So, I really need to revise this story, but since I haven’t posted in a while, and it’s all spooky-like I figured I’d share today in the spirit of Halloween.
King and Fool
I wake to the buzz of the alarm and glare at the blurry red numbers glowing in the darkness: 3:30am. What a shit time to be up. But I can’t go back to sleep, the pounding at the bedroom door ensures that.
“Yo esse, let’s go! You ain’t got time to make yourself pretty,” Raphael yells through the door.
I roll out of bed and stumble to open the door and stare blearily at the big thug. He flashes me an ugly, gold toothed grin and pushes a veladora candle and a lighter into my hands.
“It’s time,” Nico says quietly from behind him. Raphael moves out of the way, so that Nico can grab my shoulder in his heavily tattooed hand, and lead me to the basement stairs.
The lights are on upstairs. The vatos had been partying hard, and the kitchen and living room are littered with beer cans, the smell of mota heavy in the air. All in honor of me, my initiation into Tres Reyes. But downstairs, where I must go, it is dark and silent. I pause at the top of the stairs, suddenly reluctant.
Nico squeezes my shoulder firmly.
“It’s ok Niño. It ain’t easy, but you wanna be Tres Reyes, you gotta sit the Dark Throne. You make it an hour, no screaming or crying or any of that shit, and you’re in.”
Raphael grins again from where he leans against the wall, “At least we don’t beat your ass to pulp like them fucks in MS, eh?”
I gulp, and nod jerkily. Nico doesn’t smile with Raphael, he just lets go of me and says, “Get going Niño, you ain’t got much time. Don’t light the candle till you’re at the bottom and I close the door. We’ll be listening. And remember: El Rey teme nada.”
I take my first halting steps down into the gloom of the basement, and just barely overhear Raphael whispering, “You really think he’s ready holmes? I mean, he’s only fifteen; I’ve seen the Dark Throne make hard-time vatos bust down and bawl.”
I don’t dare linger to hear Nico’s whispered reply, I try to walk tall and proud into the dark. When I reach the bottom he calls out to me, “Niño, one last thing. No matter what happens, keep looking straight ahead.” And with that the door swings shut and the darkness swallows me.
I fumble with the lighter for a moment, but it sparks up ok, and I light the veladora. The dim light is just enough for me to make out the skeletal walls of the unfinished basement, and to make the crucifixion scene painted on the glass of the veladora writhe like Jesus must have really done up on the cross. I take a deep breath and walk deeper into the basement, my naked feet cold on the bare cement floor. At the end of the hall I can see the throne room, setup earlier today in preparation for my coming, and in the back of my mind childhood fears gibber madly.
After what feels like an eternity I enter the room, and take my seat on the Dark Throne. Really it’s nothing more than a high-back dinner chair; facing two other chairs on which mirrors have been placed, facing each other, perpendicular to me. I step around the small box fan they have placed in here for some reason, which is on, and take my seat. I am very careful not to disturb anything, or look into either mirror, as Nico advised me earlier in the day.
For several minutes nothing happens, I am just sitting alone in a dimly lit room, listening to the quiet hum of the fan. I almost fall back asleep, but I know that if I do there’s no way I’m going to be Tres Reyes. With some effort, I manage to stay awake. After a few minutes, it begins.
At first I just think it is the fan going out, but it doesn’t take long before I realize what it is: whispering. I can make out a few different voices, but not what they are saying. Then, like tuning a radio through the static, I begin to understand words.
“Another king come to sit the throne, eh? When will they ever learn?”
“Illusion is truth and truth is illusion, this is the only truth.”
“Go away. Please go away. Please please please go away.”
“Shit holmes, you gonna regret this. It’s hell from here out.”
“Yes. This is good. You’ll do quite nicely. Perfect in fact.”
At first they jumble in my ears, coming from all around. Some are familiar voices, just on the edge of memory, some I know I have never heard before. Suddenly everything goes quite. And then I hear a single voice, unfamiliar, coming from my left.
“Hello Miguel. So nice of you to come. What do you desire?”
My mind races as I try to come up with an answer, or decide if I should even say anything at all. But before I can, another voice comes from my right. This one I know, but cannot place exactly.
“Don’t do it cabron, you can’t trust that fuck and you know it.”
My eyes are still fixed straight ahead, watching the shadows dance on the bare wall as the candle flickers in my hands. I’m not supposed to look around the room at all. Is that so I can’t see who’s talking? Is Nico messing with me? I decide to ask.
“Nico? Raph? You there holmes? You fucking with me right now?” I try to sound unshaken, but my voice comes out quiet and cracked.
For a moment there is no response, then the voice on the left speaks again.
“I assure you that we are quite alone here Miguel. Now please, tell me. What do you desire? Why are you here?”
“To become Tres Reyes,” I say.
“Para ser el Rey,” the voice on the right whispers.
“Is that all? You just want to join some gathering of scum? Surely there is more than that.”
As he speaks my mind is filled with possibilities, and I almost ask for them. Then it occurs to me that this must be a test.
“I just want to be Tres Reyes,” I say, “That’s all.”
“Fool,” he says, “such limited vision. I can give you that, and more. Gabrielle? I’ll have her begging for you. A gun, a car, money? All within your grasp. I can even let you speak to your mother again.”
My hands start to shake as I listen to the voice repeat back all my deepest desires. There’s no way Nico is fucking with me now, this is for real.
“For real?” I ask.
“Not for reals, vato,” the voice on the right says, “This dude’s full of shit. He’ll say anything to get you, but it’s all lies. You know what’s true.”
“Ignore him,” the other voice says, “I can give you everything you desire. And all I ask of you is one simple thing. Just look at me.”
My eyes are still fixed on the blank wall before me. My vision is blurry, and the shifting shadows have taken on strange, disturbing forms. It’s hard to keep staring at nothing, and I feel my eyes begin to drift left.
“No! Don’t do it. That shit-stain can’t give you anything. But I can. There’s only one way to get what you want, and you what it is holmes. Don’t join Tres Reyes. Be El Rey. I can make you king.”
As the voice speaks I know it’s right. I don’t want to join Tres Reyes. I want to rule Tres Reyes. My gaze shifts to the right.
“You stupid little bastard!” the other voice screams, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!”
But I’m already looking into the other mirror. At first all I see is myself, sitting in an undershirt and shorts in the dark. But soon the shadow swells around my reflection, and I see something else in my own face. Something with too wide a smile, and black, unblinking eyes. It speaks again, and I watch my mouth move, even though I say nothing.
“Perfect. Now, you know what to do.”
And I realize why the voice sounded so familiar. It’s my own.
With a nod to my reflection, which it does not mimic, I stand and shatter the other mirror with a sharp kick. Picking up a large shard of glass, I blow out the candle.
I hear the door to the basement open, and Nico calls down to me, “Time’s up Niño, you did it! You’re Tres Reyes now!”
I shake my head in the darkness, and move silently to stand beside the door to my throne room, the glass knife in my hand ready to strike.