That Voodoo You DoMature

New Orleans.

Mardi Gras.

What more of an adventure could a group of eccentric young friends possibly wish for. It was the unltimate "let your hair down" holiday. Drinking, dancing and generally being as crazy as they could get away with.

"Hey guys, check this out." Chris was gesturing excitedly at a building on the opposite side of the street. "Our first gen-u-ine voodoo shop. We have to go in, we said we would."

The shop seemed a little out of place next to the other buildings on Bourbon Street. Elaborate French design decorated the facades of almost every other shop, restaurant and bar. Brightly painted shutters and doors in azure blue, chartreuse green, and firecracker red were almost luminous against the brilliant white-washed fronts. Neon signs glowed even in the afternoon sun, and street vendors sold food and trinkets from colourful stalls.

And then there was the shop that Chris was bounding over towards. It wasn't that it really looked that much different, it just seemed out of place somewhow. The white-washed walls seemed dull in comparison to those of the other buildings, the painted shutters were flaking and faded, and nothing could really be seen through the grimy glass of the windows.

Eliza frowned.

"Is that place even open?" she asked.

She strolled up next to Chris, who had his hands cupped and was attempting to peer in through the window.

"You know, if the shop keeper sees you doing that he'll probably put a curse on you." Eliza leaned aginst one of the shutters and arched an eyebrow at Chris as he turned to look at her.

He flashed her his best lady-killer smile. "Ha ha bitch, very funny."

Laughing, Eliza winked at him and grabbed hold of his arm, dragging him away from the window.

"It's a good job that I know how deeply you love me." Chris jibed. "Or your constant piss-taking might start to get offensive."

"She doesn't fucking love you."

They both turned as Emma stepped up onto the pavement infront of them. She pulled her mirrored sunglasses off and placed them on top of her head, running a hand through her long dark hair to first to smooth it down.

"She just feels sorry for you, because she knows nobody else would ever have sex with you." Emma smirked, and folded her arms across her chest, cocking one hip out to the side.

Chris casually slipped an arm around Eliza's shoulders, and leaned against her. "Tell me Em, did John buy you those glasses so he gets the pleasure of looking at his own reflection whilst he's screwing you?"

Sticking her tongue out Emma turned around, just as John came sauntering across from the other side of the street.

"Someone mention my name?" He took his own sunglasses off and tucked them over the collar of his t-shirt, which was black and bore a skull logo in the middle.

Emma brushed past him, stepping out from under the shade of the balconies above, and back into the sunshine. They briefly touched each other's hands as she did so. It was a small gesture, but it spoke for itself.

"Wow." said Chris. "Self importance is like a homing pigeon to you isn't it?"

John laughed. "Hey, I can't help it if you can't go five minutes without talking about me."

"That Voodoo You Do."

The three friends turned towards the street where Emma now stood. She was gazing up at the wooden sign hanging infront of the shop.

"Cool name. Its catchy." She shrugged. "So, are we going in or not?"

"Yes indeed we are." Chris took his mobile phone from out of the pocket of his green camo shorts, and consulted the time. "It has to be open, it's the middle of the afternoon. Even people in New Orleans can't get up this late."

With his arm still draped around Eliza's shoulders, he guided her towards the front door of the shop. There was an old-fashioned bell hung next to the door, but Chris ignored this and reached for the handle, turning it and hearing the lock click open. Grinning he pushed the door open and the two of them walked into the shop.

The first thing that hit Eliza was the smell. It was musty, and sweet, and spicy all at the same time. The second thing was the heat. It was stiflingly warm inside, and so dark compared to bright afternoon sunshine that it was almost claustrophobic.

The whole shop was lined with shelves of dark wood filled with bottles containing perfumes, elixirs, oils, gris-gris bags, fetishes, candles and dolls. A counter stood opposite the doorway, with a glass top displaying various jewellery and soaps. There was a fantastic old-world feeling to the whole place, and Eliza found herself eagre to explore the wares despite the heat. Behind the counter stood a tall, handsome man with skin the colour of chocolate.

"Good afternoon my friends." he drawled, in a thick Cajun accent.

Eliza was aware of John and Emma entering the shop behind her, and closing the door after them, but her attention was now focused on the striking man who was holding out his hand in greeting.

"Hi." she said, reaching out to shake his profered hand.

"Hey man." Chris leaned around her and shook the man's hand second.

"Ah, English accents are always a delight to here." The man smiled. "You are some of my best customers. And, are these two friends of yours also?" He pointed towards John and Emma, who smiled and waved from the other side of the shop.

"Yeah, we all came together for Mardi Gras." Chris beamed at the man. "This is a great shop. It's so authentic."

The man laughed. It was deep rumble in his throat. "But of course you came for Mardi Gras. What else would a group of young people like yourselves be in New Orleans for?"

Hanging on the wall behind him was potrait of a dark skinned woman, with piercing eyes and the hint of a wry smile on her face.

"Excuse me." Eliza said. "But who is that?" She pointed at the painting and the man turned his head slightly to glance at it.

"Who is that? Oh, but that is only the most famous Voudon preistess ever to walk the streets of New Orleans. Marie Laveau."

Chris looked up from the glass-topped counter he had been examining. "I think I might have heard of her. Don't half of the Voodoo ghost stories involving this place stem from her?"

"Marie Laveau was the undesputed queen of Voudon magic; or Voodoo as you call it." The man smiled. "I could tell you tales about the things that went on here back in the nineteenth century that would literally scare you to death."

John chuckled from behind them, and the noise startled Eliza.

"I would rather that you didn't, it would put a bit of a downer on our holiday if we all died." John reached over Eliza's shoulder and held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you all the same though."

The man took John's hand and inclined his head. His movements were graceful, and Eliza wondered if this whole act was something he practiced to please the tourists, or whether the air of mystery that surrounded his words was real. He took back his hand and rested it on the glass counter-top, drumming his fingers once.

"Well," the man exhaled "I wouldn't want to do anything to spoil your time here. New Orleans is a place of celebration and excess, especially around Mardi Gras, so you should have plenty of fun during your stay. But, it is also a place of superstition and has many ghost stories, whether you choose to belive them or not. Can I, perhaps, offer a friendly word of advice?"

The four friends looked at each other and Chris shrugged. "Sure, go for it."

"Thank you. Not everyone that comes here is willing to listen to local lore. Most tourists seem to think it's all "mumbo-jumbo" made up for their benefit and to sell trinkets. Things can get pretty crazy here during Mardi Gras, and those people who do believe the old superstitions can have their own unique ways of celebrating. Marie Laveau is buried in the most famous cemetery in all of New Orleans. Can I just suggest that you might want to avoid being too close to that place after dark."

Eliza felt a chill run down her spine, despite the cloying heat. Yet for some reason she still asked.

"And, where is that?"


The End

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