I remember visiting the Witch’s bamboo hut. People came sick and with questions, bearing gifts of meat, vegetable, and fruit as payment for her medicine and fortune-telling. I went there every day, the smoky smell of incense an inviting scent, watched as she made herbal medicines, and as she put on a brightly painted mask each time. I remember asking her for one, she told me they weren’t for little boys to play with. I asked and I asked until finally I asked…
The Witch took me down below her hut, past where she kept jars of medicine cool with the cold damp Earth, down further where shadows lay untouched by light of Sun. It is here she kept her masks from prying hands of little boys. The walls were lined with their brightly painted wooden faces, too many for my little fingers and toes to count. I looked and touched and wondered aloud: Whatever are they for? She reached for one and told me its story, who made it and why. The spirit of a witch lives on in her mask, to pass down her knowledge, and wisdom to the next and then to be passed on to another, and to another. But, for now, there is no other for her to pass it on. I cried and cried. I did not want these beautiful masks to go away forgotten.
Seasons came, and seasons went.
I grew out from the boy that was, grown distant from the brightly painted masks I loved.
Within that time Strange Folks came to our island. They were pale as sister Moon, with hair the fair color of brother Sun. They brought with them science, trade, and religion. They proclaimed that they came to save us from an eternity of brimstone, fire and pain. From them I received salvation, as well as a good and proper Bible name. I went back home told neighbors, family, and friends: Do not be afraid! These Strange Folks are only here to help! I went to visit my old friend in her bamboo hut, a mask of happiness and joy plastered on my face, to tell her the news.
The Witch had no more visitors after all these years, for none believed in her fortunes and spirits, yet she was still my mysterious and special friend. The hut was burning when I arrived, a black smoky finger pointing accusingly at the sky. The Witch crying as she watched her home burn down, broken pieces of brightly painted wood scattered around her. I watched as tears bled down her craggy face, angry pitiful cries racking her frail ancient body. I took her to safety as the fire grew stronger, and asked her who did it.
Who would do this to you?
“The Strange Folks!” The Witch howled, I cried and shook my head in disbelief.
No, no, no, they wouldn’t, I explained, for they gave me a good, and proper Bible name.
“Aaahhh… Finally you have your mask.”