Coal’s hand was tight on the wheel as they moved through the darkness of Lagos at night, whipping through the streets.
Coal’s car was weirdly clean with a kind of sterilised feel Star couldn’t get a grip on. Like the outside, the inside was jet clean. There wasn’t a stray wrapper or even a part that had dust that she could see.
Everything was where it was meant to be.
Star brought out the piece of parchment and read out the next item on the list, “The…tears of Oya,” she read out and then she looked at Coal who answered her unspoken question.
“Oya was the wife of Sango — ” He was saying.
“Wait,” Star said, her hands were up, “so Oya was a god?”
Coal sighed. “Yes.”
“Oh,” Star said, nodding, then she looked at Coal. “Continue.”
Coal hesitated and looked like he was about to say some choice words but stopped himself. Then, “Oya was the wife of Sango. But something happened to him one day, they say a darkness gripped him from another world, some say that he turned mad; either way, the outcome was the same. Two dead children.”
Star’s mouth was open. “He killed them?”
Coal’s eyes stayed on the road. “Yes. He did. And Oya wept, and wept, and wept. Her tears are said to have special properties. It’s weird that Doreen would want this for the ingredients.”
Coal looked at her and then shook his head. “Doesn’t matter.” With his left hand on the steering, he pulled the obsidian ring off his right hand with his other fingers, it slipped easily and he handed it to Star who looked at it.
It felt cold. Very cold. Not like ice, ice didn’t have a menacing feel to it. Something about this felt wrong.
“What’s this?” Star breathed as she stared closely at the ring.
“Things are about to get very dangerous,” he said, his eyes never leaving the road. “You need a weapon.”
Something clicked in Star’s mind. “Wait, wait,” she said, “these are your daggers? They’re in the rings?”
“Wear it,” Coal said.
Star looked at him and then the ring and then him again. “I’m twelve,” she said.
Coal nodded. “That’s good. Congratulations. The big one — two.”
Star looked at him still. “I mean, I’m twelve. I can’t carry a weapon.”
“Because I’m twelve!”
This time Coal looked at her.
“We’re about to do things that would scare the hell out of any normal person,” he said. “I know you’re twelve, but you’re also about to bring your dead mother back to life. You crossed the threshold of what a twelve-year-old was a long way back.
“If you want, I can take you back myself but if you’re here, you need to be able to protect yourself.”
Star looked at the ring again. “But I don’t even know how to use it.”
“It’s easy. You point it at the enemy, and then you stab them.”
Star looked at him. Coal went back to driving. “Wear it,” he prodded.
This time, she did and the cold feeling enveloped her whole being and she gasped. “Woah.”
“Now,” Coal said, “flick your hand outwards and think, dagger.”
Star flicked her hand outwards but the ring remained a ring.
“You have to really be there,” he said, “you have to focus on it like it was the only thing in the world. You have to have one mind.”
Star looked at him and then the ring again and she let out a breath. She took one in, and let it out again.
She took a deep breath in. Then out.
She felt the ring on her finger, and how it flowed and ebbed with power and she flicked her hand outwards and shrieked when she heard the cold chink of metal — and in her hands now was a dagger with a blade as black as night.
“Woah,” Star said, “this is so…cool.”
“It is,” Coal said, a ghost of a smile on his lips. Star noticed for the first time that the tattoos on his skin were glowing now.
“Where are we going?”
“Surprising how you can forget, but we’re going to find the next ingredient on the list: Oya’s tears.”
“Ugh,” Star rolled her eyes and she looked at a tree she was sure they had passed before, “but where exactly are we going? Are we meeting someone?”
“No,” Coal said darkly as he slowed down, the brakes screeching, making the only sounds that could be heard on that lonely street. “They’re meeting us.”
Star was about to ask what was happening when she saw that there was someone standing outside, right on the road, in front of their car, a figure bathed in their headlights.
Coal stopped the engine, his eyes never leaving her. “Stay here,” he said. And then, “Stay. Here.”
“Okay,” Star said, suddenly scared. There was something about Coal’s voice that put the fear in her. Not his anger, but his own fear. Something was off.
He left the car and went to meet the person in front of the car.
Now, the windows in Coal’s Toyota are soundproof, bulletproof and most importantly, childproof.
They could withstand pressures that would break the average car and could possibly even withstand a missile strike. But when the figure slapped coal, whipping his head sideways, Star heard it.
As clear as day. Or night.
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