Chapter 43: The Loa Chose You
The next morning, we were to convene with the rest of the priestesses that practiced across the city.
After the attack on Ben and the delivered invitations from the Council, the priestesses and priests contacted agreed to meet with the Coterie; they were afraid. It was clear. If they weren’t, they would want nothing to do with us.
I got up that morning and began to get ready. The events of last night took a heavy toll on me, causing me to get no sleep. My eyes were heavy and my nose was beginning to bruise, but I tried to ignore it as I got dressed in jeans and a tank top. The only ones who were dressed in white were the mambos of the Coterie. Everyone else, even the hounsis, were dressed in casual wear.
I walked into the living room of Aza’s house where the meeting was to take place. The Coterie had all arrived, dressed in stark white and wearing colorful beads. The girls and I stood in the corner, purposefully out of the way, though I felt as if I should have been in the center of it all with the rest of the mambos - even though I wasn’t a priestess, I felt just as significant with all of the revelations that last night had given about me. But I decided just to remain quiet and to myself. I tried to keep my mind quiet; excessive thought about Russel Van Doren, Marie II, tempus summatum and especially Hezekiah would probably drive me insane.
“What happened to you?” Imani asked me, referring to my bruised nose and mouth. I shook my head, assuring her that it was nothing of importance, but the girls still looked at me with concern and curiosity. I saw Mikael a ways away staring at me with quizzical eyes, but I paid him no mind.
When the clock struck 11, people started to arrive. There were about ten of them that showed up - 8 female and three male. All priests and priestesses of vodou. They all wore white, and they all had judgmental looks. Still, Mama was cordial with them, as was Aza, who offered them to sit down and asked if they wanted anything to drink. Most of them asked for tea, while others wanted nothing at all. We were tasked to make beverages for them. When we brought them out, they were short with their phrases of gratitude. Many of them were staring at me with a heavy gaze that held questions. I turned away and retreated back to the corner.
All of these priests and priestesses were the head of their respective houses. Of course, all the ones that were contacted did not show up; this was only a fraction. Many of them couldn’t swallow their pride and put the safety of our collective before their animosity towards the Coterie, but Mama was surprised at the number of people that did show up, which said something.
She found it difficult to speak due to the state of her neck, but she still continued to do so with authority and prominence in her voice. She thanked everyone for coming and apologized for the short noticed, but assured them that it was of the utmost importance.
“I know that the Coterie has not been very welcomed by the other voodoo practitioners in this city specifically,” she said. “But I think now more than ever, it is important for us to put our differences aside for the greater good.”
A few nodded, but most didn’t. They only listened and waited. And in this break of silence, there was a knock on the front door. We all looked around, confused on who it could have been. Maybe another priest decided to show up despite their hatred for the faction?
Mikael went to open the door. And when the bright pool of sunlight poured into the house, a figure stood in between it, forming a darkened shadow that matched her spirit: Sajida.
The entire mood of the meeting completely changed. The priestesses shifted uncomfortably in their seats, and some got up quickly and moved to the side as if they were ready to leave or unsure of what her move would be. Sajida enjoyed this. As she walked in, she wore a large grin that stretched to both far corners of her cheeks. My first reaction was to look at Aza, who narrowed her eyes and frowned. Mama was furious, too.
“Sorry I’m late, y’all.” Sajida closed the door behind her. Her clothes were white but not as stark in color as the rest. Her skirt was torn on the bottom, her shirt the thinnest fabric, and she wore no shoes again. I couldn’t help but continuously stare at her, especially with what I knew about her lave tet experience. She looked over at me, and suddenly her smiled waned. I remembered her reaction to hearing about tempus summatum last night, nearly fainting when I was associated with it. As the Supreme Sorceress of the Bayou of the Shunned, what did she know?
“Sajida,” Mama said coldly. “What are you doing here? You weren’t invited.”
“Which is where you done messed up,” she replied. “Because, as you said, this affects all of us. I am a voodoo priestess - you seem to keep forgetting that.”
“We don’t play with the kind of voodoo you be practicing,” Mambo Nene said.
“And what kind of voodoo is that, Nene? I thought there was only one kind?”
“You are tainted, Sajida,” Missus Taima said plainly as if she almost had to spell it out for her.
Sajida puckered out her lips condescendingly as she pulled out a cigarette and sat down next to an older priest who I believed to be Cyrus, a close friend of Doctor Ben’s. Cyrus scooted over uncomfortably as Sajida lit her cigarette with her finger; I waited for this the moment the cigarette came out of her pocket.
“Typical behavior of the Coterie - beg someone for help then throw ’em out when they ain’t no more use to them.” Sajida gave Aza a look, for Aza knew too well what this felt like. “Ain’t I the one who told y’all exactly what these bloodsuckers are causing a ruckus over?”
No one responded. And at this, Sajida smiled again. “Continue,” she told Mama before taking another drag, and with a roll of her eyes, Mama resumed speaking.
“Thanks to...Sajida,” Mama said with reluctance in her voice, “we know exactly what these vampires are after - a ritual. This ritual is supposed to reverse the power of the sun, and when done on a vampire, apparently it can make them immune to the sun itself.”
Everyone began speaking amongst each other nervously. I clenched my hands together nervously; Mama was leaving out a crucial detail - the detail about her having burned our only hope at stopping the ritual.
“This is the gravest threat we’ve ever had to face. Not only is Abraham after this ritual, but the Council is, too. And who knows what other vampire clans know ’bout it, too? They’ve been trying many different ways to weaken us, from stealing our artifacts to coming after our families. And I think that the disappearances of your hounsis and co-workers got something to do with these bloodsuckers as well. Now, we all got these invitations to their little ‘dinner party?’”
I saw the black envelopes in their hands. Again, Mama didn’t mention important information pertaining to my personal invitation.
“Something is off about this ‘dinner party’ they got going on, and it is imperative that we all work together to figure out just what we should do next to make sure that they do not win. They done made it clear that they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we ain’t in the picture no more.”
An older priestess with deep brown skin and a large frame raised her hand and stood when she spoke, adjusting her tignon. “How does this ‘ritual’ work? We should start there so we can find a way to work against it.”
“We ain’t too sure on how it works exactly -”
“What you mean?” Sajida spoke up, interrupting Mama. “We got those parchments.”
The parchments I wrote. The ones Mama burned.
Mama became visibly uncomfortable when Sajida mentioned this, but everyone else’s interest was piqued.
“Parchments?” Cyrus asked.
“The parchments that got the actual ritual in it. They must got some type of ‘reverse ritual’ in it that we could translate?”
Sajida was good. Really good. She already knew about Mama’s fuck up last night and decided to use this against her and her peers. Mama’s nose flared at Sajida, who just continued to smile.
“These parchments have a ‘reverse ritual’ in them?” a priest asked. “Well, that solve part of our problem right there!”
“How we translate them?” A priestess asked eagerly, but Mama didn’t respond. She didn’t respond until she was continuously being questioned. Finally, she told them what had happened to these parchments - that she burned them on accident last night. The room went painfully quiet.
“You what?” A priestess said, and the yelling commenced. It was hard to make out exactly what these people were saying, but it wasn’t good. It was chaos, what Sajida started. And none of us knew how to regulate the situation. The same priestess who rose her hand spoke again.
“Why would you burn the one thing that could help us against these damn bloodsuckers?” She asked lividly. “We don’t know nothing ’bout this ritual and you done burn the one thing that could help us understand it!”
“Why did you burn them!?” Cyrus asked Mama. Mama refused to answer with the truth - that she thought the parchments were the actual ritual, and, determined to get me away from tempus summatum and Hezekiah, thought destroying it would save us. But Aza’s words about the loa and fate were right: They always find a way to lead us right where they want us. But Mama continued to be silent. She refused to confess the truth about me being the author of these papers back in the 19th century.
Quickly, the meeting went south. These mambos were back to hating the Coterie and blaming them for our downfall. Confused and upset, they all began to leave, claiming that they would handle the Council on their own accord; that they would find their missing novitiates on their own. At that point, there was little we could do except watch them walk out. And once the door closed behind them, there was only one person left: Sajida.
Mama was fuming once they were all gone. “You happy now?!” Mama yelled at Sajida. Sajida rolled her eyes at Mama, but Mama was more than furious at this point.
“What? I just told them the truth. You fucked up. Don’t understand why you mad at me for it - ”
“See, Sajida, you aren’t getting it,” Aza interrupted, just as furious as Mama. “You say and do malicious shit and wonder why people want nothing to do with you!”
“You ruined our one chance at defeating Abraham and the Council. Our once chance, and you blew it in five minutes!”
“No one even asked you to come here!” Aza screamed at her. Sajida sat quietly as they yelled at her, listening intently and looking them deep into their eyes as they continued to shout. It was hard to read her face.
Finally, Sajida stood up when they were done. “You two are fucking idiots,” she spat at them. “You want to cover up this bullshit with sparkles and rainbows? You two have always been delusional. Always! Just face the facts!” She pulled out a black envelope from her pocket. “This? This is the beginning of the end for us. All of us! We’re damned if we do go and damned if we don’t and that’s because y’all don’t want to open up your minds and think outside the box. You want to sit around and have these sissy little meetings instead of figuring out a real solution to our problems!”
“Really, Sajida?” Mama said. “What’s the real solution?”
Sajida’s finger pointed directly at me. I felt it jab into my heart, even though we were a considerable distance from each other. Everyone turned to look at me, and I felt that if the priests and priestesses who just left were here, they would realize why they couldn’t stop staring at me.
“It’s her, Alize! It’s her, it’s always been her. She is the ‘child of an unholy union,’ she has her as her djab, she’s the drifter of time, it is her! Lisa is the fucking prophecy! She is the only one who can save us and it has been like this since the day she was born,” Sajida lowered her voice, but it was equally as menacing, “I told you the day she was born, remember when we were in Mama’s bedroom? Remember I told you that she was something special - that she was the key to ending all this, but you locked her away instead. You hid away the only person that could save us. Goddamnit, she wrote those parchments with Marie II, with Marie Laveau, with Camile Mercier, with Doctor John and Jim Alexander himself! She is the prophecy, Alize! She is the key!
“And now what? Russell Van Doren wants to invite her to this dinner? You think he just being nice? This bloodsucker knows her, Alize. He knows her from the past and that’s because she has achieved tempus summatum. And we all know that spell ain’t an easy feat. There are very few who can do it and live through it and you think it’s a coincidence that the ‘child of an unholy union’ is the one who not only traveled back in time but wrote the key to destroying the strongest vampires that have ever lived? Think about it, Alize! The loa chose her. The gods chose her! Our family has been trying to fulfill this prophecy for decades and now it stands right in front of us. Right here, with those glasses on, the prophecy stands right here!”
No one saw me the same after Sajida said these words. No one looked at me the same. I wasn’t Lisa anymore. I was Alisande Dumont - Drifter of time, the Child of an Unholy union, the prophecy, the ‘chosen one.’ I knew some had an idea that I was different from the rest, while others thought I was completely useless. But now, per Sajida’s words, I was the only one who could save us - all of us - from the ‘strongest vampires that have ever lived.’ Me - a short, average, naive young woman with no prospects, barely able to see without my glasses on, now labeled as the savior and the prophecy. I couldn’t fathom these words at the time; I didn’t think of myself as having much influence.
Mama only stared at Sajida. She didn’t say a word, though I wondered what she would have said had she spoken.
Eventually, as Sajida waited for her sister to speak again, Mama finally did.
“Get out,” she growled, close to wringing Sajida’s neck the same way that Hezekiah did to hers. I was shocked but also not surprised at the same time - my mother was in denial about everything. Even if she knew Sajida was right, she refused to acknowledge it. But quickly my interest in Sajida was piqued. I was curious on how much my aunt really knew; how much was my own mother not telling me? What was Sajida willing to tell me? To show me?
Sajida laughed at Mama’s fierce demand. Shaking her head, she puffed smoke from her cigarette one last time before turning to leave. I noticed her eyes - they weren’t bright. They were dim, almost hazel in color instead of the bright green we were all used to.
“You’ll see,” she said to us. “You’ll realize that I was right this whole time and beg me to help you. The moment you stop running from the truth is the moment that chaos and death will stop chasing you.” She then looked at me, and for a moment I felt lost in her eyes. “Ask your mama who your daddy is.”
“Sajida,” Mama said in a warning tone.
“How long until you tell her, Alize? You afraid she gone come into her own when she find out who she really is?”
“I told you to get out!” Mama barked, but Sajida still wasn’t finished.
“You want the truth, Lisa? You want to know who you are? You want to end this bullshit? You come see me. You ain’t getting nowhere, following them ’round, I swear to you! I know them better than you ever think you did, they gone hide you from yourself until we’re all dead. You come see me when you ready to know the truth, Lisa!”
A smile crossed her lips as she said this, knowing her words were sending my mother off the edge. But these words seeped deep into my bones, and as Sajida was practically hauled out by the Coterie, they danced around in my mind until I believed them. But even though I believed them, I had little faith in them - I’m the chosen one. The savior. But how could I save everyone? I knew Mama wouldn’t tell me, because per usual, she would pretend as if nothing happened.
The Coterie was speaking over each other, trying to understand what happened. Mama was still trying to find the best words to say, and the girls asked me if I was alright as I stared into space. I felt like I was slowly going insane. Like I was being alienated. And as Sajida left, I somehow felt the urge to go after her.
You come see me when you ready to know the truth.
I was ready.