It was only once a month the Chapulas would journey to the big city for provisions. Usually, the local market was sufficient for their modest needs. They had a homestead, including their own vegetable patch, a small orchard with an apple, pear, and plum trees. They even had livestock. They would slaughter a cow once a year and could feed the family for up to a year. There were fowl and sheep as well. So, they only needed to go to the market once a week. But Irepani, Tanok’s father, was enchanted by the new neuromancer spells available at the city, and they took what seemed to Tanok half-a-day’s journey to the metropolis to visit the shaman. The shaman had recently acquired several new tools of neuromancy, a type of shared dream projected by the most wretched and crafty of wizards and warlocks, in an exercise of sordid depravity. An entire tribe of maleficent and debauched outcasts writhing in their own disgusting refuse for millennia had, with this discovery of neuromancy, swiftly capitalized on this new technology and ascended the pyramid.

At the shaman’s vestibule, each of the neuromancy crystals were enclosed in a black box labeled with a simple title for each spell. The shaman operated his modest shop like a library and would allow access to the crystal for a week before it was to be returned. The crystal provided the experience of a collective dream with friends and family simultaneously. The boxes had a peculiar odor novel to Tanok, lacking any of the earthy smell of dirt and livestock back home. It had a sweet, foreign, alien smell. The family walked up and down the aisles inspecting the title of each crystal and short description of the spell each one cast. One provides the simulation of love at first sight and the misadventures of star-crossed lovers. Another spell replicated the adventure of a monumental discovery of the relics and ghosts of the ancestors of a mysterious alien race.

For Tanok, Irepani chose a spell about the life of a duck. This particular duck walks and talks as a person does, and he travels down though the Pueblos of Chihuahua to the cliffs of Patagonia. The spell made Irepani very nostalgic. A year earlier, Tanok and his parents made a pilgrimage to a village of neuromancy, once considered to be the source of the fountain of youth, to honor and worship the animalistic totems therein. In the swampy Seminole heat, they danced with medicine men dressed in the colorful robes fashioned like animals; they chanted hymns and waited in long lines with other pilgrims. The animal totems were larger than life and engaging; here a gentle and warm-hearted mouse, there a simpleton dog. The duck, on the other hand, was irascible and quick to anger. Irepani had bought little Tanok a hat fashioned after the duck’s bill. Tanok had even met the duck, who far more kind in real life than Tanok expected. It was Tanok’s most cherished moment of the pilgrimage.

The spell was cast, and Tanok was entranced by the vivid colors the Duck had portrayed in his voyage. The Duck befriended a Parrot and a Rooster. However, near the end of the spell, the Duck is frustrated in his efforts to win the heart of a swarthy maiden. The Duck lost his temper at his friends and drove a mechanical bull towards them. The parrot and the rooster had then assaulted the duck with a barrage of artillery. Tanok’s friend, the duck, was thrust ever skyward in an alarming crescendo. Most alarming to little Tanok was the reaction of his parents. They were laughing. Tanok’s friend was suffering injuries and provocations throughout the spell, and they were LAUGHING! Tanok’s face contorted in terrified anguish.

Later in his life, Tanok would often dream about walking though the shops with the crystals, but in his dreams, these shops were often expansive, vertiginous, and labyrinthine. A red glow would permeate the shop and a portentous combination of anxiety and anticipation would descend upon Tanok like a dark shroud as he would reach for the crystal.

As a young man, Tanok learned the witches and warlocks devised these crystals using the bodily humors of the corpses of unborn children. The bone marrow, the liver, the brain, all were sold in an underground market. All manner of concoctions were derived as healing balms, ointments, skin tinctures, in addition to the neuromancer spells. The child sacrifices were stored, much like Tanok’s parents stored their beef, in white frozen closets. This very act of child sacrifice, Tanok later learned, was at the very heart of an unspoken religion. Ironically, one of the religion’s most sacred hymns had the mantra “imagine no religion,” as such it was an anti-religion. It lacked any actual metaphysics, and it was allowed to be practiced while other, more formal religions of the same age were stripped of power. One of the most erratic neuromancers evoked images of dead babies throughout the land, body parts strewn across a canvas. Soon after this magician rather dramatically committed public suicide.

As a grown man, Tanok Chapula became disenchanted with this religion and worked for a different kind of shaman in the service of a different animal totem. It was a dog, but not a dog-human, but a pure dog, specifically a beagle. There was a totem 20 feet tall outside of his temple. In his temple, families would come to pay homage to the totem and provide bountiful harvest for the beagle. Tanok’s totem was the god of future tidings, and it was believed that after the parents would pass away, the beagle would provide auspiciousness, safety, and security for the future harvests and shelter of their children. At the end of every day Tanok closes the door of his temple and says a prayer of gratitude to his totem, the bottom of which was labeled METROPOLITAN LIFE.