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The Escape Route In the Dark
by Ndaba Sibanda (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 04-May-2016

When the elders came up with the adage, 'There is no need to fear a darkness without leopards,' they did not mean the situation which Mr. Bhidliza found himself in...

Once upon a time there lived a very notorious man. He had the beguiling face of a youthful model, guiltless eyes of a tried and tested devout, a beetling chin whose beard looked a little too lengthy and thick for comfort, and sometimes priestly, and a handsomely curvy mouth that seemed to mosey, gyrate and beam each time he uttered or smirked.

It is rumoured that some adolescent Hlatshwayo women fetchers of water, at a river well, once exchanged razor-sharp blows after arguing over the number of times he bathed per day and whether he devoted more time toward making babies than thieving. They were busy shouting obscenities, punching and unleashing fierce and clumsy slaps on each when an elderly woman shot on the scene and told them in no uncertain terms that there was no single man on Mother Earth worth fighting for.

Upon being pressed to clarify why he had too many children, he was quick to underline that even the Bible encourages people to proliferate whilst the health experts harp on child-spacing (which in his case and understanding translated into having children in different villages!) What was no rumour, though, was that women of all ages, colours and sizes, in general, fell over themselves for him like his presence had an irresistible and magnetising effect on them. 

It is said that one very dark night Mr. Bhidliza had snuck into the homestead of a loud-mouthed Member of Parliament, and within seconds, the honourable Member of Parliament’s classy car was cruising at breakneck speed on a bumpy road when it experienced a breakdown. Mr. Gwebu — (for that was his real name) — alighted from the stolen vehicle, pried open the bonnet, and was immersed in the gearbox when a female voice emanated from the backseat! For a while he was transfixed. What! The car he had stolen had a woman occupant sleeping in the cushiony black backseat!

“Why don't you look at the number plates, SekaNtombi?” Mr. Gwebu shuddered at the question.

He was wondering: How do l deal with this tricky situation now? Is she a witch or something? A ghost? A homeless slut? A crazy old drifter? Should l abandon my mission because of this mystery woman? Have l not won over ghosts and other pestering, wandering oddities before?

“Why don’t you look at the number plates, SekaNtombi? Have we gone past our ancestral cemetery, SekaNtombi?” The female voice came alive again. His knees squirmed inside his gold designer trousers.

 

He knew that the reference: SekaNtombi was an address to someone else`s parent. In SiNdebele, people have a tendency of addressing a parent by the name of his or her first-born child. For example, SekaNtombi means the father of Ntombi.

Something just overwhelmed him. It is said a ghostly apparition engulfed and outsmarted him and he tore away, vanishing into distance, into the concentrated darkness that also engulfed him.

She loved modern technology and modern modes of transport to no end. In the village most of her neighbours called her ‘The Old Woman Who Loves Modern Things in a Nauseating Way’. Her grandson’s talkative and assertive wife once told villagers that her grandmother-in-law was a hard-to-love, embarrassing, troublesome, shameless and self-delusional modern technology freak. The old lady always strove to keep up with modern technological advancement. She had a Chinese-made computerised wrist watch, a silver iPad Mini she always admired, and a shiny Samsung Galaxy S2 cell phone that she did not know how to operate. Neither did she know about the mechanics of cars and their body parts. 

What had transpired was that the old woman had decided to sleep in her grandson’s beautiful car because her legislator son’s son had told her they would leave early at four o’clock sharp in the morning for the City of Gwanda. City of Gwanda, to her, meant modern lights, and hence she was excited. However, she also knew that the chronic Government-induced electricity blackouts could mar her stay. She hated all the nation’s politicians with a passion, save for her grandson. Most of the country’s self-professed prophets and pastors had not endeared themselves to her either. Alone in her hut, more often than not, she would be heard whimpering, “These hypocrites’ bodies, including their cursed bones will burn in Hell! They make me sick!”

She thought she was talking to her grandson, but what surprised her was that there was no response. In her blissful ignorance it did not occur to her that a mere number plate could not be an issue that could stall a car! The recently awakened old woman is said to have sneezed, salivated and snoozed, then dozed and drooled again; before slipping into a fledged slumber characterised by a dream that gave her an all-seeing role: 

An arm-less bearded priest talks in monologues of walking impeccably clean, seeks to scamper away from what looks like a gloomy palace infested with numberless marching disgruntled skeletons and wheezing bees. But along the only path that purportedly leads to the gate of freedom lurks a deep ditch. The pit is pitilessly dark and awesomely blistering.

The fugitive cleric, heavy-laden with a mountainous loot of gold and silver, cars, cattle and curses, garments and grudges, women and weaknesses, farcical truths and gossips in place of the gospel of salvation, bribes and brutality instead of bibles and peace, human bones and human odour, and other problematic paraphernalia, literally gropes for the path that leads toward freedom, but slips into the gloomy pit! 

Some villagers soon come to the party, and Lord of Lords, she recognises some of them as the chief priests die-hard sycophants and mistresses! She tries to drive them away to no avail as they hurl down one part of a long rope into the abyss for the palace escapee to clinch with his long-matured but tireless and merciless teeth. Up, up the fawning poor pawns pull the tough line. 

On the verge of reaching the surface, his thrill of anticipated relief and for continued reign galvanizes him to prematurely utter, “Thank you com…” and with his horrible heap, he falls tragically back!


Confounded, the old woman woke up. Feeling a startling measure of relief and freedom, she waited in vain until dawn became a verdict that proclaimed that she had been stolen as well.

She claims that such a horrifying memory is enshrined in her heart up to this very moment.

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Author
Ndaba Sibanda

Ndaba Sibanda

Written: 2 Stories

Member Since: 04-May-2016

Country: Zimbabwe

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