The young woman stands near a cutting bench in a field of agaves. She is stunningly beautiful, unadorned save for dark pigment that covers her mouth and chin. Her long braids graze her thighs as she motions for him to approach. A large ripe pomegranate appears in her hand and she splits it with a machete. She takes a bite with a smile, her eyes never leaving his. The crimson juice stains her lips. She counts out three seeds from the other half into his hand. “Swallow,” she says, before disappearing into the field.
Semilla 1: No hay palabras suficientes para el daño que el coreano le hizo a ella.
The tall oddly pale Korean stands behind Maya running his fingers along the dozens of fine vertical scars on her back, contrasting them with the fresh bleeding welts. She holds her breath. He hasn’t noticed the cuffs above her head have become too slippery with her own blood. His fatal mistake is turning back to the tray once he tires of the cane. In a single movement she’s on him and he’s grabbing his throat as his blood pulses onto the wall in front of him. She plunges the blade into his neck again and again. “The blood for this magic has to come from somewhere,” Maya hisses at him, repeating the words that always accompanied everything he’d inflicted on her for years.
Semilla 2: Ella te conocía antes de olvidarse de ti.
The little girl focusing on her paper is maybe four, the last vestiges of her toddler chubbiness still show in her face when she looks up. She rises from the tile floor where crayons and papers are spread and brings her work to Adela. Two figures. The small one with black hair, a wide smile and impossibly long eyelashes holding the giant mitten-shaped hand of a taller figure drawn with dark curls and a pronounced frown. Maya has decorated his body with intricate designs that make him look like a filigreed gingerbread man. Who is this, Mayita? He’s my friend. Oh? What is his name? They call him M’ijo. He looks sad. Is he sad? Yes. They hurt his feelings. Who hurt his feelings? The little girl shrugs before returning to her crayons. The people who were supposed to love him.
Semilla 3: Hay cosas mucho peor que la muerte.
Her face is unrecognizable from the swelling and matted bloody hair stuck to her cheeks. She is choking, the black tea spews from her mouth and nostrils as she tries to crawl away from the albino figure standing above her. Hyuk smiles at Stroi and kicks Maya hard, sending her across the room like a ragdoll. She struggles to a pull herself up, her eyes fluttering with pain and confusion. Every time she moves the gwisin strikes a new blow. Still, she refuses to give up until the light in her dims to nothing. “She will be back soon,” he says in soft clipped tones, his unnaturally blue eyes resting on Maya’s lifeless body as he calmly addresses Mihai. “That’s the beauty of having a plaything that never dies.”
Adela is with him in front of Maya’s cottage near the park in Ealdwic. “I don’t pretend to know anything about how the universe works, but somehow she knew you M’ijo Stroi--down to the markings you now carry in your flesh. I was with her in that awful place when they tortured her, helpless to do anything but watch. She remembered you then too, the imaginary friend from her childhood. I would hear her whispering your name when she didn’t even know what she was saying. You kept her alive in there. I don’t know how or why it was you but it was.”
“So now you know. She always loved you, unlovable Mihai Stroi, the sad tall boy from across the world. I do not know how it is you lived your whole life without the slightest sense of her. Perhaps your head has always been so cluttered with all of us dead folk that the quiet voice of a lonely little girl was simply drowned out in the noise.”
The roses begin to change from red to black as a dark cloud moves high above the cottage. “I’ve tried for as long as I can to keep his spirit away from her,” she sighs. “Every day I feel him moving closer. He is coming for her and she can’t fight him this time. I was hoping she might know to turn to you if she needed a champion, even if she didn’t recognize you; but you certainly went and made short work of that plan.”
They are back in the agave field and it is raining. Adela turns to walk away, heartsick at having witnessed again everything she’s shown Stroi. “Goodbye, Mihai Stroi. I have to focus what energy I have left on protecting her. I don't know how to fix the mess you made with that nasty temperament of yours. Even if you try to help, she's as stubborn as you are and has learned to mistrust those who hurt her."
The last words he hears from Adela come as the rain begins outside his window. "You are nothing more to her now but an odd cruel man who seems familiar for reasons she cannot understand. I had thought you might live up in some small way to the steadfast belief she always had in you. I was wrong. If you choose to leave her to suffer at the hands of this monster, at least let her know she will not be alone. Let her know I will be there with her when he comes.”