Chapter 121 - M.


I made it home, and after waiting for hours to make sure nobody followed me, I went inside. I spent the next few days making pained trips back and forth from the grocery store and devouring a month’s worth of few in a few days. Elias thinks I need to go to a hospital, and is concerned I won’t tell him where I spent the last few weeks. I was gone for thirty-six days. I survived thirty-six days of torture and my family has been worried sick. They came to visit, but could see I wasn’t feeling well. I just promised I wouldn’t vanish again.  

Through all of this, I could only think of one thing; where is Destiny? I managed to get free of Elias long enough to make my way to Destiny’s apartment. The place was still a wreck from the fight, but I could tell she had been there. She had taken somethings, eaten and left the place abandoned again. I checked her phone call history, nothing but me. Searched for clues about the grandmother and family she had spoken about, nothing. No family photos, no letters or even a recipe for grandma’s famous pot roast. Credit card statements, her cards were on autopay and hadn’t been used in months. The more I searched the more I felt like she had been a ghost. If I hadn’t stood in the wreckage of her apartment, I wouldn’t have believed she was ever real. Everything we had been through and she had vanished without a trace. The whole thing left me with an uneasy feeling.  

The solution came to me as I was lying in the bathtub with earplugs and beneath a blanket trying to block my senses. She’s never left me without telling me. I just have to go back to the beginning, the very beginning where we met. Club Void, and that’s where I’m going tonight. Elias is out courting a lady friend, finally giving me some space, and I’m heading for the club.

I pull into the parking lot, and scope out my surroundings. I’m still afraid somebody has been watching me, so I’ve been checking my surroundings a lot lately. I don’t have any problems getting in the club or finding my way around. The loud sounds and color changing lights have me on the edge of insanity.  

Last time I was here, I only found the secret exit because I was following Destiny. Now, I can see the door, clearly without any aide. It’s magic, a feint outline that I couldn’t see before. I wonder if the library has a magic signature over that hidden door as well. I don’t waste any time making my way towards the door. What I’m looking for is behind there.

Behind the door I recognize the smell as blood now. It was so foreign to me the first time I smelled it. Now, it’s second nature. Tonight, I can taste it in air, no almost. My mouth is watering, preparing for the taste as if I enjoyed being forced to drink all that blood. Now my body seems to be craving it and my hunger has become worse than before.  

These tunnels look like a place where people with fetishes for vampires come to get bitten. Every so often I come across a human or a vampire. I never noticed vampire eyes glow in low light, almost like a cat. My suspicions are confirmed when I hear a man yelling to be bitten harder. I’m not going to kink shame anyone, but I’ve never had the urge to be bitten, then again, nobody has offered. They look like they’re having fun and most don’t seem to care if I watch. I just keep going, trying to retrace my steps the night I chased Destiny.

I wonder if Destiny was here to shut it down that night, it wouldn’t be hard to believe this is a Marson operation. They did attack her that night, and I wouldn’t put it past her to be a constant pain in their ass. This place is a lot less alive than my first visit. If that was her plan, it worked. I make my way outside through the exit. The smell of garbage stronger than ever.  

I’m not sure how, but I can smell Destiny through it all. I can almost sense her presence looking at me. I glance up and spot her, sitting on the edge of the club’s roof kicking her legs in the air. I make my way over, and look for a way up, settling on the ladder bolted to the side of the building. I start to climb as she looks down on me.

“I’ve been looking for you,” I wrap my arms around her but she doesn’t hug me back.

“Hey, I’m really sorry. I’ve ruined your life.”

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Only because you don’t realize I’ve ruined it.”

“Stop with that,” I finally let her go. “I’m so glad to see you and all you’re saying is sorry.”

“You just don’t understand yet,” she walks away, seemingly wiping tears away.

“Just tell me what’s wrong,” I ask not realizing I raised my voice until the words are gone.

“Just drink this,” she hands me a can with no label.

“What is it?”

“It’ll make you feel better. I know you’re a mess right now, and you look like you aren’t far from going rabid.”

“I don’t know what any of that means.”

“Just drink blue bird, and I’ve got more. You’ll want it.”

I take the can from her and open it up. At first it tastes like cream soda, I love cream soda. For the first time in days, I seem to have something that’s stopping my constant hunger. With the third can, my constant headache subsides. By the sixth I’m no longer hungry, but I taste more than cream soda now.  

“What’s in the can,” I ask knowing the answer.

“Cream soda and,” she lets the word hang, “blood.”

The answer comes to my head right away. I don’t need to ask her; it all makes sense. The reason I could smell everything, see in the dark without an issue, why lights were suddenly too bright. Most of all it explains the constant hunger that I’d felt. I remember Destiny mentioning how it felt when a vampire didn’t feed too long.

“Why?”

“You were dying, it was the only way I could save you.”

“Why not take me to a hospital?”

“You wouldn’t have made it. I was selfish. I just didn’t want to lose you.”

She keeps talking, but I don’t listen, I try to hear anything else. The newfound level of hearing lets me focus on what the club is playing below us, the argument in the building across the street, what the bouncer is saying to the guy he won’t let in the front door. Everything but what she’s saying. It’s overwhelming, just as bad as before, but focused on one or two things at a time now. The scents aren’t any better, I can at least focus, almost look for certain smells, but it’s still too much. The hunger is gone, the headache is gone, and my head is clear, but I’m not feeling better. I know why she did it. But that was my choice to make. I don’t know if I would have decided to be a vampire if she just asked me. I know I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I just didn’t know it meant eternal life. What if we hate each other 100 years down the line? What happens when I outlive my family? Can I turn my family into vampires? I get it, I really do, but I can’t be happy.

“Please, just talk to me.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“You were the first person that ever loved me unconditionally. The first person that never wanted anything from me, and would do anything for me. You fought vampires, werewolves and even a half troll because you were caught up in my bullshit. The only time you got mad at me was because I was being an asshole. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stand not waking up knowing you weren’t out there anymore.”

“Alright.”

“That’s it? You’re not going to yell at me? You got the right to push me off this building for what I did and you’re just going to say alright?”

“What do you want me to say? I love you. I’m not hurt, I’m alive. There’s so much I don’t understand, or can’t comprehend right now. I want to thank you for saving my life. I want to thank you for giving me the chance to see my family again. I want to thank you for being you and loving me. I don’t know if I ever wanted to be a vampire. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I outlive my family. I’m not eager to go around biting people. I should be mad, I want to be mad. I’m just glad we’re together.”  

“Then we’ll figure it out together.”

Chapter 120 - M.


My throat burns as air rushes through my body like never before, expanding and contracting rapidly. This must be how babies feel when they're born and take their first breaths. The pain of breathing keeps me from moving more than a few inches. I scream out at the sky trying to force the painful air from my lungs. Still my body craves for more of it, devouring it until I can no longer fight the pain. Tears burst from my eyes as the newfound air twirls a new flame in my chest. 

When the pain subsides enough for me to open my eyes and take in my surrounding the world itself seems to assault me. My eyes burn from the dryness as well as pulsate from the bright light all around me. Sunsets were once comfortable, but now it blinds me, burns and pains my eyes. I turn my head to look away only for a splitting headache to arrive with the sound of the grass. I can only lie and be assaulted by this new world, hoping it would soon claim me and end my insanity or I'd grow used to it. 

Two things force me to move from the position I had decided would be my last. The first is Destiny, the perpetual motion in my thoughts. She was here, and I want her back. I need her back around me. The second is something new. A hunger that I've never felt before. I could eat, anything even turnips and I hate turnips. There's no specific food I'm craving, but I'm craving something, anything that can fill my stomach. My dad used to brag about how we never missed a meal unless we wanted to, and I was guilty of being a picky eater, still I've never been this hungry in my life.

Forcing myself to my feet my legs wobble beneath me, unsure if they could support my weight. Each step is pained and unsure. I grip my stomach, trying to avoid the pain. The open wound is no longer there, I don't even feel a scar where it had been. Had everything up until this moment been a dream? No, it was far too real. I can still taste the mouthfuls of blood and feel the beatings and cuts. It was real, the assault on my senses warps my sense of reality, but I have to believe it was all real. If it wasn't real, Destiny wouldn't have been there to save me. I refuse she didn't come to save me. 

"Destiny," I call out but nobody responds "Where are you," I ask again.

My feet drag across the cold dew mixed with ash that stains my bare feet in a dark mud. Vampires, she was here. She killed them, did she kill them all? I don't know. The large mansion looks to be burnt out in parts, crumbled in other and bodies are strewn across the grounds. Did Destiny do all of this? Did she have help? If she went through all this for me, she wouldn't just leave me behind if she did all this. 

I drop to a knee in pain. A combination of my stomach and chest, two separate but equal pains. I'm able to tell exactly when one starts and the other ends. This brings back memories of being beaten by that werewolf and doing a jail break right after. I miss that, this is worse in every way. My head begins to swim, I almost vomit as I stand, an intense sense of vertigo washes over me. I fall to my knees, heartbeat pounding in my ears. I expect to dry heave, instead blood spews from my mouth. 

I place a hand in the blood, and feel it. I'm not disgusted by it. Just intrigued. How much blood had a drunk lately? They forced me to drink it by the gallon. I have a memory of Destiny cutting her wrist and forcing me to drink. I've been covered in dried blood for days on end now and yet I'm intrigued by the blood I vomit from my own mouth.

I crawl a little further, pulling myself along the grass until I find a car to pull myself up. A dead body rests in the driver seat, keys still in his hand. I struggle to pull the body from the car. The weight isn't the problem, it's just that every move and sound echoes in my head long after the motions are complete. I turn the key and the engine turns over. I instantly turn it off as the sound begins to decimate my thoughts. 

I dig through the glove box and center console until I'm able to find a pair of sunglasses. The relief isn't much but the sun doesn't hurt my eyes, now they're just dry. Back outside the car I rip some pieces of the former driver's shirt and place them in my ears to muffle the sounds. This time the car assaults my senses again, but it isn't anything I can't handle. I'll get out of here for now. Destiny wouldn't die here. I'll find her, but first I really need to eat.

Chapter 119 - M.


[Present Day]

I didn’t get much sleep yesterday; I spent the rest of the evening dodging Jabari and the day I spent trying to find the building I woke up in. Once I found it, I had to wait until night time to search through it. Now that I’m here all I’ve gotten is a bunch of ashes in my lungs and no real signs to give me leads on what happened. The entire process is frustrating. My memories are my own, yet I’m sitting here with nothing but fragments. Here I am, knowing I’m me, knowing I’m missing something, and I can’t even recall my own name. 

Was I the only person caught up in the building collapse? There aren’t any remains of bodies or weapons. Unless they managed to clear the site in a day, which is unlikely, I didn’t go out in a fight which doesn’t make sense. The last thing I remember is Destiny and I being on the run from The Marson House and some of their allies. Ending up in Detroit without a fight, just doesn’t make any sense to me. My thirst for blood has subsided and I’m not suffering withdrawal effects either. Still I’m wondering if more blood would help clear up my memory loss. Blood can rapidly speed up recovery from injuries when it comes to vampires, but is memory loss an injury? 

Most of what I find is just old documents, most of them too distorted by flame, water or ash to be readable in any sort of manner. I come across a laptop that seems mostly undamaged, some ash, but no fire or water damage. I should be able to use it, try to gather some information. I wipe away the ash and toss the laptop into the air on instinct. I watch as it begins to rabidly fall from the air, wondering if I’m an idiot. Just before it touches the ground, I snatch it into my dimensional pocket, or magic backpack as Destiny called it. I laugh at myself for forgetting that I could do that. I probably have all kinds of clues as to what was going on and didn’t even realize it. 

“You’re a wizard Harry,” I recognize Jabari’s voice call out to me. 

He’s making his way through the rubble, stumbling and holding his phone towards me. I thought I dodged this kid but he’s persistent. 

“How did you find me,” I ask. 

“You’re broke so you don’t have money to get around so you couldn’t go far. There’s a limited radius you would be able to get on foot and only so many interesting places. A burned down building on the news? Perfect place for amnesiac vampire, or wizard. Both,” he smiles as if he’s Sherlock Holmes. 

“Did you take a picture of me on your phone?” 

“No, I took a video,” he’s gleeful. 

“Why?” 

“I’m going to show the people in my afterschool club. They won’t believe it.”  

“Can I see the video,” I lean in. 

“Sure,” he taps a few times and hands me the phone. 

I press the big play button and sure enough he’s got video of me performing magic. Camera phones have come a long way since I’ve been on ice or whatever. The resolution is almost perfect, even to have been recorded at night. I can’t let him show this video to anyone else. I imagine things spread like wildfire, the same as they did back in my day. Phones are a lot better these days, but somehow much simpler. I don’t have to navigate through folders using numbers as arrows. Once the video finishes playing I’m right back in his photo gallery. He seems confused by my tapping, but I continue to scroll through the pictures and videos in his phone. Blackberry was all the rage last time I was around phones, this thing called the iPhone had just come out and it was supposed to be ground breaking. Then came Windows phone, but I never actually got to use one of those before whatever happened happened.

"Are you gay," I ask bluntly, it almost sounds offensive.

"No," he responds in a hushed whisper. "But if I was, there would be nothing wrong with it." 

"No, of course not. I just asked because you have a lot of, penis portraits," what else would I call it?

"Don't look at that," he gets visibly embarrassed and tries to rush me.  

"Oh, so this is you," I laugh and side step him.

"Shut up," he stumbles through the ash trying to keep up.

"I might show this to my club. Is this one a video? Do you actually send these to people? I'm not watching that," I step over him as he falls through the ash.

"Stop," he yells more like an angry child this time.

"There is so much porn on here. Back in my day nobody watched internet porn because it took forever to load. You, well you'd put the entire city of Chicago to shame with your collection. Does your depravity know no bounds? Is this cartoon porn?"

"Hentai," he's defeated.

"With vampires? Take my advice kid, you're too obsessed to be so young."

Jokes over now, I pretend to snap the phone in half and fling it in different directions. In reality, I just threw a fastball right into my pocket. The kid looks upset and takes off run after trying to decide which way to run. It'll come in handy later, all that technology in your pocket. While he's out searching it gives me a moment to make an escape without him watching over me. I need to start putting things together and I can't do that with a teenage stalker.

Chapter 118 - M.


“You nervous,” my lawyer leans over and asks me.

“Yeah, I don’t even know why I’m here.”

“Trial of the century, maybe. You could get the death penalty or have a long and glorious life. As glorious as you humans can be anyway.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Pay attention, the judge is coming.”

“All rise for The Supreme God of Life, Death and Renewal, the most honorable Gamab,” an ominous voice echoes through the empty room.

Gamab enters the room from seemingly nowhere. Draped in dried hide of some animal, he walked barefoot and carried a large bow and a bowl. He stops at our table and looks over me. I’m not afraid, but I can tell he’s powerful despite the big smile. He produces a bowl of a strange yellow liquid and places it on the table.

“You should have a drink, for good luck,” he waves his hand towards the bowl.

“That’s a good sign,” my lawyer assures me.

I do as I’m told and take the bowl, it’s warm but the way the liquid moves assures me he isn’t trying to make me drink urine. Gamab hasn’t given me a reason to distrust him, but I also don’t know why I’m in a court room. I’ve long given up on things making sense. I bring the bowl closer to my face, the smell is similar to cooking oil. I take a deep breath and bring it to my mouth. The liquid moves all at once forcing me to drink more than I planned to. The taste is bitter, but not as bad as I expected. Somehow it calms my nerves. Gamab smiles and passes the bowl to my lawyer who drinks deeply before leaving to take a seat on the opposite side of the room.

“Kayiikuuzi, are you ready,” Gamab asks.

“Yes, I’m ready,” my lawyer speaks.

“Then send him up.”

“Go ahead, take a seat,” Kayiikuuzi points to a chair that previously wasn’t in the room.

I make my way over to the chair and realize this isn’t the courtroom I had imagined it was. Instead I’m staring into the vastness of space, stars and magnificent colors radiating around us. The entire view is a lot to take in, yet I can’t seem to think of anything but this moment right now.

“I’ll tell you how this works,” Gamab speaks. “You must be confused.”

“Yes, I respond.”

“Well, Kayiikuuzi is going to ask you five questions. You’ll need to get three right. If not, I’ll shoot you with my bow and you’ll die. If you do get three correctly, your life will be renewed,” Gamab speaks in a nice, yet stern voice.

“Is there any other way,” I ask.

“No, you’ve already chosen to go through this trial. Don’t worry, Kayiikuuzi has a soft spot for humans, at least those who have been good during their time on Earth. You could have had Ogun or Shango prepare your test, which would not be good for you. Luckily, they’re locked in another battle,” Gamab’s last sentence causes Kayiikuuzi to laugh alongside him. I have no idea who either of those people are.

“Let’s start,” Kayiikuuzi speaks.

“I guess I don’t have a choice.”

“Excellent,” Gamab claps.

“Question one, are you a good person,” Kayiikuuzi asks.

My first thought is of course I’m a good person, but wouldn’t that arrogance mean I’m not? I try to help people as much as I can. But, I do buy a lot of bootleg CDs and that’s theft. Have I ever hurt anyone? No, but I’ve wanted to.

“It isn’t a multiple choice answer young man,” Gamab “It’s only your life in the balance. Don’t hesitate.”

“I think so,” is my answer. I feel a pressure surround me and Kayiikuuzi looks away. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out I answered wring. “I want to be a good person, but I’m just human. I can’t be perfect.” I try to save myself.

“Nobody asked if you were perfect, he asked if you were good,” Gamab shakes his head in disappointment.

“Next question. Have you ever given someone true happiness,” Kayiikuuzi moves on quickly.

“I don’t even know what happiness is,” I don’t realize the words have left my mouth.

More pressure surrounds me, almost as if gravity is trying to crush me. Kayiikuuzi covers his face with his hand while Gamab can’t seem to stop his laughter at my answer.

“Take this serious,” Kayiikuuzi seems upset with me.

“I’m trying, but this is stressful.”

“You never gave anyone happiness?”

“Is this one of the five questions?”

“No, are you brain dead,” Kayiikuuzi brings more laughter from Gamab.

“Elias, my brother,” I shrug.

More pressure surrounds me, “No, she’s trying to save you right now,” Kayiikuuzi seems irritated.

“Destiny,” I scream her name.

“Yes, why couldn’t you answer that thirty seconds ago?”

“This is stressful.”

“I could hold you at the end of my spear if that would help,” Kayiikuuzi only half jokes.

“I’ll be fine.”

“This is the best trial I’ve seen since Lesane had his trial,” Gamab speaks of another person I don’t know.

“Question three, what is your purpose in life,” Kayiikuuzi asks.

“I don’t know, is this rigged? How can you expect me to know my purpose in life? I haven’t even gotten to have a midlife crisis yet,” now I’m irritated.

“Correct,” Kayiikuuzi smiles.

“What?”

“This is amazing,” Gamab continues to laugh.

“Question four,” Kayiikuuzi pauses as Gamab calms himself. “What do you have to offer the world?”

“All I can give the world is me. Anything else I give, can come from someone else,” I think I’ve got the game now.

“My boy, I knew you were a smart one,” Kayiikuuzi claps. “Last question. Do you want to live?”

“I haven’t always wanted to live, but right now, I want to live more than anything else.”

“Then you can live,” Kayiikuuzi pulls me from the chair and gives me a hug.

“Passing judgement is my job,” Gamab speaks. “You will not die yet, you are strong. Live so that you may give your best to the world and those that love you. Live so that you may change this world for the better. Live so that you may not only find your purpose, but fulfill it. Rise into the world, reborn anew, stronger than before.”

Chapter 117 - M.


The echoes of violence outside fill the shed I’ve been stuck in these last few weeks. It started with gunshots, few and far between but no screams. The gun shots stopped when someone yelled. From there I would hear more muffled yells, the occasional explosion and a car crash. It’s chaos out there, but all seems to be growing closer. I might be able to understand what they’re shouting if they get closer. I don’t know who’s fighting but I say a silent prayer that they kill the entire Marson family.

 I had given up hope on anyone coming to save me, or even finding me right when I started hallucinating, but now seems to be my chance to go free, if only someone can hear me. I shout and scream with energy I didn’t know I had left. Soon there’s banging outside the shed door. The moment of freedom is in front of me. Destiny, a SWAT team sent by Elias, the army sent by my mother, or my father and his old gun toting buddies. Who came to save me?

 The banging continues. I hear shouting about the lock and not having a key. If it was someone with the Marson Family they would have a key. I’m really going to be saved. I’ve waited for this moment, endured, and finally the moment is in front of me. The banging stops and I’m blinded by the light outside shining in.

“Couldn’t leave without finishing you off,” I recognize Cathy’s voice.

“Let me go.”

“No, things have gone bad here, and you need to be taken care of before I move on. They want you alive, but I can’t have you telling people about me.”

Cathy produces a knife, and almost as if it were in slow motion she plunges it into my chest. When the blade stops, she pushes forward with her entire bodyweight. I don’t even feel the pain, I can’t fight back, the shock freezes me. She could stop there but pulls the blade down my abdomen. The only thought running through my head is when the pain will kick in. I open my mouth to scream and nothing comes out. The world around me goes silent, this isn’t another of her illusions. This is real, I know instantly. I thought I accepted my death, but here I am not accepting it, trying to fight the void. Fight the darkness at the edge of my vision. Don’t let it win. Blink it away.

I open my eyes to the ceiling. Destiny staring over me.

“You came for me,” I try to speak the words but it feels like my mouth is full of some liquid.

Destiny responds with tears in her eyes. I can’t understand, the tears drop on my face, and I can’t even feel them. She looks remorseful.

“It’s not your fault,” I try to speak again but I can’t hear myself.

I try to reach her face, but the darkness takes me again. Kaluga smiles and I open my eyes again. She’s speaking now, but I can’t make out the words. Probably wants me to stay with her. I’m trying, I am.

I open my eyes to Destiny, drinking blood from my stomach. I try pushing her away but I can’t seem to move my body anymore.

A burning sensation across my abdomen brings me back from the darkness. No longer shaking hands with Kaluga.

“San nan san mwen. San nan san mwen. San nan san mwen,” I can hear her now.

“Hey, I love you,” she ignores me.

“San nan san mwen. San nan san mwen. San nan san mwen.”

 She jams her bloodied wrist into my mouth, I can’t push it away. The taste of blood has become all too common in my life. Hers is different, sweeter, warm, fresh blood. Not a good taste. But nothing like before.

“San nan san mwen. San nan san mwen. San nan san mwen,” those words again.

She grips my mouth and forces more of her blood down my throat. Tilting my head when I can’t swallow.

“Fun mi ni agbara lati pa awon ota mi,” new words.

“I’m trying to tell you I love you,” I can’t hear my own words.

“Fun mi ni agbara lati pa awon ota mi,” I still hear what she’s chanting.

She uses blood to draw some symbols over me. Last rights? I guess, but I’d rather hear her say she loves me. I can’t blink away the darkness anymore.

“San nan san mwen. Fun mi ni agbara lati pa awon ota mi,” yeah whatever you say.

Chapter 116 - M.



The light flickers on and off as it has for the last few days, or hours. I’m not sure. They haven’t come to beat me or feed me lately. I’ve been stuck in this shed, sweating and dry heaving from the heat. I’m not sure if Summer has already come or they’re heating this place up on purpose. I wouldn’t put either past them. I haven’t given up on Destiny coming to save me, I just wonder why she’s taking so long to do it.

“You need to save yourself,” a raspy voice speaks from behind me.

“Is someone there,” I ask before feeling a hand on my shoulder.

“You should wait for the girl,” another voice, much smoother from the other side.

“What’s going on,” I ask, unable to see behind me.

“The boy is confused, you know I love that,” the raspy voice.

“These young people always are. So in love with the religion that the white man gave them that they don’t learn their own past. You know, that’s why so many of us get the call at once. They don’t know who they should actually be calling,” the smooth voice this time.

“We should just fight it out and see who wins,” the raspy voice.

“Now, where’s the fun in that?”

“You know I’d have a bloody good time,” the raspy voice laughs.

“I bet you would Ekwensu,” the smooth voice this time.

“Now you’ve said my name, Anansi,” the raspy voice.

The two step in front of me as they continue to argue and I have to be hallucinating again. One stood in front of me dressed like an accountant in the midst of war. Wearing slacks and sandals he would seem odd in an office. As my vision moved up I realized his torso was only covered by countless scars and a beaded necklace. In one hand he carried a shield shaped like a tortoise shell. On his side a black sword with various gold charms hanging from it. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of his smile when the light flickers. Long dreadlocks with more golden charms meaning he’s probably wealthy. The other was even more strange. He stood there in a full suit and tie, his own dreadlocks tied neatly behind his head. He looked completely unassuming until I focused my vision, four spider-like limbs shooting from his back. Each adorned with gold trinkets. The hallucination is really working overtime.

“I told you put those disgusting legs away Anansi,” the raspy voice, meaning he’s Ekwensu.

“Why don’t you put your shell on and we’ll see who looks weirder,” Anansi continues to joke.

“Eight legs mean more bones to cut out,” Ekwensu threatens while gripping his sowrd.

“Spiders have an exoskeleton; the bones are already out. Technically, in this form I have six legs and two arms. This is why I rule over stories and knowledge, but you have chaos and war. I have no idea why we are both called tricksters. I don’t do tricks,” Anansi seems annoyed.

“Your tricks are more like pranks. Mine are strategies for war. We are not the same.”

“Your only strategy is chaos.”

“You need both to win a war.”

“Really? Well why do merchants call to you. Answer that.”

“Strategy, and hopefully nobody dies if a deal goes bad. Why do they keep turning you into children’s books?”

“Why did the white man turn you into a devil?”

The two lock eyes with Ekwensu gripping his sword tighter. Anasi rises on his spider legs lifting his human legs from the ground, possibly preparing for a fight. Suddenly they both begin to laugh and embrace each other as old friends. All while my sweat mixes with blood in this unbearable heat.

“Can one of you help me get free,” I interrupt the laughter, only for them to laugh harder.

“You can get yourself free. You just have to decide how,” Anansi smiles coyly at me.

“What’s there to decide?”

“You could play dead, and kill whoever comes to check,” Ekwensu speaks.

“Or, you could promise to lead them to what they want, then flee,” Anansi counters.

“If he is caught, would that not lead to more pain than he has already endured?”

“But the greatest knowledge is gained through pain. Do you know about when Gun died,” he turns his attention to me.

“No, I don’t know that.”

“One day I was hungry, I didn’t have any food at home so I asked a hunter if I could borrow his gun. I carried the gun around, and told all the animals Gun was dead. They rejoiced and we had a grand funeral. Then I killed several of them, with Gun. I had a full belly for nearly a year, but they learned even a dead enemy can bring you pain,” Anansi finishes his story as if he expects applause.

“Everything you need to learn, can be learned from war. Embrace the violence, let your enemies blood water your crops. When they know true violence, they will bargain. Kill whoever comes, bite at their neck if you must. They will bargain. Do you know why there are no stories of me but everyone knows my might,” Ekwensu asks, almost nose to nose.

“Because you killed everyone and their mothers,” Anansi jokes.

“No,” Ekwensu whips around. “It is because I give people exactly what they ask for, and in return they send thanks up to me.”

“Yes, but in giving them exactly what they want, it is not what they requested at all,” Anansi interrupts. “That is why you are labeled a trickster, the same as I.”

“I am no trickster.”

“No am I.”

“Seriously, can one of you just take off these straps,” I stop them again.

“If I take off the straps, walk through the door and murder everything that breathes until you are free. They deserve no mercy from you,” Ekwensu gives me a haunting smile.

“Loosen the straps by misleading your captives,” Anasi responds. “Haven’t you suffered enough? Do you not get the lesson I’m trying to teach you?”

“You haven’t tried to teach me anything other than betraying my missing girlfriend is the right move,” I argue.

“Yes, that is the move. Betray her location, cheat on her, it is all the same.”

“I’d never cheat on her,” he’s making me angry.

“He’s right Anansi, Black men do not cheat. You know that,” Ekwensu says.

“You’re right, Black men don’t cheat, at anything but Spades,” Anansi’s joke cues more laughter between them.

“Please just help me,” I beg them again.

“Answer this for me. Which of us is right? Should you spend a lifetime suffering at the hands of your enemies for knowledge; or learn the craft of violence to prevent future suffering? Which one. Choose one, and we’ll set you free,” Ekwensu offers me.

“Haven’t you already suffered enough? Do you not get the lesson I’m trying to teach you,” Anansi asks.

“You should walk through that door and kill anyone moving. You end this right now if you show them who you are,” Ekwensu argues.

“I feel like I’ll die no matter which way I go. If I run, they’ll catch me, then kill me. If I fight, they’ll kill me.”

"Hurry up and make a decision,” Anansi grows impatient.

“Do not let the trickster distract you,” Ekwensu adds.

“You’re a trickster as well old friend,” Anansi checks his watch.

“Can’t they go hand in hand? Doesn’t violence cause suffering which leads to knowledge. I mean couldn’t either one bring a solution,” I try to answer their question.

“So your solution is to do nothing,” Anansi raises an eyebrow.

“Yes.”

“It is a good answer,” Ekwensu responds.

“Isn’t it,” Anansi jokes.

“In war, sometimes doing nothing is enough for your enemy to surrender or starve.”

“Doing nothing means you can watch and learn from other people’s mistakes.”

“I think he’ll do just fine.”

“Yes, he’ll fit in perfectly.”

“I do love our little chats.”

“Can someone tell me what’s going on here,” I break up their conversation.

“Oh, we’re going to leave you here. It's the best way for you to gain some incredible knowledge. It’s going to hurt a little, a lot. But, in the end it’ll be worth it,” Anansi grabs at my face and examines it.

“With the knowledge you gain, you’ll be able to destroy your enemies. Doing nothing is perfect,” Ekwensu pats the top of my head.

“Keep your head,” Anansi says before vanishing into the dark behind me.

“Keep your heart as well,” Ekwensu performs his own vanishing act.

I call out, but nobody answers. I’m left alone in the room again, wondering why I continue to hallucinate. First the water, now this. I’m beginning to wonder if my mind will break before my body at this point. Anansi and Ekwensu. I must be going insane.

Chapter 115 - M.


I open my eyes and find myself surrounded by water, not a lake, but an ocean. I’ve only been to the ocean once, we took a family trip to Virginia for a reunion. This is nothing like this. No matter which direction I turn there’s nothing but water. I can tell it’s deep, almost as if I’m standing on the ocean. I should be afraid, but it’s peaceful, almost as if I belong here. With no sign of land, I walk, in no particular direction. Walking on water would be a surprise almost any other time, but right now, it feels as if I was always meant to.

I remember Cathy making another visit to torture me, our fourth meeting. I blacked out, but this isn’t one of her illusions. It’s too peaceful, and there’s no one taking pleasure in my pain. I don’t actually feel any pain, it’s all gone. I don’t even have any bruises or scars now that I think about it. Is this, am I dead? I knew they would kill me, I just thought they would make a show of it. I didn’t expect them to let some little old lady be the one who pulled the plug on me.

“Come,” I hear a voice call to me.

“Who said that,” I turn to look around but I don’t see anyone.

“It was I who spoke,” a body appears behind me.

My first reaction is to jump back in fear. Before me stood a man, with stone features, and onyx skin to math. He had to be at least ten feet tall, I had never seen a man so tall before. A black cloak with ornate gold symbols covering it. As he removed the hood his face and bald head became visible. More gold piercings along his ears, a stud in his nose and a piercing on each side of his lip. I’m not a jeweler but I can tell the gold is all real. I force myself back to a steady position and stand as tall as I can. I’ve never met this man before, but something about him commands respect. He moves his head first, then he moves to walk around me, almost as if he were searching for something.

“Who are you?”

“Kaluga,” he answers with just his name in a baritone voice that almost echoes.

It resonates power. Just the name fills me with an understanding of what real power is. Yet, I still feel comforted by the name. A name that could end whatever this moment is, or help me through this and find my way home. I’m not sure which he is, but the option is there. All of this comes from him just speaking his name.

“Who are you?”

“God of The Underworld. Protector of those who have died but are not ready to pass on.”

“Where are we,” I don’t need more explanation.

“The ocean where the living become dead.”

“I’m dead.”

“Not if you don’t want to be,” the man smiles at me.

“How do I go back.”

“You need to build a connection.”

“Connection to where.”

“Home.”

“My apartment?”

“Bigger.”

“Chicago?”

“Bigger.”

“The United States?”

“No,” he raises his voice and dread fills me.

“Then where?”

“The place you were stolen from.”

“Africa?”

“Yes. Those who were stolen crossed the Atlantic and they died. The only way to be reborn was building a connection. For you who were born in the kingdom of your masters were born dead. To truly be alive, you need to reach the motherland. Follow the line, build your connection. That is the only way you will live.”

“I just want to go home.”

“Then build your line. You can not go home from here. You can die and follow me to the underworld, or take a step to be reborn as something new.”

I don’t get to ask for anymore clues. He’s gone as fast as he came. He doesn’t even vanish in a puff of smoke, or slowly fade, he’s just, gone. Building a line to Africa? I’m American born, American raised. I don’t really know anything about Africa besides a few major countries. How is Africa supposed to get me home? For now, I just walk.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been walking, but I spot a person. I think it’s a person. I change direction and walk towards them. If someone else is here, they may be able to help me find my way home, or we can help each other. As I come closer a woman comes into view. A woman dressed in an elaborate skirt, picks at her afro with one hand and holds a mirror in the other. A snake is wrapped around her torso and neck. She doesn’t have a shirt so I avert my gaze from her hickory skin as I approach.

“Excuse me,” I try to get her attention.

“What? You never saw titties,” she catches me off guard.

“I, well. I’m just,” I’m not able to gather myself.

“Out with it. My nudity is nothing for you to be ashamed of, nor is your own.”

She’s beautiful, the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. I can’t get my thoughts straight. Even without her looking away from her mirror. I’m embarrassed to speak with her. Her words suddenly made me aware of my own nudity. Had I been naked when speaking to Kaluga? I’m just I’m not standing at attention.

“I need to go home.”

“You’re not going to ask who I am?”

“I feel like I know,” and I don’t know why.

“Then who am I?”

“Mami Wata,” I don’t recognize the words as they leave my lips. “A goddess of water, you show people the truth in water.”

“You aren’t as dense as you seem,” she smiles but doesn’t look away.

“Thank you,” for some reason I feel honored.

“You want to go home?”

“Yes Mami.”

“Do you know what you have to do?”

“No.”

“You have to drown.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Drown.”

With her words I find myself sinking into the water for the first time. The welcome I had felt in this place is gone. Only terror remains as I try raise my legs once the water reaches my ankles. She still doesn’t turn from the mirror. Her snake seems to be enjoying my terror.

“Help, please,” I plead with her.

“No, you need to build your connection below the water. Build it with those who died because they could not make the journey. Build it with those that were thrown overboard because they refused to be chained. Build it with those that jumped to their death rather than face a life of torment. Build it with those who died trying to return. They wait for your below the surface. If you reject them, you will die. If you embrace them as the world could not, you will go home. You will take them with you, and you shall never truly be alone. That is how you build your connection.”

I don’t have a chance to respond. I try to swim as the water passes my shoulders, but it’s too thick. It’s almost as if I’m trying to swim in concrete. I can’t fight it, I can’t make it to the top. A hand reaches out to me in the water. I don’t have a choice, I take the hand, hoping this is what Mami Water meant.

I move closer to the surface. A vision of a man being shackled flashes through my mind and I let the hand go. I begin to sink again. Another hand. I take it, this time a man begs as his son’s hands are cut off. I don’t know how I know, but I know this is in Congo. Another hand lifts me from the water, this time a woman screams in pain as a knife digs into her abdomen. I can see she’s pregnant. A hand reaches in and I let go, I can no longer watch. I know where this goes. I sink as another hand reaches to me. I don’t want to die, but I can’t take another of these visions. I can see the surface, I can see another hand reaching out to me, but I’m afraid to take it.

“Do you want to die that bad,” I hear Mami Water call from the surface.

I take the hand and find myself in a dark box. I can hear footsteps and dogs barking above me. Muffled words I can’t understand. Three gunshots, silence, but the darkness remains. Light fills my vision as a door is lifted from above me. Hand reaches down, welcoming.

“Good job,” Kaluga’s voice echoes in my head.

I vomit sea water as tears fall from my eyes. I find myself back in the shack. All of the pain I remember has returned to me. I’m not sure how much of that was a hallucination, but the salt water, how can you fake that. Was it another illusion? I’m still strapped to this chair, but no one is here. Did they think they killed me? I cough up more salt water as I try to take a deep breath. I want to go home.