In the still of night
(A short story by Ian Jackson) "Children, Children"
"Gather round old Granny let me tell you a story before ten thirty"
We all gathered around Granny as this was her usual call to us whenever they 'take light' which was regular enough. We often relish these moments, my sister Shirley and little brother Jojo.
Beaming, we took our seats on the ground outside the wooden make-shift kitchen while Jojo sat in Granny's lap.
"Long, long ago, before watch and TV, when our leader was called chief and snake had teeth, a lot of things used to happen in de still of night," she began. "Man use to cack up their leg and tuck in their head and before you could pick up a log , they would turn into dog."
"Dog!" Jojo quivered and snuggled deeper into the arms of Granny. I looked across to Sister Shirley. She seem captivated as I was but in a trance-like state.
"Yes, dog!" Granny croaked. "In those days there was no Chiwa or Dubman.."
"Chiwawa and Doberman, Granny!" We laughed.
"Well, all I know is Rover," she continued unperturbed. "The first man that turn to dog never trouble nobody. He use to just run to the village quick, quick, make his message and come back."
"Whoa" mused little Jojo feeling more comfortable at the magical thought of turning into a dog.
"They call themself Lougarou"
Granny took a long draw on her pipe and paused as we waited with bated excitement mixed with some apprehension.
"But you know how woman always claim they smarter and so they began to read all kind of devil book and start to fly on broom and they call their self Soucouyant."
A chilly wind blew across the yard and looking up I saw the clouds beginning to cover up the moonlight. Now that was scary. By this time Jojo was right underneath Granny's bosom while Shirley began picking at her hair the way she always did when she was nervous.
"One day long, long ago, the children of the village began to get all kinds of marks on their skin and they go to all doctor and priest. But nothing worked, those marks still remained."
"What kind of marks?" Shirley asked.
"Marks like no one ever see. Round marks like something was sucking their blood and making dem sick. Some of them get pale, pale, pale .At first people thought it was something they call mat blood or bet rouge that was biting their children."
"So what cause it Granny? What cause it" asked Jojo, scratching his skin like he just developed an itch.
"They call all kind of priest to pray and put holy water in people house. They even call Father Fleur, but young children especially, were still getting sick."
"So how they solve the epidemic?"I asked trying to sound like a high school scholar having just passed the Common Entrance.
"Epi what! None of that, my child. Thanks to Mr Bam. We finally caught the culprit."
" Mr Bam! You mean Old Mr Bam?" I asked
"Yes that is why they does call him, and people like him bam see. His real name is Baminton"
"You see Bam was a man that use to walk late at night when everybody was asleep-Bam see.
"One night he say he see a big flash like lightening pass over his head and think it was label but him say he never see labelle light bright so."
Granny blew up some smoke from her pipe and put in some more tobacco. Her bony frame and madras-covered head tie made her look somewhat mystical as the smoke engulfed her.
She continued: "Ah yes, it was no labelle. He take off he shirt and put it wrong side out and make the sign of the cross and go home...never say nothing. Second time they were keeping a wake for Ma Owen and he see something above de house and he say he take out his catapault and, bam!''
"Bam see!" we chorused.
"Bam not only see, but he connect, and that creature, whatever it was, fly way. It was only when Sunday morning come people doe see Ma Mona come to church and Parson say, she say, she foot paining she, people start asking question. The church choir decide to pay she a visit more out a curiosity than concernity as brother Symbort would say"
Granny laughed at her own joke till she nearly choke and called for some water from the nearby goblet.
"Who is Symbert...a funny man?" I inquired handing her a jar of cool water fresh from the goblet.
"That man was a walking dictionary, Sarah- Ann," she brushed aside, then quickly "but as I was saying, when they visit Ma Mona home, she come out and meet dem at the door, hands akimbo, and den Geraldine ask for a drink of water. Well, it was that drink make everybody go inside Ma Mona house for the first time."
"So how is de leg?" the choir leader asked.
"Poco,Poco. Doc say is arthritis. It ah pain me yuh hear!"
"Well dey hear fer true, but Bam see. He look all round. He let his eyes boil his peas and de report say no cross, no bible, no mirror and only black clothes in she wardrobe and some ugly looking dolls on a dirty table cloth."
"But is how Wesley people like to mind people business so!"
"Is not Wesley people chile is Bam , Bam See. Only thing he say that new was a red broom with blue bristles. Geraldine take the water and pretend she drink and throw it way."
By then Jojo had fallen asleep on Granny's bosom.
"One week later" Granny continued as she comfortably put Jojo to lie across her lap.
"It was de village feast and they were practicing 'Heel-and-Toe' and 'Kokoy Tory' down by de school. So Bam say he watching she .Me self I rub up your moder with red lavender every night to ward away the bad spirits and tell her anytime she leaving the house, put her clothes on the wrong side. Eh, eh, lo and behold when Ma Mona thought everybody was at the rehearsals…"
"Bam See!" My sister and I were getting quite used to the refrain by now.
"Ma Mona go out in she garden and hang tek off she skin and hang it on a breadfruit tree. So Bam climb the breadfruit tree and put garlic, salt, pepper and all kind of seasoning on de skin and he put it back. After sucking two of Mr Jones goats for the feast and some children from the nearby village she come back singing:
Skin, skin, come to me
Skin, skin, come to me
I have drunk their blood
As much as a jug
Skin, skin, cover me"
"The skin jump up from the bread fruit tree and onto Ma Mona flesh she hold on to her broom and began to fly all around the village till dawn. Everybody come to see a live Soucouyant without she skin. Finally Ma Mona was caught."
"Those, those things is…is true," Shirley stammered
"Oh yes, yes my child. Today we have de computer soucouyant. Those that does suck the bread from we mouth".
"One day you will understand children."
With that, Granny took one more deep draw on her pipe. A star fall and a dog howl. They didn't hear her whisper faintly under her breath.
"Another Soucouyant gone; another Soucouyant gone!"