Chapter 9

Written by: Suraya Dewing

Angelica’s breath caught in a choking lump.

She had been on the island for over a year and she had witnessed the villagers’ growing anxiety about the change in the environment. There had been flooding and wild storms and she was becoming aware that suspicion had crept into their eyes despite their initial welcome. 

Feeling deeply disturbed she hurried to her bamboo slatted hut. When she got there she found her notebooks scattered about as if someone had gone through them. A sketch of the Head Man was missing.

The storm seemed to have returned with wind blowing through the palms and thunder drumming in the sky. Fear was taking a firm grip of her stomach and for the first time since arriving she realised that she had no way of getting off the island.

Like an apparition the girl appeared at the entrance to her hut.

Her huge eyes were black and unblinking.

A crowd of villagers stood behind her and while they had once smiled benignly they no longer did.

The Head Man held the ripped page of her notebook. He beckoned her down to face the group.

With a dry throat she took careful steps down onto the ground.

The wind was now whipping up the sand and the plastic balls in it were bouncing off her skin. Beside the Head Man lay a small child, gasping and gagging.

Although the island appeared idyllic Angelica had increasingly become concerned by the number of people who seemed to contract a disease that gripped their stomachs. 

The child was crying pathetically. Angelica knelt beside it and placed a concerned hand on its bloated stomach.

“Kalé,” the Head Man admonished pointing at Angelica and then away from the child. “Kalé, Kalé.”

His agitated voice rose with each repetition of the word. Suddenly gripped by fear, Angelica stood and stepped well away from the child. 

His anger had whipped any English he knew from his tongue.

The child twisted in agony and with a loud cry vomited up a nasty green fluid with tiny plastic beads through it.  

Angelica felt sick. She had cautioned the villagers not to eat anything from the East side of the Island where she had landed because of the beads in the sand. But the children occasionally snuck over there and ate wild sugar cane. 

The storm was gathering force and large rain drops speared the ground. Angelica grabbed a coconut shell and held it to the rain. Once it was full she handed it to the Head Man and instructed him to give the child the water.

A villager stepped forward, took the water and held it to the child’s lips. Colour was returning to his skin.

The taro patch near her began filling with sea water.  The tide never seemed to fully recede these days. 

The Head Man pointed to it, then to the  child, then to her. He uttered a furious cry of, “Kalé Pu.”  Angelica recoiled. Death.