A sea of fire engulfed the boat she was in and two wisps of smokes, black and red, danced under the harsh sun. She could hear voices around but she could not catch a glimpse of them. The boat made its turn and she saw a view of a lifetime—a palace made of gold sitting atop a colossal cloud.
She scampered toward that direction but a scream of terror made her body rigid. And before she could react, her body was burned in oblivion.
Eliane woke up with a start. She had to stay still for a few seconds to get her bearings back. Hindi niya maalala kung ano ang nangyari o kung bakit siya nawalan ng malay. She tried recalling what happened before she passed out and gasped upon remembering the strokes of lights that engulfed the whole place.
Agad siyang napalingon nang may marinig na ingay sa paligid. Someone groaned and it turned out to be Cyrus, who was sleeping on the couch adjacent to her. Napabangon naman ito nang magtama ang kanilang mga mata.
“Anong nangyari?” he asked, still dazed.
She shrugged her shoulders. “Hindi ko rin alam.”
They realized Cyrell was not with them, as well as his parents. Sabay silang bumalik sa lambana ngunit wala nang tao roon pero saglit siyang napatingin sa kalangitan bago sila tuluyang makaalis. Tila mas dumilim ito kaysa kanina.
“Baka nasa kwarto sila,” he murmured.
Tahimik niyang sinundan si Cyrus hanggang sa makarating sila sa dulo ng isang hallway. He softly knocked on the door and turned the knob. He was right. The three were in the bedroom.
Master’s bedroom siguro ito, sa isip ni Eliane.
The room was larger than her apartment. The walls were bare, but one corner was etched with golden baybayin script. Astronomical bodies covered the ceilings. Books were also neatly stacked in the bookshelf at the right side of the room.
Nalipat naman ang atensyon niya sa kama nang tumungo roon si Cyrus. Dr. De Luna was sleeping but she could see the worried looks on Dr. Estrella and Cyrell’s faces. She stood from a distance to let the family have their conversation. Eliane felt like an intruder and thought she should have waited outside the room than stand here awkwardly.
After a few minutes, Cyrell walked toward her direction and led her outside.
“Sorry, mukhang hindi matutuloy ang interview mo kay Mama,” malumbay na sagot nito.
“O-okay lang ba siya? I mean . . . ‘yong kanina . . .”
Her voice faltered. She wanted to know what had happened a while ago, but she didn’t know how to open that topic . . . and she was scared to learn about things she could not fully grasp.
Cyrell sighed. “Sorry, Eliane. I’ll brief you about everything tomorrow,” sabay lingon niya sa kwarto kung nasaan ang pamilya niya. “I just . . . kailangan lang namin ng time ngayon para maintindihan ang lahat.”
She was hesitant at first, but she caved in. Besides, her friend looked dejected. There must be something wrong and she did not want to add to her worries.
Eliane forced a smile. “Okay. Just . . . text me, okay?”
“Sure,” Cyrell nodded.
Wala siyang nagawa kundi umalis sa kanilang bahay at umuwi sa apartment niya. She admitted, she was disappointed, because it was an opportunity to talk to one of the people she admires, but her well-being was the top priority.
Halos 8 PM na rin siya nakauwi at tila mas lumala pa ang pag-aalala niya tuwing kumakagat na ang dilim. Mabilis lang siyang nagluto at kumain ng hapunan at muling binuksan ang thesis niya. She was about to type something when she suddenly heard a voice.
Agad siyang napahinto sa paggalaw at napatingin sa paligid. She hastily dug the taser Carson gave to her before and held it out with her trembling hands. Carefully, she walked toward the windows but all she could see was the flickering light of the lamp post in front of her apartment. Dali-dali niyang ibinaba ang kurtina at siniguradong naka-lock ang pinto.
After ensuring that nobody was inside besides her, she plopped on her bed and sighed in relief.
“Oh my god, nababaliw na yata ako,” she murmured. “Baka kulang lang ako sa tulog.”
Hindi na siya ulit tumingin sa kanyang laptop at dumiretso na ng higa sa kanyang kama. Maybe she just needed sleep, she thought.
Eliane’s head hurt from the lack of sleep last night.
Kahit pinilit niya ang sariling matulog ay mababaw lamang ito, lalo na’t naglalaro pa rin sa kanyang isipan ang mga nangyari nitong mga nakaraang araw. She was thinking of just resting for this day since it’s Sunday, but she remembered she needed to drop by the grocery store. Paubos na kasi ang kanyang supply ng pagkain at toiletries.
She took a bath to wake up her senses and prepared a list of what she needed to buy. Agad siyang tumungo sa pinakamalapit na mall at bumili ng mga kailangan niya. She was about to pay at the counter when she felt something strange.
Looking around, she tried to pinpoint what exactly was making her uncomfortable. Suddenly, she remembered Cyrell telling her before that she felt like somebody was looking at them. Parang ganoon ang pakiramdam niya ngayon. It was as if someone was observing . . . watching her every move closely.
Anxious, she urged the cashier to move quicker because she had an emergency. Halos patakbo na siyang umalis sa hypermarket pero napatigil siya nang makita niya ang kalangitan. The sun was glowing brightly, but the sky was getting darker. Even the people around her were looking at the unusual sight.
‘Madali ka’t tumungo sa iyong balay.’
Isang malakas na sigaw ang kanyang pinakawalan nang muling marinig ang tinig na iyon. Agad na napatingin sa kanya ang mga taong nakarinig. She tried to find the source of the voice but there was no one near her.
Am I just hearing things? she thought in panic.
“Sino ka?” she softly asked but hoping nobody would answer her. Hindi niya alam kung ano na ang gagawin sakaling mayroon ngang kumakausap sa kanyang hindi niya nakikita.
She yelped once again upon hearing the voice. Her body was trembling in fear. She was not just hearing things. Somebody was talking to her, and she realized it was inside her head.
“Oh my god, please don’t tell me, nababaliw na talaga ako . . .” she murmured, anxiety rising in her throat.
Sinubukan niyang tawagan si Jaren para magpasundo dahil nanginginig pa rin ang buo niyang katawan pero hindi ito sumasagot. She tried calling him again but to no avail.
“Kung kailan naman kita kailangan,” Eliane muttered in distress.
Desperate, she called Cyrell. She was silently praying that her friend would answer her call, but she almost threw her phone when that voice talked to her again.
‘Hindi kita maililigtas sa sandaling pumukaw ang kanyang hilagyo!’ pagalit na sambit nito. ‘Hindi mo ba ako nadidinig, pitulon?!’
“Hello? Eliane?” Halos maiyak na siya nang marinig ang boses ng kaibigan. “Cyrell! Please! Help!” Cyrell detected the fear in her friend’s voice. “Anong nangyari?” “I’m not sure—uhm, basta may—you see, may naririnig akong boses—” “Okay, wait, huminga ka muna nang malalim,” she said, trying to calm Eliane down. “Ano bang nangyayari?”
Eliane obliged and took a deep breath, but before she could tell her friend what was happening, the commotion from her side got her attention. Napalingon siya roon at nakita niyang nakatingin ang mga ito sa kalangitan. She followed their gazes and gasped at the view.
Darker clouds loomed above her but what made her cower in fear was when the sun gradually lost its light. She knew it was not supposed to happen today because she saw the news about it.
It was a solar eclipse.
And it was three months early.
She was not sure if there were any scientific explanation for that anomaly, but something made her skin crawl. Amid the shadow engulfing the sun, two wisps of smokes—black and crimson—spun around each other, as if celebrating the ill-omened phenomenon.