This story is by Nick Stals and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Blare! Blare! Blare! My hand instinctively smacked the alarm clock. One eye confirmed the start of my daily 8am nightmare. I groaned and fought to keep my eyes open. The motions of my morning routine passed before me like I was a robot at a production line. Get up, shower, toast, dress, phone, bike. I left the house in a bubble of my music and drowsiness. I cycled into the park shortcut which lead to the French Quarter. I steered around the fountain and in a split second saw a dark-skinned woman with a bundle of long dreadlocks step in front of me. I swerved and hit the side of the fountain. I tumbled into the water and rose up dripping. An old lady feeding the pigeons looked my way.
“Are you alright?” Her voice croaked.
“Yes, yes. Did you see that woman? The dark woman?”
“There’s nobody else here, son,” she said incredulously.
The park was deserted. I picked my phone out of the fountain and sighed at the unresponsive black screen. I couldn’t afford to go home and change. Nigel, my boss, was looking for excuses to keep me away from his manager position. I continued to the office wet and freezing. With several minutes to spare, I rushed into a bathroom stall and used a roll of toilet paper to dry my clothes. I was at my computer just in time and put my headset on. There was no instant caller connection and I was glad to have peace. Claire popped her head around her cubicle.
“What happened to you?”
“Some woman jumped in front of me and I took a fall straight into a fountain.”
She mouthed a silent ‘wow’ and disappeared with her well-trained call script. I received my own call and forgot about everything else. Halfway through the call I looked up and saw the dark woman walking through the aisle, dark eyes on me and a mischievous grin.
“Please hold,” I said ignoring the customer’s objections. I checked to see if Claire was in a call.
“Hey, do you see that woman?”
“What woman?” She said and looked.
“The dark one.”
She shook her head and sat down for her next call. The dark woman turned to my cubicle. I sank into my chair and watched her approach. She had dark freckles and her clothes looked like something out of New Orleans’ many vintage shops. The beads around her neck nestled themselves between her bosom. I saw something leathery wrapped around her arm and noticed all too sudden that it was a snake. I gasped and froze in my seat.
“Who are you?” I exhaled.
“Ma name is Mami,” she said and bent forward seductively with that grin still curled into her full lips. “I am here for you, chèr. Do you want to be rich?”
Her Creole dialect was thick. The snake hissed and inched forward. Its cold leathery hide slithered across my neck and down my back. I closed my eyes and felt it slide down like a cold sweat.
I snapped my eyes open and stared directly into Nigel’s wide eyes. I didn’t feel the snake anymore and I clasped my hands at my shirt to confirm this with a sigh of relief.
“You’ve been on hold for three minutes!” He shouted. “Why are your clothes wet? You’re ruining the carpet. Are you a dog? Get back to your call!”
I turned around and took my customer off hold. I had to tell her that her card was declined because of late payments. The whole phone call turned into a stalemate where she was trying to shout as much as possible and I was supposed to be polite. I finished the call with a sigh.
“Come on, boy,” her silky voice was behind me, “don’t you want to be rich?”
I turned around again. The dark woman was leaning forward and stroked my arm gently.
“Make me rich?” I whispered out of fear that people would think I had snapped from this torture cubicle. “How? Why?”
“I can do it,” she said as her fingers slid up to my shoulder. Her face was an inch away from mine. “All you have to do is promise yourself to me.”
“Won’t you be ma lover?” She rolled the last ‘r’ for at least a second. I felt myself leaning forward but she laughed and turned away. I watched her swaying hips until Claire popped in front of the view.
“Hey, did you hear about Nigel?” She whispered. “He’s getting fired.”
“I was in line for that position months ago.”
Claire nodded and returned to work. I left for the bathroom and when I opened the bathroom stall door, I looked straight at the snake. I lunged back and someone just leaving gave me a curious look. Mami stood with one leg raised on the toilet seat. I entered the stall and locked it.
“What’s going on?” I whispered.
“I got him fired. You can be da manager.”
“And then what?”
“Today a manager,” she grabbed my hand and trailed it up her leg, “tomorrow a president.”
“You can do that for me?”
“Yes,” she hissed and pulled my hand up under her skirt. “I want you.”
I swallowed a lump as I felt the warmth between her legs. I stammered, “here?”
“Promise me dat I am the only one for you or so help me I will curse you.”
I nodded, “I promise.”
She grabbed my neck and pulled me in for a kiss. I closed my eyes and grabbed my pillow tight. Blare! Blare! Blare! I startled and hit the button on my alarm clock. I sat up dazed and looked as the time said nine minutes past 8am.
“No,” I groaned, “Nigel’s going to kill me.”