KIRK V. BHAJAN
Be warned that this story contains content that may be considered shocking or triggering to some.
Jagged clusters of bullgrass smothered the empty valley. Towering at the centre of the plot of land was a large silk cotton tree, weathered by time. Its thick crown of leaves cast a shadow over the two men standing beneath it. One was older, his cream hair roping down his broad back. Gripped firmly in his hand was a cutlass sheathed in leather. Around his neck dangled a gold crucifix. The younger man was no older than twenty. He wore a large brown Wilson hat which hid the upper half of his face so that only his thin coarse moustache could be seen clearly.
The sun was at its zenith and the heat seemed to singe the very air. The old man shielded his eyes with his hands and looked up at the hill overlooking the valley. The young man ran his tongue over his bottom lip and began picking at the bark of the tree.
“Doh do dat,” the old man said.
The young man stopped and stared at him.
“You eh know what tree is dat?” the old man asked.
“Silk Cotton, ent?”
“Well if you know, respect the tree.”
The young man placed his right leg on one of the sprawling roots and continued licking his lower lip.
“This is heat!” the old man moaned, wiping a layer of sweat off his forehead.
“You sure it go come?” the young man asked.
“Tonight is full moon. It go come.”
The young man took his foot off the root and began pacing. His pants made swishing noises as they brushed against the tall bullgrass.
“Be careful how you walking. It might have scorpion,” the old man cautioned.
Taking a knee, the young man parted a patch of grass. He looked down, past the stalks, and peered deep into the black soil. Buried among the roots were boisterous insects that crawled and clawed and hissed.
“Maybe we come too early,” he said.
“Doh worry yuhself. It go come.”
“You ever make a sacrifice before?”
“My grandfather, meh Aja, was a Indian and he teach me how to do Kali puja.”
“But ent you say this eh no puja.”
“It doh matter. The sacrifice is what most important.”
The old man leaned the cutlass on the trunk of the tree and lowered himself onto one of its roots. As he leaned his back on the trunk, he took a deep breath and spoke in a slow drawl;
“Meh Aja used to call the sacrifice Bali. You suppose to get up early, when dew still on the grass, and take a proper bade. Your house have to be clean too. Everything must be clean. Aja would take the blade for the ritual and say a prayers over it.”
The young man listened.
“Aja would remain in the spot where he wanted the blood to flow and wait for the goat. Then, a goat would appear and head straight to him. He would wait for it, for it to come right next to him. And then he would take the blade and hit it one swipe ‘cross the neck. One swipe alone. The whole head come off. He say if the head doh come off clean you have to do it over again, from the cleansing, everything.”
“So much thing you ha to follow?”
“All them instruction have dey reason. It even have thing you muss do after you slaughter the animal. You must say another prayers over the meat before you cook it. And all the meat must remain in the house. Not a piece must leave. Everything must eat out.”
“But you talking bout Kali puja. Is not that I come to you for.”
“It doh matter. The blood from the sacrifice does be tie to the land. The difference with this wha we doing is we go be calling a more powerful spirit. This is obeah. You need to laun from all the religion to really understand how this does wok,” the old man said as he held the crucifix between his thick fingers.
The young man spat.
The old man continued; “When meh Aja dead he leave this blade you seeing. And then I went on my own journey and laun from the Moslem and the Christian too. Is only after you laun bout all the religion you does understand that every one of them dey like different river but in the end they does all flow to the same sea.”
“You ever talk to a spirit before?”
The old man took a deep breath,
“Every night dey does visit meh. Every night.”
Suddenly, a loud blare crashed through the valley. Both men turned to the direction of the noise. Standing on the top of the hill was a massive ram goat, with long ragged horns and black matted hair. The goat looked down at the men, and slowly began descending the hill towards them.
“Wha I tell you?” the old man chirped.
The young man did not reply.
The young man pulled his hat just enough for the old man to see his black eyes.
“I look frighten to you?”
“I just making sure. I just making sure.”
“I feel is you who really frighten.”
“Me? What I go frighten for? I do this plenty time. Once you sacrifice it the correct way nothing bad go happen. Once you do it proper, you eh have to frighten that evil go follow you.”
“You believe in that?”
“Believe in what?”
“But what kinda question is that? How you go even ask that?”
“Well I asking you.”
“And I telling you what I see with my own two eye. I see evil aready. And it getting woss now. The kinda thing that happening. The kinda killing that happening on this small island.”
The young man looked at the goat as it continued its slow march towards them.
“You eh hear about the two dead men dey find in Caroni?”, the old man continued. “When dey do the autopsy all the body parts was missing. Heart, kidney, liver, lungs. Whoever kill dem fellers guts dem out like fish.”
“Why they do that?”
“To keep the body from swelling. If I believe in evil? People sick out here! Just last year a woman went missing in Claxton Bay. Dey say one week after she disappear the people in the village see a man carrying a body in the middle of the night and he was whistling and giggling. Two nights later police find she head in a flowerpot in the man yard.”
“He probably sacrifice she.”
“I eh go doubt dat. I eh go doubt dat at all. Nowadays people doing anything for money. Even human sacrifice.”
“Tell me something. You does talk to spirit. You ever do one?”
“You mad? All the sacrifice I do is to help people. Not for me. If you only know some of the people who does come by me. Politician, lawyer, plenty bigshot. Everybody want some favour. You doing this to get back your gyal ent?”
The young man ignored the question and replied with one of his own.
“What is the difference between animal sacrifice and human sacrifice?”
“Animal sacrifice is for protection. Or like in your case to ketch somebody heart. And when you do it, you does do it once and done. Human sacrifice is when you want money and power. That does summon thing you eh want in your life. But you does have to pay a price. If you do it once, every year you does have to make another sacrifice to please the spirit. It doh ever stop. Not until you dead.”
“And if you eh make the sacrifice?”
“Then you go lose everything. And eventually you does go mad.”
The goat was now at the bottom of the hill, at the edge of the plot. It continued walking with long deliberate strides toward the men, as if guided by an invisible hand. The old man looked in the direction of the animal and began stroking his chin. He took the cutlass and held it up to the young man.
The young man grasped the handle and slowly unsheathed the blade. The sunlight reflected on the metal and it looked as if he was holding a beam of light in his hand.
“But this feeling like a normal cutlass. I thought it woulda be heavier,” he said.
“A blade doh have to be heavy to do the wok it have to do. Once it bless it go do the wok.”
“Old man, how come if you believe in evil you does do obeah?”
“I tell you, I doh do obeah for evil. I does help people. I does heal people who sick. I does help people get protection. I does do obeah for man and woman to fall in love. I doh put no curse or no spell on nobody. If you want something more than what I does offer, you could talk to the spirits theyself. You yourself know when you ask me to help you, I tell you I could only show you the door; is you go have to open it.”
The goat trudged onward, its long horns bobbing through the tall grass. The young man practiced swinging, letting the blade glide through the warm air.
“It almost reach,” the old man whispered.
“You know what I think?” the young man asked.
It was the old man’s turn to stay silent.
The young man said, “If evil real then good supposed to defeat evil, not so? But watch how thing does run. The white man still running this country. Look who on top. Is all them Syrian. Just now we Indian eh go have nothing. Evil? Evil is when you have to suffer to eat a roti.”
“Stop talk madness. Remember what you come for. Doh lose your focus. Doh let the darkness tempt you.”
But there was a fire that burned in the young man’s eyes. And a madness that twisted itself inside his stomach like a ravenous serpent.
“Now let me ask you something else old man,” he said. “You know Jagdeo? From Debe.”
“I doh know who you talking bout son,” the old man said meekly.
“He never meet you?”
The old man remained silent.
“Doh lie to me old man,” the young man said as he pointed the cutlass at him.
“But I telling you I never see the man before!”
“Oh ho,” the young man said as he turned away to the direction of the goat.
A strong wind blew across the valley and the branches of the silk cotton tree heaved and moaned.
The young man continued, “Well I is Jagdeo breda. Five months ago he went to see you. He wife was good sick. She was making baby. He went and see you. You remember now?”
“You was supposed to help the gyal but you wok ah obeah on she instead. After you finish your obeah the gyal dead and the baby dead and meh breda drink poison and dead. You say you woulda help him and look what happen. Evil? Tell me ‘bout evil nah.”
The goat made its way to a clearing next to the tree and stood only a few feet away from the men. It shook its massive head, hooved at the ground and starred at them, as if it understood every word that had been uttered. The young man took his hat, threw it on the ground and looked the old man directly in its eyes.
The young man continued, “You quiet now? Eh? You feel I dotish. You feel you alone who does wok obeah in Trinidad?”
The old man did not reply.
The young man continued, “Well I went by Modda Cocoyea. It eh have nobody more powerful in obeah than she. You know ‘bout she?”
“I know ‘bout she. But she does dabble in black obeah. I doh do that.”
The young man moved even closer to the old man, his black eyes fixed firmly on him. The old man remained rooted to the spot where he was sitting. A fear seized him and he looked up at the young man helplessly.
“Modda Cocoyea tell me people like you is big big fraud. You taking all the Syrian money and helping them with your obeah but you licking up poor people like me and meh breda.”
“Wha you talking ‘bout son?”
“And you know what else she tell me?” She tell me the truth ‘bout human sacrifice. She tell me that the more powerful the human sacrifice, the more powerful you go get. And it have nobody more powerful than a man who does talk to the spirits.”
“Modda Cocoyea just want your money son. I come here to help you get back your woman. How much Cocoyea charge you? What she promise you? Let me help you. Sacrifice the goat and the gyal go come back to you and everything go be good.”
“You feel I call you here for me to get back a gyal? I doh need no gyal. Me? I fed up suffer. I want what the Syrian them was born with,” the young man said beating his chest. “I want this piece of land hyar. I want my share too.”
The goat began bleating; louder and louder and louder.
“Son, just chap the goat and leh we go we way nah. I doh wha no trouble. I is a old man.”
The young man said, “You feel is goat I come to sacrifice today? No no no old man…”
“Son, I like your fadda. Watch me like your fadda,” he said, as his voice cracked.
The young man’s fingers squeezed the handle of the cutlass and he took a deep breath.
“I doh have no father. My father dead long long time now.”
The goat let out a thunderous bleat.
And as the beast cried out, the young man raised the blade high above his head and brought it down with great ferocity onto the neck of the old man. Metal crashed against bone and the sound echoed across the valley. Fresh blood pitched out the open wound and spattered onto the young man’s face. He looked down and saw that the blade was stuck halfway through the old man’s neck.
With one hand he grabbed the old man’s hair as his other hand remained firmly on the blade’s handle. His eyes burned wide and wild and his nostrils flared as his arm sawed back and forth. Over and over again he continued sawing until the entire head was detached. When he was done, he held the gruesome offering up by the hair.
“Mujh par muskaan, Peela Raaja. Mujhe shakti do,” he whispered.
The goat let out a single bleat and began walking towards him. And as it walked, the angles of its body began to straighten as it slowly stood on its hind legs. With each step it shifted from the form of a beast to something else entirely. Tentacles formed from hooves. Horns receded inward. Its black hair morphed into a tattered cloak, coloured in yellow.
The young man’s eyes fell upon the creature’s face but its features held a malevolence too horrible to describe. Lowering his gaze, he placed the head of his sacrifice at the base of the silk cotton tree, his teeth bared in a feral smile. As he did so its roots turned and twisted and groaned. For a moment, the sky above tore apart and a rift appeared, just wide enough for the cold light of ancient black stars to shine through.
From the heavens raindrops fell, heavy and fat and a full moon shone, red and silent.