Journal Entry 01: Fifteenth of January, Year 2010
The case of the gentleman from Makati
The morning was it’s usual sunless self. The smog, thick as always and the air was damper than a blacksmith’s pits on a summer’s day. The smell of burning coal hung heavily in the air, like stale perfume.
When one looks up, the sky is dotted with costermongers selling their wares on winged cycles. Like harpies with goggles. Nothing really new. Except that i’m not supposed to be here.
And where is ‘here’?
I look around and i see familiar faces, brown-skinned, sweaty people going about their daily lives in Manila. Is this even Manila?
I closed my eyes hoping that if I opened them again I’d be back in my office, trying to beat my boss’ deadline and escape the rush hour. I was forced to open them when somebody bumped me. I use the term ‘somebody’ loosely. The thing that bumped me looked vaguely human. He/it was made of steel, tempered and shaped into what I think passed for a human in these parts. Which raised the question again, ‘where am I?’
I checked myself, fumbled through my pockets and searched for something familiar, something I used all the time. Something I cannot leave home behind: my mobile phone.
It should be inside the left pocket of my denim jeans. This being a Friday (at least I think it is), we were allowed to wear jeans to work. It was then I realized I wasn’t wearing denims. I was wearing one of those pants you’d wear on fancy occasions. Like what one would wear on their funeral, not on a daily basis. Nope, no mobile phone here.
Then I looked up, big mistake, because I found myself standing face to face with a huge black, smelly horse. A horse in Makati? Come on!
Journal Entry 02: Sixteenth of January, Year 2010
The Friar and the Gargoyle
This wasn’t a dream after all. I was really in someone’s twisted version of my present. I haven’t figured out how I got here, but so far, I am doing my best to blend in. I have seen way too much science fiction movies to try and stand out. They might take me to some laboratory and cut me open like a lab rat.
Until I find out how I got here and how to get back to the life I left behind, i’ll sit tight and live the most out of it. Whatever ‘it’ means.
The first order of the day was to find a place to stay. Or in my case, try to see if my apartment was still there.
The Makati I knew was pretty much the same as where I’m at. Well, except maybe for some minor details like the costermongers (they’re basically your street vendors on bicycles-on wings). Horse-drawn carriages litter the streets like taxi cabs in my universe. The skyline hasn’t changed but I have these eerie feeling that I won’t be seeing any elevators if I go inside one of those buildings. The huge mall I always go to is still a mall, although over here, they call it the ‘Marketplace’- same difference. People still spoke the same language (to tell you honestly, I was expecting they’d be talking in alien gibberish) and they don’t think of me as foreign at all (always a good thing).
Again, like most lucid dreams, I have their own version of money. It’s as if the stuff I use to have in my wallet was magically converted to their currency when I got here. And that’s the same stuff I used to pay for the kalesa.
The trip to my apartment was like reading something out of a book. The huge road I called EDSA is called Highway 54 over here and the mass transport of choice? A huge, black locomotive which made a lot of noise when it snaked its way across the smoggy city. I was amazed. I had to remind myself to close my mouth. And the funny thing is, I have expected to see some version of a bus here but it’s just that ginormous locomotive and the thousands of kalesas ply the streets. I made a mental not to get on that train one of these days.
I told the driver to stop since I recognize some of the houses and street signs and decided to walk the rest of the way to the apartment (hoping that it’s still there of course). I then realized that I was standing on top of a hill and the rest of the city lay out before me. It was a surreal sight. Something right of of the movies. This is definitely not my city.
“I always go here if I want to think” A voice beside me suddenly said. I turned and saw a man, in his thirties most probably and wait for it, wearing a habit. He reminded me of someone from the Middle Ages- a priest.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your solitude” He smiled and offered his hand. “My name is Prayle Simon” He seemed friendly enough.
And he didn’t look like a priest, although he dresses like one. Okay, I admit, he’s hot. Not like movie star hot, but hot in a very manly kind of way. I wonder if he had anything on underneath his robes…
“Your name would be a good start” he suddenly said, as if reading my dirty thoughts.
“Oh, sorry. My name is Michael.” I think I blushed but I was seriously hoping he didn’t notice. “And I’m on my way home” I hastily added.
“I see” He withdrew his hand and stared at the vast expanse of civilization again. “You live nearby?”
“Yes, right around the corner.” I answered. Then it hit me: in my universe, there was a little chapel on the corner of the street where I lived. Maybe, Prayle Simon is from that chapel, although I clearly remember the priest from my universe and he remotely looked like Simon. Back there, I didn’t really car how priests looked like, I don’t even go to church. “So, you’re from the chapel?”
My first mistake.
“You mean the Church of the Divine Mother Dominatrix” he corrected me. Church? That chapel’s smaller than my apartment, why would someone call a chapel a church? “Yes, I am the recrtix there. Would you walk with me?”
I followed Simon as he walked. And as we turned, I realized why they call it a church over here. It was indeed a huge edifice, more like a cathedral. The whole structure was made of stone and showed signs of age, meaning this church has been here for a really long time. It was close to dusk and there were a few people milling about: some on their way to church and some probably on their way home.
I tried to remember how far from the church my apartment was so that I won’y look as lost as how i’m feeling.
And then suddenly, it grew dark. I never knew days here go by so fast. Then along with the shadow is a faint creaking metallic noise a metal gate makes sans oil.
“Ah, Juan Pablo is here” The darkness passed and I could see my shadow again. I looked up and saw something that made me grab Simon’s robe.
A metallic gargoyle with some guy on top of it. My heart was beating like crazy. Was I found out? Is this their supreme ruler of weirdness come to get me?
“You remind me of myself when I was little. I was so afraid of these gargoyles I always hid under my mother’s skirt” And gave my hand a gentle tap.
The beast landed in front of us and the person on it dismounted, like a jockey off a horse.
“Simon, Saleema asked me to give you this” The guy, who was wearing fatigue by the way, handed the priest a small box. I figured this guy’s not the ruler of all things weird, just some foot soldier. And is it just me or all the people here in this universe look freakishly good? And they have perfect teeth!
“Thank you. Tell your sister I will send an owl later. My phonograph is acting up, I am unable to send any messages” The priest said taking the small box. He turned to me and said: “I have to go to church now, will you be there at tonight’s mass?”
In my world, I would consider that as flirting. But since this isn’t my world and not all people (in any universe for that matter) have a dirty mind like I do, it was a harmless invitation.
“Uh…” I hesitated “I have stuff to do at home. And I had a long day” And i wanted to add that I haven’t figured out where my ‘home’ is either.