You are here

Douen Infestation

Published: 
Monday, September 17, 2012

 

 
Joanna Jadoo
University of the West Indies
 
No one noticed the little creatures but me. 
They were milling around the kitchen garden, preoccupied with the young tomato plants. They were trying to reach the small but ripe tomatoes at the top of one of the plants but they were too short even to stretch themselves to that height of three feet.
I got out of the car. I wanted to get a closer look at those critters in the garden. My family and I had just pulled into the driveway of the beach house we would be staying at in Blanchicheusse. It was a two-story brick house painted white with moss green wooden shutters, the same house we visited every August. My parents were busy complaining about one politician or another while my cousin, Amy, listened attentively. She always preferred ‘grown-up talk’.
I neared the overgrown patch of vegetables and a few fruit trees that was dubbed the kitchen garden. The little things took no note of me at first and then, suddenly, they all froze. They turned their featureless faces upon me. Their tiny mouths, which were the only markings their faces bore, were turned down into frowns. I knew what their expressions would be if they had eyes to help them convey their feelings: disbelief, sheer disbelief. How was I able to see them when they did not mean to be seen?
I was able to see a lot of things others could not. I would not call it a gift exactly. It never seemed to reward me. My name is Curabelle. Everyone calls me Curious Curabelle or just Q because of the quizzical look I always have on my face. That look stemmed from the fact that I have always had more to question because I see more than the average person. The more that ‘isn't there’ or ‘doesn't exist’ to other people.
Slowly, the little beings backed away from the tomato plant. They were at least two feet shorter than my four foot frame at 12-years-old. Their straw hats flopped from side to side as they began to edge away into the thick of trees on that side of the house. I watched their heads bobble as they walked away, still facing me, due to their feet being turned backwards. They disappeared into the forest as I headed back to where my parents and Amy were. My parents did not know that their beach house had a Douen infestation.
 
A TERRIBLE DREAM….
 
That night, I lay in my bed at the beach house reflecting over the day’s events. Amy was fast asleep beside me. Only four years my junior, my cousin Amy had been adopted by my parents after her parents and infant brother, Michael, had been killed in a three car pile-up. It was awful. My mother cried herself to sleep night after night at the loss of her sister, Amy’s mother. Amy was three at the time and had not been in the car. I was glad she had been too young to remember the tragedy. Amy became a part of our immediate family. One would not be able to guess at her past knowing the joyous eight-year old she was now.  
Earlier that day, my parents, Amy and I had visited the spot where the Blanchicheusse River meets the sea. I pictured the green-tinted river water flowing into the blue of the sea as I drifted off to sleep. 
I was in the forest. The trees towered over me, stretching towards the heavens. Through a break in the canopy of leaves overhead, I could see the full moon, a beaming orb in the seemingly starless sky. The roundness and pallor of it reminded me of the faces of the creatures I had seen in the garden. A scream pierced through the silence of the scene. Recognising the pitch of the voice, I felt a jolt of terror run through me. 
“Amy!” I thought. 
I ran towards the voice, crashing through the trees, heading slightly downhill. My foot caught on a swollen tree root and I went tumbling face-first to the ground. I turned over, still lying on the forest floor. The moon hung overhead somehow much nearer to earth. A slit formed in the moonscape: a mouth, open and laughing at me, its high raspy voice echoing through the trees.
I awoke with a start. The dark room slowly came into focus but no relief came with the realisation that I was safe and sound in my room. I had an intense feeling of terror that threatened to send me into hysterics. I ripped the blankets off the bed to confirm what I already knew. The place next to me was empty. Amy was gone.
 
A DISCOVERY
 
I leapt out of bed. Rummaging through the duffel bag I had brought to the house, I found a flashlight. I stole out of the house. The darkness of the night swallowed me. I turned the flashlight on and used the small circle of light to guide me as I tered the thick of trees outside. By the smell of the earth and the glistening dew on the trees, I could tell it had rained while I slept. My bare feet padded across the damp forest floor. I picked my way carefully over swollen tree roots that curled like snakes lying on the moist earth. The scene was too familiar. I dared not look up at the moon. Where was Amy? Was she cold and wet, frightened and lost? 
“Amy!” I shrieked. It echoed through the trees. 
I called her name again and again.
 
“Curabelle,” a faint voice answered.
My joy was palpable. I ran towards the voice. I found myself in a small circular clearing. I looked around for Amy but she was not there. 
“Curabelle,” the voice whispered from behind me.
 
I turned around with a start. A little head poked out from behind one of the trees and slowly, the small figure entered the clearing, revealing itself. It was not Amy. I held back a scream. Somehow, in the deceptive dark of night, just one of these little creatures seemed much more threatening than a gaggle of them had in the daylight. The Douen approached me.
 
“Curabelle?” Its small mouth formed the word, mimicking Amy’s voice. 
I backed away from it. The creature quickened its pace. It wobbled towards me, stretching its spindly little arms out. 
“No!” I screeched. 
“Don't be scared.” The calm instruction caught me off guard. 
 
I looked around. Amy! She was here, coming out from behind another tree, barefoot in her night gown. I ran to her and swept her into my arms. She was soaked in rain water. “We have to get you back to the house,” I said. 
“No,” she protested, turning to face the little creature I had almost forgotten about. “It’s Michael, my baby brother. I can’t leave him,” she said simply.
My mouth gaped open. I instinctively took a step back from the small figure. I wanted to grab Amy and run away but in a most human fashion, the little critter meekly nodded, confirming Amy’s claim. Michael backed away from us and disappeared into the trees. Without questioning this, Amy grabbed my hand and pulled me forward, following Michael. I reluctantly went with her. I felt numb. The forest was silent as we trudged through the trees as if all the animals waited with bated breath. The silence seemed to escalate until it was deafening and then without warning, they converged on us.
Tiny creatures launched themselves at us from all directions. Some came hurtling through the trees. Others came scuttling down from the tree tops. I felt their cold hands grabbing me, dragging me down. 
Amy screamed. 
Dozens of Douens surrounded us. My flashlight clattered to the ground and switched off. We were enveloped in darkness. Everything went black. Was this the end?
 
RELEASE
 
A bright light filled the expanse. I shut my eyes against the glare of it. I heard the creatures hiss in annoyance. They crawled away. Their tiny arms released me. Amy broke free of them and ran towards the light, one of those huge powerful flashlights. My father was wielding it. I breathed a sigh of relief. My parents had come looking for us. Amy launched herself into my mother’s arms. My parents looked terrified. Their faces were pale in the eerie glow of the flashlight.
 
“What were those things? Giant rats!” exclaimed my father, scooping me up in his arms. “They were Douens, Daddy,” I yelped, hoping he would believe me. “Don’t be ridiculous…” my father was stopped short by the sound of a melancholy sigh. 
It was Michael. 
He had stayed behind and was whimpering. His small form shook with sobs. His cries seemed to fill the forest. 
“What is that?” my father asked. Amy explained what had happened. I could have told her it was no use. My parents did not believe in folklore or the supernatural or anything of that nature, but to my surprise, they did not question the story. My mother slowly released Amy and cautiously approached Michael. He eagerly held his arms out to her and my mother took her nephew’s feeble hands in hers. My father gazed, dumbfounded, still clutching me to him.
 
My mother turned away from Michael momentarily and looking up at my father, said, “We have to help him.” 
“How do we do that?” my father whispered. He seemed to be fighting the urge to grab his family, run back to the house, drive away and never return.
“I have an idea,” I said suddenly. 
In a series of actions completely out of character, my parents actually listened to me. Taking my hand, my father led me through the thick of trees back to the house. Amy held his other hand and my mother held Michael in her arms. No one spoke as we got in the car and drove to Blanchicheusse River. Michael was still in my mother’s arms. He seemed contented. His every move was now like that of a real baby and not the angry lost soul of one. My mother rocked him gently as tears streamed silently down her face. 
 
ASTONISHING
 
When we reached near the river, we got out of the car and walked to that spot…that spot where the green river water flows into the endless blue of the sea. My mother stood in the shallow part of the river and Amy and I watched from the bank nearby. The full moon glowed above us and its reflection shone in the rippling river water. The smell of the sea greeted us and the wind tossed our hair back and forth. My mother mouthed a few words to herself. She seemed to be praying. She paused, gazing down at Michael one last time and then dipped him carefully in the river water. After a brief moment, she pulled him from the water. My jaw dropped.
 
Michael was no longer a spindly creature, pale and featureless, deformed and only mocking the appearance of a child. He was now a beautiful, healthy baby. His bright eyes filled with laughter and his round face beaming up at my mother. My mother seemed shocked too and my father was beside himself. Amy just smiled. We were only able to gawk at baby Michael for just a moment before he was gone. He turned to mist and floated away with a happy sigh. A baby’s coos echoed through the night before they faded and all was silent.
 
“Goodbye, baby Michael,” I thought.
 
Once we were back at the house, my parents wasted no time and immediately began packing. I doubted we would ever visit our beach house again. For all I knew, it might be up for sale soon at an unbelievably low price. Someone, who would probably think it was his lucky day, might buy it. 
A few hours later, when we were back at home, I went to talk to Amy. The sun was just coming up. Amy sat in her bedroom humming an unfamiliar tune, not the least bit perturbed. “Michael’s free now,” I said, guessing the reason for her joy. 
“Yes, Michael is free… but he’s not the only one,” she replied, smiling. 
I tried to understand. “You are free too now, Amy. I’m sure you’re relieved your brother is at rest.” 
She stopped humming and turned to blankly stare at me. She cocked her head to one side and said: “Well, I’m not really happy about that, exactly.” 
I was about to ask her what ‘exactly’ she meant, but she answered my question before I could even utter it. 
“But then again, I’m not really Amy.”
 
 
entered the thick of trees outside. By the smell of the earth and the glistening dew on the trees, I could tell it had rained while I slept. My bare feet padded across the damp forest floor. I picked my way carefully over swollen tree roots that curled like snakes lying on the moist earth. The scene was too familiar. I dared not look up at the moon. Where was Amy? Was she cold and wet, frightened and lost? 
“Amy!” I shrieked. It echoed through the trees. 
I called her name again and again.
“Curabelle,” a faint voice answered.
My joy was palpable. I ran towards the voice. I found myself in a small circular clearing. I looked around for Amy but she was not there. 
“Curabelle,” the voice whispered from behind me.
I turned around with a start. A little head poked out from behind one of the trees and slowly, the small figure entered the clearing, revealing itself. It was not Amy. I held back a scream. Somehow, in the deceptive dark of night, just one of these little creatures seemed much more threatening than a gaggle of them had in the daylight. The Douen approached me.
“Curabelle?” Its small mouth formed the word, mimicking Amy’s voice. 
I backed away from it. The creature quickened its pace. It wobbled towards me, stretching its spindly little arms out. 
“No!” I screeched. 
“Don't be scared.” The calm instruction caught me off guard. 
I looked around. Amy! She was here, coming out from behind another tree, barefoot in her night gown. I ran to her and swept her into my arms. She was soaked in rain water. “We have to get you back to the house,” I said. 
“No,” she protested, turning to face the little creature I had almost forgotten about. “It’s Michael, my baby brother. I can’t leave him,” she said simply.
My mouth gaped open. I instinctively took a step back from the small figure. I wanted to grab Amy and run away but in a most human fashion, the little critter meekly nodded, confirming Amy’s claim. Michael backed away from us and disappeared into the trees. Without questioning this, Amy grabbed my hand and pulled me forward, following Michael. I reluctantly went with her. I felt numb. The forest was silent as we trudged through the trees as if all the animals waited with bated breath. The silence seemed to escalate until it was deafening and then without warning, they converged on us.
Tiny creatures launched themselves at us from all directions. Some came hurtling through the trees. Others came scuttling down from the tree tops. I felt their cold hands grabbing me, dragging me down. 
Amy screamed. 
Dozens of Douens surrounded us. My flashlight clattered to the ground and switched off. We were enveloped in darkness. Everything went black. Was this the end?
 
RELEASE
 
A bright light filled the expanse. I shut my eyes against the glare of it. I heard the creatures hiss in annoyance. They crawled away. Their tiny arms released me. Amy broke free of them and ran towards the light, one of those huge powerful flashlights. My father was wielding it. I breathed a sigh of relief. My parents had come looking for us. Amy launched herself into my mother’s arms. My parents looked terrified. Their faces were pale in the eerie glow of the flashlight.
“What were those things? Giant rats!” exclaimed my father, scooping me up in his arms. “They were Douens, Daddy,” I yelped, hoping he would believe me. “Don’t be ridiculous…” my father was stopped short by the sound of a melancholy sigh. 
It was Michael. 
He had stayed behind and was whimpering. His small form shook with sobs. His cries seemed to fill the forest. 
“What is that?” my father asked. Amy explained what had happened. I could have told her it was no use. My parents did not believe in folklore or the supernatural or anything of that nature, but to my surprise, they did not question the story. My mother slowly released Amy and cautiously approached Michael. He eagerly held his arms out to her and my mother took her nephew’s feeble hands in hers. My father gazed, dumbfounded, still clutching me to him.
My mother turned away from Michael momentarily and looking up at my father, said, “We have to help him.” 
“How do we do that?” my father whispered. He seemed to be fighting the urge to grab his family, run back to the house, drive away and never return.
“I have an idea,” I said suddenly. 
In a series of actions completely out of character, my parents actually listened to me. Taking my hand, my father led me through the thick of trees back to the house. Amy held his other hand and my mother held Michael in her arms. No one spoke as we got in the car and drove to Blanchicheusse River. Michael was still in my mother’s arms. He seemed contented. His every move was now like that of a real baby and not the angry lost soul of one. My mother rocked him gently as tears streamed silently down her face. 
ASTONISHING
 
When we reached near the river, we got out of the car and walked to that spot…that spot where the green river water flows into the endless blue of the sea. My mother stood in the shallow part of the river and Amy and I watched from the bank nearby. The full moon glowed above us and its reflection shone in the rippling river water. The smell of the sea greeted us and the wind tossed our hair back and forth. My mother mouthed a few words to herself. She seemed to be praying. She paused, gazing down at Michael one last time and then dipped him carefully in the river water. After a brief moment, she pulled him from the water. My jaw dropped.
Michael was no longer a spindly creature, pale and featureless, deformed and only mocking the appearance of a child. He was now a beautiful, healthy baby. His bright eyes filled with laughter and his round face beaming up at my mother. My mother seemed shocked too and my father was beside himself. Amy just smiled. We were only able to gawk at baby Michael for just a moment before he was gone. He turned to mist and floated away with a happy sigh. A baby’s coos echoed through the night before they faded and all was silent.
 
“Goodbye, baby Michael,” I thought.
 
Once we were back at the house, my parents wasted no time and immediately began packing. I doubted we would ever visit our beach house again. For all I knew, it might be up for sale soon at an unbelievably low price. Someone, who would probably think it was his lucky day, might buy it. 
A few hours later, when we were back at home, I went to talk to Amy. The sun was just coming up. Amy sat in her bedroom humming an unfamiliar tune, not the least bit perturbed. “Michael’s free now,” I said, guessing the reason for her joy. 
“Yes, Michael is free… but he’s not the only one,” she replied, smiling. 
I tried to understand. “You are free too now, Amy. I’m sure you’re relieved your brother is at rest.” 
She stopped humming and turned to blankly stare at me. She cocked her head to one side and said: “Well, I’m not really happy about that, exactly.” 
I was about to ask her what ‘exactly’ she meant, but she answered my question before I could even utter it. 
“But then again, I’m not really Amy.”
 

Disclaimer

User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.

Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.

Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.

Before posting, please refer to the Community Standards, Terms and conditions and Privacy Policy