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Merlina lived in a modified bungalow in a residential area situated in a town/city in Manila. A few minutes' commute got her to where she wanted - malls, theatres, big cities, hospitals, schools. Her family had a 20-year-old van she loved as a child, but due to an accident when she was in her mid twenties she could do nothing but be a passenger.

Life in the meager house was usually filled with her helping her parents with chores and expenses, working as an IT professional for a known beer company, and being a mom to three boys. It was pretty simple until their new housemaid came along.

Merlina was sensitive, and pretty soon found some quirks with the new housemate. On day one, she already noticed how Myrna's eyes would dart around as if noting items in the house. Lucky for her, she and her mom never openly displayed jewelry or important items that the new housemate could eye on, but she did notice how observant Myrna was. Day two, Merlina noted how Myrna tried every door in the house. Each door would be pried open. Whenever a family member would come in or out, doors would easily open and shut–but when Myrna tried to open them she would find each door barred and locked tight. Something that made Merlina smile.

Over dinner–for they included Myrna with them taking meals–her father reminded Myrna of what she was to do. Sweep. Clean dishes. Dust furniture. Wash windows. Help with cooking. "And above all," her father said, clearing his throat, "never ever open the door to the back room. The 'bodega' has items from way back when, and is quite a mess. We wouldn't want them falling on you and then have an accident." To this the housemate nodded. "Myrna, even the kids know and follow this strict rule. Never open that door".

"Ate," Myrna said on day three while helping with the laundry. "Are you really six in the house?" she heard her ask her mom while she was out finishing reports in the living room, with her kids finishing their respective school projects.

"Yes, Myrna. Why do you ask?"

Merlina heard a shift in the housemate's tone as she answered. "Yesterday, while I was finishing up with the afternoon dishes, I heard voices. I thought that perhaps you and Kuya were having a discussion. Then I remembered that Kuya left for an appointment and that you were sleeping on the couch. And I was scared." This made her smile. Ah, she thought. So early in the game. Oh well, it was time then.

Merlina then approached them from the garage wash area. "Myrna, I'd like you to accompany me please to the backroom. I believe that I have a spare table that I need help bringing out. The center table is a bit crowded as it is and it's a challenge to work in the bedroom."

Going round the back of the house, she and Myrna came to a small room that sat apart from the main house. "This was once a place which Dad used to stock his tools in. Eventually, we used it for storing old and unused stuff as the house got remodelled. It's a bit dark and musty, so please be careful." Merlina opened the plain, wooden door with a key that looked worn from wear and proceeded with turning on the switch and scanning the room. There were items mostly covered in white cloth, webs providing a myriad of tangles here and there.

"What's under these, Ate?" Myrna asked.

"They're antiques that we found when we first moved in here. Dad thought that it'd be a waste to have them sold. We'd clean then and air them out so often, but as you can see we're a bit busy nowadays. We try to do it each month. Oh! Mind that one, it's a statue that I'm supposed to bring out. Mom needs that for the celebration tomorrow." And then they passed a huge closet.

"What's in here?"

Merlina shrugged. "Some old papers and stuff that I never bothered cleaning. Way back from Spanish times, so Mom says. We just found it here. Be careful with that, too."

That night, Myrna waited till everyone was asleep, then quietly stole her way to the back of the house. It had been five days and yet she had still yet to enter and steal stuff. Antiques sell high, she thought, and there were some items small enough to pocket that she could sneak out of the house with. As she was nearing the room, in the pale moonlight she thought she saw someone bending by the door. Taken aback, she called out to the figure. "Hey! What are you doing there? Who are you?" she said. The figure then appear to slowly stand up. And to Myrna's surprise, saw that it was a headless body! The thing appeared to be leaning by the door when she called, but then began to move towards her. All color left her, and she did her best to run back to the house and try to get in. No luck–the door wouldn't budge. Wait... she was able to go through this door to get to the house. Why wouldn't it move now? As Myrna looked, she saw fingers, and several pairs of hands holding the door shut. She stifled a scream as she tried to find a way to escape. Backing away slowly from the door that lead to the kitchen at the back of the house, Myrna felt eyes watching her. Turning, she saw a face. An upside down face of an old woman whose twisted, gnarled grimace sent her sanity running. The huge maw looked like a dark, bottomless well that stretched far down into Hell's caverns. And the cries from the old woman further drove her mad. Tears welling up her eyes, Myrna backed up until she felt the door against her. Hands and figures surrounded her until she could take no more. She blacked out.

She woke to the sound of voices and laughter, followed by a familiar tone. "Too early in the game, daughter. So sad. Too early."

"Can't be helped, Mom. They saw her. They did not like her one bit. Even the kids did not like her. Too bad." Myrna opened her eyes. She found herself in the middle of a dark room. She could see Merlina and her parents, and a host of other people. No, not people. But the ones who chased her. Her eyes bulged in fright. A scream came forth, but was muffled by her gag. "Ah! Awkward moment. But all the same, we had better make introductions," and with that Merlina pulled a string and brought the room into a sickly, pale, yellowish light. Two pale children with heads cocked at a weird angle, a young woman whose willowy frame was in stark contrast to her pale, thin dress. Hair flowing like dark water behind her back reached out and slowly danced towards Myrna like lapping seawater. The old woman whose sick face further made her scream. And two men also stood amongst the circle, one she could see now as headless. As Myrna looked back toward Merlina's parents, she saw the missing head sitting on her mother's lap. Both seniors obviously bore a sad countenance. "Meet the rest of my family, Myrna." Cries and please were heard as the rest of the family members converged towards her. "We acquired this house back in the 80s. As we started to make our home, so did they. One spirit and lost ghost at a time. As the place evolved and new residents were added in, they too made their niche. It was welcoming really, seeing them move about the house, never really making us feel alone. They love my sons. They watch over the family. They watch over my home. And they made sure that no one will harm our home. OUR HOME."

Merlina came over a nearly mad Myrna and said in a soft tone that was too cold for her gentle features, "Every housemate that ever tried to steal from us, or do my family harm, never really made it out of this closet. Yes. This closet is where we are. This is part of the original house that we discovered years ago that we housed and protected. And they have kept us safe. They are family. My Family. And no one harms my family. The last maid tried to steal something in our sleep, too. She was the one from whom you took over a week ago. Guess we'll just have to stick with paid help–not stay ins. Pity, we really thought you were different." And she stood up and moved back, letting the other ghosts come and finish her off.

A pale arm wrapped itself around her from behind. Merlina leaned into it, sighing contently. "Thank you, Daddy. For keeping us safe." Then she looked at the head that appeared in front of her, and smiled. "The family is safe once more."

Merlina woke to the sound of voices. Her children were with her in the bedroom, playing. She smiled as the youngest was seen lifted into the air by unseen hands. "Grandma, thank you. I'll take it from here and give him a bath now," and her son floated towards her, landing softly beside her. She could hear other voices, her mom giving specific instructions to the new cleaning lady. She heard that she was not to be staying in. "Good," she thought and smiled at her son. "We have a full house. They'll be really upset if we get into any more trouble."

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