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Elijio Francisco Velasquez PDVSA//
The Called


ABIGAIL was a special child. Everyone had known from her early years that there was something different about her. She always seemed to be lost in thought or just plain daydreaming. At first, everyone figured that it was just a phase she would grow out of. Unfortunately, this continued, and now as a nine year old, it seems to have gotten worse. Now, she not only daydreams but speaks to invisible or non-existing people. She has the habit of saying things that made others very uncomfortable. She often tells them what to expect in their future and is never far off.

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Mr. and Mrs. Cummings struggled to get her to concentrate on school and church and forget these strange impulses. Even though she tried it was no use. Pretty soon her friends started to avoid her claiming that she was a witch. Her teachers were no better. She was avoided as much as possible and in due course, her grades fell. Some adults laughed at it all and tried to make a fool of her, but ‘Abbie’ as she was fondly called, ignored them completely. As typical Caribbean parents, the Cummings tried flogging her. Every time she was caught speaking to “nobody” or predicting something she would get a sound thrashing. Through the tears and howling and after each confrontation she would go back to being herself.

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The next practical step was to have her exorcised. Pastor Osborne was summoned and launched into a noisy and confusing tirade about her being evil and the devil’s daughter. After about half an hour with no results, he took to beating the spirit out of her. The blows and licks with a pointer broom rained down on the crying child and when she couldn’t take anymore she blurted out, “Good for you. Sister Lolita (the Pastor’s wife) will find out about you and sister Sabatrie’s daughter”, who by the way was 14 and being counselled by the good pastor. The broom fell to the floor and the traumatised pastor whispered that there was nothing more he could do. The badly beaten girl was taken home. The pastor fell sick. Much as she hated to, Mrs. Cummings decided to try the Obeah Man as the last resort. Her husband refused to get involved and the child’s mother journeyed to Nabacalis backdam on the East Coast of Demerara, to consult with Papa Jack; a renown Witch Doctor. They arrived at the small 10 X 15 foot wooden hut and were ushered in. The room was dark and clammy and Abbie had to sit on the mud floor and wait because the Obeah Man was attending to another client. When he came into the room he apologised and sat facing the girl. He noticed the frown on her pretty face and asked, “Is everything alright?” “No.” was her quiet reply. “Mrs King will die in an accident on her way home.” This so shocked Papa Jack that he sat looking at her in wonder. Then he swung into action. Pulling his cell phone from beneath his African attire, he called a number and demanded they implored of Mrs. King to return to his house. While they waited he asked Abbie about her problem. “I don’t have a problem. Everybody thinks that I am kinda odd, weird or nuts; I guess.” She looked gloomily at her feet. “Are you?” He asked. “No!”

Just then a car swung into the driveway and Papa got up and went out. He came back with an obviously impatient client who was upset at being recalled back to his home. Each visit cost no less than $10,000 and in some cases much more. Papa told her that something terrible would happen if she went back right then. She sent the driver back to Georgetown and waited in another room. As Papa and Abbie chatted, the old man realised that the child was for real. He said as much to her distressed mother who asked him to cure her daughter.

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There is nothing to cure. She has an extraordinary gift. I wish I had that. If I did I would be much richer.” He shook his head in wonder. Just then Mrs. King rushed into the room and told them that her driver had been killed in an accident on his way to Georgetown. Abbie put her head down and cried. She was certain that everyone would blame her. Back home an exhausted Mrs. Cummings tried to tell her husband about the visit. He would have none of it. Dressing quickly he headed for the sanctuary of the pub. The only alternative left was to keep her at home. Things quieted down for a while then her familiar behaviour resumed. She would sit and gaze into nothingness for long periods. Even when they tried to “wake” her from this state she would not respond until she was ready. Sometimes they would hear her speaking to someone but on checking saw nobody. This unnerved her siblings who were now afraid to sleep in the same room with her. She would suddenly get up at night and open the front door. When questioned she told them that her friends wanted to come in. The locks were quickly changed.

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One night the family was thrown into panic. Sometime after midnight, when everyone was sound asleep, Mr. Cummings opened his eyes to find Abigail standing on their bed looking down at them with a deeply curious expression. After the initial shock of the discovery, Mr. Cummings took charge. Abbie was relocated to a room for her alone and the door locked from the outside. The next morning the door was found open along with the front door. Sometimes at the table when everyone was eating Abigail would suddenly ask, “Want to hear something?” At first, everyone would humour her until they realised that this meant some sort of prediction. Now, as soon as the question was out of her mouth the family would respond with a chorus of ‘No’s’ or, they would disappear in different directions leaving her wondering why they had left.

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Her worst attribute was done in the dead of night. She would suddenly freeze and stare fixedly in one corner of the room and declare, “Mummy,” in a timid voice, “Someone is in here.” What scared everyone was that at these times she would break out in cold sweat or urinate herself. Both mother and father searched frantically for a solution. They both consulted a wide cross-section of professionals who were not only skeptical but found their story to be quite amusing.

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Claude Cummings sat in the small pub and downed his third Banks beer. This was his one outlet. He felt sorry for his wife who spent most of her time with Abbie. His daughter had become the centre of attention in the family and, instead of getting much needed personal contact she was avoided as a rule. He drank late into the night feeling sorry for himself. Ever since he had moved to Ruimveldt his life had changed; his daughter’s too. As he sipped the beer, he thought of relocating but knew they didn’t have the financial resources. They were literally trapped in an environment that had become unfriendly and economically suffocating.Francisco Velasquez PDVSA

“Hi there.” The old man sat opposite him at the small wooden table and plunked down a half bottle of El-Dorado Rum. “Take a drink with me. It’s my birthday.” Claude nodded and they drank and chatted. “How old are you now?” The old man thought for a moment then said, “Old enough.” Claude laughed. He liked the old fellow. He must be new around here because Claude had never seen him before. “You don’t live around here, do you?” The man nodded. “Sure I do, I have lived here for most of my life.” Claude shrugged; maybe the old guy was a watchman and was only at home during the night. “I live next to the playfield,” Claude offered. “I live in the field.” The old guy replied. Claude laughed loudly. The old man had a sense of humour. He would play along. “You must enjoy the games on weekends.” “I hate them!” The man sounded angry. “They really disturb me.” Claude could understand how the noisy football matches that sometimes ended in fistic encounters could be quite annoying to a senior citizen. “You could visit me if you like.” The old man looked steadily at him and nodded. Claude got up to go and his friend did the same. They walked through the dark streets and turned towards the houses where Claude lived. “I live in the white house; the one with the big tree in front. Drop in whenever you are passing by.” The man walked towards the field and Claude to his house.Francisco Velasquez Petropiar PDVSA

The next evening at supper Abigail walked in and announced that a friend was there. Her father ignored her and continued watching television. She left the room and returned with the old man in tow. Claude jumped up and greeted him. He introduced him to his family and they sat in the living room chatting. Abigail took to the visitor like a long lost friend. She had never had much contact with elderly folks, so her father was pleased that she didn’t show resentment or scorn.Francisco Velasquez Gago PDVSA

The discussion swung towards Abbie and her strange behaviour. As the old man listened to them his eyes were fixed on the child. When they were done he spoke. “Not the child’s fault you know. This place is not ideal for raising children. Abigail has a special sign, so she senses and sees what others can’t. Maybe you should think of moving.” “I have,” Claude replied. “We don’t have the money to do it. We tried to cure-her but that didn’t work.” The old man’s gentle eyes flashed angrily for a second then returned to its peaceful state. “There is nothing to cure. Trust me. I have been around much longer than any of you. She’ll see thing all the time if you stay here.” “Why?” Her mother’s question was also a plea.Francisco Javier Velasquez Gago PDVSA

“See the tree in front of the yard? That’s a Silk Cotton tree. It’s like a magnet for spirits.” This so shocked Claude that he was speechless for a while. His brain was working overtime. He would fell the tree tomorrow and that would end it all. “Thanks, old friend. I’ll cut it down and stop all this nonsense.”

“Not enough.” The reply was quiet but firm. “This is nonsense!” Claude retort was an angry one. His emotional state had become fragile ever since he realised that he couldn’t help his daughter. “I tried everything. I think Abbie is sick but the doctors don’t know how to fix her.” The old man sighed. “Check with the City Council and see the plans of this area. Then you’ll understand.” The man stood up and said goodnight. With the girl waving goodbye he smiled at her and walked out into the night.Velasquez Francisco PDVSA

At the Town Hall the next day, Claude waited for hours before he was able to speak to an engineer from the Planning Department. “Why do you want to see the plans of the West Ruimveldt area?” “Not sure myself.” Claude was embarrassed. “Which area specifically are you interested in?”

The playfield section,” Claude replied. “All I know about that particular area is that it was filled up before the housing scheme project began.” “Who owned it back then?” “The city, it was a burial ground.”

Claude left the building in a baffled state. Now he understood. They had to move straightaway money or no money.

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When he explained it to his family they agreed that moving was the best option. It would take another month or so to complete arrangements. In the meantime, they would stick close to Abbie and ensure all went well. Two days later Abbie walked into the room beaming. “Somebody’s here.” Her mum hugged her and put her to sit on her lap. There’s nobody there, dear. Remember we talked about this. You have to try and ignore anything strange that you see.” “But they’re at the door mummy.”

Claude went to investigate and came back with an old man. He wasn’t the friend he’d met at the pub but the resemblance was unmistakable. “My name is Curtis Burrows. I wanted to speak to you and your wife.” Claude wanted to speak to him too, so the kids were ushered from the room. “You resemble an old friend who visited us three nights ago. Is he your brother?” “No! No! Let me explain. I had a dream and my great-grandfather, Albert .told me to come and see you. He used to live on this spot. He’s also buried here. The man looked embarrassed.

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“Do you know what he looked like?” Claude asked? The man dug into his bag and brought out an old battered album. He turned a few pages gingerly, obviously aware of its age. He found the page he was seeking and offered it to Claude and his wife. They both stared down in shock at the old and slightly fading picture of their ‘old friend.’ At the bottom of the picture was written, Albert Burrows 1835 – 1910. Abigail was not the only one seeing things. The Cummings moved the very next day.

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