Turned (a short story)

The sign in her window advertised palm reading, crystal gazing and sundry occult machinations. I told her I wanted more love in my life. Who doesn’t, right? I also told her that it had been almost two years since I had even gone out with anybody. She said to me that she knew exactly what would help curtail my dry spell.

Leading me to a back room that smelled of old cigars, sweat and liquor, she scraped a wooden chair across the floor and bade me sit. “I’ve never had much aptitude for voodoo,” she said to me with a blush of a smile while she laid out several items on the altar. “But I think this is just the trick,” she said with a wink. She had a sachet of pungent herbs in one hand that she crunched as she continued to lay out stones, leaves, twigs and candles with the other. I began to think then that it was a bad idea. I had hoped that visiting her would help but, instead, a primal anxiety roiled in my guts.

She withdrew a match from a rusty metal box, sparked it to life on the bottom of her shoe and lit the red novena in the center of the altar. “Give me your hand,” she said while holding out her own. I placed my hand in hers, she lifted the novena and poured droplets of molten wax on my hand. I jerked back but she held fast. “Now, now. Courage.” She set the candle down and sprinkled what I think was sulfur powder and other herbs into the soft wax on my hand. A ribbon of acrid smoke puffed upwards from the warm globules. She inhaled the fumes, blew them back in my face and I lost consciousness. I didn’t wake up until a year later.

That was over thirty years ago and it was the night I became Marie’s zombie. However, each year on the anniversary of my turning, my mind and body enjoy a brief freedom. As I write, the sun is going down over Lafayette square and I know that in a few hours, I will turn once again to become entwined with darkness for yet another year.