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News & Features » November 2019 » “Lastique and the Baby” by Kirk V. Bhajan

“Lastique and the Baby” by Kirk V. Bhajan

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 man attempts to rescue a child left by an ominous tree . . . 

Lastique and the Baby
by Kirk V. Bhajan
Brasso Peedra, Trinidad, Silk Cotton Tree 

It was the start of the rainy season. Dark clouds billowed over the setting sun, leaving the air ripe with a feeling of dread. I was staying for a week in the lonely village of Brasso Peedra. Even though the weather looked certain for a rainstorm, I did not shirk my daily cycling routine. I lived all my life in the city and the simple sights of the country fascinated me. So onward I rode, past the scattered houses and deep into the bush.

Night falls quickly during the rainy season, and very soon I was riding in darkness. While riding I suddenly heard a shrill, human-like cry pierce through the forest. It overwhelmed the sounds of the lonely wood crickets and grew louder and louder. My ear as my guide, I rode to the source of the sound. There, under a massive silk cotton tree, lay the figure of a naked baby, covered in tears and mud.

The tree was grotesque. Its leaves were cloven shaped, its bark thick and haggard. It stood like a giant witch, disfigured and evil. There were no animals around it. Even parasitic vines seemed to flee its shelter. Only a nest of sleeping bats hung from its claw-like branches. It stood a lone figure of an ancient evil, mysterious and powerful.

The baby lay helpless at its base. I decided that I would carry it home and keep it for the night. Then, when dawn broke, I would contact the relevant authorities. As I approached the frightened child, the resting bats suddenly awoke and flew past me, screeching into the night. Suddenly, the baby stopped crying. It looked up at me. I dare say, it even smiled.

The baby was bone white. His large, dark eyes looked longingly into mine. As it did, I felt a chill run through my marrow. I placed it gently into my arms. It was a boy. I steadied myself onto my bicycle, tenderly clutching my newfound companion.

The road was dark and lonely. I was in complete solitude, save for the night creatures that roamed the forest. I looked at the baby. He was quite quiet, his expression reflecting a strange quiescence, much like the brooding clouds above. I turned my back to the silk cotton tree and rode homeward.

Now it is not very difficult to balance a baby and ride a bicycle simultaneously—provided you do so slowly. The child was not heavy, but soon my hand began to tire as its weight seemed to be getting progressively heavier. I shrugged this off, having completed a little over quarter the distance. However, as I rode on, the weight of the child grew heavier. I tried to fight off whatever weariness I was experiencing, but simply could not.

It suddenly dawned on me that not only was the weight of the baby changing, but also its size. I rode on even slower, trying to make sense of this bewildering change in weight. I tried to reason whether I had conjured a strange fantasy of making the baby grow. But I know this for certain—the child shifted its shape.

In an act of incipient transfiguration, the baby advanced in both age and size. Hair began to bristle from its arms, yellow teeth grew from large black lips and his face was a visage of pure evil. The once innocent burden I was carrying was no longer a baby but a small man, ragged and sinister in appearance. It snarled, opened its lips and hissed at me in a mocking manner;

“Oh Lastique oh! Doh slow down. I want to go home. Cyary me home nah!”

I gathered whatever senses I had and rode back to the tree. All the while, the monster clawed and cursed, threatening unspeakable ills onto me if I did not turn around. As I rode closer to the tree, the creature returned slowly to the shape of a baby. I arrived at the foot of the tree, and deposited my foul discovery onto its twisted roots.

The baby began bawling once again, shivering in the night wind. I slowly backed away from the tree and jumped onto my bicycle. I rode onward, until I could no longer hear the sickening cry of the child held helpless under the spell of the silk cotton tree, deep in the darkness.

***

KIRK V. BHAJAN is an emerging writer from San Fernando. He writes to understand society and himself. He is a graduate of the Ken Gordon School of Journalism and is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at UWI, St. Augustine. In 2017 he received the Future Critics Award from the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival for his film reviews. He currently writes for the magazine My Trinidad: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

***

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: Nov 21, 2019

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



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