October 31, 2007


Duppy Even though they weren’t working like they used to, Errol sat on the side of his bed, took the capsules in his palm and swallowed them. The signs were already there: weight loss, vomiting, losing his hair, and now the “visions.”

Dr. Lawrence, who had bandaged, stitched and healed his every wound, checked Errol's eyes again. He shone the light into Errol's brown eyes which from childhood had bulged from its sockets and made him look almost childlike and trusting, and those who were taken in by his boyish looks always paid dearly for their mistake.

"With your history of drug use, it's probably a complication from the natural progression of the disease that includes some brain damage and dementia."

It was the first time Errol thought that Dr. Lawrence didn’t know what he was talking about. Errol had hallucinated when he’d smoked some weed that was laced with PCP, so he knew about hallucinations. These were different. These were visions.

"If it's any comfort and I think that I can say this because you're a man who has seen death and you're no afraid of it, in about three months, it will all be over. No more visions."

Errol felt like killing him right there, but he didn’t. And he was right, he had seen a lot of death and it didn't scare him. Besides if he had killed Dr. Lawrence, it would only have made matters worse.

Errol reached for a glass of water on the nightstand and glanced over at the full-length mirror beside the bathroom. Six months ago, he had asked Marcia, the girl who helped him, to take it down, but she never did. She was always busy sponging everything with bleach. And he had to admit, she did a good job at keeping the house clean, so he didn’t complain.

But now he had to look at himself, a living duppy, mawga down to the bone. Errol had tried everything to keep the weight on—smoking weed and then eating as much food as he could keep down, but then it would only end up in the toilet. And the weed only made the visions worse. He wanted to throw the glass into the mirror, but he needed his strength. And his luck was bad enough as it was.

Errol sipped the water and looked through the window. Marcia was leaving in a hurry.

“Marcia, where you going? Rita not here yet!”

She turned, looked back at him, and ran through the gate. By the look on her face, he knew she wasn’t coming back. To hell with her.

Back in the day, he had ten Marcias and prettier too. Much prettier. But it was the Marcias who had given him this. Back then, no Marcia would have dared to leave him or she would have been a dead Marcia. Now, not even an ugly Marcias respected him.

Still, he couldn’t understand the look on her face. She was rushing like she was late for church. He rubbed his forehead with his bony hands and reread the labels on the prescriptions. Errol pulled out the drawer on his nightstand. The money was gone. The only thing that Marcia had left was his gun, which she never touched.

“You make too much duppies with that thing.”

“Which thing, this?” He pointed to the gun, “Or this?” He unzipped his fly.

“The two of them,” she walked to the door. “Mr. Thompson, why you do these things? You know I’m a Christian girl.”

“Because I like to.”

Now the Christian had robbed him and he didn’t have the strength to teach her a lesson. But that was a Christian for you. If it wasn't the preacher tithing you into poverty like they did to his mother before she became a Warner woman and gave up all her money to save him and the country from slipping into eternal damnation, then it was the priest robbing the little boys of their innocence in the confession box. It was a good thing he never believed in those things.

If he had had even half his strength he would have chased her and given her a beating, but the thought of running after her made him weak and that would only make matters worse. He had to stay awake.

Reaching inside the drawer, Errol searched around and expected the worst. He pulled out the bottle of NoDoze. At least she had left him the pills. They would keep him awake until Rita came.

The clock beside the bed rang and he turned it off. It was already six o’clock. Rita should have been there already. Had Rita left him too?

Errol wanted to get up, but he couldn’t. He thought that if he left the room and went out to the gate, he could stay awake through the night. Not that the visions didn’t come during the day—they did.

If the Angel of Death came and told him he had a choice between dying during the day or at night, he would have chosen the day. Dying at night, surrounded by the darkness, was too dread. But it wasn't the Angel of Death that he feared. He could handle her when she came and he hoped she would come quickly.

Errol looked over at the clock again. A minute past six. Rita was always there at six. Sometimes at five thirty.

He would find a way to get out of bed. If he held on to the bedpost, he might have the strength to lift his body--he didn’t weigh much now--and stagger to the bathroom. He placed his hand on the nightstand and reached for the bedpost.

It was no use. Now he was gasping for air. He had to control his breathing. He was always good at that. He had controlled his breathing and managed to stay still for two hours in a small closet until his boss was alone. That was how he made his boss a duppy. Then, he took over. He ran things.

But now Errol was tired and his lungs were failing him. He didn’t want to fall asleep. But he could now feel the tiredness race down his arms into his legs, and then back up to his thighs. He tried to fight it off, but it kept coming. It crept into his belly, up his chest, ignored his arms and crawled up his neck into his face and eyelids.

No, no, no screamed like the battyboy that he'd made a duppy. Errol remembered how he begged and said that he had a wife and family. Errol loved it when they begged.

“You leave pum-pum for batty? Is people like you that give woman your disease to spread to man. You deserve to dead.”

He held the gun up to the battyboy’s head. He loved shooting them in the head to see how the bone and brains splattered. It made him think. How could something so small and spongy, that made everything work, end up on the floor, so that you could use a piece of stick and poke around in it like it was dog shit, and the man lying beside his own brains couldn’t say or do a thing about it?

Then the battyboy started to cry and said he wanted to live. He would die with the words on his lips.

Errol’s eyelids were heavy and the darkness overcame him. He knew it wouldn't last long. He knew that when he opened his eyes, the visions would come. All the duppies that he had made, and there were many, their eyes bulging with blood and pus, would be standing at the foot of his bed whispering and laughing with their keh-keh laugh, like it was coming from up them nose hole, “We waiting for you, Errol. We waiting."


"A Jamaican Halloween Story" is an excerpt from Who's Your Daddy? : And Other Stories available at Amazon


John Kachuba said...

Great story, Geoffrey, I loved it. I may not be an obeah-man, but I am a ghosthunting writer and this was right up my alley. Thanks, man.

John Kachuba

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks, John. Glad you liked it because I really wasn't too sure about this one and the story arc.