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I watched the white lines in the middle of the highway disappear one by one under the hood of my car as I sped down the interstate. If I watched them long enough they would eventually just bleed into one long hazy line of white in a sea of asphalt, and then I would snap out my stare, and they would be separate again.
I reached over to the passenger side seat and grabbed my pint of gin. It’s sad how good I’ve gotten at twisting the cap off with one hand, while the other is on the wheel. I took a big swig and finished the bottle, then tossed it out my driver’s side window and heard the glass shatter in a satisfying splash.
“It had to have been microsleep.” I kept telling myself. I don’t know if I was finally starting to lose it or if I’d already drunk too much by noon and was just rambling, but I had to somehow rationalize the fact that I’d seen Ubloo, and not heard him afterwards.
In the end I chalked it up to hallucinations brought on by the lack of sleep, and told myself that I would try to get at least 5 hours tonight. For the past few weeks I’ve been running on just about 4 hours a night, or however long I can stomach those terrifying nightmares.
In my rear-view mirror I checked on the box that housed Robert Jennings’ things. Today was finally the day I would learn what that book meant. I can’t tell you how long I compared this writing to samples on my laptop for, and it wasn’t until a very blind stroke of luck that I figured out what it actually was.
I was sitting at a hotel bar in Pennsylvania when a man came and sat next to me. We made some small talk at first but I think he was scared off a bit by my disheveled appearance. We drank in silence for a few minutes and then he broke it abruptly.
“You can read that shit?” He said, all but gracefully.
“Unfortunately no.” I sighed. “In fact I’m just trying to figure out what language it is to be completely honest.”
“Oh.” He looked down at his beer and started picking at the label. “Mind if I take a look?”
“Sure, just be very careful with it.” I slid the book over to him carefully. He opened the front cover and flipped through the first couple pages.
“Well I tell you.” He began. “It’s some sort of African writing.”
My ears perked up at this.
“African?” I asked hopefully.
“Yeah I used to be a security guard at the National History Museum over in New York City. I swear I saw some shit just like this in there.”
I didn’t even bother thanking the man. I grabbed the book from him and sprinted up to my hotel room to begin working. I must have wrote damn near 500 e-mails that night, with a small sample of the writing attached, to every African history professor, museum curator and African language translator I could find an address for.
That’s how I met Eli.
Eli was a retired African history professor living in Natchez, Mississippi. The e-mail he sent back seemed a little surprised and excited all at once. He told me that this writing was an almost extinct language that he learned translating documents for a professor while studying for his doctorate. I told him that I would pay any sum of money should he help me translate this book, as long as I hand deliver it to him and he reads it directly to me. I couldn’t risk losing this book in the mail, and besides, Natchez was right on my route to the Louisiana house.
I had finished reading Robert’s Journal about two weeks ago. He wrote about the dreams, how hard the burden was to bear and how it was affecting his family life. Robert went knocking on one of his tenant’s doors, after not hearing from him (or receiving the rent) for weeks. He let himself in and found him there, wrists slit in the bathtub. Apparently a pair of his old jeans were laying on the bathroom floor, and in a pocket Robert found a picture of the Louisiana house, with the address “hastily” scribbled on the back of it. I found it curious that he made no mention of where he found the other book though.
Robert also theorized about what exactly Ubloo was trying to do. He seemed to believe it was some vengeful spirit, feeding on our nightmares or fear. Truth be told his Journal wasn’t too useful, it was simply a recording of everything he’d been through in the three years he dealt with this curse.
I snapped out of my thoughts just in time to hear her scream.
And then a big crash as my windshield spider-webbed inward. I swerved out of instinct and lost control of the car. It veered off the highway and down the embankment, throwing the woman from my hood and sending her rag-dolling across the landscape until she was stopped by a tree, and I heard her spine snap from the whiplash with a sharp pop.
My car finally slid to a stop and then I heard him.
“OH MY GOD! MARY!”
An old man was running down the embankment now over to where the woman lay.
“MARY! SWEETHEART PLEASE!”
He knelt down and cradled her head in his arms, her legs twisted into sickening shapes. He turned and looked at me, still in shock, knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel. It wasn’t until I had a half moment to collect myself that I realized the gravity of what just happened.
“BACK UP! I’M A DOCTOR!” I yelled, opening the door and running halfway over to the man.
“She’s DEAD you idiot! You KILLED her!” The old man sobbed into the hair on the top of his wife’s head.
I stopped halfway between my car and the tree. The two of them couldn’t have been younger than 70. A little up the road I noticed a car pulled off to the side. They must have broken down or gotten a flat, she was probably trying to flag me down, or maybe just standing too far into the lane.
“I’m sorry, I…” I stammered out, choking up. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“You were fucking drunk you idiot!” He snapped back at me. “A drunk just like your old man! That’s what killed him and what killed your Mother too!”
I was taken aback by this.
“No, that’s not true!”
“It is!” The old man reached behind his back and pulled out a revolver. “Look what you’ve done boy! It’s all your fault!”
And with that, he cocked the revolver, put it in his mouth, and I watched his brains splatter out the back of his head in a burst of color.
I stood there in shock, listening to the still silence of the aftermath. I scratched the back of my head and stared at the man and woman. How the fuck am I going to get out of this? I scratched the back of my head again, what an odd moment for it to be tickling like this.
Then I felt my hair ruffle. I spun on my heel surprised and scared and there he was. His long trunk recoiling back towards his head and the long black pointed tongue hanging lazily out of the end of it. He stared at me with those deep black horrible eyes. So black I could see my reflection in them, the reflection of me standing there frozen in fear. He bobbed slowly up on his legs and back down almost gracefully. His head cocked to the side just a fraction of an inch and without any movement I heard it.
I woke up to a gasp of hot stale air. The world came back to me slowly as I drank in my surroundings, and then everything flooded back at once. I had pulled over at a rest stop just outside of Natchez to take a leak and grab a coffee. I must have fallen asleep in the car.
“FUCK.” I slammed my hand onto the steering wheel.
I must have had at least 50 dreams with that thing and yet he still somehow managed to catch me off guard. I reached into my center console and pulled out the pill bottle of adderall. I threw two in my mouth and forced them down with a swig of gin.
For a second I sat there, head against the steering wheel fighting off my thoughts, and then I turned the key and started the car, and left the rest stop parking lot.
It took me about another half hour to get to where Eli lived. His house was large and old from the looks of it. His driveway was much longer than I was used to. The land surrounding his house stretched on for what seemed like forever. I guess city-living has made a place like this seem unnatural to me.
I drove my car to the front of his house and he came outside and waved. He had been expecting me, I called him when I was just about two minutes out. He was about my height but much older, in his late sixties. He had a full head of white hair and a white goatee to match it. His skin was wrinkled and he had a pair of half-framed glasses resting on his nose.
He lit up a cigarette as I got out of the car and stretched my legs.
“Afternoon Doctor.” He called from his front steps. “I must say I been mighty lookin’ forward to this book a’yours. Can’t find much that hasn’t been found a’ready, and if I have me the chance to translate some new discovery well, I guess we could call us even.”
He spoke with a thick Mississippi accent but he was understandable. He looked me over for a few seconds and then spoke again.
“My you look turrble Doctor. Long drive?” He asked me, with a tone of sincerity.
“Just a rough night.”
I couldn’t help but smile at that. I opened the back door of my car and pulled the book out of its box. I shut the door and then studied the cover one last time in mystery as I walked over to Eli.
“Here she is.” I said handing over the book.
Eli took the book in his hands and pushed his glasses up to get a better look. He squinted at the cover in the sunlight for about three seconds before I saw his eyes widen and his mouth open slightly.
“Doctor.” He said gravely. “Where did you find this?”
“It was given to me by a friend.” I lied, but only half. “Why, what’s it called?”
Eli turned and stared at me for a long time, and I could almost see the gears in his head turning as he was starting to realize just why I looked so haggard.
“It’s a religious text.” He started, his voice wavering. “Written by a witch doctor from the Binuma Tribe.”
“Witch doctor?” I asked curiously. “Like voodoo?”
“Yes Doctor.” Eli turned to look at me as he spoke. “But not just any voodoo. The Binuma Tribe, and most specifically this witch doctor, are referred to in African folklore as one of the most ruthless in history.”
We stood there for a moment together on his front steps. With only the sound of the wind to keep us company.
“Well Doctor.” Eli began. “Let’s go inside, and make sure this ain’t a fake before we jump to such rash conclusions.”
We went inside together and Eli brought me to his study. He began examining the book, the text, the paper, everything. While he did this he had me running about doing various tasks for him. Pulling samples from his filing cabinets, looking up texts that he didn’t have on the internet, fetching sweet tea from the fridge. After about two hours he finally sat back in his chair and turned to look at me.
“Gosh a’mighty Doctor, this is the real deal.”
I was overjoyed to hear this. Truth be told I hadn’t even considered the possibility that this text was fake, and now that I was just minutes from answers about Ubloo, about how to stop or kill him, I finally felt a weight lift a little from my shoulders.
“So I tell you what.” Eli began. “I got a guest bed upstairs. If you have nowhere else to be you can shack up with me here and we can translate this book in—oh I don’t know—three days?”
My stomach dropped.
“I’m sorry Eli but that’s too much time.” He looked back up at me again. “I need to be back on the road by sundown.”
He looked surprised, and rightfully so.
“Hell, boy you look like you haven’t slept in days! Surely you can take one night off from the road?”
“I’m sorry but I’m running out of time.” I got up and walked over to where Eli had the book. “May I?”
“Well of course Doctor, it is yours after all.”
I flipped through the pages to the chapter I needed.
“Not anymore Eli.” I said as I got closer to the text I had to hear. “Once I leave this is yours, do whatever you like with it.”
I stopped finally on the page I needed. A crude picture of Ubloo stared up at me surrounded by text.
“Please, this is the text I need.” I said before he could ask anything.
Eli turned down to the page and read in silence for a few minutes, and as he did, I could see him understand. When he was finally done he turned and looked at me with big sad eyes.
“How long?” He asked.
“About two months.” I said back, my heart breaking with finally being able to tell someone who would understand.
“Jesus…” He said trailing off, and then; “one moment Doctor.”
He got up and walked to the kitchen, and came back with a tray. On it, two glasses full with ice, and a bottle of what looked like whiskey. I laughed, and for just a second I felt human again. Eli poured me a glass, then him, and we drank together in silence.
“So now you understand why I can’t stay.” I finally said.
“I do Doctor. Now, you might want to sit down for this, because it’s quite a long story.”
I took a seat next to Eli and braced myself, heart racing for what was coming next.
“This creature, this… thing, is called ‘Daiala Bu Umba.’”
“Daiala Bu Umba?” I asked curiously, feeling odd that these people didn’t come up with the same name both Robert and Andrew had.
“Yes, Daiala Bu Umba, this translates to ‘The One Who Shows.’”
A shiver ran down my spine as Eli continued on.
“It says here that this witch doctor was very powerful, and that his people—the Binuma Tribe—were being chased across the dessert by a rival clan. Rather than the clan hunt them down in battle, they sent their best warriors into the Binuma camp at night, and slaughtered them in their sleep.
The witch doctor was away, praying to the gods for his people to escape, but the gods had abandoned him for using voodoo to defeat his enemies, and his prayers were not answered. When he returned to camp, he found all of his tribe slaughtered in their beds, including his wife who was with child. The witch doctor was overcome with grief and hatred, and turned to his most powerful voodoo to exact vengeance on the rival clan, and abandon the gods that turned their backs on him.
He gathered everything of use he could find left behind by the raid; elephant tusks, snake skins, animal bones and anything that held any significant properties. He piled them together with the bodies of his fallen tribe and burned them all, chanting a voodoo curse all the while, a curse to be place on the rival clan, to summon a spirit that would haunt their sleep the way they haunted his Tribe’s.”
Eli stopped and looked up at me.
“Do you want me to keep going, Doctor?”
I took a sip of my whiskey and solemnly nodded.
“In a matter of days, the rival clan were all having horrific nightmares and could not sleep. They dreamt of being raided by other tribes and seeing their women and children raped and enslaved, of crops burning and dry seasons that never ended. Before long, the clan turned on each other, or took their own lives, until none remained.
But something was wrong. When the witch doctor heard the clan was destroyed he celebrated, but he continued to hear of people being afflicted by The One Who Shows. He realized that the beast he made could not be stopped, for it had an appetite for despair that could not be satisfied. One by one, people would be afflicted by the spirit, and when they died, it would pass on to another, and so on and so on.”
He stopped and looked back up at me and stared.
“Well? Could they stop it?” I asked
“It doesn’t say.” Eli said through his sadness. “It says that tribes began to exile anyone who contracted the deadly spirit, for it was impossible to fight. Leaving the spirit to be contracted by a different tribe.”
My stomach dropped entirely. Well that’s it. There’s no escape for me. I’m going to have to deal with Ubloo for as long as I live… Or as short as I live. I see now why Andrew and Robert took their lives.
My eyes began to well up and Eli poured me another glass of whiskey.
“I’ll understand if you want to get back on the road Doctor. I’ll keep translating and I’ll call you if I find anything that helps.”
I gulped down the whiskey in one shot and wiped my eyes on my sleeve.
“Thanks Eli.” I forced out. “Let me know, I’ll show myself out.”
I got up before he could stop me and headed for the front door. Before I could get down to my car Eli was in the doorway and called out to me.
“Doctor! Just where is it you’re going? If you don’t mind me asking.” He said, the sadness on his voice made the question hang in the evening air.
“To follow a dead man’s footsteps.” I answered. “That lead to somewhere in Louisiana.”
Eli stared back at me and his eyes began to well up with tears.
“Well I wish you the best Doctor. I can’t imagine the things you’ve seen and I won’t pretend to, but God bless you for fightin’.”
I nodded and opened my car door, but stopped and looked up at Eli.
“Daiala Bu Umba.” I said with a half laugh. “That’s a lot better than what I’ve been calling it.”
“What have you been calling it, Doctor?”
I stopped for a second and thought about just how silly the name I had for him was.
“Ubloo.” I said with a half-smile.
“Ubloo?” Eli looked at me confused.
“Yeah, that’s what it always says to me right at the end of a dream.” I hesitated. “Does it mean anything?”
Eli looked down at me with a stare I will never forget, a look in his eyes that I know he will never give to another man in his life, and he said:
“Yes Doctor. Ubloo is short for ‘Ubua Loo.’”
The wind blew gently between us and the grass swayed in the waning sunlight as I awaited what would most likely be the last thing I’d ever hear from him.
“It means wake up.”
Credit To – DifferentWind