Uncle Jeff's Bedroom

Uncle Jeff’s bedroom was orderly. All blankets, pillows, bed sheets, curtains, and dresses, were put in the right place. Uncle Jeff was orderly too; he rose from bed, took a pee, brushed his teeth and gargled for three minutes to eliminate mouth rancidity, had a shower, dressed up with a pressed business suit, walked down stairs to sip a cup of black coffee prepared by Vivian, cat-walked across the passageway between Bermuda grasses, got outside the gate, and left the house for his office job, feeling prepared.
Uncle Jeff had been sleeping like a dog every night in his present bedroom since last month. The proximity of the house to his office was the basis that exhorted him to lease the place. He had paid the owner ten thousand pesos rental fee which was convenient for two months. Vivian, the owner who was ambivalent if he would stay longer than two months, had taken the money thinking that it was quite a lucrative opportunity; that one of her vacant-over-a-decade bedrooms was going to be utilized by a man as tidy as Uncle Jeff.
Vivian was bereaved of a spouse. Her husband, a half-Chinese drunkard, had died in the nineties because of an incurable cancer of the liver. She lived, with her two teenagers Omar and Ophella, in the only riches her husband had left; the two-storey house with small sari-sari store which was crowded with sundries products, from sachet types to wholesale types. Being a sole provider, she was able to send her teenagers to college yet still regarded their condition as scarce as her customers, who bought items for credit and who paid her every payday.
The house had five bedrooms, two of which were on the first level and three on the upper floor. The former were occupied by Vivian and her teenagers, who were seldom seen since they always hanged out with their friends. The rooms in the upper floor adjoined the right corner of the house to its left. They were locked and desolate until Uncle Jeff had learned that Vivian was confining whoever wants to pay a considerable amount for one of these uninhabited rooms. At least it would pay her bills. The middle bedroom’s door led out to a not-so-wide dining room, and this room was Uncle Jeff’s preference. The other two rooms that sandwiched his choice were still deprived of a chance to be sojourned even a single day and night. And there was a mere question whether one would like to rent and inhabit it upon learning this ghastly story I’m about to tell.
“Belle, do you want to stay in my room Friday night?” Uncle Jeff asked his niece Anabelle.
“Why Uncle Jeff? You would not be around?” she answered with questions. Belle knew his way of prefacing an urgent solution for his mindless problem. She knew what he meant by his implicit question.
“Yes. My colleagues invited me to a party. I want someone to take good care of my belongings. As usual, it’s you or your cousin Felvin. You know, it’s really difficult to trust anybody nowadays. Don’t worry I’ll give you my one day salary.” He winked trying to convey an idea that he would not tell her cousin if she assented. Belle looked up and pondered for a moment. Friday night is the only time she could meet her boyfriend and tease and talk to him all night long as he pillows her thighs under his head and rolls around the lawn, kissing and hugging. But Uncle Jeff’s a day salary was thousand pesos or more; an amount of money which was difficult to come across within a week or two in a country seized by crises.
“Okay. Uncle Jeff, I’m decided. I’ll be there Friday afternoon. But how can I get inside?”
“Just drop by the office after school. Don’t worry I’ll call your mother. I know she’ll let you. She’s more business-minded than me,” he chuckled. As soon as he turned around to leave her she arrested him with an interrogation.
“Uncle Jeff, what time you’ll be around?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe in the morning. Why?”
“Will you make it earlier?” she pleaded confidently.
“I can’t promise you, Belle,” He tilted his head down for a moment and glanced at her. “Okay. Here’s a deal so that you won’t worry for your not-so-much strenuous picketing task. If I got home later than nine in the morning, I’ll give you an extra bonus. What about that?”
“Okay, Uncle Jeff.”
Three days of waiting afforded Belle time to daydream about the money. She considered buying a pretty yet expensive dress that would fashioned her into a more attractive and enticing grown-up in her boyfriend’s brown eyes. She imagined hanging out with her socialite friends in malls and satisfing their craving over costly dishes in fine dining restaurants. She fancied watching a new Hollywood romantic film in a movie theatre with her boyfriend clutching her innocent body. But sometimes, maybe gene imposition, she had an idea of saving it for the intention of exigency like the circumstance that would happen to her in that Friday night.
Belle showed up in front of Vivian’s house with haversack slung around her slender shoulder. Upon peeking through the steel-barred gate and anticipating the door was closed and at the same time wanting to show a sense of respect, she trod around the cemented protective walls reaching the small sari-sari store where a middle-aged woman was girding for buyers and, or debtors. Heading on her way, she climbed up two steps arriving in front of a square-meter wide screened window of the store.
“Good evening, Ms. Vivian!” Belle greeted Vivian, leaning towards the screen for visibility.
“Good evening. What do you want?” she immediately asked her. Her unfamiliarity made Vivian think she was a buyer or a debtor.
“I’m Uncle Jeff’s niece. I’m here to stay until tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, you’re Anabelle?” Belle nodded, “Okay, Just a minute.” Vivian turned back and walked aside the heap of few sacks of rice and sugar then shouted at Belle, “You just head for the entrance gate, the other side of the house. I’ll meet you there.” Belle followed her imperative tone.
Vivian led Belle upstairs. It was dim in the upper level of the house because no window was open wide around the small dining room, which guided through Uncle Jeff’s bedroom. Vivian reached for the partially opened window facing the gate and opened it broadly. The late afternoon’s sunlight gained entry. She aimed for the light switch beside Uncle Jeff’s bedroom’s door and turned on the chandelier, which was suspended over the ceiling, perhaps to add to the limited light.
The scanty dining area had six varnished bamboo chairs surrounding an antique mahogany round table. Over the table was an old-fashioned flower vase. In it were fresh chrysanthemums married with glowing zinnia flowers. The floor was made up of venerable plywood which could be more than half a century old. Treading onto it in a silent night would grab anyone’s attention but not those outside the house. On the walls which were made also from old types of plywood, which was already obsolete since the government had prohibited logging of any kinds were framed pictures which were probably taken during the 60’s. The one that caught Belle’s vision was the painting of a woman and man together. It faced Uncle Jeff’s bedroom. She glanced at it for a moment.
“Oh, that’s my in-laws,” Vivian interrupted her. She steered her to the door. “Come. This is Jeff’s room. You’ve got the key? Just feel at home. It’s already paid.” Belle turned back and walked towards her while digging the key in her backpack. “Anything you need, call me downstairs. Okay?” Vivian said hospitably.
“Thanks, Ms. Vivian.” Belle turned away, inserted the key into the doorknob, pushed the door, and got in. Vivian veered off the doorway and climbed downstairs until her footsteps faded out.
Belle was used to seeing stuff in order each time she was temporarily hired to guard Uncle Jeff’s bedroom. She just disregarded and unappreciated the kempt and out-of-accentuation bed sheets, the hair-free heaped up pillows on the bed, the ribbon-tied curtain upon the window, the dust-free table and floor, and the hanged ironed suit and folded t-shirts and trousers in the wardrobe.
Before she sat on the bed, she reached for the remote control and clicked on the TV in the varnish-shined divider across the bed. She switched channels and held her thumb as she spotted a teenage show. She couched on the bed, two pillows under her head, so that her sight pointed the wall clock over the TV. It was almost six in the evening. She moved her head towards the windowpane and saw twilight was engulfing outside.
In a couple of minutes, Belle heard a knocking of the door yet denied it thinking that it was in the other bedroom. She did not know that the two bedrooms bracketing Uncle Jeff’s were unoccupied… for more than a decade. Vivian never told her neither Uncle Jeff. Another knocking interfered her being entertained; this time it was even louder. She rolled right to stand up by the bed and darted near the door and opened it. No one was there. She forwarded her head and turned either sides and saw no one. As she moved backward, the painting straight ahead of her seized her senses.
The painting projected a couple. The man wore barong, an embroidered Filipino upper garment made from abaca fibers. The woman was dressed up with a traditional Maria Clara dress with a white lace cap on her head running down behind. She held a bouquet rested to her abdomen. The backdrop was just plain light blue and dirty white paint. The couple were in their early thirties when it was artfully illustrated. It was framed with a clear glass to pragmatically protect it from weather and time, since these two are the agents of deterioration of some work of arts, including paintings.
Belle had not blinked since it had snatched her until the figure of the man who had china-eyes winked before her. She was sure she had seen it. She took two steps forward to probe if it really did. It winked again. This time she was frightened. She blinked her eyes and rubbed it with her forehands and squinted. The man winked again and again. She was afraid and the hair on her nape stood straight. She shifted her head towards the woman in the art. It grinned to her. She was horrified to see a painting react like that. The fright abruptly shoved her into Uncle Jeff’s bedroom. She slammed the door close and locked it and wrapped herself with the folded blanket over the bed and she sobbed while her heart’s pounding built up.
Shortly after the silence of twilight, Belle heard the knocking again, once, twice, three times, and then silence aside from the TV. She was trembling with consternation and perspired in her shroud. The placid moment in the scanty dining area was arrested by a noise coming from the bamboo chairs. Someone dragged the chairs then rolled it on the floor to create a disturbing sound so that Belle was horrified and remained shrouded. The dragging did not last for just a moment; instead it stayed until she covered her ears to evade it. But the noise just became louder, she could hear it. There was prompt tranquility and the TV was turned off. She… did not turn it off. Someone did.
Belle felt a touch from her shoulder that accentuated out. The touch was warm and alive.
“What happened?” said a contralto voice she recognized. She divulged herself from concealment, while there was still shuddering. The senile countenance of Vivian beheld her.
“Someone was in the dining room. I heard the chairs were dragged noisily. I saw the painting react.”
“Oh, I was the one in the dining room. I arranged the chairs. Then, I heard you crying so I entered the room without knocking. I thought you’ve got problems.” Vivian was quite worried about her for she did not stop rubbing her shoulder. “Maybe you’re just tired from school, child. Just take a rest. I won’t turn off the lights in the dining room. If you have problems just shout for help. I’m just downstairs.” She smiled and left Belle and thrust the door shut.
Belle thought it must be her restlessness that mistakenly made her perceive the paintings and the knocking and loud noise of dragging of chairs. As soon as her sobs, fear, and tremors were relieved, she sat up and got her backpack. She pulled out her cellular phone and texted someone, maybe her boyfriend, to forget what she had seen and heard. When she began pressing the keypads, another knock at the door rose her heartbeat up. She stood up, thinking it was just Vivian. The chairs were hauled on the floor again. She was sure it was in the dining room. She opened the door and saw no one there, and the chairs were neatly arranged. She began to throb. She got back in, slammed the door, and looked at her cellular phone nervously. She hastily texted someone, but she was interfered by a different annoyance. This time it was a clamour of a large chains harrowed in the dining room with heavy stomp of combat boots stepping on the floor.
Belle, though horrified, intrepidly she went through the door, clasped the doorknob, and slowly pushed the door to its half opened state. She, knees trembling, took a deep breath and moved her head out to peer. She saw nothing. She twisted her head right and saw a dreadful apparition. She saw a Japanese soldier in the Second World War, with a bullet holes in his head and blood streaming down his face, dragging a chained cadaver. The soldier rightly clutched a samurai full of blood in its blade while his left hand gripped the large chain that firmly coiled the cadaver’s neck so that his eyes bulged out into his face. The soldier walked to the bedroom ahead of Uncle Jeff’s. It passed through Belle who was now extremely terrified. The soldier did not seem to notice her or just that the frigidity of death deprived him. Belle’s eyes never followed the apparition because of so much fear. Squinting with horrific emotions, it directly aimed for the table underneath the artwork that had frightened her. She did not glance at it anymore. She swiftly turned her head to the soldier but he was gone yet there were things he had used that were at the door laid on the floor; the combat boots and the large chains. Then the boots and the chains animatedly moved back to where they had come from and climbed downstairs until the noise faded out. Belle was shocked and succumbed to unconsciousness.
The bedroom’s door swung opened as Belle lurched on the floor. She got her awareness back. She infirmly stood up, not yet remembering what had happened. She went to the bed, sat on it, and lay down. She glanced at the wall clock, it was past midnight. The door was still unclosed. She walked to the door locked it. She lounged on the bed and wrapped herself up with blanket. There, again the knocking that startled her and generated her heart’s paramount beating. She perspired and trembled. The door was jerked outside so that it would open wide. It bounced back and someone push it aside. The utmost fear held her voice to shout for help. She was shrouded with blanket yet could sense a cool air whirled around Uncle Jeff’s room. She spotted a shadow that barred the fluorescent’s luminance that had struck her concealment. She anticipated it to be Vivian and forgot that she had the door locked, indeed she tucked open the blanket and what she saw has become the ultimate reason of her insanity.
She saw the Japanese soldier, standing across the bed and looking sharply over her. She saw his vivid appearance this time. Blood from his bullet wounds in his forehead streamed down and stained the bed sheets and blanket. In his right hand was the samurai smutted with thick blood which droplets rhythmically fell into the floor soaked with blood. His left hand held the large chain which was stiffly entwined around a neck. This time it was not a neck of a cadaver. It was a neck of a familiar living person, who was struggling to liberate. It was the neck of a tactful person; the neck of Uncle Jeff.
Belle burst out with horror and for the second time lost her euphoria and gave in to temporary cessation of saneness.
The new and fair day was emphasized by the chirping of robins outside and by the sun rays that seeped through the half open window, facing the gate, in the scanty dining room. The fresh air of new morning environed the room, fondled the withered chrysanthemums and zinnia flowers in the vase over the table and wandered around and through Uncle Jeff’s room where Belle was laying over the bed, wide-eyed steered onto the ceiling. The air lingered in the recently neat and orderly room, which was now messy for unknown reason. The curtain loosely dangled artlessly, pillows scattered on the floor as well as bed sheets, and the wardrobe was broad empty and below was the kempt clothes spread around as if a burglar had dug the wardrobe out. Uncle Jeff’s room became a contrast of his way of treating things orderly and of his tactful attitude towards orderliness.
Vivian found Belle still lying while eyes, unblinking, sharply looked up. She also saw the messy room and asked Belle what happened. Belle did not respond. No word came out of her, not even a hiss, even her breath. The trauma she got made her stay unaware though she was awake. She was physically active but mentally inactive and emotionally cold.
“I’m sorry for what happen to your brother, Madam. He was the best boarder I’d ever have.” Vivian shook Belle’s mom, who was lamenting of too much grief. Belle was sitting silently on a wheelchair beside the coffin of her Uncle Jeff who was stabbed to death by one of his colleagues last Friday night.
Uncle Jeff’s Bedroom – Horror Stories

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