Categories
Haunted Places

4 Paranormal Houses That We Wouldn’t Buy (Or Live In) If You Paid Us

The supernatural movie theme starts a little like this; a hopeful family moves (for one reason or another) into a rental home or buys a house to start building a future.  Queue the audience at the beginning of the story that something maybe isn’t right with the property.  The rent is a little too cheap.  The house? On the market for a few years but definitely ‘a steal’ in the neighborhood.

One of the reasons why these movies (some of which are founded in true victim account stories) are so devastating, is because they strike that human chord.  We all hope for a great place to live that isn’t going to break our budget.  And moving into a new home is symbolic of great things and a fresh start.

In fact, that positive emotion is so strong, that a clever horror screen writer will start dropping the audience tips that the protagonists are not seeing.  Small things like blood dripping from a faucet, randomly breaking mirrors, or the occasional crucifix that just won’t stay on the wall (no matter how many times the residents put it patiently back up).  And the acceleration of paranormal events begins in a match between malevolent spirits and the residents of the home. Like the ultimate bad roommate death match.

Here are our picks for 5 movies where the homeowner, renter or family definitely should have moved out sooner than they did. 

1. High Hopes – The Amityville House

We are going to start with one of the most infamous haunted houses in American lore and history.  High Hopes was the original name of the prestigious home located in Amityville New York.   The home boasts a roomy floor plan of five bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, scenic lake views of Long Island, and was most recently listed for sale for $850,000 (U.S.) in 2016. The home was finally sold for $1.2 million after an extensive bidding war between interested buyers.

Really? Call us a little skeptical but the history of the home would be hard to forget, no matter how hot the Long Island real estate market is.  A real estate disclosure reports that in total, there have been 7 deaths at High Hopes.  One man who died inside the home of an illness in 1939, and then the tragic murders of the six members of the DeFeo family.

The property has been owned by four different families since the murders, and aside from George and Cathy Lutze, who left the home and all their belongings inside of it claiming possession and haunting, no other others have reported unusual paranormal activities in the home. 

Would you buy High Hopes and live there? Share your comments with us below.

2. The Allen House – Arkansas

When you arrive in Monticello, Arkansas, there is one haunted mansion that catches your eye.  It rises like a historical monolith of Queen Anne and Gothic architecture, with large stately pillars, French gardens and more than a few angry ghosts inside the 8,500 square foot mansion. Welcome to The Allen House in Arkansas.

A fated love story of a young woman who fell in love with a married man. Despite the passion shared by Ladell Allen, the daughter of the rich businessman who commissioned the mansion, and her married high school sweetheart Prentiss Hemingway Savage (an oil executive from Minnesota), Prentiss was unwilling to leave his wife and family.  In 1949, Ladell poisoned herself and died in the hospital.  Her spirit is said to be a dark and angry presence in the home, and her bedroom was left in state after her passing for more than thirty years.

There are believed to be 6 ghosts that live in The Allen House with the new owners, Mark and Rebecca Spencer.  Old love letters from Ladell and Prentiss were unearthed after they purchased the home and are predominantly displayed in frames to preserve the history.

Paranormal activity for the family runs the gamut of sounds, moving objects and doppelganger activity.  Some of the ghosts like to appear as the Spencer’s son in the home, when the child is at school or off the property.  They ‘try not to take it seriously’ and remain believers but dismissive of the activity, as they continue to live with their ghostly roommates (and conduct annual Halloween tours of the mansion).

Some homeowners simply want extra closet space. Others want a built-in menagerie of paranormal fun 24/7 and don’t lose a wink of sleep.

3.The Cage – St. Osyth, Essex U.K.

The building started as a rooming house of sorts, and in 1582 it held 13 ‘witches’ who were placed on trial in St. Osyth, Essex.   One of the famous witches of the period trials, Ursula Kemp, was found guilty and hung with two other women who spent their days waiting for a moment in court.  Not that legal defense was really a ‘thing’ for women accused of witchcraft in the day.

The home has remained unchanged in terms of dimension and odd angles of construction, while being renovated on the inside.  Research into The Cage revealed that throughout history, homeowners resided in the dwelling a short span of three years or less, before leaving due to paranormal activity.

Residents have reported a malevolent goat demon that walks through the home, random spattering of blood on walls and counters, and regular sightings of spiritual entities.  It is so common in fact, that the present owner (who experienced a demonic attack while she was pregnant) refuses to live in the home and has struggled to find a new buyer because of the reputation the home has earned in the community.

4. Willows Weep – Cayuga, Indiana

If you love watching and learning about paranormal events and hauntings, chances are you have seen this famous home on YouTube. Willow’s Weep is the nickname for an otherwise unremarkable looking old home, if it was not built in the shape of an upside down cross! Did we mention it is also built at a crossroads?  Yikes.

Willow’s Weep was originally constructed in the 1800s, and it faces east toward the crossroads. In paranormal land, that’s like building an altar at a powerful negative energy location.  Deliberately. The home is also surrounded by several Native American ancient burial sites, and the land around the home has its own history of bloodshed, war and loss.

An occult ritual book was found buried beneath the original floor.  Previous owners and renters have reported demonic attacks that feel life threatening, and several teams of paranormal experts have conducted their own studies on Willow’s Weep.  Many of them experienced similar instances of spiritual or physical attack by malevolent entities, orbs and telekinesis or the movement of objects or people in a violent way.

Willow’s Weep is currently owned by paranormal investigator Dave Spinks, who is fundraising to create an indie movie about the history of the home and haunted happenings.  Some American paranormal experts have labeled Willow’s Weep as the most malevolently haunted building in the country.

Should you stay or should you go? If you find yourself in a situation where you have the worst paranormal room mates ever, try some of the steps recommended for cleaning your space.  Life is a little too short to be dealing with creepy entities up in your business.

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

A Look Into the Succubus

What do we really know about succubi? As far as can be seen from movies and literature, they aren’t usually regarded with fear—although they should be. The idea of a run-in with a succubus, a female sex demon, is usually considered an arousing fantasy—those who have experienced them first-hand would strenuously disagree. There are numerous posts on Reddit that offer details of the simultaneously pleasurable and terrifyingly evil encounters with a real succubus. Suffice it to say, some of the victims of succubi meet their end in a terrible fashion.

The silhouette of a woman in bed, Succubus
Photography by Alexander Krivitskiy

Real Encounters with Succubi

While it seems unthinkable that something as outlandish as a succubus could be real, let alone feed off of their human lovers, there are documented cases that lead us to believe that such demons could possibly exist—have you ever encountered a succubus or an incubus?

J. K. Huysmans Seeks Religion, Finds Sin

A French author of the nineteenth century, J. K. Huysman had decided to go on a pilgrimage—having spent much of his life exploring various paranormal and supernatural phenomena. In an effort to travel back to the Christian roots of his childhood, he took up residence at a monastery. A misled belief that has been held for centuries, especially in the case of demonic possession, is that a pious lifestyle will provide personal protection from all evil spirits. This was an unfortunate rumor because it seems that the more dedicated a person is to their religious beliefs, the likelier that they are susceptible to attracting demons of all kinds. As a man with good intentions, he was not necessarily the most virtuous of people and he soon found himself to be the target of a succubus.

While he slept one night in his room at the monastery, he was awakened in the middle of his climax—seeing the succubus just as she began to vanish. Huysmans was certain, after seeing evidence that someone or something else had been in his bed with him while he had been sleeping. The belief at the time was that a succubus would steal the semen from unwitting male victims, then transform into an incubus, the male counterpart to the succubus, then use it to impregnate female victims.

Silhouette of a woman, Succubus
Photography by Alexander Krivitskiy

Pope Sylvester II’s Rise to Power

Prior to becoming Pope Sylvester II, Gerbert of Aurillac was a student, he fell in love with the daughter of the dean of this university. Unfortunately for Gerbert, she rejected him as he was far below her own social class—the anguish and unrequited passion he had for this woman possessed Gerbert with lustful and lascivious feelings. This was when he met Meridiana, an exquisitely beautiful young woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere. She promised him that should he remain faithful to her alone that she could make him intelligent, wealthy, and provide him the intimacy that he so desired. Gerbert couldn’t accept her deal quickly enough and through proving his loyalty, she helped him traverse through the ranks of the church and was appointed as archbishop of Rheims. By the time he had become pope, he was far above the social class of the woman who had slighted him; when he cheated on Meridiana with the dean’s daughter, she forgave him due to his previously intense loyalty.

Meridiana was Gerbert’s closely guarded secret, because of the well-known requirement of chastity for the Catholic clergy. He continued in his successes, until one day, Meridiana predicted he would die during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem—as it would seem, the age-old adage of, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” is really the case when dealing with a possessive, jealous, female sex demon. Terrified, Gerbert canceled his trip to Jerusalem, then publicly confessed to his lifetime of sins, fearing that if he were to die without repenting, he would have gone straight to hell. He later died in Rome, where he now resides in a tomb, which is reported to begin to sweat when the current pope is destined to die.

A Succubus Disguised as An Imaginary Friend

In 2012, a young man named Patrick was the target of a succubus that had been posing as his imaginary friend from childhood—this friend, Lucy, would come to Patrick when he was lonely and play with him, following him throughout his childhood and watching him grow. One day, she confided in Patrick that one day he would be old enough for her to teach him interesting and exciting things that he couldn’t yet understand. His parents were understandably disturbed by his obsession with his imaginary friend, so they took him to several different psychologists to see if they could get him some help. When Patrick got to the age of sixteen, he said that Lucy persuaded him to meet and date real women so that she could start teaching him these new things; he claims she stuck around for several years, teaching him how to satisfy himself and the women he took as partners. Lucy finally disappeared when Patrick fell in love and married.

Cultural Representations of the Succubus

Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868
Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868

Lilith, the First Wife of Adam

As the first wife of Adam from the Garden of Eden, Lilith is the archetype of feminism, independence, and dominance. While she takes many forms in the various versions created of her, she became the first succubus when she left the Garden of Eden and interbred with demons—she was said to give birth to over a hundred children a day, creating an entire race of succubi. She is such a powerful icon as a demon and a succubus, that there are reports from men from vastly different cultures, throughout the centuries that claim to have been visited by Lilith—some who summoned her, others were just unsuspecting victims. Lilith, is by far the most famous succubus in all of the lore, appearing in Christian, Roman, Greek, Judaic, Sumerian and Egyptian cultural mythologies.

In Sumerian lore, she was the goddess of fertility and witchcraft, which evolved with the Assyrians and Babylonians who categorized her as a demon. She appears in Greek mythology as well, portrayed as a romantic adversary of Hera, who as a jealous goddess cast her out and sent her to roam the lands and consume infants.

Um Al Duwayce

In the Middle East there is a version of the succubus known as um al duwayce—she is the possessor of both incredible beauty and the most intoxicating scent. Um al duwayce roams the desert, acting as judge, jury, and executioner to men who would commit adultery. Hold on though, it gets better—for the men who she has tempted into having sex with her, her lady bits act as a guillotine for the victim’s manhood, then she reveals her true form and devours him alive.

Qarînah 

Similar to the succubus, the qarînah belongs to Arabic superstition, she is a spirit with origins in ancient Egypt and possibly within the pre-Islamic animism of Arabia. While the qarînah is invisible, she can be seen by a person who possesses the second sight, but instead of showing as a woman, they are depicted as a household pet. It is said that the people that the qarînah possesses can never enter into marriage, or she will end their lives.

Autumniessink

The Hawaiian succubus isn’t known by too many details, except that she appears as a beautiful young woman, then sneaks into the tents of virgin men at night and robs them of their purity. In order to stay virginal and otherwise thwart the Autumniessink, the man must wear a loincloth made from Hawaiian Snowbush.

Movies and Television Shows That Make Us Weary of Pretty Women

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Lost Girl (2010 – 2016)

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

Anna Byrne: Chapter 03 – The Boy, the Beast, and the Kayak

I remember when I was younger, I must have only been five or six–I was sitting next to my father in the auditorium at the local University and I was watching my old moosehide boots as I swung them back and forth, playfully trying to hit the floor with my toes. My father lovingly draped a blanket over my lap, I think he mumbled something about, “in case you get chilly.” I remember the anticipation that I had as I sat there, waiting for people to come on stage–I knew that I was in for a treat. My father regularly took me to the University in town, we had made a sort of tradition out of it, as if he were trying to expose me to as much of the culture of Alaska as he could. I always enjoyed attending those student led performances, I guess it reminded me of when my grandmother would tell me stories when I was a baby. I barely remember the wrinkled smile of my elder now, but even a glimpse of those memories brought me feelings of warmth and safety.

I remember that I hadn’t had to wait for long before a University student came on the stage, she was dressed in traditional Inuit regalia and sat down on a stool in the middle of the stage. I had been mesmerized by the woman’s coat, it was made of caribou skin and trimmed in wolf fur–it looked so soft and warm, and the beading that decorated it was so beautifully colored. I vaguely remember the Inuit student clear her throat several times, it was almost as if she did so self-consciously, then she tapped on the microphone that was set up in front of her. I remember grasping my father’s hand as I sat next to him, jittery and excited; he squeezed my hand back to let me know he was also excited for the show.

Foggy morning in Baffin Bay, Canada
Photography by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen

“I want to thank you all for coming today,” she adjusted the microphone to better capture her voice, “today I will be telling you a story about the Inuit people from Baffin Bay, this particular tribe had to deal with another tribe of people known as Tornit–here we call them the Alaska Bushmen. I heard this story from my aanaq when I was younger. I know she would be happy to see how many of you are here today to carry on this oral tradition.” The woman on stage cleared her throat once again, adjusted herself one last time in her seat, then began her story.

“It was a quiet summer morning in fish camp on the coast of Nunatsiarmiut (new-naht-saw-me-oot), the repetitious chirps of sandpipers in the distance announced a change in the tide, and the people in the camp moved about in a soft and polite manner,” just as the first words came out of her mouth, several people joined her on stage, all dressed in regalia, faces covered in character masks. The men carried their traditional drums while the women carried their dance fans–my childlike joy gave me away and I gasped in awe, my eyes glossed over as I became entranced with the wondrous spectacle before me.

“Tulugaak (too-loo-gawk) opened his sleep-crusted eyes laboriously, rubbed them clean, then blinked several times to clear the morning’s fog. He realized what day it was, bolted upright in his bedding, and went to scramble out of his seal-skin tent. When Tulugaak stumbled out of his tent while attempting to adjust his seal-skin boots, his distraction nearly caused him to land squarely on top of his best friend. Nukka (newk-ka) who greeted him with an appreciative groan, had been patiently sunning herself, awaiting the time her master would finally arise for the day.

Excitement overtook Tulugaak, who couldn’t believe he had overslept on such an important day, his kayak was ready to take out into the bay and fish with his father and the other men. Nukka’s tongue lolled out in a lazy yawn, her stark white body stretched downward, which readied her for the day. She fell in step behind Tulugaak as they both started off toward the shore. He would never get sick of the brilliant summer greens that revealed themselves on the mossy, overgrown boulders and thickets that were humming with life. The salty air tickled his nose as they got closer to where his mother and sister had breakfast ready; a cacophony of gulls overwhelmed the squeaky chirps of the sandpipers. The sun reached ever higher into the sky, though it wasn’t even half-way to its final destination for the day. Clouds wisped through the sky, a brief reprieve on an otherwise unnaturally warm day.

Nukka was the first to see Anana (ah-nah-nah), Tulugaak’s mother and, having caught the smell of food on the light breeze, perked her ears up and kicked up the sand and rocks behind her as she broke into a run. Tulugaak could see her greet his mother with an audacious, playful bark. Nukka was nearly finished with her food by the time Tulugaak sat down to eat. His sister, Namak (nah-mahk) teased him for his lateness, but his mother simply handed him a bowl of dried fish and seal oil. While he was mid-mouthful, his mother brushed his disheveled black hair to the side with her hand, then made it clear he was to hurry to shore.

Rocky Inlet off of the bay
Photography by Pawel Kadysz

Tulugaak finished his bowl with voracity, grabbed his net and found Nukka at his heels once again; they both dashed down the slope to the inlet where they kept their kayaks. Nukka stopped for a moment to curiously bury her nose in a small hole that had been hiding amongst the stony beach and emerged with a terrified and squirming collared lemming. Nukka unceremoniously bit down on the rodent before she caught up with her master. When Tulugaak arrived at the kayaks, his smiling grandfather presented him with a spear. He couldn’t believe his grandfather was giving him his lucky spear—it was a gift he felt he could never repay.

The men of the village, who were irritated by his lateness, barely acknowledged him as they all began to hop into their kayaks. Tulugaak, determined to not hinder them further, struggled to get his own kayak into the water, his body buzzing in anticipation. Today was the day. Nukka, upset that she was not going with him, sat down next to his grandfather in resignation, as he and all of the other hunters paddled out of the inlet and into the expansive bay.

Seal in the water
Photography by Alex Glebov

Small schools of fish passed under his kayak, which he quickly scooped up with a skillful turn of his net in the water then dumped three fairly large char at his feet. Tulugaak was even more confident in his first trip than he could have imagined, being out on the mild waves of the bay was invigorating and he felt like a true hunter for the first time. He heard his father holler from the front of their formation of kayaks, there were seals lounging in the water closer to the cliffs, feeding on the fish that were running with the tide.

His father was the first to reach them, he saw him let loose his spear, taking advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself—two men joined him in pulling the first successful strike back to his father’s kayak. The hunt progressed quickly, before long there were several strikes, all of which resulted in a nicely weighted down kayak. Tulugaak was as anxious as ever, his knuckles white with tension around his grandfather’s lucky spear—he saw a flash pass near his kayak and before he realized what he was doing, his own spear let loose from his hands. Within an instant, he felt the spear pierce the seal he had so haphazardly aimed for and he let out a triumphant yawp.

The men joined in on his celebratory cries, his uncle who was beaming with pride, was among the two closest men to him that helped him bring his seal aboard. Although this was exactly what Tulugaak had hoped would come of his first hunt in the bay, it wasn’t at all what he was expecting—such luck on his first trip out could only be explained by the spear that his grandfather had so lovingly bestowed upon him. The rest of the trip was a blur, although he would later remember helping another man pull his own catch in, he couldn’t recall paddling home.

The rest of the night passed fairly slowly, he had been drunk on success when they had reached the shore and it only began to wear off when he saw his mother and sister gut his catches and prepare them for storage. Tulugaak’s father and grandfather soon joined them all around the fire for dinner, Namak had brought her story knife to the circle and entertained them all with stories about their neighboring tribe, the Tornit.

Namak told them all about how one of them had recently stolen away with the kayak of one of the other men in the village, her narrative continued to become less and less friendly until their father suddenly scolded her. He did not want any of them to invite a run-in with a Tornit, the reputation for the devious nature of the monsters was well known in their village. Namak stowed her story knife away obediently, her father kissed her forehead, said his goodbyes for the for the evening, and stated he would be gone by early morning on his caribou hunt.

Their impish grandfather leaned in close to the two children, his voice was soft and low—he continued on with Namak’s story and several others before their mother finally caught on to his mischiefs. Anana looked over at them all sternly which caused their grandfather to chuckle and take his leave for the night. The fire in front of Tulugaak cracked loudly, it brought him back into the present, the fire’s embers were still hot and bright, but they were beginning to die out. The smoke, which hung heavily around their heads, made him weary—his sister stifled a yawn and they were both promptly shooed off to bed.

The sun was still hanging well above the horizon, but Tulugaak and his sister gave in, they knew it was late enough; it had been a long, exhausting day, but his mind was still racing with the thought of the Tornit. He had never really seen one of them up close, but he knew that was because they weren’t entirely friendly to his people. Namak disappeared into the tent that she shared with their mother, while Tulugaak and Nukka headed back thoroughly unconcerned with their surroundings. Nukka bounced around in a futile attempt to capture a bug that had caught her eye; they were just passing the thicket when Tulugaak heard it.

Spooky foggy forest in daytime
Photography by Ales Krivec

There was a muffled crunch of brush beyond the trees—it wasn’t bright enough in the thicket for him to see much of anything but a blur. Suddenly, he felt his heartbeat hasten, it felt like it was jumping up his throat—what was that? Feeling unusually brave, with spear in hand, his curiosity got the better of him and he stepped into the thicket to get a closer look at what had made the sound. Pretty soon he found himself hiding, pressed against a tree as he spotted the abnormally large and hairy creature creeping toward the edge of the trees. He watched from a safe distance as he realized the brutish creature was attempting to sneak past their camp.

With everyone except, to his knowledge, himself tucked away in their tents, he figured this Tornit was emboldened to help himself to what he liked. Tulugaak fumed, he couldn’t let this creature steal right from under their noses, could he? He felt like both the hunter and the hunted in that moment as he stalked the creature, his palms clammy with sweat, his heart hammered in his chest. What would the creature do if it stumbled upon a tent? Would it harm those who were sleeping peacefully inside? Tulugaak knew he had to continue to follow, as a man now it was his duty to help protect his people.

He was so focused on following that he didn’t realize where he had been led until his feet landed on the rocky soil of the inlet—just then he felt Nukka’s cold nose on the back of his hand, she had been following her master silently the whole time. They watched from behind a few large boulders as the beast loomed over some of the kayaks, as if intrigued by their construction—it didn’t take long for him to decide which one he wanted. The creature hefted it easily over his bulky shoulder, his elongated arms hugged it in place. That was the moment that Tulugaak recognized that the kayak being taken was his own. His blood boiled, his grip tightened around the spear in his hand, and he crouched down as his father had taught him when hunting polar bears the previous winter.

The boy could feel his companion tense behind him, a soft, low growl escaped her as they saw the beast lumbering back toward them, fully unaware that they were there. Tulugaak’s breath was caught uncomfortably in his chest, his heart once again beat rapidly, the hand that gripped the spear began to go numb, but he remained still—he was still hoping that the rumors of their eyesight being poor were true. The Tornit drew closer to their hiding spot and Tulugaak could see the look of pride on the creature’s face, it was twisted into a grotesque inhuman smile–his yellowed teeth broke through his dingy broad cracked lips, his dark demonic eyes sunk deeply under a large furrowed brow. His own kayak had become the prize in some twisted game this beast was playing, Tulugaak had built that kayak himself and it had taken him so much time and effort to complete.

Lost in the rage that continued to build within him, Tulugaak jumped out from his hiding spot, Nukka right at his heels. In his foolhardiness he charged at the creature, spear angled to strike. He didn’t expect the Tornit to grab him up and toss him aside, he didn’t expect to have the wind knocked hard from his body as he slammed into the boulders surrounding them. The Tornit gave a guttural scream, only then did Tulugaak notice that Nukka had hurled herself at the creature, her teeth bared as they sunk into the arm that had so effortlessly tossed her master aside. In the brief moments that Nukka had distracted the creature, Tulugaak had regained a wobbly stance and flung his grandfather’s lucky spear at the injured beast.

The spear flew true, it penetrated the neck of the creature and brought him to the ground hard. The kayak tumbled off the beast’s shoulder like a toy out of a child’s hand, his large hairy hand grasped weakly at the spear in his neck, the loss of blood brought a quick end to him. Tulugaak collapsed in exhaustion and took a breath in what seemed like ages, his head was foggy, his body was weak—Nukka’s blood red face hovered near his own, her cold, wet nose briefly touched his temple and she sat next to him. That’s when they heard the stirred villagers approaching the shore.”

There was a wave of applause that filled the auditorium, the dancers and the storyteller all stood and took a bow, before taking their leave. I looked up curiously at my father, “Da, do you think there really was a Tornit tribe that lived, I mean for real?”

“Well, my sweet, these legends come from people as a way to explain the world around them–” he told me and then my head tilted to the side, “stories like this one had to have originated from somewhere, otherwise they wouldn’t exist at all. It’s not likely that they just made up a monster that they had problems with in the past, so I have to believe they existed, maybe even still do,” my father explained.

“The way they were described, big and hairy? That sounds a lot like Bigfoot. Do you think they’re the same?”

My father smiled thoughtfully, “I think that’s a very meaningful connection that you have just made, maybe we can look this all up when we get back home.” 

I gathered up my blanket and popped up out of my seat, my grin spread from ear to ear, “Let’s go Da!”

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

Anna Byrne: Chapter 04 – Finding the Bokor

I twitched awake, I felt the unsettling warmth of sweaty palms, and my heart pounded in my chest as I gasped for air. It was the week following the winter Solstice and it was colder than it had been all year; the skies above my cabin were entirely void of cloud cover and had the clearest view of the milky way. Clear skies during the darkest parts of winter would always have a chilling effect on the temperature, this time it caused it to plummet to thirty below. Living in Alaska wasn’t always pleasant, especially times like the present, where I could see my breath rise as a fog above my face, even in the darkness of my cabin.

“The water again?” I groaned silently, then rolled over onto my side and squinted into the backlit screen of my laptop as it booted up. I blinked my eyes a couple of times to help them adjust to the screen, then clicked the only icon on my desktop. I waited as my secure connection bounced between Bruges, San Francisco, and finally Vancouver; Tor, the anonymous browser I used to access the dark web, opened to its usual homepage. I vaguely remembered where I had left off in the Oasis when I signed off at two in the morning, but when my eyes flicked over to the clock in the corner I saw that had only been three hours earlier. My dreams had turned into nightly hauntings, which always ended with me choking for air as I drifted beneath the murky surface of a strange body of water. I shook it off, even thinking about it gave me the chills.

It had been over eight years since the first time I logged into The Oasis, that was the summer before my nineteenth birthday, which now felt like such a long time ago. I entered in a string of seemingly random numbers into the address bar, this sequence had taken me nearly two weeks of typing it in to commit it to memory, despite entering it several times a day. Even with my high status as a long-term member of this particular darknet paranormal community, I still had no idea who ran the whole thing, let alone where it came from, all I knew was that it was legitimate.

I had only received an invitation after trolling the dregs of the paranormal communities for some time—right after I had sought out and documented proof of the Alaska Bushmen, the creatures that had been gnawing at my subconscious since I first heard of them as a child. It had taken me almost six years to find the damn things. A chat request from my anonymous buddy popped up in a panel on the side of my screen, I smiled softly. Even though I had never met him, he was probably the closest thing to a friend I had anymore–ever since my father lost his ability to speak, I had developed a tendency to keep to myself.

BanJack: Please tell me you heard.
Nevermore: Heard what?
BanJack: The Bayou is blowing up with news on the undead.
Nevermore: Back up Jack, are you telling me they might have found it?
BanJack: It’s possible, I mean the readings were off the charts. It’s really similar to the kind of power that we saw back…
Nevermore: Back when my dad had his stroke.
BanJack: Yeah, everything since then has only been a blip on the radar. I wasn’t expecting to see you on here for a few more hours though—had that dream again?
Nevermore: You’re psychic, B.
BanJack: So, you’re going, right?
Nevermore: Booking flights now. I’m not going to miss this opportunity again.
BanJack: Let me know what you find out.
Nevermore: You’ll be the first.

BanJack signed out of the chat and I was left to her own devices. There had been a little-known trend in New Orleans, for a small percentage of fringe Voodoo practitioners to fall in with a cult. Those unfortunate enough to be lured into the embrace of this cult, led by a bokor of ill repute ended up vanishing off of the face of the earth. This usually only happened to newly initiated followers who had no familial ties, nor anyone likely to miss them; these poor souls would end up on the lengthy list of officially missing, usually only after missing work for several consecutive days.

I had been the one to stumble upon this trend several years ago and mocked up a dossier to keep track of the happenings, but it had since only resurfaced twice. The first time was the day before my father experienced a stroke, the second I was already in the midst of an investigation. I was stuck in the Trinity Alps of Northern California in search of the Giant Salamander and only heard about it once I returned to civilization. Now I would finally get my opportunity to investigate this voodoo cult while the news was still fresh; if I could track down people with information before the trail went cold, I might actually have a chance to access this cult where the bokor was said to be resurrecting the dead.

The first flight that I would be able to make out of Fairbanks was set to leave in about five hours, it had an hour-long layover in Seattle before it would be off to New Orleans–it was a pricey flight, but she would be there before this time tomorrow and every moment counted. I sighed, finished booking my flight, then a lump of blankets moved at my feet. Within a few moments, my ragged, angry-looking cat emerged from beneath the blankets that I was still stubbornly buried under.

“Hey Shazu,” a yawn escaped my mouth, “looks like you’re gonna have a babysitter here the next couple of days.” An unexpectedly small and sweet trill escaped the large black and gray mop, which served as a half-hearted feline shrug. My bear of a cat was used to me coming and going at the drop of a hat, but to prove his contempt for my schedule he would surely leave a dead shrew in my slipper for when I came home. I unlocked my phone and sent a quick message to my neighbor, headed to New Orleans on an emergency, I’ll be gone for a couple of days, the standing arrangement between us would ensure that Shazu would be taken care of while I was away. The next few hours passed in the blink of an eye, but I had managed to make breakfast for myself and the cat, then scheduled delivery of heating fuel so that I didn’t come back to a frozen cabin and a catsicle. Through the icy blackness of the early morning outside, I saw the headlights break through my frosted-over windows, the cab I had called twenty minutes prior had just arrived to take me to the airport. “I’ll see you in about a week ‘Zu,” I fluffed my cat’s head before I slipped a cowl over my head and pulled my heavy Carhartt jacket on. Thankfully I always had a bug-out bag ready for days like today, when I would need to leave without much preparation. I grabbed my bug-out bag and the messenger bag that held my laptop and paperwork, then headed out into the blisteringly unsympathetic weather.

What might be a harrowing experience getting through TSA in any other airport in the contiguous United States, was only a brief twenty minutes from check-in to the terminal for my flight. Fairbanks International Airport was always half empty, even this soon after the holidays. I found myself sitting at the bar in the only restaurant in the airport, the thick dossier of her years-long investigation cracked open and resting lightly on the edge of the bartop. Flying usually only made me uneasy when the destination was on the other side of large bodies of water but for reasons, I couldn’t quite articulate, the prospect of this flight was causing my anxiety to flare up. The bartender set a rum and diet cola in front of me, “thanks Gus,” I mumbled over her paperwork. My focus was on the picture of a vèvè that had been spray-painted in black on a dilapidated, moss-covered tomb in the Lafayette Cemetery; I knew it was connected to the activities of the bokor I was seeking.

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I took a sip of the cocktail that sat perspiring on the napkin in front of me, I’m sure my expression twisted, I wasn’t quite expecting it to slap me so hard in the face. “Still pouring them weak Gus?” I’m sure my voice was dripping in sarcasm, but the truth was I didn’t mind–Gus knew me well enough to know I appreciated a heavy pour.

I traced the vèvè with my finger, it consisted of a decorated cross upon a tomb that was flanked by two coffins, the symbol of Baron Samedi. Another hour passed without my notice until I heard them announce the flight to New Orleans was boarding. With the two flights and my layover, I would have plenty of time to review my file and bring myself back up to speed on everything I had found and worked on in connection with this cult. It was all of the relevant news articles that referenced the cult’s activities and missing person reports which dated back over ten years. It was like a morbid scrapbook that pointed me to the place where I would need to start looking.

The ride from the airport reminded me why she still lived in Alaska, buildings were crammed against other buildings and the small streets gave no room to breathe. I could never handle living in a cramped city. The cab pulled up in front of the hostel, it was a lemon-yellow small two-story victorian house with white pillars, decorative black wrought iron guardrails, and a row of colorful flags that fluttered lightly in the heavy air.

It wasn’t until I had checked in, that I felt like I could relax again. I was assigned a bunk, but I wasn’t tired, instead, I pulled out my laptop and logged into Tor so I could surf the Oasis for the new information to which my friend had tipped me off. The French Quarter was known to be the voodoo center of New Orleans, but that’s not where people had been going missing—what I had found was that the disappearances were actually occurring in the Bywater neighborhood—the Desire area in particular.

Most recently, a young man by the name of Stanley Dean Keeling had gone missing, I worked at a corner store and after two consecutive days of not calling or showing up to his job—something which he apparently had never done before—his boss of three years had gone to check on him at his home. His home was in disarray, beyond just poor housekeeping, his boss told the police it looked like there had been a struggle. A week later and it was a nonissue, the police had insisted that Stanley had probably left town–and just like that Stanley was another name on a growing list of missing people who had no one to really miss them.

A brief stop in at Stanley’s home only revealed how quickly the landlord cleared out his abandoned belongings and relisted the home for rent. I didn’t fail to notice the vèvè of Baron Samedi that had been carved into the threshold of the front door. My eyes darkened because I knew it was no longer a question of what happened to Stanley, he had been taken, but where and by whom? I knew what my next step had to be; I was close enough to the French Quarter where I could search the local voodoo market for leads on where to look next. It was going to be tedious work, but I knew I would come up with something before I had to turn in for the night. I had no delusions that tracking down a cult that had stayed hidden this long was going to be easy, but the hunt for the truth was what I lived for.

A short muggy cab ride to the French Quarter gave me access to almost a dozen different voodoo shops on foot. I could see now that jeans were the wrong choice to wear in such a humid environment—even with the temperatures in the mid-fifties, it was difficult for me to breathe. I wandered with purpose from store to store, trying to conversationally ask questions about the local voodoo scene until I got to the last shop on my list. I eyed the old wooden sign that hung from the awning, then took in the scene in the window. It was dreary on the outside, animal skulls adorned the display and there was nothing about the shop that welcomed a stranger. Inside it had a different atmosphere than any of the other shops, it was darker, less kitschy, and there was something else about it—maybe it was just my imagination, or maybe it was the lack of tourists in this particular shop. Either way, I realized I was probably exactly where I needed to be.

Upon walking inside, I was in a completely different world, the old ornate shelves were worn and the paint was distressed. Each of the shelves were full to the brim with ritual ingredients, like powdered eggshells, chicken bones, and feet, then there was a full spectrum of hairs from different animals. Each of these oddities had a brief description on the label, but even upon reading some of them I couldn’t quite understand what might be useful about dirt taken from the grave of a mentally ill convicted murderer. A petite bottle of Florida water caught my eye and in my research I had heard of its usefulness in protection and cleansing rituals, so I took one from the shelf without a second thought. Moments later my eyes fell upon a jar of red brick dust­—for use in thresholds, so none that intend to cause harm may cross—I plucked the jar from the shelf, noting that this and the Florida water may come in handy somewhere down the line.

Caught up in the ambiance of the store, I perused a display of jewelry, where I saw the familiar loa vèvès carved into metal pendants. Among the ones I was most familiar with, I saw Maman Brigitte, Papa Legba, Erzulie Dantor, and Baron Samedi. A copper one for Papa Legba, as well as a silver one for Baron Samedi, seemed to make their own way into my hands. I considered putting them back but thoughtfully considered that a ritual offering to both of them might afford me some protection in my search. All I would need now would be a couple of fine cigars, rum, and freshly baked bread to set out for the two loa I would be petitioning for help. Once I was done looking through each section of the small shop, I approached the counter, set down my selected items, and pulled out the picture of Stanley that I had brought with me. I had the foresight to bring it with me, I might as well see if it got me any reactions, but this cashier looked unamused from the moment I had walked in.

“I was hoping to ask you if you had seen my cousin in here,” I offered before I slid his picture across the counter, while the cashier rang up my purchases.  “No one has seen him in the past two weeks—we’re really worried, he usually doesn’t go this long without contacting his mom.” I was an honest person–I swear–but I considered these kinds of white lies fairly valuable in gaining information—Stanley, as far as I knew, didn’t actually have any living family and even if he did, they obviously weren’t making too much of a fuss about finding him. A brief search on the darknet had told me as much, these days I didn’t have to dive too deep in order to find the information I needed. Because that’s what friends are for…

“No,” the cashier was curt, but upon seeing the look of distress on my face, he continued, “he used to come in here a lot, a ways back at least. It’s been a couple of months since I seen him last.” At this, my face brightened.

“O-oh, he did?” I watched as the cashier bagged up my items. “I’m kind of desperate to find him, the police won’t take this seriously, won’t even officially take him down as a missing person. Told me he had just moved on,” my hand gestured in the air as if Stanley had just wafted away on a light breeze. “Do you know if he ever came in with anyone else? It would be helpful if I could find someone who knew him down here.”

The cashier looked at me as if I had just asked him to cut out his own tongue, his jaw tightened—I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I thought my questions were quite reasonable considering the persona I had taken on to find this guy. After a moment of awkward silence, the cashier took a piece of scrap paper and scribbled something down, then slid Stanley’s picture and the note back across the counter without looking back up at me.

“Listen, this is just a rumor, I don’t know if there is any truth to it, but it might be something—you didn’t get this information from me and I’ve never seen you before.” My brow furrowed softly, I slowly grabbed the picture and note from the counter and nodded my head.

“Thank you—,” I looked down at the note, it was an address, but the whole situation felt wrong, I took my bag, then stuffed the address in my jeans pocket, “I really appreciate the help.” It wasn’t until I had stepped out of the shop that I realized that it felt like there was something heavy sitting on my chest while I had been in the store. The sensation passed and I breathed in the dense but cooling evening air. It was getting fairly late, but one more stop at the closest corner market had me laden with some snacks, a bottle of rum, some nice cigars, and two white pillar candles which I would take with me to Lafayette cemetery where the vèvè of Baron Samedi had been marked on an old tomb. It was going to be a long night, but if everything worked out like I hoped it would, the address I had gotten from the creepy cashier and this offering might give me a better direction to continue in.

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

Anna Byrne: Chapter 05 – Night of Resurrection

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It was a nice walk from the corner store to the cemetery I had marked on my map, it was so alien to see grass that was still green this time of year, and the sun beat down through the thick humid air. I reminded myself to not get used to the length of the days down in the lower forty-eight, it would just make me miss the sun that much more when I got home. Walking through what felt like ancient relics dedicated to days of luxury, I noticed many of the tombs I was passing by were in various states of decay. The lavish stonework had gone through years of disrepair and had been devastated by vandals in some places, but there was still a certain beauty to it. Moss grew heavy on the older monuments to the dead as if the tragically forgotten were being reclaimed by the earth. I found the tomb when I stumbled upon it, quite literally, my foot had caught on a rough edge that stuck out just-so underneath the bedraggled grass that lined the trodden pathway.

The tomb adjacent to the one I had been searching for had enough of an overhang to cast some shade—I settled myself down on the grass and leaned back lazily, sweat beaded down the side of my face. I had just realized how much I had been moving around when I finally let out the breath I had unwittingly been holding. The vèvè graffiti had been covered up since the picture I had, had been taken. The blotchy, mismatched paint stared back at me tauntingly—why had it been covered up when the rest of the cemetery was in such disarray. I pondered the thought for a while, even though I already had my suspicions—I had no authority to jump to conclusions, but I had a gut feeling that there was someone higher up involved with keeping it all under the radar.

The shadows grew longer and longer as the day drew to a close, the rhythmic chirp of the crickets as they began to sing caught my ears, but I still felt the sun left me too exposed to be comfortable with leaving an offering out in the open. My paranoia often worked in my favor, so I couldn’t help but listen to the agonizing anxious conspiracies that often traipsed lackadaisically through my mind. The sun seemed to be taking its sweet time and in my restlessness, I got my notebook out to study and scribbled down the address I had been given at the voodoo shop. Another thirty minutes would go by before I finally opened the bags I had been hauling around.

I set the candles down, on the left and right sides of where the covered vèvè was blaring through the shadows that had been cast by the fading sunlight. I set the sweet snacks and the cigars next to one another and then produced a shot glass from the tchotchkes section of the corner market I had found on my way here. I poured an ample shot of rum into the glass, took a swig and winced at the roughness of the liquor that hit my tongue. I lit the candles and began what some may call a ritual, others may call witchcraft—I knew it best as an offering, in honor of the spirits of the region. My experience had proven, that when in Rome wasn’t just a silly thing that people said when they were feeling uncomfortable with customs that seemed alien to them. I slipped the metal pendants over my neck and verbally petitioned Papa Legba and Baron Samedi to be with me in my investigation. It was just something you paid attention to—customs were to be respected and followed if at all possible.

After two hours of sitting there in silence I noticed the sky darkened until it was eventually pitch black. With just the flickering of the dim golden glow of the candles against the paled, peeling paint of the stones they sat against, I felt my eyes grow heavy as I sat there, in near meditation. I shook my head and mentally made a note to get a grip. The heaviness in the surrounding air still hadn’t given me a break since I had left the airport and I doubted I would find a reprieve from it before I left. I decided that I had sat there long enough and gathered everything but the offering I had left then set a course to walk back to the hostel. It still wasn’t all that late, and the Blues being carried by the wind through the streets on the way back, gave me a bit of bliss after a trying evening. In unfamiliar territory, I was just thankful that the GPS on my phone was working, or else I might be utterly lost.

I noted the course that I would have to take from where I was and slipped my phone into my bag—I couldn’t shake the feeling of eyes on me though and I stopped in my tracks just as I began to pass what looked to be an abandoned shop. My eyes were fixed on the door to the shop, it was white, the glass panes cracked from the corners, paint peeling on the bottom where the sun was brightest and hottest during the day. What really made me stop though, was the slight creak that rose above the fading melancholy of the band playing at the old club around the corner. The ruddy glow of an aging light fixture cast a haunting shadow—did that door just—I instantly dismissed any notion that it had but watched as it creaked open into the darkness beyond.

I walked slowly towards the door and stopped short of the cracked and weathered façade when I felt the force of someone pushing me hard against the door. My head cracked against the threshold, the sound drowned into blackness and conscious thought evaporated from me completely.

Zombified victim of voodoo ritual

My eyes opened to look upon a freshly painted black vèvè that stung the wall of the tomb and it was barely illuminated in the night that surrounded me, but it wasn’t night. I realized that when I looked to either side of me, the shadow was as thick as tar. I looked back at the tomb where the symbol was; it had begun to bleed down the wall in an inky red. Over my shoulder, I could feel someone press their chin gently upon the top of my head as if viewing the blood as it gushed down the face of the wall. Beyond the adulteration of my peripheral and through my own copper hair, I saw the outline of what looked to be a skull, but was it wearing a top hat?

The Cheshire grin that spread across its toothy smile was unsettling, even so I couldn’t help but bring myself to look at it directly. My eyes barely caught the hand reaching for my neck before it grasped me unrelentingly, the ashen skin was streaked with blood as it protruded through a large crack that had appeared in the center of the symbol. There were drums in the distance, a beat that I had not ever heard before, I gasped for air, closed my eyes for a moment, then opened them to find I was back staring up at the surface of the water. I screamed inaudibly and water began to fill my lungs.

My screams were interrupted by an abrupt jerk of my head; my head throbbed. The last thing I remembered was a misty old storefront and an intense curiosity. My confusion was unaltered by the strangeness of my current surroundings. My eyes were crusted over, no doubt from the sensation of choking… was that a dream? By the looks of it, I was in a root cellar somewhere; the only problem was, the infamous swamplands of the south didn’t create a hospitable foundation for root cellars to even exist. I twisted my body and finally noticed that my hands and feet had been bound. Awkwardly, I squirmed into a sitting position and backed up against the wall; I could tell now that I wasn’t actually underground at all, but the room had been insulated with a thick layer of muddy clay.

The darkened corners of this room seemed to house a dark and looming presence, a guttural and graveled groan that arose after a moment of my blurred gaze. It took longer than I would later like to admit, but I finally recognized the figure of a man in the corner, hunched and aggressive. “What have I gotten myself into?” My chest felt like it was going to explode—this adrenaline rush was working me up into fight-or-flight mode, but neither option would really get me anywhere in my current situation. I closed my eyes gently and took in a shallow unsteady breath.

This wasn’t the first time I had been in a tough situation but given the circumstances, I felt that I would much rather be back in front of the polar bear I had the bad luck of running into while traveling in the North Slope as a teen. Luckily for me, not so much for the unfortunate polar bear, I had my rifle with me that day and I survived to tell the tale. Looking back, I still wasn’t sure how I had steadied myself, but my mother’s brothers had developed a fondness for me, their little kassak niece from which we had formed an unlikely bond. I had known how to track and make myself scarce in the wild from the time I was a child—a forte I had never managed to possess while in the city or around too many people.

My face felt hot when I heard chains drag against the concrete floor, the automaton in the corner had grown more agitated; in a grasp for hope, I hugged my legs close to my chest and awkwardly fished through the ankle of my boot for the knife I always kept handy. When I finally fumbled it out of my boot, it loudly clacked upon the floor. The creature that kept me company responded in kind, his chains clanked as a hand reached out from the shadows. The blood-streaked arm reaching for me from my nightmare flashed through my mind, I shuddered and grasped the knife and clipped the zip tie on my ankles, then made quick work of my wrists as well. Before my corner companion could utter another, “eergh!” I was up on my feet with my knife tucked back into my boot.

My investigative and curious nature urged me to look more closely into the figure in the corner—the light was too dim for me to see much of anything, but my internal voice was telling me this was just a man. He lunged at me when I inched too close trying to analyze something which I had never truly believed could exist and he briefly came into the light—this man looked as if he had been drained of all of his color, his lips were cracked, his eyes bloodshot and glazed over.

“Holy fuck, Stanley?” slipped out of my mouth before I even realized I had said it and I stumbled backward. This last sound must have roused the suspicions of whoever was guarding the room because I heard steps echo from the hall just outside the door. In a moment of hesitation, my feet slipped out from underneath me as I scrambled on the concrete to get behind something, anything, that I could hide behind to stall for time. I narrowly ducked behind a bookshelf stacked with dusty boxes when the door opened. Another man walked in, he was large in stature and all of his exposed skin painted in symbols I wasn’t familiar with. My breathing was unsteady as I watched the man through a space between the boxes, he was obviously looking for me and I wasn’t exactly ready to be found.

It wasn’t long before the man found me in my hiding place, I wasn’t exactly a secret agent, skilled in elusive behavior. I feel like I bravely attempted to fight back left me kicking my feet in futility as he ultimately dragged me out of the room and into the hallway. There the strange drumbeats I just barely recognized, could be heard coming from the direction in which we were headed. I was pulled violently through another door which led outside, the drums grew louder and the lights got brighter. I was tossed into a corner of what looked to be a small, closed-off courtyard and my head hit the ground hard. Dazed and likely concussed I tried to regain my senses once again and even with my blurred vision I saw the bonfire in the courtyard. If I had been uncertain of whether or not I was in danger before, it couldn’t be clearer now—this is what I had been searching for all along.

There were several men and women gathered loosely around the fire, one of the women danced around in a trance, a man followed suit chewing on coals, while a couple of others dragged a struggling pig into the mix. I wasn’t versed in French Creole, otherwise, I might have been able to understand words other than the brief recognition of them calling out the names of the loa I was familiar with. I knew I heard, “Baron Samedi!” as well as, “Papa Legba!” being shouted within their chants and hollers, but it wasn’t until a man came into the circle with a machete and slit the screaming pig’s throat that I became nauseous. The pendants that rested against my chest began to burn slightly and another man dragged me closer to the bonfire.

My vision had cleared somewhat and I could see a man standing over me, colorful clothes, beaded jewelry, and white paint adorned this man—he looked like a witch doctor straight out of an anthropology textbook. I knew, without having to be told, that he was the bokor I had come to New Orleans to find. He knows… I need to find out what he knows. Tears involuntarily began to streak down my face, I would never be able to find out how to help my father if I didn’t find out the source of this man’s power. The bokor crouched down, a handful of white powder presented in his palm, and just as he was about to blow it in my face, I kicked my feet out at the man who was holding me on the ground. Apparently, I caught him off guard because he stumbled directly into the powder that burst forth from the bokor’s palm, in a last-ditch effort I rolled off to the side. The man writhed and screamed, the white powder coated his face and the ceremony came to an abrupt end.

Sirens blared just as the participants were ready to converge upon me and police officers burst through the doors, breaking up a party that would have likely ended in my own demise. An intense hour of speaking with the police made me aware that an anonymous caller had alerted them to my location and that I had been kidnapped. Despite not understanding who might have called it in, I was just thankful that the night was over and that these people were going to go away for a long time. I was allowed to recover my bag, which had been taken from me, my laptop and phone were still in my bag as if it had been utterly undisturbed. It was clear these people had no idea who I really was, perhaps they really just didn’t want anyone on their trail, and the act of someone coming to look for one of their zombified victims was enough to catch their attention. I could have just been another statistic, a tourist who slipped through the cracks in a city with a hidden reputation of violence.

I told them about Stanley being locked up in the building and once all of the participants had been cuffed and stuffed into the back of police cruisers, I was told I was free to go. The police officer I had been speaking with turned and walked away and I was left to my own devices. I spotted a large book that had been sitting in proximity to where the pig had been slain, but in the commotion had been knocked into the blood that had been spilled on the ground. Certain that no one was paying attention, I grabbed the book and haphazardly stuffed it into my bag. It was the only thing I knew I could get from the scene without an extensive search of the premises which I knew was not an option now.

Coffee and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
Photography by Chelsea Audibert

Light broke over the horizon and I finally felt my body start to give in to exhaustion, I had managed to call a taxi and asked to be taken to a place where I could get food and coffee at such an early hour. I was dropped off after a short ride at Café Du Monde, apparently famous for their beignets and chicory coffee. I had spent the past several hours feeling as if I were going to die at any moment and to me, this was a relatively sane response. I heard the relay of orders being shouted to and from the kitchen, the scant crowd of early birds waited for their piping hot beignets and scalding coffee while a lovely, slender black woman tended dutifully and happily to her customers.

The waitress approached me with a coy smile, “what can I get you, hun?” and I knew that the woman had me pegged as a tourist. Who could blame her, after all, I was wearing heavy jeans in New Orleans.

“I was told this place was great for coffee and beignets,” I responded with a weak smile; I must have looked as exhausted and disheveled as I felt because the waitress simply nodded and took down my order.

“I’ll have it right up for ya!” there was an enthusiasm in this woman’s voice and step that I knew I couldn’t hope to match even on my best day, let alone today.

I pulled my laptop out of my bag and was pleasantly surprised to find that my phone still had a decent charge on it when I turned on my hotspot access. I began the long task of documenting what I had encountered during my investigation? Kidnapping? I honestly didn’t know what to call it at this point. I felt as if I was no closer to the answers that I needed than I was before. I would have to wait to take a look at the book when I was back home, a cursory glance at it when I had been in the taxi proved that it was far too much to absorb in a short car ride and much too disturbing to look through in public. I was midway through a new entry into the dossier when a message popped up on my screen.

BanJack: You’re lucky I knew where you were going.

I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be happy that my anonymous friend had been keeping tabs on me; there was part of me that was disconcerted at the idea of him knowing where I was.

Nevermore: I’m guessing you hacked the GPS on my phone?
BanJack: You promised to keep me in the loop, remember?
Nevermore: Fair enough, I’m catching a flight home later today, I’ll send you some of what I found when I get back.
BanJack: Just don’t disappear on me again.
Nevermore: Pinky promise.

My waitress set my coffee and before she set the beignets in front of me, asked if I wanted extra powdered sugar on them. I thanked her and politely declined, then changed my booking to an earlier flight as she walked away from the table. I had never ached to be at home, curled up in my bed next to my goblin of a cat, more in my life.