Arnie Lopez and Janie Mariano were the best of pals since time immemorial.
If you didn’t know better you’d say they were siblings. They did everything together: school, extra curricular activities, and boys (not at the same time, of course…).
The two even have similar physical characteristics and features. Both were of moderate height, dusky complexion (though Arnie will swear her skin tone is a tad smoother), and both enjoyed the outdoors.
They were young, smart, and outgoing.
Even when they went to separate colleges after graduating from high school, they kept in touch. Arnie took up mass communications in Ateneo and Janie pursued Fine Arts in UP. They plan to open a small company together after college and get into advertising.
But there was a difference between the two, one that was not easily discernible to the naked eye. Arnie had a gift that Janie did not share.
“Arnie, get your ass in gear and let’s GO!”
Arnie struggled with her bag trying to stuff the bulk of it into Janie’s 95 Toyota Corolla without much success. It was 4:30 in the morning and without her usual frap fix she was as good as brain dead.
“Tell me again why we have to go at this ungodly hour?” Arnie croaked in her caffeine deprived stupor.
“The sunrise in Tagaytay is simply spectacular at this hour! You need a bit of visual stimuli in your life.”
“I don’t need stimuli. Coffee will be just fine.”
Arnie finally managed to wrestle her baggage into the trunk.
“This trip better be as good as you say it is, Janie” Arnie said as she fastened her seatbelt.
“Hey, have I ever lied to you?”
Janie gunned the engine a few notches higher than normal as Arnie proceeded to enumerate quite a few instances from the top of her head.
“Tagaytay, here we come!”
True to her word, the sunrise was a sight to behold as Janie navigated the somewhat tricky road to Tagaytay. Arnie literally let her hair down and enjoyed the cool morning breeze. And being the friends they are, Janie stopped by the first Starbucks they spotted so that Arnie can get her first caffeine fix of the day.
“So, what have you been up to?”
Janie’s question brought Arnie out of the reverie she has been in after her first sip.
“Later. My higher cognitive functions have barely returned.”
“I swear, Arnie! You’re such a caffeine junkie!”
“And a geek to boot!” Arnie said before she took another sip.
“I’ve been seeing someone” Arnie spoke through the mist of the coffee.
“Ah, now that’s interesting.”
“No, it’s not like that. He’s a shrink.”
“Is he cute? Psych Majors tend to be major hotties. I remember this guy in my sophomore year—”
“No, Janie. I mean I’m ‘seeing’ him as in for treatment.”
Janie blinked a few times. At that moment, Arnie was very much reminded of an old clunky computer on the verge of hanging up.
“I’ve been having a harder time dealing with all the things I’ve been seeing and I thought it would be nice to get another perspective on the…”
Janie was looking at her with her arms crossed over her chest, her legs crossed, and her face wrinkled in a smirk conveying disbelief. And somewhere behind her back a decaying corpse was standing.
“Arnie, don’t tell me you’re still talking to your imaginary friends up until now.”
“They…they’re not imaginary.”
“Well, you’re the only one who can see them while the rest of the world doesn’t. That pretty much qualifies as imaginary.”
The rotting corpse has its arms around Janie and was licking her ear while she was talking to Arnie.
“Uh, Janie. I think we should go.”
“Yes, let’s. It’s suddenly got a bit chilly in here.”
It was 5:00 PM and the girls are on their way back to the metro after a full day of sightseeing at Tagaytay. Janie was fidgeting at the wheel while Arnie was staring outside at the passing scenery.
“What exactly do you see?”
Arnie turns to her friend who was keeping her eyes on the road.
“You know. The things that you see…ghosts, spirits, whatever. What do they look like?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Aw c’mon, Arnie. I’m sorry if I’m such a bitch about it before. But if it’s bad enough that you have to go to a shrink about it instead of talking about it with your best buddy…well, I always said I’ll be there for you, didn’t I?”
Janie was looking at her most intently now.
“So, tell me.”
There was silence in the car for a few minutes. It seemed that Arnie was going to keep her thoughts to herself when she suddenly started speaking.
“Well, they look kinda like us only with some differences.”
“What kind of different?”
“Some that I’ve seen look disgusting. You know, like rotting…corpses. Some are just plain ugly.”
“What do they do?” Janie shifted in her seat to be able to listen better to her friend.
“Well, usually they just stand there and…” Arnie’s words died in her throat.
Behind Janie was the rotting corpse she saw at Starbucks earlier.
“Yes? And?” Janie was getting impatient now that she was getting into the discussion.
“Most…most of the time they just stand there and do nothing. And then there are those who are downright nuisances.”
The corpse had its slimy arms wrapped around Janie’s midsection and was beginning to lick her ears again with a long scaly tongue.
“Hey, it’s getting chilly again. Anyway, what exactly do they do when they’re a nuisance?”
The corpse now had its bony hands grasping both of Janie’s breasts.
“Oh, you really don’t want to know.”
“C’mon, Arnie. I’m your friend. I want to be in this with you.”
“Well, they squeeze girls’ breasts.”
“Eww! That’s disgusting!”
“You have no idea” was all that Arnie could say as she stood as unwilling witness while the corpse entity molested her best friend.
“I’m glad that never happened to me” Janie said.
Arnie was afraid of voicing out what she was seeing for fear that her friend might panic and cause an accident and kill someone, particularly themselves.
The corpse started sliding its hand in between Janie’s legs while looking at Arnie straight in the eye.
“I’d absolutely die!”
On the other, hand dying a horrible death via a violent accident as compared to being molested by an undead dirty old man might no be such a bad idea.
The squeal Arnie let out nearly gave Janie a heart attack.
Arnie was now pointing to a turn in the road up ahead. “It’s Sunday and we have to go to church!”
Janie was much bewildered while the corpse ran its fingers inside her inner thighs. “But you’ve never been much of a church go—”
“Well, there’s no time like the present!” Arnie uttered with such vehemence that the car lurched a bit as Janie was taken aback and stepped on the brakes harder than she had intended as they were parking. Arnie half dragged, half carried her buddy to the small church as their unseen admirer lurched after them.
The mass was already halfway through when they barged in the door.
Arnie found them a place somewhere in the middle of the congregation and took no mind of the piercing stares of the much scandalized parishioners. Soon enough the mass plodded on and the pair was left in relative peace.
More importantly their unseen admirer, at least to Janie, was nowhere to be found.
Arnie breathed a sigh of relief.
“That was really weird of you, Arnie”
“Sorry, Janie. There was a…” once again, Arnie’s words die in her throat for the second time of the day.
The corpse was once again shuffling toward them from the side hall.
“…disturbance in the force.”
“I swear, Arnie. You’re such a gee—HEY!”
Janie yelped in surprise as her friend once again dragged her helter skelter out of their seats and dashed straight back into the parking lot. Possessed by the strength panic bestows upon mere mortals in moments like these, Arnie tosses her friend into the driver’s side, bolts to the passengers compartment, and utters one word to Janie.
The car takes off from the parking lot like bat from hell.
Arnie looks behind to see if pursuit was being offered. Seeing none she begins laughing a relieved laughter.
“Arnie, you’re beginning to scare me. What’s going on? Are you okay? Talk to me!”
“Everything’s going to be okay now, Janie.”
“You’re acting very strangely.”
“Well what would you do if…” Arnie’s eyes bulge out in disbelief at what she is seeing.
The men in white made sure that the jacket was wound tightly around Arnie who still hasn’t stopped struggling. Despite being two burly men, it took a good amount of time (not to mention double the usual dosage of sedatives) to get Arnie under control.
She had grabbed the steering wheel from Janie and it was just luck that they survived the crash.
Janie was in the background trying to look over the shoulders of the medical team who subdued Arnie. After the crash, Arnie grabbed a nearby branch and was swatting at Janie with it with exhortations to stay still and she’ll take care of the pesky critter.
“Don’t worry, Arnie. Everything’s going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not going to be okay! Look! Can’t you see him!? He’s licking your boobs! Run, Janie! Run!”
Finally they managed to load Arnie into the back of the van after they gave her another dose of sedative. They rolled off a few minutes afterwards without much more fanfare. The last thing Arnie sees through the window of the asylum van is the sight of Janie waving goodbye. The corpse was nowhere in sight which brought some relief.
“God! These crazies are just popping up everywhere!” The driver of the van was saying to his partner.
“Yeah, but this one’s not half bad looking.”
“Ayyy…here we go again.”
The driver only shook his head as his partner continued leering at Arnie.
“Wonder why she’s smiling though?”