We chose not to think about it. We chose not to discuss it. We chose to dismiss it as a curious case of paramnesia. We even comforted ourselves with theories of undiscovered neurology. There had to be a reasonable explanation that was yet to be discovered. Whatever it was though, it could never be a matter of paranormal activity. You see, my husband is quite an accomplished pathologist with numerous publications in Journals such as Cell and Annual Review of Immunology. I am a mathematics professor. Things like haunted houses and ghosts are piffle. Could you possible imagine us going around with jejune talk of how we witnessed the supernatural? Surely it would only serve to malign our reputations. But alas, four years later and it still troubles my mind. What was it? What had really happened? How could it have happened? I still wake up in the middle of the night in shivering cold sweat at the slightest sounds. I dread falling asleep and I confess I actually use a night light when my husband is away.
Four years ago, my husband had just received a substantial grant for his research. We moved to the small old town of Lamu into a charming Persian styled cottage only a few feet away from the ocean. For a while, everything was a honeymoon. Morning strolls through the beach, catching a few more lines of a book in the haze of the gorgeous sunsets, sipping margaritas under starry nights.
I don't really know how it started. Everything now feels somehow distorted. I often find myself wondering if it really did happen. I honestly do not know which is worse. To admit that we were indeed haunted or experienced a fit of neurosis. Whichever it was I can't shake off this nagging suspicion that our neighbor, Zebu had something to do with it.
Zebu came by our place one evening to better our acquaintance. Over dinner the discursive conversation led to the family that lived in the cottage before us.
"She went completely crazy." Zebu gossiped. " She was sure her children were not hers anymore and that they had been possessed. She killed them. Left them in the closed bedroom with the jiko. We found the children four days later."
"Oh my god!" I exclaimed.
" They never found her. Maybe she drowned herself in the ocean, who knows." Zebu concluded.
My husband found the story intriguing and it turned into a heated debate during our next dinner party. The grudgingly accepted explanation was a case of Capgrass.
At first I thought it must have been a trick of the sunlight straining in through the flimsy curtain nets, but sometimes it seemed as though the white walls had smudges of red. It was as if a white coat had been painted over red or it could have been a pale red smudge over the white paint. At first, it was curious. But then it began to bother me. Sometimes, if I stared to long, I would imagine the smudges looked like contorted faces. Once, I could have sworn, I had seen one that looked exactly like my sister, she had passed away six years ago. I didn't tell my husband about the walls. They gave me the creeps. I felt watched, seen, exposed. I began spending more and more time outside the house. Opting to work in hotel restaurants and at the beach until my husband came home. My husband could tell that something was wrong and suggested that I was lonely and we should get a dog.
It was more than just the walls. It was the whispers that came in the dead of the night. My husband heard them too. Of course we never did anything like ask each other Did you hear that? But the whispers would wake me up, and I would strain to listen, to understand what it was I was hearing. I would look over at my husband and his eyes would be open and wide, his ears twitching. "I can't get used to the sound of the waves." He'd mutter reassuringly before turning to his side.
The nightmares came shortly after. Nightmares so lucid and vivid they left a lingering dreadful sensation long after waking up. It was the same dream over and over again. People or maybe souls. Faceless bodies hovering over me, clawing at me. Sometimes I dreamed about my sister, she would be crying bitterly. I could never hear what she says, but I could see her, so clearly weeping. My husband would dream about drowning in the ocean. He dreamed that he was being pulled down deeper into the ocean. He often experienced Hypnopompia.
It was stressful. We barely spoke to one another, we suffered insomnia. We stayed up till late, we fell asleep blasting classical music through the house. I confess, I learned how to hold my bladder till sunlight.
But what was really driving us to insanity were the little things that moved by themselves. The keys that weren't where you thought you had left them. The door that would swing open when you thought you shut it. The nauseating faint smell of carbon monoxide.
Moving objects, creaking doors, whispers at night. A classic haunted house tale. Except they were so subtle we could never be sure. It wasn't like we ever physically saw the things move, or we literally saw a ghost. We just felt and imagined and slowly loosing our minds.
This had gone for a year and a half until my husband concluded his research. By then I was secretly seeing a therapist and I could not go to sleep without at least two glasses of wine.
Gradually, things went slowly back to normal after we moved back to Nairobi. Like a silent pact, we chose never to discuss what happened. We've never thought of going back there. Sometimes I wonder what really happened with that woman who killed her children. If the house was actually cursed and made her insane. I wonder if we had stayed longer if we would have been driven to kill each other.