As he dropped dead, I saw no corpse before me, but a four-metre serpent lying dead in front of me
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
I had literally surrendered Michelle to the mercy of serpents. This I had done because I had found myself in a situation where I had no choice, but still had to make a choice. A good man should keep an eye on his woman, but a real man should fend for his family.
I opted to be a real man, who values not much of his pride, especially where life and death stare each other in the eye, and one wishes to postpone the latter’s victory.
With serpents in mind, yet undeterred by the fear of the harm that they might do, I found myself spending my night in Mr Nyaruvangwe’s mansion. He had asked me to play guard as well as a guest at his Raw Woodhouse in Mutare while he and his family went on holiday overseas.
“You have to bring your wife with you,” the business tycoon had said, his usual kind smile turned on. “So that your stay in my palace will be like a holiday for you.”
My wife had her own pride to protect, and in all pertinent issues, it was her pride that prevailed over mine. Having made up my mind to spend a week in Mr Nyaruvangwe’s palace and pocket US$200, I thought my woman would easily fall for the financial value of the offer.
I had grievously undermined the affective side of the bargain. When my wife spoke her mind I felt like going through a surgical operation without anaesthetic.
Most of her responses to weighty issues came in form of questions, and today was no exception.
“So you expect me to just leave my home and look after another woman’s home as if that woman is more woman than me?”
Our home was a pair of grass thatched structures at the foot of Rimiti Mountain.
Their state spelt the word “poverty” in capital letters and bold print. I had hoped to improve their state once I got paid.
There was the possibility of Nyaruvangwe turning his Raw Woodhouse into a guest house and I was almost certain that he would take me on board as a regular employee.
“Do I have to tell Nyaruvangwe to find someone else?” I asked, my pride withering like a plant under severe moisture stress.
“You will go and I will remain behind. My garden down Odzi River needs my attention. I would rather have one customer the whole day than spending my time in blatant idleness in the comfort of another couple’s home.
My first night in the great house was refreshing, even though I had to kill the only snake that had stalked my wife all the way to her garden on the banks of Odzi River. Just as I had started drifting into my peaceful slumber, I saw a muscular man trailing her furtively on her way to the garden.
Once in the garden, a colossal bush weighing with fresh, juicy, heart-shaped fruits, appeared before my woman and her stalker. They plucked a fruit each, planted their teeth into the turgid flesh and their smiling faces turned to look at each other.
I picked up a heavy log and struck the intruder on the head with all the strength my jealousy could muster. As he dropped dead, I saw no corpse before me, but a four-metre serpent lying dead in front of me. My woman had vanished into thin air.
The second night came, and I did not allow thoughts of Michelle, to take me into another encounter with a human serpent. I let my eyes peep into deeper horizons in search of a brighter dawn. Sleep like the open palm of a human hand landed on my eyes like a caressing blindfold, yet the sense of hearing remained very much alive.
The noise of flying objects in the ceiling permeated my ears. I suddenly realised that I was not asleep, yet I could not rise from where I lay. My limbs were frozen, and I lay like a corpse in the luxury of a queen-size bed.
Something hit the floor tiles with a crushing sound in the passage, just in front of my bedroom door. My eyes shot open and I realised that the whole house was darker than the abyss.
There should have been a power cut, I thought.
I finally managed to rise from bed, and with unprecedented courage parted the blinds to look outside. Street lights were on.
My attention quickly returned to what was happening in the house as I heard the noise of tapping hea
ls in the passage. Whoever was walking there was wearing shoes with metal soles. I held my breath for a long while as the tapping noise stopped right in front of my door.
I expected the door to fly open, but nothing of that sort happened. My bedroom light suddenly turned on but no sense of relief found my heart as the noise of falling kitchen utensils from the next room assailed my ears. I now knew what was happening. It was an earthquake.
I wrapped myself within the blankets and uttered a little prayer. I reached out for my phone on the dressing table hoping that the earthquake would soon pass.
If it was an earthquake, it would have passed, but I realised that something of a gothic nature was taking place. There were whispers in the ceiling just above me. “He must be here,” whispered a female voice.
“You are right, he is here,” a male voice whispered back.
I leapt out of bed and bolted from the room. I went into another bedroom, as none of the spare bedrooms was locked. As I rolled into bed, I heard the groans of a man in deep agony in the bedroom that I had just left.
I listened as the man laboured through his breath. He was surely dying, but who was he? I began to wonder how many other people were in the empty house with me.
I looked at the wall watch. The time was a few minutes after midnight. It was going to be ages before sunrise. I began to miss my grass-thatched bedroom at the foot of Rimiti Mountain.
The mysterious sounds from the next room slowly began to subside until an eerie silence settled in the house.
Despite the silence, the house felt so much alive to me. I desperately wanted my phone, but I had left it in the other bedroom. I had no choice, but to simply wait for the night to pass.
As the hours passed, I began to feel lethargic. I tried in vain to keep my eyes open as their lids became heavier with sleep. I finally fell into a dreamless sleep.
A roaring noise, like a flock of birds taking off at the same time, awakened me. Trickles of sunlight were seeping into the room where I lay. The new day had finally arrived. I had to face the ordeal of entering the room where I had left my clothes. I could hardly imagine what I would see there.
I had no choice. I needed my clothes. I approached the door furtively and soundlessly as if I was afraid of disturbing the mysterious man in there. I touched the door handle, which turned very easily, but it took a great effort to push the door open. The bed was just as I had left it.
There was not the slightest pointer that somebody had been there.
I quickly collected my clothes and phone and left the room, never bothering to close the door, but the door closed on its own with a loud bang. I dressed up in the passage, left the house and started my journey back home, back to Michelle.
Back home, one fear troubled me, that on his return Nyaruvangwe would have me arrested for having stolen something from his house. That did not happen, but five or so days after the millionaire’s return, the shell of his house appeared in the provincial tabloid.
A mysterious fire had destroyed the house and everything in it. Fortunately, Nyaruvangwe and his family were in their Greenside mansion the night the house caught fire.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: email@example.com
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