- Farzeen Heesambee
Night of Horror
It was 1994. The night was dark and eerie. The women gathered in the living room around a dimly lit candle. The electricity had been gone for a few hours, this was not a common occurrence in the city but a cyclone had recently hit the island causing considerable damage to the electric poles. We all hurdled together whilst waiting for the menfolk to come back.
It was the month of Ramadan, but this year's Ramadan was different to the one from the previous years. Things had not been the same, we were not to discuss those 'things' but everybody was aware of the 'things'. We have all heard the stories, including me even though I wasn't supposed to as apparently I was too young for these sorts of things.
A cold breeze knocked on the window causing a stir, the window pane was not secured, and whenever a strong breeze passed by, the window frame would shake making a weird sound as if somebody was trying to break in.
It was about 9 pm, there wasn't much to do and as there was no electricity, Mama said it was better we all stayed together in the same room. I would have rather been in my room playing with my toys, but it was too dangerous to trust me around a lit candle, so I had to resign to my faith and sit in the living room and listen to my mum and aunty talking about what should they make for breakfast tomorrow.
In Ramadan, breakfast is a big deal, everyone eats something different, some eat almost nothing as they 'can't hack it and will vomit', others 'cannot be bothered to wake up', and some wanted the smelly naan commonly known as the 'naan senti pi' in our household that the children dreaded but the adults indulged in.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. The living room was upstairs, well it wasn't the real living room, it was the TV and everyone had a TV room that is separate from the living room. The living room consisted of some sofas, a TV, a video player and a bubble-wrapped remote control that would only work if you banged it a couple of times when the battery is running out.
So, there was knock on the door. My aunt, my mum and older sister looked at each other, they had some weird expression on their faces, I didn't know back then what it was but, now that I am older and more experienced in life, I understand it to be fear. They looked like they would 'caca in their calsson' and then they looked at me. The knock carried on for a long time, and I was starting to get annoyed, was it not their job to open the door? I was told over and over in the past that I should at no cost open the door or go outside or talk to strangers. So really this wasn't my job.
But I realised the winds were about to change when they all stared at me.
" You go downstairs and check who it is," ordered Mum.
"Yes. Go and check!" added my aunty.
"I will keep a watch on you," said my sister. "I will stand at the top of the stairs."
Sure I go downstairs and check when you older people just sit at the top of the stairs.
How much of a choice do you have when you are 5 years old? Surely your adults know best and will always be there to protect, and put their lives on the line for your sake.
But I learnt a valuable life lesson that night, the womenfolk in my family would sacrifice me on the altar if it came to it.
I quietly crawled down the stairs and peeked through the glass door. It was dark outside and difficult to see, but I could see a shadowy figure standing outside, he was tall and wearing a hat.
With this piece of information, I made my way back upstairs to share this information with my superiors.
"There's a man downstairs, and he has a big hat on."
"A man!" they all cried in unison. We were not expecting anyone, so it was weird that a man was downstairs.
Rumours had it that the 'things' could take the shape of any being; animal or man, they called it the lougarou or touniminui. People believed that they were evil spirits or men that were neither man nor animal, some said they were werewolves, others said they were evil creatures that worshipped Satan, those who were sceptical said they were men who wore some sort of oily tar to get inside people's houses and prey on women and girls. Whatever they were, they were quite sophisticated as I had heard that they had the ability to dial numbers and had the luxury of using a phone. The story goes that before coming to pay a visit, they would ring you first to inform you of their intention. I recalled that we haven't had any phone calls, maybe the phone lines were dead.
"You go back downstairs! Ask who is it!" said Mum.
So back I went.
"Who are you Mum is asking?"
"Shhhh!" I could hear them hissing upstairs.
"It's Papa!" came the reply.
So I went back upstairs,.
"He said he is Papa."
"Does he look like Papa?" asked my sister.
"He is way taller than Papa, and I don't know, Papa never wears a hat."
"It must be them, it must be them," cried my aunty. My aunty has this habit of behaving like a broken record whenever she is upset and that's when I realised that our lives were in danger, but the funniest thing about her is when she sees a cockroach and she would run around like a wild animal making this "ohhhh" "ohhh' sound like she's doing a tribal dance.
It dawned on me that now I had new information about the "things"; they could even impersonate voices, and I couldn't wait to share this with my brother later on when he would get home.
I went back to check on the "thing", while the women kept on with their individual monologues and that's when the electricity came back on.
And through the shining light, I recognised the familiar figure.