Short Stories, Tale Africa

The Maiden and The Bear (3)

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By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:

I can’t sleep, I keep having visions of Mnqobi falling down. I couldn’t see his face as he fell. I’m trying hard to imagine how he could’ve survived that attack. Those guys from Emadlangeni came with one purpose – to kill. I should have seen this by the way that guy spoke about the Mbhele brothers. I could have warned them. I could've protected Mnqobi. I’ve been crying since I got home earlier today. My siblings tried calming me down, and my mother shouted at me saying that I should stop crying like I’m a widow. But that's how I felt – like I just lost the love of my life. My mother has become a very cold person and it gets worse by the year. I think it’s all the sadness and disappointment she is hiding and the burden of raising five children alone. My siblings don’t understand it; our mother is almost always quiet but I try, as much as I can, to liven up home by sharing jokes and telling them fairy tales around the fire when we are cooking. It is sad for them when I’m also feeling down.

Everyone is asleep now; its quiet and dark. I keep tossing and turning on my grass mat hoping for a whistle or a hoot – any sound indicating life.

This wasn’t the first time the Mbhele brothers were getting involved in a huge fight. The last time they had attacked at Umfulo because apparently one boy from that village insulted Nsizwenye. He is one half of the Mbhele twins; his name means ‘another boy’ and his twin is Babili meaning ‘they are two’. They come after Mnqobi. Nsizwa is the quietest in the Mbhele clan and the nicest. The men from Umfulo are known for their homemade weapons and brutal killings. Even though the fight was between the young men of that village and the Mbhele brothers, their fathers joined in with their swords and many other blades. It got bloody. Four of the Mbhele brothers were hospitalised, six men from Umfulo died. Apparently Mnqobi and Babili used weapons from Umfulo and somehow all the Mbhele brothers managed to get hold of them. It was a victory; killing a man with his own weapon! But that was the beginning of a war. Umfulo men didn't take it lying down; they even entered our village and started killing random people. The Mbhele’s went into hiding and for months we didn’t know where they were. I felt as if my soul was leaving my body yet I was still alive. I even failed that school term. I was only 16, Mnqobi was 20, I didn’t know how to handle such. I still don't know how. I’m too young for all this. Mnqobi gave me strict instruction not to cry every time he disappears and that I should know he will always come back for me.

I’ve been reminiscing on all this and I decide to stop crying. Mnqobi will never leave me. I hear a car hoot close to home and immediately jump up. I don't know who it is but I know they are here for me. They will only hoot once so my mother doesn't wake up. I sneak out of our hut and run in the darkness. We are far from civilisation; there is no electricity so the streets are pitch dark. It's a taxi – its Makhosi.

I enter the vehicle and sit right behind the drivers seat. Makhosi and her boyfriend turn to face me. It's the first time I see him and he looks awkwardly familiar. I greet them.

“This is Mbongeni,” Makhosi says quickly. “Mnqobi is at the doctor’s,” she continues.

“How do you know?” I ask

Mbongeni, “I’m family.”

That explains the familiarity! He is one of the cousins. He is the son of Mnqobi’s aunt who is married to the Dlamini family.

“Which doctor?” I asked.

Mbongeni responds, “A family doctor, Ntombikayise. He will be there for the night but he will be back tomorrow.”

A witchdoctor. The Mbheles have their own sangoma that does things for them. I still don’t get why he had to go to a sangoma, unless something happened after we had left.

Makhosi then says, “Mzuvele told Mbongeni that they needed to take some blood out of Mnqobi as it was poisonous to his system.”

“It’s bad isn't it?” I ask.

Mbongeni explains further, “They hit him with his own sticks Ntombi! Yesess labantu abasazi yazi, abasiboni yerrr.

(These people don’t know us, they take us for granted)

He really is a Mbhele descendant; the rage! Suddenly his eyes are lit and glowing. I know what this means: it’s another war. The sangoma is probably using the blood spilt on Mnqobi to create the poison. I never really understand this witch-doctor business because my family doesn’t believe in witchcraft. My mother taught us to pray even though we don't go to church. I try to make sense of the sangoma thing but I just can’t. All I can hear is war, war, war. Mbongeni is so angry; he is trying not to show because we will obviously tell them to let it go. That sangoma will probably turn Mnqobi into a killing machine. I asked if he killed anyone during the Umfulo war and he said no, obviously. I let that go but now I’m starting to wonder.

“Is he the only one sleeping at the sangoma’s place?”

Mbongeni replies with, “No, everyone.”

I want to go to the reed dance. Anything to take me out of this village right now.

To be continued…

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