17th installment of Obeah

Henry was still asleep under the mango tree when suddenly his body became hot, like he was floating above the pits of hell. Out of the darkness he saw someone standing in front of him. Henry blinked and rubbed his eyes. The man’s face looked like it was made of iron; his green jacket had black stripes on it that made him look tall. He leaned down towards Henry, his hand hidden behind his back. Henry squinted to see if he recognized the man, but his dark face blended with the starless sky behind him. Lightening blasted, turning the night into a sheet of white. Thunder exploded and the ground shook like a violent earthquake rumbled across the island. Henry’s heart raced up as the blinding lightening flash again, followed by the ground shaking thunder. Henry tried to stand up, but he stumbled and fell hitting his back against the trunk of the mango tree. The man turned to Henry, his iron face blended in with the dark sky. He took another step towards Henry his right hand still hidden behind him. Henry cowered away, his vision blurred from the moving earth. Suddenly the man lifted his arm above his head; he was holding a machete,

“Gren mwe fret” he screamed in a nasal voice. The machete’s sharp edge glittered in the lightening flash. Henry screamed, as the man brought the machete down. Henry grabbed his arm, his skin felt like iron and he heard the pops and cracks as his fingers began to give out under the weight of the man. Suddenly he was sitting up looking up at the star filled sky.

Henry looked around; he was lying on the ground next to the mango tree. He checked his body to make sure all his parts was still where they should be. He tried to stand up, but his legs buckled under him and he hit the ground with a sickening thud. He lay there, as a mixture of hot and cold rushed through him. He shook violently, his joints felt as if they were being ripped from his body. Suddenly Adofo stood looking down at him.

“Are you O K?” he asked. Henry tried to talk but his tongue felt like it was glued to the bottom of his mouth. Adofo tried to help him up, but he stumbled and Adofo caught him just before he hit the ground.

Adofo took Henry through the village; some of the children followed them. Henry mumbled as Adofo led him into a hut on the other side of the village. Adofo sat him down in a chair next to a table, and then disappeared into another room. Henry looked around the room, but his vision was like looking through a glass bottle. His head throbbed; it was as if the drummers were sitting at the base of his skull ponding their drums. Adofo returned with a bowl made from a coconut shell and handed it to Henry. He looked at it for a second then took a drink, it was bitter and he coughed a little. Adofo sat in a chair on the other side of the table. His dreadlocks moved a little and yellow light escaped through it.

“What happened to you, you look like you saw a ghost when I found you,” he said, Henry swallowed before he spoke,

“Just a bad nightmare,” he said then described the dream to Adofo. The villagers stood at the door peeping in.

“That was the spirit Ogoun the warrior Loa. He loves the noise of battle and helps people gain political power. He revels in uttering vulgar phases that don’t make any sense, but such is the ways of his crude nature. Some say they have seen him cut himself with his machete, but there is never any blood or wounds on his body. Why would he be in your dreams?” Adofo said and looked at Henry.

“Indeed, why would he be in my dream?” Henry echoed Adofo sat back in his chair.

“It must be some kind of warning. The Ligaroo King and his followers are sensing that we plan to rescue our people so they are trying to scare us away.” He said, stood up and walked to the doorway and rubbed the head of a boy peeping in.

“If you are going with us to rescue our people, I need to teach you how to defend yourself.” He said. Henry did not say anything; he was going in and out of consciousness. Adofo left the room and came back with a blanket. He covered Henry, the boy snored, his mouth and eyes open.

The next morning when Henry woke up, he felt as if his head was a heavy rock that his neck could not support. He got up and walked out the door. The sun hung over the jungle causing the green leaves to have a gold tint. He walked to the dining hut. There were quite a few of the villagers in there. He walked up to the table where Adofo and Ampah sat. They greeted him and Adofo pointed to an empty chair next to Ampah.

“How are you feeling?” he asked and all eyes turned to Henry.

“Like I am carrying the weight of the moon on my shoulder,” he said, the kids laughed and Adofo raised his hand.

“Today I will teach you how to fight with the spear and the machete.” He said, Henry smiled and nodded, he was looking forward to learning the ways these warriors fought. For two years his father’s friend had given him lessons in sword fighting.

Henry forced himself to eat and when he was finished he followed Adofo and Ampah into the jungle. There was a clearing just beyond the village set up for the warriors to practice. Tree stumps stuck out of the ground. Their once massive trunks littered with blade marks from years pass. Adofo handed Henry a spear and instructed him to stand about ten feet from one of the stumps. Henry took aim, his legs wide apart, the spear held above his head, but away from his body. He threw the spear. Villagers scattered in all directions as it sailed through the air and landed in the bushes about fifteen feet past the tree stump. The villagers erupted into laughter some of the smaller children falling to the ground holding their stomachs. Henry stood, his face felt like he had just dipped it in a bucket of scolding hot water. Ampah retrieved the spear, he was laughing so hard he was barely able to walk. After he picked up the spear, he walked back over to Henry, tears rolled down his face.

Adofo reached out and took the spear. He positioned himself in front of the tree stump, his left leg in front of his right leg. He raised the spear with his right hand and threw it at the stump. The spear glided through the air and stuck in the middle of the already chipped wood. Adofo turned to Henry,

“Try it like that,” he said, as Ampah handed another spear to henry. He took it and stood just as Adofo had instructed and threw the spear. This time the spear landed in the dirt next to the stump. Henry went and retrieved it then turned back to the others.

“Who taught you how to do this Adofo?” he asked, Adofo smiled,

“My father taught me after we got to this island, he said I would need it to hunt and someday defend myself, and he was right,” he said. Henry took his stance and threw the spear again. This time it stuck in the stump for a second then fell to the ground.

“See you are getting better, keep practicing,” Ampah said and some of the children applauded.

Akosua, Kwao and the two warriors were making good time getting to the Bokor’s village. The sun shined through the trees sending streaks of light through the leaves and bushes. Small rodents scurry in the underbrush, butterflies fluttered from one flower to the next, bugs stuck to their sweaty skin. Suddenly the tree branches popped and cracked, and a figure floated through the sunbeams and crashed into the two boys. Akosua and Kwao turned around; the warriors were lying on the jungle floor. Two Bokors, all less than four feet tall, stood over them the tips of their spears pressed against the boy’s chests. They heard the bushes rustle and turned back in the direction they were going. The Bokor leader stood with three others behind him, their red and blue painted faces hid their expressions.

“You crazy little witch, why are you in my jungle? “He asked looking at Akosua. Kwao pulled the machete out of the crudely sewed leather holster on his belt.

“Easy Kwao,” Akosua said raising her hand.

“Listen to your leader Kindiki,” the Bokor leader said as the three behind him raised their spear.

“Who are you calling an evil spirit you conjurer?” Kwao shouted then looked at Akosua, she stared at him and he placed the machete back in its holster. Akosua looked at the Bokor leader,

“We need to talk,” she said. He hesitated but turned to his men and shook his head. They lowered their spears glaring at Kwao.

“Take them,” the leader commanded, the Bokors helped the two boys to their feet poking them with their spears. The tall one bumped into Kwao and the boy growled and resisted, he hated surrendering. Akosua reached out and touched him on the shoulder. He took a deep breath, walked past her and followed the Bokors, grumbling.

Henry spent days trying to master the art of throwing the spear. The palm of his hands was covered with calluses, and sometimes they bled, but he never stopped practicing. Adofo thought that Henry had practice with the spears long enough so he decided that he should move on to the machete. It was like using a sword, so Henry found it easier to learn. Henry was proud of himself; a big smile on his face. He felt that he was finally being accepted. That night he lay on his bed and thought about his father, the old man would have been proud of him. Henry closed his eyes and soon fell asleep, the sounds of the jungle fading away.

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