strength in death
Feels like I'm falling, into a world, Into a world I can't control

The need to get home had been a strong one. After everything going on in the last few days she knew she had to get to somewhere, to someone who might be able to make sense of it. She'd spoken to someone in Boston and while the woman was understanding, at some point Elena was sure she was giving off the crazy vibe so strongly that even this nice lady wasn't going to believe her any longer. She couldn't say she blamed her, it was crazy. It was difficult, it wasn't something that normal people went through. None of it was.

I hear it calling, Down in my soul, Gripping my bones, It won't let go

After arriving, greeting her father and getting something to eat, Elena set off on her own. She knew that Ana would come with her, or even one of her siblings would if she asked them to. But she felt like this was something she had to do on her own. She had to talk to someone, someone who would be able to tell her what was going on. She didn't know the people in Salem to trust that any of them truly believed what she would say. It might all be touristy crap these days, much like a lot of New Orleans was. She knew the tourist shops in the Quarter, the places that out of towners went when they wanted a reading, or to feel like they connected with great aunt Milly, but she wanted real. Or as real as she could find. She wanted the person who was going to talk to her like she wasn't just a dollar sign. As she passed the St. Louis Cemetery 2 in Treme, she could feel it. She'd always felt like it felt different than the rest of the city, but today was even different. Today it was like the dead were right there, waiting for her to acknowledge them and that was an eerie feeling.

Wake me up, Won't you wake me up?, Caught in a bad dream

She finally found herself in Treme, where she knew she would find the woman she was looking for. She had two real options, one in Treme and one in Algiers, but she didn't really want to go all the way to Algiers. She hated crossing the river if she could help it. But she'd start here. She'd start with a woman she hadn't seen in years, but she'd always been fond of and held a facination for. A woman who always just seemed to know what was going on. Maybe she would this time as well, she hoped so. She needed her to know. She stopped out front of the door to the shop, it was brown and glass, nondescript in and of itself. If you knew where to go, you'd find Miss Sophie, if you didn't you'd pass by and think it was just some closed up place that no one thought about anymore. She knew better. She knew that when she pushed the door open she'd smell the sage. She stepped up to the door, press forward and walked in. She felt the change in the air as soon as she entered.

Wake me up, I wanna feel the sun, Caught in a bad dream

Miss Sophie was probably in her seventies at this point, but she'd always looked the same to Elena. Her dark skin and dark hair flawless with lines around her eyes. Lines that told you she was older, but also that she'd seen the world and knew what it really held. "What can I do for...Lena?" The woman's eyes lit up with recognition when she saw the young woman who had come into her shop many days every summer asking a million in five questions. Wanting to know everything about what Miss Sophie did for a living, who she was as a person.

"Hi, Miss Sophie."

Coming from behind the counter, the older woman wrapped the younger up in her arms and gave Elena and strong hug. No one would think this lady was old and frail. She was as spry as they came. "Let me look at you child. You're all grown up!" She frowned as she took in the girl in front of her and tilted her head, "something troubles you. You aren't here to visit with an old woman are you?"

"You aren't old Miss Sophie." It was the only thing Elena could think to say, the woman wasn't wrong. She knew Elena well enough over the years to know when she wanted something and when she needed something.

"Hush with that. Out with it child, what's on your mind?"

"Can we sit?"

Miss Sophie looked Elena over and then nodded, motioning to a curtain, "go make yourself comfortable. I'll bring some tea, and the bag. You can tell me what is going on, or I can let the bones tell me."

Elena didn't waste anytime as she made her way through the store. She loved everything about it. The smells of the herbs, the colors of the candles, the way the light filtered through the dusty windows. She pushed the dark purple curtain aside enough to slip into the room where Miss Sophie talked to people and smiled at the table. The pillows on the floor where she'd sat many a time over the years. She settled into a chair and waited. Looking around as she had. Nothing had changed, not really.

Feels like I'm frozen, Nowhere to run, nowhere to run from here

Miss Sophie took her seat across the small table from Elena. Setting the tea down, "You know what to do with the tea," a reminder that Elena was to drink it, dump the leaves and give it to Miss Sophie. Elena smiled as she began to sip her tea. Perfect as ever. "Now, do you want to tell me what's going on or do you want me to see if the bones tell me anything?" the woman asked as she dumped the pouch of old bones on the table.

Elena reached forward and picked up one of the bones, she frowned as she looked at it, "Is this a human bone?" she always assumed they were animal bones. Wheren't they meant to be animal bones?

Blinking at the bone in the girl's hand and then to the girl, "do you know that because of your education or because of how it feels?"

"How it feels. It's too small to really figure it by looking. It just feels, human. Like," she frowned and looked at Miss Sophie, "it's old but human. I thought all the bones were like chicken or squirrel or something."

"The bones for the tourists are chicken. The bones for the people who want real answers are human. Old, two centuries or more. Mine, they are bones that were passed down since the casket girls came to New Orleans. Three hundred years give or take. But I want to know what made you feel they were human."

Elena didn't know how to answer it. "I don't know, just the feel."

"The feel on your finger tips or the feel in your soul?"

That made the girl stop. She thought for a moment and then looked at the woman across from her, "my soul. I just knew they weren't animal. They were human. How could I know that?"

"I think that's why you are here isn't it? Tell me what has been going on in your life recently, Lena. What has you down here, sitting across from me and feeling my bones. Why are you here for help and not to catch up on old times."

Feels like I'm falling, into a world, I can't control

Elena was silent for a moment or three. Processing everything in her head. She knew Miss Sophie wouldn't rush her, she also knew that the woman wouldn't call her crazy. This was a woman who knew things, who understood things. This was a woman who always saw what others couldn't. "The other day, at work I guess is where it started. I saw a man in the doorway, and then he vanished. I wasn't really worried, I know spirits are everywhere. You taught me that. Living here taught me that. What startled me was when I went down to the morgue, the man in the doorway was the man about to be cut into."

"And you've never seen a spirit that matched the body you were looking at?"

Shaking her head, "Not even when I worked with Miss Jane-Anne at the funeral home. I'd hear things, I'd feel the corpse twitch with the last remnints of whatever their bodies would do in death. But I never saw one of their spirits."

"How long was the man dead before he was in the morgue?"

"I think that day. Which didn't surprise me as much, I've always heard it can take up to three days for a spirit to fully leave their body. I just figured that's what that was. And I've been planning to come down here for two weeks with Ana, so I just figured my mind was more open to everything. I'm always more open here than I am in Boston."

"Go on," the woman knew there was more and she was patient, always willing to wait for the person to continue.

"I'm a klutz we all know this." Which brought a slight chuckle from the older woman and a wave of the hand to continue, "well I tripped on nothing and when I went to grab the table, I accidently grabbed the body, his arm. I've touched the dead, they are ice cold. But he wasn't, Miss Sophie. He was warm to the touch. As warm as you and I sitting here. Maybe more like when you are asleep, when your body cools a bit but you are still warm. But he was warm. He felt alive. I knew he was dead. He wouldn't be in there if he was alive. He wasn't breathing, but he was there. I could feel it. Like he was in there aware of what was happening. Like he would know when the doctor cut into him. I begged him to go. To leave his body. It was the strangest feeling, like if I willed him away, if I prayed hard enough he'd leave and move on. And from one moment to the next, it was like he vanished. His body was ice cold, the life felt gone."

The woman was silent for a moment, thinking on what was said, "You have always had an affinity for the dead. Elena, you've told me for years you feel the spirits at Lafayette, you feel the anger in some and the peace in others. This doesn't surprise me. You haven't been down here in long enough that your spirit misses it. You've always been sensitive to those who are departed. Even at the funeral home, you'd come in here and say you had to shift someone because it just felt like they were uncomfortable." She tilted her head, her eyes taking in the woman and she pursed her lips, "this isn't why you came. Something else happened. Something else made you need to see me. What haven't you told me?"

I hear it calling, Down in my soul, Gripping my bones

Elena came to see this woman for this reason. She knew that Miss Sophie would see through her, would be able to know there was more. She would listen and she would help. She had to be able to help. Elena needed her to help. She bit her lip trying to formulate what she wanted to say. "The other night when I got home from work it was late, dark and cold. I got out of the car, and as I'm standing there puffing out clouds of air, I see this beautiful bird in a tree, a raven. I don't know why it was out, it was too cold, but there it was. So I told him to go, he was going to freeze if he stayed out all night. I went inside, stayed up a bit, just watching the city sleep and then went to bed. When I got up the next morning, the curtain was still back at the balcony door. As I walked by, I saw this lump in the cold, a black ball of feathers. I grabbed a towel off the counter and opened the door. I had hope that it would be alive, but I knew it wasn't. It was frozen solid, the eyes were grey and cloudy. As I'm holding it and gently petting it's head, I felt bad that it died alone, I get the same feeling I had about the man. Where if I will it hard enough what I want will happen. So there I am, telling this bird that he shouldn't be dead, but he should be alive and fly free. And he blinks, ruffles his feathers, squawk and flies off." She sighed, "I called off work, made sure Ana and I were still coming here and refused to leave the house after that."

Miss Sophie was silent, she was listening and processing. She was a woman of the ancestors, of the land. She believed in spirits and magic. She knew she could read a person based on the bones in front of the pair of them. She looked down at the bones and then back to Elena, "You can feel the dead. That's how you knew the bones were a human. You felt it. You felt the death in them." It wasn't a question, it was a fact. She reached out and touched the same bone that Elena had been holding onto and rolled it around her fingers. She let the world talk to her, the spirits she felt connection to. "Death surrounds you Elena. I don't see death around you like someone close to you will die. But I see death around you. Embracing you."

"What does that even mean?" Elena was exhausted, tired beyond reason. She didn't know what to do or say. She just wanted this to be over.

"I think it means that whatever brought you to death as a child is bringing itself to the fore front as an adult. You always felt most at ease around the dead. You played in the cemeteries when your parents would let you. You saw here with me, asking about spirits, wanting to know why the ghost won't leave La Laurie's house. You asked if Marie Laveau was truly happy with what her family had become. You always felt what was there, this is just more. Amplified. Have you spoken to anyone about it?"

Elena shrugged some, "A couple people back home. They both said weird things happen around town and that they wouldn't judge, but neither one has seen any of this. This is new to them." That alone was scary for Elena, people who swore they saw odd things, and they didn't have this going for them.

"I don't know, Lena. I don't have the answer that you want. I can't tell you what it is, or why. But what I can tell you, and I need you to remember is that there is strength in death. All things must die and be reborn. You are sitting here, in front of me, with some new ability to both set the dead free and bring them back to life. A true life. That is a power that I haven't seen. It's not something I'd share with a lot of people either. You aren't going to be believed. Keep those you trust with it close and few. Do you understand me?"

Nodding some, she sighed, "yeah, I do. Don't say anything because people will think I need to be commited."

"But take the time to figure it out. Learn about what you can do and grow it if you can. You were given a gift. Don't let it go to waste."

"Thanks Miss Sophie." She moved to get up. She needed to get some air.

"Elena," she started as Elena stilled and turned back. "Becareful what you bring back. Death is meant to be final. We are all meant to die. If you bring something back, it might not be what you think it is."

Feels like I'm frozen, Nowhere to run

Elena didn't stay much longer. She needed time to think. Miss Sophie called it a gift. Lola said a gift or a curse. Maybe it was truly a gift. Elena also had to remember the words currently milling around her head, death is meant to be final did that mean something could come back broken? Did she want to find out?