Neon-lit signs of Bourbons Street hardly touch the quiet dimness of adjacent boulevards that fall along its lively direction. It’s been said that locals often duck into those little-known respites to escape the flamboyant commotion. Dumpsters along Bourbon are usually overfilled by midnight on Saturdays, and trash begins to pile up by the sidewalks—perhaps the stench is the problem. Hand grenade bottles litter the street, rolling in the mangled legs of partygoers, and when kicked into the light, project neon green beams on the walls of dark alleys. Down one of those lesser travelled boulevards, a man sat along a cigar shop, ranting about something he saw at a volume that would lead others to wonder if he were deaf and couldn’t hear himself talk. It was the typical behavior of a beggar, but if that were his intention, he must have been a novice beggar, for he didn’t have anything to collect donations.
“Look bra, I swear to God my heart stopped like a sneeze when I saw it!” the man sitting against a pillar in front of the cigar shop exclaimed. Neon lights flashed on a sign across the dim street, cutting out the curious shapes of passersby. French Quarter tourists walked carefully by the man leant against the pillar as if the he were hallucinating, an escapee from some mental institution. Another man stood by the man sitting, downplaying the hallucinations as a mere joke.
“Ya’ll should know Nawlins! Boy, y’all should know it ain’t nothing like nowhere else,” the sitter giggled. “A river, pssh … that mighty Mississippi curves around a legend and that’s why it’s renowned as the crescent city, did you know that?” the sitter asked the man standing, chuckling further.
“Of course I do. So, what were you doing earlier?” the man standing upright pryingly asked.
“Funny that you’d ask that question, sir, because I saw a phenomenon tonight and I just gotta tell somebody … I swear it all started when I left the Sonic Death Monkey Saloon … Yeah I was just walking my way home, minding my own like us southern folks do, when suddenly I needed to sit down cause I felt sick. Must have been the Kiwi Helicopter I had.”
“Kiwi Helicopter?” the man standing asked, clarifying.
“Yeah, I nicknamed it that … cause after you finish it … your head is spinning like helicopter, you know?”
“Yeah, okay. As you were saying.”
“Oh, yeah. Strange things were happening, though. Freaky shit we’re talking! Leafy green spheres levitated like otherworldly planets over guardrails on lacework balconies. I felt so outta place that I got sick. After I puked, I looked up and there it was: a magical courtyard beyond an iron gate with bars as black and restraining as the view from inside a jail cell,” the sitter said. The man standing laughed, but the man sitting passionately continued.
“Through the cast iron gate, beyond the shadowy alley, I spied a lush and rare world. I tried ignoring it, but ultimately succumbed. Shutting my eyes and walking away would have been a crime. I had to investigate it. Beauty should not go unseen, no matter the form, whatever the perception, wherever it may vest.
“Is that from a book?”
“Okay, so, it’s from a movie. Fuck, even we in the ghetto watch good movies, bra.”
“Sorry, I’m listening.”
“So … I hopped the gate with ease. The watermelon sized palms partially glowed in the courtyard, for the luminosity fizzled into the dark it better knew than the scarce light.”
“Then what did you do?” asked the man standing.
“Of course I curiously followed the corridor, intent on losing my way more than seeking an end really. I must have crossed a yard because I found myself near an alley, with many, many, yards around it.”
“Each was separated by fences, right?”
“Of course, I knew I was tresspassing” the man sitting said, nodding. “Turning a corner, one side was a mossy brick wall, the other a shorter wall with a sideways view over at least three lush courtyards exploding with palms. There were tall houses, fused into one structure, but the backyards were low-walled-in, rising with bamboo and exotic plants that cut into the sky above the walls … I’m talking a fucking backyard jungle bra!”
“So you decided to explore, eh?”
“Wouldn’t you? … It was a fantasy. On the opposing side of the cobblestone alley was a brick wall, the one with moss. I stroked it with my hand. Odd it may occur to me now, at the moment the touch put me into a new frame of mind—a profound stream of history—a history I could literally envision. Perhaps the wall was sacred, or under the curse of some funky juju, or voodoo … that kind of shit, you know what I mean, bra?”
“Further along I was pimping, trying not to get my kicks wet in the puddles, sticking closely to the chipped red brick wall. Lunging green shrubbery decked the top, slipping a bit over the side. I gained more ground, another gate was before me, but I stopped. Behind the facades of the quaint buildings hid a cluster of tropical havens: lush landscaping, pools, hot tubs.”
“Did you get in there by chance?” the man standing asked.
“The hot tub?”
The sitter chuckled, “Yeah, I did. And I saw a pirate monkey over in the corner of one, just chilling and drinking and shit. The little dude even had an eye patch!” the sitter laughed uncontrollably.
“Did you interact with the pirate monkey?”
"Ugh … he actually spoke first—and he was like ‘hey, bra, don’t spill beer in the water—see the bubbles? Yeah, so, we wouldn’t be able to drink it.’ I was pissed because he didn’t show any fucking hospitality … So I pissed in the hot tub … And, he got so pissed off and then he leapt into a palm tree and climbed away.”
“Is that everything?”
“No, no, no—hold on a sec there, bra!” The man’s hand shook as he spoke after that.
“I got dizzy as fuck all of a sudden. You know, like when you chug two hand grenades in a row—that kind of ‘tipidizzy,’ if that shit is even a word.
“Don’t think it is.”
“That’s cool bra. I just created it.”
“As you were saying.”
“Oh, shit, yeah! … So I was getting fucking cold cause I got out of the tub and I was walking along the alleys, but just then I saw some lights on in the windows.”
“What about the lights?”
“Bra, crazy shit was happening. I was soaked and my kicks were squeaking, but I was strutting around with my bling in the moonlight down this alley. I kept glancing at the windows with lights on, thinking to myself, shit, if they see me they’ll call the cops … cause, you know, I’m black, right? But the thing is, I kept seeing people staring at me, then I would look at them and nobody would be there.”
“Perhaps you were paranoid?”
“No, bra. These people disappeared like smoke.”
“What do you mean?”
“Shit, I don’t know. Anyways … so I kept walking and I saw this teal ball of light. This wasn’t your everyday ordinary light. It was a teal light at the end of the alley, dressing the rear façade of some townhouses. Being me, I was curious and wanted to see if it was some out of this world club, you know? Cause … bra I was still in the mood for some partying, you know?”
“I’m with you.”
"So, I walked toward what I thought was some secret club, which was by one of the old houses. When I got closer, I saw that the teal light was fucking hovering over some garden. I mean, bra, it was floating right there! … It was like those swimming pools with underwater lights … just imagine one scrunched into a ball, floating in the air … cause that’s the badboy I’m talking about.”
“Some sort of orb shape, right?”
“Sure, yeah, you know what I’m saying.”
“I blinked and suddenly I was knee-high in mist. It covered the alley and all the lush backyards. It sort of freaked me out, so I turned back to the orb and there was man sitting in a crooked rocking chair. It fucking scared the shit out of me, of course, so I tried to say something to break the ice, you know?”
“What did you say? What was he wearing?”
“I said, what’s up bra? Have you seen any clubs around here? … the dude was in old people’s clothes, a suit or something, and he had a beard. Typical old white dude appearance.”
“Did he respond to you?”
“No the dude left me hanging for real, but the whole place went Darque (dark-qway).”
“Bra, you know when you eyes haven’t adjusted to darkness? That point in time when you enter darkness from light, and you ain’t able to see?
“Well, I call that Darque. Cause society hasn’t fucking adjusted to my skin color yet, and I’m mad as hell about it, so I call myself Darque.”
“And that’s your actual name?”
“Yes it is.”
“Okay, I understand. Darque, please continue.”
“As I was saying … so the dude didn’t respond and the whole place changed to Darque for a second,” Darque said, shivering as he was replaying the next part in his mind.
“My eyes slowly adjusted. When I could see again, the man was six feet from me. He looked really unfriendly … and I wasn’t packing any heat, you know, so I felt threatened. I told him, yo you got something to say to me, bra?”
“What did he do, did you see him move around at all?”
“No, because then I heard shutters slamming against the houses all around me, trees and plants shook, and the wind scooted the piled leaves wildly down the alley, a wave of them were coming right towards me. I glanced back at the man; I think he wanted to kill me. But I couldn’t move, he cast a spell on me or something—fucking voodoo—I don’t know.”
“You were paralyzed?”
“Yeah that’s the word. But the dude began to lift into the air before my eyes. This dude was floating in the air. Out of nowhere, he screamed in a deep tone. But I swear I was the only one to hear it—nobody came to the windows. His arms parted to the sides. Then he flew straight through me, as straight as a statue gliding through the air, over the walls of lushes courtyards and gardens, and he disappeared through a distant house,” Darque said, sighing.
“Bra, I saw this dude’s whole life in a second—I’m saying you won’t believe me, but I saw everything.”
“What do you mean you saw everything?”
“I saw this dude’s downfall play-out in my head. Pretty sure the dude was a slaveowner … Cause when he passed through me it was like he wanted me to see how afflicted he is … how miserable he is …”
“So then he just disappeared?”
“Oh … um … yeah, he disappeared into a tiny light, like a teal stoplight, and then that vanished, too. The alley was calm again after that. Needless to say, I got the fuck out there. I hobbled over here, my stomach was full of butterflies and I felt weak.”
“That is everything you can remember, correct?”
“Alright. Thank you, Mr. Gibbs. Here is my card; we’ll be in touch if something else comes up.”
“Got a question for you, man. Are you a Ghostbuster or something?”
“I’m afraid we will be asking the questions from here on out, Mr. Gibbs!” a Police officer interjected. “Alright Detective, you’ve had more than fifteen minutes with my suspect, time for you to make like a ghost,” the police officer said, having a laugh with his partner.
“Sure thing officer … oh, and it’s Doctor by the way.”
“Another sentence and you’re fixin for trouble, ya hear! This is my fucking district, and ain’t none of you all experts in freaky shit are going to ruin it or pretend your superior to the law!”
“Whatever you say, officer,” the paranormal detective said, picking up his briefcase, grinning to the side—over at Mr. Gibbs.
The officer watched the detective slowly slip into the night, past the tall shadow of St. Mary cast by floodlights in the rear yard of a church, and then he attended to the suspect.
“So you were back in the yards was you?”
“Look, let’s not forget the ghost was too, officer!”
“Yep, that’ll do it. Jack, cuff Mr. Gibbs and take him downtown for the night so he can sober up.”
“You know, officer, it’s only fair that you arrest the ghost also—he was trespassing!”
“He’s already in the backseat, didn’t you notice the empty seat. We picked him up twenty minutes ago and he won’t shut-up! … In fact, its funny that you mentioned it—he reminds me of you—cause he’s beginning to haunt me!”
© Copyright 2016 Riovocci. All rights reserved.
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