Fiction · Mythology

The Dead Don’t Speak

I saw many things. When a pig from Tepwa’s liter went missing and Daliso denied having a hand in the matter, I said nothing, but I saw him do it. At about dusk, when all the animals in the compound were led to the stables, he tip toed across the yard, opened the pig sty and sifted through to pick out the fattest one and handed it to Pwatu.

When Atate Zulu had traveled to the big city last Friday, I saw Amai Zulu meet with Atate Zondiwe at the river. The sun had just set and the sky was dimly lit in the color orange. All the children had left the banks of the river because it was dangerous to play at that time. I saw them walk far apart from each other, the way people who don’t want to be seen together pretend not to be together. Amai Zulu was way ahead and Atate Zondiwe was pacing behind her and turning his back several times to make sure no one was looking. I didn’t see their bodies, but I saw the shrubs shake and the leaves fall from where they had disappeared and I heard Amai Zulu moan. Something told me to pry, but at the same time, something within the confines of my soul begged me not to. But I pried anyway and for a second I saw the movement of buttocks and the digging of fingers into skin. I ran as far and as fast as my legs could carry me because I had seen too much. I should have listened when my inner voice told me not to, but I was stupid and curious.

Curiosity begs to be fed and so, again I saw what I shouldn’t have. The old man with no wife and children muttered something under his breath when Wenye and her friends walked by his hut from the river. He sat outside with another one of his old friends and they played a game of who could interpret the most difficult of riddles. He was the most feared person in our village because he was believed to have been as old as the earth. He was toothless and skinny and his clothes were worn out but he was not poor. In fact, he was the wealthiest man in all of Mawanda, owning herds of cattle and vast land. I never heard what he muttered, but Wenye never gave her husband any children and they became unhappy with each other. Wenye’s husband’s eye for Mukonde grew the same way a spark bursts into a wild uncontrollable fire and he soon packed his belongings. He settled into her home but they bared no children. Still he loved her deeply, but her urge to make him feel like a man deprived her of her happiness. The villagers talked and her urgency to bare children for the sake of her husband worsened. The attention of other men from the bar excited her. It made her feel wanted even though her husband satisfied her every night. Soon, it wasn’t enough to keep her at home and on one night after they finished, he drifted to his side of the bed and she met with Ngoma the blacksmith. He planted his seed in her belly but she did not realize it until much later when her clothes became ill fitting. I saw her when she sat herself on his lap. Beer in one hand and nsuko in another. She said it made her feel some type of way. Hot, she said. Ngoma laughed and they staggered their way out of the bar to his home. They pushed me out of their way and hurled insults at me. They thought they would never see me again but I was there at the river with the rest of the women filling our calabashes with water. Mukondo seemed uneasy wrapping her belly in a chitenge so as to shield it from my sight. I said nothing, but I knew something.

The old man, I think he tied Wenye’s stomach. The old man, I think he bet his own children for wealth because they died in their infancy, all ten of them. His wife died labouring for the tenth one. Nobody told me, but I know because I saw it happen fifteen years ago. I know because I heard screams from as far as our hut. Mama told me to mind my my own business, but curiosity begs to be fed and so I tip toed out of Mama’s site, walked to the old man’s hut and peered my eyes through the the crack in the wall. The old man’s wife was in anguish. There was an eerie feeling about prying into their lives, as should be, yet I enjoyed it. She pushed one last time and the baby came out screaming like all newly-borns do but the old man took the baby, swaddled him and left the hut. I stood still when he saw me peeking into the hut. What seemed like a private affair, a secret affair, had been shared with me and he muttered something. He didn’t threaten to tell Mama. He didn’t come after me. He muttered something. And from then on, I begun to see things. I had been seeing things for fifteen years now. There was nothing supernatural about my seeing things, but I just appeared when they happened. I owed it to the old man. Not in the sense of gratitude, but in the sense of regret. People were after me now. They were after my head. I saw too much. I heard too much. I knew too much. Daliso and Pwatu, Amai Zulu and Atate Zondiwe, Mukondo and Ngoma. And now, The Old Man. They knew that I knew their secrets and they wanted me be dead because the dead don’t speak.

Fiction · Series

Vile Winds

Chapter 1

The hole in the window gave way to a sharp breeze that brushed against my skin and tiny goose pimples formed. My efforts at masking it with tape couldn’t be seen at all. The wind’s persistence was as stubborn as gravity. The kitchen was suddenly sorrowful.

Sneering at one another, Mother and I rushed for the warmth of the brazier.

+ + +

On a Sunday afternoon, back in March, when the sun blazed through the sky and scorched the maize fields, my father peered through our kitchen and demanded I leave with me. With clothes drenched in beer and breath that smelt like a tavern, he balanced his posture with all his might while he and Biggie exchanged speeches. When my father said he was dutifully bound to care for me, Biggie replied saying he was culturally more entitled to me. The two swapped blows until one of Biggie ‘s fists landed on the window and involuntarily opened a hole. My father turned back on his attempts for a reconciliation and like a wounded Buffalo, he dragged his bruised leg across our compound to his. It was a village away and my heart sometimes thudded at the thought of his unsafety. Biggie, being Mother’s older brother had made a ruling over me that I couldn’t protest because he assumed fatherhood over me upon my birth.

I would not see my father again until many moons later. His refusal to take my mother as his bride even after seeing my resemblance to his pained Biggie tremendously. More than anything, it was Mother’s sorrow that cemented his commitment to caring for us.

Every night, as I lay my head against the pillow, my father consumed my feelings. Deep within me, and Mother too, there were open scars than needed reckoning. We all knew it, but no one dared challenge Biggie.

+ + +

The wind continued to cut through the hole in the window, making the brazier somewhat pointless.

“Can someone cover that thing up,” Biggie barked.

Away from his attention, Mother and I gazed at each other and smiled. We spoke no words, yet our minds met to discuss Biggie’s sudden irritation of the cold. “Has he forgotten who is responsible for its damage?” I asked Mother in mind.

“It seems so,” Mother replied, in mind too, and we giggled in mind.


A Quiet Passion

Part 1

“Luyando isn’t a virgin anymore,” Chipo thought as she stepped into the bedroom. It was a foreign world she wasn’t accustomed to. There was a huge double bed at the center, overlooking a twin set of identical windows. The curtains danced around continuously whenever the wind blew through. It was a dimly lit room with a tiny brown chest of drawers right next to the door. Chipo was hesitant to make another step so she stood at the entrance and allowed her eyes to savor what was before her. A big brown teddy bear slouched in front of two continental pillows with its toes touching a fluffy fleece blanket that was also brown in color.

“Feel at home,” Aunt Jane said as she gave Chipo a little push on the back. Chipo looked around until her eyes settled for the radio on the table that was besides the chest. She recognized the soft ballads of Alick Nkhata on the Taxi Driver song while some words drowned in the haphazard keys of the piano. By that time, the likes of The Beatles and Elvis Presley had influenced local artists so much that it was not easy to distinguish them.

Chipo, within herself chuckled as the lyrics registered in her mind. The taxi driver had over billed the passenger yet the distance was rather too short. She gave an involuntary smile and Aunt Jane had seen it, thinking she was easing into her new home.

“Take a bath and dash to the table for supper, will you?” said Aunt Jane, then she disappeared into the darkness of the passage.

Shortly, Luyando burst into the bedroom, startling Chipo. She held onto her Rambo plastic bag on the edge of the double bed for comfort, while panting heavily.

“I scared you?” Luyando asked mockingly. Chipo said nothing and gathered the senses she had lost a moment ago. The two felt strongly towards each other as if their mothers were not sisters. Chipo remained seated quietly, sorting what she would wear after her bath while Luyando threw what was on her body in the laundry basket.

Chipo observed her. She was sure, by the strand of each hair on her head that Luyando had lost her virginity. Her hips now seemed to curve more outwardly and she had suddenly become flexible enough to cross her legs. Town girls were lazy and stiff like boys, but now Luyando had the ability to sit cross legged without any complaints. Surely she had been spreading them for someone. And her breasts looked more swollen. They had been fondled countless times until they lost their firmness. They were too fluid now and had collapsed. Her mind journeyed towards a colorful imagination of what her cousin’s encounters were like and non were pleasant so she tried more amusing paths with less trenches.

Bama, her mother, appeared in her mind and brought a smile to her face. Her smell was still on Chipo’s dress and she breathed in until she made her mother’s scent unforgettable. Smoke and fish.

The two took turns bathing and had supper with Uncle Mumba, Aunt Jane and Fred. Their family was little and everyone had a room of their own. When the evening chores had been done each one went into their own space without engaging the other in their activities, much to Chipo’s surprise and disappointment. She was used to the usual folklore tales by the fire, dancing in the dark and singing all night long at meaningful occasions. She had missed it already.

She was used to sharing because there was not much she owned. In contrast, her aunt and uncle had bought her new church shoes and a whole new set of clothes yet discomfort crippled her. Aunt Jane had told her that she didn’t need to keep her Rambo plastic bag so the maid tossed in the bin. Including the dress that smelt like Bama and that made her particularly unhappy.

She sobbed in the silence of the night on a mattress that had been spread for her by Luyando. At home, a sack was her bed yet she missed the hardness of the floor. She overhead Luyando telling Aunt Jane that all village people smelt the same.

At long last, when the crickets had chirped their chorus in harmony, sleep begun to creep up on her and she gave in involuntary.

Alick Nkhata sung quietly on the wireless radio in a song titled Uluse Lwa Nkwale. This time the driver’s mercy had landed him in hot water. After pitifully giving an old man a lift, the man died and his family shifted blame to the driver, saying he should have left him alone. It was based on a fable tale about a quail that assisted a snake by carrying it to safer lands, upon landing the snake turned on the quail and ate it.


To be continued