Saturday, June 30, 2012

Letter to a Younger Me


The black shadows in the night sky;
They’re blurs ‘cause I’m indoors to write.
I could lie down, forget, and sigh,
But I have to maintain ethics
Because I have this work for weeks.

Yes, life has changed for the better.
If they’ve been you, they’d be nicer.
This culture respects the richer.
Behold, all your friends are honest;
I can’t go around like the rest.

Thick walls that hide me from their eyes.
Dreams on which a story relies.
Mangoes, spices, and endless rice.
You’d love this, if you hadn’t died.


Bucket of Black Rocks


Gothic myth is it
Angry consonants
Make audio gravel;
As unfriendly as a villain.
The ground rattles with the racket
Like a bucket of black rocks,
Lacking in sense;
Bleating like a goat.


Crab Mentality (Part 34)

June 30, 2010 (5pm)
“You go to the gate,” Chalano said. “I’ll go inside to look for him on my own.”
“No ---“
Kim couldn’t complain anymore as he watched Chalano run farther and farther away. Chalano ran through the thinning smoke, staying away from the flames and dodging the falling debris. Everything was dark, except the blazes. At that moment, he knew what it felt like to be one of those dogs that he’d burned 3 years ago. It was like looking into a picture of smoke that had a frame of flames. The only difference was that he could run. The air smelled of charcoal, smoke and an unrecognizable chemical. Many of the buildings of the school had collapsed, and the others were still collapsing. A few buildings were still standing, but they were very incomplete. It was as if all that was left of the school was its skeleton. He hurried to the room where they last saw the arsonist. The room was empty. The auditorium had fallen down, but the stairs that led from it was still whole. Chalano ran up the stairs in search for Cole.
“So you came to join me,” John said as he stood on the burning second floor. No. It wasn’t John. It was Cole, who had John’s appearance. Kim was right; Cole did turn into anyone who he burned. He walked into a room, which used to be Chalano’s classroom during first year. He put his gloved left hand into his pocket, and stepped into the flames. It was John’s hair, John’s face, but not John’s behavior. Master was right; the arsonist didn’t burn. Seeing the fear on Chalano’s face, Cole snickered, and said, “Missing your friend, huh?”
“You’re wrong,” Chalano declared. “I did not go here to join you. I came here to stop you. Just stop this. Surrender. Be like me, and turn good.”
“Nah, you don’t stop doing what you love doing. It’s totally fun to be anyone; that’s the best part of my hobby,” Cole said with a smile as he walked out of the flames. “I believe that so many guys envied him. I can imagine how much they wanted to be John Paolo Ontagio. I say, It’s hot to be John! Literally.”
Cole’s laughter could be heard through the flames and charcoal. “You don’t stop doing what you love doing, as long as it doesn’t hurt others,” Chalano said. “People have been dying, and homes have been burning. Aren’t you concerned about anyone? I’ll let you go now if you promise me that you’ll never do this again. We used to be friends, Cole, and we were schoolmates. You can move to another city, find a job, or something.”
“Why shall I stop what I love doing only because of OTHER people? This doesn’t hurt me, and it won’t kill me. Other people are not me, and I don’t care about them. I don’t let anyone make me do things. I do what I want to do!”
“You’re not at all concerned?! You ---“
“What makes you think that you can fool me? You’ll report me to the police. Shame on you, Charlie. No one in this place is as dishonest as you. You’re playing an undercover cop, and negotiating with me for the sake of more than a hundred innocent lives. All of them know that you’re here, but, when nobody knew where you were 3 years ago, you didn’t hesitate to burn 30-plus dogs alive. You’ve always been two-faced, traitor!”
“You told me to burn the dogs, and ---“
“That’s not what I told the police,” Cole interrupted, shaking his head. “What if the police found evidence against you?”
“You lied?! What did I do wrong that was without your guidance? I was just an innocent kid who only wanted to have friends. I quit right after that. How dare you tell them that I did something wrong, and never tell them that you told me to do it!”
“You were not innocent. It wasn’t my fault that you did you what you were told to do. It meant that evil had been in you. It doesn’t matter who told you to do it; what matters is that you did it. So you quit? You can’t quit. You will never get out of this, Charlie. ‘Once a crook, always a crook.’ Don’t feel so clean, because you’re not clean. You’re still a gangster in my gang. I am still your superior, and I still tell you what to do. Stop turning your back on us. You’re still one of us.”
Chalano didn’t know what to say. The crabs were probably right; no one among them was supposed to be in a better position.
“Uh-oh. You’re not going to do this. I’ve been listening to the two of you,” Kim said as he walked from behind one of the shelves. He jumped like he was so light, and kicked Cole on the chest. Cole almost fell, but he remained standing. Cole kept moving backward to avoid Kim’s kicks as Kim advanced, saying, “I’m not saying that Chalano did nothing wrong, but have you heard of the law ‘Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor’? Chalano was a minor, and he’s still a minor. Whatever he did, you are responsible for it. What matters is that you told him to do it. You were intentionally being a bad example to him. Got it?”
He hit Cole. Cole fell to the ground. “So stop saying ‘It wasn’t my fault.’ Stop telling my friend that he’s still one of you. There’s no such thing. Whoever he chooses to be is none of your business.”
Cole grabbed Kim’s foot. He tried to twist Kim’s ankle, but Kim suddenly punched his eye. He let go of Kim’s foot, and Kim moved to punch Cole’s other eye. Cole suddenly avoided the hit, and Kim accidentally fell to the ground. Cole quickly stood up, grabbed Kim’s arms from behind, and held them. “Why don’t you learn to shut up that noisy mouth, huh? It doesn’t make sense,” Cole growled. “Since you never made sense anyway.”
With his head pressed to the floor, Kim mocked, “So you’re gonna burn me? Think about it; it ain’t fun to look Chinese.”
“No, I won’t burn you,” Cole said as he made sure that Chalano wasn’t doing anything to help Kim. “I will give you two a hard time, especially you. You, the nerd who hacked into my computer. You think that you’re so smart?”
“Yeah, I really think that I’m so smart. I know that you will burn me. You will look Chinese, but it won’t be great because you’re not smart. I can deal with people who think that I’m Chinese even though I’m actually Taiwanese. You can’t deal with what people think of you.  You secretly want to be liked, to be sent an email by a babe, and to be loved by that babe. You were obviously dreaming of meeting someone who would fulfill your fantasies, but she turned out to be just a byte.”
Cole couldn’t stand it anymore. “Smart retard,” he yelled as he dragged Kim out of the room, and threw him out of the balcony.
“No,” Chalano shouted as he ran to the balcony. There was a loud crack. The burning balcony gave way, and it broke into pieces. Chalano fell down with the debris. He hit a pile of coal. He began walking, crawling, or whichever way just to get to his friend.
He found Kim lying on burned debris. “Kim,” he asked. “Are you alright?”
“My back … hit a burning door,” Kim said. “But I’m fine now. I provoked him to throw me out, because he was just going to use me to control you. He doesn’t care about me, but he cares about you. I think that he doesn’t really want to kill you; if only you wouldn’t make him mad. You can stop him, but, please, use your good judgment this time. Okay?”

Friday, June 29, 2012

Midas


As unpredictable as the weather.
Yellow in summer, white in December.
As unsure as a night getting darker.
It makes you nervous like a small ferret.
You’re like an owl when your needs aren’t met.

Your desire grows like Midas wanting gold.
There is no bottom to hit as you fall.
You’re feeling like you’ve been hit on the wall.
Of all things that could hit you, this feels good.
You could fly to the sky if you just could.

It changes like currents in the deep sea.
It floats like water vapors in the east.
Like clouds, in empty skies it gives meaning.
And then the vapors condense, and go down.
Tears fall from the sky, and meanings are gone.


Maggots


I didn’t know how to dance
Until I ate some maggots.
If only I had a chance
First, I really should’ve thought.




Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Computer


Computer.
All-purpose robot.
Type, print, shoot.
Cold, smooth, and sleek.
Apple.


Along With Me


I stood on my toes to see him.
A small baby, nice and asleep.
Couldn’t see the tomb, not a peek;
Like I can’t find that little boy.
If he was here, then it’s real joy.
I build in vain what they destroy.
It made me ask, “Why am I spared?”
I can’t live if life can’t be shared,
But I have to live like I dared.
He’s supposed to be here with me.
Gotta put him in my story.
I want him to smile; happy.
I lose him when I look for him.
Invisible like a glass rim.
From the unbalanced, broken team,
Empty ghost, breathing in stories.
Thought he was here as I start this;
The person who I’ll always miss.
They tell tales of crying in May.
He slowly faded every day.
He just gave up, and went away.
I say, “Why did he leave me here?”
Should’ve brought me along with him.
Should’ve brought him along with me.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wide Cornfields


Wide cornfields in vivid green.
Warm breezes across the scene.
The leaves rustle as they swing.
Golden corns that taste so sweet.
Cool, fresh air that you can sniff.
This spring, you’ll go home to see
Countryside that’s heavenly.


Xylophone Tunes


And I end up locked up here …

Back in the month November,
Chance called me, and I followed,
Defining the word “perfect.”
Evening blanketed the Earth.
Finally, I found my home.

Getting him was such a task.
Happy; he had to become.
In our well-devised plan,
Justice helped us take him out.
Krakens couldn’t trace him home.

Loud and clear across my dreams.
Miracles didn’t happen.
Nights became darker and weird.
Oh, God, why can’t he shut up?
People thought the same like me.

Questioning myself and them,
Regretting in the shadows;
Sanity sometimes flew out.
Thorny treatment was his thanks.
Unknown to people we’ve left.

Veins got wounded, I give up.
We can’t die for a demon.
Xylophone tunes at the back.
You can’t judge me when I’m right.
Zenith has reached this poem.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Like Us


I saw something;
Got me smiling.
I feel great joy,
And I enjoy.
You be like me,
And be happy.
They be like us,
And leave their jazz.
The world’s too small         
To fit us all.
We must be friends
Before it ends.
What should be life
If not alive?
We must rejoice,
And spread the joys.


Job's Comforter

The house has a roof and no walls.
The phone rings and it’s a wrong call.
There are foods that do not have plates.
Pricey, new shoes that do not fit.
A new visitor just broke in,
Telling her that she has no kin.

A friend is there to destroy her;
A friend to whom she can’t confer;
Like having a snake for a pet;
Like having a coat that is wet;
Like a storm during a full moon,
But people think that he’s so good.

He is like a rose and its thorns.
They don’t hear him cheer as she mourns.
Friend in good times; devil in bad.
A friend who she regrets she had.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Free


If we’re happy,
Then we can feel.
If we can feed,
Then we can live.
If we were free,
Then we can sing.
If we had a chance,
Then we can just dance.
If I can write,
Then I can rhyme.
If I were serious,
Then you’d be dubious.
If you can see,
Then you’re pretty.
If I write this fine,
Then you write this time.


Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012

Bright, Festive Lights


Might seem studious in your eyes;
I’m just the person who writes.

Vibrant colors and warm winds.
Resting in the summer breeze.
Grey clouds above waves in seas.
Strong floods beyond nature’s needs.
These are the things that I see.

Falling leaves in shades of red.
Trees look like McDonald’s head.
Bright, festive lights paraded.
“It’s Christmas,” the people said.
I saw these things before me.

Writing for an audience.
They read only what makes sense.
The best stories have essence.
To write in many accents,
I need to know what you see.


Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012

Owlpost





Dear readers,

You probably know that, before I wrote a book, I’ve been writing poems. Poems are literary pieces that are sometimes difficult to create because their systems are intricate. That is why I used to create only one poem per week. But within six weeks this year, I will try to write and publish 85 poems, a number that is more than 14 times the amount of poems that I usually create within the same period of time. And I will do this as my participation in the Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012. A write-a-thon is like a walk-a-thon. But instead of walking, I’ll be writing, and instead of lining up pledges per mile, I’ll be lining up pledges per poem.

The Write-a-Thon has been hosted annually for the past few years by the Clarion Foundation, a wonderful organization that provides funding for the highly respected Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at University of California, San Diego. As you can remember, I participated in Clarion Write-a-Thon 2011 also. That write-a-thon had inspired me to write “Crab Mentality,” my first ever story in the horror genre. Writing the story was an adventure of learning to me as much as participating in the write-a-thon was a memorable experience. The other writers and I got to discuss our writing goals every week, which created a sense of camaraderie to the whole event.

There are lots of improvements in Write-a-Thon 2012, and the best one is that this will team us up with fellow authors and Clarion mentors so we can share critiques, ideas, encouragement, and good writing. It’s the same approach that they’ve used successfully for years in the workshop, and I know that it will provide me with just the kind of push that I need to finish the project that I’ve chosen, creating 85 poems within six weeks.

Plus it’s all for a fantastic cause. Clarion is the oldest writing program of its kind, and it is highly respected.  Many of the greatest figures in science fiction and fantasy honed their skills and launched careers there.  Check it out on the web at clarion.ucsd.edu. Writing programs are under tremendous financial pressure and Clarion is no exception.  The Write-a-Thon's success is vital to the workshop's continued existence.  Last year it raised $17,000!

I hope you'll help out by going to my writer page and sponsoring my writing.  Every contribution that comes through will show on my page and will drive me to do more and better, while also helping out future writers.

Thanks in advance!  Please check back often to see how I'm doing and what I've written..


Charlene Delfin

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Start


Steps to tomorrow are here.
Look at the beauty of dear.
The dancing winds are so clear.
Tomorrow gets very near.

God might become mad at us.
The sky might turn into dust.
We might cry like a sad lass.
So don’t you sit back and sass.

Just live right in this moment.
Marvel at the monument.
Don’t be pushed by government.
Start colors on a pavement.


Two


The writer is the reader.
Writing just to be reading.
It is one and it is two.
It is false and it is true.

The hater is the lover.
I hate him for I love him.
The enemy is the friend,
But the friend is a lover.

I am writing and reading,
Until Sunday is Monday,
Until evening is morning,
‘Til difference makes the same.


One

The doting father and his many dreams.
He is a man who’s more than who he seems.
He has created the villain who schemes,
And the hero for the damsel who screams.

There is an artist who is still a boy.
The young student gives thoughts that bring you joy.
He’s also the genius who can annoy.
It’s his various worlds that you can enjoy.

So many years have brought her that wisdom.
Old, but her mind is strong like beats of drum.
She writes her words so gently like a hum,
But her message falls stronger than a gram.

Different stories, each with theorem.
There will be more variety like them.

Their stories and ideas are not one,
Their memories and desires are not one,
But they can hear the call of need as one.
Geniuses become stronger when they’re one,
And storytellers join to write as one.


Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 33)

June 30, 2010 (5pm)
Grey clouds were starting to cover the blue sky, and only a little bit of sunshine could manage to get through to the streets as Chalano and Kim ran along Lincoln Street. They turned left to 10th Street. The arsonist had an irregular schedule, but there was a time when he struck 24 hours after another arson. Chalano just had to make sure that Cole wouldn’t do it again.
Emma was buying from a store along 10th Street when she saw the two friends running by. “Hey,” she called them to ask what was going on, but they were already too far away to hear her.
Kim suddenly stopped, saying, “You can go there to warn them, I’ll stay here to call the police.”
“No,” Chalano said as he also stopped running, remembering his nightmare about Kim calling for help. "The police can't help."
    “What do you think you know?”
“The arsonist is too powerful.”
“And what are you going to do? Sweet-talk that psychopath into enrolling into 4th Project Town High instead? All that you have to do to help is warn the principal.”
“But the arsonist knows me,” Chalano was forced to admit it. “His name is Cole. We used to study together here. I think that I can stop him. In the same way that I allowed you to hack a while ago, why don’t you allow me to just find him and try to stop him?”
Kim stared at Chalano in disbelief for a while, and said, “Whatever we’re thinking, the right thing to do is to call the police. This is dangerous, but, as a friend, okay.”
They continued running to the school. There was no time to stop. They finally reached the entrance of 4th Project Town High. They slowed down to a walk to keep from standing out. A police car was parked nearby. “They’re already here,” Kim told Chalano as they walked into the campus.
Callon saw the two boys, and went out of the car to follow them.
The boys managed to slip past the guards at the gate, and they hurried to the principal’s office. “Ma’am,” Chalano gasped as he stepped into the office. “Tell everyone to get out of the campus immediately. Someone’s planning to burn the whole school, and everyone in it.”
“My,” the fat, elderly principal exclaimed in shock. “What did you say?! Guard! Take this boy outside!”
She kept calling as she stood up, reaching for the door. Instead of a security guard, a policeman came to the office. The principal froze in surprise. It was Callon; he asked, “What the hell are you kids doing here?”
“He’s planning to burn this, sir,” Chalano replied. “He’s going to burn this next!”
Callon thought for a while, and then he ordered the principal, “Order everyone to evacuate the campus A.S.A.P.!”
Even though she was already trembling with fear, the principal hurried back to her desk, and reached for her microphone. Her voice could be heard from loudspeakers all over the school, telling both the students and faculty members to make an emergency evacuation. Callon reached for the walkie-talkie, and ordered the other policemen to search the whole school. The principal hurried out of her office to help the younger students get out.
As the three of them stood inside the office, Callon began scolding Kim, “You shouldn’t have hacked into his server! Have you got an idea of how many lives you’ve put in danger by doing what you did? Your family, your neighbors, and even this whole school!”
Chalano asked, “How did you know about what we did?”
“My teammates tracked the arsonist's computer right after you gave us his real name, but our servers can’t be tracked back. We were alerted about what Kim was doing on 4:50. It wouldn’t have been like this if not for Kim. If you kids think that you’ve helped anyone with what you did, I have to inform you that you just made him more dangerous because he now thinks that he’s caught. Now, leave this campus!”
Chalano and Kim walked out of the office, leaving Callon inside. They joined the huge group of students who were hurrying toward the gate, but, instead of going out of the gate with the other people, Chalano pulled Kim to the cafeteria. They walked at the other side of the crowd, going to the opposite direction. 4th Project Town High looked exactly like Citrus Town High, except that the campus was bigger. It had more stairs. A flight of stairs led from the auditorium, and to the second floor.
They reached the back of the school. It was like a long backyard. There were grasses, a few trees, and flowers. There were no people, and it was very quiet. There was a water well to the left. Its metal cover was open. As they passed by the well, Kim could see that the underside of the cover had a chain that was attached to the inner part of the well. They kept walking.
“The faculty room during my time was somewhere over here,” Chalano said in a very quiet voice.
“Oh, I forgot! You know this place because you used to study here,” Kim happily exclaimed out loud.
“Shut up,” Chalano hissed. But it was too late.
A man stepped out of one of the rooms far ahead of them. He seemed frightened by their presence. Too frightened, that he abruptly lit a match and threw it into one of the rooms.
It happened so fast. Huge flames shot upward from the room. The fire spread quickly, eating up the smaller buildings like they were just thin paper.
“Take cover,” Chalano screamed.
They ran as fast as they could, with Chalano almost dragging the shocked Kim with him. Chalano threw both of them into the well.
At the gate, the last group of evacuating students and faculty members heard cracking sounds behind them. They looked back to the school. Gigantic flames were charging at them with unbelievable speed. Completely taken over by fear, they ran as fast as they could like mad.
Inside the well, Kim got to his senses when they fell on dry ground. The well wasn’t very deep. “This is an underground tunnel whose passages have been disguised as a couple of wells,” Chalano told him. “The other well is under a group of bushes in the cafeteria. Let’s go there.”
Chalano led Kim to a small hole. The tunnel was very dark, but it became darker as thick, black smoke came into the passage. The smoke was painful to the eyes, the nose, and the throat. It made them cough. It smelled of gasoline and smoke … Too much smoke. They tried to keep crawling as they gasped for air. There was just no more air. Kim stopped moving. In his struggle for air, Chalano felt the sudden need to leave the narrow tunnel. He turned back, and pushed the unresponsive Kim back to where they had come from. As he stared up at the blackness from the bottom of the well, he noticed that the smoke was beginning to thin. Daylight was coming in. Desperate for air, he clung to the old bricks of the wall, and climbed. He crawled out of the well. He’d never appreciated being able to breathe like that before. After getting enough air, he turned, and leaned back into the well to get Kim. He felt Kim’s shoulders in the smoky well. He pulled with all his might, and managed to drag his unconscious friend out.
“Hey,” he said as he tried to wake him up.
Kim suddenly opened his eyes, and gasped for air. As he began to calm down, he was rapidly blinking his reddening eyes. He had black ashes around his nose.
“The arson is over,” Chalano told him.
“The arson is never over while the arsonist is free,” Kim retorted.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 32)

June 30, 2010 (4pm)
                “Of course. I sent him an email that contained a hidden link that can lead back to my computer. I’m gonna hack into his computer.”
                Chalano abruptly stood up to leave, saying, “I’m not involved in that! That’s illegal!”
                “We have no other choice,” Kim pleaded. “You know me; you know that I’m a good person. I’m doing this only once in my life; I promise, and I’m doing this for all of us. We don’t know who he’s going to kill next. He already tried to burn our whole school. He already killed John. We have to do whatever we can.”
                Chalano sat down again, and said, “Alright, whatever.”
                Kim sat down on the revolving chair. He suddenly exclaimed with joy, “Oh, great! The fool has replied! I sent the email only a few minutes ago, and he replied faster than I thought he would.”
                Kim opened one of the programs in the computer. He clicked a button that had the words “load code.” A dark, horizontal bar in the middle of the screen turned red. Chalano asked, “Where did you get this program?”
                “I created it,” Kim said, and began to chuckle as he spoke. “It could make my whole family rich if I sold copies of it, but it could also get me imprisoned. I don’t want to go to prison, because that would be a shame to my father. So I will crash this program after I get enough information from John Doe’s computer.”
                “A serial killer who replies to emails?”
                “I sent him an email that he could have never received before. It’s from a young, beautiful woman who’s claiming to be his former  classmate in high school, and hoping that she could be his friend, or more than a friend.”
                “Gee, nice one,” Chalano grinned.
                “The program is connected to my email account, but its settings coordinate with only one email: the ‘bullet email.’ Once he responds to the bullet email, the program uses the connection as a bridge to absorb the files from John Doe’s browsing history and flash drive. Now, the program is taking screen shots.” Kim kept on talking as screen shots of John Doe’s computer activities kept appearing on the screen. “He’s on Facebook, and he ‘liked’ the fanpage of 4th Project Town. He’s been reading the profiles of different residents from our town. He even watches over the whole town from Google Satellite. Oh, I think that we got the killer.”
                A page of another social networking site appeared on the screen; John Doe had posted the victims’ web pages on it, including Rella, their school, and more. “Looks like he had no plan to kill John. John is not here. I’m not surprised. He planned to burn our whole school, but John foiled the plan by sacrificing himself. Um … what’s this? The Facebook profile of one of the victims … from the inside?” Kim and Chalano were looking at a screen shot of the Facebook profile of one of the victims.
                “He hacked into the account of his victim,” Kim observed. “He was impersonating his victim. I think that I’m right; he takes the identities of his victims. But he’s using his victims’ Facebook accounts to observe your Facebook account.” Kim pushed himself and his revolving chair away from the desk, and told Chalano, “Go to the browser, and log in to your Facebook account.”
                “I don’t think that my account would be of any use to anyone. It contains nothing,” Chalano argued. “The last time that I logged in was last year, which was the day that I created it. I created an account only because you told me to, telling me that Facebook was all the rage, but I wasn’t really that interested.”
                “The fact that your last log in was a year ago really suggests that you should log in now. You shouldn’t leave such things unattended. You should have deactivated your account if you wouldn’t be back for long.”
                “’Deactivated’? What does that mean?”
                “Long story. Just log in to your account. We’ll see how the arsonist works. He’s been checking up on you. Maybe you’re his next victim. Maybe his reasons are something else.”
                Chalano moved his stool closer to the desk, and reluctantly logged in. There were lots of friend requests. Kim took the mouse, and clicked on the friend requests tab. Rella, Aylyn …
                “He took over all of his victims’ Facebook accounts, and uses them to send you friend requests,” Kim said. “He’s trying to frame you up! He’s going to make it look like all of the victims were your Facebook friends! You don’t have any other Facebook friend except me, right?”
                “Yeah …”
                “Dismiss all of these friend requests! Hurry! Click ‘Ignore All’!”
                Chalano clicked “Ignore All,” and the friend requests were gone.
                Kim asked, “Do you have email notifications allowed on Facebook?”
                “W-what’s that?”
                “Just log in to your email account,” Kim ordered.
                Chalano logged in to Yahoo! Mail. “I have new spam mails,” he said when he finally opened his inbox. “From Facebook.”
                “Delete all of them,” Kim said. “They are notifications about those friend requests that you dismissed a while ago, and you must delete them to keep the arsonist from setting you up with the victims.”
                Before Chalano deleted the spam mail, he read it. He asked, “When did Rella’s house get burned?”
                “June 14.”
                “This mail states that I received the friend request from Rella on June 16, two days after her house got burned.”
                Chalano clicked on the other mails one-by-one. “Even the other victims sent me friend requests after they died. That’s impossible. I think that I should not delete these emails to prove my innocence.”
                “What?!”
                Chalano turned to Kim to explain. When he turned his back on the computer, a small, pop-up window appeared on the computer screen. The window read, “Folder Photos to remote device.” None of the friends noticed it. They were arguing.
                “I believe that these spam mails are the evidence to the fact that I’m being framed up,” Chalano explained.
                “But ---“
                “Wait, let me explain. The mails state the dates on which the victims sent me friend requests. The dates are after they died. That’s impossible. It means that someone took over the accounts, and tried to frame me up. If somebody ever tried to accuse me of being the murderer, these mails will prove my innocence. Therefore, I shouldn’t delete them.”
                “I told you, you’re intelligent,” Kim sarcastically said. “Let’s proceed to the next screen shots, um … hey …”
                Kim stared at the screen, and Chalano turned to look at what Kim was looking at. Kim asked, “Did you mess up with my files?”
                “Your what? I wasn’t doing anything with your computer. I just did what you told me to do: log in, ignore all, log in, but I didn’t delete the spam mails.”
                “No, not that,” Kim said as he moved back to the desk. “I think that you accidentally moved one of my folders to an incomplete target.”
                “Huh?”
                Kim waited for the pop-up window to fade, but another pop-up window took its place. “Folder My Videos to remote device,” it read.
                Kim abruptly stood up in fright. “John Doe tracked my computer. He found it! He found it! Oh, my God! I didn’t know that this was going to happen!”
                “W-what’s happening?!”
                “John Doe has his own hacking program! And he’s stealing my personal files!”
                “Your personal files?! He’s going to use them! He might frame you up if he failed at me! What are we going to do?”
                “I don’t know! This is horrible,” Kim said as he kept pacing back and forth in panic. “I shouldn’t have hacked him in the first place. I shouldn’t ---“
                “We have to do something, Kim,” Chalano interrupted, also starting to panic. “There has got to be a way!”
                “I don’t know a way,” Kim yelled at him in frustration.
                “There is!”
                Chalano grabbed the computer, carried it outside Kim’s room, and threw it outside an open window. The computer crashed into pieces behind their house, but the two friends were no longer there to watch it. They were already running downstairs. Chalano grabbed a thick piece of wood, and Kim took a baseball bat. They ran outside to the broken computer, and smashed it into smaller pieces. “There’s only one way to prevent him from getting your files,” Chalano said as they destroyed the server.
                “Yeah. Only turning it off wouldn’t be enough,” Kim agreed.

                Somewhere in 4th Project Town, a man was sitting before a computer in a very dark room. A more sophisticated hacking program suddenly stopped operating, and a message flashed across the screen in red letters: “Data source unavailable.”
                He stood up, took his handbag, and left.

                Chalano and Kim stopped smashing the computer. They were panting as they stared at it. Chalano suddenly asked, “Did you see the other picture on the killer’s photo collection of his victims?”
                Kim nodded, and asked back, “How many hours had it been since his last kill?”
                The question didn’t have to be answered, because both of them knew what was next. They abruptly left the broken computer, and started running toward Chalano’s former school, 4th Project Town High.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 31)

June 30, 2010 (4pm)
    As he walked along Lincoln Street, Chalano decided to drop by Kim’s house. He wanted to talk about Emma, or, perhaps, reconcile with him. He and Kim never spoke with each other again after they had fought, and not even after John died.
Fortunately, Kim was just going out of their house to feed their dog, Minnie. He saw Chalano, but turned to the corner of their garage (where Minnie’s cage was). Chalano approached him.
    “Emma got nominated as President of the Student Council,” Chalano said as he stood behind Kim, who was sitting on a tiny stool beside Minnie’s cage.
    “Yes, she is,” Kim replied without looking at Chalano.
“Leah and Rica have been bullying her because of it.”
“Uh-huh?”
    “I saw them and their friends harassing Emma at the Park this afternoon. I still can’t believe that I did it, but I managed to scare all of them away. I promised Emma that we would be there to protect her.”
“’We’?”
    Chalano didn’t know what to say. After a long, awkward silence, Kim looked at Chalano. He said, “I never planned to tell this to you.” He looked back at Minnie. “But after everything that had happened, I probably should say it.”
    After a few seconds of hesitation, he suddenly stood up, and placed the stool inside a small cabinet. Finally, he said, “On the night that house number 3 burned, you found me hurrying through the crowd of onlookers. I actually came from John’s house. A couple of my cousins and I had gone to his house that night to gang up on him. I was just mad at him after he and his friends beat you up while you were alone and unable to fight back; I just wanted revenge.”
    “Now, I understand why you had blood on your lip that night, and he had bruises the following day,” Chalano said.
    “I bit his hand because he tried to strangle me. It was the reason why Rella later invited us to the stage play. John told her about it, and she was scared that it would happen again. I’m sorry, Chalano. I may not be as intelligent as you, but I’m definitely a lot braver than you. Too brave, I guess.”
“It’s great to be brave,” Chalano said. “At least, you learned that some people aren’t really that bad.”
“John was not really bad,” Kim agreed. “Maybe he was just frustrated with being the Student Council president in the same way that Emma is starting to be disturbed about the same position. Somehow, he became a hero. He saved all of us; the whole campus.”
    “Yes, he is a hero. I can still recall what he said to me, ‘If life is so short, it would be better to be friends instead, right?’”
    Both of them became quiet. Chalano stared at the road, and Kim stared at Minnie. They did their best to keep themselves from becoming emotional. Trying to change the topic, Chalano rapidly blinked away tears and said, “Speaking of Rella, why is she still alive?”
    Kim looked at him in surprise. “Speaking of Rella,” Kim repeated. “I have discovered something. Come in.”

    It was a very neat bedroom. Even though it was simple, there was something about it that was so sophisticated. The huge, glass windows had long, beige curtains. There were a couple of indoor plants near the windows. The curtains had been opened, so that natural light can come in. The part of the room that was unreachable by sunlight was lit up by a computer monitor. The computer monitor was resting on a white desk that was beside a revolving chair. The heavenly silence was ruined by Kim’s chatter as he led Chalano into the room.
“I’ve been observing news records of the arson for two days now. I couldn’t find any pattern. The arson led from my house to our school. You just can’t predict what’s next with a style like that. The killer doesn’t keep a regular schedule; he’s unpredictable. But I think that he’s lonely,” Kim explained as he slid the computer keyboard out of the desk, and took a brown stool so that Chalano could also sit down.
    “Why are you doing this?”
“The police won’t share their findings. Since the killer is still moving about, it appears that they have been onto the wrong lead. They don’t like to inform, and they do not like to be informed. That’s why I’m doing my own investigation.” He sat down on the revolving chair.
Kim held the mouse, and looked into the screen as he spoke. “I’ve been doing searches on the words ‘fire,’ ‘burn,’ etc. I found this.”
    A social networking profile appeared on the screen. “John Doe,” the name of its owner read. Chalano was going to tell Kim that it was not the arsonist’s name, but he suddenly remembered that Callon had ordered him to keep the name secret. Instead, he asked, “How sure are you that it’s the killer?”
“I’m not sure. I’m just curious, because, in a culture where everybody’s trying to be somebody, it’s strange to see someone who’s trying so hard to be nameless. Also, ‘John Doe’ is a name that is usually given by the police to an unidentified suspect. If you looked through his profile, you’d sense his need to hide, but, every now and then, you’d see a side of him that craves to be famous.”
    Kim clicked on the Favorite Quotes field, and said, “This is what got me thinking …”
    Written on the Favorite Quotes field was: “Your death means a new identity for me.”
    “He didn’t even include the source of the quote,” Kim observed. “I think that he created the quote, and I think that he’s referring to his victims. He’s unique with how he completely burns people and things, but what if he’s more unique than that? The quote is about death and identity. Someone’s ‘death’ is his ‘identity.’ I think that he’s talking about his victims’ identities. What if he turns into them when he burns them?”
“So, Rella is dead? And he walks around now looking like Rella?”
    “Looking like John, Chalano. He just burned John.”
Chalano thought about what Master had said, “The arsonist cannot be burned. That’s its power.” “Its left hand once accidentally got wet. Since then, the arsonist kept its hand covered with a glove that contained metal.” He thought about the day when he saw Rella:
   
 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!
   
     Kim kept talking. Chalano didn’t want to listen to him anymore, because Chalano didn’t want to hear another thing that he would dislike. Rella was dead. He had been counting on the idea that she was still alive, but Kim’s findings just ruined his hope. Chalano couldn’t accept it. She was too kind. She shouldn’t have been murdered. This is impossible, he thought. How can a human being turn into anyone who he burns? This is just impossible!
Chalano’s attention shifted back to Kim, who was saying, “I’m waiting for his reply.”
“Whose reply?”
“John Doe’s reply.”
“What? You contacted him?”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 30)

June 30, 2010 (4pm)
She was getting nervous. The two girls said something to the two guys, but she couldn’t hear them. And then the four teenagers approached her.
“Hello, Newbie,” one of the guys, Mark, greeted her with a sneer.
The other guy, Joe, tried to touch her hair, saying, “Where did you steal the dye?”
She quickly moved a step away to avoid Joe’s hand.

Chalano’s mother had told one of her friends, “The weather is good. I got to force my son to get out and breathe some fresh air, instead of getting depressed in our house. That young man should learn some responsibility and see more normal people.”
So she sent him to buy some vegetables at the nearby market.
Chalano walked out of the market, carrying two plastic bags of vegetables. He just couldn’t stand other people in commuter vehicles, so he decided to walk home. He wanted to be alone. He walked into a wide space called Park. It was beside a school. It had a basketball court, a playground, and a road that was lined by mango trees and concrete benches. There was no other person in the park except Chalano.
“You put on too much blush. Let me help you wipe some of them off.”
No, he wasn’t alone. Damn, he thought. There was a group of teenagers near one of the benches ahead of him. They were three girls, and two guys.
One of the girls looked different. Her dark hair was a bit red in color. She screamed, “Don’t touch me.”
Chalano kept walking, and tried to ignore them. Their loud voices distracted him from his troubled thoughts, and he recognized them as he moved closer. The two girls were Leah and Rica, his classmates. The girl with the reddish hair was Emma. He didn’t know the guys.
The guy told Emma, “Why do you put on too much makeup if you don’t want men to touch you, huh?”
“It’s not makeup! It’s real,” Emma replied. “Don’t come any closer!”
“The lunatic insists that it’s real,” Joe said, and the teenagers laughed together.
As he watched them, all of the moodiness that Chalano had been concealing in the past hours suddenly went beyond control. Enough. He left the plastic bags under a tree, and walked toward the teenagers.
“So what, if she’s real, or not real? What if you’re not real? Not a real man, I mean,” Chalano said to Joe. “Real men don’t fight with girls.”
The guys stared at Chalano in surprise. Mark began to snicker, and said, “Somebody thinks he’s a hero. Wanna pick a fight?”
Mark flexed his muscles, stood close to Chalano, and punched in the air like a boxer. Instead of punching, Chalano suddenly kicked Mark’s left knee with all his might. Mark lost his balance, and collapsed.
Frightened, Mark’s companions quickly dragged him away before Chalano could hit again. “He means it,” Joe said. “Let’s go.”
Mark got to his feet. Chalano angrily chased him, but Mark’s friends pulled him away from Chalano to hurry up. Chalano was left standing in the middle of the Park, yelling, “Come back here! I ain’t done with you! Don’t run like cowards! I thought that you were so brave!”
The teenagers rushed out of the Park. They escaped. All of the frustrations and anger that Chalano had always tried to hide were suddenly wild. His voice sounded so strong in the wide space. It was the loudest that he’d ever yelled in his whole life. “You think that you’ve escaped? Ha! It ain’t over. You’re not getting away. Leah and Rica, I’ll find you and your boys once school reopens! Life has too many bullies, that it won’t be a waste to kill two of them. Don’t you think?”
His voice filled the still air without getting any response. He realized how noisy and wild he had been. He noticed Emma’s stare. She had covered her mouth in embarrassment about what had just unfolded before her. He suddenly felt ashamed of himself.
“Um, well,” she said, avoiding his eyes as she removed her hands from her face. She just couldn’t find the right words to say. “Thank you for defending me … um … I must go home now.”
She took her white handbag from the bench. Chalano asked, “What did they do to you?”
“Actually, nothing. They were just, maybe, trying to scare me. They don’t like the fact that I got nominated for President of the Student Council,” she said as afternoon breezes blew on her reddish hair, and she gently moved her hair away from her face with her hand.
“Oh, the Student Council? Cool,” Chalano replied with a smile.
She became even more serious, and she looked to the ground. “They cannot accept that a newcomer to the school can be better than the old-timers. They mockingly call me ‘Newbie.’ Leah and Rica dislike me more than anybody else. I go here every Saturday, and they followed me this afternoon with Mark and Joe.”
“So, they’re Mark and Joe. I finally got those cowards’ names.”
Emma suddenly began to leave. “It’s okay, Emma,” Chalano called, almost pleading. “My friend and I are happy for you, and we’ll make sure that Mark and Joe will not hurt you.”
“Well,” she said when she stopped, and turned to face Chalano. “Thank you.”
She walked toward him, looking straight into his eyes. The rays of the sun had slanted, turning a bit golden as the day reached its final hours. Against the afternoon sun, her wavy hair looked more reddish than ever. Her gentle face was so perfect. Chalano looked into her pretty, brown eyes. He couldn’t believe how he was with the girl who he never had the confidence to talk to. He was frozen in complete fascination. She was just so nice …
She asked, “What really happened between you and the arsonist?”
Chalano turned away. He didn’t like the question. It instantly brought him out of his dreamy state. Back to Earth. He sat on an arm of the bench with his back turned to her, thinking about how to say it. She sat on the other arm of the bench, also with her back turned to him, but she turned her head to look at him in her search for an answer. Should I leave her without any answer? Should I tell her the very truth? There could be only one way …
“I saw a man walk to the back of the classrooms, and I followed him to tell him that he had entered the wrong passage ---“
“No. That was what you told everyone. You were lying. I just knew that you were lying.”
“No. This is the truth,” Chalano gently pleaded. “I informed him that he was in the wrong passage. What I didn’t tell anyone was that we knew each other. He was the leader and founder of a gang in 4th Project Town years ago, Coal. When I was younger and was studying at 4th Project Town High, I befriended a group of tough, older boys. They recruited me into Coal, and made me take part in their activities. I didn’t want to do it anymore, so I quit. Later, I learned in the news that they turned into bank robbers. They got imprisoned. I tried to forget about them, and transferred to Citrus High. But Cole, the leader, has been freed from prison.”
“So, Cole is the arsonist’s name?”
“Yes, but don’t tell anyone about it, okay? The police had ordered me to keep the information secret.”
“Oh, okay. I promise.”
Emma asked another question, “What did you and Cole talk about?”
Chalano looked to the ground. “He told me that I should stop pretending to be good. He said that I would never become good because I was a criminal. He told me that he had burned his whole family, and that he hadn’t stopped burning his enemies since. He was planning to make me a suspect of the arson of our school. He said that Kim was actually my enemy, because he was good. He reminded me of our days together in Coal.”
“Oh, my goodness,” she pressed her hand on her forehead.
Chalano glanced at her to see if she could still tolerate what he was going to say next, because he really needed to say it. He never had someone to tell those things to. All of his thoughts just turned into words. “It’s totally confusing me. I just can’t figure out where I really belong. I thought that I was good, and I was really trying to be good. He told me that I can’t be good because I was a killer, and he said that he learned arson from me. I just don’t know what I have to do with what he told me.”
“Nothing,” Emma replied. “You will not do anything about what he told you. He’s crazy. His behavior is an obvious sign that his logic can’t be trusted. Life, I believe, is all about choices. Nobody is supposed to stare at someone and say that he is bad, because it is bad to say that someone is bad. You’ve been choosing to be good. Even before you were recruited to that gang, you were choosing to be good, right?”
“Right.”
“Evil feeds on attention. That’s my belief. Just don’t believe Cole. As much as I’m concerned, you’re a good person.”
She turned away, saying, “Gotta hurry up now; I’m late for supper. Bye!”
“Bye,” Chalano replied, and he watched her walk away. He looked to the sunset as he thought very deeply about what she had said.