Photo source: hidura.com
When the sun eventually rises they find the body lying in what used to be a pool of blood, now a dried out map of red coming from the direction of her side outwards. It shocks them at first, how serene her face looks in that grizzly scene. As though she had the last laugh over death, and were laughing still. As though she were not dead. It’s the look, the elders say, the deceased give when they know they will rise to haunt the living.
The first sighting happens in broad daylight. A boy, coming back from school on Friday finds her waiting by the tree. Her light blue jeans are stained dark with blood, and she is holding what looks to be a cellphone in her hand. Hello, she calls out. Her red lipstick is faded and her eyes are messy with smudged black eyeliner and mascara. At school Mrs Hannigan told him and his peers not to speak with strangers, but at home he’s learnt that every adult is to be greeted with respect, according to Rakgadi Kgaugelo. So now he timidly replies, Hello. Do you want to know a secret? she asks. He looks at her shyly, draws a circle in the dust with his feet. He arrives home to find that all the food has spoiled, flies everywhere. When Rakgadi Kgaugelo tries to shake him awake the next morning she finds that he is not breathing.
A little over a week later a middle-aged man is roused from his sleep by hunger. A headache that splits his head in two greets him when he first blinks. It might be the sleep, but he is sure he hears a woman’s laughter in the dark. The voice is low, guttural, and subtle like the afternoon’s first breeze. He tries to lift himself up from the bed but flops back onto the hard mattress and lies there defeated. He reaches for the matches to see, is that really a fly? In winter? The match dies out and clumsily he reaches for another. Do you want to know a secret? the low voice asks. He moves his candle around him slowly, but sees nothing. Eventually he succeeds, with difficulty, in getting out of bed, and begins to scan the room again, his movements cautious and considered. A rush of hot wind fills the room, but he begins to shake. Who is there? No answer. The pesky fly inches closer to his face with a loud buzz and he swats it away, striking his ear in the process. Moments later he is met with another gush of wind. A grunt. A pause. Then again, laughter. It is a while before he drifts off into sleep once more. A few days later he finds himself restless again, his room warmer than he can stand. He sits up and takes off his shirt, so that now he is naked save for his dark underpants. He scratches his crotch and yawns. Do you want to know a secret? he hears. His eyes widen. By the end of that night his shack is covered in smoke, his charred remains indistinguishable from the image of the smooth talker people knew.
When the sighting first happens to a woman, the orange-red purpleness of the sky is descending into the earth, replacing the lush blue with a navy blackness. Real as the goose bumps on her flesh, the woman feels a hand touch her but sees no one around. She puts the bucket down and turns the tap off. Her throat is stuck between a cry and a scream. Hmmm, she moans, uneasy. Do you want to know a secret? a voice asks. She turns around and finds herself staring into the most chilly eyes she has ever seen. She hesitates. This must be a ghost. But what type? The elders caution against speaking with the dead unless they speak with you first, but what of ghosts with The Chill in their eyes? Some say that kind brings death to those who meet its gaze.
Do you want to know a secret? the voice asks again.
The Secret, the voice continues, is this. Death will come to all who neglected me.
Who are you? The woman responds. Who neglected you?
The young. The old. The knowing. The ignorant. Not one is innocent.
Who are you? she asks again.
I carry the Secret. the ghost responds.
Yes, but what is your name?
I knocked on fifteen doors that night, the voice continues, yours was the first. The ghost moves closer to her and she sees its form clearer.
Her eyes widen. Chriselda?
Yes, the ghost, now identified as Chriselda, responds.
The woman gasps, her hand flying to her mouth in disbelief.
Yes, Chriselda repeats.
But – you are, you died?
Your door was the first I knocked on. Fifteen doors. Fifteen.
How was I to know? I was alone.
So was I. So was I. You took their word against mine. You let them poison you.
Can you blame me?
Blame? she scoffs. Afterwards, you know, he dragged my body into the open field and did it again. And then he pushed a knife into my side thirty times and left me for dead. But now, friend, I have one thing to do.
Please, please, please! She is distracted from her cries by a rush of flies and smoke surrounding her hair. She swats the flies away furiously.
Low, guttural and subtle; Chriselda laughs. She reaches her hand out towards her friend and the flies move away from the woman and to the hand that beckons them. They vanish.
When they find the woman’s body in the morning, they are stupefied. She’s on the ground lying in what used to be a pool of blood, now a dried out map of red coming from the direction of her side outwards. No knife or gunshot wounds in sight but in that pool of blood, marked out in tiny grey stones they find these words: Do you want to know a secret?
– FIN –
“If you prick us do we not bleed?
If you tickle us do we not laugh?
If you poison us do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
~ William Shakespeare