TEARS, SHADOW OF MY PAST………
“Who are you people?” Erica asked the moment the men who’d attacked the Monde speaking people took her back to the hut she’d previously been held captive in, “What’s going on?”
“Get packing, will you!” blurted out one of them, muscular and a voice as cold as steel, “Hurry!”
“I haven’t got anything to pack, we barely have a thing; Anthony and I,” Erica said taking a sit on the reed mat as she clutched her knees, “What really is going on here? Who are you people?” she was dying to know. The man just looked all the more rigid and unmoved and pointed the barrel of the machine gun at her face asking her to do as she’d been commanded to.
Looking up at the big man, Erica knew that arguing would only earn her a bullet through her head. If as ruthless as the men the invaders were but politely had asked her to leave with them, there truly seemed to have been no point to try to reason with them. She sat there still as flabbergasted as she was from the time this predicament had befallen her and Antony. As Erica got up get ready to leave with the men almost immediately as was told. Besides the clothes on that which Omala had brought her some days back, the shoes and clothes she last wore before the dilemma began, Erica clearly had nothing much to call her own.
She packed them onto a wrapper and was just about to leave much to the approval of her capturers when someone walked into the hut, a woman, a slender woman slightly taller than Erica was. With much elegance did she sway and as Erica watched her she wondered just what she’d been doing hanging out with the likes of the men in that hut. Getting a closer look, seeing how just how the woman posed with cargo pants, high boots and a brow fairly covered with hair, loose cargo shirt with a white vest, strap belt with a revolver in hand, there was no questioning any further. Clearly this woman who’d just walked in was as bad as the lot and Erica only looked away.
“You aren’t done packing?” the woman who’d just showed up asked coldly, “Wasn’t it clear?”
Trying to appear bold, Erica responded, “It was, actually I’m done.”
“Good. We leave immediately,” the woman said giving some orders to the men in hut with her.
“But what about my Antony? I can’t just leave,” Erica paused and noticed how the strange woman gave her utmost attention as she spoke, “Antony, the man I love, was injured and taken away for treatment. I was awaiting his return. I can’t just leave without knowing anything about him.”
With a look as cold as ice, the woman grunted and spoke straight up, “Anthony is dead!”
“What??” Erica asked befuddled eying the woman with a weird look.
“You heard what I said. Anthony is dead,” she said it plainly, “We’ve been after him for a long time but each time he managed to get out of our grasp. Very good at escaping us he’d been before but this time we got him good. He died whilst trying to evade us with the help of the men who’d been leading him out of Zimbabwe.”
“Wait a minute,” Erica said confused, “Just what exactly are you talking about? No, my love can’t be dead. Not like that and what is it you wanted him for?”
“Did you know Anthony as much as I do?”
“What?” Erica asked startled, “What do you mean by that?”
“Did you know him at all?” the strange woman could visibly see the oblivion Erica had been surrounded by and went on, “Anthony wasn’t really the man whom he claimed to have been. Yes, he seemed to be the loving man you so much grew fond of but he had secrets that are too much to bear. I know you wouldn’t love him as much as you do if only you knew.”
Erica was ashen faced, “What, what are you saying?”
“The man who attacked you in Livingstone, who was he?” the woman asked sharply.
“I don’t know……We didn’t know……”
“Is that what you think or what he told you?”
Erica was tongue tied, too confused to speak as she eyed the other woman in bewilderment.
“So, I repeat, did you really know Anthony, the love of your life?” the woman asked with a grim look. “He was a wanted convict,” she said taking a walk eying the walls of the hut, “We’ve been after him for long and we saw to it that he was dead. Two bullets into his spine and another at his leg,” she said emotion free, “He couldn’t have survived even with the defence of the Monde people who interfered and tried to save him,” she turned and saw how fazed the prisoner was and snarled, “Your love is dead and there’s nothing to be told other than that.”
“Just stop, please stop,” Erica said crying as she sat back down on the reed mat and poured her heart out, “Whatever issues he may have had with you he didn’t deserve to have died like that in cold blood. Without him even telling me whatever he did to you and the lot wanting him dead.”
“Do you want to know who really your love was?” the woman said bending low as Erica sobbed, head on her bosom, “I can tell you his secrets since he won’t—”
“He’s still alive!” came a panting man with a shot gun interrupting the woman. Erica craned her head and looked at who’d just showed up in the hut’s doorway, flustered she was.
“What?” The strange woman said turning abruptly on the spot, “What did you just say?”
“Anthony is still alive. He survived.” The man said regaining his composure.
“But, but, but how??” the woman said walking towards the messenger, eying him with a haughty look on, “We shot him good, no one could’ve survived that!”
“Well apparently you missed!” blurted the messenger as he walked in, the others shocked as well.
“No, we shot him! We didn’t miss,” the woman argued, “If he survived he’s definitely wounded. That I can ascertain you for sure.” She looked thoughtful momentarily, “If Anthony is still alive…. Then the men who were with him—”
“Most were shot dead but the few that survived shielded him and helped him escape,” the traveller said looking at Erica trying to digest everything going on.
“To where??” the woman and the other men asked in unison.
“Take one guess,” the traveller said.
“Oh……” the woman said eyebrows up, “I see….” She eyed Erica whose facial expression was priceless.
Back in the chief’s palace, the leader enlightened the chief of what he was impatient to know.
“So, we had to capture that man whom you harboured here who…” he paused to see the messenger and his companion now standing beside him, Erica, the other woman with her along with the other men he led joining them, then continued, “……who we thought we had put an end to but apparently survived.”
Chief Mutabile with a stern look on whilst eying the invaders sat back down in his throne, his royal council and family still in attendance, then spoke, “And what do you intend to do now that you know that he’s still alive?”
Antony awoke straining his eyes on a thatched grass roof all the way to the poles of wood holding the hut together all around it, to the shelves of various garden tools, to the clay pots and bowls aligned together in a corner, to the thatched grass door beside which were more garden tools among which were hoes and other digging utensils, he was secure. To him besides knowing that he was in a hut, it appeared to be a store room of some sort of yet another typical village setting but where? Turning his head attempting to sit back up, the sharp sting from his back brought him back down and narrowly eying his legs he could barely move when an unbearable pain brought him back to reality.
“Argh….” He grunted as he tried to recall what happened for him to be where he was now, his body seeming so sore as if broken that he could barely imagine the possibility of being alive when………
Anthony had fallen on his face in a shallow pool of water. All around him were sounds of cries, yells, gunfire and flying spears. His eyes were heavy and with one hand, he could feel his leg and rib bleeding within the water but could hardly move for some bullet lodged into his other leg kept him fighting to remain conscious. Head in the water, he could clearly hear everything but couldn’t make any motioned signs but, suddenly huge strong arms turned him the right way up that he was now lying on his back. In the partly open eyes he could see men with guns from afar engaged in hand to hand combat with the Monde warriors with spears in hand. He got that in an instant but the cocking of a revolver made his head turn and his weak eyes rested on a man, a nasty looking man who pointed the barrel of his revolver at Anthony’s head. At that point, with all his wits at the brink, as time suddenly came to a standstill, Anthony could hardly fathom just to what extent the unknown foe was willing to get him killed. Death was close by and closing his eyes in defeat to await the gunfire to end his life, what he heard next was a dashing spear attacking the very man that had wished to end him—Before he knew it his eyes strained on a bare-chested Monde warrior standing, towering him, heaving and breathing rapidly, then another behind joined him. Too dazed to stay awake, Anthony fainted.
……BACK TO CURRENT SCENE….
Anthony laid on his back breathing heavily, the door abruptly opened and in walked a plump looking woman with bangles, an African wrap around her waist, a loose-fitting clothing hugging her breasts but not the rest of her upper body, thick and huge beads hanging around her neck, and finally with head wrap to complement her look. She walked in bear foot to where the clay pots and bowls of water had been, with a mutton cloth which she began to soak it with water in which she poured into one of the bowls. Anthony moaned as he watched the woman about her business, and almost immediately she turned with her roundish brown face resonating.
“You are finally awake!” she exclaimed in Tonga language as she came to him with the bowl and mutton cloth soaked in it, “How are you?” she asked in her language once more but Anthony only looked at her in utter confusion having not heard a thing at all.
“How are you feeling? It’s been over two days since you were brought here,” she said this as she wiped his forehead, him wincing at the touch of the damp cloth, then she ran it over to his torso and finally to his legs whilst soaking and squeezing it in the clay bowl, “It’s good that you have finally awakened. We were waiting to see the day that you awoke because you nearly died.”
Anthony mouthed the words, “I don’t understand you.”
“Do you know where you are? The chief wishes to see you now that you are awake,” the woman went on to say.
“Shall I call him now?”
Anthony shook his head and quivered his lips as he tried to speak, “I-I-I-I don’t understand,” he said in Nyanja the only logical language he could think of in that moment.
The woman seeing that she could hardly understand what Anthony had said bellowed for a man in Tonga and immediately he came running into the hut.
“Mwaukeni, go at once and alert the chief that the man who was brought here almost dead has finally awakened. Go!”
“Yes mbuya!” the young man obliged and scurried out of the place.
Shortly afterwards, some guards appeared in the doorway with the big looking man who bent with his weight as he entered the hut’s doorway and stood before Anthony looking as clueless as any other man in his position could’ve been. The big man with warriors beside him looked to be the chief himself. He had dark white marks on his face; his forehead and cheeks, he had piercings of loops in his nose and around his neck were thick heavy looking beads hanging on his bare chest, a skirt like clothing reaching his knees and more bangles were on his ankles. He moved close and spoke so majestically in Tonga whilst his men helped Anthony sit up straight on the bamboo mat.
“I’m chief Nichengela of the Tonga speaking people of Bwena Mwapona village in which you attain recovery from your wounds. How are you feeling after my men and women tended to you?” the chief asked but Anthony only shook his head.
“Are you much better? Can you move?” the chief asked further but Anthony shook his head still.
“I don’t understand you,” Anthony said in Nyanja startling the chief.
The chief who hardly understood a word that had been said questioned, “Do you not understand me?”
Anthony could only shake his head like before.
Seeing that there was no proper communication, the chief immediately called for his translator who came to his aid and who translated what he said.
“I understand that you are indeed not Tonga. Chief Nichengela sends his warm greetings to you. He says that he’s glad that you’ve finally awoken after over two days of sleep. We were worried. How are you feeling?” the translator spoke in Nyanja.
“I’m managing. Besides the soreness I feel I think I can handle it.” Anthony replied feeling relieved that at least someone about the village understood and spoke Nyanja.
The translator told the chief what Anthony said and he spoke some more of which the man translated for him.
“The chief says that it’s good that you are getting well. We saw to it that we attended to your wounds including the infected foot that you were sent here for treatment. We must say that it’s the kindness of Nyambe to have allowed you to see once again the rising and setting of the sun. A man with injuries of your kind certainly would’ve died along the way here but thanks to Nyambe who spared your life, you are here speaking to us and recovering quite quickly as I can see,” the translator said eying the previously infected foot of the visitor.
Anthony looked at his leg and indeed the infection was vanishing, “Thank you so much for your help and welcoming me in your village.”
The translator gave the chief the message and he replied through him, “It’s my humble gesture to have you welcomed here. Feel free here to live and learn from the Tonga living people. Enjoy our culture and custom in Tonga land. You are home in Zambia. You are one of us.”
“Thank you,” replied Anthony merrily feigning a smile.
“And by the way someone heard of your stay here and has been anxious to see you the moment you awoke,” the chief spoke through the translator.
Anthony looked baffled and spoke, “Someone has been looking for me? Who has?” he asked thinking it could’ve been Erica.
The translator gave the message to the chief who called for his other men to bring the other visitor who came right away in no time. The chief smiled as the person gave their heartfelt warm greetings and appreciation for the chief’s care towards Anthony and then turned to face Anthony who looked stunned and speechless. He almost couldn’t believe who it was that had come looking for him.