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Literary

Tamara

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IN the remote town of Miesta lived a reclusive woman named Tamara. Tamara lives at the far end of the town, on a quaint house situated beside a river.

In November 1992, several children went missing. They were found a few days later, their lifeless bodies floating in the river. The children’s parents were raging mad and accused Tamara of killing their children, so they issued complaints against her to the town’s police unit. However, the investigations were discontinued after Tamara went missing.

On December 30, in desperation to find out what happened to their children, the residents decided to go for one more shot and broke down Tamara’s door. They were in shock when they saw her— a lifeless Tamara – she was right there sitting on her sofa, a journal on her lap, and a cup of expired coffee in her hand.

The authorities re-opened Tamara’s case. After a thorough examination of her body, they found that she had died about five days ago. This baffled the investigators because Tamara’s body didn’t show any sign of death. Her body remained soft and warm as if she was still alive. She didn’t have any pulse or any redness on her cheeks, but she looks like as if she can wake up at any moment. They decided to continue investigating Tamara’s house, and found a box that’s about a meter in size under her bed. Inside, they found a dead baby.

The investigation revealed that Tamara had a stillbirth. Because of this, the father of her daughter decided to leave her. Tamara, pushed to her limit, suffered a mental breakdown. She retreated from other people and hid in her house. She kept her stillborn baby in a box thinking that her neighbors were out to steal her baby. She then started abducting her neighbors’ children and forced them to play with her dead baby. The children, terrified of Tamara’s odd behavior, planned to escape. Unfortunately, they ran too fast, slipped, and drowned in the river.

Tamara gave them one last mystery—the investigators found out that she has water in her lungs. Tamara drowned in the same river but someone took the time to put her back on her sofa and stage her with her journal and a cup of coffee. The investigators seek for more information. What they found in Tamara’s journal sent the hairs on their backs standing at one end.

Tamara’s Journal Entries:
August 12, 1992
Thomas and I moved to this beautiful house beside the river in this town called Miesta. It was a good six-hour drive from my mother’s old house but it was so worth it. The scenery here is lovely, almost like a painting. This is going to be perfect for our own little family.

August 15, 1992
Thomas and I have been very busy unpacking our things lately. We’re so tired. However, the view makes up for it. It’s really worth it. I really love this house; I can already tell Emma’s going to love it here. Thomas said he’ll make Emma a swing on a tree by the river. I can’t wait to see Emma on that swing.

August 27, 1992
Thomas and I have been cleaning around outside the house. We’ve been finding discarded toys all over. I decided to put out a basket out front to put all the discarded toys in. Kids have been going here to look at the toys. Thomas has finished making the swing and sometimes I sit there, close my eyes, and imagine Emma with me. I can’t wait to have Emma, I’m sure she’d love it here.

August 31, 1992
Thomas and I are so excited. In about two months, Emma is going to come out. I can’t wait! I’ve been sewing little dresses for her; she’s going to look so beautiful in it. Thomas and I have also been talking about going to the nearest hospital—-which is about two hours away—-before my due date so as to make sure we’d be there when Emma comes. I’m planning on getting a check-up next month to make sure everything’s fine.

September 5, 1992
Thomas and I decided to go get a check-up. Doctors say Emma is healthy, but I have to take care of her more. No heavy work or stress for now. I also have to eat more for my Emma. Doctors instructed us to come back in a week. I can’t wait to have Emma.

September 11, 1992
Thomas and I came back to the hospital today. The doctor said my Emma has no heartbeat. My Emma is dead. I don’t believe her, I told her she is a liar. They performed a procedure on me to remove my Emma like she is a disease. I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry, Emma. I shouldn’t have let them. I love you, my Emma.

September 25, 1992
Thomas and I are deeply saddened by our recent loss. I can’t believe Emma is dead. My Emma, she’s so young and so little. Why did she have to die? Why couldn’t I save her? She didn’t even get a chance to live. My Emma…I love you.

October 4, 1992
Thomas is different now. He barely even looks at me. What have I done, Emma? I think he blames me for what happened to you. I didn’t want to lose you, Emma. I wish I could have done something to save you. What do I do now, Emma? I can’t lose your father too. I’m looking at the swing your father made…it looks incredibly sad out there now.

October 16, 1992

Thomas is being cold. Sometimes he looks like he’s not here even if he actually is. Does that make sense? I think he misses you, Emma. My Emma, I miss you. I made you more dresses today. I wish you could have worn them. I wish I could’ve seen you wear them.

October 29, 1992
Thomas is gone. By this statement, I don’t just mean him not being here when he really is. He’s truly gone now. He left me. How could he leave me now, Emma? You would have been born today, Emma; the doctor told me that before. I wish Thomas could be here today and talk to me about you. I miss you, my Emma. I miss your father too.

October 31, 1992
Thomas is still gone. My neighbor Helen came by today and asked if I was okay. I said I’m fine. I lied. How could I be fine, Emma? I don’t think I’ll ever be happy again. I love you, Emma. I wish your father would come back.

November 6, 1992
A little girl named Anna came by today. She said she wanted to look at some of the discarded toys. She found a doll and asked if she could have it. I gave her a “yes” for an answer. She was so beautiful, Emma. I think you might’ve been more beautiful than her. I decided to make her a dress and give it to her the next time she comes around.

November 11, 1992
Anna hasn’t come back yet and so is your father. I’m getting lonelier as time goes on. I find it hard to love this place any more. I think it could’ve been better if I also have died when you did. I love you, my Emma. I dug up your grave because I want you to be with me. I hope you don’t mind. I hope you love your pretty little green dress.

November 23, 1992
I saw Anna today and gave her the dress I made for her. She said it looked lovely. I thanked her and invited her over for dinner. I told her to play with you but she looked at me like I was crazy. She was scared of you. I don’t see why. You looked so beautiful in your dress. But I didn’t want to be alone anymore, so I tied her up. I told her she can never leave.

November 24, 1992
Anna’s parents came today looking for her. I told her she wasn’t here. They didn’t try to search the house. I made Anna another dress. She didn’t like it. I made her cookies but she said she hates me. I really don’t understand why she’s being this way.

November 25, 1992

A little boy named William came knocking at the door today. I asked him to come inside and tied him up, too. You now have two playmates. I hope you’ll like them, Emma. I made clothes for William too. I baked them cookies but they didn’t seem to like it.

November 26, 1992
I saw a beautiful little girl named Rose on the swing today. I asked her if she wanted cookies. When she came inside I tied her up as well. I think she likes our house. She said she wanted to go home, I told her this is home.

November 28, 1992
A handsome little boy named James was playing around the river. I got him to come inside and tied him up as well. I keep the tied up children inside what would have been your room. Emma, do you want more playmates? Are you happy this way? I love you, my Emma.

November 30, 1992
I heard some neighbors talking outside today. They think I abducted their children. I don’t know how they come up with things like that. I would never hurt children. I just don’t want to be left alone.

December 4, 1992
I think my neighbors want to take you away, Emma. I won’t let them. They’ll never take you away from me. And they can’t have your friends as well.

December 15, 1992
The children escaped. I don’t know where they are but I think their parents still haven’t found them. I’m scared that their parents will see what I did in the wrong way. I just wanted you to have friends, Emma. Do you understand, my Emma?

December 18, 1992
The children were found floating lifelessly in the river. I’m deeply saddened by this. They were all still wearing the clothes I made them. I miss them. The parents are accusing me of killing them. But how could I kill those precious kids? They’re like my own.

December 23, 1992
My neighbors called the police on me. The police kept asking questions. I don’t know what’s happening any more. I miss the children. I miss Thomas. I miss you, my Emma.

December 24, 1992
I think my neighbor David wants to kill me. He was the father of James. He’s so angry at me. He’s threatening to kill me.

December 25, 1992
Merry Christmas, Emma. I think the children are still around the house. I know they’re dead but they’re still here. I think they want to kill me too. Emma, I’m going to put you in a box. I hope you don’t mind. I feel like we’re going to be together again really soon. Hang on, my Emma.

Photo By Miguel Santos

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Literary

Pause

Lenten activities, family meetings, how would he finish it all unless he threw himself into his books? At least he was ahead by two weeks for all the individual work. The group works, however, were a different story. 

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

“How has your week been, Mr. Llanera?” 

Sir Anton glanced at the screen, gauging if Leo was still with him. It was their fourth session together, and he had tracked Leo’s improvement since they first met. It didn’t take much to get Leo talking, unlike before. 

The monitor Anton used was split between the video call and a document where he took notes. He wore his usual polo and kept his background to that of a nice lounge room—something to bring some semblance of normalcy. 

“I did schoolwork, reviewed for major exams, made some progress on a paper.” There it was again. The shaking in his voice, trembling at the legs. Although he knew who Anton was and assured him that nothing would leak, it didn’t help him keep eye contact. “I finished some work for org, too, while I was at it.” 

A well-used copy of the AP stylebook was on his bed and similar material was scattered at his desk. Silence. Dead air. 

Usually, he’d keep his place tidy, but not right now.

He received a nod from Anton, the counselor familiar with Leo’s stutter. Fear of silence invoked anxiety, the last thing he wanted to see. “Other than work, did you find time to unwind?”

“’Di po,” Leo replied. “I might fall behind.”

“Your professors told me you’re at least two weeks ahead,” he replied.

Leo masked a sigh. He wouldn’t have gotten into this mess if it weren’t for his theology professor. It was more than that, but there was no time to dissect how he ended up having a month of sessions with the guidance counselor. “Ah, that,” he stuttered. “I had a burst of inspiration. Besides, I’m on the dean’s list.”

“I see,” Anton said. He adjusted his glasses, using the opportunity to observe Leo as he spoke further. Most of them were complaints about the heavy workload placed upon him and his classmates. 

Leo’s face tensed up, eyes darting back and forth while trying to find the right words. “Let’s hope my profs don’t drop more work on us…but knowing them, they still would.”

“I understand why,” Anton said. “Finals are coming soon, yes? I’ve heard from other students about it. This whole rushed semester isn’t helping anyone.”

Leo could only muster a nod. He had sunken further into his seat but corrected the behavior immediately. “Most of the deadlines are right after Easter break.” 

Lenten activities, family meetings, how would he finish it all unless he threw himself into his books? At least he was ahead by two weeks for all the individual work. The group works, however, were a different story. 

Anton observed Leo sinking into his seat again, now engrossed with a nearby pen. “Oh. That’s unfortunate. Have you made some headway?” 

“Struggling, but I’ll get it done,” Leo replied. “It’s mostly group work, and I’m already done with my parts.” 

A nod. “I see,” Anton continued, noting what Leo said. “This break, I want you to rest and reflect on things,” he replied. “Do you have any other hobbies?”

“Not really,” Leo said. A glance at the papers on his desk. Red marks, a pen losing ink. Was it even a hobby if he made money out of it? “I do proofreading work.” 

“Do you consider it work or hobby?”

“Um, work,” Leo replied. 

“How so?”

“Well, I do make money out of it.” 

Anton nodded. “Well, work is defined as something you do for a living, but it’s not necessarily fun. Do you enjoy your work?”

“I guess I do,” Leo replied. “Sometimes it’s hard, but I manage.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well,” Leo said, trying to gather his thoughts. “Sometimes, the papers I get are terrible, despite offering some good points. It’s a frustrating experience.” 

“I understand that. If you feel that this sideline burdens you, might I suggest trying to do some writing of your own?” 

“Writing…creatively? Other than term papers?” 

Anton nodded, smiling a bit. “Well, yes. I recall from our last conversation that you said that piling on work helped avoid certain emotions.” Leo wouldn’t admit it, but Anton wasn’t lying. His grades were due any day now. Don’t look like a nervous wreck. “Well, work’s the only thing I’m good at. If I’m not productive, it’s more time wasted.” 

“If that’s the case, you could reframe writing to be productive—other than just for work or academics. A journal could help. You don’t need to show anyone, but it staves off the urge to tick a to-do,” Anton replied. 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Leo said with a smile. His cheeks were strained. He didn’t notice that the hour had gone by until he looked at the clock. Bad habit. Look at you, wasting time. “See you next week?”

“Yes, after the Easter break,” Anton replied. “Stay safe, Leo.” 

Leo left the meeting. It was over. When will this end? How many sessions do I gotta go through? He kepy thinking of things he couldn’t answer. Shouldn’t my professors be happy with my performance?

He shook his head. ”I’m making life easier for them, why aren’t they satisfied?”

Another look at the clock. The sound of a to-do ticked off the list. “I should get to proofreading,” he told himself while opening the latest document. 

“Leo!” A sigh escaped him. Why now? 

“Dinner’s ready!” Leo’s mother knocked on the door. “I made chicken adobo!” 

“Pababa na po!”  Leo tidied his papers in one of the desk drawers. Though he didn’t plan to spend the break, he’d at least have something to ponder upon over dinner.

Christine Nicole Montojo
Stories Writer | + posts

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Literary

The Revolution  

They carved out its limbs of corruption and abuse, broke its bones until it can no longer move 

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

the skeletons that have witnessed it 

lay on their beds, still, tasting rust.

the whimpers of ghosts who fought 

still whisper wishes of protection 

 

those who know it

from textbooks and the stories of their kin, 

know its value and the erased scenes 

both in ink and pixel 

 

back then, oceans of beings pulsing from desire, 

with a thirst for freedom

joined hands in unity 

 

and on the 25th of February,

the footsteps marching along the streets 

became strong enough to crack Tyranny’s body,

They carved out its limbs of corruption and abuse, 

broke its bones until it can no longer move 

as the cries of the masses washed over blood-stained streets 

 

All for the country, 

All for democracy 

Aliah Basbas
Stories Editor, Stories Writer | + posts

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Literary

To you, from you

The firsts of love were something I had already experienced: the first time I kissed someone, held someone’s hand, and craved for someone’s presence. Yet the truth is, I regret that loving myself was not one of them.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

It was a golden afternoon. As I rested peacefully beneath the blossom tree, the melody of birds chirping was music to my ears. The grass meadow serenely went with the flow of the wind as the atmosphere was surrounded by nothing but white noise.

“The tree’s petals are finally intact,” I thought to myself, looking upon the branches from above and reminiscing how alive it looked compared to the last time that I had seen it. The rose-colored petals bloom beautifully as it sways with the breeze, reminding me of the celebration marking of what today is all about.

Today is Valentine’s day. At this moment, I could draw a million pictures in my mind of people going out on dates, giving bouquets of flowers to their better halves, and eating in fancy restaurants while pondering about the future, perhaps even holding each other’s hands. Yet, all I had in my palms was a small box I dug out from beneath the soil where this tree stands. I touched its rough and soiled surface and opened the box. I saw a letter inside with my name engraved on the paper.

I opened it and read it in silence.

“Dear little being, as you read this letter, you may not remember or make sense of the things I will say from the time I am writing this. But today, decades from where you are now, I chose others than myself. I left this tree I planted away from my care to pursue appreciation from others. The firsts of love were something I had already experienced: the first time I kissed someone, held someone’s hand, and craved for someone’s presence.

Yet the truth is, I regret that loving myself was not one of them. I would put others first and fulfill their needs instead of mine. In the end, I forgot how to love myself as I love other people, and the tree already wilted as I repeatedly refused to choose myself, leaving it colorless and without leaves. I hope you will not become like me wherever you are right now. To grow strong wigs and beautiful leaves, this tree needs nourishment from its roots, just as you need tenderness from within to be fulfilled.”

Before I arrived at the last line of the paper, I sipped the last drop of tea from my cup, flipped a few pages of my favorite book, looked back on the messy fragments of the past that I was so ashamed to feel before, and smiled in relief. I remember everything. I remember the strife of recognizing love as I myself did not cherish my existence. The flash of memories where I unlearned to recognize myself all came back to me. Yet, as I sit beneath the blossom tree, my heart feels like it is glowing just from being alone.

I looked at my wrinkled old skin, cherishing how far I had come through the depths of life. I looked at the tree’s branches, and they bloomed beautifully. No more blossom petals have fallen from the tree, and warmth filled my heart from its scenery.

I closed my eyes, cherishing my last drop of life to the fullest, knowing that I had finally lived life with self-appreciation. The last thing I will remember is the few final words sculpted at the end of the letter. 

“To you, from you.”

Wendell Adrian Quijado
Assistant Stories Editor, Stories Writer | + posts

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