He woke up to the pale light of the moon shining down on him. He tried to sit up, but his head felt like it was spinning around on his shoulder. Someone had the palm of their hands on his chest, pushing him back down. He panicked, and began to struggle. He felt dizzy, even with his eyes closed he seemed to be spinning out of control, and then he fell back into unconsciousness.
Henry woke up again and looked around. The wind rushed through the willow trees creating a chorus of whistles that echoed through the valley. In the darkness, he heard Akosua,
“Take it easy,” she said resting the palm of her hand on his forehead.
“Relax a little, we are preparing to leave,” she said, Henry lay back down and looked up at the hazy branches of the willow trees. Thin moonbeams escaped the tree branches, but were not enough to aluminate the area around him. He lay there listening to the footsteps of the others getting their gear together. Each time their feet hit the ground, it seemed to shake a little.
After about ten minutes Henry slowly sat up. Akosua leaned into him. Donkor barked orders,
“Watch the flank!” Henry sat up and saw a white flash ran through the trees.
“Whats going on?” He asked Akosua looked around her.
“We are under attack,” she said, Henry tried to stand up, but she stopped him,
“The others can handle this,” she said, Henry relaxed a little, but felt around on the ground next to him to find his machete, but did not find it. Akosua stood up just as a woman in white charged at her. She swung her club hitting the woman in the face. The woman stood and looked at her for a second, then turned and ran off into the darkness. Akosua turned back to Henry; he stood up and almost fell over. He shook his head and looked around; they were surrounded by the women. Dozens of white dresses flashed in and out of the dark. The phantom women screamed, as they herded Henry and his friends into a circle, their white dresses shimmered as they went in and out of the moonlight. Henry righted himself and stumbled over to where Adofo and Donkor were, and got down on his knees. Adofo handed him a machete.
“You O K? He asked
“I will be” Henry said, Akosua stooped down next to him the club still in her hand. Kwao and the others were in a half circle fighting off the advancing women in white.
“We need to go that way,” Donkor said as he pointed.
“We push our way through there, and please nobody look at them, keep your eyes towards where you are going, do not look directly into their eyes. Do not listen to what they are saying.” Henry nodded, Donkor stood up his machete held above his head.
“Charge! He screamed and they all followed him. Henry stumbled and Adofo grabbed his arm. They charged forward, some of them yelling as they went; their voices’ drowning out the women’s seductive singing. The women stopped circling them, and stood in front of them, arms outstretched, eyes blinking orange in the dark.
“You can come with us, live an enchanted life. Freedom can be yours.” They said, their voices becoming a confusion of words.
“Don’t look at them don’t listen to them,” Donkor screamed as he held his arm up for them to stop. One of the Bokors stumbled and fell, his gear spilled all over the damp ground. He tried to gather himself, but one of the women stepped in front of him. He looked up at her and immediately was entranced.
“Come with us and be a lost soul no more. There is paradise waiting for you.” She reached down and touched his face. He took her hand, and she floated into the jungle dragging him as she went.
The women stood in front of them, they did not move, nor did they look at the women.
“Keep going, slowly and keep looking to the ground,” Donkor said quietly as some of the women followed the one that had captured the Borkor. They walked up to the women who had formed a line in front of them. Donkor pushed past the women, still looking at the ground. The woman closest to Henry reached out and touched his face. A cold chill went through him, as he felt her dress brush against his legs. He felt a gentle burst of air against his ears.
“I can make you happy, lost in a world where you have no worries, where I can bring your family, and you can live happily forever,” She whispered into his ear. Henry almost stopped, but did not; he just kept walking and looking down to the ground. When the woman realized he would not respond she growled a little, and turned to one of the Bokors. The man hesitated as she whispered into his ear. Akosua pushed the man and he stumbled forward. After what seemed like an hour they broke through the line of women and began to run. The angry screams of the defeated phantoms echoed as they gave chase.
They ran until they did not hear the women anymore. They stopped, still in the Valley of the willow trees. The trees were even thicker here, blocking out the light from the moon completely. Henry heard the breathing of the others in the dark. Someone next to him coughed, but he could not tell who it was. They stood there composing themselves.
“Looks like we are O K,” Donkor said, his voice startled Henry, and his heart beat raced up even more. He felt light headed, and dropped to his knees.
“You O K son?” He asked.
“As soon as I can breathe again,” Henry replied.
“They got two of my people,” He said.
“I am sorry,” Akosua said, “Those devil women have a way of hypnotizing men,” They stood in silence, listening to each other breath in the dark. Henry caught his breath and spoke,
“Who were they anyway?” Henry heard someone’s feet drag before Dankor spoke,
“Those were the La Diablesse, women who died as virgins and comes back from the dead to kidnap men,” he said between breathes. He patted Henry on the shoulder.
“You are lucky my friend, if they had taken you, you would have never been the same again. I have known men they have kidnapped. One day, they were vibrant men but when they were found, they were just like the living dead.” He said, Adofo spoke,
“It is dark as death here how are we to know which direction to go?” he asked. Out of the darkness, Henry heard Akosua’s voice.
“I think I can fix that,” she said, as a firefly floated among them then suddenly disappeared in front of Akosua. Then Akosua’s face lit up, the firefly moved around in her mouth. The glow, and even Akosua’s eyes were bright yellow. Henry saw Adofo’s face, then Donkor’s, then Kwao’s. Slowly Akosua walked over to Kwao and took his arm, and blew. Hundreds of fireflies floated out of her mouth and covered his body from his head to his toe. When he was completely covered, he stepped away from Akosua. He glowed, lighting up the willow trees around him. Kwao turned to face them; the only part of his body visible was the big smile on his face. He walked away from them and the shadows followed him. Akosua took Henry’s arm and blew on it. He watched as the fireflies went up his arm, onto his face, and over the rest of his body. He felt warm, and the fireflies tickled as they moved. He spun around; it was a strange feeling to be the light that lit up the Valley of the Weeping Willows. Henry looked around, the hanging branches created shadows on the ground that looked like hundreds of fingers.
Akosua turned to Adofo and did the same to him, then she did it to one of the Bokors and soon they had enough light to see twenty feet around the trees. The women were back, but they floated around just outside the light. Henry lifted his machete ready for an attack. Some of the fireflies migrated up the machete lighting it up. One of the La Diablesse came close enough to the light and Henry saw her face. It was skeletal like, pieces of rotted flesh and skin hung off her cheek bone.
“Come on lets go,” Akosua said, “They will not come into the light.” They started walking, Henry and Adofo side by side at the front. Kwao and the Bokor side by side at the back, and one of the boys in the middle. They walked close together careful not to break ranks and wonder into the dark.
“Did the evil spirits send them?” Henry asked. Fireflies floated off his lips as he spoke. Akosua walked up next to him,
“Don’t know, but we need to keep moving,” she said.
They walked until they were out of the Valley of the Weeping Willow trees and into the jungle. Animals popped out of the dark staring at the walking lights. Snakes slithered along the path, their yellow or red eyes investigating the strange travelers. A large owl flew overhead just beyond the light, hooting loudly.
Slowly, daylight began to descend on the jungle, and the fireflies began to fade away. The La Diablesse had left, afraid to face the daylight. Henry still heard their voices in his head. They walked out onto an area where there were more rocks than trees. About half a mile ahead they saw the base of Nkyene Mountain. They stopped and looked up, the peak disappeared into the sky. Henry wiped sweat from his forehead as he looked up at the sun half way hidden behind the peak,
“Here we are, we should set up camp here before the climb. We will need all our strength to get to the top.” Donkor said.