Parades are synonymous with New Orleans culture, and the celebration of Mardi Gras goes back centuries. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come from all over to line the streets of New Orleans. They’re captivated by the colorful and dazzling costumes, and the blaring sound of the marching band sets the rhythm in their heart ablaze. Laughter and singing fill the night sky, and beer cans and empty cups litter the ground. My favorite part of the parade is the floats because of the creativity that goes into them.
My family has been in the parade business for five generations. We specialize in costume design, and our work dates back to the late 1800s. My grandmother runs the family business, and she takes great pride in our work. According to her, our costumes help lost travelers find their way.
For as long as I can remember, it has always been my grandmother and me. I don’t have any memories of my parents, and every time I bring them up, my grandmother smiles and goes silent. But one evening, while we were eating dinner, my grandmother uttered something about my mother joining a parade and leaving when I was young.
Angry and confused the following day, I confronted my grandmother and demanded more information about my mother, but instead of revealing anything, she broke down emotionally. With her voice cracking and tears In her eyes, she told me my mother was forced to leave because of the family curse. According to my grandmother, one of my ancestors made a deal to escape slavery, and the conditions of that deal required sacrifices. The condition states that on the 21st birthday of the firstborn, they must join the reaper’s parade, or a suitable substitute can be taken in their place. Urban legend tells that the Reaper’s parade walks the streets of New Orleans collecting the souls of the dead. In addition, if the Grand Marshal catches you dancing to the music of the undead band, you become part of the parade.
Years go by, and the subject of the curse is never mentioned again, so I thought my grandmother was trying to scare me. But on my 21st birthday, in the middle of the night, we were both awaken by a hard knock at the door. I hurried downstairs to the door, and when I opened it, there were two prominent men with decomposing bodies standing there. Before I could react, my grandmother pulled me back into the house by my collar and yelled at the men that she was a suitable substitute. Without a moment’s hesitation, they took her and vanished Into the night.