(1) Be unaware that the wolf was presenting itself to you in sheep’s clothing.
It began, as most things do, simply enough. In a simple neighbourhood, on the edge of a town. Too urban to be rural, too rural to be urban.
Women grew old. Some women aged with their children, grandchildren, family around them. Some grew old alone, isolated, bitter. Others might grow old and die sick, in pain.
Then there was you.
You was the woman who manage to live on she own, but who not quite there, harmless, the madwoman on the street. It was a ordinary life you live; a couple of men, you work jobs until your illness start up. You wouldn’t be able to live by yourself sometime, but right now, you tried to enjoy your life. And not embarrass the neighbours.
Down at the end of the street was this new neighbour, Francine, one who keep to sheself ever since she husband gone and dead almost half a year ago. No one knew how he die; she ain’t saying.
The both of you had evening get-togethers, you and your achy hips, and you cyah walk how you used to, but she walking spright spright.
That’s how she start she trickery on you.
• • • •
(2) Allow yourself to be seduced.
One evening, when Francine was over, you busy trying to crochet a doily; you use to enjoy it before, but now you having trouble focusing.
She start by acting as if she talking about she old folklore studies . . .
She tell yuh she studied some Liberal Arts at UWI, but the folklore that interest she the most is the one about the soucouyant.
She quote to you, “If the soucouyant draws out too much blood from her victim, it is believed that the victim will die and become a soucouyant herself, or else perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin.”
She ask you if you believe in the supernatural.
You say you ain’t know; the older one get, the more one know, and questions start coming to mind . . .
She say if the supernatural is real, then other things can be true, you know . . . ?
You say like what, eyeing she.
She say like cures for diseases and . . .
You say and?
She say imagine if there were ways to fix what ails you; what would you do if you were able to fix your mind?
You pretending to have a thicker skin than you do right then. So you say to she, cool and calm, it would be nice.
You ask she if she would have kids.
If eyes were windows to the soul, you seeing she own. Pain. Longing. And something else, deeper, curious, you shoulda take it as a warning. But even in your best days, yuh mind not completely sound, and the clearest sight is hindsight. It have only so much you could get from them honey-toned eyes.
• • • •
(3) Don’t resist the carrot that’s dangled enticingly before you.
The next time she see you she say to you, Azelice, I have something to tell you.
What, you say.
She say she a soucouyant.
What, you say. Then you laugh; no, haha. Good one Franc-
She finger start to glow, and she burn a circle into the wood at the edge of the arm of she chair.
All the hairs all over you stood on edge, boy. You find yourself standing up.
She calm calm. All she do was tilt she head, gesture with she other hand and say to you, don’t worry. Come on. Take a seat.
She say how she mean to help you. How the discussion allyuh had the other day could be as true for you as it was already for her. She say how she ain’t have no aching joints and she mind clear clear. She say how allyuh could talk more but it have to be at her place, how the old folktales have it wrong.
You still in shock. You think you say okay, sure.
She get up to go and say allyuh would talk tomorrow.
She say see you tomorrow, Azelice, from your gate.
You shoulda run then but your poor brain not only still processing what it just see, it was also buzzing with possibilities.
• • • •
(4) See the truth and wonder . . .
The power went out.
Neighbours come out on their porch and start telling each other hello over their walls.
If you live with a grandmother, or your parent wanted to, you could get to hear some “’Nancy stories” about Anansi, the spider-man, or ghost stories.
Children trying hard hard to do homework with a kerosene lamp, although they could tell the teacher that it was too dark to do anything.
But not you. You eying Francine’s house at the end of the road. You damn well know this sudden darkness, people getting catch off-guard and everything, was perfect cover for a soucouyant.
And you see, inside she house, a light that was too bright, too huge to be caused by candlelight. It start soft, then it grow brighter and brighter, it move from the bedroom window to the back of the house, then out a window, past she backyard plants and fly up into the night, disappearing quick-quick.
Your breath catch quick in your throat. You leave your poorch and go back into your house.
• • • •
(5) Take the challenge like a fool.
The next night you close the gate to your house behind you, and go down to Francine’s. You walk through the gate, up to the door and knock on it.
You wondering if the supernatural real as you wait for Francine to open she door. She welcome you barefoot, and she ask you to remove your slippers at the door.
She place was all light wood to almost match she honey complexion. It was neat, in all the nooks and crannies, where yours wasn’t.
There was stew chicken, with rice and peas and coleslaw, and a glass jug of sorrel sweating and ready for drinking. It make you feel thirsty and you had to try to not smack your lips.
She say to have a seat and allyuh start talking about the weather, and because it was Carnival time, your favourite calypsonians—“Singing Francine’s my favourite calypsonian,” she say to you—and who might win Road March, and who was your favourite mas band, and if you going to go to Port-Of-Spain to see the Carnival Parade or watch it on TV . . .
She live better than you, but she want you for a friend. And it look like she just on the verge of making an offer. An offer you just might take.
• • • •
(6) See the truth, but go because you’re lonely and want a friend.
The next time you visit she, you tell yourself you going for the promise of companionship, for friendship bonding, for camaraderie.
You were being drawn towards the promise of freedom, of renewal.
You two had a nice dinner, allyuh drink some of the passion fruit that growing in she back yard.
Allyuh talking nice nice.
Then, at one point, Francine’s voice go deep; you getting mesmerize, and you feeling like you going to go unconscious. You fight it.
The air seem to turn into some kind of tapestry of flames in the wake of her fingers. You not sure what you seeing is real.
You see she tongue flick outta she mouth. It was thick and black and all of a sudden you smelling wet ashes.
You feeling the heat radiating from she body through your shirt and she . . . she put she violent breath into you. Your body go limp . . . what was happening . . .
You hearing, “Lay back. On the floor. That’s right . . . ” and “ . . . Oh, yes . . . ” and “yuh feel so good, Azelice . . . !” but you could do nothing.
Then, you couldn’t fight unconsciousness no more.
Everything just go black.
• • • •
(7) Be the living embodiment that hindsight is 20/20.
These are the things that you remembered from when you rose from the dead, having been laid to rest at home:
That you had a new strength, and agile hips, and all your old creaks and pains were gone gone.
That now you had clarity, because the fog lift, that gone too. None of them scatter feelings or thoughts.
That you now know that the folktales were true, and that Francine knew it. Down to every last detail.
That Francine’s words, when she was satisfying sheself on you, they like hungry, fat mosquitoes in your mind now, buzzing, buzzing in your ears.
That you feeling unclean remembering.
The rush of your new body, the mightiness of you as you going to she house.
Splinters sprayed all over the floor, some jooking your hand, after you smash she door down, and she wreck of a smile when she trying to make nice-nice with you. That she try to use the bond between you, but the advantage she had at manipulating you done gone.
That you could smell she fear. That you decide to call she Sucking Francine from then on, because she had like the calypsonian Singing Francine so much.
Baring your fangs when she still trying; “But I make you! I give you a new life!” All your strength and power . . .
That she thought she could fool you by saying, “Don’t you see, the change has been good! I knew it would be good for you!”
That you damn well know she couldn’t have known because she gambled on you.
That you still new to these things, and you didn’t recognize bloodlust yet, and that you were confused about how far to go.
How simple it was to just break she bones, to twist she body parts in ways they shouldn’t . . . to satisfy a new hunger when you draining she blood.
That, after all of that, you still didn’t feel clean even though you left she for dead.
• • • •
(8) Think that vengeance is done.
You could hear the talk starting, and you know the neighbours spreading the word about what happen to your maker. Somebody come home and see the mash-up door to Sucking Francine’s house. You didn’t exactly do a quiet exit.
In the depths of your own house, you chuckle. You preparing to move.
You know Sucking Francine would heal supernaturally in front of all them doctors and nurses. She would become whole. And then questions would start up. She would have to move, too. Even disappear. But you, you could still blend in, melt away, get out of sight. No one would really look for you.
Your maker was one of them people with “bad mind,” people who put their smarts to sinister use. Like preying on the vulnerable—people like you—for their own ends. In a way, what you did to she was better than just killing her. Sucking Francine would have to explain, to hide.
You, you just packing your things quiet-quiet, and making your own plans to move on.
• • • •
(9) Realize that you can’t exactly go back to your old life.
It hit you when you home alone. You didn’t know what to expect. Your humanity had not completely sloughed off yet, like oil off water.
But something . . . something had started to build, like a slow burn. You dunno know what it was, deep inside.
It come to your attention when you lick your lips when you at a window. There was a late night breeze.
You needed something, but the food and drink you try earlier feel almost like . . . sand on the tongue . . .
You grip the windowsill tight, tight. The moon did not call to you, but the night air did. You . . . wanted to revel in it, bathe in it, view the world from above . . .
You look behind you into your house. You staring at your bedroom with a some sort of new clarity. You make up your mind right then that you going to straighten the clothes hanging about, fix the bed, dust your dressing table, the entire place.
Routine did not ease the slow burn that was starting to burn bright, hot, fast.
You turn back to your bedroom window. You swallowing hard. You needed something, and you starting to realize what it was. You need it soon.
• • • •
(10) Embrace the new you, taking to it like a hand to a glove.
You could feel this new need pressing down on you; you were half-drowning in it.
You thought back to all the old tales of what a soucouyant covets in the night. You imagined feeding on blood, on life, and your heart beat so hard that your chest thrummed.
And it didn’t disturb you. Not one bit.
The thirst, the pain, the desire; each moment was like undiluted pleasure.
To be honest, the old you felt like your skin, which right now was a cold tightness around you.
The pain of your need was . . . unbearable. You fell to the ground and hugged your knees. You tried to shut it out. But you . . . couldn’t.
Resisting caused pain. The pain washed over you, drowning you.
The thought of blood flowing down your throat made you moan. You were ready to bite into your own arm to get blood.
You raised your head to the sky and screamed. It felt so good to let it out, as if it had been trapped in your chest for too long.
With your scream, you and your skin parted in a rush of release. Your heart was a song, at one with the slow burn within you gone white-hot and bright.
You don’t recall leaving your house, but you do recall being one with the sky.
Beyond your skin the whole world was yours, yours for the taking. Beyond this skin you were fire, you were light. Beyond this skin you must take life, you must take blood, you held life and death.
The people on this street were too close to you to take, not enough anonymity, and so you looked further.
You would feed, you would take, and you would revel in it.
But for right now, you would fly.