SHORT STORY: Forbidden passion can be deadly

Friday August 24 2018

On the burial day of his beloved father, as the coffin was lowered into the grave, Pindu wept. Late in the evening after the solemn burial of Mkosi, countless sparrows were seen flitting across the sky. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG


The haunting of Miriri village began with strange drunkards. “That is the homestead of murderers,” a drunk passer-by would proclaim and point to Mkosi’s home.

Things got worse when drunks began appearing at the homestead, at Mkosi’s gate as they condemned the home. They would demand that Mkosi kills them in the same way he killed Lumbija.

Nothing could drive them away. They shouted louder as the beatings by Mkosi intensified.

In the middle of the night, it would always rain heavily, and the strange drunkards would vanish. This went on for a year or two. Then, things changed.

Kwendo, the village drunkard took up the role of preaching night after night at the Mkosi gate. Even though Kwendo was once given a thrashing at that gate, he did not relent.

Indeed, he made his appearances even more regular. Night after night he appeared and dared Mkosi to kill him in the same way he killed Lumbija. Night after night, Kwendo insisted that whoever harvests disaster must feast on its bitter fruit with his family.


Yet everything remained shrouded in mystery. In any case, every time Kwendo appeared at the Mkosis gate, it rained heavily late in the night and he would disappear into the downpour.

Pindu Mkosi was about twelve years old, when the misfortune flowered. He saw his mother, Reria, being beaten by angry villagers.

He saw her wail in desperation, in agony. Her tears cut deep into his soul. She was his fortress, his anchor. It was beyond his imagination that his parents could be humiliated by anyone in the world. Nothing else had ever made them cry.

But she soaked up the blows stoically, for she knew. Of course, she knew why.


Had the police not arrived in good time, Reria would surely have died. Pindu could have defended his mother Reria with his own life, but he was like a speck of dust before the irate villagers. Faceless women slapped him and he too, wailed uncontrollably.

He ran over to his mother who was wheezing and whimpering. Helpless. Only to be dragged away and flogged. Even his uncles and family friends had turned against them. One of his uncles whacked him on the back with a whip and he fell to the ground writhing in pain.

That encounter when a well-knit community executed their twisted form of justice upon him and his hapless mother was to remain a living scar, forever. In the midst of a mob baying for blood, police officers descended.

A police truck drove into their homestead and saved them from lynching.

The mob scattered.

The bleeding Reria was loaded onto the truck where she appeared safe. Other officers ransacked the houses and emerged with his father and shoved Mkosi onto the truck too.

His terrified, bruised and bleeding face pitifully gazed at his children and second wife, Fibi as the truck sped off.

Mkosi looked as dazed as a cow being taken to slaughter.

The night that followed Mkosi and Reria’s arrests would be a Locust Night. This was a cleansing night whereupon villagers would loot anything of value from the homestead of a murderer. So, that night, the village locusts descended upon the Mkosi homestead.

They swept clean all the granaries, broke into the cattle shed and scrambled for the terrified animals, and spirited them away. From inside the houses, they helped themselves to everything but the cowrie shells.

Mkosi’s three-hectare sugarcane plantation was torched. Flames roared through the farm, incinerating everything in its path. The fire consumed the now emptied granaries.

And just as the locusts had landed, they departed and only the old cinders and wind prevailed.

It is the old people who spread the whispers. Since the old days, anyone who shed blood had his or her home and property plundered as sanctification.

The plunder was to be immediate and had to be on the Locust Night to bind the blood of the victim from haunting their killer. The following day the world was eerily silent. It was as if nothing had happened overnight.

Years went by, people progressed, the village grew bigger. Children in Miriri came to know of the deserted homestead with overgrown paths.

To the elderly, the ruins were a temporary monument crafted by nature to remind the living of the downfall of Lumbija.

Soon a decade passed and for Mama Reria, it was a time for homecoming. Who would not have done what Mkosi did in such circumstances?


The incident instantly pricked Mkosi’s heart. It was extreme provocation, he reassured himself. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, Lumbija had walked into a viper’s nest.

A story is told that when Reria was still in her nubile years of innocence, she fell in love with Lumbija.

But just days to their wedding, Lumbija departed. He deserted her and disappeared to a distant town far from Miloo. He left without saying a word. Reria was left hanging like a withered leaf. She dreamt of him every moment of her life. She needed him, but Lumbija was gone.

Mkosi came to Miloo two years after Lumbija’s departure. He was a gifted guitarist. Reria just happened to be the best village dancer.

Mkosi strummed and Reira danced and danced as they entertained villagers. Mkosi and Reria talked about music. He told her he had toured far and wide.

Reria pictured him playing the guitar for her daily.

She soon lost all hope of ever seeing Lumbija again. Maybe Mkosi used charms in wooing her. No one knows. What is known is that Reria found herself in Mkosi’s arms. She listened to him with blossoming hope.

“Reria, you are a great dancer. Believe me, you can go places. You should never allow such great talent and beauty to lie forgotten in this godforsaken village. I can take you places all over our great kingdom…”

Reria thought such travel could give her chance to find Lumbija.


Mkosi took her to Miriri, far away from Miloo. But once in Miriri, Mkosi confined her to the house. He never traversed the kingdom with her as he had promised and made her his second wife.

She was furious. She also felt cheated by Lumbija. Had he not gone into hiding, she would never have made such a mistake.

But when Lumbija finally emerged, he tracked her to Miriri and they rekindled their long-lost love, culminating in the Locust Night on the Mkosi homestead.

But now, Mkosi had spent a decade in jail and had returned to reconstruct his ruined home. He brought back Fibi and her children from her maternal home. Reria and her children came back too.

Simsala, her youngest daughter, who was born while she was serving a one-year jail term was a spectacle for Miriri. You see, Simsala was the fruit of Lumbija’s seed.

But every August, the skies would open with some vengeance upon Miriri. It was said that was because that was the month Lumbija has been speared to death by Mkosi who chanced upto him in a compromising position with Reria.

One night, as Pindu peered out, it was an unusually severe storm. The family woke up the next morning to find that Mkosi had lurched out for a short call during the night and a bolt of lightning had struck him down.

On the burial day of his beloved father, as the coffin was lowered into the grave, Pindu wept.

Late in the evening after the solemn burial of Mkosi, countless sparrows were seen flitting across the sky.

Blood had been atoned for spilt blood.

And the sparrows flew, heedless of the affairs of the humans below.