Attack of the Demon
By Lawrence Kadzitche
Mpuntho leaned against the counter, ready to explode. He was a short, thin man of sixty-five with a round head and a gaunt face housing small deep-set eyes. He wore a faded blue overall and worn out gumboots. The man facing him across the counter was equally short but was fat and resplendent in a khaki safari suit.
“You mean I have to buy things from my own brother’s shop?” Mpuntho roared, banging his hand on the counter.
Thubwa smoothed his safari suit. “You should understand, brother. You know everyone in this village is more or less a relative. If I’m to give goods to everyone for free then I’m going to close this shop.”
“I’m not talking about the others,” snarled Mpuntho. “I’m not just your relative but your brother. Your elder brother for that matter.”
“I know, know,” said Thubwa placatingly. “That’s why you should be the one the one to support this business by buying from me. Don’t you want this shop to grow?”
Thubwa had opened the shop about six months ago when he had retired from the government. Unlike most people who chose to stay in town after retiring, he had come to settle in his home village.
But soon he realized that running a business in one’s home village was not easy. His relatives wanted to get things from the shop for free. Those that were willing to pay thought they would pay whatever little amount they had. Others just took the goods on credit with no intention of repaying.
At first, he humored them by giving them whatever they wanted for free or for whatever they could afford to pay. For those who bought goods on credit, he realized that they were not willing to settle the debt.
“Surely, cousin, should I buy things from you?’ they would invariably say. “I should also enjoy the fruits of your work.”
He realised that if the trend continued, he was definitely heading towards bankruptcy. So he decided to start running the shop as a business.
Mpuntho, his elder brother, was the biggest culprit. A lazybones, he spent whatever little he got from farming and piecework on beer and women. So he was always broke.
“When you opened this shop, I thought I would hold my head high,” said Mpuntho. “But look at me; still poor as a stray dog.”
“Try to understand, brother,” reasoned Thubwa. “It’s not only you who want to get things for free. All the other relatives, too.”
“I said that I’m not speaking on behalf of the others,” Mpuntho said stubbornly. “Are you going to give me the cooking oil or not?”
Thubwa took a deep breath. “As long as you pay.”
“As long as I pay,” Mpuntho repeated, glaring at his brother. “Well, we’ll see about this.”
He spat on the floor and stormed out of the shop in a quandary. His wife was waiting for the cooking oil, how was he going to tell her that his bother had refused to give him the cooking oil? How would she respect him after a thing like that? He needed to do something about it.
Cursing with each step, he made his way home. He must do something to hammer sense into his stupid young brother, he kept telling himself.
When he arrived home, he went straight into his house and threw himself on a stool. He took out a piece of old newspaper and started to roll a smoke while grumbling like thunder. Nambewe, his wife, appeared in the doorway.
“Baba, can I have the cooking oil, please?” she said.
“Make Mwana, give me some cold water or I’ll kill someone,” he roared.
Nambewe got into the house and sat on a mat beside him. “Is something wrong, Baba?”
“Yes. How could that foolish brother of mine ask me to pay for goods from his shop?”
“Sacrilege!” said his wife with feigned astonishment. “You, buying from the shop of your own brother. Unimaginable!”
Mpuntho cupped his head in his hands with self-pity.
“So, what are you going to do about this?” she asked, a needling note in her voice.
“I’ll fix him. Teach him a lesson!” Mpuntho said.
“Now that’s my man speaking,” Nambewe said proudly. “Your brother doesn’t respect you. Doesn’t he know that if he died you’d be the one to inherit his business?”
“If he died, that is,” said Mpuntho sarcastically. “But I’m older than him. I may be the first one to kick the bucket.”
Nambewe rolled her eyes and smiled. “You know there’s the Fixer who can arrange his early departure. Just imagine what you can do if you can inherit your brother’s wealth.”
The Fixer! Why hadn’t he thought of him before? The Fixer was a fearsome witchdoctor who specialised in magic charms used to kill people. He not only dabbled in black magic but was also known to consult the forces of evil. Mpuntho knew the dangers of consulting such a witchdoctor.
“You’ve got a point there,” he said thoughtfully. “But should we really engage the services of the Fixer?”
Nambewe flashed him a smile. “Why not? The end justifies the means.”
When Mpuntho had said he would teach his brother a lesson, it had just been out of anger. He had not really thought of doing anything, let alone commit murder. But now he realized that he could be rich if he killed his brother. He could already see himself behind his brother’s shop serving customers a bottle of beer in the other hand.
The following morning, he went into the mountains to see the witchdoctor. He found him squatting in the mouth of his cave, a small shriveled old man with a dirty mangy hyena skin around his loins.
“I know why you’re here,” the Fixer had a big voice that contrasted with his diminutive size. “Revenge. Punishment. You want death, is that not so?”
Mpuntho was surprised. How did the witchdoctor know? “Yes, ng’anga. It’s my brother. He doesn’t respect me. I want him dead.”
“It’s done,” declared the Fixer. “But I must warn you that I use charms that are very dangerous to handle. Do you still want to go ahead?”
Mpuntho answered in the affirmative.
The Fixer took a small magic gourd with a black cap. “This magic gourd contains a vicious demon. At midnight, go to your brother’s house with this magic gourd. Then you’ll intone a chant I’m going to tell you. After that you’ll open the gourd. The demon will rush out and kill your brother”
The witchdoctor taught him the chant. “But under no circumstances should you open the gourd without the chant,” he admonished. “If you do so the demon will kill you.”
Mpuntho went back home and hid the magic gourd in his bedroom. Then he went out and sat under a tree. He closed his eyes to savour what he was going to do that night.
“Daddy,” the voice of his ten-year-old son broke his reverie. “Look at what I’ve found under your bed!”
Mpuntho turned. When he saw what was in the boy’s hands, he froze. The boy was holding the magic gourd and was removing the cap!
Fear stabbed at Mpuntho’s heart. Before he could move, the boy had removed the cover.
Something popped out of the magic gourd, a scaly black figure with sharp teeth and talons.
“Hell!” uttered Mpuntho.
“That’s where I’m sending you to, friend!” cackled the unfettered fiend with hellish glee as it leapt at him.