By Herick Aeno
An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature
The cold mountain rain has slowed down to a drizzle, the heavy clouds opening for an almost full moon to project a gentle light into the drenched valley.
Slowly the stars come out promising a fine night. The nocturnal creatures slowly resume their nightly orchestra but seem to be attentive to another presence.
Something moves slowly up the hillside in the cold night. A dark figure that seems to observe its surroundings before moving on. It is weary, yet continues.
‘It’ is a young girl, dripping wet and shivering from the icy mountain wind. She hesitates and looks to the ground as if to find the bush path, which is now slippery and treacherous from the rain.
The girl looks to be in her early teens. Close up, there is fear in her eyes, but also determination. Her thin shorts and old tee-shirt had offered little protection from the earlier rain.
In her arms is a bundle in her arms. A small child that at first seem motionless but then hugs the girl’s neck. The child is not well and can only manage a whimpering sound. It is her brother.
The girl hugs the child tightly and the moon touches their faces as if comforting them. Tears run down the girl’s face. She sits down, still hugging her brother, and sobs. Then she stands again and finally reaches the top of the hill and her mother’s garden.
She climbs over a low fence and makes her way to the crude hut at the end of the garden. The hut is old and part of the roof has fallen in, but it is her only sanctuary. The girl and her brother remain motionless for some time.
Making up her mind, she carries her brother and comes out of the hut. She stands for a moment, looking down into the valley they have come from. Their village is visible with fires still burning. The same lights that guided the people who had killed their mother.
The sadness lingers on her face, giving way to a look of hatred. She slowly turns away from the village and, with her brother in her arms, walks towards the mountains. They both disappear into the dark mountain forest.
They are away from the only comfort they know. And they are away from the terror that has befallen them. Away from the horrific death of their widowed mother, accused of being a Sanguma and mercilessly murdered by a cruel mob from their village.
These same men who they know as their kinsmen and relations. Where they go now or how they will fare is as uncertain as the night they face. Yet, she knows exactly what will happen. They will live. Her baby brother will grow up. He will know everything that happened today. He will come back for these men and their children one day.