Investigating the Haitian Zombie - VICE - 5 of 6


Uploaded by vice on Jan 25, 2012

Transcript:
[MUSIC PLAYING]

HAMILTON: That morning, I wake to find a gaping burn in my
forearm, oozing a purulent gleet.
I stir and begin to vomit, begging for an antidote.
I find Jean-Claude sitting next to me.
And he encourages me to remember that the
antidote is my mind.

Alex knows a Bokor, who knows a Bokor, who knows a Bokor in
Artibonite So we drive for many hours, until the road
disintegrates and the wheels of our Mitsubishi Montero will
turn no more.

The peristyle is located over five miles
from the nearest road.
And we cross the path in the midday sun without water, each
step bringing me closer to heat stroke,
collapse, and death.

The ground is still wet from the previous night's rain and
the air vibrates with bloodthirsty insects.
Alex tells me that this region is notorious for the use and
sale of zombie slaves, and that the Bokor we have come to
visit might even keep some in his rice fields.

After hours of walking, I enter the Bokor's peristyle,
surrounded by goats, mango trees, and a
fence of living cacti.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]
HAMILTON: I am introduced to the Bokor, Crescent.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]
HAMILTON: Unlike the last Bokor, Crescent carries
himself with total confidence, like he has nothing to prove.
He's laid-back and looks at me in such a way as to suggest
not only that he knows, but that he knows I know he knows.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: Could I see the bottle?
ALEX: Not the powder, the bottle, right?
HAMILTON: Yeah.

I hold the glass bottle with no more than 300 milligrams of
beige powder.
It's impossible to say anything about its potency or
authenticity just from looking at it.
But it's still exhilarating, my first glimpse of the
legendary powder.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]
HAMILTON: Crescent dares me to try the powder.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]
HAMILTON: Casually mentioning he is equipped
with a powerful antidote.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: Ask him how confident he is that he'll be
able to reverse the effects with a lemon.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

ALEX: He said, yeah, he's sure that you
won't have any problem.
HAMILTON: OK, what is your thought on this, Alex?
ALEX: You know, for myself, I was not going to try it.
But if you want to, you can go for it.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: When he suggests I use the powder, I'm torn
between scientific skepticism and the desire not to die an
agonizing death, deep in the Haitian countryside.
I decide Crescent is offering me the poison as a test.
Should I demonstrate my strength, I will
have gained his trust.
And should I be wrong, Crescent assures me that he
has an effective antidote on hand, one half of a key lime.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: Though the lime provides me with little
comfort, even the most well-equipped hospitals in the
world have no antidote for TTX, because, thus far, one
does not exist.
Ask him what the dose is.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

ALEX: Some of the feather.
The feather will take some.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

Crescent frowns and leans away from me, insisting that I do
not let any catch wind and blow on to him.
Some powder's on the end of the feather.
I dip the chicken feather into the glass bottle, allowing a
mote of beige poison to cling to a single barbule.
I brush the moat of zombie poison onto my arm.

I don't feel anything at all.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

ALEX: You can take it and then get it on your arm.
HAMILTON: That's going to be a lot.
Crescent changes his attitude and leans in towards me.
He grabs the bottle and pushes the mouth to my skin, turning
it upside down, revealing a ring of white powder the size
of a quarter.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: Over the course of six minutes, I allow the
powder to dissolve on the wet, hot skin of my forearm with
two millimeters of skin between the powder and my
thirsty rushing capillaries.

I'm not a hypochondriac, but there's nothing that will make
you more aware of your throbbing, roiling, bubbling
physiology than waiting for one of the world's most potent
neurotoxins to kick in.
Reeling through a mental checklist of symptoms, I'm
still not experiencing anything.
ALEX: How do you feel now?

HAMILTON: I don't feel anything at all.
Other than I feel some mild terror that I'm going to die.
But nothing distinct.
The powder is ceremonially removed from my
arm with the lime.
The poison is encircled and then circumscribed with two
strokes forming a cross.
And that's all.
If the powder did contain TTX, the ascorbic acid in the lime
would have only increased its water solubility and helped it
cross into my blood.
But even then, not enough time has passed for the paralysis
to have set in, unless the dose was truly massive, in
which case I will be dying shortly.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: As I wait for the TTX to present its symptoms, I
feel it an appropriate time to breach the
subject of zombie slaves.
Well, thank him for allowing me to
experiment with his powder.
Ask him if there are zombies in the building behind us.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: After negotiating a price with Crescent, we agree
to donate a generous sum to his peristyle in honor of the
Loa Jean Zombi.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: Entranced, Crescent begins a ritualized door
knocking and key jingling ritual, finally pausing before
a locked door I have looked at all day.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

[MURMURING]

HAMILTON: Alex, can you ask him what's beneath the cloth?
[MUMBLING GIBBERISH]
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

WADE DAVIS: The first thing you have to do when you start
thinking about zombies or Vodou is to step outside of
the cliches.
And this really forced me to realize that I might be on the
outside looking at the zombie thing in a certain
perspective, but when you're on the inside, Narcisse or a
Haitian like himself wasn't sitting there thinking, do or
do not zombies exist.
I mean, he knew in the very fiber of his being since
childhood that zombies existed.
He knew exactly how one was created.
He knew exactly why one was created.
And so, that's sort of the template upon which all these
drugs are going to work.

[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: To our surprise, the Loa Jean Zombi refuses to take
the local currency.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]

HAMILTON: Crescent is irate, but tells us he will have
prepared a new poison the following Saturday.
[SPEAKING CREOLE]