By Paolo Chikiamco

Heed these words, apprentice. I am Emilio Alarcon, and you only think that you know me. I know how history works once a battle is done and a victor proclaimed. If I succeed in this last task, there will be those who would lift me higher than Lapulapu, or Rizal, higher than Christ Himself. If I fail, well…it won‟t matter how history remembers me. But if I succeed I will not allow monuments to be built in my honor. I will not allow a day to bear my name. I will not be called a hero. Not ever again. ***

I think someone needs to tell the Council that the caverns must be cordoned off. ―The hero of Malvar Island!‖ . ―The witch is dead!‖ In the ensuing joyful chaos. A kulam is no western witch. ―Thank you. ―It was safer for everyone. but to the refugees she had persecuted. and enfolds Emilio in her arms. a gap-toothed grin. Luzviminda was simply a terrifying witch.‖ Clara nods.‖ ―It will take more than a few miles of water to keep Agents at bay. I owe you and Clara more than I–― ―Shut your mouth!‖ Pacifico drapes a heavily muscled arm around Emilio’s shoulders. ―I knew there was a reason Christ brought us a wizard!‖ Clara steps out from behind her father’s sizeable frame. the shadows within heavy and dense.1944. Emilio doesn’t bother to correct the announcement. Any Filipino adept in magic would know this. ―I knew you had it in you!‖ Pacifico gives the young man.‖ Pacifico shakes Emilio back and forth with gleeful violence. That was enough to turn the man who vanquished her into a hero. ―Any debt you owe us has been paid ten times over. ―A lot of curses down there.‖ he says. The hug is brief.‖ ―Without a doubt…but now we have you. no follower of the Christian devil. the old sacrifices. Emilio turns to her father. wrong in so many ways. The former Constabulary officer had possessed three gold teeth before the war: one had been ―confiscated‖ by a Jap. and runs off. the second he’d lost to a Huk’s fist. You know that. but heartfelt. ―What on earth possessed you to go in alone?‖ Emilio looks back at the cave mouth. You’ve turned the island into exactly what we were looking for–a safe haven. for all that a kulam remembers the dread ways. still squinting in the sudden sunlight. The old man had used the last to book passage for his family to the island that the refugees called Malvar.

maddened by its overnight confinement in a cramped iron cage. but not from the God they prayed to. We just didn‟t count on how quickly we would reach our quota. For the past week it has been fed little. and that made me wary.‖ Pacifico guides Emilio down to the foot of the mountain. and allows the lie to grow between them. The dog is feral. *** 1945. we were confident those numbers would be within reach.Emilio licks his lips. those of us who could do magic found each other. Not for ourselves. merely enough to keep it from losing strength. No. But as we spent more time in the trenches. All the curses of the kulam require death. That it was. it’s served me well so far. ―You have to admit. it seemed our one hope of salvation. In a time of war. During the war. choking on dust and clots and hunger. and this curse would require a heavy toll. but I remember that he was a kulam. We were a coterie of sorts. united in power and helplessness. although not rabid. and it stares at Emilio as it gnaws the iron bars. and I‟d learned early on that it was not the path for me. and more than a few thought it a sign of divine intervention. even before „Dugout Doug‟ jumped ship–but for those who we would be leaving defenseless. ―You’re putting an awful lot of trust in someone you found washed up on the beach two weeks ago. mind you–the “Battling Bastards of Bataan” knew that we were the walking dead.‖ Emilio just smiles. I remember the way the world shook when we finished the first phase of the ritual–most took it for an earthquake. where the rest of Malvar’s new masters are breaking into impromptu song and dance. Emilio wonders if it wants him to know it is thinking of his flesh. the Old Gods wished blood shed for them. *** Everything began in Bataan. however.‖ ―What can I say? I’m an optimist. the gentle God who shed blood for His people. My first master had been a kulam. . I can never remember the name of the old sergeant who first proposed to bring the Old Gods back.

‖ Pacifico maneuvers carefully across the rock-strewn beach.―Nasty creature. Emilio doesn’t tell him that the dog’s temperament says more about its captors than about the dog. ―See? And you were worried you weren’t up to it. Emilio hears a clatter as its twin is dislodged from the cage’s locking mechanism. The older man unslings the rifle from his shoulder. They’d done all they could to encourage its aggressive behavior. wizard. ―So.‖ Emilio smiles politely at the other man’s black humor. and holds it between the tips of his forefingers.‖ ―And you’re always wrong. The other half of the bar holds the cage door closed. ―Please take it down to the edge of the water. It gets about halfway to their position before the air ripples around it and it freezes in mid step.‖ Pacifico points out. but the dog refuses to be silenced. depositing the cage as instructed before resuming his position to Emilio’s right.‖ He hawked and spat.‖ ―As you wish. He gives the cage a shake. ―I thought you were an optimist. but aside from the tell-tale rise and fall of its chest as it breathes. then moves the iron in his hands sideways. ―I’m always worried I’m not up to it. The dog’s eyes roll toward Pacifico when he pokes its flank with the barrel of the gun. Pacifico approaches the dog cautiously. The dog is out of its prison in the next instant.‖ says Pacifico.‖ Emilio takes half of a slim iron bar from his pocket. the dog is still.‖ Emilio says. a segment of what was once a longer piece. you’ll be putting these spell-trap-things all around the island?‖ . making sure that it was only fed when it snarled or snapped or bit at humans. ―Stand ready then. but that’s not saying much. Pacifico.‖ Pacifico lowers his gun. ―Sure. growling savagely as it races up the beach towards its tormentors. He stoops down to ruffle the head of the helpless dog. ―Any realists slit their throats after the Purge. rifle still held at the ready.

―You don’t really know what you’re offering–‖ The sound of the gunshot brings Emilio’s head back around. Magic like that…it comes with a high price. not with all you’ve already given us. Pacifico fingers the charm that leaves him unaffected by the magic of Emilio’s wards–a necessary precaution when testing new spells. but within the ranks we didn‟t call it anything. ―I’m not a kulam. ―But I’ve been around. that’s the plan.‖ Pacifico’s eyes lock on to Emilio’s. And yes. ―I suppose there’s no way to rig them so they explode.‖ The edges of the map crumple under Emilio’s fingers.‖ ―I wouldn’t ask you to boy. The asog keeps the dog upright for a moment. Just promise you’ll think about it. I’ve been around. I hardly think that fighting should be our first option. Names were for a different world. eh?‖ Emilio looks away. where things needed to be distinguished one from the other–but during the march everything was the . Someday. And not one I could pay on my own. even with a bullet hole between its eyes.‖ Emilio takes out the map of Malvar and begins to mentally calculate the time he’ll need to finish the defenses. ―What makes you think we’ll have any other option. and when they do…just want you to know that I’m willing to help. ―I told you. ―If the Agents ever come in force.‖ The younger man shifts his eyes to the slowly ebbing tide. huh?‖ When Emilio shakes his head Pacifico clucks his tongue.―Asog–they immobilize anything with an intent to harm.‖ ―And you call me an optimist.‖ Pacifico grins again as he raises his rifle and points it at the paralyzed animal. ―Pity that. the Agents are going to come here in force.‖ *** The American press called our ordeal the Death March. When it finally crumples bonelessly to the surf. Pacifico once again meets the younger man’s gaze. when the time comes that it’ll take more than dead dogs to keep my daughter safe. danced with a few magic men in my time with the Constabulary. however I can.

kicked into an open ditch. though he holds his arm tight against his ribs. no closer to the younger man than necessary. a too-sympathetic bystander–and recited the ritual words of the kulam‟s curse. our sacrifice–eroded a barrier that had stood for almost five hundred years. The old American used to teach Latin and Philosophy to some of the leading minds of the generation. 1943. served our purpose. Father Breuber bars the entry into the spacious. that barrier fell. or strung up on a telephone line. our hate.same. so too did our curse. I will not–‖ ―He’s here!‖ squeals a voice muffled by glass. *** 1947. By the time the ordeal was finished. ―I have a message for you and Clara. and as the march progressed. All that was left was the wait. now he teaches arithmetic to barefoot eight year olds. All we clung on to was the fact that every headless body the Japanese left along the roadside. Up and down the line. the adepts worked. At the prison camps in Capas and Cabanatuan. On April 9.‖ The priest reaches out his hand to Emilio. We no longer reacted whenever our captors discovered new ways to kill or maim an unarmed man. Emotions were ground into a dull. We doomed us all. throbbing rage. a superior. our spell was done. We buried our grisly offerings in the mud–a piece of a friend. grey-stone structure that serves as both school and chapel. Emilio can hear the fear in the old priest’s voice. ―What are you doing here?‖ For all that his gnarled hands have made fists at his sides. We rescued our people. we passed the days in piss and filth while our magic–our blood. ―The wizard is here!‖ . ―Leave it with me and go.

Pacifico’s daughter is not pretty. Clara. I swear!‖ ―You most certainly have not. If the enemy hadn’t arrived in such numbers. It wouldn’t do if we suffocated our only wizard.‖ Clara smiles even as she admonishes.Emilio sees the noses flattened against the windows on either side of the doorway. But Clara’s kindness is not the sign of a submissive soul. Clara herds Jorge and the other students back into their seats. let the man breathe.‖ Clara takes Emilio to an alcove. and his anger a stiff breeze. Emilio feels his chest constrict. ―Children. ―He even refuses to hear confessions now. They swarm Emilio as soon as he comes in. it’s her way. but then the priest turns on his heel and enters the building. battering him with insistent tugs and trilling requests. away from Breuber’s disapproving glare. Father. It’s Jorge. however. but shakes it off. It is a conscious choice she makes in the face of this new era’s brutality. also serves to keep the old priest busy. she gives Emilio a wink and takes his arm. Pacifico’s death wasn’t his fault. if there had been any other way to protect– ―I apologize for Father Breuber. Emilio thinks. He shakes his head. not coincidentally. to spite it. Jorge. who clambers up Emilio’s back and wraps his neck in a death grip. but instead he says: ―The world we live in changes us all.‖ . please.‖ Emilio could tell her why. especially after Pacifico’s death.‖ For a moment Emilio thinks that Breuber will refuse him entry regardless. diverting their energy with seatwork–which. She is certainly up to the task of teaching math to rowdy children. The old man’s robe billows out like it’s a ship’s sail. and recognizes the voice of young Jorge. Free at last. ―Wizard Emilio! Teach me a spell! I’ve been good. ―The matter is out of our hands now.‖ Like a long suffering sheep dog. but she’s earned each of the smile lines on her cheeks. The main room is full of that special kind of pandemonium that only elementary school students are capable of.

and if that isn’t enough–― ―May I speak to Mr. ―Just give us the message. ―Agents have been spotted using heavy machinery. I hope you have something similar up your sleeve.‖ Emilio hands the letter over. and I appreciate neither.‖ He tries not to think about Pacifico. but it’s not unexpected.‖ ―You and the rest of the Council do the real work here.‖ she says with a smile. I didn’t mean to add to the pressure.‖ She shakes her head. ―I still don’t know how you managed to do it. ―There’s no call for him to treat you so. ―Oh Emilio. I know you’ll do everything in your power. ―You either flatter or patronize us. after all you’ve done for us. The effects were…beyond my expectations.‖ ―Father Breuber!‖ The priest waves a tired hand. placing a hand on his. Clara’s face grows grim and Breuber curses.‖ Emilio feels his heart sink. ―Bad news?‖ ―Yes.‖ she says. a gesture ambiguous enough to be interpreted as an apology.―Not always for the worse. even when he hears the old man suck in a sharp breath. but then her eyes widen in alarm as she sees the expression on his face. ―The Dread God has allowed the use of modern technology?‖ ―The Americans are making a big push down south…and the fact that we managed to throw back an invading force thrice our size probably factored in as well.‖ Clara says. ―Well. ―It was an experimental curse. Alarcon alone. Tries and fails.‖ Emilio makes a conscious effort not to look at the old priest. and the two Council members pore over it together.‖ Emilio says as Breuber joins them. The priest responds to Emilio’s words with a snort. Clara?‖ .

―Take me. Not this time. at the children engaging Clara in lively discussion. ―When the time comes. and his voice. Without another word. brings Emilio up short. then presses her mouth into a firm line.‖ ―You goddamn hypocrite!‖ Emilio’s cry is anguished. Let me have this. ―It won’t even be enough. The old man is staring through the windows of the chapel.‖ and Emilio wonders if a man exists in this new world that is not already damned. ever again.‖ Emilio says. free of harshness for the first time in recent memory. ―No.‖ ―How dare–― ―I know what you want to ask me.―Father.‖ Beuber says as soon as they are outside the chapel. in a whisper.‖ Beuber says.‖ ―He’s not my–― Clara begins. and you will not hear me say a harsh word about your boyfriend. and now–― ―Take me. Then. but for you to ask this–― ―Look at them. she returns to the students. desperate. ―I know of others. deny me absolution.‖ says the priest. ―You condemn me. ―I’ve accepted your bile.‖ Jorge waves at Emilio from within the chapel.‖ The priest says nothing for a moment. *** . Emilio forces a smile as his fingernails cut into the palms of his hands. ―You had better take care of her. if you’re just going to–― ―You’ve asked me to bury the hatchet with him. the scowl on her face at odds with the flush on her cheeks. and his voice is tight with suppressed rage.

the lightning strikes. until he is standing in the middle of the cavern that lies at the heart of this system of tunnels. What was left of Japanese. After the brutality of the occupation. A month after we unleashed our curse. demanding conversion to his worship or death at the hands of his Agents–shape shifters. I told her there was power in things other than sacrifice. disease carriers. of all places. and she had laughed in my face. Not until the Purge at least. determined to make things right. no matter how many times Emilio penetrates its depths. And his name was Sitan.I‟m not sure how many Japanese nationals were living in the archipelago before the war. I found her under assault from a ragged community of refugees. and I‟d hoped that my old mentor would have a way to deal with Sitan. She was right. a spider-shaped cavity in a web of absence. No one survived. It was there that I‟d first trained in magic. The day my peers made their last stand. many of them civilians. they didn‟t discriminate between combatants and innocents–any Jap was fair game. but she told me she had nothing to teach someone who had chosen another path. *** 1949. Not that it mattered. fire breathers. Bataan. but I know the Japanese Army landed at Lingayen with a force of some sixty thousand men. the epidemics. . much less from Sitan. So I offered her a deal. there were less than five thousand Japanese in the Philippines. The darkness of the cave grows no more welcoming. God of Grief and Affliction. He moves past the wards with ease. I took a boat to a small island off the coast of Luzon. She told me I could not protect my new friends from her. Sitan‟s evangelists spread throughout the country in a matter of days. Philippine and American militaries formed a temporary truce at. That‟s when we learned that we had summoned only one of the Old Gods. none of us were ready to shed a tear. Many from the old Death March coterie joined them. The landslides. even the ones she doesn’t believe he knows about.

―As you say.‖ Emilio knows better than to look for the old kulam. ―No. Luzviminda’s face is still beautiful.‖ Emilio takes a safety match from a pocket and runs it against the cavern wall. the kulam still radiates power.‖ comes a voice both sibilant and abrasive. youth still coloring her cheeks with a pink that time should have snatched away decades ago.‖ ―Two thousand. wrinkled skin. delicate arms that turn knobby and crooked when flesh disappears beneath loose sleeves. ―Where are they?‖ ―Find them yourself. boy?‖ ―I’ll tell you what I do not need: to be dragged into a missing persons’ investigation!‖ Emilio runs shaking fingers through his hair.‖ . ―You’ve kidnapped Teresa and Philip Rodriguez. No.‖ Emilio keeps his voice under control. The result is a strange amalgamation of beauty and horror: firm breasts bounded by distended. Luzviminda sighs. But the march of days has left its imprint across other parts of the kulam‟s body. we have little time.‖ ―It was accurate yesterday.‖ Emilio pales. my information is accurate. Why them? Why now? The fleet from the mainland leaves tonight. ―We don’t have time for this. plays idly with her hair.‖ Emilio grinds his fist against the cavern wall.‖ the kulam stands. Patchwork creature that she is. And the fleet is half an hour away. power that calls out to Emilio now.―I hear you’re married now. the jagged edges of rock piercing his skin but leaving his dilemma untouched. and a pale woman who sits upon a fallen stalactite as if it were a gilded throne. the small light blossoms into a skull sized glow which illuminates the center of the cavern. those not as jealously protected by her vanity. ―What do you need from me. With a whispered word. and we have our hands full making sure our defenses can stand against a force of a thousand. ―We’re not ready. ―Congratulations boy! But shouldn’t you be out on the frontlines with your bride? The island can be a dangerous place. even more than it had when he still called her master.

―Luzviminda…‖ Emilio’s voice is a whisper. . ―No. apparently. We only use volunteers.‖ ―Two thousand zealots. ―Who are these others?‖ ―Malvar has gained quite the reputation–new arrivals come every day.‖ Luzviminda waves her hands. Willing sacrifices. from her tone and expression.‖ ―What of your wife? The one who insists on leading troops into battle? Is she a number to you?‖ The triumph drips from her now. Japanese and Filipino. and Emilio can finally see the people chained and gagged along the far walls of the cavern. for one pair. Men and women.‖ ―Why?‖ ―Oh dear boy…‖ Luzviminda shakes her head. Emilio is stricken by the memory of Jorge’s tear stricken face.‖ Another step back. For an instant. who will not be missed. At the farthest end of the cave. and the darkness at the edges of the light recede. nonchalant.‖ Emilio can feel the eyes of the captives on him.―Again. who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. ―What have you done?‖ ―You sound surprised. or perhaps a scream heard only from a distance. he sees Teresa and Philip. ―Must you be so obtuse?‖ ―No. ―You will not sway me with numbers. ―except. ―The lives of twenty four strangers–‖ ―I know these people! They have a child–‖ ―–for the lives of three thousand whom you have sworn to protect. A hundred Agents.‖ she shrugs. Did you not come here. and the edge of her malice creeps into her voice. his bloody hand cradled against his chest. searching precisely for these sheep?‖ ―I came here searching for two people.‖ Luzminda repeats. Then he looks away. united in nakedness and terror. can hear their wordless pleas. you overestimate the currency of your information. These are people without ties on the island.‖ Emilio takes a step back.

All the power you need. a middleaged Japanese man. Blood has begun to run down his wrist. you said–‖ ―Dear boy. ―You have no time. does it matter in the end?‖ asks the old kulam. ―What truth?‖ Luzviminda runs a strangely gentle finger across the top of his hand.‖ Emilio does not know how long he stands frozen at the threshold of the cavern.‖ Emilio looks down at his hand. that too will be inaccurate. the guilt… ―This was not our deal. You said that if I kept people away from the caves that you would help me protect the island. ―That you killed his parents last. did you think that meant I would do your work forever?‖ Her stillyoung fingers close on the bloody hand which grips the knife. Could he have been a soldier? Emilio thinks he could have been. He only snaps back to himself when Luzviminda presses the hilt of the bone knife into his fingers.from her lewd gyrations on her throne. boy! You have no choice. and you’ll have done him no more a favor than if you’d told him the truth. ―I offer you now that which I have always offered you: power. the stares. Emilio looks up at his mentor.‖ A bitter laugh. but in the unnatural light the blade of the knife is spotless. ―What will I tell Jorge?‖ Luzviminda guides him by the knife hand toward the first sacrifice. raise him as your own. stricken. small eyes gone wide.‖ The walls are closing in on him now. ―Truth or lie. Pristine.‖ *** .‖ ―After tonight. ―I am no kulam. shocked. darker than he remembers. ―Comfort him with falsehood.

Like Clara. . you will be safe on the mainland. But mine began anew. and on that matter I did not lie.I don‟t write this account to justify my actions. I returned to the caves. but they have been brought here for one purpose alone–not to fight. Emilio rolls a set of small. The Watchtower is the highest point on Malvar Island. No matter the cost. But by now the other spell should be active. and from this height the kulam can see the fleet arrayed before its shores. my final atrocity. But tomorrow. Emilio waits for the inevitable on top of the Pacifico Watchtower. no servant of Sitan has set foot on Malvar. Like three hundred others. my sins…and this. For the last four years. the one compelling you to see this through to the end…just as I must. It‟s taken me years. everything ends. Your final task is to tell people the truth: about my life. After the funerals. *** 1953. one that may be able to kill a God. but I never saw Luzviminda again. If I wanted to retain your esteem I would have simply let you go on believing your parents had been helping a group of new arrivals when the first wave of Agents attacked. It was simple really…once I knew where I would get the power. I told you I had an important mission for you. round rocks between his fingers and cherishes the silence. He is not impressed. the ones who made landfall before the new wards were in place. She must have felt her job was done. but I‟ve completed her work. the largest fleet that the Dread God has ever assembled. the Agents and mundane soldiers may number in the thousands. For the last four years I‟ve protected this island. By the time the ward on this letter vanishes. I told you they‟d died in the raid. and the battle will be over. I know you want nothing more to do with me or my words Jorge. You see. but to bear witness. Luzviminda left behind a final gift: an unfinished spell.

the most important witness. Emilio gets the sense that reality is streaming away from the tall brown man in military fatigues.‖ Emilio’s skin is slick around the rocks in his hand. ―It was worth a try. no unearthly fragrance. Lord of Malvar. and looks down upon the sprawling.‖ Sitan turns his back on the man. where are your people?‖ ―In a place where you will never harm them. ―Then why are you here?‖ ―To satisfy my curiosity.‖ Without visible movement.Of course. don’t look so deflated. ―It’s been a long . is far away and safe. ―So you’re the last. You cannot truly have believed your wards would keep me from finding them. the only one who knows the truth.‖ ―Disappoint me? Don’t be ridiculous. but I mean you no harm Lord of Malvar.‖ ―You mean the tunnels beneath the island?‖ Sitan smiles when Emilio lets a flicker of shock bleed onto his face. I suppose?‖ Another smile. ―Tell me. please.‖ ―I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s intoxicating. Sitan takes a fat cigar from his mouth and blows a lazy serpentine trail into the air. ―Oh. Emilio can smell the tobacco on the God’s breath. shark-black eyes boring into those of the mortal man. At the thought of Jorge finally reading his letter. ―I thought you’d be taller. make-shift metropolis.‖ The God appears before Emilio as if stepping out from behind a curtain.‖ ―As was the asog I’m standing on. It’s been a long time. as if the weight of his presence renders the rest of reality insubstantial. Instead.‖ Not yet. There is no obvious drama to his arrival: no fanfare. Dread God. It was a finely crafted ward. ―Who would have thought your little refugee camp would grow so large?‖ Another trail of smoke. even as Sitan casually breaks the spell. ―Oh. Emilio is surprised that he feels a sliver of remorse. Sitan is suddenly directly in front of Emilio.

triggered by the touch of sea water: flame and acid and gas. One thousand. With a spastic twitch. One by one. and weaves the most complex curse he has ever attempted. The potency of ten. Sitan stares up at the kulam. Sitan raises an eyebrow at the relatively miniscule release of magic– and then suddenly turns his gaze to the waters below. and the deep rumbling is replaced by a more ominous sound: rushing water. two hundred lives fills Emilio within the first second. funneling survivors into carefully designed cul-de-sacs. More. ―Only martyrs. power crackling from his fingers as he simultaneously defends against hostile magic. Faster. no more reason for delay. unleashed upon the already doomed. Six thousand. from the screams of the drowning.‖ The last words emerge as a high pitched laugh as the power begins to flow into Emilio’s body. His other wards are going off now.‖ he says. a hundred. miniature vortices are forming around the island. Seven– And then. as if from a blow. .‖ Emilio reels back.time since the age of epics. Two thousand. Emilio wonders if the God can hear the screams as the sea rushes into the newly open. siphoned from the deathtrap below. in a voice loud enough to cause the Watchtower to shudder. tightly packed tunnels beneath Malvar. There is an answering rumble from beneath the earth. Emilio rises into the air. as the boulders from which he chipped these smaller fragments are themselves reduced to rubble. the violence of the water’s surge battering bodies into walls.‖ Emilio cries out. and the smile on the God’s face grows wider. ―No. There is no secret failsafe here. That was what was required to kill a God. low and insistent. ―There are no heroes here. Four thousand. Five hundred. I wanted to see for myself what a hero of today would look like. Thirteen thousand souls. The God is just playing with him. Emilio’s hand crushes the rocks. inexplicably… the dying stops.

‖ The young man reloads. Clutching his shoulder in pain. Jorge.‖ Jorge fires another shot. toward his apprentice of four years. perhaps. ―It seems that my advance scouts picked up a stray boat on the way here. Emilio could stop his heart–he has enough power for that. Emilio strikes with all he has. ―What can I say? Curiosity got the better of me. even now. and Emilio has a second to see thousands of people streaming from one of the tunnel entrances before pain lances through his chest. the kulam pushes himself to his knees in time to see Jorge reloading the still smoking rifle. you traitor.Desperately. Instead. ―Of course. ―I? I have done nothing…except.‖ Sitan points toward the west. tears in his eyes and hate on his lips. You–‖ Emilio stops when he sees Sitan waving a sheaf of papers. you–!‖ ―Enough. but with his good hand he claws his way toward Jorge. ―You murderer. clutching at fading strings of spent power.‖ Emilio hits the rooftop hard. a position so painfully familiar. and the sound of bone breaking is loud in his ears. his hand on the young man’s shoulder. ―What have you done?‖ Emilio floats back to the earth. . I did have a little help. foil a heinous plot. His letter to Jorge. ―You shouldn’t be here.‖ says the Dread God. he looks at that ugly. Emilio feels his sanity fray. and coming up empty. And when I saw such a fine ward on the envelope…‖ The God shrugs. with every ounce of stolen power. ―A hero does not draw out the act of justice. The God is nonplussed. You’ve ruined everything…‖ ―Ruined? Ruined?!?‖ the young man rails. his voice ragged. and blood blossoms from Emilio’s gut. ―You…you foolish boy. The kulam falls over. It is not enough.

two jobs which have more in common than he‟d care to admit. and serves on the legislative staff of a member of Congress. Rocket Kapre. and Philippine Speculative Fiction volumes V and VI. The kulam rolls on to his back. his publishing imprint dedicated to publishing and promoting speculative fiction (prose and comics) by Filipino authors. . Jorge.‖ says the voice of the God in his ear. Chikiamco has placed in the Palanca Awards (Short Story for Children category) and his stories have been published in the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. can be found (along with USOK.rocketkapre.distorted expression. because of it. That is why I am confident you will perform this final task. Image is from Wikipedia. the cloudless sky a canvas for the sins of his past. Or rather. I tell you these things because I know you will not forgive me. ―Of all that I have wrought. A Time for Dragons. whatever you may now think of me. The Farthest Shore. I think I am proudest of you. . his online Pinoy SF webzine) at www.‖ *** I do not ask you to forgive me. now I know that my good name will not. and tries to reconcile it with a face pressed eagerly against a chapel window. In fact. —Paolo Gabriel V. Even if I survive Sitan. ―Goodbye. You will not let them put me on a pedestal. You will give me what I You will not let them use me as a symbol. He is also a slush reader for Fantasy Magazine.Emilio Alarcon.

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