3. The Fall

11 0 1

"Conference room, 5 minutes."

Captain Erich "Bulldog" Andreas is a tall and burly man, quite unusual considering his family averages at 5'6" in height. At 55, many would comment how he still looked to be in his 30s. He has thinning black hair, a smart moustache he maintained, and skin that still had a healthy glow despite air pollution, the lack of ventilation inside the office, and the stress of running an agency of special officers.

As soon as he barked these instructions, five agents stood up and left their cubicles for the conference room, a secured space where new assignments are revealed and progress reports are discussed among the team. The room itself is air conditioned, well-lit, bullet and soundproof to ensure that not a single detail could be heard and shared outside of the team. School chairs are arranged in three columns and rows to accommodate their small team.

Ilsa sat behind Sasa and Makoy who arrived just before Captain Andreas ordered them to enter the conference room that morning. She wore a plain navy blue cotton sweatshirt printed with an intricate M, faded jeans, and a pair of suede Merrells. Captain Andreas, however, always arrived in his camouflage military uniform, hand gloves, and leather boots. A revolver hung at his waist.

"The location is a small fishing village off the coast of the Lingayen Gulf. Villa de Luna."

Captain Andreas switched off the light activated the projector, which now produced an image of a part of the Luzon region. Google Maps highlighted the referred location in red. With his steel pointer, the captain indicated a small part of the island that's situated right beside the sea. The words "Luna" is bolded.

"About a hundred and twenty kilometers from Baguio, Villa de Luna is in fact one of the country's main providers of fish to both local and international markets. Major cities like the metro, Cebu, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao source fish from this tiny village due to consistent sizes and the strange prolonged longevity of the food source's freshness."

Ilsa's ears perked at this.

Captain Andreas then turned to his audience, his eyes sharper than that of a hawk-eagle.

"This village is also notorious for its unpredictable high tides, which have been the cause of its consistent death toll. With a population of exactly two hundred and fifty, this fishing community have managed to survive the wrath of the sea."

"Isn't it that Villa de Luna was once the resting place of the goddess of the moon?" Sasa asked.

"Yes. Thousands of years ago and few more after the exile of the Tao from the Folk World, the goddess Mayari would descend from Kalangitan to have her monthly retreat at the Tinago Falls, which is rumored to be within the thick forests surrounding the village," Captain Andreas confirmed. "The legend says that it is due to the goddess' blessing that the fish always grow to large proportions and last longer than fish sourced from any other city or town."

"But that's not why we're here, isn't it Captain?" Sasa prodded with a knowing smile. She always loved to tease the captain, which for some is considered suicidal knowing how short his fuse is.

After a 3-second pause in which he gave Sasa a stern look, Captain Andreas agreed. "This is why I've called all of you for this briefing."

He picked up the projector's remote control and pushed a button, which revealed a picture that sent a sudden chill down Ilsa's spine.

Three bodies lay sprawled on the sandy beach, each branded with markings of unknown origin. The dead's faces were pale white, their eyes wide open, and their mouths filled with seaweed and other sea debris. Their arms and hands were also branded, but this time with recognizable letters from the baybayin. Everyone except Ilsa leaned in to get a better look.

Diwa: The Folkworld SeriesRead this story for FREE!