by Aaron Dennis
A man witnesses a murder. The deceased speaks in riddles. Vertigo settles in….
Adja wakes to learn he’s got the mojo. The old woman teaches him the ways of Voodoo. He must stand alone, under the guidance of Bear, against Snake, a villain, a murderer, an innate force, but there are other forces amidst the crack between the worlds.
Are you brave enough to journey…to the otherside?
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I felt something moving me, kicking me. I woke up sprawled on the ground. My eyes rejected the sunlight coming in from the window. I looked at the old woman. She was wincing and kicking me in the hip. Slowly, I rose to my feet.
“Time to take them cast off,” she said.
She left and returned with another bowl and another concoction. Using a brown cloth to dab some brown liquid on the cast caused it to bubble and crack. Next, she peeled layers off then placed that cloth and bowl down to grab a second cloth, a green one, and another bowl with clear liquid. She washed my previously injured joints. The stiffness vanished.
“Eat,” she ordered while handing me a plate of dried fruits and nuts.
I tore into it ravenously before drinking a glass of water in one gulp. I felt that same, watery, effervescent euphoria of a week or so ago. It felt good. I felt right.
“You must done good, Adja, or you not be so happy,” she chirped.
“I guess,” I chuckled.
She handed me a knapsack. I opened it to find all my stuff inside; my two, original, mojo bags, and a new one. Half the bag was green cloth. The other half was blue flannel. I also found the knife. A fuzzy, brown, fur handle had replaced the old, snakeskin handle. Bear fur? I assumed. That brought back the image of Iboga, and I remembered turning into a bear. My surprise must have shown on my face because she laughed at me. This was the first time I had heard her belly laugh. It was contagious.
“You see them ghost?” she joked.
“Nah. Was I a bear,” I asked, sheepishly.
“No, but maybe one day. Iboga was showin’ you something.”
“So, I can’t turn into a bear?” I was disappointed.
“No. You can use Bear’s strength. Bear has much power. Use it, Adja. Your task come to an end now. Collect what you need then go face Snake. Plunge the knife deep into him.”
“Doesn’t he have a gun?”
“Them bullets no match for you, you a Shadowman now. You know what to do,” she said to me. “Finish it.”
She held my shoulder and shook it gently. Her smile gave me confidence. I was going to go exact revenge upon the man who killed her grandson. I was going to kill Snake and earn the respect of Bear.
Without dawdling, I made my way into the market. I had to find Jackal, so I just followed my gut. Maybe that’s why it’s called a gut feeling…. Something actually pulled from below the navel.
I followed the street to the backside of a row of stores. One, dark, blue drape stood out. I brushed it aside and walked into a low roofed building. The interior was extravagant. At the counter, I saw a small, auburn haired woman sitting on a stool.
She was a beautiful, older woman leaning against the backside of her counter. Various curios were displayed beneath the glass. Some of them looked like ceramic figurines. Others were unrecognizable to me.
“Greetin’, Jackal. I need a quartz to hide mine tracks,” I said in my Creole accent.
“I need the wish bone of a horned owl,” she rebutted.
Her demand stunned me. “What? Where the Hell do I find that?”
“Where owls live. Where owls die,” she answered, dryly.
Her tone was matter-of-fact. I wanted to play stupid—like the old me—pretend like I didn’t understand. I wanted to stand there and beg like a girl to get my way. Instead I gave a smile. I knew better. I turned and left. Owls live in trees, but where do owls die? Logically in trees, too, or the ground adjacent, I figured.
I’d never seen a dead owl in my entire life. Then again, I had recently seen a lot of things I hadn’t seen in my entire life. Staring out into the street, I took a big breath, and ran.
I needed to go back to the graveyard, and running felt so easy now. I had never run so much in my life, not since I was a kid. Before too long, the old woman’s street came into view, the street with the cemetery. It was midday and hot. The humidity made it hard to breath.
Usually I hated the heat, but I no longer cared. I ran, and ran, and ran. For some reason, it seemed the road was endless. The only thing I saw was trees. Finally, I sat down on the edge of the sidewalk. The run wore me out, and perspiration literally soaked my body. Little droplets even fell from my nose and smacked onto the concrete.
I opened my knapsack to find some fruits and bread inside, and a bottle of water. I ate, drank, and then needed to relieve myself; the wood line was as good a place as any. After voiding myself, something pulled my attention deeper into the woods. Sure enough, whatever was calling me, placed me on the edge of the cemetery, or rather what was left of it.
It was ancient and run down. There were only remnants of the wrought iron fence. It was rusted and overgrown with foliage. Carefully, I made my way over some rocky rubble and into the burial grounds proper. It had in no way been up kept. What’s going on, here? How can this be the right place? My thoughts gave way when I read the sign, Bear Park. I shrugged and walked around.
Tufts of grass grew everywhere. The whole place looked abandoned, which threw me into a momentary fit of despair. After mere seconds of self-doubt, a stone caught my eye. The name on it was Stanley Owls.