Chapter 40: Ghost of Our Pasts
Tempus Summatum - drifter of time. One who can manipulate time. One who glides on the sands of time.
When I had come back into consciousness, Aza explained to me - to us - what tempus summatum was; Sajida had left right when I passed out. Silently, like a cold, bitter wind pushing through.
“It’s a form of black magic,” Aza said. “It’s the type of magic that most witches don’t go near, ’cause not only is it dark, but it can be deadly. To force your body to bend to the will of space and time, manipulating it to your benefit, is an act against nature. Against the universe. Against the gods. The concept of time is just forward, with the past having already happened, the events set in stone. We can’t be jumping forward or falling backward in it whenever we see fit.
“Which is why only supreme witches who are masters in the art of dark magic have a better chance of practicing tempus summatum successfully without killing themselves or going crazy or getting stuck in a particular time. But again, not many of us, even the most corrupt of us, set out to do it.”
Except for me. I had done it. Sometime in the future, apparently. I had gone back in time for reasons that, at the time, I wasn’t too sure of. But all I knew was that I was the woman in the photo Hezekiah showed me, posing next to his wife, Camile. That photo was taken in the late 1800s after Camile and Suzie, Hezekiah’s daughter had fled New Orleans with Marie II after Marie Laveau’s death and gone to Kansas. It was taken years after these events, right before Marie II and Camile Mercier, having formed the Coterie, came back to New Orleans to reclaim it from Terah’s clan.
My connection to Camile? I didn’t know, and none of us did, because Hezekiah refused to tell us.
Mama stood up from the couch where we sat, still processing what Aza was telling her, and gave Hezekiah the nastiest look she could muster. “Are you serious? You ain’t gonna tell us what you know?”
“I already told you too much,” he answered. “You supposed to figure it out yourself.”
“Why?” I questioned, becoming upset. He saw how frustrated I was getting and looked almost conflicted.
“He might be right,” Aza suddenly spoke up. “If he tells us anything of what you did in the past to affect the future, it might mess up everything. It might change an action you or I or Alize were supposed to do, you understand? Whatever is supposed to happen in the future depends on what decisions the universe and the loa push us to make; fate. If Hezekiah tells us what happened in the past when you were there, especially since it hasn’t happened yet, that’s going against fate and the gods. For better or for worse.” Aza looks at Hezekiah gravely. “He might have changed history, even by the slightest, by just showing us the photo of you in his locket; we were probably not meant to see the photo tonight, but tomorrow or a year or five years from now, but him showing us now might have changed history. You understand, Lisa? Time is delicate. Very delicate.”
“But don’t I go against the loa by literally manipulating time?” I ask her, growing even more frustrated.
“Not if the loa are pushing you to use tempus summatum,” she says, lowly like the realization is hitting her for the first time. Aza gives Mama a look, but Mama can’t even meet her eyes.
“No. I won’t listen to this nonsense any longer -”
“Alize, if Lisa’s spirit guide gave her the hint that she used the spell then the loa probably want her to go back in time; it’s not an act against fate, it is fate. Her spirit guide spoke to her, Papa spoke to her -”
“Wait, Papa spoke to you?!” Mama exclaimed at me. I said nothing. I didn’t want to self incriminate myself. But then again, it seemed that Mama was already coming to her own conclusions. Her eyes, a blue inferno, darted to the bible on the table. I slowly got up as she continued to stare at it. My hands were trembling; Hezekiah’s eyes narrowed in on her.
“These papers have brought nothing but ruin to our family,” she said coldly. And suddenly, she grabbed the bible from the table, pulled out the parchments from between the pages and held the papers in her hand.
“Alize!” Hezekiah screamed, but he didn’t make any sudden moves. Aza stood by him, staring daggers into Mama as she squeezed the century-old parchments in her fingers.
“If I destroy them, all of our problems will be gone -”
“Mama, stop!” I couldn’t explain what was coming over me. I was suddenly burdened with the feeling of defensiveness when I saw the papers in her hand - the papers I wrote that I hadn’t written yet.
“I won’t let anything take you away from me!” she screamed at me. Her eyes began to shift, succumbing to a dark possession that overtook her. She was someone else again.
Her fingers tightened around the papers, her hand full of a power we didn’t know of yet. Then, she looked directly at Hezekiah - a hatred I hadn’t seen in her since we were in the undercroft, Hezekiah chained, her dragging him up to the sun and burning his arm. That hatred was back into her eyes, which were now completely colored into a faded blue that consumed the entirety of her gaze.
“I should have killed you,” she said to him, “When I saw you outside of that old hat shop. I swear I should have just killed you, but Mama wouldn’t let me.”
“What the hell?” I said within a horrified whisper. Aza was horrified and confused, but Hezekiah knew. He stared at Mama, his eyes wide and alert, reminiscent.
“Alize,” he said cautiously, “Snap out of it. Don’t let her get in your head -”
“The only thing you were good for was getting us out of New Orleans when you and your brothers killed my Mama!” Mama screamed at him. “She saved you; she helped get your wife and daughter into a good home, our home! Your family was harvesting sugar cane and running from the crack of master’s whip before we found y’all. We brought them into our house and our religion. They were part of every ceremony and they were treated like royalty!”
“You think what you did to them was a favor?” Hezekiah said to her, furious. “Taking them away from me and making them work for you in that goddamn house? You think making them fuck those white bloodsuckers saved them!?”
“Maison Blanche gave them a purpose -”
“You made them prostitutes!” he screamed at Mama. “Brainwashed them into thinking your voodoo evil was good for them!”
“And what were you doing while they were at Maison Blanche?” Mama snapped. “Running around bourbon street, drinking your liver dry, then becoming Abraham’s little errand boy ’fore he turned you into a bloodsucker. All while messing around with her.”
Mama’s finger pointed at me, her eyes focused on mine as if I were a stranger and not her daughter. The supposed past that Hezekiah refused to talk about, the one I was involved in, was coming into fruition by Mama’s words.
Not Mama’s words - the words of her djab leaving her mouth.
I froze still, unable to move. I wanted to look at Hezekiah, ask him with my eyes what this spirit was talking about. But I couldn’t bring myself to look at him; he was speechless. This speechlessness frightened me.
“You fucked up,” Mama said. “And you know you did. All these years, you trying to cover up your tracks and be a good boy for Abraham but you know you fucked up.”
“Don’t you dare -”
“You getting on my ass for taking care of your girls while you were sleeping around with my great-great-great-granddaughter. Taking care of your wife while you were falling in love with another woman.”
Aza grabbed my arm, either for support or to usher me away. She held on tight, but I didn’t move with her when she tried to lead me out of the room. This time, in this instance, I looked at Hezekiah as my heart sunk deep down in my chest until it deteriorated my insides. And he only looked back at me once; this one look he gave me proved that Mama’s djab was right. Not only was mama’s djab right, but Aza and I were right:
Great-great-great granddaughter, this spirit said - only three “greats,” not four. I was Marie Laveau’s granddaughter, four times.
And this djab only referred to me in three.
Aza couldn’t handle being right, and neither could I. We didn’t know how to approach the truth in front of us, communicating through my mother. She was here, Marie II - she had controlled Mama’s body once again, only this time, it was complete possession.
“I thought my girls were in Virginia,” Hezekiah said in defense, but he was teetering on the validity of his own words. “You made me believe they were in Virginia for the longest time -”
“But what about when you found out that they were in New Orleans the whole time? What about after you became a vampire? Nothing changed with you. You didn’t want nothing to do with Camile.”
“Camile ain’t want nothing to do with me!” Hezekiah yelled. “You turned her brain to mush, made her into someone I ain’t never met before; she wasn’t my wife no more. She didn’t want to be, because of you!”
“And she’d be thanking me right now if she were here,” Mama said. “’Cause if she would have kept on with you she would have been a slave or dead. I made her powerful. I gave her direction. I made her and Suzie some of the strongest Mambos New Orleans ever seen.”
“And you put yourself so far up the Council’s ass that we got ourselves in this mess right here,” Hezekiah said. Mama - Marie II - was silent. Was Marie fully aware of her own fault?
Mama quickly changed the subject. “The child of an unholy union,” she said to me. “Who would have thought you out of all the Laveau descendants would be ‘the’ child? Maybe you wrote destiny for yourself since you wrote some of these parchments. Ain’t it funny how time works? Everything is full circle - you wrote down the words that led to your birth and the beginning of your Mama’s worst trauma.” Mama looked at Hezekiah. “And out of all the goddamn women you could have fallen for, you fell for her? Praise the loa for this twist in fate.”
“Marie...” Hezekiah said, like a warning.
“And the funny part is, she don’t even know what we’re talking ’bout. She got no idea about what happened between you two. At least not yet. That must hurt, don’t it?”
Hezekiah was becoming angry - arguably the angriest I had ever seen him. He refused to look at me; it took all of his strength, for I kept my eyes on him, leaving them there, stunned and confused and unable to comprehend the life that Marie and Hezekiah claimed I inserted myself into.
“What would Alize do if she found out, Kiah? What would Terah have done? Better yet,” Mama smiled maniacally. “What would Abraham do?”
“Marie, I swear on your grave -”
“How could you defy your own master? Must have been hard keeping this secret from him for over one hundred and fifty years. Especially since -”
It happened quickly. So quick that Aza and I had little time to initially react. In the blink of an eye, Mama was on the floor, Hezekiah on top of her, wringing her neck. He was a squeeze away from killing her.
“Stop!” I screamed. The moment I saw him choking her, my entire world stopped moving. My mother was on the ground, an inch from death. Aza was trying to pry him off but it was an effort in vain; he barely moved an inch from his post. I remember the look on his face vividly - eyes flamed to an auburn hue, teeth bared and snarling, his fangs making him look monstrous. Black veins began to appear underneath his eyes; Mama was close to death, struggling for air and writhing underneath him. He wouldn’t stop. He was lost in her eyes, continuously wringing her neck until he was sure life was being drained out of her.
I had screamed until my throat was raw and sore, tears staining my cheeks. I clawed at him. I cursed at him. I used all of my stamina to defeat this man who was no longer human and no longer in possession of puny human strength. He was cold stone. He was a creature of the night. He was born from death and became the animal I remembered in the undercroft. This state consumed him, and Aza and I tried to get him out of it.
I had landed one final blow to his head - one last punch that I could muster up. One last hit that snapped him out of his world and into ours. But the remnants of his savagery still lingered until his hands were removed from my mother’s neck. This savagery pushed him to slap me off of him the moment he felt my fists. His arm flung back, slapping me like I was an annoying fly pestering his space. My vision went white for a moment, the force of his hand sending me across the floor. I was deafened for a moment. I saw black; stars. The pain didn’t come until moments after, and neither did the blood. A strong stinging and burning, like someone had placed hot coals on my nose and mouth, overtook my senses. I couldn’t move; I was somehow scared to breathe. Aza’s scream of my name was muffled though shocked ears.
Her hands cradled my head. She repeatedly said my name and continued to do so when I wouldn’t look up. My hand came up to my nose and mouth and felt warm sticky liquid pooling into my hand - red, rich and my own.
My fingers trembled; my whole body trembled in my state of shock, a whimper and small groan leaving my lips. As my hearing came back, I heard the sound of Mama heaving, coughing and gasping for air. I finally looked up - I saw her turning onto her side, clawing at the floor like it would give her air. Her body was limp and frail and rid of strength.
And then I saw Hezekiah.
He was on his knees, his palms firm on the wood floor. He faced me. He was looking at me. I felt the remorse and the guilt from him; the regret. His eyes were so large, they looked like two suns. And his brows drew in and creased in the middle like a child concerned with a mess they had made. I couldn’t acknowledge this at the time, but in the back of my head as I stared at his face, I remembered our encounter in the kitchen the night before. I remembered wondering if he still possessed any kind of empathic emotion - sadness, regret, remorse, mourning. And he did, but only when he saw what he had done to me. That was the time, as the blood brightened my hand, that blood the last thing he thought about; to him, a vampire, bloodlust was insignificant in that moment.
“No,” he whispered to himself. Over and over, he whispered this word. He got up slowly and walked over to me. “Babygirl I...I didn’t...fuck, I didn’t mean to...to...here, let me see-”
“Stay away from her!” Aza commanded up at him. It was clear it hurt her to say this to him, but I felt her shaking as her arms wrapped around me; she was afraid of him. I was shaking but from shock. I wasn’t as afraid as I should have been. Should I have been more afraid?
Apparently, Hezekiah had fallen in love with me. Apparently, we knew each other. And apparently, I knew his wife. I was probably close with her at one point. But I couldn’t tap into these memories and use them to sway how I felt in that moment because these events hadn’t happened yet for me. They were written in time, yes, but not in my time. Not yet. Hezekiah’s memories of us were different than the ones I had; how badly did this hurt him? The fact that I could only think of how he felt spoke multitudes.
All I knew was here and now.
And here and now, there was confliction.
Hezekiah looked at Aza, then looked back at Mama who was still on the floor catching her breath. I held back a cry that wanted to come out; I wouldn’t cry. I refused because I hated the reason why I wanted to cry: I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. I was confused. I wanted to cry because of these reasons that weren’t reasons at all. So, I held it in and closed my eyes. I only heard Hezekiah’s footsteps; his feet were shifting on the floor, as if he couldn’t decide between leaving or staying. But then he left. Quickly; I didn’t hear his footsteps. I opened my eyes, and he was gone.
Mama had regained her strength by then. She saw what Hezekiah had done to me and was nearly foaming at the mouth. It was an accident, but Mama wouldn’t have listened if I told her this. All she believed was that the man who choked her nearly to death slapped her daughter, too. The hatred that Marie II garnered for Hezekiah Mercier passed down to my mother in the same form of intensity.
Mama pushed herself up, grabbed the parchments that were scattered all over the ground. She found a box of matches on Aza’s console table and lit one in her hand. She brought the flame to the parchments and watch as they caught fire. Her eyes drank in the flame like it was a sweet poison to enjoy. Mama dropped the burning papers into the wastebasket underneath the table and watched them burn.
“That fucker’s going to die,” Mama said tiredly. “All of ’em gonna die. And it starts here.”
The burning wastebasket was a catalyst. We had many of them before since I arrived back home, but this one was the catalyst. Mama was pushed to a point that she would do whatever it took to make sure that Abraham and Hezekiah suffered. The Council was an afterthought, even though they were equally and arguably more dangerous than Abraham and his forthright plan for ultimate power. All Mama saw was Abraham and Hezekiah drowning in a pool of holy water. And it was a shame, really. None of us knew yet, but her burning those parchments set us backward by ten steps.
Those parchments contained a reverse ritual - one that I had written - that was meant to be used against the Council or Abraham if they found the Ritual. And underneath my work was Marie II’s work, which detailed a map that led to the real Ritual, buried out west near Lafayette with Marie Laveau’s enchanted seal on it. Like Sajida had said. But none of us knew. We just watched the papers burn, devoid of any emotion.
Unaware that Mama’s effort to keep me from tempus summatum led me closer to it.