The Vista Fountains

At the Vista Fountains, we are all bonded by our lack of a bond. The unspoken rule is look at no one, and certainly talk to no one. And, obviously, never move out. Moving out meant letting someone else in. And the more time went by, the more unseemly people became. As though time bred worse and more despicable beings. Which was patently the case. Eudora, who had been living in The Vista Fountains since the early 80s, saw plenty of tenants come and go. But over the last decade, she couldn’t help but give herself some credit for finally tapping into her long dormant witchly powers to prevent more of them from going. These powers of hers had persuaded people to stay–in some instances, never even leave their apartment (which many middling screenwriters had the luxury of doing). And also ensured that many would never be let in.

She supposed she had been afraid to use what she knew long ago she had been born with. She avoided occult shops and bookstores like the plague (not that the plague can be avoided anymore). Eudora was once terrified that she would be overtaken by her power. That it would consume her to the point where she wouldn’t even be able to recognize herself anymore. She had heard such a tale about one of her ancestors passed down through the generations–the one whom she had inherited her “craft” from. A bona fide witch that everyone referred to only as The Bruja. 

As family reports (likely played up for storytelling cachet in a town that prided itself on the cinematic) went, The Bruja was responsible for siphoning off the souls of hundreds of aspiring actors and actresses, using them to maintain her own youth. When she was done with them, she would “eject” (to use a euphemism) them from the room she rented out on N. Fuller Avenue, just two blocks from where the Vista Fountains apartments were located, called as much for being near the corner of Vista Street and Fountain Avenue. In fact, the simplicity of this compound word of street names made Eudora chuckle when she first moved in, knowing that so many fresh off the boaters would be genuinely charmed by such a picturesque-sounding name, not realizing it was slapped together as hastily as most films were nowadays. In 1981, when she first took up residence in a third floor corner unit, the studio system was rising again after a bout of lost dominance over the “indies” (most notably, United Artists) in the 60s and 70s. The indies, of course, would eventually sell out to the studios or simply go toe up. For juggernaut-level power always won out in the end. Even when it came to witchcraft and its commodification, as Eudora learned from an early age while watching The Wizard of Oz repeatedly on TV.  

The resurgence of interest in that commodification of witches by the studios was something Eudora took note of throughout the 90s as well, with the likes of Hocus Pocus, The Craft, Practical Magic and Charmed being released into the pop culture feeding frenzy. She bided her time, not wanting to engage with the implications of her gift while it was so “chic”–waiting for a more “dormant” moment within the culture of witchcraft to tap into what she knew was her ancestral birthright, even if her mother tried to make her believe that no good could come of it. In 2008, with the financial crisis sending more and more people out of L.A., Eudora decided she couldn’t let it expel any more of the tenants she had come to enjoy most of all for their, let’s say, invisibility. The soundlessness of a tenant typically meant that they did not have a family, or very many friends they could invite over for get-togethers or parties. And maybe Eudora had a magical hand in ensuring such characteristics, even if the tenant, at the outset, might have seemed outgoing and friend-laden or, worse still, talked of wanting to have a family someday. 

Day after day and night after night, Eudora would sit cross-legged on her carpeted living room (because obviously the Vista Fountains would be the type of apartment complex to keep their rugs instead of ripping them out–in favor of hardwood floors–even when such an aesthetic fell off after the 80s). In front of her, she would place her sorceress’ regalia: her altar cloth, her devotional bowl, her athamé. She would mix her potions (often containing some form of DNA of the subject she wished to influence) and recite her incantations until that which she willed to happen did. And in doing so she had maintained the perfect sense of balance and harmonium within the complex. Sometimes, when she went out onto her balcony overlooking nothing more than a giant plant in her face, she could positively feel the serenity humming through her. That is, until Lamont showed up. 

Lamont Royce. She reckoned it was a stage name. And a particularly bad one at that. Watching him leave that first day after the official landlord (for Eudora viewed herself as the unofficial one) gave him his keys–made evident by the fact that Eudora could see him dropping off some of his hideous furniture and assorted other boxes likely filled with such horrific things as tchotchkes–she could sense a sea change afoot. And it was not one that she wanted.

In the weeks that followed, her intuition about Lamont had proven accurate, with his “ragers” going on almost every night. Attracting a ruffian ilk that Eudora couldn’t stand. If there was no party, there was a loud clamor of sex noises that surely could not have come from just one woman. She knew Lamont must be having orgies for that banshee-level pitch to be reached. Yet none of the other neighbors complained. She was counting on them to say something, to bring it to the landlord’s attention so that she wouldn’t have to sink deeper into the depths of what her power was capable of. She didn’t always know what it would turn into when she “put an intention out into the universe.”

Sitting upon her now unrecognizably colored rug (somewhere between a taupe and a beige intermixed with a bit of purple), she placed her usual items before her and, having not been able to secure anything (a strand of hair, an article of clothing, etc.) of Lamont’s that would connect her more closely to him, she delved more fully into her power than she ever had before. She closed her eyes tightly, summoning and chanting until the ceiling in her apartment opened up above her. She remained immune to the sounds around her, keeping her eyes closed for total concentration. She had even brought out one of the tools she never liked to use for the occasion: her ritual wand. Plus, a vial she had conserved with one of the ingredients being the blood of the landlord (whom she had pricked with a letter opener after creeping into his office while he had fallen asleep years ago. When he awoke, there was no sign of her, just the bloody thumb she had left behind before her astral projection flickered out). 

She knew his blood would prove useful one day if ever a truly undesirable tenant managed to miraculously eke by her powerful gaze. This was that day. And wielding the landlord’s blood within her chants to help channel the will she was aware was already so strong on its own, it was no wonder a chasm seemed to open up not just the ceiling but the sky above as well.

In a flash, the phantasms of all the tenants past materialized–those who had been summarily prevented from living there because of Eudora and those even before, affected by The Bruja two blocks over on N. Fuller who cast them out based upon her own cruel whims. While Eudora’s whims were, in her mind, not nearly as cruel as the legend described of The Bruja, she was still about to grimly affect Lamont’s life. Lamont, a person of color who had already endured his fair share of rejections at apartments before this one, would not so easily be embraced at another–regardless of provable income or decent credit history. Eudora did not consider this, for while she herself was a person of color, she was not his color. Considered nothing about Lamont, in fact, other than being a scourge upon the serenity she had cultivated for the building. 

The ghosts of tenants past, however, seemed to be conspiring to decide that Eudora had ousted her last person. And when the incantation had reached its end, Eudora, instead of opening her eyes to see the calmness of the Vista Fountains reinstated anew by way of Lamont’s vanquishing, realized she herself was disappearing into the ether. Slowly, at first, and then, all at once, she practically exploded–vaporized in one vindictive burst by those she had unwittingly summoned to her disadvantage. 

***

Months later, after Lamont had secured a supporting role in a semi-major movie, he told the landlord he wanted to rent out Eudora’s apartment as a “secondary space” that he could use for rehearsing. The landlord was happy to oblige, for his ad had only attracted the ilk who couldn’t really afford the $3,000 a month he was asking.

It didn’t take long for the “rehearsal” apartment to devolve into a spare party outlet, where not only Lamont’s fellow debauchery-loving film industry friends congregated, but also the other tenants themselves–who seemed for so long to have been trapped in a stupor of being unable to recognize how to have a good time. It was almost like, as one tenant put it, right when Eudora “left,” the fun quotient of the building went immediately up.

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