Every city has a spirit and, perhaps a few are schizophrenic, because they could have many. The frantic nature of the world can create several voices that those within the confines of a city are compelled to follow. As to which voice you follow or which you hear, this could depend on several factors that I know nothing about. The voices are out there, summoning us to their whims in ways that remain beyond our comprehension.
Where we’re moved, we must at least hope, is in the name of good. Some spirits, however, choose no sides. They follow their whims and desires. Their means and goals are their own. They’re tricksters, because we can’t tell what they want. They do as they please, breezing through realities, as if they own them.
In this town, there are a few homes that leave out bags of bottles as an offering to such sacred tricksters. Usually, it’s the keepers of this faith that come to obtain these sacred offerings. The keepers of this faith are known as ‘the bottle men’, as they walk around with metal carts full of cans and bottles, in honor of their gods.
From time to time, an enigmatic figure appears on the streets of our city that appears to be just another ‘bottle man’, but is in fact a creature with intimate knowledge of other worlds. He wears a thick robe that covers most of his body. His eyes are silver and change to red when he’s mad. He carries a pack over his back that looks empty, but holds inside it the souls of countless vanquished enemies.
When a soul is stolen from its owner, the person remains as an empty shell of himself. The soul departs from his body, as in death, and he remains in a comatose state, for which he might never escape. The souls come from across the universe. Jahua wanders throughout the cosmos returning to those he’s defeated to mock them. He makes them pay for their souls with one penny a day. The interest he charges ensures they’ll never pay off his debt. Jahua goes door to door collecting his tariff and for those he’s yet to meet, he must go and challenge.
Jahua the Debtor comes to your door and waits to be welcomed, whereby he’ll come inside. He’ll drink nothing that you give him, take nothing that is offered. He sees it as owing you for your hospitality and takes it as an offense. Nobody knows what the challenge is, just that it’s some form of card game. The victim never seems to remember much, just the deck of neatly folded cards and glossy black. People have claimed to have bested Jahua, but have no proof. The effects of defeat are always obvious, as the color in a victim’s skin turns pale, their eyes become lifeless and without hope and their teeth rot into a vulgar yellow.
Jahua has taken his time in procuring the souls of the city, although he doesn’t have us all. It becomes necessary for those in the city to take precautions. Some of us never answer our doors. Jahua is a master of disguise and can even take the appearance of a close loved one. He cannot enter under an arch, so many people make their entryway into one to prevent his advance. This has been written off as ‘mere superstition’, however, several homes continue to make arches for their doorways, as a meager hope to fend off the offensive debtor and keep their homes intact.