50th Installment of Obeah

“Bloody dry air,” Guede said then coughed. The cave shook some more and larger chunks of salt fell from the ceiling and the walls. Henry and the others scrambled to their feet and backed up against the wall of the cave as rocks fell around them. Akosua steadied herself as the floor cracked under her feet. Guede laughed, but this time it sounded like the boom of a violent thunder storm. The cave rattled, the floor opened up, and Akosua plunged the bluish white water.

“Akosua!” Adofo screamed as he stood helplessly. A couple of minutes went by and the rumbling finally stopped. Adofo lay down on the edge of the salt hole and stretched his arm into the water.

“You can’t save her now boy,” Guede said, Adofo picked up a piece of salt and threw it at Guede. The Evil Loa caught the salt rock, stopped smiling, and looked at the boy.

“Look at you. You are a disgrace to your kind. Your father would be ashamed of you. He is strong and you, well look at you, a weak pathetic Akan lover, strengthen up boy, become the apple that did not fall away from the tree.” Guede said smiled then winked at Adofo. The boy looked away from the evil Loa and Henry thought he saw a flash of guilt in Adofo’s eyes. Adofo growled at Guede and turned back to the sunken floor. Akosua’s head suddenly popped up and she grabbed a slab of salt that floated near her. Guede leaned forward,

“Hey Obeah girl, your boyfriend is too weak to help you,” he smiled a triumphant smile. Akosua clung to the salt slab and looked around, but she slipped off and disappeared into the white salty water. Henry, Donkor and the others rushed to the edge of the sink hole. Two minutes went by, five minutes went by, and still Akosua did not resurface

“Your little leader may have decided that death is better than fighting me, now she will be mining forever,” Guede said as he rubbed his hands together with glee.

Akosua sank, her eyes closed. She did not try to swim to the surface; she sank passing pieces of salt as she went. The salty water hugged her, it was warm, but got colder the further she sank. She began to lose consciousness and opened her eyes. Her mother floated out of the misty water and up to her. She was wearing a colourfull outfit from their tribe back in their homeland. There were bracelets with precious gems all up her arms, and a gold necklace lined with emeralds dangled from her neck. Akosua was taken aback at how vibrant the colours were despite the white murky water. The woman floated up to her, she was smiling, and her hazel eyes looked at Akosua lovingly,

“Fight baby fight,” she said then reached out and touched Akosua’s face. Akosua felt like a bolt of lightning went through her. She kicked her legs and shot to the surface. When she broke through she inhaled, her lungs felt like they were going to explode. She swam to the other side of the sinkhole and tried to pull herself up. The salty floor crumbled under her weight and she sank for a second. She kicked her legs and resurfaced. This time Obatala stood over her, his arm stretched down. She reached up and grabbed it and he pulled her out of the water. She was on solid ground on her hands and knees gasping for breath. Guede had climbed down from the headstone and was stomping and screaming like an angry baby.

“Damn you Obatala, Damn you!” He screamed. “You will pay for this interruption!” He kicked one of the smaller headstones and it shattered sending chunks of salt against the cave’s walls. Obatala took Akosua’s arm,

“Wisdom is on your side, let it be your guide,” he said, Akosua looked up to where the spear was hidden. The salt had fallen off around it, and she saw the stoned rock. Guede threw his glasses at them and cursed,

“You will pay you pretend Loa!” he screamed then turned and looked at Henry. His eyes were ablaze with hatred, and his face began to turn a bright red. Henry grabbed his stomach and fell to his knees. He began to throw up, and then fell to the ground shaking like he was having an epileptic fit. Guede stood, his arm stretched out to Henry moving his fingers like he was squeezing an orange. Obatala walked across the pond, his feet never touched water. He got to Henry and knelt down next to him then touched his forehead. Henry stopped trashing around and lay still, his breathing slowly becoming normal. Guede screamed, his voice echoing through the cave, then he turned and ran towards the walls behind the tombstones and vanished into it, his black top hat fell off and rolled into the pond. Donkor went over to Henry and helped him to his feet. Henry looked at him and smiled a weak smile,

“Thank you,” he said and Obatala smiled back at him.

“You are one of us once again, An Akan. Our Gods will protect you.”

Obatala turned and floated back across the pond to Akosua. When he stood next to her, Akosau climbed up to the spear’s hiding place, using the salt rocks as steps. She rolled a small boulder away from the hiding place reached in and pulled out the spear. It was wrapped in a red cloth and was about five feet long. She unwrapped the cloth, and held in in her hand. It was pure white, and despite the dim lights, its tip sparkled a little. She touched it, and a surge of warmth went through her body. She felt dizzy for a second as images of her homeland’s history rushed through her head. Then she was hot, it was a soothing feeling that ran under her skin, and she shook once then relaxed. Suddenly, she glowed white, as light settled under her skin, covering her whole body. The cave shook, and the salt walls began to crumble all around her. Big chunks of salt fell from the caves roof splashing into the pond. Akosua looked over at her friends,

“Henry, go get Kwao and some of the others and gather some of this salt, it will come in handy when we battle the Ligaroos!” She shouted over the roar of the crumbling cave. Henry turned and stumbled his way back up the tunnel to the top. Akosua stood among the falling salt rocks. She was calm, the spear glowing in her hand. In her mind Akosua saw her mother smiling. She looked around at the cave, but instead she saw the jungles of her homeland. She was surrounded by elephants, and tigers, and lions, and gorillas. She saw the warriors going off to battle, the hunters coming back to the village with the days catch, the big feasts whenever they had a victory. But most of all, she saw the freedom that her people once had. They danced in the middle of the village. There was laughter and singing, and drumbeats echoed into the dense jungle, across the fields, up and over the mountains, to every village. She looked down at the spear, soon they will have that same freedom on this island.

49th Installment of Obeah

The Jab Jabs came in waves, their voices suddenly echoing through the valley, trees shook and swayed, leaves curled as if hiding with fear.

“This way!” Donkor shouted as he pushed around Akosua. Akosua and the others followed fighting off Jab Jabs as they went. The jab Jabs disappeared every time they were struck, but more of them appeared out of thin air. They ran until they were at the edge of the jungle looking down to the middle of the mountain top. It was like looking down on a snow covered field. The Jab Jabs were fast approaching and they turned around to confront the wave of demons. Akosua swung her Machete and two Jab Jabs disappeared, she coughed as the air around her became a mist of ashes. Their red tongues stretched out, their red eyes blazing but somehow seemed lifeless. Akosua jumped down onto the white ground and Henry and the warriors followed her.

The mountaintop echoed with crunches as they landed on the white earth. Kwao hesitated, his back to the Jab Jabs. One of them hurled his body at Kwao and disappeared into him. The boy stumbled forward onto the white ground. He turned and looked at Akosua and stretched his arm out. At first he looked like he was pleading for help, but instead, his expression changed into a menacing stare. Without saying a word he raised his machete and charged at her. Donkor raised his machete just as Kwao brought his down. The sound of metal against metal echoed loudly. Kwao raised his machete again and Donkor stepped back and blocked Kwao’s swing with his machete. Donkor stumbled back leaving Akosua exposed to Kwao’s attack. The boy lunged at Akosua, ash exploded from his mouth. Akosua looked into his eyes it was turning red. His tongue was stretched out; it was slowly changing from pink to red. The change started from the tip of his tongue, and soon his whole mouth was red. Slowly, he began to turn an ashy colour, the change going up his arm to his body. Akosua prepared herself for his charge, but before he got to her Adofo had wrapped his arm around Kwao from behind. Kwao struggled, his eyes completely red, his tongue had turned into blood red and the upper half of his body was ash coloured. He continued to struggled and almost escaped Adofo’s hold, but Donkor had rushed over and grabbed him. Suddenly his whole body jerked and he leaned forward and threw up violently. Grey bile spilled out of his mouth, and the white ground melted as the grey liquid landed on it. Kwao staggered and stumbled backwards as Adofo and Donkor struggled to hold him up. Akosua walked up to him, the bile bubbled on the white ground fizzed, then disappeared. Akosua touched his face and he opened his eyes. She reached into her sack and pulled her Aron. She shook it over Kwao’s head, its sound echoed with the sound of the wind in the trees. Slowly, Kwao began to look like himself again. The red in his eyes dissolved, as puffs of ash floated out of them. His tongue returned to a healthy pink hue as he coughed out ash. The skin on his arm moved as if the ash was rolling around right under it. It trailed down his arm then escaped through the tips of his fingers in small puffs of ash.. He straightened up and looked around.

“What happened?” he asked, Akosua put her Aron back in the sack.

“You were possessed by the Jab Jab,” she said. She turned and looked at the others; they were all facing the Jab Jabs anticipating an attack. The demons stood, as if stopped by an invincible wall, their red eyes wild, and their tongues hanging out of their mouths. Akosua smiled,

“They can’t come over here,” the Jab Jabs stood for a second an indecisive expression on their faces. Suddenly some of them jumped at them, but they exploded in a mist of white. Ash floated to the ground covering the white surface; it fizzed as a thick layer of ashes landed on it. The rest of them turned and walked back into the jungle, exploding into ashes, turning the green leaves to grey. Akosua turned back to the white field. She stooped down and touched the ground. It looked like white stone and she placed a piece of it on her tongue. Her face twisted as she tasted it,

“It’s salt. Was this here when you and my mother came to hide the spear?” She asked, turning to Donkor. The man looked puzzled as he shook his head.

“No, this was all trees and bushes,” he said then looked around.

“There was a passageway to go underground in the middle of the field.” He said and started walking to the middle. A chorus of crunches echoed across the mountain top as they followed him. Donkor stopped, then took a step and suddenly fell feet first into a hole. Adofo tried to grab him, but he too fell into the hole.

“Are you all O K?” Akosua screamed. At first there was no response, and then Donkor spoke.

“This is the place, you will have to slide down the salt tunnel to get here,” he said. Akosua looked around.

“You come with me, the rest of you stand guard up here.” She said, pointing for Henry, the boy and two of the Bokors to follow her.

Akosua twisted and turned as she slid down on the salt. She came to a stop looking up at Adofo and Donkor. They took her arms and pulled her up. Henry and the others slid down after her, stood up and looked around. The ceiling of the cave was about twenty feet high. The roof of it was a layer of salt and the sun shined through it, creating a rainbow of colours on the white walls. The cave was salt, just like the white field they had just walked on. On the far side, large rocks of salt stood like steps that went about fifteen feet up. At the top, above the last steps of salt was the only natural rock visible.

“Right there,” Donkor said. Akosua looked up at the rock, its beige colour pronounced against the rocks of salt that surrounded it. She lay her gear down and was about to walk over to the steps when laughter filled the cave. Some of the salt rocks cracked and pieces fell, bounced off the salt floor, rolled towards Henry and stopped at his feet.

“Welcome girl witch,” the voice boomed. It echoed through the cave and Akosua looked around to see where it had come from. A man stepped out from behind a salt rock that was shaped like a headstone. It was six feet tall, and as Akosua and her friends watched, a black cross appeared on the front of it. Above the cross were the letters R.I.P, underneath was Akosua’s mother’s name written in red. There were smaller salt rocks surrounding it, they too were shaped like tombstones with the names of each child’s parent on it.

The man wore a black suit, and a black top hat, and dark sunglasses with the right lens knocked out of it. His exposed red eye rolled as he spoke. He used the smaller tombstones as steps to climb onto the bigger one and sat on top of it like a king on his throne.

“This is the perfect spot to sit and watch this momentous occasion. Little witch retrieves Spear of Salt so that she can save her people,” Guede said then threw his head back and laughed. Akosua stood calm and smiled, her eyes never moving away from the evil Loa,

“You don’t intimidate me, you are just a Lackey for Baron Samedi,” she responded. Guede’s laughter disappeared immediately. He puffed on his cigar then leaned forward.

“Go ahead little lady, go get your spear,” he said, and smiled a devilish smile. Akosua looked back at her friends. Adofo stepped forward.

“I will go with you,” he said, but Akosua waived him off.

“I have to do this alone,” She said and took a step.

“Ohhh brave little Obeah Woman,” Guede said and laughed. The salt crunched as Akosua stepped on it, it was the loudest sound she had ever heard, it echoed in her head as she took another step. She stepped lightly, but her left foot sank to her ankle in the salt and was slowly sinking more.

“Watch it now; you already stuck your foot in your mouth by challenging me. Be careful you don’t step into a salty grave.” Guede said and roared with laughter. She struggled to free her foot. Adofo started walking towards her, but once again she raised her hand and he stopped. She was finally able to pull her foot out, small chunks of wet salt rolled off her feet as she shook them one at a time. She steadied herself and took a step. Guede’s smile disappeared again; he had an impatient expression on his face. He looked over at Adofo and the others and then back to Akosua.

“You think you can save lives by getting this spear? Don’t you know that life and death is the biggest joke played on man. That’s why I can use the dead to do my evil works, and I can use the living to do my bidding also.” He boasted then laughed as Amelia took another tentative step. Guede continued talking,

“Ask yourself, are the Jab Jabs dead, or are you and your friends the dead ones. Did I order them to attack you, or is this all one big illusion, and you are actually in the afterlife, and I am in control, and you are doing exactly what I want you to do. Is there a spear over there, or is this just one of my games that I so love to play?” Akosua stopped and looked at him.

“As sure as I am standing here that spear exists, Yemaya says so,” she said and Guede rolled his exposed eye.

“Yemaya, Yemaya. She is no real Loa. She is loose and she is a trickster. Why would you believe her?” He asked staring at Akosua. She took another step then looked over at Guede,

“My mother brought it here Donkor can attest to that.” She said and took another step. Guede looked over at Donkor.

“Who him, the Bokor,” Guede clapped his hand and laughed, a red teardrop rolled out of his eyes,

“Hi old friend, been to any sacrifices lately. What, are you all of a sudden a good little Hougan. I seem to remember wanting my help. Remember the services, the food, and the human offerings. Thank you I was hungry for food, or hungry for souls, and you were quite willing to satisfy me.” he winked at Donkor, the man shifted from one leg to the next nervously.

“Look how nervous he is, do you think you can trust him?” Guede said,. Akosua looked over at Donkor and gave him a reassuring smile. She took another step, her legs shook a little. Guede sucked his teeth, shook his head, and then sneezed. The ground moved violently and Henry and his friends fell. Akosua braced herself, her hand stretched out at her sides for balance. The salt floor began to crack as the cave rumbled.

Death and Birth

While walking through some bushes, I heard a rustle behind me. I pulled out the pistol tucked into my waistband and looked around. It was quiet except for the sporadic gunfire in the distance. I realized that the rustling came from some thick bushes ahead. I walked in that direction, my fingers tightly wrapped around the pistol. Before I got to the bushes, a deadly scent filled the air. I wanted to stop walking because I knew deep down what I would find. Still I continued, my heart pounding hard, causing my vision to be blurry. My mother always said I was too bloody inquisitive. I parted the bushes, my eyes closed at first. Even though I saw what I expected, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. There was a body lying on the ground, its green uniform, brown with dried blood. I stared at it as an army of nature’s scavengers helped themselves to the rotting flesh that was left. I stood there horrified, my heart racing, my body tingling. It was as if I was waiting for something to happen. I closed my eyes, I guess I was trying to see myself in that man’s place.

Bob Marley lyrics exploded in my head, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery none but ourselves can free our minds”. I swallowed hard, trying to stop myself from throwing up. Then another quote ran through my mind. It was the Karl Marx statement “Everyone is a victim of the system.” I wanted to be that body, feel free, no political system to tell me what to do, no religion to watch my every move. At that moment, feeling nothing would have been like paradise. Another Bob Marley lyric came to mind “If you know what life is worth then you will look for yours on earth”. I was not about to die to attain the freedom I seek. I had to stand up and fight for the life that I wanted. That moment was like becoming born again, a born again human being.

I was jolted back to reality when a helicopter swooped in and hovered over the bushes. I pointed the pistol at it, my hand shaking, beads of sweat rolling down my forehead, settling in my eyes. I wiped the salty liquid off and kept looking up. I was afraid they might have seen me; I was prepared to defend myself. The mosquito-like machine glided towards the hills on the other side and opened fire. Leaves and dust flew into the air, soldiers shouted, and birds flew from the chaos. I took the opportunity to run in the opposite direction. AK-47 rifles barked angrily as pockets of the local army fought back. I ran until I reached the dusty highway and I stopped to catch my breath, my chest burning. I realized I was still holding the pistol and tucked it into my waistband. The shooting stopped, and the helicopter whizzed by, its rotors creating a whirlwind of dust. I went home and sat in a chair on the verandah, my heart still racing. I got up, took out the pistol and looked at it. I placed it, along with an AK-47 and a couple of other guns, in a can that used to hold Lard, filled it with grease, dug a hole, and buried it next to a Paw Paw tree. That was the last time I held a gun, forever elevating the false sense of safety I once felt.  

Where We Were

The explosions grew louder and more frequent; that was the angriest sound I had ever heard. Villagers ran up and down the street, their lives even more uncertain than when the communists attacked. Members of the People’s Revolutionary Army used anti-aircraft guns to defend the airport. A couple of the paratroopers disintegrated in midair, their bodies exploding like fireworks, but there were no bright colours. I left the window with my heart beating so hard I thought it would explode. I ran back into the house and turned on the radio. The announcers frantically shouted for the islanders to pick up arms and defend their country. I was confused, wondering if I should go to the front lines, or just let the warmongers murder each other. After all, this was my island, my forefathers had fought to free the slaves on this very ground. Why should I let these outsiders occupy my homeland? After five minutes of the announcer’s erratic talking, a Bob Marley song, “Ambush in the Night” was played. To this day that same song plays in my dreams over and over again. The young announcer’s voice shook as he began talking again, sometimes struggling to get the words out. Suddenly, his voice was replaced by the annoying sound of static; then the radio went silent. I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do. Then I heard a loud explosion and our brick and mortar houses shook. I jumped like someone had poked me with a nail, and ran to the front yard. A puff of smoke bellowed into the air beyond the lush green hill, top to the left of my house. It was then that I realized that the explosion had come from the direction of the radio station Then as if with a predetermined purpose, I got up and walked into the house, went to my bedroom, and retrieved my Red Bear-made pistol. Now you may wonder where I got the weapon. Well the government wanted a militia, and they got one – lots of islanders with guns. I checked the chamber to make sure there was a full clip, then reached into my dresser and got a few extra rounds. I walked down the street, my eyes scanning the rows of houses, anticipating any attackers. Trucks loaded with people’s revolutionary soldiers raced by, creating a gray cloud of dust that covered the village. Young men and women clenched their AK-47 rifles, some screaming at me to join them in the defense of the island. I shook my head; poor bloody souls were off to fight a war they could not win. I ran my finger along the smooth metal edge of the pistol. You can’t imagine the false sense of safety I felt with that bloody thing stuck in my waistband. I did not know what I was going to do, but I was becoming angry. First we had to endure the rule of the Union Jack. Then the Red Bears came with their inadequate ideology, brainwashed the population into believing they had a chance to determine their own destiny. Here I was, locked in this battle, confused, frustrated and scared. It did not help knowing that lives were being lost all because we were just a pawn in the destructive cold war. Now the invaders were here claiming to save us from certain destruction. I remember thinking was this not destruction I was witnessing at their hands.

Sounds Of War

Thirty one years ago on this date, six am in the morning,I was woken up by a low hum. I shrugged it off and started to does off, but then I heard loud explosion. I sat up in bed, it quiet for a second, then a sudden barrage of anti aircraft gun fire. I jumped up and ran to my front door, a huge plane was flying over, soldiers floated down, their parachutes fluttering in the tropical wind.  Confusion set in, even though we expected it, finding ones self in the middle of life and death will wake anybody up. That was the day the world turned gray for me.  The tropical flowers were grey, the blue skies were gray, the ocean that I love so much turned gray. Nothing makes a person feel more helpless than life spiraling into total confusion, not because of your actions, but by the actions of politricksters who think they know how people should live.I still have dreams about that day, I guess they will never go away.