domingo, 31 de mayo de 2009

Part 13: Ceremony

Alice waited alone in the living room as things began to get prepared. All the time, she couldn't shake off the feeling that she ought to be running away from that place as fast as possible. Yet, something stronger than her own bound her to the chair she'd sat in. She wouldn't call that feeling curiosity, although it did play some part in her permanence. A strange sense of duty had started to settle in her chest ever since she'd seen the captured creature in her mom's hospital room.

"Come, Alice," the priest said. "Everything is ready for the ceremony."

She followed him into a back room whose windows had been sealed. A carved stone altar stood in the middle of the room, clashing with the very idea of the apartment it sat on. Dark reddish-brown stains covered the surface of the altar and splattered onto the floor beneath. Many copper recipients spewed copal smoke from the floor and altar, and two people Alice hadn't seen before seemed to dance around the altar, waving green branches around the air. Alice covered her mouth, trying not to cough from the heavy smoke that covered the room.

The cage with the tzitzimime sat on top of the altar. As soon as the wisps of smoke swirled around the cage, the tzitzimime screeched, pounding against the bars that kept it trapped. Alice couldn't stand the sight of the animated bones clacking against each other, with the putrid blackened hair flying around it's head, and the flashing darkness of its eye sockets piercing into her. She turned her attention to the other side of the room, where the priest was fitting himself with a huge ornament made out of feathers. Leo had also taken off his street clothes and wore nothing but a loincloth decorated with feathers. Alice blushed at the sight of his near-naked body, and decided to fix her eyes on the ground, trying not to think about the stains in it.

Finally, the priest stood in front of the altar, and the three other people in the room also stood near them. The priest chanted in a strange, melodic language that seemed to come out of the very air Alice breathed. She listened attentively, trying to internalize every sound, and after a few seconds felt a surge through her heart. The words infused her with courage.

After the chanting and reciting, the priest took one of the branches and began passing it over the tzitztimime, who started screeching. It fell to the center of the cage and contorted in impossible ways that made it look as if it would fall apart any minute. The priest's chanting grew louder, as the branche's movement grew more frantic.

Finally, Leo grabbed a small bow that had been sitting next to the altar and fitted an arrow into it. The black tip shone in the dim light of the room, piercing through the clouds of copal smoke. Leo pointed the arrow at the tzitzimime, and seemed to hesitate for a moment. He seemed to be searching for its head, but the flayling of the creature made it impossible to aim. The creature's bashing inside the cage made it rattle until it was about to fall from the altar. The priest's voice grew more urgent, and his chanting became fragmented.

Finally, Leo shot the arrow. It went right through the ribcage and lodged into the skull from beneath. A screeching sound that shook the walls sent Alice to her knees, and she covered her eyes. The room became darker than she could fathom, as if everything stopped to exist for a moment. When the room came back to focus, the darkness had been so blinding Alice could barely make out the shapes around her.

It took her a minute to be able to stand up, and even then her whole body swayed from one side to the other. She tried to penetrate the veil of darkness that still covered her eyes to look at the altar. The cage had been split in two and lay on either side of the altar, some bits of it melting. The tzitzimime was nowhere to be seen.

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