At 3am last night, I woke abruptly to the horrible sound of women wailing and crying, and a crowd in hysterical grief seemingly at the foot of my door.
I hopped up, thinking, could the family who lives next door possibly make this much noise? (I had never heard them before.) What must have happened? Maybe there was something really serious. I opened the door, silence. Nothing. I peered out into the dark and saw two of the compound’s dogs running around. Total silence, 3am silence.
I went to the bathroom, where perhaps the sound could have come in from the back. I listened intently. Nothing. Not even a palm leaf rustling in the wind. I began to wonder if I had woke myself snoring, or whether the noise was actually part of a dream.
But then my thoughts naturally shifted to the fact that 13 people were hacked violently to death here in 1999 by Eurico Guterres and his Aitarak militia. Quoting Dutch journalist Irene Cristalis’ interview with a survivor, from her book Bitter Dawn
He told how he saw people butchered, cut up like animals. Babies were taken from their crying mothers and smashed against the wall. When he saw one of the militiamen cut the breast of a girl, he pretended to be dead. Lying motionless in a pool of his own blood near the kitchen door he heard the soldiers and the police talking to the militia… When the violence subsided, he managed to escape though the back. He remembered thinking, ‘If I die, my body will be taken to my parents to be buried as a small person who knows nothing of the world of politics.’ And he hoped that someone would survive to bear witness. He did not get far. A Brimob policeman shot him in the back of his knee. An ambulance arrived. He was thrown in with the rest of the bodies, some dead, others still alive. He ended up at the military hospital where the doctors operated on him without anesthetic.
Coincidentally, today on the street I had seen the father of teenage victim Manuelito, the former owner of this house, who has refused to shave his beard until he gets justice for the murders.
Could this be my first “haunting”? Needless to say, my hamstring muscles were twitching as I got back into bed. (In fact four hours later, they still are.) I pulled the covers up high. Thank god for Air Con. I lay in silence, or rather a sort of cautious dread.
My ears were searching for any clues. What/who could have made this noise? I heard, very distantly, a small baby crying. That baby could have never made noise sufficient to wake me.
I lay frozen for an undetermined period of time, until, to my relief, the bloodcurdling grief-stricken chorus began again.
It was a pack of dogs.
The wailing, which was extremely human-like, was howling. And there were enough dogs that it really did sound like a group of distressed mourners.
Fear is one of the most powerful sensations. Anything becomes possible in a moment of terror. Dogs are ghoulish, people can become dogs.
As Cristalis attempts to understand the massacre perpetrated at this house, she speculates that it is fear that provides the “fertile ground for cruelty.”