“The Real Caribbean” by Kristine Simelda
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, Kristine Simelda goes on an adventure in Dominica.
The Real Caribbean
by Kristine Simelda
Dominica; Mama Glo
Lydia scans the online travel magazine and sips her tea distractedly. Work is boring, and the weather outside is dreadful. She needs a break. She’s browsing for an adventure to lift her spirits when a headline jumps out: Come experience the real Caribbean, it beckons.
Perfect! After all, she’s not a typical tourist who wants sun and sea—her passions are bird watching and chasing waterfalls.
Lydia’s mind races ahead as a series of ever smaller planes bear her farther south. According to the article, Dominica, the “Nature Isle,” is an ideal junket for an eco-traveler like her.
But as soon as she lands on the island, she suspects she has made a mistake. The airport is chaotic, and the local people seem sullen and suspicious.
It’s almost dark when she hitches a ride in the back of a pickup. “Enchanted Falls?” she asks hopefully. The driver nods and motions for her to hop aboard.
She spends the night in a seedy guest house. The sheets smell like mold, and the kitchen is closed. The next morning, she wakes up to the welcome smell of coffee, but no breakfast is available. Neither is a guide. Lydia, disheartened, laces up her hiking boots, slings her binoculars around her neck, and then finds her way to the trailhead that leads to the falls on her own.
Although the island’s amenities are lacking, the rainforest doesn’t disappoint—it’s even more beautiful than she imagined. Huge trees crowned with clumps of bromeliads, orchids, and wild anthurium shade the forest floor. Choirs of birdsong fill the air. Lydia smiles as she scours the canopy, hoping for a glimpse of an endemic parrot.
“This place is truly magical,” she says, and forges ahead. The plaintive call of a rufous-throated solitaire drifts down from the ridge while several species of flycatchers dash through the understory. Brilliant hummingbirds visit stands of red and yellow heliconia, so close she could reach out and touch them.
After an hour or so of tramping through waist-high ferns and wild begonias, she crosses a river. She can hear water cascading somewhere close by. And suddenly there it is, shrouded in mist and haloed by a double rainbow—Enchanted Falls! Excited, she climbs down a set of boulders and sits down on a flat rock. She takes off her boots and dangles her feet in the emerald green pool.
But when she gazes up at the thundering waterfall, a wave of nausea overcomes her. “I guess I should have eaten breakfast,” she chides herself.
Just then, a gust of wind whips down from the top of the cliff, spraying her with ice-cold water. “Whoosh!” she squeals.
Since she’s wet already, Lydia decides to take a swim to clear her head. But when she stands to remove her clothes, her legs buckle. She tries to catch hold of a branch to keep from falling, but misses her grip and crashes backward onto the rocks. Her hand comes away bloody when she reaches behind her head to check the damage. Shakily, she crawls to the edge of the pool to wash the wound.
Words in a strange language assault her as soon as she touches the water. “Foukan!” a voice screams.
Momentarily, the pool starts spinning like a top. The sky appears to be turned inside out, and images of overhanging trees swirl as if caught in a hurricane. Her reflection becomes an ugly, distorted blur.
“What’s happening?” she cries as she tries desperately to get her bearings. “Who’s speaking to me?”
“It is I, Mama Glo, Mother of the Water,” the voice hisses. “Get out from here!”
Lydia pulls a face. “But I’m on vacation,” she whines.
“Go!” Mama Glo commands. “Pwésé!”
Lydia grabs her clothes and boots and scrambles back up the boulders. Her heart is pounding and her brain is reeling as she stumbles along the trail.
After she crosses the river, she stops to redress. When she looks back at the falls, it’s steaming like a giant teakettle ready to boil.
“Okay! I’m gone!” she says.
The ground buckles beneath her feet as Lydia retraces her steps as fast as she can. Obviously, this Caribbean island isn’t exactly user-friendly—in fact, it’s spooky and dangerous. When she reaches the road, she flags down the first vehicle that passes. By nightfall, she’s settled on the same small plane, only this time it’s headed north—back home where life is boring but safe.
KRISTINE SIMELDA was born in the US and has been a citizen of the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica for the past twenty-one years. During that time, she has written three novels, three novellas, and a novel and collection of stories for young adults. Her short fiction has appeared in St Somewhere Journal, ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics, and Consciousness, Jewels of the Caribbean, Poui: Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing, The Caribbean American Heritage Literary Magazine, and the premier issue of Interviewing the Caribbean. Her debut novel, A Face in the River, was recently published by River Ridge Press.
—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 [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 25, 2016
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