Manacles of the Past
By Wanangwa Zondani Mtawali (Malawi)
Dawn was beginning to materialize in Magenge village. Logeya, wearing a tattered garb and patched gumboots staggered out of a grass thatched mud hut. He held a big knife in his right hand.
Logeya looked around. Everything was faint. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and began walking to his farm.
The path was rough and narrow. Tall trees and thick bushes lined up. Logeya stumbled and whipped away dew with the knife as he walked. Suddenly, he stopped. A little albino boy lay asleep across the path ahead of him. Fear surged through Logeya’s body and his heart beat increased.
Logeya squatted and fixedly looked into the boy’s face. He recognized him. It was Dokiso, the orphan. His parents had died a year ago. Since the demise of his parents, Dokiso’s life had been miserable. His relatives had snatched from him the little things his parents had left and then they shunned him. Dokiso just wandered about the village. He survived through begging and stealing from people’s farms.
Logeya shook his head pitifully. But then instantly something evil struck his mind as well, outwitting his sympathy towards the poor young Dokiso. He had heard of some people becoming rich by selling other people`s body parts. The body parts, especially those of people living with albinism were on high demand and fetched huge sums of money.
So, as he eyed Dokiso lying in front of him like a slaughtered goat about to be peeled off its skin, Logeya felt that was the opportunity he could hardly miss. He was unquestionably poor. Time had, therefore, come to bail him out of the jaws of poverty that had held him captive for many years. After all, if he killed Dokiso he could relieve the boy of the hardships he was going through.
Logeya surveyed the surroundings and there was nobody. He dragged Dokiso to the bush. Awakened, Dokiso opened his mouth to shout. Just then the knife cut through his neck. He wriggled to death as blood sprinkled out.
Ten years had elapsed since this gruesome incident. But the last two years of the decade it had not rained in Magenge village. The fertile land, where crops yielded in abundance, became impotent hard earth. Not even a single grass sprouted on it. Trees, leafless and dry, stood slanting like forgotten wooden poles. Rivers and wells dried up. Death of people and cattle due to starvation, reigned in Magenge.
As if this was not enough, a dense swarm of locusts invaded the village a year before the famine began. The locusts ate up every leaf of crops, trees, bush and grass.
Fierce Lions had also wreaked havoc in Magenge before the locusts came. Several people got devoured. The lions vanished silently just as they had come.
Before the Lions, people encountered the wrath of some vicious snakes. The snakes were unusually long and black. They used the tips of their tails to move, heads always up. Their eyes blazed, seeing things afar. They struck people on the head with their fangs, killing them outright.
Then, having faced such series of calamities in succession, the remnants of Magenge village mostly old men convened to brainstorm. Had the village been cursed? But who could have cursed the village? What wrong did they do, to deserve all this? It was too much. Surely, they should have done something. They had just witnessed the calamities come and go, leaving them devastated. Why did they choose to be so docile? A resolution was, therefore, reached to see Chimazya, the witchdoctor.
Chimazya lived about fifty miles away from Magenge village on the foot of a mountain which was covered with a thick natural forest. He lived alone. The witchdoctor was popular for he dealt with any problem brought before him no matter how complicated it was. People never bothered to explain things to Chimazya for he already knew their worries. He also revealed things that were done in secret and those that were going to happen in future.
Chimazya was very old. He was tall and thin with a bald on his bean-shaped head and had a long grey beard under his bony chin. Enormous ridges of frowns dominated his face and his oval eyes lay deep in their sockets. The broken teeth in his widened mouth were dark brown like old iron sheets coated with rust. He had a deep voice which commanded attention as he spoke.
The elders of Magenge arrived at Chimazya’s hut at sunset after about five hours of tiresome walking. They found the witchdoctor in the shed sited on a reed mat before a fire. Smoke partly muffled him as it rose up to settle on the bamboo walls and grass thatched roof. Chimazya cleared his throat and gestured at the weary men to sit on a tree log opposite him. Greetings were exchanged.
“I` m glad that you`ve finally come for a solution to your problems. Of course, I will tell you,” Chimazya said immediately, nodding his head like a lizard.
The elders chorused as if they had rehearsed.
“Tell us, father, that`s why we are here!”
Chimazya tugged his grey beard and looked around the hut. Its mud dusty floor was littered with roots, old bottles with strange liquids and pieces of broken pots. Chimazya faced the old men again.
“Your village is cursed with the blood of an innocent boy.”
“Which boy, father?” asked one thin big-headed old man.
Chimazya shrugged his shoulders and scornfully gazed at the frightened old men.
“What!” the old men shouted, inclining their heads towards Chimazya like thirsty chickens’ scrambling for water.
They remembered Dokiso, the albino orphan who wandered about in Magenge village. One day, ten years before he went missing and no follow ups were made to know his whereabouts.
“But father, how can Dokiso, a mere little albino be the cause of the problems we are going through?” another old man with a wrinkled face managed to ask, reluctantly.
Chimazya threw a long hard glance at him.
“One heartless member of your village killed Dokiso and sold some of his body parts to make himself rich.”
“Who? Tell us!” screamed the elders.
Graveyard silence hung in the hut at the mention of Logeya. The elders of Magenge looked at each other with shame and disgust. Logeya was one of the few hard working and trusted young men in the village. Ten years before he left to see his nephew in the City of Lyando. He never came back. Later, rumor made rounds that one of his uncles in the United Kingdom had sent him some money to start a small business. That was the last time they had heard about him.
“All those problems in your village”, said Chimazya, “occur because the spirit of Dokiso and those of his parents are not happy. As a village, you let Dokiso suffer. You never cared about the boy, whose father was a dedicated and true elder of the village. In fact, you did not even look for him when he went missing.”
“What do we do then?” the elders enquired after another long silence.
“Some of Dokiso’s bones still lie under the soils in a farm near the dry Mubangwe River. Let Logeya confess about his atrocious act and exhume Dokiso’s bones before us and the police. Justice must take its course! Only then, peace will be restored in Magenge village.”
Chimazya’s deep voice was indeed authoritative. It was very dark outside. The elders of Magenge stumbled out of the hut and disappeared into the darkness.
The Casablanca Mall, at the center of Lyando, was state of the art and highly patronized. Part of the mall was also rented out to several other office and shop operators. The imposing structure never seized to astonish people considering that the owner, ten years before, was a mere rice seller.
Indeed, Logeya had risen fast. In fact, the Casablanca Mall was just one of his several enterprises among which were also a hotel and filling station. Since he killed Dokiso, he had found the business of selling human body parts much lucrative. Lately, there had been growing speculation linking Logeya to the clandestine trade but the police failed to trace the trail of blood to him.
With money and everything he needed now at his disposal, Logeya underwent incredible physical and social transformation. Tall, he was now a handsome well-dressed giant, driving posh cars and using smart phones. The thought of paying visit to Magenge always disgusted him. Actually, it meant the return to poverty and doom. Therefore, he avoided relatives and friends from the village.
Logeya frequented the Casablanca Mall. Alighting and getting into his sparkling Prado in the Mall’s spacious parking lot to the amazed look of hundreds of shoppers littered around, flattered Logeya. Sometimes he deliberately let the door open and just sat on the driver’s seat, pretending that he was answering to a long emergency phone call. Beggars, Logeya openly frowned at, came forth every time he did this.
With mid-day soft music blaring from the dashboard, Logeya’s Prado veered out of the premises of the Casablanca Mall. It was a Monday. There was a round-about near the gate of the mall from which stemmed three roads heading to north, west and eastern directions. Logeya maintained east. Amidst heavy traffic as he slowly drove down towards a Clock Tower, a dreadful dream he had the previous night suddenly flashed back to his mind. Dokiso, an albino boy he had killed ten years ago and he almost forgot, appeared to him.
Logeya passed the Clock Tower and entered into a four-lane highway with tall trees at the middle and bank buildings along. He reached another round-about near a High Court building and a Police Headquarters. Then he turned the Prado left into a two lane road, driving along the loose wire fence of the Police Head Office.
The dream continued to re-unfold. Dokiso, naked and without genitalia, eyeballs and teeth on his exposed clotted gums had demanded his things back. He confronted Logeya why he had forgotten him, the boy whose body parts had made him rich. Logeya’s face degenerated to a protracted gloom as he drove on, somehow feeling guilty with Dokiso’s seemingly truthful words.
The Prado cruised uphill to the northeastern direction, passing by a Nursing College and a hospital. Just before reaching a popular lodge looming in front, it turned right. Logeya lowered the music as he drove into Ulemelelo, a decent low density suburb inhabited by tycoons. He too lived there.
In the dream, Dokiso went on to tell Logeya that he wanted a slight share of the wealth. This, he had said, while snarling and fixedly looking into the tycoon’s face with squinted hollow eyes. Logeya had woken up screaming and sweating profusely. It was the scariest dream and night he had ever had. Startled as well, his wife gave him a long probing glance.
Logeya drove for about a kilometer passing along high brick walls that fenced elegant mansions. He reached a white painted gate which was to the left. Two young men swung it open and he drove in, parking the Prado on specious concrete in front of his magnificent house. Entering the house, Logeya sadly concluded that the dream might have been some wizardly work of his envious enemies aimed to scare and confuse him.
Logeya proceeded to the master’s bedroom. He wanted to change clothes before he had lunch and embarked on his afternoon tasks. He flew the wardrobe door open and behold, there in it was Dokiso. The boy was fiddling with the hanging executive suits perhaps to select which one could fit him. Logeya immediately shut the wardrobe door and stormed out, panting. So, he was no longer dreaming. Dokiso had really come back, putting up in his own house. That day, he refused lunch and never slept at the house.
It was dinner time three days later. Dokiso appeared, sitting on a chair adjacent to Logeya`s. He let out a hand and picked up a chicken bone from Logeya`s plate. Logeya watched all this, his eyes and mouth wide open. He shifted his gaze to his wife, afraid. Then he rose, trembling and excused himself from the table.
Another three days passed. At about mid night, Logeya hurried out of the master’s bedroom looking back over his shoulder with a frightened face. He opened the front door of the house. Dokiso was on the verandah again, staring at him coldly. Logeya rushed back into the house crying out for help.
Logeya remembered Chimazya. Ten years before, in Magenge many people walked miles to see him. Logeya recalled how people who had problems from time immemorial were freed of them in a matter of minutes stay at the witch doctor.
Therefore, Logeya made up his mind to see Chimazya. He wanted him to chain Dokiso’s spirit, to stop it from troubling his soul. Thus on the dusk of a Monday which had followed, he pulled up his 4X4 Surf pickup in front of Chimazya’s shack. What he did not know was that the elders of Magenge had been there as well three days before. He alighted. Chimazya stood in the entrance of the hut.
“What do you want, you killer and torturer of innocent people?”
“Father, you don’t know my name, where I come from and my problem”, Logeya spoke, annoyed.
Chimazya eyed him accusingly.
“Aren’t you Logeya? You lived in Magenge Village and now you live in the city of Lyando and own a business empire?”
“Of course father, I am. Bu…b...b...but why do you call me a murderer and torturer?”
“Ten years ago in Magenge village you killed Dokiso and sold some of his body parts to make yourself rich. Am I telling lies?” Chimazya charged.
“If”, interrupted Chimazya, “your coming here is to ask for help now that Dokiso’s ghost is on your neck, forget it.”
“Father!” exclaimed Logeya.
He fumbled into his jacket`s inner pocket and brought out a wad of bank notes. He threw it at Chimazya`s feet.
“Stupid boy, “Chimazya scolded, “Do you realize how much pain Dokiso went through when you killed him? Do you know how much suffering the people of Magenge village have gone through since you killed Dokiso? Today, you want to bribe me? You want me to protect you against the plight of people of Magenge, against the wishes of the angry spirit of Dokiso? Logeya, you’re cursed. You will not know peace. Untold pain and suffering will follow you! Now, take your money and go!”
“Father!” tears wailed down Logeya`s cheeks. “I can add some more money or do any…”
“I said take your money and leave!” Chimazya shouted.
Logeya took the money hesitantly. He turned and slowly began to walk to his 4X4 Surf. When he reached the door of the pickup he stopped and opened his mouth to say something.
“I said leave!” Chimazya yelled at him.
Logeya threw himself into the 4X4 Surf. The pickup turned and sped off in a whirl of dust. Darkness was taking its place. Chimazya retreated into his hut.
Three days later in the morning, a Land Rover pickup with a canopy sped through the entrance to Logeya’s mansion as the two guards whimpered with fear like dogs afraid of a hyena. The pickup screeched to a halt in front of the verandah. Eight armed policemen immediately jumped out and quickly positioned themselves around the house.
A pot belied officer who was also armed alighted from the front left door of the Land Rover. Then some bare footed old men, among them Chimazya, with two more policemen dropped out of the canopy and accompanied the officer to the main door. A woman with a fearful face peeped through the halfway open door.
“We’re from Lyando Police Station. Shall we see Mr. Logeya, please,” the potbellied officer demanded.
The woman hesitantly let in the officer and the other two policemen. Together, they checked in the masters’ bedroom. Logeya was not there. They went to all other rooms in the house including the toilet and bathroom. He was neither in any of them. This time, tears registered in the narrow corners of the woman’s eyes.
On the back of Logeya’s mansion were a swimming pool and a specious yard. Beautiful short green grass covered the soils of the yard. Painted bricks encircled different fruit trees and flowers. Logeya, many times, sat by the swimming pool or under sheds of fruit trees and flowers to relax. Having failed to find him in the house, the law enforcers began to look for him in the yard. But the cool sheds of fruit trees and flowers did not yield Logeya.
Towards the end of the yard was a huge Mango tree. As the police approached it, they froze. Their eyes could not believe what they were seeing. Logeya hung limp to a rope tied to a branch of the Mango tree. White frothy liquid oozed from his mouth. Shit smeared his legs. Enormous green flies began to hover over him in celebration.