By Esther V. M’manga
I couldn’t trust even myself. Everyone could be the hunter.
Not that I had never heard the news. I just didn’t want to imagine it happening until my brother passed on.
It was asthma. Just like all the times before, Namzunga had rushed to me. It had started.
I pulled myself up in one swing as my hand reached for my wife’s wrapper that hanged on the string dissecting the room.
“Bambo a Mary uku!”
My right hand got hold of the door as my left held the wrapper at the centre of my loins.
I did not want to respond. I hurried to their house. Namzunga tumbled and fell to the ground as she tussled her way behind me.
I could hear him wheeze right from the door. I pushed it with force and raced by the weary faces of the kids in the living room as I made my way to the house’s only bedroom. Namzunga sniffed as I pinned my brother to a mat. He had run out of his salbutamol inhaler. His wife-my in law- explained as she had done a few days before that even the hospital they had gone to had run out of inhalers and that they were still waiting for the boss so they could buy at the pharmacy.
“I tried asking Mrs. Sauzande if we could take another inhaler so we could pay her back all at once. She’s refused.”
She sniffed again.
I wanted to be angry at Mrs. Sauzande but it couldn’t help. We had a situation. I needed all the energy.
“God, save my brother.”
His eyes lurched from side to side inside the sockets. My heart raced. For the first time, I was scared while attending to him. We just sat by his side hoping he would be free again.
A little light flickered in his eyes. He wheezed violently. I held him tight. He calmed down. Then, there was silence.
He was dead.
My brother’s neighbours rushed to our house when they heard Namzunga wail.
We buried him the following day.
His death left tattered hearts. We had started to live again after his demise until one Thursday.
A week after my brother’s demise, I had gone to the market to get my phone repaired. The elastic bands that held my handset together were not helping me: I still couldn’t be heard at the other end of the line. On my return home, I noticed two figures on my house’s veranda. They were surely waiting for me. Getting closer, I smiled. They were cousins from the village. They grinned back. Feebly.
“Your late brother’s corpse has been found by the river…”
I just sat there listening. Like I hadn’t heard them.
I did not ask.
“…without limbs, teeth, facial parts and privates”.
My eyes became blurry. I did not cry. I just sat there staring at my poor cousins with nothing to say. I had been choked by tears of grief that had travelled straight from my eyes to the heart.
We reburied my brother the same day. And let it pass.
I had thought it was just my brother because he was already dead. Until that Thursday.
I let the boys go as I worked on the house. Dusk was slowly eating the sun away as its red sank bit by bit behind the hills. I had to recover the time grief had robbed me of on my brother’s two burials. Night fell.
From a distance, I could see the light in my house. At times shaded by a figure of my woman holding a mthiko, at times half-way blown off by the night’s chilly breeze. As I was about to get into the path straight to our compound, a heavy stone hit me at the back of my head. I felt the occiput crush. I started running. I had to die in my house. Some feet thumped behind.
“Faster, get him before he reaches the rock!”
I jumped the cliff and fell right behind my late brother’s house.
“Nanu a Stanley chidodo…” I heard them talk as I hitched away to my house“
“…. Ndi 1 miliyoni taluza apayi.”
I fell right at the feet of my wife and in law.
“Bambo a Chisomo! What happened?”
She quickly grabbed my hand and with my in law held me up as we entered our house. I told them I had stepped at the edge of the cliff and fell.
“I will be fine. Where is Stan…”
Then, like the moment my two cousins told me that my brother’s body had been found by the river, I became still. I was scared. I just didn’t want to think.
“Make, where are the boys?”
She said they had been around a short while ago.
I heard clatters behind the house. My hands quivered. I lay there still and numb.
Esther V. M’manga is a Malawian writer and entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and Humanities from The University of Malawi, Chancellor College. She plans to publish a book of short stories from which this story has been taken.