When the Fletchers came to Balangkayan in the Eastern Samar province of the Visayan Islands of the Philippines their hope was to carry on the work of the Missionaries that had come before them. For decades there had been a strong Missionary presence in the municipality and although there had been a lapse of staffing for about 4 years they eagerly settled down into the compound that was situated in the western outskirts of the city.
The beginning of a fruitful ministry was disrupted by a very unusual incident. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon in mid summer when some of the parishioners of the local church came to the Fletchers and called them to come to a small settlement in the interior for help. The settlement was nothing more than a group of houses build on common ground by an extended family. The night before a few men had come wandering into the settlement bloodied and battered. They were guerillas who had been hiding out in the western forests and had run into something horrendous that had attacked them and tore one of their fellow soldiers to shreds. It was a superhuman being of amazing strength and agility.
The locals called it a Hantu-Rimba, a demonic creature that lives in the forest.
But the familes that lived in the small settlement knew of the Hantu-Rimba all too well, for they swore he was once named Pharell. He was a hermit who lived many years in the western forest until the evil spirits of the woods had driven him mad and took possession of his body.
Pharell had lived in the city and worked at a local restaurant for many years. But the death of a child and an unfaithful wife left him without any ties to the city and in his despair he abandoned the company of men and took up the life of a loner who relished the solitude of the dark wet forest. Here he could hunt and feed off the land living in a crudely fashioned shack miles from the nearest human being. He would come to trade with the Licopit family in the settlement about three to four times a year. Pharell had found the remains of several World War Two aircraft and had salvaged them of their parts trading his recovered loot for cigarettes and alcohol.
But it seems that even though year after year Pharell brought bountiful harvests of salvaged equipment for the Licopit family to rake a profit over in the city of Balangkayan, in the last years they saw him Pharell brought less and less of the precious metals of the bygone era of the past World War Two. It seemed his sources had dried up, and in fact for a few years they did not see the old man at all. Some thought he had died in the woods, alone and in the privacy he so desperately sought after. But then he suddenly appeared once again. But this time he no longer brought to sell the rusting remains of a generation old piece of metal fabrication. This time he brought very old objects to sell and barter for in the Licopit settlements. They were almost indiscernible pieces of ancient rusted metal, but once cleaned they were amazingly intricate and delicate. Their precise purpose was lost to those who traded the cheap tobacco and alcohol with the old man. Some of the pieces disintegrated entirely as the purchasers tried to cleanse them of the eon old corrosion. But even though the pieces that he sold to them in these later times varied in their condition one thing was certain to the families of the settlement, the old man they once knew had changed.
And he had changed drastically.
He was always an odd sort, but the extreme behavior which he exhibited in public was both disturbing and alarming.
Not only had his hair gone completely white his eyes seemed to be coated with an odd fog of white as well.
The irises of his eyes were so milky white you would have sworn he had gone blind, but his perception of the things that surrounded him did not diminish. On the contrary they seemed to have increased in a preternatural way since the family had last encountered him.
When handed money he would not even have to look at it to know what value of currency he had been handed.
It was if his dull blank eyes were not for looking upon the mortal world any longer, but their strange aloofness betrayed he was staring at some odd and strange world which would make ordinary human’s sanity shatter like a thin plane of glass.
He cared less and less about his clothing until they had become rags and his skin had begun to bubble up in callous lesions from lack of adequate personal hygiene.
He truly had become a grotesque mirage of his former self.
His behavior had become increasingly disturbing as well.
He would rant and rave about the ones who ‘commanded him’ to ‘reveal the truth’. More often than naught he would then go off into an incomprehensible tirade of warnings and judgments upon the world and society in general.
Many thought him as insane old man.
Bit many elders of the clan saw the markings of the Hantu-Rimba upon him and warned others to stay away from him.
Soon old Pharell never came to visit the settlement again.
And they forgot about the old man and his crazy ways, until that summer day when the once proud guerillas wandered torn with gaping wound into the middle of the village.
They were scouting the area for food when a dark shape seemed to leap out of nowhere. Despite emptying every round of ammunition they had into the creature it did not cease to attack them.
It was half a man and half a ‘creature of the wood’ in so much as its limbs seemed to be coated with fungus and its nails more barbed thorns.
They did not see what exactly had happened to their comrade but they had heard his terrifying shrieks in the forest canopy. When they found him he was nothing but bloodied flesh and broken bone. They desperately made their way through the dense forest to the settlement of the Licopit families.
Truth be told, David Fletcher believed none of the superstition surrounding the tale that was told to him. He thought it was nothing but the attack of some mad hermit when the guerillas had encroached upon his secret hoard of precious artifacts. But he went with a group of Elders that day into the woods to confront that man that used to be Pharell, the man who was now nothing but a shadow. A soulless man now become a Hantu-Rimba.
It was not an easy nor a pleasant journey. It took two days before they finally found the old rough house of Pharell. And even then they found it had been long abandoned. There were still many parts of various military aircraft lying upon the floor as if to be categorized and sorted out. But the wear of the jungles humidity showed that the days of such hopeful bartering had long past. Vegetation reached out from the floor of the crude cabin to reclaim the precious minerals of the artifacts, merging them into the circle of life and death of the jungle itself.
They camped there that night in the dilapidated cabin of Pharell, and prayed for him in the murky blackness illuminated by a single propane lantern. They slept in a circle with one guarding the area.
It was about 2am when the thing attacked.
First came the stones hitting the roof of the cabin, raising everyone from their sleep.
Then came the ungodly howls in the darkness, as if coming from lungs that had not been formed on this Earth.
David Fletcher and the elders consecrated the ground and despite the ungodly wailing that increased endured the night unscathed.
The next morning they decided to venture out, however one of the Elders felt compelled to venture to the south. He felt a compulsion as directed by God to investigate a grove that lie a few miles in the south west. Although skeptical and a bit gun shy Mr. Fletcher and the other Elders trusted the man’s spiritual gifts and followed him.
Mid afternoon they came upon the grove of the elders vision.
It was a dark area covered in jungle growth, but there seemed to be some symmetry to the general lay out of the area. It was as if the canopy of foliage covered a secret hidden earthen work of unknown proportions. In the center there was a medium sized niche in the rock. The elder felt compelled to pray before it.
As they did so there seemed to be a shape forming in the darkness of the niche.
And two cold red eyes stared back at them.
An ungodly howl echoed through the woods.
But undaunted Reverend Fletcher and the Elders prayed and confined the spirit to the niche. Then they commanded it to leave.
In a furry of violent sounds and a wind that seemed to lift the rotten growth from the ground the evidence of a spiritual battle rattled the landscape. After a time the wind and the prayers settled down. The Elders went forth to the niche and immediately called to Rev. Fletcher.
In the niche covered in moldering age ravaged clothing was a skeleton. A grisly check of a wallet in the disintegrating pants showed that it was more than likely the skeleton of Pharell. Just a few yards away they found the mutilated body of the former guerilla.
Reverend Fletcher and the elders made an impromptu burial for the remains in a forest glade that day. They blessed the area and dedicated it to the Lord.
Although many years have passed they have yet to hear of any other attacks on individuals straying in the area, guerilla or other wise.
What happened in that deep rain forest? Did the hermit Pharell uncover a mystery that overtook him? Was he driven mad by the loss of his wife and son? Or did through unknown circumstances a Hantu-Rimba attach itself to the old man driving him mad?
We cannot know. The land on which Pharell is buried is now sacred, and its mysteries are long forgotten.
Until Next Time,