Page 42: A Novella Excerpt

Premise: José, a Mexican-American teen from Florida, discovers he’s the descendent of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of the Sun, and learns what he must do to save the dying god and ultimately the world.

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page 42 cover


As José sat in the tub, steam rising from the water, he pondered the day’s happenings. Seeing his grandmother, chest coated in blood, what she told him, the book…

As promised, the little black book was with him on the bathroom counter. It seemed silly to keep it with him everywhere he went, but José found that he couldn’t bring himself to leave it behind. It felt wrong somehow.

Make sure you’re alone, Abuela’s voice echoed in his head. Turn to page 42 and read it aloud. Come back tomorrow and tell me what happened.

What could she possibly expect would happen?

He gazed at the book as he toweled off. It was simple-looking enough – just a small, black leather-bound book. But it had a strange image on the front. In gold foil, there was some sort of warrior image that looked very much like something out of José’s history lessons. Some Aztec warrior or something.

I guess my attention hasn’t been 100% in history class, he thought.

José retired to his room and dressed for bed. He lit a few candles, then locked the door. His cheeks flushed as he checked his closet, assuring his solitude. He laughed to himself when he found it empty.

“Ridiculous!” he muttered. “I’m just as bad as Abuela!” He checked his windows next, then closed the blinds.
“OK…page 42…” José opened the book and thumbed through the pages. It was filled with all manner of peculiar diagrams, recipes that called for ingredients José had never heard of, and bunches of poem-like text.

Page 42 began with instructions, followed by text to be read aloud. The instructions called for six candles to be lit in a circle at the center of the room. He moved the already lit candles into formation and added a couple more.

“All right,” José said. “Here goes nothing.
“Of the Sun and of the ground,
“Cast your divine energies down.
“Unto the light and unto the dark,
“Holy Spirit, transcend into my heart.
“Hear my pleas and ascend to Earth,
“I give you the portal to ascend to birth.
“I invoke… Huitzilopochtli?”

José’s candle flames suddenly burst, reaching the ceiling. José jumped and tumbled to the floor, eyes saucers. The candle flames surged together on the ceiling, creating a swirling circle of fire. The circle intensified, then descended from the ceiling like a great pillar. José scrambled to his feet and shielded his eyes from the bright light.

A moment later the flames lessened, and José opened his eyes to find a glorious being standing before him. He looked like a man, but his skin was a brilliant cobalt, and he stood seven feet tall. He wore an elaborate headdress with long, green feathers and shorter red and white feathers. They sat high atop his head like a Mohawk, grazing the now charred ceiling, while more feathers trailed downward across his back. A human skull sat like a crown at the center, the mandible on a necklace below. On his face were intricate black markings, like those painted on for war. But his eyes… it was as if they were two suns blazing. It hurt to look in them. He was huge and muscular, and truly magnificent. José gawked, slack-jawed.

“Who summons me?” A low voice rumbled through the room. “Who of my descendants has summoned me to Earth?”
It took a moment for José to realize that he should probably answer, and cleared his throat.

“I…I did, señor.”

Huitzilopochtli cast his fiery gaze down to the scrawny Mexican-American boy.

“And you are?”

“José,” José replied readily.


“S-Sí, señor. José — José Martin Gutiérrez Ramón. Señor.”

Without a word, Huitzilopochtli thrust his right hand into José’s chest. José tried to scream, but his voice died in his throat. Huitzilopochtli grasped onto José’s heart and clenched it tightly. Pain scorched through José like he never knew. It felt as if his heart had gasoline poured on it and was set ablaze. With each beat, the fire coursed through his veins; through his arms, his legs, feet and fingers. Each beat pounded in his brain like a great drum.

Twenty beats passed, then Huitzilopochtli released him, and he collapsed to the floor.

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