The Gaunt Woman
The gaunt woman leaps into the coffin in a fraction of a second, with a sick and intense determination in her eyes. She steps on her dead sister’s chest with bone crunching force and lifts up her lifeless arm by the wrist. She rips the arm off the corpse like she tears a page from a book.
As she dangles the arm in front of her, she looks at it with a gleeful sparkle in her eyes. To my horror, she bites a chunk out of the arm and throws it to the obese woman. As she chews the rotting flesh, the previously clotted blood is reanimated as it slides down the corners of her lips. She doesn’t allow the blood to drip to the ground. She brushes it with a graceful finger; a finger which she delicately kisses like a missed lover.
Fountain Of Youth
A woven, knee-length, black dress clings to her subtle curves. Two large claws meet just above her collar bone, like two white thumbs strangling her throat. They are joined together by a silver thread around her graceful neck. Her bracelet resembles a silver bird’s nest which was sparsely woven around her slender wrist. She has the pleasure of a penthouse view atop her black and red soled high heels.
Her makeup is indiscernible, only giving her skin a youthful glow. Her hair is ultra-straight, dark brown and just below her shoulders. It floats with every shake of her head, like a feather at the mercy of the wind.
Unlike some Zimbabwean women who believe in the utility of big breasts, hips and butt, she keeps her body slender, and consequently, youthful. Tari wishes she could look like her at any age. Her mother discovered the fountain of youth, and she is not sharing.
“She’s pretty,” Tawa says from nowhere.
Tari glances at him, before returning her attention to the gaunt woman.
She hadn’t thought about it. But on closer inspection, she acknowledges these sentiments. She’s pretty, in a glammed-up sought of way. She has tasteful makeup and short dark brown hair. The gaunt face can now be described as slender, with high cheek bones accentuated by blush and dainty lips punctuated by a matte cerise. The colours suite her very light skin – something Tari didn’t notice on her night-time foray.
Her blue, gold and pink, floral summer dress is tight at the waist and flared below. This gives the illusion of hips. As she met and kissed her boyfriend, she had a beaming, comely smile which made her face glow that much more. Tari realises what a nut-job she is being. Here is a woman, who by all indications appears lovely, and she is tailing her because of a dream which proves otherwise.
But something immediately rouses her senses. She can feel it more than see it, like it scales the walls. As unfamiliar as the feeling is, its warning is unmistakable – something is coming, something whose motives she doubts are benevolent. Like a compass needle drawn to the magnetic poles, her gaze is drawn to the front door. A silhouette appears at the other side of the glass doors.
Is she dreaming?
The door is slowly opened without the slightest squeak of a hinge. Now she is fully awake. She props herself up on the couch with an elbow. When she looks around to her parents, neither of them has removed their eyes from the TV. They both look to be on the verge of dozing off.
Is she dreaming?
She swiftly returns her gaze to the door. They are coming, and apparently, she is the only one who can see them. To her utter shock, a naked woman walks through the door. Tari glances at her mother, who is seated beside her. Her face appears frozen in a comely smile.
Surely, she can’t be the only one seeing this. Is she going mad?
The naked lady comes closer, one leg gracefully leading the other. She is in no hurry – she is savouring her moment. Tari hears her heart like it beats right at her ear, its rhythm getting faster as the lady approaches.
When the lady stops, a vaguely familiar face begins to take shape. Tari has seen the face only once before. And who could forget the big, frizzy Diana Ross hair?
Now only a few meters from each other, Tari recognises the glare that petrified her in the morning. They stare at each other like there is no one else in the room. Tari, in her oversized T-shirt and sweats, unglamorous, and the lady, bare, statuesque, fearless and defiant. Time stops, and the whole world freezes, waiting on them to thaw it.
When she parks her car, a young man in overalls appears from behind one of the buildings. He walks over to her. A scrawny dog follows behind him. She doesn’t get out of the car. She instead half opens her window.
“Hello,” she calls out to him.
He comes very close, and lowers his face to look at her. His breath steams the window.
His voice is deep and incongruous with his lanky body.
The little dog now rests just under her car door.
“I’m looking for Mr and Mrs Naka.”
He turns his head back as if searching for them. When he returns to her, his face is contorted like she shines a light in his eyes. The edges on his jaw become that much more defined.
“They are in the fields right now. I can take you to them.”
He points into the mango orchard.
“They are not very far.”
She holds her door disengage, but then eyes the mongrel. She has never been comfortable around strange dogs. It doesn’t help that a couple of years ago, she was almost bitten by her neighbour’s unruly dog when she had gone there to deliver his lost mail. She quickly escaped and slid the gate closed before the rabid beast had sunk its teeth in her leg. She has liked dogs less since then.
“Get away,” the guy hisses at the dog.
It’s like the animal disgusts him all of a sudden.
When it responds sluggishly, he threatens it with a kick. The mutt quickly escapes with a yelp before his gumboot connects with its bony rear end. Tari looks at the dog scamper away, now feeling sorry for it.
She opens her door and gets out of the car. When she gets close to the guy, she can smell his sweat, not fresh sweat, but days old sweat.
He stares at her for an uncomfortable while like she is an alien descended from the sky. She gets a good look at his face. It is very geometric, like it was carved out of wood. There is very little fat on it. The flesh clings and wraps onto the bone like saran wrap.
Tari didn’t know the ground could be so brutal. With her sandals off, she can feel the tiniest stones in the dirt. It’s as if someone took time to sharpen them, and for her inconvenience. Will she see blood if she looks under her feet?
She resists the urge to scratch her soles with every step. The hut they go to is a few meters away, but she dreads the pain in store for her. She feels every step like she walks through a field of thorns. Maybe if she had unshakable faith, she could walk the path as effortlessly as a religious zealot walks over a bed of smouldering coals.
They were told to remove their shoes by an elderly woman. She is dressed in what passes as traditional garb – a blue and green printed head scarf and a wraparound garment with green and beige prints. She wears seed and wooden bead jewellery around her ankles, wrists and neck. Although she too is barefoot, she doesn’t seem to suffer for it.
Tari wishes she could fare as well.
When she looks to Mr and Mrs Naka, she doesn’t find kindred spirits. They too just proceed like it’s a stroll in the park on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Mrs Naka’s face appears frozen in a frown, with the corners of her lips drooping slightly. Tari wishes not to look like that when she is her age, or any age for that matter.
When Mr Naka suggested they see a Shaman, the voice of reason only nudged her. When she was driving them to see Chiroveso, it nagged her. But now, barefoot and gullible like a toddler, it screams at her.
She descends into one of the virgin forests on the farm. When her feet touch the ground, she hears the crunch of leaves. Her heart leaps to her throat, at the thought of something hearing her. A darkness falls over the forest like the sun has just been swallowed by a dark nebula. She shivers in the cold, yet she knows that she must continue.
As she moves deeper into the woods, she hears something – a female voice, chanting. In the dark, she can only make out a silhouette of a woman on her knees, rhythmically clapping her hands. The sound of her claps drowns out her chants.
Tari moves closer, but cautiously. She only senses malevolence from the kneeling woman. But she was brought here for a reason. Now only a few feet away, she wonders what the woman is communing with. She moves around her.
The outline of a clay pot emerges into view. It is filled with …..blood, or what looks like blood. The woman falls silent and allows her arms to rest. The blood begins to rise. It clings to the sides of the pot like it doesn’t wish to fill it, like an organism desperate not to leak out of its home.
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