It was your typical last-day-of-school Friday afternoon. We kids could hardly wait for the beautiful sound of the school bell to signal the end of the school year and the start of those fun-filled and carefree days of August vacation.
I was only 11 years old at the time, my sister Jeanie was nine and we had recently moved to the country to live with our grandparents after our parents migrated to Canada. Our cousin Claudine, 10 at the time, also lived with our grandparents for as long as we could remember. Her mom, aunt Helen, was mom’s youngest sister and she resided in Tortola.
Life in the country was a lot different than the fairly sedate life that Jeanie and I were accustomed to in Roseau.
Surprisingly, we enjoyed getting up at the crack of dawn. Papa would be up first preparing to take care of his animals and tend his garden, armed with his cutlass, his donkey and two dogs, Jake and Ned. Shortly after, we would hear Mama in the kitchen that was built separately from the house. The strong rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee blended with the scent of fried bacon and eggs teased our nostrils mercilessly.
Amongst we three girls, the chores were sweeping the yard, feeding the chickens, preparing the coffee pallet and filling the drum with water from the nearby standpipe.
After the mad dash of freedom from the school house, we all went our separate ways to either play hoop sayway, skip, marble hole or to raid Mr. Dobbs mango trees.
Nightfall was fast approaching and everyone reluctantly went to their respective homes. Jeanie and I made our way home and we looked around for Claudine, but someone said she had already left with two of the other girls. So we thought she was probably already home by now.
We later learned Claudine left with Nina and Kay Kay who both lived not too far from the school, so not too long after Claudine found herself walking home alone.
She was thinking about all the lazy days ahead of her when she heard what sounded like the whimpering of a small child, or was it a cat?
She kept on slowly walking, kicking at small rocks in her way when she saw what looked like a small child of about three years old walking ahead of her, crying. She tried walking a little faster to catch up with the child but to no avail.
It was strange that Claudine could not seem to reach the child and the child was heading towards the bushes. So too was Claudine, deeper and deeper into the bushes. She walked on for a while, everything looked unfamiliar and at times she could not see the child. It was getting dark already. Afraid and exhausted, she sat underneath a tree and before too long she had dozed off and in a very weird dream, she was still following the small child.
In the dream the child eventually joined a pregnant woman, close to a small stream, wearing a dirty dress and followed by three piglets. When Claudine looked again there were four little piglets following the woman.
The woman approached Claudine. “Do you know me ?” she asked.
“No ma’am,” answered Claudine.
The strange woman seem to know Claudine. “Ou say zanfan Helen?” the woman queried in an unpleasant nasal tone.
“Yes ma’am,” Claudine replied.
“Well I’m Josianne, your ma’am and I used to go to school together, we were good friends,” the woman said.
Claudine examined the woman. Her teeth was rotted, her eyes were sunken and she smelt like spoiled meat. Claudine wanted to get away but the woman grabbed her hand and held on fast
“Are you afraid of me? Stay nuh I will give you supper,” the woman insisted.
“No, Mama will be vex if I doe reach home on time,” Claudine responded.
Claudine tried to run but she couldn’t because her feet felt like lead; she tried to scream but her tongue felt heavy and her voice seemed lost.
Later we would find out that the mysterious Josianne was the tormented spirit of a pregnant young woman who died in her latest attempt to abort her baby. She already had four abortions while she was alive and the little piglets were the lost souls of her unborn children, doomed to follow her around for eternity .
We arrived home that evening, had dinner and still no Claudine. Mama was very upset and took a guava whip to lash me but Papa told her, “No If you want to beat, beat Miss Claudine when she come home.”
Papa had the nerve-wracking job of going from door to door to look for Claudine. He came back home after what seemed like forever and still no Claudine.
The next day it rained and the moon was full. The alarming news that Claudine was missing spread through our small village like wildfire and everyone feared the worst. None of us had the appetite to eat since our stomachs were in knots.
Papa organized a few able-bodied men to help him search for Claudine. Included in the search party was a man by the name of Jimbo.
Jimbo lived in Trinidad for a while and was a very powerful and knowledgeable spiritual Baptist. He had a blue knapsack, a small red velvet pouch, which he kept around his neck, and a very stout stick with a red thin string tied at the top. The other men were armed with their brousai (torches), dogs and cutlasses. The search for Claudine was in full progress.
It was not an easy task especially since it was wet and murky and they did not know where to start. Papa and the rest of the search party relied on Jimbo’s uncanny instincts. There were all sorts of frightening night creature noises, then suddenly there was one mysterious sound, almost like that of cats mating or the wailing of a small baby.
Jimbo put his finger to his lips to silence the group. Cautiously they made their way towards the direction of the strange sound. The sound died down and in its place a steady rhythmic ‘flip……flap….flip…flap…’
They all looked around at each other wondering what on earth was that. It was Papa who first saw the outlined figure of the mysterious pregnant woman sitting at the bank of the small ravine flip flapping her breasts and surrounded by her litter of four piglets.
“What da he..” Swazo, one of the guys, gasped in amazement.
“Shhhh” warned Jimbo.
“Who da hell is dat?” whispered Swazo again as he leaned forward to take a closer look at the spectacle.
He almost tripped on something and using the brousai to see what he almost tripped on and there laid Claudine’s little body between two banana trees. It appeared as if she was dead.
For an instant everyone was so caught up in the excitement of having found Claudine that they forgot the mystery woman at the stream with her little pigs. Papa bent down to pick up his granddaughter when Jimbo warned “Nor nor pa tooshay, pa tooshay !!” He took out a bottle from his knapsack, poured a brown liquid in the palm of his hands rubbed them together, passed it over his face, chanted Psalm 23 seven times, while he circled Claudine’s body.
In his right hand he held a crucifix, then he took out a piece of what looked like a root from his red pouch and chewed on it. He gently passed his hand over Claudine’s face and made the sign of the cross on her forehead. He explained that he was to make sure that this was not an evil spirit.
When Jimbo was satisfied, he pulled out of his knapsack a small white sheet and carefully covered Claudine. He placed a silver chain with a St. Christopher pendant around her neck (protector of little children).
Jimbo gave each man a piece of the root to chew on, which he said was to protect them from the mysterious “Josianne and her piglets” from chasing the search party over a cliff in order for her to reclaim Claudine.
It was daybreak when the men arrived in the village with Claudine. Jimbo asked that he spend three days with Claudine. During that time he would have to fast and pray and he used special ointments to rub Claudine’s body from head to toe and he burnt incense.
Claudine vomited all sorts of green weird stuff that looked like she was eating bush. Jimbo explained to us that, “Josianne had to get a young female child who had not reach puberty to sacrifice to the devil so that she would supposedly rest in peace with her piglets.”
After the third day Claudine recovered and Jimbo strongly advised Mama and Papa to make sure that she wore the silver chain with the St. Christopher’s pendant to protect her always.
As for Josianne and her piglets, on a rainy moonlight night she could still be heard, flip-flapping her breast in the rain crying and moaning for release for her tortured soul.
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