Chapter 8: The Jubilee
Hezekiah made me undress in front of him into the clothes he had brought me.
“You lost the privilege of privacy when you tried to kill me,” he said when I asked why I couldn’t get a minute to myself to change. Knowing there was absolutely no use in arguing with him after the ‘entanglement’ he put us in moments before, I turned my back and began to undress. Even though I couldn’t see him, I knew he was drinking me up like a goblet filled with blood the moment I slipped off the straps of my nightgown.
I pulled out the dress that was in the bag Hezekiah brought in. It was long (thankfully), violet, and thin against my fingertips. The accents gathered at the bottom but feathered out once they reached the top. I appreciated that it was sleeveless, but that’s about it. The dress was hideous to me besides that factor. Regardless of its design, I put that thing on with a frown that hurt my eyebrows. It fit me real loose; the dress fell past my hips and most definitely didn’t cling to my ass whatsoever.
“Why is this so big?” I asked him.
“I didn’t make the damn dress, so don’t ask me.”
I huffed at him like a tired dog. Unfazed, he pointed to the bag.
“Go on, put on the rest.”
He was talking about the stockings, black Journee shoes and the pearl jewelry that was left. If I didn’t know any better, I’d figured that Hezekiah thought I smelled something foul in the bag from the look on my face.
“What is this, The Great Gatsby?”
“If I say yes, will you hurry up and put the shit on?”
He glared at me, prompting me to hurry up and put on everything to finish the outfit off. The shoes were a size too small, the stockings barely made it past my thighs and the pearls were making my skin itch. Knowing what kind of attire it was—1920s Party Chic—it made sense why the dress was so loose-fitting. Everything else? Hezekiah could have easily asked for some measurements before getting the outfit.
“Did you steal this from a white girl’s closet or something? Everything is too small,” I was kicking my legs out like Hillbilly Buck trying to get the stockings to fit. “My thighs are suffocating.”
“All you do is complain,” he snapped at me. “You sure you ain’t really somebody’s Maw-Maw, complaining that much?”
“I’m twenty-four-years-old and perfectly entitled to an opinion, which you claim is complain—”
Usually when someone tells you to “hold still,” you assume it’s because a bug or something is on your face or shoulders. But in that situation, I thought there was a bloodsucker trying to get in through the window. So, I stood as straight as a pole and doe-eyed my stare to the wall. Hezekiah sighed like he was irritated before he came up behind me.
“What are you doing?” I asked him while I took two steps in the other direction.
“Just turn around and hold still,” he told me. And despite my physical protest, he came up behind me again and grabbed hold of my dress to pull me nearer to him. I thought he was taking it off; ten minutes ago, he was admiring my quote on quote: “nice round ass and curves in all the right places.” I thought he wanted more, and I mean more more. And who was I to try and fight him off if he wanted to satisfy that craving all men, dead or alive, seem to have? I already failed at getting his body off me the first time.
“You better not be trying any funny business back there,” I warned him. The trembling in my voice made me look like a mean-mugging mouse.
“Relax. Your necklace is coming undone.”
I didn’t relax. I tensed up even harder when he was clipping the fastening in place again. He moved slower than he should have, and his nose and mouth were very close to my ear; if this were during his time—the time before he was a vampire—I would have heard his breath and felt it, too. But since he seemed to only acquire oxygen to sigh irately at my antics, I heard and felt nothing.
The necklace finally clicked into a stable position on my neck. “There,” Hezekiah said. “All that fussing for nothing. Now, let’s go.”
He grabbed my arm, but I noticed it wasn’t as harsh as times before. Dragging me out of the shack, I managed to grab the bag of food that was left over.
“I’m finishing this,” I told him outside the shack. And I didn’t ask him if I could finish it, I told his ass.
He still threw the rest of my sandwich out into the bayou, anyway.
Hezekiah made us walk like regular folk down to the Jubilee, which I found out was a fucking juke joint.
Yes. The Jubilee was a juke joint.
There I was, thinking that the Jubilee was some sort of code word for a cave or a lair where sacrificial ceremonies were practiced. With Hezekiah being so hush-hush about it, that’s the consensus I came to. But no, it wasn’t a lair or a cave, and there were no sacrifices being held. The Jubilee (or more accurately “Mr. Boon’s Jubilee” by the sign on the grass) was just a huge two story cabin, run down in stature, where those who were not necessarily “welcomed” in society danced, drank, and partied their afterlives away. The brass music was so loud it was like the band was outside. But no, the band was inside, tearing it up by the looks of the shadows through the windows dancing like their sense was gone.
Hezekiah was “nice” enough to explain to me who exactly were welcome inside the Jubilee:
- Vampires. They were the “guests of honor.” In fact, the Jubilee was made for vampires to feed on the thralls offered and to have sex with them, too. The strongest vampires were treated like royalty, whereas the weaker ones were still treated like nobility, but definitely not royalty.
“Definitely not royalty,” Hezekiah stressed to me.
-Witches. Witches mostly hung around the Jubilee to assure that their thralls were being taken care of. They did go to the Jubilee for a dance or a drink or to satiate their sexual fantasies, but mostly it was for their thralls—the ones they were in charge with. Vampires were not allowed to feed on the witches without their permission; they were too “classy” for that, per Hezekiah’s words.
-Thralls. These were the sacred women (and men) of the Jubilee. The thralls were the ones that everybody wanted a taste of. They would walk around the joint, and whichever bloodsucker was interested would feed until they were satisfied. They also ‘satisfied’ other needs if it were necessary. The charm placed on the thralls made it so they didn’t feel a thing. The rules pertaining to the thralls were that 1) they could not be turned into vampires. 2) they were not to be killed, since finding victims to make into thralls was not an easy task. 3) no vampires were allowed to physically hurt them and 4) sharing was caring, and selfish was “dealt with.”
Notice how, in the prior listing, there was no room for regular mortals such as myself. Especially a mortal who was the daughter of a voodoo priestess. Hezekiah made sure to mention that voodoo/hoodoo practitioners and “fresh bloods” (regular mortals) were not allowed in the Jubilee. If they were to walk in, no territorial rules or treaties could protect them.
“Now, you tell me this?” I asked him, trying to control my breathing with every hesitant step.
“Just stick close to me and you’ll be fine,” he assured.
In addition to the Jubilee being a juke joint, it was also a training post for vampires (Rejects being the proper term). Mr. Boone, the owner of the juke joint, was a Vampire Sire, meaning he trained the Rejects to become Leeches and hopefully be part of a clan.
“He don’t train them where the hangout spot is,” Hezekiah told me. “He got them training underground so they don’t got to hideout when the sun comes up.”
I was surprised Hezekiah was telling me all of this information since he apparently couldn’t stand me. Perhaps he wanted me to be prepared; the last thing we needed was for me to act a complete fool in the Jubilee and risk getting myself killed.
With a chilling hand still gripped around my forearm, Hezekiah opened the door to the Jubilee, and instantaneously the music poured out of the doorway and into the night air, stunning me by how loud it was. I was also stunned by the strong scent of tobacco that flooded my nostrils; the thralls (I immediately knew who they were when we walked in—the women who had nothing on but flimsy G-strings and stockings paired with a feathered hairpiece to maintain that ‘flapper girl’ appeal) were smoking when they weren’t walking around offering themselves. I sucked in a sharp breath and tasted metal in my mouth; I was about to puke up my sandwich.
“Don’t you go acting strange on me,” Hezekiah whispered, guiding me through the eyes that were staring undividedly at us. “You stay close and don’t wander your stare too much, you hear me?”
I nodded so fast my glasses almost flew off.
A man sitting in an old wooden chair shot up when he saw us walk in. I didn’t look at him, but I didn’t know where else to look since Hezekiah told me not to look around at everyone. I briefly saw the dance floor—a huge open space with a stage near the back that held up a brass band playing the music that everyone was dancing to. The trumpets blared, the cymbals crashed, the trombone hollered and the singer belted his heart out. And everyone dancing—vampires, witches, thralls, the whole lot—were moving with an unparalleled stamina in their step. They were all dressed like me. In fact, they were dressed better than me; I felt like I had walked into The Great-fucking-Gatsby held inside a rundown cabin.
The man I mentioned earlier who got up when he saw us smiled when Hezekiah called out to him. He had the same eyes as Hezekiah and was dressed in a more pressed, cleaned suit; Hezekiah’s shirt still had blood on it, but then again, a lot of the fellas sitting around had blood on their shirts, too.
“Predawn, podna!” he beamed loudly, the ‘podna’ translating to ‘partner’ when I played it over in my head.
Hezekiah returned the gesture to the man whose name I found out was “Jonah.”
“How you been holding up?” he asked Jonah, in which Jonah replied optimistically while staring at me without any restraint.
“You must be bold bringing a freshie in here,” he told Hezekiah. Jonah then took off his hat and bowed politely. “Names Jonah. What you call yourself, Cher?”
I was too shocked by the atmosphere around me to answer. Jonah just laughed at me.
“Aw, you ain’t got nothing to be afraid of. I already fed real good tonight.”
I didn’t laugh, but Jonah did. I’m sure he smelled the fear on me, too, which he found humorous.
“I’m here to see Boone. He around?”
“Like always,” Jonah answered, guiding us near a wall away from the people who kept staring at us. “He up in his office, getting his roster together.”
“Can you tell him that we’re here?”
Jonah nodded. “Sure thing. In the meantime, let me get y’all situated.”
He screamed for a woman—Sugar—to come towards him. Sugar, like the other thralls, was wearing close to nothing—thin G-string that was actually coated with glitter (unsure of how that was sanitary) and black stockings. Her shoes were like mine but with more of a heel to it, and her breasts, uncovered as they were, had glitter around the nipples like her underwear. But what caught my attention the most were the bite marks all over her neck, stomach, arms and thighs; bite marks that were like the ones on my neck alone. Blood was leaking out of a few of them, but she paid it absolutely no mind. In fact, she looked at me like I was crazy for being fixated on them.
“Can you tell this bitch to stop staring at me like I ain’t got a head on my shoulders?” Sugar complained to Jonah.
Bitch? Bitch? She did not just call me a bitch.
“Relax, baby, relax,” Jonah, again, thought the tension was comical. “She just a fresh blood, she don’t know no better. Now, I’m a need you to take Mr. Mercier and this lady up to a table. Can you do that for me?”
Sugar’s mean, intimidating look quickly dissolved when she was tasked with being our hostess. With a seductive bite of her lip, she grazed her manicured hand over Hezekiah’s arm, eventually traveling up to the exposed portion of his chest.
“Well, when you put it that way, Jonah, I’m happy to oblige.”
I wanted to roll my eyes, yet the thought of being smacked to the ground by Sugar for my attitude didn’t sound appeasing.
After groping his chest for a minute, Sugar took us through the Jubilee to the table we were to sit at, pushing thralls aside and politely excusing herself past any vampires that were in our way. I thought the blood on Sugar was a lot, but it was in no comparison to the blood that dotted the tables and chairs and the walls around the Jubilee. The guests were simply like animals—thralls throwing their heads back in ecstasy as they were fed on (sometimes by two at a time) or even bloodsuckers having sex with thralls right in their booths. It was shell shocking; It was morbid and gruesome and unlike anything that I have ever seen or imagined. It was one thing to witness Abraham’s clan feed and murder Tia Valeria’s House, but it was another to witness those thralls willingly act as comestibles.
“Calm yourself,” Hezekiah warned me. “They can smell that fear you’re putting off.”
“How do you expect me to feel?” I replied, my voice a shaky whisper. “Look at this place.”
“I expect you to feel nothing,” he told me, and that was the end of that.
I noticed Hezekiah’s grip tighten once we were deeper into the neck of those woods, pulling me closer to him when the stares were intrusively obvious. But I also noticed that the athirst, rabid look in their eyes was gone the minute they recognized who I was with. Once they knew that Hezekiah had a hold of me—that my scent was drenched all over him—they turned the other direction and pretended like they didn’t even acknowledge my existence. These vampires feared him. And I realized then who Hezekiah was:
Not nobility, but royalty.
Hezekiah explained before to me that the strongest vampires were treated like royalty, and that included sectioned seating on the top floor of the juke joint. No one was guarding the stairs; it was a common fact throughout the Jubilee that the weaker ones were subject to the first floor, so any guards at the staircase were unnecessary.
“I’ve got a real fine booth just for you, sweetheart,” Sugar said to Hezekiah. Hezekiah returned the flirtatious gesture with words I couldn’t hear, yet even though I couldn’t hear them, I knew what they had to have been about; Sugar looked like she was ready to strip completely naked and fuck Hezekiah against the railing.
And of course, Sugar wasn’t the only one who felt this way about Hezekiah. The fervidity of the bottom floor made it hard for anyone to focus on anything that didn’t include sex and bloodlust. But the second floor was different—the second floor was calmer and more refined. The only loudness came from the music downstairs. And since the second floor was nowhere near as hectic as the first, the thralls were able to spend more of their time trying to garner Hezekiah’s attention. Even those who were sitting on the lap of their “masters” had a wandering eye for the Elder vampire strolling past them. God, it was sad to watch—thralls straining their necks in the hopes of him choosing them for a feed or thralls approaching Hezekiah as if I didn’t exist. Even a male thrall came up to Hezekiah begging for his attention; I had to force myself not to laugh.
Finally, Sugar brought us toward a booth that was wedged between two parties that stopped their conversations at the sight of us.
“You sit next to me,” Hezekiah ordered. And without protest (frankly, because I had ‘agreed’ to behave), I scooted on through until my shoulder was against the wooden wall, trying to stay as far away from Hezekiah as I could.
“Let me know if you need anything else,” said Sugar. She wasn’t talking to me. Not at all. Before she left, Hezekiah grabbed her arm and pulled her onto his lap.
“What made you think I was done with you?” he said down at her. “You know I love me some brown sugar.”
He proceeded to bite into an untainted portion of her inner thigh, dangerously close to her crotch. Seeing his sharp teeth puncture her soft flesh gave me unwarranted flashbacks; I couldn’t fathom how Sugar moaned in pleasure when he bit her, whereas the pain I experienced still made me shiver. That ‘charm’ on her must have been strong enough to dull the pain.
I’ll be honest—I was uncomfortable. First: Sugar’s head landed right by my leg as she screamed out while Hezekiah satiated whatever “hunger” he had. She didn’t even care about how close her head was to me.
Second: seeing the transformation of Hezekiah for the first time when he fed—his eyes became completely inked black, and dark veins formed underneath them, intensified in color the harder he bit into Sugar. He looked up at me, but it was like staring straight into the eyes of a monster, not a man with just a monstrous spirit and fangs. It was fucking scary.
When he was done, Sugar got up and wiped the blood off of her leg. And as she walked away, Hezekiah slapped her ass. Hard.
“You better stop messing around with me like that!” she laughed at him.
You two should just stop messing around with each other indefinitely, I thought to myself.
He turned back to “normal” when she left—the blackened state of his eyes draining back into his pupils and leaving his irises the hot, amber color they were before. The dark veins went away, too. The evidence was still there, though; Sugar’s blood was all over his mouth and his shirt. I asked myself how many times he needed to eat.
“Oh, quit with that face,” he said to me. “Looking like you smelled something awful.”
I continued to grimace at him like he was despicable (which he was), and surprisingly, he found my disgust hilarious.
For twenty minutes we sat at our booth. I watched the people down below dance to quit the thoughts eating away at my sanity. I didn’t know what Mr. Boone wanted with me or why Abraham even wanted me at the Jubilee in the first place. I wondered if anyone knew about what Abraham did…
“’Kiah!” Jonah yelled as he trucked up the stairs. “Mr. Boone’s ready for you.”
Ready for you. I wanted to know what that meant. Remember those thoughts I said were trying to dilute my sanity? They were doing it again; no dancing couples below could ease it.
Hezekiah knew I didn’t want to go. The entire night consisted of me being oppositional, but that moment was when I begged with him sincerely, completely absent of pride. And to this day, I swear that Hezekiah felt somewhat bad for me. But that quickly went away once he brought me to my feet and wisped me down the staircase.
“What is he going to do?” I asked Hezekiah; everything was moving so fast. “What is Mr. Boone going to do?”
“Just relax and stop your crying.”
“What does Abraham want Mr. Boone to do to me!?”
“Nothing,” he answered.
I didn’t believe him.