The Prophetess Witch
Chapter 1 Excerpt
They were roasting skulls. The ebony black balls rolled around in the fire as the natives watched, each waiting for their turn to be served a hot, hairy head with a pink tongue hurling insults as the flames licked them up. The fumes of burning wood and fleshly juices wafted through the number 10 van to Silver Hill, and I closed my eyes and imagined bloody teeth sinking into the nearly cindered skulls. Men, women, and children littered the street to oversee the slim, dreadlocked houngan stoke the fire and push the bodiless masses to the side and when done, another would pick them up and pass them to the salivating cannibals.
I wanted to get out of the safety of the white van with a burgundy stripe racing from the side fender, and faux leather seats that held more funk than a George Clinton record. I wanted to take a picture, ask some questions, and look more closely to see if there was someone I recognized roasting in the fire. Wishful thinking made me hope to see Charisse’s dirty beast of a father roasting, his eyes still intact so that he could constantly see the hell he was in.
To get out would be too cumbersome as the driver had us packed in like sardines. Only three could fit in a row, and that’s with the little fold down chair in use. But they were able to squeeze in four adults in my row, including a big dude whose nickname was probably Tiny Man or Slim Jim, and a teenaged boy still in his school uniform. I had wondered if we were unsuspecting victims of a future beheading because even after the person who pushed the bell for the stop had already exited, the driver hesitated to pull off. Then I wondered if maybe we were being arrested by territorial spirits. My mother said in certain places the demonic activity is so heavy that there were spirits that governed the area, and they would need spirit women like the ones in Melanesia who would discern what spirits were tied to the land and bringing misfortune. In some places the atmosphere would be so thick with demonic activity that a person who was not spiritually guarded would feel and act strange, and sometimes wouldn’t even be able to pray or utter the name of Jesus.
The wonder in my eyes caught the attention of the passenger behind me. He was tickled by my look of disbelief and probably knew the narrative I created in my mind to explain what I saw. He laughed so hard that almost the entire van followed suit. My mind was going so fast that I swore I heard everyone laugh with an accent. “Yankee girl, dem not wha yuh think,” he assured me.
“Bet she ain’t neva seen dat, boy!” chimed another. It was Tiny Man Slim Jim whose voice matched his girth.
“Well, what is it since we’re talking?” I said in a way to let him and everyone else know that I was on ready.
“Dem breadfruit. Dem tek out de stem, pull out de heart, den plug it with a pigtail feh flavor. Den de juices run through the breadfruit. It tastes nice.”
“Oh ok,” I flatly replied.
The van pulled off and the primitive scene disappeared into the rear view. We entered more congenial territory as we whizzed by candy colored row houses that looked like they were perfect only up until shortly after they were built. Bed sheets were in the place of curtains, and some doors were so open that the multi-print and wood furniture showed themselves to the Peeping Toms in the van. A group of shirtless young men stood in a circle looking like they were either protecting their territory or eying their prey. They looked like they had nicknames like Hot Boy, Long Time, Careless Whisper, and Big Deal. Those youth had fire in their eyes, like they’ve seen and done way more than they should have. Something told me that I was in the wrong part of town, and I remember the warning I received from a man I met at a fish fry in Oistins. “Let me tell you something. Bajans don’t play. They don’t say ‘I bet you’. You just look up and find you’ve been slapped. Watch yourself riding these vans at night.”
I took it as a message from God because despite my conversion, marriage, and years of practice turning the other cheek, the hothead Suzi was always on deck if something wasn’t right. Bad behavior in a foreign country meant jail time and prison food with no hot sauce.