On the Heels of the Hill

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Chapter 23: It's now Dark

The nsenene day closed with passers by completing their errands very late, Katunguuka’s coffee was stolen from his compound during the day as no one was home and he was heard by his closest neighbours cursing for most of the night. Kabuganda’s goat went back home with a broken leg after it escaped from the herders who were clearly picking nsenene and invaded Kosiya’s crops and Kosiya’s wife sent a stone breaking its leg. Rooza was also heard quarreling late at night that his wife had not prepared supper in time. He was asking where she had been to cook that late. Drunkards were also swearing on the names of their beloved cows, wives, fathers and so on as they returned home.

At Nalongos’ Ruth, Ronah and their brothers were in the kitchen cleaning up after supper. They had eaten without their mother who had gone to the village court that evening as an advisor on the council. After cleaning up the floor onto which they had laid their big silver plate full katogo, they sat there with their legs stretched on the floor to easily digest their supper as they waited for their mother to return home. They talked and laughed about some of the funny moments that happened during the day. They also lowered their voices whenever they talked about some of the sad moments. Ronah had judged Darius’ friend for not watching where he was running before he was swung into the air by Kabahima’s bull. Darius wasn’t happy about it and the small kitchen became filled up with heated arguments. The wick candle stood one corner spreading faint light across the whole small kitchen hut. The light was faint but it was enough to easily indicate anger, disgust on all the faces of the youngones as they raised their voices on each other.

“Quiet!” Nalongo commanded as she bent to enter her kitchen hut whose door was too short for the giant lady. Nalongo had always thought about building a kitchen with a door at least her height. Being the tallest in the village, Vangi had one time made fun of her and her kitchen saying that it was like entering a cave.

Nalongo entered the kitchen, picked her mat from the nook of the door and laid it down next to the fireplace. She too sat down stretching her legs out across the mat. The children lowered their voices and continued talking about how the nsenene day went for them. Ruth served katogo to her mother on a plate and Brian poured for her a cup of milk. She sat there like a queen with a fancy head gear, big necklace around her neck, bangles around her wrists and a very beautiful African dress with a lesso around her waist. Ronah brought a cup of water and a sauce pan and placed them next to Nalongo. Nalongo then picked the cup, washed her hands in the saucepan and started having her supper. The boys and girls hadn’t stopped talking about the nsenene day. Nalongo was sat listening to the boys talk about the nsenene day as she had her supper. She looked not interested in their talk, but her ears hadn’t been blocked with cotton. She looked at the far side of the kitchen and saw Girl sleeping there, snoring. “Who is that and what is she doing here?” she asked.

It’s Kenyonyozi’s Girl. I think she got lost. I found her here before I started preparing supper” answered Ruth.

Nalongo was then chewing leisurely on her katogo. She sipped one gulp of milk from her mug and said,

“When I had just got the city, the nsenene season started and I was so happy to pick nsenene in the city. I got lost like Girl” Nalongo said. She had suddenly brought them down to stop talking and listen. Ronah then straightened her legs on the dusty floor, she pulled her dress to her knees and asked, “What happened? Are there nsenene in the city too?” She wanted her mother to tell the whole story.

“Yes, there are nsenene in the city too. Too much nsenene. Way more than we catch here. Nalongo answered. She swallowed again and continued her story

“Nsenene there are picked at night. People lay white cloths and the rich people lay shiny ironsheets down below the electricity bulbs. Nsenene love too much brightness and so they come running to the electricity bulb. The electricity bulb is reflected on the shiny ironsheets or cloths on the ground. So the nsenene will see too much light on the ironsheets or white cloths and they will go land on them. Some nsenene go directly to the electricity bulb but they fall immediately to the ironsheets or white cloths on the ground because the electricity bulb is too hot for them to land on it. There are always people waiting to catch the falling nsenene. Sometimes some people add some greasily fluids on the ironsheets so nsenene get stuck there when they land. Those ironsheets can be left their unattended until morning when the owners come to take the nsenene.” Nalongo finished.

“And how exactly did you get lost” asked Darius?

“I was very new in the city, and had been invited by my new friends to go pick nsenene. We moved from one electricity pole to another with many other girls and boys. At one moment I found I was with different people I never knew at all and I immediatey decided to go back home. I walked the whole city till morning trying to get back home.” Nalongo finished her story which made everybody laugh. She was finishing her supper. She straightened up and told Brian and Darius to take Girl back home. She also stressed that everybody was to go take a bath before bedtime. She bent again on her kitchen door and walked out, walked into the main house and a light was seen from the door and window holes.

Kekimuri had sent all her nsenene back home with her sons after the activity to stay behind for some small talk with two of her friends from the neighbouring villages. The small talk grew into a big long talk and darkness crept in slowly by slowly until a thick layer of black covered the whole village, leaving a few dotted lights on the lower parts of the village, and the far away villages on the horizon. The sky was too lifeless with no smiles from any gods. Seated on the rocks by the footpath to Rooza’s house on the upper heels of Buzina, the women bitched about everything, laughed in choruses, crescendo, decrescendo, hitting all the highest and lowest pitches on the laughter octave. They had not regarded any people passing by. They had been completely immersed in the pleasure of their talk, and whoever they talked about. Kekimuri had not met these women for a long time since they came from far. She wanted to make sure they all exchanged whatever tit bits that lay beneath each of their villages.

The wick lamp was blown off by the wind and Cris went back home to pick a red fire ended piece of wood from the hearth. He used this to search the neighborhood but none of them had seen Girl. At Roozas, Rwameiru was also setting out to look for a missing calf that had probably taken off while they were picking nsenene. The two met and decided to cooperate in their search and they found the calf in Nalongo’s potato gardens eating like in the farm. Rwameiru promised to help Cris look for his sister and they first took the calf home and came back to search for Girl.

They met Brian and Ruth carrying Girl as they returned her home. The young stars then first sat on a rock as they chatted about school, exams, nsenene. They started talking about the accidents and incidents that happened earlier during the day, sharing what each had seen that the others hadn’t seen. The boys were all lost in the chat that they couldn’t even remember Brian was carrying Kenyonyozi’s daughter. Darius then started retelling the story about how people in the city catch nsenene when he was interrupted by the author of the story, Nalongo. She had been wondering where her children had gone after offering to help take Girl back home. “It’s been seven, ten minutes when I told you the story and you are already retelling? Anyway, it’s late, give over the girl and let’s get back home? The boys all go up, Cris recived Girl and the parties parted and Nalongo was heard saying, “Darius, telling you things doesn’t mean you know them. You will one time fall in a trap and you will be tramped.” She and Brian laughed as they melted in the dark. Cris and Rwameiru had also disappeared with their red light

After Kekimuri and her friends had completely emptied their mouths and turned villages upside down, they retired by going back to their respective villages and homes, taking different directions. It was already too late for a woman to be out in the darkness alone.

She was a mother tiger, so brave and so strong. From a tender age, she had never feared being alone. She had wandered even the most dangerous of the forests around her neighborhood alone, at night and always made it back home, safe and alive. As she walked through the narrow path in the bushes in the darkness, all she could hear was her own steps and breath. It was the loudest and deafening silence she ever heard. She had always been warned of walking at night alone by her friends but she always gave them the notion that she would be fine. But the more silent the night grew, the more scared she became. Then a quick reminder of the night’s crawlers hit her like lightening, thieves, rapists, and cutthroats were all lurking around, and she would be their next victim. Suddenly she started feeling as if someone was walking closely on her tail; she paused, turned her head and looked back with a very scared pose. Her eyes tried to pierce through the darkness to look further, for no one seemed to be closer, but a strong layer of the black could not allow her to use such magic. She tried to listen but all she could hear was the rumbling in her own stomach from the nsenene she had eaten, the dup-dup sound of her heart and her breath. She resumed walking and still felt the same feeling, stopped again, heard and saw nothing then resumed her walk, this time in haste and very watchful. To her she was the only living in the dead night

Suddenly flashes of light came in; wind started blowing so hard, the creaking of the branches of trees bending in respect for the kings of the night made the whole environment to her seem like a ghost village. Right before she made a right turn to her house, a flash of lightening revealed a dark manly figure fast approaching. She paused in fear again, her hearting thumping like it wanted to get out of her rib cage. The next flash had magically brought the man zero distance to Kekimuri.

“Rubahamba, you scared me!” said Kekimuri in a scared tone while trying to show her bravery with a fake grin.

“What is a woman like you doing outside in the dead of the night?” asked Rubahamba. “Haven’t you been told of night crawlers; thieves, rapists and cutthroats, and hey not forgetting witches and night dancers? Pretty dangerous stuff.” he continued. Kekimuri felt uneasy on the mention of all those that ruled the night but she faked her bravery with a “Come on, there are no such things.”

“Ah, you think so? You must be old enough to know that some things in Buzina are not just myths to scare off children. Let me take you home.” Rubahamba humbly asked but his offer was immediately turned down by Kekimuri who insisted she had made it closer to home, she would walk the remaining four hundred meters to her house alone and safe. Rubahamba however insisted on escorting her back home and off they went, side by side staggering in the darkness and sometimes waiting for flashes of lightening to show them the way, they rolled away stumbling on rocks in the narrow dark footpath.

Kekimuri grew so scared being alone at night in the darkness with a man not her husband, a man who had insisted on taking her home, and more so a man like like Rubahamba whose reputation was inscribed in his golden name. It wasn’t long after she started worrying that Rubahamba put his reputation to its glory. He went for a very tight grip on Kekimuri’s arm, pulled her off of the the footpath and in no second, the mother tiger’s clothes had been torn into pieces and she was yelling for help.

Who could hear her? Every yell she made was being blown away by the wind to the peak of Buzina and no one down in the village would ever hear her to come to her rescue. She continued yelling for help until suddenly she saw Rubahamba pulled away from his dance floor and pushed into the thickets close by. A savior had come, and it was the man with a bald head, the man she had embarrassed earlier during the day. Kekimuri felt even more scared, but the bald headed man was an old gentleman. He was a weak old man, but he made sure Rubahamba didn’t completely devour his prey. The old man made sure Kekimuri reached home safely and they two had just become friends, but with a secret. Kekimuri had begged the old bald headed man never to disclose the incident to any one for she feared her husband would kick her out of their marital home if he ever found out about it.

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