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I spend the whole afternoon flipping through the pages of the bulky file and making mental notes. One thing has become solid in my mind, that the only time a sighting was made of two men led by a woman outside the bar the trio was headed down the mountain trail on east Wrapper road. I get my booths and I get my jacket, determined to follow that trail, see where it leads. I also get my gun and I pack extra bullets. There isn’t any man alive who’s seen La Diablesse and lived to tell the story. It was a thirty minute drive to Wrapper road and an hour’s drive to the mountain, El Grouchie.
On the way, simple folk with their water buckets looked at me drive past like I must be insane for approaching the mountain with such confidence. Rumors were that El Grouchie didn’t like visitors. Some men went there and came back missing a limb, others missed two limbs and would later be found in the river on the west side of the mountain, very dead.
I step out of my car and I face the towering mass that is El Grouchie. Finally, here is a mission that makes my blood boil. i don’t know which I feel more, excitement or fear. This is a good thing for me, so I take a deep breath and I approach the mountain, one steady foot after another. I must have seemed like a fool to the many locals now watching me, their eyes begging me to come back, their lips sealed. El Grouchie has a soft base, finding your way to higher ground don’t take too much intellect. Unlike Everest or Kilimanjaro, you don’t need so much in the way of tools or smarts to ascend El Grouchie. Heck, you can run up this mountain if you have solid lungs as even at the top, it is not so steep as other mountains are.
Midway through my climb, I am enveloped by a thick forest of baobab trees. I keep walking, I notice a trail of soldier ants on the rock beside me, and they move like they are following me. But this I dismiss, the ants must be following the scent of sugar somewhere.
I feel a drop of rain on my nose, and a pang of fear makes me begin to really wonder my mission to El Grouchie. What In the world do I hope to achieve? Not up to five seconds after this thought has passed through my mind, the rain begins to poor heavy. Bats, disturbed by the rain begin to fly about, bumping into each other and into me. I start to run back, the squish squash sound I make as my booths hit the ground is the only noise I hear. The path before me, leaves reaching down and emptying their contents on the forest floor, frogs hopping away from my pounding booths, is what I notice. Till I hear a shrill, piercing voice that isn’t the squish squash of rapidly displaced mud, and I notice something new; those ants are now moving in the direction that I am moving, and they seem to be in haste as well. This brings a daunting realization to my mind.
I am the sugar.
Just when I reckon that things cannot get any worse, before me I see a glade, which was not here before. In the middle of the glade, I see the most beautiful woman, a thread and needle in her hands, she is sewing a cloth. We lock eyes, and she smiles the most evil smile I’ve seen in my life. She is dressed in a red cloth, her neck is thin, near malnourished, yet she carries it with grace. I notice at once that the helm of the garment she wears is frayed, ripped apart as though by a ferocious animal. I am not running, I can feel water slide into my booths, and my stockings are wet. She is watching me with those eyes of hers, brown eyes, brown fingernails, all so brown brown, the color of evil.
She sees my right hand twitch and she frowns, she knows what I want to do.
“La diablesse?” I whisper, and she frowns harder, her eyes cold, icy slits.
She drops the cloth she is sewing, and she looks at me, before she gets on all fours, poised like a beast. On instinct I bring out my gun and I fire two shots. When she cleanly dodges both shots, darting this way and then that with inhumane speed, is when I drop my gun and run.
I run back, up the mountain, it gets darker and darker as I move and more and more bats bump into me, their squawking mouths the last thing I see before shoving them away. I hear her huffing and puffing after me, and I feel the panic up in my chest.
I feel hands reaching for me, and the fear in me doubles, I miss my step and I fall.
As I fall, I see La Diablesse looking down at me, with a smile on her face.
Landing on the bed of shrubbery that border El Grouchie to one side is what saves my fall from being fatal. Still, soon as I drop, I hear a crack in my arm. It takes me a second to shake off the effects of the fall, and I manage a look at my gun hand, and I see bone sticking out my elbow like white plastic, rain washing the blood down into the floor below.
I hear that evil shriek, closer and closer it comes, it feels as if La diablesse is assailing the mountain on a skate board.
This is when I pass out.
When I wake up, first thing I notice is the red eyes that watch me, and a fear more sinister than hell grips my soul. I begin to shout and scream, my heart pounding hard in my chest, and my teeth biting hard at the hands that try to restrain me.
“Shh boy!” a voice says. “We no la diablesse! We village folk who save your life!”
I notice the faces around me now, shy and apprehensive, and I fall asleep.
There wasn’t much that happened in my life after that experience. It have a reason why some of we men choose a life of silence, it have a reason why we prefer to pull the strings than to be in the act. These days, when the lads convince me about having drinks at The Tata House, I tell them,
“No sirs. Thank you.”
And I take the long road home to my lady and child.