Idunn Wolfe

Kasa Kaperosa

“Kyla, stop being dramatic. Think of this new home as an adventure for our family,” a woman said, handing a stuffed bear to a young girl.

The girl refused to look at her mother, but took the bear and stood in the doorway of the house.

“She gets her stubbornness from you,” a man said, smiling, as he brushed past the girl holding a large box.

The woman shot him a tired, pointed look. 

The little girl looked between the two of them and then up at the man, shifting between her feet uncomfortably. “Can I go play outside?”

The man glanced in the woman’s direction and then smiled at the girl. “Yes, iha, but stay in the front yard where we can see you. Don’t go near the road.”

Walking around outside, the girl ran her fingers along the petals of a potted begonia. She looked down the dirt driveway, which led out to a two-way road lined with balete trees. The leaves rustled gently in the wind. 

There’s someone over there, she thought. On the side of the road, near the line of balete trees, she saw a lady with long, dark hair in a flowing white dress. She was resplendent in the sun, the breeze tousling her long tresses. The lady looked at her and smiled, waving.

The girl had never seen someone so beautiful. She stood there staring at the lady, momentarily hypnotized. Despite the sunny weather, she felt a chill run through her.

She heard her mother’s voice behind her. “Kyla, come in for lunch!”

She turned around to go inside but glanced back for one last look at the mesmerizing woman. But she was nowhere to be seen.

That night, after her parents had tucked her in, Kyla felt restless. She dreamed and awoke repeatedly. In the fragments of her dreams, she saw a woman smiling and rocking a newborn. But when she approached and tried to look at the baby’s face, there was none. Where there should have been eyes, there were only deep dark holes with shadowy tendrils that reached toward her.

In the morning, eager to shake away the memory of the strange dreams, she rushed downstairs and saw that her mother was making breakfast. She sat next to her father at the kitchen table. He leaned over to her and whispered. “I thought I heard you crying last night. Are you okay?”

Kyla shook her head. “I didn’t cry.”

He blinked a couple of times and rubbed the top of Kyla’s head. “Maybe I dreamt it then.”

Kyla spent the entire day exploring all the nooks and crannies of their new home, and following her dad around as he unpacked boxes of their belongings. It was a large old house with two floors. A “balay na bato,” her father had told her, pride beaming in his eyes. She wasn’t so sure there was anything special about it, though. It smelled weird to her, and for some reason, she felt unwelcome. As though she wasn’t supposed to be there. She felt this sense of dread even in her room, which her parents had lovingly painted lavender, and was filled with stuffed animals and her favorite books.

That night, Kyla awoke to the sound of a woman singing. It was a mournful tune that rang with longing. It’s not Mama, thought Kyla. Is someone here?

Ili ili, tulog anay…

Wala diri imo nanay.

She climbed out of her bed, trying to follow the sound of the singing down the hallway. As she approached the stairway, the voice seemed louder. The air suddenly felt cold, and damp, as if there was a mist hanging in the air.

Kyla shivered and slowly padded down the stairs. With each step she took, the voice grew a little louder. She paused in the middle of the stairs, unsure if she should continue. Wouldn’t Mom and Dad have told me if a guest was coming?

She listened to the singing closely, trying to figure out if she could recognize the voice. 

Kadto tienda bakal papay…

Ili-ili tulog anay…

It sounds like they are outside, Kyla thought. But why is someone singing outside this late at night? 

She continued climbing down the stairs, pausing between each footstep. By the last step, the singing had twisted into a shrill, disturbing tone of desperation that rang painfully in her ears. Kyla had broken out into a sweat. Her arms had goosebumps, and her stomach was in knots. She inched to the front door, with a strange and growing feeling that she must follow the sound. The voice rang feverishly.

Mata ka na tabangan mo…!

Ikarga ang nakompra ko…!

Kyla reached for the door, trembling. 

As soon as she touched the doorknob, the singing stopped. All was silent, and the air felt heavier and colder than before. Taking a deep breath in, she swung the door open…

No one was there. In the deep dark of the night, she saw only the balete trees in the distance by the road, sighing in the wind. 

Another day passed, and darkness fell once more. Kyla, tucked into her bed, stared up at the bright white light of the moon through her window. She was sure that she must have dreamt about the events from yesterday. Her father had told her so. Slowly, she fell into a deep sleep, remembering her father’s reassurance.

In her dream, Kyla wore an all-white gown with exaggerated bell-shaped sleeves. She spun in a circle, admiring the way her skirt twirled around her. She felt beautiful. As she looked up, she realized that she was at home, in her room. But it wasn’t quite her home or her room. 

The walls were not painted lavender, but made from dark glistening wood, and only sections of it were painted with bright colors. The room had a large window, which shed sunlight on a crib in the corner of the room. The crib was painted white and gleamed brightly.

Something’s not right, thought Kyla. As she stared at the crib, with its shimmering white curves, she began to feel dizzy. Slowly, shadowy arms rose up and over from the inside of the crib, stretching out toward her. The light from the window started to dim, and the room grew darker and darker as the shadowy arms wrapped around her. The room felt frigid, but she felt herself begin to perspire. She clutched her stomach, inexplicably huge and round, and fell to the floor gasping as the room started to spin around her. 

The darkness grew and closed in until all was black except for her and the crib. A low, sweet voice began to sing.

Ili ili, tulog anay…

Wala diri imo nanay…

Kyla bolted awake, panting and sweating fiercely. She felt cold. So very, very cold.

The sun rose and set again. Although it was very late, Kyla found herself nervous to go to bed. Her mother had chastised her when she mentioned her dreams that morning, which made her feel worse. 

“Kyla, there was no one there! No one was singing.” 

But there was someone, thought Kyla. And she’s coming back.

She found herself staring out the window of her room, looking at the moon. She could hear her father snoring soundly in the next room. She stretched her arms out toward the moon and wondered how far away it was. She must have fallen asleep at some point because she found herself jolting awake.

Someone was singing again. This time, the tune was warmer and slower somehow, as gentle and beckoning as the sun’s rays in the spring. 

Ili ili, tulog anay…

Wala diri imo nanay.

Kadto tienda bakal papay.

Ili-ili tulog anay…

Pushing the bedsheets off, Kyla slid out of bed and tiptoed out of her room into the hallway. She felt a sense of dread, but also a strange pull to find the source of the song. Little by little, she followed the voice down the stairs, and once more she opened the front door. 

This time, the singing did not stop.

The woman in white was in the driveway, smiling and singing. She waved Kyla on as if she wanted her to follow.

Mata ka na tabangan mo…

Ikarga ang nakompra ko…

Kyla gazed at the lady in the white, flowing dress. There was something comforting and, at the same time, unsettling about her.

Kay bug-at man sing putos ko…

Tabangan mo ako anay…

It was as though the song was melting her thoughts away, like ice sitting in the sun. In a trance, Kyla walked down the dusty driveway. She followed the white lady as she walked past the balete trees. With each step, her thoughts grew quieter and quieter, replaced by a deep sense of longing.

The ground beneath her feet felt different now, rough and stone-like, but she paid this no mind. Nothing existed except for her and the lady in the white, glowing gown and her gentle song. 

The lady, tossing her long, raven strands of hair over her shoulder, stopped walking and crouched. She faced Kyla with open arms as if to embrace her. Kyla, whose eyes were glazed over, smiled, and tumbled into the lady’s open arms, seeing nothing but her glowing white dress.

A car’s horn blared, and there was the sound of tires screeching. 

Everything grew brighter and brighter — and the lady in white grinned widely. 

Then it all went dark. 

At first, everything felt colder and colder. And then Kyla felt nothing at all.

Idunn Wolfe: I am a writer and am currently finishing up my bachelor’s degree in marketing. As a part Polish, part Filipina person, I wrote Kasa Kaperosa to honor my lola, who was Visayan. I also wrote this piece to celebrate Filipino culture. Kasa means house, and kaperosa refers to the white lady, a type of ghost in Filipino folklore.

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