A flash of torch light shot through the broken window and the girl inside shuddered. It wouldn’t be Madala, the girl thought, for Madala had said he would return home after three days. And before he left, he had instructed her “no bunch of bones patched with flesh should set his foot on my carpet.” She stood by it–being fully aware that Ndilanda, that place which smelt of dung and urine of scandals, lying on the eastern side of Blantyre City to hide its rotten reputation from visitors, opened its doors of thievery and crookedness twenty-four seven. With all that in mind, plus waves of threats from Madala’s mouth, she had closed all doors of the house as early as 6 pm.
When Madala was away for a business venture, which usually was his habit, the girl, always quiet or very bad-mannered when she was being fed with any information, locked herself indoors day and night. She would neither call anybody nor be seen with someone but kept the home silent. On one hand she took Madala’s instructions seriously; on the other hand, it was a rare opportunity for her to do things in the house which she couldn’t do when Madala was around, including watching the nastiest movies, treating herself to narcotic drugs and deliberately breaking up things in the kitchen. She had figured out that life and everything associated with it was full of drama, and most people were “acting” to feed their wishes. There was nothing like truth. What was regarded as the truth was that which was certified by the powerful, for the powerless had to speak nothing. She turned into this nasty thinking when she was secretly told it was Madala who impregnated his sister whose product she was, contrary to what was being taught - that a man shall leave his mother and father and find for himself a wife in a foreign land. Madala was to be her uncle. Who was at fault? The girl thought Madala was a wizard. She wouldn’t like him and happily call him father. The most wicked man practising witchcraft of the highest degree. A lifestyle decorated with beads of inhumanity known to be enjoyed by animals or dull mindedness of the worst case. As a young girl, she had been lied to. Revealed, this story was not to be told in public. That was an idea from her own mother whose rights were violated. Though she explained to her in a pool of tears, but she was a dunderhead who kept a fetus that would grow and be humiliated in the future.
“It’s true you were born out of controversy, my daughter. My husband wouldn’t keep you and be called a brave man. He hates Madala. He calls him “dog,” a very stupid dog; the kind of dog which would lick its lips at its own feces without knowledge that it was him who deposited it. Lucky enough, he understood. He did not leave me.
“But mum, I feel you did not plan for my future. Your future is okay. Mine is doomed.”
“Understand my daughter. Stay with Madala. Take him as your father but he is my brother.”
The girl understood both her mum and “step-father’s” reasoning and lived in the accursed house because she had nowhere to go. But honestly, she was bitter, angry and mad. She also understood why, Fiona, Madala’s wife, vanished into the thickets of the city, letting the sienta of marriage go. Wait a minute! Which sane woman would stand or sleep side by side with such a poor dog called Madala? Unlucky for him, he wouldn’t fish another woman for a wife. He was as useless as a blank slate. He had invited a wind of misfortune upon his life, for every woman was speaking ill of him when he was passing by them at the borehole.
“Seen that dog, better a police dog but this one, ho!” And then laughter, “hehede ulu!”
In the past, this nasty story would have been a secret. The girl wouldn’t know her father. She would call her real mother “sister” and whosoever dared to reveal would be in hot soup. However, the story went viral on social media with pictures of Madala, his sister and the poor little girl twelve years before. Every year Facebook was reminding the vendors at the market, and the vendors were pointing their index fingers at the girl when she came to visit Madala at his shop on her way to school.
When she was young, she took no notice that society was keeping a very big secret for her. “Stop, honourable girl. Let me greet you. Madala’s next meat.” The vendors would scream, and she would look down in a silent protest. After all the sacks of secrets were emptied, validated by old pictures and stories on Facebook, she swore she would no longer sniff the air of the school and the market, not even the hospital. Staying indoors became her favourite hobby. And it was her prayer to fall sick and die. She was ready to die indoors but to visit the hospital, she lamented “It’s for those whose minds are free.” Madala comprehended this passage for the girl slotted into his box of life. “Let it be.” He acknowledged it.
The torch light followed by a knock awoke the girl. It was towards midnight. Knock! Knock! The suggestive knock came to her like a wave of noise on the otherwise quiet night. Madala would knock twice and wait. Then, he would walk to her bedroom window and shout “Maya, Maya!” But this one was unaware of that procedure. He just stood at the door and knocked provokingly, without calling out “Madala, Madala! Such was the case with those that visited at such an odd hour. They would sing; “Madala, Madala!” But this one was just puffing while his torch light pointed straight at the door. Shrouded by fear, and following Madala’s instruction, Maya wouldn’t entertain any visitor. She had put her “gututu” under her bed, and if by stroke of bad luck, her stomach got “hot,” there was an empty five litre tin of paint that would be her movable toilet.
“Knock, knock, knock, knock!”
The knock persisted with so much irritating noise. Maya, getting hold of her breath, switched off the TV, crept towards the door and peeped through the keyhole. It wasn’t Madala. Madala was not short and fat. He was a giant, and always bowed every time he was entering or exiting all the doors of the house. If he was the one, Maya wouldn’t see the hood the stranger put on. Maya tiptoed back to her room. She thought she should alert the neighbours but she was afraid of shouting “thief” in case the stranger was not a thief at all, but had forgotten the direction of his house or was one of her distant cousins who would always come at such odd hours to ask Madala to do them a favour, and that was to give them food and a bed till the break of dawn. Maya summed up her thoughts and sought to keep quiet. Maybe the stranger would get tired and leave. From the rumour mill, Maya figured out that her mother was raped because she opened her door to entertain Madala who pretended to have been in a problem that was to be attended to by Maya’s mother a few minutes before midnight when her husband was at an International conference in Kenya. The clueless sister, Maya’s mother, opened both her door and her legs for a lion that mauled her precious part reserved for holy matrimony. Being a brother, she agreed to keep her mouth shut. Tried, she did. There are certain things you would vow to keep to yourself forever, but circumstances will always force you to reveal especially that which would bring repercussions in the future. They call it self-pity. Fearing that her husband would question her honesty, she let the cat out of the bag. As a devout Christian, she couldn’t abort, and nine months later, a broad-shouldered baby bounced on the face of the earth, a direct duplicate of Madala.
The whole village, which at first was skeptical about Madala sowing his seed into his sisters womb, and chose to wait until this appointed time, immediately approved of sending Madala away to kiss the cold walls of jail for at least two years, but his sister’s human face encouraged by her husband saved him, and she pleaded for his release. Madala wouldn’t feel ashamed. Triumphantly, he came out of prison and proudly he brought Maya into his house, the very fact that Fiona hissed, “Let the swine stay and feed on mud,” and freed her feet off dust.
Meanwhile, Madala’s tenants knew that their landlord was not at home. Maya was also suspiciously not seen around the rest of the day. To prove their point, they saw that nobody was opening the door for the stranger. The stranger might have a clue that there was nobody, so he came to steal. Very late in the evening, Madala was seen jumping into a lorry that was heading to the central region. The tenants got the lorry that for him to order all the items that he sold at the market, and it usually took him three to four days; so, the midnight knock on Madala’s door was not only thought-provoking but also disturbing. They woke each other up determinedly to strike a “thief,” teach him a bitter lesson and save Maya’s life and Madala’s property. So, they silently opened their doors and waited like a snake.
The unsuspecting stranger, after exhausting all his efforts, knocking without being answered, sat down, his back resting on the door, and bowed his head on his knees as if in prayer. The four tenants turned to look each other in the face.
“It seems the thief is drunk,” whispered a very clever tenant who had stayed there for over six years. “He must be pretending.”
“Let’s deal with him before he deals with us,” cried the other one.
“I agree,” bowed the third one. “Delays are dangerous.”
“I don’t agree with all of you. Why can’t we trap him and poke him with questions first. You never know he is not a thief but a watchman.” A religious tenant jumped in.
“Tuchedwa, guys.” The clever tenant roared suggesting that they were delaying.
“What about my idea?” The most religious tenant quizzed.
“Three-quarters of us are saying we must deal with him. Neighbour, you lose. Just join us.”
The sun was rising when Maya got wind of the fact that a thief had been burnt using old car tyres near the market. He was seen at the door of Madala’s house around midnight. Maya felt sorry for the life of the poor innocent man. If she allowed him into the house, or if she asked what he wanted, he couldn’t die such a painful death. She was of the view a punishment had been directed to a wrong person only if he indeed was a thief. She sauntered towards the scene; her eyes bathed in tears. She saw the smoke rising vertically into the sky, and black bones of the burnt man greeting her with a palm of sorrow. Devastated, she cried. She wouldn’t know what to say. Questions were being thrown to her, but she was clueless. Rather, she chose to say nothing.
“Did you see the thief?”
“Did you hear anybody scratching the door of your house?”
“Who do you think did this to the thief?”
“I have no idea. I just hear people saying that the thief was at our door.”
“Do you believe he was a thief?”
“No window is broken, and nothing is stolen.”
Maya scampered back home with a feeling that the tenants were dogs. Dogs would chase a visitor who has important information for the family. Dogs would bite the boss who pays its master for him to live. Dogs would do anything. They were animals, not humans. If Madala came back and asked her about this, she would say it was not her sin but his dogs. All these bad things were following the footsteps of the master dog. Her prayer was that the victim should be one of Madala’s relatives. She wanted to see what he would do to escape from that pain.
Every time she remembered the midnight knock, Maya felt a wave of evil hitting her mind. Not of her own making. She would have played the good Samaritan, but she was just too young. She thought about the tenants. The dogs. The tenants. The dogs. If they were not real men, they would have woken up everybody and together asked the stranger a few questions before they hacked him to death and burned him. All they thought was to take the law into their hands. Evil thinking. Evil people. Dogs. They hacked him, burned him. What did they benefit? Was his sin just to knock on our door? Maya thought about one of the tenants, the church elder, who used to preach to them every Friday. Satanic church elder, she said of him. He wouldn’t stop his colleagues. He had the blood of the dead man in his hands. Would he preach again? What would he preach about? Love?
When Madala came back from his business errand, Maya was quiet. All she thought was that both Madala and the tenants were dogs. The world was filled with dogs, so “doggy” that they would punish a “knocker.” And who was this knocker who was killed by those dogs? What was he looking for? What message did he bring? Until today, no one knew. The world was slowly turning into its dead end. Before the world ended, the people were slowly turning into dogs. And others, goats. Morality was losing its grip. Only Maya was human, and she always hissed, “Humans are dying for dogs to live!