Home > The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson #10)(8)

The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson #10)(8)
Darynda Jones

“May I see her?” I asked. In his language. I swallowed back my heart before it jumped out of my chest. He could’ve killed me before it managed another beat. I was hoping that speaking to him in his language would give him pause. It did.

I didn’t go around touting my ability to understand and speak every language ever spoken on Earth, even to my comrades in the Peace Corps. Too difficult to explain, first of all, and then too difficult to deal with. Once someone found out, they were constantly having me prove it. So I’d had yet to speak Bantu in the village even though I understood everything everyone said.

But the decision to reveal that little gem did exactly what I was hoping it would. It surprised him enough to reconsider my impending doom. Good thing, because I didn’t think I could’ve outrun him, and that machete was as sharp as a scalpel and sat in the hands of a very skilled hunter.

I glanced past him toward his wife, her expression on the verge of hysteria.

“I don’t know if I can help,” I said to her as calmly as I could, considering my heart had been relocated. “But I can try.”

The girl had been possessed. That much was painfully evident, though my only references were Regan from The Exorcist and Stan Marsh from South Park.

For some reason, most likely desperation, Faraji’s wife nodded, and I stepped past him to kneel beside their daughter.

The video began there. It showed the girl for only a second before pulling back and showing me kneeling beside her. I’d had no idea what I was doing. At the time, I hadn’t known demons existed, and I still doubted it after that encounter. Still, whatever it was had left an impression.

But who’d filmed it? There’d been no one else there. Had someone followed me as I’d followed Faraji? Where had the footage come from?

I’d spoken to whatever was inside the girl in Latin at first, then in Ancient Aramaic. It just seemed appropriate. It was the Aramaic that got its attention, because soon after, the hut started tumbling around me.

According to the video, however, the hut hadn’t moved. I was being tossed around like a rag doll. Nkiru screamed and scrambled back. Faraji dropped the machete and held his wife in horror as I was flung from floor to ceiling and everywhere in between.

I didn’t quite remember it that way, but okay.

Thankfully, the attack was short-lived. It screamed, the thing inside her, the moment it left the girl to give me a what for. I’d lost all sense of direction as the floor had been snatched out from under me, so I’d never actually seen it. But its screams had filled the space between my ears to splitting precision.

To anyone watching the video, however, the only sounds that would be heard were the thuds of me hitting this or that and my groans of agony. Everything else would have been silent. Even to Faraji, Nkiru, and Emem, who lay still on the floor, unconscious. But the screams had grated over my nerve endings at the time. A blinding darkness had enveloped me. A blistering heat had burned my throat and lungs.

Then it stopped. As unexpectedly as it started, it just stopped.

Unfortunately, I’d been on the ceiling at the time. I fell. Face-first. Bounced up a bit. Then fell again. When I’d finally settled into a prone position, I spent the next few moments whimpering into my armpit and asking no one in particular, “Why?” Sadly, the camera caught it all.

I gripped the phone tighter as Reyes watched me reenact The Poseidon Adventure—me being the Poseidon—but the way my head bounced off the packed earth was kind of funny. A giggle slid out of me before I could stop it, while Reyes struggled to contain his anger, anger being the predominant emotion at the moment. It was hard to tell with him sometimes, he was so tightly packed.

The next thing I remembered about that particular night was hearing a soft cry. Well, one other than my own. Then a throat-wrenching sob as Nkiru scrambled back to her daughter. She and Faraji cradled her, Nkiru wailing, her shoulders shaking, but the emotion that had been emanating from her was elation. Utter elation and crushing relief.

The video stopped there, but I remembered struggling to my feet and hobbling off to let them celebrate in private.

I also remembered getting lost on the way back to camp. It had taken me what seemed like hours to find it, but I’d been pretty banged up. Turned out, I had only been gone a total of two hours. Another Peace Corps volunteer had found me. Samuel was his name. Was he the one who’d recorded the event?

It had to have been one of my Peace Corps associates. The villagers didn’t even have running water, much less a video camera.

“What are we going to do?” Cookie asked as I pressed REPLAY. That last bit was too funny not to watch again.

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