Prologue

The Louisiana Bayou

The screams stretched out into the Louisiana night.

It was 1939 and in a small settlement in the bayou, a woman was giving birth. The birth was not to be an easy one. The woman was carrying twins and, as the first child started to  appear, it became obvious that she (for it would have been a girl) had been dead for some time. Revulsion and sorrow now began to mix with the pain that the mother was feeling. The mother knew that this was not an ordinary still-birth; she knew without seeing that the dead child was black as though burned, and as rigid as the fossilised wood that sometimes rose to the surface of the swamp. Now, however, she had a more immediate problem. The dead child was stuck. Some part of the corpse had stuck in the wall of her uterine canal. Not only was this preventing the egress of the dead girl but, if the blockage was not cleared, would cause the death of the other twin, her son.

The only other person present was Le Traiture. Although her Catholic faith would not normally have permitted a man to be present at a birth, the woman was Cajun and her faith in Le Traiteur was as great as her faith in the Virgin Mary. Le Traiteur reached forward to clear the birth canal.

Hail Mary, full of grace;
The Lord is with thee:
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour
of our …

… the rest was lost to the primal sound emanating from the woman as the fossilised arm ripped her inside.

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