The Loa Gate
“Where the hell are we?” Theda pressed her palm flat against a cold, smooth surface at her side. Cold, yes, but dark too. This whole place was dank and dark, humidity hanging in the air like a thunderstorm waiting to happen.
“You’ve told me nothing.”
She looked across and in the shadows she could make out the shining white of clean bone. There was a skull, and there was more. Theda could see a plum velvet suit that created something like the skull’s body. A top hat did not hide the complete lack of hair. Sunglasses hid the empty eye sockets and a half-smoked cigar hung from the corner of the mouth, clenched between teeth that were doing something remarkable. They were turned up in a grin.
“You know me, petite, so let’s not indulge in nonsense.”
Reality sunk in like a rush of cold water flooding into Theda’s stomach. “Monsieur le Baron!”
A hand of thin bone reached up and took the cigar from his mouth. “Call me Samedi. We’re intimate enough.”
Theda sat quietly for a few moments, the ramifications too great for her mind. Finally, she looked at the Baron with something like remorse in her eyes. “I’m dead.”
The Baron spread his hands. “It pains me, but it’s not my doing, you understand.”
“How?” A spike of anger entered her voice. “How can I be dead?”
At that, an unearthly light dimly illuminated the area. With a fake cough, the Baron paused. “How? How is really not part of my domain. You were alone and you fell dead. Who knows why—perhaps your heart could not go on beating, perhaps a spring in your brain came unsprung. Your husband won’t be coming back, of course. No one will find you until your neighbor notices a funny smell. By the time you are discovered you will be so badly decomposed your very skin will stick to the carpet. Such is the circus of the mortal realm. You need not worry about it anymore.”
Theda considered this. Dead was dead, and that was that. “You still haven’t told me where we are.”
“We’re in a mausoleum,” the Baron answered, then drew on his cigar. “The Prejeans, I believe. I don’t really care. I get them all confused sooner or later.” With the forefinger of his free hand, he pointed at her. “You, however, are not quite finished. Close, yes, but not finished.”
“Finished with what?” Theda began to laugh. “You tell me I’m dead. How much more finished can I possibly be?”
“You’ve died out of balance. You cannot pass through the Loa Gate until you’ve fixed that balance.”
“Your husband,” the Baron thundered. “The philanderer. The coward who took to bed with the very woman you believed he loved but he denied. The whore who would fall into the arms of a married man. And Marni, the woman you called your closest friend, the woman who knew all of this and would not tell you. These three are your imbalance.”
Theda experienced something like a swoon. Greg had been talking with Raye for so long, Theda had often wondered why he ever needed her counsel. When Theda had first grown suspicious, she had only asked Greg for the truth. Of course he didn’t have a spark for Raye. Theda’s conspiracy complex must be working overtime. And Theda believed him, because what else could she do? She took her marriage seriously.
Marni’s betrayal seemed to hurt more. Best friends weren’t supposed to be in on a secret affair and not tell the spurned wife. Then again, Marni had been Raye’s friend too. Maybe Marni hadn’t wanted to explode this bomb. Yeah, right. More likely, Marni had been protecting herself.
Sliding to stand on the stone floor, Theda saw that she had been sitting on a coffin—a fairly new one of polished mahogany from the looks of it. “So tell me, Samedi, what do I do? I’m sure you’re here to help me somehow.”
“I’m here to reward your faith and devotion to me, to the Loa, and most of all to Bon Dieu.”
“I don’t understand.”
The cigar burned out, the Baron’s hand was free. He reached behind him and brought forth a caramel-colored glass bottle. “I’m returning the favor, petite. You offered me better rum than anyone else scattered to the winds. Good, hearty dark rum, not that tonic water I get from so many others.” With that, he took a healthy drink from the bottle. “Real rum from a real dedicant. If there is any greater tribute, I haven’t discovered it.”
Rum? Rum was going to help her settle her scores? “Tell me, Samedi, what can I do if I am dead?”
“What can’t you do if you’re dead?” The Baron cocked his head. “Come on, you know the powers of the dead. You can do anything. You can even send the spirits of the other dead into the living bodies of your enemies.”
Theda paused, speechless. The sending of the spirits—she hadn’t even thought of that. “But why would I send other spirits to do my work?”
“You’re too kind,” the Baron replied. “You would never be able to be as ruthless as this task requires. No, this is not for you, but for the truly wicked, the spirits unable to make peace of any kind with any entity.”
The Baron opened his plum velvet jacket and withdrew three phials from a pocket. Each phial contained the same grainy black-gray substance, but one was plugged with a red stopper, one with a white stopper, and one with a black stopper. Theda had already guessed what it was when the Baron smiled. “Graveyard dirt, carefully collected from an obsolete resting place upriver from here. Three bottles of demon-ridden dust from the graves of the most vile monsters to ever terrorize
Theda pulled back a bit. She didn’t exactly cherish the idea of having evil-charged graveyard dirt on her person. In the next moment, it came to her again that she was dead and that the terrors of the living were no longer her problem. “I think I know how to use these.”
“This bottle is for the bastard,” the Baron said, handing her the phial with the black stopper. “This bottle with the red stopper is for his whore, and the last is for the traitor. “Don’t get them mixed up.”
Shaking her head, Theda examined the phials. Sending the spirits was the worst kind of magic that could be done. Was she angry enough at Greg, Raye, and Marni to utterly destroy them? In the end, all Theda had wanted was the truth. Instead she was stuck on the far side of the Loa Gate because these three people could only think of themselves. Yes, oh yes, she could do this.
She turned to the Baron. “What now?”
The Baron extended her hand to her, and she clasped the bones as if it were the hand of her beloved. “This won’t be easy for you,” he said. “But it will strengthen your resolve and it will prove to you the reason you are sending the spirits.”
In the next moment the Baron and Theda were in a lush hotel suite. She saw the bed out of the corner of her eye but she asked the Baron, “Won’t we wake them?”
“They can’t see us, of course. We’re of the spirit realm, but they’re of the flesh. The graveyard dirt is also of the earth.”
Gathering her nerve, Theda walked towards the bed. There she found Raye and Greg in an erotic embrace, asleep and entangled. Both of them were covered with sheets, but Theda couldn’t mistake what had been going on. On the other side of Raye Marni snuggled up against her.
“You know, I could have accepted this if they’d been honest with me,” she said to the Baron.”
“I know. You responsibility is what is, not what might have been. Send the spirits, petite. Do it and be done with this.”
Theda wouldn’t question the Baron’s wisdom. She took the black-stopped phial and opened it. Greg’s ear was in plain sight. Theda knew what would happen. The spirit would enter Greg’s body and find out his worst fear, the fear that could freeze him in his sleep. He would be a ruined man, but such was the penalty for betraying a dedicant of the Loa. Without another hesitation, Theda sprinkled some of the gravedirt into Greg’s ear. She thought she saw the dirt fade to white as it touched his skin. This whiteness gathered into a spiral of tiny clouds before rushing into the opening of the ear.
“The spirit is sent,” the Baron told Theda in a soft voice. “Finish what you must.”
“What will happen to them?”
The Baron shook his head. “That is not your concern, petite.”
“Tell me! By the love of Bon Dieu, I want to know. If I don’t know I will not find peace.”
“Do the others,” he said. “Do it all and I will tell you.”
Theda regarded the Baron, looking for some evidence of duplicity she would never find in the bone face. Why did she care anyway? However much she had loved Greg and Marni, they had betrayed her. She only felt a kind of mute hatred for Raye in any case. At the same time, she knew the grave dirt.
Before she could lose her composure, Theda poured dirt from the other phials into Marni’s ear and Raye’s ear, damn her. The she turned to the Baron. “I’ve done my part. Now do yours.”
The Baron nodded. “They’ll wish you’d killed them. The traitor will know with every nerve in her body that she is truly alone in this world. You were the only honest friend she will ever have. She will shake and sob for the rest of her days. When the whore awakes, she will hear nothing but the screeching of the one singer she likes least. The noise will possess her to the point of madness. She will never be free of it.”
Theda glanced at the bed. Yes, even in the face of it, she felt compassion for these people. But it was not her place to question the Loa. “And Greg?”
“He will suffer worst of all.” With a long thin finger bone he pointed to a piece of wire sculpture sitting on the nightstand. Theda recognized it. Greg’s art, if it were true that art was objective. He had been tinkering in their garage for months making objects from copper wire, white tubing, and anything else he could scavenge. This piece he had made for Raye. He had expressed his love for her in metal.
“He will lose all control over his hands forever. He will never do the work he loves again. This is his fate.”
In life Theda might have shed a tear, but there was no time. The hotel suite and
“Bon Dieu will see you now, petite.”