pero bigla na lang umikot ang paningin ko. It felt like the whole world was spinning so fast and all I could see where blurred, colored lines. Bigla naman siyang huminto at napahawak ako sa tiyan ko dahil pakiramdam ko ay masusuka ako sa kung anuman ang nangyari. I pulled my hand from him and collapsed to the floor but I suddenly felt a sense of familiarity in this place. When I looked around, I realized that we were in our house. However, I felt alarmed when I saw its state. Parang may dumaang bagyo dahil lahat ng gamit namin ay sira-sira na at lalo akong natakot nang marealize kong sobrang tahimik.

“M-Mama? Papa?”

I could hear the panic in my voice and my body trembled in fear when nobody answered. Where are they? What have they done to my family?



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