Brandon stretched as he walked toward his altar. Two weeks had passed since he'd returned from his journey. As he started his meditation, he let his mind drift back to the night he'd returned. Crash had left him with Kyra for a night. In that night, Brandon had told her all about his journey.
He told her about the Old Man and Old Woman. He'd been told that their true name was Obatala. Obatala was his orisha. It was to him that he offered thanks and offerings daily. He told her how he'd defeated his past self and killed The Rider. He told her how he'd travelled back to the land of his ancestors. He'd earned his sword. He'd done the rite of passage just as his ancestors had done. Their blessings had been bestowed upon him.
In the midst of their blessings, he'd grown to understand his gift. They'd told him how children of Obatala had a strong sense of justice and honor. It made sense. That's why he had been so eager to take the fight to the steps of city hall, literally. He'd experienced the heartache and anguish that came when he'd seen his ancestors ripped from their homeland at the hands of slave traders. Just like him, they too had been betrayed by someone in their circle.
He'd battled spirits of hurt, pain, addiction, and strife. Addiction was responsible for the scars that marked his chest. Strife had stabbed him while he tried to defend himself against addiction. During the battle, he watched as hurt and pain grew. They never entered the battle, but with each blow that strife or addiction struck, they grew stronger as he grew weaker. After overcoming his nerves, he'd sat back and executed an attack. He'd been bloodied, bruised, and broken, but he'd been alive at the end of it all. After that battle, Obatala joined him.
Obatala had allowed Brandon to lean on him as he guided him back to the meadow. This time when he touched the water he'd been instantly healed. His mind was clear. His body was strong. He was transformed. He'd spent two weeks with Obatala. Soaking in all the knowledge he could from him. Training. He'd learned how to use his sword, his true sword, not the one that he'd used against The Rider. His true sword was a brilliant blue color. It reminded him of the sapphire he'd pulled from his pocket. During his training, he'd been taught about the importance of meditation, eating right, properly managing and preserving his energy, how to read vibrations, and how to use his gift in accordance with the plan he normally occupied.
Kyra had been silent as he described his journey. She'd let him talk. This time, she was strong enough to block the siphon that she'd felt earlier. Brandon asked her about that.
"What did you mean when you said I was draining you?"
Kyra laughed. "You were bursting with energy when you returned. I'd used most of mine to keep you under. That's my gift, my talent. I'm a mystic. I'm a guide. When you returned, your energy was unchecked as was your tongue. You didn't transition well. You are a speaker, a child of Obatala. Your words hold power. Sapphire increases your power."
Brandon nodded. He apologized and bowed as he asked for forgiveness. He'd been told that when he spoke, he could lead, he could compel, he could destroy. Speak and it would manifest for him.
Kyra had waved off his apology. "Now you know. You have learned."
Brandon had asked her about her journey. She'd been reluctant to share. In the end, she'd only confided that she was a child of Orula. Brandon had accepted that. He had no other choice. There were some parts of his journey that he hadn't disclosed. They were his and his alone. No one ever needed to know what he'd experienced.
When the sun started to rise, Brandon had stood, and thanked her for her time. She, again, waved off his expression. Instead she'd told him that he couldn't leave with thanking his Orisha and asking for guidance. Together, they'd set him up an altar. She'd had the exact things he'd need to present to Obatala. Once they were set up, she'd gone to her own altar and he'd been left to his.
In the present, he was finished meditating. It was now time for his exercise. He picked up his phone and called Crash. Crash answered on the first ring. His gruff voice came through the phone as clearly as if he were standing in the room.
"Peace, Lil Brother."
Brandon felt joy as he heard the salutation. "Peace, Big Brother. I'm getting ready to go for a run. Want to meet me at the juice bar?"
On the other end, Crash could be heard closing a door. "Yeah, me, too. I'll see you there."
Brandon ended the call.
He'd chosen to stay in the apartment that Crash had given him the first night they met. It felt like home. He pulled at his beard before he exited the apartment. The sun felt excellent on his skin. As he peered at his arms, he didn't feel the pain he used to feel as he looked at the track marks. Instead, he felt strong. He put his headphones in his ear. The jazz instrumental calmed him and was going to be a nice soundtrack for his run.
Crash beat Brandon to the juice bar. He was proud of the young brother, his little brother. He was glad that he'd chosen to go moon gazing that night. Finding Brandon had been complete happenstance. No, that wasn't right. It happened because it was meant to happen. Someone had manifested it. He let his mind wander back to the day that he'd met Brandon. He'd been angry most of the day. Mainly because his mother had called him and again blamed him for his grandmother's death twenty-three years prior. It didn't matter that he'd only been a child at the time. To his mother, he'd been old enough to stop the killer and he didn't. He'd been old enough to identify or describe the killer, only he couldn't.
That had soured his mood and caused a huge shift in his energy. Not even meditating had calmed his nerves. He didn't need his mother blaming him for his grandmother's death. He did enough of that on his own. Even though the officials hadn't been able to find anyone or anything to help catch the murderer, his mother thought that an eight year old had the tools to.
His mother had left him in the psychiatric center for two years. She refused to accept him back home. And when she did, she'd only done so because he'd been the beneficiary to Florence's will. He'd been left the house, an insane amount of money, and a brown paper bag. His mother had access to his money only if she regained custody of him and used the money for him. She finessed the system quite well, Crash laughed to himself as he thought of the sports car she'd brought her then boyfriend. She said it was needed to transport Crash to and from school.
When Crash had gathered enough gumption, he'd asked for the brown paper bag. Addison, his mother, had gone to the closet behind the front door and fished out a crumpled paper bag. She'd thrown it at him. Crash had bobbled it before securing it. Once he was in his room, he poured out the contents.
The eleven year old Crash was confused as he stared at the random items on his floor. What was he supposed to do with a rock on a string, a journal filled with drawings, weird words, and a few ripped pages, and an old copper bracelet. He flipped through the pages before a folded piece of paper fell out. He recognized his grandmother's elegant script writing. He felt the tears fall before he'd started reading the letter.
My sweet boy. My reckless boy. The same boy who ran into so many walls when he was learning to walk that we renamed you Crash. I love you. If you're reading this, it means that I am no longer with you in the physical. I am always with you in spirit. You carry me in your soul, your heart, your every breath. You and me we are the same. We are both children of the moon. That's why you sleep so soundly. It's why I never yelled at you for being outside at all times of the night. There is so much that I wish that I could have told you. You are blessed. You are a child of Shango. You can see more than the normal person. I can see it when you track the spirits as they cross the room we're in. You are silent, more content to watch. You will have a great burden to bare. And I wish that I were there to guide you, but know all you have to do is call for me and I will answer. Your mother, the woman you know as your mother, is not your mother, but your aunt. My son was your father. The bracelet belonged to him. Your birth mother left you on the porch when you were only a few months old. Your father ran away when he was barely a teenager. For all my gifts and ability to see, I can't see him. That's his gift. He rejected it, but uses it. Your aunt, has no gifts. She is ignorant to the old ways. I have tried to teach her, but she doesn't want to learn. It was all I could do to get her to send you to me every summer. In this book, you will find all that I know. All that I have been taught. You have to find your guide. Find your tribe. I know you feel alone, but you are never alone. You only have to ask and it will be given to you, shown to you.
I love you,
Crash had read through the journal several times. He struggled to comprehend what was written there. He'd asked his mother, his aunt, whoever she was to him. She'd cussed him out and asked him why he was bringing a blank journal to her. He realized that she couldn't see the words written in it. He'd isolated himself from everyone as he taught himself using the internet, books, and he'd found a few of his grandmother's friends who'd been able to help him. He had no friends growing up. It was mostly because they knew his history. He was the boy who had been in the crazy house for two years after his grandma dies. It was partly because he could see the truth about people before they opened their mouth. Their true selves were unappealing and he'd spent his formative years in the library reading, researching, and wandering the streets at night.
He'd graduated high school and had been given full control of his money. He hadn't heard from his "mother" on a regular basis since the day he walked across the stage. He'd gone to college and majored in African Studies. During undergrad, he'd gone abroad. It was there he'd gone on his first journey. He'd been recognized as soon as he stepped foot in the Sierra Leone village. The elders had flocked to him, welcomed him, and quickly escorted him to the mystic.
A chill ran through his body as he thought of his time in Africa. He'd returned from Africa renewed, refreshed, and with a new purpose. He'd been taught how to use his gift for the betterment of society. He'd been told that as a child of Shango, he was also a channel. He could channel certain gods, energies, spirits, orishas, whoever he needed to in order to complete the mission. He could also commune with his ancestors, but only his ancestors. He could see spirits, demons, and other things that only those with an opened third eye and activated pineal gland could comprehend.
He was in his final year of his graduate studies when he met Kyra. He was twenty-three. She was seventeen. She'd been touring the campus with a group from the high school. He was sitting in the quad when the stench of demon reached his nostrils. He was immediately on alert. He knew that demons amongst his people were rare. They were an European construct, but when his people were ignorant to their divinity, the spirits they'd allowed to disrupt their energy presented as demons. Kyra's demon had been fear. He stood to his feet quickly. He'd tossed his food in the trash and slung his bookbag across his back before hurrying across the quad to her.
The demon didn't notice him. His moonstone protected him from their senses until he was ready. The demon was wrapped around her, squeezing her like a python. He could tell that she was affected because she looked around nervously, her arms were wrapped around her torso, and she shifted her weight from foot to foot as the guide pointed out key features of the small, but prominent HBCU. Crash was preparing to announce his presence to the demon when Kyra looked up from the ground and locked eyes with him. He was frozen.
He watched as the group moved on, but the young girl walked over to him. Her eyes had been brown at first, but now they were a milky white as she approached him. He felt the energy around him vibrate uncontrollably as she closed the distance between them. Suddenly he was released from the hold. He reached for his staff.
"I know you," the girl said softly.
Crash let his hands drop. He knew her, too. "What's your name?"
Her eyes returned to their brown color. She ran her hands over her hair, flattening the hair that had blown out of place as she walked. "Kyra. You?"
He'd told her his given name. She'd laughed and requested to know his other name. The name his grandmother had given him.
Kyra extended her hand. Crash hesitated. He wasn't with the exchange of energy with people he didn't know. He told her that. Her eyes had returned to the milky white color and she reached out and grabbed his hand. He'd tried to remove himself from her grasp, but he couldn't. Fear had shifted and was now standing to the left of her. It didn't move to attack, only watched the exchange with interest.
"I know you," Kyra repeated. She released his hand. The energy exchange had drained her. She swayed on her feet.
Crash caught her before she fell. When she'd been strong enough, she explained to him that she knew him. She knew his soul. She'd felt drawn to the campus even though she was a slight agoraphobic. That explained the spirit of fear that had attached to her. He'd said that he knew her, too. After she held his hand, he knew why. In a past life, she'd been his sister. His little sister.
They'd been tight ever since. For years, it had just been he and Kyra. She'd ended up attending the college through online classes and he'd graduated soon after. They didn't seek out opposition, but when they came upon something that couldn't be ignored, they intervened.
Together, they had been researching the entity that had murdered his grandmother. No matter how many times Kyra had searched his mind, that memory was blocked. Whenever he spoke to his grandmother, she wouldn't speak on her physical death. As he thought back to meeting Kyra and then Brandon, he realized that on both mornings, he'd asked for a family. He'd asked for his tribe. The tribe that his grandmother had told him to seek.
He nodded at Yonna as he entered. He sat at the table that had become his and Brandon's. Yonna came over. He greeted her with a smile. "Morning, Queen."
Yonna struggled to smile in response, but she was too tired to do so. "Hey, Crash."
Crash cleared his throat as the stench of defeat and distress wafted from Yonna's lips. He frowned. "What's wrong?" He looked her over.
She didn't look hurt. She looked as she always did. She'd cut her hair during the month of Brandon's journey. It was now dyed a dark green color. She now sported a mohawk. On some people, it would look edgy, but on Yonna, it just looked like her.
Yonna shifted uncomfortably. She didn't know how to answer Crash. She just knew that she had to take his order before Brandon came in. She'd found that she couldn't stop talking when Brandon was around. It wasn't a nervous rambling, but she would actually get pulled into deep, thought provoking conversations with him. She enjoyed it, but it often got her in trouble. The tips they left didn't offset the comments from her coworkers and the manager. She shook the feeling off.
"I'm okay." She pretended not to see Crash scoot his seat back, putting distance between them. "Do you know what y'all are having today?"
"My regular." Crash answered as he checked his phone. Brandon had texted his order. He was running late because Kyra had decided to join them that morning. Brandon had agreed to escort her. "Brandon wants my regular, but with a large energizer."
Yonna wrote it down even though she was going to be the one preparing their food.
"Oh, wait," Crash called out before she got too far away. Kyra wanted a small strawberry smoothie. He relayed her order to Yonna.
Ten minutes later, Brandon and Kyra walked through the door. As always, Crash flinched as he noticed fear walk in with them. He'd spoken to Kyra several times, or tried to speak to her about the lingering spirit, but she'd brushed him off. Telling him that she could handle it and had been handling it for most of her life.
Crash stood and allowed Kyra to slide in the booth. Her Kyanite stone glinted under the fluorescent lights of the bar. Brandon embraced Crash as had become their custom. His sapphire pendant also hung from his neck. He knew that they made a perfect picture. Kyra with her locs now piled on top of her head in a high bun with orange tips. She wore a large baseball tee with the words: HIGHly Educated on it. Her legs were covered in black tights. On her feet, simple flip flops. Crash recognized them as the ones he'd been forced to go to Old Navy to buy because they'd been a dollar. Brandon wore a simple black t-shirt, gray joggers, and a pair of air max. Looking at him, you would never know that he was a recovering addict.
"I ordered already," Crash told them after they were situated. He looked over at Kyra. "What got you out of the house today?"
Kyra shrugged. "I don't know. Just felt light getting out." She didn't venture out often because she was often overcome with the lost souls that wandering the earth; the tortured souls that had passed on; and the dying souls that cried for help. She was divine, but still hindered by human fears. Many elders had offered to banish fear and had chastised her for her fear, but she knew that it was the best thing for her.
"I hit six miles," Brandon told Crash.
"That's cool. What you doing today?" Crash asked both of them, but he knew that only Brandon would answer.
"I have a meeting." Even though he'd returned from his journey, transformed, Kyra had reminded him that he was still human. She explained that everything that happens in the universe, on earth, also happens in him, and thus he was still susceptible to whatever led him to addiction to begin with.
He'd protested, telling her that he'd only stuck the needle in his vein because he'd been cursed. She'd pursed her lips and told him that the curse only took hold because something in him allowed it too. She told him that he needed to work on him that had allowed the curse to be activated. He'd been in a support group ever since. It was run by a black man and composed of nothing but other black men. He'd felt like the group leader, Cabo, had never spoken truer words than when he'd said "Our stressors ain't their stressors. Our trauma ain't their trauma. Our struggle ain't their struggle. They can't walk us through the trauma that's embedded deep within our DNA because their forefathers caused the mutation." He was working on him. He was also looking into getting back into school. He hoped Yonna was working. He asked Crash.
"Of course. If she wasn't do you think I would be sitting here."
Kyra looked over Brandon's shoulder. "I don't see how y'all eat here." She shuddered as a ripple of negativity passed over her.
Brandon brushed invisible lint from his shoulder. "Y'all felt that, too?"
Crash and Kyra weren't given a chance to answer because Yonna returned with their drinks. She had a tight smile on her face.
Brandon didn't notice the contrition on her face as he looked down at his phone. He was scrolling through the college's website. "I'll ask Yonna about their political science program." he muttered.
Yonna placed Brandon's drink down first. "It's a decent program."
Brandon dropped his phone in his lap. Yonna reeked of despair. He looked up. He noticed the stress lines around her eyes. Her shoulders were slumped and she wouldn't meet his eyes. "Yonna, you okay?"
Yonna opened her mouth to lie, but Kyra interrupted her.
"I know you," Kyra said. Her smoker's voice filled the empty space at the table.