Photo courtesy of Ashwin Rao (via The Angry Hourglass)
The Crescent Quarters
They will take you to the Crescent Quarters on dark, moonless nights, if you know where to find them. That is Test One. Do you see them yet? Those shadow silhouettes with painted faces, casting themselves as chameleon; as tricks of the light? They are there to locate, once you know how; in the hidden spaces. Once spotted, they show themselves immediately to the sharp eyed. Such is the bargain they made, though no one knows with who or how it was arrived at. The details remain shrouded; lost in time’s passing. Perhaps they too will be rediscovered, though not today; not by you. They are not your task. You are already upon it.
Will you take them by the hand, to let them lead you where they will? That is Test Two, though none can say whether yes or no means pass or fail. All stay silent on that score. The decision is yours alone for the making. You have taken it already.
The way lies above ground, through the Long Ages; that you gather, as the white gloved hand leads on and into the dark. You fancy their cries beat upon you, as the long, carved staff hits the ground; it’s constant click the audible companion to your own footsteps. Your guide keeps his counsel, face forwards, dark eyes averted. What do you hear? What calls to you? Is it the jolt towards justice? The sound of sympathy? What do you feel stir beneath your bones? Is it the burn of revenge? That is Test Three. Multiple choice. You have your answer ready.
The top hat bobs beside you, leading you further in. Deeper; still deeper. The shaded city is side to side now, its buildings all around you; its shadows upon you. You hear them now, around you. The souls stirring to meet you. They hear you breathe; feel your heat amidst their chill.
Your heart jolts as you realise it is you and them now. Your guide has stolen silent from the scene, somehow; somewhere. Now you have no choice. You must find your own way back or remain amongst them. It is your final test.
For some reason this picture prompt started me thinking about New Orleans and tours of the Quarter, which led me eventually to this little tale. I might even try to expand on it, time allowing...