SPEAK! Faceless Devil,
Tell us your name.
Our name is Legion, for we are many.
We are @Sawaleh_
The knock at the door was delivered in a sudden, rapid staccato.
Mabel rose awkwardly from her seat behind the plush Victorian desk and adjusted her bodice. She had discarded her hat when she settled in but with her some of her hair swept up atop her head and the rest of it flowing past her shoulders in curling tendrils, she felt oddly compelled to reach for it and cover the mess up.
“Come in!” she called out.
“I’m terribly sorry my lady but this just arrived. I was told that you were to receive immediately.” Alfred, her butler, offered apologetically as he handed her a sealed letter.
“It’s from Lagos, in the southern protectorate near the Niger” He added as she took it from him and surveyed the envelope before breaking the seal and retrieving the letter. It was dated September 17th, 1904. Almost six weeks ago. She unfolded it, glanced at the bottom and gasped when she saw the signature.
“Alfred, get me another reading candle and tell everyone that I am not to be disturbed.”
“Yes. Of course my lady” Alfred bowed low before excusing himself. By the time he returned with the candle, she was already at her desk, clutching the letter to her chest. When he left and shut the towering oak doors behind him, she pulled it away, breathed deeply and began to read.
My dearest Mabel,
You will permit me to dispense with the perfunctory greetings and inquiries as to your well-being for I must tell you of the strange goings-on in the village of Emudinga where I have taken up residence for the past two years. I implore you to set aside your skepticism and read with an open mind.
I arrived here on February 12th, 1902 with William as part of the queen’s delegation to the tribal kingdom, only a few months after our unfortunate parting and although the tribal chiefs went out of their way to provide us with the comforts to which we were accustomed, it was truly terrible. The heat and smells often brought on my fainting spells and I found myself constantly in need of assistance.
William, eventually tiring of this, brought home a young girl one day. She must have been about sixteen or seventeen. He said he had picked her up by the river, where they were making plans for a bridge. The natives had recoiled from her instantly; he said, none of them had seen her before or knew of her origins. She told him she was an orphan and thus shunned by every village she ventured to. William, blessed with a tender heart, took her in to be my handmaiden. I did not protest for I indeed needed the help.
Her name was Ugonna and she was desperately beautiful.
Ugonna turned out to be a great asset to me: cleaning, washing and cooking. She only protested when I sent her on errands that took her beyond the compound, to the market or to the river. I soon learnt not to ask these things of her. I became quite fond of Ugonna and we spent many evenings together; I, teaching her the language of the queen and she, teaching me tribal songs. For a few months, our lives in Emundinga seemed to proceed quite placidly. Until the 30th of October.
That night, William was away, negotiating a truce between Umundinga and a nearby kingdom – Arondizuogo, I think it was – with whom they had been at war. While I was asleep, I dreamt.
I saw a small child standing by the side of a river. The shadows were cast upon her in such a way that her face was obscured in darkness but I could easily see her red and green native garments. I knew it was Ugonna, but she seemed much younger.
Then the river turned to blood and Ugonna lifted her hands to reveal a knife. The light changed, she lifted her face towards me, revealing fearful red eyes before setting the knife to her throat and slitting it with a most insane smile.
I jerked awake covered in sweat.
The following morning, the news came. William had died of malaria. They brought his body to me wrapped in white linen and asked me how I wanted to bury my husband. I could offer them nothing but tears.
After William’s death, I found myself spending more and more time with Ugonna. The delegation was kind to me and I kept to myself as much as I could, hardly ever venturing out of the compound. I spent so much time around Ugonna that my old desires began to surface and even though I was vaguely wary of her after the dream, I could not resist the growing fire in my loins for the touch of another woman. It had been so long.
One day, she was helping braid my hair, my head rested between her thighs, when she leaned over and kissed me abruptly. I was taken with the most indescribable shock but even more so by lust. I stood and protested gently, but she did not listen, she kissed me again, pressing herself against me. You will understand Mabel, the pressure of her breasts, the touch of her mouth, drenched me, drowned me. All the old cravings resurfaced and before long, we found ourselves in my bed, the doors locked behind us, making love in the African heat.
My bedroom became a paradise, a garden of forbidden delight. We danced there in all the ways two women can dance together, bringing each other to the heights of pleasure. Mabel, it was ecstatic. If any of the other delegates knew of our trysts none of them gave any indication. We carried on in our private paradise.
We were in my bedroom one hot afternoon. She was lying on top of me, riding my heartbeat as my chest rose and fell. I closed my eyes and my head was full of carefree love but there was something else there. Fears I had not known I possessed blossomed in the darkness, the memory of the dream came back and lit a fire within me as all my hidden fears began to dance around it.
Why had the natives shied away from her at first?
Why did I dream that strange dream on night my husband met his end?
Where did a young girl in a conservative African village learn to pleasure other women so?
In that moment I began to fear her. Fear what I did not know of her. I ran my hand along her back for reassurance but the texture of her skin had changed. I was groping coarse, rough hair.
Mabel, I cannot accurately describe the raw fear that shot through me in that moment. I kept my eyes shut; I did not wish for my eyes to see what my hands felt. I touched her back again and it was scaled. Slithery and dry. I shot upright, shoving myself away from her and forcing my eyes open.
I asked myself if I was dreaming and a grotesque, furred and scaly creature with bright red eyes shook it’s head. It rose up from the bed like a cobra poised to strike. I was about to let out a scream when it lunged at me, and sealed my lips with a rough tentacle. It shook violently, then slipped and slithered back into the form of my Ugonna.
It was then she told me what she really was.
She told me that she is what they call an Ogbanje. A spirit of some kind. She said she only came to this world briefly to entertain herself before returning to her friends in the spirit world. She explained that she and her friends -the Ogbanjes – can take on any form they wish and can read the minds of mortals. They frequently take the form of human children. She told me that when her time here was done, her human parents had refused to let her go. They had drugged her, destroyed something called her Iyi-Uwa and circumcised her, severing her connection to her friends in the spirit world. She can never return home. She told me that when she realized what they had done, she killed them all. Mabel, she told me these things and I know them to be true. I have seen her true form Mabel, you must believe me.
As you can imagine, once she revealed all this to me, I could not stay in that place a moment longer. I had been intimate with a monster. I had to flee in spite of her pleas for me to remain with her. She said she loved me Mabel! She said she would never let me leave. She said she would kill everyone I loved if I tried to leave her! She said it with a look in her horrid red eyes that told me she had been responsible for Williams’s death. I simply couldn’t bear it. I fled. Sir Robinson kindly obliged my seemingly insane request that he arrange a party to take me to the port in Lagos where the Governor-General of the Southern protectorate and my second cousin Sir Ralph Moor would see to it that I boarded a ship headed for the isles as soon as possible.
Now, Mabel my dear, this is the most important part of my letter. It occurred to me when I reached Lagos, that her threats were not idle. That she would indeed kill everyone that I loved. Mabel dearest, I apologize for getting you involved in this sordid mess but I told her of us. While we were lovers, I told her of you – my first true love. And she can read thoughts. That night when she transmogrified into the beast, she was responding to my own fears. She read my mind and became what I thought she was. A monster. Oh Mabel, if she can read human minds then surely she knows that I still love you. I never stopped. And now I am scared for you. I do not know if spirits can cross the ocean but it is fear and love that compel me to send this letter on another ship that is due to arrive on October 31, one week after mine. If it should reach you before I, then she has kept true to her sinister vow not to let me leave and I fear that she will make good on her second threat.
Please be careful, my darling Mabel.
Mabel shut her eyes and rubbed her forehead as she read the last few words. Flora’s letter was unbelievable. The woman had always been easily given to excitements, it was one of the reasons that she had fallen in love with her. But this? This story of spirit worlds, monsters and lesbian love with African natives? This was too much. Still, there were genuine concerns. Flora had apparently lost her husband to malaria and had still not arrived one week after her ship was due. This required investigation.
“Alfred!” She called out.
“Alfred, get me my coat will you!”
Then she noticed the eerie silence that pervaded the house. She could have heard a pin drop even if it landed on a feathered pillow.
“Alfred?” She called out curiously as she slowly unlocked the oak door and opened it with some effort.
The first thing she noticed was the smell of blood. It invaded her senses and flooded every neuron in her brain with the urge to run.
And then she saw.
There was blood everywhere.
On the floor, on ceiling, on the walls.
There were no bodies, just an incredible amount of blood. She choked back a primal scream.
The crimson, blood-soaked walls seemed to be breathing, pulsing; seemingly gasping at whatever cruelty they had just witnessed. The stench of blood was overwhelming, and Mabel shut her eyes for a moment but something lurked within the darkness. She opened them and saw a bloodied, naked nubile negro female, staring at her, her eyes a searing red.
“Mabel?” An otherworldly voice came from within her head. The female’s mouth remained motionless.
“Flora is mine now. She cannot return to you just as I cannot return to my own friends. We are now bound lovers in this world”
Mabel tried to run but her feet felt like they were welded to the floor. She could barely breathe.
“I must sever her ties to everything outside of us just as my ties were severed. Do you understand?”
Mabel tried to nod her head hoping that if she agreed, the apparition would leave her alone. Her head did not move. She began to cry; hot, burning tears of fear.
The female reached Mabel in a blinding flash and stuck her dark, bloodied hand into the Caucasian woman’s torso, through her bodice, tearing through her flesh like a hot knife through butter. There was a loud gasp followed by a seemingly endless silence.
Blood started to leak from the corners of Mabel’s mouth as the Ogbanje’s hand snaked upwards, past her rib-cage, reaching for her heart.
Mabel could not make any sound, she felt an intense pain like none she had ever felt before. It continued sending harsh waves of overwhelming black agony through her entire being. Finally, when the pain was at its peak and she felt the cold grip of a hand around her heart, her tongue found freedom and she screamed as she realized her her heart was going to be ripped out of her.
“Time of death, a quarter past midnight, October 31st”
The balding, rotund coroner said as he wrote into his leather-bound journal with an ancient fountain pen.
“Cause of death appears to be cardiac arrest” He continued as Mabel’s husband Lord Geoffrey Torridge and her butler Alfred gazed on at her body in shock. Her head lolled over the top of the chair. Her eyes had rolled back in their sockets. She was chalk-white.
“She had seemed so healthy” Geoffrey said, his voice low and trembling with pain.
“We will conduct an autopsy. For now, Alfred, kindly clear the desk, I will have my boy Wilson come and remove the body. There is no need to inform the constabulary. I’m very sorry for your loss Lord Torridge.” the coroner offered.
Alfred reached over and retrieved the letter he had delivered to Mabel only an hour ago as the coroner escorted her husband out of the study. It was blank. He wondered briefly about its urgency and why she had seemed so agitated about a letter all the way from the West African colonies with nothing written in it.
He continued clearing up and was so engrossed in this that he did not see the pair of red eyes that were watching him from the shadows, an amorphous, writhing blackness behind them, rise and float out of the window to be blown towards the Atlantic ocean by the winter breeze.
The aspects of @Sawaleh_ may be found lurking in the pits of The Sawaleh Blog
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