"You shouldn't laugh," the woman told her. A minute of silence passed, while Renata loooked at the coffee pot as though about to talk to it. Alice's curiosity was about to kill her, but she didn't want to admit any interest in what Renata had to say. "I can tell you about the tzitzimimes, if you want. The coffee is almost ready." She poured it into a clay cup and put it in Alice's hands.
"How is it?" Renata stared until Alice, reluctant, raised the mug and took a sip. It had a faint taste of cinnamon and something sweet. In spite of herself, she smiled and took another sip.
"Yes, thank you."
"It's my famous café de olla," Renata said. "Okay, now that you have calmed down, I'll tell you about the tzitzimime. Do you know any Aztec or Mexica mythology?"
"No... I've only been in the country for three years."
"Well, the tzitzimime are bringers of doom. They are commanded by Death Goddess Itzpapalotl. She unleashes her army of flesh-eating tzitzimime to wreak havock on the world. It is their job to stop the Sun from rising again. They eat the flesh and bones of people to become stronger. Their arrival can only mean one thing: the fifth sun is about to end, and with it, humanity."
Alice stared at Renata. Not knowing what to say, she took a sip from the coffee, which made her feel better at once.
"Your mother hasn't been the only person to be attacked by the tzitzimime," Renata said. "I've known of at least another five cases of tzitzimime attacks this past week." Alice took another sip of her coffee, but couldn't find anything to say. The idea was so ridiculous she couldn't even give it a thought, couldn't comprehend the scope of the idea. She finished her coffee and set the mug on the floor next to the chair.
"You don't believe me. That's okay. I'll make a deal with you. I'm going to give you a special amulet to keep the tzitzimime away from your mother. You will not have to pay me one cent until you are satisfied that th tzitzimime hasn't returned to your mother." Alice thought about it; she could lose nothing by trying. In the worst case scenario, she'd end up with a new trinket that could serve as a curiosity present for her family in the United States.
"Leo! Leo!" A man with dark skin appeared in the doorway. "Ah, good, you were listening. Bring me the sun amulet."The man disappeared through the door. "He is my son." Renata fidgeted with her coffee mug. "Can I ask you a favor?" Alice sighed.
"Take my son with you," the woman said. "He will try and capture the creature that has been attacking your mother."
"Tzitzimime. We have tried three times already, but they always get away. I promise you that your mother will be safe. He'll just go in, capture the creature and go out. You can then pay him and forget about us." Alice panicked at the mere thought of having a stranger in the room with her and her mother. Even with the hospital safety, she felt uncomfortable with the idea.
"What if there's no creature?"
"There is. Are you willing to take that risk?" Alice remembered how the hole had started to swallow part of her mother's knee, how the doctors were positive she'd never be able to use the leg again. She remembered Dr. Travis' defeated look, and the patient with the hole in his head.
"Fine," she said. "But I've got the cops on my speed dial." A condescending smile appeared on Renata's lips. Your cops won't be able to help you against the tzitzimime, was the message written in the woman's eyes.