My special thanks to Jill for letting me tell her story...
It felt like being in a fish bowl. The sound-proof music booth enclosed by glass panels was no bigger than 3 X 3 meters, and with all that equipment eating up precious space, Jill was almost suffocating. The cubicle and in fact practically the entire building itself were newly-painted, she could tell by the way it smells, and the booth was smartly designed to sit the disc jockey in front of the glass panel facing the hallway, for easy viewing by passing visitors the same way the enterprising petshop-owner would put the prized arowana in full view of customers. The comparison with an aquarium fish made Jill smile to herself.
Needless to say, Jill looks the part of one who should deserve by all means to be placed at the centerstage of people's attention, and that fact is not lost on the ambitious working student, proud as she was that unlike most disc jockeys who are, as some insensitive people would bluntly suggest, 'better heard than seen', she had been abundantly fortunate to have that drop dead gorgeous looks to go with the spellbinding voice, the living proof to dispel the so-called 'better-heard-than-seen myth'. But tonight, her first time alone on the graveyard shift, she sat with her back to the control panel, avoiding to face directly the glass wall fronting the hallway or to even glance sideways into that direction.
She tried to keep herself busy by admiring the brand new equipment, the expensive furniture, and the state of the art surveillance system installed in the newly constructed medium-rise building housing Manila's number one radio station here on the seventh floor. Indeed she assured herself, this job is worth the trouble of spending sleepless nights in what amounts to a glass house. She felt sorry for the previous apprentice, the guy who quit without lasting a week on the night shift. But she would rather not speculate on the reason why he decided to go although she heard rumors that one day he would claim he was hearing voices and people thought he was losing his mind, validating the general perception that the guy, with filthy long hair, tattos and an awful lot of body piercing, in short, the classic 'better-heard-than-seen' stereotype, was heavily on dope. But then again, this is not the time to think about it, whatever the reason was.
"Time check, it's 11:15, Good evening this is deejay Jill on board. We're gonna be rocking 'til midnight. Coming right up, the music of The Cure, and this one goes to Debbie, who's listening right now. Hi Debbie, Henry called to dedicate this song to you." Switching on, she started tapping at the arm chair, humming along to "Friday, I'm in Love". Then she pressed the automatic play mode, to set up the next sequence of songs to follow unless she needs to change it to accommodate some late-night caller's request.
She sensed something outside and hesitated for a few moments whether or not to take a look. It was the lady guard, doing the rounds, she gave Jill the thumbs up then switched off the last remaining light in the hallway. "Oh great", she muttered to herself. Now, save for the light inside her cubicle, the whole place is completely wrapped in a blanket of darkness. Jill imagined herself inside the cockpit of a spaceship caught suspended in the middle of a blackhole. And she also imagined, despite efforts to suppress it, that if there are eyes lurking in the dark, then all of them must be totally fixated on her this very moment, watching her every move. She had never felt so vulnerable. The darkness is a beast trying to break in and who knows if the glass can stand it. She felt her hands beginning to shake, but failing to convince herself that it's because of the cold, Jill went back to tapping and humming. She realized Rick Astley had replaced Robert Smith.
The phone rang and Jill almost jumped off her seat. But she was relieved to hear a familiar voice on the other end of the line.
"What are you talking about, Henry didn't call you up..."
"What makes you so sure he didn't, Deborah?"
"Well, because he's with me right now!"
"What? You bitch, do your parents know about this?" She was giggling, teasing her friend, her imagination instantly filled with malice. Afterall, what would the likes of Debbie and Henry be doing if they are together at this hour?
"Keep your mouth shut about this or I'll kill you. Good night Jill, and take care", then she hung up.
Jill was putting back the receiver when the light inside the booth suddenly went out. But in the corner of her eyes, and during the fleeting moments before darkness swept in, she had accidentally caught a glimpse of the image just outside the front glass panel. It was the boy again, his face almost pressed against the glass. That was the last thing she would ever see before everything else disappeared in the dark. But this time the image lingered and wouldn't leave the imagination unlike in the past when she could simply dismiss it as just another illusion. This time she was dead-sure that this is for real. The boy with bloodshot eyes and a mask of blood from a broken cranium had returned to pay her a visit, sending a chill through her spine and to every inch of her being. She dashed for the door only to realize she was locked up. The door knob would not even turn. Jill screamed but no one would hear from the sound-proof cubicle. Yet she could hear voices. The boy was not alone. There were many others.
Jill was in a state of shock and she was hysterical when the guards found her. She needed to be restrained and then sedated before they can bring her to the hospital. It took a long time before she could tell anyone her story. Today, the building where it all happened still stands along the northbound lane of Highway 54 in Guadalupe Makati but that building which stood proud and sparkling new not so long ago is now abandoned and the sign 'condemned' hangs on the lobby.