Chapter 51: The Child of an Unholy Union
I stared at Marie Laveau for a very long time. It was the only thing I could think to do, because words failed me.
The most well-known voodoo practitioner of our time; everyone in New Orleans knew her name. Anyone who practiced voodoo knew who she was. There were books written about her. Movies and television programs made about her. People worshiped her, visiting her grave every day in the hundreds to leave offerings in the hopes that she would bless them in return. Marie Laveau was an incredible woman, having left her mark in history. And not only was she my ancestor—not only did we share the same blood—but she was my djab; this woman chose me to follow in her afterlife. She chose me to guide.
Marie Laveau chose me.
Accounts of her physical appearance varied often; there weren’t any actual photos of Marie, for she didn’t like to be photographed. But besides the vampires that had lived (or were already undead) during her time, I was the only living person to see what she looked like, and she was nearly spot on to what I had imagined her to look like—light brown skin, practically beige in tone, and these large eyes that were all-knowing; they possessed infinite amount of wisdom. Her face was oblong, her lips big and nearly heart-shaped. Her brows were arched, making her expression serious and intimidating when she was focusing. She had a full figure, close to Mambo Nene’s but with more of a curvature to her frame. Even as a spirit, her curly hair was graying and her wrinkles were noticeable as if, even in the afterlife, she did not fear aging. The only difference was the eyes—as a loa, Marie possessed these eyes that were channeled to the spirit world. Eyes that possessed a bright, angelic glow.
I forced myself to speak; to say something, “You’re...you’re...y-you’re—”
“You weren’t this tongue-tied when I first met you,” she said to me. Her accent was very thick; this was something I actually didn’t expect.
I exhaled nervously, “I don’t remember the first time we met.”
Marie set the snake down onto a mat, watching it slither behind the altar. “’Course you don’t. It ain’t happens yet for you.”
“Tempus summatum,” I muttered.
She hummed to herself, “That what y’all take to call it.”
I watched as she began to walk out of the room. I followed closely.
“You a brave girl for going to Sajida,” Marie said to me.
“I had no other choice. No one would help me connect with you.”
I was still in disbelief that I was speaking to Marie Laveau, and she acknowledged this by laughing at me when we were in the living room.
“You gone get rid that look on your face?” she asked me.
I rubbed my eyes, “Sorry. It’s just...I can’t believe it. You’re my djab, y-you chose me. Why?”
“S’ppose I cheated,” she answered. “I met you when I wasn’t dead. I got to sit with you, talk to you, for a long time, we’s acquainted.”
We were outside now. In the night—in the eerily empty street—there were suddenly visions that appeared before us. I saw Marie sitting in a dark room with candles and a few other men and women dressed in white surrounding her. I saw a familiar face sitting close with Marie; it was me.
Marie was giving me a look into my future; into what I did in the past.
“You came to me in a dead sweat. Loa gave me visions of you; I knew you was coming. But I wasn’t sure why. ’Parrently, you had to write these ‘papers’ you said would save e’rybody.”
The sky, once dark and filled with stars, suddenly became blue and bright by the sun. There were people on the streets in clad clothing; tattered clothing. Rich and poor, all walking the street, some with umbrellas in hand to shield the sun. A bell rung several times and grew louder once a streetcar pulled by horse slowly rode by, packed with people. On the sidewalk were vendors selling secrets to youth, pastries, scarves, produce and jewelry. A French couple laughing together walked through us, their bodies dissipating into mist before coming back together behind us and continuing their stroll. I watched in awe; New Orleans, circa 1840.
A woman suddenly ran through us, wearing white clothing that was drenched with water. She looked lost, scared, but determined to figure out where to go to next. People stared at her with confused eyes as she tried to navigate the crowded sidewalk.
“You was looking for some quick fix,” Marie explained, pointing at me walking frantically on the sidewalk. “Thinking I had the answers. But I ain’t had no idea what you was talking about; I was barely getting into voodoo at this time.”
“But you knew who I was trying to save us from?” I asked.
Marie nodded surely, her expression turning cold. “Those damn bloodsuckers.”
The sky went dark again. In the street were a group of black men with bright, amber eyes. Vampires. I recognized the man at the head of the group—Abraham, whose face wasn’t tainted by the scar on his eye yet. But next to Abraham was their leader—a thin creole gentleman who appeared older than his clan. I remembered him; this was Terah, Abraham’s master. I remembered him from his demise on the cross when Abraham killed him. The images began to flash quickly; we were now in a forest, where Terah’s clan was chasing after a group of white men on horses. They were hunting slave catchers; Doctor Ben had told me about this.
“Terah got them on the right path at first,” Marie said. “They would hunt these catchers down, help slaves get to freedom. That’s what Terah and Abraham did—they would buy slaves and give them a ‘purpose,’ telling them that becoming a vampire was for a bigger cause.”
“The Council didn’t like this?”
Marie shook her head. “No, ma’am. Not at all.”
Five white men and women whose backs were turned to me were in a dining room, talking about something; their voices were inaudible.
“The Council—always got the upper hand. They knew the only way to stop Terah and Abraham from what they were doing, was a distraction. So, they killed my Jacques and blamed it on Terah. And I was dumb enough to believe it.”
This is when the war began. Marie and I walked through an abundance of dead bodies in allies, clad in white dresses, and vampires with burns on their faces. Terah and Abraham’s effort to help slaves to freedom were spread thin as this discord between Marie and Terah continued. And as I watched the chaos unfold before me, I couldn’t help but wonder where Hezekiah was during all of it?
“You came to me long after I declared war on them bloodsuckers,” Marie said to me. “You told me about a ritual that they could use to control the sun.”
Marie finally put a name to the ritual—Solèy Pwoteje. Haitian French for ‘sun protection’ or ‘protection against the sun.’ The ceremony channeled Papa Legba and had to be done only during a solar eclipse. It was a long, painful process for everyone involved, the vampire having to endure contact with any item detrimental to their wellbeing; holy water, silver, what have you. But after the ceremony was finished, the Vampire would stand in the middle of the ceremonial circle and embrace the sun’s rays once the eclipse was nearing its end. After a moment of excruciating pain, the pain would subside; the vampire would be able to exist among sunlight. It did not only grant an immunity to sunlight—since the vampire was immune to the sun, it was immune to any and all holy things; the sun is not only seen as a literal source of light, but as a metaphorical one, synonymous with all things good and holy and righteous. If they were immune to the sun, they were immune to all things holy that would normally lead to their demise. Holy water would not hurt them. Fire would not burn them. They could come into contact with silver or a holy cross, and they would be able to enter a residence without permission.
They would be unstoppable.
“Boy, first time you told me that I was gone do anything to make sure that they ain’t get they hands on it, in that life or the next.”
“But who created the ritual?” I asked her. “Where did it come from?”
Daytime arrived. A woman with long, black wavy hair and fair skin walked the streets as people stared, admiring her beauty. Marie shook her head at her.
“My daughter,” she said. I sucked in a sharp breath—Marie II. The vengeful spirit. My Mama’s djab. I remembered Sajida’s words about Marie II creating Solèy Pwoteje and gritted my teeth. She created the ritual for the Council, blinded by her hate for Terah’s clan. She was a pawn in the Council’s hope of our death.
“A fool, she was,” Marie spat. “A damned fool! She messed it up for all of us. Stubborn as a mule. Would never listen. Dabbled in magic she ain’t s’pposed to, using voodoo for nasty things, kneeled to those white devils, anything she could do to make sure Terah and everyone in his clan paid for everything they done. Foolish, stupid girl! Council threw a bone off a cliff and she chased it; told her that they needed something to make them real buddy-buddy with the sun and she ask them how quick they need it. She did anything and everything to make that ritual and didn’t destroy it when it was too late.”
My stomach sunk inside me. I helped write those parchments; did I help write the ritual, too?
“Those parchments ain’t just had that there Solèy Pwoteje,” Marie said to me. “It was a prophecy. Loa gave you visions, gave me visions, gave Jim visions, gave Doctor John visions, and you wrote ‘em in some kind of code. Not only were you trying to make a reverse ritual that would stop Solèy Pwoteje if it ever got started, but you were writing down the loas’ prophecy; you were documenting their guidance. You started the ritual on accident, and Marie took it and finished it for the Council. The things my daughter knew were the reason Solèy Pwoteje ever became anything; you wouldn’t have been able to create it on your own.”
Now, we were in a cottage, with a heavy green glow that reflected off of the skulls and trinkets that swallowed the walls. A man was speaking to me—a man with dark, ebony skin and small uniformed scars all on his face. This man was telling me about his visions; telling me that the loa had communicated to him. And I wrote every word down in a cipher.
“Why didn’t Marie II destroy the ritual?” I asked her.
“Because, like I said, she was a fool!” Marie grew angry just speaking about her daughter, even though these events were part of a time she no longer lived in. “She buried it when she finally came to her senses. Was too prideful to destroy what took her years to make. And then she done put a spell on it so no one, not even the spirits, could find it.”
Marie then looked at me; she looked deep into my eyes, “But you. You can find it. You can destroy it.”
“You were there when she buried it. You and Camille were there. Camille is gone, but you? You’re here. You find out where it is that she buried it, you dig it up, and you destroy it! It’s the prophecy, Lisa, but the prophecy can always change. You the one to save your people, but how you gone do it? That’s up to you. Learn the reverse ritual and destroy the real one; time can always change. You prepare yourself for anything.”
“B-but how? How do I learn tempus summatum? That’s the only way that I can do any of this; I need to learn the spell. Can you teach it to me?”
I asked her this desperately, feeling as if my time with my djab was coming to an end. Marie looked at me with grave eyes.
“Ain’t my place to teach it to you. You gots to learn it yourself.”
“Why?!” I yelled. “Why can’t you teach it to me now!?”
“You ain’t ready, Lisa! One lave tet ain’t gone give you what you need; one meeting with me ain’t gone guide you where you need to go. You need to figure this out yourself. The spirits gave you the tools, now use ’em! You come into your own first. You’ll know when you’re ready. Ain’t no easy way out. There’s pain, suffering, isolation. All them things make us into who we are. You the Child of an Unholy Union—the loa meant this for you.”
There was that phrase. That damned phrase. In this limbo that Marie and I were in, the words seemed to seep deeper into my bones.
“What is that?” I asked her. “What does that mean? Why am I the Child of an Unholy Union?”
Marie stared at me for a very long time. She knew I was eager to know. She knew I needed to know.
Marie and I were in a forest again, only this time, it was bright outside. I saw myself, the back of me, putting something into a chest and burying it by a tree.
“Everything is full circle,” Marie said. “One thing lead to another which lead to the first thing; time is delicate. All things fall back on us, especially with tempus summatum. The loa gave us all visions about you before you came to me; we all got visions about your birth. About you. And you wrote about these visions in the parchments—a Child of an Unholy Union had to be born, and they would be the one to stop the future impending threat and bring peace.”
“So, I wrote my own birth?” I asked, in which Marie hummed and nodded.
You wrote down the words that led to your birth and the beginning of your Mama’s worst trauma, Marie said to me when she possessed Mama. Now, I understood.
“But your Mama burned the papers that you wrote, talking about the Child of an Unholy Union, which sent you back in time to begin with. See? Full circle. You wrote these papers, buried them, and your ancestors found them and tried to translate what they meant. It wasn’t until your Maw-maw got a hold of ’em. She was able to translate them; they made that woman crazy. She was obsessed with knowing how the Coterie would be able to find peace and power again.”
I saw my grandmother in her study, which was now my Mama’s study. She had my work spread all about the desk, an array of books opened where she flipped back and forth in an effort to translate. The room was a mess; she appeared as if she hadn’t slept in days.
“She finally understood what you wrote: you needed to be born to bring prosperity and peace. ‘A Laveau descendant...’”
I saw Mama. My heart sunk in my chest. She was young; happy. Care free. She sat with Sajida and Aza in Aza’s garden, laughing while they picked herbs. Sajida looked normal; her eyes were hazel and her smile was genuine.
“’...of hybrid blood,” Marie finished.
“Hybrid?” I breathed. Suddenly, we were in a backyard. Terah’s clan stood around a body, chanting and screaming. And when I looked at these men, these vampires, I felt my knees coming close to collapsing.
“No.” I couldn’t breathe; the world was collapsing around me, and tears of fear and dread began to pool in my eyes. “That doesn’t make sense. Marie, please. This...this can’t be...”
“Your granny knew what hybrid you talked about.”
Vampire. That’s what I spoke about. I was a hybrid mix; my blood was of both the living and the undead. My father was a vampire. But I refused to believe it.
“My father was a root doctor,” I said to her. “His name was Ekwala. That’s...that’s what Sajida said to me...”
“His name is Ekwala,” Marie said. She was silent as the clan began to spread apart, and Terah stepped forward to a woman—Marie.
We were at the scene of her death.
“A lot of vampires change their names after they become one,” Marie said. “In this case, he changed his. He ain’t wanna be tied to his past life.”
Terah. He turned around and looked at us, his eyes deep auburn and full of bloodlust. I froze still, staring at this image of him the spirit world had created. I couldn’t come to terms with it; with him.
“He knew what he was gonna do right when he jittered at the first smell of blood. He chose a name that reflected his aspirations—a name from the book of Genesis: finding a new nation under his rule, and a seed—his offspring—would inherit his empire. He took plenty of joy in killing me.”
I waited for Terah to kill Marie, but he never did. He bestowed the honor onto someone else—another man, who lunged forward and fed on Marie before snapping her neck. The clan cheered; Terah didn’t kill her, but the vampire who did was my father. I couldn’t see his face. In fact, I didn’t want to. But he began to turn around anyway with the blood of my ancestor dripping from his mouth. And in the split second that the crowd covered his face, I didn’t want to know the truth anymore. Maybe because I expected it to be a different kind of truth. But I was still faced with it anyway, no matter how bloody and brutal it was.
Right when his face was revealed to me, I remembered the passage from the book of genesis; I had studied The Bible in one time in my life when I was overcome with uncertainty about my faith, and I had heard his story before: Terah, the descendant of Noah, had three sons: Sarai, Lot—
Abraham looked into my eyes with a hopefulness that was full of evil intentions. Marie Laveau’s blood stained his mouth, and his eyes were burning in the dark. I couldn’t look away; I stared in horror as my father smiled at me, like the many times he had smiled at me before. However, these smiles had an entirely different meaning to me now. He didn’t smile at me to scare me. He smiled because he knew who I was; he smiled because I was an image of him.
Abraham smiled at me because I was his daughter.
Immediately, hundreds of voices screaming and arguing were amplified around me. Marie was gone, and I was quickly catapulted through the realm until I landed on hard stone. There were benches on both sides of me with bibles on the seats. Colors from stained glass poured in from above, aided by sunlight that showcased piles of dead bodies of both human and vampire origin. I stood up and took in my surroundings—one pile was the Coterie, brutally murdered. The second pile was the Council. Corpses spilled onto the aisle; one was my mother, and the other was Hezekiah, both wide eyed and lifeless. I couldn’t breathe as I looked at them. I wanted to scream, but nothing came out. I moaned in agony at the sight, and suddenly, I felt something come through my body and escape through the other side. A woman was walking gracefully down the aisle, her dress of black lace and up to her collar. She stepped over my mother and Hezekiah’s bodies like they were of no significance, kicking their limp arms to the side. She walked up to the altar, where a man was standing with his back turned. He turned around when he sensed her presence; it was Abraham, standing in the sun without harm. The woman walked up to him. He gave her his hand, and she took it to stand by his side. They both looked at what they had done and smiled proudly. Then they both looked at me. I choked on the breath that wanted to escape when I saw myself, around a decade older, standing next to Abraham. But something was drastically different:
My eyes were the same auburn color as Abraham’s.
Abraham’s dream. This was his dream; his goal. This is what he wanted. This is what he would attain. Everyone dead, and me by his side as a full-blooded creature of the night. The Child of an Unholy Union—the child of human and vampire blood. The child that would save or ruin everyone. The child that Abraham wanted; the child to inherit his empire.
I screamed loudly enough for it to bounce off the church walls and echo. I screamed until everything went black.