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As it turns out, Marcus Garvey Park was a bad place to play my shofar late at night. I shoud have remembered that the police would be looking for someone playing loud music there.

So here I was in a cell, awaiting trial. Which would come whenever, I supposed. You'd think they would just let me go home with a fine and a note to give my parents. But they'd said something about catching the mysterious musician, so they were probably going to bring me up on multiple counts of...whatever they were trying to nab the other guy for. Disturbing the peace and obstructing the sidewalk, or something. Resisting arrest.

There was a woman in the cell across from me, sprawled on her bed. A black lady. Tall, by the looks of her, with dreadlocks, and a tatoo of some kind of stylized bird on her forearm.

She didn't look like she was willing to talk to me.

What was I supposed to do? Who was I supposed to call, here of all places? I couldn't actually leave, could I?

I cleared my mind, focused on the motion of the city, stepped forward...and ran straight into the wall.

I sat there in a daze. All I could think of was how easy it had been to get Marina out of prison. Why wasn't the Speed Walk working this time?

Why couldn't I feel any of the city's energy?

Who was I going to call?. Who was available to bargain with except the bars themselves?

Come to think of it...

I shut my eyes, and as I reached out with my mind, I did a quiet clap-stomp pattern.

I felt a touch of Spirit in my mind, and opened my eyes. There before me was a stone figure. A big rectangular block was its torso, and it had a smaller rectangular block for a head, and dangling arms made of stright pipes, and thick stone legs.

What is it you want, prisoner?

Wow, rude. "I would like to leave this place. If you would be so kind as to let me go. I am but a poor innocent girl."

I do not let people go. My function is to keep people bound. What would I be without that? All who come to me, stay within my encircling arms, and they are safe from harm, and everyone else is safe from them.

"They're safe from harm. Right. Until someone pays off a guard to leave the door unlocked. Look, I seriously don't deserve to be here."

Oh, I've heard that so many times. From the pettiest thief to the worst of murderers. Why should I believe you?

"Because I sincerely believe that it is not your function to imprision the undeserving. Because I believe you are more committed to justice than the people who put me here. Because I believe you do not wish to see yourself misused."

Hmmmm...you know precisely what I want.

"And you have implied that were I truly innocent, you would let me go."

Well-spotted. But can you convince me that you deserve freedom? What did the police bring you in for?

I related my version of events to the figure.

Ah. A bit of an overreaction, it seems. Moreover, I have heard of this mysterious figure. His saxophone wails within these corridors, on occasion...he is in my mind, and then gone. Who knows who he is? But you are not him. And yet...you violated a park ordinance, which is to not climb on anything meant for climbing. You got up on the rock. And you played an instrument in the park after ten PM. And you were using a Shofar, which means you were gathering people to Atone, which is a special event, and not allowed in the park without a permit. You have broken the rules, and I cannot let you go. I cannot compromise my function when your presence here is lawful, however short your stay might be. I am sorry.

"But all those charges are small offenses! Why can't I just get off with a fine and a call home?"

Your presence here is lawful as long as they believe you are the one they are looking for, the who has made these transgressions on multiple occasions. All you need is a quick interview, or a short trial, and they will see that you are the wrong person. Let that happen.

"I don't want it to happen. I want to get out of here. I shouldn't be here. Isn't there anything you can do?"

I can do many things. None of which I will. Including hinder you. Now, the question is, what can YOU do? Answer: you have the ability to call upon me. Well done. But surely you have some manner of Dangerous Forbidden Technique at your disposal? You are, after all, a Shaman, and I sense much power within you. 

"There's one weird trick. But it's something that my rabbi and my Nonna will hate if I ever tell them. And it's something I can't do without your help, because it requires a bit of re-writing the rules of reality for a little while."

I cannot hinder you, but I cannot help you. That being said..."help" is a vague word, and I am willing to call upon someone esle, and then step aside and let them help you. This is someone I know well. Someone who has touched the lives of many, here within my walls.

"Who?"

Look across the hall.

The woman I'd noticed earlier was sitting upright, staring right at me. She said not a word, but her eyes suddenly glinted, as if they were reflecting light.

There is your aid, waiting for you to make your move. What will you do?

"I will need to focus for a second, if you please." 

I shut my eyes. thought of fur, and sharp teeth, and tiny paws, and tiny claws. I thought of a long, bald tail, and a long nose and powerful smells. I thought of crawling up walls and out windows. I thought of guard dogs, of being snatched up and crunched between jaws, and seeing everything go dark as the blood drained from me.

I opened my eyes, and the room was a lot bigger than before. I could smell things a lot better, and my eyesight went fuzzy.

And now, I will not hinder you. The rest is up to you. Good luck.

Footsteps sounded in the corridor. Boom, boom, boom.

I dashed into the shadows beneath the bed, trying to fit plans of escape in my little rat brain.

Feet appeared on the other side of the bars. Humans.

"Alright, Ms. King, we're here with your -- What the hell?"

"What is it, Ramirez?"

"We've got a runner! Look, her clothes are in a heap and she's nowhere in the cell!"

"Is the cell locked?"

"Yeah."

"Do you think a teenage girl would want to run through a city buck-ass naked?"

"N -- well, I knew one. But what are you getting at? She's obviously not in the -- Oh. I forgot to check beneath the bed." He swept his flashlight, and spotlighted me. "Nothing. Just a rat."

"Just a rat?"

"What are you getting at?"

"I don't think that's just a rat, Ramirez. I think that's our prisoner."

That was my cue to chew frantically at the wall. Stone couldn't withstand a rat's teeth, not for long.

"Are you kidding me?"

"It's the simplest answer."

"Are you fucking kidding me? The simplest explanation involves magic? I could just as easily claim she swam down the toilet, for christ's sake! How do you know the rat didn't swim UP the toilet?"

"What, and ate the girl? No. I've dealt with this kind of thing before. Remember that hideous roaring a week ago? We brought in a guy, we tossed him in a cell and when I turned around again, there was a tiger in there. We had to shoot him with a tranquilizer and haul him out and bop his head a few times, and he changed back. Not too difficult. Here, let's open the door and bring her out. I notice she hasn't actually tried to escape yet. That would bring her up on more serious charges for sure. Hint Hint, little rat."

A hand reached under the bed. I debated whether or not to bite her and continue my efforts to escape, but then, it was a warm hand and I was cold.

But I was scared. I bit.

The woman cursed, and the hand retreated.

I skittered out from under the bed and between the legs of the guards, then hopped onto the toilet handle, pulled it down, and jumped into the bowl. As the water dragged me away from the yelling guards, I regretted the loss of the Shofar, and of clean record. But surely anything was better than remaining here where they could charge me with this and that -- right?

...

That being said, doing a Speed Walk home while completely nude in March was out fo the question, so I decided to retain my rat form once I got out of the sewers, and do the Speed Walk a little slower.

As I was scuttling across the rooftops and leaping the alleys, I noticed a figure sitting with his back to one of the air-vent machines. He looked real, solid, despite the blurry world I moved through. A homeless man? Up here? That was extremely odd. But there was no time to mind him. I passed him by.

On the next roof, a hand shot out and grabbed me. Thank goodness rats don't have as much inertia as humans, or I might have lurched right out of my skin. As it was, the owner of the hand had pretty bad breath, and a few black teeth, and a scraggly beard. But he also had that glint in his eyes.

"Look you," said the man, "I helped you get out of there. Maybe I shouldn't have done. Maybe I should have let the police keep you for a while and sort out the mess that way, nice and legal. As it is, you're on the record as a prison escapee. Bit of a bad mark, there. A felony, I do believe, if they believe the word of that prison guard, and they very well may."

They might have kept me for a day, or two, or five. Or five hundred. I couldn't risk them preventing me from my education. I was angry. And I hate being bound.

He chuckled. "That's a first. You break out of prison so you can go to SCHOOL. Don't they have school in Juvie?"

Why did you help me get out of there, if you thought it was a bad idea?

"Because the police have already sold the Shofar, and you need to get it back."

They WHAT?

"You know how it is. Anything on you that the police take when you committ a crime, they can hold as evidence and sell when they please. They took the Shofar and blew it a bit and they sold it to some place or another. No idea where. But you've got to get it back, kid. You're going to do great things with that horn, I know it. Shake down walls and gather the people to you, oh yes."

You talk like it's some kind of magic.

"The magic of the Shaman is about leading the people. What more potent symbol than a loud horn? It's a Shofar in Jerusalem, and a bugle for the cavalry, a Klaxon in Rome and a Kudu horn in South Africa. And, more importantly, the Shofar is yours. I can't stand to see the Big people steal things and sell them. I can stand to see a little theft, I'm not perfect, you know, but when it's police? Or the city? Or your federal government? That's when the game isn't fair or fun anymore. But you have the power to steal back. Go home, and plan your search. You will have need of all tools possible in the tmes ahead."

He dropped me, and I scuttled off.

 


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