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20

F I V E D A N C E S W I T H D E A T H

21

C H A P T E R T W O

hair. Slowly I fashioned the man’s body in my mind’s eye, paying attention to the smallest details. When I felt the image was complete, I condensed myself to be in sync with the surroundings and mani-fested. Hernán looked stupefied. At that moment I realized that I had forgotten about a thick gold chain under the red man’s beard. I created the chain right in front of his eyes. Hernán howled and crossed himself.

“ ¡ Busca calor, pájaros y negros, y allí encontrarás oro!” I yelled into his face.

Anabel moaned again and crawled even deeper into her mat.

“Por vida de Dios, ¡ Pedro!” Hernán whispered.

“Por vida de Dios, ¡ Pedro!” I mimicked. “ ¡ Busca calor, pájaros y negros!” and for greater effect I put my hand on his shoulder and yelled, “ ¡ Hernán!”

As if his name were a signal, he sprang past me to where his sword glittered atop the clothes. I laughed and caught him across his chest. He hurled me off with a powerful blow. I smashed into the wall just above his table, which I pummeled with my boots, unable to detach myself from the wall. The helmet and the papers f lew to the f loor. I soared up, struck my head against the ceiling, and fell onto his bed.

Anabel opened her arms, uttering a few urgent words as I collapsed on top of her. She looked much like a Mayan, but the lan-guage she spoke was different. I wanted to know who she was, where had she come from, what could she tell me about the outlanders. But I had no time to read her mind. Hernán, now armed, launched himself at me. A moment before his strike, I de-manifested, and his sword whacked into the bed mat a palm’s width from Anabel ’s body. I remembered the low-life priest who had disappeared in the exact same way a short while ago. I, terrifying people just like some low-life had terrified me? I laughed at the irony. In this world of many dimensions, a sense of the ridiculous was my best defense. At least, I thought, I didn’t feed on people’s fear.

The short game had been fun. I felt refreshed and distracted from my endless pursuit of Dew. Invisible to them now, I f loated

of her face. I produced a hand and waved to her.

She sank deeper into her mat, and I switched my attention to Hernán. The light of his soul had faded, too confused and in-experienced to do me any harm. I observed him, so disturbed by my presence yet oblivious of me, and I felt oddly hollow. There should have been an emotion inside me, a feeling of superiority at having possessed him, pity for his fear, awe at the grandeur of his boats, or at least satisfaction with his vulnerabilities. I knew those feelings should have been there because some time in the past, long ago, I seemed to remember experiencing them. But I felt nothing apart from a deep, ancient melancholy, which existed both inside me and on its own at the same time.

To distract myself, I decided to give Hernán a bit of a fright. He was afraid of the man with the orange hair, and I loved playing with people. The match was perfect. The roaring, rough language of Hernán’s thoughts also reminded me of a phrase the lone Mayan sorcerer had taught me. How did it go? Without an effort, the phrase f loated to the front of my memory, Busca calor, pájaros y negros. . . The magician had told me that people from afar speak those words, but he hadn’t puzzled out the meaning.

I spun with joy. Because I had met that sorcerer, my per- formance wouldn’t be mute. I took a moment to admire the Spirit’s twisted sense of humor.

I projected a beam of energy into Hernán’s now familiar mind, wondering how a foreigner would see a double’s manifestation. Immediately I began to thicken.

Anabel noticed me first and gasped, a hand at her mouth. Hernán swung around, his eyes dashing around the room, but he hadn’t seen me yet.

The air around me condensed, darkened, and pulsated, as if taking on a life of its own. Hernán’s eyes fixated on that spot. He saw me manifesting. He whispered a short phrase and gestured toward me, his fingers shaking, as if drawing small crosses in the air. Anabel whimpered on her bed, watching me.

I focused on Hernán’s memory of the man with the orange

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