The Depths and the Underworld

A story by Karl Gaverza

Jo was eight when she first saw the ocean.

It was a family vacation. They all boarded boats to go island hopping and her mother took Jo to the front of the boat so they could see the ocean better. It only took a moment for her mother to be distracted before Jo fell overboard.

She could remember the rush of the water as it consumed her whole body. The life vest she was wearing didn’t seem to work. Water rushed into her lungs and darkness overtook her.

*

“Where am I?”

“The deep.”

“Where is my mommy?”

“She is not here.”

“I think I lost her.”

“That you did, dear child.”

“What are you?”

“A goddess.”

“A goddess of what?”

“The depths and the underworld.”

“Can you bring me back?”

“I can, but I will require something in return.”

“What is it?”

“A favor.”

“And you can bring me back to my mommy?”

“Yes.”

“What is your favor?”

“When the time comes, make the people embrace the darkness and the silence.”

“How will I know when the time comes?”

“You will know.”

“….”

“Do you accept my offer?”

“Yes.”

*

Jo could feel her skin tingle. Her nightmares were getting more vivid. She couldn’t remember what it was she was talking to in her dream, but the voices became louder with each passing week. She told her therapist about it, of course, but Dr. Jalbuena just changed her medication and told her to avoid her stressors.

She couldn’t make him understand this was something unavoidable.

Jo didn’t go home that night. Instead, she bought a one way ticket to Virac and didn’t look back.

*

“The time is near.”

“Please, just leave me alone.”

“Remember our bargain, child. I returned you to the surface world and now you must do as I ask.”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“You must! The time is at hand.”

“I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Make them embrace the silence and the darkness. I must not be disturbed.”

“Why is this so important to you? I thought you were a goddess. Don’t you have your own power to do what you want?!”

“There are rivals that I have to fight against, child. Beings as powerful as I. They must be kept in the dark.”

“Please, I can’t do what you’re asking.”

“But you must, child. You swore an oath when you accepted my bargain. There are old laws that govern the universe, decrees that not even gods can break. You will do as you swore.”

“Do they have to die?”

“Make them embrace the darkness.”

*

The gun felt heavy in Jo’s hands. She didn’t know where it came from, she just awoke to find it by her bedside.

No amount of tears could stop what was set in motion. Twenty years of nightmares saw to that. She took her pills and tossed them in the trash. There was no more the medicine of man could do for her.

She looked at herself in the mirror and knew what she needed to do.

*

“We meet again, little girl.”

“You can keep your laws. I won’t hurt them.”

“No matter, there are always other humans to bargain with, those that would rather not lose themselves.

“I won’t play your games.”

“I’m sure you won’t. You know, there were others that took the same path you did.”

“What happened to them?”

“They joined me in my realm, what did you expect?”

“You’re evil.”

“If you say so, dear child, if you say so.”

*

Inspired by the Bakunawa description in the The Aswang Project

Bakunawa Illustration by Kim Santiago
Facebook: Art of Kim Santiago
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