This is part of a serial story with the increasingly inadequate tentative title “Tales from Bayou Bonhomme”. Yes, this is the second instalment this week. Don’t look a gift horse in the rectum, darlings. You’re likely to get covered in horse shit. Speaking of horse shit, the following is anything but. This is a pretty important chapter, answering some questions about Marla and giving you a glimpse into what might tempt someone to serve the would be swamp god, C’thuNchuk.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, but would like to, move your mouse just a touch to the right and hit the left click button while hovering over the word HERE
If you’re good to go, let’s continue, picking up where Oscar left Marla, at Amie Lebeau’s house, left to clean up the rather considerable mess.
Marla didn’t want to know what was going to happen to the body of Amie LeBeau. She’d had nightmares ever since she was a little girl, horrible dreams which she couldn’t quite remember when she woke up. She only knew there were two types of dreams — dreams where she was being torn apart and eaten, and dreams where she was the one eating. She couldn’t tell you which dream was worse.
The Chief had left Amie’s house, and told her she had to call on Mel Cayce. She would, of course, but now that she knew that her mother wasn’t sniffing around Mel, that at least bought her the time to take care of things there. She knew full well that she had put Mel’s life in danger, and she’d never forgive herself if anything happened to the woman that had once kissed her under the moonlight of the bayou and talked about running away together. Mel, nearly ten years older than Marla and sick of running her dead father’s bar, had wanted to leave Bayou Bonhomme; to leave all the bad memories behind.
Marla was still so young at the time, and very much under her mother’s thumb. Full of dark secrets and familial ties to the Bayou, she’d begun initiation into the old religion her mother merely called The Faith. At sixteen, she’d been taken out into the bayou to undergo a strange baptism, surrounded by The Faithful, naked but for white hoods over their faces. She, too, had been naked, but no one had touched her — she was sure that no one had touched her — except…
Except that for weeks after that, she had dreams — sometimes terrible and horrifying — other times not entirely unpleasant, where she felt the touch of a thousand hands on her body, touching her, stroking every inch of her, filling every orifice until she felt she might burst. In her dream, it wasn’t hands that touched her, but rather, strong, muscular tentacles that wrapped around her, caressing her, kissing her with strange suckers; entering her. Marla didn’t know what to make of the dreams, that filled her with equal parts arousal and revulsion.
And it was that night — the night of her baptism — that she first heard the Voice. She thought at first that someone — her mother, perhaps — had given her some sort of drug. She had eaten magic mushrooms with one of her girlfriends from school at a party once, and the effect was strangely similar. She felt a weird pressure in her head, and she heard a voice speaking in a language she couldn’t understand. She felt a deep sense of fear and elation at the same time, and when she opened her mouth and began to speak, she was not surprised at all that the words coming out were in the same language she heard in her head.
This kind of ecstasy — this secret connection to something so powerful — this wasn’t something Marla was willing to give up. Not for anybody.
So when Mel had kissed her, told her that she loved her, and asked her to run away to Lafayette, or further to Texas and beyond (who cares, as long we’re together) Marla made up some lie about not being able to leave her family.
“It’s not that I don’t love you,” Marla had said, smiling, “I do. It’s just…”
The truth was, there was something out in the bayou that she loved even more.
Now that love had soured, and Marla wished with every fiber of her being that she had left that night with Mel Cayce. Instead, they’d both stayed, and Mel had nearly lost an eye saving Marla’s life. They’d lost each other, partly out of disappointment and resentment, but mostly because Marla had fallen in love with someone — or rather, some thing else. And that love had clouded her judgement, and made her party to a great many things that she now regretted.
Now she was going to have to be a party to more horrible things, or else risk putting Mel in more danger than she already was. Mel, Oscar, even Leroy, who she’d never cared for in particular, but who surely didn’t deserve to be the third sacrifice that The Faithful needed to complete the cycle.
Marla had only recently learned that her own grand-mere — a woman who she’d loved intensely — had been the third sacrifice to end the last cycle. Back in the long summer of 1998, before she had ever heard of C’thuN’Chuk, Marla had only been a terrified eleven year old girl. Someone in Bayou Bonhomme had been snatching kids that summer, and she and her friends had lived under the constant shadow of this nameless boogeyman.
She sat on Amie’s couch and watched the man who’d come to collect the dead woman’s body leave with it. He wasn’t with the police; he wasn’t with the Parish Coroner’s office — strictly speaking, he had no business being there at all. He had, however, collected a great many bodies over the years, and Marla got goosebumps just being in his presence.
After he left, and Marla had composed herself, she placed a call to the police dispatch office and called for back up.
“Possible Homicide at 23 LaPierre. I need back up here, Suzanne.”
The cute young thing that Oscar liked to fantasize about had sounded bored when she’d answered the phone. Now Marla had her full attention.
“Twenty-three LaPierre… Amie LeBeau’s place?”
“The same. Looks like something bad happened to her. Suzanne, I need you to keep quiet on this, you hear?”
“Sure, Marla. Who do you want me to send?”
Marla had no idea who she could trust at this point, so she decided to trust no one.
“Just good police that can keep their mouths shut, Suze. It’s a mess up here, and there’s no body I can see as of yet.”
“You think maybe she got away? You want me to send a car around keeping an eye out for her? Maybe she needs help.”
Marla sighed and looked around the room.
“If you were here, you’d know that Miss LeBeau is beyond our help.”
“Shit,” Suzanne swore, sounding almost childlike in her petulance. “I hate it when the bad guys win.”
Marla hung up the phone, and waited for the good guys to show up.
In the darkest part of the night, seven hooded figures stood on at the edge of the bayou. Seven was a number of power. So was three, and they had come to offer their second of three sacrifices. It had proved too difficult for them to procure the body of the old man — their first sacrifice — but they had been fortunate enough to get their hands on the writer before the authorities. They hoped that C’thuN’chuk would be merciful and understanding.
They held torches and chanted strange words in an ancient, fricative tongue that only The Faithful, and their adopted god, understood. The tallest of the hooded figures stepped to the edge of the water, carrying the lifeless, broken body of Amie LeBeau. The chanting became an almost insectile hum as the man waded into the water, which had begun to bubble as hundreds of tentacles broke the surface in anticipation of the feast. The Faithful moaned in religious ecstasy, and continued their fervent supplication. Jean-Baptiste Levesque would have recognized this ritual, for he had seen it when he was just a boy, though the sacrifice in that instance had been alive at the time of offering. But there was no one around to witness the offering this time — Colette Bergeron had insisted that they do a thorough sweep of the area. It had been fifteen years since the sacred offering had been made, and she wanted nothing to interrupt it. Leon Hereford assured her that nobody was in the area. Actually, Leon had seen an old beat up Buick parked up the road, but he’d checked it out, and there wasn’t anyone in it. He thought maybe a couple of horny teenagers had parked out by the bayou to play doctor by the moonlight, but the car was empty. He hadn’t thought to mention it to Mrs. Bergeron.
High up in a tree, the young man that Elmer Cayce had dubbed Varney the Vampyre — on account of his rare skin condition — gripped a branch tightly with one hand and held the other over his mouth, terrified of making a sound. A pair of binoculars hung around his neck, swaying ever so slightly back and forth, threatening to knock against the branch at any moment and give his position away.
Mel Cayce lay in bed, smoking a cigarette with trembling hands. Marla had shown up at the bar just as she was getting ready to close up, and asked for a drink. When Mel had reached for a bottle of Southern Comfort, the younger woman had placed a hand over hers and shook her head.
“Maybe we ought to have it at your place.”
Mel raised an eyebrow and grabbed the bottle.
“All right,” she said.
Now, after finishing off the bottle and each other, they lay in bed together for the first time in years, Mel sitting up and smoking, while Marla watched her through a haze of regret. She reached up and stroked the scar on her face, which shone silver in the moonlight coming through her bedroom window.
Mel winced, but allowed it. Her mind was still reeling from everything that Marla had told her. If it had been anyone else who had told her that there was actually a monster living in the bayou, she would have laughed at them. But coming from Marla, she hadn’t even needed any evidence. Somehow, Marla’s story filled in a lot of blanks for Mel, the least of which is what had really happened to her father, a mystery that had been gnawing at her for fifteen years.
“Can I steal one of those?” Marla asked, nodding toward the other woman’s cigarette.
“Thought you didn’t smoke anymore?” Mel asked, her voice sounding far away.
Marla sighed, and looked her in the eyes.
“I’m sorry, ‘Lissa, I’m really…”
“Stop it,” Mel said, exhausted. “No more apologies, please.”
Marla had been apologizing since they left the bar, and it wasn’t making the world-shattering news that her life was in danger any easier to swallow.
“Okay,” Marla nodded, and stole a cigarette from the pack, lighting it and taking a drag.
They smoked in silence for a moment, and then Mel asked:
“What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know yet,” Marla answered honestly. “But for the time being, try to act like nothing’s changed. You don’t know anything, and you’re not involved in anything. It’s safer that way.”
Mel laughed uneasily. “You make that sound like it’s going to be easy.”
“It’s not,” she agreed. “But I know you can do it. Right now, you should just try to get some sleep.”
Mel nodded and sighed. She was exhausted; they both were. She laid her head down on her pillow and curled up against her younger lover, drawing comfort from the touch of her warm skin. Marla held her, playing with her hair absently. She hated having to lie to Mel like this; to make her believe this was something it wasn’t. But in Marla’s hands, she’d be safe. If her mother and the rest of The Faithful thought she was involved with Melissa Cayce, they’d leave her alone.
Before long, Mel was breathing heavily, sleeping. Marla had done her best to ignore the powerful psychic tug that had been calling for her for the past hour or so, but now that Mel was asleep, she had nothing to distract her. As much as she tried to resist it, her whole body ached to run to the bayou, to join in whatever was going on in the darkness. Her muscles tensed, and she stretched her legs, first out, and then pulled her knees up to her chest, and then back out again. Her belly ached and burned, and she twisted the sheets with her hands. She bit down on her pillow and tried to ignore the buzzing voice in her head, the phantom sensations stroking her throat, her breasts, the inside of her thighs.
Marla buried her hands in her hair and tugged, trying to distract herself with pain, but that only seemed to make things worse. She was on fire. If she didn’t do something, she knew that she would find herself betraying the woman laying beside her. She would go to the bayou and speak the strange language and allow herself to become intoxicated with it all. The pull was too strong for her to resist. She had to do something to shut it out.
Biting her lip to stifle a moan, Marla thrust a hand between her legs.
She couldn’t help herself.