The Umbanda Spiritual Center was located in the far away Woods of Round Lake.
THIRD PLACE in the Twisted Tales Contest by Arakun the Twisted Raccoon , January 2011
FEATURED in The Writing.Com Newsletter - Mystery: Character-izing Clues - Editor's Picks, by Kate ~ Reading & Writing , November 16, 2011
She went to the Spiritual Center on a warm afternoon in the month of August. It was far from her house but Luiza didn't care. She had to go there once and for all. She had been dreaming about weird, strange things lately and would wake up sweating and screaming late at night. She was always thirsty at night and would drink many glasses of water trying to ease a burning pain inside of her. She really needed to know what was going on. She had to know what those scary dreams meant. She had to know the truth. She had gone to many doctors and tried various treatments, medications and even alternative medicine. Her friends told her about this very special Umbanda Spiritual Center located near the Woods of Round Lake, an hour from Brasilia.
It was the best place to go for spiritual consultations but if she decided to go, and she should try it out - but if she went, she should not wear black clothes on the Umbanda days. Remember: all colors but black because she was not going on a Quimbanda day - a day for "the dark side" consultations. The Pai de Santo would not like it if she wore black on that day; he would certainly notice it and... who knows, the dark, invisible forces of the woods would connect to her aura and she'd be in serious trouble forever in that center! They also told her not wear jeans (if you're a woman), only skirts or dresses. She promised not to but wondered why. Yet, who was she to question or argue about the "spiritual things" when she knew so little about them? They had been there - they knew best.
She arrived late. The "trabalhos" had already begun. Not good, she thought but the Center was so distant and all those confusing directions to follow - so many crossroads and she got lost twice. She was dressed in a lovely white dress and Luiza thought that she kind of looked like Iemanj├í - A Rainha do Mar, with her long dark hair covering her shoulders and slim back. The Center was packed with people and men were sitting on the left while women were sitting on the right side of the Terreiro. She said her name to a short man at the entrance. The list was very long today, he said. Many were here for the afflictions of the soul - such difficult times, you know. She was to "talk to" Seu 7 Encruzas, he told her, because it was her first day in the Center. He was the important Spiritual Candombl├ę guide of the Pai de Santo (and owner of the Umbanda Spiritual Center) that usually incorporated on the Umbanda days. She was lucky - he might be able to "see" her but she had to wait for her turn. Patience is a virtue, he said and disappeared in the crowd.
They told her to sit next to the other women and take her white sandals off and... wait. She could not enter the Terreiro with shoes, watches, necklaces or purses. You didn't want to take your bad vibes with you into the magic Terreiro. She understood. She waited and waited and waited while she observed the people all around the packed room full of candles, flowers and offerings.
The mediums wore their symbolic dress code: men, a strange type of shirt and pants and women, a blouse and long skirts - both wearing white colors. They all wore their Guias around their necks with different color stones that meant different Orix├ís or a powerful spiritual guide that each medium incorporated in the Terreiro on that day.
There was cacha├ža and cigar smoke all over the room and the mediums were incorporating their Orix├ís now and having one on one consultations with their loyal "customers" that came every other week for guidance and spiritual advice, for Quebrantos and Demandas, for ritualism and fires and for physical, mental and spiritual help from the 7 levels of the Bantu Gege line. You could feel the force, the energy and the interaction of all the involved, together with respect and fear of the unknown and specially of the unearthly matters. It was fascinating, She couldn't stop looking and wondering. Were the voices of those Orix├ís or Eshus coming from the mediums mouths their own or did they come from other souls living right there, inside their bodies? Did the mediums really have spiritual guides helping them with the "communication" from the other side - a side and that we fully cannot understand - lodged somewhere in the darkest area of our hearts or... were they... pretending? It didn't matter because she was completely overtaken by the beauty and mystery of the place. She felt... at home. How strange. She was so picky.
They called her name after 5 hours. It was her time. Luiza took a deep breath and went into the Terreiro. Her heart was beating faster and she felt the sweat rolling down her forehead. She swallowed hard. She walked up to the Pai de Santo. She noticed that he was twisted and bent, drinking cacha├ža and smoking a thick, smelly cigar. She... ssslowly approached him. He greeted her but... blinking his eyes in surprise, he seemed extremely... puzzled while he observed her. He scratched his chin. She held his hand and kissed it when he offered it to her. He told her to sit on the floor in front of him and he sat on his black, small wooden bench. Silence. The atabaques were sounding softly, coming from one of the corners of the room. The many mediums were observing then from all around the Center's big room.
He put his heavy hand on her head and closed his eyes. He nodded. He laughed softly. He smoked his cigar and blew some smoke over her head. He nodded again. Was he talking to spirits? He had some cacha├ža and offered her some. She held the cup and took a sip, and it hit the bottom of her stomach like fire, burning her throat and making her eyes wet. She coughed. He laughed. He offered her his cigar. She looked at him as if asking if she really should. He nodded. Yes. Was he reading her mind or was he connecting, bonding with her? She pretended to smoke a little but some smoke went into her mouth. She coughed again. He smiled. Yet, he was staring deeply at her, curiously, making Luiza feel extremely uncomfortable.
Suddenly, as if he finally knew it, humbly and reciting strange words he got up, fell noisily on the floor in front of her and opened his arms, like as if he were a big cross. He lowered his head, touched it softly 3 times on the Terreiro's floor and looked up at her. The Umbanda Center froze... the atabaques stopped, the singing and the hand clapping stopped. Time froze. Silence. They all looked at him and at her --- both the dead and the living were shocked and surprised with his sudden attitude - never seen before. Had their Pai de Santo formally and respectfully greeted this unknown woman as his Superior - the ÔÇťBater Cabe├žaÔÇŁ or Bowing of the Head was for... her? A mere mortal woman? They had never seen him do that before and to anybody in many years!
After some minutes he got up, asked her to stand up follow him. He respectfully held her hand and took her across the Center and to the other side of the room, where they set the Demanda Fires. He told her to stand right there. Her long, dark hair and lovely white dress were blowing in the soft, warm wind that came from the darkness outside. It was so... soothing. He went to a secret little red door outside the Center and returned with a mesmerizing statuette of Lucifer. He held it in his hands as if it were the most precious of possessions. It... he was dressed in red, had a long, black and red coat, black boots and was holding a red trident. He asked her to look at it... him. She did while her heart beat faster and faster. She was sweating all over her slim, shaken body. It was so hot in that room. She gazed at Satan's handsome red face. Was the heat coming from it? Lucifer eyes were green. Like hers. Was he smiling at her? Yes, he was... no, of course not. Well, maybe he was. She was confused... or... was it the cacha├ža in her stomach and the smoke of the cigars blurring in her eyes? She had a strong, sweet taste in her mouth, mixed with saliva and her tears which were rolling down her eyes now. She was feeling powerful and magic. She felt as if she was floating in the room.
The Pai de Santo put Lucifer's statuette in front of her and knelt down, facing the entrance and facing the dark, silent night outside. He started drawing arrows and Ex├║ symbols with the white Pemba on the floor, chanting and moaning softly. He pointed at her then he pointed to the sky's night. The white lines and circles with many mysterious meanings were slowly covered with gun powder; he humbly placed 7 Cuban cigars and 7 little glasses full of cacha├ža 51 all around the strange symbols. The mediums were growing impatient, clapping softly, dancing and whispering spells and incantations. The tension was everywhere. Impatience.
The Umbanda Center was in awe. They whispered to one another. He was offering her the highest of Offerings and sacrificial fires! Who was she? What was she? Which powerful Orix├í was she? Which of the 7 lines did she belong to? All of them? Impossible! This only happened once in a lifetime! They looked at her with a mixture of fear, respect and envy because she was changing the Spiritual Center's working routine and rhythm. She was the center of attraction and they wanted that, too. They were jealous.
He told her to stand still. He was going to let her know all of her strength now - her power and force, he said. She could do whatever she wanted after that night... come back and become a medium in his Center or visit him whenever she needed him or maybe never ever come back again; he also said he was sure that she might return. She didn't need him, though. She was... powerful. She could help others in "unimaginable" ways; supernatural ways. Luiza was feeling better, different, lighter and somehow taller.
He told her that she would understand it all but she shouldn't be afraid because, between heaven and earth, unexplainable forces and dark secrets surely existed --- even some that he couldn't understand, and that - one of them, was her... standing right there in front of him tonight; only he could see it and she needed to see it as well. See what, she thought? She was there to understand her nightmares, to be understood - not to understand the underworld. He told her to keep her eyes open but... looking down, always looking down... never up.
Silence. He lit the match, the fire was set and the magic, hot, red and yellow flames completely illuminated the Spiritual Center's dark room, the twisted mediums incorporating their evil spirits, the night outside and... it illuminated her feet... which weren't her feet anymore but... two disgusting hoofs; two big, brown, hairy hoofs that were right there, under her legs. They were hers! She screamed in horror - fainting over the burnt pentagram while the entire Terreiro clapped, laughed and screamed in demoniacal delight!