Short Stories, Tale Africa

The Maiden and The Bear (6)

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By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:

I’m woken up by a scream and I am not sure if I?m dreaming or if its really happening. My mind has been playing tricks on me since that accident.

“Ahhhhh help! Help me!”

Zethu! I quickly get up and limp outside.

“Mnqobi!” she cries as I walk out half naked. I’m stunned!

The girls’ hut is on fire and my sisters are running around the yard waking people up. I sneak to the back of the huts, scanning for any intruders. I’m hit by a stone on my right hand and then a lot more come as if they are being thrown directly at me. I cover my head with both my hands and rush back to where everyone is gathered – in front of the girls’ hut. They are trying to put out the fire which doesn?t seem to have been burning for long.

“They are here,” Nsizwenye says as he appears from behind the burning hut.

My brothers start running around the yard. I know what this is. I’ve seen this before. I push all the women into my hut, which is closest to the burning one. If you’re not familiar with the Mbhele yard you could mistake them… wait… The helpers! The helpers are not here.

I can feel my legs failing me but I limp towards the door. I start breathing heavily; I push the door open. I suddenly feel a rush of heat like I’m standing directly under a fire. I’m dizzy, I can’t breathe…and then…darkness?

***

Mnqobi collapses. His mother quickly drags him inside the hut and bangs the door shut. They call out his name as they try to wake him up.

The men outside take assegais as they defend themselves from the attackers. Some of the Emadlangeni men fled the scene on the arrival of the Dlamini brothers and other relatives with their sangoma, Dlokovu. The Emadlangeni men were outnumbered and also couldn’t keep up with the weaponry. No mortalities, just a couple of wounds; Dlokovu discovers as he assesses the scene. He then begins with the strengthening of Emabheleni. He needs to put izikhonkwane which prevents any threats from entering the yard and also perform traditional incisions on every individual in the yard. The ceremony doesn’t take long as everybody knows exactly what ought to be done.

***

I am once again in that helpless position with Dlokovu cutting my body. I have become a weakling, a useless body mass. I weep. I’m fuming. Whatever grudge those people have is being taken out on me, they mistook the girls’ hut for mine. I know it. I can feel it. They wanted to burn me alive, they want to kill me.

Dlokovu, “I did well by giving you that medicine yesterday. It saved your life.”

The old man sounds so impressed with himself. Apparently he gave me some preventative muti that caused me to collapse. He ‘knew’ those people would come back to finish me off. Who knows what other things those bones reveal…

“Look at the mess you’ve created!” My father shouts as he barges in holding his assegai. I thought we were not supposed to shout when Dlokovu is in session, but what do I know?!

Mzuvele, very calm: “Baba not now”.

Father shouts: “Nini we Mzuvele? Nini? When all my family is dead because of your stupidity? I told you boys to let this go but no, you know better, right?”

I am really not in the mood for this right now. Can this old man just get out of here? He is making me even angrier. There was a battle outside, a personal attack and I was lying on a floor high on Dlokovu’s incense.

Nqobizitha: “Is there something you’re not telling us, Ma’taima?”

We all raise our heads to look at Nqobizitha who is looking directly into father’s eyes. He is not afraid to challenge our father even though he knows that assegai in father’s hand can be thrown his way at any moment. He has a point though. Why does it seem like our father is hiding something from us?

Father looks down as he replies; “I killed their father in a stick fight.”

Glossary:

Izikhonkwane: traditional medicine smeared around the house as protection.

Ma’taima: slang for father

Nini: Zulu for when

Baba: Zulu for father

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