“Albert and the La Diablesse” by Robin Montano
Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.
This week, Robin Montano has an eerie encounter in the woods.
Albert was cross with himself. He had left Annabelle’s home far too late, at 9:30 in the evening, and now faced the long ride back to St. Joseph from Arima in the dark. It would take him about an hour and a half to get home and, to make matters worse, it looked as though a storm was coming and it was going to rain. A wind was blowing and the clouds were racing across the night sky, hiding the full moon and plunging the world into darkness for a few seconds, only to have the moonlight bathe the world in light almost as bright as daylight for the same length of time before returning it back into darkness. Thank goodness he had a strong horse that he could push. He was wearing his best Sunday suit and it would be ruined if the rain came before he got home. He would be soaked.
It serves me right, he thought. I really should have left around six, but Annabelle was so pretty and so alluring, it was hard to leave. And how could I possibly say no to her mother’s gracious invitation to stay for supper? Although supper finished before eight, I still couldn’t bear to tear myself away from her company. I am an idiot!
About halfway through the journey he reached a long straight section of the road which stretched out for almost half a mile. The dark forest seemed to crowd down onto the road only to retreat when the moon came out briefly only to be obscured by the scudding clouds. In the distance he saw what looked like the silvery arm of a woman on the left side of the road waving to him encouraging him to come forward.
Impossible, he thought. No woman would be out here in the forest at this time in the middle of nowhere. What could it be? He urged his horse forward into a slow gallop. Maybe it is some bandits who are using her to lure unsuspecting travelers and she is part of a gang who want to rob me. He reached back to the side of his saddle where he kept his machete and pulled it out and held it in his right hand as he pushed his horse forward.
The silver arm of the woman continued to wave to him urging him forward. Thoughts of La Diablesse, the beautiful woman with one leg like a goat who lures hunters deep into the forest at night only to inflict a horrible death upon them when their mutilated bodies are then found days later, ran through his mind. But no, he thought. This is the twentieth century. The year is 1905. I am a modern, rational man. I don’t believe these Trinidadian ananci stories about douens, soucouyants, or even La Diablesse. There are no such things!
But as he continued to urge his horse forward, an irrational fear gripped his heart. The silver arm of the woman continued to urge him forward and in the on-again–off-again moonlight her arm appeared to be more of a ghostly apparition than that of a human being. It can’t be, he kept telling himself. I don’t believe it. But when he got to about a hundred yards from the ghostly arm his horse saw it and reared up on its hind legs almost throwing him. It was only because he was an expert rider that he managed to hang on.
He urged his horse forward, but no amount of cajoling or urging would get the animal to go forward. With a beating heart he dismounted swiftly, put down his machete for a moment, and then took off his jacket and threw it over the horse’s head, covering its eyes. He then quickly picked up his machete and, with a beating heart, advanced towards the ghostly arm waving him on.
It was only when he got to about ten feet away that he saw the apparition for what it was just as the first drops of rain began to fall: a large banana leaf being waved by the wind. In a mixture of emotions—not least being a feeling of tremendous relief—he cut down the offending leaf, put his jacket back on, and rode off into the night as the tropical rain began to come down in buckets.
ROBIN MONTANO lives in Maraval, Trinidad with his wife and two sons. He is an attorney-at-law, born in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad and grew up in San Fernando. He was educated in San Fernando and later on in Canada and went to the College of law in Guildford, Surrey, England. He has served twice in the Senate of Trinidad & Tobago (January 1987 to February 1990 and January 2002 to February, 2006). Although he has not been in Parliament for almost ten years, Mr. Montano remains one of Trinidad & Tobago’s better known (and liked) politicians. Today he has attained the status of a respected elder statesman. His hobbies include deep sea fishing and gardening. He is the author of the novel Counterpoint which was published in 1998 and which enjoyed considerable local success.
Posted: Oct 21, 2015
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