TEARS, SHADOW OF MY PAST……
Anthony and Erica dared not to await the wild man catch up with them. They tried in their level best to cover as much ground as their feet could let them. Clearly, they weren’t getting any further than their pursuer who, for his previous alarming yell, had now been joined with four other tribesmen of his kind each with a spear in hand. Erica huffed and puffed, pulling Anthony’s slipping hand back into her grip whilst he groaned, winced and hobbled every step of the way. He was slowing them down but they couldn’t halt either way to catch a breather. Seeing that walking a straight path was probably suicidal for the incoming spear that ever came flying in the sky over their heads, they decided to use the trees as buriers and obstacles to buy them time and grant them bits of wishful safety from their attackers.
It was obvious, with no doubt, that the savages not far behind were up for their throats! The flying daggers penetrating barks of trees splitting them in twos, halves were a sight too stupefying to behold and watch daringly. Anthony and Erica could only but wish to find a hollow fallen tree on its side to take cover in or at least lay hidden to some mossy old log in the dirt having such think branches to keep them hidden. Again, wishful thinking! The men after them were definitely going to kill them!
“Erica slow down,” puffed Anthony face looking so fazed, weary and worn out, “I can’t keep up,” he said as he and she ducked a spear sent flying over their head fixing deep into an old tree’s weak branch that fell to the ground with an enormous thud!
“Why!” she blurted out breathless astonished by the spear that so closely pinned them to a tree, “Did you see that??!! That thing nearly would’ve darted us to some tree if not to the ground! We need to take cover but where?!” she asked frantically surveying the land in foot of dismay.
“I can’t walk any further than this,” lamented Anthony his face contorting, “I think my leg’s hurt way bad! It’s getting worse!”
Erica’s face looking pale and ashen, “I’m sorry Anthony but you have to try hold till we can lose those men lest we die out here. We’ll have a look at it once more I bet we can find our route to town upon escaping the bushes in one piece and find you a doctor in town. Just hold on for me my love, please for me,” she begged pursing her lips eyes glistening at him.
“Okay, I will hold on,” spoke he trying to look and sound bold whilst they treaded upon tons of drive leaves, twigs and broken decaying tree trunks.
The men however were in clear radius of accurate shot that their thunderous pounding of their bare feet was louder than ever. No dare would one take to find out truly if they hadn’t surrounded now. The sound from their raucous voices wasn’t the most pleasant of its kind and it was enough to say that truly the two were completely surrounded with no where to go. Alas as they were slowing down to flying weapons aiming for their path ahead that Anthony tripped, fell and pulled his entire weight down with Erica as they tumbled to the floor he more than she knocking his head hard against a rock before he groaned. Then, complete utter silence as the men encircled them both, she panting dearly for life!
“Anthony!” she cried attempting to crawl towards him now having a clear cut on his forehead which was oozing blood in a matter of seconds after impact. He looked still and was slowly drifting into unconsciousness. Erica was frightened as the men having rendered the target defenceless, slowly approached the woman with an unconscious companion. Feeling his pulse, Erica noticed that Anthony was still breathing but for how long. Her throbbing heart lost rhythm the moment, upon hearing strong heavy breathing that she turned coming face to face with a bulky chested man with beady eyes, nose rings, bangles and paint all over his face before, too dazed to think straight that she suddenly found herself feeling drowsy and fainted.
……HOURS LATER, THAT NIGHT…….
Constant cries were heard from a crowd beating drums and blowing horns as they watched the soot rise up from the fire into the pitch-black sky. Hours of distress and fear for having awoken roughly an hour in a shabby looking hut, Erica found herself eying an angry looking man that practically breathed on her chest in fury, staring at her with deep strong eyes. Before Erica knew it, she was dragged to the crowd where an intimidating people gathered around watching from afar whilst the chief elders and council people made her centre of attention. Wiping her sweaty brow, Erica looked on further and yonder—to the people eying her with much suspicion and anticipation, to the big men and women dressed in royal apparel that looked like to be of great value, to men that were none other than local councillors but she was oblivious to that fact, to straying men walking closer to the further ends of the village heavily guarded by men, bringing her gaze to the nearby warriors in animal skins and finally to the chief himself. All of them at her as one who eye the downtrodden outcast of the village soon to be banished from the village. Then, in an instant as the chief and his council moved one foot forward, that the drumming ceased playing loud but instead in a lower pitch less alarming than before. Still Erica was greatly objected to fear. She gulped and swallowed hard as the chief attempted to speak first.
“Who are you trespassing in our territory that our men amidst a hunt thought of you as perpetrators sent to spy our vast fertile, rich lands?” he asked aloud for the whole village to hear but Erica looked puzzled. He eyed her and spoke once more, “Woman, who are you to tread upon restricted grounds that are belong to my people alone?!” Again, Erica was silent eyes never leaving him.
A spread of whispers amongst the people followed who immediately branded the woman as a disrespectful invader who not only came uninvited, unannounced, but also disrespected their chief.
“I think she’s from the nearby town, your highness,” whispered some man, a council man, into the ears of the chief whose face shined and he pulled on his garment taking few steps forward that he was now towering the woman. Clearing his throat, he spoke, “Pardon me for I thought that you were of the ear of the native language spoken in my chiefdom. Allow me to rephrase this in what probably is yours to understand, what is a city resident like you doing in my village without entering it from the heart? How did you bypass the main routes honouring visitors? We are not merely infuriated by your infiltration but indeed puzzled as to how you came to be on our lands. Clearly you entered from the outer ends of another man’s territory. Now tell me who are you?”
Erica tried to speak but her voice was failed her and she felt a trickle of sweat fall to her bosom from her face. She was in a fix, rooted to the ground, afraid to speak and unable to make known her inability to understand not even a single thing that was said to her.
Again, another councillor walked to the chief and whispered, “Your highness, does she still not understand? Perhaps the other language you spoke to her neither is familiar with her. Now, allow my many experienced travellers and hosts to not few but the many visitors we receive occasionally assist us with this issue of language being a barrier to communicate with our uninvited guest.”
Nodding, the chief beckoned to show approval and at once the woman arose from her bent position to the chief, as had she been showing her courtesy, and at once called all her best fluent travellers, who, for much interaction not only with their neighbouring chiefdoms but also with that of the people who visited them, came over to question Erica who, watched in bewilderment as more people came to her side. They were about nine of them and each spoke, one after the other in a language they possibly thought was probably that of the woman, asking her the same thing but to know avail. The questioning ensued and the chief was to retire to his hut to let the matter be dealt with the councillors he only to pass his warning to her over infiltration when dawn was approaching for he could hardly wait all night for her to speak clearly with him. Alas, half way to his royal dwelling, that when one of the despaired travellers finally decided to speak in a language he least thought would work, that Erica craned her neck to face him and spoke back causing the entire chiefdom to gasp in astonishment.
“What was that?” the chief asked with his guards standing akimbo with him guarding his front and rear, “Did she finally speak?”
“Yes, your humbleness,” replied the man who’d questioned and Erica had replied, “With found her language, at last.
Brow furrowed and raising his chest majestically as heaved a sigh the chief asked, “And what language was that to which she responded?”
“Nyanja your humbleness,” the man said boldly causing another gasp from almost every villager, the chief now walking back to the scene.
“Which Nyanja speaking people does she belong to that of our neighbour or that of Malawi?”
“Not of Malawi your humbleness but from our neighbours, our closest with whom we proudly share the falls that their country proudly refer to as Mosi o Tunya, translation; Smoke that Thunders!
The king shook his head and asked for his royal chair and he sat down, amidst everyone being fanned on every side by servants holding thick tree leaves and asked for the one to be brought closer to him. Two guards held both her arms and brought her low such that she literally bowed to him panting she now was. Beckoning once more, whilst eying the woman, the chief asked the translator who knew her language to speak to her for him.
“So, what exactly is our neighbouring country’s citizen doing in my village? How did you get here?” the chief asked and the traveller translated for her in Nyanja.
Erica replied, “Forgive me, your highness but me and my love wish to cause you no harm. We had been sailing our boat about a river in Zambia that has some falls being a part of the Mosi O Tunya. Someone had been chasing us wishing to cause us harm and for fear of him we went over the falls and landed in your country, clearly unaware of it, apologies,” she said bowing to him.
Upon getting the translation, the chief frowned, “What nonsense? Who had been chasing you and how possible is it that you even survived? Okay, come to think of it you were indeed alive for the other you speak of is terribly ill in the nursing wing.”
“Sir, we are sorry for the invasion but it was unintended. We accidentally found ourselves here. Neither are we spies no wishing to take anything from your village but all I ask is please let me see my love, Anthony who might not live long if he stays here.”
“He’s fine, stable. We are nursing him”, the chief through a translator assured her, “Now tell me in what part of Zimbabwe have you and he landed? Where are you?” he asked loudly.
Erica looked flustered and spoke, “I don’t know your majesty. All I know that we are in the country of Zimbabwe, in a native land, a chiefdom run and watched over by you your majesty, besides that I know not as to where exactly I am”.
The chief grunted as if to say he had been insulted and boldly spoke, “I’m chief Mutabile of the Monde speaking people, a respected and peace seeking people, welcoming and kind when humbly approached except in the case when a perpetrator takes advantage of sincere generosity to catch us off guard, rob our village and perhaps overthrow if not kind enough to spare would possibly wish to kill me. Now, tell me, Zambian woman, what is it you did to have nearly died evading one of your kind?”
“Nothing!” Erica defended, “We barely know the man all that I can and will tell you that we were being followed by him who wanted both my love and I dead. We owe no explanation as to what harm we had done for we did nothing of that sort, your majesty.”
“Only thieves, liars and cunning men would seek to deceive me with such portray of innocence!” the chief boomed abruptly rising to his feet with a warning eye shooting daggers at her, “I’m no fool to fail to understand that only one who’s wronged the other would be hunted to death. You and your lover have a truth to tell one that you are hiding. We’ll see how long you can keep it from me. Possibly letting you go would endanger my people to uncalled for attacks. Until them you are prisoners of my village! Enjoy the Monde’s extended gratitude to let you live here but in capture. There’s no leaving!” having said that he walked majestically with his guards tagging along.
“Your majesty!” cried Erica with much emotion, “Please spare an ear, and listen. We owe you no harm. We aren’t he to endanger the lives of your people let alone have you overthrown as chief! I’ve spoken all there is to speak concerning that which I know so please,” she cupped her hands lamenting, “Let us go, I beg of you, we are no invaders nor spies!”
But chief Mutabile wouldn’t hear of it. He had had his mind made and there was no leaving the village at any cost.
Earlier that morning, with the sun’s rays hitting her face, locked in a hut with thatched grass and a small oval open bared with wood, she arose to the sound of the door opening, two royal guards letting in a young girl, about fifteen of age or so, with thick kinky hair, a traditional wrap hugging and covering her breasts, another hugging her thighs below knee level, in elegance she swayed in with a boy and knelt down before Erica, washing her face and looked at her with utter wonder.
“Good morning,” she too knew Nyanja but not quite fluent was she like the other translator from the previous night, “It’s time to awaken. Here, wash up. I shall bring you food and fruits to eat and water to drink on my second coming. First wash up,” she said handing over the clay bowl of water.
Erica shook her head profusely in refusal, “No, I will not eat! I want first to see how my Anthony’s doing. I shan’t eat till I see what state he’s in”.
“An—tony?” the girl mumbled stretching the words of a language unfamiliar to her for English wasn’t amongst hers, and much trouble did she have pronouncing the English name. She smiled, “Is that your lover, you speak of?”
“Yes, him, he is,” spoke breathless Erica clutching the wrist of the young girl taking her aback, “You have to let me see him. I know your chief says that he’s being attended to by your people but he’s badly wounded. I wish to see how he’s doing, please.”
“I’m sorry but I cannot help you with that. I’m only but a humble servant carrying out the chief’s orders making sure that even though a prisoner you maybe, that you are rightly treated especially that you are a woman. He would not wish to harm you provided that you neither do the same, though, he can’t trust you for your secrecy. You have to stay in here. It’s for your own good.”
“But we are not dangerous!” pouted Erica, “We were caught, weren’t we? What kind of spies would be so careless to get caught like that, much less move with no weapons in hand?”
“Probably because you lost your guard or were outnumbered for chief Mutabile does have the best of warriors there could be.” the girl said.
“No, you aren’t listening to me,” Erica complained, “Believe me that we are harmless,” her eyes twinkled, “We knew not even of the existence of your village till today so how possibly would we have bad intentions? Trust me we are innocent.”
The girl refused still and spoke, “If my chief doesn’t trust you then neither will I. I’m only trying to be generous by attending to your needs. Truly for your act of secrecy towards our chief’s inquiries as to who exactly you and your love are we know not if you truly mean us no harm.”
The efforts to get the girl to understand Erica were but futile and in retreat the girl called the guards to chide the woman but still she pressed on her demands. Submitting in defeat for they refrained from hitting her and risk disobeying their chief’s orders of never hitting anyone held captive minus his direct authority to do so, they went to report the matter to the chief’s council who, after much thought eventually conceded to Erica’s demands. Erica was thus brought to Antony, lying on a sick reed mat in the nursing wing looking so feeble and kneeling down she reached for his hands, held them tight, he looking at her weakly.
“How are you feeling? I’m glad that you are alive after that impact you hard when you hit your head. How are you feeling?” she asked. She noticed the leaves covering his brow probably as remedy for the cut he had and some were mashed together relieving the pain in his leg because of his wound. She looked hopeful.
“Much better than I was yesterday,” spoke Anthony lowly eying the helps in the big hut, “At least the women weren’t anything close to being hostile,” he said trying to joke and smiled weakly.
“Yeah,” replied Erica smiling back.
“How about you? How are you doing?”
“Could be better but I can say that I’m fine,” she said, him smiling some more.
Bringing her hand to his neck to check him, Erica felt his body burning up and almost immediately cried out in dismay.
“Anthony,” she called, him still looking at her, “You are burning up! What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” he replied confused, “Isn’t the local remedy working?”
“I thought so too but clearly it’s not,” she eyed the leg wound closely and noticed that some lesions were partly covered with the green smear, also the wound was already starting to change colour, “Anthony!” she cried, “The medicine isn’t working! I think you are developing an infection!”
“What? Really?” Anthony tried to sit up to look at his wound properly but Erica wouldn’t allow him. The female helps came to her side one with some other form of smear visibly different from the other both in appearance and colour.
“We need to apply this on it,” one of them said bending down besides Anthony’s injured leg, “You have to leave now,” she said but Erica wouldn’t have it and the woman’s countenance changed when she noticed that Erica wasn’t moving, “Give us room.” She said almost in anger but Erica still refused till the guards came to grab her and pulled her out, she screaming to be let go but they refused to let her have her way.
“Please my love is getting worse, he needs me by his side. Let me go, please! I promise you we are innocent as I keep telling you time and again. Have a heart.” Erica said fighting hard as they took her to the chief being guarded by two other men with the same translator from the previous night with him.
The men holding her dropped her to the ground and with tear stained eyes she looked at the chief, “Your majesty,” Erica croaked, “Please have a heart and spare my love for he’s getting worse!”
The chief cleared his throat and spoke through his translator, “We know. He’s health has been deteriorating since the time he was brought here and there’s nothing that we can do for him.”
Erica was befuddled when she heard that she chocked on her emotions as she spoke, “So, you will just let him get worse? What if he dies? Your majesty please….”
“I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do. Why should I even help a stranger like you?”
“Please….” Erica cupped her hands in a plea. A moment of constant crying ensued, the king watching without uttering another thing.
Seeing the woman’s non-stop lamenting, with a heave of a sigh the chief spoke, “There’s no herb to act as remedy here. He might die if he stayed in my kingdom any longer but….” He paused eying Erica crying momently and continued, “There might be a cure for him in the neighbouring village of chief Nichegenla of the Tonga speaking people of your country. They too are skilled in traditional medical techniques and have more herbs lacking in our village among which we think would work best to save your lover. We shall send him there today to have his injury attended to. It’s the least I could do for you.”
Erica was ready to hug him hadn’t it not been for his royalty and cried more with relief, “Thank you your majesty for your kind gesture and having the heart to finally let us both go back to our country. Indeed, we meant you no harm.”
The chief’s demeanour changed drastically and he eyed the woman with a strong gaze, “I said that we shall send your sick lover to my comrade and friend chief Nichengela. I never said that I was letting you go with him.”
Erica’s face turned pale as her hopes went down, “You are still going to holding me as prisoner here whilst you let my Anthony go get treatment?”
Looking sterner the chief replied through the translator, “I never said that I was letting him go either. Only but to seek treatment from a comrade is he leaving this village while you remain here in captivity. He’s to be brought back here still a prisoner he is. Not until you tell me who exactly you are and why someone wanted you dead will you know what follows after– whether you will leave in peace or face the consequences should you be lying about who you really are.” He said adamantly.