Once upon a time in this other girl's life she heard her mother's voice but ran from it. She became addicted to crack cocaine and she never could undo it. She was always lost in a haze and never knew why she did anything in her life the way she did. She smiled at some men one night. They looked like they might have money for her if she was nice to them. She learned this was a way to make a living in the world, being nice to men, so she went in this direction. She got pregnant and the baby was born equally addicted to crack. The baby was raised in foster homes. What happened to that child?
EverReady, the young reporter for Ghost Witness News, is busy making notes as the pygmy black woman sits on a bed of fire. Surrounding the pygmy is a group of pale white individuals who are just as unusual as she is. They are in front of St. Augustine House on St. George Street, in the exact position as the other ghost tour and at about the same time. Mesmerized by this lady, they see she is burning in a fire. She stokes the fire with small pieces of wood and then demonstrates how the flames leap up over her thighs but don't burn her at all.
EverReady is moving quietly around the group asking questions. "Are you enjoying this demonstration? Will you come to see it again? Is it in the tradition of 'The Fire that does not Consume,' or do you find it boring? What would you change about it and how would you make it more exciting?"
The pygmy finishes her act and sits now on a bed of cool black coals. The man directly opposite her in the audience complains that the demonstration lacks a salamander. The feisty reporter overhears the remark and moves quickly to the side of the grumbling man.
"Do you think a salamander would make it better?" she asks him.
"Of course," he replies. "Anyone knows that the fire that does not consume has a salamander going in one side of the furnace and coming out the other without being burned. That's the whole point of it. The metaphor has nothing to do with a little lady sitting on top of a campfire and not being burned."
"Is it a metaphor or a symbol?" asks another man standing close by.
"It's metaphor, Jack," says the first man.
"It's a metaphorical symbol," says a third man.
"Ok, Larry," says the first man, laughing. "You show us the path to compromise."
"So," EverReady says to the first as she eagerly makes notes, "you prefer to have the metaphor authentically enacted rather than creatively demonstrated."
"Absolutely," he replies.
"Can I quote you?" she asks excitedly.
"Of course," he says. "I'm George Truax and this is my wife Mavis Davis." But he didn't notice that Mavis isn't there beside him. Instead, she is just walking up to their group from the direction of Artillery Lane.
"Mavis, where were you?"
Mavis answers in rhyme, "Down the street in a tour group like ours comes a woman I recognize I think, because her shadow is short and sweet. I broke her shadow, and our eyes did meet. It's her, George, I'm sure of it. The Empress is on St. George Street!"
"She must be on a ghost tour," says George. "Did you see any long shadows with her?"
"One was long, I left it alone, but another did I see that frightened me."
"I hope you didn't bother to break the long shadows. It doesn't have any effect."
Mavis replies, "Long shadows casts by them are dark souls and can't be broken by enlightened ghosts."
"That's right," says George. "As for me, I'm a little worse off from this performance." He laughs.
His wife turns to him, shaking her head slowly left to right and comments, poetically, "George, dead for three hundred years, can't refrain from finding reasons to complain. Seems to me he would discern that people are entitled to their turn at metaphor. That's how we learn."
"Right," says EverReady. "After all, it is performance art."
Jack says to Mavis, in rhyme, 'They can try their hand at symbols too, but to clean up the mess, they'll need a road crew."
Several people laugh at Jack's rhyme, but George isn't going to be sidetracked from giving his opinion. He looks first at his wife and then at the reporter. "Ok," he says, "here's how I feel about it. I'm on a ghost tour and I want to be entertained in a way that I'm expecting, not bored to death. You take all these tourists in town, for example. They go on ghost tours and they expect to see ghosts, and we give them ghosts. And if we don't give them ghosts they get performance art, instead. Now, we're no different. We ghosts go on a ghost tour and we want to see the proper metaphors and symbols. I want my money back. I did not pay to see a lady sit on a campfire. I want a salamander that goes in one side of a furnace and comes out the other."
Mavis says, "Are you making a joke? You didn't pay a dime, but even so, you invoke your inner critic all the time."
The pygmy sitting on the bed of coals produces a salamander and tosses it over to him. "Here's your salamander. If you can get a performance out of her, good luck to you. She refuses to perform tonight, so I'm just doing the best I can without her." George catches Sally Salamander in his hand and places her on the ground where she runs back to the pygmy and jumps into her pocket.
The pygmy continues, "I'm going to perform my art the way I want to, with or without Sally. If you don't like it you can try another ghost tour. This one is about the fire that does not consume, and as you can see, I was not consumed. Now, get your own salamander and go do your own reenactment." The pygmy knows performing salamanders are hard to find, even as she tells George to go get one.
Before he can respond, George sees a strange figure materialize to everyone's left, causing all the heads in the ghost tour to turn and look. Coming slowly into view is a pale yellow, young woman who is weak and confused.
"What's....what's happening?" she rubs her hand across her forehead. "I'm going crazy I think. My head hurts and I don't know where I am."
"New girl," George says to EverReady. "Now, there's a better story for you. Go over there and see if you can find out what those words say etched on her forehead."
Mavis says, "St. Aug say the words there as you are well aware, the same as the other four. George, don't tease EverReady anymore."
EverReady moves quickly behind the group and approaches the girl, but before she can ask questions, the girl begins to cry.
Mavis says, "George, put on your savior hat. The great rescuer, the great hero. To the Bored Players she might go and get mixed up with them and we can't have that. So guide her, take her hand. She looks distressed. We'll take her home where she can rest, where she can plan what she wants to do next."
George does as his wife commands, as he has done for the last three hundred years, and takes the new ghost by her hand and leads her close to the group.
"What's your name, sweetheart?" He puts his arm around her shoulders to comfort her.
"Louise," she sobs.
"Well, Louise, welcome to the Astral Plane. St. Augustine is a little bit tight right now for places to live, but we'll find a nice spot for you."
Mavis mouths the words to George behind Louise's back so she doesn't see and hear them. "Tell her there's room, to be brave, for she can always live in her grave..."
"Oh," mouths George in reply, "I hope we can come up with something a little better than that."
Mavis replies, "Let's ask our realtor Gary Gravestone. He'll know where to find her best home."
"Ok," agrees George. "We'll consult Gary."
EverReady makes a few notes about the new girl but decides to stay with her original story entitled, "Performance Art on St. George Street. How good is it?"
BURY THE EVIDENCE
When Chief of Police Warner Thompson arrives at the scene of the crime, a small group has already gathered. Like the two groups that preceded them the night before, they're interested in the woman in the center. But in this case, the woman is dead and bears no resemblance to the costume-attired tour guide of the first ghost tour or to the pygmy performance artist of the second ghost tour. Though this group is gathered in an official capacity and not to be entertained, they are nevertheless entertained in a morbid way by the corpse of Louise.
"Ok, let's get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible and, Johnny, go down there and block those tourists from coming down the street!" Chief Thompson points to the entrance of St. George Street at the intersection of King Street. Warner is a little ruffled from this disturbance of murder. He hoped to spend part of the morning talking on the phone to his broker. Now this.
"Looks like it's another one, chief," says Tommy Lassiter, Assistant Chief of Police.
"Don't say that!" snaps Warner, the irritation in his voice coming through at a higher decibel than he intended. He breathes out to relax his voice. "It is not 'another one,' as you call it, Tommy. I've told you before, we don't have a serial killer in St. Augustine and we are not going to have one, not as long as I'm chief of police."
Warner could be this way, but still it gives Tommy a slight indigestion to think that, once again, he is going to have to suppress not only evidence but also the crime itself. "How we gonna handle this one, chief?"
"The same way we handled the others. We're going to take the body to the morgue and then bury it."
Tommy thinks the Chief is unrealistic but he understands in a deep genetic way the reasons why. They are both native St. Augustinians from old families. Tommy's heritage is Minorcan and Warner's is Spanish. In fact, Warner's family on his mother's side came over with Pedro Menendez in 1565. On his father's side is Indian blood. Warner retains the swarthy complexion of both his Spanish and Indian heritage and, with his height and physique, he is what women call tall, dark, and handsome. For a single man in his mid-fifties, he is blessed with that mix of dark good looks combined with police authority that just naturally calls women to his side. But, he has never been in love. Oh, he's been married but time teaches the difference.
Tommy believes Warner has a strong inclination to protect the town of St. Augustine, and they share a deep knowing that all things pass away in time and are forgotten. He believes Warner's motives are natural and innocent, that Warner is hoping this is one of those things that quietly passes away. He knows Warner's life is uncomplicated and he also knows Warner believes himself to be the proper person in charge of this town, and that he wants to keep it this way.
Tommy thinks Warner wants to be the one who keeps the peace and quiet of the sleepy ancient village, not the one who disturbs it. A corpse lying behind a shrub on St. George Street doesn't rate to change what they both know is four hundred and fifty years of unalterable tradition, not on Warner's watch and especially not the corpse of a hooker. Yes, he understands Warner very well and for that reason he doesn't bother to argue the point that it is unrealistic and even smug for Warner to think he can sweep under the rug the murder of five young women. But the first four are safely secured under that rug, so they must make room for one more.
"No reporters," Warner tells Tommy. "You got that?"
"Got it," Tommy dutifully replies.
"We don't want this getting out. We don't need a bunch of tourists running scared that some nut case is going to murder them and carve St. Aug on their foreheads and we sure don't want them playing Sherlock Holmes detective. We want them to do what they do, enjoy themselves and spend money. Got that?"
"Got it," Tommy nods his head 'yes.'
"Ok," says Warner. "Now let's get this cleaned up."
DAGON-JAH THE POTTER
Dagon-Jah sits at his pottery wheel and makes pottery all day long, then awaits his master's entrance into the little hut to bring him the evening's meal. He hopes his master doesn't notice he is not making the commission pieces but is instead working on a creation of his own. It's a piece of pottery he hopes will earn him fame and fortune. Then he won't have to be an apprentice anymore. He can be a master. He hears Jah's voice tell him how to build the piece according to certain dimensions. It could be the masterpiece of his time. They might come from miles around to see it.
But what if they don't come? What if his masterpiece goes by the wayside with all the other pieces of pottery? If that happens he won't hear the applause he longs to hear. The voice tells him, "Don't worry about that, just create it. Give it to Daedalus. He will know what to do."
He works secretly on his masterpiece. It is a small round disk made of red clay, only six and a quarter inches diameter. He makes it small so he can hide it from his master. Because it is so small the work is very detailed. The disk has two inscribed sides, each with a big spiral of five rings.
The spirals are divided into 60 line segments, 30 on one side and 30 on the other side. Divided among the line segments and covering the disk on both sides are 240 tiny pictographs etched using 48 different designs. 37 are intended to appear identical and are repeated; 11 are single etchings into the clay. Dagon-Jah made the little designs and etched them precisely on both sides of the disk. He keeps this design invention a secret. It is only for his masterpiece and for nothing else.
But what if his masterpiece goes unrecognized? What then? Must he let the sands of time wear it down and erode it away? No, there must be a way to keep it safe. If he bakes it in the sun like the rest of the pottery, it will break apart over time and be lost. What can he do to preserve it for all time? He must preserve it, Jah's voice tells him. He must think of a way to keep it safe. It is too important to lose.
Months go by while secretly he builds a furnace to harden the disk so nothing can hurt it, so water cannot damage it, and if it is dropped it might not even break. When the time comes, he builds a fire in the furnace and stokes it with wood until the flames leap up and the wood becomes fiery coals. He puts the disk inside the furnace and watches as the fire burns the disk but, miraculously, the disk is not consumed by the fire. He tells no one of his invention of the kiln. It is only for his masterpiece.
By way of creating his masterpiece he has invented two technologies unheard of in the Bronze Age and he keeps them both a secret. They never will find out. He is one of the greatest inventors of his time, but he doesn't realize it because it's not what he set out to do. He only means to make his masterpiece so he can become a master.
The year is 1600 B.C.E., nearly four thousand years ago. The place is the town of Phaistos on the island of Crete in the Aegean Sea.
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