Voodoo Queens of New Orleans

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Chapter 57: The Gift of Darkness

For some reason, I felt like I had been waiting for this meeting with Abraham my entire life.

Walking towards the balcony after the meeting was over, this feeling of forbiddance deep within me as I had snuck off while the Coterie was not looking, I felt like I was reaching the end of the race and near claiming my prize. But what prize was there to claim from him? Knowledge? Deceit? I was unsure. I wouldn’t find out until I opened the balcony door in front of me.

The balcony had to be reached by entering the master bedroom, which was, of course, unused and completely empty, save for a bed and a dresser, both covered with a white sheet. The room was completely dark, and the only source of light came from the moon outside shining through the balcony doors.

I closed the bedroom door gently behind me and looked ahead. Abraham was outside, standing by the railing and looking out into the night. He knew I was here, despite my attempt at stealth. Looking over my shoulder to ensure I wasn’t followed, I turned the knob on the balcony door and welcomed the warm air on my skin. The sounds of the insects and birds were the only things that accompanied us; the trees seemed to loom over us.

I closed the balcony door behind me, but I didn’t walk towards him, yet. I still didn’t know his intentions yet, regardless of whether I was his kin or not.

“I remember my first time visiting this house,” Abraham said, his back still facing me. “It was occupied by different owners at the time, newly built—the Beaumonts. I walked through these halls, looked out the windows at the sugar cane fields. At the men, women and children the Beaumont’s owned who worked those fields; the women they owned that worked in this house. The master’s wife made us sit and watch the slaves dance to a fiddle after dinner right where you and me danced. My people, dancing to the master’s tune, their faces hung low and tired. That’s when I knew I had to save them. As many as I could. There was one boy—”

“Why are you telling me this story?” I asked him. At this question, Abraham finally turned around to face me. He looked even more threating in the moonlight; his domain.

He smiled. “Small talk,” he answered.

“Or you want me to see you differently than how you’ve been painted?”

Abraham laughed. “I don’t care how they been ‘painting’ me to you. And I ain’t never been one to boast about what I’ve done, neither. Sometimes, I like to just reflect.” He looked up at the moon. “Reflect on how far I come, and how far I got left to go. I’ve waited years for this day.”

He looked back at me, his hands behind his back. “You know who I am?” he asked me.

There was a stretch of silence before I could bring myself to answer. “You’re my father,” I said to him.

Abraham’s smile seemed to stretch wider. He chuckled to himself, then, began to pace around the balcony. “I never knew the day I’d hear you say it.”

“So, you’ve been waiting?” I said. “Waiting for me to find out on my own? Why?”

“Because, it ain’t my job to expedite fate’s process,” he answered. “Every monumental moment of my life has come to me, I ain’t been running towards nothing. I just had to let everything play out the way it s’possed to. I knew you were s’possed to find out about me on your own, so I waited. And now the day has come. Which means I ain’t too far now.”

“Far from what?”

He only stared at me then, in an “I’m not telling” manner. Knowing he wouldn’t disclose anything pertaining to how “far” he was from what, I left it behind and moved on; I was alone with Abraham. I could ask him anything I wanted without the interruption of Hezekiah or The Coterie.

I moved down the list, for I didn’t know how much time I had left.

“How?” I asked him, struggling to get the context out. “How are you my father? You’re dead. You can’t create life anymore.”

“But I created you,” he answered, toying with me.

I gritted my teeth. “I know. But how?”

“I will credit the voodoo witches and their magic, however that vile shit works. It’s capable of doing incredible things.”

The vagueness of his answers was making me irritated, but I didn’t want to show him that he was getting under my skin. “Magic. So, my ‘conception,’ it was planned? Orchestrated between you and the Coterie?”

“Yes,” Abraham said—the only concrete answer he had given me. I connected the dots then—the prophecy that drove my grandmother crazy spoke about a Child of an Unholy Union that my mother conceived. Abraham must have wanted to be the father of this said child, knowing it was capable of incredible things, whatever they may be. It made sense, then. I was only a chess piece in his game. Nothing more. Once he was done with me, I was sure that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill me, regardless of our shared blood.

I couldn’t help but feel hurt. I was a pawn, it seemed, in everyone’s game. I was only born to fulfill someone’s desire, whether it be a desire for power, for protection, for spiritual connection. I was a channel. It created this existential doubt in me; did I truly have a purpose, or was I someone else’s purpose?

Surprisingly, Abraham reacted differently than I expected to. When he saw how upset I became, he tried to comfort me. With another story.

“I had always known that I wanted my offspring to be capable of great things,” he began. “I wanted my children to inherit the empire I set out to create. To carry on my vision. All the kids I did have didn’t do that—they ended up dead ’fore the age of five or dead from war. I ain’t had no grand-children; they all died ’fore they could have kids, and I had become a vampire shortly before my last child passed. So, when you were born, I had felt this sense of purpose I ain’t felt in centuries. I could feel the power radiate from you; I saw myself in your eyes, Lisa. More than with any of my other children. You were a miracle—the product of life and death. I knew you were special. But your Mama didn’t want to see your potential. She wanted to shield you, keep you locked away, give you a pathetic life when the life of a goddess was your birthright.

“We didn’t see eye-to-eye on your future, which put us in another war between her sisters and my brothers over you. First part was short; Terah wanted to keep everybody quiet, so he drew up more territories that kept me away from you. This “peace” went on for four years until I realized how stupid Terah was, bending and breaking for those voodoo witches. Conflict started again, things got violent from both ends, which led Terah to conspire with the voodoo witches and betray me. He was too much of a coward to kill me for my war crimes, so him and Alize buried me deep in the earth somewhere no one would find me. I was chained in the dirt, laid in darkness for twenty years by my own master. Silence and darkness for two decades...”

Mama had told me a variation of this story, and Abraham had told me about what Mama did to him the first time we met; the first time he kidnapped me. But Abraham’s version was a lot different this time; there was this anguish in his voice. This hurt and betrayal. I stood there after the break in his story and tried to process his testament, but it was hard. Not in the sense of connecting, but in the sense of grasping it. Accepting his truth, even though I’d been advised for so long not to trust Abraham’s word.

“Is that why you killed Terah?” I asked him. “Because of what he did to you?”

“Thanks to a few of my loyal brothers and sisters who hadn’t forgotten about me, I was able to arise from the dirt by their hand; they had looked for me incessantly for twenty years until they found where I was buried. My master’s betrayal could only be amended by his death.”

I remembered seeing Terah on the cross that night, mauled to pieces by Abraham. That action made sense to me then. And oddly enough, so did killing Tia Valeria; was she one of the priestesses that conspired with Terah?

And did that mean Mama was definitely next?

“So, this is your plan.” The thought of Mama being next on Abraham’s kill list made me angry, and Abraham could sense this shift in my tone. “Killing everyone in the Coterie one by one?”

Abraham, laughed. “There’s no way for you to be sure of exactly what my plans are, Lisa.”

“Cut the bullshit, Abraham!” I shouted. “All you’ve ever wanted was power. And you’re willing to do whatever it takes to attain it.”

“You think I only wish to use you?”

“You literally planned my birth,” I laughed mockingly.

“Yes, that’s true. But I don’t wish to discard you after you believe I’ve gotten what I wanted from you.”

There was a silence that carried between us. A silence that left too much in the air.

He took a step towards me. “You’re my child,” he said. “My flesh and blood. A miracle. You may not feel the love I have for you, but it exists.”

“You don’t have a love for anything,” I retorted.

“And I thought that was true until you were born.”

Where was my djab when I needed her? Where was her guidance? During this time of uncertainty, she was silent in my head. An echo bouncing against the walls in my mind. The way Abraham spoke about me was more convincing than I had anticipated, but I was sure that this was what he wanted—he wanted me to doubt the side I was on. He wanted me to doubt the conventional story. But at the same time, I had to come to the consensus that he was trying to purposefully sway me; that this “declaration” of paternal love was all a lie; a ploy to get me on his side for my divine purpose: being the child to inherit the empire he set out to create.

“I don’t believe you,” I said to him, in which he only nodded slowly.

“I don’t expect you to believe me. Your mind has been tainted by your mama’s influence; the Coterie’s influence. But I think you’ll come around.”

“There’s no way of you knowing that—”

“You will,” he said, and with these words, he did not smile. He was not playful. Kind. He was prophetic; I saw him and I in the church together, both sharing the fiery eyes that he looked at me with at that moment.

Suddenly, the door opened behind us. We both looked towards the bedroom, where a male figure was standing in the doorway. The light behind him made it hard to make out his features, but I was sure on who it was the moment he began to walk into the room.

“Kiah.” Abraham’s smile was beaming, but it was forced, like it was masking something. My heart sunk so deep into my chest I thought it was going to lose itself there. Hezekiah stopped by the door leading to the balcony, staring at us through the glass but refusing to open the door. He looked confused until everything made sense, but it was too late to turn around and leave; Abraham stepped forward and opened the door for him.

“I didn’t know y’all were meeting with each other,” Hezekiah said to him slowly; unsurely. “I’ll come back—”

“No, no, you came at the perfect time.” Abraham opened the door wide enough to let Hezekiah through. “I ordered you to meet me here, so fulfill those orders.”

Fuck. That was the first word that came to mind, and the only word for a while. Abraham invited Hezekiah up here knowing him and I would be speaking to each other. Hezekiah glanced at me ever so quickly before looking back at Abraham, who had that infamous archaic smile on his face.

“I’ll come back when you’re both done,” Hezekiah insisted.

“Hezekiah.” Abraham’s voice was stern, but he was still smiling. “Come here, please.”

Breathe, Lisa. Breathe. But it was hard to, because the possibilities began to run through my mind. By the look on Abraham’s face, he knew about everything Hezekiah had hid from him—his part in Camille and Suzie’s escape the night Marie Laveau was killed, his relation to Miss Aza, thwarting Abraham’s plan to acquire the ritual. Hezekiah and I’s history. It could have been anything. It could have been everything.

But regardless, any and all of this information was warrant enough for Abraham to end Hezekiah’s life.

Without protest, Hezekiah stepped onto the balcony, keeping a considerable amount of distance from me. Abraham closed the door and walked back to his spot near the railing. His eyes were to the ground as he paced the length of the railing, back and forth, back and forth. This went on for several minutes. The longest minutes of my life, or our lives, rather; Hezekiah watched Abraham with these eager, expectant eyes, his hands balled into fists. Frozen in place.

“There was actually a point to the story I was telling you earlier, Lisa,” Abraham said to me. “The story about the Beaumont plantation. This house. Where did I leave off?”

Abraham thought for a moment before the words came back to him, and when they did, so did his smile. But Hezekiah and I couldn’t smile or even give off the impression of calmness. The both of them could sense that I was sweating profusely; they could both hear my teeth chattering, my fingers trembling. But Hezekiah’s reaction suffered a shift. Suddenly, his eyes narrowed in focus, and his mouth pressed firm.

“Right, right. I left off at the slave dances the master’s wife would make the house guests watch. The ones for entertainment. There was one boy I saw often in these dances. I remember the look in his eyes—he had endured hardship from what seemed like countless life times, even though he was barely finished with a quarter of his own. His feet moved with a rhythm that was so distant from the face he wore; he was a ghost. Dancing right in front of us. So, after the ‘festivities,’ I found this boy in the back stables and asked for his name—”

“‘My name be Hezekiah, sir,’” Hezekiah recited, his face cold and devoid of emotion purposefully. But I knew that he was plagued with these memories; the feeling of being in this house again and reminded of the history you shared with it.

Abraham grinned, “You remember?” he said before looking back at me. “That moment was monumental for me, because I saw something in him. I saw the pain and the anguish inside him. That is why I bought him his freedom from the Beaumonts. And from there, I watched him grow. Years went by, he got older, and the trauma that made a place in his heart unfortunately started to consume his entire body. That is when I offered him the gift of darkness, in which he accepted. It was one thing to make this boy more powerful than the strongest of his enemies, but over time, his unwavering loyalty to me created an inseparable bond between us. I began to trust this boy with my life...”

Suddenly, Abraham’s face twisted into something evil and wicked as he looked into Hezekiah’s eyes. I knew an end, whatever form it took itself as, was coming. But I couldn’t bring myself to prepare for it.

“...Now, I’m starting to see that I was wrong,” Abraham said lowly. Hezekiah frowned at him, but deep down, he knew what Abraham was referring to.

Hezekiah huffed quietly, “Abraham—”

“Shut up, Kiah!” Abraham hissed at him, and with that, Hezekiah remained quiet. Abraham crossed his arms behind his back again and continued his story as if the horrified look on my face was non-existent.

“See, Lisa, within a vampire clan, there is a certain amount of loyalty that is expected of each member, especially towards their master if he or she is present. And if their master also happens to be the Vampire Lord of the clan, then you can imagine the devotion that one would need to possess. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I found out about Hezekiah’s disloyalty. Betraying me, conspiring against me, and lying to me are disappointing cases, but there was one bout of news that angered me more than the rest.”

“Abraham,” I blurted out suddenly, not knowing what I was possibly going to say, but Abraham ignored me and turned his attention to Hezekiah, closing the gap between them.

“I’m going to ask you a question,” Abraham said to him. “I already know the answer, but I want to hear it come out of your mouth.”

Hezekiah didn’t look away from his master, even though Abraham’s gaze was hot enough to burn through flesh. Hezekiah looked straight into his eyes, almost like he was certain of what his fate would be.

Abraham was silent before he asked Hezekiah this one question that he knew the answer to—the one question that he wanted Hezekiah to answer for him. I was on the outside looking in; I was invisible to them. This odd sense of hope that was inside me coming in was diminishing into dread and fear. And this dread and fear escalated until the question came out of Abraham’s mouth:

“Did you have sex with my daughter, Hezekiah?”

The word ‘daughter’ made me feel depersonalized. It didn’t sound like something Abraham would say, but it was said by him; he meant it. This was the second encounter Abraham and I have ever had alone, the first being when I was his prisoner. And yet, he deemed it appropriate to refer to me as his daughter. It wasn’t a false claim, but it felt like one; It didn’t feel real.

I was burdened with the urge to weep. I wanted to weep because regardless of how Hezekiah answered the question, it would end with his death. Maybe Abraham would display some form of mercy on Hezekiah. Maybe not. I fought the urge to weep until the question was answered.

Hezekiah glanced over at me watching the interaction between him and Abraham. Then he looked back at Abraham with an acceptant look on his face that I couldn’t seem to mimic. This was the end, it seemed. But I couldn’t come to terms with this; I started to cry. I felt weak and foolish, but it just poured out of me. Abraham would kill him for this; I cried even harder.

“Yes,” I heard Hezekiah answer quietly.

“Speak up,” Abraham spat at him.

“Yes, master,” Hezekiah said, his voice confident but his gaze avoiding Abraham’s eyes. “I did.”

Abraham’s jaw clench, his eye twitching down at his offspring. His head shook very lightly in disappointment, and it looked as if he would explode, but he kept this contained; he wasn’t finished.

“How many times did you sleep with her?” Abraham asked.

“Abraham,” I called out, approaching them. “Stop. Please. This isn’t necessary.”

“How many times?” Abraham repeated as if I hadn’t spoken.

“Once,” Hezekiah said right into Abraham’s eyes as if this were true, but this made Abraham angry; he knew it wasn’t.

Liar,” Abraham growled at him. “I’ve smelled her. All over you. More than once.”

Hezekiah didn’t respond, and Abraham didn’t make him. He only began to laugh as he stood back and turned to the moon in the sky again. He laughed until it became asthmatic, but this wasn’t comical for everyone. Hezekiah seemed to accept what was coming. I felt as if I was going to pass out. Finally, Abraham turned to us again.

“This would be different if you didn’t know,” Abraham said to Hezekiah. “If you were completely unaware of who she was. But you knew exactly who she was. I told you myself. And still, you decided to bed her on multiple occasions. You can imagine how I felt when I found out that you were the one that let Marie II get away that night, and that you were the relative of a voodoo witch that you had been conspiring with to ruin me. But to find out that you also slept with the daughter of your master, right behind my back!?”

The next few seconds were a blur. One moment, Hezekiah and Abraham were staring at each other with eyes that gradually grew wider, then the next, Abraham sprung forward, the sound of cracking glass echoing into the air. Abraham’s hand was tight around Hezekiah’s neck, whose back was pinned against the door, causing it to crack underneath him. His eyes began to slowly become black like the night we were in, inking further until his entire stare was a void that seeped into the veins underneath his eyes. Abraham looked up at Hezekiah, who struggled underneath Abraham’s grip, his feet off the ground. Hezekiah was strong, but Abraham was stronger; he tightened his hand around Hezekiah’s neck the more he gasped for air. Hezekiah gritted his teeth as he tried with all of his might to pry Abraham’s hand off of him, but it was a futile attempt.

The shock kicked in first. Then it was panic.

I don’t remember hearing how loud I screamed, but it must have been piercing if it caught Abraham’s attention for a brief moment. I ran over to them, but Abraham held up his free arm to work as a barrier between me and them; his limb was stone, and despite my attempts to break through, it was no use.

“Abraham!” I screamed at him, pulling at his immobile arm. “Abraham, stop!”

But he wouldn’t stop. He continued to tighten his hold around Hezekiah’s neck; his gasps for air were growing farther apart. We were only moments away until Abraham snapped his neck, but this was something I knew Abraham did not want to do. Despite his menacing form, there was a debilitating amount of pain on his face from what he was doing to Hezekiah, and it looked like he wanted to stop, but the monstrous, vampiric side only saw a traitor. But I played on this vulnerability towards Hezekiah.

I played on his vulnerability to me.

I kneeled down and grabbed his hand, which was to his side from blocking me. When I did this, Abraham looked down at me by his feet, his expression confused.

“Please,” I cried to him. “If you have any ounce of humanity left, Abraham, you’ll stop. I know you don’t want to kill him. You will never forgive yourself if you do it!”

I didn’t want to beg, but I did. I begged, I pleaded, I cried in a way I swore I would never cry for Hezekiah Mercier again. But his inch from death spiraled me into desperation, and I steeped to the last resort as I pulled on Abraham’s hand until it was in my hands, my knees sore from the rough ground and the accents of the dress pressing into my skin. Suddenly, Abraham realized what he was doing. He saw the way I begged to him; the way I held his hand. His eyes averted to my hands in his large one, stared at the way my fingers were in his, and mercifully, let go of Hezekiah’s neck. Hezekiah fell to the ground and immediately began to cough and gasp for air, heaving violently.

I wanted to collapse. I wanted to scream again. But I went to Hezekiah instead. I sat by his side, trying to tend to him, but he kept pushing me away; he didn’t want to be tended to. He didn’t want me to see him so weak.

I hated myself for being at his side. After everything I said to him before, after vowing to distance myself from him, here I was: the woman that saved his life. Abraham saw how this conflicted me. He spat at the ground.

“You care for him,” he said to me, scoffing while fixing his jacket sleeves. “Pathetic. I had hoped you wouldn’t be one blinded by—”

“You’re a monster,” I said, silencing him. “Loveless. Evil. A fucking monster. Every ‘feeling’ you said you had towards me was a lie. You have no feelings. You’re nothing!”

“And what about Hezekiah?” Abraham said before laughing mockingly down at me. “You’re a delusional girl. Hezekiah is a vampire like me. We are creatures of the night; it’s in our nature to be savage. The pain and sorrow of our past life followed us into this life, and it fuels our strength. Hezekiah is a creature of remarkable power because he has endured remarkable hardship. I have known him for almost two centuries, while you’ve known him for almost two months, yet you believe he’s able to reciprocate what you feel for him? If I told you everything that happened to this man in his life before I gave him the Gift of Darkness, it would be impossible for you to believe he is capable of being nothing but a monster. They broke him, Lisa. He is an empty shell, and the only thing he is certain about is that I am his master!”

And like clockwork, Hezekiah began to slowly crawl over to Abraham, stopping at his feet. He bowed his head to him like Abraham was a god.

“Forgive me, Master,” Hezekiah said gently. I stared in awe. Dumbfounded. It was like I did not even sit near; Abraham was the only one who mattered. A part of me held onto hope; I saw the look in Hezekiah’s eyes as he stared at the ground, and it was a look of emptiness. A shallow expression. It almost seemed like he didn’t mean the words he said. So I held onto the hope that Hezekiah only did this to please Abraham in the meantime, but as time progressed and as Hezekiah remained on his hands and knees, I couldn’t help but give up this notion and accept that, perhaps, everything Hezekiah told me was a lie. And that no matter what Hezekiah said to you or did for you, Hezekiah only knew how to serve his maker, and anything else he had done besides this was acted out with no emotion or attachment. A shell of something. A façade.

Aza was right—in the end, Hezekiah would always go back to his master. But I didn’t listen to her.

Abraham stared down at Hezekiah and remembered all of the acts he had committed against him. He pondered on forgiving him. I know he wanted to; Hezekiah was Abraham’s most prized possession after me. He couldn’t afford to lose him, despite everything he had done.

“You need to prove your loyalty to me once again,” Abraham said to him.

“Anything,” Hezekiah replied.

Abraham looked over his shoulder, his ears seemingly perking up at the sound of voices below. Abraham walked over to the railing, in which the Coterie was out front, searching the area and speaking urgently to one another in the driveway. Hezekiah had stood up by this time, gazing down at the Coterie. And when Hezekiah caught wind of Abraham’s idea, this “eagerness to please” was gone, and soon, Hezekiah was plagued with dismay and a tinge of regret when Abraham pointed down to Miss Aza below, speaking to Kizzy, and said:

“Give her the Gift of Darkness.”

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