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Below (a novel)
Set in Tondo, Manila, Philippines, in 2020 and later fast-forwarded to New York in 2027, the title story introduces the main character Luzvimindo Arnaiz. He lives in the slums of Tondo, Manila, before an outbreak of societal unrest takes place, and he ends up moving to New York City as a refugee. In Tondo, he lives a rough life scavenging for spare change, saving up for high school and college tuition to prepare for a professional career someday. During his time scavenging at landfills and living in his poor slum, he stumbles upon drug addiction and the crazed transformation of the addicts. They turn into bloodthirsty monsters–zombies! He escapes to New York City after the apocalypse hits Manila, fearful that the United States may not successfully quarantine the pandemic.
In New York City, the food shortage and economic fallout resulting from overpopulation and environmental pollution have caused mass instances of homelessness, squalor, and drug abuse. The fallout from the environmental catastrophe and the start of a new pandemic eventually reaches United States’ borders. Soon, bodies litter the streets, the parks, the warehouses-turned-shelters. Min (Luzvimindo) has to battle a traumatic past to simply survive by living in the sewers and abandoned subways, making home with the likes of large rats and cockroaches.
When the worst-case scenario takes a turn for the drastically worse, even the underground ceases to be safe for Min.
Salome (a novel)
Cleophas Razon is a small-time voice actor and theater actor. He often plays the role of Christ during Holy Week. This year, it is a different story. Cleophas is extended the role only if he agrees to participate in penitensya–in a real-life reenactment of the passion and crucifixion of Christ. An actress named Gina who is performing in the opening drama as Salome, has come to town to usurp Cleophas as the most popular actor. Gina is a less-experienced actress with a big upside, but Cleophas downplays her to psych her out. When Cleophas finds himself drawn to Gina’s performance of Salome’s legendary “Dance of the Seven Veils,” he begins seeing horrific visions. As Gina’s potential rise to stardom continues to torment Cleophas, his obsessive fantasies teeter past the verge of perversion. He loses his mind and embarks on a murder spree; he defiles his victim’s graves in an old gravesite where many of the town’s departed residents are buried. He performs necrosadistic acts in his nightmares and manifests them in the flesh. Now he fears the worst visions coming true, his victims returning the favor as they return from their resting places to enact revenge.
Never Again Can I Take You (a novella)
Alain and Ramon are young gay lovers, attracted to one another even though they are worlds apart. The first is a pig farmer, and the second is a landowner’s son; the latter is rich while the former is poor. They meet at the pig farm and exchange pleasantries and laugh. Alain strives for a life outside the farm, and Ramon is the same, though Ramon may be obliged to stay.
Ramon’s dad, Ricardo, is the landowner, cruel and temperamental to his wards. He catches Ramon and Alain kissing, shoves Alain into a sewage tank, and beats Ramon at home. The other pig farmers are caught in a quarrel; Alain’s uncle, Mang Ed, is fired, while Niño, the homophobe and bully, is promoted in his stead. Alain quietly loses his mind in the sewage tanks, painting scenarios of violence on the walls with muddy fingers, promising vengeance on his oppressors. He is allowed to escape so the police will not find him, only to be abducted in the sewers and obliged to perform in an extreme horror carnie act led by the Directress Lu, employed by wealthy businessman Tiburcio Solis. Meanwhile, Ramon goes to the police, and files charges against his dad, prompting his dad to go on the run… to leave the country before he’s tried for domestic abuse and abduction.
All characters assemble in the carnie act’s major event in Manila, where Alain and the performers seek to astonish throngs of spectators in one of the most horrendous acts of its kind ever seen. Will Alain seek vengeance against his tormentors, Ricardo, Niño, and Tiburcio Solis, in an attempt to reunite with his lover Ramon? Will Directress Lu and the carnie act performers convince Alain to leave his feelings of invalidation and suppression behind, to join them as a top-billed act in Southeast Asia, an act of frightful terror and atrocity?
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