True to her word, Polly brought a potion in a glass vial to Victoria that evening when she came in at her usual time to assist her mistress in the bedtime preparations. “You must do exactly as Polly tells ya, mistress. You must wear a white night gown and braid ya hair into three braids weaving these red ribbons into da braids. Light a candle at each direction placing one in the north, south, east, and west centered position of your room. Then lay upon ya bed and recite these words: Moutre m ‘chemen an, o vanyan sòlda youn. Montre m ‘sa a se verite. Ki moun ki se renmen an pou mwen? Sa a se sa m ‘mande nan nou. Then you put one drop of the potion on the bottom of each of ya feet. Afta dat, drink da potion and you will sleep a deep sleep in which the mighty one will give you the answers dat you seek.”
Polly sat with Victoria for a while longer redundantly repeating the spell and instructing her mistress in the appropriate pronunciation until they were both sure that Victoria had it correct. The hour grew late and Victoria began to prepare herself for the ritual. She washed herself in the blue and cream basin that depicted a picture of the French countryside then brushed and braided her thick, blonde hair into three braids with the red silk ribbons. She dressed herself in one of her white lace trimmed nightgowns, placed and lit the candles as Polly had instructed her to and then crawled up into bed.
Victoria recited the words exactly as Polly had instructed her earlier that evening. Continuing to follow the elaborate procedure Victoria placed a small drop on each of her feet with her finger, and then tossed the voodoo tonic back. It tasted astonishingly bitter and sugary at the same time, and it was thick enough to coat her throat. She could feel the liquid as it oozed its way down to her gut before it settled there uncomfortably. Clutching her stomach, Victoria then laid down and easily fell into a deep slumber mere moments after her head hit the plump feather-down pillows.
A thick, murky vapor filled the immediate atmosphere making it nearly impossible for Victoria to see what was happening around her. The light and shadows played upon one another in cruel trickery by hiding and illuminating shapes and shadows that would appear and disappear with each ticking second. Victoria was standing upon a dirt pathway in an unfamiliar wooded area. The trees were strange and foreign to her, for these were not trees that were native to Louisiana. The trees proudly displayed their fall foliage as they shrouded themselves in vibrant leaves of red and orange. A ticklish breeze fluttered through the leaves making the strange trees dance an exotically shaking jig.
A sulfuric scent burned Victoria’s nose and throat. It left an acidic taste in her mouth and had her mentally begging for a drink of crisp, fresh water from the well. As she walked further through the smoky air, Victoria’s exposed skin began to itch and burn. Her nose and eyes began to water and the spots upon her cheeks, where she wiped away tears, stung so bad it was as though Cooksey had taken kitchen knives and slashed her face. Voices were calling to her, but in a strange language. It wasn’t English; she wasn’t sure that it was a language she had even heard before, but somehow she understood what they were saying. She followed the voices and found three hooded beings standing inside a ring of fire.
They were frightening figures in their cinnamon hooded robes. Dark hollowed emptiness filled the space where heads should have been. The middle figure began to speak in that strange language that was full of hisses and clicks. “You cannot live a full life if your heart has no scars to show. That is why you are tested in life. Sometimes you have to dance within the flames of danger and mystery to find fulfillment.
“A fulfilled life that is lived outside of society’s norms can lead to unfavorable attention, therefore you must be strong, and you must be able to face the sorrows and the shame that comes with the non-conventional life, a life full of desire and passion. You must know that where there is desire you will find flames. That is what desire is made of, internal flames and the object of your desire is the incendiary. Be watchful child, for where there are flames someone will undoubtedly be burned before it is all over.
“With that said, you are not weak for believing that love might exist. However, before we can reveal your path, you must prove to us that you are willing to forsake it all. Right now, you are standing where it is safe outside the ring of fire, but it is a metaphor for your life. You can choose a safe life in which you are guaranteed to survive to a ripe old age in comfort and security, or you can choose a life that is consumed by the love that is burning deep in your soul. So, which do you choose, mortal? Tell me, do you choose stability or do you choose love?”
Victoria leapt through the fire exuding more bravery than she felt. She stood before the hooded figures. Inside the flames, all of her orifices stopped burning. She breathed easier and was able to speak clearly. Throwing her head back and raising her hands to the hazy sky, Victoria shouted the determined proclamation clearly for all to hear, “I choose love.”
The flames burned hotter and brighter; they rose higher toward the sky growing taller than Victoria, taller than the three hooded figures. “Very good,” The hooded figure in the middle bowed its head to her. “So mote it be.” The three figures vanished and the flames dimmed down. Soon they were nothing but burning embers. The embers then began to move. They were leading her somewhere, creating a trail for her to follow. Victoria began to pursue the embers and soon she heard new voices calling out to her (in English this time). It took a few moments before she recognized them as the voices of Christopher and Wesley.
Victoria ran towards Wesley’s direction barreling right into his chest, but when she looked up, the face changed and it was that of Christopher. He wore a ferocious and frightening scowl, an expression that she had never seen upon his face before. She again heard a man call out her name from behind her and she turned. There was Wesley, once more. She again tried to run to him, but her feet were suddenly weighed down as though she were stuck in mud, stuck in the swampland behind her house.
Victoria struggled forward, reaching out to him. The more she struggled the more she felt stuck, the more it felt as though she were sinking deep into the boggy mud of a swamp and the swamp sucked her feet in deeper and deeper, weighing her down more and more. Then, she heard gunfire and explosions. She called out to him. “Wesley! Wesley!” Then she saw him jerk back, grab at his chest, and a red spot began to form and spread. Wesley buckled at his knees and fell to the ground. He stretched his arm out to her, beckoning her to come to him as pain carved itself across his face. Victoria tried to break free, but Christopher was holding her back preventing her from reaching Wesley, keeping her stuck in the muck.
Victoria awoke with a gasp. Her heart raced and breath came in short gasps. The potion did its job through that very strange dream, which left her feeling panic-stricken. Victoria now had the answer that she sought.