The voice drifted into her head, fusing with her consciousness until Erin opened her eyes. It was a part of her that had spoken, that tried to tell her she shouldn’t punch Dwayne anymore, that the bloodied nose and bruised eye she’d given him were enough. Yet, as she straddled him, her skinny frame smaller than it should be for a twelve-year-old, she felt her fists tighten and she struck him again. Then again, her lips spreading across her teeth into something resembling a snarl, as she remembered how he’d been bullying her for the last weeks. Crack!
“What you doing child? Ya mad or what?” came the furious shout from her guardian Miss Clarke, followed closely by a lash from her belt across Erin’s back. Another blow landed and as if pulled from a delicious dream where bullies got their due, Erin bent her body into a queer S-shape, as though somehow it could stop the pain. The leather came again, hard and fast across her back and exposed legs and soon, her faculties fully returned, Erin hopped off Dwayne, who lay crying in the grass. The other children oblivious to the beating Dwayne had been enduring, were quick to run to see Erin’s punishment take place, laughing gleefully as they watched another endure what they had managed to escape . . . for that day.
Miss Clarke was guardian to a brood of twenty-seven. Boys and girls who had no one to care for them, were unwanted, or simply ran away from their dire conditions. She was fair and treated them well for the most part, but her beatings were legendary, bred from her upbringing in what elders liked to call ‘old-time Barbados’ and today was Erin’s turn to face the feared cow-hide.
“Don’t you eva,” Miss Clarke was saying as blows rained down, “Eva, eva, ever, let me . . .” she paused, punctuating her words between blows, “. . . see you,” she paused again, making sure to get Erin across her thin dark-caramel coloured thighs, “On nobody boy chile so again!”
Erin, who’d been taking the blows well, occasionally writhing with snake-like agility as she tried her best to make the lashes land in varying spots, spoke up, “He ain’t nabody boy child,” she said quietly, defiance one of her greatest faults.
This set off Miss Clarke again and her tongue exploded with a sea of filth that expressed not only Erin’s utter ingratitude as she saw it, but her inability to respect her elders. Erin listened at first, her hazel eyes focused on her guardian as she argued. They flitted to the ground and she saw Dwayne finally sitting up, which increased the laughter of her peers as they teased him for being bested by a girl. Erin heard it all until soon she could hear nothing. She was in her head again, in the place where nothing could touch her, where she couldn’t feel the hot sun on her skin, or the cool island breezes that tried to dissuade it.
“Erin, you have to stop.” The voice again, more urgent this time and when Erin opened her eyes she was gripping Miss Clarke’s belt with all her might. The older woman was shouting at her, telling her to let go, but it was as if it was coming from very far away. The sounds echoed in her head, but it was as if she could not pull herself outside of her body, something that had been happening more often of late when she became angry or sad. It was a thing that she could not control, no matter how she’d tried. She willed herself to let go of the belt, knowing that her disobedience would only serve to anger Miss Clarke further.
“Girl you betta let go of this damn belt now. You got to be mad, got to be!” Miss Clarke’s dark skin, slick with sweat from the mid-morning sun, seemed to darken all the more as the seconds passed. “Let go I say!”
What happened next some would refute in the years that followed. For Erin, it was as if whatever had been holding her back, making her disobey Miss Clarke with all her might, had finally given into the request and did as commanded. However, as Miss Clarke’s body was pelted like a rag doll across the small patch of grass where the children played, only to be slammed and pressed against the brick building where they lived, the girl instinctively knew there was more. A warm feeling rose within her as she watched a terrified Miss Clarke try to push herself away from the wall. Erin could feel herself holding the woman in place and the sense of power it gave her, more than she’d ever felt before, delighted her.
The laughter from the other children turned into screams as Erin, still mentally charged with her new-found ability, turned her attention on them.
“Erin, you’ve got to stop!” The voice of reason was more urgent this time, frantic in its need to make her drift from her new course. Erin did not listen.
“And when God says he will, you have to believe that he will do what he says Amen?” Pastor George was asking and his congregation agreed wholeheartedly, lending their voices in song and praise as the sermon went on.
Erin sat squirming in the front pew, an example to all the children of what happened when a demon was allowed to enter their hearts. That’s what they’d told her she was, ‘demon possessed’. Erin didn’t buy it. She’d been to the little Pentecostal church on Mangrove in her blue and white Sunday dress enough times to know that running away from the institution and those who led it, was the way to go for any self-respecting demon-possessed individual. She’d tried to tell that to Miss Clarke and had been heavily reprimanded, though this time Erin had noted that her guardian had chosen not to use the belt on her.
“This little one here,” the pastor said as he came to stand in front of Erin, resting a hand heavily on her head, “She was touched by the enemy and the enemy has used her to harm Sista Clarke and her friends.”
Friends? Erin thought, trying to hold back her scoff. Since when are any of these kids my friends? She’d arrived at the orphanage at ten with no memory of where she’d come from, or who had reared her before then. No one had come forward to claim her and so Erin had spent the last two years in a hell of her own, as the children there decided that she was a new target ripe for the picking. She tuned back in to the preacher, whose chocolate brown eyes were glaring fiercely at his congregation, as he explained the vile creature that was laying waste to her young soul.
“Church, today we must pray for this child. She is one of the Lord’s,” he said the word ‘Lord’ as though in song and that sent the church into a frenzy again.
“Stand up!” he commanded and after a rough nudge from Miss Clarke, Erin complied. The pastor laid his hands on her again, “Sha ba ba ba doh doh la rei,” he began and Erin sighed. He was coming straight out of the gates with tongues and she’d seen this story unfold before her young eyes enough times to know what came next. She was not disappointed.
“Demon,” the pastor screamed, “Come out!” He bent backward and forward quickly as though unhinged, before standing upright again. Church goers were on their feet now and Erin could hear the loud and hopeful voice of Miss Clarke above the din. She was begging God to save “the wayward child” and Erin was surprised to see tears in her eyes.
The pastor raised his hand for silence, glaring at Erin, “Demon, in the name of Jesus Christ, come out of this child, come out of this servant of God, come out!” He flung his hand back for emphasis as he spoke and Erin cringed. She wondered if the supposed demon within her was even listening, the man was shouting loud enough, each word accentuated by spittle across her face. A hush fell over the small wooden building and Erin assumed they were waiting for black smoke or some other evidence that she was freed from hell’s clutches.
“I don’t got a demon,” she ventured when the silence became overwhelming. This just set the pastor off on another rampage and he turned to his church, getting them in on the action.
“The demon speaks, it wants us to believe it has released this child of God, but we cannot believe a word from the devil’s mouth!” So I’m the devil now? Erin thought dryly.
“Preach it Pastuh George!”
“Blessed be His name!” They shouted in agreement.
Erin shifted from one foot to another, wondering how much longer the intervention for her soul would go on. When Pastor George had gotten the attention he craved for his great deed of imposed redemption, he gripped her shoulders hard, holding her gaze with a hard stare.
“You will come out of this child of God, you will come out and you will not return in the name of sha ba ba rashma tey ba, in the name of Jesus!” he shouted and pushed her forehead back. Surprised by the action, Erin fell back into her seat, which sent the congregation into a state of rejoicing. As the band struck up a popular chorus and tambourine beating sisters joined in, Pastor George basked in his element, jumping in place, his hands raised to the wooden ceiling as he shouted in tongues at his frenzied followers.
Erin was unsure what to do next. She watched as the adults around her went mad with the spirit, their holy revelling making her want to laugh at the display, but knowing better than to do so. Minutes passed and it wasn’t until the chorus had been sung many times over, that Pastor George turned his attention back to her.
“Stand child of God, stand in the name of Jesus Christ and sing praises for your deliverance!” he bellowed. He grabbed Erin’s arm pulling her to her feet, when another voice, the accent strange to her, broke in above the din.
“The child will be delivered to no one but me.”
A hush fell over the congregation at the stranger’s words and Pastor George’s eyebrows crinkled in confusion. Erin turned to see who had spoken. A pale-skinned man with eyes clearest green and long white hair stood amidst the worshippers. His attire reminded Erin of those she’d seen in the history books Miss Clarke sometimes made them read and his expression gave one the feeling that he was not to be trifled with.
“This is a place of worship Mister–?” Pastor George tried.
The stranger stepped forward, “My name is of no importance, the girl however, is of the utmost. I am taking her with me.” His words flowed over Erin like an ocean of hope, though she had no idea why this should be the case. She did not know this odd-looking man, who though Caucasian, was quite unlike any she’d ever seen on the island.
Miss Clarke spoke up, “You can’t just expect to come ‘bout here and think that you could just tek she up so and lef’, this is de house of God and this child is under my care, lef from ‘bout here wid you foolishness man.” She sucked her teeth and Pastor George put a hand on her shoulder, his eyes never leaving the stranger’s.
“Come now sista, all are welcomed in the Lord’s house. Young man, why don’t you wait until our service is concluded? I can’t just let you take a child from our premises like that.” Erin’s eyes flitted from an annoyed Miss Clarke, to the almost weirdly apologetic Pastor George, before settling on the stranger who’d come to claim her. She watched his androgynous features break into a small smile, struck by the beauty of his face.
“That won’t do. I came for her the moment I felt her awaken and now I have to take her, it is for the good of you all.”
Pastor George asserted himself, “Young man, I don’t know what you trying to do. But this child was demon possessed and I, bless His holy name, delivered her from the grasp of Satan!” The congregation, who seemed more than willing to watch events play out, sent up praises at their pastor’s words. Erin watched the smile fade from the stranger’s face.
“You do not intend to let her come with me?” he asked pointedly. Pastor George shook his head. “Very well, I will simply take her.” The next moments passed like a dream for Erin. The stranger moved with unbridled speed towards Pastor George, gripping him by the neck and tossing him aside. For the second time that week Erin listened as screams erupted. She could hear frantic footsteps across the church’s floorboards, as patrons ran to the front and side exits.
The stranger lifted her, smoothing her dress carefully as he did. Miss Clarke reached for her, but the stranger pushed her hands away, sending her flying in the process. Erin found herself moving with speed she’d only read about, as the stranger left through the church’s back exit, not stopping until he’d set her safely down in a small rental car and they’d left the premises. She watched him as he drove, feeling no fear as a kind of calm settled on her, emphasizing that she was safe.
“Where we going?” she asked finally as they drove along the coast.
“A place where they will understand what you are. Where they will stand in awe at your gifts.”
“Dem say it was a demon, that it gone now. I musse can’t do what I used to namore.”
The stranger laughed, “Demons? Trust me, you’d know if it was a demon.”
The girl giggled a little, then sobered, “I hurt people when it happen,” she said softly, feeling ashamed, but he just turned to her and smiled.
“Where we’re going, they’ll teach you how to control it so you won’t hurt anyone unless you want to.”
Erin nodded, satisfied with this answer. She wondered briefly what Miss Clarke would do next, if they’d send the police after them. She hoped not, somehow she knew things would be better with him, an innate feeling she could not ignore.
“Look into that bag there,” he told her when they’d turned onto the highway. Erin looked to where he’d indicated and picked up the leather satchel at her feet. She opened it, pulling the contents from within. It was a burgundy passport with her name and face within.
The stranger chuckled lightly, “That’s unimportant. Where you’re going, pulling the right strings is easy,” he winked at her, but Erin still did not understand.
“We going to England?” she asked slowly.
“Yes and there a whole new world will open up for you, I promise.”
She considered this as they drove, scenery whizzing by unnoticed. She had not considered that he meant to take her away from Barbados all together.
“I could come back?”
He took his eyes off the road for seconds before answering, “That will be up to you.”
They travelled in silence for a few more moments, until Erin asked, “I like you? I will be able to do wha’ you just do?”
“You’re not at all like me and you’ll be better than my kind ever imagined.” She could hear the reverence in his voice, though she could not yet process the meaning behind it.
She tried another question, “Wha’s you name?” she asked timidly, not expecting an answer.
“I’ll tell you, though you won’t remember me, or any of this in less than a day. My name is Jacob, of the vampires.”
She took this in, knowing only what she’d read about vampires and wondering how he was able to break the rules she’d known to be true –- like surviving in sunlight.
“Why I won’t rememba you? I doan think I would faget.”
Jacob smiled at her, one that lit up his entire face.
“I must take the memory, so when we meet again priestess of vodun, it will be as it always is. You cannot see me as your benefactor, when you are grown, we will be together as we always have been for centuries.”
Erin rolled this over in her head, thrown for a loop by his words which her young mind could hardly comprehend. Not wanting to waste time thinking about it, she grinned, nodding resolutely, “You come and get me, I can’t forget you.”
Jacob just smiled. ~
Everyone has an origin story, and this is just the beginning of Erin’s.