When Max opened his eyes he was looking at the world upside down. The girl who was doubled over backward like a contortionist with no bones stood upright and spit all the glass from her mouth. The priest jumped back in amazement as he realized her light green eyes were now the blue of Max Bernos.
Max was disoriented, not knowing why his throat still burned from the god’s rum or why he had been eating broken glass. Then his eyes went wide as he looked down and saw the pair of camel-colored breasts beneath his green dress.
“Do you be Master Legba?” the skinny, skeleton-painted priest asked.
“No, I’m Max Bernos.”
The priest took a step back and his dreads swayed like a head of Medusa snakes. His mouth smiled revealing perfectly white teeth mimicking the painted skull. “Well den, O-P-E-N dat door, Max Bernos.”
With that, the priest snapped and the world became sideways. The mulatto girl’s feet, which were now Max’s feet, felt like they were on solid ground but they were standing on empty air and Max was facing the symbol-covered floor.
“Do him see de door?”
“No,” Max replied with the girl’s voice.
“Show him!” the priest boomed and the drums began. The complicated rhythm made the lines move. Max reached one of the girl’s slender arms toward the floor, which was now a wall in front of him. He almost gasped when he saw her hand wearing his last remaining spider tattoo, but before he had time to react, the priest snapped and the spider ran off his arm to the ground, melted into the ground, and became a doorknob to what he now realized was a huge door.
Here goes nothing.
Max closed his eyes and opened the door. To his amazement, he stepped through with his own body into the tessellated tiles of St. Vincent’s hallway.
The church bells rang in the background.
How can it still be eleven o’clock? How am I still alive? What a ride!
He looked around the hall to get his bearings. First, he noticed the lamps whose lights were fed by gas flames. Next, he noticed the heat, and how in his time it was air-conditioned. Finally, he saw the door where on the other side his nemesis was awaiting banishment. As he looked closer, he was able to make out the lines of the spell he and Legba had drawn a century in the future.
I’ll wait to knock on his door until the way out.
He hung a left and ran down the hall to the staircase where he proceeded upstairs to the nursery.
Why is this place so deserted?…Duh, it’s the middle of the night.
But as he peeked into the hall from the top of the stairs, he saw the back of a gray-haired matron disappearing into a room while locked in deep conversation with four nuns. One of which was addressed as Mother Superior. When the coast was clear, Max snuck down the hall with an over-exaggerated Scooby-doo style sneakiness until he reached the door of the room that in his time was labeled 99.
Since the door was open, he walked right into the nursery and came face to face with a ghost. Not a wispy apparition or a soul caught in a rift, but a real, live ghost – “She dat’s fit for dem dat creeps and crawls” – as Prince would say.
That wasn’t what stopped our tiny time traveler dead in his tracks.
“You’re beautiful! Why wouldn’t someone fall in love with you?” Max said robotically. His cheeks burned with embarrassment and he wished he could pull the words from the air as soon as he said them.
Isabella was holding a cute little baby and making it laugh by blowing raspberries on his stomach. At Max’s embarrassment, she turned and said, “Well, thank you little man, but I’m taken.”
Then her eyes went wide as she realized he was not from her time. “What are you doing here?”
Her indignation snapped Max from his gaga-eyed trance and back to reality. From his pocket, he snatched the scissors and lunged toward her.
Out of instinct to protect the baby, Isabella spun away from him, shielding the baby from the scissors. She cringed, waiting for a blow that never came.
Instead, Max snipped a piece of what he thought must have been the most perfect black ringlet to ever grow and ran out the door.
Now to let Fahad out.
Then he froze.
I’m going to let that vile man into this world??!! The most beautiful girl I have ever seen lives here. That cute laughing baby lives here. This is an orphanage full of children! Max rubbed his palms into his eyes. That’s not what good guys do. Perseus didn’t take Medusa and put her and the kraken in an orphanage. He shook his head violently. The hell with the Prince! I’m the good guy.
He quickly remembered all the facts about George’s near-death experience in this world. How the Prince said to be excommunicated was to be cut off from the light of God and in this world, that is something worse than death.
A plan formed in the little hero’s mind.