TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains a scene of sexual assault and a panic attack.
“I will eradicate all crime in three to six months!” the dog shouted. The clowns raise their fists and shouts of hurrah echo across the streets. Millions of people surround the circus, most of them wearing makeup and clothes wide enough for two people to wear them at once. Their shoes are uniform: wide, big, getting in the way, yet refusing to acknowledge those it stepped on. The clowns continue to scream and praise the dog that gave them the daunting promise.
The world is theirs, the future is within their midst. The clowns make unified movements, chanting that he is the best president in the world. Their red-balled noses and colorful wigs are seen as people all over the country take note of this momentous event.
The dog raises his paws in the air as if to rise with the chants and praises of the crowd. He pumps his paws in the air, shouting, “Three to six months, no more crime! Three to six months, no more crime!” His shouts fade into the battle cry of the crowd, as more clowns rise to their seats in energy, with zeal for this animal.
It has been four years.
“There is no such thing as coronavirus.” The dog’s barks echo through the television screen. Malaya sits across the television, her fists clenched shut and her lips pursed shut as she continues to listen to the animal. She continues to wear the clown costume, just as she had done every single day, for the past four years. Her feet continue tapping on the floor as she leans forward and folds her hands. “This virus is nothing to be afraid of. It is simply a common cold, and nothing else.” She shakes her head in disagreement with the dog. “I don’t understand why people are so panicky over this thing! I’ll even slap it in the face to make it go away!” The clowns in the circus laugh at the joke the dog has made. In a fit of rage, she plucks her red-balled nose from her body and slams it on to the television screen. The screen doesn’t budge, and the ball bounces back, rolling toward her. For a moment, she stops focusing on the dog and stares at the ball, realizing the mistake she has been making all this time. She scoops up the ball and rushes to the bathroom, her feet almost tripping from the shoes. She opens the door, startled to see her reflection staring back at her. Her eyes are wide and her breathing is shallow. She sees the wide jumpsuit and gigantic shoes. She notices her makeup and her colorful wig. She recalled the first time her friends took off the clown clothes, and they asked her, “Why worship a dog who has a leash?”
Hearing her friend’s voices were awkward for her. When they were told to wear the clothes, the texture and the weight was too heavy. The clothes made the mere act of speaking impossible. They have only breathed and listened to the dog’s words, and they gladly gave up their voice for him. Hearing their voices again felt surreal, but she wondered, what does she have to give up just to be able to talk again?
Her friends also removed the makeup, not adding anything to make up for the loss. Their wildly colored hair was also gone, their black and brown strands going down to their shoulders. But what shocked her the most was the clothes and the shoes. Their shoes are light-colored, with the same color as the sky, blue, and there is no red smear on each step they take. Her shoes always leave a bloody stain on the floor, no matter how lightly she tries to take each step. Their clothes are white, a color she hasn’t seen in anyone’s clothing for so long. Her clothes are filled with dark colors, and the heaviness of her clothing is suffocating. With her friends, it is as if they are free. They stopped worshipping the dog, and everything else came off.
Malaya removes her wig as she recalls her friends without the fake hair either. They said that this time, they can hear better. Malaya continues to look at herself as the television sounds echo across the room.
The dog continues to bark mindlessly, “I would like to thank Pooh for the help.” Malaya rolls her eyes at the dog’s loyalty to the bear. The bear has made everything worse. Everyone knows the coronavirus is real. Everyone knows the bear tried to cover the mess up. But he made it worse. And the dog still bows down to it. “You know, we can either be an orangutan’s state or a bear’s country, it’s our choice.”
Can’t it be a choice to be an independent and sovereign country? Malaya tries to shout, but her clothes are still too heavy. With disgust, she opens the faucet as she continues to hear the remarks of the dog, “I need emergency powers. I need money. I already have 8.4 trillion in debt, but it’s okay. It’s all for you!” The dog puts his tongue out and pants heavily. The splash of water doesn’t make his voice weaker. The barks of the dog seem to get louder and louder. Malaya cups her hands together as she splashes water on her face. She needs to remove all of the makeup.
She scrubs the dirt off her face as she finally sees what she actually looks like. For the first time in four years, her brown skin is visible. She touches the red long scar running across her left cheek. They still sting from the touch, and Malaya flinches. She had been running from a man who assaulted her when he cut her with a knife.
“Why did they rape her? I’m the president, I should have been the first one to do that!” The dog howls at the joke he made, and the clowns surrounding him laugh alongside him inside the circus.
Malaya touches the sink and freezes. Why didn’t she hear these jokes before? They are insults. She was a woman, how could she defend a dog that doesn’t respect her body? That doesn't respect women?
“Is it my fault if her legs are so pretty? I’d strip the vice president naked if I could!” Malaya grips the sink tighter. One, two, one, two. Her eyes roam around the bathroom as her mind scrambles to control her panic attack. Five things you can see. The sink. The mirror. The faucet. The wig. The toilet. Four things you can feel. The water. The clothes. The shoes. Her face free of makeup. Three things you can hear. The constant tapping of her shoe. The destructive barks of the dog. The water dripping into the sink. Two things you can smell. Her body, stinking inside the heavy clothes. The lavender soap she washed with her hands. One thing you can taste. Malaya looks around the bathroom in a frantic motion. She sees the open door and sees it, her lunch. Her food. Her breathing steadies and her grip loosens. She closes her eyes as her mind struggles to gain control. She opens them and looks at herself again in the mirror.
“I want the Journalists’ Report closed. Now.” Malaya puts her hands up to her ears to block the noise out. But she can’t. She no longer can. She already took off the wig. She already removed the makeup. She reaches down to untie her shoes and remove them. Looking around, she sees a garbage bag. She gets the shoes, and the wig, and throws them in the bin. They have no use for her anymore. Pretending to be a clown is non-sense when you know the crap the dog has been putting you through. Her shoes still have a red stain in the place where she last used them. She ignores this and looks straight again in the mirror.
“But I love the Ape! He was a great leader. If only I could be the country’s version of the Ape if I would! The Donkey was a great leader who was almost like the Ape.” The dog’s praise for the dictators haunted her. He has become the Ape of the country. He is the Donkey reincarnate. Malaya continues to look at her reflection while her ears continue to listen to the barks of the dog. Her clownish clothes have been suffocating her. Removing everything else has been helpful, but the clothes will be the heaviest to pull off. She unzips the zipper from the top and lowers them down. She pulls her arms and lets the costume fall. She steps out of them and stands naked, facing the mirror.
Naked. Betrayed. Scarred. Robbed. This is what the dog has done to her. This is what the dog has done to the country. And she couldn’t see it for four years. She was blind and deaf for four years.
“If you’re ready, wear these. We will need every voice we can.” Her friends gave her the clothes long before she even started doubting the dog. But, here she is. Malaya walks outside the bathroom and goes to her bedroom. Malaya rummages her closet, trying to find the clothes they gave her.
At last, she feels the fabric of the clothes and pulls them out. She wears the stain-free clothes, with the sky blue shoes, and a burden has been lifted off of her.
For the first time, she is free. She walks around her house with glee at her new stand, at her knowledge. She calls her friends and they rejoice at the news. She gets the mop to clean the red-stained floor. Her new stand screams victory and freedom, and her thoughts continue to soar as she cleans the room.
Her smile disappears and her brows furrow as she clenches her fist at the president’s final remarks. His words haunted her thoughts to the ground.
“Anyone caught not wearing the clown’s costume will be arrested, fined, and killed. This is not a threat. This is an executive order. Effective immediately.”
For the first time, Malaya has traced the lies.
Malaya has found her voice.
Malaya is no longer in a dog’s cage.
Malaya doesn’t want to be in a circus anymore.
“Let’s start a revolution.”
She opens the door, and with her new clothes, faces the clowns outside.
*Malaya is a Filipino word meaning, “freedom”
NOTE: These events are based on what is happening in the Philippines.
- The President has promised to eradicate all crime within three to six months and has committed extrajudicial killings all throughout the country. To name a few, Kian Delos Santos (17 y.o.), Joshua Cumilang (18 y.o.), Jefferson Bunuan (20 y.o.), Myca Ulpina (3 y.o.), Francis Manosca (5.y.o.), and Rowena Tiamson (22 y.o.).
- The President has made comments about the virus stating it as a joke and nothing to be concerned about, despite the plea of the people to take it seriously.
- The President has consistently stated China being a huge help before the pandemic. The President has once given the people a statement, "We can either be a state of the U.S. or a province of China."
- The President has put the country in 8.4 trillion pesos as of this date. The money cannot be traced and has not been used to flatten the curve and take counteractive measures during the pandemic.
- The President has made audacious sexist and rape jokes.
- The President has tried to close the ABS-CBN franchise during the time of the pandemic due to personal disagreements. This is the only news anchor some people have access to in the province.
- The President praised Adolf Hitler and adored Former President Ferdinand Marcos.
- The Anti-Terrorism Bill is a bill that can give access to the police to arrest anyone who seems or is suspicious of being a terrorist. They can arrest anyone who shares memes and jokes about the government, to donating funds to a non-government organization. They can also be arrested by a “suspicious meeting” with a group of people. The police can and will arrest anyone without a warrant. This goes against the Bill of Rights for the freedom of speech and expression, and the right for due process.
- The writer of this story can be arrested once the Terror Bill has been signed and approved by the President. As of this moment in writing, the Senate has approved and passed its third and final reading. The only step left is for the President to approve and sign it, making it a law.