Memento Mori

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I lied in Viola's master bedroom. I stared upward at the high ceiling. It was dark. I could see the silhouettes of taxidermied white-tailed deer and wild boar.

I was trying to wrap my head around everything.

Viola gently knocked on the door.
"Can I come in?" She entered the room and sat beside me.
"This bed is from 1870. It belonged to a French immigrant that practiced nineteenth century medicine." She stroked her fingers along the satin sheets. "New Orleans' swamps were a fertile ground for yellow fever mosquitoes. The disease ravaged the city, killing one in six people," Viola paused. "His wife was one in six. She died in this bed."
Viola lied down next to me. One hand crossed over the other above her waistline.
"Some morticians super glue the dead’s hands together to keep them folded neatly at their abdomen." She explained, looking at her hands.

"My aunt Bea died six years ago. She was mom's older sister. She died playing golf. She swung her 2-iron so hard, it ruptured her bladder. Bea was eccentric. Her funeral requests were very— unconventional. She demanded for her heart and brain to be removed for cremation. She believed the organs contained her soul because they enlivened her body. She also asked for the rest of her body to be embalmed so her family could say goodbye. She arrived at the funeral home in the bed of my uncle's GMC Crew Cab. Her burial clothes were a fit turtleneck and drainpipe jeans. She wanted to be buried dressed like Audrey Hepburn. At the end of the service, a pyrotechnician set off a professional firework display. Bea's ashes were in the fireworks. Her soul went out with a bang."

"Did you two get along?" Asked Viola.

"Yeah. We did. She was a bit deranged, but she had a kind heart."

Viola intensely looked at me.
"What?" I asked.
"Are you okay?"
I nodded my head yes.
"It's a lot to process," she said.

It was quiet. Oddly peaceful feeling and content.

"Do you get tired?" I asked her.
"Yes. My body and mind need to recharge just like yours."
"Are you tired now?" I asked. She shook her head no.
"Me neither," I said. I was too wound up. I was restless and anxious.
"Do you ever have any great regrets?" I asked.
"Tshhh," Viola hissed. "A lot."
Viola rolled on her back, positioned her arms above her head, and stretched her legs outward.
"Mama died from shock. She was delirious. She had a bad rash. Later on we found out it was Typhus. I never did get to say goodbye."
Viola turned her head and looked at me. "I regret being so gullible and naive. I wish I would've kissed Gaspard beneath the towering willow next to the yellow stucco cottage. I wish I would've, at one point, slugged a bloody mary oyster shooter, and pinched off the tail of a crawfish and sucked its head."

I wish I had worried less. I wish I had stood up for myself. I wish I had lived my own life.

"Why did you bring me to Sybil? Why all of the theatrics?"
"Because I needed to convince you beyond a shadow of doubt. I needed to widen your eyes and prove to you life isn't obscure. The obscurity is your eye."

Viola then told me about Sybil.
In 1934, a 17-year-old sex worker, Élisabeth LeBlanc, was found dead in a hotel room in the French Quarter. Officers found her stripped of her clothing, and face down on a mattress. When her body was turned over for further investigation, a grisly scene was revealed. Her entire anterior had the skin peeled right from the bone.
Despite the savageness of the crime scene, only a few droplets of blood were ever found, convincing many that the killer had consumed all of her fluids. Neighbors were in panic. They said it was a Loogaroo, a blood-sucking Higue from local folklore. Rich parents would tell tales of an Ole-Higue that would eat misbehaved boys and girls. They were certain that this monstrosity was the culprit. The Quarter was on high alert for months.
Sybil worked as a public educator, and taught the city how to understand past epidemics and demonstrated safety and prevention against mosquitos and yellow fever.
She was with a man named Frédérick Marchand. He was the owner of a 66-room hotel on Royal Street.
Frédérick was a caring man, but he also lived his life solely to achieve a reputation. He craved popularity and importance.
He bought Sybil the best dresses, the best strappy heels, and took her to the best restaurants with the best elegant jazz. The couple's image was so stylish and graceful, they were invited to all of the fancy parties thrown by congressmen, jazz musicians, architects, and engineers.
Frédérick was making a name for himself and his hotel was quickly turning into an iconic landmark. The Marchand acquired a neighboring commercial property and expanded. It hosted over 75,000 guests year-round. Because of the booming tourism, Frédérick hired an additional one-hundred staffers, including a personal assistant, Ms.Nell King. Nell was a former language arts teacher and did volunteer work for numerous civic organizations. She became Frédérick's first point of contact. She managed his schedule and organized his meetings. She arranged his travel and dealt with his communication.

Sybil became very sick. She had chills and fatigue. A high fever and loss of appetite. Eventually, she couldn't even get out of bed.

She was sick for a long time.

Frédérick so badly wanted to see Sybil. He wanted to travel abroad with her. Somewhere like Cuba, Jamaica, or Mexico. But because of her long-lasting illness, a relationship with a wealthy businessman became difficult. Frédérick was still very much in love with her, but because of his busy lifestyle, he could no longer be with her emotionally.

Frédérick and Nell started to become very close. He took her with him on a business venture to Cuba. He started to buy her the best dresses with the best strappy heels, and took her to the governor's fancy parties.

Sybil's High Priestess, Theodora, was deeply concerned about Sybil's illness. Any Wycca included in the Vieux Carre Coven, was blessed with an immunity spell, meaning it was impossible for Sybil to be in poor health.
Theodora conjured up a clear vision incense. A mixture of Marigold, Rosemary, Mugwort, and Rose. It's a fragrance to ignite the mind, and to have deep sight and perception.
What Theodora discovered was betrayal. Ms. Nell King was really Gullveig, a Neophyte sister from their Coven. Gullveig called forth the Great President of Hell, Marbas. Marbas can cause and heal disease, and can change man into other shapes. Gullveig wished suffering on Sybil because she too was madly in love with Frédérick Marchand.

Sybil was furious.

High Priestess Theodora promised to break the demonic curse, but only under one circumstance. Sybil was not to retaliate against Gullveig. It was forbidden for a Wycca to kill a sister in their own coven. Gullveig was to be punished properly by the council.

Sybil agreed. Her illness disappeared. She waited for proper consequence, but her patience grew thin. Jealousy and rage consumed her.

On a cold autumn eve, Gullveig, disguised as Nell King, was staying in the royal suite of the Marchand. Frédérick was scheduled to meet her.

He found her — face down, flayed, and drained of her blood. He was terrified of the gruesome scene. Sybil stepped out of the washroom. She was carrying a revolver.
"You?," Frédérick cried.
"This is going to ruin you. Your name. Your reputation," said Sybil. "This is for the hurt that you and your whore put upon me." She passed the gun to Frédérick. He was so frightened, he was numb. "You know what to do," she said.

Frédérick took the revolver. He began to convulsively gasp and loudly cry.

Sybil left the royal suite. She heard a loud, sharp pop come from the room.

Frédérick and Nell's bodies were discovered a week later by Mayor Walmsley. Everyone believed Frédérick was responsible for Nell's slaying — and the murder of Élisabeth LeBlanc. The Marchand immediately closed its doors and was later purchased by an American business magnate from Texas.

Sybil's failure to act on her promise is why she is the monstrosity that forever rots on Barracks Street.
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