The Mystic of New Orleans
As I sat on my bed the next morning, I felt like a whole new person, but I couldn’t exactly describe what that felt like. I just knew that I wasn’t the same person after what happened to me last night. I tried to remember exactly what happened but it was difficult to wrap my mind around the events that took place. A tree came to life, wrapped its branches and roots around me, lifted me up and shoved its branch down my throat? How was I ever going to explain that to anyone? I couldn’t even tell Brad about it, even with all his paranormal stories, he’d still call me crazy.
The burning mark from last night was still evident on the inside of my wrist as I stared down at it. It was in the perfect shape of an oak leaf and still looked freshly burned. I won’t lie and say it still didn’t hurt because it most certainly did. The skin around the leaf was red and irritated and if I didn’t clean it soon it would no doubt become infected. I want to touch it, though, and a strong urge inside myself was telling me to do just that.
I brought my hand up and slowly cascaded my thumb over the burned leaf, watching it heal itself right before my eyes. The red irritation was completely gone and it looked as if the leaf had been on my skin for years, turning itself into a tattoo.
Cold chills ran down my spine as I gawked at the leaf on my skin. Was I seeing things? Did I hit my head last night? But with a quick examination of my head, I knew I hadn’t. Either way, something weird was going on and I wanted to find the answer now more than ever.
One look over at my phone on the nightstand and I saw the blinking light of a missed call. Grabbing my phone, I saw several missed calls and texts from a very worried sounding Brad. All of his text messages were SOS ones wondering where in the hell I was while others said he was worried sick. The last text from him was at 3:20 this morning, telling me that he was about to break out of his house to come over to check on me.
There was only one question that came to mind as I read all of his messages: who brought me home if Brad hadn’t? Staring down at the screen, I blinked several times and tried with all my might to remember the night before. Remembering the tree and moon, I knew I passed out once I was set back down on the ground and a shock wave slammed into me. But after that? Nothing. Well, I wouldn’t say nothing because out of nowhere I kept seeing Tristan’s worried eyes staring down at me. I remember now that he was there just after I passed out. Had he seen the entire thing? My body remembered his warm touch as he carried me out of the forest and then everything after that goes dark. Okay, so if Tristan brought me home, then what else did he know?
Looking at the clock now, I saw that it was later than I normally woke up and wondered why my best friend hadn’t kept his promise, coming over to check on me. However, I was thankful that he hadn’t because I didn’t know how to tell him what exactly happened.
I texted him back, telling him that I got a ride home from someone after I began to feel sick and that I’d call him once I got to New Orleans today. I just hope that would be sufficient enough for him to not come knocking my door down. Besides, I didn’t have any real answers for him anyway. Lying to him felt like the right thing to do until I can figure this all out. No matter how crazy it all sounds. I knew in my soul that it had happened, I just need to figure out why.
My eyes caught something out of the ordinary sitting on the top of my dresser. It was an envelope with my full name scribbled on the front, much like the one I received yesterday. Had I moved it last night? I reached beneath my pillow and was greeted with the envelope I had hidden there the night before as another cold chill ran through me.
I quickly jumped off of my bed and sauntered over to the dresser, grabbing the envelope and examining it closely. The handwriting was different, that much I could tell, but it was the same type of paper as the other one. I was too anxious to see what was inside as I turned it over, pulling the card out. The writing inside was completely different than the other one as well, making this one look as if someone else entirely had scrawled out the perfect cursive inside.
I can only imagine the kind of questions you may have. To find the answers you seek, go to Atticus. He’s been waiting for you.
There was no signature or even an initial like the last letter so I had no clue who had sent this one. All I know is that I’m more confused than ever. Of course I have questions, but how am I supposed to seek out this Atticus guy if I don’t have a clue who the hell he is?! I turned the letter and envelope over hoping to find another clue but there was nothing, just like the other letter. What the hell is going on here?
A light knock on my door and my mom’s voice asking if I were awake broke me from my current thoughts. I quickly tossed the letter under my bed and pulled my sleeve down to hide the leaf on my wrist before telling her to come in.
She smiled warmly at me, but there was a hint of sadness in her features. I knew she was upset that I was leaving today and traveling several hours away from her, but she had also been very supportive of my decision thus far.
“I’d much rather you stay home for a bit longer and spend more time with me, but if you don’t get going soon the traffic will be horrendous in the city once you arrive.” She stepped farther into the room, looking around at everything. “I can’t believe you’re eighteen today, Emersyn.”
“Oh, Mom, please don’t get all sentimental on me. I’m only going a few hours away; it’s not like I’m leaving the state.” I hated it when she got this way. I love my mom, don’t get me wrong, but it was time to spread my wings and make something of myself. Baton Rouge held nothing for me and the sooner she realized that, the better off we’d both be. I already know she’s going to call me every single day and probably drive down on the weekends just to make sure I’m doing okay, but she really shouldn’t worry about me.
She nodded. “I know, honey; I’m just still sad. My only child is leaving the nest.” She walked over, wrapping her arms around me as she held me in a tight embrace and I let her. My arms wrapped around her as well, and that was when I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness that I knew wasn’t my own. It was as if my mom’s sadness was being absorbed into me and I could feel her soul.
I stepped away from her, not wanting to feel that intense emotion anymore and looked around. What the hell was that? Did she feel something, too? But one look at her and I knew she hadn’t.
“Is your car fueled up and ready to make the long journey?” She asked.
“Yeah, everything is ready to go, Mom.” I continued to eye her suspiciously but she wasn’t acting out of character at all. I guess it was just me who felt that. “I just need to grab the last of my luggage here and then I’ll be done.”
Her bottom lip trembled as she looked around my room, her gaze hovering over the few suitcases lying on the floor waiting to be zipped up and hauled downstairs. “I’ll meet you down there.” She flashed a quick grin at me before leaving my room, closing the door quietly behind her.
I wish I could feel more sadness over my departure but my excitement was much stronger. I was about to embark on an incredible journey in a city that I loved visiting, and one day soon my parents would be just as excited for me as I was for myself at the moment.
Once my mom had left my room, I quickly grabbed the letter from beneath my bed and pillow and shoved them both into one of my suitcases and zipped it up. I don’t have a clue where to find this Atticus person or who would have sent these letters, but I was going to find out. I didn’t have time to search for answers today, but I would very soon. Hopefully I can find some answers in New Orleans because I wouldn’t be back to Baton Rouge for quite some time.
As I stood near my car, saying several tearful goodbyes to my parents, it really hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing them every morning, and a knot formed in my throat as I wrapped my arms around my dad’s neck.
“I promise to be home every chance that I can,” I whispered into his neck as I squeezed him tightly.
Next, I hugged my mom and I swear she was never going to let me go. She was nearly shaking from all the crying she was doing and it was only wreaking havoc on my own emotions. I could feel hers again and now I was ugly crying right along with her.
“I have to go, Mom,” I sobbed out as I finally stepped free from her embrace.
“Call us as soon as you arrive, Em!” She called over the roof of the car as I nodded and slipped in, shutting the door behind me.
After several long breaths and me trying to calm my emotions, I pulled away from the curb and tried so hard not to look in the rearview mirror at them but I just couldn’t help myself. My parents stood on the front lawn holding each other as Mom waved at me with one hand and covered her sobs with the other. It was too much to see so I quickly pulled my eyes back to the road and kept going. Every mile I drove away from them would get easier.
The long drive ahead of me was going smoother than I thought it would, but right now I need to stretch my legs. I pulled off into a rest area and shut the car off. It was your typical interstate rest area with picnic tables, a dog area, and a brick building that held the restrooms for travelers.
I took this time to check my phone for any messages or missed calls and found several from Brad. I know he was upset that he wasn’t able to wish me farewell this morning, but his dad was adamant about him staying home and helping him around the house. I sent him a quick text letting him know that I was halfway there and would call as soon as I arrived, thankful that he had bought my excuse from this morning about my disappearance from the night before.
My legs weren’t as stiff as I thought they’d be as I slid out of the driver’s seat and stretched next to my car. The hot sun was beating down on me but what struck me as odd was how the sunlight made me feel. A radiant charge swam through me as I basked in her rays, allowing them to envelope me. Normally I hated the heat and direct sunlight but this felt amazing.
Once I had used the restroom and did a quick walk around the brick complex, I got back in my car and headed for the interstate to continue on to New Orleans. The sunlight really recharged me and I knew it to be true when I looked over at my unopened pack of sugar-free Red Bulls in the front seat. I haven’t had to open one yet!
When New Orleans came into view, I stared ahead at my new city. It wasn’t the typical large, towering city you’d expect to see, but it was big enough to let you know that you weren’t in the country anymore. I passed through the suburbs of the city and took the exit that would bring me to the heart of downtown and close to Bourbon Street. My new place was just a few streets away from the tourist trap and I honestly couldn’t wait to get settled. I had heard stories about the French Quarter and Bourbon Street and now that I was on my own, living just a few streets over, I couldn’t wait to experience it myself. Even though tourist traps weren’t my thing, the French Quarter felt different somehow. It was as if I were a moth and it was the flame.
After turning down several one-way streets and nearly getting lost, I finally found the right street and the little house squeezed among the others with the number I was looking for on the front door. The houses were basically kissing each other with how close they were packed in next to one another. I could reach out a window and lay my hand flat on my neighbor’s house. That was something I’d definitely have to get used to. The house was also very close to the road with no driveway; only a sidewalk separated my car from the front steps. It wasn’t much, but it was mine.
I got out of my car, overly excited to get inside when I noticed a man sitting on his small porch just a few houses down. He was smoking a cigar while watching me intently, rocking back and forth in his rocking chair. It was difficult to see him this far away but what I could see was that he was an older black man with wrinkling hands and crow feet by his eyes. He looked fragile in his old age but somehow I knew that wasn’t the case. But, how would I know that? I gave him a small wave in which he returned with a slight nod of his head. His gaze never left mine as I grabbed my purse and headed up the front steps to my door.
Much like my nosy neighbors, I had a small porch as well that was the perfect size for a bistro table set to sit at and hide from the scorching Louisiana sun. After I unlocked my door and slipped inside, I noticed someone had come by and turned on the air conditioner for me. I’d have to remember to thank whoever did that on such a boiling hot day.
The little house I would call home from now on was nothing like the small plantation style home I lived in with my parents in Baton Rouge. This house was so tiny I could almost see the entirety of it from the front door. A small living room greeted me as soon as I stepped inside with a love seat, two end tables, and a TV hung on the wall. Just beyond the carpeted threshold was the small kitchen and two-person dining room table. It wasn’t much but it would do for making myself meals. I continued through the house to where a hallway jutted straight back from the kitchen where I found a nice sized bathroom and finally my bedroom. I was surprised by how large the bathroom was considering the size of the rest of the house. My bedroom, however, was something I’d have to get used to. A queen bed sat in the center of the room, allowing just enough space for a small dresser at the end and two nightstands, giving me space to squeeze around the entire bed. Tiny wouldn’t even be the right word to use here.
Besides the fact that the house was smaller than I had expected, it was perfect and all mine. I tossed my purse onto the bed and headed back outside to grab my luggage from the car. I looked towards the man’s house as I descended the concrete steps and noticed that he was no longer sitting there smoking a cigar. Perhaps he went back inside, I thought to myself, but I was glad because I was really hoping he wouldn’t be sitting there staring at me again. It was a bit creepy.
I grabbed the few suitcases I had packed for myself and hauled them inside before I shut and locked the door behind me. I didn’t know this neighborhood well enough yet to leave my doors unlocked knowing I was all alone.
As I rolled my suitcases back towards the bedroom, my phone began to ring in my back pocket. I stopped rolling the bag so I could grab my phone and I was pleased to find Brad’s name and face lighting up my screen.
“Well, hey there. I just arrived and was going to call you in just a minute,” I greeted, shoving the phone between my ear and shoulder as I continued to roll my suitcase back.
“Hey! How is everything so far? Have you met a Voodoo Priestess yet? Is our house haunted?” I loved that he called it our house, but what’s with all these bizarre questions?
I laughed. “Calm down, Brad- I just arrived at our house and no, it isn’t haunted. As far as your other question, no- I haven’t met a Voodoo Priestess. Do they even exist?” From what I could tell from driving in, Brad was going to love the area much more than myself. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, but it was more his thing with the magic and mysticism of the city. I passed several signs for psychics on my way in and that was right up Brad’s alley.
“Oh, they exist alright.” He insisted before letting out a sigh. “I miss you like crazy already.”
“I know. I miss you, too, buddy. But it won’t be too much longer. However,” I paused to look around at the small spaces. “I’m not sure this house is meant for two people.”
“I’ll sleep on the floor. I don’t care. I just want to get the hell out of here.”
Poor Brad, I thought to myself. The kid hated his living situation and he hated his dad even more. I couldn’t blame him, though. His dad was a complete jerk and pushed Brad around when he wasn’t doing what he was told. Brad was basically his dad’s slave and if he didn’t do what was asked of him, he’d get a hand right upside the head. I hated that I left him there, but what other choice did I have? I know he’s strong enough to get through the next couple of months until he can leave Baton Rouge behind and join me in the Big Easy.
“Emmy?” He interrupted my thoughts.
“Can you do me a solid?” He paused to wait for my reply but knew he didn’t need one. “Can you go down to Bourbon Street and pick me up a cool Mardi Gras mask? The Halloween dance at school is mandatory to dress up and you know how much I like having the best costume.”
I laughed, remembering all of his previous year costumes. This was one school activity that I was actually going to miss attending.
“Alright, bud, I’ll get on that for you. When do you need it by?”
“The sooner the better.”
I sighed, knowing I’d need to leave the air-conditioned confines of my new house and walk over to Bourbon Street to find him a stupid mask.
“I’m leaving now. Any particular colors?” I asked.
“Silver and black? Maybe a dash of color? I don’t know, Emmy; just take a picture of some of them and I’ll let you know which one I want.” He was really good at ordering me around, I thought.
“Your wish is my command, your highness,” I replied sarcastically, rolling my eyes.
“You’re the best!”
I smiled at his words but it quickly faded when I heard his dad hollering in the background incoherently.
“Shit, I have to go, Emmy. Send me those pictures and I’ll call you tonight.” He quickly hung up before I could say anything more.
I looked at the time and figured I better get over to the tourist trap before night fell and I was forced to walk back in the dark. Sure, I could have driven my car, but it was only three or four blocks away.
As I walked along the sidewalk, I noticed how each city block got more and more extravagant. The little houses that lined my street were slowly transforming into bigger homes with their own private yards while others looked like old hotels from the 18th century. They were all so mesmerizing to look at, each one becoming more breathtaking by the minute.
The sounds of jazz began to float around me the farther I walked and I knew I was getting close. When I looked up at the corner street signs, I noticed I had finally arrived on Bourbon Street. I turned, following the sidewalk and jazz music and that’s when I saw it.
I stopped dead in my tracks and gawked at the sight in front of me. It felt as if turning that corner pushed me into the past. The street was long and straight and made entirely of bricks, even the sidewalks were made of brick. The old buildings with two or three-story wrought iron balconies lined the streets with New Orleans decor and potted plants hanging from metal hooks. A horse and carriage were parked nearby, waiting for tourists to climb aboard and see the old city in an old fashioned way.
The modern towers of downtown New Orleans could be seen looming overhead at the very end of the street and I was in complete awe. It was a perfect view of the past mixed with the present.
This end of the street seemed less congested and the shops became more and more scarce, but up ahead I could see several shop signs hanging from the wrought-iron balconies and the crowd got thicker.
As I began to walk, heading in that direction, I got sidetracked a few times by street performers doing their acts. A guy was completely painted in gold paint, looking like a statue, as he sat in mid-air. How was he doing this? I bent forward and looked beneath him, only to see that he was indeed held up by something but from a small distance away, it looked as if he were floating. Incredible.
Other street performers dotted the side of the streets, gathering small crowds as they tossed money into buckets near the performers’ feet and I had to smile. People will do just about anything to make a quick buck, won’t they?
I finally pulled my eyes away from the scenes in the street and began looking towards the shops, hoping to find one with the masks that Brad needed so I could go home. It was far too hot out today.
Each shop was designed to capture the eye of a passing tourist, making me scoff. They were selling t-shirts, coffee mugs, keychains, and everything in between, at extremely high prices. Come on, people, you can buy all of these things at the local Walmart for a quarter of the price! But they didn’t seem to mind. It was the experience of it all, wasn’t it?
I finally saw a shop up ahead that had a giant wall full of Mardi Gras masks and pushed forward, thankful that I finally found them. The shop was the same as all the other ones, a giant tourist trap, but I didn’t care right now. Brad needs this stupid mask and I want to go home. I took a wide shot of the wall of masks and sent the photo to Brad, hoping he’d pick one out right away so I could buy it and leave.
As I waited for Brad to reply, I looked around the shop at all the different items they had for sale in here. Brad would eat this place up. It was right up his alley. My eyes scanned over several tables of junk when I finally looked up at the two women standing behind the counter, watching me intently. They were whispering something to each other, still staring at me, as a cold chill ran up my spine, causing me to look away. Why did they make me so uncomfortable?
My phone dinged and I quickly looked down to find a text from Brad, picking out which mask he wanted. I was thankful that he actually picked one so quickly and didn’t make me wait forever. I grabbed the mask and headed towards the counter and the two creepy women. I kept my eyes down as they rang me up, not saying a word themselves, and put his mask in a bag for me.
Not wanting to be in the shop any longer, I left, letting my legs carry me a few blocks down the street when a sign caught my attention. I stopped right in front of it and stared, open-mouthed as I read it: Tired of tourist traps? Expensive goodies? And, strange women whispering about you? Turn right. Find The Mystic. You can thank me later.
What the hell?!
I looked around to see if anyone else was reading the sign but found it was just me. A part of me said to run as fast as I could, to head home, while the other part of me was too curious not to check out The Mystic.
I turned right and headed down the small alleyway, finding it to be free of tourists. There wasn’t much down here other than what looked like a few residences and side doors for the main street businesses, but then I saw a wooden sign hanging from a plant hook at the very end of the street and the words The Mystic were burned into it.
As I approached the end of the alleyway and the shop right on the corner of the next street, I noticed how the entire storefront was glass windows full of weird-looking stones and other magical artifacts. It almost made me feel like I stepped onto the set of a Harry Potter film in Diagon Alley. I laughed to myself as I headed for the front door, pushing it open to be met with an overpowering scent of sage and something sweeter.
The interior of the shop didn’t look like your typical tourist trap as I looked around at all the cool pieces. Dry herbs hung from the ceiling and I imagined that’s where the scent was coming from. There was a wall full of shelves to my left that was filled with glass bottles with different colored liquids and dried herbs in them. A few animal skulls sat on top of the table in the center of the shop as a centerpiece, covered with other bottles and herbs. On the opposite side of the shop was a wall full of crystals and rocks, talismans, and charms. They interested me more than anything else, as my feet began to bring me towards them.
“Welcome to The Mystic,” a scratchy woman’s voice greeted me as I spun to find a beautiful black woman in a long gypsy skirt and matching blouse smiling at me. She had a gorgeous headwrap that resembled a fashion piece from the 1920s. Several necklaces hung around her neck and each finger had a ring on it of varying stones. But what struck me the oddest about this woman was how she made me feel. Her presence made me feel safe and warm as if I’d known her my whole life.
“Hello,” I replied.
Her eyes went huge for a moment as she studied me and I couldn’t help but notice an expression of shock on her features. However, she quickly recovered and smiled warmly at me once more.
“What brings you into my lovely shop?” Even though she had a warm smile on her face, she was still watching me with regard.
I pointed behind me. “There was a sign on Bourbon Street that led me down here. I thought I’d check it out.”
Her brows pinched together. “A sign? What sign, honey?”
“The one on the corner. It was a black chalkboard that told me to take a right.” I was confused by her confusion. The sign was obviously pointing me to her shop but if the shop owner didn’t know about the said sign, then what the hell does that mean? I must be losing my mind, there’s no question about it now.
She chuckled. “Well, if you saw a sign, then I believe you.” Gone was her confused look, replaced with a look of peace. “Can I show you something?”
I shrugged. “I suppose so.”
She slowly stepped up next to me, staring down at a few stones on the table, her hand hovering over several of them. She finally grabbed one that looked like a green diamond, rolling it in her hands.
“This is an Alexandrite. It is a very rare and very expensive gemstone that will change colors in the right hands.” She continued to roll it in her fingers. “Do you see how it doesn’t change color in my hands?” I nodded. “But it will change colors when I change the light source around it.” She turned and held it over a lit candle that I hadn’t noticed was there until now.
I watched as the stone slowly changed from the bright green color to a raspberry color, but only half of it.
“Wow, that’s amazing,” I whispered out, watching the stone change right in front of my eyes.
“It really is. However, there are certain people that can change the stone’s color without having to change the lighting.” She held the gemstone out to me. “Here, why don’t you try?”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Oh, I couldn’t. That’s a neat parlor trick but I’m not interested”
“No? Well, what if I made you a deal?” She rolled the gemstone in her fingers again, watching me more intently. “This gemstone in its current form and size is worth over $20,000. It’s yours if you can’t make the gemstone change colors.”
I gulped, staring down at the gemstone. $20,000?! Why would she just give me something so valuable? But I could really use that cash, lightening the load from my parents’ shoulders. This would be the easiest money I’d ever made.
“Deal,” I agreed.
A grin spread across her face as she held out the gemstone for me to take. She placed it in my palm and I watched it return to its natural green color and it stayed that way.
An excited bubble formed in my chest as I looked up at her. “I really hope you know what you got yourself into. I don’t believe in these things and you, ma’am, have just lost a bet.”
“Are you sure about that?”
I cocked an eyebrow at her before looking back down at the gemstone in my hand and nearly threw it across the room. The gemstone was no longer green or that raspberry color. No, it was a blue and purple tone, constantly changing, but in the center, a silvery-white tone spun and danced like a galaxy.
“What’s going on? What are you doing to it?” Panic began to replace my excitement as I frantically looked between her and the gemstone.
She grinned first at me and then at the stone. “I’m not doing anything. You’re changing the color of the stones to match your soul. A rare gift, indeed.”
I’m doing what?!
“Take it.” I nearly threw the stone at her as she caught it and I watched it return to its green color before she placed it back down on the table full of other stones.
“What is your name, honey?” She asked, turning back to look at me.
“Emmy,” I replied timidly, rubbing my hands down my jeans as if to cleanse my palms from touching the stone. I don’t know what’s going on right now, but something was weird.
“Short for Emersyn?” She cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Yeah?” My name was coming from a lot of strangers’ mouths lately and I couldn’t help but think about my strange night in the woods last night, the tree grabbing a hold of me. Did that have something to do with this? But, why me? I wasn’t special in any shape or form.
She smiled, reaching up to pat my cheek softly. “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Emersyn. Will you come back and see me? I’ve enjoyed our time together.” She stepped away from me and went behind the counter, grabbing something from underneath it.
“I’d enjoy that,” I lied, but I would tell her just about anything to get out of here. Everything happening over the last few days was enough to make me enroll myself into the nearest looney bin.
“I’m holding a beginner's class tomorrow evening. You should come. I know you don’t believe, Emersyn, but sometimes seeing is believing.” She handed me a card.
“A beginner's class for what?” I asked, looking down at the card in my hands. It wasn’t your typical business card, but rather a schedule.
“A little bit of everything. Psychic readings, tarot readings, energy shifting, protection.” She shrugged. “Sometimes you can’t believe or understand things until you’ve opened your eyes to a world you don’t know exists.”
Every hair stood on end at her words. They were basically the same one’s Kit had said to me the night they levitated me into the air. And because of her words, I knew I’d be back. I needed answers and this place and this woman seemed like the right place to start seeking them out.
“I’ll be here,” I whispered out, staring directly into her eyes.