This is a serial story — feel free to jump in here, but you might want to catch up by reading the stories found HERE
Ever since they pulled a body out of the water, Bayou Bonhomme had seen an influx of visitors from neighbouring parishes. People came from miles around, drawn by the legend of Remy LeVert – the local swamp monster – and by the mysterious death of twelve-year-old Jimmy Singleton.
Josie’s boarding house was full, and Mel’s Bar & Grill began opening for breakfast to accommodate the swelling population.
Jean-Baptiste Levesque was running two tours a day on his old rickety pontoon, taking a dozen people at a time out into the swamp and regaling them with tales of Remy LeVert, the swamp monster of Bayou Bonhomme. He was a spry seventy-two, and had been giving tours of the bayou more than half his life, but these days, his daughter Amelie drove the boat while he just told his story.
“There’s some what say he came from outer space,” the old man began, telling the tale as he always did. The story had evolved and grown over the years, but that first line had been the same for nearly thirty years.
“And then there’s some what claim that ol’ Remy is older than the stars themselves. ‘Course, bein’ good Christian folk, you’ll know that’s hogwash. Ain’t nothin’ older than the stars other than the Lord God Almighty Hisself, but I reckon that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth that are dreamt of by the likes of you and I. Mayhap ol’ Remy is that fabled Leviathan that God told His servant Job about when Job got all uppity and demanded answers from his God.
“Everybody knows that gators is just leftover dinosaurs, and mayhap Remy’s just a big old hungry gator what got bigger and bigger over the years and has become somethin’ of a monster.”
Here the old man shook his head and laughed a toothless chuckle.
“Ain’t no gator ever lived as long as ol’ Remy, though, so I think that’s just nonsense, m’self. No, I don’t know ‘zactly what ol’ Remy LeVert is – whether he’s a man or a beast, but I’ll tell you this, folks: whatever he is, he’s old, and he’s hungry.”
Jean-Baptiste paused and stared out into the swamp. The sun shone through the Cyprus trees, giving everything a green-gold shimmer. He liked to give a dramatic pause before he moved on to the next part of the story, which was darker and more frightening, not only because it was gruesome, but because it was true.
“Of course, some people ‘round these parts have always known about Remy LeVert, or C’thu N’Chuk, as the old people called him. There’s some that even worshipped him like some sort of god. My grandpere told me that when he was a young man, he used to hear strange voices at night, and one day, he left his house and followed the voices, and what he found chilled his blood and turned his hair white overnight.”
Jean-Baptiste paused again and took a deep breath for dramatic effect. His audience was hanging on his every word.
“My granpere told he how he went down to the bayou that night, and how he saw a light coming from right out on the water. As he got closer, he saw that it was fire-light, from torches held by six figures in white robes and hoods, standing on what, my grandpere couldn’t say, but he said it looked like they was standing right on top o’ the water, just like Jesus Hisself.
“Now, sure, the Klan had a pretty strong presence here back then (and there’s still some o’ those idjits around today I’m sorry to say) but ain’t no Klan member ever walked into the swamp at night, and ain’t no Klan member ever spoke in the strange language my grandpere described – a strange, twisted tongue with too many consonants to rightly make sense of. He said it was guttural and garbled, and yet somehow hypnotic. My granpere, he tol’ me that he didn’t feel himself move at all, but the next thing he knew, he’d fallen into the water – he’d walked right in to the bayou, drawn, mayhap, by the strange chanting.”
“Well, my grandpere was never a good swimmer, and so he started splashing and sputtering about, and that’s when he heard an unearthly voice rumble and growl, and the hooded figures turned toward the commotion he was kicking up. My grandpere paddled his way back to shore, somehow managing not to drown hisself, and ran back home in the dark, praying to Jesus and his mama and all the saints to protect him from what was in the bayou. And as he ran, he heard something that haunted him the rest of his days, so it did: he heard a young girl scream, he said. Screaming for help, and then suddenly her screams stopped, and when the half-eaten body of little Josephina DuBois washed ashore a few days later, well, my grandpere, he knew what had happened to her. He knew, but he couldn’t say rien, you unnerstand.”
“After that, my grandpere, he knew for sure that there was somethin’ evil; not only in the bayou, but in this ‘ere town, but he din’ move away – nossir! He reckoned that whoever it was underneath those damned hoods would be looking for him. Maybe they didn’t see him clearly, but they’d sure but two ‘n’ two together if he up and left town soon after. My granpere, he has hisself a pretty little wife and a baby – my pa – to think about, and better the devil you know in your own backyard than constantly havin’ to look over your shoulder for the devil at your back.
“So he stayed, and he seen it all. He passed his story on to my pa, who passed it on to me, and now I’m passin’ it on to y’all, with the same warning that my grandpere gave my daddy, and the same warning my daddy gave me. Jean-Baptiste, my daddy said, Not every man is on the side o’ the angels. Some are on the side of the monsters. And monsters, he said, well, monsters gotta eat.
“I reckon I thought a lot about that over the years, and I tell you good folks, it took me a long time afore I figgered out what my granpere was tryin’ to tell us. I think that ol’ C’thu N’Chuk, or Remy LeVert, if you will – I think he’s had hisself some accomplices over the years, and that some of the swamp monsters around here walk on two legs just the same as y’all; same as me.
“Ah, but listen to me flap ma gums!” Jean-Baptiste laughed nervously. He didn’t know why he’d said that. If his granpere was right, then who knew who might be listening to him even now?
Jean-Baptiste reckoned he didn’t rightly care about that anymore. Perhaps he was tired of lying; tired of keeping secrets. Perhaps he was just an old man that wasn’t scared of dying.
When they dragged that Singleton boy out of the bayou, Jean-Baptiste had cried all night. He remembered all too clearly the horror of the summer of ’98, and he didn’t care to see the likes of that ever again. If there was a monster – or monsters – in Bayou Bonhomme, Jean-Baptiste would just as soon have them show their face – or faces, whatever the case may be – than skulk around cowardly in the shadows, killing innocent kids.
He might be old, but he wasn’t weak.
And he wasn’t afraid. Not anymore.