Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez?

It all started when Ms. Salinas told us about her third eye. It was home ec., and we were sitting in front of the sewing machines with table runners that we were going to make our moms or yayas do for us anyway. I was pretty anxious about that project. I knew Mom was going to tell me to do it myself, because she believed in the integrity of homework. “Mica,” Mom would say. “Jesus expects you to be honest, and so do I.” I was wondering how to get Ya Fely to do it for me behind Mom’s back when Ms. Salinas started blabbing about the ghost on the bus.

“You see, girls, most ghosts are very polite. At first I didn’t even notice he was a ghost, and then I realized the woman sitting next to him couldn’t see him, because she looked at me with this suplada face and said, ‘Miss, are you not going to sit down?’ Then the ghost shrugged, like, it’s okay with me. So I had to sit on its lap, while at the same time sitting on the bus seat, and that felt so . . . weird.”

Ms. Salinas was young and super skinny, which made up for her ducklike face. On the scale of teachers she was neither bad nor good. She liked to wear white pants, and a rumor had recently spread about how she liked to wear lime-green thongs and was therefore slutty. We amused ourselves during home ec. trying to look through her white pants every time she turned, crouched, or bent.

“Miss S!” Estella piped up. By then we had realized that if we kept her occupied, she might forget to give us our assignment. “When did you open your third eye?”

“I was born with mine open,” she said. “My dad had it, and so did my Lolo. Oh, but my Kuya had to open his. He just forced it open one day by meditating. It’s really easy as long as you know where yours is.” A snicker from somewhere in the back made her look at the clock. “Girls, don’t stop sewing.”

We obediently hopped to work. I stepped on my machine’s presser foot and stitched random lines through my table runner. Someone tugged on my elbow. “Help,” Hazel whispered. She gestured at her machine: the cloth was bunched up in the feed dog, the needle stabbing through it at random points. I reached over and jerked one end of the cloth until it came unstuck. It was now full of micro-holes. She made a face. I smirked.

“You trying to give your cloth a third eye?” I asked.

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was a student at St. Brebeuf’s, just like us. One day she stayed after school to finish a project. At that time the gardener was a creepy manong, and when he saw her staying in the classroom all by herself he raped her. Then, because he did not want anyone to know about his crime, he killed her and hid her body in the hollow of the biggest rubber tree in the Black Garden. Nobody found out what had happened to her until after the manong died, when finally a storm knocked over the rubber tree—that was years ago, it’s grown back now, duh—and the police found her bones.

If you look at the roots of the tree at night you might see Anamaria’s face, or some parts of her naked body. If you stand in the Black Garden and stay absolutely silent you will hear her crying and calling for help.

But you shouldn’t go near, because if you do she will have her revenge and she will kill you.

• • • •

It was fifth grade, a weird time when we were all changing. It seemed like every week someone was getting a bloodstain on her skirt, and sobbing in the bathroom from shame and hormones, while her barkada surrounded her vigilantly.

At the start of the semester we had a mandatory talk called You and Your Body! We were given little booklets with “chic” illustrations, diagrams of the female reproductive system, and free sanitary napkins. We spent a lot of our time vandalizing the chic illustrations. Lea found an ingenious way to turn a uterus into a ram by shading in the fallopian tubes, and we took turns drawing uterus-rams in each other’s notebooks.

I held a slight disgust for all of this girl stuff, though I couldn’t explain why. Maybe it was because I only had brothers, and some of their that-is-GROSS attitude rubbed off on me. My skin crawled whenever Mom or Ya Fely or the homeroom teacher made some reference like, “You are now a young lady. You are developing.”

Our barkada had decided that we would tell each other “when we got ours,” and that would be it, no hysterics or anything. I was more afraid that someone was going to get a boyfriend. Bea, the class rep, took every chance she could to tell people about her darling Paolo from San Beda. I was fine with Bea having a boy, and Bea was my friend too, but she wasn’t part of our group. If any of us got a boy, I knew the dynamic would change so much we’d be screwed.

It was around this time, after all, that people’s barkadas were getting shifted around, and that scared me more than I liked to admit. I loved my friends and wanted us to stay the same forever. There were four of us: me, Cella, Lea, and Hazel. Hazel and I were both in section C this year; Cella was in B, and Lea was in D. We had all ended up at the same assigned lunch table in first grade, and had continued eating lunch together since. We had our fights and silent periods and teary reconciliations, like everyone else, but otherwise we were one of the tightest groups around. These girls were the sisters I’d never had, and I thought we’d forgive each other anything.

So when Hazel told me she had opened her third eye, I laughed in her face and thought nothing of it.

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was a student at St. Brebeuf’s, just like all of us. One day she took a piss in the third-floor bathroom and the school bully locked her in, laughing, and called Anamaria a stupid slut. No one knows why she hated Anamaria so much. When the cleaning lady did her afternoon rounds she was surprised to find the door locked. Inside, on the second stall from the left, she found the corpse of Anamaria. Anamaria had drowned herself by sticking her head in the toilet.

That’s why you should never use the third-floor bathroom. If you use the second toilet from the left, Anamaria Marquez will come out of the toilet right before you flush, and ask why you bullied her, and then kill you.

If you use a different stall, she won’t kill you. She’ll just float on the ceiling and look down at you and ask you, Why?

• • • •

The annual school fair was coming up. Based on a random draw, the seventh graders were assigned the concert, and the sixth graders were going to work with the PTA for the bazaar, which would include goodies baked by the fourth graders. Our year level, the fifth grade, got the Haunted House. Bea announced this right before recess one Monday. The fair was pretty much the only time each year that boys were allowed on campus, which meant a lot of squealing. Section A was doing a freaky dollhouse inspired by Chucky; section B was recreating the well from the The Ring; my section, section C, was staging a haunted traditional Filipino home; and section D was enacting ritual sacrifice. There was a cash prize for the scariest section, so Bea insisted we do well.

While people were yelling at each other to sign up for time slots and committees, Hazel pulled me aside and said she didn’t really want to do this, now that she had opened her third eye. I laughed and continued to cram my science homework.

“What’s so funny?”

I looked at her, annoyed. “Um. You just told me you opened your third eye.”

“But I did.” Her eyebrows were furrowed, and her eyes were taking on that buggy, frantic look they did when she was priming for an argument. I considered this. Hazel was one of my best friends, but she was also an attention-seeker—she was the only one among us who had broken the rules and cried passionately when she “got hers,” describing her intense stomach pains as being “like giving birth.” I mean, it must have hurt a little, but she was fine by the next day. Lately I had been thinking that if anyone changed anything in our gang, it would be Hazel and her weird theatrics. It was probably the lack of a real drama club in our school.

I stopped writing. “Why would you do that?”

“Because,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to see.”

I remembered our failed ghost-hunt during Stargazing Night in third grade, when we were both part of the Nature Club. We had squealed and scurried through the halls, waving our flashlights, and nothing had come out: no spirit balls, not even a little wheeze from the famed Anamaria Marquez. Then again, we didn’t make it to the third floor, because as we were creeping up the stairs a security guard spotted us and told us that area was closed.

“And?” I asked, feeling the precious recess minutes drain away. “Have you seen anything?”

She shook her head. “But I’ve—I’ve started hearing things! Whispering, weird noises, sometimes singing.” I couldn’t tell if this delighted her, or freaked her out. I was not a ghost person. If you had my Mom, who routinely doused the house in Holy Water, and never stepped into her parents’ home without begging her dad—rest in peace, Lolo!—not to come out and spook her, you probably wouldn’t be either. I preferred my dad’s stance: laughing and shaking his head because Mom was a probinsyana through and through. Besides, I always had my scapular to protect me from evil. It was a gift from my ninang at baptism: a brown cloth string that linked two images of Our Lady, which I wore around my neck. Mom insisted I never take it off, just in case I died suddenly, because it guaranteed entrance to heaven.

“Sure. Any confessions from the kapres yet?”

Hazel gripped my shoulder. “You really don’t believe me?”

“I’ll believe ’em when I see ’em,” and I tried to say this comically, fakely, so that she would understand that I wasn’t trying to be mean.

But I guess I used the wrong tone of voice, because she said, “Fine. Be that way,” and stalked off.

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was a senior in high school when she committed suicide by hanging herself on the higad tree next to the parking lot. Her boyfriend had dumped her for one of the Popular Girls, and she was so distraught that she decided to teach him a lesson. She only meant to scare him and his new girl, or so her barkada said afterward. She was supposed to freak them out by pretending to hang herself, except it all went wrong; her foot slipped on the branch she was stepping on, or something. I’m not making this up. This really happened. It was all over the news and stuff. Of course the boyfriend freaked out, and broke up with the new girl and then had psychological issues all his life. And the tree, which was once a pretty tree, is now full of fat, hairy higads, crawling around or dangling in the breeze, and if they fall on you, you will get a really bad rash.

So that’s the part everyone in Manila knows; now here’s the part only the girls of St. Brebeuf know: if you walk beneath the higad tree after the school has closed down, sometimes you will see her shadow on the concrete, the shadow of a hanging girl. Don’t look up. If you look up you might see her, and she might talk to you. No one knows what she says. No one who has heard her talk has survived.

• • • •

Hazel got all distant after that conversation. We were still talking, but there was all this weirdness underneath the surface. I felt that she was overreacting. Everyone else said it was hormones. She would pick at her food during lunch and not say much, even when Cella would do her hilarious commercial parodies. Everyone assumed Hazel was slimming down for the boys at the fair. I thought about apologizing a few times, but then I would think, Well, I didn’t do anything wrong! Besides, we were all so busy preparing for the fair (which happened right before the semester break) that every time the guilt crept up something would distract me. I was on the Props Committee, and spent my days badgering people to bring their Lola’s folding screens and old sheets and tablecloths—the grosser the better.

The Haunted House was going to be in the Old Recreation Building, which we lovingly called the ORB. It was a small square structure right next to the Black Garden, barely used after the fancy new gym was erected. Our batch could make use of the whole ground floor.

That last week was crazy. We had our usual schedule until Wednesday, and morning classes on Thursday. The fair started at five p.m. on Friday and ended with a concert on Saturday evening. We hated our school and our teachers were sadists and periodically Bea burst into tears, because our Haunted House was obviously going to suck. When it got too stressful people would launch spitball fights, wadding up newspaper and shooting it from the straws someone had added to our materials pile.

The school finally let us start decorating the ORB on Monday. I sat with the rest of the Props people and spraypainted crumpled balls of newspaper to look like bloody things. We draped the windows with mottled sheets and marked off our section of the floor with some plastic cafeteria tables that we covered with yellowing tablecloths. A troop of girls retrieved the random wireframe bed that lay in the corner of the home ec. room. The idea was that we would have a creepy, bloody Lola lying on the bed, looking for her lost grandchildren, shouting “Anak! Anak!” at passersby. We had also envisioned a grandfather clock. That was probably not going to happen. To make up for it, Bea decided that the tiniest girls in class needed to dress up in nightgowns and crawl out from underneath the plastic tables.

Hazel was still one of the smallest girls in class, although she had been the first in our group to start wearing a bra. I happened to pass by just as Reena from the Costumes committee was asking her whether she had a plain white nightgown. “I have some old shirts,” she said.

“That would work! We’ll just paint them. Hey Hazel,” Reena said. “You look, like, kinda anorexic. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“Growth spurt, maybe?” Reena pressed. Reena wanted to be a doctor when she grew up.

“I’ve been waking up in my sleep a lot. It’s too noisy,” Hazel said. She shrugged, and turned, probably to stop Reena’s pestering. I didn’t have a chance to keep walking. I smiled at her. She quirked her lips, but I couldn’t tell if she was smiling back. She looked tired. There was something unfamiliar about her face, but it was probably the way the old sheets were blocking the sunlight from the windows. We had to pile them on thick so that it would actually be dark and scary inside our Haunted House.

To make conversation, I said, “Did you fill in your time slots?”

“Yes,” she said. “Friday evening.”

Then she floated away, as if something else had caught her attention. Reena shook her head and muttered, “Cramps.”

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was the principal’s daughter, and felt she needed to be perfect. You know that girl. There’s one in every class. But no matter how perfect she was, the principal was always too busy for her. One day she didn’t show up for homeroom. They found her body in the well of the Black Garden, all swollen, her mouth full of seaweed. Some people said her legs had dissolved and became seaweed, too. That is why the well in the Black Garden is full of seaweed, and the water is brown, and every frog that drinks from it dies.

Some girls might tell you to throw a coin in the well of the Black Garden and make a wish. Don’t. You will be cursed. Anamaria Marquez will crawl out and eat you, and bad things will happen to your family. But if you say “Mama Mary” three times before she reaches you, she will dissolve into seaweed again.

I don’t think you should try. She crawls really, really fast.

• • • •

Thursday was tense and awful and most of us stayed in school until past ten, decorating the ORB and taking naps on each other’s laps. Cella wandered over from 5B’s display to see how our section was faring. Her face was caked with white makeup, except for the blue rings under her eyes. I burst out laughing when she approached. When B said they were doing The Ring, they weren’t kidding.

“They made you Sadako?”

“It’s the hair, the hair!” she moaned, gathering the massive amount in a fist. “Did I have any choice?”

“Why the blue eyebags?”

“They couldn’t find any black face paint,” she said mournfully. “I think it will work if my hair is all over the place?” She combed it over her face and waved her arms around.

“Yeah, that works,” I said. Cella was the tallest of us four. Looming over me with only one eye visible and all that face paint, she actually did look like a dead girl who had crawled out of a well. I hoped our Lolas would be able to hold their own.

“Where’s Hazel?” she asked.

I found myself preoccupied with the stockings-and-old-shirts-guts I was holding. “Uhhh, not sure.”

“Hey, Mica,” she said, pulling her hair back. “Are you two okay? It’s been kinda weird at lunch these days. Did something happen?”

I shrugged. “I’m fine with her. I don’t know if she’s fine with me. We had . . . a debate, a few weeks ago.” I didn’t mention the third eye. It floated into my brain, but something stopped it from leaving my mouth.

Cella patted my head. “Well, Hazel’s been kinda moody since she started her period. You can tell me and Lea if you want us to, you know, intervene or whatever.”

“Eh, we’ll be fine,” I said.

“Hey look, there’s Hazel,” Cella said. “Let’s go talk to her.”

I wanted to refuse, but Cella grabbed my arm and started tugging me. Hazel was sitting alone in a corner, with her head bent, as if she was reading something in her lap. We had only taken a few steps when someone from section B called out, “Come back, Sadako! You need to practice your groan!”

“Shoot,” Cella muttered. “Okay, you go on your own. Just say you want things to go back to normal!” She ducked back through the makeshift curtain that separated her class’s display from ours.

I steeled myself and decided that I could always ask her if she needed any props, in case things got weird. As I neared, I realized Hazel was talking to herself.

“I know, that one is kind of ridiculous. I think some high schoolers made that up so that they could go there to make out.”

She must have heard me approaching, because her shoulders tensed. She stood and whirled around. “Hi, Mica,” she said, oddly breathless. Her face was caked with dead-girl makeup, like Cella. Our section’s makeup artists were obviously better than B’s, because her face actually looked convincingly withered. There was a ribbon in her hair, and someone had artfully arranged her bangs to obscure half her face. They had also inked a trail of blood from her lip to her chin, and smeared it expertly. If she weren’t still wearing her uniform, I would have clapped my hands in glee. If everyone looked as freaky as Hazel, that cash prize would be ours.

“Are you practicing your script?” I asked. “It sounded kind of long.”

Hazel’s eyes flickered sideways. The fluorescent lights in the ORB were old, and some of them were burnt out, so certain spots were cast in shadow. The place where Hazel was standing was bright enough. I suddenly did not want to look at the shadowy space next to her.

“Um, just thinking aloud,” she said. As if she could not help herself, she added in a low mutter, “Yeah, I know, okay? Stop it already.”

“Excuse me?” I said. My palms felt clammy. I clutched my old-clothes-guts and tried to look Hazel in the eye, but she kept looking at the space next to her. It annoyed me, that she was trying so hard to freak me out by acting this way. But this had been going on for too long. It looked like I had to be the mature one.

“Hey, Hazel,” I said. I sucked in a breath. “I’m sorry I laughed about your . . . third eye thing. I was tired that day, okay? I’m sorry.”

Her eyes snapped back to me. They were suddenly cool, calculating. “But you still don’t believe me.”

I sighed, trying not to be angry. Why was she so intent on putting the blame on me? Hazel could never admit to being wrong, and that side of her was coming out more and more often. I didn’t like it and it bugged me in a way that it didn’t bug Cella or Lea. “Look, we can each believe what we want to believe, okay? I don’t believe in ghosts. That’s all.”

“I told you so,” she answered, but she didn’t seem to be addressing me. Something icy ran down my back. Then she focused on me again, suddenly looking fatigued. She actually swayed. I thought she might collapse. I reached out to steady her, but she stepped away from me, like I was dirty.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she said. Her eyes were wide, as if she was trying to convince me of something. “It’s okay, Mica,” she said, giving me a tiny grin. “Don’t worry about it. We’re fine.”

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was a student at St. Brebeuf’s, just like us. She had the usual black hair and brownish eyes and pearl earrings. Her portrait is hanging on the second floor corridor—the one with the Music Room and the President’s Office and the Dance Hall—next to the paintings of St. Brebeuf and Blessed Antonia Mesina and the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. None of the teachers or admin know why her painting is there. The truth is that they trapped her spirit in that painting, so she’ll only haunt you if you walk down that corridor. You’ll notice that her eyes are always following you. You’ll notice her uniform, which is the same as our uniform, and you’ll notice that her smile is a little sad.

Anamaria Marquez is the reason why the third and fourth floors have those extra railings. Anamaria Marquez jumped from the third floor after a dare.

Actually, I don’t believe that story. I believe the one that says she was pushed. Because Anamaria Marquez was such a sweet, sweet girl, and maybe her sweetness was too much for someone.

Have you heard about the mysterious puddles of water in that corridor? It’s from the painting. If you visit it at three a.m. you will see that her face is broken, and tears are streaming out of her eyes.

• • • •

The next day was Friday. Fair Day. There was a lot of last minute blood splattering to be done. I ran into Lea on my way to the bathroom to wash my hands for the hundredth time, and she breathlessly handed me a sandwich. “Here. Extra. She told me you were gonna forget lunch,” she said.

“Who?”

“Hazel,” she panted. “Gotta run!” Lea was vice president of her class and looked extremely harassed.

So Hazel and I really were okay. Great. I hadn’t slept so well the night before. At one point in my dream, Cella, in her Sadako attire, had crawled out of a papier mâché well and begged me to open my eyes. I had woken up in the middle of the night with a bad taste in my mouth, and nearly jumped when Mom blearily stuck her head in my room and asked me what was wrong. “You have Holy Water on your bedside table, Mica, remember,” she said. Then she reminded me not to forget my prayers, and I had to convince her I hadn’t. I was already so sleep-deprived that week I could barely think. So it was a relief that Hazel wasn’t still mad at me.

The gates opened to outsiders at 3:30 p.m., though they couldn’t enter any attractions until 5:00. There was a massive scrambling behind the scenes when it hit 4:00, but somehow, by 4:55, we were all in place and ready to go.

As usual, the Haunted House was one of the biggest attractions. Girls from other year levels and their boylets started streaming through, as did the occasional cluster of teachers. With all the props in place, and the overhead lights turned off completely, we actually seemed to be doing pretty well. Our first Lola, played by Bea, got especially loud screeches from the groups shuffling through. “Anak! Anak!” she howled, rolling her eyes as far back as they would go. “Nasaan ang aking mga Anak?!

Lola! Lola!” went the two “Little Girls” on duty. Abbie and Erica were roughly the same height, and someone had outfitted them in matching white smocks. They crawled out from under the table and lolled their heads, reaching out with grasping fingers. “Lolaaaa!

I was responsible for guiding people out of our display and into Section D’s. I was wearing an old dress—someone from Costumes had cut out the waist part and sewn fake intestines onto it. I bobbed my head and went “Salamat, salamat,” before directing visitors around the folding screens, which blocked section D’s altar from view. They had a pretty good chance of winning, because of the holy statues they had amassed. I don’t know how they did it. If I so much as asked for one of the baby Jesus figurines from our home altar, Mom would throw a fit.

There was a short break at 7:00 so that we could rest and switchover for the next shift. The fair closed at 9:30. I checked the list and saw that the next Little Girls were Hazel and Yanni. Bea was looking over my shoulder. The next Lola, Sammy, was yawning behind her. “Have you seen Hazel?” Bea asked. “We only have twenty minutes. Shouldn’t she be with Costumes by now?”

“I’ll go find her,” I said. I wanted to thank her for the sandwich, anyway. I entered the ORB Bathroom, which Costumes had invaded. It was a mess, with piles of clothes and girls in different stages of undress. I waded through, asking people if they had seen Hazel. One or two girls thought they had seen her wandering around outside the building. It looked like she was looking for someone, they said. “If she comes in here, tell her she needs to get into position,” I said.

I darted out of the ORB to find the fair in full swing. It was already dark. The deep purple sky was starless. Bugs swarmed over the big stadium lights they had erected around campus. The scent of kettle corn hung in the air. A gaggle of seventh-graders laughed exaggeratedly as a group of boys with overly-gelled hair passed them. To my left was a row of parlor game booths, courtesy of the high school students. To my right was the Black Garden, barricaded by the old metal gate. I gave it a cursory glance, already set on grabbing some kettle corn, but that thought vanished as I spotted Hazel: already in costume, standing beneath the biggest rubber tree.

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was a student at St. Brebeuf’s, just like you and me. When she was in fifth grade, she died from a mysterious illness. She really loved to study, poor Anamaria; she dreamed of becoming a great scholar one day, perhaps becoming the principal of our school. It never happened, but her love for the classroom was so strong that she never left. Sometimes you will see a bright light winking against the classroom window, and if you stick your head out the window, you will see a girl huddled beneath it. Her skin will be rotting. She will look up at you and ask if you’ve done your homework. If you’re a good student, she will spare you.

If you’re a bad student, she will ask you why, why, and she will latch onto your shoulders and you must carry her until you die. No one will see her except for you, and the only way to get rid of her is to visit the Monastery of the Poor Clares and offer them a dozen eggs every day for twelve days. And don’t even think about lying. If you lie she will leap into your mouth and possess you, and make you claw off your own face.

• • • •

I pushed through the gate and walked in. I found that my hand had flown to the scapular around my neck. I realized how ridiculous I was acting, and jerked my hand away, but I stopped walking forward. I called out to Hazel from where I stood.

“Hazel? Your shift’s about to start! Are you done with your makeup?”

Hazel turned, slowly, to face me. I saw that she was standing right in front of the rubber tree’s hollow. I couldn’t tell if she already had makeup, or not. She was pale, but not in the cakey way, and the rings under her eyes seemed real. Her mouth moved. I could not hear what she was saying.

“Hazel, come on,” I said. I heard a loud roaring in my ears, and realized it was my heart. My voice came out pleading. “Hazel?”

“Mica,” she wheezed, with great effort. “Mica, I’m sorry.”

“What? Hazel?” I couldn’t help it; I moved forward, staggering toward her, my fake guts swinging as I tried to avoid the roots of the rubber trees. “Hazel, what’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, starting to cry.

“What?” My skin was prickling. “Let’s get out of here, Hazel.” I didn’t look at the tree and its drooping branches; I didn’t look at the roots. I didn’t look at the well to the left of the tree; everyone knew it was drained, anyway. “Let’s go. Come on.” I paused right before a tangle of roots that snaked between us and reached out my hand to her.

She shook her head. “Not until you say you believe,” she whispered. Then I saw—the impression of fingers on her neck, as if someone was gripping her throat. “I opened it because I was curious,” Hazel wept, struggling to get the words out. “And I still can’t see. But then she found me, and she keeps talking to me. She wants you to say,” her breath hitched. The finger-shaped dents on her neck deepened. “Say,” she choked.

Something dark bubbled up from the pit of my belly. Something dark stirred the trees. The rustling sounded like the chatter of young girls, our friends, our own voices. We were alone in an abandoned school, and it was pitch black—midnight? Three a.m.? I could not turn my head to look back at the gate or the lights of the fair.

“I believe,” I whispered, gripping my scapular, gazing at Hazel, whose eyes were bulging. “I believe,” I said, louder and louder, “I believe! I believe! I was wrong!”

Hazel’s eyes rolled back. Her feet slowly lifted off the ground.

“It’s my fault!” I screamed. “Now give Hazel back to me!”

Hazel wheezed and gasped, as if she could finally breathe again, and she dropped down, stumbled forward—I let go of my scapular and reached out my hand to her, shaking uncontrollably.

Cold fingers grasped the wrist of my free hand, and cold lips brushed my cheek, and a cold voice whispered sadly in my ear, “I know.”

• • • •

Anamaria Marquez was a student at St. Brebeuf’s, just like you and me.

She is standing in the middle of our circle right now. You can’t see her, but I can. She is happy we are talking about her, even if some of our stories are stupid; even if some of them have got it all wrong. At least we know her name. At least sometimes we think of her.

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Isabel Yap

Isabel YapIsabel Yap was born in Manila and raised in Quezon City. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared most recently in The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010, Frostwriting, Santa Clara Review, and Lauriat: An Anthology of Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction. She won the 2013 Academy of American Poets Prize from Santa Clara University, where she graduated with a degree in Marketing. She is also a graduate of the 2013 Clarion Writers’ Workshop in San Diego.

Isa is fond of sweets, fairytales, ugly dogs, Asian culture, and jabbering with friends. She currently lives in Menlo Park, California, where she works for a start-up that develops mobile apps. When she is not attempting to write, she can probably be found reading manga, drinking tea, or listening to videogame music on YouTube (sometimes all at once).