Chapter 31: Ancestors
Everyone in the living room had suddenly gone quiet as the banging against the door became louder. Growling and snarling were heard on the other side as if it pained Hezekiah to be kept alone on the other side. The Coterie and everyone in the congregation stared motionlessly at the door, holding onto each other and whimpering at every bang against the door.
Mama looked at the six of us who ventured down there. She saw the state that we were in, saw our faces, and knew just how grave the situation was. I knew Aza’s words rung in her head as she waited for Hezekiah to bust down the door.
You should have fed him, Alize. You should have fed him.
Suddenly, Mama grabbed my shoulders and looked me in the eyes; I was still in shock, unable to even register the hold that Mama had on me.
“Lisa, listen to me,” she said gravely. “Listen to me. What did you see?”
I could barely talk. It was as if the words failed me - failed to come out of me. It was a chore to describe to Mama what I saw, but when I finally did, fear completely overtook her.
“Everyone, get out of the house!” she suddenly shouted. No one questioned Mama’s authority. Everyone began to scurry out of the back door, not knowing where to go but knowing that wherever would be safer than here. With a sense of urgency I had never seen in her, she rushed to the living room and underneath the rug, pulled out a map. It looked like a copy of an original.
She pushed it into Kizzy’s arms. “Here,” she said. “Take everyone to Aza’s. I don’t care how you get there, just make sure that everyone arrives safely.”
Kizzy was nearly speechless, “Madam Dumont -”
“Stick to the roads, stay in our territory, and you’ll be fine. Just help get everyone to Aza’s!”
Kizzy looked at Mambo Nene, but Nene only urged her to listen to Mama. Without another word, Kizzy held onto her crossbow tight, with the map underneath her arm, and guided everyone out of the house and through the back door. The Coterie didn’t follow; they stayed behind. But Mama didn’t want them to stay behind. She didn’t want me to stay behind, either. She was more than sure of herself on this decision.
“Alize, you out your mind!” Ava exclaimed. “We not leaving you alone with him!”
“Trust me,” she said to her - to all of them. “Trust me. You need to be with them. You need to help them get to Aza’s.”
“Now!” She shouted at them. Nene was reluctant, but the banging against the door was growing louder; the wood began to split. We didn’t have much time, so the Coterie followed the head Queen’s orders and began to follow the rest out into the woods. Despite the dread that filled me - the anxiety and horror that floated in my head upon seeing Hezekiah in that state - I refused to leave my mother’s side, especially with Abraham still posing a threat.
“Alisande,” she said seriously when I refused to follow them. “Alisande, you need to go.”
“Mama, I’m not leaving you alone here.”
“I’ll be fine, but you won’t.” I didn’t know what that meant fully at the time. “You need to leave.”
Before I could argue my case further, there was yelling outside.
“Alize!” Abraham said. “Alize, make your choice!”
Make your choice. It was clear now, why Mama wanted everyone out of the house. Not only because of the threat of Hezekiah looming, but because she was planning on letting Abraham inside the house. Whether it was because she didn’t want him to hurt us, or she didn’t want the Coterie aware of her decision, I was unsure. But what I did know was that Abraham was most likely the only one who could properly tame Hezekiah in his current state; even my mother was no match for a vampire in its worst form.
Knowing this, I planted my feet in their place. The last thing I’d do was leave her alone with Abraham. “I’m not leaving. I’m staying right here.”
“I don’t care!” I shouted back. “I’m not leaving you alone with them!”
Mama opened her mouth to speak, but she didn’t have time to. The door to the undercroft was busted through, and the barrier that we built to keep the monster inside had been destroyed, lamps being thrown and the chairs shoved aside. Mama grabbed my arm, closed her eyes and whispered over and over the words, “Not now. I can’t do this now. I ain’t letting you in right now.” But she wasn’t talking about Abraham. She was talking about something else - someone else - not being let in. And as she whispered this, I grabbed a small plank of wood that had chipped off the door when Hezekiah clawed through it. My own wooden stake. It wouldn’t do much - in fact, it wouldn’t do anything at all. But I need to believe that I was going to protect us somehow. We were fresh out of options; Mama wouldn’t leave this house to be ransacked.
So, she did it. She let him inside - she let Abraham inside. And within seconds, the tall, robust vampire master was in the house. Against the lights, I could see his face. I remembered that scar on his face. The one that make the skin around his left eye wrinkled and lifeless. I remembered his dark, abysmal skin, his large eyes that burned a flaxen hue. Mama and I stood far back; she tensed around my arm. I looked at her then. I saw the look on her face when Abraham was in the room. She hated him; it was a hate I never saw in her before. But there was also a fear in her, too. Her mind went far back; she spaced out when he was in our presence.
He took slow, savoring steps through the destroyed living room. He stared at the undercroft door, and suddenly, the clawing stopped. Hezekiah knew who was there.
“What you did?” He asked Mama, angry. She didn’t answer. She couldn’t. Instead, she watched Abraham stalk towards the door, stepping over the fallen wall that was built against it. He looked through the gaping hole that Hezekiah had made, staring into blackness. For a moment, there was silence. Through the house, we only heard the sounds of animals outside. I held my breath, waiting.
“’Kiah,” Abraham said, standing idly. Abraham called his name again, and that’s when he emerged. He broke through the door, scaring Mama and me back onto the ground. We huddled close as Hezekiah crawled over the chairs and into the living room, rabid. Abraham stepped back, knowing immediately what had overcome him.
“Hezekiah!” He yelled at him, but he ignored him at first. Finally standing taut, Hezekiah looked around the room, and in the light, I could see his features better. Every menacing part of his face and body were illuminated, and there were details I saw that I couldn’t have seen before; I noticed his ears were pointed and black veins coursed through his skin.
“Hezekiah!” he yelled even louder, following his figure around the room. “Calme!”
At that word, Hezekiah finally looked at him. He looked at him and recognized him, his Master. His snarling quieted. Abraham continued to repeat the word “calme” and thus began speaking to Hezekiah in creole french. After a few phrases, Hezekiah slowly kneeled, his eyes still locked on Abraham’s. It was a fascinating and terrifying sight - the interaction between Master and offspring.
When both of Hezekiah’s knees were on the ground, Abraham’s voice quieted, though he continued to speak to Hezekiah in French. One of his hands rested on Hezekiah’s head, and soon Abraham’s speech was too quiet for our mortal ears to hear. Hezekiah was calm. Hezekiah was still.
Abraham began taking off the shackles around Hezekiah’s wrists. He wrapped the chain around his hand and effortlessly snapped it close to the cuff, throwing the chain and the concrete slab attached to it across the room. He did this to his right side, then snapped the cuffs off his wrists completely. As he did this, Mama looked at me. That’s all she did because if she wanted to tell me anything, Abraham would have heard her. She continued to look, and I stared back at her. On the ground before Abraham and Hezekiah, all we did was stare at each other. I didn’t know what was coming next until I heard a voice.
It was mama’s voice. But her lips were tightly closed. My eyes widened; it took me mere seconds to understand.
Lisa, listen very carefully. In thirty seconds, you’re going to go upstairs to our congregation room. There’s a chest hidden behind the altar. In there is the paperwork. I want you to burn it. All of it.
How am I going to get up there without them noticing? My mind asked her.
I’ll stall them. I just need you to do this for me.
I didn’t waste time asking her what the paperwork was. I only nodded. But that nod was a mistake because, during the entire non-verbal encounter, Abraham and Hezekiah were staring at us. Mama and I looked up to find two pairs of infernal eyes watching us. We sat frozen because we knew that Abraham was aware.
Abraham smiled, then began to laugh. His teeth seemed to have gotten sharper since the last time I saw them. “You clever bitch,” he said to Mama. “How could I have forgotten about your mind reading?”
We didn’t say anything. It had already been thirty seconds.
“What did you tell her?” Abraham asked. His smile was gone by then.
“Nothing,” Mama said, scowling at him. This was the first thing I had heard her say directly to him.
“I ain’t said nothing to her!”
“I’m doing you a favor,” Abraham said. “I could easily snap your neck on this wood floor or throw you out to the leeches, but instead, I agree to help you.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Mama growled, finding it in herself to stand up. “You ain’t that stupid. The Council would have your ass if you did that on our territory.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” he said teasingly. “’Cause, cher, you kept one of my own hostage for days, on your territory. Now, how would those cracker bloodsuckers feel if they knew ’bout this? They’d probably let me killing a voodoo witch slide right off.”
“You’d be a fool to kill me,” Mama said to him, but somehow, she knew that Abraham wasn’t one to bluff. There was more to his scheme than killing mama, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t willing to do much worse than ending her life, especially since we did violate territorial terms by keeping Hezekiah hostage when he did nothing wrong to the extent of the situation.
“You’re right,” Abraham replied, then suddenly, his eyes shifted onto me. “I could do much worse,” he said mischievously. ”Say so much worse.”
It happened quickly. Painfully quickly. I know Mama didn’t want to - I know she didn’t want to expose her will to the spirits, allowing them to possess her, but when Abraham said those words to me, she let them inside without a second’s doubt. She uttered a chant too quickly for us to decipher, and upon throwing her head back and screeching inhumanely, it became of her. I saw it, though Abraham and Hezekiah didn’t. I saw one entity appear and enter her. It was only one, like it was personal. Powerful.
I didn’t wait around for the chaotic aftermath of Mama’s possession. I knew it was my time to run upstairs. And so I did.
I ran as quickly as my legs would allow me. The last thing I remember seeing was Mama, with the force of her own will, throwing Abraham and Hezekiah across the room like she did with me in the undercroft. That was the last thing I saw. The last thing I heard was this chilling scream come from her. It didn’t sound like her. It sounded tribal or spectral. I heard it as I traveled to the congregation room where the Coterie had their meetings. It was odd seeing it deserted and dark.
The commotion downstairs made it hard to focus, but I pushed through. Panicked, I ran behind the altar filled with bottles of rum, paper flowers, candles, necklaces, candies and statues of the saints; ancestral figurines. Behind this altar, I found a varnished wooden box with a gold lock, detached. I opened the box and took out the old parchments. It was a large stack, the paperwork old and dated. The handwriting and dating on some of the papers were clearly from the 19th century. I didn’t use the little time I had to look through all the paperwork to see what the contents were. I found a match on the altar, lit it, watched the small flame. I was ready to burn what I was instructed to burn.
I jumped back at the sound of a voice deep in my head. It wasn’t Mama’s voice. It wasn’t a voice I recognized.
I grabbed the paperwork, threw it into a metal trashcan by the window. I tried to drop the match, but it felt as if something was holding my hand. Terror coursed through me as the match continued to burn in my hand.
Don’t. Don’t burn it, Alisande.
“Get out of my fucking head!” I cried. But this spirit didn’t listen. Her voice, deep and rich with authority and confidence, continued to hold my hand still and fester in my head.
Leave it ’lone. Take ’em wit you.
I couldn’t move. All of my limbs succumbed to this spirit’s power. If I would have known who this spirit was, speaking to me, it would have explained so much to me. But I was ignorant and naive. Afraid. I fought against this spirits hold on me. It was strong and relentless.
Suddenly, the match flew out of my hand and across the room. It landed on the blanket that draped part of the altar. Within seconds, it burst into flames. The spirit left my head and left me with this raging fire that burned the sacred altar in front of me. I saw a figure in the fire - a woman, shapely. Short. She danced in the flames, then disappeared before the fire raged in front of me.