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Suspense Asian American Adventure

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Nii-san, are we there yet?” Mako tugs at my shirt as we continue to trudge through this big, dark, scary forest.

“Just a little more,” is all that I could muster to say. It feels like hours have already gone by since we started walking. Hours of walking in no direction. Hours of feeling hopeless and afraid. It feels like we’re going nowhere. Is there really a safe place waiting for us beyond here?

We’ve never seen anyone or anything. We’ve never heard the sea Otosan told us to go to. There were only screams shrouded in the dark. The exaggerated pantings of breath as if waiting for something. The clanking of claws as if taunting and scaring us. There was only blackness and monsters around us — waiting for our fire to run out.

Nii-san, will father come after us?” Mako tugs at my shirt again, holding it tighter.

I can’t give her an answer. How can her little brain understand that our father is dead? How can she grapple with the fact that our father got eaten by one of these vile creatures? My Mako doesn’t deserve this. My Mako doesn’t need to hear all of this. She’s just a child for god’s sake.

The crunches of the leaves echo the forest as we walk further. We walk slowly, careful not to dwindle the light in our torch. Our fire has already consumed a quarter of the torch’s wood. We’re running out of time. Mako is also getting tired the longer we walk.

Nii-san, are we there yet?” She asked again, but I didn’t answer.

Mako tugs at my shirt tighter. “Nii-san, I’m sleepy.”

“We’re close, Mako. Just a little longer.” I pull her closer so she won’t be eaten by the dark.

“Will we see tosan later?” Mako asks hopefully, a ghost of longingness evident in her voice.

But again, I didn’t answer her. I can’t answer her. I won’t answer her. Now’s not yet the time. 

“We’ll play later after all this. You like that?” I look down at her, hoping that she would ginger up.

“Really? Did father prepare another game for us?” She pulls my shirt downwards, beckoning me to answer her but I didn’t mutter a reply.

Nii-san, is this a part of the game?” Still no reply.

Omo, I’m excited!” Mako cheers up and skips as we walk.

“Shh, Mako. Don’t be too loud,” I caution. The monsters might hear us. They might take her away from me.

“But I’m so excited!” She breaks away from my shirt and walks faster than me. Hands outstretched, she spins and dances and sings until the light can no longer reach her.

“Mako!” I run, never minding the fire that dwindles against the wind. Then I hear crunches of the leaves. The branches of the trees sway beside me as if someone ran past them. There’s a thumping that matches the beat of my heart. It was fast. Like an illusion. I only get to see a ghost of its bulk physique the way I remember it. But my light was faster.

“Mako!” Three-inch-long claws are already a few centimeters away from her when my light catches her. I grab her backpack and aggressively pull her toward me. It was so close. The monster was so close. Mako could’ve been eaten had I not arrived sooner.

“Don’t do that again, Mako.” I crouch in front of her to meet her eyes. She’s massaging her collarbone that got caught by my pull.

“I’m sorry. Does it hurt?” I move the torch closer to her to look at the area more closely. 

“Sorry, nii-san. I was just…” She’s trying to fight back her tears. “I just want to see Tosan.” A tear falls onto her cheek.

“I know. We’ll play after this, okay? But for now, I want you near me, alright?” I smooth her hair and wipe away her tears. “It’s dark and we don’t know what’s out there. So I want you close. Can you do that to nii-san?” She’s so precious and fragile. All the more that we have to get out of here sooner as fast as we can.

“Okay,” Mako replies.

“Okay, let’s stand up and continue. You ready?” I guide her up and fix her backpack. I hold her hand on my right more tightly to make sure that she will never run away again. I can’t afford to lose her. Not after we lose our father.

We continue our walk in the dark until Mako calls me out.

“Look, nii-san,” Mako nudges me. In front of us are two paths. There are no signs of what awaits where. No foot trails that could give us a hint that it’s leading toward the sea. We can’t see anything. Just darkness and leaves and endless trees. Which of them should we go to? What’s waiting for us there? What if we stumble upon the monsters’ den? Suddenly, I’m back in our little camping tent again, seconds before our father got caught by the teeth of death. A big decision falls on my hands for the second time around.

“Mako’s already asleep, tosan. I’ve already set up the fire,” I called my father out from inside our makeshift tent, but I didn’t hear a reply.

Tosan?” Again.

Tosan? Let’s sleep now. Mako’s looking for you.” When there was still no response, I put on my jacket and stood up. I docked my head out of our tent’s entrance and looked for my father. But he’s nowhere to be seen.

Tosan? Where are you?” I flung on my shoes and turned on my phone’s flashlight. 

Tosan?” I walked around, careful not to leave Mako behind.

Then I heard a crunch. A break. A sound popping. Then a muffled cry. It was coming from our makeshift restroom not far from our tent.

Tosan, is that you? Is this one of your jokes?” The trampled leaves were my only reply. 

I took a careful step forward, attentive to any traps Father used to play on us. Then I saw grooves. Marks left by a three-fingered clawed foot. They look like the feet of a chicken. But much bigger and pointier. Was Father supposed to scare us with these early in the morning tomorrow? I can’t help but laugh. He’s so childish.

Tosan! No need to continue this prank anymore! Already saw it! Let’s come home and sleep!” I shouted in the dark, but I still got no reply from him. Only the wind, the crunches of the leaves,…and more sound popping.

I figured that he must be in the restroom so I ran towards it. 

Tosan! I already found out the marks you did,” still laughing. “Stop doing it, and let’s sleep.” 

The door was left ajar. He must have been still on it.

“Tosan!” I shouted outside the door. “Tosan, let’s sleep. I left Mako in the tent. She’s looking for you.”

There was a muffled sound. Then there was the sound of someone…eating?

“Are you really hiding and eating there, Tosan? Really? At this hour? I can’t believe you.” I knocked on the door. “Tosan, hurry up and let’s sleep.”

“D-don…” I heard from behind the door. Then more sounds popping and slurping as if father’s eating a soup.

“What? I can’t hear you.” I knocked on the door again. “Come on, tosan. Stop this nonsense. Mako might already be crying there.”

“Don’t!” I opened the doors and saw tosan’s lower extremities getting eaten by an eight-foot-tall bulky monster, slurping the blood away from my Dad. Just like the final remnants of a soup. Like it’s sipping a drink. It was a sight of my nightmare fully realized into reality.

“W-what’s happening? What’s…what’s going on?” I’m stuttering. I’m eating up my words. I cannot process the sight of it all. “Tosan?

Tosan’s upper extremities were sprawled just six feet away from the door. He was looking at me. He was saying something. But I can’t recognize his voice. My ears were ringing. The world seemed to fall heavily on my head, urging me to fall down. I took a step back. The monster continued to suck the life out of my father.

“Miko!” My father shouted with his last drop of energy. “Run. Sea. Bring fire.”

“H-huh?”

“Now!” I dropped my phone and scampered back to our tent.

Nii-san! Nii-san! Look a squirrel!” I didn’t notice Mako calling me. “Nii-san!” She runs away again. But this time, she carried me along with her.

“Mako!” She continues to tug me further. “Mako, stop!” I unexpectedly raised my voice on her, making her stiffen.

“I-I’m sorry, nii-san.” She bows her head. 

“I told you not to run off again, right?” 

“I know. I was just…” I am making her scared. “I saw a squirrel. It was cute and tiny and looked like my Komi. I’m sorry, nii-san.

I sigh and look around where Mako pulled me. I don’t know which way Mako tugged us. I guess we just have to go for this. There’s nothing new in this path. Still leaves and darkness. But I notice how the trees seem to be fewer, but their crown is much bigger. The leaves are entirely covering the sky, denying us of the moonlight. Still, the sea is nowhere to be found.

We tread the forest. Farther and further, we go. But as we continue our walk, our vision gets smaller. The dark gets bigger and wider. The torch is running out of fire. It has already consumed almost a third of the torch’s wood. 

I urge Mako to walk faster. But she is getting tired. She couldn’t keep up. I’m already dragging her to make her keep up with my pace. We cannot do this.

The crunches of the leaves resonate within the forest. It’s as if it’s being raked clean. The sound is all around us. The monsters are all around us. We move faster.

I’m already half-running and pulling Mako’s arms out of its sockets. She grunts. I can hear her stifling her cries. But I didn’t mind her. I have to ignore her. We have to get out of here fast.

Then the land pounds. More feet thump on the ground. Then more. And more. The panting of their breath raises the hair on my neck. The increasing darkness is beginning to eat us. I can feel them getting near. Their hunger is getting palpable. They’re surrounding us. We have nowhere to go. Then they ran.

A shift in the wind shrinks our fire. They run around us in a circle as our fire wanes out. They run faster and faster until they have already generated enough whirlwind to encase us — they’re trying to dwindle our fire. We have gotten into the monster’s trap. 

What do I do? How can we get out of this? Mako is already sobbing beside me. Our fire is seconds away from dying out. I can feel their claws grabbing my backpack. Their stinky, muddy smell is getting closer and closer. Their warm breaths are only a few hands away from us. What should I do?

I hunch over Mako to cover her. She’s crying more loudly, motivating the monsters more. They run faster until it is already enough to put out our fire. I glance at them and see their seemingly flying figures running around us. I can hear them laughing. Mocking us. Taunting us. Their red eyes bore into mine. Then they sprint forward.

I close my eyes as I drop the last hint of our fire onto the ground as they fly towards us. The leaves have caught the fire. The monsters burn. 

As their gut-wrenching screams fill the forest, I take our small torch from the ground, pull Mako up, and run. There are five of them around us. They are scampering away from the light, but failing miserably. The fire touches their skins. I noticed how a simple presence of light, even just a few meters away from them, weakens them. They can’t stand the light just as how we can’t stand the dark.

“It hurts, nii-san,” Mako whimpered. “My leg hurts.”

“I’m sorry. We’re gonna treat that later, okay? For now, we got to run.” Mako’s already too big for me to carry. I also still have our backpack with me. I have no choice but to push her to run. We can’t slow down.

Mako trips multiple times. But I always push her up and pull her with me even if I feel her shoulders get dislocated. I gulp and endure the pain of seeing her suffer.

Our torch is getting smaller. The fire’s already eating away the last quarter of the torch’s wood. We can’t do this. We can’t afford to stop to look for a plank of thicker wood. They might be anywhere.

We run and run and run. I’m already dragging Mako with me from behind. The fire is running out. It’s getting cooler and darker again.

Then I hear the crunches of the leaves beside me. The thumping of grooves. The swaying of the leaves. Then a quiet whimper. Like something just got caught. I didn’t pay it any more attention as our fire continued to faint. Eyes forward, we continue to run.

Adrenaline pushes me to go faster. Everything becomes light. Everything becomes easy. My survival instincts suddenly tell me that we could do it. My primal urge to live and fight dart me forward faster quickly than before. Still holding Mako’s right hand, while the dying torch on my left, we race against the dark.

Then I feel the cool breeze of the wind. Not the same type of wind we experienced earlier, but a kind of rush that I always feel whenever we go to the beach. The sea is near. 

“Look, Mako! We’re getting there!” I’m already seeing an opening on the horizon. The crowns of the trees are getting smaller. The wind is getting stronger. I can hear the waves. I can see the light. 

As the light of our torch dies, I sprint at full speed, still dragging Mako’s right hand with me. Blood pulses through my head all over my body as the end gets nearer. Excitement and relief fills me. The wind blows past my whole body as I run faster, quicker than the monsters could ever be. The salty smell of the sea seeps into my nose, bringing me a wave of nostalgia. At last, I can now live with Mako in peace.

“We’re here, Mako! We’re here!” 

The light of the moon shines over us as we find our way out of the forest. There’s a huge area of sand in front of us. From afar, the waves are welcoming us. Here, there are no monsters, there are no dark. I’ll find our way back home from here with Mako. Mako.

I looked at my side, still smiling, hoping that Mako was also reeling in the relief of our escape. But I didn’t see Mako there. There was no body. No bright, gummy smiles that I was longing to see. No Mako’s shining eyes. No Mako’s cute hair. No Mako’s existence. Only her right hand that I’m holding on. I stood frozen in the ground. Air was suddenly lost within me. I cannot breathe. I cannot think. Where is Mako? How did it happen? There’s no way. There’s no way

I dropped my knees on the ground, holding Mako’s right hand on my lap. I survived the forest alone. How can I live now from here? Should I just go back and let myself be eaten too?

My Mako doesn’t deserve this.

January 12, 2024 14:07

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