Into the Zombie Underworld
Credit: Photograph by Ben Lowy

About a week after nadathe's burial, Madame Zicot received a message from her cousin, Madame Precieuse St. Louis. Madame Precieuse asked Madame Zicot to visit her in Carrefour Charles. Relations between the cousins were never close, and since Madame Zicot moved to Port-au-Prince they had grown only more distant – a wave as the autobus from Port-au-Prince rumbled through Carrefour Charles, or a few words now and again. But Madame Zicot knew that her cousin was a well-known mambo, or sorceress. It was said that Madame Precieuse could fly, and that she could transform herself into a bat, and that she could transform her enemies into animals as well. And, like Mano, she was dyab – a member of a secret society.

When Madame Zicot arrived at her cousin's trim little cottage on the side of the highway, Madame Precieuse wasn't there. Her husband, Fleuris St. Louis, a local politician, explained that his wife had gone to buy a pig to kill. Then finally she came home, a short, round, balding woman with the habit of lifting her shirt and displaying to all and sundry who visit her little house the hysterectomy scar cleaving her neatly in two.

The two women made the small talk of the bereft for a few minutes. Madame Precieuse saw Nadathe just a few days before she died, coming back from the market in Beaumont. Sharp-tongued as ever, the young woman had teased her mother's cousin: They were in the same family, Nadathe had said, but thank God Madame Precieuse was the only bald one!

Then, Madame Zicot later told me, Madame Precieuse got down to business:

First, she said, Nadathe was still alive. She had been zombified. But because she was so young, the secret societies that controlled zombification would not take her zombie into their ranks.

Madame Precieuse continued: If Madame Zicot wanted her daughter back, she was to pressure Mano, beat him if necessary, to convince him to give Nadathe back to her.

Madame Precieuse told Madame Zicot to treat what she told her with the utmost confidentiality.

Nothing in Madame Precieuse's words suggested to Madame Zicot that Nadathe might have been in her custody. So when Madame Zicot finally found Mano two months later and dragged him and his accomplice down to Judge Etienne's courtroom, doing just what her cousin suggested, pressuring him to release the zombie, and he finally confessed, nobody could have been more stunned than Madame Zicot to hear the claim that Madame Precieuse – her own cousin! – had the zombie in her possession all along.