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The peculiar-looking man was of average height, but of an odd shape: Shadow had heard of men who were barrel-chested before, but had no image to accompany the metaphor. This man was barrel-chested, and he had legs like, yes, like tree trunks, and hands like, exactly, ham hocks. He wore a black parka with a hood, several sweaters, thick dungarees, and, incongruously, in the winter and with those clothes, a pair of white tennis shoes, which were the same size and shape as shoeboxes. His fingers resembled sausages, with flat, squared-off fingertips.
“That’s some hum you got,” said Shadow from the driver’s seat.
“Sorry,” said the peculiar young man, in a deep, deep voice, embarrassed. He stopped humming.
“No, I enjoyed it,” said Shadow. “Don’t stop.”
The peculiar young man hesitated, then commenced to hum once more, his voice as deep and reverberant as before. This time there were words interspersed in the humming. “Down down down,” he sang, so deeply that the windows rattled. “Down down down, down down, down down.”
Thick, tangled, and strong: ash and oak, elm and pine, reaching down, down, and deeper down into earth.
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“It is only a gesture,” he said, turning back to Shadow. “But gestures mean everything. The death of one dog symbolizes the death of all dogs. Nine men they gave to me, but they stood for all the men, all the blood, all the power. It just wasn’t enough. One day, the blood stopped flowing. Belief without blood only takes us so far. The blood must flow.”
“I saw you die,” said Shadow.
“In the god business,” said the figure—and now Shadow was certain it was Wednesday, nobody else had that rasp, that deep cynical joy in words, “it’s not the death that matters. It’s the opportunity for resurrection. And when the blood flows . . .”
Three days on the tree, three days in the underworld, three days to find your way back: ash, oak, and elm; vetiver, dragon’s blood resin, and cypress; frankincense, copal, and chamomile.