"What do you want?", the Exú asked. (3rd. Place Twisted Tales Contest)
SECOND PLACE in the Cross-Genre Short Story Contest - Paranormal Thriller, December 31, 2010
THIRD PLACE in the Twisted Tales Contest by Arakun the Twisted Raccoon , December 2010
Romero Denicolis was madly in love with Marissa for a year now. He was so in love with her that he couldn't think, work or even sleep properly. He suffered. He ached and he was in deep pain. Love pain. Every time she walked by his table at the office he would stop whatever he was doing and stare at her. He'd follow her with his little eyes and sigh deeply; all this followed by cold sweats. One thing was certain: he loved her. Another thing was more certain: she would never love him... she had never looked at him with any interest whatsoever.
A co-worker and close friend told him that he had to go to a spiritual center immediately, in order to get help and "fix" his love sickness because that woman would never ever e v e r love him back. She had many boyfriends. She drove men crazy. They left their wives because of her. She was a bad thing. She was blond. She was evil. He was worried with Romero's apathy and sadness, his lack of attention and productivity thus preventing the whole team from completing the office's deadline by next month. They had to meet the deadline or else.
"How can somebody, being a medium and with a ghost inside one's body... "fix" love problems that are lying deep in the heart of one's existence in this planet?", he asked his friend Orner, deeply disturbed.
He had never been to a spiritual center before. He was scared of macumbas. He was scared of almost anything... unknown.
“Ah... it's possible. I once went to this spiritual center near Brasilia, in the city of Taguatinga, called Terreiro do Pai Jumba, on a Black Day and I was treated like a king, a especial client, a number 1 customer. They can "fix" anything there, I tell you, they can heal what afflicts the mind, the body and the soul. I will set an "appointment" for you with one of the mediums that "works" there but - be prepared to spend many hours waiting and waiting for your turn. You will talk with the medium's Exú. You must go dressed in black or in red, not in white clothes (the white clothes are for the good days - the White Day, when you ask for good things - not your case here). You will have to make an Offering so you must take with you the following things: 7 black candles, 7 match boxes, 7 small glasses, you know, those small ones that you drink moonshine with, 7 bottles of cachaça 51 and 7 cigars - those big stinky ones, you know what I am talking about... those Cuban ones. Ah and don't forget to take 7 red roses too, because the medium's deity is a "woman". You must take all this wrapped up in a black cloth. Oh and all these things... they must be brand new, not used or from your household. The roses, fresh. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, I do... but..."
"No buts or ands... just do it! Do you want to get "fixed" or not?"
"Alright, I will do it. When?"
"I'll let you know by next week."
"Do you believe in these Voodoo things, in Macumba?"
"Yes, of course I do!"
"Well... I think it's like giving someone false hopes in dealing with someone's tragedy and unhappiness... besides..."
"Is there really the so called afterlife? The mediums that incorporate these deities or divinities, these Exús or these bad spirits, the evil ones, they are all dead, right? Therefore... they are mean because it's taking place on the Black Day... so, what am I really dealing with here, Orner? The occult?"
“Listen, Romero... There is nothing in this Universe that can't be explained, eventually..."
"I know... but hey, one thing is true... my mother told me once that if you talk to God, you're religious; if God talks to you, you're psychotic or crazy... I... I don't know what to do, now!" Who am I talking to? A ghost? A spirit? A medium? A creature?"
"My friend let me tell you something... I had a problem. I went there. I didn't care. They ended it. I had faith. With faith, in whatever situation, White Day or Black Day, goodness or badness - in good faith all things are possible! So, go there, get rid of this love sickness that is devouring your guts."
"I know but... why can't I go on a White Day?"
"Because you are asking for something for yourself! On White Days you do good things for others, for the community and maybe ask for favors for someone else if they're in dire straits. But right now, you want something done for yourself, involving someone else's life. A woman's life. She's evil. You're not. You want her out of the picture even if you put her there! You can't do it alone --- They can. You need help. It can only be done on a Black Day. She has cast an evil spell on you and you are becoming a zombie, a sick man; mentally and spiritually. Can't you see how thin you look? How pale? You even look feverish! People are talking about you in the office. You know that. You can't even think right!"
"Yes, I am dying inside. I know. Something is eating up my heart and soul. Is this what is the so called... love? If so, I don't want to love anymore... It's killing me!"
"Yes... I'm happy you understood me now."
The following week Orner told Romero that he had an "appointment" on the coming Friday, June 13th, at 6 pm with a medium called Petunia. Her Exú Deity was a well known, powerful Pomba Gira but he could not mention her name... Not good vibes. He had to be punctual. Take all the things he told him to. Wear black or red clothes, not white clothes. He understood. He agreed. Orner also told him to sit on the right side (the left side was for the women) of the spiritual center's waiting room and to take his shoes off the moment he entered the big Terreiro. "Go with an open heart. Have faith. Believe in the power of the dark forces. Trust them. And never ever look back after you leave the Terreiro or after you leave an Offering. Never look back to the past behind you, hear me? Never. Good luck, my friend!", Orner told him.
"Thank you”, Romero replied.
He was early. He was nervous. He parked his car under a big oak tree.The area around the spiritual center was packed with cars. Before locking the car's door he saw his reflection on the car's window. What am I doing here? Look at you, you silly man. He just stood there and stared at himself, uneasy. Then, the reality of his situation hit him deep in his lost soul: you're short, thin, your hair is black and long and is always tied up behind your long neck, you wear funny clothes, you wear glasses, you're awfully pale looking - people call you Dracula's apprentice in the office, and you never go out. Nobody wants you. Why would she? She never looked at you. So, go for it! Get rid of her for once and for all. Go.
He walked toward the crowded entrance. He told his name to a short woman in the Terreiros's entrance and they confirmed his "spiritual consultation." He sat in the corner of the right side of the room. The room was big, square and long - an entrance for the visitors and many other secret entrances for the mediums. The Pai de Santo or Terreiro Father was sitting in the center of the room and smoking his pipe. The smell of tobacco was strong and sweet. He was drinking cachaça from a cuia or small gourd made from a small coconut shell. He was bent and curved, holding a little green cane that looked like a black mamba snake... and it looked so real. Was it? Hum He looked so old but how could this be? That man was in his 40s. Oh I get it, he thought, he is already incorporated... by another person... I mean, by a spirit, I mean, a soul, maybe the spirit of a black slave from Brazil's Portuguese colonization period... or maybe a poor, revengeful, tortured Exú. The Father hit his cane 7 times on the Terreiro's floor and laughed loudly. It was time to start the works!
The room was full of visitors and mediums and everybody was wearing black and red. The visitors had big packages with flowers, perfumes and candles; the mediums wore necklaces around their necks of different colors, shapes and different types of stones. Did the colors have a meaning, a symbolism, a spiritual stage? He was mesmerized. He was in awe. His heart beat faster. The room was already full of smoke from the cigars and cigarettes and you could smell moonshine in the air. The atabaques or conga drums began to sound. Then the chanting started and everybody was clapping and singing, others dancing and swinging their bodies from one side to another; the women's long, red skirts opening and turning and the humming and crying of mediums incorporating their evil lost souls from another dimension. As they incarnated their Exús, the mediums fell to the floor and after some time, they would slowly transform themselves into other shapes - twisted or crippled bodies or even become curved up like a ball. The loud cries were everywhere. The Terreiro Father walked slowly to a big entrance in the big room and started drawing symbols on the floor with a piece of white chalk - the magic Pemba. He put gun powder on top of each symbol, pentagram and circles while he hummed enchanted songs. Everybody stood up, visitors, mediums and so did Romero. He clapped, danced and listened to all this in a type of trance, loving it, wishing for it to never end and wanting more. He was sweating. The fire exploded and the room was transformed into a living hell with mediums shaking and twisting and the smoke covering up the whole room in a demoniacal gathering of deformed shapes and sounds.
He was fascinated yet trying to breathe and to fill his lungs up with clean air but there wasn't any yet, not yet. Then... Silence. No more noises, no cries, no atabaques.The Terreiro Father returned slowly to his little bench and each and every twisted divinity went to his or her special little spot and stood there, shaking or sobbing, swearing or mumbling lost words in the room. Quietly, other mediums around the room gave the "incorporated" mediums, with much respect and reverence, cuias with cachaça and lit cigar or cigarettes, according to the deity's request. And... they just stood there... smoking, drinking, mumbling, laughing, swearing and smiling... as if really enjoying the moment... happy to be there... "alive".
One by one the visitors removed their shoes and calmly entered the room with their many offerings, being conducted by a senior medium to each of their scheduled, appointed Exús. Suddenly the room was taken by cries and laughs; whispered requests and demands from both mediums and visitors. It was like a fish market! He couldn't stop looking, staring, following each and every movement in the room and he was wondering what would happen to him... tonight.
They called out his name. So soon! It was his turn. He got up, collected his things and removed his shoes and socks. Strangely, the floor was warm and inviting. He was taken to the middle of the room and placed in front of a lovely woman incorporated with her Exú. Her head was bent and she held a glass of cachaça in one hand and with the other she was both holding her long, red skirt and a dark, short, narrow cigarillo. She moved her body back and forth by stepping her right foot forward and backing on her left as if... was she... drunk? Or better, was her Exú so drunk that she, the medium, couldn't stand up properly? She was laughing softly while she handed him her glass. He took it. She moved her hand, full of bracelets and rings as if telling him to drink it. He did, respectfully and slowly. The cachaça hit his stomach like fire! It was strong and hot and he coughed. She danced and clapped her hands, her black hair dancing in the air, laughing happily and shyly looking at him while mysteriously expressing beauty, desire, passion, sexuality and some sort of dark knowledge.
"What do you want?"
"I want to forget her... Please take her out of my system."
"Do you come here in faith?"
"Will you do as I say so and trust me?"
"Close your eyes and think of her."
She walked around him, holding his arms and shoulders for balance and... she cursed loudly. She started reciting melodies and enchantments and each and every time she could, she would drink her moonshine and smoke her cigarillo.
"I am the powerful Tranca-Rua das Almas, a Soul Cross Road Keeper and you have the privilege of being in my presence. I will protect you from now on and keep you away from all evil, Voodoo, spells, enchantments, harm, evil eye, spirits, demons, rituals, signs, symbols, envy, violence, hatred, sacrifices, fetishes, sorcerers, wizards, greed, misfortune and sickness!!! From Umbanda and Quimbanda. With the 7 powerful forces of our planet, above, here and below, I will be on your side as long as you are with me. The Yoruba nation will rule and coordinate the 7 Doors of each spiritual level you may encounter in your life herein. Do I have your loyalty?"
"Ha...Good! That woman will be out of your body and mind! Hear me now, forces of nature, hear me! Let my protégé alone and happy or you will deal with me - Queen Eshu Pomba Gira Tranca-Rua das Almas, poderosa! I am the Queen Deity of all Roads and Crossroads and he is mine. His way is free! His way is open!"
"Can you feel it? Good! You are one of mine. Don't fear. Yet, beware, never speak my name or look at me when you leave my Offering. You are not to look at me. I don't want you to ever look at me! No man can look at me!"
"Because I say so. Stop asking questions. Oh you mortals... You want so much yet you still question logic! No looking back!"
"I'm sorry. I will not look back. I promise."
"You are to do the following now, in order to complete the circle of fire: take the moonshine, the glasses, the candles and the match boxes with my roses to a Crossroad. I like the one some minutes away from here when you leave, it's isolated and deserted. Choose one of the corners and place the Offering to me. Ask permission to the Crossroad Keeper. One important thing: when you light the matches, start from you to the outside, not from the outside toward you... You don't want to get "burnt" do you? Ha ha ha. Place all this in silence and reverence, in faith and sincerity; then leave --- never look back, you should never look at what's left behind you! Do you hear me?"
"May the forces of Santeria, Candomblé, Ellegua and Orisha prevail now because I am the Consort of Satan and all prevails with me and in me! You can go now; do what you were told! Return in two full moon cycles."
"I am your devoted servant and your wish is my command. I'll do whatever you request as long as you bring gifts to me such as perfumes, red roses or moonshine but... remember, never look back after an offering in the crossroads otherwise it will cut its effect forever and you don't want that!"
"Yes! I mean, no! Thank you."
He was dizzy, tired, stinking cigars and cigarillos. He was trembling and with a horrible moonshine breath. His throat was on fire, his stomach hurt like hell, his eyes were sore, red and watery, his small mouth was dry and all the bones in his body were hurting; yet, he was as happy as he could be, feeling completely powerful and already cured from his love sickness. He left the Terreiro and got into his car. While he drove away, he could still hear the drums echoing in the dark, still night.
He parked his car near the crossroad and left the car's lights on. It was dark and quiet outside. Really quiet. The tree branches were moving with the soft, warm breeze and the full moon was so bright that he could actually see his way to a little clearing, in one of the four corners of the crossroad and where he decided to place the offering. He was trembling. He had never set an offering before, in the middle of the night, in a crossroad, all alone! He looked at the four corners. Nobody there. Not a soul. He knelt on the cold soil. He was scared. He touched the earth 7 times, asked permission to the Eshu Guardians of that Crossroad to make his offering. The leaves and the branches of the trees blew softly in the dark.
He placed the black cloth on the ground. He lit each of the 7 black candles while being very careful to light each one with a different match, as told. Then, he slowly poured cachaça from each of the 7 bottles into each of the 7 small glasses. Next, he lit each cigar with one match from each matchbox and again, placed them on top of each small match box. Finally, he neatly placed each of the 7 beautiful Colombian red roses next to each of the moonshine bottles. He was done. He looked at the Offering with respect and humbleness. It looked amazing. He admired his Offering and gazed at the black candle's flame flickering in the soft evening's breeze. It looked so good. It looked so perfect. So relaxing and soothing. He wasn't supposed to be there too long, he knew that but he couldn't help himself, he liked it there. It was so quiet and replenishing and so...
He heard the thud. It was a heavy, deep thud noise, like of an animal; a heavy animal... impatient. He froze. He got all goose bumps from head to toe. His heart was beating faster. What was this? He heard a sniffing sound --- like an animal breathing and sniffing. Then, another thud. He got up fast and turned to leave not without touching the ground 7 times and requesting permission to leave - right now. He stumbled on a stone and nearly falling but he didn't looked back. He ran. He ran like crazy. He secretly promised himself to never ever do this again while starting his car.
As the car backed he couldn't help himself... he just couldn't. He had to do it. He had to look. He looked at his Offering through his rear-view mirror. Oh my God! Oh no! Right there, standing behind her Offering was a dark skinned voluptuous woman with red horns, wearing tacky furs and sequins, a transparent red dress - her nipples peering quite perkily from underneath, many heavy gold necklaces, and a black, massive six pointed red star as a pendant. She held a long, pointed, red trident in one hand and with the other, a cigarillo... but her legs... Oh her legs ended in two disgusting hairy hooves. Horrible! He heard the cry. Deep. Loud. Long. Angry. He looked again. He had to. She was looking directly at him and straight into his eyes! She was angry. She was really, really angry. He had looked at her! He had dared. He had promised not to. Oh God! He turned his pale face, closed his gray eyes and breathing heavily, drove furiously away as fast as he could into the night - leaving the dark, silent and untamed woodlands forever.
On Monday, Marissa was waiting for him by his office table, wearing a bright red dress and smiling one of her sexiest, most provocative smiles.