Last night I dreamt that I stood at the edge of a cliff and looked up at the light of the first house built on the dark side of the moon.
My first Halloween in America, I was walking back to my dorm when all of a sudden I heard an evil laugh. At first I was confused. How can such an evil laugh from what sounded like a little girl. All of a sudden, out of the dark, a frightful little person darted around the corner, she was wearing a black dress and a black hat with a peak. Her face was smudged with some kid of black stuff as she stopped and looked up at me. She smiled up at me,
“I will get you my pretty she screamed! Then ran of, I looked at her puzzled, that was when I heard a grown up voice,
“Happy Halloween!”she said, holding the hand of a two year old who looked like he had just woke up from hundreds of years sleeping in his grave. I shook my head and kept walking muttering to myself,
“Whats up wid dese crazy Yankees, what are dey up to now?” I kept walking turned the corner into a residential neighbourhood and stopped short as I found myself in a community of characters. I mean there was Mummies, witches, Jumbies, ghosts, you name it they were there. I stopped a little startled. What the hell is going on here? What was even stranger was they were all holding bowls or baskets, they walked up to people’s front doors and the residents would drop something into the bowls, the little monsters and goblins will run from the house screaming with glee. I remember thinking these people have lost it, this is some strange ritual that no one bothered to warn me about. Why are all the grownups dressed normally and yet all the kids are running around dressed like dead people to the dorm, walked up to one of the other ball players and ask,
“Its Haloween man,” He said, I thought, that lady told me to have a happy one of those, but what is this Halloween. They ad to sit me down to explain. Flash forward to today. Here I am at work, dressed a Papa Jumbie, jumping out at kids, laughing like a madman as they screamed and bolted out of the haunted house created by my fellow workers.
Jane had moved into to me house hoping that one day I would just appear at the door she would go to classes and then spend most of she free time looking for me. The police and the soldiers came to know she real well and she was the only American they would let onto the barracks when she went to speak to Ras Itran, they had even let she go out on the Coast guard vessel to help search the ocean for me. Ras Itran did all he could to help she feel better but soon he was starting to lose hope that I would ever return I mean the man had other things he had to tend to. There was growing discontent for the revolution and some of the people and them were trying to turn back the revolution, in fact the army had shot and killed four men they claimed to be counter revolutionaries and the island was buzzing with rumors, man I tell you what, people was starting to get real vexed, some of them said that the soldiers were trigger happy and that they had killed four innocent men, but the official newspaper report said that the men were counter revolutionaries and they were stopped before they could destroy the revolution. Ras Itran was one of the soldiers who investigated the incident Jane could tell that what he saw was having an effect on him, I mean the poor man had to see they bullet ridden bodies, he even helped load they mutilated bodies onto the back of a truck.
Me mother came in from London and she and Jane spent hours looking everywhere she remembered I went as a child. Me mother told she that she suspected that the revolutionaries had done something to me but Jane assured she that that was not the case but me mother did what she did best agree but disagree silently. Jane told me mother bout the La Diablesse and me mother told she that even as a child I had a vivid imagination and insisted there was no truth to the folktales.
My mother left the island after a couple of months I mean the woman even had a service for me seemed practical, but then again practical was me mother’s middle name. She told Jane to look after the house while she was gone and that she would be back soon to take care of all the other business.
Jane was a typical hard headed West Virginia woman, she refuse to give up any hope, she went to the school on several occasions talking to Alison but Alison was less than cooperative.
“Don meddle in tings you don know bout Yanky gul” she said every time, but Jane was persistent until Alison promised to talk to she grandmother.
Slowly everyone began to settle back into everyday life, the revolution was rolling along except for rumours bout more counter revolutionaries popping up among the people, everyday there were gunshots and explosions, mainly it was over excited young men playing with guns, damn idiots acted like they did not have any damn sense
One night when the moon was out in all its glory and the night air was crisp with the Caribbean breeze, Jane fell asleep in she dorm room after studying and there I was in she dream wearing a white suit of clothes surrounded by darkness except for white flashes that swirled round me like angels, then I started to age me face pruning up real fast until I was a really old man,
“He did not believe!” The old man floated towards she he voice sometimes soft but suddenly turned into an ear-splitting scream, the white flashes that swirled round me were now black and slowly they ate away at the old man and he disappeared screaming as he evaporated.
Jane woke up but could not move she felt as if someone was sitting on she chest and she tried screaming but no sound came out, she struggled then suddenly she was sitting up, the shirt she was wearing was drenched with sweat. She got up and walked onto the corridor of the dorm the beach was real dark except for the light from a small bar a little ways down. She walked down the stairs and stepped onto the sand stopped and looked up and down the beach before walking away from the light, she walked until she came to the place where I kept the raft and on a whim she walked over to the bushes and looked in, the raft was sitting there and she stepped back a little stunned, then she turned and ran all the way to me house calling me name and laughing. When she got to me house she ran up the stairs to the bedroom calling me name as she went.
After bout five minutes of shouting she sat down on the bed she whole body shaking like crazy, then slowly she remembered the dream and got up and went to the window a shadow darted across the yard so she peered through the darkness and saw a flash of white in front of the bushes, I tell you what, she heart almost stopped beating as the form stood facing she daring she to come down. She turned and ran down the stairs into the yard and without thinking she ran over to the bushes but the person had disappeared. She stood, confused then she turned and ran back to the house and picked up the telephone, it was dead.
She ran back into the yard and stopped, looked at the bushes then slowly she walked up to it, hell; she was going to get to the bottom of this one way or the other. She parted the bushes and went in, the ocean crashed against the rocks like thunder on a stormy night, crickets and frogs chorused a haunting melody, dried tree branches popped and cracked as she stepped on them. She got to where the bushes were thickest when suddenly someone pushed she to the ground she head bounced off the dirt and the night turned florescent white, she rolled over onto she back just as a woman in a white dress jumped on top of she.
“Give up you Yanky whore. He is mine now”
“Who are you?” Jane asked she voice a mere whisper, the woman threw she head back and laughed
“Believe me you little bitch, you don’t want to know, now go back to your precious Appalachian mountains there is nothing you can do, right now ceremonies are being performed and when they are done he will be mine to play with.” The woman leaned down she long nose poking Jane’s cheek.
“Never!” Jane screamed. A dog started barking just beyond the bushes.
“Ahhhh, you are one hard headed little bitch, well I tried to talk some sense into you but nooooo, well have it your way.” The woman wrapped she fingers round Jane’s neck and began squeezing darkness descended on Jane flashes of red and yellow popped in the sky behind the woman like fireworks, the ocean, the frogs and the crickets became one buzzing sound Jane was giving up but right before she passed out images of she family popped in and out of she head and she grew angry and she felt round in the dirt trying to find something to defend sheself and finally she right had rested on a rock the size of a large grapefruit. She picked it up and swung, the rock hit the side of the woman’s head with a sickening thud, blood sprayed out of a large gash on she temple and she fell sideways. Jane scrambled to she feet the rock still in she hand the woman slowly get to she feet wiped some of the blood from she head and drew a cross on she face.
“You will pay for that you bitch” and she began to walk towards Jane but there was a deafening growl as the dog ran into the bushes and attacked the woman, she picked the animal up and swung it into the air, but the dog was determined and immediately got up and charged at she. She turned and ran into the bushes, not one leaf moving as she went. Jane stumbled out of the bushes all the way back to she dorm.
She Picked up she phone and called Ras Itran and frantically told him what had just happened to she and insisted that he took she to a witch doctor, he tried to convince she that going to an obeah man would not help but Jane was adamant willing to try anything. After bout ten minutes of pleading Ras Itran agreed to take she to a man he knew, he told she to meet him the next day on the beach and he would take she to the Obeahman’s village. Jane was real relieved that he agreed, I mean, she would do anything to find out what had happened to me.
Ahhhh yes, a little romance can sooth the soul, but did the La Diablesse forget about IAN, DID THE Obeah ritual fight off the curse, or is the phantom woman just waiting, waiting for Ian to get off his high? Come back Sunday to find out.
Here we were , three of use, Roach, Smakarootii and me, we were playing a hotly contested game of marbles. We were only eight years old, all of us small and skinny. I tell you what, I was beating the pants off them fellas, they did not stand a chance against a pro like me. I had a pile of marbles sitting on the ground, you see we were playing for keeps. Any marble you knock out of the circle, you get to keep. Roach was already vexed, I had won his favorite Iron marble, that boy would shine that marble like it was a gold chain or something. But now it was mine, it sat there sparkling in the afternoon sunshine. Roach was trying his best to win it back but I was in rare form today, hitting marbles out of the circle from impossible angles, smiling at the groans from my victims. I was just about to pitch my marble when I heard footsteps, they were coming fast. Then I heard someone shouted “Raaaafffff!” and four older boys rushed in, knocking Roach and Smakarooti over, grabbing all the marbles, it only took them a second to gather all the marbles, then they took off running, giggling like school girls. Roach went into a rage, that boy was cursing for so. Smakarooti started to cry, then took off running, his hands loosely swinging at his side, we heard him scream angrily as he disappeared into some bushes. Roach was still cursing, “Leh we go get we marbles!” He shouted, I looked at him, “Boy, yuh crazy or wah, is dem big bois dat tek de marbles you know,” I said then turned to walk away, “Ohhh I see how it is, you is a fraidy cat eh?” Roach said, I stopped, nobody challenges my manhood. I turned to Roach, “Leh we go den,” I said and walked in the direction the older boys ran, Roach hesitated, a little surprised I agreed. He followed me as we searched for the older boys. We were standing in front of a house when we heard laugher and an argument. We walked around the house and into the back yard. There were about seven older boys playing marbles. We stood there for a second not knowing what to do, one of the boys had Roach’s iron marble spit shining it. “Dat is me marble,” Roach said, his eyes red with anger, one of the boys looked over at him, I tell you what, he had the biggest nose I ever seen, he took a step over to us, “All yuh go come tek it from we?” He said, I did not pay attention to what he said, I was too busy afraid that I would get sucked into the two wormholes on his face. Roach immediately jumped behind me, as is that would do any good. “Well wah yuh waiting for eh? Come get yuh precious marble,” Mr. Big Nose said, and I swear his nose opened even more. It was then I realized that the heat from Roach’s body was no longer behind me, I turned around and saw the heel of his foot disappear around the house. Mr. Big Nose was still walking towards me. I turned and ran out of the yard so fast dust kicked up liken smoke behind me.
I woke up later in the morning sore all over, I swung me feet over the side of the bed and sat there I was real light headed and still a little nauseas. Memories of the night’s events came to me in flashes like a photographer taking black and white pictures and I shook me head trying to get the images out. The door opened and Alison walked in came up to the bed and sat next to me, I looked over at she, she was smiling and for the first time she eyes danced a little.
“How you feeling Mista Dickens?” she asked, I mumbled something unintelligible, but she ignored what I said and kept on talking
“You had a rough night last night huh?” she said as picked up the blood stained suit from the floor. I saw the blood and panicked checking me body to see if I was hurt. When I was satisfied that everything was in order I looked down at meself and saw that I was in me own clothes.
“Who changed me?” I blurted out. Allison looked over at me with a big smile on her face.
“Well,” I insisted, she walked towards the door and stopped there still smiling, damn girl better watch she step before I lose me temper.
“Some of the women in de village did, Dey said you was almost unconscious when dey left you.” She giggled a little knowing what me horrified look was.
“Me grandma wan see you before you leave.” She said and walked out the door holding the dirty clothes in she hands. I got up and followed she into the other room; the bowls, candles and incense were all lit. Alison was standing at a door that I did not notice before, I mean, good lord man how many frigging doors did this little house have? She beckoned me over to she as she pushed the door open. Light flowed out of the room creating streaks of misty silver in the smoke. I stepped through the door looking at she as I went. There was a bed in one corner and a maple coloured table in the other, the table was packed with ornaments and bottles some wrapped in cloth or other material. I stood looking at the table it reminded me of me mother’s bedroom, she had a small shrine in one corner of the room with a statue of Jesus as the centerpiece; I tell you what I used to be real afraid to go into that damn room at night, that statue might have slapped a sinner like me.
“Ahhh, you interested in me gifts to Erzili Frieda?” I jumped when I heard the voice, I was so engrossed with the damn shrine I did not notice the old woman sitting in a chair next to the bed, it was the same woman who had poured the liquid into me mouth the night before. She head hung loosely as if she was asleep she dress spread over the chair making it seem like she was a head without a body. She motioned for me to come closer and I stepped forward bending over so she could see me face.
“May god be wid you me son,” She said stroking me face, she bony fingers pinching me cheeks, bloody hell, why was it they all wanted to touch me blasted face? Skin hung off the sides of she face when she spoke, when she smiled the skin moved from side to side like the loose skin at the bottom of a turkey’s neck.
“You mus believe.” She emphasized lowering she hands she chin dropped to she chest and I heard she breath real deep, I guess she too was tired from the night events. I left the room as quietly as I could with Alison directly behind me, she walked me to the front door and opened it.
“Sorry Ah cant offer you breakfast but granma don like it when someone she did a ceremony for stick round too long.” I told she I understood and walked out of the house and I thanked god because I did not want to stay any longer than I had to anyway. The afternoon sun was almost in the middle of the sky and I was blinded by it for a second, the trees had that golden tint and I smelt the sweet scent of mangoes in the air. I walked over to me bike and climbed on, the dirt road was dry making it easier to maneuver through the potholes. The children stood at the end of the road waving goodbye, they chased after the bike until I was moving too fast for them to keep up.
Best Sunday afternoon snack, roast corn, picked from the small corn patch at the back o the house.
What a massive frog, we used to call them Crapo, in the country side people eat them and call them Mountain Chicken, me I just called them big and scary. When we lived in the city, on Lucas street, for some reason those bloody things loved to come into our house. One morning I heard Mommy Charles shouting so me and Raphie went to see what was going on. There standing in the back room was Mommy Charles and one hell of a big frog, staring each other down, as if deciding a next move. The second me and Raphie entered the room Mommy Charles suggested that we get rid of it. Well we did not want to kill it so Raphie got a broom and began to gentle nudge the monster towards the do. That bloody beast had some powerful legs, all it took was three nudges to get it to the front door. It jumped over a table, a chair, and at one point over me. We finally got it out the front door, closed the door and went about our business. Mommy Charles needed something from a neighbor, so she asked Raphie to go get it. He opened the door and I heard him scream, then he stumbled back into the house, the from sitting on his chest. All hell broke lose, the damn beast was looking form revenge. It jumped on the dining room table, surveyed the room them jumped at me, I ducked and all I saw was the damn beast’s butt floating by me. I darted in the opposite direction. Raphie was still a little shocked, standing there eyes wide open, mouth hanging down. The monster frog hit the ground then was airborne again, went straight through the from door and we heard it land in the mud outside. Raphie rushed to shut the door. Mommy Charles came out of the her room. “Boi you get me ting for me?” She asked, me and Raphie just stood there, not saying a word.
Ian is at the Obeah woman’s house, already they are talking to him, trying to make sure he believes, but Ian is still fighting it, this obeah, this black magic, why should he believe, well lets see why he should.
There was no question at all that the front house belonged to Alison’s grandmother because bright colours distinguished it from the other two. The front door was painted in yellow and the frame in bright blue, the bright green roof shimmered in spots when the descending sun seeped through the trees round the house. I got off the bike and walked up the pebble-stoned walkway to a small wooden gate, I mean, what kind of strange people were they? No fence round the house just this bloody wooden gate. I shook me head and pushed open the gate and walked up three concrete steps, stumbled and almost fell into the door, damn steps was too small for me size seventeen shoes. I looked up at the door, there was a red cross painted on the middle of it and I leaned forward trying to get a better look at it, I remembered me grandmother telling me that some obeah priests used goat blood to paint crosses on they doors something to do with Passover I believe. Hesitantly I ran me fingers along the smooth surface when suddenly the door opened and I found meself looking up into the eyes of an old lady, she was wearing a gray dress the coarse material brushing against me face as a gently breeze escaped from inside the house.
“Wey you want?” she barked. I straightened up but still did not say anything I was vexed with meself, I mean, it was just a bloody old lady.
“You ah dummyboy?” she demanded a large mole on she bottom lip moved up and down when she spoke.
“I am Alison’s teacher,” I said, me voice a whisper. “She said I should come here to get help.” She eyes never left me face and for a moment she did not seem to know what the hell I was talking bout. I started to speak again but she raised she arm stopping me.
“Don jus stand dere, come in,” I got to me feet and followed she inside me heart pounding and me mouth suddenly dry. Before I could compose meself she disappeared into another room and I was left standing alone.
I sat down in the chair nearest to me wondering where the hell that damn woman went. There was incense lit in every corner of the room, teardrops oozed out the side of me eyes and rolled down me cheeks and I shut me eyes then open them trying me best to clean them. The chair poked into me skin and I looked down it was made out of Bamboo, now who in they right mind would have old bamboo furniture, I mean, the damn thing felt like I was sitting on needles or something. I cursed a little and slowly I shifted me position trying to make meself comfortable.
I looked round the room but I could not tell what colour it was because the smoke settled on the walls creating a black, gray cloud. There were dolls everywhere and the shadows on their faces made them look almost life like as if at any moment one of them would stand up and start a frigging conversation with me. Right then I wanted to get up and run but I told meself that everything was cool runnings so I settled back down. The curtains on the lone window shifted as the early evening breeze pushed it; I mean good lord, what have I gotten meself into? Alison materialized out of the smoke startling me, man, I need to stop talking to meself so much. She body made a pathway through the thick smog as she stopped in front of me smoke whirled round she then dissipated in the breeze.
“You all right Mr. Dickens?” She asked bending over and looking into me eyes.
“Yes, I am fine,” I replied, brushing away a teardrop that rolled down me cheek.
“Come on den, Ah go show you to you room.” I got up and followed her to a door that seemed to appear at the side of the room me water logged shoes squeaking as we went. I stepped through the door into a Victorian looking bedroom, I tell you what, the difference between this room and the one I just came from was like night and day. There was a huge window that took up one side of the room, a cream coloured laced curtain hung from it barely touching the floor, a mahogany dresser stood at the foot of the bed and on top of it were pictures of Alison, so I walked over to the dresser and looked at the black and white photographs. There was two of her as a baby and one of her when she was still a pupil at the small Primary school just a short distance up the road. There was a jewelry box over flowing with bracelets and necklaces, Jesus, did she think she had enough jewelry or what? I turned round in a tight circle surveying the room, surprisingly there was no smoke in there not even the sent of the incense violated the room.
“Dere is you change of clothes,” Man, I jumped so high me head almost touch the ceiling, I mean I had completely forgotten Alison was still in the room. She was pointing to a suit of clothes that lay in the middle of the bed so I walked over and picked up the garments
“Ah go come back to get you later on for de ceremony,” she said. I was still feeling the clothes not paying any attention to she at all so I was surprised when I turned round and realized the girl had already left the room.
I sat down on the bed me head started to hurt a little. I looked at the light blue paint on the walls it made the room seem brighter in the fading afternoon light.
There was a grandfather clock sitting in the far corner of the room and I watched the hands go round, I mean, I was looking at the bloody thing so long it’s ticking and me heart were beating the same frigging rhythm.
I heard a commotion in the backyard so I got up and walked over to the window, there were two roosters fighting while the other chickens scrambled round trying to get out of the way, dirt and feathers flew into the air as the two roosters tried to get the upper hand on each other. After bout three minutes of wings flying and intense clucking one of the roosters gave up and ran away its wings flapping vigorously, I chuckled to myself, run brother run before he kills you.
I opened the window and leaned out its wooden frame pressed against me elbow making them hurt a little, the late afternoon sun gave me enough light to see what the yard looked like, Aloe trees were planted along the sides of the house, it was common for Islanders to plant these trees because it was believed that they had the power to keep out evil spirits. Some people even eat the bitter plant believing that it would cleanse them, Idiots, that plant was so bitter it could make you hair stand straight on your head. The chickens had stopped milling round in the dirt and were beginning to settle down for the night, a bat flew by a mere shadow in the florescent light.
I went back into the room and sat down on the bed thinking hard bout why I was there and what good it would do for me. An owl hooted outside and I got up and began looking round for a light switch but stopped when I heard the door creek. Puffs of smoke seeped through then disappeared as it was sucked back into the other room. I waited, a dull pain in me chest as me heart rate sped up like crazy. It was just a few moments, but I tell you man, it seemed like a hundred years before an old man walked into the room surrounded by a cloud of smoke. He did not even look at me as he walked over to a chair beside the door and sat down, he wrinkled hands clasped round a homemade cane that supported the weight from he hunched over body, thick veins ran up and down he arms disappearing under the sleeves of his shirt. He dropped the cane onto the flow,