From this week, we will be reserving a section of our Sunday edition to Guyana’s rich legacy of creative writing, from our colonial past to present day, from the amusing to the tragic to the strange.
We begin with a six-part story that takes an unusual glimpse into one of our most intriguing myths…
By Michael Jordan
The night after he stole the ring, Maxwell Lewis dreamed of the old woman for the first time. She came floating up to his window like the full moon rising up over the horizon; an old woman whose reddened eyes were fixed on his. She moved closer, and he saw the scars on her face and shoulders. She pressed her face against the window, still staring at him, and he felt a strange desire to let her in, even as he stifled the urge to scream.
Suddenly she began to pluck and scrape at the window, fingers moving with the frenzy of a trapped spider, but soundlessly.
He awoke. He stared at the window, then looked around the darkened room. He knew that something other than his nightmare had jerked him from sleep.
Maxwell groped for the light switch. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he stared at his two-year-old son. The child was standing at the furthest end of the crib. He was whimpering, and he was staring at the bedroom window.
Maxwell glanced around quickly. Only the pale full moon stared in at him. He shifted carefully off the bed so as not to disturb his wife, Sandra, then went over to his son. He raised the mosquito net, placed his hand on the boy’s head. “What happen, big man, bad dreams?”
The boy glanced at him, then his eyes shifted back to the window. He remained at the corner of the crib, still whimpering. Maxwell glanced towards the bed at Sandra. She was usually a light sleeper, but now she lay on her back, snoring softly. No sense waking her, he thought.
“Want to sleep with Daddy?”
In response, his son, stubby arms outstretched, came silently over to him. He placed the child beside Sandra, and almost immediately, the boy was asleep. Maxwell stretched out for the light switch, but then paused to stare at his wife. She had shifted, pulling askew the bedsheet that had covered her, and now he could see the ring, the ring that he had taken from the dead woman. The woman he had dreamed of…
They had brought the old woman to the hospital at around two a.m.
A hire-car driver had found her some miles from the city. She was unconscious, her black dress was torn, and there were bruises on her head and body.
They had assumed that she was an accident victim, and were preparing to have her admitted to the Female Accident Ward after treating her in the Emergency Unit.
As usual, they were short-staffed, and Maxwell was the only nurse on duty in the A&E treatment room.
It was while he was setting up the saline drip for the woman that he noticed the ring. It was on her wedding finger; a gold ring with tiny figurines worked into it and a ruby-like stone at the top. He had never been interested in jewellery before, but now he found himself staring at the ring; at the fires that seemed to be burning within the depths of the ruby—or whatever stone it was. There was something ancient about that ring, reminding him of movies he’d seen of Egyptian or Aztec treasures.
He’d been monitoring the old woman’s condition regularly. At around 4:00 a.m, he was sitting at a desk near the little cot they had placed her on when he heard a pinging sound, as if someone had dropped a coin. The sound came from near the old woman’s bed.
She had shifted, and now her left hand dangled over the side of the cot. Her eyes were open but with the glassy stare of death. He positioned her hands together and was about to call the doctor when he noticed the ring. It lay on the floor, its fires twirling in its red stone.
He picked it up. It felt surprisingly cold, sending a disturbing thrill up his arm, and, before he knew what he was doing, he had placed in his pocket.
He sighed. What had gotten into him? Why had he taken the ring?
But he knew why. He had looked at it on the woman’s withered finger and he had imagined how it would look on Sandra. He had looked at it and felt a deep regret that he would never be able to give her something so beautiful—not on his nurse’s salary, anyway.
Maxwell sighed again. He switched of the light. But he lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling, guilt gnawing at his insides. He knew he would have trouble going back to sleep…
He was groggy next morning when Sandra called him to the table for breakfast. She was almost ready for work, and to take Wayne to the day-care centre. As Maxwell sat that the breakfast table, Wayne broke away from his mother and attempted to sit in Maxwell’s lap. Maxwell lifted his son, tickled him under his lap. “You alright, big man?”
Wayne giggled, then nodded.
“Tell me what frighten you last night. Bad dreams?”
Wayne shook his head, then wriggled out of Maxwell’s arms and darted back to his mother.
“Talking ‘bout dreams,” Sandra said suddenly. “I had a funny one myself last night. I was flying…flying above a set of houses somewhere in some countryside…”
Maxwell swallowed mouthful of tea. “You never had a flying dream before?
“Yes, but this one was different. It was me, and yet it wasn’t me. I was an old, old lady, and I had on this funny black dress.”
He turned to her, almost spilling his tea. “You had on a what?”
“A long black dress. And—” she frowned, glanced suddenly at her watch. “Shucks, I late.” She went to Maxwell, gave him a quick kiss, then hurried to the front door with Wayne in tow…
He thought about Sandra’s dream on his way to work that night but apprehension about whether anyone had noticed that the old woman’s ring was missing pushed the dream from his mind. However, no one looked at him suspiciously or asked him anything. He learned that the woman was still unidentified.
A heavy work schedule pushed thoughts of the woman out of his mind. But that night she came floating up to his window again, pleading with her red, beady eyes to be let in. and suddenly she was oozing herself through a crease beneath the window, her thin, green-veined hands first, then the rest of her slithering through. And in his dream, he was a little boy again, lying in bed and screaming.
He awoke with the screaming in his ears, and then he realized that the cries were Wayne’s and he could see his son pressed against the furthest end of the crib.
And someone was standing, with arms outstretched, near his son…
He fumbled for the light switch, then trembled with relief as light flooded the room. It was Sandra who was standing near the crib. She was trying to hug Wayne, who was cringing away and screaming.
“Okay, okay leave him to me,” Maxwell said. Sandra turned to him. For some reason she seemed to be angry. She walked past him without a word and returned to bed.
He glanced at her, then turned back to his son. Tears were streaming down the child’s face. He was trembling.
Maxwell lifted him from the crib and pressed the child to his chest. “Okay, okay big man, daddy here—”
“Lady…” Wayne said suddenly in a trembly voice. “Lady.”
Maxwell swiveled to the window, but there was nothing there, of course. He placed the boy next to Sandra, who was already asleep, the ring glinting on her hand…
(To be continued)
Feb 19, 2020The Guyana Mixed Marital Arts Karate Association held their first annual Marital Arts Championship last Sunday at the New Diamond/Grove Primary School. All six Marital Arts Academies that fall under...
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