Life in Tirakosta was a humdrum. As earlier stated, everything about their culture could be summarized in two words, gossip and jealousy. But culture is almost always a broad perspective. It is usually the concept you can’t quite seem to grasp, the gait of young men and women at the height of adolescence, the speech of old men sharing in societal taboos, the complaints of laboring women against their wayward husbands. It is, as they used to say there, ‘the one mystery, that became mysterious as one tried to demystify it’; because then, new ways of life would be created, which one would then try to understand, creating yet other new ones, and on and on it would go without end.
But do not get me wrong, they were quite the interesting people to the keen outsider’s eye. The large village was bordered by a forest to the east and a desert to the west. It was the meeting point of two different worlds, one of abundance, and one of dire lack. It united two realms creating a sort of equilibrium, a situational oasis. At sunrise, the rays of light were filtered by the forest trees to reach them in a gloriously sublime beauty. If sunrise there was a woman, it would be a dark-skinned, chipped legged, petite and quiet woman, with a smile that revealed carefully brown arranged teeth. She would be the very epitome of beauty, the envy of every man.
Watching the sunset across the desert would have left anyone tongue-tied. It was the stuff that postcards are made of. However, what would have been more intriguing to the outsider would neither be the sunrise nor the sunset, it would have been the people thence; going on with their lives as if nothing was happening around them, so obsessed with themselves to notice any grandeur. Perhaps one could argue that they had seen it all too often, that to them, that was normal; or that, to enjoy the pleasures of scenery was a reserve for the middle class, determined to earn a mention with the bigwigs and appear superior to the underdogs. They were quite like the modern selfie-stick man, unable to find anything outside themselves delightful, except for their case, their obsession was less with their image, but with their activities, which is not entirely a bad thing, but who is to say? Were they any less vain? One wonders.
A day or two after the arrival of Hanna, the sun and the moon aligned for a little less than four minutes and there was an eclipse. It was experienced differently in the village. Mrs. Mbale’s wife, quite the paranoid mother she was, hid her twins under the bed, claiming that the ghosts of her wicked mother-in-law had come to collect their due. Kutu, caught by the moment while by the ridge waiting for Kombi, was afraid for a slight moment, and then, gathering his guts, watched the sun from under a tree. Upon realizing that he could not gaze directly at it, he observed it from the reflection in the water in a small pond nearby. Mr. Mbale was at the Muratina tree under which they met with other busybodies drinking a special fermented Muratina drink when it all happened. The timing could not have been better. Soon enough, he conjured up his story and told it to his associates.
‘I hate to always be right, could I not have been wrong this once’
‘What? What is it Huntsu?’ (For that was what he was called by his peers), asked one of them curiously.
‘I told you that creature was bad news, I told you. But no, you won’t listen, no one listen’s to me anymore.’
Mr. Mbale was enjoying himself thoroughly then. He loved this spot because it combined two of the things he loved doing most; gossiping, and having other people, mostly children, watch him while doing it. And there were a number of them there as he talked.
‘You’re being melodramatic Huntsu’
Mrs. Ombi was the only one who had a little sense to question Mr. Mbale’s theories, but she always got railroaded into agreement owing to her lack of resolve.
‘You think? We have been around for many years, but nothing like this has ever happened.’
‘Doesn’t mean it’s her fault. You don’t want to be severe on the poor girl; you could kill all her dreams’
‘I wonder what will happen next because of her’
‘Huntsu!!! Just think about it. You never think about most of your stories and you know you have influence’
‘Okay, but I told the chief about her arrival. And that was before your Kombi was down with the flu. I was hoping that he would see how concerned I am, and then he would send over the medicine man to look at him so that he won’t end up losing his life or unable to walk because he is a little sick.’
See that? That was Mr. Mbale’s special, innate mind control. He applied it specifically to her, having seen its effectiveness. Not to say that he had no other tricks in his arsenal, he was ingenious when it came to it.
And so it caught on, Hanna had supposedly caused the eclipse and at the same time caused Kombis sickness. The villagers received this news with trepidation.
Meanwhile, Hanna, concerned about her well being had been trying to find a place where she could settle and perhaps be able to eat anything better than wild fruits. She knew she possessed skills that would come in handy later, but of more importance was for her to eat. She had spent the last two nights huddled in a trench not far from Kutu and Kombis ridge. Having lived most of her life alone, she was not averse to the loneliness and the cold of it, but she desperately longed for Acrostian contact. Her great resourcefulness had only provided her with an overripe banana, from an old woman who had given it begrudgingly.
She had tried to be friendly to two boys she had seen upon entering the village, waving at them, but they had seemed to be in a great hurry to go she did not know where. At the time of the eclipse, Hanna was still in the trench, which was now beginning to feel like home. She sat up and observed the phenomenon with awe. She hoped that it was somehow a good luck charm.
Gathering the strength she needed, she left the trench in search of something to drink when she caught a movement from the corner of her eye. She hid by a tree and observed a young boy, perhaps one of the two she had seen before, she could not be sure, staring at water in the pond she had hoped to drink from. She watched in amazement for a while before cautiously approaching him.