“Suddenly, the moral instinct alone does not answer. You are on your own, trying to find direction in a world, in which, there are no marked paths. You are sitting across from pure evil. What do you do now?” -United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan; Time Magazine, September four, two thousand.
A few miles south of a little town called Krotz Springs, just off J.P. Oil Road and in the middle of nowhere, there was a small, wood-framed building. Erected by pockets of the faithful poor living in Saint Landry Parish, the church stood alone on a dead-end dirt track under the shade of oak, beech and pine trees.
There was a path of crushed stone winding to the front door. The walkway was shadowed by magnolias, the age-old trees spreading their branches like gnarled, arthritic fingers and for no apparent reason, this building held sway on three acres of patchy lawn. Like a moat, the dying grass held the forest at bay, keeping out the wild.
On one side of this old, tired structure was a vibrant flowerbed, thick with red roses and violets and lilies and tulips. This fit of color against an otherwise black on white image of forest was unexpected, like sudden sight to those born blind.
But some creatures---one in particular, reveled in the discordant energy between black and white and these Louisiana flowers.
Coiled in the flowerbed, a brown and orange corn snake warmed itself in the morning sun. Within this natural setting but out of step with the rhythm of nature, an old woman walked. She exited the back door of the deteriorating church and drifted across the lawn, moving toward the forest. The late afternoon sun dappled her milky skin, marking a contrast against her dark, red lips.
Despite the ninety degree heat, as if she were cold, the old woman pulled at the edge of a rotting linen shawl, draping it more fully over her shoulders. She considered the idea of body temperature, thought about how frozen might feel, then tugged at the wrap once more and wondered what it was like to breathe.
As the woman reached the forest periphery, she turned and looked back at the corn snake. She frowned, it was a disappointment. What about the cottonmouth, where was that old demon?
The woman shut her eyes and pretended to inhale. She pretended to hold air in her lungs, pretended to exhale. Arching her back, she faced the lazy, blue sky and started to rise.
Heels first then toes, the old hag lifted upward, cutting the ties of gravity. As terra firma slipped away, she rose above the treetops and drifted south, then east then farther south. Soon, she passed over the section of forest that would eventually be split in two by Interstate Ten. She looked toward Baton Rouge, in her mind she saw tall buildings stabbing at the sky, imagined the river city as if it were tethered to a someday strip of concrete.