A wasp flys out of its paper thin nest into the the torrential rains that inhabit the country for the greater part of the year. The dying, rain obscured sunset silhouettes the wasp’s black body in the wan afternoon light.
The rain threatens to bring down the wasp. However, the insect was able to find a reprieve in the awning of a small bungalow, and feeling the safety of a dry place in this wet and warm country, it finds a small hole in the aluminum screen that is supposed to keep out insects such as the wasp from entering inside. The wasp wriggles through the hole into a small unlit room.
The wasp flies around the room, dodging the harsh wind that a solitary electric fan is blasting across the room. The wasp finally lands on something – a pillow. Unfortunately, another creature is also occupying the pillow, and the creature’s eyes flutter open, first focusing on the small tiny wasp, then with sudden clarity, widens in fear as the creature, a human girl, sits bolt upright.
“Fuck, fuck fuck!” she exclaims. “I’m going to be fucking late!”
Andrea is awake now, the wasp disappearing as soon as she launches into her “morning” ritual of panicking as soon as she wakes. She works at the biggest Business Process Outsourcing firm in the country and all of her clients work on the other side of the globe. Andrea is beginning her day when other people are going home to their families.
Andrea jumps out of bed and makes a mad dash to the bathroom. After taking a quick shower, she looks at the mirror, her puffy sleep deprived eyes not enough to mar an otherwise beautiful face. Someone once told her that she looks like a prettier version of Camille Pratts. She hated that comparison, but she does nothing to deny the claim.
Her ash blond hair still wet, she towels off inside her room. She then dresses for the day, jeans and a loose Charlie Brown Uniqlo sweatshirt that hides her full figure, and then to complete the look, low grade glasses that hide her eyes from the rest of the world. She bites her lip as she sits down on the floor to put on her signature dirty Chuck Taylors. She goes to their house’s small kitchennete where the smell of bacon and eggs wafting around the room greets her.
Her older by two minutes twin sister, Abigail, was already serving breakfast. They have been living here together in Quezon City ever since both their parents died in a construction company accident, barely tolerating each other’s presence.
“Tsk, tsk,” Abigail clucks, shaking her head as she lays down a plate of perfectly cooked sunny side up eggs. “Late again I see. You know you should start sleeping earlier. Or… or… or… you could get another job, you know?”
Andrea rolls her eyes at her sister, and then flashes Abigail the finger while she wolfs down the bacon and eggs in front of her. She knows she should thank her sister for cooking for her everyday and Andrea is grateful for the food, but that is not how being siblings work at all. Siblinghood is about loving each other in the guise of barely concealed contempt.
As Andrea eats the last piece of bacon, she spies the blue black welt on her sister’s arm. Andrea’s face darkens, knowing where that bruise came from.
Christian had visited them again. Christian is Abigail’s boyfriend. Andrea did not know exactly what Christian did but she did know that Christian was not a very good person nor was he doing something legal. Christian always carried a gun with him, sometimes more than one. Recently, Andrea had been noticing that whenever Christian came to visit, her sister would get these little wounds and bruises here and there, sometimes more pronounced depending on how long Christian stayed. This time the bruise that was on Abigail’s arm was particularly large and angry.
Andrea was about to raise hell over the sight, but she bites her lip and closes her eyes. The last time she had done this, it led to a huge fight between thrm. They had not spoken to each other for weeks after they had fought. Besides, they were living in Christian’s house, or at least, one of Christian’s many houses.
“I’m done, big sis,” Andrea says suddenly losing her appetite. Abigail just nods, barely acknowledging her sister. Abigail knows that Andrea had seen her bruise, but she makes no effort to hide it this time. Andrea stands up, and makes her way out of the house.
Andrea makes her way to the small jeepney stop near their house, where she is whisked her away to her workplace, a mere ten kilometres away, the driver somehow finding the gaps in the horrendous traffic that typifies Metro Manila. She arrives at work, at least fifteen minutes late. Somehow, she escapes the attention of her asshole team leader, Oliver, who was talking to somebody in the anteroom right before the work floor.
Oliver was one of those people who when given one iota of power and authority, lorded it over everyone beneath them in rank. Oliver had a long ratty face covered in pimples, his features seemingly attuned to the wretchedness of his soul. He was in the middle of a long speech delivered Patrick, the new agent on the floor. Oliver makes a big show of pointing out how Patrick seemed to mix up his b and v consonants, his personal pet peeve.
Andrea was within earshot of the tirade and she let it go on for a few seconds until she decided that this had to stop. She sits down and spies a small fly that had somehow had gotten inside their building. Andrea looks at the fly, her eyes locked on with an intensity that could only be described as burning.
Suddenly the insect flies off on its own accord and follows a direct path straight into Oliver’s gaping mouth. Oliver is stunned, clutching at his throat as he makes gagging sounds. He then bolts off to the restroom to spit out the wayward insect. Everybody in the room is at attention, some of them more than amused at the whole scene.
Andrea stands with a smile of smug satisfaction, trying hard not to burst into a fit of laughter. Patrick looks stunned, not really knowing what happened. Andrea walks over to Patrick and puts her right arm around him, then half drags, half cajoles him back to his seat.
“Whatever happened, the fucker deserved it,” she whispers to him and gives him a wink and a smile, which does nothing to make Patrick feel any better as he happens to have a mild crush on Andrea, his stomach now becoming a roller-coaster.
She sits down in her workstation and finds the same fly back, somehow escaping unscathed from Oliver’s mouth. The fly rubs its feet together, as if satisfied for a job well done then it bolts off to the pantry probably on the trail of something saccharine to nibble on.
Andrea had been able do this ever since she was a young girl. She did not talk with insects. It is more of the ability to share minds with them. Once she gives them purpose, the bugs follow her intent. Her parents had always wondered why their daughter was always playing in the garden, surrounded by butterflies. Once when she was hiking out in the woods, fireflies came out of nowhere and followed her all night long, bathing her in an ethereal, other worldly light.
She soon learned to keep this ability a secret when her grandmother, Lola Trining, who came all the way from Siquijor saw that Andrea was playing with a huge centipede in their garden. Instead of running away in fear or batting away the centipede, Lola Trining casually walks over, picks up the centipede and lets it glide left and right between her hands.
Lola Trining looked at Andrea, the centipede suddenly stock still in her arms, and said, “Child, you best keep this to yourself. The world will never understand who we are.”
Andrea stands transfixed, staring at her grandmother’s face. She could see the signs of age on Lola Trining’s face, but somehow Andrea thought it looked young – wait, not young, a better term would be ageless. Still staring at her grandmother, barely speaking in a whisper, Andrea says, “Opo, Lola.”
Lola Trining smiles and gives Andrea a pat on the head, . She then tells Andrea to get back inside the house, where Abigail was already digging into a plate of freshly baked maja blanca, the smell of corn and milk tugging at the corners of her memories.
Andrea smiles, thinking of those halcyon days when her parents were still alive. Then the corners of her mouth press themselves into a thin line, as the thought also brings backs memories she would rather forget. She shakes herself from her reverie and brings herself back to the real world, putting on the black headset she uses to answer angry calls from all over the world. She looks at the queue of calls slowly building up on her monitor, but her eyes rest on one corner of the screen. A friend had arrived.
Perched on the right side of the monitor was a black wasp. It was the wasp from earlier in the day, its wings whirring in an animated fashion.
“What the -” Andrea gapes at the wasp. Her mind starts working, her mouth opening and closing on their own. Then her eyes focus on the wasps feet. Something’s wrong, she thinks. Something is very wrong.
She stands up, fishing her cell phone from her pocket. Oliver sees her from across the room, mouthing words that could be louder than a shout, his neck pulsing with intensity.
“NO PHONES ON THE FLOOR!” he whisper shouts as he walks towards Andrea.
Andrea, one side of her face still glued to her phone, glares at Oliver. The ferocity in her eyes could only be described as murderous. This stops Oliver in his tracks, the boiling anger in his face growing into a lividity that bordered on the comical. He was about to launch into one of his patented outbursts, when out of nowhere the wasp dives into his face, black stinger adding more marks on his pock marked face.
Andrea does not look back to find out what happens next but she hears Oliver’s shrill voice shouting in the background. She had already gone out of the building still trying to call her sister but Abigail had not picked up any of her calls. A cold sweat ran through Andrea’s body.
Andrea looks around, attempting to flag down any taxi but it was still the middle of Metro Manila’s three hours of traffic hell. She knew that if she took public transportation, it would take her at least an hour to get home.
She decides to run all the way home. She used to run back in college and she knew she still had it in her to get home. So she runs, her Chuck Taylor’s are now pounding the pavement. She runs a mind numbing, wind obliterating pace drawing the attention of the people making their way home, many of them wondering who was this pretty young girl running like a madman.
Andrea was weaving through the traffic and the clumps of men and women idling in the sidewalks. She dove in between alleyways, skirted around fishbowl vendors, dodged incoming traffic, nearly getting hit by a jeepney that was hurtling through a side street.
Then gasping, wheezing, her feet a mass of blisters and pain and soreness, she finds herself in front of the bungalow. Her hair clinging to her face in ragged clumps of sweat. Home.
The gate was ajar. Someone had come in to their house. Fear courses through Andrea’s veins. She did not what to do, but she sure as hell would not leave her sister inside. She had to go in. She had to find her sister. She cannot lose another family member.
She walks inside. There was an unmistakable feeling of the house being violated somehow. Then she sees it. Blood. A trail of blood leading straight to her sister’s room. All of her instincts tell her to turn and run away, but this is her sister. Andrea has to know, has to find out what had happened.
She walks across, until she hears the sobbing coming from inside her sister’s room. She goes inside, finding Abigail and Christian in the corner, the two lovers covered in blood. Christian was already dead, while Abigail was still whimpering, crying over the loss of someone she had loved. Andrea rushes towards her sister, calling her name. Abigail looks up, her face a mixture of blood and tears, as if she had washed her face in Christian’s blood.
“He told me he was coming home,” Abigail says, her voice shuddering in fear. “He told me they were coming for him. I thought I could save him, but I was too late. I was too late.”
“What are you talking about?” Andrea says to her sister as she tries to shake some sense into her. “There was nothing you could have done.”
Abigail looks at her sister and was about to speak when they hear it. Footsteps. Footsteps coming inside the house.
“You can both come out here,” a dark, voice calls from inside the house. “Don’t make it harder for yourselves. I know you’re in there.”
The two sisters stand up, fear gnawing at their insides. Then they come out of the room, to face a man who was the definition of normal. Nondescript, a face you you could lose in a crowd. As normal as you can get while holding a gun.
“Sorry ladies,” the man says. “Christian just made one too many mistakes. Too bad he has to add you two to that list.”
He raises the gun and pulls the trigger. The sound of gunfire is muffled by the long cylinder in front of the gun. Andrea had jumped in the path of the bullet, her hand raised as if to ward of the metal projectile hurtling towards them. The bullet enters Andrea’s palm, the upon exiting hits her on the chest, a few inches away from her heart. Andrea crumples to the ground.
Almost at the same time the gunman fired, a small creature had found itself back in the same room flying straight at the man’s throat. The wasp was attacking, burying its black stinger over and over again. This time, it was not alone. Hundreds of wasps had come streaming jn, each one hellbent on hurting the gunman. Insects from all over the place come from nooks and crannies all over the house. Cockroaches, ants, bees and mosquitos, coming in an angry, unholy mass.
The gunman screams, flailing around as he tries to get away from the seething blanket of pain that was covering him. Abigail looks in horror, first at her sister, and then at the gunman, now being eaten alive by insects. She had taken Christian’s gun with her, carrying it as soon as she hears those footrests and she shoots, the report louder than the gunman’s own silenced gun. The bullet finds a home in the man’s torso before another shot from Abigail makes sure that the man is dead.
She kneels, taking Andrea in her arms. Andrea was still alive, ragged breaths trying to cough up the blood that was welling in her lungs. Abigail’s face was a picture of worry and concern.
“Hold on, sis. Hold on.”
Abigail’s hands are now glowing. She puts her hands over Andrea’s chest wound and the bullet lodged inside is pushed back to the outside world as the wound, the wounded flesh inside, heals and knits together. Abigail wraps her fingers around Andrea’s wounded hand and the hole caused by the bullet closes, a reversal of the crucifixion story. Masses of bruises begin appearing all over Abigail’s body, as if by the act of giving life, a little bit of her own is taken away. Across them, the army of insects that Andrea had summoned was eating away at their unnamed assailant.
Andrea tries to talk to her sister but before she can say anything, her world turns to black, an overwhelming desire to sleep taking over her body, the process of healing also making a toll on her.
Andrea awakens, the sun already up in the high stages of noon. She finds herself in her bed, her clothes changed. She remembers everything the night before. She touches her hand, feeling a tenderness to it, a newly healed wound without a scar. She touches her chest, feeling the same thing, the miracle of her sister’s ability dawning on her.
She jumps out of bed, out of her room. The body of the gunman was gone. She checks her sister’s room and neither Abigail or Christian was there. She calls for her sister, then notices something on the table. She unfolds the note and reads her sister’s perfect handwriting.
I have to go. Some things need to be done. Christian asked me to do it for him. I hope you understand. You have to run away soon. They will try to find you. You know where to go.
Andrea closes the note and a terrible sadness threatens to overwhelm her. Tears flow from her eyes.Then she notices one other thing on the table: a plate of perfectly cooked bacon and eggs.
The lady in the ticketing statjon was getting annoyed. The air-conditioning was on the fritz again and the heat was getting to her.
“Carlo, are they going to fix the AC soon?” she asks her college in the next booth, turning towards Carlo’s direction. Except it wasn’t Carlo that greeted her. Right on her field of vision was a wasp, looking big and menacing. She screams as she tries to bat away the insect. The wasp flits away, off to the world outside.
The ticket lady clutches her chest, the minor heart attack that the wasp had given her had left her flustered. She turned to towards the small glass window in front of her, where a girl she had not noticed before had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, also giving her another minor heart attack.
The girl speaks, in perfectly accented American English.
“One ticket to Siquijor, please.”
Ang Huling Hugotero