Raccourci Island, LA
Louisiana, home of the grand, majestic, mysterious New Orleans and the infamous Mardi Gras held every year. However, it was not time for Mardi Gras. Sarah excitedly peered out the cab window heading north away from the Gulf of Mexico clutching what looked like crumpled old papers in her hand.
The Deep South laid claim to arguably some of the most magnificent plantations in the world, especially Louisiana. Like The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana, near Baton Rouge. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the plantation is a bed and breakfast now and it offers historical and mystery-filled tours. Or the ButlerGreenwood plantation, established in 1796, the house built in 1810. Most of these places were just a glorified tourist paradise and bed-andbreakfast mecca. In fact dozens of homes dotted Louisiana’s landscapes. But little is known about the Gerome plantation. A sprawling estate just past Green Lake in the middle of Raccourci Island concealed by an almost circular river, dozens of swamps, small lakes and Cyprus trees.
Bang! Then a jolt that made her hands find the armrest in the taxi’s passenger doors. She thought the suspension would break, the shocks would seize up, or the tires would fall off at any second. She and the car bounced around like a mechanical bull with the setting on high.
“You okay, Madame?”
The taxi driver looked to be in his mid-40s, his cheek bones protruding like they were going to burst out of his caramel colored and wrinkled skin. His black eyes just two slits like coal but vigilant, on the watch for wildlife going astray and wondering onto what passed as a street. A wiry black man with close-cropped, fine black curls on top of his head. As the taxi struggled on she herself was imagining what the African-American taxi driver had originally wanted to do with his life. “I’m alright, but thank you for asking.”
As the taxi headed toward its destination the rocking back and forth on the old makeshift wooden bridge, full of nervous anticipation, Sarah began to feel nauseous. She glanced out her window while clutching a beautiful gem necklace, her family heirloom given to her while just an infant, the only clue to her biological family. It had been tossed around from one foster family to the other but survived. Twisting her necklace unconsciously, a habit she relied on since she was young to soothe her anxiety. Regrettably, there were no sides on the bridge protecting her from the rising water so she closed her eyes and thought pleasant thoughts. It was amazing that she was about to own land now. An unknown benefactor in her biological family, she supposed, had willed her the plantation. She fidgeted with the hem of her dress, staring out the window at the scenery, the trees getting thicker and the roads were getting bumpier the closer she got to her house. Sarah opened up her compact to freshen up a little. She had ivory skin and a baby face; her wide green eyes gave the impression of surprise and her small cupid’s bow lips curved up in a smile with long raven-like black hair that completed the visage.
“Roads are gettin’ rough,” the taxi driver said.
He squinted at her in the rearview mirror. Making conversation because the long drive had been so silent the taxi driver could not stand it anymore. She was beautiful, with a petite nose and pixie ears. He caught himself looking in the mirror a lot at her.
“Yeah,” she said in a raspy voice, “and I bet it’s just going to be getting even worse.”
Distracted, fumbling in her purse, she did not have a clue that the taxi driver took more time staring at her than looking at the road as they lurched and bumped along.
“So,” he said with a thick southern drawl, “are you from around these parts?” Noticing she don’t talk with a southern accent.
She was taken aback and somewhat offended, “I’m not really from around here.” she said sarcastically, “but apparently my ancestors resided here for years.”
“No offense Miss, it’s just that no one comes back here that doesn’t live here.” His cheeks reddened with embarrassment.
“None taken,” her face softened up a bit. After all, he was just making conversation she realized. He was just being nice.
She had been smart; living on her own she finished high school and got into college, contact with her foster parents had been sporadic at best. She was surprised when she heard a knock on the door. A mysterious lawyer said Sarah was the long-lost relative of the Malstros’ plantation, a sprawling Raccourci Island landscape. He had given the deed to her along with his number.
As a struggling college student it came as a blessing of sorts to hear of this windfall. She already had $40,000 in debt from credit card bills. She had to borrow $10,000 just one month ago when her car was repossessed. Almost three months late on her rent now. Mysterious as though it may be, it’s like she won the lottery.
“Has nobody been to this place?” She leaned forward to ask him, her hands gripping the back of the passenger seat. The taxi driver was delighted and at the same time nervous at her sudden closeness.
“No ma’am,” nervously clearing his throat, “not since I was young I think, that is.”
She sat back again, her elbows on her thighs, and touched her index finger to her lips in a quizzical fashion. How profitable is this property? She wondered. She imagined herself self-sufficient and rich enough that she didn’t have too ever work again. Property, she thought, was her ticket out of debt.
After what was an uncomfortable silence again, she saw the farmhouse just off the road. It wasn’t a farmhouse exactly, she thought, more like a whitewashed mansion gone gray with age straight out of “Gone with the Wind”. She smiled slyly as she fancied herself Scarlet.
The taxi pulled up and stopped in the driveway, turning grit and dust into the air. Through the haze of dust she stared up in amazement at the house. It was a turn of the last century mansion, complete with ornate pillars spanning the porch, an old wooden swing and doubled doors. Dirty, needing repair, and signs that it suffered a fire were obvious but Sarah fell in love with it anyway.
“Thank you, I am fine from here,” Sarah shoved a fist full of dollars, including a generous tip in the taxi driver’s hand, “thank you, I have friends coming, and I’ll be fine.”
From the massive yard Sarah looked in the bay window from outside dark soot was prevalent throughout. What seemed like a century’s worth of dust and cobwebs crisscrossed the porch. In the shadows a black widow spun a grasshopper, a snack for later, in-between the columns on the porch. The six columns grayed with age, paint cracking and peeling from neglect, stretched upwards to the second floor’s lattice balcony. The columns themselves greatly exaggerated the half octagon concrete structure. Sarah approached cautiously, as if any further she would suddenly wake up, the bubble would pop and the dream would end. She would be back in her cramped roach infested seventh floor apartment. She steadied herself, feeling dizzy from all that was impressed upon her, and took in the sights all around her.
Birds were chirping from a nest in a nearby cypress tree. A warm Southern breeze blew by which reminded Sarah of honeysuckle and wildflowers. She closed her eyes and let the noonday sun warm her face. Being an orphan tossed from foster house to foster house now she could settle down safe and secure. So beautiful she thought, even in its dilapidated form!
She took her shoes off then strolled around lazily so the overgrown grass tickled her calves, a reminder that she was not just dreaming. She stopped in the shade of the large cypress tree before catching her breath and fumbling for the ornate master key. She could see seared planks on the porch that spread out to the doorway and abruptly stopping feet from the upstairs steps. Taking her back in time she imagined gunshots, cannons exploding. Another time to a war fought brother versus brother. Then she stepped on the porch and entered the estate. Sarah hesitated at the scorched foyer before continuing on to the living room.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” She says as she excitedly thumbed her Blackberry smart phone to check how far away her friends were yet.
She finished her text then pressed send. Satisfied that her message was received she proceeded to wander around the manor again. She gingerly touched with one fingernail the once impressive and expensive couch, now a former shadow of its once glorious self. The satins and silks had all but fell away revealing the rotting wooden structure. Surprisingly the cushions were still intact and she imagined herself again as Scarlett O’Hara. As Scarlett she could lie down to rest her legs but she caught herself before she had the impulse to flop down. She imagined 100+ years of dust and grime floating through the air.
Just before the entrance to the dining room an old portrait caught her eyes. It was a hand painted portrait. The young woman standing between them really had piqued her interest. Although she had blond hair and soft blue eyes it was a spitting image of Sarah, albeit slightly younger. As if she stared through the mirror of time.
“I’ll be damned,” Sarah grinned ear to ear, “the old coop wasn’t lying, and I am a long-lost relative!”
This time she couldn’t help herself. The portrait that hung on the same wall for probably over a hundred years was off and in her hands. She turned it on its back looking for a signature or name, Alicia-1840. Definitely her blood she thought still mesmerized at the eerie similarities as she unconsciously touched her face.
She turned her attention now to the upstairs and the bedrooms. Still holding the portrait she moved slowly and methodically through each room until she came upon a quaint sign that read “Alicia” In block letters on the door.
She stopped suddenly in the middle of what she assumed was Alicia’s room, aware for the first time the eerie silence enveloping the house. She instinctively walked forward to the rocker in the middle of the room and sat down. She sighed with relief as the repetitive squeaking sound the chair made broke up the quiet all around her. Her anxiety lessening as she stared at her reflection in the vanity mirror on the wall, imagining herself as Alicia with golden hair. Until the floorboards groaned and creaked, the unexpected noise shot her up to her feet once again.
A cracked board jutted out from the rest of the floor. Sarah moved the rocking chair out of her way and removed the plank loosening three more boards, which Sarah promptly tore away as well. Sarah’s eyes widened, for a split second she was sure she saw a gilded book. Yes, she thought, it was definitely a book but now she saw just a boulder hidden underneath the floorboards. A strange place to hide a rock she thought. She stared intently at the rock for a while, until curiosity got the better of her and she hesitantly reached out to feel what looked like a solid object.
“No, I’m sure of it, I saw a book… I’m not crazy.” She whispered to herself mustering up the courage to lift the rock.
As soon as she lifted the rock it turned to dust revealing what she was sure she saw in the first place, an expensive looking gilded diary. She hurriedly pressed the diary to her stomach as if pressing it closely might keep the diary from turning to dust just like the strange boulder had. It was peculiar, but she had suffered a lot of bumps during her ride here she giggled to herself.
A horn blared repeatedly from somewhere outside shaking her back to reality. Sarah wiped with one hand the years of dust and grime from the side window where the noise had come from so she could see out, all the while grasping with the other hand the diary with whiteknuckled intensity. Her ride and her friends were almost up the drive to the plantation, stirring up dust hitting on the horn all the way. The white van was almost tan from dust and debris as it wobbled through the winding dirt road. The tires bouncing around as the van found pothole after pothole but the driver refused to reduce his break neck speed. Sarah trotted down the stairs and out the door as the van pulled up.
“Hey beautiful,” the driver, Tommy, yelled out.
Tommy had his head out the window. He looked like a happy puppy going for his first car ride with his wild long, blond hair waving in the wind with a wide grin on his face. He was obviously happy to see Sarah. Sarah reflexively grimaced, shuffled her feet in the dirt and looked down to the ground.
“Hey.” She said meekly.
When she first found out about the inheritance, plantation, and subsequent road trip she had told her close friends, hoping they would tag along so she had a ride back home. The prospects of New Orleans had her roommates excited and they were on board instantly. Unfortunately someone had told her on and off again boyfriend, Tommy, too.
“Great, this will be fun.” She muttered softly under her breath as she nodded to her friends Desiree, Roxy, Tina, A.J., Garrett, Jac, and finally Tequila, avoiding eye contact with Tom.
“Yeah, we’re in New Orleans, this is going to be a blast!” Tequila yelled out excitedly, oblivious to the fact that Sarah was being sarcastic. She slid the door open and offered Sarah a hand up into the van.
She boarded the Van unaware of a strange eye glinting in the sunlight, one emerald wolf’s eye that sparkled in the fading rays. It’s shape hidden by raven black fur and shadows. The van was between Sarah and the house, obstructing its view of her, but it was watching the van intensely until it pulled away.
Aticus waited in the shadows until the dust cloud from the van settle and he could no longer see taillights. His wolf-self emerged cautiously from the brush. Still weary from the freighter ride he had to take across the ocean. Travel by airplane wasn’t possible. One unlucky lycanthrope learned the hard way a half a century ago when the sudden rise in altitude made him spontaneously change startling every passenger aboard the plane. The wolf sat on his haunches taking it’s time transforming back to a man. Like an awful stretch all of Aticus’ nerves on overload, the muscles quivered and rippled from paws to shoulders. Paws turned to fur covered claws fur receding and lengthening until they resembled hands. His shoulders stretched back and popped until human arms again. Aticus’ muzzle receded revealing a mouth with a twisted funhouse grin. His spine dislocated and popped into place again. The last thing, his tail, which slithered around and receded, and he stood erect with his bare skin shivering until he got used to his nakedness. The whole transformation took less than a split second but still slower than normal, still acclimatizing his form again.
His heart was still racing from the nearness of the plantation, the plantation that he became obsessed with since the loss of his eye and the loss of his love. The plantation he had been dreaming of for months now. He had been dreaming of Alicia who whispered to him in the night, whispering her undying love for him. In his dreams, she whispered that she had come back to the living. That she needed him to come back to the plantation. He had traveled so far because of the dreams. However, a cruel cynical world, crippling headaches from silver poisoning, and more wars had all but hardened him. He couldn’t shake his childhood; mother, brother, and sister were all dead. Humans had hunted packs and invaded dens until they were almost extinct so by reflection the lycanthropes were always in hiding and on the run. He was tired of it and thirsty for vengeance, the blood of man. He decided he would wage war on man.
Aticus’ ears perked up from the rustling sound coming from just behind him. He didn’t turn around. It was Lance; he knew it from the musky scent. Lance, like Aticus, was also wholly human and naked as a jaybird, but you couldn’t tell it from looking at him from the caked-on mud that covered him from head to toe.
Lance loved being lycanthrope, and all the benefits that came with being Wolf, splashing around in puddles, chasing snakes and rabbits, feeling the wind through his fur. He had decided long ago Aticus’ attack on him and subsequent infection was the best thing to happen to him since he was born and he would gladly follow Aticus to hell and back if he was asked.
Lance slowly strolled up to Aticus, now basking in the heat of the sun on his tall naked frame. Aticus turned to face him and laughed out loud instinctively. Lance was so caked in mud and grime you couldn’t even make out his slim features. Only a break in the mud in one or two places could you see his freckled body. Even his red hair was caked gray.
“Chasing a beaver,” He shrugged matter-of-factly, “It took me to the edge of the bog before I caught up to him!” He cracked a fanged smile.
“Mark the four corners of the barn. The others should be in the country in a month and I do not want them to be lost. Make it strong. When we are finished here I’m going back to the trailer to wait for Tomas, who just arrived in Louisiana.” Aticus instructed.
Aticus was in a completely different world remembering dreams about Alicia but he would not be diverted from his master plan. After he had a good look at the plantation itself he would go back to the trailer. With Tonya and the owner of the trailer, a fledgling called Michael, they were almost done mixing a fabled formula. Before his Grandmother left him she taught the secret ingredients for the mixture called Wolf’s Blood.
He did not wait for Lance to respond to the orders he had given him, leaping towards the wild lawn. Running on two legs he clumsily sped toward the house. He didn’t even break his stride as he tore through the unlocked door and up the stairs.
In Aticus’ lucid dreams he was upstairs with Alicia as she opened the floorboards to reveal her diary, gold inlaid hardback diary. She held Aticus and pressed her lips against his in an impassioned embrace. Then she placed the diary back underneath the floorboards.
His heart fluttered and the sudden stop made him slide across the floor of her room. The fur stood up in excitement, the boards were tossed to the sides and the hiding place was empty, it wasn’t just a dream, he thought, Alicia had come home.
Aticus tried to spontaneously transform his arm into a lupine paw, wincing in pain as he did so. He looked at the graying mansion and decided he wanted to seamlessly transform pain free before formal introductions would be made.
Lance transformed into a hybrid Wolf and slowly trudged through the thickets before he found the barn. The dirt trail had spurted grasses and thick ivies. The barn itself safely ensconced in weeping Juniper and willow trees that had grown tall and strong with time.
The barn would serve as a base of operations once Viddarr’s Mystic runes had been cast that would conceal the whole of the structure. Lance hiked his leg up and urinated on the fourth and final corner when a howl caught his attention. His ears perked to a low baritone howl, Aticus’ crooning giving him more instructions.
The translated orders amounted to, “Lance follow the van.”