Excerpt from Darkness of the God

posted by amber


Caldos, September 23, Teardrop Cay

            Caldos touched Ana.  Where he once would have blazed in, full of confidence in his superior ability, the way he’d attacked Manoel in their first confrontation, the way he’d been the other night on the jet, too heavy-handed, today he was subtle.  He eased himself into her mind.  She was dreaming and so he became a part of her dream.

            She was dreaming about her mother’s death and it was enlightening for him to see this from her point of view.  Eurico, when he’d phoned after the murder, had tried to justify things – “I know you raped my wife.” – but Caldos had been more focussed on the man’s report, after all those years of watching him, that João was showing signs of being an onça.  It was compelling enough to bring Caldos back to Brazil from Los Angeles as swiftly as possible, though not swiftly enough.

            How much easier things would have been if Eurico had been able to keep things under control a few hours longer.  Now, seeing the situation from Ana’s eyes, Caldos was surprised the man hadn’t lost his family long before that.  The father depicted in Ana’s dream was a black monster of drunken rages and sexual threat, obscenities heard through the bedroom door, the bed slamming against the wall.  Ana and her uncle João cowered in the next room, then Vera was at the door, covered with blood, much more blood than would have been possible.  “Run to the Pelourinho,” she said, and was suddenly wearing a white dress with no trace of blood.  She lay in a coffin with multicolored light streaming down on her from stained glass windows, painted religious statues clustered around.

            He knew it had not been that way – there had been no funeral, and Vera’s dying words were coughed up with her life blood as her wounded heart beat at João’s command.  Unable to maintain this fiction, Ana followed her dream into the Pelourinho district where she and João wandered, looking for the haven her mother had promised.  This was the place to insert himself.  When he’d first made contact with her, on the day she was dreaming about, he had been able to convince her he was a friend.

            “What’s your name?” she asked, as she had on that day.

            “Compadre.”  As she had, so many months ago in the heart of Bahia, she seized on the idea of a godfather, someone supposed to take care of you if your parents couldn’t.   If Caldos allowed the dream to continue in the path of reality, soon they would arrive at the point where Harold and Dulce identified him as the person who’d been portrayed as the bogeyman her whole life, the man who inspired justifiable fear in her beloved uncle.  It was time to make his influence felt.

            “There’s a door,” he sent to her.  “Step through it and you’ll be in my safe place.  It’s very beautiful – a tropical island with a big house where you and João can be safe and comfortable, where you can have anything you want.”

            “What about my Mommy?”

            “She’s safe in heaven now.”  He brought the picture of the funeral back, then put wings on Vera and let her ascend into a glory of gilded clouds.  Then he showed Ana the door, a green painted wooden door set into a wall on one of Bahia’s steeply rising streets.  “Go through the door, Ana.”

            She pushed it open, and now he created a picture of her and João playing on the beach.  Her longing to embrace this vision was palpable.  There was much of the little girl in her still, although she’d been forced to grow up quickly.  Onça skill was a heavy burden for a child, he reflected, recalling long days under his mother’s tutelage as he learned about medicinal plants and her methods of diagnosis and healing.  As always when he thought of his mother, he couldn’t help but recall her erotic dance.

            “What was that?” Ana demanded.

            “Just a scary lady I knew once.”  He tamped the memory down securely, vowing to be more careful.  In the dream state, it was too easy to slip from one thought to another at the slightest provocation.  “But there are no scary people on my island.  It has a beautiful garden.”

            He showed her the garden, but could tell he was losing her.  Now, in the dream, she was crammed into the back of a van, jostled back and forth with a crowd of people, securely wedged in by anonymous comforting bodies.

            “I miss my friends.”

            “They could visit you here.”  He populated the picnic shelter on the beach with a crowd, allowing her to supply the individual faces.  Two women, one tall and freckled with a ruddy Celtic complexion, the other short, plump and Latino.  Harold, gawky and pale, was easy to identify and the other man whose face seemed fuzzy was no doubt Glen Bloom, the master of disguise.   The unadoptable orphans were all there, the deaf one, the blind one, the autist and the dwarf, plus the drug baby and another baby, skeletally-thin and tiny, a preemie the fools must have picked up along the way.  Didn’t they know when they had enough on their plate?

            Next to the picnic shelter, a bus was parked, resplendent in airbrushed artwork.  The Gypsy family sat beneath the awning, listening to a bandy-legged man play a violin.

            “Yes, they all can come,” he affirmed, then took a chance.  “Where are they now?”

            Without the slightest hesitation, she sent, “Alaska.  In a hidden Gypsy town in Alaska.”

            “Thank you, Ana.  I think we can be very good friends indeed.”

            He flooded her with good feelings, then stepped into the dream scene.  At first he bore the face she’d given Compadre, an older man, white-haired, his face a mass of wrinkles, eyes twinkling kindly, like a Brazilian version of Santa Claus.  Gradually, he let his true face show through.  “Don’t be afraid, Ana.  I am your friend.”  He gave her a nudge to help her accept that statement.

            “But we were running away from you.”  Her dream figure seemed to get smaller.  She edged behind her friends.

            “You were mistaken to be afraid of me.”

            “You tried to hurt João.”

            “No.  All I want is for you and João to help me heal people.”  He showed her the multitude of people who came to the ceremonies seeking his healing touch.

            She was in cognitive dissonance now, holding two opposing viewpoints.  Like a robot given contradictory commands, she could get stuck in the ricochets, overheat and shut down.  He had to get her through this.  In the dream, she was running down the beach, alone, a pack of dogs pursuing her.  “You chased us.  People got killed.”

            Now he saw something he hadn’t known, something Kroll had neglected to tell him.  She’d killed.  He sent, “I asked those men to find you, but not to hurt you or your friends.  I’m sorry that people got hurt.  I know you didn’t want that man in Chihuahua to die.”

            “Yes, I did,” she fired back, showing him her anger over what the man had been intending to do to her.  Caldos’ anger flared then too, that Kroll’s man could have been so stupid and so disobedient.  They’d been warned not to touch her, yet the idiot had thought he could put abuse her.

            “That was an evil thing he wanted to do to you.  I don’t blame you for getting mad and losing your control.  It’s hard to learn how far you can go, but you did learn.”

            He knew she had restrained her power when she attacked Taoufik in the jet after he’d cut Keja.  He showed this to her.

            She sent, “Yes.  And then we fought.  Why did you fight with me?”

            “Ana, all I wanted to do was make you go to sleep, because you were fighting me.  I know it’s because you were afraid of me but I was afraid of you too.  You are a very strong onça.”

            “You threw Keja and hurt her.”

            “No.”  He showed her an edited version of the actual event.  “Kroll’s man threw her.  Don’t you remember?”

            “Oh, yes.  But when we fought, you said you would kill João.”

            “No, I said I would make him go to sleep.  I put my hand on his shoulder and I said, I can make him go to sleep.”  He gave her this memory, saw her allow it to replace the real memory.


            “Ana, we will be friends.”  He gave her a strong nudge now and there wasn’t a flicker of resistance.  “You can help me heal people and João can help me too.”


            He created an image of himself standing on the beach, his white linen suit glowing, Ana on his right and João on his left, the orphans clustered around them for healing.  Ana looked up at him adoringly.  He hadn’t put that in – it came from her!

            She was going to wake with a much more positive attitude toward him.  He’d have to help her with cognitive dissonance over the next few days, he was sure, but as long as she allowed him to touch her and adjust her memories, they were on the road to success.

            Still, he didn’t know how long he could keep up this facade of goodness and light.  Sooner or later, if they were going to work as closely together as he hoped, she’d have to see and accept his dark side.  The killing she had done was the key – she had her dark side too.  Of course, she hadn’t yet grown into her sexual maturity, and with the mother’s hang-ups, echoes from the abuse she’d suffered as a child, Ana might never be free enough to enjoy the Darkness of the God. 

Ana, September 23, Teardrop Cay

            In Ana’s dream, she was with her new friend, Compadre, who was really Caldos.  Only he wasn’t the Caldos she’d been so afraid of, he was the friend she’d wanted all her life, someone who could talk to her in her mind as only João could do, and more – someone who also could send sound and vision, someone who didn’t need her help as constantly as João did, someone who could help her.

            She was so happy.  She and Caldos were going to help Mauro to see and Cândido to hear, they were going to fix Luiz’s brain and make Rosie grow beautiful and tall.

            Then, all of a sudden, Mommy was there again, back from heaven and once more covered with blood.  She’d come from the bedroom where Daddy had done bad sex things to her and, as she grasped Ana’s hand, Ana had a glimpse of Mommy as a little girl.  A man was shoving himself against her and she was crying, but she didn’t want to say no because the man was her only friend.  Then the man’s face changed and Mommy wasn’t a little girl anymore, but the sex still hurt her and she was still crying as she looked up into the green eyes of Caldos.  Green eyes exactly the same as Ana saw every time she looked in a mirror.

            She understood that he was her father.  But he wasn’t her friend.  What was he doing in her dream?

João, September 23, Teardrop Cay

            João liked the beach.  He liked it when he took his shoes off and felt the texture and pliability of the sand, hot where it was dry and cool where it was wet.  On the other beach, in the place he’d lived before, sometimes sharp things would cut his feet, but this beach didn’t have sharp things.

            If he went far enough down the wet part of the sand, he would get splashed sometimes by the moving water.  The moving water wasn’t as big as on the other beach, but Ana had told him he should not go too close to it.  On the other beach, the moving water had been very large, he could feel its power through his feet, but this water was gentle, and warm.  The air was warm too, a soft breeze on his face, bearing interesting fishy smells.

            He ran on the sturdy wet part of the sand, happy to be getting far enough away from the Bad One to be able to ignore him.  His awareness of Ana was also growing faint, but she was sleeping and wanted to be left alone, so that was all right.

            Then the beach ended.  Low trees with wide waxy leaves tangled into his legs.  When he forced his way through them, he encountered a wall of rough rock which was undercut and moist, too sharp and high to climb.  The ones with him tapped him with a stick to show that he should not go that way.  They tapped him until he turned around and began to trudge back the way he had come, keeping now to the soft dry sand, kicking it up with each step.  He did not want to go back yet.  Instead he sat down and began to run the warm dry sand through his hands, rubbing it over his face, smelling its salty odor, sifting small things out of it. 

            Reaching out for another handful, he encountered something wonderful.  It was large, bigger than his hand, and hard, like a bone.  It was covered with rings of spikes at one end, spikes which got smaller and smaller until it came to a point.  As he held it against his face, probing it with his fingers, he discovered it was open on one side and inside it was delightfully smooth, like glass.  He could fit his whole hand into it, feeling the spikes from inside as depressions in the smoothness, curling his fingers into the object’s spiral to go deeper.

            Without thinking, he sent these wonderful sensations to Ana.  But she didn’t hear him because she was still asleep, having a terrible dream.  She was dreaming about the day her Mommy died, Soft One who had looked after him for such a long time.  The dream was made worse because Bad One was in it too.  Ana wasn’t just dreaming about him, he was touching her and trying to make a puppet of her.

            Wake up, Ana! João sent.

            She woke, but she was confused.  She was both hating and liking Bad One, and her brain wasn’t working right, everything was slow and muffled, the way his brain became when he dulled himself to keep from being too afraid.

            She needed his help.

            He jumped up and started to run back to the house.

Ana, September 23, Teardrop Cay

            When João woke Ana, she was shocked to find Caldos sitting beside her on the bed, his hand on her shoulder, his presence inside her brain.  “I’m your friend,” he sent and tried to give her a sense of calmness.  Something inside her wanted to agree, to say she’d been wrong about him, that Harold and the others had been wrong.  All he’d ever wanted was to be her friend and to have her help him heal people.

            “No, that isn’t right,” she thought.  “Manoel was the healer.  And you killed him.”

            “Did they tell you that?”  He showed her Manoel’s final moments, the truck he had driven into Caldos’ plane, to keep him from pursuing them as they flew away in Glen’s plane.  As Caldos ran toward the truck, he was hoping Manoel had not been hurt because he wanted to be his friend.  But when he got there, Manoel was slumped against the steering wheel.  Caldos touched him and found a spark of life swiftly ebbing.  He tried to bring him back but his heart was almost as damaged as Mommy’s had been.  Caldos felt angry.  No, that was wrong – he felt sad.  He had wanted to be Manoel’s friend, but Manoel made that impossible.  He had killed himself.

            She didn’t know if the other things were true, something about them reminded her of the stories she used to make up to amuse João, but she could see this was true.  Manoel had killed himself.

            “I am your friend,” Caldos repeated, giving her a ridiculous picture of himself in a white robe, like a statue of Jesus in a church, with her and João snuggled up beside him.  Mauro, Cândido, Rosie and Luiz were clustered at their feet and Caldos was reaching down to heal them.

            “They can’t be healed,” she told him.  “Maybe Luiz, but not the others.”  She’d tried, in the early days of their journey, although Heather had told her it wouldn’t work.  Even Manoel could not help someone like Rosie nor could he cure congenital deafness or blindness.  If he could, he would have been able to heal João when he was a baby.

            “Manoel didn’t use his power to its full extent,” he sent impatiently.  “Together, we might be able to do much more.  Father and daughter together.”

            Then she remembered the sex, remembered him cleaving her mother with the urgency of his cruel passion, brutal as the blade which had taken her life.

            “Why am I lying here, letting him touch me and do things to my mind,” she wondered.  She tried to push him out of her brain but their physical contact gave him too much power.  She tried to push his hand away but she could not move.

            It was like the bad dreams she sometimes had, dreams she knew were dreams but she couldn’t wake up, couldn’t even call out for Mommy.  She’d try with all her might, but the most she could do was emit a tiny croak from her struggling throat.  Whenever that happened, she would call her uncle for help.


            He was coming, running toward her but in his panic and the anonymous sand, he could no longer tell how near he was to the house.  Still, she seized on their connection as a safety line.  “Why can’t I wake up?”

            “Did you make yourself sleepy?”

            He showed her the dullness he’d sensed in her, similar to his when he took medicine to calm himself on the early days of their flight, and later, duplicating the effect without the pills.  Suddenly she saw it – the dry mouth, the sleepiness, the odd calmness they’d felt.  She and Keja both felt the same and so she’d thought it was natural, from being on the island after being so stressed.  She’d had trouble focussing her eyes, there’d been a ringing in her ears, but she’d ignored that.  Ignored the obvious.  Caldos had drugged her!

            “Fight him!  Fight him!” João was pounding on the door of a house now but she didn’t think it was the right house.  It seemed smaller than this one.

            “Help me!” she sent and borrowed his strength as she had the night she’d fixed Keja’s shoulder.  She flung herself back, breaking Caldos’ grasp on her.  As he reached out to seize her again, she rolled onto the floor and under the bed.

            It was a big bed.  Curling into a ball in the very middle, she could avoid his reach.  She closed her eyes and went into herself, finding the foreign influence of the medicine and doing all she could to neutralize it.  Suddenly, the two parts of the bottom of the bed were yanked apart and the heavy mattress descended on top of her.  Then it was lifted up and shoved aside.  Caldos grabbed her by the ankle.

            He’d praised her ability to control herself, she recalled from their dream conversation, but now she held nothing back, blasting into him and stopping his heart.

            Hers stopped too.

            “Let go.  Quickly,” he told her, “otherwise we’ll both die.”  His hand fell limp, but still touching her leg.

            “I don’t care,” she sent.

            “João will die too.”  The outer world had faded, she couldn’t feel his hand any longer, but she saw what he wanted her to see, the water carafe in João’s room, with a deadly dose of the same pills he’d given her.

            She tried to send João a warning, but she was too weak.  She released Caldos’ heart, but it stayed inert, as did hers.  With the last of her strength, she gave his heart a push and it began to beat.  Then the blackness took her. 

            She didn’t know how long she was unconscious but it wasn’t long enough to make her forget what she’d decided to do when she woke up.  If she woke up.  Caldos was touching her, healing her heart.  He was distracted and he was still weak.  He had no defense as she surged into his mind with the command, “Never ever give drugs to me or João or Keja again!”

João, September 23, Teardrop Cay

            João knew it was the wrong house, even as he slammed his arms against the door.  No one came and so he hit the window next.  It broke, as he knew it would, pain and wetness sudden on his arm, the sharp smell of blood.  And still no one came.

            He felt Ana stop.  Where she had been, suddenly there was nothing.  Even the day Glen was hurt, the absence of Ana had not been as complete as this.  He thrust his arms at the broken glass again, intending to join her and Mommy where Bad One would never reach them, but someone grabbed him and pulled him back.  It was the man who smelled of coconuts.

            Although the man was small, he was strong.  Not strong enough, though, to prevent João from doing what he intended, had not awareness of Ana come rushing back into his mind.  Bad One was still touching her, but she was in control.

Caldos, September 23, Teardrop Cay

            Caldos pulled his hand back as soon as her heart was back to a normal rhythm, but it was too late.  He’d assumed that if he knew she’d tweaked him, he could undo it.  This, though, this command, had been hard-wired into him.  Even the idea of having someone else drug them, someone such as Man of Peace, was unthinkable.  He could entertain the idea of torture, rape or murder, but not drugging.  He resolved to never touch her again lest she take away all his avenues of control.

            “I don’t want you to touch me anymore,” she said, rolling away from him.

            “Don’t worry.”  He leaned back against the bed frame, breathing heavily.  He felt as if he’d been kicked in the chest.  ‘I won’t.”

            She was gasping too.  “I will help you heal people, but I won’t be your puppet and I won’t be your friend.  And I won’t help you if you hurt Keja or João.”

            We’ll see about that, he thought, deep in his consciousness where he hoped she couldn’t pry.  But she wasn’t trying to scan him.  Instead she jumped up and headed for the door.  “Let me out!  João’s hurt!”

            He saw how ironic it was that already she wanted a favor from him, but decided not to stand on ceremony this time.  He pulled himself up, using the bed frame, and hobbled across the room and unlocked the door.

            She dashed across the central room and flew down the stairs.  As he trudged behind her, he knew what such an energy expenditure must be costing her.  João was in the courtyard, Madison leading him by one arm.  Ana fussed over João but Caldos could see that the man had already taken care of his own injury, the gashes on his arm closed as tightly as if they’d been stitched, the shed blood already darkening.