SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 6,The Burning Desire
I was against the wall, I was being stoned. The crowd threw kerosene on me, I heard the flames crackling. My eyes went blind with black smoke from my own burning flesh.
I awoke from my nightmare. I heard rain smattering on the roof of Itza’s house. I smelled smoke but it was sweet. I just stared at the ceiling. My mouth was dry. I wanted water. I sat up. I could just make out objects in the twilight of that morning.
I saw the shapes of people slowly sitting up and stretching their arms. Some still snored softly and were quietly teased awake. A lantern was then lighted in our room.
Itza announced gently, “Rita has made breakfast.”
Someone laughed, “Oh, no!” and Itza quickly amended “With my supervision.”
Lucas, one of the male apprentice pastors, mimicked Rita, “And now I’d like to say a little prayer of thanks…”
We filed through the open air kitchen. There were pots and bowls of colorful ingredients. A big cooking fire snapped and popped and smoked.
Rita handed each of us a paper plate of panuchos or so she informed us.
It looked like a gooey pizza but it smelled delicious.
Some ate outside under the patio cover and watched the scattered rain. Some leaned against the walls inside the house or sat cross-legged on their mats. We drank our bottled water.
I had not seen my guard.
Rita came in and led the Morning Prayer. She then announced “Today we start our mission by helping with reconstruction at the orphanage. You will all be assigned to a workgroup. You won’t need your duffle bags. Just file outside and wait to be called.”
Each apprentice pastor read out loud his list of assigned workers. I was not called. Rita said that I would accompany Itza into La Antigua to buy food for the orphanage.
An old Land Rover bounded up the muddy alleyway and came to a sliding stop next to Itza’s low stone wall. The woman driving leaned over to look at us. Itza waved that we were coming. We walked toward the Rover and suddenly my guard was beside me.
“I go with you, pendejo.”
I tried to sound friendly, “Hey, what’s your name anyway?”
“Rico Suave” and he spat into the mud at my feet.
So I thought “OK, fuck you too.”
The woman driving was called Irma and she worked at the orphanage. She knew Itza who got in next to her. Irma said hello to me but nothing to the guard who sat beside me in the back. As the Rover picked-up speed the slender Irma began a gyrating dance working the clutch, pushing the gearshift, and wrestling the steering wheel. The muscles on her arms stood out. All the way to La Antigua the Rover shuddered, slid, snorted and bucked like it was a bronco with Irma the rodeo rider. Although I braced and shifted in the backseat I was able to appreciate the rolling jungle hills and the low clouds caressing them.
El Mercado was a huge maze of shops and stalls a few blocks from La Antigua’s town center. It was crowded with local families and some tourists.
Itza looked at fruits, vegetables, live chickens and gossiped with all the vendors. My guard shouldered his rifle and walked away from us through the crowd toward the plaza. I saw Irma move away though the crowd behind him. I couldn’t help it, I followed.
Irma came to the end of a block and peered around the corner. I went to the opposite side of the street and followed her gaze into the town center.
My guard was conversing with a man and a woman who looked like tourists. The tourist woman laughed and touched Carlos and never took her gaze off of his face.
When I looked over for Irma she was gone.
I quickly headed back to where I had left Itza. She was still shopping and loading the Rover without my help. Irma reappeared but said nothing while picking-up fruits and setting them down ignoring the vendor.
Then there was a commotion back toward the town center and everybody began to move in that direction. I followed in the vacuum of the crowd.
In the plaza I could see the tourist man and woman backing up from a crescent of shouting gesturing people. Someone threw a rock. The tourist woman yelled for help. Then more rocks and bottles were hurled at them.
A fat old policeman appeared and tried to intervene. He raised his pistol and fired a shot but he too was showered with objects and he ran away. I could hear that the tourist couple was being accused of a child’s abduction.
A rock struck the tourist man in the head and he crumpled to his knees. A boy ran up behind him with a baseball bat and struck him between the shoulder blades. The tourist man fell on his side trying to draw a breath. A woman threw a liquid on him. A man stepped up and flicked a lighted match. The tourist man was suddenly on fire. He just curled up and burned like a bug.
The tourist woman screamed and screamed and screamed for help.
“Olivia!” someone shouted. It was my guard trying to force his way through the mob. He unshouldered his rifle and struck people out of the way with the rifle butt. “Olivia!”
“Carlos! Carlos!” she kept screaming. Then she was hit on the head by a big rock and she fell to her hands and knees. She started crawling toward Carlos’ voice like a baby, wailing and drooling .
A young man ran out of the crowd and doused her with liquid. She rose on her knees shrieking. She dropped back down and crawled furiously. Her knees left bloody skid marks. The mob threw burning trash. She set her hand down on a burning piece of paper and she burst into flames. She tried to stand flailing her arms; slower and slower and then she fell forward hard on her face and she burned.
Itza grabbed my arm. She already had Irma in tow. “Go right now!”
Back in the Rover Irma stalled the engine. It finally roared and we lurched in a cloud of black smoke. We left Carlos somewhere behind in the mob.
I could only yell, “Why did they kill them?”
Itza shouted back to me, “Too many children have vanished from here.”
Irma said viciously, “I am glad the whore is dead!”
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