My life is a dangerous one: I’ve inherited my family’s vice of always being involved in mafia affairs, and I’m merely the receiver of the latest bit of trouble. Currently, I’m working at a steel mill trying to ensure a livelihood for my wife and only son. We’ve lived on the outskirts of New Orleans ever since my greater family immigrated here from Northern Italy, and if you’re familiar with how the American nation treats Italians, well, I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m caught up within mafia. But long story said shortly: My current state is the result of my older brother Giorgi angering the wrong people at the wrong time with counterfeit billing when they — get this — wanted legitimate currency for their loans. Now, not only is he wanted by his clients pissed that they got fraudulent money, they’re blackmailing him by threatening to get the police against him for what’s technically a crime. At first, he attempted to flee New Orleans and move west, but his paranoia made him think that his angry clients would just chase after him if he did so. Thus, he pursued alternative methods which required my innocence being compromised and my family’s safety being jeopardized. He came up to me and demanded that I find a way to pay back his clients as fast as possible through any methods I can; he said all of this to me holstering the gun in his pocket like he was never my brother. Despite his demanding tone, he still advertised this as a situation of relying on “brotherly love” and stressed repeatedly that there was no pressure involved. I reacted with initial skepticism at first towards this, partially because I didn’t wanna get involved in any of Giorgi’s dirty work, and partially because there’d be no feasible way for me to generate the money he was asking for. Then — and this is something I never thought he’d say in my life — he said that he could help me escape my poverty if I helped him with this, and that I’d have complete support from his gang. Now, I wasn’t the type to be tempted easily into sin, but if you’re my sibling coming to me with the promise of lifting myself out of poverty and guaranteeing a loyal squad of protectors alongside the initial offer, I have next to no choice but to take it.
After many days of my wife scolding me for risking our safety and my son not understanding the weight of the circumstances, we arrive on the western road leading out of New Orleans into the greater swamps of this dumpy state. In 1912 on a hot summer night, I find myself in a situation where I must make a ridiculous amount of money back in around three weeks’ time before both Giorgi and I possibly get a wake-up call from some very angry people. My car’s guzzling gas along the beaten, undeveloped roads leading out of the big city towards the isolated villages outside, and I’m wandering this path for reasons my consciousness still hasn’t recognized: Was it to get away from the problems entirely? Was it to find someone else willing to get involved in the mess? Or was I about to crash, die, and put the weight all on my family and Giorgi? I was driving into sheer darkness until I had a sudden realization that recalled the deepest parts of my memory’s state several months ago, specifically when it was in a saloon. For reasons still unknown, the personable bartender told me stories about a strange Cajun woman who lived in the small, rural town northwest of here called Marksville. What was known about her was that her name was Tracey Couvillion and that she was particularly known for her obsession with seeking and supposedly hunting the “unholy.” And what that meant, according to the bartender, was that she thought that there lied unholy creatures in the grand plantations he was familiar with seeing towards her inward travels in the state. From this memory, I felt elevated, like I was able to get out of this situation if I arrived at the insane conclusion this was heading to. Before long, I stopped my car on the rough, grassy terrain on the side of the road and from here, I remembered another key detail that required me to stop and regain my stream of thought.
Before I left that saloon, the bartender mentioned that there were various rumors about Ms. Couvillion, and one of them was that she held a hidden stash of treasures that she hoarded from all the plantations he invaded: Primarily those who he suspected to be possessed by unholy creatures. In his head, he saw himself as a vampire hunter that protected the citizens of South Louisiana from the villainy of the demons that haunted the halls of the state’s oldest plantations. I’ve since forgotten the rest of the details due to my intoxication at the time, and the bartender seemed to forget where they were as his speech went on and on. As the moment passed, I stood there in my car, taking in the atmosphere of cicadas and frog croaks and filled with renewed purpose that I knew was a last resort: It was either this or risking a bullet. I took out the state map and traced a route from where I was northeast towards Marksville to meet Ms. Couvillion and see if the legends I’ve heard held any water, or if the bartender was as drunk as I was… Traversing there was as much as a challenge as believing my outcome, and along the way I could think of nothing but the man my brother was: Stout, insensitive, yet all too ready to forgive. He was a man who’d mess up twelve times in front of you and apologize an equal amount, and you’d be left wondering if he had any sortof commitment skills. He just couldn’t decide between being a reckless personality that claimed he didn’t care of anyone else’s feelings yet give in as soon as he realized he’d suffer the consequences of the first attitude. It makes sense why he was so nonchalant when he told me to help him with the mess he got into, disregarding the danger he was putting me and my family in.
The thoughts of him dissipated quickly when I was met with natural challenges on my path to the northwest city. Since many of the roads leading to the place haven’t been touched since the colonial days and had nothing to stand for other than being simultaneously beaten and overgrown dirt. My car was given quite the tough time from this, and I normally would’ve cared, but those babies were so cheap that I could likely get a replacement despite my poor state: So, I pressed the humming steel onward through the thicker portions of the swampland… After what seemed like ten hours of gruel persevered through an insane proposition, the imagery of the far-away plantations in the backgrounds never touched me as an indicator I was getting closer to the target. But lo and behold, I was in front of the town’s rather unimpressive welcoming sign: It was in French with poorly kerned lettering. First instincts kicked in and I parked the vehicle on the nearest curb and began searching around the mostly quiet time of night. I had a superstition that the cicadas that were beeping in my epiphany were the same cicadas that followed me through this village, but all my previously held superstitions were fostering grossly here. Hesitantly, I chose to travel farther towards the north road, looking for any clues of Ms. Couvillion’s location. However, the path revealed to me nothing other than the village church and only three homes with lit lights, one had what appeared to hold a chatty couple.
Disappointed, I thought about throwing this all away and returning to New Orleans, finding a way for Giorgi to escape the city, and continue to live the rest of my days sleeping with a gun at my bedside. But, I remembered the journey I took to get here with the energy of the epiphany keeping me trucking; clearly there were signs that the only path this could go down is a progressive one. Whether or not the noise of the cicada beeps and the frog croaks were affecting my ability to use rationality, that didn’t change that I
was committed now, more committed than Giorgi could be… The contrasting path seemed more appealing, which was towards the road from which I came, but I wasn’t going down it for escape, but rather for the pure curiosity to know if a Tracey Couvillion existed. The only waypoint to know where I was positioned in the southward road was the reservation for the Tunica-Biloxi Indians. As much as I wanted to seek their help, I also felt awkward intruding; I’m already in a village at night where I’ve greeted not one soul and made a name for myself as a ghostly traveler… I was standing outside the doors
of the reservation and trying to pinpoint where the abode of a little Cajun missus would be, until I was approached by a figure that might’ve intruded as assumedly as I did. This figure was wrapped in a brown cloak that shrouded the face of the wearer as much as it did their arms, but the piece of wardrobe that stuck out the most were the shiny shoes that reflected the moonlight rather well. Their steps became louder as they began coming closer towards me, and I was filled with a mortal dread; what do these unfamiliar people possibly do towards those who don’t greet themselves formally and insist they arrive at late hours?
The figure had long, white hair that bristled outside of their cloak, and it swayed rhythmically with the movements. Immediately, my altered mind rushes to conclusions as to who this can be: Could it be Giorgi who somehow followed me all the way here? Could it be a Tunica Indian wanting to speak with me before they thought I’d enter? Could it be a resident of Marksville trying to assess the threat I could be before they call police? Or could it possibly be Ms. Couvillion? This place was driving me to insane assumptions that wracked my mind and turned my silent silhouette into a chafing one, but all of this stopped when I heard a raspy, feminine voice come from the figure: “Cher étranger, ça va?” All of my previous assumptions were tallied the moment I heard a funky accent speak French towards me; it had to be the mythologized Tracey Couvillion. My tongue was chafing, — as was every other part of my body — but I had to say something I hope she’d understand: “Um, je p-parle pas français? I’m deeply sorry, I don’t speak French.” The figure tilts her head slightly upwards and says: “Oh, dat’s alright; we get a lotta visitors ‘ere who can’t speak da local dialect.” I was relieved by the sudden friendliness contrasting the ominous appearance. “Tell me, mon cher étranger, what’re ya doin’ around here?” I have a newfound confidence, but the rest of my body is still chafing from the scariness of the prior appearance, still I was unsure if this friendliness was an act of hers. After all, the stories I’ve heard about Ms. Couvillion tell me that she doesn’t take kindly to visitors or anyone who shows up ominously, but the fact that I’m believing this figure is her reveals the impact on my mental state: I blame my damn brother for this.
“Oh, mon cher étranger, is it dis cloak dat’s makin’ you so afraid of me? Let me fix dat fo’ you.” The figured lifted her brown cloak to reveal that she was neither Giorgi, a Tuluca Indian, or someone who’d call the cops, but rather the face of an old woman. The first thing I noticed about her physical complexion was that she had the nose of my wife: Everything else was foreign but that nose was nearly identical. “Pauvre ti bête, you looked like you was terrified of me. I somewhat like dat you was afraid; it gives my britches some vigor and my person some material.” After that comment, I couldn’t help but notice she had the same attitude as my son: He’d always try to think of new ways to make himself intimidating so that his bullies would back off. “If you can get anything outta your tremlin’ voice, make sure it’s whatever your name is.” She said with a sleek grin, revealing the blade of sawgrass wedged between her aged teeth. I replied with the fact that I saw her in natural familiarity and not the mystery of the eerie community. “My name is Rossi: an Italian-American that lives on the outskirts of New Orleans. If you’re wondering why I came here, then I can gladly and exasperatingly explain why.” Her half-toothy grin was covered by her bottom lip now, and something prompted her to walk closer to me, to an almost personable distance. Keep in mind all of this was occurring close to my vehicle, so perhaps (if she was a threat) she sensed how close I was to an escape plan. “Well, I don’t mind me a good story, so raconter your history if you must.” Well…
[To likely never be continued: Imagine Tracey kills vampires or something.]