"Some of it's from the artichoke colored car that ran me over."
She expressed a tender grin.
We were sitting at a retro-styled diner famous for late night food and quick service. I ordered a half pound burger with a side of tater tots.
"Aren't you going to eat?" I asked Viola.
"I'm not hungry, but…" she pulled a silver flask from her jacket's inner breast pocket. "B.Y.O.B." she said.
She took a swig from the small container. A defined red, liquid ring was around her lips. She wiped it away with her sleeve.
"What are you drinking?" I asked.
"Relax, it's just pig. It's taste is actually close to humans. The size and structure of red blood cells is quite similar. It's nowhere near as good, but it's bearable."
I wanted to believe it was just a red cocktail. A Sweet Vermouth. A Cosmopolitan. A Vodka Cranberry with Lime.
I pulled the orange snap cap vial that housed my prescription from my pocket. I popped the cap and emptied a tiny cream-colored pill onto my palm. I washed it down my throat with a glass of ice water.
Viola's expression became quizzical.
"How is it that your diagnosis and treatment is such a mystery?"
"My prescription is sent to me monthly in an unmarked bubble envelope. Thirty capsules are prepared in a labelless orange snap cap vial."
"You don't find that unusual?" Viola asked.
"Yes, but I know the consequences if I don't have it."
A fatigued waitress with knotted hair delivered my burger and tots.
"Your beef patty was cooked under a vintage dog dish hubcap," she said.
"Y'all need anything else?" The server asked.
"No thank you," I said.
Viola scrunched her face and expressed a false smile.
"So, how long have you lived here?" I asked Viola.
"Well, I lived here when one-fourth of the population spoke French. I remember L'Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orléans ceasing publication. I survived yellow fever, influenza and countless storms. I've seen black and white brothels coexist, and Storyville restaurants and saloons open— and close. I remember the racketeering, the extortion, the gambling, the narcotics, the fencing, and the murder. I've been here a very long time."
I took a bite of my hamburger. The patty was juicy and the bun was soft but strong enough to withstand the drippings and toppings. The taste was sweet and salty with a little bit of a crunch. Viola stared at me. A look of amusement crossed her face.
I ate a tater tot.
"Did you escape from the state's psychiatric hospital?" I asked Viola.
I was serious.
I ate another tot.
"Why is it so hard for you to believe what I tell you?" She asked.
"Maybe it's past mental abuse, social rejection or just having a low self-esteem? Or it could be, I find it hard to believe that you're 289 years old!"
She smiled and sprung to her feet. "Follow me."
We walked three blocks to an old Victorian-style single family home. It looked abandoned. Exterior paint was loose. The shutters were broken and part of the gingerbread trim dangled from the roofline. Viola lightly knocked on the door— paused briefly, and knocked again. The pitter-patter of tiny feet approached. The chain locks, the knob lock, and the deadbolt all unlocked from the inside.
"Come in," a soft, raspy voice said.
Viola gently pushed the door open and signaled me to follow.
It was dark inside. The smell was horrendous. It was a combination of rot, must, and urine. The walls were chartreuse colored and badly stained. There was a single piece of furniture in the living room, an oak 1800s barber chair.
"Why are we here?" I asked Viola.
"This is Sybil." Viola pointed to an ill-lit corner adjoining a staircase. A small, grotesque figure stepped out from the darkness. I fell backwards, terrified at the sight before me.
It wasn't human. It's skin was broken and oozing puss. Boils scattered it's hunchback, and tender purplish marks covered it's flesh. It was completely unclothed and had the anatomy of a female. All of its physical features either flopped or slumped downward. It's nails were sharp, chipped, and split. It's teeth were large and crooked. It's eyes bulged and it's nose was long and hooked.
I was appalled. My body was paralyzed. I was so frightened, I couldn't move.
"Sybil is the oldest Wycca down south. She's known as the old hag on Barracks Street."
Sybil clumsily wobbled towards me. I still couldn't move. She placed her blistered hands over my eyes.
"Is this more suitable?" She asked.
She removed her hands. A petite, youthful woman with ash-colored hair stood before me. She grabbed my hands and aided me to my feet.
I asked what the hell was going on.
"Sybil can persuade and provoke with words, verses, or rituals. She was banished from her Coven a very long time ago. She's come here to die, but her High Priestess placed an eternal life hex on her. This house is her prison where she will forever rot."
Viola picked up a steel poker that was lying next to an old fireplace. Sybil dawdled to Viola and bowed her head. Viola quickly swung the poker across Sybil's face.
"Stop!" I cried.
She raised the steel, rigid rod and struck it downward with great force, maiming Sybil's head.
I was horrified.
The scene was extremely violent. Viola continued beating the poker into Sybil's mangled body.
"Stop! Please stop!"
There was so much blood.
"Why are you— fuck! Why!? You're fucking insane!" Words just drizzled from my lips.
Viola moved towards me. I backed away and tripped over the old barber chair. She looked riled, but somewhat elate.
"You're the mundane character in this sick and twisted, but extraordinary story. This is the unusual circumstance that will change your life. Change my life," she explained. "I need you to believe in me, and this is what I'm giving you to believe in."
Viola reached out her hand to help me back on my feet. I was hesitant. She extended her fingers and smiled. I went to grab her hand, but she jerked back and loudly bawled.
The steel rod pierced through her abdomen. Behind her stood Sybil in youthful form, in perfect appearance and health.
I let out a high-pitched shriek. Viola began to lightly giggle, as did Sybil. Sybil's amusement was expressed with more of a mischievous snigger. Viola tugged the rod out of her tummy and lifted her nightgown. A gaping, bloody hole was visible.
"You might want to get that looked at," I dumbly suggested.
The wound gradually began to heal. The blood quickly dried up and the hole shrunk in size. Eventually it became nothing more than a bruise. The discolored skin slowly disappeared and the injury was completely healed.
I was dumbstruck. I indistinctly mumbled for a moment, and eventually was able to ask, "how?"
I was reminded, Viola could only die by sunlight and Aspen wood.