That one drew blood…


How did I get here?

Today started as a joyful blur. From an early morning takeoff in the frosty northeast to wheels down in the sultry mist, I couldn’t wait to fill my lungs with New Orleans air and feel home vibrate beneath my feet.

Follow the ritual.

First steps, choreographed decades ago, have grown more complex with each visit. Whether it’s an extra block upriver, an unplanned turn to browse a gallery, glimpsing a favorite fountain through iron lace, or stopping to stare at the newest café menu…the potholes never change and every walk ends in the same place.

Café-au-lait in a paper cup is delicious.

Standing on the levee and watching the mighty Mississippi swirl her way to the Gulf, opens history’s treasure chest. Every time I turn back to see the glory of Jackson Square, I take a picture. It’s 2015 and I’ve got a computer full of digital images along a box of snapshots, frayed and worn at the edges. But, the most cherished memories were made with my human eyes. Back when life was innocent—before the trip and the accident. Before the change.

My hands are tingling.

The walk back through town was haphazard and impulsive. Chasing snippets of melody, following whiffs of fragrance down crooked alleys and peeking through stained glass windows…again, it ended where it always does.

My sanctuary.

Stepping through the scrolled gate delivered me from the Quarter’s worship of the preposterous, into a veiled oasis. Gurgling water and flickering candles, delicately powerful enough to soothe monsters.

The flagstones feel like ice under my back.

The trail of blood was a surprise—old and new. Pools of rusty liquid seeping into ground, mingling with the fresh life dripping from my fingertips.

Was I bitten or stung?

Stone goblins spun like drunken puzzles pieces, their cracks and splinters healing as though time was speeding backwards. Vines raced across the walls like warped vipers. A distant clock chimed twice, choked and started ringing at random intervals.

The damn time.

I dragged my watch in front of my eyes long enough to see hands whirling in both directions.

How did I forget the cursed hour?

My courtyard full of flowers exploded in glitter and ash.

Just one hour.

Sapphire blooms danced around my face. Petals baring fangs.

That one that drew blood.