Fact: Ligaye works; juju sicken and kill; jinay jormaleh; doma stalk their prey in the night. Timis brings out the banished, the followers of Shaytaan, filled with ill intent. The night is filled with peril and danger; the night is full of horrors.
Don’t scoff – I used to be a sceptic too. I laughed at people who told wide-eyed stories about “Madame Kokett” and kick deh, nyaata kick deh; the kondorong, and the jinay slaps which drive people insane. I made jokes about how stupid and gullible they were.
Until it happened to me.
It’s been half-a-year now since the doma took my Maur, my muushi, from me. Six months of pain and confusion, one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
But no matter how much it hurts, no matter what it costs, I will get him back. As he would have done for me in my place, I have no doubt. As he would’ve given his life for mine.
Fact: All relationships form around a private core. It is a moment of shared understanding, of permission giving, that only the two of you experience… It is the seed that will grow into infatuation and – perhaps – more. But in that moment all you both feel is pure exhilaration, the thrill of finding someone new to know.
It was that way with my muushi. I saw him first on GRTS, giving an interview about his latest album. I had had the TV on in the background while I folded laundry. But when I heard his voice I turned and watched.
And that was when he looked straight into the camera – straight at me – and said “and of course to my biggest fan – I love you”. And that was our moment – I knew he could feel it too.
Thinking back on it now, I suspect this is when the doma entered our lives.
Seeing what we would become, she lured him away with a ligaye, cast on his mind from a distance. I do not know the exact moment it happened. He left the studio every evening right after timis. Perhaps she had waylaid him, that night as he went home. Or perhaps slid into his bed while he slept, guiding him through pleasant dreams while whispering enchantments in his ears…
Whatever it was, her ligaye was iron-clad, and it destroyed us. She moved in with him, slept in our bedroom, our bed. Her enchantment made him see me when he looked at her; and only a stranger when he saw me. That was the hardest part – the part that almost broke me – to look at my muushi and see no flicker of recognition in his eyes.
Fact: The doma aren’t what you think: dumb beasts prowling the Gambian night, jafuur and hungry for human yaapa; startled back into their disguised forms by the fajr and sunrise. That, too, is another of their deceptions, to conceal their existence in the shadows.
But it is the opposite: They are super-intelligent, and patient. Their lives are long, and they are cunning: they do not tire, they do not cease. Once they ngaanya something, they never let it go, until it is consumed, emptied, useless; a husk of its former self.
They covet what we have – our central place in Allah’s Grand Design – and, unable to acquire it, maliciously interfere in our lives. The most spiteful of the spawn of Shaytaan, they know no limits, because their destiny in the Hellfire is already assured. They have nothing left to lose.
They are more dangerous than anything we’ve ever imagined. And that was almost my undoing.
But this one made a critical mistake: she underestimated me, underestimated how far I’m willing to go for my Maur. And that would be her undoing.
Fact: The doma take and take, but they cannot take everything. There is something of him still, at his core, a longing that refuses to let me go.
Proof: Last night he was in my dreams – just he and I, alone in his spotless and cavernous kitchen. It felt like a memory, but of the future, something yet to happen.
We stood completely relaxed in each others’ presence – as if he had never left, as if none of it had ever happened… I watched my muushi throw his head back as he roared with laughter at something I’d said. And as I watched him, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in a dream; and I was filled with a great sadness that it would end, tried to hold on as long as possible; but it filtered away, like suuf through cupped hands…
And then the doma entered the dream: her eyes a flaming red, her hair like a Baaye faal’s, her melokaan terrifying, flying toward me. And as she got closer I saw that the redness in her eyes was blood, now marking her cheeks; and her gaze, focused on me, was filled with so much hatred it made me recoil.
For a moment I was petrified beyond movement. And then her mouth opened, and produced a scream that shattered everything in its path, as its shockwave raced towards me…
And I ejected, out of the dream. For a while I sat up in bed, shaking and sweating.
But as my heart slowed in its pounding I understood: the dream was a message. A sign, that my Maur was still in there somewhere, still needed saving. That a part of him still remembered me, needed me, wanted my help. I had had my doubts: what if he was irretrievably lost to the doma? What if the ligaye could not be undone, and he came to prefer her to me, replaced me completely, not even a single memory of me left?
But the thought was barely bearable, and so could not be true; because it being true would be truly unbearable. The dream settled my mind, returned me to the certainty of the day before.
I had to get him back. And so I came up with a plan.
I chose a day, and waited for its arrival. I was prepared – I had gradually come to the realisation that the doma was too strong if I attacked her head on, that nothing from a serigne could protect me against her power. So I armed myself with a machete, and the element of surprise.
Before I left, I arranged the house for him, just the way he had always liked it. I made him mbahal bu tilim the way his mother used to, when he was a boy: served with a splash of diwtirr; a bottle of ice cold Fanta on the side. I lit his favourite chuuraye, the kind he liked but couldn’t explain why, imported from Dubai. I changed all the sheets and curtains.
I would be coming home with him, and everything needed to be perfect. To make his transition as painless as possible.
Fact: The only way to kill a doma is while it is in its human form. In the gloaming hours, in their original forms, their power over humans is absolute, their skin impenetrable to any weapon we have yet invented. And so I went during the day, around tisbaar, the sun at its brightest and hottest: the time when the doma are at their weakest.
When I arrived, the front door was locked, but when I went around back that door was open. I was surprised at her security lapse – had her power really made her so foolish, so assured, she did not think she needed protection?
I walked through a saal, a hallway. And then I was in their bedroom. She had her back to me, talking to him, and did not see me enter, the machete in my hand ready. He did and his eyes widened, his mouth opened into an O of surprise. He looked terrified – his hand rose to point behind her.
I moved then, covered the gap between us with a step. And as she turned I struck her, and she fell with a groan, hitting the ground with a thud, like a saaku maalo flung down. And the blood pooled around her head, and I stepped over it to hug my love: Freed at last, the ligaye broken, the curse lifted.
But I had underestimated the witch’s power. Even in death her spell hadn’t lifted. He gave a wail and shrank away from me, looking dazed, his whole body trembling, tears flooding his eyes and wetting his cheeks. And I saw no recognition in his eyes, saw only horror and fear and loathing.
And I saw: The only way we could reunite was in the one place the doma could never follow us. We would die together, so our souls could finally unite, outside of the doma’s power.
It is the most difficult thing I have ever done, freeing my Maur of the witch’s influence. Each machete strike felt like a strike on my own body; as his screams turned into grunts and then into silence, hot tears ran down my cheeks, until I could barely see the body beneath me, that had now stopped twitching and was still.
After I was done I lay beside him, my eyes closed too, my whole body trembling. With one hand I clasped his own tight; with the other I lifted the weapon and plunged it into my neck.
I am leaving this behind, so you know the whole truth, whether you believe it or not. You brought me here against my will, and left me in this place – you had no right. You told me I would have to spend my life here to make up for what I’d done, and to make sure I wouldn’t do it to anyone else. All I wanted was to be with him, to not stay in an aaduna without him – but you would not let me have even that. What choice did you leave me?
I’m sorry, my love, my muushi, for taking so long. All this time I never stopped looking for a way, one that would lead me back to you, down the same road I sent you ahead on.
I’ve found one now – I am on my way. Soon we will be together again, in each others’ arms, with no doma separating us, no ligaye binding you; in a place where Evil is not named and has no power. There we will be joined again, to spend an eternity together: my soul’s soul, my life’s life, the beating heart of my heart.
And there we will never be parted again.
Patient’s Name: Aji Ndey Mbaalo
Autopsy Conclusion: Suicide
Attendant Doctor: Dr Faal
Summary:Tthe attached handwritten note was found on the body of the deceased. She was found hanging from the bars of the window in her cell, her sheets fashioned into a rope. Deceased was incarcerated for the murder of the rapper and media mogul Ace Killah (born Maur Jarjue) and his wife of six months Jankeh Killah (née Jobe). Deceased was acquitted on the basis of insanity, and sent to spend her life in this institution for the criminally insane.
Diagnosis: Deceased suffered from Erotomania, a rare mental disorder that made her believe Mr Killah was in love with her, but had been stolen from her by Mrs Killah, who was a doma in human form. There is no indication that the Killahs ever met the subject, knew her, or interacted with her in any way. Subject stalked them for months before finally entering their home on the night of, and brutally murdering them both with a machete. She then attempted to take her own life, but was discovered in time to be saved.
Conclusion: Subject died from asphyxiation, self-inflicted.
Time of death: 2:10 A.M.
cc: Director of Prisons
cc: Internal Affairs Department
Witnessed by: ….
The writer Amran Gaye was born in Banjul. He is a computer engineer, social commentator and creative writer.