|Tarantelle Jarbeaux was from Sainte Lucie or better known as Saint Lucia but she had been living in the Caribbean for a long time now; house sitting a forgotten, old house on top of a hill which overlooked the deep, blue sea of Saint Croix. The owner of the villa lived in America and never came to the house. She had heard that there had been a crime in the house in 1918, but she knew how the local people loved to gossip so she never believed a word they said. She only believed in what she saw and not in what she couldn't distinguish or understand.
She often found herself thinking about her country but she would never, ever go back again -- not after what they did to her brother. He was only trying to steal some apples. The police caught him, took him captive, and then they beat him, up in their secret little room. While he was still bleeding and hurt, they threw him into the sea. They had left him there, screaming in pain and sorrow to die---like an unwanted fish twisting by the sandy seashore. He was her only next of kin; her only bond to family and to blood.
Before leaving her homeland forever, fourteen years ago, Tarantelle Jarbeaux said goodbye to her only friend – the spiritual healer or medicine man from the Castries Quarter, called Pier Beff or Cow’s Foot. He healed the body and the soul, prescribed medicine, advised on court matters, love, marriage and so on, or simply practiced---evil. In the case of love affairs, one usually heard him practice the “tying” of one to another or the “maway”. His doctrine was that our existence was based on two extremes, good and evil. If you decided for evil – the fee would generally be one’s soul, nothing more. Good and evil: "one phase complimented the other”. And so, to him (and to Lucifer) “good” and “evil” could be interpreted as “this” and “that”--- for souls wishing to achieve specific aims, hence, the loss of the soul... forever.
He was already waiting for her when she walked into the dark, smoky room. He told her not to leave – her fate would change and he could not protect her if she were to step both feet on another island. Beware of… reflections of yourself, he said, keep your eyes closed! Ah! She already knew about that! She laughed and kissed him on his rough cheek, felt his grayish beard on her lips. She smoked from his pipe, drank his strong moonshine and humbly lowered her head when he blessed her. He often used scented herbs, yellow rose petals and sea salt to protect his clients against the evil eye, curses and witchcraft. He told her stories about demonic or satanic spirits that roamed the wilds and the rooms of houses at will and the rampant practice of invoking spirits out there, and everywhere – she would be unprotected. He told her to stay. She wouldn’t hear of it. Her pain was too overbearing. She had lost faith in her country, and in her people. She left that very same night. Away she went on the small, white boat. She never looked back; only straight ahead and to where the deep, azure sea met the dark horizon, and destiny ahead of her. She was going to paradise.
Like all women who had failed to fall in love, Tarantelle expressed a secret desire for something she could not yet define. In reality she knew she wished for something undefined although she seemed to long for… everything! What an odd woman I am, she would often think to herself, yet, she could hardly bear the touch of a man on her body. No man had ever made her change her mind – and maybe wouldn’t.
Very impressionable, she believed in all sorts of bad omens, fortune-telling, charms and dreams; she believed in the visions of prophets, spirits, in the evil eye. She also believed in spells, in the imminent end of the world; in the power of candles and sacrificial fires. She thought that every Jew had a bloody mark on his chest and that Catholics were eternal sinners. She believed in the power of Satan but avoided pronouncing his name – he only wanted the prostitution of one’s karmic obligation in the pursuit of happiness.
Tarantelle was scared of maggots, mice, cockroaches, spiders, goats and snakes. She was also afraid of seaweed, mushrooms, sand, thunder, salt water, black cats, and… of white people. She ate no crabs or cheese, asparagus or cucumber. She hated watermelon and melon, and the mere mention of the word snails would make her throw up. As for mirrors, they were the reflection of one’s inner; if you broke a mirror or touched a broken mirror not only would you be damned for seven years but the satanic forces would come to your doorstep – demanding your flesh, forever! Finally, mirrors not only reflected but also absorbed everything from the world on the other side.
That’s why she liked the job she was offered the moment she arrived to St. Croix – because of the solitude. She was offered the position of house-keeper to a big, two-tower villa, up on a hill, amid palm and powder puff trees; quiet and secluded from the real world. She was hired by the mysterious Mr. Guillaume who had approached her the moment she had stepped ashore. He was an important Caribbean businessman and lawyer. She had seen him descending from a small sea plane by the port. He was tall and handsome yet evasive and quiet, but who wasn’t mysterious in the islands? He had a small black mole on his forefinger and Tarantelle couldn’t keep her eyes away from it while he spoke to her in the strangest of accents. He told her about the rules: if she accepted the job she would have to keep the villa always clean and neat and tend to the house for an exact period of seven years. No guests were allowed. No parties. No noise. Just her, the rooms, the furniture and the silence. She wanted exactly that!
She accepted the deal and signed a seven-page contract. He was pleased. She was delighted. He gave her the address, a bunch of keys and paid her for a whole year in advance, in cash. He told her that groceries and water were brought to the villa once a week. There was an old car that she could use; one more thing was demanded from her --- never, ever was she to open the upstairs room of the smaller tower - it was to be always securely locked. It was the tower which overlooked the garden and the ocean below. She was never to go inside---ever. No matter what happened. In case of fire or an emergency she was to call him. He gave her his business card with his name - Guillaume Daemon.
Exactly seven years after she had opened the villa’s door for the first time, she received a letter from Mr. Guillaume informing her that the contract was terminated – and that she had one month more before leaving. And, exactly seven years after she had arrived to that house for the first time, she started hearing---noises in the still of the night, coming from the smaller tower. The noises were on and off and sometimes more on than off. The moans and cries were so deep that they would cut her soul in two. But most of times, only a bizarre silence. Had she been living in a haunted house? She was quite sure that the tower was infested with mice, roaches or demons so she avoided that room like hell. She distinctly heard footsteps, voices and chairs being pulled along the room. She thought that she had seen a shadow inside the mysterious window yesterday afternoon, when she was cleaning the garden but she discarded the idea. How odd it was! Automatically, and without noticing, she touched her Pandora charm around her neck as if seeking protection.
On the very next day, late afternoon, while she was sweeping the yellow and red leaves from the long corridor in the smaller tower, she heard someone call out her name---whispered from behind the door of that... mysterious room.
“Tarantelle... Ah Tarantelle, please help me!” The blood in her veins froze.
She heard three soft knocks… right after that she heard loud footsteps, and a horrible scream! She got completely goose bumps, and with great effort, she managed to move her legs and run to her room to fetch the keys. Someone was inside that room, calling her name and asking for help! But… how could it be? What should she do? Open the door, of course!
She forgot her seven-year promise. She forgot that unexplainable request given by Mr. Guillaume. She also remembered all those years of maintaining, fixing and cleaning an old house for… nobody. She was the only living soul in that house… until now! Ah, what had she done with her life during all those years? She forgot about her worries and fears; her past and present - maybe even her uncertain future, and nervously walked back to the tower, went up the stairs and walked directly to the door. She found the rusty, big key and opened the heavy, wooden red door to find an entrance to a dark room full of cobwebs. The room was wide and cold. The old floor boards creaked as she walked in. She saw ragged curtains over a half-broken window, floating softly like dark little clouds. All was quiet, all was still. Her heart was beating faster and one of the veins on her forehead was throbbing painfully. She was sweating; desperate. Her pulse was fast. She felt like running away but she couldn’t - not now, not anymore.
Surprisingly enough, in the middle of the room sat an old looking dressing table, made of fine teak and strangely hand painted, with two small drawers and an oval shaped mirror over it. As if hypnotized -- or forced to do so, she walked towards the mirror and noticed that it was double-sided, antique, etched and sandblasted. It looked very Caribbean and expensive. Without touching it she noticed that one of the sides of the mirror, where the image became larger, was broken and that it had tape over it. It had been carefully mended; it looked odd and somehow strange. Who had done this, years ago? Why? What was this small dressing table with beautiful double-sided mirrors doing in the middle of this empty room?
She heard a noise behind her! She quickly looked back but saw nothing. Yet, she felt a... cold presence. She was scared, really scared. What had she done? She had broken a promise! But, to whom? Mr. Guillaume? He had never been there during all those seven years. What could she have done but to open that door---right?
She curiously looked at the mirror again while an owl called from its perch on the roof, outside. The evening seemed to be full of omens. She noticed that the smaller side of the elegant mirror was fine but the larger side… with that strange tape... and, observing more closely now, had some dark stains on it… and this disturbed her. Had this dressing table belonged to the mistress of the house? Once, the young boy who brought the groceries had told her about a mysterious crime which no one dared to talk about. Many years ago, the master of the house had killed the mistress: he had thrown her body into the deep sea - her legs tied up with ropes and heavy stones! She was never found. He had gone to America. This is what they talked about all over town. Crucians were afraid of coming to the house. They were extremely superstitious.
She wondered about all these things while she slowly sat on a little chair – a chair that wasn’t there... before! Hadn’t she seen that chair before? She adjusted the mirror in order to see her reflection, cautiously -- mirrors scared her, they captured your images -- used them against you. When she looked at herself on the “good” side, she still saw a charming, young woman but with more wrinkles on her round face. Her hair was becoming gray. She smiled at herself. She saw her golden front tooth. She had paid a lot of money for that tooth. Oh what had she done to Tarantelle? Why had she allowed all this time go by, this way? How could she have changed her fate this way? Was it too late?
Curiously, she looked at her clothes and noticed that her long... black dress was wet and torn---but… wasn’t she wearing a white pair of pants and a colored Caribbean blouse? Her black high-heeled shoes were full of wet sand---but… wasn’t she wearing white sandals? Surprised, she saw a diamond ring on her left finger, bracelets on her wrists---but they were rusty and faded. She felt dizzy and wanted to cry the deepest of cries but when she opened her mouth not a sound was uttered. Her throat was full of salt water. She gasped for air. She was breathing heavily. She was trembling. Her head hurt terribly as if it had been struck by an object. It ached. Was she being taken, was she like a “horse” now, possessed, as in the black magic spiritual centers, by an evil, spiritual force, empowering her body? Where was Pier Beff to help her; protect her against ghosts or demoniacal attacks by the underworld? Why did she have to be so damn curious?
She desperately needed to turn and look at the larger side of that mirror, look at the "bad" side. Why "bad"? She didn’t want to but she… couldn't help it. It was as if a powerful force pushed her ahead. She touched the oval mirror delicately and slowly turned it over. She heard a long cry of joy coming from inside the room, and suddenly, what she saw in front of her and standing right behind her reflection, made her become nearly mad.
She screamed in complete horror! She wanted to escape but she couldn’t move. She was glued to the little chair. She was petrified; terrified. She was trapped---taken and possessed by a dark-looking, half skeletal and half-human figure of a horrible rotten woman; a decayed monster with an evil, menacing smile. Her hair was long and gray and full of dry seaweed. Parts of her skull were open and maggots were creeping out, moving all over her head and face; falling on the floor, twisting. Her eyeballs were gone from the enlarged cavity but they were looking directly at her, full of hatred. A gruesome snail was coming out from her over-sized empty nose. When she finally got up and moved backwards, crying and shacking with fear, she stepped on some of the maggots and she nearly threw up in disgust. She wanted to escape but the deformed figure shrieked and grabbed her arm and pulled her back. The hand was cold and wet, and she saw dirty bones and green goo that dropped on the floor. She managed to pull the disgusting hand away from her arm and she ran to the window, screaming.
She opened the old shades and cried for help. The curtains tore and fell. As she looked out, she swore she saw a large carriage pulled by four horses in the courtyard but she dismissed that idea. Then, shocked, she saw a very old looking woman, dressed in rags, lying flat on the ground, dead, down below, with a hinged mouth. She looked skinny, gelatinous and trans lucid. Had she fallen from the window? Who was that woman? Who had pushed her? She had been down there minutes before and that body was not there! What was going on? What was that somber room – or that cursed mirror doing with her mind? Was she going mad? She was… asphyxiating. She couldn’t breathe. Oh she had to get away from that room and from that evil, cursed Caribbean mirror. It was keeping the spirits inside of it, imprisoned. She wasn’t scared of all the things that she was afraid of - not anymore. She only wanted to escape from that monster in the room! She wanted to leave; live. She’d even go back to Sainte Lucie. It would be an everlasting reconciliation, and a life without an end.
But… the evil being, drooling saliva and worms from her broken mouth, grunted, stared at her hungrily and laughed hysterically. Shaking her ferocious bony arms in the air and lifting up from the floor she literally flew towards Tarantelle and hit her on the head with the antique oval mirror she carried with her---using the broken "bad" side of the mirror with the dark, torn tape, to strike her head violently. The lack of pain troubled her - so, why all this anguish then?
Tarantelle fell noisily on the floor while blood squirted from her forehead. The cut was deep and she was losing much blood. She felt a haunted loneliness and a comforting warmth coming from beneath her head as the blood poured into her mouth and ears. Tarantelle heard the distant whistling of the Christmas winds, the wind-driven rain drumming against the broken window. Then... from somewhere around her and over her, the creature’s grotesque, hoarse voice mumbled words in between her sharp, fang-like yellowish teeth and told her, while hissing in the ears:
“Ah you think I have no heart but I do. I will live in you and with you… for seven years more… until another one comes, just like you - young, disillusioned, and alone. I will be young and alive again and again and again and time won’t matter---because I am waiting for him to come back. I will live forever in all of my... bodies. I will never die... again. You will soon be… me, so spare me your tears, besides, you will be happier this way, you know. No more fears.”
Before fading into a bottomless darkness, Tarantelle remembered that she was also scared of blood.