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Unis and the Curse



     Written by Claire Jones 
     Illustrated by Dani Hart 

     Est. Reading Time: 14 min 




Dealing with my past is just too traumatic.  Most of the time when recalling memories I go to my safe place; a place deep within my being where no one can see, hurt or harm me; a place, which is separate from this vessel of flesh and blood I sometimes occupy.

Unis MonteClaire

Unis Hope MonteClaire came from a history of broken homes. She knew little about her father's side of the family. Her mother and great-great-grandmothers from her mother's side, and even further back, were all capable, hardworking women who raised their children alone.

They were reliable, loyal, and trustworthy women who strove to pass on the same traits to their offspring. The MonteClaire women were unable to maintain relationships with their male lovers. They came to believe, as time went on, that a curse was on them. This story disseminated throughout the generations. The bizarre situation came to be known among the female progeny as the 'MonteClaire Hex.' Because of this history, Unis walked between the shadow and the light, often landing in situations that were difficult to the 'ordinary' individual. Such an incident occurred when she came across a dark stranger on a busy New York street, creating such a calamity in her life; she was lucky she made it out alive.

One evening, after work, Unis took a detour. Instead of catching the familiar A train to her boyfriend Red's apartment, she walked downtown to Tower Records in the East Village.

She was a devout Buddhist but had not chanted in weeks. The Mandela was not up on the wall since Red had refused to have it in his space. The precious scroll lay tightly wrapped in colorful, red, silk at the bottom of one of her cheap suitcases way in the back of her closet. A metaphor for what her life had become.

What little light was once in her life had been absorbed by shadow, and for some reason, she found it hard to be retrieved.

Outside of the record store is where Unis met him.

The man in question was tall and jet-black: black with a tinge of navy blue. The man stood outside Tower Records selling Italian ices one hot summer afternoon in late August 1992. Unis was inexplicably drawn to him--- intensely so. Her feet carried her over to his small, white, rainbow-umbrella-shaded cart even as her mind urged caution. Though Unis hated Italian ices, she soon cradled a bright red icy in her nervous grasp, and the two were quickly profoundly engrossed in conversation. Surrounded by the activity of a busy East Village Street littered with cars and psychedelic people, the two were only aware of each other.

Suspended together in the middle of Broadway's smog and fumes, they talked about Tarot cards and seeing spirits. Tarot cards were a topic about which she did not know but had curiosity and interest. The man told her the spirits were always around: around even as he spoke. Spirits who could not find their way home; spirits who remained restless and homeless on a plane of consciousness no longer theirs; spirits who had heads; spirits who had none; spirits who walked among "us," he said.

The bizarre stranger continued to speak of the Tarot and the significance of its powers in protecting and helping to seek and find answers. Unis left his presence dazed, holding his number as well as an icy she did not want. She walked away from his jet-black company with a promise to call and schedule a reading.

Later she realized she had his number but had forgotten to ask his name.

Unis finally found out his name, but because of his complexion, she secretly preferred to refer to him as 'Jet Black.' After communicating with her for one week, Jet Black promised to help find her luck. He gave her brief directions to his home, telling her to meet him on a Friday night close to midnight.

At the appointed time, Unis stood in his Bronx apartment. A set of clean clothes were packed into her L.L Bean backpack to bring. In the distance, she heard a clock strike midnight.

Surrounded by altars covered with bottles of all shapes and sizes, of candles, multi-colored cloths, crucifixes, and pictures of the Virgin Mary, Unis stood.

The room was dark, a darkness that was heavy and moist with mildew. The smell reminded Unis of wet, dirty, old clothes—still she stood.

Unis watched as he made his way into a back room. He began to make a concoction in a large, well-used aluminum pot over a shiny, white, stove, with bright, black, burners. Without turning from the task, his hushed tones fell into the otherwise silent room, telling Unis to take her coat off.

In a trance-like state, not moving from the spot where her feet seemed to be firmly rooted, she complied. Finally deciding to disengage her feet from the dirt-streaked floor Unis wandered coatless and cautious across to the altar area. Standing amidst the morbid medley of colors, textures, and exciting shapes, she slowly spun in circles, obviously overwhelmed by what she saw before her.

Looking around the room, Unis saw the windows covered with dirty off-white sheets. Hearing a rustling sound behind her, she turned to see Jet Black walking into the dim room. He carried a white enamel basin, which he placed at her feet. The enamel receptacle contained a liquid that gave off an unfamiliar odor, but not an unpleasant one. Jet Black indicated she should stand in the liquid fully clothed—so she stood.

Kneeling in front of the slightly trembling girl, he began to bathe her from her feet up. His hands moved methodically, so did his lips, as he chanted in a garble of unfamiliar words. He rubbed green foliage from the weird concoction in the basin up and down her body; he took a cup and poured the liquid in the pan from Unis' head to her toes; he cupped the mixture in his hands rubbing her feet and her hands—still she stood.

Next, as she stood in the basin, he cut her clothes away from her brown body—the garbled chant falling even faster from his purple-black lips. Eventually, Unis stood naked and trembling in the drafty room. Her peculiar companion then placed her slimy clothes in a black plastic 'glad' garbage bag saying, "dese fuh de crossroads."

All of a sudden, without her noticing it, he was standing next to her, tall, jet black, and naked, his 'jet black' penis elongated and erect. A little taken aback but feeling slightly intoxicated from his loud chanting, the overwhelmed young woman remained standing.

The room seemed to spin and reverberate as the strange and unusual chant increased. Unis felt an inexplicable presence in the room but saw no physical manifestation of it.

Walking around her, he chanted; standing in front of her, he chanted, stooping to her feet he chanted. Then just as abruptly as Jet Black started, he stopped.

He took two white chicken eggs, it seemed from midair, and rubbed them up and down Unis' prickly goose-bumpy flesh. When done, Jet Black told her to step out of the basin. Next, he threw some sweet-smelling oil along with a lighted match into another enamel basin, and then told her to "jump ovuh de fyuh." After much persuasion, the frightened, trembling young woman obliged. Once Unis conceded, he told her she had just "jump ovuh" all of her obstacles and "tings gine change."

As the extraordinary ceremony went on, the man cut Unis' fingernails; he cut her toenails; he cut the ends of her lovely jet-black dreadlocks. Then searing her with his burning red gaze, he proceeded to wrap all of his accruements in plastic wrap. Jet Black placed all of his space-age looking bundles beneath a white candle which stood in a container of oil. He turned to Unis saying, 'dese mus' burn fuh seven days and seven nights,' he pronounced, 'tings gine change fuh yuh.'

His next request to have sex with her yanked the young woman to her senses. Adamantly she said, "NO!!" leaving the apartment soon afterward in a mad dash. As she frantically approached the front door, Jet Black flicked a worn, leather whip behind her. He told her it was to keep the 'bad luck spirit' tamed and in the house. As she stepped out into the quiet summer air, she realized it was morning.

Exhausted, Unis had just spent a whole night trying to change her luck.

'Now doan fuhget to cume fuh bac' fuh de bath uh beauty,' said Jet Black.

Still, in a trance-like state dressed in her clean clothes, Unis nodded her head, stepping into the light of a Saturday morning in Brooklyn. She had no idea how she had changed into the clean clothes from her purple L.L Bean backpack.


****


FOUR MONTHS LATER, UNIS FOUND HERSELF ON THE STREET CORNER NEAR HER NEW HOME IN BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, A BRIGHTLY COLORED WINTER JACKET OF YELLOW WITH SLASHES OF BURGUNDY-RUST TRAILING BEHIND HER. THE TEMPERATURE WAS WELL BELOW 30 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT, BUT SHE COULD NOT FEEL A THING.


****


This moment preceded the surreal events connected to her eerie meeting with Jet Black and the bizarre ritual he had conducted at his apartment in 1992. Unis continued to feel the negative ripples from what he had done that night through the holidays of 1992 into January of the following year.

Bending in half, hands on knees, she tried to catch her breath. At that moment, Unis realized she was carrying the multi-colored jacket instead of wearing it. She immediately felt the chill of the January evening air slam into her already traumatized spirit, jolting it back into her lifeless body. Her dreadlocked hair a few hours before ebony-black now partially gray and standing on end.

Unis saw a street sign across and above her, the dull yellow of a streetlight eerily illuminating it. She could not believe she had run full tilt for ten blocks anticipating the safety of her quiet, well-lit street. With icy and unsteady hands, she threw the brightly colored jacket across her shoulders, looked both ways, and crossed the road.

The events of that fateful night spent in Jet Black apartment had set off an unfortunate set of circumstances, which had caused her life to deteriorate. Her stomach waxed bigger, and she lost unusual amounts of blood as time went on. Unis realized there was a problem because the bleeding was unlike an average menstrual period. Day by day, she grew weaker and paler. In the meantime, Jet Black asked for $500.00 for his services. Afraid of what he might do to her if she decided to pay, Unis asked no questions working hard to pay him off. After Unis told him of her predicament with the swelling and bleeding, he said to her that a beauty bath would solve her dilemma.

A short time after her conversation with Jet Black, Unis, swollen and frantic, returned to his dank apartment. She was unsure if it was the right thing to do but did not know where else to turn. Once inside, he led her to his bedroom. He told her the only way to cure her was by having sexual intercourse with him. Feeling the same inexplicable presence in the room from her visit before, Unis bravely refused again, stumbling back out into the streets, vowing never to return.

A few days later, she met Madame Zadorra, a transwoman who performed the cleansing.

"MADAME ZADORRAS: SPIRITUAL READINGS AND HEALINGS ONE FLIGHT UP"

The sign mysteriously appeared one day out of nowhere on her way to catch the bus to work. Unis had passed the brownstone many times before but had never paid much attention to its unattractive front. But one Monday morning for no apparent reason, she looked up as she passed the reddish-brown structure. One day later, Unis found herself standing in the middle of a cluttered living room, not quite remembering how she got there.

The room was adorned with crystal balls of all sizes and bathed in translucent white light. Small amounts of incense burned in small containers, leaving fragrant smells in the air even as white lacey curtains flowed in a breeze coming through opened windows. A plump flamboyant transwoman sat amidst a discordant visual display of multi-colored cushions adorned in a robe of ivory silk.

She looked up and said to Unis, "you are dying, who did this to you? Why did you let him?" Taken aback, Unis did not answer. Instead, she fell amid the cushions and burst into tears.

Realizing she was in the presence of a healing power Unis allowed the colorful woman to tell her what she had just seen. The healer said to a perplexed Unis that there was evil growing in her stomach. She told Unis about the evil man who put it there, about a curse placed on her family by two women and a man many years ago, about the blood she was losing and the pain she was in on every level.

Once more for good measure, the woman, china-blue eyes piercing the girl's essence, told Unis she was dying. They asked why she had allowed such an evil person to take her light and, in the same breath, said, "never to let go of her faith again."

After admonishing Unis a few more times she told her to, "go home, take two white chicken eggs, roll them up and down your stomach and you will see the evil" she continued, "put the eggs in a tightly closed brown paper bag and come see me again in six days." Scared but resolved to follow through, Unis agreed to follow the instructions.

The frightened girl had no idea how she was going to make it through the next few days. At night she laid in her bed too afraid to go to sleep. There seemed to be an unseen presence in her room, watching her every move. Unis put up her alter and chanted for protection as much as she could. She finally acknowledged chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo was the only way to save her life. The dreams continued but with a new addition. Every night after she came out of the original dream exhausted and terrified, Unis tried to lie in bed to stay awake until daybreak. But inevitably, the traumatized woman fell back into a deep sleep.

From out of nowhere, Unis was attacked in her sleep by a malevolent, unseen, massive animal. She felt the creature's invisible weight on top of her body: she even felt its sharp claws scratching at her flesh. The animal felt like a huge cat, and she could even smell its fetid breath and feel its bony frame as she struggled to ward off the vicious onslaught.

Eventually, after what seemed like forever, the stealthy creature left. Unis screamed her head off, calling for help, but no one seemed to hear. She had only screamed in her sleep. The terrible tryst went on for five nights. By the time the sixth day dawned, the day of her visit to the healer, Unis was exhausted but determined, through chanting,  to overcome whatever was haunting her life.

Unis arrived at the healer's door on time, her arms and legs scratched from her unworldly visitor's visits. Extremely bloated and sore, Unis stepped into the crystal-ball-white light carrying the two white chicken eggs in a brown paper bag. The healer told Unis her aura was darker than ever, and they needed to work fast. Leading the way she took the wobbling girl to a room closing the door behind them.

"Did you follow my instructions, did you see the evil?" she asked Unis, petrified. As she looked around the unpainted room, Unis nodded 'yes' and 'no' in the order the questions were asked, not mentioning the invisible cat-creature.

Two straight-backed wooden chairs stood in the middle of the room facing each other. The healer sat down in one of the chairs, motioning to Unis to sit in the other. "Are you ready?" she asked. Unis shook her head, saying a quiet trebly 'yes.' In one fluid movement, the plump woman took the bag from Unis' damp hands. Wasting no time, she smashed it into a saucer, which sat on the wooden floor between the two chairs.

Unis' stomach immediately deflated as she started to shake all over. The healer motioned her to look down at the saucer. Frightened out of her skin Unis complied. Amidst the broken eggshells was a stiff albino colored alien-looking snake-like creature, about six inches long.

Hours later, standing beneath the yellow oblong orb of the streetlight not far from her house with her vibrant jacket across her stiff and weary shoulders, Unis shook her frozen now tinged-with-silver dreadlocks as if to clear her head. She suddenly realized she was still standing on the street corner cold and in shock.

Coming out of her reverie, she looked around, and she had no idea how much time had passed. The dazed young woman had no memory of how she had made it to the street corner, her jacket dragging in the dirty snow. One clear recollection she had was of the healer's voice hastily ordering her to get out of the unpainted room after the alien-looking creature had come out. She ordered Unis never to look back.

Unis, relieved, entered her apartment's front entrance, she lightly caressed her unusually quiet stomach, which was flat and hard.

A few days later, she called Jet Black, but before she could utter a sound, he asked, “Wha' yuh gone an' do?” Unis quietly put the phone down and walked away. There was no need for an answer.


 


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Published October 17, 2020
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.





Author’s Bio
Claire Jones is an ambivert and a practicing Buddhist of 30 years. Her mission is to help marginalized women, like herself, to self-actualize and to spread her message of self-healing, love and light through writing and art. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College as a Frances Perkins Scholar in 1999 at age 36. Currently, she is working on her self-help/art book ClarityIsJustSoHip! and her memoir Sista Survivor: An Immigrant's Spiritual Journey to Legitimacy.
︎linktr.ee/clarityjloveandlight


Artist’s Bio
Dani Hart is an illustrator and designer residing in Dallas, Texas. She uses a bold colors and simple shapes to create dynamic artworks.
︎ @itsdanihart  ︎www.itsdanihart.com




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