by Anton Kucera
The sun bore down on him as he stood outside the small adobe shack as he waited for the girl inside to call him in. As the arid heat continued to worsen and the hours passed, he began to question why he was doing all of this. He began to doubt as to whether or not the rumors he had heard about the supposedly gifted child were true and all this waiting would have been for nothing, and the sunburn forming on his face and neck would be a painful reminder of wasted time and unanswered questions. At least it would be for the days to come.
With a sigh, he rolled up the long sleeves of his shirt revealing a noticeable white scar running from his wrist up to his biceps, a stark contrast to his tan skin. For as long as he could remember he had this mysterious scar, never knowing where it came from. The kids on the playground would make fun of him for it, and as time went on through his teen years, people had made comments. He had heard them all from being accused of self-harm to being named a disgusting freak. He had heard all the nicknames. Even now people still whisper and stare whenever he would wear more revealing clothing. Not once in his life has he ever been able to defend himself with a story. There was nothing to be said, and from all he knew he came out of the womb with this hideous, unwanted marking on his body. His parents certainly had never told him how the scar came to be so noticeable on his body. They denied that it was ever there before he had turned five. If only he could remember any part of his life before then, maybe then he wouldn’t be waiting for a girl he didn’t know to read his scar.
This girl, whose name he heard from a man with no name, was powerful for her young age and read deeper into the minds of her clients than anyone he had heard of before. With her power, she could have had anything she wanted, but chose to live secluded in a desert with only her grandmother as an attendant. While he was wary of people claiming such powers, since everyone did so these days for fame and riches, he figured this girl was one of the few who said what she meant. No one lucky enough to see what she saw would live free from any desire. At least, none that he had seen on TV. None that actually could help him. This was his last resort to resolve his past and his last hope for any peace of mind.
As if the residents of the house had heard his thoughts, an elderly woman stepped out into the blazing heat, squinting at the sudden change in light. The long floral dress she was wearing was far too warm for this time of year. She looked around and then down to the ground where he was sitting. With a couple more blinks, her eyes adjusted and were instantly drawn to his forearm. Her eyes locked with it for several seconds before she smiled.
“You certainly are a handsome one…reminds me of how my husband looked when he was young like you”. With a small, weak gesture she beckoned him inside. “Well, come in. I was just making some lunch. My granddaughter will be ready for you afterward.”
As quickly as she had stepped outside, she walked back in. He imagined that the heat was not good for her old age, however healthy she had seemed. With a slow motion, he stood up feeling a sharp pain radiate from lower back up his spine. He almost forgot how long he had been sitting. He winced and the uncomfortable sensation and shuffled his way inside.
The inside of the adobe shack was simply decorated, with minimal furniture. Whether that was the choice of the child prodigy or the elderly woman was uncertain, but it was clear that neither of them indulged in lavishness.
“Please, have a seat, you must be tired from waiting all day.” The elderly woman pulled back a chair from the kitchen table, “I’m making a vegetable stew. I hope that’s okay, Jade doesn’t eat meat. It makes the poor girl sick…” She took the lid off of a pot that was sitting, simmering on the stove. Steam rose up around her face and warmed the already stifling air in the room. “Anyway, I apologize for leaving you out there for so long. Jade says it’s to make sure you want to go through with this…procedure.” She smiled as she stirred the contents of the bowl.
He nodded, feeling his stomach growl as the scent of stew filled the air. His mouth began to water, despite how dry it had become from waiting out in the desert heat.
The elderly woman sliced some bread and placed the slices into a basket before placing it on the table. “If you don’t mind, dear, would you knock on Jade’s door? She probably already knows the stew is done, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.”
“Sure.” He nodded and got up. It didn’t take long before he had found her room, after all the shack couldn’t have been bigger than a one bedroom apartment. He knocked gingerly on Jade’s door, hearing the light pitter patter of a child’s feet walk across the floor.
When Jade opened the door, she looked up at the man in front of her. Her milky blue irises stared at him, sightless. “You must be Gus….the man who was waiting outside all day for me. Please tell my grandmother I’ll eat later. I’m preparing for the ceremony. Go eat, you’ll need the energy for later.” She turned back into the dimly lit room; her long, white, and formless dress dragging behind her.
For a moment Gus stood there, not sure what to make of what had just happened. Though, he didn’t know what to expect, for some reason the very presence of the girl gave him the chills. Even though her eyes were sightless, they seemed to be looking straight into his being.
With a stomach full of stew, Gus found his way once more to Jade’s room, this time the door was open for him. The room was still dimly lit, making it difficult to navigate as his eyes adjusted to the change in lighting once again. In the center of the room was a pit that left only a foot edge for walking room around it. Gus made his way down the closest ladder to him. The pit itself wasn’t too deep, as he could still see over it as he stood.
Jade was standing in the center of the pit near a small fire ablaze in a makeshift dugout. The smoke rose up through a hole in the ceiling that let a sliver of sunlight into the room. The smell of herbs and smoke filled Gus’s nostrils as he walked closer to the fire. It was a sickeningly sweet smell that almost made him sick. He looked at Jade for a moment as she gestured for him to lay down. There was a mat made of straw under his feet. He followed the instructions faithfully and laid down without hesitation. He lay in silence for a few moments, listening to the fire crackle and the sound of Jade mixing something in a bowl.
Once she was finished and the sounds stopped, she brought the bowl and placed it near Gus’s head. “Relax, I need you to drink half of this.” She held his head in one hand and lifted the bowl with another. With her assistance, Gus once more followed her orders faithfully and started to drink. The slimy liquid flowed from the bowl and down his throat freely, making him gag slightly at the strange sensation. It tasted just as nauseatingly sweet as the herbs he had smelled when he entered the room. When half of the contents of the bowl were emptied into his stomach, he was laid back down. Jade then drank the second half with ease, making it obvious she had drunk the brew countless times before.
As the herbs turned in his stomach, he began to feel sick but sleepy. He felt a small hand on his forehead and one tracing his scar. “I need to you rest now.”
With that he closed his eyes, reality and dreams both melding in his mind as his consciousness slipped away. Before everything went dark he saw an older man he felt he had known for his entire life, a long white scar running along his arm from his wrist to his biceps. The man smiled at Gus and said, “I can show you everything.”