One day during our last school vacation, I was playing a video game while sitting on an old wooden stool placed at the side of our house. It was already twilight then. Everywhere around me was starting to grow dark and I could hear the frogs singing at the nearby river.
I did not mind any of this though. I was very serious with my game. I have almost exterminated all of my enemies.
While the crickets chirped their nightly symphony at a vacant lot near our house overgrown with weeds, I diligently manned my troops and slowly killed everyone trying to get into my castle.
I must have been playing already for an hour when I heard a noise in our backyard. The strange rustle sounded like footsteps. They didn’t seem normal though. The footsteps seem to be that of an old man, dragging hone of his foot along. I could also discern another thing. I could make out something scraping the ground, like he was holding onto a cane.
Because there were no other sounds all around except for those from the crickets and the frogs, I could not help but get scared when I heard of those footsteps. I was home alone. My mom and dad are out for the night. They told me they’d be home around 10.
However, I distinctly heard the footsteps from our backyard. They seemed to have gotten closer to where I was seated.
I forgot about my game. I did not notice that my troops have started to dwindle in numbers and my enemies were getting nearer to my castle. I was oblivious to everything except the sound of those footsteps. They were getting closer and closer by the second.
As goosebumps covered my entire body, all my hairs stood on their ends. I was suddenly overcome with a deep, chilling fear and I trembled at its intensity. I wasn’t able to breathe any more. I was not able stop myself from looking from one spot to another. But, I did not see anything. It had gotten quite dark and those footsteps…those infernal footsteps…they were getting closer, closer, and closer still.
When I sensed the footsteps right at my back, I was not able to stop myself from turning around, slowly…
And, to my huge surprise, I saw my little bicycle. One of its handlebars had a red balloon tied to it. I involuntarily moaned in fear.
The bicycle that my Dad gave me when I was three years old with the red balloon of my friend who died a long time ago was inching its way towards me…but, no one was riding it or holding onto it.
The footsteps were loud and clear to me already at that time. They were like drum rolls to my ears and they came banging greatly to my heart…but, I saw not a single soul…only my bicycle with the red balloon, approaching me with deliberate slowness…
“Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” I screamed.
Then, I closed my eyes tight. I neither wanted to see my bicycle nor my friend’s red balloon any longer.
I told myself that what I was seeing was not true.
However, when I opened my eyes again, I saw that my little bicycle with the red balloon on one of its handlebars had stopped and it was already right in front of me.
“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh! This is just a nightmare!” I hollered again.
However, no matter how many times I opened and closed my eyes, my little bicycle with the red balloon was still there.
After what seemed like forever to me, my world dimmed completely and I passed out.
I was five years old when I last played with my little bicycle. I was quite happy to go cycling around the neighborhood with it.
One day, my friend Kenneth went to our house and he brought with him a red balloon. He said that if I’d agree to taking turns riding my bicycle around the block, he’d tie it to one of the handlebars of my bike.
We had the time of our young lives then. We enjoyed being together so much that we forgot our parents’ stringent warning never to go to the river by ourselves.
We rode the bicycle until we reached the grassy vacant lot, until we reached the nearby river. There, I decided to rest for a bit. Kenneth had the bicycle to himself, while I took a nap under the huge tree near the riverbank. I thought to take just a short nap, but I ended up sleeping soundly like a baby.
When I woke up, the sun was already starting to set and I could not see Kenneth or my little bicycle with the red balloon anywhere. I had the scolding of my life when I got home to my frantic parents who almost called the police to report me missing.
I did not see Kenneth anymore after that. I no longer saw him alive.
While I was sound asleep, Kenneth accidentally drove my little bicycle with the red balloon straight into the river. He was also five at that time and was quite slight in built. He did not know how to swim.
I did not speak for almost a year because of what happened. Even at my young age, I blamed myself for what happened.
I woke up screaming. When I opened my eyes, my little bicycle with its red balloon was still in front of me.
After several seconds of shouting my lungs out, I felt a wet hand close over my arm.
I cried out once more. This time though, I did not hear myself.
My sight dimmed again and my breathing grew labored until I thought could not draw in air any longer. I fainted once more.
I was five years old again. I was slowly cycling my little bicycle with its red balloon into the river. I did not stop even when I was already in too deep and the waters have gone way over my head.. Then, everywhere around me turned cold as ice.
– The End –
P.S. This is the English translation of a previously published short story, Ang Aking Munting Bisikleta at Ang Pulang Lobo ng Kaibigan Ko. This can also be read on Wattpad.