Crusades, 1144. Somewhere in the outskirts of Edessa.

The city had fallen. Starvation was the key to victory. The knights were outnumbered as the food was scarce. But there was one more factor to Edessa’s downfall and it was something far more sinister that dwelt behind the shadows of the city itself. Sir Cadmus knew of this. He had seen it, these things that dwelled in the shadows and made noises in the night, tapping within the hallways and dark alleyways. This was one of the reasons why he abandoned his post and ran away.

Sir Cadmus thought he was a brave man. He thought he was an honorable man who adhered to the code of the knight more than anyone else. Yet, even the bravest of men have their frailty and Sir Cadmus saw his weakness as the city fell. He finally found out that he was a coward. He walked with a limp a distance away from the city. The red sky of dusk indicated the coming of the night. He had been here, once or twice, with a guide who knew their way around the area, but now he was alone, far away from the people that he knew who were either dead or captured. No one followed. His escape was a clean one.

He smiled knowing that he was still alive, but that gave way to laughter, a cynical one – a frightening one. Night came. His will was almost spent. The laughter ceased and his eyes gazed upon the inky blackness that covered the world. One by one little spark emerged from the darkness above. He sighed and wiped the sweat from his brow.

Sir Cadmus slumped against an outcropping of rocks and rested. His feet were sore. The wound on his right leg ached and festered. He placed his sword on the ground and went to work on his injury. He removed the stained cloth that kept the wound from bleeding. He cringed. Sharp stabs of pain erupted. Dried blood and flesh hung on to the cloth before separating. Blood flowed once again as the wound opened. He poured water over it from his almost empty waterskin. He ripped a portion of his cloak and covered it again.

A light breeze swept across the sandy plains. He looked up at the stars and settled on the sand. He wished he was back home resting on a comfortable bed. Service to God and country was far more important than his own life though. Honor demanded that he protect his God and his country at all costs. Yet, after seeing the horrors of war, his outlook towards life drastically changed and somehow he realized that his efforts had gone all to waste the night Edessa fell. Was it really important to sacrifice everything for a war in the name of God who could not even save Edessa? Were not the people of Edessa Christians living in the name of God? Why did God not destroy the infidels that desecrated one of his cities? Where was God when he needed God the most?

Deep questions burned through his soul. He was no hero. He was a villain to the infidels he called his enemy. Thinking about it gave him a headache. As he sat and tried not to ponder on the grim outcome of his life, Sir Cadmus finally decided that he did not care anymore. Something inside him stirred. It was something that clawed its way up from the pit in his heart wanting to break free. It was some sort of darkness that suddenly suffocated him.


He heard a woman’s voice call out.


Her voice was soothing, like the call of a gentle lover for a passionate time on a dreary night.

Sir Cadmus was overwhelmed by the voice. It reminded him who he was, his purpose as a man who had many needs – a lord of England! He smiled and with renewed vigor took to his feet with ease. The blood of his wounds soaked the new bandage red. He found his strength again and ignored the pain. His eyes were full of life. He searched for the voice. His eyes drifted everywhere and tried to penetrate the gloom beyond.

The shadows shifted. Trees rustled upon the passing breeze. He found himself wandering in the dark, through a grove it seemed, but none of that mattered for he wanted her, greedily, lustfully.

Cadmus, come to me…

She called for him. He smiled and obeyed. He scampered with his hands in front, stumbling and picking himself as fast as he fell, delving deeper into the grove. His eyes now shone with a madness that gleamed with desire. They shone through the darkness.

He stopped. In front of him was an outline of what seemed to be crude stonework of an entrance that led downwards. With gleeful madness, he started his way entering the man-made cave with his hands feeling the walls. Again he stumbled and again he got up continuing forward. A putrid smell arose, but even if he smelled it he did not react to it. His senses became numb and all of a sudden she was all that mattered. The voice led him deeper to where the darkness was eternal and the silence was everything. Nothing but the sound of her voice was all he heard.

You are near!

Sir Cadmus smiled. He was nearing his lover. A few more and he had reached his destination.


Within the darkness, a face appeared. She looked like his cousin Arabeth – his Arabeth whom he loved truly! But Arabeth was married and she did not love him. Yet she was here and his lust for her overwhelmed him. This was the darkness in his heart, the desire for his cousin that drove him mad! He would see Arabeth’s face on the whores that he spent the night with and the infidels that he raped.

Cadmus, my dear Cadmus…

He stared at her salivating.

I have missed you!

Her hand touched his face. Her lips drew a kiss. He felt the blood rush up his head. He felt his body tingle with ecstasy.

Open the door, my beloved cousin.

His eyes rolled. He felt a hand on his scrotum. He shook and screamed with delight.

Open the door and serve me, my love.

“Yes!” he said, “What do you wish of me?”

The Darkness was gone. There was only silence. He did not even hear his breathing. He felt alone, empty, hollow, and the pain of the wound on his leg returned.

Offer yourself to me, Cadmus! Speak the words that will open the door. You know these words.

“The eighth seal? You mean the eighth seal?”

Yes – that which keeps us apart, my beloved. Speak the Words of Breaking. You are a Templar. You have been taught of this.

He knew of this, the eighth seal that kept the darkness from the world, yet until now he did not understand what the heads of the order were talking about. He knew the words; it was taught only to a few of the Templar Knights. He was one of those few. The thirst for knowledge in the occult hounded Sir Cadmus ever since he was a child. He wanted to learn it. He reasoned that for man to fight the darkness within, he had to know what the darkness was. He never realized that knowing such things would be useful.

Sir Cadmus laughed. Inside the darkness his madness took over and in thus he recited the ancient verses:


Nos loqui verba,

Veram virtutem omnipotentis,

Veni signum ad erumpendum,

Egressus, omnipotens virtutes

Set libero a tenebris ultra!

Percutiet lux, audi O Tenebrae ,

Regina omnia!


And the Darkness laughed.

Sir Cadmus heard the world crack as it shook violently. And then it stopped and it felt like the world did not exist at all. It felt like there was nothing at all.

She spoke again.

This was how it was in the beginning. There was only darkness. There was only me!

Sir Cadmus, down on his knees, reached out into the darkness. His hands tried to grasp her but she did not let him. Then he felt her anger. She slapped him and he flew in the emptiness landing hard breaking both his arms.

“Have I angered you, love?” he asked wincing in the darkness.

It is not complete! The seal is only half broken! Why is this so?

“I do not know. This was all that was given?”

Then we must find how to fully break it. You will aid me, won’t you, dear Cadmus?

“Yes, dear Arabeth. Yes!”

Somewhere there was a smile. Somewhere she was satisfied. She waited for her dear Cadmus to find an answer.


There were things that were mere stories, legends handed down through generations, of things legendary – magical and fantastic. They were whispered names and stories told, of forgotten lore, and they were told to silent believers who took faith in the many things thought imagined and unexplained. They were the things that bumped in the night. They were things that floated and flickered in the dim corners of the mind. The things that came and went within holes on walls, on the ground, and inside people’s heads. They were the monsters that scared little children to sleep, that hounded the edges of madness fluctuating within the corners of the soul. And if there were monsters, then there was the Maldición de Sombras, an ancient organization that hunted the monsters so that such things would never threaten the world again.

In the darkness sat the old man with one hand holding a cigar and the other on a glass filled with wine. He took a sip, savored the flavor of a 16th-century red, then placed the fat tobacco in his mouth and puffed circles in the air. They glided and disappeared. This put a smile on the old man’s face.

Footsteps echoed from beyond the gloom. Tap. Tap. Tap… came the rapping of doom. A tall man emerged from the shadowy entrance of the library holding a knife with the hilt made of ivory.

The old man took another sip. The shadows shifted from bookshelf to bookshelf. The pale moonlight shone weak silver lines through a half-opened window. He smiled at the tall man.

“Eager for the hunt?” the old man asked quite amused.

The bigger man smiled and said, “Such are the joys in life!”

“Indeed. Reports came in. There is a Watcher in Manila.”

“That backwater place?” spat the large man.

“You’ll be surprised to find monsters there.”

“Petty beasts! Tikbalangs and kapres are mere playthings. They are not worth my time.”

“Indeed. But this Watcher will be worth it.”

The old man took a puff of his cigar.

“Tell me…” said the big man as his eyes narrowed and gleamed while he played with his knife.

The old man grinned widely showing a remarkable set of good teeth. “The rule amongst the Watchers is to never sire an offspring. Isn’t that correct?”

“Yes. That is what I know.”

“Well, fortunate for us, two Watchers just defied their own rules, several years ago, and they hid the child well. But we are Maldición de Sombras, the Curse of Shadows, and we always know where the monsters hide.”

The big man’s eyes grew upon hearing the old man’s words. “Abomination,” he whispered with glee, “And the parents?”

“Dead, I think. You know how these things work. Once these creatures bend their own laws something bad always happens.”

“Bad for them and good for us!” the large man spat.

The old man puffed again and nodded. “Sail to Manila. You have your methods. Find this creature, but do not kill it.”

The big man lowered his weapon and asked, “What? Why?”

“This opportunity comes only once in a lifetime. There were four before that we could not catch, yet they died young I heard. Not one of them had reached young adult age. This one has. I want to know why. These Watchers are dwindling, fading away from the natural order of things. I want to study the abomination. I want to know how it works!”

“Very well…”

“I have acquired a pass for you on a galleon that sails tomorrow. I hope that you do not fail me.”

The big man simply stared at the older man, his face expressionless. He knew that although the old man looked frail and weak, the head of the Maldición de Sombras was never to be trifled with. He nodded and exited the room quietly closing the door.


A pale hand of a woman stretched out and caressed the old man’s shoulder.

The old man shuddered and put his cigar down. He closed his eyes and felt the ecstasy of carnal love fill him with great pleasure.

“I have found a way out for you, my cousin” he said after that pleasurable moment.

“And?” a woman’s voice answered with a question of her own.

“The knight’s order never had that knowledge to free you, my love, but these Watchers do.”

“But you failed in getting answers from the woman you captured.”

“Bah! These Watchers are not people. They are monsters. Even if I tortured her more, she would not have given me anything. I think she really did not know. But her mate did.”

“The Javier? But he is lost in the waking world.”

“True,” the old man picked up what was left of his cigar and lit it again. “But they bore a child, and they hid the damned thing well. He made a mistake though by going back home. I have sent someone over to get that abomination.”

“Good,” the woman answered with her voice fading. “I have waited for far too long, my love, my slave. Do not disappoint me.”

“I won’t,” answered old Cadmus with a smile.

He sat in the gloom of his library puffing circle again and again. He enjoyed it. The smile never left his face. His immortality was fading. He needed the secrets that the Watchers had for the Darkness, her Arabeth, to roam free once more. Soon, he thought – very soon. He emptied his glass and sat back with quaint imaginings that started to roam in his mind.





Manila. October 24th, 1889.

The night was young in a town livened with the atmosphere of happily drunken aristocrats walking in cobblestone pavements beneath the night sky. The light of the silvery moon illuminated the landscape of stone houses. Their capiz windows reflected a faint glow while maidens lounged by the verandas as the sound lavish social gatherings echoed within walls and wooden floorboards.

A man gently sailed through the crowd with an air of elegance that flowed with his movement. They all looked his way. This was the young man who has returned from Europe, whose name was abuzz within the immediate group of socialites because he was a Javier, whose inheritance was a rich ransom, and because his lineage was the envy of every aristocrat in town.

Quintanos nodded at every person that he met even though he did not know them. He headed his way to the large dining table where the food was served and where the Gobernadorcillo greedily drank his wine that was refilled once the glass was empty. Beside the stout man was a thin man, taller than the Gobernadorcillo, who wore thick spectacles and had an air of arrogance around him.

The Gobernadorcillo did not notice the young man approach him.

The thin man fixed his glasses and regarded Quintanos.

The crowd went back to what they were doing.

“Good evening Gobernadorcillo de la Cuesta,” greeted Quintanos with a slight bow.

The Gobernadorcillo was startled and this almost spilled his wine, but he returned to his composure and regarded the young man with disdain in his eyes.

“Who the hell…?” angrily questioned de la Cuesta. He was heavily intoxicated.

“It’s me, Quintanos Javier,” replied the young man. “You asked me to come here. Don’t you remember señor?”

“Remember? I…”

“The Gobernadorcillo cannot be spoken to while he is eating,” interrupted the arrogant thin man.

“And may I know who you are señor?” politely asked Quintanos.

“I am Amador de Hesus! Cabeza de Barangay.”

The arrogance in Amador drew a sardonic smile on Quintanos’ face, yet, the young man nodded in respect for the head of the community.

Amador on the other hand eyed this new addition to Manila’s social upper class with disdain.

“Yes, now I remember,” interrupted the Gobernadorcillo. “You are Leopoldo’s son, heir apparent to the haciendas in the north. Why are you here again?”

“It is because you sent for me, señor. I have received a letter from you, an invitation of sorts, for tonight’s gathering.”

“I sent no letter… or have I? It doesn’t matter! Why have you returned to this beautiful property of Spain, Javier? Have you come to claim your birthright?” The Gobernadorcillo paused and after a few hiccups gave a mocking laugh.

“It is mine, to begin with.”

“Spain owns it now!” snapped de la Cuesta with a wry smile flushing his cheeks redder.

“I have papers to prove otherwise Gobernadorcillo. If you do not grant me this even though I have legal documents that state the lands are indeed mine, then I will be forced to bring it up with the Gobernador Heneral. It’s his seal on the papers anyway.”

The wry smile of de la Cuesta turned to anger. He slammed his cup on the table and gave Quintanos a sharp look. The room fell dead silent.

“You dare oppose the will of the Gobernadorcillo? You Indio!” he exclaimed in a wild derogatory remark. His spat called the attention to the guests in the room. All eyes were fixed on the three men in the corner of the room.

“Yes, Indio – it’s a term that I have a hard time understanding. Am I really different from you? We are, for a fact, living in just one island, señor.”

“I care not for your sentiments, Indio. Your kind should be left to live in the ditches of pigpens and sewers!”

“Enough!” cried the young man straightening his vest. “You will release the men that you placed in my property at the soonest time possible. I wish for my estate to be returned!”

Quinatnos reached for the inside pocket of his vest and showed a rolled-up document with the seal of the Gobernador Heneral.

“Here are the papers to prove the legality of my claim,” he said unrolling the parchment in front of de la Cuesta. He rolled it back and returned the document to his pocket. “Good night señor!”

He walked away and left scorned faces from the two officials. Quintanos was about to leave when an old man in a Barong Tagalog cried out his name.

“Señor Javier… Señor Javier, please wait.”

The old man had cleanly cut hair streaked with grayish tones that extended to his beard and mustache. His features were more local: tanned skin, almost close to dark, with a round nose and somewhat big ears. Yet the man exuded an aura of command despite his native look that was shunned upon by most Spaniards and the way he spoke exemplified his breeding as a learned man who stood taller than his peers. Quintanos stopped to regard him.

“I humbly ask pardon for the Gobernadorcillo’s brash behavior. I am Paquito Hernandez and this is my home. I knew your father. He was a friend of mine.”

Quintanos glanced at the Gobernadorcillo’s way and saw that the stout man and his thin companion were now in the veranda harassing a young woman.

“He invited me only to insult me – the nerve of some people!”

“He is quite brash,” added the old Paquito, “And quite drunk.”

“Why do you associate yourself with pigs, señor?” asked Quintanos with scorn evident in his voice.

“Because it is necessary for my business young Javier, though the world is changing and men like de la Cuesta will come to terms with reality soon enough…”

“What do you mean by that señor?”

“Ah, just speaking my mind. That is all. Do not worry about him. Come, the gardens outside is a more comfortable place to talk.”

Quintanos agreed and out to the gardens they strode. The words of Don Paquito intrigued him, about the Gobernadorcillo coming into terms with reality and that the world will change soon enough. Though he suspected something behind those words, he put it at the back of his mind to think about it at another time.

Don Paquito’s gardens were a sprawl of lush greens that radiated under the light of the moon. The rich flowery smell of Sampaguita and pikake lingered in the air. In the middle of it was a huge mango tree, old in age yet flowering. Quintanos stopped to look at the tree. He felt an odd sensation like there was something there that watched him. He caught the faint smell of tobacco. There were wooden benches around the mango tree. They sat and continued with their conversation.

“You are at an unfortunate disadvantage, señor Javier. The Gobernadorcillo will stop at nothing to hold on to your lands. You will have a very long fight ahead of you. Your sway over the Gobernador Heneral might grow weak over time.”

“Political trivia,” spat Quintanos in disdain. “Though I grew up in Spain, Las Islas Filipinas is still my home. I know how to speak the language and was born here. The Gobernadorcillo will return my birthright one way or another.”

“Well, young Javier, you will find that the politics in our part of the world is a ripe blend of intrigue and immorality – one that I advise you do not get yourself into.”

“I have no need for politics, Don Paquito. I just do not like being harassed by people like the Gobernadorcillo who knows nothing more than to fill his belly with wine and his soul with selfish pleasure.”

“Yet you have ties with the Gobernador Heneral. That for one will call attention to people like de la Cuesta. You have to be careful.”

“You said that you knew my father?” asked Quintanos changing the topic of their conversation.

“Yes, fairly well in fact. We went to the same school, Santo Tomas. He was a very influential person, brash at times, but a gentleman nonetheless. At first, I thought he was a professor because of his age, and then I realized, when he sat beside me, he was also a student. He was vocal about his ethnicity, about how the friars maltreated the locals, especially the poor ones, and much to my surprise, the friars never laid a hand on him. He had his way with words like they were magic, and he had strong supporters from some of the Spanish officials – one of which was a young Gobernador Heneral. Your father helped me with my academics, through that rough time in my life when the friars hounded my family, envious of my father’s riches and his stubbornness to support the local clergy.

“Strange though,” continued Don Paquito, “It seemed to me that your father never aged since we first met. Strange indeed, but that was until I realized who he really was.”

“What do you mean?”

“All will be explained later. Your father was a good man, you know.”

“I hardly knew him,” replied Quintanos with a sad tone. “He disappeared when I was five.”

“Yes. I heard of that. He told me in a letter that he was quite sad about the passing of your mother. Wine became his mistress during those days. I never heard from him since then. He loved your mother so much. Both of them sacrificed a great deal just for their love to flourish – and now here you are, all grown up to be a man of great responsibility.”

“Don’t give me much credit señor. There is a part of me that hates my father for leaving me to the care of an old woman who I hardly knew. Yet this old woman became that mother that I never had, and I am thankful that she, unlike my father, never left my side. She taught me the local language, as herself being a half-breed; she knew that I should know what it was like to be from one of Spain’s colonies. But I still longed for my father, though rumors of him came up seven years ago that he died at sea, I long for that time that we meet and answer my difficult question. I have no proof of that but I have learned to accept that my father is truly dead.”

“Maybe it’s for the best. And what of your growing years, how were they?”

“I studied the arts in the Universidad de Salamanca and graduated when I was sixteen. I know what you will say, ‘such a young age’, as I hear it from those who cannot believe that a young man, born from a backwater province, could ever achieve such a feat. Well, I have, and I told them otherwise.

“Upon my graduation, I received documents that belonged to my father’s. There was a will with it. This came as a surprise to me. The old woman, my caretaker Felicita, gave it to me soon after my return from the university. It seems that my father had left me a large hacienda north of here. I have been there and saw how the soldiers of the Gobernadorcillo ravaged my father’s land. I don’t know the history, or if there ever was one, of why de la Cuesta wants my father’s land. All I know is that it is mine now and I shall keep that heritage in spite of my father’s absence. I wrote to the Gobernador Heneral, knowing that he owed my father a favor, and I asked for help.”

“And thus the incident with the Gobernadorcillo.”

Quintanos nodded.

“I do apologize for the actions of that brute, but it seems that fate has dictated that you stray this way so that we may speak.”

“Fate? I do not believe in such things.”

“You should, young Javier. Sometimes you cannot fight the person you are supposed to be.”

“What more should we speak of, Don Paquito?”

“Who you really are, or maybe the proper words are what you really are.”

“And what am I?”

“You are the scion of something that should never be and you are an abomination to those of your kind.”


Down a damp and dingy cellar, they descended where aged wine bottles lay in racks covered by dust and cobwebs. Their footsteps echoed. Don Paquito held a candelabrum that lit the way. Through rows of racks, they passed until the two reached the end of the cellar. In a corner was a wooden table and two chairs. The old man placed the candelabrum on the table and sat on one of the chairs. Quintanos followed Don Paquito’s lead and sat on the other chair.

“To what purpose are we here Don Paquito? And might I add I am still offended by you suggesting that I am an abomination.”

“Pardon my words señor Javier, but that is what they would call something like you.”

“Expound on the matter señor for I do not understand. I would hate to strike down an old man for calling me names.”

A soft smile came over the old man’s face. Don Paquito sighed and continued.

“You are not like everyone else, Quintanos Javier. I knew of your coming here to my house for it was foretold by your father as I am included in your destiny – a sort of stop-over along your journey, so to speak. You are more than what we mortals are. Your father and your mother belonged to a group of select few, nameless yet ancient. Scholars called them watchers, sometimes walkers, witches and warlocks, and that entire sort, but whatever they were, they have no proper names. They preferred the term Watchers though. It was explained to me that your kind is mostly chroniclers of things to be. As far as I understood it, you are made of magic – shapers of reality – yet you do not mingle with the fates of men, but you challenge them to make choices, as influence is powerful magic on to itself. Your kind is bound by rules though, and because you are powerful beings, these rules must be followed with strict adherence. As your father pointed out, there are only a few of the Watchers left. Some of you were hunted, others cursed because of breaking the rules. The lives of your kind are a lonely one. Your parents were one of those who disobeyed your laws, and that law was that they should not fall in love with one another – they must not bear one single child between themselves. Yet here you are and your existence is a mystery to me.”

“Is this an old wives tale, old man? I have never heard of such a thing!”

“No, for your people’s existence is secret and the world must never know such things exist. Then there is you – a being born of a broken law, an anomaly in the ways of things. You are the fifth. There were others like you, born of those Watchers who have defied the laws that they were supposed to follow.”

“And what happened to them?”

“As I was told, they were born under a New Moon. Some reached the age of nine, some only seven or five. They all shared a fate – a madness that consumed them. They all took their lives. As for their parents, madness took hold of them too. They suffered the same fate as their children. Death is the only answer it seems.”

“Then why have I not suffered this curse, Don Paquito?”

“I have no answer to that, Quintanos. I assume that your mother and your father must have escaped the curse as they left you in the care of another. Oh, how terrible is such a fate to suffer, all for an impossible love. You are special, Quintanos, for you have reached an age that none of your kind has.”

Quintanos felt a shiver and the hair on his nape prickled. The talk of magic and the occult always tickled his fancy, like a call from someplace far away or a longing for home. This feeling emerged some time ago during his childhood when loneliness crept in and all the Faerie tale stories he read in books fueled his imagination. He would wander from time to time, away from the world, away from the reality and the cruelty of people, as his caretaker Felicita would happen upon his reverie often times but always left him alone. Now here were talks of curses and dark fates, strict rules for beings of awe, and a destiny left unknown for someone like him. He did not know to react, yet, his curiosity piqued. He decided he wanted to know more.

“Such things are almost impossible to hear, yet at the back of my mind, something urges me to go on. Expound on your explanation, Don Paquito, lest I leave for this is unconventional and quite inadequate for my well being.”

“Then I shall. Do you believe in magic, Quintanos – true magic, and not the ones you read in Faerie tales? Do you believe in the legends and the lore of the old world, of the myth that binds them together, that fascinate and horrify most of us?”

“I have heard of tales, read some stories, as once in my youth the fantastic had explored the depths of my imagination. As I grew older and learned of science and the ways of things bound to this reality, the fantastic slowly left my mind. This is a world of science! That is the wonder that I believe in. Science is what explains the stars in the sky, why the sun is the sun and the moon controls the tides, why man cannot fly, and why gods aren’t real. These are the things I believe in for these are the things that I see.”

“Ah, but isn’t science explained magic?” Don Paquito contradicted with a sly smile. “My dear boy, once science was believed to be magic. Physics and mathematics were taboo to the minds of the old world. Something that was not understood was magic, like an eclipse or a comet – ill omens for ill tides – and yet in recent history, these things were explained. So, in essence, science is some sort of magic in one way or another. You must believe in magic for this is the foundation of who you are – what you are. Mortals who become mages and sorcerers and wizards alike look up to your kind. You are the offspring of magic. You were even once called Nephelims, angels to some, demons to others, yet you are not all these things. Yours is the bloodline of tale-seekers and storytellers, for stories are the power behind the legends and the myth, and the things that they say do not exist. Words, the core of spells and incantations, are the secrets ingredients to the truest form of magic. Within stories are names that hold power. Without these things the world is nothing. Without these things we are nothing. As it was explained, stories are the main power the Watcher has. You can create and destroy worlds with this and that is why your rules are strict if not deadly.”

There was confusion in written all over Quintanos’ face.

The old man took in a sharp breath before he continued. “I see you still refuse to believe. Has there ever been a time when you saw something that you thought was all in your head but found that they were real instead?”

Quintanos was silent.

“You have, haven’t you? You have the sight to see through the veil, to reach within the cracks – to go through the cracks of disbelief!”

“When I was at the university, in my dormitory, I saw something big that jumped from the corner of my room. It crawled underneath my bed. There was something that evening that made me cold and uncomfortable. I was having bad dreams the nights before I saw the creature. I looked underneath and saw this cat with a long tail. It had human eyes! It gave me the shivers. I did not own a cat, you see, and seeing one in the dormitory where no pets were allowed struck me as odd. Then the creature vanished before my eyes – literally – like the darkness beneath my bed swallowed it. I quickly searched the underside of my bed even flipping it but found nothing. I woke the next morning thinking it was only a nightmare – a vivid nightmare – but I have had my doubts. I said to myself it was all in my head. I never told this to anyone for the fear that I’d be ridiculed. Are you telling me that what I saw was real?”

“Perhaps,” replied Don Paquito with a nod. “There are things in this world that even your science cannot explain. These are the things that drive our imagination, that make us think of the impossible, the bizarre, and the unexplained. Tell me, did you feel an odd sensation when we sat beneath my mango tree?”

Quintanos was quick to nod.

“Of course you did,” the old man agreed. “My friend, an old kapre, lives in that tree. She warned me about you, but I assured her that you were harmless. She is my protector you see, that is why I have my riches and have endured these Spaniards.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“Because your father revealed all these things to me and because for the longest time I wanted to be like him. But alas it could never be. I’m only mortal. He told me everything when we opened up our business that I am still running up until this day. This was before you came along when he and your mother were still deciding if they would break their own rules. I saw many wondrous things that I have never seen before. The stories of tikbalangs, those horse-headed humanoids, and the giant kapres who lived within the confines of trees, were all true! I saw them. Your father opened my eyes and I swore that would never tell anyone. He left the business to me when he went away. I have to tell you all of this because you are his son and I swore to him that whenever you came by my way, I shall tell you what I know. I am surprised that you have not accepted this facet of yourself.”

“To be quite honest señor, this is the first time I have heard this and it is a hard pill to swallow. My caretaker never told me anything – nothing about my father or my mother. I hardly knew of my heritage. Please, Don Paquito, enough of all these trivialities. Is this why we came all the way down here, to hear of my father’s bizarre past?”

“Not a bizarre tale hijo, but the truth! And no, this is not the reason why we are here. I have kept a book down here where it’s safe from the prying eyes of the friars and all those I am connected with. If they found out about it, I might lose my business and my credibility, and not even my friend in the mango tree could save me.”

“And what book is that?”

Don Paquito turned to the stone wall beside him and his hand ran through its rigid surface. He stopped on the lower portion of the wall and pried open a loose stone that hid something behind it. In a darkened hole his hand reached in and pulled out a book with brown leather bindings. He handed it over to Quintanos who in turn hesitated to receive it.

“What is this?”

“It was your father’s. He left it here one night before he had gone to Europe – before your mother. I dare not read what’s inside. When I heard you were in town I thought of giving it to you, but then again fate stepped in and you came to me.”

“Do you believe in such nonsense?” asked Quintanos while inspecting the book.

“Which one?” asked a confused Don Paquito.

“This talk of fate and everything related to it.”

“Like I said young Javier, there are things that I have seen which have made me believe in fate. It seems that you have a lot of things to consider before you truly understand.”

“I am a man of reason, Don Paquito. Such things, like politics and this talk of magic, are useless trivia.”

Don Paquito smiled, but behind his smile was frustration for he realized that Quintanos was one of those who were lost in the sea of reality. He could not truly see what was behind the veil – not yet at least – and he feared that the younger Javier would do something brash and get himself in trouble. But then again the old man could do nothing. The book was Quintanos’s heritage. He had to give it away.

“By the way, what made you say that I am an abomination to my kind?” Quintanos asked as he stood to leave.

“Those are not my words but your people’s. I’m merely telling you what your father had told me, and yet I’m not at all comfortable with the term.”

“Again, Don Paquito, that story is kind of hard to swallow. Yet, if this book was my father’s, then it shall be a keepsake.”

“Very well then, señor Javier, I believe I have already told you all that I know. It is up to you whether you would dive into your heritage or simply walk away.”

“A query before I depart, Don Paquito. Why have you told me all of this? I mean, you could have kept your silence and gave me this book. Why talk about it?”

“It’s because I fear for your safety. I know what your father and mother had done and if I understood it correctly, they have violated a very important law for the sake of love. That is something that I admire. I have learned a lot about your kind and those who are strict with the laws take no pity on those who break it. You are at the right age to be called by the magic that dictates your life. I fear there will come a time when enemies of your father would seek you out. It is better that you know this silly tale lest confront your adversaries ignorantly. Your father was a good man – or rather, a good individual, as I am not certain if he was indeed human. He told me to introduce to you your heritage in whatever way I can. I have lived up to that promise. I owe him that much.”

“Thank you for your concern señor but I think I can look after myself.”

“As you wish señor Javier, still, if there is anything you need, please let me know.”

Quintanos nodded at the kind old man who was his father’s friend. Yet at the back of his mind, there were doubts about whether Don Paquito was telling the truth or merely having a good time at his expense. He got up and made his way out of the cellar, out of the mansion of a house, away from the lavish party and the aristocrat stereotypes, into the cobblestone streets where a cool breeze greeted him. Beneath the night sky, he wondered if it were all true.



Quintanos sat on his four-post bed and stared at his father’s book. It sat on a table across the room. The lights of the gas lamps beside it flickered. A cool summer breeze crept in. A moth danced around it. Beside the bed were a trunk and adjacent to it an armoire where clothes lay scattered. The window was open. Drapes of white welcomed the breeze. The room overlooked the Plaza Calderon de la Barca that was dimly lit beneath an almost full moon. The smell of kerosene permeated in the air strong enough to keep the termites away from the wooden floors and walls. He was on the third floor of the Hotel de Oriente. It was the newest sensation this part of Manila with every known aristocrat mingling in its lavish banquet hall, drinking and socializing, eating and gossiping, and talking about things that only concerned themselves.

It was a cloudless summer night. The stars danced and the moon rose. Quintanos moved onto a chair by the table. He placed a hand on his father’s book. He felt the leather bindings as he recalled his conversation with Don Paquito. Questions swirled in his head, about the credibility of the stories that were told, of things that were better left to fiction rather than fact. Curiously he opened the book thinking that he would find answers within. He felt light-headed once he peered into the first pages, looking at the images that were seemingly hand-drawn, and all across the pages were scribbling of a language that was foreign to him. It was a journal!

His head suddenly cleared and in some way, the world became a bigger and weirder place. He could read the words that were written! This was strange for Quinatanos had never encountered the language before, and yet, after that bizarre episode, he could read it quite easily.

His father aptly named the journal Gnrus Libri or The Book of Knowing. The words inside were not Latin unlike the title, rather it was some old form of hieroglyphic. He shuddered at the fact that he could suddenly read and understand a language he had never seen before. He began with the first chapters of the journal, gaining insight into his father’s world, the other side – the realms of imagination, of magic, and the things that most people think as petty and ridiculous. He peered through the veil that covered the other side of reality. There were things unheard of written in its pages. These were things mystical and extraordinary and most were fashioned into stories that spread all across the world. The journal accounted for the existence of such things mentioned in the lore of old. Of such were creatures seen in the literature of old both local and foreign. From the evil vampires to the mythic Tikbalangs. From the witchcraft of the west to the kulam of the east, all were written in elaborate detail. There was lore about the many places that were not even indicated in the folklore that he knew of. Such places he knew did not exist, at least in this reality that he was familiar with. Yes, indeed, the Faerie Realm was included, and his father’s writing detailed the kingdom of Tatiana and Oberon vividly. And there were other kingdoms, lands of light and shadows, and somewhere in the middle of it all was the Darkness and her realm was absolute.

His interest in the entity that was the Light’s mortal enemy, piqued as he delved deeper into the knowledge of the realms beyond, the soft places in between, the place that was called Nirvana by some and heaven by others. But he learned all too well that this was a place of magic and the source was imagination, more than dreams or even nightmares. His father called it Lumina, yet the other Watchers, and even his mother, had a different name for it. For now, he would call it Lumina, but as dictated by the rules that governed his kind, he had to give it a name soon, and he would ponder on that later. In further readings, more secrets were revealed, of the universe and the heavens and the lore that were only theorized by academic scholars and geniuses.

It seemed to Quintanos that he was reading an eternity of knowledge written in small journal that superficially could only contain as much. It was more like an infinite number of chapters were already read with only a couple of hundred pages flipped. He sorted through the pages and tried to figure out if there was some practical trick that was played on him. He couldn’t tell. He continued on.


My dear Quintanos, by the time you reach this portion of my journal, I am long gone. Your mother and I have accepted this fate long ago, as the curse to those who violated our laws has taken a toll on us, and I may not have that long to live. But I will live here, in my Gnrus Libri, as I have written down all that I know. Our knowledge of everything is ancient. It is more than what even the greatest of scholars would ever know. Ours is the knowledge of things unbound by what the waking world perceives as impossible. Ours is the truth beyond mortal comprehension. We exist in between realms where dreams become real, and magic is absolute. Power is given to our kind, that is why strict rules are imposed upon us lest we become those monsters that the heroes we chronicle fight. Yes, we are not heroes. We are Watchers, and some of us are chroniclers who write the lore of legends. Stories are our weapons. Imagination is our magic. We influence enough for reality to gain insight – for this reality to move forward. We never manipulate or tamper with the destinies of things, most especially men. The waking world is not our home. The realms beyond are. We call it by many names. Each Watcher calls it differently to give it a certain degree of ownership so that we can easily travel through its roads. Not many can do this. More often, navigational guides are required, but we don’t need such things for the pathways of the realms are very familiar to us. I call it Lumina. Your mother calls it differently. You will call it something soon because you have too.

Now, you will learn many things in such a short time, because knowledge is a power you can easily tap and understand. Let it envelop you. Let it own you. Let it become one with you. After you have done that, step into the realms beyond. Step into the soft places, the lands of dreams and nightmares where imagination is unbound by the laws of the waking world. They are located in between the domains where the myths and legends of time exist, where spirits roam eternally and where the dangers found are great. Here, the shadows of the past lurk in every bend, and visions of the future linger in the corners of the mind. Welcome to the Realms of Imagination. Here the wind howls in the reckoning of the sins of yesteryear, remembering the deeds of the heroes and the conquerors, whispering the sweet sorrows of the fallen. There are many ways in but only a few ways out, and to leave, one must sacrifice something, perhaps a memory, a valued treasure, or in most cases a life. But for you, you may come and go as you please, for this is your realm – this is where you were born – this is our home. There are endless puzzles and labyrinths, mazes and riddles, yet you will not get lost here, for you are home. In times of need, take refuge from the storms of the nightmares and the misgivings of the waking world. Come here, to that place in the middle of a golden field where a stream flow, where an old Balete tree lazily spends eternal summers swaying with the gentle breeze, and here a hut waits for you to rest. There are also many dangers here; they can be far away from the place of your respite or they may be closer. Either way, I know you will triumph over them – I know you will, for you have survived the curse that binds our existence. You will know how to get there, in the realms beyond, between the cracks and holes of the world and the heavens, and you will learn its many secrets.

I leave you this, my greatest treasure – my journal. Here I have written down all the lore and legends that I have come across in my long life. You will learn them (or have learned for that matter). Take these stories that I have collected to heart, for they are magic and will help you reveal the True Names of things and places, and yes, even the names of gods. Use the magic of stories wisely. Be respectful of the knowledge given to you. Your imagination is power, and the True Names of things come with that power. But do not abuse the naming magic or the power of stories. It is our only source of defense against those that wish ill of us. Take care, my son. You will learn everything soon. There will be others who will tell you lies, who will bend you and manipulate you. You must resist them. Be wary of the things around you. Also, be respectful and humble. Power comes from within those who understand and accept the truth. Take heart and be brave. Your mother and I love you dearly. We will never see each other again.


Quintanos had finally finished the journal of his father. Sweat ran down his forehead. With a disgruntled look and a tired body, he flipped the back cover to a close. He ran his hand through his face and was alarmed to see that he had grown a beard. He stank as well. It seemed that he had not taken a bath in days. He stood, but then his knees buckled beneath him. He fell to the floor. He struggled to lift himself back to the chair. It took a while before the numbness on his legs had gone. Pins and needles erupted from his feet to his calves. He gnashed his teeth to the sensation that eventually went away.

It was an odd moment for Quintanos. It did not feel like the time of day was right, like reality had told him that he had skipped many hours and that everything went forward except for him. He looked at his watch to see the time of eight-fifteen. Yet, it felt like everything did not fit at all. Only seven minutes had gone since he opened his father’s book and read. It said so on his watch. Seven minutes, or so he thought.

How could it be? That was a long and hard read. He couldn’t even finish a Tom Sawyer book in seven minutes, let alone his father’s journal that was only as thick. He looked outside the window to see the moon was where it was the last time he looked, but upon further inspection, he couldn’t believe his eyes! How could the moon be in its waning stage when he saw it full only minutes ago!? He slammed the journal with a loud thud on the table and retracted his hand with a swift motion. Fear gripped him and the confusion drawn on his face.

“What just happened?” he whispered to himself. No answer came, yet a tingle ran at the back of his neck. He placed a hand over his nape and rubbed it gently.

You have to understand! 

There came a whisper in his head. It sounded familiar.

Quintanos’ eyes widened with horror. He now heard voices, and knowing the delicate nature of the mind, he feared that he started to lose his sanity.

He panicked. He jerked from his seat and hastily ran towards the door. With a creak, it noisily opened. Out into the corridor, he ran. Guests lounging on that floor stepped back from the wild youth that barreled away. His footsteps echoed, rattling through the hallway, and down the wooden staircase, he screamed. He entered the hotel lobby where guests, both local and foreign, paused to regard the madman who disturbed their carousing. He bathed in sweat. They eyed him curiously. Why was a dirty Indio loitering around the lobby at this time of night? Was the Hotel de Oriente lowering its standards to accommodate the peasant folk? Quintanos stood and regarded his surroundings. His mind raced. His gaze went to his trembling hands with nails uncut, to his clothes unwashed, and then to the elite social upper class that stared at him with disgust. Was he afflicted with a malady that he was not aware of?

He was approached by a gentleman who calmly escorted him to a corner. The manager, who was a Spaniard with a mustache that curled on both ends, offered Quintanos the end of a sofa while he sat on the opposite. He lit a cigar. It was thick rolled-up tobacco. He puffed rings opposite where his guest was.

“Señor Javier, you are alive!” the husky-voiced manager started. “This is a surprise. Where have you been?”

“You ask such a foolish question, señor. I was in my room the whole time!” replied Quintanos with his hands trembling.

“But señor, you have been missing for days! We searched for you but you were nowhere to be seen. If not for your good standing credit we would not have wasted our time.”

He puffed another smoke. It floated in the air and reminded Quintanos of his hazy memory. He swore that the room breathed with every puff that the hotel manager made. His senses suddenly sharpened, hearing every squeak that the floorboards made, seeing everything with vivid accuracy. The noises became louder. He heard the voices in the other room and the rooms beyond, but what startled him more was the fact that he saw that which could not be seen by any mortal eye. Figures that hung like smoke in the air, transparent, surreal and their faces were almost corpse-like. They were very much dead and he could not believe what he saw.

“Do… do you see them?” Quintanos asked the manager tugging on the Spaniard’s sleeve. “There, over by the alcove, do you see her?”

The hotel manager shifted his gaze towards the alcove where his guest had pointed. He saw nothing.

“There is nothing over there señor,” the man put it bluntly.

“I swear there is something there! A figure standing by the alcove, looking down on the floor as if she had lost something! I swear a young woman is standing there!”

“Please calm down señor. You must be sick. Please, I shall escort you back to your room.”

“You do not see her?” Quintanos asked with a gaze that would be perceived as mad.

“No I do not,” replied the hotel manager with a tone of withheld irritation.

Quintanos shifted his eyes between the hotel manager and the specter that he saw. He tried to control his urge to shout, to question once more until he calmed himself and accepted what he saw for the moment.

“Is my room still… available?” asked Quintanos with his gaze fixated at the stairwell where more specters walked seemingly unnoticed by the living.

“Why of course señor. You have paid in advance, and we here at the Hotel de Oriente value guests such as yourself.”

The coin is what you value!

“Indeed…” trailed Quintanos as he rose. He proceeded without saying anything else.

The hotel manager sat back, crossed his legs, and lazily enjoyed his cigar. He curiously eyed the dirty young man and sighed in disgust. If not for the wealth and standing that Quintanos had, the manager would have thrown him out with irritation. He took one last puff and headed to the bar for some brandy.


The door opened and slammed. In went, a furious yet still confused Quintanos. He sat on the bed and sighed. Slowly the reality of things sank in. He pondered and somewhere within him he understood. But like his conversation with Don Paquito, what he had experienced with his father’s journal was something hard to swallow. Time had slipped his life and that his eyes were open to things he thought were impossible. At the back of his mind, a voice told him to merely accept it. He rose and went to the other end of the room and pulled out a bottle of wine from the cabinet. He opened it and drank greedily. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve in a boorish manner and drank again until the bottle was empty.

Quintanos dropped onto the bed with a heavy head. He tried not to think. He tried not to move. The room swayed. He doubted reality as it was, started to doubt the science that he firmly believed in, and he thought that maybe, science was some sort of discovered magic all along. His head started to ache. He closed his eyes but found that sleep was not interested in him. He opened them to find the drapes of the long windows swayed like ghosts. No wind crept in. Then an apparition appeared. A face came out of the drapes.

He screamed.

A hand, surreal and transparent, extended to a reach, waving merely inches away from Quintanos’ face. In his drunken stupor, he reached out to the ethereal hand. He felt an icy chill that crept upward, riding from his arm to his neck, to his spine, and finally to his head. In a dreamlike state, he became afraid – very afraid. He wanted to move but his body froze, and at that moment, he heard a woman’s voice. It echoed like she was in a distant place, far away and sad.

“Help,” said the apparition. “Please señor, I can’t get out!”

Quintanos remained frozen. His eyes were wide. He stared at the ghost with unbelieving eyes, feeling the solidified form – until suddenly it all became real.

Moments later he was himself again. He could suddenly move. The world around him changed. It all felt surreal. He was not in the realm of reality anymore. Was this the place that he read in the journal of his father, about the soft-spots and the places in between? How then did he get here? He sighed and felt the fear vanish. The spinning stopped and his head became clear. The world that he knew was long gone, or it was somewhere else, and the ghost of the young woman became as real as he was.

His hotel room changed as well. It became bigger. The walls and the floors and the ceiling, much to his surprise, breathed like it was alive. The room inhaled and exhaled, with the whistling sound of air passing through invisible lips with each breath, like a sickly old man trying to survive. His bed grew a pair of eyes that blinked and stared back at him. He was unfazed though, and he found this surprising knowing that such a thing could easily unnerve him. Nevertheless, he stood firm against the creature that was his bed. It blinked some more and the bed closed its eye becoming ordinary again.

Hues of dull blues and grays emanated all around. The light came from the room itself, shifting and glowing. The weird world around him called out like a distant voice of a familiar nightmare.

“You heeded my call!” the young lady said who was beautiful without the distortions. She wore a white evening dress. Her face resembled that of a doll, pale-white skin, perfectly inclined nose, rosy cheeks, and blue eyes that sparkled like they were diamonds. Her hair was dark and free-flowing. She was not from the islands, as evident in the sharp accent when she spoke the native tongue of the Tagalog, though Quintanos easily understood both languages. He spoke the tagalog language nonetheless.

“Who are you?” Quintanos asked softly.

“I am Dolores y Poblacion y Rivera del Castillo. Please señor, I beg of you, can you help me get out of here? I have searched for hours yet I can’t seem to find the way back to the grand hall. You seem to have access to the rooms here because I saw you enter this one. This is not my room, of course – this is yours – and you seem to be the only one on this floor aside from myself. It has been hours since I’ve seen another person, and I have searched everywhere for a way out. Oh please, señor, will you help me? My papa is waiting for me downstairs!”

Quintanos did not know how to react. The unforeseen course of events made him suddenly sick. His stomach grumbled and he suddenly lurched forward. Every bit of wine that he drank he threw up onto the floor.

Dolores watched with a sickened expression.

“Are you alright señor?” she asked with a hand clasped against her mouth.

“I think I will live, señorita,” Quintanos answered crumpled in a squat.

“Will you help me?”

Quintanos straightened himself. The ill-feeling was gone.

“How did you get in my room?” he asked wiping the muck off his face.

“The door was open.”

“Are you sure?”

Dolores turned to look at the door and found that there was none. She was surprised. Her eyes shifted back to Quintanos who returned with his look of bewilderment.

“I’m sure there was a door there!” exclaimed the bothered young woman. “Are you a guest of my father?”

“I’m not sure,” Quintanos answered as he sat. “How long have you been here?”

“Not long actually,” said Dolores. Her eyes shifted from the open doorway to the stranger. “Perhaps a few hours I think. Father has a watch. He never lends me any of his watches. He says that they are too expensive for me to play with. But I never play with watches. I just like the sound of their ticking.”

“Do you talk this much?” asked Quintanos, feeling quite irritated now.

Dolores snapped a sharp look at him. “Hmph! The nerve of you señor! If I did not only need your help…”

“My name is Quintanos, señora,” he interrupted. “I get the notion that everything is out of place here. How long have you been trapped?”

“Trapped?” she said confused, “Am I? Oh, I wish I could find the way down. I will miss my party!”

“Where do you think you are, señora?”

“In the Oriente! That is a silly question.”

“Not anymore, I think.”

Quintanos rubbed his chin and thought. Something stirred in his mind as he hesitated and doubted himself. Fear blocked his ability to use the knowledge that he learned. He looked at his hands again. They trembled as he clutched them close to his chest.

“What is the matter señor?” Dolor asked, worried that her savior might be affected by their situation.

“It’s nothing,” he said, trying to mask his fear.

Quintanos doubted. Some part of him wanted to believe, to endure and move on – to trust in his abilities – but was trapped in a situation where he did not know what to do. It was somewhere in there, locked in his head, muddled with his doubts and beliefs. He had to reach into his inherent magic, to the power that his father spoke of in the journal. He clenched his fist and tried not to be afraid.

“I… would know what to do,” he whispered to himself. “I should know. I must know!”

“What was that señor?” asked the ghost girl Dolores.

“Nothing…” Quintanos drew a deep breath and exhaled trying to be brave. “Now let’s see what I can do for you.”

Dolores managed a smile on her weary face.

Within the room that breathed like the inside of some ghastly beast that held them captive, Quintanos scoured the walls and floors. He investigated the empty story with its rooms locked. Things moaned inside as if something sinister lay dormant. He fount it impossible to open. There were no windows that offered a view to the outside. The magical glow spooked Dolores even more as the colors changed to a pale yellow that came with moans. It felt like wraiths watched the pair from the cracks on the wall. It felt like they wanted to claw their way out and feast on the pair’s flesh.

Dolores squeezed her companion’s arm tighter.

“Enough!” screamed an irritated Quintanos.

The hallway stopped its menace. The pair returned to the only room that was available to them. As they entered, Quintanos saw something very familiar that caught him by surprise. There sat on the four-post bed was a black cat – a large black cat with pointy ears and eyes that almost looked human. It was the same thing that he saw from his dormitory in Spain, the one that disappeared into the darkness like some horror from a ghostly tale. He gasped and steadied himself.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” the amused creature said in a voice that belonged to an old man. The cat licked his paws. “You never expected to see me here now, did not you, Quintanos?”

“You!” cried Quintanos. “You exist! How can you be here? España is far away.”

The creature laughed. This brought a shiver to the pair.

“I was always with you,” the cat said licking his paws. “I was always around, hiding in the shadows, looking through the windows, staring at you when you were not looking – watching every step that you made. I’m here to guard you just in case you’re stupid enough to end your life. You are important, you know. My existence depends on it.”


“A promise, hijo – something I made to your father.”

Quintanos’ eyes brightened. “You knew my father? You were his friend?”

“No,” said the cat nonchalantly. “I despised him, your father, but he saved me from peril countless times, until such that I had only had one life left. He made me swear by my last life that I will look after you, protect you, and I have done so throughout the years. Do not get me wrong, young one, but your father was my enemy – my most hated adversary. This is my punishment and you are my burden.”

“Why did you hate my father? What has he done to you?”

“Our paths, so it seemed, have always crossed many times, like it was destined to do so, and every time we met, he thwarted all my plans. I am a creature of mischief and your father is one who values order. I would have seduced the Queen of England and robbed her of her fortune, or I would have had a scrumptious meal, the soul of the Russian Czar if it were not for the meddling of your father. This was why I hated him, because he was there at every corner, anticipating my every move, thwarting my plans! He was supposed to be a Watcher and not a meddling fool.”

Quintanos hissed. The cat grinned and made a sharp laugh before continuing. “He knew my real name, you know. But alas in the end he had shown mercy on me – something no one has ever done before. This was why I promised to protect you.”

The pair eased into the room. The black cat fixated his eyes onto the girl. Dolores stood as far away as she could. With arms crossed, Quintanos stood between the girl and the cat.

“Did you know my mother?” he finally asked as his anger subsided.

“I met her once. Like the others, she did not like me and kept her distance when I was around.”

“And your name is?”

Again the cat laughed.

“Names have power, señor,” warned the cat creature while licking his paw. “You must remember that the naming magic your kind possesses is one the most powerful of all magic – that and imagination! Thus names can be used to overpower certain things, individuals, and creatures like me and that human you are with. Your kind can reveal True Names, the names of the souls of all things that exist. Call me what you like, señor Quintanos, but I shall never reveal my True Name. That at least I give to you.”

“So my father bound you by your True Name…”

“Yes,” the cat answered with a snarl. “He knew it the moment he saw me, yet he did not abuse it as I thought he would.”

“Then I shall call you Stefano…”

“You give me the name of your old cat? Pathetic.”

“I was little when he died,” reasoned Quintanos.

“Yes. I killed it because I grew bored of its niceness.”

“What?” spat Quintanos, “I should do the same to you, you demon!”

“Careful señor, it is not in your nature to angry – anger is the enemy of your people. When a Watcher gets angry, the darkness takes over. You would not believe the catastrophes done when your kind is angered. Besides, I did you a favor. That cat was learning malice form another cat. It was thinking of running away before I ate it.”

“…You bastard!”

“Now, young Quintanos, for the sake of your survival, I suggest that you and I should get along.”

“How could you do that to your kind?”

“That cat? Mind your words young one! That cat was of inferior quality. A stupid creature, unthinking and instinctive, and to compare it to a thinking individual like myself is utterly despicable. The ones you call cats are but mere offshoots of my kind. They are not worth my time.”

Quintanos remained silent. He did not take his eyes away from Stefano, who in turn, looked back at the young lady.

“Stefano… not the most beautiful of names, but that will do Now then, what shall we do with her? She looks delicious.”



Her life was filled with moments spent in lavish parties and elegant dances. She had seen them all, from the socialites of foreign lands to the wealthy locals who only mingled with their own kind – the people with the money and the power. They came in all sizes, in different colors, different styles – with all the jewelry that money could buy, worn in a fashion that tried to outdo the other, and an air of arrogance lingering with the scent of the aristocracy.

She was eleven. This was her life.

Most of her time, when the parties were over, and she was left alone once again, she spent reading the books that she acquired throughout her travels with her father. She has seen most of Europe. She liked looking at the cities she visited, not on the ground but up in the air, in a hot air balloon where she giggled and marveled at the splendor of seeing things from the point-of-view of a bird. How she wished she could fly. In her dreams, she could do so.

In one of those afternoons where she sat by the window reading an old edition of Finette Cendron by Madame d’Aulnoy, her father visited her and told her that they were leaving Spain and relocate to Manila. Manila! Yes, that place that she heard of – that backwater town! She frowned at the thought of leaving her lovely Aragon.

“But why, papa?” she asked with her voice pleading for a reconsideration.

“It is my duty to Spain!” Those were the only words her father answered her, and the subject was closed at that.

They left for Manila two days later. Unlike her trips throughout Europe, this was quite dull, seeing nothing but an endless view of the ocean and the sky. It would sometimes be interesting as a pod of whales would surface, or an electrical storm on the horizon would provide a dazzling light show. Other than that, there was nothing else. Her father wanted to be left alone most of the time, in his quarters with a bottle of wine and his work, pondering on many things that she thought were important. She would not want to bother him – she was afraid of him.

They reached the port of Manila after several months of travel. She was quite weary, sad because she had left her home – the Aragon that she was quite fond of. In exchange, she would live with the Indio and being the daughter of an aristocrat, she was of superior quality. Why would she want to live in a backwater province? Her father hated this notion of hers and would often lecture her on the values of understanding and equality. But she could not understand these Indios whom she compared to the peasants of Spain. This was Manila, a gray and lifeless town where nothing much happens.

But there was nothing more she could do. This was her new home now. Her father had businesses that needed attending in the Spanish colony of Las Islas Filipinas.

Their new residence was in Intramuros, in a house that was not as spectacular as their mansion in Aragon but was big enough to impress her. She spent the first few months inside her room. She did not want to associate with the household help that was mostly local. They smiled when she passed, but she did not look their way, and even her nursemaid, who was a petite Indio, dark in complexion yet beautiful, had a hard time keeping up with her. The nursemaid knew a little Español and was able to understand very little of what she tried to say.

In the years that followed, she had adapted to the local life. Slowly she understood the local language, talking more to the locals who worked for them, especially to Nimfa, her nursemaid who she had eventually taken a liking to. Though having only one eye, Dolores did not find Nimfa’s features ghastly.  There was something in her nursemaid that made her feel good.

Nimfa became her second mother to whom she learned about Manila. She learned about the waterways that curled like a snake around Intramuros. These were used by the locals to go in and around to trade their wares. She learned of the old Datus and the Rajahs of the ancient kingdoms. She learned to mingle with those of her age in the local nobility. Though Nimfa taught her how society worked in Manila, she would still shun those who scoured the streets wearing nothing more than a shirt and trousers, those who did not even have sandals beneath their feet or a hat to protect them from the sun. Most were the peasants and the poor, and she looked upon them with disdain. But Nimfa never gave up on her, as she was taught values and respect, and it was something that most of the aristocrats in Manila lacked.

Years have passed and Dolores grew up to be a beautiful young lady. She excelled in her studies that made her father proud, and she was always reminded that somewhere in heaven, her mother was smiling as well. Something also had changed in the way she reacted to her environment. The snobbish girl became a desirable young woman who treated everyone, even the peasants, with respect.

Sad news came three days before her seventeenth birthday. It rained with a heavy downpour. Nimfa had passed away that morning. The nursemaid was sick for days, pale and bedridden months before, and she stayed most of her time in the small room of the servant’s section. The doctors could not do anything. In fact, the old physician did not quite understand why Nimfa was sick. This boggled his mind until his services were no longer needed.

Dolores’ heart broke that day. She was there at the funeral. She wept a great deal. Her pain was unbearable for she lost the only mother she had known. Not even her father, adamant and almost expressionless, could not do anything about the pain she felt inside.

Her birthday came several weeks after Nimfa’s funeral. She hid her sadness for a while and watched as the sun rose from the window of her room. She greeted the day with half a smile. This was her day, and she had to be good, she had to be strong. For the first time since they relocated, she realized that she was satisfied, and she saw the importance of the people around her. Gone was the arrogance of the little girl from Spain. She was now a native, a Manileño at that, and she realized that this will forever be her home.

A moonless night came with an ocean of stars glittering beneath a canopy of darkness. She stood in the garden of the Hotel de Oriente and gazed at them. Voices came from the inside as her guests loudly talked, ate, and drank. Her father emerged from the main door and stood behind her.

“Could she be one of those stars, papa?” she asked almost in a whisper.

Her father heard.  He smiled and looked up.

“Maybe she is. Look at it this way, at least your mama will no longer be lonely. There are two of them there now. Nimfa would tell her of you, how you have grown up to be a beautiful young lady.”

Dolores looked at her father and smiled.

“This will be a beautiful birthday,” she said as she hugged her father.


The hallway shifted, and like a breathing entity, it pulsed within the eerie illumination of yellow lights. They scoured every room searching for signs of a way out. Quintanos grew weary of the time because it already felt like a day. How he wished he had a pocket watch, something that he had been thinking of getting for quite some time but had forgotten to do so.

It felt like the whole floor was alive. He stopped and listened to the breathing, to the faint pulsating of what seemed to be a heart, and felt a strong life force all around. He was getting used to it: to the surreal surroundings that reminded him of his nightmares, of breathing rooms and creaking doors, of eyes that peered through the darkness and voices that whispered from the silence all around. He was brave this time, armed with the knowledge that such a place existed, yet somehow fearful for this was unknown territory.

Quintanos had yet to fully accept what was happening – this other world, the knowledge imparted by his father, the truth of what his parents were. Something inside of him stirred, started to clash like two opposing forces trying to wrestle for dominance, as one wanted to believe, to accept the things that were and would be, and the other wanted to forget it all.

Dolores, on the other hand, remained quiet, following Quintanos like a shadow, mimicking his steps but staying out of his way. She found him quite attractive for an Indio though he may not be fair-skinned like the men of Spain. There was an air of mystery that came with this stranger that she recently met, something that she found very interesting, and it was something that excited her.

“Were you born here?” she asked with a smile.

“Born where?” returned Quintanos that was inspecting the windowless rooms.

“Here in Las Islas Filipinas?”

“I am uncertain, señora,” answered Quintanos turning to face Dolores. “The memory of my childhood is quite hazy. I remember only bits and pieces of it though it is not a worthwhile tale. But this place, mysterious and nightmarish though it seems, is worth the telling. Tell me, if you were having a party downstairs, then why are you up here?”

“I thought I saw my nursemaid go up. I knew it was impossible because she has been buried recently. But I swore my nursemaid go up here. I looked all around but she was gone. Then I felt dizzy and weird things happened afterward.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I really did not know if it was my imagination, but I heard breathing, and the corridor lit with a strange glow. I believe in faeries, or diwata as you call them locally. Do you think I saw a diwata?”

“Honestly, señorita, I do not know. Even I am confused about what is going on. I belong to a bloodline of mystics it seems, and things like this, though natural to those like them, are still new and utterly bizarre to me.”

“They are not mystics,” the cat elaborated. “Do not belittle what your parents could do. They were more than that. You will soon know, as I have, the true meaning of their powers. Then again, you can be the scared little boy you always were and just be on your way.”

“As I said, señor Stefano, I am new to this. Let me grasp it a little more, and maybe later, I can find out your True Name and teach you a little something called manners.”

Stefano laughed cynically. He showed teeth and nails, and for a brief second, his appearance changed into a menacing beast, unlike nothing Quintanos had ever seen before.

“You can try that Hijo,” continued the cat reverting back to his form, “But not unless you master the naming magic, you will never be anything more than an average human being who knows a little about everything.”

Quintanos eyes narrowed. There was nothing ordinary about him, that he realized, and although he learned that his heritage was something remarkable and extraordinary, he decided to remain composed. He was a gentleman without the arrogance, without the ego that most elitists had. He would play out the situation and analyze his next move. For the moment, he would remain quiet and try to find a way out.

Quintanos lowered his shoulders and accepted the fact that it was meant to be this way.

“What do you make of my predicament, señor Quintanos?” interrupted Dolores that broke his thoughts.

“I think you have pulled me in this limbo that you dwell in. I do not know how you did this, but you did, though I could be mistaken and something else has drawn me here. I am new to this after all.”

“How can that be?” frantically asked Dolores.

“I am still working on that part, señorita. Maybe Stefano can tell us something,” said Quintanos with his eyes shifting towards the cat that trailed them.

Stefano laughed. It was sinister-sounding, like the laugh of a madman with nothing but malice in his mind, and then he stopped snapping his head towards Quintanos. He said, “You are an ignorant young fool. The answer is already in your grasp, and yet you do not see it. Are you born of Watcher blood, are you not? You should already know these things. No, wait… I keep on forgetting – you are something else. You are an abomination to your kind, a fool, and a coward who is afraid to take risks!”

Quintanos hated to be called a coward. He never backed down from anything: not from the bullies who taunted him in school because of the color of his skin, not from his peers in the university who laughed and ganged-up and almost got him killed. He was never a coward, and this creature, which stood on all fours and tried to look menacingly with its claws raking the bed and fangs extending outwards, was not going to call him that any longer.


His voice reverberated in the room, throughout the hallway, reaching every corner, every nook, and cranny, until such that the walls and ceiling stopped breathing and everything became as pale as death itself.

“Yes!” exclaimed the cat with delight. “You have your father’s anger! Yes! Bring me down señor! Strike me with the knowledge that you have, with the power that you wield, and devour this world of dreams and legends! Destroy the myths! Destroy the stories that make us who we are! Set me free! I dare you!”

The hallway started to shake, accompanied by a chorus of creaks and moans, with cracks snaking throughout the surface of the walls and ceiling. Chaos revealed its ugly head, and the perpetrator was a young man who did not understand the potential that unraveled inside of him. He started to lose control.

“Please!” Dolores screamed through the sound of chaos. “Please! Make it stop!”

Dolores was on her knees. She begged for Quintanos to stop. Her voice tried to reach him. The trembling stopped. There was an eerie silence that enveloped everything. It was like time stood still, and the young man, the young woman, and the cat were unmoving, but only for a brief moment, yet that moment felt like an eternity.



He sat upright with great beads of sweat that rolled down his skin. His shirt was wet, drenched, as the air around him was like that of a hot day in summer. The moon peered from the window beyond. Its pale light reminded him of his youth on the porch of an old house in Spain where he would sit down and listen to the sound of the night. He remembered those days in vivid fondness, the solemn respite from his worries, wondered why his father left him and why God had taken his mother without him even knowing who she was.

Quintanos rose from his bed and went to the table. He poured water onto a waiting glass with a hand that shook and greedily he emptied it draining to the last drop. It was a thirst that overwhelmed, a thirst that he never felt before. He noticed the journal that lay beside the pitcher of water on the table. It was his father’s, the one given by Don Paquito, a book that he was not sure if he had read or not earlier. He was confused; feeling as though that he had read it already, yet struggled to recall its contents.

He tried to remember the dream. He recalled a woman who was a ghost. He recalled being trapped in walls that seemed to be alive, in windowless rooms, cryptic and eerie. There was something more, something else that was with them. He could not recall this one though.

He looked at the moon and was surprised to see it had become somewhat bigger. How he wished he had a watch to tell the time. He reached into the pocket of his coat and found his watch – his golden pocket watch. Strange, he thought, because he did not own one. He looked at the table. There was nothing else there.

He moved over to the mirror and was impressed at the fashionable suit that added a glow to his appearance. He fixed his tie.

He stopped to wonder, looked around his room, and had the strangest feeling that something was not right. There was something missing, like a piece of a puzzle, like a furniture out of place. He could not place a hand on it.

Who was that young lady again?

He smiled. It was hard since his mother died, and yet his father was always there for him – or was he?

The grand hall flowed with movement, echoed with the sounds of violins, cellos and a piano that played a symphony of revelry and delight. The music was soothing, captivating – inspiring. He entered and saw a party, of men and women and creatures alike, dancing and frolicking, drinking, and bantering. Some were Tikbalangs, with their heads of horses and bodies of men clothed with fanciful garbs. Some were huge Kapres, giants smoking their tobaccos while sipping brandy. Some were spirits and gods, floating and dancing, kissing, and playing. Bathala was there bantering with the goddess Magwayan and the god Tagbusan, as Mayari and Tala danced in a corner while their brother Apolaki drank to his heart’s delight. There were others too, foreigners by the looks of them. Some centaurs and sprites, others witches and warlocks. Some of the guests were men he knew, faces that he met in the past, but these people have long since moved on from the world of the living, and the knowledge of that fact surprised him.

He entered the grand hall. The music stopped its playing. Heads turned and everyone stared at him with eyes that pierced his very being. His father stood at the farthest corner holding a glass of wine. He received a smile followed by the raising of glass – a toast that was directed at him. The mood in the air suddenly changed, for initially, it was of delight, but then it became stale with dread. He heard the growls of beasts and men as each one moved to his direction with eyes red with murder. All of them were angry. All of them wanted him dead.


“Wake up, you fool!” exclaimed a worried Stefano. He stood atop the chest of Quintanos.

The young man fell onto the floor after his initial outburst of emotions. The power that resided within overwhelmed him to the point that his subconscious had taken over. He could not be roused, not even with the pain caused by claws that pierced his bleeding chest.

“Why doesn’t he wake up?” asked a worried Dolores. “This is your fault, you horrible thing!”

Stefano looked over its shoulder and sneered at the young lady. There was truth to what the girl had said. It was his fault, yet in his mind, what he did was right, for the young man had to release the power within him to know the ins and outs of the realms beyond just like his father and mother. He would not wait for days on end for Quintanos to get it right. He had to pry it out of the young man somehow, and some times, severe stress or an overflow of emotions would do the trick. Stefano couldn’t escape the trap that they were in. He had no power over the place. His worries grew as the sudden realization that Quintanos was no longer in control took hold of him. It was a dilemma brought about by the lack of experience and youthful brashness.

The room shifted. It became just a hallway except that the long corridor stretched on forever. The walls breathed with every breath that Quintanos took as if the place had become one with him. He slipped deep into the nightmare, his own nightmare, triggered by an overflow of rage, by the power that he could not control. Stefano made a miscalculation. In his frustration, the cat unknowingly pierced the young man’s chest with his claws, biting deep down until blood spewed from the wounds. In a corner, Dolores fell to the floor crying. The hallway started to shrink and lose its luster. It became a cage.

It became obvious to Stefano that the only way to stop everything from devouring them was to wake up the catalyst of their impending doom. So far, that proved to be impossible. The cat now realized that the method to draw out Quintanos’ potential took a wrong turn for the worst, and in silence, he threw curses at himself for making a mistake that could end his existence wasting the last remaining life he had left.


Quintanos ran through the long and never-ending corridor. Fancy chandeliers hung by the tall conclave ceiling illuminating the intricate designs embossed upon the tip of Romanesque pillars and arches that connect creating an intricate design. The walls hosted old renaissance paintings and tapestries, baroque in features, old yet untarnished by the passing of time. In them were the images of people. Some bathed naked in streams with a backdrop of a lush forest, some were gatherings where a feast was held in honor of a holy man or a wedding that wanted miracles. Most had tinges of bright red that one might say the artist Titian made these paintings while some were reminiscent of Michelangelo’s strokes and style. But there was something more to these paintings that caught his attention, and this made him stop running.

Upon closer inspection, he saw that the images were all looking at him.

They started to move. Eyes narrowed and glistened with anger staring sharply with malice. They were the stuff of nightmares, dreams that had gone bad, and Quintanos felt like a child lost in a maze with monsters. He looked at his hands and saw that they were not his big hands, but instead, they were small, and like a child, he trembled in fear. The corridor began to grow, or maybe not, as he corrected himself – it was him who was actually shrinking. The nice suit that he wore at the party loosened. They laughed at him, pointing fingers and waving their fists in his direction.

He was terrified. Quintanos started to run again but tripped because of his trousers seemed to have eaten his legs. He felt a stinging pain in his knees and cried almost instantaneously because of it. His cries echoed along the infinite corridor. His voice, high-pitched, reverberated of innocence, and despair. The images stopped their laughing. Their eyebrows met, and slowly their appearance changed into creatures he saw earlier. Some became the half-human half-horse Tikbalang, while others became hairy humanoid Kapre bigger than trees with large cigars in their mouths. Others became notorious Manananggal that split from their lower appendages and sprouted wings on their backs. Other beasts came at him with spite. Fiery Ifrit burned the canvas that hosted their image. Vampires and werewolves and demons alike screamed and hissed. They clawed their way out and went after him. He could only cower in fear.

Quintanos, the child, slipped from his overgrown trousers, and on all fours, frantically crawled his way forward. On both sides, the monsters tried to free themselves, behind him came the sound of more growls and roars. Leading the pack of his monster pursuers was his father, or what he thought was his father, for it was nothing like what he remembered in the pictures that he kept locked away in the deepest corners of his memory. This creature had sharp teeth with its mouth extending up to its ears. Its tongue was like that of a serpent. It was called a Bal-Bal, a monster of Philippine myth, an eater of corpses, and one that was hungry for his flesh.

“Help!” he thought. Mumbled words came out of his mouth. But there was no one there to help him. He was alone in his nightmare.

Then the footsteps came from the other end of the corridor. The faint tapping grew louder, and the monsters from the paintings in the far end of the hallway stopped. Their faces became calm. That part of the corridor became silent. Quintanos caught sight of a man who wore the same clothes as he earlier did. The man stopped in front of him. He looked up to see the face of his father, smiling and offering him a hand. He took it and stood.

You should know what to do.

Quintanos looked over his shoulder to see that the monsters were no more. He gazed back to his father but instead saw himself staring back. He nodded to himself. He looked to the corridor that extended before him and saw it empty. He was alone, but he was not afraid anymore.

“Carry on,” Quintanos said in a whisper.

The monsters were all gone. He was braver, and finally, he accepted his heritage – finally understood it. His anger to his father subsided, maybe for the moment, realizing that it may not have been his old man’s fault, to begin with. He would not commit to the thought that insanity had taken hold of his father because of some rule that defied love. Something must have happened. He swore he would find out soon, but for the moment there was the matter of the girl and the cat.

“I’m not afraid anymore!” he screamed with confidence, and he believed what he said.

Now, it was time to wake up.


The shrinking of the hallway had stopped. Stefano, with a frantic look on his face, ceased pouncing on the sleeping body of Quintanos. The cat drew a sigh of relief. The hallway that was once a mirror of the Hotel de Oriente’s third floor became a decaying corridor, featureless and dreadful, without doors or windows, with an eerie light that permeated from somewhere, and a stench that hung in the air. Stefano stepped off the motionless body of Quintanos leaving a bloody trail of paw prints. He glanced at Dolores and sneered. Dolores shot back an angry glare.

The cat gave an angry hiss and was about to lunge, but something held him back, an invisible force that overpowered him completely.

“You did not say how my father bound you,” said Quintanos, “Now that is a mystery worth revealing. By the way, you cannot touch the girl.” He rose with a hand on his bloodied chest and said, “I had a dream. I saw my father, and I saw many monsters and was very afraid. I was a child. I understand now, that to harness the power that is given to me, I must be afraid. And also, in some ways, I have to be a child, not in attitude, but in imagination! I think I am starting to learn how this all works. It hurts, you know, but these wounds shall be a reminder that I should control my anger lest I cause another mishap. Do not you agree Stefano?”

The cat remained silent. He looked small and pathetic.

“By the way, I know your secret now,” Quintanos smiled triumphantly.

“Secret?” whispered the frightened Stefano.

“Yes. You are a Kamakay, a great descendant of the lady Bastet herself, or rather an offshoot. The descendants of Bastet came here during ancient times, as they sought refuge from the deluge, the great flood that tried to wipe them out. You are creatures of mischief, of chaos, of nightmares, and your race has already dwindled. You try to mingle, leaving the shadows for a few moments to feast on the nightmares of men, playing innocent within dark alleyways to avoid suspicion. In some ways, you wanted to be like us. You wanted to live as we do, basking beneath the sun, singing beneath the stars, to step away from the shadows that have been your home for a very long time. Once, you tried to gain our features, tried to become men, but alas, it could not be so, and thus you fought amongst yourselves because time took the better of you, made you angry – made you insane. You are the last one, are you not?”

“You know my secret, dark one,” spat Stefano, “But you do not know my name and for that…”

Amaki Neru Yama of the Shadows. My father told me, in a whisper, I think, or was that in a dream? You will obey me.”

Quintanos released his hold over the Kamakay. The cat gave a sigh of relief. There was fear in Stefano’s eyes, the same fear that he felt towards Quintanos’ father – the same fear that taught him respect.

“Now, Stefano, shall we start all over again, as allies if not as friends?”

Stefano could only nod, humbled by this new-found authority that his master now held.

“This is my work, eh?” he asked quite surprised.

“Yes,” replied Dolores, “According to that thing beside you.” Her tone was tinged with resentment.

“I apologize for his behavior, señorita, but Kamakays do what Kamakays do. They trust nothing and would do whatever pleases them, yet they are not evil, but rather misunderstood creatures. They have their benefits once you become their master. They are powerful allies, but they will never willingly ally themselves with any creature, especially a human. You have to bend them to your will. Many have tried, but only a handful has succeeded. One of them was my father.”

“And you as well, señor. This is your pet now, I presume?”

“More like an ally señorita,” corrected Quintanos with a smile that made Dolores blush. “He will be treated with respect. He will be treated as an individual if anything else.”

Stefano looked at Quintanos with respect. He had met no one who ever said that of him before, not even Quintanos’ father that treated him more like a servant. Was he changing? He kept these feelings to himself, because after all, he was a Kamakay, the last one at that, and to protect his ward he had to become the fiercest creature there ever was. Quintanos was oblivious to the dangers that waited for him. He was just beginning to understand. Stefano had to be there when the time comes that his ward would need him. He should not show weakness. He should not show that he was changing.

“What just happened?” asked the young woman.

Quintanos rubbed his chin and said, “It seems that I have subconsciously taken control of this place, this small dimension that has trapped you, and it flowed with my emotions as I dreamed. It is an otherworldly place caught between the waking world and the realms beyond.”

“Something like the fairylands?”

“Well, no. The lands of Faerie exist in the realms beyond, in the places my father calls Lumina.”

“Is there by any chance we could get out of here, señor?” asked Dolores with frustration in her tone. The situation exhausted her, frustrated her, and at that moment, she only wanted an exit from that horrible place.

“We shall see, señorita.” Quintanos’ hands worked its way through the surface of the walls.

It felt more like a box as they were trapped in a nightmare made real. Panic would befall any mortal placed in their hellish situation that would eventually lead to insanity. But Quintanos was no ordinary man. He was gifted with the knowledge that no ordinary man could understand. They were trapped within the cracks, halfway in, halfway out, a pocket dimension. He could find a way out, that he knew for sure.

“If I recall correctly,” Quintanos began while he ran his hands on the walls, “There are several ways to enter and venture forth to the realms beyond, the soft places of gods and monsters, of dreams and nightmares. One of those ways is to find maps that indicate where the cracks in the world are. Of course, there are only three in existence, ciphered, and almost impossible to comprehend. Only the greatest of scholars could ever decipher it. Da Vinci was one of them.”

Dolores stared in baffled amazement.

“Another way is to meditate, but only those who have mastered their inner selves can perform this feat. The problem with this method is that only the soul can venture within the realms and not his body. This is the hardest path to take, and there is always a chance that the soul could never find its way back to its body.”

“I do not understand what you are trying to explain señor,” Dolores protested while scratching her head.

“We are stuck between realms, señorita. We are in between the seen and the unseen. You are trapped here, and somehow you drew me in here, and I unwittingly dragged Stefano with me because he is my supposed protector. You are here because of the magic. Somehow, whatever drew you were not able to finish the task of dragging you to the realms beyond and left you trapped in this place. But still, you were tethered to the real world, the mortal world, and that made you appear as a ghost in the room I was in. Whatever it is trying to pull you is still out there, and only it can answer us why.”

“Who… what?” she anxiously asked.

“Patience Dolores, we will soon find out. I can cross back to reality, but I cannot bring you back with me because there is something out there that is trying to get hold of you.”

“Then we must find out what, señor Quintanos.”

Quintanos gave a firm nod and placed a hand on a specific part of the wall were several cracks met. He gave a sharp exhale and said, “The third and easiest way to cross over to the realms beyond is to know where to press.”

Quintanos put on his coat and pressed hard against a section of the wall creating a circular outline of light around his hand. It embedded deep. Lines of light streaked from the circular form branching out in all areas of the room. Sections of the walls moved, inward and outward, shifting sideways, up and down, like bricks only they were pieces of whatever reality they were in. They heard a low hum that was followed by a scraping sound like rocks grinding against each other. The three of them stood on a small circular section on the floor, which like an onion, peeled away until there was only a small section to stand on. The light faded and revealed a dark canopy with stars scattered all around. It seemed that they were in the void of space, and the pieces of the room just flew out into nothingness.

“This is the tricky part,” said Quintanos glancing over to his side at a frightened Dolores.

“I do not like this!” screamed Stefano.

A loud shriek was heard. There was nothing left of the room. The three of them fell into eternity.