“The Thought Bringer” by Soyini Ayanna Forde
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, Soyini Ayanna Forde has an interesting conversation.
The Thought Bringer
by Soyini Ayanna Forde
Trinidad and Tobago; Soucouyant
Jariah feels remnants of bickering trailing behind her like afterbirth, spotting at times, or falling out uninterrupted at others. Since unattended messiness requires revisiting, most Friday evenings when they are together, something crops up in discussions about jumbies and ‘lore, silk cotton trees and fears.
She was fretting about how religiosity divorces people from folk magic knowledge, but that it still remains fiercely rooted inside parts of their cultural consciousness.
“Your people—” Her finger jabs at Alan. They are sitting on the porch, Jariah’s legs folded before her on the top step.
“My people?” he cut in. Alan would have raised an eyebrow then if he could.
“Yes, your people, white European Christian people, does do some interesting things with belief and myth when they get all up in de mix, allegedly to save other people from their myths. Yuh know myth is created from people’s knowledge? People create who we are.” Jariah threw her hands up and used emphatic air quotes each time she said the word myth.
“And here we are, existing.”
“Yes, and myths help explain who we are, but myths are not the reason for being. Both things can exist at the same time. I exist in myth and I exist here, with you, now. Both are important.”
Alan laughs, something he realizes he doesn’t do often, and it nearly startles him, stumbling out of his throat unfettered. “But you and I are ultimately irrelevant. Beyond myth we have no purpose but blood,” he tells her, looking down at her face—awash with emotion, dark skin, her eyes darker, crested with curly lashes. From his loftier position on the old swing chair, the small specks of neediness in her irises arrest him. The dead don’t matter to anyone who doesn’t remember you, Alan knew. Something constricts, stops him from saying it out loud.
Later, alone, naked, and staring at the ceiling, he would wonder what it meant, these things that he fought between: a part of him wanting to snuff her out, and a part of him wanting her to forever flourish, aglow in the night sky, then fade like a shooting star to unknowing eyes. He tucked away the strange swirl of sensations. She is so good at this, bringing thoughts and setting them loose to scurry around my mind, he thought. Yes, that is what she does.
“Doh tie up meh head!” Jariah had snapped. “Yes, I deal in blood—we deal in blood, true. But dat doh mean we don’t have purpose. You doh believe we have purpose?”
Purpose—this was part of the reason that he ended up in Trinidad.
“People taste different here,” Jariah assures him. Alan could believe that. The island at night is warm, but there are breezes at least, promising a quick flick of redemptive cool. There is a vibrancy in the air too, unlike anything he’d ever sensed, like movement and music and bloodletting are all present at any given time.
On the avenue people throng in and out of bars and restaurants. Some stand in lines for food along the pavement as cars inch by, their darkly tinted windows and exteriors gleaming with lights from streetlamps and businesses. It also reminds him of Las Vegas a bit, but Lilliputian.
But this girl, what part of purpose was she? Saddis had brought her over to the house, loping over the darkness of the front yard, his quiet-quiet lupine stealth betrayed by the young woman’s uneasy chattering.
“Woi, big man,” he murmured, offering Alan a bounce. “And ah tell yuh ah go fix yuh up?”
“That you did.” She was light brown with silky black hair. Saddis slid into the shadows with a nod and a “handle yuh stories.”
Jariah was livid about this presence, her features becoming doused in upset like sweat. “She not married and probably still lives at home, and I sure somebody missing her already. You and Saddis will cause us trouble!”
“You worry too much, Jariah. You always do.”
“You doh care enough! Or think!”
“See, there you go again. Why are you always trying to get me to think? What good could possibly come of that?”
“Because,” she said, her fingers touching him, speaking things before her mouth does, “without thought, without a care, we are jus’ beasts.”
“Well, aren’t we?” Jariah’s tongue slinked out, pink and damp. She didn’t answer and licked the rivulet of blood winding out of the corner of his mouth.
SOYINI AYANNA FORDE is a Trini-Guyanese island gyal. She has work in Apogee Journal, Cleaver Magazine, Moko, SX Salon, The Caribbean Writer, Tongues of the Ocean, The Guidebook, St. Somewhere Journal, and Black Renaissance Noire. Her poetry chapbook Taste of Hibiscus was published by Dancing Girl Press. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and The Best American Essays. She blogs about race, feminism, her love life, and West Indian culture at www.soyluv.wordpress.com. She is working on her first full-length collection of poems.
—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: Mar 31, 2016
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