For those of you who have been looking into the Aswang Wars, here's a post for you. Today I'm featuring a central character from the first novel in the paranormal trilogy set in the Philippines, Manduruko.
The mystery girl in the sketch featured to the right (in what was a promo for the Aswang Wars before the first book came out) is Malaya, a girl from Mindanao who is much more than her innocent appearance would have you believe.
In a way, innocent young Malaya is the title character of this first installment of the Aswang Wars trilogy. She's one of the very last of the original great Manduruko, a type of vampiric shapeshifter that takes the form of a truly monstrous beast. They look like bats, only bigger, scarier, and a whole lot meaner. Malaya is one of the only ones left who retains the form of the prehistoric monster; the rest of her clan are more akin to a small type of bat called the Philippine (or lesser) bamboo bat, the very small creature pictured above.
Malaya is a very secretive character with very little to say about her past. Like every aswang, her human body does not age, and she's trapped with the appearance of a lovely young girl in her early-mid twenties with beautiful straight black hair, great big eyes, and soft, pouting lips. You wouldn't want her kiss, though: behind those lips are a set of teeth meant to kill.
Malaya often uses her rather girlish human appearance to her advantage, catching an opponent—or, in some cases, her prey—off guard. Her transformation is a truly frightening one, taking a sweet girl to a deadly monster. Her use of this is seen very early into Manduruko, the little excerpt seen below. Check it out!
“Who are you?” one of the men asked, stepping slightly toward her. She looked at him with delicate eyes, but she stood her ground without a hint of fear.
“Me? I’m a housemaid.” She looked over her shoulder, nodding in the direction of an old apartment building. “I work for a family down the street.”
“Is that so,” he said, hardly asking. “Don’t mind us. Go home.”
“Sir...” she said, looking halfway at Jei. “Are you going to hurt him?”
“Of course not,” the man holding Jei said, putting his fist down, but speaking with the sting of frustration on his voice. His forearm pressed Jei slightly harder against the wall. “Don’t worry. Go home.”
“Oh...” she said, looking down. She gazed at the ground, thinking, and then looked up and faked a smile. “Okay, sir. Goodnight.”
“Good night,” they all answered. Jei stayed silent.
He watched the girl walk away, and suddenly he was lost to a loneliness grimmer than death.
“Now...” the man holding Jei said, pulling back his fist again with hardening eyes. “Where were we?”
His fist shot out, a dark shadow fell over the moon, and in the blink of an eye the night was black. Jei braced himself in the darkness for a bone-crushing blow, but in the night, all was still.
Jei heard the faint heartbeats of those around him, and nothing else.
Without warning, the shadow that had covered the moon fell down from above. The glow of the moon returned as the object swooped down into the alley among Jei and the four men.
Jei’s eyes widened as the moonlight illuminated the body of a creature he had never seen before, and the voice in the back of his mind stirred like a boiling pot.
Behind the man holding Jei to the wall stood a beast the size of a truck, with glowing red eyes and fangs like sabers. With a body armored in thick, coarse brown fur, the titan crashed down from above, screeching as moonlight danced off the shining black claws tipping each bony, leathery wing. Jei straightened up as one of the claws pierced a man straight through the stomach, and the creature landed in the alley with a sound between a hiss and a scream. The bat shook the skewered body off of its wing, blood splattering the walls and falling to the dirty blacktop.
Jumping into action, the three men abandoned Jei and focused their attention on the giant bat.
“Manduruko!” one man hissed to the others, and the three gave each other one final look before jumping at the beast.
Jei watched in a mix of shock and awe as all three men threw themselves toward the creature they called manduruko, their eyes blazing with a crazed fury. Nimble as cats, they clamped onto the monster’s shoulders with claw-tipped fingers, mouths running agape with hisses and roars. It was like seeing men turned to monsters, their flushing and contorted faces now baring thick and profound canines as they swarmed over the bat.
A hideous scream erupted from the beast as one man sank doggish fangs deep into its neck, and the monster threw out one wing in retaliation to knock the nimble body away from it. The other wing snapped out and caught him mid-fall, throwing him against the wall next to Jei with force enough to kill. He hit the hard brick with a huff, and Jei heard something crack as his body went limp. As soon as the man hit the ground, the beast was on top of him with fangs bared, and blood fell from his body as the creature ripped the skin away from his throat. The man went still and silent, and the creature whipped around to sink its fangs into another who tore away at its shoulder.
One man—the smallest of the group whom Jei suddenly remembered from the fight club earlier that night—lost his grip on the bat through the coarse fur armor, and fell to the ground from its body with a hiss of pain. Jei saw the bat react, rearing up to set one giant foot on the man’s chest, ignoring his friend slashing through fur at the back of its neck. It screeched and pushed its foot harder on his chest until its raptor-like claws pierced his skin and Jei heard bones crack in his chest. The man’s eyes widened for a static moment, and then he fell limp beneath the creature’s grasp.
Jei watched in paralytic silence as the giant bat thrashed around the alley with the last survivor still clinging to its neck, and without hope of winning, the man leaped from the animal’s back toward the entrance of the alley. In mid-leap, his body shuddered as if possessed, and without a sound, contracted into the form of a large fox-like creature with thick black fur and a long, flowing tail.
The bat lunged after it, snapping at its heels as it fled, but all too quickly the smaller beast landed soundlessly on the ground, rounded the corner of the alley, and disappeared into the shadows beyond.
There was a low grumble—like the sound of an old engine—rising from the great bat’s throat, and then everything faded to silence.
The bat froze in its place, and the glowing red eyes of the animal focused in on Jei, its lips pulling away to reveal a set of jagged off-white teeth like a collection of knives. It made no sound, and Jei only watched as a long, narrow, and fully prehensile tongue rolled past those dripping teeth and out of the creature’s mouth, a sharp and hardened point at the end threatening to stab clear through his body.
Jei’s eyes narrowed. This didn’t make sense, and he didn’t like it.
The bat drew closer until it was only centimeters away from Jei’s face, and in one motion drew the blade of a tongue back and turned away to spread its wings, disappearing into the night sky without another sound.
Jei stood there for a moment, frozen in the shock of the memory of what had happened. His face and hands were stained with blood, and his heart beat faster than it ever had before.
He looked at the blood splattered across his body and wiped it from his skin with rough fingertips, raising it to his mouth. Cringing on contact, he spat it to the ground, leaving its bad taste stinging behind his lips.
This blood wasn’t normal. It had a bad taste, a bad smell. This blood was not normal, and it definitely was not human.
Jei looked sideways at the three bodies lying bloodied and mangled in the dim light of the moon, staining the alleyway with red water.
Jei pushed himself off the wall and started toward the entrance of the alley from where he came. As Jei stepped out of the alley and into the main street, he saw a girl standing against the wall of the old building. He turned to her curiously, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. Had she been there all along?
And then he recognized her face.
It was the same girl. It was the girl who had looked so familiar, the one who had shown concern for him before. The girl with the familiar voice and the pretty face, the one who was unafraid to walk alone at night in this violent and dangerous place. Had she never left at all?
She was different now, different from how she was before. He looked at her hands, her face, her legs, all stained with drying blood. And her clothes, still neat and tidy, were clean and untouched, as if nothing had ever happened. She looked at him, her pretty black hair slightly matted with the blood staining her arms, her legs, her face.
He looked at her blankly, and she grinned in an unsettling way. She pulled her hair up and away from her shoulders as if to tie it back, and then she turned wordlessly, showing him the fresh, jagged red marks scored across the back of her neck. She looked over her shoulder at him, her unnerving eyes boring into his with the intensity of burning coal.
Read the first ten chapters of Manduruko on wattpad or download the full ebook at the MuseItUp bookstore!