I’ve recently had the great opportunity of getting to know my next guest in the 13 Days of Horror. His writing is remarkable and there is good reason: mixed with natural talent and love for the written word, he also has a deep history of triumph and sorrow, all rooted in the heart of the French Quarter. Please give a warm welcome to my next guest, Roland Yeomans and his magnificent tale, Death In My Veins.
Death In My Veins
By Roland Yeomans
Stroll the streets of the French Quarter long enough, and you will hear of the jazz club of the damned, MEILORI’S, and its owner : the man with Death in his veins.
How did that happen? Story of my life and undeath : the wrong place at the worst time. Case in point : me being in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Now, the night after, tales had come to me of rape and murder in the Convention Center.
Death calls to death so here I was sloshing down the flooded street to the Convention Center.
As I waded along into the night, the black mists curled and creamed in the humid darkness like an unspoken fear trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness.
A trick of the thick air, the moon of blood leered down upon its reflection on the dark waters of the flooded street. Ripples of its long bloody image flowed from the floating dead body of a cat, looking like fingers caressing its kill.
The cat’s death apparently hadn’t been pretty nor was its corpse. The night became colder than it should have been. Much, much colder.
Rind, the Angelus of Death, whispered in my blood. “At night the dead come back to drink from the living.”
I didn’t need Rind to tell me that the night was not my friend. Too much death had happened too recently.
Spirits, lost and angry, were walking beside me. Torn clothing. Hollow eyes of shadows. Sharp, white teeth. Long, writhing fingers slowly closing and unclosing.
Because of Rind’s blood in my veins, I could see them slowly circling me, hear their trailing, splashing steps behind me, feel the heat of their sunken, hungry eyes upon my back and throat.
Were they soul-echoes, mere refracted memory of a will? Or were there such things as literal ghosts? Just because I could see them didn’t mean that I understood what they were.
I turned the corner and came upon the startled, fragile grace of a too-white egret standing alert in the middle of the flooded street, staring back at me. Its long sleek neck slowly cocked its sloping head at me.
Then, gathering its huge wings, it launched itself into the air with its long black legs. I saw the spirits of the dead around me longingly stare after its curved flight of grace and freedom into the dark sky.
I felt a tug on my left jacket sleeve. I looked down. My chest grew cold. The dead face of a little girl was looking up at me.
Or rather the face of her lost, wandering spirit, her full black eyes glistening like twin pools of oil. Her face was a wrenching mix of fear and longing. She tried to speak.
Nothing came out of her moving lips. Looking like she was on the verge of tears, she tugged on my sleeve again and pointed to the end of the block. I followed her broken-nailed finger. I shivered.
She was pointing to her own corpse.
I took in a ragged breath I didn’t need to compose myself. The Convention Center would have to wait. I had sworn a long time ago that no child would ever ask my help without getting it.
A haunted singing was faint on the breeze. Somewhere the dead had found their voices.
I nodded to the girl’s spirit and waded to her corpse, the force of the rushing flood waters having washed it up onto the sidewalk and against a store front where it slowly bobbed in place. I saw the girl’s spirit out of the corner of my eye, studying the shell of flesh she had once worn.
Her head was turned slightly to one side. The expression to her face was sorrowful and wistful at the same time. She pointed again.
I followed the trembling finger. A rosary all wrapped up in the balled fingers of her left hand. She gestured sharply, then looked at me with eyes echoing things I did not want to see.
I nodded again and kneeled down beside the girl’s swollen corpse. I pried the rosary loose, wrapping it around the fingers of my own gloved left hand.
I looked up at the girl’s spirit. She just stood there frowning as if in concentration. Her brow furrowed, her tiny fists balled, and her jaws clenched. I could swear beads of sweat appeared on her ghostly forehead.
I jerked as suddenly guttural words were forced from the long-dead throat of the corpse at my boots. “T-Tell M-Mama … peaceful now.”
And with that, she looked up into the night. I followed her eyes. She was looking at the retreating body of the egret slowly flying into a filmy, billowing cloud. I looked back to her spirit.
She was gone.
“I promise,” I said to the empty night.
2010 © Roland Yeomans
BIO: One of my customers at my bookstore I owned and ran for 15 years said, “Gee, Mr. Roland, you’ve been everything but a pirate.”
Alas, he didn’t know that to support myself in my university days, I worked at a tax preparation agency — so I have been a pirate … of sorts.
I have been a high school English teacher and then a counselor. Cancer striking my mother caused me to open my own bookstore so that I could leave with her for her treatments whenever necessary.
When she died, the reason for my bookstore died with her. Hurricane Katrina and Rita hit, evacuating me out of Lake Charles. Luckily, my best friend got me employment with the local blood center, who ferried me away to Baton Rogue where I was a courier for rare blood to that city and to New Orleans.
My experiences on the grim, apocalyptic streets of New Orleans were the seeds for my urban fantasy, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. I am working as a sort of Pony Express for Blood still.