Kristine Ong Muslim

At first, I couldn’t believe Jason when he told me he was not a human being.

We were sitting before the lake on a Saturday afternoon in April. It was a clear day, and the grass on the other side of the lake looked twice as green as my mother’s green uniform. There was no room for a joke that day. Perhaps that’s why Jason decided it was the right time in my life to confess.

The world around was so silent silence was audible. I had no choice but to do the same. I simply sat there with Jason, that Saturday afternoon in April, confused, a little weary, and for some reason I couldn’t tell, wildly excited. It was like knowing it was a great privilege, a personal triumph—maybe better, even, than knowing alone the equation to the fate of the universe, or how it’d been like the few nanoseconds before the Big Bang. I felt like I’d burst with too much pride, fear, confusion, an admixture of about eleven emotions known to man. I flunked every test in school and yet I knew of one rare secret not even grown-ups like Mr. Durhart, the grumpy school librarian, and Miss Evvie Jarsed, my beautiful science teacher, could quantify. Deep inside I wanted to go and tell them about Jason and relieve myself of the burden. But what if they laughed and dragged me to the loony bin? Grown-ups were like that: what they couldn’t understand in terms of manmade logic they just dismissed as mad.

So, between me and my only friend Jason, I agreed to make a promise I knew I would keep forever.

In it, Jason and I were, more than ever, very good friends.

After I let my mother check my homework that evening, I’d gone straight to my room, not doing anything but biting my nails absently till late. As I watched Batman and Robin coming alive on the wallpaper, I convinced myself that it didn’t make me someone bad if I hid such a secret.

Jason was my only friend in this world, and I didn’t want to lose him.

No one really understands him.

Except me, of course.

It was the only resolve I made in years without a grown-up telling me, and I felt proud. I clicked off the switch of my Pooh lamp, and then I went to sleep.

The next day I went to the lake at the usual time in the afternoon. Jason was already there waiting for me.

“I want to show you something,” he told me. He had an alien sort of brilliance in his eyes that was not scary.

I knew there was something in the way he looked at me, some strange but knowing power. It was the same look I couldn’t possess no matter how much I tried, because I was so dumb—too dumb to even try not to look dumb.

“You’re going to show me your mother ship?” I exclaimed.

“No,” he replied tersely just like a real grown-up.

Jason was always like that—he spoke and acted like any intelligent grown-up, he was wise and fit perfectly in the world he was not born. My best friend Jason was everything I wanted to be.

“Then what is it?” I shrieked. I couldn’t really help it.

Jason didn’t say anything this time. He always knew when to explain and when to keep quiet. And sometimes this makes me wonder about Jason. And sometimes it worries me.

He led me to the ruins near West End. It used to be a villa owned by a wealthy Spaniard during the colonial regime. Jason and I often played guns around the place, pretending we were cowboys like in the Western movies on Channel 9.

There was a room on the second floor. We called it the Black Hole because it’s black with coal dust inside. We never played there, because who’d want a cowboy with black stains all over his suit ?

That’s were Jason took me.

What I saw made me think more than twice about the promise I made to Jason the day before. Bryan Legold, the best-dressed kid in my fifth grade class splayed on the floor. His once neat clothes were covered with black splotches, and his mouth and nose some caked mass of maroon ooze. Bryan’s complexion was a little bluish, and his eyes were a little blank, staring at some unknown dimension. He was not moving, not making a sound, not running his right hand across his hair, not making sure every strand was in place—not doing anything, because he was dead.

Too confused and too frightened to breathe a word and break the silence that welded us together, I turned to Jason.

“I did it for you,” Jason spoke, his gaze in mine. “Because I’m your best friend.”

“He was bad, you know,” Jason told me afterwards. He gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder, and it was enough. It was enough for me to forget about Bryan Legold, the well-dressed kid who’d push me into the ditch, pour grape juice over my science project, call me Dopey, and felt better.

In it, Jason and I were, more than ever, very good friends.

I didn't really think much of becoming a hero to mankind and telling grown-ups about my best friend Jason and what he’d done to Bryan Legold. I was too dumb to think about that.

All I wanted was to keep my only friend.

A good friend like Jason.

No one really understands me.

Except Jason, of course.

I got home around six and ate my dinner. What I’d seen inside the Black Hole seemed a thousand light-years away. My mother allowed me to watch Channel 9 till ten because I already finished my homework the night before.

Just before I clicked off the switch of my Pooh lamp, on a Sunday night in April, my mother peered into my bedroom and asked lovingly, “Did you brush your teeth, sugar ?”

“Yes, mom,” I answered.

“Sweet dreams, Jason, baby,” she told me, and she shut the door.

I turned off the Pooh lamp and went to sleep.


Kristine Ong Muslim is 20 years old and currently taking up a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of the Philippines. “Random World” is her first accepted work.

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