Chickens don’t do it for me. By Dixie Jo Jarchow
One after another, through the dark swamp, the few of the faithful slid into his hut like shadows passing the bright moon. Could the Hougan help her son? Could the Hougan ease the pain? Should they move or stay, Hougan? His once bright golden eyes, the mark of the High Priest, had faded to the pale yellow of a peeled potato.
He did what he could for those few who sought him out in the old ways, comforting the people who still kept to the sacred path.
He didn’t do all that much, he admitted to himself as he half listened to the man before him. His role was mostly to give advice. The powerful magik that was the cornerstone of their religion was in short supply for the poor, The younger people ignored him and made their own way without the comfort of Voodoo.
The pain of age crawled down his back and he wondered what the people would do when he was gone. Would they travel to the larger port city for a Hougan? It would be expensive and he doubted any other priest would accept their meager offerings as he did. During the day, he worked the fields as any other man did to make his living. He supposed it was hard to see him sweating under the beating sun and then imagine him as a conduit of the powerful magik during the full moon.
The man before him grew silent. It was time.
With a quick practiced motion, he twisted the chicken’s neck from its body.
The old man in front of him shook as the blood spattered his face. Not the slight vibration of a chill but the bone shaking rattle of the believer. He left a few coins and slipped out with the chicken. Supper tomorrow, the Hougan thought.
He waited but no one claimed the spot. That must be it for tonight. It was good; he was tired.
The Hougan sighed and began the laborious process of getting up. Pain was eating him from the inside. It could be put at bay only so long before it took him. He wouldn’t have to worry about a successor for long. It was sad but not many would be disappointed.
The old ways were slipping away like the shadow of a bird high in the sky.
A cloud walked past the moon, plunging the hut into darkness. The Hougan paused, waiting for it to pass but the moonlight did not return and a dark mountain in the form of a man with burning eyes appeared in the seat. The Hougan could see precious metals glinting on his gleaming arms and legs.
“Are you a true believer?” The voice like the scraping of stones.
“I am,” he whispered, a tear jerked down his face.
The man pulled two smokes out of the darkness and handed one to the Hougan. “So few really do believe.”
The Hougan’s hand shook as the thing lit both smokes and handed one to him. The sweet smoke curled around them. The Hougan’s consciousness began to float like fine ash as the powerful drug took hold of him.
“What we need,” it drew in the smoke, but never released it, he noticed, “Is a new, powerful Hougan. Someone to bring the sacrifices back and restore respect to its proper level.” He leaned towards the Hougan and the air compressed between them. Fear clutched at the Hougan’s chest and his breath wheezed.
“I do miss a good sacrifice,” his laughter was like a rumbling storm before the rain. “Chickens just don’t do it for me.”
The Hougan thought about his life as he floated above his seated body. He’d had a good woman who bore him a daughter but no sons. “My daughter,” he whispered.
“Yes, the one who ran away. I’ve kept a watch on her for you. She’s one of my favorites. You’d like to see her one more time and know that she’s fine? I can do that for you, for one of my true believers.” The thing nodded. “She’s everything we could have hoped for.”
A cold wind ripped through the hut. Not the wonderful cool breeze in a stifling heat but a searing cold rapier that bit the skin.
“Why, here she is now.”
Another darkness moved through the door. Slim and quick with long swirling hair the color of night. The Hougan wept as he caught a glimpse of her fierce golden eyes and ebony face just as the knife plunged down.