Dry Land (Burning Man 8)

Roy Gillespie was on board the Coast Guard cutter Heron. He was safe in one piece. The EMT team on board had immediately hooked him up to an IV of saline to rehydrate him. He had been in and out of consciousness since being pulled from the waters of the Gulf. Several times he remembered thanking his rescuers and telling them emphatically that he was okay. The powerful thrumming of the cutter’s engines had a hypnotic effect on the completely exhausted roughneck and he felt himself slipping in and out of reality. He closed his eyes and heard the seabirds which followed the boat like a long lost kitchen.

Roy was dreaming now. He was dreaming of a beach in a realm without time. He was a seabird soaring along the shore. In the distance, with his sharp, precise vision he spotted a body laying in the sand. He circled, feeling a sense of the familiar with the body that lay there. He saw two grotesque figures emerging from the sand. Two demon like creatures had come up from the sand and gaped at the man who lay there sleeping. They seemed to be arguing between themselves. Roy soared in for a closer look. As he drew closer the demons started to flail their arms at him! They were warding him away. For what reason he could not guess. The Coast Guard cutter hit a patch of waves. With the jolt Roy woke up. He looked down at himself. He was in one piece but his head hummed. His vision was clear in his mind.

“That must of been quite an explosion back there sir.” Billy heard.

He looked up at the EMT. A young freckled face with aviator glasses looked down at him.

“Yes it was a blast. Just like in Kuwait. Did anyone else..?”

“Survive?” The EMT finished his question. “No sir you were the only one we found. The blast completely took out the platform. There’s a team there now still searching the debris.”

Roy rolled over on the pad he was lying on. He didn’t feel like talking at all. He couldn’t believe that all his friends were gone. Surely someone else must have survived. How could he be the only one? He drifted back off to sleep. Once again he started dreaming vividly. This time he was a small boy beside a campfire. He saw a group of men sitting around the fire. Beyond the flames it was pitch black darkness. He looked skyward and saw the stars as he had never seen them before. The fire sparked and sent up a shower of sparks that reinforced the stars in the sky. The men seemed caught up in a solemn discussion. One of them called to him. Again Roy woke up from a jolt. He sat up this time. The EMT was sitting on a bench nearby.

“How much longer…?

“Til we get to land?” Once again the crewman finished his sentence. “About twenty minutes now, we’ll have you home in no time.”

“Can I take this thing off?, I don’t like things sticking in me.”

“Sure, hang on.” The crewman stood up and gingerly knelt beside Roy. With swift precision he removed the needle from Roy’s arm. “Got some clothes for you here.” He turned around and produced a decent pair of jeans and a t shirt. Roy looked surprised. “Here put these on. An ambulance will meet you when we dock. I thought a guy like you would appreciate some real clothes and not some hospital gown. Keep ’em courtesy of the United States Coast Guard.” Roy saluted when he heard that. The crewman saluted back. “I figured you served. You seem like the type. Real calm like. My name’s Gabe.”

“Roy, Roy Gillespie.” Roy reached up his hand and Gabe helped him up. Roy was a little shaky and he leaned against the cabin wall. His head felt as if he was wearing a plastic bag over it. He knew the shock still reverberated through him.

“Well Roy it’s a pleasure to meet you and I sure wish it could’ve been under more righteous circumstances.”

Roy nodded. “You better believe it. Where we coming in?”

“Near the big easy Roy. We’ll be seeing you get to a good hospital. Doctors going to check you from head to toe.”

Roy nodded again. His vision was a little blurry. His neck itched a bit. He reached up and felt something around it. He followed it down. There on his chest was a gem. A peculiar medallion of sorts. It was the opal mobius. “What the …?”

“Must be a damned good luck charm. That’s all you had on with your long johns. You wouldn’t let it go even when we tried to take it off you.”

“I’ve never seen this before.” Roy managed to stammer.

“Sure thing. Just stay calm.” Gabe reassured Roy and held him by the shoulder. “Here we come in now.”

Roy clutched at the medallion and shuffled his feet following Gabe. Soon he was surrounded by a retinue of crewmen. They were applauding him. The Lieutenant had already brought the cutter to the dock with barely the slightest bump. An ambulance waited within sight. Gabe tried to help Roy onto a stretcher.

“If it’s all the same I can walk.” Roy said determined to get back on land. Gabe nodded and helped Roy to the ramp. Looking at the EMT’s from the ambulance Gabe said, “we’ve got him hydrated and he’s conscious. This guy is one tough hombre!”

Roy stood on his own and took a deep breath before the burly ambulance EMT helped him up and onto an awaiting mobile stretcher. Roy reluctantly lay down thankful that Gabe had given him street clothes. He’d rather have been going home.

“Let’s get this over with.” Roy said in a hoarse whisper as the ambulance doors closed.

Contraband Bayou (Burning Man 13)

He heard the raucous bird cackling loudly nearby. He opened his eye to see the gathering light. The air was misty, there was a light fog obscuring the dawn. He looked over to one side and his breath caught in his throat. A gator laid not 4 feet away. This was quite a specimen, at least ten feet if not thirteen. Its’ enormous head was as large as Roy’s entire upper body. The black eye stared emptily. In fact the eye did not seem to focus on him at all but right through him. He turned to his right and instinctively reached for his pistol. It wasn’t there, he’d left it at home. Shit, he thought to himself, he had to pick today to play superman. He picked up his boot just to be sure. Right behind the boot lay a cottonmouth. Fucking lucky day! Roy thought. Same empty eye, devoid of sense, at least sense that he could understand. He breathed very slowly and put the boot down. As if on cue the serpent silently slithered into the black water. He turned to the other side to check on his other bed mate. The gator was gone. Not a sound, or even a ripple in the swamp. All he could hear was birds, the harbingers of the new day, denizens of Contraband Bayou. If he hadn’t seen the creatures he never would have known they were there.

Roy had spent the last two weeks recuperating at the house where he lived with his aging Mother. He had spent the days drinking voluminous amounts of beer and shooting cans in the backyard. He had wondered about the strange medallion that had come into his possession. It had a timeless quality to it. It somehow seemed familiar. When he asked his Mother about it she said maybe it was from Lafitte’s treasure. She said it must have floated up to him on the log somehow. Maybe a storm had dislodged it from its’ resting place. He wished his Father was still alive. His Father had always claimed he was Lafitte’s descendant. Roy figured it was his Father’s way of coping with his own origin after finding out he’d been adopted. He could never prove his relation to Lafitte but he loved to bring it up after a few drinks. That’s why Roy’s middle name was Jean. It was a reminder of his Father’s supposed heritage. It had brought him here to the Bayou. The legend was there was still treasure here. For Roy it was a spirit quest. He needed answers. He still couldn’t believe he was the only survivor of the rig explosion.

He reached for his pack and retrieved a can of sardines. Food always tasted better when camping. Roy was so hungry it might as well have been brunch at the Hyatt Regency. Yes Mr. Gillespie would you care for another Mimosa? No thanks, this water is fine. Taking a long drink he stood and rubbed his beard. He wrapped up his bed roll and groundcloth. He sat on the roll, laced up his boots then packed up. He looked around for any trace that either he or his bedmates had been there. There was gator tracks in the soft mud. The prints were as long as his boot. The snake had left no discernible  trace. Satisfied his site was clear he trekked off.

He threw open the door of his pickup as he tossed his pack inside the cab. He was thinking about his Father Claude. He thought it was interesting his father had a French name. Roy had looked into the Lafitte connection many times. It was certainly curious that no one could actually pin down where he had died or been buried. The legend that sparked his curiosity the most was one involving Lafitte’s wife. It was said that she was Haitian, part black and a voodoo priestess. That would explain his darker complexion. It was said that Jean Lafitte had divine protection, he had not died in a sea battle but had lived out his life and raised a family in the Caribbean. Roy wanted to believe this, he really did. This was the story that his Father would have liked. Roy suddenly knew where he needed to go, New Orleans.

Madame Jubal went to the front of her shop and arranged the books in the window. Something was brewing today, she knew it. The clock on the wall chimed nine times. It was rare that she was up and about so early. The sunlight caught the steam rising from her tea as she stirred it with a cinnamon stick. “Lafitte we gettin’ company today,” the parrot blinked. “Company today,” he echoed, “company today”.