The girl at the bar at the Cabane Bambou tells me she has a vagina dentata.
I do not tell her I already know, or that I had followed her from Ouaga to Abidjan over the last few months. Instead, I smile and say I do not mind. It is past midnight, hot and loud, and the music is a terrible, jittery remix of Ziés Dédjas.
“They all say that, did you know?” Fatoumata says. She laughs with her eyes, but not with her mouth. “Men always want to find out what it’s like.” She does not speak Jula, so we are speaking French. She is not ouagalais, but I do not know where she was from before she got there. I am lucky to have noticed the report in the newspaper about what happened to some fool would-be rapist, and to have understood what it meant.
She is not tall. She wears short hair and big gold hoop earrings. Creamy brown skin, a shade paler than mine. Excitement coils and unfurls in my lower belly. My skin is electric, and the thing inside me wants to have her now against the bar, in front of all these people.
I raise my eyes to Heaven and sucker-punch myself in the balls.
If you are a woman, or a man who has led a charmed life, I should tell you that being hit in the balls does not hurt the same way it hurts to get punched or cut. It hurts like you are a bell, and someone has rung you. You have to wait until the echoes die down.
Fatoumata helps me up, laughing. She is asking a question I cannot hear with the ringing in my ears. My eyes are gummy from tears. I wipe them and down my drink without feeling it. None of the people around us give me a second glance.
I am used to ringing my own bell. Sometimes it is the only way I can think straight. After the echoes fall silent and I can stand again, there is a blissful, bruised silence from my libido.
“Okay, Aristide,” Fatoumata says. She has no fear, only curiosity. I think it is a side effect of what she is. “I told you my secret. I think you have something to tell me too, no?”
“It is my cock,” I say, wretchedly. “It is haunted.”
Fatoumata is good in bed. Hungry. She fucks like someone who knows what they are. I used to know what that was like. I no longer get to dance to my own music.
The sheets were probably white once, but they are yellow now. The room must smell like cigarettes, but after a month I cannot smell it any more. All I can smell is Fatoumata’s sweat.
She will not let me go down on her. She says it is weird.
When we fuck I can feel the teeth sometimes. Not scraping, but still disconcerting.
“It’s no different from a blow job, no?” she points out. “Men never worry about that.”
After, she asks if I have a cigarette. When she lights up, she says she does not smoke.
“Only after sex,” she amends. She is poking around my toys, naked and curious. I watch her breasts, soft and heavy. He inside me should be sated, but there is a quiver of interest all the way up my spine when they jiggle.
“All this stuff, what is it?” Fatoumata asks. “Like this?” She holds up a device, two curved pieces of wood held together with adjustable screws at the end. Suitable for holding something between them, squeezed tight.
“It is called a humbler,” I say. “Fifty dollars on eBay.”
“I think there’re things you haven’t told me yet about your ghost,” she says.
I do not know his name or hear his voice. I am not possessed. Whoever he was, the part that was a person has gone wherever dead people go. I do not know if he literally exists only in my genitals. Sometimes I imagine him as wispy threads of ectoplasm all strung out through my nervous system, wrapped around my spine like cotton candy, extending tendrils into my nerves and my glands, maybe even all the way up into the brain. I have spent a lot of time on the Internet trying to understand how my insides all connect to each other, and I do not. But my genitals are his home in every other sense, because that is what he is: hunger and lust.
Every minute, every hour, every day for five years, I have done nothing but sate his lusts as much as I can and punch myself in the balls to get some peace and quiet.
“Damn, Aristide,” Fatoumata says. She pats my balls. He likes that, I can tell.
The toys and the occasional punch are about as much discomfort I can put him to when I want to subdue him, which he tolerates because he is not in real danger.
“Or maybe he likes it,” Fatoumata says. I stare at her in horror. “No, no,” she says, catching my expression. “I’m sure he hates it.”
“I do not even like sex very much,” I say. “No offence.”
“You’re good at it, though,” Fatoumata says, but this has a sheen of positivity I distrust.
I flop back on the bed. She drops the toy to come sit by me.
“Anyway, I tried taking a meat cleaver to my cock,” I say. “But I cannot. That is the kind of danger he understands, and he will not let me swing the knife.”
“It appears he is not religious.”
“He does not talk.”
She sighs. “Well, then. Are you sure?”
“I have been looking for someone like you for so long.”
She straddles me, and I can feel him rise like an ocean wave, all through me and into her.
She kisses me, and bites down hard.
VAJRA CHANDRASEKERA lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His work has been published in Apex and Clarkesworld, among others. You can read more of his work at http://vajra.me.