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Touched by a duppy

Al Gilkes

Touched by a duppy

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AFTER ALL MY YEARS of living through both dark and enlightened Barbadian times, I believe that I recently had my very first encounter with a duppy.
The irony is that I grew up when duppies ruled, occupying every dark space when night fell – under every bed, in every unlit room, every dark corner, behind every wall, under every cellar, in every yard, behind every paling, in every tree, in every cart road between fields of sugar cane, everywhere.
I shared my early childhood between country and town, exposed to two different varieties and scary stories but never felt the presence of a duppy. So why at my present stage and age would one choose to interfere with me as I was settling down for a nice, slow sleep a few nights ago?
In my young man days, I became friendly with a chick who was perfect in every detail except one. At night she could not be in a room without light because she saw duppies. I still remember how what was to be our first night of sexual bliss was destroyed by her blood-curdling screams when I switched off the light. As I quickly “on it back”, I found her plastered against the bed head, face contorted with fright and screaming for me to never turn it off again because of the many duppies she had just seen in my bedroom. After that I had to keep the light on or else there was no getting it on.
Yet, I lived in that house for a long time without ever seeing any of that sea of duppies that she saw. So why now to have my breath cut, my pressure up through the roof and my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest?
I even have two close relatives who see duppies – not as frequently now as adults as they previously did as children. But throughout all their lives they have been able to see and, in one case, even hear duppies talk. One once came to spend a weekend at my place and as she entered the apartment in which I lived at the time an apparition in the corridor caught her eye and she just froze like a statue in fear, refusing to move from the spot on the mat until I got her mother to return to take her back home.
Then a few nights ago as I lay me down to sleep I sensed an eerie presence at the side of the bed in the dark followed by the very hair-raising sensation of a cold hand passing along the length on my left side from shoulder to toes.
I immediately assumed it to be a burglar lightly checking to see if I was asleep and as sensation of the touch reached my foot I kicked out as hard as I could only to end up with the agony of kicking into nothing but the wall. So I grabbed my wedger, leapt off the bed and hit the light switch, expecting to find myself face to face with some greased down intruder in a mask and hoody. My steely resolve was that only one of us would survive the night. But nobody, not a living soul. Outside I also found nobody else awake and no sign of forced entry to indicate that my encounter had been with a living being. I know many of you will say it was just my imagination, but I know what I felt and I know what touched me was not my imagination.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email [email protected]