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The Kapre by The A.C.
A mysterious pair of eyes keep watch over Bontok Village; their obsession finally reaching the limit.
The glow of the sun starts to dim in the sky as four young girls play in the park on the edge of Bontok Village.
Mary, the oldest of the group, waves a large purple ball around. “Hazel, go over there; I’ll pass you the ball!”
Hazel, Mary’s hardly younger best friend, runs and catches the ball. “Irish, I’ll pass to you!”
Irish is Hazel’s twin sister, and even though they look nothing alike, it is obvious they are sister from the fact they are never apart from each other.
“Irish, pass to me!” Maria, who is Mary’s younger sister by a few years, hops up and down while waving her arms to get Irish’s attention.
Irish purposely launches the ball over Maria’s head, sending it into the woods at the end of the park. “You have to go get the ball,” she teases Maria.
Maria chases after the ball without protest, obviously used to this kind of treatment from the older girls, but hesitates before entering the woods. The ball did not roll in far, however, after only a couple steps in a stale scent irritates her nose. In that moment a reddish-orange glowing dot catches her eye.
“Heh heh heh heh…,” a low rumble chuckles from behind the glowing dot.
“Hello, is anyone there?” Maria mutters out of confusion.
Something large and hairy hops down from a balete tree. It has a human shape, but the large size and its continuous low growl are far from human. With a closer look the dot turns out to be the end of a lit cigar.
Maria does not know what to think of this, “what are you?”
“I am Kapre!”
“Aaaaaaaa!” Its roaring response causes Maria to scream out of reflex. She quickly snatches up the ball and sprints out of the woods to the others girls without looking back. “I saw a big monster in a tree in the woods!” She yells, causing the other three girls to turn in spot to face her.
“Liar!” Hazel immediately responds.
“You’re crazy!” Even her older sister does not believe her.
“Hurry up; pass the ball!” Irish completely dismisses it.
The three older girls pass the ball around a few more times as Maria just sits on the side watching. She does not understand why they do not believe her. As soon as the sun disappears Hazel and Irish say their farewells to Mary and Maria, and they all go to their respective homes.
“Nanang!” Maria runs into the kitchen yelling for her mother, Jonah, while Mary calmly follows along.
“Maria, what do you want? I’m cooking!” Jonah turns towards her daughters with a pot and spoon in hand. The cute frilly apron she is wearing makes her appear too young to be a mother of two children.
“I saw a monster in a tree!” Maria yells from excitement.
“What did you see?” Jonah is curious about what her youngest daughter has imagined up now.
“Well,” Maria takes a moment to put together an image of what she saw, “it’s big and hairy, and it was smoking tobacco.”
Jonah now addresses her oldest, “Mary, did you see it, too?”
“No, she went there by herself,” Mary is not sure if their mother actually believes her sister.
Jonah angrily asks, “why did you leave your younger sister by herself?”
“I don’t know,” Mary scoffs.
“Do you know what she saw?” Jonah’s question is calm again.
“No,” this conversation is growing boring to Mary.
“She saw the Kapre,” Jonah kind of wants to tease her daughters a bit.
“What’s that?” the sisters ask together.
“That’s the monster who lives in the tree. He plays tricks on kids and kidnaps women. The next time you go there, wear your clothes inside out so he doesn’t trick you.” Jonah feels she has messed around with her daughters enough. “Go eat and then go to sleep.”
The two sisters eat in silence for a few minutes until Mary finally breaks it, “I don’t believe that, just so you know.”
Maria does not know what it will take to convince her, “but I saw him.”
“He’s not real,” Mary insists while taking Maria’s and hers dishes to the sink. “Let’s go to sleep.” The sisters fall asleep in the bedroom they share without saying another word.
A trail of smoke wafts around Mary’s and Maria’s bedroom and leads back to a faint reddish-orange glow of a cigar. The glow circles around the sisters a few times before stopping to tower over the sleeping older sister. A large hairy hand waves the cigar inches above her face, “You are so pretty. Come with me.”
Without waking up, Mary slowly rises and follows the large hairy figure out of her house, out of Bontok Village, and into the dark woods.
The sun peeks through Maria’s bedroom window as she stretches awake. “Good morning, Mary,” she yawns. However, after a glance at Mary’s bed she realizes no one is there to hear her. “Uh, where are you at Mary? I always wake up before you.” She runs a lap through the house hurryingly shouting, “Mary, Mary, Mary!”
“Mary!” Hazel’s voice floats in from outside, “come outside!”
“Yeah, let’s go to the park and play ball!” Irish’s voice also adds.
Maria sprints out the front door, “Mary isn’t with you?”
“What are you talking about? Of course she’s not,” Irish blurts out like it should be obvious.
“I woke up, and she was gone. What if the Kapre took her?” Maria panics.
“What is a Kapre?” Hazel asks with real curiosity.
“The monster I saw yesterday!” Maria’s worry is really coming out.
“You’re just imagining things,” Irish does not want to believe her.
“What if he’s real?” This starts to persuade Hazel.
“Let’s go back to the park to see the Kapre,” impatience overtakes Maria, causing her to run off.
“Let’s go, we need to find her sister,” Irish instructs Hazel with an annoyed tone.
They follow Maria to the empty park, but stop once they reach the edge of the woods.
“Woah, we are not going in there with you,” Irish firmly states.
“This is where I last saw the Kapre, though. We need to go this way,” Maria suddenly starts sniffing the air, “do you smell that?”
“Yeah,” Hazel is sniffing around also, “it smells like burning tobacco.”
“It is the same smell from yesterday when I saw the Kapre,” Maria claims.
“I believe her,” Hazel walks up to Maria, “I’m going to help her find Mary.”
“Well, I am not going. You are just making all this up,” stubbornness will not allow Irish to admit Maria could be right.
“If you are too scared, then Hazel and I can find Mary without you,” Maria knows provoking Irish like this will definitely get her to come with them.
“Fine!” Irish snaps, “I’m not scared, but I’ll hurry and find Mary so you will be done with all this nonsense.”
As the three girls navigate the woods, the sunlight trying to pry through the treetops becomes scarce, and prompts their nerves to the edge. Before long their surroundings become too familiar as the feeling of being lost grows.
“You are completely lost,” Irish blurts out in frustration after wondering the woods for what she feels like is hours.
“I can still smell the smoke, so we must be going the correct way,” Maria insists without confidence.
“Everything is looking the same,” Hazel agrees with her twin. “We are getting all turned-around somehow.”
“Oh, you are both right!” The realization of what is happening befalls Maria.
“Yeah, I know…,” Irish begins to boast.
Maria interrupts, though, to share her thoughts, “the Kapre must know we are coming and is playing tricks on us. Last night Nanang told me in order to stop the tricks we need to turn our clothes inside-out.”
“What?” The twins exclaim together.
Maria already begins removing her clothes, “Nanang said it will work, so I’m doing it.”
“I am not doing something stupid like that!” Irish’s refusal is obviously due to embarrassment, “especially not out here in the middle of the woods.”
“Relax Irish. It is just us girls here,” Hazel does not hesitate to follow Maria’s example, “besides we need to try something to stop being lost.
“Hmph, fine,” Irish gives in without another rebuttal. In a few minutes the three girls are wearing all their clothes inside out.
“I know this will work,” Maria has a renewed sense of determination, “now let’s finish finding Mary.” She leads them onward full of confidence.
A beam of sunlight shoots through the treetops to blind Mary as she wakes up in confusion, “where am I?”
There is no immediate answer, just the sound of rustling leaves. Besides the spot Mary is sitting, the rest of the woods are dimly lit. She searches for the sound as it loudens, but the source is hidden in the darkest spot of the woods.
Finally what looks like an extremely hairy ape twice her height walks into the light. “This is my mango tree. You like mangos?” It reaches out one hand holding a mango while the other hand holds a cigar by its mouth.
“What? No!” Mary still cautiously takes the mango from reflex since the lack of any hostility is confusing. “Why am I here? Who are you?”
The creature takes a puff from the cigar. “I am the Kapre. I like you. I want you to be mine.” The Kapre moves close to her, “what is your name?”
“My name is Mary,” she replies hesitantly. She cannot believe this is really the monster her younger sister saw yesterday. For a second she becomes lost in thought and panic and barely notices the Kapre coming closer for a hug.
“Maria, there is your sister!” Irish’s voice cuts through the silence of the woods.
This snaps Mary back to her senses, “Help, I’m over here!” She jumps up and down while still in between the Kapre’s arms.
Maria, Irish, and Hazel come out from the same dark area the Kapre appeared from. “What’s that butt ugly thing over there?” Hazel is pointing in the Kapre’s direction.
“I told you that’s the Kapre!” Maria runs around to behind her older sister.
“Let her go!” Irish joins Maria with Hazel right behind.
The Kapre pulls Mary in for a tight hug when she tries running to the three other girls. “No, I want her!”
“You’re not human. I’ll never love an ugly creature like you!” Mary struggles to break free, “I don’t want to live in a tree!”
The Kapre relaxes its hold and steps back. “But, there’s mangos,” it stampers desperately while gesturing to the mangos dangling above them.
“I don’t like mangos,” apparently just now remembering she is holding a mango, lobs it at the Kapre.
There is a loud thud when the mango hits the Kapre’s chest before it ricochets to the ground. To all the girls’ surprise, the Kapre does not react aggressively. It simply picks up the mango and then slowly scurries away silently. The way the Kapre leaves seems like it may actually be feeling heart-broken.
“Why are all of your clothes like that?” Mary’s question instantly lightens all of their moods.
“Remember, this is what Nanang told us to do in order to stop the Kapre’s tricks. You should do it, too, so we can get out of these woods,” Maria informs her sister while starting to tug on Mary’s clothes.
Mary looks over at Hazel and Irish to see them nodding in agreement. She pulls out from Maria’s grasp, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be alright now. Let’s just go home.” Mary takes the lead and heads in the opposite direction of the Kapre. She pauses a second for a quick glance back, unable to stop thinking about the confusing docile nature of the Kapre, before continuing further.
The sun is just beginning to set when the girls get back to Mary and Maria’s house. Jonah is already waiting outside, “where did you girls go? Why are your clothes like that?”
“We saved Mary from the Kapre,” Irish speaks up first.
Jonah is not sure what kind of game they had played all day, but decides to go along with it since it seems to have come from what she told her daughters last night. “How are you girls doing?”
“We are good,” all four girls tiredly say together.
“How are you, Mary?” Jonah now directs the question more specifically to her oldest daughter.
“I’m good,” she replies while wondering if her mother can tell something is stuck on her mind.
“Did you get hurt?” Jonah is getting a feeling something is bothering her.
“No,” she simply answers.
Jonah is not finding her short replies convincing, but decides pressing the issue right now is not going to help. “Hazel and Irish, you girls go home.”
The twin girls wave their goodbyes and head back to their own home.
Jonah goes inside, but before her daughters follow, Mary stops Maria. “Maria, I’m sorry for not believing you. Thank you for saving me!”
Maria giggles at her sister’s sincerity, “I told you so!” They embrace each other for a comforting hug then go inside for the evening after a momentous day.
A reddish-orange glow hovers at the edge of the woods as a pair of envious eyes watch over Bontok Village.