Anyplace Else(10)

By: Kim Fielding


“How long ago?” Because there was something about this handsome man that reminded him of Perun. Something… uncanny.


Hmm. “What’s your name?”

“Manco Cápac,” replied the waiter with an impish grin. “It’s Quechua, not Spanish.”

Grant knew very little about South America, but he hazarded a guess. “Is Quechua what the Incans spoke?”

“It is.”

Nearby, Filip and Uly swayed in each other’s arms, oblivious to the rest of the world. Love was its own kind of magic. Grant wondered if maybe Venus wandered the earth, or perhaps Freyja. Or what was that Hindu goddess’s name? Parvati. Grant looked around at the guests and was slightly disappointed none of them was multi-armed.

“What’s your story?” Grant asked as the band segued into “The Power of Love.” Too bad Huey Lewis and the News didn’t feature slack-key guitar.

Manco gazed at him before answering. “A sacrifice to Viracocha in hopes he’d keep the volcano quiet. It wasn’t so bad. They took me up the mountain and gave me coca and chicha, and I simply fell asleep in the cold.” He said it matter-of-factly, like someone rattling off the details of a dentist appointment, and he didn’t slow his dancing. He seemed genuinely happy, a man pleased with his place in life. Probably he didn’t get sacrificed every year.

“How did you end up in Hawaii?” Grant asked.

“Warmth sounded good. Besides, like all sacrifices, I was chosen because I was beautiful. Inti the sun god took a shine to me. A shine, get it?” He giggled at his own joke. “He adopted me. Manco Cápac is a sun god as well.”

“Seems like there are a lot of sun gods.”

“It’s an important job, isn’t it?”

Grant nodded. Just like it took more than one manager to run his company. “But you don’t, uh… like Hors….” He couldn’t talk about it, not with the taste of blood still on his lips.

“I’m from South America, remember? My winter solstice is in June. But yes, death is part of the job description. But then so is rebirth. I take the good with the bad, and I enjoy my time on the island very much.”

Manco left eventually, but the party lasted the entire night. Dawn found Filip, Uly, Grant, and a few others sitting on the cold beach with towels around their shoulders. Sand had worked its way into every nook and cranny of Grant’s body. He was exhausted but in a good way. And just as the sky began to lighten, he realized he’d made a decision.

He looked over at Uly and Filip, drowsing against each other, and nodded to himself. Then he raised his face to the sky. “Hello, Dazhbog.”

FILIP HAD warned him, but Grant hadn’t taken the warning seriously enough. Now he knew better. Filip was apparently related to half of Croatia, which meant Grant—now related by marriage—was obligated to pay a visit to every one of those family members while he was in the country. Not only that. Each household plied him with wine and brandy and stuffed him with sausage, cheese, pasta, and desserts. And they wouldn’t let him leave until he was firmly encased in coat, hat, boots, and scarf. He tried to explain he was from Minnesota, where the winters made those of Central Europe look like a walk in the park, but his new relatives wouldn’t listen.

However, there were benefits to his situation. Since everyone insisted on feeding him and having him stay the night at their place, he spent little of his carefully hoarded money on meals or hotels. He was gratified to see firsthand that Filip’s relatives didn’t seem perturbed Filip had married a man. Some of them knew Grant was gay too, but they didn’t make a big deal of it. He also got to see the country really well. Not just the regular tourist stops like Zagreb and Split, but also villages where families had inhabited the same houses for centuries.

He was in one of those villages now, not far from the Bosnian border. Its name, with so many consonants in a row, was impossible for him to pronounce correctly. The terrain was surprisingly rugged, mountainous karst with forests and rivers. Beautiful even now, in the depths of winter.

Grant sat with Miro—one of Filip’s distant cousins, home for Christmas break from the university in Zagreb—in the town’s only bar, an ancient kavana with stone walls and heavy beams along the ceiling. Miro was eager to practice his already excellent English with a native speaker. He was smoking a cigarette, which Grant thought was illegal. But since almost everyone else was smoking too, he concluded carcinogen-free air was apparently not a priority of local law enforcement.

“You had a good job and you quit?” Miro asked incredulously.