Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Madness of Crows: Part Two

DID VINE PROTECT YOU AGAINST THE DARK THINGS? Annie, who could read objects and people, imagined Tess's Vine as a young man with long dark hair and tattoos, painting in a garage with a Harley gleaming near the door. She drew closer to the canvas to study the central figure; a knight in armor like black glass, his face similiar to Tess's, his world a chessboard where a moon hung in the sky like a green lamp. Tess set her chin on Annie's shoulder as Annie read the painting's name, "Atenoux."
    "Vine listened to all of my stories."
    "The king of crows." Annie stepped back, remembering their childhood stories, the kingdom they had created. She whispered, "He painted the king of crows with your face."
    "He told me the painting is a talisman. Like the gargoyles in churches, someting scary to keep away the bad things. Your poems are like that."
    Annie frowned. She wrote poems about girls with snakes in their hair and sonnets about poison-eyed boys. Poems were her armor against such things.
    "My dad," Tess touched the painting, "would have called them loa, spirits."
    Annie said warily, "He would have called what spirits?"
    "The people I dream of." Tess gazed at the painting. "Them. Him."
    Annie stepped back from 'Atenoux'. She whispered, "He is winged, ink-eyed, night incarnate. Hands like lilies unfolding. Skin white as a saint's sin."
    "That's beautiful. Want some coffee?"
    Annie narrowed her eyes at the king of crows and murmured, "I don't like him."

Despite being observed by the king of crows in the painting, Annie had a great time. They watched a scary movie and played a game of Scrabble while drinking gourmet coffee -- Tess's aunt didn't believe in video games, though she had grudgingly given in to a Wii.
    When Tess placed the word 'fate' on the board, Annie breathed out. She'd never told Tess about Them. She said, idly, "So what about the loa?"
    Tess sorted her tiles. "My dad didn't believe in them, but my mom did. She called them something else -- asikaku. She said they lived in the mountains near her town."
    "Your mom was from Chile."
    "So when she said they lived in the mountains near her town, she meant the Andes?"
    Tess tilted her head. "She said they were beautiful ghosts who lived in courts called Hummingbird and Flamingo. She said she saw one, once, with silver eyes and red hair. He wore a coat of green feathers. She could tell what he was because his skin was white, as if he had no blood. And wherever he walked, little red toadstools appeared."
    "Where did she see this ghost?" Annie was careful not to sound panicked. Tess had never mentioned such things about her mom or dad -- or maybe she had, but Annie, back then, hadn't taken any notice.
    "When she was a kid. She got scared and ran. She said she knew he wasn't human. I guess you'd just know wouldn't you? Whether or not someone was flesh and blood. Human or not."
    Tess's mother and father had separated. No one knew where her father had gone. Her mother had been institutionalized for years, unable to cope with the common world. Annie hadn't known about the encounter Tess's mother had had with one of them. Sarah Rocquelette must have seen more, though, than the pretty toadstool boy.
(Illustration: Edward Burne-Jones)

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