According to my friend, the woman had been in contact with him for quite some time now weeks after her death. Since she couldn’t go to him physically, she had to appear in his dreams instead. I’ll try my best to put here the actual exchanges they had, although, the details may not be exact, so I apologize in advance.
The ghost told him all about the gory details. How she went home alone that night, how she was taken by three sordid-looking men, and the manner of her apparent death. She spared no detail. But he couldn’t remember how the conversation ended, “for the life of me, I just couldn’t,” was his complaint when he phoned me the morning after the last contact. Why was it important? He probably wanted every single piece of information regardless if it was big or small. Hearing all these, I thought he was having a mental breakdown of the sort. I still kind of do, to be honest.
After some time, things took an abrupt turn when one day he learned about the grim news. The woman’s lifeless body was found in an abandoned warehouse near the outskirts of the city. The police working on the case had a few leads but nothing certain came out of their investigation — since the area where they had found her remains was in a secluded vicinity, runaways and shady characters do use the place for shelter, who knows for what else. According to the official report, she was probably drugged to last every bit of it and suffered for days. It was so gruesome that the family had no other choice but to have a closed-casket funeral. Based on what we heard, her skin, except for the head, had been completely peeled off. And what’s worse, authorities believed that she was alive when this diabolical act was done. It was like some sick dark ritual. This took a toll on him needless to say. He was so devastated that he became reclusive, cut off from the rest of the world. He could not understand how fate could be so cruel, how such an unimaginable sinister thing could ever happen to anyone, it was so unreal.
One night he had a dream about the woman. They were both standing in the doorway of the office pantry talking about the places where she had been after her death. The conversation had taken place late in the night and no one except the guard stationed downstairs was in the building.
“Yeah, I’ve been here and there, just lingering you know? The usual ghosts’ thing. But somehow, I’m beginning to feel my mind fading, little by little like I’m losing my own consciousness — my identity if that even makes sense to you. Of course, I still have to find the monsters who did this to me, that memory hasn’t left me just yet, and so I hang around still, mostly just to think.”
“You’re going after them?”
“I think I feel that I have to, but I couldn’t say for sure anymore. That’s why I need help.”
— After that phone call, I didn’t see him for a good two weeks. We never spoke about the conversation around his dream and acted as if it did not take place.
Skin and Bones
“Have you seen the doctor yet?”
“No, why? I just need to rest that’s all.”
“Go check yourself in the mirror? You’re skin and bones.”
“I know where I’m at, I can assure you that. You can let up now.”
I did what I could to talk some sense into him. His diet only consisted of cup noodles and cheap chocolate bars, basically candies. Frustrated, I looked his sister up through the emergency contact information in our company records. She agreed to meet me at the petrol station but she didn’t show up.
After a couple of hours, I decided to head back to my apartment. That evening, I got a call from her, I was surprised when I saw her name on the caller ID. Not a single word came through the receiver though — but she didn’t have to, the message was quite clear.
From the apartment, we had to drop by the office to pick up flashlights and the first aid kit just in case. After that, we drove up straight to the abandoned warehouse and left the car at the barrier gate. As soon as we set foot in its compound, a cold chill ran down my spine. There was a rotting stench that welcomed us. It crept up into the nose like how rusty metal would smell during the rain only ten times stronger. We looked at each other before we walked any farther. I think it was because we both knew something was terribly wrong with the place. We went past the cordoned area that the police had set up, it was dark and dry, we lit up our flashlights and scouted the area, nervously calling out her name but only the echoes replied.
The Murder Scene
I think before we go further ahead with the story, we should probably talk about the history of the place where the body was found, the warehouse.
During the war, this place was one of the Japanese-occupied areas used as a bunker against air raids and was a strategic location for intel gathering — meaning, a place where they tortured prisoners of war. During the ’60s, tunnels were discovered for kilometers on end, linking command posts were also used when they retreated to the mountain ridges when the Americans had taken over Manila.
Some believe that after the surrender, some Japanese foot soldiers still remained holed up in those tunnels and stayed there for who knows how long.
But things did not hold up the way he had hoped. Meeting her in his dreams wasn’t good enough anymore, it had to be more. He seriously considered following her. I tried to talk sense into him numerous times, but he just continued on with his rhetoric and shared that he might have found a way to remedy his predicament. The insurance money could set his mom and his siblings for life, he argued. Of course, I did not take him seriously when he shared that.
It was obviously a mistake that I’ll probably have to live with for the rest of my life.
A few days after his death I started dreaming about the same thing over and over. In this dream, I am always working late nights and my friend and his girlfriend are always talking in the corridor outside the pantry at their usual spot. I always tried to listen in but I could never make out a single word. Maybe it was their way of saying that it was their world now and nothing can ever get in.
I think it’s probably true, nothing can come between them anymore, not even death.