lay the old woman, upon a bed that had no sheet. A woman of mahogany skin and
long wild white hair. There were a few people surrounding the bed where she
lay. She was breathing with difficulty. A bandage was wrapped around her upper
arm, yet it did not save her, for from it came an awful stench. Her arm was
discolored from the shoulder to the elbow.
you could save her,” said Maggie. “If you have the power to contradict reality,
as I do. Or we could work together. Why do you not help her?”
The old woman coughed. “I asked him -- I -- asked him not to,” said she.
“Hush,” said Rafael. He turned to Maggie. “Old Mother Manuela has had a long
life, and she says she’s had enough. She says healing her now would do her only
a little favor.”
“Only a little,” said Maggie. “Little. Hm. And I suppose, if either one of us
were to implement my proposal, Las Tias would not let us. But if we were to
“I don’t know what you’re proposing,” said Rafael. “What are you – ”
is a healthy little child again,” said Maggie. And poof, where an old woman had
been was a young girl, with mahogany skin and long black hair and deep black
eyes. And poof, there the young girl was, there was an old woman. And poof,
where there had been an old woman was a young girl again.
haven’t learned anything!” said Rafael. “You haven’t learned a damn thing since
the last time you were erased! You can’t just decide people’s lives and minds
course I haven’t learned anything,” said Maggie, “I had my memories erased.”
help,” said Manuela.
can’t just be a dictator!” said Rafael. “You shouldn’t just be a damn tyrant!
Even if you want people to live you mustn’t decide their lives for them, do you
understand? I don’t want to be locked in an eternal battle of contradiction with you. And I’m surprised you haven’t been erased in an instant.”
window blinds are down,” said Maggie. “Don’t open them.”
sorely tempted to do so!” said Rafael.
help,” said Manuela.
solemnly pledge not to mess with people’s bodies and souls without their
permission,” said Maggie, “and if I do so again, I shall disappear. There, is
that pledge enough for you?”
start,” said Rafael.
you two shut up and help me?” said Manuela. “Pick something quick or I’ll never
be able to hold a clay pot again without dropping it.”
turned to Manuela and said, “Little girl, be still.”
she was set in place, as a little girl.
people who had been standing around her, prepared to mourn the loss of their
beloved old Mother Manuela, were entirely at a loss for words.
Manuela, who was in a situation that not a single person in history had
experienced before. “Excuse me,” she said in a sweet voice, “I have a few scores
to settle.” Then she ran out of the house, letting the door bang open as she
did so. She had not even put on her shoes.
we follow her?” said Rafael.
know,” said Maggie. “If she’s this young, would she be dumb enough to run
outside the block that Rafael’s protecting?”
said Alejandra, as she rushed out the door.
advantage of following Manuela through the streets of Hijo de Dios was that
they were steep enough to slow the girl down. The disadvantage was that they
were steep enough to slow the girl’s pursuers down. So while Maggie and her
friends were able to spot Manuela before she got out of sight, catching her
would be a different matter.
since the day had at last reached its midpoint, and the heat of the humid noonday
sun weighed upon Maggie’s back.
there were people outside, now. Different people. Young men that Maggie had not
seen before, not in such numbers. They were wearing blue armbands, and they carried rifles, and they
stood tall and proud and they were not police officers.
these people?” said Maggie.
the people that Manuela should not be encountering right now,” said Alejandra.
“She sounds like she has all of her memories but none of the emotional maturity
of her previous hundred years. Which means that the people she hates most, she
won’t stop herself from attacking – look there.” She pointed to Manuela up the
street, who had stopped running and had started kicking a blue-banded young man
in the shin. “Can you magic her back here, please?”
already back with us,” said Maggie, and poof, Manuela was standing in front of
them all. Rafael picked her up and held her in his arms. The girl struggled to
get out of his arms.
go,” said Manuela. “I’ve got stuff to do. Things to knock over. These Hijos de
La Mar will get what’s coming to them.” She kicked backwards, but Rafael did
not release her. “I’ve lost friends and neighbors to these sons of – ”
that,” said Manuela. “I’m not a child. Wait. Yes I am. Mierda. This isn’t going
to be as easy as I thought. Why’d you make me six years old, lady? I could have
done more if I was twenty-five. Thanks a lot.”
it’s better this way,” said Rafael. “The Hijos de La Mar don’t know who you are
those Hijos sidled up to Rafael and said, “Hey, that kid looks like the
spitting image of a young Manuela Lopez. I saw her photograph.”
went quiet. Maggie looked around at the street. There were a number of
blue-banded young men who were looking in her direction and readying their
leaned in close to Manuela and whispered, “I can disguise you quickly but I
need your permission. Would you like to be a boy for a few minutes?”
turned to el Hijo de la Mar and said, “Oh, no, sir. This is a boy that we
picked up from the street. His name is not Manuela Lopez. It’s, uh…kid, what’s
little boy said “Mojito.”
raised an eyebrow.
said the boy. “I like drinking Mojitos. Everyone likes a Mojito.”
de la Mar laughed. “Sounds like a street kid,” said he. “Probably should get
him to stop, though. He might stunt his growth. Boy, you sure are lucky that
it’s not Manuela Lopez’s granddaughter, or we might have had to shoot you all.”
He hefted his rifle. “We don’t want any Lopez giving us as much trouble as old
Manuela did.” He laughed again, and departed.
remaining Hijos de la Mar looked confused, but mostly they stopped paying
attention to the little group that had nearly been caught with Manuela Lopez. They
had other matters to attend to – to cart coolers, to exchange cash, to break
into houses here and there and drag people away. Maggie whispered a few words
of release, and the people being dragged away were able to break their grip and
run. One of them managed to escape around a bend before his captors could
react. One of them had the luck to
dodge the bullets as they escaped into another door. One of them did not have
such luck. They fell to the earth and bled quietly.
whispered a few words of healing, and the poor sod upon the ground was able to
rise, but another blue-banded young man grabbed him. Maggie whispered a few
words of release, and the poor sod gave the young man the slip again, only to
be shot down again.
dammit,” said Maggie. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
muttered a few words, and the blue-banded young man was yanked into the sky.
didn’t make the promise you did,” said Rafael. “I won’t vanish because of – ”
suddenly he was gone.
sky was red.
said Maggie. “Close the windows and the blinds.”
Alejandra, and Mojito sat in the room that had once held the body of Manuela
Lopez. The other residents of the house were not speaking to them, nor did
Maggie wish for their company, for the poor folks had been through enough
things today. It certainly did not help that when a young man with a gold
earring asked where Manuela had gone, Mojito said “She’s history, thank
goodness.” Maggie had shushed the boy but it was too late; the poor young man
with the gold earring went away crying. And the woman of middling years and a
wide middle had glared at Mojito and threatened him with a wooden spoon, and
had said she would turn out the insolent boy and the annoying Criollo and the
impudent, arrogant wine-dark woman, but she had glanced out the door at the red
sky and, after slamming the door, had chosen to hustle them all into the room
that had once held Manuela Lopez.
It was a
room of bare concrete, a bed, a chair, a lamp attached to a cord that ran out
the window. Nothing else. Mojito got the chair.
turn you back now,” said Maggie. “You don’t have to pretend to be a boy
never pretending,” said Mojito. “Manuela, she was a pretense. But now I’m what
I wanted to be. Now I am Mojito. Thanks for that.”
said Alejandra, “Over the course of a hundred years – you were the matriarch of
the family. You were the one who walked into El Bosque Dolor every month and
out again until you had that hip injury. You held the Lopez family together
even as they fell one by one. You of all people could have chosen to throw off
your old name at any time and become the family’s patriarch. Why did you never
“Because I didn’t realize it until I was seventy,” said Mojito. “I was angry all my
life, but I never understood why. And then I knew. But, at my age, I figured
making that kind of change was no longer relevant. I was happy and that was
what mattered. Maybe I should have done after all? Ah, but I knew a few who did.
A few brave young souls. Must have been when I was, sixty, sixty-five? I saw
them throw off their old names. And then I saw the sky grow red, and then there
were five big eyes in the sky, and all those brave young people, they
surely that is not a vice,” said Alejandra. She shook her head. “What do I know
about Las Tías, though? Little to nothing. Does anyone? Do the police know?
They would not tell me. So how they judge vice, I cannot tell.”
big eyes,” said Maggie. “That feels oddly familiar. Ah, but we need to figure
out how to proceed if we want to find Las Tías.”
them?” said Mojito. “Find them and do what?”
them to stop,” said Alejandra.
them,” said Maggie.
to come along,” said Mojito.
grimaced. “We have no idea where we would be going,” said she, “nor what
dangers we would face. We have no idea how long the journey would be. It would
hardly be responsible to bring you along.”
handle it,” said Mojito.
sure?” said Maggie. “Are you going to complain about being tired, and ask to
use the bathroom every five minutes, and ask if we’re there yet?”
que si,” said Mojito.
raised an eyebrow.
you expect?” said Mojito. “I’m a hundred years old, but I’m also six years old.
I have my emotional needs. And one of them is to punch Las Tías in the face.
They stole half my family and now they stole the people of my entire district
and I want to punch them in the face. Let me help.”
did what?” said Alejandra.
why Hijo de Dios is empty?” said Maggie. “I should have thought people kept
their vices indoors. If they vanished people from indoors…like they did back in
Des Gens Biens…we’ll need to move as soon as we can. As soon as the sun sets.
Mojito, can you wait that long?”
a board game and I’m good for a few hours,” said Mojito. “I don’t think this
house has board games though.”
it does,” said Maggie. And behold there was a chess set sitting on the floor.
hours until sunset, Mojito won fifty-five games and let Maggie win one. Then
the sun hit the horizon, and Maggie waved her hand, making the board vanish.
“We move now,” she said. “We will have to move under cover so that Las Tías don’t notice us.”
duck form building to building?” said Alejandra. “Is that it?”
umbrellas,” said Maggie, and behold, there were three umbrellas before them.
raised an eyebrow.
will hold them over our heads and tell everyone it looks like rain – ”
come up with a better plan?” said Alejandra.