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rey infinito – Guatemala Arc

An endless abyss of time appears before the Ripple users…

La extraña aventura de JoJo: rey infinito (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Infinity King)

Guatemala Arc

Author – Junjo Shindo        Original Concept – Hirohiko Araki

Published in JOJO magazine 2022 SPRING

TranslatorCinda | Translation CheckVish / BlueCombElephant / Android

* Note that content is subject to future improvements.
The original story in Japanese uses Spanish words with katakana on top of kanji to show how the words should be read. We tried to do the same approach by including the Spanish words in this translation. The English translation of each word will display when you hover or tap on the italicized text.

Please comment below if you catch mistakes or have ideas for improvements.

 

Chapter I

Guatemala, 1973

A fearful monstruo was running rampant in the streets of the ancient capital of Guatemala, but the Antiguan people had more to fear than only the hoz de la muerte wielded by a killer on the loose.

The menace of a killer hiding in their country festered within the capital like a plague or devil, but at the time, the forest, hills, and towns of Guatemala were embroiled in constant civil war fought by the army and revolutionaries. Rather than confronting this tumor upon their lives, they had to focus on fleeing the grandes incendios that destroyed the familiar sights of their hometowns. They did anything they could to avoid glimpsing the shadow of death that loomed over them all like a circling flock of vultures.

In Antigua, the religious capital, a rite known as the cuerpo de Cristo is conducted in the early spring, before Pascua. This marks the beginning of Semana Santa, during which Jesus experienced the Pasión and muerte in Jerusalem before his resurrection. In commemoration, a parade of floats decorated to represent these events proceeds down streets filled with buildings and churches built in the época colonial. When the parade begins, worshipers dressed in festival clothing lead the way, waving censers filled with burning incense. The fragrant smoke fills the streets, creeping up narrow stairwells and into every nook and cranny of the churches and monasteries. They are followed by a brass band, then finally the parade floats, decorated with statues of Jesus and Mary. The roads the floats pass over are decorated with colorful alfombras.

Each of these carpets is decorated with intricate patterns made up of a variety of materials including sawdust, vegetables, flowers, and leaves. They feature religious art, calligraphy, and even sculptures made entirely of bread. These one-of-a-kind works of art paint the city in vivid color. As this was an event worthy of distinction from even the other cultural touchstones of Antigua, people of all classes band together to devote themselves to the crafting of these alfombras. As citizens spend the entire year saving up for the festivities, even the soldiers standing guard from their cars avoid treading on the fruits of their labor.

People young and old form huge crowds in the streets. Firecrackers pop, confetti flutters in the breeze, and roadside carts sell souvenirs and tortillas. Girls come straight from their primera comunión dressed up and ready to dance. But this year, even in the midst of Antigua’s liveliest celebration, several men coolly kept a strict watch over the crowd.

There was a high chance that the monstruo would appear at this year’s Semana Santa. These men were agents employed by a certain organization, an organization that came to that conclusion after conducting a secret investigation towards the end of the previous year. The non-governmental organization worked internationally with its massive budget, increased its market shares in the science, welfare, and medicine industries, and even boasted a division devoted entirely to the study of supernatural phenomena. It was called the Speedwagon Foundation.

It all began with an opinion piece published in an American magazine titled “A Killer Lurking in the War-Torn Streets of Guatemala”. The author of the article, a Mexican journalist, claimed the police were puppets of the military regime, more concerned with tracking down and arresting left-wing opponents than stopping the killer. They claimed that over 20 murder cases containing the same firma had been covered up by the Guatemalan government. The CIA, an American organization that supported the pro-American dictatorship, refused to comment. However, news of what was happening in the ancient capital of Guatemala reached several human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, particularly the Speedwagon Foundation, who attached great importance to the killer’s firma and dispatched investigators to the location. The team, made up of specialists from every field, spent five months investigating each crime scene and interviewing local police, families of the deceased, coroners, priests, psychiatrists, and representatives of both the military and the revolutionaries. At the same time, the team opened exhaustive investigations into local incidents. After carefully considering their findings, the group’s representative, J.D. Hernández, sent a comprehensive investigation report to Foundation headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The contents of the report are as follows:

  1. All 27 victims were shot to death. Each victim had dozens of external injuries that closely resembled bullet wounds. However, no shell casings were discovered at any of the scenes. None were embedded in the wall nor the floor, and none were found in the victims’ bodies. This commonality is what tied these cases to a single serial killer—the signature. The investigation team has taken to calling these “invisible bullets”.
  2. All cases are locked-room mysteries, having occurred in locked hotel rooms, cars, and victims’ homes. The possibility of the killings being caused by long-range sniping was considered, but there was no evidence of bullets having broken windows; indeed, one crime scene had a ventilation fan as the only potential entry point.
  3. Whether man or woman, young or old, mestizo or indígena, the killer did not discriminate. The only thing victims had in common was their status as devout Christians.
  4. In connection to (iii), incidents of destroyed holy icons and crucifixes at churches and monasteries of every denomination in Antigua spiked when the killings began. Images of figures such as Jesus and the Virgin of Guadalupe were among those destroyed. Analysis of fragments of destroyed bronze and plaster statues reveals they were not struck with a blunt object such as a baseball bat, but shattered by many small projectiles. Chances are high that this damage was also caused by the “invisible bullets”.
  5. Extrapolating from the findings detailed in (i)~(iv), it can be concluded that the killer is likely to have a pathological revulsion towards holy iconography (holy statues, crucifixes, literature, artifacts, altars, etc.), also known as hierophobia. According to experts, hierophobics are more likely to fear their own religion vice rival religions. The killings may have been motivated by hierophobia triggered by worshipers openly displaying their beliefs through actions such as wearing crucifixes or making the sign of the cross.
  6. In addition, the details on these “invisible bullets”, our greatest concern, are not yet understood. They seem to defy even the most fundamental laws of physics. Many of their traits cannot be explained by modern science. This may be a never-before-documented phenomenon. The author requests that an expert evaluate it for any potential link to the Ripple.

Attempts were made to reach out to the local government and parish of Antigua, but canceling the Semana Santa was inconceivable. J.D. Hernández was on high alert as he roamed the city, his body tense. Making matters worse was the fact that Antigua’s biggest parade of the year would be filling the streets with sacred iconography for an entire week.

If this monstruo, whose background and place of origin were still shrouded in mystery, saw the holy images atop every float, the alfombras, and las cruces that were put up wherever one looked… If it gave in to its horrific urges and shot balas invisibles into the crowd of countless townspeople and tourists…

Where are you? Anybody—whether they were part of the crowd or working in the parade, a member of the clergy, a soldier in a car, a police officer, a peddler, or a teporocho—could be a suspect. Even investigators who had authority… Even intelligencia working in espionage. Any suspicious persons were investigated, and depending on the situation, the team was even prepared to overstep their authority and detain suspects. This killer could be hiding a superpower on par with las Maravillas… but there was nobody with a similar ability among the Foundation’s troops. Could anybody stand against the monstruo putting Antigua’s livelihood and celebration at risk?

It was late at night on the Friday of Semana Santa, but the festivities continued. Firecrackers echoed in the distance. The members of the Foundation’s investigative team had split up to patrol the streets they had familiarized themselves with during their five-month stay. With each corner they turned, the mélange of scents in the air changed. It changed in heaviness and density—even the flavors dancing over their tongues transformed. The aroma of sawdust and flowers wafted from the alfombras, intertwining with the fragrant incense like waves crashing into one another in the dark of night. Shadows cast by torchlight formed figures on the walls, stacking atop one another and with the shadows of passersby carrying holy icons.

As J.D. Hernández passed the ruins of the Convento Santa Clara, two murky figures crept closer and closer to him. He could sense them even without looking over his shoulder. There were two people there, their shadows overlapping. The shapes split apart and stood in rank with his own shadow.

The fit-looking young man to his left spoke. “Señor, he’s on the move.” His voice was husky. “Looks like that demonic murderer couldn’t hold out any longer than Friday!”

He heard grunts coming from the frail youth to his right. The teenager was gesturing with his arms and body, trying to tell him something. According to the data J.D. had, this boy was born with some kind of speech impediment, but his amber eyes spoke volumes. Strangely enough, he could get his point across.

“The church… He’s attacking holy images again?” J.D.’s eyes widened.

“He’s talking about La Merced, the church just past the clock tower,” the larger youth said.

“Are there any casualties?”

“He says the priest of the sacristy was attacked.”

J.D. ran towards the church with the two locals following close behind, their footsteps ringing out on the stone tiles. The two men had been hired by the Speedwagon Foundation as local informants. Their names were Octavio and Joaquín. Octavio was tall and muscular, while Joaquin was smaller. Raised in a missionary-run orfanato, they had been thrown out on the streets when they strayed from the path of joining a seminary. Both were only in their late teens, but Octavio had made quite the name for himself in the streets.

Octavio had dark eyes like an herbivorous forest animal, but he would have moments when a worried expression flashed across his face, as if he was on the brink of doing something he couldn’t take back. He was a man determined to make something of himself. Joaquín was nimble like an animal as well, but there was a subtle wisdom behind his indecipherable gaze. It seemed both of the men had been involved in dirty work before, but J.D. couldn’t care less about their ability to tell right from wrong and righteousness from sin. At least, not during Semana Santa. Casting a net of agents over the entirety of Antigua had proven impossible for the Speedwagon Foundation. They needed as many silbatos to notify them of danger as they could get—that was where Octavio and his people came in.

On their signal, the back-alley network of huérfanos, teporochos, and peddlers would swarm from street to street like blood and cells. They passed on information without straying far from the parades, skillfully slipping past the watchful gazes of army men and police. With one signal from Octavio, the huérfanos would scour every inch of the back alleys, dashing and leaping across the Baroque-styled rooftops.

J.D. had been the one to hire the informants, guided by his own intuition as an investigator. He had an eye for these things. These people loved their hometown, and they were surprisingly strong. Octavio had quickly agreed to the proposal: “Of course we’ll help! What tonto would enjoy having a murderer sneaking around town?! And if we can flush him out during Semana Santa, that’s even better!”

“If you see any sign of the bastard, get out of here. I’m not letting you engage with him,” J.D. said as he ran.

“But I can be real useful in a fight,” Octavio shot back, rolling his arms.

“Just do as I say, all right?”

“Look, Joaquín here can pull his weight too. C’mon!”

Joaquín grunted. J.D dug in his heels.

“No.”

J.D made a beeline for the church. On its stone walls was a tapestry depicting the words of a hymn. Lamplight illuminated the wooden door and transom window. When J.D. knocked, the priest of the sacristy inside unlocked the door and invited him in. He was covered in blood, still waiting for an ambulance to arrive. First aid had already been given to injuries on his shoulder and stomach. They resembled bullet wounds, but the priest stated that he hadn’t heard a gunshot or seen a muzzle flash.

The priest said he had been staying late to write entries in the parish register. It was past 10 PM, and he was woken from his dozing by the sound of a stone statue shattering. He was sure he locked the door up tight. Wondering if this was the sacrilegious beast he had been hearing about, he searched the sanctuary. The statue of Saint Francisco was in pieces near the pulpit, but the lock and windows were untouched. The priest looked outside, lighting the way with a candle. His intuition guided him behind the church, where he saw a man hidden in the shadows.

The man swayed from side to side, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He was of average height, dark-skinned, and his bulky body was covered in hair. He looked to be an indígena, a group well-represented in town. The man was hiding his face in his hands, moaning pitifully as if he was crying, or trying to cry. But when he removed his hands, the man was smiling. No tears streaked his cheeks. The priest thought the man was a drug addict. Just as the priest was about to question his suspicious movements, the man brought his left hand over his head and flicked his wrist.

The priest immediately felt a searing pain in his right shoulder. A moment later, the left side of his stomach felt white-hot as well. He fell to the ground, screaming in fear and agony, and prayed to God and the Holy Mother Mary. He knew he had been shot, but why? The man had nothing resembling a gun. It was like an invisible bullet pierced his shoulder and made an instant U-turn to come back and burrow into his stomach.

“No doubt about it,” J.D. said. That man was the monstruo.

So the bullets had turned around? If that was true, these were no mere balas invisibles.

They were balas mágicas.

Perhaps breaking the statues was like a pre-dinner drink for the monstruo, giving him the courage to strike out into the city for his main course free of remorse.

After borrowing a brass carbide lantern, J.D. took out the pistol he had been issued for self-defense and gave chase. First, he investigated the church’s perimeter, leaving no stone unturned. The informants wanted to accompany him, but J.D. told them to pass the news on to the other investigators, an order that Octavio reluctantly followed.

The alfombras around the streets had been thrown into disarray, statues of saints and steles laying shattered on the pavement. This is terrible, thought J.D. as he followed its path of blasphemous destruction. It’s like coming here made it lose all self-control. He asked bystanders whether they had seen a person suddenly collapse or anybody with unexplained wounds. After walking down Ancha de los Herreros, a street that looked up to the Cerro de la Cruz, he turned left and instantly saw a souvenir vendor stumbling down the road.

Policía, policía,” the vendor called. When J.D. asked her what had happened, she claimed that she had seen a man heading into the courtyard of a convent at the end of the road a few minutes earlier. When she tried sneaking over for a closer look, she heard the man groan several times like he was fighting the urge to vomit, but he failed soon after. The vendor saw him crouching over an unconscious nun and screamed, startling the man into fleeing underneath the arch and deeper into the convent.

Standing in the atrium of the convent, J.D. gazed up at the ceiling. The smoke of candles placed in a niche slowly crept up to the ceiling, gathering in thick, ochre-colored clouds. He heard rushed footsteps coming from the aisles behind him, followed by the sound of something heavy falling. After ordering the nuns frozen in fear to go back to their rooms, he approached the sounds’ origin. A wooden pillar engraved with the image of the archangel Gabriel lay toppled on the floor. Behind it, a stone stairway descended underground, the trapdoor that hid it now ripped off its hinges.

He held his lantern up at eye level. The stone walls of the underground hallway stretched on and on into darkness. It was an escape tunnel, built by the priests’ masons during the época colonial.

The silence was oppressive.

It was as if he had descended into Infierno, as if time itself had no meaning here. He felt akin to some foreign object, helpless to displace the heart-stopping silence and dullness that filled the passageway…

He felt like a sacrifice left at the altar of some dark being. To the killers and beasts that crawled in the dark of night, perhaps the pitch-black underground was a soothing place to rest. A sound echoed from the end of the tunnel. The monstruo was here, without a doubt… Perhaps it was just his nerves, but the air seemed too thin. The uniform, painstakingly-built stone walls were sapping away his body heat. The scent of ice crept into his nose. He continued down the tunnel and turned right. He turned again, and kept going straight. The path never branched, but it was disconcertingly long. Surely it had to end somewhere, but he couldn’t shake off the worry that he would be trapped down here.

The floors were clear of filth and sewage. Not a single rat scurried across his path. But the emptiness only made it stranger when he was struck by the sight of a stray dog’s remains. It appeared to have wandered in from another entrance and died here three days ago. Maggots squirmed over its eyes, snout, and exposed ribs. More made ripples under its bulging skin.

A whistling noise pierced the air, shattering the silence.

The next instant, a projectile struck his lantern.

Shards of glass and carbide fell to the ground.

What just happened?

He tried to relight it to no avail. The flame wouldn’t kindle. Had he been attacked by those balas invisibles just now? The fact that he was a powerless human against a wielder of supernatural powers made no difference to him. He would find and capture this man all the same. That was the duty of an investigator. But right now, he had no way to keep up the pursuit. In these pitch-black tunnels, failing to put some distance between them could spell disaster. J.D. felt like he was being strangled by the darkness. He was being buried alive here beneath the streets of Antigua.

Why had the man aimed for the lantern when he could have struck his head or heart? Was it all just some game to him, a way to toy with his pursuer’s mind? A chill ran down J.D.’s spine. He could feel a heaviness deep in his stomach.

His pulse quickened, and he felt colder and colder. The tunnel was so dark that it made no difference whether his eyes were open or closed. As he was feeling his way along the wall, stepping cautiously like a tightrope-walker, something tugged on the sleeve of his jacket.

He heard a grunt. One of the local boys had gone against J.D.’s orders and followed him in.

“Is that you, Joaquín?” asked J.D. “How’d you come all this way with no light?”

He couldn’t hear Octavio or sense him anywhere nearby. Only his mute friend was here. Joaquín grabbed J.D.’s wrist and took off running as forcefully as he would to free a grounded boat. He wants me to come with him? There was no hesitation in the way the man was running; he didn’t slow down even once. He seemed to understand that they needed to leave the tunnels right away, and he avoided obstacles with ease. The man’s perfect navigation made J.D. want to ask the man if he could see in this darkness.  

He can.

No… that’s impossible.

No human could possibly see in a place devoid of even the faintest ray of light. J.D. assumed it was an advantage the locals had. Perhaps navigating these tunnels was a matter of knowing the streets above well enough, or perhaps it was that they knew this system so well that they could run through it blindfolded.

“Unh! Unnnh! Unnnh!” Joaquín grunted, pulling J.D. off-balance. The air filled with the sound of swarming flies, and something hard and sharp rained down on the pair. The pain J.D. felt as his cheeks and forehead were split open was like being slashed by an executioner’s axe. Blood dripped into his eyes and mouth.

This is unbearable. J.D. ducked down as he ran. He groaned, trying to protect his face with his arms. The cloud of needle-covered projectiles they ran through buzzed like a swarm of insects. He was beginning to understand what people had meant by “balas invisibles”. It seemed these were what had destroyed the statues and ended the lives of so many townspeople. Were that the case, this wasn’t the Ripple at all, but something else entirely…

Joaquín’s navigational skills proved correct. Soon, the darkness began to fade. After climbing a narrow set of stone steps, they emerged in the plaza in front of a catedral.

 

Now that the parade had arrived here, it was hitting its climax. The largest statue of all had reached the end of the parade. It depicted Jesus carrying la cruz to the hill of Golgotha. A ring of countless spectators had gathered to watch. The illuminated catedral was a dazzling sight in the dim night. Holy banners had been unfurled from the windows in celebration. Confetti danced in the air, and vendors lined up in the plaza served brightly-dressed townspeople. Shopkeepers pushed and shoved to have a chance to pray to the statue of Jesus, brass bands blasted their instruments, and echoes of liturgical music were carried on the wind. It was as if Antigua itself was shaking with excitement. Impatience had whipped J.D. into a frenzy when he left the tunnel. Where is he? He could be set off by this chaos at any moment. Were they going to lose his trail after coming so close to finding him?

“Hey, over here!” A voice rang out over the crowd. “This is the guy! He just came running out of the tunnels!”

Octavio was fighting in the street, wrestling with somebody. The man struggled like a wounded animal, cracking stone tiles and stirring up clouds of dust as Octavio tried to pin him down by the neck. He was a scruffy, dark-skinned indígena, just as the priest had described.

Octavio knew about the underground passage, just like Joaquín. After ensuring that Joaquín followed J.D. into the tunnels, he had staged an ambush at the other end. It was a clever idea. Octavio had already done better than he ever anticipated, but fighting was always risky, no matter how much confidence one had. If that man truly was the monstruo of Antigua…

“You’ve got nowhere left to run! It’s over, so stop resisting!”

Octavio let out a battle cry. J.D. ran towards them, yelling at him to let go. A crowd had formed around them. Foundation workers were rushing to the scene. Soldiers that had been guarding the catedral came over, blowing their whistles. An old lady teporocho came with her cart, and merchant children wandered over as well. “It’s not safe here! Go home, now!” J.D. wanted to shout. The man Octavio had pinned raised his arms and began to frantically move his fingers as if he was signaling in semaphore.

He heard something. Bzz

Bzz-zzz-zzzzz. The air shook.

Bzz-zzz-zzzzzzzz. The noise was coming from all directions. It reverberated from between buildings and streamed from the tunnel.  

They flew in like leaves blown in the wind. Screams rang out. “¡Moscas! ¡Es un enjambre de moscas!

A huge swarm of what looked like flies descended upon them. The dark cloud blotted out the already-faint light of the night sky.

Were it daytime, it would be a pseudo eclipse solar—a band of darkness that blackened the entire sky. Bzzzzz, bzzzzz, bzzzzzzzz… The night itself quaked. The landscape seemed to vibrate before one’s very eyes. The people of Antigua had no way of understanding what this cloud of moscas was. But as inhabitants of the religious capital, their instincts told them that this could only be a sign of the apocalipsis.

Bzzz!

The scruffy indígena flicked his wrist in a motion like posca con mosca, and the swarm nosedived towards the earth.

J.D. could tell that these were no mere moscas. These were objects for the monstruo’s Eucharist.

Each fly sped like an assassin’s bullet. It was a full-on air raid.

Bzz!

Bzzz-zzzzz!

Bzzz-zzzzz-zzz!

Bzz-zzzzz-zzzzz!

The flies were raining down like artillery, all aimed straight at Octavio.

These were no ordinary moscas. They were lethal weapons that targeted light and heat, hard enough to rip through flesh and shatter bone. Octavio’s grip on the man loosened only when he was struck in the shoulder and back. He crawled away, covering his head, and scrambled behind cover. The cruz that the statue of Jesus was carrying cracked and then crumbled, its shards being lost into the murky, black whirlpool.

What remained of the statue made it look like it had been caught in an explosion. The catedral square had turned into a war zone. These projectiles were enactors of the pasión and the muerte. All the vivid hues of Semana Santa vanished in the inklike swarm, leaving the plaza dark and apocalyptic. Panicking people scurried in every direction, hiding beneath floats and knocking down stalls, only worsening the chaos. One man, Antigua’s monstruo, stood at the center of it all, waving his arms as if to direct the moscas and chanting in a language that wasn’t Spanish. Was he shedding tears of joy or of sadness? Grief, joy, regret, and religious ecstasy flashed across his face as he wept.

But as tears dripped down his chin, it looked as if this was something that shamed him to his very core, something he was doing under duress. J.D. wanted to approach him, but couldn’t. His field of vision blurred. The shape of the monstruo about ten meters away warped, the air behind it wavering it like it was an espejismo. The troops employed guerilla tactics against the moscas, firing a tracer shot with their automatic rifles, but no spray of gunfire would be enough to stop this moscas bombardeo. There was no way to fight back.

This was the worst-case scenario, a nightmare made reality. The moscas were clearly moving according to the man’s will. J.D. had no means of standing up to this tyrannical beast. Antigua’s monstruo was indisputably blowing the silbato de masacre.

The army’s chain of command broke down, and the Foundation and police’s forces didn’t stand a chance. They needed to at least evacuate the citizens, but there was nothing to hide under in the open-air plaza. If they fled into the catedral, the winged harbingers of death could fly in through an air vent or window. The brass band’s instruments, abandoned on the ground, were now dotted with holes. The alfombras were in ruins. Even the roofs of the army’s vehicles looked like Swiss cheese. Children that hadn’t gotten away in time cowered on the ground and the teporocho old lady had fallen down. It was every man for himself as townspeople fought to hide in the plaza fountain. The moscas attack wore on. J.D. wasn’t able to help even a single person.

Is there no salvation to be had?

Even now, the Lord won’t answer this ancient city’s prayers?

Is this chaos stopping their prayers from reaching Him?

Suddenly, the scent of flowers filled the air.

J.D. looked down at his feet. Countless bits of glass and broken statues lay scattered on the ground.

The light of lanterns and torches refracted in the shards of glass, glittering faintly.

As if propelled by each tiny light, countless flowers and leaves were fluttering into the air.

Incredible… The pieces of the destroyed alfombras were floating straight up into the sky—no, in a spiral.

The leaves, flowers, and dyed sawdust danced up towards the heavens almost as if they had been electrified or imbued with new life. But it seemed as if they were not being pulled to Heaven, but pushed up by a miraculous, earthly wind…

So this is it. This is las Maravillas we’ve heard about… J.D. finally understood. It was an ancient art originating in Tibet, a secret technique that allowed one to create streams of energy. The greenery and sawdust had become conduits for the Ripple, piling atop one another in layers and forming a massive dome that covered the entire plaza. Acting as an electrified mosquitero, it completely blocked the attacking moscas. It radiated the same life energy found in sunlight, repelling each attack from the moscas and keeping them out. She was here, hidden somewhere in the swarm. That woman had made it in time. While he had never heard of the Ripple being used this way, J.D. had heard the stories of its users. Over a quarter century ago, they had put down a threat larger than the one assailing Antigua right now—perhaps large enough to destroy the Earth itself. Those people could fix this—they were the only ones who could.

The chaos that had transpired here at this catedral did not yet have a name. Neither did the phenomenon that the townspeople had just borne witness to. But the latter had a name bestowed upon it by the Speedwagon Foundation the very next day: Thousand-Color Overdrive.

The teporocho woman who had fallen on top of an alfombra rose to her feet in one fluid motion. She had been crouched over it with her hands splayed, as if she was prostrating herself, lost in prayer.

Her appearance as a teporocho had only been a disguise, but she was indeed an old woman. Long plata-colored hair flowed down her back like a waterfall when she took off her hood. Her face was half-hidden by a muffler, but there was a nobility about her eyes that pierced one’s soul.

How old was this woman? J.D. didn’t know for sure. What did she truly look like? He had heard that the Ripple had anti-aging qualities that caused most practitioners to look twenty or thirty years younger, but at some point she had stopped concerning herself with such upkeep. Still, she aged naturally and beautifully, like a fine wine. She was filled with pure, distilled energy. Her curves were like that of the famous Stradivarius violins, and her high heels resembled the stakes pierced through vampire hearts. When they met eyes, she and J.D. exchanged a meaningful look. She walked towards Antigua’s monstruo, scattering the remaining moscas with the rosewood cane she had on hand. He continued to thrash about, refusing to accept the fact that he had lost. With each step, she seemed to stride over the night itself.

The monstruo realized the old woman was approaching him. He shrieked something, likely in the language of the indígenas. The words streamed uncontrollably from his mouth like saliva. In stark contrast, the woman’s words were in pristine Queen’s English:

“The festival is over. What this ancient city wants tonight is silence.”

J.D. dashed to where the two stood, giving orders to other investigators.

This woman, who was distinguished even among the other surviving Ripple users, had chosen to come here herself. The owner of a never-observed power, a sought-after subject for their research, could not be allowed to slip away.

The other investigators joined her as she drew her gun and drew closer.

“Would you like some help?” She spoke in a dignified, gentle voice. “If you won’t shut your mouth, I can do it for you.”

The monstruo was finally realizing the gravity of the situation. His face seemed to ask, “What the hell did that senile old lady just do? The moscas aren’t listening to me anymore.” His mouth stretched open as if he was about to let out a dying scream.

A faint hum rose from the back of his throat as a single mosca flew out, followed by a swarm that gushed out like overflowing water. They raced towards the woman like a driving rain, but she did not yield. She didn’t even hesitate. She simply walked to the spot she was meant to be, a spot she had chosen before; her movements were not particularly urgent. Her attack was not an excessive show of power nor a flaunting of her abilities. She used her muffler, a garment brimming with luster like silk, to redirect the flow of the stream of moscas to her left. Then, she skillfully moved to close the gap and took the monstruo’s throat in her hands.

“Goodnight,” she whispered as she flooded his system with the Ripple, as if she was scolding a puppy who had just soiled the carpet or lulling a rosy-cheeked little boy to sleep. The monstruo fell unconscious like he had been shocked with a cattle prod. There had been no need for J.D. and the others’ help. She was skilled enough to bring that amazing dome into reality and choke a man just enough to put him to sleep. One could not help but be amazed upon witnessing this rare breathing technique known as the Ripple. After serving as a special advisor for the Speedwagon Foundation for a long time, she had been appointed as the head of the Paranormal Phenomena Section just a few years before. This woman could have been giving orders from the safety of the Foundation headquarters, but instead she went back to the field, working directly with investigators. Even now, she was in active service.

“Apologies if my late arrival inconvenienced you. A matter in Peru kept me occupied longer than I expected.”

She handed over the restrained monstruo to the team of Foundation medics that had arrived. The beautiful woman didn’t forget to acknowledge the accomplishments of her subordinates.

“Look at this fly,” she said, examining one of the bullets resting atop her palm. “It was a ferocious thing with skin as hard as cast-iron or steel, but now it’s returned to its natural form. It must be because its master fell unconscious. Hernández, we have to find a way to answer the questions you laid out in your report.”

“Ma’am, do you think this isn’t the Ripple after all?”  

The doubts J.D. had been holding on to all this time were confirmed with a nod of his superior’s head.

“The Ripple is the energy of the sun—a stream of life energy. But I believe this stems from something… darker, deeper. The dark side of the human psyche made manifest. This encounter has only given my theory more weight. The world is transforming… or perhaps it transformed long ago. We must work to understand this phenomenon. South America marks the center of a whirlpool of change that will only grow larger…. large enough to envelop the entire planet.”

At this point in time, at this place, the future and past would meet—the fate of the Speedwagon Foundation was caught in a whirlpool of swirling time, a historical turning point. According to records, the monstruo of Antigua would go on to become the first in a long series of investigations carried out in the following years. No resource was spared in the study of this unique group of abilities. Although their origins were connected, any similarities shared with the Ripple were only surface-level. This nueva Maravilla, still unnamed in April 1973, would eventually be known all throughout the world. The woman was trying to make J.D. and the other Foundation members recognize the gravity of this knowledge. These abilities were awakened from within… The woman’s brilliant, clear blue eyes could see the turbulent destiny laid out before her bloodline.

When she spoke with the investigators later, she declared that there must have been some trigger that caused the man they encountered that evening to awaken to his powers.

Lisa Lisa had a theory. “He must have been struck by the Bow and Arrow.”


Glossary

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