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Within moments, Old Ayah, who had been with us for a hundred years, ran out. The old coot dragged me by my hand—I did not know she could run so fast—to the well in the backyard. Scooping water, she washed my hands and poured several bucketsful over me. The well water was frigid and, as a brisk breeze blew, I shivered in fits. Old Ayah said in a stern voice that I should never touch myself. I did not know what the old coot was on about and my hand, on its own accord, reached to scratch. Without warning, Old Ayah let out a shriek similar to Mother’s and gave my hand a sharp slap. That stung. It hurt fiery red. I did not know the coot was strong too.

‘Don’t touch yourself, especially there, there, and there.’

She pointed to my chest and to the spot below my navel. I asked why-why-why, and her reply was emphatic.

‘Don’t! Only bad girls touch themselves.’

And she wagged a furious finger near my nose. The poor old woman shook with outrage, and spittle flew from her lips, making me blink and squint. It seemed the demon that possessed Mother had leapt into Old Ayah. Now I had another reason for not wanting to grow old: demonic possession.

‘Okay, Ayah,’ I replied.

‘Bad, bad, bad.’ More spittle from her and more blinking on my part.

‘Okay Ayah, okay Ayah, okay Ayah.’

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019

Continued on Monday: Arakan Abduction (last instalment)