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The Dark Night of Juan Carlos

The Dark Night of Juan Carlos

Cross-legged on the dirt floor, the conjurer, Juan Carlos, begins the death song, the death rattle painted the colors of the desert in his left hand, the owl’s claw in his right. The dance of flames throws shadows on the walls of the adobe hut, the smoke rising to meet the thunderstorm creeping across the night sky.

In the village, Emelio walks to his hut. Inside, his wife stirs the pot over the firepit. She doesn’t look up.

“Pietra,” he says. “The conjurer has a fire. What does it mean?”

Pietra looks at Emilio. “You worry too much.”

“But why not?”

“Nothing good will come of it.”

“We must take precautions.”

“Phooey. Precautions? Against witchcraft? He has no power. Only over superstitious fools.”

“What about Diego?”

“Diego was a fool.”

“But he is dead just the same. How do you explain it?”

“I don’t need to explain it. Death happens.”

“But not in this manner. It is rare.”

“He fell to his death. Most likely drunk.”

“No, he wasn’t drunk. And he didn’t fall. He was pushed.”

“And who pushed him?” Pietra asks.

“The invisible hand of Juan Carlos, that’s who.”

“Nonsense. Juan Carlos is a man of flesh and bone the same as you.”

“No, he is not a man of flesh and bone. He is a conjurer with extraordinary powers. It is said he flies as a crow.”

“And who says this? The mischief of magpies you consort with at the café?”

“They are my friends and know what goes on.”

“You squawk and carry on. A bunch of scared magpies. What is there to be afraid of?”

“Just wait. One day you will fall under his evil spells. You must pray in order to protect your soul.”

“Pray. To what? To an imaginary god? Pray. A silly notion.”

“On the road to Oxaco, as a dark cloud crossed in front of the moon, Diego saw a shadow approaching. As it drew nearer, Diego, barely able to make it out, could see it was Juan Carlos, a shadow across the face of the moon. He turned away and froze, holding his breath to the edge of consciousness. Only when he was sure Juan Carlos had passed by did he dare take a breath and look over his shoulder. Juan Carlos had vanished. In the silence of the night, a crow in a nearby tree rattled its feathers.”

“Diego had too much imagination. It was his desire for dark fantasy that brought the apparition of Juan Carlos to him that night. And it was only his fascination with sorcery and too much rum that drew him to the edge of Wannamuck canyon. He slipped and fell to his death,” Pietra says.

“Diego told his story the night before his fateful trip to Wannamuck canyon. When he was so fearful, why would he go to the edge of Wannamuck canyon? No, some dark force compelled him there and then pushed him off,” Emilio says.

“Sit and eat. Your pacing makes me uneasy,” Pietra says.

“Hear me now, Pietra, no good will come of this. Juan Carlos up there singing the death song.”

“His chant won’t disturb my dreams.”

Emilio steps to the door of the small adobe hut and listens. Across the darkness the song comes to him. He turns away from the door and walks to the firepit. Pietra hands him a bowl and scoops out the stew. Sitting in the corner, he watches the door. Pietra turns away in disgust and disappears into the sleeping room.

“How can you sleep now?” Emilio asks.

“As I do every night,” she says. “Juan Carlos will not visit my dreams.”

Emilio stands in the door until he can no longer hear the death song. The faraway thunder comes to him. He turns away from the door, slips into the sleeping room and sits on the edge of the bed. Pietra stirs.

“What is it?” she asks.

“I am afraid, Pietra,” he says. “No good can come of this.”

“Come to bed, Emilio, you are worn out with worry.”

“Every time I close my eyes, I see Diego falling to his death. It is horrible. I wake in a cold sweat unable to sleep. What if the song is for you? Or me?”

“It is what it is, Emilio, your suffering won’t change that,” Pietra tells him stroking his back. “Try to sleep.”

Emilio slips under the heavy blanket. Pietra reaches for him but Emilio turns his back to her. She listens to his uneven breathing. How many years has she been with this man? And through all the years, his silly superstitions still eat away at him. One day, he will worry himself to death.

The night is short, as most nights are. She knows she has dreamed but can’t recall her dreams when the gentle sun nudges her awake. Emilio doesn’t stir as she slips her leg over him and crawls out of bed. She hurries to the firepit to feed the fire to boil the water to make coffee. In the high desert the cold creeps into the small hut and she turns her back to the fire to warm her back.

Once the coffee boils, she pours a cup for Emilio and takes it into the sleeping room.

“Emilio, get up.” She shakes him. “You sleep the sleep of the dead.”

She shakes him again but he doesn’t respond. She bends closer to listen for his breathing. He is lifeless. In disbelief she shakes him harder. He is dead.

She drops the cup and rushes out of the hut running frantically down the narrow street to Yago’s hut.

“Yago, Yago, he’s dead,” Pietra screams.

“What is it, Pietra, calm down,” Yago says guiding her to a chair next to the table. “Sit down, get a grip on yourself. What is it? What are you saying?”

“Emilio, it’s Emilio, he’s dead.”

Yago pauses. Contemplating Pietra’s despair, he moves to the woodstove, pours a cup of coffee and returns to the table. “Here, drink this. Tell me what has happened.”

“I don’t know. When I tried to wake him this morning he was dead. I don’t know what happened. Last night he was worried about the death song of Juan Carlos. And now this morning he is gone.”

Yago is silent. Many times in the past, as one of the elders in the village and a seer, he has encountered spells cast by Juan Carlos. His powers are not to be ignored.

“Pietra, is Emilio still in your bed?”

“Yes, I ran out without doing anything.”

“We must go to him. If you want to stay behind, then I will go alone. There is something I need.”

“No, Yago, I will go with you,” Pietra says.

They hurry through the narrow street to the small hut where Emilio lies dead.

“Is this the way you found him?” Yago asks.

“I haven’t touched him, not since I tried to shake him awake,” Pietra says. “What is it, Yago? What are you looking for?”

Yago doesn’t answer. He motions for Pietra to remain silent as he kneels down by Emilio’s lifeless body. He slips up Emilio’s loose-fitting shirt and turns to Pietra, pointing to three red marks on Emilio’s chest.

“Did you see these?” he asks.

“No, I have never seen these,” she says bending closer.

“They are the same marks I found on Diego’s chest. I never told anyone because I couldn’t be sure of their meaning. No one knows but you.”

“What does it mean?”

“I’m not sure. It’s as if he were slashed by the claws of a large bird. I have never seen anything like it before. One thing I am sure of, it is the mark of evil. I am concerned about your safety.”

“But why? I have done nothing to bring this onto myself.”

“What did Diego and Emilio have in common?” Yago asks.

Pietra shakes her head. She looks about the room, thinking. Is there something she is missing? Something she isn’t aware of?

“I do not know. They were friends. They shared time at the café, but that is all.”

Yago stands up and walks back to the entrance of the small hut. The sun is bright and he wipes the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. Without another word, he leaves and walks hurriedly back to his house. Pietra watches him walk away, wringing her hands, unsure of what to do. She paces around the small room but avoids going back into the sleeping room. She will have to deal with Emilio’s body but not now. She turns suddenly and walks out the door, hurrying toward Yago’s house.

When she gets there the door is open and she walks in. Yago is in the bedroom kneeling in front of an open trunk. She walks over and stands over him. He pulls out his medicine pouch and rolls it out on the floor. From it, he pulls out a small leather pouch, opens it, and holds out a necklace of turquoise, silver, and bones to Pietra. She takes it from him, spellbound by its intricate beauty.

“Wear this, Pietra,” he says.

“I couldn’t take this,” she says.

“It will keep you safe.”

“Do I need protection?” she asks.

“No, not really, as long as you are strong in here,” he says placing his hand over her heart. “But this necklace will remind you of your kindness and beauty and in this way Juan Carlos’s black magic will never touch you.”

“And you? Are you not afraid?”

“I am an old man, frail of mind and body. Fear is for a younger man. At my age, there is nothing to fear.”

Yago pulls from his pouch a polished stone lashed with a buckskin thong to a red willow handle painted the colors of the forest. A string of three beads, one red, one yellow, one black, is also lashed to the red willow handle. A leather cord is looped through a small hole at the base of the handle. Pietra stands over him, fingering the necklace around her neck. Yago holds the talisman, gently searching his memory.

“What is it?” she asks.

Yago looks up at Pietra. “I was a boy once, a long time ago. I spent my free time – and as a boy, I had a lot of free time – deep in the forests of the nearby mountains. One day while I was exploring, I came across this stone lashed to a painted handle hanging from a white cedar tree. It wasn’t noticeable, I had been directed to it. Ever since I have held it close to me. It was meant for me. A gift. I don’t know who left it there for me. I believe, however, that I will discover this when the time comes.”

Yago slips his hand through the loop and stands up.

“Is it filled with magic?” Pietra asks.

“Magic is in everything. And in everyone.”

“Do you believe this, Yago?”

“Yes.”

“But what about Juan Carlos? Is there magic in him as well?”

“Of course, but it is a different kind of magic. And we must be careful, Pietra. Come with me. We must go back to your home.”

Pietra follows Yago back through the narrow street to her small hut. He touches the doorjamb with his talisman before he enters. She hesitates and touches the necklace before following Yago inside. He walks into the sleeping room and kneels next to Emilio’s lifeless body. Pietra stands in the doorway. Yago closes his eyes, Pietra prays.

In front of the fire in the small round hut on the edge of the village, Juan Carlos stares into the dying embers. The song is done and Juan Carlos stands and stretches like an animal waking from a deep slumber. With the owl’s claw lashed to a polished stick he scratches his back, like the bear against the rough bark of the pine tree when it awakens from hibernation.

“Eeyow,” his eyes and mind awake now, Juan Carlos paces, steps to the door, bends down, and steps into the sunshine.

“A beautiful day,” he exclaims. “Yes, a beautiful day.”

Juan Carlos stretches and walks toward the fountain in the village square. Villagers peer from beneath the shade of the awnings above their small shops. The village is waking up. Juan Carlos walks in his carefree style to the fountain and drinks with a cupped hand. Looking around, he turns his face to the sunlight, water dripping from his chin. Down the narrow street that leads to the opposite end of the village, he sees the open door of Emilio’s hut, and above it the hillside of cedar and pinyon. He walks toward Emilio’s hut.

Inside, sensing danger, Yago looks over his shoulder. Pietra is standing in the doorway, her eyes closed. He stands and touches her shoulder.

“What is it, Yago?” she asks.

“Do you hear the crow?”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Shh…it is there. Listen.”

She walks to the open door of the small hut and peers out. Still hearing nothing she walks out into the street. Looking up the street in the direction of the square, she sees Juan Carlos coming their way. “Yago,” she whispers. “Yago,” she says louder.

Yago is beside her now. Pietra turns her head. High in a cedar tree she hears a rustle. The crow is hidden in shadow.

“Yago,” she tugs at his shirtsleeve. He turns and she points up the hillside. He squeezes her hand and turns back. Juan Carlos is coming.

“Pietra, listen, I want you to go back inside and lock the door. Cover Emilio with the blanket and stay in the bedroom until you hear my knock on the door.”

“How will I know it is you?”

“You will recognize my voice. I will not give my voice to him. Now hurry, there isn’t much time.”

Pietra goes inside and Yago hears the slam of the bolt. He steps into the street and waits. Juan Carlos stops in the middle of the street. “Good morning, Yago,” he says.

Yago nods but does not return his greeting.

“A beautiful morning, is it not?” Juan Carlos says.

Again, Yago nods but doesn’t answer.

“Nothing to say?”

Yago steps to within three feet of Juan Carlos.

“What do you want here, Juan Carlos?”

“I am visiting a neighbor. Do I need a reason?”

“When is the last time you visited Emilio?” Yago asks.

“I can’t recall. Is Emilio at home?”

“He is but he’s unavailable. Maybe you should come back another time.”

“But I just wanted to say good morning, I won’t take up much of his time.”

“Unfortunately, he is busy and unable to see you.”

“You speak for him?”

“I happen to know he is unavailable. Perhaps he can visit you later in the day. Will you be available to entertain him this afternoon?”

“By all means, I will set aside as much time as needed. And you are invited as well, my friend.”

“I appreciate and accept the offer. What time would you like us to come?” Yago asks.

“Let’s make it early evening, right after dark. Does this suit you?”

“It suits me. We will see you just after dark tonight.”

“I am looking forward to it,” Juan Carlos says. He turns to leave but hesitates. “Of course, Pietra is welcome to join us.”

“I will let her know,” Yago says.

Yago watches Juan Carlos walk away and turns to Pietra who is now standing in the shadow of the doorway.

“You heard?” Yago asks.

“I heard,” she says. “He knows Emilio isn’t available. He knows, yet deceives. Why did you accept his invitation? Are we stepping into his trap?”

“Maybe, but we must not cower in the face of danger. We must show resolve, Pietra.”

“You told me that as long as I have a pure heart, I am not in any danger from Juan Carlos. Have you changed your mind?”

“No, but I know his powers. His black magic will continue to wear you down until it finds a weakness, and then it will attack. It is better to face it head-on. It is never easy to hold to one’s truth and purity. We are after all human beings, and vulnerable to our flaws of being human. If I didn’t believe in your strength, I wouldn’t ask you to come with me. It is for your own good that I ask this of you, Pietra.”

Pietra steps out into the sunlight. “I know you have my best interests at heart, Yago. You are a good man.”

“When we go to him, you must remember to avoid his eyes. His soul seeks a way into your soul, and this is accomplished through the eyes. Also, avoid staring for any length of time into the fire. It has hypnotic powers. You will be temporarily blinded and vulnerable to his evil desires. You must trust me.”

“I trust you,” Pietra says.

“Now we must go in and prepare Emilio’s body for burial. Tomorrow. After we face Juan Carlos tonight, we will set Emilio’s soul free.”

While Pietra removes Emilio’s clothes, Yago carries the bucket to the fountain in the village square. Upon his return, Pietra washes Emilio with care, tears streaming down her cheeks. His whisper tonight will not moisten her fervent lips, the orgasmic scream will not penetrate the night.

After Yago washes out Emilio’s clothes and hangs them to dry close to the fire, he touches Pietra’s shoulder. She looks up. There is nothing more to say and he leaves. She bends down close and pulls the blanket over Emilio.

 

Toward the purple sky that spreads out before her, Pietra makes her way to the house of Juan Carlos. Yago is waiting. Inside, Juan Carlos sits by the open fire.

“Welcome,” he says standing up to greet them. “And Emilio? He is not with you?”

Pietra looks at Yago and Yago answers, “Unfortunately, he was called away.”

“I hope it isn’t serious,” Juan Carlos says.

“Urgent but not serious,” Yago says.

“Will he be gone for long?”

“Yes, it is a long journey,” Yago says.

“I hope he has a safe journey and returns soon,” Juan Carlos says.

“Thank you,” Pietra says.

Juan Carlos bows and extends his arm. “Please, be seated. As you can see, I can’t offer you a chair. But I can offer tea. I have water boiling.”

Pietra and Yago sit in front of the fire. Yago looks over at Pietra. “Yes, thank you, we would enjoy sharing tea with you.”

“It has been a long time since you have visited my home, Yago,” Juan Carlos says.

“We don’t always see eye to eye, Juan Carlos,” Yago says. “But I appreciate your invitation. Yet, I believe it is Emilio you wanted to see.”

“It is true that I visited Emilio’s house today to extend my greetings to Emilio. It is unfortunate he was unavailable. I must admit that I am curious about his sudden departure. When was the last time he traveled away from the village? Since I have no recollection of any trips undertaken by Emilio, I find it strange.”

“And I am curious about your sudden interest in the whereabouts of Emilio?” Yago asks.

“This is a small village, Yago, I hold the interests of all of its inhabitants in my heart,” Juan Carlos says.

“I don’t believe you, Juan Carlos. Your heart is dark and cold.”

“This is unfair, my friend,” Juan Carlos says holding two cups of tea out to Pietra and Yago. He pours a cup for himself and takes a seat opposite Pietra and Yago.

“I have my reasons for saying this,” Yago says. “I do not wish to seem ungrateful, but my visit here isn’t out of friendship. I am not your friend.”

“I am sorry to hear this.”

“It should come as no surprise.”

“No, it doesn’t. We have had our differences in the past.”

“And that hasn’t changed.”

“But I am surprised by your animosity. We are sharing tea in my home before my fire. I have welcomed you into my home as a friend and fellow inhabitant of our village.”

“Tell me about our fellow inhabitant Diego?”

“Diego? What do I have to tell you about Diego?”

Yago stares at Juan Carlos. “It is true, you have nothing to tell me about Diego that I don’t already know? Your words are as empty as your heart.”

“Again, you come into my home and insult me.”

“Words spoken from the heart are never insolent.”

“That might be, but they can sting just the same.”

“They are not meant to sting but to ward off evil.”

“You believe me to be evil?”

“I believe your intentions to be evil.”

“What have I ever done to cause you harm?” Juan Carlos asks.

“You have caused me no harm, but this doesn’t excuse your intentions,” Yago says.

Juan Carlos sips his tea. Pietra catches herself staring into the fire and Yago nudges her. She jumps.

“Pietra, you are quiet,” Juan Carlos says.

“The fire is mesmerizing,” Pietra says.

“It is its primordial nature that holds our attention,” Juan Carlos says.

Pietra looks at Yago, waiting for a sign.

Yago senses her discomfort. He knows that solace eludes us in the presence of evil and worries that Pietra is drifting. Maybe it was shortsighted to bring her here.

“You have nothing to add about Diego’s death, Juan Carlos?” Yago asks.

“I have nothing to say about Diego’s death,” Juan Carlos says.

Yago worries he has underestimated Juan Carlos and feels a sense of urgency. He looks over at Pietra who once again is staring into the fire. He nudges her and she looks back at him through bleary eyes.

“Juan Carlos, we appreciate your hospitality, but since it was really Emilio you wished to see, we will say goodnight,” Yago says. He rises, pulling Pietra to her feet. She is wobbly and Yago helps her to the door. “You needn’t get up, Juan Carlos.”

Juan Carlos is up now and moving quickly to the door, but Yago has pulled Pietra outside and they are moving quickly down the narrow street. Juan Carlos stares out at the receding forms until they disappear in the faint light of the waxing moon. He goes inside and from a shelf above his bed he pulls down his medicine bag, takes it to the fire, sits down, and lays it out in front of him, pulling out the death rattle and owl’s claw. He stares into the fire and begins the chant.

Holding on to Pietra’s elbow, Yago rushes toward her house. At the front door he stops and looks back up the narrow street.

“Go in and lock the door behind you. You will be safe here. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Why? Why does he do this?” Pietra asks.

“Evil needs no reason. We tend to believe that evil is a means to an end when it isn’t a means to anything, it simply feeds upon itself. There is no reason for evil, it just is. You can’t understand because you are not evil,” Yago tells her. “Now go inside. I will check on you in the morning.”

Once he hears the click of the lock in the door, Yago walks back to his house. The death chant has begun, he must hurry.

Pietra looks around inside the darkness of her hut. She finds Emilio’s clothes, but they are still damp. She makes her way to the bed and reaches down to touch Emilio, sadness closing in on her. She pulls the blanket back and reaches her leg over his body and climbs in next to him. Before pulling the blanket over Emilio, she bends and kisses his forehead, ice cold with death. She pulls back slowly and lies down, pulling the blanket tight around them.

Sleep doesn’t come. She can’t be sure how much time has passed, but lying in bed, she listens. A whisper comes to her from outside. She reaches over to feel for Emilio, slips her leg over him and steps out of bed. Waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark, she holds onto the edge of the bed, listens, and scuffles to the window at the back of the hut. Breathless, she hears the whisper coming from the edge of the woods behind the hut. She can’t make out the words. A rustle of pine needles.

She makes her way to the front door and listens. Yago told her to stay inside behind the locked door, but her curiosity compels her to discover the source of the whispering. She unlatches the bolt and opens the door.

A cloud moves across the faint moon and she hesitates, worried that with her first step she might step off the edge of the earth. Touching the side of the hut, she creeps to the edge of the woods and crouches, listening. The whispering grows louder, the rustle now a flurry of branches. She can’t make out the dark forms high in the cedar tree, but they seem to be quarreling. An image flashes into her mind of Emilio and Diego gesticulating wildly like two cocks engaged in fiery battle, flying at each other to scratch out the other’s eyes. Their quarrel would never last long and soon their arms would be draped around each other’s shoulders, enjoying their rum in the soft lantern light of the café.

The quarrel grows furious and Pietra crouches lower, hiding in the shadows. With a flurry of wings and feathers, falling from the high branches, two crows crash to the ground. The crows scream and tear at each other in blind rage, thrashing against the side of the hut close to Pietra, recoiling in horror. While the ferocious battle surges, Pietra, gasping for breath, escapes back inside the hut and slams the door. Her back thrown against the door, she tries to think, clutching her chest to settle the violent beating of her heart. She listens, engulfed in a ghostly silence. Latching the door, she retreats to the sleeping room.

She feels her way to the side of the bed and reaches out for Emilio. For the first time, as she sits on the edge of the bed and stares into the darkness, she feels the weight of her solitude.

She must move, her fright suddenly overcome by a sense of urgency to get to Yago. But how? She doesn’t dare go outside since whatever was there is still there. She walks back to the door to listen.

Keep moving, she tells herself. She looks around. She remembers Emilio’s clothes and makes her way to them. They are dry and she takes them back to Emilio. Yago will have arranged everything, she is sure. A procession of men from the village will come for Emilio tomorrow to take him to the church and from there to the graveyard. This is the way it will be done because this is the way it has always been done. She must dress him now. There is no other time.

In the darkness, she strokes his cheek and brushes his hair away from his forehead.

“Emilio, why? Was it ordained? Did you inspire the magic?”

She pulls him to a sitting position in order to slip his shirt over his head and shoulders, lays him down, and slips back into bed, holding his head in her lap to pull on his pants. She strokes his hair and reaches down to kiss his forehead. He is cold. The life that was Emilio is already in the grave.

In the peaceful bed, she has forgotten the fury outside. Quietly the touch of sunlight seeps into the darkness. Pietra raises Emilio’s head, steps out of bed and walks to the door. She listens, her ear against the heavy door. Nothing. She walks to the window in the back of the house and peers into the dawn. She hurries back to the bed and touches Emilio’s hand, turns and hurries to the front door, throwing open the lock and stepping outside. Warily she makes her way around the house to the edge of the woods.

On the ground below the cedar tree, the two crows are tangled in their death grip. She moves toward the tree and bends downs, the head of one crow is turned away, the hollow sockets of the other one are staring back at her. She stands, backs away slowly, until touching the side of the house, turns and hurries down the narrow street toward Yago’s house.

She fights through her terror, resisting the urge to look back. Out of breath when she reaches Yago’s house, she rushes in without knocking.

“Yago?”

There is no response. She hurries into the bedroom, but it is empty. Restraining her fear, she goes back to the main room, rushes to the front door, slams it shut and locks it. She goes back to the bedroom.

“Yago,” she cries out.

The open trunk against the wall catches her attention and she goes to it. Kneeling in front of the trunk, she sorts through the few things inside. What is she looking for? She’s not sure but the talisman isn’t there. Yago still has it. But where is Yago?

She goes to the front door, opens it, and steps out into the sunlight. Refusing to look back toward her house, she looks in the direction of the church and sees the procession coming toward her. Of course, the procession. Emilio’s procession.

As she hurries to meet them, she searches the members of the procession, the priest in front, followed by the boy carrying the cross, the four men with the empty casket on their shoulders, and two elders struggling to keep up.

When she reaches the priest, she turns to ask if he has seen Yago?

“No, not since early yesterday morning,” he tells her.

“But he should be here,” she pleads.

The priest reaches for her elbow, encouraging her to walk beside him. She looks over her shoulder, convinced that Yago must be in the procession.

“I don’t understand, Father,” she says. “Yago wouldn’t desert me, not now.”

“He hasn’t deserted you, Pietra,” the priest says. “He will be along, I’m sure. Is Emilio ready?”

“Ready?” Pietra seems confused. “Oh my god,” she says and breaks free from the priest’s grip. “I must go to him.”

Pietra rushes back to her house, leaving the procession to follow along behind. When she reaches her house, instead of going inside, she goes to the edge of the woods where the two crows are entangled in the agony of death. Resisting the piercing stare from the hollow eyes, she touches the other crow, the one facing away from her. Tied around its leg just above the talons is the talisman, Yago’s talisman. She reaches down and slips the talisman from around the leg of the dead crow and stands up slowly and backs away.

The procession is coming. Pietra walks around to the front of the house, gripping the talisman to her heart, torn between joining the procession or going inside to sit with Emilio. In her heart, she knows what she will do. Life is held by a fragile hand, and with a sudden grasp snatched away from us.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Fascinating read David. The dialog moves the story smoothly, catching the reader up in the moment. It held my interest to the very end. I am wondering, what did Pietra do? A good read, David. Your writing gets better and better!

    • Thank you so much, Rita. It is always wonderful to hear from you and I love your comments. Hearing that my stories are read and appreciated motivates me to continue to write. I don’t always know if the story is any good or will find an audience. Writers sometimes shoot in the dark. It is a strange place to be. I try to be honest in my stories, but that isn’t always easy. I am working on a blog post right now that I hope you have a chance to read. It is raw and real and digs deeply into my own psyche. I still struggle with Kolton’s and Sandy’s suicides. Some days I am overwhelmed by my grief. I don’t fight it, however. I just let it come and if it knocks me down, I’m okay with that. It is real and I can’t hide from it or ignore it. This story speaks to both black magic and to the magic of love and peace, God’s magic. We have to hold love and peace in our hearts always, even when life seems dark, especially when life seems dark.

      Yes, what did Pietra do? That’s an interesting question. She is suddenly alone in the physical world but realizes how powerful love is. Yago was a man of honor and integrity and sacrificed his life to fight evil. When Pietra witnesses this sacrifice, she understands just how powerful love and faith are. When our hearts are filled with love and faith, there is no room for darkness and fear.

      Thank you again, Rita. I do appreciate your gracious and kind comment.

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