The haunt of the soucouyant

Andrul looked at his wife sitting on the bed as he pulled on his trousers. He stopped short; he questioned, “Wha’ mark is dat on de two side ah yuh mout’ gyul? Wha’ trouble is dis here atorl mih Gawd? Is like de Devil ridin’ yuh dese night! Look at de bridle mark on de two side ah yuh mout’!” Tomazine felt the marks. She laughed,

“How yuh so choopid! Dat is whappia; when yuh dribble on de two side ah yuh mout.”

Soon, however, attention was directed differently, when Tomazine discovered a dark, circular spot on her leg. They were convinced that the soucouyant had stalked again and suck the blood off her leg. A shudder of fear gripped them. The soucouyant’s visit was becoming too often. Andrul looked at the fretwork of ventilation over the windows. He knew that any space was a big enough entry for the soucouyant, who was adjustable to any crack or crevice from the size of a keyhole.

On his way to work that morning, the husband consulted with Papa Sepee, the village obeahman.

“Awrite boy Andrul,” said the obeahman. “We go ketch dat ole soucouyant. De fuss ting Ah want yuh to do is to go in de Chinese shop and buy ah little lookin’ glass, and a pair of scissors; and get ah piece of white Roseau wood and ah one- inch nail. And w’en yuh goin’ back home from de garden dis evening, see mih and ah will tell yuh w’at to do. Oho! And get ah horse shoe too.”

Andrul was disturbed to imagine that an old woman was capable of changing her human form into a horrid ball of fire and to fly to her unsuspecting victims during their sleeping hours, and suck the blood off their arms legs and other soft parts of their bodies. He was determined to follow Papa Sepee’s instructions to catch that soucouyant.

“Now Andrul, ah see dat yuh really want to destroy dat soucouyant,” said Papa Sepee, as Andrul presented the prescribed items that evening. “Heh, tek de scissors,” he continued, “and nail it outside yuh front door. Nail it out so like ah X. Den stick dis little lookin’ glass between de two cuttin’ blades of de scissors. Den tek de ole horse shoe and nail it outside yuh front door before de first step. Tek de piece of white Roseau stem, split it in two an’ mek ah little cross an’ nail it on de inside of yuh bedroom window wid de one-inch nail. Yuh watchin’ mih? Hear good wat ah sayin’ yuh know, Andrul.”

“Yes Papa Sepee; ah follow yuh good.”

On his return home, Andrul told his wife, “Tonight! Tonight! Tomazine gyul, we go ketch dat ole soucouyant.” Tomazine shook her head “yes,” half-believing as they retired to bed that night.

It was late into the night, when a sudden, loud knock against the front door, sent them gulping out of sleep. Andrul’s eyes dilated in the dark as he stared at the luminous clock dial on a nearby shelf. It was 12 o’clock, midnight. Tomazine, with fearful eyes, shouted, “Oh gawd Andrul! Hear de soucouyant bouncin’ de door!”

“Awrite Tomazine, hush yuh big mout’ Ley me Andrul handle dis!”

The flapping, bouncing and groaning continued at the door and moved out to the open yard. In order to catch and destroy the soucouyant, it was prescribed by Sepee to rush outside in the nude and to kick, butt and cuff at the evil element with constant vigour until it was completely subdued. Then it was left of him to capture and bind it with rope or command it with prayers to disappear forever.

With that consideration, Andrul hastened out of bed; trembling but determined. He removed his vest and shorts. His fist clamped at the doorknob. Tomazine rushed after him.

“No! No!” she cried. “Please doe go outside; de soucouyant will kill yuh! Doe go outside so; dat is ah evil t’ing!”

The commotion continued outside with increasing vigour, while Andrul perspired cold inside. His skin grew moist with perspiration; hairs on end and his head felt swollen with fear. His grip slackened from the doorknob. Impulsively, he jerked away from the door. And looking at Tomazine, he said,” Ah t’ink yuh right gyul. Ah bettah doe go. After getting back into his vest and shorts, he sat on the bed while Tomazine stood nearby, biting a finger. The noise finally phased into silence. They retired to bed, but without a moment of sleep through dawn.Early the next morning, Andrul went out onto the yard searching for marks in the sand. He could not believe that in spite of all the movements he heard there, the sand appeared undisturbed. He stood in the yard in deep consideration of the horrid event as he chewed upon a datwan (chew-stick toothbrush). At that moment Ma Negroid sauntered into the yard, clutching a calabash bowl in one hand.

“Bon hours, mih compere Andrul.” (French patois, meaning; Good day my friend Andrul) she greeted with a press on her lips trying to keep her clay, smoking pipe puffing in one half of her mouth as she spoke. The woman was curved with age and walked feebly with the aid of a walking stick. She paused with a lean of support on her stick. Her hands shook nervously.

“Son,” she said politely. “Give me ah drink of water in dis bowl, please.” Andrul, taking the bowl, went to the water barrel to fetch the water. In the in the meantime, she lifted her straw hat to adjust her plaid headwrap.

“But Ma Negroid,” Andrul said as he gave her the bowl of water. “Why yuh come in my yard foh water dis early mornin’ w’en yuh jus’pass de stan’ pipe right on de road dere?”

The old woman gave him a sharp stare as she replied, “Ah fin’ dat allyuh young people doe have any respeck for we ole people! De nex’ ting yuh go call mih soucouyant, like everybody up in de village. Ah does cyah go in dat Mayaro Junction in peace. All dem little piss-in-tail boy does bawl ‘soucouyant! Soucouyant!’ Buh one ah dese days Ah go show allyuh soucouyant!” Papa Sepee was eager to rid the village of that old soucouyant who, for many years had kept the villagers nervous as it was said that she traded their blood for evil powers with the devil in the silk cotton tree.

Andrul with boosted determination set out to follow up the course of action that was to free the captive villagers from the fangs of that soucouyant. And so, that night, dressed in black, he left his home with a matchbox filled with a mixture of ground bird peppers and salt. He silently, slid off-track into the bushes through, which he made his way to the back of the old woman’s kitchen, where he hid among a cluster of tall dasheen bush.

It was a few minutes before midnight. A door creaked open. Andrul saw the woman descend her two wooden steps holding a lighted bottle flambeau above her head, and with searching feet, she walked upon stepping stones to a tiny detached kitchen with a carat roof.

Minutes later, as he peeped through a crack in the wall the light of the flambeau went out. A mysterious glow filled the kitchen space. As the midnight hour approached, the nocturnal bats grew uneasy in a wild stir overhead. Ma Negroid quickly removed her clothes including her plaid head wrap. In the nude, she began to chant in a low voice, which seemed to be a recitation of a familiar prayer, but in a reverse sequence. From a tiny, calabash bowl, she dipped her fingers in commanding oil, with which she gently massaged her entire body. Andrul’s eyes popped unbelievingly, when he saw her shedding her skin. She peeled off her skin like a fitted garment. And bundling the skin, she stuffed it into a wooden mortar.

The bare flesh of the human form gradually absorbed the surrounding orange-red glow as she shrank into a concentrated ball of fire. The little kitchen brightened up with her eerie crimson light and soon, she floated through the wooden window. Andrul stared unbelieving at the devil’s ball of fire; the feared soucouyant as it weaved through the fronds of coconut palms, soon disappearing behind the mass of vegetation.

Shaken, but yet determined, Andrul entered the kitchen, he felt his way to the mortar and sprinkled the entire box of pepper and salt all over the skin, then returned into hiding in the dasheen patch, where he awaited the final drama.

It was “fore-day” morning. The roosters were crowing from backyard trees. The ball of fire descended slowly into the kitchen, where she mysteriously changed back into her human form. She went to the mortar where she attempted to put on her skin. Suddenly she jerked back, with wrinkles of anger. She muttered, “Kin kin nah me! Kin kin nah me!” (Skin skin you ent know me!) Each time she attempted, she cried in appeal to the skin. It was impossible for her to bear the irritation of the pepper and salt treatment.

While she kept on the appeal Andrul hurried away. And later in the morning, a crowd of villagers converged at the Mayaro Police Station to get a look at the captured soucouyant. To this day, no one seemed to know what became of the soucouyant. Some said that she was capped in a barrel of tar and rolled into the nearby ocean. Many disbelieved; saying that she escaped the police and flew off in the night, and continued to be seen in villages across the island for decades through our folklore history.


"The haunt of the soucouyant"

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