Today’s tale comes to us from the late 19th century, where a rag-tag group of former Confederate soldiers, bolstered by a handful of retired French Legionnaires and several young local glory seekers had descended upon the Louisiana Bayou, their mission to hunt down and kill The Great Willie Young aka The Dread Pirate Willie, so named because of his audacious hijacking of merchant ships coming down the Mississippi River. Willie, as we saw in our initial look into the fascinating Willie Young, had been granted the Bayou as his own personal realm in reward for his meritorious service during the Indian Wars, and more specifically because he had saved General Andrew Jackson – later President Jackson – from the hideous death which awaited him at the hands of the Seminole Indians and their terrible Panther God, which was all discussed earlier.
It had been years since anyone had tried to remove Willie from The Bayou. That foray had ended with disaster and with the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of men, including local businessman and Willie Young hater Lamar T. Beauregard. Again, this was all discussed in earlier chronicles of The Great Willie Young. Feel free to catch up. Since then, people tended to avoid The Bayou, and they would shiver and shake with fear whenever the “Wild Man” who ruled that eerie kingdom was mentioned. But he was rarely mentioned, such was the fear and awe that he inspired. If the subject was brought up in polite company, the topic would either be immediately changed or someone would create a diversion, perhaps by throwing a glass of wine in a lady’s face or by dropping their pants and exposing their genitals. Such was the depth of the desperation the people of Louisiana felt to avoid such a fearful subject. If the name of The Great Willie Young had to be spoken aloud, it was as a whisper, barely audible, but it was said that even such a whisper would turn the speaker’s lungs to ice and his heart to madness and that the whisper was always accompanied by an eerie wind, upon which could be heard the howling of the hounds of hell themselves.
But even still, men will always seek to destroy legends, for glory and for honor, and because mortal man curses his own constraints, his own binding to the inexorable march of time, and will seek to destroy anything that somehow defies his world, anything that is beloved by God more than he, and anything that mocks his own unconquerable fate. And so, a group of ex-Confederate soldiers, led by an old man named Col. Benjamin Bullon (Pronounced Bu-yon), who was said to have survived no less than 19 bullet wounds during the Battle of Gettysburg, although this is likely a gross exaggeration, made it their quest to capture the great ghost who had haunted the Louisiana Bayou for over 50 years. They had grown tired of the legend, and fired by the heated speech of Col. Bullon, who argued “That land is ours, good sirs. It belonged to our forefathers, long ago, and I will not see it sullied by such darkness. Are we so beaten that our very insides must tremble at the thought of a glorified slave? They say that he is a ghost, a spirit sent from hell by the devil himself to torment us in our darkest hour. I say that he is but a beast, and like any beast, we must hunt him. To the ends of the earth if need be, and when we have him cornered and frightened, gibbering for mercy, we shall cry our thanks of praise to the Lord and we will remember the glory of our fathers and our fathers’ fathers and we shall purge such an abomination from our glorious kingdom of heaven here on Earth.”
And with that, his men began to shout and after a night of drunken revelry, which also saw them shamefully cornhole the owner of a local inn, a former slave named Guillaume Hebert, they set off for The Bayou, their hearts full of hate and vengeance. Apparently, they had made such a racket that they roused the commander of a group of mercenaries, all grizzled former French Legionnaires, who agreed to aid the former Confederates on their expedition in exchange for a favorable split of the loot Col. Bullon said they were sure to find after they disposed of The Great Willie Young. This commander went by the name of Jacques de Belleau (It was later discovered that the “de” was an affectation and that the man’s true name was Jack Bell, who had been born in Kentucky to English parents who had sold him to a French fur trader in exchange for a bucket full of molasses and two beaver pelts. The fur trader routinely beat Bell and would often use the boy as bait on expeditions in the north where the fur trader had taken it upon himself to hunt grizzly bears. Apparently, on one of these expeditions, the fur trader was brutally mauled to death by a grizzly, leaving the boy stranded and afraid. According to some sources, the boy was then raised by the grizzly for months before another group of hunters killed the bear and “rescued” the boy. They then forced him to work as a virtual slave in their camps until one day the boy escaped back into the wild. He was found, frightened, starving, wild eyed and naked by a group of French missionaries who took him to a nunnery in Northern Quebec, where he was raised as Jacques de Belleau. When he had grown into a man, he became a Legionnaire and spent years fighting Bedouins in Northern Africa until he was nearly crippled after being severely beaten by a giant Nigerian strongman. He spent months recuperating alone in a hospital in Orleans, the whole time dreaming of his revenge. When he was discharged he stowed away aboard a ship headed for Africa. But the ship crashed in the Mediterranean and de Belleau was found floating on a plank by Greek fishermen who sold him into male prostitution after getting him hooked on opium. It was 10 years before he managed to escape, and in that time he had become renowned both for his oral skills and for the brute strength of his arms, which made him the “Hand-job Queen of Athens”. This unusual strength had developed while de Belleau was in the hospital, as he found that he had to compensate for the weakness of his legs – he would walk with a terrible limp for the rest of his life as a result of the beating at the hands of the Nigerian strongman – and he had nurtured it during his years in captivity by obsessively working out during his free time. This was also, incidentally, how he managed to escape. He brutally tore the penis off of a Greek businessman, stole all his money and caught a ship back to France. There, he tried to rejoin the Legionnaires, but was rejected because he was a cripple. Furious, he beat the company commander to death with his enormous arm strength and was forced to flee aboard a ship to America, accompanied by a group of restless soldiers, men who hated the old commander and agreed to take de Belleau as their own. He quickly rewarded their faith by revealing a keen mind, and almost as soon as they landed in New Orleans he had kept them busy with a variety of tasks. Occasionally, the men would act as bodyguards, and sometimes they would be hired as petty thugs and paid to mercilessly beat a business rival or steal an enemy’s goat. But always they lusted for more, and when de Belleau heard the tale of The Great Willie Young, he knew he had found a task worthy of his men. And when he heard the description of The Great Willie Young, his mind immediately flashed to the Nigerian who had crippled him, and he decided, privately, that this was how he would finally exact his revenge.) and he quickly assumed co-command of the expedition along with Col. Bullon.
As they set out for the Bayou, they were joined by several young men, glory seekers who had heard of the quest, and whose own lives promised nothing but hardship and an early and ignoble death. These young men were unruly and untrained, but they were hardy and they were determined to make their way in the world. Both Col. Bullon and de Belleau saw that they could be useful in a fight and welcomed them aboard, promising them nothing but adventure and the chance to go down in history as the men who finally slay The Great Willie Young.
And so, this group set out for The Bayou, and they were cheered on by the racist Southern businessmen who had tired of watching their shipments get hijacked by the Dread Pirate Willie and his men. But what none of them knew was that the owner of the local inn, the poor former slave they had cornholed, Guillaume Hebert, was a personal friend of The Great Willie Young. In fact, he had once served as a Lieutenant to The Great Willie Young in his Bayou Kingdom. But he had grown old and feeble and had been given permission by The Great Willie Young to return to New Orleans to make a fresh fortune as the owner of an inn, on the condition that he serve as Willie’s eyes and ears in the city. Hebert had readily agreed, and although he was bleeding to death from severe lacerations to his anus, he mounted his horse, and rode in excruciating pain to the Bayou to warn The Great Willie Young of the pending assault. It is said that when The Great Willie Young saw his old friend, he wept with sadness and cursed with rage. But when he was told of the plans of Col. Bullon, he was said to have laughed, long and hard, because he knew that advanced warning or not, the expedition was doomed to terrible failure.
Col. Bollon, de Belleau and their men did not know this however and they were in high spirits as they came upon The Bayou. But their heartiness was short lived as several of the men shivered with fear as a cold, wet mist flowed over them from the borders of The Bayou. Col. Bollon exhorted his men to press on in spite of their fear, that this was just a cheap magic trick, but deep in de Belleau’s heart he knew that within this swamp would lay his grave. He had been through much in his life and he always felt that he could make it through anything - forced captivity, being raised by bears, male prostitution – but this, this felt different. This felt like . . . like death.
Still, he was a proud man (well as proud as a man who spent a decade as the “Hand-job Queen of Athens” could be) and he set his jaw and ordered his men forward. It was at this point that several of the young men who had joined the expedition turned back in fear. Their bodies were said to have been found hanging from trees along the road to The Bayou, mutilated, as a warning to all those who would dare to even approach the borders of The Great Willie Young’s kingdom with bad intentions.
The men who decided to press on did so with a shadow over their hearts, as the Bayou seemed to be alive with an ancient and terrible spirit. They would hear mysterious voices whispering and laughing on the wind, and they would feel the very earth tremor below their feet, rumbling with the fury of The Great Willie Young himself. And yet they marched on, their hearts hardened with pride and hatred, and with each step they brought themselves closer to their inevitable doom.
The first night, the men camped on a hill surrounded by swampland. Both Col. Bullon and de Belleau agreed that it would afford them a tactical advantage in the event of a surprise night attack. They believed that The Great Willie Young and his men would become mired in the muck and would be easy prey for the guns of the Confederates and Legionnaires perched on the hill. And so they drifted to sleep, secure with false confidence, guarded by only a single watchman, a grizzled ex-Confederate, and by the night itself, although, they would soon find out, even the night was beholden to The Great Willie Young.
Col. Bullon was awoken by a terrible scream. He rushed out of his tent only to find his watchman getting dragged off by an enormous alligator. Col. Bullon reached for his pistol and shot at the gator, but was horrified when the bullets just ricocheted off of the beast’s tough hide. He watched in agony as his man, an old friend who had fought with him throughout the war, was torn apart by the alligator’s razor sharp teeth. Col. Bullon wept and sank to his knees as several of his men joined him with rifles in hand. They fired at the gator, who just rose up on his hind legs and according to the diary of a soldier which was later found floating in the muck “That hell-beast began to laugh. It was a terrible laugh, horrible, and when I heard it, I knew that I had heard the voice of the devil himself.” The alligator then turned and dropped back into the ethereal mist which had descended all around the island hill. The men fired indiscriminately after it, but the only thing that they hit were some stray logs and a bullfrog.
When morning finally broke, the men refused to go on. They were obviously demoralized, terrified and beaten. Col. Bullon reached deep within himself to give another impassioned speech, but de Belleau just stared off into the mist and with his mind, he challenged The Great Willie Young to single combat. The earth suddenly shook and the men all cowered in fear. When it stopped they wondered aloud at its meaning but de Belleau knew that his challenge had been answered and he limped to the side of the hill and he looked into his own death and he smiled.
But Col. Bullon continued to exhort his men to continue. His voice broke several times, as he was incapable of controlling his own fear and sense of utter hopelessness, but he refused to be seen as a failure, such was the depth of his own self destructive pride. His men, for their part, harkened to what they believed to be the valiance of their leader and for a moment, their hearts lifted ever so slightly with hope. This was all dashed, however, when one of them looked up and with a terrible, mournful howl, noticed the body of one of the French Legionnaires hanging from a tree, naked, his face mutilated and his genitals torn off.
The men refused once again to go on, but de Belleau had gone mad with the need to follow his destiny to its terrible end, and so he ordered his men, who were stouter of heart, to force the ex-Confederates and the young would-be adventurers to go on at gunpoint. The men wept and several of them defecated upon themselves, but de Belleau had no mercy for any of them. They marched for two days straight, without rest or food. Along the way, several of the men disappeared, pulled under the waters by what the other men believed to be giant alligators (In fact, these alligators, as well as the one who terrorized their camp, were the very alligators taken as babies by The Great Willie Young after he had killed their mother for eating one of his men during the Indian Wars. He had raised them as his own and it was said that they had become immortal and had been infused with the souls of men, although this is all just baseless conjecture.) And yet de Belleau pressed on until even his own men became broken, driven insane with fear. It was then that Col. Bullon decided to reassert command, as he pounced on de Belleau. But de Belleau had passed from the realm of mortal man, as his soul had been plunged into the fire in preparation for his showdown with The Great Willie Young, and he easily beat back Col. Bullon, breaking the old Confederate’s legs. He then ordered Col. Bullon’s men to drag him behind them, and they obeyed, such was their fear of both the Bayou and de Belleau’s madness. Col. Bullon howled with agony and the Bayou soon became filled with the echoes of his terrible screams, which only added to the immense madness which was already bearing down on the men.
It wasn’t long before they soon became walking zombies, men so utterly broken that their humanity had escaped them, leaving them witless and easily malleable, which may have been de Belleau’s plan all along. It would seem that they marched for days, and with each day more and more of them would be taken by The Bayou and at night they would just stare dumbly into the darkness while The Bayou seemed to come alive with voices, with the mournful cries of the dead, while far off in the distance, deep laughter could be heard and the sound of merriment and joy. For the men had finally come near to the heart of the kingdom of The Great Willie Young.
But they took no heed of the laughter, of the joy, for they were utterly ruined as men. It was then that de Belleau began to butcher his own men. He slaughtered them one after another and the men just stood in dumb obedience and waited their turn. de Belleau would lay each man’s corpse down and tear open his chest and then eat his heart, gaining further strength for the inevitable clash with The Great Willie Young. After devouring their hearts one by one, he howled in the direction of The Great Willie Young’s throne and the revelry stopped. A mighty wind whipped up, and de Belleau laughed and began to strip naked.
While all this was happening, one of the young adventures, a Polish émigré by the name of Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, crawled away from the terrible scene. It would seem that, somehow, he had managed to retain a sliver of his own humanity. He had pretended to be dead in the hopes the de Belleau would spare him, and the gambit seemed to have worked, as he now found himself huddled underneath a mass of dead bodies, still alive – barely. He watched through a haze of madness as de Belleau screamed, naked and beastly, for The Great Willie Young to meet him in battle. de Belleau had somehow produced a battle axe from somewhere – it was later speculated that he kept this inside of his anus at all times, which had become distended following his decade as a male whore in Athens, but that is unseemly and frankly, disgusting – and he shook this axe with rage and began to scream that he would “kill that Nigerian devil who ruined his legs.”
And suddenly, The Great Willie Young appeared. Korzeniowski would later claim that he was 50 feet tall and made of fire and hatred but this is likely a slight exaggeration. Almost immediately de Belleau charged The Great Willie Young, naked with battle axe in hand, and then was never seen nor heard from again, although legend has it that The Great Willie Young consecrated the poor fool’s body before submerging it in a lake of white fire known only to himself and to a select few of his loyal comrades. He is said to have utterly destroyed de Belleau’s spirit so that it would not suffer in the afterlife. This was the extent of his mercy.
Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on the other hand, faced a different sort of doom. He was found by Willie’s men – all former slaves and Creole drifters fiercely loyal to him – who dragged him before Willie’s throne, a throne which was said to be made from the bones of his enemies. The young Polack gibbered and wept for mercy but The Great Willie Young had a special punishment in mind for young Korzeniowski – he would let him live. Indeed. To have to live with the memory of what he had experienced would be a hell none of us could comprehend. And The Great Willie Young knew that the young Polack would serve as an important herald for his majesty. And so it was, for that young Polack changed his name to Joseph Conrad and settled in Great Britain, where in a vain attempt to purge himself of his terrible memories he wrote the novel Heart of Darkness, which although not a strict retelling of his ordeal, was centered in his memories of those terrible days, memories which had coalesced into a terrible jumble of impressionistic horror. This story was later retold in the acclaimed film Apocalypse Now and further elements were borrowed to create the film Predator.
Conrad was the lone survivor of that doomed expedition and although his attempts to describe his ordeal were muddled and confused, he never forgot that his own heart of darkness was owned by The Great Willie Young, just as all of our hearts are, and just as all of the hearts of our children will be, and as the hearts of whatever beings roam this earth a million years from now will be, for The Great Willie Young is forever. Whatever exists beyond the horizons of time only he knows, and all we can do – those who have been chosen to be his heralds, like Joseph Conrad and like myself – is count ourselves blessed to be allowed to bask in the everlasting glow of his indomitable spirit.