IT WAS dark and lonely along the five-mile track that Samuel was using to get home. He had travelled from Georgetown for two hours by bus; crossed with the Berbice River ferry at Rosignol, and then by bus for another two hours to Springlands. From there he had taken a horse-drawn cart for another hour-and-a-half until he arrived at Plantation Road. From there he had to ‘foot it’ to get to the small village of Betsy.
Darkness had crept in at about 6:15pm, but Sammy kept on going; he was not afraid of the dark. After all, he was a homegrown country boy; he grew up with no electricity; he was no stranger to darkness.
As he trudged along, he became aware of the noises made by animals in the surrounding forest. They had their own unique communication network.
There was also the ever-present drone of the annoying mosquitoes that persistently kept him company. Sammy had armed himself with a bottle of 12-year-old rum to aid him on this long journey. After a few swigs from the bottle, he hardly noticed the stings from the mosquitoes, and the walk seemed easier. In fact, he felt very energised. Smiling, he forged ahead.
He was excited to be returning home after an absence of seven years. His job at Linden had kept him so busy, he had little chance of visiting home. Marriage and two small kids had made matters even worse. With no electricity and telephones in this rural village, Sammy had lost contact. That is, until his father passed away.
Old man Johnson had lived all his life in Betsy, and had refused to move and go live with his son. His wife had stayed with him, and together they continued to manage the small ‘All Sorts’ shop from which they sold a wide range of things — groceries, snacks, liquor, and many other odds-and-ends like cosmetics, clothes, shoes, books, vegetables and ground provision.
Three days ago, the old man had taken ill suddenly and died shortly thereafter. The news was sent to Samuel, and he set out as soon as he heard. You see, Betsy rarely kept its dead for more than two days, because of the lack of a storage facility there. The funeral was set for the day after his arrival. He had travelled alone, because his wife had recently given birth to their second child and was in no state to make such a difficult journey.
Sammy took another swig; replaced the bottle in his back pocket; and walked on. From somewhere ahead he saw a flash of something white. Someone was coming along the path. This was not unusual, being it was the only access to his village. As he stepped around a clump of trees, he saw a woman standing at the side of the road. She was of European descent, and her white dress made her seem even whiter in the dark.
This was odd! A white woman here! Who was she? What was she doing here all alone? Was she lost? Where was she going? All these questions seem to jump out at him as he approached her. He paused and looked directly at her. She was younger than he first thought. He figured her to be in her early twenties. Stranger still, she was smiling invitingly at him. He was so confused by her brazenness, that he was unable to utter one single word to her. He looked quickly away in embarrassment, and increased his pace.
Fifteen minutes later, and some distance down the road, he walked into the same woman again. It was as if the exact scene from a movie was being replayed. The smile was the same, and the way she stood was identical!
By now, his puzzlement had progressed to fear. There was only one explanation for this kind of encounter! Jumbie!! Samuel broke into a brisk run. Childhood memories of similar encounters told to him by his parents and elders came back to haunt him. Evil spirits would attack innocent people, and cause serious problem to those unfortunate enough to incur their wrath. He had no plans of being one of those, and this galvanized him into a spirited sprint.
The wind tugged and brushed against him. Overhanging branches reached down to prod and taunt him. His panic was complete; now he was fleeing. Sweat poured down his body, and his heart hammered his chest as he hurtled towards the village.
A flash of white caused his gaze to be riveted on the slight curve in the track ahead. Rounding the turn, he prayed that his fears and anticipation would be proven wrong. No such luck.
She stood rooted there again, but this time, she’d positioned herself squat in the middle of the narrow path. She was blocking his path. At least, that’s what she must’ve figured. She didn’t know Samuel.
With a shriek that must have been heard some two miles away in the village, meh boy Sammy dived headlong into the thick undergrowth, emerging about one hundred meters down the track, and praying and cussing like the Devil all at the same time.
His face was a mask of terror, and tears streamed down his cheeks. By now moving at high speed, he ignored the pain and tiredness; they would have to wait. He completed the journey in a time that would make any distance runner proud, and finally stumbled into the small village.
Flopping down at the first house he came to in utter exhaustion, he banged on the door, pleading to be let in. There was no response from within. He hurried to his feet and turned to go to the next house in line. That’s when he nearly bumped into her!
There she stood! But without her usual smile! It had been replaced by an evil scowl that made her face look flushed and angry.
“You are one lucky son-of-a-gun; if you had only said one word, I would have killed you right there on the spot.” Her voice, when she spoke, eventually caused Samuel to lose the last remaining ounce of dignity he had. His knees melted, and he lost control of his bowels. Big as big he was, he put his face into his hands and bawled like a baby. When he finally mustered the courage to look up, he did so through his fingers. She had disappeared!
Sammy buried his dad the next day, and hastily left the village. His mother refused to go with him. He felt sad about this. When he left, he knew it was for the last time. Not even an army could persuade him to return to this dratted place.