Fiction: The Four Pillars
By Scott A. Cook
It was the season of the Mardi Gras. Christian mourning and Pagan rituals. A white witch's black cauldron seething over with cultural traditions centuries old. The Black Zulu krewe gathered in the French Quarter, electrified and transformed in ceremonial dress. Their king, Rex Zulu, led them in sacred voodoo prayer. Tonight, they would honor Black Carne Valé. Farewell to the Flesh.
“You betta run, girl!” yelled Frank Cass.
His voice boomed through the barren trees of the thicket like a giant male grizzly bear. He was a big black man, muscular for his age and ravenous with anger. He carried a half-drunk bottle of whiskey in his right hand.
Nellie, Frank’s daughter, was running for her life through the boggy ground faster and harder than anytime she could remember. Pink-purple dusk was fading fast into night, taking the light with it. Rough branches of the thicket had ripped her flower pattern dress twice, leaving trickles of blood running down her legs. She prayed to the Lord her baby was ok. Twenty-one years old, six months pregnant, bare foot, wild curly hair and carrying all she owned in a homemade satchel. She was running. Running from her daddy. Running towards Miss Cherry.
It wasn't her fault. She played it over and over in her mind so many times just to be sure. Had she dressed too sexy? Had she worn too much make-up? Had she wanted it to happen, after all? The answer was no to all the above.
She was just a young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nellie had walked four miles from home to meet up with Sheila Tinsley, her best friend, at The Red Gator. A sort of bar and grill deal just on the outskirts of the Great Atchafalaya swamp. It was a popular place to relax, snag a bite to eat or get blazin’ drunk for under twenty bucks. The clientele was mostly lower income locals, tourists headed into New Orleans and truck drivers passing through, headed over to U.S. Route 90. It was not always friendly to young black girls, but Nellie felt safe today. They both had what Sheila called “dangereuse savoir faire”. Plus, Sheila had a 45 Auto in her pink sequined purse, just in case. Nellie used to have a 45 ACP in her satchel until her daddy stole it. Bastard.
The two girls sipped their wine, talked and laughed about everything and anything, as good friends do. Three hours later, after the goodbye hugs and kisses, the two girls parted ways. Sheila walked one way and Nellie the other.
As Nellie passed between two large tanker trucks carrying milk, a man appeared at the front end of the big trucks, blocking her way. He was a tall shadow. Ball cap. Black leather jacket. Tan work boots. A truck driver just passing through.
The minute he appeared, Nellie stopped in her tracks. She pulled her satchel close to her body.
“Hey, girl,” said the shadow man.
Nellie said nothing. She could smell him from where she stood. Whiskey. Heavy body odor. Danger. She contemplated how to escape but as her mind raced, the shadow man moved towards her.
“Ain't you a pretty young thing. Where ya goin’, little nigger?” His words slurred, trickling from his mouth like poison. Nellie knew how this was going to end.
She put one hand into her satchel, as if reaching for something. “Stay away. I have a knife.” She rolled the dice but it came up snake eyes.
“Oh really?” He snapped open a larger than normal switch blade. “So do I.”
Nellie turned to run. In seconds, the shadow man was upon her, grabbing her hair, flinging her backwards into his arms.
“You scream, you're dead, nigger girl.” He placed the blade of his knife tender on her cheek then applied pressure and drew a deep slice, cheek bone to jaw. Blood spurted everywhere.
“It's slaughter time, nigger pig.”
He threw Nellie under one of the milk trucks. Beams of light from the diner illuminated her assailant.
He wasn't a man at all. He was a boy. Maybe nineteen. His baby face was paler than pale white. Empty blue eyes. Mouth full of teeth that were unkempt and crooked. One tooth was missing.
Nellie felt his whole body pinning her down. She writhed side to side, trying to escape. He smelled so awful she could taste it in her mouth.
“Stop or I’ll cut you up, bitch.” He twirled the knife several times and shoved it into the ground. “You gonna do the man right.”
“You ain’t no man, little boy.”
The punch was hard and direct to her left eye.
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” The exclamations were accompanied with three raw slaps across the face.
Nellie felt him reaching for the belt of his pants with one hand. The other hand had crept up her neck, pushing her into the gravel of the ground.
“You people gotta learn. Shouldn't be comin' to places where you ain’t welcome.”
“Cracker smut,” she choked out as she spat on him. He punched her hard again. So hard, she felt her lip split and salty blood trickled out. The taste was bitter as it flowed down her cheek.
The shadow man-boy dragged his pants down just below his hips. He grabbed the knife and sliced Nellie's dress up past her breasts then ripped off her panties with one violent pull. He closed the blade, tucking it in his back pocket.
“Fuck Lincoln,” said the shadow man-boy. Drool plunged out of his mouth into Nellie's eyes. With that, his hard member entered her with the force of a cannonball.
As he pumped, Nellie drifted to that place where everything is blank and peaceful. You can draw your own pictures. Make your own quiet sounds. Put the pain away in rainbow clouds. As the shadow man-boy violated her, she realized how good she'd gotten at coming to this magical place. This wasn't the first time here and she was actually relieved. For once, it wasn't her daddy.
For fun, the shadow man-boy slapped Nellie over and over as he approached his climax. When he was ready to spill, he punched her in the face so hard, she passed out.
Nellie woke under the truck alone. Her dress destroyed and soiled, her body completely violated. She grabbed her satchel lying next to her, slung it over her head and dragged herself from under the truck.
As she stood pulling her ragged dress to cover her body, she stared at the place where the shadow man-boy took her. Shaking all over, she fumbled inside the satchel and took out what looked like a homemade bocce ball made of leather, filled with cemetery bone dust, salt peter and scraps of curses. A small twig of cypress was sticking straight out of it. A gift from a voodoo queen. A powerful protection gris-gris. She squeezed its contents then threw it under the truck where she had been defiled, whispering words of prayer to herself.
As Nellie staggered toward home, somewhere on U.S. Route 90 a shadow man-boy grabbed his crotch as blood spurted out of it everywhere. He took both hands off the steering wheel, screaming in pain, as the milk truck sped off the road, flipped over several times and burst into flames.
Nellie was more scared now than when the shadow man-boy took her. She was half way home. Home to her daddy. Home to where the worst evil of all lived.
“You betta run, girl!”
The thicket was now eerily lit by the full moon, shedding enough light to side step pits and holes in the ground. Nellie was close to Miss Cherry's house. She'd taken a few extra turns to confuse her daddy and prayed her directional senses were heading down the right path. Her bare feet burned like a Hades hellhound.
“Nellie. I'm right behind ya, girl,” said Frank.
Nellie pushed harder to run. She could feel a giant cramp coming right underneath the baby. She prayed to the Lord. Not now, God. Get me there then drop me.
The tower of the house peeked through the trees and Nellie knew it was almost over. She knew Miss Cherry would be waiting. On the porch. In a rocking chair. With a rifle. Praise Jesus.
The house began sketching its way through the trees until that beautiful building had drawn itself in full. One hundred yards to safety.
“Little bitch!” Nellie felt a big paw grab her hair. She yanked forward as she and Frank rolled to the ground. He was drunk. She was quick. Miss Cherry was waiting.
Nellie kicked her daddy straight in the face and the big bad bear howled in pain. He smashed the whiskey bottle over Nellie’s head, liquor and glass flying everywhere. She scrambled up, satchel intact, and bolted towards the porch of the house. Three steps. Three steps to freedom.
Frank got up fast, grabbed a big stone and threw with the accuracy of a pro quarterback. It nailed Nellie direct, throwing her to the ground right in front of the porch stairs. The pain ripped through her whole body and she could feel a warm, sticky fluid seeping out onto the back of her dress.
Nellie crawled up the steps. Frank ran fast. Miss Cherry, an older, stout black woman adorned like a voodoo queen, stood from her rocking chair and raised her rifle.
“Unless you wanna face full of buckshot, Mr. Cass, I'd be leavin' now,” said Miss Cherry.
“That's my daughter, Delilah. She belongs to me,” said Frank.
“I know who she is, Mr. Cass. She ain't property. She belongs to no one. Now git.”
“She's mine!” Frank yelled then suddenly got quiet, trying to compose himself as he wobbled from the liquor. “You and I have history, Delilah. I'd rather we not be repeatin' that.” He took two steps forward. “Just gimme the girl,” then in fake reverence, “Miss Cherry.”
“I'm gonna count to three and you better be high tailin' back towards your house, Mr. Cass.”
Frank stood in defiance. Nellie crawled behind Miss Cherry. The rifle fired. Blood exploded. Frank flew backwards to the ground holding his right shoulder.
“Fuck! You said ‘three'.”
“I said 'high tailin'.”
“You nasty pagan whore. I'll kill you.”
Frank started to get up. The rifle fired again and the dull lead buckshot grazed his left leg. He screeched as gravity threw him down.
“I'm now on zero, Mr. Cass,” said Miss Cherry. She turned to Nellie. “Can you fetch me that AR-15?” Nellie reached to the rocking chair, grabbed the gun and handed it off. Miss Cherry turned around and aimed straight at Frank on the ground.
“Bonus round. I'll countdown from three to one. Be gone, Mr. Cass, or I'll light you up,” said Miss Cherry as she raised and aimed. Nellie thought she heard a little giggle.
Frank knew he had lost. For now. He struggled to stand.
“I'll getcha, voodoo witch. I’ll getcha.”
“Be gone before someone drops a house on you, too, Mr. Cass.” Miss Cherry laughed out loud at him and blew a few warning shots to the sky. “Now, let's begin. Three, two ...”
Frank was already moving, limping as fast as he could. Back into the thicket, fading like a bad dream, barely lit by the moonlight, devoured by the trees.
“You be dead, witch!” Frank kept screaming obscenities, his voice trailing away in the thicket.
When she was sure Frank had disappeared, Miss Cherry softened, put down the weapon, and turned to Nellie.
“You knew this was comin', baby girl.”
“Yeah. I did.”
“Daddy wants it dead.”
“No, no. I meant is the baby alright?”
“Feels ok, I guess. But I-- “
Nellie suddenly threw herself over the side of the porch and heaved vomit all over the wild indigo flowers. Miss Cherry went to her, holding her hair back and stroking her head. When Nellie was through, she wiped her mouth and rolled onto her back.
“Now we ok.”
“Let's getcha inside, baby girl,” said Miss Cherry as Nellie stood. She looked down at Nellie's bare feet. “Need to find ya a pair of foot coverin’s, too.”
Miss Cherry extended a hand. It was warm and apologetic. Nellie stood.
“My bag,” said Nellie. She moved to pick up her satchel.
“Don't go misplacin’ that, baby girl,” Miss Cherry mock scolded. “Care for your gifts and they’ll care for you.”
As they walked arm in arm, Nellie looked up, as she always did, to see the strange star designs adorning the glass panels of the transoms above the double front doors. Small figures of men and women made of cypress twigs entwined with tupelo roots hung everywhere, swaying in the cool night breeze. It always reminded her of how grateful she was to Miss Cherry. For her kindness, her generosity, her teachings and her gifts.
“The guns?” said Nellie, looking to the rocking chair with the firearms.
“Nia’s right inside.”
The doors opened and Nia, a young, frail, short little black girl scurried out to retrieve the firearms. She came right back in, weapons tangled in her small arms.
“Anythin’ else, Miss Cherry?”
“Not for now. Thank you, Nia.”
“Be blessed, Miss Cherry.” Nia looked up to Nellie and giggled, “Joyeux Mardi Gras, Miss Nellie. Be blessed.”
Then Nia was off, scampering away to return the guns to wherever guns got locked up in this house.
“She's a good soldier, that Nia. She knows this house, top to bottom,” said Miss Cherry as she beamed and offered her hand up the staircase that cut right through the middle of the house.
The house. A beautiful two-story Victorian mansion built in 1875. It had multiple bedrooms and a root cellar. Inside, it looked like it might belong to some rich white man but years ago it had been turned into a half way home for young black girls who needed help. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, pregnant by rape, abandoned ...the list went on. Miss Cherry had been running the home for more than forty years. She knew her girls. She taught them things. Things to defend themselves against the world. There had not been a single moment of peace since she started the home in 1978.
Miss Cherry opened the door to a bedroom on the second floor. “Here ya go, Nellie. Cleaned and sprayed, new sheets on the bed, fresh linens over there. Two washrooms up here, one to your right, one to your left. You know.”
Nellie walked into the room. She had stayed in here many times before. It still struck her how stunning and organized it was, especially compared to her own. Before Mama Char had died, Nellie's house was a modest home with modest trappings and furniture. Always clean. Always smelling of baked goods. Now she lived in a dump, thanks to her demon daddy and the demon bottle.
As Nellie laid her satchel on the bureau, Miss Cherry slowly took a few steps in. She folded her hands, as if praying and spoke kindly.
“You gonna be just fine, baby girl. I know you don't believe that right now. I wouldn't either.” She blew a little kiss, pulled the door shut and quietly left. Nellie sat on the bed, holding her belly. Her baby.
Outside, Miss Cherry laid a hand on the heavy oak door of Nellie’s bedroom. She was uneasy. Something wasn’t right. She whispered a prayer of deep protection. For Nellie, for herself, for the entire house.
Nellie finally laid back, put her hands together and prayed, “Gods of Heaven, Gods of Earth, Gods of the Abyss, protect me from the awful men of this world. Ev’ry last one of ‘em. I doubt you can do that but I had to ask again.”
She never even knew she passed out on the fluffy white pillows, off to a place of dreams and magic. As she slept soundly, the spirits of the Four Pillars surrounded her and prayed en masse, “So it is spoken. So it shall be.”
The black Zulu krewe finished their prayers, anxious for the drums to begin, signaling dancing and chanting in the French Quarter. Rex Zulu led everyone down the street in praise. Black Carne Valé. The Reaping had begun.
Pinck. Pinck. Pinck. Pinck.
Nellie sat up startled. She’d heard a sound in her land of dreams. She looked at the clock on the night stand. It was 3:02am.
Pinck. Pinck. Pinck.
Something was hitting the window on the back side of the house, over and over. She got up, crossed the room and peered cautiously through the white lace curtains.
Nellie could see someone throwing pebbles at her window. She threw back the curtains to get a better look.
It was Timothy Jones, Nellie's one and only white male friend. A typical Tom Sawyer type. He loved the river and he loved his bike. She popped open the window.
“Timmy, what the hell ya doin' here?” She saw a bunch of cloth on the ground next to him.
“You gotta get outta that house, Nellie,” said Timmy.
“What nonsense you talkin', Timmy?”
“They're comin'. They gonna burn this place to the ground.”
“Timmy. You crazy or drunk?”
“The Illuminators. They're comin’. Right behind me.”
Suddenly, Nellie heard a loud gush then the sizzling of flame. Something had caught fire out front of the house. A strange flickering orange glow bounced off the trees to Nellie's right. She panicked.
“Get me outta here, Timmy!”
The sounds of men, boots, wooden cross bars barricading the front door. A nightmare about to unfold.
Timmy picked up the pile of cloth next to him. Sheets tied together. A rope of sorts.
“I've got sheets. Grab this when I throw.”
He threw the bundle as high as he could. Nellie reached out but she couldn't snatch it up. The sheet rope fell to the ground.
“I'm tryin’, damn thing.”
Up the sheet rope went again, higher this time. It still missed. Nellie suddenly smelled smoke. It was coming from inside the house.
“Come on, Timmy.”
He threw again as hard as he could.
Nellie caught it as she heard footsteps running outside her door.
“Tie it off to somethin',” said Timmy.
She looked back. The bed posts. She wound the sheet rope around twice then knotted it best as she could. Smoke started to creep under her bedroom door. She flew back to the window and threw the remaining cloth out, down to Timmy.
“Come on, come on, come on,” said Timmy.
“I'm scared, Timmy.”
“You got no choice, Nellie. Grab on and don't look down.”
A huge explosion and roar of flames shot up behind Nellie at the front of the house, lighting up all the trees in the backyard. She heard a scream, then two then more. She threw herself out the window onto the sheet rope and closed her eyes. Timmy steadied it below.
“Don't let go, Timmy.”
“I'm right here. You got this.”
The bed suddenly slid across the hardwood floor, slamming into the window frame and loosening the sheet rope slack.
Nellie slid down fast, out of control. She slammed into Timmy throwing them both to the ground.
“Jesus, girl. You eatin' good.”
Nellie slapped him. “Shut up, ass. I’m pregnant.”
Another explosion and the two were on their feet running. Voices were headed to the back of the house. Timmy grabbed Nellie's hand and pulled her into the nearby hedges to hide. They crouched low, out of sight.
“You ok?” said Timmy.
“Yeah. You ok? said Nellie.
“How did ya find me here?”
“I came by to your house to return that Thomas Paine book you let me borrow. I heard loud yellin' inside so I hid behind your oak. Sudden like, you come a runnin' out your house, then your daddy. I followed you.”
The men’s' voices were getting louder. It sounded as if they were searching for something. Another explosion rocked the house. Nellie looked up to see flames ripping through her room, headed up to the attic.
“You followed me and you didn't think to help me?”
“Your daddy's a big man. I didn't want him to kill me.”
“He was gonna kill me, Timmy,” she said then added with a serious tone, “We still on task?”
The voices were getting closer and louder. Closer and louder.
“Be quiet, Nellie, or we both gonna kick it.”
Three men dressed in camouflage clothes and black half face masks appeared around the back corner of the house. They had weapons. Hunting, as if they already knew the prey was right there. They scoured the back of the house and the small porch. The screams inside were horrendous. Nellie prayed Miss Cherry had found a way out.
The three masked men spread out across the back lawn with purpose, guns raised. One of the men got closer to the bushes where the two were hiding and Nellie saw he was carrying an AR-15. If they even cleared their throat, they would be ripped to shreds in seconds.
One man further away was whacking bushes with the butt of his gun. He turned and suddenly yelled, “Clear. Let's go.”
The men moved out. Nellie held her breath. And Timmy stood up.
“Right here. Don't shoot,” said Timmy, putting his hands in the air.
The men all turned, guns aimed at Timmy.
“Jesus H, whatta ya doing, Timmy? Get down.” said Nellie in complete confusion.
“Please don't shoot,” repeated Timmy.
The men moved quickly towards Timmy. Nellie scooted back away from him, hiding in deeper brush. They grabbed Timmy roughly, pulled him out of the bushes and threw him to the ground. Timmy put his hands on top of his head. The men aimed their weapons at him, ready to execute him from the world. Nellie trembled. She wanted to help Timmy but a young black girl would be instantly decimated by these violent, raging men.
“You alone, jackass?” said one of the men.
“You lyin’, boy?” The man stepped closer to Timmy.
Nellie's blood froze. What did Timmy just say?
“Yes. Yes, I'm lyin’, Corbin. You know I am.”
Corbin Woods. Timmy's brother from another. The leader of the pack. Tall, bald, built. He pointed to the other two men and in one swift move they ripped Nellie from the bushes. She tried to struggle but the men held her strong. One grabbed her hair hard, threatening worse if she didn't stop fighting them.
“Timmy? Timmy, whatta ya done?” said Nellie.
Timmy whisked out his cell phone, shaking it and smiling.
“Verizon, bitch,” said Timmy.
Timmy stood up from the ground. Corbin declared proudly, “Initiation complete, bro. Welcome to the Illuminators. Now finish ‘er up.” He threw Timmy something made of burlap.
Timmy moved toward Nellie stopping right in front of her. The flames from the burning mansion shot nightmarish shadows across the entire property.
“I'm so sorry, Nellie. I really am.” Timmy’s eyes looked blackish-blue, his features null and distant.
Nellie drew back then spit in his face.
“I except that,” said Timmy.
“Why? Why, Timmy?” said Nellie.
“’Cause you were born a nigger. God's stupid mistake. We here to erase that.” said Timmy.
Tears of terror rolled down Nellie's cheeks as Timmy snapped the burlap hood open and moved to place it over her head. She fought it, yanking side to side. One of the men holding her grabbed her neck, choking her tight.
“Stop, Nellie or they gonna hurt you,” said Timmy. His voice quivered at the display of public evil.
Nellie stopped moving. Timmy pulled the hood over her head. The burlap itched terrible.
“Trust me, you don't wanna see what's comin’,” said Timmy.
The entire house was throwing tremendous heat. A paradise destroyed. History gone forever. Consumed by demonic flames set by demonic men. Monster firework beams shot straight up out of the inferno with yet another explosion.
“Hey, Timmy, catch,” said Corbin. He threw a small bundle of cloth at his little stepbrother.
Timmy caught it and shoved the chloroform handkerchief up to Nellie’s mouth. She blacked out and slumped like a sack of potatoes.
“Sweet dreams, nigger girl,” said Timmy as he forced a smiled. He grabbed her satchel off the ground but Corbin snatched it from him.
“Contraband,” Corbin said jokingly.
The men hauled Nellie’s limp body to the front of the house. They threw her into the bed of a black pickup truck with painted flames.
“Get in with her, bro, and make sure she don't come to,” said Corbin. Timmy jumped in the back of the truck and Corbin tossed him the bottle of chloroform. He fumbled the bottle and some spilt out. The putrid smell was everywhere. Corbin just shook his head, crossed to the driver’s side of truck and got in.
Flames leapt to the moon. Timber fell. Another deep explosion. The house began caving in on itself. The truck sped away, carrying the invaders into the night.
Now this is America, thought Corbin. Watching the flames get further and further away in the rear-view mirror, he felt that power he loved surge through every part of his body like a supernatural orgasm. The power he had been taught. The power of hate and death.
In the back of the speeding truck, Timmy patted the sleeping Nellie on the head and rubbed her arm. “One step at a time, Nellie.” He touched her belly. Her baby.
Miss Cherry's house crumbled to the ground in one gigantic eruption, flames pushing out in all directions. There came a deep roar from inside the flames.
Rex Zulu commanded his krewe to exalt the highest ritualistic prayers of harvest and love. Clothes came off and a sexual frenzy of movement and sound was sent up to Asaka & Erzuli. Black Carne Valé. Farewell to the Flesh.
The truck traveled about thirty miles just outside the French Quarter before it pulled off onto a dark, side road made of dirt. Nellie started coming around. Timmy was quick to put her down again.
Deep tracks from large semi trucks and pot holes were unmissable on the dirt road. After a few minutes of driving, Corbin pulled up in front of an abandoned factory and braked. Briar's Steel Mill, gone defunct several years ago. Big, tall and ominous as any abandoned building can get. Lots of the second story windows had apparently been used for target practice. There was no light except for the full moon which was now tucking itself behind dark clouds. The thumping of drums and sticks could be heard close by on the other side of the huge building. Cries of joy and ecstasy just blocks away.
The truck shut off and doors opened quickly. All three guys jumped out. Corbin turned his head, looking past the factory, listening.
“Goddamn nigger krewes out tonight. Messin' up Mardi Gras. Too bad we can't round 'em all up in a badass bulldozer. Dump 'em in the gator swamp,” said Corbin.
The other two guys laughed heartily. One lit up a cigarette and the popping of beer cans could be heard. Corbin came around the back of the truck, swinging Nellie's satchel.
“That slut still out?” said Corbin.
“Had to hit her up ‘bout fifteen minutes ago. She's out now,” said Timmy.
“Good job, Timothy, my man.” Corbin shouted to the other guys, “Joey. Aaron. Get over here and take 'er in. You can slam brews later.”
Timmy jumped out of the back of the bed as the guys came around. They slid Nellie out, banging her head on the tailgate on purpose then headed to a double door on the side of the mill. Corbin ran ahead, unlocked the doors and flipped a switch for the light on the outside. It was bright enough to see but low enough to keep nosy neighbors away from wondering. The guys took Nellie inside.
“Bro, let's go,” said Corbin.
Timmy trotted from the truck, nervous about where they were and why. He'd known about the Illuminators for years and as he got older, Corbin recruited him. He remembered the exact day Corbin said to him “We're keepin’ it in the family, bro. Blood is blood is blood.” Timmy wasn’t sure at all what that meant until he started going to meetings at Corbin's place, a couple of guys' trailers and once out in the woods with a big bon fire. He had been here to the mill before but tonight he could tell from Corbin's deep commanding voice it was going to be an advanced lesson in white supremacy.
As Timmy got to the doors of the mill, he stopped. He, too, heard the sticks and the heartbeat of drums of the Zulu krewe. The Rex Zulu was chanting and cawing. It all felt warm, inviting, familiar. He held for a second as the music washed over him then he stepped inside, closed the doors and cautiously moved into the empty building in front of him.
Briar's Steel Mill was a massive, empty warehouse. Spacious both horizontal and vertical. Huge silent machines were placed here and there with no sense of order. Barrels, boxes and motor parts were thrown in every direction, covered in thick dust. Timmy looked around past the big pipes and scaffolds but the guys weren't in this area. He suddenly heard voices coming from a door at the far end of the building. Light was coming out of the door. He moved there quick, hearing Corbin's deep, angry voice.
“Wake up, nigger.”
Corbin threw a pail of cold water in Nellie's face. It splashed onto her clothes and down to the floor, making puddles of mud. She never stirred.
Timmy walked through the door and pulled up short. In the middle of the room was Nellie, hands and ankles tied to a red wooden chair, soaking wet. The burlap hood was off, laying on the floor. Corbin stood in front of her while Joey and Aaron supplied buckets of cold water from a deep sink on the wall behind them. Next to the sink was a long worktable covered with a stockpile of tools, guns, ammunition, safety vests and other contraband.
“’Bout damn time. You're missin' all the fun,” said Corbin to Timmy. He proceeded with his interrogation, throwing a second pail of water onto Nellie.
“Bitch, wake up.”
Nellie swayed her head from side to side then fluttered her eyes open. Fear filled her as she came around, hazy from the chloroform.
“Where am I?” said Nellie, dazed and stuttering.
“Doesn't matter. What does matter is that you belong to me now and I have a little favor I need from you,” said Corbin.
“Ha! You must be kiddin'.”
First slap across the face. It stung like a hundred bees.
“No, I'm not kiddin', bitch,” said Corbin. He eased his tone and continued, “Seems your big bad daddy works as a “maid” for the big bad mayor of New Orleans and I know for a fact that the big bad mayor has a shit ton of money in a big bad safe down in the basement of his big bad mansion.”
Corbin crossed in real close to Nellie’s face. The smell of smoky liquor was familiar and nauseating. “Now, I want your big bad daddy to get me that big bad money or this big bad nigger hater is gonna kill his only little nigger daughter. One phone call to daddy. We clear?” Corbin held out his cellphone to Nellie.
“Just so I completely understand,” said Nellie, mimicking Corbin, “You're holdin' me hostage for a big bad ransom that my big bad daddy is supposed to get for you from the big bad safe in the big bad mayor's big bad mansion?” Nellie laughed out loud. “Good luck. Might as well kill me now. Stupid redneck.”
The second and third slaps came harder and more unexpected than the first.
“Do as I say, nigger girl.”
Nellie yelled, “My daddy hates me deep. He'd see me dead on any given day of the week ‘fore he rescued me. You got the wrong girl, Mr. Big Bad Nigger Hater. Sir.”
Corbin looked to Timmy and crossed to him fast. He kept his voice low.
“You told me this was the girl. You're final duty of initiation. You told me this was the one who could make us rich. “
“She was. She is. Corbin, I don't know. Let me talk to her. Alone.”
“No, I stay here.”
“Corbin, she ain't gonna talk if she's got you in her face with a pail full of cold water and an AR-15 strapped to your back. Go. Take the guys with you. I'll see what I can do.”
Corbin, Joey and Aaron turned to leave through another door down the side wall into who knows where. Corbin looked back and Timmy felt his stare stab right through his heart. He could easily be on the menu tonight if Corbin got mad. No one wanted to see Corbin get mad. Ever.
The music of Rex Zulu and his krewe seemed closer, more present, approaching the mill. The sound had changed. It was enjoined by the Four Pillars. There would be Convergence. There would be Reconciliation. Black Carne Valé. Bondye bless your Loa.
“You ok?” said Timmy, moving towards Nellie.
“Wet and bruised. Face slapped three times. Yep, totally fine,” said Nellie.
Timmy grabbed a box cutter off the long worktable. He crossed to Nellie and cut her ropes. She started to stand.
“No, no. Not yet. Just sit tight and hold 'til I'm done,” said Timmy.
“Did you bring it?” said Nellie.
“Already here. 2 weeks ago. Did you bring it?”
“Already here.” She indicated her satchel with its strange gris-gris inhabitants all over the worktable. “They dumped it out. Looking for a bomb I suppose.” The two chuckled then fell quiet.
“This is gonna be rough. You ain't gotta be here. I got this, Timmy.”
“I do need to be here. I got words.”
They both shared a look of understanding, camaraderie, love. The shift of energy could be felt all over the room. Timmy bowed deep to Nellie then moved to a row of shelves with cubby holes. He reached way back inside one and pulled out a plastic coffee container. The inside was full of wet coffee grounds.
“Ready, set, go,” said Timmy as he took the wet coffee and began drawing a big circle around Nellie with the grounds. Nellie bowed her head as she prayed aloud.
“Oh, Met Kalfoy, open the doors of death & destruction upon Corbin, Joey and Aaron - my assaulters. May the poison of the gris-gris infest them so they may suffer the pains of the hatred they inflict. Cancel. Cease. Annihilate.”
Timmy finished the circle and threw the container to the ground. “I prayed, too,” he said, “I prayed we survive.”
Rex Zulu beat his death drums wildly, ushering four dancers across the empty field and out to corners of the decrepit mill. The full moon shimmered on the dancers as they slithered against the corners, their beads and feather headdresses slashing the resplendent beams from above. The death drums welcomed an unconscious state of dreams and nightmares. The Four Pillars were here.
Nellie remained in her chair, as if still tied. She was praying softly. Timmy gathered up the gris-gris balls from the worktable.
“Are you ready?” said Timmy, his voice shaking from the unknown.
Are you ready? said Nellie.
He hesitated then said, “Yeah. I am.”
Timmy grabbed a big hammer for protection and yelled towards the door where Corbin and the guys had disappeared into.
“Corbin. Hey, Corbin. C’mere.”
Timmy ran fast to get behind Nellie. He had a death grip on the hammer as he placed it behind his back.
The guys walked out from the door. Corbin looked at Timmy, who nodded his head real slow towards Nellie. Corbin stared at Nellie, observing her like a dung beetle he was about to exterminate.
“Seems my little brother here is a lot smarter than me,” said Corbin. He paused and shot an interminable look to Timmy then finally back to Nellie, “So. You gonna make this happen?”
“Oh, yeah. I'm gonna make this happen,” said Nellie. “Right now.”
The lights of the entire mill flickered hard and there was a sound of electricity banging into steel walls.
“Hold!” commanded Nellie.
The bodies of Corbin, Joey and Aaron jolted backwards then froze in place as if super glue had swallowed their feet, locking them to the floor. They fought the frozen curse back and forth, trying to move. As they yelled and screamed obscenities, Nellie stood, letting the cut ropes fall to the floor. Timmy threw three gris-gris balls in front of her, making sure they landed inside the coffee grounds circle.
“You can stop now. Ain’t goin' nowhere,” said Nellie. She started whispering a prayer to herself.
Corbin tried to lift his left leg with both hands. “What is this?” Corbin screamed at Nellie, “I’ll kill you dead!” He shot a look to Timmy, “Blood is blood is blood. I should’ve never trusted you. You’re dead, Timmy.”
The rage in Corbin's eyes was centuries old. Nellie felt it pierce through her and Timmy like a harpoon. It was time to extinguish that hate, once and for all. Her head flung back and she spoke aloud, commanding the air itself.
“Baron Samedi, fill my soul. Under my control, follow the darkness of Joey. Eliminate.”
Nellie placed her foot over a gris-gris ball in front of her and stepped on it hard, grinding it into the concrete floor. Bone dust and paper curses expelled from the canvas material.
Joey's feet became unstuck. Against his will, he moved toward the worktable, petrified of Nellie’s unnatural control. Nellie persisted with prayer. Timmy moved back from her, hands holding the wooden shelves behind him.
“Done, be done, be done. Choose,” said Nellie.
Joey slowly ran his hand over tools, weapons and other artillery. It was mesmerizing, as if he were in a dream. Dream Joey considered all he'd ever done and what the end of his hatred would bring. His hands chose. He began screaming.
Corbin and Aaron watched in shock as Joey emptied a rifle of its buckshot, then took the two bullets and methodically pushed them into his eyes. He screamed as the bullet points punctured the pupil then into the retina, sending blood and ooze down his face. Shrieking, he blindly floated to Nellie then froze, standing like a soldier of war in front of his General.
“You have been hate. Destroying your family with your lurid seduction of abuse and death,” said Nellie.
She motioned to Timmy. He stepped up as she put her hand out for the hammer. Timmy laid it in her palm and she gripped it without apology. Looking at Joey, hurt and comforted at the same time, she gave him the hammer.
“See hate,” said Nellie.
Joey bashed the back of the bullets with the hammer deep into his eye sockets as they exploded, showering bits of shrapnel, brain and bone in a fan of blood. She released him and he fell to the floor motionless. The air in the room halted. Nellie's gaze shifted.
“Papa Ghede, fill my soul. Under my control, follow the darkness of Aaron. Terminate.”
Nellie held her foot over another gris-gris ball then brought it down hard, mashing and grinding.
As Aaron mystically moved toward Nellie and the pile of bloody mess that was now Joey, his uncontrollable tears ran out of him, drenching his face as he begged.
“Please, not me. Not me. I got kids.”
Nellie looked to his sidearm. A 480 Ruger Blackhawk. Powerful weapon.
“No. Please, no,” said Aaron. He kept begging for his life as he looked down at the holster on his hip. He fought himself as he unsheathed the shiny sidearm with a wooden handle. Nellie made him kneel before her.
“You a voodoo priestess, right? My half-sister practices voodoo. I done it, too. I swear. I can help.”
“The cops knew it was you alone who poisoned the entire Callaway family. And yet, you are still here. Alive,” said Nellie.
Aaron begged, choking on his own phlegm, spewing words that made no sense. Timmy moved behind Aaron, grabbed his shoulders to keep him still and looked away to his right. Aaron raised the gun.
“Hear hate,” said Nellie.
Aaron shoved the gun deep into his right ear, cracking the eardrum in a gush of blood. The bullet shot off and out the other side of his head. Timmy held him steady as Aaron switched hands and blew out the other ear. His blood-soaked body fell on top of Joey. An altar of hate.
Timmy moved to Nellie's side just outside the circle. They both looked at Corbin. He had stopped struggling, staring in shock at the pile of bodies, knowing he was next.
Nellie, cloaked in blood, wiped her face with her bare hands and spoke aloud.
“May the Four Pillars appear now here and fill my soul. Under my control, follow the deepest darkness of Corbin. Annihilate.”
Another gris-gris ball crushed under foot. Nellie felt the power ignite before it arrived.
A strong, freezing wind whipped through the room. Lights flickered. Several bulbs buzzed hot white and exploded. Sound stood still. And then, through a deep purple mist, they were there. One in each corner of the room:
Marie Laveau - Voodoo Queen.
Baron Samedi - Keeper of Cemeteries.
Papa Ghede - God of Death.
Maman Brigitte - Goddess of the Underworld.
Their faces were unearthly white, tinged with blood streaks from centuries of haters. Their immortality was unmistakable. Their purpose eternal.
Corbin's feet unfroze. For one second, he felt the freedom to run but realized his movement was being controlled by Nellie. He drifted across the floor and stopped in front of her, the dead bodies of Joey and Aaron just inches below his feet. Fear consumed him.
“I won't beg, nigger. One day, they’ll come for you,” said Corbin. He spit on Nellie.
The four immortals hissed in their corners. They were impatient. They spoke through Nellie in one ethereal voice.
“As a baby, you were innocent, unaware, blank. The shade of the Someones drew darkness all over you until you were nothing but an abomination. They taught you, empowered you and set you free to hate. And you did.”
Timmy felt the room rumble as the floor rippled in liquid madness. Nellie was saying words but it was not her.
“For you, it started as a curse but ended up a choice. We have brought you the cure.”
The specters floated out of their dark corners towards Corbin. He saw them and screamed his prayer to God.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …”
Laveau and Samedi grabbed his arms and pulled them open in a crucifix.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done …”
Brigitte floated to the worktable, selecting a dagger.
“On earth as it is in heaven …”
Brigitte came before Corbin, ripped open his shirt with the blade and carved the symbol of the Harvest deep into his hairy chest muscles, severing tender tissue and hitting bone. Corbin howled in pain, trying to maintain his prayer as warm blood flowed down his chest and belly, into his pants and onto his private parts.
Brigitte then stabbed the dagger into the soft, sensitive area just above his penis. Corbin screamed and tried to collapse but was held tight.
Timmy stood horrified yet somehow mesmerized with satisfaction.
Nellie turned to Timmy. “Words. You have words?”
Timmy took two steps towards Corbin who tried to lash out at him but was held solid.
“Faggot! You cock suckin', nigger lovin' faggot. God got no place for you in heaven. You gonna burn in hell with this voodoo nigger queen, faggot boy!”
Timmy waited. Corbin hushed, dropping his head in exhaustion. Timmy spoke. His accusations came out of Nellie in the ethereal, unison voice. Slow, painful, deadly.
“You scarred my mama with the neck of a broken liquor bottle, chained me up all night inside a rotting shed in the woods, shot my puppy in the head just for barkin’ atcha. Right in front of me. My beautiful, beautiful puppy.”
Timmy's tears stung as guilt and confession swallowed him down into a vortex of relief.
“I wanted to be just like you. I have no idea why. I played your game for so long but then I saw the truth. I swore the day would come I’d kill you for every bad thing you ever did to anyone. Time’s up, big brother.”
Corbin tried to coax him one last time.
“Timmy, stop her. She got you good but you can stop her. She's nothin' but a nigger voodoo pig. I'll give you anythin’ you want.”
“I want you dead,” said Timmy. His words rang final.
Papa Ghede descended upon the long worktable, selecting an AR-15. He floated to Corbin and forced it into his bound hands. Violently, Papa Ghede swooped behind him and ripped down his pants.
“No, please,” Corbin cried out. A wounded child. A desecration of man.
Outside, the frenzied Zulu dance crashed and pounded against the building with carnal force as Rex Zulu smashed his drum in ecstasy, ripping the animal skin from its frame. Convergence. Black Carne Valé. Farewell to the Flesh.
Corbin descended to the floor and his arms unfroze as he moved the gun behind his back towards his bare buttocks. He squatted low, placing the barrel of the gun against his raw anus, working it up inside. He cried hard but no one heard him. Exactly as it should be.
Marie and Basmedi held Corbin's arms tight once again. Brigitte pulled his head backwards by his hair. Papa Ghede put his hand on the trigger of the AR-15. Nellie's eyes rolled backwards, turning solid white. Everyone spoke at once and finished it.
“The Four Pillars are unforgiving. Feel hate.”
The blast was explosive as Corbin held down the trigger. A muted ripple of bullets kept erupting through his body cavity, exiting the top of his bald skull, blasting his brain matter in every direction and decimating his entire head. His body collapsed, headless and bare assed, onto the pile of death.
The wind swirled once more. It circled Nellie and Timmy, whispering prayers of release, of confidence, of redemption. The lights flickered, the floor rippled then everything fell silent. The Four Pillars were gone.
Outside, Rex Zulu lead the band of exhausted dancers in a single file away from the mill. They dripped with reverence and blood. No drums. No chants. Back to the light. Back to the French Quarter. Back to Black Carne Valé.
Nellie looked to Timmy. They were both stained in the blood of the haters, exhausted and frail.
“It's over,” said Nellie.
“Yeah, over,” said Timmy. He walked over to the worktable and picked up an APC 45. He walked back to Nellie, offering her the gun.
“Look familiar?” he said. Nellie hesitated. “Take it. For protection. You eventually have to go home.”
Nellie took the weapon and crossed to her satchel on the floor. She scooped up the remaining gris-gris bags and put them inside the sack along with the gun.
Timmy crossed to what was left of Corbin and knelt down searching for the truck keys in his pockets. As his hand touched dead flesh, he was surprised how the slaughter of hate could numb your mind. Your heart. He felt nothing at all. The keys jingled in Corbin’s back pocket. Timmy snatched them up and stood silent.
“You good?” said Nellie.
“I'm good,” said Timmy.
The two moved slowly, crossing out of the room, walking the length of the building and out the front door into the bright moonlight. The breeze was refreshing and warm. Timmy suddenly broke down against the side of the truck and sobbed. Nellie just watched until he slowed and brought his head up, gripping the truck to steady himself. Nellie continued to stare.
“That wasn't for Corbin. That was for me. I'm finally free,” said Timmy.
“Yes, you are. Free.” Nellie reached in her satchel, raised the APC 45 and fired into Timmy's throat with the accuracy of a championship marksman. He collapsed hard to the ground, trying to speak as he bled out from his jugular but nothing would come. His wild eyes beckoned for help. Nellie knelt down next to his convulsing body.
“As a baby, you were innocent but tonight, seeds were sown. They might grow one day. You’ll never be Corbin.”
She planted two more bullets right between Timmy’s eyes, shattering his sockets. She watched as the light left him then gathered the keys from his flinching hand.
As the truck fired up, Nellie realized she was headed home. Home to the worst evil of all. Her daddy.
The drive was silent. Her mind razor sharp. As she looked in the rearview mirror, she saw the Four Pillars. She would never be afraid again. Nor would her baby. She prayed it was a girl. She rubbed her belly and hummed as she drove into the night.
Nearing home, she reached into her satchel and pulled out a gris-gris ball, holding it up and visualizing what was about to happen.
Scott A. Cook is Artistic Producer of the professional musical theatre company, TheatreWorks Florida. The critically acclaimed company has won numerous awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and Broadway World. At 56 years old, he has created over 180 stories for the stage. After years of working in theatre, Scott is now following his dream of writing. Transitioning from stage to page seems a natural progression; a stage director pays immense attention to detail, just as an author does of any well written story. Scott writes dark horror fiction. Favorite authors include Stephen King, Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.