Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Chiapas
As the sun rose, black robed Sister Bagdona hid behind the bell in the church belfry, noting the arrival of two people on horseback. One she recognized instantly – Señor Gonzalez – while the woman seated behind him must be his wife, Elena. Their shrill voices clashed and broke upon the stone walls of the church like waves battering against the rocks hugging the shore.
Sucking in her breath, Sister Bagdona ignored the commotion below, although it had escalated into a screaming match between husband and wife.
“You don’t seem to understand me. I don’t want to stay here. I’ve got work to do,” Elena’s voice rose to a crescendo.
Roberto growled out his answer.
“You don’t seem to understand me. I’ve got work to do at the hacienda, and I don’t want you around. The work isn’t pretty, and I won’t have you exposed to unnecessary violence if I can help it.” “Like roping and branding cattle? I have already done that, and yet here I am in good mental and physical condition.”
“Don’t be tiring, Elena. My mind is made up. You’re staying here for the day. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be back around sunset to pick you up. Or I’ll send one of the counts to come and get you. They know the way and will get you home safe and sound without any incidents like last time.” “You mean the Zapatistas? That’s nothing from what the other hacienda owners have told me about. Be reasonable Roberto. You don’t expect me to change back to a pliable wife within twenty-four hours. It’s taken me a decade to be able to manage the estate with a firm hand, and now to give it my stewardship in one gulp is a bit difficult for me to handle.” Roberto laughed. “My dear wife, you don’t seem to understand me at all. I’ve ruled over you in all things that men have traditionally done since the dawn of our people. Sister Bagdona and Father Valorous will take very good care of you, and hopefully when you’re retrieved either by me or Erros or Ambros, your former decorum as a good wife and future mother will come back and insert itself in its rightful place, while this rebellious behavior slips away like a bad memory.” “And the Zapatistas? Have you forgotten already what you’d promised me that I could do with them since I’m only a woman?”
Elena’s voice tapered to a whisper.
Roberto turned and grabbed his wife’s shoulders. Both slipped down the horse’s side and thumped to the ground. Elena broke free of her husband’s grasp.
“Let go of me!”
Up in the belfry, both Father Valorous and Sister Bagdona cringed. The sister’s hand unconsciously rose to her cheek and rubbed it as she said in a dry voice.
“Father, we have company.”
Instead of answering, Father Valorous raised his forefinger and a novice below the belfry tugged on the rope below, which caused the bell to swing violently. Its clang resounded throughout the church and courtyard. In mid-sentence, Roberto stopped scolding Elena and clapped both hands to his ears to muffle the sound. Elena fell to her knees and genuflected, as if this action alone would keep her safe from a husband out of control. Both peered up at the tolling bell, their lips automatically repeating the welcoming words of Morning Prayer.
“O Gracious Goddess, O Gracious God, lend me health, strength and love. During this coming day, assist me with the challenges ahead. Share your divine wisdom.
Teach me to respect all things. Remind me that the greatest power of all is love. Blessed Be.”
Slapping his hand against his left side, Roberto grimaced.
“It’s going to take more than that to keep you safe from me, Elena. Now, git and remember what I said. Yes, I want you to mingle with the Zapatistas, but on my terms, not yours. Come back festive tonight, Elena, and we will make a baby for command of the land and resources.” Remounting his horse, Roberto swung his legs over the saddle and grabbed its horn so he sat proud and erect. He whipped the reins against the stallion’s side and galloped back down the dirt road.
“That was quite a performance,” Sister Bagdona said, “I wonder why he even bothered bringing her. She’ll just high tail it out of here first chance she gets.”
“Maybe,” Father Valorous said in a musing voice, as if he wasn’t totally in the same world that Sister Bagdona inhabited.
Turning, she stared into his black eyes and then dropped her own.
“What is written in the contract must be carried out,” the sister muttered under her breath.
Father Valorous only caught only the words, “written in the contract must be carried out,” but what he didn’t hear was how his subordinate sister phrased the statement or, more important, the tone of her voice that implied trouble would come of it. Instead, he bent his eyes at her submissive head and told her.
“Bring in Señora Gonzalez and then gather the novices. They can instruct her in what her husband demands of her as ably as I or you. Find an excuse and then leave and tend to tonight’s work. We must prepare for the two counts and have them tell us what next must be done. We don’t have much time for ourselves today, Sister, but later, after we’re established on the land, there is much that we can do to rid our land of this pestilence of a Catholic God.” “As you wish,” Sister Bagdona said and left the safety of the belfry, climbed down the stairs and went out into the opening light of day. Elana Gonzalez stood just as desolate as the Sister felt, but she forced her face to fall into natural maternal lines of concern and comfort and walked steadily up to Roberto’s wife.
“Señora, bienvenido a nuestra humilde morada.” (Sénora, welcome to our humble abode.)
Clasping her diluted cross from her breast, Sister Bagdona laid it against Elena’s forehead and prayed.
” Sen͂or, you me tapo y todos los que me rodean con la sangre de Jesucristo. Deseo cubrir todos, los miembros de mi familia 40; estado cada uno por su nombre 3 con las sangre de Jesucristo. Deseo cubrir mi casa, mi tierra, mi coche, mis finanzas, mi matrimonio,mi ministerio, con la sangre de Jess, en elnombre de Jesucristo, por elpoder de su sangre, y romper todos los poderes del reino de la oscuridad y cancelar todos los argumentos en el cielo que se ha establecido contra los planes de dios en mi vida y estropear todo ataque del enemigo.(Lord, I cover myself and everyone around me with the blood of Jesus. I cover all of the members of my family, Eduardo, with the blood of Jesus. I cover my home, my land, my car, my finances, my marriage, my ministry, with the blood of Jesus. In the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of his blood, I break off every power of the kingdom of darkness and cancel every argument in heaven that has established itself against the plans of god in my life and spoil every attack of the enemy. I call forth, in the name of Jesus, all of God’s plans and purposes for my life, and my family. As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord. Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you and you have no authority over my life. No weapon formed against me or Eduardo shall prosper!) “Will this really protect me from the things that inhabit the hacienda with my husband?” Elena asked, her face a mixture of fear and boldness.
Sister Bagdona couldn’t shake the feeling that Elena knew they were all fraudulent Catholics and were kindred to the two Counts. Shaking off her sudden black mood, the sister gathered Elena into a bone-breaking hug and held her. After what seemed like minutes, the squirming Elena freed herself from the sister’s grasp, panting drew her hands in front of her, and drew a cross in the air. Inside her mind, Camazotz stirred and rumbled awake.
“She is one of them. Quick, stick out your arm and allow her to bite you,” he commanded.
“What?” Elena’s inner mind screamed back in protest. “Let that thing bite me so I can become one of them? No, thank you. I’ve no wish to become a creature of theirs or of my husband. I thought you cared for me, but now I see you for what you are, a beast of darkness. I cast you out in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior!” Guffawing, Camazotz rocked the inside of Elena’s mind. Exploding red lights engulfed her vision, and in her mind she floated midway between the packed dirt ground, Sister Bagdona, and the historic Mexican Catholic Church.
Suppressing an urge to whip out the phony cross, she did the only thing left to her and prayed to her dual god, Jesus and his younger brother. Gradually, Elena floated back down to the ground and stood upright on both feet. The sister grabbed Elena and steadied her. Behind her, she heard Father Valorous approached.
“Now, I’m in for it,” she thought.
“Having some trouble Sister?”
The voice addressing her wasn’t that of Father Valorous. Fear kept the Sister’s eyes glued to the young woman standing before her.
“No need to answer, Sister. I’ll just take care of Señora Elena while you go and get some cool water for our guest. Lack of water sometimes produces hallucinations. I, for one, had many while I drank the bark of the Blanche tree and the skin of our poisonous tree frog.” Sister Bagdona hurried away from the two figures, not seeing that Camazotz had slashed Elena’s arm with his talons and drew blood. Lowering his head, the vampire god lapped the blood with his swollen tongue and then spat into the opened wound.
“It will soon heal Elena, but not until the scent of blood draws Sister Bagdona back to partake of your blood. It’s a ceremonial ritual that their cult has practiced since their god was destroyed by vengeful men. Call again, Elena should you need me. I am always here for you.” As Sister Bagdona neared the Church, she heard a whoosh of wings. Looking up, she saw a large bat clothed in a human lion cloth skim over the Church’s belfry and flew off toward the rain forest.
A drawn out sigh drew Sister Bagdona back to the prostrate figure of Señora Gonzalez slumped on the ground with her wounded left arm exposed. The sister’s blood compulsion drew her closer to the inert body on the ground. Kneeling and with quivering lips, she gently raised Elena’s arm and lifted it. The sister buried her mouth into the gash and sucked as if her life depended on it.
“A good feed?” Father Valorous’ voice pierced Sister Bagdona’s frenzy.
“There’s enough for two,” she said, her throat gorged with Elena’s blood. Want some? We don’t have to share with the novices. They’re still at the weaning stage, and this woman’s blood may be too pure for them to absorb and keep down.” “You may be right,” Father Valorous said in his passive voice, suppressing his rage for another time when there would be no witnesses to report back to Erros and Ambros. I might have a nip as well. Stand aside Sister, and let me have my full.” Sister Bagdona jerked her lips away from Elena’s tempting arm and allowed her superior to take his measure of blood. The father’s sucking diminished as the wound began to knit and close of its own accord. He got just enough of Elena’s blood inside of him to feel odd; lightheaded and pulled in several directions. Each part of his body wanted to act differently. His eyes bulged from their sockets. His feet swelled and distended. His arms stretched out while his fingers were absorbed by a sheath of skin that ran down the entire length of his body and reconnected with his toes.
Sister Bagdona felt unwell. As Camazotz’ blood surged in her body, she became aware that the full sun didn’t seem to bother her or the father. Broad daylight didn’t affect them in Romania either, but this sensation was different. A part of her wanted to cast off her black robes and sprint to the nearest ceynote while another part of her wanted to make out with Father Valorous. Lighter than air, she flew in the sky devouring the land with her keen sight and avaricious appetite. Spotting a howler monkey, Sister Bagdona glided over the trees until she was satisfied that her prey was defenseless. Her giant wings folded to her side as she dived and caught the monkey in her beak. Struggling in her grip, the monkey’s fingers tore at her beak.
The predator in her released the monkey and watched it crash land onto the jungle beneath her. Calmly, she swooped down and recovered the dead figure, flew to a tree where she landed on a thick branch. She greedily tore at the meat with her sole desire of feeding and feasting until full and satisfied. Then Sister Bagdona belched and settled back against the limb sleepy and content.
“Sister Bagdona, can you hear me?” Elena screamed.
At the Señora’s feet, the sister stirred. Rubbing the back of her hand against her mouth, she looked up in a daze and saw Elena’s worried face above her.
“I’m fine. I must’ve passed out from lack of sleep. Have you seen Father Valorous? He was here a moment ago.”
Elena pointed toward the church. Sister Bagdona turned and stared at her superior who was leaning against the church wall. He stood with his arms crossed in front of him. Before him stood another figure, ethereal and faint against the bright sunlight that was bursting upon the church’s courtyard.
“I see you’re back,” Elena said in her mind. “What happened?”
“You do not remember?” Camazotz asked in his quiet voice.
“I remember nothing except Roberto depositing me in the middle of the jungle for safekeeping. That’s all I remember. Is there something that I should now?”
“You have two more friends to help you against Roberto and the two counts, Ambros and Erros.”
“Uh huh,” Elena muttered, “What happened to Father Gabrielle? Did he fly away too?”
“Elena,” Camazotz scolded, “We can all fly away except you, Francesca, and perhaps the lieutenant detective – what is his name?”
“Is he competition?”
“Don’t be an ass. If anyone gets to flirt with me, it’s you. I’ve had it with mortal men. They don’t think beyond their own needs and desires. At least, you can curb yours.” “I can wait forever, and still have more time that I know what to do with. What are your plans? Staying here or hiking out to Palenque and join the protest march?”
“You mean I’m not here to reflect and redirect my energies to being a loving wife and expectant mother?”
“Sarcasm does not become you. The Sister here will do as you bid. As for Father Superior, leave him to me. He is of my blood, as you and your Savior would say.”
Elena bit her lips trying to understand what Camazotz wanted of her. Stooping, she raised Sister Bagdona to her feet, but the Sister’s eyes refused to meet hers.
“I won’t bite,” Elena said.
Sister Bagdona giggled and fingered the cross on her chest.
“It will bring you comfort,” Father Valorous called out.
Camazotz turned and grabbed the father by his robe’s sleeve.
“Come with me. This is no place for you. I have no plans for either of you to become infected with your former masters.”
Father Valorous pushed Camazotz’s talon off his robe, but his fingers went through the mortal God. Gasping, the father tried tearing the fake cross from his neck, but again, his hand went through the piece of phony metal. Slumping to his knees, Father Valorous tried intoning a prayer for protection against the Mayan vampire, but the words choked in his throat.
“Come with me,” Camazotz said. “Your work here is done. Sister Bagdona and Elena Gonzalez will take good care of your sheep and become the shepherd you failed to become.” ’The ones you seek are not here,” the father intoned.
“No, they are with my enemies of old and soon they will know how a Mayan vampire protects his land from conquistadors.”
Sister Bagdona strangled on her words. Facing Elena, she now raised her eyes and met the eyes of her savior.
“Come, I’ll take you Palenque. Everyone is now there that needs to be there.”
Dragging Elena forward, Sister Bagdona went into their temporary residence and rang the belfry bell herself. All of the novices and remaining adult vampires gathered in the sanctuary area. Each wore a gas mask expecting the worst.
Sister Bagdona faced them. Raising her arms, she gave them what they wanted to hear for centuries.
“We go now to feed and conquer. Join us if you dare.”