From time to time, in addition to shorter items, I will post excerpts from longer works. The following is from the forthcoming urban horror/fantasy novella “Wrong Notes,” to be published by Madness Heart Press.
Victor Gregory, called “Gris-gris” by his Haitian neighbors, is a young violinist in the symphony orchestra of a large Texas city. He obtains a mysterious book of unconventional sheet music, which, when played, has startling and unusual effects. Eventually, Victor is forced to confront the supernatural forces which threaten to shake apart the world as he understands it.
In the following excerpt, Victor is listening to a story told by one of his neighbors, Petit-Jean. Petit-Jean is the adult grandson of Maman, the matriarch of the Bossou family. Earlier in the afternoon, Victor and Petit-Jean were witnesses to what may or may not have been a supernatural event that resulted in the death of a man. Petit-Jean is telling the story, from Maman’s past in Haiti, to attempt to put the event in context.
“It was a few days later that someone asked the question: why had Maman been silent when the Tonton Macoutes had come? She was known to be outspoken, opinionated, and yet she had said nothing to the Macoutes, had not pleaded for her father’s life, nor cursed at them when they had killed him, nor even spat at their feet after they had raped her. She had only looked at them, eyes shining with fury, as though memorizing every face.
“Then they remembered how, years before, when Maman had only been a little girl, that the houngan had said that his daughter had a special communication with the loa, and was favored by them. He had said that her power would be far greater than his own. Could it be that those men had died not from the will of their victim, but at the command of his daughter?
“They discussed it, back and forth, as people will do. Finally, a few came to see Maman, and one of them dared to ask Maman directly: did she have anything to do with the deaths of the Macoutes who had killed her father?”
Petit-Jean paused here. Victor was reeling from shock. He wanted to offer sympathy, to express concern, to ask questions. It was impossible to know what to say, or even whether to say anything. The story had gone from one atrocity to the next, and taken a sharp turn from the unbelievable to the impossible along the way, and Petit-Jean’s low, rolling voice had delivered it all in the same tone, as ponderous and inexorable as Petit-Jean himself. Victor tried to find words, but instead the silence stretched on. It was probably only a few seconds, but it felt like forever.
For his part, Petit-Jean seemed to be considering whether to finish the story now that it was begun. At last, he cleared his throat and went on.
“Maman looked them all in the face, one after another, and asked whether it mattered. Whether by the words of her father, or her own will, or even by a freak accident that could not be explained, justice had been done. Did it matter what force had set it in motion? Could no one say that the Macoutes had not brought it on themselves? And then she spoke the words that would define her from then on. She reminded them that her father had spoken of his own blood rising up. Although everyone had supposed that he had meant the blood spilled by the men who had beaten him, did his blood not also flow in her own veins?
“And it was then that they knew, although she had not directly confessed it. They were indeed in the presence of a mambo whose power seemed flow around and through the very air that surrounded her. Her audience with the loa went beyond the usual supplication and bargaining. She could speak with them almost as an equal, and the loa seemed even to seek her assistance from time to time, as much as she sought theirs.
“The Macoutes never came to the village again. It was as though it had been completely forgotten by everyone who meant it harm.”
Petit-Jean spread his hands. “So, Gris-gris, I tell you all this to let you know that Maman, your neighbor, has great power. It is important that you know that what happened this afternoon, to that man – it was not a curse, not exactly. This man was a criminal, he beat my cousin, tried to get her to do bad things, and so she came to Maman. Maman said she could stay with her for a little while. But the man came here, insulting and threatening. Maman was trying to get him to leave before he upset the spirits who guard her house – and yours. He would not go, and would not listen to wisdom or reason, and so the Baron came for him, out in the street. You saw.
“But Maman wants you to know that you are not in any danger. The loa know you are her neighbor, her good neighbor, who brought clairin that first night – clairin that she shared with them. You have made her coffee – even if you make it weak,” he smiled. “She knows that you look after her, and so she looks after you.”
Petit-Jean stood. “That’s all I needed to tell you. I have to work tonight, but I’ll see you tomorrow.” He walked to the door, and let himself out.
Victor still sat in the chair, too shocked to move. It had been a long day.
He needed a drink.