I remember one Easter Night in Mayaro when my brother and I had to go to church. We were living at the central Mayaro district called Quarters and the Catholic church was about three miles away at a place called Radix. The time that the church service was going to start was 8.00 p.m. and I told my mother that as I was already weak and tired I wouldn’t mind so much if I did not go to the Church service. My mother looked at me sternly and said “I would mind very much if you don’t go, and as it’s already seven, you’d better get up right away and start getting ready. Please!”
My brother was in a corner looking at me and making teasing, jeering signs. He was very glad to go because there were a few girls I knew he liked and looked forward to seeing. So he was keen. He was teasing me because he knew I wasn’t feeling weak or sick or tired or anything but that I was slightly afraid of the dark. And of spirits of the dead. There was a cemetery on Church Road, and you had to walk half-a-mile in the dark with the graves and crosses on your right, and with the smell of something like incense.
When I got up to get ready, my brother, who had got up long before, was all set to go. As I moved to go down the back steps to get a tee shirt I had washed earlier in the day, I saw him combing his hair and smoothening his shirt and even putting perfume, because he wanted to look good and smell nice. When he saw me he came and said, “You telling Ma yuh weak and tired, you ain’t telling her is spirits yuh fraid.”
I said, “You fraid spirit more than me. And you fraid Douen and Soucouyant and Ligahoo.”
He laughed. He said, “It’s exactly those things you always running from. I hope a douen run you down tonight.”
I was trembling a little bit but trying to play brave. I started to whistle. I forgot that my mother did not like whistling in the house. Neither did my father liked it, but my father was not there. I went to put on my shoes and I think I was whistling my favourite song, Home Sweet Home. My mother, in the kitchen, came out to me and said in a low but biting voice.
“Yuh whistling, whistling all the time. I always talking to you but you wouldn’t hear. You’ll only be satisfied when yuh whistling bring ligahoo in this house.”
My brother started laughing and my mother turned to him, “Look, you better stop giggling and teasing him. And you bigger than him, just hold his hand when you walking down Church Road for me please. Some people say it ain’t have nothing, but even if it have some kinda thing I done teach you two the magnificat prayers already: My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit…”
“I know it,” I said, “By heart.”
“Well that good for soucouyant and ligahoo and spirits.”
Then she said, “You have the prayer book? Don’t leave it in church you know because it’s for First Communion on Sunday. Okay you two hurry off now. And Sonny,” she turned to my brother, “Don’t run off and leave him you know. You know how you is when you see yuh friends!”
We left home, and when we passed the shops at Quarters there was bright light because they had not closed yet, but when we swung onto the Guayaguayare Road it was pitch-black, and what was worse, there were candle flies about. I did not like candle flies because they always reminded me of soucouyants.
I was seeing soucouyants in my mind now, they were old women who flew at nights and went sucking people. But the ligahoo was the one who came after you pulling chains. They say his face was like the devil himself, who was his boss. But for me the most frightening of all was the evil spirits of the dead. I did not want to think of Church Road but I know my brother would be with me, holding my hand, because after all I was his little brother.
We walked along the Guayaguayare Road which curved widely by the bridge called Tous Biche which meant “All Beasts,” and as spirits turned into beasts sometimes my heart began to beat fast. But just before we reached Tous Biche, with its river running below, we passed the little road on the left by Mr Gomez, and we heard the hoof-beats of his mule which meant Mr Gomez was coming home late. He came up to us and he flashed his torch. He said, “Who dat?”
My brother did not wait to hear anything else. He just screamed “Oh God!” and sprinted away.
Mr Gomez was still there. I said, “It’s me and Sonny.”
Looking down from the mule he said, “It was you and Sonny. Is you alone now.” I was relieved he made me out because his face was shining and I did not make him out at all except the voice. He said, “And why you brother gone running and screaming?” “He fraid ligahoo.”
“And I is ligahoo?” “He coward, Mr Gomez. Any noise in the night and he think it’s ligahoo or soucouyand or douen or spirit —”
Mr Gomez said roughly, “It ain’t have nothing. If I wasn’t feeling tired and weak, and coming home so late I would take you down to church meself. But even so I want you to see it ain’t have nothing. You ever hear of the magnificat?”
“Ah know it.”
“Oh you know it? You ain’t bound to say it. Take your time and walk down.”
For the first time in my life I believed it really didn’t have anything. Or the magnificat was very strong. Because I walked all the way to Church Road and I heard nothing and saw nothing but darkness. When I turned into Church Road I was not even afraid of the cemetery or of the spirits of the dead. Because there was nothing. And my heart leapt for joy as I saw the moon seeming to rise. Looking at it, there was a banana patch in the cemetery that with the moonlight the beams shone on something white. Was it a leaf? Or was it — it looked like a mule. Maybe it was the leaves in the wind but it suddenly moved towards me and I screamed “Oh God!” and fled towards the church. And it may have been the wind again but a noise behind me went “Ha, ha!”