Disclaimer: This is not one of my best pieces of writing and in hindsight is a bit cringe. I wanted to try something a bit different with the Christmas format while also including some references to my other works, but the end result isn’t up to my usual level of quality.
For many people Christmas is associated with snow or even tropical getaways – to them it’s hard to envision celebrating the season in a vast desert. Yet in Phoenix, Arizona the holiday spirit is alive and well. It’s a crisp day with nary a cloud in sight. Radio stations report snowfall further north – if the clouds drift down they are likely to produce rain, considering the city’s altitude & latitude. All throughout the city there are stores and restaurants decked out in their finest seasonal decorations, some more unique than others.
Children line up at an artificial cave in the mall to speak with a ryu dressed as Santa Claus, seated in a golden throne with dozens of anthracite coals at her feet that have been carved into the shape of skulls. She is attended by two short baphomets, each dressed up as Krampus, who snicker at two Jinko cubs asking Santa for a white Christmas. Some storefronts run by immigrants from Africa promote a fusion of Christmas and Kwanzaa, including a zebra centaur who is giving carriage rides in the park. Packed crowds of thousands all scurry about the city trying to get last-minute shopping done on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, some folks are stuck indoors working this afternoon, especially those employees of the popular coffeehouse chain known as Warm Delights.
The smell of cinnamon and peppermint hangs thick in the air of the coffeehouse. Snowflake shaped lights are strung along the walls and coffee cups are arranged into tree displays. A Hispanic man in his mid-twenties is slumped against a counter, dressed in a uniform consisting of a black shirt and hotpants with a green apron. There is a weary look on his face, dreading the inevitable rush of frantic shoppers looking for a quick caffeine fix. Suddenly his eyes widen and he swiftly shoots up, straightening his posture as if bewitched. He has spotted his fellow cashier Sabira-Bbborhora Ramadhani through the window, finally arriving for work, and puts on an enthused smile to greet her.
As the storefront door swings open a slimy squelching sound rings out, a shoggoth oozing her way into the store. She is unlike many of the shoggoths one typically sees, the viscous slime her body’s composed of being a dark purple hue and the structure of her face evocative of Africans. She is dressed in a modest all-black ensemble of long ruffled skirt, a long sleeve sweater, and a hijab; their manager made an exception with the skimpy company uniform for her on account of religious reasons.
Earnestly returning the man’s smile, she waves to him and says in a cheerful tone, “Good morning Javier! Sorry I am a bit late.” Sabira’s accent was unplaceable for him, yet something about it sent shocks through his body. Whilst making her way behind the counter and tying up her green apron the shoggoth whines about her day’s trail of bad luck, “My mother wanted an opinion on this new speech she wrote, then our cat puked on the couch, and I had to face all this holiday traffic – but at least I managed to arrive before the rush.”
As Sabira checks her smartwatch and settles in for her shift, time begins to distort for Javier. The significance of each minute that passes by is lost to him, so preoccupied with gazing and glancing at her wishfully – this has become nearly a force of habit for him. Sabira immigrated from East Africa with her mother a few years ago, but Javier hadn’t met her until she began working at Warm Delights this past summer. They built a repertoire and overtime an intense infatuation for her developed. Now he stands at the edge of a fast eroding cliff, rooted in the ground by oppressive anxiety, and knows that leaping regardless of likelihood is the only path to desire. Pressure has been building all month, every opportunity pushed aside by hesitation. Today his confidence is telling him to finally commit to the leap – even if Christmas Eve feels like an extravagant time to do so.
Suddenly, a large reptilian claw coated with thick green scales rapidly raps against the countertop. The sharp cracking that’s produced knocks Javier out of his lovesick stupor. His attention is drawn to across the register where a rather large and irritated wurm stands. He thinks to himself, “How long has she been there?”
She has black hair tied back in a donut bun style, a black eyepatch covering her left eye, and is garbed in a tacky sweater decorated in a camouflage pattern of traditional Christmas colors. It looks to be struggling to contain her large breasts as well as muscular arms thicker than his legs. To her left stands a Central Asian kikimora, garbed in a festive green hijab and abaya with red snowflakes, whose face looks more confused than irritated. While on her right stands a short Asian fox woman, wearing a pair of white high-heel ugg boots and a red hooded halter-top romper with white accents that evoked a skimpy Santa Claus.
The fins on the sides of her face flaring, the wurm raises a balled up claw to her mouth and makes a marked cough, alerting the dazed Javier that his staring was going on for an uncomfortable length of time. At this moment he would love nothing more than to just shrivel up out of existence – ever since he was young Javier’s felt himself cursed with a wandering eye, though his infatuation with Sabira has somehow restrained it from ogling at her moderate hourglass figure. He looks towards her, desperately hoping she can handle them, but sees that she is busy taking orders for a large family of Wights dressed up for caroling – he’s resigned to confronting this disaster.
Seeing the cashier distracted for a third time the wurm rolls her only visible eye. Finally she vents her frustration, using a harsh tone befitting a soldier who has lost their patience with a grunt, “Okay you skiving pervert, if you are about done idling on the job, my friends and I would like to order. I will take a Grande Iced Latte with Almond Milk, veteran’s discount applied, you copy?”
Her gaze turned to the kikimora, who during the faint squabble had been staring up at the menu on the wall and humming to herself in contemplation. Javier barely makes out her mumbling about vanilla extract and unsalted butter before she looks over the wurm’s shoulder to pronounce in a subdued tone, “I don’t want to make a fuss, so I think I shall stick with a plain bagel.” Then, with two long bushy tails swaying behind her, the kitsune strode up to the counter. She leans into it, blatantly putting her modest cleavage on display.
With a foxy grin and unexpected southern drawl she coos, “Don’t get too shaken up by my friend sugar. Olga’s a softy at heart, the gal is just madder than a wet hen over trying to find a good Christmas gift for someone she’s got her eye on. Now as for me…” She pauses, batting her eyelashes as she runs a hand down her chest, “This ol’ gal is dreadfully single and has a hankerin’ for one of your new Plank-spanker Peach Bubble Teas with a side of Chugnut Glazed Donut. And maybe, if you’d be so kind, it could be your nut that…”
Before she can finish her thought Javier whirls around with a skittish energy and yelps as he staggers through the curtain into the backroom, “Sounds great ma’am, sorry for the wait, I will get right on that!” Leaving the kitsune to harumph and grumble, “So gosh dang hard to find a man these days.”
Javier tried to catch his breath after entering the room, but his rest was short lived. He quickly covered his eyes upon seeing his coworkers, Crystal and Omar, on the ground straddling each other’s thighs. Turning her attention to the sudden intrusion, the hellhound rolled her eyes at this prudish display. As Crystal resumed grinding against the prone Omar’s pants, she teased Javier in-between snickering, “Geez, for such a big pervert you sure are shy about sex. And you look positively petrified – let me guess, a cougar came on to you again? Did she want to make you her Latin lover? Or perhaps, did Sabira reject your advances?”
With anxiety reaching a crescendo, Javier’s mind began to feel as though the room were spinning. He had spent all night prepping himself for any potential mishaps that could occur today and now things were getting increasingly out of hand. His mind racing and swelling with determination for his goal, the embarrassment gradually gave way to frustration.
Grabbing one of the plastic stimulation paddles off the wall of tools Javier smacked Crystal’s protruding thong covered ass. Eliciting a surprised yelp from the hellhound, she jumps off of Omar and is sent careening into a pile of boxes. She arises from the dented heap of cardboard rather slowly, letting out a deep bestial growl whilst rubbing the spot where he smacked her. The flames of her eyes blaze bright with outrage.
Ignoring Omar’s confused ramblings, Javier points to Crystal with the paddle and returns her bitter scowl. Still running on an adrenaline of motivation, he tries his best to put up a commanding demeanor, “Enough fooling around you two. Crystal, I need you to give Omar’s dong a good hard yanking. We have an order of plank-spanker and chugnut that needs filling, which I sure as hell ain’t doing, so get to it!”
Realistically, Javier expected to receive a beating from the prideful hellhound or to be laughed at – she likely wouldn’t care if she got in trouble with their manager over fighting. Much to his surprise, Crystal exhaled loudly from her nose and then displayed a fiendish grin that rattled his nerves. Stepping towards Omar, eyes focused squarely on Javier, she lets out a sultry moan, “Goddamn! I sure do love it when men are assertive with me – alright ‘boss,’ I’ll do whatever you say.”
Not wanting to be involved with what would come next, Javier swiftly dropped the paddle to the ground with a loud clatter. Her eyes follow him with predatory precision as he slowly walks back towards the curtain. Before ducking out to the register he makes sure to grab a plain bagel off their rack of baked goods. From there the day trundled on with only minor mishaps popping up on occasion.
Minutes once more lost their purpose to Javier amid the prolonged rush of customers, though his eyes diligently tracked the hours on the clock. Once it became clear that their shift was nearing its end and activity in the store had quieted down, he knew his opportunity was in sight. Leaning back against the counter, he tried to look nonchalant as he asked Sabira the question he had been brooding over all day. However, what came out of his mouth wasn’t exactly the clear cut confession he had been envisioning, “So I know your folks don’t celebrate – well you know – so I was just thinking uhh, if you haven’t got any plans for tonight I mean, maybe you could come over to my place for dinner?”
The shoggoth seemed a bit taken aback by his abrupt inquiry, though there was a slight twinkle in her luminescent amber eyes – could it be a feeling of flattery or curiosity? Shrugging, she oozes closer towards him and says, “Well, tonight my mother has this big rally she’s going to for her gubernatorial campaign, so I would just be by myself. And she is always telling me how I should try new things as a young adult. So yeah, a casual dinner between friends on Christmas Eve sounds lovely.”
Javier takes a step back from Sabira. His confidence has begun to wane and sweat is developing on his forehead. He thinks to himself, “¡Maldito idiota! This is just like Highschool all over again. Mamá keeps telling you to work on expressing yourself, but do you ever listen?” Subconsciously avoiding eye contact with her, Javier lets out a nervous laugh and earnestly musters what little courage he has left to stammer out, ”D-Dinner between friends?”
Sabira glances over at him, her face clearly piqued with curiosity. Oozing close towards him, she smiles and playfully teases, “Yeah, dinner between good friends who would otherwise be all alone tonight. That is what you meant, right?”
Her cold eldritch breath gliding across Javier’s skin, he once more takes a step back from Sabira. He rubs the rear of his head as another apprehensive laugh barrels out of him. Javier desperately wants to correct her and admit how he really feels, but it’s like a chapulín is caught in his throat. No matter how hard he tries to push them the words simply won’t come out. With tension building in the air over his hesitancy, it’s clear that he can’t just walk away without saying anything. Finally, he takes the easy way out and responds, “Y-Yeah, totally! That is exactly what I meant.”
A crescent moon rises on the horizon as night begins to fall upon the city of Phoenix. The stars above are blinded by the city’s lights. Dark clouds encompass the sky, suggesting it may rain, and a winter chill sweeps through the air. Despite facing a potential downpour many lovers are outside this special night on dates. Some are out at restaurants or movie theaters, others are at the park skating or going on carriage rides. But down in one moderately fancy studio apartment a man prepares for his own special evening.
An old Christmas love song titled Navidad Y Año Nuevo can be heard blaring all throughout this apartment, its latin guitar rhythms complemented with Spanish lyrics sung by Gormé & Trío Los Panchos. In the kitchen Javier is desperately attempting to cook a pot of spicy birria with one hand, the other holding a phone to his ear. The voice of an older and upset Mexican woman can be heard berating him on the other end, “Tu eres un monstruo! I can’t believe you would hurt your abuela’s heart like this hijo, ditching out on your famila’s Noche Buena feast. You have never done this before!”
Javier winces as his chupacabra mother lets out a long goatly wail that devolves into sobbing. He plops a few more diced onions and chili peppers into the pot before stepping away from the stove, racking his brain on how to calm her down. Whether or not it’s a wise move to tell her about his actual plans for the night is debatable, much less confessing how he screwed up asking Sabira out. Ultimately, he chooses to tell her a partial truth, “Listen Mamá, please calm down. Once again, I’m very sorry about cancelling last minute, but I managed to get a date with this girl and -“
Before he can finish his thought Javier is forced back into wincing as his mother squeals in delight. “¡Oh mijo! I just knew you wouldn’t be single forever,” she cries, her sour mood having completely turned around. Javier tries to get a word in, but his mother explodes into a torrent of rapid-fire questioning, “Tell me chicho, who is the lucky muchacha? What is she like? Does she make good money? She better not be a deadbeat – oh, is she light skinned or dark? Is she a weak stomach or a lover of spiciness? And what about…”
Suddenly, there is a knock at the front door. And as though Javier’s radio were the chorus to his life, it promptly belts out the lyrics, “If you are with me. If you give me your love, during Christmas… And in the New Year… Oh what happiness!”
With the assumption that it must be Sabira he quickly moves to shut off the music and double check that all his alcohol is hidden away in the cabinets. Hurriedly, Javier tries to get off the phone with his energetic mother while also avoiding inciting her wrath, “Listen Mamá, I would really love to answer all your questions, but I think she’s at the door and – uh huh, sí sí madre, I know. I love you too. Sí, no woman can replace you – está bien, nos vemos mañana en Navidad.” With a loud beep the phone clicks off and Javier sighs in relief.
There is a knock at the door again. Before opening it Javier slicks his hair back and adjusts his sweater, hoping he looks presentable. With closed eyes he turns the knob and greets whoever is behind it, “Sorry to keep you waiting Sab-“ Upon opening his eyes he finds no shoggoth, but rather his Unagi Joro neighbor Nanami. She is a single mother, rather friendly, but has been making advances towards him for months now.
She is clearly intoxicated. If the large bottle of Black Kraken Rum in her hand wasn’t enough of an indicator, a pungent smell of liquor wafts off her breath as she incoherently moans, “I wan sum fuck wit you, you wan sum fuck wit me Mekishiko hito? No more games, time for long hard dong akushon. Tu feel me?” Judging by her clothes, Nanami had just come home from her job at the strip club. Her fishnet crop top is gradually sliding off her slimy body, dangerously on the verge of freeing her heavy M cup breasts, and the nipples are practically poking out…
Those wandering eyes have gotten the better of Javier once more, seeing as Nanami reaches down and starts fondling the noticeable bulge in his jeans. He stretches his right arm out to grab something he left on the bookcase for just such a situation. Meanwhile, hoping it won’t come to that, he attempts to defuse the situation by reasoning with her, “I’m flattered Señora Nanami, really, but now is not exactly a great time – besides, shouldn’t you be looking after your kids?”
Sloppily licking her lips, Nanami begins coiling the eel tail that makes up her lower body around Javier. As his legs become almost entirely encompassed by her tail she leans in close, breathing heavily, and responds to his question, “Kids ‘ave sitter. What’s a matter? There’s no better time to have a Christmas Cake than Kurisumasu ibu.” Just as the tail begins making its way around his torso Javier finally grasps the distant spray bottle full of water and promptly begins spritzing her in the face like crazy. Hissing like a cat, the eel woman begins uncoiling herself and slithers away from the door.
With her tail fully outside the door Javier slams it shut, causing the wreath outside to fall off. He leans against the door for support, trying to catch his breath. However, the momentary peace is interrupted by another round of knocking. Tightening his grip on the spray bottle, Javier throws his head back and shouts in exasperation, “I don’t have time for your mid-life crisis Nanami! Find some other desperate idiota to get your rocks off!” For a solid minute the air is filled with silence, then a muffled familiar voice can be heard through the wood, seemingly expressing confusion.
Javier’s eyes go wide in realization and he scrambles to his feet. He chucks the spray bottle into a corner and swings open the door. On the other side is a cheerful Sabira sporting a puzzled expression. Her casual outfit from work was nowhere to be seen, replaced by an opulent ankle-length black kaftan style abaya with gold and silver sequins and embroidery. It accentuated Sabira’s curves, especially her breasts, yet kept them reasonably within the realm of modesty.
Beyond that, her body’s imitation hair, fuschia in color, now flowed out from the bottom of her hijab in the form of two long braids that cascaded down to waist-level. Her lips were done up in red, making them vividly stand out on her dark face. And briefly glancing further down, Javier notices that Sabira had shapeshifted her gelatinous lower-half into the form of legs. Purple feet poke out from under her gown, nestled within a pair of black high heel wedge shoes with straps that make her slightly stand over him.
With some hesitation she lifts up her arms, carrying a plate wrapped in tinfoil, and proclaims with raised eyebrows, “Uhhhh, Heri ya Krismasi? Or would you prefer Feliz Nochebuena?” Face blazing with embarrassment, Javier ushers her inside and apologizes profusely for the misunderstanding.
He thinks to himself, “I need to get Sabira’s mind off of what just occurred if this night is going to go anywhere.” Thus, Javier’s first instinct is to simply ask her if she had any trouble finding his apartment, then exits the room to get dinner off the stove. Left alone before she could even answer, Sabira shrugs and shouts over her shoulder to the kitchen, “Well, I recited Ayat al-Kursi before leaving the house, so everything was pretty safe. Besides that, GPS made finding your place rather straightforward.” Javier returns carrying the pot of birria, along with a two liter bottle of Jarritos under an armpit. Then without delay Sabira removes the tinfoil on her plate, revealing a pile of chapatis – an Indian variety of unleavened flatbread.
As he places the pot of birria down onto the table Sabira leans over and inhales its aroma. She’s practically drooling from it and looks eager to dig in. Javier knows he is treading thin ice at this point, yet he excuses himself once more. When asked why, he lies and explains that he has to call his mother, as otherwise she’d be worried as to why he wasn’t at their Noche Buena feast. Retreating to the bathroom, Javier locks himself in and takes a seat on the closed toilet seat. He whips out his phone and with shaking hands dials a number. The nearby mirror forces Javier to confront the desperation on his face as he waits. Eventually the other end picks up, an enthusiastic man with a thick accent answering – one might describe it as an odd mixture of Somalian and Dutch, yet still intelligible.
“Hello, Hola, Bonjour, and As-salāmu ʿalaykum my beloved desperate caller! You have reached the Emerald Sheikh hotline, the only dating consultant firm where halal advice is given by certifiably sanctified love gurus. This is Karel Al Toppen-Hagin speaking, how can I be of assistance today?” Struggling to suppress his impatience, Javier answers in a terse tone, ”Yeah, hey Karel, it is me Javier. You remember that Shoggoth I have been talking to you about? Well, I invited her over to my house for dinner and despite all odds she said yes.”
Through the phone feminine squeals can be heard in the background. Thereafter, the man named Karel clears his throat and resumes speaking, “My deepest apologies Sir, the wife is somewhat busy today and has left me to care for the little anubutts. So you got her to come for dinner alone, just the two of you? Oh you lucky sharmuutaa ku dhashay, that right there is a sure sign that she ain’t the conservative type – you know what they say, ‘When a man and woman are alone together, Satan is the third.’”
Javier rolls his eyes as Keral erupts into a fit of laughter over his own statement. “Look,” Javier interjects, “things didn’t start out so great today with this dinner, so I am really in need of some advice.” He remains vague about what went wrong, feeling too embarrassed to discuss his failed attempt at asking Sabira out.
The sound of humming follows within the phone, the man on the other end deep in contemplation. His impatience growing, Javier gradually begins to consider hanging up. Just as things seem hopeless, Keral finally states, “Apologies again Sir. I had to find my customer file on you. Now according to my notes you told me on a previous call that she came from the ‘Democratic Republic of Zithoggowe,’ or ‘Zanzibar’ as people called it two hundred years ago. This may complicate matters-“
Javier grits his teeth at hearing this. The next words that come out of his mouth are accompanied by a tone that doesn’t make any effort to hide his aggravation, “What the fucking hell do you mean this complicates matters? I was led to believe that you were a sanctified love guru with surefire dating advice!” Much to his confusion, a struggle between two voices can be heard on the other end of the phone. Eventually, a feminine voice with an Egyptian accent responds, exuding such a commanding presence that it sends a shiver up his spine, “Listen here you small dick, donkey fucking sharmuuto, I will not tolerate loveless losers like you insulting my hubby!”
Javier attempts to interject, “B-But Miss I just…” However, he is promptly shut down and winces as the furious anubis on the phone continues to chastise him. “Don’t you back sass me maggot! You just what? You thought that Muslims in America, East Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia would all act and think the same? You need to get out more! And another thing-”
Another struggle erupts over the phone, children can be heard shouting and cheering in the distance. This time it ends in Keral’s voice coming through, “Wallahi! A thousand apologies for my wife’s abuse Sir, she is drill instructor. Has low tolerance for argument. What I meant to say earlier was that, unfortunately, not much is known about the culture of that predominantly Shoggoth country. If you would like, I could give you a list of general advice before you hang up?” Hearing Sabira ask if he will be done soon, Javier sighs in defeat and responds affirmatively.
“Alright then, listen closely. There should be no alcohol and no music – though opinions on that one tend to vary.” Javier interjects that he already knows about this, but Keral continues on unfazed, “Don’t discuss politics, it’s a sand trap. Try to eat with your right hand, many cultures consider the left hand unsanitary. Keep your dick in your pants. But most importantly of all – when you get off the phone with me, I want you to be your best self, no putting up an act. Got it?”
Sabira sits slumped against the table, staring at the pot forlornly as she twirls one of her braids. She glances down at her smartwatch, checking the time as she thinks, “What’s taking him so long?” Sabira’s body rumbles once more – with each passing second her hunger has grown stronger and the food’s taunting aroma only exacerbates the issue. She furrows her brow and groans, suppressing the primal urge to shapeshift her stomach into a ravenous toothy maw and devour the whole table. Just as she begins to have second thoughts about the night Javier promptly slides into the room with bowls and silverware in hand.
Taking a seat across from her, Javier slicks his hair back and attempts to legitimize his earlier lie, “Lo siento mucho amiga, mi madre can just get so emotional! But I’m sure that you are familiar with parents being so-“ Sabira raises an outstretched palm to him, signaling that he should go silent, and the void of noise between them becomes filled with the sound of her rumbling stomach. Gradually lowering her hand, she gives him a weary smiles and states, “Don’t sweat it. All that matters is that you are here now – so can we just get to saying grace and eat already?”
Swallowing what remained of his elaborate lie, Javier nodded his head in return. He watches as Sabira presses her hands together, as if cupping water, and raises them to shoulder height. The luminescence of her amber eyes intensify in their glow as she begins the supplication, “Oh Allah! Bless this food and all else you have provided us. Save us from the punishment of al-Haawiyah and protect us from the insidious shayāṭīn Khadhulu who haunts our every dream with his festering tentacles…”
Midway through her prayer Sabira pauses, taking a moment to glance over at Javier. His eyes are closed and he’s trying his best to imitate her. A smile flashes across her face and, though Sabira considers it a risqué act, she continues to stare at him intently as she resumes her supplication. “And lastly my lord, feed the one who has fed me, and quench the thirst of the one who has given me drink. Amen.”
There is a voice screaming in her head – it speaks no words, only gurgles and snarls. The hunger of her protean mass craves immediate satisfaction, however, she subdues all such base temptations with inner prayer. Steadfastly courteous, she gingerly digs into the stew. It isn’t long before her face lights up in delight. “Subhanallah! This dish is so heavenly. Its spiciness dances in my mouth, the limes give zest and, well, it’s been so long since I last had goat meat!” she shouts in delight, followed by humming in satisfaction. So entranced by the stew, she is already having seconds by the time Javier’s a quarter of the way through his own bowl.
On the outside Javier is displaying a laidback appearance, yet thousands of thoughts and fears are anxiously circling around his mind, leaving him tongue-tied. He tries to narrow his thoughts towards all those dating articles he’s read, searching for the right thing to say. One pops vividly into his mind – “Ask your date questions about themselves.” That could possibly work.
Clearing his throat, Javier looks over to Sabira and states, “In the rush earlier I forgot to mention, that dress looks amazing on you. And I was just thinking, I don’t really know much about your home country. Like, for example, uhhh…” His train of thought plummets alongside his confidence. He had plunged into this plan without any thought of what he should ask about her. Eventually, he manages to squeak out, “What’s the meaning behind your name?”
Sabira slides her finished bowl to the side, staring at Javier with a bemused smile on her face that she cups in her hands. She hums for a moment, pretending to be in contemplation. “First of all, I appreciate the compliment,” she responds, a hint of levity in her voice. “Second, my name is a complicated story – I can try to give you an abridged version, but in return you have to answer a question for me. Deal?” Busy stuffing his face with one of her chapatis, Javier merely nods in agreement.
Sabira runs a finger along the rim of her soda-filled wine glass, thinking how she can possibly simplify things enough so Javier isn’t confused or weirded out. Hesitant, she picks up the glass and chugs it before beginning her story. “Where I come from all women are given compound names and the first part is always chosen by their mother. Mine is Arabic and means ‘patience.’ As for the other half…” She hesitates. Closing her eyes, she exhales a frustrated sigh that rolls off into a half-hearted chuckle, “You will probably laugh at this.”
Javier abruptly springs to his feet, lightly slamming his open palms on the table as he firmly proclaims, “I would never laugh at anything that is important to you! Sure, those pendejos Omar and Crystal might, but you are special to me and-“ The words get caught in his throat, recognizing too late the path he’s erupted into. Silence follows. A shocked expression pierces Sabira’s blushing face, her eldritch equivalent of a heart skipping a beat, while Javier’s own mortified face begins building up sweat. He thinks to himself, “I got far too passionate there. Didn’t think I could top my previous screw ups today, but here we are. How can I come back from this?”
“Excuse me,” he utters with a hoarse voice, breaking the awkward moment of silence between them. Javier desperately wants to say more, but his confidence has been thoroughly crushed by the tarnishing of his composed exterior. He then proceeds to slowly slide back down into his seat and hide his embarrassment behind another glass of Jarritos.
Though her once purple cheeks are still sporting a bright shade of pink, Sabira shakes off the weight of his near blatant confession. Recovering her own elegant yet casual composure and putting on a solemn face. With hands placed down firmly on the knees she straightens the back back, puffs out her chest, and closes her eyes.
“Well then! Since you are so undeniably eager to hear more, it would be remarkably rude of me to flee the scene and leave my story unfinished,” she proclaims in a mock-posh tone, opening one of her eyes as she pauses, “but in return for my for my leniency with that outburst, you must yield truthfully to a question of my own. Fair enough?” Without hesitation, Javier nods his head and squeaks out a meager, “F-Fair enough.”
Clearing her throat, Sabira opens both her eyes and begins expounding anew with her usual casual tone of voice, “My home country of Zithoggowe is partly composed of several islands off the coast of East Africa. On one of the main islands, known as Unguja, there resides a large cavern made of coral. It’s sacred to us – they say that’s where our slave ancestors began their revolution back in 1828.” She pauses and shifts her gaze to the distant glass door of Javier’s balcony, staring out into the cold dark night as memories of childhood are recollected.
“Like many Muslims, we believe that part of our soul temporarily leaves the body during sleep. But my country has this tradition – it’s said that if a mother sleeps in that coral cave her soul will be guided to Barzakh, the realm between states. There she communes with the spirits of her ancestors, who will impart a name derived from madness. And so, my mother claims that ‘Bbborhora’ means…“
Fear of being judged holds back Sabira’s tongue once more, but this time she pushes herself to blurt out the embarrassing words, “‘The Creeping Ebony Hunger!’” The sound of restrained laughter draws Sabira’s gaze back to Javier. She proceeds to throw a chunk of onion from the stew at him, expressing with mild irritation, “You promised not to laugh!”
Sabira crosses her arms over her chest as Javier wipes the stew sauce from the onion off his face. His laughter fading into chuckling, he smiles at her and reassures, “You are right, I’m sorry. But look, I technically commune with my ancestors every Día de Muertos, so your whole cave thing isn’t that odd.” Gradually returning his smile, Sabira’s artificial braids unexpectedly begin expanding in length and slither across the table.
Making their way up Javier’s chest, they act as tendrils and caress his surprised face. Sabira leans into the table towards him, arms still crossed, and teasingly retorts with a devious smile, “Alright Mister smooth talker, now you gotta answer a question for me.” Slightly put off by the look she is giving him, Javier swallows nervously. He’s suddenly a bit worried about what she might ask.
Without warning, Sabira dramatically stands up from her chair and slaps her open palms upon the table. She leans towards him further, her devious smile having turned into a smug grin. Finally, she puts an end to the building tension in the room and poses the question to him, “This whole dinner thing. It was actually meant to be a date, wasn’t it?”
Face aflush, Javier stammers and stumbles with his words, making a half-hearted attempt to deny her accusation. He hates to admit it, considering he will likely come off looking like a scumbag that was purposely deceptive of his intentions. However, it’s clear that there’s no way out of this and now explaining himself might be the only way to save face.
As Sabira struts around the table, her braids retract as she gets closer to Javier. Sighing in defeat, he hangs his head and responds, “Yeah. I mean, originally it was, but I bumbled the delivery so bad you thought I meant a dinner between friends. Then I got too nervous to correct you, so I changed my intentions for the night and -“ Javier suddenly cuts off his train of thought, beginning to recognize a peculiarity to this situation. Raising his head to look at her, Javier asks with anxious curiosity, “Wait a moment, just how long have you known?”
Having made her way up to him, Sabira wraps her arms around Javier’s neck. Still holding that smug grin on her face, Sabira replies with a bit of playful tease in her voice, “How long have I known? Since you asked me earlier today silly – why do you think I got so dressed up? And before you ask, yeah, I do feel the same way.” Leaning down, she places a quick kiss on his cheek.
Dumbstruck by this wave of revelations, Javier blinks his eyes hard and asks with a quivering voice, “B-B-But if that’s true, then why did you pretend to be none the wiser instead of calling me out?” Reaching down, Sabira grabs Javier’s hands and leads him over to the living room. Rolling her eyes, she responds, “Partly because I hoped you would come to your senses at some point and be honest with me, but also because – well, I too was nervous about admitting my feelings.”
Once at the couch she lets go of Javier’s hands and plops down. Patting the cushion next to her, she states with a smile, “Now come on. Instead of us brooding about it at the table, let’s be mature adults and watch a holiday horror flick together. I was thinking something foreign like, Chanukah Massacre 2: Golems Versus Estries or Yule Cat: You’ll Die At Yuletide – what do you say to that?” Returning her smile, Javier sits down next to her and whispers, “Sounds great.”
The next hour goes by with nary a feeling of anxiety or nervousness, the two adults finally relaxed and enjoying each other’s company. A spectacle of blood and clay fills the television screen as female golems and Jewish vampires wrestle in the muddy streets of 1980’s Prague, while a lone rabbi in a gasmask watches the grisly scene from a rooftop. The two adults laugh uproariously as the rabbi throws a handful of dreidels down into the crowd that rapidly spin around until exploding with the force of grenades. Suddenly, an estrie begins sneaking up on him, but with superhuman reflexes he whirls around and stabs her in the chest with a Star of David. The camera zooms in on his masked face as he quips in Hebrew, “Chag Chanukah sameach klafte,” which the subtitles on screen roughly translate as “Happy Chanukah bitch.”
As the movie continues on Sabira thinks to herself, “If my local imam saw what all I did today – being alone with a boy, touching him, kissing him – he might say it’s a slippery slope to Zina, illicit pre-marital sex. But I am more than capable of restraining any lustful desires that may crop up between us…” And though she shrugs off this thought and focuses on the movie, there is a feeling of doubt over this relationship that still tugs within her heart.
Glancing over to the window, she makes a mental invocation to God in jest, asking for some kind of sign as to whether this relationship is right for her. Soon afterwards, her amber eyes widen in shock as they take in the sight of snowfall outside. With all weather forecasts throughout the week having dismissed any chance of this occurring, Sabira feels compelled to quietly whisper to herself, “It’s a miracle…” Unbeknownst to these lovers, a certain ryu dressed in Santa clothes is flying across the midnight skies of Phoenix, coaxing all the clouds to deliver a white Christmas for all.34844 Views