Crescent Moon (Chapter 32)
"A few times."
"Anyone spend the rest of their days mumbling and drooling? Any former customers sitting in a corner of the insane asylum doing this?" I took my index finger and wagged it back and forth across my bottom lip, making the crazy noise from childhood.
"Not yet," she said.
"I'm not saying it isn't dangerous, and maybe we shouldn't do it"
I considered her warning, but I wanted to know the truth. I was tired of being confused.
"When the loas come I want to ask more than if I'm under the influence of a love spell. I want to know if there's a loup-garou and, if so, where can I find it?"
She smiled. "You don't exactly ask questions."
"You'll be her – or she'll be you. As one."
My skin went a little prickly, a little cool, and I shivered. "What if…"
"What if she doesn't want to leave and I'm stuck with voices in my head forever?"
I wondered momentarily if that was what was wrong with schizophrenics, then shook off the notion. Not every person who heard voices could have been the recipient of a voodoo-loa ceremony. Or at least I didn't think so.
"Relax, Diana. Erzulie is a goddess. As much as we enjoy our time on earth and fight not to leave it, to her this place sucks."
She probably had a point.
I took a deep breath. Was I?
Cassandra knelt next to the flat stone, which resembled an altar, picked up the clay bowl, and started to mash the ingredients together with a pestle.
"What should I do?" I asked.
"Sit. Relax. Open your mind."
Easy for her to say. My mind had been closed for most of my life – especially to stuff like this. But I sat on the floor and continued to breathe deeply. Hyperventilating would probably scare away the loos.
Cassandra spread the concoction on the altar; then she spread some on my forehead. I cringed, but she didn't stop. Instead she began to chant in another language. Luckily, the stuff was pink and smelled like flowers. If it had been blood, I was out of there.
She picked up a rattle that appeared to be encircled with bones – I didn't want to know whose – then shook it Lazarus hissed, and she scooped him up as she passed his box.
In front of the veves she stopped and tapped the heart with the rattle. "I ask you, Legba, to open the door for the spirits."
The wind returned, swirling through the closed room, skimming the candles, lifting my hair. Something pushed at my forehead, something I couldn't see. I closed my eyes.
Instead of black, there was a wash of silver, like the full moon shining on a still lake. I actually heard the lap of the water, smelled it, too, could almost feel the cool, gentle drift on my skin.
Let me know the truth, I thought, and opened my eyes.
The candles went out. Every last one of them.
Open your mind.
"Did you say something?"
"I said, 'I'm here.'"
"Wasn't me. You heard Erzulie. Listen to what she says. Hold on; I'll light the candles."
I wasn't sure how to open my mind. I wasn't the touchy-feely type.
A cool finger brushed my forehead. Open.
I closed my eyes again and imagined a door. Reaching out, I turned the knob and pushed it open. On the other side a woman waited.
She was tall, voluptuous, with mahogany skin and the best Afro I'd ever seen. I expected her eyes to be dark, too. Instead they glowed silver. Her body was covered in a loose white robe that looked really comfortable, as did her sandals.
She beckoned, and I stepped into a midnight garden. "Where am I?"
"Physically, still in the temple, but your mind has joined with mine."
Her voice was as lovely as she was, smooth, calm, the voice of a woman who knew her own strength, her own place, all the answers.
The garden was filled with flowers in colors I'd never imagined. The moonlight caused them to appear as if they'd been painted with rain. But the air was warm, comfortably moist, like the last day of summer before autumn descends.
"Are you Erzulie?" I asked.
"What is it you wish to know?"
Was that an answer? For her, probably.
"Am I under the influence of a love spell?"
"Is there a loup-garou?"
"What do you think?"
I frowned. This was not going well. "All I want is the truth."
"And the truth you will have."
She led me down a rock-strewn path. Not the usual gravel but a hardscrabble gray rock that reminded me of the moon. As we walked, her robe changed colors, reflecting every shade of the moon – white, silver, blue, gold, even red.
"Where can I get one of those?" I asked.
Erzulie's lips curved as she pointed to one flower amid a hundred others, the bright red petals unmuted by the night.
A fire iris.
"Take a piece," she murmured, "and the truth will come to you."
"I thought the fire iris was bad luck. That they attracted animals"
She turned her cool, silver eyes in my direction. "The truth comes with some risk."
I guess everything worth having did.
As I tore a tiny petal from the fire iris, the now-familiar scent of cinnamon in flames tickled my nose.
"Which truth are we talking about?" I asked, and turned.
The garden was empty except for me.
I blinked, and I was back in the temple. The candles were lit Cassandra stared at me as if transfixed.
"Which truth?" she whispered.
I opened my hand. In the center of my palm lay a bright red petal. Then I opened my mouth and two voices came out – mine and Erzulie's.
"All of them."