Illusions of a Bachelor: One night stand in the devil’s workshop (V)
By Aaron Aroriza:
The dark clouds high up in the sky, the blinding lightning, the deafening thunder, the swishing wind; all signs of the raging storm to come – a harbinger of a very bad night for the bachelor.
Moses had convinced me we could never make it back to our site before the sky would cut us short with furious down pour. He had even told me there were many instances of fatal lightning strikes in this village. The morning journey had drained most of my energy and I didn't see any point in continuing to push Moses for an immediate return journey.
I should have pushed him. It was as if the skies had been waiting for me to lie on the squeaky bed in the squalid spooky room that night so they could let go of the raging water balls they had been loosely holding all day. I wouldn't have minded that at all if only the roof over the shack I called shelter for the night had been water tight.
The roof was leaking so badly that I almost thought the witchdoctor's evil spirits had taken me under a tree while I dozed. In my half-sleep, half-awake state, I could almost feel myself floating – like the spirits were still carrying me. I snapped out of the devilish fantasy, got out of bed and tried to move it to different corners looking for the part that didn't leak so much. It took me a few minutes to realize that the dung-screed floor too was flooded. The roof was leaking and so were the reed-door and papyrus-window. But I soon found out that the bulk of the water was actually flowing in from under the door. I found a corner that had no leak but only in like a space of half a square meter – just standing space.
I rolled the mattress off, stood at the edge of the bed so I could avoid the flooding floor and then placed the shabbily rolled mattress behind my back in the corner. I leaned on the mattress and surprisingly slipped into peaceful sleep quite fast, thanking, in my dreams, the gods for the fatigue and exhaustion.
I must have slept like a baby through some sections of the night and like a log through the rest. I woke up with an aching back, a heavy head, numb legs and very cold feet. But I was happy to see the sun rays shining from the same roof holes through which the sky had been dropping heavy cold water balls at me in the night. The birds gracefully and cheerfully sang away as if to congratulate me on having survived the night – one night in which I slept while standing; my new experience of a one-night stand.
Moses found me ready for the journey. This time I didn't let him talk me into any other trials and temptations of adventure. I didn't want to meet the witch again. And I wasn't going to have that incision on the palm through which I had seen the witch doctor rub some powder-like stuff into blood veins of her patients. My curiosity had to have some limit and I had already reached the edge.
As we meandered through the beautiful green hills and valleys I tried to rationalize the things I had seen at the witch doctor's place. I might never figure out how the filthy substances in the bowl ended up there. It could be a trick of illusion; it could be some unexplainable movement of matter, it could be the power of magic or it could be spirits at work. Fact is, that witchdoctor knows something I don't. She knows something our dear scientists and her sorry patients can't figure out yet. But whatever it is, it seems to heal her patients and confuse scientists. And most of all it really makes her lots of money.
As Moses paces energetically a few meters in front me, I'm taken back to the time I had vacational employment at Mbarara Hospital. There was a project that aimed at bringing together medical doctors and traditional healers. Of course with traditional healers, came witchdoctors. I was working in the pathology department and it never got to benefit from this project but the psychiatry department was just next door and psychiatrists and psychologists worked hand in hand with witchdoctors and traditional healers on specific days of the week. I always found a way of sneaking into these sessions and in one of them, an intriguing case of a mentally disturbed man was discussed. The traditional healers and witchdoctors asserted that the man was possessed by ghosts of his long gone ancestors. They claimed they could talk to these ghosts, assess their complaints and demands and try to appease them (perhaps by slaughtering a white lamb and a white cock) hence setting the patient free and healing him. And we would call it black magic.
The medical doctors diagnosed it as a condition of Multiple Personality Disorder. Their approach would be to hypnotize the patient, talk to his alter egos and try harmonizing and re-uniting them. The patient would soon be at peace with himself again. With some additional drugs, he would be healed. And we would praise the power of science and medicine.
Had a pastor been around, he would have suggested the man was possessed by evil spirits. He would have recommended prayer and exorcism. Prayer has the power of auto-suggestion. The man would in the end receive his healing here too. And we would call it a miracle.
I've stopped trying to understand these things. All I know is some people know things that I don't know yet and may probably never know. I may call those things magic, I may call them scientific marvels, I may also call them miracles. Whether I believe them or not, they will keep happening – maybe not to me but at least to and for some people.
Just because I don't understand them, doesn't make them any less real but then again it doesn't make them any more real than they really are.
Moses stops to show me a three horned green chameleon crossing our path. I'm relieved when he talks about its camouflaging abilities. I had been expecting him to come up with some superstition driven story. For now, I'm safe from his mystical stories but haven't scientists discovered that chameleons don't actually change colour to match their environments?! Moses doesn't know yet while I, am still confused about it since I grew up 'knowing' that chameleons do actually change their colour to match whatever object they are on. I don't trust chameleons, I don't trust witches, and I don't trust Moses Muzimbi wa buloka. But then again I don't know much about any of them either and as Moses starts to pace again, there are many questions running in my head. Some are for him, but knowing what I know now, I question him too.