Brown Girl In the Ring

Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson Read Free Book Online

Book: Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nalo Hopkinson
turned as she heard a step behind her. Mami?
    The back of Ti-Jeanne’s neck prickled at what she saw:
    A fireball whirl in through the window glass like if the glass ain’t even there. It settle down on the floor and turn into a old, old woman, body twist-up and dry like a chew-up piece a sugar cane. She flesh red and wet and oozing all over, like she ain’t have no skin. Blue flames running over she body, up she arms, down the two cleft hooves she have for legs, but it look like she ain’t even self feeling the fire. She ol’-lady dugs dripping blood instead of milk. She looking at me and laughing kya-kya like Mami does do when something sweet she, but I ain’t want to know what could sweet a Soucouyant so. The thing movin’ towards me now, klonk-klonk with it goat feet. It saying something, and I could see the pointy teeth in she mouth, and the drool running down them:
    “Move aside, sweetheart, move aside.” She voice licking like flame inside my head. “Is the baby I want. You don’t want he, ain’t it? So give him to me, nuh, doux-doux? I hungry. I want to suck he eyeballs from he head like chennette fruit. I want to drink the blood from out he veins, sweet like red sorrel drink. Stand aside, Ti-Jeanne.”
    Terrified as she was, Ti-Jeanne stood firm beside the crib, planting her body between Baby and the hag. She would not let it have her child! The Soucouyant tried to get around her, but Ti-Jeanne blocked its way. Lord help me! she thought.
    Another figure ran in through the doorway on jokey backward legs. Oh God, not the Jab-Jab!
    The Jab-Jab stopped behind the Soucouyant and with a bamboo-clack of a voice called out, “Old lady! Like you don’t know me?”
    The Soucouyant forgot Baby and turned to spit fire at the Jab-Jab, but the flames didn’t reach him. Brandishing his stick to block her way, the Jab-Jab threw something to the ground from the other hand—rice grains? They scattered all over the floor. The Soucouyant stiffened up when she saw the rice, then dropped to her knees. Ti-Jeanne didn’t understand. Why was the creature picking up the rice grains and counting them? Why wasn’t she fighting back?
    Now the Jab-Jab was dancing around the Soucouyant, hitting her with the stick, and shouting, “Yes, you old witch, you!” (Whap! with the stick.) “Bloodsucker!” (Whap!) “Is my spell on you now: count the rice!” (Whap!) “I bet you don’t finish before sunup! Is where you hide you skin? Eh?” (Whap!) “You not gettin’ back inside it tonight, I tell you!” (Whap!) “Baby blood not for you! You must leave little children alone!” (Whap!)
    With her back against the crib, Ti-Jeanne watched the bizarre battle. Crouched on the floor, the Soucouyant tried to scuttle away from the Jab-Jab’s rain of blows and struggled to count the grains of rice, picking them up one by one with her wrinkled fingers, trying to keep them cupped in one shaking hand. But with each blow that connected with her oozing, skinless back, the grains of rice flew from her hand and she had to start all over again. The Jab-Jab danced around her, taunting, striking. The Soucouyant shrieked in terror and frustration and spat flame at the wooden creature.
    It seemed as if the battle had been going on for hours. Then the Jab-Jab yelled, “Ti-Jeanne! Draw back the curtain!” Baffled, terrified, Ti-Jeanne edged over to the window and pulled the curtains open. The first light of the morning sun shone full on the Soucouyant. She screamed, threw her hands up to ward off the killing light, and dissolved into smoking ash. The Jab-Jab grinned at Ti-Jeanne. It said, “Soucouyant can’t stand the sun, you know.”
    And vanished.
    They were really gone. Sobbing, Ti-Jeanne checked on Baby, who was still sleeping soundly.
    “Ti-Jeanne! What you crying for, child? What happen to Baby?” Never asleep for long, Mami came bustling officiously into the room.
    “No, Mami—watch out for the rice!” Ti-Jeanne rushed to prevent her

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