I arrived at Siobhán’s new digs in late evening, after more than three hours of driving north through blustering gusts of cold air, along deserted Wisconsin state highways and country lanes, ringed with a seemingly endless succession of pale grey and weather-worn barns, silos and stubble fields of harvested corn, punctuated every 30–40 miles by the glistening plastic pillars of some shopping center, gas station or outlet mall.
And while the sterile fakeness of it all might seem utterly foreign on the surface, I was soon reminded just how integral a part of this place’s heritage Death worship is.
When I passed the familiar gloom of the Lac Butte des Morts fens, I recalled that this place used to be Winnebago country, supposedly the prehistoric stomping grounds of Red Horn, the Ho-Chunk culture hero who freed the land from the tyranny of monsters hunting his people like vermin, and the native place of Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca, rival brother gods of the Aztec people who led their people from wintry Aztatlan in the north to their current patrimony in the Valley of Mexico.
The White Man displaced most of those first nations people from this part of Wisconsin long, long ago, but in some ways the deathgrip of the old gods and monsters is stronger than ever.
“Oh, hi, Liam! C’mon in!” Siobhán greeted me at the foyer door of the shabby-genteel Victorian pile on Maiden Lane.**
“Uh, wow, I didn’t see you as the ‘dog-in-a-handbag’ type of girl, Shivvers ,“ I was trying to be cute, witty, sardonic—anything to suppress my shock at her drawn and wan appearance when she came to the door.
She shot back a weak, snarky smirk while wrestling with the little Chihuahua wriggling in her arms. “Yeah, well, it’s a long story. Take a load off.”
Oh, shit. Éamó was right. He’d tried to warn me but I never fuckin’ listened to him, and now I couldn’t do anything but play through. The scene swam back to me as I followed sullenly in her shadow into the sitting room.
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