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Life Is As the Bayou

Life is as the bayou, barbaric brutality paired with unflinching beauty.

Darkness advances on the bayou, the light surrendering in admitted defeat. Few would venture out on these ever-changing rivered passages, that churn and roil with the tides like a den of cottonmouths. A labyrinth of routes appearing and then eluding site, it was a hallucination of the marsh or the mind that had mired many a lost soul. But the whispers of the spirits call to Félicité.

With long, tangled hair black as the crow and eyes of verdant moss, Félicité was born of this land. Generations of isolation had etched these waterways into family after family, an oath of alliance signed in sweat and blood.

Oars rising and setting through the stagnant water, Félicité now lets the skiff glide unassisted. Her ears take in the serenade of the swamp, a chorus of guidance mapping her voyage. Six turtles aligned on a log plop into their sea beds of water, while hazeled eyes shimmer, hovering above the surface. Rowing past the now abandoned log, she nods at the guardians of the deep—those reptilian warriors. One lightning bug flashes, and then another. Their sequence out of step, they nonetheless signal an encrypted code to their kind. A flock of twinkling lights sways and undulates, illuminating the way to Madame Marie, the conjurer of spirits.

Unmapped and inaccessible to outsiders, the conjurer inhabits a tin-roofed shanty perched precariously on stilts. Feathers, shells, rigging, and nets—those flowers of the marsh--are strung haphazardly on the groaning front porch. Félicité moors the boat and approaches the half open door.

“Ma chérie, I’ve been expecting you,” a voice calls from within.

“Oui, Madame,” Félicité answers as her eyes adjust to the light within.

Quilt covered and sitting alone, Madame Marie fills the humble, one room shanty with an ethereal presence. She is slender yet sturdy, wise to the ways of this world and the next.

“The dreams have come to you, no?” Madame questions, gesturing for Félicité to sit at the adjacent chair.

“Oui, how did you know?” Félicité asks as she takes the offered seat.

“They came to me too; I knew you would make your way here.”

“They said to find you; can you explain what the spirits want? Can you speak to them?” Félicité replies, leaning forward earnestly.

Chuckling, she responds, “Ma chérie, contrary to what you may have heard, I am not an enchantress or witch. People place labels on that which they do not understand. I am just an old woman.”

“They say you speak to the creatures and spirits. That you know the old language of men and beasts.”

Raising an eyebrow Madame asks, “Tell me this, what did your dream say?”

“It showed me the way to you, and whispered that the time is near,” explains Félicité.

“Indeed, and it shall be. My days are not long, this has been my home ever since…” Madame trails off.

“Ever since what?” Félicité asks intently.

“The world is not built for women of our kind, and you will find this true. Let me tell you what will come. You will love deeply and true, a love as no other. For a time, your heart will soar rising higher and higher, until the owl screeches and you fly no more. Abandoned by life, surrounded by the abyss, you will envelope yourself in it. But you will awake, and when you do, you will find refuge here. You will embrace the creatures of day and night, and they will bring new life and peace. This place will still stand, waiting for you then.”

Pausing to cough, Madame continues, “I do not have spells or powers; I only have knowledge of this life, and it has made me weary.”

“But you can see what is to come?” Félicité questions.

“I dream, but what is a dream? It may come, it may go. Dreams have occurred for thousands of years, but when they are possessed by a woman in isolation, she becomes a piece of lore. Feared, crazy, nonsensical even. Those who dream live many lives but are only witnesses. Live in that world, ma chérie, but when it breaks you—come to these waters. Restore and heal yourself, and then choose. You may live your life here only for a time or for the rest of your days, as I have. Life is as the bayou, barbaric brutality paired with unflinching beauty,” Madame imparts.

Félicité reclines every so slightly in the wooden chair, emitting a creak against the floorboards.

Madame stands and gently reaches for Félicité’s hand. “Come, the night grows long.”


With a jolt, her arms flinching, Félicité awakens; white fluorescent lights make her eyes squint then adjust. Bookbags brush her shoulder as others leave the auditorium. Hastily, she shoves her notebook into her bag, zips it up and slides out from the desk. Walking towards the door, a fellow student holds it open.

“Thank you,” Félicité emits before she glances into his hazeled, shimmering eyes.

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