The dark dance she promised we would do, the love she promised we would make – it was all gone after only our first date…
Mahogany, a dark name for a dark girl, was the most interesting female I ever had the pleasure to touch. We passed one another in the streets of New Orleans. I chased her down Bourbon Street, followed the haunted tour she was with and edged in. I laced my fingers between hers as she was looking up at the house of Madam Laveau. She looked to me startled at first, then smiled and continued gazing on the dark mansion.
“Do your tourists ever get to see a real ghost? This is boring,” a male teen said behind my shoulder. The tour guides attention was then brought my way, and I was asked to please leave. I handed the guy a hundo just so he’d let me stay with her.
“Will you show me around?” she asked once the guides dismissed the group in the creepy alley by the creepy cemetery. “I want to see your favorite part of New Orleans.” So that’s where we went.
“Why the swamp?” she asked. “What brings you’re here?” I didn’t have an answer for her, except that I felt drawn, attached to the murky waters and the hungry beasts lurking in them.
“There’s so much water and mud, unstable ground, water logged trees. I feel beauty in the drab nature here.” She kissed me and asked to see what spot I liked to visit most. I told her I would have to take her home first to pick up my kayak, which we did.
Two days after our date, on the night we were set for another venture into the swamps, I got a phone call saying she was deceased. They found my number in her phone. It also happened to be the only number in her phone. They wanted to know how I met her, how well we knew one another, did she have any family I could put them in contact with. I didn’t of course. They gave me her belongings, which included her wallet.
I don’t pretend to be a noble man, nor do I pretend to be a rich one. I saw the opportunity, and I took it. The night of our date I had seen her enter her pin number at the gas station when we stopped for soda and the candy bar I was craving. So I went to an ATM, slid her card inside, then punched in the four-digit code. When I did, holy cow, she had twenty grand. I used her card to pay for her service, a modest cremation which I attended, then withdrew the rest a little at a time and kept it in a shoe box under my bed. I wondered what might happen should someone catch on to the fact that a dead woman was daily pulling money from her account, but I wasn’t worried enough to stop.
Two weeks later with a stash of cash and her account cleaned out, I bought an upgraded kayak and took it to the swamps. It was different going out, knowing that was the place Mahogany took her last breath. I’ll never understand why she decided to kill herself there, but I can only guess she wanted to have someone’s help to find a final resting scene, one to look on while she died.
The act of her suicide made my stomach churn – she didn’t just take a gun to her head. The cops said she strung a noose from a tree, and in all black attire, she tightened the rope around her throat, let loose her step stool, then drove a dagger into her abdomen and drug it across. Her intestines spilled and tangled around the black pumps she chose to wear to her execution. She then held a chalice below her waste to catch the warm fluid spilling out. Once full, she took it in her mouth but spat it out again, obviously unable to swallow. The cops think that’s as far as she got before she lost enough blood and air to continue.
“We don’t know what she was up to, but we think she was trying to send a message,” was what they said.
“Holy shit. Did they seriously not clean up the blood?” I rounded the corner of Gator Creek, as I like to call it, and there below my favorite tree was what looked like maroon dried paint spattered on the bark and ground. It wasn’t until I inched closer that I saw the new mass growing from the side of the tree, an almost cancerous looking growth up by the branches. With more curiosity than terror, I moved toward the bank in my kayak to further inspect the death scene.
My tree felt different. I didn’t feel connected and at ease like I normally do. Instead I felt like I needed to leave – I should have, but I didn’t. Instead I walked closer, squatted down to look at the blood, then I stood to see the growth. It wasn’t a solid, circular thing, but a lumpy mass of wood and bark that looked like it boiled out in puss filled bursts from the tree. I held my hand up, then jumped back when I felt it was warm – I almost fell over when I afterward saw it move.
It expanded and contracted like it was taking a breath. I put my hand up to its bark again. It was in fact warm, and before I could pull my hand from its contact, it felt it “breath” again. I moved so fast that I tripped back with my hands out to brace on either side. I instantly regretted that move when my right hand connected with an exposed root instead of the dirt. My wrist cracked under the weight. I rolled around holding myself and taking exaggerated breaths for a while. When I remembered what startled me in the first place, I again turned my attention to my breathing tree.
The mass was still pulsing, expanding and contracting. I stood and reached with my good hand to feel its warmth once more. Like the dark swamp, like the dark Mahogany, I just couldn’t help myself. My fingers felt the roughness of the bark. The mass felt spongy beneath its broken armor. Satisfied and creeped out, I took a step back to reclaim my hand and leave the area. My tree had other ideas.
The exposed root I fell on before pulled further from the dirt to wrap around both my ankles. I fell back hard, only this time I let my backside take the full force – a decision poorly thought out. A pain shot straight up my tailbone that sent a sensation into my back and groin that made me feel like I had to shit and vomit both at the same time. I once more forgot about my diseased tree until the initial shock subsided.
When I looked up again, the lump had relocated – it was moving still. It slid down the trunk of the tree, only millimeters at a time. Ankles in lock, I sat watching as tears from fear and pain ran down my hot cheeks.
Once the mass reached the base of the trunk, I looked on in horror as it bubbled and toiled like silly putty set to boil. Gurgles seemed to reach the surface only to be pushed back down on themselves. After some time of this cycle, the bubbles actually began to break the surface. I could feel heat wafting in my face from the gasses being released.
My stomach was now so tight with tension that I felt my fried shrimp lunch work its way back up my esophagus. It projected out of me with a force I couldn’t remember experiencing before. I could taste the old grease and stomach acid, gagged, then vomited again.
It was then that the mass began to unfold. A crease sunk into the middle of the lump, then out it blossomed. Arms broke from the wood and opened wide in an arched stretch. The undefined mass formed into a long neck which led into a long, extended back, then down into a separation of skin, two butt cheeks seated on top of small feet – feet that I recognized from a kayak ride only weeks before.
Mahogany detached herself from the diseased trunk in a high backbend, first placing her hands into the soft earth, then kicking her legs over her head which landed, kneeling, in a patch of moss facing me.
Her skin tone was not that of human flesh anymore. She was white, pure white, with her still deep brown hair and eyes. Now hear me, she was not human pale, as snow white had been. Her flesh lost any sign of pigment completely. I could not help but stare at the whole scene. Her milk face, hands, nails, breasts. Her nipples, still in place, had gone the same color. The areola was no longer defined by a deeper hue. In the quake of my reality, I forgot my pain and horror and wanted to know her flesh, every inch of its mystery.
That night, my prayers were answered. Once calmed, she freed me from my shackles, pulled my clothes from my body, and straddled the thick of my waist. Her chilled skin sent gooseflesh like wildfires across my body – her hot breath in my ear drove all my patience out. I wanted to know her insides and feared her game would see me into a state of madness before she took me in. No such insanity ensued. She gave me my wish, and even more than I desired. Mahogany saw me into a state of bliss before I fell asleep with my ass pressed in green slimy moss at the foot of the tree.
When I woke the next morning, Mahogany was gone. I was naked and alone in the swamp, sleeping under my favorite tree which now appeared to be in a state of decay. Its limbs hung sad and loose, its bark flaked easily from its base, a white, spore-like disease appeared to be settling into the roots – I for the life of me couldn’t be sure of anything.
I felt deep in my gut that the night before had been real, however I supposed I could have been drunk enough to end up naked and alone in the swamp. It wouldn’t have been the weirdest story that started with, “One night I had way too much to drink, and then…”. Nonetheless, it didn’t “feel” like I passed out before spiraling into a sex deprived dream state. It didn’t “feel” like I imagined her touch, her taste, her warm inside enticing my seed from its cell. It didn’t “feel” like she was gone, either.
Here I am in the summer, three years after Mahogany died. I still visit the swamp every day, stop and sit where the tree had been. It died and fell into the green waters only weeks after she freed herself. I’ve talked to scientists about the event, doctors, psychologists, priests – anyone who would listen, anyone who may be able to offer a word of advice on my obsessions. All I want is confirmation that she really did sprout from my tree, die and regrow a new spirit from its deep soul. With no where else to turn, I am leaving for Salem tomorrow. I am hoping to either find her or where she came from. If her ritual came from home, the ritual I now believe to be witchcraft, maybe I could repeat the process and be free to join her in her frolic. With my blonde hair and green eyes, I wonder I’ll look like with her white skin.
Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
To see the photo that originally inspired this story, please visit the Instagram link below.