Saturday, August 6, 2011
Excerpt - Jinn Nation
This is a short extract from Christa’s brief adventures in Mexico in Part Three of Jinn Nation. She’s travelled there with her friend Darrell to seek out a famous holy man and beg him to remove the growing powers that have begun to scare her.
Erubiel proved to be a difficult man to find. Christa searched every mind they passed as they rattled along poorly kept roads in a rusting Mitsubishi stolen in Texas, probing the children who ran to the window with trays of chewing gum for sale and the dead-eyed men manning the roadside fruit stalls. Those who appeared to know of Erubiel’s existence spoke and thought in Spanish, a language that Christa had never excelled in. After a long, tiring fortnight and far too many nights spent trying to sleep on the car’s lumpy backseat, Christa eventually instructed Darrell to pull over in a small town called Coatepec.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “You hungry again?”
“No, there’s something here. Everyone is quiet, careful with their thoughts. It’s as if they’re keeping a secret.” Christa got out of the car and looked around, shading her eyes against the blinding sun. “Can’t you feel that?” she said. “It’s a sort of humming, a vibrating energy.”
Carefully picking her way between the long tufts of yellowing grass growing up through the broken sidewalk, Christa began to walk further into town. An old woman, her mottled face wrinkled as a walnut, top lip studded with short, black hairs, looked up from the piece of knitting she had been furiously working on as Christa passed. She was sitting on a folding chair, nestled beneath a sign pointing to the local convenience store. Christa paused when the woman mumbled something in Spanish.
“Darrell,” she whispered, edging to his side, “what did she say?”
“Something about tourists, I think.”
The woman repeated her words, this time louder and with more venom behind them.
Darrell nodded at her before turning back to Christa. “She’s saying that today is not a day for tourists. Tourists come on the weekends, when the shops are open.”
“We’re not here to shop,” Christa said, sighing when the old woman frowned and shook her head in confusion. “Erubiel?” she tried instead. “Do you know Erubiel?”
The woman sat up in her chair, long knitting needles falling from her lap to clatter onto the pavement beside her. “No,” she said. Then louder: “No, no!” She reached for her discarded knitting and rose to her feet, wincing as she straightened.
“Wait,” Christa said. “Darrell, please ask her where he is. Tell her we just want to talk to him.”
Before Darrell could work out how to pose this question in Spanish, the woman had collected the folding chair and placed it under her arm, pausing just long enough to glare up at Christa and shake her head once more before disappearing into the cool dark of a doorway behind her.
“Well, either that old woman’s got heat stroke or we’ve found the mysterious Erubiel,” Christa said. She reached for Darrell’s hand and began pulling him behind her. “Come on, let’s follow my impeccable instincts this way.”
Christa’s impeccable instincts led them to a large, square building, rising above the squat houses pressing against it on either side. A wooden sign bearing the legend, ‘Gym’ was nailed onto the crumbling brickwork and beside it, scaling the entire wall, was a portrait of what Christa could only imagine was supposed to be Rocky Balboa. He stood proudly in his white shorts and bulbous boxing gloves, his face painted in such broken, amateur strokes he appeared to be leering down at them.
“You think he’s in there?” Darrell said, glancing up and down the street with one hand on his rucksack as if he expected to be attacked at any moment.
“I can’t understand the exact meanings, but the thoughts of this entire town culminate here. They’re in awe of this place.”
“Maybe they’re just huge fans of the Italian Stallion.”
“Who isn’t?” Christa laughed, pushing through the glass doors straddling Rocky’s feet.
The gym wasn’t as spacious as the grand facade suggested. Two large flags were pinned to the bare-brick walls, one American and one Mexican, beneath which was a boxing ring, the vinyl stretched around the bottom tattered and torn. Standing at the side was a cross trainer and an exercise bike. Christa ventured further inside, a sudden bristling of the hairs along her arms telling her they weren’t alone.
“Come in, dear Deiwo,” a thick Mexican accent echoed across the room. “You were looking for me?”
Christa looked up to see where the voice was coming from and jumped back when a small pair of eyes met hers, half hidden in shadow and seemingly hovering beneath the Mexican flag.
“Are you Erubiel?” Christa edged closer to the back of the room, squinting up into the darkness until she could make out the figure of a small, sinewy man, hanging upside down from a bar fixed against the wall. His feet were hooked over it, long toenails curling like the talons of a giant bat.
“I am he,” the man said. He stretched before reaching to grasp the bar with his hands and swinging himself upright. “This must look strange to you. It is good to elongate your body this way, I do it twice a day.” With a small grunt, he let himself drop to the floor, landing on his feet with the poise of a gymnast. “It strengthens the muscles and ligaments.”
Christa stared at him for several seconds, taken aback by his strange appearance. He was wearing a low-cut lycra body suit that displayed abundant tufts of thick, grey chest hair. The hair on his head was thinning, scraped across his skull in an obvious comb-over that hadn’t moved during his remarkable exertions due to the amount of gel plastering it to his head, yet he wore a full beard, peppered in shades of brown and grey, and an untidy moustache.
“So, you know who I am,” she eventually said.
Erubiel grinned, his entire face wrinkling. “Of course,” he said. “You would have to be blind or stupid not to see who you are.”
“I was hoping you’d be able to help me.”
“I will try, but I cannot think what the Deiwo would need from me.”
“Please don’t call me that, my name’s Christa.”
“Of course.” Erubiel bowed his head, waving towards a door behind him. “Please, we can talk in my office.”
The office was little more than a desk littered with paperwork and a lonely, brown-tipped pot plant standing on the ledge of a dirty window. Unable to find anywhere to sit Christa and Darrell remained standing, exchanging furtive looks with each other as Erubiel followed them in.
“I’ve heard you’re a man of some power,” Christa began. “Is it true you cured an American boy of cancer?”
Erubiel pretended to tidy the paperwork on his desk into piles, his face reddening at Christa’s summation. “It is true,” he said. “The boy’s parents were most grateful. They paid for the machines in there.” He nodded towards the exercise bike and cross trainer.
“Well, I’m hoping if you can take cancer from a boy, you can also take something from me.”
Erubiel looked up from his paperwork, his smile fallen away. “You are unwell?”
“No, nothing like that,” Christa said. She fidgeted with her hands, wondering how to word such an immense request. “I want you to take my powers away,” she finally blurted. “I don’t want to be the Deiwo anymore. I don’t want to read peoples’ thoughts or make them do whatever I tell them. I just want to be normal, like everybody else.”
Erubiel gaped at her, his head slowly shaking from side to side. “Why would you give up these things? You are chosen, you are the Deiwo. You cannot be anything else.”
“I can’t control it anymore,” Christa said. “I could hurt people without meaning to.”
“Such is the way of the Deiwo. It is a heavy burden to bear, certainly, but it is yours alone to carry.”
“I’ve heard that same cryptic rubbish from at least a dozen people,” Christa said, feeling anger beginning to rise within her, white and blinding. She balled her hands into fists, forcing it back down. “I didn’t care when they said it and I don’t care now. I’m not a slave to prophecy or destiny; I’m just a girl with a curse. I want the bloody curse lifted, can you do it or not?”
Erubiel looked as if he was close to tears. “This I cannot do. It isn’t right, you were not meant to live as others do. But even if I didn’t believe this was so, it is not in my power to drain your gifts. To do this is a dark thing. You would need to find a person who weaves his magick from shadow, who communes with creatures I would run from.”
Christa hung her head and closed her eyes. As she thought about the days they had spent on the hot, dry roads of Mexico, the restless nights spent catnapping in the tortuous confines of the car, anger threatened to overwhelm her once more. “I came all this way and even if you could help me, you wouldn’t?”
Erubiel quailed before her, his face blanching at the sudden menace in her voice. “Please forgive me, Deiwo.”
Christa took a step towards him as Darrell placed a hand on her arm. “Do you know someone else we could go to?” he said.
Erubiel’s eyes widened. He pressed his lips together, edging towards the door.
“You do, don’t you?” Christa said. She reached for his mind with her own, skirting around the pulsing web of memory and thought until a single image pushed itself forward. Erubiel cried out and lifted his hands to his head, attempting to shake her loose from his brain with physical force. He was indeed a powerful man: a man schooled in ritual and tradition who was extremely skilled at healing; yet when he tried to block his thoughts from Christa, to close off his mind, she simply plunged the white hot fingers of her will into him with such ferocity he began to tremble. She clutched at the image she had glimpsed, laying it out at the forefront of his mind. It was a beach at twilight. A dozen palm trees in silhouette stood beneath a bright moon, the incoming tide creating rivulets and streams beneath their heavy, sighing fronds.
“Is that Hawaii?” Christa wondered. Then with more conviction, “It is. There’s a man in Hawaii who practises dark, unspoken arts. He scares you because he’s your superior, but also because he deals with forces you can’t bear to acknowledge. You believe he could purge my powers.” The image of the man was hazy and indistinct. Christa pushed Erubiel’s other thoughts away to concentrate on the intangible man’s face, but he refused to come into focus. All she could make out was a bright grin, a bare chest and an odd tribal tattoo: a winding pattern of thick black lines that started at the crown of his head and worked its way down his body. “You’ve never met this man, and you don’t know his name,” she eventually conceded. “All you can show me is how you imagine him to be. But the tattoos are important.”
She retracted her will and opened her eyes, wincing when she saw Erubiel before her. He was shaking sporadically, his face wet with tears and his eyes bloodshot and manic.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t come here to hurt you.” He simply stared at her, his mouth twitching at one corner. “Maybe now you can see why I want to be normal. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
When Darrell attempted to lead her away, leaving Erubiel alone in the humid silence of his office, Christa complied without objection. She felt overcome with the sudden desire to climb back into the car and leave Coatepec as fast as she could.
Check out further stops on the tour at: http://barnardsmith.wordpress.com/jinn-nation-blog-tour/ And stay tuned for a review of Jinn Nation.