I was on a world jumping expedition. I had some charms in mind to represent various biodomes and wanted to see them first hand to get a better feel for what items would best represent them. I visited deserts, ocean shores, rivers, and mountains. They showed me colors palettes and textural cues.
Somewhere along the grand tour, I picked up a tagalong.
I felt ill and heavy. I shook with sudden fever. I felt something in me, something that wanted out, something that didn’t belong.
At one of the deserts I feel to my knees. Only the constant wind was holding me up. In the whistle I heard it say, “You hold more dead than you should. Give it up.” I knew the desert would take it, as it takes any and all unnecessary burdens. But the desert will also take the necessary and required burdens as well. The desert takes everything unless you are able to resist it. I wasn’t.
My heaviness increased. The wind couldn’t hold me any further and I feel face first onto the desiccated ground. A name came to me. In instinct, I called it. As I spoke it, I realized who I was calling out to.
“[Mxtl], shake your rattle, your bone-jarring rattle. [Mxtl], flash your blade and cleave spirit from bone.”
The ground under me trembled and split. Into the sudden maw I fell helplessly into cold darkness.
A gentle rattling was to my right. Warm hands held my bare feet. I heard the hiss and snapping of a fire nearby. My head and shoulders were resting on something soft. I wasn’t sure where I was, but I was sure it was very comfortable.
Something twisted inside me, pulling on my spirit and flesh. I twisted with it, crying out. A hand gently pushed me back down. The hands on my feet stroked my legs in reassurance.
“It’s not ready yet. But now that you’re aware, we can proceed with deliberation.” Mxtl continued shaking her hand rattle in her right hand, but lifted her obsidian dagger into my field of view. “I do believe, someone called me to do a thing. Lay back down and hold still so I can do this. It will be uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as allowing that bastard to eat you from within.”
I smiled and did as directed. Tliltic Ocelotl held my feet firmly and purred loud enough to challenge the rattle. The combined rumbling made my intruder uncomfortable. I felt something grabbing my ribs and organs, pulling viciously.
“Diaphragm! It’s at the diaphragm!” Tliltic Ocelotl moved swiftly from her place at my feet to sit on my hips. She started patting and pushing up on my abdomen, still purring loudly. Mxtl held the obsidian dagger over where I felt the intruder. She slowly tracked its movement up my torso. I felt a jerk and the intruder had moved past the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Tliltic’s patting kept it from spreading out. Mxtl asked where I felt it and when I took a deep breath to answer, Tliltic slapped the sides of my ribs. I felt something coalesce in my lungs. I coughed violently, unable to answer and barely able to breathe.
“I love it when you answer with precision.” I could only wrinkle my face at her snark. Too late I realized her method of distraction. With a swift plunge, she stabbed me in the lower left lung. “Cleave spirit from bone, you said. So also shall I cleave spirit from flesh. This is going to get very, very uncomfortable for you. Do bear with it, and allow what happens to happen. If you try to enforce physical rules, you risk making things worse for you. This is all spirit here, no matter how physical you feel. Remember that.”
I remember. Not even yesterday I woke up nearly full term pregnant in the lair with something Snake needed an incubator for. I felt all the physical sensations of being pregnant, but was not alarmed because of where I was and who was with me. I merely wrapped my arms around my distended belly, assured what I was holding that I would not evict it, and went back to deeper sleep.
Besides, I’ve been stabbed so often by Mxtl or in Mxtl’s presence, I expected nothing less to happen and was more curious how much more crazy this shit was about to get.
The intruder was now more physical than spirit and was taking up nearly my entire lung capacity. I struggled to breathe, and realized that effort was helping the intruder to remain. I stopped trying to breathe. I stopped trying to maintain physical integrity. I forced my body to relax and lie helplessly in Mxtl’s lap. I am in Mxtl’s realm, a corner of the underworld. When among the dead, lie dead.
Tliltic remained straddling across my hips and patted my chest as if playing with clay. She settled into a rhythm, augmented by her purring and breathing pattern. Mxtl put the blade away and used her now free left hand to tilt my pliant head and neck back. With her right hand, she began playing a harsher rhythm with the rattle, one that intertwined with Tliltic’s rhythms.
The intruder tried to descend into my abdomen, but it was physically restricted to the lungs. It tried to melt into spirit, but the rattle kept it in form. Slowly, Tliltic Ocelotl pushed and patted the intruder into the bronchioles, into the bronchi, and into the trachea itself. My physical instinct was to thrash about violently from the sensation of having my trachea completely blocked. Instead, I forced myself into as deep a physically meditative state as I could, ignoring each and every physical signal that managed to reach my mind.
The obstruction continued up my throat. It tickled my vocal cords. Mxtl held my jaw open and watched my throat intensely. For some reason, I had kept my eyes open and could see her reaction. She smiled as the obstruction filled my mouth. I tasted fingers on my tongue. The intruder was coming out hands first.
Mxtl abandoned the rhythm and shook the rattle violently. I could not ignore the sound and my body trembled with equal intensity. The effect loosened the intruders grip in my lungs. Tliltic reached forward and grabbed the hands emerging from my mouth and pulled the entirety of the intruder out of my body. Only after the feet are pulled free do I allow myself the luxury of physical sensation. Which is good. Because the hands tasted nasty enough as it was. I did not want to dwell on the other body parts that passed over my tongue.
The intruder twisted and squirmed in Tliltic Ocelotl’s grip. But this cat had caught something far better than a canary, and she wasn’t letting go. She kept the intruder’s hands caught fast in one hand full of jaguar talons, and with her other, she pinned the intruder about its neck.
Mxtl patted my face. “You can breathe now. Even the hole I made when I stabbed you is whole. Nothing was left behind. We have it all.” I took a sweet breath, coughed a bit, and felt whole and intact. I sat up as Mxtl stood.
“Any idea where he came from, Cacalli?” (Cacalli is the Nahuatl word for Raven.) The male spirit looked gray and gaunt, almost skeletal. The desert said I had more dead than I should, and now I understood what it meant. The hair was almost completely gone, what was there was sparse, stringy, and barely shoulder length. There was no marks of damage except for a fresh stab wound on his torso that was in the same place as where Mxtl had stabbed me. There was too little for me to try and gauge ethnicity with. A professional would have noted facial features, the ratio the girth of the rib cage to its length, and the structure of the long bones of the body with a glance and be able to tell much of the intruder. All I could tell is the intruder is yet another of the wandering dead.
“Mine.”, said Mxtl. “You can’t have this one, Cacalli. You didn’t remove it. This one won’t be going to the Boneyard.” I pouted as my Tonalli claimed ownership of the extracted prize. While I moved my position to one of the fallen logs, Mxtl took her obsidian dagger and cut open the spirit’s chest. “Oh, hey, he still has a heart! And a liver! The rest of the organs are gone, though. That’s okay. There’s enough here.”
Enough here for what? A stone bowl was thrust before me. “It’s not coffee, but I think you’d like it just the same. Drink up. Regain yourself.” Mxtl left me with the brown frothy liquid and went with Tliltic around the fire towards a cauldron I had not seen here before.
Where did that big ass cauldron come from? The spirit saw the cauldron and started to fight against Tliltic’s grip. She only started purring again in obvious satisfaction. Mxtl grabbed one of his flailing legs and struck with her obsidian blade. The knee joint was severed in one strike. Mxtl held the detached appendage over the cauldron, and cut the foot off at the ankle. It fell in, making a splash sound. The leg followed soon after.
While I watched Mxtl systematically dismember the struggling spirit, I sipped the bowl. I was rewarded with the taste of strong bitter cocoa and intensely hot chili. It made my eyes water and my ears burn. The heat filled me, purging me of lingering weakness and leaving a burning strength in its wake. It’s not coffee, but hot damn, it’s just as good!
Joint by joint, the spirit was dismembered and placed into the cauldron. All that remained was the head. To my surprise, the head, the heart, and the liver was placed in a basket and the basket tied closed. Mxtl hung the basket from a nearby tree.
Their preparations finished, my Tonalli and my Nagual came and sat beside me. “Questions?”, taunted Mxtl.
“The cauldron. Feast for the dead, or for some honored few?”
“A few will have first pick, and then it’s first come, first serve once the flesh of the spirit is boiled.”
“The basket. If it was just the head, I’d say you was trapping or sealing him. But you put the heart and the liver in there as well. Gift basket?”
“Of a sort. It will be buried.”
“Buried?” A stray memory made a connection. “Buried in a red ant hill. For the ants.”
“Yes. You know something?”
“Mxtl, knock it off. Everyone knows more than I do, remember. A supposition, that’s all. Something I’ll have to look up later.”
“So, what do you think of the Xocolatl?” She leaned over and noted I had emptied the bowl. “You didn’t add sugar? I’m surprised.”
“I’m not in America at the moment. And I’ll try anything as is, once. The bitterness damn near knocked me out, but the chili kept me going.”
We talked more, with Tliltic Ocelotl remaining silent behind us. We discussed the fact-finding mission that led to the spiritual invasion. We discussed regalia and how my path would be considered invalid fluffy bullshit by many because it did not adhere to published denotations of various entities and workings. The discussion ended in peals of laughter. Mystery Cult of One, indeed. We do what we need to do to better ourselves.
I thanked her and Tliltic for the assistance and for the xocolatl, and left Mxtl’s corner of the underworld. As I did so, I left the dream entirely.
Now I’m hungry for beef stew. Dammit.