Chimene fell face down onto the pile of sticks strewn carelessly by the servants of Akitaka, the only beings who dared come this far to get firewood. His clothes lay torn here and there, scratched by hanging brambles that had overtaken the narrow forest path. He had tumbled upon an upended root, having been blinded by the tears that cascaded down his face as he ran away from all that haunted his soul.
He raised his head, and looked around. Only then did he hear the sounds, the heartbeat of Achiwata. It hit him almost at once, how far into the forest he had crawled. Huge tree trunks loomed before him, many of them, threateningly tall. They towered into the sky, blotting out the moon with leaves as broad as the fishermen’s canoes back in the hamlet. Dusk had since fallen, welcoming the croaks and hisses that reverberated all around him. Chimene pushed himself to his knees. Holding his head in his hands, he wailed; a thin cry that sent a chill into the forest, for all suddenly became still. As still as a graveyard.
“What have I done?” he wailed.
“My fathers, what have I done?—” he snivelled, wiping the mucus from his nose with his shirt. He winced as fresh pain erupted from the cuts on his arm. The blood flowed freely, sticking his shirt to his skin.
Exhausted, Chimene sat on the pile of sticks and looked up.
“Rekiya!” He screamed. “Rekiya! Why Rekiya. Why?” He convulsed as spasm after spasm wracked his midget frame. Then he broke into sobs, heart rending sounds which filled the night with agony. The crickets and frogs had since moved away from the intruder, finding their mates in safer creeks. He was a being of the darkness, so dark that every other creature gave him a distance.
From the undergrowth to Chimene’s right came the unmistakable sound of drumming, ominous sounds which soon filled the night, ricocheting off the barks of the forest trees—Akitaka and his minions were on their way.
The drumbeat was unmistakable. Many a night the villagers of Achiwata cowered in fear at the sound of this very drum, which travelled far whenever nemesis came calling. But tonight Chimene was far from scared. He was prepared to face Akitaka and the judgement he deserved.
He closed his eyes and beheld her beautiful face, her catch-me-if you-can looks, her rapturous smile, her gracious walk, which swung her hips to the envy of the world.
Rekiya . . .
He had indeed been a lucky man, until he became a willing tool, falling for the darkness that had long paraded his home. The events rolled to the fore, unabated by his weak will power to stem them at bay . . .
“Wake up.” Her voice like always roused him from his slumber quickly.
He yawned, stretching like an overfed cat. He blinked his eyes at the afternoon sun filtering through the leaves of the Olihor tree under which he slept.
She stood beside him, smiling, a blue wrapper tied securely around her chest. Her neck was well powdered, the scented treatment that lessened the effects of the burning sun on her skin which Chimene often times, likened to that of a child.
“You haven’t forgotten the meeting with the elders over the land dispute in Akuta, have you?”
“Oh!” Chimene jumped up from the bench, sleep vanishing from his eyes.
“What time is it?”
“The sun has long rested upon our roof.” she cooed.
“Ah! I must be late already. Please go fetch my shirt. I’ll leave at once.”
Rekiya hurried into the adjacent hut, her hips swinging furiously against the loose fabric of her cloth. Chimene’s thin lips curved upwards exposing a set of tobacco stained teeth.
“Chei!” he whispered. How he managed to woo and marry Rekiya was still a mystery to him. Money answers all things, his friend Juma had intermittently teased him. Chimene was short and burly, with arms, thick like a bears and lips thin as blades. He had the face of one who had suffered countless rains and suns, dry skin, smoothed over his cheekbones, leaving him with hollow eyes and a gaunt expression. His gait, skin colour and profession had earned him the nickname of devilhunter. He owned lands and lands, which stretched beyond the Orlu River, recompense of his skill and fortune as the bravest and most successful hunter in all of Achiwata.
Rekiya ran out holding his shirt.
“Thank you my darling.” He stroked the long black locks of her hair. “I’ll be back before nightfall.” And he was gone, hurrying across the sand to Akuta. Rekiya had really changed, he thought happily. She was livelier, much more attentive to his every day needs, especially his outings. She never failed to remind him of his appointments and meetings, a development which caused him immense joy.
The meeting in Akuta ended rather quickly. It had barely begun than it came to an abrupt end. The attention of the presiding Chief was needed in his Obi.
Chimene hurried home, thoughts of Rekiya burning holes in his head.
The sun had burned itself out when he got back to his hut. He placed his hands on the raffia curtains making a divide for him to go through when suddenly, he stopped and gazed into the distant sky. Tonight would be perfect for a hunt, he thought, relishing the thought of the familiar thrill that enscounced his being when killing his prey. He licked his lips and stepped into his hut.
At first he thought he had walked into another man’s Obi. But then his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness. He was in his home alright. He heard the sounds first: Rekiya’s moans, the distinctive grunt of pleasure that filled his ears whenever his tongue lingered too long around her ear lobes. Then he heard the sigh, the familiar sigh she affected when his thrust suspended her above Achiwata and her cares.
Then he saw her. The two nubile forms on his bed lay entwined like a pair of snakes. They had not heard him come. He heard a whisper. He wrinkled his nostrils at the stale smell of sweat. His insides churned. His fists became iron balls. Then he heard a giggle. A loud moan.
And he had snapped.
Chimene stared at his blood stained hands. The drumming had grown dangerously close. He wasn’t scared. Nothing mattered, not anymore. He lay on the cold forest floor, seeing her bright eyes in the gloom, taunting him, calling to him. But none of it mattered to him. He was a murderer, and Akitaka was his nemesis.
The drums hit a crescendo and a loud hush suddenly fell.