Saturday, April 28, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 25)

June 25, 2010 (4pm)
                The sign that was hanging from the ceiling read “Anonat Terminal.” Chalano walked below the sign.
                Chalano had gone to the bookstore to buy a notebook. The bookstore was so far away, and he had taken the train on his way back to 4th Project Town. He had left the train at Anonat Terminal, from which he was going to walk back home.
                There were so many people who were hurrying about. It was a busy place. For someone who was used to the calm life in 4th Project Town, this place was a bit confusing. Carrying his backpack and the notebook that he had bought, Chalano walked as fast as everybody else to keep from standing out like a sore thumb.
                Chalano was a shy boy. Whenever he was walking in a crowd, he looked to the ground, or far ahead of him. The people were so unusual to him in this new, strange place, though, so he glanced at their faces. He glanced at the people who walked beside him, and the ones whom he passed by. They were so much in a hurry, that they didn’t notice a teenager like Chalano staring at them.
                Many of the people seemed to be in the working class. They were in office uniforms, and they rushed like their appointments mattered the most in the world. There were college students. There was a pretty girl who was walking even faster than most of them. She was about as old as Chalano. She was wearing a denim skirt, and her left hand was gloved. Chalano was totally surprised. It was Rella!
                She passed by him on her way into the terminal. “Rella! Rella! Wait,” Chalano called as he hurried after her. She abruptly stopped, and turned at the sound of his voice. He could see the recognition in her eyes when she saw him. She suddenly turned, and began to run through the crowd to get away from him. “Rella! Wait for me,” Chalano called as he tried to catch up with her.
                They ran through the crowd. A tiny girl like her could easily pass through such a crowd. She reached the waiting train, and jumped into the train. The doors of the train suddenly closed, and it began to leave. Chalano stood on the platform. He watched her walk behind the people in the crowded train. He couldn’t catch up.

                “I saw her … it was really Rella,” Chalano said. “She walked past me, and she ran away when I called her.”
                It was a quiet afternoon in Callon’s office in the precinct. Callon was sitting on his chair before his desk as he patiently listened to Chalano, who was sitting on a chair that was on the other side of the desk. Callon looked at his wristwatch.
                “Maybe it was just someone who looked like Rella,” Callon said.
                “No, it was really her!”
                Callon raised his eyebrows until his forehead wrinkled as he said with a reassuring voice, “She was your friend, Chalano.”
                “Are you saying that it was just my imagination?! That I miss her so much, and that I see her when she’s not really there?”
                Callon breathed very deeply and slowly. “I’m sorry, but that’s what it appears to be. Rella is dead. You must accept that, and it’s actually not my job to comfort you.”
                “This is crazy! Why can’t you believe me?”
                “Sir,” Callon said to another policeman. “Bring this boy to his home.”
                The policeman came to take Chalano.
                “This is ridiculous! I really saw her. Isn’t it your job to gather information?”
                “Not your type of information,” Callon replied, going back to writing notes for their investigation as the other policeman pulled Chalano out of the precinct.

                Another death. The arsonist was back in 4th Project Town. Chalano was sitting on the sofa in the living room, watching the evening news. Douglas was curled up beside him. The fire had taken place at around the time that he had left Callon in the precinct. Witnesses in the news said that there was only one person in the house when it got burned down.
                “He goes home early on weekdays. He prepares food before I go home from school,” stated the 14-year-old son of the victim, who was said to be a widower.
                Chalano glanced at his mother. She had just gone upstairs to get something from the living room. Chalano was suddenly filled with fear. “Any of us might be next,” John’s voice echoed in his memory as he watched his mother lean over a table near him. He looked at Douglas, who was sleeping. He remembered the fire telling him, “Only you can stop it.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 24)

June 25, 2010 (3:30pm)
                Students were hurrying through the halls and corridors. Douglas might be hungry, and Chalano hurried through the crowd of students in the warm afternoon. It was difficult to quickly get through the crowd, so he took the short cut at the back of the auditorium.
                He walked quickly through the long, empty corridor that led to the parking lot of the school.
                “There goes the jerk,” said a male voice, and someone hit Chalano’s head from behind.
                Chalano almost lost his balance, but he managed to remain on his feet. He started to run to the parking lot, screaming, “Help!”
                The two bullies caught up with him. They were John’s friends. The smaller one grabbed Chalano’s bag. The small bully opened the bag, and held it upside-down as the bigger bully restrained Chalano. The contents of the bag, including the pages from Chalano’s manuscript, fell to the ground.
   “Don’t take my books,” Chalano begged.
                The small bully took the manuscript, and said, “You want this?”
                “Yes, give it back,” Chalano said, reaching for it.
                The small bully suddenly pulled the manuscript away just when Chalano was about to touch it. “No, it’s not yours anymore,” the small guy mocked, and the two bullies laughed.
                “Stop it.”
                It was John. He went out of the backstage, and walked toward them. The two bullies kept laughing, and the smaller one threw the manuscript at Chalano’s face. John walked faster, and angrily grabbed the small guy by the shirt. “I said stop it!”
                John violently pushed the small bully, and he fell to the ground. The little guy stuttered, “B-but I-I thought that he was our enemy.”
                “When I say ‘stop,’ stop! I’m in a bad mood today,” John said, and then he looked at the guy who was holding Chalano. “Louis, let him go! You two get out of here! Enough talk?!”
                Louis let go of Chalano, and the two bullies hurried out of the corridor in fright as John bent down to collect Chalano’s school things from the ground. As he put the manuscript and books back into the bag, he asked Chalano, “What did Rella tell you when she spoke to you and your friend on June 9?”
                “She told us that we were welcome to join the stage play.”
                John stood up, and handed the bag to Chalano.
                Chalano took the bag, thinking, John is in a real bad mood, so I’d better RUN!
                Before Chalano could escape, John suddenly said, “Would you accept my apologies for all of the bad things that I did to you and your friend?”
                John extended his right hand to Chalano. Chalano didn’t trust him, but he’d always wanted John to just admit his bad deeds. He’d never known John as a traitor, since it was the first moment that John tried to befriend him.
                John asked, “Friends?”
                John’s hand remained extended for some awkward minutes without getting any response.
                “Okay,” Chalano reluctantly said, and shook hands with John.
                They walked out of the back of the auditorium, and into the parking lot. “She was a good person,” John said, as if talking to himself. “Talented, kind, and optimistic. She was one of the best people that I ever met. If someone could kill an admirable person like Rella, then he must be crazy.”
                Most of the other students had gone home, and the whole campus was quiet. Rays of the afternoon sun slanted toward the buildings and trees around them, making a golden glow in the surroundings that gently reflected on John’s brown eyes. The eyes that used to glare at Chalano were suddenly very sad. “All of us are doomed,” John said. “The police aren’t fast enough. We could get killed one-by-one.  Any one of us might be next.”
                They walked toward the cafeteria. John looked to the ground, his tanned face sad and worried. Broad-shouldered, and standing at 5’7, he was a lot taller than Chalano. The breezes were blowing on his wavy hair. Indeed, John was too charismatic for someone his age. Despite his good looks, John had always been single, which made a good example to his peers during a time when teenagers were starting to have girlfriends or boyfriends. To someone like Chalano, it was easy to hate John. He was the boy who, in spite of his usually bad conduct, the girls liked. That afternoon, though, John was changing.
                “People fight each other only because they think that they have long lives ahead of them,” John said. “If life is so short, it would be better to be friends instead, right?”
                John bit his lip. He abruptly stopped. He said, “I’ve began to believe that it’s better to live a short life of being good, than die knowing that you wasted your chance. The killer doesn’t choose. He kills anyone. I think that he’s been here. If you die tonight, how would you like people to remember you?”
                “I wouldn’t think of that because it would be like inviting that kind of thing.”
                John smiled. “If that’s your belief, then go with it. I wouldn’t change it. As for me, it’s important to prepare for one’s death, because it comes anytime.”
                John suddenly said, “I saw your manuscript for the contest when I fixed your bag. Well, I won’t join the contest for this year. Yes, it’s our final year. They say, ‘Save the best for last.’ But I’d rather focus on the subjects, especially now that Emma got elected as the new class president.”
                “Alright, you may go.”
                Chalano walked to the school gate. He couldn’t believe what just happened. John became friends with him, and he wouldn’t be in the writing contest. So Chalano had better chances of winning that contest! He wanted to look back to John to confirm to himself that it really happened, but he hurried out of the gate before John could change his mind.
                John stood in the middle of the campus. Another good deed for this day, he thought as he looked at the school buildings. It was better than being the leader who always feared that someone would ruin his authority. He walked back to the auditorium.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 23)

June 19, 2010 (7am)
                The storm had come. The steady sound of pelting rain was blocking all of the daily noises that could usually be heard from Chalano’s bedroom.
                Chalano woke up, and walked to the window. Strong winds were swirling outside. He tried to figure out what he was looking at. Someone was sitting outside the gate of their garage. The figure was on their driveway. Rain sprayed on the closed, glass shutters of Chalano’s bedroom windows, making it harder for him to see the figure. He hurried downstairs. “Mother,” he called as he approached his mother, who was cooking breakfast. “I saw someone outside the gate of our garage.”
                “Who is it?”
                “It’s hard to see in the rain. I can’t see if he’s a pig, or a monkey. If he’s a man, he has a physical deformity. He’s just sitting out there in the rain.”
                She finished cooking, moved the food to a plate, and placed the cooking pan into the sink. “Give me that umbrella,” she said, pointing to an umbrella that was resting beside their huge table. “I’ll see who it is.”
                Chalano took the blue umbrella, and handed it to his mother. She went out of the back door, and walked beside their garage. She stayed near their house to avoid the strong winds. Chalano stood beside his favorite chair near their table, and watched his mother through the windows. She went to the gate, and peered outside.
                She walked back to their house. She went to the back door. "He’s an old dog, Charlie,” she said as she stood in the doorway. “Hurry, get an old blanket. We should help him because he would die in the cold.”
                Chalano quickly ran up the indoor stairs as his mother walked back to the gate. Chalano hurried through the corridor. There was a tiny room to the left side of the corridor. The room contained old furniture, old clothes, etc. Chalano took an old blanket from the room, and ran down the indoor stairs. His mother had just gone back to the backdoor.
                “Take him, Charlie,” she said as she gave the little creature to her son.
                He was a black terrier. There were bald patches all over his body that seemed to have been caused by skin irritation. He was very old. And he was blind. Chalano wrapped the blanket around the trembling dog, and carried him as his mother locked the back door. She said, “Let’s bring him to the living room. He must be kept warm.”
                Chalano and his mother walked up the indoor stairs, and to the living room. Chalano left the little dog on the floor, and went to the corridor. He came back with old clothes, and more old blankets. As Chalano wiped the dog dry with the old clothes, his mother brought her iron to iron the old blankets. She was making the blankets warmer. Once the dog’s fur was dry, mother and son helped each other wrap the dog up in numerous layers of warm blankets.
                “A family nearby must have thought that the dog who had guarded them for years had become old and useless, so they brought him out in the rain, and left him for dead. I’ve seen people do that more than once. It’s a wicked practice,” his mother explained.
                “Oh, that’s betrayal to a loyal dog,” Chalano said.
                “Yes. What if it was done to them once they become old? They seem to not think about it.”
                A few minutes later, the dog began to struggle out of the blankets. “Let’s stop now,” Chalano’s mother said with a smile.  “It’s becoming too warm for him. He’s going to be fine.”
                “Look after him for a while, okay? I’m going to take a bath because I got wet in the rain,” she said as she stood up and left.
                The dog left the blankets, and began sniffing on the floor and the furniture. Finally, he found Chalano. Chalano stroked the dog’s wavy fur. He brought out his mobile phone, and called Kim.
                When Kim took the call, Chalano said, “Hey, we have a dog.”
                “Great! You bought him?”
                “We found him trembling outside our garage in the storm.”
                “Oh. At least, he got a home. What are you going to name him?”
                “I haven’t thought of a name yet …”
                “Why don’t you call him Douglas? Your neighbor’s dog is named Zeta, right?”
                “What does that have to do with our neighbor’s dog?”
                “Douglas. Zeta-Jones. Got it?”
                Chalano laughed, and said, “Nice idea. Okay, he’ll be Douglas.”

June 19, 2010 (9pm)
                It was a quiet night at the precinct. Callon was sitting before his desk in his narrow office, writing notes. They just couldn’t find a lead in the case. All of the evidences had been burned. The witnesses’ descriptions of the people who were last seen near the houses before they got burned were very different in different sites. They couldn’t find a particular suspect, and not even a particular group of suspects. The only pattern was that most of the arson took place in 4th Project Town. He had a gut feeling that Chalano knew something. Chalano had been showing an unusual interest in the arson.
                The boy used to be a member of a gang called Coal. Members of the gang had lived in 4th Project Town. They had created graffiti using coal and ashes. They had turned into Adhesive Gang, one of the most notorious bank robbers in the area during those years. An informant had identified Collifer Moneto --- the only son of a rich businessman --- as the leader and founder of the gang, and the police had arrested Moneto. More known by the nickname Cole, he had cooperated with the police by telling them about his gang members’ whereabouts, schedule, plans, and names in exchange for his own freedom. He had fondly described his gang as “like a family,” and bragged about how they had added members more than let go of members. He had mentioned that Chalano was the only member who quit the gang right before they turned into robbers.
                The police had trapped all of the other gang members in the gang’s next bank robbery. The whole Adhesive Gang was imprisoned, except Cole.
                A few months later, Cole’s house had burned. His parents had died, and he was traumatized and in severed condition. He had survived. The troubled teen had got sent to an orphanage, where he accidentally burned himself during an alleged fight with another kid. Callon just had to know more about Chalano …