By Michael MJ Gwarisa
To shake off the fear as we walked, we sampled one of the few songs we had composed for our kids makeshift band.
Somehow this technique worked, the singing had a calming effect.
Maybe that explains why back in the day, elderly folks would sing on their way from imbibing their beer.
There are many versions as to why people would sing on their way from the bar back then.
Some believe the singing was meant to herald the men’s arrival from a distance so as to warn the wife to take action if she would have been harboring another man in her bedroom.
It is believed the (Chikomba) or boyfriend would leave before causing a scene.
There is also a version which says the singing was meant to scare away ghosts and other lurking nocturnal creatures and beings from the dark world.
I believe the later.
While we were still at it, a loud howling sound from a Jackal burst from the woods, sending us both into a freezing mode before laughing it off.
We proceeded now talking and laughing at the top of our voices.
We could now see some fires from a few houses in my village, at least that gave us some sense of comfort and relief.
We had made it out of the dark unscratched.
We were now left with one crossing point, Ngondo river.
Since it was summer, water levels in most rivers including our own Ngondo river were low.
During our times as young boys in the rural areas, most rivers would flow all year round.
However, this has since changed.
During my last visit to kumusha, I noted that most rivers have silted as a result of human induced economic and social activities.
I heard some gold panning and fish poaching has been happening uncontrollably and as a result, most rivers have silted and rivers now only flow during the rainy season.
As we descended into river, I felt this chilling sensation.
My hairs stood on end.
I felt like I had instantly developed some goosebumps.
Before I could even figure out what was happening, a large amber like glowing ball of fire appeared right in front of us! It was as if it was floating on water.
“But how does fire float on water, are we having our own experience of Moses and the burning bush?” I asked myself as we stood there perplexed, frozen like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt.
Before I could figure out what was happening, the glow dimmed and returned this time a bit smaller but gradually expanding.
“Pfutsek!!!” my friend shouted at the flames. “Are you crazy, have you lost your mind?’” I whispered at him.
He said he heard someone say if you insult these ghastly beings at times with unprintable words, they would disappear.
Well, this ghost was stubborn, it briefly disappeared before reemerging this time a bit higher, brighter and as a humongous ball of flames moving in circular motion.
All this happened in a few seconds. I was shaken to the core. I had never been that scared. I looked at my friend.
He stood there, scared and trembling as a reed shakes in water. Without saying a word to him, I took off, I didn’t want to see the fireball returning bigger this time.
Who knows, maybe we had angered the spirit when he cursed it and this time, it would come back baying for our blood.
I didn’t look back. I could hear my friend’s footsteps as he ran after me. Somehow, whatever had glued him to the spot had loosened its hold on him.
He was breathing heavily like a wounded beast.
But because I wasn’t looking back, I sure it was him and I thought for once maybe the ghost was pursing me.
I accelerated. I am sure I even eclipsed the world’s fastest runner, Ussain Bolt’s record that night.
I couldn’t scream, besides no one could hear me at this time of night.
I think I spoke in tongues, summoning every heavenly angel and kind ancestors to come to my rescue.
Like a Bugatti, my friend overtook me, I still don’t know how he did that. I followed behind him. Now we were both screaming, we changed course, headed for another crossing point.
Because my friend was not that familiar with the geography of my area, he fell in a pool of water as he attempted to jump on some rock. Because I was right behind him, I also tripped and fell into the pool. We didn’t waste time, we proceeded.
All we wanted now was to be home. Nothing else mattered. We later emerged from the river panting.
We ran for a few more yards and only stopped as we approached our homestead.
We looked back and after making sure no one was following us, we started walking.
Clothes drenched in water and panting, we arrived home.
We didn’t say a word to a single soul that evening.
We went straight to sleep only to share the story the following morning.