It’s almost six o’clock.
A quick perusal of my front room and everything looks good. The Murphy bed is back in the wall, and all my clothes are off the floor. I even cleaned up the kitchen—no food sitting out to suggest we’re having dinner. The only thing happening tonight is a much-needed discussion.
A light tapping at the door grabs my attention. I glance in the mirror hanging on the wall to the left of my desk, fluff my hair, and check my makeup—a little mascara, eyeliner, and nude lip gloss. My appearance doesn’t hint that I’m looking for anything other than answers.
The knocking becomes more insistent.
“Coming,” I say, walking across the room.
Dwade stands on the other side, holding his black helmet beneath his arm. “Hello.”
“Hi.” Swallowing hard, I push past the desire burning a hot spot in the pit of my stomach. Stay focused, I tell myself and then say to him, “Come in.”
He crosses the threshold, looks around, and then perches on the end of the sofa. It’s the first time he’s seen my place without the bed taking up the floor. That’s fine. This won’t be a long conversation. I shut the door and take a seat on my desk chair, needing to keep distance between us.
“You wanted to talk,” he says. “What do you want to know?”
No tip-toeing around the issue with him… “I need to understand more about how you got here.”
He runs a hand through his thick, wavy hair. “You want to know how I traversed time?”
“If that’s what happened.”
You know that’s what happened.
Where did that thought come from?
I squeeze my eyes together and then glance at Dwade, who’s giving me a knowing stare.
“If you think I’m a reincarnation, you’re wrong. When our people ruled, I made a deal with Death. Foreigners, nowadays people call them Spaniards, came to our land. I see all things, even back then, and I saw the demise of our civilization. It all started with Cortés who led his troops and conquered city after city. I fought in the battle of Tenochtitlan.”
I stifle the gasp threatening to spill forth as I recall the dream. Tezcatlipoca never returned from that excursion.
How did I know that?
“Anyone could read about that in a book or even online. I did.”
A sly smile comes and goes on Dwade’s handsome face. “Like I said, I see all things,” he continues. “I saw what would happen at Tenochtitlan. Remember, I was away from you for most of the previous day?”
Fleeting images filter through my mind—sitting on a throne with men in loincloths and gold-covered tilmatlis, cloaks, gathered around. It must be the remnants of a bad dream.
“If I had told you that I went to Mictlantecuhtli and made a deal with him, you would have agonized. But I didn’t want my spirit drifting through the various levels of Mictlán, and I wasn’t ready for an afterlife with the other deities. He promised me I would be free to travel time to find you again.”
Deep down Dwade’s words resonate. But why? Nothing he says is true—it can’t be. Besides, who makes a deal with Death? If it were possible, there’d be a steep price to pay.
“You want me to believe that you made a no-consequences deal with the Devil?”
A thin smile appears on Dwade’s face. “Not hardly. The Lord of the Dead wanted my brother in Mictlán. I had to make sure Quetzalcoatl ended up in the Land of the Dead. Mictlantecuhtli didn’t want my brother to soar to the heavens.”
Curiosity raises its ugly head, and I have to know. What type of person condemns their own brother to Hell? “How did you do it?”
“You must have forgotten that my brother and the god of death were at odds. Even without my help, Quetzalcoatl would have fallen,” Dwade explains.
I’m not in the mood to hear excuses. I tap my foot on the hardwood floor. “Enough with the mythology lesson. Just answer my questions?”
Dwade grimaces, and his chin dips. “I got my brother drunk, and he slept with our sister. He killed himself when he realized what he’d done.”
My heart hammers in my chest. It dawns on me that I’m sitting in the room with a fucking monster.
“I’m not a monster,” Dwade says.
My jaw drops. He heard me?
“Yes, Tlazolteotl. We’ve always had that connection.” He pauses for a beat or two. “As far as Quetzalcoatl goes, I did what was necessary. My brother and I never got along. In one lifetime, he killed me. He was due for a fall.”
This revelation makes my head hurt. It doesn’t matter that Dwade claims to be a god doing what he had to do. It doesn’t matter that he may or may not have lived during a time where deities killing one another was acceptable. It’s the deception and the manipulation troubling me.
You’ve done worse, whispers the voice that had been plaguing me for days.
I’ve done nothing to harm anyone.
You’ve forgotten your own despicable, desperate acts.
“Look at me, Tlazolteotl,” Dwade commands. When I don’t respond, he says, “Twyla.”
My gaze swings to him. “What?”
“I don’t know what you have done since we were apart. You’re a Sin-Eater. You’ve seen every depraved act known to man. Those misdeeds are locked away inside you. You made your own deal with Mictecacíhuatl.”
“The Lady of the Dead?” I say.
“Yes. The Lord and Lady of the Dead had their own disagreements. She defied her husband and granted your request.”
Awareness dawns like someone turns a key in an ancient lock. Honestly, life in the shadows was more palatable.
Absently, I say, “To be reborn?”
“Yes.” He glances down at his hands. “According to the Lord of Death, you weren’t supposed to recall your time spent in Mictlán. Even your memories were erased.”
But they’re coming back, my god. He’ll learn…in time.
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