Zombie Romance Pt. 2


I’m wrapped in a plushy robe on the hotel bed watching television, finally warm, when the call comes again. More urgently. Too urgent to ignore.
But I don’t want to go back out into the cold. I’ve been sitting in it for days, weeks, waiting to see what the spirits want from me. I have the feeling it has to do with the worker who slips me a few dollars every day, the only one who really sees me, but I’m not sure.
And I don’t want to go out into a blizzard to find out. I miss home. Warm weather and warm faces. My people may have little money, but they have big love.
But the call is persistent, tenacious. It’s pulling me somewhere. And as one of the last priestesses, one of the last servants, I go where the loa call me, because there is no one else.
With a sigh, I sit up and dig my wallet out of my trash bag of belongings and dial the taxi company. I would have paid for my own taxi, and my own room, but it was clear that the man wouldn’t have gone home without seeing me out of the cold. And if I’d pulled out my wallet stuffed with cash and cards, that would have prompted an inquiry into why I was posing as a homeless woman outside of a construction site. And I didn’t have an answer for that, except that’s where the spirits wanted me to be. To most people, that wouldn’t be an acceptable answer.
And a hotel room, even a cheap one, was better than an institution.
When the taxi dispatch tells me my ride will be here in ten minutes, I sigh again and look around. I’m getting too old for this. My bones ache, and it physically hurts to get up off the bed and change into my clothes. My nicer ones. I will follow the spirit’s will tonight, but I will do it warm. Out of the bag, I pull out a long, layered skirt, tall lined boots, a patterned tunic, and my nice coat with the fur trim.
Maybe I’ll get to go home soon. There was a tension in the air, pressure, that said this might all be over tonight. I would be thankful for that.
But where was home? Haiti is a place I want to leave when I am there, but want to go back to when I am away. It is a place with a glorious but sad history, much like myself. But I have my house here, a life, a child. Yet I am adrift and alone, without family, without community.
But maybe that is necessary. Maybe to be an effective sèvitè here, I mustn’t be tied down.
I finish dressing and look in the mirror as I place a fur hat on my head. There might be a few more wrinkles than there were a few years ago, but my eyes are still bright, my cheekbones sharp, and my lips dark red.
“You are still a handsome woman, Josephine.” I smile at my reflection. If only my Claude was here to see me. But perhaps he could see me from where he was. Perhaps he was one of the spirits guiding me tonight.
That made me feel a bit better about going out into the weather.
Before leaving the room, I grabbed the big handbag that contained my tools, things I might need for tonight’s spiritual work.
The taxi driver isn’t the same as before. I give him the address to the construction site, and sit back in the seat, bag on my lap. It is late, the streets barren from the hour and the snowstorm. Only three vehicles pass, all going slowly and bunched together on the road.
When we get to the site, the driver puts the car in gear. “This is the place?”
“Yes,” I reply, voice clipped. No one is out there, but something awaited her in the dark.
“Are you sure, lady?”
“I’m sure,” I say, and open the door. “Thank you.”
“Want me to wait?”
“No, thank you,” I say, and get out.
When I’m ready to leave, I will call a different taxi company, use a different name. Pay cash. I don’t know what the nature of my work tonight would be, but I didn’t want any suspicion falling on me.
He drives away slowly, and I wait on the sidewalk until his taillights disappear, and then walk through the gap in the fence.
It is pitch black out here, with only a few sparse lights visible through the trees. Heavy clouds hide the moon and stars, but I walk with sure steps. I wouldn’t have been called here just to break an ankle in the dark. The spirits guide my footsteps just as they guide my actions.
The inky blackness makes it easy to see, finally, why I had been called here.
“Oh, no,” I whisper, kneeling in a thin layer of snow over soft, disturbed soil.
A few pale fingers curl up out of the snow. I wouldn’t have been able to see them, except the identical fingers of his glowing soul wavered above them, a bright blue-white. I lay my hand over his, heart hurting.
I know who it is, and it is obvious what had been done to him. Obvious, too, that his soul would not let go. Could not let go. Those who die unnaturally tend to linger at their grave.
And the pressure in this place means he is my work.
I helped people who were at the bottom of their spiritual well, those in dire physical or emotional straights. That could take different forms. Sometimes it was unrequited love, or divorce. Financial troubles causing ruin. Injustices done. Any number of things that could cause a soul to cry out in pain.
Sometimes, rarely, it was a soul with unfinished business.
In all my life, there had only been one other. Selfishly, when my husband Claude died, I’d hoped his would be one of them, if only to give us a little more time together. But I’d been surprised, and a little bit hurt, when I neither saw nor felt his presence after he died. His soul had flown this earth, happy and free, in an instant. Ah, well. It meant they’d had a great life together. No regrets, no unfinished business.
Unlike this fellow here.
Grady worked hard for his money, and yet he’d been generous with it. With his time, his conversation, expecting nothing in return. He had a good soul.
In a perfect world, if you give good, you get good. But this world was far from perfect, and someone had done him a bad turn. I would do this for him with a glad heart. But this could not be taken lightly, or I might do major harm. Digging in my bag, I pull out a tiny bottle of liquor and a hand mirror to see into the world of the dead.
The spirits could be strange. They had their likes and dislikes after death just as they had in life, and every priestess had to be prepared if she was going to petition any of them. Which I was. If he had died by the hand of God instead of the hand of man, no offering I could make would be accepted. But since Mr. Grady had died unnaturally, there was a good chance this would work.
I hold the mirror up and turn slowly until I see who I’m looking for.
In the shadows, a figure in a top hat with a cane waits to welcome Mr. Grady’s reluctant soul to the world of the dead. He is a different spirit than the ones that brought me here tonight. He doesn’t care much for the problems of mortals.
“With all due respect, Baron,” I say in kreyol, bowing. One did not disrespect the spirits without inviting misfortune. “This one is not ready to go yet. I ask that you reject him, for now.” For now, because the Baron accepts everyone, eventually.
I pour the rum out onto the ground. It’s not a large quantity, but it is very high quality, very expensive. Kleren is good enough for most spiritual work, but homemade rum is not good enough for this. Only the best rum will do. I hope it’s enough.
The rum disappears into the ground until seems it was never wet at all. The spirit nods, his hat tipping, and dissipates into gray smoke.
With a sigh of relief, I recap the empty bottle and place it and the mirror in my bag.
I would bring him back, and he would get his chance to say to goodbye, to get justice, or whatever it is his soul needs to do to fly free, and then Baron Samedi would welcome him.
I open my big handbag and take out the supplies I would need. A candle, a lighter, a small knife. Some herbs and oil, my beads, a mirror to see into the world of the dead, and the Bible. Despite what people might think, mine was White Magic. I needed His divine guidance for everything that I did.
I light the candle and put the beads on over my head while singing softly. Black and red to clear the way, remove obstacles and barriers, open doors. White, for peace and justice in all things. Wine colored, for wisdom, changes, and to help fight battles. And last, amber, for love and passion. Because the way he’d smiled when he talked about his wife meant some of his unfinished business likely had to do with her.
May their love be strong enough for this. Because not everyone’s was, and without a strong anchor for his soul, even this work could easily go awry.
I would give him the gift of a little more time, to settle his business, whatever it was. And some additional magic, to make sure nothing would hold him down in the dark waters, that nothing could seal him away.
Breath puffing and candle flame wavering in the cold air, I use my tools and do my work. Vodou is not just a religion, not just magic, but rather a craft that ties body and soul together and yet also makes them flexible, elastic. I needed to tie his soul to something tangible, and that was the one thing I did not bring. Truly, I was not expecting my work to take this direction tonight.
Looking around for inspiration, my gaze lands again on his fingers. Brushing the soil away, I breathe a sigh of relief that it is his left hand, and remove his wedding ring.
This will do nicely.
I would tie his soul into the ring, and then give it back to him. He would continue to be the one in control of his own body, his own will.
Finally, I need just one more thing to finish; blood. Some things were too big to accomplish without it, and it held the magic that would revive his body while I worked on his soul.
And while the ground beneath me wept with the amount of blood in it… none of it would work. All the life energy was already gone from it. I need living blood.
Stumped, I sit back on my heels. “I need a sacrifice,” I say to the waiting spirits. “Will you provide one?” I would give of my own blood willingly, but this ritual required life, and then death. Something would have to die for Mr. Grady to live. It is a spiritual exchange, a way to restore balance, a transference of life force.
A pocket of breeze picks up in the trees, rustling from north to south like a hidden hand through blades of grass.
A moment later, a tiny squeak alerts me to a field mouse scuttling across the snowy dirt. It stops and stands on its hind legs, little nose sniffing air scented of blood, magic, and fate.
“Thank you,” I whisper. I move slow until I’m almost right on him, then snatch him up in the palm of my hand. It struggles, but doesn’t bite.
With the ritual words passing my lips, it meets a quick and humane end. I let the small amount of blood drip into the candle flame while I whisper a prayer, adding my voice to those of the spirits who want this work done.
The flame rises and turns solid red, signaling that our voices would be heard. At some point. But it didn’t guarantee the answer we wanted.
I speak the words of power and sing the old songs, feeling the magic flow through me. The chants are ancient, and meant to be sung by many voices. But alone in this country, in this town, the only voices accompanying me are those of the spirits. With conscious choice, I allow my soul to step aside and one of the spirits to enter.
And for a time, the spirit is in me, helping me with the work. When it is done, I come to with only a vague impression of the spirit that had ridden me.
Mr. Grady’s soul still wavers there, a centimeter or so above the unmoving fingers, where it would remain until there was an answer.
“God be with you until we see you again,” I whisper.
I blow out the candle and pack up the items in the dark. All the pressure is gone, the spirits quiet, the night peaceful. It is done. I can go home.