THE GRAVES OF LOUIS GAROU
Louis Garou was a black slave on a sugar plantation in the French Caribbean colony of Ayiti. It was 1789 and the National Constituent Assembly of the French Revolution had promulgated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Louis Garou listened to a domestic servant Odetta LaSang who lamented, “The declaration did not revoke the institution of slavery.”
Odetta LaSang long ago had taken pity on Louis Garou for the lashings upon his mind, body, and soul by overwork; inadequate food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Therefore, Odetta LaSang swore that she secretly would educate him. But teaching Louis Garou to read or write was forbidden by the fearful slave masters. There were ten times more slaves than white masters and Odetta LaSang had told to Louis Garou the words of Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau who had written that “the whites sleep at the foot of Vesuvius.
No, Odetta LaSang was not going to educate Louis Garou to ingratiate himself by learning the conventions of his tormentors. Odetta LaSang taught Louis Garou instead about vodou (spirit demons and deities) because Odetta LaSang was secretly a mambo (vodou priestess).
Some slaves already had run away from the plantation and lived in the jungle beyond the sugar plantation by stealing what they could not find to survive and by living in fear of being recaptured and violently punished. Runaway slaves when captured were whipped and many were tortured as a warning to the thousands of other slaves. Some were castrated. Some were burned.
A confederation of runaway slaves known as maroons (“fugitives, runaways”) had congealed and they were perpetrating sporadic raids on the sugar plantation. But they had no leader.
Louis Garou had always sought his refuge within flickering dreams of rebellion but under the tutelage of Odette LaSang the pitiable slave was devoured slowly by a fiery conspiracy of ungodly revenge.
Louis Garou’s macabre enlightening could not be hidden much longer under a bushel of sugar cane. One night he simply walked away into the jungle.
He appeared before the maroon camp, terrifying them with his apparition. They saw angels falling from his eyes. He grinned upon them with the teeth of a dog.
Louis Garou proclaimed himself the savior of the maroons and he gave them commandments of blood. Louis Garou convened the maroons in a vodou ceremony and inflamed their ever-present African ancestors. The disembowelment of a black female pig marked the beginning of the holocaust on Ayiti.
The slaves of the sugar plantation had been told in the epiphanies of Odetta LaSang that the descent of Judgment would be sudden and terrible upon the French grands blancs (wealthy white aristocrats). Yet even Odetta LaSang fell to her knees when she finally witnessed the horror that her epiphanies had refused to reveal.
Louis Garou led the attack on the plantation mansion. Grands blancs security guards and administrators were hacked down like sugar cane. Mulatto workers were not spared. Louis Garou finally broke into the kitchen where Odetta LaSang was shielding the innocent young grand blanc children that she had raised. Louis Garou told his rabid followers to bring the parents down to him alive. In order to force the mother and father to witness what would happen next he commanded that their eyelids be sliced off.
Possessed by his fearsome Djab (personal demon) Louis Garou snatched the children one by one away from Odetta LaSang and with his teeth he disemboweled them alive upon the lace cloth of the dining table. He flung their limp husks into the basket of garbage that was to have been given to the slaves to eat. Then, while the guts still steamed, Louis Garou reached into the face of the mother and pulled the eyeballs from her sockets, throwing them upon the heap of the children’s entrails. She toppled forward spewing blood. The mind of the father had fled his body. To bring the father’s mind back Louis Garou had him placed upon the table and his skin peeled off.
Louis Garou then took the gory lace tablecloth and commanded that it be raised as the flag of the rebellion and so it was done. Odetta LaSang chanted protection for herself as she followed Louis Garou outside.
The massacre soon covered the entire island of Ayiti. Louis Garou at last declared amnesty for the survivors who had hidden themselves, promising, “I will not kill you!” As soon as the survivors revealed themselves Louis Garou had them buried alive.
Odetta LaSang proclaimed to the sated followers, “We are free. We are the Republic of Ayiti!”
The sugar of Ayiti was too valuable to the economic interests of even a newly enlightened France. Napoleon Bonaparte eventually sent a formidable expeditionary force of French soldiers and warships to the island in order to restore French rule. Odetta LaSang and Louis Garou were forced to flee Ayiti by stowing away on a vessel bound for Nouvelle-Orléans, the capital of French Louisiana.
Odetta LaSang became a wealthy woman once in Nouvelle-Orléans. Louis Garou was not documented as being seen again although there have been strangely gruesome murders and inexplicable vanishings in New Orleans ever since. One day Odetta LaSang just disappeared and her devotees said that she entered the spirit world intact. Her abandoned mansion became a vodou pilgrimage site and finally it was declared the Historical Site known today. Lately there have been financial difficulties and maintaining the site had become problematic.
The real surprise came when potential developers were surveying the grounds of the mansion. An unmarked crypt was discovered that held a tightly sealed coffin. The publicity has been sensational. Of course the speculation is that the body of Louis Garou has been found. This discovery has resurrected the Historical Site as a viable endeavor: a lucrative exclusive television deal has been signed and tourism has returned with a vengeance.
I am the Forensic Anthropologist who has been contracted to open the coffin and document the findings and present my “mystery guest” in a televised special. This discovery has also resurrected my career. I was laid off in the recent State University budget massacres. Since then my desperate “consulting business” has consisted only of “consulting” with bill collectors. I eventually was hired only because my family could be traced back to the time of Odetta LaSang and Louis Garou. My family legends even say that the disappearance of one of my relatives was attributed to Louis Garou. I always figured that my ancestor’s disappearance was attributable to a drunken stupor and a swamp.
Truthfully? I personally figure that the coffin will contain the remains of Odetta LaSang’s favorite cat. But who am I to piss on my own parade?
A mobile cleanroom for isolation and temperature and humidity control has been set-up for me in the parlour of Odetta LaSang’s mansion. The television broadcast will be early tomorrow for Good Mornin’ All Y’all. Alone tonight I am expected to open the coffin with painstaking caution and to prepare my “debutante”. I had insisted that I have no distracting assistant. Truth be told, I am not too confident of my rusty techniques.
OK. Turn on the video recorder. I am dressed like a surgeon. Nice touch if I do say so myself.
“The coffin is wrapped in an oily swaddling that bears symbols of vodou curses.”
I place the excised strips of the cloth cocoon upon a large stainless steel table. The coffin itself is revealed.
“The coffin appears to be made of Bayou Cypress. It has been given a mirror-like finish,” and then I expound for dramatic effect, “There are ancient religions that believe the cypress tree is sacred. Some believe that the cypress tree is last tree seen before entering the underworld,” and then I joked, “I guess that was true for this resident, whoever it might be.”
I lean very close to examine the highly oiled and polished coffin lid. I can see my reflection. I stare at myself. My shifting focus makes me feel light headed. My vision wavers.
Suddenly I am looking through a completely transparent coffin lid and I can clearly see that it is me! It is me laid out as the grim resident of the coffin!
I open my mouth to exclaim but something has me by the throat. I try to pull back but I am restrained. I panic! The sensation of strangling! All fades to blackness.
I must have fainted. People are standing around me, looking down at me. There is the Good Mornin’ All Y’all hostess. There behind her stands her cameraman. There are children leaning over me; young boys grin with wicked relish, young girls grimace, “Eeeww!” There is laughter. I cannot yet speak. And then I see a familiar figure with his back toward me. He turns.
It is me! He is leaning down toward me. I am having a nightmare and I can’t wake up! His eyes glint and I hear him saying, “The body is badly decomposed but we are fairly certain that it is not the body of a black man such as was Louis Garou. He will be returned with the coffin to the crypt out of respect for whoever he might have been.”
The hostess of Good Mornin’ All Y’all asks, “Could this have been one of Louis Garou’s victims?”
I see the apparition of myself look back down at me and I hear it say, “Now why would Louis Garou have gone to so much trouble to bury a victim when he could have just thrown him into the swamp?”
The hostess sums up for the camera audience, “And so we have not found the coffin of Louis Garou after all…”
The apparition of me interrupts, smiling mischievously, “Well, we don’t know that,” and then the apparition of me makes a ghoulish face at the children, saying, “Maybe Louis Garou is just not in his coffin anymore!” and the children shriek.
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