look for me walkin just any old way Who: Nate [Baron Samedi] & Mercy [Maman Brigitte]. What: Some old bones rise up. Where: A facsimile of the Inglewood Cemetery, inside a dream. When: A few nights after this.
Most think graveyards are silent at night, but that's not true.
As Maman strolled the neatly swept paths of Inglewood, she clucked her tongue. Crickets created a symphony of sound, interspersed with the sounds of traffic in the distance. Wind blew flowers and other trinkets set at the gravestones against each other, adding their voices to the growing music. It was a strange sight; so many buried underground, where the worms and the waters might reach them. So much careful order, with one glaring exception.
Oh, there were fences. There were gates. But that could only do so much against the physical, and then what about the spiritual? Had the proper rituals even been observed? Maman came to a fork, and turned in a circle. Rolling hills made up much of Inglewood; gently sloping inclines from which the dead could peacefully lay and view the city lights. But there were no protections.
Maman clucked again, shaking her head. A black-stitched hand rose, wrapping fingers around a large, blue-tipped pin that crossed through her body at the exact junction of her heart aortas. She withdrew it, the sound slick and red even in the shadow of the night. At the very least, the cemetery was offering her a role to play. She approached one tall, column-like tomb; it was grand, and it would serve for the center of the place. Holding the pin carefully, she began to draw a heart, intersected with a cross, lines swirling out from the body. The veve, carved in stone to give it its usually chalky, white appearance, slowly formed from her hand.
As soon as she was done with one, she began another, until the base of the stone was covered in the markings. Maman tucked the pin under one arm, crossing both over her chest as she stepped back to contemplate her work. A footfall sounded behind her, resonant and sure, the sound of a man proudly proclaiming his presence in a place he knew he belonged. Laughter soon followed, and her name rolling easily on deep, echoing tones.
"Why hello, Maman. Been a long time since we've had such a romantic night together." His arms slipped around her waist, pulling her back against him. His bony chin came to rest on her shoulder; he gazed out into the cemetery, observing her work. "Looks good," he said. Then he pressed his grinning mouth to the column of her throat. It felt as though he watched her, although the voids where his eyes should have been gave away very little at all. "You missed me?"
Maman's neck stretched against the bony feeling of his mouth, her own laughing in mock surprise for a moment, but she was not entirely distracted from her work.
"It's been some time," she agreed. "Though seeing you again feels just like yesterday." Her hand went up, dislodging the pin from its moorings between her arm and side, while her other wound around the grip he had on her hip. "Do you see this?" She clucked once more, shaking her head. "It all might as well be a garbage can, for all this is worth. Their neat and tidy rows, neat and tidy paths, squares and lines. Nothing fun, nothing to remember anyone by except the cold stone. And not even that's marked up right." She kept on, murmuring about how insulting it was, her pin dangling from her hand to score a neat line in the earth below where she was standing.
Baron clucked his tongue behind bone-white teeth. "They've forgotten how to die," he said, judgment making his tone harsh. "Who knew such was possible. But they forgot us, Maman, and they did it on purpose." He drew away from her, his steps light, as though he meant to dance his way between the graves. "These soulless displays…" He paused at a plain headstone, marked only by the name and dates of the deceased's brief time on earth. Had this poor soul's family known so little about their own? Well, the loa did not share their ignorance.
The baron plucked a bone from the silk band of his top hat. He bent his bony shape down over the headstone. With hard, deep cuts he drew a proper tribute to the dead: one that honored her conquests in life, all the love and violence she had brought into the world. When he was finished he took a step back, observing his work with no small degree of satisfaction.
"We will fix this," he said, glancing back to her. "And then we will celebrate the consecration of this place."
Maman arched a brow, swaying forward; her steps were not as graceful as his. Oh, she danced, but when she danced it was hard, purposeful movement, squats and stomps that connected the body to the earth from which it had come. Still, she could not dissuade the smile from her face at the mere sight of his bony form.
She came to a stop just before the tombstone that Baron had drawn on, and nodded in approval. "She would be pleased, were she here to see this. They should all be so lucky to have such things; the night is young, though, no? Maybe we can see a good deal done, before the sun kisses this place again." A broken hand mended with thick, black string reached out and threaded through Baron's bones.
"Shall we?" She tugged him toward her, raising his hand over her head so she could make a slow circle under it. Then she was pulling him away and through the grave markers, inviting him to dance. He joined her gladly, falling easily into their old, familiar steps. It was a joyous push and pull, their bodies winding and unwinding with one another as they moved through the houses of the dead.
"This moonlight suits you," he said, leading her in a wild, spinning loop. His coattails slapped a tombstone as they passed; dust flew up in their wake. And still their dancing grew quicker. The thick, black cords that held Maman's limbs together creaked, warping, threatening to break, though they never did. All around them the dingy tombstones seemed to brighten, to glow with a light and life of their own.
"What, so you can see less?" She teased, pulling him closer for a beat before shoving him away. Her needle switched hands, the stem of it grasped tightly in her left. With a quick movement, she stabbed it into the ground; they'd moved deeper into the center of the graveyard, where the grid-like quality of the layout seemed the most intense. Maman frowned, a dark hand moving over the stone, feeling it catch at her skin and threads.
She moved around it in a loose circle, coming back around the other side with her hands at her front, undoing the loose buttons of her dress. "I think we have done enough work for tonight." She undid one, then two, letting a strap slide down her shoulder. Her fiery hair licked at her undead skin. Holding her dress up with one hand, she crooked a finger at Baron, summoning him forward.
His booming laugh echoed off the tombstones as he moved forward, shucking his worn, dirt-smudged suit coat as he did. "Oh Maman," he said, grinning so wide for a moment his jaw seemed to unhinge. His shirt fell away, revealing dark flesh and flashes of the skeleton beneath. He stretched out a hand to take her own, and moved forward until they both stood atop a fresh grave. He slid a hand beneath the other strap of her dress, pulling it downward, baring her stitched-together skin. He traced the lines of the incision at her chest, following the trail it made downward between her breasts.
"There is still some work I'd like to do," he teased. He lowered one hand to the black leather line of his belt. The other reached up to caress the side of her face, his fingers pushing back into the flames of her hair. "There is one more dance I would enjoy, and you were always my favorite partner for it."
Her head rolled into his hand, her dress making an oblong circle around her feet. Arms came up, slithering their stitched forms around Baron's neck.
"Mmm, I better be," she answered, her cold torso pressing to his. She was not unaware of her husband's trysts, his infidelities; she liked to look at what life had to offer as well. Wasn't that the point? Trying something new, bringing it all back to the ones that truly mattered so they could all taste of what the living were doing in this day and age. They danced, slowly, moving in a slow circle until Baron's back was to the tombstone. "It's been some time; I hope everything still works."
The joke broke a lopsided smile on her face as her hands descended to his pants, undoing the belt therein. The clothes joined her own, her dress already dirt-smeared. As his clothing fell, her hands slid down the length of his form as she came to her knees in front of him, planting kisses over rotted, missing flesh. None of it seemed to dissuade her; this most intimate act, performed on a corpse. Her mouth found its way over one thigh, tonguing a hole that showed down to the bone, up to the juncture between legs. One hand gently cupped his length, holding it up so she could lick his sac to begin with, then follow that with one long, searching stroke with the flat of her tongue. Once she reached the tip of his member, she traced that too with her lips and teeth and tongue, teasing him.
Baron's hand wrapped in the flames of her hair, pulling her mouth down onto him. He looked down to watch her work, to see her stitched-together shape and her upturned button eyes, remembering at once all the strange joinings they had shared. It was a shame, he thought, that there were no priests or priestesses to watch them, to observe this consecration in all its glory. But they had left their marks, and would leave still more; it would have to be enough to know that others would see the path they had carved, the changes they had wrought in the landscape around them.
He gripped her tightly, moving her up and down on his length. "Still works just fine," he teased, pumping his hips toward the black yarn at her mouth. He fitted long, bony fingers to the frigid line of her jaw. "I wonder if the rest of you does, too." Maman moved down his length again, coming to the gray and black-haired thatch that just bristled around his shaft; as she withdrew, teeth lightly skimmed the sensitive skin until she reached the end, her jaws closing with a smart snap. She stayed on her knees, her hands moving up him to pull him down.
"Why don't you come down here and find out?" She retorted. "Don't break anything in the process, you ol' bag of bones." Her knees drew lines in the dirt as she tugged him down, her mouth finding more places to explore; his stomach, his chest, clavicle, and finally his neck until he was nearly level with her. "Down in the dirt, where you belong," she purred, pushing him down to the top of the grave.
He laughed as she moved him, but he offered no resistance. His hands passed over her body as he brought her down with him. He traced the thick lines of her stitches, plucking at loose threads when he found them. He unwound one altogether, opening a seam low on her belly. But it was at her chest, at her heart, that he lingered the longest; as he brought her down to straddle him his hand dipped into the open wound at her chest, long finger bones poking and prodding at that gore-streaked orifice. Deep within it a needle lay, and though it pricked his finger, he felt nothing. His blood dripped down, commingling with her heartsblood—or whatever he supposed she had in its stead.
Baron kept his hand within that wound even as his other reached for her hip. He pulled her down onto him, impaling her with the same fervor she had marked the graves; the sound that came out of her might have been a groan were it not so low and dark, her hips opening wide to take him deeper. He carved his own line into her, feeling her loosely-stitched limbs jostle around him, and threw his head back to sigh his pleasure. Her black-stitched hand wrapped around his wrist, pressing that touch inside her harder as her heart and everything around it worked doubletime to compensate for the movement, for the interruption. Maman leaned back, gyrating above him, hips grinding on his.
Then she pulled his hand out, gore streaked and red and black, turning it instead to a breast. Handprints appeared on her semi-pale form, still light enough for such things to be clearly seen.
"Do you remember the old ways?" She said, grinding down harder. Hands moved over his chest, fingers finding holes and worming their way under the skin. His did not come apart as easily as hers did, the flesh around her middle still flapping with every motion she made to ride his cock. A finger near one rotted hole at his clavicle started unzipping his flesh down, cutting a ragged line along the sternum. Old, brittle bone met her fingertips as she found her way inside him. "How we used to ride them, give them a moment of touching the other side? A taste of the divine?"
"We still can," Baron panted. He drew a sign around her nipple, radiating outward, a veve of his own making, in her own blood, to heighten her joy; Maman sucked in a breath, her flesh pebbling beneath his touch. His free hand tug into her hip, bitten nails pressing deep until he felt the flesh over her hipbone split apart. "We will again. They will all remember." He gasped a breath, thrusting hard up into her once more. Flesh fell away from his ribs, torn open beneath the touch of her hand. His bottom rib, rotten already, fell to dust as her hand moved deeper. He gave a rattling laugh that reverberated through both their damaged bodies, then forced out his next words in ragged gusts. "Whether they want to or not."
Maman laughed, a hoarse, rotted sound, then moaned as his deeply-embedded member hit a particularly sensitive spot. Her arm jerked back of its own accord, which she fought by hooking fingers around more of his ribcage. Her knees dug into the dirt for better purchase, and she did her best to focus on her self-appointed task.
"Won't that be fun," she crooned, pulling ribs wide enough to fit her hand into. She dug deep, digits wrapping around the blackened but somehow still beating figure of his heart, miming the gesture he'd performed, with one exception. With a jerk, she pulled it out of his chest, holding the flailing thing up in the air; gore dripped from her arm onto his open chest, darkly colored fingers wrapped around his pumping organ. "Requests require power, lanmou mwen. Do you think this old thing's still got enough juice in it to suffice?"
"It has more than is required," Baron said, by no means certain that this was the case. But if he doubted his claim at all, that doubt did not reflect in the tight grip of his hands, or the full-throated cries he still offered even without his heart in his chest. Dead or not, his body still moved to his will, and he moved it with a fervor few enjoyed even in life. He leaned up and bit at the deep incision on her chest, following thorny stitches with lips and teeth and tongue. Maman gasped, but her form still rose to his touch all the same.
"Do you," he asked, between sharp kisses, "have what it takes to harness that power?"
He sucked in a breath as she came down hard on him; he gripped her all the tighter, and laughed all the more.
Maman made no verbal reply; even while shuddering, she brought the heart to her mouth, teeth pulled back in a snarl as she bit into it. The meat hung from her closed jaws as her other hand came to Baron's jaw, guiding him up from where he was worrying at her flesh, tipping his head back to share the bite of his own organ between them. As her mouth opened, blood poured free, rushing over the lower half of his face. The frantic movements between them never paused as she descended on him, lips smearing the blood more fully over his face as it dripped down to his shoulders.
"Tastes as good as ever," she murmured, her lips drawing wide before she kissed him again. He laughed against her open mouth, then claimed it with his own. He tasted her—undead and vibrant, stitched together from the pieces of a million lives, a million priests and sycophants—commingled with the dirty copper tang of his own ancient blood.
Blood coated his chest, sticky and thick. He held her close, drank deeply of her, and felt his impossible climax approaching. His hips bucked, thrusting him hard into her. His hands drew tighter as his teeth found her lip. And then he came, his shattered cry breaking on the gravestones around them, his blood and sex spilling out across the grave below. Dark waves crested across her flesh, pulling her along in his dark tide. The hand clutching his heart was careful to not let go, but it reached down, crushing the organ in the dirt below them as she sought some friction with which to steady herself as orgasm rocked through her.
With him still encased in her, she leaned forward, pressing her sweat and grime covered forehead to his; the heart came up, dirt and blood smeared, sheltered between them. Somehow, it was still beating.
"I always know how to handle this," she purred, peeling back his skin just enough to tuck it back where it belonged. He leaned up and nuzzled soft against her cheek. He had no response for her, just that bruising embrace, and the cooling of their bodies as they settled into the earth below.
Nate stirred in his sleep. Though he did not wake from the dream, his brow was tightly knit; sweat beaded at his hairline, trickling down his temples. The sheets and pillow beneath him were damp and twisted with his endless turning. But as the dream faded away he slowly found rest again, with one leg kicked out from under the sheets and one hand grasping the empty pillow beside him.
Mercy had woken in her own bed, cold moisture making an outline around her person. A hand grabbed at her throat, and her eyes darted around the suddenly unfamiliar space of her bedroom as she slowly spiraled back into reality. Gulping breaths brought her heart down to a rate that wasn't going to jackhammer out of her chest. She swung feet over the side of her bed, the cold press of the floor behind her helping even more to ground her.
Leaning forward, Mercy slowly and carefully closed her eyes; much to her relief, her bedroom was still there when she opened them, but the empty space seemed all the more unsettling. A thought flicked through her mind, and she grabbed it without consideration; bare feet padded through her apartment, grabbing her keys and a set that opened her brother's apartment door down the hall. The hall itself was silent, and it did not take long for her to unlock Nate's door. She did so as quietly as possible, unsure if he was awake or not; the darkness of his apartment implied he was in bed, so she made her way toward his room as carefully as she could.
He had drifted off again; his grasp on the pillow had slackened somewhat, and it had settled once again by his side. He turned under the sheets, sighing softly with the motion, and found himself awake once more. He blinked up at the ceiling. Raised his hand to rub his eyes. Then he felt another presence in the room, and knew, after another instant, precisely who it was.
"Mercy?" His voice was raspy from sleep. He closed his eyes, but called her name again.
She had paused in the doorway, but him saying her name pulled her into the room like a vampire being welcomed into a home. She nodded, coming up along side his bed.
In that moment, she felt silly. When they were younger, she'd escaped into his bed every time she had a bad dream; she'd show up at his bedroom door, and he'd pull back the covers to let her creep inside. Now they were older, and she should have been able to sleep in her own bed. And yet, here she was.
"I... I had a nightmare." She passed keys from one hand to the other, his and hers pressed against one another. "Nate, can I...? Could I just lay down with you?"
He moved the sheets just as he had years ago; without thinking, he wriggled closer to the center of the bed, nearer to where she would bring herself to rest. He was still half asleep, but some things were simple muscle memory.
"I had a nightmare, too," he mumbled. "Just the new… the new place. Right? So c'mon."
Tension seeped from her skin like water; shoving her keys onto his nightstand, Mercy wasted no time in crawling into bed beside him, her form lining up with his just as it had in years past. She pulled the blankets tight around them, one arm going around his neck.
"I hope it's just the new place," she replied, her voice soft in the darkness. His familiar form and smell made her feel immediately put to rights, and she closed her eyes as she pressed her face into his chest. "I guess it was good that you moved in here after all," she muttered, only half sarcastically.
A molasses-slow grin crept over his lips. "Told you so," he said. He drew his arm over her, snuggling closer, gathering her up against him. Already his limbs felt heavy once more, his body ready to drift off into better, calmer sleep. The rise and fall of his breath slowed, evening out now that she was beside him. "Love you," he mumbled.
"Love you, too," she replied, sleep overcoming her now that she felt the weight of his limbs around her. Taking in one deep breath, she pressed her face more firmly into him, sighed, and let herself go.