Tuesday 14 April 2015
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An African Tale chapter five

The twins grew up in the village, everyone sharing in their well-being. In all ways they were like normal children except for the eyes. When they stared at anything or anyone for a while they became like dark whirlpools; nobody could look into them for long without the feeling that they were going to get sucked up by some strange force. The other thing that became evident early on was that they had two distinctly different personalities. Lorato was soft and kind, too kind. People took advantage of him at every turn. Kilo on the other hand was a little monster. He pulled legs off beetles and watched in glee as the ants devoured them alive. He would put frogs in the girls’ beds, sending them screaming out of their huts. He bullied the younger boys and was generally very unpopular.

The chief despaired of these two children. He had hoped that they would inherit some of their father’s powers. Since that dreadful night so many years ago when Ledimo left, the weather had been dreadfully unpredictable. There were long periods of drought when the river dried up, their crops failed, and livestock died. Then there would be heavy rains followed by floods. Their huts would collapse, millions of mosquitoes would appear, and children would die from malaria and pneumonia. There didn’t seem to be any balance anymore, only extremes. These two children were also two extremes, one too good and one too bad. The chief wished he could fuse them into one.

As they grew older, other differences became more evident. Lorato had an affinity with animals, Kilo with reptiles. Lorato seemed to be able to get animals to do whatever he wanted them to do. He would stand very still, his intense whirlpool eyes staring into theirs, and the animal would become calm and lie down quietly at his feet. The villagers were very impressed with this and were always trying to get him to go on hunting trips with them. They were hoping he would bring the impala and kudu to them so that they didn’t have to stalk them for hours. Lorato refused to do this but he did save them from some nasty scrapes with lions. One day when they were out hunting they were so preoccupied with trying to get Lorato to bring in a kudu that they failed to see the lion spoor and walked straight into a lioness with four cubs. They all froze and she crouched ready to spring. Lorato stood calmly, his strange eyes staring into hers. After what seemed like eternity to everyone else but was really only a minute, she relaxed, her eyes left Lorato, and she turned and walked away, the cubs in tow. A couple of the brave hunters collapsed in a dead faint and another turned and ran hysterically back towards the village. This proved to be rather a silly move as he ran straight into the male lion snoozing a little way off. This time there was no Lorato to calm things down and the hunter ended his days as the hunted. Lorato became quite a hero after this episode and they stopped badgering him to get them easy prey, but they did want him along on their trips for protection.

Kilo on the other hand was busy with reptiles. No one in the village had ever been too keen on snakes, geckos, chameleons, or monitor lizards but they had never been absolutely terrified of them. They knew which snakes were poisonous and which not and if they appeared around the village they would move them off. Then Kilo started to collect these creatures. He could be seen walking through the village with a chameleon on his shoulder and a monitor lizard on a leash waddling behind him. His hut was full of geckos and snakes. No one bothered too much about this; they just kept their distance.Then strange things started to happen. Someone was bitten by a gecko and started to laugh. This was fine at first, especially as the person involved was a miserable old cow who never smiled at anything let alone laughed. But then she didn’t stop laughing. For days and nights and weeks and months it went on until it drove everyone mad. They told her sad stories, she laughed. They beat her with sticks, she laughed. They even burnt down her hut, she still laughed. Eventually they threw her out of the village and she was seen wandering off into the sunset laughing. Then there was a spate of very sane people suddenly going mad. They would be quietly going about their business when they would suddenly start babbling in a very strange language. They would then run around the village, a wild look in their eyes, shouting at everyone. This was very disconcerting and the healer had his work cut out trying to find herbs that would calm these people down. A superstition grew that it was when someone looked a chameleon in the eye that this happened. So people started to give Kilo a wide berth when they saw him walking around with a chameleon on his shoulder. Kilo didn’t mind this; it made him feel powerful and anyway he wasn’t interested in the idle chitchat the villagers passed their time with. So everyone learned to avoid geckos, chameleons, and Kilo, and life carried on as normal. Then early one morning disaster struck.

The chief’s first wife had gone to see the chief’s fourth wife at her hut on the outskirts of the village. She came running out of the hut screaming and didn’t stop screaming until she reached the chief’s hut, where she had to be sedated by the healer. Everyone hovered around the fourth wife’s hut, not daring to go inside. Eventually the chief strode out of this hut, the healer close on his heels. By now the whole village had been alerted to some sort of disaster. As he threw open the door to his wife’s hut, one of Kilo’s monitor lizards swaggered out. That was what started the rumours. The chief’s fourth wife was lying dead on her bed. Where her eyes had been there were holes and it looked as if her brain had been sucked out. Otherwise there was no sign of violence. The lizard had licked her brains out! Even the wisest of the wise could not dispute that.
The next day the chief summoned Kilo to appear before him. He told him that he was not welcome in the village any longer and that he should be on his way. This didn’t bother Kilo in the slightest. He was now a young man and very bored with village life and the people. He had been hearing reports that great wealth had been found under the ground in the south of the country. He would make his way there and seek his fortune. There was no doubt in his mind that the people there would welcome him with open arms.

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