She walks through the quarter and is given a wide berth. A Voodoo priestess is what they call her and most of them are petrified of her wrath.
The tourists consider her an attraction; a freakish side-show they must see. Some giggling, some hesitant as they clamor into her shop.
"Look but do not touch," she warns in a deep, foreign accent. They eye her warily and she eyes them right back with a grin all but one of them thinks is pure evil.
"We want to learn Voodoo," says a the boy in the back. Stepping forward he smirks and leans over, resting his elbow on her desk. He's the only one who does't think she's evil at all. He thinks she's just putting on a show with her gris gris bags and her shop filled with useless trinkets.
"I can not teach those who do not believe," she replies, her grin gone.
"Then make me believe."
She represses a sigh at his challenge. She knows his type- a non-believer in the power of magic. She drags a finger across the skin of his arm and she sees inside him. The priestess has visions of a insecure a young man who is a braggart, his loud mouth a cover for his many insecurities.
Upon her touch, he shivers and pulls away quickly, his hands trembling, his skin still cool where she touched him. Their eyes meet and it takes just a moment for him to realize that she is powerful indeed. Of course, he will not admit this, he is far too proud for that.
"Come," she says, and she points to the boy, "Just you."
Rising gracefully from her chair, she walks toward the back and into her private office. The boy reluctantly follows, swallowing down his fear and marching on with faux bravado. He finds her picking items from a vast floor to ceiling shelf- some bottles, a few sprigs of dried herbs.
She lays the items out and methodically places some of each into a stone mortar. Offering him the pestle, she says, "You must be the one to grind them together, to infuse the ingredients and make them become one."
He snatches it from her hand and begins grinding them forcefully.
"No," she chides him, "I would't do that if I were you. The harder you push, the more potent it will be."
"The stronger, the better, right?" he says and continues to pulverize the concoction.
"Suit yourself," she says, resigned.
"What's this supposed to do, anyway?"
"The mixture, if worn around your neck will draw out the negative energy that surrounds you. It will make those bad dreams of yours disappear."
His hands stop abruptly and his head snaps up. How did she know about his nightmares? It had to be a guess, right?
Now that she has his full attention, she continues, "If you were to…feed this to the one that causes those dreams to occur...it would ensure that they were taught a lesson."
His breathing now quick and shallow, a thin sheen of sweat covers his brow. "Wh..what kind of lesson?"
"Listen to me and listen well," she commands, reaching out and taking his chin within her fingers. At the contact, the source of his nightmares come rushing to the forefront of his mind. His step-father's raging voice filled with hate, the leather belt he uses to beat his ungrateful step-son. His cowering mother who had tasted that belt across the mouth. "Look into my eyes boy. Look!"
He does and his body feels weightless, his vision foggy before he sees his step-farther- the belt around the mans neck, his face pale and slack, the raging voice silenced.
"You want to learn Voodoo?" She asks, squeezing his chin, "Then the first things you must know is that it is powerful magic, and it is not to be played with, boy. This is what could happen if you believe, what could be if you put all you faith into the spell. Now, I ask you…Are you willing to play with that kind of fire?"
He's shaking now, tears running down his cheek. "I…I… I want it to stop."
She pushes his face away and takes the pestle from his hand. She places the sandy mixture into a tiny bag and fastens it with a piece of twine.
She speaks in a tone that is harsh, a warning so deep he feels it in his bones. "Voodoo is give and take, light and dark. There is a price for delving into black magic, there is always a price. Wear this around your neck and sleep peacefully, or feed it to him and risk your own life, the choice is yours."
She hold out the bag and he snatches it away and runs from her shop.
He holds that bag in his pocket for days, sleeps with it under his pillow, afraid to use it, afraid of what it could mean if he truly believes. He decides to study Voodoo, reading every word he can find on the subject. What he discovers is that the woman from the shop- the Voodoo Priestess is well known and respected, and feared, so many fear her power. He also learns the difference between light and dark magic, and he knows that Voodooists believe in juju- a karmic reaction to every spell cast.
The very next night when his step-father returns home late, and uses his dreaded belt on his mother who didn't keep his dinner warm, he makes up his mind.
He tries not to focus on his hatred for this man, but instead his sole intention focuses on protecting his mother. Rising early, he prepares his step-father's coffee with three spoonfuls of sugar and the contents of the pouch.
The man's death was said to be of natural causes- a heart attack, and the boy's nightmares continue only now he dreams of the black magic coming to collect its payment.