By Lawrence Kadzitche
Just a few kilometres before Mchinji Boma lies Tibelito Village. In this small village, as the time drew close to midnight, Nasimelo threw away the bedraggled blanket and sat up. She yawned and then stretched herself to work the kinks from the joints.
She tried to get up but failed. Instead she began walking on all fours like a baby learning to crawl. Very small and very thin, she was an old woman of about eighty. All her teeth had fallen out and her wrinkled bony face resembled that of a monkey. She was as stark naked as the day she was born.
Several times she stumbled in her crawl because of hunger. The country in 19- was hit by the worst famine in living memory and the woman was one of the people who were bearing the blunt of the famine. She was faint from lack of food and she was starved to the thinness of a rabid dog.
Painfully, she dragged her wasted frame in the direction of one corner of the house. In that corner, there was a thin stick running from one wall to the other forming some sort of a triangle. In the middle of that triangle was a weird looking gourd and a small round weaved basket.
As she crossed the stick, a change began to take place in Nasimelo’s appearance. It started with the head. It ballooned, the ears sticking out like open car doors. The nose lengthened, her lips thickening like those of a cow. The eyes grew big and glassy like those of a fish. Then the body itself changed. The torso grew very small while her arms and grew very long and thin.
When she had fully crossed the stick, she jumped to her feet with the agility of a monkey. The transformation complete, her head, now very big and round like a ball, was joined directly to her scrawny torso. A blend of hate and sheer cruelty gleamed in her eyes that stood out like those of a chameleon. Long and flexible, her nose hung far below her mouth. The mouth itself, with its thick protruding lips, started from one ear to the other. Her long hands and legs stuck out of the thin torso like limbs of a spider.
Nasimelo picked the gourd and stepped into the basket. “Take me to the airport,” she commanded.
In a flash she found herself in the rubbish pit outside her house. She put the gourd down and started dancing round it.
Suddenly, she stopped and said, “Magic gourd, turn the basket into an aero plane.”
Immediately, the basket turned into something resembling a flying machine. Briefly, she inspected the plane. The headlights were eyes gouged from a dead person. For fuel, the plane used blood siphoned from people who died in accidents.
She got into the cockpit and the plane took off. In a jiffy, she was landing in another rubbish pit outside a big house at a nearby trading centre.
She started running around the house while chanting. With each completed circle, she grew smaller and smaller until she was the size of an ant. Then she entered the house through the space under the front door.
Once inside the house, she mentioned a magic word and she regained her hideous form. She found herself in a huge lavishly furnished lounge. She picked the remote control of the big TV screen and flung herself on a sofa. She pressed the buttons and pretended to be operating the TV. But she dared not turn on the TV. It was against the laws of witchcraft. She farted with disgust and placed the remote control exactly where she had found it.
Then she went into the master bedroom. The owner of the house and his wife were fast asleep. She knew who they were; the rich grocer Ngudeyi and his wife Nambewe. During the day, they had refused to lend her some money to buy food. Now they were in her hands.
She stuck out her hand. Out of her fingers, flashed lightening. Then she let out a fart and it crashed up and down like thunder.
Ngudeyi and his wife woke with a violent start. Nasimelo let out an evil chuckle. She waited until silence had settled in the room then let out an unearthly shriek.
“What was that, Ngudeyi?” Nambewe asked in a voice filled with fear.
Ngudeyi did not answer. He sat up in the bed listening hard. Then Nasimelo started grounding and gnashing teeth. Ngudeyi and Nambewe looked like people condemned to death.
She fell silent again. Ngudeyi and his wife remained upright in bed. They knew something was in the house but what it was they could not tell. Very soon, she knew, they would know for certain a witch was in the house. But that was not going to help them for there was nothing they could do even with that knowledge.
She let out a pearl of malignant laughter, savouring the fear she saw on their faces. They were in her power, these greedy rich people who were able to afford food while she starved. Yes, during daytime they could treat her like a dog but at night she was a queen. She could do whatever she wanted with them. She could even kill them but that would mean missing the exciting game of driving fear into their souls. Yes, she would let them live. But every night, she would come to torment them. Why had she to go without of food while they had more than enough?
For several hours, she tortured them. She would make the sound of thunder, produce lightening, slap them and do whatever she wanted. Yes, she an old lady. All that time, they never saw anything.
Before leaving, she allowed them see her. The wife fainted while the husband made let out a howl of mortal fear as if he had been attacked by a savage beast. The old witch cackled with glee.
As Nasimelo passed through the kitchen, she saw a lot of food that had been left over. She remembered the famine. She had been without food for three solid days. If she didn’t find food she would surely starve to death.
But she couldn’t take anything from the house. Witchcraft prohibited any form of stealing. If she stole anything, her spell would be broken and she would die.
As she got out of the house, her sense of achievement evaporated. What was the benefit of witchcraft if she could starve to death while food was at hand? If she could have power at night when during the day she could hardly walk? Was she really a queen?
But she had no time to ponder on this. It was now dawn. She got into her flying machine and made her way back home her mind in torment. And so it would be night after night. Turning into a witch and going back home full of regret. For if you were a witch, you had to practice witchcraft every night whether you liked it or not or you would die.