Hatching an Idea

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We go to the living room and sit down on the couch. It reminds me of the first time I came here, what, less than a week ago? How much has gone by since that it feels like a month. Lil' Nathan is playing by the window with some kind of complex building blocks. I was more of a video game kid, so it's a little surprising to me to find out people can still sidestep the computer age.

I grab Domenica's hands. "I have so much I need to explain to you that I don't know where to start."

"You said Dave... the man you thought was attacking us... was an ally?" she says.

OK, I admit that's a little confusing. How did I get so easily convinced again? For a paranoid moment I wonder if I've been brainwashed just like the others. No, all right, I've got this.

"Turns out he's the most sane one out of all my coworkers. If you remember well, I thought he was attacking us for two reasons. First, he was the only one who had info on you from me. Secondly, the attacker was a strange mountain cult so the culprit had to be a human of some kind."

"Are you telling me the people who attacked us weren't human?" says Domenica, doubtful. Ouch! This is the face I probably make every time she's trying to explain something supernatural. It hurts. I'm telling this story all wrong.

"No, that's not what I mean," I say. "Where do I start? Well, let's say I wasn't really able to pretend I was fine working with Dave this morning. It took me at most an hour to blow up and confront him. I know it was stupid and dangerous, but I'm happy I did. He pointed at... how baseless our, I mean, my assumptions were. Like, he didn't know your name, your address, he didn't even know you lived here because I never told him. Plus he hasn't been around for that long, so the cult membership thing sounds really off."

"OK, so that's good news," says Domenica. "Does he have any willingness to look into things with the Ñox Cayu cult, if they are centered around the factory? Oh, and what about the police station you went to this morning?"

I shrug, uneasy. "Closed. Literally no one there, on a week day. I'm starting to think it's no coincidence that it's so hard to get help." Their absence from the grand scheme of things makes me worried. Could they also be controlled or something similar? "Getting back to the cult," I say, "Dave also suggested that the stuff happening with the weather and all was way too powerful to be their doing? Like, mere rituals couldn't achieve that? What do you think, because I'm way out of my depth on this."

Domenica looks just as miffed as I was when he debunked our beautiful theory. "Well, in a field of research that is as blurry and inconsistent as paranormal studies, it would be quite pretentious to dismiss something based on common sense, or a subjective feeling. Has he done any measurements to back what he's saying?"

"I don't think he has," I say, apologetic, "he's no researcher. It just feels like he know what he's talking about. He says he's seen a lot and that he can feel things..." I pause. What a headache. "Honestly, I'm torn. Both of you sound pretty convincing and I have no idea what's right and what's wrong anymore. Half the time I'm expecting to wake up, or to get told that this was just a big joke, there is no phenomenon and no mad demon thingie controlling people or mysterious magical cult or whatever. I just want normal! But they came here and they attacked both of you. They chased me around. They spook me at work. And the weather is really getting out of hand! I can't ignore any of this. I have to face it."

I didn't really know I felt so lost and pressured at the same time until I said it. My eyes are wet. Domenica reaches out and hugs me. Her smell comforts me.

"We're gonna be OK," she says. "If it feels like it's too much at once you can back down, you know. I care about you enough that I don't want to see you hurt by what I do with my life. I'm... I'm sorry you have to feel this way." I hug her back. It looks like she needs some comforting too. Nathan hops on the couch and hug-chokes her from behind. It's so clumsy and spot-on at the same time that we end up giggling nervously without being able to stop. Domenica includes him in our now-collective hug so he doesn't think that we're mocking him.

I let go of Domenica a bit, enough to speak to her face instead of her shoulder. "It's not our fault, and if what Dave said is true, it might be way bigger than you. He believes that all of this is happening not because of a cult surrounding that Notch... Ñox Cayu, but because of the entity itself. He says it's real and animated enough to have started using human puppets months ago in order to... Well, we haven't gotten to that part yet, but it's getting worse and it could get dangerous for all of us. I'm involved whether you want it or not."

Domenica nods. "So that's why you said it was possibly non human. I have to say, I may have seen a lot of weird stuff but I have yet to experience a phenomenon where humans are not the start and the end of it. Very often, what manifests as supernatural is the collective emanation of something we do. I'm willing to look into his idea, though, if he's still OK with the idea of meeting with me."

She doesn't seem to get how dangerous the situation has gotten. "That's gonna be difficult, because he plans on skipping town tonight or tomorrow. He says the situation is getting bad. I..." How do I break that to her?

"I don't want you or Nathan in the line of fire if that thing gets more powerful. What if it doesn't stop at trying to scare you away next time?" I sound like I'm begging a little here. Fine. I'm begging. Please don't think I'm a leaving you just because I want out.

Domenica gets it now. She looks a bit stunned. "You want us to leave too."

"I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm really getting scared. Just so you know, if you don't want to leave, I'll stay." There. I said it, I'll commit to it now, no matter how unreasonable it sounds. Still, it would be a good thing to finally have that relationship talk not far in the future. I hope I'm not giving all that power over me to someone who sees me as this month's fling.

There is a long pause in our conversation. Obviously, that decision isn't something that can be made so easily. The only reason I was able to get over it so quickly is because I have so few anchors here: Domenica is a thing, then there's Tig, my parents, and that's about it. I also should go and warn them. I hope they won't think I've gone bonkers when I tell them a magical beast is expanding its control over the town and its premises. Maybe the whole truth is a bit much. I can always tell them it's a gang, or something.

At that moment, Nathan speaks out. "Mom?" he says. "It's real, you know. The mountain god. It's waking up."

It's my turn to be stunned. What the hell does that little guy know, and how does he know it? Is he being controlled too? No, of course not, paranoid little me.

"What do you mean, Nat," says Domenica. "It's waking up? You've seen it?"

Without looking at us, he shakes his head. "I've felt it only, but it's pretty clear. It's spreading roots, like a tree, all over town. It's feeding so it can wake up."

I look at Domenica, she looks worried but not overly surprised. Is he special too? How many of us are there?

Domenica gets up and goes to her desk. I suspect another moment spent fetching books and papers on the subject, but all she gets out is a hand-written transcript. Beautiful handwriting.

"Petrus called me back this morning. I asked him for more information about that potential cult, but just as you say, he didn't have much about people worshiping Ñox Cayu. He had more on the creature instead. Just like you said, Nat, it's supposedly a god, just not a good one." She reads out loud. "Old depictions indicate he looked like a bird, a turkey maybe, but that changed with the arrival of the Spanish invaders, where it assumed the shape of a rooster. God of storms and famine, they said he was sealed in an egg of stone by a benevolent priest because he was too unhinged to be left alone. No amount of sacrifices would satisfy him. He usually ensured a steady supply of..." She looks at Nathan. "... of food with the help of minions whose souls he sucked so they would do his bidding."

She lays down the paper on the table and sits back down with us, grabbing Nathan without thinking. "Sure sounds a lot like our guy," she says. "You're sure he's real, Nat? He's coming back?" Nathan nods.

Domenica thinks for a moment. "We have to get out of here," she says quietly. I couldn't agree more.


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