*The Skull

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

The story of the strange skull from Africa.


The skull was sitting on the top shelf in George’s bedroom above the desk where he did his studying. It had been there since his father, Joseph, had given it to him for a special birthday present when he considered George old enough to look after it properly. The skull had been used for various decorative purposes after parting company with the rest of the body it had accompanied. It had once been a plant pot which had flowers growing out of the cavities where once they had held eyes. The plants had overgrown to such an extent that it was not possible to imagine what it had originally been. When that part of the skull’s career was finished it became a holder for pens, pencils, rubbers and rulers. Someone had the idea it would make a great base for displaying hats and wigs. This was certainly nearer the original reason the skull had existed. No one in George’s family knew the true story behind the skull now sitting in George’s bedroom.

Gilbert, Joseph’s brother, had left England when very young to make his way, alone and without his family, in the world. He tried creating a life for himself in many countries and had many near misses with the police and delinquents.
He finally found himself in middle-age, washed up in an African backwater, with little money and no hopes of finding a job of any sort. He was amazed how much he enjoyed living there. Gilbert was no womaniser so he was more surprised than anyone when one day after fishing on the nearby river he met up with a noble looking African lady.
“Hello, you are the white man who has come here by accident, or so you say.”
Gilbert stood staring at the vision before him. He was tongue-tied and was wondering why she had spoken to him. “Yes, I came here by chance. I didn’t know this place existed. I was just wandering around in the bush, following the river in fact. My name is Gilbert,” and he held out his right hand to her.
The tall distinguished lady simply stared at him and then, “I am Aisha, and I am a wise woman. I don’t believe this title exists in your world.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
“I see things and can heal people and help them all I can. When there is a problem, like another village stealing our pigs and chickens and our food, it’s up to me to try and settle things as quietly as possible.”
“I thought that was a man’s job. How come you are doing it?”
“Sometimes a man’s job falls to a woman when there is no one else to do it. This is my situation here. People trust me, but those from another village would like to see me dead.”
“Why’s that? You don’t look dangerous to me.”

Aisha sat down on one of Gilbert’s chairs and stared out of the narrow living-room doorway at the fast-flowing river beyond his little wooden house. Gilbert simply sat and observed his exotic visitor, who said, “I’ve been waiting for you to come to Africa. I need your help but I can’t say what it is yet, as I’m not sure.”
“Honestly, I don’t see how I can help you. I’m only a very ordinary Englishman and have no special skills. Since my youth I’ve drifted around the world and have now ended up here. How can I help you? You’re the one with the talent not me.”
Aisha smiled to herself and said, “You answer just as I thought you would. You will be my instrument when the time comes.”
“When the time comes for what?”
“I shan’t say any more. Are we friends?”
Gilbert smiled and said, “I’m already your friend, you can count on me. In fact, I’m very honoured. I don’t have any success with women, and you are a new experience for me. Thank you.”
Aisha reached out and got closer to Gilbert’s face and looked deeply into his eyes. She straightened up, satisfied with what she saw. “You are a fine man, but alone. Your reasons for leaving your country must be very important or otherwise you wouldn’t have done so. From now on we’ll see each other on a daily basis, sometimes I might actually stay here as a precaution for my safety.”
“I’ll feel honoured with your visits and look forward to them.”
“You understand that we are friends and that there must be no physical contact between us, or we’ll be blinded from the truth, and when ‘it’ happens you wouldn’t be of any use to me.”
Gilbert swallowed, and said, “I dread to think of what is to come to pass.”
Aisha walked towards the main doorway that led out to a dirty, dusty road, her head held high. Gilbert watched as she swayed over to the opposite side of the road, impressed by her beauty and her presence.

The following day Aisha arrived at Gilbert’s house early in the morning, she was carrying a large bag made of brightly coloured material. Gilbert wondered what could be in the bag. Aisha, who hadn’t uttered a word, put the bag on the table and opened it. She took out some strange looking dried bits of plants. Gilbert approached the table and stared down at what appeared to be something to be thrown away, but he knew better than to say anything to Aisha about his thoughts.
“What are you planning to do with these bits and pieces?” Gilbert asked.
Aisha looked up from the plants, and said, “There are some questions that you must never ask, and that is one of them. You will be puzzled many times by what I say or do, but please say nothing and ask no questions. Can you do that?”
“Yes, of course. Is there anything I can do for you while you are here?”
“Yes, you can make sure that no one is around. I need to be alone and without interruption. If anyone comes snooping around, you say nothing about me or that you don’t know me.”
Gilbert said that he’d do as she asked him. He went into the back room and picked up his fishing rod and tackle. He said to Aisha, “I’ll be outside fishing if you need me for anything, OK?”
Aisha said, “Fine, but be careful. There is an awful lot of evil around.”
Gilbert was not sure about this mysterious way of talking. Was he in danger or not? Was Aisha in danger? Yes, she probably was. Why? He didn’t know but he was beginning to feel that something was going to unsettle the quietness of that backwater. Gilbert sat down on the side of the river and threw his line into the water. The river water was rather murky and it was impenetrable. As the morning got closer to midday the heat got stronger, and Gilbert felt sleepy. Tugging at the end of his line made him come to. He reeled in a large fish which was unrecognizable to him. He stood up and holding the fish on its line he opened the door and entered the house. Aisha was standing at the stove stirring in a large pot with a wooden spoon.
“Aisha, look what I’ve caught. Shall we eat it now or later?”
Aisha looked up from her stirring, and said, “Give me the fish and I’ll cook for us to eat with the vegetables I have in this pot.”
Gilbert watched her as her large capable hands took hold of the fish, scaled it, cut off the head, tail, and spiny bits, she then slit it open along the underside and removed the spine. All this was done with the least fuss. Gilbert was amazed at how efficient she was. Of the twigs there was no sign.
The pair sat down at the table and ate the simple fare. They didn’t speak till the meal was over and the dishes washed. Aisha declared directly, “Tonight I’ll sleep here but don’t get any ideas. I’ve been having bad thoughts all day and I shan’t feel safe if I go back to my own home.”
Gilbert wanted to ask her many questions about herself and her life if she was married and had children or not. He didn’t even know where she lived. So he decided to make a move. “Aisha, are you married?”
Aisha appeared not to have heard Gilbert’s question. After a long pause she said, “I was married once but then he was killed in a fight. My two sons were adopted by a couple and now live in England, out of harm’s way.”
“Why did you stay if it’s so dangerous, and your husband was killed?”
“Without me who is going to help the villagers? They would be unprotected and any village that wanted to, could just come in here and take over. We are in a good place here, and we like to keep it that way. Where is the bed, Gilbert? I must sleep, it’s important for me. If I disturb you during the night don’t come and look for me, there are things you’re better off not knowing.”
Gilbert and Aisha shared his bed that night, and if she did get up he never felt her move out of the bed. When he got up the next day she had gone. He knew she would be back

For the whole cycle of the moon, Gilbert and Aisha led their unusual existence. The only time he left the house was to go fishing and she never told him any more about herself. In spite of their ignorance about each other they were friends. From time to time a villager would visit the house and at those times Aisha would be as discreet as possible. She led them to believe that she was having a romance with the Englishman. When questioned by Gilbert about this untruth, Aisha’s answer was, “If they think we’re having an affair, they will think I’m more like a normal woman and less of a healer.”
Gilbert was more mystified than ever by all of this deception. And so life went on in the house by the river.

One day, while Gilbert was fishing, he had a feeling that he was being watched. He raised his head and stared about him. There was nothing, nevertheless he thought it a good idea to go indoors. He picked up his fishing gear and made for the door, opened it and went inside carefully locking it behind him. Aisha was preparing some kind of stew in the kitchen, one of her patients had given her some meat. From the look on his face she sensed that all was not well. “What’s happened? You look upset.”
“I felt that someone was watching me. When I looked, I saw no one, that’s why I’ve come indoors.”
Aisha said, “I need you to keep watch just in case there is someone out there. I have to go out. Please look after the cooking. If I take a long time, eat without me.”
Gilbert had no choice but to accept her words. Fortunately he didn’t have to eat alone, a thing he was dreading. Aisha came back and they ate together. There was a sense of the inevitable about that night, still Gilbert said nothing, not wanting to distract her from what she deemed to be her destiny.

During the night the rebellion occurred and the enemy got into the village by rowing boats down the river. Gilbert was asleep when they entered his house and dragged Aisha away. He woke up to her screams. He rushed out of the bedroom and made for the main door but it was no good, the whole village was up in arms, and there was a lot of shooting and looting. He never saw Aisha again.

The next day a man he had a nodding acquaintance with, went to his house to tell him that Aisha had been killed. Gilbert thanked him for not letting him stay in doubt and then went indoors and sat at his table and cried in sadness. The people who had staged the rebellion had done it for food and livestock, which they themselves didn’t have. Gilbert didn’t have the heart to move and so stayed on.

Many months later he received a visit from a group of villagers who gave him a bundle. Inside was the skull of Aisha. According to the men who took the skull to Gilbert, her head had been cut off as a kind of ritual by the enemy, and her body thrown into the river where other bodies had also been thrown. The idea was that if the body and head were separated then the magic disappeared. Gilbert took the skull and cleaned it up and placed it in a cupboard. From time to time he’d take the skull out and talk to it as if it were still Aisha. He felt a warmth and closeness in this simple action. He thought that maybe if things had been different they would have loved each other. He let his imagination run free, filling his head with all kinds of images.

After some years, and Gilbert was no longer a white stranger in the village he took sick and got one of the villagers to get another Englishman to go and see him. He remembered that he had met one before he had followed the course of the river. The man who went was a lawyer who looked after people’s wills. Gilbert told him what he wanted done and who he was to get in touch with. As there was nothing of great value the lawyer knew that the villagers wouldn’t take anything from the house.

Joseph, and his sister, Enid were informed about their brother Gilbert’s death and went to Africa to clear up his papers and see about his other goods. The lawyer stated that Gilbert had been most insistent that the skull be well treated, and well looked after. The lawyer was not privy as to the origin of the skull and thought it might be something to do with tourism that Gilbert had bought. Joseph didn’t want the little house and he torched it on his way out. The villagers were not dismayed as they knew how Aisha had been dragged out of there to her murder.

Gilbert was cremated and his ashes scattered on the river near where Aisha’s bones lay.

The skull was now residing on a shelf in George’s home. Just as his uncle Gilbert had done, George starts talking to the skull and gets a feeling of satisfaction from this. The only thing he knows is that the skull was once the head of an African woman. A scientist friend of his father had told them this. George cleans the skull and strokes it and at times it seems to glow.

One day a friend of George’s paid a visit, and grabbed hold of the skull and threw it up into the air like a ball, showing no respect whatsoever.

That night the skull became agitated and fell onto the floor, where it broke into many small pieces. George heard the noise, and got out of bed to find out what was happening.

The next morning, George’s parents found him lying dead on his bedroom floor with a beautiful smile on his face among all the smashed pieces of the skull. The last vision George had before dying, was of Aisha in all her glory as priestess and wise woman.

Submitted: May 06, 2013

© Copyright 2023 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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