Baby  Soucouyant,  Chano

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     In the dead of night when everyone was fast asleep, Miss Gloma, the midwife, was screaming on the moonlit street. She was middle aged with a piping voice which penetrated every nook and cranny nearby.

     ‘Miss Gloma bawling. What happen to she?’ asked one neighbour, who had rushed out of her house in her night clothes.

     ‘In truth. I wonder what happen?’

    ‘Look like she coming from by Dani mother.’ Miss Gloma had just delivered Dani’s mother’s second  baby.

    ‘Oh. Oh,’ one neighbour said.

    ‘That’s why she bawling?’ another answered. ‘She happy then?’

     ‘But it sounding like she frighten,’ another added. ‘I wonder what going on.’

     Miss Gloma was hysterical.  At one point she ceased all movements but continued her screaming, leaving those issuing from their houses confused. In the cold night air, the chilliness sweeping from the mountains, a few villagers wearing at least two layers of clothes, raced to Miss Gloma, held her tightly until they subdued her to some extent.

      Many saw the unusual redness on her hands and one asked, ‘Em. Em. What happen to your hand?’   

    ‘Oh. Oh. He. He…’

   ‘The child dead? That’s why you bawling? You accustom helping ladies with their babies. So what happen this time?’

     Miss Gloma was seated on a wooden chair.  Another villager, a lady, was wiping her bloody hands with a wet towel while another was drying her tear-wet face. It was from this chair in the middle of the road that Miss Gloma narrated the most terrifying story that ever hit this remote village on the foothills of the mountain.

     ‘Ten minute now, I holding this child in my hand. He hand full of hair. He have ah high forehead and he ugly for spite. And he eye big big. He not like any child I ever see in all my years seeing about babies. Then he open he mouth to laugh and if you see them teeth.  Two big big one sticking out of he mouth and they looking sharp like chisel. I say they like Dracula teeth. Same time he give one hard laugh and it frightening and is then I drop him on the ground and start running cause like he did want to eat me.’

     ‘Eat you? A child eat you?’

    ‘Yes. That what I think. What my brain telling me.’  

    ‘Really?’

    ‘You should see how he look at me with them big big teeth. I just can’t believe is a little child.’

    There was a hush and villagers eyed one another. Clearly no one had seen such a child before.

    Ma Gloma sat heavily on the chair and looked all around. She was holding her hands on her chest as though afraid.

     Sohan, the father of the recently delivered boy, was hurrying down the street.  He was breathing heavily and in between breaths, he said, ‘All you see Ma Gloma? All you see she? I left she with Dani and I don’t know where she gone.’

      A few members of the crowd stepped aside. One look and he saw her, fright spread all over her  tense face.

    ‘Where the baby?’

    ‘Is a boy. I left him home and …’

   ‘No. No child there.’

    ‘Oh. Oh.’  Ma Gloma repeated what she had earlier told the sympathetic villagers but added, ‘I think he is a boy child who will kill he own mother.’

    ‘Kill? What you saying?’

    ‘Is a rakshas.’       

    ‘A rakshas?’ One neighbour said. “But ent she is a soucouyant? How come she make a rakshas? Eh? A soucouyant making a rakshas? I never hear more.’                                                    

        No need to ask more for even as she added that bit, she painted a curious, most disturbing picture with those words, ‘Is a boy with big big teeth and he go bite and kill he mother first. Soucouyant or no soucouyant. And then he have long long hair all over he hand. Is not a usual child. Is a rakshas. A devil child.’

      Everyone looked at one another with worrying faces because they were remembering who a rakshas was. The quietness went around until one person shouted, ‘Oh God no.’

      ‘Is that who your son is, Sohan?’

       Shocked Sohan was but he repeated the information, adding loudly, ‘Oh God no. This rakshas will kill me wife dead.’ With those words, Sohan dashed away from the crowd. ‘You rakshas bitch, I coming for you. All you give me a cutlass. Give me anything to kill this animal.’

     ‘Come, all you. Come,’ one villager said. ‘He will need help.’

     All around villagers were shouting, ‘Is a rakshas. Is a rakshas.’

     ‘Pick up a good piece of wood. ‘

     ‘Pick up some stone to pelt him down.’

     When the crowd reached Sohan’s house, the rakshas was sitting on the window sill contemplating his next move. There was leaking blood all around his mouth, and the concerned ones, fired up to kill him, thought he had already sucked the blood or killed someone.

    ‘Oh God, watch he mouth. Like he suck out my wife dead or he drink out she blood?’

    The rakshas, sensitive to the crowd’s intention, jumped over their heads and sat on the rooftop, where he laughed loudly Ha Ha Ha.

       The men rained stones on him but he slipped to the opposite side of the sloping roof and was gone.

       ‘He gone. He gone,’ one man said.

     ‘Gone? Gone?’ Miss Gloma said. ‘You mean gone to come back. To kill his mother. And kill anybody he see.’

       Sohan said, ‘Let’s call the police. They could bring a gun and shoot him.’

     ‘Police! Police ent coming. Rakshas have no mercy. They will kill police, too.’

     ‘Ai. Ai,’ another villager added.’ Rakshas does live for four to five days and in that time, he does kill anybody in sight. Man, woman or child.’

     It was Miss Gloma who added more invaluable information. ’You know what? I remembering some stories what my mother used to tell we. To kill him we have to get a big flat stone and squeeze him on he chest. Squeeze it till he life come out. ‘Cause while he living, this rakshas go try to kill he mother and then me.’

    ‘Oh God no,’ Sohan said.’ You sure?’

    ‘More than sure.’

    ‘Let we not waste time. All you get some big flat stone. Concrete on anything.’

   ‘You mean like a seal?’

   ‘Exactly like that. Bring plenty.’

     There was a noticeable relief on some faces as seals seemed easy to locate and then the job would be done in a flash.  But search as they diligently could, no seal could be found. Many years ago, with the change in technology, the villagers replaced their seals with handmills with which to grind their seasonings, bandhania, podina, pepper, garlic and onion. So they began looking for substitutes

    It was a desperate situation and they must kill the rakshas within five days. That much they knew. They also knew that the more blood he drank, the stronger he could become. In fact, he might just live for more than five days and this the villagers were very worried about.

     A short distance away, another story surrounding a young soucouyant was developing. Baby Soucouyant, Chano, became a soucouyant because she grew up accidentally seeing, Dani,  her mother,  return from one of her adventures.  She was hungry and on that morning, she got up to have a little milk. She walked into the kitchen only to see her mother becoming a recognizable human being once more.  After that she saw her mother shed her human skin so often and her mother saw her looking but did not shoo her away and soucouyantism became a way of life for her.

     On this morning, Baby Soucouyant, Chano, drunk so much blood that she decided to rest under the silk cotton tree. By chance too the rakshas was contemplating his next move. The two were leaning against the opposite sides of the same tree. The rakshas, more alert than Baby Soucouyant, Chano, felt a movement. He sprinted behind the tree and she could have become his next victim except on seeing her in this deep red colour, he suddenly wondered what he was seeing. But no. He recognized. While he had blood around his mouth, her whole body was covered in red.

    ‘No. No. it can’t be. It can’t be’.

      The rakshas was determined to make her his next victim and so rushed at her, his teeth already out, to suck and then mangle her. She saw death face to face and though he jumped to seize her he was no match. She rose higher and higher and the helpless rakshas, unable to seize another victim, felt defeated.

     ‘And who are you to defy me?’ he said, looking up at her. 

    ‘I am Baby Soucouyant, Chano. I learn this art from my mother and she is the best. If you want me, get me.’

     ‘Your mother?’

     ‘Yes. My mother, Dani. She’s the best soucouyant in these parts.’

     The rakshas thought quickly. Dani? But she’s my mother, too.  And you are my sister. To himself, he said, Should I kill my own sister or should I not?

     Baby Soucouyant, Chano, shouted, ’I, your sister? How?’

     ‘Your mother just gave birth to me?’

     ‘My mother! Damn liar,’ Baby Soucouyant, Chano said. ‘What is my mother’s name?’

   ‘Dani. Dani, you fool. I just told you that.’

    ‘You are right.’ The young soucouyant was stunned. Her lips were trembling but not a word escaped.

     Now silence seized the both of them but it was the bloody-mouth rakshas who broke the silence, ‘ Blood relatives should not fight. Never. It’s against human laws.’ Silence again. The rakshas thought long and hard. Finally, he shook his head and blurted out, ‘You are my enemy.  You are a soucouyant and I must kill you.  So he shot his teeth out and the young soucouyant saw his anger rising. ‘Ah. Ah. I’ll get your mother. My mother. I’ll get her. I’m going now.’

     ‘Whoever you are if you try to harm my mother, I’ll finish you. I can suck and you can suck and we’ll see who will be the winner in the end.  It will be suck for suck.’

        Baby Soucouyant, Chano, thought to herself.  Oh. He can’t fly.  Just a little high. More like jumping.  It looks like his nature is to destroy and if he can’t, he’ll get frustrated. And that will make him do foolish things.  And what did he say about our mother in a muffled way?  With the last thought, she shouted at the rakshas, ‘Your mother represents all that is good.  Why do you want to destroy her? Are you a beast?’

    He said in an equally loud voice, ‘Because she is evil. Evil in her last life. Evil now. Only evil does make evil.’

    ‘But you are determined to kill,’ Baby Soucouyant, Chano, said. ‘I suck people blood but never destroy them. I satisfy my hunger but never kill.’

   Baby Soucouyant, Chano, was feeling tired of hovering in one spot and so flew away leaving these strong words.  ‘I’ll get you, rakshas. I’ll get you. You can destroy humans but not me. Never.’

     The rakshas did not know his days were numbered. He knew though that at this point in time, he must destroy his mother and Miss Gloma. He did not know why. He could not say why but he must do it. It was a compelling feeling in him. They were the enemies.

    When Baby Soucouyant Chano returned home, she could not find her mother and this raised an alarm in her.  Where is my mother?  I wonder if the rakshas kill her. I wonder? Did he?  However, she heard a familiar movement outside and she knew her mother was somewhere around. On seeing her, she immediately told her of her encounter with this rakshas.

     ‘You lucky he ent kill you. You damn lucky.’

     ‘I know.  We had a battle of words.’

     Now Baby Soucouyant, Chano, was not fully aware of the happenings in the village and she was shocked to find out that the rakshas had threatened the lives of many and killed two fat well-nourished dogs. It was only when she and her mother conversed for a while that she learnt of it and they came up with a plan.

   ‘Them big teeth he have very dangerous,’ her mother said. ‘He could sink them in you, drain your blood and that will kill you.’

    ‘Really, Mom?’

   ‘And he can fly. Not high but he can fly. More like very long jumps.’

     ‘Yes. I know. He can leap,’ Baby Soucouyant, Chano, said. ‘But he couldn’t catch me ‘cause I can fly.’

     ‘Good,’ her mother said. ‘He can’t fly. He could jump high. His teeth are his strength. Ah. This one.  He does not live beyond five days. Seldom.’

    ‘True, Mom? True? Not as long as humans?’

   ‘Only from four to five days but he could do so much damage in that short time. So we must stop him.’

    An hour later, the panchayat called a meeting. The villagers were divided into groups. One group would guard the rakshas’ mother and they would be armed with manageable slabs of stone. They intended to hold him, pile the slabs on his chest and squeeze him until he died. Another group would carry sling shots with solid stones. The shooters would aim to knock out his teeth. Without protruding teeth, he would be powerless, they all agreed.

     That was the plan but no one knew if it was going to work.

     After a few days, the villagers would relax a bit because after the five days he would have died naturally and everyone would be safe.

     The rakhas observed all their movements and changed his strategy. He moved swiftly and noiselessly in the night often hiding behind shadows of buildings and trees and no one noticed him. A growing compulsion banged against him and he tried to get at his mother but he found she was well protected. He tried to sneak through a crease in the window but could not.  He made some indecipherable sounds, clearly showing his frustration. Then he roared and quickly flew onto a roof before anyone saw him but thunderous sounds, which came from his roar, awoke the dreamy vigilantes who aimlessly shot at him. And though they hit him, he was only shaken and was not deterred.   

       He was already living for a few days and was becoming weak. He was hungry and thirsty and his destructive mission was failing. And the leaders noticed he was not as swift as he was at the beginning and called on their slingshot men who shot pebbles at him instead of waiting on him to come closer.

They shouted, ‘ Rakshas, we are going to kill you now. Yaah Yaah’.

‘You can’t get away from us. Yaah. Yaah.’

’Surrender or we’ll squeeze you till you die. Yaah. Yaah.’

       ‘Come on,’ Baby Soucouyant, Chano said. ‘Evil is evil.’

       And so they trumpeted their voices in this cold air but the rakshas was still running ahead of them on this day.  Unable to trap him, they continued with screams and shouts and threats and invited others to join the roving gang.  

    Hungry, the rakshas, saw a calf standing under the shade of a spreading mango tree. The calf was sucking from its mother. With his last bit of energy, he pierced and sucked the blood from that calf and that blood injected some life into him. The calf, however, died. The rakshas felt rejuvenated and continued to run as fast as a dog. For a moment, the rakshas thought he was escaping and so he laughed aloud.

    Not so quickly, the men said, and renewed their efforts to capture him. The sound of marching feet forced him to look behind. Escape was too late.  He felt a shower of stones on him and looked for the next available route for security.  Suddenly and he did not foresee this, he was running into a  river heading for the sea. He dived and the men saw huge bubbles and wavelets around him. He beat his hands frantically as he tried desperately to anchor his hands on something solid, anything to keep him above the swirling water. No number of hand movements came to his rescue. He sank slowly and never resurfaced.

    From the banks of the river, the men shot their hands in the air, laughed loudly and flew their stones in that area where he sank, causing a million tiny ripples to emerge.

     ‘Gone for good, rakshas bitch,’ they shouted.

     ‘Don’t ever come back here again,’ Baby Soucouyant, Chano said. ‘Brother or no brother. Evil is evil.’

    And so peace and quietness returned to this mountain-side village once more. The experience told them a story. Never be in any rush to play or see a new born baby for that baby too might be a rakshas.

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Vishnu Gosine
Vishnu Gosine

A retired teacher. His short fiction appeared in newspapers, magazines (The Caribbean Writer, BIM) and anthologies and broadcast on the local radio stations and on the BBC. He has authored three works of fiction, including The 'Twelve o’ Clock Man'. His latest novel, 'SONIA', will be published by JAV Publishing House in 2023.

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