Damn monkey! Trailing me through the bush? Leave me! Cha! Grunt y’grunt, howl, y’howl. Y’noise don’t change nothing. Howler monkey feel they can… Mash! Go. Go! What done done. Can’t change. Ah Papa. Even in the bush. Man business is not monkey business. Mash! Go back and hide up in y’chenet tree! Dammit! Nothing coulda go different. Cha!
So I run. So what? Don’t mean I ain no man. I run. Run. Run, from what they do Ruby. Run from Pearl eye. Had to run. All I was seeing. All I was feeling. Ruby and Pearl. Grief and guilt. Ah Papa. Ruby and Pearl. Sorrow and shame.
Run through the cemetery to get to the bush. Through the cemetery. Ah-ah. Not even looking. And m’foot catch up in a mango root. Hah. Nearly even fall in a open grave. Hah! Living running from the dead, papa.
But was a darkness chasing me. And a noise. Following me. Sound like, some kinda animal deading. Ah, papa. …And was me. Me! Bawling so loud I sure the whole world shake. Hah. And I run, run like I sure I see the devil. Pearl boney finger and she accusing eye. I know I run up the ravine and cross the river. Run up hill. Run. And the ringing in m’head talking only one talk. Dead. Ruby. Dead. Rosemary. Dead. Dead. Soucouyah. Words hunting me down, papa. Pearl. Witch. Maljo. Hag. Jumbie. Dead.
Ahh, ahh, ahh. End up by Mam Schuck. The obeah woman. Hah. That is what they call her in town, -Mam Schuck the obeah woman. Never mean no respect by it. No respect. But is she save me.
Didn’t even see the shack at first. Only notice the old ribbon tie up in the calabash tree. And the bamboo poles. Is only when I come round the pink poui tree I realise where it is. Place smell like sour mud and ripe banana. Hah. Nearly didn’t go in, papa. But she was done standing in the door. Mam Schuck. Old. Bend up and old. But she eye shine. She head was tie up in a white cloth, and she was wearing a long skirt like she just done mashing cocoa on the plantation. She raise she hand.
-Vini, vini. She tell me. -Vini manje.
And I follow her. Didn’t have nowhere else to go. Went up the steps and inside the shack. And inside was dark. A table? A bed? Kinda see that. See a picture ah white Jesus and a picture ah black Mary on a wall. Don’t really remember much else. Inside the house was dark.
And she take me outside, to the back ah the shack. Had some chicken pecking at the dirt ground. A big, old cast iron bowl. The kind they did use for boiling the sugar. Had some rows ah herbs and vegetable cultivating. Ahhh. And on the side ah them, had a big, wide hole in the ground. Big, bout three foot wide, and two foot deep… and bout six foot long. She lead me to the hole. Put her hand on m’head and say something. Don’t remember the words. But, she tell me, have darkness riding me. Lanmo tale difini. Them words I remember. Death does come in threes.
So I drink the grugru tea from she boglet, and take a taste of the fowl and the rice, the coucou, and the goat she sacrifice. And she sing.
-Tin’a-O, Tin’a-go, Ni-go D’es et ai, Tin’a neye-ba.
And she give me bush bath. Beat me with the broom call the shey-shey-rey. Light a candle and burn a incense. By the time she tie the blue cloth over m’eyes and make me lie in the hole, I was ready. To bury on the mourning ground. She cover me with a old crocus bag and then scape dirt over it with a rake. Give me instruction to stay for three days, but I ain sure how long I was there for. All I could tell is what I see.
I see Mamie Rosa. Tears in her eye. She give me a hug in she strong arms, and she weep. Then she show me two paths leading into the bush. One going down. One going up. And she say it ain have no good choice in this life only a better one. Next thing, I on the path going up, but the path rough, and stone and ting digging m’foot. And then I reach a river. And like river come down. The water brown, flowing fast, and all kinda branch and mud coming down in it. I see a coconut bounce past. And then just so the water rise up. And it take the shape ah Ruby. Was Ruby, yes, but not. Was the water still, dripping and flowing. And she reach she hand out and she grab me and pull me down into the river. Down, down to the bottom of the river.
And then was in a big house. Round, and make outta mud and river stone. I look in through the window and see Rosemary, sitting in a chair. And then I see Pearl. She was stand up in a corner behind Rosemary. Was dark and at first I didn’t know what she was doing. She look strange, moving kinda awkward and funny, elbows out, hands behind her back. Is when she start pulling at the side ah she face I understand. She peeling she skin off, like if she peeling zaboca. And as the skin folding down, wasn’t no blood and flesh underneath. Was like embers, red and black, like charcoal curing in the ground. And she step out the skin, and bend down, and roll it up, and put it under a floorboard.
Next thing I see was a ball ah fire fly up in the air, like a arrow of flames shoot up in the sky. And it disappear over the trees into the dark green shadows.
Then I see a flock a parrots, calling and shrieking as they fly out the trees. And as I watch them, I start to feel a sorrow and regret pressing down inside me chest. And I drop to the ground. And next thing, I lying on the ground and I looking up in the sky. And it clear and blue. Blue, blue. And three, eighteen, thirty-one cobeau circling round, like kite gliding on the wind. And then just so is cobeau drop down, big and ugly, with they grey vulture head looking like death. And they start pulling at m’flesh. All ah them crowding over me, pulling at m’flesh. Til I ain have no body left. Til I was just dry bone, lying on the ground.
And then the bay leaf tree shed she leaves down on me, and the roots of the tree twine up round me legs and arms and face and I become the earth and the roots and the rotting leaves. And I could feel the bachac ants stepping in m’eye, and the worms moving up m’throat and the jap spania wasp building nest in m’ears. And I get to know the forest.