Mih John Fung

The Era is Dead
      A certain devil had been the main source of worries amongst the inhabitants of Kumsimi. It used to visit the different quarters of that clan within seconds. It could fly like a bird, run like lightening, sing like a nightingale through its nasal cavity and even cry like a child or adult. It used to transform into a frog, crab, rat, lizard, ant, cricket or a snake when it was coming out from its grave, through a small, smooth and perfectly round hole which was like that of a rat mole. As soon as it was out of its grave, it would immediately assume the shape of a human being and start perturbing inhabitants. When ever it came across a spring or puddle anywhere, it would dive into it like a duck and start cleaning its body so hurriedly as if murderers were after it. It’s manifestations became unbearable and a notable called Kang was chosen by the fon of that clan to meet a witchdoctor so he could come and destroy the ghost for good.
      Kang was a renown custodian. He used to interpret the sounds of drum beats, Gongs, noises produced by birds like the hornbill and owls to the younger children. He was dark, tall and huge, with a hairy and muscular trunk. When ever he was passing the villagers would think there was an earth quake. He used to sing war songs when he was happy, and would recount some of the bloody events in which he took active part and brought home human skulls. Kang always move with a knife in a scabbard tied around his waist, meanwhile his spears and ebony stick were never far from his reach. His bag always contained some kola nuts, a pipe, some tobacco, the horn of a buffalo with which he used to drink palm wine and corn beer and a few protective amulets. Around his neck were some royal beads made from the teeth of a lion. And on his wrists were so many bangles made from elephant tusk.
      Kang had just finished eaten his evening meals of boiled ripe plantains and palm oil. He brought out an old bamboo stool from his hut and sat on it in the middle of his compound. When he glanced over the sky, his eyes landed on the newly arrived moon. Closed to her were so many stars glistering like diamond on a silver plate. And around them were clusters of clouds chasing happily below the rainless heavens to all the directions of the cardinal point. Kang felt so delighted and began calling for his wife: ‘My wife Inyioh! This beautiful woman has visited the heavens again!’
Inyioh rushed out from the kitchen and stood infront of her husband heaving like someone from the mountain. ‘Have you got another wife who now lives in the sky?’ she asked.
‘No’, Kang replied. ‘I’m talking about the moon’.
She began struggling to glance over the sky. ‘The smoke from those wet wood wouldn’t just allow my eyes to see her face…’ Kang began blowing into Inyioh’s eyes with the breath from his mouth.
‘Are you alright now?’ he inquired.
‘Not quite’.
‘Ah my wife, you just keep looking and you would see her beautiful face’.
‘I have seen it’. Inyioh exclaims as she takes in a deep breath out. ‘Is that what you call beautiful?’ she asked smiling.
‘Haven’t you noticed that she’s sitting like a queen, Inyioh?’ Kang teased.
‘And why not call her to come down to this earth so you can be admiring her?’
‘I meant no harm Inyioh, I’m rather pleased with her message’.
‘Now is her message and longer her beauty…and what is this message, my husband?’
‘I will tell you tomorrow’.
‘And why not now? Should you get me out from the kitchen only to postpone my worries?’
‘I still have a few things to study about the moon tonight’. He poured some wine into his wife’s cup and poured a few drops on the floor and said: ‘Lets drink with our ancestors, they are the source of comfort and solace’.
‘I have heard’. Inyioh gulped the wine. She went into the kitchen, brought out some maize in a basket and they began threshing. After few minutes of utter silence, Inyioh began singing a song known as difung. Kang listened to it with a lot of attention.
As soon as Inyioh was through with her song, Kang asked: ‘Inyioh what is difung?’ She laughed. Kang was puzzled. He lit his pipe and began smoking very gently. When the tobacco got completely burnt into ashes, he asked: ‘What amused you that you had to laugh without a break?’
‘Your question’. Inyioh answered.
‘And what about that, queen?’
‘Am I not of this land? Should a crocodile ask the fish to tell him what she knows about the river?’
‘Why not Inyioh? There isn’t any smoke without fire’.
‘I see’ she nodded. ‘My husband, the difung is a yearly dance which is meant only for those whose first wives have been faithful since they got married...’
‘You are perfectly right, my wife!’ Kang exclaimed. He began glancing over the red feather on his cap with deep admiration. It was one of the late fons who gave him when he brought a dead lion to the Palace. ‘And so… should I go in for the difung next month, Inyioh ?’ he asked.
‘Are you asking me?’ smiling.
‘You know according to our custom, I would collapse and die should you come out and grip me on that day when you know you have been to bed with another man’.
‘I know that…but let the time come’.
‘No Inyioh, tell me now’.
‘No, not now’.
‘When?’
‘In three days’. Inyioh knew her husband needed immediate response. She wasn’t ready for it so she decided to divert the conversation. ‘Did you hear that Ngong’s brother is seriously sick?’ she asked. ‘Yes, he’s planning to leave for Kesu as soon as Ikumsi gets better’.
      Ikumsi was their daughter. Ngong got married to her some months later, after the death of his first wife called Izagha. Exactly two years after they got married, Ikumsi gave birth to triplets and they all passed away. And three days after the burial, she fell ill and was taken for treatment in a nearby village called Bohkube.
      Despite the odds, Ikumsi was given the title of Zi ngongobe meaning mother of twins. By this title, she was associated to a certain green plant called keng which is a symbol of peace. She could now sit with the other council of elders to pass judgement over a dispute, and her decisions were taken seriously. Ikumsi was shown a few medicinal herbs which could be use in treating both the children and adults alike. She was awarded some special ancestral beads by Inyioh which she was only allowed to wear when there was an important event in the fon’s Palace. She was equally initiated into one of the top female cult called febuen. Ikumsi could now join the other women in their midnight dance, as no man no matter how strong, was allowed to take a look at it.
      Two days after Ikumsi’s initiation into fubuen, Kang and his bosom friend Bah went for hunting in a certain forest known as kudjam. And after several abortive days and nights looking for animals, Bah shot a lone buffalo which they found drinking in a salty pond. It was against the custom of the people to shoot any animal that was found drinking in that particular pond.
      When Kang saw the animal galloping and disappearing from sight like a horse from a battle ground, he cried aloud: ‘My friend why have you done it against the laws of our land? Why have you offended the ancestors? To whom would you complain when things shall turn out against you? We must return home for some purification rites before the wrath off the gods starts pouring on us. Something may happen. I’m beginning to feel it so strongly inside me’.
      Kang went home to find out if Ikumsi’s health was improving and also to know whether Ngong’s brother’s condition was getting better. Bah refused to go with Kang. He preferred to stay back in the forest and mend the barn.
      Kang arrived home when Ngong had already left for his brother’s funeral. The moon was still at home. Ngong couldn’t wait for her light because he needed to be at the funeral on time so he could perform the necessary rites before and after the burial. After several kilometres of serious trekking, stumbling and staggering like a habitual drunkard on those slippery and undulating paths, Ngong became so tired. He sat on a log of wood, brought out a piece of kola nut from his bag and began eating. The moon had just began to crawl out. Her light could now be seen everywhere, though faintly.
      Ngong raised his head and looked ahead. He saw a certain creature moving like someone whose huts were on fire. Behind it was a tail-like structure which was trailing on the floor like a rag. It’s eyes were as white as cotton and deep inside its skull like a pebble in the bottom of a pit. Its nose was half and its hands and feet were as thin as the front limbs of a hare. Ngong decided to call, not knowing it was a devil. ‘Country man can you wait for me there?’
’Yes come quickly!’ The devil replied like someone with water in his mouth. ‘Someone has died and we must be there to eat and drink and dance’.
’Just give me a few minutes and I will be right there!’ Ngong assured as he struggled to lift the load.
‘The funeral would be attended by both the living and the dead and I would be there to give an account of those who attended and those who didn’t! This land might mourn again! Nahtum oh Nahtum! Did you hear that Chief Muobe is planning to kill her?’ the ghost lamented. ‘In any case, I’m meeting you there right away!’ It began heading to where it heard Ngong’s voice.
      Nahtum was married to a handsome and dynamic man called Goh. Not only was she pretty, she was equally faithful to her husband and kind to everyone. And because of her outstanding qualities, she was greatly admired by everyone in Kumsimi. When one of the Chiefs by name Muobe made some futile advances to take this woman to bed, he ordered one of his watchdogs called Sembe to eliminate her, despite numerous warnings from Kang.
      As soon as Sembe and Nahtum arrived the abyss where she was to be thrown, Ikumsi cling on the watchdog as they began struggling. When Kang returned from Kudjam and learnt about the treatment Muobe had been giving his people, he armed himself and set off for the Palace.
      Inyioh met her husband on his way from the Palace. She was coming to inform him about Ikumsi’s illness. Kang went and consulted a seer called Sohdem. The witchdoctor glanced over his cowries and said: ‘Some witches have teamed up to destroy your only daughter. When she cries as a result of the pains she is having does her voice not sound like the bleat of a goat?’
‘I have been observing that…and what must I do?’ Kang asked.
‘Go as fast as you can and asked the Chief of your quarter to summon his people before I come. I will also be coming to eliminate the ghost from your land. Go quickly before the little breath in your daughter runs out’.

Last updated on August 18, 2007. Maintained by Andrzej Gutek, (www.agutek.com)