by Reg Tolentino
Ayumi was awake, but kept her eyes closed. She imagined the dawn, struggling through the curtains, how flecks of dust would file past sunbeams, waiting for their moment in the light. She turned once, feeling the cool underside of her pillow, twice, pulling a blanket over her, then a third time, with her back to the morning.
After some time, Ayumi opened her eyes.
Her hand shot towards the bedside table, feeling for her CELPH. She brought it close, its mirror-like surface lit her face. She scanned her SocNet notices. People liked her. She liked them back. Ayumi hesitated liking some, thinking on how people would interpret it. She spent thirty minutes following links to the DataNet: “Ten Things Successful People Do at Sunrise” , “Why The Philippine Economy is Overheating” and “14 Facts About Fortis Dictum That Will Blow Your Mind.” She emailed herself the last post before sitting up, feeling the stretch in her muscles and, with a tired yawn, staggered out of bed and into the shower.
Ayumi gazed at her reflection in the mirror as she toweled her straight black hair. Dark almond eyes, heart-shaped face, a nose that could be less flat – the 24-year-old Filipina.
Ayumi Cencia. What are you doing? She asked herself.
Save enough money. Send to family. Move somewhere nice, forever.
Beside her, she opened a silver make-up case. Fragrance wafted from the vats of false color. Her hands moved with practiced efficiency between eye shadow, blush and concealer. Lines deepened. Dark splotches appeared. As her fingers twitched, her youth vanished. After fitting a salt & pepper wig and black, half-moon spectacles, Ayumi closed the case…and found herself staring at a crone.
Time to go to work.
A cold wind blew through the Antipolo platform interchange and Ayumi shivered, tugging her elaborate but well-worn shawl tight. She adjusted her glasses and looked away just as a mechanical voice chimed.
+We, apologize…to our passengers. The train from…Cabanatuan…Station…on…November…twenty-one, two, thousand and… fourteen, will be delayed by…five, minutes. Thank you.+
“Pasensya na po sa abala,” she apologized, dragging her child behind her.
Ayumi’s smile lasted as she boarded the train.
The Tramvia Light Rail sped away from the station at just past 6:30. Ayumi looked back as the ‘Tram curved around her condo-city. When she moved in a week ago, the four skyscrapers towering over the shorter, commercial, ‘lifestyle’ building reminded her of a buried giant’s hand. She thought it welcomed her. Now, it waved her goodbye, as the ‘Tram snaked it’s way from Antipolo’s heights, and into Quezon District’s residential stations.
Ayumi hated tourists. There was a torrent of them before, but with a new sub-sonic-only airport in Marikina and cheap housing in Quezon, foreigners flooded the city both with bodies…and cash.
“Sorri poe,” nodded the frenchwoman, her shopping bags bumping Ayumi’s knees. Her husband followed her in. They spoke in french and Ayumi activated her CELPH’s translate app.
“Hun, do we really need that much?
“Are you joking? Do you know how much this is back in Montmartre? You couldn’t get Puto half this cheap, let alone the Kutsinta! There’s even truffle-Biko. Our friends will love them!”
Tourists. And as the ‘Tram slid from station to station, more of them.
Ayumi was reading the article she saved on Fortis Dictum when everyone in the ‘Tram crammed to her side.
“Another gaudy attraction.” She thought, craning her neck backwards.
She was right, and she was wrong. Her mouth parted when she saw it.
A Sarao Jeepney.
It was causing a traffic jam on a street named after some politician below. A double-decker Spence-bus tipped over, smashing the Sarao’s front section.
With her CELPH, Ayumi scanned the SocNet for news. She saw the pictures people around her were uploading, forming a complete view of the scene. Most of them focused on the baby blue bus.
“Tipped over…winds…no one hurt.”
The ‘Tram ducked behind a skyscraper as it entered San Juan and the tourist crowd, Ayumi included, continued viewing the incident from their CELPH’s.
She saw two steel goliaths lumbering towards accident. By their bulky, rounded shoulders and broad tower shields fixed to their backs, these Fortis Dictum Magistrates wore Rook-class power armor. The pair braced themselves near the bus’ topside, beside the Jeepney’s front. Three slightly leaner metal figures, Knight-class Magistrates, kept a gathering crowd back. Ayumi searched. She switched her view to someone’s app higher up and saw, standing on a third-storey low-rise, the lean form, matte black finish and characteristic peaked helmet, of a Bishop-class Magistrate.
She took one photo before cutting the feed.
Ayumi gazed at the picture of the crushed Jeepney. It was so rare, that far out of the Port District, and the tourist attractions, and the museum. She stroked the image almost tenderly, a fond memory of her first, and only, ride in one years ago re-lived. She wondered how such an iconic symbol was ever brought so close to extinction. The forest of Manila’s starscrapers and skyscrapers thinned as concrete and steel gave way to wood and stone. As the ‘tram crept towards its terminus, the city aged with every meter.
Chinatown, Japantown, Koreatown. Little Britain. Smalltown USA, The Spanish Quarter. The stations whizzed by til finally…Intramuros.
She made her way and walked the three blocks to her shop, and, still in character, traded each “good morning!” with a scowl.
Above it read: Third Eye Fortune Tellers.
© Reginald C Tolentino for text, Ronald Villaver for pictures and www.futuremanila.com, 2014-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reginald C Tolentino for text, Ronald Villaver for pictures and www.futuremanila.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.