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News & Features » December 2018 » “Hide and Seek” by Suzanne Bhagan

“Hide and Seek” by Suzanne Bhagan

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, a game of hide and seek turns dangerous, especially when hiding on the forbidden third floor . . .

Hide and Seek
by Suzanne Bhagan
Buck; Trinidad and Tobago

When I was younger, visiting my aunt’s house was an adventure. It was located on the main road, an artery running through the sleepy village of Felicity in central Trinidad. While all the other houses along the main road had one story, one roof, and one front porch, my aunt’s was a three-story-high collage of brick and wood, painted and unpainted walls, sloping roofs and little porches. On the third story, a tiny porch garlanded with red and green fairy lights blinked like Christmas all year.

Every time I visited, my cousin and I played hide and seek but we never went up to the third story. My cousin told me that a buck, a stumpy, dark-skinned magic man from the Guyanese bush, used to live in a room up there and that every night, my aunt left a plate of dhal, rice, and bhaji outside the door that always remained shut.

“Yuh ever see it?” I asked.

“No, but sometimes, I does hear things moving around up there,” he said matter-of-factly, as though supernatural creatures usually rearranged furniture on the third story of other houses on the island. 

One Sunday afternoon, as usual, the grown-ups sat on the sagging couches in the living room on the second story, fanning themselves with old magazines and drinking chilled grapefruit juice. As usual, my cousin and I were bored so we started playing hide and seek.  

It was my turn to count. When I opened my eyes, I spotted a lump rising and falling behind the burgundy satin drapes. “Boo!” I said, thwacking the lump.

It yelped.

My mother jumped and spilled grapefruit juice all over on the grey and black terrazzo floor.

“Upstairs. Go and play upstairs!” my aunt ordered.

My cousin and I looked at each other, unsure about whether we should listen.

“Now!” Her eyes meant business so we clambered up the wooden slat stairs, silent as mice.

It was now my turn to hide.

My cousin leaned his face against a post and started counting. “One hundred, ninety-nine . . .

Ten, nine, eight . . .”

I panicked and slipped into the tiny room on the third story.

Even though the rest of the house was wilting in the afternoon heat, this room felt cool like a river stone. I fumbled for a light switch and inched my way through the darkness, imagining that any second now, the buck would pop out and flash its razor teeth at me, like that jack-in-the-box clown I saw on a made-for-TV horror movie once.

Instead, I bumped into something. Something long and smooth, all curves and rounded edges. My heart thumped. The buck? No, it couldn’t be. This was cool, like the glass marbles we pitched in the front yard. I touched it again, tracing my fingertips along its smooth lines and felt a big toe, then four little toes. It was the biggest big toe I had ever felt, even bigger than my father’s.

Then, in the pitch black, I heard wings fluttering, grazing concrete.  A thin, cold breeze whispered along my spine. My heart pummeled the inside of my chest. The beating grew fainter. Next thing I knew, a narrow curtain lifted, just enough to flood the room with a single shaft of light from a small window on the back wall.

The ray of light fell on one, two half-closed eyes, elongated at the ends and fringed with black, painted-on eyelashes. Above the sleepy eyes, a section of hair lay on top of its head twisted in a loose bun; the rest falling like thick, black ropes down its shoulders. The face was dusky blue with thin, red lips; the mouth slightly parted.

The creature’s dull turquoise chest was bare, save for a leopard skin draped across one shoulder and ending just above its resting knees. In its right hand, a golden trident gleamed in the sunlight. On its left, a white cow wearing a glittering necklace stabbed me with its bloodshot eyes, daring me to move another inch. I remained fixed to the spot, mouth dry, heart thumping like a tassa drum.

The cobra wrapped around its neck, uncoiled, arched back, and hissed. The sleepy eyes flashed for a split second.

I screamed and slumped to the floor.

***

SUZANNE BHAGAN is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago currently based in Japan. Her fiction has been featured in the literary anthology, We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture and the literary magazine, Moko. Her travel essays have appeared in Caribbean Beat and Wanderful. She worked briefly at the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian and has freelanced as a travel writer for GoAbroad, Savvy Tokyo, and other outlets. She is currently working on a collection of short stories. You can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

***

Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Duppy Thursday flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Dec 6, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Duppy Thursday | Tags: , , , , ,



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