Monday, September 02, 2013

Welcome to New Orleans

  From my novel At the End of the Rainbow:

  They noticed the moment they turned a corner and crossed the invisible line to the Vieux Carrè, the French Quarter, even before spotting the balconies and the special architecture.
  There is an open space opening up to them after they've walked for a while, and they’re a bit lost, after having crisscrossed the narrow streets for a while. A man stands at its center. He holds a ball of fire in his hand or close to it, holds it in his grip, even though it doesn't touch his skin.
  They stop, and watch and listen.
  – There is a valley somewhere, the man clothed in chalk cried in a dead man’s voice. – A Valley of Death, one of kings and gods, where all things are possible.
  He put the fire in his hand to his mouth and swallowed it, consumed it, and it seemed to glow within him, to the point where his skin brightened and burned.
  – I’m Henry Gallier, he cried. – I’m the Loa of the gods.
  Liz steps forward.
  – Your words move me, sir, she cries. – They make it tingle down my spine.
  The man freezes and glares at her, and his expression turns absolutely blank.
  He speaks, and they can’t understand the words.
  – Is that… that is French, isn't it? Brad wonders.
  Gallier takes a big jump backwards, and with a final, fear-filled glance he runs away like an animal before the Storm.
  A girl stops at an odd angle from Liz and the others, between Liz and Ted. Her head is slightly cocked as she speaks.
  – «I burn in your presence, Bird of Fire and Shadow. My flame is nothing compared to yours. I dwindle to ashes in your moonlight».
  – So what does it mean? Liz asked lightly.
  – I have no idea, the girl said evenly. – I've seen Henry perform here every day for years, but he has never behaved like this. Never! You made quite an impression on him.
  The girl is young, younger than Ted, perhaps a bit older than Liz. She looks strangely at them, at them all, and there’s something in that look that is strangely familiar.
  – You’re travelers? She stated.
  – We are indeed, Ted said. – And we have traveled far to come to this place, this City of the Dead.
  – I’m late for supper, the girl said.
  And hurried away.
  They watched her leave.
  – Welcome to New Orleans, Liz said, a huge grin transforming her face.
  – I think someone just did, Phillip emphasized. – Did welcome us.
  She turned and looked at him. It was as if she saw him, saw his cold, hard face for the first time. Everybody looked for the girl, but she had vanished between the buildings, and no matter how much Liz wanted to pursue her, she knew she would find nothing in there, nothing but ghosts and shadows laughing at her.
  Welcome to New Orleans. She looked at Ted. They stood there, breathing in the air of the foreign, but oh, so familiar place. It was like pulling off an old blanket, revealing everything hidden beneath. A thrill shot through them both, of expectation and apprehension, and as always they couldn't tell which was which. It echoed within them time and time again, much more so than the whispers from the streets and buildings surrounding them, as the twilight turned to darkness and the darkness turned to night.

  Welcome to New Orleans!

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