After setting into their hotel accommodations in downtown New Orleans, Luther and Althea took a short ferry ride from the foot of Canal Street to Algiers Port. Among the shops and restaurants was a small corner house made in concrete block and stucco. A tattered sign hung above a corner storefront read “Luana’s Herbs and Divinities.”

Althea was attracted to a large glass cabinet in the store containing an array of ceramic figurines dressed in ornate dress with fancy headdresses looking like halos. A brown-skinned young girl that looked to be 15 came out of a red velvet curtain.

She leaned on the top counter of the long glass cabinet, where Althea raised up quickly to meet her face. “Oh, you caught me admiring the many figurines you have here. What are they?”

“They are called Divinities. Each one is a saint, like St. Lucy, St. Katherine, and so on. Many people buy them to decorate their homes, or these saints give them a strong feeling of godly protection,” the young girl explained with a noticeable accent.

Luther made his way to join his wife. “Hello, Miss. Is there a Luana Barba here?”

The teenager complied due to Luther’s authoritative way. She said, “Yes, I will get her. Can I have your name?”

“Yes, we are Luther and Althea from Indiana.”

A shorter woman, somewhat wrinkled on her face and neck, came out of the curtain. Her almond-shaped dark eyes penetrated them as she greeted them, “You two are the Midwesterners I spoke to via email over the last two weeks. Yes?”

“Yes, we came to Algiers specifically to talk to you about aswang,” Althea said.

Luana made jerky movements with her neck and hands, conveying to them that type of utterance might make the other customers quite nervous even enough to flee. “Join me behind this curtain. Now, the both of you!”

They followed the small woman to a spacious backroom, a combination sitting room and kitchen possessing a different look, run-down and not modern like the front room.

“You folks sit over there at the round table. I will be there to join you after I mix these herbs for a customer coming in soon,” Luana instructed.

Luana brought over a glass bottle the size of a medium saltshaker filled with a creamy liquid. Luther began their interview with a question, “Why is a shaman important where an aswang infiltrates a place?”

“Shamans are able to speak to spirit guides, and sometimes they act as mediums during pag-anite séance rituals. In modern Filipino society, you can see these shamans as folk healers, apothecaries about to address ailments, like I do here.”

“Luana, you have my complete experience on one of the emails I sent. What are you able to do for me? I’m plagued daily with the aftermath of what that creature did to me,” Althea said with tears in her eyes.

As Luana took Althea’s hands, she softly said, “With the both of you clearing your minds of any Western, Christian doctrine, I can communicate to a spirit guide. He or she will entreat for a healing.”

“Can you also give me a way to fight this evil?” Luther spoke up.

Luana got up, then turned off every overhead light. This backroom possessed no windows. There was only a small crack of subdued light from where the curtains met. She brought over a thick white lighted candle and placed it in the center of the table.

“Wrap your hands into each other’s arms. Concentrate on my every utterance with your eyes opened,” Luana told them.

She began chanting in a language they didn’t recognize. She sat silent for a few minutes; a pink light covered her face and neck. As she raised her voice, speaking against some sort of unfriendly entity, her face turned blood red.

Luther and Althea looked at each other with their eyes wide and full of terror. Luana called out a name five times. She clapped. She got up, then turned the lights back on. She came back to the table and took Althea’s hands again in hers.

“My fearful one, the creature who attacked you will not come back to you. For one reason, Althea: you fought back. This aswang left your city for a more Northern country. The only way the aswang will come back to your city if there is a family concern.”

Luther asked, confused, “What do you mean by a family concern?”

“This one comes from a powerful family in Indiana. Her connection will make her become compromised. If matters get to a place where Detective Charles, you have to go against her, I have something for you.” Luana passed him the bottle she sat down with. “What is in this jar is a mixture of ground mandrake root and bull semen that will render her powerless for a short time. I stress: only a short time.”

Althea spoke up, “Luther and his partner will want to pressure the law enforcement envelope to take the creature in rather than kill it.”

“If that is the case, the aswang needs to be strung up from a high place and beat from the back many times until it spews out what we call ‘the chick,’” Luana said, handing the jar to Luther.

On the plane trip back to Indianapolis International Airport, both Luther and Althea were dumbfounded about their findings from Luana. Over two white wines, Luther told his fiancé, “Imagine me and Glenda, veteran police who have been trained for zero tolerance on police brutality, to volunteer to beat a suspect almost to death until they cough up some kind of fantasy chick living in their body since adolescence.”


For all installments from The Islands Tell of It, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: The First Victim
  2. Chapter 2: Four Months Before October
  3. Chapter 3: Bobber’s Café
  4. Chapter 4: Heat Wave
  5. Chapter 5: Deep-End Dining
  6. Chapter 6: Rathbone Estate
  7. Chapter 7: Althea’s Run
  8. Chapter 8: Emergency Interrupts
  9. Chapter 9: Girls Talk Turkey
  10. Chapter 10: There Came a Lull
  11. Chapter 11: Dangerous Mind