Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a Filipino writer of science fiction and fantasy. A graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop, Rochita was the recipient of the 2009 Octavia Butler Scholarship, and the first Filipina writer to attend Clarion West. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of online and print publications, including Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, and in Weird Tales (when edited by Ann VanderMeer). In the Philippines, her short fiction has been published in Philippine Panorama, Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 2, and Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 4. The following story is original fiction slated for publication in a bestiary anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.
The Nature of the Beast
In his thesis, “Symbiosis and the Hunting Life of the Liwat’ang Yawa”, Joaquin Dimaano posits that the Liwat’ang Yawa hunting life is tied to that of the Litok-litok. Referencing fictional and factual narratives as well as historical and statistical records, Dimaano presents a detailed study of the life and habits of the elusive pair.
According to Dimaano, the Liwat’ang Yawa and the Litok-litok’s hunt is one of renewal. He lists the vital organs taken from the victims as proof of his theory. The heart, the liver, the skin and the unborn all hold within them the promise of life. Dimaano also points to death records which indicate a five year period between kills. These killings coupled with a rise in spontaneous abortions and reports of Litok-litok sightings are the evidence Dimaano uses to support his theory on symbiosis and renewal.
Of the twenty five kills that took place in the port city of Siargao, eleven were young men between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, ten were young girls between the ages of twelve and sixteen, and four were young women between seventeen and twenty years of age. All victims shared one common denominator: they were virgins.
Dimaano’s work was rejected for publication by the Council for Mythical studies. His superiors pointed out that a work referencing fictional accounts could not be considered scientific. Unfazed by this setback, Dimaano searched for other venues where he could publish.
Agyaman Mulach, owner of Hayag Press offered to publish Dimaano’s paper if he was willing to change the format and tone to one that was more accessible to the massa. Dimaano agreed and his reworking, “Of the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litok-litok and their Prey”, proved to be an unexpected bestseller.
In the same year as Dimaano’s book came out, a series of killings took place in the towns of Kalaygo and Layog. The killings resembled those described in Dimaano’s book, and pushed the book further into the spotlight. His thesis was embraced as canon and became the source book for shows like Guni-guni and Mameng Taleng’s Nightside Tales.
Scent of humus fills the air. Sweet loam, moss underfoot, ferns, blood lilies, pitcher plants, banana trees filling the night with the smell of green and yellow and the ripe dark red of its heart.
The prey is on the edge of manhood — he had followed a girl with the thought of serenading her, only to see the girl turn hunter before his very eyes.
From high above, he hears a cry.
Dead myths, exiled monsters, beasts who exist only in the shadows of nightmare — who would have thought this one still wore skin and bone just as the stories said. Liwat’ang Yawa, the beast like to the devil himself.
The prey stumbles and the beast closes in. It rises to its full height and spreads its arms wide. Here is the ripping sound of skin giving way under sharp fang. Bone surrenders as claws press through and open up the chest that holds the fruit. Fluttering within the construction of rib, pulsing still with life, the fruit beats wildly even as it is consumed.
The night resonates with the roar of the Liwat’ang Yawa. Fifty years have passed since it exchanged jungle for port city — now it has returned to its original hunting grounds.
In the sky, a winged creature dips and circles over where its master is feeding.
The eerie cry makes the night darker than it is. This cry is a warning to any who remember.
Beware. The hunter of virgins and the eater of the unborn have returned.
- Mameng Taleng’s Nightside Tales, Radio Tuuhan Gayud, 77.8 AM -
Dimaano reinforces his argument on the symbiotic relationship between the Liwat’ang Yawa and the Litok-litok by pointing out the following:
- Eyewitness observance of a flying creature on nights when killings occurred.
- Proximity of the Liwat’ang Yawa’s kills and abortions incurred by supposed visitations of the Litok-litok
- Coinciding periods of silence when killings and abortions revert to normal.
Referencing local legend, Dimaano states that the bond is reciprocal, going beyond that of master and slave. He poses the following question: How does the life of the Litok-litok enhance that of the Liwat’ang Yawa? Are they merely hunting partners or are their life cycles entwined?
The long scar along his ribcage attests to the boy’s luck as a fighter. He bows his head and smiles and walks on with purposeful strides. Except for marking him as an unaccompanied youth, the villagers do not think to stop him or to question his presence there. The time when outsiders were not welcome is long gone. Nowadays, they come and go, and the presence of a light-eyed city boy is nothing to wonder at when they have seen men as pale as ghosts and women with hair as fiery as the sunset.
The boy walks on. Past the clutch of huts, past the campfire, past where the young boys and girls gossip and laugh and sing their love songs to the sky.
It has fed, but it cannot help but sniff the air. Here, the scent of youth is overlaid with the musk of awakening sexuality. His nostrils twitch and for a moment there is the shadow of a bared fang. There is nothing to be fed on here, at least not for himself. He looks up at the sky. It is yet too light for his familiar to come out, but even from this distance, he can feel the Litok-litok’s presence.
By the riverbank, the women are washing clothes. Here, a woman heavy with child catches the boy’s eye. The scent of milk is on her and the boy can tell she is in her sixth month. Her voice is pleasant to the ear and the boy stops and listens.
“Alunsina,” the women call and she smiles and tosses water at them.
“I wish the child would come soon,” she cries. “I want to see his face.”
One of the elder women lays a hand on the younger woman’s head.
“Be patient,” the elder woman says. “You will see him soon enough.”
“Remember to hang garlic at the windows,” another one inserts. “And let Betong sleep under the peak of the roof. There will be a full moon tonight and you never know what may be about.”
The young woman laughs.
“Betong says it is all foolishness. He says the Liwat’ang Yawa is nothing more than a story made up to scare children.”
“Betong is a fool,” the elder woman replies. “The beast and his familiar have been silent for many years, but who’s to say when they will return.”
The boy does not wait for the young woman’s reply. He walks on, paying no more heed to the sound of laughter and singing.
- scene excerpt from Kining Pisting Yawa an episode of Guni-guni aired by Correos TV 9 -
Anasarias Galigao’s Newest Work Unveiled, Bestial Fascinations
Siargao Central—Anasaraias Galigao, Siargao’s most prominent sculptor, depicts the beast as being ten feet in height, its body covered with leathery scales, its claws carved from black onyx and its fangs made from white crystal. Anasarias references other beasts from Siargao mythology to produce a Liwat’ang Yawa that is at once fascinating as it is terrifying. In contrast to the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litok-litok appears commonplace with its yellow beak and feathered wings.
Anasarias states that the Liwat’ang Yawa is the beast revealed, whereas the Litok-litok is the beast concealed. The concealed beast seduces the watcher into believing no harm will befall him, whereas the revealed beast is blatant in its predatory intent.
Does the consumption of fetuses make for a less fearsome beast? One can only speculate.
Perhaps it is the ticking sound on his roof that awakes the man. Perhaps it is a dream. When he opens his eyes, there is an eye staring down at him through a hole in the roof of his hut. The man blinks and the eye blinks back at him. The more he stares at the eye, the more he cannot look away.
That call. . . surely he has heard it before.
The eye blinks once more and the man wonders why he cannot look away. That eye seems human and yet it is not. There is something about is gaze that makes him want to shriek and scream.
So why, why when he wants to jump up and wake his wife, why can’t he turn his head or reach out to shake her or even make a sound?
It is a dream, he tells himself. This is what comes of listening to old women and their horror stories.
He wishes he could hurry and wake up. He wriggles his toes in an attempt to shake off the heavy oppression.
The ticking on his roof stops, and then he sees a yellow beak pushing through the hole. The beak opens wide to reveal a thick purplish tongue surrounded by sharp rows of teeth. As the man watches, the tongue uncurls. It stretches out and grows longer. It becomes a swaying band of purple extending downwards from that beak. Grotesque and repulsive, it pulses as if it has a life of its own. And then the smell pervades his nostrils. A smell of rotting milk and dead flesh that makes the bile rise up at the back of his throat.
The man moves his mouth, but no sound comes out.
Downwards comes that hideous tongue and still he is unable to move, unable to cry out as it reaches his Alunsina.
Desperate now, he struggles to break free of whatever holds him firmly in place while that tongue licks over Alunsina’s skin. Now it reaches downwards to the juncture of her thighs.
She sighs and murmurs in her sleep, but she does not awake as the tongue creeps upwards. Betong curses as the tongue stiffens and that hideous eye flutters open and shut. There is a jerk and the triumphant echo of the thing’s cry echoes in Betong’s ears.
The tongue recoils, carrying with it a bloody mess, and Betong’s voice is released as his wife awakens.
–scene excerpted from Kining Pisting Yawa, a Guni-guni episode aired by Correos TV 9–
Hunting for the Liwat’ang Yawa and the Litok-litok
Kalaygo, Siargao — An eyewitness’s testimony gives rise to a beast hunt in the town of Kalaygo. The victim, an eighteen year old mother, was asleep when the attack took place, but her husband claims to have seen the entire thing.
“It was not a miscarriage,” the husband says. “It was the Litok-litok.”
Rumors of Litok-litok sightings have been prevalent in the towns around Kalaygo. In nearby Layog, police discovered five bodies in various states of decomposition. The identity of the victims is yet unknown, but the killings resemble those attributed to the Liwat’ang Yawa.
By the river Masinggit, the beast and its familiar pause. It is almost dawn, and they are now many miles away from the village where they took their prey.
At ease after the long run, the beast stretches, and the folds of human skin peel away. Here along the river is a place the beast remembers. Here is a grove of mango trees – once planted by human hand – now grown wild.
After a while, a young woman steps out of the grove. In her arms, she carries a sleeping babe. The camera zooms out and points southwards to a small hut on the outskirts of another village.
–end scene from Kining Pisting Yawa on Guni-guni, aired by Correos TV 9–