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A Child Ghost, an Escape and a Watery Haunting on Curaçao

T’s Nov. 11 Travel factor is devoted to a collection of 5 fairy stories written solely for us — the forms of tales that can encourage your personal adventures, if no longer of the frame, then no less than of the thoughts. Read extra in our letter from the editor.

YOU HAVE LIVED longer than any kid must.

By now, your hair is locked tight and salt has pickled your eyes, your tongue, your throat. Like you’re product of crystals. You’re no longer positive the place your frame went after you died — perhaps the fishes ate you away slowly, perhaps a riptide accumulated your bones and flung them out into the deeper darkish waters. All you’ve identified is that this thorned island, and now the drag of rocks that you just’re locked to, on this small, transparent cove, a few ft beneath the skin. You can’t take into account how lengthy you’ve been lifeless, or why you persevered to are living in a while, certain to those stained stones and the sound of the ocean sluicing between them. They constructed a boardwalk over you a whilst in the past, a stretch of covered picket, and the opposite kids adore it. They run alongside it, they race, they jump into the blue jewel that’s the water, transparent of the rocks and the shadow you proportion with a thousand small crabs tiptoeing round your bubbled mouth. They odor so loose it hurts — the type of loose that’s by no means identified iron in opposition to their ankles or noticed it crush their moms’ wrists. You are jealous.

Read extra: A Guide to Curaçao, a Laid-Back Caribbean Island With Candy-Colored Houses

Now there are cruise ships that are available as an alternative of the opposite ones. These are the most important boats you’ve ever noticed; they clog the water and the sky. There is a lifeless lady who loves to observe them from island to island. She’s younger, such as you, and occasionally she involves seek advice from your little cove. She taught you what to name the massive boats, however she by no means tells you ways she’s ready to transport so freely, regardless of how again and again you ask. If you attempt to observe her when she leaves, you handiest make it a few ft throughout the water first and foremost stops. It’s no longer even darkness that wraps round you, it’s simply … not anything. When it begins once more, you’re at all times again beneath the boardwalk with the crabs and the tiny darting silver fish. This time, then again, you’ve determined it’s going to be other.

WHEN THE GIRL displays up, you drift close to her face. “I want to be loose,” you whisper.

She is taking part in with a piece of lifeless coral, her braids fluffy, a internet of cracks spreading over her cheeks from the corners of her mouth. Her eyes are clouded, and her eyelashes are nonetheless so long as the day she drowned. “It’s too expensive,” she says, no longer taking a look at you.

“I don’t care,” you solution. “I’ll pay it, whatever it is.”

Your unravel is new and catches her consideration. She tilts her head at you. “When did you become tired?” she asks.

You don’t need to speak about it.

The guy with the scar on his neck introduced his son to the cove these days, to show him the best way to swim. You can nonetheless take into account the day he were given that scar, again when he was once a careless boy, when a present dashed him in opposition to your rocks and the water grew to become to wine as his neck bled. You were right here for such a very long time. You watched the 2 of them, and it made you omit your mom. She was once at all times so nervous they might come and take you clear of her. She would accumulate empty eggshells, cupping the items gently in her arms earlier than hanging them down on the ground, beneath an outdated upside-down chamber pot. “Against bad eyes,” she would say, touching your face. She dried leaves within the solar, basora pretu, then burned them to push back unhealthy spirits. When you had a headache, she put a small piece of loki loki at the back of your ear to assuage it. At night time, she would inform you tales in regards to the Luango folks, who had wings and may fly again to Africa as long as they by no means ate salt.

On the empty days, which is maximum of them, you don’t take into account her, and it’s advantageous that approach. But on days like these days, you take into account she should be lifeless, too, through now. The ache is loud and sharp and it makes you wish to have to run away, however you’ll’t run in the event you’re trapped.

“How do I get loose?” you ask, ignoring the lady’s query. She floats upright within the water, in her light orange get dressed, and appears at you for a very long time, deciding her personal selections. Finally, she leans in. You can see the bruises on her fingers and thighs, massive handprints, demise reminiscences that don’t move away.

“You have to forget everything,” she whispers, like her phrases are unclean. “Remove all of it from your head.”

A thrill of hope and worry runs thru you. The ache will prevent in the event you disregard, however you’ll lose different issues, small belongings you’ve held onto. Like the odor of the business winds that bend the bushes. The fragments of Guene songs you realize to sing handiest on your head. Fish scales flying iridescent from beneath your mom’s knife, catching gentle. You hesitate.

The lady sees it and her mouth twists. “I knew you couldn’t afford it,” she says, her voice merciless. The large boat blares a violent horn and she spins her head round. “Time to go.” She throws the coral into her mouth, then spits it out and tosses it to you. You catch it, stunned. “I take pity on you,” she says. “One night on land to get free.”

She is already leaving earlier than you take into account to shout after her. “How? How do I do it?”

“Follow the tambu,” she calls again, already disinterested on your destiny. You are positive she doesn’t know what she’s speaking about, and anger beats on your chest. How are you meant to observe the rest from the place you’re trapped? You take into consideration throwing away her silly coral, however you make a decision to attend, simply so subsequent time you’ll inform her how fallacious she was once.

IT IS HOURS later whilst you first really feel the drum, faint however insistent. The coral grows scorching on your hand, and even though all you pay attention is the sea, you’ll really feel the tambu like a pulse. It’s tugging at you, low and cussed. You are afraid to go away the rocks in case the entirety stops once more, proper earlier than you’re dragged again, however you swallow the salt on your throat and transfer towards the shore. To your surprise, not anything stops you. The water will get shallow, the surf breaks white round your chest, a sheet of rock and damaged shell undulates beneath your ft and not anything stops you. Soon, there may be simply rainy sand beneath and sky above. Your eyes are full of sea and part blind. Water drains from you, and the ground turns arduous beneath your ft. You don’t check out to go searching. You’ve been lifeless for too lengthy, the sector has modified, and you know that in the event you glance too intently, it is going to power you mad. Besides, the item calling you is the one actual factor.

It leads you down a obscure starry boulevard, down small alleys between blurred colourful properties, previous a collapsed church, till you might be winding again towards the ocean. You can pay attention the vibrating goatskin of the tambu and the pointy scraping steel of the wiri, all respiring in combination like a are living animal calling you into its mouth. A wave of unsteadiness rocks you and you stumble quicker towards it. The individuals are on the seashore, a circle of our bodies shifting to the similar pulse. They are taking part in muzik di zumbi, the one sound that may hang-out one thing as lifeless as you. You stroll throughout the circle and everybody strikes apart with out taking a look at you, like their our bodies simply sought after some house the instant you handed. A handful of individuals are dancing within the heart, shining darkish pores and skin and thrown limbs, fast waists and fast ft. One of them is a girl with inexperienced fabric tied round her hips. She stops all at once, as though she’s been struck, the instant you input the circle, then spins round to stand you. Her eyes are white, rolled again into not anything, her mouth slack. She shouldn’t have the ability to have a look at you with such fastened readability, however she does. “Mele,” she whispers. “Sweetheart.” Her voice sounds virtually precisely like your mom’s. The piece of coral you’re maintaining sears your hand with contemporary warmth, and you virtually drop it, surprise weakening your arms. The girl stretches fast caution palms. “Ai Djo! Hold tight to it,” she says. “You will be thrown back if you let it go.”

You curl your hand round its new hearth. She appears to be the one one that can see you. The musicians are observing the entirety, together with her, however their arms don’t prevent. One of them is maintaining a benta to his mouth, the bow arced in opposition to his knee. There is a donkey’s cranium nailed into a tree at the back of them. The track feels find it irresistible’s maintaining you up, like if it stopped, you can die far and wide once more.

“I was told to come,” you assert, and your phrases pop out garbled and watery. She steps nearer and sniffs the air in entrance of you.

“You want to fly,” she says. “You want a wing.”

You nod. “I’m ready to forget.”

The girl’s chest jerks as soon as, two times. Her mouth opens and a deep extraordinary snort pours out. “You have to remember before you forget,” she says, and the coral flares once more on your hand.

You see the entirety.

Not the shadows and edges that reminiscence had change into, however the entirety. The odor of burning picket and cooked meals. The veins within the leaves of the calabash tree. The lizards operating alongside its branches, the metal turquoise in their tails, the white spots alongside their our bodies. The hole on your mom’s entrance enamel, each and every wrinkle round her eyes, the pigment of her lips. You can really feel her fingers round you, massive and cushy. Every hitch, each upward push and fall of her voice. You can see her face clearer than you’ve noticed it in longer than you’ll inform. It’s like she’s there, proper there, alive and you might be alive, and you might be in combination ultimately, ultimately.

The coral falls quiet. You come to, and you might be weeping, items of salt tearing small cuts on your eyelids, blood and water on your face. The girl holds out her hand. “Come, take your wings,” she says, and it feels like 10 folks mentioned it.

You shake your head. It is an excessive amount of. You can nonetheless odor the odor of your mom’s neck, her cushy pores and skin. You are too younger and too outdated to be this on my own. It hurts an excessive amount of. “Bring her back,” you cry. “She was here, she was here!”

“Don’t eat salt, if you want to fly,” the girl replies. She now not sounds the rest like your mom. “The pain will soon be over, little one. How many lives do you want to live in the water?” The benta wails on your ear. The girl’s jaw clicks back and forth. “Time to go,” she says, and reaches out to carry you.

You twist clear of her — you’ve already determined, and it kind of feels value it, to bear in mind the way it felt to be beloved. Tears leak into your mouth and you swallow their salt, shedding the coral.

Everything stops.

Model: Denisha Struijck. Production: Chicas Productions, Curaçao

—END—

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