Shadow of the Rose
If there was a man who could moved to beat of a song better than any other, it would be Doctor Facilier. He could jive to the jazz, shake to the mamba, and swing, well, to the swing. He could see tunes, they would say in the morning rush at the bus stop with coffee in hand, and recreate their every whim. Even his enemies had to admit he was, in motion, living art.
Well, that was all fine and dandy to the Shadowman. He tried to be humble, but Sweet Jesus knows it is hard. He just loved to dance! He heard a beat and, even if he stood perfectly still (as still as stone), you could see his knee bob or his toes tap. Music was the beat his heart played, the song his soul sung. No one, not even those deplorable "Friends" could take that from him.
Today was no different than the rest here in Disneyville, home to every Disney characters and their mother. Even that, oh what's his face… ah! The Horned King was even here! "Now that," pondered Facilier "was a (Man/corpse/thing-a-ma-jig) in need of a good time."
Facilier chuckled. "Maybe I could scam a bit o' dough off him one day. Oh wait, he has none. Darn."
Facilier was sitting down calmly in Downtown Disneyville at his outside stand, shuffling a tarot deck for the bored, lost, lonely, or extremely moronic. It was tedious work, waiting all day for a sucker to stop by, and Facilier was indeed quite weary of the lack of progress. " I reckon I should move to a more lively location. This place makes the dead look all up and alive." Even while he thought this, he knew it never would be true. No one would ever trust a villain, even other villains. One look at his face and there would be like a sign labeled "Hazardous material. Do not approach" on him. "Well cheer up," he embolden himself, sitting up in his seat and reshuffling his cards with new vigor. "Things can't get any worse!"
"Yeah, 'cause you rock bottom."
Back into his seat he sunk, a deep depression sinking like a cold knife in his heart's cage. He made a face, the kind that showed bitterness and puzzlement. "Whatta do? Whatta do?" he repeated quietly to no one in particular while shuffling his deck. He picked up the habit of talking to himself from having an living shadow, but today Shadow had asked for the day off and Facilier was more than happy to supply. Unfortunately, as he was re-learning, it took away his only friend. Well, he was going to be all right. He was tough, he was resilient, he was..
His only friend! A another wave of depression hit him, even worse than the first! He took a breath to strengthen his resolve and took the moment to scan his premise.
It was a dilapidated cobbled street, proof that no one gave a care about the less fortunate, that ran along the Timeless River. The Timeless River, to the innocently ignorant, is the river that runs through Disneyville like a butterfly's flight in a luminous metropolis. The river was the sole beauty in this desolate part of town. The downtown area was like any forgotten and scorned part of a city, left to rot with the dogs and the rubbish like a trampled rose. It was composed of diverse styles of houses, some like a German establishment, others like the slum of New Orleans, U.S.A of course. They appeared hollow, as if a the skeleton of a soul, gray and brown from lack of paint and care. Holes abounded in these structures, and people seemed to just pop in and out of the window and the doors These people seemed to reflect the divers nature of Disney, but there were hints of the Dark Ages of Disney, the years of failure, rue, and lost creations that never had their place in the Sun. It was like Hell for the lost, without the flames.
Facilier watched these people appear and disappear, observing their patterns, their walks, their very own beats. Yes, even their hopes, their dreams, their failures. He could see all this, in the mangy bear that never knew love, the worn bipedal mouse with no home, the ragged human with no time but the now, forget the rest. Facilier could see it all, for he had the Sight to see such things. He remembered as a youth in Haiti the red eyes in the jungle, the bat-thing that watched him from the window, the monster in his head with the violet eyes and Devil's grin. The one he saw in his reflection. Right now.
He did not know how, but he found himself gazing into his reflection on the water's surface. The street shot straight down after meeting the water, as if something had once been there but it fell far, far away. Facilier gazed at the monster, how it grinned at others pain, how it saw weakness in all things, how it sought one thing and one thing alone.
Facilier frowned, reminiscing the void in his life that had only recently was made manifest. The monster in the water only smiled even larger in reply to the witch doctor's discomfort, as if its face would split, revealing the true form of the beast with its claws and teeth and false promises in its eyes. Pleasure. Lust. Money. All these things it promised for a few souls more.
He felt tired. Tired of the deals, of the lies, of the constant scramble for power. Simple, ugly power.
The witch doctor produced a butterfly knife at that moment out of his coat. It was illegal for civilians to carry weapons, but Facilier was a villain. He could get arrested just for breathing. He focused his leer eyes into the shining beauty.
Its silvery skin gleamed in the Day's Sun, a lissome maid in the Summer's air. On its handle were veves of two Laos. There was Baron Samedi's cross on one, and Maman Brigitte's veve on thee other. Facilier was always fond of death and its keepers. That is why he dressed like the Baron. It scared people, scared them something bad, to see Death coming their way.
Now if only he had a Maman Brigitte. Ah, loneliness. Now why was that? Oh, yes..
Facilier gazed back at the water, taking one last look at the monster. " 'Cause of you."
He put the flipped the knife in his hands for a period of time. For kicks he put it to his throat, letting the cool of the metal tingle his throat. It tingled and caused the hair on the back of his neck to rise. What can be said? He always liked odd, dangerous stunts.
Like making pacts with demons.
He found himself frowning again. "Enough of this foolishness," he thought. "I reckon it's time to get back to work." He gazed back upon the butterfly knife. "Au revoir, little man," he murmured as he stored the blade away.
" Pardon me, but is this thee establishment of one Doctor Facilier?"
Taking a look into the water he gazed at the most unexpected sight. It was a lady, of her late twenties with a peasant's dress. Best described, she wore a white blouse, an raven black bodice, and a knee-length gray skirt, a black shawl that obscured her hair, and a black scarf that veiled the bottom part of her face. In her left arm she held a wickerwork basket.
What else Facilier could make out in the shifting mirror was that she was a thin women, bone thin one might add ("As if she hadn't been eatin' or nothin'…"), and she held herself as if she was of noble birth. She was of European descent, and was as pale as she was one of the Dead. She bore a scar, a quite large one actually, over her left eye. It was, peculiarly enough, a light shade of red. What he could see of her face was beautiful, but tired. It was the eyes, though, the only really visible part of her face, that caught him the most.
The lids themselves was at the margins red like her scar. The irises were blue like rain water (and held a slight sadness, the cause at which he could only guess), but Facilier could see what the casual person could not. They held a white glint of mischief, an impish energy ready to straiten the steps of the unwary and foolish. Even now he could see the veiled smile of one who smiled only with their lips because they always knew something you did not know. No matter how hard you tried.
He liked her already.
He would of liked her even more if at the time he had not looked like he was attempting suicide.
Hoping she could not see the knife just now, Facilier twirled around like the flick of the wind and placed his elbows on the stand. He folded his hands and placed his chin on the extremities, leaning his body forward with an interest in the mademoiselle's desires. Turning on the charm he, with a his deep, sexy voice, said
"Yes, and I'm the doctor of this here joint. What can little ol' me do to help pretty little you?"
The lady blushed. " I would like a tarot reading. I have heard you give honest readings, so I thought you would be a good man to go to."
"That would be true!" he proclaimed with a pompous tone. He took great pride in his faithful readings. "Tarot readings, 10 dollars!"
"Of course." she simply replied. She was not even put off by his manner. "Intrestin' " he thought.
She reached into her pockets and revealed no dollars, but instead produced coins, and laid them on the stand. Though initially befuddled by this use of currency, he nevertheless swept the coins up and counted them. He carefully observed each coin, making sure that each coin added up to the grand total. He also rolled them between his fingers, a bit of showmanship he did to impress the customer. It, oddly enough, failed to produce a smile. "Is that enough?" she asked. She knew it was, but could not resist a slight tease. It seemed she had seen better. This could be a problem.
"They seem… sufficient."
He gazed back at his customer. She smiled with her lips. He grinned. "This one gonna be easy," he thought.
He began to deduce her.
He saw she wore no rings, so she could not be married or engaged. She looked like a peasant but acted like a lady of an estate. Arrogance, most likely, or a fallen noble. She was starving and had calluses on her hands, so she had worked hard but had gotten no where so far. Her clothes bore even a stronger testament to it. They looked like they had seen much, much, better days. Smelled it too. Her covered face and hair must be because she did not want to get recognized. Afraid to admit her fall most likely.
She bore the signs of a rich, spoiled girl fallen on hard times. She was ripe for the picking. A healthy, bright, red apple for the picking.
There were however, two kinks in that plan.
First, there was that scar. One might think it work related at first but it looked too deliberate, too vicious. Relationship gone bad? Crazy father? Bad boyfriend? Who knows?
Now that would not be a big deal (Everyone has scars), if it were the only problem.
Second, the eyes. Eyes like that do not just pop up on people that are good, honest people. They're on people who trip little children and push old ladies out in front of automobiles. People like him.
Facilier did not know what to do, except revert to his new act, "show them prosperin' ".
Happy people tend to come back for seconds. He leaned back in his chair, placed his crossed feet on the stand, and with his left hand displayed the deck in his hand. "Pick three, cherie," he urged.
The lady gracefully, like a silken-moth, took three cards face side down.. She gently placed the cards on the stand, and the witch doctor spread the three out . He then, spider-like, took the farthest left and flipped it.
There was a blonde lady, of sixteen or so, bowing before an empty throne while wearing a crown of her own. "This darlin' must be the same girl," conceived the Shadowman.
"Now you, young lady, are of noble birth, but you knew none of its trappin's ("Strange," thought the witch doctor). You worked for your bread and your drink, but you found in it mirth."
All right, so his initial thoughts were wrong. It not every day you meet someone with those kind of eyes. He was picking up on some weird vibes. Mystic rhythms of sorts. Could she be a… wait.
Why was she smiling at him? It was as if he amused her! He felt his blood curdle in rage. Okay, no more Mister Nice Guy! No, Sir-ee!
He hid his ire in a schemer's mask and continued his work. He reached out for the middle card and flipped it, keeping his eyes on the maid. Her eyes were staring right back him, smiling as if a conniving pixie. "She does look good, come to think of it."
There was a thorny rose, red as a ruby, bleeding blood like a sin sacrifice. The rose was, ironically, strangled by thorn-covered vines. The rose was wilting, only slightly, but still there (As if fightin' to stay alive…"). It grew out of stonework, and in the sky was a starlight night, the moon's face hidden from view by the dark of the Night.
Doctor Facilier started to sense he knew this person. It started like an odd taste on his tongue, a name familiar but not personally known. It was growing, as if the unhurried growth of a flower. He could even smell its perfume! Now if only it could bloom!
"You took a leap, but fell to sleep, betrayed by the one's ya loved and broken by one unloved. A darin' deed regained your heart only to break it with a dart." Facilier saw her eyes tear up, only slightly, but enough for him to feel…pity? She hid her pain well, but figuring out people was a life-skill for the doctor. And he knew she needed real hope, the kind that does not get betrayed. The kind we all need.
"But!" He slide his hand across the two cards, the pair vanishing with his touch. He then took his deck and cast an arch above his head, their sides showing colors, sights, views and all sort of beauties untold. What they are, only you can know. The women gazed in enchantment, snatched by sights that made her feel, for this moment, truly happy to be alive. Things of her youth, things of her heart, things of her soul. Memories undimmed by the darkness.
"And in your future.."
Doctor Facilier took his left hand and caught the cards, catching them like errant birds, and cast them to the maiden. They revolved around her, dancing around her like nymphs of Poseidon and dryads of Terra. She let a tiny giggle, one that seem to make her face glow. Facilier felt, at that very moment, like he could not of had a greater gift that day.
The cards lined up and returned to his sleeve in a daze of light, sound, and joy, sliding in like they were doing a jive. Sneaking some powder from his coat into his hand he leapt onto the stand, cast out the smoke, creating a cloud of pink smoke that dazzled the women, and twirled. The smoke wrapped around him like an glittering tornado. Pedestrians, whose normal monotony was shattered by the sights and sounds, stood awestruck at the display. Sliding from the table in the mist, he snatched the third and final card, landed in his seat, and threw the card into the air. It landed on its face on the table's center. The doctor, though slightly exhausted from the showmanship, delighted in the woman's delight at the show. He extended his left hand for the card and, with a twist of the hand…
"The you I see…"
"Will be the one you always dreamed to be!"
The card displayed a summer forest verdant with life, the trees bright and green and glowing. There were songs on avian wings (the sparrow, the dove, the robin), and on the grass romped the beautiful beasts of the field and forest (the wolf, the deer, the bear). Sunlight played through the wooden pillars, and the fae, on their wings of moth, butterflies and beetles, and the dryads, with their bark skin and leafed hair, danced in a circle around a single maid, the maid's hair shining more beautiful than the light that ran through it. The maiden was merry and gay, free and unbound by the chains of pain. No more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither was there any more pain, as if the former things had passed away.
The doctor felt, where before he would have held petty jealous, glad for his customer's fortuitous fate. Maybe it was the changes in him, maybe it was just her mischievous spirit. Whatever it so be, Doctor Facilier took joy in this and chose to congratulate the fair lady. "Well, well. It seems you have a bit o' luck comin' to ya way." He craned his head up…
And there was none.
She had left her seat, gliding through the press that had gathered around alone, slowly, as if in… pain. Facilier leapt up to stop her, jumping out of his seat. He had never had a customer run from a good reading, and was befuddled by this change. A rush of desperation hit his heart, as if he had to tell her, even to if she knew! To tell her things were going to be better than before. God help him, he just had to!
He slide through the clapping crowd, silently thankful for his skills at moving through the masses. "Darlin', please stop!" he cried but she could not hear him or she chose not to. He took snake-like dashes though the press, closing the distance the was ever changing. The rest of the mob carried on, pushing carts and taking parcels from place to place. They did not care, no, not a bit. For all they thought it could be a relationship gone sour.
He strode through the cluster, trying to avoid stepping on children and smaller animals alike. He was gaining ground, but not fast enough. She was nearly gone, ethereal as a specter. "Well, now what!" He looked around, gazing for an advantage.
A glance up gave him inspiration.
Cue the angelic chorus.
"Well, hello beautiful," he chuckled.
Pulling a Gaston, he scaled the hovels an shanties, dodging (as if a feline) loose piping and pieces and leaping over holes in the rooftops, ignoring the complaints and screams thrown at him. He's been a bloody street-rat all his life, why should he care about one more person yelling at him? As lithe as the street-rat was, Facilier had to admit it was challenge. Over alleyways he leapt, over broken (in more ways than one) homes he glided. Landing on a shack with the screams accompanying the shaking ceiling, he could see the lady nearing a taxi. "No," he decided. "This' not how it's gonna end!'
He could see her, just a crazy man's leap away. She was getting in a taxi. Opening the door! Facilier could not, would not let her get away! So, like the crazy man he was…
Over the bag lady, over the lazy fox, over the late faun. Just not over the cabbage vender.
He could feel the cabbage cart break under his weight as he collapsed through it and landed on the street, cobblestone breaking his nose and scraping the skin off his face, the blood flowing out of the fresh wounds. He could even taste rotting cabbage in his mouth. Cabbages flew everywhere, smacking surrounding pedestrians. The witch doctor's hat flew off like a Frisbee, covering more distance than its owner. He himself sprang up from a ball of confusion, a daze of pain fogging his senses, spitting out cabbage. He heard not the people cry "Maniac!", nor cared that a sheep had found his hat and was chewing on it, or that the cabbage vendor was swearing like a drunken sailor at him betwixt the cries of "MY CABBGAGES!"
For the taxi was driving off.
That image haunted him the rest of the day, an alone figure, unloved, lost. She had an aura of pain, of defeat, a look he was familiar with. Not only in his customers, but in himself. Before his time in limbo he would of taken advantage of it, raised it with false hopes and crushed it with cold hard reality. Now.. now…
He wanted to heal it, to make its dreams real, to give it…life again. All his greed washed down the drain, disappeared into the ocean's depths, consumed by the power of the changing man.
He picked up his chewed-hat, wiped the salvia off it, apologized for the trouble, and simply walked away defeated. After that it all blurred. He closed shop and wandered almost aimlessly, mindlessly back to his Voodoo Emporium. He collapsed into his bed and stared at the ceiling. He could not feel the pain, nor could he feel any shame at what he had done. All he felt was cold, empty. Void.
Her hope, her dreams, her heart.
He was haunted by her pain, consumed by her heartache, as if hunted by a pack of hellhounds. And the funny part? He did not even know her name! For some stinking reason he didn't pick it up on the vibes!
He thought upon her, the way she moved, the way she laughed, the way her eyes shined even in the darkness. She was perfect, a woman of all the right qualities a woman should have. It was as she was born with them…
OR given to them at birth!
He swung out of bed. "Shadow, get me my fairy tale book!"
A silence followed the order. It was easy to forget a friend that was always hidden in your shadow. A sigh followed. Yes, being alone stunk.
Alone, and suddenly a whole lot colder, he strode to his library and took the copy himself, muttering concerns about the absence of his friend. "Why isn't he back yet? He should've been here hours ago!"
Flipping through a few stories with his skeleton hands he tried to find the one he wanted. He also tried to quell his recently risen concerns to solve his puzzling mystery. He read, something he had a little trouble at due to his lack of formal education, but like so many before him he persevered and stuck to it. Somehow it always seemed to work in thee end..
A few minutes later he shut the book and sat at his table. He thought about getting a glass of what ever was left in the fridge to drink, but there was no need. Something was there already. Most folks would jump out of their skin at the sight of spontaneous water glasses, but then the Shadowman was not most folks.
"Hoo!" he chuckled out of his foolish worry, all the fear leaving his body. "You had me scared for a moment, Shadow." Listening for the cue, the Shadow spun out of the darkness and grinned his supernatural, twirling grin. Facilier pointed at him. "Now ya betta' have a good excuse for this," his voice taking on a parental tone.
The Shadow laughed, as if to say "Of course I do!" Producing a thorny rose from the Shadows, he gracefully laid it on the table. Facilier, who had not been able to find a definite answer before on his previous issue, viewed the rose with intrigue. His eyes shot back to his friend. "You were there the whole time, weren't you?"
Shadow laughed again, rolling on the ground at the thought his master sprawled out like a spilled Christmas dinner. "Oh shut, up!" defended the doctor. "It was the only thing I could think of!"
Returning to the rose, he twirled thorny beauty in his fingers. Words came to mind, tale of time past resurfaced, and in all this something beautiful came forth. A single image. A single word.
"A rose," he mumbled. "A Briar Rose."
He started to laugh, a low laugh at first but ,oh, how it rose! It began to fill the Emporium, then the alley way, then the whole city as the madman cackled in glee. He vaulted to the table, and twirled around like a zephyr gone mad. Rose in hand, he held it to the heavens as Shadow frolicked around at his master's joy. "You old rascal, you knew all along!" his laughter hit new heights of joviality. "Shadow, you have saved my soul!" Facilier cried. "And speaking of souls!" he exclaimed in sudden remembrance. He sprinted off the table, grabbing a worn, black trench coat, his cane, and his chewed hat (which at Shadow tried really hard not to laugh also) on his way to the door. Shadow squealed, interested in his master's plan. "Yes," Facilier said as he turned back to Shadow with cane twirling between his fingers. "It's time we made some dreams really come true! Follow me!" With a mischievous twirl, adorning his hat and his coat at the same, he adorned his skull-mask and disappeared out the door, Shadow in hot pursuit. The duo went cackling out into the street, dim streetlight the only source of light in the area. Even it darkened to the shady pair.
If she was broken, then maybe he was the doctor to fix her.
Every Rose has a Shadow, does it not?
Disclaimer: I own nothing.