A Dark Secret

A green mango tumbled down the dirt road, stopping at Rosie’s muddy sandal. It was pouring rain, but warm and humid in the Vasayas region of the Philippines. “Ah! Sorry, anak!” shouted Chrissy, approaching Rosie with more mangos. Rosie walked three miles just to satisfy her pregnancy craving: sour, unripe green mangoes and Bagoong, or salty pickled fish. Rosie’s family consisted of seasoned fishermen, her well-known Nanay—mother—made some of the best bagoong, from their catch. Chrissy was also well known for her superfluous, year-round supply of mangos. So Rosie trekked as early as 6:00 in the morning to trade some of her Nanay’s famous bagoong for some of Chrissy’s famous mangos. A tradition for the past three months, since Rosie moved back home to the Philippines after her husband passed away.             .

“Hey, it’s okay, hun, always happy to see you. Just wondering when this rain spell will stop,” said Rosie, holding her belly and scooping up the mango. She was thirty months pregnant and more than ready to see her baby girl, Luna. Like the moon, she was the brightest light during the darkest nights—whenever Rosie wept for her husband.

“I’m telling you, ever since that eclipse three days ago, it hasn’t stopped,” said Chrissy, shielding her eyes as she squinted through the rain past Rosie.

Rosie turned around and saw who Chrissy was staring at: an elderly, haggard woman covered in an oversized black shawl. She was staring at them. “Is that your new neighbor?”

“You know, I’ve seen her for a week now. I guess someone finally decided to make use of that old abandoned shack,” answered Chrissy, waving toward the woman. The woman just stared, unblinkingly. Rosie squinted harder and thought she almost saw a snarl on the woman’s face.

“Yes, things have definitely changed since the eclipse,” said Rosie, turning back to Chrissy. Mornings became noisy and wet, and nights became silent and eerie. She didn’t even hear the grasshoppers in her backyard anymore…

“Anyway, many blessings,” smiled Chrissy, patting Rosie’s belly. “Now hurry home out of this rain, stay away from strange people and shape-shifters,” warned Chrissy, wagging her finger.

“Okay Mom!” laughed Rosie. “Many blessings, hun.” She turned back toward the road that led her home. The old lady had disappeared.

“I’m serious,” lectured Chrissy behind her. “See you tomorrow, anak!”

Rosie paced herself on her way back; she was finally one mile away from home after an hour or so of walking when she heard a small sound—like someone whispering?

She listened: “Secret… secret… secret…” It kept repeating the words softly. She stopped walking and listened harder, but all was silent. Her skin started to crawl and she felt uneasy. Maybe she wasn’t hearing right through all this rain. She began to walk again, until she heard someone shout right next to her ear in an alarmingly booming voice: “LET ME TELL YOU A SECRET!” She let out a sharp yelp and swung around, but no one was there. She studied the trees around her and saw no one, just the pouring rain.

She was shaken up by the strange encounter, and quickened her pace home.

Suddenly, she heard another sound. This one seemed to be a boy crying behind the trees?

“H-hello? Are you okay there?” yelled Rosie.

Then, a sinister laugh from another young boy: “Pinaglihi ka sa balut!” Your mother ate a balut! “That’s why you’re so hairy.” He spat in the crying boy’s face, with intense anger in his eyes. Rosie stepped closer and saw that the boy was crying, covering his face, had hair all over his hands and thick long side burns. “Please…” he cried.

“Leave him alone!” yelled Rosie, holding her belly. The bully darted his eyes at Rosie, almost as though he knew exactly where she’d been standing the whole time.

He glared at her deeply, not moving or flinching. Rosie felt Luna kicking inside her and began to feel queasy. She didn’t want to get into any kind of trouble that would cause harm to her unborn. “Leave him,” she said sternly, before walking back to the trail. The bully’s gaze followed her every step, until she was out of sight. The second boy continued to weep.

Things have definitely changed, thought Rosie as she approached home. Her morning walks were always tranquil, never this chaotic.

She entered her home to the fresh aroma of her Nanay’s chicken sopas cooking on the stove and plopped herself in the rocking chair near the living room window. “Nay, I am home,” she called, setting down her goods and peeling open a mango.

“Okay hun, you rest now,” called back her mother, as she clanked away in the kitchen.

Rosie gazed at the wind howling outside and listened to the patter of the rain on the window, as she ate her mango and bagoong. “Craving satisfied,” she said, closing her eyes and smiling, feeling Luna kick in her belly. She picked up her book and began to read, soon drifting off to sleep.

“Okay, you eat now,” ordered Rosie’s mother, waking her up to a bowl of rice and sopas.

“Ma, thank you,” said Rosie, rubbing her eyes, taking the bowl from her mother and placing it in her lap.

“How is Chrissy anyways, anak? Still loves my bagoong, huh? She is such a gem,” said her mother as she lit the candles on the windowsill.

“Yes Mom, sweet as always, but still trying to scare me with her talk of shape-shifters.” Rosie gulped down her soup.

Hoy, you must listen,” advised her mother. “Aswangs are real, baby, and sinister. They prey on the most vulnerable: expectant mothers.” Nanay lowered her tone to a whisper, so low that Rosie could hardly hear. “The scent of a woman bearing an innocent is a sweet, sweet smell to the aswang.” She had a worried stare, scanning the trees outside the window. It was dark now, and they were in the eye of the storm, the wind howling through the leaves. “They come in many forms—just trust your heart!” she whispered, grapping Rosie’s arm. “And NEVER listen to its secret.”

“Nay! Stop,” Rosie insisted, taking her arm away.

She glanced out the window again before getting up, to bring the dishes to the kitchen. She was pale.

Rosie shook her head, as if trying to shake away the lies. She was tired of hearing about mythical non-sense. She stared out into the dark night at the full moon, thinking of Luna.


“SECRET, SECRET, SECRET!” a loud, angry whisper woke Rosie up. She was drenched in sweat. Her eyes scanned every dark corner of the living area, frantic. She didn’t see a thing. The candles were out, and the only light came from the glow of the moon. The hair on her arms stood straight up.

She heard the whispering again: “Let me tell you a secret.” It sounded insistent, though much calmer than before.

“Please no, leave me alone,” Rosie whimpered, barely able to move her lips. She was frozen—it was too quiet. No howling from the wind, no grasshoppers chirping, no rain pattering on the window. Then she heard a rustling outside her window, and saw the head of a black crow with a long tongue, and a… long black tail, like a cat? The tongue was stretching out longer, the figure thinning out so it could slip through the window. She was trembling and getting out of her chair to run to her room, but she heard the whisper again, and it was right next to her ear, breathing on her: “You smell so sweet… like jackfruit.”

Did something lick her cheek?!

“I-is th-that your secret?” asked Rosie, rubbing her cheek, looking around blindly. “Where are you?! Why can’t I see you?!” she screamed, tears starting to stream down her face. She felt helpless.

“But you have seen me, my dear. You traded mangos with my neighbor and you scolded me as I abused the hairy boy,” said the whisper on the back of her neck.

She swatted behind her quickly. “Leave me alone! Please…” she begged.

It was silent.

Then, “LET ME TELL YOU MY SECRET!” A dark, deep voice bellowed the words into her ear, making her stomach drop.

Rosie ran into the corner, sliding down the wall into a ball, using her knees to shield Luna inside her belly. “Please,” she cried weakly.

“Let me tell you my secret!” said the whisper, and this time it sounded angry. She could feel its hate getting stronger.

“What is it?!” she shouted. “What is it? What is your secret!”

Suddenly she felt a sharp pain in her right ear, a sharp pain in her abdomen, and darkness enveloping her as she fell unconscious. She invited the entity into her ear, into her pregnant belly, with Luna…


Rosie woke up the next day in the village clinic. A tear rolled down her face as she placed her hands on the bandages around her shrunken belly.

The doctor was an elderly woman looking down at her solemnly. “Luna?” Rosie uttered. The doctor shook her head. Rosie looked down and burst into tears. Luna was gone… her love, her light, her first daughter, gone…

Again she wept over another love, lost. She wept and wept, until she noticed the doctor from the corner of her eye still shaking her head, not stopping. Rosie looked back up at her in horror. She was now glaring at Rosie, licking the evil smile on her lips, as if to say, craving satisfied