One of the commune sisters fling a stone at us and scream, “A lesbian dem…de two ah dem dey like boyfriend and girlfriend.” When me hear that me panic. Me taste the shame in me mouth like sour spit ‘cause me first reaction was to scream back at dem, “Is lie yuh telling gal! We ah jus’ friend!” Mi can’t believe me just deny Suzette like Peter denying Christ. After all we just did. Me feel like me want to run and hide from the world, hide from miself. But I was trapped, trapped with me own feelings, couldn’t run from miself, tied down to the spot. Like how me tied to this blasted…wait…what is this?
Me wake and half-raise miself from the cold table. I don’t know how long I’ve been out after dem strip me and hose off the blood. On the table beside me is a pretty white lamb, strapped down with two lengths of rope across its belly. On another metal table me recognize Daddy’s tools: an ice pick and a butcher knife, neatly arranged beside a silver basin; a golden chalice from the vestry; and Mosheh’s big bible. The lamb bleating quietly like it already dying, like it take on me suffering. A camera mounted in the corner, me know dem watching. Mi tell miself stay calm. Shalom. But the word come outta me mouth without conviction, just like every other damn day on the commune. All the bitterness come flooding back with the memory of what happened. I feel if I could untie miself I would…
Kill dem? mi sey inside mi head.
Yes, that’s exactly what you thinking just now!
The voice insistent, strange but at the same time familiar. Inside me head it continue: Think ‘bout it. After this is over, yuh think things will ever be the same? You really think life can go back to normal for you? That lamb won’t survive this table and neither will you.
“Dem is just a buncha lunatics…”
Then this whole country is a buncha lunatics, ‘cause this is not the first time you’ve been in trouble. And it won’t be the last. Yuh remember that time Ms Kerr give you two weeks’ suspension, ‘cause she catch you playing purple touch with Judy in Home Ec. class?
“So what you want me to do, fight every battle that comes along?”
A body muss learn to do something for itself that nobody else can.
“Shut up! What you know anyhow?”
Yes, what do I know? I’m only the voice dem been training you to ignore. A body muss learn to set itself free from devils. Fear. Tyranny.
Me start to feel like me just now meeting miself alone in this room, as if all along on the commune I was deprived of me own company. “When this is over, me going somewhere far from here. Somewhere where these monsters can’t stop me from living me truth.”
Hah! She still singing that sanki. Tell me, how far can yuh go? You really think freedom lies outside that door? This country not bigger than this room — not bigger than this table you’re strapped to! Yuh ever wonder how you end up in this position in the first place?
“Mi know exactly how…it start from basic school. Even then me know there was something different ‘bout the way dem see me, and the way me see miself and how me feel. Daddy used to shield me, saying I was just a tomboy. But after him join Qahal Yahweh…”
There now, Dreenie…don’t cry. Tell me something good…tell me the moment yuh heart come alive.
I smile, “Me heart come alive when me kiss Suzette today…but yuh know when it really gallop? When me sink me knife in that brute…me never know killing could feel so good. The last pig Daddy bleed in the yard was a big bully name Old Man Moses. When it squeal people shout, ‘Come quick! Old Man Moses bleeding down in de yawd!’ Yuh coulda hear ecstasy pouring from dem mouth. That’s the pride I feel today — the pride of being the butcher’s child.”
Suddenly the lights go out. The door open. Somebody creep up to me. One smaddy, maybe two. The door click shut. Mi try to see who it is but darkness choking me with invisible hands. “Who’s there?” I sey, me palms already sweaty, “please turn the lights back on…” Mi breathing so fast it feel like the table spinning round and round. “Please…!” Me hear the gruff voice of a man telling smaddy beside him to keep quiet, then feet shuffle to the other side of the wall. Mi jerk up and shout, “Fuck all ah yuh! Yuh brainwashed set of rassholes! Me nuh fraida yuh! Child molesters! Rapists!” The panic-fueled words take me outta the room, as if the table float all the way back to the bush earlier that afternoon.
Tied up on the ground, I watched the veins turn to wires in Suzette’s pale freckled neck as she rose up off me. Then she was determined, unafraid. The two biggest girls in the group started circling her. One lunged at her, but Suzette swung the knife and opened a gash down the bitch’s arm — then sent the other one sprawling on the bamboo leaves with a kick. In the darkness it playing out vivid before me. “Run Suzette…! You can’t take dem all!” Twisting me body, I watched her running. She stopped, turned and pointed at me: “Me coming back Andrene…!” Even Sister Ibuntu Nyari, Mosheh’s head wife and the other girls ketch dem ‘fraid when they saw how she angry. For a while dem stood frozen, ‘fraid of something terrible and forbidding in her blood-streaked face. “Me coming back…!” she yelled like prophecy, hacking at the bamboo till her whole body became the blade. Then she disappeared through the wood. They chased her, but me know dem didn’t manage to lay even a hand on her sleeve. Mi know she coming back for me. Me can feel it. Me just have to stay strong.
The lights come back and mi get a shock. The room jam pack with people. The bulbs seem brighter than before. Me keep squinting till me eyes adjust. Is like me land in a different room — like me seeing ghosts, the faces familiar yet different somehow. Dem all dressed in the same knockoff Muslim wear, the women wrapped from head to foot in blue, only dem faces showing, and the men wearing white pants and tunics. Dem all barefoot standing ‘gainst the walls with hands folded before dem in breathless silence, with reverent expressions fixed on dem faces. But there is fear in dem eyes, like dem attending a public execution. Like when dem used to watch me fadda slaughter a pig every Sunday mawnin at the butchery. Mosheh, the Shaliah, glide towards me without a sound, smiling handsomely and stroking him neatly clipped beard.
“Shabbat shalom, Sister,” him greet me in him rich baritone. “No servant can serve two masters, Andrene. Who yuh think you were talking to just now while alone? It was him — the foul spirit. But you’re safe now child. Look around you…only circumcised men and non-menstrual women are allowed to partake in this ceremony. And all the implements for the procedure are new. Your daddy donated them. There is enough power in this room to bind him — to cast him out. Today my child, you’ll be set free. Baruch HaShem Adonai!”
“Yahweh Yehreh!” come the war cries with fist pumps from the rest of dem.
Three Navi, including Daddy, dressed in white vestments and white gloves, move to the centre of the room around the three tables. Mosheh take up the bible. The room quiet again. No — me can hear someone crying. While me struggling to untie miself, mi listen to the sound, till me realize…is me crying.Mi squirm and twist in the ropes, but the knots eat deeper into me flesh. Me see Daddy break away from the Navi dem and run towards me. No — him try to run to me, but Fruits — aka Yasha Elishua, Mosheh’s chief enforcer — strong-arm him. “She not herself Presley…stay calm.”
That is when me see the unbearable look in Daddy’s eyes. It make me shudder to recall it even now. He’s unable to speak a word, and yet in that same moment, his eyes convey his whole heart to me. What me see shining in his eyes isn’t anger or sorrow or regret. Is resignation. That’s when me know me truly lost. It hurt me more than what Bredda Shaw did to me. And me cry out. Mi feel like mi sinking through the table, all the way to the floor, just like I felt when Bredda Shaw lay on toppa me, pumping, burying me deeper into we ‘matrimonial’ grave, his arm extended to the bed pole, tossing his head while him lips trembling, “Mercy…fadda,” him could hardly get the words out for his pleasure. Till him body jerked with spasm after spasm and him rolled off me in a big black grunting heap, and me lay there still, wondering why me just lose me virginity to a man old enough to be me granfadda. Just ‘cause one Sabbath Mosheh stood up ina de pulpit and said the Holy Spirit just speak to him, and Bredda Shaw’s wife was to be replaced. So, him stepped down and took me and placed me in front of Bredda Shaw and declared we man and wife. Then gave Bredda Shaw’s sixty-odd year-old wife to Bredda Plummer. And my fadda sat there like a dummy, powerless to stop it.
Mosheh, wearing a priestly white robe tied at the waist with a red girdle, and a red linen turban, close the bible and announce, “After the lamb is sacrificed, the holy blood will be consumed.” Him rest the bible on me forehead. “By the drinking of holy blood, the demon will be purged from your body. The last rite performed will be done according to Leviticus 3.” Him consecrate the lamb:
“May Father Yahweh’s blessings be upon
His children, upon the Israel of Yahweh.
May his blessing be upon this lamb.
Let the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Ha’Kodesh,
come and touch our eyes and show us the
truth that is within Yahweh’s words.
“Shalom mischpaka,” dem respond.
Mosheh summon Daddy and put the icepick in his hand. “Bredda Presley, yuh have to make the first ceremonial cut. It’s your right as father of the demoniac.” Daddy hand shaking, him look lost. A rush of emotions fill me heart just then. Shame…sorrow…anger?
Mosheh sey gently, “Don’t be afraid. You’re an expert butcher. Your whole life and profession was leading up to this moment. You’re opening a new temple for Yeshua.” Mosheh mouth sweet. Him is a samfie man. A man who always in the action. Him was a schoolteacher before him quit and start pyramid scheme. People nearly chop him up ‘cause him tief dem money. Him do a stint in prison and come out with new name and religion, still conning people.
“Dreenie, I have to do this,” Daddy mutter, “yuh understand…” But me just looking at him cold cold, almost like me looking through him, like him isn’t there. Me remember the promise him make to Mommy on her deathbed. I know him thinking ‘bout the same thing. “Dreenie, yuh not yourself,” him sey louder, steeling himself, “I want you to rise in a clean life…like the new Yahrushalem.” Him struggling to sey everything him need to sey, and me just keep sneering at him. He could never stand me silence, me judgmental stare. “Andrene…sey sum’n nuh!” Mi don’t sey a word, yet me feel as if me chest go buss open. Me wish me could sey something — anything — tell him me still don’t hate him, even after all that happen, but then me remember this is not me fadda. This is not the same man who used to bring me to Sunset Beach to watch planes taxiing by Donald Sangster airstrip. Who used to take me dirt bike riding and zip-lining at Chukka Cove, and teach me how to scoop kette kette with a net in the streams below the backyard. Who used to save the fatty part for me when him jerk pork at the butcher shop. Ever since Mommy pass and Daddy first join Qahal Yahweh for bereavement support, is like me lose both parents. Like me turn orphan.
Suzette was me only refuge. We hit it off immediately. She speaky-spokey, fair-skin, bawn uptown. But, we understand each other and the need for solidarity, for quiet rebellion. So even now, holding me feelings in check, me start laughing like me off me head. Giving them a show.
Me see Sister Pauline — the fat woman from Cayman who left her big job with Cable & Wireless, who cut off her family and start live under tent Mosheh set up for house members — whisper to Sister Bev, “The demon stirring her blood!”
Sister Bev she, who give weh her fifteen-year-old daughter to a man while she herself pregnant for a married member — Bredda Rattray, the blind man from Hopewell — is punching the air and hissing, “Devil! Filth! Leave gawd property!”
“I not meself?” I finally sey. “Don’t you realize yuh all fucking crazy? Sister Pauline…yuh sell your house and car. Bredda Rattray, Mosheh gift yuh brown-skin wife to Bredda Pinnock, ‘cause him get promoted to Navi. And yuh Daddy — yuh sell off we pigs, close the hog pen jus’ ‘cause Mosheh sey pigs unclean! Yuh don’t even own your shop anymore!”
Him look shamefaced, like all the other times Mosheh humiliate him in front mi. The first time him refuse to hand over him title deeds they gave him a hand-beating one Sabbath, slapped him up very hard. The second time him refuse they put him in a room with seven men; six o’ dem could be him own children, boys no older than me. And they made him undress himself in front of me. He took off every piece of him clothes and dem shaved him from head down to him ankle. The only part of him hair left was him eyelash. I cried that day, but they held me and made me watch everything. ‘Cause Mosheh sey nobody nuh special, we all one family, everybody belong to everybody else. And every member must surrender dem wealth to Yahweh. It took me over a month to get the disturbing image of me fadda’s nakedness outta me head. Finally, dem decide to take we property by force. So, they came to the house. When they stood at the door and looked inside, Fruits sey, “Bredda Presley you place nice, you know. You comfortable yah so, Bredda Presley. You house nice, man. But de house fulla demon.” Then him and Gavriel start tear down pictures, upended we dining table, and ripped sheets off the beds. Dem stand up over we and watch we. Dem go ina we cabinet, teck out all we glass dem, all we plates, and just look pon dem and just badmind and mash dem up. All some of we enamel pot dem destroy. Then dem forced we to burn we possessions under duress. Textbooks, CDs, jeans, anything “worldly.” Even Mommy stamp collection, ‘cause dem sey is idol worship. “Police cyan do we nutten, Presley,” Fruits warned we. “We gwine use scripture and block you from bearing false witness. And come September Andrene not goin’ back to school. She goin’ learn dressmaking and cookery like all the other girls at the commune.” Then dem moved we outta we house and business. We living at the commune ever since.
Mosheh put a steadying hand on Daddy’s: “Bredda…you need the nerves of Abram. Take your time, wait on Yahweh’s voice.”
Women start humming, swaying in a blue wave: “Todah Abba Yahweh…Todah Abba Yahweh.”
The men chant, crossing arms and linking fingers: “I must obey Avyhwh Yahweh. I must obey Avyhwh Yahweh authority…”
“Is for your own good, Dreenie,” Daddy mumble, losing control of him voice, glancing nervously at Mosheh. Part of me wish him would cut me throat. Mi rather dead than have Bredda Shaw lie on toppa me one more night and put him half-dead cock inside me or him hairy balls in me mouth.
“Keep telling yourself that!” I yell. “The last time we visit Mommy in the cancer ward and Mosheh punish us as dropouts for a week, ‘cause him sey we unclean, was that for our own good?!”
But the more me talk the more dem shout me down. “Demon your time is up!” Dem start clapping, bumping shoulders, singing and doing a military dance.
I shout even louder, “Oonuh better bloodclaat kill me! ‘Cause if oonuh ever let me offa dis table, dead or alive, mi leaving dis place!”
Dem start calling down the host of heaven, “Yes! We are Qahal Yahweh! We are the nation of Yahweh Elohim!” Is like dem ready to rip me flesh open. The lamb start bleating nonstop and rattling the table.
Then something happen that gimme a greater shock than before. Mosheh turn on him iPad and call for quiet. When me look me see a room identical to ours. There is EliYah Mashiach — Mosheh’s second in command — three Navi, another group of worshippers, and Suzette, dressed only in her ganzie and underwear like me, strapped on a table beside another sacrificial lamb. Mi so frighten mi nearly wee wee. A part of me sey is a trick, but when me see the birthmark on her neck tears nearly blind me. “No…no.” Is like me ready fe dead.
Mosheh turn up the volume and me hear her confess, “Yes, we killed it. We were going to the hills for Sabbath Retreat to fast and pray till sundown. I was walking with Dreenie. The whole time we eying each other and smiling. We knew the day would be special. We could feel it. She cutting away bush and shrubs, but the way we studying each other we almost cut we fingers. Sister Nyari delegated us to cut wood for the Shabbat bonfire, and it must’ve been Yeshua himself who told her to do it. As soon as we knew we outta sight we started giggling like crazy. Dreenie took off her hijab and let her braids fall to her shoulders and let me lead her by the hand into the bush. Is like we can read each other’s thoughts sometimes. Like we souls connected. We share the same birthday, yuh know. We just turn sixteen last week. It was all tall red cedars at first, but after fifty or so yards we entered a bamboo grove. We walked till the bamboo thinned out and the trees standing in a row mixed with a few scrub cedars, and the clearing was shaded and cool. We see a black ramgoat trapped in a thicket, one of dem wild mountain goats. I frighten but Dreenie fearless. Real country gal.
Dreenie flashed me a grin. ‘You know who that is, Sue?’ I chuckled and shook me head. ‘Yeshua,’ she snickered, ‘God just provide.’ We burst out laughing. Then she got serious: ‘Let’s kill him. Let’s really turn this place into Yahweh Yireh. You’ll be Isaac and I’ll be Abram.’ It took one glance at her face to know she mean it. She was inspired. ’Yes,’ I replied, ‘let’s give the sonuvabitch a true sending off, so him won’t rise after the third or fourth or zillionth day.’ Dreenie cut the throat quick fast — like a real butcher’s daughter. I don’t know what was driving us, but we became coldblooded killers. We laughed and smeared the blood on each other’s face. The more blood we smeared the more we passions rose. She slipped her finger between me lips, giggling behind her bloody fingers, and said:
‘Let Abba Yahweh be pleased with us, for He gave us Yeshua Ha’maschiach, His Beloved Son.’
I chewed her finger like the Host. Then filled me hand with blood squirting from the goat’s neck and held it to her mouth like a cup and replied:
‘Blessed be Abba Yahweh, the Father of all, through His only begotten son, Yeshua Ha’maschiach.’
“Till blood trickled down her throat. Then we became fulla the spirit. Something awoke inside us. I never see a girl with such fire like Dreenie! We became temples rocking with Kodesh fire. Singing, clapping, dipping the hems of our abayas in blood. It felt like Yom Teruah, it felt like a day of shouting and blowing! She kept coming at me, doing a wild dance, and I doing me own outta control dancing, the two of us giddy, and we realized instinctively that we just set ourselves free and nobody could take it away from us. She so happy, she giggled and swiped the knife at me. And she woulda cut me if me never dodged. But we felt immortal, reborn. Invincible. Like the killing really transform us. I knocked the knife outta her hand and threw her down and we both there laughing and rolling in the clearing, painting the yellowing bamboo leaves red with blood. Then she started crying, and suddenly I felt afraid, as if our freedom was conditional and she ruined it or made it unreal with tears. I was ready to tear outta that bush because it felt like a crime scene and we were criminals, as if we saw our own foolishness. Just children playing make-believe. Yeshua and all his followers would soon come hunting. We were outnumbered. So, I was getting ready to run and leave her there when suddenly she grabbed me arm and the light of rebellion was back in her face. Then I heard what she saying between sobs, ‘You can’t escape! Where you going go? Either we do for him or him do for us. We have to make this real Sue. We can’t do it halfway. They waiting for us. But we can live now.’ We looked at the dying rammy, breathing its last breaths. And you know what we saw? We saw the commune dotted with tents, huts, and unfinished buildings — we saw wasted lives. Dreenie said, ‘It’s worse than death for me to have anyone mek we live through shame if we don’t live this moment to the fullest. Mi want to stay here with the last devil left alive as long as me can.’ That gave me a wild desire, so, holding hands with our backs to each other, so close there was no wind between us, we said our prayers till we became spellbound, as if the words stopped making sense: Todah Yahweh through Yeshua Ha’maschiach…
“You probably think me crazy, or needlessly cruel. But that’s because you didn’t see the look on Dreenie’s face, and especially you never see the way her eyes were burning. When those eyes met mine, I knew I wanted her to be my first. Before Mosheh gimme body to some strange man, or make me him fourth wife. Let the God left in heaven and his saints here on earth kill us, I’d make her my first, that was the only thought in me head. And no, not from lust. If lust was all I felt for her, we could’ve just stripped our clothes off and get it over with, before Sister Nyari and the girls found us. But the moment my eyes locked onto hers, I knew I couldn’t leave there without making that goat a witness.
“We wanted our passion back, the passion of killing Yeshua that made us strong. We took up our knives and challenged each other again. Dreenie sprang at me. She knocked mi knife aside but I swept her to the ground and, breathing hard, our bodies slippery, fought to get a grip on each other till I pinned her first. I took the rope we brought to tie wood and tied her hands to a tree trunk, breathing hotly in each other’s face, hungry for something we could finally have. I straddled her with the knife raised over me head then cut her blouse and brassiere open.
“She yielded and I slipped her panties over her legs, then lowered me body down hers and turned her into something else. Turned her into my woman. Someone Bredda Shaw could never have. And she was filled with gratitude — squirming, moaning, her pum-pum tongue throbbing, hard. The sky above the grove went quiet, not a single bird sang, nature was watching with reverence. The sun lingered through the high branches of cedar and bamboo and put its spotlight on us before setting. Shabbat was close. I cocked mi ear, listening for Yahweh’s disgust. I could hear nothing. He was silent! Then I heard footsteps and snapping branches…”
Mosheh switch off the video like a sermon just finish. But everybody still staring at the blank screen. “Mercy,” somebody mutter, “I feel like I jus’ crawl chu sewage…hurry and get this over with!”
“Bredrin, we at a serious juncture…these girls have fully embraced spiritual darkness. We facing a very real threat! Dem isn’t only lovers — dem is witches!”
“Hush!” yell Mosheh.
I wonder if dem catch Suzette or she came back. Either way, I want to weep but tears won’t come. Yet when me remember her tongue searching places, me nipples get hard…mi start getting warm down there. Mi feel me nature rising again. Drifting somewhere between dream and reality, me hear Daddy sey, “Dreenie yuh don’t have to suffer anymore…” Then him draw breath and drive the icepick deep into the lamb’s poll, like him back in the butcher yard. The lamb bleat weakly then go quiet. Him slit the lamb’s throat, drain the blood into the goblet and hand it to Mosheh who take the first sip, smiling with blood-smeared teeth:
“I go prove to you girls that what you did today you were destined to do, that you had only carried out a crude unsanctified version. I go turn your rebellion into something useful and show you that you were doing Yahweh’s will all along. As a matter of fact, I admire your strength.”
Him dip him finger in the blood and make a symbolic mark of throat slashing ‘cross me neck. Mi skin crawl every time him touch it. Me blood run cold and me passion drain from me body. “Suzette!” mi scream, the cold metal goose-pimpling me flesh. Mi wonder what happening to her in the other room — if she can hear me. The cup start going round, everybody taking a sip. Then is my turn to drink. Mosheh whisper something to a Navi and him take out a blindfold. “No!” me cry, “Daddy don’t mek dem do it — please, not the darkness!” Him open him mouth as if to protest then close it. “Daddy!” Him avert him eyes and beat the wall with him fist. Him know me ‘fraida darkness. Him used to sing me back to sleep whenever me wake up to find the room dark and cry for him. “Daddy, please…yuh promised!” I screaming and kicking so hard, one of the ropes on me leg snap and people jump back. “Daddy…yuh promised to keep me safe!” But me strength waning, me can only moan, “Me pregnant, Daddy…t’ree months now…”
Mi see him cover him mouth, him shoulders heaving with choking sobs. Then him shout and drive the knife into Mosheh’s shoulder. Mosheh grab him hand and blink-blink fast, him mouth open like a fish. Daddy pull him hand free but dem wrestle him down and disarm him. For a split second, everybody looking at Mosheh like dem see the light of glory on him. Recognition slowly dawning in dem faces the longer dem look at the circle of blood widening on him white vestments. Like dem linking all the day’s events in dem head, the whole sequence, like dem see that the goat lead to the lamb and the lamb lead to Mosheh, the ultimate sacrifice, to seal the will of Yahweh. And is a terrible revelation, one that dem never prepared for. Mosheh two wife dem faint. Everybody start jumping, crying and hugging one anedda. Mosheh know him not escaping the action today. Dat every samfie man have dem day. Him stagger and the Navi dem bear him up but him shrug dem off, standing by himself, him eyes fierce with righteous pride, as if him see himself in the lineage of Yeshua, as if him find real redemption in him lifelong scam. Him order the Navi to untie the dead lamb. So dem cast it aside, then Mosheh lie down on the table. The room shaking with earsplitting shrieks.
Ibuntu Nyari wheel till she drop ah grung wid de odder wife dem, screaming, “Waii…me husband!” Nobody expected such a bitter climax and outpouring.
Mosheh open him robe, tilt him head back and sey slowly, him voice nerveless, “Bredda, you know what you have to do…is better to be a fool with Yeshua than to be wise without Him.” And while the other two Navi bind him wrists and ankles with rope, people bawling like dem lose dem fuckin’ mind, like End of Days come. Mosheh close him eyes.
When the Navi lift him tear-soaked face and raise the knife and cry — “Behold, the living lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” — I close me eyes, and for the first time find refuge in the darkness. Shalom.