Sunday, September 21, 2008

A History Mystery: Day Three / Part One

From the Memoirs of Jean Baptiste Morgane

Sunday, 26 October

I am loath to put pen to paper concerning the events that have unfolded tonight. I know my fevered mind is simply afraid by some mischance it would dissolve into a dream as soon as ink touches the page. Before I jump ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning. I don’t wish to lose anything in the recording of this.

I woke to the falling dusk, the hunger inside me greater than I can ever remember before in this misbegotten existence I endure. The haste of that thirst drove me to quickly dress. Upon leaving my humble abode, I made my way through the Quarter feeding sparingly from tourists too drunk to take notice as they made their revelries in the shadows. Once sated, the call of Mother Sea brought me toward one of my frequent haunts since returning to the city that once gave me such solace from the rigors of life upon the briny blue. I can remember a time when there was no Riverwalk to make this fragile shore a beacon of welcome, just a crush on men and ships crowding the stagnant banks. I passed like a shadow over the boardwalk. The harsh lights overhead were muted by an evening fog rolling off the water, allowing me some margin of anonymity. The wake of an evening shower had driven most of the lovers toward the drier climes of the bars and eateries of which New Orleans has in abundance.

Thankfully, for once, I found myself alone to nurse my current bout of melancholy. The events of the past weeks had left me mortally tired. Every single year of my age pressed in around me like some loathsome beast. Would that this curse of Diabolique’s had not fallen upon me. It was my own fault. I should never have returned to her. My life as a buccaneer had come to an end. There had been no sensible reason for me to go to her. I could explain my stupidity on some errant sense of chivalry sent me to explain why our tryst had to end. Perhaps the truth was I needed one last taste of damnation before ascending to the heaven Constance promised.

Falling in love with Constance Newbury came as a surprise to me. After meeting her at a party held by one of the many sycophants bent on availing themselves of my fame as a noted privateer, I knew my career as a rake and rogue had come to an end. She had accompanied her uncle, some lawyer of note among the growing civilized gentry calling New Orleans home. After spending most of the evening in her company, I petitioned her uncle to allow me to call upon them the following evening. He was hesitant at first, but complied due more to Constance’s badgering than from any sincerity on my part.

Over the next few weeks, a closeness of both heart and soul grew between us. Even though our worlds were vastly different, I knew we were destined for each other. Her uncle, her guardian since her parent’s death, granted his permission for us to be wed on the condition I forsake the life I had led. Being with her had already convinced me to abandon the sea. Her uncle’s condition was but a mere formality. I had enough wealth to see me toward a comfortable life as a gentleman farmer. I knew I would not be the first scalawag to do so.

However, before I started any kind of a new life, I had put the old one to rest. Which drove me from Constance’s arms, to once again traverse the Caribbean, to see Diabolique one last time, as well as let my men know of my decision and appoint a new captain to oversee their welfare. At the time it all seemed so innocent, mundane even. Looking back, I saw the mistake for what it was—my damnation. Diabolique would have never let me go. Her claws were too firmly entrenched in my soul to let such a thing happen.

Standing on the edge of the walk, my attempt to push those memories away fell painfully short. The nearby call of ships exiting into the Gulf wouldn’t let them stop swirling in my head. At least it offered a reprise from my thoughts of Morgan. I could almost forget she existed, if I let the pain wash over me.

The lie consoled me until I caught the scent of her on an errant breeze. The unbelievable closeness of her drove me over the edge. The tips of my canines pressed into my lips, filling my mouth with the coppery taste of blood. I closed my eyes, letting the sensation consume the aching void where my thirst resided. The gentle shift in temperature told me she stood not far from me. My cold flesh warmed as it basked in the glow of her while my brain told me to seek the shadows.

For once my body was in full agreement. I reluctantly shifted away from the water, and sauntered toward the concrete seats of the Spanish Plaza that circled the fountain. There, in the shifting shadows of spray and fog, its splashes created a background symphony of sound to cloak the sounds of even the most ardent lovers. I had made it as far as the pass through when she called to me. The thrill of her voice paralyzed my traitorous legs in place. Against my volition, I turned. Her unexpected frown wafted across the air like a musket ball into my brain. She spoke, words low and urgent, that I couldn’t register as she paced. I was too bespelled, as even in her apparent distress, the lilting music of her voice came to me as laughing syllables. At last she seemed to lose steam and her eyes turned toward the fountain. I found a seat in the darkest shadows, far from the lovers cuddling on the cold, hard benches. But was that enough to hide from her? Oh no, for as if aiming directly for me, she strode close enough to trip over my feet.

I wish that I could put pen to paper and relate exactly what turn of events happened next. In truth the heady excitement of being in her company turned the evening into a blur. One minute I was sitting, watching her, the next she was in my arms as I reached out to keep her from falling. Lord forbid I should not rescue a beautiful woman headed for a hard fall. The second our flesh touched I became spellbound.

Time lost all meaning. Well into the twilight hours, we strolled along dark streets and got to know each other with intimate conversation between passionate kisses in secluded alcoves, never once did she recognize in me the inherent evil of my nature. We discussed all those things so human and mundane, yet exciting all the same for their newness to my cloistered existence. I don’t know when exactly I truly forgot my promise to myself, but when she mentioned her birthday would fall on the morrow, I hastily agreed to meet her the following evening.

As the pink fog of dawn exploded over the horizon, I knew our time had come to an end, the call of sleep too dire to ignore. I bid her good day, streaks of orange joining the azure hints rising behind the ebon sky. Before I could scamper back to my prison, she jumped into my arms. Her flesh melted into mine in a kiss so scandalous, I was sure the heavens themselves would open up in retribution. It was with regret I untangled myself from her embrace. With all due speed, I assured her that I would see her come night and blended into the morning crowds on their way home from whatever debauchery had occupied their night. I looked over my shoulder to see her offer a wistful wave just before she turned to go her own way. I could already feel the smoke rising from my skin as ribbons of sunlight hit the back of my neck as I closed and locked the door against the day.

My body grows too still to continue. Even though my windows are shuttered, I know the sun has come. For the first time in centuries, I go to an uneasy rest. The anticipation of seeing her again, prohibits me from finding succor in the arms of oblivion. Yet my nature cannot be denied. I am what I am and not even the promise of love can change the fact.

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