Monday, October 25

Gunning for Truth

By TAFFY ARELLA M. BERNALES

art by JEANNE PAULINE TECSON/THE FLAME

 

Editor’s Note: This piece is one of the works in a six-part series in line with the Dapitan 2021 theme Captured. All works are written by the Flame‘s Letters staffers.

 

Captivated by its power, my nine-year-old self had always dreamed of possessing a gun. I believed it would be the key to defeating “bad guys” causing mischief with their thieving hands.

Bang! Bang!

Gunshot sounds suddenly echoed in my mind as I replayed the CCTV footage of policemen surrounding an unarmed civilian. The kid in me would have been pumped to see this, if not for the dreadful event that occurred fourteen years ago. I have not been the same ever since. 

I shook my head, hoping to clear my mind; I cannot afford to be distracted. I have a crime to report, a news story to finish.

Still, the echoes continued to reverberate inside my head, gradually getting louder every second.

Before I knew it, I was sinking into the abyss of a repressed childhood memory.

I was suddenly transported back to when I overindulged in Power Police, an animated show I was once obsessed with. A single bullet by the mighty Power Police sends a criminal deep into damnation. In each episode, the last shots fired by my heroes always signified another victory. The lucky town of Pines was always Power Police-protected, so I dreamed of becoming one of them someday— to be a hero who fights evil forces of nature for her people.

The cartoon had helped me escape the noise of my parents’ endless arguments within our run-down home.

Lampa naman kayong mga babae,” my stepfather had always, unfortunately, reiterated.

He never let a day pass without reminding me that my dream was not that of a girl’s. Thus, handling guns should be out of the picture. 

His harsh opinion was rooted in the countless failed rallies my mother had incited in the streets. In the slums, gossip spread like wildfire and so the more our neighbors spat out rumors about mother’s pointless protests, the more my stepfather grew ashamed of her.

I never understood my mother’s cause. It just boggled me to witness the burning passion behind her eyes whenever she would sneak out with banners in hand. I also couldn’t care less about her discreet talks with me about the government’s decay. 

All I knew was that another banner meant another quarrel. It meant that our walls would tremble once more with every thunderous insult of my stepfather. Torn placards scattered on our floors would follow; another session of drowning out unwanted noise with the sound of the television. 

Walang mararating ‘yang pag-aaktibista mo, Inna! Dito pa nga lang sa bahay, talo ka na sa’kin. Ano pa kaya sa mga rally mo’ng ‘yan!?”

When it came to unhearing this entrapping household’s chaos, my favorite show never sufficed. It was not enough distraction from seeing new bruises mother gained from standing up to my stepfather. Still, she had warned me never to be a hero in this situation, or else I would be battered too.

I stopped heeding that warning when another night came, with horrifying sounds that could not be drowned by the television’s highest volume.

BANG! BANG!

I see my younger self horrified by the bullets fired inside my parents’ room, followed by my mother’s yowl. Alarmed, I ran out crying for help, hopelessly wishing for the Power Police to come. Surely, they would know what to do!

To my relief, neighbors came rushing towards our house. Flashes of red and blue lights emerged as the sirens grew louder.

Alas! The police came bursting through our door to save my mother from the vicious hands that have pummeled her inside these four walls. But to my dismay, they captured her instead.

Hulihin niyo ang NPA na ‘yan! Narinig namin ang baril niya!” our neighbor proclaimed as she accompanied the policemen ransacking our house.

“River!” Mother called for me as the police forcefully dragged her out. Before I could run to her, my stepfather held me back. He clamped my mouth shut as he stealthily shook his other hand with an officer. 

I felt blood rushing through my veins as the image I had of my heroes twisted in my mind like taunting villains. My dreams were crushed as I bear witness to the paragons of justice siding with my beast of a stepfather.

River! 

Gasping for air, I snapped back to reality as my coworker worriedly shook my shoulder. I sat frozen across the monitor, distraught by the reminder of how mother’s truth never prevailed.

It’s been years since I learned that not all monsters hid under my bed, and not all heroes wore capes— some of them only had banners in hand instead of guns. 

I pull my act together to finish drafting this issue’s banner story. I cannot afford to be distracted from becoming the hero my mother once needed. F

 

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