The night began rather simple enough. Tax drank his normal shot of zayeed, took a long drink of water to chase it down and headed to bed.
The night was punctuated by sounds that Tax was familiar with: the whisper of wind in the mango tree, the sounds of crickets and the distant sound of an owl’s hoot. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked continuously and a mobouya croaked in the banana field behind the house.
The sounds lulled Tax into a peaceful sleep but half way through the night he suddenly began dreaming of his father. In the dream his father wore a black suit and a white top hat. He had a wooden cane in his hands and then without warning his father used the cane and began raining blows mercilessly on him.
Tax twisted and writhed with pain as his father plummeted him with the cane. He tried to scream but his tongue had turned to stone. He tried to resist but his entire body had turned to lead.
After what seemed an eternity he jumped from the dream with a weak scream emitting from his mouth. He was covered with sweat and his body ached.
When Tax’s father was alive, they never shared a good relationship. His father thought Tax was lazy and Tax thought his father drank too much. Sometimes the two went on no-talking terms for years and even on his death bed his father’s heart remained cold.
After his father’s death Tax sunk into a state of depression, saddened by the fact that he and his father had never made peace between them. He went on long drinking sprees and sometimes he would burst into tears for no apparent reason.
But he had never dreamt his father, until tonight. And that Tax thought was very strange.
Tax pondered the dream throughout the next day and wondered what it meant. He was so deep in thought that he didn’t realize the day was done and night had taken on its task of covering the land with darkness.
He went to fetch his bottle of zayeed but to his utter amazement it was empty. Baffled Tax thought hard. He knew he that the last time he drank from it the bottle was half way full. And that was last night.
Baffled he went to sit on his bed, trying to make sense of this very strange occurrence. He thought hard. Maybe Balla had sneaked into his house to and drank the rum, he thought. Balla was his best friend and was known to sneak into Tax’s house to help himself to various treats. Or probably he did drink all of it because sometimes whenever he started on the bottle, one drink led to the next. But he remembered drinking only one shot.
Still deep in thought Tax decided to call it a day and went to bed. He was drifting into sleep when he heard it. It was someone calling his name in a whisper. “Tax, Tax.” Twice. No more. The sound of the whisper was mechanical, devoid of emotion or purpose. It sounded as if it was just within the range of hearing and you would heard it only if you were listening carefully.
Age old wisdom has taught him that whenever his name is called less than three times, it was not human and even though he was being gripped by sleep he chose not to answer.
The whisper did not repeat itself but the sound of it reverberated through his head and he suddenly cold fear swept through his body. He jumped from the sleep and although he felt cold, he realized he was sweating profusely.
Then without warning there was a loud crash in the living room followed by the sound of shattering glass. Gathering his senses Tax rushed towards the direction of the sound and what he saw filled him with utter disbelief.
Lying on the floor with its frame shattered was the portrait of Tax’s father. That portrait has been hanging in the same spot on the wall for as long as he remembered and it had never fallen before. The sight of it lying on the floor covered with glass, from the frame, filled him with a combination of fear and curiosity.
Feeling lightheaded he mechanically and aimlessly walked through the house. “What is this nuh?” he kept asking himself. “What is that nuh man.”
But things were to get worst.
A couple of nights later Tax was heading to bed when he heard a strange thump behind the house. The sound was barely audible, almost like something from a dream. It stopped and Tax dismissed it as something from his imagination.
He arranged the bed and stretched on it. And then the sound came again, slightly louder this time. One, two, three times and then again it stopped. Puzzled Tax tried to figure out what the strange sound was. He thought it sounded like a cow stamping its hoof against the hard ground or someone grinding coffee in a mortar. He listened carefully, straining his ears but the thumping sound had stopped.
Again he dismissed it and tried to fall asleep but as he was drifting into slumber the sound suddenly exploded right below the window. Tax got up suddenly and flung the window open hoping to see what the source of the bizarre sound was.
The cool night wind danced over his face. He peered through the darkness, straining his eyes but could see nothing. It was then he got the strange feeling that there was someone in the room. Frozen to the spot where he was Tax could feel the hair behind his neck rising and he felt a blast of strange cold air hitting his body.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he turned around from the window and what greeted his eyes filled him with horror.
Standing across the room was his father. He wore the same white suit he was buried in and in his hand he held his favorite instrument he used to punish Tax as a child: a guava branch.
For what seemed an eternity he just stood where he was while his brain worked feverishly to make sense of what his eyes were seeing.
And then Tax felt terribly drowsy. The ground beneath him swayed to the right and swayed to the left. Huge dark spots danced before his eyes. The last thing he remembered was his feet turning to jelly and thick darkness covered everything.
When he regained his senses the sun had already risen and someone was knocking at his door. It was Balla who he had promised $20.
“Man, you looking like you just see a jumbie,” Balla said when Tax opened the door.
So Tax told Balla of the night occurrences and the other strange things that he has been experiencing as of late.
Balla listened intently and said, “Garcon you better go and make a round eh, you better go and make a round.”
Tax knew going to make “a round” meant paying a visit to either an obeah man or a gardeh and at first he was skeptical but the grave look on Balla’s face was enough to convince him. He knew there was a good gardeh in Castle Bruce and an even better one in Grand Bay, so he began making plans in his head as to which one he wants to visit to get some insights into what was taking place and its relationship to his father.
That night, to protect himself and following Balla’s suggestion, Tax sprinkled some holy water around the house, washed the front step with Jays, burnt a piece of old tire in the yard until it was covered with a thick black smoke and hung a rosary on the door. Before he went to bed he said a couple of Psalms and said some prayers from an old prayer book his mother had given him many, many years ago. Then he turned his clothes inside out and went to bed.
Two weeks later, the night was quiet and a thin moon hung in the dark sky. Tax followed the gardeh’s instructions carefully. He was told that he should wait when the first quarter of the moon was a little bit over the horizon, probably around 11 in the night. Then he would be ready to do what he was supposed to do.
First he rubbed himself with Oil of Man and lit a black candle in each corner of his house. Then he wrote his father’s name and his own name on a small piece of parchment paper, wrapped it carefully and placed it under his tongue. Then put on his clothes inside out, went outside and sprinkled Stay Way Powder in a circle around the house. Then he went underneath the house in the darkness and waited for what was haunting him to turn up.
According to the gardeh, Tax’s father had died with hatred in his heart and that hatred had attracted an evil spirit who was in turn using his father’s spirit to haunt him.
The gardeh’s disclosure had baffled Tax and that day he walked around Roseau in deep thought as he bought the various things he was told to buy.
The thin moon dodged between clouds, casting eerie shadows all over the place and Tax held on firmly to the whip the gardeh gave him wrapped in a plastic bag. He did not know what the whip was made of but it smelled strongly of garlic, alkali and tabak zombie. For Tax it was his only defense from the unknown.
A thump down the road jerked him from his thoughts and Tax peered through the dim moonlight. The thumping grew louder and louder and something appeared that sent chills down his spine.
It was a horse. A white horse.
Holding his breath Tax stared in disbelief as the animal walked slowly and deliberately to this house. The moon ducked behind a cloud and the white horse seemed to merge into the darkness but suddenly it stopped. Tax knew it had reached the line of Stay Away Powder that was protecting his house.
The horse huffed, puffed and stamped its hoof as if in annoyance. It went behind the house as if searching for an opening in the Stay Away Powder defense but found none. It released a long loud snort and turned around in the direction it came.
Tax knew it was the evil spirit the gardeh had told him about and it was heading back to the cemetery where his father’s body was buried.
Tax emerged from under the house and followed. The gardeh had told him he had to go to the cemetery where he was to face the evil spirit and “put it in it place” once and for all.
The night was unusually cool and quiet. The moon continued its hide and seek game with the clouds and dark shadows danced all over the place. Filled with a combination of curiosity and confidence Tax felt unafraid. He firmly held on to the whip and he checked his pocket to make sure the bottle of holy water was firmly in its place.
He followed the horse through the dark, keeping it just within the range of sight. In the silent of the night he could hear the gentle thud of its hoof on the pitch of the road and suddenly the Catholic Church loomed over him in the dark. He had reached his destination because the cemetery was located behind the church.
The gardeh had said a powerful spirit guarded all cemeteries and there were some things he had to do in order for him to enter undetected. So reaching into his pocket Tax pulled out the small bag of dirt. The dirt was gathered at a crossroad at midnight couple of nights ago. He poured three handful of the dirt over his head, spun around three times then spat at the four corners of the earth. He then made ten signs of the cross and spun around three more times.
And he was ready to enter the cemetery.
The horse was nowhere to be seen and thick silence covered the cemetery like a blanket. Tax made his way to his father’s grave and he was just within eye sight of it when his blood suddenly turned cold.
Sitting on his father’s grave was something that looked like the dark figure of a man. The figure’s head was bowed as if in prayer and it was unmoving.
Instinctively Tax ducked behind the closest grave and peered around it. The figure remained where it was and he began creeping closer to his father’s grave on all four.
The gardeh had told him he need to strike whatever he saw in the cemetery at least three times with the whip in order to ‘put it in it place.’
Holding his breath Tax crept closer and closer to the figure and the grave and by accident he stepped on a twig. In the silence the snapping of the twig sounded like a gunshot. He was momentarily confused and when he regained his senses, to his utter disbelief the figure on the grave had disappeared.
Just then he heard rustling behind him and he spun around. Towering over him was the dark figure and before he could react he felt a blow to his right side. The force of the blow sent him spinning and he rolled over one grave and the next.
When he came to a stop he felt the same terrible sense of drowsiness he felt back at his home the night he heard the spirit. The earth swayed to the left and then to the right. Huge dark spots danced before his eyes and he wished he could find a bed to collapse in.
In the confusion of his mind he remembered what the gardeh told him. He reached into his pocket and grabbed the bottle of holy water. He sprinkled the liquid in the direction of the spirit and in the silence he heard dull groans. The holy water was hitting its mark.
Tax struggled to his feet and peered through the darkness. The moon had hidden itself behind a cloud and now he could hardly see anything. He pulled the whip out of the plastic bag. The smell of garlic and alkali and tabak zombie filled his nostril.
Regaining strenghth he moved towards the grave and once again he saw the spirit. It was moving towards him. Tax felt unafraid and he swung the whip. A scream rippled through the dark and he swung again.
High on adrenaline Tax swung and swung the whip at the dark figure. Scream after scream followed and then abruptly it stopped.
In the silence he could hear the furious pounding of his heart and his heavy breathing sounded loud. And then with a burst of energy Tax turned and fled from the cemetery. He ran like he had never run before.
His house was quiet and the black candles were burning low. He tumbled into bed and instantly fell into a deep slumber.
After that Tax never dreamt his father again and he knew the old man was resting in peace.
However after that he made sure every year on All Saint’s Day he lit a candle on his grave.
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