Mxtl is not in the mood for games. Her rattling shook the lies and fears I had used to prop up my ego off of me in large unmendable pieces. Deprived of that exoskeleton that I am not surprised to learn I depend on far too much than I should, I fell to the hard floor of her underworld unable to move. Shake by shake, rattle by rattle, she stripped me of my overworld agency.
“The cowrie shells. They are mine.” My agreement was a mere formality. What Mxtl claims, Mxtl has. “You still associate them with [the ex]. You still see them as cheap-ass trinkets and the equivalent price of your life. Even after being told why, you still can’t let go that it took only two dollars worth of goods to buy your release from a very destructive relationship. The shells are screaming, but you still can’t hear them. They are bound to you, you can’t throw them away, sell them, or even give them away. But the shells belong to [Weaver], and [by right of being a part of Weaver], the shells belong to me.”
How could I argue? Mxtl is right. I have tried to work with them. Tried using them with geomancy and with the throwing of lots. But they don’t quite fit anywhere that conscious Keri can use them clearly. They have become more than just two bucks of fancy sea debris, but I can’t use them as anything more than a reminder that I am free.
I pushed myself up to a kneeling position. “They are yours. But they are physical. What will you do with them? And how?”
She told me how. What I will have for them. A small container, plain, easy to hide in my drawers. (If nothing else, it was a requirement that it be easy to hide in the drawers. It is not to be out unless necessary.) What kind of scarves and jewelry for the container as time and budget allows. Along with an understanding that (overworld) Keri will only be maintaining the house for (underworld) Mxtl’s shells. And then she called that container by a certain name.
“Did you say [nuh-uh]?” Suddenly uncomfortable, I stood up to better feel secure.
“Bitch, did I stutter?”
“That means something very specific and has relevance in [a certain tradition that I’m not involved in].”
“I ask you again, bitch, did I stutter?”
“So you’re using that word so I’ll understand the importance of it and because there’s not too many other words I know that could transmit the analogue of what you are intending?”
Mxtl did not smile. She remained standing perfectly still. She stared at me with unblinking eyes in a dark painted face.
“[Mxtl], a [nope] is a very specific thing, assembled for a very specific purpose, and used under very specific circumstances, and only by those that have been specifically initiated to do such. I can’t exactly pick up a kit from Occult Depot and assemble it while watching YouTube videos on the subject! And it’s not like I can just swing by the library and pick up a book, either! Nearly all the English language works on the matter has been whitewashed and sanitized like fuck and I can barely read formal Spanish and can’t understand fuck all in Portuguese! Who is going to teach me this shit? Eh? Now, if you didn’t mean [aw hell naw] specifically, then say [this nice comforting phrase] instead and I’ll get to it because that I can do!”
Mxtl did not answer for a long time. Her stare fastened me to my place. Not often I am reminded what it feels like to be prey.
“Tell me about Mother Mary.”, she softly said with a vicious smile.
“Tell me about Kabbalah, and the Tree of Life, and of crossing the Abyss.”, she calmly inquired.
“That’s… individual… and… that doesn’t require… an initiation…” Pebbles of lead fell from my mouth with each syllable. I’m not lying… am I?
“Tell me about Rummer John’s table, and what gives you the right to sit there. Tell me about the dress you wear when working for him.” She had started shaking her rattles again. Gently, just low enough for me to barely hear, just slow enough to catch my heart’s rhythm.
“[Mxtl]…” I realized she was slowing her rhythm and taking my heartbeat along with it.
She slammed the rattles against her legs. The sound undid my own and I fell prone before her. “TELL ME MY NAME AND THEN TELL ME AGAIN WHAT ANYONE ELSE HAS TO DO WITH IT!”
When in her underworld, I can always speak her name with ease. The syllables flow from my tongue and coil around her presence. But I can never take the knowledge of those syllables with me back to waking. Not completely. The meanings of her names, however, are always with me. I spoke her name, and felt my heart completely stop.
“You are forgetting [things]. I will remind you.” She started shaking her rattles again with a very soft and very slow beat. My heart responded in rhythm. Just enough to allow me to breathe. Not enough to speak. Mxtl had words enough for the both of us.
“You think that because you are focusing once again on the intellectual work, that the instinctual work is locked away for the time being? That because you once again wear the coat of the magus, the cloak of the [wix] is shunned? Have you not noticed the wand is in your left hand, but the cane is still in your right? Do you still think that you have to be one or the other, and completely forgetting that you are both and neither! No. Stop allowing your living past to compartmentalize you into neat little cells in the dungeon.”
“You will gather the shells. All fourteen of them. Abandon whatever plans you had for them. You will get [the container], even if you have to make it yourself. It won’t be hard nor expensive for you to make if necessary. This isn’t an art project, after all. You will use [the rope already made] to tie it together, and you will make a [fuck] from it. And then we will go from there.”
She threw a rattle at the ground before my face. When it struck the hard earth it broke apart and I felt all my joints dislocate. My body fell apart into pieces at Mxtl’s feet, and my awareness surrendered to the greedy darkness under me.