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News & Features » September 2019 » “The Night Shape Shifter” by Kirk Budhooram

“The Night Shape Shifter” by Kirk Budhooram

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 cursed child and the arrival of Death . . .

The Night Shape Shifter
by Kirk Budhooram
Lagahoo, Mayaro, Trinidad 

Is years I waiting for God to smile on me. And is years the devil pissing on me. Sometimes I think I is the orphan child of the both a them. Nobody want me but nobody brave enough to kill me so they put me behind God’s back and pretend I don’t exist. But I did exist, much to the dismay of my earthly parents.

“Daddy, stop beating me! Stop it!” I cried out.

“You lucky I ain’t have the strength to beat you for days. Your mother in church. She better remember to bring home the Holy Water this time. Holy Water does kill things like you!”

He spat on me.

I crawled away as my father fell into his chair.

In the backyard, I found my quiet corner and cried. I was numb to the pain of the licks but not to the hate my own parents had for me.

I fell asleep on the grass and when I woke up my neighbor’s children were stroking my face. There was no fence to separate us. That was how we lived in the southeastern village of Mayaro in Trinidad.

“Nice doggy,” one of them said as they patted my head. They loved animals and would visit me after school. Every night, I would turn into a dog just before they came home from extra lessons. I don’t think they ever knew that I was my pet.

Mommy was home. She and Daddy were arguing.

The children became uncomfortable and left.

I also ran out the yard onto the road but did not get far. Questions haunted me under the full moon. Why was I born? To endure hate? To suffer beatings every night?

I howled into the night. The winds carried my cries as a warning to nearby villagers to stay locked indoors. Even the beating of the waves on Mayaro Beach could not drown me out.

I was not hungry for food that night. I was hungry for answers.

I went back home. 

Willing myself back into the form of a human, I stormed in.

“What in me you hate so?”

“You is the devil son!” Mommy said.

“I is your son!”

“You don’t sleep,” Daddy shouted. “You think we don’t see you turning into that dog! Running out to kill people animals! We chain you up and you still running away. Well, not anymore! Your mother bring home the Holy Water! And I did buy more chains in case it don’t work.”

“Daddy, I not evil . . .” 

Mommy was already crying. “Is only time that people go find out that the lagahoo they looking for in we house and they go kill all three of we.”

“Pour the Holy Water all over the stick,” Daddy commanded. She did so and handed the stick to him. “We ask God for a son and He give we a lagahoo!”

I closed my eyes. Mommy screamed and I heard the stick fall to the ground! I opened my eyes to see Daddy holding his chest. He fell down.

Mommy screamed, thinking I was performing some kind of magic on him.

But I knew the truth because I saw Death with a coffin in tow, standing before him. His scythe was sharpened ready to reap his soul.

My heart melted to see my Mommy hug my Daddy.

“Don’t take him!” I said.

“Somebody soul going with me in this coffin tonight!” Death said.

“Then take me!”

Death gazed at me as if he could see my suffering.

He pointed at the coffin for me to lay in it.

With tears in my eyes, I did so.

When I awoke, I was lying in mud in the forest. Death stood before me.

“You are dead to your parents. Never return. Your sacrifice for your father bought him and you some time. Live well. ”

He then vanished. 

I stood up, feeling somewhat freed. Freed from hate; freed from a life of suffering!

Death’s coffin and my Daddy’s chains lay before me.

I tied the chains around my waist and walked out of the forest, allowing it to drag on the road. I carried the coffin on my head.

Why did I carry them?

To always remember that I negotiated with Death to save my family.


KIRK BUDHOORAM has a BSc. in industrial engineeringand a MFA in creative writing from University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. He won the People’e Choice Award for Best Short Film at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival 2007 for writing and directing Herman’s Tales: Kidnapped. He won the David Hough Literary Prize in 2016 for his short story “The Last Day of School” in The Caribbean Writer Vol 30. He was shortlisted in the Small Axe Salon Literary Competition in 2018, and has also been published in Moko Magazine and Susumba’s Book Bag Magazine. He is a member of the writing group, Cool Your Head—Open Mic and Film.


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: Sep 5, 2019

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