Introduction: The excerpt is Chapter 3 of my novel, Healers, which chronicles the adventures of three immortal children - Luis, Victoria and Armand - how centuries of inner conflicts over what I call “symptoms of immortality,” like loss of mortal loved ones and how changes of landscape across centuries of societal progress ironically creates painful attachment and nostalgia, at last make them decide to lose immortality, grow up and fulfill their longings of experiencing adult life, and bring to fruition their cosmic destiny or fate as healers. The novel ends with their strong desire to become immortals again, after Luis believes he has decoded the Voynich Manuscript, which to him holds the secrets of immortality.

Chapter 3

That night the sky tilted like Yggdrasil’s crown, as though the tree had grown a giant root, interstices between black leaves like stars, the moon hanging like manzanita fruit, full and round with the year’s red auguries and omens. Ancient mariners, astrologers, astronomers and prophets called this celestial event “the moon’s renewal of vows.” This night the sky drove poets into writing frenzies, papyri overflowing with interpretations, insights of how celestial events influenced daily life. To see a comet this time of year was considered a sign of good luck. From such rarity friendships were forged, couples brought to the altar of marriage, barter and trade commenced, goods exchanged, agricultural lands tilled and planted, rough stones cut. During this auspicious time the price of jade quadrupled to meet the demands of the wise and the willing who’d pay any price to have the ornamental mineral dedicated in the temple days after this rare celestial wonder. During this time astronomers searched the skies for a galaxy gazing back like an eye. 
That night the wind sat like a companion astern, where the mariner’s astrolabe provided the searching heart clarity and heft. The sea was reflective, still as an opaline mirror, holding night’s yellowish squirms on ebbs – moonlight like eels on waves. As the boy Luis stared at the moon that seemed to bleed, something tiptoed in his heart. Something hairy crawled up his forearms and scattered little bursting seeds in his head. No sooner had he left his father posthaste than he found himself in his room shivering on his bed. Time seemed warped, space feeling not quite right. So melded was he to his terror he collapsed into sleep. Something sticky, heavy and alive seemed to have claimed his body. In his dream he saw the horsemen, this time four of them, their horses dappled with the moon’s reddish shades. The horses grew wings and the men were soon skyward, drawing his gaze to a spot in the sky that grew larger and larger, until it was a twirling disk with flickering lights. He saw the being he called angel, whose head was shaped like an egg, whose eyes were ovoid and black as his mother’s pendant. The terror he felt vanished.
            “What is your name?”
            “Where do you come from?”
            “From the stars.”
            “Why am I here?”
            “You’ve been chosen.”
When he woke from his dream Luis saw for the first time his twin, the iguana. It wasn’t the typical 5- or 6-foot long reptile. It was only a foot long, and it embraced the globe on his table as if its life depended on it. Earlier that month he had been in what was once a kingdom in Mesoamerica of the Mayan civilization. His father made this stopover to deliver ten thousand Buddhist prayer beads to a monk in a monastery at the foot of the Volcán Tajumulco. In the monastery Luis saw for the first time a huge iguana. He remembered it and he smiled as he watched the living replica on his table. He laughed as it slid off the globe and tumbled onto the floor. He picked it up gently, and let it rest on his forearm. He touched its tuberculate scales, the contact sending a short tremor from his skin to his heart. He pressed its dewlap with his fingers, the sensation making him laugh uncontrollably. He loved to rub Manuelito’s sub-tympanic shield, its smoothness to his forefinger like music to his heart. That moment he knew the iguana was his twin, and his name was Manuelito. That moment he knew their bonds were made of love deeper than the ocean.
Luis’ writing table was Manuelito’s terrain, the globe like a miniature tree for the lizard to climb and cling to, from whereits parietal eye drew in more light streaming through the window. On a parchment Luis drew a pool, for Manuelito to have his imaginary water for soaking or bathing. Vegetation was hard to find on the ship, but each morning he woke Luis would miraculously see the table filled with green leaves like arugula, watercress and malabar spinach, Manuelito munching joyously. The incredible sight would make Luis guffaw to his heart’s delights. Hed sit in front of the gorging lizard and watch with wonder. Hed wait for rare moments when Manuelito would close his eye. He’d secretly bring Manuelito to the ship’s stern, where he’d tell him stories as they sat on a bench facing the pink horizon, stories Luis heard from their father, Miguel; stories of the battlefields, stories of Mark Antony, Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus, stories of Nefertiti and Cleopatra, stories of the Sumerians and the Annunaki. They’d watch the sunset together, and as stars appeared Luis would bring Manuelito back to their room.
Luis felt his oneness with Manuelito so intensely he wondered why they had separate bodies. Back home, he’d bring Manuelito out every early morning, when the sun, Luis would say aloud like words of their morning ritual, “is garbed and not yet naked. He’d bring Manuelito to the backyard where their mother’s vegetable garden entertained butterflies. Luis would climb the ladder to put Manuelito on top of the trellis that propped ampalaya vines. Manuelito loved to bask in the early sun. Luis would catch the delightful glimmer from his twin’s eye. Manuelito seemed to know where the sun was going, following it by moving left or right on the wooden latticework. After an hour or so Luis would bring down Manuelito. 
Their mother would call him for breakfast. It saddened Luis that their mother wouldn’t remember to call Manuelito, too. He’d put Manuelito on the mound of soil, and the lizard would forage on Chinese cabbages. One moment he placed Manuelito in the middle of a family of nightshades, watching him carefully lest he nibble on chilli or bell peppers. He’d stick to an eggplant the way he clutched the globe on Luis’ writing table. When he discovered the edibility of tomatoes, it became a habit for him to follow the map in his mind towards where the plants clustered like a galaxy, with their red globular fruits like stars to Manuelito’s eye. He’d consume as many as five red-ripe fruits. Luis would clean Manuelito’s snout with a cloth. He’d clean the lizard’s snout with a brother’s care.
One moment a short reverie distracted Luis, and he lost track of Manuelito in the garden. Luis had noticed that Manuelito loved to change the colors of his scales to be consistent with background colorsThe lizard loved to camouflage himself. As he tried looking for Manuelito in the garden, Luis wished to see the occasional reddish glow of Manuelito’s scales, but the more he ransacked the green leaves for his missing twin, the more his fear grew that Manuelito was nowhere to be found, lostHe ran into the house and screamed, begging their mother and their sister, Sophia, to help find Manuelito in the backyard garden. Mother and daughter, seated together and knitting, stared at him, a look of puzzlement shimmeringfrom their eyes. He begged and begged, and the more he begged for their help to find Manuelito, the more his pleas fell on deaf ears. He cursed and cursed them.
He raced to the backyard, and to his enormous relief and wonder, Manuelito had emerged, his green body stark against the ground. He picked up his twin and if only he could hug him, he would. Back in their room, Luis sobbed.
“Don’t do that again, Manuelito. Please, don’t do that again. Don’t disappear on me again.”
He prayed a very long thanksgiving prayer that lasted almost until lunchtime. At the table he was silent with anger. 
“Eat your chicken stew now or I’ll give it to your sister.”
Sophia burst into laughter, her wicked eyes taunting Luis.
“Why are you both so heartless? If papa were here, he’d slap you both senseless. Papa would never hesitate helping me find Manuelito.
“Why are you like an old man?” Sophia burst into sarcastic laughter again, as though she were mocking him.
“If I haven’t found Manuelito, you are both to be blamed.”
“Eat your chicken!”
“Who is Manuelito?”
“You’ve now forgotten your other brother?”
“What other brother! I said eat your chicken! This is the last time I’m telling you to eat the chicken or I’ll throw it away!”
Luis glared at their mother. How heartless this foul-mouthed daughter of a pimp is, Luis thought, and her female offspring is a civet cat I hate to call sister. I want to slap both a thousand times! I want to kick these whores!
“Manuelito is your other son! You’ve forgotten already? You carried him in your womb with me! We were born together! We grew up together! We share the same room! We both love the sun and the moon! He loves the sea and the horizon! He listens to my stories! He’s obedient and good! He’s my twin!”
“Sophia, take your brother’s bowl. The dung beetle doesn’t want to feed.”
Luis rushed to his room, where he found comfort in his twin, Manuelito. He cried and cried. He asked for Manuelito’s forgiveness, as though it were his fault their mother and sister had neglected his existence, caring not for his well-being, not concerned if he got lost in the garden. He kneeled in front of the table and asked for Manuelito’s forgiveness, promising him to tell their father how heartless the two witches in their house had been. He assured Manuelito of his love and everlasting devotion. He promised to always bring him out for his sunbathing on the trellis, feed him tomatoes that would appear miraculously the next day on the same plants as though they hadn’t been eaten the day before, the inexhaustible tomatoes. He’d bring Manuelito to sea, to voyage with their father, but he couldn’t take Manuelito with him if they disembarked, because he might get lost forever, and the grief he’d feel would be bottomless and without relief. But he’d always be with him in their room, to enjoy together the streaming moonlight through the window, to comfort him if waves danced like unruly girls. They’d be out to watch the sunset together, but he cautioned him that he should be in their room for the entire night, because darkness is treacherous, a moonless night like a thief, and stars are always silent, omniscient twinklers mocking loss and grief. One of Luis’ greatest fears was Manuelito’s unthinkable drowning, and he promised his twin that should it happen, hed dive into the sea to find him even if it meant losing his own life. He expressed the depths of his love for Manuelito in tears, a love carved deeper into pain because of the indifference and neglect of their own loved ones. He apologized on behalf of their mother and sister, and vowed to let their father know how stony their hearts had become.
The first thing Luis did upon their father’s return was lead him by hand to their room, where he poured his heart’s contentslike lava. He complained of their mother’s irresponsible behavior, her neglect of her other son, her indifference and refusal to acknowledge Manuelito’s existence. He vented his rage, cursing Sophia, describing in so many words how she hurt him with her refusal to help find Manuelito that moment that scared Luis like no other moment in his life. He flung himself to his father’s embrace and cried in his chest, telling him how much he loved Manuelito, demanding that, from that moment on, Manuelito’s presence should be acknowledged, Manuelito should be loved with equal fervor, Manuelito should be brought out and given his place at the dining table. To his abject consternation, their father asked him who Manuelito was. Luis was so surprised he calmed down.
“Manuelito, your other son, my twin. The iguana, like the much larger one we saw in the monastery in that faraway land.
Miguel smiled and drew Luis again into his arms, embracing the boy tightly.
“You’re a good boy, Luis.”
Luis pushed himself from his father’s embrace.“What are you doing?”
Miguel stood. “Sleep now, Luis.”
A short moment of silence passed. Luis had a hunch and started proving it. He pointed at the table and asked:
“What do you see, papa?”
“The table?”
“What’s on the table?”
Crumpled brows topped Miguel’s smile. “I see a globe. I see parchments, your quill pen, the ink container, pieces of white cloth smeared with...what is that? Dried blood?” His smile widened. “What is going on, Luis?”
It was then that a heavenly peace descended upon Luis as he realized something vital to the nature of Manuelito. He led his father by hand to the door.
“Good night, papa.” 
He kissed the hand of his father. He closed the door after his father kissed him on the forehead. He felt sad as he realized that Manuelito was invisible, that no one could see his twin, but he also felt some kind of relief, as it explained their mother’s seemingly indifferent behavior, his sister’s apparent refusal to acknowledge his twin’s existence, and their father’s cluelessness of Manuelito’s presence. He realized his father, mother and sister weren’t heartless, that they would have cared equally if they could see his twin.
“So you are invisible to others, Manuelito. Only I can see you.”
He touched Manuelito’s body, a soft roughness on his fingers translating into love.
“The gods must favor me by allowing me to see you. You are a blessing to my life, Manuelito, and Im grateful you aren’t invisible to me.”    
That moment his love for his twin expanded like the sky. He remembered the night when the moon hung like a red fruit in the sky, the night he first saw Manuelito and realized he had a twin. He remembered the night when the moonbeam that entered their room heightened his sense of a presence before he fell asleep into his recurring dream. That dream with horsemen and the silvering disk with flickering lights and the being that called itself Angel. Years passed and he realized that Manuelito hadn’t grown an inch. The lizard had remained its size as when he first saw him, though his scales had acquired more reddish sheens. He wondered what it would be like if Manuelito had grown as large as the iguana he saw in the Buddhist monastery in the land where the Mayans once ruled. He wondered if he could embrace Manuelito if he were five or six feet long. He would have loved to feel his twin’s beating heart against his own. He would have felt proud to walk him across the neighborhood. The kids would surely flee in fear. He would have been the most popular kid with his reptilian brother by his side.
That day when their house was burned after their mother’s tragic death, Luis carried Manuelito on his shoulder as they were led to the municipal hall, where several families waited to draw lots for Luis’ adoption. He studied the townspeople’s faces, they looked oblivious of Manuelito’s existence. He understood that his twin was a blessing of the gods for him alone, thus he believed it had become his sole responsibility to take good care of Manuelito. He was thankful, too, that Manuelito was invisible, because he might scare people. They might drive  him away like they drove away snakes and crocodiles. He understood people’s irrational behavior when it comes to creatures they don’t understand, creatures that summoned their demons to their defence. He understood that Manuelito would find it hard to live among humans. Sometimes he felt the regret of not being able to introduce his twin to his friends and other people. He’d love to show them how magnificent a creature Manuelito was, so terrifying in looks but so gentle-hearted and kind, so devilish in countenance but with an angel’s heart. He wished that others could love Manuelito, too, and find comfort in his company. He prayed to the gods to make his wish come true – that Manuelito one day become visible with all his beauty and glory. 


Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, the Philippines. He is a nature lover, an environmental advocate, and loves all animals particularly dogs. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary journals and anthologies, including Windhover, The Lyric, Star*Line, Poetry Kanto, Dark Matter, Marsh Hawk Review, That Literary Review and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include Meditations (Alien Buddha Press), Songs from My Mind’s Tree and Multiverse (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), 50 Acrostic Poems (Cyberwit, India), In the Donald’s Time(Poetic Justice Books and Art), and his speculative poetry collection, Pan’s Saxophone (Weasel Press). He loves to self-study the sciences. Healers is his first novel.