RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We dared the village night dancer

My humble village used to believe in witchcraft, occult powers, voodoo curses and the existence of mysterious demons and spirits. Folks who subscribed to these could often be heard voraciously drumming in the night, appeasing their small gods. Chants and performances of hideous dances around devilish relics like gourds and small stools when a family member mysteriously died were common. The bereaved had to appease the angry gods lest they struck again. It is not extraordinary therefore that many sorcerers, wizards, witches and night dancers existed in my home village.
But one man who sent cold shivers into the hearts of many was a neighbour called Mwirima. He was said to be a rainmaker but also doubled as a night dancer. Stories abounded about his scary lifestyle.For instance, it was whispered that he only fed on human flesh and had never lacked meat in his home. Whenever someone died in the village, so it was said, Mwirima would beckon his powers to crack down the tomb and exhume the just buried corpse.

Another horrific tale was about how he would dip a child's arm in a boiling pot of water and let it be till he returned from his escapades. Accordingly, his wife was to sleep on the same side of the bed facing the wall and not turning or even wincing. Short of this, her dear husband would be nabbed.

Whatever! We were victims of Mwirima's odious nocturnal visitations. In the deep of night, he could be heard stomping his way around our homestead - something that always emersed us in fright and horror. It was much later during the rage of adolescent hormones that I gathered the guts to act 'peeping Tom'. On that unforgettable night, I silently opened the window and stole a look. There he was, dressed in dry banana leaves that made stuttering noise at every step he made. He looked like a jumbo puzzle and when he walked, the ground shook as if there was a powerful earthquake.

The Nigerians say that when the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk. Same story for Mwirima - he was usually at his best when the moon was bright. Looking at him in the moonlit night, the dry banana leaves fully camouflaged him, giving him the size of a chimpanzee. He would make strange signs and body movements. The ugliest of his acts was when he brushed his buttocks on the front door of our house. All this time, he would drone on in a low voice, a very dull voice. Everything about Mwirima gashed my body in pieces of panic. Yet I held on by the window totally lost in following whatever he did. In his aprons, with chains making a ding-ding-dong noise as he moved, and his hair standing spooked on his head, Mwirima was like a devil come to terrorise the neighbourhood. He always held a burning flame and after his retreat, I would creep back to my little bed and stay awake scared like a trapped bird. Outside in the dark night, the hurricane would blow; windows creak, sinister and shocking as if in conspiracy with the night dancer. And in the morning, we found chewed plants littering our veranda.

This went on for sometime until I joined high school. At school, we trained in all kinds of acrobatics and kick-boxing. It was always invigorating and one felt he could defend himself at all costs. This pride pushed us to hunt down Mwirima. At this time, a friend and I had grown skeptical about his 'powers' and peculiar acts. We were determined to grab him and make him pay for his sins.

We made a master plan and one beautiful summer night, when the moon was smiling down the earth, we got ready for him, armed with pangas, a torch, a match box and a small bucket full of petrol. Judgment day for Mwirima had dawned. We left the front door unbolted and slightly ajar, praying against all odds that when Mwirima rubbed his bums on the door, he would fall in. And we would swipe him, drench him in petrol and set him ablaze. But was ours indeed a master plan?

When the moment of truth arrived, I felt very strange - like I was in a lizard's skin. I still don't know about my colleague but my hair stiffened on the back of my head as I stood behind the door shivering like a little girl. What if I became prey to his evil deeds? Our resolve to corner this wizard was almost running out when my partner in crime whispered something about bravery and brevity being the key to the success of our campaign. We had hardly conquered our doubts when we heard Mwirima do his trot just like a man about to face the circumcision knife. We immediately conditioned our worst worries into fortitude and waited on alert.

It seemed lady luck was on our side, for as soon as Mwirima rubbed his bums on the door, he landed flat, his back on the floor. At that moment, I shouted at my friend to wash the night dancer with the petrol while at the same time I raised my machete to chop him to pieces. Unfortunately, I lost balance and fell as the damn machete bounced off my hands to the base. Desperate to accomplish the mission, I picked it up again and aimed too late - Mwirima had already slithered away.

My accomplice aimed a torch at him as we followed but gave up when Mwirima vanished through the dark banana plantation. I swear at that moment I felt overwhelmed by a supernatural presence and fell to the ground, drained of all the energy and full of remorse that our mission had aborted.

This encounter with the strange night dancer left me nauseated -I even vomited. It was argued much later that Mwirima's paranormal powers had rendered us immobile, that he caught us in a spell. Some of our superstitious neighbours advised my parents to seek the services of a witchdoctor before Mwirima made us regret why we had challenged his powers. But my father, a staunch Catholic, could hear none of it. Instead he invited a parish priest who prayed for us.

In the subsequent days, I had warped dreams about the presence of Mwirima. Luckily for me, the ugly dreams vanished and with them Mr Mwirima. Never again, did he disturb our peace with his night dancing visitations!

Published in Sunday Monitor, March 19, 2006