Ameruka :” a child who sees and hears the drum beats far away…. and dances to a tune only her hears..”
That was what her name meant..when she had asked…
“Your grandmother gave you that name”…her mother told her..her mother, soft around the edges. .she smelled of flowers and lavender …always had a sweet smile on her face and a soothing voice that put her to sleep..
She was about five years old then..but she was as inquisitive as a curious mouse..and too smart for her age..
“Why did she give me that name mother? “..
Her mother sits down..Pulling her down on her lap…Rocking her legs slightly. ..taking a few strains of her hair…plaiting it into tiny french braides … as she stares at nothing in particular ..Speaking of a time not long ago
Then she began to speak..
“During my pregnancy. .. you kicked at every turn.. you danced without song..often makes me run out of breaths from exhustion”
….Remembering made her laugh a little ..
She often says to her father..
” fubilai !..” feel my tummy “. ..she would take his hands to her bulging tummy…
“See how she keeps me awake and on my feet..she never sleeps”
He would smile..rubbing her tummy.. with his large palm..that would hide a tiny baby’s skull …placing his head softly on the bulge…listening ..The smile reaching his eyes..making them sparkle in the dim light..
“Yes Amekia “…I can hear her…” stay still little one…Soon you would have the world to yourself “..
“For now…let your mother rest “….and as if the baby in my womb heard…it would jump and kick…one last time..and then remain still…as dead as the night…
“See…she listens to her father’s voice “…He always said it with pride..smiling from ear to ear…
She loved the look in his eyes..
He loved fatherhood and to watch his children grow..
He had often wondered the mysteries of the world…Most importantly. ..The mystery of a child growing in the womb…it always fancinated him…
“You my lil one facinated him. Kept him in a constant state of awe”..
Out of her three children …that she carried in her womb..she was the only one who seemed different ..
Much aware of the outside world..
Very impatient to be born..
Who was spoken to and talked with and who seemed to listen. ..or so it would seem..
“It took nine hours and then some to get you out ..
And you came out giggling ..Full of life..happy..excited..you didn’t even cry…even though you didnt quite understand what we said or who was there in that tiny room..that smelled of blood and antiseptic and drugs..
You were giddy..as though drunk..
Your tiny feets refused to stay at a place…
Your baby coos where heard till the end of the ward..
Nana..looks at you ..smiling …holding your little finger. .she says..
She shall be called …”Ameruka “..
A gift ..A blessing…a child who sees and hears the drum beats far away and dances to a tune only her ear picks..and only her ear listens “…
“And in affirmation. .as though you concurred..you coughed..and sneezed…we all laughed…
You father taking you into his arms..
His princess he says…
A princess for his household …finally! !
“Your brothers doted on you. .vicklo and michel ..their lil anchor woman..they chanted. .
“You completed the missing pieces to this family my dear child”…
Her mother comes back to reality…placing a kiss to her forehead..lifting her to the ground carefully. .while she takes food to her father ..
But Ameruka doesn’t see the sadness her mother tries to hide..or the questions she desires to be answered
And the dark circles that had built under her eyes over time..
She leaves the kitchen…heading to the play ground to be with her brothers..
“Ameruka won’t you rather play paper scissors with us?? .
Tsundra asked… ” the boys are so rough…they would hit you with a bat..you aren’t fast on your toes ‘..
” Well. ..I tire of playing girly games …am sure vicklo and michel won’t mind”…
She would run to the field ..The brothers would take her for a run..laugh at her silliness to catch a ball..
“One time please..let me catch a ball”…she pleads…
“Only if you let us have your pancakes tonight. ..you never do eat it anyways..”
“But Tsundra and angel like pancakes. ..and I always give them mine..
Ok…I will share my honey bread…
Michel you do like honey bread. .and vicklo my cereal?”…
They would think for a minute. .looking at each other funny…as though sharing a secret..and then agree…
“Yes one ball..then I can go play hide and seek with Tsundra and angel..they don’t like to be left alone..
“You never play with them except me..”…
She would catch the ball.. waving to the girls and their game would begin…
Every dinner..mother watches Ameruka..share her food..enjoy her meal..talk to everyone
Ameruka oblivious of the pairs of eyes carefully studying her..
She was a happy and chatty child ..Full of life yes..but also something else..
The other day she sat with a friend..Under the palm leaves..at the foot of the tree…her heart heavy..
“Do not fret Amekia. ..she is just a child ..she would grow out of it..
“My son..used to hide bones under his bed..He said the bone fairy always came to collect …and every morning when I woke I went to check ..and I don’t see the bones. .He was adamant you see. .
But one day I couldn’t sleep..worried..i went into his room at night. .
On reaching his door…it opens. .out my son came. .eyes closed..walked past me..and calling his name proved fruitless. ..He takes the bone and dumbs in the trash..
He has been sleep walking all this while..
But he outgrew it..
Am sure Ameruka would outgrow hers”….her friend consoles her..
She had faith. .
But what use was her faith when all she saw had no meaning..
But she listens
“Never chide her..’ she warned the boys
They nodded and played along..
“She would out grow it ‘…she told her husband ..more to herself than to him…
He kept quiet…his unspoken words were heavy
“Come Ameruka ..come sit on father’s lap…..I will tell stories…just like the ones under the moonlight …while the stars danced in the night…”
She would squeal in delight.. she loved to ear stories told by her father..
They would gather at the table ..The faint glow of the lamb the only light..
Mother watches from a lil distance..kneating a sweater. .
Ameruka had asked for two more sweaters matching the one she had on now..in two different colours…she didn’t need to ask who for…
“Tell us the story of the medalion orb..that only the prince can touch. .saving his village from the evil witch even after he was cast out and banned” Ameruka said…clapping her hands in excitement. .
“Tsundra likes the end the most..”
“No I do not.!!
“Yes you do”..angel says..
“Lying looks bad on you “..
Tsundra pokes her tongue out at angel..and then shrugs
“Maybe just a little “…she admited
“Go on father…the skies are begining to pour. .The night is chilly…its a good night for that story…”…Michel the eldest smiles at Ameruka. ..
His eyes darting to his mother…
Even in the faded light he saw her wipe a single tear that excaped from the side of her face..
Father kisses Ameruka ‘ s head..squeazing her mother’s hand and he began. .
His voice. ..deep..searing through the clouded night. .Filling the room with characters of swords and kings..witches and seals..”..
Mother’s mind was far away…
“Patience…”…she only prayed. .
Over the years. .
A scorn it had been..
A pain to a mother’s hide. ..
A child outgrew certain things..
But this was beyond the normal. .
She went about her business…
But every corner she never failed to hear a wisper. .
A taint to her family name..
“A child..A curse..A witch” they did say…
A constant taunt. ..
A shadow that never seems to leave. .
But a reply she never did give..
A mother’s tongue would not go unbridled ..
Never before..and not even now..
Never…she held back a retort..
Ameruka!. eighteen ..beautiful…..
Picking tomatoes from the feild..Filling it into her basket…
Taking one to her mouth…tasting. .
“Hmmmm….fresh…mother would like them…don’t you think”..??
Tsundra says nothing…looking at her self in a pocket mirror…pouting her lips ….turning from side to side..
“Do you think pink is my colour ..shouldn’t I have gone for deep red…do you think vicklo would notice me now?”…
Ameruka shakes her head ….
“Do you do nothing other than stare at your self in the mirror and ogle after my brother “…??
“No she doesn’t “..angel replies in her stead…Following Ameruka in picking the tomatoes…and tasting one. .
‘Yes..your mother would love this ones”…
“Should we make rabbit stew…
They fancied it the last time?”…angel..dark as she is beautiful. ..asked…
“Yes we did. Let’s go home before mother gets back…she hates to wonder where I am. .
and Tsundra. .viklo notices nobody other than those pretty girls who barts their lashes at him…and flaunts cleavages…Michel is like pa..too interested in mechanics to even care…
Let’s go. .mother will be here in a bit”…
The men and women gathered around the table.. delved into rabbit stew…licking their lips ..
“Ameruka … “… mother calls….
Tomorrow…we would go into town with me…there is someone I like you to meet..
Ameruka looks up..
But mother . You know Tsundra, angel and I always go to the palm leaves to read under the shade of the tree…
Maybe another time”..
The clang of the Spoon dropping on the table made her jumb…
“Enough Ameruka! !! Enough!….
This is my last warning to you…”…Her father threatened ….anger in his eyes ..He storms away before he could do damage. ..
“Mother ?”…she had tears in her eyes..
‘Ssh don’t cry Ameruka “….Tsundra says…wiping her eyes..
“He doesn’t have to be so mean to her “…angel flexes her fist in anger..
“I feel so helpless “…
Vicklo and michel stares at each other…and then to their mother…
Who had turned white..
A ghost of her former self..
“Look at your mother…
Look at her “..Michel charged. .
“Is this a joke to you..
Do you know what people say to her because of you. .
What kind of game to think you are playing??”
“Michel ….”..viklo pleaded trying to calm him down..
“No..let me speak. ..”he gets up..towelling over her …
Ameruka looks frightened. ..
“You have been going on about this ever since you were a child. We thought you would outgrow it. We indulged you. Even played along with you..but Ameruka you are eighteen..you should put away childish games..but you carry on…
Talking to yourself …
Having mood swings. ..
Talk in different voices. .
Change consistently ..
Act like my sister one time and the next like an unruly girl …or a smothering mother. ..
Laugh at nothing. .
Dance to an inaudible sounds. ..
All things screams insanity ….
You need help. ..
Do you know what they call you ??”..
“Stop michel”…mother pleases…
He ignores her…
“A cursed child. A witch. ‘..
W..wh..why??”..her hand flew to her chest. Groping her throat shyly. .
They say you are evil..need to be delivered.
We suffer daily for your mishaps..
Now..mother seeks a solution dispite the brooding darkness you have brought Unpon us and you dare speak the names of those imaginary friends of yours…
Ameruka rises slowly placing both hands on the table..face to face with him…
“Tsundra and angel are here .As real as you and I. ..
Why do you keep saying things like this…
We sit and talk together.
Laugh, play and feed together..
Sometimes you joke with them…
Why do you keep saying such things..
“Ameruka be quiet..He is your elder brother .. respect him “..Tsundra tugs at her sleeves
“I will not be quiet anymore Tsundra. ..its michel who is disrespectful. ..how dare he…
Her face burned….The slap her mother administered to her face shook her to her bones…her eyes glistened with tears ….
“Mother”…??…her voice came in a tiny wisper
Her brothers stared at the woman before them..strange yet familiar. ..her hand slightly shook…
Her eyes blank…
“I will not allow my daughter be insane…I have sat down too long..kept silent too long..prayed too long and hoped for a change…but all you do is to be a stranger to me..
Are they spirits you speak to??
When they chanted with your name in the market i refused to belief. .
When the doctor. .claimed you had split personalities…I say he needs to go back to school..
But it is worse. ..
You are possessed …
And a church is where you will be..”..
“A church…possessed. ..spirits. .??
Don’t you all see…
How dare you speak of evil …mother…
Michel..vicklo? Ameruka looks from one face to the other…
“Tsundra..angel..pleas tell them…
Tsundra looks pleadingly. ..
Angel touches michel faintly…
He pulls his hands away. ..
“Don’t touch me Ameruka..If you are indeed possessed. .I want nothing to do with you…you are a scum to this family “.. He spat…
“Listen to mother Ameruka “..vicklo pleads. .” Don’t you see she suffers…father doesn’t talk anymore. ..People stay away from us…
You don’t even go to school…how can you not see…we love you. .we want to help you…Amer. ..my sweet one. .Please listen”…
Ameruka had never seen him cry..
Not even when him and michel were fist – tied. .
Not even when he got punched in the eye..
But today…The tears broke her..
She feel to her knees..tongue -tied..
Her resolve shattered ..
All that she knew..and understood. ..she was told were made off lies..
She stood as though transfixed to a spot..eyes staring into nothing…
Mind black. ..
Thoughts danced like scattered puzzle in her head like maze
And yet she said nothing..
She barely looked at the faces who stared at her..
Faceless even in their numbers..
It was a family affair her family said..
But the whole town had come in their numbers to watch the witch become unpossesed…
The pastor and priest. ..had rosary around his fingers ..silently praying. .while he dips figs of tied leaves into a bowl of holy water…and fans her with it…
She was adorned in white…she felt like a ghost bride …standing before her accusers…waiting for the verdict..
Everyone wispered. ..everyone watched…as the witch they say…is ridden of her demons..
She turns when asked..jumped when asked..
Repeat every dialogue. ..
Renounce everyone word …Every demon. ..
She moved as though in a trance…acted as they want…rolled on the ground..screamed as though charmed..flung herself to the wall..pull at her hair and gave a resounding owl..
“Is this what you want??”…she silently sobs…
“Is this enough??
“Should I act some more??”…..but only her mind understood what her eyes meant…
Tsundra watches from the crowd. .holding onto angel…
“Tell us what you want us to do…Please. ..let us help you …why won’t you let us help you. .tell us what to do Amer. ..”….they words Peircing through her thoughts…
She looks at them…her heart breaking…for she knew no one but them understands what she was going through..
and no one but them…would understand what she was about to do..
“Forgive me sisters….I must save my family..even if they don’t know I speak the truth..even though am misunderstood…I will let society win..for their sakes..I will have to forsake what I believe..Forgive me sisters. .for today I must pretend that you don’t exist “…. she mouthed..my eyes conveying my meaning…silence greeted me… the faded into the crowd…and that was the last she saw of them since…
She closed her eyes…and gave the performance of her life…and she gave them for free. ..
That was five years ago…
Everything had come back to normal..
Her name wasn’t on everyone’s lips…
Her father ..her mother…her brothers…loved her anew..
She went to school…she went back to life..and all the past was seen and heard as old news…
Today she was moving away…from that city…her family…to a new place…to begin life again…she was old enough to make make a living and be of help too..
At the confines of her new room..
Away from the Peircing eyes of the world..
Even the walls couldnt be able to decern her thoughts. ..
She sat cross – legged. ..a pancake she spread…
Taking out a table knife she shared it into three. .
Spreading syrup on them..adding a little meat…
She called…”sisters…where are you. ..Please come eat”…
She rolled a piece of large pancake…opening her mouth and chewing…smiling at the faces who smiled back at her…
“Its being too long sister…”…Tsundra and angel said…Each opposite in their appearance..yet strikingly beautiful in their flaws…Following Ameruka. .doing what she does..
Ameruka nods..speaking inbetween mouthfuls..
” too long indeed”!…
The lady next door..would say later..
When she saw her mother..
“Your daughter Ameruka is such a dear…
She and her friends…makes me miss my girls…
Such pretty doves…See them…how they make me flow”…..
A picture she shows…and there..apart from the old dear…Ameruka stands smiling with two girls…Tsundra and angel…Exactly the way she described. .beautiful and fair
Her hand flew to her neck , shock , disbelief …and her exclaimed was one of “Oh dear”!!..
Her family gathers around her…
“Oh fabilia! ! My sons. ..look for yourselves..how do I possibly dare??
At the end end of the day ..”things aren’t always what they seem to be”..
…but whose report should you believe?
Now that’s a question for you and me..