Icatha is a demon who seeks to consume the soul of a boy; but unbeknownst to her, there is a power far greater than her own at work.
I see him. A cool breath escapes into the stagnant air as his chest rises and falls. Mosquitoes hover, craving the taste of him, but dare not pierce his skin for they sense a hunger more malignant than their own. Mine. His eyelids tremble but he cannot wake. Soon I will savour his soul. The hum of voices in the room reaches a peak. They want me to go. They cannot, see, hear or feel me but they know I am there. The Shaman shakes a stripped branch with beads dangling from its fork, while his other hand circles the boy’s body, just above the mosquitoes. Sweat drips from his hairy chest unto the bare skin of the boy. The Shaman despairs; his spells are impotent and he recalls the unpleasant acts done to the last Shaman when his predecessor failed to save the second son of the Chief. The mother stares at her son with her mouth wide open allowing for grotesque sounds of grief to be released into the air. She has smeared her face with red sand and pulls her hair in an expression of agony. Her gold and crimson Rapa scrapes against her flaccid legs.
The scene tickles me.
A child draws aside the curtain of beads and peers into the room. Her thick lips tremble and her eyes are half full with salty water. Her coarse dusky hair has been plaited into three braids and she tugs at one of them. Her feet are bare except for the silver bracelet marking her as a princess. Moyo they call her. She is the seventh child of the Chief and comely when she smiles; when her dimples wedge a porthole in her cheeks. But I have no thirst for his daughters.
“Moyo, Moyo.” A servant girl drags her away from my scene by her ear. The beads clatter together as her thin fingers release their tight hold. The Shaman turns his head anticipating the dense booming that is the Chief’s voice. Hearing nothing, he returns to the task at hand – ridding the boy of the spirit that renders him immobile. Unfortunately for him and his, the only voice the boy can hear belongs to me.
“Icatha.” The Chief has called me and I find myself back in my prison. He is looking into the well, looking right at me but all he sees is darkness. His colossal nose protrudes at me “Icatha.”
“My lord?” he still quakes when he hears my voice.
“I have brought you an offering,” Through him I can see that there is a boy being carried by two of his men. The child has been subdued but is still alive.
“Throw him down,” the Chief steps back and the boy is thrown in. His eyes open with a start and he sees me. He throws back his head in what would have been a shriek had his mouth not been immediately pervaded by a gush of water. Little does he know there is nothing to fear from me; his death will come about from the simple act of drowning. He tries to lift his head above the water and scrabbles at the mossy cracks surrounding him. I am almost tempted to end his ugly desperation as he tugs at the ends of his plebeian life, but my quarrel is with the Chief. The boy is dead now; the water drags him to the bottom of the well. I have not touched him.
“Icatha.” The man makes my name sound like a chant. Icatha Icatha.
“You have had a boy to quench your thirst. Now leave my son be,” I laugh at him
“I did not realise we were exchanging goods. If I had known I would have told you – I have no interest in your villagers.”
“But…but…” he splutters “You took him. You took the offering,”
“I think I can sense your son. He is near,” he digs his dirt encrusted nails into his palm. Above him the light recedes and the heat reduces its focus. The Chief steps back subconsciously, he does not want to be near me when night falls. It wouldn’t make a difference. I am bound all day and night. His ancestors made very sure of that and they will suffer for it. I still see the same colossal nose on a different, more virile face looking down on me with features contorted in pain. He gave his life to bind me and irrevocably yoked himself and his descendents to me. The Chief is gone.
I ride the wind into the room where the boy lays, my appetite is too great and I am eager to watch him take his last breath. The Shaman lies asleep on a mat beside the bed. His mouth is open and a fly soars in and out. The mother is slumped over on a stool, whimpering. Even in her sleep, she weeps for her son. Humans and their obsessive relationships!
The beads clatter and I observe the Moyo child walk into the room. She tiptoes around the unsightly body of the Shaman and reaches out her palm; softly, she strokes her brother’s face. I can feel her fingers, as though it was my face she caressed. Something is wrong.
“I see you,”
Her words are not directed at her brother.
“Icatha, I see you.”
They are for me. But no-one can see me. I do not know why this trivial being feels as though she can address me and I must punish her for her insubordination.
I move to strike the child down; she spins around and stares straight into my eyes. I am not in my physical form but we lock gazes and I feel my form trembling.
“You have no power here Icatha,”
“I am Icatha! You and your kind belong to me!”
Her coffee coloured eyes have become a pool of light and I cannot stare directly into them. She uses her childlike palms to shove me.
“Icatha leave!” Her voice is yet to mature, nevertheless this child considers herself a match for me. I breathe fear into her lungs; I breathe disease into her fragile frame. She smiles at me.
“Icatha, Icatha, Icatha,” and I feel the fear, I feel the disease “you have no power here. Be gone!”
I can feel nothing. I can see nothing. I can hear nothing. I can no longer sense the boy. I am in darkness. I am darkness.