by Aria-Rose Browne, 14, St. Anthony’s Secondary School
You hear stories of Duppies, River Mumma and Lajabless. Stories told throughout Caribbean islands for generations. Luckily for you, that’s all they are, tales to frighten family and friends. Lore to taunt and jeer. Myths to outgrow and not believe in. Not for me, for now, the year is 3045 and those ‘Legends’ that you used to mock are my living hell. They pivot every island into anguish and despair, engulfing them in darkness leaving nothing behind – and my home is next…
I fled from the great anarchy that troubled my village. The screams of tortured souls echoed throughout. Everywhere one turned, the creatures of the dark, the monsters of your stories would be stalking, ready to feast. The blood curdling screams of their victims swallowed whole, even after the demons had left, continued a cacophony in our heads. The survivors argued in Patois, paranoid and on edge from the tragic events that had taken place. Children clung to mothers, tears streaming down their faces whilst their mothers struggled to remain strong in moments of peril.
I survey the scene and as survivors try hard to pry their eyes from the wreckage, they huddle together in circles of rice. Suddenly, the Witch Doctor’s voice boomed, steering everyone’s focus to her. Before this day the Witch Doctor was shunned, nobody wanting to form fool with obeah, but that seemed long forgotten as the villagers searched for answers. The Witch Doctor’s voice bellowed, “Pour ova rice, turn ova’ yuh shirt and kneel before God. Demons are amongst us,” she pauses and looks upwards, basking in the last golden rays of the sun before it being over cast by a red haze. She jumps frantically, “Beware, the Soucouyant masquerades in deception!” The Witch Doctor ran and disappeared into the forest, chanting. Everyone paused not knowing what to say, her nonsensical words lingering in the wind, only heightening our fears.
I decide to break the silence, “Everyone, we need to move. I know you’re all scared but I know how to outsmart these demons. Follow me. I know where safety resides.”
“Why should we follow you?” chimed a man.
“Because the same thing happened to my old home. I have already seen the golden sun go red, the white sands turn black and red haze swallowing everything. You should follow me as I am the only one who made it out alive.”
The man fell quiet and with no further objections, I led them to the forest.
As we venture further into the dark, we decide to take a rest since we were exhausted. We settle in a clearing and as we set up camp, we hear one of the villagers proclaim the sight of a river. Before I can get one word in, the rest of the town’s people follow him like a herd of sheep. I run to them, I can hear its calls in the wind, River Mumma is near.
“Quick, everyone, close your eyes!” Most heeded my warning, whilst some stayed stubborn as a mule.
An eerie silence drifted in the darkness, followed by desperate pleas for help, “No, no…,” their voices rich with fear until the river drowns them out. By the time our eyes become readjusted to the light, the river is uneasingly still, stealing some of our friends with it.
The next few days were the same, monsters preyed on us, waiting hungrily for their time. It was Lajabless luring men with her beauty and Rounce playing a game of cat and mouse, toying with his victims. He loved giving us nightmares, filling every night with dread. His antics made us…. more paranoid, to say the least. I warned them all of Lajabless’s seduction, to not let their lustful desires cloud their common sense. As to whom carried deaf ears, Lajabless left them deaf, blind and six feet under. At the dawn of the next day, Rounce tailed us. I told them to fight Rounce with sticks and only count aloud to one and no higher.
Well, the dammed souls were curious.
If the count was greater than one, then that was the number of Rounce that came to fight. There is only so much a stick can do against multiple Rounce and with that, we lost a few more people.
As only four of us remain, spirits are low as we continue through the forest. We cut through the thickets of the forest, and see a familiar face.
The Witch Doctor was making a fire. We joined her. “I’m assuming from your lack of numbers you have encountered the Soucouyant.”
“What’s that?” inquired one of the village folks.
She replied, “You didn’t tell them? The Soucouyant is a demon who sheds its human flesh, turns to a ball of fire and feasts on its vicitm’s bloo-.”
“Why scare them with that nonsense!” I shout.
“It’s not nonsense for the Soucouyant hides amongst us, but luckily ‘e ‘fraid salt and love fi count rice.” She continued, “Would you like some rice?” She throws a few grains of rice on the ground.
“I’m good. Rice is not for me,” I say, not prying my eyes off the rice. I snap out of it and murmur, “I think it’s best we head to bed.”
She looks at me as if wanting to say something but thinks better of it. Then we all lie down and drift into darkness.
The red sun beams on me as I change back into my skin and wipe blood away from my mouth. “The Witch Doctor almost had me, luckily nobody too quick fi believe a hag throwing rice. She was by far the tastiest.” I walk around my blood drained victims and smile to myself, “I never lied, I did see the sun go red and the sands turn black. Y’all shoulda listen to the Witch when she told you I was here.”
With that I was on my way to the next village to continue our game, “Ah mi name Soucouyant.”
ABOUT the story: The Fabled Truth was inspired by “Caribbean folklore and my interest in mythology.” This work of fiction is third placed in the 13-17 age category of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2020 Challenge.
ABOUT the author: Her passion is writing, and she also enjoys music and theatre arts.
ABOUT prizes won:
Prizes – Patrons:
EC$150 – Lawrence Jardine (founder and technical director of the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Enlightenment Academy); Bath and Body gift package – Juneth Webson (businesswoman and writer – Milo’s First Winter); signed copy of Musical Youth (hard cover edition) by Joanne C. Hillhouse
Each winner is also set to receive a certificate, a selection of books from The Best of Books Bookstore and cultural items from the Cultural Development Division – Antigua and Barbuda.
For the full breakdown of ‘who won what’, if not linked (yet), use the site’s search feature.
ABOUT Wadadli Pen: The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize launched in 2004 with a writing Challenge that continues 16 years later. It is Wadadli Pen’s pilot project, in keeping with its mandate to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, encouraging writers (and visual artists) in Antigua and Barbuda (35 years and younger) to create a piece on any topic, within a Caribbean aesthetic. In 2020, there was also an Imagine a Future climate change challenge. To support the work of Wadadli Pen, contact email@example.com
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