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This and that with Maluphosa:- Khukhulawun

24 Jun 2012 at 19:03hrs | Views
The setting sun always brings over me an enigmatic melancholy - the one that must have been felt by the great king Lobengula when it dawned on him that he had lost his vast kingdom to Rhodes, for ever. The sun usually looks somehow dunn-colored, blunt and blood-stained, like it lost some of its rays when some malignant omnipotent force with iniquitous intentions immersed it in a bean shaped cauldron half-filled with human blood, as part of some ill-luck conjuring ritual. Its upper segment is a bright slippery maroon, like de-oxygenated blood, while the middle looks somewhat a dull grayish red, and its lower-most third is hardly visible. This brings upon me an aura of uncertainty - some feeling that portends the end of the world. Dear God, we have seen that in our life-time, all over the world - man visiting the most unthinkable and unspeakable acts on other, defenseless citizens of the same universe.

This evening, like I have done every evening since my whole family perished in that fierce man-made Armageddon, I sit and try to get closure. But it is difficult if one does not have satisfactory answers. Why would someone choose to sacrifice whole families, most of whom were as ignorant and innocent as little children?

A mob of red-bereted soldiers whose fury and language no one understood, arrived in a big Korean made truck, heaved off the truck as if passively launched from a newly installed spring-board, and with the same verve, temper, anger and vitality, they began attacking everything and everybody in sight. I should say it had started like a bad-tempered rugby practice match. In no time, there was blood, wailing, groaning, shouting, wailing, broken bones and chopped limbs. And again in no time, there was a raging inferno that would have made turned Lucifer green and hell fire just a braai stand for the said rugby players. My family members were indiscriminately hurled into the furious fire-storm. I watched them riddle and slither in the fire, like giant alien snakes whose heads have been pinned down by an inexperienced amateur snake-charmer.

I had closed my eyes, anticipating my turn too, already feeling the abnormal heat of the huge malevolent flames licking the air in search of more booty to char and devour. But I was spared. I do not know why. May be I was spared because I was small and I reminded these men of their own children; may be because I said the prayer that mother recited daily before we started eating. May be I lived to live to tell the story. Still, I tried to throw myself into the rampant hell-hole. One whitish soldier with small, almost indiscernible eyes seized me by the waist band of my tattered shorts and threw me a good distance from the apocalypse, where I landed on my back. But I was so determined; I dashed right back, tried to duck from the sightless one but detoured straight into the enormous hand of another one, this time a black one who barked; 'Uku! Ndokupwanya msoro ne pfuti ini!' His squeeze to my neck anaesthetized my whole body. I flopped into the temperate barren soil near his mammoth mud-caked boot. He stomped my
neck with the boot, as if on some irksome pest, and applied great pressure. I panted, gasped and puffed under the rough force of the boot. Feeling nauseated and dizzy, I began to see mirages all round. Still, I made some token struggle - flapping my lame arms and kicking hopelessly. He would not let go. I thought he applied more pressure as I lay there, hallucinating and disoriented.

Everything was like a dream went wrong; I could barely see the soldiers standing alert around the fire, guns pointed intently at the fire, ready to deal with anyone who tried to crawl out. One, in particular, who reminded me of gorilla pictures drawn for pre-school infants, clomped around the fire like a strict invigilator eager to thwart known truants from cheating.

My sister was the first offender; her eyes had been eviscerated and lips slashed with a broken bottle. She inched forward like some walrus experiencing labour pains, dragging her left leg whose femur had been pestled to smithereens . Her arms had been broken in many places too. They moved lifelessly by her sides. Her progress was limited. Mr. Gorilla, excited as ever, put a bullet through her blistered hairless eyeless cranium, forcing the blood and brains to spatter and spray, like mud when a big quick truck dives into it with its over-sized wheels. Some of the escaping contents sloshed onto the bush-coloured uniform of the sightless one, painting it graffiti style in haphazard red, white and cream. She stopped struggling.

My father was next. He came out rolling, like they had been taught in Cuba during those war years. He dragged his broken, twisted limbs, his chest and buttocks on one side. One soldier bent down, grabbed his head in his callused hands, placed one boot firmly on father's chest, and twisted the head, forcing the vertebrae to crackle and gurgle as it disintegrated and spewed dark red blood and traces of the spinal cord. Another black soldier, a feeble version of the Terminator, shuddered, cringed and stomped away. He stood under a tree and hyperventilated and retched into the blood-red horizon. Father refused to die. My brother was the last to creep out. The invigilator delivered vicious blows to his head with a pestle. Again, they were all shoved back to the ravenous fire, like rabid cows that must be destroyed to break the cycle of the disease.

I swooned. When I came to, I was alone. The soldiers had gone. As my senses began functioning again, the bare truth of what had happened began unfolding. Slowly I crawled to the place of disaster, crying like only a scared traumatized eight year old does. Out of despair and despondency, I flapped my thin arms frantically against my scantily fleshed thighs. Stomping my cracked feet repeatedly and rapidly on the barren soil, I bawled and howled into the evening, like a wizard's hyena. My stomach loosened, and then involuntarily stiffened; I puked; bitter green stuff. My chin was a beard of vomitus, mucus, tears, dust, mud and thick saliva. I sat there and watched in disbelief the fire turning into ashes and charcoal, together with its prized fuel. Human life and shape turned into smoldering simmering hissing bubbling shapeless greasy fossil under the foggy veil of smoke and filth. Man and woman turned into genderless masses of festering tissue and bone! Right in front of my eyes!

Sitting here now, I can remember the panic in my father's eyes and voice when those soldiers parked their grotesque truck next to our home. Except for me who understood little of the situation, everyone had frozen. The muted conversation had died instantly, as if someone had pressed the 'off' button on an invisible, efficient remote control. The soldiers had started swearing and cursing the moment they scrambled out of that ghastly grisly truck. They barked out orders or instructions in their unknown language; randomly kicking out of their way anything or anyone their muddy boots could reach, causing a confused deafening din. They were delivering bone crunching blows with their oversized boots, gun-butts, and anything they could lay their rough greasy broad hands on. My father had tried to reach out for me, stretching his hand for me to hold. His hand was hacked with a bayonet, and all the soldiers had descended on him, using everything at their disposal, resulting in his back breaking and twisting. He bled profusely from obvious and hidden injuries.

Mother had also tried to reach out to me, as if trying to protect me from the pain she experienced in that man-made hell. This is when she tried to slither out of the fire but was pounded with logs until she passed out. She was tossed back into the fire - just a floppy ragged rag doll painted sooty black, red and grey. Her hair, which everyone had said resembled that of amakhiwa, was a stiff uneven mass of dry cow-dung.

Father was the last one to stop breathing like the way he had always looked out for us. He was always the last to come home from the fields or his errands; he was always the last one to get to church; he was the last one to sleep. I guess he wanted to ensure all his dependants went ahead of him in this chartless, radar-less map-less land of the dead.

'Khukhulawun,' I remembered now. Khukhulawun. It had been spoken so many times on television and radio. Angry, emotional, fist waving men with heavy bellies and harsh hoarse voices appeared on television almost daily, warning 'busy-dents' they were coming for them. Father had thought it would be safer in the rural areas than in towns, hence our movement to the village. In the village and beyond, there had been cautious and wary conversations about Khukhulawun searching everywhere, including in pregnant bellies and pots, for busy-dents. As children, we wondered what the busy-dents were busy doing that pissed off those big bellies and bald heads. I doubt if any of my family had ever seen busy-dents in their short lives. We hardly had visitors in this part of the country, especially busy ones. It was just these ugly soldiers enforcing the twenty-four-seven curfew, bringing uncertainty and untimely death - pillaging, raping, maiming, committing carnage with annoying impunity. In the end there was talk that these soldiers were the actual busy-dents.

Ngiyabonga mina!

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Maluphosa can be contacted at clerkn35@gmail.com


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