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By Michael JordanAfter what had happened to Maxie, we knew we had to talk to somebody elderly. We went to Old Skeets, who’d worked at sea a long time back. I guess he saw the fear in our eyes, and right away he took us to his living room and questioned us. In the end, we knew that he believed us. He seemed far away for a while, and then he said: “We got to go to the Blacka.”I was terrified—I guess Maxie was, too, but Old Skeets said that it was something we had to do.The sun was beginning to set when we started out for that dark place. Max and I wanted to carry something for protection—cutlasses or knives at least, but Old Skeets had said no.? He, though, had a shoulder-bag with a sort of small spray-can inside. He would not tell us what it was for.My dread increased as we moved closer towards the track leading to the dark waterway. But yet I felt a strange excitement at the thought that I might finally see this dream-girl, scarred and terrifying as she was, who, in some of my dreams, had whispered strange promises that made my mind spin.At last we reached the path leading to the Lamaha Conservancy. Max stopped abruptly. He looked at Old Skeets. “We have to do this?”Old Skeets nodded. “These things will not leave you boys alone until you make peace with them.”But as we got closer to our destination, it seemed that somehow, Old Skeets had grown older, more stooped. I began to wonder if we had made a mistake in involving him in our troubles. But it was too late now.Then we were at the spot where Max had caught the strange fish; the spot that we had revisited in our dreams. But the scar-faced, long-haired, green-eyed girl wasn’t there, neither was the man with the silver snake-shaped bangles. Nothing, but a heavy silence.Old Skeets, perspiring heavily, turned to us. “This is the spot?”We nodded.He slipped his haversack from his shoulder and stood at the shore of the Blacka. We stood with him in the fading light, waiting, staring at the smooth black water; a tired old man and two terrified boys, who were ready to bolt at the slightest sound.We waited…And about fifteen minutes into our waiting, I became slowly aware of a prickling sensation at the back of my neck, and of that overpowering, rank smell that had become familiar to me in my dreams. I turned, and there they were: the fish-man and his daughter.They stood on the dam, about ten yards away from us. The man stood with arms folded, silver bracelets glinting, his lips pressed together.Now, though, he had feet, and was wearing a tight pair of trousers that seemed to be made of some sort of skin.The girl—his daughter—stood nearby. She was barefoot and topless, save for a bra made from the same skin-like material as her father’s trousers. Her multi-coloured skirt –so thin I could see through it—-almost brushed the ground.Everything was as I had imagined; the black hair loose and long to her waist, the scar at the edge of her lips, those knowing green eyes.I felt a pounding at my temples as I looked into those eyes that told of experience far exceeding mine. And though my pores had risen, I felt a terrible desire to rush to her, to let her wrap those smooth, fair arms around me. I seemed to hear her voice, like the soothing sound of the sea, making sweet promises that a shy, twelve-year-old boy like me had only imagined but never heard from a girl’s lips. And I knew that I would do anything for her, throw myself in the deepest part of the Blacka, and betray my best friend and this old man just to—It was then that Old Skeets gripped my shoulder and I heard him mumble: “You boys stay here.”At that moment it was as if something had slipped from my eyes and I was seeing her as she really was: a scarred, ageless creature with no soul and a hate-filled heart. I knew, somehow, that she had read my thoughts. I saw her eyes narrow. Her fingers curled inwards. Instinctively, I knew that those same hands had wrenched off the door from Maxie’s pen and wrung the heads off his two-week-old chickens.Ignoring my stifled cry, Old Skeets started walking towards the girl and her father. Then he was standing almost within touching distance of them. He gave a slight bow, to the girl first, then to the tall, wiry man. We heard him mumble something, saw him gesture towards us.The man stared at us for a moment, his gaze pulling the strength from me, and I knew I could not run even if I wanted to. Then, to my relief,China NFL Jerseys, his gaze returned to Old Skeets. Our old neighbour began to speak to the man again, bowing every now and then and gesturing in our direction occasionally. He spoke in a pleading tone, and I thought I heard the words, “very, very sorry,” repeated every now and then. But whatever he was saying only seemed to agitate the man, who kept shaking his head.Old Skeets sighed, and then we heard him clearly: “The boys didn’t mean any harm. Will you accept a token of their sincerity?”He unzipped the haversack and withdrew something that looked like a large, folded handkerchief. What he took from it glinted in the twilight. Even from where I stood, I saw that it was a beautiful gold chain with some sort of pendant. Old Skeets handed it to the man, along with the folded handkerchief. The man held the chain up in the fading light, then passed it to the girl. She grabbed at it greedily, then strung it around her neck.Old Skeets bowed to them. “Is this okay?”She stared at Old Skeets for a moment, then she turned her face to the left and pushed the hair back from her face, exposing fully the long, ragged wound that Maxie’s knife had inflicted on her. She tugged hard on the chain. It snapped, and she hurled it to the ground.Now the man opened Old Skeets’ kerchief and shook it out contemptuously. Several rings and another gold chain fell on the grassy dam.Old Skeets took a hasty step backwards, almost tumbling over in the process. He steadied himself and stared at the girl, then at the man. “So what do you want?” he said sharply.Without answering, they stared past Old Skeets and pointed to what they wanted; and what they wanted, was me…(To be continued)
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