The next morning they both awoke inside a strange room. There were candles everywhere, which cast a shimmering red glow around the room, which itself was covered with serpents, lizards, skulls and strange cloth wall-hangings with stranger patterns and designs on them. Zone felt happy that it wasn’t the inside of the New Orleans Police local precinct. Sam was simply bewildered and hung-over.
A woman’s voice came from the shadows of the darkest corner of the room, “I’ve been waiting for you to awaken…sit still and my girl will get something for the two of you”. She clapped he hands twice, and the sounds of scurrying feet went off into the next room. “You are the one that is called ‘Prince Charming’. You are the one who has lost your love”, she said as a statement more than a question.
“Who are you, and where are we?” Sam asked the woman.
She leaned forward out of the shadows…her hair was in dreadlocks, her face was both heavily made up and tattooed, her dress was garnished with the same kind of serpents that adorned the walls. “My name is my business. You can call me what those of the Quarter call me. The Voodoo witch.”
Sam and Zone looked at each other. Sam dropped his head and began to chuckle. They both began to get up and leave.
“Sit!” commanded the witch. Her protégée came back to the room at that time with a tray and two tea cups. She was black, very thin with the same dreads as the witch and a diaphanous gown that left nothing to the imagination. “Drink!” the witch commanded.
They both looked at each other and then downed the tea cups. Immediately a warm sensation came over them both, erasing all effects of the previous night. They both felt like running a marathon.
“Damn”, said Sam, “you should bottle this as a hangover cure. You’d make more money than you could count!”
“That was sacred potion, not a hangover cure!” she spat. “You were given that so you could hear what is coming next”.
“And just what is that?” asked Sam, still grinning at her. Zone on the other hand looked as if he wanted to turn inside out!
She ignored Sam and his remark. “You were moved from the alley last night to this room, Prince. I have been looking into your soul for most of the night. I see your pain, as I have seen your life. You have equal parts of predator and prey. You are a soldier, and a victim. You are strong with the spirit world. I rarely involve myself in the uninitiated, but I am compelled by you”.
She looked at Zone, “And you are his friend. I have seen the times that you both have lived through one adventure after another. You are a true friend, and he will need one for what I am going to offer to him”.
Both men were taken back by this. Eventually Sam spoke up. “What exactly are you talking about?”
“There is a place, located close to Haiti on an uncharted Island. It is a place that is as much of the spirit world as it is of this world. On this Island there is a mountain, a long pier, and a fogbank that never clears. If one can walk down this pier, and survive the horrors the fog conceals, he can ask for the return of something lost. Even a lost love’s life.”
Zone really didn’t like where this was heading. He looked at Sam, but was immediately taken back by the interest he saw in his eyes. “You’re not buying this, I hope!” he exclaimed.
Sam ignored the remark by his friend. “What horrors?”
“Once you enter the fogbank, the pier will change and you will not be able to return to way you came. You will be committed. Once inside, time will have no meaning…if you are unable to find your way through the maze of the pier, or if you get distracted while inside, or if you fall off into the water, you will never return. It will be as if you died to us on the outside…nobody knows what it will be on the inside.”
“And as his friend, am I to simply talk sense into him and insist he leave here now?” Zone asked forcibly and sarcastically. He wasn’t in any mood for this, and finally he decided to show his disapproval.
The witch looked at him, completely out of the shadows for the first time. He saw that she was much older than he originally thought, ancient in fact. One eye was completely white, and blind, and her skin was wrinkled and leathery. “That is one possibility, and a wise one. I would suggest it first!” she said. “However, I think you of all people know that if he decides to do this you won’t talk him out of it.
Next to the pier, on the Island is a mountain. A hill really. One friend or partner is allowed to climb the top of this mountain, and act as a guide. You can communicate with him to tell him if he is on the right tract or not, but be aware…the fog will interfere. Whether you are using smoke signals, mirror flashes or sophisticated radio, the fog will only allow you to communicate occasionally.”
She looked at Sam, “He will mostly be on his own”.
“And am I supposed to pay you for this information?” asked Sam, somewhat sarcastically himself.
“I will tell you of a man who lives in the town of Les Cayes in Haiti. He will fill you in with all of the details you need, things that I myself don’t know. He has no phone, and can only be contacted in person. People in that town will know him…and will in fact fear him. As far as taking payment for this, you should know that most people who have tried this are now considered dead. I do not take payment for the dead.”
Sam gave her a hard stare into her good eye. “Why me?” he asked.
“Like I told you, I’ve been looking into your soul. You are dead now. I am giving you a chance to regain your place with the living…albeit a slim chance. But your friend was very smart to want you to leave and not do this thing…I will ask this of you myself before we proceed further”.
Sam looked at her, and then asked the question he has wanted to know for months. “If I don’t do this, will she come back to me?”
The witch looked at him with a hint of sympathy for the first time. “This I cannot tell. You must look to your own heart for the answer. I will leave you both now to discuss this…call for the girl when you have decided and she will get me.”
With that she stood up and in a fluid motion that seemed to defy logic was gone in a wisp of smoke.
Sam and Zone looked at each other with that look that close friends have, that conveys both understanding and also trepidation. They both realized that this was not a con or any kind of regular weirdness found on a standard weekend night in the Quarter. This felt real, and they both realized it as such.
Zone began the dialog, “OK, I understand, this is very weird…maybe even on the up and up. But even she agreed when I made the smartass remark that I should talk you out of this. For once maybe we shouldn’t be the first ones to hit the beach. Maybe this one is too weird. Maybe we should just go”.
“She has me pegged”, Sam countered. “I’m dead on the inside now. What difference does it make if I don’t make it out of this ‘Pier of Wishes’. This may be my only chance!”
“Melissa could come out of her Coma today! You are playing with something that you don’t understand, and you’re doing it prematurely. I really think we should walk away from this one.”
Sam just looked at him. Zone waited, but eventually and grudgingly shook his head. He knew that Melissa wasn’t just another woman for Sam. She was perfect for him, and if she never came back He just wouldn’t be able to handle it. He finally said “The witch herself said that you have a slim chance if any at pulling this off. Are you Perseus? Must you fight Medusa?”
Sam always loved the Myth of Perseus, and Zone knew it to be so. Sam countered with another favorite line, from a favorite movie of his, namely Braveheart. ”And dying in your bed, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and find her?”
Zone had to grin, in spite of himself. He realized he was fighting a losing battle. He moved over to Sam, looked him in the eye and said, “Haiti, huh?”.
Sam countered with, “it looks that way”.
“Heaven help us”, Zone said. Then Sam shouted to the other room for the mostly naked girl with the dreadlocks to come in and talk. When she arrived, he said “Bring back the witch…we have made our decision”.
She scurried off to find her Mistress.