The God Equation and Other Stories

The God Equation and Other Stories by Michael A.R. Co

Book: The God Equation and Other Stories by Michael A.R. Co Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael A.R. Co
instinctively wraps his fingers with the hem of his tunic to stanch the flow.
    Only then does he feel the hurt. The cut had opened a vein along his inside knuckle and it stings when he stretches his fingers wide. More drops fall.
    The surrounding forest begins to look more menacing despite his familiarity with the area. In a cold moment of reflection, on a hot and humid afternoon, he feels as if he is really digging his own grave.
    As an act of contrition, he recites the words his mother taught him long ago before she left him, and which he, having seen only sixteen summers, had forgotten to say before disturbing the ground at the foot of an ancient tree.
    “Tabi tabi po,” he says. “Tabi tabi po.”
    The tree ’ s roots stretch across its patch of forest floor like gnarled fingers; they clutch the ground like a stubborn old man hanging on to old habits. Its wrinkled bark and twisted trunk reminds him of Mang Melchor, the local medicine man, whose right leg is shorter than his left yet refuses to walk with a cane because it is, according to the old man, “unbecoming” of his status as a healer. His awkward stance resembles the semi-bent appearance of this tree. Most of the large leaves are still green although some have already turned orange-red since the dry season began. A few of the red leaves lie about him as if the tree had also been bleeding.
    What did his master call this tree?
    Terminalia catappa.
    To everyone else, it is known as the talisay.
    “Tabi tabi po,” he repeats. He doesn ’ t expect the talisay tree to answer because he doesn ’ t direct his apology to it. He speaks instead to the unseen spirits that might be dwelling beneath the roots. The nuno . The duende . Or the larger creatures hiding among the low hanging boughs. The kapre . The tikbalang .
    The previous year, his master had done a survey of the superstitions prevalent in the island, including the belief in faith healers like Mang Melchor, and he wrote down his findings in what he called the Practicas de los Curandos. But what was intended to be his technical masterpiece was also a work-in-progress, the Descripciones de Plantas Medicinales, Maderas de Contruccion Especies Olcoginosas o Resinosas y Algunos Metales, Heteropsidos y Antopsidos de una Coleccion Naturalista, which the boy and the other students had assisted in compiling. His master advocated the scientific method, and he wanted to bring European technology and ideas back to his homeland. As his master once lamented in an early letter from Germany, “Everyone here talks of barometers and thermometers, the way we talk about San Agustin and San Procopio, of whom we know more than the saints themselves.” In spite of this, the boy was still interested in his master ’ s views about malignos , and asked for his opinion.
    His master admonished him never to believe in such creatures. “They are relics of our pagan past,” he said. “Impossible for intelligent men to even consider.”
    “But maestro ,” the boy said, a bit impetuously he realized too late, “I am not an intelligent man. That ’ s why I ’ m asking you.”
    “Pilosopo,” his master said in mock annoyance. Then, before the boy could respond, he added, “Which proves my point, young man. You are a lot smarter than you think.”
    The boy was confused, as he did not want to anger his master. In his mind, the nuno are dark and wear no clothes, while the duende wear beards and colorful hats and shoes. He repeated his original question: “So what is the difference between the nuno and the duende ?”
    His master sighed. “I don ’ t know. I ’ ve never met any. But if you see some, ask them. When it comes to research, you should always turn to the primary source.”
    Before the boy could ask him to elaborate, his master offered his best answer.
    “I would surmise they are the same magical being,” his master said, in a tone both incredulous and sincere. “The nuno are the natives, while the duende arrived

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