Voodoo Queens of New Orleans

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Chapter 52: Wake Up

I opened my eyes and recognized my surroundings.

The room was dark, but I knew it was the bedroom Sajida allowed Mikael and I to stay in; I had no idea what day it was.

My head throbbed and I was thirsty. These were the first two sensations that came to mind. I didn’t remember the visions from my lave tet the first few moments of me coming into consciousness, which I was thankful for; I wanted at least a minute of sanity.

But once that sanity ended, I was brought back into the harsh reality.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. There were weights on my chest, it seemed. In this dark, sweltering heat, I was bombarded with images during my time with my met tet.

But eventually, all I could see was Abraham, baring his fangs, blood on his mouth. The Vampire Lord who had caused us so much torment was my father, and a part of me refused to believe. Mostly because I didn’t know how it could be.

I sat still, letting the heat embrace me, listening to the moans and groans from the bayou, somehow unafraid of the darkness. I sat still and began to cry silently; the tears began to spill down my cheeks. Nothing made sense, yet at the same time, everything started to connect.

Did Aza know? The Coterie? What about Hezekiah?

Hezekiah. When his name came to my mind, I was prompted to sit up. He knew—he must have known; Abraham is his master. This entire time, as he and I began to grow ‘close,’ he knew that I was Abraham’s daughter. He looked into my eyes knowing this.

Sadness was quickly replaced with anger and confusion.

I heard voices coming from the hallway—yelling and arguing. I knew these voices. They belonged to Aza and Mama, but there were other voices, too. Was the entire Coterie here?

I pushed myself off the bed, trying my best to regain my balance. The room was spinning all around me, and even in the dark, I felt like my eyes couldn’t process anything around me. There was also a throbbing pain on my tongue like I had bitten it too hard. But I pushed through my headache and continued forward to the door after feeling for my glasses on the bedside table. When I opened it, the voices were immediately amplified.

“Shouldn’t she have woken up by now?” I heard Mikael ask, concerned.

“She had a seizure, Mikael. Takes a minute to bounce back from that.”

I had a seizure? It must have happened right after I saw the vision of Abraham’s Dream; right after everything went black. It explained the bite marks on my tongue and the pain.

I took careful, slow steps down the hall. I still had my white dress on; it was completely dry at this point. Fighting through the fog that had settled in my head, I finally made it to the living room where Sajida and Mikael were talking. Their voices quieted when they saw me come into the space. Mikael looked relieved to see I was awake, but Sajida’s face was different. She knew I saw something, and she knew I spoke to someone. She just knew.

“Lisa,” Mikael said, approaching me promptly. I had never seen him this worried. “Are you alright? How do you feel?”

“I’m fine,” I said, because to detail everything I saw in the “world between” with Marie Laveau would take a toll on my brain again. But Sajida knew I wasn’t fine. Sajida, who was also still dressed in white, stared at me with a devious smirk on her face.

“What happened?” I asked them.

“While you were put down to rest, you had a seizure a couple of hours in,” Mikael explained to me. “You’ve been resting for about five hours now.”

All I did was nod. I was still so hazy; nothing felt real. When I looked at Sajida, she still had that smile on her face.

“You wanna sit down?” she asked me, but I shook my head. I wanted to leave. I had been here long enough. And when I told them this, they urged me to calm down. But all I saw was Abraham, over and over again in my head. I saw him with my mother in ways I would have never imagined.

“You ain’t finish the lave tet,” Sajida told me. “You sure you want to leave now?”

“Yes,” I assured her. “I just...I want to go home.”

“Lisa, maybe you should just sit down for a minute—”

“I said I want to go home!” I screamed at him. Mikael blinked at me rapidly, shared a look with Sajida, then gave no more opposition. He went to go grab my backpack and the crossbow, and as he did this, Sajida continued to stare at me. I tried my best to keep it together, I really did. But Sajida was an all-knowing woman; she knows what you don’t know about yourself, and she also knows everything that you are aware of. She just likes the game of teasing you about it.

I was faltering, and she could sense it.

“You sure you want to leave so soon, niecey?” she said, her voice low and teasing.

“Yeah, I’m sure. This was a mistake. I wasn’t ready—”

“Don’t claim that enlightenment and devotion to the loa is a mistake,” she said. She began to walk closer towards me, in which I held my breath while keeping my eyes leveled with hers. “What did you see?” she asked me.

“What?”

“I know you saw something. It must have been a powerful vision; I ain’t never had no one get no seizure during a lave tet before.”

“I don’t...I don’t remember.”

“Hm,” she replied. Her eyes were heated to a near chartreuse color, clouded with mystery. But despite this vagueness in her character, I could sense that she was aware of the information I had acquired from Marie Laveau. And in addition to this, I knew that Sajida was aware of who my father was all along.

I remember the vision Marie displayed during our time together—the vision of Mama, Sajida and Aza in their prime. The three of them were the harbingers of this secret.

Sajida and I continued to stare at each other until Mikael came back with our things. She was trying to break me apart with her gaze, I believed. But a part of me didn’t think this. A part of me saw something else in her—something hiding in the shadows, waiting to come out. I saw a monster; this monster was waiting to attack me, and I didn’t notice it sooner.

“Well, you come back if you want more practice with your magic,” Sajida said to me. “Or if you want to try the lave tet again. I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience.”

Sajida wasn’t sorry—I could see it all on her face. There were unknown, dark intentions underneath that smile she wore. Mikael lightly grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the door, but I could still feel Sajida’s gaze stuck on my back. Was she swimming her way through my brain, trying to figure out what I saw during my lave tet? She knew that my djab was Marie Laveau; she said that I had ‘her’ as my met tet. What else did she know?

When we were outside in the moist, sticky air, Mikael and I were suddenly lifted up from our feet. Slowly, we descended down onto the ground from a telepathic source. The bayou soil grew larger and larger the closer we floated towards it. And when our feet were planted on the dirt, Mikael and I looked up to find Sajida standing by the doorway to the treehouse. As her hands waved, the broken dock began to mend itself with the pieces that weren’t lost to the bayou’s gentle current a day ago. And within a minute, the Gatekeeper in his canoe arrived at the water’s edge to take us back to the world we knew.

“C’mon,” Mikael tried to help me across the dock, but I shrugged his arm off. He knew something was off, too. But his intuition wasn’t as strong as Sajida’s. He was completely in the dark, and I was torn on whether I should have kept him that way.

The Gatekeeper, like the time before, helped me into the canoe. And once Mikael stepped on, he used the blade of his paddle to push off from the shore and glide through the water. Our spirits, it seemed, were relieved of this unknown burden the moment we left the Bayou of the Shunned. When we were back to shore, I was so eager to get off the boat that I refused the help of both Mikael and the Gatekeeper. And I didn’t wait for my partner either; Mikael had to hurry his step to keep up with me.

“Lisa, slow down, please,” he said behind me, turning on the flashlight when the distance between us was finally downsized to a couple of feet. “Take it easy.”

“The quicker we get through this forest, the quicker we get home.”

“I know, I know. But you need to take it easy.”

Mikael was right. From his point of view, I was a woman who, after a ceremony that was supposed to cleanse the mind and spirit, had a seizure during the rest period. He didn’t know what might have caused it; he had no idea what I saw. So, to watch me hurriedly try and flee back home instead of monitoring my body and taking my time concerned him. But I disregarded his concern and continued to quicken my stride, but that was a mistake; the world around me began to spin, my head under this tension and pressure that brought me to a halt. Whispers seeped their way into my brain, and flashes of light and incomprehensible images appeared before my eyes. I was suddenly holding onto Mikael for balance. He immediately dropped our things on the ground and held me up.

“Lisa,” he said to me. “Lisa, are you alright?”

“I...yes. Yes, I’m fine.”

I wasn’t fine. Me and Mikael both knew this, but Mikael wore his concern more openly. I wasn’t coming to terms with the fact that I was in shock; I hadn’t given myself the appropriate amount of time to process what I had just found out: about my djab, about tempus summatum, about my family.

About my father.

“We’re almost to the car,” Mikael said, snaking his arm underneath mine as I draped my other arm over his shoulder, which was difficult considering how tall he was. But we walked together like this until we reached my car. He let go of me to grab my keys out of my backpack. I stared off into the distance as he rummaged through my things. I stared into the darkness, through the collective of trees that held the sounds of birds and insects. Dressed down in our dirtied white clothing, we were the brightest in the forest, though my mind felt the opposite; I felt tainted. Confused. Abysmal.

The Coterie was looking for us. I knew they were. What would I say to Mama, once her and I saw each other? The thought made my head spin again, so I hid it in the depths of my conscience until Mikael finally found the keys and unlocked the car. I got in on the passenger side while he sat in the driver’s seat. We sat in silence for a while. I looked at him, and he looked at me; we were both exhausted.

“Let’s go get something to eat,” he said. There were no questions about my well-being, nor anything pertaining to addressing the elephant in the room. We were both starving, having gone on nearly an entire day and a half without eating any real food. So, Mikael put the keys into the ignition, reversed, and started down the road as I sat and stared out the window, the trees beginning to resemble streaks of murky-colored paint as we drove faster.

**

“Hello, guys! For two?”

The hostess, trying to be as cordial as possible, couldn’t help but stare at Mikael and I as we approached the host’s desk with our tattered, dirty white clothing. But regardless, she allowed a smile to cross her youthful face as we nodded to her question.

She grabbed two menus from the side compartment of her desk. “Right this way,” she said to us, walking down the aisle of the small diner we had stumbled upon an hour into our drive. The lights were bright and flickering, illuminating the old, burgundy booth cushions and the plastic lining of the cheap stool seats. Mikael and I sat across from each other in the booth the hostess directed us to. She set down our menus and told us our server would be with us shortly.

“Thank you,” Mikael said to her; I found it impossible to speak.

The ceiling fans couldn’t spin any slower. The diner was so hot that even the mosquitos were second guessing their decision on coming in. Eventually, our server, who lacked a name tag, came to our table and asked what we would like to drink; she lacked an introduction.

We both got ice waters and watched as she disappeared into the kitchen, her blonde ponytail bouncing behind her. We hadn’t even looked at the menu, but instead, just stared at each other as the blues music played lowly above us through static. People were staring at us; we were the only black people in the entire restaurant.

Our server came back with two ice waters and asked if we were ready to order. Even though we hadn’t looked at the menu, we both just settled for cheeseburgers with a side of French fries. Our server took our menus and disappeared again. Mikael tapped his fingers against the table, staring out of the window before looking back at me.

“I don’t expect you to tell me what you saw,” he said to me. “But I need to know if you’re okay.”

I couldn’t answer him immediately, but when I finally decided to, the words seemed to be hesitant on my tongue, “I...I don’t know. I don’t think so.” I shook my head. “No. No, I’m not.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” he asked seriously, in which I shook my head; if he knew what I saw, he would agree with me. Instinctively, I looked around and saw that the few diners on the other side of the establishment were staring at us. One woman, who had a pair of sunglasses on, quickly looked away when I met her eyes, resuming picking at her meatloaf. Mikael and I said not another word, not even a peep, until our food came. When I saw that juicy burger placed in front of me, I began to salivate.

“Y’all enjoy,” our server said before we began to stuff our faces. It was as if I hadn’t known food until the moment that cheeseburger, practically oozing with cheddar, met my taste buds. I devoured my meal. We both did. The way we were eating paired with our clothes (and the obvious fact of us being black in a restaurant full of white people) made us a bit of a spectacle.

When there was nothing left but bread bun scraps and pieces of lettuce on our plates, our server quickly came by and grabbed our dirty dishes out of the way. Her and I made eye contact briefly—she was old, thin and frail. Her makeup was nearly fluorescent, and she had a permanent frown on her lips from the sagging of the skin on her face. But when she looked at me, there was this venom in her eyes. I knew this venom all too well; some people tried to mask it, while others, especially here in Louisiana, put little effort into hiding it.

“We’re ready for the check,” Mikael told her, and with a nod, our server walked in the other direction. When she left, her influence still stuck to me. The logical consensus would be that she was simply a racist, but the paranoid part of my brain wondered if she was the enemy; these people that were staring at us, were they the enemy? I wondered why the woman on the other end was wearing sun glasses indoors at night?

Trust your intuition, Lisa.

Her voice was as clear as day in my head now. I had never heard her voice so clear. Marie, whose presence was always with me, had grown stronger since my unfinished lave tet. Yes, the ceremony was unfinished, but it opened something in me that allowed Marie inside.

It can’t be just coincidence, I replied back in my head.

You’re a target, now. Person of interest. There’s no such thing as coincidences in your life no more.

Mikael was looking at me as if I was crazy while I had this internal dialogue with Marie. I flickered my eyes from him to the people sitting on the other end of the restaurant, and immediately, Mikael looked over again discretely at the woman with the sunglasses sitting with two men who hid their faces underneath fedoras. The bell from the front door brought our attention to a group of white gentlemen, all dressed in silk, pressed clothing. The hostess looked at them with the same puzzled expression we had, but our server, who was coming around the corner with our check, looked unfazed by them. They all walked slowly into the diner, sitting at the bar and adjusting their sunglasses. Their skin was deathly pale, nearly reflecting off of the fluorescent lights. They occasionally glanced at us over their shoulders.

Vampires. Undoubtedly.

Think, Lisa. Think quick.

“We need to go,” I whispered to Mikael.

“Wait,” he hissed at me, averting his eyes to the table the moment our server came to drop off the check. I reached into my backpack, left thirty dollars on the receipt and got up, but Mikael grabbed my arm and forced me down.

“Don’t make any sudden movements right now,” he whispered, but we knew they could hear us.

“I don’t want to me mauled down by the Council’s errand boys, Mikael!”

“We don’t know if they’re from the Council, which is why we need to just sit the hell down for a second.”

“Mikael—”

“Shut up! Please!”

Mikael was right. It was clear we were followed in here, but we didn’t know who these vampires were—they could have been sent from the Council, or they could have been lone wolves; we weren’t on familiar territory. In this situation, Mikael was the only one thinking logically. But I was fueled by paranoia; my brain was sensitive. My senses were on high alert. Whenever I looked around, I kept seeing the visions from my lave tet.

So, against Mikael’s judgment, I got up to leave.

But my body slammed into a firm chest before I could do so.

Hezekiah stared down at me with a stern expression, his eyes so bright they looked like brimstone. I didn’t know how to react when I saw him. I thought that I was dreaming—I thought that everything, from the moment Sajida laid me down to rest during the lave tet, was a dream my body was refusing to wake up from. So, seeing Hezekiah rendered me speechless.

“Sit down,” he said to me lowly. The front door opened, and more “people” began to file in. Only they weren’t from the diner’s crowd—they weren’t vampires from what I assumed to be the Council. They were from Abraham’s clan, or from other black vampire clans that were smaller but in alliance with Abraham. They didn’t hide their eyes—arrays of amber and gray studied the diner’s surroundings before looking at Hezekiah, who nodded at them. And when he did this, they all began to spread out. The gentlemen at the bar took off their sunglasses, and so did the woman on the other side of the diner. The bloodsuckers all eyed each other with animosity in their gaze; if you didn’t look like them, then one suspicious move would cost your life, regardless of whether you were a vampire or not.

Black watched white, and white watched black. It was that simple.

There must have been about ten of Abraham’s people walking around the diner and seating themselves, men and women alike. A woman with long box braids and pale amber eyes walked over to our booth and took a seat next to Mikael, who was frozen in shock and a tinge of anger. I was still standing, watching everything unfold. My perspective on everything was completely changed, now; I thought of Abraham.

He must have had Hezekiah rally these bloodsuckers over when he found out I was here.

Hezekiah asked me to sit down again, in which I refused and demanded to leave. But Hezekiah wasn’t having it.

“Sit down!” he growled at me. “Now.

His voice shook my whole wellbeing to the point where I forgot I even opposed his command the first time. I gritted my teeth and quickly sat back down, scooting over towards the wall. Hezekiah sat down next to me and spoke to the woman sitting next to Mikael with his eyes. She adjusted her blouse and looked over her shoulder at the vampires sitting at the bar, who were less than discrete with their staring.

I held my breath and dug my nails into my palms, wondering what the next move would be; wondering what was going on. I dug until there were marks.

Wake up. Wake up, Lisa. This is a fucking dream and you need to wake up.

I couldn’t wake up; the nightmare had barely begun.

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