This is an excerpt from one of the stories included in the anthology, Silver Linings: Stories of Love, Hope, and Courage in a Pandemic Setting. If you liked the story, please consider supporting the writer by buying the book.
There was a commotion in the court. The entire clans of the mythical creatures were present. The news broke out about a virus plaguing humans and Lucresia, one of the witches, was trapped in the city.
“Can I join King Marshal?”
All eyes turned to me as I entered. I walked up to the throne, and my mother, Queen Rashela, reached out for my hand. I curtsied to my father before taking my place behind them.
Gratia, the head of the coven, approached the throne. “We tried contacting my sister,” she said. “But we didn’t receive a message from her. She lives in Manila, working as a professor. We heard that the Philippines is under lockdown because of a virus that could kill them in an instant. The human leader advised his people to stay at home.”
“Where are we getting our food now?” A wakwak flew above, and some manananggal followed.
This is bad. If someone tests her and finds something in her blood, it might bring a complication to us.
I glimpsed at my parents before focusing back on the different clans. “It is settled. I’m going to the human world and save Lucresia.” I declared.
“No!” Mother shouted and held my right elbow tightly. “You won’t sacrifice yourself.”
I bared my teeth. “I’m no longer a child. My duty is to protect our kingdom and one of us needs help.”
“Let her be, Rashela.” Father patted my mother’s hand, and she released me. “It’s Ynishka’s choice.”
I bowed my head to the King before I quickly returned to my room to prepare.
“Be careful and return after the full moon.
Mother insisted on accompanying me together with several kapre and tikbalang to the portal going to the other side.
She gripped my hands and whispered, “Promise me, you will return to us. I lost you once, I could not bear it if you are not coming back.”
My eyes widened with her revelation.
“When? I have never been to the human world.” I’m not even allowed to kill a mortal because I am different.
She touched my hair. “When you were young, a farmer saw you, lost and hungry in an abandoned barn. You became part of their family for a week. The kind-hearted couple returned you to us when your Father found you.”
“Did you remember where they are living? I would like to meet and thank them personally.”
Mother shook her head. “They might not live there anymore. We only knew that you gave the half-sun amulet to them. What is important now is that you and Lucrecia return safe.”
I kissed her cheek. “I will, Mother,” I promised as I made my way to the portal with the wooden bag that Gratia wanted me to bring.
The road was dark, and I saw no one ahead. I gazed at the sky and held the half-moon amulet I am wearing. The revelation that I gave the half-sun to the one who saved me made me want this mission to be successful.
“Guide me with my journey.” I murmured.
A flash of light hit the amulet. My nostrils picked the smell in an instant. Mortal.
“Miss? Why are you outside your home?”
I hid my pointy teeth. Behave. I indicated the one in his hand, which he briskly turned off. The man was wearing a uniform, with green patches and a certain cloth covering his mouth.
“Good evening, Sir. I’m looking for my sister.”
His forehead creased. “I don’t think this is the best time to search for your sister. Miss?”
“Yna.” I said and showed him my identification cards. Gratia came up with the name and even created the fake IDs.
He examined them and returned everything except one. “Is this your sister?” Lucresia’s face gawked at me. “Is she lost?”
“No, but I cannot contact her. We’ve been trying to call her, but she is not answering.” I bit my lips. “We are anxious that something happened to her.”
He glared at me and weighed if what I told was a lie. “Your sister’s address is far from here. I’m not sure if we can accompany you because of the lockdown.”
“I live in the other world… I mean another side of the mountain where news does not reach us easily.” I groaned. “I am begging you Sir to help me find my sister. My parents are getting sick.”
The pleading worked as he began talking to the instrument he was holding.
“Copy that.” He clicked it off and then eyed me. “I will escort you to Manila. My officer is reaching out to the owner where Lucresia is living and her contact number.”
I bowed my head as a sign of appreciation. “May I know your name, kind Sir?”
“Gregory at your service, Ma’am.”
“Are we in Manila?” There were no more mountains, instead there were structures that I could not identify.
“Yes, we are entering Katipunan where your sister is living, Yna.”
Gregory and I went out of the military truck. He talked to a man who dressed similarly to him.
The human pointed to the one he was holding on my forehead. “She is not allowed to enter.”
My companion glanced at me. “What do you mean?”
The man showed the thing to Gregory who scratched his head before pulling me back to the vehicle.
“You stayed here while I talked to him.”
“Why am I not allowed?” I asked. Time was running out. Lucresia might be in danger.
“Your temperature does not register with the infrared thermometer.”
It surprised me when Gregory touched my forehead so I moved back on the seat. “You are too cold, Yna. Your body needs to be warm.” His face was a few inches away from me. I can smell his breath and even hear the thumping on his left breast.
“What are you doing?” I growled.
He pulled out his jacket and put it on my shoulders. I was about to expose my teeth when something shone in his chest, and it caught my eyes.
“Where did you get that?”
Gregory beamed at me. “A lost girl that I helped left this to me.” And he hid the half-sun amulet under his white shirt. “She became the reason I become a soldier.”
His confession shocked me. Before I could even utter a word, he gave a salute and walked back to the man on duty.
I stared at the looming structure in front of me. I have to find Lucresia. I glided out and quickly dashed towards the back of the establishment.
I went up to room 1105 where I heard that the witch is living. I knocked several times, but no one was answering.
I heard a voice behind me. “What brings you to the mortal world, Princess Ynishka?”
My long tongue went out instantaneously. “Multo.”
He smirked at me. “Still the same as your highness that cannot shift?”
I am the only aswang in our clan that cannot shape-shift into any animals. I tried but my powers were unsteady. I never hunt and kill a human being. This caused some entities like this ghost to disrespect me.
I whined as a warning and he lifted his translucent hands. “Shut up. I am here to bring Lucresia back to the kingdom. Have you seen her?”
He patted his chin. “Let me check her inside.”
I kept my ears open while waiting for multo and listening to Gregory downstairs.
The ghost returned shortly. “She is alive but very frail. I informed her you are outside her room and she let me move the knob. You can come in now, Princess.”
As soon as I got the go signal, I rapidly went to Lucresia who was lying on the floor. “I have to return you to your coven.”
Lucresia gaped her eyes. “Princess, it is not safe for you to be here.”
I brushed her forehead. “Are you sick with the virus?”
“I did not contract it.” I helped her stand up. “I am weak because my powers keep on bouncing back to me.”
I glanced at the door. “Multo, bring her to the nearest portal. I will follow afterward. I have to do something very important.” I instructed before running down as I felt Gregory was returning to the truck.
Gregory kicked the tire when he wasn’t able to find me. I saw him wearing his jacket again and the half-moon amulet dropped from it.
He picked it up, and recognition flashed on his face. He focused his eyes on his surroundings. I lurked more at the trunk of the balete.
The hunch on his back said it all as he started the machine. I slowly got out when the vehicle maneuvered, and a whiff trailed behind the moving truck.
Thank you for saving my life twice. Till we meet again, Gregory.