Tari flinches at the sight. Two of the most horrific creatures she has ever seen are suckling each of the crone’s sagging breasts. They are as black as night, have pointed snouts, spiny black fur, and their two tails are coiled around each other, as in a lovers’ embrace. She recognises the eyes though – big red orbs. It is not milk they suckle, but blood, which trickles down their muzzles. She could vomit.
The hag holds out her arms, and her creatures let go of her. The snake slithers from her waist, and the two monstrosities unhook from each other and from her aged breasts. – A Consuming Darkness
I had always wanted to tell a story using my dad’s weird and scary witchcraft tales as inspiration. But when I was a child, they were not just stories – I believed them. And I wasn’t the crazy one for doing so. A lot of Zimbabweans believe in some form of witchcraft. It’s not just superstition, it’s fact.
True or not, I always thought the stories were authentic, truly Zimbabwean, and somewhat believable, in as far as a fictional story can be. Since the beliefs had survived the generations, they were colourful, full of detail and crammed with conventional wisdom. If anything else, I loved their originality. The stories were something uniquely ours, untouched by Hollywood, and waiting to be told.
But I was a child and knew nothing about writing. I more imagined the stories being brought to life through film than in a book.
So what changed?
For starters, I was already working on my first book. It wasn’t a daunting challenge anymore. But even that wasn’t what prompted me to write A Consuming Darkness.
It’s funny how an old passion can be reawakened by an instance of inspiration.
My inspiration came in the form of a movie – The Witch: A New-England Folktale. I loved the film. It was understated, disturbing and it felt authentic. The movie showed an old version of witches, highlighting more the anxieties felt by a family of individuals who really believed in their existence. The story was really creepy because it wasn’t inflated, and therefore felt more real.
When I found out that the film was based on 17th century New England folklore, I was intrigued. Hadn’t I wanted to tell a story using our own unique Zimbabwean folklore?
That is when I began writing notes. I even wrote the first scene, when the protagonist is in the thick of things with the witches. But these were not broom riding, black pointy hat wearing and cackling hags. They were based on what really frightens my family, friends and colleagues – based on what really frightened me as a child, to the point of terror induced insomnia.