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Manuel Melendez

 

is a Puerto Rican author born in Puerto Rico and raised in East Harlem, N.Y. He is the author of 3 novels, 2 collections of supernatural short stories, and 5 collections of poetry books.

Lazaros

—ONE—

 

     A stirring in the air aroused Lazaros from his sleep. He could feel it brewing, even before the old rooster sent out his loud wake up call. On the horizon, he could hear the menacing commotion getting closer. They were the voices of a mad crowd, men’s edgy and angry, and women’s a bit softer, but with a hint of conniving in them. Obviously, the women were egging on the men, reinforcing their over-agitated state. All night long, Señor Arsenio, Lazaros’ caretaker, had spent the dark hours conjuring his deities. The heavy scent of candles, cigar smoke, and incense had twirled like some heavy cloud above his small shack.

 

     Lazaros wobbled to the corner of the sty that was close to the road which led towards town. He could not see anyone yet, but the voices told him that it would not be too long until he does. The idea that something like this was going to happen unsettled him. Ever since the hurricane thrashed the entire island, life, everyday living, everything, tumbled upside down. Besides, after the last strong winds and the heavy rain from the hurricane were gone, it had left everyone without food. All the crops were gone, destroyed by the rivers that overflowed into the farms, and many of the animals were lost, either by drowning or by the many heavy trees that  had been uprooted to crush them to death. Lazaros was one of the lucky ones that survived. Señor Arsenio had made sure by keeping him inside his shack and together, man and pig, had braved the storm. But now this new storm rushing up the path made him think that neither of them was going to survive.

     Lazaros let out a loud grunt and after pacing back and forth, squealed and hunched down. Lost in his awful thoughts, he only noticed Señor Arsenio when the man opened the gate to the sty and poured a slush of old vegetables inside the feeder. How the old man managed to feed him was beyond Lazaros’ knowledge. But pushing his guilt away, the pig was grateful. He had been hungriest when he was part of a litter of piglets before Señor bought him—rescuing him from the slaughterhouse where all his siblings met their death. For that, the entire town ridiculed Señor Arsenio behind his back. Still, during the good old days when everyone had plenty of everything, and during the yearly festival honoring La Virgen Sagrada, Señor Arsenio would bring him to town with a bowtie around his neck and a little red velvet hat strapped by rubber bands on his large head. On those days, everyone ran to greet them, especially the children, and the ridicules were easily transformed into the tactics of a charming eccentric man. Those were the good days, when the town was full of good neighboring deeds, laughter was part of the morning breeze, and hospitality was the common language. But now, after the treacherous hurricane, it seems that their protecting angels were blown away and in their place a mass of evil demons descended upon them.

     “Good morning, Lazaros. I know, I hear it too,” Señor Arsenio said as he squinted towards the hills. “But don’t worry, just like the storm, this madness will also pass. This is nothing new, we have faced harder things before, and here we are, still standing, watching another day burden us with heat. Go ahead, have your breakfast and don’t let it bother you. I’ll take care of these charlatans. Besides, remember they still respect me… and fear me as well. They know that a man like Señor Arsenio possesses many ways to disarm them.”

     That was true, Lazaros oinked with relief, the people respected the man. At one time or another the townsfolk had come to Señor Arsenio with their troubles. Many of them veiled with evil spells. Maybe they were trying to seek help from him once again, although the last meeting three days ago with the Mayor did not end in the friendliest way.

     Señor Arsenio stayed with him, leaning over the rail of the sty. His sharp stare not flinching one bit away from the dirt path that curved from their small home  onto the large and more traveled road that led straight to town. The voices were grew more pronounced in the wind, and to Lazaros it carried a hateful tone that made him squeal loudly. His worried sounds made Señor Arsenio turn and look at him. The man’s wrinkles became deeper, and then he smiled, smoothing them out of his brown forehead. He tilted his straw hat to the back of his head, and took a quick glance towards the sounds of the approaching crowd, he grabbed the pail and walked out. Lazaros watched Señor Arsenio’s back until it was swallowed by the dark shadows of the shack. The pig slurped the last bit of the vegetable slush, and feeling sleepy like he always did after a good hearty meal, he wobbled to his favorite corner, where a tree’s shade kept him cool. He plopped on the dirt, and comfortably began to snore.

     Clamorous chants and the heavy whiff of sage brought Lazaros out of his nap, and raising his large meaty neck, he looked up as thick smoke billowed out from the shack’s window. It was a primitive ritual that always scared Lazaros because of the somber religious tone. It was a calling to Señor Arsenio’s spirit guides and deities. And now, along with the chants, the townsfolk’s loud voices ripped through the air with violence on each chord—a threat to the praying psalms of the old man. Sounds of footsteps, like the marching of soldiers, rustled through the thick vegetation. Incoherent shouts roared with malice and just plain evil, pushing the soothing melody of the morning sky into oblivion. The slashing of sharp machetes sent cold shivers down Lazaros’ back, and frightened beyond comprehension, the pig squealed desperately as he tried for dear life to jump out of the sty. But he was too massive, easily two hundred pounds of meat, which made Lazaros slow and clumsy as he thrashed against the sty’s locked gate.

     Señor Arsenio’s mantra grew in volume and now the smoke swirled like the whirlpool of a tornado as the shouting of the crowd released a yell in unison terror. Lazaros’ squeals were louder and in desperation, he lowered his head and rammed right through the wooden gate. He skidded on the muddy dirt, and regaining his balance, ran as fast as his fat body allowed him towards the shack. Half way there, Señor Arsenio swung the door open. Lazaros tumbled and gasped heavily, and then scurried passed the man and inside the shack. 

     The wrathful crowd spilled into the front yard, most of the men swinging their machetes and a few armed with clubs. Señor Arsenio raised his hands and with eyes ablaze with anger looked at each, one by one.

     “What’s the meaning of this intrusion in my home? Have your foolish minds forgotten who you’re dealing with? The same thing I told the Mayor I will tell you all as well. The answer is no!” Lazaros heard the commanding tone in Señor Arsenio’s voice, each syllable trembling with fury. Nevertheless, his rage was not enough to turn the crowd around, instead, it fueled them into chaotic madness. A man stepped away from the crowd, and with commanding steps walked and planted himself a few feet from Señor Arsenio. It was Señor Alberto, the owner of the only restaurant in town and the pastor of the Temple of The Disciples Church. Despite great effort to reopen it, his closed eating establishment meant a great loss of money.

     “Now, hear us out, my good friend, please hear me out,” he said, removing his weathered hat and putting on his best neighboring face. “We are all in difficult times, and like good Christian, God-fearing people we need to do what’s right. Sacrifices by all of us is the only Christian way to survive this catastrophe we are all part of. Many of our neighbors are going to bed with hunger pangs in their bellies, especially the little angels… the children who Jesus championed for. ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the faces of My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:10.’” The pastor lowered his face in deep prayer to dramatize his words, then raised his eyes and stared at Señor Arsenio. “But, I'm sure our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t mean for our little ones to come to the promised land when their lives are much needed here in our own Garden of Eden. Here in God’s country.”

   The pastor took a long pause, allowing his words to be processed in everyone's mind. Manipulation at its best in the power of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

     “I’ll will tell you again,” Señor Arsenio raised his voice. “And it will be the last time my decision will be questioned. My answer is not open for discussion. Now, turn around and return to your homes.”

     “Pero Señor,” a voice came out from the crowd, and when those near shifted, Mauro, the town’s butcher took a few steps forward. “Our lives depend on what you have. Your generosity won't be forgotten. But why, suddenly, would you rather see us die than help us?”

     “Nobody is going to die, Mauro,” Señor Arsenio answered, his voice strong and defying. “Everyone here is being fed lies. Look around you, if you dig closer you shall find crops that didn’t perish. It is up to all of us to look deeper, work harder. The same way you have gathered, armed yourselves with sharpened machetes and sticks, and walked two hours from the town to demand me to hand you Lazaros, it’s the same way you need to make your time useful. What you seek, you're not going to find it here. Now for the last time, go home and leave us in peace.”

     “We have supported you and even looked the other way when your rituals are the heathen practices of the dark forces of Satan himself,” Señor Alberto shouted using his Sunday’s sermon voice. “We have accepted you as one of our own, even if you don't partake in the salvation of our Lord. But as—”

     “How’s your wife lately, Señor Alberto?” Señor Arsenio interrupted. “Did her wandering nights came to an end? Did my consultation bring comfort to her… and most likely you too?”

     Señor Alberto’s face turned red, his mouth twisting into an ugly sneer. “We are not here to discuss my wife, we are here to reason as good neighbors to make you understand our situation. Nothing more, nothing less.”

     “Your situation doesn’t concern me one bit as long as you don’t come to my home with raised weapons. My doors have always been open, my prayers and consultations have always been given with no strings attached to everyone in this town. But what you are demanding is out of the question. Now go home.”

     “We will leave, but not without that fat pig of yours,” Mauro said.

     Señor shook his head and directed his fiery glare on Mauro. “You of all people, didn't I remove from you the evil eye that kept you enslaved by alcohol. You almost lost your wife, your children… your life! How easy we forget. Everyone here has walked through my doors burdened by problems your church hasn’t been able to lift off your shoulders. And every time you all have walked away in much better light. You are all ingrates. Yes, each and one of you! Now, I tell you this, and heed my words while my heart hasn't been stained by your hate. Leave at once, or in the name of your God and mine as well, you will all be sorry.”

     “You dare threaten us with your witchcraft?” Señor Alberto yelled, his fist raised and shaking with anger. “Your blasphemy is quite disturbing. You cannot serve our God and Satan as well. Now move aside and consider yourself lucky we don’t run you out of town.”

     The crowd was yelling, their hysteria lifting into the morning sky, darkening the blue sky with their contagious roars. The women in the crowd began to clap, forgetting that all of them have sought the help of Señor Arsenio’s so-called witchcraft many times. Many of them even wore colorful beaded necklaces blessed by Señor Arsenio’s deities and many bathed in plants and made offerings in various forms. Yet now, consumed by the rage of wanting something that was not theirs, they dismissed all that, and instead egged on the men for violence.

     Señor Alberto charged towards the crowd of men and soon they all collided upon Señor Arsenio. The first blow that smashed across Señor Arsenio’s head came from Mauro’s club, opening a three-inch gash right above the old man’s right ear. Another stick slammed hard on Señor Arsenio’s nose, breaking the bone as blood splattered and ran into the man’s mouth. They rushed against him, pushing Señor Arsenio hard into the wall as their wild fists came down, burying the poor man with vicious blows. The ferocious pounding brought the man to the ground, and now kicks instead of punches fell mercilessly on him.

     Inside the shack, Lazaros squealed, as he trembled by the closed door. To him the horrible sounds from outside sounded like war. But the most disturbing sounds were those that Señor Arsenio was making. He feared they were killing him, but how could they? He was too important. Lazaros lowered his head, his tears of sadness combined with guilt to run freely down his large cheeks and streak down his meaty neck. All this was because of him. The pig knew, and for that he was saddened. The townsfolk were still devastated by the powerful hurricane that deteriorated their lives, driving them into shambles. The people were afraid, confused, and most of all they feared that unless they had food on their table, they were all going to die. And Lazaros was not stupid, he knew damn well the crowd felt they could rectify their bleak situations: by his death! How many times in passing jokes  had they mentioned to Señor Arsenio that he, Lazaros, was overdue to be served as a main course. Sure, on those occasions, Lazaros laughed with them, obviously, they were all joking. Lazaros never took them seriously… until now. Yes indeed, now those jokes were no longer humorous, but serious, and the beating off his owner was a testament that they all meant business. His anxieties overwhelmed him as the terrified pig looked quickly at the door. He had to find a way to escape, and guiding his teary eyes towards the window, he measured the distance from the floor to the large opening. He wished he was lighter and agile so he could have easily jumped out the window. But realizing that was an impossibility, he ran around the shack and finally settled by the door. He reasoned that with his large bulk, the men would not be able to push the door open, and that small light of hope was enough to convince him that he would survive. But by the escalating and menacing shouts of curses and bone crunching sounds, a thick cloud of doubt came over Lazaros. With frightened eyes, the desperate pig glanced around. He was trapped! He squeaked and grunted as he wished he had hands to defend himself, but how could he  with his fat, clumsy, wobbling body? Destined to be served as the main course and feed the entire town… satisfy their hunger which seemed to be more in their hateful minds than in their bellies.

     A soft murmur began to seep through the small crack between the bottom of the door and the wooden floor. Señor Arsenio was chanting. Solemn with a hint of sadness, they were the same songs Lazaros had heard many times when the man was conjuring forces from the land where his deities lived. And as the chants grew louder, a drumming started from the corner of the shack. With his round eyes, the pig followed the percussionist beat; it was coming from the altar that the man kept at the far corner of the room. But who was playing the congas? Lazaros could see the drum leaning forward—vibrating to the rhythm. Then the entire altar started to stir, moving from side to side, as if the mahogany table was dancing on its four legs. Soon the candles—one by one—ignited. A strong odor filled the room along with a thick, grey smoke. Lazaros looked with horror and fascination as the smoke twirled above him, and then lowering all around his body—engulfing him. The pig shook with fear as the smoke seeped through his snout, and he could feel the smoke's solidness penetrating forcefully through his pores, into his veins, into the marrow of his bones.

     Behind him savage blows fell on the door, pushing Lazaros a few inches away from it. A large splinter ripped from the door frame and poked viciously on the pig’s back and he jumped with pain. The door, no longer weighted down by Lazaros’ large bulk, caved in, and it didn’t take long for the weathered wood to crash down. The men rushed in, their clubs and machetes raised high, their angry voices slicing the air, and in their blind attack, not one man or woman noticed the thick grey smoke seeping inside the pig. Even the odor went unnoticed, along with the beating of the drums and the loud desperate chants of Señor Arsenio. For they were all consumed by their desperate determination to possess the only thing they had in mind when they rushed from town, Lazaros!

     Lazaros leapt to his feet; whatever was carried by the smoke and inside of him lifted his heart with bravery. He turned towards the men, and his grunts challenged the mob. He charged at the group of men that crowded the threshold, knocking them down like pins. They all scattered on the floor, many of them retreating quickly on all fours. Yet, those still outside, had pushed themselves forward and leapt on top of the man that was still struggling on the ground. They rushed inside the small shack, swinging the clubs and machetes like mad men.

 

   Unfortunately, regardless of Lazaros’ valiant attempt to save Señor Arsenio and himself, he was outnumbered. With all the slice marks from the machete, and many blows, Lazaros was soon defeated.

     They wrestled him to the floor and dragged him outside where others waited with strong ropes, and within minutes, Lazaros was tied down and pushed into a one-wheel barrow. He fidgeted wildly, trying to break through, his momentum spilling him on the ground. It was quite comical, the women said, to try to fit such a fat, struggling pig inside such a small barrow. “Why don’t we kill him now?” a woman named Margo asked. “And by the time we arrive in town, most of the blood would be drained.”

     Frustrated, Lazaros grunted in horror as he listened to the terrible suggestions. He rolled in the dirt, hoping by some miracle to break through the ropes and run away from here—but one blow to his head removed all thoughts of escaping. Another blow, this one right on his ear, stopped all his movements. And a swift stab from Mauro, right through his heart, gave poor Lazaros his death.

 

 

 

 

—TWO—

 

 

     As the last men and women marched to Señor Arsenio’s shack, a festivity began. The excitement seized the town with the magic that Christmas brings to everyone. By early dawn they poured out from their homes, stimulated with enthusiasm, and now each home was decorated with their finest red and green garlands. Beautiful wreaths hung from every front door while twinkling lights in assorted bright colors shone radiantly from every window and storefront. Plus, cheerful laughter, strong embraces, and well-wished greetings were shared by everyone as they gathered at the plaza where the preparation of the Christmas tree was taking place. It was a tall, full evergreen tree, its pine aroma dominating the atmosphere.

     The Mayor, with his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows—just to look busy—paraded among those doing the actual lifting and cutting of the tree. But the people thought that was quite all right. For wasn’t he the one who passed the emergency law that any citizen owning a big, fat pig and not willing to share it will be removed from ownership at whatever cost, either by peaceful neighboring or through a forced decision?

     Now, to the joy of everyone, what seemed bleak after the major hurricane, was now hopeful. Christmas would be celebrated after all, and because Christmas would not be Christmas unless a great pork roast dinner was on every table—Lazaros was on his way.

     The boys who had ventured to the outskirts of the small town were the first to see the  men and women as they came down from the hills. Their shouts silenced everyone; even the workers busied with the massive Christmas tree stopped hammering as the crowd on the horizon began to get closer to the town. Every neck strained, every eye squinted, for their anticipation of who would spot the pig first was too great to go unnoticed. They were still apprehensive, because they were all aware who owned the pig, and many of them were afraid of what the old witch doctor was capable of. Señor Arsenio was a man of distinguished stature. A man involved in a mysterious religion that baffled them all. He was a man who they all feared, yet they saw him as a convincingly righteous individual who didn’t shy away from helping them. How many had he helped? Well, that number was too high to even attempt to count, for too many of the townsfolk had sought Señor Arsenio’s help in secrecy.

     The crowd was close enough to finally spot Señor Alberto walking in the lead like some conquering hero bringing his weary warriors home. But where was Señor Arsenio? That was what they had planned, to bring him with them. They were supposed to reason with him, assure him of their needs, and surely the great medicine man would not only have shared his pig, but joined them as well in their big Christmas celebration feast. As the men and women got closer, the townsfolk began to realize that Señor Arsenio was not part of the group, yet when they spotted the fat pig, triumphant shouts were heard.

     The Mayor was the first to run and greet them even before they set foot inside the plaza. At the sight of Lazaros, a smile wider than the distance between heaven and hell spread on his face. He stared hungrily at the body of Lazaros, already imagining how spicy and crunchy the skin was going to taste after hours rotating in the fire pit.

      “How did it go?” the Mayor asked Señor Alberto in a low whisper.

    “Well, Señor Arsenio—” Señor Alberto began to answer, but was quickly interrupted by the Mayor.

     “Hush your mouth. Repeat after me, Señor Arsenio was more than happy, he insisted we take the pig. He even sent his blessings to the fine people of this town.”

     Señor Alberto nodded and merely smiled as he proceeded with the others to the center of the plaza. A few men had already prepared the fire pit, while Mauro sharpened his knives. A group of woman, led by Margo, busied themselves in mixing the spices to marinate Lazaros, and the children gathered banana leaves which would be placed on top of the hot coals to add flavor to the pig.

     Evening rolled into town and found the townsfolk in high spirits. The beautifully decorated Christmas tree stood proudly at the center of the plaza, a few feet away from the church. It’s many lights not yet lit, because the grand lighting of the tree event was going to be held after Señor Alberto’s service, which was taking place at this moment. Through the opened doors of the church, prayers, singing, and shouts of Hallelujah emerged in abundance. But why wouldn't the people  praise the Lord? Didn’t He save them from a hurricane that threatened to kill them all? Didn’t He provide for them the nourishment to survive? Didn’t He bring them such a wonderful gift in the form of Lazaros? For that, everyone dressed in their Sunday best as they raised their voices in unison to glorify their goodness in their heart—their Christian hearts!

     In huddled groups, they came out of the church; children ran in front scuffing their brand-new shoes, men wore great straw hats, while the women arranged their Spanish shawls around their shoulders. Where was Norman Rockwell to capture the beautiful glow of this Christmas Eve and plaster it all over the covers of the Saturday Evening Post?

     Around the Christmas tree they stood, everyone holding hands making a perfect unbreakable circle as they contently watched  the Mayor in his fine black suit walk with important strides to the front of the tree. He paused, arms lifted, and a large smile stretching his lips. He placed his hand on the throttle and as the crowd burst into a rendition of “Joy to the World,” he lit the tree. What a magnificent sight it was! For a few seconds, the thousand lights blinded everyone, the bright, humongous star on top, perhaps as large as the one that guided The Three Wise Kings to a child who would die for their sins. The hugs were tighter than on any other day of the year, their kisses sweeter than ever, and their elegance and unity as good caring neighbors was never more prominent as on this Christmas Eve. However, while the celebration was received with enthusiasm and joy, the only thought that lingered in their minds was the desire to sink their teeth into the roasted pig that has been rotating in the fire pit all day long, its sweet-spicy aroma spread miles and miles around.

     Midnight fell upon the town. Expanded bellies rested in uncomfortably tight waist bands, and a few boys—rascals that they were—chased little girls waving pig ears and feet at them. The many long tables that were arranged in the plaza, were now littered with dirty plates, spilled beer bottles, and Lazaros’ picked-clean bones, which were still being crunched with gusto by the dogs. Even the cats nibbled on pieces of meat and fat had stuck to plates that had landed on the ground.

     The Mayor rubbed his belly with both hands as he leisurely leaned back on a chair that was brought all the way from his office to make sure His Excellency didn’t lack the comforts of home. He was pleased, and by the many accolades he received throughout the day and night, he was sure come next election he would win by a landslide. He picked his teeth with a toothpick, and stifled a yawn. At this moment, he couldn't recall the last time he felt this exhilarated. In jubilation, he watched as the people he swore on a Bible to protect and provide for began to disperse from their little merry groups and lumber back to their homes. He was delighted that with his leadership everyone was going to sleep well, and come tomorrow, Christmas Day, the euphoria of the holiday season will embrace them all. And all that gloriousness was achieved by him. The Mayor grew overwhelmed as he stood up and took a quick glance at the extinguished fire pit. Lazaros’ carcass had been taken by the women and he was sure not one single bit of that fat pig was going to be wasted. He already could taste the sausages, the stews, the pork rinds, the soup that Señor Arsenio’s precious pig will keep providing for everyone. The Mayor smiled, and with a happy gait in his step, he also began the trek home.

 

—THREE—

     A thick gray fog descended from the sky. It cascaded in ripples, first touching the steeple of the Temple of The Disciples Church, and then slowly stretching itself over the Christmas tree. Each light exploded at the touch of the fog. The mist moved silently, covering the streets, and when it passed by the fire pit where Lazaros’ was cooked, the once cold coals burst into roaring flames. Through the open windows, under front doors, through small cracks on the walls, the fog entered every home of the town.

     The early dawn was greeted by a dull and overcast sky. A sluggish wind rustled through trees’ drooping branches, and somewhere a rooster crowed. It was Christmas morning, a day to celebrate the birth of a King; yet there were no bells ringing from the steeple of the town’s church. There was no sound of excited children playing with their new toys nor the aroma of fresh brewing coffee or the crackling of bacon and eggs. It was an eerie silence, quiet as a tomb. Not even the sounds of animals were heard.

     Only the shuffling of Señor Arsenio's footsteps broke the silence. With difficulty, he had left his home, starting before dawn, and now after two hours of walking he was in town. He could still smell the burning charcoal and Lazaros’ roasted skin. He lowered his head, and a new rage began to surface. He reached the plaza, looking at the Christmas tree, which was now ablaze; its twisted burnt garland flapping in the scorched wind. A few hundred feet away, Señor Arsenio stopped in front of the fire pit. He looked down with sadness and knelt. Carefully, he scooped some dirt with Lazaros’ blood and put it inside a jar. Then standing up and with overwhelming rage, he kicked the coals until the fire was extinguished.

     He turned his attention to the tree-lined street where the neat homes of the townsfolk remained still. He smiled then started to chant as he walked in the middle of the streets with his arms raised high.

     As Señor Arsenio passed each home, the occupants inside began to stir from their sleep.  One of the women, Margo, who took part in the invasion and the capture of Lazaros, rose with a heavy heart and without any warnings, started to cry; because the anxiety attacks she suffered, which were removed by Señor Arsenio, had returned. Suicidal thoughts began to whisper in her mind.

     Two houses away, Mauro shot out of bed. He was covered in sweat and his entire body trembled. His stomach was possessed with cramps and the sudden thirst for alcohol was driving him insane. There was a bottle that, somehow, he snuck inside his home from last night’s party, and he ran to it, retrieved it, and in less than ten seconds, he downed half of the bottle down his throat. All along, wondering how after five years of being sober, thanks to Señor Arsenio, the alcohol demon was back to rip his sanity apart. 

     Across the street, Señor Alberto was staring at his wife who slept peacefully on the other side of the bed. There was a smile on her lips. She had been talking in her sleep, moaning the names of many other men. He wanted to believe that such talk held no merit, for her sexual sickness had been cured by the grated coconut powder Señor Arsenio gave him to put under the mattress on the side where she slept. But, all night long, her moans and wild wiggling motions kept him awake. Now, as he glared at her, his jealous heart whispered evil thoughts to his exhausted mind, and the thought of hurting her was not too far-fetched. He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife.

     Throughout the town, people woke up, some in tears, some in rage, some wrapped in depression, some with suicidal thoughts—and on everyone’s mind was how their demons had returned long after Señor Arsenio had removed them one by one.

     In front of the Mayor’s mansion, Señor Arsenio arrived, and bringing his arms high above his head, he chanted louder. The wind lifted the grey fog around the mansion, a whirlpool of leaves, dirt, loose branches, and the leftover bones of Lazaros crashed against the house. A loud screech came from underneath the house, as the foundation shifted and came up a few inches from the ground. Then it lifted the mansion a bit higher, and the whirlpool spun faster, the walls began to rip open, and terrified screams echoed inside. The Mayor’s screams were much louder than his wife’s, for she was now trapped in her migraines that was induced by her realistic nightmares that Señor Arsenio once cured her from. And one of her worst nightmares was to be blown away in a tornado. However, as the mansion was yanked from its foundation, beams, cement blocks, and plywood mangled and ripped from its structure, the Mayor’s wife now realized it was more than a dream—it was real.

     Señor Arsenio took a long look at the isolated streets, and slowly began his trek back home. When he was far enough away, and standing on a hill that gave him a perfect view of the town, Señor Arsenio stared down. There was no longer silence, but screams of anguish, screams of death, screams from the demons that had reemerged—angry and determined to possess again what they once had in their grasp—to retake control of the townsfolk’s corrupted souls.

     Within the grey mist, the demons appeared, those same demons Señor Arsenio had removed from the townsfolk  and placed inside the vegetables that he fed Lazaros with. Little did they know that Señor Arsenio, like Jesus in Matthew 8:28-34, also cast their demons into pigs, in this case only one pig—Lazaros. If only they would have known that poor Lazaros was their healer, they would have never decided to harm the hog. That’s why Señor Arsenio named the pig Lazaros, because with every demon he trapped upon his being, the hog died and was brought to life again by his magic. But how soon people forget, ingrates that they are. Consumed by greed and disloyalty, they decided to harm such a humble and docile creature. All in the selfish name of a meal none of them deserved.

    Shielding his eyes from the fine particles and ashes lingering in the air, Señor Arsenio took another look at the burning town. Bloated dark clouds hovered above, eclipsing it into pitch darkness. The old medicine man glanced at the town one last time, turned around, and continued his slow walk. Perhaps tomorrow he’ll stop by his neighbor’s farm. He heard there was a nice litter of piglets that were born two weeks ago, and he was sure he would find a nice one to buy. He took out the jar with the dirt and Lazaros’ blood and began to chant, anticipating when he would mix the jar’s contents with the vegetable slush. The piglet’s first meal. Señor Arsenio nodded and smiled as he looked up at the sky—Lazaros’ soul smiled back.

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