Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Voodoo doll

The Voodoo Doll

It was the early colonial days on the island of Minau. Minau was known before the white man came to conquer them as Land of the Head Hunters. Even though the white rulers had outlawed this gruesome tradition, the mountains were remote and the rulers couldn't do a thing. The people believe in animism, vampires, mystic and spirits. Casting voodoos were rampant on people who upset you and they continued to chop people's head off.

Christopher Granada was one happy man. He beamed and grinned to himself. He was just promoted to be one of the youngest school principal in the country. Though the school was up in the mountains, it was his school and he was the principal. It was a primary school of forty children. His new wife, Nancy was posted to be the teacher and school matron.

Christopher and Nancy packed their luggage, emergency first aid and medicine and boarded in the motor boat for a two day's journey.

"The school is very remote, after the motor boat ride, the head man, Chief Waretini will wait for you in a long paddle boat at the town of Kano. He will take you to the school." Advised Alfred, the education officer.

Christopher and Nancy sat in the motor boat looking at the other passengers. They were natives from the mountains and had tattoos on their arms, legs and face. Their lips were darken by the tattoos. They were also sharing the boat with ducks, chickens and dogs. Some of the passengers looked fierce and Nancy wondered if their decision to move up to the mountains was a right one.

When it was mid day, some of the passengers opened up their food parcel of dried fish and taro. They offered their lunch to the new school master and his wife.

"Thank you, we brought our own," and quickly stopped at there. Alfred had reminded them that the natives were very hospitable people.

"Make sure you accept food offered to you, otherwise it will be seen as an insult and they will think you are snubbing them. But you offer some of yours in return."

Christopher and Nancy took a bit of the fish and taro and ate as though it was some gourmet food. Then Nancy opened her picnic basket and offered the fellow passengers some of her chicken sandwiches.

When they eventually arrived in Kano, it was late afternoon the next day. Nancy was quite happy to get off the motorboat and stretch her legs on the tiny jetty.

"You must be Mr. Christopher Granada, I presume!" Said the fifty something grey hair man.

"Yes, I am, you must be Chief Waretini, this is my wife Nancy." Replied Christopher.

"Welcome to Kano, Sir Granada and Mam Granada. Tonight, we sleep in a communal rest house, and tomorrow we paddle up to your school."

Nancy had not expected to sleep in the rest house. In deed, it was communal. There was no separate sleeping area. Thin mattress were rolled up like futons and kept at a corner.

"You may like to take the right hand corner, and I will take the left hand corner. I suspect some of the passengers will be sleeping in the rest house as well." Said Chief Waretini.

Chief Waretini took them to a small coffee shop where they had their dinner and then back to the rest house.

Nancy felt quite amused having to sleep on the floor. Never in her wildest imagination had she thought of how primitive the place was. The thin mattress didn't give any cushioning and Nancy didn't sleep a wink that night.

The rooster was crowing at the break of dawn, as though it was saying, "Welcome to the mountians."

"I did tell you that we were going up to the mountains. You don't expect a nice soft warm bed and a nice hot bath." Said Christopher.

The next morning, Chief Waretini brought them two hard boiled eggs each.

"Eat up! We start rowing as soon as you have finished. We need to travel a full day."

The Granadas or now known as Sir and Mam quickly ate their breakfast and packed up their luggage and followed Chief Waretini to the jetty. Waiting on the jetty were two boys about the age of twelve.

"These are two of you oldest students, they have come to help paddle the long boat."

Chief Waretini helped the Granadas load their luggage on the tiny long boat with no roof. Then he gave Nancy a big conical grass hat and a paddle.

"Do I have to paddle too?" asked Christopher.

"Well, if you want to reach the school before sun down."

So Christopher and Nancy each took a paddle and tried to synchronize with Chief Waretini and the two boys.

In a jovial mood, Nancy started to sing "Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver." And Christopher joined in making the rowing less tiresome.

They didn't stop for lunch, but just passed around more chicken sandwich and hard boiled eggs. The boys ate the chicken sandwich ravishly.

Eventually, they arrived at the jetty of their school. It was some fifty feet from the jetty and some girls were waiting to help them unload their luggage. The school was tiny, but The Granadas didn't expect it to be this tiny.

"It doubles up as the church chapel on Sundays." Chief Waretini told them. It is a Roman Catholic Church. The school was built by the mission. Sir, you are the first lay person to be our principal. In the past, we always had a priest."

"Behind the main school building was another rectangular shaped building. The end nearest the school is your living quarters, in the middle is the mess, and the far end is the kitchen."

The Granadas followed Chief Waretini on the grand tour of the school. In another smaller block was the dorm. The dorm was divided into two, one end for the boys and one for the girls. Again Nancy noted there was no bed. Thin kapok mattresses were rolled up and placed against the wall.

"We don't have a cook, the older girls will help you, Mam to cook for the children."

Nancy felt aghast, no where was there written in her job description that she was to be the cook. But it's too late now, Christopher was so enthusiastic in taking up the job that they forgot to check everything. She brushed back her tears and pretended that something got into her eye.

"The generator will provide the electricity in the evening. Make sure it is lights off at 8.30pm."

"What about us? Do we have to have lights off too?"

"You have a powerful torch light."

"Have we gone back in a time machine?" Asked Nancy.

"You have everything here, once a week, I will come with the food supply and the district health nurse will come once a month." Said Chief Waretini.

The Granadas worked hard in their little school. Both of them were liked by the students and their parents. They did not expect the extra added bonuses of eggs and chicken when the parents came to visit.

Christopher wanted to have a vegetable garden, Chief Waretini organised a community project and the parents, uncles and aunties and grand parents came for two days. Such co-operation was heart warming and soon they were self sufficient in vegetables, and starch roots like, sweet potatoes and taro.

Nancy was happy knowing that Christopher was elated. One day when the health nurse came, she confirmed that Nancy was pregnant. They were happy but Nancy was not overjoyed.

"How am I going to bring up a child in this remote place?" Nancy questioned herself, but she did not let Christopher know of her apprehension.

Nancy became sick, the health nurse suspected she had a miscarriage. "You work too hard here."

Much to Nancy's chagrin, Christopher didn't seem too upset, "Don't worry too much, we are both young, we can have another."

Nancy became pregnant again, but tragically she lost the baby again. She didn't recover physically from the lost. Her system got muddled up and she was constantly having cramps in her stomach and her hair was dropping in clumps.She feared she was turning bald.

Chief Waretini's wife came secretly to Nancy. "I don't think your health problems are due to natural causes. I think there is something supernatural about this."

"What do you mean?"

"I think some one cast a hex on you."

"Why would they want to do this?"

"I am not sure, I can ask our clairvoyant for you if you like."

"Christopher will never agree to witch craft."

"Do you value your life or not?"

In desperation, Nancy heeded Mrs. Waretini's advice. On the pretext of visiting a student's home, Nancy went with Chief Waretini's wife to the village clairvoyant.

In the clairvoyant's hut, lined against the wall were many shelves. On the shelves were bottles of magic potion with insects and herbs in them. She had darkened teeth, and covered her hair with a long black scarf. But bits of fizzy white hair could be seen sticking out at her forehead. She lit some red candles.

The clairvoyant gave Nancy some homebrew and asked her to spit out part of it on the floor. After saying some mumble-jumble words, the clairvoyant fell in a trance and prostrated on the floor. When she came through, she looked horrified.

"It's evil. Some village girl is jealous of you as the wife of our handsome young Sir. She wants you dead so that she can be the new Mam."

"What can we do?" asked Mrs. Waretini.

"The evil girl would have gone to a witch doctor and got her to cast a voodoo on you."

"How do I get rid of it?" Asked Nancy.

"We must find the source of the voodoo, she must have hidden a voodoo doll some where near the school, when you find it, you bring it to me, and I will remove the spell."

"Who could do such a hideous thing? I will enlist my husband Waretini to help."

"Please keep this a secret from Christopher, he will think I am superstitious to believe in this voodoo thing"

"When you live in the mountains, where most people are animists and not Christians, you have to believe that people resort to voodoo." Said Mrs. Waretini.

Chief Waretini scoured the whole school compound especially about the dense bush that surrounded the school. After two days, he struck gold. He found what he was looking for. Hanging upside down was an eight inch voodoo doll wrapped in red cloth, and bounded tightly in black string. Without touching it, he saw thorns stuck in the abdomen area. Parts of its hair had been pulled out leaving bald patches.

"No wonder the Mam had been losing her babies and getting bad stomach ache and dropping her hair."

Chief Waretini quickly got a student to rush the clairvoyant to come to school. They told the students to remain inside the dorm. The clairvoyant said her prayers, and removed the thorns stuck to the voodoo abdomen area, unwound the two metre long black string and the red cloth. Then she poured some kerosene and set the voodoo on fire until it became ashes. She swept up the ashes into a little gourd.

"That was a good job you located the voodoo doll. Now your job is to catch this vicious girl who wanted our Mam dead."

Every day and every night, Chief Waretini hid in a bush waiting to catch the culprit red handed. For ten days, he had no success and was about to give up.

"No, Waretini, you must be patient. For the sake of our beloved Mam, you must persevere, her life depends on you. " Said Mrs. Waretini and the clairvoyant.

It was a full moon night. At mid night Chief Waterini was getting sleepy. He heard a morepork hooting melancholy and he looked up. He saw the morepork sit conspicuously at a nearby tree. As a child, Chief Waterini heard that when this owl hoot melancholy, it had been with the spirits and something bad was going to happen. He felt the air suddenly become cold and the atmosphere become eerie.He even smelt the smell of death.

Out of the bush came Tania, the belle of the village. She was considered the most beautiful girl in the village but her pride had led her to reject all the suitors from near and far. She confided in her aunty that these local men were not good enough for her, and she was waiting for her knight in shiny armour.

"So she had decided that Sir was the knight, and so evil had she become that she was willing to kill Mam to get Sir."

Chief Waretini threw his fishing net on Tania so she couldn't escape. Then he bound her hands and legs with rope. He found she had a bottle of formic acid presumed to be used to splash and dissolve the voodoo. In such a terrible act, she had intended to kill the Mam.

In the mountain way of justice, he marched Tania to the clairvoyant's hut. The clairvoyant told Mrs. Waretini to cut off Tania's hair and smear charcoal and ashes on her face. Tania was to be the clairvoyant's slave for as long as the clairvoyant deem necessary and after she felt that Tania had become remorseful.

Christopher still dismissed the voodoo doll as mumble jumble. Miraculously Nancy recovered with no medical intervention. Her hair grew long and luscious.

Not too long afterwards, she had twins, a boy and a girl. Chief Waretini and his wife hosted a big party where they symbolically became the twins' grand parents.

Reader's comment:
I enjoyed this story. I do feel like you set me up though. I expected more from the husband. He is an educated man. He should have been suspicious. I also feel that the Nancy cared more for Christopher than he did for her. I would like to see more investment in the emotions of the villagers. Christopher needs to have some interaction on a personal level with Tania. Otherwise their forbidden love (one sided of course) could not even be imagined.

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