The two lovers stood in a central space empty but for the dog on the table. Surrounding them was a crowd, chanting words Eddie didn’t recognize, beating small hand drums and playing sistra. Sistra were brass rattles from ancient Egypt that looked something like the hollow metal head of a hairbrush with loose rods jammed through it; Eddie knew what they were because of Bible class, way back when, and he knew what they were because they were related to the tambourine.
Damn tambourine. Should have said guitar player.
At the edge of the crowd, standing in four points that approximately made the four corners of a square, were totem poles. They were wooden and crude, and each had only one figure carved on it. The nearest look like a monkey’s head, and, taking them in at a glance, Eddie thought he saw a dog and a bird and a human. All of them had long strips of cloth bandaged around their eyes.
The dog on the table whined, and only then did Eddie register what was actually going on in the scene in front of him. The dog was alive, but its ribcage was cracked open, exposing heart, lungs and other things Eddie couldn’t immediately identify. Ropes held the dog to the table, but it might also be sedated—it wasn’t struggling. A row of stone bowls lay on the table beside the animal, and each bowl held a little puddle of meat, like sorting bowls for a butcher. Miriam—the lamia, Eddie forced himself to call her in his mind—stooped and grabbed the heart out of the dog’s chest, severing the connecting arteries with a single swift slice of her stone knife.
“Ayayayayayay!” she wailed, and in a single gulp she devoured the heart while it was still beating.
The dog’s whine became a yowl, but then Aaron leaned over it, the snakes’ mouths that served him for fingers snatching what must be a heart out of one of the bowls and massaging it into the cavity from which the dog had lost its natural organ. The replacement seemed to fit, and the dog still moved, though its new heart looked smaller to Eddie’s eye.
It’s a snake’s heart, he thought.
“We consecrate thee Wepwawet, opener of the ways,” Aaron chanted. “Thy heart is pure in the ways of the serpent, thy breast nourishes all his words.”