Man-made fireflies on the hillside, I can see their flashes, I can hear the bark.
I am sitting in a rowboat on the ocean, so far our all that can be seen is rolling waves. Storm clouds covered the blue,except for one spot, directly above where I sit. The sun shines down on me and me only and I can see the world from orange to gray then black. Birds mere shadows in gold. rain like torrential firedrops. I find myself looking in from the light.
Like I said before, I never dated when I was growing up on the island. My mother saw to that. Her favorite way of stopping any carnal urges was by telling us if we ever got a girl pregnant she would kill us. I was never allowed to talk about sex. Looking at women was a cardinal sin. Nasty thoughts, as she called them, were the devil’s playground. I remember the first time I saw condoms; it was the one and only time I saw a Playboy magazine too. My brother knew this nurse. I am not sure if he was dating her but she had given him the magazine and a large brown paper bag of condoms. He brought it home and I remember flipping through the pages, my heart racing and my eyes popping out of my head. There was this one woman, Katsika the African princess. She was my favorite. For weeks we were able to keep it hidden from our mother, changing hiding spots frequently. We soon ran out of places to hide it, so my brother placed it under his mattress. One day we came home from playing football and as we entered the yard, I thought I smelled rubber burning. We walked to the back of the house and sitting on a bonfire was the brown bag and the Playboy magazine, engulfed in flame. I did not turn around but I felt my mother’s eyes piercing through the back of my head. We did not go into the house; we just stood there and watched Katsika burn. My mother did not talk to us for days after that, but her reaction was worse than getting a whipping.
Somewhere, where the show lay heavy on the tree branches. And all animals seek refuge from the chill of early morning. You wake up, your vision still blurry, the remnants of dreams of the night before. You stumbled into your living room, your whole body trembled a little as the cold material of you sleepwear touched your warm skin. You walked over to the smoldering fire place, poked at the embers. Yellow sparks flew into the air. You placed more wood into the fire. They cracked and popped as small flames erupted. You settled down int eh recliner facing the fireplace and waited. Slowly the room began to warm up. Hugging you like grandma when she comes for a visit. You closed your eyes and listened to the wet snow bounced off your roof. Hear the lone wolf howl in the distance. Daydream about the white world outside. Slowly, the white daydream grew darker, as you dose off into sleep.
The Ligaroo King circled around her. Every muscle in his body twitched, his teeth snarled, his breathing came in small bursts. She looked at him, her body tense, and her face hot with anger. All the fear was gone, as she turned around following his every move. This was the moment, the moment when her people will be free. She raised her right hand over her shoulders and got the Spear of Salt. It blinked florescent, as she faced down the Ligaroo King. His red eyes sparked in the yellow glow from the torches, his mouth opened wide, as he threw his head back and howled.
“This is the end of the path for you little witch, can you see the crossroads, and can you see Baron Samedi waiting for you? You and all your friends will not leave this island free. I will make you my slaves yet.” He said, and then charged, swinging his sword. Akosua raised the spear above her head, and the sound of metal hitting metal echoed above the sound of the battle. They struggled, face to face, Akosua barely able to breath because of the stench coming from the beast’s mouth.
“Where is your Obatala now? I don’t see him here to save you. You will make the perfect sacrifice for Baron Samedi,” he said as he pushed. Akosua growled as she strained to push him away.
“It is you who will not get off this island. It is written, that good will always prevail over evil. We will win and we will be free.” She said and pushed as hard as she could. The Ligaroo King staggered back and looked at her, as if surprised at how strong she was. Slowly a smile covered his face. Then without saying a word he charged at her. Akosua sidestepped and swung the spear, the sharp edge of it nipped the Ligaroo King on his side. The beast looked down at his side and cupped the wound with his hand, then looked back at Akosua.
He raised his head and howled with anger, then charged, swinging his sword. The girl tried to use her spear to ward him off, but the blow was so powerful she stumbled and fell. She lay looking up at the Ligaroo King. He had a triumph smile on his face. He brought his sword down, and she rolled to her right. The sharp edges of the sword hit the ground next to her head sending a puff of dirt into the air. The beast raised his sword again, and then brought it down again. Akosua rolled to her left, got to her knees and scrambled to her feet. Before she was fully prepared, the beast came at her. She stumbled to her right and jabbed him with the spear. The Ligaroo gasped with surprise, like someone had knocked the wind out of him. He swung his arm, knocking the spear away from his body. Steamed hissed out of his arm where the spear touched him. His sword fell to the ground, and he looked at Akosua, and for the first time there was weakness in his eyes. He retreated to his throne gasping for breath. Akosua followed him, the spear held over her head.
The Ligaroo King leaned on his throne, his hand outstretched, as if motioning her to wait.
“Sometimes the people you love are the very ones who betray you,” as he held his side and gasped for breath. Akosua stood, looked at him an expression of puzzlement on her face. The Ligaroo chuckled, coughed, blood spouted out of his mouth creating a mist of red in front of him. He took another deep breath; Akosua took a step towards him,
Hear the pop pop pop ah de fire, at first, de smell of the wood burning, but then dem breadfruit and dem start to roat, and the scent fill the air, and yuh tummy start rumbling because you could almost taste it. Oh me lard, de sweet torture of anticipation, yuh mudda warning “Boi get away from de fyah, it go bun yuh,” But you cyan help it you know, Yuh want a piece ah dat roast breadfruit real bad. So yuh sneak and grabbed a piece and a couple seconds later you realize dat was a real bad idea, so now yuh prancing roiund shouting “Oh gawd, hot for so,” but them when you taste that breadfruit, you tell yuhself, the paid ah the burn was well worth it.
The crowd drew closer to the fire as if the flame hypnotized them or something, I felt a hand touch me and I turned round to see Alison smiling, she ushered me to the middle of the circle until I felt the heat from the fire against me skin. On the other side of the bonfire a goat was led in, oh great a bloody goat kill. A woman came out of the crowd entered the circle and stood before the goat the animal groaned, the damn thing sounded almost human. Another woman came forward she lips moving as if chanting but there were no words, she eyes closed, she head tilted to the sky, suddenly she began to cry she whole damn body started shaking.
The crowd rushed forward but stopped as if trying not to touch the woman, wood from the fire popped and cracked sending small balls of sparks into the crowd, small children scampered everywhere trying to avoid the small fireballs. The woman was still crying it was a deep guttural moan like a Mama Melody roaming the night. She fell to the ground she feet kicking up dust as she rolled round, suddenly, the circle opened up next to the woman and Legba John walked in. The drums grew quiet as if reverence had entered the circle or something, he was holding a small tree branch in he hand the green leaves moved a little as the wind swept through the circle sending sparks into the air. He stopped in front of the goat and the woman lying on the ground, everyone in the circle held they breath, I mean, even the fire became silent. Slowly Legba John placed the branch on the ground between the woman and the goat, then he stepped back wiping he hand on he milk white shirt.
The goat sniffed at the branch and took a step back as if sensing some kind of evil in it. The animal looked round at the people its body shook so hard its legs could barely support its weight, then as if drawn to it, the goat hobbled over to the branch and began chewing. Just as it began eating the leaf Legba John raised he arms to the sky and was muttering something inaudible he eyes as big as the moon that gave light to the proceedings. The lady that was lying on the ground got up and like a Zombie she walked over to Legba John and dropped to she knees, the old man turned to one of the men in the crowd and the man handed him a bowl, he cupped it in he hands and lifted it to the sky then slowly brought it down until he arms were stretched out in front of him. He looked up to the silver sky he lips moving, he frail arms shaking.
I looked round at the crowd, they too were looking upwards they lips moving they bodies shaking, the drummers began to pound on their instruments the rhythm echoing through the night like a million voices in a crowded forest. The people began to dance, at first it was real slow but man after a few seconds they were dancing as if possesed. A young man came out of the crowd and grabbed the goat, the animal struggled as if knowing what its fate was, muscles glistened in the yellow light as he grabbed the animal round its torso and it kicked furiously trying its best to escape. Then with a show of strength the young man picked up the goat and carried it out of the circle, no one seemed to be concerned with the struggling animal poor thing, it had to die just to save me soul. Off in the darkness I heard a loud bleat and the crowd busted into a frenzy of screams and dance, to me, a new comer this all seemed sort of barbaric but the listless, entranced expressions on the faces was enough to send chills down me spine, I began to walk through the revelers being bumped and pushed as I went. I saw three children lurking close to the forest, I watched them look round then disappeared into the bushes so I followed them.
The moon disappeared above the trees but reappeared as I walked into another clearing I heard them giggling so I followed the sound. I almost did not see the tent stopping just before I ran into it, I fumbled round until I found the doorway and walked inside. There was a table set in the middle of it with food laid on plates and bowls, I smiled yeah I remembered this from childhood, this food was there for the Gods to eat after they had cast out evil spirits but really it was the children and them who used to sneak in and eat the food, me friends used to try to get me to go with them but I was a big fraidycat. I slowly walked round the table its white tablecloth touching the ground causing the edges to turn brown, the dishes were white with some sort of floral design on them, damn people must thing they royalty or something, there were no knives or forks or any other implements to eat with.
I continued walking round the table then stopped at the front of it looking down on the feast, the children giggle and I looked round to see where they were, but I saw no one and continued walking. The light from the bonfire created shadows against the white material causing the trees and the dancers to merge together as if entangled in an orgy of motion, bloody images looked like they would reach out and grab me or something. I got to the door way and stopped and looked back at the layout and that was when I heard the giggling again so walked back to the other end of the tent hoping to find them little scoundrels. I heard a whisper from under the table and knelt down and pulled up the tablecloth and there they were crouched together looking up at me, they mouths dirty from eating the food little buggers, bet they had a tummy ach later. I smiled at them, a little boy, half naked mouth filled with rice smiled back he big eyes searching for some indication they were in trouble. I shook me head and let the tablecloth back down one of them sighed with relief as I walked away.
Just as I was at the end of the bushes and bout to enter the circle where the drummers were, the three little mischief makers ran by me they bare feet kicking up dust as they went. I wondered bout them, I mean, where the hell did they come from? I had not seen any children after I got to Alison’s house.
I entered the circle just as the drummers were switching players, there were four of them they black bodies glistening, they heads raised to the sky as they pounded on the drums cradled between they legs, they hands moving so fast they were blurs in the pale yellow light. I stood, taken by the moment bodies were sprawled everywhere some twitching violently, dogs were howling, birds flew round in the dark sky.
I looked round for Alison but the light was not bright enough for me to find she in the sea of shadows. The three children from the tent were on the other side of the circle talking to two smaller children and pointing in me direction. I started to walk over to them, but as if sensing what I was bout to do they turned and ran into the crowd. I tried to follow them bumping into people and almost caught up to them when Alison came out of the crowd and stood in front of me, Jesus Christ, this bloody girl was always sneaking up on me.
“Way you been?” she barked suspiciously. I tried to go round she but she stepped in front of me.
“I was just walking around” I said. This did not seem to satisfy she, but she did not press the subject.
“You mus’ go to de house now.” There was so much finality in she voice I did not attempt to argue with she. She walked off and I moved to catch up with she, when I did I started to match she stride for stride but just as I was bout to ask she a question she sped up, I mean what the hell, the damn girl was trying to avoid talking to me. I ran ahead of her and stood on the path in front of her, she stopped that stupid suspicious expression on she face.
“What was all this tonight?” I inquired. She looked at me but said nothing, I tell you what, me temper was at a boiling point.
“Listen, if I don’t start getting some explanation about all this rituals shit I will get on me bike and go home.” She still did not speak she just stared at me for a second and then stepped round me,
“You go find out soon enough,” she said walking away she dark skin disappearing into the night leaving only she white dress floating away like a ghost in a cemetery. I followed she back to the house neither of us said a word, we went inside and as soon as we got into the living room Alison disappeared into a door on the other side of the room leaving me to find me way to the bedroom.
“Sit down Kwao,” she said without looking at him. He stopped and looked over at the two warriors.
“This is crazy, she doesn’t know if this is going to work, “he barked, Akosua turned to him, the bamboo chair creaked as she did.
“Have faith Kwao,” she said, the boy plopped down in the dirt sending a small dust cloud into the air. Akosua got up and peeped out the door. The guard looked at her, his red and blue face pronounced in the light from the torch in front of the door. Everyone in the village was wearing red and blue and their faces were painted the same. Some carried food, while others carried wood for a bonfire in the middle of the village.
“Help me,” a woman screamed as she reached her arms out to Akosua. Akosua turned to her warriors,
“Let’s go” she said and walked out the door. The guard turned to block her, but she reached out and touched his shoulder, and his resolve seemed to melt, and the spear hung loosely at his side. She pushed past him and followed the screaming woman. Kwao and the two warriors followed her. The blond woman managed to escape and the Bokor chased after her and grabbed her by the hair. She fought back, but to no avail.
They walked to the middle of the village. The woman was being tied to a pole next to the bonfire. She was crying and screaming, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Two Bokors stood next to her wearing red and blue robes. The bonfire popped and cracked sending sparks everywhere. The Bokors were busy preparing for the nights sacrifice. Akosua stopped in front of the woman. The woman looked at her, tears rolled down her sun tanned face, her blue eyes pleading. The Bokors tighten vines around her. Akosua took a step towards the woman just as the drummers began playing. The Bokors began to congregate, their faces expressionless, their eyes not moving. Their leader walked in from the darkness. He too wore a red and blue robe but with a hood on it. The bottom of the robe touched the dirt giving the illusion that he floated across the uneven ground. Akosua started to walk towards him but Kwao grabbed her arm. The Bokor leader stopped in front of the crying woman. The Bokor congregation became silent.
“To the great Pedro Loa we bring this sacrifice. We implore him to wreak vengeance on those who seek to destroy us,” he said. The drummers played faster whipping the Bokors into a frenzy of dance. The leader danced over to one of the guards and took a machete from him. He danced towards the woman; the hood on his robe covered most of his face giving the impression that he was faceless.
He stopped in front of the woman; she pleaded and struggled against the vines. She looked up to the sky tears rolled down her face, then down her cheeks. The Bokor leader danced, spinning round and round, the bottom of his robe created a cloud of dust. The sharp edges of the machete glittered in the pale light of the bonfire; the drummers played even faster chanting as they did. The Bokors exploded into wild dances. The shadow of birds circled over the village, wolves howled in the jungle, crows’ squawked as they circled the night sky. The Bokor leader stopped in front of the woman and raised his machete. Akosua stepped forward,
“Stop!” she shouted, the Bokor leader stopped and turned around. At first the drummers kept playing, but when they realized their leader had stopped dancing they stopped. A tense silence came over the proceedings as Akosua walked up to the leader.
“I heard you were doing this, but I did not believe it,” she said. He did not move, surprised that she had interrupted the ceremony.
“Is this what you have come to?” she asked looking from the leader to the crowd. Small fireballs popped around the burning wood.
“You used to be Hougans, good people, but you had to form this Angajan, seek vengeance by forming an alliance with the Pedro Loa. Do you want to sell your souls to Baka,” She said, the Bokors mumbled, some of the men took a menacing step towards her. Kwao came forward spear at the ready. Akosua waived him off and turned back to the Leader.
“You knew my mother, you were friends, and people respected you, why have you gone so far into the dark?” She asked, the leader turned and faced his followers.
“We all know why, your too good spirits can’t fight the Ligaroo. You have to fight evil with evil, and you, and your soft spirits, you cannot defeat the Ligaroo. Look around you; look at this village, burnt huts, sad faces. The Ligaroos came and took our families, our children. What do we have but our Pedro Loa and his dark spirits to get the vengeance that we all seek?” He shouted, Akosua listened then responded.
“How long have you been offering sacrifices to the Pedro Loa, where are your families, have you gotten them back?” she asked, some of the Bokors hung their heads not wanting to look Akosua in the eyes. The leader stuck the machete in the ground next to Akosua’s feet.
“They are dead, all dead and we want vengeance.” He screamed. Akosua looked around; behind the Bokors she saw the silhouette of the burnt huts.
“Look at your village, it is obvious that this barbaric behavior has not brought you peace nor has it brought an end to the attacks of the Ligaroos.” She said. The Bokors were silent, a dog howled somewhere in the village.
“It is time we come together it’s the only way we can defeat the Ligaroos, Yemaya says so,” the Bokors mumbled and turned to each other. The leader laughed and stepped in between Akosua and the villagers.
“Why should we listen to you a mere child? Why should we?” he shouted, a man in the village stepped forward his face hidden by the hood of his robe. Akosua looked at him, his eyes shifted from side to side. Their leader raised his arm and the man spoke.
“Years we have suffered, and the Bakas, the great evil spirits have promised that we will have our vengeance, and as you know from our history we can only overcome by inflicting vengeance on those who do harm to us,” the man said. The leader turned around like a preacher on his pulpit yelling,
“Baron Samedi will give us our vengeance,” The Bokors erupted into yells, screams and chants. Akosua waited until they were silent again.
“Baron Samedi is also helping the Ligaroos, how are you so sure that he will pick you over them?” she asked, the Bokors mumbled among themselves. Akosua continued talking,
“But we can defeat the Ligaross, free our people. Shedding the blood of this innocent woman will not bring freedom to anyone. Just because we were slaves, and the masters consider us animals, does not mean we should act like animals. We should be together as one people, one free nation. But here we are fighting among ourselves like so many of our ancestors. For once let us stop history from repeating itself, or we will end up losing this struggle and with it our freedom. I promise you there is a better way.” She said. The Bokor leader stepped towards Akosua his eyes ablaze with anger,
“How? How will you a naive girl, a novice witch defeat the Ligaroo King he is powerful and is more powerful with the Bakas on his side? Do you think that your good spirits can defeat such a powerful evil? What are you going to do slither across the jungle like Obatala, crawl up the Ligaroo’s feet and lick his face with your forked tongue?” He asked sarcastically, the Bokors erupted into laughter,
Ahhh yes, a good spot, find three big stones, put them down, now to go find wood for de fire you know. all you remember de kerosene eh? Yeah man, we go do some serious cooking. Ok time to get the vegetable and dem, Breadfruit, green figs (bananas), some dashin, oh yes lets not forget some yams. Man, hurry up kneading de dough for de dumplings nah. Yeah man, this go taste real good. Ok so all the ingredients and dem ready, get de pot nah, put all the food in it and pour some coconut milk, oh yeah this go be real irie you know. Let the pot boil a little then all the crab, yeah man they real fresh, we just got them out of de sea you know. Now, time to sit back and smell the food cooking, ah yes this is the life I tell you, this is the life.
I must be walking on a cloud of hot coals
and the devil is tickling under my feet with his long fingernails
then he tried to ease my pain with his breath of fire
And my heart burns until it explodes in my face
And I taste my own humanity for the first time