What happens to Bruce, no one could have predicted.
Shuffling off the boat, Bruce was glad to be back on shore. He had to find another occupation but it wouldn't be here in Louisiana. Jobs were hard to come by and he was unskilled in much else besides fishing. The industry was suffering; there was a lack of fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs. The fishermen blamed the oil industry who came in, ran pipes through the swamp, and generally left a mess behind. That being said, a lot of the guys worked on the rigs in the off season. He found work with a construction company always busy due to Hurricane damage.
A thump on his back nearly knocked him over.
"Jeez Man, what the heck!"
Matt, his buddy, laughed. "What's the matter, getting soft? Let's go over to The Keg, grab some beer and grub, and maybe get lucky."
"Nah, not a chance. I'm looking forward to a hot bath and soft bed. Better think again, the girls will run and hide. You stink like a fish."
"You're getting old man, no fun at all. Hey what's going on over there?"
A crowd of people were gathered near the edge of the Bayou. They could see flashing red lights and lots of activity.
"Let's go down there and see what's happening."
"Sure, why not," responded Bruce.
Even though Bruce had grown up in Louisiana he always hated the Bayou. He never understood how people could live there in those ramshackle huts on stilts with unbearable mosquitoes swarming everywhere.
They walked down the mossy pier hovering over blackish water. Bruce saw a frog hopping across the muck below looking for insects. People were pushing past them. He wondered why they always ran toward a pending disaster instead of away from it.
Reaching the edge of the bayou where mossy trees stood half in and half out of the ground he stopped. Taking off his hat he started swatting away the mosquitoes.
"Come on man, let's get closer, they're pulling something out of the sludge down there."
Swearing under his breath, he tagged along.
It was hard to see in the murky light but the area was taped off and they were holding a stretcher. He watched with fascination as a shout was heard and then many sounds of horror. Something or someone was plopped on the stretcher but it was apparent it was lifeless.
The crowd was pushed aside. They were followed by men carrying a
stretcher. Bruce had to hold back a gag as the horrific site came past. It was apparent that it was a human body but nothing was left but a skeletal form with a skull holding eye sockets and a leering grin of teeth.
"They're saying that it's another one of those people who were lodged in the muck when that tidal wave came years ago. It's not the first one they've found through the years," stated Matt.
Bruce shrugged, "Let's go, I've had enough. See you on Monday. Take it easy on the girls, OK."
"That's what you need, a woman at home. So long, wish you'd come along."
"Not a bad idea Brother, I'll have to work on that once I get rid of this stink-hole of a job.
Anxious to get home, Bruce quickened his pace. In the parking lot he found the car and headed to his little cottage on the hill. It was high enough to look out over the ocean from his screened-in porch but far enough away from the beach so that he had been lucky to avoid any hurricane damage.
Standing in the steaming shower with suds running off his body relaxed him. They had a mediocre shower on the boat but one never felt clean or free of the fish smell. He opened a can of soup, got some crackers and decided that tomorrow he'd get a steak and grill out. He couldn't help thinking about Matt's comment. Maybe it was time to move on. A wife and family sounded good to him. His parents had retired in Florida. He had a brother in Seattle and a sister in Georgia. He lovingly called her a Georgia Peach. This swampland had never been his cup of tea, there had to be something else out there for him. Grabbing a beer out of the refrigerator he walked onto the screened-in porch and flopped down on a lounge chair. He knew wherever he went it would have to be near an ocean, the water brought him a sense of peace. The bayou he could do without. He periodically dozed off, lulled by the sounds of wildlife; screech of a bird or howl of a dog. Even up here he could hear the waves splashing onto the rocks below.
There was a full moon tonight. The moonlight shimmered on the water below making it look like a hundred lights were floating in the water. Some sailboats were still out on the water passing back and forth under the gleaming moon. Once again he fell into sleep. Wakening with a shock, he rubbed his arms from the chill and decided to call it a night. Looking up at the moon he let out a yell and fell back onto the lounge chair. When he dared to look up again he couldn't believe what he saw.
Against the moon was a figure. It was skeletal in form but had long black hair streaming from the skull. It was clothed in a dark black shredded gown. The shreds were flowing from all sides of the body. Empty eye sockets were shooting out bolts of red. In panic, he reached for his cell phone but realized he had left it in the kitchen. Almost falling, he ran from the screen porch and entered the kitchen. He grabbed the phone to call Matt.
"Matt here, what's up?"
"Matt, don't say anything. Go outside right now and look at the moon."
"Don't ask, just do it, please."
"Alright, just a sec."
Shaking, Bruce waited on the phone.
"So I'm looking at the moon, now what?"
"You see it, right?"
"The figure, the figure against the moon!"
"Listen Bruce, I don't know what you're on but all I see is the moon."
Dropping the phone on the floor, Bruce ran out the front door and looked at the moon. The figure was gone!
Back in the kitchen he picked up the phone to a dial tone. Quickly he locked all of the doors and windows, turned out the light and sat shaking on the edge of his bed. Must have been dreaming. No, I'm sure I was awake. He couldn't rationalize what had happened.
Surprisingly Bruce slept well and woke up refreshed. Pushing aside last night he tidied up, had coffee, and decided to walk into town. The small town was quaint and friendly. Stopping at the cafe he ordered breakfast and was invited to join a group of fellows he knew well. Talk ensued including last nights find on the shore. It had disappeared!
"Old people say that a Voodoo Priestess commanded a hurricane in anger years ago. She was known well in the area for her spells. They say she was never seen again after the flash flood," stated Raymond.
"You don't say," perked up Bruce. "I've heard voodoo was practiced widely in the area a long time ago."
"It was," chimed in Harold. "I've heard lots of stories, even one about a creature that was half man and half dog."
"Well on that note, I think I'll wander on down the road," laughed Bruce. "It was great seeing all of you."
Back home the steak and potatoes were great. Bruce cleaned up the grill, mowed the lawn, and settled out on the porch with a book. Soon night fell and he laid the book aside watching the soothing ocean below.
The full moon rose high in the sky and once again the specter appeared. Bruce tried to get up but found he couldn't move his legs. He looked to the side and saw something on the end table so he picked it up. My God! Was it? NO, it couldn't be! A voodoo doll. It was made of soft wood and had pins sticking up all over it. He felt it quiver in his hand and tried to toss it, but there it stuck.
He looked up again in fear and the figure on the moon seemed to be floating toward him. The doll started shrieking louder and louder hurting his ears. His head screamed make it stop. Bruce wanted to run but was frozen. He thought his heart would burst. Closer, Closer, Closer. All he could do was watch. Then it stood before him in all its ugliness; saliva dripping from its gaping mouth and nose.
"What do you want," Bruce managed to whisper.
"You of course," it responded.
"Because you will help me rise again."
"Me? I know nothing of you."
"I was known well for my chants and cunjas (spells), but a flash flood took me away and buried me alive. Now I have been found and the curse will be broken."
"Yes, Monsieur. The first person to see me against a full moon will be the one who saves me. That would be you, mon cher."
"No, I want nothing to do with this!"
"But you do not have a choice. You are under my cunja and will do as I command."
"I won't, I hate the Bayou."
Red sparks flew from the eye sockets and a booming voice screamed. "You will!"
Now under the cunja, Bruce readied his boat and slowly made his way deeper and deeper into the swamp, the full moon lighting his way. Sometimes what appeared to be stumps were alligators waiting for prey, their broad tails slapping the water. Eyes of unknown creatures could be seen along the shore. The half submerged trees stood with their clinging moss ready to grab at his head. Sometimes snakes would slither by but in his trans-like state, Bruce did not cringe.
"The hideous figure floated along at his side until she shrieked, "Stop! Go to the shore, over there! Bury the be belle (doll) and bury it deep."
He took the quivering be belle and stuck it in the mud. It was screaming like a human.
"Deeper, bury it deeper," the figure yelled.
With the end of the boat paddle he pushed it down as far as he could, then with his foot stomped the mud around the hole. It was done!
The buzzing in his head stopped and he realized that the trance was broken. He turned to the boat and reared back in surprise. A beautiful dark haired, deep eyed Creole woman was standing in the back. She was garbed in a long gown but there were no rips or sheds in the material. On her forehead was a simple black band. She smiled at him.
"You have saved me, mon cher. Merci beaucoup! The Manchac Priestess has risen."
With that she stepped out of the boat and floated over the water to the shore. He watched her until she disappeared from sight. Quickly he turned the boat around and sped back home feeling a great sense of relief that he had survived whatever this was.
Monday morning Bruce stood on the pier dressed in casual clothes and waiting for his friend Matt.
"Hey Bro, what's up? You're not working today?"
"Nope, heading North just as soon as I list the cottage on the market. When I get settled, I'll let you know where I am. I hope you'll come visit me."
"Of course I will but what brought this on so suddenly?"
Bruce swallowed, "If I told you, you wouldn't believe it. Maybe someday I'll tell you the story."
They grabbed hands, hugged and separated. Matt watched Bruce walk away and felt a deep sense of sadness. His best friend was leaving and he didn't know why.