Half-Resurrection Blues_ A Bone Street Rumba Novel - Daniel Jose Older
To live in the Borderlands means
the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;
To survive the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.
“To live in the Borderlands means you”
It’s just past eleven p.m. on December thirty-first—that dizzy in-between time when we’re not quite here but not yet there—and hip, young white kids crowd the trendy streets of Park Slope, Brooklyn. Their pockmarked faces flash a theatrical array of expressions, everything from regret to ecstasy to total abandon, but I’m not fooled: they’re bored out of their minds. I can tell because I’m dead—well, partially dead anyway. When you straddle a fine line like the one between life and death, let’s just say you can tell certain things about people.
I dip into a brightly lit tobacco store for some Malagueñas and a pocket-sized rum. The rum goes into my flask and one of the Malagueñas goes in my mouth. I light it, walk back out to the street, and weave through the crowds. When I move quickly, no one notices my strange gait or the long wooden cane I use to favor my right leg. I’ve gotten the flow down so smooth I almost glide along toward the milky darkness of Prospect Park. There’s too much information here in the streets—each passing body gives up a whole symphony of smells and memories and genetics. It can help pass the time if you’re bored, but tonight, I’m far from bored.
Tonight I am hunting.
Music wafts out of a bar across the street—a kind of watery blues that evokes dentists’ waiting rooms. The hipsters roam up and down the block in packs, playing out a whole mess of different daytime-drama plotlines. There’s a few black and brown folks around, but they’re mostly staying out of the way. And me? I’m a grayish off-brown—a neither-here-nor-there color that matches my condition. It would be a jarring skin tone to notice, but I tend to just blend in. That’s fine with me. Whatever it is that’s been causing all this static is out there tonight. I’m sure of it. The more I can disappear, the more chance I have of catching them.
* * *
It’s been two weeks now. Two weeks of a vague and irritating twinge crawling up my spine every time I get near the crest of Flatbush Avenue. I’ve been walking circles around that area like an idiot, trying to sniff out the source. Stood for hours beneath the big archway with its soldiers’ frozen battle cries and elaborate stonework; closed my eyes and just listened, feeling all the damn spiritual vibrations ricochet across Brooklyn. Major throughways shoot off toward Flatbush and into Crown Heights, but I narrowed it down to some indedamnterminate spot in the Slope.
When I took it to my icy superiors at the New York Council of the Dead, they nodded their old fully dead heads and turned silently in on themselves to conference. A few hours later they called me back in. Because I’m an inbetweener, and the only one anyone knows of at that, the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s some mundane shit—cleanup work. But every once in a while it gets really hairy, and that’s when I go hunting. These are the times when I forget that I was ever even dead. Whatever shadow of life or humanity pertains to me—I know God put me on this fine planet to hunt.
Plus I’m good at it.
But the Council was all kinds of vague about this one. No explanation, just a photo of a man slid across the table with icy fingers. We believe this is the source, Carlos. His name is Trevor Brass. Do your thing.
An icy pause. Eliminate him.
And me: “Care to elucidate further?”
And them: Nope.
And what can really be said to that? They’re dead. They don’t have to elucidate shit. I don’t mind though. Makes things more interesting.
Oh, and protect the entrada at all costs.
See, the dead are good for coming up with some last-minute oh-and-by-the-way type shit. Protect the entrada. An entrada is an entrance to the Underworld. There’s only a couple scattered around the city, and they’re supposed to be well guarded by a team of fully dead COD soulcatchers, impenetrable and all that, but really, it happens. Soulcatchers have other things to do, turns out, than stand around flickering doors to